This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy May 5.  You know it as Cinco de Mayo.  I know it as another Friday to show off the great thinking from Ontario Edubloggers.  Here is a bit of what I caught from their blogs this past while.

What does great PD look like?

That’s the question asked of and by Jen Giffen in this post.  She goes through and talks about a number of different formats of professional development.  This question has stumped program departments for years.  If you’ve been in education long enough, you’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly of sessions, I’m sure.  I still point to a keynote speaker at a big venue talking to over 1,000 of us about the virtues of personalized learning as my point of reference whenever this question arises.

I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of things over the years.  On the giving end, I was always looking for a way to personalize the topics and approach.  It’s not that difficult and, when you do perhaps a hundred sessions a year, it makes it possible for people to attend more than one session and not get the same thing or approach.  On the receiving end, my preference is what I call “just in time learning” which means that I have an immediate need for the learning.  In the field of technology, which admittedly the most of my learning happened, learning something just in case I might need it someday was always pointless since it might change or there might better options when I needed to put it to use.  On the other hand, knowing that I had to do a workshop on something next week is the inspiration that I needed to learn or review something in a hurry.  Typically, if it’s something technology based, I learn best by myself.  I still enjoy the presenter(s) led sessions just to watch their style.  You can always learn something.

And, don’t forget about the M.A.D. PD opportunity.

Unintended Messages

OK, so you’ve ditched the thumb screws and you’ve got yourself the latest “best practice” espoused by someone from out of town and you’re finally going to teach mathematics correctly.

Not so fast, says Mark Chubb.

There might be some unintended baggage that makes its way into the mix.

Yong Zhao’s article – What Works Can Hurt: Side Effects in Education – is titled really well.  The problem is that some of the practices and programs that can prove to have great results in specific areas, might actually be harmful in other ways.  Because of this, I believe we need consider the benefits, limitations and unintended messages of any product and of any practice… especially if this is a school or system focus.

This is a great read and offers a lot of insights as to questions that need answers to the next time a magic bullet is offered.

The Silent Topic: Time to Merge School Boards in Ontario?

I wonder if this question isn’t asked more frequently than we think.  Last week, I met buddy Peter McAsh in Stratford for lunch and he was all over this radio show on the CBC where the topic was the number of school boards in the province and do we need them all?  I’ll confess to not listening; I was listening to music on my trip instead.  Paul’s observation, I think, is important to this discussion.

In the last school I worked at as a principal, very few students were Catholic. We prided ourselves in being inclusive to all cultures and faiths. We worked hard to support families new to the country. At the same time, another school, also excellent in our neighbourhood supports the same population. Both schools are at approximately at 30% capacity. Why not bring the resources of both schools together to better serve the community?

You can’t help but think that both of those schools, at that capacity, might be on the chopping block with both school districts.  Close them both and now an entire community of students is on buses to some location further away.

Could Catholic School Districts be shooting themselves in the foot by shifting their focus to be “inclusive to all cultures and faiths”?

What If “No” Sharing Food Became A “Maybe?”

Aviva Dunsiger shares her class eating habits with us!  In particular, she focused on the eating/sharing habit of herself and her teaching partner.  A little sharing on their part is nice.  So, she suggests that it might be extended a little further.

I understand why there are rules against sharing and she does address some of them in the post and there are some interesting comments from visitors.

  • food allergies is probably the biggest concern but all students/parents know there are certain food that are not allowed.  Still, a prudent teacher would be the judge of appropriateness of the food being shared
  • not all families are in a position of being able to share; it can be a challenge just to get their own child fed
  • does this open the door to food shaming?  “You only have a cheese sandwich?”

I could also see the value in having families contribute periodically to a class buffet and perhaps enjoy various foods based upon a theme or a culture.  So, as to Aviva’s original premise, I could see partial implementation.

Oh, and if I ever do get an invite to her classroom, I want it to be on a Wednesday; that’s popcorn day.

Coding, Thinking, Reflection & Transfer

I really like the strong message in Jim Cash’s post.  It’s about the reflection that happens (or should happen) when you revisit a piece of code or a program that you’ve written to perform a particular task.

Jim nails it here.

We’ve see so many people talk about the importance of coding and give many examples of how they can be used.  The majority of them fall into the geometry domain and there’s nothing wrong with that.  I think it really gives homage to the beginning of coding with Logo.  There’s much research into the value but the current fixation with coding doesn’t always go beyond the initial planning and then getting the program to work.

Recently, I mused about the shortcomings of some of the languages that makes reflection and modification a challenge.

Alfred Thompson’s second comment on the post serves as a confirmation.

I came across a deck of computer punch cards this weekend. One of my favorite programs from my university days. I did a good job of commenting but a poor job of variable naming. At least with the comments I can understand what is going on.

Teaching Kids To Lie Convincingly

Teaching Kids To Lie Convincingly (Part II)

There are a couple of interesting posts here from Stepan Pruchnicky.

I’ll admit that I missed this angle completely.  With the “alternative news” fascination by society and, in particular importance education, it doesn’t take long to find a lot of great activities to be used in the classroom and library to detect them.  I even have a resource that I created to introduce the topic in a fun way.  Sites that should make you go Hmmm

What if this has been the wrong approach all along?

Or, at the least, why not introduce a complementary approach?  Have the student write their own fake news.

When you think about it, why not?  After all, some of the fake news reports are better written than the true reports that are cranked out regularly for the evening news.  I could even see sending a collection of real and fake stories to another class or to the staff room to see if they can trick an audience.  What a case for persuasive writing.

Even if you don’t buy into the concept, Stepan shares a great infographic that I’m sure you’ll find a use for.

Recognizing Stressors – A Beginning

In the category of better late than never, comes this post from Lisa Cranston.  In full disclosure, Lisa and I worked together for years, and one of the greatest groups that I had a chance to be part of was our Early Years Technology group.  I learned so much from my colleagues in that group and, when the topic came to visual mindmapping, I thought that I contributed back by showing how to brainstorm and share thoughts visually with our use of the SMARTBoard, SMART Ideas and other applications.

Well, it turns out that I wasn’t all that effective!

Using mind maps and other graphic organizers is a new strategy for me as a learner, even though I often used them with my students. I’m excited to see how this strategy will support my thinking.


In a related note, the successor to my successor recently tagged me in a request for a good replacement for SMART Ideas for mindmapping.  I was on the OSAPAC Committee when it was licensed in 2005.  Wow, so long ago.  I felt good knowing that I was on top of the latest licensed products when I replied that the Ministry had licensed Mindomo as a replacement.  I felt badly knowing that it was licensed back in 2014.

With the importance on showing how you’re thinking in a visible manner, it’s a tool that everyone should be using.

What a great collection of thoughts from Ontario Edubloggers.  Please drop by these and give them a read and a comment or two if you’re so inclined.  Let’s keep encouraging great bloggers to write about things of importance to Ontario Educators.  If you’re an Ontario Educator or an Ontario Edublogger, please visit the form here and add yourself.

Let’s make great sharing and learning happen.

Every week, Stephen Hurley and I talk a bit about the upcoming posts to be featured in this post.  We go way off track at times but that’s ok.  It’s broadcast live here and, technology willing, archived here.


OTR Links 05/05/2017

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.