This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Every week, I gather from my reading blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers to include here.  Folks, you never fail to amaze me with the depth of your thinking and abilities to pull it all together.  Here’s some of what caught my eye this week.

Standing for Principles or Shooting Myself in the Foot

Before shooting herself in the foot, Diana Maliszewski puts in down in a stance about the Microsoft acquisition of Minecraft.  Now, she’s been a big fan of Minecraft for as long as I can remember, a regular presenter about its benefits, and I remember her blocky outfit at an ECOO Conference a couple of years ago.  She takes her time to explain her thoughts about corporate presence in education.

I stepped back and looked around the labs here.  Sony laptop, Wacom tablet, Logitech mouse, HP keyboard, Bose speakers, an Apple looking at me from the top of my iPad.  The only thing non-corporate would be that I’m writing this post in Linux.  It’s too late to close the barn door here.  We buy by brand and each of the products has built upon the nature of the previous technology.  It’s not just a mouse, it’s sculpted to fit the hand. The tablet has wrist recognition.  The keyboard is noiseless.  Where would I be without corporate involvement and making things easier, more productive, more ergonomic, and ultimately better for me?

So, I wonder about her stance on Minecraft.  Will it being branded and supported by a corporate entity change the experience?  How much change would affect her abilities as a classroom teacher to get the best from it for her kids?  Is this a fight worth fighting or is it just a natural evolution?  I would never have predicted that her views would have changed.  It was an insightful read for me; she really nicely shares her opinion about this.

Big Hairy Plans… with a Slower Start

Talk about your outwork visibileness.  (I know – that’s not a word but it’s the first thing that came to mind.)

There were a couple of big takeaways for me from this post by Heather Theijsmeijer.

    1. Great planning and exploration can be stymied by a work action.  It would be great if negotiators could read this and understand the impact that labour disputes have on the most important elements of education – students and progressive educators;
    2. In the post, Heather has laid out her plans for her courses for next year.  By being this open, she’s made herself accountable to herself and the parents/students who follow her blog.  She’s set the table with the comment “I want to blow this course wide open.”  Who wouldn’t be excited to have a teacher that can make a statement like that!

    There is No Road Map to Teaching Success

    If you need to read another blog post about changing everything and taking chances in your profession, then this one from Enzo Ciardelli should be on your reading list.

    My Teachers’ College experience goes back a little further than 12 years but I suspect that I’d say the same thing.  It’s a rather conservative experience while you learn the theories and practice from days gone by.  Practice teaching has the potential of being less conservative when you’re out in the “real world” which is still a contrived environment with students on better than normal behaviour.  Your first couple of years teaching are pretty conservative too.  You don’t want to upset the apple cart until you get that permanent contract.  After that or, after 12 years?  It is time to improve on your practice and take those risks.


    Every teacher should have a chance to raise a child.  Sure, you learn about human growth and development in Teachers’ College and you smile as you see your students grow and mature under your classroom watch.  But, as Danika Barker points out in this post, there’s something completely different and special about your own mini-me.

    After a year for parental leave, she’s returning to her classroom and will soon learn another side of parenting.  It’s hard to see your own kids learn and grow while under the care of someone else!  And it continues – first day of kindergarten, first day of high school, first day of college/university, first day at a job…

    Editorial Comment – and they learn some really dumb rules that don’t apply anywhere else than at daycare. 

    It’s good to see her back online and blogging.

    Creating Interactive Math Tasks With Google Sites

    One of the powerful things about working in the Google world, after you get past the wide variety of options (See Peter Beens’ Alphabet/Google A-Z document), is the ease and consistency across the tools.

    Kyle Pearce is constantly writing and sharing ideas and was recently asked a question about implementation with something other than iPads.  Chromebooks makes for a natural question.

    The post is a tutorial about how to extend his original content and extend it to other platforms.

    Step by step, you’ll work your way through an example with lots of screen shots.  He demonstrates his way through the creation and then invites you to test the final product.

    As summer winds down, it’s evident that great thinking from Ontario Educators continues.  Check out all these posts and all of the Ontario Edubloggers here.  If you’re an Ontario educational blogger and not on the list, please do use the form and add yourself.  Lots of people would love to read your blog.

    This Week in Ontario Edublogs

    As I type this, news has been announced of a tentative agreement between OSSTF and the province.  The trolls are already out commenting on news reports and I’m sure that there will be more as speculation grows on the contents.  Of course, details won’t be made public until the membership gets a chance to look at it.  Hopefully, this is a sign that movement is possible and that all of the professional organizations are able to reach an agreement.  We’ll see.

    In the meantime, the professional learning and sharing continues throughout the province.  Here’s a bit of what I read this past week.

    “Guide” Vs. “Sage”: Is It As Easy As That?

    Aviva Dunsiger used this old horse as a starting point for her thoughts.  I remember grimacing the first time that I heard it.  I know that the intention was noble – stop standing and lecturing but it’s become the mantra of many who haven’t been in a classroom for years – like it’s an all or nothing concept.  It’s one of those cutesy sayings that you hear during presentations and, if you read Aviva’s post, you realize that it’s only surface deep.  Teaching is much more than nine words strung together.  She addresses it nicely and even includes a confession.

    Guide on the Stage

    Daniel La Gamba was motivated from this post to share his thoughts and create a Sketchnote on the topic.  I don’t know – will “Guide on the Stage” be the next “Sage on the Stage vs Guide on the Side”?  You can probably tell that I’m not a fan of short sound bites but I really think the wisdom comes from the last line in his post.

    With September fast approaching, I encourage teachers to not be in the periphery. It is not the act of guiding that should change, just the proximity to the learning.

    The key here, as I see it, is that teachers shouldn’t just “mail it in”.  Teaching is an incredibly active and personal activity.  One of the observations that I made as a DeLC was working with eLearning teachers who had their entire course and teaching online.  Their number one frustration – not having that face to face human contact.  I think that teaching in this mode made them better teachers in the long run.  It really reinforced the notion of what it means to be a teacher. 

    Sadly, we were unable to comment on the blog post itself – the folks who were using Twitter as a forum could really have fleshed it out there.

    There was considerable discussion about this online with Daniel taking a very active part.  Included in this discussion was George Couros who, while not an Ontario Edublogger will get special notice because he continued the discussion on his own blog “What about the title of “teacher?

    What does it mean to be Reggio-inspired?

    Not having been a kindergarten teacher, I always enjoy listening and reading early years’ professionals talk about their classrooms and their approaches.  I have two wonderful friends who take the time to explain things to me.  This post, by Joanne Babalis is a very nice summary of how she was inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach.

    Loris Malaguzzi often spoke of learning as a tangle of spaghetti, rather than a linear path.  Well my mind certainly feels this way, especially when I am inquiring, reading/researching, thinking, interpreting, and reflecting.

    This post isn’t a quick and easy read but definitely is worth the time to comprehend.

    And, I really liked the Jerome Bruner quote.

    Why We Need Intentional Innovation in Education

    So, on to a discussion about “intentional innovation”.

    It sure is.

    After all, who doesn’t want to be “innovative” – whatever that means.

    In this first of a series of posts, A.J. Juliani takes a look at what innovation means and then takes a spin when you put the word “intentional” in front of it.  There’s a challenge to the reader about being intentionally innovative this school year.  And why not?  The post is nicely summaried with the description “meaningful and relevant”.

    This is a good place to start your creative thinking.

    The Connected Student

    You know, as I check the sundial, it says 2015.  It’s a crime that we still have to talk about the benefits of students/teachers being connected.  Yet, there remains a need.  I was watching HLN last night and both the Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew shows were encouraging the world to get involved with the conversation via a hashtag.  Are there really still people that see that on the screen and wonder what it is?  Hopefully, not teachers – I could guarantee any student with a computer, tablet, or smartphone knows absolutely knows what it’s about.  Nobody uses the term “pound” anymore, do they?

    Now, I’m not suggesting that you flip your classroom with these two shows but spend a few minutes online and you’ll see awesome discussions and connections for educators, students, and classrooms.  If you’re not connected, you’re completely missing out.  Jennifer Casa-Todd shares a beautiful post outlining the possibilities that exist for the connected student.

    Then, she follows up with a huge list of suggestions for how to get started, along with a couple of Sylvia Duckworth Sketchnotes.  What can you do?  Share this post with your administrator and colleagues.  It’s time to get with it if they aren’t.

    Are Teachers Taught About Creative Commons?

    This is not a new concept and yet something that a lot of people don’t really understand.  Donna Fry takes on the topic and uses the framework of the student remix as the rationale for why students and teachers need to understand the principle.

    If you read the second sentence carefully, you’ll take your understanding to a new level.  Most people think that Creative Commons is just about finding free stuff that you can use without violating copyright.  Let’s up the ante.  Yes, there are times when someone has the perfect image to use in a project.  But, if you’ve been at this blog for a while, you know that I’m a big fan of students creating their own original works.  If they’re posting it online – any why not, read Jennifer’s post above – use this as an opportunity to discuss licensing in a very personal manner … their own.

    It only takes a moment to look at the licensing options under Creative Commons and decide what’s appropriate for them.  Here’s what I’ve put on this blog.

    Is it Initiative or Compliance?

    The nice thing about scheduling blog posts is that you’re never really done until it goes out!  This morning was a perfect example.  I thought I was done and so Jaimie and I were off for our morning walk.  We had stopped at a bridge and were just staring in awe as the water from a tributary was flowing into a bigger part of the river when my birthday present from my wife on my wrist buzzed.  I looked and Brian Aspinall had just posted something to his blog and had tagged me with it.  Oh well, something to read when we got home.

    I did read it and now was faced with a dilemma.  Do I save it for next week’s TWIOE or do I include it here.  After all, this post doesn’t go live until tomorrow morning.  I decided to do it now because I think it’s something that everyone should consider for their classroom and its management.  What do your students do when they’re done the current task?  Brian shares his list.

    In the post, he asks that, if the students choose from this list, are they demonstrating initiative or compliance?  It’s pretty clear from the tone of the post that he’s thinking compliance.  I would agree in the way that he wrote it.  Given those options, I think if I was a student, I would just tend to work slower on the original project.  Those all look like extra work to me.

    You do have to make the choices wisely.  If the list includes something that’s really cool or interesting, others will rush through the task in order to join in on the fun.

    Why not read Brian’s post and add your ideas to the list?  The time is right with school starting in a couple of weeks to set classroom expectations and certainly managing time should be one of the issues.

    Thanks to all of the above for contributing to share your expertise and pushing our thinking.  Please take a moment to click through to the original blog posts and share your thoughts.  Looking for more?  Check out the Ontario Edublogger collection.

    This Week in Ontario Edublogs

    This post might be difficult to read.  I have a blogging disability – a bandaid on one of my fingers.  Now, if I was a digital native, it wouldn’t matter because it’s not on one of the two or three fingers that I’d use.  But, I took keyboarding in Grade 9 and 10 and programmed in COBOL.  All my fingers know that they have a job.  So, please overlook typing errors.  I will do an extra check for correctness before posting.  First world problems.

    In the meantime, here are some of the bits of wisdom from Ontario Edubloggers from the past week.

    Courage and Me

    The summer of 2015 will go down for many as the “summer of the mindset”.  In my reading, there has to be more written and talked about on that topic that almost any other issue.  (In Ontario, the lack of collective agreements would supersede that.)  We’ve read so much about encouraging a growth mindset in students and teachers.  Sue Dunlop, in a recent post, takes it to the superintendent level.

    She muses about improving ways that she thinks about those she deals with.

    You can’t help but think that this encouragement would trickle back to schools with the net result being a better family of schools.  If successful, the next hurdle would be to have her fellow superintendents follow her lead.

    How do you do a flipped lesson in a Junior class?

    Muriel Corbierre reflects on what a flipped lesson might look like for younger students.  It’s a concept that may well be easier to visualize with older students because they may have more universal access to technology and the internet at home.  They also may be able to handle the differences in technology at home versus at school a little easier.

    Challenge or opportunity?

    Read on to see what her inspiration was and how it was implemented.  A lesson demonstrating her vision of a flipped classroom is included.

    The link to my flipped junior lesson is here. It is a Ontario grade 6 science lesson on electricity generation in Canada. As usual, feel free to try it with your students, and I would be happy to know how it went.

    How did we ever share things like this in the days before Google Docs?

    Electronic Access Available

    The library at the Faculty of Education, Western University has added some interesting titles to its collection.  I think this would be a fabulous read.

    [Summer Reading] Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action

    On the topic of books, this post by Jessica Weber, is a very carefully crafted review and personal action for this book.

    “And today, fresh discoveries in cognition, inquiry, and collaboration show us even betters ways to help learners engage with ideas and drive each others’ thinking- not just to remember information, but to build knowledge, to care, to act” (Harvey and Daniels, 2009, p. 7).

    My immediate thought is that this would be a good addition to any school’s professional library.

    What Do You See?

    I see a horse, and a duck, and – sorry Mark.  This is a quick reflection from Mark Carbone on the power of images.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t do a little screen capture of it.

    I made a couple of quick connections – first of all, I’m glad that I don’t have to commute in that scenario.  But, secondly, it’s a bit about mindset.  I can remember going to an optometrist and one of the eye test things was to take a look at a black capital E on a red background and then on a green background.  The question always was “which is sharper”.  It doesn’t matter how many times I did it, the green background always made the E look sharper.  That probably has nothing to do with the original question but was I predisposed since green is my favourite colour and that’s making the impression on me?

    But, more importantly than looking at another’s image, what about creating your own?  What does your school drone see when it’s flying over the grounds?  (Your school has a drone with a camera, doesn’t it?)  Or, what about student created artistry?  One of my favourite cartoonists was long time London Free Press editorial cartoonist Merle Tingley who signed his artistry with Ting. Ting was hidden in every cartoon.  We took great delight finding it but it also had the effect of making us concentrate harder on the cartoon.  Love this one celebrating the 25th anniversary of Storybook Gardens.

    Downsizing south of the border

    That “D” word always raises the hair on the back of the neck of educators.  It’s not any better with the politically correct term “right-sizing” either.  Diana Maliszewski takes a long look at resources and location taking us from Canada to the United States to Liberia.

    The post brought a great smile to me.  I’ve moved jobs a few times over the years and every time, you get those moments of “what stays and what goes and what comes home with me”.  You like to think that “what stays” improves the cause because of your experience and how you used it.  The reality is that it might hit the junk pile within a week of you moving out.

    Beyond this, Diana’s post is a nice reminder of how good things are here in Ontario.

    OK, I made it.  My finger is actually feeling better.  Maybe tap, tap, tapping was helpful therapy or something.  Who knows?

    Thanks to these great posts to help spread the good word about things happening in Ontario.  Check out the complete list of Ontario Edubloggers here and add yours if it’s not there.

    This Week in Ontario Edublogs

    It’s Friday and time to share my recent reading from awesome Ontario Edubloggers.  Please enjoy.

    Art is a Verb

    Art, artistry, reflection, insomnia, a mind that won’t shut down all come through in this recent post from Colleen Rose.  Then, it takes an unexpected turn and reach in the comments.

    The entirety of it is humbling.

    The Tyranny of Choice

    I stumbled into this new blog from Marc Hodgkinson just watching the conversation in one of my Twitter Ontario Educators list.  It appears that Marc is now going visible after tinkering here and there.  The list of reasons for blogging should resonate with readers and most certainly are great rules to live blog by.

    I really like point #5 – it’s the rationale and license I gave myself when I decided to call this blog “Off the Record”.  Think and post now.  Just get it out there.  With your reach and feedback, you can refine your thinking later.  If you keep it inside, you miss out on so much.

    Free Service ~ Full text of journal articles delivered directly to your device

    Now, here’s a real deal from the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario.  So convenient and it has the potential to educate an entire Faculty at once.  What a service.  I wonder if the Faculty would create a MOOC for web literacy that we could all join and benefit from?

    For the school teacher-librarian, it could be replicated on a smaller basis via a Learning Commons blog and have your school staff subscribe to email updates.  It wouldn’t be as big but would be an opportunity to inform the entire school whenever something new is happening … oh, and parents, students, board office decision makers…

    Blogging for English Language Learners

    Rusul Alrubail shares a blog post that she originally wrote for Edutopia about the power of blogging for English Language Learners.  It’s a very complete analysis of the power that comes from blogging and how it can be exploited in the ELL classroom.

    I understand that the original target was the ELL classroom but I’d be hard pressed to look at any of those and say that they have a monopoly on this wonderful tool/technique.  Wouldn’t all of the above apply to YOUR classroom?

    While not originally keyed by Rusul, she had shared another’s post this week that I think is a must read and contemplate post.  Yes, English is My First Language.

    Expanding My Students’ PLN through Mine – on Twitter

    I think everyone has seen that cartoon with the caption “On the Internet Nobody Knows You’re a Dog”.  Could it be the most famous internet cartoon of all time?  It might be – after all, it has its own Wikipedia page.

    That was my immediate thought on this post by Anna Bartosik.  She’s an ESL teacher in higher ed and through a Twitter chat made a connection with someone.

    She didn’t put two and two together immediately but eventually found out that she’d connected with an elementary school teacher after they agreed to connect.

    And then she asked how old my kids are. I realized that we were in two different worlds – higher education adults and elementary school children. I mentioned, with a sinking heart, that I have adult ESL learners.

    You’ve got to head over to her post to see how this one ends.

    Reconsidering Reading

    If I could sum up my interpretation of Aviva Dunsiger’s post about reading, it would be “Education Kills the Love of Reading”.  Her summary of how she incorporates reading into her classroom appears below.

    The last one really strikes a note with me.  I did have to smile a bit as I read her post.  In my computer science classroom, I had my own library.  I subscribed to a number of technical journals and magazines (for the kids, of course) and they got put into the cupboard for those computers in society moments or time when we’d take a break from programming to do some recreational reading.  But, the rules were mine.  The students had to read from my choices and couldn’t just pull out their current novel.   I suspect all classrooms took the same approach.

    When does a student get to read recreationally?  In library period (if you have one?)  At home?  Shouldn’t reading happen when the desire to read hits?  Have we over analysed and over scheduled it and killed the love as a result?

    Maybe instead of yet another reading / literacy consultant coming up with a new strategy, they could take a look at those kids who enjoy reading and find out what makes them that way.  Do struggling readers struggle because they’ve been labelled that way?

    As always, my virtual walk through of the provincial thinking and sharing has been interesting.  Please take a moment to visit these blog posts in their entirety and share some thoughts with the authors if you feel inspired.

    The complete list of Ontario Edubloggers (that I know about) can be found here.  I’m always looking to expand the collection so, if you’re blogging and not there, please add yourself.

    Flipping Vicky Loras’ Blogging Challenge

    Earlier this week, I had shared a story for Vicky Loras’ Blogging Challenge “What’s Your Story?”  One of the things that you have plenty of time to do while suffering from a cold is doing some reflection.

    As I reflected on the extent of the content, the stories, and the global connections from her challenge, I really became with how impressive this young lady’s reach is.  I certainly couldn’t even begin to reach the number of educators that she has worldwide and then have them share their story.  So, I hopped over to her blog and posted a reply and then it came to me – her blogging challenge is actually in two parts now.  Wouldn’t it make sense to put them all together in one spot?  I thought of a number of ways to curate that sort of thing and thought that a Flipboard magazine would probably be the most interesting way.

    So, I suggested that she do that.

    During this morning’s dog walk, Jaimie pointed out that I’m quick to suggest work for others.  He also noted that his walk was a little short because I still was sick and suggested that I make my own Flipboard of her links.  Why not indeed?

    After all, she’s done the heavy lifting organizing all this and wonderful educators from all over the planet have written their best.  It wouldn’t take long to flip them into a book.

    So, I did!  There were some entries that were no longer available as well as Posterous which had hosted them.  I got a few of these:

    but a retry got it in eventually.

    In a way of paying back to this wonderful project, please enjoy this Flipboard magazine “What’s Your Story?


    Media Errors

    This is not a professional blog.  It just takes a minute to read the first paragraph or so to realize that the author, moi, got 60% in Grade 13 English.

    At the time, I hated writing.  Now, I actually enjoy it and try to write a post here once a day to try and get some sort of proficiency in the written language.  Some days are better than others!  The nice thing about the blog format is that you can experiment with different types of design and approaches to your writing.  I wish I’d had that option when in high school.  I hated writing essay after essay.  Later, as a teacher, I can’t even imagine sitting down and reading and then marking them.

    I am a consumer of information.  Of that, there is no doubt.  This blog is, in part, my way of paying back.

    But I digress.

    As 2014 ends, a lot of folks are reflecting back on the year that was.  For bloggers, it means looking a high and low points.  An article I read yesterday had me focussing on the lows.

    Without a doubt, the worst moment in my writing occurred last week when I wrote the following in the post “Learning While Not Shopping

    How’s that for a nice shagging dog story?

    Believe it or not, I do proofread the posts.  I guess I just don’t do a very good job at it.  Fortunately, I have a couple of folks who aren’t shy about dropping me a message indicating that I screwed up again.  Thanks, Lisa and Sheila.  In this case, apparently, Lisa waited until she stopped laughing and told me about the error which I quickly corrected (after a laugh of my own).

    But, Lisa, my errors pale in comparison to the ones I know you’ll enjoy in this article.

    The year in media errors and corrections 2014

    While it didn’t make the #1 position, I found this one the funniest.


    So sit back (without a mouthful of coffee) and enjoy the article. 

    Interestingly enough, the article has a posting date and a revision date.  Could an error have been found? <grin>

    Somehow after reading these, I feel my blog should get a Noble Loriet award for writing.

    Early Morning Learners

    #FollowFridays are always a bit of a social experiment with me.  

    My interpretation of the concept started a long time ago in a discussion with a few friends.  We liked the worldly connections that Twitter affords us.  If you’re on Twitter for any length of time, you just naturally make the connections and expand your network.  The problem was, as we saw it, people were starting to take happenings in other educational jurisdictions as true for Ontario.

    In reality, sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t.  As Twitter gained popularity, we thought that it would be helpful to try to promote Ontario connections.  #FollowFriday seemed to be a natural for this.  So – I started to do that.  

    I’ve always been an early morning riser – it’s my time to do some reading and reflection before the world’s most entitled dog demands his morning constitutional.

    I decided to carve out about 15 minutes or so of my morning reading to recognize some of the Ontario folks who populate my Twitter feeds with inspiration, stories, blog recommendations, connections, happenings, …  It’s now become a regular routine.

    The social experiment part is to see what people do when their handle comes up.  Some favourite it, some send a message of thanks, and some do something really interesting.  I’ve mentioned it before, the message always starts with #FollowFriday – Active Ontario Educators – so there are lots of characters that can be shorted or dropped to fit within the 140 characters.

    I always thought that I was the only person up and about during these dark hours.  It turns out there are a lot of us up at that time.  

    Yesterday, for example, the following generated notifications beginning shortly after 5am …

    • avivaloca (she’s always first)
    • TammBush
    • jcorbinh
    • turnmeluce
    • spagsmario
    • MrOrr_Geek
    • ugdsb_missfitz
    • Jason_To
    • ColleenKR
    • mrpinizzotto
    • CGoure1
    • lowenESST
    • aljasngenieetoo
    • bgrasley
    • SharonHuxley
    • margotroi
    • MmeM27
    • GHarris01
    • HeatherTouzin
    • AlanaCallan
    • richfarm
    • mcguirp
    • DavidFifeVP

    The list goes on and on.  If you want to see the entire list, check my timeline.

    By retweeting, they’re extending the connections and then it gets extended again and again…  I’d love to see a visualization of it all.

    It’s one of those things that never get old for me.  It’s humbling to think of the connections and the learning that I do every day thanks to the efforts of those who are generous enough to share online.

    We live in an amazing time.  It’s a great time to be a learner and I like to think that I learn from some of the very best.