This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Another week comes to an end and offers an opportunity for me to share some of the great reading that I encountered this past while from Ontario Edubloggers.

Journey to El Salvador for Teacher Candidates

I guess I’m going to have to file this post from Paul McGuire under “Fake News”.

It’s too bad.  I had all kinds of notes about my own practice teaching experiences, social justice, added value to the curriculum, the relative low costs of the program, and so much more.

I made a point of making sure that it was on the radio show This Week in Ontario Edublogs so that Stephen Hurley and I could talk about it.  Just into our discussion, we got a Twitter message from Paul that the program had been scrapped.

Bummer.  We had so much time allotted to talk about it!

The post is still a good read and example of great planning and learning possibilities.  I’m disappointed that it didn’t come to fruition.


I had a new follower this week from Brock so I checked out her blog which Meg Schned has posted to Weebly.  There was a section dealing with TECHKNOWTEACH which sounded intriguing so I checked it out.

The section is a collection of posts about topics – I don’t know if it’s a class assignment or not – but I found them interesting from someone who will soon enter the profession.  One of the posts dealt with Understanding Copyright.  All right!  How many faculties deal with this, and in particular, Creative Commons?

With technology right at our fingertips, in the form of laptops, cellphones and tablets, accessing information and resources is easier than ever before, however there are rules in place that allow us to take advantage of this properly.

I liked her thoughts and carrying this into her profession will do her well.  I did look at the entire Weebly site and didn’t see a spot where she’s identified her own level of copyright.  I think that, in addition to respecting others copyright and permission that everyone should let others know how they expect their content to be used.

Kindness – It Starts with Us

Lisa Cranston’s recent post shows a great deal of wisdom and perhaps a reminder for everyone about the importance of being kind.

In the post, she shares many personal experiences but one really resonated with me.

We’re all taught to be aware of the student who sits in the cafeteria alon eating lunch with no friends or interactions.  Lisa describes a personal experience as a supply teacher being alone in the staff room.  Should there be any difference?

With reorganization day in everyone’s future, along with the daily flow of occasional teachers, new students, and teacher candidates, this is a powerful reminder that it never hurts to be kind.


My #5BestEd decisions

Lisa Noble tagged me in the announcement of this post in response to a challenge issued by Jonathan So.  The challenge was to identify five moments that made an impact on your teaching.

Lisa follows up with her five and it’s great to see that family remains part of the discussion.  She said I was in the post somewhere, but quickly frankly, I couldn’t find it.  I had clicked the embedded video and had it playing while I was reading the content.  My big mistake was not watching the video…

Anyway, it’s a nice collection and there were two acronyms in her five decisions that stood out to me.

  • AIM
  • PLP

It’s a nice summary and I can see just in my interactions with her online, how they have helped frame her to be the educator that she is today.

I would encourage you to click through and see all five.

Sarah’s Back-To-School Story

How many times this late August have your heard from teachers who have that back to school nightmare with no lesson plans, or being late, or not wearing clothes in front of your class….?

Sarah Lalonde shares a back to school story of her own.  She doesn’t have her own classroom yet and so instead reminisced about going back to school as a student.

It’s somehow comforting to know that it’s not just teachers who are nervous but so are the students.  That may appear to be obvious but I thought that a teacher candidate identifying as a student was something special.

It brought back things that I hadn’t thought of in years.

  • clothes – what to wear
  • bus route – will it be different
  • teachers – will they be different
  • how to set up your locker to make it yours

It inspired great memories for me.  Give it a read and see if it doesn’t do the same for you.

Breakout EDU for the Win!

The concept of Breakout EDU is very popular right now.

What really impresses me is when educators go beyond the box and come up with original and new ways of designing their own challenges.  Earlier, I had been impressed with how Cal Armstrong had used OneNote to create a challenge.

In this post, Jennifer Casa-Todd describes how she sets up a Breakout session as orientation to her library.

Introduce students to the services and resources I offer in the Library by allowing them to DISCOVER these through fun, interactive challenges. So I hid puzzles in books, created posters with hidden clues and got them to answer questions on a Google Form which revealed their word-combination when they submitted the form. It was a really nice mix of traditional and digital Breakout components. I am not going to lie, I was super nervous. You see, unlike a classroom teacher, I have no real rapport with these students coming into the Library. I don’t know their names or their learning needs.

It sounds like a winning combination.  Check out her entire post to get all the details.

Is there room in your classroom for an activity like this?

Caretaker of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt

Kristi Keery Bishop shares an interesting story about administrators’ orientation.

At our system Administrator’s meeting, we were welcomed and educated by the board’s Indigenous Education team. We were then each offered a Dish with One Spoon wampum belt to be used in our schools. This wasn’t our typical “go get in line to take these new resources for your school” kind of giveaway but a ceremony; we had to thoughtfully and publicly acknowledge our willingness to accept the responsibility of using the wampum for school education and community building but also to accept it as a treaty of friendship.

My first thought was a remembrance of so many meetings that I attended and we “got stuff”.  Sometimes a little overview to go along with it or a handout, but a ceremony?

To me, this adds addition value to the resource and makes everyone think just a little harder about the message from the meeting and how it will be used when returned to the school.

Take some time to read the post.  When was the last time that you had an educational moment that was as meaningful as this one?

Please take a moment and read the entire posts and enjoy their thoughts.  While you’re at it, make sure that you follow these folks on Twitter.

If you’re an Ontario Education blogger and aren’t in my collectionplease consider adding your URL.  There’s a form available at this site for just this purpose.

Every Wednesday morning at 9:15 on voicEd Radio, Stephen Hurley and I talk about some of the great posts that appear from Ontario Edubloggers.  The shows are also archived and you can revisit them here.



This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Author, Legendary Music Of All Times. (Aug 2, 2017). 
Magical Mystery Tour [Video file].

And, with that, we’re off on a magical tour of some of the great things written this past while by Ontario Edubloggers.


Technically, it’s not a blog yet.  The blogging area is ready to receive posts.  Instead, this sounds like a marvelous project from my two favourite internet-connected Jacs.


The project is outlined at the site, composed of five stages.  It’s going to be interesting to track the growth and I hope that lots gets posted to that blog page.

Top 5 Defining Moments; What has defined my career?!?

The top 5 defining moments meme continues with this post from Joe Archer.  He identifies five of his own along with very well described details.

A couple of moments he identifies:

  • Opening my classroom to partnerships
  • Getting into the Microsoft Educator Community

You’ll have to visit his post to read the rest.

Make sure that you follow the hashtag #5bestEd and read Jonathan’s original post here where he’s collecting links to the posts he finds.

Finding your Tribe

Ann Marie Luce continues her description of her new position in Beijing.  With this post, she describes a number of highs and lows.  One of the lows could be expected when plunked into a new society, new language, new school, new colleagues, and the remembrances of a community back home.  It must seem so far away now.

I realized just how much support I had from so many AMAZING colleagues. I miss the phone calls on the morning commutes or rides home where we discussed and working through thousands of problems. I miss the sharing of ideas and support. I miss our Community of Schools meetings where we worked on professional learning together and shared common challenges and successes. I miss the laughter, sarcasm and opportunity to just be myself 100% of the time. I miss celebrating personal and professional milestones of my staff. I miss my colleagues that pushed my thinking and forced me to grow and learn from the uncomfortable. I miss the leadership of a superintendent where I really and truly felt I could be 100% honest and transparent. In short I miss my tribe.

There’s so much to miss.

As I read the post, I realized that there are those who didn’t have to travel those big distances to miss the types of connections that they once had.  There are teachers who are in new schools, new administrators, and new coaches and they all have their own time curve for building that new tribe.

Setting the Tone for Learning

How many can remember the advice given to new teachers for the new school year?

Don’t smile until at least the second week of school

Peter Cameron takes a run at “old school” versus “new school” for approaches to the new year.

I can totally see his vision of “old school” and I’ll bet that you can too.  It’s how we were indoctrinated at the first of the school year, for so many years.

Peter offers a different technique that he uses for his classroom.  It’s a nice comparison between the old and the new.  The similarity?


Teacher Brand Ambassadors: Where Do We Go From Here?

The New York Times recently ran an article about how some well known names in the teaching business have become figureheads for commercial entities.

That was enough to get Andrew Campbell busy at the keyboard.  A great insight and advice appears near the top of his post.


It’s hard not to disagree with the points in Andrew’s post.  The Times article, of course, reflects on the US situation which is considerably different than Ontario’s.  In Ontario, typically big product decisions are made centrally but you do see edupreneurs (my nomination for worst edtech term, Andrew) who will take it and fly and become fan people for it.

By coincidence, I ran into this article – 50 Of The Best Education Accounts On Twitter.  I felt kind of good recognizing so many of the names on there.  I felt kind of badly when I didn’t associate them with any great educational initiative but with a particular product(s) instead.  Is this what “best” has become?

Checking out a few of the Twitter profiles indicate that many have aligned themselves with a particular product rather than something more important – like teaching.  Unfortunately, I don’t see a rush to change them happening anytime soon.

Andrew goes on to offer three suggestions that people would be wise to consider.

What do you think?  Doable?

Transform your Makerspace & Support Your Team Through QR Code Scanning

I remember a few years ago sitting at edCampQuinte and when it came time to sign up for sessions to lead, I chose to talk about QR Codes.  They were young and new at the time.

But we came to the conclusion that they would be the perfect tool to assist students in self-direction and to relieve teachers with the burden of answering the same question over and over again.

Derek Tangredi goes over the top with the concept.  Read how he uses QR Codes to enhance the experience for students while generating time for himself to act as the facilitator and troubleshooter.  He’s created this video to really explain things.

Author, Derek Tangredi. (Sep 9, 2017). 
How to Turn Slide Decks into QR Codes [Video file].

He’s super pumped.  What better recommendation?

A Simple Prompt with Big Impact

With the new school year, it’s time to consider new things.

Brenda Sherry takes us on a trip to think about shifting.  Who hasn’t talked about it?  Who hasn’t thought about it?  Who hasn’t hoped that their efforts have caused others to shift?

She boils it down to a simple protocol.


Don’t just stop at reading Brenda’s blog post – follow the links she provides to the research.  You’ll be glad you did.

How’s that for a magical mystery tour around the province?  and beyond.  Please take a moment and read the entire posts and enjoy their thoughts.  While you’re at it, make sure that you follow these folks on Twitter.  @jaccalder, @jacbalen, @archerjoe, @turnmeluce, @cherandpete, @acampbell99, @dtangred, @brendasherry

If you’re an Ontario blogger and aren’t in my collectionplease consider adding your URL.  There’s a form available at this site for just this purpose.

Every Wednesday morning at 9:15 on voicEd Radio, Stephen Hurley and I talk about some of the great posts that appear from Ontario Edubloggers.  The shows are also archived and you can revisit them here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Week 1 winds down for most in Ontario schools.   I hope that it’s been a great one for you.  Speaking of great, here are some great posts from the blogs of Ontario Educators.

What Are Your “Why’s?”

If you need to read one post this week, it’s this one from Aviva Dunsiger.  She was inspired by another blog post and it’s worth a read too.

It may well be the missing piece in your classroom design and everything else that you do.  I can’t help but smile when I think of the number of times I asked students “Why did you do that?”  Aviva reminds us that it’s important to ask that question of ourselves.

I was doing some thinking on my car ride into school today. While I love seeing what rooms look like — and am often inspired by what I see — I also love hearing the thinking behind the decisions.

My Top 5 Defining Moments in teaching.

Kudos have to go out to Jonathan So for starting the meme #5bested.  Regular readers will know that I shared mine earlier in this week.  Jonathan is keeping track here.

I’ve read all that I can find and really enjoy the breadth of ideas.

I was pleased to find another one that he hadn’t discovered yet – from Ramona Meharg. Ramona’s post includes some interesting ones.

  • 4 Years of Supply Teaching
  • Twitterpated – Twitterpated?

You’ll have to click through to read all five including finding out what Twitterpated means.

Community Response to Five Ways to Damage a Good School

You may recall my challenge to Paul McGuire to extend his thinking about ways to damage a good school in a blog post from Greg Ashman.

And he did.

He put up a Google Form and asked people for input.

This post from Paul focuses on one of the responses.  This quote is from his blog which is from a quote from someone who had responded.

Build a community & relationships. If you don’t have positive relationships with your students, then nothing you do in class really matters. The same applies to admin. If you don’t take the time to build relationships with your staff, then it will be difficult to get staff buy in for positive changes.

That’s great advice for all.  Particularly in the first few weeks, it’s so easy to get sucked into the black hole that is administrivia.

Andrew Campbell shares one of the ways he does it in his class to Twitter.

Bingo isn’t just for staff meetings.

Test Scores Reflect What We Think About Math

Speaking of Andrew Campbell, check out the case that he builds here.

I really like his story about his sons going for their driving test.  Even back in the day, I followed the same route.  We had sit ‘n git classes but the important part was getting out in the “real world” and driving the streets of our town.

We learned from the experience just as today’s students learn elements of mathematics by exploration and inquiry.  Yet, they’re tested in a 1:1 situation with themselves and the paper test.

Most certainly, those of us who drive did it in the real world.  We didn’t revert to a pen and pencil test to prove we knew how to drive.

The good news is that, since Andrew’s post, there’s news that the Ministry of Education will be doing a rethink of things.  Hopefully, this is part of it.  There are so many groups that would like to see a change.


From the TESL Blog, Michelle Wardman offers eight suggestions for how to reflect on your teaching.

I felt pretty good going through the list.  I had done many of them.  One of the most powerful ones, particularly if you get to teach the same grade or same students again, is the START/STOP/CONTINUE approach.  In all my lessons plans, I always had a reflection area that starts as a big blank spot that encouraged me to fill it with something.

She also talks about forming a Teacher Development Group.  I know that there are often attempts to have a forced PLC event but this is different.  This is driven by you.  It reminds me of the tenants of Peer Coaching which I found to be so powerful for me.

Click through to read all eight.

Is It Possible to Create a Culture of Feedback?

The blogger in me wonders.  After all, there is room for comments and feedback below but very few of you will take the time to give me feedback.

But, Sue Dunlop isn’t talking about blogging here.

She’s talking about feedback in general and the observation that “they won’t do anything anyway”.  I think that there’s a fine line between productive feedback and bitching at times but, if you ask for it, you need to be able to accept both.

She makes an interesting observation that any changes based upon that feedback might not necessarily happen immediately.  I think that’s a real reality in education.  I have to smiled when I think about all the “21st Century School” stuff that I’ve read this week.  We’re going to milk that one as long as we can, I guess.

It seems to me that, in addition to creating the culture of feedback, you need to have a culture of recognition of that feedback.  So, when you adopt an idea, send a note of thanks or appreciation to the person, invite that person to help you make any changes, and announce it in front of an audience and give credit where it’s due.


For this entry, I’d like to return to the TESL Ontario blog and a post from Marcella Jager.

This summer, it was 150 this and 150 that, and we generally enjoyed ourselves.  Although, here in Amherstburg, we had issues in inflating the duck.

There were also a lot of revelations about our history that came to light that didn’t paint a picture of everything being all that rose at times.

The post offers hope for the next 150 years.

Canada’s best years are not behind us, they are before us. There are cracks in our social fabric that a shared double-double cannot seem to heal.

You can’t help but think of a better Canada after reading this post.  What will you do to contribute?

Once again, I hope that you find this collection of Ontario Edublogs inspirational.  I can’t do them justice in my comments; you need to click through and read the richness and wonderful thinking that happened on each and every one of these posts.

If you’re a blogger and aren’t in my collectionplease consider adding your URL.  There’s a form available at this site for just this purpose.

Every Wednesday morning at 9:15 on voicEd Radio, Stephen Hurley and I talk about some of the great posts that appear from Ontario Edubloggers.  The shows are also archived and you can revisit them here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s time to get excited as we take a weekly tour around the province and check out the great things from the blogs of Ontario Educators.

There’s a great deal of inspiration to help with getting prepared for a return to the classroom next week.

Superman (It’s Not Easy To Be Me)

This is a post not to be read quickly or even just once.  Take your time and really understand the message that Laurie Azzi shares.

She tells a story of two teachers, one being her, being hired in Ottawa and a year later the other had left the profession.  There’s a turn that involves “His euphoric feelings of the new job, verge-of-greatness, and world-his-for-the-taking had morphed to dread, anxiety and fear. ”

It’s not a happy story and may well have you opening your eyes to look behind the “mask” that all teachers wear.

Thanks, Laurie for this poignant reminder that we all need to take care of one another.

Top 5 Defining Teaching Moments

Jonathan So offers a very interesting post here.

Although on the younger end of the teaching spectrum, Jonathan has taken the time to reflect on what has made him the teacher that he is today.  He identifies five points, two of which are:

  • Constructivist teaching
  • My Daughter (Izzy) going to school

Click through to read the rest of his list.

5 realizations that defined me as a teacher

Truth time here.  I actually read Jim Cash’s post before Jonathan’s although chronologically Jonathan’s came first.

Jim takes on the topic and offers five realizations of his own.

  • Teaching grade one made me (professionally speaking)
  • My children changed my teaching for the better

Again, visit Jim’s blog to catch all five.

And, like Jonathan, he takes time to elaborate on each of the points to give us the big picture.

Thank you both, gentlemen, for starting the ball rolling.  I’m going to write a post of my own inspired by this concept.

I will right now, challenge any and all bloggers reading this, to write a post of your own and tag Jonathan and Jim to let them know what they’ve started.

Why bring a prototype technology to an #edtech conference?

That’s the question that Tim King asks.

My knee jerk reaction was “Why not?”

After all, what better people to evaluate the potential of a technology, even a prototype, than those at an edtech conference?  If not there, then where?

Tim doesn’t settle for the status quo and he appears to have the financial backing to explore the new and the unknown.  In this case, it’s Virtual Reality.

The geeky me really enjoyed this post and just wish that I had the budget to buy into the experiments that he’s able to do with his students.  In particular, he introduces us to TiltBrush and even just poking around the site will get you excited.

The conference in question was the Pedagogy before Technology conference.  His wife Alanna was there and created a Storify document so that we can enjoy the discussion after the fact.

Screenshot 2017-08-30 at 20.07.07

New Beginnings

One of the real joys of being a teacher is that you get a chance for a do-over every September.  It might be new students, a new classroom, a new school, new colleagues, a new subject area, a new ….

If the scenery changes, then it only seems natural that your skill set should as well.

Diana Maliszewski gives us a run down of what her current and future learning contains.

  • Beginning Teacher Summer Institute New and Experienced Teacher Librarian Open House
  • implementing self-regulation skills more deliberately
  • Kids Guide to Canada project
  • Media Studies Additional Qualification course

She’s gearing up for an exciting new year.  Or, as they say in her gaming world, she’s really levelling up.

How Are You Going to Solve Your Problem?

From Peter Cameron, comes this quick and timely reminder for the inevitable barrage of questions from students.

Do you answer them?

Well, I suppose you could.  It’s certainly the most economical use of time.  Just answer and move on.

Peter reminds us that more often than not, there’s more to be learned by not being so quick with the answers.

Screenshot 2017-08-30 at 20.15.46

What’s Your Story?

We all have a story.

Many stories.

Helen DeWaard shares her story of “Openness” in this post.


That’s a lot of openness and she takes the time to expand on each concept.

After reading the post, she may just gain a new desire to become open in these area yourself.

Don’t just read her story which is interesting by itself.  Follow the links.  They provide a rich companion to her story.

I hope that you take the time to click through and read all of these interesting blog posts.  There’s some great thinking there and you can’t help but be inspired to do more on your own.

On Wednesday mornings, join Stephen Hurley and me on VoicEd radio where we use some of these blogs for inspiration for a conversation.  All of our shows have been archived on the site.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to another edition of This Week in Ontario Edublogs.  It’s a chance for me to take a tour of the province and see what’s happening with Ontario Edubloggers.

Here’s some good reading for you.

All Moved In

There have been a number of people blogging about getting in to their classrooms and getting things set up for September.  This can be a challenge over the summer as it’s the only time that the caretakers within the school have uninterrupted access for maintenance and cleaning.

Jennifer Aston’s move may be a little different than most.  Most people are back in the same classroom; some move down the hall; and some move schools.  In her case, she was an instructional coach for a few years so all of her “stuff” was stored in a basement and then moved to her classroom.  For teachers who supplement what the board/school provides with purchases of their own (most teachers do this), this can be a big task.

Then, there’s the technology, including equipment purchased via a TLLP grant.

It sounds like she’s going to put into practice some of what she learned as a coach with flexible classroom design.  Go ahead and read her thoughts and don’t overlook the wisdom of those who commented and lent their advice to her planning.


So, Ramona Meharg is on the same train, speeding towards September 5.  While it doesn’t apply to me any more, her description of the difference between July and August in terms of teacher attitude and the climate is spot on.  Nothing says the end of summer more than the continuous drone of crickets!

Her post reaches out to us at a sensory level.  Only a teacher can recognize and find glory in the smell of a new book or the feel of a brand new pen.  This hit a note with me.  I always used a very nice Waterman pen for my work and had a tradition of replacing the lead and the ink cartridges before every new school year.

In all of this, is one of the real niceties of teaching.  You get a chance to start over with a clean slate or nearly clean slate every year.  With that, you get new resources, more professional with another year of learning and professional development, …  And, if you’re on the lower end of the salary grid, a raise!

That’s all part of the back to school deal.  Add to that the sleepless night before classes, the feeling that you’re not prepared, and the well-prepared classroom.  There’s not an educator in the province that’s not going through all this.  Ramona has written all about it.  You’ll enjoy reading this post.


I’m fascinated with the concepts of Artificial Intelligence and I know that Jane Mitchinson is generally on top of things.  I always enjoy watching what she’s showing and sharing.

In this post, she was inspired by a TED talk and the connections and insights into health care.

I was intrigued by her discussion about memory.  We all lose things that we promised ourselves that we’d never forget.  If you’ve got a family member or other connection suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, you know how this can really run to an extreme.

So, at first blush, helping people with this horrible disease sounds like a terrific thing.

But, is it?  Perhaps selective forgetting is a good thing.  I never really thought about this before reading Jane’s post and read her thoughts.

What We Learned From So Far… BYOD Pilot

I really appreciate the openness and sharing that the folks at Fleming College are following as they learn.  They’re also quick to see and report on all sides of an issue.

I’ve seen so many people talk about BYOD on such a cursory level that it’s almost like an infomercial.

“Oh, we’re a BYOD school.  Kids bring their devices and magic happens.”

Actually, if it’s true and you’re experiencing the magic and it’s all that you planned, more power to you.  I suspect thought that you might be overstating things just a bit.

Alana Callan shares her thoughts and insights about this happening at Fleming with staff.

I really think that, of the goals that she includes, this one is key.

Showcase what BYOD could look like in the classroom by getting them to be the students and participating in the activities

What, indeed, does it look like?  I like the fact that she uses the term “could look like”.  As we know, you’re mileage may vary.  In the BYOD world, it definitely will.

Make sure that you read the entire post.  There’s a spot where they brainstorm web resources that you’ll find very valuable.

Accountable Assessment

I really enjoyed reading about this concept but was challenged to find out who the actual author is that claims to be the “Dean of Math”.  Using every trick I know, I came to the conclusion that she’s a teacher in Markham named Melissa D.

Back to the post.

There’s been a lot mentioned over the years about gradeless classrooms.  Personally, I think it makes so much sense.  In Computer Science, for example, what’s the difference between a program worth 87% and one worth 88%.  If I can’t tell you, then they’re both worth 88%, right?

The challenge becomes more of a technical one for Melissa.  How do you record an assessment in a class without grades?

If you’ve been pondering this, you’ll enjoy her post.  If you have any ideas or suggestions, then add them to the post as comments.

Learner, Know Yourself, Know Your Strengths, Know Your Weaknesses

Matthew Oldridge really nails the concept of reflection in this post.  He brings in the work from Starr Stackstein.

The big takeaway here is to treat reflection as an integral part of the assessment and NOT just an add-on.

I like the collection of tips that Matthew closes the post with.  In particular, he offers a short list of tools.

like Google forms, Exit Slips, conferencing

Just as we would provide a variety of teaching strategies, why wouldn’t you have an inventory of these tools and mix them up, depending upon the task and time, so that it’s not just “reflection time” with the same old tool.

Perhaps we could encourage Matthew to write a post or series of posts and create a visible inventory of these tools.  Having a wide variety would increase the value of the concept and the interest buy-in by students.


It never rains but it pours!  That’s the mantra here.  I was fortunate enough to have two interviews come to fruition on this blog this week.

An Interview with Lisa Floyd

  • Enjoy Lisa’s thoughts about Computational Thinking, parenting, and a trip to Baltimore

An Interview with Paul McGuire

  • Get inside the head of this recently retired principal who definitely isn’t letting grass grow under his feet in his retirement

Please take the time to click through and enjoy these wonderful blog posts.  You’ll be glad that you.  Hopefully, they’ll get you thinking.

Until next week…

An Interview with Paul McGuire


Paul McGuire is a recently retired elementary school principal from the Ottawa Catholic District School Board. I’ve known Paul for a number of years and have worked with him as part of a team that carried off the first Bring IT, Together Conference. It was a big chance for the ECOO organization, moving away from Toronto and partnering with another group. We wanted to make sure that we reached out to all educator groups and Paul seemed to be a natural for the administrators’ group.

Doug:  I always ask people if they recall our first face to face meeting. I do recall ours and it was quite an embarrassing moment for me. Do you remember when we first met?

Paul: Hi Doug, I remember meeting and working with you at one of the BIT Conferences. It was a great moment for me. You have always been an inspiration. I don’t remember this being awkward at all, it was really fun to work with you on such a terrific project.

Doug:  Then I guess the moment was more embarrassing for me! I distinctly recall being at the Convention Centre and you came over and stood next to me, ready to do work. It was the first time we’d met in person and you didn’t look at all like one of your social media pictures. I thought you were just looking for directions, so I asked “Can I help you with something?” I felt badly when your next move was to introduce yourself.  You’d think that I would have known the committee members that we invited to be part of the team.  How embarrassing!

Paul: Well that’s more my fault I think. I remember meeting George Couros for the first time at that conference. He told me I needed a better profile photo on my Twitter page so people could recognize me. I think I changed it the same day.

Doug:  It was important to Cyndie Jacobs and me, as co-chairs of the conference, to have a principal on our team. What are your thoughts about that? Should all conferences have administrators do this?

Paul: Yes, I think it is important, however it is pretty difficult as the job of being a principal is pretty crazy. I would do it again now that I am a retired principal. Having said this, having an administrator on the planning committee is really important. There are workshops that could be done especially for administrators. They really need to learn to step up when it comes to digital integration. This is a role they have yet to assume.

Funny thing at the time. I blogged about what i was learning every day at the BIT Conference then got in trouble from my superintendent for being too out there whatever that means. All to say, principals are under their own kind of special pressure that makes getting involved in a conference like BIT problematic.

Doug:  How could the conference have addressed the needs of administrators better?

Paul: Maybe there needs to be an administrator’s stream. They really need to be presented to in a forum where they feel comfortable. Administrators – in my experience – are pulled in so many directions. They need presenters who will guide them on a path to become digital mentors for their staff. It is, again in my opinion, tragic when you have an administrator in a school who does not have a very keen sense on how to use social media. The world is passing us by in so many ways and leaders need to step up and take an active role. This is an important message for them to hear at BIT and other conferences, however it has to be said with kindness, otherwise you will turn off your crowd.

Doug:  In your retirement, you’ve become an even more regular educational blogger. One of the series of posts that I particularly enjoyed was the story behind your climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. Can you share any additional thoughts that didn’t make it into one of your posts?  (They’re all tagged by Paul and you can read them here.)

Paul: Oh, my, that is a challenge! I tried to express everything I could in those posts. I remember getting up at 5:00 AM in Moshi, Tanzania to catch the wifi signal to get a post out. It was an incredible experience, one that I will never forget. I have never been challenged so much physically and I have to say I would do it again to see if I could do a better job. It was certainly a worthwhile experience, especially because I was able to raise almost $10,000 for a charity that works closely with families in my former school community. I think the main take away from this is experience would be the importance of challenging yourself away from your comfort zone. It was really important for me to leave the school system so I could take part in this experience. Kilimanjaro freed me up to really work outside the conventional box I was so used to after 31 years.


Doug:  Is there another “Kilimanjaro” in your future?

Paul: Yes, certainly. I would say two right now. I have started working with the University of Ottawa Faculty of Education to take second year Education students to El Salvador for three weeks next April. This could be a transformative experience for teacher candidates as they will learn what education is like in the Global South. I am also working on a fundraising trek in Peru to take place next August. The money raised by the trekking group will be going to Christie Lake Kids, a wonderful group here in Ottawa that provides recreation opportunities for low-income children. I will certainly blog about both these experiences! By the way, we are looking for participants for our Peru trek if any readers are interested.

Doug:  In your retirement, another area that you address regularly are the challenges as you see them to education. Your particular area of expertise is with school administration. You’ve mentioned that you like to protect your school and teachers from the “board office”. How important is that to you?

Paul: It has always been very important to protect teachers from the school board. I think this is the responsibility of the principal and that is actually how we were trained. You can’t be an effective leader and also be a ‘puppet’ for your school board. You need to be discerning and mature and realize that your staff are doing an incredibly difficult job every day. Your role as an administrator is to clear the way so staff members can be really effective at their job.

This is a fine balance. There are some great ideas out there, but many are not well understood and we sometimes seem to be too eager to rush into things without truly understanding how any particular idea will have a positive influence on student achievement. I have written a few posts recently that fully explain my concern in this area.

Doug:  Have you ever found yourself in trouble with your supervisors as a result?

Paul: Yes, constantly and this is not something I take any pride in. Getting in trouble from your supervisors is not fun and can be really stressful. My vision and theirs conflicted. We were supposed to be agents of the board, but the way I saw it, my main responsibility was to my staff, parents and children. This means that you must, at times, stand in opposition to your supervisors. If you don’t have the courage to do this you should never become a principal. Principals in Ontario have no protection. Teachers do, we don’t. This allows senior administrators to act with impunity when it comes to school administration. The current system is incredibly unfair and intimidating. Most administrators just decide to comply. Eventually, for me, it became too difficult to remain working for the board and I had to resign.

Doug:  Another thought that you have shared is that modern principals are often too young and experienced for the challenges of today’s schools. Can you elaborate on that?

Paul: They are too young, but not very experienced. I think to be an effective administrator, you need to live life. You need to experience life in all its joys and defeats. You need to learn humility and to really respect the opinions of others, especially those who do not agree with you. There is a certain arrogance amongst some administrators that simply makes the lives of others very difficult. I would say this actually has little to do with youth and lots to do with the acquisition of knowledge and compassion. Of the two, compassion is the most important.

Doug:  What would be the ideal path for anyone to take if they’re going to be a successful administrator?

Paul: Teach, teach and teach more. Spend your career learning about education, kids, parents and communities. In the last part of your career you then can consider administration.

I don’t think it is a good idea to go into teaching with the end vision of becoming an administrator. This is something that should evolve over time. Many great teachers decide to keep away from becoming an administrator and we have to ask ourselves why this happens. For me the main quality to acquire before becoming an administrator would be humility. I wish I had seen more of this in my career.

Doug:  So why isn’t it done more often?

Paul: I really don’t know. Is it ambition? Maybe. I really think people need to take the time to mature as a human being and as an administrator. Why is there such a rush to do a job that really takes a lifetime to prepare for? I think good leadership is poorly understood. I have replaced lots of poor administrators and in all cases these people were promoted to better positions. Why does this happen? Why do teachers worry so much when they get a new administrator? We ask so much of our students and our teachers, but i think we are failing when it comes to the expectations we have for our administrators.

Doug:  You do seem to enjoy your use of social media. Stephen Hurley and I have noticed that, if we’re talking about your blog, you’re actively Twittering along. I’ve learned now to turn off the volume on my phone when we’re featuring you! How important is social media to you? Did you encourage staff to get involved?

Paul: Social media is a living and essential tool for educators. We need to communicate what we learn and what we experience in our schools. Paper newsletters are useless. We need to be experts at communicating with our communities. In my opinion, if you are unwilling to communicate as a school administrator you are in the wrong job. For staff, I think principals need to be trainers and facilitators. Encourage them to use more social media, but remember, their jobs are so busy – much busier than a principal’s, and we need to respect that.

With social media the learning and the connecting never stops. I have gained so much from my connections especially through Twitter. I simply do not understand how educators, especially administrators can do a good job these days without the effective use of Twitter.

Doug:  How about administrators? You don’t see too many of them using social media.

Paul: No I don’t and I do not have very much tolerance for this. I do not accept the excuse that they are too busy to communicate – how does that make any sense? It is their job and they should take it seriously. Also, it they are not actively on Twitter, how are they learning? Accepting what they hear during school board sessions is simply not good enough.

Beyond that, their use needs to be effective. I see lots of administrators, especially superintendents who use Twitter as a cheerleading platform. Is that really the best that they can do. Some of these people are considered leaders in Ontario and they are basically sharing what they see on I think they can do much better than that. We need dialogue and we need to share ideas and we need to learn to be critical and challenge what we see on social media. Lots of room for growth here!

Doug:  I know that you were passionate about the facilities at one of your older schools. You had started one of those online funding programs to effect change. I can remember your daily prompts to vote and I did. What needed to be changed? How did the initiative end?

Paul: Well, first, thanks for voting Doug, I really appreciate your support! We won the Aviva Community Fund competition resulting in the infusion of $100,000 into our yard rebuilding fund. Money attracts money and we were able to eventually raise an additional $60,000 to entirely rebuild our old, asphalt yard. A great project for our community. We even had a special website for the project.

This was a truly important project for our community. We really need to look at the school environments that our low-income students inhabit. Many of these are old, underserviced and paved over with cracked decrepit asphalt. We made a huge effort to change this and now St. Anthony School in Ottawa has a beautiful yard, one that our kids really deserve. I loved working on this project, but really, why can we do better for our low-income communities?



Doug: A friend of mine used to start her questions to me this way so I’ll use it here. “If you were the King of the World”, how would you improve education?

Paul: How much space do you have? There is so much that could be done. I would start by having senior administrators that are really open to dialogue and change. Open up discussions and include your principals and teachers, maybe then we would really start to see innovation and change. Having said this, I do see change everywhere. I see change in the work of young teachers who are willing to try new things and do excellent work daily. I guess if I were king of the world, I would let all the wonderful teachers license to do their job without so much bureaucracy and silliness.

Doug: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Paul. I appreciate it and I’m sure that readers appreciating know more about you.

Paul:  Thanks for the invitation Doug, I really appreciate this.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at: @mcguirp
Paul’s blog “Whole-Hearted – we are all a great work in progress” is at:

Over the life of this blog, I’ve had the opportunity to interview all kinds of amazing people and Paul adds nicely to the list.

You can check out all the interviews here.

An Interview with Lisa Floyd

lisaLisa Floyd is a Mathematics and Computer Science teacher with the Thames Valley District School Board.  Currently on leave, she is Director of Research and Inquiry for Fair Chance Learning and an adjunct professor at Western University teaching Computational Thinking to Teacher Candidates.

I had the opportunity to interview Lisa for this blog and got to find out a little more about her passions for family, education, Mathematics, Computer Science, and Computational Thinking.

Doug:  My first question is always this.  Where did we first meet face to face?

Lisa:  It’s strange. I believe it was at CSTA in Baltimore recently, but because I’ve followed your blog and have heard about the inspiring work you’re involved with, I felt like I had already met you.  I know you’re an inspiration to many educators, including those who you’ve taught at the University of Windsor.

Doug:  And what were you doing in Baltimore?

Lisa: I was attending the conference with my husband Steve, who was the sole Canadian receiving an award for excellence in teaching computer science (#proudwife)..


Doug:  I’ll admit that I was so surprised to see your father-in-law there.  He and I have a long history in the educational technology field in Western Ontario.  It was great to have a little chat with him to catch up.  We covered a few years in minutes.  He’s a very proud grandfather.

For those in the field of Computer Science, there most certainly was something there for everyone.  What were your takeaways from the Computer Science Teachers Association conference?

Lisa:  For me, it was just so wonderful to connect with like-minded individuals who have a passion for Computational Thinking (CT).  I was able to meet a few people face-to-face, including Todd Lash who is doing interesting research on CT for his PhD and Grant Smith of LaunchCS (@LaunchCompSci), who I had connected online with previously about coding. They are doing some inspiring work with CT and I was able to attend their sessions too!  I was also excited to meet Miles Berry in person and attend his wonderful presentation (here’s a pic)


It was great to speak to Hal Speed from the micro:bit Foundation and to hear of his journey into the education space!

Doug:  One of the big and important issues of the day is getting women involved in Computer Science and other areas of technology.  What drew you into this field strongly enough for you to decide to make it your profession?

Lisa: My first teaching job included a line of computer science and I fell in love with the subject and teaching it even more.  I spent hours and hours learning how to program and loved the challenge and the thinking involved. I felt like I had found a best kept secret subject to teach.  I continued teaching computer science for 14 years and made sure that I was properly preparing my grade 12 students by taking computer science university courses at Western in the evening.  I noticed something special in my own students when they were programming a computer together and I never stopped teaching it! Thankfully, my husband was also teaching it so we could bounce ideas off each other.

Encouraging young women to take high school computer science has been a personal initiative of mine.  Even with a female as their computer science teacher, I only had one to two girls in each of my computer science classes and this is consistent across Ontario and even around the world.  I believe that we need to expose girls to computer science at a younger age so that they won’t be as intimidated to take it as an elective in high school.  Since doing outreach, the computer science classes I had been teaching at the high school I’m on a leave from has grown 5 x.   Girls also need more female role models, and so having the girls who are taking computer science volunteer at elementary schools also makes a big difference.

Doug:  One of the remarkable things about Computer Science courses is the high student success rate.  Have you noticed the same thing with your classes?  Any theories why?

Lisa: Yes!  The success rate is high… I believe it’s partly because of the choice students have when creating programs and they are motivated to complete their work due to the immediate feedback and the opportunity to create authentic and meaningful projects.  Given the nature of computer science, I was able to provide ongoing formative feedback on a daily basis.  The low floor and high ceiling attribute of computer programming that Seymour Papert describes is also helpful… every student is challenged. It’s what he calls, “hard fun”.

Doug:  Do you have a preference for educational programming languages?

Lisa:  I try not to get hung up on languages… if students really want to learn another language, different from what we are doing in class, I don’t mind.  I used Turing for years, and loved it because it is a learning language. It’s about the big ideas and thinking involved and all programming languages have the same programming constructs…there’s just varying degrees of syntax that might make for some languages to be more challenging than others to learn.  My approach is to not solely focus on those students who will be pursuing computer science in college or university, but to support every student with understanding how programming works.  More recently, I’ve used Python, Visual Basic and Java.  I also used Arduino when we brought in the microcontrollers (great for more hands-on work).  In the outreach that I do for elementary students, I prefer Scratch.

Doug:  That’s a nice collection of contemporary programming languages.  You can’t miss with any of them.

There has been much interest in the area of Computational Thinking in the past few years.  What it actually means differs from person to person.  What does Computational Thinking mean to you?

Lisa: I’ve done a lot of research on Computational Thinking and I’ve also noticed the varying definitions even among experts.  To me, it’s a special way of thinking that includes an array of components – pattern recognition, decomposition, abstraction and iteration.  It helps students to effectively approach problems in all subject areas, but coding is a great context for developing Computational Thinking skills.  For anyone looking to learn more about Computational Thinking, especially as it may support math learning, I encourage them to consider attending the Symposium on Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education on October 13-15th, 2017 at UOIT.  This Symposium is sponsored by the Fields Institute for Research in the Mathematical Sciences (Fields); University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Faculty of Education, and the SSHRC partnership development grant on Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education ( The symposium is also supported by the Mathematics Knowledge Network, NSERC, and Ontario Ministry of Education.  You can register here.

Doug:  At Western University, you focus entirely on Computational Thinking with Teacher Candidates. What does your program look like?  What do these students leave with as a result of being in your classes?

Lisa:  I have taught two courses at Western – one for all primary/junior teacher candidates, called ‘Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education’.  We focused on using coding to enhance understanding of math ideas.  The Computational Thinking piece was integrated into the math learning. We used a lot of the ideas developed by Dr. George Gadanidis (  The other course I have taught is part of the STEM cohort for intermediate/senior math and science education teacher candidates.  We tried out coding and digital making activities that they could use with their math and science high school students.  Most students felt nervous about the course at the beginning, but by the end they appreciated looking at math from a different perspective.  For the P/J teacher candidates, we focused on developing their efficacy for math and Computational Thinking.  The program was a blended learning model, with half being online and half face-to-face.

Doug:  Is the program unique to Western or are other Faculties of Education offering the same or similar course?

Lisa:  It’s unique to Western, but there is a similar course at UOIT in their preservice program.

Doug:  Do you find Teacher Candidates generally prepared and ready to learn the principles?

Lisa: No… most come with little or no experience with coding.  I do a survey at the beginning and it’s usually close to 90% of the P/J teacher candidates who have done no coding.  We have to work a lot on mindset, and you can see the shift in this on the mind maps that were being co-created throughout the course.  It’s almost like we were causing a disruption in the approach to learning and teaching mathematics, and there is research that shows this might be what’s necessary to change the way math is taught to make it a more applicable, meaningful subject for our students.

Doug:  Does Social Media have an impact on your Teacher Candidates?  Are they ready for BYOD Classrooms, students with their own devices, and to amplify their voice and presence with social tools?

Lisa:  I find teacher candidates to be proficient with some technology such as computer and personal device use, and use them readily in class.  I was surprised at how few are on Twitter and tried to encourage them to explore it to develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and to stay on top of current trends in education.  I noticed they were active on SnapChat and they were often proudly “snapping” photos and videos of some of the programs they coded or the robotics they were programming.  They appreciated learning how their devices actually work and most were quite comfortable with the technology piece.  Some shared their learning publicly with others over social media and inspired pre-service and practicing teachers around the world.  One group joined our Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP)  #mathedcoders for their alternate placement and their ideas and work with students related to coding was shared widely.  At one point, they were doing a webinar for students and teachers in northern Ontario, thanks to Stacey Wallwin, who is an inspiring leader in educational technology in Superior Greenstone District School Board.

Doug:  I know that you have three wonderful children.  (Derek told me)  Is Computational Thinking and Computer Science a “thing” around the Floyd household?  If so, how?

Lisa:  I would say Computational Thinking is embedded in pretty much all of our daily routines and activities.  Steve and I have similar parenting styles.  Our children aren’t signed up for many activities, but sometimes our household seems like a makerspace.  We do have every robot and digital device imaginable, but our oldest two boys are mostly interested in playing minecraft together.  We do some coding, but try not to overdo it.  We really have no idea what we’re doing as parents, and are learning every day, but feel pretty confident in how we embed the Computational Thinking aspect (both intentionally and unintentionally).  Our oldest has attended some of our Fair Chance Learning events as a “helper” and Martha and Dustin Jez (co-founders) have been so supportive of this.

Doug:  I did have the chance to interview with Martha Jez.  You can read it here.

In addition to all this, you are the Director of Research & Inquiry at Fair Chance Learning.  That’s an exciting title.  What are the areas of your research?  Are they published anywhere?

Lisa:  I love my job.  I love doing research and am fortunate to work for a company that sees it as valuable.  Everything I prepare for professional learning and speaking gigs is based on research articles that I’ve read in some form.  I’m also an advocate for Inquiry-Based Learning and it’s been part of my practice since I first started teaching.

As part of my masters in math education (just completed the program last week!), I’ve been honoured to work as a research assistant for two professors of math education (Dr. Kotsopoulos formerly of Laurier, now at Huron University College) and Dr. Gadanidis.  I learned so much from this position and was excited to be a co-author for academic papers that have been published.  One is in the journal of Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education and is titled “Computational Thinking in Mathematics Teacher Education”.  Another is currently freely available online in the Journal of Digital Experience in Mathematics Education and is titled “A Pedagogical Framework for Computational Thinking”.  I learned so much during the process.  I am excited about some of the other papers I’m involved with and am grateful to professors who include me, including Dr. Julie Mueller of Laurier University. These researchers are a source of inspiration and it’s an honour to know them.

Doug:  As a result of your connections with Fair Chance Learning, you’ve hit the radar as a speaker, presenter, and keynote speaker.  What topics do you address?

Lisa:  I have the privilege to speak about Computational Thinking and coding and how I believe they can be implemented effectively in our classrooms.  It is important that students’ curiosity, empathy and creative thinking skills are also fostered in the process.  Kafai and Burke write about the idea of “Computational Participation” in their book Connected Code – Why Children Need to Learn Programming, and this to me, is the more modern view of CT, in which the collaboration and communication piece is also valued.  I talk about why we need to support our students with learning how to code in a world where we are immersed in technology.  Learning how to program helps our students to see the world in an entirely new way, as Douglas Rushkoff discusses in his book Program or be Programmed.  As Rushkoff also points out, If we don’t support our students with learning this skill, it’s possible they may not fully understand what’s going on in the world around them and begin to feel like the technology knows more about them than they know about technology. This may seem like an exaggeration, but read about Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, and it becomes clear that everyone should learn how programming works.  Of course, the thinking piece and problem solving skills that will help our students across all subject areas and fields is what I believe should be one of the main driving factors in our push to get students coding.  I’m in the process of working on my Keynote for the Bring IT, Together Conference right now:)

Doug:  That must be an exciting experience to prepare for.  After all, any connected Ontario educator worth their Twitter account will know all about @lisaannefloyd and will be excited to hear from one of their own.

Do you maintain a public list of places where you’ve spoken/presented?

Lisa: I do not, but you’ve inspired me to do so (working on it)… this interview is also reminding me to update my blog (thanks).

Doug:  It’s success on my end when I get another Ontario Educator to update her blog!

If someone was interesting in hiring you to speak, how would they contact you?

Lisa:  They are more than welcome to reach out to me by email at or on Twitter (@lisaannefloyd).  I especially love facilitating professional learning related to Computational Thinking.

Doug:  Do you envision a time when Computational Thinking is just a concept that is universally embraced and we’ve moved on to something else?

Lisa:  I actually hope that we will continue to focus on Computational Thinking and that rather than move onto something else, we will instead explore it further, adjusting how we approach it and improving the ways we implement it.  There is still a lot of room for additional research on Computational Thinking and best pedagogical practice.

Doug:  Thank you so much for agreeing to share your thoughts with my readers, Lisa.  It’s always nice to be able to dig inside the professional practice of another Ontario Educator.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter at:  @lisaannefloyd

She maintains her blog CODING IDEAS FOR EDUCATORS at:

Over the life of this blog, I’ve had the opportunity to interview all kinds of amazing people and am happy to include Lisa on this list.

The list?  You can check out all the interviews here.