Anatomy of a tweet

Just for fun.

This Twitter message flew across my timeline the other day.  Now, the first inclination is to “favourite” or “like” it.

Until I checked the message sender’s profile, that is.  (name withheld)

The person is a new Twitter user, with very few messages, at a university studying education and the timeline is all about resources available for teaching.  That sound you just heard was my ego deflating.  The message wasn’t inspired by my insights and over the top writing style; it was probably a class assignment.

I know the routine – I used it as a way to get teacher candidates interested in taking a look at what’s available and, hopefully, get the message that being isolated in education these days is a choice that they can make for themselves.  It doesn’t have to be that way; there are all kinds of educators sharing and connecting.  You just need to jump in so the activity is a very helpful one.

So, let’s analyse this message.

  • “Check out”
    Always a good lead in.  It’s a call to action right up front.
  • “@
    This could be a challenge to this person’s classmates if they’re new to Twitter.  You don’t typically precede a URL with a @.  That’s reserved for usernames.
  • “very interesting thoughts”
    Perhaps a little redundant.  The opposite would be “very boring thoughts” and hardly worth a recommendation.  I’ll live with “very interesting thoughts”.  They typically were at the time that I wrote them.  (at least to me)
  • “variety of topics”
    The blogger obviously has a lack of focus on a particular topic.  Or, perhaps, the blogger has an opinion about everything.  Or, perhaps, the person has a wide variety of interests.  Let’s go with that one.
  • “witty”
    Finally!  Someone recognizes that.  It’s a far cry from the Christian Science Monitor that called me “snooty”.
  • “veteran educator”
    I remember the first time I was called “veteran”.  I had just turned 30.  I’m sure older than that now.  I’m glad the high road was taken and the term “old fart” not used.

Enough of this silliness. 

Let’s go back to the original assumption that it was a class assignment. 

I really do think it’s a good assignment for teacher candidates.  I’m humbled that either this student or the professor involved chose to look at doug — off the record for this purpose.  It’s also a reminder that there are people who do read your blog.  So, if you do blog yourself, it’s your incentive to keep on keeping on. 

Hopefully, at that education school, teacher candidates are encouraged to get actively connected to other educators – veteran or not – because there’s so much to know and learn to be the best in your profession.  While at it, I think it would be a great idea for them to create a Twitter list and a Blog Roll of their classmates so that they can remain connected after graduation.

The more connections; the more options.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s Friday and a time to share some of the reading that I did this past week from Ontario Edubloggers.  I know that I say it every week but this really is a wonderfully intriguing collection and insightful group.  Are you from Ontario and blogging?  Click that link and get yourself added.

Resources for #BlackHistoryMonth & Beyond

Rusul Alrubail says it all in her introduction to this post.

February is #BlackHistoryMonth and many of us feel conflicted in teaching lessons specifically designed for #BlackHistoryMonth since we should be teaching about Black History throughout the entire school year. I wanted to share some great resources for teachers who are looking to implement lessons on Black History throughout the year, and what better time to start then now?

The balance is a wonderful collection of resources, not just for this month, but ongoing. 

Important, because it’s local to south-western Ontario, is the African-Canadian Heritage Tour.  There is a great deal of history here, including the Amherstburg Freedom Museum and a month’s worth of activities.  A phenomenal collection of resources can by found on the Black History Canada website.

You’re going to want to check out Rusul’s post and most certainly bookmark her references.

Snapshots from Helping a Syrian Family

There were a couple of readings this morning that put this blog post in perspective for me.

Jennifer Aston is known as an instructional coach.  With this post, I think we should elevate her to a coach for social conscience.

It starts as:

Helping a Syrian family is…

You’ve got to read her list.  It’s a great model for conversations in other classrooms and at home.

Equally as important are the closing comments.

This is not a family of refugees anymore.

They are new Canadians.

Virtual Classroom visit with Cmdr Hadfield!

OK, here’s a wonderful opportunity for students.  Nadine Persaud’s class had the chance to listen to Canada’s famous space traveller.

And, it’s recorded in a couple of YouTube videos!

Professional Learning… how do I get started…

Alana Callan shares some great ideas for her faculty at Fleming College (I still find it awkward to call it that…).  But, it’s good to see that she’s taking this seriously and taking staff along for the ride.  She models her own learning by sharing her current reading.

Of particular interest to me is the Faculty Competency Framework.

It’s coloured to show the stages of a faculty member’s career.  It’s very interesting and puts aside the notion of one size fits all.  I like the way that it respects experience.

My Brother is Autistic: Part 4

Last week, I made reference to Royan Lee’s then three part story “My Brother is Austic”.

This week, he’s added Part 4 with a promise of Part 5 to come.

In the meantime, we have more stories of Royan’s dealing with autism.

Timothy was autistic. Anything would set him off. A sound, a movement, a word, a look. In a room with half a dozen other kids with serious self-regulation issues, he was the bellwether. Looking back, I realize that Timothy had a sixth sense for anticipating conflict in my class.

If you’re just jumping in, do yourself a favour and visit Part 1 and the subsequent posts to get the complete picture.

VR Bubbles are Cool!

I can always rely on Andy Forgrave to teach me something outrageously cool, cutting edge and then ask myself when I would ever use this.

This time around, he took inspiration from Colleen Rose and used an application called Bubbl.  Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be an Android version.  Maybe soon.  In the meantime, my learning phrase for the week is “dynamic spherical photos”.

The Bring IT, Together Conference could be a great deal of fun!

News from CMEC

Education students at Western University (I still find that awkward too) were informed of the release of the report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC) on the history of residential schools in Canada.  A link is provided to the final report.  Thanks, Denise Horoky for sharing this for potential educators and the rest of us who happen by your blog.

Semester change

Do you remember those cartoons “Happiness is”?

It sounds like, in Brandon Grasley’s case, the answer is “having his own classroom”.

I have my own classroom! That’s pretty sweet. I haven’t had that happen in a long time. I have to make it more inviting though. It’s a bit sterile for my taste. Nothing a Star Wars poster (or mural…hmmm…) can’t fix.

I can totally agree. There’s nothing more inhibiting than sharing a classroom. You can’t get into the room early to prepare. You can’t stick around and give students a bit of extra help. If anything goes wrong, you know exactly who was sitting where. You get to do your own decorating (Star Wars?) You don’t have to keep a clean desk. You don’t plan on a resource being there and finding out that it’s gone. Yes, happiness is …

Isn’t that just an incredible collection of great reading and sharing again from Ontario Educators?  Please take the time to drop by each post for the entire story.

The big list of Ontario Edubloggers is located here.  If you’re not on the list and are blogging, please consider filling out the form to add yourself.

Where’s the focus?

A few years ago, I had a visitor to my office.  He was trying to sell me a license to a programming language for our schools.

I still remember the conversation as if it happened just yesterday.

Him:  I’m here to convince you to buy this programming language for your district’s Computer Science classes.

My response:  Why would I want to buy it?

His response:  Because it’s industry standard.

A little mental math here.  If I’m in Grade 10 and learned this language, the earliest I could be employed in industry would be seven years from now.

My response:  Will it still be industry standard seven years from now?

His response:  <crickets>

My response:  Tell me why it’s good for kids.

His response:  Because it’s industry standard.

He continues:  I could sell you a day’s training.

My response (choking on his words – remember you train dogs, not teachers):  What if one day isn’t enough?

He continues:  I could sell you more training.

Needless to say, we didn’t license the product.  However, a nearby board which likes to license the latest and shiniest did.  It wasn’t accepted by the teachers and didn’t last long.

This was one of those moments that reinforced a lot of things for me.  Certainly, industry and its progress has an impact on education and helps frame our approach, but do we drop everything just because industry does this or that?  Think just of the recent future.  How many seemingly great ideas have companies just dropped out of the blue?  From the end users’ perspective, it seems like it was done overnight but you just have to believe that it has been the result of a great deal of thought and analysis.

But in industry, things mostly evolve around the bottom line, sustainability, and a coherent business plan.  No company apologizes, except perhaps to its stakeholders, as it keeps its eye on the prize.

It’s not the same in education and it shouldn’t be.

I was in a conversation online the other day when this line appeared – “With our board’s focus on technology…”


Is that a mission statement?  Is that the focus for all educators in that board?  Is that the plan?  Have the educators all dropped out of the picture and someone else is steering the ship?

It doesn’t matter who made the statement.  Student – Teacher – Administrator – Parent- Computer Department – Local media

It’s wrong.  Period.

There definitely are people in education who need to look at the use of technology in education.  It was my job for years.  But the primary focus was never on technology.  It would have been on student achievement, the use of technology in learning, innovative ways of teaching with the assistance of technology, …

How many times do you see some new form of technology purchased, dropped in place, and then you hope that the magic happens?

Where’s the master plan?  Where’s the continuous professional learning?  Where’s the modelling?

We’re doing SAMR.  Really?  Well, in fact, you probably are since that model focuses on technology and not the learner.

If, to the end user, the “focus is on technology”, then there’s a big gap in the understanding of the purpose of technology.  Whoever owns that misunderstanding needs to find some way to fix it.

I could go on for hours on this but let me quote that famous blogger Colleen Rose.  “Stop. Please.

Media Literacy Monday

Could there be a bigger opportunity than the Monday after the Super Bowl to talk about advertising and Media Literacy?

Who could forget this classic advertisement from 1984?

Could there be a better message than this one?

It’s a nice reminder that commercials can also do a public service.

CBS has a page devoted to the commercials that it will show during its broadcast – – this should be your best source for the original content, right from the broadcaster.

Amazingly, there was a time when a media literacy lesson couldn’t be taught the day after Super Bowl.  You might have to record the commercials at home or wait for you media department to edit and distribute the commercials.  Increasingly YouTube and other media sources are unblocked, the actual advertiser is making the commercials immediately available.  And well they should to get the bang for their buck.  Today’s going price is $5M for 30 seconds.

But, how do you actually plan for the lesson?

Frank Baker shares an excellent lesson plan just for times like this.

Deconstructing a TV Commercial: Media Literacy” is a terrific lesson for investigating any commercial.  He has a page devoted specifically to the Super Bowl here.

With these resources and, certainly, the tools that we have available in the classroom, this is one of those teaching moments not to be missed.

The big game and more

Like millions of others, later today, I’ll be watching the Super Bowl.  I wouldn’t miss it.

At times, the actual Super Bowl game can be a let down when compared to the divisional playoffs.  I hope that’s not the case this time.  I’d like to see a really good game with the orange team ultimately winning.  I had a confirming conversation with a friend earlier this week about how things have changed since Barry Sanders just exuded class in the game.  No scoring a touchdown and then dancing or doing any of the other antics that are so common today.  We’d love to see a return to that but we live in a world of showmanship, I guess.  And technology has kept up with the times.

Of course, I’ll be checking in on the commercials during the half-time show but it’s different in Canada as the ones that garner so much attention in the US are overdubbed with Canadian ones.  Typically, we have to check them out online or after the game but that could change in future years.  (Or watch the game over the air from Detroit…)

But, the computer geeky folks like me will also keep half an eye open to the technology that the teams use on the sidelines.  By now, there’s not a person who doesn’t know of the mess up with viewing offense/defense layouts on the Patriots’ sidelines in the championship game.  It was a big black eye as news reports incorrectly identified the problem as being with the Microsoft Surface.  It later was revealed that the problem was with the wifi used for connectivity.  That was later proven to be incorrect and blame was laid on a bad cable.  That could happen to anybody’s technology.

Doing my due diligence as a geek, I did a bit of poking around to see what’s being done to be proactive for the big game.  As we all know, there’s many a point of failure whenever you talk about networked devices.  Sadly, the reporters are like so many with their analysis – “it’s not working”.  It’s only later that we get the complete story and the damage has been done by then.

Here’s a couple of stories to whet your appetite.  I did the heavy lifting so you don’t have to.

It was interesting to read how this powerful device becomes just a single use tablet for the game.  No Facebook updates or selfies here.

Of course, if things go wrong again, maybe it’s time to learn How to install Ubuntu on the Surface Pro. Of course, they’d have to find an orange case for it.

Don’t screw it up

Like many Computer Science teachers, I was very excited to read the news of President Obama’s “Computer Science for All” initiative.  Right now, it’s typically an elective course and I know, from experience, that you work to encourage every student you can to choose the course.  It’s not like the maths or languages or other sciences where a certain number of courses are required for graduation.

It’s puzzling, particularly in this day and age of technology everywhere, that it doesn’t have mass appeal.  The reality is, I suspect, that when it comes to electives, students aren’t necessarily looking for a subject that bulks up on the work load.  Students tend to really enjoy it or really hate it.  Unfortunately, those that hate it are more vocal about spreading their feelings making it difficult to get more students involved.  Through my work as an Ontario educator and long time involvement with the Computer Science Teachers Association in the US, I’ve seen a comparison of how the subject is treated in both systems.

In Ontario, we have an excellent series of courses under the title “Computer Studies” that are available to every school/student in the province.  If the course isn’t provided at their school, they can take it online through eLearningOntario and get the same course credit.  South of the border, the common threads are the Advanced Placement courses and Exploring Computer Science along with local courses at the student’s home school.  In either case, students have terrific opportunities to learn.

But it’s never been a skill for all – it’s typically been a choice for all.

From my eyes, there is a need.  I suspect that the secondary school student who is indeed interested in post-secondary studies has great opportunities.  This doesn’t apply to everyone though.  Yet, knowing how to make this inanimate object to do your bidding has never been so important a skill.  Or your tablet.  Or your phone.  The ultimate goal isn’t that every graduate will become a computer programmer for a living any more than the graduate taking English will become the next Shakespeare.  It’s the ability to have this ability to take control over your electronic world much the same as you would take control of your use of the English language.

The announcement from President Obama hasn’t been universally appreciated.  An interesting opinion piece appeared in the New York Daily News.  “Learning to code is overrated: An accomplished programmer would rather his kids learn to read and reason“.  In many ways, my own computer programming experience paralleled that of Mr. Atwood’s.  My first personal computer was a Radio Shack TRS-80 and I took delight in learning all the operating system commands, creating batch files, and learning how to program in the languages of the time.

And, I think the operative words here are “of the time”.  It’s been years since I wrote something in Pascal or Fortran.  There are times when I am curious to know if I even could.  But the feeling soon passes.

“Because it’s 2016.”

We have much better, more powerful tools, and better experiences at our disposal.  It’s not always recognized and I think that sometimes Computer Science teachers can be their own worst enemies as they debate the merits of Java versus Python versus …  Let’s step back from that argument.  There’s a time, place, and environment for that.  It shouldn’t be part of this discussion.

Let’s focus on the “for all” part. 

We’ve all heard the “girls don’t like doing this …” or “boys don’t like doing that …” as excuses for poor performance in mathematics or science or languages or pick your favourite target.

A Computer Science teacher will tell you about programming for the web and the importance of reading from the visitor to a website.  Or the importance of geometry and science as you program a robot to move across the classroom floor.  They understand the importance of planning, collaboration, communication, analysis, and measurement.  That doesn’t need to nor should it wait for secondary school.

The “for all” part needs to be in the front of your mind.  In this initiative, it’s a chance for Computer Science to reinvent itself and come back as a life skill.  So seldom does education get a chance to start something from the ground floor.  This is a chance and the opportunity needs to be seized.  Not just by those with a Computer Science background but by those who truly understand all that a Computer Science understanding brings to the classroom.

All of this isn’t necessarily magical.  It’s the result of a deep understanding and professional commitment of educators.  The plan requires a serious commitment to professional learning opportunities for all educators.  After all, don’t forget the “for all” part.

It can be so powerful – my advice is in the title – don’t screw it up.  Education has waited for years for this opportunity.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s time for my weekly wander around the province to see what Ontario Edubloggers are writing.  As always, it’s been a great week curating these things and then culling to share some interesting things in this post.

Stop. Please.

OK, this could be me.  Nothing I hate worse is going to any kind of meeting and have someone go off on a tangent about a conference they’d attended or a book that they’d read (or more likely skimmed) and I have no idea what they were talking about.  Somehow, it’s comforting to look around the table and see other glassed over eyes.  With some people, it’s OK to interrupt and ask for them to put it in context or give some background.

So, I could really sympathize with the gentleman that Colleen Rose describes in this post.

There’s huge takeaways for everyone here.  Unfortunately, there will be some that will just give you “the look” and then continue.  But, the person who is serious about getting the most for their efforts will take the time to get everyone on the same playing field.  I know that I really appreciate that.  There’s so much to learn that, for anyone to assume that everyone knows everything, not recognizing this is just ludicrous.

I also honed in on the word “training” in Colleen’s post.  That’s key.  I’ve mentioned many times that you train dogs to sit or go outside.  You don’t “train teachers”; there’s no singular phrase that gets my dander up than that one.  And, if it’s truly a professional learning experience, for that gentleman to not be recognized and coached is just malpractice.

See where Colleen takes her discussion in the post.

My Brother is Autistic: Part 1

My Brother is Autistic: Part 2

My Brother is Autistic: Part 3

Royan Lee is one of the most open and transparent individuals that I’ve known.  I’ve had the honour of interviewing him, meeting him and his family, and just have learned so much from his ongoing open learning on social media.  He’s in the middle of at least a four part story about his brother that bares all.

my brother was at the end of his run with public schooling, an ominous time for any family whose child has complex needs. 

I’ll confess to never having had to deal with this type of situation in my own family but a couple of instances in my school.  I’m riveted to his series of articles and look forward to the story continuing.

Character Education Videos

Not too long ago, making videos in the classroom was a fairly involved task.  I can remember the first efforts with the video camera and then finding some way to capture the tape contents to edit the content in a separate program.  When the RCA Small Wonder came along, the whole world changed.  You could take these things everywhere and capture so easily.  The concept of the public service announcements was within the reach of everyone.

Now, it’s even easier with your tablets and phones.  The result is a powerful medium for student publishing.

Peter Cameron shares a couple of videos in this post.  I had to wonder if the College of Teachers would be called in with this public video.

Poor Evan and Logan.

It’s only when you play the video that you realize that they didn’t need calming down – Evan and Logan were giving us tips!

I still would like to see these two doing Yoga in the middle of the classroom though…  <grin>

Broadcasting Tips from the Field

Today’s technology also lets you go far beyond the immediate location.  In this video, again shared to YouTube, Marie Swift shares a great video tutorial.  This time, it’s all about becoming a better broadcaster.  I had to smile during the first segment with the clasped hands.  That’s a technique that was taught to me to stop me from flailing my hands about while talking.

It’s a great collection of tips that are certainly shareworthy with students.

Promoting Student & Teacher Voice using Dotstorming tool

In this post, Jennifer Casa-Todd has shared her thoughts about Dotstorming which I think is certainly worthy of attention if you’re a fan of getting feedback from an audience in any of a variety of situations.  A long time ago, there were these clicking devices that were promoted as the next greatest way of promoting metacognition and student voice.  I hated the stupid things; not that it wasn’t an interesting technology but that the software was a bear to operate and getting all the things connected could be a challenge.  Then you had to explain the rules and how they needed to be operated.

On one student placement, one of my teacher candidates was encouraged to use them and he couldn’t get them to work so came up with the next best thing – he had students put their heads on their desks and put their hands up to vote anonymously.  Since the debriefing when the students came back to the Faculty, that’s been my Exhibit A for choosing, testing, and using technology wisely.

The lesson is well worth teaching but technology has got better.  Check out Jennifer’s post for a great collection of ideas.

OLA SuperConference 2016 & Treasure Mountain Canada 4

If you weren’t able to attend the OLA SuperConference, Diana Maliszewski has a really good summary of things you mised.  If you’ve never been to this conference, you really need to check it out at least once.  I had the pleasure of presenting once with a local teacher-librarian (who I had a chance to have lunch with this week) and then also was part of the great OSLA faceoff a couple of years ago.

I really enjoyed living the conference through this post so thanks so much for that, Diana.

The highlight for me was this picture of a group that were part of our computer contact network in addition to this work as teacher-librarians.

How Alanna go there is beyond me!  <grin>  But, she would fit in so nicely.

My congratulations go to Sharon in her retirement as well.

Catch the Spiral! 

Many teachers share their lessons on the web and announce it on social media.  For that, many are so thankful.  Instead of reinventing the wheel, why not share?  A good lesson gets better with many eyes.

Jon Orr takes things in a different direction.

In this post, he doesn’t share a resource or a particular lesson, but instead shares his pedagogy, a technique that he calls spiralling.

I thought it was a rather interesting concept.

Why not click over and see what it’s all about and see his inspiration and decide whether there’s a place there for you too.

The genius that comes from Ontario Edublogs never fails to amaze me.

Please take a moment to check out these wonderful offerings and appreciate their efforts.  Then, check out all the Ontario Edubloggers for even more.