An Interview with Tom D’Amico

In case you missed it…

…over the summer, I had the opportunity to interview Tom D’Amico, a superintendent with the Ottawa Catholic School Board.  I know that many people turn off their reading over the summer so thought I’d republish this interview once the school year started.

You can find a list of all of the interviews that have been published here by clicking on the Interviews tab above.

This is a real treat for me.  I’ve been a follower and a fan of Tom D’Amico for a long time.  I have a real appreciation for those who scour the web, find, and then share the best of the resources.  Tom is a daily source for inspiration through sharing with his Twitter account @TDOttawa.  The best part is that his finds are archived in his! resource iGeneration – 21st Century Education.

Thank you for agreeing to the interview, Tom.  I’m really looking forward to your thoughts and insights.

Doug:  I always start with this for people that I’ve met in person – do you recall when we first met?

Tom:  I’m not certain but likely in the early 90’s at the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario conference (ECOO).  In the early 1990s I created a pilot Multimedia course and shared the resources at ECOO.

Interview continued here

Hour of Code 2014 (Reblog)

The Hour of Code for 2014 is coming.  Teachers and students from all over will be using classroom tools to get a flavour for what coding/programming is all about.

There’s no one language that we’ve come to agreement on that would be perfect.  So, we’re all over the map with this one!  Choose one and do it well.

To help the cause, great people all over the web have been building activities and tutorials that will take one hour-ish to complete.  Hopefully, it doesn’t stop there and the coding activities and skills inspire great things to happen from this experience.  Computer Science is a wonderful discipline that opens so many doors.  It’s tough to believe that any student wouldn’t want to have an awareness of it with the chance of going into it big time.

On social media, I had been resting on my laurels because I had assembled some resources for last year’s event.  It occurred to me that the digitally responsible person would check the links for things that have gone away and be on the lookout for new resources.  That was the task yesterday.

I’m happy to announce and share the latest, greatest, up to datest, all links verified as of November 24, 2014, version.

Thanks to my digital friend Sue, in addition to the Learnist and Pearltree collections that I had last year, I create a Flipboard magazine with my new found abilities.  Thanks, Sue.  Links to them all appear below.  (They all point to the same resources; I just wanted to use a few tools)

I hope that you find these resources useful and that one or two of them might make it into your classroom for the Hour of Code, December 8-14, 2014.

p.s. if you have a favourite resource that isn’t included, shoot me the link and I’ll get it added.

p.p.s.  After I posted this, I realized that I might be visiting Brian Aspinall’s classroom today.  So, I whipped up another resource – this time using his excellent NKWiry resource.

Don’t Let The Good Stuff Go Away

As the school year comes to the end, I thought that I would share the post below.  It’s abot one of my favourite blogging utilities – BlogBooker – and how it’s so useful as things wrap up.  It’s a great way to archive a year’s worth of blogging to share with students, parents, post to your classroom wiki – all in the name of backing up and making a record of this year’s work.  Plus, it can serve as inspiration for next year’s blogging efforts.  There’s nothing like a good example.

As it turns out, when I went looking for this post, I’ve mentioned BlogBooker many times.  You can see all the references here.

Here’s the “Post from the Past” that I’d like to bring forward today.  The original post is from June 26, 2013.

This is another “Post From The Past” that is very appropriate given that we’re approaching the end of the school year here in Ontario.  You and/or your students have been blogging all year.  Will you just abandon your efforts?  Or, will you make a copy of it to save, use as an example, email to parents, give to students to keep, or use for any other of a myriad of purposes?

BlogBooker is an awesome service.  It will take the entire contents of your blog (with a little work) and create a PDF file that you can tuck away or otherwise repurpose so that you don’t lose the effort that went into it’s creation.  Here from August 22, 2010 is my post “To do more with your blog“.

Hey, you might even want to turn it into “A Flipping Blog“!


Yesterday, George Couros asked for a little input through a Twitter message.


My first reaction what that this might be a step backward in the goal of integrating technology for students.  After all, if you have a blog, why would you want to revert to a newsletter format?  In its simplest format, it could be a paper document that’s sent home to parents.

But then, I started thinking.  There are a lot of reasons why it might be desirable to have a blog in newsletter format.  Some that immediately come to mind are:

  1. Not every parent has internet at home for any of a wide variety of reasons;
  2. The blog might be private with only student access for privacy concerns;
  3. Access to blogs might be blocked at school but the teacher blogs from home;
  4. The principal of the school wishes to have paper generated for whatever reason;
  5. The blog might be part of a project where a culminating document detailing everything is desired;
  6. The blog is reset for a new year or new unit or
  7. You just want a copy of your blog in another format …

Yes, upon further review, I can see where there may be reasons for a blog to be in a different format for a specific use.

I think that the other thing about a solution would be that it needs to be easily re-purposed by a teacher to the differing format.  Typically, blogs have considerable effort in their creation and who has the time for yet another creation?

I then thought about BlogBooker.  I had blogged about its use in the past here.  At that point, I was thinking about using it as a way to create a backup for a blog or a permanent record of thoughts.  I’ve actually used it to create a couple of backups of my entire blog.  It works very easily when I want a book of everything (including the graphics and pictures that I embed in posts) but would it do the trick on a more flexible basis?

The procedure is pretty easy.

  1. Export your blog content from your blog  (it’s in XML format but most people wouldn’t care or need to care about the format);
  2. Upload the content to Blogbooker;
  3. Wait a minute of two;
  4. Download your book in PDF format.

Conceivably that PDF could be filed away for posterity or printed if it absolutely had to be.

But, what about content of a shorter duration?  I never really paid close enough attention when I did the steps above to see if it was customizable.  So, I went through the process and actually paid attention this time.

Now, I use WordPress as my host and so went to my dashboard and the export tool.


Well, I’ll be.  There are configuration options!  I can set a start and end date.  In terms of the content, I could choose just the posts or all content.  I’m thinking that just the posts would suit my needs best.  Click on the “Download Export File” button and it’s on my hard drive.  That was easy.  The only limitation that I could see was that the export was done month by month.  Probably not a big issue as the newsletter might well be a monthly one.

Now, it’s over to BlogBooker.

Step one is to let BlogBooker know what type of Blog this comes from.  It supports WordPress, Blogger, and LiveJournal.  That’s a good selection.  Then comes the WOW moment.  There are a huge collection of formatting options for the output.  The preferences are customizable for any purpose.  I elected NOT to use “Footnoted Links” because my blog entries have a great deal of links in them.  If the ultimate goal is to send it to a printer, then you’re not going to want each entry on a separate page, I hope.


Give BlogBooker a few moments and voila!  There’s the nicely formatted book in PDF format that you can download or view right in your browser.  I really like the fact that I could customize further the start/finish dates of the publication and the images are intact.  I really like the concept and it was so simple to do.  Plus, the headers and footers put a nice finishing touch on the whole product.

It even includes pumpkin shirts!


Thanks, George, for the question and the opportunity for me to revisit this very powerful application.  Thanks, also to Aviva and Peter for keeping the conversation going.


This Week in Ontario Edublogs

From a spammer this week…

I know this site gives quality based articles or reviews and other information, is there any other web site which gives these kinds
of data in quality?

Why yes.  Yes, there is.  They’re called Ontario Edubloggers.  If you had looked around, you might have found these blog posts this week.

Make it a Bestseller

Paul Cornies’ blog is always a source for morning inspiration with the quotes that he shares.

On Thursday, he posted a series of quotes and one of them should absolutely be on the walls of every classroom.

Student Scientists: Can you make a rainbow?

I want to be in this class!  Jocelyn Schmidt’s class had the tools and the inquiry desired to make a rainbow in their kindergarten class.  Read this post to see how they did it.

I feel so silly…I go the traditional route and wait for it to rain and then go outside hoping to find one.


In the search for the latest and greatest digital and electronic solutions to everything, mathematics is right in the midst.  Let’s not overlook the traditional games that help learn mathematics concepts.  Mary-Ann Fuduric shares how she uses traditional games like Yahtzee and others work with her students.

After all, games are all about probability, keeping score, patterns, …  Why wouldn’t you use them?

I’ve played them all!  Missing from the list is the wonderful game Mahjongg.

Teach Like A Designer

Andrea Kerr offers a thought provoking post about UDL and how technology can meld with the traditional to create an inclusive learning environment for all students.  To support her thesis, she’s included a pair of videos that really provide some insights.  It’s not a quick read, but I think it’s one well worth the time.

The ultimate goal is important…

The teacher can therefore plan and create a positive classroom environment, free of frustrations, bias, and exclusion.

Now, if our spammer friend would only take the time to look around, he/she/it would definitely be turned on by the thoughts of Ontario Edubloggers!

Check out these posts at the links provided and wander around the complete list.  The Livebinder is shared above but if you’d like the! version, click here.

Thanks so much for those who are blogging and sharing regularly.

Curating Groundhogs

Lest you think that the Super Bowl is the only event today, Wiarton Willie will pop to see his shadow before sitting down in front of the tube.  Here’s a “Post from the Past” about Groundhog Day resources.  Will the day lose its excitement for children because it happens on the weekend or will the activities be rolled into February 3?

In case you missed it the first time around and are looking for Groundhog Day ideas….


It’s pretty hard to keep a secret on the internet when you’re transparent.  That came to bite me this morning.  I’ve been working on something and had a couple of people uncover what I was doing.  One actually tweeted about it.

So, I guess I’ll have to come clean with it.

One of the big events in primary classrooms is Groundhog Day.  All kinds of activities happen in classrooms and crafts, drawings, songs, science, etc. all make the day for the big event.  I’ve always maintained a list of resources for this day that I update.  This year, I thought that I would migrate the otherwise boring website to one of the online sites that I’ve been using to curate things.  But, which one?

I was just monkeying around when Tim happened to stumble on it.  He must have been looking at my Scoopit account and noticed that I had this work in progress.  It’s a collection of my resources for Groundhog Day – scooped.  But, I don’t think he’s seen the others!  I’ve also started to curate the same resources at Pinterest and LiveBinders.  I was looking for the best possible scenario.

This was one of the sites. I have the Scoopit bookmarklet stuck in my bookmarks bar and adding resources was just as easy as going to the page and bookmarking it.  Scoopit identifies images on the page as well as a short descriptor.  To use it, just click the title and you’re at the target site.  For this purpose, Scoopit did a nice job although one of the sites wouldn’t allow the bookmarklet to work.

Pinterest similarly has a bookmarklet for finding and bookmarking resources.  You get to choose up front which of the images will be the face of the pin. Rather than the two column format of Scoopit, Pinterest takes a pin to wall approach so that none of the sites are lined up.  It’s an engaging approach.  Sadly, Pinterest absolutely requires an image on the page in order for the pin to work.  So, not all of the sites ended up getting pinned.  But, find a story that looks good, click it, and you’re there.

LiveBinders takes a different approach.  Instead of giving you one of the catchy images on the target website, you get the entire website embedded in the binder.  The URL is presented at the top and a click leaves the LiveBinder and takes you to the actual website.  Since the actual website is embedded each time, everything that I wanted to include appears in the binder.

In all three cases, there are more resources than would fit on an entire computer screen.  Well, unless you had a big honking screen, I suppose.  Scoopit and Pinterest scroll up and down to see all of the resources.  LiveBinders requires that you click the navigation arrows to move left and right unless you organize the tabs by categories.  I suppose I could have all the Wiarton Willie’s in one tab, the Punxsutawney Phil’s in another, science in another, arts and crafts in another, and so on.

LiveBinders also has the advantage of the presentation mode so that you can visit the sites and not lose the curation page.  That’s handy if you are browsing your way through everything.

Anyway, all three did a nice job of bringing them together into one spot.  Feel free now to use or share with anyone who might take advantage of the resource this Thursday.

Richer Blog Posts

Right now, my blogging editor of choice is ScribeFire which is an extension / addon for Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome whichever happens to be open when the blogging moment comes along.  Similarly, it is independent on the computer that I’m using – Macintosh, Ubuntu, or Windows.

One of the nice features that ScribeFire had was integration with Zementa.  Zementa is a really unique piece of coding – as you create your post, it looks at your content and suggests images or links based upon the content of what you’re creating.  When I’m done the post, I take a look at the related articles and pick a few and they appear at the bottom of the post.  So, if we go back to my blog post of January 3, it was one of my “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” and I would pick a few of the suggestions and they appear at the bottom of the post, like this…

Related articles

I liked the concept.  It’s like having your own personal research assistant finding articles related to your post.  Some are supportive and some are counter to the topic.  I always figure that it makes the post that much richer by bringing in the related content.

Mysteriously, the feature was remove from Scribefire with no reported reason.  It’s not something to moan about, it’s the perogative of the developer to do what she/he wants to do with their product.

But, WordPress had a similar feature.  So, I got into the habit of writing the post in ScribeFire, posting it, and then loading the post in WordPress itself where I had the choice to add stories from there.

Then, that feature went away too!  Not mysterious this time.  From the WordPress support forums,

Instead, the folks at WordPress are working on their own utility.  At this point, it seems to be searching and finding related content from within the blog itself.

That’s kind of cool.  At least my older posts don’t go unnoticed.

But, I still like the option of choosing my own related articles from a list.  It only took a couple of days until this dummy blogger thought – I’ll bet that Zementa has written an extension / addon for the browser!

Sure enough:

A couple of quick downloads later and I’m back in business.  The format has changed a bit and it actually looks a little like what WordPress is doing with the thumbnails.

I’ll take them both!  My posts are enriched by my own past content and by others on the web.  Who could ask for more?

I wish both of these developers all the best in refining these tools.  They take my own thoughts to a new level with the thinking of other posts.  I know that my proofreaders Sheila and Lisa may not believe this but I do read my own posts and I do enjoy following the related stories.  For the inclusion of a few more clicks, there’s even great content.

(My choice of example above has skewed the results available to me! <grin>  But, it does serve as a good example)


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