This one is for the news junkies

One of the things about living in or near a smaller city is that you don’t have too many options when it comes to local news.  In Windsor, for example, there’s only one daily newspaper, the Windsor Star.  That is the only game in town.  It’s not the only current events source though, there’s Windsorite, CTV News, CBC News, BlackburnNews. and then the local radio stations like CKLW.  There are also community located sources/blogs.  The content that’s provided is mainly local with the news sources picking up major news stories from their sister publications.  The value of a newspaper is that it will always contain many more stories and much more information than other news sources.

There’s really only one editorial voice and you have to rely on comments on the community for others.  You know how that can be!

So, people like me who thrive on reading will turn to the big three Toronto newspapers as other sources.

For the most part, that satisfies but there are times when you want more.  In that case, I have my favourites to check out – I’m a big Formula 1 fan and nobody covers it like the big British web sources.  Of course, you have to wade your way through the soccer stories to get there!

I’ve mentioned before that I’ll use Google Maps to get a look at the racetracks.  That’s neat.  I’ll also do an internet search for local-to-the-race newspapers.  It can be time consuming but it kills a bit of time while waiting for the race to start.  I find it fascinating to see how the event is perceived by their local news.

With PressReader, the process got a little easier.  It’s a service with a free and a commercial side to it that rivals the Newseum.  

So, yesterday was the Russian Grand Prix.  I hopped over to the Newseum and they didn’t have any Russian newspapers but the PressReader certainly did.  In fact, there’s a great collection from around the world.

Down I scroll to Russia and there were 169 results.

Scrolling across showed lots of front pages with most of them written in Russian.  I’d have to brush up on my language.  Fortunately for me, there were a couple of English language papers.  With 169 choices, it would be nice to filter further and, in fact I could, by type.

The three sports services would be great if you’re a soccer fan and spoke Russian!  So, it was back to my traditional sources to get the thoughts post race.

I know that, for some, Formula 1 racing is a niche sport so I wasn’t terribly surprised.

However, I could see many uses for this resource in the class from reading the front pages of foreign newspaper to reinforce the importance of a second language to seeing how various sources select and put content on their front page.

Give it a click and start exploring.

Look up …

… waaaaay up.

I’m sorry if you don’t understand The Friendly Giant reference.  If you do, great!

OK, on to something more serious.

As we know, and students should know, there are all kinds of objects that are circulating the earth.  The International Space Station is probably the most famous and certainly has the most media attention.  It had huge interest for Canadians when Chris Hadfield was on board.

But there are considerably more objects that this one.

In fact,

So, where is the ISS right now?  I’m curious.  It’s early Sunday morning as I write this post.

Or, in 3D.

And that’s just the beginning of things at

From a pick list, choose your object and see exactly where it is at the moment.  Warning – this is really addictive.  And, sure the maps are wonderful but I found the descriptor of the objects intriguing as well.  

The International Space Station (ISS) is a joint project of five space agencies: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (United States), the Russian Federal Space Agency (Russian Federation), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Japan), the Canadian Space Agency (Canada) and the European Space Agency (Europe). It is serviced primarily by the Soyuz, Progress spacecraft units and possible private missions in near future. Last Space Shuttle mission that serviced the Space Station ended in July 2011 (Atlantis, STS-135). The ISS is expected to remain in operation until at least 2020, and potentially to 2028.

A direct link to the International Space Station is here

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s another Friday and a chance for me to share with you some of the spectacular reading I enjoyed recently from great Ontario Edubloggers.  I had some self-inflicted damage to my regular process.  Normally, as I read things, I just keep the blog open in a tab and minimize them with One Tab until Thursday morning when I actually write the post.  However, this was a week of maintenance and browser shuffling and I lost the posts that I had tucked away.  I think I remember everything that was saved but maybe not.  I had a better plan when I stuck the URLs into Keep or Evernote.  Perhaps that’s my biggest learning of all.  Shortcuts can come back to bite you.  If you wrote a great post and I neglected it, please send me a message “Hey dummy, you missed this…”

Taking Chances

I’m not sure that much more needs to be said than how Denise Buttenaar closes this blog after a pretty active reflection session on her personal practice and what it meant to her.  I don’t think that anyone should expect that a blog post is going to be the “next great novel”.  However, a year from now if she continues to share her thoughts to herself, it may be the “next great professional diary” and I don’t think an educator can ask for more than that.  Blogging shouldn’t be an all encompassing event.  It’s the accumulation of thoughts that leads to the impressive.

Oh boy, here it is!

Donna Fry gave me the heads up on the birth of this new blog and here’s the first post from Kelly Colter.

I think that the first “way” is something that we all need to ‘fess up about.  If we weren’t influenced by others, it would be a pretty lonely connected life.  It’s the connections and the shared learning that makes it so powerful.  Of real importance to me is the selection of the connections – regular readers know of my passion for those who blog about Ontario Education.  That’s not the only influence – another that easily comes to mind is the cadre of Computer Science teachers that serve as inspiration.  By joining, hopefully Kelly can keep it up and, with her words, influence whatever group she wishes.  She’s now in my little group of Ontario Edubloggers.

Moments of Empathy

If someone asked me who I would like to write like, I could name quite a few and certainly near the top would be Rusul Alrubail.  She doesn’t necessarily whip out the thesaurus or come across as pretentious, but it’s just the way that she strings her words together that touches the reader at a different level.  I can’t think of a post from her that doesn’t give me pause for serious reflection and I can’t think of a better compliment to pay to a blogger.

So, I thought – who would have been my favourite teacher?  A number of really good ones came to mind and I could create a short list.  When I thought just a little harder, the “favourite” had some un-favourite moments so I moved on to the next on my list.  I’d find issues here and there too.  Instead, I changed my thinking.  What if I took a bit of him and a bit of her and a bit of her and made my favourite a teacher an amalgam of the best parts.  Wow, that was a great teacher and, the common thread was the empathy that each showed.

For any teacher whose goal is to reach every child, (whether or not you want to be their favourite is a personal, competitive activity) take a read of Rusul’s post.  We all have our bad days and those stick out because of the lack of empathy.  Could that be a gutcheck for success?  Recognize it and deal with it before it unduly negatively affects students.

Thanks for your leadership and support!

When you think of people that are centrally assigned as resource teachers – what do you immediately think of?  Hot and cold running coffee and an endless supply of doughnuts?  After reading Jennifer Casa-Todd’s post, you may wish to change your opinion.

In the post, she nicely ties things together and may give you an insight to what they actually do.

The one thing that she isn’t explicit about and I’m sure that it’s true in her job and others, and certainly was key to mine was getting out of the central location and visiting schools.  When I took over that role, I never wanted to be accused of being “out of touch” with the classroom because it’s so easily done when you’re not in one on a daily basis.

My favourite quote from my former superintendent was “Where is he today?” as he came into the Program Department area looking for me.  I wish I’d heard it first hand because it could be interpreted so many different ways.

If you don’t see your centrally assigned person often enough, why not sign up for professional activities or just extend an invitation to her/him to come and visit your classroom?  You might be pleasantly surprised at how eagerly they’ll jump at the opportunity.

#TBT: Is Our Focus On Assessment Taking Away From Our Children’s Education

If nothing else, Stephen Hurley’s latest post is worth visiting just for the image.  What the heck, here it is, complete with his credit to the author.

It’s a throw back post that is just as relevant today as when he originally posted it.

This is an interesting look at assessment and evaluation.  I can’t remember a year where it wasn’t “the board’s focus” and it certainly is important.  It informs what is done for student achievement.  It’s just that it changes so frequently.  I remember a person new to my department whose theory was that by changing focus annually, it kept the pedagogues in business as the pendulum swings back and forth.

If you need some moments of reflection today, make sure that you get to the bottom of the post and reflect on Stephen’s questions.

The End of Average

A book, a TED talk, and an infographic fill this post from Erica Armstrong.

This is the perfect followup to Stephen’s post.  Play the TED talk as you go about things this morning.  You’ll be glad you did.

Do you agree with the affirmation that “the average hurts everyone”?

What are you going to do about it?

What’s the hardest thing a teacher does?

If you read Kristin Phillips blog, you’ll read this more than once.

“Try something new; no one will die”.

I recall a mathematics teacher of some infamy whose choice of worksheet for the day would rival the accuracy of any calendar!

Kristin gives us five bullet points (paragraphs) as to what she feels has worked with her schools.

Would they work in yours?

I say this every week and I never tire of it.

What an amazing collection of blogs.  Please click through and read them in their entirety and drop them a comment.  They deserve it.

Then, check out the rest of the Ontario collection here.  If you’re blogging and not listed, just complete the form and you will soon be.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to the end of the week/start of the weekend.  I hope that it’s been a good one for you.  In case you missed them, here’s a nice selection of offerings from the keyboards of Ontario Edubloggers.  Enjoy them.  I know that I did.

#MyWorkflow: Brian Harrison

The Wordflow series from Royan Lee continues with the latest interview with principal Brian Harrison.

I find it fascinating to see inside the minds and work habits of people I regularly follow on Twitter.   Brian is no different.  I had to smile at his answer to this question.

I’ve been in his backyard and can really understand why he likes working there!  Click through and read his answers to Royan’s questions.

This Year’s Model

So, let’s check out Brian’s latest post.

No self-respecting principal in the province should be going without thinking about the announcement from the Ministry of Education about the $60M to support mathematics education and how it might impact their school.  There’s been so much written about it recently illustrating that the public and education are all over the map philosophically.  I know that there’s an element that would like to spend the money to support old school teaching.  That would buy a great deal of thumbscrews.  Brian offers a more considered approach and, as you see below, offers up some examples of people doing the job right now.

Any takers?  I wonder…

How Will I Use My Wild and Precious Life?

I think everyone would be wise to stop what you’re doing and read this post from Sue Dunlop and then just reflect on yourself and your own life.

You may come out of the session with a slightly different focus on things about what truly is important.  In life, and in education in particular, there are so many distractions – including infringement on your time and efforts – that it might just be time to sit back and refocus.

Thinking About the Term Reflective Practitioner

Eva Thompson does a great job with that sort of thinking, not in her personal life, but in her professional life.

I like her thinking and I think that there’s a great deal of philosophy that is consistent with mine when it comes to going online with blogging.

Throughout my career, I was always posting my current thoughts.  The format has changed from the annotations at the bottom of lesson plans, to sharing with CIESCs in a FirstClass conference, to online forums, to Twitter, to this blog…

I didn’t use to be this way.  I used to keep things bottled up, confident in the knowledge that I could recall it at a moment’s notice.  It was all about me.  I think we all know how that approach works.  For me, once I realized that didn’t work, writing things has always been a release.  I can put my thoughts to words – in whatever format – and then stop worrying about remembering it.  Now, I know that I can always go back and find it.

I’ve been doing this for most of my career, but revisiting what it’s like to be a student, maybe I had that extra patience for the push back? Maybe I had more encouraging words for that reluctant student? When I’m too distracted making sure I get all MY “t’s crossed and i’s dotted” I may overlook the fact that I’m also a teacher, not just a technology consuming droid.

I think she’s got her priorities in order.

Now’s the time to be a heroin addict

On the heels of Eva’s thoughts, turn to Debbie Donsky’s latest.  What a great reminder through her story to get all of our priorities in order.

Celebrate what you have built. Celebrate your legacy of love and success and courage and resilience. Celebrate all that you are and all the people who you have affected.

3. A Kids’ Guide to Canada – DETAILS

I love it when people think out loud.  @beachcat11 (she keeps her real name out of media so I will respect that) lays out her thinking for an ideal project for students.  This is part 3 of a 3 part series – you can read a “part 4” too!  It also wouldn’t hurt if you go back and read parts 1 and 2.

To honour student voice, an initial pilot project in the fall of 2016 will see elementary students from every elementary grade and every part of Canada participating in each step of the project design and field-testing process.

Then, beginning in January 2017, school-aged children from JK-Gr 8 will create digital artifacts to celebrate and introduce their home communities to their peers right across the country, and then post these on a national interactive map.

The link above points to the third part which lays out a timeline, activities and contact information.

MDM4U Creating dice game simulations

Who says that Mathematics can’t be fun?  This link is to Brandon Grasley’s MDM class but I caught it and spent some time doing the activity myself.  It was a hoot.  I’ve never taught this class but did similar problems with my Computer Science classes.

It was fun just to muck about with a Google Spreadsheet and also in Small Basic.

But, kids today have it so easy.  Whatever happened to int(rnd(1)*6)+1?

Are Your Students Problem Solvers and Innovators?

This just in…

I’m assembling this post on Thursday morning and Aviva Dunsiger sends a link to her latest blog post.

In-house professional learning happened for her at her school.

As with many of Aviva’s posts, there are questions as well as answers.

She concludes with a great thought that I think all educational leaders need to be concerned with the next time the latest and greatest initiative comes along.

If developing these skills matter, then we likely need to “let something go.” What might you let go? What might you add? What benefits do you see this having for kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

So often, this is overlooked and more, “better” ideas are thrust upon teachers.  In football, it’s called “piling on” and there is a substantial penalty for doing it.

There are lots of calls to action in this post.  Do some thinking, some Mathematics, and be proud to be a Canadian.

Oh, and reply to all of these posts.  They are reply-worthy.

And, when you reply to Aviva, ask her a question!

Interactive Word Walls

Kudos to Joe Sisco for sharing this resource from the Tools2Go Windsor Essex Catholic DSB wiki.

If you know how to use Google Drawings (Extension) or web. you’ll dive in immediately after poking around in this shared Google Drive folder.  If you don’t, it’s only a very short learning curve before you’re up to speed.

As soon as you start to poke around, you realize that there’s a little something there for everyone.  It’s not labelled “READ ME FIRST”, but it probably should have been.  Open “How to Use Folder” and take a look through to see how to use things and some helpful suggestions.  The most important first steps is to make a copy of the resource in your own Google Drive.  The originals are Read Only and you’ll want to make changes for sure.

Or, perhaps even create your own.

Here’s a screen capture of a document in the Mathematics folder titled Number Systems.  What you don’t see in this capture are some suggestions and ideas for how to use and modify the various documents.

And, most certainly, the interesting part of any readme document is the inclusion of the word “Posterize”.

The whole resource is a nice starter package for just about any classroom.  Of course, once you get the knack of things…

A good resource like this gets great when the community gets involved and starts to share.  You can see the focus on Mathematics and Science now but the project is just begging for other subject areas and French versions.  How about in the school Resource Centre?  Faculty of Education?

The open-endedness of something like this is quite obvious.  It doesn’t all have to be teacher generated in your class.  I can think of all kinds of formative and summative ways to get students involved.

Take a look around and see if there isn’t a fit for your classroom.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to another Friday.  Just a few short hours and it’s the weekend!  Check out some great reading to inspire from the keyboards of Ontario Edubloggers.

Is There a Best Way to Learn Mathematics?

I suppose that the best answer might be “we don’t know for sure”.  Otherwise, we would have mastered this years ago and wouldn’t be dealing with the issue yet again.  In this post, Kyle Pearce takes us through his thoughts about the topic.  It’s well thought through and reasoned.

The challenge is that most teachers need to teach Mathematics and yet many of them haven’t had to truly study it since they were in school themselves.  So, often, they use the techniques that worked for them.  Then, into the middle comes an expert, or a consultant who listened to an expert and in a workshop, they’re expected to change practice to something new.  The province is going to put more money towards the concept.  Hopefully, it’s with a unified direction and there’s enough time and support that everyone can get on board with and be effective.  The metric is the test; that’s consistent for all.  Teaching practice isn’t. If you’re caught in this, Kyle’s got some interesting thoughts from his perspective.

Using Poetry to Facilitate Discussions

I attribute my hatred for learning poetry to “The Lady of Shalott“.  For some educational reason, we had to memorize the poem (including the punctuation) and write three verses from memory every day, over a period of time.  I have no memory of its importance, and until I looked up the link above, I honestly couldn’t even tell you what it was about.  When Rusul Alrubail makes the connection to castor oil, I’m right there with her.  After this experience, I honestly don’t think I ever studied another poem.

When I read the rest of Rusul’s post, I’m so impressed with what more you can do with poetry.  I enjoyed reading about her three learnings and feel that I really missed something.  Most certainly, we never used poetry as a launchpad to important discussions.

I will confess to enjoying Andy Forgrave’s occasional Haiku although sometimes they go flying over my head.

School vs. Learning

To extend my thoughts above, it’s a natural that Colleen Rose’s post comes next.

Put me in a Mathematics or Computer Science class and I’m there.  Make me study poetry, and it’s not so much.  While Colleen talks about students not thriving, I think it’s also important to consider the student that is partially thriving.  Let’s make sure that we’re not overlooking them as well?

Thoughts prompted by Andreas Schleicher’s (OECD) Keynote

Heidi Siwak had the wonderful opportunity to attend the OECD conference and shared a thought or two about the keynote.

I had a couple of experiences with non-standard timetables and they were inspiring.  They also show how we’re limited by our structure.

One was just an “Education Day” when I was in high school.  Formal classes were cancelled and each teacher was in her/his classroom and had posted a list of their personal passions/interests/hobbies.  We were left to wander the school and drop in to the classrooms for a talk and to learn about their interests.  It had to be a real risk for the school administration to do this.  What if you threw a party and nobody came?  Well, everyone came!  It was like the original edCamp – we just followed our interests and had a terrific day.  Next day, it was back to normal.

The other timetable was followed during my first years of teaching.  We had a “tumbling timetable”.  On Day 1, Period 1 was first and the classes went 1-2-3-4-5-6.  On Day 2, Period 2 was first and we went 2-3-4-5-6-7  and it continued for the 8 days.  There were so many advantages.  No class was ever first thing in the morning every day and no class was ever last thing in the day and ended up being dropped or shortened because of assemblies or sports.  Every class tumbled off the timetable for two days before coming back on.  The concept was eventually lost when cooperative education came along and students needed to be on the job at the same time every day.  Then, came semestering.

In both cases, the model worked very nicely but had to suffer because of the structures that a system forces on them.  Is it time to rethink just what’s important – learning/success or a system that’s easily managed?

Practicum Reflection: Week 8

Who can ever forget their practice teaching sessions?  You step into the middle of someone else’s routine and take over.  You may go off with a completely different style or you might just be a continuation of the regular way that teaching/learning is done.  Some classes are well prepared to welcome the guest to the classroom; others want to push you just as far as they can!  I have the memories of both.

I’ve been following the reflections of Spencer Burton as he “learns about learning”.  It brings back some awesome memories for me.  The latest post will make you feel warm and fuzzy, I’m sure.

I won’t spoil the surprise…click through for pictures.  If you have some time, read his previous posts.  I’ll bet it stirs up personal memories.

Blog-gone it – that’s a Great Idea: Tagging Posts for the Reader

On the AMDSB Technology Learning Community blog, Leigh Cassell shares some advice for classrooms with multiple student posters.

I agree with her about the use of the Reader tool.  It can be a real time saver.  Her advice about using tags for filtering to easily manage things could be the time saver you’re looking for.

Keep rowing

Paul Cornies never fails to provide inspirational quotes (three at a time) and a question to personalize the quote.

What a fabulous reminder about the climb and its importance.

Don’t you wonder about the other quotes he’s provided?

If Everything is Social Media to teens…

There are a lot of important messages in this post from Jennifer Casa-Todd.  She provides a nice graphic as a reminder.

In the post, she takes us on a wander through various connected tools, including some that she notes as ones that we don’t normally throw into the fray as “social media”.  Her focus is on students; I can’t help but wonder if they don’t search out these alternative tools because the grups have invaded their traditional platforms.

I think there’s an important message in this post for everyone who would use connected tools and encourage students.  Nothing is quite as simple as you might think when there is the opportunity for abuse.  Her concluding sentence makes me wonder if we’ve been doing it all wrong.  Maybe we’re wrong when we focus on Digital Citizenship.  Maybe the focus should be on Digital Leadership instead.  Is it OK for students to just “get along” as a citizen and not do anything stupid or should they all be considering themselves “leaders” to demonstrate their skills and fitness to lead.  Is being successfully “Googled” and not finding anything bad enough?

Thanks, yet again, Ontario Edubloggers.  It’s another wonderful week of great reading and reflection.

Please take a few moments to click through and read these posts in their entirety.  Then head over to the big list for some more great reading.

Roger keeps on teaching

I’ve sung the praises of Roger Wagner on this blog many times before.  I attribute his philosophy and the design of Hyperstudio and how it empowers students as shaping a great part of my philosophy about technology in education.

As I mentioned in this blog post, Roger and I have met before and have caught up online.

It was indeed a long time ago but once I realized what Hyperstudio could do for students making and creating their own projects, I was hooked.  It was a far more satisfying educational experience than some of the other things that sold themselves to education and were akin to worksheets gone electronic.  Or something designed for business that we somehow convince ourselves is sound for education.

I’ve done so many workshops, at so many different levels, with Hyperstudio over the years – including the infamous “The Answer to Every Question is Hyperstudio” at a Western RCAC Conference with a colleague.

As if you couldn’t use Hyperstudio in today’s “making” environment, Roger has introduced us to Hyperduino which, of course, I had to try and blog about.

Roger is supporting this with a Facebook group Hyperstudio and Hyperduino Central.  Absolutely, I’m a member.

A recent post by Jon Ophoff really intrigued me so I shared it.  You can read about it and see a short YouTube video.

Anyway, all this background is a lead up to a conversation between Roger and myself where he got to what some might think is semantics and others might think is the essence of technology in education.  I think that his description says it all.

It was a private conversation so, out of respect, I won’t quote it here.  But the heart of it boiled down to him using the term “educating” versus “educational” when describing projects.  Sure, it’s just two words.  But when you think about it, the difference between the two of them speak volumes.

Think of the projects that your students create and then answer this question.

Are they “educational” or are they “educating”?

I think we’re quick to brand anything that could be used in the classroom as educational and I don’t think that there’s a need to apologize for that.  Yet, if you go a bit further and look at the projects themselves, there’s a different when a project becomes educating.  It’s also an important concept for those who would use consumer products like the iPad and dip into the Apple Store with its thousands and thousands of applications.  Lots of “educational” branded stuff is available for the download.  Is it worth while?

It’s something to think about when choosing your next activities and will help to deliver on the promise.

Thanks for pushing my thinking once again, Roger.