Ontario voices

If you listened to This Week in Ontario Edublogs on voicEd Radio yesterday morning, you would have heard Stephen and me make reference to a new series of podcasts that Stephen was involved with.

Stephen was commissioned (volunteerissioned?) by ECOO to have interviews with a number of Ontario educators who are on the front lines, teaching in these challenging times. The series is titled Ontario: Learning Together at Home.

I did know that Aviva Dunsiger had been on the podcast as I’d already listened to her thoughts and that was all that was posted.

Soon, a number of other podcasts appeared

  • Aviva Dunsiger
  • Tim King
  • Jason Trinh
  • Colin Jagoe
  • Alanna King
  • Danika Tipping

The list of names wasn’t terribly surprising. Many of the individuals have been presenters at provincial conferences for years. Jason was a new name for me so I listened to him with extra interest. To this point, he was a name on one of my Ontario Educator lists. Now, I know a great deal more about the gentleman.

I found their insights interesting. They come from different disciplines and panels (I was surprised there weren’t more elementary educators). Even geographically, they were nicely spread across at least Southern Ontario. Of course, the husband and wife team are a great deal closer!

Stephen let it slip that there’s another one in the pipeline.

Their stories are short and I think you will immediately empathize with them. They do reveal some important insights about how they’re getting through the current situation.

I would encourage you to visit the voicEd Radio site and listen to one or more of these. It’s a nice reminder that all teachers are on this ship together.

On a personal note, as a person who doesn’t get out much these days, it was absolutely terrific to hear all these recognizable voices again and visualize them in the rolls that they describe. I’ve been in sessions led by them all. Thank you to each of you so much for sharing your stories.

Pounding the streets of St. Marys

It couldn’t have happened better if it was planned!

As regular readers know, yesterday I was inspired to look back on My Childhood Community as inspired by Zoe Branigan-Pipe’s Twitter messages on the weekend.  It was a fun look back at things.

Daily, I’m in contact with Former ECOO President Peter McAsh and a while back he shared with me a project that he was working on for the town of St. Marys.  My knowledge of the place actually does go back to my childhood and playing baseball there. We were positive that you could hit a home run over the fence into the quarry.  Our efforts really fell short! A frequent truck that we would see would carried the name St. Marys Cement. That’s pretty much all that I knew although I’ve dropped in to see Peter a couple of times and have taken mini-tours trying to figure out how to get to his place!

Anyway, to the project and why featuring it is a nice followup to yesterday’s post. As Peter had been developing it, I was his ongoing tester.

Along with the help of Amy Cubberley, Peter has constructed a Heritage Walking Tour of St. Marys.

Now, Amy is a Curator & Archivist and that gives her access to a lot of historical and modern images from about the town.  Peter used her assistance to create this walking tour.

All you have to do is visit the site at the link above.  Wander your way around the town and click on the bookmarks to see what they reveal.

Oh, look, a library!

Peter used the free ArcGIS Story Maps utility to create this tour.  Now, it’s online and visible to the world to help promote the town of St. Marys.  Can you find the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum?

Peter has long reminded me that he’s a Geography major as his first choice and he uses his skills here to develop this walking tour.

If you and your class are looking for a social studies / geography project, could this fit the bill?  And, if you’re interested in pounding the streets of St. Marys when all this stay at home stuff is over, bookmark the link.

In the meantime, you can take the tour virtually on this site.

Professional learning changing

We had another mixed emotion day here on Sunday.  There was a birthday in the family. Normally, we’d all gather somewhere and celebrate.  Of course, in these days, celebrations have to take on a different form and we adapted. We celebrated but a family grouping in Zoom just isn’t the same.

It’s not just family celebrations, of course, that are hurting.  

There are professional learning events as well.  It seems to be a little funny to discuss these things when schools aren’t even in operation but here we are.  The biggest technology conference sponsored by ISTE (International Society for Teachnology in Education) has announced that it’s re-scheduling its annual conference to November.  https://conference.iste.org/2020/attend/COVID19.php

I wonder if the big crowds that normally attend will do so this year with the change.  Educators and vendors from everywhere descend there. I’ve been to many and have made many enduring friendships over the years.  It’s so expensive to attend between registration, hotels, and flights to get there but I’ve always found a way to make it happen.  The only one that I ever drove to was years ago in Minneapolis and we turned that into a family visit. I keep hoping that some day they’ll see the light and recognize that Detroit has a superb facility right down on the river.  

I wonder about the “getting” to the conference though.  I know that, from here, it would be a four hour plus flight to California.  After September 11, the airline industry really changed. Because of the current fear of spreading disease, airlines are going to need to up their game again ensuring safe seating and safe air for breathing in their airplanes.  Add to that the wait at security and the large gatherings in airports where these areas are like the anti-social-distancing model.

But, kudos for having a plan and communicating it with the world.

A similar challenge has faced the CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association).  As with ISTE, they have an annual conference in the summer. This year’s conference was scheduled to be held in Arlington.  Plans for a face to face conference have changed and the conference will now be held virtually. https://csteachers.org/Stories/we%E2%80%99re-going-virtual

Both organizations are committed to the concept of providing professional learning to their members.  There is a danger in missing a year. People tend to forget and move on to alternatives. There’s much to be said for loyalty.  

Just recently, I got a message out of the blue asking me when the BIT20 Conference would be.  I’m certainly not in the loop these days other than by clicking on the website but can offer some thoughts.

As a former President of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario, I wonder about the logistics of our normal November conference here in Ontario.  If there is any professional learning money left, will it still be directed to the benefit of Ontario educators?

A couple of years ago, we experimented with a new concept – #ECOOcamps.   The idea was to hold a professional event on a Saturday with a minimal cost to teachers.  It would be held locally – our case in Owen Sound and really celebrate the expertise of those local educators.  We had tremendous support from the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board and Bluewater District School Board. From my perspective, it went over well (who can forget the weather?) – and over well enough that it was repeated the following year and expanded to Peterborough.  The design was to fit into the middle between an EdCamp and a formal conference. It included keynotes, exhibitors, breakout sessions, informal sessions, breakfast/lunch and no hotel stay all for the price of $25.

In a perfect world, we’d be hearing about a gearing up for an #ECOOcamp and the Bring IT, Together conference itself with calls for proposals, etc.  The website currently has a thank you for attending last year – https://bringittogether.ca/.  

ECOO has had an annual learning event(s) since its inception.  It’s an opportunity for Ontario Educators to get together and share best practices with each other and push each other to greater things.  As I look at the picture on the website, I really do enjoy viewing people that I know or at least recognize. They represent the best for looking for great ideas for the use of technology in Ontario schools.  I can give you a long list of people that I look forward to reconnecting with every year. Plain and simple, it’s just the place where we’re all together in one spot.

Certainly, we’re living in challenging times and educators have been challenged in ways like never before.  They really need to see that their professional association has their backs in some manner so that the quality learning, in whatever form it might take, continues.

Can anyone share the status of other conferences from your professional associations? We do live in a time like no other with schools on hold. As a person who has always thrived on learning opportunities, I hope that the powers that be find some way to make them continue.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Members of OSSTF, ETFO, AEFO, and OECTA will be on a one day strike today.

Reporting here.

It was a great reading week for blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers. Here are some that I caught up with.

Annual Teacher Observation

Aviva Dunsiger was inspired by last week’s post from Laura Bottrell about TPA, NTIP … goodness know that education loves a good acronym.

But first, this video courtesy of Stephen Hurley…

In Aviva’s case, she shares how she managed to escape the evaluation process in those early years. Of course not on purpose; this was long before TPA and NTIP. I didn’t miss that in my professional career. As important as it purports to be, it really was a contrived classroom experience. Typically, you know it’s coming, you make sure that most things are neat and organised, and you prep the kids. Just don’t repeat a lesson lest the comment “We already did this, Sir” comes out.

Interestingly, Lisa Corbett chimed in via reply that she had the same situation when she moved to Ontario for a career. I wonder if this was before superintendents learned how to use spreadsheets.

Fortunately, we’ve gone beyond that one shot evaluation and the whole New Teacher program is an expanded and worthwhile activity now. At least, in my old board, it made Harry Wong a name that all new teachers immediately recognized.

Despite Aviva being overlooked in those early years, she has now earned the classroom cred and now serves as a mentor for new teachers herself.

Class Size Matters: Then and Now

In 1973, Deb Weston was in Grade 5. The class had 29 students. These are her good ol’ days. She even included a picture but didn’t identify which one was her.

Hands up silently if you remember…

  • Your classroom teacher wasn’t qualified
  • You sat in alphabetical order and faced the front; no talking
  • Students who needed special education had their own separate class
  • Sometimes, there were students who “failed” or “skipped” a year
  • There were Education assistants but they were in the Special Education room
  • Discipline was meted out with a strap or a belt
  • There were 29 or some other number students in your class

Fast forward to today and so many of these things have changed for the better. Way better.

So, maybe the good ol’ days weren’t so good after all. It’s a message for those who would like to see education in the province return to this way of doing business.

Of course, the good old days weren’t necessarily like this in private schools.

Which Steps Will You Take?

Rola Tibshirani is back blogging. Yay!

This is kind of a long blog post as she catches us up on what’s going on in her professional life. The first part reveals a great part of her philosophy of teaching and the students she greets every day.

There is so much in that one paragraph! You’ll find that that is but a start when you read her post.

In addition to all this, Rola shares a couple of presentations that she gave during the fall…

  • BIT 2019 – How Does Collaborative Learning Support Social Emotional Learning
  • TransformEd – Unlock limitless learning

And slidedecks that go along with this. I found the second one particularly powerful since it’s a collection of Twitter messages. The messages themselves are powerful but even more power lies in the ability for a teacher to reach out to a network to support their work.

By itself, that’s an important takeaway message.

Slice of Life: Feedback

Why can’t we be more positive with each other?

This section is actually two posts – one from Lisa Corbett and the other from Paul McGuire. Both deal with feedback although in a couple of different ways. Yet, there’s a common thread that binds.

In Lisa’s post, she shares her frustration with getting inadequate feedback from a university professor. In the process, she mentions APA style which formed the direction of the professor’s comment. I had to smile a bit; I remember in high school studying APA, Chicago, and Turabian styles. We learned (or memorized) the fussy bits and at the end were told to just formally learn one. I think I chose Chicago and then got clobbered by a university professor whose life revolved around Turabian.

The point should be mostly on content; shouldn’t it? Published professors send their content off to a company to get the job done. Lisa’s post reminded me about how good a job K12 teachers do in providing feedback. They recognize that it should be ongoing, inspire improvement, and often is geared for an audience of more than one person. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the same from a university professor.

After all, when you live and breathe it and it becomes part of your professional practice, It shouldn’t be different anywhere else.

Paul’s post took a couple of different directions. Public disclosure; I was the anonymous friend that Paul included with Heather in having comments made publicly that were like “smacking you in the face”. I’m so sorry to read that Heather went through a similar situation in public. Have we evolved to an online world where one-up-person-ship rules and the last stinging comment wins?

That takes us to the second part of Paul’s post where he shares some of the feedback from his Faculty of Education class. It’s almost scary to think that these two are on the verge of becoming teachers.

So unfortunate to have an instructor with a traditional lens on history.

Sorry, but we stand today on the shoulders of giants who paved the way before us. Too often, the latest and greatest theory is just a fad.

there were too many presentation assignments

Come the fall, these presentations will earn you a pay cheque! Instead of complaining, why not craft your skill before a “friendly audience” before it gets real. This person would have been floundering in my university class. Not only was every student expected to teach a topic but the rest of the class designed the assessments.

In defence of the students, it’s important to remember that they’re transitioning from a university experience to one that’s in K12. I hope that they remain in touch with Paul to share how things turn out for them.

Out of My Mind and Into My Memory Bank

There’s so much described in this post from Sue Bruyns. First, she’s leaving her office to drop in and watch classes in action – there’s no indication that this is a NTIP deally…. Secondly, the teacher doesn’t shift gears from what she’s doing just because the principal is in the room. Thirdly, the students weren’t distracted either and were so riveted on the story that it sounds like they ignored Sue and their snacks because they wanted to listen to the story being read to them.

Anyway, back to the post … Sue was riveted as well and went out and bought the book so that she could read it. It took her back in time to a classroom with a couple of special needs students. And, that brought back some thoughts about that time…

Oh how I wish I could go back in time. I was never unkind or mean to Debbie, like Claire or Molly, but I didn’t step up and take the time to get to know her like I wish I had.

Don’t we all wish that we could go back and relive things?

There’s a wonderful comment added to this post.

3 Identical Ornaments

If you are fortunate enough to still have your parents, you may not be as impacted by this blog post from Ramona Meharg.

I struggled whether to include it or not. It’s very personal to Ramona and I’m hoping that my thoughts are received as very understanding of her writing.

I’m also struggling with my own emotions as I type this.

One of the saddest things that you’ll ever do is clean out a house or room after a beloved family member passes. Everything that you touch has a memory and an importance attached to it.

Imagine this.

Do Ramona a favour and read her entire post.

Do you know what is happening in Ontario?

This week’s “State of the Province” comes from Jennifer Casa-Todd.

Sorry, right wing Conservative types; there is nothing in there about Jennifer wanting a raise or increased benefits.

She’s explaining for those who care to read a couple of the issues that are important to her.

  • Class sizes
  • Mandatory e-learning

In the post, Jennifer expands on each from her perspective. This perspective, as she notes, may be biased.

Actually, I would hope that her perspective is indeed biased. Without bias and a passion for the position, it would be more difficult to withdraw services and march a picket line in the middle of winter.

Please take some time and click through and enjoy all of these wonderful posts.

Then, make sure that you’re following them on Twitter to stay in touch.

  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Deb Weston – @DrDWestonPhD
  • Rola Tibshirani – @rolat
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261
  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Sue Bruyns – @sbruyns
  • Ramona Meharg – @RamonaMeharg
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @JCasaTodd

This post appears on:


If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

The voicEd Radio show appears here.

Inspiring educators

It’s Friday morning on the last day of the Bring IT, Together Conference. For the first time in two years, I don’t have the credentials to post to the ECOO website.

But I’ll always have my own blog!

Last year, at the conference, we resurrected something that had gone unaddressed by previous boards. It was the concept of bestowing Life Membership on those builders who had made the organization what it is today. We set in place a procedure to catch up on those builders.

This year’s Board of Directors approved three more individuals to the list. That did make me very happy indeed. It was a very pleasant surprise to be asked to give the awards. Last year, I had asked the vice-president to do this happy task.

David Carruthers

The truly bizarre thing is that Bring IT, Together 2019 is only David’s second conference. He enjoyed it last year but previously had shown off his organizational skills as an organizer for a couple of years for EdCampLDN. He auditioned for the job there for us and we were excited when he said yes. I’ve learned so much about his educational philosophy just by being a regular reader of his blog.

Peter McAsh

Peter and I go way back for sure. Our favourite story was the two of us being excused (Peter calls it being kicked out) from a specialist course in Data Processing and given the chance to submit a major project instead. Peter has been a longtime presenter at ECOO events, on the conference committee, and has served on the Board of Directors most recently as president. If you want to bring memories to him, ask him about the HYPO interpreter than he once wrote.

Peter Skillen

Peter and I go way back, probably further than what either of us are happy to admit in public. Peter has been a philosopher, maker and a personal mentor as long as I’ve known him and has been a driving partner of the Minds on Media event that has always been featured at ECOO events and others throughout the province.

It truly was a humbling experience to recognize these three outstanding gentlemen. They exemplify the best in leadership. I tried my best but those in attendance know that I was unable to hold back my emotions. I just couldn’t imagine the organization without their input.


There was a happy, happy bonus to this experience.

Alison Baron

Officially, Alison was recognized last year but she was unable to attend the conference. Happily, she did this year and so we recognized her in front of the Annual General Meeting. Alison has long been a leader and a person I’ve worked with in her time at Thames Valley. As a resource for eLearning in Ontario, there was no better person to have on speed dial.

Last minutes decisions

Yesterday’s post just went out and I’m starting to think about packing and then heading east to Niagara Falls. There’s no rush (at least on my part) and I think that it bothers the farm girl that I married. You know “get up with the cows and get moving”. Heck, I haven’t even walked the dog yet. “I’ll walk him”.

My biggest computer decision is always how to carry it/them. I could go backpack or I could take my pull bag. Since I end up really with a mobile office since I need two computers for my show with Stephen Hurley tomorrow, I’ll probably end up with the pull bag. Both of them have certainly had mileage pulled on them. It’s always fun to see what’s left in them from the last outing. In this case, it would have been to Phoenix in July. I just found my portable battery pack. I wondered where that went.

The check list is always interesting. No matter what; the most important part of all of this is remembering to bring the charger for the computer, watch, and phone. Without them, I’m a digital fish out of the water. Ah, there’s my boarding pass and my paper receipts. I’m starting to realize that this thing is really a storage locker between conferences.

Just remembered – I haven’t imported my conference calendar into my personal calendar yet – OK, I’m back. I wonder if I’m going to change my mind once I get there.

Then there’s the clothes. The key is to wear comfortable clothes and shoes for the event. It’s going to be cool so I’ll need a coat. Hopefully, the conference centre is going to be a comfortable 20 or 21. I hope that I pack enough socks. A major catastrophe happened here last week when our washer bit the dust. The new one doesn’t arrive until Thursday so I’ve been frugal with socks. I pointed out that the cool kids don’t wear socks but I was told that I’m not cool.

And then there’s the shaving bag and the last minute inspection.

“Do you have your razor packed?” No, I haven’t even shaved yet today. “OK, well don’t forget to pack it and shaving cream”. We have the same routine every time and the same conversation about not going off the grid. I’m pretty sure there’s a drug store or two in Niagara Falls in case the worst happens. How did I get this far in life anyway? I have this process; as I do my regular morning routine, I pack. It makes sense to me.

Dog walk.

And I’m back. A cool morning, to be sure. After reading Diana Maliszewski’s blog post earlier this morning, we made extra sure that we were well off the road into the gravel.

And the suitcase is on the bed. Is she trying to get rid of me? <grin>

I should be ready to “head east” in a bit. I had purchased my poppy the other day only to be unable to find it yesterday so had to head out to buy another one. As I got out of the car, I found it on the floor. Seatbelts and poppies don’t get along. In the process, my low air pressure light came on so there was a bit of making that right.

It’s all starting to fall into place nicely. I still have some traditions to observe when in the region – buy some Picard’s peanuts, visit Brock’s monument, enjoy the Niagara Parkway, stop at a winery or two, and then some personal things. It’s going to be a great week.

I hope to see you there; I hope to make some new connections; I hope to learn lots.

Headed to Niagara Falls

By the time this post goes live, I’ll be up and getting things ready tomorrow morning for the trip to Niagara Falls and the Bring IT, Together Conference.

Things are a little different this year; knock wood but I don’t have the bad cold that I did last year. That was brutal. I didn’t want to get in the proximity of anyone. That makes for a lonely conference.

It seems like a long time since 2013 and 2014. Those were the years that Cyndie Jacobs and I co-chaired the conference. It also was the beginning of a relationship with the folks at OASBO-ICT. That sparks good memories like Cathy Their’s amazing organizing ability and Chris Demers leading the jam sessions for musicians.

I have so many good memories (albeit after the fact) of worrying that moving to the beautiful new convention centre might not be a good move financially. As it turned out, we made an amazing amount of profit in those years with jam packed attendance. So many, in fact, that our successors were considering moving away from the theatre since it was standing room only for us. I also remember impressing upon the centre for the need for really good wifi and the assurances that it was there and then the panic when they sat in the control room noting that everyone in the audience had at least one screen in front of them! Never underestimate teachers.

Cyndie and I and a terrific committee has a couple of great years marked by ensuring that there were administration, technical and French language strands for those in attendance. We also had a self-driven mission to ensure that there were significant social events so that the collegiality could extend well into the evening hours. It’s nice to see that this has continued.

I’ve given a hand to subsequent committees as a member and just for being asked since then. Of course, last year, I was president of ECOO and past-president this year.

I’ve gone to conferences hosted by ECOO for years and do typically offer to do a session. It’s also good memories to think of the locations over the years for the event. Who could forget the Regal Constellation and all the spacey rooms? Or the night the power went out in Toronto! I’ve led discussions, workshops, break-out sessions, worked and presented at Minds on Media, and have been a featured speaker as well. I’ve never had the pleasure of doing an Ignite or Keynote session.

I also have a fond memory of the team approach to addressing Web 2.0 in the classroom with my good friend Zoe Branigan-Pipe. She still claims that her team beat mine.

So, what’s in the books for this year? I went back to see what sessions I had selected when I registered. I remember it being a tough job and I can see why. I hope that I actually get to go to those sessions. I’m a sucker for getting hijacked by others and losing my sense of time in the Exhibit Hall. I’m looking forward to Derek Tangredi as keynote; he was phenomenal at #ECOOcamp Owen Sound. I haven’t heard Angela Stockman speak before so this will be a treat.

Beyond that, Stephen Hurley and I will be broadcasting our This Week in Ontario Edublogs show live from the conference floor. I normally announce the blog posts on Wednesday but will do it now in case these folks are in attendance and want to join us. Stephen says his new mobile setup has four microphones so there’s room. Here’s what is on tap.

  • Cyber Dissonance: The Struggle for Access, Privacy & Control in our Networked World – Tim King
  • A Journey with Sketchnotes – Tina Zita
  • Walking in a New Way – the Ottawa Indigenous WalkPaul McGuire
  • Autumn Math WalkDeanna McLennan
  • How To Self Engineer A Learning CommunityRola Tibshirani

On Thursday at noon, the ECOO Annual General Meeting will take place. I get to do a couple of things here.

  • Recognize three outstanding ECOO members with Life Membership
  • Introduce the new Board of Directors

And then I’m done. There will be a new past-president and I’m out. I feel a sigh of relief coming on right now.

Above and beyond all of this, the conference is about people and making connections. That’s far and away the most important takeaway. I get immense satisfaction with matching a real life “how are you” with a Twitter or other social media presence. I’ve never been disappointed in that respect. There are just so many Ontario Educators doing so many amazing and interesting things.

It all starts on Wednesday morning and I’m really looking forward to it. Will I see you there? They do take walk-ins if you haven’t registered yet!