AI fun for the classroom

We read so much about how AI is the future. At times, the things that pop into the news seem so far fetched that it’s easy to write off as the sort of thing that only the truly geeky can appreciate.

Then, something comes along that brings things down to our level – you know the sort of thing that you can experiment with on your own personal computer and get some interesting results. This makes you think that maybe there’s something about this for the future after all!

My preoccupation for the last while has been the Teachable Machine.

The tutorial talks about a three step process – Gather, Train, Export.

Gather is kind of fun sitting here in my computer area all by myself. I’m not sure that I’m ready to do this in front of the family.

Train is at the heart of it all. Once you have gathered enough information, you get the opportunity to see how your model recognizes new things.

Export lets you take the results of your hard work (or seemingly hard work since I was learning more than just working the tutorial) for purposes beyond the tutorials.

I’m not sure that I can claim to be all that more of an expert in this as a result but I sure learned a great deal about this Teachable Machine. The site isn’t one to leave you to fend for yourself. There are tutorials to help along each step.

Not surprisingly, since it’s a “withgoogle” project, there is a great deal of YouTube video to support you. Above and beyond the actual work, there are articles that will let you do some more in depth reading. In particular, the Ethics article was interesting.

If you’re looking for a product to dabble with in your classroom, you need to check this one out.

Learning about Watson

At the Bring IT, Together Conference last week, I had slotted aside half a day to spend in Tim King’s session on security. As it would happen, unfortunately, the voicEd Radio show was being recorded at the time so I had to miss it.

I’m not sure whether or not presenters got a registrant list so I hunted him down over lunch to let him know of my absence. He didn’t seem to be too disappointed (maybe it was the birthday gift I’d given him last summer) but then he indicated that I needed to go to this other session in the afternoon. It was given by Gordon Alexander from IBM. He was going to talk about IBM’s Watson and augmented intelligence. He also had good IBM swag to give away. I like swag.

So, I went and thoroughly enjoyed things. While Mr. Alexander had to step aside for a couple of minutes at the start, Tim begin the session and, of course, we had to get up to speed with Watson and its work on Jeopardy.

I’d seen it before but was interested all the same. Then, Mr. Alexander came back and delivered the message that was the heart of the presentation. Then, we got a chance to try it ourselves.

All of us in the group were invited to create a free account on Watson and it was smart enough to reject this flood of requests from the same location! So, we switched off the wifi on our phones and created the accounts on our own data. Success.

The activity that were to take part of was to create our own chatbot. Tim’s TEJ class had had the same presentation as we did and they did things like an interactive pizza ordering bot. That would definitely be of interest to students and so we were off. The interface was very much like flowcharting from years ago before flowcharting kind of went away for programming as we shifted away from a procedural paradigm. It seemed very natural and fluent for me and I was plugging away when Tim offered an already created product that he thought we should explore. Diversion time.

It was called Personality Insights and the claim was that Watson would take your content from Twitter and make observations about you as a user. I guess it makes sense since when you post to Twitter, you don’t have any expectation of privacy. So, we gave it a shot. We also found out that the source is on GitHub.

By this time, Tim’s wife Alanna had come along side of me. She wanted to see my results. Only if I could see hers! She grabbed her tablet and off the two of us went off to explore.

Thankfully, I had a fully qualified teacher-librarian sitting beside me to explain some of the things that got analyzed. Gregariousness? It was interesting. A couple of people had tweeted out the direct link and others who saw it were checking it out. It’s too bad because they would have lost the context of being in the workshop.

But, the bigger thing was to go to Watson’s page and the personality insights page to get the bigger picture of the program/product. It added a great deal to what I think about when I talk about advertising and business. Overtly, who hasn’t chatted with a bot on a car dealership’s website? What is happening that we don’t know about?

Very quickly, the 2.5 hours was over. We hadn’t had a break because we were so engaged with Watson and the discussions surrounding it. I found the conversation about guidance departments and student support with products like Watson very interesting. Maybe even a bit scary. What happens if Watson is wrong?

So, thanks, Tim for steering me in this direction for that afternoon. I really enjoyed it.

And, I got a pair of blue IBM ear buds to take home with me. I wonder if they’re “powered by Watson”?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

And just like that it’s November. With the first Friday, it’s time again to share some great writing from Ontario Edubloggers.

There’s a little more reading than normal with the post. There are a couple of bloggers who contributed their thoughts in two posts rather than one.

Why not use this as a chance for two coffees this morning?

Esports with Primary Students – Part 1: Jumping In
Esports in Primary – Part 2: Next Steps

From Rolland Chidiac, a couple of posts describing how he’s using sports software in his classroom. There’s a great deal of gaming and application of the concept throughout these posts.

In the first post, Rolland describes how he used a piece of software in his class with a bent towards going beyond the game and making a connection to Mathematics. All games have some way to keep score of your progress in the game. That’s what they’re all about. How else would you know if you won or not otherwise? In this case, Rolland’s students capture their scores and create their own collection of data to analyse. It reminds me of the time clocks kept during Formula 1 auto races. Then, based on this data, students predict how they could make their scores better.

In the second post, Rolland gets a little bit constructive with an unused Xbox from at home that arrives at school. The Xbox is an amazing device; I recall once at a Microsoft event where some students from Seattle had created a Fish Market simulation.

Rolland’s post, in this case, gets a bit technical about how he actually sets things up in his classroom. He provides an interesting list of the expectations that he has in mind.

I wonder if there might be a third post where the focus turns to students writing their own games.

Making Kindergarten Media Projects with Meaning

From Diana Maliszewski that actually could become a three parter by itself. It’s a collection of stories about kindergarten use of media due to Diana’s guidance.

One might expect that the whole focus could be on electronic technology but that’s not the point. Diana analyzes the interest of the three classes and shares activities involving…

  • making stuffed dinosaurs
  • skinny pigs and connection to literature
  • creating a Mystery Box video

Above and beyond the activities, it’s clear that Diana honours student voice in these activities.

And it sounds like a great deal of fun.

Indigenous Institute Blends Tradition & Tech to Preserve Anishinaabe Teachings

I think that you’ll really enjoy and be impressed with the project described in this post. Fair Chance Learning partnered with Seven Generations Education Institute to create virtual reality content to help preserve community traditions. Personally, I spent a great deal of time doing some background about the Seven Generations Education Institute so that I could truly appreciate what was happening.

The context is the Fall Festival which traditionally celebrates how the Anishinaabe prepare for the winter. The post talks about:

Like years before, local elders, volunteers and SGEI staff demonstrate wild rice preparations, tell traditional stories, sing at the Grandfather drum and cook bannock on a stick. Unlike in years passed, Fall Harvest 2019 incorporated virtual reality to help preserve these vital cultural teachings and enrich the education of our students.

I’m intrigued and will try to follow the results from this initiative. Hopefully, Fair Chance Learning will document it all on their website so that other communities can enjoy the benefits and do something on their own in other locations.

If you’re going to the Bring IT, Together Conference, there might be an opportunity to see this first hand?

Irene learns about teaching: Part 1a
Irene learns about teaching – Part 1b

So, here the other two-parter from Irene Stewart and her work at St. Clair College.

In the first post, she talks about those favourite teachers and how they become a model for you. It was quite an easy process for me and two teachers most certainly sprang to mind. I have no question about how they were models for me as I became a teacher. I felt badly though because what I remember most is their lecturing approach. I like to think that my classrooms were more of an activity based environment. I do struggle to think of activities from these teachers. I know that they were there but they’re not what first springs to life.

The second post describes a pilot and then ultimately an implementation of a course, THRIVES, that delivers on the awareness of the college environment and what it will take for students to be successful. The numbers she describes blew me away. 1 000 students in a pilot. Then nine sections with a total of 6 000 students.

There is an interesting reflection about activity in the course and the quizzes involved in the timeline throughout. It’s a nice reflection and I’m sure helped move her thinking as she went from pilot to implementation.

P is for Patience

I check in with Lynn Thomas periodically as she works her way through the alphabet and shares her insights on the work she chose. In this case, the word is “Patience”.

Is it a requirement to be a teacher?

I’d go further than that … it may, in fact, it may well be the best attribute that any person who aspires to be a teacher should have. After all, as teachers, we absolutely know the content. The students, not so much, or not at all. Success comes as a result of the transfer or attitude, knowledge, and skills.

Every students proceeds at his/her own speed. There is no one speed fits all. The best teachers recognize this and exercise patience to make everyone successful.

Education, as we know it, can be counter to this at times. We have defined times for courses and grades and an assessment has to be given whether you’re ready or not.

As I noted last week, I’m not necessarily a fan of PD at staff meetings because it isn’t always applicable to all. This concept, however, would definitely be worthwhile doing.

I’ll bet this post gives you some inspiration for thought – both as teacher and as student.

Math Links for Week Ending Oct. 25th, 2019

If you are in need of a weekly shot of inspiration for Mathematics, then David Petro’s blog is the place to head.

This week, look for ideas about:

  • Desmos, turtles, and graphing
  • Autograph graphing software
  • GPS
  • Polar co-ordinates and patterns
  • Tetraflexagons
  • MakeMathMoments podcast
  • Tessellations

Even if you don’t use the ideas right away, there’s just the beauty of Mathematics to enjoy.

Dreaming is Free

Terry Greene uses a Blondie song to set the stage for a professional learning session.

I would have gone with Supertramp.

Terry got the chance to run a keynote address to staff. My guess is that this doesn’t happen all the time so he decided to make the most of it. (His slides are available here)

In the course of his talk, he addresses:

  • Learning Technology Bank
  • Digital Learning Allies
  • Ontario Extend 2020
  • Ontario Extend but for Students
  • Alternative Assessment Bank
  • Open Badging
  • Collaborative Word Spaces
  • Lecture Capture
  • Open Educational Resources
  • Design Sprints
  • The Teaching Hub
  • The Open Patchbooks
  • Lecturcizing
  • Always Open Digital Meeting Room

I’m tired just assembling that list! Of course, I wasn’t there but I can’t help but believe that any one of those topics would be keynote material.

I’m still pondering Lecturcizing.

I hope that you can find the time to enjoy all this fabulous content by clicking through and enjoying the original post.

Your last to-do for this morning is to make sure you’re following these accounts on Twitter.

  • @rchids
  • @MzMollyTL
  • @FCLEdu
  • @IrenequStewart
  • @THOMLYNN101
  • @davidpetro314
  • @greeneterry

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Guilty until proven innocent?

There was considerable time spent on my part on the release of this new feature that teachers can incorporate into their workflow if they are using Google Classroom.

It’s called “Originality reports” and it’s Google’s spin on checking for plagiarism in student work.

It’s not the only player in the field. Just do a search in your favourite internet search engine for “plagiarism checker” and check out the results. In Ontario, another product has been licensed by the Ministry of Education.

The genesis of that licensing happened about the same time that online learning became popular. The logic was that since you couldn’t see the student face to face working on a project, there was no way that you could guarantee that the works submitted were her or his.

I remember discussing the product with our eLearning teachers at the time. Their response was pretty negative. Particularly those that were teaching English, they claimed that their professional judgement was better than any program. By working with the student for a semester, they were able to identify writing styles and literacy skills and could see it grow throughout their time together. Consequently, while the licensed product was available to them, none of them said that they had used it.

Now, to be honest, this was long before there was an “app for that” mentality for computer users. It would be interesting to have that conversation today.

Collaboration is something that I promoted when teaching Computer Science. Granted, we didn’t write long essays but I’d argue that any programmer develops their own individual coding style much like writers develop a writing style. When there were times when I questioned original work, it was a matter of sitting down next to the student and have her or him explain the program to me. Between that and my insistence on written documentation for each problem, I think I did an OK job of making sure that things were original.

Like many of the other products, Google starts off by promoting this product as an aid to help students submit their best work. In the next breath though, the article indicates that Google has access to billions of resources online. That makes sense – that’s one of the things that it does best. So, it’s not a huge leap to make the claim that work that isn’t properly cited is easily identified.

We live in a day and age of privacy concerns and Google addresses it in the announcement, claiming that the student work remains the student’s. Unless of course, they blog about it! But the announcement also indicates that there is a plan to expand this to creating a repository of past assignments for checking things already submitted at the school.

I think it’s going to be an interesting follow to see the success of this product.

  • will die-hard users of other products make the switch?
  • will it only be available in Google Classroom?
  • if a teacher was hesitant to use another product because of professional judgement, will they try this one?
  • will a demo at the beginning of the semester frighten everyone enough that it’s not needed throughout the course?
  • how will parents react to their child’s work being used by a Google product?
  • how many submissions for conference presentations will be focused on promoting this tool?

I’d be interested in reading your initial reaction to this product. Are you in or out? Why?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

According to WordPress’ numbering scheme for marking duplicate titles, this is the 365th or so blog post with this title. There are a few more that ended up being typos and ended up being posted “The Week in Ontario Edublogs”!


The toughest part of this Friday routine is writing something original to open the post. Try doing that one day a year for a year!

Oh, and check out these blog posts from these great Ontario Edubloggers. (I try and do that every week).

Find Your Inner Explorer

Wednesday’s This Week in Ontario Edublogs podcast on voicEd Radio featured Peter Cameron as a special guest. It’s nice to have a third voice in the summer and being on a break from school makes educators available Wednesday mornings at 9:15.

We also used the opportunity to feature this great post from Peter. In a nutshell, Peter talked about his tendency to be an explorer having done it since a child. Now, growing up in beautiful Thunder Bay, you’d think exploration would be a natural. Peter has gone far beyond home and gives us a short tour and a more complete detail description about him being a Grosvenor Teacher.

Give it a read and you might just be inspired to explore something new this summer or for the upcoming school year.


I’ll admit to getting a little emotional when people’s thoughts inspire memories in myself. This post from Amanda Potts did it for me.

Today is the last day of classes. In 20 minutes the bell will ring,

We’ve all been there. You wait in anticipation all June for the last day of school and then, there it is.

I suspect, for most, it hits you right between the eyes. Everyone wants to be busy up until the last minute if for no reason other than classroom management.

Then, that moment arrives and you realize that you’ll be without students for a couple of months. All of a sudden, you see them as real human beings with a life to enjoy over the summer. It’s a little different than those charges that have appeared in your classroom every day for the last semester.

The bell rings, the music plays and out they stream into the hallway. A few pop into the room. One more hug. One more high five. One more head pokes through the doorway, “Goodbye, Miss! See you in September!”

Did you do enough for them?

Reflections on NAMLE Part 1

First of all, if you’re like me, you may be wondering NAMLE = National Association for Media Literacy Education.

Diana Maliszewski had the opportunity to attend this conference in Washington. Like so many, timing isn’t Ontario educator friendly but she did manage to get there and shares a lot of reflections of sessions and what she calls digital artifacts as well.

It appears that she had two goals:

  • exploring media literacy for the younger aged students
  • focusing on equity

In typical Diana style, there are lots of pictures (and costumes) and it sounds like she attended some inspiring sessions, including being a panellist for one session herself.

What does the Equal Sign Really Mean?

It had been a while since Deanna McLennan had posted so I was pleased to see another one of her offerings.

The “equal sign” brought back great memories from teaching Computer Science with some of the early languages. We used the “equal sign” but it was never about equality. It was “is assigned the value of” and was used to assign the value of the expression on the right to the variable to the left of the =.

But, Deanna is an Early Years’ teacher so chances are she’s not talking about that!

The post is a reminder that sometimes big people concepts that we take for granted need to be dealt with younger students in an age appropriate manner. You’ll read Deanna’s post and think “Wow!” She shares a real collection of classroom activities that she used to cement the concept.

It’s a wonderful collection of activities using all kinds of objects to manipulate and enforce the concept. Share it with any other Early Years’ educator that you know and heck, even to your favourite Faculty of Education.

Summer Math:Counting and Subitizing

Given the content of Lisa Corbett’s post, her own children aren’t old enough to throw the

You’re such a teacher

line at her just yet. It will come … <grin> Voice of experience here.

Lisa has summer plans for her son that includes doing a little mathematics and there’s nothing with that.

The post should also serve as a reminder that is online 24/7 and that includes the summer months.

So, if the activities are good for use during the school year, why not use them for the summer? It only makes sense.

You might also want to drop a comment and wish Lisa all the best for her teaching assignment of a 1/2/3 split for next year! Mathies may end up being a great solution for her at that time too!

Independent Reading and Research, Week 1: Data Tool Analysis #MyResearch

Anna Bartosik has done some research about tools on data mining and shares them with us.

There is a caveat going in …

Free and research-based is the direction I will take for my project. None of the commercial products interest my wallet; they are also not transparent about how data is collected, stored, and used.

I suspect that there may well be many educators who are looking into having an element of data mining in whatever projects lie in their present or future. Don’t start from scratch; read this post.

At least, on an overview basis, Anna has done some work with a number of tools and shares her initial thoughts about them in this post.

She makes reference to ethics which has to be in the foreground of anyone doing data mining and it will be interesting to read her follow though on this.

When The Dust Settles?

From a trustee perspective, this post closes with …

The dust hasn’t settled yet but I will say it will not be pretty when or if it does.

What else could be the topic except education in Ontario these days. Robert Hunking provides a post with lots of links to resources that he’s including in his summary of the way things are and the way they might be.

Drawing on the story of courses dropped from TDSB, he turns the lens towards Avon Maitland and the cut in funding that they’re going to receive.

There are still many districts that are not as transparent about the effects of the budget cuts as is the TDSB.

I hope that Robert continues to share information with us. I do have an interest in the way things will fall out in his district having grown up there.

All districts are working the numbers.

And that’s it for another week.

Please take the time to click through and enjoy all of these posts and drop off a comment or two.

Then, make sure you’re following these folks on Twitter to read their latest.

  • @cherandpete
  • @Ahpotts
  • @MzMollyTL
  • @McLennan1977
  • @LisaCorbett0261
  • @ambartosik ‏
  • @yesknowno

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This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to the last TWIOE in June and the school year.  As always, there is some inspirational content written by Ontario Educators.  Perhaps you’ll be inspired to start or re-start your own blog this summer if you’re not already a regular writer?

Rethinking End of Year Countdowns

File this post from Laura Bottrell on the Heart and Art Blog under “maybe I’ve been doing things wrong all this time”.

For many, it’s been a month (or more) of counting down until today.  I even remember a colleague who shared the countdown on his blackboard for all to see.

Laura reminds us that this countdown may not necessarily be exciting for everyone in the class.

I always thought that celebrating the end of the year was just adding to the fun and excitement of summer. I’ve always had a fun countdown for my class. Lately, I’ve been wondering if this is just adding stress on some of my students. It really hit me last week when I announced that we only had ten school days left and there were at least five children in my class that crumbled to tears.

Her suggestion turns the table and has you thinking about treating things differently.  A little late for this year perhaps but … it’s nice to have a reminder that things aren’t always what they seem.

Why do you want kids to code?

With apologies to Jim Cash, I read the title to this post a little too quickly.  Instead of “Why”, I read it as “What” and thought that it might be about some new things to code!

However, using the word “Why” changes everything.  Jim summarizes his thoughts in this graphic he created.

It generated some interesting comments when Jim announced the post on Facebook.

I understand his message but I also wonder if I’m on the same page with him because of having a background in programming.  As Jim correctly notes, there’s a certain bandwagon effect about coding that has people jumping on because it’s felt that it’s important or someone is keynoting about the cool things that kids are doing.

Coding goes well beyond the mechanics of getting the job done.  (Blue side) Until you’re looking at the big picture, you’re not doing it justice.  (Green side)

It would be interesting to find out how many people get pressured to “do coding” because it’s the latest thing and yet they may be doing it without a suitable background in coding.

Go Magic! Let’s do this! 🙂

And the winner in the “Who gets David Carruthers added to their staff” raffle is …

<drum roll>

Bonaventure Meadows.

It looks easy enough to get to.  (at least by driving)

Getting to the actual school placed David in a series of job interviews and he shares his reflections about that process in the post.  I can understand the need for standardized questions for all applicants for fairness.

But, the school really needs to be prepared to take advantage of the skills that David has refined over his time as a learning coordinator.

Maybe instead of “Go Magic!”, should read “Get ready, Magic”.

And, then there’s the whole Plugged-in Portable thing?  I guess we’ll find out in the future.

Reader’s Theatre = Experiential Learning

I read this post from Stepan Pruchnicky a few times and I absolutely understood his message.

In Language, it’s important to read and understand different texts.  The concept of reading a script was a new spin on it.  But, as Stepan digs into it, it has to potential to go very deep, rich in understanding and empathy for characters to be played in the script.

It was during the radio version of This Week in Ontario Edublogs and Stephen Hurley’s comments about the connections to David Booth and Stephen’s own experience that really put me over the top with the concept.

I’d suggest putting Stepan’s post on your list for summer reading.  This is an idea that could really generate mileage for you.  Perhaps a future post would recommend suitable scripts?

Context is Key

Of course it is, Ruthie Sloan.

But, I certainly haven’t thought about it as deeply as you explore in this post.

You take the notion of context and apply it to…

  • wardrobe
  • digital expression
  • body language
  • how we communicate

The post is a great discussion about each of these.

It’s also a reminder of so many things that may just pass us by as life goes on.  These are things that we do every day.  It goes beyond what and moves into how, when, and who.

I loved the collection of images that she includes at the bottom.

“I Don’t Have Time For That”

Joel McLean reminds us that this comes up too often when people are wondering about taking charge of their own professional learning.  I suggest that it’s an easy answer and often given to avoid things.

I also am reminded about my Covey training.  The first rule – schedule the important things first.  Then, let all of the other stuff fill your time for you.  Goodness know that, in education, there’s no danger of that not happening.

I remember also returning from my training and explaining the approach to my supervisor.  We still meet for coffee every now and again and he notes how this changed his professional life.  (Not my comment but after my experience, he went and took the course himself.)

There was only one caveat to my own implementation – I was never allowed to allow my priorities to supersede his priorities for me!  I shouldn’t have encouraged him to take the course.

Maybe Joel has some advice for how to handle that!

Observations & Conversations : Part 1 of many?

The structure of the Interstitial App, or, Observations & Conversations – Part 2

From Cal Armstrong, a pair or posts and maybe more to come.

After my session at the OAME Conference (link to Presentation), a few folks asked me how I had put this together, so I’m going to give a brief run-down here.

It sounds like the audience was really impressed with Cal’s use of Microsoft Powerapps.

I know that I was; I’d heard about it but really hadn’t done anything with it.  I guess that you need to have a reason and Cal used his mathematics audience as the target for his presentation.

If you’re curious, read both posts.  If you’re interested in creating your own, pay attention to the second post.  Here, Cal takes you through his process step by step.

And there’s your last day of school inspiration.

Make sure you’re following these great bloggers on Twitter.

  • @L_Bottrell
  • @cashjim
  • @dcarruthersedu
  • @stepanpruch
  • @Roosloan
  • @jprofNB
  • @sig225

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Because we can

Sometimes, that’s the answer you get from Computer Scientists. Many times, an idea comes to light and you just whip up some code that solves a problem that you didn’t know you had.

I’d done it a few times and when I show it off, the answer is inevitably…

Whatever made you think to do this?

“Because I could!”

In many cases, it’s just a throw away but it’s nice to be able to do it.

This was my first reaction to the examples described in this article. Did they start with the end in mind or was it an experiment that yielded success.

Mona Lisa frown: Machine learning brings old paintings and photos to life

The concept isn’t new. Many artists have learned from the masters by attempting to replicate their style. Or, they’ll take their own spin on things. What if the Mona Lisa was doing this?

When you bring the computer and machine learning and what they can bring into the process, it gets interesting.

If you watch the video, I think you’ll be amazed. The Mona Lisa part is near the end.

While actually replicating the actual process would be a challenge – designing the algorithm is certainly within the reach of many computer science students. Some might be inspired to do a stick person and seeing what they can do. After all, an animation can be simplified to the process of putting some frames together.

Of course, the big distinction here is that the process has already been done.

But, you never know – this might be a license to doing something new and unique “just because they can”.