This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s time, again, to take a look at the roundup of blogs and content that I enjoyed this past week contributed by Ontario Edubloggers.  Please follow along and see the thoughts/insights from these folks.

Remembering Seymour Papert in Ontario Education

I like to toss in Peter Skillen’s direction some of the superficial references to Seymour Papert’s work that are so often referenced and increasingly used to indicate why students need to code.  I guess it’s our society of 140 characters and sound bits that generate it but it really does a disservice to the amazing work of one of the owner of shoulders that we should all be standing on.

In this post, Peter reflects on some of the time that he spend with Dr. Papert and how Peter sees his influence on Ontario education.  I think that it’s a worthy inclusion to your reading.

Peter and I have been bantering back and forth about the opportunity to recognize Dr. Papert’s influence at the Bring IT, Together conference in November.  I hope that we can put together something appropriate to celebrate one of the great minds in education.

It’s not about the Tech…..

With apologies to Jonathan So, I really hate it when this is used as a title or in most references.  

The inspiration for his post came from a podcast and, in particular,

There was a line that I heard in the post that I just hit a big aha moment. Peter mentioned that the OTF Summer conference was titled “Pedagogy before Technology” and that he wasn’t fond of the title but that it was something that was current in education.

I think that, even the discussion, demeans the efforts of educators who are doing the best they can.  I keep thinking of a quote from Wayne Hulley “Nobody wakes up wondering how they’re going to screw up today”.

I think the last quote from Jonathan sums it up nicely…

I know that as teachers we also need time to learn new tools and how they work but first and foremost we need to understand what their purpose is and why we would be using them in the classroom. Love to hear your thoughts on this and if you haven’t heard it already listen to Rolland’s podcast some fantastic educators on there.

It’s a chicken and egg thing but has any other tool in technology been so scrutinized and criticized?  If you search history, there was a huge concern that ball point pens were just the “beginning of the end”.  Some teachers are new to effectively using technology and they need to be supported in their endeavours.  Those that have used it should be those who are supportive with examples and ideas.

Curriculum consultants and district leaders should constantly be providing learning opportunities for staff to learn no matter where they are in their learning.  If they’re not, well … you get what you get.

Education has toyed with the concept of Programmed Instruction, abandoned it, and moved on.  I just wish that the conversation would as well.

TELL 2016

Mark Renaud attended the Technology-Enabled Learning & Leading Institute 2016 this summer along with about 1000 of his closest colleagues.

In this post, he shares his highlights from conference.

It’s interesting to read his observations and hopefully further blog posts will give us an idea as to how they’ve made an impact in his school and to his leadership style.

There are lots of links to slidedecks from some of the presenters at the TVO website.  There’s much Google stuff there, most of the sessions are tagged “Beginner” and kudos to the presenters from my former board.

Collaborating with Colleagues using OneNote Staff Notebook

What about boards that have used Microsoft Office 365 instead of going the Google route though?

Andre Quaglia recently added his blog to the Ontario Edubloggers collection and I went back to a post of his from February.

I recently discovered the advantages of using OneNote Staff Notebooks as a collaborative tool to keep the momentum of conversations flowing after department meetings with teaching colleagues.

In the post, he shares three examples of using OneNote Staff Notebooks.

  • Creating an inventory of instructional technology
  • Verifying class textbook and planning
  • Discussion about how to allocate new classroom workspace


One of the great things about blogging is that you can be or create anything you want.

In this post, Joan Vinall Cox shares a short poem about “Time”.

It’s a reminder to all of us that we’re getting older.


My classroom was probably the least desirable room in the school.  I don’t know whether it was the block design or the fact that we were air conditioned but there were a few rooms that had no outside windows.  I had one of them.

So, I can’t really empathise with Ashley Soltesz’ first day of school.

It’s actually distractions rather than squirrels that form the basis of the post.  We all have them.

She does end with a question that we all have – how do you handle distractions?

The question is not, “how best to teach mathematics?” The question, educator, is “how best for YOU to teach mathematics?”

After the title, the rest of Matthew Oldridge’s post is pretty much redundant!  When you’ve taken as many courses in mathematics as I have, you’d like to think that you’ve seen it all.

I’ve been drilled, investigated, explored, charted, drawn, programming, puzzled, heard mathematics jokes, …

Unfortunately, for most teachers, their last formal kick at mathematics would have been at a Faculty of Education which has to include that in amongst everything else for some teachers or focus on the teaching of difficult mathematics for those who would aspire to be secondary school specialists.

So, it comes as no surprise that some folks think that they have to chalk and talk in order to get their dollar and a quarter for the day.  Fortunately, we’re having the discussion about teaching and I really enjoyed the approach in Matthew’s post.  In true mathematics tradition, he illustrates with a chart…

I think that it’s a good read and anyone who will be teaching mathematics, at whatever level, would be well advised to read and consider their approach.  And, question when you’re advised to embrace “high impact strategies”.  To be sure, they can be good research, but don’t necessarily address your skill set or the learning needs of your students.

It’s absolutely another great week of reading.   Thanks to all the bloggers who contributed to my learning.  Please take a moment and drop by their posts (I’ve given you the links so it’s easy) and extend their conversations.  If you’re a blogger yourself, do what Andre did, and add yourself to the list.  I’d really like to have you included.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s been another great week of reading blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.  Some of what I caught appears below.

Please take a moment to click through and read their complete thoughts.

My New Work Flow

David Fife made sure that I didn’t miss this post from Jennifer Aston.  Jennifer and I had actually exchanged some thoughts about the topics she blogged about so it was like another deja vu to see it in that format.  But, the nice thing about blogging is that you get to see the thoughts completely in context.

If you read the post in its entirety, there is a great deal to be learned.

  • when you move your files and data to the cloud, “who” really owns it?
  • a decision made by the folks at the board office, or what was referred to with my former employer, “downtown” can have cascading effects throughout the district
  • related to that, it’s fair to ask “Is there a master plan?”
  • if you live by the cloud, you can die (or at least get a bit injured) by the cloud
  • YOU need to be in charge of everything or there are consequences
  • Linux isn’t a four letter word and puts you back in the driver’s seat of your computer
  • it’s nice to have a cadre of people that you can ask when these questions arise

There’s another one that I think that all educators need to consider.

When your students “check out” at Grade 6 or 8 or 12 or whenever, do you provide a mechanism for them to check out their work as well?

Literacy Tests: Not Just Kids’ Stuff

When I first read the title of Stephen Hurley’s post, I got myself ready for another rant and rationale to ditch standardized testing.

So, I felt like the victim of a bait and switch when I read the post.

He draws an interesting parallel between the literacy tests that we subject students to and the wedding speeches that so many of us have had to give.

So here’s to all of you who have been asked to give a speech or a toast at a wedding this summer. Embrace the opportunity, embrace the anxiety and remember—literacy tests are not just for kids. Whether we realize it or not, they are part of all of our lives—for the rest of our lives!

It’s a fun read and yet makes so many sense.

With the exception, of course, that students don’t go and do shots when the testing is over!

Advice for New Teachers

Who knows how many new teachers will be entering classrooms for the first time this fall?  Or how many people are making a career change by moving from one school to another.  Even that can be a culture change.  Matthew Oldridge has a wonderful post just full of advice.

He concludes with:

The post is full of good advice.


Well, maybe there will be a followup post about Parent/Teacher nights.

Coding in French

Larissa Aradj shares to her blog, a guest post from French teacher Ashley Soltesz, and an interesting take on teaching coding in French.

As noted, French teachers don’t always have access to the same collection of resources as the regular classroom teacher but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t find a way to make it happen.  In this case, it was to create Coding Blocks in the French language and allow students to create projects without the benefit of a computer.

What’s not to like?  It gets rid of one more excuse.

You don’t have to start from scratch.  <groan>  Check out the resources in this shared folder.

It IS about the Tools!

Opening Up My Technology Can Of Worms

I’m going to clump Peter Skillen and Aviva Dunsiger’s posts together here.

I’m not neutral on this topic.

It’s Not About the Technology

It Better Be About The Technology

and a bunch of others.  It’s a regular theme around here.   I still love this graphic.

I deliberately chose the word “neutral” above because I believe that the use of technology is not a neutral activity.

I touch technology every day.  It touches me every day.  I can only remember one moment where I wanted to scream and it was at one of those PD sessions that you’re forced to attend.  Normally, that doesn’t bother me but the presenter started out by asking, no demanding, that people turn off their technology so that we could listen to her.  Then, having shut that door for me, she went on to ramble about learning styles or something.

Technology isn’t neutral.

  • In the hands of a master teacher, you can have students create, explore, and do things that aren’t possible in any other way.  This is where the magic lies.
  • In the hands of a teacher that uses it for some menial task, it turns off students from even trying.
  • If it’s never used by a teacher, it’s just opportunity lost.

We lost one of the great Edtech minds this past week in Seymour Papert.  There was no bigger advocate for the technology using student.  By inheritance, we include the technology using teacher.  It’s 2016 – we shouldn’t have “computer teachers” – that belongs to our past where we had limited access to technology and an entire profession that was learning.  Those excuses just don’t cut it today.

Never has the profession had so many great things happening and discerning teachers using technology to its greatest ability.

An interview with Michelle Cordy

I’m going to call my own number here.

I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Michelle Cordy who delivered the closing keynote at the recent ISTE Conference.

Of course, I had to wait for her to return from a trip to Berlin to get things together but it did come together nicely.

We chatted about teaching different grades, research, 1:1 iPads, delivering the closing keynote at the ISTE Conference, and much more.  She gives a shout out to her five biggest influencers.  I think it’s a great read and I hope that you take the time to do so.

Thanks to all of the above for continuing to provide great thoughts for educators.  Drop by each blog for the complete content and leave a comment of your own if you’re so inclined.  They’ll appreciate it.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy Friday.  It won’t be long now.

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


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

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

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

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

20 Ideas for Celebrating Aboriginal Culture in Your Class

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

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

More at his original post.

Minecraft: Spatial Sense, Structures & Growing Patterns

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

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

Hour of Curiosity

Who’s Brian trying to kid?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royan argues successfully, with examples, about great alternatives.

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

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

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

A world full of materials!

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

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

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

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

Ça prend du développement professionnel peronnalisé

Another argument for personalized professional development from Joël McLean.

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

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

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

A great Sketchnote introduces us to the post.


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

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

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

Thanks again everyone for sharing your thoughts and blog leadership.

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

Choices and decisions

Sylvia Duckworth’s Sketchnote about Teacher PLNs is a wonderful thought starter for me and I hope for others as well.

It reminded me of a conversation that we had in planning years ago.  The question was thrown on the table.

“Why would I want a teacher to connect with someone half way around the world when they won’t talk to their colleague down the hall?”

It wasn’t posed by a luddite; it was meant to get us thinking deeper about just what it was we were planning to do.  And, what we were planning to do was to replace an ancient email system that I had installed on a trial basis for a few of us to investigate just what we could do and to prove the value of it with others.  By today’s standards, it was pretty lame although functional.  You could send and receive email messages and that was about it.  Looking back now, I’m not sure it would even do CC or BC.  It really was primitive but it was free so hey.

We wanted so much more.

Not only did we want to be able to talk to the teacher down the hall but we wanted to be able to talk to teachers with the same passion throughout the board.  Some of us had worked with and I had actually run a Bulletin Board System for my students and for anyone else who wanted to join.  We knew that when you set aside discussion areas that people would jump at the chance to talk and collaborate.  I had also set up a BBS on the local network at school and turned the keys over to a group of students to manage it.  They did a wonderful job and learned the challenges of approving and denying messages and standards and so much more…

All of this was a drop in the bucket to what we have today.

When you get past the mindset that the only person that you want to work with is the other teacher down the hall, Sylvia’s Sketchnote takes on new and deeper meaning.  But, if you’re reading my blog, you know that.  You’re connected to the internet and either intentionally or accidentally stumbled onto this post.  It’s a choice and a decision that you’ve made if you’re doing this from at home.  It’s a choice and a decision that you’ve been allowed if you’re doing this from your place of work.

There are many educators that aren’t able to make that choice.  The choice and decision made by their employer have prohibited this.  It’s an intentional act to block access to blogs.  It falls into the same category of blocking Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, … as a choice and a decision.

There are times when decisions and choices are made that make it just inconvenient to the point of discouragement.  You might have to load this to get email, that to get discussions, this to get to Twitter, that to get to …  There are only so many minutes in an educator’s day.  In this case, priorities are set and getting to collaboration has to rank behind checking out job postings or finding out what to wear on crazy shirt day.  The savvy educator will work at developing solutions to get around this.  For example, subscribing and bringing all these things to your mailbox is a great way to do this.  According to my WordPress statistics there are far more subscribers than people that actually visit the blog directly.

And that’s just one drop in the big internet learning bucket.

Go back and take a look at the Sketchnote.  How much of the discovery, connections, collaboration could be accomplished if you only had email as a tool?

Is that sufficient when we’re talking about 2016?  Shouldn’t the whole buffet of tools be available to all teachers and classrooms?  Shouldn’t the choice and decision be made to promote as much ability to learn and communicate as possible?  Can we really expect to barricade the outside world and then wonder why we’re not doing anything innovative?  After all, if you’re blocked from doing so, so is that teacher down the hall.  So much for learning at the point of instruction.

What’s in your toolkit that makes all this possible? Mine lies in tabs that are pinned and logged in in my browser.


Can you do it all at school or do you have to wait until you get home?

An interview with Jennifer Casa-Todd


Jennifer Casa-Todd is currently the Literacy Consultant at the  York Catholic District School Board.  I had the opportunity to get her thoughts on a number of things.  

Read on and enjoy!

Doug:  Jennifer is one person that I have met both in person and online.  Can you tell us where we first met face to face?

Jennifer:  It’s hard to believe that we had our first real face-to-face coffee together this past November at the Bring It Together conference.  This is probably because we have had coffee asynchronously together several mornings together while we chatted on Twitter’s DM.  When I did finally meet you, I felt like I had known you forever!🙂

Doug:  I think the concept of Student Ed Tech teams is fantastic.  How did it start?

Jennifer: Because we have engaged teacher teams for two years now, and we recognize that despite the release time we’ve given for support, support at the school level (beyond what we could provide) might be given by student teams.  Many schools already had AV teams of sorts, but we wanted the teams to know about the tools in our ecosystem (ipads, Chromebooks, Interactive Whiteboards, as well as GAFE and Desire to Learn) Rather than having teachers submit a ticket to a technician for a problem which might have a very quick & simple solution, they could get help as needed.  We also really want student leaders to model Digital Discipleship and leadership in their schools and thought that having these teams learn about what that means would go a long way to helping us to do that.  

Doug:  Where does the project stand now?  Is it still ongoing?

Jennifer:  We held a Student Ed Tech day organized on February 29th and this time each student team may be accompanied by a 21C team member,  We are going to incorporate time for student teams to work together with the teacher teams to brainstorm how to best facilitate and support technology-enabled learning at their respective schools.   A strong emphasis will be on Digital Citizenship/leadership again as well as our 6Cs and the technology in our ecosystem.  

Doug:  We’ve had a nice chat back and forth about CoffeeEDU.  What does that look like to you?

Jennifer: I was fortunate enough to attend ISTE in Philadelphia last summer and attended a Coffee Edu hosted by Alice Keeler (who created  She basically set a date and time and provided the opportunity for educators to gather and talk about what we wanted.  She then had everyone share their contact information and tweeted that out.  I thought it was fantastic, so I emulated the model here, first at a Starbucks, then at a local coffee house. It is just an hour and basically is like an informal Edcamp. I am hoping to host another one in the Spring.

Doug:  Your co-terminous board has a big splashy professional learning event every year.  This year, your board did something a little more low key.  Can you tell us about it and how it went?

Jennifer:  We have actually hosted a professional learning opportunity every year for the past two years (March 5th will be our 3rd): Ed Tech Saturday.  

The low-key event to which you are referring happened in November, when we hosted an Edcamp model for the first time.  It was a great opportunity for teachers to determine the direction for their own learning, but we have so many teachers at various places on the spectrum in terms of skill with the tools in our technology ecosystem, that we offered a blended model which worked very well for us. My reflection on this is here.

We find both are cost-effective ways to invite teachers, who normally don’t have an opportunity to attend  conference to engage in professional learning, that meets their needs and interests.

Doug:  One of the challenges that a person in your position has is of balancing job and home life.  You even mention it in your Twitter bio.  How do you manage this?

Jennifer:  I am very fortunate to have an extremely supportive family and I try to set boundaries for myself.  I spend a few minutes on Twitter in the morning, at lunch and then in the evening.  I am on Voxer when I am driving and I try to blog on Saturday and Sunday mornings before my family wakes up.  I’ve never really been a tv person, so it works out in that way. My family is the most important thing in my life so there are times when everything else just has to wait so I can be present for them and there are other times when they have to look me in the eye and say, “Mommy, put your phone away.”

Doug:  A while back, you had a chance to attend the FETC conference.  I’m not too jealous about that.  If you had to name three takeaways from the conference, what would they be?

Jennifer:  Yes, I applied to the Executive Leadership Summit on a whim and when I got accepted, my husband and I thought it was too good an opportunity to pass up.  It did come as a personal sacrifice, but I think the benefits were worth it.  My three takeaways:

  • everyone in every State in every country with whom I spoke is undergoing similar issues (pockets of excellence, reluctance to embrace change, perceived testing and curriculum restraints, etc..). There is something very comforting about this.
  • I loved the idea of the Future Ready movement especially its attempt to bring technology access to places where there is none and the many partnerships with business and communities to do this. I also like that it’s a federal movement; I feel that each province in Canada is doing its own thing and that a federal connection might be beneficial.
  • When you meet people in real life that you have only known via social media, it is sometimes of greater value to forgo an official conference session to sit and chat with that person instead (normally I am compelled to go to as many sessions as possible, but because I was not there on behalf of my Board, I felt the personal freedom to do that and it was awesome!).

Doug:  Little known useless fact – I was born in Newmarket.  I hear that it’s changed a bit.  You even have a four lane highway there now.  What’s significant about technology in that city?

Jennifer:  I remember you telling me when we met that you were born in Newmarket. As for what’s significant about technology, I’m not really sure! I know that I can have wifi access in almost every shop or restaurant and that in terms of access at home for students there are few issues.  I may have to go learn more about this and get back to you.  A big sign at the Town office says we are one of the top 10 cities according to Google.

Doug:  The successful use of technology within a district is largely dependent upon professional learning opportunities offered within the board.  What does your board offer in terms of technology / pedagogy in teaching and learning.

Jennifer:  The 21C initiative which I spoke of earlier provides teams of (now 10) teachers with professional learning both at the Central Office and at their schools.  The Curriculum and IT Dept work very closely together to ensure that there is a balance between teachers understanding the “why” and “how” when integrating technology. We also provide dinner and learns to interested teachers.  Teacher are invited to submit a proposal for release time around technology-enabled learning  and part of the process requires that pedagogy/curriculum/learning skills/the 6 Cs are the primary areas of focus.

Doug:  I saw recently, you talk about Ed Tech Saturday sessions.  I’m intrigued about that.  What does it mean?  Is it open to people from other districts?

Jennifer: We invite all teachers in our Board and it is held at one of our local high schools.  We had a keynote the first year, but then moved to IGNITE sessions delivered by myself, teachers, and in year 2 and again this year, a combination of teachers and students from our board.  All of the sessions are also led by teachers in our Board (with the exception last year when we invited Gaming Edus (the first time I met Diana Maliszewski) to show Minecraft in the classroom.  We really want to provide opportunities for our informal leaders to showcase the good work they are doing.  In Year 1 the day was 85% centrally planned, whereas last year it was 85% led by teacher-leaders and this year it was even greater.  We are extremely proud and excited about that.  

Doug:  I know that you’re very active on social media and I love the things that you share.  Is social media and sharing big in your district?  Are there people we should be following?

Jennifer:  Thanks, Doug! We are trying to build a #ycdsb21c community on Twitter so teachers can celebrate each other’s accomplishments and share the good work they are doing, and so too learn from each other.  Being connected on Twitter has changed my practice and I am excited for teachers and administrators in our board to experience that as well. It’s definitely a work in progress.  

Everyone should follow you!…but I have created several lists which you can access on my profile. Depending on your interests, these lists provide a good starting point for who to follow. For example, I have been adding to the list called Ontario EDUs; I am amazed at the talent we have here.

Doug:  Since you’re so active on social media, I’m sure that you’ve thought through this personally and at the district level.  What are your thoughts about student information and privacy while they’re online?

Jennifer:  This is always a tough and on-going conversation at every level and I think it needs to be.   I think it’s impossible NOT to have an online presence today and so we need to be smart about what we are sharing, how we are sharing it, and at what age it is appropriate for us to move to the public domain.  As educators we are compelled to protect students and keep them safe, but I also think we are obliged to help them develop a positive online persona and a critical lens with which to keep themselves safe as well.

Doug:  You’re a pretty regular blogger.  Where do you get the inspiration for your posts?

Jennifer:  Honestly, I’ve always loved to write but never had a forum for it until George Couros pushed me to create a blog, and then my own domain.  Now, I literally walk around with blog ideas swirling in my head.  I might hear something or read something that triggers a post.  Other times, when something goes very badly or very well, I feel like sharing that might help others who might struggling or celebrating the same thing. There are literally a hundred unfinished drafts sitting, waiting to be finished which got started because of a conversation or an experience. I am still struggling with my voice in my blog so sometimes I’ll write as a district leader, other times a mom, and sometimes as a wanna-be-back-in-the-classroom-teacher.  Thanks to you and your, This Week in Ontario Edublogs series, I have been able to read other blogs from really talented writers and thinkers and this continues to inspire me as well.

Doug:  Since you can’t be there 24/7 for teachers, you must have a repository of resources for your teacher to access.  How do you handle that?  Can you share?

Jennifer:  I really use my blog to share resources and ideas and I share lots on Twitter.  The very best feeling for me is when someone tells me that they actually used an idea I shared in their class and tell me how it went! When I run a learning series or inquiry, I take advantage of the collaborative power of Google Apps for Education and create a shared folder for everyone.  I also create templates and upload them to our domain when I think a graphic organizer or template would be useful for anyone.  Most importantly, I try to be there via email or phone if someone needs help as sometimes it’s just support teachers are looking for.

Doug:  There is exciting news about your future, Jennifer.  You’re leaving your current position to take another.  Can you share where you’re headed, what you’ll be doing, and what your plans are for the new position?

Jennifer:  I will be the Teacher-Librarian at Cardinal Carter CHS in Aurora (it’s literally across the street from the Board office).  I am most excited about being able to implement all of the learning and experiences to which I’ve been blessed to have access into a school environment.  I am excited to dabble into a Makerspace and how that might complement the school culture there.  I am already planning a global collaborative EDU Amazing Race with Geography teachers (will share more as that unfolds) in collaboration with some amazing educators including the folks at Breakout EDU virtual, and I am starting a TED Ed Club for students.  Overzealous?  Typical! But, I am thrilled at the opportunity to not just talk about student digital leadership and student voice, but to actually work with students again.  And because it’s an IB school, I am looking forward to lots of new learning!

Doug:  Thank you so much, Jennifer.  Please make contact with Jennifer – she’s on Twitter at @jcasatodd and blogs regularly at   Check out her Edpeakers Profile here.

You can check out all of the interviews I’ve conducted by clicking here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Fortunately, as I type this, it’s early morning.  The long grass that’s outside the window is a reminder that it needs attention.  Just not now.

Here’s a bit of what I read from Ontario Edubloggers this week.

Who is an educational leader?

Please join my friend Lisa Cranston as she takes the leap into the blogging world with her blog “Leading in Education”.  As it would happen, I also had a similar discussion about “leaders” in educational technology.  The conclusion was that so many of them were white men.  As I write this, I’d like to add another descriptor “English speaking”.  Some haven’t been in a K-12 classroom for a long time (or ever in some cases).  What makes them a leader?

For a long time, I’ve felt the same way as Lisa.  The real leaders are well read, well connected classroom practitioners who try the new ideas and make their own determination as to what’s appropriate for their students.  They don’t just close their eyes and blindly follow the “best practices” from someone who has no idea what is right or wrong but have another book to sell or speech to give.

Do You Dream of Databases?

This post, from Andy Forgrave, was actually a reply to my post last Sunday about “Whatever happened to … Filemaker Pro?“.

I knew that he’d reply when I wrote the original post.  But what I didn’t expect was a lesson in the history of Filemaker Pro and the various Ontario initiatives like the Electronic Report Card, the Ontario Curriculum Unit Planner, … which we know that Andy was so instrumental in the development of these cutting edge projects.

I knew when I read Doug’s post this morning that it would be impossible for me to let it go without commenting. But where to start? How could I start and not go on for hours and hours? And I expect that he knew that it would be difficult for me to not reply. I remember the day when John Taylor introduced us to one another at ECOO. I’m fairly certain he was looking at pushing the OSAPAC database of licensed software to the web from FileMaker at the time.

My original thought was that I would reply by writing my own post on my own blog. But the post would be out of the blue and wouldn’t have the context that Doug’s post provided. In the end, I posted a long comment on Doug’s blog, and based it on his prompt questions. To go broader would open the floodgates and I’d never get any sleep. But I did decide to cross-post it here to all the same. After all, I spent upwards of five years from 1998 to 2003 breathing, eating, and sleeping in Filemaker. I’m sure I had a few Filemaker-inspired dreams along the way.

Into the post, Andy throws an interesting wrinkle.  He talks about database thinking.  That is a powerful and distinct skill.  When Filemaker Pro was commonly available, it was used for so many things that do lend themselves to that sort of organizational problem solving.

Fortunately, spreadsheets have filled much of that gap; they’re much more powerful now than before.  And yet, they still don’t completely fill the gap left by a good database.  Is this something that school districts should be looking in to or has the tap, tap, tap tablet thinking ruled out the type of deep thinking and problem solving that only can be done with a good database?  A good spreadsheet is good but it’s not the same.

The Problem With French Immersion

You have to go back a few years in Andrew Campbell’s “professional” blog to read his thoughts about French Immersion and the impact that it has had on the public school system(s) in Ontario.  Recently, he was one of the speakers on a Metro Morning segment talking about the state of French Immersion and the impact that school districts are feeling.  I was hoping that perhaps he would update his blog with his current thinking but his thoughts on the interview are pretty consistent with the previous post.

I think that French Immersion probably started as a good idea, conceivably to fill a need or perceived need for those parents who wanted their students to be immersed in the language rather than shipping them to a French school or hoping that the FSL program at their school would suffice.  The school districts sold the concept well and the program flourished.  Maybe it was sold too well because it’s now causing the sorts of challenges outlined in Andrew’s blog and by both interviewees in the radio segment.

My thoughts are that, if the program is indeed good, it should be offered everywhere.  Students shouldn’t be shipped to another location just for the program.  If you take a look at the geography of where many of the French Immersion programs are offered, you won’t find it in many less affluent neighbourhoods.  If the program is good for some, it should be good for all.  If it’s something that is going to separate students, then it belongs in a private school and let parents pay for the privilege.

Where to Target?

Two quotes came to mind when I read this post David Jaremy.

  • “The pie is only so big but it can be sliced in a number of different ways”
  • “Don’t water the rocks”

Both came from presentations that I remember hear years ago talking about where to put resources – professional activities, equipment, time, etc.  Both get you thinking about the effectiveness of some “programs” of professional learning.

So, what do we do as organizations?  Do we put our resources into those who may be further away from the goal, at the expense of those who want to move?  Or do we put them into the movers and risk leaving others behind?  Is there a middle ground somewhere?  I really do not know, but as I personally navigate the working world for another 6 years or so, I am anxious to see where it goes, and to hopefully have some small part in finding the answer…..thanks for reading!  Comments please!

So, what does an organization do to continue to grow?  In the post, David makes reference to Lumbermills and the impact that technology had on them.  It was a nice comparison.

Think of the conferences that you might attend.  It’s a great opportunity to catch up with educators from various locations.  How often is there “new blood” to be met?  When there is, does the social media connection help make those new connections?

There’s a great deal to be said about personalized learning and who is in charge – the individual who identifies where she/he needs to grow and that of a system that decides that everyone needs to learn the same things at the same time.  Which is more effective?

So, if you have a budget for professional learning, Where do you “Target the Funds”?  I know that I’m so grateful for some of the activities that were supported by my superiors.  I also know that they wasted money and time by making me sit through some real dud sessions that they thought were going to be good but certainly missed the mark.

Important Learning Videos

In a recent post, Donna Fry shared a number of what she called “Important Learning Videos”.  This is a collection that you might just want to bookmark for later reference.  I was pleased to see that Mary Jean Gallagher made her collection.

I had the privilege of working and also taking courses with Mary Jean.  She is a true gem in Ontario education.

How Do We Learn to Ride Bikes?

In my case, with a great deal of pain.  Like most things, my parents bought me my first bike with room to grow into.  It was huge.  So huge, that I could only do one pedal at a time.  Fortunately, we had a big hill in front of our house.  I could ride down the hill, get off, walk it back to the top and then try again.

This post is inspired by a discussion at #edcampham over the weekend as well as a real personal example I’m living right now. My oldest son is 6 years old and learning how to ride a bike. I put a helmut on him, gave him a few basics, helped him coast and said go! My wife has a slightly different approach and helps him slowly never letting go of the seat and never letting him fall.

But the point of Bill Forrester’s point isn’t bike riding.  It’s about learning in general – the comment on mathematics.

It’s an interesting discussion – does the answer lie in the big red pen with the bright ink or does it involve falling off the bike enough times until you finally learn?

Math Links for Week Ending May 27th, 2014

David Petro’s collection of mathematics links includes one that confirms what we’ve known for a long time.  It’s expensive to buy gas.

I know the logic is supply and demand but have you ever seen gas go down on a weekend?

There’s great data all around us.  I remember teaching Grade 9 mathematics and most of the students were bused by this one gas station.  Their job was to write down the price as they drove past and we made our own collection of real data to graph, analyze, and predict trends and what tomorrow’s gas price might be.  If your school has one of those devices that display car speeds in front of it, wouldn’t that provide some interesting data  to study?

Thanks, once again, to the wonderful Ontario Edubloggers for contributing such great posts.  Drop by their original posts and give them a comment.

I’m out of here; that grass calls.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I don’t know if this post will happen on time.  As I try to connect this morning and gather my thoughts from the past week, I get this when I try to get to my notes and thoughts…

How can I write this post if I can’t get to my notes and then subsequently get back to the bookmarked sites.  21st Century problems.  On the other hand, I’m enjoying listening to the radio.  Could it be true?  Internet access, as they say, is a basic human right?

Computational Thinking and Coding in the Classroom: Views from a Novice

Matthew Oldridge shares a post that should be a reminder to those who go over the top with their enthusiasm about coding and the advice that “all students need to code”.  As he correctly notes, it’s not necessarily the ability to program that’s important here, it’s the ability to think and problem solve.  He makes reference to Google’s Computational Thinking course…

As they describe it, computational thinking has four different categories:
1. Decomposition-breaking down data, processes, or problems into smaller, manageable parts.
2. Pattern recognition-observing patterns, trends, and regularities in data.
3. Abstraction-identifying the general principles that generate these patterns.
4. Algorithm Design-developing the step by step instructions for solving this and similar problems.

I’ve mentioned a few times before that I harken back to comments made by a university professor in our first year Computer Science class that most of us who would be successful will probably get jobs in Computer Science that don’t involve programming.  It really affected the way that I taught and assessed – in addition to the program, students also had to submit a paragraph describing how the program worked along with a flow chart, inline comments, structured diagram, or pseudo-code illustrating the logic.

These days, it seems, the focus of the fans of coding is to get right to the code and have the computer do something.  There is a real rush when you program something and it works.  There’s also the frustration when it doesn’t.  It can be an “all or nothing” experience.  I think that it’s important for everyone to look at the big picture.

Going directly to the tutorials or examples that we regularly see isn’t terribly productive.  You have to type or drag exactly like in the example and you too can create your own Flappy Bird game.  But do you know how it works?  Can you modify it for your own needs?  Can you read the code and understand the author’s thinking?  Whatever happened to inline documentation?  Is this really the best way for a new person to learn how to code?

Kudos to Matthew for trying to wrap his head around it.  It would have been far easier just to give the students a handout.

The whole issue may be moot.  Soon We Won’t Program Computers. We’ll Train Them Like Dogs

I’ve already got mine trained to sit, roll over, shake a paw, shake the other hand…

Investing in our Own Professional Learning

It’s interesting to see who uses the term “Professional Development” and those who use the term “Professional Learning”.

Those who would “Develop” typically do it for a living.  Those who would “Learn” are doing it for improvement to their professional abilities. Increasingly, we see people who take charge of their learning and see what they need to know instead of what someone not necessarily in the classroom thinks they need to know.

This post, by Dina Moati builds from the wonderful graphic that she includes in the post.

I think that it’s only fair to ask anyone who wishes to “Develop” you to demonstrate their competency by showing their social learning.  If they can and do, that’s wonderful; if they don’t or can’t, do they really have the necessary credibility?  Just have them email you their Powerpoint slides so that you can get on with your personal “Learning” that will actually improve your abilities.

Why Google Apps Must Needs Die

This post has been haunting me all week.  From the title to some of the assumptions, I can’t get my head around it.  I know that Cal Armstrong loves his OneNote and obviously has a device that lets him use it to do amazing things.  I remember my first experience with it.  I was invited to the Microsoft Partners in Learning event and figured I’d better use it rather than Evernote so I didn’t get ejected from the event.  I’d take notes all day and go back to my hotel room and blog at night from the notes.

Here I am a couple of years later and I’d like to revisit my notes but they’re gone.  There’s just an empty folder where they should be.  I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find them – I even dug into the computer I used at the time thinking I may have mistakenly saved them locally.  Not a thing.  The program will have changed so much since then and I do have OneNote on my computers and my phone.  Why does it keep bugging me for a phone number when I try to log in?

Anyway, Cal compares what he’s able to do with OneNote with handwriting and random screen starting points in the post.  It’s a good depiction of what can be done.  Then, he compares what he’s doing with Google Docs, a word processor.  His points are interesting but I don’t think it’s a fair comparison.  He could have made the same comparisons to Microsoft Word.  I think a better comparison would have been to Google Drawings.

One thing that his post does do is make me yearn for a touch screen computer.  I can doodle with my Wacom pad but it’s most certainly not what I’d like to do a screen capture of and show in public.  If you’re curious to see OneNote used in all its glory, Cal does do a good job describing some of its functionality in the post.

Playful Learning in the Early Years

A couple of years ago, I visited a friend’s classroom.  It was a French Immersion Early Years’ room.

I watched in amazement as so many small human beings were buzzing about here and there in a myriad of activities.  In the middle of our conversation, students would come up and ask the teacher a question in French, she’d reply and we’d be back to our discussion without breaking a bit of the flow.  I asked “What is your class doing?”

She proceeded to talk me around the room, not necessarily pointing to everything.  Not every student was doing the same thing; there were little groups here and there doing this and that – in both languages.  It is true.  They don’t pay Early Years’ teachers enough.

Deanna McLennan takes us on a tour of her classroom with all kinds of pictures to show us such a busy place.

Can’t We Let All Of Our Kids “Fix Kites?”

While we’re looking at the inside of a classroom like Deanna’s, it’s also important to consider that there’s an outside too!  Aviva Dunsiger describes a moment from hers.

You’ve got to click through and read all of the post.

What led up to this event?

How did the student handle it?

Have you ever broken your own kite?  (As I look out the patio door to the big maple tree in the back yard, I’m reminded that things can indeed go wrong!)

What exactly is ‘engagement’?

Good question, Heidi Siwak.

It seems to me that there are two sides to engagement.

  • Teacher Side – provide or facilitate “engaging” activities/moments
  • Student Side – become “engaged”

If either side drops the ball, engagement doesn’t happen.

“Why is your point important?” On the importance of Analysis in Writing

From Rusul Alrubail, a reminder for all about better writing.  I actually think that bloggers are good at this and perhaps it’s just another reason why students should blog.  A good blog post will conclude with a “call to action”.  So, why the whole point of the post might be to talk about the newest and shiniest and funkiest, it’s not until you give the reader that call or the “why” it’s important, you’re missing something.

When we write, it’s important that we try and think about the reason why you’re writing your point. This helps us to stay focused on making our point clear to the reader, and helps to push our thinking to the next level. Instead of focusing on “what” and “how” the story was told, think about “why” this point is important for the readers to know about.

Flip over to Rusul’s post to see a really wonderful sketchnote outlining all of this.  It’s very appropriate for use with students and may get you looking deeper at The Writing Project.

You’ve probably guessed by now that my ISP is back up and running again.  I was able to access my notes and give you some great thinking from Ontario Edubloggers.  Please take a few moments to click through, read their original posts and drop off a comment or two.  There’s lots of great stuff there.