This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s another Friday and a chance for me to share with you some of the spectacular reading I enjoyed recently from great Ontario Edubloggers.  I had some self-inflicted damage to my regular process.  Normally, as I read things, I just keep the blog open in a tab and minimize them with One Tab until Thursday morning when I actually write the post.  However, this was a week of maintenance and browser shuffling and I lost the posts that I had tucked away.  I think I remember everything that was saved but maybe not.  I had a better plan when I stuck the URLs into Keep or Evernote.  Perhaps that’s my biggest learning of all.  Shortcuts can come back to bite you.  If you wrote a great post and I neglected it, please send me a message “Hey dummy, you missed this…”


Taking Chances

I’m not sure that much more needs to be said than how Denise Buttenaar closes this blog after a pretty active reflection session on her personal practice and what it meant to her.  I don’t think that anyone should expect that a blog post is going to be the “next great novel”.  However, a year from now if she continues to share her thoughts to herself, it may be the “next great professional diary” and I don’t think an educator can ask for more than that.  Blogging shouldn’t be an all encompassing event.  It’s the accumulation of thoughts that leads to the impressive.


Oh boy, here it is!

Donna Fry gave me the heads up on the birth of this new blog and here’s the first post from Kelly Colter.

I think that the first “way” is something that we all need to ‘fess up about.  If we weren’t influenced by others, it would be a pretty lonely connected life.  It’s the connections and the shared learning that makes it so powerful.  Of real importance to me is the selection of the connections – regular readers know of my passion for those who blog about Ontario Education.  That’s not the only influence – another that easily comes to mind is the cadre of Computer Science teachers that serve as inspiration.  By joining, hopefully Kelly can keep it up and, with her words, influence whatever group she wishes.  She’s now in my little group of Ontario Edubloggers.


Moments of Empathy

If someone asked me who I would like to write like, I could name quite a few and certainly near the top would be Rusul Alrubail.  She doesn’t necessarily whip out the thesaurus or come across as pretentious, but it’s just the way that she strings her words together that touches the reader at a different level.  I can’t think of a post from her that doesn’t give me pause for serious reflection and I can’t think of a better compliment to pay to a blogger.

So, I thought – who would have been my favourite teacher?  A number of really good ones came to mind and I could create a short list.  When I thought just a little harder, the “favourite” had some un-favourite moments so I moved on to the next on my list.  I’d find issues here and there too.  Instead, I changed my thinking.  What if I took a bit of him and a bit of her and a bit of her and made my favourite a teacher an amalgam of the best parts.  Wow, that was a great teacher and, the common thread was the empathy that each showed.

For any teacher whose goal is to reach every child, (whether or not you want to be their favourite is a personal, competitive activity) take a read of Rusul’s post.  We all have our bad days and those stick out because of the lack of empathy.  Could that be a gutcheck for success?  Recognize it and deal with it before it unduly negatively affects students.


Thanks for your leadership and support!

When you think of people that are centrally assigned as resource teachers – what do you immediately think of?  Hot and cold running coffee and an endless supply of doughnuts?  After reading Jennifer Casa-Todd’s post, you may wish to change your opinion.

In the post, she nicely ties things together and may give you an insight to what they actually do.

The one thing that she isn’t explicit about and I’m sure that it’s true in her job and others, and certainly was key to mine was getting out of the central location and visiting schools.  When I took over that role, I never wanted to be accused of being “out of touch” with the classroom because it’s so easily done when you’re not in one on a daily basis.

My favourite quote from my former superintendent was “Where is he today?” as he came into the Program Department area looking for me.  I wish I’d heard it first hand because it could be interpreted so many different ways.

If you don’t see your centrally assigned person often enough, why not sign up for professional activities or just extend an invitation to her/him to come and visit your classroom?  You might be pleasantly surprised at how eagerly they’ll jump at the opportunity.


#TBT: Is Our Focus On Assessment Taking Away From Our Children’s Education

If nothing else, Stephen Hurley’s latest post is worth visiting just for the image.  What the heck, here it is, complete with his credit to the author.

It’s a throw back post that is just as relevant today as when he originally posted it.

This is an interesting look at assessment and evaluation.  I can’t remember a year where it wasn’t “the board’s focus” and it certainly is important.  It informs what is done for student achievement.  It’s just that it changes so frequently.  I remember a person new to my department whose theory was that by changing focus annually, it kept the pedagogues in business as the pendulum swings back and forth.

If you need some moments of reflection today, make sure that you get to the bottom of the post and reflect on Stephen’s questions.


The End of Average

A book, a TED talk, and an infographic fill this post from Erica Armstrong.

This is the perfect followup to Stephen’s post.  Play the TED talk as you go about things this morning.  You’ll be glad you did.

Do you agree with the affirmation that “the average hurts everyone”?

What are you going to do about it?


What’s the hardest thing a teacher does?

If you read Kristin Phillips blog, you’ll read this more than once.

“Try something new; no one will die”.

I recall a mathematics teacher of some infamy whose choice of worksheet for the day would rival the accuracy of any calendar!

Kristin gives us five bullet points (paragraphs) as to what she feels has worked with her schools.

Would they work in yours?


I say this every week and I never tire of it.

What an amazing collection of blogs.  Please click through and read them in their entirety and drop them a comment.  They deserve it.

Then, check out the rest of the Ontario collection here.  If you’re blogging and not listed, just complete the form and you will soon be.

Taking the challenge


I can’t ignore a good challenge.  Recently, Alfred Thompson challenged me to test out Microsoft’s new CaptionBot application.  He said that he had been having great success with it and challenged me to try it.  The premise is simple; you send it a photo and it describes what it sees.  It’s important to not send personal photos in times like this.

It’s learning so I’ll use my best teacher empathy.  We always try to find the best in our learners, right?

Don’t tell the rest of the Bring IT, Together Committee but I had it open in another window during our meeting last night and was playing around with it so see what I could do with it.

Here are my results…I just dug around some photos from some trips that were on the hard drive and decided to see how they worked.

The Famous Crab

A friend gave me this photo of a crab from a Scuba trip he’d been on.  It was a fond photo for sharing and editing in my Photoshop workshops.  If that was indeed a plate of food, arrangement needs to be revisited!

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls at night is one of the most spectacular things to witness (and capture with a camera).  I’m thinking the bot needs to go out more!

Philadelphia

Well, if you look past that big bell with the crack in it, there is a man walking with the person with the umbrella in the background.

St. Louis

I guess I was distracted by that large arch thing when I took the photo.  There is indeed a building off to the right. 

St. Louis (again)

This sports fan was fascinated with the chance to take a photo of classic Busch Stadium.  I completely missed the elevated freeway in the background.

San Antonio

I’ve been to San Antonio twice and never fail to be humbled by the Alamo Shrine which served as a mission.

Phoenix

Bingo!

Well, that was fun.  I don’t think I’m ready to start not tagging my own photos anytime soon though.

Have you tried out the Caption Bot with your own pictures?  What kind of success did you have? 

I’m sure that this student will get better over time and learns.  We just need a bit of patience.

A scorecard?


There used to be a time when you didn’t need a scorecard to determine what would run on your computer.

If you had a Windows computer, then you ran Windows programs.

If you had a Macintosh computer, then you ran Macintosh programs.

If you had a Linux computer, then you ran Linux programs.

Nice, neat, wrap it with a bow and call it a plan.

Then, for me, it got a little murky.  I had inherited a Macintosh computer but I really didn’t like the Macintosh software.  Sure, it had Microsoft Office on it, but the Macintosh version of the software lagged badly in comparison to the Windows version.  I did some digging and found that running a Virtual Machine let me run Windows on the computer.  After a bit of playing around, I got it to work.  There’s a difference between working and working well though.  Or, perhaps at the time, the software wasn’t the greatest.  I was happy in the knowledge that I could do it.  I had a Windows computer along side the Macintosh so it just turned out to be an academic exercise.

Later, when I started to make Ubuntu my favoured operating system, there still was a need every now and again to run a Windows piece of software.  Sure, I could reboot the computer and run in native Windows mode.  However, I had done some digging and found that Wine was a wonderful utility that did the trick for me.  After a while, it became hard to know what was what so my “scorecard” was a folder called “Windows software” so that I could differentiate Windows software from Linux software.  

Enter the tablet world.  We were back to first principles here.  The iPad runs iOS software and smart people get it from one place – the Apple App Store.  Android tablets are similar and smart people get their software from one place – the Google Play site.  Both iOS and Android have incredible applications just awaiting installation.  And, it that doesn’t fill the need, there’s always the web where some websites become applications.

While I’ve always differentiated the use between my computers and my iPad, it was Zoe who talked me into going to a computer store a couple of years ago and buying a bluetooth keyboard/case for it.  Now, I can use it like a regular computer albeit with a smaller keyboard.  It requires a bit of balancing to get the true “laptop” experience but works wonderfully when perched on a table.

One piece of technology that I haven’t used seriously is the Chromebook.  We borrow some from the Waterloo board for onsite registration devices for the BIT Conference and I got to get my hands on Jamie Casap’s Pixel while helping him set up for his keynote a few years ago.  Nice devices (Jamie’s was really nice) but why would I want a separate device when I could just run the Chrome browser on my computer?  

Then, as she said “curiouser and curiouser”.  

The Chromebook became a device that didn’t require continuous internet ability.  You could run some of its applications in standalone with no networking.  Now, this gets really interesting.  Just like a tablet with limited storage, you couldn’t download every application available.  But, for the discriminating user, downloading a selected set of Chrome applications makes a great deal of sense.  The operative point here is “Chrome applications”.  If you do a search on the Google Play store, you’ll realize that’s only a subset of all that’s available.  There’s also all those Android applications…

Then, I read this article this morning.  “A million Android apps are apparently coming to Chrome OS“.  It comes with more than just speculation, but a screen capture.

I suppose that we should have seen this coming.  Both Android and Chrome OS have Linux roots and I’m sure that there have been very smart people at Google thinking and working through this for some time now.  Imagine all of your favourite applications running on a laptop with a real keyboard and not an add-on.   The approach looks incredibly sound to me and the beneficiaries will be those who like to combine the best of the web with the best of the local applications.  It’s pretty exciting when you picture the possibilities, particularly in education where these devices are proving to be very affordable and very functional in the hands of students.  And it’s not just for schools with their tight budgets, but for homes with their budgets.  It is not only attractive for initial purchase and the functionality afforded but also when it comes time to upgrade.  If all this comes to fruition, it will make shelling out the big bucks for a traditional computer a tough decision.

Is anyone keeping score?

Whatever happened to …


PCGlobe?

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

This was one of the first curricular pieces of software that this Computer Science teacher installed on the Unisys Icon network in my classroom.  Sure, it was a DOS application but it ran nicely in the DOS emulator that sat on top of the QNX operating system.  It only required 16 colours and CGA graphics.  For nostalgia, check out:  http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=971

Once installed, I ended up sharing the computers with the Geography teacher for a unit so that his students could explore the software (and the world).

In my Computer Science class, we worked it for every angle that I could think of.  

  • It was one of the first applications we used that actually put the trackball to use as a mouse emulator in DOS;
  • With the hands of a surgeon, we could name a country (middle European worked nicely) and try to put the cross hairs over a country to get the details from the application.  You could see it move from pixel to pixel.  Switzerland was always a favourite;
  • We borrowed a print atlas and encyclopaedia from the library and compared the answers from there to the electronic version for accuracy and depth of information;
  • It was probably the first in-depth application of a database that students experienced electronically.  Sure, they had worked with the goofy 10 entry examples in class but here we had the world;
  • The database actually led to a project.  Dividing students into groups, they used some of the information there (and from the traditional atlas) to build our own “comprehensive” database, stored it in ASCII format, and then wrote some programs to query that database.  It led to some authenticity to their coding;
  • We talked about the importance of a database administrator for keeping the database accurate.  Sure, the database was good the moment that it went into production but population and even countries and their borders would change by the time it shipped.  It’s even more important today.  Check out the two screen captures below from Google Maps and Bing Maps of downtown Amherstburg.  Provincial highway 18 used to run through the town; now it’s Country Road 20.  One for the nostalgia fans!

  • It served as inspiration for one of my first computer curriculum writing projects – “PCGlobe Across the Curriculum”.  We milked the information there for every idea and cross-curricular concept that we could;
  • We had used PCGlobe 3.0 and 5.0 and they worked nicely.  A later version, PCGlobe Maps-N-Facts, wasn’t purchased.

At the time, it was a truly ground breaking application, opening doors for ideas and implementation is classrooms other than Geography.

I think it’s also a perfect example of something being made obsolete by followup technology.  The internet with its back end ability to make changes, political and geographically, almost instantly made installing a static atlas just a fond memory.  Now, “See how borders change on Google Maps depending on where you are“.

Today’s teachers will either:

  • remember using PCGlobe as a tool in their classroom – it might even have been used at an education faculty;
  • or, remember using PCGlobe as a student.

So, a few questions and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • what does an atlas/encyclopaedia look like in today’s connected classroom?
  • when you need the information traditionally delivered by an atlas/encyclopaedia, where do you look?
  • has your district licensed a product that you use regularly for this purpose?  If so, what is it and would you recommend it for others?
  • in today’s world with changing political situations, who do you trust for the latest, non-biased results?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to the end of the week/start of the weekend.  I hope that it’s been a good one for you.  In case you missed them, here’s a nice selection of offerings from the keyboards of Ontario Edubloggers.  Enjoy them.  I know that I did.


#MyWorkflow: Brian Harrison

The Wordflow series from Royan Lee continues with the latest interview with principal Brian Harrison.

I find it fascinating to see inside the minds and work habits of people I regularly follow on Twitter.   Brian is no different.  I had to smile at his answer to this question.

I’ve been in his backyard and can really understand why he likes working there!  Click through and read his answers to Royan’s questions.


This Year’s Model

So, let’s check out Brian’s latest post.

No self-respecting principal in the province should be going without thinking about the announcement from the Ministry of Education about the $60M to support mathematics education and how it might impact their school.  There’s been so much written about it recently illustrating that the public and education are all over the map philosophically.  I know that there’s an element that would like to spend the money to support old school teaching.  That would buy a great deal of thumbscrews.  Brian offers a more considered approach and, as you see below, offers up some examples of people doing the job right now.

Any takers?  I wonder…


How Will I Use My Wild and Precious Life?

I think everyone would be wise to stop what you’re doing and read this post from Sue Dunlop and then just reflect on yourself and your own life.

You may come out of the session with a slightly different focus on things about what truly is important.  In life, and in education in particular, there are so many distractions – including infringement on your time and efforts – that it might just be time to sit back and refocus.


Thinking About the Term Reflective Practitioner

Eva Thompson does a great job with that sort of thinking, not in her personal life, but in her professional life.

I like her thinking and I think that there’s a great deal of philosophy that is consistent with mine when it comes to going online with blogging.

Throughout my career, I was always posting my current thoughts.  The format has changed from the annotations at the bottom of lesson plans, to sharing with CIESCs in a FirstClass conference, to online forums, to Twitter, to this blog…

I didn’t use to be this way.  I used to keep things bottled up, confident in the knowledge that I could recall it at a moment’s notice.  It was all about me.  I think we all know how that approach works.  For me, once I realized that didn’t work, writing things has always been a release.  I can put my thoughts to words – in whatever format – and then stop worrying about remembering it.  Now, I know that I can always go back and find it.

I’ve been doing this for most of my career, but revisiting what it’s like to be a student, maybe I had that extra patience for the push back? Maybe I had more encouraging words for that reluctant student? When I’m too distracted making sure I get all MY “t’s crossed and i’s dotted” I may overlook the fact that I’m also a teacher, not just a technology consuming droid.

I think she’s got her priorities in order.


Now’s the time to be a heroin addict

On the heels of Eva’s thoughts, turn to Debbie Donsky’s latest.  What a great reminder through her story to get all of our priorities in order.

Celebrate what you have built. Celebrate your legacy of love and success and courage and resilience. Celebrate all that you are and all the people who you have affected.


3. A Kids’ Guide to Canada – DETAILS

I love it when people think out loud.  @beachcat11 (she keeps her real name out of media so I will respect that) lays out her thinking for an ideal project for students.  This is part 3 of a 3 part series – you can read a “part 4” too!  It also wouldn’t hurt if you go back and read parts 1 and 2.

To honour student voice, an initial pilot project in the fall of 2016 will see elementary students from every elementary grade and every part of Canada participating in each step of the project design and field-testing process.

Then, beginning in January 2017, school-aged children from JK-Gr 8 will create digital artifacts to celebrate and introduce their home communities to their peers right across the country, and then post these on a national interactive map.

The link above points to the third part which lays out a timeline, activities and contact information.


MDM4U Creating dice game simulations

Who says that Mathematics can’t be fun?  This link is to Brandon Grasley’s MDM class but I caught it and spent some time doing the activity myself.  It was a hoot.  I’ve never taught this class but did similar problems with my Computer Science classes.

It was fun just to muck about with a Google Spreadsheet and also in Small Basic.

But, kids today have it so easy.  Whatever happened to int(rnd(1)*6)+1?


Are Your Students Problem Solvers and Innovators?

This just in…

I’m assembling this post on Thursday morning and Aviva Dunsiger sends a link to her latest blog post.

In-house professional learning happened for her at her school.

As with many of Aviva’s posts, there are questions as well as answers.

She concludes with a great thought that I think all educational leaders need to be concerned with the next time the latest and greatest initiative comes along.

If developing these skills matter, then we likely need to “let something go.” What might you let go? What might you add? What benefits do you see this having for kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

So often, this is overlooked and more, “better” ideas are thrust upon teachers.  In football, it’s called “piling on” and there is a substantial penalty for doing it.


There are lots of calls to action in this post.  Do some thinking, some Mathematics, and be proud to be a Canadian.

Oh, and reply to all of these posts.  They are reply-worthy.

And, when you reply to Aviva, ask her a question!

Interactive Word Walls


Kudos to Joe Sisco for sharing this resource from the Tools2Go Windsor Essex Catholic DSB wiki.

If you know how to use Google Drawings (Extension) or web. you’ll dive in immediately after poking around in this shared Google Drive folder.  If you don’t, it’s only a very short learning curve before you’re up to speed.

As soon as you start to poke around, you realize that there’s a little something there for everyone.  It’s not labelled “READ ME FIRST”, but it probably should have been.  Open “How to Use Folder” and take a look through to see how to use things and some helpful suggestions.  The most important first steps is to make a copy of the resource in your own Google Drive.  The originals are Read Only and you’ll want to make changes for sure.

Or, perhaps even create your own.

Here’s a screen capture of a document in the Mathematics folder titled Number Systems.  What you don’t see in this capture are some suggestions and ideas for how to use and modify the various documents.

And, most certainly, the interesting part of any readme document is the inclusion of the word “Posterize”.

The whole resource is a nice starter package for just about any classroom.  Of course, once you get the knack of things…

A good resource like this gets great when the community gets involved and starts to share.  You can see the focus on Mathematics and Science now but the project is just begging for other subject areas and French versions.  How about in the school Resource Centre?  Faculty of Education?

The open-endedness of something like this is quite obvious.  It doesn’t all have to be teacher generated in your class.  I can think of all kinds of formative and summative ways to get students involved.

Take a look around and see if there isn’t a fit for your classroom.

Extensions I have to have


I’ll admit that I freaked out a bit last week with a flurry of stories about how we should be concerned about the Addons that we install in Firefox.

Popular Firefox Add-Ons Vulnerable to Cross-Extension Exploit

There were lots of stories about the report and some content from Mozilla about their plans for the future with Project Tofino.  It was a little disconcerting to me because I’m a big fan and long-time user of Firefox.  I find that it works nicely in a 4GB computer unlike some of the other browsers that are constantly in search of more memory and, finding none, use the hard drive instead.  Of course, we know what that means in terms of browsing performance.  I’m also a big fan of Add-ons or extensions to give my browser more functionality.  It’s quite a task since I typically have four or five browsers installed on the computer and I want the same tools available to all.

Probably, it was Add-ons that drove me to use Firefox in the first place.  Sure, you can use other installed programs on your computer but there’s something so great about having everything that you need right there in your browser.  The Add-ons in the report did make me pause for a second.  I only have one of the “top 10” installed but perhaps the ones that I use didn’t make the list and yet still have the problem?

I’ve also seen a lot of “Chicken Little” messages in the past so that affected some of my thinking too.  But, I will also confess to being an Add-on hoarder and only do a bit of house cleaning when I’m bored or just wonder why there’s no room left in the URL window for the website I’m visiting!

The other thing that got me thinking about this was the interview that I did for Royan last week where he talked about Workflow.  Since so much that I do these days is in a browser, that is where my workflow is, I guess.  Call me lazy – I prefer to think of myself as productive – I like it all at my fingertips.  In my readings about this, I found a great piece of advice – think through what Add-ons that you absolutely have to have to minimize your risk.

I’m also poking around with the new Vivaldi browser and a new browser is also an opportunity to start over.  I’m using that bit of advice to avoid Extension bloat.  (Well, at least for a little while)

As a result, here are the Add-ons that I have to have.

ScribeFire is my blogging tool.  I’d be lost without it.
   Shareaholic is a great curating tool.  Instead of having a tool for every service, they’re all here
  LastPass is the password manager that I use to keep track of things.  The best part isn’t necessarily using it to remember passwords – it’s to generate really long involved passwords for use in the first place.
  Google Keep – note to self.  How often am I just tooling around and need to make a note?  The nice thing is that I might actually be on my phone when I get the need.  Keep does the job.  I guess, technically, it’s an app and not an extension.  Regardless, I find it invaluable.
  Ghostery – it only takes a few minutes after you install Ghostery and are curious about the purple message box to realize that you’re not alone when on the web.  Ghostery helps private things private.
  Grammarly is my way to try and ensure that this blog is readable.  I know that my editorial team may say otherwise, but I do try.
  Diigo is my little curated corner of the web.  I’ve mentioned before that I use it as my personal search engine – my logic being that if I found it and bookmarked it, I’ve already found it useful.  Why start with a fresh start every time?
 Selection_715
Feedly is my current RSS reader.  I still think that RSS is done with magic.
 Selection_716 OneTab – in addition to collecting Add-ons and extensions, I collect tabs.  This cleans things up nicely!
 2016-04-18_1920
uBlock Origin – When you have a really slow internet connection, anything you can do to speed it up is good.  Blocking advertisements does it for me.
 2016-04-18_1419
Web Of Trust – One final and very valuable Extension – Red, Yellow, Green lights advise on the safety of the website being visited.

I’m kind of pleased that I’m able to keep the list this small.  I often read the top 10 lists of “must have” Add-ons or extensions and some look interesting but I’m not sure that I’d use them regularly so it begs the question “Why install them at all?”

Anyway, this is what I’m running in this instance of Vivaldi.  Comments?  Have I missed a better one?  Do you question my choices?  I’d be interested in your thoughts.  Leave a comment.