Meaning of American Pie by Don McLean (w/lyrics)

Recently, a high school friend shared this YouTube video.  With my really slow internet connection, I don’t watch a lot of videos but I sure did for this one.

In our high school days, you could count on this song being played at least a few times a day.  It was often the last song of a disk jockey’s shift – my theory being that with a long song, they got to leave work early.  This was popular for that purpose as well as Stairway to Heaven.

In the beginning, it was just a great song to listen to and sing along.  

Then, as we got older, we realized that it was a song with a powerful message.

Now, with this video, it goes well over the top.  As you listen to the video, watch the imagery that the author has synced to the music.  Even years later, I made new connections with the lyrics.

This is definitely worth the time to bookmark.

I’ll bet that you play it more than once to make sure that you take it all in.  There’s so much there.

What’s a parent to do?

I’ll admit right up front that I’m probably not neutral on this.  I love Mathematics.  I always have and I hope I always will.  I’m the type of guy that will go into Chapters and head to the aisle with Mathematics and puzzle books.  I have a bookshelf of resources although I’ll admit to doing more online lately.  I’m also the first to admit that there’s so much more to learn about Mathematics.

As I drove through town yesterday, I found my mind thinking about Mathematics everywhere I looked.  There was symmetry in the design of buildings, all kinds of advertisements on stores for sales with ##% discounts, I wonder if 5% over or under the posted speed limit would get me stopped (as I saw workers extending the 50 km/h zone – grrrr), I wondered how much wind speed was needed to make a flag fly straight out, I wonder how accurate the real estate agent’s measurements for rooms in a house for sale are, I noted the dimensions on the posted signs for a new condominium project, I wondered what angle that old decrepit shed was leaning and what would it take to fall over, and so much more.  Mathematics truly is everywhere and you don’t have to look too hard at all to find it.

You can’t turn anywhere in Ontario these days without reading about problems with Mathematics in schools and experts from all sides weighing in with their opinion about how to fix things.

The Toronto Star has weighed in with an editorial “Giving kids an hour of math a day adds up: Editorial“.  The local school board is researching its approach as noted in “An Interview with Connie Buckler and Cheryl Lovell” posted on Monday.  Fingers are being pointed; you just have to find a news story, read the comments, and you’re quick to realize that we’re all over the map with opinions about Mathematics, techniques, approaches, who is to blame, and the use of technology and its perceived impact.

I was part of discussion which boiled down to “taking control of the situation” and teaching real Mathematics at home.  Real as in “how I learned it”.

It’s like most things in education; everyone’s an expert because we all studied it in school and succeeded at some level or another.  It’s also the brunt of many jokes.  One of my faves:

Father: What did you do in school today?
Son: We played a guessing game!
Father: I thought you had your math exam.

But seriously…

What’s a parent to do?  One of the suggestions from our conversation – why not put those devices for good use?  “Surely there’s an app to teach math.”

Actually, there’s quite a few!

From the Google Play store


From the Apple Store


Of course, these are just a sample of the hundreds and hundreds that parents and students have available and are just a click away.  It would take you so long to go through and evaluate the appropriateness of these for your desired results.  By that time, the student will be in the next grade!

Not to be overlooked is the logic bias that you’ll find.  You need to be checking the philosophy of learning Mathematics that the developer(s) has.  The application that you download today may be the exact opposite to how the student is learning in the class.

That isn’t good either.

Remember the joke about the student bringing home a note from the teacher asking the parent to stop helping with homework?

You could turn to an online expert article “Class Tech Tips: 15 Free Mobile Apps for Math Practice.”  Hopefully, they’ve done the legwork for you.  Hmmm?

Or, how about this for a radical approach?

Re-examine the school/home communication.

How about?

  • A family Mathematics night so that parents can live the Mathematics their child is learning
  • A daily post to the class blog with problems / solutions / inquiries suitable for work at home
  • A newsletter identifying computer or mobile applications that are consistent with the Mathematics approach used in the classroom
  • Get involved and understand the direction that a school district is taking with respect to Mathematics so that you can help productively at home
  • Explore the resources that the Ministry of Education is providing the province through Edugains
  • Read the thinking of great Ontario Mathematics teachers like Kyle Pearce in his blog Tap Into Teen Minds

It’s a tough time to be the parent of a student.  The classroom today is far removed from the classroom of the good old days.  The curriculum is substantially different and concepts presented at different times.  Teachers are better qualified for the job today.  We know more about how learning happens. We have more and far better tools and supports in place for students.

The one thing that a parent shouldn’t do is complain or point fingers at the classroom teacher, especially where a student can hear it.  He/She will be following a district directive and using district resources about how the subject should be taught.  As you’ll find noted in the media today, not all teachers are Mathematics experts but you have to know that they’re doing their best to learn and support classroom activities.

If there ever was a time to be a true partner with the school, it’s now.

Donna’s hierarchy

Yesterday, in TWIOE, I shared some thoughts about a recent post from Donna Fry.  “We’re Different – And Why?“.  I kind of touched on my thoughts in the post but her message has been bouncing around in my head ever since so I thought I would flesh it out even further in a separate post.

I want to share a memory.  It was years ago; principals and vice-principals were still in their Federations; and I had one section of Grade 9 Mathematics.  I don’t remember why or how but I had to leave the school at lunch and the task was going to take me into the Mathematics class.  I think it was something school related but it was only going to be 10-15 minutes.  I talked about it with the vice-principal who was sending me on this task about getting a supply teacher coverage and he said that it wasn’t reasonable for that.  Since it was only for a short period of time, he would cover the part of the class that needed coverage.  So, I was good.

When I got to school that day, it was one of “those” days.  It was a hot and humid Essex County June day and the air conditioning was broken.  My classroom, an inner room that sat 24 nicely and had 36 in there, was just awful.  I was looking forward to getting out to do my task; I could roll the windows down in the car.  Off I went, probably eating as I was going, and returned.  The door to the classroom was open and you could just feel the heat radiating down the hallway.  I tapped a couple of times and walked in.  Sure enough, it was into the middle of the lesson.  Students were engaged with some activity I had left at their seats and the vice-principal was running the circus.  Sweat was just running down his face and he had the biggest smile on his face.  I thanked him and was about to take over and I still remember him saying “I’ve got this.  Go have a break”.  You didn’t have to tell me twice!

At the end of the day, I was always a late leaver, I could see that he was still in the office so I stuck my head in to say thanks.  His response was “I should be thanking you.  Look at this.”  On his desk was a lesson plan that would naturally flow from the activity we did today.  “Can I teach your class tomorrow?  I want to see how this plays out.”  Again, I didn’t have to be asked twice.

At the day end of the next day, I stuck my head in again and he gave me a report of the lesson and where he thought some extra help would be appropriate.  During the day, I had done my own homework; in a previous life he had been a Mathematics teacher so the pieces were starting to fall into place.  But, I still had to know. 

“Why did you do this?”

I got one of those leadership bits of advice.

“When you become a principal, don’t forget your roots.  They’re really important.  In administration, you don’t just solve your problems, you help solve everyone’s problems”.

That moment really stuck with me.  I never became a principal but I watched him with a different lens from that point on.  He truly walked the walk.  He was there and supportive for all staff (and students but that might be harder for them to admit).  When I would come to the office with my goofy, self-centred problems about purchasing this or that with technology, he really listened and would help/support when he could. 

It wasn’t something that he had to do.  Other administrators aren’t necessarily cut from the same materials.  In his case, there was a price to pay and that was extra hours in the office before and after school which was the time that he had allocated to solving his problems.  It was a good practice to model and I like to think that it influenced me.

He really was the enabler that I appreciated.  I’ve had a few over the years and am so thankful for how they supported me and, quite frankly, some of the flights of fancy that I took.  I’m sure that, in today’s connected world, he would remain the connected and supportive leader that he was then.  He, or the others I’m thinking of, didn’t need to know all the answers.  I just had to answer one question “Tell me how this is good for kids”.  I’ve had others whose first question was “How much will this cost?” 

The two questions help me put Donna’s post in perspective, at least for me.  They speak volumes about where the direction and support will be.  I think it also supports her thesis about the hierarchy and the priorities each face.  It also puts things in a timeline for me.  If you can focus on good things for students, you can act today – right now in a lot of cases.  If you have to wait for approvals and budgets, it can be a year before you’re ready to go with most budgeting processes.

Based on her thoughts, perhaps a third question should be asked “Tell me how this will help your personal Professional Learning”.

This article from the Washington says a great deal “The Post’s 2016 Principal of the Year: ‘A teacher first, and a principal second’

Even if you don’t click through and read the article, the title says it all.  It’s a message for everyone in education no matter where you exist on that hierarchy.

Do I need a note?

I suppose that this comes under the openness and transparency philosophy.

At this page, Ontarians can check the attendance of their Cabinet Ministers for Question Period.  Note what isn’t included in the list.

Question Period is something that I do watch, at least for a bit, every now and again.

It isn’t riveting television but it does give you an insight as to how the government of the day is accountable to the electorate through questions from non-Ministers to the Ministers.  It can be wild and noisy and I’ve never understood why it was so important to bang on your desk unless it’s to be heard.

Ever since I was a child, going to school was important and my parents really emphasized this.  Even doctor and dentist appointments were scheduled for after school or on Saturday so that I could attend school.  Of course, at the dinner table, I gave the standard student response “Nothing” when asked what I did at school.

I maintained the same philosophy later in life as a parent and as a teacher.  I’ve even got a couple of letters from my employers celebrating my good health.  At the same time, there some times when sickness really kicked in – hard.  What other profession comes in contact with so many germ carriers?

As a home room teacher, you know the importance of taking attendance and collecting notes after student absences.

So, as I look up and down this list, I’m pleased to see the number of Ministers with 100% attendance.

Yet, there are some with less than perfect attendance records.

It makes you wonder – do they have to bring in a note the day after they’re absent?

Sometimes teachers do.

And the winner is …

Royan Lee!

At least at this snapshot.

I don’t always look at this even though I have the widget configured to appear on the blog.  It’s titled “Top Clicks” and it appears to be straight forward.

It’s configurable so I must have done this at some point or maybe these are the defaults.  I don’t really know or remember.


I just happened to be looking for that article about tweaking Ubuntu and so was scrolling down to see if I could easily find it in one of the OTR posts that are automated in the middle of the night.  I did find it and in the process I noticed the widget again.  Is it bad that I don’t check it regularly?  I’ll change the title just because I have it open.

Do you?  It’s in the right sidebar near the bottom.

For this moment in time, 6:30 on Monday morning as I write the post, here are the top clicks.

I guess it’s true.  Everyone loves Royan.  And Jennifer and Aviva and Tina

I’m pleased that people are clicking through to check out the entire list of Ontario Edubloggers in the Livebinder.  And some of the other posts too.

In the world of analytics, I suspect that I’m like many.  I check to see how many incoming hits I get to make sure at least someone is reading.  When you think of it, if you’re including clickable content in a post, it only makes sense to see if anyone is clicking on it! 

And if you’re a security, tracking, paranoid … better not click on anything.  I’m tracking you. 

If you’re part of Royan’s loyal following, keep clicking.  I’m sure he appreciates the visitors.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I hope that everyone had a relaxing March Break.  Despite this, or maybe because of this, there was still some great reading from Ontario Edubloggers.  Here’s some of it.

#MyWorkflow: Stepan Pruchnicky

Royan Lee was the very first person that I ever interviewed for this blog.  He had posted something to his blog that intrigued me and I wanted to know more.  That resulted in the interview that started a bunch of others.

Over the past while, Royan’s taking to interviewing others on his blog.  It gives him (and us, through his post) the chance to look at others and their #workflow just a bit deeper.  The latest to be interviewed is Stepan Pruchnicky.

The #MyWorkflow series asks educators who are active creators on social media to share how they do their work. Today we speak to a guy who defies categorization, my good friend Stepan Pruchnicky. 

Many of us following this “name easily spelled” individual on social media.  Click through to get a better understanding of a “guy who defies categorization”.

If you enjoyed that, Royan’s got some others that have been interviewed with the same questions and format.

It’s an interesting concept for a series.  I hope that he keeps it going.

p.s. Aviva looks like she’s on a roll.  Her interview with Royan wasn’t enough – she extends it on her own blog “An FDK Addendum To #MyWorkFlow“.

Semester 2 Start

Eva Thompson had been missing in action on the blog scene for a while.  It’s good to see her back online.  She gives us a bit of reason why she hasn’t been around but we’re just glad that she’s back at the keyboard.

It sounds like she’s got a great schedule this semester and this descriptor of her students is testament to that.

This semester as well, I have a number of students preparing for college and are eager to learn skills they will need in the coming years. They are actively asking for help, seeking learning opportunities, accessing the additional materials I post, looking for editing help, and asking meaningful questions. This makes me engaged in my learning as well. I seek out those extras, sit down with students more and more after class, happily find those supplemental activities.

Does it get better than that?

Perhaps she’ll flesh out this in more detail in subsequent posts.

Integrating Technology for Student Learning IT Summit

Kyle Pearce recently did a presentation…

The topic?

Now, there’s nothing better than being in attendance.  That way, you get the wit and wisdom of the presenter and the chance to talk and work with others in groups. The next best thing is to watch the video.  Finally, when all else fails, work your way through the slide deck.  That’s what you get here and it’s 112 slides long.

You’re left to create your own commentary.

Using Delve to Board up your School

There’s never a shortage of posts excitedly proclaiming success with Google Apps in the classroom.  There are far fewer for the Microsoft Office 365 Suite.  Either they’re on the Microsoft blog and conform to their standards or they’re just non-existent.  I like it when Cal Armstrong takes the time to share some of his insights.  I’ve respected his opinion on things for a long time.  Recently, he was patient enough to work through an Excel problem with me. 

In this post, he talks about using Delve.  I’ll admit that I’ve read this post and his previous one a few times.  My instance of Office 365 doesn’t include Delve so it was entirely new to me.

It’s something that I really would be interested in playing around with.  It appears to be a document organizer/dashboard that’s smart enough to help you set priorities.

I know that I have my own way of organizing this sort of thing but I’m intrigued by Cal’s description of its functionality.  Anyone else using it?

Tech-Enabled Teacher Leaders How technology is redistributing school leadership

I made reference to this article, by Dr. Camille Rutherford, in yesterday’s post.  In the article, Camille takes us on a virtual walkthrough of classrooms across the country and shows us specific examples of leadership.  Our friend Aviva made the article.

It’s a post that’s long but worth reading a few times.  There’s a very strong message there about leadership and the changing distribution of it.  The references that she makes are real and valid examples that will make you wonder “Why aren’t more doing this?”  if you’re a teacher and “I need to support this” if you’re the traditional leader within a school district.

The thing is that this is given generously, and without hesitation.  I think we all appreciate the unselfish sharing and leading of others.  Just yesterday, Jennifer Casa-Todd really said it nicely.

Disclosure – Off the Record does appear in the article at the end.  Not for the deep insights, humour, thoughtful planning, and visioning of the author <grin> but for the weekly roundup of blog posts that I’ve read as I wander around reading Ontario Edublogs.  I’ve long supported the notion of leaders using social media to share and lead and this post puts it in wonderful terms.  I was happy to see that the concept of great education blogging leaders was recognised.

If you share one thing with your school leadership after the break, make it this one.

How Might We Make School the Best Place to Learn? (Google Innovation Academy – Part 1)

If you’ve ever been to the Google Headquarters, you can’t help but be “blown away” with the possibilities.  Erica Armstrong writes about her experiences there with a focus on how employees there learn.

Most certainly, there’s no way that a school could physically replicate what happens there.  It’s hard to rationalise a school system where teachers have to buy their own paper for the photocopier with snacks and food available around every corner.

But, if you go beyond the physical and move to the need to learn and the excitement to learn, maybe it is possible to replicate that.  After all, isn’t it the mandate to make schools the best place to learn?  If not there, where?

This is Post #1 from a series about the Google Innovation Academy.

Measuring Innovation

Could there be any more abused word in education than “innovation”?

How many people have it in their job title or description?  How many people describe themselves that way in their profile?

A few years ago, there were speakers going around telling us that we were falling behind because we weren’t innovating.  Now, they’re telling us we’re falling behind because we are innovating – but doing it wrong.

How many people claim to be innovators because they have “technology stuff” in their classroom?  How many people buy new “stuff” so that they can claim to be innovative but haven’t changed their teaching practice as a result?  I just wait until I hear someone claim to be innovative because they have a class set of Apple watches and now the kids can tell the time whenever they want.  

So, if it’s there, then it should be able to be measured, right?  A brave person might put a rubric or label on it.  That’s a 6 on the innovation scale.  Or, another brave person might say you can’t measure it.

Or, the realist might analyse it like Tina Zita does in this post.

I like her thinking.  The concept is very personal so why not treat it as such.  In that way, you can decide what innovation means and not someone external to your whole process.   Do you really need to hold your practice up against others so that you can win the innovation race? 

Once again, it’s been a terrific week of blogging, reading, and thinking – all from the keyboards of wonderful Ontario Edubloggers.  Please take a moment to click through and check out all of these blog posts.  You can’t help but learn and start thinking.  Don’t forget to follow their blogs and them on Twitter!

My social, daylight saving, error correcting friends

I was up early again this morning.  We all know that we had to get up at 2am to change the clocks, right?  I can’t wait for the Internet of Things to get that right. 

As I sit here, I can see lots of clocks:

  • the one in the top right corner of my computer screen
  • the clock I got from OSSTF
  • the clock I got from my former employer
  • the metallic clock that just looks funky and so I bought it years ago
  • the clock on my radio
  • the clock on my phone
  • the watch on my arm

Don’t worry – I won’t bore you with pictures of them all.

Some of them switched automatically because that’s what they do.

Then, there are the clocks that I don’t see.

  • the clock on my ipad that’s currently off and charging
  • the clock inside my router
  • the clock that’s inside this other thing that needs a battery

All that from one viewpoint.

Like most people, I suspect, we’ll be finding yet another time source over the next week and will be checking to see if it changed automatically and manually adjusting those that didn’t.

Who remembers Windows XP that changed the time automatically but the first time you logged in after doing so, you were prompted to make sure that it did it right?

The time change is such an intriguing time.  I like bringing up the guide on the television and try to spot the hour that we lost.  It can’t be done.

Time change is important when you’re a blogger that schedules posts to appear at the same time.  You’d think a 5am post would be beyond scrutiny. 

So, I’m up early and head down to the rec room to watch the morning news, passing all these clocks, to see if the clock on the television is right.  My phone bings; incoming message.

It’s from Aviva.  The time was precisely 5:08.  “Your post didn’t appear this morning.  Think it’s the time change?”

The coffee hadn’t even stopped dripping yet so my eyes aren’t completely focused.  I check on the phone.  Sure enough, she’s right.  There was nothing posted.

I open my computer and the time had changed and I recall debating things yesterday.  Should I schedule it for 4am so that it appears at 5am?  Nah, that would be silly.  WordPress knows where I live and that the Eastern Time Zone changes. I’ll just schedule it for 5am as per routine. 

Wrong again.

A click here and there (change the now 6 to a 5), an apology to Aviva and all is right with the world.

Later, there’s a message from Lisa that I catch during my rainy dog walk about the post.  My immediate thought – what else did I screw up?  I was pleased when I got home and found out that she actually just liked the post.  Bonus! 

It’s wonderful to have such good social conscience friends.  Thank you again, ladies.  I’m sure that Sheila will check in later.

For tomorrow, Aviva…