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.
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.
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:
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😕
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 @JennMacBrown– I 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!) @ExLibrisMrHunt– I 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 @Klblib– Karen 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 @MrRuggero– I 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.
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.
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.
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.
Summer is an interesting beast. Even when you go into your favourite stores, there’s no guarantee that it’s business as usual. Your favourite workers may not be there and instead are away on holiday.
Of course, as Sue Dunlop notes, don’t drop into a school and look for the regular crew.
They’re away doing things that aren’t connected to specific time slots and specific places. They’re on their own time and in their own place. Sue points out some great reasons why this “break from the bell” makes it a perfect time to reflect.
It’s not advice for others – she’s doing a bit of reflection on her own.
I really enjoy reading conference reports and this one from Shelly Vohra is no difference.
Lots of activities and learning seemed to be the theme coming from her in the post. She provides a complete and detailed report on her various activities.
Of real interest was a quote that she attributes to Debbie Donsky (see my interview with Debbie here) about her keynote. It surrounds the word Ubuntu. It’s a philosophy on many levels – including an operating system! But, its roots go back to connecting people…
She also talked about the term “Ubuntu” – “I am a person through other people. My humanity is tied to yours.” How are we sharing in a way that connects us all? How are we leading and connecting from the heart?
Doesn’t that describe the human teaching condition?
Like Paul Gauchi, one of my favourite places to visit while in Ottawa is the Canadian War Museum. Even visiting the local cenotaph can be a humbling experience.
I attribute it to a vet that I had as a teacher. He walked with a permanent limp and would often share personal stories when there were those 10-15 minutes of dead time at the the end of class.
Sadly, there are fewer and fewer people who have this sort of experience and memories. The Museum helps ensure that we continue to remember and to honour.
Yet I say, “To truly understand our present we must first understand our past”; the good, bad and ugly sides. I cannot tell you how many adults do not know or understand the current Canadian issues that we face today, started many years if not decades ago. But they keep on complaining and in my opinion whining about these issues without knowing the history of them.
Well, Anne-Marie Kee, no I haven’t. Although now that I’ve read the title to this post, I am curious…
tldr; You won’t find the answer in this post.
However, you will find a summer reflection from a principal. In a private school, in addition to the sorts of things that you might expect anywhere, there are additional things to think about. Concerns about sustainability would be among them although that appears to be under control.
The final thought is something that I think so many are thinking and wondering about this summer. It’s important and the answer might make for a better school year.
How can we prioritize student voice in our programs?
I just found out about this blog from Shyama Sunder. It’s a wrap up summary and reflection of her time in EDU 498, a course taken a while ago at a Faculty of Education. Unless I missed it, the actual name of the Faculty didn’t appear anywhere but that’s OK.
The content is a summary of four modules taken. There is a nice summary of each of the modules and the enthusiasm she has comes through loudly and clearly.
Readers of this blog know that I’m not a fan of the SAMR model but it was included as content. If it had any value, I would see if as helpful for experienced teachers trying to embrace technology. I don’t see the wisdom of talking about it to teachers learning how to teach. Why not just teach how to do it properly to begin with? What value is there in demonstrating less than exemplary lessons?
In the post, Shyama makes reference to a book that everyone needs to read “Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job” by Yong Zhao, Goaming Zhang, Jing Lei, and Wei Qiu. That’s a book that should be in every school library and would make for an awesome and progressive book talk.
This blog is referenced on her Twitter profile and there’s no forwarding address. It would be interesting to see her pick up blogging in her professional life.
Jamey Byers wrote this post so that others wouldn’t have to!
I remember being at a conference once – I think it was in Denver – and Robert Martellacci came up to me and asked if I knew that one of the prominent speakers had liked a link from an adult film star showing a picture of herself. I hadn’t noticed; I’m not in the habit of checking out what people have saved as liked. Maybe I should?
Actually, maybe I should check what I’ve got in my likes! Phew. Other than some egotistic stuff, I think I’m good. (I’m also snooty – go back to the very first one!)
Jamey points out that there’s a new, more private feature available to us on Twitter.
With the addition of the bookmarks function in Twitter you now have the ability to not only like a tweet, but to save it to your private list of bookmarks that are strictly just for your eyes only.
I wonder how many people are using the feature. I’m certainly not. Maybe I should.
Matthew Oldridge is now playing in the big leagues with this post on Edutopia. I remember when he was a guy I interviewed for this blog.
He brings his obvious love and passion for Mathematics to this new forum and I hope that people are inspired by his wisdom. Comments are not allowed so there’s no traditional way of knowing.
Truer words were never spoken than these…
The amount of play in “serious” academic topics like mathematics is inversely proportional, it seems, to the age of students, but this does not have to be the case. A playful pedagogy of mathematics can be codified and made real, rigorous, and authentic.
I’ve studied a lot of mathematics over the years and certainly those teachers/professors that I remember best love mathematics; it came across that way, and their playful approach made learning fun and worthwhile.
Can you think of a better testament to give an educator?
Jennifer Casa-Todd is one of those people that I’ve seldom met in real life and yet I feel like I know so much about her. She was another person I had the opportunity to interview. I also had the opportunity to help with her book Social LEADia. This should be on bookshelves everywhere.
I enjoy her writing and most of her posts come across as a personal message to me. Such in the power of her writing.
I struggle with the notion of “balance”. The current context is that it involves being connected and not doing other things – like reading a book. I’m always leary of people who make such claims. Isn’t it just exchanging one form of engagement for another? And, hasn’t social media engagement earned its way into our lives?
I like Jennifer’s reasoned approach…
Social media is here to stay and is a part of the fabric of business, politics, and education. Instead of a fast, I suggest the following strategies:
You’ll have to read her post to see if the strategies make sense to you!
without warning or explanation, they started talking and, just like that, resumed their friendship from three years ago when they were six. Hours later, after the park, the corner store, the house; after basketball and jungle gyms and ice cream; after talking and laughing and wrestling, they parted reluctantly, already asking when they could see each other again.
Here’s a quote from Amanda Potts’ recent post.
I’ll bet that you could drop that sentence into any conversation or writing that you might have and provide your own characters.
It might be:
meeting up at an annual conference
a class reunion from your old high school
reuniting with a staff after a summer vacation
and the list goes on. Friendship is such an tangible and yet intangible concept. This post describes a pair of friendships that easily fall into the above.
Those on Facebook will know that a friend to many will be returning to Canada after a couple of years overseas. I’ll bet we all will reunite in this fashion at the Bring IT, Together Conference.
In the beginning, there were shiny things. People flocked to shiny things and made a place in the classroom whether they were good or not. I’m looking at you – Clickers.
As shiny things kept on invading classrooms, the good thinkers got us thinking that maybe we should be looking beyond these things into exactly how they are used, are they effective, are they worth the cost, etc.
We never looked back. Well, at ISTE there are still 30 tools in 30 minutes sessions. For the most part, we never looked back.
So, now comes Bonnie Stewart and
I have a new project I’m really excited about. Even if it kinda goes against just about EVERYTHING I’ve said about tech in education over the past, uh, decade.
I’ve read this post at least a dozen times and there are so many out of post links that will take you to rabbit holes that didn’t know they were hosting rabbits!
The proposed results?
The fact that it’s 2019 is loud and clear with the inclusion of “data surveillance”.
This looks incredibly interesting and will use social media for good for the description and dissemination of content. Read the post and get ready to follow. And, Bonnie is looking for some pilot locations if you’re interested.
This TWIOE post seems to have been focused on people I’ve interviewed! This time, it’s David Carruthers.
As we’ve noticed recently, David is going to be doing some magic as he returns to the classroom after having been the “Tech Guy” at the board office for a while.
He sets the standard with his bottom line.
Bottom line, if being labelled a “tech guy” takes these reflections into consideration, I’m extremely proud of this label. I don’t see the technology in front of students as just a bunch of devices. This doesn’t excite me. Instead, I see tremendous potential.
Some words of advice here – you’ll always be known as the “Tech Guy” so wear it. There are worse things to be known for. You’ve built relationships throughout your district so don’t be surprised when you get some panic emails for help. I still get them. The most enjoyable are about report cards which have had many incarnations since I last formally supported them. The really cool thing happens when these relationships develop your learning because someone wants to share something new with you.
On a political note, things are likely to be difficult for a while as cutbacks affect districts throughout the province. I hope that school districts are wise enough to continue to put insightful “Tech Guys” in areas of support centrally. We know that anyone can click a mouse or use a keyboard these days. True progress comes when you have people like David that see the connection and the potential because they bring a strong background in teaching to such a support position.
As always, there’s a powerful collection of thoughts from these wonderful Ontario Edubloggers. Make sure you’re following them on Twitter.