This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to my weekly wander around the blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.  As always, there’s some terrific reading.  For those of you who expected also to hear the Wednesday show on VoiceED Canada, Stephen is currently off the grid.  We’ll return when he gets back on the grid in August.


A Mathematics Blueprint: Designing a Comprehensive Mathematics Program

Rochelle Tkach offers a nice post that nicely summarizes so many things about the curriculum designing process.

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She ties it so well to Mathematics but certainly the principles apply in all areas.


Do we need to learn how to play?

There’s a great deal to think about in this post from Aviva Dunsiger.  She reflects on the experience of people leaving her workshop that was first a post of hers that I talked about last week.

I Packed. I Came. I Shared. And Now I’m Left Wondering.

Both generated some nice discussions.

The big message in all of this is about participants indicating that they were through by leaving a session.  I think that we need to respect people’s choices and decisions, even though they may not follow our expectations as to how things should end up.

I have to give Aviva credit for taking her thoughts online; it could have all kinds of different responses from people.

Even more important, in addition to her thoughts, there are a large collection of responses varying with all kinds of messages and support.  These thoughts are truly gold and should help Aviva and others design the very best professional experiences.


Map Out Your Online Course

Continuing on the theme of planning and learning, I offer this post from Tracy Sherriff.

Her context is about an online course …

So where do you start? Well, I always tell my clients to start with creating a mind map. A mind map is really just a visual brain dump of all the things that you could teach about. You can create your mind map on paper or use the digital tool of your choice. Use colour and imagery to enhance your map. It’s actually quite fun!

… and that’s certainly her intent and it makes reading the post worthwhile.

But, what if you opened the door to other things?

Wouldn’t the same principles apply to designing professional learning experiences?


Differentiated Instruction: comparing 2 subjects

There’s differentiation, and then there’s differentiation.  Are they different?

You may not have thought of it in those terms but Mark Chubb has and does in this post.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to meet the various needs of students in our classrooms lately. If we think about it, we are REALLY good at differentiated instruction in subjects like writing, yet, we struggle to do differentiated instruction well in subjects like math. Why is this???

The rest of the post will hopefully have you thinking differently about differentiation.  Does one size truly fit all disciplines?

This is a very interesting post and there’s even more rich content in the replies.


Good Leaders Read…A Lot

Perhaps this is the litmus test to apply to those who would be leaders in your life and especially for yourself …

Sue Dunlop asserts that

Great leaders also always seek to improve. They want to learn and to get better. They’re never satisfied with good enough. Reading is part of that continuous improvement. How else can you explore new ideas and create new schema?

Here’s an idea.

For the first staff meeting at the end of August/first of September, instead of going around the room asking “How did you spend your summer holidays?” you ask the question “What did you read over the summer?”.

Don’t let your principal off the hook either.


What Does an Innovating Leader Look Like?

OK, so we’ve established that leaders read.

I challenged Paul McGuire to expand on his thoughts about leadership in education.  And, he delivers in this post.

His perspective is as principal and one of his suggestions surrounds professional learning.

Teachers should be in control of their own learning, just as students need to be in control. Educators need to know that their voice matters and that the running of the school is a collective endeavour.

We’re all familiar with the Annual Learning Plan and hopefully, it’s not become a piece of lip service.  Does the ALP allow for the type of growth that Paul describes?

It’s not an easy scenario to manage.  On the one hand, you have to respect the wishes for teachers and their personal learning.  On the other hand, you have the directives from the Board Office and the Ministry of Education.

How, indeed, does the Innovating Leader make it?

I’m going to continue to challenge Paul on this and have plans to write about my own thoughts.  I think that this is a discussion that can only improve things among leaders.


Nudging the OneNote Staff Notebook Permissions

Long time Evernote user here.  But, I’m giving OneNote another chance this summer.  For me to learn how a new program works, I have to use it exclusively for as many tasks as possible and sometimes struggle when I hit a bump in the road.  In addition, I try to read as much about it as possible.

Part of my morning reads include having a section on Flipboard devoted to OneNote and another very important part of my learning is reading Cal Armstrong’s blog when he shares his tips and trick about the software.

I see so many who use OneNote at such a cursory level.  That would include me, I guess.

In this post, Cal takes us on a tutorial with Staff OneNotes and sharing workspaces.

The post is a good tutorial for how to set this up.  If your school uses OneNote, you might want to take Cal’s post to heart and give it a shot.  If it makes everyone more productive, winners all around!


Please take the time to click through and read all of these posts in their entirety.  There’s great learning to be had.

Did you start or restart a blog this summer?  Please add it to the Livebinder of Ontario Edublogs.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It was a little strange this week not doing the weekly radio show with Stephen Hurley to give an advance look at what would be in This Week in Ontario Edublogs.  Unfortunately, we were not able to connect on a time on Wednesday so you get to see them all here first! Great stuff from Ontario Edubloggers.

Don’t forget – if you’re an Ontario Educational blogger or you know of one, go to the landing back at the link above and add the link to the blog.  If you’re just looking to find new people to follow, I have the link to my Ontario Educator Twitter lists there as well.


Language, Culture & Math

Deborah McCallum is always good for providing a thought provoking post and this one doesn’t disappoint.  It’s a really powerful reminder that teachers are there for the entire package and not to cherry pick topics.

With so much emphasis on improving mathematics test scores, it’s easy to overlook this.

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‘Limited Pedagogy’ in the Past? I Don’t Think So!

I was thinking that maybe Peter Skillen had finally lost it.  Hadn’t he already blogged about this before?

Well, maybe, probably, yeah, definitely, …

But it’s a topic well worth repeating.

We didn’t have ‘limited pedagogy’. We had a robust and vibrant movement and approach based on the work of Jean PiagetJerome BrunerSeymour PapertFrank SmithLev VygotskyIvan IllichPaulo FreireA.S. Neill and countless others who promoted discovery learning, constructivism, student-centred approaches, open classrooms, active learning, multi-age learning groups, etc.

Check out Ontario’s Hall-Dennis Report (Living and Learning) of 1968.

The bizarre thing is that we didn’t have limited pedagogy in the past, in the past we had limited technology!  I can remember when the Ministry of Education provided three Icon computers per school.  Various sources were used to increase access to technology for students but the environment wasn’t perfect for a harmonious and easy use of technology in the classroom.  When you have to “take the kids to the lab”, it could easily be assumed that it was a special event that had nothing to do with regular teaching and the excellent pedagogy that was understood.

But those excuses lie in a past limited by funding and access.  We now have access and a marriage with good pedagogical practice should deliver on the promise.

Holy cow, it has generated a lot of discussion though.


I Packed. I Came. I Shared. And Now I’m Left Wondering.

If you’re a reader of Aviva Dunsiger’s work, you won’t be surprised about the wondering work.  I think that her “wondering” makes for an improved environment for her students.  We talk about inquiry and wonder being essential for students; why not for teachers?

This time, she’s wondering about people leaving her session early.

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These are good questions to search for answers.  There may well have been other circumstances.  Perhaps it was just the fact that it’s summer and it was nice outside.  Perhaps people could connect the dots and didn’t feel they needed the hands-on time.

There could be a million other reasons but I’m sure that Aviva’s wondering will result in a different approach in the future.

Perhaps do the “play” first and then tie the big concepts together afterwards?  We live in a PD environment where people are encouraged to “learn with their feet” and to move on if their needs aren’t being met.  That’s great in theory but how do you know where the session is ultimately headed?


#Iceland: Getting our bearings

Alanna King’s on holidays in Iceland with family.  This is one in a series of posts about a summer exploration there.

There’s a great description of what’s happening to the family as they take a look here and there.

I’m just surprised that Tim didn’t rent a motorcycle and leave it to Alanna and Max to catch up later.

The best part is the beautiful pictures that she’s sharing.

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Making a Positive Impact

I’m not going to say much except to highlight this last line from Jennifer Casa-Todd’s post.

How might you make someone’s world brighter today?

It’s not always easy.

On my recent trip to Baltimore, I spent a lot of time in airports (I live in fear of missing my flight) and so I’ll try to strike up a conversation with people.  In one case, I offered my iPad to play a game on to a child who was a little wild.

Airport people like being left alone, I guess.

Attempting isn’t always appreciated but I hope that I never stop trying.


What Does an Innovating Leader Look Like?

I taunted Paul McGuire to write a post so I guess that I should include it here.

So, what does an innovating leader look like?

I would hope that you say “like me”.  I would also hope that you say “I lead by example” instead of “I lead by telling people what to do”.

I always see red flags when people use the term(s) “leader”, “innovator”, or “innovating leader” in their own bio or other places where they describe themselves.  That is indeed the lowest of the low hanging fruit.  Wind fall, perhaps.  It’s more impressive when others use that term to describe them.  Then, I sit up and notice.

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The best piece of advice I ever received came from my father.

Be humble.  You look good when you make others look better.


A long-overdue tribute

I’m always a sucker for a well-crafted blog post title and that’s what this was from Diana Maliszewski.

I started to read and got interested when she made reference to the Maker Festival in Toronto.  Then, somehow the topic turned to a special trip to Toronto.

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Pictures and stories about an anniversary are really few and far between so I did read to the end.

Congratulations, you two.


There’s always something to love from the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers.  Please take the time to click through and read the entire posts and drop off a comment or two.  They’ll really appreciate it.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Well, summer is here although I read on social media of so many dedicated Ontario educators who are leading or taking AQ courses or who are on writing teams.  There are also dedicated bloggers who continue to share their thoughts.  Interestingly, not all are directly related to education.  And that’s OK too.  You should have license to write about whatever you’re thinking about.  Read on to see some of what I caught recently.


The Utterly Baffling Biker

Do you hear voices?  Tim King did.

It’s not uncommon to hear a radio from a motorcycle as it buzzes by on the road.  After all, a certain level of volume is required to make it listen-able.  But, if you’re standing on the front lawn watching them go by, it’s only there for a moment.

You’ll have to check out Tim’s thoughts when he was following someone with the radio cranked up.

Am I losing my mind? It took me several moments to realize that the three hundred pounder in beanie helmet, t-shirt and shorts on his baaiiiike in front of me had the radio so loud it was like I was in the front row of a concert, if it was a concert about carpet advertising.


Shopping For an Electric Car

I think that we all know that this will be our future.  It’s just a matter of when it happens.  Jennifer Aston shares her thoughts about shopping for an electric car.  To be honest, I wouldn’t have guessed that it would be hard to do.  I was wrong.

It was another wakeup call about values from her.  Thanks to her (and the Cheerios commercials), we didn’t put in our costly front garden plants this year but went instead for a collection of wild flowers.  Bring it on, bees.

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Perhaps in order to really make a change, we all need to invest in those things that reflect our values.

It really is nice to have a blogging friend who can serve as a social conscience at times.  I’m not ready to buy an electric car just yet but I know it’s coming.  This, from a guy who has difficulty in keeping his phone and watch charged for an entire day.


Willingness To Persevere With Learning Experiences

Rola Tibshirani did an “end of year” reflections with her Grade 6 students and took to her blog to share.

These were the leading questions…

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After sharing this, she draws some conclusions from student responses and then looks forward to next year.

What a great way to honour and respect student voice.


COURSE EVALUATION

Peter Beens also gave his students a chance for one last kick at the teacher.  He didn’t share the responses but did share the tool that he used with the students.

Knowing Peter, it’s not surprising that he used a Google Form to help collect the data.

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Just like Rola, it’s a wonderful opportunity to give students the opportunity to pay their experiences forward to the next class.

It’s also an opportunity to formally have students reflect on the course.

Presumably, in both cases, the survey was done during class to get 100% participation.  Having tried to collect evaluations from conferences and other PD events, I know how hard it is to get people to respond.


Is leadership an innovative endeavour? – Response to George Couros

I was really curious to read Paul McGuire’s thoughts on this.  In his retirement, he’s known for making some brutally frank observations via his blog.

I would suspect that, if you ask any leader in education, that they would self-identify themselves as innovative.

It’s got to be a challenge; all of the administrative details could conceivably keep you nailed to a desk doing paperwork all day long.  I’m thinking principals here, based on Paul’s background.

It begs the question – and maybe Paul will write about it some day – what does an innovating leader look like?

In the meantime …

My concern is that the urge to innovate seems to dissipate the higher people reach up the leadership ladder. There is certainly more pressure to follow the company line and as this pressure increases, the ability to innovate declines.


Three Principles for Math Teachers

Only three?

Matthew Oldridge identifies three in this post.

  • Know the Big Ideas of Mathematics that are in your Curriculum
  • Be More Interesting
  • Listen To and Talk to Kids

Each of these points are nicely fleshed out with his thoughts and some great pictures.

The ideas don’t have to be unique and earth shattering.  I think that the middle point is good advice for anyone; not just teachers of mathematics.

Like this … who hasn’t seen this problem?

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I remember this being the basis for a computer science problem – it went something like – position a chess knight in the top left square.  From there, it will make three moves.  Where could it possibly end up?

Sometimes, great things can emerge from the traditional.


Lessons from a Try A Tri

I’ll confess – this was a great title for a blog post.  Not that I wouldn’t want to read Jen Giffen’s stuff anyway, but I just had to know what she was talking about.

In this case, it was a mini-triathlon that she and a number of colleagues did before work.  With all the concern about student inactivity, why wouldn’t it work for teachers as well?  The effort that they had was pretty intensive.

We ran 2.5KM, biked 8.75KM and swam 400m

Now, that’s a morning wakeup call.

You’ll have to read the entire post as she ties in thoughts about teamwork but there’s one sentence that affirms that Royan Lee is the gentleman that we know him to be.

How’s that for “outside the box”.  While Stephen Hurley and I were discussing this on VoiceED Radio, Derek Rhodenizer talked about a PD event where he took his staff fishing.


I was concerned that the first week of summer holidays might bring a shortage of great posts from Ontario Edubloggers.  I’m glad that those above proved me wrong.

If you’re a blogger yourself, keep at it.  I hope to catch your thoughts online.

Each week, I share some of these posts with Stephen Hurley on VoiceED radio.  They’re all archived here.  You can check out our weekly program live Wednesday mornings at 9:15.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Here we are.  The last collection of awesome reading from the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers for this school year.  It’s another inspirational collection.


Flip or Flop? – Student Perceptions of Flipped Teaching

I wouldn’t normally include a post that is just a slideshow presentation.  But, I was really intrigued by the information here from Camille Rutherford.  It’s a very nice summary of attitudes and observations about the various components of a flipped classroom environment.  There’s lots to think about in this collection of Student Perceptions.

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I don’t have the greatest of Internet access speeds so could really identify with the thoughts about video.  Short and concise works.  Great advice if you’re thinking of exploring this concept.


I am still in a silo.

This post, from Chris Cluff hit a little close to home with me.  I’ll bet that it does with you too.  Our silos are our comfort zones and it really takes a strong person to break out of that silo and see what is in other’s silos.  I found that when I would do presentations to particular groups, that I’d have to think my way through their silo and what was in there to be effective.

For Chris, it wasn’t a huge leap from a personal silo to reflect upon the silo that comes from building one’s brand and how that springs from having a book deal hit social media.

I hadn’t thought about it; but when you’ve put your thoughts into book form, it’s pretty permanent and you need to be true to that.  I know that, for this blog, I’ve given myself license to change my mind depending upon what I’m currently thinking/exploring.  If I’m wrong or change my mind, I can just delete the offending post or offer a correction.  If it was in permanent form, I’d have to say “Buy my new, improved book”.


My not-polished list of signals to think through

This is an older post from Brandon Grasley.  When I first read it, I didn’t know what to do with the content.  As we approach summer holidays, I revisited it and can see some interesting spins on his not-polished list.

In particular, I cherry picked these…

  • Analog renaissance
  • Quiet
  • mental health awareness
  • Inefficient activities

They sounds like a pretty good plan for the summer as teachers re-charge.  Check out his post where he addresses each with specific examples.


How do you define success?

Answer that question in your mind before you go any further.

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You probably came up with at least some of the first three ideas from this blog post from Joel McLean.

  • Learning
  • Failing
  • Inspiring someone

With apologies to Joel, those are pretty standard fare.  Good concepts but I suspect you can see them easily.

It’s actually the fourth point that he makes that really got me thinking.  The message is even stronger when you look at the graphic that goes with it.

  • You are not a leader until you have produced another leader who can produce another leader

If you pause and think this through, it’s a pretty powerful and yet tough order.  How would you even measure that?  Perhaps he’ll flesh that out in a future post.


The Feelings Part of Feedback

Eva Thompson gives a think through about feedback and its importance.  If there’s one thing to take away from her post, it’s this.

My point is feedback elicits an emotional response.

I immediately thought of an experience that struck me emotionally.  It was first year university in one of those big classes.  You write the final exam and the professor or teaching assistant let me know that I can get a marked copy of my exam outside the professor’s office on such and such a date.

Well, it turns out that that date was after the marks were submitted to the registrar.  I did go to get my copy and there were big cardboard boxes outside the professor’s office.  I had to find my section and then look for the Ps.  They were wrapped in an elastic band.  Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to get to the Pets but I saw a lot of other names and marks on the way.  When I finally got mine, there was one mark on the outside and a couple of dash marks on the inside.  There’s my feedback.

When you consider that new teachers go from university to the classroom, there really is a need for professional learning about the importance of feedback and how best to do it.  Eva’s got a great post to get them thinking…


Ontario Math Links

David Petro gives us a neat collection of mathematics links.  Yes, I know, as you read this you don’t have any students to enjoy them with.

So, enjoy them by yourself!

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Check out this graph showing super heros at the box office.

Can you tell who is:

  • Wonder Woman
  • Suicide Squad
  • Batman v Superman
  • Man of Steel

I won’t spoil it … you’ll have to click through to the original post to see the answers.


Putting others first can cost lives in emergencies

It’s never like this in the movies.  In the movies, the hero throws caution to the wind and fights the elements and the environment to be the saviour.

This research from the University of Waterloo suggests that’s not the best way to handle emergencies.

The study, which used computer modeling of a flooded subway station

I hope that you’re never in a situation where you’re called upon to choose.

It’s an interesting read and may not be quite what you would predict.


Please take the time to click though and read the posts in their entirety.  There’s some great thinking and writing there; all originating in Ontario.

Check out the complete collection of Ontario Educational Blogs.  There’s always some great stuff there.  If you start a blog over the summer, make sure that you fill out the form and get it added to the Livebinder.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to the first Friday of summer and another look at some great offerings from Ontario Edubloggers.  If you’re from Ontario Education and blogging, please make sure that you’re on that list.  The landing page has a link to a form to let me know your desire.

As always, there’s some interesting reading and thinking that you need to enjoy!


It’s Time To Change My Supply Plans!

This post, from Aviva Dunsiger, was totally beyond by familiarity zone.  All educators get calls to cover other classes, subject to collective agreement language, but my experience was totally at the secondary school level.

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Every educator takes their profession seriously and so many don’t like leaving their class to others for coverage as often lesson planning is difficult since it’s completely out of context for others.

This raised my understanding to a new level!


Kids Thinking About Infinity

This post from Matthew Oldridge is worth checking out if only to watch the wonderful video about how to get to infinity.

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Infinity is such an interesting concept.  It truly is a concept and not an actual number.  I liked the thinking about this and how “infinity + 1” seals the deal that it’s not a number.  Yet, in mathematics, it has a special place.

When you really start to think deeply about it, it’s the sort of thing that keeps you up nights wondering.


Teaching and Assessment with Math Processes

Mathematics really seems to be the “whipping boy” in education and there’s so much written about it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just stop the world for a year so that everyone could get up to speed?

Of course, that’s not practical, but this post from Deborah McCallum certainly is.

  • problem solving
  • reasoning and proving
  • reflecting
  • selecting tools and computational strategies
  • connecting
  • representing
  • communicating

In the post, she does a wonderful job of addressing the processes and then bringing in the sorts of activities that you would expect to see in a mathematics class.

Share this around the staff room.


Introducing coding to students

We need more posts like this one from Jim Cash.

In it, he addresses the reasons why we should be teaching coding to students and lists a set of expectations that should guide the process.

Then, he takes on the actual implementation and gives us four levels.

  • Most outcomes are NOT evident or VERY WEAK
  • Outcomes that are in evidence are WEAK
  • Most outcomes are in evidence and STRONG
  • Most outcomes are STRONGLY in evidence and ROBUST

As I read the post, I preferred to thing as these as descriptors along a continuum rather than four distinct levels of a rubric.  It’s particularly evident when he describes what each look like.  I think it would be very difficult to be entirely in one of his levels.

I think that, upon reflection on your work in the classroom, you would see that a continuum best describes them rather than a hurdle required to jump from one to the next.


Epic FAIL

If all that you expected was 100% success, then the online activity that Peter Cameron’s class had planned for Monday would certainly be a fail.

After all, a number of classes from the province were in a Google Hangout along with Peter’s class.  Stephen Hurley and I were invited since we had discussed the Shut the Box concept the previous week.

So there we were, and a simply delightful young lady from Peter’s class gave us the rules and an admonishment not to cheat….  Geee.  We just met.

We were good to go and then his class dropped out of the picture.  The rest of us were nice and polite expecting them to reappear but it wasn’t to happen.  So, we played by ourselves.  I was too lazy to go and get some physical dice so just wrote a routine in a spreadsheet to roll the dice for me on my computer.

The biggest takeaway and a message that his kids really get it come in their reflection of the experience.


INTERVIEW WITH EDUCATION WEEK: BLOGGING FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS

I think it’s powerful when bloggers leave their home space and venture into amazing new areas.  In this case, it was Rusul Alrubail who was interviewed by Larry Ferlazzo for Education Week.

I had a similar opportunity and my interview with her is available here.

Both will give you insights about her life, arriving in Canada, not speaking English and now a very proficient blogger, speaker and advocate.

From the interview, here’s your motivation for why working with English Language Learners is so important.

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The Importance of Being Civil to Others Part II

Paul McGuire follows up on his original post about being civil with more thoughts and a personal detail about civility.

Several times, mainly on Facebook, I have been called naive and simplistic and people have expressed ‘surprise’ about my posts, especially regarding Catholic Education in Ontario. On Twitter, I have actually been blocked by a member of the senior administration from my former Catholic board.

I’m totally taken by surprise with this particular action.

There is a time and a place for blocking people – typically, it’s because they’re a scammer or spammer or other evil-doer.

But, I think it speaks volumes if you block a person just because you disagree with their thoughts.

I hope that the person involved reconsiders and engages in a productive conversation.  With so many voices asking this question, it’s time to step up and be responsible for your actions and existence.


I know that I say it every week but there’s some powerful reading and writing happening here.  Please take a moment and click through to the original blog posts and read them in their entirety.  They’ll appreciate the numbers and your thoughts.

Live, usually at 9:15 on Wednesday mornings, Stephen Hurley and I take a few minutes on Voiced Radio to chat about the great things happening in Ontario Edublogs.  If you’re free, please join us.  The shows are also rebroadcast frequently and there’s an on demand section where you can listen according to your schedule.

Speaking of on demand, all of the TWIOE posts are available from here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s time for my weekly wander around the province checking out great blogs posts.  Enjoy the works from Ontario Edubloggers.


 

I Was a Bad Teacher Today

Everyone has an off day.  What makes it rise to the elevation of “bad” though belongs in the eye of the first person.  That first person in this post is Peter Skillen.

I’ve had many a conversation with Peter about the good, the bad, and the ugly in education.  He definitely is a person that you want to make that type of connection with.

I also think I know where some of the buttons are that you can push to get him going.  Recently, a blogger pushed one of them and Peter pushed back.  The sacred moment this time around?  Failing to recognize the big shoulders of those we stand on today.

This educator was absolutely well-intentioned but there were errors in the definitions and in the representation of educational pedagogies of previous recent decades.

If you do a study of the history of teaching pedagogy, it is rich with solid research.  If you look at the recent efforts, there’s more of a rush to get them out instead of researching them properly.  Just because it’s the newest and shiniest doesn’t always equate into the best.

We do stand on the shoulders of giants.  All of us should recognize this.


The Importance of Being Civil to Others

This is a natural followup to the above.  You can disagree without being disagreeable and that’s what quality people do.  However, you must remain civil in a kind society.  That wasn’t the case for Paul McGuire.  His words…

In a world that is growing crueler and less civil …

Paul’s good intentions drew him into a post from Andrew Campbell and a Twitter discussion that he captures and shares in this post.

Being civil should be the way things are done whether online or not.  I’m saddened deeply to read of Paul’s experience.


Free & Easy Green Screen Editing – How to Make Transparent Backgrounds

Here’s a tech tip from Laressa Aradj.  Green Screening isn’t a new concept.  We’ve been doing it for years.  I can recall going out and buying big screens of green velvet and our Clay Animation kits and the magic that we were able to make happen with the technique.

I always started my workshops by telling people that we were going to discover the secrets of being a weather person.  But, you have to be careful with what you wear; I remember my friend Nazreen volunteering me as a dummy for Hall Davidson’s keynote at ECOO a few years ago.  I was wearing a blue/green chequered shirt and the results were, well, disastrous.

But with the right clothes and the right tools, you and your class can be magic makers as well.  For Laressa’s post, the right tools are:

  • Mac, iPad, iPhone – “Instant Alpha” in Pages or Keynote
  • Chromebook or the Web – “LunaPic”

She’s also offering a challenge from her class to others to get involved with Pic Forward Global Green Screen Challenge.


Playing Games

What activity can’t be enhanced with the appropriate use of a game?

Peter Cameron has a number of observations from the success in his class.

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It’s the last one “Math talk” that caught my attention and I read on to see how he uses the game Shut the Box with his class.

There is indeed so many great mathematics ideas in this activity.  Who would have thought that there could have been so much applied probability for students of this age?

Imagine the conversation when you roll a 4 and a 3.  Should you play a 1 or a 7?  Why?

And, they want to challenge classes outside their school to a game or two.  I think you just need to be warned that they’ve had some practice.


Additional Options for Programming/Coding Sphero

Sphero is one of the more popular robots that you can acquire for your classroom and program to do various things.  Derek Tangredi offers this post as a source for three additional applications to make your little roller do things.

Included in the post and with tutorials, you’ll find

1) Sphero Edu (aka Lightning Lab)

2) Coding with Chrome

3) Swift Playgrounds

The original inspiration for the post came from the fear that a common application was no longer going to be free.  (If you check the URL, you’ll get a hint)  I only have had experience with the first two applications.  I have a number of other applications that I’ve accumulated on my iPad for the purpose of playing around with Sphero.

The goal shouldn’t be for students to become fluent with more than one application as a way to add rigour into the process.  I’d evaluate all of the options available to you and choose the one that completely addresses your reason for coding with Sphero.

Alfred Thompson, just today, shared a terrific link in a blog post. The 5 Worst Ways to Teach Computer Science.  That, and Alfred’s post How to Teach Computer Science offer great advice for anyone teaching programming or coding.  Alfred’s sixth point is important – you don’t do everyone on the computer – is important.  Students should have solved the problem before they ever go near a computer or device and have a reasonable feeling that they’ll be successful.

Derek’s recommendation?  Well, you’ll have to click through to his post to find out!


Walking Forward Together

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

What a wonderful piece of wisdom and it summarizes this post from Laurie Azzi perfectly.  We’re treated to the hectic life of a teacher and I’m sure that all can empathize.

But the story also involves a flight to Toronto for an OECTA CLC project.

What strikes me, as I read the post, is how those who are successful, those who want to go far, pull together a fabulous team in order to make it happen.

Reading this post may take you to a different location but, if you’ve gone far, you’ll have made your own team.

Give her a read and you’ll want to take a moment yourself to reflect on all that goes together to make you successful.


An Interview with Hazel Mason

Have you ever sat in your classroom and thought “What are they thinking at the board office?”

I had the opportunity to interview Hazel Mason and found out.  For those of you who missed it, check it out.

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I hope that you enjoyed and took the opportunity to check out these posts.  Drop them off a comment if you have a moment.

Then, check out all of the great Ontario Edubloggers.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Ontario Edubloggers are a special type of type of people.  There’s always some great learning, sharing, and story telling happening.  Check out what I ran into lately.


Recognizing Stressors

Lisa Cranston is back at analysing things that cause her stress.  As shown earlier, she’s using a graphic organizer to put her thoughts in order.  She’s re-organized things in this Popplet and expanded on her original analysis.  Notice that she has them colour coded!

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I’m overly curious about this because I recognize many of these things in my own life although I’m not quite sure of when annoyance rises to the level of stressor.  I’m hoping that future posts from her will help expand on this.


Page 5: The Night Shift

I’m finding this “picture book” of Royan Lee strangely addictive.  Sure, I know Royan and our paths have crossed every now and again.  But, do you ever really “know” someone under those circumstances?

He’s revealing a great deal about his thoughts and conceptions as he grows up.  In this post, he describes his thoughts of his mother going to work and includes some prompts very suitable for classroom discussion.

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I think we all, at times, ask the last question as we struggle to get out of bed at some early hour.


Today is a good day to try something new

As long as I’ve known Diana Maliszewski, I didn’t notice that she didn’t wear makeup.  Even if I had, it’s not really any of my business anyway.  In this post, though, things have changed as she helps her daughter take the plunge with a trip to the mall.  As the father of two daughters, I’m reminded of why dad needs to have his own bathroom.  My needs are meagre; just a spot for my razor and shaving cream.  You’d think that would be easy enough.

While trying new things, Diana was prompted to a singing gig in a Flipgrid available here.  You’ll recognize many of the Ontario names on this rockstar list but may not recognize all the songs!  For her turn, Diana does a cover of Meatloaf’s “I’d do anything for love”.  At least, I think she’s covering his original.  Perhaps she’s covering someone else’s cover of the tune.

https://flipgrid.com/9c1cc0

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Diana’s post inspired Aviva Dunsiger to dig into the concept of trying something new.


My Incredible Journey

A shoutout needs to go to Jennifer Aston for alerting me to this first post by Beverley Moss documenting her growth in technology skills as part of her TLLP. (Teacher Learning and Leadership Program)

In the post, she does a wonderful job of sharing her learning.  There’s also a lesson there for those of us who use words like tweeting, blogging, Googling without thinking.  Once you embrace these things, it’s easy to become part of your language and it may just make things more of a challenge for those who are just starting to learn.  Doesn’t everyone tweet?

Actually, thanks, to Beverley, there’s one more who learned from sitting next to this emerging master!

As a step in her growing, Beverley has created a blog and this is her first post.

Now, as we know, starting a blog and making a first post is relatively easy.  The hard part comes with thinking of a second post and then continuing.  I’m happy to note that there is a second post to the blog so perhaps we’re onto something good here.

I was happy to add it to the Livebinder of Ontario Edubloggers and hope that she continues to document her growth and learning.


The Great Canadian Flag

I had blogged about the Great Canadian Flag that was raised in downtown Windsor just in time for Victoria Day.  It, and the Sculpture Park are definitely things to see when you visit Windsor.

Kyle Pearce has turned the flag into one of his three act math tasks.  Out he went, from the board office to the site which is only a few blocks away, with his camera to take some pictures of himself and the flag and part of the Detroit skyline in the background.

There’s lots of estimation, prediction, and perspective to wonder about in this activity.  It’s all part of the Canada 150 Math Challenge.


Almost There

It’s not secret that I really enjoy Eva Thompson’s writing.  She writes from the heart and tells it as it is.  There’s no sense other than this is just one authentic teacher sharing her thoughts and sometimes her struggles with her profession.

In this post, she’s wrestling with providing wellness activities for enrichment students.  The challenge?

The main excuse was, “I’m too stressed to miss class to learn how to deal with my stress”.

But, even in this statement and her thoughts around it, you just know that she’s on the right track.

I had to smile when she reported on a survey of what the students wanted more of – wellness activities.

I’m sighing with you, Eva!


Seeing the Water

Debbie Donsky addresses a group of principals and vice-principals about a topic that we should be very aware of but notes that often white educators don’t see.  It’s because of the water that we swim in.

As she notes, there has been much published about equity in the province but, as we know, those are often just words printed on paper.  How should the issue be addressed in real life?

Here’s a key message she delivered

I urge the participants to suspend reality and see the water while recognizing that the water is actually the white privilege we swim in each day. We don’t see it because we are taught not to see it. We are taught to believe that everything we achieved is because of hard work and that there were no forces working on our behalf to ensure we go there. It is not to say that we didn’t work hard — it’s just that for some, working hard will never be enough.

This is a wonderfully insightful post that you need to read and understand from beginning to end.


Are you inspired?

I know that I was when I read these posts for the first time.  Please click through and read them in their entirety and drop off a comment if you’re so inclined.

Live, usually at 9:15 on Wednesday mornings, Stephen Hurley and I take a few minutes on Voiced Radio to chat about the great things happening in Ontario Edublogs.  If you’re free, please join us.  The shows are also rebroadcast frequently and there’s an on demand section where you can listen according to your schedule.

Speaking of on demand, all of the TWIOE posts are available from here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to June!  Once again, it’s my honour to share with you some of the great reading from the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers.  As always, there are some really good things to get your head around.


Construction Zones to Classrooms

We all know that there are two seasons in Canada.  Winter and Construction.

Sue Bruyns uses a construction re-routing to give some pause for reflection.  She saw this sign on a lawn.

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It wasn’t a big leap for her to reframe the question for the classroom “Teach Like Our Own Kids Go Here”.

I would suggest that we’re part of the way there.  Think of yesterday.  Did you, in talking about your class to colleagues, friend, or spouse start a sentence with “Today, my kids did …”  If you did, you’ve got the ownership part right.

Best quote on this post comes from Sarah Sanders “Each student who walks through the door is someones everything. We have to treat each one like the gem they are.”


Decoding School Dress Codes

This is a post that should make administrators and parents stop to think about your school’s dress codes.  Matthew Morris observes:

I think we can begin to draw some conclusions here, one being that dress codes sexualize the female body and racialize the black male body.

He builds a good case in this post.  It should, at least, make you think about the dress code in your own school.  I suspect that many would rationalize it as saying that it’s good for kids and discipline.  One thing is true; it adds policing it onto a heavy teaching workload.

What if you were to waive the dress code for a week and objectively look at the effect?  Would it make a difference?  If the answer is no, then is it worth having to hang it over the heads of those affected – both students and teachers.


Escape Room / BreakOut in OneNote

Cal Armstrong is a big advocate for making Microsoft’s OneNote your educational Swiss Army Knife.

With the recent updates to the software to make the interface similar across platforms, it’s getting harder to deny it.

And this post will take you even deeper.

One of the big concepts in education right now is BreakoutEDU.  Dubbed as immersive, from their website, it’s described as:

The Breakout EDU kit allows for the facilitation of games where players use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open the locked box.

Cal takes us in an interesting direction here.  Not using the kit, but using the premise behind the game and marrying it to OneNote.  The idea is to create a challenge for students that can carries various levels that can only be unlocked by solving mathematics review questions.  He reports complete engagement with the activity. (and a big workload on his part in the creation)

It’s not a big leap to see this being a new concept for educators to share these activities.  Heck, you could even assign a group of students to create their own review questions for the rest of the class to solve.

I really like this concept and hope to hear more from it.


Google Data GIF Maker: Not Ready for Prime Time?

I read about this new tool from Google last weekend and made sure that Andy Forgrave knew about it.  He’s the king of GIFs in my world.

While I had done some exploration of my own, Andy was already all over it.  My example was a goofy collection of random coin tosses in a spreadsheet that I applied to the application.

Andy, with a little help, he analysed the different in the number of  Twitter messages from the ECOO organization account versus the conference account.  He shares his collection of data so you know what to expect in advance but it’s still interesting to see the results as generated by the tool.

Not satisfied with the Google tool, Andy does a little post-production in Photoshop.  His complete post is an insightful read.


Communicating in Algorithms: Connecting coding to literacy

This should be of interest to all those who use computer coding activities with students.  Is your experience limited to drawing a rectangle on the screen as some examples have you do or does it have the opportunity to go deeper than that?

Deeper is the answer from Deanna McLennan.  What about ties to literacy?  YES!

From her big list of exemplars, I pulled these as being particularly relevant.

  • Coding requires accurate language in order to be successful
  • Coding uses symbolic language that children will be able to read and write even if they are not yet fluent using letter and sound relationships.
  • Coding builds confidence and fluency in early readers and writers
  • Coding can become an expressive language, much like the arts, helping children to articulate their ideas and show their comprehension to others

Visit her post for her complete list and her explanation behind each.  It will bring added value to any coding that you might do with students.

And, a rationale for having kids.  Her inspiration for the post came from family!


Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable…..

The last week I spent transitioning to my new position as Elementary Principal at the Canadian International School of Beijing.

What a way to lead into a blog post?

Anne Marie Luce takes us on a leadership ride that will have you appreciating the process a leader goes through as she moves into a new position.

It’s certainly not

“I’m in charge now”

She talks of a process of honouring the efforts of those who were in the position in the past while looking forward with anticipation of the future head.

This really is a unique read; I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone be this openly reflective of moving to a new position.

The best of luck to her and a wish for every success.


Finding a Balance in Math

Heather Theijsmeijer opens up a great deal of thought about the teaching of mathematics and how discovery differs in her eyes between elementary school and secondary school.

Her description reminds me of a quote I heard once.

In elementary, we teach students; in secondary we teach subjects…

Hopefully, we’ve put that logic behind us but there may still be room to move when it comes to the concept of discovery.

Then, there’s the whole approach to mathematics and she notes…

Partially because of this, in secondary we are seeing students who struggle more and more with basic math facts. That struggle leads to frustration, cancelling out any gains that may have been made from understanding the math initially discovered in earlier years.Her words inspired a number of replies and comments.

So, she’s asking about the balance between the two.

What’s even more interesting is reading the comments to her post.

It’s a reminder that we don’t know all the answers yet.


Please take a moment to read these inspirational blog post.  Hopefully, they’ll get you to reflect on your own practice.  Make sure that you drop off a note via their comments.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Not a week goes by that I’m not amazed at the quality of posts and insights of Ontario Edubloggers.  I can’t help but keep wondering how many more are out there that I haven’t found yet.  If you’re blogging, please use the link above to add your resource.  The more, the merrier as they say.

In the meantime, please take some time to enjoy some of the great things that I read over this past while.


In search of a flattened taxonomy for tech integration

One of the Ontario personalities that I always enjoy meeting at conferences is Alanna King.  But for all the times that our paths have crossed, I’d never seen her present.  When I saw that she was on the schedule for the OSSTF Technology Conference, I realized that I had my chance.  I wasn’t disappointed, and as a matter of fact during her presentation, I turned to Peter McAsh who was sitting next to me and told him that here was a presenter that could be a keynote for the upcoming BIT Conference.  Her talk about literacy and comfort/discomfort had words of wisdom and advice for everyone in the room.

On behalf of everyone there, I apologize for all of us sitting at the back.  But that’s what we do.

Previously, I had mentioned to Peter my thoughts about SAMR and so he was generous enough to interrupt Alanna to get her to ask my thoughts.  (They’re documented here in the blog)  After the conference, Alanna and I had an ongoing discussion about the topic and I had sent her my references and a “whack” of others.  She created a Flipboard of some of the documents and then mused about the message in this post.

Why is everything in education either a ladder, a pyramid or a target? Do we not know any other 2-D shapes? I see the complexity of the issue of integrating technology effectively into learning as more of a sphere.


Leadership: Faith in Others

The actual keynote from the event didn’t disappoint either.  Colleen Rose did a magnificent job of addressing fear and hesitancy in using technology in the classroom.  And, she threw the whole group into some of our biggest fears – trying to be creative with crayons and PlayDoh without any preparation.  The group did pretty well and Colleen put together a nice Padlet of the results here.

What I found interesting was that, unlike some keynote speakers who beg, borrow, and steal from others without proper attribution, using the same presentation over and over, Colleen came across as fresh, honest, transparent, open, and caring.  She was very quick to recognize those who lent her support in the process, complete with lots of pictures/selfies.

This blog posst also included something that I’d never considered.  Her trip south included the TLLP event so it was a long stint south.  Lesser people like me would just pack more and more clothes.  In this case, Colleen called in on the kindness of friends and stayed at their home so that she could do laundry.  Who knew?

If there’s one thing to take away from this post, it’s advice in the closing line.

“You learn leadership by doing leadership” ~ Carol Campbell

What will you do today to “do leadership”?


Dear Apple, Google & Microsoft

Jim Cash addresses his concerns about the current fascination of badging/qualifications with the big three in education.  His concerns?

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I don’t think that you can take issue with any of these.  Jim does have some of the qualifications but has elected not to show them off.  I think that’s a good move for a system leader because of the optics of being in one company’s pocket.

On the other hand, I supposed that it is a good thing that people are taking technology in the classroom seriously enough to spend the money and invest the time to get these badges/qualifications.  But, is there another way?

How about the Computers in the Classroom qualification?  It’s made in Ontario and should address the Ontario Curriculum.  Unlike some of the things that the other qualifications deal with, this course shouldn’t deal with some sort of obscure software/hardware feature but rather effective teaching.  Or, how about the professional organization ECOO?  Could that organization offer some sort of badging?  A concern is that sometimes qualifications like this can be dated.  Remember when Kidpix was the big application?  Can you be current or should the qualification have an expiry date?

Check out this recent Twitter message from the OCT.  They’re doing their best.

If you do decide to go ahead and get the Google certification, this post from Sylvia Duckworth might lend you some inspiration and tips.


Blue Whale App: What is it and what should I do?

This post, from Jennifer Casa-Todd, was an eye opener for me.  I had never heard of it before but she tells of a story that involved a discussion at a parent group in Newmarket.

The claim is that this app contains a number of challenges culminating with a suicide challenge.  This is a tough topic for parents and teachers.  While this alleged app is new, the concept isn’t.  In the post, Jennifer relates her learning about the application.

In the post, her fact check on the topic lead to an article in the Daily Mail.  I did some fact checking on my own:

Beware of the Blue Whale App

‘Blue Whale’ Game Responsible for Dozens of Suicides in Russia?

I was unable to track down the app so, if it does exist, it’s not available in the traditional stores.  As we all know, we need to keep our eyes open since things like this can resurface under a different name or spawn clones.

In the meantime, Jennifer offers wonderful advice about how parents and teachers should be reminded that taking care of children should be job one.


Socks, Mathematical Thinking, and the Pigeonhole Principle

If the image in Matthew Oldridge’s post is truly of a dump of his sock drawer then I’m really impressed.  Those are the whitest socks that I’ve see in a long time.

He talks about a wonderful thinking problem that I’d long since forgotten so thanks so much for bringing it back.  The premise is simple – 10 white socks, 10 black socks in your drawer and they’re not rolled up.

In the dark,

  • how many socks do you have to select to get a pair of the same colour?
  • how many socks to you have to select to guaranteed pair of white socks?

Great examples and I enjoyed his question about whether students of different ages would solve the problem differently.

And, another kudo for making reference to Martin Gardner, part magician, part mathematician.  His writing should be in every teacher’s collection.


We are all Mathematicians!

So, Donna Fry did well in mathematics in school.  Knowing Donna, that didn’t really come as a surprise to me.

She’s relearning mathematics through a different set of eyes.  Like so many, she claims that her original learning was rote memorization – plug this into that and get the expected result and 100%.

I might have had the same teacher.  I know that I always did well in mathematics but I don’t know that I can make the same claim to excellence that she does.  I know that I always enjoyed mathematics; I’ve always considered it a discipline of puzzles and I like to solve puzzles.

Could there be a more vulnerable subject to attacks than mathematics?  Every generation has their iteration of the “new math”.  We’re seeing it again and there are great educators that are taking on this new concern with enthusiasm.

Sadly though, while we may all be mathematicians, we all don’t have the same teacher or same resources.  Nowhere is it more apparent than in the Grade 9 classroom with students coming from a number of different Grade 8 classrooms.  I can recall reading about “bluebirds” and “buzzards” while at my time at the Faculty of Education.  I later had a chance to work with a teacher who gave me a bunch of bluebirds and tried to get him to confess his secret.  I still remember his comment “there’s no magic, you just have to enjoy mathematics and let the students know it”.

It sounds like Donna is experiencing the same thing.  Can systematic change be made without everyone going through the same thing though?  She shares the wisdom of the #notabookstudy project via Storify in the post.


Fidget Spinners, Take 3: Could “Banning” Sometimes Be The Right Thing To Do?

Just when you’ve been convinced by the writing of Aviva Dunsiger, she’ll write another post talking about the opposite position and offering even more questions!

But it’s a good thing and a reminder that we need to explore all sides of an issue before making a firm decision.

Her latest take?

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With a smirk on my face, I substituted “cellphones” for “fidget spinner” and, while the distraction has a new name, the question remains the same.

Will we “be done” when we resolve the fidget spinner deally?  Of course not; there will be another distraction weaving its way into classrooms.  I suspect that the real answer lies in establishing sound expectations and sticking to them, recognizing that there needs to be some understanding on all sides.


I love the thinking of Ontario Edubloggers.  This week was no exception.  Please take the time to click through and read the original posts in their entirety and drop these authors a comment.  And, ask Aviva a question.

We all get smarter and learn better when we’re all involved.

School and Internet of Things


At the recent OSSTF Technology Conference, I had the chance to enjoy the session “How the Internet of Things Might Look in Schools of the Future” by Ramona Meharg.  She led off her descriptor with a statistic from Cisco and I was hooked.  How might it look?

The session was interesting and engaged the audience.  Through a selection of videos, she introduced a concept and then we had a chance to talk about the implications at our individual tables.

One of the observations that our table drew, and it was acknowledged by the entire room when we brought it to the big discussion, was that all of the videos that she showed were professionally created by businesses.  None of what she showed us was created by a School District or a Ministry/Department of Education.  It leads to the question and a fear.

Are we going to allow industry to drive the future of our schools?  Where are those educators who purport to lead us in this discussion?  Do we want a future driven by forces outside of education or do we want it driven by a educators and supported by what technology can provide?

Needless to say, and somewhat comforting at a Technology conference, our humanity voice won out over something connected to the Internet in the ensuing discussion.  It shouldn’t be lost though that we all had our devices open doing various things – because we could.  My notes, for example, were stored online so that I could access them anywhere after the event.

And I wanted to.  There was one particular video that I wanted to revisit but no URL had been taken during the presentation.  But, I found it anyway.  I went to Ramona’s Twitter account where she had a link to her blog ” My Circus…My Monkeys“.  As luck would have it, her last post deal with this topic and she and a partner had created a Thinglink composed of links to videos based on an organizer.

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I was able to find the video that I wanted.  I decided to share the link with you because you might not have been in the room with us.  It is a nice curation on the topic.  You might want to tuck it away for reference or a provocation later.

Of course, all of this would be moot if I wasn’t connected to the internet in the first place…