This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy Friday – Work Day, PD Day, Re-organization Day – wherever you fit!


One hundred of anything is a pretty amazing milestone.

The EduGals (Rachel Johnson and Katie Attwell) were approaching their own milestone and want to do something different from their regular technology themed podcasts. They reached out to Stephen Hurley and me to interview them and we jumped at the chance to be on their 100th podcast.

What sort of things would someone ask? If you listened to their podcast, you’d know what we decided. If you missed the podcast, you can always listen to it now from their website. Or, if you want a readable summary of things, check out this post.

And, to send them off on a successful second one hundred, what better than Beverley Mahood and Radio 101.

What To Do If Our Classrooms Aren’t Safe

I thought that this post from Marie was particularly timely. Driving by schools these days, you see both students and teachers running maskless. As Marie campaigns, she’s asked what’s a parent to do?

It’s a good question – she takes it and runs with it.

Her background in education comes through loudly and clearly. Definitely, you should start any of this with a conversation with the classroom teachers and the leaders within the school.

There are times when this may not work and Marie provides a series of suggestions that escalate if you’re not getting support.

It really is sad that we’re not officially reporting numbers across the province and Marie has done some of her own research that will make you wonder why more isn’t being done.

Crooked Paths are the Ones that Lead to Enlightenment

So many of us were educated in a different time. So many that are recommending the path to enlightenment come from that different time.

Read Tim’s post and you’ll be thinking that we’re living in a time when it’s not necessarily business as usual.

Ours was a time when there was a clearly defined flow from elementary to secondary to college/university and you just had to follow it to enjoy success.

We’ve long since started talking about the world of work and the value that it has as a destination. We’ve talked about taking a year between secondary school and post-secondary education. In the post, Tim talks about an individual who gives an opinion about that “gap” year.

Tim shares his own path and some of his challenges to get where he is today. I suspect that many of us didn’t follow that fluid path.

Post-secondary education also didn’t require giving up your first borne to be able to afford things like rent, tuition, etc.

It’s a different world out there.


Talk to any teacher and they’ll tell you that they’ll drag themselves into work rather than go through the process of writing lesson plans for someone else to follow. More often than not, the good intentions don’t come through.

Aviva shares with us a most recent situation of her being sick and still making herself available for an interview. There was no more information about the interview and Stephen and I made an assumption about it.

It turns out that we were wrong and Aviva clued us in via private message afterwards.

It’s an exciting message and I won’t let the cat out of the bag – Aviva will undoubtedly blog about it when she sees fit to talk about it in public.

The bigger question still remains about what to do if you’re sick.

Who Am I?

This was a much different post than usual from Matthew.

He pulls back the curtain and shares some of his personal faith and superstitious activity as a youth who would have loved to have been accepted into a Division 1 school with a football program. I had no idea there were 363 schools!

Given our closeness to the Detroit Media, we get bombarded by University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Notre Dame, and Ohio University media all the time. Matthew had his eye on a couple other Big 10 schools.

Obviously, it’s very personal but also highlights the challenges that a Canadian athlete has being recognized south of the border. I know one of my best friends felt that his path was to shine at Laurier and let that open a path for him.

The big winner in all this is the Ontario Educational system which ended up with a great teacher in Matthew.

Old Fellas New Music Episode 31 Notes

They’re back!

The Old Fellas are back sharing some new music with us via podcast and this post. There’s a nice list of new music to listen to and I’m always appreciative of it. There were some familiar names here.

The list they’re sharing this time is:

  • The Beths – Knees Deep
  • Orville Peck, Shania Twain – Legends Never Die
  • Glorious Sons – Pink Motel
  • Blue Stones – Shakin’ Off the Dust
  • Blue Rodeo – When You Were Wild
  • Crystal Eyes – 2000 years
  • Rosie Tucker – Barbara Ann
  • Sudan Archives – Selfish Soul
  • Cheap Trick – So it Goes

My favourite from the list is this one from Blue Rodeo and it’s kind of cheating because I’ve always been a fan of Blue Rodeo.

We need to deal with data privacy in our classrooms

Writing for University Affairs, I found this so interesting.

When I was on the OSAPAC group, we had the Ministry’s lawyers available to analyse the legal terms and agreements that would come with the licensing of any software title. If we had their approval, it moved the licensing process along.

Today’s classrooms – elementary, secondary, post-secondary – mostly deal with anything but software that’s licensed and installed on their computers. Instead, many great resources are available in a browser and online. As Bonnie notes, and I’m as bad as anyone, not clicking on terms and conditions agreement. I just want to get to the site I’m accessing. I may have just agreed to anything.

These days, I do it on my own computer and I do use an advertising blocker and a cookie auto-delete utility to get a feeling of safety but I’m not naive enough to think that I’m 100% protected.

Data privacy is such an important issue these days and it’s not just in your classroom; it’s everyone’s classroom. Heck, even using your district’s computer system means agreeing to their terms and conditions.

Do we even read that? I hope that she follows this post with more research and recommendations about how this could be addressed province-wide. It’s no small task.

And there we go – another great collection of blog posts. Please take the time to read them all and drop off a comment if you’re so inclined.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • EduGals – @Edugals
  • Marie Snyder – @MarieSnyder27
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Bonnie Stewart – @bonstewart

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Don’t call me; I’ll call you

I’ll bet that most of us grew up in the same scenario. The telephone was screwed to the wall and/or it might be sitting on a table within easy reach.

The moment that it rang, at least one person sprang into action. I remember many fights with my brother to see who got to it first. At my girlfriend’s at the time, you didn’t grab it immediately; they had a party line and you had to make sure that it was “your ring” before answering it. A nosey party line person could listen in or actually answer on your ring if they so wanted. Such began a trek into telephones, privacy, scammers, etc.

It wasn’t like people weren’t trying to scam us in the old days. Since you had no idea who was calling, you just picked up the phone. The response from me was usually “click” but I’ve heard of people with horns to blow into the mouthpiece or even one lady that offered to listen to them if they would accept one of her church magazines. Unknown callers have always been a hassle to deal with.

When I got my first job at the board office, I got great advice from my superintendent who was big in time management. At the time, we had an LCD display on the phones and could see the name of who was calling. He was in my office once when I answered the phone. He pointed out that I had to interrupt what I was doing, spend time doing the pleasantries that go into the first part of a phone call and then actually have the conversation. His advice, which I quickly followed, was to let everything go to voice mail and then block time into my day to return the calls. It was great advice and saved me so much time.

I follow that same routine today. If you call me, unless you’re a member of my immediate family, you’ll go to voice mail and I’ll decide if I’m going to return your call. People that know me know that there are better ways to communicate with me anyway.

This story just broke my heart.

‘They sucked me right in’: Retired Windsor firefighter scammed out of thousands

Reading the story reminds me of the depths that some of these people will go to try and scam you out of your money. I hope that the police are able to do something although it’s my understanding that these calls are pretty untraceable.

And they’re getting better at it.

It used to be when they would call with a real phone number, it would display as “unknown number”. Those were easy to ignore. Now, though, they’re able to display a legitimate business name or at least have a number identified as in your community. Even today, I have to do a gut check to restrain myself from answering.

I’m currently ignoring someone who is pretty persistent and calls with a business named but it’s always from a different number and they do go to voice mail where nothing is left. I’m pretty clear in my message that I’ll get back to you if it’s important but someone who refuses to leave a phone number is sketchy in my books.

How do they get your number? It’s a pretty slick marketing tactic to use serial and parallel dialers but the moment that you answer, you’ve told them that the number is live and that there’s someone who will answer the call.

So, if you’re calling and going to voice mail, I’m not ignoring you. In fact, I might be looking at my phone as you do it. I’ll get back to you, if needed, but I’d prefer contact through other media and we can then drop into a face-to-face chat if that sort of communication is needed.

Stay safe. It’s a jungle out there.

How do you handle unwanted phone calls?

5G Telecommunications

We bit the bullet a couple of years ago and got rid of the landline for our phone and got ourselves smartphones. With them, of course, comes the ability to make phone calls (I just typed “telephone calls” but erased it…this seems more appropriate) and run applications. I have to smile because my mind hasn’t totally made the switch; I often look to where the answering machine used to sit on a shelf to see if we missed any calls.

My morning reads featured a couple of stories that got me thinking more about telecommunications. I think, like most people, I absolutely am connected at all times now and it’s just part of the life.

And that connection will get a great deal faster the next time I upgrade my phone. For the record, I hope that’s still a long way off; my phone works incredibly well. But it’s not capable of running on the fifth generation of the technology (5G) and that’s the future. Maybe it will be even more affordable when it comes time to buy.

Photo by Shiwa ID on Unsplash

Apparently, the powers that be are hard at work protecting us.

Canada to ban Huawei, ZTE 5G equipment, joining Five Eyes allies

I’m not terribly worried about someone listening to my conversations. They’re few and far between and undoubtedly the least use I have for my phone. It’s the data that connects me when I’m away from home through text messages and my social media accounts that get the lion’s share of my use. I’ll bet most people are like that. Whatever happened to telephones?

There was another serious story that I thought I had bookmarked for the purpose of this post and I can’t find it. It was about a family that was camping in Eastern Ontario and were essentially “off the grid” and so did not get the regular weather warning like so many others did. We rely on it here; just this past week, we were on the patio and saw incredibly dark skies to the south and received a warning of the storm. Also, the Detroit/Cleveland baseball game was cancelled. Looking north to where Comerica Park would be, it was clear skies. That’s usually sign of really bizarre weather. Fortunately, it passed us by. As we know now, others weren’t so fortunate. If we become used to emergency warnings, it seems to me that they should be available to everyone in the province and not just those that are close to cities.

Even that doesn’t work perfectly. We live very close to the US border and it’s not uncommon to drive along Riverside Drive or just sit in a friend’s living room and get the message “Welcome to the United States. Roaming charges apple.” A similar situation happened when the Bring IT, Together Conference was in Niagara Falls and I went looking at the Falls. It just seems to bizarre that, in a world where Google knows exactly where I am within three feet, that the telecommunications field can’t as well.

So, fifth-generation has all these promises and, if I wasn’t so cheap and didn’t run out to upgrade today, I might be enjoying the better service. Our government has promised to make it safer too.

Maybe some day it will reach here.

Protecting yourself

It happened again yesterday.

I received a message from a friend “I’ve been hacked, please don’t accept any friend invitations from me.” I don’t blindly accept invitations to connect anyway; I typically check them out to make sure that they are legit and will be worthwhile connecting with. High on my list are people who share their learning.

This was a typical case of a new account set up with no content shared and, sadly, a bunch of people who had accepted the invitation. I’m not a genius by any stretch of the imagination but even I could smell that something wasn’t right.

A nice discussion about “How to Hack” can be found here. Hacking used to be a noble? venture where someone sits down and finds flaws in the logic in the computer. These days, the flaws are typically those who operate the keyboard.

Passwords and I go back a long, long way. I recall getting my first password at university along with the advice to treat it as gold. Usually, the default password was your student number and you were encouraged to change it immediately. An update at some point forced you to change it upon first login to the system. There was one system, I recall, that you couldn’t change your password yourself but you had to book time with a system administrator to do the deed.

The first computers in school had probably the best security ever. Nothing was stored on the computer but rather on a cassette or a floppy disk that you kept with you. Someone would actually have to access to your gym bag or back pack to hack you.

Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

The first central server that appeared in my classroom was the Unisys Icon system. There was a central server and a hard drive to store everyone’s work. Your account was secured by a login/password. But, kids are kids and it wasn’t uncommon for them to glance at the person next to them to watch them type their password and gain access that way. I also remember some pretty smart programmers who wrote a program that emulated the login screen, captured the details, and redirected it to a file in their own directory. At one time, they grabbed the administrator’s password which gave open access to the system and the master password file was straight forward ASCII which gave them access to everything. Gasp.

These days, your personal computer is probably set up with your own login/password and then you’re connected to the internet where public services are secured by login and password. That’s where it gets serious. It may not be family members or students in a school but anyone anywhere on the internet that you need to be wary of.

Right now, I know about a couple of passwords and the rest are stored away in a password manager. Today’s browsers typically have that function built-in or you can add a third party manager that encrypts and stores passwords on the web somewhere for you.

Everyone seems to have advice about how to create secure passwords – here’s Microsoft’s recommendation. Sitting down and actually creating such a password isn’t an easy thing! A good password manager can help with that task.

A list of available password managers can be accessed here.

That’s a great place to start but there’s another step that will make things even more secure and that’s two factor authentication. There are a number of different ways to implement this and it boils down to a second step beyond just a login and password. That’s pretty much the most secure thing for home users these days. It’s kind of a pain to set up and use but you have the comfort of knowing that as long as you have that second piece of information with you, someone else doesn’t.

In all cases, the same old good advice still applies. Change your password frequently – sometimes the bad guys get it from other places and you’re out of the loop.

And, if your computer is in a public place, having your login and password on a post-it note stuck to the screen is never a good idea.

Forcing security

I’ve been a big fan of a couple of extension from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for a long time.

What I particularly like about both of these extensions is that you just install them and basically forget them. They continue to do what they’re supposed to do.

HTTPS Everywhere, I think, is a pretty important concept. The web can serve up pages with HTTP or HTTPS protocols. It’s the HTTPS that you really want since it forces the sites that you’re visiting to send you information securely. Details can be found here.

I’ve actually wondered if HTTPS Everywhere is even needed anymore. Most modern browsers have that ability built-in. I’m using Opera as I type this and the setting is:

Even if people aren’t using the extension, hopefully that switch is toggled on in their browser settings.

While poking around, plans are in place for the extension to be retired. It’s a signal of the success of the initial concept that other browsers have implemented the features. You can read all about it and how to set up things in your browser here.

I was surprised, this morning, while reading this article that the extension was one of the ones recommended for installation if you’re using the Edge browser. After all, if you’ve ever gone into the configuration for Edge, you’ll see that there’s all kinds of settings for security. But, I couldn’t find one specifically devoted to HTTPS. Hopefully, it’s rolled into one of the other security settings.

It’s definitely a feature that you want turned on in the browser and used through the extension.

You can’t be too safe.