A New Blog Editor

I’ve said for a long time now that the best blog editor on the market, bar none, is Microsoft’s Live Writer.

LiveWriter Home Menu


LiveWriter Insert Menu

It’s a real joy to create blog posts there but it’s got problems for my personal workflow.  It requires you to be running Windows.  I spend more time in Ubuntu or Mac OS so I’d have to specifically boot into Windows 7 to use it.  For me, it’s important to be able to write a post no matter what computer I’m using.  To that end, I either create the post in the WordPress editor itself or more likely, using the ScribeFire extension in a browser.  It’s there when I need it.

WordPress Editor

ScribeFire Editor

Both are great ways to compose, edit, and post blog entries.  The ability to save Drafts mean that I don’t have to create a post in a single sitting.  My proofreading team (hi Lisa and Sheila) would undoubtedly ask that I spend more time on that task but it is what it is.  At least I know that two people read my posts for content and meaning.

This morning, the field gets bigger.  I read this story.

Microsoft Announces New OneNote Partnership with WordPress

Right off the bat, I had to tip my hat to the commenters to the post.  You did make me smile.  But the ramifications of this are interesting.

OneNote already has a comprehensive set of composing and editing features.

OneNote Home Menu

OneNote Insert Menu

A great deal of energy has been spent convincing people to use OneNote instead of Evernote or Google Keep as your on-the-fly note taker.  Now, a plugin to WordPress ups the ante nicely.  Imagine using the same tool that you would use for notetaking anyway as a blogging editor.  Since Microsoft doesn’t have a public blogging tool that I’m aware of, the partnership with a biggy in the market seemed natural.  I’m assuming Blogger didn’t return their call?

Many school districts have adopted Office 365 as their productivity platform but have lamented the lack of a blogging tool which is so powerful in education.

Could this be their answer?

On Pushback

I remember taking a course in university.  It was called the “History of Education” or something like that.  I also remember the textbook that we had to buy.  It was a very thin paperback with chapters devoted to educational researchers – Thorndike, Piaget, Montessori, Bruner, Skinner, …  If I recall correctly, there were thirteen of these education thinkers and we studied the works of each one, every week.  I like to think I’ve been most influenced by Montessori but I can see elements of the others.

I also remember the professor on the first night and his statement “We’ve been trying to understand how education and learning works for years and we’re going to study all of these but none have got it completely right”.  I remember my classmate turning to me and saying “Why didn’t he get us to buy the book with the person who did get it right?”  Yeah, we were way too young.

Even in my short period of time in education, I’ve seen various theorists come and go and we’re still in search of the magic bullet.  Fortunately, as a system, we definitely are getting much better at understanding how learning happens.

Aside from learning in general, there’s another system under research and that’s the use of educational technology.  If you’re a blog reader, you’ll have read about the magic bullets touted for educational technology, the latest being the SAMR model.

Miguel Guhlin caught my eye with his post yesterday “Tearing Down False gods: SAMR Pushback Begins (Updated)” and this morning Mark Anderson with “SAMR is not a ladder, a word of warning“.  Both are terrific posts and well worth your time to click through and read.  Both posts make reference to a couple of others “Why I’m Done with SAMR” by Mark Samberg and “What’s Wrong with SAMR in Education” by LeiLani Cauthen.  Read both these as well and then reflect back on your own thoughts on the topic.

There have been a lot of inane things that you see by those who have taken this model as an absolute.  “We got rid of SMARTBoards because of SAMR” and “I teach above the line” and “##### ####### has created an infographic of every educational app in the App Store and rated them according to SAMR”.  How can someone not in my district, my school, my classroom makes these decisions?  We’ve all read and seen the somewhat sarcastic, somewhat truthful posts about the need to study pencils in education with as much energy as we do other technologies.

I find comments like this and the way that people are using these things as just sad and, quite frankly, a discredit to the profession.  After all, do an internet search for “It’s not about the technology” and see what falls out.  More importantly, take a look at the focus.  It’s all about the teaching when the real focus should be on the learning.  When focused solely on the teaching, technology use becomes absolutes.  When focused on learning, it enables differentiation opportunities and, most importantly, increased the chance that students take charge of their own learning.

I’ve always chosen a simpler route.  As far as I’m concerned, there are two ways that you can use technology:

  • to do things differently;
  • to do different things.

all within the context of the subject matter being learned.

Of course, this is not the only “technology model”.  Miguel has a nice collection on his wiki.

Even this presentation takes me back to that university course.  There isn’t just one listed.  All of the researchers that we studied opened the door to our understanding of student learning.  None of them stand on their own.  Our understanding is growing and evolving.  So, it’s good to see pushback to those who would label this as the defining standard by which all should be evaluated.

Transferring with Tone

I’ve been reading a lot about the new Tone extension for Google Chrome so I had to check it out.

The premise is that the extension, when installed, will send a URL from one computer using Google Chrome to another via sound.  

Now, the concept of transferring via sound isn’t new for us long timers.  If you’ve ever connected to another source via modem you’ve done it.  Who hasn’t picked up the phone line only to hear the sounds of two modems communicating?  NO CARRIER  Or, a fax machine?  

This extension gets rid of the wires!  It uses your computer’s microphone to head what another computer is sending.  The extension descriptor gives you all kinds of caveats about situations where it wouldn’t work – noisy rooms, distance, etc.  That only makes sense.  

So, I had to try it out here at the labs, er, reclining chair.  Proof of concept confirmed!

Now, there are the sort of issues that you need to be aware.  The extension doesn’t ask for permission to use your microphone; it just does it.  So, you should have a bit of concern of what else the extension is listening to!  In terms of public etiquette, a certain volume is required in order for the transfer to be successful.  Hopefully, that won’t destroy the ambience of a conversation at a coffee shop with people sharing URLs!

The bottom line here is that the innovation world is all right.  Good people thinking about new ways to push technology.  

Etiquette and Protocol

I’ve got to give a big shoutout to Tom D’Amico for finding and sharing this resource.

How to Use Your Smartphone Like a Professional

I think copies of it, or even better, your own take on the concept should be printed and placed in all meeting room areas and classrooms that have elected to adopt a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program.

When you think back to Star Trek days which foreshadowed communication devices everywhere, you didn’t see Kirk or Picard constantly on their phone oblivious to what was going on around them.  You didn’t see Kirk and Spock texting to each other while other things were happening.  They had it right; the device was used for important communications and got them out of the current catastrophe.

A long time ago, when I became a program consultant, I purchased myself a Franklin Covey system and I lived by its rules as best I could.  My superintendent who was always trying to come to grips with all the communications that he had to deal with and he bought in as well.  Of course, he had the bigger budget and so went away for the physical training.  He came back and shared what he’d learned and we upped the ante.  One of the biggest time robbers was telephone time.  We all had voice mail but the moment that the phone rang, you’d drop everything and to answer it.  We changed all that by letting everything go to voice mail, read the messages and do a little research on the topic, and then would schedule time in our day to close the door and return all the calls.  It increased productivity immensely.

These days, we seem to have gone back to the days of constant interruptions and somehow just glorify ourselves in it.  Just about everyone has a device with them all the time and sounds and rings are constantly there.  You’ve got to blame the makers of the device too.  Your regular telephone has a mute button and with one push you stop the annoyances.  It takes more than one finger action to achieve the same thing on a current smartphone.  Conspiracy theory?

Then, there are the techno geek wannabees.  You know them; they come to talk to you with their earbuds in or a bluetooth headpiece.  They just exude the message that a random incoming phone call or message is more important than talking to you here and in the present. 

This is just wrong.  So many of the things in this graphic are just so true.

In addition to the business meeting, they are so appropriate in the classroom as well.  Most students are incredibly proficient with their technology compared to us old folks.  They don’t need two hands and a tongue bite to get the most from their machine.  It really is impressive what they’re capable of doing.  But, there’s one thing that’s missing with this warp speed adoption of technology and that’s the consideration for others.  Progressive schools and classrooms are adopting and enhancing the learning experience with what’s possible. 

Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and look at this poster in the big scheme of things.  Etiquette sends a strong message.  Are we demonstrating it?  Are we encouraging it?

In addition to the 8 rules in the original graphic, are there some that are missing for the classroom?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s been another difficult week in Ontario Education but that didn’t stop the flow of great blog posts. Here’s what caught my eye…

Stop Pretending

The meme continues as even more Ontario Educators check in with their thoughts about making school different by stopping pretending things.  Here’s a couple more wonderful posts for your pondering.
Let’s Stop Pretending…
What I find so interesting about all this is the different perspective that different eyes bring to the discussion.  Here, Jen Aston shares some thoughts from the eyes of a coach.  Her #3 talks about something that is so important and, yet, I think that so many are just a little intimidated to say out loud.

 That teachers don’t have the biggest impact on their students.  I’m still floored when I am working with a teacher who does not realize that they can have the biggest impact on student learning.  That’s why what teachers choose to do matters and that’s why it’s so important to be intentional about it.  Let’s stop pretending that student ability depends on whether or not the child studies, does their homework, have home supports or pays attention. The teacher has a bigger impact on the student than any of that.

Personalizing the Make School Different Meme
As she is so fond of doing, Diana Maliszewski takes a very personal perspective on the topic which adds a nice spin to things.  Her first point hit me so personally.  I’m always in search of the magic bullet that’s going to change me into the most organized person on the planet.  I think at one time I was fairly organized with my Franklin Planner but it just went downhill from there.  I still remember doing an OTF Presents presentation and the organizer was looking at my Google Drive organization and told me that I needed a lot of work.  So, I’m with you on this one, Diana.

1) I have to stop pretending that I am organized and tidy.

Actually, I think I was cured of this a number of years ago with a stern comment from my husband:

Just because you buy organizational supplies, that does not make you an organized person.

As always, you’ll have to follow the links back to the original blog posts to read the rest of the wisdom from these ladies.

Make Learning Transparent with Badges
This is a blog post that I wish I’d written.  I’m a big fan of badges for learning.  I’ve always been since my days as a Wolf Cub.  It conveys so much more than a number between 0 and 100 and is totally suitable when assigning a number just doesn’t make sense.

I think that school districts, in addition to their required Ministry reporting, should also be badging authorities.  Think of all that students could collect to demonstrate the entire school experience – robotics, eco-schools, student activity leadership, …  We all know that there’s so much more than just completing a test on a topic.  Anthony Chuter really nails it with this post.  Forward it to your superintendent.

The other advantage to a district being a badging provider answers a question that I read posed just recently.  If an external badging provider goes out of business or loses interest, does the value of the badge go with them?  Not so if you’re providing the badges as part of the complete program.

For Next Year

Grade 6 Next Year!
It’s education’s “silly season” right now.  The numbers are in, classes or sections assigned to the school, and now individual schools are playing their own game of “Who’s on First?”

Well, Amy Bowker is headed to Grade 6 and is already planning to make it a spectacular year.

Down Just a Little Bit More
And Aviva Dunsiger is making a grade change too.

What’s so interesting about all of this discussion, and I’m sure that many of you will be doing the same thing, is that the content area is an important thing.  But, it’s not the only important thing.

The content may be prescribed; the age of the students prescribed; the maximum class prescribed; but there’s the one big variable.  No class is the same two years in a row.  The person inside the body changes.  They all have different prior baggage they’re going to unpack in the class.  Different teachers, different schools, different home lives, different communities, and more make teaching the challenging and rewarding profession that it is.  If all that had to be considered was subject topic and student age, sure, a computer could teach the course.  Those who have been in the classroom know that those are just necessary details.  It’s getting inside student heads, understanding their needs, their frustrations, their excitements, that make the profession so important.  As we’re seeing at present, it’s also so hard to recognize in a collective agreement.

I’m going to finish with a double recognition to Diana Maliszewski’s blog.

Dear Caroline, Dear Sigmund

Diana was inspired to write a letter to her favourite authors.  What a great concept!  The Forest of Reading recognizes the best titles on a big, organizational level, but a personal note takes it to a different level

Thank you so much for writing a book that, not only pre-teens and teens devoured, but the educators that work with those pre-teens and teens can enjoy too.

Notes to the author undoubtedly mean a great deal and adds another level of satisfaction to their creations.

How I Teach #Sketchnoting

I find the whole area of #Sketchnoting fascinating.  I can’t do it but have huge admiration for those who can and share their results.  Is this the greatest graphic organizer or summary tool for the 21st Century students?

Read this blog post to see how things are happening in Royan Lee’s classroom.  I really like his summary of look-fors to let you know when things are going well.


What another wonderful collection of posts from Ontario Educators.  Please click through the links to read their entire posts.  The complete collection of Ontario Educator Blog posts can be found here.  If you’re blogging and not listed, please add your details via the form and you soon will be.

Hiding the Colonel

I’m a big fan of Google Maps, Earth, and Streetview.  When I’m going to a new place, I’ll often enter the address, kick in Streetview to get an idea of what the place looks like so that I’ll know it when I see it.  It’s also a great way to kill some time just exploring.  I just find it fascinating.

So, you’ve got to believe that I fell for the bait when I saw this story.

10 Secret Places Google Earth Doesn’t Want You To See

It was kind of dumb because if Google doesn’t want me to see them, why would my immediate reaction be to load up the service and see for myself?

But, it was point #3 that I was really taken by – Google doesn’t want me to see Colonel Sanders?  I grew up admiring the guy’s work.  I remember fondly driving to Goderich for an order with my family and then going to eat it on the beach.

Rules are rules, I guess.  The Google position is that real people should have their image blurred.  There’s some comfort in this but he was also a hugely successful trademark.  After all, it really isn’t a picture but a sketch.

I had to check this out.

Sadly, the franchise has closed in town so I virtually moused my way over to Leamington to check it out.

Son of a gun.

Here’s the Streetview of the location, strategically located just across the road and down a bit from Leamington District Secondary School.

His image didn’t beat the odds with the road sign either.

I guess I’ll just have to rely on my memories from his wonderful commercials from years gone by!

What a great starting point for a discussion of corporate ethics though!

Just a Mystery

But, it’s a time saver so I don’t mind.  It’s just my own personal note of inquiry.

Recently, Google has added a new service to Google+.  It’s called Collections.  The first descriptor I read about it was that it was “Pinterest-like”.  I took a look at it and it was easy enough to access.  It just is another service added to Google+.

Then comes the million dollar question.  What would I use it for?

Well, what would I use Pinterest for?  It turns out that I use Pinterest as just another place to collect my blog posts.  It started out as just a demonstration in my presentations about how to use Pinterest.  Instead of collecting recipes and clothing ideas, I wanted to show that you could easily collect anything.  Depending upon the browser that I’m using at the moment, I either use the Pinterest Pin Button or Shareaholic to post my stuff there.  It takes just a couple of seconds and I had another way to collect blog content (and another backup).

So, I decided that I might use Google Collections as a way to collect my own blog posts.  I’m not short of ego so I set up a collection for the task.

Now, I already share my post posts to my Google+ friends.  It just gets added to my Google+ stream of consciousness.  It actually works very nicely – I just paste the URL to the post in a new message and Google reaches out to the blog to get the details and include an image to spruce it up a bit.  I changed my morning workflow just a bit.  I paste the URL in my main stream and then open my collection and paste it there.  That’s it.  Nothing else done on my end.

But, a couple of days in, look what happened.

Unknown to me until I thought I’d look at my collection and see how things were going, Google+ somehow made the connection that I was posting URLs to my blog both on my main feed and in the collection.  I guess the folks in the “Let’s make things easier at Google” department decided to streamline things for me.  It appears that it recognized what I was doing and made the post for me automatically.  Me, being somewhat oblivious to things, continued to post the URL in both places.

I did a “Whaaaaa?” and decided to test the theory for a few days.

Sure enough.  When I post something in the main stream, Google+ was adding the entry to my collection automatically for me.  Now, I might understand it if I was using Blogger for a platform but I use WordPress.

I’m at a loss to explain this and would appreciate any insights that anyone, anywhere have for this.  Artificial intelligence?  Learning how I work?  Did I touch a setting?  (I swear that I didn’t purposely.)  I really can see the advantage of a Collection taking a big stream of things and breaking it into little digestible pieces.  (See my Diigo account for a dog’s breakfast of things)

Right now, it’s just a mystery and I hate it when I can’t explain things.