This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s been another difficult week in Ontario Education but that didn’t stop the flow of great blog posts. Here’s what caught my eye…


Stop Pretending

The meme continues as even more Ontario Educators check in with their thoughts about making school different by stopping pretending things.  Here’s a couple more wonderful posts for your pondering.
Let’s Stop Pretending…
What I find so interesting about all this is the different perspective that different eyes bring to the discussion.  Here, Jen Aston shares some thoughts from the eyes of a coach.  Her #3 talks about something that is so important and, yet, I think that so many are just a little intimidated to say out loud.

 That teachers don’t have the biggest impact on their students.  I’m still floored when I am working with a teacher who does not realize that they can have the biggest impact on student learning.  That’s why what teachers choose to do matters and that’s why it’s so important to be intentional about it.  Let’s stop pretending that student ability depends on whether or not the child studies, does their homework, have home supports or pays attention. The teacher has a bigger impact on the student than any of that.

Personalizing the Make School Different Meme
As she is so fond of doing, Diana Maliszewski takes a very personal perspective on the topic which adds a nice spin to things.  Her first point hit me so personally.  I’m always in search of the magic bullet that’s going to change me into the most organized person on the planet.  I think at one time I was fairly organized with my Franklin Planner but it just went downhill from there.  I still remember doing an OTF Presents presentation and the organizer was looking at my Google Drive organization and told me that I needed a lot of work.  So, I’m with you on this one, Diana.

1) I have to stop pretending that I am organized and tidy.

Actually, I think I was cured of this a number of years ago with a stern comment from my husband:

Just because you buy organizational supplies, that does not make you an organized person.

As always, you’ll have to follow the links back to the original blog posts to read the rest of the wisdom from these ladies.


Make Learning Transparent with Badges
This is a blog post that I wish I’d written.  I’m a big fan of badges for learning.  I’ve always been since my days as a Wolf Cub.  It conveys so much more than a number between 0 and 100 and is totally suitable when assigning a number just doesn’t make sense.

I think that school districts, in addition to their required Ministry reporting, should also be badging authorities.  Think of all that students could collect to demonstrate the entire school experience – robotics, eco-schools, student activity leadership, …  We all know that there’s so much more than just completing a test on a topic.  Anthony Chuter really nails it with this post.  Forward it to your superintendent.

The other advantage to a district being a badging provider answers a question that I read posed just recently.  If an external badging provider goes out of business or loses interest, does the value of the badge go with them?  Not so if you’re providing the badges as part of the complete program.


For Next Year

Grade 6 Next Year!
It’s education’s “silly season” right now.  The numbers are in, classes or sections assigned to the school, and now individual schools are playing their own game of “Who’s on First?”

Well, Amy Bowker is headed to Grade 6 and is already planning to make it a spectacular year.

Down Just a Little Bit More
And Aviva Dunsiger is making a grade change too.

What’s so interesting about all of this discussion, and I’m sure that many of you will be doing the same thing, is that the content area is an important thing.  But, it’s not the only important thing.

The content may be prescribed; the age of the students prescribed; the maximum class prescribed; but there’s the one big variable.  No class is the same two years in a row.  The person inside the body changes.  They all have different prior baggage they’re going to unpack in the class.  Different teachers, different schools, different home lives, different communities, and more make teaching the challenging and rewarding profession that it is.  If all that had to be considered was subject topic and student age, sure, a computer could teach the course.  Those who have been in the classroom know that those are just necessary details.  It’s getting inside student heads, understanding their needs, their frustrations, their excitements, that make the profession so important.  As we’re seeing at present, it’s also so hard to recognize in a collective agreement.


I’m going to finish with a double recognition to Diana Maliszewski’s blog.

Dear Caroline, Dear Sigmund

Diana was inspired to write a letter to her favourite authors.  What a great concept!  The Forest of Reading recognizes the best titles on a big, organizational level, but a personal note takes it to a different level

Thank you so much for writing a book that, not only pre-teens and teens devoured, but the educators that work with those pre-teens and teens can enjoy too.

Notes to the author undoubtedly mean a great deal and adds another level of satisfaction to their creations.


How I Teach #Sketchnoting

I find the whole area of #Sketchnoting fascinating.  I can’t do it but have huge admiration for those who can and share their results.  Is this the greatest graphic organizer or summary tool for the 21st Century students?

Read this blog post to see how things are happening in Royan Lee’s classroom.  I really like his summary of look-fors to let you know when things are going well.

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What another wonderful collection of posts from Ontario Educators.  Please click through the links to read their entire posts.  The complete collection of Ontario Educator Blog posts can be found here.  If you’re blogging and not listed, please add your details via the form and you soon will be.

Just a Mystery


But, it’s a time saver so I don’t mind.  It’s just my own personal note of inquiry.

Recently, Google has added a new service to Google+.  It’s called Collections.  The first descriptor I read about it was that it was “Pinterest-like”.  I took a look at it and it was easy enough to access.  It just is another service added to Google+.

Then comes the million dollar question.  What would I use it for?

Well, what would I use Pinterest for?  It turns out that I use Pinterest as just another place to collect my blog posts.  It started out as just a demonstration in my presentations about how to use Pinterest.  Instead of collecting recipes and clothing ideas, I wanted to show that you could easily collect anything.  Depending upon the browser that I’m using at the moment, I either use the Pinterest Pin Button or Shareaholic to post my stuff there.  It takes just a couple of seconds and I had another way to collect blog content (and another backup).

So, I decided that I might use Google Collections as a way to collect my own blog posts.  I’m not short of ego so I set up a collection for the task.

Now, I already share my post posts to my Google+ friends.  It just gets added to my Google+ stream of consciousness.  It actually works very nicely – I just paste the URL to the post in a new message and Google reaches out to the blog to get the details and include an image to spruce it up a bit.  I changed my morning workflow just a bit.  I paste the URL in my main stream and then open my collection and paste it there.  That’s it.  Nothing else done on my end.

But, a couple of days in, look what happened.

Unknown to me until I thought I’d look at my collection and see how things were going, Google+ somehow made the connection that I was posting URLs to my blog both on my main feed and in the collection.  I guess the folks in the “Let’s make things easier at Google” department decided to streamline things for me.  It appears that it recognized what I was doing and made the post for me automatically.  Me, being somewhat oblivious to things, continued to post the URL in both places.

I did a “Whaaaaa?” and decided to test the theory for a few days.

Sure enough.  When I post something in the main stream, Google+ was adding the entry to my collection automatically for me.  Now, I might understand it if I was using Blogger for a platform but I use WordPress.

I’m at a loss to explain this and would appreciate any insights that anyone, anywhere have for this.  Artificial intelligence?  Learning how I work?  Did I touch a setting?  (I swear that I didn’t purposely.)  I really can see the advantage of a Collection taking a big stream of things and breaking it into little digestible pieces.  (See my Diigo account for a dog’s breakfast of things)

Right now, it’s just a mystery and I hate it when I can’t explain things. 

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s another week and another look at the blogs from Ontario Edubloggers.  Where does the time go?  There’s always great things available for reading from colleagues across the province (and one in Switzerland this week).  I’m always curious to see how many times I’ve written this post as it appears in the URL to avoid duplication.  This is the 156th edition.


Five Things Video Game Makers Club Taught Me

Kids like to create and Liam O’Donnell is there to guide.  I know that some people get turned off when the concept of games appears in educational talk.  But, until you’ve worked with students trying to code their own game, you don’t realize that it’s one of the most difficult things for kids to do.  And yet, it’s an activity that they really want to attend to detail.  And, it’s an activity that’s never done.  “We could just add this….”

I like the five points in this post….

3.  A Video Game Might Be a Movie, too

4.  Being a Noob Teacher is Best

You’ll have to read the entire post to see what points #1, 2, and 5 are.  I think that Liam has really nailed it with this post.


Personally, I Blog…

Sheila Stewart and I had a little private discussion going back and forth based on the content of a blog post from Sue Waters.  I challenged her to write her own post and she did.  Nathan Hall ended up with a starring role in her post as Sheila quoted content from a recent post of his.

If there’s any doubt that we’re all weaving the web with each post, read it once for her content and then read it again to see the connections that she’s making.  We always talk about students making connections – is there any better way than blogging?


I Told Two Friends and so on….

Sue Bruyns was tagged by yours truly about “Make School Different” and responded with one of her own.  In this post, she took things to the next level as she tagged five others.  Into the middle, though, was a comment from a colleague who told her “that blogging was a self-indulgent exercise”.  That phrase has been nagging me for a bit but every time, I come back to Joel Barker’s Starfish Story.

I feel sorry for her colleague who feels that way and I hope she can find time to rethink and even use the Starfish Story as a launchpad to thinking about it differently.

Just think back to life before blogging and how things had no option except to be bottled up inside or shared with one or two colleagues.  Now, to get input and thoughts globally is such a game changer.


My #YoungerTeacherSelf post for @joannacre’s blog challenge

Vicky Loras is an amazing Ontario educational entrepreneur who runs her own school in Switzerland.  We interact so frequently on Twitter and Facebook that I feel like I know her personally.  I don’t, but if I ever get to Zug, I’m looking her up.

This week, she participated in a meme where she wrote a post giving advice to her younger self.

It’s a fascinating and personal read that concludes with “Whatever you do, don’t stop learning“.  The entire post is a wonderful piece written to her younger self who had aspirations to be lawyer.  I’ll bet her students are so glad that she didn’t make that career choice.

Read her entire post to find out what other gems of advice she gave herself.

This looks like a great meme to be part of.  If you’re looking for a premise to blog, don’t look any further.


OAME 2015, post 1 of 3: Dial it Back

As the title would imply, Vera Teschow shared a triplet of posts from the OAME 15 Conference from last week.  Check out also:
OAME 2015, Post 2 of 3: Bridge Building
OAME 2015, Post 3 of 3: Our Turn

The collection is a nice round up of the conference from the eyes of an attendee.  It starts with a look at the keynote (and selfies) of Day Meyer and concluded with thoughts of her own presentation.

If you couldn’t be at OAME, you’ll be able to enjoy it through her reflections.  I’ll admit to being hooked with her first post identifying “Myths of Mathematical Engagement”.


Another week, and another collection of amazing thoughts from Ontario Educators.  Please visit these posts and share a little blogging love.  You can view my entire list of Ontario Edubloggers here.

Around Every Corner…


….there’s a picture….

When you’re not from a particular town or city, you never really fully understand the history of the place.  So much is told in the buildings and architecture.  Downtown Windsor is such a place for me.  You can drive around and look at the spectacular buildings and homes and just imagine the stories that go along with them.  You recognize part of the history from the names of the places.  There are so many locations with “Walker” in their names or anything with “shire” in it.   Sometimes buildings actually have the name of a local historical person attached.

Such is the Paul Martin Sr. Building in the heart of the city.  It’s a building that I’ve driven by many times.  It’s such a beautiful building that would have been far more magnificent in its day.  These days, sidewalkers need to be protected from falling pieces from structure.  It’s so sad.

Last night, while watching the evening news, they reported that the Federal Government is committing $6M towards restoring the outside of the building.

Now, short of hopping into the car and driving in to take a look to see the “before” picture, I did what any digital citizen would do…I loaded Google Maps, zoomed into downtown Windsor and did a streetview look at the building.  It’s a discovery activity that I really enjoy doing.  I’ve mentioned before that I’ll do the same thing to get my bearings before a Formula 1 race.  It’s probably more useful there since I can’t just get in the car and drive to Catalunya.

Now, Google Maps shows the images as it does its drive-by pictures.  There’s so much more in this day of taking pictures and tagging them by location. 

Another way to explore a location is through Google Views.  Just the random landing page when you launch views is worth the trip to the site.  Clicking on any of the location dots takes you in to a picture and story that go with it.  In my mind, it was like my Streetview routine but powered by images provided by the user rather than the Google images.

At this point, I’ll admit to losing focus — big time.

I launched Google Views and headed to downtown Windsor to look for dots.

What I found consumed the rest of my waking hours!  As you might expect, there is a rich collection of pictures taken along the Sculpture Gardens and Riverside Drive, many featuring the Detroit skyline.  It was like feeding time at the zoo for me.  I want another one and then another one and then another one….  There were also images of what Google calls Photo Spheres.  I’d call them panoramas but hey…

I did eventually remember what I was looking for but, sadly, there was no complete image of the Paul Martin St. building.  But, there sure was a lot else!

For the geo-picture lover, this is awesome.  In the classroom where you’re trying to put a location in context, the combination of Google Streetview and Google Views just can’t be beat.

Oh, and here’s the view from the Spanish Grand Prix!

 

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s been a busy week in education in Ontario with job actions in Durham, Sudbury, Peel and the threat of all elementary schools for next week.  Is this a sign that it’s time for movement to resolve things?  Things have been relatively peaceful in the province.  “Teacher strikes: Ontario strikes and lockouts since 1987“.

In the meantime, there continues to be some great thinking shared by Ontario Educators.

As I get ready to post, there’s another notification of a new Sketchnote from Sylvia Duckworth.  It’s a lazy time so I thought I’d try something.  My apologies to map makers and sketchnoters everywhere.

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Make School Different!
Make School Different: Think Like a Librarian

I had tagged Deborah McCallum to participate in the #MakeSchoolDifferent meme last week.  Like the other four I tagged, I like her thinking and insights and wasn’t disappointed.  Not only did she respond with one post, but she created two.  Links to them both appear above.  Ironically, I didn’t find her post through her blog, but through this source.  I’m going to have to check my logics here; I should have found it first on her blog.

I thought that her “Think Like a Librarian” post had an interesting spin on things with lots of insight. Can the definition of “classroom” be changed if you view it from the perspective of “library”?  Can the definition of “teacher” be changed if you viewed it in the context of “librarian”?

Check out both of her posts.

She also extended the concept by creating this Flipboard document.  At the time of this writing, there were 101 articles on the topic flipped away for a single point of reference.  It’s a great resource for sharing with staff, principals, superintendents, …


It IS About Technology

So, those folks who blog indicating that it’s about pedagogy and not technology are all wrong and never watched the Jetsons growing up.

Jared Bennett’s post, I suspect, could be modified and would fit nicely into any time/space in education.  It recognizes the disconnect between the classroom and the “real world”.

I would suggest that education will always fail.  Education, particularly K-12, isn’t nimble or responsive enough to stay on top of the latest and the greatest.  It gives new appreciation for community colleges and some universities, who through their partnerships with industry, do a better job at it.  But then, they aren’t driven by a one size fits all curriculum sent from Toronto and they succeed or fail by students voting with their feet and their registration fees.  Public education would never embrace it to that extent but certainly private schools can and do regularly.

Having said that, technology, as we know it, wasn’t invented yesterday.  With all the money spent on acquisition and installation, it’s so sad that this conversation even needs to take place.  You’ve got to ask; has professional learning and curriculum flexibility kept up?  Should educational conferences be driven by technology companies that don’t have a staff that makes the connection to the classroom and focuses instead on just showing the latest and shiniest?


GetLoud #NoticeListenConnect for Mental Health

Royan Lee shares some very personal information and a wonderful video about Mental Health in this post.

I think we all should stop doing whatever we’re doing to read and watch this important message.

Then, ask yourself “What are we missing?”


Access to Learning

Those who think they know everything need to read and reflect on this post from Jen Aston.

Is “tool fixedness” present in our classrooms? Are there tools, strategies out there that we are too fixated on?  So much so that we might not see a solution right in front of us?

In the post, she describes some out of the unusual learning activities that were only successful when the mind opens.  It’s a nice pairing when you read Jared’s post.  How many times do we see a professional learning plan that’s just “one and done”?  Why isn’t learning ongoing and reaching into areas previously undiscovered.  You see it with current board implementations of Office 365 or Google Apps for Education.  They’re so focused on getting everyone to do things one way – their way – that they miss so much more than could be done if they just stopped fixating on “the tool”.  There’s so much more potentially that can be done once you get past that fixation.

So, look around.  After your “summit”, whatever it was, is there an ongoing discussion?  Are people excited and expanding their use of whatever they have access to?  If not, has anything really changed?


I suppose that this is a continuation comment to Jen’s but I think it applies nicely to all of the posts here.  The authors obviously value the time and efforts and thinking that’s happening with them and share it so nicely.  Check them all out and the complete list of Ontario Edubloggers here.

I’ll conclude with this quote from Paul Cornies this week.  Why don’t you be friends and follow those blogs?  They’ll walk with you into some great learning and thinking.

Maps, Oh My!


I was originally going to call this “Nostalgia Finds Maps” and that would have been good too.  The bottom line, this was a personal exercise in inquiry that took me to a place I didn’t know existed – and I’m so glad it did.  Like most people, I suspect, Google Maps is the place to be to map things out.  Seconds and thirds might take me to Bing Maps or Mapquest but now….

I logged onto Facebook this morning and a friend had shared this beautiful picture of the square in Goderich, Ontario, close to my childhood home.  The picture is from “Your Life in Stills Photography“, a Goderich photography service.  To respect their work, this is just a clip of the original picture that begs the question “Why do they call it a square?”  Follow this link for the original image.  This, and many of the images from Your Life are incredible.  The Square was a favourite destination in my youth, only it was filled with trees.

As I was poking around, I saw that the image was also shared on the Ontario’s West Coast Facebook page.  Now, when you grow up away from Lake Huron, you think of the West Coast as Kincardine, Goderich, Bayfield, Grand Bend, …  All were popular day trip destinations in Huron and surrounding counties, but there’s more.  “Favourite Five Stops on Day Trip Through Huron County“.

I continue to post around and notice that Walton is listed as part of the West Coast.  I was surprised since it was further inland.  My memories of Walton is of a little village part of the amazing softball community. The Wikipedia lists it as a population of 96 so, even with rounding errors, it’s still on the small size.  So, I’m reading the article, remembering great times and I notice the map section, with the latitude and longitude.  (43.67784°N 81.30168°WIt’s actually a link so I give it a click.

Holy gold mine.

I end up on a site called GeoHack, really new to me and part of the Wikimedia Tool Labs

And look at what we find.

Obviously, it would be presumptuous to label this as every mapping service ever but I suspect you’ll have blisters on your mouse clicking finger before you’re done exploring them all.

And, Canadian resources…

And this is the beginning.  Discover everywhere in The Wikipedia that has made reference to this location as well so many other resources like Geocaching, Planet Spotter, …

Wow.

About Rollouts


Crossing my reading this morning was the article “Why do teachers struggle with technological change?”.  I’ll admit, once I started reading it, the content was different from what I had expected.  The article ended up describing a 5 year plan for technology integration.  Broken down by year, the rollout looks like this:

  • Year 1 – Plan and Test
  • Year 2 – Staff Training
  • Year 3 – Partial Rollout
  • Year 4 – Full Rollout
  • Year 5 – Embedded

Read the original article to find each of the years fully fleshed out.

I don’t think that I would argue with the steps at all.  I don’t know the details of the school district involved so it would not be fair to judge the district.  I do have some thoughts about the timeline, in the Ontario context.

Assumptions

It seems to me that the underlying assumption is that the implementation of technology is something new.  Now, the technology itself may, in fact, be new but teachers in Ontario have had access to technology  for years, dating back to the Unisys Icon years and individual initiatives before that.  Additions to the classroom, in the form of technology, shouldn’t be something new.  In most cases, it would be embraced and welcomed.  Hopefully, it would result in the retirement of older and less reliable equipment.

Training

I hate that word when it comes to teachers.  I’ve said it many times and I’m willing to be quoted “You train dogs; you don’t train teachers”.  You’re welcome to embrace any picture of this that you wish!  In the year 2015, implementation of anything should be viewed as a professional learning experience, giving honour to skills acquired in the past, and further developed as a result of the process.  At the same time, these learning experiences should include direct references to content from the Ontario Curriculum and include modelling and a discussion of the best pedagogies for student learning.  I think everyone would forego knowing that CTRL+ALT+F2+DEL+SPACEBBAR generates some funky emoticon in favour of knowing a curriculum idea that just might motivate the otherwise unreachable child.

Time Line

Where were you five years ago?  Look around your classroom; has much remained unchanged in five years?  I don’t think that technology should be treated any different.  Students and teachers are amazing creatures.  Given a great opportunity, they’ll generally take it.  Should a technology rollout project take five years?  Respecting prior knowledge of everyone, I’d prefer to see a rolling timeline.  The wonderful high end technology that you’re working with now will be pretty beat up five years from now when it’s expected to be embedded.  In addition, there’s nothing worse than an entire system of technology getting old and in need of replacement all at the same time!  Give the IT Department at least a chance of staying on top of things.  It is also worth knowing that rolling out a huge initiative does take time and resources.  The reality is that the best time for massive rollovers is in the summer when classes are not in session.

There are times when huge, massive purchases at one time may be necessary.  For the most part, a strategic, timed rollout gives everyone including the finance office, the opportunity to implement well.  Let’s not lose sight of the fact that so much of the teaching involves non-technical things as well!  We’re not going to drop everything just to make a rollout successful.

Embedding

Speaking of embedding, I don’t see it as a separate entity.  If anything in education is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.  Rather than a separate year to do it, it should be job one as the technology hits the classrooms.  On the fly, lessons and classroom activities should be adjusted to embrace the new technology.  Again, in Ontario, I think this should be just business as usual.  Technology is not a new concept.  What will be new is classroom management and richer activities that more and newer technology enables.  At the end of five years, new technologies and pedagogies should just be “the way we do things around here.”