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!

Activities online


Of course, there are all kinds of activities that are online for classroom use. They have to be carefully evaluated for their effectiveness. Just going to a place with all kinds of multi-media may be impressive but it’s the actual content that is important. As we all know, there are all kinds of sinkholes for time that have very little payback.

Recently, my friend Cliff Kraeker has been directing educators to this Hyperdocs collection on the web.

Hyperdocs

Here, you’ll find a huge collection of links to resources tied to the concept, including a section devoted to Mathematics Hyperdocs. If the concept is new to you, read all about it here.

I’ve been a long time fan of the concept of the Webquest as defined by Bernie Dodge and Tom March. Some may find the notion and presentation a bit dated looking, but that’s the point.

A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web.

Back in the day, it was a particularly useful concept since classrooms typically didn’t have one computer per student. The power came from collaboration around a particular topic with a powerful piece of research, inquiry, and thinking as a result. The idea was to “use” the information from the Internet; not “find” it. I think the concept is even more relevant in these days of fake news.

Through workshops and other sessions, I tried selling the concepts to educators, even creating a few of my own. A popular one was A “No-Bullying Proposal” Webquest. I really liked the concept of group members assuming a role in the bullying process and doing the research from that perspective. The idea is to use the information available on the internet as opposed to just finding the information.

A collection of webquests can be found on Tom March’s site.

Just a caveat before you do a Google Search for Webquests or Hyperdocs – if you didn’t create them, they do have to be evaluated to see if they address expectations and are worth precious classroom time. As we know, search engines are good at finding and maintaining links and keeping them alive even after the author has moved on so use this mindset as you look.

And, of course, if you can’t find the perfect activity, you can always create your own or reach out to your fellow online learners for activities that they’ve found really helpful.

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. 

Amen.

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.


Negativity.

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:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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:

https://templates.office.com/en-us/animation-and-3d

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.