Things are certainly different these days. I’ve never had so many meetings online as I’ve had in the past few months.
Before that, they were kind of a novelty. You’d join the Zoom, Meet, or Skype call and wave to folks and then turn the camera off. With meetings lasting sometimes for an hour or more, nobody needed to see what I was doing. I did make a mistake once and left the camera on for a CSTA meeting and the folks saw that I had a glass of wine. After the heckling, it seemed like a good idea and people joined in in the future. These days, I still meet with Computer Science teachers from the University of Northern Iowa for a beer on Friday afternoon. We start each meeting sharing what we have that particular day.
I suppose that judging how people look in their conference room was always a possibility but we’ve found over the past while that many people focus on what’s behind you. As my son would call you, Judgey McJudge.
I’ve started to pay more attention to interviews on television in particular and what people have in the background. It’s amazing the political statements, pictures, and if they’ve written a book, how it’s in the background. In the movies, we would call that product placement and it’s something that companies pay big bucks to have (who can forget Reese’s Pieces in E.T.); now it’s something that everyone does.
So, what does my typical background look like?
This was a typical picture. My wife would complain that I didn’t wear a shirt with a collar and I’d reply that the one I’m wearing was at the top of the drawer. To my left, you’ll see a tie rack with all kinds of dusty ties. Why do I keep them all? Who knows?
To my right, you’ll see a bookshelf with packed books that could easily fill two bookshelves except I’m too cheap to buy another one. Straight behind me, you’ll see a door. Where does it go? Well, when we added this room onto the house, I wanted a computer area and got it. My wife wanted a second washroom and it’s right behind me. It’s convenient but be aware that the next time we video chat, I might be in the bathtub or at the sink shaving. To my extreme left, you’ll see a patio door that gets left open in moderate temperatures. If you listen to the This Week in Ontario Edublogs podcast, you might occasionally hear wind chimes from the patio if the weather is right and the door is open.
That’s my digital home for the most part. I did try another location for one of my meetings with a CSTA friend. I went out to the patio and was sitting in a chair and it was going well … until the wind picked up. Embarrassingly, I ended up looking like I was in a snow storm with the poplar fluffies coming down and eventually the wind knocked over the umbrella right on top of me. I had to finish the call holding it in one hand. I wish I’d taken a picture.
So, that’s my story and I’ll bet you know what the call to action at the end of this post will be.
But first …
Those who are doing video online are open for judgement too. There’s a user called “Room Rater” on Twitter. The purpose of the account seems to be to capture images and rate them. (D’uh, the name gives it away)
Who could forget the images of our Prime Minister in front of his cottage, addressing the nation.
By this metric, it gets a 9/10. Not bad at all.
Going to this user and scrolling through the screen captures and commentary is fun and interesting.
So, the call to action. You can rate me if you wish but I’d be interested in your own experiences doing online video calls.
What do you have in your background? What do you have in your background that you wish you didn’t? How much planning went into setting things up? Or, anything else about video chatting that you’re interested in sharing. Please do.
This Wednesday, Matthew Morris joined Stephen Hurley and me for This Week in Ontario, the Podcast. You can listen to it here. With Matthew’s insights, we took on a few new topics. You can read my thoughts about them below. As always, insights from great Ontario Edubloggers.
This was a post from Matthew Morris. Here, he takes on the very popular blogging format “# Things …” and shares some advice about what to do during this time off.
Purge Your Classroom
Reflect on the Year
One New Thing for Next Year
Fortunately, for the podcast, he woke up early and plugged in, thereby breaking at least two rules on his list! But, as you work your way down the list, you’ll undoubtedly agree with them. Most support the notion of mental well-being.
I found that the “Reflect on the Year” to be one of the more interesting things when you consider that most people would consider this a year to forget. To be certain, we don’t know what the fall will look like so consolidating them with the on the fly learning that’s happened in the past few months could be very important.
It’s also advice that Subject Associations should be heeding. For the most part, teachers made it work but I’m sure that many of them could provide guidance to make things better. Just this morning, ACSE member Lisa Rubini-Laforest indicated that she will be leading a panel discussion at their virtual conference this summer about teaching online. All Subject Associations should be highlighting their expertise in this area and the sooner the better.
Take the lead; do them early, record them and place them online so that they’re accessible when most school districts do their end of August professional learning.
I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that social media has got meaner over the past few months. Personally, I have isolated some people from me because of a number of reasons. I’m emotionally happier as a result.
The concept has not gone unnoticed by Jennifer Casa-Todd and she takes on the topic in this post from the perspective of students. They can be brutal at times. She asks about various things that will get you thinking. One in particular struck me as needing to be answered.
If we are talking about adolescents, will their entire future be marred by one mistake?
Of course, Jennifer has many other thinking points and that will make reading her post worthwhile.
Trending this morning is this post from Margaret Wente
It’s an insight from the other side, from one who was “cancelled” due to pressure from Social Media.
During the podcast, I mused that only teachers and students would be able to use the word “similes” properly. Matthew indicated that rappers could as well!
In this post on the Heart and Art blog, Will Gourley does a top six list…
“Teaching during a quarantine”
The similes are certainly worth the read and has to bring a smile to everyone. I know it did for me. I also learned that AWOL doesn’t always have the meaning that I thought it did after watching years of M*A*S*H.
It seems to me that the best of the six was comparing learning to eating an ice cream code with a hole in the bottom. Read the post to see Will tell you why he feels that way.
It’s a great read and I get a sense that it might have been healing for Will as he got a lot off his chest. Read and share.
Where students come from a family to school, the insights from With Equal Step are really important.
Over and over again, we heard about how parents had a renewed appreciation for teachers (or a first appreciation) and how teachers had appreciated the support received from families.
The observations in the post about silos and bridges are important. There’s wisdom here for everyone.
While teachers and parents may be frustrated that they can no longer easily hand off our child to the other at the door, our new immersive connection reminds us that, “Diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous ones.”
I think that everyone could learn something from the observations in Anna Bartosik’s post.
I think that most people can envision the days of going to the library to grab some books or microfiche and doing the research. Since Anna made the reference to OISE, I remembered a couple of coffee places and the cafeteria at FEUT where many of us would meet and work together on things.
So, now you take all that away.
Well, we now have different/better tools. Just open a shared online document and a video conferencing window and take it from there. Anna shares her experience working in this environment.
As Doug indicated in his comment, many people might be preparing for worst case scenarios right now. While I was quick to reply that my teaching partner, Paula, and I are not doing that, maybe that’s not completely true.
Well, maybe not in so many words but I’ll take what I can get.
So, Aviva is doing some planning
I’m planning for possibilities
I’m planning with connections
I’m planning to connect
I’m planning through reading
I’m planning to blog
Knowing her as I think I do, none of these come as real surprises.
Probably all teachers could say they’re doing these things and they wouldn’t be wrong. But I would point to the one in the middle. (Mental note: should have used a numbered list)
The value of connecting needs to go further than “I gots me a Twitter account”. Connecting means building that account to have a critical mass of wisdom both supporting and challenging your assumptions and more importantly to put yourself out there, offering advice, asking for suggestions, working collaboratively, being humble…
I’m really liking it when organizations are rolling with the punches and coming out the other side winning.
MakerEdTO is one of those groups and Diana Maliszewski shares with us how it was done.
Of course, they couldn’t get together and make things happen by all being in the same place at the same time. It wasn’t talking heads; they worked on giving everyone selection and used online breakout rooms to make it happen.
There’s a great deal to be learned from this post and I’m sure Diana would be more than accommodating for those who want to ask questions to make educational gatherings like this work, even in these times.
Please take the time to click through and read all these wonderful posts and then follow these educators online through Twitter.
With the Learn at Home reality this past spring, there has been a great deal of ramping up and learning about online teaching that took place. It doesn’t take long to follow educators to find some that did well in the reality and others that really had to do a great deal of learning on the fly.
We still don’t know for sure how every school district will handle the 2020-2021 school year. There have been all kinds of suggestions and ideas speculated to date and I suspect that it will get fast and furious over the summer. The Ministry of Education has provided three scenarios. Pick a card, any card…
Some things seems to make sense; if elementary schools are back in close to regular routine, the common wisdom seems to be to keep students in one place with no movement and move teachers if that’s required. Many suggestions about taking classes outside where possible are appropriate.
I still have difficulties seeing how busing will work via my crystal ball so will continue to think about that one.
One glaring shortcoming of society that impacted students was the lack of technology / quality technology at home. That seemed to catch many schools off guard and struggles were made to distribute school computers and internet access as needed. It truly was a band-aid solution which probably worked as well as it could. Then there was the directive to do synchronous teaching which logistically isn’t possible with one computer and more than one student using that computer.
We all live in fear that there will be another surge of outbreaks of the virus, resulting in yet another case of Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, …
There needs to be a plan in place to ensure that all students have enough and appropriate technology at home along with the connectivity to make it work. Things are pretty quiet right now about this topic. Ever the optimist, I really hope that serious thinking and planning is happening at the Ministry and District levels. Not having it addressed last spring is excusable. Who saw this coming? But not having a plan in place to address the worst case scenario for the fall would be educational malpractice.
There are all kinds of solutions that are available.
I’ve always been a proponent of tax credits for parents who purchase technology for their children to use for homework. Regardless of any pandemic, it is just something that needs to be in place if we believe that technology skills have a place in a child’s future
School technology needs to be easily repurposed to work outside the confines of the school. That means that images applied over the summer need to be made with this in mind
If new computers at home are not possible, then initiatives like Renewed Computer Technology need to be seriously considered and promoted and not just seen to be as a cute alternative
Of course, just having technology in place doesn’t guarantee success. To the credit of teachers and students, they kind of made it work this past spring. All school districts need to be designing and making compulsory learning about whatever Learning Management System they will be using for all involved for the first week of school. They shouldn’t be caught again without a plan. It should also provide skills for the future even if school resumes in a somewhat normal fashion.
If you’re an educator and reading this point, how about sharing your own learning that happened this past spring? What are you and your district doing to ramp up for the fall and beyond? Are there writing teams in place right now to provide support for moving courses/subjects online?
July kicked off the summer months and This Week in Ontario Edublogs was there to enjoy the day. On the voicEd Radio show, guest Amanda Potts joined Stephen Hurley and me for the hour. You can listen to the show via Podcast here.
Our guest Amanda Potts took us through this very personal post. Because of the issues happening in the US and indeed, Canada, at the moment, people are taking the time to write about their feelings and sharing their own view of their personal privilege.
There was an interesting reflection on her view of the difference between n0n-racist and anti-racist and we had a chance to discuss that on the show.
In the post, Amanda shares two wonderful stories and paints a vivid picture in each. One was about a student whose mother kept her at home when she got angry to keep her from getting into trouble. The other story was about accidentally assisting a person who she had cut out of her social media life. Of course, both were learning experiences.
Throw in reference to a couple of podcasts on the topic and it’s quite easy to see that she has done considerable thinking about this.
It’s a long-ish post and very rich in content. I’ve read it a few times now and fine something new each time through.
One of the truly remarkable things about being a teacher is that, in a thirty year career, you have 30 different starts and stops to your workflow. I can’t think of any other job that can make that claim.
School is full of routine. We know that students succeed better because of this. And, because teachers are there every minute, they run through the same routine, at least while at work.
I can recall the end of school years gone by. You run for an entire school year living and breathing the routine of daily life. Then, on that last day, it all changes. The school year routine goes away FULL STOP and summer begins. Some people take the first week or so to kick back and relax. I always liked the concept of continuing with the energy and going on a holiday or attend a conference at the first of July.
As we know, this year is different. Lisa Corbett claims that she has a lot to do and shares some of it with us. She admits that, upon proofreading, she found her post “aimless”. As a result of teaching at home, the home part continues, sans students. I hope that her family helps reset her priorities.
That was what I needed to reset my school brain so I was ready for summer brain. Somehow I need to convince my family to do this on Friday night.
She does call the post “aimless” and I can understand. I also suspect that there are thousands of teachers that are feeling the same way and will need to kick start the summer months differently somehow this year.
As I was doing the show yesterday, I looked at the title and noticed the spelling mistake. I thought that was odd and that I had typed it incorrectly. But, Larissa Aradj, it was a copy/paste job from your post.
The post is about a terrific classroom activity that uses a Google Slide presentation to provide choices for students to select, based upon what they might find should they beat Brandi and Jarrod to win a locker.
What was unique about this was Larissa didn’t share her original template. Instead, another teacher, Leslie Mott, had taken Larissa’s concept and ran with it and Larissa chose to share Leslie’s idea in her post.
That stuck me as really unique. So many of us create and share concepts on social media. But, do we ever get a chance to share what someone else did with our idea? (Think about it for a second) It seems to me that this is how good ideas become great as a result of community improvement.
There actually was a bit of discussion on Social Media where Leslie identified Larissa as a mentor and a sharer of great ideas. I’ve been in a PD session led by Larissa and completely agree.
Well, this has to be one of the more emotional blog posts that I’ve read in a long time. Many of us have dealt with family members struggling with Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s incredibly tough.
As much as I had to deal with it, it pales to the way that Judy Richards is. I had the advantage of being face to face, hand to hand, hug to hug. I can’t imagine the pain of being locked outside looking in at someone who is locked inside dealing with it.
Staff do try to make an effort by doing the communications via iPad thing but assuredly, it’s not the same. That’s even true if both ends of the communications are effective users of the technology.
There is a brigade of fire fighters caring compassionately for my mom, doing their best to comfort her, and keep her safe.
The above is actually two posts from Cal Armstrong. I know that it looks a bit messy with the formatting but I don’t want to point to one without pointing to the other.
As I read both posts, I’m impressed with the support that Cal is providing for staff members in this. Lots of details, lots of screen captures. When I worked with a group of CAITs, we did this a lot and called them “One Sheet Wonders”. The rules were to make it clear, make it efficient, but keep it to one sheet of paper so that people are able to easily follow through the concepts.
In this case, Cal is showing readers how to connect resources using Microsoft’s Flow. I like his analogy to IFTTT which has been around and so functional for so many people. The comparison is immediately obvious.
Both examples were really easy to go through. The first one shows how to easily manage Microsoft Social-Emotional Check-In via Forms through to Excel and the second one features how to be smarter than Excel. (Cal’s words)
I know that many people are really handy with Forms. They’re probably equally as handy with Excel. The value from this post comes from showing how to connect the two, making you that much more efficient.
As a result of the COVID virus and the Learn at Home initiative, a lot of people are thinking about a lot of things that are happening and things that are hard to make happen. In this post, Arianna Lambert thinks about things that maybe shouldn’t be happening at all.
She got me thinking of my own high school. At Grade 12 graduation, I got a School Letter. In Grade 13, I got a Major School Letter. The “Letter” wasn’t actually a letter; it was actually a crest of the school mascot. At the time, the school mascot was a profile view of a character that we wouldn’t even consider these days. The school has since changed its mascot retiring this one. If only professional sports teams would follow the same lead. Getting a letter was important at the time. It was one of those institutional things that the school had always had. I can’t remember the numbers now but if you joined X number of clubs, Y number of sports, or Z number of honours, you got a badge. Get enough badges and you were eligible for a letter.
In her post, Arianna Lambert identifies things that are common to many schools in a way to encourage spirit. She shares a story of a little girl who felt the activity made it hard to participate in. Of course, nobody asks students how they feel about the activity. It is just assumed that what was done in the past is good going forward.
Now on the other side of the desk, she’s asking good questions that the institution and those that support it need to consider and possibly act on. If there is no good and equitable way to make it work for all, why perpetuate it?
I really enjoy sharing my thoughts about the great posting from Ontario Edubloggers. I hope that you can take some time to click through and enjoy the original posts.
What a school year! Congratulations to everyone for making it through one series of challenges after another. A special congratulations to those people who will be turning in their keys for the last time today. Enjoy the start to your vacation.
Here is a reflection collection and sharing about moving from face to face to online learning from Dave Cormier. I suppose now it’s a now bit of a reflection for every educator but this should also serve as a starting point for thinking about September. Dave identifies and elaborates on a dozen ideas.
Moving to teaching on the internet is not a technology problem (unless you make it one)
Moving to the internet is about understanding information abundance
Complicated vs. complex concepts on the internet
Learning to evaluate good/bad information on the internet is a core skill in any field.
Pedagogies of care (for students and teachers)
Think of ‘content’ as ‘teacher presence’
Keep it simple
Keep it equitable and accessible
Keep it engaging
Design activities for what the web can do for you.
Gather resources together… together
Last note: If you’re helping someone else
Inspirational and insightful are two words that come to mind as I read and thought about this post.
One of the steps of the report card production process is the proofreading of the documents by principal and vice-principal. I always thought of it as drudgery and yet it is a necessary task in order to send the best messages home to parents. It also gives the principal and vice-principal an opportunity to learn insights about the students in their school that they might otherwise miss.
There’s nothing worse than working for hours and hours on a report card only to have it returned to you with all kinds of errors found. So, teachers do spend considerable time making it the best that it can be.
Sue Bruyns shares her process of doing report cards for the end of the year and her tools include post-it notes!
This year’s work had her noticing that the teachers were submitting reports that we pretty well written and she noticed various things about the comments that were given to the students.
Click through and find how she was pleased with what she read.
From Diana Maliszewski, a warming story of visiting with a distant sister and a mother. Of course, visiting these days can take on different modes and this was no different.
A video visit for 2.5 hours! Wow. She’s got more stick-to-it-ive-ness than I have and I’m sure that it was appreciated all around. To make it go well, she had dropped off some cookies in advance. During the Wednesday morning voicEd radio show, I recognized the cookies immediately but couldn’t name them. Fortunately, Diana let me know afterwards they were Peak Freens.
The big takeaway are the three tips that she shares for a successful visit. To the naive, it could be just talking to the camera of the device in front of you. For real success though, consider…
When I saw the title of this post from Sue Dunlop, I had a pre-conceived notion of what it might be. I was completely wrong after taking a long read.
I might be feeling complacent about my privileged life and then a check comes to my thinking. It can be small – a friend challenges me on what I wrote in a blog post; or it can be monstrous – a racist murder spurs a cataclysm
Of course, the message is appropriate given what’s happening to the south of us and here at home.
The notion of systemic racism is easily recognized from the outside looking in. It’s far easier to criticize others. But true leadership includes the ability to look inward and see what’s happening within your own system.
Recent events have reinforced the importance of this. I think all should read Sue’s post for her wisdom and then turn your gaze toward yourself and your system.
That’s where true change in your world will happen.
Heather Swail has been documenting some of the events in her last year of teaching. To say that this is how anyone wants to end a professional life would just be so wrong.
Yet, good teachers have persevered and Heather is no exception. The coup de grâce in any career is cleaning out your workspace and handing in your key.
I supposed in the business environment, you borrow the company shredder and put it beside your desk/filing cabinet and run things through there.
Heather’s story tells us so much about how education is different from business!
Onto the ancient “craft and game cupboard”. Good God. I should have had a tetanus shot. Rusty compasses. Plasticene, sweating in the heat, dating back to Roman times, broken pencils and Scrabble tiles everywhere.
Despite the heat, this cleaning task was done and she’s ready for her next challenge. This time, it’s virtually climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
This was an interesting post from Deanna McLennan. It was actually written before the stay at home orders.
At the post, she’s writing about wondering when classes would resume, how long the stay away would be, how personal plans had been changed and more.
What she did leave for anyone who happened to drop by her blog were ideas for mathematics in the kindergarten classroom. She called it “Spring Math” but certainly the ideas and concepts of the 21 examples given are appropriate at any time.
This post from Paul McGuire is an interesting turn of thinking. It’s easy to write about the power of the PLN, how you need to get connections, how you leverage the power of others to your professional advantage.
This post isn’t about that.
What happens when that network falls apart or otherwise isn’t providing the support that you need?
There may be many reasons why things change; I think that we know that. We also know that effective participation in any community requires effort and commitment. There may well come the time that leaving that community is the best move. In this post, Paul describes two cases where he’s taken that tact.
I’ve gone through that personally and I don’t think I could express the sentiment better than Paul does.
Sometimes, you just have to cut loose those things that are dragging you down.
It’s been another terrific week of reflecting on the writings of Ontario Edubloggers for me. I’m so happy to be able to pass them along and hope that you click through and enjoy the writings as much as I did.