This Week in Ontario Edublogs


And, it’s another Friday. Actually, it’s Thursday morning as I write this post but that’s the way things roll around here.


Writing a SPOOKY Story!

I’ve written about Cameron Steltman’s writing activity for his students many times before. I think it’s truly unique, inspirational for both students and parents, and easily borrowed by others who want students to write for a purpose and write for an audience.

It’s straight forward.

He starts a new blog post with a theme and instructions for his students. Their job is to read and understand his post and then do some writing of their own in the replies. There’s so much right with this activity.

This time, he uses this image to inspire.

The student job? They look at the image and write a spooky story telling Mr. Steltman, their classmates, their parents, me, you, and anyone else who drops by how they interpret the image and turn it into their own spooky story!


Negative TikTok Challenges and Student Digital Leadership

The typical approach to dealing with bad things in education comes from a long time ago from the Baretta theme song .

“Don’t do the time if you can’t do the crime.”

Or maybe something more contemporary.

We know how well that works out. Jennifer Casa-Todd has a different take on things. In a school where there is one principal and one vice-principal for 1000 or more students, those enforcing the rules are really outnumbered.

Consistent with Jennifer’s message in SocialLEADia, she sees another way. Put the power of students to work to address this. I feel that it honours their leadership and an innate desire to do the right thing.

The prompt for this was the Negative TikTok Challenge and Jennifer includes them in her post.

  • September: Vandalize school bathrooms
  • October: Smack a staff member
  • November: Kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school
  • December: Deck the halls and show your balls
  • January: Jab a breast
  • February: Mess up school signs
  • March: Make a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria
  • April: “Grab some eggz” (another stealing challenge or inappropriate touching)
  • May: Ditch day
  • June: Flip off in the front office
  • July: Spray a neighbor’s fence

Her approach is an interesting turn on things and I think she may be on to something. Your school needs to have this book in their library. There’s so much wisdom here and it’s all based on the premise that people want to do good things and things for good.

Disclaimer: I did help Jennifer with advice and proofreading of this book.


Leadership and the matter of judgement:An open letter to Prime Minster Trudeau

I enjoy reading Charles Pascal’s writing and insights. Given his past career choices, he’s gone places and seen things that the rest of us in education only get to hear about third or fourth or more hand.

Many of us “could” write to our leaders and get a form letter back (or nothing in the case of around here) but taking your message public could be powerful in that we’re seeing his insights if we care to read them. And I did.

In this case, it’s an letter to our Prime Minister about his choice to go on vacation during the first Truth and Reconciliation holiday. Charles uses the analogy to baseball as commitng an unforced error. There were a lot of things that could have been done on that day. I would think that he would have been welcomed to many communities across the country to address them and the nation.

As we know, we’re just off an election that was controversial in itself. There’s some great advice in Charles’ post

Prime Minister, it is not too late to close the gap between your many worthy and important publicly stated aspirations and meaningful actions. 

Will he follow Charles’ advice?


It’s That Time of Year…

One of the powerful voices helping people understand how media works, its power and influence, and how we should interpret that media is Media Smarts. This year, Media Literacy Week is October 25 to October 30.

Anthony Perrottta is a regular speaker during this event and this year is no exception. He’s doing to give a talk about Digital Portfolios and The Power of Story.

His presentation is on Wednesday at 4:30 and you can sign up from the link in the post.

One of the advantages of COVID for professional learning is that we don’t have to go anywhere except to our computers to take in quality professional learning so do it.

The post also includes links to Anthony’s past presentations.


Talking Like a Teacher

I don’t often disagree with Diana Maliszewski and I’m not sure whether or not I do this time around.

She was asked to co-present a lecture on “Finding Trusted Sources and Evaluating Information” but was advised to not “talk like a teacher”.

In the post, she takes the time to address both the pros and cons of “talking like a teacher”. Maybe I’m narrow minded but I don’t see both sides. I replied to the post on her blog with:

Thank you for my morning smile, Diana. It’s a phrase around here when I correct my wife and kids over language errors “Daaaaad, you’re such a teacher”. I wear it like a badge of honour.

I don’t think you should ever apologize for being a teacher. You’ve devoted your life to your craft and I’m guessing you were asked to speak based upon your skills and reputation. It’s a great compliment. Consider the thousands of people that could have been asked, it ended up being the two of you. I can’t believe that it was a random choice.

My wife is a nurse and when I have a boo-boo, I go to her for her skills; I don’t rely on what I’ve seen on television.

Nobody can have it all but you can certainly relish in the parts that you do have and you will always be a teacher. That’s to be celebrated.

It’s a few days later since I first read Diana’s post, I talked about it on the voicEd Radio show and now I’m writing and I remain every bit convinced of my position.

Either way, knowing Diana, the presentation would have been fun and full of great information, I’m sure.


NETWORKING AT THE TESL ONTARIO ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Probably something like this has never been so important as it is during these days. Networking has always been an important part of conference going and was an important concept for Cyndie Jacobs and I when we co-chaired the Bring IT, Together conference in 2013 and 2014.

Dave Fraser starts off this post with the familiar approach.

When we think of “networking” at a conference, we tend to think of coffee breaks and catching up with colleagues in hotel lobbies and banquet centre hallways.

Been there, done that, and it’s a great chance to catch up with old friends from all over the place. But, that’s only part of the potential. Cyndie and I realized that there was a lot of “other” times with potential for participating in other things. In this post, Dave outlines a bunch of other opportunities that they’ve planned for other than the sessions. I think that’s incredibly important as well as the sessions and it sends the message that the conference is more than a money grab from registrations – that the organization places value in making connections to take away from the event.

It’s tough to pull off when everyone’s online but they seem to have thought through this to give attendees the chance to meet up with others with similar interests. Round table discussions would be interesting.

The platform that they’re using is a new one for me to look at and explore.


Math Links for Week Ending Oct 15th, 2021

The mathematics person is me always looks forward to posts from David Petro. I find it just plain interesting to work my way through them, smiling at his interpretation before I right click and open in a new tab so that I can return and continue my trek through his post.

This past week, regular readers of this blog will know that I was so excited with one of his curated items that I used it as inspiration for a complete blog post here.

He runs the gamut of classes and grades so not all of the links will be immediately useful for everyone except those that like to play with mathematics just for the sake of playing with mathematics and who doesn’t? There’s nothing wrong with a little side learning and this blog covers that nicely.


Please take the time to follow these great Ontario educational bloggers.

  • Cameron Steltman – @MrSteltman
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @JCasaTodd
  • Charles Pascal – @cepascal
  • Anthony Perrotta – @aperrottatweets
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Dave Frazer – @teslontario
  • David Petro – @davidpetro314

This week’s show on voicEd Radio.

A name


Well, it’s official. Our new secondary school has a name.

New Amherstburg school officially named North Star High School

You’ll recall that I blogged about it when the announcement was made

So much had changed from the initial announcement and the naming that was finally released. In fact, it was about the naming and that lead to a “Whatever happened to …” post.

After all the anguist and spray paining, it’s finally done. Since I no longer have a vested interest, it has been interesting to follow from my arm chair. At its simplest, it was amusing to watch grown adults fight over something seemingly as simple as choosing a name. At its most involved, it was a statement being made by a community and elected officials. Given the history of Jeffrey Amherst, the decision took many twists and turns.

The area is rich in history which was a real learning experience for me when I moved here. Sure, we had heard about the Underground Railroad but the Canadian references were always to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Dresden and many of the communities of Kent County. As a student, I guess it never occured to me that the pathway to Canada would have had to go through Essex County. When I look back now, I can’t believe that I didn’t ask that question.

So, it will be North Star High School.

The “North Star” was the landmark that was followed during the escape from slavery before the US Civil War.

It seems to be a sensible name for the district to choose for this new school. In a day and age when naming based upon a location is a relative no-brainer, this choice makes a statement and a challenge for the district and staff to ensure that its importance and meaning is not lost on incoming students.

There will be a lot of things that have to fall into place as the school opens including grass and lockers but also the choice of a mascot for the school and the school teams. The immediate thought for me was the NHL team Minnesota North Stars. When my son was younger, he played for the Stars and they used the Minnesota logo on their jerseys. As is the trend in the NHL, there were a number of variations in the design. It will be interesting now to see the decision that will be made for this. The two merging schools were Generals and Warriors. And, of course, school colours.

This whole process has not been simple. The district has built brand new schools that didn’t have this controversy. The most recent of these was Legacy Oak Trail Public School.

This one has been different from the outset. The story continues…

Great television


David Petro’s latest edisode of Ontario Math Links took me on a long and winding path. He tags this one article for use with MDM4U.

From the Flowing Data website, the article is titles How the Longest Running Shows Rated Over Episodes. Now, if you look at it from a mathematical perspective, it is quite interesting and opens many ideas about the process that it took to get the data and then decide how to make it present in a meaningful way.

Click the image to enlarge it.

From a television fan perspective, there’s one show that I found noticeably missing. It was one of our alltime favourites and I would have thought that it would have shown up – M*A*S*H. Maybe it just missed the cut.

There were some great memories as I looked through the data presentation. There were also some that had me going “Whaaaa????”.

When you try to make sense of the data, it’s easy to see that nightly shows would have a legitimate claim to their position.

It was interesting to read and try to understand the author’s interpretation for the data and where he got the inspiration for a project of this type. I’m quite impressed with his use of the IMDB as a source for authentic data. As I look through the details for M*A*S*H, I could see all kinds of other data that would make for interesting problems to solve.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Wednesday was another live voicEd Radio show for This Week in Ontario Edublogs. It was great to talk about the blog posts from others before I get to blog about them here!


Mentoring Moments: Importance of Our Names

Writing on the Heart and Art Blog, Nilmini Ratwatte Henstridge takes us on a discussion about names. I’ve mentioned before; a wise person once told me that it’s the most important thing that we own. Teachers need to respect that and call students by their correct name, or if it’s going to be different, it’s because of student choice.

Nilmini has an interesting spin on the concept where she suggests that the student “Names Stories” should be identified and celebrated in class. Especially these days, it’s so important.

In my case, I’ve always gone by “Doug” or a nickname of “Andy” after my father. It’s only when someone calls me by my official name that my head snaps a bit. A standard joke around here is that only a police officer or a doctor calls me “Douglas”.

To help the cause, Nilmini provides a list of books that can be used with students. There’s something powerful about reading about it. Just the fact that it’s in a book adds an air of credibility to the process.


The Mirror’s Reflection

If you do nothing more that just click through on this link, you’ll end up on the new Matthew Morris website which features his blog. It’s been a work in progress for a while now.

It’s looking good.

As Matthew continues to write, I’m finding that he’s revealing more and more about himself and I’m finding myself immersed where he’s been in situations that I I’ve never been. In this case, it was being one of a group of 4 in a class of 60.

There’s a great deal of wisdom in this post for all although Matthew is definitely very open and public about his approach to learning and being honest with himself.

I mean being authentic in your relationships with the children you are charged with teaching but I also mean rigorously reflecting on your shortcomings or blindspots as a person, and by extension, an educator.

We all have shortcoming and blindspots. Sometimes they keep us from reaching where we want to go and other times it shuts out things that we’d rather not see and/or deal with.

This post has really got me thinking about so much. I suspect there will be more to come in subsequent posts.


Contexte déficitaire: changeons de paradigme

Reading Joel McLean’s posts always slow me down as my Grade 10 French kicks in. Ultimately, I do rely on a translation program to make sure that I’m close to his meaning.

In this case, I really was and he takes on the statement that I know that we’ve all used.

j’ai fait de mon mieux / I did the best that I could

How many times have you used that expression? For me, it was probably more often that I care to admit.

As Joel notes, it can be used as an excuse for not getting the best results. After all, you did the best that you could, right? The fault lies with someone else. Somehow, it allows us to accept failure or at least not reaching the ultimate goal.

In the post, Joel suggests a different way to respond and look at things with an eye towards a solution that helps you get better.

It’s a lesson that everyone should take to heart.


Where’s the joy?

From Amanda Potts, a post that exhibits her own humility and vulnerability.

Just where is the “joy” in education?

Her context is a new course that she’s teaching “Understanding Contemporary First Nation, Metis and Inuit Voices”. a Grade 11 English course.

Now, anyone who has ever taught Grade 11 knows that it’s one of the more challenging years in a student’s and, by inheritance, a teacher’s timetable.

She’s taken a ton of professional learning opportunities and yet still feels like she needs to do more to actually do the course justice. From her description, I feel her message and yet I’m wondering how many other teachers are teaching the same course without the background that she’s acquired.

I love the statement that she shares that she won’t allow herself to get this wrong. I can’t help but think that this will be a very long year for her and I do hope that she can find some joy in her efforts.

It’s not just her post that’s important here; it’s garnered all kinds of comments from visitors to her blog so she can start with the comfort that there is a network of people behind her.


Halloween Costumes for English Teachers

My immediate reaction to this post from Kristy was this was more for elementary school teachers until I paused and remember that we did dress up a bit as well. The only restriction in my class at Hallowe’en and Christmas was that you couldn’t dress up with tinsel as that would do a number on computers.

I was lucky, I guess, in that my school colours were orange and royal blue. Often, Hallowe’en would land on a football game day or before/after and we could wear a jersey along with some other things.

In the post, Kristy gives us a list of 21 suggestions. Three of them seemed doable for this computer geek…

  • Go as an E-reader (14)
  • Go as a Banned Book (20)
  • Go as a Copycat (21)

Interestingly, on the news tonight it was reported that school boards are encourage people not to dress up for Hallowe’en.


Friday Two Cents: Comic Strips: Shepherd

The latest comic strip from Paul Gauchi brought a smile to my face. In fact, it might bring a smile to many who are struggling with going back to the face to face classroom and are considering alternatives.

With the return to in class learning, many educators have to reteach basic social skills, such as walking in a straight line or using “please” and “thank you”.   

So, is there an alternative to this noble profession?

Check out Paul’s comic to see a spin on it.


Student Perceptions of Gamification: A Comparison of Research Studies

Gamification is a word that I haven’t heard used in education for quite some time now.

It’s more common to hear words like “sanitizer”, “social distancing”, “masks”, … as a result of the return to schools while dealing with COVID.

So, it was with interest and a fresh outlook that I read this post from Mike Washburn.

It was interesting to see this topic addressed after such a long bit of absence. I suspect that there are still those that don’t understand the difference between gaming and gamification.

Gamification for gamification’s sake is as Ian Bogost has so eloquently said, bullshit (Bogost, 2015)

As classrooms return to near normal, I have a feeling that the usual suspects will be back at it as they understand the power when done properly. For others, it might be starting at the ground floor. The one thing that has change as a result of all the learning at home is that students are far more familiar with computers than ever before.


I hope that you can click through and enjoy all these posts.

Then, follow the authors on Twitter.

  • Nilmini Ratwatte Henstridge – @NRatwatte
  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Joel McLean – @jprofNB
  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Kristy – @2peasandadog
  • Paul Gauchie – @PCMalteseFalcon
  • Mike Washburn – @misterwashburn

The voicEd Radio show is available here:

About reading


This morning, I read this fascinating article.

What’s occurring in your brain as you read this sentence?

Reading has always been an interesting thing for me. As a youngster, I would read all the time. My mother would buy my brother and I comic books when she was shopping and she would take us for a walk downtown to exchange books at the Public Library. We were allowed to check out two books weekly. I would typically check out a Hardy Boys book and one other that the librarian would put on display when you’d walk into the space.

I figure that if someone who knew books felt that they were important enough to put up front, they were important enough to read. Perhaps my love and respect for teacher-librarians started there.

In addition to this, there was of course book exchange protocols in our elementary school. At secondary school, reading became different. It was no longer reading for enjoyment but reading for a purpose – typically assigned as part of classwork in English and French classes. I didn’t seem to retain that type of reading as well as recreational reading. I actually started worrying about this thinking that there might be something wrong with me. I’d much rather read a mathematics question than any of the books that were supposed to read.

I don’t know how or why but there came a time when I learned about speedreading. In one of our shopping trips to London, I went into a Coles Bookstore and bought a book that claimed to teach me how to speedread. Looking back now, I didn’t fully appreciate the concept of buying a book to teach me how to read a book. I recall going through the book quickly one weekend and getting the basics and started to apply the techniques to the assigned reading. After a while, it really did seem to make me read faster and retain a little more. It all involved chunking of content and not necessarily read every word.

It struck a note with another Twitter user.

I don’t recall it ever getting me better marks but I got through my reading quicker. The whole technique that I used made me realize the amount of extra noise that would be in an author’s work. The goal was to focus on the important part of the message and skip over everything else. There was also a technique that made me look at an entire line on the page rather than moving my eyes and picking things off, word by word.

By today’s standards for reading, the concepts that I taught myself and used would be considered primitive, I suppose but it served me well. Until I ended up having to read mathematics and computer programming. Attending to detail becomes so important there – as we know messing up with one semi-colon or index can change things completely.

If you clicked through and read the article above, you’ll notice the header with all of the images and letters standing out. It’s so much distraction. Once you get into the meat of the article, the speedreading techniques kick in.

This particular article is relatively easy to read since it appears without too many distractions. Flip over to other pages or your local newspaper and it gets difficult. At times, it appears as though the actual story is the last thing of importance to the authors. They seem to be more concerned about getting advertising into your view.

How many times have you started to read an article to be interrupted in the middle by a popup or some fancy advertisement for something or a link to yet another story that you might be interested in.

If you follow this blog, you know that I’ve written about advertisement blockers on many occasions. Some browsers like Opera have it built into the browser while others will allow you to install an extension to keep the advertisement away from stealing your attention. I don’t mind the odd little piece of advertising that’s not intrusive. But, there’s a move in some parts to having really aggressive advertising because, well, someone figures that that is more important than reading and understanding the content.

I make no apologies for keeping an ad blocker active these days. It reminds me of step one for speedreading – get rid of the distractions and focus on the message.