This Week in Ontario Edublogs


As noted in yesterday’s post, the voicEd Radio show didn’t go perfectly this past week but Stephen Hurley claims that you can’t spot his splicing job. That’s a good thing.

Here’s some great writing from Ontario Edubloggers that I ran across recently.


Student-Centred Blogging

It was during the discussion on Amy Bowker’s post that the connection between us dropped but we reconnected and finished our discussion. It was a great discussion and I love anything that supports the concept of student blogging. It’s such a powerful and, sadly, under used technique.

Maybe reading Amy’s post will inspired others to get involved. As she notes, she had concerns that she was doing the majority of the work in class and wanted to shift the responsibility to her kids. So, a class blog with random grouping was formed after polling students for ideas about how to better engage their parents. The kids got it! Blogging won out.

And so, the Grade 5/6 blog was started. You can click through via Amy’s post to see the student writing and get a sense of where she wants to head next with the blog.


Strand A, Coding, and the new Ontario Mathematics Curriculum

I honestly don’t know what I enjoyed better – reading this blog post from Jim Cash or the open and frank private discussion that we had yesterday evening after Jim listened to our discussion. We definitely are of a like mind on this.

We both agree about the concept of coding with students. But, it’s just not the sense of writing a program. It’s the joy that comes from creating something from scratch and then just tweaking it to make it do exactly what you want it to do. In our perfect world, no two student projects would be the same.

The notion of coding was dropped into the Mathematics Curriculum and there’s an ongoing adoption often by teachers who are doing it for the first time, without professional learning. There’s a great deal of sharing of formal lessons or presentations that encourage every student’s project to be exactly the same.

Jim’s thinking is driven by Mitch Resnick and the MIT Lifelong Kindergarten Group and I like the way he uses joy and passion to describe what kids can do.

My take is that the joy comes first by creating something from scratch and making it your own, customizing where appropriate. Passion follows when you develop the desire to do more of it. The key though is that teaching from templates makes it very difficult to achieve these things. Big, wonderful problems need to be developed.

Personally, I see why game development fits nicely into this. No two games should be the same as each student throws in her/his take on how to play


Mentoring Moments: Celebrate Teachers in Education!

I was delighted to find a couple of blog posts about mentoring this week. It’s such a powerful concept – heck – it may be the most powerful concept for professional growth in an educator.

Writing on the ETFO Heart and Art of Education Blog, this post comes from Nilmini Ratwatte Henstridge. After reading it, I felt so validated because she shares thoughts that would be so similar to mine if I wrote a post about mentoring. If you’re in education, you’ve got to love the Lee Iacocca quote:

“In a completely rational society, the best of us would aspire to be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generations to the next ought to be the highest honour and the highest responsibility anyone could have” 

I’ve seen it work so well when the learning mindset is there. I’ve seen it fail when the mentee figures that he knows more than the mentor and doesn’t contribute. When it succeeds and goes over the top, the mentor actually shifts gears and becomes the mentee.

I also love her insights about how to network

  • Social events in professional development
  • Growing your social media PLN to build opportunies to connect
  • Building capacity digitally with Blogs, Pod casts and engaging conversations

When Cyndie Jacobs and I co-chaired the Bring IT, Together conference, these were some of the concepts that we worked on providing for attendees.


WHY DO WE NEED A MENTOR?

The second blog post about mentoring comes from Bei Zhang and I couldn’t find a Twitter handle for her.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I read the title. Would it be just another directive to do something based upon some sort of research. I was delighted when I clicked through and found that this blog post was actually a very open and honest discussion about how mentoring worked for her.

This is the best advice for success from the post.

Don’t bombard your mentors with millions of tedious questions. Mentors can guide you, but they can’t do your work.

For success, mentoring needs to be humble and cooperative. A good mentor knows this going into the process and a wise and embracing mentee comes to learn this if they’re going to succeed.

The context for the post is ESL which is an area that I have no experience but I can only imagine the challenges and the potential for a myriad of backgrounds and prior learning that would make it a challenge for the educator.

I don’t think that it is unreasonable that there may be people in this position and being the sole person in a school teaching ESL. In the post, there is a reference to TESL Ontario and a program that they have for mentoring.


“Maybe The Tooth Fairy Uses The Pronoun, ‘They’”: A Kindergarten Look At Gender

There’s always a little blogger joy in me when I announce that one of Aviva Dunsiger’s posts is going to be mentioned on a particular week. Since she’s a frequent blogger, she tries to guess out loud (on social media) which one I chose. So, here we go…

For me, fairies have always been female and I blame Walt Disney.

As long as I can remember, Tinkerbell was there and she was clearly female. In fact, as I reflect, Disney’s productions were always binary.

We’re living in a different time and the discussion from Aviva’s class indicates that her students are open to all possibilities. She captures the discussions nicely.

There is a delightful and yet sad moment in the post for me. Aviva shares a video of learning in her classroom and you can clearly see the social distancing and barren environment. It’s unlike your traditional kindergarten classroom and perhaps explains why her students are more comfortable outside playing in the mud.


Forestry resources from Canadian Institute of Forestry/Institut forestier du Canada (CIF-IFC)

From the STAO/APSO blog,

Calling all teachers and educators in Southern Ontario! If you are looking for a unique opportunity to bring forestry into the classroom, the Canadian Institute of Forestry/Institut forestier du Canada (CIF-IFC), in collaboration with the CIF-IFC 7Southern Ontario Section, is organizing a Forestry Teachers’ Tour on November 19, 2021 in Waterloo, Ontario, and you are invited to sign up!

I think this is an interesting and unique opportunity for Canadian educators wanting to bring forestry into their classrooms. It’s an actual, honest-to-goodness, face-to-face professional learning opportunity.

It’s subsidized at $20 and will be held in Waterloo.


Learning to Code – An Invitation to Computer Science through the Art and Patterns of Nature (Lynx and Snap! Editions)

I’m humbled to include this post from Peter Skillen this week. He takes to his blog space to share two new books written by David Thornburg. Both of these gentlemen have been so instrumental in helping me get my head wrapped around the potential and the benefits of having younger and younger kids coding on computers.

I’ve had the good fortune to being in the audience listening to both of these gentlemen and of dining/drinking with both to expand on their messages. Both have had a huge impact on me.

Lest I get too sappy …

I’m really impressed with the modern and inclusive approach for Canadians with the various languages the book was written in. This has Skillen written all over it. He wouldn’t have done the translation himself but he’s so well connected, he’ll know who could.

Lynx is available in Canadian English, French, and several Indigenous languages including Ojibwe, Oji-Cree, Mi’kmaq, and Mohawk—with others to be developed when CanCode funding is renewed. With CanCode funding, it is also available at no cost to Canadians. (For others, after the Trial version, it is quite affordable.)


I hope that you can take the time to click through and enjoy all these wonderful posts. Then, follow them on Twitter.

  • Amy Bowker – @amyebowker
  • Jim Cash – @cashjim
  • Nilmini Ratwatte Henstridge – @NRatwatte
  • Bei Zhang – writing on @TESLOntario
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • STAO – @staoapso
  • Peter Skillen – @peterskillen

Great television


David Petro’s latest edisode of Ontario Math Links took me on a long and winding path. He tags this one article for use with MDM4U.

From the Flowing Data website, the article is titles How the Longest Running Shows Rated Over Episodes. Now, if you look at it from a mathematical perspective, it is quite interesting and opens many ideas about the process that it took to get the data and then decide how to make it present in a meaningful way.

Click the image to enlarge it.

From a television fan perspective, there’s one show that I found noticeably missing. It was one of our alltime favourites and I would have thought that it would have shown up – M*A*S*H. Maybe it just missed the cut.

There were some great memories as I looked through the data presentation. There were also some that had me going “Whaaaa????”.

When you try to make sense of the data, it’s easy to see that nightly shows would have a legitimate claim to their position.

It was interesting to read and try to understand the author’s interpretation for the data and where he got the inspiration for a project of this type. I’m quite impressed with his use of the IMDB as a source for authentic data. As I look through the details for M*A*S*H, I could see all kinds of other data that would make for interesting problems to solve.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


After a week away from the blogging keyboard, it was nice to get back and see what was new from the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers. And, it was great to get back to voicEd Radio and discuss five of the posts with Stephen Hurley on Wednesday morning. Most people would be working with students at the time and so the show is stored as a podcast on the site.


3 things

Writing on the ETFO Heart and Art Blog, Will Gourley gives us a look at hybrid teaching from his perspective working in that environment. He shares with us three things about hybrid teaching.

  • Hybrid teaching sucks
  • Your students have something to tell you
  • Did I mention that hybrid still sucks?

I think you can get his perspective just by reading the first and third point. It would be easy, I suspect, for anyone to easily draw those conclusions. What lends to the credibility though is that he’s writing in the first person. He shares his setup and concerns about how to ensure that all students succeed. He also gets us into the gear that he has to wear and use in order to make it all happen. I think you’ll find yourself immersed in his world.

Just picture him…

“week with a mic on my head, a mask over my face, and webcam on”

It’s the middle point that I think speaks volumes for educators and shows us the type of educator that Will is. In a blog post that could easily just be Will ranting about how hybrid teaching sucks, he does take the time to ensure that we know that he’s not alone. The kids have a voice too and it’s important that it’s heard.

It’s easy to find stories about the challenges that teachers are facing. The voices of students and parents are always difficult to find and that’s a shame. Is it good for them or do they just not have a platform to make their thoughts heard?

While looking for thoughts, it would be good also to hear from administrators and members of the board of trustees who approved this mode of teaching.


Hybrid Learning Lessons

I had originally selected the post “Reflection: Keep it! Tweak it! Ditch it!” from Jennifer Casa-Todd’s blog to feature this week. When I returned to revisit it, I found this one instead and went with it. I thought it tagged nicely onto Will’s post. Will writes from the elementary classroom and Jennifer from secondary.

Will uses the term “exhausted” and Jennifer uses “November-level exhausted”. They’re both throwing all they’ve got into their teaching.

Jennifer gives us a summary of the technology that she uses in her teaching – “Screencastify, Choice Boards, Hyperdocs, Flipgrid, Station Rotation”.

Last week, she was a panelist on The Mentoree and shared a couple of really important points that I think all could ponder about and perhaps redirect their energies.

  • Fewer is better in terms of tech tools – this is always good advice but even more important these days, especially when you factor in the hybrid model. It’s easy to confuse more tools with more learning but for most classes that’s not the case. Finding a good multi-purpose tool and getting the most from it will get the most from technology. On the voicEd show, Stephen and I professed our love for Hyperstudio but alas …
  • Find a Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter – of course, I flipped over this concept. Connecting with other educators is always a way to push yourself and learn new approaches. It’s also a place to go to recognize that you’re not the only one in the world facing challenges

Salvaging Old Lessons for New Students

Speaking of Hyperstudio – what the heck, let’s throw in Clarisworks as well…

Diana Maliszewski shares a story of collaboration with a new, young teacher looking to up her game. What to do? What to do?

I think most educators are like this. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into developing the perfect or pretty good lesson and are hesitant to throw it away. So, we just keep collecting them.

Diana turns back the resources dial a few years and remembers some great lessons from the past – the unfortunate part was that they were done in Hyperstudio and Clarisworks. Stop for a second and thing about how you’d even open documents created in those formats these days. To support Diana’s desire to get at them, she and her husband went on a search to find tools. And they did apparently find a solution.

I did smile a bit when she complained about the block graphics from days gone by especially since Diana is a big Minecrafter … but she does give us a look at the past and the freshly updated future resource.

The lesson that she resurrects is about phishing – now there’s a topic that will probably always be timely and can be just as important. Way to go, Diana.


The Important Question

Haven’t we all been in settings where we’re talking about or listening to others and the topic is “schools of the future”. It’s a popular topic and a reminder that there are always new things on the horizon for us to embrace.

Typically, we smile and nod and call ourselves and our profession as “life long learning”.

Anne-Marie Kees turns the tables with this question instead.

I also love this question:  What’s not going to change?

My first thought was bureaucracy since it’s such an easy topic to take shots at in education.

She had a more important focus though and that was relationships. I really enjoyed the way that she analysed this. There is a great deal to think about in her analysis.

It’s especially important since the whole notion of relationships has changed for all of us, including students, over the past while. How can we get back to being humans with our need to connect? How do we make sure that nobody gets left behind?

Here’s a reminder.


No WIFI…. No Worries

In Thames Valley, they recently had a professional development day. Sue Bruyns shares with us how the message to be delivered worked its way into each school for the event.

There was one thing that didn’t work its way though – WIFI!

Haven’t we all been there? You’re in the audience at a conference, or even worse, you’re getting ready to present and something goes wrong. Data projector blows up, electricity goes out, fire alarm goes off, or gasp, the internet gives up on you.

Such was the start fo the day for Sue Bruyns.

I’ve been in sessions where the presenter just gives up and tells us to do something else instead because their show can’t go on. They had no Plan B.

It sounds like the district didn’t have a Plan B either but Sue and her team looked around the building and created one on the fly! It’s a great story of recovery. Check out her complete post to find out what it was.


My List of Wishes

I just had to include this post from Aviva Dunsiger. After all, I guess I inspired her to write it.

Last Saturday, I went on an uncharacteristic rant about things that I hate in my world mostly attributed to the effects of COVID.

Aviva decided to take the concept and run with it.

These wishes might largely remain as wishes, and yet, somehow it feels cathartic to write them down and put them out in the world. What wishes might you add to this list? I wonder if framing them as wishes helps me believe in future possibilities. What about you?

It’s quite a long list and I suspect that many educators will empathise with Aviva and her perspective.

It might even ultimately turn into a “to-do” list when the conditions that she’s working on are lifted and things return to normal or to what the new normal will be.

The post is delightfully documented with pictures from her teaching world.

It did bring up another issue for me; I hate how Instagram resizes/crops images that you send it.


Loom Beading, Métis Finger Weaving, and LYNXcoding.club

Hot off the presses from Peter Skillen’s Construction Zone blog is this post in honour of the National Day of Truth and Reconcillation Day on September 30.

It’s a wonderful amalgam of mathematics, coding, problem solving, beading, weaving, and once again shows that you can integrate so many things when you see the big picture.

I’m not sure that I can do Peter’s post justice in my typical summary of a post so I will really encourage you to click through and enjoy the entire post.

It’s well documented with images and respect for culture and there’s so much there for everyone whether you decide to code a solution or not (but you really should – it works in your browser)

The question shouldn’t be “when will we ever need this stuff?”; it should be “patterning and construction predate us; we’re just catching up, learning from people who have been doing this for years”.

Well done, Peter. This truly is an activity with lots of legs to it.


Please click through and enjoy all of these excellent blog post from Ontario Edubloggers.

Then, follow them on Twitter.

  • Will Gourley – @WillGourley
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @JCasaTodd
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Anne-Marie Kee – @AMKeeLCS
  • Sue Bruyns – @sbruyns
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Peter Skillen – @peterskillen

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.