This Week in Ontario Edublogs

In one week, we’ve gone from socked in with snow to having to clean the yard now that we’re down to grass. (I own a dog, remember)

Enjoy some recent post from Ontario Edubloggers.


I was delighted to see The Beast back at the blogging keyboard. It’s always interesting to read their initial thoughts and then the back and forth between Andrea and Kelly.

Their opening line got me really thinking.

Every school has a population of students who are incredibly complex.

It reminded me of this – “A riddle wrapped up in an enigma”. That so describes teaching. You just have to solve for everything.

But The Beast is ready for it. They even took a course from Nogah working on the notion of a wicked problem. What follows in the blog post is a wide range of ideas and discussions between the two of them.

It’s a good read and, unfortunately, they do not provide a solution. But there is good advice there for anyone trying to reach a solution. And that’s a good thing.

Leadership is Exhausting #1: headships & heirarchies

I’ll admit right up; I did not know that Tim King was co-chair of his technology department. Should I have known? When I read that, I thought that this would be a great catalyst for the school.

“Status Quo” doesn’t exist in Tim’s vocabulary.

If there’s anyone who would be a good apple cart overturner, it would be him.

He did get a real dose of educational reality in the experience. It is indeed hard work being at the head of a department in a school. There are all kinds of challenges in the position and you’re the one that needs to provide the answers. We all know that everyone is working so hard these COVID days but those who teach niche subjects end up with multiple sections just so that they can run. Why? Such educators believer that it’s important to offer that opportunity for students but it does come at a cost. Even a two-section split requires lesson planning for two different curriculums.

Tim has left that position; he was there for two years and he shares some of the things that he was able to bring back to his school.

He should take satisfaction in that.

After Cheggification – A way forward (Part 1)

Those of us who work in K-12 may not be aware of the challenges involved in higher education. Dave Cormier gives us an insight to what’s happening. He even inspired me to read about the Academic Integrity policy at the University of Windsor.

I suppose that it probably always was a challenge – students cheating on their work – I can remember at university some people going through discarded printouts looking for answers to programming problems. It always amused me as I wondered how many people discarded working solutions. But, anyway.

If you do a search for “plagiarism checker” on the internet, you’ll find all kinds of solutions. When you visit them, they typically sell themselves as tools for student achievement. Chegg is the one that Dave addresses here. Simply put, you ask Chegg a question and you get answers. (among many of the other advertised features). In a regular world, that’s a great study aid. But, when you’re learning at home and need a little assist …

So, the teaching staff is offering solutions to address this in their evaluations.

  • Response 1 – Make the exams harder
  • Response 2 – Entrapment
  • Response 3 – open/take home exams and assignments replacing high stakes exams

Dave notes that each of these solutions make things more difficult for students. For the malpractice of some, everyone pays. It reminds me of having to stay in class at recess because someone else in the class messed up.

Dave takes off in a different direction. The questions themselves…

“Well-structured questions” which seem like a logical, reasonable solution. I mean, weren’t we all schooled as teacher candidates about having quality questions and activities. But then he talks about “Ill-structured questions” and how it might change everything.

It’s a tease for his next post which I’m looking forward to reading.

Creating Characters!

I’ve mentioned this many times before but I think the way that Cameron Steltman handles blogging with his students is genius. It’s not your traditional blogging approach; it’s better.

His goal is to get kids writing and he addresses the desire that every teacher has for writing – getting kids to write for an audience.

He actually writes the blog post as a provocation and the students reply to this provocation. So, there’s none of this dead space that we so often see when teachers try to get students to blog. Because the students know that their classmates and maybe even mom and dad will be reading, the quality of the writing is quite impressive.

In this case, Cameron’s class is working on storytelling and he has them create a character. There are rules

  • a name (first, middle, last)
  • a few favourite things
  • 3 personality traits (e.g. funny, humble, disturbed, etc. )
  • a flaw (something that can create conflict)

The responses are awesome. During the This Week in Ontario Edublogs show, Stephen suggested that it would be an interesting extension to have the characters created actually meet and interact with each other.

There’s a next level of sophistication for you.

Extra Help w/ Bookings

In a regular year, it would come in the form of a request “Sir, can I drop in a lunch or after school for some extra help”. Now that so many people are teaching online, surely there is a technological solution.

Cal Armstrong provides a solution in Microsoft Office 365 called Microsoft Bookings. Since I don’t have Office 365, I’d never heard about Bookings before.

I found it really helpful to go through and read Cal’s post. There are lots of screen captures there to step through the process. It actually appears to be straight forward and I can see why he uses it. He sets the table for students to electronically book a bit of Mr. Armstong’s time for extra assistance.

Even more valuable than the mechanics of working your way through Bookings is the wisdom that Cal shares about the actual implementation. There are controls that the teacher can put into place so that it doesn’t get out of hand and respects teacher time and privacy.

I can’t help but think that this is a valuable tool and I also wonder how many people like me are oblivious to its presence.

Mom Was My Hero.

This was a first blog post from Jamie McKinnon that I just happened to catch as he announced it on his Twitter feed.

As you might guess from the title, it is a personal tribute to a mother who has passed. It’s a little different than the typical blog post that I feature in this post but that doesn’t change its importance.

And what better words could an educator use about someone else than

Mom was a ferocious learner, never stopped, curious and passionate

I’ll admit a little hesitancy to go through and read this. It seemed kind of personal and I was afraid that it might be one of those stories where people were separated by COVID as I was with a friend and a cousin who passed away earlier this year.

Jamie uses the post as a tribute to a wonderful mother. While her passing is nonetheless sad, the memories of a long, active life come through loudly and clearly.

Going back to in-person learning: Multiple Perspectives

Jennifer Casa-Todd shares a story of a presentation that she made recently. It was about digging into different perspectives about a return to face to face instruction/learning.

School districts world-wide are certainly all over the map about this. The consensus is that it’s a good thing but how do you do it and respect every educational partner at the same time? Secondary schools in Ontario are a good example of this. It was on the news this morning that the state of Michigan will be returning soon.

So, Jennifer’s activity?

I divided participants up into four different groups: a) Parent who is struggling to find care for their child; b) Student who is doing well in a virtual environment; c) Politician who is getting pressure to open schools d) Director who is seeing student failure rates go up.

It would have been interesting to see the responses. I found it interesting that one of the groups wasn’t teachers but that may have been by Jennifer’s design.

I hope that you can find some time to click through and read all of these interesting blog posts. They’ll get you thinking for sure.

Then, follow these bloggers on Twitter.

  • TheBeast – @thebeastedu
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Dave Cormier – @davecormier
  • Cameron Steltman – @MrSteltman
  • Cal Armstrong – @sig225
  • Jamie McKinnon – @jnmckinnon
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @JCasaTodd

OTR Links 02/26/2021

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

I’m sorry

Let’s start this post with a tune…

29M views – it is just that important.

My day today started with a message from the Padlet Safety Team indicating that they had resolved a case with content on one of my Padlets. They even gave the case number.

Gulp! If that doesn’t wake you up in a hurry, I don’t know what would. After all, I use a Whatever happened? ( for people to submit suggestions for my Sunday morning post “Whatever happened to …”. Had something gone wrong? Had I submitted something bad while asleep? Had someone else?

I checked the Padlet out and it seemed OK to me. While I was pondering this, I wandered throughout my mailbox and saw the message again. This is getting strange. I checked out their help page and then decided to respond to the notice asking if it was something that I’d done wrong and should I be learning something from this?

I got a response immediately. Wow, that was quick but it was one of those automated replies to let you know that they got the message. I went about doing some other things and then I got another response from the safety team. The message was comforting as they indicated that there was a bug and it had sent out the original message in error. That made me feel pretty good; it wasn’t me.

But then I thought about other software over the years. I think that everyone knows that you have to have a certain ego element to be a developer which makes it difficult to acknowledge errors. But, I never have had an apology from a developer when I contacted them. That kind of blew me away.

We all know that software is seldom perfect when it is released or sold. If it was every software would be version 1.0!

But to acknowledge that there was a problem. That was really unique and impressive. In my former life delivering workshop after workshop promoting software and tools, we would periodically run into issues. Some of my life seemed to be developing workarounds until things were fixed.

I’d also attended sessions lead by developers as we contemplated implementing something in the system. I’ve got more certifications than I care to admit but you won’t see them as badges here. I think that makes you part of everything that happens including when things go wrong. I even attended a session once where we were explicitly told never to use the word “bug” when referring to an issue that someone might be having. Instead, we were told to say “that’s unexpected behaviour”.

So, I was really struck by the honesty of this reply. I’ve long recommended that people take a look at Padlet to see if it serves a purpose for them. This whole process confirmed to me that the people behind this are honest and open.

You’ve got to like a developer like that.

OTR Links 02/25/2021

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

That isn’t what I would do

The article correctly describes the problem.

Windows 10 update improves copy-and-paste in a big way

Maybe it’s because my original computers didn’t have pointing devices attached to them but I’m a lover of keeping my fingers on my keyboard. (particularly with my new one…)

Early, you learn using a computer that there are all kinds of shortcuts available by combining keys together.

If nothing else, you should know that the CTRL/Command key plus O opens a document, P prints a document, C copies highlighted text, and V pastes highlighted text. Of course, there are more.

Now, back in the good old days, all that was on your screen was text. These days with your fancy schmancy computer, you have text that is much richer, colourful, different sizes, different backgrounds, etc. The all copy and paste faithfully, preserving the attributes of the text.

As a blogger, I often do a lot of copy/pasting if I’m making a reference to something else. It’s what I do. It’s what most bloggers do. The problem is that, while the originator may be proud of how their text is formatted, I often don’t what that here.

So, I had to learn a new shortcut and that is CTRL/SHIFT/V at the same time. That gives me just the text and then I can format things the way I want it. To quote a former colleague of mine, “If you were king of the world, what would you do?” Well, I would make the default CTRL/V just paste the text. I’d have something else to copy and preserve the formatting.

Now, of course, I could use the mouse. Highlight the text, right click on the mouse and then find “Paste as” and then the option I want which is typically “Plain text”. But my point is … why should I have to go through all that?

I’m not excited about the concept of the PowerKey/V to do the simple task although I really like the idea of having a running history of all that I’ve copied.

Of course, I’m not under any delusions that any developer at Microsoft is going to read my blog post and make the change. But, if they would, that would be really cool.

As a compromise, I’d even settle for a configuration setting that would let me customize the keys to my satisfaction. That’s probably not going to happen either.