Finding open resources


I found this resource courtesy of Stephen Downes’ OLDaily. It really struck me as unique, wonderful, and potentially very useful at the same time.

The Open Syllabus Explorer claims to map college courses with over 6 million syllabi.

I know that there are some college and university instructors that read this blog and I would encourage them to take a look at what’s available and might be helpful to them.

My focus is in K-12. In this case, it’s Computer Studies.

One of the powerful mailing lists that I follows comes from ACSE where Ontario Computer Studies teachers are sharing resources, asking for assistance, and looking for inspiration.

Teaching Computer Science is kind of an oddity. Unlike many courses where you just buy a textbook for student use, there aren’t that many textbooks for Computer Science teachers, particularly in 10-12. It’s a bit different if you’re teaching the Advanced Placement courses but for the regular Ontario courses, finding a textbook is incredibly difficult. Personally, I never used one.

Instead, I was always making up my own resources. They probably weren’t generic enough for others to use them but I felt they met my needs and the local interests of students. As such, I was always looking for new resources and ideas. It was always a hoot to find a new problem and work through it with students.

So, why college resources? There’s another dimension to all this. Sadly, not all students see the light and take Computer Science courses until they get to college / university. As a result, at post-secondary, there are often introductory courses. The ideas and inspirations there can be used as well.

I took a look and a search for a very popular programming language – Python. There are lots of filters to narrow your search if needed.

And the list goes on. Now, individual teachers would have to take a look for resources and test them for suitability but it’s a giant start beyond having nothing to work with.

At the least, you owe it yourself to check this resource out.

Names, and more names


First off …

Today marks a day of rotating strike action by ETFO members in the following districts:

  • Kawartha Pine Ridge
  • Hastings-Prince Edward
  • Upper Grand
  • Moosonee
  • Moose Factory

Details here.


I had a great deal of fun with this:

Guessing Names Based on What They Start With

So, it looks like the program is 32% confident that my parents named me Douglas. But, it’s a little over 40% sure that it might have been Donald. Well, I was kind of impressed because my parents did name my younger brother Donald.

The input is pretty simple; choose your gender, your birth decade, and then a few letters from your first name and see the results. As the author notes, the data is from US sources which is close enough for me for the entertainment value. And maybe statistics in the classroom.

As I was playing, the programmer in me thought “this can’t be that difficult to write – all you need is the data”. So, I did some internet searching.

This was interesting but wasn’t quite easy enough to work with.

Then, I found this resource. Admittedly, this is from an American source but it’s perfect to work with names by decade. I was able to easily create some data files and write the code to interact with it. So, there’s my tip to Computer Science teachers for today. I love coming up with new ideas to do some coding with.

Oh, and just to settle something for people that do know me. I wasn’t born in the 1970s but if the Internet wants some fake news, go for it.

I’ve seen this before


In my stories about Google stuff recently, there has been a great deal of excitement about a new feature for planetary navigation in Google Maps.

Google Maps now throws you into hyperspace when switching between planets

Spotted on Reddit, Google Maps now shows a neat hyperspace animation when you switch from Earth to other planets in our solar system. We’re not entirely sure when this animation was added, but it seems possible it was added as a nod to the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise. The design of the animation is also nearly identical to how it looks in the latest films.

So, of course, I had to check it out and it really is kind of neat. If you haven’t explored the planets elements of Google Maps, you really need to. There are so many ideas that come to mind for class use. The collection is impressive.

So, I’m warping between planets enjoying the animation and I had this nagging feeling that I’ve seen this before.

As it turns out, it wasn’t like this but more like the original opening crawling text to Star Wars.

Then it hit me. It was a Computer Science class a long time ago and far far away.

We did boring?! programming and one of the programs that we were writing dealt with creating navigation with menus and returning for smooth navigation and not letting the user get lost.

That wasn’t good enough for one student.

Instead of just going to the target of the menu, he inserted a Star Wars-like scroller that explained where the user was going and why. I remember thinking at the time “don’t you have better things to do?”. But, when I thought about it, doing this was probably far more challenging than the original assignment.

I’ve lost touch with this student. Who knows? Maybe he’s working for Google now. (grin) But the biggest bit of satisfaction for me was letting him include that in his code and making for a more sophisticated application.

Who knew that I’d see the concept again?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Didn’t we just have a Friday the 13th? But what a beautiful moon! The nice thing about full moons in the winter is that the skies seem so much clearer and the moon so much bigger and crisper.

It’s time to share another week’s worth of reading and posting from around the province from Ontario Edubloggers. As always, some great writing to inspire thinking for you.


It’s a Matter of Relationships

I’m glad to add this blog to my collection. As I said on the voicEd Radio show, this could have been titled “A union stewart and a school principal walk into a coffee shop”. These people would be Judy Redknine and Toby Molouba.

Because they did. It’s an interesting combination given what’s happening in education and, quite honestly, something that should be seen in more places. There are most certainly lots of things to think about in education – when this post was written the current actions were only visible on the horizon.

I love this quote from the blog post.

“When your child walks into the room, does your face light up?” Our belief is that adults, like children, need this same light.  The heart of the matter is it is about our humanity.  Relationships truly matter.

Humanity and decency are things that I would suggest can be taken for granted if left alone. I really appreciate the message of collegiality that comes through in this post. Relationships are number 1. It’s a lesson for all of us. And yes, adults need to see the same light.

I wonder if the faces light up when the two sides enter the room for a round of collective bargaining. Of course they don’t. Like playing poker, you don’t want to show your hand.

But imagine if they did. Would that lead to an earlier conflict resolution?


What do trees have to do with well-being? (Trees Part Two)

A while back, I read Part One of Anne-Marie Kee’s thoughts about trees, in particular as they apply to Lakefield College School.

This is an interesting followup as she reflects on trees and how they grow, survive, and thrive. In particular, she shares some interesting observations about community and deep or not-so-deep roots in the section dealing with myths.

Towards the end, she turns to how it is so similar to today’s teenagers. Trees help each other grow and so do teenagers. In fact, by giving them the opportunity to take on more responsibility in truly meaningful ways, you do help the process. Not surprisingly, she makes the important connection to mental health and well-being.

I know that we all think we do that. Maybe it’s time to take a second look and really focus on the “meaningful”.


Shoulders of giants

Will Gourley really grounded me with his observations about giants. Perhaps because my use with computer technology, a new field in the big scheme of things, I can name and appreciate the giants in the field.

With a career in education, I can think back to the giants who I looked up to professionally. Egotistically, I remember my first days in the classroom just knowing that I was going to be this stand-out educator and change the world all on my own.

And you know what? What they told us at the Faculty was true. You could close your classroom door and nobody notices or cares!

Then, either the first Thursday or the second, there was a big package in my mailbox. It was an updated collective agreement. As a new teacher, I got the entire agreement and then the 1 or 2 page summary of changes from the recent rounds of negotiations. I was blown away to realize that I had received a raise!

That weekend, I sat down and read the agreement from cover to cover. On Monday morning, I sat down with our OSSTF rep and had a bunch of questions. I recall many being “what happened before this was in the agreement”. It was then that I got a true appreciation for the work that had gone into things over the years.

The value of being an OSSTF member continued to grow and impress me over the years. I served as our school PD rep and CBC rep for a few years and every step led to an increasing appreciation for the work that was done. When OSSTF started to provide quality professional learning, I was over the top.

I know that there are tough times during negotiations but just thinking about where you are now and how you get there is important. In a few years, those leading now will be the shoulders that others are standing on.


Hour of Code Is Coming…

Of course, I had to share this post from Arianna Lambert. Computer Science Education Week is near and dear to my heart and the Hour of Code may be the most visible thing to most. I wrote a bit this week about things that can be done with the micro:bit..

I deliberately moved her post to this week, marking the end of the Hour of Code. Why?

An hour of anything doesn’t make a significant difference. The Hour of Code should never be considered a check box to be marked done. It should be the inspiration and insight that lets you see where coding fits into the big scheme of things. It is modern. It is important. It is intimidating.

If you’ve ever taken a computer science course, you know that seldom do you get things right the first time. But every failure leads to an insight that you have for the next problem that you tackle. Student and teacher can truly become co-learners here. Why not take advantage of it?

Included in Arianna’s post is a presentation that she uses and a very nice collection of links that you can’t possibly get through in an hour. And, I would suggest that’s the point.

I know what I’ve been doing all week and plan to continue into the weekend.


My Look At The Holidays: What Are Your Stories?

I cringed when I read the title of Aviva Dunsiger’s post. After all, she had kind of dissed my post about Advent calendars.

This post was different though.

There are lots of pictures she shares about classroom activities so there is a holiday thing happening in her classroom. Check out the menorah made from water bottles.

She shifts gears a bit and tells a story of her youth. She grew up Jewish and then a second marriage gave her the Christmas experience. It’s very open and a nice sharing of her experiences. It was a side of Aviva that I’d never seen before. I appreciated it.

You’ll smile at the story of her grandmother. We all have/had a wee granny in our lives, haven’t we?


The podcast version of our live TWIOE show featuring these posts is available here.

Bonus Posts

Easy Money

I hope that Tim King and I are still friends after my comments on his post. It’s not that it’s a bad post. It’s actually very factual and outlines for any that read it teacher salaries, qualifications, benefits, etc. They’re done in Tim’s context with Upper Grand and that’s OK. With the way things are done now in the province, it’s probably pretty standard. There’s enough statistics and insight there to choke a horse. (sorry, but I grew up in a rural community)

What bothers me is that teachers somehow have to defend themselves for all that has been achieved through collective bargaining. Why can’t it just be said?

Damnit, I’m a teacher! This is what I’ve chosen to be in life; I worked hard to get here; my aspiration is to make the world better by educating those in my charge. Period. Nothing more needs to be said.

What other profession has to defend its existence every time a contract comes up for renewal? And teachers are such easy targets. We’ve all had that one teacher that we didn’t like; some people like to project that across the entire profession.

Part of Tim’s inspiration for the posts comes from the venom of “conservative-leaning reporters”. I think that may be a bit of a concession. The venom, from what I see, comes from opinion piece writers. Unlike reporters that do research, opinion pieces are based on supporting a particular viewpoint.

But, let’s go with reporter. According to Glassdoor, the average base pay in Canada is $59,000/year. That would put them about the fifth year of Category 2 in Tim’s board. For that money, they write a missive a number of times a week for their employer, attach perhaps a stock image and call it an article. The point is to feed a particular message. A truly investigative reporting would put them in a classroom for a week to really get a sense of the value educators give for their compensation. But you’d never see that.

While I know that these messages really upset educators, they should always be taken in context and understood for what they really are.

BTW, it’s not lost on me that these reporters make about $59,000 a year more than this humble blog author. I don’t even take weekends off. Who is the dummy here?


The 500 – #452 – John Prine – Debut

This is a cool concept from Marc Hodgkinson. He says

I was inspired by a podcast called The 500 hosted by Los Angeles-based comedian Josh Adam Meyers. His goal, and mine, is to explore Rolling Stone’s 2012 edition of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

What an ambitious project.

What stood out to me from this post was this new (to me, anyway) musician. I read Marc’s post and then headed over to YouTube for more. Wow, when Robert Plant names a favourite song of yours …


I hope that you can find the time to click through and read the original posts. There’s some really wonderful reading to be done here.

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

  • @redknine
  • @tmolouba
  • @AMKeeLCS
  • @WillGourley
  • @MsALambert
  • @avivaloca
  • @tk1ng
  • @Mr_H_Teacher

This post comes from:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

Step it up


One of the more fun, active, and interesting things that you can do with your micro:bit is to turn it into a step counter. These things are so popular in today’s world; a phenomenon starting with the Fitbit device. Now, you’ll find that counting steps is just one feature of a watch or smartphone that you own.

Making your own using the micro:bit is a pretty easy task and is one of the activities that you’ll find at the project page of the makecode resource. Or, another resource that goes a bit further in Python here.

While a lot of things can be created and run in the editor at the site, this activity is one that you’ll want a real physical micro:bit to play around with and to test.

The key to all this working is an example of another way of having the micro:bit accept input. You’re not going to use either the A or B button here but rely on the fact that the micro:bit can detect when it’s shaken. The assumption here is that each step will generate a “shake”.

I found that it worked nicely. Accuracy isn’t necessarily the goal here; it’s to get the excitement from seeing the activity in action.

In order to fully test it, you’ll need to attach the battery pack (and batteries $$) to the micro:bit so that, once you’ve loaded your code, it will work without being attached to your computer.

I took mine and tucked the micro:bit and the battery pack inside my sock and then took it for a walk. I did so some counting and it did display a count after I stopped and removed it. Unlike my watch, it’s a little more different to get an ongoing count while actually walking! I need transparent socks.

For your morning smile, I will admit that it did feel a little like being under house arrest and having to wear an ankle bracelet. (not that I’d really know) But, with the exercise complete, there really was a bit of a Wow! factor. You really can do some pretty sophisticated programming with this thing.

I think back to my original post for this series of posts about the micro:bit. Could I have done this in an hour when I first started to program? Absolutely not. Even the concept of the step counter would have been foreign at the time. But, in today’s world, what a wonderful introduction to the concept of real-world application programming for students!

Most certainly couldn’t do this


It was interesting to write yesterday’s post about the beginning of coding for me. It was a true story. My programs did have to travel for an hour to London just to run.

While I eventually got to use terminal devices to program at university, when I landed my first job it was back to writing programs on cards and sending them to the Windsor board office to run for the students. Legend had it that the nice room at the back of my classroom was supposed to have an IBM 1130 of its own but the cost was too prohibitive.

I don’t think it was all bad. Because of the 24 hour (or more) delay to get a program run, we programmers became very thorough in our programming. None of this “let’s try this and see if it works”. We had to plan and trace our way through a program. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting 24 hours only to realize that you missed something silly.

The bottom line was that our devices (and us) were truly disconnected in the process. Of course, it’s not that way today. There really is something satisfying about seeing things happen right in front of your eyes.

After another day of playing around with the micro:bit, it’s a bit humbling to see how things that we take for granted can come to fruition. Who doesn’t have a device or used a device that is connected to something else wirelessly? It’s life as we know it.

With the micro:bit, you can easily program it to communicate with another wirelessly using the built-in radio. Look at those commands.

For the longest time, I had one micro:bit and I longed for the time when I had another just to try this. Of course, you can do it with the online simulator but there’s something about touching it.

A real breakthrough for me happened at a Minds on Media event. Jim Cash was running a coding booth and he had lots of micro:bits. I told him of my desire to just test the concept of sending a signal from one to the next. It was dead simple. I was impressed.

Then, I shared with him a project that I’d wanted to try – build a slot machine! The concept is relatively simple – there would be one master micro:bit that would be equivalent to pulling the lever. Once the lever was pulled, the other micro:bits would display the results. If I ws really greedy, I could have designed cherries, apples, pears, etc. but I settled for 1s, 2s, and 3s. We were up and running in a matter of minutes and I thanked Jim profusely for the use of his gear.

Alas, I’m without a collection of micro:bits. But, I do have a project in mind that would be fun.

When we were kids, we would play a game of “Chase the Ace” around the kitchen table with my parents. It would be interesting to implement that game on a set of these units.

Kids have it made for learning coding these days!

My Hour of Code collection for 2019 is located here.

I couldn’t have done that in an hour


With the upcoming Hour of Code and Computer Science Education Week beginning today, I’ve been playing around with a number of the tutorials that you’ll find online.

In particular, I’ve got my micro:bit out and am playing around with it using the Python programming language and the tutorials that can be found here. It’s lots of fun for me and I don’t hesitate at all when using the word “playing” in this paragraph.

If you’ve ever programmed in Python, you know that it’s a text-based language and I keep having to make sure that the syntax that I’m using is correct. There is a lot of room for error.

And, growing up learning to program, error was just part of the game. You learn to check and double-check to ensure that everything is correct.

I first learned to program in high school. Wait, Doug, they had computers back then?

Yes, indeed. Ontario even had a curriculum. It was called RP-33: Data Processing and was released in the 1960s. In 1970, there was also Informatics, Intermediate and Senior Division.

We didn’t have a computer at our school actually; we wrote our programs on punch cards and they were shipped to Althouse College in London to be run over night. The next day, we had a chance to see how well we did. Our programs were run on the computer (if I recall correctly, it was an IBM 1130) We programmed in the Fortran IV language and most of our programs were related to business functions. i.e. writing cheques, doing payrolls, inventories, etc. To think that this guy could write a program that would make a computer do something productive blew me away at the time and it still does today.

There were two elements that had to fall into place for success. First, the program had to compile successfully and secondly, it had to execute and generate the appropriate results.

It’s when I think about this that I get so impressed with the opportunities that the beginning learner has today. The second part – doing things correctly will always be the acid test to your programming skills. But, with the drag and drop interfaces that are so common, the first part actually becomes a non-starter.

Instead of learning the instructions and then the parameters needed, you just drag an action to the desktop. If the steps that you’re thinking about using actually fit together, they well, actually fit together.

From the Makecode website, I took a long look at micro:pet. It’s simple enough to get started – you’re creating a pet for a friend. But the whole package is a really rich experience. Yes, there is the coding part but beyond that, there’s making, language, interviewing, etc.

It’s the whole package.

I reflect back to how I learned to program. Typically, it was by learning one or two command or concepts and then doing a few examples and experience the success or lack of it and then move on. Even the simple act of running a program took 24 hours.

It’s just an entirely different world where beginning learners can do what I did and so much more inside an hour. It’s a great time to be learning how to code. I hope that it’s happening in your class.

As noted in this post from last week, I have created an updated Flipboard of resources for 2019. If you’re looking to join a professional organization of like minded coding teachers, consider the Association of Computer Studies Educators.