A new standard


well, it was for me anyway. And a launchpad to do some more learning.

I’ve mentioned before that we were able to get fibre brought into our house. No more 3MB service on a good day. In my computer nook, I have this little television that we’ve had for a number of years. Maybe I could stream television to it!

As it turns out, I had been gifted an Apple TV years ago. So, I connected it to the television, to the internet, and then turned it on. So far so good. As I started to poke around, the operative word were “years ago”. Yes, there were options to send to the television but I didn’t recognize some of them and others were pay to play. At least, there were some radio stations. But no CTV or CBC GEM. Sigh.

It always seems to happen to me. Either I have technology that is really old or I buy something that’s on sale which is kind of a hint that the technology is on its way out.

As it turns out, I did have a gift card from The Source with some money on it. Maybe I’ll get with the times and get something a little more recent. Wow, AppleTVs are definitely getting a premium price!

I know that many people have opted for Chromecasts and that was intriguing. But, I wanted a little more and so ended up with a Google Chromecast 4K with Google TV. It shipped from Barrie and was here in a couple of days. Connections were easy; the defaults were interesting but access to the entire collection of applications will keep me busy for a long time, I suspect.

I knew, for sure, that the standard that was important to get was 4K. It’s not like it’s available everywhere but maybe someday. This morning, I read this article about how the GoogleTV was certified for HDR10+. To be honest, that was a standard I hadn’t heard of so I started my researching here.

Of course, the real test will be finding broadcasting that works in that format and then to see if I’m able to enjoy the difference.

If anyone is versed in this new technology, please share your learning with me. I’m on a mission now to get my head around this. It actually feels kind of good to be ahead of the technology at this moment in time. Now I just have to learn why.

Canadian towns


Recently, I stumbled onto this resource and there goes any extra time I might have! It’s called 1000 Towns of Canada and the goal is to have all of Canada’s small towns in one place.

The maple leaves will let you know just what a wealth of information is there already.

Of course, there’s a search field to let you go precisely to your destination.

My initial explorations were a little different – I just zoom in on a community that I know and see what comes up. So, for Seaforth, I get this …

Like most resources like this, it’s interesting to poke around and learn a little of the history of the various locations. Depending upon the link, you might end up with a link to an interview or some pictures historical or otherwise of the communities. Just go nuts clicking on the red links.

In that case of Seaforth, it was a nice memory trip along Main St. South. How many big towns have just one “Main Street”.

When was the last time you poked around your old home town and fully appreciated those people who came from there?

Click here for a Media Kit that explains the project.

Patterning


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.

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.


Complex

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

World Radio Day


Today is World Radio Day. How are you celebrating?

I’m thinking about all the great radio that I’ve had the privilege to listen to over the years. Growing up and going out with friends, there were only two radio stations that were ever on the car radio. AM mono radio at its best.

CKLW – the Big 8 – it played all the great, hot and popular music of the time.

WCAR – the problem with CKLW was that it had a smaller playlist at the time. When the same old song came on again, we’d switch to WCAR.

There was a great deal of loyalty to those stations. I don’t recall scanning for anything else while in the car.

There were a couple of other radio stations that would be turned on at either my place or my girlfriend’s place. The biggy was CKNX from Wingham where you could get the crop futures and other farming advice. Add at 1:00, there was “In Memorium”.

CFTR – the university years! The good old power stations from Detroit didn’t quite reach where I went to school in Waterloo and Toronto. But, there was still great music.

and, of course, when my best friend came from Toronto, we had to listen to CHUM.

Of course, there were those late night trips back and forth to university. I had a tendency to drift in and out if I was listening to music and so would scan for talk radio. I seem to remember a station from Chicago that did the trick for me.

Around that time, a new phenomenon happened. You could listen to radio stations through your cable television service! The university’s low power station CKMS was available there. It brought to me the idea of progressive rock and listening to complete albums instead of just what was popular.

And then the reality of getting a job and driving to work. It seemed like old home moving back to the broadcasting area of Windsor/Detroit. CKLW had changed though. Actually, radio had changed and AM and FM were both broadcasting in stereo if they wanted. But, I carpooled with a colleague and the station was stuck on WRIF.

These days, we seem to have returned to our country roots and the radio is set to CJWF which actually broadcasts on two channels. One from Windsor and the other from Leamington so we’re covered wherever our dog walking takes us.

Except when we’re in the car where the dog is not allowed to enter! There, we have SiriusXM radio. We pay for all the stations but leave it on E Street Radio.

Of course, these days, radio stations are more available than ever. In addition to the local over the air stations, there are all kinds available through television service and, now that I have decent internet connections, via the internet.

Yet, local still lives. Even in the heavily saturated Windsor Detroit media market, we have a local who has applied for a radio station right here in town. Media people will know Marty Adler from CBC, Windsor Raceway, and Leamington Raceway. If anyone has the expertise to make it happen, it’s him.

A few years ago, I got into this. I had a request from Stephen Hurley to do a live radio show on voicEd Radio based on my This Week in Ontario Edublogs Friday blog post. Uncreatively, we gave it the same name on his fledgling radio station and we’re live for an hour on Wednesday mornings. You don’t really need high end gear to do the show although he does the actual heavy lifting and has much more sophisticated stuff. My “studio” looks much like my regular workspace.

It’s nothing like the studio at WKRP but, with a lot of coaching from Stephen, it works. I like concept. While podcasting is increasingly popular, often it can be over produced. There’s nothing like going live, mistakes and all!

It’s funny when you think of the original premise of radio. You turn to a station and listen. Things have certainly become better and more popular over time. Yet, that same premise still exists.

So, find some way to celebrate World Radio Day. Radio has always been there for us and there’s no hint that it’s going to go away soon!