You need to learn more

While writing my “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” post, I did a bit of thinking back in time, inspired by the posts that were featured there.

It was my first year of teaching. I was breezing through the Computer Science end of things. I really did have a good background. We had a certain setup at my old high school, I got a chance to study at the University of Waterloo on world class equipment, and then a year at the Faculty of Education at Toronto which got me closer to the reality of the classroom.

Then, I got my first position and the reality of it. The programming in Fortran was easy enough to handle in Grade 11 and 12 and learning and programming in HYPO in Grade 10 was not a big deal either. Essentially, I had the content and the background and I could focus on learning how to teach. Quite honestly, that was harder than any piece of code that I ever had to write.

I still remember vividly my Department Head walking by my desk and dropping off information about a computer conference. His comments were “You need to learn more”.

Uh oh. What had I done wrong?

As it turned out, nothing really. We had a little chat and his point was valid. My background and abilities weren’t going to last the length of a career. He was pushing me to keep tabs on what was on the horizon and to make contacts with other Computer Science/Data Processing teachers. After all, I was “it” in our school. Who do you talk to?

And he would pay for it.

Well, not personally, but the department had an allotment for professional learning. So off I went to Toronto for three days of learning and making connections. I was assured that all I had to do was leave good lesson plans and my students would just continue the learning. (That’s a different story)

I came back so energized. I had learned so much and I knew new names and people. Some of those names remain in my world even today.

The down side? I had to come back to work and the day to day reality. Fortunately, I was able to build on that experience the following year. My Department Head was right. There was more to learn. And more. And more.

I like to think I took that advice and I continue to follow it years later. I still make the time to get to conferences and other educational events to enjoy and learn from the face to face meeting and the structured sessions. That value has only escalated.

But, unlike those years, it’s no longer enough. Learning can’t be done incrementally in annual events. It needs to be done daily and the whole notion of learning courtesy of a networked group of educators provides a complementary approach to continuing to learn. So much more is possible today.

He was right “I do need to learn more”. Thanks to technology, I’m able to do so in different ways with many more people.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to the first day of a well-deserved rest.  Enjoy a summer morning beverage and dig into some of the great things that have appeared recently on the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers.

How Do You Capture The Essence Of Each Child?

By the time that you read this post from Aviva Dunsiger, you’ve probably already wrestled with this issue.  At the end of the year, you pass students along to the next teacher and they’re busy prepping for the fall.  Well, maybe a little later this summer…

I think this post dovetails nicely on a previous post from Lisa Cranston about the sort of things that can be shared in the staff room at this time of the year where the conversation isn’t always necessarily positive.

So, how do you capture the essence of each child?  There’s report cards, to be sure, but they’re not designed specifically for that purpose; they have a different audience.  Can it be done objectively and positively?  It’s a good question to ask and there may not be a definitive answer.

If you follow Aviva on social media, you know that she takes so many pictures during the course of a day showing the activities and inquiries of her students.  That may be the best way to document the academic inquiries of the students and may put her ahead in this game.

BTW, check out the photo in this post for an idea of what she does and I always find it interesting to see how different people decorate and arrange their classrooms.

Farewell Rituals – Required or Not?

It’s the thing of the season.  The nice thing about teaching is that there’s always a changeover and both teacher and student can start anew each fall.  The down side is that the people involved may well change.  Such was the focus of this post by Diana Maliszewski.

I have definite opinions about this.  I think that it’s important to celebrate that year (or collection of years) that go into efforts and graduations.  People have poured their hearts and souls into making good things happen.

I just hate it when I am the focus of the celebration.

Even if I’m involved in the planning and delivery of a celebration for someone else, you’d find me in a corner just people watching at the event.

Diana shares some of her thoughts about graduations and celebrations in the first part of the post and concludes with a tribute to a co-worker who obviously inspired her deeply.

Competitive Urges: Skills Canada National Finals in Edmonton, 2018

Tim King kind of beats himself up in this post.

You see, he was the proud coach of a team that competed well in the Ontario Skills Canada competition, winning nicely, and then going to Edmonton to compete nationally.  Unfortunately, they didn’t do as well there.

Throughout the post, Tim tries to analyze the reasons why, including looking inwardly in the process.  As a result, he thinks he’ll be a better coach in the future.  Of that, I have no doubt.

It’s too bad that we use this quote so often…

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. – Vince Lombardi

In this case, the format is like old time schooling where one final exam makes or breaks things.  Schools have recognized this and have changed.  Even to win the Stanley Cup, you have to win four games.  It’s not the result of a single competition.  “On any given day…”

In Tim’s post, there’s a link to a story in Tim’s local newspaper showing a couple of students.  I marvel at the areas they competed in “skilled trades entrepreneurship” and “IT network administration”.  When I went to school, the “shops” were dirty – auto, welding, carpentry but all that’s changed.  And, it’s starting younger and younger.

Well That’s Fantastic!

So, this is Sue Bruyns’ take on WTF and it’s a good one.

What do you do, as a principal, when you have an occasional teacher that refuses to take on some of what they’re asked to.

You retreat to your office and play with chess pieces.

Then, the fantastic happens.

History Lives

I love this post from The Beast.

First, it shows how modern technology can be used in classes – in this case, it’s a History class.

Secondly, it shows how history can be and should be more than the text that’s written in a text book.

Thirdly, it shows how amazing things happen when you open your eyes and look at the community resources that are available to you should you wish to use them.

Kudos to the teachers, students, and George for making this event happen.

George who?  Click through to get the complete story.

Indoor Voice

If you don’t think that people are watching (and listening), then you need to read this post from new teacher Karaline Vlahopoulos.


Self-reg proponents, please step up.

Yelling is a human response, it seems, in some situations.  How do you channel that?

I dare say we’ve all seen it in action.  I dare say we’ll all done it ourselves.

Is it an effective strategy?  Is there a better strategy?  Think it through; your vocal chords will thank you.

Candy Math

I’ve done this.  I’ve brought candy into class to work with probability.  I always figured that the bulk food store was a teacher’s best and most affordable friend for moments like this.

Not for Lisa Corbett.

She went for the branded, packaged, more expensive stuff – Sour Patch Kids.

Here’s the tasty setup…


Read Lisa’s complete post to see the process and interpretation of results.  Personally, I’d leave the red and take the green.

And, you’ll get a smile when Lisa reveals that she had to deal with broken candy!

I hope that you get a chance to click through and read all these wonderful posts.  I enjoyed reading them and I’m sure that you will as well.

If you’re an Ontario Blogger and not in here, please add yourself so that I can enjoy your writing.

Make sure to follow these bloggers on Twitter.

And, have a wonderful summer.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s another Friday and certainly a special one in Ontario.  To celebrate, please take some time to read some great blog posts from around the province.  Ontario Edubloggers are always addressing big ideas.

I Genuinely Want to Know What’s Next for You, Teachers!

With a title like that, you certainly can’t help but wonder and dig into this post from Heidi Allum.  Matthew Oldridge has beat you to it and highlighted some of the points that resonated with him in this Medium post.

Who could deny this?

One of the many reasons why I love teaching is that it’s a different day every single day.

It’s the sort of thing that keeps you up at night and, at the same time, makes you eager to get into school the next day.

Heidi takes on a number of concepts from teaching Mathematics.  The three major items – Play, Visualization, and Technology are an interesting mix and make for an interesting reflection.  As I noted in the voicEd show, I like the work of Alice Aspinall and Kyle Pearce when it comes to nicely visualizing many mathematics concepts.

What’s up with Ontario’s Health Curriculum? … 10% is what’s up!

Thanks to Deborah Weston for tagging me in the announcement that she’s released this blog post.  In here, she takes a reflective look at the Health and Physical Education Curriculum, 2015.  It’s always humbling when you look back at when a previous version of the Curriculum was released – 1998.  Wow!

So, if a province is going to roll back the curriculum, are we prepared to take on something that’s now 20 years old like there has been nothing we’ve learned about teaching, human growth and development, and the challenges that students have faced since then?

Deborah has put a great deal of research into this post; she claims in a comment to putting 5 hours towards it.  She makes real references to Ontario resources throughout and they’re all listed at the end.

But, let’s face it – the real issue is about sex education and claims made during the past provincial election.  That’s where the 10% comes from.

As a real service, there’s a link in there to a document where she’s pulled out the reference to sexual health, by grade.


If the claim is that this isn’t an appropriate progression of learning, the big question would be – how would you reorder it?

How can Canadians Get Involved in Supporting our Brothers and Sisters in the Global South?

With every post from Paul McGuire, I feel more aware of big issues.  Paul has a passion for social justice and equity and it really comes through in this post.

Given the issues of the past week, his comments certainly are even more relevant.

Paul’s not just pushing ideas from his keyboard; he has walked the walk having organized student trips and experiences to the Dominican Republic.

He suggests


and offers four pillars to guide this.

  • Stewardship
  • Participation
  • Respect for excellence
  • Human Dignity

and fleshes out each.  Put on your social justice mindset and read Paul’s post.

Two Years of Farming and International Students

This was an interesting comparison from Irene Stewart and was inspired by a reflection about cheating.

There is a price to be paid for immigration to Canada and Irene shares a personal story about her father and the two years spent farming with a sponsor before being able to apply for citizenship.

Fast forward to today – she wonders if the two years that International students spend at school is the equivalent experience in 2018.  Of course, studying and living in a new country also brings up the question of balance between customs from the old country and the new.

Is the pressure to succeed the driver behind any cheating that is happening?  You can’t help but wonder if the solution doesn’t lie in the type of assessment being used.  K-12 education has had its renaissance; are there lessons there for colleges and universities?

Setting Higher Standards: High School Graduation Just Isn’t Enough

We’re proud that, in Ontario, there are three pathways for students – University, College, and the World of Work.

Is it working though?

In this post, from Jason To, he notes the graduation rate of the Toronto District School Board at 86%.  That’s an impressive rate – what’s the rate in your district?

But then what?  Are graduates really ready to make life decisions at the end of each of the pathways?  Does social responsibility end there or is there something else?  I know that my life plans changed from the end of secondary school to mid-University program.  And, I was a graduate of a 5 year program of secondary school studies.

Jason provides and reflects on some summary data about success success.  I would be interested in knowing about the success of cooperative education or Specialist High Skills Major.

This will have you thinking.

educators in schools need to understand that this shift is a response to the inequities that we see in access to post-secondary education and who is disproportionately affected by streaming structures.

ACSE Gmail Chat

As Anne Shillolo notes:

The ACSE gmail group recently erupted with dozens of wonderful discussion posts on a variety of computer science curriculum, staffing and policy ideas. It has taken me a little while to read through all the many informative and thoughtful emails. But, of course I wanted to chime in with my own views!

I’ve been following the discussions as well but kudos need to go to Anne to blog about it.

There are serious issues:

  • the influx of computer studies activities in elementary schools with no formal guidance
  • the sophistication our secondary school computer studies students want for their studies
  • qualifications that are needed to teach a formal computer studies class
  • the availability of Additional Qualification courses for teachers

Anne cuts right to the heart of the matter…

Surely it would be a good thing if the province would look at the continuum of age-appropriate computer science learning and adjust both the elementary and secondary expectations to match what is truly the reality in many schools in 2018.

It will need a serious study and effort and professional learning opportunities.  Anne self-identifies as “self-taught” and I don’t think that makes her unique.  Anyone who teaches in this area needs a reboot every now and again with how volatile the discipline is.

There are rumblings that a serious overhaul is in the works.  There are good people in the province that would be up to the challenge.  I hope that this comes through and that a long term vision and plan is created.  Along with the curriculum and professional learning to support it, of course.

A Moment To Inspire: Setting Goals

Have you got four minutes to be inspired by a great story?

Then check out this video from Joel McLean.


I hope that you’ve enjoyed your Friday morning inspiration.  Please take a few moments to click through and enjoy these posts in the entirety.

And, follow these folks on Twitter…

On Wednesday mornings, Stephen Hurley and I talk about some of these blog posts on the voicEd Radio This Week in Ontario Edublogs.  The show is rebroadcast at various times throughout the week and all of the shows are archived here.

On Saturday blogposts, I’ve been going through and digging out the past voicEd shows and blog posts to take a wander back in time.

The message we send

If you haven’t already, you should take a read of this article from the Globe and Mail.

Coding for kids: another silly fad

While at it, it’s worth following a couple of the links that link to supporting documents from consultants.

Then, you should stop and ask yourself “How could they get it so wrong?”

I would suggest that the reason lies with education.

I remember the advice given to me from a superintendent once.

“Not only do you need to understand why you do something, but you need to be able to completely explain it to someone else.”

In reading the article and the supporting documents, I think this is a perfect example of it.

Somewhere along the line, these people have got the impression that education is teaching coding for the sake of coding.  If that was true, then they might have a justifiable position.  I mean, how many times have we heard tripe like “Coding is a 21st Century Skill” or “We need to teach coding as a skill that will help our Grade 3 students get a job” and the conversation stops there.

As a Computer Science teacher, I get contact with former students who have indeed gone on in the industry and have been successful.  I’m quick to apologise for the primitive tools and programming languages that we had at the time.  They’ve all been equally as quick to respond that that wasn’t what mattered.  What truly mattered was the problem solving, the group work, the enthusiasm to see a project in progress and the excitement when it was done.

Of course, they’re right.

Put into today’s context, any teacher or other educational leader should definitely be challenged if their message is that coding with Scratch or other educational language will provide students with the programming skills to land a job.

Done properly, it should be so much more.

Let’s look at the messages that need to be sent when asked:

  • Coding will indeed be a factor in everyone’s life from the Internet of Things connected refrigerator to the Smartphone to your next car to the tools that you will be required to master for your job(s) to the most powerful computer.  A person who knows how to control these devices will be successful
  • Coding provides another important tool to help students succeed in the classroom with mathematics, story telling, safe science experiments, societal connections and issues from around the world, and so much more
  • Coding gives student authors the ability to add life to a blog post or article and truly use this new media to make it pop, not just a simple transference from paper to electronic text
  • Coding demonstrates first hand the power of collaboration, group work, research, trial and error, debugging, and so many other tools that we value in our graduates
  • And, yes, Coding lets a Grade 3 student write instructions on a computer to tell a connected robot to draw a pattern

If none of this resonates, then consider the opposite.  How successful will a student be in life and career without these skills?

Just recently, I’ve had a conversation with good friend Peter Skillen who reminds us that not only should all of us be “Learning to Code”, we should be “Coding to Learn”.  Ironically, I just happened to wear my 2011 Minds on Media T-Shirt yesterday and that advice was emblazoned on the back.

If you still need proof, you need to read or re-read Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or be Programmed.  The Study Guide will be helpful as well.

The Big Idea in all of this should be that we want students prepared to take charge of the technology that will be such an important part of their future.  Coding is one of the tools that will make this happen.

Let’s make sure that this is the message that people are hearing.

Where is Computer Studies headed?

Yesterday, in my #TWIOE post, I took a look at a single page on Grant Hutchison’s website.  There were no thoughts from Grant posted there; just the images and the interpretation is left to the reader.  So, here goes.

Here’s the important image that really got me thinking.  From the Ontario Curriculum document, 2008, there are five courses that can be offered.

  • Introduction to Computer Studies ICS20
  • Introduction to Computer Science ICS3U
  • Introduction to Computer Programming ICS3C
  • Computer Science ICS4U
  • Computer Programming ICS4C

At the time of its release, it was ground breaking.  Imagine being able to take up to five courses, for credit, in Computer Studies!  The courses are well designed and not descriptive and married to any particular programming language.  You could see that a great deal of planning had gone into their design and that they could take on a life of their own as technology evolved.

Sadly, none of the courses were compulsory.  I think I must have sounded like a broken record every time I talked with Ministry people asking why, at the least the Open course ICS 2O, they weren’t compulsory.  After all, anyone could see that computers, technology, and programming were not going to go away.  As we know, in the years since the curriculum was released, things have exploded to the point where just about everyone has a piece of this technology in their pocket, personal devices brought to school, and on post people’s desktops/laps at home.

In our household, the ICS 2O course was indeed compulsory.  As I look at how my kids use technology now, I think it was a great decision.  It’s such an integral part of their lives.

Back to the images that Grant shared.

ICS 2O indeed is a popular course, with growth shown over the three years that Grant plots.  Ditto for ICS 3U and, to a smaller extent, ICS 4U.  I think that the drop from Grade 11 to Grade 12 could be predicted.  Students make the decision about whether or not to continue to learn to program and study computers and a fixed schedule means making choices as university looms.  And since nothing is compulsory …

The statistics for the ICS 3C and ICS 4C courses are disappointing.  There wasn’t the uptake there for students and probably for a variety of reasons.  Since all of these courses are options, it requires a desire to enrol.  You could speculate why and students/parents don’t need to take the entire blame.  If you read the ACSE mailing list, you know that schools are challenged to offer all five courses in terms of teaching personnel and scheduling.  Some schools are fortunate enough to offer them all; some offer split courses; and others just don’t offer the C courses.  There’s no need to blame or shame; it’s the reality of scheduling in 2017.

Peter Beens offered a solution …

The courses are now coming on to their 10th anniversary.  That’s a long time in computer curriculum terms and I think testimony to the quality and vision of the original courses.  All that you have to do is read anything, anywhere these days and you’ll see the biggest issues of the day in Computer Studies.

  • Introduction of coding in the younger grades
  • Computer security and hacking
  • Importance of learning certain languages to be competitive at post-secondary schools
  • Bring Your Own Devices and all that goes with it.  i.e. being savvy enough to take control of your devices, connecting to networks that aren’t yours
  • Computer applications permeating all subject areas with varying levels of success
  • The rise of cloud and web computing and the drop in importance of locally installed applications
  • The rise in importance of robots and the programming of them
  • The rise of the “Internet of Things” and how it will impact everyone
  • An interest in getting serious about “Computational Thinking”
  • The list goes on and on

Back to the original graph.

Is the Curriculum document and the courses that it describes meeting the needs of a contemporary school?

In my opinion, the document still does.  The Technology Curriculum document and the Business Studies document complement these courses with the Computer Technology courses.  But the reality is that a student can avoid all of this good stuff if they so desire.

We hear lip service about preparing students for the 21st century, even today in the year 2107.  Is it time to step up and make this area of study compulsory?  Consider that whole group of students that the C courses could potentially reach.

This writer thinks so.  Let’s get our act together, make at least some of this relevant and compulsory, and graduate students who do have a certified level of computer literacy, understanding, and control.

Finally, an interesting add-on to the discussion and a new learning on my part.  Stephen Hurley and I had talked about Grant’s images on the radio show and I had speculated on the source of the data used for creation.  The answers came via Twitter.