Mapping images

One of my favourite activities when doing a Hyperstudio workshop was to do a virtual tour of the school. 

From the Plant Department, I got 8.5 x 11″ floor maps of every school.  The workshop entailed a great deal of computer activities.  First, you’d have to work the scanner to scan the floor map which we would import into Hyperstudio as the background.  Then, using the appropriate tools, we would identify each classroom and effectively made each classroom area a clickable hot spot.  When you click on the hot spot, we could link a picture, a written description, a video, or an audio file related to the classroom or location within the school. We could cover the concepts in a two hour workshop.  Completion came in the form of students creating the content and then linking it all together.  It was a hit for open houses, interview nights, web sites, wikis, etc.

So, it was like deja vu all over again when I ran into Photogrammar this morning.

It was the same concept on overload! Whereas we might have been lucky to pull together 20 or so images, Photogrammar does it with just a few more!

Photogrammar is a web-based platform for organizing, searching, and visualizing the 170,000 photographs from 1935 to 1945 created by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OWI).

A partnership between Yale and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the background for the source of the images and the goal is fascinating reading.

And, knowing me, you know that had me hooked at “interactive map” which can be displayed in a couple of formats.

By county

By dots

While I thought both representations were interesting to explore, I’ll admit to being intrigued by the Dot format.  I’m pretty sure that I can make out major expressways by the dots.

Regardless, each of the areas are hot spots that link to an image from the database.

Here’s part of one from Royal Oak, Michigan.

Notice the tagging and the descriptions.

All of the images are from the United States, obviously the scope for the project.  Still, it made for a fascinating bit of exploration.

Now, this is a huge project, to be sure.  But it still scales nicely to a classroom, school, or even school district project.  Imagine taking pictures around the school or a superintendent taking pictures as she/he does school visits over a school year.  Pieced together, it would make a fascinating story telling piece.  Hyperstudio is still available for purchase for the project.  Of course, that’s not the only option.  Thinglink takes the concept to the web with various choices ranging from free to district licensing.

Rather than scrambling at the end of the year for some sort of storytelling thing, adding an image here and there throughout the school year would result in a pretty impressive piece of work.

More than fixing the egg

Last week, George Couros and I got an interesting request from Donna Fry.

Apparently, this is part of an activity that’s happening with an online course that she’s teaching about using Twitter.

For anyone monitoring her account, it should come as a reminder that, if you’re going to make the most from a Twitter account, you need to be interesting to others who might decide to include you in their collection of online learners, sometimes called a Personal Learning Network (PLN).

When you join Twitter, you’re given a set of defaults, one of which is a profile picture that looks like an egg.  There is lots of advice about “changing the egg” to a picture of yourself.  That really personalizes the account and has the added advantage of making you recognizable when you run into someone at a conference or a coffee shop.  I still remember meeting @safinahirji for the first time at an ECOO Conference.  Not only did she look exactly like her Twitter profile picture, it looks like she had just taken the picture 10 seconds ago!  Often, people will temporarily change their profile picture to support a particular cause but eventually those who are serious about the online connections will change it back.

But, if the goal is making meaningful connections, it has to go beyond a glamour shot.  You also have the opportunity to write a brief descriptor of yourself, your interests, your goals, your organization, etc.  I know that when I get a new follower, the challenge is always “do I follow you back” or “do I add you to a list”?  This is important to me since I now have three lists of Ontario Educators.  I need to know two things immediately – that you’re involved in education and that you’re from Ontario.  Make that immediately obvious and you’re on the list.

Since it was a Friday when I read the request from Donna, I had my focus turned to Ontario Educators.  So, who did I recommend?  I flipped to Hootsuite and took a look at recent messages and suggested @Dunlop_Sue,, @msjweir, @gpearsonEDU, @misssgtpickles, @ReneeVil, @HandsOnilm, and @dianahalezoux.  If you check these accounts (and they’re good to follow), you’ll see the information that you need quickly and there’s no doubt they’re educators, they’re from Ontario, and they’re more than just educators – they’re just plain interesting.  That’s a good thing.  It’s also a wonderful source for me to add to my collection of Ontario Edubloggers.

The same logic would apply if it’s an organization rather than a person.  Check out AutismONT, ONTSpecialNeeds, or westernulibsEDU.

The concept is fairly simple.  People don’t have all day wondering whether or not you’re worth connecting with.  You can help the cause immediately with an informative and interesting profile.  Other things that come into consideration is how often you send Twitter messages yourself and how many other people have found you interesting enough to follow.

Donna used some of my recommendations here.

It’s one of those things that shouldn’t be one and done.  Have you added a new blog?  Did you create an AboutMe page?  Would others like to know where your wiki is?  This is the perfect place to let the world know.

Have you checked your profile recently?  Is it telling the world all that it could?

TDSB Computer Science Resource

Ontario is a big province.

From the Ministry of Education, teachers are provided curriculum documents that outline the expectations that are the foundation for the content of the course or grade.  There may be district or school writing teams to boil that down and make it close to practical and workable.  But, ultimately, what happens in the classroom is based on the professional judgement of the teacher.

In the area of Computer Studies, it can be an extra challenge as programming languages, equipment, relationships with local college/university, teacher background and experience, etc. means that there can be a wide variety of implementations all addressing the same things.

I know that, in my Computer Studies teachable course, students wanted to know “the answer”!  I could sense a level of frustration when I couldn’t give it to them and think fondly of the practice lessons where one week we’d be looking at Scratch, the next week Java, the next week C#, etc.

Consequently, many Computer Studies teachers are constantly searching and bookmarking great resources for their use.  One that needs to definitely be added to the list comes from the Toronto District School Board.  It’s simply called CS eResource.

The concepts and glossary are well presented and then you dig into any of the five courses offered in the Computer Studies curriculum document.

Within each subject area, topics are broken down nicely into reading / researchable chunks.  As an example, here is the 3U section on repetition.

Each of the clicks takes you to roughly a single screen of resource.  What’s nice is that the examples are shown using pseudocode, video, or graphic.  The presentation honours the fact that there will be various languages used in the course and so the language syntax stays out of the way.  There are language specific examples but you have to intentionally go looking for them.  They’re located at the bottom of the page along with links to additional resources, check your understanding, etc.

Computer Science teachers will spend considerable time working their way through this resources and both new and experienced teachers will find new ways to enhance their lessons.  There is the mandatory warning that the site is under continual review and that’s a good thing!

Beyond the excellence of this resource, I think that it should be held as a model to all school districts in the province.  Every teacher is using the same curriculum documents; why aren’t all districts developing and sharing resources like this openly and publicly on the web.  This was developed as a Google Site – anyone can create their own site and start developing immediately.  It’s only when we’re all rowing the same direction that wonderful things can happen and we build on the collective experiences of each other.  Kudos to the team behind this resource.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s yet another Friday and a chance for me to share some of the excellent thinking from Ontario Edubloggers.  Please read on and show some online affection by clicking through to read the entire posts.

Why we Protest…Class of 42 students (My Story)

In every round of collective bargaining, the members have a chance to speak and offer suggestions for improvements to a collective agreement.  Of course, what hits the main stream media is the demand for more money if it’s included in the list.  In my time working on the Collective Bargaining Committee, I had the opportunity to take a look at what members would suggest as things to bargain for.  I do remember one person who always submitted humorous suggestions and found out later it was done to see if anyone actually read the ideas.  Well, yeah, we did read each and every one.  What remains stuck in my mind is that very seldom did the requests focus only on compensation.  By and large, the suggestions were about improved working conditions.

The current two layer set of negotiations makes things different but that shouldn’t stop the desire to improve things in schools.

In this post, Zoe Branigan-Pipe tells a story of having a class of 42.  That sounds like a double class and I can empathise, having had a Grade 9 math class with 35 students in a room that comfortably sat 24.  It’s the educational version of sticker shock.

Please read and share Zoe’s story.

Data in the classroom

Jamie Weir’s post should be required reading for those who write the Fraser Report that generate those School Report Cards that allow parents, students, and sadly uninformed newspaper reporters to compare schools.  There’s no consideration in those cards for the fact that the carbon units within each are human with various needs.  Somehow, they can all represented by a number.

It’s a great read.  Find out how she views each of her students as more than a number.

Switching Gears

This is a nice post by Eva Thompson who I think has indeed made a concerted effort to shift gears and, I suspect, will be far better off afterwards.

I can actually put faces to the type of person that she describes here.  I will always remember my father’s advice “you do well when you make others look better”.  It’s unfortunate that there are some that fit Eva’s description and have succeeded in elevating themselves (at least in their own minds) within their own organization.  Behind them are trampled individuals, others with knives in their backs, and they truly are looked at with suspicion by sensible people when they visit schools.  As a new teacher, I got good advice – they’re just climbers – nod and smile and they’ll go away because there are others that they need to suck up to.

The true leaders are those who know their own abilities and shortcomings and work to address them and, along the way, work with others to share their learnings.  Those are the people to which you need to align yourself.  It sounds like Eva’s approach to her students will be terrific.

Just another quote and I wish I knew where this came from but it’s stuck too.  “An expert is someone who knows more and more about everything until they know nothing about anything”.

Syria Crisis

This is one of those posts that make me proud to say I know Colleen Rose.  How many teachers would use their own personal blogging platform to celebrate the words and thinking of their students?

There’s not more that I want to say about this – read Colleen’s words and visit the blog to celebrate the student thoughts.

3 Things my Blog Titles Need to be Better

I know that Ontario is a big province but I never fail to be humbled by the smallish community of bloggers and connectors that we have here.  Recently, I had gone on a tangent about blog titles wondering if I could do better.  Sue Dunlop did a far better job in analysing her own work and offers her own ideas.

In this post, the title which got an A+ by the way, Sue explains her thinking.

It’s hard to argue with any of those points.

I was mindful of this while doing my morning reading.  I love the randomness that Flipboard provides for sources all over the digital world.  I certainly skip over way more stories than I actually take the time to read.  The ones that I do read absolutely fall into the guidelines that Sue describes.  To that end, I think she’s nailed it and that is what drove my reading.  Stepping back, I just wondered – how many absolutely wonderful resources did I miss because of a lousy title?

There’s also another side.  There are awesome bloggers that I know are always good for a thoughtful post.  They could type the alphabet in the title box and I’d still read it because I know and appreciate their abilities.

As an aside, I see that this topic was great for a conversation among some Hamilton-Wentworth educators last night on Twitter.  Sadly, I had gone to bed but I did catch it this morning.

When the Pupil is Ready, The Master Will Appear

I wish I could recall when I first heard this but I can’t.  Tim King shares his own thoughts about 8:35-2:34 education and the allotment of students and teachers to time slots.

The option to be formally uneducated isn’t available in Ontario nowadays, we’ve institutionalized education into a mandatory process. This regimented system reduces student readiness to engagement and throws the concept of patiently waiting for student readiness out the window. That patience suggests a process where student learning is the main focus. Have we lost the freedom to patiently wait for student readiness to the systemic efficiencies of regimented grading?

Maybe we should take this as a challenge.  Can this philosophy fit into Ontario’s “institutionalized education”?  If so, how?

Responsibilities of the Primary Teacher in Ontario

Maybe Tim and Muriel Corbierre should get together and see if there’s a common ground.  In her ABQ course on Primary Education …

In the balance of the post, she elaborates on Planning, Teaching, Curriculum, Assessment, Classroom Environment, Management/Discipline, Professionalism, and Leadership in the Community.

Does the concept of readiness fit?

Where?  How?

Is it different in the primary grades versus secondary school?

Wow, what a wonderful collection of recent thoughts from Ontario Edubloggers.  I hope that you can find a few minutes to click through and read the complete thoughts on these blog posts.

The best Word Online add-ins

How many times have you heard that Microsoft Word is the best word processor on the market?  It can do everything.  Well, almost everything.  Sometimes a little help may be necessary.  Word Online, part of the online Office 365 suite, opens the door to add-ins just like the desktop version does.  The collection of add-ins is considerably smaller than those available for Google Docs but there still are some noteworthy enhancements to your word processing environment.

If you haven’t included these as part of your word processing routine, you should check them out and perhaps make them an integral part.  Sure, you can access them with an open tab and going directly to the source.  But, there’s something so much more productive just having them right in the application.

They’re available through the Microsoft Store which is available right in your browser!  Just select the Insert menu and click on My Add-ins button in the ribbon.

Here’s a list of my picks.

Abbreviation List
Symbols and Characters
Handy Calculator

Check them out and look for the others.  Note that there are some commercial entries in the store as well.

What add-ins do you use to make your online work more productive?

More than ever

I read this article with interest this morning.  “Why Educators Still Matter in the Digital Age“.

It wasn’t until partially through the article that the author talks about the role of the teacher being “more important than ever before”.  I would have made that part of the title, as I have done with this post.  In addition to the points raised in the article, I would add the following.

Determining what is best and appropriate

We’ve all heard the message about digital natives and digital immigrants and the concept has been written off, rightfully, by most.  I still maintain that it was a wakeup call for educators.  Yes, you can “just Google it”, but it takes a professional to understand and guide the student to the most relevant and important uses of information and technology.  Especially online, it’s a confusing world out there.  How does the emergent learner survive without appropriate guidance and support?  That guidance also knows when digital technology is not appropriate for the learning task at hand.


Even in times where the most appropriate choices have been made, anyone is one click away from another tab to check Facebook updates or a task switch to another application that’s more fun or interesting than the task at hand. 

Cutting through the nonsense

There are so many experts that claim to have the right answer.  It can range from the type of software that’s licensed centrally, the videos that describe how to do something, the time that it takes to learn something, the theory of the day, …  It’s only that teacher who has the regular contact to know what’s actually happening with the learning. This piece of technology may work in their labs or as part of the research that they’ve read but does it work with the students in Room ###?


We know that ongoing, immediate, and effective feedback along with appropriate assessment is the best way to ensure student success.  Technology is getting better but the feedback from a self-marking test pales in comparison with that friendly voice in the classroom that says, “Did you consider this?” or “I’d like you to take another try at it”.  Digital technology can be wonderful but it falls short when it comes to assessing a performance that just can’t be assessed with the technology. 

Contact with Mom and Dad

Have you ever wondered what a parent/teacher interview with a piece of technology would look like?  Can digital technology understand the personal issues that might be happening at home or with the child?  Can that technology work on a plan for working with home for improvement?

I like technology as much as the next person.  At this point, it still remains a guest in the classroom used by teachers and students where appropriate.  The options for its use have never been better.  It’s still not at the point where it can go it alone!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Autumn has arrived.  The temperatures are nice but the hours with light are starting to fade.  It’s always a surprise to me how suddenly this happens.  All of a sudden, I’m reading blogs in the dark!  But read I do.  Here is some of what I caught this past week from Ontario Edubloggers.

Concerns with the Cloud for Canadians

I got caught in the middle of a discussion between Lisa Noble and Royan Lee on Twitter.

I actually had forgotten about Lisa’s message and the subsequent pledge by Royan to track it down until he posted to his blog.

There was a time that I thought that I could handle my data and privacy through cookie management, ad blockers, super cookie blockers, flash cookie blockers, and had deluded myself that I’d done the job.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There’s lot of stories to be read this morning about commentary on the MIT Technology Review report.  I still remember a person, who should have known better, talk about the Canadian security for a particular product being stored on a server in Mississauga and how it was better than another which was stored in the US.  “The connection never leaves Canada”.  I did a trace route and showed her…

Yes, as Royan notes, this should be a concern to Canadians.  The solution seems to be elusive.  Even a smart guy like Royan doesn’t have the answer.  Maybe if the US Republicans build that wall along the 49th parallel, the problem will be resolved?

Not Just another Bad Blog

Earlier this week, I had shared a blog post that I’d written for Jisc.  I was tagged in a notification by Anna Bartosik so, of course, I had to check it out.  She was reflecting upon the post that I’d written.  What I hadn’t mentioned in the post was that I was also asked to create a podcast to go along with the post.  Recording that was hilarious on my part.  I started the first few takes in my chair but the stupid chair kept squeaking.  I ended up sitting on the bed and probably the 15th take was good enough to pass along.  If you ever want to challenge yourself, try using Audacity and record yourself reading your own blog post.  It’s not as easy as you’d think and is also a good way to find errors.

But enough about me.

Anna is a relatively new person to my collection of Ontario Educators.  But she brings a certain richness to the conversation.  I find that with a number of the ESL people that I interact with.  Perhaps they have a better understanding of communications than the average person?

I thought that this paragraph from her post speaks volumes to the power of blogging and just getting it out there.

Wouldn’t it be nice if more people felt the same way and just did it.

I did have an interesting moment as I write this…in Anna’s original post, there was a spelling mistake in the title.  When I revisited the post this morning, it had been corrected.  I think that’s important to note about the logistics of blogging.  Get your thoughts down.  If you believe that the message is important, get the message there first.   If you’re using your blog as a true reflection tool, you’ll probably catch any error when you revisit the post.

We did have a nice bit of a followup through a comment to the blog and it allowed her to further expand on how she sees the value of being connected.  It’s great advice.

The Day That I Hid The iPads

Aviva Dunsiger confessed in this blog post about stepping away from play based learning.

Well, OK, she stepped away from play for the sake of play.

There are challenges when you use a consumer technology like iPads in the classroom.  Students who have the same technology at home can have a struggle drawing the line between what they do there and what should be done at school.  Students who don’t have the technology at home can get caught in the big collection of options that are available and need to have the discipline to stay on task.

This all presents the classroom teacher management concerns.  But, it’s not just the iPad – any activity in the classroom can be done to excess.  I know that I’d be tempted to spend all day at a Lego centre.  Aviva’s post is a great reminder that a balanced approach is needed for best results.  If it means putting one of the distractors out of sight and out of mind for a day, focus will shift to the desired tasks.  I don’t see that there should be any concern with her approach.  Play based doesn’t mean free for all.

Writing: Practicing What I Teach

It’s always interesting to see the first thoughts and comments from a new blogger.  Usually, they’re either “I hope this works” or “This is my rationale for blogging”.  New blogger Patt Olivieri takes the latter in the first post to her blog.  She sums up her first post nicely.

She makes a nice comparison between personal journalling and blogging.  I hope that she keeps up with the regular blogging.  Like so many that are hesitant to start, she has a big list of reasons not to blog.  Hopefully, she gets the immediate feedback and satisfaction that lets her know that she made the right decision.

Of course, you can help the cause by dropping by her blog and giving her a comment.

NO, Not Everyone Needs to Code! #edchat

I was quite surprised by the title of this post from Brian Aspinall.  I figured I’d better hop on over and take him down a peg.  I thought I taught him better than that.  As it turns out, the title was click bait and he did eventually get it right.

Andrew Campbell was the voice of reason in the discussion.

I think that it goes so much deeper than that.  If you open your mind and replace the word coding with programming, thing of all that you do that falls into that category.  People need to be the master of their devices and not a servant to them or others.

At present, there are some jurisdictions that have incorporated formal programs to put students in charge.  When will it happen in Ontario?

Empowering English Language Learners with Digital Stories

From the common sense keyboard of Rusul Alrubail comes this blog post about digital storytelling that she had written and posted on another blog.  To get the whole story, click through and read the entire post.  You’ll be glad that she did.

So often, you read posts about digital storytelling and they’re all about the tools used to do that storytelling.

To be honest, times have never been so good for digital storytelling.  It makes you wonder just why anyone can ignore it.

However, as she so often does, Rusul digs deeper and shares her thoughts about critical thinking among other things as they apply to storytelling.  I like the connection to storytelling in advertising, in particular for the ELL student.

I’m an early riser on most days and when I turned on the television this morning, it had been left on a channel that had yet to break into regular programming.  Instead, I was treated to an infomercial about some stupid device that would cure just about anything it seemed.  Having just read Rusul’s post, I thought about someone just learning the language, taking the words at face value, and I got her message so clearly.

I think it’s a good message for anyone who is interested in digital storytelling – how deep does your message go?

When is it safe to share your passion projects?

I thought this post from Diana Maliszewski was going to be a fun little read.  After all, it started with her baking a file into a cake.  Instead, it turned pretty serious.

Through her own storytelling, we get a really good reminder that there are boundaries for everything and we need to be aware.  There are certain things you don’t say in an airport – what else?  Teachers need to know where that line is; students need to know as well.

It’s another week and another wonderful collection of blog posts were ready and waiting for reading.  Please take a moment and click through to read their entire posts.  You’ll be glad that you did.  And, don’t forget to check out the complete collection of Ontario Edubloggers here.