This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Learning and Sharing never seems to stop with Ontario Educators.  In case you missed them, here are some of the posts that caught my attention this past week.

Useful Twitter Resources for Educators

It’s hard to think that there are people who still haven’t seen the value of being connected to other educators via Twitter.  Sometimes, it just takes a good starting point.  The Cube for Teachers blog puts together a pretty comprehensive list for the beginner or those who wish to extend their abilities.

There’s also a selection of educator accounts offered as samples at the bottom of the post.

This post is a great share in your school conference and just might inspire more of your colleagues to join Cube for Teachers for the resources and the networking.

Google Chrome Tips and Tricks

Once you’ve sipped from the extensions/addon functionality well supporting your favourite browser, you’ll never stop.  A great browser goes over the top when you extend its abilities with the right tool.  Nicole Beuckelare shares some of her favourites in this post.

She also attended the Ontario Google Summit and shares her observations from that event here.  I like her analogy of a “gatherer”.  I feel like a hoarder at times…

My EdTech Team GAFE Summit Ah Ha Moment!

The neat thing that happens when you get a bunch of motivated to learn people together in one space is the massive learning and sharing.  It can be humbling when you think that you’ve “got it” only to realize that there’s so much to learn.  describes it like this…

I think the race analogy is so appropriate.  I have the same feeling and also the suspicion that the people holding the ribbon are running away from me way faster than I’m running towards them.  Never stop learning.

Microsoft EDU Summit 2015

The Google Summit wasn’t the only summit in the province last weekend.  Andre Quaglia had the only post that I could find about the Microsoft event.  Andre presented at the summit and shares his resources through this post.

The two hashtags from the weekend of learning were:  #ongafesummit and #msftedusummit.

They should have had a Hangout or Lync smackdown to close their events.

My Marvelous Mentee

Diana Maliszewski was involved in an AQ course on mentoring.  It sounds interesting and I’m going to do some more digging to find out just what the course entails.  At the very end, though, she posted some thoughts about one of the professionals that she worked with.

I like the list of attributes identified and attributed to Salma.  These are qualities that everyone should be proud to have and I hope that she wasn’t embarrassed.  She should be proud that Diana identified them.  This is the good stuff.

Could you say this about yourself?  If not, what could you do to put yourself into that position?

Amazing Things Do Happen

The best part of professional learning happens when the right people are in the right place at the right time.  Amy Bowker writes a post of just this happening at an edCamp.

Her takeaway was a renewed interest in the Google Educational certification program.  It sounds like obtaining this certification is important to her, so I wish her luck.


I had the awesome opportunity to conduct an interview with Anita Brook Kirkland this past week.  These are some of my most enjoyable posts and Anita was certainly delightful and shared so many things.  Read it here.  All of the interview that I’ve done are gathered together in the Interviews link above in case you want to dig into the archives for one.  Ditto for the “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” posts.  Such wisdom is contained in those posts.

There’s always something happening on the blogs of Ontario Educators and great thinking/sharing.  Why not jump in, read, and add your thoughts to these wonderful blogs?

My Favourite Five

Like many people, I seem to live in a web browser these days.  So much information, so much to do.  I have nothing but admiration for the developers behind this genre of software.  They do an amazing job both in terms of functionality and in efforts to keep us safe online.

Oh, and productive too.

I would estimate that 90% of the time, I’m using the Firefox browser and the rest in Opera Next or Google Chrome.  They’re all such great pieces of software and yet they all are missing those certain somethings.  Fortunately, there are equally as terrific programmers creating addons/extensions to increase the functionality of the browser.  As I look at the collection that appear at the top of the screen, it can look like a holiday decoration!

Every time I install or reinstall a browser, there are certain go-to addons/extensions that I make sure are added.

Scribefire – This is my go-to blogging tool.  It has all of the blogging functionality that I’ve decided that I need.  Or, perhaps I’ve modified my needs to the functions that it provides.  Either way, for my current needs, it has it all.  I like that it easily schedules posts to go live at a particular time.  I also build for my “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” posts by storing content there and scheduling it for Friday.

Web of Trust – A good internet mantra is to “trust nobody” and the Web of Trust is one of my partners in making it happen.  With a simple red, yellow, or green icon next to links, coupled with some common sense, I try to avoid those dodgy websites.

AdBlock Plus – I started out using this like I think most people originally do.  It blocks the very annoying advertising that permeates the internet.  Some of the advertising can be more than just a bit annoying.  I’ve stuck with it because we have incredibly slow internet access here.  I’m constantly asked by my kids “how can you live like this?”  Removing the advertising is one way to speed things up.

Shareaholic – There was a time when I had different resources to share to Twitter, Facebook, Instapaper, Evernote, … It’s kind of interesting to sit back at times and think about where you share resources.  Shareaholic amalgamates them all into a single place.  Just right click on the resource to be saved/shared, choose your preferred destination, and you’re done.

LastPass – Their motto is “Simplify Your Life”.  Actually, it could be simpler.  Just use the same password for every service that you use.  That would also be one of the dumbest things to do.  Period.  LastPass not only does the heavy remembering for you – an account is remembered for any browser with this extension – but it will also generate complex passwords that get the nod of approval to those password security evaluation recommendations that you get when you create a password.

How’s that for a list?  I had to do some work to cut it back to just five and I feel badly that I’m looking at some other create addons at the top of the screen.

What are your favourites that make you and your browsing productivity experience so good?

We’re So Demanding

and that’s a good thing…

I still remember the meetings and planning for the end of the world.

I think that it was in the release of Window XP that Microsoft included versions of Solitaire and Minesweeper.  When we first got a computer with XP installed for evaluation, we couldn’t get away from it.  The cards, in Solitaire, were so incredibly well designed and displayed on the screen.  Plus, the animation at the end of the game when we won could keep us fascinated for hours.

But back to seriousness, we had to review the applications that would be installed on the image and then deployed to a system.  Do we include these games or not?  How would we ever get students on task?  Will teachers and administrators do their jobs or would they be aiming for high scores?  It was just a silly conversation.

What brought all this back to mind this morning was reading this story “The best blackjack apps for iPhone“.  Isn’t Blackjack just the game of 21?  That led me to wonder what’s happening in the Solitaire world.  “Solitaire Online”  Good gravy.  Have we lost our collective minds by taking awesome childhood games and putting them online?

Then the programming mind in me clicked in.  

“We just don’t create Solitaire.”  

“We create a better Solitaire experience.”

and we’re all the better for the great design and programming minds behind this.

Those of us who are long in the keyboard remember Visicalc.  In a world where we loudly proclaim “game changer”, this truly was a game changer.  It changed everything I ever thought I knew about marks recording, for example.  I could immediately sit with a student and do the math – “What if I don’t hand in this assignment?  How much would 100% on this test change my overall mark?”.  I even wrote an article about how to set up a gradebook in Visicalc.  Now, the basic premise is standard logic for many elementary school students.  Plus, they’ll create pie charts to visualize the results.  I couldn’t do that with the technology of the time.

Why is this important?

In a world of self-proclaimed life-long learners, how many are ready and prepared to throw out the old and embrace the new?  Pick any discipline and compare the start of the art today to how it was done even five years ago.  We are demanding, constantly pushing forward and it’s a good thing.  If you subscribe to the notion of a growth mindset, sit back and take a look around you right now.  Are you practising it with your deeds?

A couple of post scripts…

1)  You can still get Solitaire, Mindsweeper, and Hearts for Windows 8!  Get them here.

2)  Technology may not always get you where you need or want to be.  There’s more to playing games than playing the game.  Brandon Grasley visits the classics here.

Heritage Minute Contest

You know, it’s too bad that you have to be sceptical of things on the internet.  I was watching television Saturday night when I was notified of a new message from a Canadian Prime Minister.  I raised an eyebrow.  After all, Sir John A. MacDonald died in 1891.  I just got a message from his Twitter account.

I’m interested but need to do a bit more work to convince myself this is a legitimate request.

Actually, doing a bit of digging, the account is “Stories of Sir John A.” and it’s powered by the folks at Historica Canada.  These are the folks behind the wonderful Canadian Historical Minutes that we see on television.

With registration at the Historica Canada website, you can access them, and more, online.

So, back to the request, I felt reasonably safe going forward to check out the recommendation.

The site is, in fact, an announcement for Canadian students to create their own Heritage Minute.

What a great opportunity for budding historians, young movie makers, or Canadians just wishing to have a voice recounting a moment in Canadian history from their perspective!

You’re not left on your own; there are both student and teacher resources for this project and would nicely compliment any Canadian History classroom.  Immersion tools are available as well.

Back to the original request – I certainly passed it along via a retweet and there were some positive responses from educators almost immediately.  We all know that Twitter messages can be fleeting and just there for the moment, so I decided to write this post to give the message a bit more longevity.

Please pass the information along to colleagues.  This sounds like an exciting event to be part of and, in our very connected global world, it’s specially nice to see something uniquely Canadian.

Happily Browsing

I had a coffee with a friend a couple of weeks ago and he threw out a one-liner that I hadn’t heard for quite a while – “Internet Explorer is the browser that you use to download all other browsers”.  Well, if you’re running Windows, that is…

I think that we all know that it’s not a safe world out there and keeping everything up to date is so important.  Depending upon the type of computer and operating system that you use, updates may be pushed to you automatically and installed.  Or, at the very least, you’ll get a notification when your browser is out of date and that you should update it.  Or, if you’re using Ubuntu, you can have notifications any time anything on your computer needs an update.  (I’m composing this in the Firefox browser and just got a notification that Opera needs to be updated.  Love it.)

If you’re in an environment where your browser is only updated annually or less, you might want to consider doing anything that requires disclosing credit card or other personal information on your own, regularly updated, computer.

How do you know the latest and greatest version of your browser?

Head over to the Browse Happy website.

It’s a portal to good things for web browsing.

If you want to use whatever you’re using to download a new browser, quick links and updated version numbers are there.  It might be a good opportunity to check the “About ….” option of your current browser so see if you are indeed getting all the updates you should.  If not, the prudent computer user will update immediately.  You’ll be safer and you just might find that your browsing experience gets a great deal better.

The five listed are a pretty conservative list of contemporary, popular web browsers.

But, they’re not all there.  Just looking at this computer, I also have Chromium and Vivaldi installed.

Now that Spartan is out as part of the Windows 10 preview, and people are kicking the tires, we’ll have that to add to the list as well later this year.

If you get into a discussion with anyone about web browsers, there are some passionate users for lesser known software.

To fully participate, commit the List of Web Browsers to memory and you’ll be the life of the party.

But, computer savvy person that you are, you will keep your own completely up to date.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

This week was marred by the sad news that my first principal had passed away.  I’ve made reference to some of the happy points of my computer science teaching on this blog and much was made available by this man, Peter Mudry.  If any of us could have a fraction of the impact that he had on his educational community, we’d really be doing something.

My Not-So-Perfect Classroom

Earlier in the week, I had evaluated my computer science classroom in a blog post after reading an article about the “Perfect Classroom“.  It inspired a number of comments about classrooms from around the networked Twitter community.  Of course, Mr. Mudry was my principal at the time.  In this post, Aviva Dunsiger reflected upon the various attributes in the article and confessed to having a number of different schools in her history.  I knew of two but there are more! 

How does your classroom stack up to hers?

We are not algorithms!

I wasn’t the only person inspired by an article to create a blog post.  Heather DeWaard shares some thoughts on various points raised in this article from The Atlantic. 

In responding to some controversial concepts in an article by Michael Godsey written in The Atlantic, I can confirm that there are many roles teachers are asked to take on – sage, guide, facilitator, model, coach, designer, developer, promoter, supporter and activator to name a few.

She presents a well reasoned argument and I recommend it as a good read and, certainly, at a Faculty of Education, fodder for the discussion about just what it means to be a teacher.

After all, if the human condition was just an algorithm, then anyone could be a teacher.  You’d just need the teacher guide, some powerpoint presentations, a few standardized tests and then just proceed through the curriculum in an even paced manner.  There’s no need for individualization, personalization, revisiting difficult topics, or looking for items of motivation.

I guarantee that you’ll feel good about your professionalism after reading this post.

Fractions, baking and lowest terms: real-world math

The winner in the category “having kids eat up math” has to be this post from Heather Pennie.

The blog reads like an exciting episode of Masterchef Canada.  Give the basics and let the cooks figure out the rest.

When broken out ingredient by ingredient as done in this post, it’s amazing to see how much mathematics goes into cooking.

If you’re looking for a recipe for “Bread in a Bag”, you’ll find it in this post.

Explain Everything Math Learning Journey
Explain Everything Angle & Triangle Journey (Part 2)

There’s nothing like having to teach something in order to deeply learn the concepts.

Take it one step further than your classroom.  Try to teach everyone connected to the internet a concept.  That’s what Kyle Pearce is trying to do with Grade 9 Geometry.  Using Explain Everything, he’s created some videos with the concepts embedded.

The challenge with doing something like this is that you have to be very precise in your efforts.

And, of course, when you shift the creation to the students, deep learning happens.

Explain Everything isn’t the only game in town.  I’m partial to ScreenChomp.  Another player that I haven’t worked with yet is Explain3D.

The Problem with Deeply Held Ideas

Heidi Siwak is always good for a post that makes you extend your thinking.  I think we all think of positive experiences when we think about the concept of “Prior Learning”.

What happens when that Prior Learning is flawed?

Heidi takes on this concept in the blog post.  I wonder how many classroom problems could be solved if we truly thought about this when things don’t go exactly as planned and you just can’t “get through” to her/him.

Please take a moment and follow the link to these great blog posts.  Make them part of your moment of learning for today.  I so value the fact that these Ontario Educators continue to share their thoughts and insights.  Then, check out the list of Ontario Edubloggers here for even more.  If you’re blogging and not on the list, use the form to add yourself and you will soon be.

What Would You Say?

OK, true story.

I bought a piece of technology the other day and went to the vendor website to register it for warranty purposes.

The submission form had the usual details – looking for your name, address, gender, age (via birthdate), level of education, profession, income, and a bunch of other things.  I was about to say “I’m outta here” when I noticed the red asterisks.  Only the country was required.  I’d already given up email address as a login but I could leave the rest blank. 

I was prepared to pay for the stamp to send in the printed registration card!

As I reached the bottom of the form, the last question was:

I had to ponder over this.

Does it help tech support if I had to call for assistance? 

If I say “Excellent”, would they say, “OK drop to a terminal prompt and type the following command line”.  If I say “Very Bad”, would they say “OK, move the little mousey dealy until it moves over the button and it turns green and then click the push thingy on the left”.

The more I pondered, the more curious I got.  Do they appreciate that an “excellent” computer literate person elects to purchase their product?  Or, do they make things so simple that even a person who self-identifies as a “very bad” computer literate person can understand it?

There was no rubric or indication of what the criteria was for any of them. 

Certainly, those in education know that, no matter what your expertise, there’s always something to learn.  What would a person who works in IT say?  What would a 10 year old who knows everything say? 

Then, it hit me.  There’s a reason why rubrics don’t have five levels.  “Fair” seemed to be a nice level to compromise with.  No serious commitment either way.  No ego in choosing excellent; no beating yourself up by admitting very bad.

Without criteria, what would you have answered for the company?  Set aside the company for a minute and do a self-evaluation.  Would you give the same answer?