This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I’m not a real fan of using salt. Typically, it’s not needed in Essex County. It could be icy and snowy in the morning but mostly it’s gone by noon (with exceptions of course). This week, we had a pretty good storm by our standards and the patio is actually quite icy. I had shovelled the snow but then it started to melt and back fill. With the winter sun, it doesn’t get much light so I’m thinking I have no alternative. For the rest of you who got much more than us, I know, I know. It’s not a biggy.

Time to share some great blogging from a collection of Ontario Edubloggers. That’s more fun than spreading salt anyway.

Reflecting and Celebrating

I recognize that it’s a challenging time to be in education. Certainly, you don’t have to look very hard to read about the very real challenges.

That’s not the case with Lisa Munro.

We would not expect a family member who just received their beginner’s license to navigate a road trip across Canada in their first week behind the wheel, nor should we expect perfection in the structures and processes we have created with school start up. 


I love a post that is just full of hope and understanding.

Lisa is looking to connect to continue the discussion. Why not enrich your learning network and do so?

Our path to personal wellbeing in 2020: Insights & offerings

I loved this post from Laura Elliott even though I didn’t completely understand it the first time through. A few subsequent reads and I find something new to hang my hat on each time.

She tells a personal story of self-care and the challenges that she has and uses the word yo-yo to describe her journey that ended up in yoga and pilates.

So, if she’s having difficulties, imagine the teenager whose trying to cope these days. It seems to me that it may largely go unnoticed since there is this sense of bravado that goes with growth and development at that age.

Laura then turns her eye towards the media and how its portrayed women over the years and then to social justice. As Stephen Hurley noted in our live radio broadcast on Wednesday when we took on Laura’s description of a “Food desert” in Toronto, it’s always been more affordable to buy less than healthy food. Laura notes that it’s our privilege that allows us to spend more for healthy.

This is a rich post describing part of what’s happening that might well be overlooked. Read it a couple of times; it’s not an easy read but is so full of ideas.


As noted above, it’s not hard to find stories about negativity and so I kind of expected that tone in this post from James Skidmore. It was his reflection on a story reported by the CBC that

“Pandemic has caused decline in educational quality”

This was pulled from an article from a story conducted by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and is focused on post-secondary.

James notes that much of the content from the study was overlooked in favour of reporting on the negative statement above. He draws a couple of conclusions at the end that I think are important.

Then there was this … which I hadn’t thought of. In an effort to maintain student interest when working online, educators have switched to little tasks as opposed to big ones with the idea that they would provide better engagement. On the surface, it might appear to make sense but when you think of the high performers in your class, there really are no little tasks. If there’s a mark or assessment, it’s important so the whole notion may have the opposite effect.

It may work well in a face to face classroom but doing it online is a different ballgame.

Different Number Fonts

It was easy to skim this post from Deanna McLennan. After all, it’s two short paragraphs, two pictures, and a link.

But it stuck with me for some reason.

She gave her students a pair of dice, a bingo dabber and then a sheet of numbers in different fonts. The instruction – make a game.

Of course the mathematician in me could think of a number of ways this could turn into a game but then I was disappointed in my thinking. All of my ideas had been done previously so I was just working with my previous learning.

And, am I missing or overlooking the point with the use of different fonts? Then, I started to think with the dabber and the different fonts, the product started to look like those annoying Captchas that drive me crazy. That then, opened my mind to newer things. So, I appreciated the push to my thinking, Deanna. I hope that she follows up with some of the things that these inquisitive minds generated.

Oh, and there’s a link to a document that she created that you could download and use it with your class.

You’re making me hungry!

Who hasn’t found the concept of student blogging intriguing? In theory, it should be easy to do. Just get the kids to write about something that interests them. How many times have you seen that logic fall flat on its face. There are so many dead blogs out there that started out with the best intentions.

I’ve long been a fan of what Cameron Steltman does with blogging. He writes the blog post and then his students go to the blog and respond to his prompt. It has been a while and I had wondered if he had given up on the concept. I was pleased to see that he’s back.

Now here’s the challenge, can you write a descriptive paragraph that doesn’t mention what your food is but describes it so well that your classmates can guess what it is?

As I write this, there have been 18 responses. I can’t remember the last time I got 18 responses to a blog post! Have I ever?

Here’s the most recent.

Did you get it?

More importantly, check the time and date stamp on this reply. When was the last time that you had students writing at 5:30 in the morning?

Psychology, Cybersecurity and Collaboration in Educational Technology

I file part of the content of this post from Tim King under “things I hope never happen to me”.

Followers of Tim know that he and his students have been doing some pretty heavy lifting with cybersecurity. While some classes are dragging and dropping blocks to draw geometric figures, this goes way deeper.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s room for both and both should be done.

It’s so easy to sit back and say “this will never happen to me” and I hope that it never does. But, when it does, what do you do? Who do you turn to? It may well be one of Tim’s graduates who have been interested and immersed in the concept of security.

The post describes the activities that students work through and has them using virtual machines. What an experience for them!

Think this will never happen in “real life”, whatever that is these days? It happens more than you would think and my stomach just sinks when I see some of the cases that make the news – typically not because the bad guys were caught but because someone paid the ransom to get their data back.

The torch has passed…

There comes a certain age when things are passed along from family members to others. It may not have happened to you yet but there will come a time.

It’s most noticeable and most emotional when it happens at “big event times” like birthdays or anniversaries.

In Anna Bartosik’s case, it appears to be happening this Christmas season. She’s on the receiving end of the torch.

“We have to make pierogi this year. I’ll do the fillings and we’ll make them together on the weekend. We can get them finished in one morning. We can make enough to share and take some to your aunts and your grandmother.”

I’ll be damned if I let COVID steal the Christmas pierogi.

There are a lot of Polish things in here that I don’t really understand but I do have memories of my parents owning one of those crocks. We used it for making pickles but not in this case!

It’s a lovely story of family and generations.

Please take the time to click through and enjoy all of these wonderful posts.

Then, make sure that you’re following these bloggers on Twitter.

  • Lisa Munro – @LisaMunro11
  • Laura Elliott – @lauraelliottPhD
  • James M Skidmore – @JamesMSkidmore
  • Deanna McLennan – @McLennan1977
  • Cameron Steltman – @MrSteltman
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Anna Bartosik – @ambartosik

This post originates on the blog:

If you found it anywhere else without attribution, it’s not the original and that makes me sad.

Upping your game

I’ll start off my saying that I’m not fond of templates, especially in education.

I’ve sat through many presentations where I know that I’ve seen the template that the presenter is using. Basically, they’ve downloaded a template and clicked in the placement text to add their own text, save it, and call it a presentation. At least, change the colours!

So, there’s my opening rant.

This week, my Windows computer let me know that there was an update available so I told it to go for it. That, before I read that some people were having issues with the upgrade … My upgrade went smoothly and quickly. As always, after the upgrade, I turned the computer off and then back on again. I know … old school mentality … there was a time when that was always required so superstitiously, I went for it. Things look nice, including the new Start Menu, the colours, etc. that I’d been reading about.

Maybe it was because it was cold outside, maybe it was the fact that I was just bored but this time, I actually click on and read the “See what’s new in this update” link. I did some exploration, but it was this one that really caught my attention and sent me down the wormhole.

That wormhole ultimately led me to this page:

I was intrigued and played around with some of the templates.

Now, of course, you could just click the default text and make it yours. For me, though, I wondered about the possibilities that could come from messing around and seeing just how the templates were created. I could use those skills for myself.

In these days of more time spent working with schoolwork digitally, there is an increase in online presentation as part of the coursework.

This collection, properly used, could really make things pop in the hands of a creative teacher or student.

Extension tutorial

This was very cool.

I was working my way through my reading the other day and ran into this tutorial and worked my way through it.

How to Build a Chrome Extension

Now, to be honest, I’ve worked my way through a number of similar tutorials in the past. I’ve been successful in the particular activities but ended up just deleting my work.

This one is a little different, certainly relevant, and well laid out.

Bottom line, it’s a tutorial that lets you search an online database for COVID-19 statistics and display them in your browser. Sure, you can go to a website and search for results but it’s handy just having them there in your browser, a click away.

A second goldmine find here is a link to active data to feed the program.

Of course, the data is as up to date as the last update.

I’m also thinking of Computer Science classrooms where you’re always looking for the answer to “why are we doing this”? Here’s a real-life example to work through. There is minimal internal documentation but that can be elaborated and then, of course, there are the mods.

The tutorial is easy to read and work through. Lots of copy/paste but a nice display of where the various files go in the file system of your computer.

Meet our ghosts

The big news came out last Wednesday. On Thursday at 4pm, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island would be revealing a digital online Ghost Tour of Olde Amherstburg.

Now, ghosts around here aren’t necessarily new. The cemetery on Texas Road has long been rumoured as being haunted.

It didn’t make this list but many of the buildings downtown did.

A couple of very important events happened here that would make it ideally attractive to suspect ghosts.

I was lucky. The tour itself is in downtown Amherstburg where Jaimie and I walk every evening! So, I loaded the app and we were off!

There were lots of places to explore in a short area of the downtown.

Off we went, and checked out the areas.

Each of the areas provide you with images and an audio story behind what you’re seeing. The images came from the Marsh Historical Collection. The stories are interesting and the presentation gives you a virtual 3D walk through in some of the locations.

But, the winners were the actual ghost images that you can summon. Instructions are to step back as they appear — it was then that we realized that we weren’t alone. Some of the images were from Dalhousie Street so it is good advice to look around you because you could end up in the middle of the street. There were a number of people backing up while looking at their phone on this cold evening.

Near the Park House, we found this ghostly resident

The ghost was scarier on my phone as it wasn’t a static image but a shimmering figure that gave it a 3D effect. There were a number of these images that also included a downtown gallows.

At the foot of Richmond Street, another one…

It was fun exploring and I was able to continue from at home although since it uses GPS, I had to start out from at home each time.

If you download the image or visit the website, you’ll see that there are a number of tours. While ours is free, some of the Toronto ones are pay to use. I guess our ghosts work for free.

When you launch the application for the first time, there is a huge terms of use reading; the biggest I’ve ever seen. Because it’s using GPS, you’re warned up front that they’re collecting location data. Their list of partners give you a sense that your data is safe. (Canada Media Fund, Government of Canada, Ontario Creates and FACTOR)

The whole activity brought back memories of a workshop that I used to offer a number of times for our district and I’m sure that I’ve done it for other events like the RCAC Symposium or ECOO Conference.

The workshop was a virtual tour of your school. I found out that the Plant Department had 8.5 x 11 floor maps for every school in the system. Since my office was right next to theirs, it was a short walk to go over and get photocopies of them all. In the workshop, we would scan them and bring them into Hyperstudio as a background. Then, we would overlay a hotspot on the various classrooms and link them to a separate Hyperstudio card where information about the class, pictures, and even movies taken by the schools RCA Small Wonder camera. GPS wasn’t an option at that time but it would be interesting to redo this project and use location generated from the phone. I’m stumped though at how to create the 3D ghosts.

It was a wonderful experience to go through the downtown and get some more history about our very historic town.

The 2000s called

and they want their software back!

I got an alert from a friend the other day with a link to a website. I hopped over there for a peek and … holy cow! There were animations and questionable colour choices all over the place.

It took me back to the 2000s and my work on the OSAPAC Committee. Once of the products that we were able to license was Adobe Photoshop Elements. This was really big at the time. It was THE photo editing software. Of course, you could do much more that with the software. For successful implementation, it required a considerable amount of professional development sessions and that was a great deal of fun. I still have one of the tutorials for those who couldn’t attend in person.

We did things like putting your head on someone else’s body, touch up images, cropping out other things, and so much more. Also big at the time was creating animations and, of course, Adobe Flash was the standard. We were just starting to develop school and personal web preferences at the time. So Flash and animated GIFs and background music were mandatory. It didn’t take a PhD to pull it off. But it did raise the ire of the web browsing public who wanted content and not annoying distractions. Today’s browsers either don’t or won’t shortly support Flash and you now have the ability to mute tabs that want to distract you. Who needs a blaring tab when you hit a web page in the middle of the night while the family sleeps? The animated GIF, however, lives on for some reason. .gif isn’t the only format for animation; you can also do the same with .png files

Today, there are all kinds of tutorials awaiting you at YouTube.

I can remember doing one workshop and got a call later from a teacher who wanted to share her class work with me and dictated me the link. Yeah, it was a long time ago.

When I went there, there was a classful of animation just spinning or flashing or whatever. So, the students had learned part of this powerful program and undoubtedly a bit of storyboarding and layering. And they presented it like only kids can.

It was a good opportunity to have a discussion about the need for content to go with the animations. By themselves, they were just annoying.

Fortunately, most of the web has matured from that time. If you look at your favourite newspaper, the trend is toward large titles, maybe an appropriate photograph and then content. Your newspaper doesn’t waste your attention span on animated things. That’s relegated to the advertising world that is forced to compete with the actual content on the page!

These days, I haven’t created one of these things. I just don’t feel the need. I also now use GIMP as my editing package and it does the job nicely.

If you’re not interested in installing software, there are online utilities for you to use.

Now, there is a time and a place for these things. I know that some people like to use it for their logo and I don’t find that all that intrusive since I’m typically after content and have long gone past the name at the top!

I think the advice is still good – don’t confuse this stuff as content. It’s fluff, filler, and distracting. Many of your readers may not even see it as they’re using RSS or their browser’s reader mode to read your site content. The 2000s were a great time for learning how to make your computer and browser sit up and spin. I’d like to think we’ve gotten past that.