This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s another Friday and a chance for me to share with you some of the spectacular reading I enjoyed recently from great Ontario Edubloggers.  I had some self-inflicted damage to my regular process.  Normally, as I read things, I just keep the blog open in a tab and minimize them with One Tab until Thursday morning when I actually write the post.  However, this was a week of maintenance and browser shuffling and I lost the posts that I had tucked away.  I think I remember everything that was saved but maybe not.  I had a better plan when I stuck the URLs into Keep or Evernote.  Perhaps that’s my biggest learning of all.  Shortcuts can come back to bite you.  If you wrote a great post and I neglected it, please send me a message “Hey dummy, you missed this…”

Taking Chances

I’m not sure that much more needs to be said than how Denise Buttenaar closes this blog after a pretty active reflection session on her personal practice and what it meant to her.  I don’t think that anyone should expect that a blog post is going to be the “next great novel”.  However, a year from now if she continues to share her thoughts to herself, it may be the “next great professional diary” and I don’t think an educator can ask for more than that.  Blogging shouldn’t be an all encompassing event.  It’s the accumulation of thoughts that leads to the impressive.

Oh boy, here it is!

Donna Fry gave me the heads up on the birth of this new blog and here’s the first post from Kelly Colter.

I think that the first “way” is something that we all need to ‘fess up about.  If we weren’t influenced by others, it would be a pretty lonely connected life.  It’s the connections and the shared learning that makes it so powerful.  Of real importance to me is the selection of the connections – regular readers know of my passion for those who blog about Ontario Education.  That’s not the only influence – another that easily comes to mind is the cadre of Computer Science teachers that serve as inspiration.  By joining, hopefully Kelly can keep it up and, with her words, influence whatever group she wishes.  She’s now in my little group of Ontario Edubloggers.

Moments of Empathy

If someone asked me who I would like to write like, I could name quite a few and certainly near the top would be Rusul Alrubail.  She doesn’t necessarily whip out the thesaurus or come across as pretentious, but it’s just the way that she strings her words together that touches the reader at a different level.  I can’t think of a post from her that doesn’t give me pause for serious reflection and I can’t think of a better compliment to pay to a blogger.

So, I thought – who would have been my favourite teacher?  A number of really good ones came to mind and I could create a short list.  When I thought just a little harder, the “favourite” had some un-favourite moments so I moved on to the next on my list.  I’d find issues here and there too.  Instead, I changed my thinking.  What if I took a bit of him and a bit of her and a bit of her and made my favourite a teacher an amalgam of the best parts.  Wow, that was a great teacher and, the common thread was the empathy that each showed.

For any teacher whose goal is to reach every child, (whether or not you want to be their favourite is a personal, competitive activity) take a read of Rusul’s post.  We all have our bad days and those stick out because of the lack of empathy.  Could that be a gutcheck for success?  Recognize it and deal with it before it unduly negatively affects students.

Thanks for your leadership and support!

When you think of people that are centrally assigned as resource teachers – what do you immediately think of?  Hot and cold running coffee and an endless supply of doughnuts?  After reading Jennifer Casa-Todd’s post, you may wish to change your opinion.

In the post, she nicely ties things together and may give you an insight to what they actually do.

The one thing that she isn’t explicit about and I’m sure that it’s true in her job and others, and certainly was key to mine was getting out of the central location and visiting schools.  When I took over that role, I never wanted to be accused of being “out of touch” with the classroom because it’s so easily done when you’re not in one on a daily basis.

My favourite quote from my former superintendent was “Where is he today?” as he came into the Program Department area looking for me.  I wish I’d heard it first hand because it could be interpreted so many different ways.

If you don’t see your centrally assigned person often enough, why not sign up for professional activities or just extend an invitation to her/him to come and visit your classroom?  You might be pleasantly surprised at how eagerly they’ll jump at the opportunity.

#TBT: Is Our Focus On Assessment Taking Away From Our Children’s Education

If nothing else, Stephen Hurley’s latest post is worth visiting just for the image.  What the heck, here it is, complete with his credit to the author.

It’s a throw back post that is just as relevant today as when he originally posted it.

This is an interesting look at assessment and evaluation.  I can’t remember a year where it wasn’t “the board’s focus” and it certainly is important.  It informs what is done for student achievement.  It’s just that it changes so frequently.  I remember a person new to my department whose theory was that by changing focus annually, it kept the pedagogues in business as the pendulum swings back and forth.

If you need some moments of reflection today, make sure that you get to the bottom of the post and reflect on Stephen’s questions.

The End of Average

A book, a TED talk, and an infographic fill this post from Erica Armstrong.

This is the perfect followup to Stephen’s post.  Play the TED talk as you go about things this morning.  You’ll be glad you did.

Do you agree with the affirmation that “the average hurts everyone”?

What are you going to do about it?

What’s the hardest thing a teacher does?

If you read Kristin Phillips blog, you’ll read this more than once.

“Try something new; no one will die”.

I recall a mathematics teacher of some infamy whose choice of worksheet for the day would rival the accuracy of any calendar!

Kristin gives us five bullet points (paragraphs) as to what she feels has worked with her schools.

Would they work in yours?

I say this every week and I never tire of it.

What an amazing collection of blogs.  Please click through and read them in their entirety and drop them a comment.  They deserve it.

Then, check out the rest of the Ontario collection here.  If you’re blogging and not listed, just complete the form and you will soon be.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to the end of the week/start of the weekend.  I hope that it’s been a good one for you.  In case you missed them, here’s a nice selection of offerings from the keyboards of Ontario Edubloggers.  Enjoy them.  I know that I did.

#MyWorkflow: Brian Harrison

The Wordflow series from Royan Lee continues with the latest interview with principal Brian Harrison.

I find it fascinating to see inside the minds and work habits of people I regularly follow on Twitter.   Brian is no different.  I had to smile at his answer to this question.

I’ve been in his backyard and can really understand why he likes working there!  Click through and read his answers to Royan’s questions.

This Year’s Model

So, let’s check out Brian’s latest post.

No self-respecting principal in the province should be going without thinking about the announcement from the Ministry of Education about the $60M to support mathematics education and how it might impact their school.  There’s been so much written about it recently illustrating that the public and education are all over the map philosophically.  I know that there’s an element that would like to spend the money to support old school teaching.  That would buy a great deal of thumbscrews.  Brian offers a more considered approach and, as you see below, offers up some examples of people doing the job right now.

Any takers?  I wonder…

How Will I Use My Wild and Precious Life?

I think everyone would be wise to stop what you’re doing and read this post from Sue Dunlop and then just reflect on yourself and your own life.

You may come out of the session with a slightly different focus on things about what truly is important.  In life, and in education in particular, there are so many distractions – including infringement on your time and efforts – that it might just be time to sit back and refocus.

Thinking About the Term Reflective Practitioner

Eva Thompson does a great job with that sort of thinking, not in her personal life, but in her professional life.

I like her thinking and I think that there’s a great deal of philosophy that is consistent with mine when it comes to going online with blogging.

Throughout my career, I was always posting my current thoughts.  The format has changed from the annotations at the bottom of lesson plans, to sharing with CIESCs in a FirstClass conference, to online forums, to Twitter, to this blog…

I didn’t use to be this way.  I used to keep things bottled up, confident in the knowledge that I could recall it at a moment’s notice.  It was all about me.  I think we all know how that approach works.  For me, once I realized that didn’t work, writing things has always been a release.  I can put my thoughts to words – in whatever format – and then stop worrying about remembering it.  Now, I know that I can always go back and find it.

I’ve been doing this for most of my career, but revisiting what it’s like to be a student, maybe I had that extra patience for the push back? Maybe I had more encouraging words for that reluctant student? When I’m too distracted making sure I get all MY “t’s crossed and i’s dotted” I may overlook the fact that I’m also a teacher, not just a technology consuming droid.

I think she’s got her priorities in order.

Now’s the time to be a heroin addict

On the heels of Eva’s thoughts, turn to Debbie Donsky’s latest.  What a great reminder through her story to get all of our priorities in order.

Celebrate what you have built. Celebrate your legacy of love and success and courage and resilience. Celebrate all that you are and all the people who you have affected.

3. A Kids’ Guide to Canada – DETAILS

I love it when people think out loud.  @beachcat11 (she keeps her real name out of media so I will respect that) lays out her thinking for an ideal project for students.  This is part 3 of a 3 part series – you can read a “part 4” too!  It also wouldn’t hurt if you go back and read parts 1 and 2.

To honour student voice, an initial pilot project in the fall of 2016 will see elementary students from every elementary grade and every part of Canada participating in each step of the project design and field-testing process.

Then, beginning in January 2017, school-aged children from JK-Gr 8 will create digital artifacts to celebrate and introduce their home communities to their peers right across the country, and then post these on a national interactive map.

The link above points to the third part which lays out a timeline, activities and contact information.

MDM4U Creating dice game simulations

Who says that Mathematics can’t be fun?  This link is to Brandon Grasley’s MDM class but I caught it and spent some time doing the activity myself.  It was a hoot.  I’ve never taught this class but did similar problems with my Computer Science classes.

It was fun just to muck about with a Google Spreadsheet and also in Small Basic.

But, kids today have it so easy.  Whatever happened to int(rnd(1)*6)+1?

Are Your Students Problem Solvers and Innovators?

This just in…

I’m assembling this post on Thursday morning and Aviva Dunsiger sends a link to her latest blog post.

In-house professional learning happened for her at her school.

As with many of Aviva’s posts, there are questions as well as answers.

She concludes with a great thought that I think all educational leaders need to be concerned with the next time the latest and greatest initiative comes along.

If developing these skills matter, then we likely need to “let something go.” What might you let go? What might you add? What benefits do you see this having for kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

So often, this is overlooked and more, “better” ideas are thrust upon teachers.  In football, it’s called “piling on” and there is a substantial penalty for doing it.

There are lots of calls to action in this post.  Do some thinking, some Mathematics, and be proud to be a Canadian.

Oh, and reply to all of these posts.  They are reply-worthy.

And, when you reply to Aviva, ask her a question!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Can there be nothing better than reading a good blog post that makes you think?  I don’t think so.  Here’s some of what I caught this past while.

Analyzing Art: How Do We Redefine “Beauty?”

Goodness knows that you don’t want me teaching or evaluating art.  Aviva Dunsiger takes us on a ride with her thoughts about artwork as it applies in school.  Just like we don’t expect every student to be that record breaking athlete, do we need every student to be the next great artist?  Isn’t it the effort and the ability to stick to it most important?  Or art appreciation when you get the opportunity to view other’s works?  I like that she and her teaching partner take the opportunity to share what every student generates.  Not award winning material by Aviva’s description but I’ll bet it’s a classic in the eyes of the student and their parents.

To extend this, I read a couple of articles recently that should give all who might wish to create something hope.  And, perhaps in the process, we challenge the notion that you might think you know what art is.

Part 3: Creativity and Innovation

These are two terms that you see together so often, but if you want to dive deeper, check out this post from Debbie Donsky.  I’ve been spinning about her thoughts about creativity and innovation.  Debbie shares her thoughts on the connections between the two.  What happens when you have one without the other?  If you’re a leader, what combination will generate success?  What combination will ensure that you have followers with the dedicated follow through?

It seems that creativity without innovation is like an idea without action. It reminds me of the Joel Barker quote: “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”

We’re Different – And Why?

Donna Fry’s latest post will give you plenty to think about if you believe that change is a part of every day life.  I like the concept of the ladder and how she applies it into her concept of “hierarchy”.  In its simplest, and perhaps an over-generalization, does the amount of progressive and new learning decrease as one climbs the ladder?  A couple of quick things come to mind as I type – I love typing and thinking and ideas flowing from my fingertips –

  • is it more important, the higher in the hierarchy to establish stability and continuity?
  • if you’re at the bottom rung, or lower, is it easier to just try stuff and accept that failure only extends to a smaller audience?
  • I liked how David Truss extended things to include students who are the perfect example of always trying the latest and newest “tool” and are great examples of being connected and learning the positives and negatives of that.

Entire companies have failed because they had “no clue” as Donna puts it.  Are educational institutions vulnerable to that as well or are they such an institution that they’ll be around no matter what.  A term that has always had mixed emotions with me is “best practices”. Depending upon who is speaking, that can have such a limited scope.  (a bizarre comparison but think about it)  The connected educator has the ability to peek into classrooms all over the world and read/see first hand what works and what doesn’t.  Does that get any credibility or does it have to appear in an official document / manuscript / research report and updated every now and again?

Autism POV

I think most educators are only too happy to support a good cause.  Diana Maliszewski, in this post, provides an extremely well written and researched article about the difference between Autism Awareness and Autism Acceptance.

I’m so happy that I have people that I follow, like Diana, that do their research and provide alternative things to consider.  The post contains links to articles supporting the argument including a chart following the money.  As Diana notes, it’s too bad that the chart doesn’t include a citation for its source.

Presentations that feel like home

I’ve got presentations on the mind.  The presentations committee for the upcoming BIT Conference has been watching the submissions coming in for the November conference.  The variety of topics is amazing.  Soon, there will come a time when presentations are accepted for the conference and then the presenters get to work.

In this post, written for the TESL Blog by Gwen Zeldenrust, the focus is on the ESL student and making presentations.  I can’t help but think that the “Home Model” described in the post is good advice for everyone who has to plan a presentation.

April 2016 Newsletter Insert

Sue Bruynslatest blog post is a one liner.

“link go the math newsletter”

So I did because she said to.

I got this blast from the past!  I used this activity when introducing spreadsheets to a group of teachers.  It’s fun to

  • determine the math rule
  • create the spreadsheet formula
  • create your own function and challenge your neighbour

And the neat thing is that it scales for student age.

#sgdsbtc #TwitterChallenge

Just as I was ready to post this and get away from the computer, I’m tagged in a Twitter message by Colleen Rose. It’s with respect to a month long Twitter Challenge from the Superior-Greenstone District School Board. The Twitter message took me to a message by Stacey Wallwin that includes this image showing the events for the month of April. Give them a read.

Apparently, Colleen thought following this noisy Twitter user is a good idea.

It’s an interesting progression of activities to be done on Twitter from the introductory to something that requires some research and development of skills. Very interesting and a nice model for other boards to follow. Well done.  I couldn’t track down a blog post describing what’s happening and what’s next but hopefully, Colleen or Stacey or someone from SGDSB can fill in the details for us.

And it’s another wonderful week of reading.  Thanks to the authors for the content and the sharing of resources/thinking.  I hope you can click through and enjoy the originals and drop them a comment or a like.  Then, check out the big list of Ontario Edubloggers.  There’s always great stuff happening there.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

What would Friday on this blog be without a review of some of the great reading I’ve done from Ontario Edublogs this past while.

Here goes….

Are you an educator? Do you use Twitter?

Colleen Rose is leading a webinar in the near future and is crowd sourcing some ideas and thoughts.  In this post, she’s asking for input to these questions.

The results remind me of the good old days of blogging where people were actually replying to blog posts!  As of the time of writing, there are 54 responses.  That’s great and not something that’s seen often these days.  Granted, about half of them are from Colleen sharing her thoughts on the comments but it still is impressive.  You’ll recognize many of the names there from any list of Ontario Twitter users.

Some of the replies include links to blog posts where people have had their own take on this topic.

It’s not too late; if you’d like to throw in your thoughts, I’m sure that Colleen would appreciate reading them.

The Professional

Even if you don’t enjoy auto racing (who doesn’t?), Tim King’s comments about a documentary of the Dakar Rally is a good read.  It pits an amateur against professional racers.  From the story, Tim draws a number of parallels.  This one is interesting.

I’m sure Tim has a particular student in mind when he comes to this conclusions.  I got one in my mind.

If you’ve ever taught at a Faculty of Education or had a student teacher, you know the light in the eye and the idealism that goes with the potential educators.  They’ve already excelled in education for most of their lives.  They’ve got a three or four year degree and now work towards a second degree in Education.  We’ve all been there.  We know how the game is played.

Then, we’re plunked in front of kids who don’t know, are learning, or just refuse to learn!  That’s where teaching demands “resiliency, creativity, and agility”.

This is a cleverly written post.  Each time I read it, it takes me on a different journey.  Well done, Tim.

Critical Literacy and the Internet

If you are, or think you are, teaching students to be careful users of the internet, then you really need to read this post from Deborah McCallum.

It’s a very academic treatment of the class of web resources known as “Cloaked Websites”.

Does your treatment of this form of literacy go this deeply?  This is a very good read and share amongst colleagues.  Deborah’s looking for additional resources for teaching about this.  Do you have some to share?

Interview with “experienced” presenter Kim Gill

Peter McAsh is embarking on a new direction as we approach the Bring IT, Together Conference.  He’s identified a few “experienced” Ontario Educators / Presenters and interviewing them about their presenting experience at the BIT / ECOO Conference.

The current interview is with Kim Gill who I’ve personally done the BIT Challenge thing with.  I’ve known Kim for a long time and I can’t think of a person more bubbly and who genuinely enjoys her profession and makes no attempt to hide it!

Plus, she always has food!

Read the interview with Kim here and get inspired.

She’s not the only one of the BIT Blog.  Make sure you check out:

There’s more to come!  This would be a good time to remind everyone to get their proposals in.  The deadline is March 31.

Inchworm, inchworm…

I still remember this advice from a veteran teacher as I was in my second year of teaching and had curriculum documents open all over the place and was planning a unit on something.  I can’t remember the unit now but I remember the advice.  “Don’t get too excited.  This too will pass.”  Then, I got a history of education that he’d experienced over his years in the profession.  Lots of changes, lots of advice, lots of expert panels, lots of difference curriculum, …  He’s long since retired but I’d love to hear his thoughts about data driven, data informed, change, innovation,

Lisa Noble makes a nice connection between innovation, today’s youth, and the inch worm.

It does make you stop and think.  Will change happen because the Ministry eventually provides a curriculum that’s relevant?  Or will it happen because educators are stopping to observe students and what they need?  What’s more responsive?

What I’ve Learned From the Danes (Part 1)

Forget Finland.  What is some advice from another Scandinavian country?

Danika Tipping spent some time in Denmark and made an interesting observation.

Are we ready for a school system without so many rules? 

Can we indeed legislate everything?  If not, could we just legislate common sense? 

How often are rules proactive?  How often are they reactive?

How many are truly necessary?

It’s definitely been another great week of reading.  Check out these blog posts at their original source.  You’ll be inspired; I know.  Then, head over to the big list of Ontario Edubloggers to see what else is happening.  Add yourself to the list if you’re blogging and not on the list already.

An Interview with Sheena Vaidyanathan


Sheena Vaidyanathan is currently the K-8 Teacher Representative on the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Board of Directors.  She’s a very strong advocate for the teaching of Computer Science (CS) in the K-8 environment.  Over the break, I had an opportunity to interview her.

Doug:  Hi Sheena, thanks for agreeing to the interview.  For people I know, I always like to challenge them with this question – where did you and I first meet?

Sheena:  At my first CSTA board meeting – the 2015 conference planning meeting in Phoenix ? I am not sure, it could also have been at an earlier CSTA conference.

Doug:  Computer Science instruction is something that we both have a passion for.  What’s your background?

Sheena:  I have an undergraduate and graduate degree in computer science and have worked in the tech industry in Silicon Valley.  For the last 10 years I have been in education – teaching computer science, math and art.

Doug: In your “day job” with Los Altos schools, you’re heavily involved with Computer Science instruction.  Can you offer some details about it?

Sheena:  I have been teaching a CS program called CSTEM in all our elementary schools for 6th graders. I also do curriculum development and PD for the STEM teachers in our district who do some CS for all our K-5 students. I just started a pilot middle school CS elective. As a result  now, every student in our K-8 district, from K to 8 has access to computer science education. There are 7 elementary schools, and 2 middle schools, so I travel to multiple sites each day, teaching about 500 students each week.

Doug:  Who developed the program?  Is it based on a program offered elsewhere?

Sheena:  It was developed by me over the last 7 years and is based on my own interests in computer science, art and math. I get inspiration from the Scratch community and many other resources

Doug:  If someone is interested in getting details about what and how your program works, is it readily available?  A web resource perhaps?

Sheena:  Some information on the 6th grade program component  is available on the school site and some project ideas are on my personal website

Doug:  You’ve also been on the Board of Directors for the CSTA for a few years now with a responsibility for advocacy in K-8.  What sorts of things have you been involved with?

Sheena:  I have been part of the CSTA conference planning committees to see how we can offer a greater number of sessions relevant to K-8 teachers. Given the need for creating a strong teacher community, I help run a Google+ community and host Twitter chats to discuss various topics in CS education.

Doug:  The Hour of Code is big and continues to grow.  How do you see it successfully implemented in schools?

Sheena:  The Hour of Code is an easy entry point for any school, and can be a great introductory unit for any teacher/class interested in this topic. For schools who are repeating the hour of code and/or already do some CS, they can use this time to focus on some other aspects of computing – for example looking at the impact of computing in our culture or the history of computing.

Doug:  Is an hour enough?

Sheena:  The hour is just meant to be just an introduction. The idea is that once we remove that initial barrier and prove that it can be done in the schools, there will be interest to create a program that goes beyond the hour.

Doug:  If coding is to be successful in schools, it seems to me that it needs to be embedded into many subject areas.  Where does the “new-to-coding” teacher turn for resources or ideas?

Sheena:  Good question. There are a lot of starting places and perhaps a few too many tools and resources to choose from. I think the CSTA website and the Google+ community/Twitter chats that I mentioned earlier can be a good starting point to filter through these resources and pick what will work for your classroom.

Doug:  How often are the chats?  When is the next one?

Sheena:  The chats that the CSTA K-8 group hosts are every 2 weeks. The next one is Mar 23 at 8pm ET using the hashtag #csk8. Archives and information on the twitter chats are on the Google+ community at

Doug:  You and I both serve on the CSTA Conference committee.  This year’s conference will be held in San Diego.  What would attendance at the conference give the K-8 educator?

Sheena:  The best professional development available on CS education. A chance to learn from real teachers in the classroom and also an opportunity to network and be part of the CS teachers community

Doug:  If a K-8 teacher wanted to become a member of the CSTA, how would they do it?  What’s the cost?  What K-8 resources are available for them?

Sheena:  Membership information is on the CSTA website and is free. Many resources are on the website and more available through their newsletters and other publications.

Doug:  Thank you so much for the interview, Sheena.  I’m sure that your comments will resonate nicely with many K-8 educators.

You can follow Sheena on Twitter at @Sheena1010.  Her website, including articles that she’s written for professional journals is at

See you in San Diego!

You can check out all the interviews on this blog by clicking here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s the Friday before March Break. 

Why not enjoy some writing from Ontario Edubloggers?  I know that I did.  Here’s some of what I read recently.

Coding Morning in Grade One

One of the types of blog posts that I really enjoy reading are those from a teacher introducing coding to students.  The younger the student, the more interesting the read.  I didn’t get a chance to write my first program until Grade 11 and, even then, it was the type of program that gives coding a bad taste in so many people’s mouths.  It was hard core writing of instructions in Fortran where syntax and semantic rules were king.  To increase the pain, my next language was COBOL which I still maintain taught me how to keyboard faster than ever before.

Things are completely different these days as this post from Jenni vanRees attests.  She’s chosen the best of the current best as coding centres for her students.

Scratch, Tickle with Sphero, Daisy the Dinosaur, Kodable…  oh to be a kid again!

I’m not sure what her test is for sharing with a “global audience” but every time I got something to work the way it was supposed to, I wanted to share it with anyone within ear shot!

The entire post is a recipe for success and well worth the read and the time to share with administrators who might be sitting on the fence.  Spheros and other programmable devices have never been as affordable and the rewards when used properly are immeasurable.  They should be in technology acquisition plans – they have purpose for all grades.  Once the students are a little older, kits like Raspberry Pi, HyperDuino, extend the concept.

It’s time to get past debating whether coding has a purpose.  Make the move – this blog post should serve as inspiration for those not yet convinced.

3 Teaching Hacks That Are Going to Blow Your Mind!

I’ll confess that the title pulled me in.  I hate the term “hack” as it seems to be watered down and used all over the place to draw people into a discussion that might be somewhat unique.  I go back to the traditional use of “hack” as my dad would say when I was coughing “Is that you hacking upstairs?” or the concept that computer hackers could somehow bypass security and access a system.

This sets the stage.

*Warning: This post contains snarky and in-your-face concepts to shake up the teaching world as we know it!

The rest of the post from TESLOntario talks about three strategies (yeah, I like that better than hacks) that would guarantee success with a particular activity.

The three strategies are actually pretty smart and would be good advice to follow.  I think that the message could be nicely summed up as “just don’t try to over teach”.  The strategies are wise – stop doing what you’ve been doing – and consider another approach.  That’s always good advice.  It makes sure that you’re not in a rut and that you’re doing your best to reach every student.

Who could ask for more?

Three Easy Tips for Teachers on Twitter

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, you don’t need to be convinced.  But, if you’re new or know someone who is new, this post from Rusul Alrubail is just perfect.

If I was writing the post, I might have called it “PD after dark” or something.

Whatever you call it, Rusul identifies three ways that Twitter can enhance your skills as a teaching professional.  In particular, take a look at her third easy tip.  That’s the one that I think more people should be encouraged to realize.  It’s the power of THEIR voice and not that of the big commune.  You have to be prepared to be wrong.  It’s so easy to do when you stick your head out and become so visible.

But consider the other side of the coin.  Even I can’t be wrong all the time.  Why not share the great things that you’re doing, share your wealth of knowledge, ask questions, provide possible answers, suggest alternatives, and make positive differences in others’ teaching lives.  You’re the expert with what you do from 8-4 and, if you’re going online to learn, so are others.  Nobody has all the answers.  Together, we’re better.  Jump in.

Including Student Voice in the Curriculum

“Student Voice” is a commonly viewed phrase these days.  It means so many things to so many people.

There are those that will only focus on the use of technology to amplify this voice.  Others recognize that student voice can mean so many other things.

Amy Bowker writes:

I decided to print out the Grade 6 curriculum about Space, our next unit we needed to cover. In Google Classroom, I gave them a shared document where the whole class could write and I asked them 2 questions: ‘What do we need to know about?,’ and ‘What do I want to learn about.’

Notice the sneaky attempt to reinforce technology skills?

The post shares a checklist and a rubric for the topic. 

It’s a nice looking model that’s easily replicable.

Taking a drink from the waterfall

If you’re a connected educator, you aren’t just another faceless voice.  If you’re truly connected, you’re an integral part of things and your friends know when you’re missing in action.

Sometimes, as in the case of Greg Pearson, it’s on purpose.  Sometimes, as in the case of me, it’s because I’ve messed up on a setting and things like my blog posts aren’t automated.  I have my conscience Aviva ready to send me a message when it doesn’t appear.

So, Greg decided to take a break; that’s a choice that many people do periodically.  It’s his life; he should be entitled to kick back if he wants.  His observations, though, serve as a reminder that we’re all part of this big collaborative learning machine.

I was amazed by some tweets and DMs asking how things were because they hadn’t heard from me in awhile. It’s amazing how those “impersonal”, electronic, virtual connections still managed to turn into something so personal and real.

His insights take us past of some of the moronic “I gots me a PLN” messages and to the real heart of learning together.  People genuinely caring for each other.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

How old is he?

This is such a powerful post from Debbie Donsky.  If you’re easily made emotional, grab a tissue before clicking through.

She sets the stage nicely for her message and I really love her list of:

He is old enough to …

While she’s talking about her own father, you’d be more than welcome to replace He with She and focus the questions on your mother – or your grandparents.

Debbie may not have shed a tear but I certainly did while reading this very powerful post.

It’s also made me think that there are always better ways to ask questions.  Thanks, Debbie for your very personal sharing.

The Nostalgic Appeal of Teaching Cursive

The topic of teaching cursive is one of those things that you see pop up for discussion on a regular basis.  People have strong arguments for and against.

Andrew Campbell was responsible for the current round of discussion in a blog post.  He takes an all too familiar tact for why things remain in the curriculum — “nostalgia”.

The reluctance of some to let go of cursive is evidence of a powerful force in education. Nostalgia.

How we teach and the schools and classrooms we create are, in one way or another, heavily influenced by our experiences as students. If those experiences were positive, we seek to recreate them for our students. If we were told, as a student, that having perfect cursive writing was crucial to your future success, and you were successful, you ascribe some of that success to cursive, and you want those same benefits for the students you teach. The same influences also affect parents and policy makers.

It’s one of those things that we who are discussing it have, in fact, learned and mastered at varying skill levels.  I’ll be honest; I never heard the term “cursive” until the past few years.  In my schooling, it was just “writing” as opposed to the alternative “printing”.

In my world, I learned to print and then learned to write.  I was a slow learner when it came to writing but eventually got the knack of it.  My writing surprisingly looked like my mother’s although not entirely as graceful as hers was.  Then, in Grade 9 and 10, I learned to type.  Hard core typing.   aaa ;;; sss lll ddd kkk fff jjj ggg hhh fff jjj ddd kkk sss lll aaa  ;;; Then, there were the reaches and the numbers and all that good stuff.  In Grade 11, I learned how to print neatly again as I learned to write computer programs in Fortran.  You had to make sure that you didn’t exceed the number of characters per card, had things in the right column, it was actually readable, and all that good stuff.

These days, I keyboard a great deal and print for the most part when I have to put pen to paper.  It was my wife’s birthday recently and handwriting a message on the card was brutal.  I actually felt badly that I couldn’t give it the script with a flourish that I could in the past.

Those who would get rid of cursive writing point to the fact that people keyboard with greater speed and accuracy.  Yet, we’ve removed formal keyboarding from the curriculum as well.  We laugh at silly predictive spelling and misinterpretation of voice commands but somehow they become accepted. I’m sure that mathematicians rue the day that QED will be replaced with LOL.

I find it a little disconcerting that we seem to be skirting around the issue – the issue as I see it is just where the heck are we going to end up?  Students and parents rely on a curriculum that clearly maps out skills for student growth.  Where are we headed with this?  Andrew’s post is interesting to make you think and he offers links to related discussions on the topic.

Where, indeed, will our students be when they graduate?  If we don’t formally teaching cursive writing and keyboarding, do we just accept that they may stumble into acquiring these skills? “OK, class, today’s inquiry is cursive writing.”

Maybe that’s why professors put all their Powerpoint presentations online.

I can’t believe that I made reference to Fortran twice in this post.  Could Andrew be right and I’m hung up on nostalgia? 

I hope that you can take a few moments and click through to read all these wonderful posts.  They will get you thinking for sure.  Thanks to all for their contributions.

Have a wonderful Spring Break.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Before you read the rest of this post, take a moment to read this article.  “20 Ideas for Professional Development in the Digital Age“.  I thought that the article really touched many bases and became increasingly more relevant to those who are contemporary and continually learning as the list got longer.  The concept of developing a Personal Learning Network is really something that everyone should seek to do – because it’s 2016 – and there’s no better place than connecting with Ontario Edubloggers.  Here’s some of what I’ve caught recently.  Please read on and see if you agree.

What If…?

A common theme that you run into all over the place and certainly it’s been blogged over and over is the concept of students and teachers being co-learners.  That’s the concept that Alison Bullock talks about in this post.  It’s undeniably a powerful approach but is it easier said that done?  The last time any of us were students in a formal setting would have been at university.  Unless you were a research assistant, your classes would be so far removed from this concept.  Today, you’re accountable to your school, board of trustees, Ministry of Education, — are they supportive of this concept or is it just lip service?

I totally agree with her here.

If I were a student, it would be comforting to watch my teacher learn along with me; it might even be a great opportunity for me to teach him/her, upping my self-esteem, and letting me consolidate my own learning.

Not satisfied with one, Alison concludes the post with a few other interesting wonders.

Inquiry Begets Inquiry

It’s customary, after a workshop or any PD session, for participants to give thanks to the presenters for a wonderful session.  You see it all over the place.

What about the other way around – Diana Maliszewski gives a shout out to those who were in a session that she lead as co-presenter.

Why don’t we see more of this?  Particularly when the teacher becomes the student and does the co-learning that Alison describes in her post!

I think that it really affirms the concept that we’re all in this together.

3D printing

Jonathan So has a new experience to tack onto his personal skillset.  3D Printing!

I can still remember the amazement of watching a dot matrix printer work.  Somehow, your words and pictures turn into dots and then magic happens.  After reading this, I’m impressed that the amazement is still there.  The technology certainly is more sophisticated.

I’ve seen a lot of 3D printing posts and pictures but Jonathan takes this one step further and it’s really a step that should always be taken.  I remember the advice given to me by my first superintendent.  You can do all the whiz bang stuff you want but, it’s educationally useless if you don’t tie it to some curriculum.

Now on the whole this project may look simple but it covers so many curriculum expectations.

The connection is very nicely done and we’re the recipient of his shares of screen captures and pictures of the final product.  Awesome.

The 2016 #BulldogsLiteracy School Day Game

Is there anything more Canadian that hockey?  Is there anything more important in education than literacy?

Aaron Puley gives us a great story of what happens when the two of them come together.  It sounds like a huge undertaking and would most certainly require a great deal of cooperation throughout his district.

This past Wednesday, February 10th, 2016, I was proud to have once again worked closely with The Hamilton Bulldogs Hockey Club to provide an engaging day of literacy and hockey for 6,000 of our elementary students (Grades 4-6) representing 51 of our schools. In total, over 9,000 students, including those from HWCDSB, descended on FirstOntario in Hamilton, Ontario to watch the annual School Day Literacy Game. The Dogs may have lost but EVERY student in the building won!

What a great opportunity for the students and, of course, since this is 2016, it was all captured on social media.  Embedded in the post is some student reading and it’s all captured in a Storify document.

OSSEMOOC Blog Hop – What if…

Paul McGuire hopped on the blog hop with thoughts from a principal’s perspective.  Kudos to him for doing this and being so vocal.  It’s not always easy to take this stance.

Paul was an invaluable team member on the Bring IT, Together conference when I was co-chair.  He started the blog basically to document that experience but it’s great to see that he continues to blog about his learning.  If you’re not afraid to take a risk and be labelled a “rogue”, Paul’s school just might be the place to be!

My Brother is Autistic: Part 5

Many of we faithful readers have been waiting for Royan Lee’s next part of his “My Brother is Autistic” series.  It’s now online.

If you haven’t been reading, don’t start with this post.  Go back to Part 1 and start from the beginning.

I know that you’ll find the entire series insightful and well worth sharing with colleagues.

Create your own Google Search Engine

I’ve done workshops on this in the past.  If I recall correctly, it was called “Create your own subset of Google” or something.  It was for a couple of purposes – one to teach students how to become effective searchers and avoid the uneducational things one might stumble upon on the web – not all ***s are ***.  Fill in your own topics.  It was also embraced by teacher-librarians to create topic or subject specific starting points for students.  It has always been received well and is one of the most powerful ways to teach about digital skills without most of the challenges.

I’ll be honest; I hadn’t thought about Custom Search Engines for a while but Deborah McCallum’s post brought it back to the front of my mind.  It really is a skill that any teacher should add to her/his set of abilities.  This post is wonderfully done with lots of pictures and descriptions.  If you haven’t created a Custom Search Engine take the time to do it and see if you agree that there’s a place for it in your classroom.

Deborah shares a Custom Search Engine that she calls Learning and Research and another ones called Canadian Kids Research Sites that is being crowd sourced.

From What if….. to What’s Next?

Sue Bruyns provides us with a wonderful description about how Thames Valley is welcoming Syrian students to their system and a description of their GENTLE program.  I really like the way that she describes the approach…

Nor do I have any doubt that the educators, volunteers and everyone else involved in this initiative will ever forget that they were responsible for the first impressions of school in Canada, in London and most importantly in Thames Valley, in an innovative, response and caring way.

The post is a reminder that this is an ongoing process.  So, they’ve moved beyond “What if?” and are now asking the question “What’s Next?”

Those are challenging questions.  I know that passionate educators in the Valley will rise to the occasion.

We LOVE Google Classroom…but is there anything to be wary about?

I’ll confess that, when I scanned the title, I thought “oh no, not another post about how the big bad evil empire is going to steal kids”.  Thankfully, after reading the post from Kristen Phillips, I was wrong.

Instead, it’s a reflection about the tool itself and the impact that it might have on teaching practice.

Any digital tool should be held up to this reflection.  Early and often and ongoing.

The interesting thing about anything from Google is that it’s never done.  We’ll look back at Google Classroom five years from now and may not even recognize it.  The one thing that will be consistent though is good teaching and learning with students.  That consideration should always remain paramount.

So, asking these questions now and going forward is a good thing.  Are you doing it in your practice?

How’s that for some great thinking and learning from Ontario Educators.  Drop by the original blog posts for the complete stories.  You’ll be glad that you did and then head over to the big list for even more.