This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to another Friday and countdown to the early spring predicted by Wiarton Willie. Enjoy some great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers as you count.


Gearing Up for MST with a Master Storyteller

In these COVID days, you would understand how someone might lose their enthusiasm for doing extraordinary things. That’s anything but the case for Noa Daniels and this post shows just what extraordinary might look like.

She and her grade 8 students have partnered with Lucky Budd about storytelling. This is kind of amazing to think that this would happen but why not.

In the post, Noa describes everything and it sounds pretty awesome. It’s also not the sort of one of that’s done over a weekend. You’ll have to read to get the complete details.

Her students are also appreciative about what’s going on. Here’s a sampling of the comments from students

  • I thought it was cool how the story connected with the 3 rivers in BC: the Skeena, the Nass, and the Stikine
  • I found it very interesting and I really liked how you paused during the story to add suspense. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and telling us about how you got into storytelling.
  • I think it’s very inspiring that although the first time you tried to publish a book it didn’t happen but that didn’t stop you from trying.
  • I also really liked the suspense and sound effects you added when you were telling the story. It was really fun listening and you have such a cool vibe!

The complete story is in her post which makes it well worth the read.


I Want to Break Free!

Here’s a sentiment from Richard Erdmann that we all want to experience. Even the notion of going mall walking which, quite honestly, I never particularly care for takes on new importance simply be the fact that we are prohibited from doing it. In my case, I actually miss shopping with my wife who actually touches everything that she might be interested in purchasing. It drives me crazy. When we get the chance to do it again, I think I’m going to have a different outlook.

Cabin fever and stir crazy are two things that I can definitely related to. These days, the highlight is going outside to walk the dog which fortunately is still ok within the rules.

Richard’s situation is a lot more serious and his notion that he is not only missing the experiences but that he’s being robbed of them will give you pause and a chance to empathise.

I don’t know what else to say, Richard, other than to agree with you that we will eventually get through this. Let’s hope that it’s soon. Numbers across the province continue to show promise.


Stress and The Evolving Teenaged Brain: A Study in Contrasts

From the self regulation blog comes an interesting post from John Hoffman. Regular readers here will recall a post I made last week about a group of teenagers who felt robbed that they were not able to get their driver’s licenses.

I remember thinking, at the time, that their logic wasn’t rational – everyone is paying the price during the lockdown. Maybe now I can cut a little slack when, according to John, their rational mind isn’t fully matured until age 25.

But he notes the research that indicates that the teenage mind is specially vulnerable to excess stress. If what we’re living through doesn’t meet that criteria, I don’t know what would.

All this leads to the announcement of an upcoming course specially for this age group through the Merit Centre – Feeling Stress: A Self-Reg Mini-Course for Teens.


What I’ve learned from being a Virtual Teacher so far

I’m hoping that Amy Bowker’s “so far” doesn’t extend too much further and that any more learning comes from reflection.

She does a really good job of identifying her thoughts and feelings about teaching during these times. It’s sad but predictable that students are just plain disappearing by turning off camera or microphones or just not showing up. I can’t imagine the stress on the teacher who needs to mediate those actions.

As I read through Amy’s post, the word “communication” kept popping up. It lies in the answer to so many things that she addresses. Social cues, working with parents, retention and engagement all can be addressed with effective and ongoing communication.

All of it seems so simple until you realize that a teacher doesn’t have all the tools available that she would have in a face to face classroom.

Regardless, there are powerful observations in her post with lots of ideas and a plan for the future.


Per / Con / In / Re – form

Another great post comes from Will Gourley on the Heart and Art Blog. I can’t help but think immediately – are there any other words that end in “form”?

In the post, Will shares his observations on each of these. Each of these words take on a paragraph and you feel the weight of each of these on him personally. In football terms, I would call it “piling on”.

There’s real wisdom is this quote. Pause and think about your own reality as you read this.

I worry that too much emphasis has been placed on performance and conformity without serious consideration to being fully informed of the true social, emotional, and physical costs of virtual learning. 

I can’t help but think that the emphasis part is easy because it can be summarized with a visual checklist. The other part is so difficult to understand and address. Yet, it’s so important.

Thanks, Will, for summarising these “forms” so nicely.


Why Code Illusions?

It’s a question asked of Peter Skillen as a lead in to this activity.

My response is “Why not code illusions?”

If we believe in the power of programming, then we should never question a good premise for a programmed solution.

In this case, Peter introduces us to a nice visualization of an optical illusion that I’m sure you’ve seen many times. You may actually have created the illusion yourself. You may have pulled out a ruler to prove that it is indeed an illusion.

Peter doesn’t provide a solution but it’s relatively easy to program, especially if you take a good look and analysis of the animation that he provides. Of course, I’m not going to include it here; you’ll have to visit Peter’s post to see it for yourself.


Sick Days for All

From Deborah Weston, a bit of a sobering post dealing with sick days. Much has been said about sick days for teachers, particularly how they don’t take them since it’s more work to prepare lessons for someone else than to drag yourself in to work.

We see the messages everywhere these days.

If you have a fever, shortage of breath, or a temperature, please do not enter.

Advice about this also applies to the workplace.

If your collective agreement has provision for sick days of some sort, it makes staying at home easier.

But that doesn’t apply to all. Deborah has done incredible research on this topic and pulls back the curtain to reveal the impact of no sick days.

  • Put Workers at Risk
  • Spread of Illness to Communities and Workplaces
  • Impacts Parents and Guardians
  • Women Face Labour Inequity
  • and more

She fleshes out each of these and ends the post with a true call to action to her readers.

Devote some time to this and you’ll find another counter to the simple statement “We’re all in this together”. Really?


These are terrific and thoughtful blog posts. Please take the time to click through and read them all. Then, follow these bloggers on Twitter. (and follow their blogs too!)

  • Noa Daniels – @noasbobs
  • Richard Erdmann – @rerdmann
  • John Hoffman – @UncommonJohn
  • Amy Bowker – @amyebowker
  • W!ll Gourley – @WillGourley
  • Peter Skillen – @peterskillen
  • Deborah Weston – @DPAWestonPhD

Maybe this time for good


I was lying in bed doing something on my MacBook Pro when up popped a message indicating that there was an update to the Flash player. Say what? I thought that I had deleted that thing a long time ago. After all, the world has moved on and Flash was finally going to go away.

Adobe lays Flash to rest

The message to update this time around was just a big different. It indicated that this would be the last ever update and there actually was a button that would allow me to delete it from my computer. So, apparently, there still was an instance of Flash on the computer and it flagged itself as being eligible for the update. I did the uninstall again. For the last time?

I tried to think of when and how I had installed it. Those that know me know that I’m a harness racing fan and the Flash video player was a popular option for race tracks to broadcast live and playback races. I checked with a track that is winter racing a couple of hours from here and, yes, it was still providing its playback through the player. In a weak moment, I must have agreed to install the player just to see the races, I guess. That seemed a little bizarre since other tracks have moved to their own broadcast media or play directly through YouTube.

The writing on the wall for the player seemed pretty clear when it was announced that it wouldn’t and would never run on an iPad. I seem to remember that the rationale was that it would run the battery down so quickly and take up all kinds of resources just to run. People searched for alternatives, particularly for broadcasting over the web, and HTML5 made that possible.

I’ve had a long history with the program from Shockwave Flash to Macromedia Flash to Adobe Flash. It, quite honestly, has been one of the more annoying pieces of software. Since interactive and media elements were easy to develop in Flash, it seemed to be everywhere in the beginning. Every time you’d install an application it seemed, you were either asked to install Flash or it would just be done anyway. And then, of course, when you’d use it, you’d be asked to upgrade to get the latest and most bug-free version.

If I only had a dollar for every time I was asked to upgrade.

Building images for school computers required getting your head around this. In the beginning, the IT folks didn’t want to even install it. Then, it was always a challenge to get the latest version in time for the summer image and it had to last a year.

Programming with Flash was a popular after-school and full-day professional learning event. Many school webmasters wanted to incorporate Flash elements into their website. Usually that was an active banner or a navigation bar. Computer Science classes like to add an element into their program. Using the Government of Ontario licensed Dreamweaver, it was easy to incorporate into web pages. People would always leave the workshop with a book from Rob Scott and Rick Kitto to help continue the learning.

Recently, though, Flash really has become the target of a lot of ill will. Hackers found it a target and frequent updates to patch holes were common. It probably was more hassle than what it was worth to Adobe, especially now that there are alternatives.

We’ve had advanced notice. Adobe has let us know that this was coming years ago.

There are still sites devoted to the tons and tons of games that were written in Flash. But, there’s a whole generation of iPad tappers that may never have experienced it or the feeling of being on the cusp of something new as multimedia came of age.

I’m not going to miss it, I suspect. But, in the bigger picture for those of us who grew up (or at least older) with the web, it’s an integral part of our learning and one experience that will go missing.

Computer Science Education Week


An annual event, this year’s Computer Science Education Week is December 7-13. It’s an opportunity to work with students to either introduce or push them further in studies dealing with Computer Science Education.

As we know, it’s been a strange year and so it may not be possible to order those kits of micro:bits or robots or even get down on the floor to do the traditional programming activities that might be done at this time of the year.

That’s OK. We all get that. However there may be other opportunities. First of all, the big question is “Why Computer Science?” and the answer has never been so seemingly obvious. My go to resource is Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or Be Programmed. I first heard Mr. Rushkoff at a CSTA Conference in New York City. I’d like to say that he changed my life but I’d always been of that philosophy and could never understand why the Grade 10 Computer Studies course, at a minimum, wasn’t required for graduation.

What student today doesn’t pack a powerful computer in the form of a smartphone in their pocket? At the very least, they should be able to program that device and make it to their bidding.

At his website, Rushkoff even includes a study guide to accompany his book.

Here are a few more resources to supplement and help the cause.

Curriculum

Just recently, Peter McAsh alerted me to a resource created by Amanda Deneau showing the connections to the Ontario Curriculum.

ECOO Resource

A couple of years ago when I was president of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario, Peter Skillen was good enough to create a resource we called #ECOOcodes. It’s not currently linked to any of the menus but you can access it directly here. From Peter’s blog, there was an insightful post about why the topic should be addressed “now“.

#CSEdWeek

The CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association) along with a group of other associations have developed a website to support teachers for the week. The focus is on Social Justice and opens with a panel discussion on Monday night. In addition to all the resources shared, there is a collection of downloadable posters.

Canada Learning Code

This is full of ideas and resources to support Learning Code and more. They recognize the varieties of ways that students, teachers, and family are connected and learning in these times and have you covered. Their highlight is Digital Citizenship but poke around for more. Registration is required to access some of the resources.

Hour of Code

It may well be that the Hour of Code may be one of the resources that leap to mind when you think of Computer Science Education Week. The content here continues to grow and has so much covered.

CODE to LEARN at home

A Canadian resource, they have been very active with online webinars and philosophy about programming with a wide scope with a little something for everyone. There are some really unique ideas here.

Scratch

Maybe the granddaddy of them all for programming at all ages is the Scratch resource from MIT. It just continues to grow and is rich with all that is available to and created by the Scratch coding community.

BBC micro:bit

If you’re fortunate enough to have access to the micro:bit for your class and students, there are some really amazing interactive opportunities and inspiration for programming.

I think it’s quite obvious that the collection above is certainly not all-inclusive. If you can think of a resource that should/could be shared with a wider audience, please do so in the comments.

Extension tutorial


This was very cool.

I was working my way through my reading the other day and ran into this tutorial and worked my way through it.

How to Build a Chrome Extension

Now, to be honest, I’ve worked my way through a number of similar tutorials in the past. I’ve been successful in the particular activities but ended up just deleting my work.

This one is a little different, certainly relevant, and well laid out.

Bottom line, it’s a tutorial that lets you search an online database for COVID-19 statistics and display them in your browser. Sure, you can go to a website and search for results but it’s handy just having them there in your browser, a click away.

A second goldmine find here is a link to active data to feed the program.

https://coronavirus-19-api.herokuapp.com/countries

Of course, the data is as up to date as the last update.

I’m also thinking of Computer Science classrooms where you’re always looking for the answer to “why are we doing this”? Here’s a real-life example to work through. There is minimal internal documentation but that can be elaborated and then, of course, there are the mods.

The tutorial is easy to read and work through. Lots of copy/paste but a nice display of where the various files go in the file system of your computer.

New insights


Ontario to launch enhanced COVID-19 data page

Ontarians are now promised to be able to see the same data that those in Toronto use to make decisions for the province. When you head over to the COVID page on the Ontario website, you have access to just an overload of information. There’s just so much that you can lose yourself in the information if you wish. (and I did)

The thing that caught my interest was the ability to compare the numbers from your health unit with up to five others throughout the province. I decided to check it out and see where we stand compared to others.

Now, those figures are complete totals. All things being equal, you would expect that Toronto Public Health would lead the pack. There is an option to get a look at numbers per 100 000 population.

The totals are also available for plotting over time

There is no legend here but when you mouse over the graph, the totals for that particular day pop up. The colours are consistent throughout. So, I could see the spike in little ol’ Windsor-Essex County that caused us to remain in Stage 2 over the summer for a bit.

This is just the tip of the data iceberg. Keep on scrolling down for more information and details. All of the data is available for download as images or as .CSV files. I couldn’t help but think of mathematics or computer science classes where you might be interested in real, relevant data for analysis. It doesn’t get much more relevant than this.

Back to Stage 2, apparently that’s all going to change to a new classification for levels of severity.

  • Lockdown:
  • Red-Control:
  • Orange-Restrict:
  • Yellow-Protect:
  • Green-Prevent:

This will kick in on November 7.

A description of each can be found here:

Ontario unveils new system for COVID-19 shutdowns. Here’s how it will work