Not totally around here

Well, today is the big day.

We get to see what happens to all those solar farms when the sun goes out.

At least in some places.  Around here, we seem to be in the 50-75% band of the solar eclipse.  Could this be the most written about eclipse ever?  Of course, it is.  I’ve never blogged around it before and there are a few! others.  Unless something really big happens in politics, all of the news networks will be all over this.

I doubt that I’ll be out in the backyard looking upward or taking a selfie or any of the other silly things that people will do.  I do listen to the experts about the evils of looking directly at an eclipse.  I already wear glasses so I don’t want to make things worse.

There has been no shortage of expert advice and learning about the eclipse.

Even infographics.

Or even events.

Or a look back at the 1960s.

Even bizarre things.

Or bizarre things with animals.

By far, the most interesting resource is this interactive application that you run right from the web.  It does take a few seconds to load and will probably be even slower as the event happens.

But, you can put yourself in any location in the world and see what the eclipse will look like from there.  I’m not in Kansas City but we should get a good effect here.  For your location, click the + button on the right hand side and add your location.  If you live in a non-exciting place, try somewhere else.


There’s no shortage of advice either.

If you’re going to look at the sun, you’ll need to follow this.

Or, if you want to take pictures.  While this is intriguing, I’m going to let that task fall to people who have the good equipment rather than trying to make it happen here.

And, an important innovation for our time just had to make its appearance.  In addition to Tweeting what you see (and you know that millions will), Twitter will livestream the eclipse.

And news shows all over the channels will have expert panels discussing this.  Perhaps even one or two will deny that it’s happening?

How do you plan to celebrate today’s eclipse?

An Interview with Lisa Floyd

lisaLisa Floyd is a Mathematics and Computer Science teacher with the Thames Valley District School Board.  Currently on leave, she is Director of Research and Inquiry for Fair Chance Learning and an adjunct professor at Western University teaching Computational Thinking to Teacher Candidates.

I had the opportunity to interview Lisa for this blog and got to find out a little more about her passions for family, education, Mathematics, Computer Science, and Computational Thinking.

Doug:  My first question is always this.  Where did we first meet face to face?

Lisa:  It’s strange. I believe it was at CSTA in Baltimore recently, but because I’ve followed your blog and have heard about the inspiring work you’re involved with, I felt like I had already met you.  I know you’re an inspiration to many educators, including those who you’ve taught at the University of Windsor.

Doug:  And what were you doing in Baltimore?

Lisa: I was attending the conference with my husband Steve, who was the sole Canadian receiving an award for excellence in teaching computer science (#proudwife)..


Doug:  I’ll admit that I was so surprised to see your father-in-law there.  He and I have a long history in the educational technology field in Western Ontario.  It was great to have a little chat with him to catch up.  We covered a few years in minutes.  He’s a very proud grandfather.

For those in the field of Computer Science, there most certainly was something there for everyone.  What were your takeaways from the Computer Science Teachers Association conference?

Lisa:  For me, it was just so wonderful to connect with like-minded individuals who have a passion for Computational Thinking (CT).  I was able to meet a few people face-to-face, including Todd Lash who is doing interesting research on CT for his PhD and Grant Smith of LaunchCS (@LaunchCompSci), who I had connected online with previously about coding. They are doing some inspiring work with CT and I was able to attend their sessions too!  I was also excited to meet Miles Berry in person and attend his wonderful presentation (here’s a pic)


It was great to speak to Hal Speed from the micro:bit Foundation and to hear of his journey into the education space!

Doug:  One of the big and important issues of the day is getting women involved in Computer Science and other areas of technology.  What drew you into this field strongly enough for you to decide to make it your profession?

Lisa: My first teaching job included a line of computer science and I fell in love with the subject and teaching it even more.  I spent hours and hours learning how to program and loved the challenge and the thinking involved. I felt like I had found a best kept secret subject to teach.  I continued teaching computer science for 14 years and made sure that I was properly preparing my grade 12 students by taking computer science university courses at Western in the evening.  I noticed something special in my own students when they were programming a computer together and I never stopped teaching it! Thankfully, my husband was also teaching it so we could bounce ideas off each other.

Encouraging young women to take high school computer science has been a personal initiative of mine.  Even with a female as their computer science teacher, I only had one to two girls in each of my computer science classes and this is consistent across Ontario and even around the world.  I believe that we need to expose girls to computer science at a younger age so that they won’t be as intimidated to take it as an elective in high school.  Since doing outreach, the computer science classes I had been teaching at the high school I’m on a leave from has grown 5 x.   Girls also need more female role models, and so having the girls who are taking computer science volunteer at elementary schools also makes a big difference.

Doug:  One of the remarkable things about Computer Science courses is the high student success rate.  Have you noticed the same thing with your classes?  Any theories why?

Lisa: Yes!  The success rate is high… I believe it’s partly because of the choice students have when creating programs and they are motivated to complete their work due to the immediate feedback and the opportunity to create authentic and meaningful projects.  Given the nature of computer science, I was able to provide ongoing formative feedback on a daily basis.  The low floor and high ceiling attribute of computer programming that Seymour Papert describes is also helpful… every student is challenged. It’s what he calls, “hard fun”.

Doug:  Do you have a preference for educational programming languages?

Lisa:  I try not to get hung up on languages… if students really want to learn another language, different from what we are doing in class, I don’t mind.  I used Turing for years, and loved it because it is a learning language. It’s about the big ideas and thinking involved and all programming languages have the same programming constructs…there’s just varying degrees of syntax that might make for some languages to be more challenging than others to learn.  My approach is to not solely focus on those students who will be pursuing computer science in college or university, but to support every student with understanding how programming works.  More recently, I’ve used Python, Visual Basic and Java.  I also used Arduino when we brought in the microcontrollers (great for more hands-on work).  In the outreach that I do for elementary students, I prefer Scratch.

Doug:  That’s a nice collection of contemporary programming languages.  You can’t miss with any of them.

There has been much interest in the area of Computational Thinking in the past few years.  What it actually means differs from person to person.  What does Computational Thinking mean to you?

Lisa: I’ve done a lot of research on Computational Thinking and I’ve also noticed the varying definitions even among experts.  To me, it’s a special way of thinking that includes an array of components – pattern recognition, decomposition, abstraction and iteration.  It helps students to effectively approach problems in all subject areas, but coding is a great context for developing Computational Thinking skills.  For anyone looking to learn more about Computational Thinking, especially as it may support math learning, I encourage them to consider attending the Symposium on Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education on October 13-15th, 2017 at UOIT.  This Symposium is sponsored by the Fields Institute for Research in the Mathematical Sciences (Fields); University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Faculty of Education, and the SSHRC partnership development grant on Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education ( The symposium is also supported by the Mathematics Knowledge Network, NSERC, and Ontario Ministry of Education.  You can register here.

Doug:  At Western University, you focus entirely on Computational Thinking with Teacher Candidates. What does your program look like?  What do these students leave with as a result of being in your classes?

Lisa:  I have taught two courses at Western – one for all primary/junior teacher candidates, called ‘Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education’.  We focused on using coding to enhance understanding of math ideas.  The Computational Thinking piece was integrated into the math learning. We used a lot of the ideas developed by Dr. George Gadanidis (  The other course I have taught is part of the STEM cohort for intermediate/senior math and science education teacher candidates.  We tried out coding and digital making activities that they could use with their math and science high school students.  Most students felt nervous about the course at the beginning, but by the end they appreciated looking at math from a different perspective.  For the P/J teacher candidates, we focused on developing their efficacy for math and Computational Thinking.  The program was a blended learning model, with half being online and half face-to-face.

Doug:  Is the program unique to Western or are other Faculties of Education offering the same or similar course?

Lisa:  It’s unique to Western, but there is a similar course at UOIT in their preservice program.

Doug:  Do you find Teacher Candidates generally prepared and ready to learn the principles?

Lisa: No… most come with little or no experience with coding.  I do a survey at the beginning and it’s usually close to 90% of the P/J teacher candidates who have done no coding.  We have to work a lot on mindset, and you can see the shift in this on the mind maps that were being co-created throughout the course.  It’s almost like we were causing a disruption in the approach to learning and teaching mathematics, and there is research that shows this might be what’s necessary to change the way math is taught to make it a more applicable, meaningful subject for our students.

Doug:  Does Social Media have an impact on your Teacher Candidates?  Are they ready for BYOD Classrooms, students with their own devices, and to amplify their voice and presence with social tools?

Lisa:  I find teacher candidates to be proficient with some technology such as computer and personal device use, and use them readily in class.  I was surprised at how few are on Twitter and tried to encourage them to explore it to develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and to stay on top of current trends in education.  I noticed they were active on SnapChat and they were often proudly “snapping” photos and videos of some of the programs they coded or the robotics they were programming.  They appreciated learning how their devices actually work and most were quite comfortable with the technology piece.  Some shared their learning publicly with others over social media and inspired pre-service and practicing teachers around the world.  One group joined our Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP)  #mathedcoders for their alternate placement and their ideas and work with students related to coding was shared widely.  At one point, they were doing a webinar for students and teachers in northern Ontario, thanks to Stacey Wallwin, who is an inspiring leader in educational technology in Superior Greenstone District School Board.

Doug:  I know that you have three wonderful children.  (Derek told me)  Is Computational Thinking and Computer Science a “thing” around the Floyd household?  If so, how?

Lisa:  I would say Computational Thinking is embedded in pretty much all of our daily routines and activities.  Steve and I have similar parenting styles.  Our children aren’t signed up for many activities, but sometimes our household seems like a makerspace.  We do have every robot and digital device imaginable, but our oldest two boys are mostly interested in playing minecraft together.  We do some coding, but try not to overdo it.  We really have no idea what we’re doing as parents, and are learning every day, but feel pretty confident in how we embed the Computational Thinking aspect (both intentionally and unintentionally).  Our oldest has attended some of our Fair Chance Learning events as a “helper” and Martha and Dustin Jez (co-founders) have been so supportive of this.

Doug:  I did have the chance to interview with Martha Jez.  You can read it here.

In addition to all this, you are the Director of Research & Inquiry at Fair Chance Learning.  That’s an exciting title.  What are the areas of your research?  Are they published anywhere?

Lisa:  I love my job.  I love doing research and am fortunate to work for a company that sees it as valuable.  Everything I prepare for professional learning and speaking gigs is based on research articles that I’ve read in some form.  I’m also an advocate for Inquiry-Based Learning and it’s been part of my practice since I first started teaching.

As part of my masters in math education (just completed the program last week!), I’ve been honoured to work as a research assistant for two professors of math education (Dr. Kotsopoulos formerly of Laurier, now at Huron University College) and Dr. Gadanidis.  I learned so much from this position and was excited to be a co-author for academic papers that have been published.  One is in the journal of Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education and is titled “Computational Thinking in Mathematics Teacher Education”.  Another is currently freely available online in the Journal of Digital Experience in Mathematics Education and is titled “A Pedagogical Framework for Computational Thinking”.  I learned so much during the process.  I am excited about some of the other papers I’m involved with and am grateful to professors who include me, including Dr. Julie Mueller of Laurier University. These researchers are a source of inspiration and it’s an honour to know them.

Doug:  As a result of your connections with Fair Chance Learning, you’ve hit the radar as a speaker, presenter, and keynote speaker.  What topics do you address?

Lisa:  I have the privilege to speak about Computational Thinking and coding and how I believe they can be implemented effectively in our classrooms.  It is important that students’ curiosity, empathy and creative thinking skills are also fostered in the process.  Kafai and Burke write about the idea of “Computational Participation” in their book Connected Code – Why Children Need to Learn Programming, and this to me, is the more modern view of CT, in which the collaboration and communication piece is also valued.  I talk about why we need to support our students with learning how to code in a world where we are immersed in technology.  Learning how to program helps our students to see the world in an entirely new way, as Douglas Rushkoff discusses in his book Program or be Programmed.  As Rushkoff also points out, If we don’t support our students with learning this skill, it’s possible they may not fully understand what’s going on in the world around them and begin to feel like the technology knows more about them than they know about technology. This may seem like an exaggeration, but read about Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, and it becomes clear that everyone should learn how programming works.  Of course, the thinking piece and problem solving skills that will help our students across all subject areas and fields is what I believe should be one of the main driving factors in our push to get students coding.  I’m in the process of working on my Keynote for the Bring IT, Together Conference right now:)

Doug:  That must be an exciting experience to prepare for.  After all, any connected Ontario educator worth their Twitter account will know all about @lisaannefloyd and will be excited to hear from one of their own.

Do you maintain a public list of places where you’ve spoken/presented?

Lisa: I do not, but you’ve inspired me to do so (working on it)… this interview is also reminding me to update my blog (thanks).

Doug:  It’s success on my end when I get another Ontario Educator to update her blog!

If someone was interesting in hiring you to speak, how would they contact you?

Lisa:  They are more than welcome to reach out to me by email at or on Twitter (@lisaannefloyd).  I especially love facilitating professional learning related to Computational Thinking.

Doug:  Do you envision a time when Computational Thinking is just a concept that is universally embraced and we’ve moved on to something else?

Lisa:  I actually hope that we will continue to focus on Computational Thinking and that rather than move onto something else, we will instead explore it further, adjusting how we approach it and improving the ways we implement it.  There is still a lot of room for additional research on Computational Thinking and best pedagogical practice.

Doug:  Thank you so much for agreeing to share your thoughts with my readers, Lisa.  It’s always nice to be able to dig inside the professional practice of another Ontario Educator.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter at:  @lisaannefloyd

She maintains her blog CODING IDEAS FOR EDUCATORS at:

Over the life of this blog, I’ve had the opportunity to interview all kinds of amazing people and am happy to include Lisa on this list.

The list?  You can check out all the interviews here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s always a good week when Ontario Educators are blogging.

This past week was no different; here’s some of what I caught.

Here’s the toolbar in my browser so I’m ready to go….


Response to: Five Ways to Damage a Good School

Only five?

Paul McGuire focuses in on a post from another blogger and manages to use furniture and limited resources in the same thought.  Oh, and technology in another thought.

Here’s the thing. Too often, educators get caught up in the latest fad – flexible seating and the expense that comes with this is one of the newest things. In schools with limited resources (I would say most schools in Canada), the purchase of new furniture means that something else will not be bought.

He makes a good point which leads to a good discussion about priorities within a school.  I find the interesting point about all this about flexible seating and changing learning spaces to be interesting.  If it’s just about some new chair or table, then it’s just an advertisement.  If it’s about changing a philosophy with a stated purpose about why you’re doing it and the results that you’re expecting, then I can get excited.  I can’t help but throw in a golf quote here…

You drive for show; you putt for dough.

Maybe the question in these times is “Are you driving or are you putting?”

I’d like to see Paul do something like posting an online form asking everyone to add their thoughts about how to “damage a school”.  I’ll bet there would be lots of things to learn from and it would give Paul an endless resource for blogging.

Math & Identity

This post, by Deborah McCallum is guaranteed to get you thinking.

She leads us to this marriage by focusing on identity.  Perhaps this is another way for all to reflect on the message that is present in the mathematics classroom.

What is identity? It is connected to the groups that we affiliate with, the language we use, and who we learned the language from. I believe that we all have different identities depending upon the different groups that we belong to, and that this has implications in terms of the languages and discourses we use.

I’ve seen a number of suggestions about improving mathematics instruction (including some from Deborah).  This is a new and interesting take.

Training Wheels

This is a post that put me in someone else’s shoes.  Ann Marie Luce is taking on the role as a Principal of the Canadian International School of Beijing.  This is part of a series of posts talking about her nervousness in the decision and then landing in a different land with different language and different customs and GO!

I absolutely can put myself in her place as she goes about what we would consider a regular routine — shopping, going to a restaurant, going shopping, …

But she’s doing it in a land where she doesn’t speak the language!

So, many of the things that we would expect to do with our regular language have to be done with gestures just to get the message across.

Then, she turns to that new ELL student in our present classrooms.  It’s an interesting transition that will give you renewed sympathy for that new student, trying to get along in a new world, and learning how to speak the language in order to get the job done.

I hope that she continues to blog about her experience.  This could be very interesting.

Being a Temporary Teacher

We move from a discussion about the reality of China to the reality of Japan.  Deborah Weston was inspired by an article in an English language Japanese newspaper about the reality of being a temporary teacher.

I’m so fortunate that I didn’t ever have to go through the hoops of the current reality for Occasional Teachers.  I graduated from a Faculty of Education and there was a school here in Essex County that needed a Computer Science teacher.  Other than waiting annually for the seniority list and the horror of being declared redundant (which I fortunately never was), my teaching life unfolded as I wanted it to.

That’s not true for all.

It’s an interesting comparison and a similarity of realities of how long it takes before getting that permanent position.  She quotes:

  • Ontario –  6 or 7 years
  • Japan – 5.9 years

It’s an interesting look at another’s reality.


Like everyone, Sharon Drummond is getting ready for September.  Her activity is looking and pondering classroom setup.  The floors are clean and polished and the room is empty.  It’s time to think about setup.

She shares a picture and a diagram of the room with some preliminary thoughts.  I was so impressed that green screen is built in before the furniture.  That sends a powerful message and she shouldn’t need to rearrange things later in order to take advantage of this tool for video making.

And, she’s not starting with thinking about how to control the flow or maintain classroom discipline.  She’s talking about things that she wants her students to do.

  • and more – you’ll have to click through to read her post to see them all

She’s asking for input and ideas.  If that’s your game, go over to her blog and share.

I hope that there’s a subsequent post to show us all how this activity ends.

Back in the Saddle Again

If you’re a regular reader here, you know that Kristi Bishop’s blog is high on my list of favourites but had gone missing recently.  But, she’s “Back in the Saddle” and ready to blog.

I really like her rationale for blogging and sharing her thinking online.

I don’t think any blogger should apologize for being a bit selfish and using the blog primarily to get their own thinking down in one spot.  In fact, I can’t think of a better way of reflecting and geting other people to chip in with their own thoughts.

So, Kristi, it’s great to see you back and I look forward to reading many inspiring posts in the future.

How about you, reader?  Do you have a blog that’s playing possum?  How about kick starting it?


If you’re looking for a good description about what being connected and how it works, then you’ve got to look at this post from Terry Greene.

In fact, I had looked and commented here on a post that he wrote last week.  It was also one of the posts that Stephen Hurley and I talked about on our Wednesday radio show.

But, that was only a small part of the connected educator story.

In this post, Terry gives us the complete story of all the connections that surrounded his one blog post, complete with links, and it’s a testament to why we do this and how you can share the learning love around.

Great summary!

And it all started with one simple request.

Please take the time to click through and read the complete, original blog posts from these wonderful Ontario Edubloggers.  There should be a little there for everyone.  And, if you’re blogging yourself and not already in the collection, just fill out the form and you will be.

The complete collection of these Friday posts illustrating the thinking of Ontario Edubloggers can be found here.  I’d love to have you become part of it.

The message we send

If you haven’t already, you should take a read of this article from the Globe and Mail.

Coding for kids: another silly fad

While at it, it’s worth following a couple of the links that link to supporting documents from consultants.

Then, you should stop and ask yourself “How could they get it so wrong?”

I would suggest that the reason lies with education.

I remember the advice given to me from a superintendent once.

“Not only do you need to understand why you do something, but you need to be able to completely explain it to someone else.”

In reading the article and the supporting documents, I think this is a perfect example of it.

Somewhere along the line, these people have got the impression that education is teaching coding for the sake of coding.  If that was true, then they might have a justifiable position.  I mean, how many times have we heard tripe like “Coding is a 21st Century Skill” or “We need to teach coding as a skill that will help our Grade 3 students get a job” and the conversation stops there.

As a Computer Science teacher, I get contact with former students who have indeed gone on in the industry and have been successful.  I’m quick to apologise for the primitive tools and programming languages that we had at the time.  They’ve all been equally as quick to respond that that wasn’t what mattered.  What truly mattered was the problem solving, the group work, the enthusiasm to see a project in progress and the excitement when it was done.

Of course, they’re right.

Put into today’s context, any teacher or other educational leader should definitely be challenged if their message is that coding with Scratch or other educational language will provide students with the programming skills to land a job.

Done properly, it should be so much more.

Let’s look at the messages that need to be sent when asked:

  • Coding will indeed be a factor in everyone’s life from the Internet of Things connected refrigerator to the Smartphone to your next car to the tools that you will be required to master for your job(s) to the most powerful computer.  A person who knows how to control these devices will be successful
  • Coding provides another important tool to help students succeed in the classroom with mathematics, story telling, safe science experiments, societal connections and issues from around the world, and so much more
  • Coding gives student authors the ability to add life to a blog post or article and truly use this new media to make it pop, not just a simple transference from paper to electronic text
  • Coding demonstrates first hand the power of collaboration, group work, research, trial and error, debugging, and so many other tools that we value in our graduates
  • And, yes, Coding lets a Grade 3 student write instructions on a computer to tell a connected robot to draw a pattern

If none of this resonates, then consider the opposite.  How successful will a student be in life and career without these skills?

Just recently, I’ve had a conversation with good friend Peter Skillen who reminds us that not only should all of us be “Learning to Code”, we should be “Coding to Learn”.  Ironically, I just happened to wear my 2011 Minds on Media T-Shirt yesterday and that advice was emblazoned on the back.

If you still need proof, you need to read or re-read Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or be Programmed.  The Study Guide will be helpful as well.

The Big Idea in all of this should be that we want students prepared to take charge of the technology that will be such an important part of their future.  Coding is one of the tools that will make this happen.

Let’s make sure that this is the message that people are hearing.


As a kid, I always liked the fact that my birthday was during the summer.  That way, I didn’t have to be the centre of a party in class and all that goes with it.  I’m not the type of person that enjoys that sort of thing.

Now, it’s kind of cool that social media knows my birthday and takes the opportunity to say “Happy Birthday”, and I appreciate that.

My quote of the year comes from my friend Tammy who had a T-Shirt with this on it.


If you don’t get it, have a gamer explain it to you.

Anyway, the concepts of birthdays gets really interesting when you turn to birthdays and mathematics.  There’s a very famous problem; the “Birthday Problem“.  It’s pretty heady stuff involving probability and so generally doesn’t appear in mathematics until a good background has been established.

But, it’s one of those things that let you discuss mathematics without necessarily writing a proof for the problem.  It boils down to the probability or chance that two or more people in a group will have the same birthday.

It’s also the stuff that Computer Science teachers love to give out as a problem.  You can work up to it.  For example, give a program your birthday and have it determine what day of the week you were born on (don’t forget leap years).  If you’re not up to writing the code, check this out.  Even if students aren’t ready to write the code, it’s the sort of activity that inspires thinking about how a computer might be programmed to solve the problem.

Back to the Birthday Problem.  It’s something that’s quite surprising in real life.  In our department of about 30, there were three of us who had the same date for a birthday (that I knew about).  It’s still surprising when you consider that there are 365 days in a year.  Surely, there’s enough elbow room there that there would be no duplicates!   It’s a reality for teachers.  In any class, there always seems to be students who share the same birthday.  Even more interesting, because of sample size, they share the same birth year!  Stepping back, you see it again if you’re trying to ride herd on a homeroom during morning announcements which always seem to include a long list of Happy Birthday wishes.  In a school with 1,200 students, it only seems reasonable that there might be three.  That never seemed to work out!

The mathematics behind the Birthday Problem is interesting.  You can read the details here.  Or even here.  I can recall having one of those off-the-cuff discussions with a student about it and he thought that he’d write a program to simulate it.  Neil, if you’re reading this, did you ever finish it?

If not, here are a couple of online efforts …

Games with Blockly

Coders of all ages are going to like this!

We all hear about how students get engaged learning to code by programming their own games.  That can sometimes be a challenge for the student learning coder and/or the teacher trying to stay attuned to the best in coding and generating ideas.

So, check this out. – Blockly Games.


Pick a starting point and you’re off.

At the time of the screen capture, you’ll see that I had worked my way almost all the way through the Maze option on this computer.  (To be honest, I spent lots of time and enjoyed them all.  I hadn’t thought about blogging about it until later.)

The Maze option has 10 different levels and challenges.  As you would expect, they start pretty easy and then get challenging.

Here’s my solution for Level 9.


And, winner winner, chicken dinner.  Your congrats message lets you see the Javascript behind the code.


Just a warning before you click through and get started.  This is from experience.  This is really addicting.  And, I do have a solution for level 10 that’s reasonably priced.

Where I’d see immediate use of this…

  • with beginning student coders to learn the principles of a block coding environment
  • as an environment to get a coding club off to a great start
  • as part of an understanding of computational thinking
  • with teachers who are learning or refreshing their coding skills
  • with older students who already know some coding, as a start of year activity to get the coding juices flowing

Got an idea of your own?  Please add it to the comments below.


Whatever happened to …

… laserdisc players?

This suggestion comes from the “Whatever happened to …” Padlet.


And, I think I know who the anonymous donor of the idea is.  While I do know some of the curriculum leaders from North York, the use of “North York”, “Laserdisc”,  “Hypercard”, and “Lol” can only lead me to one conclusion.

This may be a technology you young ‘uns may be unfamiliar with so I grabbed this image to demonstrate.


Photo Credit: oskay Flickr via Compfight cc

No, it’s not a CD or DVD.  It’s much larger than that.  In fact, the media in this case is about the size of an LP record.

At the time, it was touted as the latest and greatest in multimedia.  I saw a demonstration at a MACUL Conference and was intrigued.  You had to have a laserdisc player (about the size of another memory long forgotten – the VCR player) to play it.  It was a technology that you needed to be careful with in the classroom because the tray, when ejected, was pretty big and clunky and you lived in the fear that it might break off.  All that you had to do is put the laserdisc into the player much like a CD close the disk and press play.  The output would be sent to an attached TV for viewing.  There were a number of manufacturers in the business; I recall Pioneer as one maker.

Why does this bring back memories?

Because, like Mr. Anonymous, I purchased some for my district as well.  We didn’t have the big budget of a North York so I was only able to land five of the devices.  They came as a package with five laserdiscs as part of a promotion that had gorgeous imagery and was a wonderful resource for science.  Now, at the time, televisions in the classroom was considered the ultimate luxury so we repurposed the Commodore 64 monitors that were declared surplus.

The truly nice thing about the technology was that it was indeed digital.  That meant crystal clear images.  The device came with a remote control about the size of a small power bar so that you could press and play or go directly to a spot on the laserdisc by typing in the digital address of the desired content.  And, quick frankly, that’s probably the biggest use that we had for them.  We bundled it all together as a kit that teachers could book for use in the classroom.  There was an initial uptake but then interest waned because there were only five laserdiscs to go with the kit!

As Mr. Constructivist Anonymous noted, there was another more exciting use for the device.  You could connect it to a computer and control it with a third party piece of software.  Students could do their own research on a topic (as long as it related to the content on the laserdisc) and attach a button to their computer document and the laserdisc player would jump to a location and play with the output going to the monitor attached.  It was a great deal of work and effort and the need to get the connections correct but there was so much learning involved wrapped up in content, media, and construction of the computer environment.

There was some interest in doing so but, again, we were limited by content.  This faded when products like Hyperstudio came along and playback and media played right in the computer.  There was no need for an external device.  Once again, time and technology had moved on.  And yet, for those of us who stayed the course, there was so much valuable learning about the melding of various media, research, and students creating something generated only by an idea in their mind with a curiosity and desire to make something unique happened.

How about you?

  • Did you ever have access to a laserdisc player?
  • If so, what sorts of activities did you and your students engage in?
  • What technologies do you use in the classroom today to playback multimedia or make available for student creation?

I’d be interested in reading your thoughts.  Please comment below.

If you have an idea for a future post designed to stir up memories for me, please add it to the Padlet.

All of the posts in this “Whatever happened to …” series can be accessed here.