This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Happy Friday, everyone.  It’s been a short week here in Ontario but that didn’t stop some great thinking appearing in the blogs of Ontario Educators.  Here’s some of what I caught this week.


Summiting Kilimanjaro

The Barranco Wall – Don’t Look Down

Why we climb

Asante sana to our guides and porters on Mt.Kilimanjaro

Back from Kilimanjaro

Last week, Paul McGuire’s blog was very quiet.  There were no reports about his assent to Mt Kilimanjaro.  But, he certainly made up for it this week.  Above, you’ll see that he has unloaded on us with stories of his final climb.

Not only that, but there is a beautiful collection of pictures that he’s taken and a video.  I liked the map that showed the path that they took to the top and I’m getting at least a look at the trail on Google Maps.

It’s so impressive.  I would encourage you to read these posts and, if you haven’t already, look at his previous posts to get at least a blog reader perspective of what he and the 28 of them experienced.

We did really well – 28 climbers summited at Stella Point. The general overall success rate is around 65%, so we did much better than the average. I think our success has a great deal to do with the incredible training and leadership of our Canadian guide team – Shawn Dawson, Kristi Johnston and Jason Colley and the amazing support of our families and friends back home.

The climb is over, we are safely home, we have achieved something special.


When Should We Put The Devices Away?

Readers of Aviva Dunsiger’s blog will recognize that self-regulation is a topic in virtually every post these days.

In this post, she collects some of the wisdom of her network to help frame her thoughts about the use of technology and the amount of “screen time” in her classroom.  For the record, I hate that expression.  But I do understand her point.  She identifies what I would call really bad practice in the use of technology.

I’m sure that you can come up with additional ideas.  Things like:

  • discover this new program and tell me how to use it
  • we have 10 minutes left in this period, you may play on the computers
  • go on the Internet and see if you can find something

Silly?  Yes, particularly when you take it out of any classroom context.  But, you don’t find a music teacher who runs 10 minutes short and says “Discovery Learning – learn how to play a new instrument” or a Transportation Technology who says “We’ve changed the oil in the principal’s car and there is 10 minutes left over.  You can take it for a spin”.

We wouldn’t do those dumb examples above so why would we do it with computers?  In many cases, I suspect, the teachers are new to technology in the classroom and just don’t have the wealth of experience and resources.  Bringing in an expert for a one hour workshop on Scratch doesn’t make someone a coding expert.  Aviva makes a great observation and school districts should continue to be serious about providing ongoing professional learning opportunities so that activities are meaningful and not just some mindless recreation time.

For those moments when technology shouldn’t be used, why not do what my wife does?  Get yourself a smartphone jail.

Screenshot 2017-04-19 at 13.54.16


Put Your City on the Map!

From Peter Cameron comes a wonderful example of what a complex classroom task could be.  It follows nicely with the stage that Aviva has set.

We have used descriptive writing, our research skills, visualizing, visual arts and a combination of tech tools to put our city on the map. Each student picked one of their favourite places unique to our city; Thunder Bay. Their task was to write a descriptive paragraph about their place, capture it using a variety of media forms and then literally put their place on an interactive map of Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay is such a wonderful place to visit.  I haven’t thought about Kakabeka Falls for a long time.  If you visit, the area, you definitely have to drop by there.  Thank you to the student that put it on the map.

As I was working on this, I had an interaction with Peter about an upcoming M.A.D. PD event on May 7.  You may want to check it out.  Some of the usual Ontario suspects are there but there’s a delightful collection of new names and faces for me.


INTERSECTIONALITY: WHAT “DIVERSITY” REALLY MEANS

All caps mean shouting, right?  Read this post about intersectionality and you’ll probably imagine Rusul Alrubail shouting as she typed it.

In this case, she analyzes a conference devoted to gender equity in education.  Her thoughts:

If a conference that focuses on gender diversity in education hardly has women of colour in attendance or represented, that’s inexcusable. We also can’t afford to hear excuses and defence. We didn’t have time… the topic was not on the agenda…we didn’t know who to reach out to…

Excuses show nothing but sloppiness, inconsideration and a lack of recognition of one’s own privilege.

If you ever will have an opportunity to organize an event, any event in Ontario, she’s right.  Those excuses don’t have a place with any planning committee.  If you are truly reaching out to an entire province, then you need to make sure that you are inclusive.  If your answer is “we didn’t know who to reach out to…”, then you’re just not paying attention.  If “the topic was not on the agenda”, change the agenda to put it there. Getting the right people involved will guarantee success.

One of the reasons why I’m a fan and regular reader of Rusul’s blog is that she does have a strong voice and her blog serves not only to educate us on the issues but to model what an advocate looks like to others.

Don’t we have enough White men speaking on almost every issue? It’s time for them to give that platform to people who need to be heard.

Certainly, blogging is a platform where everyone can participate where they feel comfortable but there needs to be more.  Conferences can provide that powerful opportunity.


A Little Lost Dog

What would you do if you looked out your front door and saw a dog sitting on the porch wanting to get inside?  Such was part of the Easter Weekend for Diana Maliszewski.  Read on to hear how she handled it; including some work on social media although it’s not clear whether that had an impact or not.  The story does have a happy ending (she thinks).  It’s a reminder to all dog owners to keep their animal on leash and get them chipped in case the worst happens and they do get off the leash.

Then, Diana turns to her social media porch.

I also need to realize that my doorstep is a lot bigger than I envision. I’ve noticed lately that two books in my school library collection have been panned by others in the FNMI community (see recent tweets by Angie Manfredi, aka @misskubelik and Colinda Clyne aka @clclyne) . This has happened right at my Twitter doorstep. It’d be easier to ignore it or dismiss it as just one opinion. I shouldn’t and I can’t.

There’s a strong message here beyond the two books in question in her library, folks.

If your school doesn’t have a qualified teacher-librarian with his/her ear to the ground, how do you determine the relevance and appropriateness of any materials that have been acquired for your school?  Is it just a order form that comes from a publisher or distributor and someone runs up and down the list looking for titles that sound good?  If you don’t have that teacher-librarian who immerses her/himself in the role, what are you left with?  Can your school’s conscience live with that?


Hoarding vs Curation in the Digital World

In this post, Debbie Donsky takes on two interesting topics.  She could have split this into two separate posts and I think she would have done justice to both.  Let me talk about my take on them.

Hoarding vs Curation

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, then you probably notice a real flurry of posts that come from me between 5 and 6 am.  That’s my private, devoted web-reading time.  (Except on Fridays when it’s FollowFriday hour)  I have a big collection of topics that I’ve amassed over the years in my Flipboard account.

I just roughly counted and it’s something like 210 different categories.  I let Flipboard pick the latest stories and display them for me.  I’ll spend that special hour reading and sharing the stories if you care to join me.  But, there’s more.  I used to do a workshop on this.  Every link that I share to Twitter also gets tucked away into my Diigo account.

At one time, someone called me a digital hoarder.  And if that’s all that I did with it, they’re probably right.  But I do more.  My default browser search engine is my Diigo account.  So, when I’m doing research, I don’t start from scratch by going to Google and feel lucky.  I’ll search my curation first to see if there’s a resource that I’ve already evaluated and tucked away.  It saves so much time.

Personal Domain

The second topic deals with the purchase and ownership of a personal domain.  You may recall an incident that happened here a couple of years ago.  I’m not going to rehash that.  I have my own domain and there was a time when I purchased my own space and created my own web presence.  But that’s not all that it cracked up to be for me.  It’s actually a great deal of work and you have to get up to speed on a lot of things very quickly.  I like to share this story; my old employer purchased a system, installed it, and it was up and running.  By the time that I got home, hackers had found the new system and defaced it because of a missing patch.  It was a learning experience for all.  So, my domain is still registered but now resolves to a Google Site where I let people far smarter than me take care of updates and patches.  Google’s not the only game in town but having a reliable host is important if you’re not ready to do all the work yourself.


Positively Encouraging: Teachers Doing No Harm

So, Tim King programmed in Grade 10 on a “freaking computer punch card reader”.  I guess that’s the bad part; the good part is that he did well.  I’m not terribly sympathetic; my first programming was done on an IBM 026 card punch.  This was state of the art at the time.  The 029 was a major upgrade.

But, it’s not the technology used that makes this blog post such a sad one to read.  It was the subsequent treatment of this young student that makes it educational malpractice.  I think every teacher should read and reflect on Tim’s words.  If you see anything in yourself as Tim did with his teacher in Grade 11, you need to shake your head and think about just what it is that you are doing for a profession.

I hope that we can write this off to a dated educational system.  Especially in computer programming, different approaches to problem solving and implementing a solution should be celebrated and not put down.

What started all this?  Tim misread a message from the Ministry of Education.  That’s about the only smile you’ll get when you read this post.  Other than that, you should just get angry to think there might be teachers like Tim describes.


What another great collection of reading from Ontario Edubloggers!  Please take the time to click through and read the posts in their entirety.

This Might Change Everything


Like many folks, I suspect, I’m a creature of habit in the morning. 

At least until the coffee kicks in and the dog is walked. 

I like doing some reading for my own purposes.  I’ve always done this and tucked the best of the stories away for future reference.  My Diigo account is the perfect place.  The stories are there for later research and also my first place to go when I need to do a search on a topic since I’ve already vetted the content.

For the longest time, Zite has been my go-to reading application in the morning.  A while ago, it was acquired by Flipboard but it’s still alive and well giving me my morning reads.  However, as noted in the blog post, it’s not going to be around forever.  I always lived in fear of the day that the other shoe would drop and I’d have to change things.

Zite is an application for the iPad and Android.  For my morning reads, I grab my coffee and sit in my chair and do my reading.  Like many iPad owners, I’m frustrated with the state of the wifi and the recent iOS upgrade did nothing to fix it.  The problem is well documented and the chain on the Apple Support Forums is the longest that I’ve encountered when I turn there looking for a solution.  I’ve tried all of the suggestions there but there are, quite frankly, days when I can’t use the iPad because of problems.  It’s not that it’s a long distance from the WAP to the iPad (maybe 25m?) and I do have a technique for at least a partial solution by orienting it in a particular direction but that’s not always successful.

However, there’s good news!  I’ve always known that I’ll have to move to Flipboard but that move may be sooner rather than later.

I logged in and poked around.  This really looks promising.

All my created content, of course, is there.

It’s not that I’m new to using Flipboard.  All the topic areas that I would normally follow on the iPad are there and ready to read.

The presentation is a bit different.  Rather than flipping through the stories like you would on the iPad, it takes advantage of the infinite scrolling ability of a modern browser.  I’ll need the discipline to set a limit on the amount of scrolling time rather than testing out the definition of infinite.

Most importantly, I’ll be able to ditch the iPad for reading and just use a laptop instead.  It doesn’t suffer from the wifi woes.

I am excited about this movement.  Zite has promised to incorporate some of its searching technology into the Flipboard product as part of the acquisition.  This promises to give the best of both worlds and, without the wifi frustration, what could be better?

That’s just about me.  This might be the tipping point for schools as well.  Rather than trying to maintain a webpage with new content, the school’s web person could create a Flipboard magazine for the school and flip resources and content there for parents.  With both mobile and web options, a Flipboard solution become readily available to everyone.

At OTF Teaching, Learning & Technology Conference – Hopscotch, Sphero, Social Reading


It was a terrific three days in Toronto working with a wonderful group of Ontario educator professionals. The Ontario Teachers’ Federation throws a great event.  The attendees were asked to self-identify as early users of technology.  I think that many left with their heads spinning, full of great ideas.  They were invited to learn where their interests lay because they certainly couldn’t take in everything that was offered.

What was offered was very quickly scaffolded and everyone was encouraged to learn, create, and push themselves to new levels.

Those that joined me got to experience from the following.

Hopscotch

We had a ball learning how to code on the iPad.  We started simply by controlling movement on the screen but very quickly added the elements of sequencing and repetition to our efforts.  By the time we were done, everyone was programming like pros and had learned how to branch programs from the Hopscotch website and modify them to do great things!

Here is the link to the resources shared are on my PD Wiki.

Sphero

Speaking of having a ball, it was only natural that we took the opportunity to learn a bit about programming a robot with the iPad. Many schools are adopting iPads instead of desktops or laptops. How can you continue to work with robots? Sphero fits the bill nicely.  I had a great conversation with Jeff Pelich from Waterloo and we both agreed that the Macrolab and OrbBasic are required downloads to support the programming.

Social Reading

One of things that I strongly believe is that when we read and share, we can all become smarter.  That was the basic message in the social reading station at Minds on Media.  This messy diagram shows the workflow, er, reading flow that I use.

We talked about a number of absolutely terrific sources for professional reading on a daily basis.

and, of course, Ontario Edubloggers.

But the message here was more than just reading.  It’s about sharing.  We identified the sharing links on any of these sources and learned how to send them to Twitter, Facebook, or Instapaper.

Again, the message was more than just sending it to these sources.  We talked about using Packrati.us.  The moment (or shortly thereafter) you send a link to Twitter, we talked about how Packrati.us would send the link to a Diigo account.  I love to use the analogy of a set of dominos tumbling over!  But, when it all works, the links are shared with others and they’re permanently bookmarked in your Diigo account.

But, it doesn’t stop there.  We talked about collecting the good stuff and having it all in one place.  Remember that great article you read last year?  Why retrace you steps to find the article by doing an internet search and hoping that you’re able to find it again?  Tuck it away in Diigo.

Once it’s there, you can do some amazing things other than just bookmarking.

  • Install the Diigo extension so that you’re one click away
  • Create a blog post with the links you’ve shared
  • Save your Diigo links to Delicious so that you’ve got a backup
  • Make Diigo the default search engine for your browser
  • Set up Diigo groups and use Diigo network
  • Get a Diigo Educator account

Yes, it can be messy but are the benefits worth it.  And, people seemed to buy in at their own personal level.  It doesn’t get better than that.  I met a secondary school teacher-librarian who was planning to set up Diigo groups for the various departments in her school; a lady who is planning to cultivate recipes; another lady looking to build a knowledge network about running; and a gentleman going to pull together resources for bass fishing.  How’s that for personalized?

I know that there were a lot of exhausted people who returned home Friday night, but it was a good exhausted.  You can’t beat a event of learning, sharing, and making connections.

To App, to App, and Back?


A long time ago, I decided that I would diversify my email accounts.  One of the decisions that I made was to use my Gmail account for social media and Web 2.0 things.  Without a doubt, it’s the most active account that I have and there’s always a game of catch up on email to be played.

Being a web service, access is just gained by being another tab when my browser opens.  Quite frankly, it does get out of hand and it doesn’t bother me as much now as it used to.  I just get around to it when I can.  This mailbox is never empty.

When I got my iPad, I decided that this would be a lifesaver.  Rather than having to wait until I’m sitting at a keyboard, I could just grab the device and try to get caught up when I have a moment.  I’ve tried a number of different web browsers on the iPad – Safari, Dolphin, Diigo, Atomic, Chrome.  I tried them all with varying levels of satisfaction.

Then, Google decides to release a Gmail application.  Now, instead of just going in to email, another step is introduced to the process and that was “Download our App or …”.  Ever a sucker for suggestive purchases, I downloaded the free application and started to use it instead of the web interface.  It has a nice, annoying feature of letting me know just how many unread messages are sitting there waiting for me!  And, another really annoying functionality.

Then, I read about Mailbox.  It promises to revolutionize the way you think about email and promises to take you to mailbox zero quickly.  How can I lose?  Off I go to sign up and get a copy.  Not so fast, Doug.  There was actually a waiting list to get a copy.  So, I waited.  And waited.  And waited.

One evening, I’m watching #ecoo13 Keynote Amber MacArthur on AppCentral and she features the app, talking about its features.  I’m really excited, and without a word of a lie, I get an email indicating that my copy is ready.  I grab it.  I need this better way.

It was interesting.  I’ll admit that I’m not really a gesture person so I did have to do some work learning left and right swipes and long swipes.  It was a challenging paradigm for me to break.  Even with a device designed to be poked, prodded, and swiped, I’m still more comfortable clicking on icons to get the job done.  But, I stuck it out and the swiping does speed up the process.  I like the ability to delay mail until later.  This is good.  The good news for you is that the waiting list is no longer there.  Mailbox was acquired by Dropbox and you can get it right away.

I learned how to navigate and use the utility but quickly dropped it.  At the time, it was designed for the iPhone only.  These smaller applications, when multiplied 2x look really awful on the iPad.  I had actually forgotten about the application until I got a notification that there was an update this past week.  An update away and I was very pleased.  There’s now a native iPad format!  You have a list of emails on the left of the screen and the message content on the right.  The layout is landscape only at this time but it’s not bad.

But, the annoying functionality that the Gmail application has is still there.  It’s also there in the Apple native application.  Remember that I indicated that I use Gmail for Web 2.0 and social media?  What are these things but part of the web with links to take you here and there.  The applications don’t handle them internally.  Instead, they launch a browser, open yet another tab, and then you reach your destination.  I suppose it’s not a terrible problem to have if you’re just going to check out a link.  But, consider the scenario where you have all kinds of links to discover.  I’m always sticking them into my Diigo account, Instapaper, or just sharing to Twitter.  Even if you’re just checking out a link, you then have to leave the browser and go back to the email client to pick up where you left off.  I find this a real annoyance.

For the moment, this is my mail reading application for the iPad.  If the message that I wish to read contains links, I’ll leave it along and wait until I’m at a keyboard.  It’s a compromise, I know, but it works for me.

It’s no time to get comfortable.  From today’s reading – Do these screenshots reveal a heavily revamped Gmail for mobile and Web is on the way?  Oh, I love a good rumour.  And, if it’s going to make reading and processing email easier, I’m all over it.

Give a Little; Get Back a Lot


Recently, I had blogged about how to create Big Data Sets.

At the core of the post was reference to the website generatedata.com.  For Computer Science teachers, this can be a real timesavers.  Rather than create significant test data files, use the utility here to generate data for you … lots of data.

It comes back with big value for me!

It ended up being included in a Pearltree by drbazuk.  By following the link, it opened up a huge collection of resources about big data!

The point of this post is to pay it forward to my readers.

If you’re looking for articles, resources, or discussion about big data, check out this Pearltree.  Make sure you tuck it away in your Diigo, Delicious, Pocket, or Evernote account for future reference.

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New Diigo Extension


During my morning reads today, I ran across this story about Google’s London Web Labs.  “With more than 5m visitors so far, Google’s London Web Lab experiments are still going strong“.  As per my normal habits, I thought the story was interesting for me, might be for others, and it’s something that I would want to keep around for later.  So, I shared it to Twitter with the share function on Zite.

Ever looking for automation, the story caught the attention of my Packrati.us account which tagged it as such and tucked it away into my Diigo account.  Normally, that’s where it would sit until I would get back to it later on.  However, it had captured the attention of @pbeens who read the story and added it to his fabulous collection of Google A-Z resources.

I’d become a little lazy lately allowing Packrati.us to take care of things for me.  While it does do a great job of capturing the links that I share to Twitter, the one area that it falls down is in the concept of tagging.  I have to have the sticktoitiveness to go back in and add my own tags so that resources that I’ve tucked away into Diigo are easily located after the fact.  I’ll blame it on the cold that never ends – I’ve been bad lately and haven’t been doing the retro-tagging thing.  I’ve got to get better and get back into the swing of things.

Oh well.

As it turns out, later in the day through other means, I had run across the announcement of Google Code Jam 2013.  I headed to the Diigo bookmark in the tool bar to do the deed and, as it turns out, spent some time doing something that I should have done about a week ago.  You see – Diigo had updated its extension (as shown by the NEW button on it) and I hadn’t explored it.

Hmmm….

“Bookmark & Annotate” was why I used Diigo in the first place.  “Read” later could be handy.  “Share” is pretty much taken care of with Twitter and posting to this blog and my Blogger Blog.

But, it was the “Screenshot” that really caught my interest.  It turns out that you can now send images to your Diigo account.  You appear to have two choices – just send the image or attach the image to the original link.  I gave that a shot and like what I see.

Why is this good?  It’s just a thumbnail, right?  Yes, but most resource sharing now includes images – check your Pinterests, Rebelmouses, etc.  It’s just that nicely added visual that will job your memory as to why you bookmarked it in the first place.  I’m liking that feature right off the bat!

I guess I’m going to have to get back into the swing of things and get serious about what I’m doing with my bookmarks.  This opens a whole new world of possibilities.  Particularly with students, if you’re using the teacher console, it gives an idea of what the resource is going to look like when they get there.

 

Business to Education


I have a favourite line in a Murray McLauchlin album – “We’re all in sales”.  I guess that it’s not always immediately obvious.

But nowhere in education is it more obvious than in blogging.  From the youngest blogger to the most experienced, we’re all selling something.  Usually, it’s ideas and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.  In fact, the more that we realize it, the more forceful our posts should be.

I had bookmarked this infographic quite a while ago but reference to it came across in a reading this morning.   Infographic: Your Blog Post Promotion Checklist

The checklist is written from a business blogging perspective but with a little change in the wording, could apply equally as well in education.  The original blog post appears here.  Thanks to DIVVYHQ for the post  Micaela Clarke for the original infographic.

I would suggest the following changes to make it work for education.

  1. Proofread your writing.  Is it powerful enough and are there tags and words that would allow people doing a Google search to find your blog post?
  2. Post a link to your blog on your class’ Facebook page and on the class Twitter account.
  3. Shorten your link using bit.ly or tinyurl so that it’s easy to type.
  4. Create a short summary of your post for easy reading and to encourage people to read the entire post.
  5. Make sure you have a great title to your post and display it on your class wiki with a link to your blog post so that people can easily find it.
  6. Do you have a Diigo or Delicious account to bookmark class things?  If so, post a link and short summary with tags so that you and others can easily find it later.
  7. Make comments on your classmate’s blogs or other blogs.  Usually, you’ll have to provide an email address and a link back to your blog.  Great advertising.
  8. Share on Twitter! Does your class collaborate with another one?  Get them to read your blog post.
  9. At the bottom of your email, put a link to your blog post so that everyone who gets an email from you can find it.  You can usually have this done automatically.
  10. Do you know another school in your town or city?  Let them know about your great post.
  11. Does your teacher send a newsletter home to your parents?  Make sure that the address to your blog is included in the newsletter.
  12. Get your teacher to share your blog with her/his Twitter account.  Make sure they include #comments4kids so that even more people can find you.

Any additional suggestions?

Having students create their own infographic with tips would make for great artwork around the classroom and to reinforce the concepts.