Whatever happened to …


… acid rain?

Thanks to an anonymous contribution to the Padlet for this idea.

I had to have a quick smile when I read this.  Acid rain a concern in the 90s?

As a high school student of the 70s, it was of high concern then as well.  I can recall the concern for lakes in Northern parts of Ontario (and Canada).  We heard of the term “dead lakes” and “dead rivers” caused by acid rain.  It was a time to point blame at anything that put byproducts into the atmosphere.  I can recall concerns about Lake Huron (a short distance from home) and the paint job on your car being affected.

In school, it was lessons that put pH into perspective for me.  Before that, I worked at the local public swimming pool and testing the water was a regular task that we did and recorded at least three times a day.  Even more when there was a great deal of sunlight and warm temperature.  We measured for both chlorine content and the pH of the water.  It wasn’t only until later when I took the Royal Life Saving Society’s Award of Merit and Distinction courses, that I really understood the total implications of pH in pool water.  In the early days, we just attributed it to the little kids who were swimmers.  (if you know what I mean)

You could see the effect of pH when people would leave the water.  From our perspective, we tried to keep the pH somewhere between 7.2 and 7.6.  It was a practical way to understand the difference between acidity and alkalinity.  

Thankfully, we learned so much about acid rain in secondary school science and, in particular, chemistry.  It was amazing what we could do with experiments and just a drop of this or a drop of that.  We had living things to experiment with (plants) and studied the varying affects of pH on them.

While we learned a bit about the concepts, society bit the bigger bullet.  I think back at those days and remember:

  • we filled our cars with leaded gasoline that was largely free of taxes – $2 would fill up my pickup truck
  • I know it was an older truck – 1959 Chevrolet – but fuel mileage was never a concern
  • outside of town, we had the garbage dump which burned the garbage after garbage collection
  • I can remember a comedian talking about catalytic whatchamacallits 
  • recycling wasn’t even a thing
  • generating electricity was important with the building of businesses and coal burning facilities was part of the solution
  • acid rain provoked further discussion about pollutants everywhere – how can we save the earth from ourselves?
  • schools modified their curriculum to include all kinds of topics dealing with the environment
  • we really became concerned about the quality of the air that we were breathing – respiratory issues became big news
  • as the anonymous poster notes, we now concern ourselves with global warning
  • David Suzuki and others became a voice of authority on various environmental topics
  • we identified and honour a Greenbelt around the GTA
  • carpooling has become a popular activity
  • we seek alternative and renewable forms of energy like solar and wind power
  • and the list goes on and on

So, to answer the original question; I hope that our concerns are still there but have morphed into the bigger environmental picture.  It most certainly can’t be summarized in a single blog post.  The topic has become big the in the news with the promise of the newly elected US president to deregulate things.  Will the environment suffer?

How about you and your thoughts about acid rain?

  • as the originator of the idea noted, is it now just history as we focus on Global Warning?
  • when did you first become aware of the concern?
  • does your school have an environmental program like Eco-Schools?
  • do you carpool?

As always, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Please comment below.

As with this anonymous post, if there’s a topic that you’d like to jog my memory about, please consider adding to the Padlet.

Additional Reading Resources:

It’s more than a “yeah, me too”


It was this line in a comment from Aviva Dunsiger on my post yesterday that got me thinking about blogging.

the never-to-be-underestimated, value of a reply

When I started in the blogging world, there were only a few others that I knew about or cared to read.  It was not uncommon to post a comment on every blog that you would run across.  After all, that’s what the ability to reply or comment is all about.  Who remembers the excitement of the hashtag #comments4kids as a way to get comments for class blogs?

Things, most certainly, have changed.

I don’t dwell on statistics but every now and again, I take a peek to make sure that there’s at least one or two people reading my thoughts here.  I’m always humbled when I see the numbers – there are good days and there are not-so-good days and that’s to be expected.  Since I’m rather random in thought sharing, not everything appeals to everyone.  I write because I enjoy it and, just as we are convinced it’s good for student’s memories, I find that by putting thoughts down  I’m a little more likely to remember things.

And, in the beginning comments were very frequent here.  WordPress lets you know who your most frequent commenting visitors are.  It’s a confirmation that there are regular readers/commenters and for that I’m grateful.

I’ve mentioned in the past why I think people are getting away from commenting.  Probably the biggest reasons that I can think of (short of just a bad blog post) are that there is just so much to read these days and people are finding ways to read blog content without actually visiting the blog.  For whatever reason, people do what they do and that’s great.

I was reading a technical blog post this morning dealing with a Windows 10 issue from a few weeks ago and the author was pretty much begging for comments at the bottom of the post.  Nobody had when I read it.  When I left the post, there still were no comments.  Even now as I type this, I feel a bit badly that I didn’t respond.

Then, I turned to the local newspaper, where “every whacko with a keyboard” posts a comment, it seems.  The paper uses the Facebook plugin and it’s very easy to see the people that have a legitimate Facebook account versus others.  If nothing else, the comments are entertaining.

But I go back to Aviva’s thoughts.  “The value of a reply”.

Most certainly, there are values and connections to be had with replies.  The original blogger extends her reach and makes new and important connections when people comment.  The blogger may realize that they absolutely have nailed a concept, they may find that there are other ways at looking at a topic, or they might be convinced that they were completely wrong.  Without that feedback, the blogger might just go through life thinking they know everything about everything.

Constructive thoughts continue and extend the conversation and can make new connections.  There are many folks who don’t blog for whatever reason and that’s their choice.  But, if they’re reading other blogs, they can do their own mini-blog by sharing their thoughts.

What do you think?  In one way or another, you’re reading this.  Does any of this make sense to you?  I don’t mind being proven wrong if you think I am.  Do you see the value in replies?  Or, is it something else?

Open – by default


I had a great conversation with a person this week who I consider one of the people that really pushed me to be more open, sharing, and connected.  It was so long ago that this happened that I can even recall the date.  The tools that we had were so primitive by today’s standards but we made it work.

The conversation was private so I can’t name names or quotes but the message is still important all the same , worth paraphrasing, and adding my additional thoughts.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t open, didn’t share, or wasn’t connected at the time.  It was just different but he couldn’t see it.  I’d written articles for computer magazines as a classroom teacher, produced a monthly newsletter when I became a consultant, and took this newsletter digitally when it became realistic (and affordable).  I think that the problem was that I was perceived to be standing still.  I was happy with what I was doing – it wasn’t always received positively – I remember a blistering email that I got for my tutorial on how to use Visicalc to organize marks.  I guess it was just that my sharing only reached a certain element.  He encouraged me to go further.

The context of our discussion was around licensing of products in Ontario by the province and school districts.  His observations were that many people who were once very visible had gone underground.  In fact, the platforms in use force people to put everything behind an “educational paywall” by default.  This default for sharing wasn’t just limited to those inside the paywall, it was further limited to individual classroom units.  So much sharing and visible learning had, in effect, gone missing.  What are you modelling for students?  Is working behind a paywall just a digital version of sitting in rows, opening the textbook to page 34 and then doing the odd numbered questions from 1-37?

Of course there are reasons to protect tests and assessments from the general public.  We both get that and support the concept 100%.  What has gone missing is the free range learning that marked the success that we have always enjoyed.  We mused that this was the new reality for many.  It used to be that “PDF is where good ideas go to die” and now it’s “LMS is where good ideas go to join the PDF”.

Case in point – I was invited to talk a look at a consultant’s website the other day.  I was quite interested and went to the address provided.  You guessed it.  It was not available to the world.  You had to log into her domain to see it. Pass.

I think of the great sense of community that we had where learning was continuous.  We took pride in the fact that the learning wasn’t on a single topic.  When one of our colleagues found an interesting read or a new resource or a unique approach to a topic, we jumped into the learning with enthusiasm.  Any time, anywhere.

Now, to the defence of those who continue with this spirit.  You know who you are and we appreciate your efforts and everything that you do.  But, when you go to your place of employment, take a virtual walk through the halls.  How many of these folks are indeed learning online but keeping it to themselves?  How much richer could we all be if they jumped in and shared their learning with others?    When you think about it, isn’t professional learning behind a paywall similar to student learning?  You’re in a big room watching a speaker click through a Powerpoint presentation with no worldly interaction.

Why the change?

Some hypotheses:

  • there are so many new to technology that they don’t know or understand what’s possible
  • working behind a paywall is viewed as the only way to work electronically – there are no other tools or platforms
  • there’s the fear of being jumped on by trolls
  • there are no champions within their learning unit to provide guidance or push
  • those who should be modelling success aren’t
  • there’s a fear of making a mistake
  • the active and progressive professional learning has become passive and conservative

Think of your professional organizations.  Are they practicing what they preach?  If they aren’t, do they need to change or do you need to move on?

There definitely are things that need to be protected from other’s eyes.  We get that.

But, shouldn’t your learning be open by default?

A couple of reads to get you thinking…

First Nations Language Resource


Yesterday’s post about Amazing Dictionaries took me on an interesting digital trip.  It, of course, took me to the Moose Cree talking dictionary.  There was so much interesting information to be learned there.

Of course, I wondered – is there more?

The answer is a definite yes.

The First Nation Help Desk from Atlantic Canada has its own collection of resources assembled in dictionary format – and more.

Of course, there’s a dictionary.  It’s presented in a pretty traditional format.

and comes with answers that you’ll find in a traditional format.

But there’s more.

Individual words are interesting but it gets more important when they appear in sentences.  So, you’ll next check out the Vocabulary sets.

And, conversation sets become more powerful when you have a chance to interact with those conversations.  Check out the series of lessons.

Extend the concept to songs.

The navigation bar takes you even further.  Books, posters, and prayers are all there.  Not only will visitors get a respect for the language but the use will give an insight to the culture.  This is definitely a terrific addition to your materials dealing with First Nations.

A bizarre day


Like most bloggers, in the beginning, I used to check my statistics here to see if anyone was actually reading the nonsense that goes into my posts.  I figured that the day I had zero readers would be the day to shut down and move on.  It never happened when I checked back then so you’re here reading it again.

For that I thank you.

Over the weekend, I had a particular need so ended up on an administrative page that showed the bar graph of hits to the blog.

For the most part, the bar charts revealed a pretty steady level of readership.  But two spikes caught my eye.

It sure looked like I hit it out of the park on January 24 and February 1.

I wonder what the posts were.

On January, the post was “Beyond Blogging – Alice Aspinall“.  That made sense.  The post would appeal to the mathematics and YouTube folks.

But, February first was a little bizarre.  I don’t take to rant too often but I did in this post “I refuse to join a club that would have me as a member“.  I guess that ranting has its attraction too.  

It’s too bad that people weren’t commenting on the posts so that I could determine just what it was about those posts that caught the attention of the readers.  I think that commenting is a dying/dead art.  Oh well, I moved on.

One summer, I worked on a dairy farm and a favourite phrase of the lead hand was “Curiosity killed the cattlebeast”.  You have to know him to appreciate.

It was nagging me to I decided to look just a bit further.  WordPress has the ability to investigate where the visitors come from.

For the reference to Alice’s Mathematics YouTube channel, the results were very predictable.

It makes so much sense that the largest collection of visitors come from Canada.  Probably if I had dug a little deeper, the lion’s share would have come from Ontario.  I get it; it makes so much sense.

Then, I looked at my rant.

Not only was India not on the list, but it was topped by Thailand.  Looking even deeper, the number of hits from Thailand was at least triple the number from Canada and way more than the rest of the list.

Are there conclusions to be drawn?

I’ll try.

  1. My Indian readers are on holidays in Thailand and they each told two friends
  2. Blog readers from Thailand like a good rant
  3. Someone in Thailand was doing a workshop on blogging and decided to use me as a good/bad example
  4. a robot from Thailand was loose and hammering on my post

You are free to draw your own conclusions.  I’m going to go with #1.

The reality is that the bulk of readers, according to the statistics, follow the blog via email subscription or in the WordPress reader so it’s tough to know the real origin of readers.  As you know, there are all kinds of other ways to follow a blog other than simply visiting it and reading.  That also speaks to the decline of commenting.

But in my fantasy world, I’m just going to go with the best of reasons.  It makes me feel good.

Whatever happened to …


… mark sense cards?

You had to know that this would be a natural followup to last week’s post about the Hollerith Code and punched computer cards.

Happily, as a result of these cards, I can say that my class (and many other computer science classes) were 1:1 before it became cool.  (or even contemplated)

Those two keypunch machines I had access to were awesome – when they worked.  But, they worked non-stop it seemed and repairs were needed periodically.  That would put things behind schedule so badly.  I had-not-so fond memories of having to extend deadlines to fairly address concerns about getting programs keyed in and run/debugged in a timely manner.

This was all about to change when we found “mark sense” cards.  If memory serves me correctly, that was a trade mark term for a general class of cards called optical marked cards.

Picture Credit:  Douglas W. Jones, University of Iowa Computer Science Department.  Retrieved February 11, 2017.
 http://homepage.cs.uiowa.edu/~jones/cards/collection/ibm40904.jpg

The key to success was a dark marking pencil and a great deal of care to code the bubbles on the card.

As you can see from above, these cards had their own code.  Some of the characters were easy; you just filled in the bubble.  Others were a little more challenging; you had to code the two bubbles surrounding the character.  If you look at the left side, you’ll see that there were also special bubbles for commands, statement numbers, comments, or continuation cards.  Continuation came into its own with these cards.  Unlike the punched card which allowed 80 characters, there was a pretty severe limit on characters here.

By today’s standards, meaningful variable names weren’t all that popular.  They took longer to code and calculations often resulted in continuation cards.  Darn, my class could be expensive.

The nice thing about teaching was that it was possible to have an entire class coding their own projects at once.  No more sign up lists or computer room supervision before/after schools or during lunch.  Plus, students were able to write their programs at home!

Of course, in education, we know that everything has a challenge and this was no exception.  It wasn’t necessarily cool to have to carry pencils around.  Students had pens and markers for everything.  A common question was “Sir, can I borrow a pencil?”  I also fell out of favour with the art teacher who noticed that students going from his class to mine would often bring their sketching pencils!

I learned quickly that I needed to order boxes of pencils during bulk order time but more often than not found me buying my own for class at an office supply store, or picking them up from the parking lots at golf courses.  (true story)

And, you had to be perfect or close to it when coding.  “Debugging” had a new addition – it was more than just looking at computer instructions.  There were times when you’d have to hold the card up to the light to see if you could figure why the card reader couldn’t read the character.  Plus, it didn’t take more than a moment to reach across and mark someone else’s card when they weren’t looking!  Erasers really weren’t an effective solution for coding errors either.  

And yes, it still was a costly way of handling the course.  Students in Grade 10 using HYPO and Grade 11 and 12 used Fortran and both languages required lots of cards during the duration of a course.

There was no such thing as “the” card either.  Cards came in various configurations according to design and the language needed.  Professor Jones has a great page devoted to them.

But the nice thing was that, with this technology, the course could be accelerated.  With a true 1:1, we could just focus on the task when coding.

And yet, while this wasn’t to last forever, it was somewhat nicer when we got rid of our reliance on cards and moved on with desktop computers.

Your turn.

  • Did you have the pleasure of coding with optical mark cards?  Any remembrances to share?
  • Where do you see optical cards today?  They’re probably more popular than punched cards.

Please share your thoughts via comment below.

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts.  They can all, by the way, be revisited here.

Please visit this Padlet and add your ideas.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It was an interesting approach to pulling together this post this week.  I was interviewed by Stephen Hurley on voiced radio on Wednesday where we chatted a bit about the posts that I’d collected for this morning’s post.  The discussion gave me some additional thoughts about them.   Once he checks the ratings, maybe we’ll do it regularly.

In the meantime, it was another great week of reading for me of Ontario Edublogs.  There was again so much interesting, informative and even fun to read.


We cannot be silent

So much has been said about the presidential order about barring people from seven countries for 90 days.  Last week, I shared a post from Rusul Alrubail on the topic.  I had this post ready to go as well but elected to hold on to it for another week.  News can be so fleeting as it bounces from topic to topic.  This one is worth keeping in focus.

Diana Maliszewski offers a post that will keep the topic current and adds the teacher-librarian perspective to promote classroom discussion.

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Please read and share this post with colleagues.


Stepping Stones

Susan Bruyns shares an inspirational message with her work with Stepping Stones ~ A refugee family’s journey and a number of students in Thames Valley.  The product is a “dual language picture book” which makes it a perfect choice for the ESL students that she’s working with.

It’s a resource that all libraries may wish to consider purchasing.

I think it’s awesome that the author dropped by to leave a comment on the blog post.

This an emotional moment from the post.

One Intermediate student shared that he recalled all too vividly watching his father walk to the local grocery store, only to return with no food and how his uncle was ordered to sail an overloaded raft to Germany and experience the despair as not everyone arrived safely. His ESL teacher shared that he had been reluctant to talk about life in Syria until that day. One never knows the power of a well-crafted text.


Experiencing Learning

Sometimes, things can just flow along so well that it takes a message to jog the memory.  Alyssa Gilbert reminds us that we may need to stop and thing about just what it means to be a learner.  In the context of learning to knit, she offers eight reminders.

  • REMINDER 1: it’s often our immediate reaction to shy away from challenge.
  • REMINDER 2: class is always awesome when you already know how to do it.

Click through to read the rest of her reminders.


The Day I Chose Not To Let A Broken Toilet Stop Me!

There are times in education when you get one of those moments that cause you pause and have a chance to remind yourself that there’s real life happening.

Aviva Dunsiger shares one with us.  She had a broken toilet.

Now, that might not be earth shattering for most, but keep in mind that she’s a kindergarten teacher.  In a secondary school, you’d just put a sign on the door, lock it, and rely on the students to find another washroom.

It’s a different experience for kindergarten students!

Read on to find her story and how Aviva turned it into a learning experience for the students.  You’ll smile when you see the rules!


Think Different-Disruptors of the Status Quo

The title of Laurie Azzi’s post took both Stephen and me back to a former Apple computers campaign.  It was interesting to see it used in a classroom.

Come to my classroom. Black and white Think Different posters adorn the walls of my classroom. On them are the faces of Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lennon, Mohandas Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Jim Henson, Pablo Picasso, and others. They are the crazy ones who could not be ignored.Yes, they were different. Yes, their ideas were often ridiculed and rejected. But, they endured, refusing to accept defeat.

What an inspirational message to deliver to her students each and every time they enter the classroom.


A Week Without Wifi

What a scary thought.  Lisa Cranston elected to not spend the $80/week to get connected during a recent holiday.

When she left, the other guest turned the TV off. Until then, I didn’t realize how much extra stress the news about Trump and his various actions had been adding to my life. Pierre Elliot Trudeau said that living next to the US is like sleeping with an elephant – we are affected by every twitch and grunt.

This was the third time that Trudeau’s comment about the elephant crossed my path this week.

In my conversation with Stephen, he made the connection to his Unpluggd experience a few years ago.

We both agreed that we would have paid the $80.


Math Links for Week Ending Feb. 3rd, 2017

I was actually captured by the animated GIF in David Petro’s post.  I like indulging myself in a little mental mathematics every now and again so was just sitting at my keyboard taking it all in.  I’m fascinated by patterns.

Then I scrolled down and started laughing.

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Do Alternative Facts have a place in the math classroom?  How about in other classes?

Could an investigative approach be taken by providing the alternative fact and then challenging students to disprove it?


An Interview with Diana Maliszewski

This post appeared on this blog.  If you haven’t read it, I would encourage you to do so.

We talk about a number of teacher-librarian topics and how our paths have crossed over the years.

I enjoyed posing the questions and really appreciated her answers.

She’s also upped the ante for future interviews with all the photos she provided to support her thoughts.


It’s been yet another great week of gathering some of the things that come from Ontario Edubloggers.

I hope that you can spend a few moments to click through, read the original posts, and drop off a comment.