Big? Or juicy?

Who hasn’t seen a bumper sticker or t-shirt or just a sign that says:

He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins

It’s kind of cute and pokes fun at those who have to acquire everything.

Last week, on Twitter, there was a discussion about the value of a Personal Learning Network.  If you use the Twitter service for networking with great educators, then you absolutely know all about the value of having that network.  But, having that network is only the begging.  Milking it for all it’s worth is worthwhile.

A really good, and critical thought for the day, is “how big should it be?”

Some observations:

  • there are bots and services that will sell you additional users for $$$
  • you can follow every user that you can find
  • some people use follow accounts and never post anything personally
  • you can read those posts that appear online every now and again “Top ## educators to follow on Twitter” and then follow them
  • you can find someone you respect and see who they follow and follow their follows

and there are probably other ways to pick those you choose to follow.

There does come a time when the sheer number that you follow becomes unmanageable.  The actual “number” is tough to define.  Follow too few and a looking at messages would let you think that the whole exercise is not worthwhile.  Follow too many and there’s so much going on that it’s hard to know where to start.

In the local newspaper recently, there was a very appropriate story.

Apple picking time: Crop not as big but apples will be larger, juicier than last year

It’s kind of a big deal here in Essex County.  Today, for example, I’ll be heading out to Leamington and will buy things from the stands that line the roads.  I like to support local farmers and I know that the fruit will be fresh and not stored in cold storage before being put out on shelves for sale.

I can’t help but think that the same logic applies to Twitter followers and how to manage them.  There was a time when you’d definitely want to have the biggest list of people to follow.  I’ll confess to doing that myself.  I’ve come to realize that value comes from selecting any future people to follow by checking out their timeline to see if they’re “larger and juicier”.  Metaphorically, of course.

Or, start to use the tools of Twitter to make it better.  If you check out my Twitter profile, you’ll see that I do follow quite a few.  That number hangs around from past history.  Quite frankly, I seldom look at the big stream.

Instead, I’ve tried to make my reading juicier.  If you did look at my profile, you’ll see that I have a number of lists of users there.  Of course, I’m so vested in my Ontario Educator lists.  They form the basis for my FollowFriday stuff and the newsletters.  It also lets me divide and conquer the list of Ontario folks – 4 lists of 500 versus 1 of 2000 to see what’s happening.  And, of course, it’s Ontario!  The lists that you see were either curated by me or I just follow someone else’s list.  If they’ve done the heavy lifting, who am I to complain?  BTW, you’re welcome to follow mine lists if you’re so inclined.

And, I’ll tweak your curiosity.  Everything working properly, you see the lists I’ve elected to make public.  There are others you shouldn’t be able to see!  Curious now?

Using Hootsuite or Tweetdeck allows for a separate column for each of the lists to try and keep an eye on what’s happening.

Screenshot 2017-09-24 at 08.29.53

From my Hootsuite screen…

That’s how I try to manage things to make it “larger and juicier”.  But, I’m not above taking advice from others.  Do you have a better scheme to manage things?

If you do, I’m a quick learner.  Please share.


This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Another week comes to an end and offers an opportunity for me to share some of the great reading that I encountered this past while from Ontario Edubloggers.

Journey to El Salvador for Teacher Candidates

I guess I’m going to have to file this post from Paul McGuire under “Fake News”.

It’s too bad.  I had all kinds of notes about my own practice teaching experiences, social justice, added value to the curriculum, the relative low costs of the program, and so much more.

I made a point of making sure that it was on the radio show This Week in Ontario Edublogs so that Stephen Hurley and I could talk about it.  Just into our discussion, we got a Twitter message from Paul that the program had been scrapped.

Bummer.  We had so much time allotted to talk about it!

The post is still a good read and example of great planning and learning possibilities.  I’m disappointed that it didn’t come to fruition.


I had a new follower this week from Brock so I checked out her blog which Meg Schned has posted to Weebly.  There was a section dealing with TECHKNOWTEACH which sounded intriguing so I checked it out.

The section is a collection of posts about topics – I don’t know if it’s a class assignment or not – but I found them interesting from someone who will soon enter the profession.  One of the posts dealt with Understanding Copyright.  All right!  How many faculties deal with this, and in particular, Creative Commons?

With technology right at our fingertips, in the form of laptops, cellphones and tablets, accessing information and resources is easier than ever before, however there are rules in place that allow us to take advantage of this properly.

I liked her thoughts and carrying this into her profession will do her well.  I did look at the entire Weebly site and didn’t see a spot where she’s identified her own level of copyright.  I think that, in addition to respecting others copyright and permission that everyone should let others know how they expect their content to be used.

Kindness – It Starts with Us

Lisa Cranston’s recent post shows a great deal of wisdom and perhaps a reminder for everyone about the importance of being kind.

In the post, she shares many personal experiences but one really resonated with me.

We’re all taught to be aware of the student who sits in the cafeteria alon eating lunch with no friends or interactions.  Lisa describes a personal experience as a supply teacher being alone in the staff room.  Should there be any difference?

With reorganization day in everyone’s future, along with the daily flow of occasional teachers, new students, and teacher candidates, this is a powerful reminder that it never hurts to be kind.


My #5BestEd decisions

Lisa Noble tagged me in the announcement of this post in response to a challenge issued by Jonathan So.  The challenge was to identify five moments that made an impact on your teaching.

Lisa follows up with her five and it’s great to see that family remains part of the discussion.  She said I was in the post somewhere, but quickly frankly, I couldn’t find it.  I had clicked the embedded video and had it playing while I was reading the content.  My big mistake was not watching the video…

Anyway, it’s a nice collection and there were two acronyms in her five decisions that stood out to me.

  • AIM
  • PLP

It’s a nice summary and I can see just in my interactions with her online, how they have helped frame her to be the educator that she is today.

I would encourage you to click through and see all five.

Sarah’s Back-To-School Story

How many times this late August have your heard from teachers who have that back to school nightmare with no lesson plans, or being late, or not wearing clothes in front of your class….?

Sarah Lalonde shares a back to school story of her own.  She doesn’t have her own classroom yet and so instead reminisced about going back to school as a student.

It’s somehow comforting to know that it’s not just teachers who are nervous but so are the students.  That may appear to be obvious but I thought that a teacher candidate identifying as a student was something special.

It brought back things that I hadn’t thought of in years.

  • clothes – what to wear
  • bus route – will it be different
  • teachers – will they be different
  • how to set up your locker to make it yours

It inspired great memories for me.  Give it a read and see if it doesn’t do the same for you.

Breakout EDU for the Win!

The concept of Breakout EDU is very popular right now.

What really impresses me is when educators go beyond the box and come up with original and new ways of designing their own challenges.  Earlier, I had been impressed with how Cal Armstrong had used OneNote to create a challenge.

In this post, Jennifer Casa-Todd describes how she sets up a Breakout session as orientation to her library.

Introduce students to the services and resources I offer in the Library by allowing them to DISCOVER these through fun, interactive challenges. So I hid puzzles in books, created posters with hidden clues and got them to answer questions on a Google Form which revealed their word-combination when they submitted the form. It was a really nice mix of traditional and digital Breakout components. I am not going to lie, I was super nervous. You see, unlike a classroom teacher, I have no real rapport with these students coming into the Library. I don’t know their names or their learning needs.

It sounds like a winning combination.  Check out her entire post to get all the details.

Is there room in your classroom for an activity like this?

Caretaker of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt

Kristi Keery Bishop shares an interesting story about administrators’ orientation.

At our system Administrator’s meeting, we were welcomed and educated by the board’s Indigenous Education team. We were then each offered a Dish with One Spoon wampum belt to be used in our schools. This wasn’t our typical “go get in line to take these new resources for your school” kind of giveaway but a ceremony; we had to thoughtfully and publicly acknowledge our willingness to accept the responsibility of using the wampum for school education and community building but also to accept it as a treaty of friendship.

My first thought was a remembrance of so many meetings that I attended and we “got stuff”.  Sometimes a little overview to go along with it or a handout, but a ceremony?

To me, this adds addition value to the resource and makes everyone think just a little harder about the message from the meeting and how it will be used when returned to the school.

Take some time to read the post.  When was the last time that you had an educational moment that was as meaningful as this one?

Please take a moment and read the entire posts and enjoy their thoughts.  While you’re at it, make sure that you follow these folks on Twitter.

If you’re an Ontario Education blogger and aren’t in my collectionplease consider adding your URL.  There’s a form available at this site for just this purpose.

Every Wednesday morning at 9:15 on voicEd Radio, Stephen Hurley and I talk about some of the great posts that appear from Ontario Edubloggers.  The shows are also archived and you can revisit them here.



There are times when it’s tough to be a teacher.  It’s even worse when you were a former Business Education Director and your friends know about it.  My friend, in this case is a public librarian.  On a recent visit, she showed me something that really frustrated her.

In the computer nook, there was a secondary school student who was trying his best to enter an essay into the computer.  He was using the technique fondly known as “hunting and pecking” and it was painfully slow.

Then comes the inevitable comment – “This is what happens when we take a valuable life skill like typing out of the curriculum.”  In my best diplomatic voice, I explained that we had dropped the word “typing” in favour of “keyboarding” a long time ago.  I received one of those librarian stares because she knew I was splitting hairs.  I knew what she was getting at and resisted the urge to ask her to look at the students cursive writing while she was on a roll.

But it is tough.

While the keyboarding aspect to curriculum is gone for most students, the elements of education that actually require the skill (like keyboarding an essay) remain in the curriculum.  The result is the hunter and pecker that eventually gets the job done.  I’d be willing to bet that things would have been faster if the student was able to text the essay.  But then, there’s the time it takes and the inevitable suggesting spelling making inappropriate suggestions.

This is the 21st century though.  Voice recognition has never been better, right?  Could you imagine how “good” it would be in a class of 30 with everyone dictating an essay to their device all at the same time.  Well, there’s always the library.  Keep it under the shush level and you’ll be good.  I’m told the shushing doesn’t come from the librarian anymore; just from the other patrons who look for the library as a place of quiet.

Surely, you must have a suggestion for a computer program to help out with learning to keyboard.  I pulled out my phone to my set of bookmarks and offered up  It’s an interesting challenge.

Students, certainly at the secondary school level, don’t want to start at the basics.


For the most part, they know where the keys are.  They just need practice accessing them.  I read a report once that indicated that hunters and peckers can work themselves up to a speed of 20 words a minute without too much of a hassle but then reach that ceiling where only a good technique lets them break through.

I hadn’t tested myself for a while so I sat down and tried a test.


Hey, 57 wpm isn’t bad.  I even got a badge for my efforts.


I had to leave so I really don’t know how this particular story ends.

But, I’d be interested in your thoughts, kind reader, about keyboarding.

  • Does it have a place in today’s classroom?
  • What are the challenges students face without the skill?

Maybe, I should have saved this post for a Sunday for my “whatever happened to” series.

Your thoughts?

Upping your game

In yesterday’s post, I left you with a question…

Screenshot 2017-09-19 at 16.50.06

A good question would be – how can I up my game?

Well, here’s one online learning way.

Courtesy of Google, check out the Digital Citizenship and Safety Course.

Screenshot 2017-09-19 at 16.48.08

Divided into the six sections you see above, it’s a real start or refresher for any educator using the internet with their students.  The format of this MOOC gives you a concise over view of each of the lessons, why you would want to teach the concepts, and then the lesson itself.

Each lesson includes a YouTube video explaining the concepts and a transcript of the video, in a Google document, so that you can save it to your Google Drive account for later use.

To test your understanding, each of the units concludes with a quiz so that you can self test yourself on the concepts of the unit.  Some of the answers can be a bit tricky but worth working through.  Each of the units come with an estimated time for learning.

Not surprisingly, the teacher course dovetails nicely on Google’s Be Internet Awesome student resource.  You’ll recall that I blogged about it here back in June.

Then comes the good teacher stuff.  If you’re successful in your quest to work through the six units and pass the quizzes, you’re entitled to a badge (everyone likes badges, right?) and a series of lesson plans ready for use in the classroom.  If you use the ISTE standards, the lessons are correlated to them.

63 easy steps to digital literacy

Hands up if you remember when life skills for students living in a digital world and the literacy that goes along with it could be summed up with this statement?

Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see

Ah, life and teaching was so much easier.

We’ve certainly evolved and become more aware of things and have a bigger picture of what it means to be literate and relevant in the year 2017.  Digital literacy isn’t an “event”; it’s a way of being.

That’s where this post from Terry Heick is really worth reading and sharing with all the teachers in your school.

63 Things Every Student Should Know In A Digital World

In the post, you’ll find a very informative and complete list of issues that should form an integral part of any school program that purports to education the “21st Century Learner”.

This is highly recommended reading and an opportunity to start planning lessons that address the issues on an ongoing basis.

Of course, for it to be most effective, you need to embrace the same concepts yourself.

Take another run down the list with a different set of eyes.  Are there areas where you need to up your game?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Author, Legendary Music Of All Times. (Aug 2, 2017). 
Magical Mystery Tour [Video file].

And, with that, we’re off on a magical tour of some of the great things written this past while by Ontario Edubloggers.


Technically, it’s not a blog yet.  The blogging area is ready to receive posts.  Instead, this sounds like a marvelous project from my two favourite internet-connected Jacs.


The project is outlined at the site, composed of five stages.  It’s going to be interesting to track the growth and I hope that lots gets posted to that blog page.

Top 5 Defining Moments; What has defined my career?!?

The top 5 defining moments meme continues with this post from Joe Archer.  He identifies five of his own along with very well described details.

A couple of moments he identifies:

  • Opening my classroom to partnerships
  • Getting into the Microsoft Educator Community

You’ll have to visit his post to read the rest.

Make sure that you follow the hashtag #5bestEd and read Jonathan’s original post here where he’s collecting links to the posts he finds.

Finding your Tribe

Ann Marie Luce continues her description of her new position in Beijing.  With this post, she describes a number of highs and lows.  One of the lows could be expected when plunked into a new society, new language, new school, new colleagues, and the remembrances of a community back home.  It must seem so far away now.

I realized just how much support I had from so many AMAZING colleagues. I miss the phone calls on the morning commutes or rides home where we discussed and working through thousands of problems. I miss the sharing of ideas and support. I miss our Community of Schools meetings where we worked on professional learning together and shared common challenges and successes. I miss the laughter, sarcasm and opportunity to just be myself 100% of the time. I miss celebrating personal and professional milestones of my staff. I miss my colleagues that pushed my thinking and forced me to grow and learn from the uncomfortable. I miss the leadership of a superintendent where I really and truly felt I could be 100% honest and transparent. In short I miss my tribe.

There’s so much to miss.

As I read the post, I realized that there are those who didn’t have to travel those big distances to miss the types of connections that they once had.  There are teachers who are in new schools, new administrators, and new coaches and they all have their own time curve for building that new tribe.

Setting the Tone for Learning

How many can remember the advice given to new teachers for the new school year?

Don’t smile until at least the second week of school

Peter Cameron takes a run at “old school” versus “new school” for approaches to the new year.

I can totally see his vision of “old school” and I’ll bet that you can too.  It’s how we were indoctrinated at the first of the school year, for so many years.

Peter offers a different technique that he uses for his classroom.  It’s a nice comparison between the old and the new.  The similarity?


Teacher Brand Ambassadors: Where Do We Go From Here?

The New York Times recently ran an article about how some well known names in the teaching business have become figureheads for commercial entities.

That was enough to get Andrew Campbell busy at the keyboard.  A great insight and advice appears near the top of his post.


It’s hard not to disagree with the points in Andrew’s post.  The Times article, of course, reflects on the US situation which is considerably different than Ontario’s.  In Ontario, typically big product decisions are made centrally but you do see edupreneurs (my nomination for worst edtech term, Andrew) who will take it and fly and become fan people for it.

By coincidence, I ran into this article – 50 Of The Best Education Accounts On Twitter.  I felt kind of good recognizing so many of the names on there.  I felt kind of badly when I didn’t associate them with any great educational initiative but with a particular product(s) instead.  Is this what “best” has become?

Checking out a few of the Twitter profiles indicate that many have aligned themselves with a particular product rather than something more important – like teaching.  Unfortunately, I don’t see a rush to change them happening anytime soon.

Andrew goes on to offer three suggestions that people would be wise to consider.

What do you think?  Doable?

Transform your Makerspace & Support Your Team Through QR Code Scanning

I remember a few years ago sitting at edCampQuinte and when it came time to sign up for sessions to lead, I chose to talk about QR Codes.  They were young and new at the time.

But we came to the conclusion that they would be the perfect tool to assist students in self-direction and to relieve teachers with the burden of answering the same question over and over again.

Derek Tangredi goes over the top with the concept.  Read how he uses QR Codes to enhance the experience for students while generating time for himself to act as the facilitator and troubleshooter.  He’s created this video to really explain things.

Author, Derek Tangredi. (Sep 9, 2017). 
How to Turn Slide Decks into QR Codes [Video file].

He’s super pumped.  What better recommendation?

A Simple Prompt with Big Impact

With the new school year, it’s time to consider new things.

Brenda Sherry takes us on a trip to think about shifting.  Who hasn’t talked about it?  Who hasn’t thought about it?  Who hasn’t hoped that their efforts have caused others to shift?

She boils it down to a simple protocol.


Don’t just stop at reading Brenda’s blog post – follow the links she provides to the research.  You’ll be glad you did.

How’s that for a magical mystery tour around the province?  and beyond.  Please take a moment and read the entire posts and enjoy their thoughts.  While you’re at it, make sure that you follow these folks on Twitter.  @jaccalder, @jacbalen, @archerjoe, @turnmeluce, @cherandpete, @acampbell99, @dtangred, @brendasherry

If you’re an Ontario blogger and aren’t in my collectionplease consider adding your URL.  There’s a form available at this site for just this purpose.

Every Wednesday morning at 9:15 on voicEd Radio, Stephen Hurley and I talk about some of the great posts that appear from Ontario Edubloggers.  The shows are also archived and you can revisit them here.

Doing it right – never too early

It’s never too early to do the right thing.  As students start to produce digital documents for class, there’s always a desire to dress it up with graphics and images.

I’m still a big proponent of having students create their own, whether by their own digital camera or via a drawing program.  That adds so much to the process.

In the early days, clipart use was pretty clear.  You bought it or a number of pieces showed up within the program that you were using.  I was on the OSAPAC Committee when we licensed a collection for all schools with classroom friendly pieces of clipart – we called it the Canadian Clipart Collection.  The committee also reached out to the Royal Canadian Mint and the Bank of Canada to license high resolution images of Canadian money – we called that the Canadian Currency Collection.  A link to it is no longer on the OSAPAC website but you can be sure that I blogged about it here.  It was helpful to have licensed images because so many products include US currency as the only option.

Like most things, time and technology moves on and things can often be simpler.  Now that so many things are done inside a browser, it’s quite easy to right click and copy an image and then head to the document in process and paste it.  But, do you have the legal right to do so?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Big search engines allow you to easily search for images.  But, it’s important to know that the results only point to the images as they are hosted elsewhere.  It’s really up to the person doing the copying and pasting to make sure that they have the legal right to use them in their personal documents.  Teachers need to seize this as a teachable moment to talk about public domain, copyrighted, and then the whole area of Creative Commons.  Creative Commons isn’t a thing but a number of different ways that people protect their creations.  You need to understand it before using it and, in particular, the tough way of attributing the original image.  Much has been written, including on this blog, about this.

A way to get started is with Photos for Class.  The service will search Flickr (a repository for images) for images that you want, respecting the license.  So, if I’m interested in “puppies”, I can do a simple search and there’s an incredible collection of puppies that come back.  Now, I have two problems.  1)  Which one to use?  2)  How do I attribute it properly.  Neither the website nor I can help you with the first problem.  But, Photos for Class really helps out with the 2nd problem.  When you download the image, it attaches the proper attribution to the image.  Check out these adorable pups.


OK, enough puppy gazing.  Look at how the image is properly attributed.

You can’t beat doing the right thing.  Of course, there may a time when you want an image that’s not found at Photos for Class.

That’s when you really dig into proper licensing and attributions.