This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Happy Friday! I hope that everyone is well and staying safe. Please take some time to check through and read some awesome thoughts from Ontario Edubloggers.


Teachers Teaching About Things: Has The Needle Moved?

There’s no doubt about this in Matthew Morris’ mind and I’m totally on side with this.

His Exhibit A is the events that happened on September 11, 2001. He reflects on where he was and how little he was able to know about the events of that day. His Physical Education classes went on without blinking.

Certainly, a lot has changed in society since then. We can be connected to news constantly if we wish. This includes students in seats in the classroom.

So, when events like those that happen daily are almost immediately known by everyone they can’t be ignored. No longer is the advice given to Matthew at his Faculty of Education valid. Teachers need to be aware of all that’s happening around then and have skills to be able to address them, age appropriately, when questions come from students.

There’s no question here; the needle has indeed moved.


GET IT OFF YOUR CHEST.

For those of you who think that Pav Wander is just a podcaster, click through and read this post. She and Chey Cheney use this space to share thoughts between podcasts.

In this case, it’s a recognition of people other than teachers, students, and administrators and their contributions to the smooth operation of the school.

She takes the time, in this post, to recognize the secretarial staff. They are constantly juggling priorities and continuing to make it happen.

It’s a nice salute to these hard working individuals and I’m sure that any that happen to read this post will be appreciative.

While Pav suggested hugs, we know that that’s not a reality right now but I’m sure that you can come up with something tangible and virtual that would be just as affective.

She uses the word “unsung” and I’ve never seen it used better.


Play with Your Creative Blocks

Oh, man, did I need this shot in the arm from Jessica Outram.

While I don’t consider myself a creative person, I do have a few good moments. She outlines and describes four things to attack this…

  • Question
  • Adapt
  • Collect
  • Act

I’ve done a great deal of thinking about this. I know that I’m not the type to be able to sit down and “be creative”. I find that I have to keep a list when I do find myself being creative. Then, in my not so creative moments, I can always turn back to the list.

I’m going to give some of her suggestions a shot and see if it can turn things around for me.


Rassembler les championnes et champions

Excuse me for this interlude…

La pandémie, c’est un événement marqueur dans l’histoire de l’humanité. Elle nous a enlevé beaucoup jusqu’à ce jour: sens de sécurité, un degré de liberté, et pour plusieurs, des personnes près de nous. En même temps, elle nous a présenté une cause commune: celle de remettre en question ce qui est vraiment important dans toutes les sphères de la vie.

This was one of the better observations about the COVID pandemic and what it has meant to education.

We all know that “experts” are a dime a dozen and for a few thousand dollars, they’ll speak to your staff meetings. Is that necessary? Joel McLean offers a better solution – surround yourself with the right people, right now. He advises to not attract the wrong people which I think is good advice but I’m not sure exactly how to do that. Maybe he’ll write another post. And maybe another one about how to handle it when the right people turn into the wrong people.

Collaboration has never been so important. People are always looking for inspiration for success. In the past, it took special events to get together; these days, a message on social media is all that it takes at times to get started.


Coin Sorting Activity

On her EveryoneCanLearnMath blog, Alice Aspinall shares this activity. I recognized it immediately. I’d used it in Grade 9 mathematics as a statistics / probability lesson and in Grade 12 Computer Science as a nested sorting and graphing activity.

The concept is relatively simple and that’s where the genius lies. You just need to rob your piggy bank and do some sorting and arranging. Alice provides a link to a template should you want it. This should set the stage for interesting followup discussion about just what students are looking at.

As I read her post and reflected on my use of it in the past, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’re watching history.

  • when was the last time you used actual money to pay for anything? Even going for a coffee, I’m a tap and go type of guy now
  • when was the last time you used a penny? I suppose if you dig deeply enough into that piggy bank…but what a start for a discussion by letting students work with historical pieces of currency!
  • the Canada / US border has been closed for a long time now. I know that if I look at the change in my pocket, there’s a mixture of currency from both countries. In Canada, they’re used interchangeably most everywhere. If you look closely at Alice’s picture, you’ll see some American coinage. Now that the border has been closed for so long, will that be a reality as we go forward?

But I am thinking … if we become a tap and go society, how would we modify this activity?

If nothing else, it’s always been a good activity for that spare change!


OLA SC 2021

Only in education would Diana Maliszewski get away with a blog post title that has so many acronyms in it.

For the uninitiated, it’s expanded to be Ontario Library Association Super Conference 2021. I’ve attended this super conference a couple of times and presented there twice. It’s a must-attend conference for every teacher-librarian and librarian for sure but I would suggest that any educator that’s using any kind of material in the classes should go at least once. It’s amazing and I understand why teacher-librarians clamor to go every year.

Alanna King sent out this wonderful acknowledgement above to Diana’s summary of the conference which was obviously virtual this year. Diana does give a great summary and I’d suggest you click through to discover the nine sessions she attended and read her observations. It’s very complete including a large number of embedded Tweets which reads like a who’s who in teacher-librarianship in the province.


Create CHANGE in the Education System

I was a little hesitant to click and read this post from Nilmini Ratwatte-Henstridge.

Is this really the time to bring in some sort of new pedagogy?

But, I’m glad that I did because that wasn’t the point of this post. Nilmini is proud to be a brown educator and gives a quick summary at the top of her post.

  • Educators have a responsibility to teach anti-racist perspectives.
  • Create change in the education system by seeing skin color. Give a voice to individuals from diverse backgrounds in the field of education.
  • All educational spaces and systems need to move towards change and learn and adapt to bring about systemic changes.

Then, she digs in and gives us a very personal summary of things from her perspective. This includes discussing where she grew up and the political reality of Sri Lanka.

This is a post that I most certainly could not write. But I can read and learn with empathy. Folks, this is an important post and you need to read it.


I hope that you can find some time to click through and read these blog posts and enjoy them for yourselves.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Pav Wander – @PavWander
  • Jessica Outram – @jessicaoutram
  • Joël McLean – @jprofNB
  • Alice Aspinall – @aliceaspinall
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Nilmini Ratwatte-Henstridge – @NRatwatte

Computer Science Education Week


An annual event, this year’s Computer Science Education Week is December 7-13. It’s an opportunity to work with students to either introduce or push them further in studies dealing with Computer Science Education.

As we know, it’s been a strange year and so it may not be possible to order those kits of micro:bits or robots or even get down on the floor to do the traditional programming activities that might be done at this time of the year.

That’s OK. We all get that. However there may be other opportunities. First of all, the big question is “Why Computer Science?” and the answer has never been so seemingly obvious. My go to resource is Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or Be Programmed. I first heard Mr. Rushkoff at a CSTA Conference in New York City. I’d like to say that he changed my life but I’d always been of that philosophy and could never understand why the Grade 10 Computer Studies course, at a minimum, wasn’t required for graduation.

What student today doesn’t pack a powerful computer in the form of a smartphone in their pocket? At the very least, they should be able to program that device and make it to their bidding.

At his website, Rushkoff even includes a study guide to accompany his book.

Here are a few more resources to supplement and help the cause.

Curriculum

Just recently, Peter McAsh alerted me to a resource created by Amanda Deneau showing the connections to the Ontario Curriculum.

ECOO Resource

A couple of years ago when I was president of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario, Peter Skillen was good enough to create a resource we called #ECOOcodes. It’s not currently linked to any of the menus but you can access it directly here. From Peter’s blog, there was an insightful post about why the topic should be addressed “now“.

#CSEdWeek

The CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association) along with a group of other associations have developed a website to support teachers for the week. The focus is on Social Justice and opens with a panel discussion on Monday night. In addition to all the resources shared, there is a collection of downloadable posters.

Canada Learning Code

This is full of ideas and resources to support Learning Code and more. They recognize the varieties of ways that students, teachers, and family are connected and learning in these times and have you covered. Their highlight is Digital Citizenship but poke around for more. Registration is required to access some of the resources.

Hour of Code

It may well be that the Hour of Code may be one of the resources that leap to mind when you think of Computer Science Education Week. The content here continues to grow and has so much covered.

CODE to LEARN at home

A Canadian resource, they have been very active with online webinars and philosophy about programming with a wide scope with a little something for everyone. There are some really unique ideas here.

Scratch

Maybe the granddaddy of them all for programming at all ages is the Scratch resource from MIT. It just continues to grow and is rich with all that is available to and created by the Scratch coding community.

BBC micro:bit

If you’re fortunate enough to have access to the micro:bit for your class and students, there are some really amazing interactive opportunities and inspiration for programming.

I think it’s quite obvious that the collection above is certainly not all-inclusive. If you can think of a resource that should/could be shared with a wider audience, please do so in the comments.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I’m not a real fan of using salt. Typically, it’s not needed in Essex County. It could be icy and snowy in the morning but mostly it’s gone by noon (with exceptions of course). This week, we had a pretty good storm by our standards and the patio is actually quite icy. I had shovelled the snow but then it started to melt and back fill. With the winter sun, it doesn’t get much light so I’m thinking I have no alternative. For the rest of you who got much more than us, I know, I know. It’s not a biggy.

Time to share some great blogging from a collection of Ontario Edubloggers. That’s more fun than spreading salt anyway.


Reflecting and Celebrating

I recognize that it’s a challenging time to be in education. Certainly, you don’t have to look very hard to read about the very real challenges.

That’s not the case with Lisa Munro.

We would not expect a family member who just received their beginner’s license to navigate a road trip across Canada in their first week behind the wheel, nor should we expect perfection in the structures and processes we have created with school start up. 

Amen.

I love a post that is just full of hope and understanding.

Lisa is looking to connect to continue the discussion. Why not enrich your learning network and do so?


Our path to personal wellbeing in 2020: Insights & offerings

I loved this post from Laura Elliott even though I didn’t completely understand it the first time through. A few subsequent reads and I find something new to hang my hat on each time.

She tells a personal story of self-care and the challenges that she has and uses the word yo-yo to describe her journey that ended up in yoga and pilates.

So, if she’s having difficulties, imagine the teenager whose trying to cope these days. It seems to me that it may largely go unnoticed since there is this sense of bravado that goes with growth and development at that age.

Laura then turns her eye towards the media and how its portrayed women over the years and then to social justice. As Stephen Hurley noted in our live radio broadcast on Wednesday when we took on Laura’s description of a “Food desert” in Toronto, it’s always been more affordable to buy less than healthy food. Laura notes that it’s our privilege that allows us to spend more for healthy.

This is a rich post describing part of what’s happening that might well be overlooked. Read it a couple of times; it’s not an easy read but is so full of ideas.


Negativity.

As noted above, it’s not hard to find stories about negativity and so I kind of expected that tone in this post from James Skidmore. It was his reflection on a story reported by the CBC that

“Pandemic has caused decline in educational quality”

This was pulled from an article from a story conducted by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and is focused on post-secondary.

James notes that much of the content from the study was overlooked in favour of reporting on the negative statement above. He draws a couple of conclusions at the end that I think are important.

Then there was this … which I hadn’t thought of. In an effort to maintain student interest when working online, educators have switched to little tasks as opposed to big ones with the idea that they would provide better engagement. On the surface, it might appear to make sense but when you think of the high performers in your class, there really are no little tasks. If there’s a mark or assessment, it’s important so the whole notion may have the opposite effect.

It may work well in a face to face classroom but doing it online is a different ballgame.


Different Number Fonts

It was easy to skim this post from Deanna McLennan. After all, it’s two short paragraphs, two pictures, and a link.

But it stuck with me for some reason.

She gave her students a pair of dice, a bingo dabber and then a sheet of numbers in different fonts. The instruction – make a game.

Of course the mathematician in me could think of a number of ways this could turn into a game but then I was disappointed in my thinking. All of my ideas had been done previously so I was just working with my previous learning.

And, am I missing or overlooking the point with the use of different fonts? Then, I started to think with the dabber and the different fonts, the product started to look like those annoying Captchas that drive me crazy. That then, opened my mind to newer things. So, I appreciated the push to my thinking, Deanna. I hope that she follows up with some of the things that these inquisitive minds generated.

Oh, and there’s a link to a document that she created that you could download and use it with your class.


You’re making me hungry!

Who hasn’t found the concept of student blogging intriguing? In theory, it should be easy to do. Just get the kids to write about something that interests them. How many times have you seen that logic fall flat on its face. There are so many dead blogs out there that started out with the best intentions.

I’ve long been a fan of what Cameron Steltman does with blogging. He writes the blog post and then his students go to the blog and respond to his prompt. It has been a while and I had wondered if he had given up on the concept. I was pleased to see that he’s back.

Now here’s the challenge, can you write a descriptive paragraph that doesn’t mention what your food is but describes it so well that your classmates can guess what it is?

As I write this, there have been 18 responses. I can’t remember the last time I got 18 responses to a blog post! Have I ever?

Here’s the most recent.

Did you get it?

More importantly, check the time and date stamp on this reply. When was the last time that you had students writing at 5:30 in the morning?


Psychology, Cybersecurity and Collaboration in Educational Technology

I file part of the content of this post from Tim King under “things I hope never happen to me”.

Followers of Tim know that he and his students have been doing some pretty heavy lifting with cybersecurity. While some classes are dragging and dropping blocks to draw geometric figures, this goes way deeper.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s room for both and both should be done.

It’s so easy to sit back and say “this will never happen to me” and I hope that it never does. But, when it does, what do you do? Who do you turn to? It may well be one of Tim’s graduates who have been interested and immersed in the concept of security.

The post describes the activities that students work through and has them using virtual machines. What an experience for them!

Think this will never happen in “real life”, whatever that is these days? It happens more than you would think and my stomach just sinks when I see some of the cases that make the news – typically not because the bad guys were caught but because someone paid the ransom to get their data back.


The torch has passed…

There comes a certain age when things are passed along from family members to others. It may not have happened to you yet but there will come a time.

It’s most noticeable and most emotional when it happens at “big event times” like birthdays or anniversaries.

In Anna Bartosik’s case, it appears to be happening this Christmas season. She’s on the receiving end of the torch.

“We have to make pierogi this year. I’ll do the fillings and we’ll make them together on the weekend. We can get them finished in one morning. We can make enough to share and take some to your aunts and your grandmother.”

I’ll be damned if I let COVID steal the Christmas pierogi.

There are a lot of Polish things in here that I don’t really understand but I do have memories of my parents owning one of those crocks. We used it for making pickles but not in this case!

It’s a lovely story of family and generations.


Please take the time to click through and enjoy all of these wonderful posts.

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

  • Lisa Munro – @LisaMunro11
  • Laura Elliott – @lauraelliottPhD
  • James M Skidmore – @JamesMSkidmore
  • Deanna McLennan – @McLennan1977
  • Cameron Steltman – @MrSteltman
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Anna Bartosik – @ambartosik

This post originates on the blog:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

Extension tutorial


This was very cool.

I was working my way through my reading the other day and ran into this tutorial and worked my way through it.

How to Build a Chrome Extension

Now, to be honest, I’ve worked my way through a number of similar tutorials in the past. I’ve been successful in the particular activities but ended up just deleting my work.

This one is a little different, certainly relevant, and well laid out.

Bottom line, it’s a tutorial that lets you search an online database for COVID-19 statistics and display them in your browser. Sure, you can go to a website and search for results but it’s handy just having them there in your browser, a click away.

A second goldmine find here is a link to active data to feed the program.

https://coronavirus-19-api.herokuapp.com/countries

Of course, the data is as up to date as the last update.

I’m also thinking of Computer Science classrooms where you’re always looking for the answer to “why are we doing this”? Here’s a real-life example to work through. There is minimal internal documentation but that can be elaborated and then, of course, there are the mods.

The tutorial is easy to read and work through. Lots of copy/paste but a nice display of where the various files go in the file system of your computer.

New insights


Ontario to launch enhanced COVID-19 data page

Ontarians are now promised to be able to see the same data that those in Toronto use to make decisions for the province. When you head over to the COVID page on the Ontario website, you have access to just an overload of information. There’s just so much that you can lose yourself in the information if you wish. (and I did)

The thing that caught my interest was the ability to compare the numbers from your health unit with up to five others throughout the province. I decided to check it out and see where we stand compared to others.

Now, those figures are complete totals. All things being equal, you would expect that Toronto Public Health would lead the pack. There is an option to get a look at numbers per 100 000 population.

The totals are also available for plotting over time

There is no legend here but when you mouse over the graph, the totals for that particular day pop up. The colours are consistent throughout. So, I could see the spike in little ol’ Windsor-Essex County that caused us to remain in Stage 2 over the summer for a bit.

This is just the tip of the data iceberg. Keep on scrolling down for more information and details. All of the data is available for download as images or as .CSV files. I couldn’t help but think of mathematics or computer science classes where you might be interested in real, relevant data for analysis. It doesn’t get much more relevant than this.

Back to Stage 2, apparently that’s all going to change to a new classification for levels of severity.

  • Lockdown:
  • Red-Control:
  • Orange-Restrict:
  • Yellow-Protect:
  • Green-Prevent:

This will kick in on November 7.

A description of each can be found here:

Ontario unveils new system for COVID-19 shutdowns. Here’s how it will work