Earth


You know, it really is true. “Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it.”

A week ago, I was trying to remember where my fall jacket was stored.  As I write this at 7am, they’re reporting a heat index factor of 29 degrees.

So, we can’t do anything about the weather but we can wear layers if needed.

Through digital wizardry, we can also watch it online.

Global news stories have been all over the storms that are brewing in the Atlantic and the Pacific.  Using Earth, you can watch them as they happen.

I’ve always been fascinated with what the digital world can bring to geography and also the visualization of climate that it brings.

I’m not alone.

I’ve followed this for a couple of days now, using the Hawaiian islands as a reference.

Yesterday:

This morning:

But, it’s not just in the Pacific.  Check out the Atlantic, using the Atlantic provinces as my anchor.

Yesterday:

This morning:

What will tomorrow bring?  I don’t know, but I know where to look.

CSTA 2016 CALL FOR PROPOSALS


CSTA 2016 Call for Proposals 
CSTA 2016 CALL FOR PROPOSALS
The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) invites you to participate in the 16th Annual CSTA Conference. This event will be held July 10-12, 2016, in San Diego, California.
The CSTA 2016 Program Committee seeks proposal submissions related to the practice of teaching and learning computer science and information technology in K-12. This year, the conference is seeking 3-hour workshops, 1-hour sessions, 20-minute mini-sessions and 1-hour Birds of a Feather.  Proposals for all session types must include:
  • the names and contact information for all presenters
  • an overview of the session
  • a description of the intended audience (level, knowledge, …)
  • a description of session activity (in sufficient detail for an informed decision)
  • presenter background and presentation experience
Proposal must also include an expanded description (to be submitted as a PDF attachment) that provides the following information:
  • background for the topic to be presented
  • description of the information to be covered
  • description of why this information is relevant/useful to K-12 computer science and information technology teachers
  • description of what the attendees will learn from this presentation, and
  • description of any handouts
Presenters will have the use of a computer projector and screen. If additional equipment or facilities are required, this should be clearly requested in the proposal; it may be possible to accommodate such requests but this cannot be guaranteed. Presenters will be required to pay for their conference registration.
All proposals will be submitted through the online conference submission system that can be found at https://www.softconf.com/h/csta2016/.If you encounter a problem with the submission system, please contact Tammy Pirmann at submissions@csta-hq.org.
The deadline for proposals is midnight (Hawaiian time) on October 1, 2015. Review of proposals will occur shortly thereafter and notification of a decision will be made around November 2, 2015.  All submission will be evaluated on the following criteria:
  • technical quality
  • writing and presentation
  • relevance to CSTA (focus on K-12 computer science)
  • uniqueness
  • general conference theme and needs
Successful proposers should expect to be asked to submit a draft copy of their presentation by May 10, 2016. Draft presentations will be posted on the website for attendee reference and note-taking. All final presentations will be gathered by room proctors at the end of each session. Some sessions may be selected for videotaping, which will be shared online post conference. All workshops and sessions will be photographed.
Why present at CSTA 2016? The CSTA annual conference is the only CS conference specifically dedicated to meeting the needs of K-12 computer science educators. Come network with your peers, present your great ideas, and learn best practices. Here is what some 2015 conference attendees had to say about the conference:
  • “Best session and workshops I’ve ever attended at CSTA conference!”
  • “This was my first year as a CS teacher, and I’ve heard a number of good ideas that I’m excited to research further and implement in my classroom”
  • “CSTA has very welcoming presenters, participants and volunteers”
  • “Excellent conference! Very informative and exciting!”
  • “Networking opportunities and new friendships are invaluable!
  • ‘Best conference value for my PD dollars that I have found to date!”
Additional conference details can be found at www.cstaconference.org.
The deadline for proposals is midnight (Hawaiian time) on October 1, 2015.
We look forward to receiving your proposals and to your attendance at the conference.
The 2016 Annual Conference Planning Committee,

Tammy Pirmann, Review Chair, submissions@csta-hq.org

Philip East, Program Chair
Doug Peterson, Past Program Chair
Stephanie Hoeppner, Workshop Chair
Sheena Vaidyanathan, Conference Committee
Mindy Hart, Volunteer Coordinator
Pierre Bierre, Planning Committee Local Chapter Leader
Joe Pistone, Planning Committee Local Chapter Leader
Victor Casas, Planning Committee Local Chapter Leader
Lissa Clayborn, Conference Director
Tiffany Nash, Conference Manager

Browser Curiosity


One summer, I worked on a farm full-time and there were lots of new things to learn.  As the second hired hand, I had no choice but to ask the first hand everything, including things that didn’t apply to what we were doing.  I still remember his statement to me:

“Curiosity killed the cattle beast”.

Why would I remember that?  Did I know back then that I’d be blogging about something and could use a silly quote?

So, when I read this post “Creating your own browser with HTML and JavaScript“, I just had to check it out for myself.  It’s a very compact download from the Windows store here and loads incredibly quickly.

So, what could you do with a browser that small and quick?

Actually, quite a bit.

You won’t confuse it with a full blown browser but it displayed this website very nicely.

It had a little problem with Facebook’s Flash games, as to be expected.  I couldn’t check into the one game I follow but the lack of Flash support isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  (When I opened my computer this morning, there was yet another upgrade to it)

I did appreciate Facebook dropping me an email indicating this was not the normal browser for me.  They had my back on this one.

It was interesting to use it for a while to get a sense of what was missing that I use regularly.  Context menus, plugins, new tabs, etc. are all not supported but, from the description, they never were anyway.

Interestingly, it identifies itself at the Edge browser when you go to whatbrowser.org.

And again, not to be surprised at that.

What is a surprise is that Microsoft has made the source available for download on GitHub.  I’m thinking that those Grade 12 students who want to muck about in the “real world” might get a real kick out this.

So, that ends my search for something completely different.  I was pleasantly surprised with how much that you could do with it.  Addons are completely out of the question, obviously but they’re not a feature of Edge yet either.

This is one of the ways I have fun!

1:1 Done Right?


I’ve read through this article on Edutopic by Ira Socol a few times now and find something new each time.

The Basics of Open Technology

It’s about an implementation of technology in Albermarle County Public Schools.  If you follow Ira on Twitter, you’ll not be surprised that UDL is a passion and it’s part of the technology plan.  I love the phrase on the superintendent’s office “All means All”.

Ira’s got a special spot on my Twitter collection as he was among one of the first group of people that I followed and I’ve never been disappointed.  He doesn’t lob up his thoughts – he’s very direct and quickly gets to the point – I really appreciate that.

Take a few moments to read this article; it isn’t long but it’s rich in content.  It’s summarized nicely with “Trust in Children and Childhood”.  If you’re an IT Manager, you might just cringe at some of the practices but I find that it’s a truly kids first approach and let the technology help them as opposed to a technology first where we lock everything down and grant you the right to use bits and pieces of it.  It’s not just a play on semantics; it’s a strategic approach.

Now, for the majority of people returning to school next week, this won’t be a reality.  But, if your school has adopted a BYOD practice, you can coach students and families to use technology to enable and support their learning by following this one link from the article.

It’s the MITS Freedom Stick.  “The MITS Freedom Stick is a portable, use-anywhere accessibility solution.”

People often know of a few open source resources but the MITS Freedom Stick has amassed them together with a focus on inclusion of all students.  In the case of Albermarle schools, it’s installed – you can install them yourself or keep them on a memory key.  It’s a great collection.  Some of the titles are compared to the commercial version of the product, probably for parent/teacher convenience.  Students won’t care or will already know.

This should also serve as a discussion point for so-called 21st Century schools.  Are you really?  Maybe it’s time to talk about Early 21st Century and Mid 21st Century.  It’s not just providing a tool that should matter.  Shouldn’t students have access to the tool that will make them successful instead of a one size fits all selection?

For further reading, the Albermarle County Public Schools are part of a series on Edutopia called “Schools that Work“.  It’s good reading for understanding and asking the question “Why not us?”.

Additional Resources:

Clipart on Demand


Sometimes, I could just kick myself.  I always seem to be the last to know.

I was working on a document yesterday and got the text right.  I thought a couple of pieces of Clipart would be nice to break up the text and to illustrate the message I was trying to create.

So I did what I always did.  I looked to the collection of clipart on my hard drive and then went searching for something in my collection of nline Creative Commons resources looking for something that had a friendly license that I could use.  As I was doing this, the little voice in the back of my head said “It’s too bad that this is a multi-step process.  Shouldn’t there be a better way?”

I completed the document and had a few minutes so I thought – if I don’t look, I’m guaranteed not to find it.  If I do look, there might be a chance that I could.  I was using Google Docs, as per usual, for the creation so I went poking around the add-ons.  You can see, from the green checkmarks, some of the add-ons that I’m already using.

As I’m scrolling, I see lots of great enhancements that would make a great word processor even better.  It didn’t take long until I got frustrated looking, but hey, this is a Google resource – I’d be better off searching.  So I did.

Son of a gun!  I added it immediately. 

That voice in the back of my head started talking again – you know about Open Clipart.  I searched this blog and, sure enough, I’d written a blog post about it before.

The acid test is always to search for “house” to see what’s available.

37 pages of results is good enough for me!

I found a suitable piece of Clipart for my document, just tested to see how easily it was to insert, re-size, wrap text around the image and was impressed.  This is a keeper.  How did I last so long with the old method of juggling multiple resources to get the job done?  D’uh.  It’s now a permanent part of my configuration.

I guess I should pay more attention to my own blog.

Why Twitter?


Yesterday morning, I was tagged in an interesting question from Jennifer Casa-Todd.

Well, let me see now.  Starting at the As, there’s Andrea, Andrew, Andy, Aviva – whoa, this is going to take a while.  As I was contemplating moving the count to my other hand, Steven jumped in with his answer.

I thought that answer might be pretty US-Centric.  Surely, there would be more world-wide.  But how many remains the question.  So, I gave it my best shot, smart aleck style.

Her response.

So, she’s working on something.  A blog post?  A presentation?  A workshop?  Hopefully, we’ll find out if we’re lucky enough to have her read this post and let us know or it gets discovered in some other manner.

But, her initial question and Steven’s response were interesting.

They reminded me of something my dad used to say.  “If everyone jumped off the end of the dock at Goderich, would you?”  As a swimmer, but yet being respectful, I never answered with my real answer “Actually, yes, it would be interesting.”  But his message about blindly following others was well received.  Does joining Twitter fall into the same category?

Jennifer’s question in itself begs a few more questions.

  • What is an educator?  It’s something that I wrestled with when I started the process of trying to connect Ontario Educators on Fridays.  What indeed is an educator for this purpose?  Teacher?  Principal?  Superintendent?  Director?  Consultant?  Early Childhood Educator?  Owner/teacher of a private school?  Trustee of education?  Consultant?  Thought leader?  Developer of educational software or web resource?
  • What is the power of a big number?  The world’s biggest echo chamber?  A place for discourse?  A place to discover and share?  The world’s biggest virtual classroom?
  • What does being “on Twitter” mean?  Being vocal and interacting?  Having an account just for your Linkedin or Digital Profile to say you have one?  Retweeting comments you agree with?  Hunting down and challenging spreaders of misinformation?  Doing nothing except coming out of hiding to say “Vote for me here”.  Being able to say “I gots a PLN”?  Using Twitter as a research network and favouring resources for later use?  Using Twitter to advertise your blog or other products/services?

Maybe Google knows.

I searched blindly for “how many educators are on Twitter” with futility but this set of Twitter Statistics from Statistic Brain Research Institute was in the results.  Hopefully, it’s good information – I’d never heard of them before.  The numbers are so huge that it validates my original response of “lots”.  Subtract the total of active users from the total users tells an interesting story.  There’s a great deal to be inferred from the numbers.  It’s really worth the read and lends an appreciation for getting in early while your desired Twitter name was still available.  The numbers are just so staggering.  It humbles you to think that anyone even knows that you’re there when there are so many other options.

So, does the value lie in the numbers?  I would suggest not, per se, but in the results that those numbers can generate.

Talk to people about the value of Twitter and they’ll talk about the connections.  Connect with the right people and the learning and the value is exponential.  There’s something really special about going to a conference, knowing people, and a bit about them before even meeting them face by face.  I think that you start to build that friendship/colleague profile by understanding what they share and where their interests lie long before ever being introduced.  Can you say that about any other media?

But we’re educators.  The value there?  I like to talk about things I learned during my first cup of coffee and before breakfast, thanks to following the right people.  Ten things I learned this morning, for example….

  • Best Way to Take Notes In Class Isn’t On Your Laptop, Research Finds
  • How a London company is bringing education to Africa in flat-pack boxes
  • Stephen Harper touts $5B surplus but Liberals call it ‘phoney’
  • Al Jazeera Journalists Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison in Egypt
  • Lemming?  3 Destructive Trends in ELearning:
  • 15 Common Mistakes Teachers Make Teaching With Technology
  • Want to set up your classroom for #BlendedLearning?
  • 7 Things Every Educator Needs to Know About Online Learning
  • Did you know chickens love blueberries? Watching a chicken run is hilarious
  • TeachOntario Talks: Teaching Team Supports Inquiry

Where else could you learn that in such a personalized manner than on Twitter?  Certainly television news only scrapes the surface of things that their producers think will be popular.  Radio news is even worse.  Professional education books are dated by the time that they’re written, proofread, revised, printed, shipped, and you stumble upon them at the bookstore.

I know of educators who are using the power of “Twitter as Research Assistant” for assistance with their Annual Learning Plan.

Whew!  That was a great deal of work but I thank Jennifer for the inspiration for her seemingly simple question yesterday morning.  It truly got me thinking and pulling my thoughts together to help me answer the question “Why Twitter?”

p.s. I still am no closer to knowing the answer to the question.

She takes her thinking to a CoffeeEDU next month (actually, in a couple of days).  If you’re in the area, why not join her and the conversation.  Perhaps it will put you over the top with one of your passions.  At the least, she’ll get a sense as to how many coffee drinking Twitter users there are in Aurora.

Dumb Rules


A comment I made yesterday brought back a bizarre memory about rules.

There was a time when our two older kids were in daycare together.  Depending upon my wife’s and my schedules, you’d either drop the kids off in the morning or pick them up at the end of the day.  Because of their age difference, they were in two different rooms.  Between the two rooms, there was a cloak room where the kids’ clothes, boots, etc. were hung up and the doorways were such that you could see from one room into the other.  Each of the rooms had an outside door for entry and exit.  OK, stage set.

Dropping the kids off was no big deal.  They were always excited to see their friends and get involved in the play activities.  Often it was hard to even say goodbye to them as they were off like a shot once their coats and shoes were off.  It was picking them up that was the issue.

And where the rules came in.

Rule #1.  You have to pick up the older child first.  I’m assuming that the rationale was that they could dress themselves but it would take longer than if Dad did it.  A big shoutout to whoever invented velcro.  So, you enter their room, takes your shoes/boots off and take the child into the cloakroom and get them ready.

The problem was that the younger child could see you coming and would come to their entrance to the cloak room which was blocked by a see-through gate.  He was excited to see you, knowing that the family would be going home for supper soon.  In a perfect world, I could just reach over the gate, grab him, dress him and we were gone.  But the rules prohibited that.

Rule #2.  You could then pick up the younger child.  But, I had to leave the first room by its exit, walk around the corner into the second room, take my shoes/boots off and then get him.  The situation was always the same.  He was standing at the gate looking into the other room crying, just knowing that he’d been abandoned again.

Ever the inquirer, I asked “Why do we have to do it this way?”

The answer?  “That’s the rules.”

The response?  “Why?”

The comeback.  “That’s the rules.”

The situation helped me with my own understanding of rules.  The bottom line should be – if you’re going to have rules, you need to know why.  There are good reasons for rules – I get that – and if you could explain why, it would go a long way to understanding.

It made me think of rules in my own school.  My Computer Studies classroom was in one corner on the second floor.  The gymnasium was on the ground floor way on the other side of the school.  Some of the students would have Phys. Ed. before Computer Science (as an aside, if you have a chance to get involved in scheduling, try to avoid the period after Phys. Ed. – just sayin’) and were constantly late.  In our school, we had a rule – there was five minutes transition time between classes.  As a first year teacher, I tried to follow the rules and would regularly try to deal with it.

“Siiiiir, Why?”

My answer?  “That’s the rules.”

Later one day, I picked up the kids from daycare and realized that I was using the same lame reason myself.

It got so frustrating – the next night after the school had emptied, I timed it myself.  It took the best part of five minutes to do the walk.  Stop for a drink of water and you’d be late!

So, I decided to drop in on the vice-principal for a chat.  As a first year teacher, I was really nervous – I didn’t have a permanent contract – how dare I question things that have been established for years?  I explained the situation and got this incredulous look from him. 

“If it’s impossible, it’s impossible.  Bend the rule”. 

I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.  I’ll make the new rule “five minutes and a drink of water”.

In education, we like to have rules.  I suppose in some ways, we rationalize it by thinking that we’re making kids better citizens and keeping things safe.  In practical terms, we probably do many of them to make life easier for ourselves.

But, if we can’t think of a good reason to have and enforce the rules, do we really need it?