There are some decisions that come along that just floor me as they seem to be made indicating those that are making them are so out of touch.

I ran into results from a decision last evening on social media. The comments were absolutely brutal.

Let’s go back.

Years ago, I was part of a team that implemented an electronic report card. Report cards are the glue that keeps education together. It’s just one additional form of school to home communication but it’s in writing and kept on file unlike the other notes, phone calls, meetings, etc.

Our implementation came out about the same time as reporting via levels of student achievement. That was a struggle in itself although it was supposed to ease up on the difference between a student “getting” a 78 versus one getting a 79. My thoughts about that go back to high school where there were always a couple of people who would inch me out mathematically come report card time.

My superintendent at the time was really supportive because the ultimate success or failure would end up on his desk. As a result, we went through what we thought was going to be the exhaustive list of things that could go wrong and prepare possible solutions. In actual implementation, we weren’t even close but we tried. He helped with the implementation with wisdom like:

  • “The only person that likes change is a baby in diapers”
  • “There are only so many ways that you can say that a student is performing at a Level 3”

It’s great to have someone further up the food chain deliver those comments. To his credit, he also sat in on a couple of workshops and provided a review with me afterwards. I’ll always give him credit for that as we refined things.

It was a huge moment in time given that there were not enough computers in schools at the time for all teachers to grab one and certainly not everyone had one at home. And, we used that totally reliable method of file sharing between colleagues with their comment libraries and home to school and back cartage – the floppy diskette. People learned in a hurry that there were additional hoops to jump through if they used Windows in one place and a Macintosh in another.

It took a while to get success. I was doing workshops 2 and 3 nights a week; my home phone line became public knowledge as well as the “kid’s line”. I learned to refine my questioning skills based upon the questions and comments that came in.

We test drove it at a couple schools and the itinerate teachers supporting technology worked and created “One Sheet Wonders” that would step you through any situation. OK, most situations; there still was a need for panic phone calls.

The driving factor in all of this was teacher professionalism. They didn’t want to just get report cards done, they wanted them done and perfectly. They recognized the importance of communication and wanted to make it as good as they could. I know that some were frustrated in the early years as some were not only just learning how to do report cards on a computer but they were learning a lot of computer skills from scratch at the same time.

When I run into some of them these days, we joke about how naive and yet invested they were in the process at the time.

It would be nice if we could end the story here but unfortunately, we can’t. Eventually, the writing on the wall was there for the overreliance on floppy diskettes and a move to a cloud-based solution with logins and passwords became necessary. That changed the game and also the solution that was used for the report cards. It was another bit of learning for all.

Cloud-based always makes me smile. The giants like Google have made the notion of “the cloud” as something magical and always functioning perfectly in our mindsets.

Then, COVID hits. Those computer skill sets needed upgrading. In particular, the pedagogy of teaching effectively online became so important. I wasn’t part of that directly although social media makes all of us available to those who wish to reach out. I was happy to help where I could.

And, all of this brings me to last night reading those comments. In the middle of all of the other issues that everyone is dealing with was a decision to switch report card generation programs. I immediately thought of me poking around with Windows 11, just doing random things and discovering how it works. Sometimes, I fail more than I win but that’s OK. Doing what I’m doing isn’t mission-critical. As long as the WordPress editor works, for example, I’m able to get these posts out no matter whatever else isn’t working 100%. The voices that I was reading yesterday were over the top in frustration trying to get their results the best that they could be. My heart went out them.

I know that they’ll ultimately get them done. How do I know that? Well, there are always due dates where you’re done whether you think you are or not!

This change just seems to come at a very strange time given everything else that is happening.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

First off …


Today marks a day of rotating strike action by ETFO members in the following districts:

  • Algoma
  • Algoma Literacy
  • Bloorview
  • Greater Essex County
  • Hamilton-Wentworth
  • John McGivney Children’s Centre
  • KidsAbility
  • Limestone
  • Moose Factory
  • Moosonee
  • Niagara
  • Niagara Children’s Centre
  • Toronto
  • Toronto Catholic
  • Waterloo Region
  • York Region

As another week of challenging interactions between Ontario Teacher Federations comes to a close, let’s celebrate some of the professional learning and sharing that comes from Ontario Edubloggers.

Daring Greatly

Rolland Chidiac really opens himself up with some very personal reflections resulting from some professional learning from the “Dare to Lead” book from Brene Brown.

He shares a reflection about how things are turning out in his classroom and then about how he assisted in a NTIP session. Good for him – I found the concept far removed from my first years as a teacher. We were taught to lay low, get the lay of the land, and then do our best to fit into a school culture. It worked well for me, I think, so the notion of daring was a bit foreign. The concept came later.

In the post, Rolland talks about situations where he “armours up” and how he keeps to himself in certain situations and doesn’t offer up insights to his vulnerabilities to some others.

He makes an interesting observation that we talked about on the voicEd version of This Week in Ontario Edublogs.

talking about shame with the people who have earned the right to hear it,

I mused about “who” these people might be and Rolland responded on Twitter…

I think you’ll get a great deal from a slow read and understanding of his post.

Wake up and smell the pickets

Heather Swail’s latest post is an interesting look at the strike situation with Ontario’s Elementary Educators. It could easily have been about the trials and experiences on the picket lines but she already did that in an earlier post.

This post was more intended for the general public…

People have to ask: why are teachers striking? Why are educational assistants, early childhood educators and other workers striking? How has it come to this?

Tune in to the media and you absolutely will get two different interpretations about what’s going on. The news media, for the most part, tries to report the facts. Then, there’s the barrage of opinion pieces that you’ll find in the Toronto Sun.

Heather suggests reading and trying to understand both sides with an open mind. Then, make your own decision.

There has to be more to the evening news that to tune in to see if you have to find alternatives for your children the next day.

Care in Community

When my wife and I first started dating, I have memories of my mother-in-law and her love for quilting. It’s no subtle feat. In her case, the rec room was just about the right size to setup for a quilting bee (or at least a subset of a real bee). The television was on one side of the room and the couch on the other. The quilters would sit on chairs and do their work and talk. This meant that the quilt was about eye height if you were sitting on the couch trying to watch television.

The remarkable thing about the quilt, when it was done, was that it was a work of art. But, it didn’t start that way.

It started as a bunch of pieces of materials that eventually got quilted into the final piece. It truly was a whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I said on the radio show that we still have 4 quilts and I was wrong. My wife informs me that we have 6 usable and 1 with a coffee stain on it. They are a treasure and so we won’t be getting rid of any of them anytime soon.

So, I wasn’t going into Helen DeWaard’s post cold. I knew all about quilts. What she did introduce me to was the concept of #FemEdTech and their own #FemEdTech quilt project. This project will culminate at the OER20 conference in London, England where members of this project will be brought together by the conference and their contributions to the quilt.

Helen shares an interpretation of her personal square and the story that it tells. I think this would be an incredible Birds of a Feather session to have all together in one spot to share the story behind their contribution.

What a wonderful concept!

A tale of two hypothetical teens on social media

Jennifer Casa-Todd challenges you to consider two young people (I’m making the assumption that they’re teenagers since Jennifer is in that world) and their approach to Social Media.

Olivia and Emma are at opposite ends of the social media spectrum.

My immediate reaction was that I’m a lot like Olivia and I’d never want to be like Emma. It would be interesting to have an objective third party make an assessment.

But, for those who face young people like this every day, it is a nice start to a reflection and maybe even a discussion in the classroom. Once you can identify more with one of these characters than the other, you may be in a better position to do a bit of inward looking.

I suspect that, in the final analysis, we all have a bit of both of these young people in us.

Dear Ontario Parents, don’t stress about withheld report cards…

I’m glad that someone wrote about this topic. In this case, it was Kyleen Gray.

Students and parents in some areas of the elementary school panel missed out on report cards for Term I. The reason?

  • teachers in a work to rule are viewing the physical creation of the report cards as being an element not to be done as part of their work to rule. They claim to have submitted the marks to their principal as per their job requirements
  • Ministry of Education announces that report cards are not being completed because of the job action
  • School Districts indicate that the schools are not able to enter all the information into whatever system they use to create report cards and so announce that they’re will be none

I suspect that what parents believe depends upon who they trust most for accurate information. See Heather Swail’s post above.

Kyleen offers advice about how parents can stay up to date on student progress

  • Follow and interact with teachers via your child’s online classroom, or communication app (such as Seesaw)
  • Open regular lines of communication with teachers via email, phone or in person
  • Pay attention to standardized testing results (both formal and informal) 
  • Work and learn beside your child at home

Her final word on the topic…

I also knew that my goal in writing should be to inform parents that report cards really aren’t all their cracked up to be, and that they can learn about their children’s school progress in many more effective way

I can’t help but think that maybe report cards, in their current incarnation, have outlived their usefulness. Maybe this sense of staying in contact with teachers and children is a better way to go.

Oh wait

I’m sure that Will Gourley recognized that “Oh, and one more thing” was already in use by a computer company and didn’t want to tread on any trademark infringement…

I’m sorry to read that he had a “terrible January“.

If you’re a teacher, and I suspect that everyone reading this blog is, you know that this terrible January will turn into February and then who knows… As I write this, it’s February 6 and Will and colleagues are not in classrooms today. Many will not be there tomorrow either.

The reality for him recently was 17000 steps in three hours and a loss of a day’s salary.

He does make an important observation. In good times, the Ministry of Education, School Districts, and educators are all in it for the best of reasons. They’re partners, each holding up their end to make the education system work.

In bad times, though, things really change. We see it every day and certainly Will and colleagues live it every day.

There will be a time when the photo-op will be everyone smiling and shaking hands. Since we on the outside don’t have all the details, we have no idea when that photo-op will take place.

OLA SC 2020 Day 3 Reflections

From Diana Maliszewski, three consecutive days of blogging! She should go to conferences more often. See also

If you weren’t able to attend the OLA Superconference, you can see Diana’s segment of it in these posts. There is lots of detail and lots of pictures.

I wonder how many people were unable to attend because of a job action at their school. Blog posts like this can be of assistance to live vicariously through her eyes.

It also bring a question to mind – not a criticism of Diana but just an observation about how social media use has changed.

There used to be a time when you’d look forward to someone “live blogging” from a conference. i.e. short messages tweeted out during a keynote or a session, for example. Does anyone do that anymore or have we turned to big blog posts or live streaming as an alternative?

Please take the time to click through and enjoy all of these wonderful posts.

Then, make sure that you’re following these people on Twitter.

  • Rolland Chidiac – @rchids
  • Heather Swail – @hbswail
  • Helen DeWaard – @hj_dewaard
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @jcasatodd
  • Kyleen Gray – @TCHevolution
  • Will Gourley – @WillGourley
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL

This post originates from:

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

I almost did it again.  Instead of “This Week in Ontario Edublogs”, I started to type the title as “The Week in Ontario Edublogs”.  I’ve done it before and that’s why this post’s numbering doesn’t reflect the actual number of times I’ve written this post.  Sigh.  Let’s just say I’ve written it a lot.

And here’s what I was excited to read this week.

An Alternative To A School Cellphone Ban

After a bit of a dry spell, Andrew Campbell is back blogging.  What caught my eye about this post was that he claimed that the Premier made reference to it on social media.

As Andrew notes, this isn’t a problem that schools have created, it’s one that parents and students have brought into schools with them.  So, Andrew offers the simplistic solution – have parents make students keep the devices at home.

I suppose that such a simplistic approach is doable.  After all, there are other things that are not allowed in schools and there are heavy handed consequences for doing so.  The same could apply to cellphones.

I think back to my schooling and we actually had to purchase a sliderule for use in school.  One of the wealthier kids in the class came with an electronic calculator and was absolutely forbidden to use this device which gave exact answers in favour of using a device that approximated the answer.

Calculators were introduced with some folks screaming about the demise of civilization (at least the Mathematics part of it) and yet these devices are just taken for granted these days.

I suspect that years from now, people will look back and laugh at how we anguished over the issue of BYOD and bringing powerful and enabling devices into the classroom.  The issue they might be debating could be about whether reading about Einstein or interacting with a holograph is more educationally sound.

Back To The Map Of Canada: What Do You Do With That 2%?

This post from Aviva Dunsiger brought me back nightmares about quicky PD sessions given in staff meetings.  Often they’re about 15 minutes long, totally out of context for me at least and ultimately we wrote them off as filler.

As you read Aviva’s post, you can visualize her heart rate climbing as a result of anxiety.  I’m surprised that she didn’t bring in something to do with self-regulation.

Personally, I can recall such PD sessions where I got my colours done in that 15 minutes to tell me that my learning style was something other than what I thought.  Then, there was the time we all had to sing and, believe me, you don’t want to hear me sing.  After the meeting I approached the superintendent and offered to lead a session to have everyone create a program and was turned down.  I guess there are priorities.

It seems to me that doing something in a staff meeting with teachers from various grades and subject areas is actually a very hard task.  It needs to be generic enough to be meaningful enough to everyone and yet valuable enough to justify the time devoted to it.

Not an easy task.

This week we did…something

It’s the time of year for Progress Reports – the things that go home in advance of Report Cards.  There was a time when these were a quick glimpse about socialization and a status report on work habits.  Now, they’re substantially more than that.

This post from Lisa Corbett paints an interesting picture of the challenge of making something worthwhile at this time of year, given her approach to the teaching and learning done in her class so far.

Because of the work I’m doing to spiral in math this year I am feeling like I don’t have a lot of things to use for comments on progress reports. I’ve decided to focus my commenting on some of the mathematical process skills.

I think that, when you read it, you’ll empathize with her plight.

Perhaps for the Mathematics subject area, she could just put a link to this post in the student progress report and have the parents read what’s going on here.

Focus on Trees – Part One

Absolutely every now and again, it’s really important to take a look at the learning environment and that’s what Ann-Marie Kee does here.  In particular, she identifying various trees and their significance on her school property.

Could you do that?

I think to some of the new builds where a bulldozer comes in and flattens everything and a boxy school building appears.  A little later, perhaps some grass and a few trees as part of a planting or community partnership.

You’d never be able to say this with that approach.

I think of our trees as keepers of our culture.

And, I just have to include this.

Preserving the Cup

Skip to the end and Beth Lyons says it well.

But our educators can not pour from an empty cup.

One of the things that Beth has observed is that this year is a bit different from others.  She claims to be an optimist but is struggling to have optimistic thoughts these days.

She sees teachers stretched thin already.  Herself included.  And, it’s only October.

Who better than a teacher-librarian who has interactions with every staff member in the school to make that observation?

Is there a magic potion that can be taken to turn this around?  I think we all know that the answer is no.  I can’t help but wonder if the recent election hasn’t contributed heavily to this – we live in a time when positive messages take a back seat to the negative.  It has to take a toll.

Caring for others is important but Beth notes many times that it’s also important to take care of yourself.  It’s not being selfish.

We need to get beyond that.


Peter Beens is participating in very active pieces of personal learning.  Earlier this week, I noted that he was part of the WordCamp in the Niagara Region?  This is different.

When you click through, you’ll see that this whole project is very comprehensive. Much like other challenges like the 30 days of photography challenges, Peter has to work on something every day. He’s doing so and documenting it.

You’ll also click through to see the activities and Peter sharing his notes on his work.



And, finally, a new Ontario Blogger. This is from Indigenous Awareness.

Essentially, this post is a summary of positions about Indigenous issues from the major political parties in Canada. When I first read it, I was feeling badly that I hadn’t read it in advance of the election.

And yet, now that we have a minority government in place, perhaps the messages and positions from the parties are even more important. Will they be held accountable?

By themselves, each of the parties have shared their positions. But, since no one party will be able to pass legislation without assistance from another, looking for common threads or close to common threads might be a good indication of what might happen.

As I say every week, please take the time to click through and read these posts in their original form. There is great thinking and sharing of ideas there.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter to stay on top of their future thinking.

  • @acampbell99
  • @avivaloca
  • @LisaCorbett0261
  • @AMKeeLCS
  • @MrsLyonsLibrary
  • @pbeens
  • @indigenousawrns

This post appeared originally on:

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

News, then and now

Well, the election is now over.  How did things go in your neck of the woods?

We had a change in our Member of Parliament.  We went from Orange to Blue.

Like many Canadians, I suspect, I was channel surfing last night to see the various election coverages.  I lost count of the number of times that the CTV coverage explained the colours on the scoreboard on the bottom of the screen.  I remember thinking that if that had to be explained to you, then maybe you shouldn’t be able to vote.

Digitally, I like to stay on top of the news and last night was no different.  In addition to the television, I had my laptop open monitoring things.  I’ve been playing around with a new news resource, Newsola.  It claims to be based upon NewsMap according to the link in the bottom right corner.  NewsMap relies on Flash but Newsola doesn’t so that was refreshing and it ran it my browser without intervention on my part.

Instead of providing you with one story, Newsola provides you with them all.  Or, at least, what fits on the screen.  Bigger and brighter means more relevancy.  As I sat back to watch things, I knew I was going to write this post so I took a screen capture roughly at 8:00pm.

Of course, the first thing that I did was change the country to Canada and the topic area to National … it would have been tough coverage without that!

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 8.11.25 PM

After I captured the screen shot, I clicked on the “Auto refresh” to have the stories refresh themselves without my intervention.

This morning about 8:00am, I reloaded to see the latest.

Screen Shot 2019-10-22 at 8.37.35 AM

The news kept flowing nicely which was a nice testament to this product.  For full details about how it works, click on the About link at the top of the screen.

Now, National isn’t the only category that you can select for stories.  If you’re into monitoring, Technology, there’s a button for that.  Just know that the selections are additive so unchecking a category that you don’t want can be really helpful.


It’s that time of the season

It was great to see my former superintendent on the evening news last night although the content might lead you to believe that it was a slow news day.

Parents encouraged to focus more on teacher’s comments in report cards

The standard message, as long as I can remember, has always been that there should be no surprises on report cards. Parents are encouraged to be in contact with teachers early and often if there are difficulties. Similarly, we as teachers, were always told to make that early contact should we think there are or will be problems.

The last report card of the year is always sort of a strange beast. Unlike reports issued earlier in the year, this really is a summary of a year’s efforts and in many cases the last academic contact as a student moves on to a new grade and teacher and the teacher may have changes in their assignment for the fall.

Lest you think that report card season is just another day in the life, turn to social media to read reports about all of the effort that goes into the preparation of these things by teachers. Plus, they need to be done well in advance of the end of the year so that they may be proofread by the administration of the school before being sent home.

Clara’s message is so important and true. Teachers agonize over the creation of the reports and do their absolute best in the comment area to complete the picture partially painted by the grade assigned.

It sure brings back memories of report card support for this former computer consultant. It was a superintendent before Clara who thought that it would be a good idea to get in early on pilots from the Ministry of the Electronic Report Card. As a system, we’d had pretty good success with the Curriculum Planner so I guess we were up for another success! We still meet up for a coffee every now and again and have a good laugh at the challenges this created for us and the system.

My life became consumed with the implementation of this thing. It didn’t go easily for a number of reasons…

  • not every teacher had a home computer at the time so often it was the school computer – locked down with data stored on a file server – that was the primary tool
  • not every teacher initially had the set of tools necessary at the time to know about these storage locations, the need to import and export data to move to a new computer to complete or submit their efforts
  • even those who had home computers might not have had the horse power or reliability to be successful there despite the promises. Plus, the media had to be found at school and then brought home for installation
  • Macintosh at home, Windows at school, what could go wrong?
    Mental Note: Arial ≠ Helvetica ≠ Arial
  • does anyone remember diskettes?! enough said
  • well, maybe not quite enough, the really brave would try to work “from diskette” rather than from the fileserver. Again, what could go wrong?
  • the program itself wasn’t always reliable – crashes were common
  • support was great – you could call Doug at work anytime and at home too – he had no life. Actually, it was my kids who lost their social life with the home phone being tied up all the time. (I even know when it’s report card these days with email and more phone calls!)
  • workshops (and there were many) actually went very well because there was only one class to work with – not real life, for example, where the music teacher had to exchange information with the home room teacher
  • I had to earn credibility too! After all, I had a secondary school background where we “just entered a grade and picked a comment from 1-10” (Hah!)

And there were probably more things too if I put my mind to remembering them. When all was said and done, the CAITs and I got a system through the pilot and then the formal implementation. A knowledge bank of common tasks turned out to be so helpful.

Once we felt like we’d been successful, we turned to other areas! Early Years’ Report Card (we wrote our own) and then a electronic commercial product for secondary schools.

But, throw all this aside, and lets go back to the comments. The report card had the ability to use comment banks which sounded really appealing at first. The reality was that each teacher was very professional and wanted to live up to the promise of truly personalized comments for students and mostly ignored that feature. This was done despite many not having keyboarding expertise and frequent crashes of the program.

So, I concur completely with Clara’s comments about teachers’ comments being “rich and valuable”. It was always my experience that they were all that. Everyone knows that there is so much work in making report cards a success. In the beginning, success was achieved just by getting them done. (Some ended up being handwritten to make that happen) Now, success is better defined by the communication tool that the report card was always supposed to be. Parents should be encouraged all the time to view it that way.

These days, the actual software has changed and matured from those early days. But that’s just the tool. Teacher use has become more sophisticated and accurate in reporting. By itself, that’s the biggest win.