Defining moments in Canada

I’ll put the credit to Paul McGuire for getting me curious about Canadian History again. It came as a result of a blog post that he made sharing his thoughts as be does his research for his PhD course.

As I mentioned on the This Week in Ontario Edublogs show, I never was big about History in school. It seemed like an endless flow of movies and memorization. To the defense of my teachers, I probably have got it wrong as memory can be selective at times.

As I was doing my research for the show and then later in discussion with Stephen Hurley, I got to think about current events and the rewriting of history as I knew it. I know that the ultimate goal is to get it right.

The big issue around here is in the construction of the new secondary school. The current one and, indeed our town, is name in recognition of Jeffrey Amherst. The new school, however, won’t carry that name, instead being called North Star High School. Not everyone is supporting of a name change. Apparently, it’s going even further with the town rethinking itself.

It’s not the first time that we’ve experienced this in Canada. Notably, we have the name change of Berlin to Kitchener which was the first that came to mind for me. We’re noticing in the news recently. that there are other changes, like dropping the reference to John A. McDonald in the Peel District.

As we know, these days, information doesn’t just go away. Post it once and it’s there forever or until you delete it. But, by that time, it may have been copied or archived somewhere else. The net result may well be two versions of the same story.

We’ve just gone through another April 1 where the real news continues but also a lot of sources feel compelled to write a story that tests your abilities to understand what you’re reading.

Going full circle on this, it’s nice to be able to rely on a resource that will stand the test of time and serves useful in the classroom. One that you might find handy is the Defining Moments Canada website.

It’s not an all-inclusive resource but addresses huge moments for all Canadians.

For education, there are resources about how to use these in the classroom which would be incredibly helpful.

Of course, this doesn’t cover everything Canadian but there’s one page that I think is particularly useful and introduces me to the expression “Curatorial thinking”.

Curatorial thinking empowers students not only to demonstrate their learning, but to discover new connections allowing them to contribute to our understanding of the past and to positively influence the future. 

If you’re addressing things Canadian in your classroom, you owe it to yourself to check out this resource and see where it can help you.


Former ECOO President Peter McAsh passed along this Twitter message from Alec Couros and suggested that I dig into it.

So, of course, I did.

It’s called #ForYou: A Game About Algorithms created and shared by the folks at Media Smarts. I was actually quite pleased that it wasn’t just another online game although the online connections are very apparent once you play it.

It involves a special deck of cards that can be accessed by request to Media Smarts (for free) or there’s a PDF file there with the cards that you can download and create your own deck. How’s that for integrating a Maker Project?

The rules for play are available to read in this PDF file.

The goal has never been so important as right now. We know that there are algorithmic forces out there tracking us on the web for personalization and monetary reasons.

#ForYou is a card-based pattern-matching game that helps youth aged 13 to 18 understand the role that algorithms play in their online and offline lives, and the value of their personal information to companies that use those algorithms. The game is designed to be delivered either in school or in community spaces such as homework or coding clubs.

It’s nice to see a resource like this targeted to secondary school students and helps them become a bit smarter about what it means to go online. For those of us who pre-date being connected, advertising was so much simpler and easier to get our head around. Not so today and the more that we know, the better off and safer we will be.

If you’re a secondary school teacher, I’d suggest that you click through and take a look at this and see if there’s a fit for your classroom.

Thanks, Peter and Alec.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy first Friday of April. Have you rolled the dice to see what kinds of weather we’ll get today? One thing is predictable – this post! Enjoy. No fooling.

Researcher’s Journal – Coming up with a question

I like to think that this is a big advantage of social media. It happens when people ‘get it’ and share openly expecting a reaction and input from their community. Paul gets it.

Normally, I wouldn’t get excited about History – sorry Paul – but his big question intrigued me.

Developing a National Identity through the teaching of history

I think that’s an admirable target one moment and then, the next moment, I wonder about that identity. In recent times, we’ve come to learn so much about parts of Canada that I certainly didn’t learn going to school.

Locally, we are trying to come to grips with the person who our town is named after.

We’ve dealt with issues like this in Canada before – the naming of Kitchener comes immediately to mind.

So, Paul had me intrigued and yet, his big question might change as he tweeted during the voicEd Radio show.

Digital Citizenship In 2022

I clicked through to Daphne’s post to see if there were some new insights about ‘Digital Citizenship’. After all, I think we all know what that means and we work at it or should work at it regularly. When she went looking to the internet and a couple of her favourite resources, she found lots of stuff. But that’s not what she’s looking for.

She’s looking for citizenship ideas for students in K-12 with iPads in all corners of the room, robots roaming, and the care and feeding of this technology up front. Forget about going online; what does it mean to be on top of things in this primary setting?

When she gave up, she used some old-school traditional messages to create the model for what digital citizenship should mean in her classroom.

She shares her paper and marker creation in the post and it’s worth a look to make sure that you have the same type of community in your classroom and, as Stephen noted during the show, it applies whether you’re using technology or not.

The big message from Daphne’s post is that sometimes it’s easy to skip over those first steps and make assumptions that may or may not be helpful. She’s really thought this through.

AML in Action (PS Retired Folx Are Eveready Rabbits!)

This is a two parter post although the first and second parts are nicely related. The first talks about the current activities that the Association for Media Literacy is involved with. It’s an ambitious list and I give kudos for a subject association doing something so useful anytime but particularly at this time.

  • Offering an AQ Course – AML is actively delivering – others aren’t
  • New Mini-series in Mediacy Podcast – shoutout to Stephen Hurley for providing assistance
  • International Council for Media Literacy IMLRS Conference – Diana and Neil Andersen
  • Advocacy for Media Literacy Updates to the Ontario Curriculum – curriculum dated 2006

Diana notes that it’s not just her doing these things but gives a shout out to some great educators who are ‘retired’.

  • Neil Andersen
  • Carol Arcus
  • Carol Koechlin
  • Anita Brooks-Kirkland
  • Stephen Hurley

I put the retired in quotes because, for so many educators, leaving the paycheque doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the profession. With years of experiences, it’s wonderful to see that they’re providing insights for upcoming teachers.

Oh, and in the post, you’ll see Stephen Hurley wearing a shirt and tie as he receives an award.


I’d have to go way, way back in my mind to see an ECOO event in particular where Martha and Dustin aren’t there working with educators. They’re always there and certainly online pushing the envelop on ideas and concepts that might be old hat to some and brand new to others. We need people like this.

On their company blog, they’ve recently interviewed Dean Vendramin about esports and the club that he has in his school in Regina.

I was riveted to the post because it’s an important concept and not one that’s easily embraced in the curriculum. So, it’s a slide in through the back door! Participants go above and beyond to be part of it.

If you’re in the mood to start a club in your school, there are great ideas here. If you’re looking to make connections, FairChanceLearning and Dean would be good candidates.

Hello World

Computer programmers will understand the context of ‘Hello World’ as it’s traditionally the very first thing that you have a computer do when you are learning a new language. From Anne-Marie, it’s an acknowledgement that she’s been away from her blog for a while.

I can’t help but think that this is a model for all principals – get onto a blogspace and share with the community and whoever else happens by what you’re excited about. Every school is unique and, to parents and students, very special.

There’s a wonderful collection of bullet points in Anne-Marie’s post that give a sense of where her priorities lie.

The biggest excitement is actually buried in a paragraph after the bullet points. She’s excited to see student faces again. What a simple and yet powerful statement.

Now, your school will not be the same as Anne-Marie’s which has a farm but there’s so much happening to be excited and to share, so why not?

And, for those local newspapers and other media outlets that are always looking for great local stories, this could be the kickstart for something really good. Reference to it made this blog afterall!


Writing on the TESLOntario blog, John has an interesting insight on the concept of accessibility. I think most people have a certain audience in mind when they hear the term. John wants you to think bigger.

As I read, I was reminded of a CODE initiative from years ago, “Essential for Some, Good for All”.

Accessibility enhances the web experience for all. John’s going to be leading a couple of webinars on the concept in the future.

In the meantime, there are some things that he addresses here that may well have you thinking differently about how they might be used by all students.

There’s a huge list of suggestions in this post. It’s not an easy and quick read but certainly worth the time.

THE trick to get your students reading

The more books they can be exposed to the better in my opinion.

This is a timely reminder as things return to action in schools that ‘choice’ is such a powerful option for students in their choice of reading materials. It’s a simple concept, I suppose, but it doesn’t hurt to look to see if and how you’re doing it.

Amy covers a lot of that here and also shares an online resource (free) to assist in the process.

There’s a subtle or maybe not so subtle message that she describes and shares a picture of to push the process. It’s a simple concept – a request list for books by students and it’s posted on the wall for all to see. I saw a pretty strong message there that maybe I should be requesting a book if I was in Ms. Bowker’s class!

Another Friday and another great collection of blog posts. Check them out and then follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Daphne McMenemy – @McMenemyTweets
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Fair Chance Learning – @FCLEdu
  • Anne-Marie Kee – @AMKeeLCS
  • John Allan – @mrpottz
  • Amy Bowker – @amyebowker 

This Week’s voicEd Radio Show

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I hope that all of the educators who had a Spring Break had a wonderful relaxing time. Around here, we were digging for spring jackets as temperatures headed near 20 degrees. Despite the break, there was still some great thinking from Ontario Edubloggers.

Unpopular Opinions: On Failing Credits, Teaching Hybrid, and Grading Student Work!

I find it interesting that, after two years of unreal teaching and learning situations that such a serious topic as assigning numeric grades in secondary school would be the topic of a committee discussion.

Marie joined such a committee and shares her thoughts about grading and the conversations that came from that committee. I would have thought that something like student mental wellness and a return to normal and how best to do it would have been wise and timely. There are so many things that have been learned from the forced experiment in online learning versus face-to-face. Yet, the system is supposed to flip the switch on Monday to a mask-free reality and so I guess the management of school systems are ready to move on like the last two years didn’t happen.

If you’ve ever taught in secondary schools, you know that the end of the term/semester/year all boils down to a number between 0 and 100. Well, except for 0, 48, 49, 50, and 100 in my old school. Even if it worked out mathematically, we weren’t allowed to use them. I remember a committee of my own where we debated the heck out of using a 50 or a 51 and the strong message that goes behind each.

Discussions like this remind me of my own secondary school and how important the number was to my parents. I think all my friends and I had realized that it was just a game and you could game the system to get just about any mark you wanted. (within reason, I suppose)

Marie feels that her thoughts are maybe unpopular but I suspect not as unpopular as she thinks. It’s not a quick and easy read but it’s worthwhile. All teachers should take the time to analyse their own philosophies behind the numbers that they give. The biggest lesson is not to get too vested in one thing because a change in management could upset your world.

Processing disaster #SOL2022 13/31

There’s a great deal of personal life going on behind the words in this post and I can’t help but feel for Melanie and her struggles. Since she doesn’t get into too much details about the disaster in her personal life, it’s fruitless to comment about that.

But, and this is a big but, things have taken over her concerns at work and that’s a big deal. The issue of trust runs through this post and frustration over being ignored by the administration when she expressed her concerns. That really bothers me and I would hope that the administration somehow finds and reads this blog post.

Did I move too quickly from not sharing to sharing?

I find it amazing that she even has to ask this question. From an administration perspective, a happy staff is a happy school. By sharing her feelings up front, they should be informed about the impact that their decision is going to make. It’s not just with a single staff member; others will see what’s happening and realize that it could just as easily happen to them.

I’m impressed with how her thoughts struck a chord with her online community and they showed up nicely in the comments. This isn’t the type of post that any educator can read and then move on.

The post also had me thinking so much about the concept of trust – which should be there – and how it affects others when it’s not there.

Make Writing #SOL22 13/31

There’s a wonderful story in this post about how Amanda used a non-traditional approach to helping a student with her writing.

I reached over to my desk and found some loose parts – a few pen caps, some paper clips; some random yarn (I have no idea – don’t ask) and a box of tacks.

I never had a teacher that would do things like that for me. I remember a lot of red ink and arrows.

But that’s not the real story here.

The real story is one of learning online by following the thoughts of another educator who inspires others to try non-traditional approaches and mentioning them in the post only to have them show up in the comments. If there ever was a testimonial for blogging and social media this is it.

I hope that this isn’t a passing connection and that the relationship deepens and grows strong resulting in both educators becoming better in their craft.

Slice of (Sigh) Life

Dumbass went through my mind as Lisa relates a story of a lady on a phone in the swimming pool at a hotel. As Lisa notes, it’s not just any phone – it’s the red one to be used for emergencies. Or we thought.

As a former lifeguard, I would have thought of two things.

  • dumbass – ok, I already thought about that
  • why was the entrance to the pool even open in the first place? And isn’t there a camera or two focused on the pool so that the people running things can keep an eye on what’s going on?

Maybe I’m just a rule follower but in my world, open at 9 means open at 9, waterslide or not.

I would have had that dumbass removed from the pool area.

Allyship with Parents/Families

I don’t tend to have writers featured here two weeks in a row and yet Gary’s article here in the Heart and Art blog is inspirational. Experienced educators will know most of this but there are so many young and new to the profession people that it’s important for them to read and maybe think about seriously for the first time.

For the past two years, education in Ontario has been anything but normal. We’re going to give normal a shot on Monday, apparently. Well, in most districts anyway.

Families and parents, and the relationship with them, have been reduced to a camera shot on a computer or a phone call. It’s not the same as being face-to-face describing issues and proposing solutions.

I’m thinking in particular of new teachers who might have only had a passing opportunity to have the full classroom experience. Ditto for some of the youngest kids. Let’s not forget the parents; I was talking to one just yesterday and she has not been able to go into the school or even see the classroom of her kindergarten child.

More than ever, it’s important to think of ways to break down barriers and do your best to get those relationships with families going and productive.

Educators To-Do List for March Break

Hopefully, you’re a regular follower of Amy’s blog and saw this post on the 11th. If not, there’s still today and the weekend to get it done.

So, here’s how I did.

  • we had the girls over for dinner from Boston Pizza (they like the spicy perogie pizza)
  • napping is good
  • we played on a gym set at the beach before kids in the hood showed up
  • I can’t bring myself to do that
  • a daily routine that gets me relaxed to face things
  • all the time and wouldn’t be possible without technology (sorry, Amy)
  • had one over for supper
  • that gears me up for blogging
  • with a dog, that’s done at least three times a day
  • chili! Love chili!

March Break Reading

I enjoy going into book stores and so went along with David as he talked about it in this post. He was dropping off copies of his own book and then looked around and shared some of his favourites.

I’ll agree with his assertion that I’d never heard of The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Recently, we did some pruning but I still have a bookshelf behind me with physical books that I can turn the pages on. If you read Amy’s post above, you’ll know that I’m more of a tablet reader of books. I’m also reminded of how geeky I can be when I look at many of the titles and am reminded of the Star Trek where scene where Spock is relaxing and reading technical manuals.

In no particular order, I’ll share ten titles

  • Holding Fast to Dreams – Freeman A. Hrabowski III
  • A Whole New Mind – Daniel Pink
  • The Innovator’s Mindset – George Couros
  • Raw Materials for the Mind – David Warick
  • I Am Not A Cop – Richard Belzer
  • Social LEADia – Jennifer Casa-Todd
  • Truth North Strange & Free – Reader’s Digest
  • The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
  • 50 Jobs Worse Than Yours – Justin Racz
  • Mathematical Gems I – Ross Honsberger

These bloggers make for great following on Twitter so do it!

  • Marie Snyder – @MarieSnyder27
  • Melanie White – @WhiteRoomRadio
  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261
  • Gary Stewart
  • Amy Bowker – @amyebowker
  • David Garlick – @garlickd13

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

There was no show this past week but I’m looking forward to rejoining Stephen next week on Wednesday at 8:45 live. In the meantime, that didn’t stop me from reading some pretty decent blog posts. I’m sharing them below.

Even cooler is this Friday #TWIOE post. It’s the 500th post that I’ve written with this title. If you believe in milestones, then this is one for me. You can read the previous 499 from here.


I can’t begin to be authentically empathic with the people who live in Ottawa and had to live through the protests and all that went into the events that the rest of us witnessed through the evening news. Try as I might, my only exposure were the short news clips that we’d get on the news and the “continuing coverage”.

This is clearly an angry post from Amanda. As I worked my way through it, I got angrier and angrier myself.

After reading Amanda’s post, I’m closer to understanding. This isn’t a short or easy post to read if you have any kind of conscience. Her thoughts start with forgetting to wear a mask and returning to get one lest she be confused with a protester.

This is an incredibly powerful post and did more to share the thoughts of people who had to live through this than the 15 second sound bites that came through on the news. You had to feel for Amanda and I just can’t imagine being in the same position. With her post, I think I can certainly understand better.

And I love the quote on her face mask.

Unleashed and Trapped

Staying on the theme of first person reflections about the events in Ottawa is this post from Heather. It was great to see her back at the keyboard; it’s been far too long. I’m sorry that the topic had to be this.

In a conversation with another teacher, the event was put into terms that all teachers could understand.

A fellow teacher said that it is like having a school full of every angry, acting-out grade 8 student you have ever met. Can you imagine a teacher letting a group of bullies take over a class, intimidate and insult fellow students, re-arrange and barricade the class, block the windows and do whatever the hell they want? 

Of course, not. I’ve never taught Grade 8 but I do remember Grade 9 students in the first weeks of secondary school. As a teacher, you set your rules and your expectations for students. You know that if there are major issues, you have a department head, vice-principal, and principal standing behind you.

But what are your thoughts if you’re not supported? What happens when the rules and laws are not supported? Classroom reality seems a little petty compared to what Heather describes.

On the Importance of Civics Classes

When I saw the title to Marie’s post, I thought that it might be a continuation on the Ottawa theme. I suppose it could and you’ve got to believe what the topics of discussion would have been in Civics classes lately.

The post will stand the test of time as she focuses instead on the importance of the course and how it’s taught by those who do so. I thought that she did a really nice job of addressing that.

The comment to her post was interesting from a teacher who taught the course but was surprised to realize how little students know about Current Events. There’s a call to action for every Civic teacher. I remember my son who loved the course because it was a chance to talk with others or event debate the events of the day. His classroom had their own subscription to the local newspaper. I’ve never regretted having the kids watch the evening news ever since.

BUT the difference is that what happens in political arena affects your life no matter who you are. There’s a much bigger payoff for everyone if we all have this information solidified.

Marie’s quote brought a smile as there was a time when he thought he might get into politics! Certainly, the Ottawa event had to be motivation for every Civics class in the province.

Consequently, doing Civics right has never been so important. Thanks, Marie, for this insightful post.

There’s Math in Our Woods

Of course there is!

Rob’s post took my back to high school and snowmobiling out to a friend’s house in the county to visit and then go out for lunch. When I met his mom at the door, she told me that he was out at the sugar shack. (This isn’t the same but I couldn’t resist.)

Anyway, I’d never been to a real sugar shack before so it was an eye opening experience for me. I got a complete lesson in handling sap, boiling, stirring (and stirring and stirring and stirring) and didn’t realize it at the time but a whack of mathematics!

Rob shares his anticipation for getting out to the woods and the same experience. It kicked off with a Twitter chat moderated by Jonathan So.

Researcher’s Journal – Looking for a question

What are current history teaching methodologies used by history teachers and taught to teacher candidatesHow are historical thinking concepts beginning to enter the school system?

Paul’s back to doing some of his thinking out loud and in a blog post.

Big questions are something that we always encourage in students. I think we think that it just comes naturally to those who are or should be inquisitive. Paul’s post kind of scuttles that train of thought or at least lets us know that it’s not coming easily to him.

His quote above and the thoughts from a couple of the posts above have got me thinking that the discussion of teaching methodologies for History and Civics classes couldn’t be more relevant. Between Ottawa and what we’re seeing now in Ukraine amplifies the importance of getting it right – relevant, fact-checking, seeing alternative viewpoints, …

I can’t get over how great and timely his question is. There should be all kinds of extremely worthwhile research falling from it.

Learning about Self Love

Amy notes that it feels weird talking about “self love”. Imagine trying to write my thoughts about her thoughts on the topic just by reading the title. Of course, I had to dig through it.

She doesn’t address the topic superficially. She goes deep, provides resources, and shares her thoughts about her own personal routines. There’s a bit of a crossover between “Self Love” and “Self Care” although she is clear that they’re not necessarily the same thing in her mind.

She doesn’t think that she practices “Self Love” but I suspect that she does more than what she would admit. But, she does ask a couple of good probing questions.

What advice would you give me to learn about loving myself? How do you love yourself?

I think these are two excellent questions. I can’t help but think that those who are in the teaching profession just don’t have enough time at the end of the day to take care of themselves. For me, it was always a case of being totally exhausted to the point that I’d often get sick as the bugs got the better of me. To make things worse, I was always taking summer courses to upgrade my qualifications and there just wasn’t time left for myself.

My best advice to her was given to me by my superintendent who, I didn’t realize at the time, was watching me manage my job and spent a morning with me talking about the taking care thing. His advice has always stuck with me – when you’re scheduling things, schedule personal time first and then let everything else fall around it. It made a huge difference to me.

“A good teacher is like …” … do you agree?

Laura’s taking an AQ course and had to finish that sentence and an internet search revealed this image that I think every teacher has seen.


We all feel that way at some point.

I thought that it was so appropriate that I read Laura’s post right after I’d read Amy’s. That image says so much.

I firmly believe that the education system will eat you alive if you let it. And, maybe some people are OK with that. I thought I was until that conversation with my superintendent that I talked about in response to Amy’s post.

Taking care of one’s self doesn’t make you weak or less efficient. I firmly believe that it makes you better and stronger.

There’s my answer, Laura. Thanks for asking the question.

I’m glad that I’ve committed myself to writing about Ontario Education blogs. I find them inspirational and I’m always pumped and recharged when I schedule the post for Friday mornings at 5:00am. I hope that you can take the time to click through and read all these fabulous posts.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter for more.

  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts 
  • Heather Swail – @hbswail
  • Marie Snyder – @MarieSnyder27
  • Rob Ridley – @RangerRidley
  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Amy Bowker – @amyebowker 
  • Laura Wheeler – @wheeler_laura