Where’s your grit?

I was in Baltimore over the weekend and was headed out of the airport when I saw it.  I grabbed my phone and tried to take a picture but the image was huge and I couldn’t do it justice.  I figured that there wouldn’t be a problem and that I could grab an image later online for the purpose of this post.  I could kick myself because I can’t find the image.

What it was was a promotion for UMBC, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  The message behind the promotion was “Grit”.  In particular, what does grit look like at UMBC.  I took a look at this huge promotion and didn’t catch the whole thing but it was a series of statements describing what grit looked like at UMBC.  I was so impressed with the statements.  If I was in search for a university, I’d certainly consider it.

In doing my hunt for that image, I found that UMBC actually has a House of Grit.

If you click on the yellow button, you can work your way through a series of questions – where the answers help you determine whether you’d fit into their scenarios.

The whole approach blew me away.  I know that schools celebrate their current successes as they happen.

But, what about a bigger, more permanent signage that the visitor to your school sees when they walk into the building.  Think about your entrance way.  What do you see?

Wouldn’t it be powerful if the first thing the visitor sees are examples of grit and what it looks like at the school?

Whatever happened to …

… Solitaire?

The time was a long time ago.  We had just replaced the DOS versions of the principal’s computers with this new fangled Windows operating system.  In some quarters, there was huge push back.  DOS was great; you could get the job done without your fingers ever leaving the keyboard.

Now, there was this mouse thing or Trackpoint that needed to be pushed around in order to function.  The world had come to an end.  I still remember a comment that if we wanted Macintosh computer accessories, we should have just bought Macintosh computers.  Productivity would suffer.  What’s the big deal; why did we have to do this?

Believe it or not, the big saviour was a couple of little games that came with the computer.  Solitaire and Minesweeper.  Of all the things that sold the use of the rodent, these were the best.  It also was a great way to show how to minimize an open window when a visitor showed up.  After all, we wanted to make sure that everyone knew that we were on task.  In classroom computers, it was a likewise controversial move.  “We’ve got to get it off the images.  Students will never get on task!”  The best part was the display on the screen when you managed to win the game.  Oh, and the sound effects.

Then, there was the inevitable comparisons of the Windows version of Solitaire with the Macintosh version that some enjoyed on home computers.  Some times, you just can’t win.

With Windows 8, the Solitaire game, as we knew it, was gone.  Fortunately, with a quick Google, er, Bing search, you can find that there are plenty of versions of the original game to download and install.  And, you could play it online too if withdrawal got that bad.  But, if you poke around, you’ll see that Solitaire is actually available for Windows 10 as part of the Microsoft Solitaire Collection in the Microsoft store.

It’s not your, what they call “Classic” game.  It’s greatly enhanced; you play it full screen, there are many new options and, if you log in via the Xbox connection, it becomes social.  For a few bucks, you too could be playing the Premium version.

I suspect that many students these days opt out of installing Solitaire.  The gaming world has changed with more options like first person shooter games to while away the time online.

Within the past week, things got exciting again for Solitaire players.  Microsoft announced that they were making the Solitaire collection available for Android and iOS.

Now it’s your turn.

  • Do you remember the original, classic Solitaire game for Windows?
  • What’s your preference – classic Solitaire or the new refresh?
  • Do you have a preference?  Klondike, Spider, FreeCell, Pyramid, TriPeaks

Please share them via comment below.

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

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

Similarities and Differences

Wouldn’t the world be boring if we were all the same?

It would be very antagonistic if we were all different and at each other’s throats all the time.

For the most part, I think that we’re just a bit of this and a bit of that and it’s the similarities and differences that help us make the original connections and then to help push each other to greater things.

All of this falls out from a post last week “Starting or reflecting on a blog“.

Whenever I get feedback on things like this, I really enjoy it.  After all, a personal blog is, well, a pretty personal thing.  It’s not like I have an army of proofreaders or people to brainstorm thoughts with.  As I type this, I’m sitting in my chair all alone making it up and listening to music.  “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh is playing on the television and I keep looking out the window for inspiration and the sun to rise.

The first bit of feedback that I got on the post was actual by way of reply from Brandon Grasley.  His insight was something I hadn’t thought of.  He noted that throughout the “assumption” was that success was related to numbers – of readers.  I missed that completely.  I don’t sell anything on the blog so I’ve never thought of numbers as a reason to blog but, the more I think about it, I guess it is important.  While I don’t do it regularly, I do check the analytics every now and again to see if anyone actually drops by and reads the post.  So, unconsciously, I guess numbers do matter.  Great observation.

The second observation came from a blog post that spun off my original post from Aviva Dunsiger.  “My Blog Reflections … What About Yours?“.  I felt a blogging partnership when she indicated how the scope of her blog has changed over the years.

When I started blogging back in 2009, my blog was largely about technology use in the classroom. Then I slowly started to change to classroom practices. After that, my blogging evolved to reflections on big ideas in education. Now my blog is more of a personal/professional reflection tool.

Recently, she seems to be on a roll with her thoughts about self-regulation which I find interesting.  I’d never delved consciously into that area; my comments were more likely to be “Get a Grip”.  I’m totally supportive of her niche – parking – maybe if more people paid attention, it would be easier for the rest of us to find a parking spot.

Thirdly, Jennifer Aston chimed in.  “Thoughts on “Starting or reflecting on a blog” by Doug Peterson

A lot of what he said resonated with me.  And some of it, I don’t disagree with, but I think is just different for me.

Say what?  How can anyone not totally agree with me?  Is that the teacher in me talking?

That inspired me to really dig in and find out where we disagree because she’s probably right.  I’m always on the road to self-improvement.  There’s something powerful when that happens.

But the best part was that she took the 10 points in my original post and added three of her own.

11.  Complaining can be boring.

12.  Be mindful that students or people you work with might read what you write.

13.  Have a sense of humour, be personable and human.

All of these continue the conversation nicely.

Diana Maliszewski got into the action with a reflection of her own blog and blogging habits.  “Effective Facilitating and Blogging“.  There’s so much good to read there.

What really spiked my interest was part of her comment for point #6.

I post every Monday (ergo the title of the blog, Monday Molly Musings), even when I think the stuff that I’ve written isn’t so stellar.

I think I go through this with just about every post.  And yet, if I waited until everything is absolutely perfect, I don’t know how many posts would actually make it to public view.  (Witness the spelling mistakes!)  At the same time, I don’t think that I ever mentally say to myself “that’s good enough”.  The reality lies somewhere in between.

I take consolation in reading some stories that have a “publish” date and then a “last updated” date.  Maybe that’s the new level of perfection?

Finally, a real honour.

Ann Michaelsen used the original as a link in a workshop that she will be giving.  “SETT2016 aims to be the “Meeting place for modern and innovative learning!”  The link is between Twitter and Revolvermaps.  Not a bad place to be.

One of the things that they teach you in blogging school (wherever that is) is that you should conclude with a call to action for your readers.  I don’t always do that but probably should.

I’m so happy that these folks and those who shared it again on their social networks chose to do so.

Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts and pushing me even further.  Yet again, I’m humbled with the brilliance of those who I’ve been so fortunate to have connected with.

Whatever happened to …

… the strap?

It’s the stuff that legends were based on.  I remember walking to school with some much older friends and their conversation, obviously geared to scare me, talked about how the teachers would use “the strap” every time I did something wrong.  I can still remember being so afraid of what would happen.

It was a source for conversation when a classmate was detained at recess or after school.  We’d be there to ask “did you get the strap?”  Show us your hands.

At the time, I had never seen this feared device of punishment.  My understanding was based upon looking in books or in conversations with others.  I think I envisioned this huge whip like device like you see used by horse jockeys.  There was also a rumour that it was filled with tacks pressed through it to make sure that the most pain was inflicted and blood would be drawn.

It was scary stuff.  Even though I’d never seen it, I kept me on the straight and narrow.

Well, for the most part anyway.

I think I was in Grade 3 or 4 when I came in contact.  I don’t recall what I did or why I was singled out, but I was kept back after school.  The teacher, I still remember her for this, brought the strap out and sat down in the desk in front of me.  I remember two things from that encounter.

  1. Will she get in trouble because she was sitting facing the wrong direction?  What if she made the desk get out of line?
  2. The strap didn’t look all that intimidating.  It actually looked like a big chocolate bar.  I didn’t see any tacks in it.  How much could it hurt?

I suppose that that would based upon how angry the teacher was at me for whatever I had done.  So, I tensed up as I prepared for the worst.  As it happens, I just got a strict lecture and then got released.  My friends were bizarrely disappointed when I reported that I got off.

I became the best of students at least for a while after that event.   I did learn that the secret was to be sneaky and not get caught.

An extremely interesting read can be found in this document from the Canadian Education Association – Banning the Strap: The End of Corporal Punishment in Canadian Schools.  You might think that this is ancient history and might be surprised at the year where it actually banned the use in Canadian schools.

How about you?

  • Are you old enough to remember or have actually been disciplined by some form of corporal punishment?
  • Chances are, if you’re reading the blog, you’re an educator and did well in school.  What kept you honest?
  • What are the more effective methods of classroom management that work well for you?

As always on a Sunday, I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Please share them 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 idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!

A Sphero roadtrip

It was downloading the latest update to the Tickle app application that made me realize that I hadn’t written a program to make my Sphero do something for a while.  A look at the street closings in town for the Santa Claus parade gave me a bit of an inspiration.

  • there are lots of turns to be made
  • there are four stop lights along the main street in town
  • some drivers seem to make random turns at time
  • I wonder if people will end up where they plan as a result

There’s my inspiration.  Sure, I play around with Sphero chasing the dog around the rec room but this would be something that would have a bit of a focus.

So, here’s my program.



The nice thing about Tickle for those of us who grew up on code is that you can actually see the scripting that makes the magic happen.


Stepping back and going on a tangent here, this introduction illustrates one of my frustration with block programming languages.

I know exactly what I want to make Sphero do.  Chances are, you’re going to have to spend a few moments to figure it out.  I find it frustrating when people demonstrate or students code by going directly to the language and try to make things happen.  I grew up, and I taught my students, about the importance of planning in advance and of the value of internal documentation to a program.  I reminds me of the advice that “if a program was hard to write, it should be harder for others to modify”.  That bit of sarcasm is guaranteed to NOT land you the job.

So, here’s my explanation of the program.

  • I’m going to simulate a stop light for the Sphero movement – Sphero is going to be both car and light.  You’ll start at a red light where Sphero is stopped.  The program makes Sphero turn red accordingly.
  • The red light lasts three seconds.
  • When the light turns green, Sphero will turn green and move.
  • How Sphero moves is dependent of the results of a random number.  If the random number is 1, then Sphero turns right.  If the random number is 2, then Sphero turns left.  If the random number is 3, then Sphero goes straight ahead.
  • The actual movement of Sphero is 2 seconds at a speed of 50% of full.  Truth in numbers – I would need a bigger floor space to make that happen; when playing around with the program, I adjusted these to lower numbers.
  • An amber light signals that Sphero needs to get ready to stop and does.
  • We’ll repeat this for the four stop lights in town.
  • My red lights are three seconds in duration.  That’s totally unrealistic in real life but it seems to take forever when you test it.

And I had a bit of fun playing around while the dog went to another place in the house.

I wonder – how could I make it better?  How about using it to explore things on a road trip or a little question about randomness?

  • What would have to happen for Sphero to go straight through town without making any turns?
  • What would have to happen for Sphero to turn around?  U-turns aren’t legal.
  • Would I end up in the same place every time the program runs?  Of course not – but how many different places could it possibly end?  Could we plot it on a map or chart paper?
  • What would be the scenic highlights of the roadtrip in our town?
  • What would you see if, instead of starting in town, we tracked Sphero’s movement if it started at Yonge and Bloor Streets in Toronto?

I think that questions like this along with the corresponding programming make for a great bit of fun and certainly more understanding.

What would you ask?

Different things

I had an interesting discussion at the Bring IT, Together conference with a friend.  He was running through a list of educational theories from over the years about how to use technology in the classroom.  He had arrived at an interesting conclusion that I think most people have – education loves their theories.

So, I shared my thoughts with him.  I’ve mentioned it many times here – there are only two things that you need to worry about with technology.

  • use technology to do things differently
  • use technology to do different things

Of course, there are varying ways to work within each.  

The first method is the easiest.  Instead of running to the photocopier, for example, to duplicate class sets of worksheets, just turn to making the worksheet electronic and then promoting yourself as supporting the paperless classroom.  Even more impressive, tell everyone how you’ve hacked education and your students turn into 21st century whatevers.  There certainly are times when this is an approach – but you can do better.

That happens when you do different things.  In that case, technology is an enabler that opens doors that couldn’t be opened using traditional approaches.  This is where it gets really exciting and technology delivers on the promise.

I found myself thinking about this as I was playing around with Photomath.  

Needless to say, I’ve been digging into old textbooks and notes to give it a test to see if it performs as promised.  My conclusion is that I need to take better care with my handwriting.  As I was playing around, I had math memories – looking in the back of the textbook for the answer to see if I got it right and then moving on.  Being called to the chalkboard to write my solution in front of the class.  

So, in education, where would it fit?

Use technology to do things differently

  • probably ban the use of the app because solving math by pencil is good for you
  • use it to check your answer

Use technology to do different things

  • unlike the answer at the back of the book, view all the steps required to solve the problem
  • use any time saved to determine just what the equations being solved actually mean
  • create your own questions to try and stump the application

Using the application reinforces the notion that mathematics can go much further than just getting the answer to a question.

And, for a real life solution, use it to get on the WIFI.

The case for classical music

Right off the top, some background.  You’ve probably been reading recently about fake news stories in light of the recent elections.  It speaks to the bigger case of media literacy and I think we all get that.  This post isn’t about that.

There’s the background.

Nobody comes to this blog for news.  (I hope anyway)

You come because I share my learning, dig into various things, and occasionally have some fun with things.  

This post is about having fun.  If you’re looking for something newsworthy, you might as well move on for now.

But, if you want a smile and maybe some thoughtfulness or even a basis for student discussion, then stick with me.

Somehow, as I was doing some background for yesterday’s post about CKLW The Big 8 radio, I ran into this.

It’s a “research project” on music and the results are posted at the website Musicthatmakesyoudumb.

Here’s a quick peek at the top of the chart.  The vertical access has no effect on the data, it’s the horizontal access that matters.  The creator has plotted SAT scores and music preferences.  Since SAT is not a concept that I deal with daily, I had to do some research to understand.



The comments are priceless.  I guess the big takeaway is “don’t mess with people’s music”.  

Personally, I think it’s more about making broad generalizations.  I’ll confess, though, I did spend way too much time looking through the big chart.

It makes me wonder if we’ve been thinking about standardized testing too much.  Maybe we should just check to see what’s on the students’ iPods or Phones.  Think of the money we’d save.  

p.s. If you like this, you might be interesting in booksthatmakeyoudumb.

I may just go out and buy Beethoven’s next CD.  Any idea when it’s coming out?