An Interview with Rodd Lucier

Selection_867Except for luck, I may never have met Rodd Lucier.  My old school board had people shuffling in and out of the DeLC (District eLearning Coordinator) position regularly.  When the position would become vacant, I’d be sent to regional meetings.  It was there where I met Rodd and he’s become of those special people who just keep pushing my thinking.  For that, I’ll be eternally grateful and I’m so happy that he’s agreed to share some thoughts with us.

Doug:  Probably the first area where you pushed me was on Twitter.  We both joined at about the same time – me because everyone was talking about it and I could see the potential.  However, you went over the edge and embraced it for a powerful learning tool.  I still remember going to meetings and you would just know things.  I felt under schooled.  That always impressed me and pushed me to get more involved.  What was your impetus to get so involved, so quickly?

Rodd:  Through Twitter, I discovered I was no longer ‘alone’.  I was one of those teachers who commonly had to teach with my door closed, because many of my colleagues didn’t appreciate that there was so much activity in my room.  Admittedly, it was sometimes organized chaos, but my students and I were always on a mission of some sort.  With Twitter, I saw the power and potential of linking with other experimenting educators, and felt obliged to introduce others to the potential folks like you and I had discovered through the generous sharing of ideas.

Doug:  Early on, I learned that you were a twin and I would have all kinds of engagement with you and your brother, Todd.  Now, I’ve seen enough movies to know that there’s always an evil twin.  Neither of you would confess or point the finger so I’ll ask one last time.  Are you the evil one?

Rodd: I’m probably the evil one… but you won’t discover the truth until it’s too late.

Doug:  It’s interesting to see how different your two careers turned.  Were the two of you driven by childhood passions?

Rodd: Our childhood was fueled by competitive sport… volleyball, basketball, baseball, track…  but more importantly, by street hockey, street football.  Today, it’s golf.  Growing up in a family of 5 boys, I’d wager my brothers and I could field a competitive team in anything from placid summer bocce to the roar of winter curling.  But it was as adults that we discovered similar passions for the connective web.  Although our professional paths diverged once Todd left traditional teaching to live and teach in nature at Northern Edge Algonquin, we introduced one another to collaborative tools, media production and PR strategies that have now taken root in all sectors of society.

Interesting unknown fact:  Todd was the one who suggested the use of a hashtag to host synchronous online discussions on Twitter.  The first ever live education chat took place due to his suggestion in March of 2009.

Doug:  That is an interesting fact.  That’s led us to do business as we do these days when it comes to structured chats on Twitter.

This all led to Unplugd.  As a Clinton native, I remember people on the bus checking into Elwood Epps’ Orillia store!  The “Letters from the Edge” is so interesting.  Do you ever go back into that archive for memories.?


Thanks, UnPlugd  – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Rodd:  The most powerful archives from UnPlugd12 and UnPlugd11 are scattered among photos (unplugd11, unplugd12), blog posts (unplugd12) and (unplugd11) and audio.  Participants in these experiences were able to forge unique bonds through a shared experience.  By engaging in authentic ‘work’ in a natural and unplugged environment, I think participants came to realize that ed-tech change agents are special people.  I was blessed to have had such smart and committed people to join me in breathing life into the UnPlugd experience.  And what’s most amazing, is to see how these incredibly talented people continue to connect and support one another.

Doug:  These days, you are a Student Success teacher at Regina Mundi in London.  How are you currently using technology with your students?

Rodd:  For the past 7 years, I’ve worked with kids who generally don’t like school (and too often, school returns the sentiment).  When I’m most effective, I’m able to introduce teachers to strategies that make school more interesting for students and teachers alike.  It’s still too common for teachers to see PowerPoint as a technological innovation.  We need to get kids involved in projects that are meaningfully connected to the real world.

Doug:  In your profile, you indicate that you’re a supporter of passion-based learning.  What does this look like in your classroom?

Rodd:  To me, passion-based learning is realized when students have the freedom to be joyful and zealous in their learning.  When challenges best meet the abilities and interests of learners, time disappears… or so says Vygotsky.  A few months ago, I had the chance to lead a group of students in the re-design of our high school which at only 53 years of age is due to be replaced in two years time.  Students were introduced to the architects charged with designing our new building, and over the period of 6 weeks, developed and pitched their ideas about how the outside landscape should be developed to promote the health and wellness of staff and students. This Specialist High Skills Major project proved to be an authentically engaging challenge for students who later shared their ideas with the board of trustees.

Doug:  You’ve been an early adopter of multimedia and I know you for your wonderful presentations.  The last that I enjoyed from the audience was “Finding Robin?”  What was your inspiration for that?


Rodd: I think the most compelling presentations are those that hook you with an engaging story.  Although most of the people I share presentations with are of a generation that missed out on the Batman of our generation, I found it fun to revisit the campiness of the 1960’s T.V. show.  I think it’s fair to say that I commonly create slidedecks that I find entertaining.  I probably spend more time tweaking images and text than most people in the hopes that the results are as engaging for the audience as they are for me.

Doug:  I think that it’s important to recognize that Adam West was the REAL Batman.  Fortunately, we lived through it!

You’ve always been a big advocate of Creative Commons.  It most certainly shows in your presentation; you’re 180 degrees from Death by Powerpoint.  How long does it take you to put together one of your presentations?

Rodd:  At one time, all of my presentations were anchored by Creative Commons imagery.  I used to use a tool called Compfight to filter CC images from Flickr, but now I use the billions of photos in Flickr with the support of other online archives.  Recent revisions to the copyright act in Canada, including ‘fair dealing’ exemptions, have made it a lot easier to leverage compelling images for teaching purposes.  

Doug:  You’ll be a popular presenter at the BIT Conference in November in Niagara Falls.  Can your share your topic with us?

Rodd:  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and learning about gaming and play in recent months.  We’ll be looking at games both old and new, and considering the promise of gamification.  Do you know if there are many Poke-stops in Niagara Falls?

Doug:  There has to be many there.  We haven’t heard stories of people going over the edge in search of one though…

What led you to get involved with eLearningOntario?

Rodd: I saw the promise and potential of online learning tools through my work with the University of Western Ontario (now Western), and in my work with bringing gifted students together in virtual spaces.  The chance to share the possibilities with other educators was what compelled me to apply for the RELC position.

Doug:  In your time as a Regional eLearning Coordinator, you introduced and supported so many of us in the Western Ontario region.  I still remember and appreciate your patience with me as I was setting up classes for the first time.  In so many ways, you were so far ahead of the crowd.  I know that one of your frustrations was the hesitancy of some to embrace social media.  Do you feel a sense of confirmation now that you’ve been proven correct?

Rodd:  I was frustrated by a few things in my role as RELC.  I think the goal of floating all boats with a common tide prevented high fliers from doing more extraordinary things.  It was satisfying to see the Ministry eventually come to embrace social media.  Unfortunately, the Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram channels are now flooded by sponsored content and promotions.  Filtering through the noise in order to have conversations on social media seems to be much more challenging these days.  Still, the relationships we first built on Twitter are still the ones I value most.

Doug:  One thing that many may not know is that you’re a very good golfer.  How are you hitting them in this heat?

Rodd: I LOVE golf!  Now that my 13 year old son has been playing for a few years, I get to play more than I used to.   Why do I love it?  It’s played in the out of doors… in good weather.  It’s a sport can be played as an individual, partner or team.  As a game, it provides a differentiated challenge by adapting the starting point for competitors of different skill levels.  Golf’s handicap system allows all to play on a level playing field.  Golf is a game that you can only play well with patience and focus.  There is a lot to like about the game, even on days that it doesn’t like you back.

Doug: Is there anything new that has your attention?

Rodd: I think there is untapped potential in photos and video on social media.  There are now many teachers using tools like Instagram, Remind, SeeSaw, and FreshGrade to open their classrooms to families and communities.  I’m a big fan of FreshGrade as a closed community option, and have been testing out Instagram as a podcasting platform.  I love mashing up media in different tools that can result in a shareable product.  I currently use FreshGrade to share video with members of my high school volleyball team; and leverage the new 60 second time limit in Instagram to produce mini-documentaries.

Doug:  With all your contacts and experiences, you must have some thoughts – is Ontario on the right track?  Are we getting there quickly enough?

Rodd:  We’ll never get there quickly enough Doug.  

Tech in the classroom:

Do you remember when a filmstrip projector was combined with the record player in the classroom?
“Can I be the one to click forward at the ‘ding’?!”

And when a multi-reel film was played on a film projector
“Wait for the red!”  “Yay!”

And when overhead projectors replaced chalkboards
“Do we have to copy the whole note?”

And then data projectors replaced overheads
“The words on your PowerPoint are too small for me to read!”

And now that Internet video is here
“Another video… We’ve already seen that one!”

Advances in technology now allow for new types of tasks never before undertaken.  The best we can hope, is that pioneers will continue to take risks in engaging modern tools in compelling ways.

Doug:  Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Rodd.  It’s greatly appreciated.  This interview has brought back many fond memories for me.

Make sure that you add Rodd to your list of Twitter leaders – he’s @thecleversheep  You’ll be glad you did.

While at it, make sure that you check out and bookmark the things that Rodd has created and openly shares with others.


You can find a complete listing of all of the interviews I’ve done for this blog by clicking here.

Where in the world …

… is lightning striking?

It’s been a really strange summer here in Essex County.  In a normal summer, the day starts warm, proceeds to hot and humid during the afternoon, unbearable after supper watching the kids play baseball, and then a thunderstorm cuts loose to either cool things off or make it even more humid.

I know, it’s an over generalization but I thought that it might be a nice lead into this story.  

According to my weather app, we should be getting a storm tonight.

But, I want to know where it’s storming now.  Of course, we could turn to any of the mapping programs on the web and turn on satellite imagery and get an idea.  What if you want to know just where lightning is hitting – RIGHT NOW.

Then head to Blitzortung.

Right now, it’s 6:45am on Friday morning and worldwide, here’s what’s happening.

and, closer to home, let’s select North America and zero in around home.

Looking good, Ontario.  But look what is sitting over Minnesota/Wisconsin and could be headed our way.

Of course, you don’t know for sure and just take the website’s word for it that it’s accurate.  Details here.

However, it’s still going to be nice to verify the accuracy come the next storm.  In the meantime, it’s just one of those fascinating things.

Oh, did I mention that you should turn up your speakers to hear the hits?

Just when you thought your browser couldn’t do any more …

… you find out it can.

This is something that I think most sophisticated web users do anyway but now it can be done automatically.

It’s a wonderful example about how good things happen when great minds get involved.

Who hasn’t followed a link or a bookmark or a carefully curated website or a great blog only to find that it’s not where your computer thinks it should be and you get the dreaded 404 error message?  Good websites or browsers will often give you a customized message to let you know something is amiss but it’s still unnerving at times when you know that the resource should be there. Or, at least it was at one point.

If the website or resource has indeed gone away, who hasn’t used the Wayback Machine to find a resource from the past, captured as it constantly monitors the web.

Heck, you might even find the presence of a former employer.

If nothing else, it’s a reminder of how we were all learning to create content for the web.

A new project from Mozilla promises to solve this with “No More 404s”.  It’s part of the Firefox Test Pilot project and, if you enter a link that would normally generate a 404 error, Firefox will try to return a successful result by digging into the Wayback Machine for it.

There are other experiments in the Test Pilot program so check them out.  I find the “No More 404s” part most intriguing.

I predict that, if it’s successful, all browsers will eventually incorporate it or something like it.

It’s just a great idea.


An Interview with Zuck Markyburg

Recently, I was honoured when I got a “Friend” request on Facebook from Mark Zuckerberg.  I took a look and, sure enough, I’d seen his face a million times in social media.  Then, I took a second look and sounded out the name.  It was Zuck Markyburg.  Hey ….

I was in a rush – so I decided to leave the request hanging and went off to the sessions at the CSTA Conference.  The conference is a big educational and social event; consequently lots of pictures were posted online.  One included me with some friends and Zuck had noted that he saw me in one of the pictures but that I hadn’t accepted his friend request yet.

In times like this, I like to get expert advice.  I checked to see that there were, indeed 28 of my friends who were friends with Zuck.


As it happens, I was in the same physical space at the same physical time with Alfred Thompson and asked about Zuck.  Based on his advice, I accepted the friendship relationship and now have the opportunity to interview Zuck for the blog.

Doug:  We haven’t met in person and yet through your Facebook timeline, I have this feeling that we have.

Zuck: Doug, you and I have been on the Internets for quite some time, although your experience with computers and education pre-date mine. I have followed your posts with interest, and believe it or not, we have been in the same building on more than one occasion. I have been in the audience and heard you speak, and have been able to observe your work when it has been shared online in video form. Sometimes I have had the pleasure of participating in online sessions with you via an “over-the-shoulder” opportunity as a colleague of mine has logged in with their account and I’ve offered questions or comments that they have graciously shared on my behalf. So while you cannot claim to having met Zuck Markyburg “face-to-face,” I would certainly say that I KNOW YOU — your face, your contributions, and your enthusiasm for learning.

Doug:  I’ll admit to being surprised at your friendship invitation.  I did check out those you’re friends with and, at the time of this writing, note that there are 90 friends.  Scrolling up and down reveals some names of folks that I’ve long respected in education.  How many of these have you met face to face?

Zuck: Oh, that’s a great question! I have certainly met at least several of the folks who follow me F2F, and can claim to having met a good number more. That is one of the great things about Facebook, you can be Friends with people you haven’t even met yet — but they have the potential to become life-long colleagues, professional acquaintances, or even real friends.

Doug:  You have to admit, your name should give someone pause to think about accepting friendship requests.

Zuck: Well, I believe that my name is nice and distinct from any other name on Facebook? It was certainly available when I created my gmail account!  Also, I THINK that my engineers have some kind of rule in place that prevents two people from using the same name, or if not (because there ARE real people who have the same name), that there is some other way by which people can tell one another apart? Like if every other detail were the same (photo, history, etc.) but the names were different, then people wouldn’t get confused, would they? I mean, people should know who their friends are, or failing that, who they want to appear to be friends with?  

Doug:  How should a person validate a friendship request?

Zuck: One of the great services that we provide with Facebook is to give potential Friends a sense of “how close to them” a potential Friend is.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 12.26.15 PM.png

If I see a friend request from someone and Facebook tells me that we have 28 friends in common (like you and I have), then I see that as a good measure — 28 people who are already on my Friend list have this person on my Friend list. If I trust my Friends, then chances are this potential new Friend is a good Friend even if I haven’t personally met them.  On the other hand, if I get a Friend request from someone with whom I only have one or two friends in common, then I’m going to be a bit more careful — and take a close look at who that “common friend” is — is it someone I have actually met and/or trust?

Doug: There is a phenomenon known as catfishing

and you can never be too careful.

Zuck: It’s interesting that you bring up that little wrinkle! I’ve been on a little mission for the last little while (three months to the day, I believe!) in trying to help raise awareness of this vile scourge of a problem. My good friends Alec Couros, Alan Levine, and Dean Shareski have all been writing lengthy posts and articles in an attempt to draw attention to the damaging act of being mis-portrayed online (and specifically, on Facebook) by someone else for the purpose of establishing trust and then conning people out of their money. All three of these fine individuals have encountered fake Facebook profiles that use their personal image to establish connections with unknowing individuals — and they have been contacted by a number of poor souls who claim to having had long conversations with someone who has used the image of Alec, Alan, or Dean — but who has turned out to be a scammer.

Can you imagine how you would feel to know that someone has been using your image or personal details to mis-represent on Facebook?

I’ve even written a book on this very subject — and the 2nd edition was just recently released:


Doug:  Alrighty, then. There are people who have been catfished and reeled in by these catfish accounts.  A good article about this appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.  Saskatchewan professor starts website to help catfish victims find answers.  How prevalent are these sort of attempts at catfishing?

Zuck: I’ve done little informal research using Google, and have discovered statistics that say that there are a lot of fake accounts on Facebook, like 83 million.  


That’s a lot of fake accounts (and that statistic might be a bit dated, I don’t know when it was measured), but if you put it into the perspective of today’s approximately 1.7 billion Facebook accounts, then it’s only on the order of about 5% — so based on that alone, it’s only about a 1 in 20 chance that any given Facebook account you Friend is fake one.

Doug:  More importantly, how many of these are successful?

Zuck: Well, I dunno. I mean, it would be nice if I were able to give you a better idea of how many accounts are successfully scamming folks out of money. As a business model, perhaps it is something I should have a team look into? (Or if I already have, maybe I’m not saying?) But I don’t have any hard facts to share on this. But there are lots of great anecdotal case studies out there that you could read up on.

Doug:  All Social Media services have terms and conditions for their use.  Facebook, for example, has section #4 that clearly describes information about Registration and Account Security.  It’s surprisingly readable. Doesn’t that protect people?

Zuck: Sure! We are covered in the event that someone get scammed using our service, because our Terms of Service clearly outline the limits to our liability in making our service available to folks. An awful lot of our Terms of Service are written in such a way as to put the onus on the account holder. As long as they read and agree to our rules, Facebook will remain a happy place.

Doug:  Interestingly, the terms don’t require that you use your real photo in your profile.  Should it be or is it part of the service that you can pick any image that you wish?  Often people use a service to modify a picture to help support a particular cause.

Zuck: Exactly! The ability for an account holder to advance their cause using our platform is important to us. Let’s say someone wanted to advance their cause using MY picture — I’m all for it, being the public figure that I am! If folks can use my image to communicate their message and put words in my mouth that others will see as having come from me, then it’s up to me to put a stop to it, which, as the Boss of Facebook, I would do if I were aware of it and wanted to, or if I were aware of it and was able to, and I would certainly make it just as easy for me to stop someone from using me as I have made it easy for someone to start being me.   

Doug:  It seems to me that there’s a real problem with fake accounts.  Through the process of sharing, there are personal items that you may want to keep within a certain group.  By the time you spot a phoney account, all your information may be siphoned off.  How do you avoid that?

Zuck: That’s a good question. I like the “circles” model that Google+ established, that kind of allows you to see different groups as representing different areas of interest or different levels of trust. I wish we at Facebook had thought of that, because it might make it easier for folks to decide what to share, and with whom. But we do have a lot of rules and choices that people can make in our user settings, like “Security,” “Privacy,” “Timeline and Tagging,” and “Blocking,” so that they can always go back and update their settings whenever we add new ones.

Doug:  Is there a difference between “catfishing” and “fraud”?

Zuck: In a Venn diagram, I would put catfishing as one circle and fraud as one circle and there would be a great big intersection part.

Doug:  Another aspect to this are laws from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  Social media can be/is global.  What laws would apply if you’re wronged – yours or the hosts?

Zuck: I’d have to defer this question to our legal team. But maybe we have one of those riders in our ToS that say things need to be resolved in California so our California lawyers can make the big bucks?  I dunno. But for folks who are wronged all the way around the world using our Facebook platform, I sure am sorry.  The Uber people have an insurance thing set up, so that’s good for them.

Doug:  For those who use social media to learn and connect with others, how important is it to be able to validate sources?

Zuck: It’s easier these days to find an answer than it was in the old days. Two seconds on your smartphone using Google in your PJs on the couch and you can have the performance history of that new star acting in your latest NetFlix binge. It used to be you had to take a morning at the public library going through Encyclopedia Brittanica to find out stuff that happened years ago and that had been vetted by real historians and stuff.  On the other hand, folks today can write their own Wikipedia entries, so we all need to use social media and the Internet with an open, critical eye.   

Doug:  Can you learn from someone you don’t know?

Zuck: Let’s change the question to “Can you learn from someone you haven’t met?” — and then I’ll answer, “Of course!”  As for your original question, perhaps we come to know folks, over time, regardless of the medium through which we communicate? How many folks have you met F2F after meeting them online, for which the F2F meeting only served to strengthen the knowing?

Doug:  Dr. Alec Couros has written a great deal about this topic.  See this blog post for a great deal of helpful content.  

He has strong words about this “However, there has been little to no response, and it is my strong belief that these corporations, in their lack of action against this growing problem, have now become complicit in these illegal activities.

Do you agree with his assertion?

Zuck: Yes, I think Alec has been making very valid points for some time. I have attempted to help to get him in touch with the proper folks at Facebook, but I have had limited success. After all, I’m only the Boss of Facebook. We did announce a MOOC with Alec, Alan, and Dean last month that got lots of Likes, but it failed to go viral.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 1.07.27 PM.png

Doug:  What action would be most appropriate in the case of this “growing problem”?  How quickly would you expect a service to act on a reported infraction?

Zuck: I would expect that the CEO of Facebook would have a team of top folks working to address this problem, and that he would make public statements about the progress of this team. I would also expect that reported infractions be replied to in such a way that the individual receives a case number and contact to follow up with.

Doug:  Social Media has always been a strong platform for developing learning connections in education.  Is this changing?  Do we need to rethink how we use it?

Zuck: I think we need to continually question what is working and what we need to change. Just because something worked once, doesn’t mean we stick with it forever. As social media becomes more pervasive, we need to review the characteristics of a platform that make it successful — brevity, asynchronous, open, etc.  — or detailed, synchronous, closed, etc, and revisit our needs and the needs of our learners. We don’t just go with something because it is a “flavour of the month,” or easy to implement. On the other hand, we do try out platforms and tools as they emerge and are prepared for a new one to come along that will take the place of a previous favourite.

Doug:  You get the last word here.  What words of advice would you like readers to leave with?

Zuck: Make Friends! Treat folks with respect. Be aware of what you post online. Consider advocating for improvements for social media and/or learning platforms that you use when you see areas of concern or potential improvements. Work together with your Friends and your friends to make the world a better place.

And add Zuck Markyburg as your Friend on Facebook! (We really do need to hold Facebook more accountable and get some action on this!)

Two nerds walk into a Tim Horton’s

with slide rules.

I was one of them.  The other was my friend Diane.  (@Windsordi)

It seems that one of Diane’s latest passions is her participation in GISHWHES and she’s working on one of the challenges.  It involved using technology pre-1970 to solve a problem.  In this case, it involved some calculations.  Her first inclination was to find someone who knew how to work an abacus. 

Striking out there, she moved on to the slide rule and, somehow, I came to mind.  We negotiated a time and place – a Tim Horton’s restaurant in South Windsor – during my evening dog walk and then made it happen.

So, I was off to help Team Magnetic North.

We both agreed that the best technology would have been some mental math but it would be hard to record.  On to Plan B.

The result was to be a movie and I was just one of the players.  My job was to work the slide rule.  I had to look my best so I made sure that I had my fingernails nice and tidy before heading into the city.  Our planning happened at one of the tables while the adjoining table of teenage girls looked at us with some really strange looks.

So, we killed a few minutes with our planning waiting until the best spot in the restaurant (near the fireplace) became empty and setup began.  I thought that Diane would be shooting it with her iPhone but she wanted the best quality so it was her HD camera.

Our challenge – well, when the movie gets through final production, I’ll post it here.  In the meantime, here’s a bit of a teaser.

Since we both had brought slide rules, I had a choice!

I went with mine since I thought that the brighter yellow might show up better.  Diane had brought her dad’s which included a copyright of 1947 so our technology certainly fell well within the rules of the game.

And, we managed to do the whole thing in a single take.  Both voices, an explanation and the calculation.

Plus, some really interested folks looking over our shoulders as we shot this.

I mean, how could you not be interested?

Even I was intrigued by the pen that Diane had milled from an old circuit board.

Video to follow.  Stay tuned.

Simcoe or Civic

Or Regatta Day or Saskatchewan Day or British Columbia Day or Natal Day or New Brunswick Day or Colonel By Day or Heritage Day or Joseph Brant Day or Benjamin Vaughan Day. Thanks

My mom used to just call it the August long weekend.  Look at the notifications I received Sunday morning. (ignore the birthday)

Having gone to university in Toronto, I’m guessing that’s where I first heard the term “Simcoe Day”.  It made sense since I can’t think of too many places that don’t have a Simcoe Street.  Plus, when you read John Graves Simcoe’s biography, it does seem appropriate that a holiday would be named in his honour.

Except the first Monday in August is not a public holiday.  Now, being a teacher, it never was a big deal.  We’re on summer holidays anyway.  But, with children who have other jobs, it’s a curiosity for me.

My research led me to:

But it is a Civic Holiday.  

There actually were a few surprises to me about holidays in Ontario.  There are only nine.  If you’d asked me straight out, I would have said that there was a public holiday in every month of the year.  And, I would have been wrong.

So, best wishes for a relaxing day whether it be Simcoe Day or the August Civic Holiday.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Thank goodness it’s cool to blog.  All the traditional ways of getting cool have had limited effectiveness this week.

Thanks to Ontario Edubloggers for keeping the thinking going, even in the heat.  Here’s some of what I caught this past week.

The Big Ideas in Education (Hint: Pokemon Go is not one of them)

This one line from Deborah McCallum’s blog should bring everyone back to reality.

Unless you’ve been off the grid this summer, you have to had crossed paths with this phenomenon.  There have been stories of mishaps, funny discoveries, people doing really stupid things, people going places that they shouldn’t, traffic accidents, and goodness knows what else.  There even was a full-page article in this week’s local newspaper.  And, of course, educators writing about this latest of “game changers”.

Now, I have no qualms about meeting students where they are but, unless the class is about writing the next viral application or a marketing class trying to reach unreachable markets, it’s just another application.  Nothing more.  Deborah writes a wonderful post that should bring everyone back to reality.

I’ve used the expression “geocaching for dummies” to describe what I’ve seen while walking the dog.  I’ve seen entire families out discovering, running from location to location, my dog “discovering” and there’s a great deal of good things to note but it’s a game.  I wonder how many schools will use the concept for an orientation for students.  If you think mobile phones in the classroom were a distraction before…

In the meantime, read about her five steps and step back into reality.

If you’re not prepared for reality yet, then enjoy her curated Flipboard collection of stories.

Digital Citizenship, Learning, and Student Voice

If you’re thinking about digital citizenship for the fall, then Jennifer Casa-Todd’s recent post should give you great fodder for your thinking.

There isn’t a single educator who would argue with the fact that we need to teach kids how to navigate online spaces safely and critically.  What I have noticed however is that there is an extremely huge variance in what educators think this should look like.  In my research this week I am overwhelmed by the number of different definitions of digital citizenship as well as the different components.

The concept is even more important now that ever.

I’m a people watcher in addition to dog walker and this summer seems to have really upped the ante in terms of people walking (yes, and driving) while connected.  The dog and I have dived for the ditch as cars veer towards us, been forced off paths as people search for those thingys in the park, read every angle or take on the American election to date, heard people quote “facts” as true because they “Googled” them, and so much more.  It’s actually been a summer of bizarre digital behaviour by humans.

Perhaps more than ever, common sense and reason needs to enter the picture.  I think that Jennifer has nailed it nicely when she observes that

We continue to treat Digital Citizenship as discrete units in school. 

There are still “computer lab teachers” and schools that don’t embrace the BYOD concept.  Both reinforce the notion that there is a time and place for computer use and only there.  Yet, in the real world nothing could be further from the truth.  As long as “Digital Citizenship” (whatever that means) is a discreet thing, we won’t get the results that we should.  Typically, when it’s a discreet thing, it’s based on what might go wrong.

It seems to me the notion will only be effective when it’s treated positively in every subject area where it’s appropriate.  There’s so much good that can be realized that it most certainly outshines the concept of a lesson on the negatives.

Sadly, her resources are generated by technology entities trying to inform the masses.  Why wouldn’t a mathematics or science or languages organization create lessons about the positive returns of good digital citizenship and show how to embed it in their curriculum?

Could it be “about the comments?”

My “Whatever happened to …” series last weekend inspired this post from Aviva Dunsiger.

I’m reminded of our age difference and teaching experiences.  When she started teaching, electronic report cards were just the way that the job was done.  Well, there was a time before electronics, Aviva!  Teachers today have it so easy.  <grin>

What impressed me was that the discussion took an interesting turn beyond the technology but the actual “look” of the document.

 As Mr. Mepham mentions in his comment, the look of our current report card is somewhat “sterile or uninviting.” This doesn’t mean that the content in it needs to be.

I remember reading Les’ comment and thought that report cards could resemble a legal document with the teacher being the “party of the first part” and the student “party of the second part” or some other legal connection.

In that context, it reinforces the importance of the teacher/parent interview as being more important and the report card just being the conversation starter.  I also like Aviva’s observation that the content doesn’t have to be “sterile or uninviting”.

What is your board’s policy on comment writing? Does it reinforce the sterile or is there room to do something else?

Remembering That One Child …

Another interesting post from Aviva’s blog.  “That One Child”.

I’m reminded, as I read it, that my teaching reality was considerably different from hers.  By the time a child has been through elementary school, so many interventions have been tried and documented.  In that way, we had it differently.  If there was a child of concern, we could always go to Student Services and read the OSR reports to help devise a plan.

There are some powerful messages to take away from her post.

  • never stop learning about new techniques to reach students
  • just because you haven’t found the way to reach that one child, never stop trying
  • people outside the profession have no idea.  Classrooms aren’t like in the movies
  • technology, used appropriately, may be an effective way to reach a particular student

Are All Kids Able to Choose?

If you ever have the discussion that “the Ministry doesn’t say that I have to use technology”, pull out this post from Donna Fry.

While her post specifically mentions Apple products, it isn’t a huge reach to pick your own favourite technology and plunk it in.

In the post, she does ask some really good questions that I think all teachers should ask themselves and start thinking about answers for.  I think there’s yet another one for teachers – are you prepared to try something and fail but are ready to learn from the experience going forward?

Absolutely, a document that’s 11 years old should not be taken word for word in lesson preparation.  Talk about obsoleting yourself and your classroom.  Still, it could have been written two years ago and references to specific technology would be out of date.  I will give the original authors kudos though – the language that was carefully chosen can include what we all deal with regularly.  Just don’t interpret the words so literally.

Does Teaching Math Feel Like Pulling Teeth?

So, I guess if you looked into Peter Cameron’s classroom, you’d recognize that he’s not taking the Mathematics curriculum literally.

Over the course of the following years I slowly strayed further and further from the math text to the point where I am today; the math text collects dust on shelves in the back of my room. Finding content is easy! Math is all around us and we have tools at our finger tips to bring real math to our students!  My favourite tools are a camera, SMART Notebook, iMovie, QuickTime GarageBand, Photo Booth and Explain Everything.

It makes you wonder, again, the relevance of textbooks in the year 2016.  Well, except for substitute teacher assistance.

As I look out the window as I key this, I see mathematics everywhere.  Really and truly.  Let me give a shoutout to Geometry.  You rock.

I can’t help but think that if, for an AQ or other course, students just walked around for a single day and record all the math that they see and put it into a class wiki that you’d have the best, most authentic, resource ever.


A popular event over the past few years at the Bring IT, Together Conference has been the “Learning Space”.  It’s an unconference within a conference.

We are looking for topic suggestions for this year’s Learning Space. Please use this form to make recommendations:  

Some topics are pre-planned; some happen on the fly.  If you want to stir the pot in advance of the conference, here’s your chance.

Take a moment, before you head out for the long weekend, to drop by these blogs for some inspiration and leave them a comment or two.  They’ll appreciate it!

Thanks again, Ontario Edubloggers.