Not just Google

A twinge of guilt hit me after the blog post from yesterday about search, advertising, and online literacy.  I was inspired by the original report that talked about students being confused by search links and advertising when doing Google searches.

As we all know, Google isn’t the only search engine on the web.

How do the others handle the same search?  Is it clear what’s advertising and what’s an actual search result?





It’s interesting to see the results and note that not all search engines mark and/or display the advertising results in a similar fashion.

If this isn’t a call for a renewed emphasis of digital literacy and understanding search results, I’m not sure what would be.  Are you sure that your “digital natives” really understand the difference?

And, of course, this is just a select few search engines that I use.  (DuckDuckGo is my default)  Check out the complete list of the “Top 15 Most Popular Search Engines | November 2015“.  There’s more to a searching life than just the default that comes with your browser.

I do repeat the message from yesterday – Education always wins.


I sure didn’t go looking for this expression but when I found it, it fit and was used perfectly.

I use an advertising blocker in my Browser.  My current choice is uBlock Origin. There are lots of them available and I’ve tried a few of them.  I’m fascinated with how they work.  When you have a slow internet connection like I do, it’s a real time saver.  Without it in place, you can actually see the browser start/stop as advertisements pop into place. 

I was actually doing some research when I found the term.  I had reached a web page where there was a banner that said something to the effect “It looks like you’re using an Ad Blocker – please consider whitelisting this site”.  I will admit to whitelisting some of my favourite sites because I know that it may be the only form of income that they have, I value the service that they provide and the writers that provide the content.  This research did lead to some interesting reading.  One of the articles, in particular, talked about the increasing aggressiveness of some advertising and it used the term “obnoxious” to describe it.  I thought it was an interesting choice of words at the time but, after this morning, I totally agree.

I was checking my Twitter feed and there was a news story that was of particular interest.  I was reading on my iPad.  Of course, Twitter is only good for 140 characters and a link.  I clicked the link in my Twittelator app and the in-app browser partially loaded the newspaper app and then it crashed.  So, I did what any rational person would do – I loaded it again, expecting different results.  Nope.  Crash.  So, I loaded the website directly in the newly released Firefox browser.  It took forever to load.  Forever is probably not accurate but in the digital world, I think we all know what I mean.  In among the few stories that appeared, there was advertising after advertising.  They just kept coming.  Eventually, they stopped and I started to scroll to find the story.  The browser struggled trying just to scroll down the page.  The advertisements seemed like my browser was full of slideshows.  Then, a pop over advertisement appeared in the middle of the page and it kept scrolling down the page with me.  There was a teeny little red X in the corner which is the universal sign for closing the window.  Either it didn’t work or I have fat fingers because I tried it a few times but kept clicking on the advertisement under it.  I finally scrolled to a spot where there wasn’t an advertisement and the X just didn’t work.  I finally gave up.  Absolutely obnoxious.

In my browser folder (I collect browsers), there was a copy of the Adblock Browser.  I loaded it and went to the website and it displayed like a charm.  I was curious and so really did spend the time to view the site in both browsers.  By my estimates with my ruler and my wife’s quizzical looks, 45% of the screen was devoted to advertising.  It would have been more except I didn’t know how best to factor in the pop over advertisement so I left it out.  Wow!  Then, I decided to give Firefox another chance and went to the site using the privacy mode.  It seemed to do a bit better job although I now noticed that the same advertising appeared three times on the opening page when I scrolled down.  Then, Firefox crashed.

By now, I was on a mission so I visited the website in my desktop browser and uBlock Origin indicated that it had blocked 26 requests.  Is that obnoxious or what?

In part of my original research, there was a great deal of concern expressed by content providers about ad blocking software and the financial effect that they will have on the industry.  As we know, some ad blocking software will accept payment from some advertisers to allow the content to go through.  The articles indicated that this is only the beginning as advertisers start to consider their options. 

I understand and probably wouldn’t be using blocking software except the sheer volume of advertisements on some sites, the tracking cookies that they provide, and how some of the advertising can take longer to load than the story that you’re trying to read.  So, at least for the time being, this software will be kept in place here.  But, like all things technical, you know what the industry will get caught up and we’ll be looking at something new in the future.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It was another great week of reading and learning from some of the spectacular Ontario Edubloggers that I follow. It’s like Christmas morning, writing this post.  Every Friday, I start a new blog post scheduled for the next week and, as I’m attracted to a post, I drop the URL and some preliminary comments into the document.  When it comes to writing this, I look back at the post and my initial comments before giving the post another read.

Here’s a bit that caught my attention this week.

Growth Mindset: Hacky Sack Style

I had to smile as I read this post from Colleen Rose as she describes her “out of her comfort zone” experience trying to learn to play with her geography students.

Maybe now she can fully appreciate how I felt sitting next to her in a Sketchnote workshop as she was whipping out her artwork and I was trying my darnedest to draw a straight line.  I’m getting pretty good at that.  Maybe it’s time to expand my skills!  What’s next?  A circle?

“We Can See” Project: Connecting our Classrooms Online via the Blogsphere and Twitterverse

Who says the youngest of learners can’t learn by being connected?  Certainly not Angie Harrison.  She’s started another round of “We can see” looking for connect with other classrooms to share just what the outside space around Early Years’ classrooms looks like.  It’s a relatively simple entry point and, of course, you could take it as far as you want.  The post is full of ideas and suggestions.

As you can see, the project is off to a great start.  Why not read and share with your colleagues to get involved?

Noticing inequity and taking action

There are times when you’re just proud of your kids and Jennifer Casa-Todd describes one of those moments with her daughter.

After dinner last night, my daughter was perusing an American Girl catalogue and occasionally looked up with dismay.  Not only had she noticed the fact that there was an inequity in the representation of the white vs visible minority dolls, but before we knew it, she had taken out her computer and asked for our input on a letter she was going to send.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that kids don’t notice.  Maybe we’d be in a better place if more took action on what they see as wrong.  After all, it’s our generation that so often lays the groundwork for them.  Does apathy imply agreement?

Why do we feel the need to abandon good ideas for the next shiny new thing?

While on Jennifer’s blog, I have to take issue with some of the statements in this post.

The irony that she was in a session on Periscope which didn’t exist until recently is not lost on me.  By the end of the post, I think she had taken issue herself and had an action plan for part of her learning.

The concept of “mastery” of something, anything in this context bothers me.  I’ve said this before but the last time that I think I fully understood how a computer worked was back in the DOS days when you had a manual and could work your way through all the commands.  Now, we just push a mouse around and rely on magic happening.  And, I’m really good with that.  I was going to try and corner a friend at the BIT conference and ask about the LiveScribe pen.  A few years ago, it was the absolute answer for students and notetaking.  Now, nobody talks about it.

My personal thought is that the state of educational technology would be pretty boring if we waited until we completely mastered something before trying to make it work for the learning environment.  Does anyone remember “Ready, Fire, Aim”?  I don’t think any teacher should ever apologize for learning something new and see if it fits in terms of curriculum, motivation, or engagement.  Think about it – we have people teaching Mathematics but haven’t mastered the discipline.  They teach; they learn; they get better.  I’d be more concerned with the other approach.  With all the money that school districts invest into hardware, there should be an ongoing program of professional learning so that the investment isn’t wasted.

5 Reasons Teachers Should NOT Use Twitter

OK, so I fell for Brian Aspinall’s clickbait title.  Then, in true bait and switch mentality, there is a different message conveyed.

Yeah, I did tweet the article and am including it in this post.  You’ll have to click on over to figure out what’s going on.

Hacks ‘n’ Apps: iMessage is the New Dropbox

If you think that you’ve mastered your digital lifestyle, then you probably just don’t get it.  In this post, Royan Lee takes us a great deal deeper into how he functions in his Macintosh environment.

Whether it’s a technique or an app, Royan shares some of his favourites and invites readers to add their own.

Isn’t this the true promise of personal in “personal computer”?

#peel21st Blog Hop: My One Best Thing

I’d never heard of the Blog Hop that Peel teachers are doing but I think it’s a great concept that all districts could use.

I’m equally as impressed that Tina Zite broke the rules for the event – but in a good way.

Read on to find out her memorable learning moment AND how she broke the rules.

Fair is Fair…or is it?

Remember the saying “floggings will continue until morale improves”?

As Brian Harrison notes in this post, we’ve moved on to a protocol that promises better results.

Included in the post is a link to a TED talk that puts so much into perspective.  It’s a must see.

Eek! Going Public With My Plan!

There’s nothing wrong with being transparent with your plans and Aviva Dunsiger most certainly does so in this recent post.  She’s garnered quite a few people commenting and writing encouragement.

She shares

All of this, leads to my big wonder…

I won’t spoil it for you.  You’ll have to read her entire post.  It’s a long one and you might need a couple of reads to fully digest the message but I think it’s worth the time.
It’s a “plan” that I think could be adopted for many schools and many grade levels.  If you’re looking for a place to get started, she’s done the heavy lifting for you.

Once again, I was able to benefit from a great collection of sharing and thinking from educators from throughout the province.  Thanks so much.

Please take a moment to click through and show how much you appreciate their sharing.

Getting the order right

In my post yesterday, I anguished over six words.

My 20th Century mind told me the order was wrong.

It should have read “I learn.  I share.  You judge.”

After all, shouldn’t you know what you’re talking about before you share it?

In the original draught, it was that way.  But that didn’t seem right either.


Because I don’t learn like that anymore.

My first inclination, in the morning, is to get online and start to read stories that are curated for me by the applications that I use for just this purpose.  When there’s something that piques my curiosity, I hit the Twitter share button and out it goes.  It doesn’t always mean that I know the complete ins and outs of the topic.

Later, I’ll go to my Hootsuite tab and take a look at what I’ve shared and start to dig in for some serious research and learning.  What really puts it over the top happens when those who I interact with have jumped in with their thoughts, resources, ideas, concerns, warnings, etc.  It’s a wonderful reminder that I don’t have to learn in isolation.  It’s what happens when you engage with really smart people.  It’s so vastly different from taking a “course” where the topics are sequenced according to the curriculum.  It’s just in time learning and I’m the determining factor as to whether it’s appropriate for me, whether I need to do further research, or ignore the concept altogether.

I don’t think I ever dreamed of learning that way in high school or university.  There, the sequence was clear.

My 21st Century mind is OK with this new way of learning.

I stand by the revised words.

Pipesapp – not just the news

When I was at the Bring IT Together conference last week, I got a ping from an unknown (at the time) source …

I get unsolicited messages all the time and typically ignore them.  If fact, I just blocked an account yesterday that was trying to get me to buy something.  I like to have control over what I do and try to make informed decisions.

But, this message had me hooked at the use of the reference to the Zite app.  Until it was acquired by Flipboard, it had been my go-to reader in the morning. Plus, this long time user of Unix and Yahoo! Pipes was just intrigued by the name.  So, I downloaded it to give it a shot.  I’ll freely admit to being a news junky and had no shame in adding it to my folder of “News Apps” on my iPad.  There’s lots in there.

In addition to having an appreciation for different applications developed by talented programmers, this genre fascinates me.  Even if I tell two applications what my likes and preferences are, they often manage to find stories for me that come from different sources and are completely different.  In my mind, that makes it so important to have more than one source if you’re looking for the good stuff.  Plus the Pipesapp icon was the same colour as the Zite app icon so the two of them sit nicely side by each in the folder.

Out of the box, Pipesapp was not unlike so many other applications.  When I told it that I was looking for education stories, I got flooded with stories from the US.  They are interesting, to some extent, but I’m more interested in Canadian – particular Ontario – stories and that will hopefully come as the application learns what I’m reading and what I’m not reading.  There are other assumptions too – once I allowed it to know my location and that I like sports, I get all kinds of Toronto Maple Leafs stories.  Given my location, it would actually make sense to send me Detroit Red Wings stories but if truth be told, I’m forcing it to send me Montreal Canadiens stories.  Over time, it should learn and will get me right.

So, I launch the application and begin to add pipes to it so that it can get me what I’m looking for.

Sadly, finding the top stories and those related to it are all too easy for any news reading application given the events from yesterday.

You’ll see the pipes that I’ve added along the left side of the screen under the “Top Stories”.  Reading is as simple as selecting a pipe from the left and then the story of interest on the right.  Once you select the story though, the game changes from so many other news reading applications.

A long, long time ago in Grade 10 I had difficulties reading and understanding the content.  In today’s schools, there probably would be a program or assistance for me.  But in those days, there was only one solution and it included a red pen and lots of Xs.  I remember the exact moment when things changed for me.  I was in a book store in Goderich and saw and bought a book titled “How to Read”.  Or, at least that’s what I thought it was titled.  It might be better titled (or maybe it was ) “How to Speed Read”.  I wish that I still had that book but sadly don’t.  Anyway, I took it home and devoured it hoping that it would make me a better reader.

And I think it did.

I don’t think anyone would have predicted the huge amount of information that we would be bombarded with these days.  But I learned the technique of identifying key words, expressions, sentences, and ignoring the fluff that so often pads articles.  Education – you are the worst with all the babble that’s added so that you can meet your quote of 1000 words before an article can be published.  Rant off.

What blew me away is that the Pipesapp will do its own version of the speed reading technique for you automatically for many, not all, stories.  If you look to the left, you’ll see a summary of the article that they call “Quick News”.  It’s like the story has already been summarized for you.  I’d love to know how the technology behind that works.  It’s not 100% but the machine learning that’s involved is pretty impressive.  Now to get my attention to read an article, I’m first hooked by the title and then reeled in by the quick summary.  To the right, you’ll have the option to read the whole story.  The best part?  None of the advertising that you’d expect to see embedded in articles.  If you’re missing it, there’s an option at the bottom of the screen to see the story on the original site.  And, of course, there’s the suggestion to read related articles to help you expand your thinking beyond the original article.

Using the iPad’s hook to services, I can share the story to Twitter for others to read and have it automatically dumped into my Diigo account for later review.  I can also send it to the Flipboard document I call “Readings” so that I can bring it back there as well.  I’m a big fan of automation and Pipesapp fits nicely into my workflow.

There’s another feature that I’m not sure that I’ll use but who knows?  I could see this going over nicely in the classroom.

The application gamifies your reading.

As a new user and still poking around refining things, I’m definitely a Noob.  But as they say – the more you read, the more you know.  I’d be hesitant to point students to Pipeball.  Just sayin’.

I’ll admit to a slow introduction to Pipesapp installed just a week ago.  It’s different from other applications that I’ve used and so my reading was affected by my learning how the application works.  I also tend to read while on my computer or my Android phone, neither of which is supported at this time.  But, when I get moments with my iPad, it works like a champ.  I just have to use it enough so that it knows what my preferences are.

If you’re interested in downloading and giving it a test, it’s a free download from the iTunes store here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

And, it’s Friday again.  Another day to share some of the writing from the excellent Ontario Edubloggers.  Read on to see some of the things that appeared this past week.

November Thanks

There are so many great ideas and calls to action online.  If you tried to do them all, you’d be so overly involved that you’d never get anything done.  Kristi Keeri Bishop has a simple concept.  Simple yes, but it can make all the difference to someone.

November is indeed a tough month to get motivated and excited.  So much is weather and climate related.  Let me add a secondary school element – football practices and games can get so unbearable.  I still feel it in my bones when I think of our championship game against Walkerville.  We won but it was still cold.

Can you use her suggestion make a difference?

Find a Remedy

I could swear that Paul Cornies had read Kristi’s blog post.  In this motivational post, he quotes Flora Whittemore, Mark Twain, and Henry Ford.

Paul taught me about serendipity.  I ran into a lot of it this week!

Sharing from #BIT15: Heidi Siwak’s Keynote Address

Donna Fry may not know this but she was in my line of sight during Heidi Siwak’s closing keynote.  Her head was bobbing in agreement throughout and I could see her taking all kinds of notes.

Fortunately, she turned it into a blog post so that we can all enjoy.

If you were unable to attend Heidi Siwak’s closing keynote at #BIT15 this year, you missed an amazing learning experience.

Let’s see if we can share the important points.

If you couldn’t attend, or you’d like a revisit, check out the post.  There’s a link to a post on Heidi’s blog to continue the discussion and to read Heidi’s own words about her talk.

It’s About the Shift, Not the Conclusion

Consider this quote:

Who said that?

If I told you it was a student in Heidi Siwak’s Grade 6 class, would you sit back and say “Whoa”.

Check out this post to see a collection of quotes from her class.  If you heard Heidi’s closing keynote at BIT15, you’d probably not be surprised.

These students appear to be wise beyond their years.

The essential @dougpete

Forget the dougpete part.

Instead, read the real message in Anne Shillolo’s post.  Like so, so many, the sessions sponsored by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation a few years ago changed things for so many of us in Ontario.  I remember talking to a new friend at a session and saying that they’ve managed to accomplish what the Ministry and School Districts have tried to do for years – teachers connecting to other teachers in other districts and having deep professional discussions on their terms – not something that was laid-on.  It makes going to conferences like the BIT Conference something to look forward to.  It’s a wonderful chance to talk with like minded educators from all over the province.  Without the OTF event, I certainly wouldn’t have had a chance of meeting Anne.  Now, we talk when we get to the same place and use social media to keep the conversation alive between times.

The other reason that I decided to include this post was through the serendipity that happened this week.  Even before I read Anne’s post, I included a link to a resource that Danika Tipping had provided for her workshop on Evernote.  It was a major bit of learning for me and it all stemmed from being in the right place at the right time.

As an aside, Anne’s site is another in a line of Blogger sites that I can’t comment on.  It’s comforting, doing my research, to find out I’m not the only one but I’d sure like to know why.

My Ever Growing and Changing Learning Curve

Case in point.  Eva Thompson.  Her blog is a regular stop on my reading and I finally got a chance to meet her face to face.


In an elevator in Niagara Falls.  Thank goodness that she’s one of those people that put a real picture on their Twitter profile.  I stepped in the elevator and I’m not one to stare at the floor.  I look around to see who is there.  On the other side was this young lady and I just knew that I knew her.  Or at least of her, her online persona, and her writing.  So, it was a quick introduction there and a promise to meet up later to chat.

In this blog post, she shares her feelings about presenting at the conference.  She concludes with …

I think she’s being overly harsh on herself.  It’s always good to be critical of your performance with an eye to improvement.

My thoughts about presenters at conferences are like this.

You go to hear a keynote speaker to be part of a crowd; you know that you’re going to hear generalities about big ideas and hopefully get that bit of inspiration.  But, I value the time that I spend in breakout sessions even more, and for different reasons.  These sessions are delivered by mortal teachers who just want to share real stories about real students about real learning.  Their passion about a topic is all that counts.  Style points, not so much.  So often, keynote speakers talk about great things in other classrooms or something they discovered on YouTube or some hypothetical scenario or some sort of research.  What makes the individual presenter session so special for me is that it’s based in solid reality and you could actually replicate it, with their support, if you wanted to.

So, I hope that Eva’s ready to offer her enthusiasm for teaching when there are calls for proposals again.  Maybe attend an EdCamp or lead a session with her school colleagues or lead an online seminar for a little more practice.  The learning world needs people who are this honest and open.

Math Links for Week Ending Nov. 6th, 2015

I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to discover David Petro’s mathematics blog.

I can see that I’m going to spend way too much time on this blog.  I enjoy doing mathematics puzzles just for the enjoyment of doing the puzzle.  The 50 cent puzzle that was making the rounds recently made it into this blog.  (along with a lot of other really good stuff)

Of huge interest is tagging resources to the Ontario Curriculum.  How can you miss?

I Don’t Read

This is a great story about what teachers do best.

They analyse the situation, consider the alternatives, the sources, and make recommendations that will make the student successful.

In this post, Jennifer Aston describes how she handles a student who told her…

Like I said, it’s a great story, with great dialogue, a plan, a followup, a next steps and, importantly a request for advice from the community of people who read her blog.  Oh, and her community responded.

I hope that you enjoy checking out these blog posts as much as I did.  There’s some really great stuff here.

Thanks to all of these bloggers for sharing their thoughts.  Together we learn.

The learning continues here – BeetleBlocks

Always be learning – I think it’s a great motto for survival in this day and age.

So, I’m working through my list of things to learn more about from the recently concluded Bring IT, Together conference.

I thought I knew of all the block programming languages.  After all, I’ve worked my way through Alfred Thompson’s big list.

But I picked up on a new language during Sylvia Martinez’ keynote address.  It’s called BeetleBlocks.  It’s another language that builds on the promise of the original Logo concept.  Among all the things that you can do is drive an object around the screen.  You start, as typical, with a blank screen.

What’s new with this picture?

All of the other tools that I have worked with previously have had an X and Y plane.  Notice in this case, there’s also a Z.  Yep, we’re now talking programming in three dimensions.

If you’ve used Scratch (or similar languages), you already have a valuable set of skills.  Now, just extend them!

I dragged a few blocks out onto the desktop and started poking around.  I was excited now. 

What can people who know what they’re doing do?  Fortunately, the resource comes with plenty of examples and I’m speed learning by going through the examples provided and modifying them to see what happens.

If you’re a Scratch programmer, you’re right at home.

Since the results are in three dimensions, it only makes sense that you can provide different views for the results.  In particular, the wireframe really showed me what was happening.

This project, currently in Alpha stage, and only supported on the Google Chrome platform (although it seemed to work fine in Firefox) is a very worthy addition to your set of tools for programming. 

It seems to be the logical next step for students who are proficient in Scratch programming and are looking for more inspiration. 

I hope that the product continues to mature and, who knows?  We may be talking about this as the Hour of Code approaches.