This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Probably TMI, but I wore long pants and a sweat shirt for the dog walk this morning. It was so cool out there at the beginning (10 degrees) but it sure helped to work up a sweat.

For a Friday morning, here’s a look around the province at great content provided by Ontario Edubloggers.


Your Students Should Nap (and so should you)

Congratulations to Andrew Campbell for being recognized as one of the Top Canadian Educational Blogs. It says so on the link behind the badge on his landing page.

So, what does a high quality blog feature in its quest for cutting edge comments about education.

Napping.

The scientific research is clear that napping is good for us. A study showed that 10-12 year olds that took a midday nap had greater happiness, self-control, and grit; fewer behavioral problems; and higher IQ than students who didn’t.

And maybe a better command of buzzwords?

It won’t be the first study that goes ignored but it does beg a few questions.

  • If schools are struggling to get 40 desks into a classroom, where will they find the same number of cots?
  • If the kids nap, I’d want to too. We had a couch in the Business Department work area that we could flip a coin for
  • Who’s going to supervise the kids lest you have a sleepwalker?
  • Can you imagine the bad breath after wakey wakey time? Rush to the washrooms to brush?
  • Are we getting paid for this?
  • Who is going to break the news to the Ministry and the Government that this is a good idea? Or, in terms of public policy, the right wing newspapers?
  • Who would be the experts in this field? Maybe a daycare worker from down the street?

There is no STEM

I wonder how Tim King feels about STEAM then?

That’s been a hot item in education for the past few years. Keynote speakers, government grants here and there have all promoted the importance of the concept. Yet, as Tim notes in the post, there is no co-ordinated effort to make it a “thing” across the province.

Because, he notes, if it was a “thing” there would be funding, a curriculum, and recognition by universities and colleges.

Sadly, it could be taken as a slam to people that are trying their best to make it something (and some are doing great things) but it’s yet to rise to the standard of a curricular thing. The concept most certainly has value but, unlike other curriculum areas, it remains like a pickup game of baseball in elementary schools and an option in secondary schools.

It’s a shame that this pointless acronym has thrown a blanket over the grossly neglected curriculums of technology and engineering, while giving even more attention to two of the Disney princesses of academia.  To be honest with you, I think technology and engineering would be just where it is now had this STEM focus never happened, which tells you something about how this ed-fad has gone down.


The Gift of Staying Connected – Thanks Andrew and Diana

This is a heart-warming story from Diana Maliszewski about connections with students who have since graduated.

There are so many takeaways to this story other than the wonderful remembrances that Diana shares. (We now know the secret to her yearbook)

It’s a reminder that connections are constantly being made and are remembered long after graduations. Can you go back to your hometown without taking a drive past your old school or university and have fond memories flow?

For non educators who view teaching as just an assembly line for students, they need to read and see the empathy and connections made here and how Diana chose to share them with us.

And for kids – it’s just not you having memories of your teacher – it works both ways.


Three lessons on Grit and Resilience

This is another very thoughtful post from Jennifer Casa-Todd although she actually provides us with four lessons. A couple of them are kind of close so we’ll cut her some slack.

The biggest head nod that I gave Jennifer’s post was actually in her first lesson:

 Success is more likely when you work in manageable chunks

As a programmer, I set out a plan to do this, then this, then this, then this, and then put it all together. I always visualize a project as the sum of its parts. I’m not sure that I could do a more big idea approach without considering the sub-components.

It was always the way that things went in my Computer Science classes. It was easier for students to solve a problem if they worked in chunks. It also allowed them to get partial marks even if they couldn’t solve the big problem. When you’re walking around the room and asked for assistance, it was also easier to see and understand than looking at pages and pages of spaghetti code.

If there’s one piece of advice that people would be wise to consider, it’s this one. The other three are pretty good too!


HOW TO START THE SCHOOL YEAR OFF RIGHT

You know, if you could bottle that and sell it to teachers, you’d be a millionaire. Fortunately, there are all kinds of bits of wisdom about this.

This post is Kyle Pearce’s attempt at advice specifically for the mathematics classroom. I really like his ideas and concepts.

There are a couple of points that appear as statements that I think deserve to be fleshed out in greater detail.

Change their beliefs about math

Unfortunately, I see an underlying assumption here. While there are many students that don’t like mathematics, how about the kid like me that loved doing it? What would my belief change to? More importantly, just how would someone go about this – and doing so without dissing previous teachers in the process?

I’ve always wondered about the “beliefs about math” and wonder if it differs in grades 3, 6, 9 in Ontario over the other grades because of the impending year of preparing for the test. I think that would make for a great research study.

Establish expectations by painting a picture of what math class will look like

I’m curious about this one too – will all classes look the same? Will they all be functionally the same? Do you address homework while painting this picture?


“The More Strategies, the Better?”

There were three things that stood out to me in Mark Chubb’s post. He does use mathematics and a specific example for his purpose in the post.

  1. Is there value in knowing more than one way to solve a problem? I’d guess that the experienced mathematics teacher would argue yes until they’re blue in the face
  2. Mark does make reference to strategies that are “early understanding” versus those that are “sophisticated”. How does a student appreciate this? Does “sophisticated” equate to being more difficult? I had a university professor who just exuded a love for mathematics and the only word that I could think of for what he did when solving a problem was “elegance”. How do you get students so learned that their solutions become elegant?
  3. I really like the fact that Mark includes this in his post.
    “Have discussions with other math educators about the math you teach”
    Do you do that or do you just assume that you’re the teacher and there’s no room to grow and learn?

This is a wonderful post for anyone to read and understand. I can’t help but think of the teacher who is teaching mathematics for the first time. How do you bring them along and witness the wisdom and insights of experiences teachers?


Taking Old Town Road to School

Search YouTube for “Old Town Road” and sit back to see the many versions – live, karaoke, parode, etc. of the song.

Here’s another idea that’s also a great lesson for the classroom.

Then, check out the tags from this post from the Association for Media Literacy.

21st Century Literacies, association for media literacy, audience, codes and conventions, lil nas x, media literacy education, neil andersen, old town road

The post gives a wonderful lesson about how to take an original work and remix it so that it’s yours and address so many things along the way!

Need the lyrics – click here.

This whole activity just sounds like a whack of fun.


Your call to action this Friday morning —

  1. Read and enjoy the original posts
  2. Follow these bloggers on Twitter
    1. @acampbell99
    2. @mechsymp
    3. @MzMollyTL
    4. @jcasatodd
    5. @MathletePearce
    6. @MarkChubb3
    7. @A_M_L_

This post originally appeared on

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

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ROT-ting


I found this comment to my Enigma post from Alfred Thompson interesting and it took me back in a couple of ways.

I have had students program Caesar cyphers which are of course simple rotation cyphers. This reminds me – do you remember ROT-13 which in the early days of the Internet was used to hide spoilers of all sorts in messages? Seems like everyone had a piece of code to encode or decode ROT-13 back then. Today’s kids will probably never know this trick.

A couple of things. I absolutely remember teaching cyphers to students and, of course, ROT-13 was one of the mainstays. As always with every program I used in class as a demonstration or a problem that I assigned for solution, I wrote the code myself. It gave me a sense as to how long it would take to write and also a chance to make sure that it didn’t use a feature or technique that hadn’t been taught.

The second memory was a conversation with a principal about why Computer Science should be offered to students.

Hasn’t every program been already written and we’re just re-inventing the wheel?

It lent to an interesting conversation which also could be applied to just about any subject area. It also illustrates a program that today’s Computer Science teachers face. While not every program has been written, so many that you’d might actually use in class have and the connected student is only a moment away from copying and pasting the code.

In the case of Alfred’s reference to ROT-13, there’s even a website with that name!

The algorithm is readily available anywhere as well as the code. Heck, just got to this website and view the source of it to see how the developer coded it.

What’s a teacher to do?

  • I know that many are constantly creating new programs or variations on old faithfuls that hopefully don’t exist online
  • Changing their philosophy of marking – I know that myself, the actual program was only worth so much and the balance of the marks came from external documentation to prove to me that the student understood what the program did
  • Part of the problem to be addressed hinges on BYOD where students bring in their own devices; that makes it difficult to prove it’s original work but sitting next to the student and asking for a modification to the code shows whether or not the student understands
  • Use a hosting/sharing feature like GIT or Scratch repository to get to the reality for so much of what happens today – modifications to existing code (which can be more difficult that writing your own from scratch at times)

I’m sure that Computer Science teachers can add their own techniques to this list as well.

So, yes, the classics and the standards may well have been already written but that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn and grow with them. There are always so many ways.

Plus, and here’s the biggy – there’s always the euphoria one feels when you get a program, any program, that you’re writing to run successfully!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


As we head deeper into September, there’s no doubt that autumn is on its way. From Fall Fairs to cooler nights, you can’t question it. And, of course, crickets.

It’s a wonderful time to be outside though. It’s one of my favourite times of the year. When you’re inside however, check out some of these blog posts from Ontario Educators.


A Self-Reg Look At “Preparing Kids”: Is It Time To Change The Conversation?

On the Merit Centre blog, Aviva Dunsiger shares her thoughts about the concept of preparing kids for the next grade. She takes on the role of student, teacher, and parent and builds the case about the stressors that she sees with each of these groups.

It’s an interesting concept to tackle. I would suggest, though, that our school model isn’t set up to fully embrace the concept of looking ahead. After all, every grade and every subject has expectations that need to be addressed. We’re not a big continuum from K-12.

I had to smile when I looked back on an experience that I had teaching Grade 9 Mathematics. There was a small collection of students that were obvious in their lacking of skills from Grade 8. Upon further research, their elementary school had a history of being weak in Mathematics. I was advised by my department head that I needed to do some catch up work with them. So, for a few weeks, they got to dine with me in an empty classroom. It was actually kind of fun to help them fill in the gaps but I can’t imagine the increased stress that they had knowing that they were behind classmates and had to give up lunch with friends for lunch with their new friend.

I like how Aviva notes that the focus should be on the child and, while she doesn’t explicitly state it, she’s talking about differentiation or customization to help each student achieve. And that, after all, is why teachers get the big bucks.


2019-20: Persistence and Possibility

If there’s a class in the province that I’d love to audit, it’s Tim King’s. Why?

Well, just read this post. He took a couple of classes over the summer including one dealing with Cyber Operations. I’m fearful that, with the lack of direction in some districts, kids are just tap, tap, tapping on their iPads and calling it technology integration. You have but to just read the technology news to know that it’s an increasingly ugly world out there. How are you supposed to keep up? Are you preparing your students for heading out into that world?

Tim is.

I can’t help but remark what a terrific learning experience Tim’s students had with a guest from IBM coming in to work with them and the Watson AI.

Check out his entire post and ask if you’re school is providing this opportunity for your students. If not, why not?


First Week of Math: Resources to help make connections & build relationships

If I had to guess what resources that teachers of MBF3C wanted, I might have guessed:

  • new textbooks
  • better worksheets
  • higher end technology

Not so, according to Heather Theijsmeijer.

They wanted ways to connect with the students and build a good learning relationship. My suggestions above would be anything but, I think.

To assist, in this post, Heather provides links to a number of resources from a who’s who in modern mathematics instruction, including Ontario educator Jon Orr.

Follow the links for some truly inspirational ideas. I’ll step out on a limb and indicate that, with a little customization, they could apply in other areas other than Mathematics.


Teachers tell stories

Confession time here … I booked this post from Albert Fong a little too quickly. I saw the August 15 part and tucked it away for the voicEd show and this post.

What I hadn’t noticed was the year! The post was from a year ago. During our live show, Stephen Hurley made a comment that the post look familiar. I guess I thought that it was as well. But, I still like the concept as a Business educator and the Entrepreneurship shown along with the teacher Q&A of a student baking cookies.

So, yeah, it’s a year old and I’ll apologize for the timeliness (actually it’s previously made this blog here). But, I won’t apologize for the content and message. It’s still as good as ever!


Snippets #1

beens.org has long been a destination for me to see what Peter Beens is doing in his classroom. Now, he’s registered beens.ca and is taking a new direction.

Welcome to the first of hopefully a series of “snippets” blog posts. I have to admit I’m poaching the idea from @dougpete with his “My Week Ending” series [example]. My life seems to be too hectic to publish “real” posts so let’s see if this works as an alternative.

I like the concept and it dovetails on my philosophy of learning nicely. If I learn something of value, why not share it in case it’s of value to someone else? If it isn’t, they can just ignore it.

I’ve got to believe though, that when Peter’s Solo EV arrives, it will generate a “real” post (whatever that is!)


New Beginnings, New Adventures

Paul McGuire has been busy this summer with his participation in the Climb for Kids and a couple of recent posts share his thoughts and images about the climb.

However, the latest post reveals a complete change in his life. He’s going back to school.

Not as a student though. He’s going to work at the University of Ottawa and in the Faculty of Education. That’s going to be an immense change.

This blog is about to get much busier. When life takes a radical change learning happens that really should be accompanied by reflection. Things now are so new I really don’t know enough to reflect, but I think that will change pretty quickly.

That’s great news for those of us who follow him on his blog. We’ll look forward to the things that he’s about to share.


No First Day Jitters This Year!

Things are about to change with Brenda Sherry as well. It’s not a return to books and other things for her…

She’s not headed back to a traditional school which she notes she has done for so many years. Instead, it’s education in a different direction.

This isn’t to say that jitters might not be coming, but from a different direction. You’ve got this, Brenda.

I wish her all the success with this very ambitious future.


Please take the time to visit these blog posts and check out the sharing from these terrific Ontario Educators.

Then, make sure that you’re following them on Twitter.

  • @Self_Reg (@avivaloca)
  • @tk1ng
  • @HTheijsmeijer
  • @albertfong
  • @pbeens
  • @mcguirp
  • @brendasherry

This post originally appeared on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

If you found it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

Your own Enigma machine


One of the ways to foster engagement in Computer Science is to come up with interesting topics that grab student attention. One of my favourite student activities was writing a program to encode and decode messages.

We used to watch a movie showing various techniques used over the years and then talked about how to develop an algorithm using simple rotation to encode messages. A becomes B, B becomes C, etc. and then various adjustments from there. It’s actually an easy topic because of the interest “Hey, I can send you an encrypted message and the teacher can’t read it” and simply because most kids had done the activity in class on paper lest the paper the message is written on get intercepted.

In the movie that I showed, it talked about the Enigma Machine and how it was used in the Second World War and how Alan Turing became involved in decoding the messages. The computing activity usually took longer than I anticipated, not because we were using all that sophisticated code, but just because it was so interesting and students would want to take the time and effort to really polish off their code. Win all the way around!

Now you can get into the Enigma Machine in great detail here. It’s a great visual representation of how encryption works with all kinds of adjustments plus a history of the machine and how it works.

Of course, the real machine was all mechanical but modern coding makes for a great visualization and the internet makes the resource available everywhere you’re connected.

Did I say code?

By clicking in the left margin, you can see the source code that makes it all happen.

Of course, that opens all kinds of other opportunities.

We’ve come a long way from the days of finding the VCR tape, booking the television, watching the movie all at once, and then taking notes!

Hot, hot, hot


It’s certainly been a warm, even hot, summer so far. I can’t recall another time where the number of days has had the humidex into the 40s like this summer.

So, is it a trend?

From the BBC, you’ll need to check out this interesting resource.

First of all, spin the globe to get a sense of what the heat is in terms of a global perspective. Then, you might want to zero in on your section of the world.

On a scale of cold to hot, the immediate visual sets the stage.

For a little history closer to home, select a country and then a city. I checked out Canada and the closest location was Kitchener. I also looked at the United States and Detroit since it’s much closer.

The historical data and interpretation may cause you to take a few minutes to pause but I suspect that the interpretation is what you would be suspecting. I like how the raw data gets translated into a trending line when you wait a moment or two.

For the classroom, the best, medium, and worse case scenarios will make for interesting discussions and extra research.

You might want to tuck this resource away for use once the school year starts.

Nifty


One of my favourite sessions that is held at the CSTA Conference is “Nifty Assignments”.

Nifty Assignments is a project to gather and distribute great assignment ideas and their materials by K-12 CS teachers for K-12 CS teachers. Each year a few assignments are showcased by the authors at the Nifty Assignments session held at the annual CSTA conference.  It is intended to be a replica of (and homage to) the highly successful, and longstanding, Nifty Assignments session at the Annual ACM SIGCSE conference devised by Nick Parlante.

Of course, there are rules – and a philosophy.

Anyone who has ever taught Computer Science knows that the problems included in textbooks can be simple and often not all that inspiring. You know that you end up creating many (most?) problems on your own. Make them relevant to your class, cover the concepts you’re teaching, engage students, etc.

Well, there’s one great Computer Science textbook – the greatest of all time Oh! Pascal! But beyond that, Computer Science teachers know the drill.

So, Nifty Assignments is an attempt, via session at the conference to address that. It’s very popular; whatever room it’s held in seems to always be packed and this year was no different.

The nifty resource can be found here.

This year’s collection has the following topics.

The slidedeck for the presentation is available as well. Check it out here.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1SRXQjHb321b3QNb5VxUVNgf6MTLNo8RXOFgVhpsWSVE/edit

Follow the links on the individual topics to get to the details for these five great, er, nifty assignments.

Random thoughts from Phoenix


As the 2019 CSTA Conference winds down, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

“It’s a dry heat” – I’ve heard that many times but got to experience. It’s 5:30am as I type this and it’s already 31 degrees with a forecasted high of 43. The “feels like” temperature is 29 which is a little bizarre. At home, we’ve experienced high humidity which turned the tables in the opposite direction. But, “it’s a dry heat”. (It’s also the wifi password…)

As expected, the convention centre was very well air conditioned. Talk to some and they’d say over air conditioned. That only lasts until mid-afternoon and then the sun kicks in. But, it’s a dry heat, right?

The roads are amazing. At least where I’ve been, there are no cracks and potholes, just smooooth driving. I’m guessing we have winters to thank for things. Of course, in the downtown city, there is spray paint identifying underground services so that remains constant!

Computer Science teachers are very friendly and are more than willing to share coding stories. That’s a highlight for me.

The most organized group has to be the Arkansas folks. They sent a big group en masse and they have assigned t-shirts to wear every day. It started with a tie-dye and ended with red.

People love swag. We had a nice collection of things from the exhibitors. For me, the big winner was the metal coffee cup. Of course, I had to get a green one.

I have a renewed appreciation for the Ontario Curriculum. If you talk to any Grade 11 teacher in Ontario, they’re all working from the same page. That’s not the same here. The common thread, if there is one, is in the AP courses but beyond that there’s a wide variety of topics.

Cybersecurity is a big issue for many people. This is a good thing. It’s also a tough one because there are no hard and fast answers and it truly is a moving target.

Back to the environment in Phoenix, those misting machines outside the restaurants do a really good job. They work against the dry heat!

One of my volunteers was from Phoenix. I learned

  • even Phoenix people don’t go outside from 12-2 if they can get away with it
  • people never close their backyard pools
  • Phoenix has huge traffic problems like any other city
  • Phoenix is located in a valley and that can cause problems when smog settles in
  • recycling is a big deal

From the elevator with the outside glass windows, the tops of the building are not black as so many of ours are, they’re white in colour.

Looking down at the Convention Centre – three storeys tall.

There really is a difference in mentality between “Learn to Code” and “Code to Learn” when you talk to people. Obviously, I have my preferences – how do you know if you’re right?

You could go broke if you bought even one of the programmable robotic things in the Exhibit Hall, forget buying enough to use them effectively in the class.

Unlike ECOO where everyone seems to be using some sort of Macintosh or iPad, there are a lot of Windows users here. And, a bit of Linux too!

There didn’t seem to be any local flavours at the restaurants that I ate at. One night, I actually had fish and chips for supper. I don’t know everything about Phoenix but I’m pretty sure Cod is not caught anywhere around here.

I’m envious of US smartphone plans. I would have had to pay extra to have roaming access; it seems like everyone else is connected no matter where they’re originally from.

I’ve got a really good appreciation for my own bed. I can’t wait to get back and sleep in it!

Aero and Coffee Crisp chocolate bars go over well!

I think this was the first conference ever that I wore shorts every day. There are pants in my luggage but they stayed there.

I’d kill for a Tim Horton’s coffee. (just an expression)