This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I hope that this blog post finds everyone nice and dry.  It’s been a very rainy couple of days around here.  It’s time to check in and read some great blog post from Ontario Edubloggers.

#edCampLdn Reflections

Last Saturday was EdCampLdn.  It was a great day of learning.  By the time the sun had set, Ramona Meharg had written a blog post celebrating her learning and connections for the day.

Visit her blog to see her memories if you were there or check it out to see what you missed.

Blogging for the Site

It’s always great to see good deeds getting recognition and rewarded.  Such is the case for Jay Dubois who was asked to blog for the EdTechTeam folks.

It can be a challenge to hop in and start sending messages to a well established community.  So, I can completely understand some of Jay’s original thoughts.

But, he persevered and the blog post appears live Using Technology to Amplify Student Voice in Primary/Junior Classrooms.

The result is a nice summary of some of the things that he and his students are able to do with Google tools.  I think that everyone who uses these tools should give it a read for at least confirmation or hopefully, inspiration about how to up their game.

The struggle is real: Supporting teachers in an international context

I find Anne Marie Luce’s ongoing collection of blog posts fascinating.  She’s documenting the best of her experiences teaching overseas.

I guess that I had never thought about it but, just like here, part of the job for a principal is evaluating staff.  Everyone in education has been on the teacher end and know all about the sleepless nights leading to an observation, the visiting and revisiting of lesson plans, etc.  To read it from the principal side is an angle I’ve never read before.

Even more interesting, is the environment that she’s working in.  Unlike our schools where people are in the profession for the long run, these teachers are there only for a short duration.  They get evaluated twice a year.

Even more than the length of the teaching contract, I found it interesting and I’m sure a challenge for the principal because everyone lives so close to each other just because of the situation.  There are many things in this post that took me by surprise.

Becoming a Maverick Learner


As first year teachers, didn’t we all get this piece of sage advice just like Ruthie Sloan did?

Arguably, that wouldn’t be the most satisfying way to putting in 30 years in a profession.  Thankfully, I think we all recognize this and realize that, for no other reason than our own sanity, we need to grow.

Ruthie uses the express “Maverick Learner” and I’ll bet that everyone will identify with the story shared here.

This is the best of advice.

I argue that we must begin with taking stock of our own identity within learning communities- and commit to be the learners we desire to see in our classrooms.

Facebook reflections

One week, I was in a discussion with friends on Facebook who see the community there as like the original days on Twitter.  Less self-promotion and a desire to learn and help each other.

Then, there’s the breaking story about privacy and how your information on Facebook has been compromised.  Next thing, people are talking about ditching Facebook.

Jennifer Casa-Todd was asked if she was leaving and it was a solid “Nope”.

That was the short answer; the rest of the blog post is her longer answer.  Her response deals with the social responsibility of being an educator.  In a world where there are no absolute experts, the closest thing that students have may well be their classroom teacher.

Jennifer, ever so wisely, nails it here…

How can we educate our children about the world around them (a world that includes social media) if we block and ban social media from school?

Imagine what would be left on the curriculum if we took away everything controversial that came along.  We need all teachers to have Jennifer’s wisdom and enthusiasm.

Work-Life Balance: What Does It Really Mean?

I’m a sucker for posts like this one.  It’s a topic that’s near and dear to me.

My philosophy has always been that a perfect balance or equilibrium is just impossible.  One day, the job can be all consuming.  The next day, your personal life can be just as consuming.

Joel McLean acknowledges that this is reality.  The post is another look, backed by research, about how to make it work.

Even if there is no magic bullet, having people talk about it and reflect upon it is one of the best things that you can do.  Blog posts like Joel’s really help to push the cause.

A Collaborative Teacher Inquiry into Makerspace: University & Schools Learn Together

From the KNAER blog comes this post.  It started as a collaborative inquiry approach to understanding iPads and Apps in the primary language arts classroom.

Somewhere along the line the term “Makerspace” entered the discussion and investigating that became the next step.

Once the word “Makerspace” came up in our conversations, everyone naturally gravitated to the idea of trying it in the classroom… lots of great articles came our way, names of people to follow on twitter, websites, Makerspace [fieldtrips] at Brock University, etc. All of a sudden, it went from a word “Makerspace” to putting it in action all because of conversations between educators.

It’s interesting to follow along and I can just picture people growing and learning along the way.  The blog post itemizes a large number of factors that influenced the learning – it’s gratifying to see that Social Media was in the mix.

In case you missed it, I had the chance to interview Ramona Meharg his week –

Please take the time to click through and read these posts in their entirety and perhaps drop off a comment or two.  There’s part of your professional learning for today.

If you’re an Ontario Educator and blogging, please make sure that you’re part of this LiveBinder –

Of course, you’re going to want to follow these great bloggers.



The case for your own computer

You know that someone’s having a bad computer day when you see them rubbing their trackpad in desperation.

That was the case for me for one of the sessions that I proctored at the CSTA Conference.  To her defense, this presenter did ask me if she could connect her computer to the data projector over the lunch hour to make sure that it worked.  That’s the way that I handle things myself; I hate scrambling at the last minute and so, of course, I said to go for it.

Maybe it was premonition but I felt myself drawn to the room earlier than I normally would and that’s where I found her rubbing that trackpad.


“Yes, the computer won’t display on the data projector.”

I looked and, yes, everything was connected.  The computer was an ancient computer running Windows 10 so it was really slow to respond.  I thought that it might be even older than my clunker.

As if anticipating my next question, she said “No, it’s not my computer.   It’s the university’s and the presentation is on here, given to me.  I’m much more at home with my own computer running Linux.  Can you help?”

So, I went into the controls and made sure that the computer thought it was duplicating itself.   It thought it was, only, it wasn’t.

No problem, I thought.  I’ll just put the presentation on my computer and let her use it.  I pulled out a memory key and she said “I don’t think that will work”.  True to her word, it didn’t.  Mounting external devices had been disabled by the university IT Department.  OK, on to Plan B.  I’ll just get her to email it to me.  “I can’t do that.  The machine is limited to connecting only to the university wireless”.

I had this urge to start rubbing the trackpad.

People were now starting to come in for the presentation.  One in the audience came up and let us know that he had been in a previous presentation and the SVGA video in wasn’t working on the data projector.

Rats.  (or some such similar words)

I noticed that the data projector also had a connector for HDMI and a cable attached.

Mr. Helpful from the audience spoke up again.  “The last presenter had to use that.”

So, I grabbed the cable and headed for the HDMI port.  It didn’t fit.  The computer had a mini-HDMI port.

But, we were getting warm.

I made a connection with the AV supplier and he did have a mini-HDMI to HDMI converter.  A second later and we were good to go.

The presentation went well and, as we were packing her things, I asked why she didn’t use her own computer.  It was her partner’s computer and, rather than moving the presentation over, it seemed easier at the time to go this route.

“I’ll never make this mistake again.”


Are we witnessing the end?

I can recall how impressed I was with mobile technology on Star Trek.  In particular, there was that tablet thing that would be passed around for stylus input.  Many things that we see and take for granted these days came from that wonderful show.  Even today, I still enjoy watching the reruns.

And, it’s one of the reasons why I never wear a red shirt.

The concept of writing on a tablet that wasn’t tethered to anything always impressed me.  I’ll admit to being skeptical about the iPad when it first came along.  I had an iPod and it did everything that I ever needed in portable technology.  It just seemed that a bigger iPod was overkill.  Then, I got one as a gift for speaking at the Waterloo Region’s summer institute.

I quickly set it up and quickly got into the promise that it delivered. It still seemed awkward compared to carrying the iPod or a laptop.  Each had carved their own place into my world of technology use.  But, I stuck with it and got to use some pretty incredible applications and do some mobile things previously reserved for the laptop.  These days, though, it’s pretty much relegated to playing some games with friends or to quickly scan Twitter.

For the longest time, I tried to make it a laptop replacement.  I did write a few blog posts on it but came to realize that I’m really not a “typing on glass” type of guy. I prefer a real keyboard.  In a moment of weakness, I was in Hamilton with my friend Zoe and she talked me into going to BestBuy to purchase a bluetooth case/keyboard.  In this case, the bluetooth worked really well but the physical setup always felt wonky and it certainly wasn’t something that I could place in my lap to use while watching television.

Backups are done by syncing with iTunes which I’ve always found a difficult application to master.  Recently, my iPad doesn’t sync to my computer so I can’t have a current backup.  I get the message that “iTunes can’t backup iPhone because not enough free space is available on computer”.  My computer is full?  I checked – nowhere near being full.  The only consolation was that an internet search reveals that I’m not alone. There were lots of suggestions about how to solve the problem but nothing works here.

There’s been much said about the declining popularity of tablets recently.  In particular, statistics about declining iPad sales are pretty staggering.  Almost quietly, this week, Apple released a new version of the iPad.  Like most things Apple, a new hardware requires a software update and sure enough, there’s a new iTunes to be downloaded.  Maybe they’ve fixed my problem?  A quick try this morning shows that the problem is still there.

I was curious about the new iPad itself.  What is new and innovative? Apple is always good for that.  From what I can see it’s cheaper and has a brighter screen.  Other than that, there’s nothing to add to the functionality that has always been there.  I was thinking that maybe the success of the Chromebook and the ability to run Android applications on it might inspire a new way of looking at the iPad.  Sadly, there’s nothing that I can see.

On a positive note, cell phones have never been more popular,  With larger screen and better applications, they seem to really have taken over the portable computing area. And, they do it very nicely

As a result, now I’m thinking and wondering.  Has the technology that drives the tablet got as good as it’s going to get?  Maybe this is it and there isn’t anything more?  Is the true innovation going to continue to be in cell phones?

What do you think?  Have we seen the end of innovation on that type of technology?  If you could improve on the tablet, what would you do?

Here’s the course I failed

A couple of years ago when the concept of Sketchnoting was new, I was bound and determined to learn how to do them.

I started small; scribbling things on my iPad.  The results varied between childish and embarrassing with a severe tilt towards embarrassing.

I’m not sure what I would do with sketchnoting but I had a couple of ideas that I think would present well nicely using this artform.

I tried; I really did.  

I tried various applications; my daughter bought me a stylus for my birthday; I had a number of other styluses that I’d obtained from here and there but nothing seemed to improve when I was done.  I reverted to my finger.  I’m now convinced that I have a defective finger.

At a Bring IT, Together conference a couple of years ago, I had my chance to learn in the class of the master – Sylvia Duckworth.  I still remember it.  I sat in the front row, eager to learn.  My friend Colleen Rose sat next to me.  I should have known there that I was out of my league.  I’m convinced that when Colleen breathes out in the cold northern Ontario air, it is a beautiful piece of art.

So, I followed Sylvia’s instructions to the letter.

The results were still embarrassing.

The best, positive takeaway is now my Twitter avatar.  Colleen drew it as I tried my best to learn.

I guess that I need to keep on keeping on.

Fortunately, Sylvia has made her presentation available for us to enjoy in the form of a Google Slides presentation.

I’ll keep at it.

Maybe someday I’ll surprise myself.

In the meantime, we can all enjoy her lengthy slideshow here.

I’m not on the playground

Yesterday morning, I had just finished playing my online games with my friends and had noticed that there were some updates for apps on the iPad.  For those of you on this platform, you know that it’s quite common to get a rush of updates whenever Apple does something with its operating system.  In this case, iOS10 is the reason.  People have been downloading and updating but it’s always a good idea to wait and see if it goes well or if there’s a point release.  That was indeed the case – all kinds of articles like this one have been floating around.

Beware: Apple’s iOS 10 Update Bricks Some iPhones and iPads

Anyway, I took a look and there wasn’t any application that I use frequently enough or have a problem with so I wasn’t in a hurry to download.  As I always do, I took a look at the Featured applications and the release of Swift Playgrounds caught my eye.  I had been reading so much about this application and how it was going to be yet another game changer for education and those who wish to teaching coding.

Off I was to download it – only to find this:

Fair enough, I guess.  I was a little hesitant since iOS has been getting progressively slower and crashier for me since roughly iOS7.

But, if you’re going to be in the game, you have to play by Apple’s rules.  So, I checked to see how long this was going to take to download.  Settings | Software Update and “Your software is up to date.”  with iOS 9.3.5.  Time to do a quick bit of research and …

Goodbye, A5: iOS 10 ends support for iPhone 4S, iPad 2, and more [Updated]

Sigh.  My iPad2 isn’t eligible for the upgrade and it looks like it never will be.

This is the second iPad that I’ve owned.  I had an original iPad and it always felt like it was rushed to market.  This iPad2 was a real trouper.  Except for the slowness and crashing, it still works well when it works.  But all good things come to an end, I guess.

I’ve always been puzzled by the timing of the release of Apple things.  For example, in the case of Swift Playgrounds, it would have been nice to have had that all summer so that teachers who wanted to teach coding could a) become familiar with the application and b) ask their IT Departments to have it installed in cases where, by rules, teachers are not allowed to install their own applications.  I guess that a c) would now be important – update the operating system.

Apple was always seen as being so friendly to education – the timing makes me question that now.

So, $660 would allow me to upgrade my device buy a new device to test out this application.  Obviously, this won’t happen any time soon.  Like so many, I’m waiting with real interest to see how Android applications run on Chromebooks.  For half that price, you could have so much more.  In the meantime, there still remains the excellent applications Hopscotch and Scratch Jr.  For the many schools that have purchased their many iPad2s, that’s the only coding option.

But I will remain curious about this Swift Playgrounds.  I hope that someone kicks the tires and shares the experience with the rest of us.