This Week in Ontario Edublogs

After a week away from the blogging keyboard, it was nice to get back and see what was new from the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers. And, it was great to get back to voicEd Radio and discuss five of the posts with Stephen Hurley on Wednesday morning. Most people would be working with students at the time and so the show is stored as a podcast on the site.

3 things

Writing on the ETFO Heart and Art Blog, Will Gourley gives us a look at hybrid teaching from his perspective working in that environment. He shares with us three things about hybrid teaching.

  • Hybrid teaching sucks
  • Your students have something to tell you
  • Did I mention that hybrid still sucks?

I think you can get his perspective just by reading the first and third point. It would be easy, I suspect, for anyone to easily draw those conclusions. What lends to the credibility though is that he’s writing in the first person. He shares his setup and concerns about how to ensure that all students succeed. He also gets us into the gear that he has to wear and use in order to make it all happen. I think you’ll find yourself immersed in his world.

Just picture him…

“week with a mic on my head, a mask over my face, and webcam on”

It’s the middle point that I think speaks volumes for educators and shows us the type of educator that Will is. In a blog post that could easily just be Will ranting about how hybrid teaching sucks, he does take the time to ensure that we know that he’s not alone. The kids have a voice too and it’s important that it’s heard.

It’s easy to find stories about the challenges that teachers are facing. The voices of students and parents are always difficult to find and that’s a shame. Is it good for them or do they just not have a platform to make their thoughts heard?

While looking for thoughts, it would be good also to hear from administrators and members of the board of trustees who approved this mode of teaching.

Hybrid Learning Lessons

I had originally selected the post “Reflection: Keep it! Tweak it! Ditch it!” from Jennifer Casa-Todd’s blog to feature this week. When I returned to revisit it, I found this one instead and went with it. I thought it tagged nicely onto Will’s post. Will writes from the elementary classroom and Jennifer from secondary.

Will uses the term “exhausted” and Jennifer uses “November-level exhausted”. They’re both throwing all they’ve got into their teaching.

Jennifer gives us a summary of the technology that she uses in her teaching – “Screencastify, Choice Boards, Hyperdocs, Flipgrid, Station Rotation”.

Last week, she was a panelist on The Mentoree and shared a couple of really important points that I think all could ponder about and perhaps redirect their energies.

  • Fewer is better in terms of tech tools – this is always good advice but even more important these days, especially when you factor in the hybrid model. It’s easy to confuse more tools with more learning but for most classes that’s not the case. Finding a good multi-purpose tool and getting the most from it will get the most from technology. On the voicEd show, Stephen and I professed our love for Hyperstudio but alas …
  • Find a Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter – of course, I flipped over this concept. Connecting with other educators is always a way to push yourself and learn new approaches. It’s also a place to go to recognize that you’re not the only one in the world facing challenges

Salvaging Old Lessons for New Students

Speaking of Hyperstudio – what the heck, let’s throw in Clarisworks as well…

Diana Maliszewski shares a story of collaboration with a new, young teacher looking to up her game. What to do? What to do?

I think most educators are like this. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into developing the perfect or pretty good lesson and are hesitant to throw it away. So, we just keep collecting them.

Diana turns back the resources dial a few years and remembers some great lessons from the past – the unfortunate part was that they were done in Hyperstudio and Clarisworks. Stop for a second and thing about how you’d even open documents created in those formats these days. To support Diana’s desire to get at them, she and her husband went on a search to find tools. And they did apparently find a solution.

I did smile a bit when she complained about the block graphics from days gone by especially since Diana is a big Minecrafter … but she does give us a look at the past and the freshly updated future resource.

The lesson that she resurrects is about phishing – now there’s a topic that will probably always be timely and can be just as important. Way to go, Diana.

The Important Question

Haven’t we all been in settings where we’re talking about or listening to others and the topic is “schools of the future”. It’s a popular topic and a reminder that there are always new things on the horizon for us to embrace.

Typically, we smile and nod and call ourselves and our profession as “life long learning”.

Anne-Marie Kees turns the tables with this question instead.

I also love this question:  What’s not going to change?

My first thought was bureaucracy since it’s such an easy topic to take shots at in education.

She had a more important focus though and that was relationships. I really enjoyed the way that she analysed this. There is a great deal to think about in her analysis.

It’s especially important since the whole notion of relationships has changed for all of us, including students, over the past while. How can we get back to being humans with our need to connect? How do we make sure that nobody gets left behind?

Here’s a reminder.

No WIFI…. No Worries

In Thames Valley, they recently had a professional development day. Sue Bruyns shares with us how the message to be delivered worked its way into each school for the event.

There was one thing that didn’t work its way though – WIFI!

Haven’t we all been there? You’re in the audience at a conference, or even worse, you’re getting ready to present and something goes wrong. Data projector blows up, electricity goes out, fire alarm goes off, or gasp, the internet gives up on you.

Such was the start fo the day for Sue Bruyns.

I’ve been in sessions where the presenter just gives up and tells us to do something else instead because their show can’t go on. They had no Plan B.

It sounds like the district didn’t have a Plan B either but Sue and her team looked around the building and created one on the fly! It’s a great story of recovery. Check out her complete post to find out what it was.

My List of Wishes

I just had to include this post from Aviva Dunsiger. After all, I guess I inspired her to write it.

Last Saturday, I went on an uncharacteristic rant about things that I hate in my world mostly attributed to the effects of COVID.

Aviva decided to take the concept and run with it.

These wishes might largely remain as wishes, and yet, somehow it feels cathartic to write them down and put them out in the world. What wishes might you add to this list? I wonder if framing them as wishes helps me believe in future possibilities. What about you?

It’s quite a long list and I suspect that many educators will empathise with Aviva and her perspective.

It might even ultimately turn into a “to-do” list when the conditions that she’s working on are lifted and things return to normal or to what the new normal will be.

The post is delightfully documented with pictures from her teaching world.

It did bring up another issue for me; I hate how Instagram resizes/crops images that you send it.

Loom Beading, Métis Finger Weaving, and

Hot off the presses from Peter Skillen’s Construction Zone blog is this post in honour of the National Day of Truth and Reconcillation Day on September 30.

It’s a wonderful amalgam of mathematics, coding, problem solving, beading, weaving, and once again shows that you can integrate so many things when you see the big picture.

I’m not sure that I can do Peter’s post justice in my typical summary of a post so I will really encourage you to click through and enjoy the entire post.

It’s well documented with images and respect for culture and there’s so much there for everyone whether you decide to code a solution or not (but you really should – it works in your browser)

The question shouldn’t be “when will we ever need this stuff?”; it should be “patterning and construction predate us; we’re just catching up, learning from people who have been doing this for years”.

Well done, Peter. This truly is an activity with lots of legs to it.

Please click through and enjoy all of these excellent blog post from Ontario Edubloggers.

Then, follow them on Twitter.

  • Will Gourley – @WillGourley
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @JCasaTodd
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Anne-Marie Kee – @AMKeeLCS
  • Sue Bruyns – @sbruyns
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Peter Skillen – @peterskillen

Roller coaster riding

Yesterday’s post about “Whatever happened to” dealt with fairs. One of the fond and not so fond memories was of riding a roller coaster.

Depending upon the location, it might be a small one designed to be portable to go from location to location or it might be a permanent structure where the ride can be significantly bigger since it never gets torn down to be moved.

An example of the first one is the “Mouse Trap” that always seemed to come to our spring fair. My dad loved this ride and would always want to be in the lead car because the wheels connecting the car to the track where in the middle of the car. The effect? On turns, we’d be hanging over the edge of the track befor the turn kicked in. As little kids, my brother and I were terrified.

When Boblo Island was in operation, it had a permanent roller coaster that was the signature ride of the park. As a father, of course, I had to take my own kids for a screamer.

One of the popular field trips at my old high school was to Cedar Point whose claim to fame was that it was the roller coaster capital of the world.

Well, Boblo is now gone and you can’t drive to Cedar Point right now. But, we connected to the internet type of people still have options.

If you have have a Virtual Reality website, you can go for a ride here. (You can do it without the headset but it’s a different experience.

Or, you can build your own! It’s even educational as you design your virtual ride.

Don’t let COVID restrictions stop you from challenging (scaring) yourself. Today, we always have options.

A couple more throwbacks

Yesterday’s post was kind of fun. Going back and playing around with KidPix reminded me of a time when we were “young” in the game of technology in the classroom. The software was the best of breed at the time and who could expect more from block graphics?!

There were a couple of other programs that we from the time of KidPix that went over well in the elementary school classroom and I’ll admit my secondary school computer science students during lunch time in the computer lab.

Oregon Trail

Now, I’ll admit. As a Canadian educator, we didn’t go out and purchase this product for our classroom. Instead, it typically came bundled with a number of other pieces of software when you purchased a computer.

You could probably have made a loose tie to the Ontario Curriculum with this piece of software. The premise was to learn about the challenges of being a pioneer and exploring the US west.

Of course, there is YouTube coverage.

CrossCountry Canada

Now, this one was a little more connected to the Ontario Curriculum. The concept here was that you were a trucker and your job was to take orders and make deliveries of various products from one Canadian location to another.

The infamous message if you try to get ahead of yourself.

Other than refereeing studenst on computer, my fondest memory here was that this was an MS-DOS program that we were able to run on the Icon computers (running QNX) using a DOS emulator.

I found it interesting to play each of these for a little bit of time (links to each above) and to reminisce about how we thought we were effectively using technology at the time. The titles even made it into Additional Qualification courses!

We’ve come a long way.

A real throwback

How’s this for a throwback to the early days of computers in the elementary school classroom?!

It was part of the collection of software titles that were purchased for classroom computers. The software? KidPix.

For many teachers, it was their first foray into using technology in their classroom. Some turned it instantly into meaningful activities and some made it a reward for doing their “real” work. That became a project!

So, we did try our best as a team to show that there was huge potential in incorporating a drawing program into the classroom. One of the more successful ones was the Anti-Bullying Webquest where we used KidPix to generate pictures for a slideshow to be used in a presentation.

So, now for the web, we have this recreation of KidPix 1.0. It’s a faithful copy of the original (with the exception of the click to GitHub and the author’s Twitter account). I had some wonderful memories of playing around with the program.

It’s there just as I remember, block characters and sound effects for each of the buttons to make things happen. You don’t get the sound effects these days but those that are included as part of KixPix reminds me of how they can be used effectively for the beginner. Click the Fill or Move button to see what I mean. I also remember how annoying the sound effects could be in the hands of Junior/Intermediate students. Click the Undo button to see what I mean here.

Anyway, if you’re interested in seeing how much of what we take for granted these days, got started, just head over to

Since it’s freely available on the web, you could make use of it if you have an internet connected computer and want an easy to use drawing program. You just make have to explain a few things like the diskette to save your work!

For me, this was a really nice trip back to days gone by. If you have any KidPix memories, I’d be most interested in reading them in the comments.

Of course, something this good can’t have gone away completely…it’s now 3D.

Drift me some history

One of the things that I’ve grown increasingly appreciate of as I get older is history. In particular, Canadian history.

As my wife – we often will be driving along and I’ll pull over to read historical markers and we’ve gone to many museums or historical places just because they’re there and we’re there at the same time.

Recently, I’ve found out about Driftscape. Especially now that there’s a web version, I’ve been immersing myself in all that it offers. Now that we’re free to travel again, this is definitely going to be a tool in my smartphone. At this point, it’s feeding me new ideas every time I poke around.

The map of Canada shows just how much is available. A quick zoom in to Essex and Kent Counties is an inspiration for some day tripping.

The proof will be what’s local because I can fact check. In the Amherstburg area, it’s nicely identified the Amherstburg First Baptist Church, Bois Blanc Lighthouse, and a number of other places. In the Windsor area, Hiram Walker and the Francois Baby House plus more are there. All of the places are definitely worth the visit before heading east to Kent County. Of course, those trying to understand the War of 1812 will head all the way to the Niagara Region.

There’s a great deal of travelling inspiration here if you’re looking to get out and do some history exploring. Not all places of interest are included but that may grow over time and typically one point of interest will point you to other places in the area.

This is definitely worth checking out. There may be very important historical places in your community that you’ve been past and never realized its significance before.