This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I’m happy to share the latest round of writing from Ontario Educators that has crossed my path. Please show them some digital love and visit their posts.


Searching for an idea – whose stories need to be told

I like how Paul uses his blog to reinvent himself periodically and shares what he’s thinking and doing. This post is kind of a rambling one where he touches upon a number of things. I had to smile when he mentions the mysteries of APA style. I’m with you, brother.

There was a spot towards the end of the post that really resonated with me. He says

Is there a way I could study a different education system outside of the Canadian context?

That took me on a trip back to my university days. In high school, we had a number of recruitment visits from universities trying to convince us to attend their institution. The consistent message wasn’t about academics but about the “get away from your hometown and be on your own” experience. Fast forward to first year university with the large classes that I recognize now fund so much.They drop off in size in subsequent years for a number of reasons, including marks!

I tried to do the experience – the campus pub, the Joker’s on Thursday night, visiting my girlfriend who ultimately became my wife, visiting Laurel Creek, doing the malls, etc. The part of Paul’s post that I think was interesting hearkens back to a conversation I had with a classmate. She was there from India and we were talking about education and she let me know how important it was for her and her family that she did well and so she did everything but the social aspect of university. Her father was an Engineering Professor back home and there was intense pressure on her. I remember being impressed with the difference; I suppose that we could call my take on things as “privilege” by today’s metrics.

So, if Paul does decide to investigate different education systems, I think it would be fascinating. Or a research project about the importance of Canadian schools to foreign students, or …


Towards an Emergent PD – Professional Development in the Time of COVID

Alexandra talks about something that I think many people know but aren’t all that vocal about.

COVID has exacerbated educational inequities while drawing attention to the urgency of systemic change. But constant shifts have caused many to erect protective walls which are impermeable to (more) waves of change.

In so many ways, we’re realizing that things are broken as we try to return to a normal but it isn’t possible. I commend her for being so open about it.

In terms of professional development or what I prefer to call professional learning, what will it look like if things ever start to open up? And, maybe that’s the term to use instead of “return to normal” because it just isn’t going to happen any time soon, if ever.

A system that prides itself on teaching is going to have to become a learner from the experience. Teachers have so many things mandated and a new one came onto the scene just this week. That will be another check box in the personnel file.

But, what does it look like for the educator who truly wants to grow and learn? I really like how she closes her post with a cheat sheet but can’t help but think that smart people like Alexandra’s time has come to step up and be vocal about the changes that are necessary to fix what’s broken.

I know that I’m always eager to learn but I’m not in a hurry to ever go back to the big conference format.


Bespoke Beats

You could easily get away from Terry’s latest project by saying that it’s cool that his students have used technology to create digital music. The idea is to have something playing in the background while you’re working or studying. I think that, for most of us, it keeps our minds from wandering.

I’m listening to a Meat Loaf concert on another monitor as I write this.

In the post, Terry describes the why and the how and shares with us a Soundcloud playlist of the creations so far. The ultimate goal is to add video to it and Terry shares an idea of what it might look like.

He’s not going it alone; he’s reached out to a colleague at Seneca for assistance and the final product will be released as an Open Educational Resource.


STUDENT-CREATED PODCASTS MADE EASY WITH SCREENCASTIFY

I really like the concept of student-created podcasts. Actually, student-created anything. Over the past while, we’ve seen the biggest misuse of technology, out of necessity, as a conference window to school and classmates. It’s nice to see people advocating student creation of things. Love it, love it, love it.

But, Screencastify?

For me, the go-to application always was Audacity although I know that much of the Macintosh world favours Garageband. Whatever turns your crank.

But, the ladies expanded my mindset with their recommendation of Screencastify. I had a preconceived notion of what I would and have used it for. But, for Podcasting? When you think of it, it does make sense. Podcasting isn’t terribly difficult when you have the tools.

The post is a great tutorial for working through things but culminates in what else you can do with Screencastify which makes the process of learning it so important.

Their summary:

Steps For Student-Created Podcasts With Screencastify

  • Recording Student-Created Podcasts
  • Editing Student-Created Podcasts
  • Downloading Student-Created Podcasts
  • Sharing Student-Created Podcasts

ONE WORD: “responsive”

Three years ago, if I ran into Chey and Pav on the street, I wouldn’t have had any idea of who they were. These days, I think I might – Chey is the one with the beard, right? They definitely know how to work social media; I see them everywhere being honest and open.

In this post, they took on the notion of a “One Word” for 2022. It’s “Responsive”. By itself, it might seem OK but there are a couple of other things that make it stand out in this post.

First of all, unlike everyone else, this isn’t one word for one person. It’s one word for the two of them. It seems to me that that approach requires a great deal of thinking and discussion along with agreement. That part is impressive.

What’s more impressive is that they take a look back at the two words from previous years. Even for this guy who has never met either of them, I can definitely see the growth in what they are and what I think they want to be. It started with kind of a generic approach to something very specific that they have in mind. Now, that’s impressive to me.

  • Responsive to each Other and Our Work
  • Responsive to other Teachers and Educators
  • Responsive to the Students and their Needs
  • Responsive to Quality Learning
  • Responsive to our Expanding Level of Influence and Impact

SEVEN MOTIVATIONAL QUOTES FOR LANGUAGE LEARNERS

Writing on the TESLOntario Blog, Gonul shares some very inspirational things to think about. I think I’d heard some of them before but not all. I really like this one:

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” By Confucius

I’ve always felt that as an inspiration to keep doing things. Some days, quite frankly, I don’t feel like doing much but I still find time to do things for myself and spend at least a little time reading and hopefully learning.

She asks for what you favourite quote might be and this one is one of my favourites.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” by Oscar Wilde


Slice of Life: Losing a Friend (Warning- loss of a pet)

I close on a sad note. Elizabeth and her family lost a member recently and she shares a reflection and some beautiful pictures on her blog. It was the first major loss for her daughters so it would be especially tough.

Her thoughts share wonderful memories of a family member who was always there and still had those little quirks that all of our pets do. It was a sad post to read.

My sympathies go out to the Lyons family.


Please click through and read all of these wonderful post.

And, follow them on Twitter

  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Alexandra Woods – @XanWoods
  • Terry Greene – @greeneterry
  • Edugals – @EduGals
  • Chey and Pav – @StaffPodcast
  • Gonul Turkdogan – @turkdogan_gonul 
  • Elizabeth Lyons – @mrslyonslibrary

This week’s This Week in Ontario Edublogs can be found here.

https://voiced.ca/podcast_episode_post/emergent-stories-professional-learning-and-practice/

Another search option


Like most everyone, when I started using the internet, I’d go to Altavista or Excite to do my web searching. As browsers became sophisticated, they had search engines built in them and you could search right from the address bar.

Now, as we know, we can change that default search engine. I’ve bounced around from DuckDuckGo, Google, and StartPage. Other than the bank of resources that they index, they all basically presents results the same way – via a top 10 or so page and then the option to click for more results.

It can be frustrating to search at times because you’d like to think that the first result is the best, followed by the second best, third best, etc. We know now that results don’t always come that way (although a lot of students still think they do).

We know that you can get better results with better search terms, learning the tools of the search engine or to look for the Advanced section and do your searching there.

Carrot Search is different. It’s called a clustering search and is quite interesting to use. It’s not fast with immediate results like others because it does more than others.

Suppose I wanted to search for “COVID”, I’d get predictable results from a regular search engine. But, searching in Carrot returns a much more comprehensive set of results.

There is even a tab that will let you switch to a PubMed set of results pulled from medical articles.

Looking at the results, you’ll quickly notice that they’re clustered by similarity and the cluster itself is a hot link that displays results in the right panel of the screen. More details are available in the documentation.

Carrot is available on GitHub and a second web implementation can be found here.

I poked around with both and did not see any advertising or distractions but sure did get a whole bunch of clustered results. I’m not sure that this will be my default search engine but I’ve bookmarked it for those times when I want to go deeper or perhaps I don’t know the entire context of what I’m searching for and want some help.

It’s been a while since I saw something new and different in search and this most certainly was.

They can do it too


A web application that’s having its moment in the spotlight right now is Wordle.

The concept is pretty simple. You have to guess a five letter word and you have up to six guesses. If you guess a letter in the correct spot, the spot where the letter is turns green; if you guess a letter but it’s not in the correct spot; the spot where the letter is turns yellow.

The coloured spots are used as clues to zero in on the correct answer. You get one such puzzle a day. It’s as simple as that. There’s no log in to get there and you’re not playing against anyone else – unless you want to. There is an option to share your results on social media, email, etc.

Today was a good day for me as I solved it in three turns. This isn’t the norm, believe me.

Wordle 212 3/6

⬛⬛🟩🟨⬛
⬛🟨🟩⬛🟩
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

You can play the game yourself by clicking here. A complete explanation of the game and information about the designer can be found here.

Now, you’ve just got to know that I hang around with a pretty nerdy group of educators online and there has been discussion like you wouldn’t believe (or maybe you would) about strategies, reverse engineering, tips for winning, and even offers of open source dictionaries if you wanted to write your own.

As I got involved with the discussion, it reminded me that I had given a problem similar to this as a programming assignment years ago. It wasn’t the same; more like a combination of Wheel of Fortune, Lingo, or Mastermind.

At the time, we hadn’t worked with arrays which seems like an interesting approach but we had worked with strings and had mastered all kinds of things with them like coding/decoding messages, etc. Moving on to this type of game was a natural and motivating for the students. They enjoyed writing games and playing each other’s implementation of them. The key was just to not remind them that such programming was good for them.

So, a typical game might play like:

Solve this

********

Guess an “O”

*o*****

Guess an “E”

*o***e*e

You get the concept. Different students would have different interfaces and that just made it more fun. We didn’t so anything as sophisticated as check to see if a word was in the dictionary because, quite frankly, I didn’t think of it at the time. Now that I know where to get one, I’d up the ante for sure.

Wordle as we’re playing it on the web right now has inspired programmers to write their own application to play the game and that’s kind of cool. Computer Science teachers are borrowing great ideas all the time.

This certainly would be one to borrow today. Maybe even create a TikTok video to advertise afterwards?

Back to the original game and thinking about the others like Wheel of Fortune, you know that there are strategies for solution. Of course, my students would work on strategies as well. They’re nothing but competitive. Like you’d never use an X or something. Great clues come from vowels. I’m sure that there is some sort of psychological explanation. I know that when I play Wordle, I’ll start with AUDIO or ADIEU which often gets me off to a great start.

What about you? Alfred Thompson had written a couple of thoughts on the topic.

Do you have a story about your personal use of Wordle or maybe how you would use it in the classroom? I’m sure it would be a great story to share for others to learn from.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


And, …, it’s time for another wander around the province looking at some of the great writing from Ontario Edubloggers.


Juris My Diction Crap

If you’re a parent, this post will tear your heart apart. We want all the best for our kids and certainly, during COVID times that means that vaccinations and boosters are in order. While there are nay-sayers who don’t want part of it, this is a story about a mother who wants the best for her 17-year-old. Marie shares her research and analysis of guiding documents in the post.

In addition to the story of her running into walls, there’s a strong message there that Ontario is making up rules as time passes. We’re now hearing of the importance of vaccinations and boosters for kids from 5-11 and the need for those over 18. Doing the math, we have high school students. They tend to travel in flocks and, around here, are unmasked when they’re on the streets. She’s even willing to go state-side to do it but we have rules about travel there as well.

There was a bit of a smile in here for me as she uses the word “eviscerated” in the post. I think that’s the first time I’ve read that word in a blog post and it’s a reminder that we’re a big province. Click through and ready what the problem was.


Slice of (Pandemic) Life

Lisa shares a story of perhaps a kinder and gentler Ontario. A year ago, you wouldn’t dream of picking up and visiting Grandpa’s house but now with a few tests, there’s a confidence that you’re not taking anything other than goodies with you.

I’m glad that she was able to make that happen. I smiled when she mentioned the debate about whether or not to take her laptop although I suspect that a smartphone would have done in a pitch.

It was to keep her connected to the latest news about COVID, back to school, and all those things that change people’s lives in a heartbeat. Along the way, she reflects that it’s also made her a good online teacher and that’s a good thing in itself. It’s probably nothing that many had aspirations for but were forced into it.

We live in such a different world; I grew up in a town with a weekly newspaper and everything that you need to know came out every Thursday. That wouldn’t cut it today. I’d be so behind the times.


5 Things I Learned in 2021

I’m with Matthew’s analysis of time passing. Is it fast or slow? That’s really a good question. But, 2021 did pass and he uses this post to share five things he learned.

  • Don’t Try To Do Too Much
  • Stay Consistent
  • The Kids Are Resilient
  • Your Mental Health Over Everything 
  • Teachers and Students Are People Too

On This Week in Ontario Edublogs, Stephen and I each cherry-picked one of the points to discuss. Stephen went with the third one and I opted for number five. In particular, parents and guardians are seeing more of the inside of a classroom and the mechanics involved while their child is at the kitchen table. Schools aren’t really a black box.


OneWord 2022

Marc takes a bit of a break from his top 500 music countdown to celebrate the new year with his “One Word”. In the past, he’s gone with Revitalize, Mindfulness, Cultivate, Persist, Discomfort & Ameliorate. This year’s choice is a well-thought-through single word.

He could have stopped the post there and we’d all be happy but he didn’t.

He takes the notion of the “One Word” into the classroom and makes it an activity for his students. In a generous manner, he shares the lesson and suggests tools that would end up with the students making a banner for their word.

It’s not a quick and simple activity. There’s a lot of richness there that really would make it worthwhile to replicate.


Here we go again…

Writing on the ETFO Heart and Art Blog, Kelly is reliving teaching from a year ago. It would be easy to dwell on the challenges because there is so much of that.

There’s some good reading there in an external link to a McLean’s article that talks about the challenges that students have while online.

Kelly uses the bottom of the post to talk about some of the successes that she’s had. I think that it’s pretty important to recognize this. Even in these less than ideal times, the kids are thriving and some are doing some things that they might not have otherwise. Did someone mention resiliency?

All of these are good observations but the one that lept out at me was:

Two of my students who rarely complete tasks in the classroom completed many tasks this week

We now know that school is planned to resume on Monday. It’s got to be running through Kelly’s mind that there has to be a reason why those students changed things around and are doing well. I hope that she can identify it and encourage them to continue this success.


Books For Middle School Students

I have this middle school-aged student who hangs out around here periodically. He’s not a reader in the traditional sense. He can sure read the instructions on his tablet when playing games but that’s not the same thing.

I’m going to pass Kristy’s list along to him and see if there’s something there that will get him interested in book reading.


Day in life of a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) – submitted by Leila Knetsch

Leila has her students researching careers and jobs in Biology. Before I clicked through the links at the bottom of the post, I was wondering what I would search for if I was a student in that class.

My ideas were pretty traditional! I was thinking of beakers, microscopes, test tubes, etc. One of the students in her class researched and submitted a couple that really are well done and made me feel kind of narrow-minded.


I hope that you can click through and enjoy all of these great blog posts.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Marie Snyder – @MarieSnyder27
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261
  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Marc Hodgkinson – @Mr_H_Teacher
  • Kristy – @2peasandadog
  • Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario / L’Association des professeurs de science de l’Ontario – @staoapso

The Wednesday voicEd Radio show can be found here.

https://voiced.ca/podcast_episode_post/jurisdiction-online-learning-and-a-oneword-2022/

3D images


Yesterday’s playing around with snowflakes got me off on a bit of a tangent about visualizations. I remember my son was infatuated with Magic Eye visualizations which, of course, resulted in easy birthday or Christmas gifts. Just a quick trip into a bookstore and part of the shopping was done.

An interesting history can be read here.

But, of course, we’re connected to the internet these days and nothing goes away. Magic Eye has a website with a copyright notice of 2018 available here.

You can enjoy a collection of images at the site and I spent way too much time on the page where a number of businesses had developed these for promotional images. A search indicates that there are all kind of collections of these fascinating 3D images.

But, how do you make them? There’s a lot of science behind the design but then I found a way to create them myself at “Easy Stereogram Builder“. Within seconds, I was working my way through three steps and downloading my own.

There is a technique to viewing the image inside an image but once you get the knack, it’s easy.

Take your finger for example. Bring it close to your eyes. The idea is to make your eyes look behind the finger and, instead of one finger, you will want to see 2 fingers. 

There’s probably a whole lot of science behind it.

The website allows you to upload your own images (be careful with what you share) or even to embed your own messages.

There’s all kinds of ideas about actually how to use it bouncing around in my mind. I’m sure that you’ve got some of your own.