This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy Friday, everyone.  It’s been a short week here in Ontario but that didn’t stop some great thinking appearing in the blogs of Ontario Educators.  Here’s some of what I caught this week.

Summiting Kilimanjaro

The Barranco Wall – Don’t Look Down

Why we climb

Asante sana to our guides and porters on Mt.Kilimanjaro

Back from Kilimanjaro

Last week, Paul McGuire’s blog was very quiet.  There were no reports about his assent to Mt Kilimanjaro.  But, he certainly made up for it this week.  Above, you’ll see that he has unloaded on us with stories of his final climb.

Not only that, but there is a beautiful collection of pictures that he’s taken and a video.  I liked the map that showed the path that they took to the top and I’m getting at least a look at the trail on Google Maps.

It’s so impressive.  I would encourage you to read these posts and, if you haven’t already, look at his previous posts to get at least a blog reader perspective of what he and the 28 of them experienced.

We did really well – 28 climbers summited at Stella Point. The general overall success rate is around 65%, so we did much better than the average. I think our success has a great deal to do with the incredible training and leadership of our Canadian guide team – Shawn Dawson, Kristi Johnston and Jason Colley and the amazing support of our families and friends back home.

The climb is over, we are safely home, we have achieved something special.

When Should We Put The Devices Away?

Readers of Aviva Dunsiger’s blog will recognize that self-regulation is a topic in virtually every post these days.

In this post, she collects some of the wisdom of her network to help frame her thoughts about the use of technology and the amount of “screen time” in her classroom.  For the record, I hate that expression.  But I do understand her point.  She identifies what I would call really bad practice in the use of technology.

I’m sure that you can come up with additional ideas.  Things like:

  • discover this new program and tell me how to use it
  • we have 10 minutes left in this period, you may play on the computers
  • go on the Internet and see if you can find something

Silly?  Yes, particularly when you take it out of any classroom context.  But, you don’t find a music teacher who runs 10 minutes short and says “Discovery Learning – learn how to play a new instrument” or a Transportation Technology who says “We’ve changed the oil in the principal’s car and there is 10 minutes left over.  You can take it for a spin”.

We wouldn’t do those dumb examples above so why would we do it with computers?  In many cases, I suspect, the teachers are new to technology in the classroom and just don’t have the wealth of experience and resources.  Bringing in an expert for a one hour workshop on Scratch doesn’t make someone a coding expert.  Aviva makes a great observation and school districts should continue to be serious about providing ongoing professional learning opportunities so that activities are meaningful and not just some mindless recreation time.

For those moments when technology shouldn’t be used, why not do what my wife does?  Get yourself a smartphone jail.

Screenshot 2017-04-19 at 13.54.16

Put Your City on the Map!

From Peter Cameron comes a wonderful example of what a complex classroom task could be.  It follows nicely with the stage that Aviva has set.

We have used descriptive writing, our research skills, visualizing, visual arts and a combination of tech tools to put our city on the map. Each student picked one of their favourite places unique to our city; Thunder Bay. Their task was to write a descriptive paragraph about their place, capture it using a variety of media forms and then literally put their place on an interactive map of Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay is such a wonderful place to visit.  I haven’t thought about Kakabeka Falls for a long time.  If you visit, the area, you definitely have to drop by there.  Thank you to the student that put it on the map.

As I was working on this, I had an interaction with Peter about an upcoming M.A.D. PD event on May 7.  You may want to check it out.  Some of the usual Ontario suspects are there but there’s a delightful collection of new names and faces for me.


All caps mean shouting, right?  Read this post about intersectionality and you’ll probably imagine Rusul Alrubail shouting as she typed it.

In this case, she analyzes a conference devoted to gender equity in education.  Her thoughts:

If a conference that focuses on gender diversity in education hardly has women of colour in attendance or represented, that’s inexcusable. We also can’t afford to hear excuses and defence. We didn’t have time… the topic was not on the agenda…we didn’t know who to reach out to…

Excuses show nothing but sloppiness, inconsideration and a lack of recognition of one’s own privilege.

If you ever will have an opportunity to organize an event, any event in Ontario, she’s right.  Those excuses don’t have a place with any planning committee.  If you are truly reaching out to an entire province, then you need to make sure that you are inclusive.  If your answer is “we didn’t know who to reach out to…”, then you’re just not paying attention.  If “the topic was not on the agenda”, change the agenda to put it there. Getting the right people involved will guarantee success.

One of the reasons why I’m a fan and regular reader of Rusul’s blog is that she does have a strong voice and her blog serves not only to educate us on the issues but to model what an advocate looks like to others.

Don’t we have enough White men speaking on almost every issue? It’s time for them to give that platform to people who need to be heard.

Certainly, blogging is a platform where everyone can participate where they feel comfortable but there needs to be more.  Conferences can provide that powerful opportunity.

A Little Lost Dog

What would you do if you looked out your front door and saw a dog sitting on the porch wanting to get inside?  Such was part of the Easter Weekend for Diana Maliszewski.  Read on to hear how she handled it; including some work on social media although it’s not clear whether that had an impact or not.  The story does have a happy ending (she thinks).  It’s a reminder to all dog owners to keep their animal on leash and get them chipped in case the worst happens and they do get off the leash.

Then, Diana turns to her social media porch.

I also need to realize that my doorstep is a lot bigger than I envision. I’ve noticed lately that two books in my school library collection have been panned by others in the FNMI community (see recent tweets by Angie Manfredi, aka @misskubelik and Colinda Clyne aka @clclyne) . This has happened right at my Twitter doorstep. It’d be easier to ignore it or dismiss it as just one opinion. I shouldn’t and I can’t.

There’s a strong message here beyond the two books in question in her library, folks.

If your school doesn’t have a qualified teacher-librarian with his/her ear to the ground, how do you determine the relevance and appropriateness of any materials that have been acquired for your school?  Is it just a order form that comes from a publisher or distributor and someone runs up and down the list looking for titles that sound good?  If you don’t have that teacher-librarian who immerses her/himself in the role, what are you left with?  Can your school’s conscience live with that?

Hoarding vs Curation in the Digital World

In this post, Debbie Donsky takes on two interesting topics.  She could have split this into two separate posts and I think she would have done justice to both.  Let me talk about my take on them.

Hoarding vs Curation

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, then you probably notice a real flurry of posts that come from me between 5 and 6 am.  That’s my private, devoted web-reading time.  (Except on Fridays when it’s FollowFriday hour)  I have a big collection of topics that I’ve amassed over the years in my Flipboard account.

I just roughly counted and it’s something like 210 different categories.  I let Flipboard pick the latest stories and display them for me.  I’ll spend that special hour reading and sharing the stories if you care to join me.  But, there’s more.  I used to do a workshop on this.  Every link that I share to Twitter also gets tucked away into my Diigo account.

At one time, someone called me a digital hoarder.  And if that’s all that I did with it, they’re probably right.  But I do more.  My default browser search engine is my Diigo account.  So, when I’m doing research, I don’t start from scratch by going to Google and feel lucky.  I’ll search my curation first to see if there’s a resource that I’ve already evaluated and tucked away.  It saves so much time.

Personal Domain

The second topic deals with the purchase and ownership of a personal domain.  You may recall an incident that happened here a couple of years ago.  I’m not going to rehash that.  I have my own domain and there was a time when I purchased my own space and created my own web presence.  But that’s not all that it cracked up to be for me.  It’s actually a great deal of work and you have to get up to speed on a lot of things very quickly.  I like to share this story; my old employer purchased a system, installed it, and it was up and running.  By the time that I got home, hackers had found the new system and defaced it because of a missing patch.  It was a learning experience for all.  So, my domain is still registered but now resolves to a Google Site where I let people far smarter than me take care of updates and patches.  Google’s not the only game in town but having a reliable host is important if you’re not ready to do all the work yourself.

Positively Encouraging: Teachers Doing No Harm

So, Tim King programmed in Grade 10 on a “freaking computer punch card reader”.  I guess that’s the bad part; the good part is that he did well.  I’m not terribly sympathetic; my first programming was done on an IBM 026 card punch.  This was state of the art at the time.  The 029 was a major upgrade.

But, it’s not the technology used that makes this blog post such a sad one to read.  It was the subsequent treatment of this young student that makes it educational malpractice.  I think every teacher should read and reflect on Tim’s words.  If you see anything in yourself as Tim did with his teacher in Grade 11, you need to shake your head and think about just what it is that you are doing for a profession.

I hope that we can write this off to a dated educational system.  Especially in computer programming, different approaches to problem solving and implementing a solution should be celebrated and not put down.

What started all this?  Tim misread a message from the Ministry of Education.  That’s about the only smile you’ll get when you read this post.  Other than that, you should just get angry to think there might be teachers like Tim describes.

What another great collection of reading from Ontario Edubloggers!  Please take the time to click through and read the posts in their entirety.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s always fun to be able to share some of the great inspiration that I read from Ontario Edubloggers.  Here’s some of what I caught this past while.

OER Repository on the Commons: A “Brief” History

Last week, I got on a bit of a tear about the ExplainEverything application.  Aviva Dunsiger had shared a new-to-me resource that the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board had placed online.  I checked it out and decided that it was too good to not share and so blogged about it.  Enter Aviva again and she tagged a couple of folks behind it.  Consequently, I made a new friend, found a couple of new blogs and inspired Jared Bennett to write this blog post.

I think that this should be a role that teachers seconded from classrooms should be doing.  I certainly did it when I was a consultant although it’s all been taken down now.  As a consultant, you see more than your classroom, you see the great things that are happening in your district, you’re supporting initiatives, and much more.  Rather than just point people to Google and “get lucky”, why wouldn’t you filter and collect the best as it applied to the Ontario Curriculum and to your districts initiative.  That’s what you’ll find here and it’s great that it’s not hidden behind some educational paywall/portal.  It’s out in the open for all to see, use, and contribute.  This is how great ideas start; not by hiding everything that you’re doing.

Which of these systems is not like the other, Part 1

There’s a great comparison between a church loyality and a classroom loyalty in this post from Lisa Noble.  She describes the diversity that lies in her community of worshipers and we know of the diversity in the typical Ontario classroom.  That’s what’s in common; what’s not in common is the commitment by those at times.

The community I worship with is there because they want to be, and many of my students this year make it abundantly clear that they don’t want to be at school. That breaks my heart, and spurs me to continue my efforts to create a space as safe and engaging as the one that welcomes me on Sunday morning.

It’s not a completely fair comparison; those in her community of worshipers are there by choice; those in her classroom are there because they haven’t reached the age of 16 and so don’t necessarily have the same level of devotion.

However, those on the religious end, do have alternatives like walking away or going to another church and yet they stay with hers.

Lisa wonders, rightfully so, if there isn’t a strong message here for education.  What types of systemic change can be made to get the same devotion?  We know that it exists with some students; how can that be extended to all?

We’ll have to wait to see how she extends her thoughts in Part II.

Professional Development: What should it look like?

Mark Chubb opens a whole can of worms in this post.

I would suggest that it’s in a good way.  His observation that district professional development is often focused heavily on the pedagogical side of things.  Honestly, I think it’s probably the easiest way to go since a single speaker can stand up in front of a group of teachers and point to the research of blah, blah, blah, blah, and make everyone feel guilty that they’re not onside or that they hadn’t learned the current theory-de-jour.  Oh, and here’s the handouts and/or a link to the presenter’s slides.

Go forth and change the world.

What happens about the actual knowledge or skill that is being taught in the classroom?  Is it assumed that every teacher entering the profession knows their subject matter, any new course/unit/grade being taught, any new technology being adopted or that they can do so in the evenings on their own?  We know that will have varying levels of success.

It’s a really good argument for balance and almost a plea to reconsider how professional learning should be delivered within a district.

The post isn’t a short read but does give you much to mull about and some great topics for reflections.  I’ve got to believe that you’ll agree with many of his personal beliefs.

Support Your ECOO

Over the years, many good educators have devoted time and effort to making the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) what it is today.  One very active participant is Andrew Forgrave (read my interview with him here to see his passion).

A few years ago, Andrew was part of a group that revised the constitution of ECOO and it had already included the rights of members to attend board meetings as an observer.

Frustrated with the lack of updates on the ECOO website, Andrew decided that he would like to attend a meeting as an observer and see where the current board’s priorities lied.  This post tells of his background with the organization and the challenges that he had trying to get into the online meeting.

He closes with a reminder that session submissions for the 2017 close today.


OK, we can blame Mark Prensky for starting the conversation about Digital Immigrants versue Digital Natives.  I never bought into the concept but did like the fact that it was one of the things that inspired experienced educators to start seriously using technology in the classroom.  Mr. Prensky has since changed his tune and I think it’s a good move.  But, back to the original premise, David Carruthers claims that he has actually seen the opposite.

I believe that one of the biggest reasons why we don’t see a greater number of younger teachers turning more to technology in their teaching is because they are modelling the teaching practices that were used when they were in school. They replicate how they were taught not that long ago. They are led to believe that this is standard pedagogy.

I don’t know why this should be the case.  David makes reference to himself 16 years ago and he claims that he used technology at every turn.  So why isn’t everyone like David?

Things have never been this good.

  • Classrooms are more Internet savvy and connected today than ever
  • School districts have faster connections today
  • There is more technology available for everyone due to purchasing patterns
  • Technology is more reliable than ever with more technicians and better equipment
  • You don’t need to be “wired” to get onto the Internet
  • There are more professional learning opportunities via subject organizations and local edCamps
  • Stories about technology uses and successes abound
  • Who hasn’t played with a Sphero or other classroom robot?
  • Libraries are working hard at becoming supporting makerspaces
  • I could go further but the point is to get you to actually read David’s post

If you’re a younger teacher, get over there and prove him wrong.  If you’re an experienced teacher, get over there and share your story so that others can learn.

The frontierland of secondary school eLearning: Conquering fear and fostering courage

One of my definite highlights of heading east to professional learning opportunities is to run into the Kings – Alanna and Tim – they always have something new to share or talk about.

In this post, Alanna shares that she’s off to the west coast to speak at a conference about an action research project that she is part of.  It sounds interesting and she shares her slide deck (although I don’t have access to the video)

The session will show you the results so far of our action research project in improving student motivation. Through teaching strategies for increasing student curiosity, control, collaboration, scaffolded challenges and recognition we are conquering fear and fostering courage in the frontierland of secondary school elearning.

If you’ve ever wanted to see Alanna stylin’ with a cowboy hat, click through.

Moshie below Kilimanjaro

Finally, last week I noted that Paul McGuire was off to conquer Mr. Kilimanjaro.  His latest update talks about a side-trip to Moshi (typo in his title) and a visit to an orphanage

Two young men who are running a small orphanage, taking little children off the streets of Moshi. This is a truly incredible story that I just started to learn about last night.

These stories are repeated all over the Global South, and for me it is important to dive back into the lives of these people and witness how they struggle to make lives better for themselves and their community.

and the experience of walking through an open market.

It’s a blog to follow to learn what Paul experiences.

I had a “Google Maps moment”; I wanted to make sure that I knew exactly where Mt. Kilimanjaro was so headed there.  I was hoping that there was a Streetview  – wouldn’t that be awesome – but the answer is not yet.  However, there are plenty of spectacular pictures from amateurs and also from tour companies that show just what a spectacular view and challenge that Paul faces.

Sort of related, how good is your spelling of countries?  Try this quiz.  I got 23/23!

What a collection!  Please take the time to click through and enjoy.  You’ll be glad that you did.  Then, head off to read more from Ontario Edubloggers.

Empathy in the school library

One of the things that I enjoy about my morning reading is finding things that I would never have discovered otherwise.  Such was a gem that I found this morning.

We’ve all heard and experienced the plight of the school teacher-librarian.  I’m sure you’ve heard the hurtful comments.

  • They don’t have any marking to do
  • They don’t do lesson preparation
  • We can replace a teacher-librarian with a technician
  • We can make the vice-principal’s teaching assignment in the library so that they’re always available
  • We’ll train kids to check out and shelve books
  • We can close the library and move the books into the classroom so that kids can get them easily
  • Can we really afford one?
  • and I’m sure you can add more

Next to computer facilities, I’ve always been fascinated by and make sure that I visit a library when I’m in a school.  It’s even more impressive when I can address both at the same time.

These very active places don’t seem to follow any of the traditional rules that other educational spaces do.  There’s no teacher desk at the front of the room; many times there aren’t sinks; there aren’t desks or learning spaces strategically placed so that you can see what every student is doing at every moment; …

There’s just this amazing person in charge who is responsible for facilitating learning for an entire school in all disciplines, including off the wall general interest, and this includes both students and educators.  It’s not an easy task when it’s done properly.

While many classrooms fade from memory, I still have visions of some of the great libraries that I’ve visited and the person who championed them.  These range from my classic high school library to some of the fantastic learning spaces that great colleagues had designed.

So, if you think you know libraries and the services that they provide, you’ll change your mind when you read this article.  “Transforming Teen Services: The Empathetic Librarian“.  By itself, it’s an interesting read – we’ve all read about how empathy is an important 21st century attribute.

But there’s a real gem here.  It’s right near the bottom and points to a wiki titled “Serving Diverse Teens @ Your Library“.

Now, it’s noteworthy that not all resources are directly applicable to Ontario libraries but a good teacher-librarian will tell you about the skill that it takes to weed and keep the best and most applicable resources.

Scan the list and then give your teacher-librarian a hug today.