This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s another Friday and a chance for me to share with you some of the spectacular reading I enjoyed recently from great Ontario Edubloggers.  I had some self-inflicted damage to my regular process.  Normally, as I read things, I just keep the blog open in a tab and minimize them with One Tab until Thursday morning when I actually write the post.  However, this was a week of maintenance and browser shuffling and I lost the posts that I had tucked away.  I think I remember everything that was saved but maybe not.  I had a better plan when I stuck the URLs into Keep or Evernote.  Perhaps that’s my biggest learning of all.  Shortcuts can come back to bite you.  If you wrote a great post and I neglected it, please send me a message “Hey dummy, you missed this…”

Taking Chances

I’m not sure that much more needs to be said than how Denise Buttenaar closes this blog after a pretty active reflection session on her personal practice and what it meant to her.  I don’t think that anyone should expect that a blog post is going to be the “next great novel”.  However, a year from now if she continues to share her thoughts to herself, it may be the “next great professional diary” and I don’t think an educator can ask for more than that.  Blogging shouldn’t be an all encompassing event.  It’s the accumulation of thoughts that leads to the impressive.

Oh boy, here it is!

Donna Fry gave me the heads up on the birth of this new blog and here’s the first post from Kelly Colter.

I think that the first “way” is something that we all need to ‘fess up about.  If we weren’t influenced by others, it would be a pretty lonely connected life.  It’s the connections and the shared learning that makes it so powerful.  Of real importance to me is the selection of the connections – regular readers know of my passion for those who blog about Ontario Education.  That’s not the only influence – another that easily comes to mind is the cadre of Computer Science teachers that serve as inspiration.  By joining, hopefully Kelly can keep it up and, with her words, influence whatever group she wishes.  She’s now in my little group of Ontario Edubloggers.

Moments of Empathy

If someone asked me who I would like to write like, I could name quite a few and certainly near the top would be Rusul Alrubail.  She doesn’t necessarily whip out the thesaurus or come across as pretentious, but it’s just the way that she strings her words together that touches the reader at a different level.  I can’t think of a post from her that doesn’t give me pause for serious reflection and I can’t think of a better compliment to pay to a blogger.

So, I thought – who would have been my favourite teacher?  A number of really good ones came to mind and I could create a short list.  When I thought just a little harder, the “favourite” had some un-favourite moments so I moved on to the next on my list.  I’d find issues here and there too.  Instead, I changed my thinking.  What if I took a bit of him and a bit of her and a bit of her and made my favourite a teacher an amalgam of the best parts.  Wow, that was a great teacher and, the common thread was the empathy that each showed.

For any teacher whose goal is to reach every child, (whether or not you want to be their favourite is a personal, competitive activity) take a read of Rusul’s post.  We all have our bad days and those stick out because of the lack of empathy.  Could that be a gutcheck for success?  Recognize it and deal with it before it unduly negatively affects students.

Thanks for your leadership and support!

When you think of people that are centrally assigned as resource teachers – what do you immediately think of?  Hot and cold running coffee and an endless supply of doughnuts?  After reading Jennifer Casa-Todd’s post, you may wish to change your opinion.

In the post, she nicely ties things together and may give you an insight to what they actually do.

The one thing that she isn’t explicit about and I’m sure that it’s true in her job and others, and certainly was key to mine was getting out of the central location and visiting schools.  When I took over that role, I never wanted to be accused of being “out of touch” with the classroom because it’s so easily done when you’re not in one on a daily basis.

My favourite quote from my former superintendent was “Where is he today?” as he came into the Program Department area looking for me.  I wish I’d heard it first hand because it could be interpreted so many different ways.

If you don’t see your centrally assigned person often enough, why not sign up for professional activities or just extend an invitation to her/him to come and visit your classroom?  You might be pleasantly surprised at how eagerly they’ll jump at the opportunity.

#TBT: Is Our Focus On Assessment Taking Away From Our Children’s Education

If nothing else, Stephen Hurley’s latest post is worth visiting just for the image.  What the heck, here it is, complete with his credit to the author.

It’s a throw back post that is just as relevant today as when he originally posted it.

This is an interesting look at assessment and evaluation.  I can’t remember a year where it wasn’t “the board’s focus” and it certainly is important.  It informs what is done for student achievement.  It’s just that it changes so frequently.  I remember a person new to my department whose theory was that by changing focus annually, it kept the pedagogues in business as the pendulum swings back and forth.

If you need some moments of reflection today, make sure that you get to the bottom of the post and reflect on Stephen’s questions.

The End of Average

A book, a TED talk, and an infographic fill this post from Erica Armstrong.

This is the perfect followup to Stephen’s post.  Play the TED talk as you go about things this morning.  You’ll be glad you did.

Do you agree with the affirmation that “the average hurts everyone”?

What are you going to do about it?

What’s the hardest thing a teacher does?

If you read Kristin Phillips blog, you’ll read this more than once.

“Try something new; no one will die”.

I recall a mathematics teacher of some infamy whose choice of worksheet for the day would rival the accuracy of any calendar!

Kristin gives us five bullet points (paragraphs) as to what she feels has worked with her schools.

Would they work in yours?

I say this every week and I never tire of it.

What an amazing collection of blogs.  Please click through and read them in their entirety and drop them a comment.  They deserve it.

Then, check out the rest of the Ontario collection here.  If you’re blogging and not listed, just complete the form and you will soon be.

Taking the challenge

I can’t ignore a good challenge.  Recently, Alfred Thompson challenged me to test out Microsoft’s new CaptionBot application.  He said that he had been having great success with it and challenged me to try it.  The premise is simple; you send it a photo and it describes what it sees.  It’s important to not send personal photos in times like this.

It’s learning so I’ll use my best teacher empathy.  We always try to find the best in our learners, right?

Don’t tell the rest of the Bring IT, Together Committee but I had it open in another window during our meeting last night and was playing around with it so see what I could do with it.

Here are my results…I just dug around some photos from some trips that were on the hard drive and decided to see how they worked.

The Famous Crab

A friend gave me this photo of a crab from a Scuba trip he’d been on.  It was a fond photo for sharing and editing in my Photoshop workshops.  If that was indeed a plate of food, arrangement needs to be revisited!

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls at night is one of the most spectacular things to witness (and capture with a camera).  I’m thinking the bot needs to go out more!


Well, if you look past that big bell with the crack in it, there is a man walking with the person with the umbrella in the background.

St. Louis

I guess I was distracted by that large arch thing when I took the photo.  There is indeed a building off to the right. 

St. Louis (again)

This sports fan was fascinated with the chance to take a photo of classic Busch Stadium.  I completely missed the elevated freeway in the background.

San Antonio

I’ve been to San Antonio twice and never fail to be humbled by the Alamo Shrine which served as a mission.



Well, that was fun.  I don’t think I’m ready to start not tagging my own photos anytime soon though.

Have you tried out the Caption Bot with your own pictures?  What kind of success did you have? 

I’m sure that this student will get better over time and learns.  We just need a bit of patience.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to the end of the week/start of the weekend.  I hope that it’s been a good one for you.  In case you missed them, here’s a nice selection of offerings from the keyboards of Ontario Edubloggers.  Enjoy them.  I know that I did.

#MyWorkflow: Brian Harrison

The Wordflow series from Royan Lee continues with the latest interview with principal Brian Harrison.

I find it fascinating to see inside the minds and work habits of people I regularly follow on Twitter.   Brian is no different.  I had to smile at his answer to this question.

I’ve been in his backyard and can really understand why he likes working there!  Click through and read his answers to Royan’s questions.

This Year’s Model

So, let’s check out Brian’s latest post.

No self-respecting principal in the province should be going without thinking about the announcement from the Ministry of Education about the $60M to support mathematics education and how it might impact their school.  There’s been so much written about it recently illustrating that the public and education are all over the map philosophically.  I know that there’s an element that would like to spend the money to support old school teaching.  That would buy a great deal of thumbscrews.  Brian offers a more considered approach and, as you see below, offers up some examples of people doing the job right now.

Any takers?  I wonder…

How Will I Use My Wild and Precious Life?

I think everyone would be wise to stop what you’re doing and read this post from Sue Dunlop and then just reflect on yourself and your own life.

You may come out of the session with a slightly different focus on things about what truly is important.  In life, and in education in particular, there are so many distractions – including infringement on your time and efforts – that it might just be time to sit back and refocus.

Thinking About the Term Reflective Practitioner

Eva Thompson does a great job with that sort of thinking, not in her personal life, but in her professional life.

I like her thinking and I think that there’s a great deal of philosophy that is consistent with mine when it comes to going online with blogging.

Throughout my career, I was always posting my current thoughts.  The format has changed from the annotations at the bottom of lesson plans, to sharing with CIESCs in a FirstClass conference, to online forums, to Twitter, to this blog…

I didn’t use to be this way.  I used to keep things bottled up, confident in the knowledge that I could recall it at a moment’s notice.  It was all about me.  I think we all know how that approach works.  For me, once I realized that didn’t work, writing things has always been a release.  I can put my thoughts to words – in whatever format – and then stop worrying about remembering it.  Now, I know that I can always go back and find it.

I’ve been doing this for most of my career, but revisiting what it’s like to be a student, maybe I had that extra patience for the push back? Maybe I had more encouraging words for that reluctant student? When I’m too distracted making sure I get all MY “t’s crossed and i’s dotted” I may overlook the fact that I’m also a teacher, not just a technology consuming droid.

I think she’s got her priorities in order.

Now’s the time to be a heroin addict

On the heels of Eva’s thoughts, turn to Debbie Donsky’s latest.  What a great reminder through her story to get all of our priorities in order.

Celebrate what you have built. Celebrate your legacy of love and success and courage and resilience. Celebrate all that you are and all the people who you have affected.

3. A Kids’ Guide to Canada – DETAILS

I love it when people think out loud.  @beachcat11 (she keeps her real name out of media so I will respect that) lays out her thinking for an ideal project for students.  This is part 3 of a 3 part series – you can read a “part 4” too!  It also wouldn’t hurt if you go back and read parts 1 and 2.

To honour student voice, an initial pilot project in the fall of 2016 will see elementary students from every elementary grade and every part of Canada participating in each step of the project design and field-testing process.

Then, beginning in January 2017, school-aged children from JK-Gr 8 will create digital artifacts to celebrate and introduce their home communities to their peers right across the country, and then post these on a national interactive map.

The link above points to the third part which lays out a timeline, activities and contact information.

MDM4U Creating dice game simulations

Who says that Mathematics can’t be fun?  This link is to Brandon Grasley’s MDM class but I caught it and spent some time doing the activity myself.  It was a hoot.  I’ve never taught this class but did similar problems with my Computer Science classes.

It was fun just to muck about with a Google Spreadsheet and also in Small Basic.

But, kids today have it so easy.  Whatever happened to int(rnd(1)*6)+1?

Are Your Students Problem Solvers and Innovators?

This just in…

I’m assembling this post on Thursday morning and Aviva Dunsiger sends a link to her latest blog post.

In-house professional learning happened for her at her school.

As with many of Aviva’s posts, there are questions as well as answers.

She concludes with a great thought that I think all educational leaders need to be concerned with the next time the latest and greatest initiative comes along.

If developing these skills matter, then we likely need to “let something go.” What might you let go? What might you add? What benefits do you see this having for kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

So often, this is overlooked and more, “better” ideas are thrust upon teachers.  In football, it’s called “piling on” and there is a substantial penalty for doing it.

There are lots of calls to action in this post.  Do some thinking, some Mathematics, and be proud to be a Canadian.

Oh, and reply to all of these posts.  They are reply-worthy.

And, when you reply to Aviva, ask her a question!

An Interview with Connie Buckler and Cheryl Lovell

Connie Buckler and Cheryl Lovell are on the Board of Trustees with the Greater Essex County District School Board and Connie is the current Chairperson.  Both are incredibly active on social media and I was so happy that they agreed to share their thoughts with readers of this blog.  So often, comments from a trustee are sound clips for the media.

Here, they get into details.

Trustee Connie Buckler Trustee Cheryl Lovell
Connie Buckler Cheryl Lovell

It should be noted that these are their personal thoughts and that they don’t necessarily speak for any other entity.

Doug:  I’ve known Cheryl for years but have yet to have the pleasure to meet Connie.  For the readers, could you give us a little bit of background about yourself?

Connie: Would be a pleasure to meet you face to face as well Doug.  I am currently serving my second term as a Trustee with the GECDSB representing the Lakeshore and Tecumseh Ward.  I am the Mom of 3 beautiful grown daughters and the wife of a retired EWEMS.

Cheryl: Before retiring from a 35 year career as an elementary educator, I taught all grades from K to 8 with most of my years in grade 7 & 8.  My specialist areas included: Family Studies, Special Education (Behavioural), Computers, and Design and Technology (S&T).

I was born and raised in Windsor, ON. My husband and I have been married for 43 years. We have two children and two grandchildren.

Doug:  What makes a person want to become a trustee for a school district?

Cheryl: Many times during my years of teaching I often wondered what a Trustee did.  This most often occurred soon after some new idea or strategy from the “Board” was being introduced to the system. I can remember saying (along with others), “How in the heck did the board come up with this concept?”

At the time of my retirement, people were filing for the fall municipal elections. The timing was perfect to find the answer to my question so I decided to enter the race for school board trustee in the hopes of making a difference for students. Being a trustee is a perfect blend with my passion for education.

Connie: I have always been a passionate learner wanting to know more about just about anything.  Once my girls entered school, I was right there with them, volunteering and serving on the school councils.  It just seemed a natural fit that once the girls were grown, I would continue to learn and serve, with the strong desire to truly make a difference in Education.

Doug:  Ironically, if I decided to run as a trustee, I would have to run against a former student of mine.  I wouldn’t have a chance!

You can’t have done any reading without running into a few recurring issues in education these days.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about them and where you see them addressed in the school district.

First topic – Closing of schools.  I can remember the closings of Blytheswood, Sun Parlor, Century, J.L. Forster, just to name a few.  As we know, there are many more.  There are certain logistics like capacity, busing, community, etc. that are resolved by the administration.  They act on the direction and motions of the trustees.

How do you prepare yourself for the decision to vote yes or no?  It can’t be easy.

Connie: School closings are most certainly one of the most difficult roles we have as trustees.  Our board has the unfortunate designation of having the oldest buildings in the province.  We simply can’t keep up in the renewal needs.  We also have a large number of empty student spaces draining funds from our budget that could otherwise be used on programming.  We know and understand how passionate people are about the schools their children attend, we have all been there as well, with our own families; but schools are just buildings. It’s the people and programs that truly serve the students, not the buildings.  As a board, our focus has to remain on providing the best educational programing and experiences for our students.  We move forward with the vision to right size our budget to provide just that every day.

Cheryl: No trustee likes to see a community school closed. Since trustees are responsible for setting the school board’s budget, following Ministry of Education guidelines and policies, it can be difficult to represent the interests of the community, parents and students in this matter.

To prepare for this very difficult decision a trustee needs to do their homework.  A variety of concerns such as: inadequate funding, increased operating costs, declining enrolment rates, or prohibitive costs for building repairs need to be investigated. It is also important to remind ourselves that we are responsible for all of our students within the system.

I truly believe it is the caring, hardworking and dedicated staff within our buildings that makes a school the best place to learn – not the building itself.

Doug:  There’s a topic that’s near and dear to the heart of this old Computer Science teacher that’s had huge press over the past few years – Coding and Computational Thinking.  In particular, there’s a push for coding and computer science for all students.  Doable?  How or how not?

Cheryl: Computer science prepares students for future jobs in the computer field, including coding, engineering, and data mining. Similarly to the Technological Design and Skilled Trades sectors, Computer engineers are predicting a shortage of workforce in these areas.

I believe K-12 students need to be introduced to computer coding—designing and writing source code for computers.  Coding offers a direct influence on other areas of education, such as reading, math, problem solving and critical thinking. It prepares students for the future they are facing.

In our schools, coding currently is driven by staff who have the expertise to teach it. Not all educators have those skills. In many schools coding is offered as a club activity. We don’t teach reading and math with volunteers. Coding shouldn’t be either. With the new Ministry emphasis on Math, some of these promised funds could be used for the professional development educators may need.

Offering Coding to all students is doable but it will take time, money and expertise to implement.

Connie: We certainly have a number of staff working on coding with the students and I hear more and more about it every day.  I recently attend EdCampSWO 2016 with over 500 educators at Tecumseh Vista.  How exciting it is to have the teachers give up their Saturdays to learn.  We are so fortunate; and a great deal of the learning was Tech centered in the coding and makerspace area as well as a primary focus on Math with Mirian Small as the keynote.

Doug:  Speaking of which, one of the other recurring topics these days is Makerspaces.  Where do you see them fitting into your school system?  What is the value for the student?

Connie: I have to be really honest here and admit I don’t know much about Makerspace or how it can provide value for the student.  This will become an area of learning for me in the very near future.

Cheryl:  As trustees it is our hope that all students will become “thinkers”, engaged in their own learning. Libraries are an important resource in promoting this cause. Students using libraries often research information on how to do something. I like the idea of libraries using Makerspaces as an emphasis on teaching students to reflect, think creatively, and to find solutions before settling on a predetermined solution or product. Makerspaces are a place where students can use technology to come together and be creative.  Any opportunity to bring students and communities together to create and share and support one another is a good thing.  Makerspaces are here to stay and our students need to understand how to be a part of them.

Doug:  There is another topic that is everywhere you turn and that’s student performance in Mathematics.   You’ve just received a report from your Mathematics Task Force and there’s been an announcement from the Ministry of Education about a renewed focus on the discipline.  How does a school system address this?

Cheryl: The Greater Essex County District School Board’s Math Task Force was a massive undertaking which brought together a diverse group of stakeholders including experts from the field of education and mathematics to formulate a plan and process to address improvement in Math performance. The report was delivered at the public board meeting on April 5, 2016. It was strictly coincidental that this report came out on the same day the Ministry of Education announced their renewed focus on Mathematics with the requirement for students to participate in one hour of math class time each day, and a commitment to additional funding.

All school boards welcome this additional funding. In our board, it will allow us to better implement the 14 considerations/recommendations outlined in the Math Task Force Report and allow more educators to receive the professional development and training they want and need to help them in this challenge.

The Math Task Report is available for review on the GECDSB website.

Connie: Always wanting to be ahead of the curve, we at the GECDSB, just completed the work of the “Math Task Force”, which was realized by a motion from Trustee Jessica Satori and the full support of our board of Trustees.  It was extremely timely and coincidental that the work concluded the same week as the Ministry announced the funding and plans to address our Math concerns.  The report of our task force aligned perfectly with the Ministry recommendations and we have already begun much of the work within the Task Force.  Our board is well positioned for the future in Mathematics .

Doug:  An introduction to the GECDSB Math Task Force is available at this link: (Opens in your presentation package – Impress, Powerpoint, etc.)  More results about the task force can be found here –

Doug:  How do you feel about professional learning opportunities for teachers?  What does it look like in the year 2016?  What do you see as the big priorities in professional learning?

Connie: I believe that I see on a daily basis, our teachers as lifelong learners.  We are all always looking for ways to learn and improve.  As a trustee, of course I am not always privy to the daily experiences of the classroom, so my perspective is much more global.  I do see Special Education and the manner in which we serve our exceptional students as a continuous learning and improving strand.  Of course Mathematics and Technology will always remain at the forefront; we must always remain cognizant of our literacy to prevent the swing of the pendulum once again.

Cheryl: Professional learning opportunities are extremely valuable to educators. As to what this will look like in the coming year – it is hard to be specific.  Professional learning is an ongoing process and is deeply personal to each individual.  The Ministry of Education has allowed one additional Professional Development day in 2016. Ministry funding will be provided for areas related to Math and Mental Health & Student Well Being.

During my teaching career I found that occasions to focus on collaboration and shared knowledge with my colleagues were invaluable. Much of my professional learning also was self-directed and could be integrated in a meaningful way into my practices. Teachers are professionals and will seek the learning they feel will best help them to serve their students.

Doug:  Both of you are incredibly active on Twitter.  In my Hootsuite setup, I have a column for GECDSB Educators and it’s constantly flooded with messages from the two of you.  Why would a trustee want to be this active?

Cheryl: Social Media connects people that otherwise wouldn’t be able to communicate.  There are many forms of social media but Twitter and Facebook are two I use most often.   As a trustee I am very proud of the work of our Educators and students.  Any opportunity I have to “brag” and share that work is a good thing.  I see each retweet as an acknowledgement and demonstration of appreciation for the time and effort taken by the original author.  I always hope that each post will connect educators globally.

Social Media also allows me to engage with my community about important education initiatives, keep ahead of important news, and follow the latest trends which impact our schools.

Connie: I believe in the power of social media.  I learn so much daily as a result of my activity, especially on Twitter.  It is encouraging to me to see the daily experiences of the classroom actively displayed on Twitter, and I will retweet in the hopes that parents and loved ones enjoy the same experience.  I also believe it bodes well in my role to engage the public in the importance of education and what we are doing and sharing daily.  We do great things at the GECDSB and everyone should know about it.

Doug:  How about for educators?  What do you see as the benefits for them by using social media?

Connie: Once again I will sing the praises of EDCAMPSWO 2016 and all of the wonderful educators who lead up and support this stellar learning opportunity.  So many of the educators I was fortunate enough to chat with, boasted of all they had learned from each other as a result of Twitter exchanges and the sharing of information.  In education we are our own best resource on a daily basis.  What a great vehicle and platform for that exchange.

Cheryl: For educators, Twitter and Social media does much the same as it does for trustees but to a greater extent. Teachers can use Twitter to enhance student engagement and learning in the classroom, such as sharing photos and videos of interesting aspects of learning.

Importantly Twitter provides a means to quickly share good news and urgent alerts with both the community and families about student accomplishments, reminders of important events, activities and dates.

Twitter is a great place for educators to promote their programmes.

Doug:  The Thames Valley District School Board is one of the districts in the province that has its own chat.  They use the hashtag #tvdsbchat.  What are your thoughts about a school district doing / supporting this?  It could conceivably include educators, parents, students, people from all over the world.  I think it takes a real dedication to openness to be able to discuss issues of the day in this format.  So often, we might not find it or it’s hidden behind a district’s great firewall.

Cheryl: I am a supporter of Chats.  They allow people to communicate their ideas with people of shared interests.  Chat rooms for educators can provide an opportunity to seek help, support one another, and learn from one another. Chat rooms set up with the community, students and or colleagues can all be valuable as long as someone is willing to  manage the room.

Connie: I have not heard about this practice from the TVDSB.  Geez, I love that I learn even as I am trying to share.  I will have to research this through my colleagues at the TVDSB and see how this is working for them.  As I stated in the last question, it is my belief that we are each other’s best resource and any vehicle that provides for the conversation can be seen as a win.

Doug:  There will come a time when you won’t be a trustee any longer.  How would you finish this sentence.  “Three things that happened during my time as a trustee that I’m most proud of are …”

Connie: I would be honoured if I had made a difference in the life of even 1 child, that would have to be first and foremost, that our board remained the standard for student achievement and parent engagement, and that I have served my ward and students well

Cheryl: The power of a trustee lies within the board collective – not an individual trustee. For this reason it is difficult to accomplish all the things hoped for.  When my time as a trustee is completed I hope that education for all of our students in all our schools will be a better quality than it was when I started.

I personally am very proud of the work I have done in representing our Greater Essex County District School Board Trustees at the Ontario Public School Boards Association, Board of Directors table for the past five years.  It is here I have brought forward the concerns of our board, and worked long hours on the Provincial Policy Committee. It is through this work I have been involved in promoting positive changes in Ministry policy and legislation that impacts students. I could not have done this, to the same degree, at the local level.

As a teacher and trustee I have always been passionate about Special Education needs.  I am proud to have been the provincial trustee representative for six years on the Minister’s Advisory Council for Special Education. This position has allowed me the ability to voice concerns for our most vulnerable students.

Lastly, I have always tried to listen to those people who elected me to this most humbling position as Trustee.  I am proud to have served with integrity and have always tried to make my decisions based on what will best serve our students. My hope is that others will feel the same.

Doug:  Ladies, thank you so much.  This was a really interesting and unique experience for me.  I enjoyed reading about the educational thinking from the trustee perspective.

You can follow Connie on Twitter at @ConnieBuckler1 and Cheryl at @cheryl_lovell.

All of the interviews I’ve done for this blog can be found here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Can there be nothing better than reading a good blog post that makes you think?  I don’t think so.  Here’s some of what I caught this past while.

Analyzing Art: How Do We Redefine “Beauty?”

Goodness knows that you don’t want me teaching or evaluating art.  Aviva Dunsiger takes us on a ride with her thoughts about artwork as it applies in school.  Just like we don’t expect every student to be that record breaking athlete, do we need every student to be the next great artist?  Isn’t it the effort and the ability to stick to it most important?  Or art appreciation when you get the opportunity to view other’s works?  I like that she and her teaching partner take the opportunity to share what every student generates.  Not award winning material by Aviva’s description but I’ll bet it’s a classic in the eyes of the student and their parents.

To extend this, I read a couple of articles recently that should give all who might wish to create something hope.  And, perhaps in the process, we challenge the notion that you might think you know what art is.

Part 3: Creativity and Innovation

These are two terms that you see together so often, but if you want to dive deeper, check out this post from Debbie Donsky.  I’ve been spinning about her thoughts about creativity and innovation.  Debbie shares her thoughts on the connections between the two.  What happens when you have one without the other?  If you’re a leader, what combination will generate success?  What combination will ensure that you have followers with the dedicated follow through?

It seems that creativity without innovation is like an idea without action. It reminds me of the Joel Barker quote: “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”

We’re Different – And Why?

Donna Fry’s latest post will give you plenty to think about if you believe that change is a part of every day life.  I like the concept of the ladder and how she applies it into her concept of “hierarchy”.  In its simplest, and perhaps an over-generalization, does the amount of progressive and new learning decrease as one climbs the ladder?  A couple of quick things come to mind as I type – I love typing and thinking and ideas flowing from my fingertips –

  • is it more important, the higher in the hierarchy to establish stability and continuity?
  • if you’re at the bottom rung, or lower, is it easier to just try stuff and accept that failure only extends to a smaller audience?
  • I liked how David Truss extended things to include students who are the perfect example of always trying the latest and newest “tool” and are great examples of being connected and learning the positives and negatives of that.

Entire companies have failed because they had “no clue” as Donna puts it.  Are educational institutions vulnerable to that as well or are they such an institution that they’ll be around no matter what.  A term that has always had mixed emotions with me is “best practices”. Depending upon who is speaking, that can have such a limited scope.  (a bizarre comparison but think about it)  The connected educator has the ability to peek into classrooms all over the world and read/see first hand what works and what doesn’t.  Does that get any credibility or does it have to appear in an official document / manuscript / research report and updated every now and again?

Autism POV

I think most educators are only too happy to support a good cause.  Diana Maliszewski, in this post, provides an extremely well written and researched article about the difference between Autism Awareness and Autism Acceptance.

I’m so happy that I have people that I follow, like Diana, that do their research and provide alternative things to consider.  The post contains links to articles supporting the argument including a chart following the money.  As Diana notes, it’s too bad that the chart doesn’t include a citation for its source.

Presentations that feel like home

I’ve got presentations on the mind.  The presentations committee for the upcoming BIT Conference has been watching the submissions coming in for the November conference.  The variety of topics is amazing.  Soon, there will come a time when presentations are accepted for the conference and then the presenters get to work.

In this post, written for the TESL Blog by Gwen Zeldenrust, the focus is on the ESL student and making presentations.  I can’t help but think that the “Home Model” described in the post is good advice for everyone who has to plan a presentation.

April 2016 Newsletter Insert

Sue Bruynslatest blog post is a one liner.

“link go the math newsletter”

So I did because she said to.

I got this blast from the past!  I used this activity when introducing spreadsheets to a group of teachers.  It’s fun to

  • determine the math rule
  • create the spreadsheet formula
  • create your own function and challenge your neighbour

And the neat thing is that it scales for student age.

#sgdsbtc #TwitterChallenge

Just as I was ready to post this and get away from the computer, I’m tagged in a Twitter message by Colleen Rose. It’s with respect to a month long Twitter Challenge from the Superior-Greenstone District School Board. The Twitter message took me to a message by Stacey Wallwin that includes this image showing the events for the month of April. Give them a read.

Apparently, Colleen thought following this noisy Twitter user is a good idea.

It’s an interesting progression of activities to be done on Twitter from the introductory to something that requires some research and development of skills. Very interesting and a nice model for other boards to follow. Well done.  I couldn’t track down a blog post describing what’s happening and what’s next but hopefully, Colleen or Stacey or someone from SGDSB can fill in the details for us.

And it’s another wonderful week of reading.  Thanks to the authors for the content and the sharing of resources/thinking.  I hope you can click through and enjoy the originals and drop them a comment or a like.  Then, check out the big list of Ontario Edubloggers.  There’s always great stuff happening there.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy April Fools’ Day.  It’s time to keep an extra eye looking over your shoulder…but the good thing is that it leads into a weekend and that’s always good.  There was no fooling around with Ontario Edubloggers this week.  Check these blog posts out.

Anatomy of an internet scam

As more and more commerce is done online using freely available services, Sylvia Duckworth points out that there are those out there just waiting to take advantage of you.  It’s an interesting read and who hasn’t had an attempt made on their money through fake messages from the likes of people impersonating Paypal.  It’s a reminder for all of us and may be a starting point for students.

Sylvia uses the post as an opportunity to repurpose her sketchnote.  In this case, #9 is of importance.

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education – A Review

There’s an interesting trend of sharing book titles among Ontario Educators and doing book talks online.  It’s an interesting concept.  Perhaps this title, reviewed by Brandon Zoras would be a title to consider for the future.

Brandon indicates that there’s a book signing opportunity in the near future if you’re interested.


My first reaction, upon reading this post from Peter Cameron, was to realize that I wasn’t in the same game.  I know that there’s a whole science behind the concept of cross-country skiing and the wax that you choose.

To be honest, I have the other type of ski.  It has a tread on it rather than requiring waxing and I get along quite nicely, thank you.  I suppose that my experience pales in comparison but does that really matter?  Is it a mindset that we have learned from education that there are winners and losers and how we compare performance?

In the competitive world, skiers have standards to meet and races to run.  What’s wrong with the rest of us getting outside for some fresh air, enjoying the trip, and not spilling the wineskin?  There’s my definition of success.

Are Algorithms the New Media Literacy?

I went over to Royan Lee’s blog this week to see his #workflow series and found this post instead.  He’s sharing his thoughts about Instagram’s proposed notifications change.  As he notes, we’re all the recipient of changes that networks make despite our wishes/complaints.

I’m a big fan of choice but recognize that that’s not always an option.  The goal of services is to make money and if a change to their algorithm results in success for the provider, that’s the end goal.  We have two choices – be assimilated or drop it.  I like his concept of taking control of things according to his rules with Evernote and IFTTT but we all need to realize that there are other forces at work.  Therein lies the connection to Media Literacy and he’s dead on with that.  Time to read Program or Be Programmed again.

Innovation vs Consistency

Jared Bennett’s post here will have you thinking.  I wish that he’d used a different term than “innovation” though since that one has been used/abused in so many contexts but you’ll get his message with the post and his questions.

I love the expression and his self-definition of being the rogue.  I think we need to honour the rogue.  Without the rogue, life would be pretty darn stale.  Without the rogue, we’d not be seeing excitement about anything.  It would be the same ol’ stuff, year after year.  Think back to your first year of teaching.  Could you imagine teaching the same way, with the same tools?  It could be considered malpractice.  (well, maybe that’s too harsh a word)  Personally, I don’t know where I could even buy punched cards these days.

I think that a progressive school district needs rogues to help set the direction.  The rogue needs to try things and succeed.  The rogue needs to try things and fail.  The rogue needs to identify other rogues and feed off each other.  This now network of rogues needs to prove that what they’re experiencing will engage and prove to be valuable to others.  These rogues needs to lead the best by example.  There are so many non-rogues that aren’t willing to put their time and effort into learning and failing but, will gladly learn and succeed if they’ve been shown the advantages.  To do otherwise would be accepting complacency.

The Case Against School Internet Filters

Andrew Campbell’s post starts, interestingly enough, by his description of being the school spy.  Those who follow Andrew are probably having a bit of a smile right now given his proven stance against spying and protection of rights while connected.

I can’t fault his logic.  We want students to be careful and wise users of any/all technology, including what they do online.  It does raise the question though, is the school system ready for this?  There’s a certain feeling that by blocking certain sites that you can put a checkmark on the wall and indicate that the school district has done its job – they’ve protected the free world against everything that’s bad.  So, if a student manages to get around the filter either purposely or accidentally, who is at fault?  I think that we all know.  We’re not about to suspend the network manager for three days because of it.

In his post, Andrew makes reference to another interesting read from Jane Mitchinson.  “Big Brother in our Schools“.  She offers the use of School Connect to monitor student screens.  That keeps them on task and lets the teacher monitor what’s happening.  In this case, it puts the teacher on task as the moderator of all things flying about the room.  It still makes the teacher as the guard to information though rather than circulating the room helping students.  I suppose the teacher screen could be displayed on the data projector or television so that she/he could keep an eye on things.  The downside is that everyone in the room would be able to enjoy a misstep.  In the bigger picture, what happens in BYOD situations or with devices like tablets that aren’t connected to the same network the teacher is monitoring?  You know it’s political when trustees get involved as Jane notes.

All this addresses the content and situations that we know and can identify and do something about.  What about the rest of it?  I would encourage you to re-read Deborah McCallum’s “Critical Literacy and the Internet” post.  I was delighted that she accepted my BIT Challenge and will be talking about this at the BIT 16 Conference.

Until we reach that level of sophistication, if you’re an entrepreneur and can come up with a solution that’s perfect, you’ll be rich overnight.

There’s no end to the good thinking and sharing from Ontario Edubloggers.  Please check out these posts and then head over to the big list for even more great reading.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

What would Friday on this blog be without a review of some of the great reading I’ve done from Ontario Edublogs this past while.

Here goes….

Are you an educator? Do you use Twitter?

Colleen Rose is leading a webinar in the near future and is crowd sourcing some ideas and thoughts.  In this post, she’s asking for input to these questions.

The results remind me of the good old days of blogging where people were actually replying to blog posts!  As of the time of writing, there are 54 responses.  That’s great and not something that’s seen often these days.  Granted, about half of them are from Colleen sharing her thoughts on the comments but it still is impressive.  You’ll recognize many of the names there from any list of Ontario Twitter users.

Some of the replies include links to blog posts where people have had their own take on this topic.

It’s not too late; if you’d like to throw in your thoughts, I’m sure that Colleen would appreciate reading them.

The Professional

Even if you don’t enjoy auto racing (who doesn’t?), Tim King’s comments about a documentary of the Dakar Rally is a good read.  It pits an amateur against professional racers.  From the story, Tim draws a number of parallels.  This one is interesting.

I’m sure Tim has a particular student in mind when he comes to this conclusions.  I got one in my mind.

If you’ve ever taught at a Faculty of Education or had a student teacher, you know the light in the eye and the idealism that goes with the potential educators.  They’ve already excelled in education for most of their lives.  They’ve got a three or four year degree and now work towards a second degree in Education.  We’ve all been there.  We know how the game is played.

Then, we’re plunked in front of kids who don’t know, are learning, or just refuse to learn!  That’s where teaching demands “resiliency, creativity, and agility”.

This is a cleverly written post.  Each time I read it, it takes me on a different journey.  Well done, Tim.

Critical Literacy and the Internet

If you are, or think you are, teaching students to be careful users of the internet, then you really need to read this post from Deborah McCallum.

It’s a very academic treatment of the class of web resources known as “Cloaked Websites”.

Does your treatment of this form of literacy go this deeply?  This is a very good read and share amongst colleagues.  Deborah’s looking for additional resources for teaching about this.  Do you have some to share?

Interview with “experienced” presenter Kim Gill

Peter McAsh is embarking on a new direction as we approach the Bring IT, Together Conference.  He’s identified a few “experienced” Ontario Educators / Presenters and interviewing them about their presenting experience at the BIT / ECOO Conference.

The current interview is with Kim Gill who I’ve personally done the BIT Challenge thing with.  I’ve known Kim for a long time and I can’t think of a person more bubbly and who genuinely enjoys her profession and makes no attempt to hide it!

Plus, she always has food!

Read the interview with Kim here and get inspired.

She’s not the only one of the BIT Blog.  Make sure you check out:

There’s more to come!  This would be a good time to remind everyone to get their proposals in.  The deadline is March 31.

Inchworm, inchworm…

I still remember this advice from a veteran teacher as I was in my second year of teaching and had curriculum documents open all over the place and was planning a unit on something.  I can’t remember the unit now but I remember the advice.  “Don’t get too excited.  This too will pass.”  Then, I got a history of education that he’d experienced over his years in the profession.  Lots of changes, lots of advice, lots of expert panels, lots of difference curriculum, …  He’s long since retired but I’d love to hear his thoughts about data driven, data informed, change, innovation,

Lisa Noble makes a nice connection between innovation, today’s youth, and the inch worm.

It does make you stop and think.  Will change happen because the Ministry eventually provides a curriculum that’s relevant?  Or will it happen because educators are stopping to observe students and what they need?  What’s more responsive?

What I’ve Learned From the Danes (Part 1)

Forget Finland.  What is some advice from another Scandinavian country?

Danika Tipping spent some time in Denmark and made an interesting observation.

Are we ready for a school system without so many rules? 

Can we indeed legislate everything?  If not, could we just legislate common sense? 

How often are rules proactive?  How often are they reactive?

How many are truly necessary?

It’s definitely been another great week of reading.  Check out these blog posts at their original source.  You’ll be inspired; I know.  Then, head over to the big list of Ontario Edubloggers to see what else is happening.  Add yourself to the list if you’re blogging and not on the list already.