Finally Meeting Vicky (Sort of…)

I thought it was just a year ago, but it turns out that it was well over two years ago that I interviewed Vicky Loras for this blog.

Her recent adventures at the time had made me such a fan and so curious about the details.  Here was a young lady from Canada who moves half a world away to Switzerland to start her own educational business with her sister.  It was such an interesting career move.

I’d followed her for quite a while on Twitter and we’d become friends on Facebook.  In addition to the Loras Network, I always thought that she exemplified the best in being connected.  It seemed like every time I turned around, she was connecting with friends and educators, learning and sharing resources, and then heading off to another country for yet another English Language Learning conference.

Through my connection with Vicky, I’ve extended my learning with a network of European and Asian educators.  The sharing of resources and images has been such a rich learning experience for me.

On her blog, Vicky interviews people from her world and i was completely honoured when she asked me a couple of months ago to be her project for May.  How could I say no?

I did point out that I have really poor connectivity here but we decided to move ahead anyway.  Then, it was synchronizing ourselves for the time difference between Ontario and Switzerland.  The hour finally arrived and there she was, inviting me to the interview and my phone and iPad were ringing with the invitation.  Sadly, my computer wasn’t!

We negotiated back and forth and finally managed to establish a connection half an hour after the scheduled start time and, we were off.  The audio wasn’t the greatest and it dropped itself completely before we finished but, ever the professional, Vicky just started another session and so the interview was actually a two-parter! 

In the end, it all came together, and she posted both parts to her blog.

And, I echo her sentiments. 

While our interview was the closest that we’ve come to actually meeting, it does seem like we’ve known each other forever.

Thank you so much, Vicky mou.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s been another difficult week in Ontario Education but that didn’t stop the flow of great blog posts. Here’s what caught my eye…

Stop Pretending

The meme continues as even more Ontario Educators check in with their thoughts about making school different by stopping pretending things.  Here’s a couple more wonderful posts for your pondering.
Let’s Stop Pretending…
What I find so interesting about all this is the different perspective that different eyes bring to the discussion.  Here, Jen Aston shares some thoughts from the eyes of a coach.  Her #3 talks about something that is so important and, yet, I think that so many are just a little intimidated to say out loud.

 That teachers don’t have the biggest impact on their students.  I’m still floored when I am working with a teacher who does not realize that they can have the biggest impact on student learning.  That’s why what teachers choose to do matters and that’s why it’s so important to be intentional about it.  Let’s stop pretending that student ability depends on whether or not the child studies, does their homework, have home supports or pays attention. The teacher has a bigger impact on the student than any of that.

Personalizing the Make School Different Meme
As she is so fond of doing, Diana Maliszewski takes a very personal perspective on the topic which adds a nice spin to things.  Her first point hit me so personally.  I’m always in search of the magic bullet that’s going to change me into the most organized person on the planet.  I think at one time I was fairly organized with my Franklin Planner but it just went downhill from there.  I still remember doing an OTF Presents presentation and the organizer was looking at my Google Drive organization and told me that I needed a lot of work.  So, I’m with you on this one, Diana.

1) I have to stop pretending that I am organized and tidy.

Actually, I think I was cured of this a number of years ago with a stern comment from my husband:

Just because you buy organizational supplies, that does not make you an organized person.

As always, you’ll have to follow the links back to the original blog posts to read the rest of the wisdom from these ladies.

Make Learning Transparent with Badges
This is a blog post that I wish I’d written.  I’m a big fan of badges for learning.  I’ve always been since my days as a Wolf Cub.  It conveys so much more than a number between 0 and 100 and is totally suitable when assigning a number just doesn’t make sense.

I think that school districts, in addition to their required Ministry reporting, should also be badging authorities.  Think of all that students could collect to demonstrate the entire school experience – robotics, eco-schools, student activity leadership, …  We all know that there’s so much more than just completing a test on a topic.  Anthony Chuter really nails it with this post.  Forward it to your superintendent.

The other advantage to a district being a badging provider answers a question that I read posed just recently.  If an external badging provider goes out of business or loses interest, does the value of the badge go with them?  Not so if you’re providing the badges as part of the complete program.

For Next Year

Grade 6 Next Year!
It’s education’s “silly season” right now.  The numbers are in, classes or sections assigned to the school, and now individual schools are playing their own game of “Who’s on First?”

Well, Amy Bowker is headed to Grade 6 and is already planning to make it a spectacular year.

Down Just a Little Bit More
And Aviva Dunsiger is making a grade change too.

What’s so interesting about all of this discussion, and I’m sure that many of you will be doing the same thing, is that the content area is an important thing.  But, it’s not the only important thing.

The content may be prescribed; the age of the students prescribed; the maximum class prescribed; but there’s the one big variable.  No class is the same two years in a row.  The person inside the body changes.  They all have different prior baggage they’re going to unpack in the class.  Different teachers, different schools, different home lives, different communities, and more make teaching the challenging and rewarding profession that it is.  If all that had to be considered was subject topic and student age, sure, a computer could teach the course.  Those who have been in the classroom know that those are just necessary details.  It’s getting inside student heads, understanding their needs, their frustrations, their excitements, that make the profession so important.  As we’re seeing at present, it’s also so hard to recognize in a collective agreement.

I’m going to finish with a double recognition to Diana Maliszewski’s blog.

Dear Caroline, Dear Sigmund

Diana was inspired to write a letter to her favourite authors.  What a great concept!  The Forest of Reading recognizes the best titles on a big, organizational level, but a personal note takes it to a different level

Thank you so much for writing a book that, not only pre-teens and teens devoured, but the educators that work with those pre-teens and teens can enjoy too.

Notes to the author undoubtedly mean a great deal and adds another level of satisfaction to their creations.

How I Teach #Sketchnoting

I find the whole area of #Sketchnoting fascinating.  I can’t do it but have huge admiration for those who can and share their results.  Is this the greatest graphic organizer or summary tool for the 21st Century students?

Read this blog post to see how things are happening in Royan Lee’s classroom.  I really like his summary of look-fors to let you know when things are going well.


What another wonderful collection of posts from Ontario Educators.  Please click through the links to read their entire posts.  The complete collection of Ontario Educator Blog posts can be found here.  If you’re blogging and not listed, please add your details via the form and you soon will be.

Hiding the Colonel

I’m a big fan of Google Maps, Earth, and Streetview.  When I’m going to a new place, I’ll often enter the address, kick in Streetview to get an idea of what the place looks like so that I’ll know it when I see it.  It’s also a great way to kill some time just exploring.  I just find it fascinating.

So, you’ve got to believe that I fell for the bait when I saw this story.

10 Secret Places Google Earth Doesn’t Want You To See

It was kind of dumb because if Google doesn’t want me to see them, why would my immediate reaction be to load up the service and see for myself?

But, it was point #3 that I was really taken by – Google doesn’t want me to see Colonel Sanders?  I grew up admiring the guy’s work.  I remember fondly driving to Goderich for an order with my family and then going to eat it on the beach.

Rules are rules, I guess.  The Google position is that real people should have their image blurred.  There’s some comfort in this but he was also a hugely successful trademark.  After all, it really isn’t a picture but a sketch.

I had to check this out.

Sadly, the franchise has closed in town so I virtually moused my way over to Leamington to check it out.

Son of a gun.

Here’s the Streetview of the location, strategically located just across the road and down a bit from Leamington District Secondary School.

His image didn’t beat the odds with the road sign either.

I guess I’ll just have to rely on my memories from his wonderful commercials from years gone by!

What a great starting point for a discussion of corporate ethics though!

Just a Mystery

But, it’s a time saver so I don’t mind.  It’s just my own personal note of inquiry.

Recently, Google has added a new service to Google+.  It’s called Collections.  The first descriptor I read about it was that it was “Pinterest-like”.  I took a look at it and it was easy enough to access.  It just is another service added to Google+.

Then comes the million dollar question.  What would I use it for?

Well, what would I use Pinterest for?  It turns out that I use Pinterest as just another place to collect my blog posts.  It started out as just a demonstration in my presentations about how to use Pinterest.  Instead of collecting recipes and clothing ideas, I wanted to show that you could easily collect anything.  Depending upon the browser that I’m using at the moment, I either use the Pinterest Pin Button or Shareaholic to post my stuff there.  It takes just a couple of seconds and I had another way to collect blog content (and another backup).

So, I decided that I might use Google Collections as a way to collect my own blog posts.  I’m not short of ego so I set up a collection for the task.

Now, I already share my post posts to my Google+ friends.  It just gets added to my Google+ stream of consciousness.  It actually works very nicely – I just paste the URL to the post in a new message and Google reaches out to the blog to get the details and include an image to spruce it up a bit.  I changed my morning workflow just a bit.  I paste the URL in my main stream and then open my collection and paste it there.  That’s it.  Nothing else done on my end.

But, a couple of days in, look what happened.

Unknown to me until I thought I’d look at my collection and see how things were going, Google+ somehow made the connection that I was posting URLs to my blog both on my main feed and in the collection.  I guess the folks in the “Let’s make things easier at Google” department decided to streamline things for me.  It appears that it recognized what I was doing and made the post for me automatically.  Me, being somewhat oblivious to things, continued to post the URL in both places.

I did a “Whaaaaa?” and decided to test the theory for a few days.

Sure enough.  When I post something in the main stream, Google+ was adding the entry to my collection automatically for me.  Now, I might understand it if I was using Blogger for a platform but I use WordPress.

I’m at a loss to explain this and would appreciate any insights that anyone, anywhere have for this.  Artificial intelligence?  Learning how I work?  Did I touch a setting?  (I swear that I didn’t purposely.)  I really can see the advantage of a Collection taking a big stream of things and breaking it into little digestible pieces.  (See my Diigo account for a dog’s breakfast of things)

Right now, it’s just a mystery and I hate it when I can’t explain things. 

Hey, There’s My Fridge

For a chance to expand your mind a bit, take a read of this article.
Ubuntu: Make Wonderful Things Possible!
It’s not just another article about Linux or Ubuntu so don’t necessarily get turned off by the title.

It’s a story about a refrigerator.  But, not just any refrigerator.  It’s a smart refrigerator.

And yes, this will be the future for us.  Maybe not right now; our current fridge does a nice job but there will come a time when it needs to be replaced and we’ll have to buy what’s currently available.  (Just try to buy a rotary phone now…)

It’s the latest in the topic stream “Internet of Things”.

Now, people freak out when they realize that the internet knows where their phone is.  What about all of the other current and future devices that will be smart?

Check this out – A Map of Every Device in the World That’s Connected to the Internet.

It’s pretty impressive, but as one of the commenter notes, that’s only devices that have explicit IP addresses.  We know that there are lots more devices.

So, how to you find these things?  It’s time to introduce Shodan.

I think that we’ve become so used to using Google or Yahoo! or Bing or Lycos or DuckDuckGo to find content.  What if we want to find devices connected to the internet?

Take Shodan for a test ride.  Read about it.  “Shodan: The scariest search engine on the Internet

I suppose it was inevitable, and yet, there’s something incredibly addictive about being able to search for webcams.

This is a great conversion starter for all classrooms and certainly the technical aspects are terrific for Computer Studies classrooms.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s another week and another look at the blogs from Ontario Edubloggers.  Where does the time go?  There’s always great things available for reading from colleagues across the province (and one in Switzerland this week).  I’m always curious to see how many times I’ve written this post as it appears in the URL to avoid duplication.  This is the 156th edition.

Five Things Video Game Makers Club Taught Me

Kids like to create and Liam O’Donnell is there to guide.  I know that some people get turned off when the concept of games appears in educational talk.  But, until you’ve worked with students trying to code their own game, you don’t realize that it’s one of the most difficult things for kids to do.  And yet, it’s an activity that they really want to attend to detail.  And, it’s an activity that’s never done.  “We could just add this….”

I like the five points in this post….

3.  A Video Game Might Be a Movie, too

4.  Being a Noob Teacher is Best

You’ll have to read the entire post to see what points #1, 2, and 5 are.  I think that Liam has really nailed it with this post.

Personally, I Blog…

Sheila Stewart and I had a little private discussion going back and forth based on the content of a blog post from Sue Waters.  I challenged her to write her own post and she did.  Nathan Hall ended up with a starring role in her post as Sheila quoted content from a recent post of his.

If there’s any doubt that we’re all weaving the web with each post, read it once for her content and then read it again to see the connections that she’s making.  We always talk about students making connections – is there any better way than blogging?

I Told Two Friends and so on….

Sue Bruyns was tagged by yours truly about “Make School Different” and responded with one of her own.  In this post, she took things to the next level as she tagged five others.  Into the middle, though, was a comment from a colleague who told her “that blogging was a self-indulgent exercise”.  That phrase has been nagging me for a bit but every time, I come back to Joel Barker’s Starfish Story.

I feel sorry for her colleague who feels that way and I hope she can find time to rethink and even use the Starfish Story as a launchpad to thinking about it differently.

Just think back to life before blogging and how things had no option except to be bottled up inside or shared with one or two colleagues.  Now, to get input and thoughts globally is such a game changer.

My #YoungerTeacherSelf post for @joannacre’s blog challenge

Vicky Loras is an amazing Ontario educational entrepreneur who runs her own school in Switzerland.  We interact so frequently on Twitter and Facebook that I feel like I know her personally.  I don’t, but if I ever get to Zug, I’m looking her up.

This week, she participated in a meme where she wrote a post giving advice to her younger self.

It’s a fascinating and personal read that concludes with “Whatever you do, don’t stop learning“.  The entire post is a wonderful piece written to her younger self who had aspirations to be lawyer.  I’ll bet her students are so glad that she didn’t make that career choice.

Read her entire post to find out what other gems of advice she gave herself.

This looks like a great meme to be part of.  If you’re looking for a premise to blog, don’t look any further.

OAME 2015, post 1 of 3: Dial it Back

As the title would imply, Vera Teschow shared a triplet of posts from the OAME 15 Conference from last week.  Check out also:
OAME 2015, Post 2 of 3: Bridge Building
OAME 2015, Post 3 of 3: Our Turn

The collection is a nice round up of the conference from the eyes of an attendee.  It starts with a look at the keynote (and selfies) of Day Meyer and concluded with thoughts of her own presentation.

If you couldn’t be at OAME, you’ll be able to enjoy it through her reflections.  I’ll admit to being hooked with her first post identifying “Myths of Mathematical Engagement”.

Another week, and another collection of amazing thoughts from Ontario Educators.  Please visit these posts and share a little blogging love.  You can view my entire list of Ontario Edubloggers here.

Education is a Complicated Mechanism

Fly into any classroom, be a fly on the wall and you’ll see so many fidgety beings trying their best (or not) to engage in the current activity or lesson.    The ringmaster (or teacher) is there doing her/his best teaching, learning, facilitating, negotiating, organizing, begging, warning, managing, listening, talking, …

Thank goodness for the preparation period.  It’s a time to leave the room to kick back and relax or even perhaps get ready for the next lesson.



Forget the classroom being so complicated – be a drone and hover over the entire building and see what makes all of the various parts work.

That’s what Andrew Campbell tried to capture via crowd source using the hashtags #MyPrepTime and #4MyStudents.

To make it easier to handle, he’s created a Storify document which he calls the “Best” of the hashtag responses.

I think we’ve all seen individual responses, articles, blog posts of single education voices describing this.

What’s unique about this document is that it’s an entire profession shedding light about what makes schools work in addition to the times when a teacher is at the front of the class in the classroom.  The best part?  The comments aren’t negative.  It’s just a story of everyone pitching in to make school the best place for the students to be.

The content reaches into every facet of what makes a school successful, an integral part of the community and child’s social and educational life.

Next time you see a naysayer talking about the cushy 9-3 job, send them this link.