Earth


You know, it really is true. “Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it.”

A week ago, I was trying to remember where my fall jacket was stored.  As I write this at 7am, they’re reporting a heat index factor of 29 degrees.

So, we can’t do anything about the weather but we can wear layers if needed.

Through digital wizardry, we can also watch it online.

Global news stories have been all over the storms that are brewing in the Atlantic and the Pacific.  Using Earth, you can watch them as they happen.

I’ve always been fascinated with what the digital world can bring to geography and also the visualization of climate that it brings.

I’m not alone.

I’ve followed this for a couple of days now, using the Hawaiian islands as a reference.

Yesterday:

This morning:

But, it’s not just in the Pacific.  Check out the Atlantic, using the Atlantic provinces as my anchor.

Yesterday:

This morning:

What will tomorrow bring?  I don’t know, but I know where to look.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Every week, I gather from my reading blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers to include here.  Folks, you never fail to amaze me with the depth of your thinking and abilities to pull it all together.  Here’s some of what caught my eye this week.


Standing for Principles or Shooting Myself in the Foot

Before shooting herself in the foot, Diana Maliszewski puts in down in a stance about the Microsoft acquisition of Minecraft.  Now, she’s been a big fan of Minecraft for as long as I can remember, a regular presenter about its benefits, and I remember her blocky outfit at an ECOO Conference a couple of years ago.  She takes her time to explain her thoughts about corporate presence in education.

I stepped back and looked around the labs here.  Sony laptop, Wacom tablet, Logitech mouse, HP keyboard, Bose speakers, an Apple looking at me from the top of my iPad.  The only thing non-corporate would be that I’m writing this post in Linux.  It’s too late to close the barn door here.  We buy by brand and each of the products has built upon the nature of the previous technology.  It’s not just a mouse, it’s sculpted to fit the hand. The tablet has wrist recognition.  The keyboard is noiseless.  Where would I be without corporate involvement and making things easier, more productive, more ergonomic, and ultimately better for me?

So, I wonder about her stance on Minecraft.  Will it being branded and supported by a corporate entity change the experience?  How much change would affect her abilities as a classroom teacher to get the best from it for her kids?  Is this a fight worth fighting or is it just a natural evolution?  I would never have predicted that her views would have changed.  It was an insightful read for me; she really nicely shares her opinion about this.


Big Hairy Plans… with a Slower Start

Talk about your outwork visibileness.  (I know – that’s not a word but it’s the first thing that came to mind.)

There were a couple of big takeaways for me from this post by Heather Theijsmeijer.

    1. Great planning and exploration can be stymied by a work action.  It would be great if negotiators could read this and understand the impact that labour disputes have on the most important elements of education – students and progressive educators;
    2. In the post, Heather has laid out her plans for her courses for next year.  By being this open, she’s made herself accountable to herself and the parents/students who follow her blog.  She’s set the table with the comment “I want to blow this course wide open.”  Who wouldn’t be excited to have a teacher that can make a statement like that!

    There is No Road Map to Teaching Success

    If you need to read another blog post about changing everything and taking chances in your profession, then this one from Enzo Ciardelli should be on your reading list.

    My Teachers’ College experience goes back a little further than 12 years but I suspect that I’d say the same thing.  It’s a rather conservative experience while you learn the theories and practice from days gone by.  Practice teaching has the potential of being less conservative when you’re out in the “real world” which is still a contrived environment with students on better than normal behaviour.  Your first couple of years teaching are pretty conservative too.  You don’t want to upset the apple cart until you get that permanent contract.  After that or, after 12 years?  It is time to improve on your practice and take those risks.


    Resurfacing

    Every teacher should have a chance to raise a child.  Sure, you learn about human growth and development in Teachers’ College and you smile as you see your students grow and mature under your classroom watch.  But, as Danika Barker points out in this post, there’s something completely different and special about your own mini-me.

    After a year for parental leave, she’s returning to her classroom and will soon learn another side of parenting.  It’s hard to see your own kids learn and grow while under the care of someone else!  And it continues – first day of kindergarten, first day of high school, first day of college/university, first day at a job…

    Editorial Comment – and they learn some really dumb rules that don’t apply anywhere else than at daycare. 

    It’s good to see her back online and blogging.


    Creating Interactive Math Tasks With Google Sites

    One of the powerful things about working in the Google world, after you get past the wide variety of options (See Peter Beens’ Alphabet/Google A-Z document), is the ease and consistency across the tools.

    Kyle Pearce is constantly writing and sharing ideas and was recently asked a question about implementation with something other than iPads.  Chromebooks makes for a natural question.

    The post is a tutorial about how to extend his original content and extend it to other platforms.

    Step by step, you’ll work your way through an example with lots of screen shots.  He demonstrates his way through the creation and then invites you to test the final product.


    As summer winds down, it’s evident that great thinking from Ontario Educators continues.  Check out all these posts and all of the Ontario Edubloggers here.  If you’re an Ontario educational blogger and not on the list, please do use the form and add yourself.  Lots of people would love to read your blog.

    This Week in Ontario Edublogs


    As I type this, news has been announced of a tentative agreement between OSSTF and the province.  The trolls are already out commenting on news reports and I’m sure that there will be more as speculation grows on the contents.  Of course, details won’t be made public until the membership gets a chance to look at it.  Hopefully, this is a sign that movement is possible and that all of the professional organizations are able to reach an agreement.  We’ll see.

    In the meantime, the professional learning and sharing continues throughout the province.  Here’s a bit of what I read this past week.


    “Guide” Vs. “Sage”: Is It As Easy As That?

    Aviva Dunsiger used this old horse as a starting point for her thoughts.  I remember grimacing the first time that I heard it.  I know that the intention was noble – stop standing and lecturing but it’s become the mantra of many who haven’t been in a classroom for years – like it’s an all or nothing concept.  It’s one of those cutesy sayings that you hear during presentations and, if you read Aviva’s post, you realize that it’s only surface deep.  Teaching is much more than nine words strung together.  She addresses it nicely and even includes a confession.


    Guide on the Stage

    Daniel La Gamba was motivated from this post to share his thoughts and create a Sketchnote on the topic.  I don’t know – will “Guide on the Stage” be the next “Sage on the Stage vs Guide on the Side”?  You can probably tell that I’m not a fan of short sound bites but I really think the wisdom comes from the last line in his post.

    With September fast approaching, I encourage teachers to not be in the periphery. It is not the act of guiding that should change, just the proximity to the learning.

    The key here, as I see it, is that teachers shouldn’t just “mail it in”.  Teaching is an incredibly active and personal activity.  One of the observations that I made as a DeLC was working with eLearning teachers who had their entire course and teaching online.  Their number one frustration – not having that face to face human contact.  I think that teaching in this mode made them better teachers in the long run.  It really reinforced the notion of what it means to be a teacher. 

    Sadly, we were unable to comment on the blog post itself – the folks who were using Twitter as a forum could really have fleshed it out there.

    There was considerable discussion about this online with Daniel taking a very active part.  Included in this discussion was George Couros who, while not an Ontario Edublogger will get special notice because he continued the discussion on his own blog “What about the title of “teacher?


    What does it mean to be Reggio-inspired?

    Not having been a kindergarten teacher, I always enjoy listening and reading early years’ professionals talk about their classrooms and their approaches.  I have two wonderful friends who take the time to explain things to me.  This post, by Joanne Babalis is a very nice summary of how she was inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach.

    Loris Malaguzzi often spoke of learning as a tangle of spaghetti, rather than a linear path.  Well my mind certainly feels this way, especially when I am inquiring, reading/researching, thinking, interpreting, and reflecting.

    This post isn’t a quick and easy read but definitely is worth the time to comprehend.

    And, I really liked the Jerome Bruner quote.


    Why We Need Intentional Innovation in Education

    So, on to a discussion about “intentional innovation”.

    It sure is.

    After all, who doesn’t want to be “innovative” – whatever that means.

    In this first of a series of posts, A.J. Juliani takes a look at what innovation means and then takes a spin when you put the word “intentional” in front of it.  There’s a challenge to the reader about being intentionally innovative this school year.  And why not?  The post is nicely summaried with the description “meaningful and relevant”.

    This is a good place to start your creative thinking.


    The Connected Student

    You know, as I check the sundial, it says 2015.  It’s a crime that we still have to talk about the benefits of students/teachers being connected.  Yet, there remains a need.  I was watching HLN last night and both the Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew shows were encouraging the world to get involved with the conversation via a hashtag.  Are there really still people that see that on the screen and wonder what it is?  Hopefully, not teachers – I could guarantee any student with a computer, tablet, or smartphone knows absolutely knows what it’s about.  Nobody uses the term “pound” anymore, do they?

    Now, I’m not suggesting that you flip your classroom with these two shows but spend a few minutes online and you’ll see awesome discussions and connections for educators, students, and classrooms.  If you’re not connected, you’re completely missing out.  Jennifer Casa-Todd shares a beautiful post outlining the possibilities that exist for the connected student.

    Then, she follows up with a huge list of suggestions for how to get started, along with a couple of Sylvia Duckworth Sketchnotes.  What can you do?  Share this post with your administrator and colleagues.  It’s time to get with it if they aren’t.


    Are Teachers Taught About Creative Commons?

    This is not a new concept and yet something that a lot of people don’t really understand.  Donna Fry takes on the topic and uses the framework of the student remix as the rationale for why students and teachers need to understand the principle.

    If you read the second sentence carefully, you’ll take your understanding to a new level.  Most people think that Creative Commons is just about finding free stuff that you can use without violating copyright.  Let’s up the ante.  Yes, there are times when someone has the perfect image to use in a project.  But, if you’ve been at this blog for a while, you know that I’m a big fan of students creating their own original works.  If they’re posting it online – any why not, read Jennifer’s post above – use this as an opportunity to discuss licensing in a very personal manner … their own.

    It only takes a moment to look at the licensing options under Creative Commons and decide what’s appropriate for them.  Here’s what I’ve put on this blog.


    Is it Initiative or Compliance?

    The nice thing about scheduling blog posts is that you’re never really done until it goes out!  This morning was a perfect example.  I thought I was done and so Jaimie and I were off for our morning walk.  We had stopped at a bridge and were just staring in awe as the water from a tributary was flowing into a bigger part of the river when my birthday present from my wife on my wrist buzzed.  I looked and Brian Aspinall had just posted something to his blog and had tagged me with it.  Oh well, something to read when we got home.

    I did read it and now was faced with a dilemma.  Do I save it for next week’s TWIOE or do I include it here.  After all, this post doesn’t go live until tomorrow morning.  I decided to do it now because I think it’s something that everyone should consider for their classroom and its management.  What do your students do when they’re done the current task?  Brian shares his list.

    In the post, he asks that, if the students choose from this list, are they demonstrating initiative or compliance?  It’s pretty clear from the tone of the post that he’s thinking compliance.  I would agree in the way that he wrote it.  Given those options, I think if I was a student, I would just tend to work slower on the original project.  Those all look like extra work to me.

    You do have to make the choices wisely.  If the list includes something that’s really cool or interesting, others will rush through the task in order to join in on the fun.

    Why not read Brian’s post and add your ideas to the list?  The time is right with school starting in a couple of weeks to set classroom expectations and certainly managing time should be one of the issues.


    Thanks to all of the above for contributing to share your expertise and pushing our thinking.  Please take a moment to click through to the original blog posts and share your thoughts.  Looking for more?  Check out the Ontario Edublogger collection.

    This Week in Ontario Edublogs


    This post might be difficult to read.  I have a blogging disability – a bandaid on one of my fingers.  Now, if I was a digital native, it wouldn’t matter because it’s not on one of the two or three fingers that I’d use.  But, I took keyboarding in Grade 9 and 10 and programmed in COBOL.  All my fingers know that they have a job.  So, please overlook typing errors.  I will do an extra check for correctness before posting.  First world problems.

    In the meantime, here are some of the bits of wisdom from Ontario Edubloggers from the past week.


    Courage and Me

    The summer of 2015 will go down for many as the “summer of the mindset”.  In my reading, there has to be more written and talked about on that topic that almost any other issue.  (In Ontario, the lack of collective agreements would supersede that.)  We’ve read so much about encouraging a growth mindset in students and teachers.  Sue Dunlop, in a recent post, takes it to the superintendent level.

    She muses about improving ways that she thinks about those she deals with.

    You can’t help but think that this encouragement would trickle back to schools with the net result being a better family of schools.  If successful, the next hurdle would be to have her fellow superintendents follow her lead.


    How do you do a flipped lesson in a Junior class?

    Muriel Corbierre reflects on what a flipped lesson might look like for younger students.  It’s a concept that may well be easier to visualize with older students because they may have more universal access to technology and the internet at home.  They also may be able to handle the differences in technology at home versus at school a little easier.

    Challenge or opportunity?

    Read on to see what her inspiration was and how it was implemented.  A lesson demonstrating her vision of a flipped classroom is included.

    The link to my flipped junior lesson is here. It is a Ontario grade 6 science lesson on electricity generation in Canada. As usual, feel free to try it with your students, and I would be happy to know how it went.

    How did we ever share things like this in the days before Google Docs?


    Electronic Access Available

    The library at the Faculty of Education, Western University has added some interesting titles to its collection.  I think this would be a fabulous read.


    [Summer Reading] Comprehension & Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action

    On the topic of books, this post by Jessica Weber, is a very carefully crafted review and personal action for this book.

    “And today, fresh discoveries in cognition, inquiry, and collaboration show us even betters ways to help learners engage with ideas and drive each others’ thinking- not just to remember information, but to build knowledge, to care, to act” (Harvey and Daniels, 2009, p. 7).

    My immediate thought is that this would be a good addition to any school’s professional library.


    What Do You See?

    I see a horse, and a duck, and – sorry Mark.  This is a quick reflection from Mark Carbone on the power of images.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t do a little screen capture of it.

    I made a couple of quick connections – first of all, I’m glad that I don’t have to commute in that scenario.  But, secondly, it’s a bit about mindset.  I can remember going to an optometrist and one of the eye test things was to take a look at a black capital E on a red background and then on a green background.  The question always was “which is sharper”.  It doesn’t matter how many times I did it, the green background always made the E look sharper.  That probably has nothing to do with the original question but was I predisposed since green is my favourite colour and that’s making the impression on me?

    But, more importantly than looking at another’s image, what about creating your own?  What does your school drone see when it’s flying over the grounds?  (Your school has a drone with a camera, doesn’t it?)  Or, what about student created artistry?  One of my favourite cartoonists was long time London Free Press editorial cartoonist Merle Tingley who signed his artistry with Ting. Ting was hidden in every cartoon.  We took great delight finding it but it also had the effect of making us concentrate harder on the cartoon.  Love this one celebrating the 25th anniversary of Storybook Gardens.


    Downsizing south of the border

    That “D” word always raises the hair on the back of the neck of educators.  It’s not any better with the politically correct term “right-sizing” either.  Diana Maliszewski takes a long look at resources and location taking us from Canada to the United States to Liberia.

    The post brought a great smile to me.  I’ve moved jobs a few times over the years and every time, you get those moments of “what stays and what goes and what comes home with me”.  You like to think that “what stays” improves the cause because of your experience and how you used it.  The reality is that it might hit the junk pile within a week of you moving out.

    Beyond this, Diana’s post is a nice reminder of how good things are here in Ontario.


    OK, I made it.  My finger is actually feeling better.  Maybe tap, tap, tapping was helpful therapy or something.  Who knows?

    Thanks to these great posts to help spread the good word about things happening in Ontario.  Check out the complete list of Ontario Edubloggers here and add yours if it’s not there.

    This Week in Ontario Edublogs


    It’s Friday and time to share my recent reading from awesome Ontario Edubloggers.  Please enjoy.


    Art is a Verb

    Art, artistry, reflection, insomnia, a mind that won’t shut down all come through in this recent post from Colleen Rose.  Then, it takes an unexpected turn and reach in the comments.

    The entirety of it is humbling.


    The Tyranny of Choice

    I stumbled into this new blog from Marc Hodgkinson just watching the conversation in one of my Twitter Ontario Educators list.  It appears that Marc is now going visible after tinkering here and there.  The list of reasons for blogging should resonate with readers and most certainly are great rules to live blog by.

    I really like point #5 – it’s the rationale and license I gave myself when I decided to call this blog “Off the Record”.  Think and post now.  Just get it out there.  With your reach and feedback, you can refine your thinking later.  If you keep it inside, you miss out on so much.


    Free Service ~ Full text of journal articles delivered directly to your device

    Now, here’s a real deal from the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario.  So convenient and it has the potential to educate an entire Faculty at once.  What a service.  I wonder if the Faculty would create a MOOC for web literacy that we could all join and benefit from?

    For the school teacher-librarian, it could be replicated on a smaller basis via a Learning Commons blog and have your school staff subscribe to email updates.  It wouldn’t be as big but would be an opportunity to inform the entire school whenever something new is happening … oh, and parents, students, board office decision makers…


    Blogging for English Language Learners

    Rusul Alrubail shares a blog post that she originally wrote for Edutopia about the power of blogging for English Language Learners.  It’s a very complete analysis of the power that comes from blogging and how it can be exploited in the ELL classroom.

    I understand that the original target was the ELL classroom but I’d be hard pressed to look at any of those and say that they have a monopoly on this wonderful tool/technique.  Wouldn’t all of the above apply to YOUR classroom?

    While not originally keyed by Rusul, she had shared another’s post this week that I think is a must read and contemplate post.  Yes, English is My First Language.


    Expanding My Students’ PLN through Mine – on Twitter

    I think everyone has seen that cartoon with the caption “On the Internet Nobody Knows You’re a Dog”.  Could it be the most famous internet cartoon of all time?  It might be – after all, it has its own Wikipedia page.

    That was my immediate thought on this post by Anna Bartosik.  She’s an ESL teacher in higher ed and through a Twitter chat made a connection with someone.

    She didn’t put two and two together immediately but eventually found out that she’d connected with an elementary school teacher after they agreed to connect.

    And then she asked how old my kids are. I realized that we were in two different worlds – higher education adults and elementary school children. I mentioned, with a sinking heart, that I have adult ESL learners.

    You’ve got to head over to her post to see how this one ends.


    Reconsidering Reading

    If I could sum up my interpretation of Aviva Dunsiger’s post about reading, it would be “Education Kills the Love of Reading”.  Her summary of how she incorporates reading into her classroom appears below.

    The last one really strikes a note with me.  I did have to smile a bit as I read her post.  In my computer science classroom, I had my own library.  I subscribed to a number of technical journals and magazines (for the kids, of course) and they got put into the cupboard for those computers in society moments or time when we’d take a break from programming to do some recreational reading.  But, the rules were mine.  The students had to read from my choices and couldn’t just pull out their current novel.   I suspect all classrooms took the same approach.

    When does a student get to read recreationally?  In library period (if you have one?)  At home?  Shouldn’t reading happen when the desire to read hits?  Have we over analysed and over scheduled it and killed the love as a result?

    Maybe instead of yet another reading / literacy consultant coming up with a new strategy, they could take a look at those kids who enjoy reading and find out what makes them that way.  Do struggling readers struggle because they’ve been labelled that way?


    As always, my virtual walk through of the provincial thinking and sharing has been interesting.  Please take a moment to visit these blog posts in their entirety and share some thoughts with the authors if you feel inspired.

    The complete list of Ontario Edubloggers (that I know about) can be found here.  I’m always looking to expand the collection so, if you’re blogging and not there, please add yourself.

    This Week in Ontario Edublogs


    Things certainly have heated up in Ontario this week.  Weather-wise and blogging-wise.  Here’s some of the reading I enjoyed this past week.


    The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum

    The Diefenbunker was certainly something that we discussed in school.  It was part of Canada’s concern about the Cold War.  I did not know that it was a public museum where you could get a sense of the fear and paranoia that was a part of the day.  Andy Forgrave and son took a trip there and posted pictures and his reflections on the visit.  This is a very interesting read for me.


    Why Children Misbehave —- Under Construction

    You know, if you could bottle the answer to this question, you could sell millions to educators.  FlyOnTheClassroomWall (not her real name, of course, but she’s not public with it on the blog so I won’t mention it here) takes a look at a number of reasons from the book Theory and Practice with Adolescents and shares some of her insights.  Towards the end, she concludes with a list of accommodations…a good list.


    Step 8 in Going Green: Remain Calm! Remember Al Gore: ‘Despair is not an option’!

    Hill of Greens was a new blog discovery for me this week.  Written by Julie Johnson, this is a documentary of her work in “going green”.

    At present, there are eight posts to the blog but they’re very personal and certainly has inspired this reader to reflect on my own habits.  I’ve followed Julie on Twitter for some time now, but didn’t know this blog existed.  I’m glad that I found it.


    I Can’t Do This

    This post is a wonderful poem written by Dr. Muriel Corbierre.

    The content is a reminder that those faces in front of you all bring different skills to the classroom.  It’s also a reminder to students that not everything is as equally “easy” for everyone.

    I’ll bet you can find a lot of uses for this poem.


    Holistic approaches for Learning with Technology

    This post, from Deborah McCallum was a refreshing break from some of the mindless posts about SAMR that you see so often these days.  She takes a reasoned approach about teaching in general.  It’s a reminder that analyzing the use of technology isolated from everything else really is a disservice.  Teaching and learning is a complicated eco system.  Big reminder here “Who owns the learning?”


    Sunset Reflection

    This is something that we all can do.  I can take sunset pictures from the end of the driveway any day that I want.  Sheila Stewart shares here thoughts, not only on the beauty of the sunsets that she enjoys in NorthWest Ontario but what they symbolize to her.

    It’s a good reminder to us all that we need to take more pictures.


    An Interview with Tom D’Amico

    In case you missed it, I recently had the opportunity to interview Tom D’Amico, superintendent from the Ottawa Catholic School Board.  Tom actively models what I believe educational leaders should.  For me, it was a great chance to ask some questions that I had about what he does and why he does it.

    Doug:  From my perspective, you’re “leading by leading” in this field and I really admire that.  Do you ever get questioned by colleagues for being so open about your learning and sharing?

    In addition to the content that Tom generates and shares, he also shares many of the links to resources that he uses regularly.  There’s a great deal there for you and you might just want to pass the link along to your own leaders.  What more could they be doing to support the cause of learning?  Are they modelling the sort of thing that you need them to?


    Thanks, everyone for continuing to blog and lead the charge for Ontario Educators.  Please check out their blog posts at the links provided and the complete list of Ontario Edubloggers here.

    An Interview with Tom D’Amico


    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 Scoop.it! 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.

    Doug:  What inspired you to get involved with Twitter?

    Tom:  In January 2009 I changed from being a high school Principal, to Superintendent of Information Technologies.   I wanted to model professional learning and I also wanted to expand my own professional learning network.   Twitter was a natural location at the time to connect with others interested in leveraging technology for increased student achievement.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I’ve always gone with the philosophy “Just Do It”, and I started my global professional learning network at that time.

    Doug:  Of all the archive utilities that are available, what attracted you to Scoop.IT?

    Tom:  This was really trial and error.  I had tried many edTools for archiving and curating.  I was using Delicious and Diigo for social bookmarking and a variety of other tools including Twitter.  Scoop.IT turned out to be my favourite tool since it automated my work flow.  It allowed me to quickly view other Scoop.IT postings, curate ones I found interesting, and I could also then share and schedule Tweets all on the same screen.  These features worked well for me and I’ve been an avid user of ScoopIT ever since.

    Doug:  With all of the things that you could be doing, what intrigues you about finding and curating educational technology resources?

    Tom:  As a teacher I saw first hand the impact of technology on both my students and on my teaching practice.  When I was teaching in the early 90s technology was a scarcity as was connectivity.  I was fortunate to have access to a computer lab and to multimedia computers so I was able to see how students were engaged when using technology and how the classroom discipline issues that took up so much of my time as a young teacher, were non-existent when students were using computers.  I’ve kept that passion and insight with me over my 25 years with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. 

    I spend time locating and sharing resources as one of my ways of staying connected to the classroom.  As an administrator I looked for resources that could help teachers and other administrators save time by automating work flows, and as a result they would have more time to develop professional relationships with their students. 

    Although I advocate the use of technology in the classroom, the greatest impact a teacher or administrator can have on their students is by getting to know them and focusing on positive relationships that leave all students with a feeling of hope and knowing that the teacher or administrator really cares about them as a person, not just as a student taking a particular subject.

    Doug:  Before you became the Associate Director with the Ottawa Catholic School Board, you were a superintendent in charge of Learning Technologies.  How did you get the inspiration for innovation in that role?

    Tom:  In 2009 when I became the superintendent of information technologies I worked collectively with many talented educators to come up with a vision of how we would integrate technology with pedagogy to innovate teaching practices in our Board. 

    One of the first things we did was change the title of the department from Information Technology, to Learning Technologies.  I changed my title from Superintendent of Information Technology to Superintendent of Student Success – Learning Technologies.  This subtle change, set the focus on Learning. 

    We moved from a Board that was focused on a culture of caution and fear of technology, to one that focused on curiosity and innovation.  We shared a white paper “A BluePrint for Change – Towards 2020 Connecting with our Students” and this set the direction for the many changes that we implemented in the last 5 years including adding the 4Cs to our Board Priorities and embracing social media and Google Apps for Education as tools to lead the change.

    Doug:  What initiatives are you particularly proud of from that portfolio?

    Tom:  I’m proud of many changes that took place as part of the vision for our District.   We moved to enterprise wireless, we added LCD/SmartBoards to every classroom so that teachers could access digital resources, we provided all teachers with laptops, we created a social media policy and encouraged teachers to be online where their students were, we converted our libraries to learning commons, we moved to blended learning, we promoted BYOD, and we had extensive PD opportunities and focused on the proper pedagogy to ensure that the technology was being used to do more than just digitize static learning activities.  We also began investing strategically in devices for students, from iPads to Chromebooks, and we began to address the digital divide that existed for some of our families and their access to technology.

    Doug:  How big is online learning through eLearningOntario within the OCSB?

    Tom:  Traditional eLearning has not been a focus for the majority of our students, but rather blended learning has been the priority.  We do have a small number of students who benefit from online courses, and we have about 18 online courses offered every year to students across our 15 high schools.  

    When we had focus groups with students one of the key messages they shared was that they did not want to lose the social aspect of going to school everyday, they liked to use technology, but the majority were not looking to complete courses online.  We did introduce a game based blended learning grade 10 course in Careers/Civics to ensure that all of our graduates will have taken at least one course delivered via a platform such as BlackBoard or Desire2Learn.

    Doug:  According to Twitter, you’re approaching 10,000 followers.  Obviously, I’m not the only one who appreciates your efforts!  How many of these followers would you estimate are from OCSB?

    Tom:  I’ve never tracked the number directly from our Board.  The majority of our 83 schools have Twitter accounts and we have many staff who actively share and learn via twitter.  We hired a full time social media community engagement specialist in our communications department to help develop this skill set in our employees and to engage with our community. 

    I do know from analytics that approximately 50% of my network is from the U.S.A., 30% from Canada, and 20% from other regions of the world.

    Doug:  Does it matter to you where they come from?  Why or why not?

    Tom:  One of best features of social media is that it breaks down barriers so we can all learn from one another in a global context.  Gone are the days that learning only happened in the school or at the district.

    Doug:  Do you ever find that ideas you’ve shared end up in your district’s classrooms?

    Tom:  Yes, I often hear from administrators or from other staff that they are using an edTool that I had recommended, or they signed up for a free service or are connecting with other educators around the world.  This is rewarding feedback that helps me to validate the time that I put into reading and sharing resources.

    Doug:  From my perspective, you’re “leading by leading” in this field and I really admire that.  Do you ever get questioned by colleagues for being so open about your learning and sharing?

    Tom:  No, I’ve never been questioned about being open with sharing.  I have had questions about the level of online engagement and how to manage the large number of interactions when you move beyond your Board.  Time management is always a key for all educators and setting limits and recognizing that you can’t be on all social learning networks an important framework.

    Doug:  I know the resources that I use for my daily inspiration and your readings do seem to cross at times but you always seem to find even more interesting things.  Care to share your work flow?

    Tom:  I subscribe to over 1000 different sites/blogs/newsletters.  I use Unroll.me to package the newsletters into a single email that I receive each day with about 75-100 posts.  I quickly scan this single email to determine which articles are relevant and that I may wish to review.   I also use Feedly.com as my RSS feeder to review articles with a basis on EdTech.   I use Scoop.IT as a source of recommended articles based on topics I have setup including:  EdTech, Leadership, and Pedagogy.

    I spend about 10 hours per week, usually first thing in the morning and then about an hour every evening reading articles online and then curating the most interesting ones via Scoop.It and scheduling tweets within Scoop.IT to go out the next day.  Using ScoopIT I am able to schedule by the hour and also include a photo in the tweet and relevant hashtags.  I make sure that I also use appropriate keyword tags in Scoop.IT so that I can find resources later when I need them.

    I use TweetDeck to review and respond to mentions on Twitter.  I try to do this at least every two days.

    Some people enjoy watching T.V., I enjoy reading and learning via the Internet.  Substitute 1-2 hours of evening T.V. watching, and there is time to curate resources on topics of interest.

    Where possible, I filter what I’m reading by following others who curate great content such as:  Edutopia, Edudemic, MakeUseof.com, Free Technology for Teachers, Education Technology and Mobile Learning, and several Paper.li accounts including yours – The Best of Ontario Education Daily

    There are many other favourites that would be wrapped up in my Unroll.me each day such as:  Nine Connections, Diigo weekly summaries on various topics, SmartBrief on EdTech, ASCD Express, EdWeb.net, TechCrunch, eWeek, Daily Genius Edtech updates, Education Dive:K12, Brook Top 5 tweets, and summaries from TCEA and ISTE… to name a few.

    Doug:  How often do you go back and use the resources that you’ve tucked away?

    Tom:  I use my Scoop.IT archive on a regular basis.  If someone asks if I can recommend a good tool for a particular need (such as a BackChannel), I can do a keyword search in my Scoop.IT account and quickly provide them with current resources on the topic.  Whenever I deliver a presentation I always update the content by reviewing resources that I’ve “scooped” on that topic over the last year.

    Doug:  How important is a social media presence in the OCSB?  Are schools encouraged to have Twitter / Facebook / Google + / etc. accounts?

    Tom:  Yes – we are an extremely active Board when it comes to social media.  Just about all of our schools have Twitter accounts and we have hundreds of staff sharing via their personal or their class Twitter accounts.  Many of our schools have Facebook accounts.  We have very active Google + communities based on shared interests, such as French teachers, Kindergarten teachers, etc.  

    Social media has opened up the sharing of resources between educators and schools across our district.

    Doug:  What advice do you provide the learners/leaders within your system about the use of social media?  Do you have a routine to be followed if something goes wrong?

    Tom:  I would suggest that they begin by working with a trusted colleague who is on social media.   We will send our social media community staff member to work with them or one of our education technology integrators to help them out.  We have staff resource booklets available online to take them step by step on how to create accounts using tools such as Twitter and how to effectively use the tools. 

    If something goes wrong, staff contact our learning technologies department and they work with the provider such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google, to work out a solution.  We ensure that all of our staff are aware of our social media policy that was created to encourage staff use of social media in a responsible manner.

    Doug:  Speaking of leaders, there are very few superintendents/directors that have significant contributions to the collective learning like you do.  What can be done to encourage more to jump in and start sharing their learning?

    Tom:  Across the province we are sharing with one another how we are using social media in our administrator roles.   Within our Board we have many administrators who are very active and they present on a regular basis and share with their associations how social learning and social networking is having an impact on student achievement.

    Staff can easily become overwhelmed with the number of edTools available and the amount of time that can be invested in online professional learning networks.  My advice is to not try to do it all, find one or two tools that meet the goals that they are trying to achieve and work with those.  There is no need to be on every possible social network or to know every latest social media tool.

    Doug:  How is digital citizenship and responsibility addressed with students in the OCSB?

    Tom:  As we opened up our schools to BYOD and to online resources and we encouraged the use of social media, we also wanted to ensure that digital citizenship became part of the yearly curriculum.  In the early years of our plan we had many guest speakers and presentations.  Although we still have presentations for students and for parents, we created curriculum that is taught to all students every year to focus on the responsible use of social media and technology.  

    We now have bilingual resources linked to the curriculum covering all grades from kindergarten to grade 12.  We call our resource, “Samaritans on the Digital Road” and it is instructed and sequenced on a yearly basis to help students participate in a digital world in a proactive, responsible, and compassionate manner.   Our resources are freely shared via this Google site.

    Doug:  Are there any specific initiatives for the upcoming school year from Ottawa Catholic that we should keep an eye on?

    Tom:  We continue to look at transitioning away from traditional textbooks to more paperless resources.   We have recently licensed Hapara for our teacher’s use and we are focusing on automated workflows for teachers/students so that both rely less on traditional print based workflows and move more into ePortfolios.

    We are part of the global New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning initiative that focuses heavily on leveraging technology for improved student achievement.  We will continue to expand our involvement in this global initiative.

    More and more of our schools and learning commons are initiating MakerSpaces and have embraced the Maker movement.   I’m looking forward to seeing how our talented staff help our students become more creative through the use of these transformed spaces.

    Doug:  The upcoming school year could be a challenge.  Do you see any way that a collective agreement could be in place with teachers and school districts before September?

    Tom:  The negotiations currently are at the central provincial table and I’m not directly involved with the provincial negotiations.  I’m hopeful that a resolution can be found to ensure that all students across Ontario continue to benefit from Ontario’s strong educational system. 

    If agreements are not reached prior to the start of the year, it will likely be a challenging time for staff and students.  The important thing to remember is that work to rule or strike or lockouts eventually do end, so everyone needs to keep positive relations through the challenging time so that we can continue to progress and innovate as a system when agreements are reached.

    Doug:  Tom, I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us.  I know that I look forward to your daily shares and now I know even more about the person behind the Twitter handle.  Thank you so much.

    You can follow Tom on Twitter at @TDOttawa and his Scoop.it! page is located at:  http://www.scoop.it/t/igeneration-21st-century-education.