This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to a Friday morning, the first one back from the Break, and I hope that everyone is well and looking for some great reads. If that’s the case, you’re in the right place.


How Bout Now

A title like that calls for a music intro…

I wonder just how many people feel the way that Matthew does in this post. He talks about kids with their technology competing for value with the paper and other types of projects and assessment that Matthew keeps and distributes to students at the end of the school year. He indicates that he fears that they don’t see the value and they go as far as the recycle bin. It’s a sad and interesting observation.

That brought back memories of my first end of year when we held home rooms on the last day with garbage cans placed in the hall and we were to encourage students to get rid of what they didn’t want. I thought it was a noble idea until the drive home and then I got it. With some students, opening the bus windows and throwing papers out to cover the road and the ditches as a celebration of the end of the year.

His observation extends to frustration in that the tools in his toolkit don’t get him to the end of the school year any more. I think we’ve all been there; when the students see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s tough to keep things going. It’s an interesting read and I would bet that Matthew would appreciate your insights and suggestions.

I totally see his assertion that it’s amplified with the lack of “normal” in the past couple of years.


Friday Two Cents: Multitasking Can Kill You 

Right off top, I’m glad to hear that the COVID challenge has been met and overcome.

Oh, and I hope that you sold your house.

If those two items aren’t enough to get you to click through, it’s worth reading to see Paul’s reflections about mental and physical health. Teaching is an interesting profession in that you can work 24 hours a day if you want to and you let yourself do so. I’m in the same boat as Paul; I can absolutely pinpoint the sickest that I ever got as a teacher and I can tell you that I did feel like everything was ganging up on me at the time.

He also shares an interesting viewpoint about why students recover quicker than teachers.


ETEC 544: INTELLECTUAL PRODUCTION #8: GAME DESIGN 101

I enjoyed reading this post from Mike and the questions that he posed about game design. My complete answers are too long to include so I’ll give you one from each.

  • Your Life as a Game: List five areas of your life that could be games.
    • Going from Point A to B. I don’t typically follow the instructions from my GPS but opt instead for a longer, more interesting, less 401 path
  • Your Childhood: List ten games you played as a child, for example, hide and seek, four square, and tag.
    • Baseball is my first response but I have many more
  • List five games, and in one sentence per game, describe the objective in each game
    • Doom. Gather resources, map the playing area and shoot anything that moves and growls
  • Name three games that you find particularly challenging and describe why
    • Chess! It’s always portrayed in the media as such a quick and easy game
  • List ten of your favorite games and name the objective for each
    • Current one is http://www.crazyphrase.com and the objective is to guess the phrase as you work your way selectively through the alphabet

Digital History Tools: Making Timelines

There’s so much for me to love about this post. The background was that Krista applied for and got a grant, succeeded, and then needed to find a way to meet the goals in the grant. In this case, Krista was looking for someway to create a digital timeline.

Now, we all have created Timelines in schools, typically in history class, although there was a topic in Computer Studies about the history of computers. It was illustrated nicely with a timeline.

The post goes through the problem solving and evaluation process for a software solution and the thinking was just like the type of thinking that I go through.

The solution is amazing and is free and you’re halfway there if you know how to use Google Sheets and who doesn’t these days? This is a solution ideal for the single teacher, a group of collaborators, or for students assigned a timeline project. When I clicked through to the Timeline maker page, it was featuring a Women in Computing timeline. Awesome.


Deported #SOL22 20/31

Amanda had me at “guns”, “beer”, and “tears”!

I’ve never been to Europe so to put myself in her shoes, I thought about the movie “Murder on the Orient Express“.

This post is a wonderful recant of a trip through Europe with friends, one who is a Canadian, and crossing into a new country and being “deported”. I won’t spoil the whole story but it’s an engaging read and I’m glad that Amanda felt the pressure to write it.

It’s another testament to blogging – get your thoughts and memories out there before you totally forget. I do know that I wouldn’t have been as calm and cool as she comes across in the post


Thoughts about Motivation

It was great to see Jonathan taking a break from marathon running to sit at the keyboard and blogging again.

In the post, he takes an analytic and medical approach about how to motivate that student and we’ve all had them at one point or another.

So, what do you do when your wit and personality isn’t getting the job done? Jonathan openly admits having ADHD and so can give a more first person approach to motivation for others.

Motivation is about creating experiences for students so that their brains create those dopamine patterns and in the end even create dopamine in anticipation. So how do we do this? 

He shares an interesting experience with a cartwheeling student and how that student was reached and that leads into four things to think about. It’s good consideration for planning learning experiences and reaching all students.


Dairy of a Disenfranchised Coder

I’ll confess up front that I’m a sucker for blog posts that deal with programming and computer science. In this post, Tim traces his route from starting with a VIC-20 to getting certified to teach “computers” this summer. I don’t know what that means, whether it’s Computer Science or Computers Across the Curriculum.

I can empathize with Tim; we didn’t have access to computers in high school at all. I pre-date him in that we had a keypunch and we’d send card decks to London to be run on an IBM 1130 at Althouse College overnight and we’re get the results next day.

I don’t know about Tim but we thought that we had the world by the tail simply because we didn’t know any other reality. These days, we’re all living in a different world, at least at home. Some school settings have ideal setups and others are still sharing these things as precious resources.

If you search my OCT profile, you’ll see that I have qualifications in both Data Processing and Computer Science. Nowhere does it say that computers should be programmed to solely solve mathematics problems and Tim describes his frustration when required to do so.

I wish him well in his endeavour and hope that he can engage students that might otherwise get turned off like he did. They can do amazing things when you help them with the skills and see them take off.


There’s a wonderful collection of writing from Ontario Edubloggers again this week. I hope that you can find some time to click through, read them all, and drop off some of your thoughts.

Then, follow them on Twitter.

  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Paul Gauchi – @PCMalteseFalcon
  • Mike Washburn – @misterwashburn
  • Krista McCracken – @kristamccracken
  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Jonathan So – @MrSoClassroom
  • Tim King – @tk1ng

Coding in Ontario


If case you hadn’t been aware of the link to the Mathematics Curriculum dealing with coding, it was reinforced yesterday with changes to the Science and Technology Curriculum.

Mathematics – New math curriculum for Grades 1-8
Science and Technology – Key Changes – Science and Technology, Grades 1–8 (2022)

As with most curriculum documents, it’s a look from 10 000 metres as to what should be taught. The actual details will become apparent as writing teams hunker down with the task of making things implementable in Ontario schools this fall.

I can’t help but think about my own journey. I took programming with Mr. Cook in an “experimental course” for a couple of years at secondary school, studied Mathematics and Computer Science at University, and made Data Programming and Computer Studies as teachable options after a year at a Faculty of Education.

Photo by Roozbeh Eslami on Unsplash

As I reflect on my path, it really seems to be old school. Well, maybe traditional school. The skill set though can easily be morphed into something that’s usable today. I don’t regret the path that I took at all. Far beyond the actual skill set, it has introduced me to educators with similar passions and that’s always inspirational.

I’ve always had the ability to see the importance of learning to write instructions to make some object do something for me. It started pretty simply with computer cards to the way things are done today with computers, tablets, phones, televisions, kitchen appliances, personal assistants, my car, and the list just keeps on going.

I like to think that I took to it well and that I did my best to pass along my passion to students that I had the honour of teaching. That passion that was instilled by Mr. Cook remains with me today.

Now, we’re going to have a school system that will make this available to students starting at Grade 1. A number of progressive educators have already gone this route and brought that sort of thing into their classrooms for some time now. Some have done it in a traditional manner programming a computer; others have encouraged principals to buy robotic devices or have made the purchase themselves. They saw the importance of students being in control of a device instead of the other way around.

I’ll confess; for the longest of times, I was focused on the what and how it was good for me. It was only later in my life that I really tried to understand the why and why it was good for kids immersing myself in the works of Seymour Papert. I’ve often wondered if I’d spent time with Papert’s work first, if I would have been even more passionate about it for kids.

I’m sure that there will be a lot of different thoughts about this new initiative and how the new strand is added to the Science and Technology curriculum without removing anything else. I can’t believe that there would be anyone who would argue against the concept; just about how long it took us to actually get here.

If there’s ever a need to rationalize this, you need to read Douglas Rushkoff’s book Program or Be Programmed. There’s also a free study guide.

The immediate pressure will be on subject associations to step up and develop appropriate learning materials and resources to make this a success.

And it needs to be a success. To be anything else fails our kids.

Palindromes


A palindrome is a string of characters that reads the same way forward as it does backward. Lots have been said about today’s day – February 22, 2022. Fortunately, since we’re connected, we don’t have a consistent way of writing the date. The one making social media is:

22/02/2022

Where it gets interesting comes in the different variations.

2/22/22
2202/20/22
22/02/22
22022022
20022022

For the full effect, you need to ignore the /. Going back to the first example, not only is today a palindrone but it’s also an ambigram. In this case, if you reflect the original date above horizontally. you get:

There’s a whole lesson in reflection in there itself and easily done digitally by using a tool like LibreOffice Draw.

Let’s go back to the one with all the 2s.

2/22/22

We’re on the cusp of something rather unique. Actually, it started a couple of days ago. We actually have a week of palindromes.

2/20/22
2/21/22
2/22/22
2/23/22
2/24/22
2/25/22
2/26/22
2/27/22
2/28/22

If only this was a leap year. What’s really special about today was the date being entirely created by 2s.

Now, there’s a really interesting educational hook into this. One of the fun programs that I had students write was to accept a string of characters, determine if the string was a palindrome or not, and respond appropriately. That’s where those pesky / would get in the road so a string entered would have to be rebuilt in order to do some testing. It was always impressive to see some of the students output the string with the / intact. It’s not a terribly difficult thing to do but it shows respect to the user of the program. After all, who would expect output that was different than the one input.

Dates and numeric strings are fun and a start but it got more interesting when they would dig into sentences that might be palindromes. I think that the one we all know is

ABLE WAS I ERE I SAW ELBA

Since this was typically done in Grade 11, this one came as no surprise.

AS I PEE SIR, I SEE PISA

This was a common one.

STEP ON NO PETS

A couple of links where you can find more:

175 Best Palindromes in English – The Ultimate Collection
Palindrome Examples: Fun Forward and Backward Word

I do recall some making up their own examples on the fly to test their program. They really wanted to see it work and also to see if they could break it. You don’t see that sort of enthusiasm with all projects given.

The process of ripping apart a string of characters and then doing the checking that we did was always fun. It was also a preliminary activity before we got into coding/decoding messages which was even more fun. (and educational but you leave that part out of it)

Finally, the coolest thing about today was being able to retweet the Stonehenge account.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Hello and welcome back to a stroll around the province to read some blog posts from Ontario Educators. If you have a blog of your own and it’s not on my list, please let me know.


sometimes nothing is all you have and all you need

If you’re like me, you got into university because of high marks from secondary school. Then, you got admitted to a Faculty of Education because of high marks from your university. It’s how the education game is played.

But, what happens if you have a “lack lustre transcript”? Will’s words, not mine.

He went shopping for a Faculty that would admit him and use other metrics than marks for entrance. Will doesn’t tell you the university but you can ask him …

“Experience is a terrible teacher, because it forces you to take the test before the lesson.”

That pretty much sums up the teaching profession and it’s most amplified during your first years of teaching.

Nothing could really prepare you for your place at the front of the classroom but, if you’re still teaching, you’re still there. If that’s true, then certainly absolutely nothing prepares you for what’s happened the past couple of years.

This is a nice feel-good post about you and the profession lived through the eyes, mind, and keyboard of Will. You’re going to feel great for Will with his perseverance and his desire to be part of the profession.

I wonder how many other Wills are out there who didn’t stick to it?


I’m a Hacker

I’ve got to apologize to Tim. This post goes back to December and somehow I missed it. I’m glad that I found it because there’s lots of good food for thought here. He concludes his post describing his work with students and https://www.cybertitan.ca/. When I was in the classroom, we had students involved locally with the Touche-Ross Programming contest which we were able to take to the Ontario Science Centre for provincial programming as part of the ECOO Conference.

But the interesting thing to me was a Grade 9 student who proclaimed to Tim that he was a “hacker” because he could download and run scripts designed to do damage to others. That isn’t hacking; that’s just possibly criminal activity. Tim mentioned that a keynote speaker had told his students about a career in penetration testing. That’s an incredible job and well worth pursuing if that’s your interest. That’s a case of using that knowledge for good instead of evil.

Tim uses the opportunity to diss on scripts. I agree with him if the goal is just to download something evil and run it to see what happens and/or maybe do damage. I go back far enough to have a subscription to 80Micro where there were programs in there that you could key in (carefully) and run on your computer to do various things. I attribute that activity to increasing my understanding of programming. I know that, in the classroom, we would often take a look at someone else’s code to see how they did things. An uncompiled program or script can be marvellous when used in that manner.

I absolutely agree with Tim that we need to be looking at making ethics, coding, and cyberliteracy a compulsory part of the curriculum. Before COVID, the limiting factor was access to technology but we’ve kind of got around that – if your district has made wise decisions in the technology that it acquired.


Annual Reading Challenge – 2022 #TLchat

Laura’s always coming up with unique ways of professional learning. Often, it’s in the Loo but this time, it’s a bookmark – and a reading program.

Each staff member got a bookmark and a challenge to read 11 books over the next 11 months but just not any old book. On the bookmark are topics consistent with the school learning plan.


Culturally Responsive Teaching in Science

I can’t believe that it’s been a year since Shelly last blogged but she confesses at the beginning of the post. It’s good to see her back; she does give us some thinking points and that’s always a good thing.

In this post, she hangs her hat on inquiry and there’s no question that that should appeal to all educators. She notes that we have a good Ontario Curriculum and when you apply good things like “Culturally Responsive Pedagogy” and “Universal Design for Learning”, you can make it do some amazing things that go far beyond the words in the curriculum.

The notion of Culturally Response is easier for me to see in some subject areas than it is in others. She could have taken the easy route with her approach but she didn’t. She digs into a strand in Grade 8 science and provides ideas and inspiration for marrying the two. She notes that it isn’t a huge leap to head into Mathematics.

I thought that it was an interesting and insightful post and could inspire you to do things differently and make the strands that much richer in content.


More/Less & Before/After Questions

On the surface, I pegged a certain grade level for some of the big list of ideas that Tammy includes in her post.

  • What comes after a funny joke?
  • What comes before you say, “I’m sorry”?
  • What comes after the telephone rings?
  • What comes before the victory parade?
  • What comes after the electricity goes off?

It was pondering how to make this a discussion for the voicEd Radio show that the curtains drew back and I could see uses for it everywhere.

Particularly in Computer Science, it’s what we do. If you do calculations or processes out of order, you get unexpected results. You see it most when you allow student to compose at the keyboard rather than sitting down and planning appropriately. The ability to sequence is crucial.

The bottom line here is that there’s inspiration here for everyone.


“I have been forced to celebrate Valentine’s Day all my life!”

When she asked her class about a research activity for her class and they turned to February, this was the list of things they came up with.

  • Black History Month
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Lunar New Year
  • Groundhog Day
  • Family Day

February is indeed an interesting month. There are all kinds of things available though. As a football fan, I’m disappointed that Superbowl Sunday didn’t make the list but perhaps the mindset was things that you celebrate in school.

I like how Kelly probes further with each of these topics. But, I couldn’t get past the title. There always was something Valentine-sy in my schooling. Even at secondary school, student parliament used sending roses and chocolates a fund raiser and class disrupter.

I really like the idea of doing the research and seeing what comes from it.


Friday Two Cents: A Wonderful Reminder

Reflection: You know when you have a feeling that you are loved and respected by someone? Well, I felt that from a lot of students in that school this week.

I think it’s probably easier not to have this reflection. After all, there are a lot of things that are wrong in this world at this time. Paul elects to reflect on the positive and this turns into an inspirational blog post.

And from an occasional teacher as well. Is there a more challenging position in education these days?


I’ve provide the links to each of these posts. Click through and enjoy.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Will Gourley – @WillGourley
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Laura Wheeler – @wheeler_laura
  • Shelly Vohra – @raspberryberet3
  • Tammy Gaudun – @MsGaudun
  • Paul Gauchi – @PCMalteseFalcon

This Week in Ontario Edublogs on voicEd Canada

They can do it too


A web application that’s having its moment in the spotlight right now is Wordle.

The concept is pretty simple. You have to guess a five letter word and you have up to six guesses. If you guess a letter in the correct spot, the spot where the letter is turns green; if you guess a letter but it’s not in the correct spot; the spot where the letter is turns yellow.

The coloured spots are used as clues to zero in on the correct answer. You get one such puzzle a day. It’s as simple as that. There’s no log in to get there and you’re not playing against anyone else – unless you want to. There is an option to share your results on social media, email, etc.

Today was a good day for me as I solved it in three turns. This isn’t the norm, believe me.

Wordle 212 3/6

⬛⬛🟩🟨⬛
⬛🟨🟩⬛🟩
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

You can play the game yourself by clicking here. A complete explanation of the game and information about the designer can be found here.

Now, you’ve just got to know that I hang around with a pretty nerdy group of educators online and there has been discussion like you wouldn’t believe (or maybe you would) about strategies, reverse engineering, tips for winning, and even offers of open source dictionaries if you wanted to write your own.

As I got involved with the discussion, it reminded me that I had given a problem similar to this as a programming assignment years ago. It wasn’t the same; more like a combination of Wheel of Fortune, Lingo, or Mastermind.

At the time, we hadn’t worked with arrays which seems like an interesting approach but we had worked with strings and had mastered all kinds of things with them like coding/decoding messages, etc. Moving on to this type of game was a natural and motivating for the students. They enjoyed writing games and playing each other’s implementation of them. The key was just to not remind them that such programming was good for them.

So, a typical game might play like:

Solve this

********

Guess an “O”

*o*****

Guess an “E”

*o***e*e

You get the concept. Different students would have different interfaces and that just made it more fun. We didn’t so anything as sophisticated as check to see if a word was in the dictionary because, quite frankly, I didn’t think of it at the time. Now that I know where to get one, I’d up the ante for sure.

Wordle as we’re playing it on the web right now has inspired programmers to write their own application to play the game and that’s kind of cool. Computer Science teachers are borrowing great ideas all the time.

This certainly would be one to borrow today. Maybe even create a TikTok video to advertise afterwards?

Back to the original game and thinking about the others like Wheel of Fortune, you know that there are strategies for solution. Of course, my students would work on strategies as well. They’re nothing but competitive. Like you’d never use an X or something. Great clues come from vowels. I’m sure that there is some sort of psychological explanation. I know that when I play Wordle, I’ll start with AUDIO or ADIEU which often gets me off to a great start.

What about you? Alfred Thompson had written a couple of thoughts on the topic.

Do you have a story about your personal use of Wordle or maybe how you would use it in the classroom? I’m sure it would be a great story to share for others to learn from.