Category: PLN

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

If you were monitoring your Twitter stream yesterday morning, you’ll know that a draft of this post got sent by accident.  Well, let’s call it what it was – a screw-up on my part.  I was in a rush and needed to save the draft before heading out and it got posted instead of drafted.  My thanks to Aviva Dunsiger and Peter Cameron for quickly letting me know.  

#OneWordONT Update – If you are participating, you need to get your post written by this weekend and notify Julie Balen.  From her document, here is the marked growth in this project.

  • 2015 – 23 words
  • 2016 – 65 words
  • 2017 – 76 words
  • 2018 – 168 words and counting

The collection of blog posts can be found here.  Julie had originally blogged about the project here.

From around the Ontario Educational Blogosphere, here’s some great reading for your Friday morning wakeup…

Rethinking Privilege Through A Self-Reg Lens

I think I may have had the same parents as Lisa Cranston.  Like her, this was drilled into my psyche at an early age.

If you work hard, then you will succeed.
If you set your mind to it, you can do anything.
If you don’t succeed, then you have no one but yourself to blame.

The activity Lisa describes in the post is an interesting one to help see that not everyone starts as a clean slate with the same possibilities.  It’s most certainly easily transferable to the classroom or to professional learning situations.

I think that, as teachers, we see and realize this.  But, do we fully understand?

Cabin Crew

So, Anne Marie Luce took issue with the comments that Stephen Hurley and I made on the radio version of This Week in Ontario Edublogs when we equated the pilot of an airplane as a similar situation as the principal of a school.  Essentially, we noted that the pilot is isolated from the rest of the airplane, behind a closed door.

She saw things differently from us.


Anne Marie saw the principal as more the role of a flight attendant working the aisle and reaching out to every passenger/student.  I’d like to agree but with large schools, is it possible?

Then, she took the analogy a bit further talking about the control tower (Ministry of Education) as being even further removed from the needs of the passenger and yet crucial for the success of the flight.

It’s an interesting comparison.  Talking about this might make for an interesting activity at a staff meeting.

In the past week, I was on a plane myself.  We had to be de-iced before we could take off!  Who’s the de-icer in education?

10 Tools in My Teaching Day

I really enjoy posts like this one from Jon Orr.  It’s one of the ways that I learn about new tools that I may have missed.  From his list of things that get him through the day, I need to learn more about Streaks.

I already use a couple of apps to make sure that the dog gets his steps in but this looks like it manages more streaks than that.  It appears to be iPhone related so I may have to look for something equivalent on the Android side of things.

The other nine tools that he describes were known to me.

Interestingly, in the list, Jon doesn’t indicate a browser as one of his tools.  Since he names Keynote in his list, I thought that Safari might show up somewhere.  As a person who lives daily in the browser with all kinds of web applications to do this and that, I found that oddly missing.  But maybe it’s realistic; with the web everywhere, has the concept of a browser just become so invisible that we take it for granted?

My 2018 Bucket List

Joe Archer responds in this post to a challenge to identify 18 goals for 2018, thereby taking a bit of a liberty with the conventional thought of a bucket list.

There are some interesting self-challenges in the post.  I wish him success in meeting them all.  The choice of a second or more language will be a tough one to meet.

You’ll have to read his post to find out just what language he wants to learn.

There are lots of references to Microsoft applications and groups here which those of you who are so Google-centric might find interesting.

Save a Life — Choose Love Over Fear

This post, from Laurie Azzi, is as sobering as the title suggests.  She describes a project with partnership between the Ministry of Education and OECTA “Hey, Are You Doing Alright? Taking Off Masks, Ending Stigmas, Moving On.”

The project addresses the seriousness of Mental Health issues and suggests that we may gain a better understanding by “removing the mask” and revealing the story behind.

In this post, she relates the story of “Sarah: An Emerging Primary Caregiver”.

It’s a story that applies to many people.

There is an interesting statistic that will give you pause

  • Mental illness affects 1:5 Canadians in their lifetime.

Think about your staffroom or your school population and do the mathematics.  The result is why we all need to be aware.

Where There is Tea There is Hope

I was tagged in a Twitter message by Julie Balen letting me know of this new blog authored by Caroline Black.

Kudos to her for taking the leap.

I’ve done at least one thing to get out of my comfort zone today – I started a blog about my learning. Check out my introductory post here:

Her discussion about tea shoots down the notion that bloggers survive on coffee.  You’ll want to send warm thoughts to someone on Manitoulin Island with the power out.

Take a moment to visit her blog and send her a comment.  Many others have beat you there.

And, for the record, my favourite is Oolong.

The Great Micro:Bit Giveaway!

Well, maybe the second greatest giveaway.

Had Brian Aspinall been at the CSTA Conference last summer in Baltimore, he would have known that we gave every registrant for the conference their own micro:bit.

If you missed out on that, then you need to head over to Brian’s blog.  He’s going to raffle off a micro:bit in “early 2018”.  All you have to do to have a chance is register with him.

In case you missed it, I had the opportunity last weekend to interview Sarah Lalonde.  You can read the interview here.

Please take a moment to click through and read all of these blog posts and register to win a micro:bit if you’re feeling lucky.  These folks will appreciate it.

Regardless, you also need to grow your learning network by adding these folks.

A Livebinder with the big collection of Ontario Edubloggers can be found here.


An Interview with Sarah Lalonde

Screenshot 2018-01-13 at 17.30.01Sarah Lalonde is a teacher-candidate at the University of Ottawa and is also the Community Manager for voicEd Radio.  I imposed on her studies to have her take part in this interview and am so glad that she did.

Here’s a chance to look at the future of education in the province.

Doug:  I always start by asking people when we first met.  But, we haven’t met face to face (unless I’m wrong) yet!  Most certainly, we’ve met online.  Do you first recall when you first  “met” me?

Sarah: I think the key word here is YET! One of my favourite things about connecting with people online is the in real life (IRL) meet ups. Although we have only been connected virtually, I believe to have “met” you through Stephen Hurley, when we were coming up with Graphics for the shows on VoicEd Radio. He was telling me about your live show “This Week in Ontario EduBlogs” and I thought it was one of the most ingenious ideas, and so I’ve been following you ever since.

Doug:  So, you’re in Year Two of your studies to become a teacher.  How are they going?

Sarah: They are flying by. Hands down, the quickest two years of my life. Getting a B.Ed is a rollercoaster of emotions. You have to juggle many different elements at once and it’s funny you ask this because I recently posted, for National Sketchnote Day, a representation of The “Balanced” Life of a Teacher Candidate. So, when people ask: How is Teachers College going? I could simply show them this sketch in order to help them understand all of the things that are on a preservice teacher’s mind and plate on a day to day basis. Don’t get me wrong, I love every moment of it and I am so eager to be at the final leg of the race to becoming a certified teacher and member of the OCT, finding a job and ultimately guiding, mentoring and changing student’s lives.  

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Doug:  Most of us graduated from a one year program at a Faculty of Education.  What more do you think you’ve learned than we would have?

Sarah: I am genuinely grateful that I have an “extra” year of training to becoming a teacher. I still believe that the Faculties are adjusting to this two year program transition, but ultimately, in the long run, many preservice teachers benefit from the in class and practicum experience. Especially because you simply can’t go wrong with more placement time – which is invaluable experience that we will be able to bring with us into our teaching career. And, on average, I’ve probably accomplished 10-12 more classes than those who would have graduated from the one year program. However, it’s not really about the class time at the University. That extra year of the B.Ed allows you more time to find yourself as a future teacher. You have the chance to ask more questions, connect with more educators, experience more classroom time with your Associate Teacher… You build your classroom management, your teaching style. It allows you to figure things out within yourself before walking into a classroom on your own. Don’t get me wrong, you still figure things out as you go, but I am thankful for this second year as it is building my confidence for walking into interviews and being a supply teacher.

Doug:  I recall the many practice teaching and volunteer experiences that I had at the Faculty of Education and the wide variety of classrooms that I visited.  What placement (and why) would you consider your highlight so far?

Sarah: My first placement in a grade 5 classroom in a French elementary school in Ottawa was most definitely the highlight of my B.Ed so far. I say that because I spent +7 weeks with those students and was able to build incredible connections with them. As a student teacher, sometimes it is difficult to connect with your students because of your title “Student” Teacher – doesn’t give you much authority. But I learnt that it wasn’t about authority. It was about relationships and respect. Once the students learnt who I was and I learnt who each and every one of them were we became like a family; we supported each other; we laughed and cried with each other and we create a safe space in our classroom to learn. We had our ups and downs but this class allowed me to take risks as a student teacher, they made me question some of my strategies and challenged me to grow. They threw me a surprise graduation at the end of my placement. They made me a bouquet of flowers with a special thank you note from each student on the stem and a graduation cap. It was really special.

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Doug:  You’ll soon be a graduate in search of a job, I’m assuming.  What are the job prospects?  Are your prepared to move to take a position?

Sarah: Yes, you’re so right! I will be completing my degree in April and will officially be on the job hunt. Nonetheless, this is a tough question and one that comes up often. I know what my end goal is: teaching in a French language catholic school, preferably grades 4 through 6 or 9 through 10. I am not fussy when it comes to grades, but at the same time, as a new teacher I would just like a stable position.

I am a homebody. I’ve contemplated moving but have realized that I will most likely end up coming back home eventually, so why not stick out the supply list in my area (although there might not be as many job opening as the GTA for example) and in the long run I truly believe I will benefit from this decision.

Doug:  As a bilingual candidate, you have to be pretty attractive to a school district in search of teachers.  In a perfect world, would you prefer teaching in a French language school or an English language one?

Sarah: As I mentioned, my ultimate goal is to teach in a French language school. This is very important to me. Especially having grown up in the French system, I have only know French language schools my entire life. Being a Franco-Ontarienne is in my blood; it is my culture. That being said, preserving the French language in Ontario is entrenched in me and I believe it is important to continue educating future generations in that language or else it will perish.

Doug:  You’ve embraced new technologies via Twitter, Podcasting, Blogging, etc.  Were you inspired to do so because of teaching aspirations or would you have gone this route anyway?

Sarah: I ultimately started embracing the new technologies after attending my first ever EdTechTeam Summit Featuring Google for Education and Future Ready Schools at the Montreal Summit in April 2016, only a few months before starting my B.Ed at the University of Ottawa. After having attended that conference, listening to the speakers, connecting with the educators, participating in the workshops – my entire perception and philosophy on Education shifted. I was hooked. I immediately understood the power and importance of EdTech and knew that it was going to be something that I was going to learn more about. Now I present at Google Summits and am a Google Certified Educator!


Screenshot 2018-01-13 at 17.30.57

Doug:  Your abilities and enthusiasm led to your position of Community Manager with voicEd Radio.  What does that mean?  Do you get paid at the same rate as we on-air personalities?

Sarah: First of all, a big shoutout and thank you goes to Stephen Hurley for trusting me in this position as of July 2017. Words cannot describe how many amazing opportunities and doors this position has opened for me… It has truly allowed me to become a member of this passionate community of educators who share one sole purpose; the betterment of themselves for their students.

So, this summer, Stephen and I made a big push to contribute more content and graphics to our Social Media accounts by letting people know what shows were coming up and keeping everyone up to date on our newest content and blogs. I helped Stephen with the scheduling, he taught me all the ins and outs of what truly goes on behind the curtains at VoicEdRadio. My role has shifted a bit since I’ve gone back to school – I do more of the creating than the publishing. I love designing the graphics for shows and Twitter promotes you see floating around social media on the @voicEdCanada account!

Doug:  You have your own show – Que Sera Sarah?  What’s the focus of this show?

Sarah: I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that I have a show. Its surreal.  

The premise is that – I am currently a Teacher Candidate studying at the University of Ottawa, wanting to share my journey into education with the world. Yes, that’s very broad and allows me to do whatever I please with my show. But overall, my podcast consists of a variety of episode styles:

  • 1:1 interviews with educators from Canada and around the world who inspire me
  • panel discussions on topics that I want to know more about
  • discussions with other Teacher Candidates from all over Canada about what their experience is during their B.Ed program

I can admit that I never know what I am going to get when I invite someone on the podcast, but ultimately it is all about learning, sharing and connecting.

Doug:  Suppose you have your own classroom next fall – does Social Media of any sort have a place in it?

Sarah: Social media must have a place in my classroom next year – without a doubt. Depending on the age group, this will take different forms but I realize the importance of teaching beyond the 4 walls of your classroom. Thus, allowing students to connect with experts, allowing students to share their work with authentic audiences, allowing students to learn about what is going on outside of their village, town or community is critical these days. We want our students to be global learners. That being said, there are a lot of preparation to be done with the students before incorporating social media into the classroom, for example, teaching them digital literacies and the importance of being a digital citizen and their digital footprint.

Doug:  Is Social Media and its use part of your Education program?  Is so, how?

Sarah: No, social media is not used as part of my Education program and I think it is very unfortunate. I had one, and only one teacher, speak about and incorporate Twitter in one of her courses and there was tons of pushback. This says a lot about the lack of awareness about Social Media in my program and I think that Teacher Candidates need to be taught how to properly utilize these digital communities that can be ever so helpful. Brad Shreffler, from the Planning Period Podcast, always says that I should be the poster child for Social Media for educators because of all of the really cool things I’ve been able to do because it.

This interview is also the perfect example of the power of social media! We would certainly not be connecting if it wasn’t for Twitter and our PLNs.

Doug:  Recently, you retweeted this:

Screenshot 2018-01-13 at 17.31.12
How would you answer that question on a personal level?

Sarah: This sparked so much self-reflection when I saw and retweeted this. A) because I feel as though at the Faculty, my professors are teaching us, not for our futures, but for their pasts which really upsets me and is a conversation for a whole other day & B) because I wholeheartedly believe that we should be preparing students for their futures, however that future is so uncertain. These students will be working jobs that we don’t even know exist yet! And, that is why I believe we should be teaching and working on competencies with them, such as critical thinking, problem solving, entrepreneurship, creativity, collaboration and so much more.  

Doug:  Could you do it for 30/35 years?

Sarah: I could do it, but I know it won’t be easy. Preparing students for their future for 30-35 years means that I would continuously be changing my practice and my teaching. It means that I would have to keep up to date and stay in tune with the world, adjusting to the new technologies, new jobs, etc. It means that I couldn’t go back and use old lesson plans from years back – I would constantly be modifying them to adapt to my students and their needs. I think that is why educators are not preparing students for their future because they teach what they know, what they are comfortable with.  

Doug:  You blog both on your site and on the voicEd Radio site.  How do you decide which goes where?  How do you decide what language to use?

Sarah: To be honest, most of my blogs are on both my site and the VoicEd Radio site with the exception of my most recent 2018 – Practicing Lagom post which was a little more personal than professional, so I decided to strictly keep it on my personal website.  

Being bilingual, I’ve grown up with a linguistic duality. This has allowed me to live my life basically 50% English and 50% French. This may seem strange to some, but it is my reality. That being said, when I blog or podcast, the experiences I live in English – I write about in English. The contexts of my life that I want to write about in French, end up in that respective language. It also depends on the audience I am trying to reach…

Doug:  Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, Sarah.  For those of us who have gone the route you’re taking, this has been an interesting look and has brought back memories for me.  I know that we all wish you every success in the completion of your studies and look forward to seeing you blogging/vlogging/podcasting/broadcasting from your own classroom soon.

You can follow Sarah on Social Media:

This is part of a periodic posting series.  You can read all the interviews I’m done here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy Friday!

Get inspired by reading some blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.  They’re guaranteed to get you thinking.  That’s always a good thing.


I originally thought that this was going to be another #OneWordONT post.  And, it probably could be.  However, Anne Marie Luce lets us know that it’s a 13 hour flight from Beijing to Toronto – that’s plenty of time to experience turbulence.

She likens it to the turbulence that she’s hearing about in Ontario Schools.

  • Not enough supply teachers
  • Staff on stress leave
  • Mental health needs and lack of resources
  • Pressure to improve learning

It makes you wonder what the pilot is doing behind that locked door.


Another one word title, this time from Deborah McCallum.

I like how she discusses “feedback” and “assessment” in the same paragraph.  She correctly identifies that if feedback only appears on assessment, it’s missed the point.  Feedback should be given early in the learning process so that it can have a positive impact on the assessment.

There’s a great section devoted to misconceptions and suggestions for implementation.

She also makes available “Feedback Dice for Problem Solving” freely available to download and use.

Do you see a purpose for these in your classroom?

It’s “check-in” time

From Lisa Noble, this was a timely piece of advice during the recent cold snap.  It’s tough to remember, given the warm weather that we’ve experienced this week but you know it won’t last.

Do you check in on neighbours who might be affected by the weather?

Then, Lisa reminds us that they may not be the only ones who are affected by things over the holidays.  How about those students that are returning to your classroom?  We all know that everyone’s holidays are different.  Some may have enjoyed Santa in Florida and had a great time.

They’re not representative of 100% of the students in your class.

Everyone should feel welcome, valued, and know that their presence is appreciated.  Check in with everyone – meaningfully.

Interrupt Yourself

OK, here’s finally a post about a “one word” for 2018 – from Terry Greene.

It might well be advice for everyone to consider.  Most of the words that have been chosen have been high energy, high action – in this case Terry uses advice from cows.


In a fast moving world, this may well be the best advice for everyone.  We can’t all “stop the train, I want to get off”, but we can pause to think and reflect.  Is your train on the right track, headed in the direction it should?  Are you even on the right train?

Just like the cows in the photo.

A good idea worth doing?

I guess I don’t have an answer to Benjamin’s question “what should give educator’s pause?” other than to say, “Good idea! Let’s pause.”

Advice for coaches

Best advice that I ever got when I moved to work from the board office.

Don’t ever say – “I’m from the board office and I’m here to help you.”

Being a coach is a tough gig.  If you think a teaching load of students is challenging, try a coaching load of all the teachers in your charge.

In this post, Jen Giffen put out a feeler on Twitter for advice about coaching and got some great results, which she summaries in this post.


Content Curation: A necessary skill for today’s learners

Check out the image below, courtesy of Jennifer Casa-Todd.

We’re all curators.

Some of us are hoarders.

There are so many competencies that can be addressed by learners – students and teachers alike.  The notion is changing – I can remember when research was summarily rejected when you quote from Wikipedia, for example.

Now, we recognize that there is so much “stuff” available and previous looked down upon sources are now credible.

The real skill becomes how to digest and use it.  And, to cull the information that has been updated by better content.

In fact, good curation skills are the ultimate skill to protect against the “fake news” that is everywhere.  You don’t even have to look hard to find that stuff anymore.

Sitting Down, Side by Side

This post from Helen DeWaard could be a lesson for parent, teaching, coaching, living with a partner, working, …

The deepest conversations I have with my children happen in the enclosed space of the car, while driving from place to place. I will quickly offer to drive them anywhere just so we can have ‘car-talk-time’.

In the classroom, consider the most productive and effective moments.

  • Is it standing at the front of the room flipping through a Powerpoint presentation?
  • Is it wandering around watching groups interact?
  • Is it sitting next to a student talking about the learning?

Helen’s discussion about travel and positioning may just have you thinking about things differently.  Time is so precious; what can you do to make it the most productive it can be?

Please take a moment to click through and read these original posts.  As always, there are some absolutely great pieces of thinking done by the authors.  Why not benefit from it?

And, when you’re done, make sure that you’re following these people.  Expand your network of great learners.

The entire collection of posts from “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” which appears every Friday can be found here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Settle in your nice warm place and enjoy some of the blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers that I enjoyed lately.

Looking Forward

Peter McAsh shares his love for CBC Radio and listening to podcasts in this recent post on the ECOO blog.  There’s been a lot over the past year dealing with Artificial Intelligence but surprisingly little dealing with education.  So, Peter asks …

“How will AI impact education?
How will education adapt to teach students who will be part of a world with AI?”

Open ended questions, to be sure, but certainly worthy of consideration.  The thing about technology is that it can be insidious.  As such, you can’t ignore it.  Are our systems ignoring it or are they preparing for a world where it’s so available?

Upcoming Releases for Winter and Spring 2018

Because teachers and teacher-librarians want to stay on top of things and be in the know, check out this literature preview from Helen Kubiw on the CanLit for Little Canadians blog.

Month by month, see upcoming book releases in the categories of:

  • Picture Books
  • Fiction
  • Young Adult
  • Non-Fiction

Is it time to start a shopping list with your school teacher-librarian?

Crowd Sourcing Math Problems through the 12 Days of Tweetmas

Ramona Meharg describes an interesting challenge the Thames Valley District School Board held before the holidays – a puzzle or mathematics challenge each day for 12 days – with the students sending out messages about the challenges via Twitter.

Now, a Special Educational Secondary School classroom might not be on the top of your list of candidates to participate but they were in Ramona’s case.  Who doesn’t like a good challenge?  (Just don’t mention that it’s educational)

Although she had some reservations, they participated and it sounded like they had a great time – including hands on with candy canes.

For those students, social media seemed to have provided a nice opportunity to level the playing field by participating with other classes throughout the district.  It’s hard to image another setting where they would be equal players.

Ramona gives a very nice description of how they handled things and is already planning on how to incorporate Google Hangouts into things in the future.

Is there a lesson here for other school districts to copy and implement themselves?

How we #Kahoot!

Whether you prefer to learn via images or text, Laura Wheeler has you covered in this post describing how she uses Kahoot!, the social gaming system, in her mathematics classes.

For Laura, it’s not just a “pick an app and do something” experience.  She describes just how many and how she has crafted the activities for her students.  It’s not a computer-y thing either; the pictures share a story of all the tools and collaboration that happens.

And, if you want a quick overview, check out her Sketchnote of the process.  It boils everything down into one neat overview.

If you’re looking to start with Kahoot! or are looking for a more sophisticated approach, this post will be of special interest.

Duty to Report School Violence

Deborah Weston tagged me in the announcement of this post so I had to check it out.  It’s a sobering look at school violence.

In the post, Deborah gives statistics and survey results from ETFO and OECTA.  I know that many will agree with her observations and others will be inspired to find out more.


The impact on teachers should be of immediate concern to all.

Hopefully, knowing that you’re not alone, will be just the incentive for all to report issues of violence when they occur.

p.s. This post was written and scheduled Thursday morning.  During a Thursday dog walk, I got tagged in another Twitter message alerting me to this post.

2018: Hall-Dennis–Looking Back to Look Ahead

For so many in education these days, the Hall-Dennis report or Living Learning may not even be something that they’ve heard of.  And yet, it laid the groundwork for education in Ontario as it stands today.

Canada had just celebrated its Centennial when Premier Bill Davis commissioned the report.  Who could forget Expo 67 or Bobby Gimby (if you were around at the time)?

It was an opportunity for Canadians to see the future and why shouldn’t we be visioning the future of education?

Arguably, one of the most important documents to influence education in the province, the basic messages are still as applicable today as they ever were.  To quote Billy Joel, “We didn’t start the fire.”

This post from the Alpha Alternative School shows how it is influenced today by the report.

You can read the report here.  (Set aside some time, it’s not a quickie blog post)  When you hear people longing for the “good ol’ days”, they may have to go back a great deal further than Hall-Dennis.

The Half Way Mark

I had to reflect back on my own career at year 16 of teaching when I read this post from Tina Zita.

I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t counting the days/years until the end of my teaching career.  I think I was more focused on the present.  But, Tina is taking a pause to reflect on what she’s done so far and what she’s planning to do for the future.  Is this a result of us being so well connected these days?

It’s interesting to note that she’s not focused on major milestones but rather a series of “nudges”.  It’s a challenging way to look at things.

The biggest satisfaction that any teacher can have is to have students that reach out after they’ve graduated to note the things or nudges that you gave them.

Give her post a read and see if you can’t see yourself at Year 16 looking forward.

Another week and another great collection of blog posts.  Please take a few moments to click through to the original posts and give them a read and drop off a comment or two.

These authors will appreciate it.

And, follow them on Twitter.

Last week, Julie Balen’s post about OneWordOnt was featured here on the blog and has sparked a great deal of conversation and blogging from Ontario Educators.  Julie has started a Google+ community for people to share their blog posts.  You can enjoy it here.  A nice fall out form this is a number of New York state educators jumping in on the conversation and the resulting social media connections.  Wouldn’t it be nice if they crossed the Peace Bridge or the Rainbow Bridge and joined us in Niagara Falls for next November’s Bring IT, Together Conference, November 6 – 8th, 2018?  I’m cautiously optimistic that the Falls will have thawed out by then.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I hope that everyone is comfortably shoveled out on this Friday.  It was quite a bit of snow pushing around here but I did get out to get things done.

But a little snow isn’t going to stop me from getting out my Friday post, featuring some of the best Ontario Edubloggers.  As always, there’s been some great thoughts shared this week.

Breakout Games

There’s been a great deal about digital breakout games in the classroom lately.  I’ve featured posts from Larissa Aradj and Cal Armstrong here.  So, we’ve had a look at a Google solution and a Microsoft OneNote solution.  Both are great and have a purpose but Eva Thompson had a different take.

She wanted to take her students back to the original or, as she calls it, Classic Breakout activity with her students.  Click through and see if you don’t agree that sometimes the newest and technology-ist isn’t necessarily the best.  Getting up, collaborating, problem solving, …, she had it all.

Stephen Hurley shared with me this research article The Rise of Educational Escape Rooms.  It’s a definite good read if you want more information.

Four Ways To Transform EQAO

If Andrew Campbell was King of the World, he’d change a few things.  This time, he takes a look at what he’d do with EQAO – in four easy, ok not-so-easy, steps.

All four take on a modern approach to a testing situation that doesn’t seem to want to go away.  All four are indeed worth a read and consideration but there were two that really struck me:

  • Respecting professional judgement
  • Respecting Students

He describes the day-to-day reality that both teachers and students deal with and yet is thrown out the window on EQAO testing day.

Makes you think.

What If We Focused On Thinking And Problem Solving Instead Of Coding?

It isn’t often that I disagree with Aviva Dunsiger but I sure had the hair standing up on the back of my neck when I read her title.  But the world would be boring if we all agree on everything.  Her topic was influenced by another post that she had read that I found completely misunderstands what the Hour of Code is all about.

There would be huge backlash if her title had been

  • What If We Focused On Thinking And Problem Solving Instead Of Mathematics?
  • What If We Focused On Thinking And Problem Solving Instead Of Play Based Kindergarten?
  • What If We Focused On Thinking And Problem Solving Instead Of Language?

You get the point.  If you look at the activities that people focused on with the Hour of Code, the “code” part was definitely there because of the branding but the activities are anything but passive and are all about Thinking and Problem Solving.  That’s what coding/problem solving is all about.  If you can’t see that in your activities, then you’re doing it all wrong.

Superior-Greenstone District School Board Beyond the Hour of CODE Challenge

I have to give a big unrelated shout-out to Stacey Wallwin.  She introduced me to the concept of “Freighter Friday”.  Believe me, it’s a thing…

This tags on so nicely on my thoughts about Thinking and Problem Solving.  Stacey shares with a challenge from Superior-Greenstone that takes them beyond the Hour of Code and invites you and your students to join them.


Embedded in the post is a Slides presentation with more details and links to deal with all of these topics.

Well done, Stacey.  It shows that people are ready to move beyond that one Hour and really make a difference.

Teamwork and Problem Solving

On the ECOO blog, Peter McAsh shares with us an activity that he’s been involved with the past few years.

During Computer Science Education Week, the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) at the University of Waterloo acts as a local host for the Programming Challenge for Grade 10 Girls.  PC4G

The girls get a chance to be guests at the university which is always a treat but then Prof. McAsh leads them on a learning journey involving the Alice programming language.  (slide deck attached to his post)

To “make things count”,

A group of University of Waterloo math professors met in a conference room to “judge” the submissions from the girls. The primary tool for assessment is to view the animated movies created by the girls’ code. Lots of smiles and laughter from the professors. Somehow I think this is not the atmosphere in the room when they are marking Euclid Math Contests!

It sounds like a wonderful opportunity.  If you’re in Southwestern Ontario, it’s an annual thing!  Details here.  How about next year?

Let Me Teach Like The First Snow Falling

Lisa Cranston is learning that it’s sometimes nice to recycle blog posts.  Many tag them “Posts from the Past”.

In this revisit, she talks about the changing role of centrally assigned teachers.  I still remember her first day on the job and my chance to meet her and Brent.  They were going to change the world in teaching mathematics.

Things have changed since there.

Since that time there has been a dramatic shift in how we support educators in their professional learning and much of our work is done at the school using a model of collaborative inquiry where the teachers and consultants engage as co-learners in action research based student learning.

Ironically, I was thinking about this the other day when I was explaining to my wife that, in the beginning, principals didn’t like that approach since we didn’t check in with them and make presentations at staff meetings…

Too Much

It hurt to read this post from dear friend Colleen Rose.

This year has been tough. I discovered that I have limits because I pushed myself past them; my commitments, projects and goals became too much as I began to cope with a variety of health concerns in my family, including my own.

She’s experiencing a lesson that all teachers need to learn.  So many learn later rather than sooner.

There’s only so much that you can commit to before the important things in life start to suffer.  Paying attention to those that give you advice about “balance” is so important.

It’s wonderful to read the support that she’s getting from friends in the comments.  It’s always nice to know that you’re not alone.

La mémoire corporative

This post, from Joel McLean was so timely for me.

I’ve always had Microsoft and Google accounts and the online storage that goes with them.  I do have an organization scheme that works for me although I recall being laughed at during an OTF seminar for the way I do things …

Now, I have access to a Team Drive.  When I first started to use it, I didn’t think of it differently from any other organization that I’ve used in the past.  I was completely wrong.  (Yes, I gave in and read the documentation)


This blog post should be compulsory reading and understanding by principals or anyone in charge of organizational groups.  Life was different when a teacher left resources for someone else and they happened to be in a file cabinet.  What if that file cabinet is now in the cloud?

An Interview with Jim Cash

From this blog earlier this week, in case you missed it.

How’s that for your professional reading for a Friday.  Click through and read each of these wonderful posts.  The authors will appreciate it.

If you like this post, please share it with your network and let’s give these blog posts some extra digital love.

While at it, make sure you’re following:

Don’t forget to check out all the great blogs from Ontario Edubloggers here.  There’s always some good reading.  And, if you’re blogging and not in there, please add yourself with the form.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Sit down, grab a chair and get ready, er, grab a chair, sit down and get ready for some great blog reading from Ontario Educators.

The Maker Movement: It’s about ‘making up’ your own mind

At the Bring IT, Together Conference, Peter Skillen and I had a chat about various things. One of the topics was about the wide variety of resources and opinions about good pedagogy.  Some are absolutely great and best of breed.  Some others are not as good and may miss the point.

In this post, Peter tries to address this by helping frame the concept of “making”

The maker movement is not only about making with electronics and coding. Building poems, art, music, mathematical solutions, etc. are all part of the maker movement. This interactive conversation will unpack how to create knowledge-building classrooms where students are empowered with “making up” their own minds.

and then providing a very nice collection of resources to support this concept.  If you know of Peter and his passion, you know that these will be the best of the best.

Spicy Snacks: On Daughters

It’s tough, as a parent, to turn on the news and take in the latest of the news stories.  If you’re a parent, part of the deal is how to grapple with this and explain it to your children.

Royan Lee has two daughters …

I have two daughters and they are the best in the world. They are courageous, kind, and don’t take crap from anyone (least of all me). I worry about them and all of our daughters.

The post features some great “spicy things” that support his concerns.

What’s nice is that Lisa Noble replied to Royan’s post and shares an equally as worthwhile link to read.

ECOO 2017: building your Edtech house on shifting ground

Earlier this week, I had shared my thoughts about this post from Tim King.

About software and branding

I stand by my thoughts in that post and I find it sad that we’re still having to have this conversation.  Wouldn’t you think that we would have come closer together in thoughts?

I’m sure that you have a thought about this; after all if you’re reading this, you’re a technology using educator.  Can you solve all the ills of the computer education world?  If so, read Tim’s post and drop off your solution via comment.

A Remembrance Day to Remember

This was a year for some very elaborate Remembrance Day observances.  Around here, there were horses and a huge collection of service people.  It was the biggest one that I can recall.

It was a first for Susan Bruyns in her new school.  In the post, she describes how the event played out at Sir Arthur Currie.

Despite the observances, it’s important to remember the message.  Susan captures it so well in the post.

We honour those who lost their lives in battles, who never had the chance to return to their children. We honour those who are currently fighting battles, who pray each day that they will be able to return to their children.  But more importantly we focus on Peace in the hopes that our children will never know the pain of loss of a parent as a result of war.

This reinforces the importance that we continue to remember in our communities and in our schools.

Web Content into OneNote

Taking notes on computer has always been a challenge for me.  I think I’ve tried them all – Evernote, Notes, Text Edit, and I’m currently revisiting OneNote.

I look forward to posts from Cal Armstrong about some tip for using OneNote that I might possibly use.  He takes the concept past the simple Post-It note sticker of years gone past, to be sure.

In this post, she takes about putting Web Content into OneNote using not one but three different approaches.

  • OfficeLens
  • OneNote Web Clipper
  • Microsoft Edge browser

I like the flexibility that his approaches shows and will be trying these out to see if they somehow are the silver bullet for note taking that meets my needs.

Don’t Tell Me What the Learners Are Doing

I felt a little bit like I was baited and switched in this post from Terry Greene.  He started out talking about the Open Faculty Patchbook.

It’s an open, online book where post-secondary instructors reflect on their practice.  I rather enjoyed reading the content.  The “Sheets Ain’t Cheats” story was a great description of me as a brand new teacher.  So many hours wasted memorizing lessons so that I could come across as educated and knowledgeable in front of the class without referring to notes.

I’ll bet that you find a story or two in there that describes your professional life.  I enjoyed it and was really impressed with the design and accessibility.  Then, I remembered that I had just been distracted by a click in the first paragraph and went back to the original post.  I was just so impressed by educators that were showing their openness in reflecting on their practice.

But, back to the post, Terry had changed the lay of the land.  He wanted more – he was more interested in learning how students thought they learned, not about teachers thinking about how they teach.


Are we clear with all stakeholders about why we are posting to social media?

Let’s be truthful.  The answer is clearly no.  Do we even know who “all the stakeholders” are?  Jennifer Casa-Todd uses this inquiry as an opportunity to respond and shares it in this post.

I was hoping you could help direct me.  I have small children in preschool and the school uses social media for their marketing purposes.  While a highly effective marketing strategy, I’m concerned with their lack of guidelines, considering small children are involved.  Do you have any resources you could direct me to which would help highlight do’s and don’ts in using social media as an advertising technique in schools?

Follow any school or teacher or district that uses social media for this purpose and look at it critically and you might want to answer that yourself based upon your observations.

Read the post to see how Jennifer responds.  Do you agree?

Speaking of Jennifer, she was the first “Featured Blogger” on the new ECOO website.   You can find more about her and what she considers her top five blog posts here.

I hope that you stuck with me as I looked at these very powerful blog posts.  There’s always something going on with Ontario Edubloggers.

Please take the time to click through and read the original posts in their entirety and drop a comment or two. These authors will appreciate it.

And, make sure that you follow these authors on Twitter.

If you can, join Stephen Hurley and me on voicEd Radio on Wednesday mornings or repeated through the week where we use some of these posts as a launching point for discussions.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I always enjoy reading blogs from Ontario Educators and sharing them during this post.  It’s a constant reminder that there are so great thinkers out there and we’re so fortunate to have them sharing their thoughts with us.

Music, millenials and the lost art of curation

Tim King takes us back, way back, in terms of the way that we collect music.  Then, he gives us a history of music in his life from cassettes to CDs to streaming music.  Along the way, he notes that we may have lost something in the process – the deep tracks.  When you bought a cassette, you listened to all eight songs and enjoyed them all.  Now, with streaming, you just go directly to the latest hit.  And the service recommends what you listen to next.  Are we losing something?  I think so.  I can’t tell you how often my favourite song on an album never made it to the radio.

Streaming on the web contains some issues as well – distraction if you’re driving, and the cost of streaming which we know is high in Canada.

Where Tim dropped the ball though was he didn’t go back far enough – to vinyl records which just might be making a comeback!  And, to show that we didn’t always think outside the box, I saw something like this at a car show recently.

Record players were the infotainment systems of the 1950s and ’60s

What’s really cool about Tim’s post is the interaction on Twitter.  This post is now going to be considered a media resource for an AQ course.  I’m impressed.

Turning Reading On Its Head!

Speaking of Media…

I found myself thinking that my concept of reading is the same as Aviva Dunsiger.  I pick up a book, start on page one, and then read until I get done.

Full stop.

That’s reading.

Apparently not, as Aviva found out over dinner at the BIT Conference.

Michelle gave an alternative perspective. She said that maybe the problem is how we view “reading.” We’re looking at reading as “finishing a book,” but what about the reading that happens in video games? Some games require so much reading and thinking that completing a game would be equivalent to finishing an incredibly long book. And students need to read, and think about what they read, in order to meet with success, finish the game, and get the points.

I’m not totally convinced but there is a certain amount of logic that rings true.  Click through and read Aviva’s post and see where you stand.

Making Connections – Edcamp Ottawa, Voiced Radio, MADPD

One thing you can say about Paul McGuire – he’s not afraid to take a chance.

In this post, he shares his story about Edcamp Ottawa and the 75 educators there that spent a day learning.  It’s good reading and Paul identifies what he calls “new learning”.  In that bundle he includes voicEd Radio, MADPD, … The fact that the observation comes from an Edcamp adds that layer as well.  It wasn’t just the blog; he was podcasting from there too.

But there was one paragraph that rubbed me the wrong way and I called him out on it.

I would love to see some of the big school boards promote MADPD or Voiced Radio on their Twitter feed or take a leading role by encouraging their educators to take part in these new approaches.

My challenge is with him identifying only big school boards.  While they may be big in organization, the typical teacher is most impacted by the work world around her/him.  So, in a school with a school population of 500, does the need change if you’re in a large board or a small board?

I hope not because when you look, it’s all about professional growth for individual teachers and the learning that happens with that one student.

Creating the Conditions to Empower

I’m not a real fan of Ignite formats as it seems to me that they’re the exact opposite of engagement with an audience as the presenter focuses on getting the message out in the  time limits and according to the speed of the slides.  Very often, a good message can get lost in the technicalities.

But, never lose the sight of a good message and David Carruthers had a wonderful set of content for his Ignite talk.

  • Don’t Lower the Bar to Meet Diminished Expectations
  • Publicly Celebrate Achievements
  • Connect to the Heart by Cultivating Relationships and Instilling Trust
  • Lead by Example
  • Listen to Concerns

There’s some terrific ideas there that would be awesome for a full blown presentation with lots of give and take with an audience.  He breaks out his thoughts about each in the post.

BIT17 Non Conference Observations

After the BIT17 conference, Eva Thompson fired off three blog posts outlining her experience.  Any one of them would be good enough for a conference report to her supervisor and I’d encourage you to read them all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this post of random thoughts from a conference.  I pulled out four that really resonated with me.


  • Elevators
    • Me too.  My hotel had five floors and over the course of the event and going in and out of the hotel many times, the elevator was NEVER on my floor.  Now, I get that it might not be on the fifth floor where my room was but you’d think just once it would have been sitting on the ground floor.  And then it was slow too!
  • Sitting in the last row of the theatre
    • That’s absolutely me.  Particularly if there’s a speaker that I want to hear, I like being able to just focus.  And, there’s something creepy about taking notes on your computer with someone looking over your shoulder.
  • Chocolate chip muffin for breakfast
    • Why not treat yourself?  Family’s not there to see that you’re breaking the rules a bit.  That’s my rationale anyway.  I did pay attention this time; there were so many IHOP restaurants in Niagara Falls.
  • My laptop bag is not comfortable
    • I have a knapsack and a pull bag.  I prefer the pull bag that follows me on the floor.  I typically have two of three computers and the chargers that go with them.  They’re really heavy.  Don’t criticize me – I see others who shift from shoulder to shoulder to ease the pain.  If you get good with the pull bag, you can easily get on and off an escalator without breaking stride.


8th Canadian EdTech Leadership Summit 150

If you weren’t able to attend this summit, Zelia Capitão-Tavares shares a pretty inclusive summary of the day with links to the speakers.

It sounds like a typical day where “futurists” were telling the audience everything that’s wrong in education and how “change starts with you”.

The real meat for me in this post were the comments from Zelia’s students.

As each of the speakers shared virtually or live on stage, my students attentively listened to the messages, making connections to their own experiences and reflecting on potential for changes in their own environments. Sure, I smiled every once in awhile as they turned to me and whispered, “Ms.T we are already doing this”, “Ms.T you have already set us up with these choices”, and “They are talking about our classroom”. However, our side discussions were more intriguing as they asked questions of clarification, “why are they saying only star students get to do things”, “what do they mean by pockets of innovation”, “why do teachers teach to the test” and “what does teaching and learning in silos mean?”

Are these speakers out of touch with the realities today’s students face?  Maybe these students need to invite them to their classroom to get a dose of reality.  Good teachers ARE doing these things.

I hope that Ms. T. took the kids to McDonald’s or for ice cream afterwards. What great comments.

It sounds like they truly get it.

How many do you see? (Part 1)

I love this post from Mark Chubb for many reasons.

He starts with a picture of a Grade 2 geometry activity.  It’s pretty straight forward.

All he asks is a simple question.  Pick a shape and report how many of them you find in the picture.

In the real teaching world, you’d just turn to the back of the book and get the answer.  Would you actually do the activity yourself?

But the responders to Mark’s post are all teachers and they have many different answers and takes on the question.

Now, let’s go back to the concept of testing where you’re not looking at a process – just to get the right answer.  After all, this is mathematics, right?

If teachers have all these questions, how can we possible blame a child for being confused?

I hope that you’ve stuck with me this far.  It’s yet again another great week of reading.  Please click through and read the entire posts and drop off a comment.

And, join Stephen Hurley and me Wednesday mornings at 9:15 on voicEd Radio where we chat about some of the great posts of the week.