My rec room is bugged

Seriously, apparently. You’d like to think you’re alone but really these days we’re not. At least I’m not.

This article got me thinking – How to stop your smart tv from spying on you (and why you should) (

A previous television died on us and we had to buy a new one a couple of years ago. We noticed, at the time, that everything in the television department at the store we went to was labelled “smart”. At one time, that meant that there was a sensor that turned down the brightness when the room darkened. Now, it’s much more.

Our television came with a number of applications that are available and over the course of time, there appear to be more. Plus, you can navigate to the “store” and get more if you want. All because the television is connected to our internet. The List of All the Apps on Samsung Smart TV (2021) ( come over the internet alongside the web browsing that we do. Everything, it seems, except for CBC or CBC Gem which for some reason Samsung televisions don’t support. For even more, there is an option to switch to the antenna on the roof of the house to pick up all kinds of stations from Windsor, Detroit, Ann Arbor, etc. Now, I could go with Option 1 in the article above and disconnect the television from the internet and stick to over the air but where’s the fun in that?

Besides, it’s not the only device there. I was gifted a Google Mini which only works when it’s connected to the internet. Supposedly, it just sits there waiting for a kick start “Hey, Google” but anyone that has one knows that there are false alerts and the device will randomly give out answers. Fortunately, you can ask it to dumb itself down a bit “Hey, Google, that wasn’t for you”. The response that it will be deleted soon is a little creepy. Why not right now? But, the big takeaway is that it has to be listening to get the proper prompt even if it makes a mistake every now and again.

It doesn’t stop there. My smartphone is typically plunked on the table next to me. You never know when you might need to answer a call, play a game, or quickly look up a fact or check email. I know I could just ask the Google Mini to do the deed but that’s a habit I haven’t adopted full time yet. Besides, everyone in the room would know what I was doing. Oh, and Google too.

For the little more intensive activity, I have my Chromebook sitting next to the phone. It has the Android side activated so it’s as useful/invasive as the others. Having done this for years and years, I’m still struck in awe how seamlessly it all works and the responses come back so quickly. Not to be too old fashioned but I remember the Art Linkletter Children’s Encyclopedia my mother bought for my brother and me. Later on in school, research if it was important enough to know the answer, involved writing a prompt in one of my notebooks and heading to the library at school to do the research.

Later in my job, that didn’t mean not visiting libraries. I loved the school visits and the chat with the teacher-librarians who always found time to welcome me. Ironically, it was typically a discussion about technology, internet, security, privacy, etc.

As I look around the room now (the Chromebook is awesome for blogging), it’s amazing to think of all the devices that are listening and maybe even watching me. I do use one of those sliders over the camera on the Chromebook to give me this false sense of privacy!

It seems like a losing battle at times. It really doesn’t bother me much; the benefits far outweigh all of the concerns at this point. I enjoy asking the Google Mini what my agenda is today in these days of COVID. My eldest daughter thinks I’m such a nerd.

There may come a time when I can welcome you into the house again. I really look forward to that.

We’ll go out and sit on the patio where there shouldn’t be any ears listening except for the ever-present dog and a few birds.

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. 


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.


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:

If you found it anywhere else without attribution, it’s not the original and that makes me sad.

No Grammy here

I was quite interested after reading stories about how Google’s Assistant will recognize a song just by humming it. You know that I had to try it.

To experiment, I went into my office area and turned off any noises and started the process.

“Hey Google”

“what’s this song?”

and I started humming. The song for this acid test was “More Hearts Than Mine” by Ingrid Andress. Why? Well, I love this song and play it around in my head and hum it quite a bit. I think I know it completely. Sadly, Google Assistant didn’t agree.


I guess I’m greater in my mind. Here’s the original.

It didn’t even get the gender correct. Jake Owen did cover it here.

So, getting past that, at least Google tried.

I did play Ms. Andress’ original into my phone and it got it correctly.

I’ll take the blame.

But, I did get this one to work perfectly! Well, at least 69%.

I hope it works better with this: Google launches Sound Notifications that let your phone notify you of critical sounds around you

Doug “Your toast is ready”.

My media literacy

If you follow this blog or my Twitter feed, you’ll know that there is a daily post called OTR Links. I think I’ve explained this before but, when I’m reading and learning, I will share my reading with others. Share and share alike. With some software magic, it all gets packed together in terms of a blog post.

Where do I get these stories?

Basically, I use Flipboard with a couple hundred categories, News360 and about one hundred categories, the stories generated by my Speed Dial on Opera and the news feed from Microsoft Edge. Favourite news sources are tucked away in my instance of The Old Reader. I also have a separate Twitter account that just follows news sources.

I read a lot of articles and the ones that I find interesting, useful, helpful, challenging, or educational, I’ll pass them along. There are many articles that I don’t share for any one of a hundred reasons.

I’d like to think I’m objective but I know that I’m not. And, I don’t make apologies for it; it’s my own personal learning after all. If you like what I’m sharing then great, if not, you always have the opportunity to ignore or mute me. Unlike signing up for a course, I’m able to learn in different directions on the fly and based upon what’s current and interesting.

I tend to focus on Current News, Canadian News, Education, Technology, and more. Here’s the title bar from my Flipboard instance.

I never really think seriously about where the stories that I read come from. I know that some come from other people’s feeds and some are generated from my location. Sometimes there are assumptions – oh, you like in Canada – you must also like French language articles and things from the United Kingdom! p.s. I do but not for the reasons they think…

All of this will change.

This story got my interest…

Microsoft lays off journalists to replace them with AI

As a result, some of the stories will be generated by artificial intelligence and not a real person who has actually read them and passed them along.

I suppose that I should have known that it was coming and, in fact, may already be present in some cases. That’s set a red flag for me; we know how media sources can game a community or a service so that it gets hits and generate resulting advertising income.

In the long run, it’s going to take my own personal media literacy to a new level. I hope that AI will allow the service to dig deeper in its search for interesting and relevant content. But, having found that content, the responsibility will end up with me to be careful about the truthfulness of the content.

Another A-Z

I’ve been a long time fan of the work that Peter Beens (@pbeens on Twitter) has done in keeping tabs of everything Google. It goes way back to a post from 2012.

Google A-Z

Sadly, Peter has had a bit of a challenge from Google itself keeping the document online. But he describes it as a labour of love and, as of the writing of this post, it’s online for all to use here.

I had to smile on behalf of Peter when I read that Google has created its own A-Z list! This list is devoted to Artificial Intelligence.

Like Peter’s list, it’s a great reference to bookmark and stay on top of.

Maybe Peter will even add it to his list of Google resources!

You can check it out at this link.