Choices for a perfect world

I had to smile when I came across this meme.

I was raised and loved mathematics, having been taught the bottom way. I still think that way. I know that this iteration of the “new math” works in the top way. The mathematics geek in me could actually write the above as equations and generate a proof for why it’s correct.

The bottom speaks for the reality of many parents who are working with their children at home during these times. Yes, it was heavy duty home schooling for a while and the pseudo-return to normal classes has a bit of normalcy to it. But it’s just not the same.

Beyond generating a smile, you have to feel for those parents who have to deal with curriculum support at home sans the two years of education at a Faculty of Education, the ongoing professional learning events, the new approaches to teaching and learning, and things that educators take for granted these days – manipulatives.

Today’s Ontario classrooms have a great deal of access to resources and support for learning. Yes, there are differences between schools and districts based on priorities but there’s so much there that we truly are light years ahead from when I went to school.

Many times, when you go to provincial learning events, some of the sessions actually look like trade shows. Great teachers are often demonstrating some of the latest and greatest that they’ve got in their classroom. They show how they can be used to address expectations and everyone gets excited – until they return to their classrooms and realize that they don’t have access to the same sorts of things.

My best context for this, of course, is educational technology. The premier event for a number of years as been the Bring IT, Together Conference and it’s the best/worst for doing this. There typically is a fabulous space for exhibitors to show what you need to be lobbying for in the next round of purchases of “stuff” for your classroom. There’s the Minds on Media area where teachers are showing off what they’re doing with the latest and greatest. I always walk away lusting after things to play with – robots, virtual reality, etc. And, then there’s the sessions themselves where you get to hear the complete story for 50 minutes and walk away realizing that you don’t have the same resources when you return to your educational “home”.

Sadly, there’s the actual home where parents and brothers and sisters have been picking up a second profession as occasional teacher. Programming / coding has seen a huge rise in popularity in education recently and it’s deservedly so.

But, it’s not my programming.

I learned the old fashioned way. I programmed a computing device and got excited with a correct display of results on the display or on a printed sheet of paper. Cooking with gas as my father-in-law would say.

Things changed when Seymour Papert introduced the Logo programming language which you could use to program a robot that drew on a sheet of paper with the pendown command. Inspired by this and the desire to introduce programming to younger and younger students, we’ve seen a flood of other devices on the market, marketed to education. Probably the most popular? is the LEGO Logo program but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for programmable devices that connect to your computer. Another very popular option that you can build a program around is the micro:bit which is a bit of an oddity since you can program a virtual micro-bit just as well as a physical one.

So, what does this all have to do with the parent at home?

Imagine being a student in a classroom where everything you’re doing is based upon having access to those manipulatives. Then, the rug is pulled out from underneath you. Class has to go on – but how? In particular, I’m thinking of the new, revised Mathematics curriculum which supposedly will feature coding. Imagine being the student who was excited that she could get this device at school to do exactly what it is that she wants it to. Now at home, unless Mom and Dad have the ability to run out to an educational store and buy it, you’re left with a Plan B. What does that Plan B even look like?

I’ve been following along a discussion in the ACSE discussion list of teachers dealing with secondary school student learning programming, typically in Python, and the challenges there. At school, all the computers would be configured for the learning. At home, students have a mish-mash of computers with some even having Chromebooks or have borrowed a Chromebook from school. As we know, typically the school devices are locked down so the workaround of installing an editor into Chrome OS’ flavour of Linux isn’t an option.

There’s no criticism to be assigned here. In no case is anyone taking a shortcut on the curriculum. They’re using what they have at their fingertips. Nobody saw the disaster that the past two school years are enduring. Nobody could predict that the Education Minister is considering options for more home learning.

Right now, teachers and struggling just to stay above water. Hopefully, those at the system level are aware of all these challenges and the potential impact on the future. When we get through this – who knows when – there needs to be some serious thinking and planning done. Teachers are great at Plan Bs. You do it all the time for occasional teachers or coverages. But when it comes to a rejig of an entire unit or course, it gets real.

At the system level, years of planning have gone into equity of access for things that happen in the classroom. We’ve always given lip service to equity at home but if anything the pandemic has taught us, it hasn’t been nearly enough.


OTR Links 03/31/2021

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

Stuck where you want

One of the amazing stories recently is the incident involving the Ever Given and how it’s stuck in the Suez Canal. I’ve never sailed anything larger than a canoe so I don’t know how or why for certain other than what’s been reported in the news.

Massive container ship stuck in Suez Canal, blocking world’s busiest shipping route

Of particular note in this article is the comparison on the ship to landmarks like the CN Tower. That’s one HUGE ship.

The Suez Canal has always intrigued me. There are so many articles written about the construction and the number of times that it’s been shut down. So, we can add one more time to that. Now, it’s been stuck for six days as I write this.

Technology is amazing at times. You can take a time lapsed trip through the canal. Many such exist on YouTube.

With all the technology in the world, you have to be amazed that there wasn’t something in place to keep the ship actually in the canal. It’s now a feature that you find on new cars.

Even more bizarre is how difficult it’s proving to be to remove the Ever Given from its current location. If you read the CBC story above, you’ll see an aerial image of the ship stuck.

Of course, the internet doesn’t let us down at times like this. We all know that we’ve seen so many memes of Bernie Sanders and his mittens. Well, now, you can plot the Ever Given any place in the world that you want. I chose to run it into the dock on Boblo Island that the ferry uses to transport homeowners from there to the mainland at the dock in Amherstburg.

This was created at the website Ever Given Ever Ywhere.

It was kind of fun picking it up and dropping it in various places. What I found personally educational about this was to put some sort of reality of size into my learning. (Check the “Boat is to scale” box)

Jaimie and I have walked the park along there many times and many times made reference to it here in the blog. You might get tired of it but he’s my thrice daily walking partner.

Of course, this is fun but I can see all kinds of educational ways to use this in your classroom. On television news, it’s just another picture on a ship. When you put it in context of something that you and your students would immediately recognize, it becomes a reality. Of course, it would be a great writing prompt.

Here, I compared it to a regular Great Lake ship, making sure that it was to scale.

It gives you a sense of how gigantic this ship is because Great Lakes boats are no small things.

Here it is compared to the Jiiman sitting in Kingville harbor. The Jiimaan transports people, cars, trucks, etc. to Pelee Island.

When you look at the size, the weight, etc. the sides of the Suez didn’t really stand a chance.

Later, after this post was written – good news.

Giant container ship that blocked Suez Canal set free

OTR Links 03/30/2021

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


You may notice a slight difference to the blog appearance this morning. Until now, the grey background was framed with a white border. I thought it was a little blah and have been poking around trying to find something that makes me feel better about it.

Recently, I’ve been playing about with the Pattern Generator.

Yes, I know that there are all kind of places where one can find a pre-built image but if you know me, I’m all about creating things from scratch. That gets rid of the stock appearance and makes things different from all else. Or, in this case, just a little different but I like it.

I generated this pattern.

I wanted something that complemented the grey background but something that really didn’t stand out or take over.

This was actually more difficult and time-consuming than I thought it was going to be. It’s not that generating the actual image is difficult – it’s that the interface has so many different options so I had to try them all, or most of them, out.

I really, really appreciated the fact that the author recognizes that many of us have moved from a stark white displace to something darker and easier on the eyes. That was one of the first things I did. It’s a simple concept but made it easier to stick around and play with things.

I can’t help but think that something like this would work well with students. We’ve all seen their creations that are essentially pulled from an image library.

There is another world for this and that’s created by the imagination in their mind. That’s where a tool like this fits in perfectly.