Reading helper

This is such a great idea; I can’t believe that it hasn’t appeared before.

My morning routine is to make sure that I get up before the dog so that I can do a bit of reading before his needs take over and the rest of the day gets started.

There are all kinds of things to read; some short and to the point, some short and pointless, some long and require some deep thought, and so on.  When you get used to reading short posts, the longer ones become a distractor.  It’s not that I don’t want to read them; it’s just that there might be a better time and place.

But how do you know if it’s going to be long or short?  Traditionally, my method has been to look at the size of the scroll bar as it adjusts to the article’s length.

Yesterday, I stumbled into this Chrome Extension that takes it one step further.  The extension is called Read Time and its goal in life (or at least in your browser) is to estimate how long it’s going to take for you to read the story you’ve just loaded.

After the story loads, the extension pops a tiny square on the screen to give you an idea about how long it’s going to take you to read the article.

Of course, we all read at different speeds so you might enjoy a little reading test to see how you do.

There is a default setting but you can change it with the results of your test.  While in the settings, you might want to adjust position, size, and colour.

It’s very addictive!  Plus, I can see how it’s going to be helpful too.

I’m also seeing another use.  When writing, there’s probably a fine line between what’s too short and what’s too long.  Pop your draught into a browser and you’ve got an instant estimate as to how long it will take the average reader to read your works.  I’ve got to think about that.

In the meantime, it’s almost as interesting as the articles themselves!


OTR Links 08/24/2016

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

How do you know?

I received an email from Peter McAsh over the weekend that got me thinking.

Peter was at the CEMC Summer Institute and had passed on information about the Bring IT, Together conference in November to a fellow participant.  Good job, Peter, that’s part of your job as social connector.  He shared with me part of a message that he had received…

How do teachers find out about these initiatives? I spent hours finding conferences on my own and thus went to MIT, Waterloo CS Educators and Western 21st Century Curriculum Symposium. From meeting Peter McAsh this week, I just found out about Bring IT, Together. I have felt very alone teaching HTML, Scratch and Coding Apps for the last 3 years in my  class/computer club. Now, I have a Twitter PLN and some great mentors. I wonder if other TVDSB teachers know about all these resources.

I thought that everyone knew about the conference.  <grin>

It is an interesting point to ponder.  After all, there are lots of spectacular conferences that happen all the time in Ontario.  It’s almost malpractice that all educators don’t know about all of them.  They’re there to promote professional activities and shouldn’t that be available to everyone?

Shouldn’t there be a place where you’d go to find them all listed?

I know that, when I was the web master at OSAPAC, I had a section of the web site devoted to upcoming professional learning opportunities.  Those were the days when OSAPAC was licensing software for all subject areas and it was one way that the committee helped promote its adoption.

Bring IT, Together is an ECOO annual event and so a visit to their website should reveal information to anyone looking for it.  But, if you visit the site using mobile, reference to the conference is actually hidden in a hamburger menu that you need to open.  So, if it’s tough for me to find (and I’m on the conference committee), how would a first timer find it?  Hint – Bring IT, Together has its own website.

I took a look through the Ministry of Education’s website and couldn’t find a collection either.

All that made Peter’s request even more important.

Then I thought of my friend Cyndie Jacobs and the fights that we had over the references to Subject Councils versus Subject Associations in her work with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation.  Off I went to the OTFFEO website and there is, indeed, a calendar outlining the professional learning events that they know about it.  So, I guess my work is done.  I took at quick flip to November but the Bring IT, Together conference wasn’t listed.  I would have thought that ECOO, being a member of OTF’s Curriculum Forum would have been there.  It is the best place that I could find to start searching.

Where else could you look?

It’s probably too “pie in the sky” to think that there’s absolutely one place for everything and it’s 100% accurate and up to date.  But, certainly the Subject Associations would be promoting their own conferences.  I decided to make my move.  With laptop on lap and Summer Olympics on television, I created to the best of my abilities a Twitter list of all the associations that I could find in the province.

You can find it here.

I was able to locate 38 organizations.

It was actually quite fun and brought back great memories of speaking, conducting, or taking professional learning activities from them.  In addition to upcoming conferences and workshops, there are also opportunities for curriculum writing and just a sharing of resources via the discipline.  It’s also apparent that there’s huge cross over connections to be had.  So, this solution actually solves a number of questions.

The list is public; just subscribe to it – add a column to your Hootsuite or Tweetdeck configuration and you’ll be on top of everything happening in education in the province.  I can tell you just from my little curating exercise that there’s so much going on.  I also learned that the “O” doesn’t always mean Ontario – there are states that use the same acronyms – Ohio, Oregon, …

Now, I’m nowhere near confident that this list has them all.  I’d encourage you to browse the list and make sure that any professional organization that you’re a part of is included.  If not, add it via comment below or to @dougpete on Twitter and I’ll get it added as quickly as I can.

Let’s make sure that everyone has the possibility of knowing what great opportunities are available for them.

You can thank @pmcash for the idea.

OTR Links 08/23/2016

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

An Interview with Rodd Lucier

Selection_867Except for luck, I may never have met Rodd Lucier.  My old school board had people shuffling in and out of the DeLC (District eLearning Coordinator) position regularly.  When the position would become vacant, I’d be sent to regional meetings.  It was there where I met Rodd and he’s become of those special people who just keep pushing my thinking.  For that, I’ll be eternally grateful and I’m so happy that he’s agreed to share some thoughts with us.

Doug:  Probably the first area where you pushed me was on Twitter.  We both joined at about the same time – me because everyone was talking about it and I could see the potential.  However, you went over the edge and embraced it for a powerful learning tool.  I still remember going to meetings and you would just know things.  I felt under schooled.  That always impressed me and pushed me to get more involved.  What was your impetus to get so involved, so quickly?

Rodd:  Through Twitter, I discovered I was no longer ‘alone’.  I was one of those teachers who commonly had to teach with my door closed, because many of my colleagues didn’t appreciate that there was so much activity in my room.  Admittedly, it was sometimes organized chaos, but my students and I were always on a mission of some sort.  With Twitter, I saw the power and potential of linking with other experimenting educators, and felt obliged to introduce others to the potential folks like you and I had discovered through the generous sharing of ideas.

Doug:  Early on, I learned that you were a twin and I would have all kinds of engagement with you and your brother, Todd.  Now, I’ve seen enough movies to know that there’s always an evil twin.  Neither of you would confess or point the finger so I’ll ask one last time.  Are you the evil one?

Rodd: I’m probably the evil one… but you won’t discover the truth until it’s too late.

Doug:  It’s interesting to see how different your two careers turned.  Were the two of you driven by childhood passions?

Rodd: Our childhood was fueled by competitive sport… volleyball, basketball, baseball, track…  but more importantly, by street hockey, street football.  Today, it’s golf.  Growing up in a family of 5 boys, I’d wager my brothers and I could field a competitive team in anything from placid summer bocce to the roar of winter curling.  But it was as adults that we discovered similar passions for the connective web.  Although our professional paths diverged once Todd left traditional teaching to live and teach in nature at Northern Edge Algonquin, we introduced one another to collaborative tools, media production and PR strategies that have now taken root in all sectors of society.

Interesting unknown fact:  Todd was the one who suggested the use of a hashtag to host synchronous online discussions on Twitter.  The first ever live education chat took place due to his suggestion in March of 2009.

Doug:  That is an interesting fact.  That’s led us to do business as we do these days when it comes to structured chats on Twitter.

This all led to Unplugd.  As a Clinton native, I remember people on the bus checking into Elwood Epps’ Orillia store!  The “Letters from the Edge” is so interesting.  Do you ever go back into that archive for memories.?


Thanks, UnPlugd  – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Rodd:  The most powerful archives from UnPlugd12 and UnPlugd11 are scattered among photos (unplugd11, unplugd12), blog posts (unplugd12) and (unplugd11) and audio.  Participants in these experiences were able to forge unique bonds through a shared experience.  By engaging in authentic ‘work’ in a natural and unplugged environment, I think participants came to realize that ed-tech change agents are special people.  I was blessed to have had such smart and committed people to join me in breathing life into the UnPlugd experience.  And what’s most amazing, is to see how these incredibly talented people continue to connect and support one another.

Doug:  These days, you are a Student Success teacher at Regina Mundi in London.  How are you currently using technology with your students?

Rodd:  For the past 7 years, I’ve worked with kids who generally don’t like school (and too often, school returns the sentiment).  When I’m most effective, I’m able to introduce teachers to strategies that make school more interesting for students and teachers alike.  It’s still too common for teachers to see PowerPoint as a technological innovation.  We need to get kids involved in projects that are meaningfully connected to the real world.

Doug:  In your profile, you indicate that you’re a supporter of passion-based learning.  What does this look like in your classroom?

Rodd:  To me, passion-based learning is realized when students have the freedom to be joyful and zealous in their learning.  When challenges best meet the abilities and interests of learners, time disappears… or so says Vygotsky.  A few months ago, I had the chance to lead a group of students in the re-design of our high school which at only 53 years of age is due to be replaced in two years time.  Students were introduced to the architects charged with designing our new building, and over the period of 6 weeks, developed and pitched their ideas about how the outside landscape should be developed to promote the health and wellness of staff and students. This Specialist High Skills Major project proved to be an authentically engaging challenge for students who later shared their ideas with the board of trustees.

Doug:  You’ve been an early adopter of multimedia and I know you for your wonderful presentations.  The last that I enjoyed from the audience was “Finding Robin?”  What was your inspiration for that?


Rodd: I think the most compelling presentations are those that hook you with an engaging story.  Although most of the people I share presentations with are of a generation that missed out on the Batman of our generation, I found it fun to revisit the campiness of the 1960’s T.V. show.  I think it’s fair to say that I commonly create slidedecks that I find entertaining.  I probably spend more time tweaking images and text than most people in the hopes that the results are as engaging for the audience as they are for me.

Doug:  I think that it’s important to recognize that Adam West was the REAL Batman.  Fortunately, we lived through it!

You’ve always been a big advocate of Creative Commons.  It most certainly shows in your presentation; you’re 180 degrees from Death by Powerpoint.  How long does it take you to put together one of your presentations?

Rodd:  At one time, all of my presentations were anchored by Creative Commons imagery.  I used to use a tool called Compfight to filter CC images from Flickr, but now I use the billions of photos in Flickr with the support of other online archives.  Recent revisions to the copyright act in Canada, including ‘fair dealing’ exemptions, have made it a lot easier to leverage compelling images for teaching purposes.  

Doug:  You’ll be a popular presenter at the BIT Conference in November in Niagara Falls.  Can your share your topic with us?

Rodd:  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and learning about gaming and play in recent months.  We’ll be looking at games both old and new, and considering the promise of gamification.  Do you know if there are many Poke-stops in Niagara Falls?

Doug:  There has to be many there.  We haven’t heard stories of people going over the edge in search of one though…

What led you to get involved with eLearningOntario?

Rodd: I saw the promise and potential of online learning tools through my work with the University of Western Ontario (now Western), and in my work with bringing gifted students together in virtual spaces.  The chance to share the possibilities with other educators was what compelled me to apply for the RELC position.

Doug:  In your time as a Regional eLearning Coordinator, you introduced and supported so many of us in the Western Ontario region.  I still remember and appreciate your patience with me as I was setting up classes for the first time.  In so many ways, you were so far ahead of the crowd.  I know that one of your frustrations was the hesitancy of some to embrace social media.  Do you feel a sense of confirmation now that you’ve been proven correct?

Rodd:  I was frustrated by a few things in my role as RELC.  I think the goal of floating all boats with a common tide prevented high fliers from doing more extraordinary things.  It was satisfying to see the Ministry eventually come to embrace social media.  Unfortunately, the Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram channels are now flooded by sponsored content and promotions.  Filtering through the noise in order to have conversations on social media seems to be much more challenging these days.  Still, the relationships we first built on Twitter are still the ones I value most.

Doug:  One thing that many may not know is that you’re a very good golfer.  How are you hitting them in this heat?

Rodd: I LOVE golf!  Now that my 13 year old son has been playing for a few years, I get to play more than I used to.   Why do I love it?  It’s played in the out of doors… in good weather.  It’s a sport can be played as an individual, partner or team.  As a game, it provides a differentiated challenge by adapting the starting point for competitors of different skill levels.  Golf’s handicap system allows all to play on a level playing field.  Golf is a game that you can only play well with patience and focus.  There is a lot to like about the game, even on days that it doesn’t like you back.

Doug: Is there anything new that has your attention?

Rodd: I think there is untapped potential in photos and video on social media.  There are now many teachers using tools like Instagram, Remind, SeeSaw, and FreshGrade to open their classrooms to families and communities.  I’m a big fan of FreshGrade as a closed community option, and have been testing out Instagram as a podcasting platform.  I love mashing up media in different tools that can result in a shareable product.  I currently use FreshGrade to share video with members of my high school volleyball team; and leverage the new 60 second time limit in Instagram to produce mini-documentaries.

Doug:  With all your contacts and experiences, you must have some thoughts – is Ontario on the right track?  Are we getting there quickly enough?

Rodd:  We’ll never get there quickly enough Doug.  

Tech in the classroom:

Do you remember when a filmstrip projector was combined with the record player in the classroom?
“Can I be the one to click forward at the ‘ding’?!”

And when a multi-reel film was played on a film projector
“Wait for the red!”  “Yay!”

And when overhead projectors replaced chalkboards
“Do we have to copy the whole note?”

And then data projectors replaced overheads
“The words on your PowerPoint are too small for me to read!”

And now that Internet video is here
“Another video… We’ve already seen that one!”

Advances in technology now allow for new types of tasks never before undertaken.  The best we can hope, is that pioneers will continue to take risks in engaging modern tools in compelling ways.

Doug:  Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Rodd.  It’s greatly appreciated.  This interview has brought back many fond memories for me.

Make sure that you add Rodd to your list of Twitter leaders – he’s @thecleversheep  You’ll be glad you did.

While at it, make sure that you check out and bookmark the things that Rodd has created and openly shares with others.


You can find a complete listing of all of the interviews I’ve done for this blog by clicking here.

OTR Links 08/22/2016

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

Whatever happened to …

… skeuomorphic design.

You know – drop shadows, gradients, embossing, 3D effects, and so on.

There was a time when multimedia and websites seemed undressed unless you had this fancy stuff included, especially for navigation.

A visit to the Windows93 website reminded me that today’s interface wasn’t always the norm.

I can remember an activity for every Photoshop, Hyperstudio, Web Design workshop I gave and the efforts to make an image look like it had a drop shadow.  You’d draw a button, graphic, menu and then draw another one on top of it and fill it with black and dark grey.  Then, with the hands of a surgeon you select the image and then move it ever so slightly with your mouse.  I actually preferred to use the arrow keys on the keyboard.  My standard was two taps to the right and then two taps down.  You’d then rearrange the order so that the original image was on top and you had your drop shadow.  Select both images, lock them together and you have your 3D.

From an academic point of view, there’s so much computer skill involved that really made it worthwhile for students to learn.

Of course, if you’re using Hyperstudio, you have your choice of buttons and an easy way to create them.  After all, it was designed to make multimedia creation easy for kids.

These days, things are so flat.  It’s so much easier to design.  It’s something that you notice right away and appears in your operating system and browser.  It’s specially important in your browser as it’s probably the most frequently updated piece of software on your computer.  All designers want to appear to be on the cutting edge.

Speaking of which, navigation in Edge looks like this.

it’s not just Edge.

Check out the navigation in Opera under Windows

As opposed to Opera under MacOS

It’s the same functionality but completely different in design.

Icon sets have become flat as well.  Recently, I came across a Super Flat Remix icon set for Ubuntu.  Check out these icons if you’re a Macintosh user.  And, of course, if you’re a Windows 10 user, you’ve got many of them already as part of the operating system.  However, a quick internet search provides even more if you are so inclined.

Design isn’t just limited to flatness.  You’ve got to get the colour combinations correct too.

Just realize that the world hasn’t always been this graphical.  Those of us who used terminals a long time ago were limited to the characters that you could tap on the keyboard.  That didn’t stop people from heading into graphics with combinations of characters.  Check out this if you long for the days where creating ASCII are was a technique of its own.

Do you have any “flat” thoughts?

  • Have you ever designed 3D effects?  
  • Do you have a preference between flat and the alternatives?
  • Does “flat” seem to have a better visual appeal for you?
  • If “flat” just a current fad and will we see our world turn to something else?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts?

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!