Category: application

A fruitful activity

Who doesn’t know about the power of Desmos in the teaching of Mathematics?  The images, activities and everything make learning cool.  It’s one blog for Mathematics that you have to follow for inspiration and ideas.

There’s a wonderful collection of activities that will get you and your students thinking and analysing … fruit!  It’s called Pomegraphit.  Log in to your Desmos account and do a quick search.

Then, the learning gets juicy.


It starts easily enough in the collection of activities.


And, as you work your way through things, the opportunities for learning get really interesting.


And, of course, there’s a teacher’s guide to help you work your way through the Mathematics and the activities.  I never really thought about fruit as being difficult.  But, when you think of the pomegranate – maybe.




I remember a conversation with my daughter about protocols with certain elements of social media.  In this case, it was Words with Friends.  I had just beat her in a game and so started another.  Apparently, that was a no-no.

Dad, the loser starts the new game.  That way, …

  • they can stop playing with you if they want
  • it’s only courtesy because there’s an advantage going first and that advantage should go to the person who just lost

So, I’ve been told.  Who knew there was a protocol for doing something right?  She did, and now so do I.

This past weekend brought to my awareness of a couple of things that perhaps is screaming that a protocol for these digital assistants is necessary.

Even before the advent of them, technology can be so intrusive.  I remember a person who had the same employer as me and always wore a bluetooth earpiece.  You could be in the middle of a meeting and a call would come in and it was always more important that continuing with the meeting.

And, we all know that it’s only courtesy to set your phone to vibrate when you’re in a public place.  How many times though are you listening to a concert or presentation or something and a phone goes off?

Sometimes, the preoccupation with technology is just fun to watch.  Over the weekend, I was killing some time browsing the PATH in downtown Toronto and watched a person who was more engaged in their device than noticing the fountain that he almost walked in to!

I saw a couple of instances where the digital assistant raised rudeness to a new level.  Imagine sitting with people and one person raises their finger (the teacher gesture to be quiet) so that they could “OK, Google” and get an answer to what they were curious about.

Or, getting on a train to come home thankful for booking early so that you get a window seat only to have the person next to you “OK, Google”ing all the time just asking for seemingly random things.  Fortunately, I had my noise cancelling headphones with me and popped them on to listen to some music while counting the trees until we got to Oakville, hoping he would get off.  Nope, he was there for the whole duration.

Now, you know that I like technology as much as the next person but there is a whole other world out there beyond you and your digital assistant.

Shouldn’t we respect that?

It’s not like you can just ask the person to respect you … that only solves the problem for one person.  It will pop up again with the next person.

I can’t help but think that things are only going to get worse.  What’s it going to take to stop this?  Maybe a reminder that you can always quietly type your query?

How about a proximity sensor?  “There are people within earshot; are you sure you still want to ask me a question?”

Society wants to know.

Hey, it’s Cortana

One of my morning news feeds is Microsoft specific.  This morning, it was flooded with the news that Microsoft had released Cortana for the iPad.  Story after story after story about it.

There’s my call to action.

So, I went to the Apple App Store and, not surprisingly, it was the first result for a Cortana search.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t the only result.  So, I made sure that I had the one from Microsoft and downloaded it.

To be honest, I expected to find out that it wouldn’t run on my device.  After all, Siri won’t run on it.  Apple stopped updating the OS on the iPad2 a long time ago.  So, I was pleasantly surprised that Cortana installed without a complaint.

Now, to test it….  Then, you have one of those moments when you realize that these digital assistants want to have access to your entire life.  It needed permission to use my microphone, access to photos, calendar, contacts, …  It’s too bad there wasn’t a button that said “You already have access to all that on my Windows 10 computer, knock yourself out”.  A few permissions granted later and I’m looking at an extremely clean interface.  Now, I could have typed my query like I would normally on Windows 10 but decided to use the microphone.

“What’s the weather in Pong.., Pyong…, Pyeong…, How many times have I heard it on television in the last week?

I couldn’t pronounce it correctly so it was easier to say “South Korea”.  If you look at the results, Cortana knew what I meant and responded appropriately.

CortanaSo, a tap later and I would be on an an appropriate web resource.

What would Google do?  On my iPad, I also have the Google Application.  I asked the exact same question and got this.


What would Siri do?  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out since I can’t install it.

I’m still up in the air about where or if digital assistants are going to run/take over my life. Heck, I’m still trying to get my head around the difference between the Google App and the Google Assistant.

I still like the concept of typing because it’s mostly accurate as opposed to voice recognition.

I’m still at the playing point and don’t really have a complete opinion yet.  But, as any kindergarten teacher will tell you, playing is good.  I’m fully aware that both are calling home to Bing and Google in the process.

So, I have two opinions that I can turn to if I need to on my iPad.

Just not Apple’s.

A feature I didn’t know I needed …

… until this morning, that is.

I turned on my computer and booted it into Linux Mint to do some work and the Update Manager reported that there were a number of updates.  This isn’t a new thing.  I always apply the updates and then go about using the application.  Generally, life goes one and the promise that the developer has “fixed some bugs or tweaked something to give better performance”.  Quite frankly, I just go along with the claims; I don’t spend hours testing them out.  I just figure things get better.

One of the updates was to the Opera Browser.  So, I let the Update Manager do its thing while I did something else.  When it reported that life was good (i.e. everything installed), I opened Opera.  A new tab opened which doesn’t always happen but that’s OK.  It shared that there were some updates.  The cryptocurrency issue was still at the top but I decided to do a quick scroll anyway in case there’s something really different.

And there was.

About half way down, I saw this.


Those reading this blog know that I would have to stop in my tracks and try it.  I literally sucked in my breath.  This is amazing.

I can’t think of the number of times that I’ll be in the middle of reading a long, scrollable article and then wonder who the author was.  Or some key point at the beginning.

My technique is usually to grab my mouse and roll the cursor to the top.  Or do the same thing with my trackpad.  Of, if I’m connected to this external keyboard and using Windows or Linux, just tap the Home button.  For the Macintosh, Home has a different meaning.

Regardless, I’ll admit there are times when I lose track of what I was doing.  It’s like walking into a room and then forgetting why I was going there in the first place!  But now, I can just tap the tab to go to the top and then tap again to return to exactly where I was.  This was built just for me.  I just didn’t know that I needed this feature until I got it!

Add this to the list of amazing things that Opera has added – cryptocurrency protection, Turbo Mode, free VPN, in-browser adblocking, sidebar, …

For me, this is big.  What about you?  How long before other browsers copy this feature?


Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see part of the Art Gallery of Ontario as part of the learning activities provided by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation’s Curriculum Forum.

There was one section that was of focus for us and that was ReBlink.

Unfortunately, the iPads that were part of the project weren’t working.  But, one of the people in our group had the flyer so we knew that we could download the application for our own devices.  In my case, it was my phone.

After connecting to the AGO wifi (recommended since the application was big), I soon had it on my device.  For it to work, you had to go to selected pieces of art, load the application, and then just point your device at the picture.  What happens next is just amazing.

If you read the link from the AGO above, you get the concept.  If not, here’s the teaser.

Have you ever wondered how the AGO’s paintings would look with a modern update? How would the portraits change? And how would the landscapes transform?

Really?  Oh yes!

And the application makes it so easy to activate and, with a click, you’re sharing your image on social media.

Now, by itself, that image might not do it for you.  But, you had to be there.  Just moments before this, the people in the pictures were actually in separate frames.  The lady on the left; the man on the right.

There were a couple of footprints on the floor between the two paintings and a box a couple of metres away.  Fortunately, in my group was Anthony Carabache (@HeyCarabache) and he was up for a little experimenting.

I had to have one of myself.

This was so cool.  Being the inquisitive people we are, we tried to come up with a “how did they do that” moment.  The best hypothesis we came up with was that the process must work with a Google Goggles approach; the application recognizes the specific picture and then acts on it.

If that’s true, then is it the actual painting that triggers it or is it the image?

We tried our hypothesis first by taking a picture of the painting and then pointing the application on a second phone to the first phone.  Next step was to try it on the flyer that was mentioned above.  The result?  Well, you’ll have to try it yourself.

Then, it was off to find the other paintings that had been specially marked to be part of the exhibit.

Like the canned comment says “We couldn’t believe our eyes”.  The 3D presentation and the ability to look around corners and see the little things that were hidden in the new pictures really engaged us and kept us wanting more.

If you happen to be in Toronto, support the Art Gallery of Ontario and enjoy this feature while it’s still running.

Historical pinned pictures

This is absolutely brilliant.

Read on if you enjoy taking a pictorial walk back in time.  I started with the historypin website.

Screenshot 2018-02-07 at 10.51.48

I tried an experiment, fully expecting to strike out.  I asked historypin about my hometown.  I didn’t think that there would be anything about Clinton, Ontario.

I was wrong.

historypin returned an interesting split screen.  On the left of the screen was a Google map showing the town.  On the right was a small, but interesting collection of images.  The first one actually had the Google Peg that, when clicked, overlaid the current Streetview with the image that was posted.  It was an interesting display of then and now.

I did enjoy the pictures that were there but then I started to pay a little more attention.  Except for the first picture which was a sort of default generated icon, all of the other images had a reference to Western Archives, Western University.  I opened that link in a new tab before doing a little more exploring just entering random locations into the historypin search and enjoying the results.  Stratford, Goderich, Chatham, Sarnia, Windsor, Kingsville, Petrolia, …

Then, I went back to the open tab.  It was a summary of activity from the Western Archives.  They had indeed been busy with a total of 3500 pins.  As you would expect, most of the pins were from their London, ON collection.

But not all.

Screenshot 2018-02-07 at 11.08.46

And, I was off.  This is a delightful collection to explore and the positioning on Google Maps puts everything into context.

Those from Southwestern Ontario will appreciate their efforts.  I can only imagine what students would think about the history of their community displayed right before their eyes.

And, of course, that’s just the beginning.  I know that early morning readers of this blog post will come from Hamilton, Peterborough, Thunder Bay, Toronto … you won’t be disappointed.  If you’re checking in from Zug though, it’s empty.  Zurich does have some.

Why not take a digital tour with your students soon?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy February and Groundhog Day (updated)…

For this Huron County boy, there only is one weather predictor – Wiarton Willie.  But I understand there are others.

While you wait for the sun to rise, check out these posts from Ontario Edubloggers.  I usually refer to this link but I also keep a Scoopit collection here.  I refer to that because


It’s now at a gold level.  That’s a lot of blogging.  Way to go, folks.

I’m sorry, but the world needs more real apologizing

Heather Swail has an interesting take and insight on a Canadian trait – being nice.  I mean, who among us hasn’t apologized without any real need?  I smile when I think of a lady who wasn’t paying attention at the store the other day and ran her grocery cart into me.   I apologized to her.

What can I say?  I was raised to be polite.

Heather’s take is that an apology should be …

A real heartfelt – not intellectually or strategically manufactured – apology involves reflection and thought on the part of the apologizer.

My action, I guess, could best be described as a reflex action.

We know that learned behaviours can be modified.  Is the reflex on my part worth the time and training that would be needed or is there a problem with being overly apologetic?

A $50 Million Gift Horse

This post, by Anne Shillolo is actually a copy of an email that she wrote to the Minister of Innovation with respect to the $50 million that has been allocated to the CanCode project.

The CanCode program will invest $50 million over two years, starting in 2017-18, to support initiatives providing educational opportunities for coding and digital skills development to Canadian youth from kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12). It also supports initiatives that provide K-12 teachers with the training and professional development they need to introduce digital skills, coding and related concepts into the classroom.

Anne correctly identifies the lay of the land, at least here in Ontario.

  • Not enough young women in technology,
  • Not enough computer science (CS) teachers in Ontario,
  • Most teachers’ colleges are no longer training CS teachers,
  • Teacher candidates are not choosing CS as a teachable.
  • High school CS and engineering courses are not offered province wide.

Then, she proceeds to share her thoughts about outsourcing professional development for teachers.  It’s a letter that will get you thinking.

The CanCode details can be found here and the list of winning companies here.

Precarious Absences – The impact of teacher intervention truancy systems

Deborah Weston tagged me in the announcement of the release of this post.

It’s a standing joke in the educational profession that it’s easier to come to work sick than to plan lessons for someone else to teach while you are under the weather.  Creating lessons is difficult enough when you’re healthy.  Being sick makes it even more difficult.

I see you nodding your head.  We’ve all said that.

Yet, there are times when you have to take time off.  It’s very seldom to get a doctor’s appointment in other than school hours.  Society generally likes people working from 8-5.

Now, I like a computer to do all kinds of administrative things for me as much as the next person.  Deborah talks about teacher truancy systems that track days off and then performs some sort of action for excessive time off.

As Deborah notes, it does cast a wide net.  Wouldn’t the principal of a school be in a better position of knowing if someone is potentially taking advantage of days off?

In the bigger scheme of things, the days are laid out as a matter in a collective agreement.  At what point does this become a violation of that agreement?

ok go

For the record, I don’t own a Google Home device.  But, I do have an Android phone with the Google Assistance installed and I’ll admit that it’s darn handy at times to just ask a question and get Google to try and respond with a a useful suggestion.

I’ve even trained Google to know that my dog’s name is Jaimie.  It was just a case of fooling around, asking Google…

“What’s my dog’s name?”

And the first time, Google didn’t know.  So, I taught it.

Now, when I ask “What’s my dog’s name?”, Google will respond correctly.

Chris Cluff shares a combo blog post, podcast with Chad Reay about Google Home.  Both the blog post and the podcast are entertaining and insightful.  I recommend both.

As for Google Home, my son got one for Christmas and we did have some fun with it.  But, when you put your tinfoil beanie on, you do realize that it’s listening all the time waiting for you to say “Hey, Google”.

The podcast did get me thinking about whether or not it is a welcome member of the household or classroom.  What do you think?

The Essential Catchall

When I read the title for this post by Tim King, I didn’t know what to expect.

It turns out, he’s reflecting on his teaching of an Essentials class.  This post is a powerful look inside the classroom and shares with us just how students end up in this course.  With Tim’s description, it’s quite obvious that a course geared for a particular type of student certainly takes a turn for the worse when it becomes a catchall.


I found Tim’s description quite disturbing.

I would have thought if anyone could reach out and design a course to engage students, it would be him.  He embraces technology and learning at an inspiring level.  And yet, he reports that equipment in his shop gets broken.

You can’t help but speculate that success would only be achieved if the catchall philosophy is abandoned and student needs become paramount rather than the current reality.

Taking the step: Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces in my mathematics classroom

When you close a blog post with

The richness of the mathematics and the thinking that resulted from it was well-worth the challenges though. Moving forward we will use this strategy for some logic puzzles and number challenges, and then transition into specific curriculum content.

you know that you’re onto something good.

Melissa Dean’s post is interesting and got me thinking just about “how” we do mathematics.  Typically, it’s done by yourself flat on a desktop.  After all, the school board paid a lot for those desks.

Occasionally, you get called to write your solution to a problem on the black/white/green board in the classroom.  It’s different; you’re writing in a different direction but you now have a potential audience looking at your work.  She describes a problem solving situation that involves a triad and the role of the scribe.  (You have to read her post to see why I used that word!)

What I think is particularly noteworthy is for her to step back and view the students as mathematicians.  This whole activity is certainly worth trying out in your classroom.

Knowledgehook Math PLC Planning Tool

Kyle Pearce takes us through a very thorough walkthrough of the Knowledgehook PLC tool.

The product is made by a Kitchener based company and claims a few Ontario school boards already as clients.


It’s an interesting walkthrough with Kyle’s comments as your guide to what’s happening on the screen captures that he shares.

Clicking through Kyle’s post takes you to the Knowledgehook website where there are a number of mathematics tools running the gamut from free with a few features to a subscription model with much more utility.

In case you missed it, I had a chance earlier this week to interview Helen DeWaard.

Thanks for sticking with this post to get to the bottom!  I hope that you’ll click through and read the original posts in all their glory.  There’s lots there for learning and reflection.

And, don’t forget to add these bloggers to your learning network.