Now and Then

I’m a big fan of Google Maps and, in particular, Street View.  I guess that I might be a very visual type of person because, when I want to go somewhere, I’d like to know a bit more than an address.  I’d like to know what the place looks like too.  That way, I know exactly when I get to my destination.  It’s also handy to check out the neighbourhood and see where the parking is as well.

It’s also intriguing to check out some personal history.

We were having a conversation recently about living in Toronto while going to the Faculty of Education.  I yearned for a look at the house where I stayed.  I still remember the address; after all, I had mail sent there for a year.  Off to Google Maps I went and I entered the address and then I dropped to Street View.  What turned up surprised me.

It was a new house or maybe even a small apartment building.  I certainly didn’t recognize it so I spun Street View around to see if could remember any of the landmarks.  In fact, there were quite a number of new buildings on that street but I distinctly remember the house right next door so I was sure that I was looking in the right spot.  I’m guessing my hosts had sold their house to a developer.

That’s not uncommon.  Ah, too bad I couldn’t have just one more look at the old place.

Not so quickly, Doug.  You can.

Street View has a history of all of the images that were ever taken of a particular spot!  I rolled back the clock and, sure enough, there was the old house.  Great memories of living in the apartment over the garage were the result.

How to do this?

I checked out some places locally that I knew had had some reconstruction and rebuilding.  Sure enough, they had some of the older images.

Just for fun, I checked out the Municipal Building in the town of Lasalle which has had a beautiful facelift in the past few years.  I drive by it regularly so I didn’t even need to know the address.  I just zoomed in and then dropped into Street View and adjusted so that I was close enough.

There’s the rough-ish address that I was at when I looked at the picture.  You’ll see that the Street View image was taken in June 2014.  To the left, though, there’s an icon that I’d describe as a clock with arrows circling it.  Click that.  That’s where the magic lies.

Full screen, you have the current image and a little thumbnail of the image appears in the fly out window.  Check out the bottom of the window for a little scrubber bar.  I slid it back to 2009.

Now, the angle is a bit different or maybe the building was moved a bit in its reconstruction.  You can drag things around and relive what was.

It’s a fantastic way to relive at least some of the ancient history anyway.

How about in your classroom?

    • Have you had a reconstruction of the school that the students could look back at?
    • What about all the places that you lived in when you went to university?  Are they still there?
    • If you work at a new school, what was there before the building was built?
    • How about your old house?  Do you remember that car parked in the driveway?

    The sky’s the limit when you start thinking personal history.

    Whatever happened to …

    … file pathnames?

    In many ways, I had it easy.  One of the more abstract concepts that we all eventually assimilate is the concept of “where” that computer file is stored.  My first networked experience in K-12 was on the Unisys Icon computer.  By its nature, it was networked; there was no local drive attached to the computer and everything has to be stored on the fileserver.  You would log in and be plunked into your “home” directory and everything was stored there.  

    The concept was actually easy to teach new computer users because they didn’t have any baggage.  The popular home computer at the time was the Commodore PET and teaching a “new” way of storing files was a bit more difficult with those fortunate enough to have one.  Yet, it wasn’t terribly difficult because there really wasn’t another option.  Only the administrator actually had access to the floppy diskette drive located on the server.  They had to swim or sink.

    Time and technology moves on.  Eventually computers had one or two floppy drives of various techniques and capacity and later a fixed hard drive internally.  That wasn’t enough to confuse the computer user so throw into the fray external hard drives, thumb drives, tape and other massive storage schemes, storage on a cell phone or mp3 player and now cloud storage.  Who doesn’t have a Google, OneDrive, and Dropbox account these days?  You might even have duplicates of them if you have a personal account and then a school account.

    What got me thinking about this was a comment that my friend Andy Forgrave made recently about innovation and change.  If I recall correctly, he was defending the lack of a headphone jack on the new iPhone.  His comment, very true, dealt with a symbol that we long time computer users just take as granted.  To save a document in most computer programs, you simply click on the diskette icon.

    The bizarre thing is that it furthers the abstraction by using a device that today’s student will probably have never seen and yet we hang on to it as something that’s crucial to the operation of the software.

    Of course, in order for all of these things to work and your computer (or others) to be able to access it, you need to have a name for it.  Then, once you get the actual name, you need some way to navigate the device to find what you’re looking for.  Here’s where it gets interesting and a really abstract.  As I write this post, I’m using my computer booted into Ubuntu.  

    My “Home” looks like this.  It’s not dissimilar to whatever your computer calls “Home”.  There’s a spot for my documents, my downloads, my pictures, my music, etc…

    You’ll see, in the left pane, that my computer has access to Windows 10 which is also on this computer.  For Ubuntu, it’s mounted as a drive and is located at:

    I like the comparison of the two.  In the first picture, everything is basically an icon and a double click will open whatever I want.  In the second, you get the actual details about how the drive is mounted.  And, I could dig deeper and get to everything that’s stored on the Windows side if I want.

    In the beginning of the personal computer, the navigation scheme differed from computer to computer.  One thing was consistent though, installed things or saved files were tucked away nicely where you wanted them.  You’d get back to them by navigating from the C:\ prompt or double clicking on the Macintosh HD icon.  

    Things got more sophisticated when installing software; I can recall working with our IT department to build an image for all our computers.  We had to track where things got installed; I remember distinctly the comment made after monitoring a pretty sophisticated program “It barfed all over the hard drive.”

    At the heart of all this is navigating to the appropriate file.  Whether you’re using the latest or the greatest or the oldest and most stable system with or without cloud storage, it’s mission critical that you are able to find what you’re looking for.  In my case, going from school to school where there might be a networked computer or a standalone, I needed to have my files.  My failsafe was to create whatever document I needed and save to the desktop of my computer.  Then, I could drop it into the cloud or the local hard drive, or a thumb drive that I could carry to that non-networked location.  Success was guaranteed because of the pathname structure that works reliably.  It’s just that so much effort has gone into providing a user interface that hides it from you!

    Some thoughts for a Sunday…

    • If you were stranded on your computer with no user interface other than a terminal prompt, could you find that resume that you know is stored on your hard drive?
    • Have you ever lost a file on your computer because of relying on the computer to save it rather than your own scheme?
    • If you have more than one piece of cloud storage, have you ever gone to the wrong cloud?
    • How do you transfer files from one computer to another?
    • If you were approached by a software company to provide an alternative to the diskette for the “Save” icon, what would it look like?

    I’m dying to hear your thoughts.  Please take a moment to share.

    Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts?

    Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!


    This Week in Ontario Edublogs

    It most certainly is autumn.  Pumpkins for sale everywhere; mums coming out in bloom; and lots of great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.  Here’s a bunch of what I caught this week.  Enjoy.

    Growing Pains

    It’s the time of year to start afresh.  Even if you’ve taught the same subject or grade for a number of years, it’s always a new start and there’s that awkward first little bit that happens at the beginning of the year.  In Eva Thompson’s case, she’s taking on a new job and trying to fill the shoes of someone who had been in that position for a number of years.  That’s a “double whammy”.  But, I’m sure that her enthusiasm will make the transition complete, given a little bit of time and patience.  It doesn’t sound like there’s anything else standing in her road.

    Now, if I can translate my pure enthusiasm for this job, to the people who might witness these temporary blips on the radar, I’m sure I can convince people I will be great at this job. If I see someone who loves what they do, even if they can’t solve my problem that instant, I know they will at least put the effort in to get me the answers I need. I hope others feel the same way!

    Higher Education is Pushing More Professors into Poverty

    This moving post, from Rusul Alrubail, may well be an eye opener for those of us who don’t work full time in higher education.  In K-12, we are so fortunate to have strong teacher federations that keep things honest.  Just like Rusul describes, there are activities that everyone does that they don’t get paid for.  There are some statistics that she quotes that I wish had some reference for follow up, like so many professors living in poverty.  It was a wakeup read for me.

    No one talked about the changes. It happened behind closed doors. Teachers were hurt. We said goodbyes and shed some tears, all behind closed doors. And that hurt the most. Many full time faculty didn’t even know what was happening with their colleagues. Hence the phone call from my chair. Each contract faculty apparently got one. The college didn’t want to go on email records and let people know this was happening.


    I had a bit of private discussion with Sheila Stewart who read and contacted me when I talked about blogs that have seem to have stopped publishing.  She was considering pulling the plug on her own efforts.  But, she still has a couple of posts in her!

    It would be sad if she calls it a day and so I’m hoping that she doesn’t.

    Her blog is one of the ones that come to mind when I think of one that has developed so much content over its lifetime.  It truly would be sad if it went away.

    Not All Who Wander Are Lost – A Lesson in Leadership Paths

    Who hasn’t heard this expression.  In this blog post, Tina Zita uses the quote from Tolkien to do her own thinking about leadership, particularly as it applies to education.

    Education seems to have a pretty clear pathway for leadership: step 1 leads to step 2 leads to step 3, the quicker the better. Like the city walls, they become a constant reminder of a common path I haven’t chosen to take yet.

    I have to totally agree with her analysis and summary.  That’s the current reality.

    At the same time, I think that it speaks volumes about why we don’t get the massive changes in education from those who aspire to be leaders.  It seems to me that so much time is spent playing the game that valuable time is lost discovering just where your true talents lie.

    One of the concepts that is in vogue with students is Genius Hour.  I wonder if true professional wandering wouldn’t be the equivalent for teachers and shouldn’t be perceived as the traits that would inspire an educational organization.  I think that we’ve all seen those “Google Interview Questions” that are completely out in left field to try to identify those candidates that would bring effective change and new thinking.  Why aren’t they honoured in education?

    The Current on Homework

    If you have a minute, check out this blog post from StepfordTO and then spend the next half hour listening to the interview made with Anna Maria Tremonti.  The focus is on homework, a topic that nobody is neutral on these days.

    It’s much easier to implicitly blame kids for their own troubles and individualize the problem of stress (by offering coping mechanisms and time management guidance) than it is to acknowledge one’s complicity perpetuating a school culture of overwork that harms kids. So once again there’s an elephant in the room of the debates about teen mental health. (Spoiler: its name is homework.)

    It’s too bad that there aren’t any comments to this blog post at present.  Why not leave one and share your thoughts.

    Where did that teacher go? Helping students to make their own decisions

    I really like this post by Kristin Phillips.  As I was reading it, a few things came to mind.

    • the problem with math, particularly on high stakes tests is that some of the questions are “tricky”.  Now, I like a good puzzle as much as the next person but should a problem that’s “tricky” be included in such a test?  Is the goal not to test the understanding of mathematics?  Why not test the mathematics abilities and leave the “tricky” to the classroom activity where time to think and analyse things is more liable to be successful.  Is the inclusion on a test an effort to keep scores down?
    • Bandwagons – we’ve seen them all (to date) and there are more to come.  Who determines which one to jump on?  Is it worthwhile to jump on the latest and most fashionable when you’re not ready to go all in with it?  Kristin sums it nicely –

    We may give lip service to critical thinking and open-ended tasks.  But I urge us all to think about whether our classroom practice is really training our students to be independent thinkers, or whether we actually train them to rely on our guidance.  It’s hard to be a teacher and watch your students struggle.

    Change takes time and care

    The title here from Melanie White says it all.

    Then, she goes deeper.  What a great concept – share with her Grade 9 students who she is, where she’s from, and why she’s a bit nervous herself.

    The information is given in what appears to be a number of slides from a presentation.  It was interesting to see her history so I’m sure that the students appreciated it.

    The most powerful slide – the last one, call to action, of course.

    Engagement in Professional Learning

    Nicole MordenCormier’s post is a reminder that effective schools is a balance of things and, this time, she takes on the concept of learning – both from the student and the teacher perspective.

    A tension that has once again emerged in this process is the need to balance the urgent learning needs of our students with the learning interests of our educators.  We know from our Conditions for Learning that to achieve that permanent change in thinking and behaviour that defines learning (Katz and Dack) the learner needs to see the learning as important to them, relevant to their world, and job-embedded.

    I like the fact that she addresses the needs of the teaching professional and their desire to grow and learn and suggests ways that it might be addressed in a learning plan.   I wonder if this would include wandering?

    Whoo hoo! BreakOutEDU is coming to #BIT16

    Of course, you come to the Bring IT, Together Conference for the learning.

    This year, that learning includes a BreakOutEDU session.  What’s that?  Check out the SketchNote.

    Then, get your registration in.

    As always, it’s been a wonderful collection of reading this past week.  Why not drop by the blogs in this post and read them in their entirety.  And, drop off a comment or two!


    Hater, not a phisher

    Who doesn’t like to get new followers on Twitter?  I’d like to think that it means that you’ve done something interesting or worthwhile and the follower wants more.  After all, isn’t that how it works?

    It doesn’t seem so lately, at least for me.

    I like to know when I get a new follower.  If I have time, I’ll check them out and, if they’re interesting, will follow them back.  It’s also my way of spotting a new Ontario Educator so that I can add them to one of my lists.  Or, I can just ignore them.  

    In Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, you can open a list to follow your new followers.  That quickly lets you spot these folks 

    Not everyone that follows you is nice though.  You can generally spot them a mile away.  They exist to promote themselves or their products.  

    Generally, my response is “No thanks”.  If I want to buy your product, I’ll go looking for it.  Chances are I’ll find it for a better price somewhere else.

    Lately, there’s been sort of a hybrid scum that’s been following me.  

    I know this is heavily censored but I don’t want to promote this in any way, shape, or form.

    This is a “slightly” modified version of the profile as shown by Hootsuite.  If I was to click the timeline icon, the account does indeed share some things that I might find interesting from someone else.  In another time, I might indeed follow them back.

    However, look at the Bio.  

    Things used to be so much easier before Twitter started converting links to its own links.  Now, you need to click through in order to get to the original shared site.  Who knows what sits there waiting for you?  Upon further inspection, you’ll see that they’ve elected to use a different sort of collection of characters in the Bio.  I’m guessing it’s to bypass any detector that would normally flag the account.

    What can you do?

    Well, first, don’t follow their link.  Just like the scams that you see show up regularly in email, you haven’t any idea where you’re going or what might land in your browser.

    Secondly, block the account.  They won’t be able to see you any more and, more importantly, won’t be able to see your own list of followers and who you are following.  

    Thirdly, you can report them to Twitter.  I don’t know how quickly or seriously Twitter is about these reports.  I know that it makes me feel good though.

    Fourthly, get your followers the old fashioned way.  Be interesting.

    And, fifthly, if you have $59 to burn, send it to me instead.

    Unsplash for free

    Copyright and Creative Commons are topics that have been addressed on this blog before.  Picture yourself as a young learner.  It’s difficult to know and understand the difference.

    And, grabbing any image is as simple as doing a Google Image Search, displaying the image full screen, right click to save it, and away you go.  Of course, we know that they should search for any limitations for the use of the image.  There is a time where that absolutely needs to be addressed.

    What if there were no limitations?

    What if the terms for the use of the images was …

    All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

    Too good to be true?  Then check out Unsplash for yourself.

    Now, I still maintain that the best source of images is still with your own camera or your own drawing tools.  There’s also opportunity to search and attribute using some of the various Creative Commons licenses.  But there are times when you just aren’t able to do you own.

    So, add Unsplash to your collection.

    I’ll admit; it feels strange using someone else’s image without attribution.

    The collection is pretty impressive.  I see lots of possibilities for desktop image pictures plus a number of other things.

    This Week in Ontario Edublogs

    I was at a bit of a crossroads with my collection of Ontario Edublogs last week and so sought some advice from readers.  Those that responded in public and in private were very convincing.  I’ll leave things the way they are for the present.  There are some new things that I read this week.  Check them out.  You may notice a theme.

    Teaching as a creative act

    Even as I create this post, I’m chatting with a friend about the use of a template as a way to use technology in the classroom.  Jim Cash, in this post, talks about relationships and learning.  There’s also the element of respect.  When you’re working with a template, you expect that most results will be reasonably similar.  Does that illustrate respect for the learner?  Allowing students to become creative honours their efforts.  As the title to the post implies, it can only happen when the teacher and teaching is creative.  There’s nothing much creative about photoglopping a black line master or the digital equivalent – handing out a template of a file for completion.

    I see relationships and learning as very closely related; both are creative acts. They are creative because every day they need to be nurtured, utilized, examined, improved, and remade. The heart of constructivism is that knowledge, skills and values are built over time in socially safe and growth-focused environments. Knowledge building is never done.

    Teaching is a Creative Act

    In Jim’s post, he indicated that he was tagged along with a number of others to get involved with the discussion about teaching being a creative act.  The original tagger was Matthew Oldridge and he shared his thoughts in this post.

    I had to smile at this paragraph in his post.

    When I started out teaching, I thought I was “supposed” to come up with brand new lessons every day. That’s what I thought the job was, but then, if I was stuck for ideas, I would feel bad.

    I know that, as a new computer science / data processing teacher, I absolutely had to come up with new lessons and ideas.  There was no formal curriculum; there was no textbook; there really was no experience I could draw on except for my own.  It made for some very short nights, making up content for all the classes.  In the long run, I think it worked out for the best.  It was only after I got my permanent contract that I found out that there was a department budget for resources and then dared approach my department to get my share.  To be honest, I couldn’t find anything that fit the bill.  So, like I would suggest virtually every computer science teacher does, I did a backward design from what I wanted the students to learn to the activities, to the lessons, to the introductions.

    Blog Challenge: Teaching as a Creative Act

    Also tagged in the post was Brandon Pachan.  It was a chance for me to add another name to the Ontario Educator list and the Ontario Edublogger list.

    The post starts off with an insight that only teachers will get.  Parents just think the magic happens.

    Teaching is a creative act because you are balancing the process with the product while engaging an audience that is diverse, unique and also part of the cast. Creativity thrives on limitations and obstacles.

    He then identifies and comments on what he feels are limitations.

    • The Physical Space
    • The Cast & Crew
    • The Transition

    I think that it’s also important to add “The Resources” to the list.  So many people are having to rework old resources to try and get new and contemporary results.  Or, perhaps you have the new resources but have had no time to determine how best to use them.  That, of course, leads to “time to collaborate”.

    Sharing Interests to Prompt Self-directed Writing

    Related to the theme is this powerful post from Tim King who, quite frankly, I’ve always pictured in the role of a technology teacher.  But, talk about teaching and creativity.

    I’m back in the classroom again and teaching English for the first time in more than a year.  I took a senior essentials English class mainly because few people want to teach it (teachers like to teach people like themselves – in this case academically focused English students), and it fit my schedule.  Essentials English is just as it sounds.  These are weak English students who are getting what they need to graduate and get out into the workplace, they aren’t post-secondary bound and tend to find school pointless.

    Huge kudos to Tim for reaching out to those students in this way.

    Keep A “Plans and Ideas” Google Doc Open In A Tab, Always

    While poking around Matthew Oldridge’s previous post, I found this one.  He describes a technique for never losing an idea by always having a tab open in his browser to curate those ideas.

    I’ve tried a number of utilities including a Google document, Google Keep, Microsoft’s OneNote (grudgingly after somehow I lost all those notes at the Microsoft PIL Event), Evernote, in a blog editor, and in just a text document.  Ideas come at the strangest of times; for me it’s often while walking the dog which means a mobile solution.  I’d forget by the time I got home and he’d lose focus at the next mailbox.  I can access both OneNote and Keep on my watch and audio capture is so good.  Of course, if you use Office 365 instead of Google, you could do this with an open instance of Word.  The key is to find something that works reliably for you so that you don’t lose those gems of inspiration.

    Minecraft Education Edition #MinecraftEE – Part 3: Digging Even Deeper

    This is Part 3 of a three part series reviewing Minecraft for Education.  Check out the post for links to Part 1 and Part 2.  The post is attributed to @GumbyBlockhead but if you poke around, you’ll see who is behind this.

    The whole three posts are a very complete look at the Education version of Minecraft, something I don’t have access to.  So, I do appreciate the walkthrough.

    I learned so much – like how to change the weather.

    An Interview with Matthew Oldridge

    In case you missed it, earlier this week I had the chance to post an interview that I had with Mr. Oldridge.

    I found it interesting to take a look a little deeper at what makes him tick and to get some of his thoughts about mathematics.

    All my interviews can be found here.

    Please take a moment to click through and read all these wonderful posts.  There’s always great stuff from Ontario Edubloggers.

    I’m not on the playground

    Yesterday morning, I had just finished playing my online games with my friends and had noticed that there were some updates for apps on the iPad.  For those of you on this platform, you know that it’s quite common to get a rush of updates whenever Apple does something with its operating system.  In this case, iOS10 is the reason.  People have been downloading and updating but it’s always a good idea to wait and see if it goes well or if there’s a point release.  That was indeed the case – all kinds of articles like this one have been floating around.

    Beware: Apple’s iOS 10 Update Bricks Some iPhones and iPads

    Anyway, I took a look and there wasn’t any application that I use frequently enough or have a problem with so I wasn’t in a hurry to download.  As I always do, I took a look at the Featured applications and the release of Swift Playgrounds caught my eye.  I had been reading so much about this application and how it was going to be yet another game changer for education and those who wish to teaching coding.

    Off I was to download it – only to find this:

    Fair enough, I guess.  I was a little hesitant since iOS has been getting progressively slower and crashier for me since roughly iOS7.

    But, if you’re going to be in the game, you have to play by Apple’s rules.  So, I checked to see how long this was going to take to download.  Settings | Software Update and “Your software is up to date.”  with iOS 9.3.5.  Time to do a quick bit of research and …

    Goodbye, A5: iOS 10 ends support for iPhone 4S, iPad 2, and more [Updated]

    Sigh.  My iPad2 isn’t eligible for the upgrade and it looks like it never will be.

    This is the second iPad that I’ve owned.  I had an original iPad and it always felt like it was rushed to market.  This iPad2 was a real trouper.  Except for the slowness and crashing, it still works well when it works.  But all good things come to an end, I guess.

    I’ve always been puzzled by the timing of the release of Apple things.  For example, in the case of Swift Playgrounds, it would have been nice to have had that all summer so that teachers who wanted to teach coding could a) become familiar with the application and b) ask their IT Departments to have it installed in cases where, by rules, teachers are not allowed to install their own applications.  I guess that a c) would now be important – update the operating system.

    Apple was always seen as being so friendly to education – the timing makes me question that now.

    So, $660 would allow me to upgrade my device buy a new device to test out this application.  Obviously, this won’t happen any time soon.  Like so many, I’m waiting with real interest to see how Android applications run on Chromebooks.  For half that price, you could have so much more.  In the meantime, there still remains the excellent applications Hopscotch and Scratch Jr.  For the many schools that have purchased their many iPad2s, that’s the only coding option.

    But I will remain curious about this Swift Playgrounds.  I hope that someone kicks the tires and shares the experience with the rest of us.