This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I just got back from walking the dog and my fingers are frozen. It’s so windy and I didn’t wear heavy enough gloves. But, I guess I can’t complain too much. Last night Lisa Corbett, Beth Lyons, and I exchanged screen captures of local temperatures. I guess we’re just balmy and I’m a wimp.

So, this Friday before the Holiday Break, how about treating yourself to some great blog writing from Ontario Educators?


Skype-A-Thon 2019

Maybe it’s just the circles I run in, but I haven’t read or heard much about Mystery Skypes for a while. It seems like not so long ago, it was the hottest thing in the classroom. Maybe people have abandoned the concept for Flipgrid?

So, it was interesting to read Zélia Tavares’ post about her class’ participation in a Skype-a-Thon event.

Students are inspired by experts as their share words of wisdom and students reflect on comments which they have found very inspiring when recommended to find their own networks and supports around the world to lift themselves and others up.

Imagine having the opportunity to talk with a Vice President of Microsoft! Wow.

Look for links in the post to skypeintheclassroom.com and skypeascientist.com.

This could be the tip of the iceberg. If you could have anyone Skype into your classroom for a visit, who would it be? Often, all you have to do is ask. I remember coming in via remote to a Leslie Boerkamp class.


The Grade 3 ‘Travelling Genius Bar’

From Jay Dubois’ recent blog post, a new word for me …

ADE-worthy

The ADE program has been around for a number of years so I imagine that it is indeed difficult to come up with a new project and description that would stand out from what’s already been done.

1:1 iPad Classroom? Been there, done that, kids got t-shirts

But Jay puts a worthy twist to the concept. His students become geniuses and take their expertise on the road to any class in the rest of the school that wants a piece of the iPad action.

Now that’s unique and interesting. There’s a video of the process in the blog post stored on Google Drive. I hope that doesn’t cause problems.


Reconnecting with my cultural roots

I still have to copy/paste Diana Maliszewski’s name when I make reference to her in a post! Sorry, Diana.

Diana really does get this open stuff though and there doesn’t come a post from her that I don’t learn something new. In this case, it’s sharing that part of her heritage comes from Guyana and the West Indies. I had no idea.

She’s fortunate to still have her parents as part of her life and Diana shares a story about making garlic pork. Now, by themselves, they can be two of my favourite foods and I suspect that all sausage comes flavoured with garlic. But, I’ll confess that I’ve never had the need to drink gin out of necessity. Barring access to Diana’s intellectual property, I checked out the recipe online.

http://www.caribbeanchoice.com/recipes/recipe.asp?recipe=318

Let stand for 1-4 days? Hmmm.

The second part of her heritage moment involves going to a charity luncheon. I can understand myself being intimidated by a new group but never thought that the Diana I know would! So, I found that interesting.

Kudos to Diana for making the effort to remain connected to her heritage and her parents at this time of the year.


Naming and Shaming

Just this week, we’ve seen the incident south of the border as a consequence for a politician and Paul McGuire does make reference to that.

This is really something terrible to watch. House Republican leaders are actually saying what Donald Trump does in his attempts to bribe the leader of Ukraine is OK because, well, he didn’t go through with it. He got caught, so no bribe happened.

The bulk of this post though, is focused on the formal naming and shaming done by the Minister of Education. Has this become the way of politics now? Instead of civil discourse, we just ignore facts and shoot from the hip? As Paul notes, many of the big claims, i.e. eLearning for everyone, have been been refuted.

When your minister knowingly doesn’t tell the truth. When he tries to use old-style bully techniques, when he apes the tactics of Republicans south of the border we have to realize that we are playing by a different set of rules.

I hope that the statements and posturizing are for the news media and that common sense prevails in negotiations.


Thanks Milan – Lessons Learned at #OEGlobal19

What an opportunity for Terry Greene. He got to attend the Open Education Global Conference in Milan.

In this post, he offers 10 lessons.

#1 is great – take a chance and maybe it will work out.

#7 what an incredible looking lecture hall

#8 and warning, this can be a time suck but a time suck in a good way

and finally

#6 is something that we’ve learned from international hockey friendship trips. Other people love Canadian stuff. I find that demonstrating Canadian currency is always a crowd pleaser.

All 10 are great to read, muse about, and make sure that you follow the links.


voicEd Radio

The podcast version of our live TWIOE show featuring these posts is available:

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/20854909

Bonus Coverage

The risk of digital leadership

I like the message that’s explicitly stated in this post from Jennifer Casa-Todd. The post revolves around a bullying situation and she pulls out all the tried and true tools as recommendations for how to handle things.

I think, though, that there is another message that comes across in the suggestions that Jennifer offers. All of them are good but the message that I heard was try this, try that, try this, and don’t give up. Somewhere there is a solution.

And, if you don’t have the correct answer, do what the parent did. Turn to someone with more experience – in this case it was Jennifer. And, if you’re that “Jennifer” and you don’t have all the answers, don’t be hesitant to ask others.

Together we’re better.


An Interview with Leigh Cassell

And, in case you missed it, yesterday I posted an interview with Leigh Cassell. If you don’t know of Leigh, you may know of the Digital Human Library.

Leigh was good enough to take the time to answer a few of my questions for the interview. I learned more about this amazing person and the projects that she has her finger on. Give it a read and I’m sure that you’ll learn more and will be inspired.


I know that it’s a Friday and everyone is ready to recharge over the next little bit. I’d like to take the opportunity to wish you a safe and relaxing holidays. It’s my intention to keep learning and blogging but there might be a day or two break in there somewhere.

The podcast This Week in Ontario Edublogs won’t be recorded next week. After all, Wednesday is Christmas Day and Stephen and I have family. Look for something special in the following week though. Keep blogging yourself and let me know what you’re writing.

Make sure that you’re following these great Ontario Edubloggers.

  • @zeliamct
  • @Jay__Dubois
  • @MzMollyTL
  • @mcguirp
  • @greeneterry
  • @jcasatodd
  • @dHL_edu
  • @LeighCassell

This post comes from:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

An Interview with Leigh Cassell


It’s difficult to give a concise biography for Leigh Cassell.  Let’s just take a couple of her words “Educator and Edupreneur” and run with that.  I think that, after reading this, you’ll realize that she’s much more. My greatest fear is that I won’t touch on all of the various aspects of this amazing educator’s career.  And, she’s not sitting still either.

Doug:  I’ve got to start by saying that I’m in awe because, as a person growing up in Huron County, I would have loved to have a job there.  But there were none and I landed in Essex County and love it. My first question, as always, do you remember when we first met?

Leigh: I believe it was online – if by “met” you mean the first time we tweeted to one another; after that I believe it was at an ECOO conference a few years ago. Do you remember???

Doug:  Honestly, I don’t.  Sorry. I do remember a blind call from you to have a Google Hangout with you just to chat though.

More frequently, I see you on Twitter and am delighted that you follow me there.  Why would you want to follow me?

Leigh: I appreciate that you make the time to bring forward what’s happening in #onted and who is actively engaged on Twitter. I’ve connected with some amazing educators you celebrate online.

Doug:  Almost daily, I see your work cross my social media paths with things that are happening at Digital Human Library.  Can you share a bit of the roots to this project? https://www.digitalhumanlibrary.com

Leigh: Sure. In 2011, I was heavily invested in inquiry-based learning and I was exploring the use of video conferencing technology in my classroom. My students and I were connecting with classes around the world as we inquired about communities, culture, traditions and celebrations. A few months in we had worked with classes in 12+ countries which soon led to inquiries in all subject areas. It was then that I realized in addition to connecting with other classes, I could try and connect my students with experts across the curriculum to inspire, support and further new learning.

Our first connection was with Mark McAllister at the North Carolina Zoo. We worked through the logistics of connecting (remember way back in 2011 when we didn’t have access to the platforms and technology we do today!), and our first session was experiencing how wildlife experts track and tag wild animals. We watched video footage of wild animals at night being tracked and tagged, and Mark showed us animals up close that had been tagged and were now being cared for at the zoo. His program engaged my students in ways I hadn’t observed before. After that my students and I were hooked. I was now spending my prep time following up with Experts that my students and I would find and vette together online, as opposed to going home and spending countless hours learning and preparing material myself. About 3 months later, with support from the AMDSB Foundation for Education, I hired a high school student to build my first database. I then spent the next year learning how to build a website in WordPress, teaching myself coding languages like HTML, CSS and then the basics of PHP and MySQL so I could work in my own database. 

Fast forward to today…

Digital Human Library now offers 3 digital experiential learning catalogues, a wealth of resources for educators, and we have a not-for-profit foundation that is leading research and supporting social innovation projects created by teachers and students, for teachers and students. These experiences shaped not only what and how I was teaching, but also reshaped my why.

Doug:  Today, it’s so much more than what it started.  What’s your inspiration for making it grow so much?

Leigh: As I mentioned above, these experiences reshaped my why which is what continues to drive my work today. The value of teaching students how to use the internet to develop new digital literacy skills like locating information, evaluating it, synthesizing and analyzing it like we do when we search for new experts online, also lays the foundation for teaching students networking skills which I believe are the most important skills we can teach students today. Teaching students how to network provides a meaningful context for students to develop global competencies through the process of building relationships with others. And building relationships with others is how we learn best. 

Doug:  At the bottom of the Digital Human Library pages, you give a running score of the school districts across Canada, and I mean truly from sea to sea to sea, along with sponsors and partners.  Do all the school districts use the Digital Human Library in the same way?

Leigh: We serve each District in different ways depending on their digital experiential learning needs. In some Districts teachers focus on accessing our Video Conferencing Catalogue to connect their classes with Experts, while other Districts focus on our catalogue of over 1000 Virtual Tours & VR experiences. In other Districts the focus is on our live streaming calendar of over 500 programs from unique places like museums, science centres, concert halls, aquariums, and more. Streaming makes it easy to connect your students with experiences of learning from around the world in fun and interactive ways. We also have thousands of Canadian teachers and students participating in our social innovation projects, like our GlobalEdSsChat, Walk With Us, A Kids’ Guide to Canada and OnEdMentors Connect.

Doug:  Can you provide some specific examples that would inspire us?

Leigh: Wow – there are SO many… I think I’d like to share some examples by sharing the voices of others who have benefited from the work we do at dHL:

Digital Human Library

We got to view an open heart surgery. It was so amazing to see it live happening right in front of you. I don’t like bio that much, but seeing an open heart surgery made me think about how it all works together. It made it more interesting and more engaging. I loved it.”
Batoul, Grade 11

“Connecting to experts via live interactive video is an extremely valuable asset in the hands of educators.  We as educators now have the ability to connect our learners to virtually anyone, anywhere in the world. The opportunity to question and learn from a global network of experts (authors, scientists, explorers, educators etc…) helps to both inspire and empower our students and truly brings their learning to life.”
Mark Hauk
Educator, Virtual Field Trips/ VR/ DigCit Coordinator

“In this era of rapid change no one educator can be an expert on everything. The digital Human Library is a vital tool at the teacher’s fingertips to connect students with experts. As students conference with experts like surgeons or planetary scientists, they not only hear up-to-the-minute discoveries but develop crucial critical thinking skills. Human connection provides motivation, meaning and a path to empathy.”
Sean Robinson
Educator, Author of Connections-based Learning

Walk With Us

I strongly believe that this project will not only put small northern indigenous communities on the map, but also help tell some of the rich history and true happenings of our beautiful communities that may not otherwise get the needed platform.”Kristine Arthur, Supervisor Indigenous Education, NCDSB”I see Walk With Us going very far. I’m very excited for when we have our very first tour for anyone to see. I would like more time to visit communities to try and capture more of the reserve. I think that we really can teach people about who we really are.
WWU Student, Grade 10

GlobalEdSsChat

Being a member of @GlobalEdSsChat has really been an amazing experience! Having the opportunity to discuss things that matter to me with other passionate students helped me find my voice and has taught me a lot about digital leadership!
Darcie Brohman,  Grade 9

A Kids’ Guide to Canada

A Kids’ Guide to Canada has been so much fun for my grade 2-4 classes! Learning about Canada from other kids and sharing our home town with this authentic audience has really motivated the kids to do their best work.
Kathryn McLean, Elementary Teacher, OCDSB

OnEdMentors Connect

OEMConnectOEMConnect is a way to build skills, connections, strategies outside of the blocks of a classroom, school, board or district in order to support individual teacher learning.  On their time and in a way that is most impactful for those in the mentorship relationship, OEMConnect is a personalized approach to professional learning, well being and efficacy. Mentorship changed my life, and I believe it can be a game changer for so many others.
Noa Daniel, Co-Founder of OEMConnect

Doug:  You also claim a nice collection of sponsors and partners.  What role do they play in the activities of the Digital Human Library.

Leigh: I’d like to come back to what I shared earlier about the value and importance of networking. My success at dHL is the result of what I have learned over the years from educators and entrepreneurs around the world. I’ve had many incredible mentors – some of whom have become sponsors and partners at dHL. Most of the support we receive at dHL from both our partners and sponsors are services in-kind to help further our growth and reach across Canada. 

I also want to recognize the incredible work done by over 40+ volunteers and interns at dHL. Our volunteers and interns work on a wide variety of projects and contribute to the research and development of new catalogues and services available at Digital Human Library.

Doug:  Growing up in a small town, I have total agreeance with your focus on rural communities and equity.  Can you tell us how this drives your work?

Leigh: After my first few years teaching in a rural school in the AMDSB I began to notice a real inequity in the kinds of educational experiences students receive in rural settings compared to students who attend school in urban centers – specifically when it comes to experiential learning extending beyond what happens in the classroom. So I began looking for innovative ways to bring new experiences of learning to students by leveraging digital technology. And what evolved as a result of these new digital experiences of learning were these incredible relationships students were building with people from around the world. These relationships extend learning beyond the curriculum to include stories based on personal experience, career talks, and meaningful authentic connections between what students learn in the classroom and how that learning translates or is applied in the world outside of school. Relationships that inspire learning are what continue to drive my work today.

Doug:  The website serves up a wide variety of resources.  Where would the first time visitor start?

Leigh: I would recommend reading through our homepage to gain an understanding of what we offer, and then browsing our Library Catalogue pages to learn more about each of our offerings. The Teacher’s tab has lots of information and links to resources to support teachers as they learn to integrate digital experiential learning into their classroom programs. We also hope teachers will visit our Foundation website to explore our variety of social innovation projects and read our most recent article published in JRTE*, Wise Practices and Intercultural Understandings: A Framework for Educator Videoconferencing (2019).

*Journal of Research on Technology in Education

Doug:  Is there anything in particular that you would highlight that would absolutely blow an educator away?  I.e. unique to Digital Human Library and available nowhere else?

Leigh: Digital Human Library is itself unique because we are the only digital experiential library of its kind serving Canadian teachers and students. In particular, we offer a one-of-a-kind library of experts available for loan free of charge, and a calendar of over 500 live streaming interactive educational programs for K-12. I don’t want to leave out our social innovation projects either. Each project has been co-founded by Digital Human Library and talented educators across the country that aren’t available anywhere else.

Doug:  As if that wasn’t enough, you also offer consulting services which include speaking and coaching.  What makes you unique in these areas?

Leigh: I’ll come back again to the value of networking and the mentors I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. Speaking and coaching affords me the opportunity to meet all kinds of new people and build new relationships for learning. And the work I’m doing now with Noa Daniel at OnEdMentors Connect has really opened my eyes to the positive impact a 1:1 self-directed mentorship experience can have on professional learning, well-being and efficacy.

Doug:  Another significant endeavour is your involvement with OEMConnect.  What is your role there? Why would an educator want to get involved with you there?

Leigh: Noa Daniel and I co-founded OnEdMentors Connect (OEMConnect) last year. Through a phased approach, OEMConnect has evolved as a community that supports 1:1 self-directed mentorship experiences as professional learning to strengthen teacher efficacy and impact student achievement. Our goal – and the reason why educators would want to get involved – is to foster responsive, reciprocal and non-hierarchical relationships between Mentors and Mentees and within the education community at large. 

In the new year we will be launching The Mentoree – a collaborative community that promotes professional learning and efficacy through mentorship. Education professionals will be able to explore 1:1 self-directed mentorship opportunities and engage in personalized Mpact experiences of learning with educators in supportive and caring environments through face to face and virtual connections. Stay tuned!

Doug:  Your resume and bio indicate that you were a Teacher and Technology Coach with Avon Maitland.  What did that involve?

Leigh: Yes, I spent 5 years at the system level supporting tech-enabled learning and teaching. My portfolio initially involved the work I was doing district-wide with digital portfolios which was funded by the Ministry, and then evolved to include pedagogical support for all kinds of technology in the system, digital citizenship, social media in the classroom and new digital literacies.

Doug:  These days, you’re a consultant with Apple Canada.  What are you doing with Apple?

Leigh:  I work as a K-12 consultant supporting teachers and students with their use of iPads in the classroom as tools for creation. I am also invited to consult with Apple teams from time to time about the integration of technology in the classroom and their professional learning programs.

Doug: Finally, a day job!  As a kindergarten teacher!  Please describe your classroom for us and, where does technology and all your experience there fit?

Leigh: Yes, and I do have a full-time day job! I’m back with the AMDSB after some incredible time off. My classroom is a busy place full of curious, excitable and unique little people. What I’m seeing more and more is that children coming to school in the early years have spent so much time on technology at home, their needs are shifting. While I integrate iPads and other technologies into my program, it’s not to the extent I had originally planned. The children I serve need more time to play with each other, socialize, and practice oral language. They also need time with toys and a variety of other educational materials and resources we have in the classroom. It’s always about finding the right balance that best meets the needs of all learners.

Doug:  I don’t know how you keep it up!  I’m tired just researching for this interview and then culling down to these questions.  Did I miss anything?

Leigh: Well, since you asked… 

I do want to share some exciting news! Jen Casa-Todd and I have written our first children’s book which we have recently learned will be published at EduMatch. We are working with an incredibly talented young artist who was a past student of Jen’s and our inspiration to write the book. We expect to have our book out in the next 6 months! 

Doug:  And finally, what’s next for Leigh Cassell and the Digital Human Library?

Leigh: It’s safe to say I’m not sitting still! We are in the process of launching a Unique Collection of Experts that will be available to speak to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We are also building a Virtual Co-op Catalogue for high school students in Ontario and across Canada to provide Districts with an extensive collection of community partners that are offering virtual co-op experiences. 

Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, Noa Daniel and I will be launching The Mentoree in January. The Mentoree will house a number of offerings including the OnEdMentors podcast, OnEdMentors Connect – our free open-source community for personalized 1:1 self-directed mentorship experiences, Mpact experiences and our speaker’s bureau of Motivators. Lots of exciting things to come!

Doug:  Thank you so much for your time to complete the interview.  I know that readers will find it inspirational.

Social Media:
You can find Leigh involved at:
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/dHL_edu
Digital Human Library:  https://www.digitalhumanlibrary.com
Digital Human Library Foundation: https://digitalhumanlibrary.org
Live Learning Canada: https://livelearningcanada.com/
The Mentoree: http://thementoree.com/ (coming soon!)
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/LeighCassell
Leigh Cassell Consulting:  https://leighcassell.com/

Coding for Young Mathematicians


I summarized my thoughts about Lisa Floyd’s presentation at the Bring IT, Together Conference like this.

Calculators are successful in Mathematics not because we learn how to write the code to create a calculator but because we use it to get a deeper understanding of non-trivial Mathematics

When I saw this in the program, I knew that I wanted to attend. Lisa has been doing a great deal of research into Mathematics and Computational Thinking and was a keynote a few years ago. I didn’t know what to expect but I was hoping for something other than a “Let’s do something cool in Scratch and then try to tie it into Mathematics or some other subject area”.

I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve attended many a session like I described above. I always enjoy them (despite the sarcasm) but I always wonder about the claims of how students all understand coding and Mathematics as a result. Is that really true?

I was hoping that this wouldn’t be another like that. Plus the fact that she mentioned Scratch AND Python was intriguing.

As she notes, “Ontario does not have coding in K-8”. Of course this is true but we sure have all kinds of Mathematics! She gave us a number of different examples featuring Geometric Art, Gtowing Patterns, Plotting on a Grid, Probability, … In the presentation, she gave us lots of examples and talked us through the process that she uses.

None of the examples started with a blank screen! She stressed the concept of having students remix her content. By running what she distributes, the students see a Mathematical concept and then their understanding is pushed and enhanced by working with the code to make things something better.

Her approach is very visual by showing the results of the program and then takes on the Mathematics concepts. Tweak this, change that, what happens when you do this? How can you make the output look like this. The primary focus was purely on the Mathematics and the coding was secondary. It was a refreshing approach.

Lisa’s approach was cemented for me on the Friday. I attended a session where we were programming robots using a drag and drop language specifically written for those robots. We were to program them to do a task without knowing just what was happening. Often the tool that we needed was in another menu and we were encouraged to try some numbers to see how far in one direction we could make it go. Turning wasn’t a matter of turning 90 degrees, but applying force onto one wheel going in one direction while the other went in the other direction. We eventually figured it out but lost considerable time in the process. There were something like six groups in the room and nobody got the right answer; some were closer than others. Lisa’s concept of remixing would have fit right in.

I really do like her approach. I made myself another note…

Instead of debugging the program, she could spend time debugging the Mathematics involved…

You can check out some of the examples she used, in Scratch, on her website. Type the URL correctly; Lisa notes that a person with a similar spelling as chosen a different career path.

I had an opportunity to interview Lisa. You can read it here.

An Interview with Andrew Dobbie


Andrew Dobbie is a teacher with the Peel District School Board.  To get his attention, all that you have to do is express an interest in sustainable activities or reusing computers for the benefit of students.  I had the opportunity to interview Andrew.

Doug:  Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Andrew.  My first question is always the same; do you recall the first time that we met in person?

Andrew: Thanks for inviting me to chat Doug! My memory is fading in old age🤣 but I believe we first met when BIT was held in Toronto before the shift to Niagara Falls.

Doug:  We’ve been following each other on Twitter for a long time.  Why would you want to follow me?

Andrew:  I thought it was pretty obvious why people follow you, Doug.  You help me sift through current media and provide me with useful, sometimes actionable resources each week🙌

Doug:  Your passion for sustainable things is very evident to anyone who follows you on social media.  Can you give us a sense of where your passion is with this?

Andrew: The root of my passion for sustainability is in providing learners with a quality education through equitable access to computers in their classrooms.  My students needed help, so I researched a way to help them. Then, my students and I agreed that we should help everyone else.

Granted, the supportive team working with us exists throughout North America, Europe (in its infancy) and Iceland. We all work together to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Doug:  My interest in following you comes from the conversations and interactions that we’ve had online dealing with Linux.  You use it to breathe new life into old technology, often discarded. My interest was personal. I just wanted an alternative to Windows 10 for my 2010 Sony Vaio laptop. 

Do you use Linux personally?

Andrew: Yes! I use Linux every day with my students. I am also well versed in Win10 and MacOS too🤣  I need to be comfortable with all operating systems because some of my students bring in their own devices and I need to be able to assist them with daily operational challenges/troubleshooting.  I also dabble a bit with Android OS too just for fun. More along the lines of experimenting with converting different computing devices into hybrids running other operating systems. I’ve built some ChrMacbooks, converted old Windows computers into Linux devices, and even built one of the largest Android boxes using a massive desktop computer (as a joke- and it continues to be in operation today🤣).

Doug:  Now, when a person dips their toe into the world of Linux, it can be a bit frightening.  Long time Linux users go back to working the command line. apt-get, sudo, etc. Did you start that far back?

Andrew: I remember when I first tried terminal coding. I had no idea what I was doing. I have no formal training at all. Just YouTube, blogs, and Google Hangout guidance from a Linux expert, Aaron Prisk👍  

Aaron continues to be a very patient and supportive teacher. He listens to my coding frustrations and helps me to find parallel understanding between our common language and that of terminal coding. I started to learn the verbs of the language and it helped me learn how to install, move, package, and assembly Aaron’s student-tailored Xubuntu OS.  I still haven’t met Aaron in person. All our work has been completed remotely via Hangouts, Facebook IM, and now mainly via text message. So, yes. I use raw code in the terminal when constructing Linux FOG Servers and student-tailored Linux workstations.

Doug:  Linux comes in many flavours.  My first distribution was Ubuntu 4.04 and then the Edubuntu fork.  What was your first?

Andrew: Oh wow! You’ve been at it a little longer than me. I started with Cub Linux and Lubuntu initially because they were packed so small and could fit on a 2GB USB for installations.  Then, as I started dabbling with install on many different systems, I worked all the way back through history to Ubuntu 10, BSD, Linux plop, and all flavours after Ubuntu 10. Over the past 3 years, I have used and installed dozens of flavours to learn more about their unique strengths and differences but followed Aaron’s lead in using Xubuntu 16.04 for the first version of the student-tailored workstations.

Doug:  Since that time, I’ve changed my allegiance and now run Linux Mint.  What’s your favourite distribution?

Andrew: My friend Ryan, who is a data analyst and Linux junky, loves Mint too but my favourite continues to be Xubuntu because it provides me with all the necessary packaging tools to create the Linux student workstations.

Doug:  You talk about using Xubuntu.  Why this distribution?

Andrew:  Aaron Prisk introduced me to Xubuntu (a developer version of Linux) because he was already using it to create his own districts’ student image for all of their computers in Pennsylvania.  Lucky for me he was working through the process when I showed interest in learning it, and he took me under his wing (so to speak).

Doug:  It’s golden when you find someone with that amount of interest and patience. If someone else was interested in getting started in this area, how do they get started?

Andrew:  If anyone wants to learn how to install any Linux operating system, then I would suggest beginning with the USB installation technique.  We created a gForm to walk new learners through the process:

bit.ly/reimagewithlinux

It’s a little dated but it will help guide a new learner through the process.

Doug:  I like the way that you’ve used the Google Form as a tutorial for the end user. Well done.

You’ve forged a number of partnerships over the year, especially with Renewed Computer Technology of Ontario (RCTO).  How does that work?

Andrew: rcto.ca is an outstanding not-for-profit business who provide learning facilities with free desktop computers.  Initially, I needed computers in my classroom because our school didn’t have the budget for them and I couldn’t afford to buy them. RCT Ontario helped us.  We were lucky because they had tons of available computers back in 2016 when we first asked. They also had lots of LCD displays, which are a hot commodity and not easily available currently.

Essentially, if any learning facility needs free desktop computers, then they need to go to rcto.ca and request them. You will need to fill in a few online forms but be sure to request the free computers. They do offer some very affordable paid computer options as well (including a 1 year warranty), so they are a much better idea than buying new.  The first batch of 150 desktops we received for free in 2016 is STILL in service, supporting student learning needs in our classrooms!

RCT will also be happy to answer your questions by telephone too, so if you need help just call them.

In September, I was asked to assist their IT department in establishing a Linux line of free computers, so I created a Xubuntu 16.04 FOG Server clone, and a Xubuntu 18.04 FOG Server clone. Both of which can deploy the student-tailored Xubuntu operating system on any computer 10 years old or newer.

Doug:  One of the stumbling blocks that some might have with school districts is putting non-district computers on the network.  How have you handled that?

Andrew: All school boards have always been open to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, so we explored and found success with multiple school boards by signing Linux computers onto board networks as BYOD devices. I was invited to York Catholic and Toronto Catholic boards to show their IT department heads how this process can work, and at that time (in 2017-2018 I believe) I created FOG Server clones for them to more efficiently deploy the student-tailored Xubuntu operating system onto their computers. 

I think it’s important to note that all of this is free, and always will be.

Doug:  That’s always been the claim for Linux and there are so many talented people driving that ship. We could always remind them that the Chromebooks that people buy new are running ChromeOS which is based on the Linux kernel!

How do you address concerns from teachers that running Linux doesn’t given them all of the applications that they would have on a Macintosh or Windows computer?

Andrew: Most teachers and students are running cloud-based programs these days anyway.  My students never have a problem using Linux to run any gSuite, Office365, or any other web-based tools like Scratch, Robocompass, Explorelearning.com, you name it.  They all work!

Some teachers have asked for special photo editing tools, so I showed them how pixlr.com runs perfectly through Google Chrome, and is easy for students to use.

Essentially, if an educator is resourceful enough, then he/she will find a comparable and free software tool that will run on their Linux systems. Yes, Minecraft too👍

Doug:  Your plan also involves your students.  How much training do they require before they are experts?

Andrew:  Experts? Hmmm. I’m not an expert and they would say they aren’t either, I think.  However, after having about a month or 2 of troubleshooting exposure and experience within our Tech Stewardship program, our Stewards are able to repurpose old computers easily.  In fact, 3 of our newest Stewards just repurposed a teacher’s old laptop this past week and they just started in the program in September.

Granted, our Xubuntu FOG Server does make the repurposing process extremely easy to transform multiple computers into Linux machines with only a few key strokes.  

Doug:  What is the minimum requirement for a computer to be refurbished for your purposes?  Do you limit it to old Windows computers or have you put Linux on Macintosh computers?

Andrew:  Current minimum requirements for excellent performance running our Linux image would be 4GB RAM and about a 2.4GHz processor (not that much really). It will run fine with only 2GB of RAM as well but 4GB RAM and learners WANT to use Linux instead of brand new computers because they are faster.

Also, I recommend installing our Xubuntu student-tailored operating system on computers 10 years old or newer.  Older than 10 years and we usually run into compatibility issues with hardware drivers and hardware begins to fail at times.

At this point in time, we have FOG Servers that can deploy Linux onto Windows computers easily.  Regarding Macs, students love ChroMacbooks the most, and I used to hand code each one because the FOG server wasn’t designed for Macs😓. Each student-tailored ChroMacbook took about 2 hours to code about a year ago.  Now, I simply open up the Mac. Remove the hard drive. Put the Mac hard drive into a windows computer. Change the hard drive to Linux using the FOG Server, then put it back into the Mac👍 Only takes about 15 minutes depending on the build.

Doug:  You will be doing a session at the upcoming Bring IT, Together Conference.  Can you give us a sneak peek?

Andrew: A sneak peek😕 

(FREE COMPUTERS!)  

On Wednesday morning, I will be bringing some of my special FOG Servers to make FOG Server clones for anyone that wants one.  You just need to bring an old laptop (that turns on🤣) with you, and stop by. I will even show you how easy it is to use it. You can use it on site to repurpose any other laptops you bring with you🙌

When I’m not teaching the process, I can repurpose up to 50 computers an hour by myself. So, if you just want some help repurposing your laptops for student use in your classrooms, then bring them by on Wednesday morning.

I will also be sharing some of our work highlights at IgniteBit2019 on Wednesday evening, so feel free to connect with me there too👍

If you can’t attend the Wednesday session, then my students will be joining me on Friday morning to help attendees repurpose their computers with Linux too. So, we can build you a FOG server or student-tailored Linux laptop at that time as well.

Finally, I believe I will be bringing lots of free mini desktop computer towers for attendees to take back to their classrooms for their students to use.  These mini desktop towers have been donated by rcto.ca and will include the tower, keyboard, mouse, and power cords (but unfortunately not LCD monitors due to short supply at the warehouse).

Doug:  Wow. Come to Bring IT, Together and leave with a free computer. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Andrew.  If people want to follow you on Social Media, where would they turn?

Some great ways to start connecting:

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s nice to be able to write this blog post knowing that the voicEd show actually worked yesterday unlike last week.

As always, some great thinking from Ontario Edubloggers.

Read on to enjoy.


When your plan is no longer the plan

From Paul McGuire, a post that could well have been titled “The Essence of Teaching”.  In this post, Paul shares with us an incident that happened in his university class.

A student wanted to time to share an issue that he was passionate about with the class and asked for the opportunity to share his insights.

Paul could have said “Sorry, we don’t have time for that” but that wasn’t the right answer.  Issues of the day, lives of students, and in this case, the future for these educators was more relevant and important than any teacher delivered lesson could be.  We talk so often about honouring student voice; here’s a great example.

Sometimes when something is bubbling just under the surface, a teacher has to know it is time to throw the lesson out the window and just let the learning happen.


WHO HAS THE FINAL SAY ABOUT STUDENT MARKS?

Big learning for me this week happened on this post from Stacey Vandenberg on the TESLOntario blog.

The inspiration for the post was a discussion about student marks and whether the teacher or the administrator should have the last say on what mark is assigned.  The context was the PBLA assessment for newcomers to Canada learning English.  I’d never heard of PBLA so did a lot of reading to get caught up to speed.

There is no argument that the instructor is in the class for the duration and is able to assess the ongoing progress and abilities of the students.  The instructor should be in the best possible position to determine the final grade.  And yet, it’s the administrator whose signature vouches for the result.

As noted in the post, it would be a very rare situation when the teacher’s professional judgement should be overruled.  Not only is it educationally sound not to do so, I can’t imagine the lack of enthusiasm for going into work the next day knowing that your abilities have been challenged or overruled.

In this case, I find it interesting that a mark would be assigned.  It seems to me that this is one case where PASS/FAIL would be the best way to report the results.


Another Year and The Unlearning Continues

If I had to go back to high school and take the Humanities, I’d want to be in Rebecca Chambers’ class.  Musty old history books have no place here.  The approach and the topics covered are very progressive and currently relevant.

Just look at a typical week.

  • Mondays – Get Organized
  • Tuesdays – Content Day
  • Wednesdays – Community Outreach
  • Thursdays & Fridays – Passion Project Days

You’ll have to click through and read the details which she fleshes out very nicely.  Of interest to this geeky person is how the use of current technologies is weaved through things.


I DON’T USE TEXTBOOKS

Oh, Melanie Lefebvre, where were you when I was in post secondary school?

It wasn’t until third year that I realized that many of the recommended books and readings that I had accumulated were sitting on my bookshelf largely unused.  The tutorial books, yes.  But the textbooks, nope.

I then realized late in my educational career that the books were available at the library or the bookstore had a used textbook sale where you could buy at the fraction of the cost.

Things definitely could be different today.  So many resources are available online; it’s almost criminal to pay for a textbook.  Not only that, but how dated would that textbook be – factor in the research, writing, publishing, and delivery times.  Melanie is able to use resources that might have been updated yesterday with her approach.

She talks about being accountable for the money that students would pay for textbooks but I think the accountability goes much further in the use of current resources and having students knowing how to access them.

After all, when they graduate and work in the “real world”, there is no textbook available.


Building a Google Site and Relationships with Parents

My admiration and edu-worship for Jennifer Aston went up another notch after reading this post from her.

The post describes an approach that she takes for a Meet the Teacher night.  There are so many ways that this night can be attacked.  Her approach was to create a collection of Centres using Google Sites for the teachers to explore.

It seems to me that this goes beyond “Meet the Teacher”.

  • It shows an approach that could be described as “Meet the Classroom”
  • It shows a level of sophistication in computer use that lets parents know that it will be used in a meaningful way
  • A followup with parents to help inform her direction for communication
  • And, of course, the thing that all parents dread “Kids these days are doing so much more than what we did in our day”

Preserving the Cup

It’s Beth Lyons week around here!  Read the interview with her that I posted yesterday here.

In addition to completing the interview, Beth had time to write a blog post in her thoughtful manner – this time the topic was about self-care.  It’s particularly timely since today (Thursday as I write this) is Mental Health Awareness Day.

A regular school year is always hard for teachers.  With its ups and downs, as Beth notes, you can feel particularly stretched.  And, if you’re feeling that way in the first part of October, what’s it going to be like later in the year?

This fall, of course, is particularly stressful for teachers and education workers with the expiry of collective agreements and the posturing that’s taking place on a daily basis.

Teachers do need to take care of themselves and their colleagues.  After all, you’re together for 8 or more hours a day and should be able to see things and provide the best supports.


THE MEDICINE WHEEL VS MASLOW’S HIERACHY OF NEEDS

As I was monitoring my Twitter network yesterday, the name Liv Rondeau popped by.  This was a new educator for me so I added her to an Ontario Educator list and noticed that she had a blog and web presence so I took it all in.

This post really caught my interest.  I know that it’s over a year old but it was the first time that I had seen it so it was new to me!

The description of the Medicine Wheel and the doors was new to me and so I read it with deep interest.  Liv ties it to Maslow’s Needs which I certainly am well aware of.

Her explanations were well crafted and ultimately brought us into the classroom and servicing the needs of children.

At points, I felt like I was learning Maslow all over again; it was such a different context for me.

Take a poke around the website when you get there.  There is an interesting collection of resources and lesson plans for Grades 5 and 6 available.


Please take some time to click through and enjoy all of these posts at their original site.  Like all weeks, there’s some awesome learning to be had.

And, follow these educators on Twitter.

  • @mcguirp
  • @TESLontario
  • @MrsRChambers
  • @ProfvocateMel
  • @mme_aston
  • @mrslyonslibrary
  • @MissORondeau

This post originally appeared on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

An Interview with Beth Lyons


Elizabeth Lyons  is a teacher-librarian with Peel Schools and also a mom, wife, reader, maker, and inquiry thinker according to her Twitter Bio.  Our paths have crossed in a few different contexts and her blog is always interesting to read.

Beth

Do you remember when we first met?

Beth: I believe that we met at EdCamp London for the first time. It was actually right at the end of the day, which was unlucky timing! Since then we have “met” a few times virtually through VoicEd Radio and on Twitter. 

Doug:  That’s my memory too.  Thanks to our friend Stephen for introducing us.  How about when our paths first crossed online? That might be a little more difficult.

Beth: That’s a tricky question… I would say that it was definitely on Twitter, perhaps one of your Friday Follow posts. Or from an interview you did with Carol Koechlin. 

Doug:  In fact, you were mentioned in my interview with Carol Koechin (https://dougpete.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/an-interview-with-carol-koechlin/) as a teacher-librarian in the province to keep an eye on.  What do you think makes you stand out in Carol’s eyes?

Beth: First of all, I would like to say that to be mentioned in Carol’s interview was a huge honour. I like to think that Carol mentioned me because I share often about my journey as a teacher-librarian and the transition of our library space to a library learning commons. I’m very open with my learning and progress as I had many people who helped me as I started out on my journey. As part of the transition we adopted a completely open and flexible collaboration schedule and, because I am a 1.0 teacher-librarian, I am able to co-plan and co-teach with the educators in our school on a wide variety of content areas. We have been able to try out new ways of using the makerspace and maker inquiry to connect to our literacy, social studies and science curriculum. 

Doug:  I could see how that would raise Carol’s interest.

It was a delight to have you online with Stephen and me as a guest on the voicEd Radio show This Week in Ontario Edublogs this past summer. We featured one of your blog posts on the show.  How was it talking about your own blog instead of just writing a post?

Beth: It was an interesting experience, to be sure. I think it worked nicely because I had written about listening to podcasts as professional development and how it feels as though it has helped me to improve my verbal communication skills. I think, that by listening to podcasts, I am better able to listen to the ideas of others in order to take in their ideas and opinions. Time to reflect is always a good thing in my opinion so it was interesting to go back and talk about my blog post that I had written a number of weeks previously. I really enjoyed the opportunity to connect my thoughts to the blogs of other educators who had written along a similar vein. It’s probably something I am doing each time I read a blog post or a new article but I don’t often get the chance to discuss my ideas with others. 

Doug:  In terms of voicEd Radio, you’re a regular contributor for music selections to Stephen’s Saturday night music show.  He claims you’re his country music expert! Tell me what that means?

Beth: That makes me smile! There was a time when I was younger that I wasn’t always so forthcoming with my love for country music as it didn’t seem “cool”. I suppose as I’ve grown older I am more comfortable with my own taste in music and care less what people think of it. It’s also funny because music isn’t actually one of my biggest hobbies. There are artists and songs that I like and that I will listen to over and over 

Sometimes I will go days without listening to any music at all.

Doug:  We definitely differ there.  I always have to have music on in the background when I’m working, it seems. 

In one of your blog posts, you showed us a picture of your library which you indicated can be easily transformed from one layout to another.  Can you describe for us what that means and how it works?

Beth: So many of the definitions of a “library learning commons” includes the idea that is a flexible space. In our library, most of the shelving and furniture is on wheels which means I can open the space up for an audience of 125 or so students to participate in an author visit, a musical performance, large scale inquiries and more. It also means that I can easily change the layout of our space to highlight different provocations by moving the tables or tinkering stations. We are lucky in that our library learning commons is very large – one side is where the books are mainly stored and the other is a table space that can be used for classes to participate in maker activities and other learning endeavors. This allows for consistent free flow book exchange and collaborative inquiry to happen simultaneously. 

Speaker

Doug:  That is so interesting.  Your comment about “our library” as opposed to “my library” is not lost on me.  I’m always interested when someone shares their philosophy behind their classroom design. 

Beth:  When I first transitioned into the role and was speaking with Jenn Brown she used a great phrase that has stuck with me and helped me to frame my philosophy about being the teacher-librarian. She said (and I’ll be paraphrasing at this point) that “the teacher-librarian curates the library on behalf of the community.” First, I just love how that all sounds together and secondly, it’s very true. The library belongs to the users and in a school that is the students, the educators and our broaded family community.

Doug:  If someone dropped into your library without notice on any given day, what would their first impression be?

Beth: Well, I hope it would be that the students are central in the space. Since moving into the teacher-librarian role, I have worked to help the students and educators see that the library learning commons is a shared space that we are responsible for the care of the books and the space. Students come into the space independently in small groups to exchange their books or interact with one of many stations. We have a variety of building areas, Lego, a light table, loose parts and other provocations set up based on different themes and inquiry questions. Secondly, most people comment on how big and open the space is. The main book area is a large circular room with a beautiful mural painted on it depicting the four seasons. The books shelves protrude off the walls like spokes which creates small nooks for students to read, tinker and explore. We also have a large classroom area set up with tables and a carpet for classes to use during collaborative inquiry or other lessons. This is also where the Genius Cart, which is an open making program we launched last year, is run from. Our collection of maker space materials are housed on the classroom side and available for classes to use as needed. 

Maker

Doug:  What’s missing from your library?

Beth: Tech integration or free tech use. We have 5 iPads and 4 Chromebooks in the library designated for library use. One of my goals this year is to have the tech more freely available for students when they visit the library for projects or other tech exploration.

Doug:  You mentioned above that your teaching load is 100% in the library.  What does this mean for a typical school day?

Beth:  Yes, this is one of the greatest privileges I have as a teacher-librarian. I am not directly responsible for any curriculum as I do not cover any classes and am not required to cover planning times. The biggest benefit of this is that I am in the library learning commons for the full day, every day and, as long as it’s not my planning time, the library is open for free flow book exchange and collaboration. 

Doug:  Just today, you announced that your proposal to speak at the OLA Superconference was accepted.  Congratulations. I’ve presented there twice. It’s an amazing experience. Can you give us a sneak peek about what to expect from your session?  

Beth:  Our presentation is called Snap, Spark, Provoke: Exploring Identity and Text with Provocations and Photography. A number of us in Peel have been working with students to explore their own identity and the identities of others in our communities through photography. We have been using picture books to present a diverse array of cultures and connections to those around us. We will be exploring how, by using hands-on materials (e.g. loose parts) and digital provocations (e.g. photography, photo editing, videos), we can spark inquiry and prompt deeper questions about who we are as humans and how we interact with each other. 

Doug:  Wow, that’s really a unique sounding session.  You’re not presenting alone. How did you connect with your co-presenters?

Beth: I’m presenting with Tina Zita (@tina_zita) and Jane Dennis-Moore (@MsDennisMoore). Tina and I met a number of years ago when she was the Technology Resource Teacher for my school. Since then we have kept in touch through Twitter and at various PD sessions. Last year, Tina was working with another Peel educator looking at selfies, and specifically “unselfies”- that is pictures without a person in it. She messaged a few of us about exploring this idea with students in our buildings. Jane and I had “met” on Twitter previously but this created a space for more lengthy collaboration (and lots of DMs back and forth). We actually created our proposal and submitted for OLASC20 before Jane and I ever met face-to-face!

Doug:  That’s amazing.  I wish the three of you a great session and an opportunity to inspire others to follow in your footsteps.

I know you’re passionate about school libraries.  Can you share some of this with us?

Beth:  Such a big question! I’ve wanted to be a teacher-librarian for just about as long as I can remember. My aunt, who lived next door to me growing up, was a teacher-librarian and I remember that she always had books around her, she always had something cool to teach us, and that she was always talking about kids. My mom was also a huge believer in the public library and we went all the time. I remember reading my way through the entire kids’ section and then asking the librarian what I could read next. My favourite thing about being in the school library is seeing the kid’s excitement. When they come in and find the book they’ve been wanting is in and on the shelf, it’s a beautiful thing to see. It’s a similar feeling when they discover a new passion and are blown away to learn that yes, we do have entire section on rocks and minerals and that they can read as many of the books as they like. Watching the students advocate for their own learning and passions is the greatest privilege of being in the school library. 

Gizmos

I also love that the library learning commons is a space from which educators can be co-learners and that, as the teacher-librarian, I am in the place to coach, guide and support my fellow educators. I’ve written about this on my blog before but when you are in the classroom it’s like juggling just about a million balls at one time. You are responsible for multiple curriculums, most likely at multiple grade levels. You have the well-being and mental health of your students to be aware of as well as helping to guide them socially. How do we behave towards each other? How do we create a welcoming and inclusive community. Teachers are constantly assessing, documenting, reflecting, questioning and wondering all about their students and their progress and it doesn’t always leave a lot of time to try out a new and innovative idea. Sometimes it does and many educators are adept at adding a new ball to the juggling act by exploring how they can integrate maker opportunities into their literacy program, how they can teach math from an inquiry stance while integrating social justice issues, etc. But teachers are human and their mental health is important, too. We can’t always be adding and adding to their plate and expect that all the balls will continue to spin perfectly. As the teacher-librarian, I l am able to read up on the newest ideas, to read PD books during the school year and play around with the ideas I get excited about. Being in the Library Learning Commons is a lot about building relationships with both the students and educators in the school. In doing so, I am able to reach out to colleagues that I know are ready to try something new, perhaps are ready to be “pushed” a little beyond what they are already trying but they just haven’t found the time to squeeze it in to the other millions of things they have on the go. This is where the teacher-librarian and the school library can become a place of co-learning. I can be the one to attempt something new with the class and if it flops, it’s on me and I’ll own that in front of the students. I tell kids all the time that we are trying something new and I have no idea what end we might get to. The school library is a place where we can take risks and push ourselves to grow and I take that responsibility seriously. 

Share

Doug:  I’ll ask you the same question I asked of Carol.  If you were shortlisting Ontario Twitter Teacher-Librarian accounts to follow, who would make that list?

Beth: 
Jenn Brown 
@JennMacBrownI had the great luck to work with Jenn at a previous school where she was the teacher-librarian and she has been an invaluable resource and support since I moved into the teacher-librarian role. Jenn consistently pushes me to stretch my thinking and look at ways that I can use my privilege to elevate the voices of others. I always feel that I am learning when I am with Jenn and am proud to also call her a friend. 

Christopher Hunt (not Ontario, but still Canadian!)
@ExLibrisMrHuntI really enjoy following Christopher’s Twitter feed and seeing the new ideas he is trying out. I always come away with new thinking and a new idea I can mull over and see how it might fit in our library space.

Karen Beamish
@KlblibKaren is a fellow Peel TL and I have enjoyed getting to know her via Twitter. We are both interested in integrating the SDGs into our library programming and I like seeing what she’s trying out. 

Rabia Khokhar
@rabia_khokhar1–  I love seeing what Rabia is up to in the library space and how she is working to bring in diverse voices through picture books and inquiries with her students. She is an excellent example in how school libraries can be at the forefront of social justice and equity issues. 

Geoff Ruggero
@MrRuggeroI really enjoy the maker based provocations and learning that Geoff often tweets about and his wide variety of reading. Lately, he’s been tweeting each of the books he’s read as part of a 50 Book Challenge and although I don’t often share my thoughts on books (beyond just saying I love it), I do really enjoy learning about new books through other educators. 

Doug:  Thank you for that!  I just found some new people to follow on Twitter.

Your blog is called “The Librarian’s Journey”.  That’s an interesting title. Where did your “journey” start and where is it headed?  How will you know when you get there?

Beth: I think my journey started as a child when I first started visiting libraries. In terms of actually being a teacher-librarian, I have had the honour of working in a number of schools with great teacher-librarians over the course of my time teaching. I always looked for opportunities to co-plan and co-teach and learn from the time spent with those teacher-librarians. To be honest I’m not really sure where my journey is headed. I am exploring opportunities to work more closely with the Ontario School Library Council and am planning to submit an action research paper for Treasure Mountain 2020. Beyond that, I am still very much invested in the transition of the library learning commons at my school and meeting the goals we have set for ourselves. Do we ever “get there” with our learning? I hope not. I hope that I never stop learning and growing. Each time we reach a goal that has been set or reflect on a goal that needs to be reworked, it’s an opportunity to continue and stretch as an educator and as a human. 

Doug:  On the voicEd show, I mentioned how I find it difficult to read your blog posts because of your formatting.  It seems to me that’s a pretty intentional move. Can you explain?

Beth: It’s definitely intentional as I centre my writing on purpose. I find that as I am writing there are certain phrases and ideas that I want to highlight or linger on for my own thinking and reflection. I like how I can create blocks of text that connect together or separate an idea off to the side. I’m sorry that you find it hard to read. I could always send you a doc with everything formatted with a left alignment! LOL

Doug:  No, you don’t have to do that.  I just find that your style forces me to slow down as I’m reading.  Not all blogs do that to me. Regardless, your blog always has interesting posts and well worth a regular visit to see what you’re talking about next.  Thanks for doing that. Are you inspired by other blogs?

Beth: I think lately we all need something to slow us down…  I do really enjoy reading blogs and learning from other people’s points of view but I have found that I’m at a point right now that it’s not something I make a priority, to be honest. I do try to read Aviva Dunsiger’s blog (and really all her posts on both Twitter and Instagram!) as well as Diana Maliszewski’s. I love Aviva’s approach to documenting her students’ learning and her wonderings/reflections. She is definitely an educator that I hope to meet one day. I admire Diana’s dedication to always blogging on Mondays about her thoughts and learning from the previous week. I wish that I was able to formulate my thoughts each week into a blog post and have that kind of commitment to my writing. 

Doug:  Most definitely, those two blogs are great exemplars.  Thanks for sharing them. No pressure at all has been placed on Aviva or Diana!

Thank you so much for interview, Beth.  It was fun to find out a little more about you and your educational passions.

You can get or stay connected with Beth through:

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/mrslyonslibrary
Blog:  https://thelibrariansjourney.blogspot.com/

This post is part of a series of blog posts that I conduct regularly with interesting people like Beth.  You can check out previous interviews here: https://dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews/

An Interview with Skip Zalneraitis


Skip Zalneraitis is a Technology Integrator at Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield, Massachusetts. Although we’ve never met face to face, his educational and humour presence on social media makes him a daily favourite to read. Through this interview, I tried to find out more about this amazing and prolific gentleman.

Doug:  Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Skip.  My first question is always “When did our paths first cross?”  Can you remember?

Skip: Several years years ago I discovered your daily curatorial posts on Twitter. I was so impressed that I subscribed. 

Doug:  Just about every morning, I see your presence on social media.  It usually starts with a weather update from Brattleboro, VT. Then, there’s a stream of resources that you share.  It sounds like a regular morning routine. Is it?

Skip: It is a daily routine, seven days a week.

Doug:  Can I assume you live in one state but work in another?

Skip: My wife and I live in southern Vermont in downtown Brattleboro. I teach about fourteen miles due south in the little town of Northfield, MA.

Doug:  I know that very often, you’ll retweet links that I’ve shared via my morning reading.  Typically, I notice that they’re often Google Education related things. What’s the significance of that for you?

Skip: Our school is a Google School. I try in every way I can to share resources with our staff and faculty. 

Doug:  Some of Skip’s Google resources end up here.  https://sites.google.com/a/pvrsdk12.org/resources/  Who is your intended audience?

Skip: This where I aggregate everything Google I have gathered each week and each week I send out an email so the folks will come and see what I have to share.

Doug:  One of the things that I notice when you share resources, is that you’ll include a note of thanks as shown in the screen cap below.

The fact that you do this is conscious.  That must mean that it’s important to you.  Can you share why?

Skip:  There are two authors for whom I want to always share attribution. You are one of them. Your energy, creativity, and critical sense are, in my experience, second to none. The only other one is Melanie Link Taylor MzTeachuh http://melanielinktaylor.mzteachuh.org/ . I have a great deal of respect for her.

Doug:  You do a good job of curating on Google +.  https://plus.google.com/108523245664369458849

What appeals to you about that platform? (I really, Really miss Google+.)

Skip: It has a wonderful asynchronous flow to it. I use the refresh very often to get a different look.

Doug:  Sadly, Google+ is no more.

But, you do have a Facebook presence and you use it differently.  Can you explain how and why?

Skip: It is my oldest living social media presence. I have such a varied community so in addition to my daily posting, I included posts that that I share because I have a strong emotional resonance with those posts.  My two careers before I began this current one were as an Anglican clergyman and later in engineering, mostly in nuclear power, and I have friends and acquaintances from not only all three careers, but family as well.

Doug:  In your role as Technology Integrator, what does your day look like?

Skip: Because we are so short-staffed I have been doing a great deal of teaching. I do presentations to teachers and groups, AND I respond as often as I can to help tickets. It requires a great deal of flexibility.

Doug:  Your teaching profile also has you teaching Communications and Exploring Computer Science.  How does that fit into your day?

Skip:  Those are the face-to-face classes I teach. Communications is an important introducing our Grade 7s to our school and network, as we have students coming, on average each year, from nine different schools. I also teach a course online at VHS.

Doug:  With your activities on social media, you must have a collection of favourite people to follow and best destination for resources.  Can you share some of these with us?

Skip: You, Richard Byrne, Larry Ferlazzo, Melanie Taylor, and Alice Keeler are a few.

Doug:  Tell me three things I don’t know about Skip Zalneraitis.

Skip: 1. I’m a daily road bike rider. 2. I am a grandfather. 3. My favorite author is Neil Gaiman.

Doug:  What does the future hold for Skip Zalneraitis?  As in Ontario, school must start shortly for you.

Skip: At the age 73, I’m considering when I should retire. I promised one of the science teachers, who avails herself of my skills and support very frequently, that I would stay until she retired. She just told me her year is 2024, so I can leave or change positions in that year. My younger granddaughter is coming to Pioneer in 2023, so I may stay longer. The new principal wants me be more the Tech Integrator.

Doug:  Thank you for agreeing to share your thoughts with us, Skip.  It’s greatly appreciated.

You can follow Skip on Social Media at:

Periodically, I interview interesting people like Skip for this blog.  You can check out all the interviews at dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews.