Try it yourself

If you’re like me, you probably hear and read a lot about this.  “Chromebooks aren’t real computers”.

I always like to challenge back with a why?

The answers are typical – it doesn’t run Photoshop.  Or, I’m not always connected to the Internet.

So, I’ll add a reply to that – “When was the last time you used Photoshop?”  “Did you buy your current computer just because of Photoshop?” “If you could install a program on your Chromebook and could run it offline, would that change your perspective?”

Now, the misconception of a Chromebook’s capabilities undoubtedly stem back to the beginning when it really was a browser in a box needing an Internet connection.  It’s just that it’s come a long way since then but the Internet never forgets.  Neither do some of the silly people who still maintain that it’s just a browser.

In fact, the whole concept like the Chrome browser and Chromebook has come so far.  And, you’re not limited to just that; modern Chromebooks run Android and some are experimenting with Linux.

And yes, it’s not the product of universal choice in schools.  I’d be up in arms if someone indicated that a Computer Science or Drafting or Visual Arts program would be equally as served.  But, there are so many other areas where the Chromebook does a terrific job.

So terrific, in fact, that we’re now seeing that Microsoft is developing a version of Windows to put computers at the same price point.  That’s going to be interesting.

In the meantime, you owe it to yourself to get yourself up to speed.  To that end, you should check out the Chromebook Simulator in your current system.


Even if you are a Chromebook user, there’s always something new to learn.  Maybe a little time in the simulator will change the opinions of some or make others more sophisticated users!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Today is supposed to be the turn around for warmer weather heading into Super Bowl weekend. Let’s hope that’s true. With all the stories about animals left out in the cold and Jaimie’s refusal to wear snow boots, we’re both looking to get out and put together a few thousand steps. According to my watch, we’re down 3 798 from last week.

In the meantime, I’m so happy to share seven amazing, thought provoking blog posts from Ontario Educators. Read on…

A Modern ‘Who Came First’ Debate

There’s no doubt in my mind for the classic debate. The chicken came first.

And, actually, I think that the modern debate has a definitive answer as well. Technology appeared before the Pedagogy to use it. In some cases, it appeared well before we learned how to use it effectively. New technology continues to emerge, on the market well before its use in the classroom has been explored or understood or even asked for.

Tina Zita understands

Modern learning is not about the tool. It is about a set of global competencies that is needed to be successful in an ever changing workforce. I struggle even writing workforce because I think it’s so much more. The global competencies are about us finding our place in our communities and contributing. 

I know that the savvy technology leaders who read this blog will agree wholeheartedly with her observations in the post.

It brings to light a bigger question though. Tina’s district is lucky that they have someone with her skills in place to provide support and leadership for educators trying to keep up. That’s not a slam against teachers; with all that’s happening, it’s the reality.

Is it malpractice for a district to buy more “stuff” – looking at you iPads and Chromebooks and the latest gadget and throwing it into the classroom without a program of professional learning to implement, understand, and sustain effective uses?


I thought this post from Jay DuBois was interesting. He’s noting a drop in his blog posting since leaving the classroom for a coaching role.

Blogging is an interesting beast. It can truly be a way to do any type of communication that you wish.

I would suggest and recommend that he actually increase his blogging in his new position.


  • a personal documentation/diary of activities performed during the job
  • documentation for a performance appraisal (what are you doing?)
  • stay in contact with your education clients when you’re not there
  • post his schedule online
  • take and share pictures/video of exemplary practice that you witness
  • share anecdotes from visits, comments from kids
  • share and comment on your professional reading
  • highlight upcoming professional learning events

The list could go on and on. Obviously, I’m a big fan of blogging; it will be interesting to monitor Jay’s progress and see what “Reset” means to him.

Scratch 3.0 is Here!

Jim Cash is one of those guys who really stays on top of things. A visit to his station at the Minds on Media station at Bring IT, Together is a must. I have fond memories of him having a number of micro:bits on hand and so we were able to program something that I’d always wanted to do but could only visualize since I own only a single micro:bit. We used the wireless connections between them to create a primitive slot machine with a micro:bit controller and a number of other micro:bits displaying the “fruit”. If we’d had enough time, we could have calculated the payouts too.

If you’re at all interested in coding, you know that Scratch has had a major reboot recently. In this post, Jim takes us through what he considers noteworthy changes

  • Nothing that was in 2.0 has been removed in 3.0
  • 12 blocks are new or tweaked
  • Talks about enhancements
    • Extension Library – micro:bit as example
    • HTML5 and Javascript – no more Flash
    • Drawing and Sound Editing

You’ll have to read his post to catch the rest. Jim’s not done though and provides a “wish list” of things that he wants to see in the future.

I Am Right Here

If you believe that learning should be messy, then this post from TheBeastEDU should be right up your alley.

It’s all part of a story about staying in a house at the Bring IT, Together conference but The Beast stopped me at the dining room table.

I have never known a world where the dining room table is not centre of the universe. 

Now, I’ll be honest. I have never, ever lived in a house that had a dining room. We always had a kitchen table and that’s about it. It was the place for meals and we were never allowed to put our stuff on it.

One of the things that my mom always insisted was a desk for me to work at. So, I’ve always had one. It started with my grandmother’s old desk and has replaced by a couple of others over the years. In fact, I’m writing this post at one right now. As you can see, it doesn’t make things any less messy.

Don’t hate me, Andrea. I know where everything is.

R.E.A.L. Leadership

“We should trust in people, I told them, not processes.”

If there’s any takeaway from any discussion about leadership, it’s always about the people. Always, always, always.

You can always change processes…

…and you can always lead people.

What does R.E.A.L. leadership mean to Joel McLean?

  • Resourceful
  • Engaging
  • Aspiring
  • Listens

Of course, he breaks out each of these points in the post.

I wonder if there’s anything missing. I’ve always operated on the premise that the real goal of leadership is to create more leaders

Class Sizes Really Matter

Lots has been said and discussed about the trial balloon from the current government about easing up on class sizes. This includes me.

When it comes from a classroom teacher, it is grounded in their reality and beliefs. I think we’ve all had big class sizes at times. I still can’t believe that I taught a Grade 9 Mathematics class of 37 (you never forget the big numbers) in a room that seats 24. Not everyone had a textbook which further increased the pressure on all.

What I like about reading Paul McGuire’s posts is that he is able to step away from the classroom and look more at the big picture. After all, a principal should be analyzing everything that’s happening in her/his school and making recommendations and decisions going forth to carve out the best school that can be.

This got way more attention than my tweets usually do. I think this is a good thing, there are many educators who are concerned about class size in kindergarten and primary. As a former elementary principal, hard caps in grades 1-3 made a huge difference in the learning environment for children and their teachers.

In today’s reality, it’s often difficult for principals to speak out this way. Fortunately, it doesn’t stop Paul and leads nicely into his voicEd Radio show.

What school and Curling have in common

My story as a curler is certainly different from Jennifer Casa-Todd’s. My experience was as a member of the high school curling team. I don’t even recall what position on the team I was; just that four of us were asked to be on the team because our parents curled. Is that skill even transferable?

I don’t even recall who our Skip was and I certainly don’t recall him being supportive of us growing as team members. For us, it was a couple of days away from classes to practice and then to compete in a bonspiel. If I remember correctly, we played one game before being knocked out – curling wasn’t big in my town because we had to go to a completely different town to even play. But, I got my school Curling badge to count towards my school total.

And, like in Jennifer’s post, I do recall a lot of yelling. When “sweep” was yelled, we really did sweep not like today’s brushing…

And, back to her post – after all, it’s about her and not me! Jennifer shares a story of growing in the sport going from Lead to Second. That is indeed a major change requiring more skills. Jennifer focuses on the takeout and how her Skip is helping her develop this and other new skills. Therein lies the comparison between school and curling.

Yelling for inspiration is required in one and optional in the other.

If curling is new to you, take the two minutes it takes to watch the video and you’ll be up to speed! Two minutes to understand and a lifetime to master.

I hope this little read warms up your Friday morning.

Follow these bloggers on Twitter for more great content.

This post is part of a regular Friday morning routine around here. You can check out all the past posts in the link above.

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and nowhere else.

Gone, gone, gone

This is quite amazing, to say the least.

One of the Photoshop skills that you learn at any workshop is removing the background from a photo. I know that the first time I tried the concept (before I knew anything about Photoshop), I just took an image and brought it into a simple graphics program and used the eraser tool to remove the background. It was timely, required the hands of a surgeon, and there were some pretty dicey moments around the edges.

Typically, you want to take a picture with a person and remove the background so that you can place them in a different setting.

Once I had developed a fairly deep set of Photoshop skills, I was able to do a better job although not quite perfect. There were always those little bits and pieces that you couldn’t quite reach.

So, in search of the perfect tool that would do a better job (and run on a Chromebook), I was intrigued when I found out about

The site claims to do one thing and one thing only – remove the background from an image. The claim of doing so using artificial intelligence is also intriguing so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Typically, at moments like this, my test subject is the furry guy you saw on my Christmas post so up to the server Jaimie went…and failed. At this time, the service requires a human subject. Sorry, Jaimie.

As it would happen, we were talking this morning about how cold it was visiting Windsor’s Bright Lights last winter and I had a picture of this ugly guy and his beautiful wife taken there. The remove site will let you upload a picture or it will take a URL to an image. So, I right clicked on a picture I had in Facebook and pasted it into the service. True to its promise, it was less than five seconds later that I got the original and the image without the background.

The job? You can be the judge.

The download image is in PNG format which works everywhere.

I’ve got it bookmarked now for those occasions that I need a tool like this.

This blog post was originally posted at:

If you find it anywhere else, it’s not original.

A new Canvas

When the Ministry of Education licensed Photoshop Elements, I really went to town with it. I was an owner and user of the full Adobe Photoshop suite of things and could hold my own, I think, when it came to working the program and doing some post picture taking editing.

If you’ve ever dabbled, you know that the original Photoshop has every feature that you could ever possibly dream of. Photoshop Elements was a nice collection of the features that most would use regularly and, in particular, in schools. Both are so feature-rich, that I could never remember them all and would often be poking around or looking for help just to finish off.

Those were the days when having a kick butt high end computer was the ultimate goal, next to having a specific application to do something really well. And, we ended up buying more and more and as much hard drive space as we could.

The Chromebook is forcing a change in thought. While there will be those who constantly push the envelope to do amazing things, most of us just want to get a job done and not necessarily have all different applications for this and that. Chromebooks have limited storage space so huge application collections is out of the question. Having things work well in a browser is all that’s necessary.

This week, Google announced a new product called Canvas. It’s run in your browser so no permanent installation is necessary; probably just best to put a shortcut in your browser for those times that you need a utility like this.

The palette of tools isn’t huge…

And yet, much can be accomplished with this.

There really isn’t any help and things are fairly intuitive. (It took me a bit of learning though to realize that you gave to click on the tip of the drawing tool rather than just anywhere on the tool to activate the flyout to adjust things.)

For example, colours

And so I gave it a run through to check out functionality. It doesn’t do everything but what it does do, it does well. There seems to be little or no latency as I worked with it. Input via the mouse doesn’t give the greatest results for me but my finger on the screen or my older Wacom tablet worked very nicely. As I write this, I’m using the Opera browser on Linux Mint.

Drawings are saved to your Google Drive and you can do an export into .png format. I think that it’s simple enough that doodlers or sketchnoters may find that it functions well for those tasks.

Give it a shot by clicking here and see if this doesn’t fulfil many of your needs, all through your browser.

This blog post was originally posted at:

If you find it anywhere else, it’s not original.

Listen to me, Google

Over the weekend, an upgrade to Chrome OS landed it at version…

Screenshot 2018-09-24 at 08.16.12

There was a time when I’d go off and start to read what’s new.  It can be very technical reading but I’ve now got the mindset that upgrades are a good thing and usually important.  So, I get less geeky about them.

This upgrade made things look somehow more professional.  (and rounder)

Screenshot 2018-09-24 at 08.18.43

This all looked interesting.  I headed off to “Accessibility” where some of the more interesting things usually are.

Screenshot 2018-09-24 at 08.20.05

Dictation looked interesting.  I hadn’t tried that before on Chrome.  Certainly, I have with Android.  It’s a way to handily interact when out and about.  So, I activated it.

A new icon appeared!  A microphone!

Screenshot 2018-09-24 at 08.21.52

I clicked it and started to talk.


Then, it occurred to me that it needed something to talk to.  So, I opened a Keep Note and started talking again.  This time, text appeared at the insertion point.  Neat.

Could I talk a URL?

Sort of.

Screenshot 2018-09-24 at 08.25.12

I wasn’t too surprised.  That is kind of a special URL.  To me, anyway.

So, like a person with a hammer where everything looks like nails, I was off trying this and that.  It was surprisingly accurate for conversational things.  In fact, I used it to write part of this blog post.  Hopefully, there are no more mistakes than normal.

Of course, there will be the inevitable warnings about security because your voice will leave your computer and head to a Google server for interpretation.  Is this any different from any other use of the internet?

Have you tried it out?  How about sharing your success stories via comment?




Some serious dragging and dropping

So often, going to a conference can be made with just one excellent presentation.  At the recent CSTA Conference, this session was one of those for me.  It was entitled Maps, Movies, and Multiplayer Games Workshop at CSTA 2018.  It was up against a session on sorting for me and walking all the way to that session was a determining factor for me.  I heard it was also a great presentation but I was blown away at this one.

Like many computer science teachers, I was skeptic at first when drag and drop programming languages emerged.  After all, don’t real programmers code in a particular language?  Things certainly have changed over the years and drag and drop has become a mainstay.  It’s become more sophisticated and truly deserves a place in the classroom.  But, how many times can you be introduced to drawing a rectangle on the screen and talk about the integration with mathematics?

I had little idea about what I was in for when I read this title but I’ll tell you, I left wanting more.  And, I’ve been playing and thinking about it ever since.  The session introduced the concept of Netsblox to me.  I’d never heard of it before.  In fact, when I walked into the room and looked at the screen, I thought that I might have just walked into a Scratch session instead!

Wrong again, Doug.

NetsBlox is a visual programming language and cloud-based environment that enables novice programmers to create networked programs such as multi-player games. Its visual notation is based on Scratch and it uses the open source JavaScript code base of Snap! NetsBlox opens up the internet with its vast array of public domain scientific and other data sources making it possible to create STEM projects, such as displaying seismic activity anywhere on Earth using an interactive Google Maps background. Similarly, weather, air pollution, and many other data sources such as the Open Movie Database and the Sloan Digital Sky Server are available. NetsBlox supports collaborative program editing similar to how Google Docs work.

I mean, look at the screen.  Certainly, I can be excused for mistaking this to be Scratch.  Impressions changed when we looked at our first application.


Tapping into data, we used Google Maps as the stage and geo-location to determine where we were.  (Omaha at the convention centre)  From there, we accessed the latest temperature.  Or, click around on the interactive map for a different location.  It’s warm in Kingsville as I write this post in the early morning.


How so?  It’s from the data sources that Netsblox makes available for you.


Just look at the sources.  I would be lying if I didn’t say my jaw hit the floor.

We spent some time exploring the environment and talking about the possibilities….  (and this geeky attendee was multi-tasking on my own with my Chromebook)

Then, it was off to a couple more examples where Netsblox shines.

  • A pong game.  How is that exciting?  It’s exciting because it’s played with two computers interacting.  You only see your side of the screen.
  • A real time chat application.  The more the merrier.

Both illustrated how Netsblox is more than just a one person interacting with one application on his/her screen.

In a blink of an eye, the one hour was over.  This could easily have captured my attention for hours.

So, for you drag and drop afficionados,  I’d encourage you to check out the site (and the presentation … links are above).  You can’t help but be blown away.

New look

This isn’t something for everyone but I was intrigued.

Rumours have been going around about a new look for the Google Chrome browser.  Of course, you can always apply themes to keep the look fresh.  Right now, I use the theme “Android for Google Chrome” just because it’s kind of dark-ish and green.  It fits nicely into the way things look on my computer.  I’m really a fan of dark looking things.  I find it’s easy on the eyes.

For the Chrome browser, like many people, I think the silver? look out of the box is kind of blah so have spiced it up a bit.

So, with the announcement that things might be changing, it was kind of interesting to see that a new interface is on the way.  And, by the way, you can play with it right now.

Just type chrome://flags/#top-chrome-md into your address bar.  Pay attention to the warnings and note where the “Reset” button is if you want to change back easily.

The setting here talks about ways to look at the new interface.

Screenshot 2018-06-04 at 06.48.51

My first curiosity took me to “Touchable” since it might just be the thing that would be helpful with a Chromebook with touch screen.

Screenshot 2018-06-04 at 06.49.05

The first result I noticed is a wider spread screen.  That looks interesting for people with fat fingers trying to navigate the screen.  I was expecting a wider, more functional scroller on the right but it wasn’t there…yet.

Screenshot 2018-06-04 at 07.01.16

But, you’ll also notice a rounded look to the URL bar.

My first reaction is always that it looks somehow “newer” although the functionality remains the same.  I liked how it collected overflow tabs.  (Why do I have so many tabs open anyway?)  Speaking of new tabs, there’s a more intuitive way to add a new tab with Screenshot 2018-06-04 at 07.15.40.

It’s an interesting look into the minds of the developers to show us what’s on the way.  I think that the various toggles would make for an interesting discussion in a computer science or any design course.  Compare the various layouts and discuss the implications.  Keep in mind that the important people are those who will ultimately use it.  What do they need for functionality and productivity.

I’m not sure that “touchable” is for me, at this time.  I like to have as much readable space on the screen as possible (I don’t normally show bookmarks, for example).

Fortunately, I have lots of other alternatives!