Santa Tracker


This is a feature that I look forward from Google every year – the Santa Tracker from Santa’s Village.

The big kid in me enjoys the activities and the obvious design and planning that goes into them.

You can read all the details here.

Despite the fun appearance of the village, there’s a great deal of learning to be had by digging into the activities. They’re all accessible via the hamburg menu in the top left.

My fascination, at least for now, is Code Boogie as we head into Computer Science Education Week. Do a little drag and drop coding to follow the teacher or create dance steps of your own. It starts easily enough but then …

And, the cool thing is that you can actually view the Javascript code once the activity is over.

But that’s just one of the activities available. I’m sure that you’ll have your favourites after a while. The Gumball Tilt is a challenge for my fingers.

Follow the link to the Google blog post above and then head into the village. Or, for the impatient, just click here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Just like that, we’re into December. I’ve often wondered if the holiday seasons might get people away from their keyboards. That may be yet to come but, for now, there’s some great content from Ontario Edubloggers. Here’s a bit of what I read this week.


Our Kids’ Spelling is Atrocious.

As long as there have been schools and teachers, there have been red pens and circles surrounding spelling mistakes. Look it up. (well, you don’t have to really)

I found this post from Peter Cameron so interesting. It’s a transcript of a conversation between he and a parent who has a concern and was looking for an app or other solution to help the cause.

Peter does give some educational suggestions and guidance.

Upon further reflection, I looked at myself. I’ve always considered myself a fairly good speller. And yes, I suffered through those Friday morning dictation tests in elementary school. I hated them at the time but can now appreciate them for what they are worth. I’ve memorized the words, the rules, the exceptions to the rules, … I was not hooked on phonics.

And then I go onto Social Media and see misspellings and misuse so often, I start to question myself. Is this the beginning of the end of literacy for me?

In the meantime, thank goodness for the squiggly red line under the word misspellings above (actually at the time I typed it, it was mispellings) to keep me on the literacy straight and narrow.


Baby It’s Cold Outside: The Saga of a Song

There was no date on this post on the Association for Media Literacy website. I thought it might be recent and timely for the season but I reached out to one of the authors, Diana Maliszewski to be sure.

In fact, it was about a year old and part of a commitment to post 40 blog posts along with Neil Andersen. After a bit of a back and forth and encouragement with Diana, I decided to include it on the Wednesday podcast and on this post.

In reading, I learned so much more about the song besides the fact that it appeared in an old movie. Lots of media literacy implications (which explains why it’s on this blog) and a real comparison between society and media, then and now. There was a reminder that the song was banned on the CBC for a time and so much more. It’s a really good read and the authors encourage it to be used in the classroom.

I also found that Lady Gaga had covered the song.

And so many others. If the original was controversial, then how would the more modern covers be received?


From Compliance to Commitment Takes Personal Accountability: The Aspirational Nature of Equity Work

With a title like that, you just know that there’s going to be a long post to follow…

And Debbie Donsky doesn’t disappoint!

If you’re looking for something to challenge the way that we do things in education, this is a great motivator.

I mean, we’ve all done it. You get the memo that there will be an assembly on a topic or that homerooms will be held so that you can lead a special session with your students on a timely topic. I’m thinking bullying here.

As a dutiful educator, you do it. You’re accountable to do it. At what level of buy-in do you actually have though?

That’s where Debbie left me in the dust when she addresses rules and policies and applies the concept of aspiration to the situation. After a read, and you’ll read it way more than once, I think you’ll find yourself questioning a number of things. That’s a good thing and something that good writing should do.

The richness doesn’t stop with Debbie’s content. There are lots of connections made and links to external resources. She’s really done her homework in preparation for this post.


Thinking about Feedback

I almost didn’t read this post from Helen DeWaard because I made the assumption that it was going to be all about red pens, circle, and comments to students. Goodness knows that we’ve addressed that so many times.

But, no, that wasn’t the point here and why I felt so good about indeed reading the post.

Helen’s focus is on the other side of the coin.

What do YOU do when you receive feedback?

She embeds this graphic that will take a bit of time to really work through. But it’s worth it.

Think about how you receive feedback. We get it all the time. Sure, there’s the inspection piece from administrators but we get it from students with every lesson. It’s just a matter of really understanding it.

I remember a story attributed to B.F. Skinner from a Psychology of Teaching course where students ended up making a teacher work from a corner because of their actions. Every time the teacher moved towards the corner, the students all smiled and nodded like they were learning. Move away and the students dropped interest. The truth value of the story is in dispute but it is a good story nonetheless.

Feedback is indeed powerful. One of the best things I ever did for myself was to take a course on Peer Coaching and then found a partner who really understood and we worked together so well coaching each other. We still do today.


One-Hole Punch Puzzle Templates

I’m almost positive that I’ve done this mathematical activity described in this post from Mark Chubb. It involves paper and a paper punch. It might even have been as an ice breaker at a workshop. It might have been an online application that didn’t require physical paper or punch at all. It’s a really worthwhile challenge though.

If all you want is the activity, go to Mark’s post and skip to about halfway through it where he describes the activity.

But, if you do that, you’ll miss the important part at the beginning of the post and the why to the reason why you’d want to do this with your class. And, I would do it with everyone, either singly or in groups for the discussion value.

It’s a great activity to use those papers that are in your recycle box. There really is no need for brand new paper to do this activity.


History in the Making – Creating Digital History Techbooks

Paul McGuire had reached out to share with me this culminating project that he called “History in the Making”.

The last assignment we worked on was called History in the Making. I had this idea that it would be really cool for students to develop a digital textbook along the lines of what Discovery Education has created for math, science and social studies.

He was particularly proud of one project dealing with The Oka Crisis. He wanted me to take a look at it for my thoughts. In the post, he shares a couple of others that he thought were exemplary.

Everything seems to be created in a Google Site under the University of Ottawa’s umbrella. I hope that the students also make a copy in their own personal space for use when they graduate.

Some of the things that sprung to my mind while wandering around the resources here.

  • are other Faculty of Education professors encouraging publishing like this?
  • hopefully, they don’t land a job where Google Sites are blocked! (There are alternatives in that case…)
  • particularly in social studies with our new learnings, digital techbooks have the chance of being more relevant and up to date than other resources that might be available
  • certainly resources like this added to a digital professional portfolio would be impressive for a job interview
  • the concept of open sharing of resources is so powerful. It makes school districts that hide behind login/passwords seem so dated

I’m impressed with Paul’s forward thinking and I hope that his students appreciate both the explicit and the not-so-explicit lessons that can be had from this activity.


Thirty one days – my social media detox

If you’ve been missing Sarah Lalonde online, this post explains it all. She has done a personal social media detox.

All the details of her process are found in this post. It wasn’t all just an easy exercise. There were challenges.

Under the category of TMI, she also shares how and where she cheated…

And to address boredom…

One thing I found the most difficult was the “dead time”. For example: waiting in car, in line at the grocery store, waiting for an appointment…). My brain felt like it needed to be entertained. Was I scared to face my thoughts? Why did I need to feel busy? Why couldn’t I just sit there waiting and doing nothing? This is something I had to work on. 

She even extends the concept to students.

I think the big learning here is in perspective. Social Media is something that can be as big or as minimalist as you want it to be. I can’t see one answer that fits everything.

Regardless, it was interesting reliving the experience with her.


I hope that you enjoy these posts as much as I did. Please take a moment to click through and send some social media cred to these bloggers. If you’re a blogger and not in my Livebinder, please consider adding yourself so that I know about you.

Then, make sure you’re following these great bloggers on Twitter.

  • @cherandpete
  • @MzMollyTL
  • @mediasee
  • @A_M_L_
  • @DebbieDonsky
  • @hj_dewaard
  • @MarkChubb3
  • @mcguirp
  • @sarahlalondee

This post originally appeared on…

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

Delayed coverage


We have been aware that there might be a work stoppage by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation today for about a week. The Federation had given notice that, unless an agreement was in place by midnight last night, that there would be action taken today.

Locally, the Public School board indicated that it was going to make a decision on opening/closing by 9pm last night. When I went to bed last night, sometime after 9pm, there was no indication. It applied to us because the school district had indicated that it would close elementary schools as some of the education workers there are members of OSSTF. That would have put us in the position of care givers today.

When I woke this morning, I did what I thought would have been a good move and checked with the local newspaper. There was nothing. I went online to the local television station. Again, nothing. It was only when I went to Blackburn News that I got the story.

When my wife came down to check her morning news reads, she went through the same process in her news feed and then asked me “Are the schools open”? We then shared some thoughts back and forth.

That was from the traditional news form of things. Of course, the information was easily available from District 9 on Facebook and the school district website.

Later this morning, the news did trickle to the traditional news sources. But it’s certainly no longer the top story, falling behind the Prime Minister’s and others. I sit and wonder though …

  • is news not considered a 24/7 thing?
  • was it a foregone conclusion and therefore not worthy enough to cover?
  • is it just not a news story?
  • did they not want to make a mistake and get the wrath of the community if they got it wrong?

I’m sure that there’s a great deal of media literacy that can be wrestled out from this.

How were things reported on and how timely were things in your neck of the woods?

Next week


This is a modified “post from the past”.  Last year, I ran this for Hour of Code 2018.  I’ve created a new Flipboard document of resources for 2019.  There are some new resources there and some updated from the past.  And, quite frankly, there are some classics.  After all, hours haven’t changed! 

If this is your year to jump or if you’re building on last year’s efforts, hopefully there’s something here to help your cause.  You don’t have to fly in an expert to lead your class; there are lots of terrific resources and ideas here. DIY.

Enjoy.


Next week, December 9-15 marks yet another Hour of Code, part of Computer Science Education Week.

This has been going on for a few years now.  It’s an opportunity to try coding exercises in the classroom and perhaps create an interest in Computer Science and future studies. In Ontario, there are formal courses for secondary school as described in this document.

Depending on who you are, it might be:

  • something else in education to ignore
  • a first opportunity to try some coding activities
  • a change to follow up with what you did last year
  • an opportunity to celebrate the coding that happens regularly in your classroom
  • or for Computer Science class where coding is done daily, an opportunity to reach out and try something new

Hopefully, if you’re reading this blog, you don’t fall into the first category!

All this past week, I’ve been toying with some of the offerings for this year and, like I do annually, I have created a Flipboard document of some of the things that I’ve found.  It’s certainly not inclusive but just might generate some interest or inspiration.

All of the past years’ collections are available as well.  I haven’t checked all of the links to see if they’re still active so clicker beware.

There should be no shortage of ideas.

I would encourage all educators to get involved whether it’s getting started or enhancing whatever it is that you’re doing or have done.  Everyone benefits when you do.

If you’re a social media user, take and share pictures, videos, blog posts, etc. so that we can all enjoy what’s happening in your classroom.

So, what are you doing this year?

Your own countdown


And just like that, it’s December…

Growing up, my brother and I always had Advent calendars and the first of December was special since we could pop open the first of the windows and get at the chocolate surprise. But only one per day.

It was a popular item on sale at various retail stores we visited recently. And, go online and wow! It’s the ultimate consumer item. It’s not just limited to chocolate anymore.

For the classroom, what about turning it around and make it the ultimate making item! Why not make your own Advent calendar? Maybe not the chocolate type but how about something digital?

MyAdvent is an online resource to help out.

Instead of chocolate, you could add just about anything – text, images, Flipgrid, and video and document anything. Depending upon the start of the Break, you could have up to 20? days to do the deed. ## days of Geometry anyone, ## days of going Green, ## days of sketchnotes, …

Not interested in using an online service?

The concept is easily replicable on blog, online presentation/document/spreadsheet, wiki, …

What a beautiful way to countdown until the break.

In other Advent news, check out Lisa Noble’s weekly update.

Collecting data


I got excited when I saw this article:

The Ultimate Guide to Data Collection in the Classroom

I’ve worked with people who talk about “data driven decisions” but really talk about it at the 10 000 foot level. People leave from talks like that frustrated since they often feel like the target was missed. That’s easy to happen when you have a generic talk but there are eager people who want to get to the practical.

If you follow the link in the article looking for the examples, you’ll end up at the Teachers Pay Teachers website with a broken link. (like I did). This link should be a bit more successful. This second link will take you to EducationWorld with a number of free templates.

The best advice from the original article was this

Before you can begin collecting any data, you need to know exactly what you are trying to learn from the data that will be gathered.

There’s a great deal of wisdom in that statement.

For purposes like data collection, it has me a hater disliker of the golden template and the distribution of it as the ultimate answer. No two teachers and no two classrooms are identical with the same needs and requirements.

I actually think that a better approach is to go beyond the “Big Idea” and consider that it’s time to get your hands dirty. Take a template if you must and truly analyse it to see if it does what you need and what you require. Then, spend some time making it yours. That will probably mean removing some suggestions and adding your own.

For those navel gazers and their 10 000 foot level approach, there needs to be a level of practicality. If your approach is to use a Spreadsheet for the task, the true value comes from showing how to customise the tool for the desired purpose, not just how to fill in the cells.

Once that’s mastered, then the original article has a nice collection of suggestions for collecting and using the data. But let’s not forget that the reason why there is a human in the room. It’s not to fill in a form for someone else, it’s to truly glean insights from planning and observation.

It works best when you have the perfect tool and only you can make that decision.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Happy Black Friday, if you observe. There’s nothing discounted about the great posts coming from Ontario Edubloggers. You get full value for your reading.


Good Tree Stories

This week starts off with a post from Sheila Stewart. Maybe it’s a little less “education” than normal but it might make you look at your Christmas tree in a different way. She was inspired by a story about Halifax donating a tree to Boston which led her to thinking about trees in Kenora.

It got me thinking about Christmas trees in my life. As a kid growing up, it was always down to the trees sold by the Kinsmen and Kinettes. The tree had to be the perfect height with the perfect amount of symmetry. Lots of mathematics to consider when you’re freezing…

In our town, there’s always a big show as our natural tree is lit. The mayor, town crier, shooting of the town cannon, fireworks, hot chocolate, and of course the RiverLights.

These days, we’ve found the perfect solution for our rec room – an artificial tree which is absolutely symmetric. It makes the perfect backdrop for our Christmas picture.


If not now, then when?

From Rob Cannone, the best wisdom for professional learning.

With students, they learn something and immediately put it into practice. Can you imagine the disaster if you taught something and then didn’t get into projects, assessments, or any of that good stuff until a month or two later?

So, why as teachers, do you attend professional learning events and then not implement things right away?

Rob notes some steps that he feels should be done.

  • One thing at a time
  • Open the box
  • Share learning with others
  • Practice makes progress (accept it won’t be perfect)

His third point is even more important in this day and age. There was a time when you might learning something and then share it with a colleague in your school. With social media and its power, your best new learning partner just might be online.


Q is for Questions and Not Getting Caught in the Quagmire

From Lynn Thomas, another post that I thought moved nicely from kids to yourself in the argument that she builds.

We all remember our days at the Faculty of Education and the advice that we got about questioning – never ask a question that can be answered with a “Yes” or “No”. Aim for something deeper and richer so that the student can provide evidence of learning.

Then, for me, the post took a turn.

When we ask questions of ourselves, do we aim for the richer questions or are we happy being able to respond “Yes” or “No” or ticked off on a to-do list? Or, updated to 2019, anything that can be answered quickly by a search engine.

Other than the fact that Quagmire also starts with a “Q”, I like her logic of avoiding getting stuck.


KEEPING BIRDS SAFE INQUIRY – GRADE 1

From the STAO blog, something a little different from Laura Collins. It’s actually a unit of study about birds and safety.

We have a couple of bird feeders in the back yard. We know that you have to reliably fill the feeder. We’ve learned about ways to avoid birds flying into windows. We’ve learned how to keep the squirrels off the pole. There’s so much more in this unit including the CN Tower.

And we get so excited to see Blue Jay, Cardinals, Woodpeckers. Squirrels, not so much.

There’s a real wealth of activities, literature, and learning opportunities here. Wow!

Most definitely shareworthy.


Guided Reading with Adolescent Readers

I thought that I was going to be like a fish out of water with the post from Deborah McCallum. After all, I didn’t teach reading. That’s for the younger years; by the time we got them in secondary school, they should know how to read, right?

But, are they all really accomplished readers?

Deborah points to a lack of extensive research in this area. In our voicEd Radio show, Stephen shared some of the challenges that he had as an adolescent reader. Do we make the assumption that because they’re older, they just are all natural readers or have at least mastered the skill successfully?

Deborah offers a few things to think about. Good for beginning readers but certainly worth keeping in mind for the older ones.

  • Low knowledge of vocabulary
  • Inadequate word recognition strategies
  • Lack of schemata or background knowledge to interpret text
  • Poor use of strategies to comprehend what they are reading

HTML/CSS with Canada Learning Code

My neck snapped when I read the title to this post from Alanna King. Then, I thought, we’ll turn her into a programming geek yet.

In a previous post, she mentioned how he was excited about learning about design and interface but now she’s rolled up her sleeves and is digging into code.

Her description of the activity matches the activities that we used to set up in our “Women in Technology” workshops for Grade 7/8 girls. There is something magical about looking behind the scenes to see exactly what’s going one. You might remember the inspirational “a pixel here, a pixel there”.

These days, there isn’t a huge need to be able to code many things from scratch since we have such great, purposeful editors to work with. And yet, there is the odd time when you need to look behind the scenes because something isn’t working just right. I can’t imagine how long it would take to write a blog post without an editor.

But, I still maintain, that’s not the ultimate goal. To be sure, the power behind programming and coding is knowing that you can absolutely be in charge of that page, that site, that device, that electronic thingy. Once you know, realise, and understand that, you can’t be pushed around by a wannabe or a particular device.

Learn and take charge – Alanna’s on a wonderful trip.


Equity Tech’quity

There’s real frustration in this post from Matthew Morris.

the kids in my classroom were in the middle of completing their short stories and the laptops they had been writing short stories on were booked – for the entire week. 

In his school, the supply doesn’t meet demand when it comes to technology and that’s the TLDR;

It’s the sort of thing that legitimately turns teachers off using technology in a meaningful, reliable way. Imagine any subject area where you can only do what you need to do every other Thursday if you remember to book things.

“We are teaching students born in the 21st century. We need to meet them on their plane.” Round of applause.

How many times have we heard this? Some self-important speaker on the speaking route commanding a fee that could otherwise have bought maybe 10 Chromebooks. Or, in Matthew’s case looking at a neighbouring board where a commitment to the concept has resulted in every student being given a device. I can understand the frustration.

Somewhere along the line, the people who allocate the dollars have to decide whether they’re prepared to fund a significant program or be happy with periodic low-level activities.


Thanks, once again, to these wonderful Ontario educators for blogging and sharing their thoughts. Please take the time to click through and read these posts in their entirety. And, make a blogger happy – leave them a comment.

Then, follow them on Twitter.

  • @SheilaSpeaking
  • @mr_robcannone
  • @THOMLYNN101
  • @staoapso
  • @Bigideasinedu
  • @banana29
  • @callmemrmorris

This post originally appeared on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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