An Interview with Ramona Meharg


Ramona Meharg is a Special Education teacher with the Thames Valley District School Board.  Our paths have crossed in many places over the past couple of years and she’s a regular blogger.  I’m a fan of her writing and have included her posts on This Week in Ontario Edublogs many times. It’s time that we get an interview to find out more about what makes this educator tick.

ramona

Doug:  Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Ramona.  I appreciate it and I just know that I’m going to learn more about you.  My first question is always – do you recall when our paths first crossed?

Ramona:  Well, I first heard tell of you in 2016 when I was taking the IICTI AQ.  Our instructor, Rodd Lucier, was encouraging us to start blogging and to add our blog to your Live Binder of Ontario Edubloggers.    I was such an EdTech newbie at the time, I had no idea Edu Blogging was a thing. I started checking out the other blogs in the Live Binder, hoping to get some ideas for my own.  I was blogging semi regularly, mostly about EdTech stuff. When VoicEdRadio started up, Rodd shared that with all of us in the course too – I think at that point I was working on my Specialist.  One of the first programs I started listening to was This Week in Ontario Edublogs. I listen every week, usually on Demand, but in the summer, I like to try to catch it live on Wednesday mornings.  One Wednesday morning in August, I was working on some things in my classroom, listening to your show, and oh my goodness, you and Stephen Hurley started talking about my blog! Not only had someone read my blog, but they were sharing it…on live radio.  You know what they say about blogging…at first you’re afraid someone will read it and then you’re afraid no one will. It was quite a thrill. I’ve been mentioned on the show and in your #twioe blog a few times since then, and it is always a thrill to be a part of.  I presented at the OSSTF technology conference last Spring and saw you at the back of the room. It was my very first time presenting – anywhere – and I was pretty nervous. Then to see a celebrity in the back of the room! I was too shy to come up and talk to you afterwards, but I did reach out to you via Twitter to give me some constructive feedback on my presentation.  You were very supportive and generous to me. So I submitted a few more proposals to present other places. Last November you contacted me about participating in a live version of #twioe at the BIT’17 conference in Niagara Falls, which I was presenting at. That was really our first true meeting in real life – I actually spoke to you this time. The recording didn’t end up working – I guess it will become the legendary “Lost Episode of This Week in Ontario Edublogs”.  I really enjoyed the experience, it was great to meet yourself, Stephen and some of the other EduBloggers there that day, and it was fun answering your questions about the blogs.

Doug:  It really would have been epic had the recording worked.  I bring it up to Stephen occasionally.  I do enjoy reading your posts. I’ve got to ask a question that has long been in my mind.  There has to be a reason behind your choice of blog name.

Ramona: Picking a name for a blog is hard!  I like the one I finally settled on though.  It was sort of a response to the “Not my job”, “Not my problem”, “Not my Circus, Not my Monkeys” comments I had been hearing from folks for years.  There is certainly a time to mind your own business, but often these comments would be made in situations where people had the ability and power to make a difference, or make a change that would help someone, but wouldn’t.  I often bristle inside when I hear that – if it’s not your job, whose is it? Aren’t we a team? So, My Circus, My Monkeys is in reference to my belief that, certainly in my classroom and school, it is my circus and they are my monkeys and I’m going to do everything I can to make it the best it can be.  So, it was chosen for a sort of serious reason, but I like the sense of whimsy it gives as well.  Monkeys are funny. Sometimes I will be a bit silly or whimsical in my blog, because who doesn’t love to laugh?

Doug:  With a title like that, have you ever been questioned about it?  (I mean before this!)

Ramona: Oddly enough, no. I had also considered “Meharg’s Musings”, but no one is ever sure how to pronounce my last name, so I’m glad I went with the Monkeys.

Doug:  That brings back a memory.  I remember in Niagara Falls asking you if I was pronouncing it properly.  Meharg was new to me.  I thought your name might have been Graham and Meharg was your stage name!

Do you have your students blog?  What do you see as the benefit?

Ramona: EVERY DAY!  They either blog or vlog (video blog using FlipGrid).  In the old days, we called it Journalling. It’s important for their communication skills to be able to share an opinion, or show what they have learned or reflect on an experience.  Student Voice is the big buzzword right now, so I guess Blogging and Vlogging certainly is a way to do that in a more EdTech way. It’s also helpful because they are thinking more about the audience as they write or record.  We generally make our posts public and when we don’t, we still share with each other, so they are much more aware of using punctuation, checking for errors before they hit post, and thinking about the words they use, because I, the Teacher, am not the only one who will see it  Some of my students really struggle with fine motor tasks, or don’t have written language abilities. For them, Vlogging has been amazing. They don’t need to ask for someone to scribe for them, or hope that the voice to text gets what they said correct. They hit record, and off they go.  

Doug:  How do you use other technologies in your special education class?  Could you imagine teaching without it?

Ramona:  Well, when I started, I didn’t have a lot of Technology in the room.  An overhead projector and a TV/VCR. We had one desktop computer that was shared with another class and lots of floppy discs.  One non verbal student had a voice output device (it was huge and heavy and not that easy to record on). I had to really push and fund raise for computers and all kinds of assistive devices in the room.  Now I have a SMARTBoard, desktops, a few Chromebooks, some ozobots and each student has their own SEA iPad. I would not like to teach without it anymore. Technology is helping level the playing field for Special Education Students.  Students with no written language can use voice to text, Students with speech problems can use text to speech programs, the ease of apps like iMovie and G-Suite allow these students to produce high quality work – something they have always been capable of, but never had a way to show it before.  There is probably not a part of our day that doesn’t involve technology anymore. That is not to say that it is all tech all the time, because it isn’t. We still use manipulatives, we still create with paper and pencil crayons, there is a big bucket of old time lego (not the programmable kind), we still write on paper and use pens and pencils.  We just leverage the tech to make things that were not possible for students to do independently in the past, possible. My hope is that technology and universal design force me out of the Special Education field because they won’t need me anymore – they’ll be able to access curriculum with their peers.

Doug:  I first met you in person at the OSSTF Conference last year; you were doing a session on the Internet of Things.  Do you have a special interest in this?

Ramona:  That presentation came out of a project that Marjan Macanovik (a Computer Science Teacher in the Windsor area) and I did together for our Specialist IICTI course.  You can still see it at: ThingLink: I of T and the Future of Education.  We were looking at IofT and how it would change schools in the future.  It was a really fascinating topic and I really got into it. I think I was most interested in how it will change Special Education – but really, the future school experience for everyone, including teachers.  

Doug:  You also led an #ECOOchat on the same topic and engaged a group on Twitter.  You had indicated that, while you participate in a number of chats, you’d never led one yourself.  What did you think of the experience?

Ramona: I enjoyed the experience, and will likely do it again if the occasion arises.  I love Twitter chats – the hour goes so fast and you really pick up a lot of incredible information in a hurry.  Leading them goes even faster. You are watching the clock, the responses, trying to respond and get the questions out.  It’s like SpeedPD.

Doug:  And you use Twitter in your regular professional life.  If you were trying to convince someone of the value of being a teacher on Twitter, what would you focus on?

Ramona: It’s amazing how often a colleague will see something we are doing in class or posting on our class website or class Twitter feed and ask where I got the idea, and I tell them, “I saw it on Twitter.”  I no longer have to wait for a PD session on a PD day to learn something new, I have great PD 24-7 and get immediate ideas, answers, and input from other educators worldwide. I’m really not that amazing or creative a Teacher, I’m just really good at finding and adapting what others are doing to my classroom and the needs of my students.  I don’t need to be re-inventing the wheel everyday and I’m not waiting for someone else to decide what PD is best for me – I can reach out through Twitter and get what I need, when I need it. Things like the Global Read Aloud and the Digital Human Library and so many more great programs that work on global connections and empathy are all just a part of what you can learn about when you start using Twitter.

Doug:  Recently, your social media involvement has turned into a regular show on voicEd Radio “I Wish I Knew EDU”.  https://voiced.ca/i-wish-i-knew-edu-with-ramona-meharg/  Can you tell us about the show’s format and who you’ve interviewed?

Ramona: Thanks for bringing that up.  That’s still a fairly new endeavor that I’m really proud of.  I started in February and the idea behind the podcast is all the things we wish we knew when we started teaching.  There were tonnes of things I didn’t know when I started teaching, all those things you learn on the job, in the thick of it all. The mistakes we make, the lessons we learn, the joy of teaching. It’s a chance to share the collective knowledge of the Educators who are gracious enough to join me, and a chance to see some of the great things they are doing, that we might not hear about otherwise.  There is great conversation about the teaching life and we share some funny stories too. I’m still learning some of the ins and outs of podcasting – audio drift has been my nemesis, but I am learning! I’ve recorded 14 Episodes so far and been able to talk to some fabulous teachers working in all areas of Education from Vice Principal Heather Jakobi, to Outdoor Education Co-ordinator Erin Mutch, Educational Technologist David Carruthers, Coding specialist Derek Tangredi, Technology coach T. Scott, Health and physical Education Co-ordinator Andrea Hansen, Kindergarten Specialist Aviva Dunsinger, Teacher-Librarian/Tech Co-ordinator Dawn Telfer, Helen DeWaard of the Faculty of Ed, High School Math teacher Agi Orban,  English Teachers Eva Thompson and Julie Balen, Leanne Hansen in Australia who works with at risk students and of course, Mr. Doug Peterson, himself (who was a great person to chat with, by the way!). That’s teachers from 8 different school boards, 1 Faculty of Ed, 1 retired and 1 Aussie. I really want to show the diversity of what teachers do, while celebrating those things that we all share in the profession. I’ve got some great guests lined up for the near future too – Literacy Specialists, Tech gurus, Teacher-Librarians, Teacher/authors, maybe a few folks outside of Ontario and Canada…watch for those to be promoted on Twitter.

Doug:  Well, let’s not get too carried away.  If I remember correctly, I was a fill-in for someone else.

Have you ever considered interviewing yourself or having someone interview you with your format:

Ramona: David Carruthers asked me that too!  I have. I think I’m saving those ideas for the landmark episodes – like maybe for #25 I’ll get a Teacher Candidate or new Teacher to interview me and at the 1 year mark, perhaps I’ll do a episode on my own.  We’ll see! I’ve got to make it there first – but it’s good to have goals!

Doug:  You recently shared with me that your proposal for an OTF Summer Institute has been accepted.  Congratulations. Can you share the details in case any of the readers here are interested in attending?

Ramona: Thanks!  It is called Connecting your Classroom to the World and it will be at UWO August 8-10.  It’s designed to help EdTech beginners/novices learn the tools and programs needed to collaborate with classrooms next door or around the world. Along with  tools like Google Hangouts, padlet, FlipGrid, and others, we’ll be looking at The Global Read Aloud, the Digital Human Library, the UN Sustainability Goals and lots more. 

Doug:  I wish you all the success with the institute and your continued involvement with other educators on social media.

Ramona:  Thanks Doug

Doug:  Where can people find Ramona Meharg on social media?

Doug:  Why would you think you would be a good person for others to follow?

Ramona:  I’m into Ed tech, Special Education, great PD, new learning opportunities and all things G-Suite – if this sounds like your cup of tea, then give me a follow.

This interview is part of a series of interview with interesting people like Ramona.  You can see them all here. https://dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews

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OTR Links 04/30/2018


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

My Week Ending April 29, 2018


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Readings (You can follow my daily readings as they happen here.  Here are a selected few from the past week.)

  1. I find this fascinating that the Canada / US border goes right down the middle of town.  Also this.  I try to visualize how this would work.  It would be rough on a dog walker because you always walk facing traffic.  I sometimes forget to take my phone with me right now.  How much trouble would I be in if I forgot my password or Jaimie’s vaccination record because I might start in one country but have to return in another!
  2. So, people love memes, I guess.  Could this be the first one ever?
  3. Cartoons so often show deeper messages than pictures and certainly we question anything that’s in print these days.  Is technology our overlord?  It’s tough to disagree when you truly wonder about things that you do, not because it’s intuitive to you, but because technology dictates that it’s done in a particular way.
  4. This is a magazine that my mother forbid me to read.  So, I had to always search out alternative ways to do so.  I loved Spy vs Spy and the foldable back cover.  This article launched me on a search to revisit a bunch of these things.  Where would we be without the Internet?
  5. A reminder that nothing, including Gmail, is perfect.  I checked my sent messages, as suggested, and noticed nothing out of the ordinary.  Could it be related to the release of the new Gmail interface released this week?
  6. It’s a fascinating read and interesting to think of a time when forts and fortresses were a required building for defense.  Such a mistake would never occur these days as engineers would whip out their phones and check exactly where they are with Google Earth.
  7. Is there anyone who doesn’t hope that things don’t work out between North and South Korea?
  8. Technology can add so much to lessons when in the hands of expert teachers.  So, why not indigenous studies?
  9. I hope that cooler minds can find a solution to making Ontario competitive with harness racing again.  There was a time when we had a great deal of small harness racing tracks and it was a nice outing for families.  With big betting factories, the whole feeling has changed.  Sadly, many tracks have shut down.
  10. You can never have enough good manners.  This is an interesting take on “My Pleasure” versus “You’re Welcome”.

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Blog Posts on doug … off the record

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voicEd Radio

My on demand page can be found here.  The latest edition features blog posts from:

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Technology Trouble Shooting

Construction – There’s no amount of technology that will help you through a construction zone!  When I drove to London yesterday for the EdCampLdn, both my car and Google Maps on my phone agreed that Wonderland was the desired route.  Google shows traffic in real time and when I left home, it reported smooth sailing.  What technology didn’t know was that, at 5:30, the construction workworkers hadn’t started yet.  There were a couple of construction zones to raise your blood pressure but I still got there on time.  I would have liked to have been there earlier to chat longer with people.

A New Opera – I was excited to download the new “one-handed” browser for Android Opera this week.  The “Flow” feature sends tabs nicely to the desktop.  At this point, it doesn’t seem to support the swiping keyboard feature that I’ve been accustomed to with other Android applications.  I feel like an iPhone user having to tap-tap-tap characters.  Voice input works nicely though.  Maybe that’s the ultimate goal for input?

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Video of the Week – Talking in your sleep

I missed including this video in This Week in Ontario Edublogs.  I went with Crystal Gayle but Stephen closed with this Gordon Lightfoot classic.

My Favourite Photo This Week

 

I call this “The Dog Walker’s Dilemma”.  It doesn’t look like much here; just a nice bridge over a little river but check out the left side.  There is no room to the left of the white line for a dog and walker.  So, if there’s a vehicle coming from behind and a vehicle coming at you, you best not be trapped half way across that bridge!

bridge

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Thanks for reading.

dp

Whatever happened to …


… Dreamweaver?

Or FrontPage or Netscape Composer for that matter.

Hands up if you remember the expression “Real developers use Notepad”.

We’re going way back in the history of development of tools on the web here.  We did indeed use Notepad to develop website (after a crash course of learning HTML tags) and then FTPed them into place.  It wasn’t the most elegant by today’s standards but it worked well.  You had the power over every step.  Arguably, websites were better back then because you focused on the content and not necessarily throwing in the latest bells and whistles or elements of user design.  It was just content.

In education, like the rest of the world that would develop for the web, there was a desire to do more.  I was on the OSAPAC Committee that licensed Macromedia’s Dreamweaver.  It set a new standard for the Western RCAC because Macromedia wanted to do a full-day workshop on the use of the product and we complied.  It was PD for us and was a nice change from always designing PD for others.  Of course, Adobe ended up acquiring the product and the web got more colourful and interactive simply because we had better tools.  Let’s not get off on a Flash tangent here though.

Things certainly have changed.  Most developers have gone on to different tools whether it be WordPress or Joomla or Google Sites or any of the development tools available.  Unless you want, you really don’t have to look behind the code that makes it all happen.  I’m writing this in WordPress which does have a switch to HTML tab so I can see what make it all work.  For the most part, I don’t have to; the editor is just that good.  There is the odd time though where a switch to looking at the raw code is handy.  You know what they say “a pixel here, a pixel there”.

What are your thoughts for a Sunday?

  • Did you ever create a webpage with a humble text editor?
  • Did you ever use a tool specifically designed for web creation like Dreamweaver, FrontPage or Composer?
  • Perhaps you have a different tool?
  • How about today?  What’s your “publish to the web” tool?
  • Are you fluent in Javascript?
  • Do you consider HTML a programming language?
  • How about CSS?

I’d be interested in your answers.  Even if you’re not a developer with a fondness for developing with a text editor, if you have a web presence, you use something.  Tell us about it.  Use this post as a way to advertise the link to your content if you wish.

This post is part of a regular Sunday series that can be accessed here.

I’m not above a little crowd sourcing.  If you have an idea for a post, please share it here.

OTR Links 04/29/2018


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

Telling time


When I first read this article “Schools are removing analogue clocks from exam halls as teenagers ‘cannot tell the time’“, I had a couple of thoughts.

  • Surely this must be a joke or fake news story.  In particular, when the topic turned to an inability to hold a pencil because of technology.
  • There are probably bureaucrats working on the problem right now including designing a unit of telling time to be distributed with exam practice lessons.
  • It’s yet another opportunity to take a slam at teachers for not teaching essential life skills.
  • It’s yet another opportunity for a luddite to take shots at today’s youth and their use of technology.

Regardless, as I look around my blogging work space, I see clocks of all types.  Some were given as gifts and they’re pretty much analogue and then there’s the computers and they’re all digital.  Also digital is the alarm clock by my bed.  I remember buying it and replacing an old analogue clock which had real bells on it to sound the alarm simply because this clock came with a radio and a telephone.

So, it’s a challenge.

But imagine the things that those who live in a digital clock only world would miss out on.

  • The clock on the Peace Tower in Ottawa
  • Big Ben
    file000984229864
    Thanks, Morguefile
  • Or any big clock that gongs – why don’t digital clocks gone?
  • The Rolex clock used in Formula 1 races to denote the start of an event
  • Those learning activities that primary teachers would display on the clock on the wall
  • Estimating time
  • Understanding that high pressure areas rotate clockwise
  • Even understanding the difference between clockwise and anti-clockwise
  • The Rotary Clock in the Navy Yard in Amherstburg
  • The frustration of locking hour and minute hands when you adjust the time due to Daylight Saving Time
  • A cuckoo clock – have you ever seen a digital cuckoo clock?  Or a digital grandfather or grandmother clock?
  • Pocket watches – I know, I know
  • Where to put your hands on a steering wheel if you don’t know what 10 and 2 mean
  • Speaking of 10 and 2, understanding why clock manufacturers photograph their product set at those times
  • Understand why you shouldn’t move the hands on a clock backward

Heck, analogue clocks could be a test in itself.

What did I miss?

OTR Links 04/28/2018


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