This is why we do it


I was actually out of town yesterday but my phone was still connected to back home. It was getting a workout with notifications.

The whole thing started innocently enough…for me anyway.

It was in last Friday’s This Week in Ontario Edublogs post here that I took a real interest in a post by Debbie Donsky.  She had a rather long title for it “Listen with Compassion and Act with Love The Roles We Play and the Impact We Have as Educators“.  It was a rather long post, consistent with the length of the title.

It caught the blog reading eye of Aviva Dunsiger who shared her thoughts…

… a nice reply by Debbie…

As a result, Aviva was inspired to write a post based on her thoughts inspired by the original post.

This Is My Story. What’s Yours?

I enjoyed reading both posts.  They represent the thinking of two passionate educators.

Stepping back from the posts, I can’t help but think about the bigger social media part of all this.  I know Aviva personally and through her interactions online; I know Debbie but only from her thoughts that she elects to publish.  I can’t comment on whether the two ladies know each other.

But what made this all happen?

It wasn’t like the two of them happened to sit down together at a school staff meeting.  It wasn’t even something more social than sitting together at a coffee shop.

Instead, it was one person who decided that she would share her thoughts with the world.  Then, it was another person who happened to find the post, promoted it, and then was inspired to write a blog post of her own.  It’s the sort of professional dialogue that education has wanted to have for years.

How many times have we all sat in a lecture hall or district provided PD and listened to a certain extent to someone who talks, gets their money, and then goes home?  Interaction optional.

This whole interaction between the two of them wasn’t passive.  It was incredibly interactive and brought anyone who was connected into its midst.  Although my phone was beeping and vibrating, I couldn’t be part of it in real time.  It was only when I got home and got caught up that I found it.  That’s OK too; we can’t be online 24/7.  If you weren’t part of it on Sunday, follow the links above.

I can’t help but ponder over how many other great thoughts and sharing goes on; but by policy or choice, it resides behind some school district’s wall of protection.

Had Debbie originally written and posted her thoughts that way, the world would never have had the choice to read and reflect about her message.

Both messages didn’t get vetted by a superior officer and there was no disclaimer that “this message doesn’t reflect the values of anyone else”.  It was just two professionals speaking from the heart.

Isn’t this just a great wakeup message for those making decisions?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Happy Friday!  Are you looking for some great thoughts from Ontario Edubloggers?  Look no further; here’s what I caught recently.


“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”?

Royan Lee offers his thoughts about mental health.  His personal history on the topic I’ll bet mirrors most everyone’s.

He concludes with a powerful promise to his kids.

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On perhaps a less serious bent, is it a coincidence that Ontario report cards are done during the “Let’s Talk” event?  It is a stressful time for educators and sacrifices are made to get this task done.  Aviva Dunsiger notes her compromises in this post “My Blogging Break Is Over … And It Will Not Be Happening Again!”  It’s a thoughtful post with an additional thoughtful reply.


The Case for Teaching Integrated Skills vs Separate Subjects

Deborah McCallum writes an interesting essay on this topic.  It’s not a quick and easy read but will get you thinking.  A common message is “we do it for the kids”.  We do it for success in “real life”.

How much of “real life” is presented in distinct topics.  A well rounded citizen takes everything on and not just having a focus on a particular thing before moving on to the next.

There is a strong message when you look at a school timetable where each separate subject is given the same amount of time.  Does this honour the fact that some students need differing times to understand?

For many, the current focus is on specialist teachers for subjects like mathematics.  This post may help you frame a different approach.


Safer Internet Day – what will you do?

Helen DeWaard reached out to me to help promote the concept of a Safer Internet Day in Canada.

So, here it is.

To support the cause, she’s asking us to use the hashtag #SaferInternetDayCA.

If you want to get involved, and who wouldn’t, this post provides a large number of resources to help the cause.  There’s some great stuff there.

What are you doing for Safer Internet Day on February 7?


From Grade 8 to Grade 9

I’ll blame Heather Theijsmeijer for a sleepless night after reading her post itemizing everything that is “new” when a students moves from Grade 8 to Grade 9.

It brought back so many nightmares for me.  We had a Grade 8 teacher who told us that we were going to have problems when we went to “collegiate” even though our secondary school hadn’t been a collegiate for years.

I also remembered Initiation Day where we had to wear our mother’s nightgown and were forced to do the bidding of the Grade 12s and 13s if we were caught in the halls between classes.  A valuable lesson learned was that classrooms were safe havens!

Her post addresses so many of the concerns students have or shortly will have.  Are schools and school districts addressing them?  Sure, there are Grade 8 nights but does that do the trick?

School realities extend beyond that as well.  What about schools where Grade 7s and 8s are already members of the secondary school for accommodation issues?  Or schools where students go from Kindergarten to Grade 12?    Or IB programs?  Or even a choice of schools?

It’s not easy being a kid these days.  I guess we had it so much easier.


RESOURCES TO TEACH ABOUT THE #MUSLIMBAN

Many educators are often afraid of discussing “controversial” issues in the classroom. The word “controversial” here puts a shroud on many relevant topics, such as politics, daily events, history, social justice issues, equality, and many others.

This quote, from Rusul Alrubail, should be the motivation if required to talk about the current reality falling from the executive order from the United States president last weekend.

I’ll confess; I never really paid all that much attention to the fact that things like this can be done without going through regular government channels.  It did bring back a memory of the Canadian War Measures Act.

Living near the border makes it a frequent news story here.  So many people need to cross the border just to get to work.

In the post, Rusul provides a nice collection of resources if you’re looking for somewhere to start.  Obviously, I can’t guarantee this, but I’ve always found her open and responsive to questions.


Au Restaurant: Menus

Thanks to Jennifer Aston, I was recently made aware of this blog from Bruce Emmerton.

He presents an interesting approach to authentic learning – restaurant menus.

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What wonderful opportunities we have in our connected world.  I can’t remember the last time that I went to a new restaurant without checking them out online first.  Why not turn the process into a learning experience.

How’s this for the inspiration to learn “Read and understand or go hungry”.


TED Ed in the Classroom

Have you ever used TED in the classroom?  I know that many of us have learned so much and have been so inspired by watching a TED video on a particular topic.  It’s been a terrific platform for so many who have a message or lesson to share.

Will Gourley writes about how to use TED Ed in the classroom in this post.

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Separate sections devoted to TED Ed Clubs and TED Ed Lessons are sure to give you background to think about working in this realm.  A link to the TED lesson editor will be of great value.


Free images done right

This is a post that appeared on this blog.  It introduces readers to an image search and attribution service that I think would work nicely for some students to do so properly and as an introduction to referencing properly.

While I think it’s a great concept for the classroom, Stephen Downes doesn’t. He calls it “free images done wrong“.

You’ll have to be the judge.


Yet another wonderful week of great thoughts from Ontario Edubloggers.

Please take a moment or two to click through and read the entire messages and drop them a comment or two to let them know that you appreciate their work.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to Friday and it’s a 13th too.  Check out some of the great reading that I enjoyed this past while.


SOCIAL MEDIA & DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP

So much in this post that Rusul Alrubial references from an article in the New York Times makes so much sense.  She nicely summarizes it at the bottom of the post.  Schools that wish to send home a message to parents about their involvement with social media would be well advised to take a read and incorporate it into their message.  Basically, it means that kids can definitely figure out the technology given enough time but it’s the parent and school interaction that add the “social” and the “responsible” part into the mix.

I think that this table from the post deserves more than a passing glance.  There’s much to be read into it and many takeways.


The Best Gift

Diana Maliszewski started the post in a fun way talking about a Christmas gift that she received.  Rather than run out and spend all kinds of money, it was created by her sister and shipped just in time for gift opening.  It was a nice, warm start to the post.  There was a bit of librarian critique to the content that was interesting to note but then it got a bit serious.

After a flurry of texts exalting her amazing gift, we discovered that there were actually more comics that she had created using Bitstrips, but when the site closed, she was unable to access or upload her work.

It was, for me, a sad reminder that the Bitstrips application was no longer available to Ontario Educators.  Acquired through the OESS process, it made a huge difference in how educators used technology in the classroom.  It was a creation, making application available to all long before the current focus on “creating”.  It was central to so many workshops and presentations that I gave.  Then, with a message on the OSAPAC website, it was no longer available.

In its place is Pixton for Schools.  Will it have the same impact?

Sadly, it wasn’t the focus of any presentations at the Bring IT, Together conference.  That’s too bad.  Back in the day, Ivan or Danuta and I would have made it a part of our “Freshly Minted Software” series.

Hopefully, school districts are rolling on professional learning for this application so that teachers can continue to enable students to create in the classroom.

In the meantime, I really feel for Diana.  I think we all know what happens when a favourite application is no longer available either by licensing or updates or closing.  All that time and effort learning its uses and nuances shot.


Professional Learning: Does it work?

Speaking of Professional Learning….

Deborah McCallum takes on this question with a well reasoned post.  I like her summary of strategies to avoid change.  My context is, of course, in education.

I think she’s nailed it with these points.  She concludes with a question.

What are your personal insights on this?

A topic near and dear to my heart.

My answer is “yes” but I need to qualify it with an “only if” …

Sadly, I think that schools and school districts by their action plans put into force a system where it’s so easy to avoid the change.  If Professional Learning is limited to the big one day PD Day and you get to spend an hour on a topic, you’re guaranteed to fail.  Attendance at these events are compulsory and an opportunity to put a check mark on the chart that says “Provides PD”.  Maybe next year, we’ll get to Step 2.

Professional Learning and change to practice needs to be ongoing.  Teachers are not adverse to it.  Success happens when school districts offer ongoing, continuous sessions on topics that allow for grow in confidence for whatever the topic is.  Once the confidence happens, change is more likely to take place.  It doesn’t have to be formal either.  In fact, it may well work best when it’s not formal.  Maybe it’s me but when the memo would arrive that “Tomorrow is PLC Day”, I just knew that I had other things on my mind.  Why couldn’t it be done on my terms?  Some of the best change I ever did for myself was to meet with colleagues for breakfast at 6am to share our thoughts.  I know that others met informally for book talks.  In my case, it was software talks.  I remember a superintendent telling me once that they was afraid that it was a subversive activity and that all PD had to be controlled centrally.  That way, the message could be controlled.

Sigh.


Instead of “Rich Tasks”, Try “Variations on Tasks”, or “Classes of Tasks”

As I read this post from Matthew Oldridge, I was so much in agreement.  The notion of a “Rich Task” has always bugged me.  We talk about differentiating instruction, working with students at their level, meet them where they are, and then throw a “Rich Task” into the pedagogy bucket.

Does the same level of “richness” apply to every student?  I sure hope not.  Of the alternatives, that Matthew provides, I prefer “Variations” the best.  It doesn’t imply that we’re ranking the tasks somehow.  I like the thought that variations show that there are many ways to approaching topics.

Many of these short and simple questions wouldn’t be considered rich tasks on their own, but then again, what is. There are no rich tasks without thinking classrooms full of talking, thinking, conjecturing, and wondering students. Context is everything. When we say context, with respect to classrooms, we might really be talking about culture. What sorts of classroom cultures promote richness?


A Review: Professional Capital:Transforming Teaching in Every School

Stacey Wallwin read the book so you don’t have to.

Or, perhaps because of this post, you’ll ask your teacher-librarian or principal to add it to the professional library at your school.

I liked her summary of the takeaways she had from reading.

  • You can’t do it alone.
  • Teachers need to be a part of authentic, professional learning communities that both support and challenge their  ideas and contribute and support ongoing professional growth.
  • To support the rich potential of a PLN/PLC educators need to have a voice in the implementation.
  • It is morally imperative that as educators we see all students as own and make ourselves accountable to the learning of all these students.

In summary, she shares some of her thoughts about the rules of empowerment.  I couldn’t help but wonder – we talk about students owning the learning; shouldn’t the same apply to teachers.  As Stacey notes, success won’t come as a result of budgets or top down edicts or chasing the latest and greatest.


Numberless Word Problems

Jonathan So had moved his blog from Blogger to WordPress and was good enough to let me know so that I could update my Ontario Edublogger list.  I figured that the least I could do is check out his latest writing and he does share a good one.

There’s no more depressing textbook than a mathematics textbook.  Only there in education can you work for 15 minutes on a problem, then turn to the back of the textbook, look for page 146 and then the answer to question 27 only to find that it is 6.  You didn’t have that; so you’re clearly WRONG.  How depressing.  Fortunately, as students know, they can still get partial credit for showing your work and your thinking.

What if you took all the numbers out of the equation and just focused on the problem?

That’s the message in Jonathan’s post.  It’s filled with lots of great ideas and I’ll bet that you know the ferris wheel that’s at the heart of it.

In a world where you’d have some “experts” telling you that computational thinking is a separate entity, you’ll be inspired with the record of discussion that ensues.


As Technology Advances…

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Mark Renaud starts this post with a bit of wisdom that it never hurts to revisit and share with others.  I’m struck with the number of new teachers entering the profession with only a bare minimum of “effective learner” tools.

It’s not necessarily their fault.  They typically have relatively good computer skills but that’s not enough any more.  Of importance is staying abreast of new advances of both technology and the latest insights into effective pedagogy.

There were a couple of other posts above devoted to professional learning.  They make a nice bundle to read.

When was the last time that your principal expressed these concerns like Mark has?


It’s been yet another great week of sharing from the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers.  Please take a few moments to click through and read the entire posts mentioned above.

Until next week!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Happy Friday and Happy Last Friday if it applies.  Welcome to my weekly roundup of stories from Ontario Edubloggers that I was privileged to have read this past while.  Please enjoy.


EQUITY IN COLLABORATIVE SPACES

If you’re in education, you’ve had plenty of exposure to group work or, as Rusul Alrubail describes in her title “Collaborative Spaces”.

There’s a wonderful lesson here as Rusul extrapolates a personal experience into advice for every educator and/or potential worker in this space.

We’ve had groups a plenty as students and used it as a class organizer as a teacher.  We know that there will always be those who don’t pull their own weight; we know that there are some students that we can’t place with other students; we know that we need to be constantly monitoring the groups to ensure that everyone is working; we know that the great equalizer at the end of it will be the “group participation mark”.

But what happens when that space takes place online?  In this post, you’ll see Rusul’s insights where some of it is a refresher but some of it is new news.  Have you really considered what collaboration looks like when you take it online?  How do you handle it when someone doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain and you’re left holding the bag?

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She provides a really insightful list of things to attend to in order to have success.  I’d hope that people would consider sharing this with students at a Faculty of Education.  There’s so much common sense wisdom in the post.

I’m also reminded as I read her post that equity doesn’t always mean equality.


Learning Design by Making Games

Unless you’ve been hiding somewhere, you know that the Hour of Code has been so big in schools the past while.  Sadly, for many, it’s on the par with watching a Christmas video.  Classes put in their hour, it’s checked off, and now it’s time to move on.

Jim Cash has been rightfully vocal about doing better than that.

In this post, Jim uses inspiration from Yasmin Kafai to suggest that it needs to be taken to the next level.  He gives an example of one class…

In the new year, they will be challenged with a complex task that closely mirrors that of Kafai’s study: designing an interactive game using Scratch to make the learning of fractions easy and fun for younger students.

This is crucial for success and making the time spent coding worthwhile.

If you “did” an Hour of Code, what’s your next step?


You Got This! Coding and the Empathetic Teacher

OK, one more post about coding and maybe this will be the one to inspire you to greater efforts.  This time, from Steven Floyd.

For me, the biggest takeaway from this is a reminder that none of us were born with the innate ability to teach.  We had to learn how to do it.  In today’s classroom with today’s challenges and today’s students, we are constantly learning and relearning how to teach.  That’s why schools have professional activity and professional development days.

So, why should teaching coding be any different.  Sure, there are “experts” who go around telling you how “easy” it is.  Don’t you just hate them?

The reality is that all computer science teachers are constantly on the learn.  Not much of what we learned at university is directly applicable in today’s K-12 classroom.  There are so many interests and opportunities to apply the concepts to the curriculum.  Or, perhaps you land at a school where they teach a completely different coding language.  Ask any computer science teacher and they’ll tell you that they are up at all hours learning and trying to find that technique that will make it appropriate for every student in the classroom.  One thing remains consistent across all grades; we’re interested in solving problems.

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So, if you believe that we are all lifelong learners, why not include some meaningful coding as part of your learning?  And, why not learn along with students rather than taking on the traditional role of imparter of everything worth learning?


How Reflecting On My Last #OneWord Goal Led To My New One

Aviva Dunsiger bought into the #OneWord meme last year and this post is an opportunity for her to reflect on her choice of “hearing”.

It’s nice to see that she’s comfortable enough to let us know that not everything was hunky dory with her choice.  Sure, there were successes but there were also some challenges.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I think that if there weren’t those challenges, she wouldn’t have been pushing herself enough.

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As I finished reading her post, I almost convinced myself that her one work for 2017 was going to be “amaze”.  But, a slower read reveals that it’s actually “perspective”.

What do you think?  A good choice?


The Progression of Multiplication

With apologies to David Rueben, Kyle Pearce’s post could easily have been “Everything you wanted to know about multiplication but were afraid to ask”.

It’s a long post but Kyle really takes on multiplication in a serious way.  It’s a great reminder that, despite what some people think, there isn’t just one way to learn mathematics.

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While I understand all the concepts addressed in the post, colour me a user of the “Standard” Algorithm.  How old does that make me feel?  At least he didn’t call it the “Classic” Algorithm.

So, if you want to get a history of everything multiplication from K-10, it’s a nice read.  I’d have no problem assigning it as reading for a student at a Faculty of Education.  There’s great stuff in here as well.

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And, hooray!  Despite what we read from the naysayers, there still is room in the curriculum for “paper and pencil”.  If only those people would read the complete message; we want all students to be successful in mathematics.


What Inspires Me

I think that everyone should take a moment and do a reflection like Matthew Morris does in this post.  What is it about “you” that makes “you” “you” in the classroom?

The answer is, I believe, a desire to reach every student at whatever level is necessary.

The best teachers always do this – sacrifice and work the angles, shuffle the blocks, and basically do whatever it takes.

These positive jabs slowly got this student to put more effort into his work. I then brought an old duotang of mine into school. He looked through it and looked at me as if he was saying to himself, “This guy did this in school but he is still kinda cool?”

I’m sure that I never made the status of “kinda cool” but I did try.


An Energy User’s Scavenger Hunt

I’m not sure who the author of the STAO blog is but this is an interesting concept.

After all, we are all energy users, right?

Read the post and then click through to a lesson plan.  It’s in .docx format so you can edit/adjust to suit your class.

A scavenger hunt can be used by teachers to direct student learning at any grade level. In this case, a set of carefully worded questions will introduce students to a new topic, ‘Energy Users’.


Thanks to all these wonderful bloggers for sharing their thoughts and ideas.  Please click through and enjoy the original posts.  You’ll be glad you did.  Oh, and drop them a comment before heading off to the big list for more great inspiration.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s been quite a sick week for me.  I always seem to get one big cold each winter and somehow I got this one before Christmas.  It came at a pretty bad time.  I had agreed to do a presentation with Leslie Boercamp’s Hour of Code group.  It turned out that she had three locations tapped in and we went ahead despite the weather.  It sounded like they had a wonderful learning experience with their Hour of Code event.  Activities in coding ranged from “Block programming” to “Javascript programming”.  The group had some terrific questions to ask and I croaked back some responses.  One of the groups was at the Bruce-Grey Catholic’s Centre of Innovation.  I’ve got to weasel my way into a tour someday.  When the snow ends!  A Storify of their event is available here.


The Snowflake

I had another opportunity to see some Hour of Code activity.  This time, it was Peter Cameron’s class….

The class used some of the thoughts I had shared earlier this week in a blog post.  I followed along on Twitter for a bit and checked out the details in this post.  It sounds like there will be more as they close into Christmas holidays.

My thanks to Peter’s class for proofreading my post and helping me get it revised.


World Class…. again

Everyone needs to read this post from Tim King.  It’s probably the Canadian mentality that we feel like we’re not doing well enough.  But consider the source that’s telling you otherwise.

The PISA results for 2015 have been published and Canada is once again top ten (6th) in the world.  I imagine this means I’ll once again attend a bunch of Canadian educational conferences with American (30th best in the world) speakers who want to tell us how we need to completely re-imagine our (their) failed system.

Even with this good news, nobody’s saying that it’s time to relax – working on improvement is always the best option.

Take the time to read Tim’s analysis and you’ll feel pretty good about things.


It’s About More Than Beading …

Every now and again, Aviva Dunsiger writes a title for a blog post that makes me go “Wha????”

This time, it was using the term “Beading”.  What the heck is that?

After reading this post, I learned more about beading than I thought I ever would.

And, in true Aviva fashion, she tied the activity directly into the curriculum and also got us going by asking questions.

As children bead, they often talk. Sometimes they talk about their bead work, sometimes they talk about topics of interest, and sometimes their talk surprises you. This is what happened on Friday. I overheard some students playing with silly rhymes at the beading table as I recorded another learning moment in the classroom. My attention then turned back to this beading table.

Lots to learn, to be sure, and another confirmation that I’d be joining Aviva in the ever so stressed group!

But I’m sure that her students love it.


Two Thumbs Up for OPSBA’s EQAO Discussion Paper

This graph summarizing survey results kick off Andrew Campbell’s thoughts on the discussion paper on the topic of EQAO.

From the report itself, Andrew provides a list of the recommendations and the launches into his own reflections.

It’s interesting reading; the bigger question will be will it have an impact?

Will something happen now that it’s discussed in this manner from OPSBA instead of Teachers’ Federations?

I know many educators that hope that it will.


A Step in the Right Direction: #DiveIntoInquiry

At times, it’s so refreshing to find a resource that either confirms a philosophy or launches you into a new direction.  Colleen Rose found such a resource in the book Dive into Inquiry by Trevor MacKenzie.

His assertion that Trevor’s book could address questions that had been occupying space in my mind was more than enough to keep me interested.  The emphasis on authenticity in the school environment, “practical approaches [married] with …theoretical and philosophical understandings“, and a “solid pedagogical framework” promised hope for someone yearning to connect the dots and establish order within my unknown vision of an ideal classroom setting.

What I like about this learning is that it isn’t something that’s laid on for her.  It’s something that she’s pursuing on her own.

It’s a wonderful example of showing your learning for the world to see.  Hopefully, by posting about it, Colleen will get a few people looking for the same thing.

Colleen follows up with some additional points to demonstrate her growth as a result of the book.


Standing Desks and Other Classroom Micro-environments

Lisa Cranston is taking another run at blogging by rebranding hers and then sharing some of her recent thinking.

Many people are exploring the concept of non-standard learning environments and reporting some successes.  For some students, it’s a welcome change and for others, it may be just what they need for self regulation.  As she notes:

Having said that, one student was still having difficulty even while he was standing – he was banging his metal water bottle, he was singing, he was bumping into the desks. After a few attempts at redirection, I finally had to say to him, “Adam*, you need to go sit on the carpet for a couple of minutes until you can join us at the game without distracting me so much.”  He went to the carpet and sat quietly while we continued to play, then after a minute announced, “I’m ready to come back.”

Lisa correctly notes that many of the examples for alternatives come from elementary school classrooms.  But that’s not necessarily the rule.

Even at the secondary school and post-secondary school level, you can expect to see things a little different.

Remember the tour of Peter Cameron’s classroom?


The True Meaning of Educational Leadership

This post, by Sue Bruyns will get you thinking.  So often posts like this lecture you on things that may well be something that you could have predicted before reading.

This was a little different and a reminder that it ain’t easy and schools and school leadership is more, far more, than just improving mathematics scores.

The true meaning of educational leadership can’t be neatly wrapped with a pretty bow, nor measured by the number of green vs red markers on a moderated task.  It needs to be an honouring of our past as we venture through the present and look towards the future.  And one never knows who will inform our leadership ~ we need to be open to the possibility of a trusted friend, with a figurative security blanket, being the best source of inspiration.

It’s a good reminder that we shouldn’t miss the big picture and that we should be prepared for those important moments that may not get to us in the traditional means.


What another wonderful week of great thoughts from Ontario Edubloggers.  Please take a moment or two to click through and read the original posts.  There’s lots of great content there guaranteed to get you thinking.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s the first Friday of December.  It won’t be long now.

Check out some of the great reading that I enjoyed recently from Ontario Edubloggers.


Paper Twitter: Why and How to Teach Digital Technologies with Paper

Royan Lee suggests a way to teach about digital technologies, specifically Twitter in this post.  He also shares a number of resources for this in his Google Drive account.

It’s an interesting approach that undoubtedly will allow to teach the basics and keep the focus of those learning rather than all the distractions that can come from the real thing.

The purpose of Paper Twitter is not only to deconstruct how the technological aspects of the social media machine works, but also to tone down the figurative volume so that the point of it as a personal, social networking tool can be grasped through, well, social interaction, not initial solitude behind a screen.

I just hope that people don’t get sticker shock when they move on to the real thing.


Recognizing a Reluctant Writer in the Mirror

Jen Aston turned me to this post from Annette Gilbert.  It was a reflection and action stemming from a professional learning opportunity for teachers called “Inspiring Reluctant Writers”.  Part of the learning was to have the group create their own blogs to share reflections.  It’s an interesting approach and she had a couple of questions moving beyond the workshop.

Those are some interesting thoughts and it would be a nice followup to see if she gets answers to those questions.

Hopefully, the blogs extend beyond the course and we have a whole new batch of bloggers pushing the profession.


Effective Facilitating and Blogging

I had mentioned this post by Diana Maliszewski earlier, a person I still have to copy and paste her last name to get it right.  The latter part of the post dealt with her analysis of her own blog in response to a post I’d made of my own earlier.  This time, I took some time to think about the first part of the post where she’s part of a workshop from ETFO called the Presenter’s Pallette.

With the growth of the use of teacher-coaches and consultants helping educational systems grow, it sounds like a fabulous opportunity for her.  Stepping back a bit, it looks like a great opportunity for all teachers.  Even if the ultimate career goal isn’t in that area, the skillset can’t help but benefit any classroom teacher.  Hopefully, it’s made available for others to attend.


Every Day Is Unique

I don’t think that you can argue much about the title of this post from Rola Tibshirani.

Worthwhile of note are her thoughts about growth mindsets – a topic that was really in vogue for a while but seems to have dropped from the radar as of late.  It’s too bad because that’s a concept that’s worth hanging on to and building success from.

Included in the post are numerous quotes and ideas including a Google Presentation.

You definitely need to put this on your “must read today” list.


Do we see poverty in our schools?

Thoughts and sentiments about this are very prevalent at this time of year.  There’s a bigger message in this post from Paul McGuire though worth keeping in mind.

Now, I don’t see this as good enough.  I have been very fortunate to work in a high poverty section of our city – for me this is a first.  I am ashamed to say that I really didn’t know the extent of the poverty in these communities in our own very wealthy city.

For some, it’s a way of life 365 days a year.  A friend of mine notes that it’s more noticeable in the winter since you notice more when kids wear the same clothes day after day and hunger is more apparent.  It’s not as noticeable in the warmer weather when t-shirts and shorts are the order of the day.

It’s something to keep your eyes open for – even if you’re not teaching in a “high poverty section” of your community.  It’s everywhere.

Thanks, Paul, for keeping our eyes open.


Amaryllis Thoughts

I had to smile when I read this post from Kristi Keery Bishop.  I only ever had one class in my entire teaching career with a window.  It was an Accounting class and there were two windows in the back and our caretaker was a bit of a green thumb type person.  Sure enough, on the ledge, he had some plants that enjoyed the sun and thrived.  My regular classroom had no such luck.  It makes all the difference in the world.  The sad part was that being an early arriver and late leaver, there were entire days in the winter that I never saw the sun during the week.

Anyway, Kristi turns her amaryllis experience into an analogy for professional learning.

My PD thoughts turned to my amaryllis.  While I was focused on watching the stem (not) grow to great heights, I completely forgot about what might be going on under the soil.  Maybe my amaryllis has spent it’s energy these last ten days spreading roots so that when the stem does start to grow tall, the bulb will be strong enough to support the height.  You need strong roots before you make great surges in growth.

I think it’s a terrific analogy in our world of accountability where deliverables from PD matter so much.  How many times have we completed an application to speak that starts with “By the end of this session, participants will be able to …”  Maybe it’s more realistic to that “By the end of this session, I will have planted the seed for participants to be able to … on their own”


RETWEET OR SHARE?

Donna Fry shares some of the thinkers that influence her –

Other curators help me sort through the unfathomable amount of information on the web.  Stephen Downes, Doug Belshaw, and Audrey Watters are examples of thought leaders who filter, curate and share information regularly.  I know that there will be value in their curations.

But the real message was her being taken to task for retweeting a message.  I think that it’s part of the consideration that we all need to understand.  Hopefully, nobody retweets or likes a message based solely upon a title.

I don’t totally agree with her assertion

An algorithm, which you have no control over, determines what content reaches your eyes.

I suppose it’s true if you’re a passive reader of content and don’t aggressively look for the good stuff.  But, I would challenge it at least based upon my personal experiences.  I like looking for content on my own, from original sources, based specifically on topics of interest to me generally and for what I’m currently curious about.  I make no bones about it; if you follow my sharing and my blog posts, they are definitely tainted by my foci.  I make no claims about sharing both sides to any story or concept.  I may do so in my mind but that never goes public.

The topic is of particular importance right now with stories of social media getting their houses in order after accusations of phony stories arising during the recent US elections.  Will it make online reading a better place?  Probably a bit better but there’s so much and so many sources publishing daily that the best thing you can do is learn how to fine tune your BS detector.  More than ever, the skills of a knowledgeable teacher-librarian should be in high demand in any school or school system that wants to consider themselves best of breed.


Thanks, again, to the wonderful Ontario Edubloggers above for sharing their thoughts and insights again.  Please take the time to click though, read their entire thoughts and then drop a comment or two.  Or, if Donna’s blog post doesn’t scare you again, retweet or share their writing.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


There are always great thoughts coming from the blogs of Ontario Educators.  Here’s some of what I caught this past week.


#BIT16 takeaways : Flippity

In the first of a pair of posts about takeaways from the recently concluded Bring IT, Together conference, Johanne Ste. Croix was impressed with the tool that underscores Alex Trebek’s contribution to education.

A game of Jeopardy anyone? Need to pick teams? A name at random?  Check it out : Flippity.net!

I remember this demo from the slam and it was effortlessly demonstrated for us.  Good choice, Johanne.  I remember sitting next to someone at the Slam and asked if today’s kids really appreciate what Jeopardy is all about like we long time viewers do.  Regardless, it’s a good tool and can be used effectively in the class.

#BIT16 takeaways :  Breakout EDU

I’m a little jealous that Johanne got to attend one of the BreakoutEDU events.  I had every intention of attending at least one of the sessions but duty called me away to other things.  The neat thing about folks who blogged after the event is that we can share at least part of the experience.

In this post, she shares her thoughts on the experience and how she sees it fitting into her classes.  They pretty much echo the comments that I heard from others.

If you check out her blog, make sure that you scroll back and forth; there are many reflections about other events that inspired her.


Breaking At #BIT16: My Self-Regulated Conference Experience

Aviva Dunsiger makes a long case for her self-regulating at the BIT Conference.  It seemed to hit a positive note with readers with plenty of comments coming through.  She offers some tips for those who feel the need to self-regulate.

It’s an interesting list of things to do.

Personally, I find that I do anything but self-regulate when I’m at these things.  I want to take it all in and then use my time post-conference to regain whatever control that I have.  I think it’s important, as she notes, to identify your own stressors.  Mine is just time at these events.   There isn’t enough of it.


Who’s On First?

If you want a smile and a chuckle from a BIT Conference attendee, then check out this post from Daphne McMenemy.

I think that the big thing to take away is don’t take any of this stuff too seriously.  She focused on the brag tags.

I’ll confess; there were many of us who didn’t know what “Je gazouille” meant.  Even when you do a search, the results come back in French which didn’t help much.  Thank goodness for Google Translate.

It was just so good to hear about the good times enjoyed at the learning experience.


A bit after BIT16 – reflections from a cave

Helen J. DeWaard gives a very lengthy summary of her experience at the conference.  What struck me most was the people connections that she seems to have made.  I think that most of us added a new word to our vocabulary.

The mobile picture frame definitely was a hit.  There’s a huge story about debate and careful carving that goes along with it.

It’s also nice to be mentioned in someone else’s blog post – she made reference to my post Observations from a Conference.

On a very serious note, the Remembrance Day break was noted as well.  For many teachers, it may be the first time for a very serious reflection instead of classroom management during it.


ECOO16: the DIY approach protects you from the tyranny of technology

Tim King absolutely nails it with his reflection on his session at the BIT Conference and technology use in schools in general.  It’s not a quick and easy read but it pushes you to think about things.  He tied his personal history and love for motorcycles together to make a powerful message

The difference between digital technology and automotive technology is that the digital stuff insinuates itself into your relationships and becomes a 24/7 part of your life.  It affects your thinking rather than your muscles.  Not knowing how a car works might occasionally inconvenience you and cost some money, but not understanding digital technology when you spend hours a day socializing through it or (worse) teaching with it, is a disaster waiting to happen.  It isn’t a disaster for tech driven multinationals who live off your data though.  They will happily convert you and your students’ ignorance into profit.

I really thought that his observations about Chromebooks should give you pause to think.  Recently, in the ACSE discussion group, there has been a discussion about Chromebooks being dropped into Computer Science classrooms and the challenge that it poses for CS teachers.  There may have been a time when the devices should have been managed by someone outside the classroom but increasingly that’s becoming something that is dated.  Educators like Tim are on top of things; students are more sophisticated than ever before; why does education still need this dated thinking.  Why shouldn’t building and maintaining your own class computers be seen as valuable?

It leads nicely into his next post – ECOO 2016 Reflections: maker spaces and iteration

If you’re still interested in this them, take a read of a recent Gary Stager post – How Educators Should Understand Hillary Clinton’s Server


Making video work better for you

Since we’re talking about learning at the conference, I’ll make reference to my best takeaway (other than meeting so many new to me people)

It was Carlo Fusco’s demonstration at the BIT Slam that really reinforced how you can make great technology even better.


Why do you want kids to code?

Jim Cash created this terrific graphic to set the stage for his discussion about the difference between “learning to code” and “coding to learn”.

It’s a definite keeper as are Jim’s comments.  Coding seems to be the “current thing” in education and often is just demonstrated with some flashy example and claims that every child is a particular classroom could write the code.  As we all know, your mileage may vary.

I think many computer science teachers would take issue that secondary school computer science courses and their approach are somehow different.  I don’t know of too many who think that what they’re teaching is the definitive answer in programming.  We all realize that there are many languages and syntaxes.  What remains, after the rules are stripped back, appears in the right column.  I think it’s good advice for everyone.

Just why do you want kids to code?

It would make for a great panel discussion somewhere.


What to do when things don’t go as planned….

This is something that EVERY technology teacher needs to understand.  It’s not a matter of “if things don’t go as planned”; it’s “when things don’t go as planned”.  I would suggest that, if everything goes as planned, you’re not doing it right and you’re not taking chances and pushing limits.  It’s not just technology; every teacher of every subject always has a Plan B in their hip pocket.  But what happens when you need something bigger than that?

Adele Stanfield talks about things going wrong at a bigger level than just today’s lesson.  As a result of reorganization within her school, a major rethink was in order.  She lists these options.

Those are some pretty major decisions to be made.

I’m pleased to see the alternative that she chose and wish her all the best.  You’ll have to read her post to know the answer.

I think every teacher can read this post and empathize at some level.  If we only lived in a perfect world.


What an amazing collection of thoughts from Ontario Educators!  Please click through, read their thoughts and leave a comment.

Until next week…