This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s mid-July.  Forecasted temperature today is in the mid-30s.  Who in their right mind would be suffering from a cold?

Your humble blogger, of course.  This is nuts.

So, I’m not in my right mind is a good way to sum up how I feel as I type this.  The sun is rising; Friday is coming; dog needs to walk; there’s no time for self pity.

My first instinct is to run in and buy everything in the cold aisle at the pharmacy.  My personal advisers are telling me to “Suck it up and gargle with salt water”  or “Walk it off”.

Anyway, here’s some of the great reading from Ontario Edubloggers that I enjoyed recently.


Through a personal connection, I learned a great deal about Eid this year.

It’s after the fact now but this is a post from Rusul Alrubail that’s worth tucking away because it makes so much sense and can be adapted to any religious holiday.  She originally wrote and published the article elsewhere and was good enough to put it on her blog for us to enjoy.

My Favourite Things

How’s this for a lead in to a blog post from Kristi Bishop?

I’m just back from an extra long weekend at the cottage with my family.  I love that all of my kiddies still look forward to going (even though internet connection is sketchy at best!) despite their busy lives.  One of our favourite holiday games is “Top 5…”  Sometimes it is something as mundane as Top 5 Beaches we’ve been to.  Other times it is a little more bizarre, such as the memorable Top game of “Top 5 foods you have eaten off the ground”.  (I declined to participate in this one, just so you know).

I don’t know about you but I would have liked to have known about the food off the ground bit.

Instead, she takes a turn to education and gives us a top five list of being an educator.

It’s a good list; What would be your top five?

Follow Opportunities, Not Dreams

When I saw the title of Tim King’s post, I thought that it might have been about summer motorcycling.  Instead, he uses a concern about a lack of digital skills in the United Kingdom as a launchpad into thoughts about education.

He provides an interesting observation about why students take certain courses and avoid others.  (obvious with a secondary school focus)

It’s interesting, because in Ontario, we have a high quality curriculum that offers a bit of everything.  Reading Tim’s post reminds me that there are those that will game the system just to get through.  Fortunately, there are compulsory courses that provide at least a base to get started.  The comment about guidance is interesting.  I recall in high school the annual checkup with my own guidance person.  It really was more about making sure that my marks were OK rather than a serious planning for the future.  Later, as a home room teacher, we would have our home rooms held four or five times a year so that we could talk about futures.  Tim’s observation is true; I took the five year academic route in high school followed by four years at university, another year for an education degree, and then summer courses for additional qualifications.  I’d never been in a tool shop or a full time farm labourer (which are big in Essex County).  How could I give a legitimate set of advice for those who might want to head in those directions?  Driving around now, I sure wish I could have afforded to get into the greenhouse industry.  It’s HUGE.

On the other hand, the fact that I had all this schooling allowed me to follow a dream – I always wanted to be a teacher but certainly there were not many opportunities at the time.  My success was more like by being in the right place at the right time.

Follow the ETFOSA16 Path to Excellence

Diana Maliszewski makes it clear, in this post, that this session was in the big city.  Where else would directions be given by subway stops?!

Libraries, Resource Centres, Learning Commons, Makerspaces – whatever terminology you’re comfortable with are one of the most adaptable locations in any school.  Sadly, there are even some that don’t have them.  But imagine a collection of great minds getting together to scheme for the future.  In some cases, the target of these discussions isn’t necessarily literacy but to convince those in charge that the library should be the hub of everything at a school.  As I picture so many schools that I visited, the library is so often the first educational place that you see when you enter the building.  Designers had it right.  It would have been interesting to have been part of Diana’s conversation or at least be a fly on the wall.

Great pictures complement the post.

Cottage Thinking 1: Leadership in a Canoe

The fact that there’s a “1” in Stephen Hurley’s post is an indicator, I hope, that there will be more to come.

Often, we think of leaders as being the ones who are out front, encouraging folks to follow along. They are the visionaries, the ones that have a clear sense of direction and the are able to identify the targets for which the crew needs to aim if things are going to go as planned.

The canoe analogy is great.  I’d never thought about position within a canoe and its importance.

Stephen does make you wonder about leadership in other areas.

Is the leader always in front?

You Have to Start Somewhere

Of course you do.

Andrea Kerr’s recent post is a reminder of that

as educators, we really do have all of the strategies and tools we could ever need.

So, as a starting point, she offers an analysis (and questions) for thought.

  • Start with Action
  • Start with Value
  • Start with Listening

I used to work with a person whose advise was “Ready – Fire – Aim”.

The conservative me never really thought that made sense for me.  My inclination would be to “Start with Listening” or “Start with Reading” to understand the situation before acting.  Andrea’s post should make you think about the approach.

Get this Train Moving! ~The Journey of the MakerSpace

Joanne Borges offers a blog post with more questions than answers.  There is, in some camps, a real rush to be able to claim that your school has a “Makerspace”.  If you read and believe some of what is out there, you’re failing if you don’t have one.

To turn the idea or concept into reality, you need to get moving.  But, movement alone doesn’t get the job done.  Why and How are two important questions.  From her planning:

  • Some key questions we considered in planning:

    • What is the experience we are trying to create?
    • Who will lead the experiences?
    • How will learning be shared?
    • How will experts, partners, mentors be utilized in learning?
    • What funding is available to us? What other sources can we seek out?
    • How will we ensure this is a student owned space (student voice?)
    • How can this tie to curriculum expectations and deep learning experiences?
    • How can we promote STEAM principals?
    • How can we best create a culture of risk taking, respect, inclusivity, and pride?
    • How can we ensure this becomes a hub for deep learning?

I think this is a great set of questions that everyone who wants into this space need to be asking and answering.

Thanks again to so much great thinking and sharing from leaders in Ontario education.  Please support their efforts by reading their original posts and dropping off a comment if you’re so inclined.

I’m out of here to “walk it off”.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s so nice to be back and home and sitting at my own desk with my own setup for writing.  The past week or so meant using a computer while sitting on a hotel bed or with an arm chair on a table which was too high to keyboard comfortably.  Having taken and taught keyboarding, I know what works and what doesn’t.  Plus, I have my own music and setup here rather than a portable substitute.  It’s so much better.

It’s time to check out some of the great offerings from Ontario Educators.

A Blog Post About Blogging and All the Stuff in Between

From Jessica Outram’s blog, this post is a two-parter.

The first part lists

Here are five reasons why blogging is great:

For those who are regular or aspiring bloggers, there’s something old and something new here.

But, lest you end up letting it take over your life, move on to part two.

So, if I haven’t been blogging, what have I been up to?

It’s an interesting list showing life balance.  I think it’s nicely done – and as I’ve said before, if you’re blogging, you tend to look for and see more.

10 Leadership Lessons from the Tour de France

From the title on the Lead Learner blog, I didn’t know what to expect.  But David Sornberger does give you something to think about as he ties leadership to the Tour de France.

My favourite is this:

They’re all good points.  It could be a Sketchnote, Sylvia….

Two Essential Questions for Reflection

Sue Dunlop asks two questions of herself

Am I getting better?

How do I know?

I don’t think she owns a monopoly on those questions.  Shouldn’t we all be asking and attempting to answer them?

I think that my use of the word “attempting” is important to consider in itself.  Lock yourself in a room and I’m sure that you can come up with answers to these that you’re happy with.  It’s easy to see

a – yes

b – because I did this

Time to move on.  But ….

A few years ago, I got seriously into peer coaching.  It was one of those sessions that you go to with a partner and go through a bunch of contrived activities to get the sense of what it is.  I then went back to work and ran into a friend who had been to a similar session and was trying to “shake” his contrived partner.  Truth and honesty are two attributes that are important and it just doesn’t work when one or both are faked.  Anyway, we ended up coaching each other and it was one of the best things ever for me (and I like to think him too).  We still meet and reflect on exactly these things and neither of us will let the other get away with easy answers.


It must be reflection time in Hamilton because Kristi Bishop offers a post of her own.

Failing is a popular topic because its use in education seems to imply that teachers who “allow it” are somehow progressive.  I’ve read much and ignored much of it because it’s just a bandwagon that some seem to want to jump on.  This post digs a great deal deeper though and I like the points that are fleshed out near the bottom.

And still…

Kids have been failing for a long time.  I failed; I “fail” ever day.  It’s been done long before me and will be done long after me.

The use of that word bugs me though.  It’s an education word.  We all know its context because we’ve all taken courses or tests that are pass/fail.  It’s now the name of a television show where failing often ends up in stupidity or pain.  Is there not a better word that we could use?

Teaching to the Extremes

How many times have we heard that “Differentiated Instruction” is the answer to most questions in education?  When you hear it from someone who hasn’t lived it, it’s one of those simplistic solutions that really don’t work but just serves to indicate that the situation has been solved and it’s time to move on.

Matthew Morris puts a reality spin to it.

What do you do when you teach a fifth grade class that consists of thirty students and amongst those thirty students, you have one who can pass an LSAT test and another who can’t count down from ten? Welcome to Mr. Morris’ 2015-16 classroom. Differentiated instruction? Pfff. I am talking about teaching extremes here.

So, the solution from government and his board – cutbacks.

That’ll do it.

How many times do we hear the missive that we “need to do more with less”.  Picture the extremes painted in this post and you’ll shudder.

End of an Era – Life Skills Reflections (Part 1 – The Kitchen Community)

End of an Era – Life Skills Reflections (Part 2 – A Terrific Team)

On the topic of cutbacks come a pair of heartfelt post from Kim Gill about another cutback – this time her Junior Life Skills program.

The first post deals with the program; the second deals with the people who were involved with the program.

The solution appears to be integration into the regular program.  The post is very appropriate to read after Matthew’s.

Take some time to read these posts in their entirety and leave a comment or two.  There’s lots of good stuff to ponder this week from the keyboards of Ontario Educators.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy Friday.  I hope that everyone is enjoying the time away from your classrooms.  Here’s a great start to your day – some of the latest from Ontario Edubloggers.

Information about “The Kindergarten Program” 2016

I know that many teachers have been wondering and this latest post from Joanne Babalis shares the latest information about The Kindergarten Program curriculum document.

The post is loaded with an analysis of the new document.  This will be of real interest for Early Years’ teachers.

Bring Digital Literacy and Citizenship Skills to Your Class

This blog post, by Rusul Alrubail, originally appeared on the Learner Log.

When it comes to digital citizenship, there are several elements (including elements of digital literacy) that are important to discuss and understand. Mike Ribble identifies 9 digital citizenship elements. In my classroom, I found myself covering the following:

This is an interesting article to read.  I like the way that she addresses some of the student concerns she addresses in the post.  So often, we think that everything is so wide open and understood by all.  Her students would be a bit older than the K-12 students and so they’ve got more understanding of the issues.  It’s a real thought provoker.


From the Bring IT Together blog, Peter McAsh shares the status of the November conference.  In this one post, he’ll get you up to speed.

If you’re attending or thinking about attending, there’s one paragraph that’s really important.

Sylvia Duckworth is leading a team that will be creating a customized BreakoutEDU event.  It is being held as a social event on Thursday evening.  It is limited to the first 100 people who select the event when they register.  Sylvia is also presenting a session on BreakoutEDU on Friday – details are in Lanyrd.

This event is limited in attendance.  If you’re interested, you may wish to expedite your registration to make sure that you save yourself a spot.

Updates from the Education Library Blog

At the Faculty of Education at Western University, there were a huge number of updates posted recently.  Granted, most are geared for students taking summer courses, the topics give a nice sense of the pulse of education.

And … now you’re up to date! Thanks, Denise Horoky

What is Your Vision for the Future of Education?

What a thought provoking question from Camille Rutherford.

And, it can be done in three easy steps.

I started by thinking in the past.  How were things 10 years ago?  Part of everyone’s responsibility is to stay on top of things.  Of course, my focus was on technology in the classroom so there’s a definite influence there.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work with a number of talented colleagues and had equally as talented connections throughout the province.  My favourite quote came from one of our online teachers who would often set the tome “If you were king of the world, …”.  It’s an interesting thought.  You have your own sphere of influence but you can’t do it alone.  I like Camille’s first step – collected signals from the present – there should be no limit to what your collecting.

And, most certainly one of the signals will be the structure within you work.

Can this be done?

Perception is Reality, except when it isn’t

Tim King takes us on a trip of his successes and reality from the past year.  From the sound of things, he did have some highs.  I found myself nodding in agreement with some of his thoughts about wrapping up the year.

As the year wound down I came to realize that information technology has become like plumbing or electricity: no one thinks or cares about it unless it doesn’t work.  Fortunately I’m good at IT and get a a lot of satisfaction out of solving problems in it (not to mention my staying sharp in technology allows me to teach it better), so even though it is nothing I’m contracted to do I still beaver away in the background trying to create a more accessible, current and consistent educational technology platform for our teachers to use.

What’s even more interesting is his extension to the summer where he plans to “get his mojo back”.  Once he does, he’s got some big plans and they’re all outlined towards the end of the post.

Thanks to these great blog posts to keep the thinking alive during the summer.  It’s always enjoyable; please take a moment to click through and enjoy the complete posts.

An interview with Cliff Kraeker

I’ve known Cliff Kraeker for a number of years in his role as a Technology Coordinator with the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB).  I don’t know exactly when we first met so will ask him and get his thoughts on a number of things in this interview.

Doug:  Hi Cliff – thanks for agreeing to do the interview.  I can’t remember; do you remember when we first met?

Cliff: Actually I don’t, but I suspect it would have been at the RCAC conferences which were held for many years in London at the Lamplighter Inn. I was probably introduced to you by Daryn Bee or Vince Vecchio – who were Learning Coordinators as well at the time.

Doug:  I do remember you in your role as a Technology Coordinator with the Thames Valley District School Board.  A district so big that it had Community Education Centres.  If I remember correctly, you had the East and part of London.  Are the CECs still in place?

Cliff: Actually I lived in the East area and worked with a good number of schools there because I knew so many principals and teachers from the time before amalgamation when it was still Oxford Board of Education. But it was Bill Schreiter who had the East Community of Schools – he lived in Stratford so the East was a better place to be mileage wise. For the time I was a Learning Coordinator, I was responsible for the schools in the west along the Wonderland and Oxford Street section of the city.

Doug:  Whoops.  My memory failed on that one.  You worked with a team – do you still stay in touch with them?

Cliff: I’ve been retired now for only 6 years. In the first 2-3 years Bill Schreiter and I would get together once a month, one month in Stratford and then the next closer to my home. Marlene Turkington, who was the Learning Coordinator of Libraries would often join us.   David Fife became a Vice Principal and now soon to be a principal and we’d meet now and again at the various iCon conferences which were held each year. Sandra Balestrin went back to the classroom and we get together 2-3 times a year for a meal and catch up. We have a tradition that I go to her class at the end of August and help her get all the technology connected in her class. Vince Vecchio is the only Learning Coordinator that seems to have disappeared. I’ve never seen him and when other former Learning Supervisors and Learning Coordinators ask about him and how he is – they haven’t seen him either. Maybe he’s the smartest one among us and in retirement just made a total break from education and educational circles. He loved golf so maybe if I was a golfer I might find him one morning on the links. Maybe this interview will help me find him again. A visit would be nice again.

Doug:  Thanks for the update.  That’s great news for David.  There were two outstanding things in the SouthWest of Ontario.  One was the Regional Computer Advisory Committee (RCAC), of which we were both members and would meet four or five times a year.  This no longer exists.  What benefits do you think individual districts miss from its demise?

Cliff: RCAC existed for us long before anyone was really attending ISTE or other larger technology related conferences. I remember ECOO in Mississauga during those years, but there a person would attend some sessions, browse through the vendor displays and go home. The RCAC was different in that we always had very good and intense Professional Development, particularly on the Friday after the main RCAC conference. But what we enjoyed the most about the various meetings during the year were those times we met and talked about what was going on in our various Boards. How were SMARTBoards being integrated into the classroom? Were we moving to laptop carts and which ones were the best for classroom use? So many of the over-riding questions we all struggled with as we tried to serve the various schools in our Boards. Many times it was good to know how the Hamilton Board was introducing a certain technology or how Greater Essex was dealing with introducing various new pieces of software from OSAPAC to their teachers. When RCAC folded that direct personal connection was lost. I suppose now our Twitter connections keeps all of us updated on what’s going on and what’s current. Of course the transition of ECOO into Bring It Together fills that need to get together in educators from all over Ontario as well now.

Doug:  Can you think of a specific learning that you got from the group that you might not have otherwise received?

Cliff: Some of the day long intensive sessions the Friday after RCAC with Will Richardson on blogging and a few on Photoshop. (forget the presenters now) but I still use some of the techniques we were taught at those sessions.

Doug:  I’ll bet the name you’re think of is Leslie Fisher. The other event was the annual RCAC Symposium.  We always held it in London during the worst weather of the winter on the first Thursday in December.  Sadly, it’s no longer offered to technology leaders.  What do you think of its demise?

Cliff: I think like I hinted at earlier, not being able to connect with technology leaders from all the various Boards in southwestern Ontario isolated us a bit from knowing first hand what was happening in other Boards. Not that we had to copy each other and what we were doing, but it was always nice at our planning sessions to actually know what was happening in other Boards around us. It often gave us a jumping off point for our own planning. Granted this was at a time before Twitter and the intense blogging so many are doing now. So maybe our connectivity is now happening that way. But it was still nice to sit down together and talk.

Doug:  Big question in Ontario today – Microsoft or Google?  Your preference?

Cliff: Right off the top probably Google!

Doug:  Why?

Cliff: So many things about Google / Google Docs / Google Classroom and all the various addons – SpeakIt, Voice Note 2 and so on are even replacing the more expensive software – Dragon Naturally Speaking and Kurzweil. It is allowing universal access to assistive technology like never before. But that is assuming schools are acquiring Chromebooks. For the most part many still are using PC’s so Microsoft becomes a layer that is still being used and then Google is that other layer. Even Boards that have a lot of Apple products are still using Google and the related applications in their use. The issue for many teachers happen when Boards limit the ability of teachers to access various applications through security measures that doesn’t give teachers admin rights to use the technology to the level of their own abilities. I doubt that question and issue will ever be dealt with to everyone’s satisfaction. The ultimate question still seems to stand. Does Information Technology Departments (IT) dictate to education what they can do or does education dictate to IT what needs to happen and then IT makes it happen?

Doug:  that’s such a really important question that every district needs to answer.  Classroom environments are certainly changing with new technologies.  Tablets, Chromebooks often fill the places normally filled by computers and laptops.  How do you feel about this?

Cliff: I love it but have a huge IF that needs to be in place. Great, IF the wireless is adequate to deal with all the available tablets and Chromebooks that are being used in any classroom in any part of the school. In so many schools I still support, I’ll hear that the wireless just doesn’t work in certain parts of the building. Labs have been dismantled in Thames Valley for the most part, so equal access needs to happen for every teacher and classroom. It’s also great IF teachers have begun to switch to the whole Inquiry Based Learning concepts in their classes, where the technology is used as a tool integrated into the learning and not an “event” like we use to have when we went to the lab every day 4 period 3 and usually just played some piece of software,  the whole period really being unrelated to whatever learning was happening in the classroom. (eg. play Math Circus or Sammy, Millie and Bailey)

Doug:  I still shudder when I hear the word “play” used in that context!  Are there certain subject areas that are affected most?

Cliff: It’s probably not subject related as much as it’s teacher related. Some teachers were dependent on that weekly visit to the lab to do something with technology where every child had their own station and could do something individually for 40 minutes while the teacher either walked around behind them or spent time online themselves checking email or doing report card comments. Those teachers are finding the disappearance of labs and the switch to mobile technology or Learning Commons where 3-4 students share one station and collaborate on a topic, the hardest to adapt. Plus the vast difference between schools where parent groups fund raise and can get their schools 3-4 class sets of iPads and a school down the road only has 5 iPads in the whole building are also creating inequities among classes and schools. Teachers feel that and are often frustrated when their lab disappears due to a Board wide directive and yet the the additional devices are not coming into the school in adequate numbers to satisfy the needs of the whole staff. There are some classes in Thames Valley who are piloting 1:1 iPad technology, but there is no plan to use that data to now find funding to replicate that experience in other classes. My question is do we really need a pilot to give us data on something so obvious? Maybe the real heroes in our classrooms are teachers who can take the 3-5 iPads they’ve been given and make those work effectively for an entire class of 28 kids. How THAT is done needs to be publicized a bit more.

Doug:  I’m smiling.  In that one paragraph, you’ve described the past 20 years of computer use in classrooms.  Progressive classrooms and schools have come so far and matured.  It’s interesting to note that we’re still in search of the perfect solution.  Who should set direction for technology within a district?  Technology departments or classroom teachers.  I know that there is a pie in the sky answer but there’s also a reality answer as well.

Cliff: Having been on the frontline of using technology in the classroom (teaching computer prep for the entire school for 8 years) Teacher Librarian Spring 2003 (page 18)   I wanted as much control over my system, my lab, being able to reimage computers, install my own software etc. as possible. I was lucky enough at that time to have a one of the best IT TSA’s and he taught me so much and then gave me the ability to do so much on my own.

But then when I became a Learning Coordinator I came face to face with the issue of a system having to deal with 27,000 computers and some 36 TSAs to manage all those machines. Remote management was vital and the need to lock-down the system in certain areas was important in schools where there was no one who had the level of expertise needed to manage a school’s technology. So I experienced both extremes. Ultimately I’d like to see a variety of methods used. Model schools where both the staff and students can handle it properly, allowing them more access to the admin rights and then others where their systems are managed remotely but still serve them at the level they need. I think the increased use of Chromebooks have helped with this as they are less likely to be locked down as much as our Microsoft Active Directory stations were in the past. Although I was talking to a few teachers recently and they had heard about a few Google Addons at a recent STEAM conference, but when they went back to their school to install them, found they didn’t have the rights to do so. So there is still some “locking down” of even the Google environment.

Doug:  What are your thoughts about the role of teacher-librarians in today’s schools?

Cliff: What can I say? Some of my best friends are Teacher-Librarians!! And of course if you browsed to and read the article I posted earlier you’ll know my partnership with a great T-Lib was a part of my time teaching technology full-time at the elementary level. Prior to our massive dependence on technology it was the Partner in Action teacher-librarian who was the best support for a classroom teacher. Classroom teachers would plan and collaborate together with their T-Lib and together they would work through the project with their students. It really was a partnership. Although in my time as a LC I visited many schools where the T-Lib would spend time at her desk holding the bar code scanner as kids walked by holding their books for the computer system to scan their information.  No helping kids get books, no sharing, no Partners collaboration, no reading to kids, nothing!  Those were very sad situations. I don’t remember exactly when the change came in Thames Valley when a school had to have a qualified person in the library to the point now where a principal can assign anyone to that task happened, but in far too many schools, qualified / non-qualified didn’t seem to change anything.

Today when labs are disappearing and libraries are becoming Learning Commons and / or MakerSpaces, the best T-Lib have added the ability to support the teachers in their schools with technology, Google Classroom, coding, Spheros, robotics and so many of the authoring apps on iPads, but at the same time not neglecting literacy, reading and writing. I know and visit a few of them and their stories might be well told here in another interview.

Doug:  I know now that you’re doing some work with schools in your retirement to share your technology expertise.  We’ve had many discussions about Ubuntu.  Can you bring us up to date?

Cliff: While I was still a Learning Coordinator I would do various inservice sessions for some of the First Nations schools (mainly SMARTBoard sessions) After I retired I began going to those same schools one day a week to support all their technology. This involved actually repairing computers, updating the software, doing inservice sessions for teachers and team teaching with them on various projects in their classrooms.

With regard to the Ubuntu connection, I found as Windows XP stopped being supported that I could add Ubuntu to those desktops and still get a lot of mileage out of their use.

Doug:  You tag many of your Twitter messages with #tvdsb, obviously with reference to your old district.  Should all school districts use such an approach?

Cliff: I think they should, I mean why not? For the various educators #tvdsb is one of the main hashtags where everything of interest can be shared, but there are also others – #tvadmin, #tvdsbmath #tvdsbtech #tvdsbadmin #tvdsblit #tvdsbart and so on …. So if you want to find what is being shared in our Board it’s being shared somewhere with that hashtag.

Doug:  A while back I had interviewed Jennifer Aston, a person I’ve never met personally but read her blog and interact with online.  Is she as nice a person in real life?  Can you describe her role as an instructional coach with respect to technology?

Cliff: LOL …Is Jen a nice person in real life? That’s a good one! If she weren’t I’d have just ignored this question and moved on. I might be retired and have more freedom to speak my mind but being cruel is not my style. Not only is Jen a nice person (as you put it) but she is extremely conscientious, a self-starter, a leader and very innovative. She’s on a MAT leave right now but still continued hosting and moderating Twitter chats in the evenings. I remember sitting down with her years ago in her first year as an Instructional Coach and brainstorming ideas for the entire Instructional Coach team to find a way to share all their great ideas with the system. The result was a Pinterest collection that started here and grew into the personal collections of so many of the 38 Instructional Coaches TValley has now in all of our schools. One of the most massive collection is from another Coach who works with Jen – Sabrina Tyer –  I think on one level all the Coaches inspire each other.

TValley had a unique program recently, GENTLE – where they were able to welcome more Syrian refugees into our schools in a very unique way. And if you read Jen’s Blog you will know she was very active in working with Syrian families. Her passion to help is natural and innate to her personality. And another example of that generosity was so very evident when she responded to the story about outrageous food prices in the Canadian north by joining this FB group and regularly sending parcels of food to food banks in Nunavut. So yes, Jen is a nice person.:)  

With regard to her role as an Instructional Coach and how it’s related to technology, simply looking at her digital footprint will tell the story. Her blog is  Her Twitter feed is She moderates this Twitter Chat group  and her Pinterest page –  

Doug:  From your experience, you’ve seen lots of things come and go.  What technologies do you think:

  • will ultimately stand the test of time;
  • are a “flash in the pan” and will just be a memory in a few years;
  • what about “makerspace”.  Game changing, innovative, or something that has always been done in Ontario just with a new name;
  • is in the future for education

Cliff: Mobile will stay! Apple started way ahead of the pack, but Android, Google etc. are making a fast in-roads into our schools. Stories are coming out of the US where entire districts are dropping Apple products for Chromebooks etc. But that battle will continue.

Flash in a pan will be some of the toys that are related to the whole coding phenomena. I love Sphero balls and OzBots and programming them can be fun, but some math teachers are already making reference to the fact that we are not getting the depth of math understanding out of programming them to roll down the hall and make a 90 degree turn. That might be fine at an early elementary level but I’m hoping to see a deeper richer math experience with these toys in the higher grades or we might find we leave them altogether and move on to something else. But that will always depend on the teacher and the knowledge and skills they bring the their students in that regard.

MakerSpace will evolve with each teacher and each school. Some stick with Lego Walls and Connects Sticks. Others are creating circuits and still others experimenting with green screen and video production. You can travel from school to school and what you find are successful MakerSpaces are dependent on the teachers in the building, the actual space they’ve allocated to that concept and of course the funding they are prepared to allow to get the collections of things the kids can do and experiment with during their MakerSpace experiences. Key though will also always be the organization, how the bins of materials are stored, replenished and monitored. Nothing will kill a MakerSpace faster than finding (after a few weeks) a mess in the room; the bins not sorted, lego in with circuits, Ozbots not charged, parts of the robotics mBots missing and the teachers who started out so passionate about the concept,  fed up with being the only ones cleaning up and organizing, that they say, “I can’t do this anymore, I’m done!” and walk away from the project.

In the future? How we do assessment has to change first. In a time of FreshGrade and Seesaw (to name a few) doing report cards 2-3 times a year needs to change. Curriculums also need to adapt to the whole Inquiry Based Learning model and subjects as a focus will disappear and collaborative integrated learning will take place in a stronger holistic manner. Finland seems to be headed in that direction and I know there has been discussions in many Innovative forums in TValley about how that might look within our own schools.  Our whole Rethink Secondary plan might come to some of those conclusions. We don’t know yet, but the report is here.

Doug:  Thanks so much for the interview, Cliff.  It was great to catch up.  I enjoyed so much shared learning with you and those you recognized when we met regularly through the Western RCAC.  I’m so glad to hear that you continue to help colleagues in Thames Valley.

Cliff is very active on Facebook and on Twitter at @kraekerc.  He also builds and maintains various websites for educational and private clients. If you need support with a website drop Cliff a line at

Here are just a few of those links Cliff mentioned in the interview.

You can read all of the interviews posted to this blog here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy Canada Day.

Enjoy some Ontario Edublogs before you head out to the festivities and fireworks in your community.

Taking The Time To Reflect

Aviva Dunsiger took me up on the challenge to do a Top Ten reflection post.  I did challenge her but she was already thinking/writing when she read the challenge.

Here’s her #1.

As I commented on her blog, I found that it was interesting that all of the items in her Top Ten list revolved around her connections with others.  Click through and read her other nine.

Questions for Reflection (June or September)

Joe Restoute General provides some questions for reflection as well.

I thought it was of interest that they could be used as a summative bit, in June, or as a formative, in September.

  • What were your successes and challenges last year?

  • What were the periods in which you felt you and your students achieved the most connection?

  • What did you learn from the difficulties you faced?

And, of course, you’ll have to visit his blog to see his complete list.

I think that point #6 could be a separate blog post in itself.

Too honest for EQAO

You can never have enough stories about integrity.  It’s especially powerful when they come from a student and that was the case in this post from Brandon Grasley about a student writing the EQAO test for mathematics.

Check out this conversation with a young lady in his class.

The rest of his post puts it all in context.  It reminds us that education can be a game and can be gamed at times.  How many times do our students or we, in an educational setting, write an answer knowing darn well that it’s wrong but we were hoping for at least partial marks?

I think it’s a good ethical question for the first of the year – what’s better – getting a zero or getting a bit of marks just for an attempt to put something to paper.

In the “real world”, whatever that is, you would turn to get help via resource or talking to a colleague.  You don’t always go it alone and have to have it done within a certain time period.  That reality only exists on tests.

My Kids’ Digital World

Good grief, they start to learn young, don’t they?

The rest of the post from Jennifer Aston is fun to read and brought more than a quick smile here.  I don’t ascribe to the concept of the digital native but I will fully admit that there are, and always have been, differences between the generations.

While we may not be vested in today’s technology at the same level that youngters are, we can certainly be there to protect and install a sense of right and wrong.  And, as Jennifer notes, we can learn from them if we only take the time to do so.

Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 74 #KindergartenBioBlitz June Edition

Hosted three times a year, Early Years teachers all over the world should give this a look to see if they can participate.

From Rob Ridley’s blog, he reflects a bit on the project, its beginnings, and how it’s expanded to include countries all over the globe.

This really reinforces the concept that learning doesn’t necessarily have to be enclosed within the walls of your classroom or the fences of your school.

Know Thy Impact

Lisa Cranston describes nicely one of the challenges of being a resource teacher with a central assignment.  I worked along with her and I know that it’s always hard to tell if you’ve made a difference or even been noticed.  Even though we had one of the smallest geographic regions in the province, it still was tough to make sure that you made the connections.

I had the luxury of bringing school representatives together every other month for some shared learning and I also kept a checklist where I recorded all of the school visits that I made.  I much more enjoyed visits to the Hillman Marsh than sitting in a windowless office.

But still, there aren’t enough hours in the year to visit everyone.  How do you know if you make an impact?

A colleague and I were chatting the other day about how it can be challenging for central office staff like coaches and consultants to be able to see the impact our work has on educators, administrators and students.  As a classroom teacher I think it seemed easier to gauge our impact, especially since I mostly taught primary grades.  As a kindergarten teacher, students might arrive with no pencil grip and by October they were printing their name!

When I wasn’t physically visiting with people, I was updating information on our FirstClass server and my own wikis.

But you still wonder – how much of a difference did it make?  Now that I’m not there, it’s all been erased.  (I still have most of it backed up here though)

I had the honour of being at Lisa’s retirement celebration recently.  There certainly were many there to celebrate with her so I don’t think there’s any question that she reached so many in her career.

Like Lisa concludes in her post, it’s nice to get that note from people just acknowledging the contribution that she made.


Reaching every student and making a difference is a challenge for every teacher.  Joe Caruso shares his experience and learning from a school district visit from Jon Orr.

Students do most of the work.  The multimedia aspect can be engaging for the students.  In fact, as a culminating activity near the end of the course, Jon has the students create their own 3 Act videos.  Students learn best when they’re engaged and create their own understanding.  By coming up with their own questions, they create ownership in the process and are more likely to follow through.  Also, watching the rest of the video to see what happens, can peak the students’ interest to see if their solution is correct.

I wish that I’d had the technology to do the 3 Act video when I taught Grade 9 mathematics.  I can see the power in it.  Another Ontario Education who is big into the 3 Act Mathematics is Kyle Pearce and his excellent Tap into Teen Minds blog.

How’s that for a quick leap into Summer.  I hope that you enjoyed these posts and take the time to click through and read the originals.

Then, enjoy the fireworks.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to another Friday of great reading from the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers.  Here’s some of what I read this week.

Setting up WordPress for Online Learning (Part 1)

Richard Fouchaux gives a very detailed story of how he set up his own instance of WordPress.  This is Part 1 and Part 2 is to come.  I thought it was quite the coincidence since I had two questions about installing one’s own WordPress site.

His description and commentary will walk you through the steps.

I remember setting things up in test mode a few years ago.  As he notes, it’s not a quick process.  When I went to shift to production mode, I then found out that my ISP didn’t support WordPress.  Of course, there are other alternatives including hosts that claim to offer one-click installation.  I do also remember having discussions with others who didn’t want the hassle of the setup and, equally as important, the maintenance and updates of a site.  These insights made me back away from that direction and move to just blogging on the and sites.  It’s not as elegant but has a certain appeal.  I do have appreciation for those who host their own and do their own maintenance.  I think it’s a case of there not really being a bad solution but you need to make sure that you’re covering everything if you host your own.  The description in this post is nice.

New Job!

One of the very best things about teaching is that you get a fresh start every school year.  New students, perhaps a new subject/grade level, sometimes a new curriculum, usually a chance to teach something with a different perspective or different tools.  One thing, it’s never boring.

Eva Thompson has a new job and shares her excitement about it in this blog post.

I am thrilled to start a new job this Fall with my Board. In recent years, I have been looking for new challenges and opportunities that go beyond the regular classroom. I was fortunate to work with some people who recognized this desire and offered tips and suggestions on how to reach this goal.

The naysayers of education need to tap into the excitement that she and everyone exudes when you get a chance to do things over again in September.  And, it’s not a two month vacation; it’s two months to think about and prepare for the new beginning.

Teachers Saves Lives

I think it’s appropriate that Albert Fong’s post follows Eva’s.

About 5 years into my career, I was starting to feel comfortable with the job. I have some experience and developed confidence in myself that this is something I can do for a long time. I could have (and was heading towards) a teacher’s equivalent of Groundhog Day. My lessons were set, on PowerPoint, I had different versions of similar tests, and I could see myself plateauing and coast for the next 25 years to retirement.

Thirty and out.

Fortunately, for Albert on a professional and personal level, he had an intervention.

Check out his post to see how his perspective has changed.

About 5 years into my career, I was starting to feel comfortable with the job. I have some experience and developed confidence in myself that this is something I can do for a long time. I could have (and was heading towards) a teacher’s equivalent of Groundhog Day. My lessons were set, on PowerPoint, I had different versions of similar tests, and I could see myself plateauing and coast for the next 25 years to retirement.

Journey to Canada: PD for librarians and Canada & World Studies teachers

The Ontario Teachers’ Federation is a great organization to work with.  Alanna King gets a chance this summer to share her expertise in an Ottawa event.

It sounds like a fabulous experience and the field trips look awesome.  Good luck Kate and Alanna.

The complete list of OTF summer offerings can be found here.

Defying gravity

I think so many of us were just lost for words when it came to the incident in Orlando and the impact that it has had on all, including those of us who reside north of the border.  Cal Armstrong reflects on what won’t change and what will change, not necessarily in Orlando, but in society in general and to him on a personal level.

Andrew, you’re wrong.  

And you have to be wrong. 

No, we’re not going to get a rational approach to gun ownership in the US, no we’re not going to remember that personal choice in religion stops at the end of your pew or prayer mat, or that engaging in political hate is any better than any kind of hate. 

But I’ll give you one change, Andrew. 

I’m moving “gay” from the last in the list of descriptors to the first.

It’s always a challenge in critical literacy to interpret the news reports and what gets included and wonder about what gets excluded by the news editors.  Cal takes all of that out of the picture by telling us his story via blog.  No third party interpretation is in the way of understanding here.

What Can You Learn From “My Brother Is Autistic?”

I’ve kind of turned away from watching TED Talks.  They were once the opportunity for people with passion or insights to share that with the world.  Now, so many of them turn out to be self-promotional (and it appears to be working for them) and I’ve just lost interest.  I guess, in a noisy world, you have to shout to be heard.  We’re certainly seeing that in politics.

But, Royan Lee’s talk in Kitchener turned back the trend and he got personal.  It was a return to the type of TED Talk that I used to enjoy.

It didn’t go unnoticed by Aviva Dunsiger either.  She provides a wonderful list of things to be learned from his talk and I think she nails it.

Not only did this generate this post, but it inspired her to write another from her very personal point of view.  My Sister Is Gifted.

 Let’s Go M.A.D Together!

Peter Cameron shared a quotation that all teachers ask.

The balance of the post talks about the M.A.D. experience in his classroom and the causes that it supported.  The list is quite impressive.

As classes wrap up for this school year and teachers start to think of things in fall, Peter offers this invitation.


So, as you ponder how things might be different for your class for the fall, does this have a place?

It’s been another wonderful week of reading and sharing some of the very best from Ontario Edubloggers.  Of course, there’s much more.  Click through and check out the complete list and add your blog via form if it’s not there already.

And, as always, please click through and read the original blog posts and drop off a comment.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy Friday.  It won’t be long now.

Please check out some of the great works of Ontario Edubloggers that I’ve read recently.


In response to the challenge that I issued earlier in this week, David Carruthers poked a couple of members of what he considers his own PLN and shared some of what resonated with his from Sylvia Duckworth’s Sketchnote.

While I tagged people in my original post, he highlights concepts.

It works well and I’ll bet you’ll be in agreement with his post.

There are a few districts that really work the concept of the digital Personal Learning Network.  Sure, there are lots of individual Twitter accounts sharing classroom pictures with parents, but Thames Valley has always been a great place to go to see educators nicely engaged and learning with each other and indeed the educational world.

20 Ideas for Celebrating Aboriginal Culture in Your Class

Just in time for next Tuesday, some ideas about Aboriginal Culture for your classroom from David Sornberger.

  1. inviting an Indigenous guest speakers, e.g., an Elder, to speak on local history as well as on contemporary issues
  2. plan a community activity with a partner (partners could be an on-reserve school or school district)
  3. arts and crafts display or workshop
  4. Indigenous language workshop
  5. playing traditional or contemporary games (e.g. lacrosse)
  6. preparing a display of items such as treaties, arts and books

More at his original post.

Minecraft: Spatial Sense, Structures & Growing Patterns

Brian Aspinall’s latest post is actually a YouTube video dealing with this topic.

After watching the video, if you’re in search for more, check out a new creation from Brian.  It’s a separate blog called “Hour of Curiosity“.

Hour of Curiosity

Who’s Brian trying to kid?

If you can do all this in an hour, then put on your super hero costume and head to the front of the line.

You have to feel just a bit sorry for those trying to play catch up with all the excitement that coding and other activities offer.  In this one spot, look for some supporting materials and a desire to collect even more.

The Hour of Curiosity is not a scheduled event. Rather it is a place for teachers to get comfortable with coding, augmented reality, Minecraft and MaKey MaKey. Some resources are meant for PD opportunities, some are classroom activities and some are student examples.

5 Vintage and Powerful Teaching Moves That You Don’t Need an App For

Royan Lee is always on the move and he’s done it again.

Stepping back from the App obsession, are there indeed things that need to be considered for their merit in the classroom.  We have 1:1 classrooms, 1:1 wannabees, 1:1 wishers, lab walkers, shared devices, and all the rest.  But is that all?

Royan argues successfully, with examples, about great alternatives.

I shudder when I think of computer science classrooms where students get a problem, sit down at the computer, and begin coding.  When they hit the wall, and they will, often they don’t know why.  If they’d only planned first…

Technology can lead to powerful results but that shouldn’t be the only game in town.

Drop by Royan’s blog and drop off your most powerful non-app idea.

A world full of materials!

Joanne Babalis’ is a natural followup to Royan’s.

The world is filled with materials, and I have already started to introduce them to my five month old son.  Each day he discovers new objects, colours, books, and makes it quite clear what interests him.  When I was invited back to the Louise Kool & Galt, a company that specializes in early childhood furniture and materials, I thought that it would be a great chance for us to explore!  While I was there, we also planned one of our upcoming #CTInquiry sessions that will be held within their board room.

The pictures are from a visit to the company so don’t be too jealous that this is passed off as a typical classroom.  However, it is full of ideas.

There’s not an app in sight.  Well, except for the one that took the pictures, perhaps.

Ça prend du développement professionnel peronnalisé

Another argument for personalized professional development from Joël McLean.

He makes, once again, the argument for why professional development isn’t always successful.

I think that it’s time to encourage all who would be involved in professional learning opportunities to consider his points.

If it’s not personal and relevant, it’s going to be less likely to have long term effects.  So often, professional learning leaders run sessions that are of interest to them.  How about the audience?  Aren’t they the most important people in the room?  How many times do we need to sit and listen to someone pontificate about the works of <<blah blah>> and his theories.  How many times is that message forgotten on the drive home?  Or how many times do you go to a summit to see someone show off some obscure feature of a piece of software that has no useful purpose other than to show off during the session?  If that’s the case, isn’t there a better way?

A great Sketchnote introduces us to the post.


From the TESL Ontario blog, Laila Al-Sbeinati shares a lesson in conversation that has worked for her.

It’s not your typical Q&A but rather A&Q.

It’s a powerful technique in computer science; give the students the answer and they have to determine how it was generated.  It forces deeper thinking than going the other route where they may already have a partial plan in place.  So, I can see why it would work so well for her.  I like her descriptions of how she actually made it work.  I think that it’s more of a puzzle presentation which adds even more engagement potential.  You’re left with a starter collection of eight answers.

Thanks again everyone for sharing your thoughts and blog leadership.

Please make sure to drop by these blogs to read them in their entirety and leave a comment or two.  Bloggers like that sort of thing.