Now and Then

I’m a big fan of Google Maps and, in particular, Street View.  I guess that I might be a very visual type of person because, when I want to go somewhere, I’d like to know a bit more than an address.  I’d like to know what the place looks like too.  That way, I know exactly when I get to my destination.  It’s also handy to check out the neighbourhood and see where the parking is as well.

It’s also intriguing to check out some personal history.

We were having a conversation recently about living in Toronto while going to the Faculty of Education.  I yearned for a look at the house where I stayed.  I still remember the address; after all, I had mail sent there for a year.  Off to Google Maps I went and I entered the address and then I dropped to Street View.  What turned up surprised me.

It was a new house or maybe even a small apartment building.  I certainly didn’t recognize it so I spun Street View around to see if could remember any of the landmarks.  In fact, there were quite a number of new buildings on that street but I distinctly remember the house right next door so I was sure that I was looking in the right spot.  I’m guessing my hosts had sold their house to a developer.

That’s not uncommon.  Ah, too bad I couldn’t have just one more look at the old place.

Not so quickly, Doug.  You can.

Street View has a history of all of the images that were ever taken of a particular spot!  I rolled back the clock and, sure enough, there was the old house.  Great memories of living in the apartment over the garage were the result.

How to do this?

I checked out some places locally that I knew had had some reconstruction and rebuilding.  Sure enough, they had some of the older images.

Just for fun, I checked out the Municipal Building in the town of Lasalle which has had a beautiful facelift in the past few years.  I drive by it regularly so I didn’t even need to know the address.  I just zoomed in and then dropped into Street View and adjusted so that I was close enough.

There’s the rough-ish address that I was at when I looked at the picture.  You’ll see that the Street View image was taken in June 2014.  To the left, though, there’s an icon that I’d describe as a clock with arrows circling it.  Click that.  That’s where the magic lies.

Full screen, you have the current image and a little thumbnail of the image appears in the fly out window.  Check out the bottom of the window for a little scrubber bar.  I slid it back to 2009.

Now, the angle is a bit different or maybe the building was moved a bit in its reconstruction.  You can drag things around and relive what was.

It’s a fantastic way to relive at least some of the ancient history anyway.

How about in your classroom?

    • Have you had a reconstruction of the school that the students could look back at?
    • What about all the places that you lived in when you went to university?  Are they still there?
    • If you work at a new school, what was there before the building was built?
    • How about your old house?  Do you remember that car parked in the driveway?

    The sky’s the limit when you start thinking personal history.

    This Week in Ontario Edublogs

    It most certainly is autumn.  Pumpkins for sale everywhere; mums coming out in bloom; and lots of great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.  Here’s a bunch of what I caught this week.  Enjoy.

    Growing Pains

    It’s the time of year to start afresh.  Even if you’ve taught the same subject or grade for a number of years, it’s always a new start and there’s that awkward first little bit that happens at the beginning of the year.  In Eva Thompson’s case, she’s taking on a new job and trying to fill the shoes of someone who had been in that position for a number of years.  That’s a “double whammy”.  But, I’m sure that her enthusiasm will make the transition complete, given a little bit of time and patience.  It doesn’t sound like there’s anything else standing in her road.

    Now, if I can translate my pure enthusiasm for this job, to the people who might witness these temporary blips on the radar, I’m sure I can convince people I will be great at this job. If I see someone who loves what they do, even if they can’t solve my problem that instant, I know they will at least put the effort in to get me the answers I need. I hope others feel the same way!

    Higher Education is Pushing More Professors into Poverty

    This moving post, from Rusul Alrubail, may well be an eye opener for those of us who don’t work full time in higher education.  In K-12, we are so fortunate to have strong teacher federations that keep things honest.  Just like Rusul describes, there are activities that everyone does that they don’t get paid for.  There are some statistics that she quotes that I wish had some reference for follow up, like so many professors living in poverty.  It was a wakeup read for me.

    No one talked about the changes. It happened behind closed doors. Teachers were hurt. We said goodbyes and shed some tears, all behind closed doors. And that hurt the most. Many full time faculty didn’t even know what was happening with their colleagues. Hence the phone call from my chair. Each contract faculty apparently got one. The college didn’t want to go on email records and let people know this was happening.


    I had a bit of private discussion with Sheila Stewart who read and contacted me when I talked about blogs that have seem to have stopped publishing.  She was considering pulling the plug on her own efforts.  But, she still has a couple of posts in her!

    It would be sad if she calls it a day and so I’m hoping that she doesn’t.

    Her blog is one of the ones that come to mind when I think of one that has developed so much content over its lifetime.  It truly would be sad if it went away.

    Not All Who Wander Are Lost – A Lesson in Leadership Paths

    Who hasn’t heard this expression.  In this blog post, Tina Zita uses the quote from Tolkien to do her own thinking about leadership, particularly as it applies to education.

    Education seems to have a pretty clear pathway for leadership: step 1 leads to step 2 leads to step 3, the quicker the better. Like the city walls, they become a constant reminder of a common path I haven’t chosen to take yet.

    I have to totally agree with her analysis and summary.  That’s the current reality.

    At the same time, I think that it speaks volumes about why we don’t get the massive changes in education from those who aspire to be leaders.  It seems to me that so much time is spent playing the game that valuable time is lost discovering just where your true talents lie.

    One of the concepts that is in vogue with students is Genius Hour.  I wonder if true professional wandering wouldn’t be the equivalent for teachers and shouldn’t be perceived as the traits that would inspire an educational organization.  I think that we’ve all seen those “Google Interview Questions” that are completely out in left field to try to identify those candidates that would bring effective change and new thinking.  Why aren’t they honoured in education?

    The Current on Homework

    If you have a minute, check out this blog post from StepfordTO and then spend the next half hour listening to the interview made with Anna Maria Tremonti.  The focus is on homework, a topic that nobody is neutral on these days.

    It’s much easier to implicitly blame kids for their own troubles and individualize the problem of stress (by offering coping mechanisms and time management guidance) than it is to acknowledge one’s complicity perpetuating a school culture of overwork that harms kids. So once again there’s an elephant in the room of the debates about teen mental health. (Spoiler: its name is homework.)

    It’s too bad that there aren’t any comments to this blog post at present.  Why not leave one and share your thoughts.

    Where did that teacher go? Helping students to make their own decisions

    I really like this post by Kristin Phillips.  As I was reading it, a few things came to mind.

    • the problem with math, particularly on high stakes tests is that some of the questions are “tricky”.  Now, I like a good puzzle as much as the next person but should a problem that’s “tricky” be included in such a test?  Is the goal not to test the understanding of mathematics?  Why not test the mathematics abilities and leave the “tricky” to the classroom activity where time to think and analyse things is more liable to be successful.  Is the inclusion on a test an effort to keep scores down?
    • Bandwagons – we’ve seen them all (to date) and there are more to come.  Who determines which one to jump on?  Is it worthwhile to jump on the latest and most fashionable when you’re not ready to go all in with it?  Kristin sums it nicely –

    We may give lip service to critical thinking and open-ended tasks.  But I urge us all to think about whether our classroom practice is really training our students to be independent thinkers, or whether we actually train them to rely on our guidance.  It’s hard to be a teacher and watch your students struggle.

    Change takes time and care

    The title here from Melanie White says it all.

    Then, she goes deeper.  What a great concept – share with her Grade 9 students who she is, where she’s from, and why she’s a bit nervous herself.

    The information is given in what appears to be a number of slides from a presentation.  It was interesting to see her history so I’m sure that the students appreciated it.

    The most powerful slide – the last one, call to action, of course.

    Engagement in Professional Learning

    Nicole MordenCormier’s post is a reminder that effective schools is a balance of things and, this time, she takes on the concept of learning – both from the student and the teacher perspective.

    A tension that has once again emerged in this process is the need to balance the urgent learning needs of our students with the learning interests of our educators.  We know from our Conditions for Learning that to achieve that permanent change in thinking and behaviour that defines learning (Katz and Dack) the learner needs to see the learning as important to them, relevant to their world, and job-embedded.

    I like the fact that she addresses the needs of the teaching professional and their desire to grow and learn and suggests ways that it might be addressed in a learning plan.   I wonder if this would include wandering?

    Whoo hoo! BreakOutEDU is coming to #BIT16

    Of course, you come to the Bring IT, Together Conference for the learning.

    This year, that learning includes a BreakOutEDU session.  What’s that?  Check out the SketchNote.

    Then, get your registration in.

    As always, it’s been a wonderful collection of reading this past week.  Why not drop by the blogs in this post and read them in their entirety.  And, drop off a comment or two!



    Yesterday’s post about haters brought back memories and a smile.  

    It was a few years ago and one of the students in my class came in and announced that his mother or sister or someone had had a baby girl.

    After the applause and congratulations, came the questions.  What are they going to call her?   

    And we heard the answer.

    But, the computer science teacher in me saw an opportunity for an interesting problem.  What if we wrote a program to generate the names of babies?

    It was a problem that scaled nicely and included a bunch of programming concepts.

    We had just finished talking about arrays and had done a few examples to show how they might be used.  We started simply.

    We began with a couple of one dimensional arrays and I think each had 10 elements.  Now, we were naming our future kids so the last name was easy.  All we had to do was determine a first and middle name.  All the program had to do was pick a random number from 1-10 and go to the array for the first name.  Then pick another random number and go to the array for the middle name.  Concatenate these two (don’t forget the space) to your last name and, voila, instant name for your child.

    Now, it was time to review and up the level of sophistication.

    • If we did it after the sex is known, we need to branch to either the boy’s or girl’s names
    • If we do it before the sex is known, it would be nice to generate a boy’s name and a girl’s name to cover our bases
    • We need to make sure that we don’t randomly generate the same first name and middle name
    • What if we wanted to reuse an existing family name or increase the odds that we pick someone from the same gene pool?
    • A database of 10 names is pretty limited.  Fortunately, data files were also part of the curriculum.  Somewhere I got a big list of boy’s and girl’s names.  It’s easier now – Popular Names for BoysPopular Names for Girls
    • It would be nice to be able to loop through the program to regenerate names in case we don’t like the ones that we originally generated instead of having to rerun the program
    • It led to some interesting discussions about names after some students decided to colour code the results either blue or pink.  Are the list names exclusive?

    Ah!  Teachable moment.  Now, we didn’t have YouTube back then but I had a case of CDs in the car and a portable player in the classroom.

    So, back to the original premise.

    What brought this memory back?  It was the names that the accounts I described yesterday used.  I’ve yet to be followed by a Bill Smith or Susan Jones.  They all look like they were created by a random name generator.

    At the very least, it was nice to think back to this great problem.  It started simple but had legs.  

    Unsplash for free

    Copyright and Creative Commons are topics that have been addressed on this blog before.  Picture yourself as a young learner.  It’s difficult to know and understand the difference.

    And, grabbing any image is as simple as doing a Google Image Search, displaying the image full screen, right click to save it, and away you go.  Of course, we know that they should search for any limitations for the use of the image.  There is a time where that absolutely needs to be addressed.

    What if there were no limitations?

    What if the terms for the use of the images was …

    All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

    Too good to be true?  Then check out Unsplash for yourself.

    Now, I still maintain that the best source of images is still with your own camera or your own drawing tools.  There’s also opportunity to search and attribute using some of the various Creative Commons licenses.  But there are times when you just aren’t able to do you own.

    So, add Unsplash to your collection.

    I’ll admit; it feels strange using someone else’s image without attribution.

    The collection is pretty impressive.  I see lots of possibilities for desktop image pictures plus a number of other things.

    Pushing back

    Seth Godin, the wizard of the short blog post that makes you think released this post recently.

    The professional pushes back

    In the post, he gives examples of how a professional might not do something that we would associate with their profession and therefore pushes back.  He touched:

    • The architect 
    • The surgeon 
    • The marketer 
    • The statesman 

    I eagerly read them all looking for, well you know.  It wasn’t there.  Of course, there were lots of other professions that weren’t there.  

    The bank manager, the city planner, the lawyer, …

    It’s too bad that the post didn’t include teacher or educator.  I would be interested to hear his thoughts.  Perhaps he doesn’t view the role of educator as a professional or maybe it just didn’t make his list.  It’s his blog so he can do what he wishes.  This is my blog and I’d like to be inclusive.

    So, I’ll turn to you.

    • Do you consider yourself a professional?
    • Give an example of how you pushed back in the manner that is used in the original post

    This Week in Ontario Edublogs

    I was at a bit of a crossroads with my collection of Ontario Edublogs last week and so sought some advice from readers.  Those that responded in public and in private were very convincing.  I’ll leave things the way they are for the present.  There are some new things that I read this week.  Check them out.  You may notice a theme.

    Teaching as a creative act

    Even as I create this post, I’m chatting with a friend about the use of a template as a way to use technology in the classroom.  Jim Cash, in this post, talks about relationships and learning.  There’s also the element of respect.  When you’re working with a template, you expect that most results will be reasonably similar.  Does that illustrate respect for the learner?  Allowing students to become creative honours their efforts.  As the title to the post implies, it can only happen when the teacher and teaching is creative.  There’s nothing much creative about photoglopping a black line master or the digital equivalent – handing out a template of a file for completion.

    I see relationships and learning as very closely related; both are creative acts. They are creative because every day they need to be nurtured, utilized, examined, improved, and remade. The heart of constructivism is that knowledge, skills and values are built over time in socially safe and growth-focused environments. Knowledge building is never done.

    Teaching is a Creative Act

    In Jim’s post, he indicated that he was tagged along with a number of others to get involved with the discussion about teaching being a creative act.  The original tagger was Matthew Oldridge and he shared his thoughts in this post.

    I had to smile at this paragraph in his post.

    When I started out teaching, I thought I was “supposed” to come up with brand new lessons every day. That’s what I thought the job was, but then, if I was stuck for ideas, I would feel bad.

    I know that, as a new computer science / data processing teacher, I absolutely had to come up with new lessons and ideas.  There was no formal curriculum; there was no textbook; there really was no experience I could draw on except for my own.  It made for some very short nights, making up content for all the classes.  In the long run, I think it worked out for the best.  It was only after I got my permanent contract that I found out that there was a department budget for resources and then dared approach my department to get my share.  To be honest, I couldn’t find anything that fit the bill.  So, like I would suggest virtually every computer science teacher does, I did a backward design from what I wanted the students to learn to the activities, to the lessons, to the introductions.

    Blog Challenge: Teaching as a Creative Act

    Also tagged in the post was Brandon Pachan.  It was a chance for me to add another name to the Ontario Educator list and the Ontario Edublogger list.

    The post starts off with an insight that only teachers will get.  Parents just think the magic happens.

    Teaching is a creative act because you are balancing the process with the product while engaging an audience that is diverse, unique and also part of the cast. Creativity thrives on limitations and obstacles.

    He then identifies and comments on what he feels are limitations.

    • The Physical Space
    • The Cast & Crew
    • The Transition

    I think that it’s also important to add “The Resources” to the list.  So many people are having to rework old resources to try and get new and contemporary results.  Or, perhaps you have the new resources but have had no time to determine how best to use them.  That, of course, leads to “time to collaborate”.

    Sharing Interests to Prompt Self-directed Writing

    Related to the theme is this powerful post from Tim King who, quite frankly, I’ve always pictured in the role of a technology teacher.  But, talk about teaching and creativity.

    I’m back in the classroom again and teaching English for the first time in more than a year.  I took a senior essentials English class mainly because few people want to teach it (teachers like to teach people like themselves – in this case academically focused English students), and it fit my schedule.  Essentials English is just as it sounds.  These are weak English students who are getting what they need to graduate and get out into the workplace, they aren’t post-secondary bound and tend to find school pointless.

    Huge kudos to Tim for reaching out to those students in this way.

    Keep A “Plans and Ideas” Google Doc Open In A Tab, Always

    While poking around Matthew Oldridge’s previous post, I found this one.  He describes a technique for never losing an idea by always having a tab open in his browser to curate those ideas.

    I’ve tried a number of utilities including a Google document, Google Keep, Microsoft’s OneNote (grudgingly after somehow I lost all those notes at the Microsoft PIL Event), Evernote, in a blog editor, and in just a text document.  Ideas come at the strangest of times; for me it’s often while walking the dog which means a mobile solution.  I’d forget by the time I got home and he’d lose focus at the next mailbox.  I can access both OneNote and Keep on my watch and audio capture is so good.  Of course, if you use Office 365 instead of Google, you could do this with an open instance of Word.  The key is to find something that works reliably for you so that you don’t lose those gems of inspiration.

    Minecraft Education Edition #MinecraftEE – Part 3: Digging Even Deeper

    This is Part 3 of a three part series reviewing Minecraft for Education.  Check out the post for links to Part 1 and Part 2.  The post is attributed to @GumbyBlockhead but if you poke around, you’ll see who is behind this.

    The whole three posts are a very complete look at the Education version of Minecraft, something I don’t have access to.  So, I do appreciate the walkthrough.

    I learned so much – like how to change the weather.

    An Interview with Matthew Oldridge

    In case you missed it, earlier this week I had the chance to post an interview that I had with Mr. Oldridge.

    I found it interesting to take a look a little deeper at what makes him tick and to get some of his thoughts about mathematics.

    All my interviews can be found here.

    Please take a moment to click through and read all these wonderful posts.  There’s always great stuff from Ontario Edubloggers.

    Math for All Ages

    “I hate math”

    Could there be three words that are more abrasive to teachers?  Yet, you hear it all the time.  Much has been written about how students are doing with respect to standardized testing and that brings out all kinds of experts from every perspective.  They all have their own opinions and ideas about how to improve mathematics understanding.

    It’s amazing that those of us who survived school when we did manage to also survive mathematics if it was taught so poorly by some of the opinions!  How can some people, me included, actually enjoy mathematics and a good puzzle?  There is all kinds of research available to support any position on the topic.   And yet, no definitive answer.

    I’ve mentioned this before but a comment by a university professor has always struck home with me.  I’ve mentioned it before on this blog and I’ll do it again because it’s the essence of mathematics learning for me.

    What do you do if you want to learn baseball?

    Practice, Practice, Practice

    What do you do if you want to learn basketball?

    Practice, Practice, Practice

    What do you do if you want to learn mathematics?

    Do the odd numbered questions on page 47 of the textbook and then go outside and play baseball

    Or some variation on it but you get the idea.

    Once you start to learn and appreciate mathematics, you see it everywhere.  From patterns in nature to pencil calculations on a wooden deck to estimating when that amber light will turn red, it’s there if you care to look.  I fondly remember a CIESC meeting where each of the members received an RCA Small Wonder camera and they had a simple task. Go outside and take pictures of mathematics and bring it back to share.  We had a whale of a time.

    So, if the answer is doing mathematics and practicing, how best to do it?

    Fortunately, online, there are no shortages of resources.  One excellent one can be found at Topmarks.

    The landing page makes it easy to navigate to all kinds of problems for practice.

    You’ll find lots of ways to practice, learn, and discover.  

    Each activity is nicely coloured and presents the problem with a simple premise and then you’re off to do some solving.

    One of the challenges that you might find when you look for resources online is that they may or may not work with the technology you have at hand.  The activities here are labeled as “tablet friendly” or needing “Flash” to run.  I know that many good intentions can be thwarted by incompatibility so hopefully this help find something appropriate.

    Of course, since it’s based on the web, the activities can be recommended for home use as well.

    It may not have all the answers but it does provide a suitable platform for “Practice, Practice, Practice”.