This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s been another difficult week in Ontario Education but that didn’t stop the flow of great blog posts. Here’s what caught my eye…

Stop Pretending

The meme continues as even more Ontario Educators check in with their thoughts about making school different by stopping pretending things.  Here’s a couple more wonderful posts for your pondering.
Let’s Stop Pretending…
What I find so interesting about all this is the different perspective that different eyes bring to the discussion.  Here, Jen Aston shares some thoughts from the eyes of a coach.  Her #3 talks about something that is so important and, yet, I think that so many are just a little intimidated to say out loud.

 That teachers don’t have the biggest impact on their students.  I’m still floored when I am working with a teacher who does not realize that they can have the biggest impact on student learning.  That’s why what teachers choose to do matters and that’s why it’s so important to be intentional about it.  Let’s stop pretending that student ability depends on whether or not the child studies, does their homework, have home supports or pays attention. The teacher has a bigger impact on the student than any of that.

Personalizing the Make School Different Meme
As she is so fond of doing, Diana Maliszewski takes a very personal perspective on the topic which adds a nice spin to things.  Her first point hit me so personally.  I’m always in search of the magic bullet that’s going to change me into the most organized person on the planet.  I think at one time I was fairly organized with my Franklin Planner but it just went downhill from there.  I still remember doing an OTF Presents presentation and the organizer was looking at my Google Drive organization and told me that I needed a lot of work.  So, I’m with you on this one, Diana.

1) I have to stop pretending that I am organized and tidy.

Actually, I think I was cured of this a number of years ago with a stern comment from my husband:

Just because you buy organizational supplies, that does not make you an organized person.

As always, you’ll have to follow the links back to the original blog posts to read the rest of the wisdom from these ladies.

Make Learning Transparent with Badges
This is a blog post that I wish I’d written.  I’m a big fan of badges for learning.  I’ve always been since my days as a Wolf Cub.  It conveys so much more than a number between 0 and 100 and is totally suitable when assigning a number just doesn’t make sense.

I think that school districts, in addition to their required Ministry reporting, should also be badging authorities.  Think of all that students could collect to demonstrate the entire school experience – robotics, eco-schools, student activity leadership, …  We all know that there’s so much more than just completing a test on a topic.  Anthony Chuter really nails it with this post.  Forward it to your superintendent.

The other advantage to a district being a badging provider answers a question that I read posed just recently.  If an external badging provider goes out of business or loses interest, does the value of the badge go with them?  Not so if you’re providing the badges as part of the complete program.

For Next Year

Grade 6 Next Year!
It’s education’s “silly season” right now.  The numbers are in, classes or sections assigned to the school, and now individual schools are playing their own game of “Who’s on First?”

Well, Amy Bowker is headed to Grade 6 and is already planning to make it a spectacular year.

Down Just a Little Bit More
And Aviva Dunsiger is making a grade change too.

What’s so interesting about all of this discussion, and I’m sure that many of you will be doing the same thing, is that the content area is an important thing.  But, it’s not the only important thing.

The content may be prescribed; the age of the students prescribed; the maximum class prescribed; but there’s the one big variable.  No class is the same two years in a row.  The person inside the body changes.  They all have different prior baggage they’re going to unpack in the class.  Different teachers, different schools, different home lives, different communities, and more make teaching the challenging and rewarding profession that it is.  If all that had to be considered was subject topic and student age, sure, a computer could teach the course.  Those who have been in the classroom know that those are just necessary details.  It’s getting inside student heads, understanding their needs, their frustrations, their excitements, that make the profession so important.  As we’re seeing at present, it’s also so hard to recognize in a collective agreement.

I’m going to finish with a double recognition to Diana Maliszewski’s blog.

Dear Caroline, Dear Sigmund

Diana was inspired to write a letter to her favourite authors.  What a great concept!  The Forest of Reading recognizes the best titles on a big, organizational level, but a personal note takes it to a different level

Thank you so much for writing a book that, not only pre-teens and teens devoured, but the educators that work with those pre-teens and teens can enjoy too.

Notes to the author undoubtedly mean a great deal and adds another level of satisfaction to their creations.

How I Teach #Sketchnoting

I find the whole area of #Sketchnoting fascinating.  I can’t do it but have huge admiration for those who can and share their results.  Is this the greatest graphic organizer or summary tool for the 21st Century students?

Read this blog post to see how things are happening in Royan Lee’s classroom.  I really like his summary of look-fors to let you know when things are going well.


What another wonderful collection of posts from Ontario Educators.  Please click through the links to read their entire posts.  The complete collection of Ontario Educator Blog posts can be found here.  If you’re blogging and not listed, please add your details via the form and you soon will be.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s been a busy week in education in Ontario with job actions in Durham, Sudbury, Peel and the threat of all elementary schools for next week.  Is this a sign that it’s time for movement to resolve things?  Things have been relatively peaceful in the province.  “Teacher strikes: Ontario strikes and lockouts since 1987“.

In the meantime, there continues to be some great thinking shared by Ontario Educators.

As I get ready to post, there’s another notification of a new Sketchnote from Sylvia Duckworth.  It’s a lazy time so I thought I’d try something.  My apologies to map makers and sketchnoters everywhere.


Make School Different!
Make School Different: Think Like a Librarian

I had tagged Deborah McCallum to participate in the #MakeSchoolDifferent meme last week.  Like the other four I tagged, I like her thinking and insights and wasn’t disappointed.  Not only did she respond with one post, but she created two.  Links to them both appear above.  Ironically, I didn’t find her post through her blog, but through this source.  I’m going to have to check my logics here; I should have found it first on her blog.

I thought that her “Think Like a Librarian” post had an interesting spin on things with lots of insight. Can the definition of “classroom” be changed if you view it from the perspective of “library”?  Can the definition of “teacher” be changed if you viewed it in the context of “librarian”?

Check out both of her posts.

She also extended the concept by creating this Flipboard document.  At the time of this writing, there were 101 articles on the topic flipped away for a single point of reference.  It’s a great resource for sharing with staff, principals, superintendents, …

It IS About Technology

So, those folks who blog indicating that it’s about pedagogy and not technology are all wrong and never watched the Jetsons growing up.

Jared Bennett’s post, I suspect, could be modified and would fit nicely into any time/space in education.  It recognizes the disconnect between the classroom and the “real world”.

I would suggest that education will always fail.  Education, particularly K-12, isn’t nimble or responsive enough to stay on top of the latest and the greatest.  It gives new appreciation for community colleges and some universities, who through their partnerships with industry, do a better job at it.  But then, they aren’t driven by a one size fits all curriculum sent from Toronto and they succeed or fail by students voting with their feet and their registration fees.  Public education would never embrace it to that extent but certainly private schools can and do regularly.

Having said that, technology, as we know it, wasn’t invented yesterday.  With all the money spent on acquisition and installation, it’s so sad that this conversation even needs to take place.  You’ve got to ask; has professional learning and curriculum flexibility kept up?  Should educational conferences be driven by technology companies that don’t have a staff that makes the connection to the classroom and focuses instead on just showing the latest and shiniest?

GetLoud #NoticeListenConnect for Mental Health

Royan Lee shares some very personal information and a wonderful video about Mental Health in this post.

I think we all should stop doing whatever we’re doing to read and watch this important message.

Then, ask yourself “What are we missing?”

Access to Learning

Those who think they know everything need to read and reflect on this post from Jen Aston.

Is “tool fixedness” present in our classrooms? Are there tools, strategies out there that we are too fixated on?  So much so that we might not see a solution right in front of us?

In the post, she describes some out of the unusual learning activities that were only successful when the mind opens.  It’s a nice pairing when you read Jared’s post.  How many times do we see a professional learning plan that’s just “one and done”?  Why isn’t learning ongoing and reaching into areas previously undiscovered.  You see it with current board implementations of Office 365 or Google Apps for Education.  They’re so focused on getting everyone to do things one way – their way – that they miss so much more than could be done if they just stopped fixating on “the tool”.  There’s so much more potentially that can be done once you get past that fixation.

So, look around.  After your “summit”, whatever it was, is there an ongoing discussion?  Are people excited and expanding their use of whatever they have access to?  If not, has anything really changed?

I suppose that this is a continuation comment to Jen’s but I think it applies nicely to all of the posts here.  The authors obviously value the time and efforts and thinking that’s happening with them and share it so nicely.  Check them all out and the complete list of Ontario Edubloggers here.

I’ll conclude with this quote from Paul Cornies this week.  Why don’t you be friends and follow those blogs?  They’ll walk with you into some great learning and thinking.

Maps, Oh My!

I was originally going to call this “Nostalgia Finds Maps” and that would have been good too.  The bottom line, this was a personal exercise in inquiry that took me to a place I didn’t know existed – and I’m so glad it did.  Like most people, I suspect, Google Maps is the place to be to map things out.  Seconds and thirds might take me to Bing Maps or Mapquest but now….

I logged onto Facebook this morning and a friend had shared this beautiful picture of the square in Goderich, Ontario, close to my childhood home.  The picture is from “Your Life in Stills Photography“, a Goderich photography service.  To respect their work, this is just a clip of the original picture that begs the question “Why do they call it a square?”  Follow this link for the original image.  This, and many of the images from Your Life are incredible.  The Square was a favourite destination in my youth, only it was filled with trees.

As I was poking around, I saw that the image was also shared on the Ontario’s West Coast Facebook page.  Now, when you grow up away from Lake Huron, you think of the West Coast as Kincardine, Goderich, Bayfield, Grand Bend, …  All were popular day trip destinations in Huron and surrounding counties, but there’s more.  “Favourite Five Stops on Day Trip Through Huron County“.

I continue to post around and notice that Walton is listed as part of the West Coast.  I was surprised since it was further inland.  My memories of Walton is of a little village part of the amazing softball community. The Wikipedia lists it as a population of 96 so, even with rounding errors, it’s still on the small size.  So, I’m reading the article, remembering great times and I notice the map section, with the latitude and longitude.  (43.67784°N 81.30168°WIt’s actually a link so I give it a click.

Holy gold mine.

I end up on a site called GeoHack, really new to me and part of the Wikimedia Tool Labs

And look at what we find.

Obviously, it would be presumptuous to label this as every mapping service ever but I suspect you’ll have blisters on your mouse clicking finger before you’re done exploring them all.

And, Canadian resources…

And this is the beginning.  Discover everywhere in The Wikipedia that has made reference to this location as well so many other resources like Geocaching, Planet Spotter, …


This Week in Ontario Edublogs

This was kind of a meme week in Ontario.  Scott McLeod started the ball rolling with his post “We have to stop pretending“, a good read in itself.  If you’re not already reading his work, you should for a while.  It’s often not a comfortable read but his perspectives just might make you challenge what you think you know and that’s always a good thing.

Ontario Educators were up to the challenge, listing their own five, and tagging others to extend the conversation.  I was tagged by Brandon Grasley and that was the inspiration for my post “Stop pretending … #MakeSchoolDifferent“.  That was my launchpad to find out what other Ontario Educators were thinking about.

Kudos to Scott, not only for starting this, but he appears to be visiting every blog and commenting.

Obviously, the conversation didn’t stop with Ontario Educators.  There’s a Google Document where the points from all the blog posts has been accumulated.  135 people have written as I write this post.  Wow.

There’s no expiry date on the challenge so if you haven’t shared your thoughts or have been tagged and haven’t found the time yet or you just need the impetus to start your own blog, go for it.

More #sylvianotes

If you’re one of the three people on the internet that didn’t see Sylvia Duckworth’s recent work and retweeted or favourited them so that I got notified, she released a couple of new ones that really seemed to resonate with folks.

Two more gems for her collection.  She keeps them all in this stream on Flickr.

Sides of the Mountain

If you need one thing for a nice start to your day, then you need to visit Paul Cornie’ blog for that shot of inspiration.

He’ll give you one thought and a question to kick your brain into motion.

This appeared on Monday and is so true.  It made me reflect on a few people who, I’m sure in their minds, have reached the top.  It’s so sad to see that they’ve stopped climbing.

I wish everyone a good climb for today.

Please take a moment to visit and celebrate all of this Ontario goodness this morning.  You’ll be thinking at such a fantastic level.

The entire collection of Ontario Edubloggers can be found here.

But Is It Art?

I know what Cubism is.

I don’t “get it” but that’s OK.  There’s a great deal of artistic expression that goes over my head.  I’m not hating here so Picasso fans relax.

Let’s step it up digitally by reading this.

Called Kubist, you can turn your traditional images/pictures into your own Cubism originals.

It’s all done through this web application.

Upload your own image and watch the magic happen.

So, what’s the fun of dog ownership if you can’t have a little fun.  Jaimie was up for the task.

Let’s Kube him!

At 50 points, he’s pretty abstract!

But at 1000 points, he’s stylin’.

For model #2, I turned to Jaimie’s cousin.  Instead of white, he’s a beautiful mixture of boxer brown and black.  Check out the difference between 1000 points and 100 points here.

As you can see from the adjustments on the right hand side, you have some control over how things will appear.  They’re a great deal of fun to adjust and see the results immediately.

Want to talk mathematics?  Flip between triangle style to cell style and back again.  Grab a vertex and resize elements.  Based on the number of points in the image, can you create a formula that will determine the number of distinct objects?  The original article is a pretty fascinating technical read in itself.  The source code for the project is available on github if students are so inclined.

After abusing the family pet, where else could you do this?  How about a cubism representation for your school logo?  Or a further appreciation for the original artists who created the original cubism art?

Set aside a bit of time to play with this.  If you have any ideas, please be sure to share them.

Robben Island Prison

One of the true educational gems in the collection of all things Google is its Cultural Institute.

Using the power of its technology, Google takes us to places that we’d normally never see.  A recent addition to the collection is a sombre reminder of time gone by.

Join Vusumsi Mcongo, a former inmate at the Robben Island Prison in South Africa for a tour.

The presentation is part slideshow, part 360 panorama.

If you’ve ever navigated Google Slides and Google Streetview, you have the skills.

Click the arrows on the sides of the screen to move forward or backward.

It’s a humbling time on the tour.  I just can’t imagine life working in the quarry or living in the cells.

This tour, and many of the other resources from the Institute should be well bookmarked as classroom resources.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s always fun to write this post.  There are such great things coming from the keyboards of Ontario Educators.  Some of the noteworthy posts I read this past while appear below.

The Joy of Learning?

You know, if you could determine the answer to the question “What motivates students?”, you could bottle it and sell it to every school in the world.  They’d all be glad to pay for it.

Erin Little reflects on the topic and shares some of her thoughts.  They’re good thoughts, but in the back of my mind, I keep seeing the spectre of accountability and perceived accountability that just permeates everything in education.  How do you balance that and motivation?  Does one have to suffer for the other?

Looking Back

A good look backward really helps focussing and looking forward.  Sue Dunlop did so in response to Vicky Loras’ “What’s Your Story” challenge.

The post documents a pretty rich career in education.

This is a good reflection and probably one that everyone should do every now and again.  I think it helps put what is done daily in your personal and professional life in perspective.  Vicky has a great premise and I’m happy to see that others are taking the challenge.  Are you up to it?  You can flip through the stories here.

I still can’t get over eight moves in eight years, Sue.  It reminds me of university…

GAFE and iPad app-smashing video project
App smashing is always a fun event at conferences.  In this post, Sylvia Duckworth shows how her Grade 5 students are smashing apps with Google Applications for a Quebec project.

She includes complete instructions for students (and parents) to help make things a success.

I’m so impressed with the work that schools and districts that have adopted GAFE as a platform.  They’re not hesitant about sharing great ideas and are open and visible about it.  It’s more than just working with a word processor, spreadsheet, or presentation package.

I’m sure that there will be a #sylvianote fall out of this project somewhere along the line.

makeschooldifferent: My Five Things We Need To Stop Pretending

Donna Fry was inspired by Scott McLeod to think about things that we need to stop pretending in schools.  She listed her five:

  • That we know what school is for;
  • That it’s okay to determine access to future learning based on a two digit number assigned by a secondary school teacher to a graduating student.;
  • That it’s okay for any student to be stuck and not learning.;
  • … you’ll have to visit her blog to see the rest of her musings …

Her post inspired Aviva Dunsiger to list hers here “MakeSchoolDifferent: What We Need To Stop Pretending

She thought:

  • That we’re all on the same page;
  • That we’re all making changes;
  • That kids are kids;
  • … of course, you’ll have to visit her blog for the rest …

And, Tina Zita got in on the action “makeschooldifferent: My Five (or close to it)

To date, she has less than five but they’re high quality thinking:

  • That technology is an option;
  • That we don’t have enough access.
  • … you know what you have to do …

I’m sure that they all would appreciate you dropping by and adding a comment of your own.

Session Preparation for OTRK12

As you read this, the On The Rise Conference is on and Brandon Grasley is presenting.  He’s going to talk about How To Be an EdTech Leader.  I can think of many who think they are already who definitely need to attend his session.  In a blog post, he shares his planning.

I wonder if it will go as planned?  My sessions never do; I’m easily side tracked.  I hope to follow the hashtag #otrk12 and find great educators and their ideas as they are motivated to make significant changes to their own practice.

Ever Tried an Edcamp? #edcampham
You know, you never hear of people write enthusiastically after a full day of “sit n git” Professional Development.  Maybe it’s the type of people that I hang around with online, or it’s just the premise of an edCamp, but these are always exciting posts to read.

There was an interesting addition to the day as Beth Hulan noted in this post.  A secondary school student asked and attended.  Maybe the attendance of more students would add more power to an already powerful format?  Let’s face it; we talk about student voice a great deal but how much does an individual voice get in a class of 24?

Sitting around the discussion table discussing the issues with their teachers could be the ultimate outlet.

The complete agenda for the day is located here.  Google documents were used to organize the day and notes were kept in separate Google documents.  Ever notice that nobody ever uses Office 365 for these things?  There even was a session comparing the two platforms but the record wasn’t terribly complete.

Thanks to those above who shared their insights.  It made for another week of fascinating reading.