This Week in Ontario Edublogs


In one week, we’ve gone from socked in with snow to having to clean the yard now that we’re down to grass. (I own a dog, remember)

Enjoy some recent post from Ontario Edubloggers.


Complex

I was delighted to see The Beast back at the blogging keyboard. It’s always interesting to read their initial thoughts and then the back and forth between Andrea and Kelly.

Their opening line got me really thinking.

Every school has a population of students who are incredibly complex.

It reminded me of this – “A riddle wrapped up in an enigma”. That so describes teaching. You just have to solve for everything.

But The Beast is ready for it. They even took a course from Nogah working on the notion of a wicked problem. What follows in the blog post is a wide range of ideas and discussions between the two of them.

It’s a good read and, unfortunately, they do not provide a solution. But there is good advice there for anyone trying to reach a solution. And that’s a good thing.


Leadership is Exhausting #1: headships & heirarchies

I’ll admit right up; I did not know that Tim King was co-chair of his technology department. Should I have known? When I read that, I thought that this would be a great catalyst for the school.

“Status Quo” doesn’t exist in Tim’s vocabulary.

If there’s anyone who would be a good apple cart overturner, it would be him.

He did get a real dose of educational reality in the experience. It is indeed hard work being at the head of a department in a school. There are all kinds of challenges in the position and you’re the one that needs to provide the answers. We all know that everyone is working so hard these COVID days but those who teach niche subjects end up with multiple sections just so that they can run. Why? Such educators believer that it’s important to offer that opportunity for students but it does come at a cost. Even a two-section split requires lesson planning for two different curriculums.

Tim has left that position; he was there for two years and he shares some of the things that he was able to bring back to his school.

He should take satisfaction in that.


After Cheggification – A way forward (Part 1)

Those of us who work in K-12 may not be aware of the challenges involved in higher education. Dave Cormier gives us an insight to what’s happening. He even inspired me to read about the Academic Integrity policy at the University of Windsor.

I suppose that it probably always was a challenge – students cheating on their work – I can remember at university some people going through discarded printouts looking for answers to programming problems. It always amused me as I wondered how many people discarded working solutions. But, anyway.

If you do a search for “plagiarism checker” on the internet, you’ll find all kinds of solutions. When you visit them, they typically sell themselves as tools for student achievement. Chegg is the one that Dave addresses here. Simply put, you ask Chegg a question and you get answers. (among many of the other advertised features). In a regular world, that’s a great study aid. But, when you’re learning at home and need a little assist …

So, the teaching staff is offering solutions to address this in their evaluations.

  • Response 1 – Make the exams harder
  • Response 2 – Entrapment
  • Response 3 – open/take home exams and assignments replacing high stakes exams

Dave notes that each of these solutions make things more difficult for students. For the malpractice of some, everyone pays. It reminds me of having to stay in class at recess because someone else in the class messed up.

Dave takes off in a different direction. The questions themselves…

“Well-structured questions” which seem like a logical, reasonable solution. I mean, weren’t we all schooled as teacher candidates about having quality questions and activities. But then he talks about “Ill-structured questions” and how it might change everything.

It’s a tease for his next post which I’m looking forward to reading.


Creating Characters!

I’ve mentioned this many times before but I think the way that Cameron Steltman handles blogging with his students is genius. It’s not your traditional blogging approach; it’s better.

His goal is to get kids writing and he addresses the desire that every teacher has for writing – getting kids to write for an audience.

He actually writes the blog post as a provocation and the students reply to this provocation. So, there’s none of this dead space that we so often see when teachers try to get students to blog. Because the students know that their classmates and maybe even mom and dad will be reading, the quality of the writing is quite impressive.

In this case, Cameron’s class is working on storytelling and he has them create a character. There are rules

  • a name (first, middle, last)
  • a few favourite things
  • 3 personality traits (e.g. funny, humble, disturbed, etc. )
  • a flaw (something that can create conflict)

The responses are awesome. During the This Week in Ontario Edublogs show, Stephen suggested that it would be an interesting extension to have the characters created actually meet and interact with each other.

There’s a next level of sophistication for you.


Extra Help w/ Bookings

In a regular year, it would come in the form of a request “Sir, can I drop in a lunch or after school for some extra help”. Now that so many people are teaching online, surely there is a technological solution.

Cal Armstrong provides a solution in Microsoft Office 365 called Microsoft Bookings. Since I don’t have Office 365, I’d never heard about Bookings before.

I found it really helpful to go through and read Cal’s post. There are lots of screen captures there to step through the process. It actually appears to be straight forward and I can see why he uses it. He sets the table for students to electronically book a bit of Mr. Armstong’s time for extra assistance.

Even more valuable than the mechanics of working your way through Bookings is the wisdom that Cal shares about the actual implementation. There are controls that the teacher can put into place so that it doesn’t get out of hand and respects teacher time and privacy.

I can’t help but think that this is a valuable tool and I also wonder how many people like me are oblivious to its presence.


Mom Was My Hero.

This was a first blog post from Jamie McKinnon that I just happened to catch as he announced it on his Twitter feed.

As you might guess from the title, it is a personal tribute to a mother who has passed. It’s a little different than the typical blog post that I feature in this post but that doesn’t change its importance.

And what better words could an educator use about someone else than

Mom was a ferocious learner, never stopped, curious and passionate

I’ll admit a little hesitancy to go through and read this. It seemed kind of personal and I was afraid that it might be one of those stories where people were separated by COVID as I was with a friend and a cousin who passed away earlier this year.

Jamie uses the post as a tribute to a wonderful mother. While her passing is nonetheless sad, the memories of a long, active life come through loudly and clearly.


Going back to in-person learning: Multiple Perspectives

Jennifer Casa-Todd shares a story of a presentation that she made recently. It was about digging into different perspectives about a return to face to face instruction/learning.

School districts world-wide are certainly all over the map about this. The consensus is that it’s a good thing but how do you do it and respect every educational partner at the same time? Secondary schools in Ontario are a good example of this. It was on the news this morning that the state of Michigan will be returning soon.

So, Jennifer’s activity?

I divided participants up into four different groups: a) Parent who is struggling to find care for their child; b) Student who is doing well in a virtual environment; c) Politician who is getting pressure to open schools d) Director who is seeing student failure rates go up.

It would have been interesting to see the responses. I found it interesting that one of the groups wasn’t teachers but that may have been by Jennifer’s design.


I hope that you can find some time to click through and read all of these interesting blog posts. They’ll get you thinking for sure.

Then, follow these bloggers on Twitter.

  • TheBeast – @thebeastedu
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Dave Cormier – @davecormier
  • Cameron Steltman – @MrSteltman
  • Cal Armstrong – @sig225
  • Jamie McKinnon – @jnmckinnon
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @JCasaTodd

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to another Friday and a chance to take a look at some great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers. As always, you won’t be disappointed with this great content.


#girlswhogame – Part 2

From Roland Chidiac, this is a followup to his Part 1 blog post from a few weeks ago. Read the blog post and you’ll see where Roland and the #girlswhogame are heading now in their learning.

Spoiler – Minecraft

Unlike games of old that are often first person shooter types, the gaming in this classroom includes work with:

  • solve problems using an inquiry process
  • think of and express questions in order to generate novel ideas
  • think about their thinking and have a growth mindset
  • participate in team work
  • communicate effectively in a variety of ways
  • understand how they are globally interconnected

Of course, all of these concepts are fleshed out in the post and it comes complete with pictures so that you can get a sense of what it looks like in Mr. Chidiac’s classroom.


Friday Two Cents: Society Cannot Function Without Women

Paul Gauchi shares with us some observations from his recent tour of occasional teaching. He’s noting that many of the teachers he’s working with are female.

In a discussion, as I’m sure happens in all schools, the reclosing of the school buildings is a topic.

Paul offers two reasons why he thinks it won’t happen.

First, he shares his thoughts that the politicians view schools as daycare. Secondly, he wonders about teaching positions being undervalued and expands the list to include a number of positions that are traditionally held by women.

He then takes a turn and offers a solution that might help the cause. As a father of two daughters, I didn’t find it a particularly easy post to read.


No Longer School Online

Regular readers will know that I really appreciate a good reflective post and Terry Whitmell looks at the first part of the school year and the successes that her school had with online instruction.

  • Teacher Networking
  • Student Agency
  • Consistency
  • Tools
  • Efficiency
  • Organization
  • Professional Learning
  • Student-Student Connection
  • Success

In the voicEd Radio show, I took a bit of liberty with Terry’s post and used the work Efficacy instead of Efficiency. I really liked her observations about how students took control of their educational lives. In a normal school setting, the structure is imposed on students but she observed their taking control of things. That seems to me to be one of the most important things from this post.

The post is written from the perspective of an administrator. I’d love to know if the teachers at the school observed the same things.


Step Down #SOL2020

Melanie White had me a bit emotional as I read this post. It was difficult to read because she uses “step down” as a delimiter throughout the post. It really was effective as it made me slow down and really mull over her thoughts.

Her thoughts took me through a sense of loneliness as she walks through her school describing what she sees. It reminded me of my own secondary school where we had an old part and a new part. The new part probably could have been a school anywhere in the province but the old part was really unique and yet, at the same time, similar to the building that Melanie describes.

I know that I’ve mentioned it before but her writing can be so moving and she’s done it again.

Then, the bottom fell out when she describes an airless room with Grade 9 students and her efforts to change that. While only a few people could have written something this emotional, I would bet that the emotions and the imagery she uses could be the words of so many others.


Social Distance Games & Activities

The day before I read this post from Larissa Aradj, I’d driven by French Catholic elementary school and students were outside.

Normally, that’s nothing to take note of but the ground was wet and it was the activity that the students were doing that caught my attention. They were lined up, physically distanced of course, and they were doing pushups as the teacher walked along in front of them. I was witnessing a Physical Education activity.

That took me back to my football coaching days!

This year, Larissa has picked up classes of Physical Education herself. It seems to me that that really is a challenging assignment these days. In the good old days, you’d have soccer balls and other tools of the game trade. These are not allowed these days so innovative ways to keep students engaged must be found. In this post, Larissa shares some ideas and links to professionally created activities. It’s a good collection to pass along to colleagues. Thanks, Larissa.

Hey, how about burpees?


Changing the narrative

I found this an interesting discussion from Alanna King. And she’s right; every curriculum document and course of study is presented chronologically.

My “yah, but” came from Computer Science where you build capacity in that matter; it you jump ahead, you overlook key concepts. I mean, what Computer Science teacher hasn’t had to stop in the middle of a lesson to explain something that was not apparent to be missing when you started.

Alanna’s talking more about the big picture in the humanities and that got her thinking about educational structure.

Good questions.

(Alanna, I felt badly that I started at the top of your list and read down)


Creating Engaging Lessons with EdPuzzle – E029

From the Edugals blog, a link to their podcast and the notes to go along with it. The topic this time around was EdPuzzle.

Reading this made me feel old!

EdPuzzle is a tool and a technique for helping students understand the content of a video and you’re probably thinking YouTube. I read an article recently that children put more credibility behind something from YouTube rather than something teacher created. When you think about it, it makes sense.

I actually was “formally” taught about how to use video in the classroom and the lesson went far beyond the play button. It involved noting the timer, having a sheet of questions, and most importantly a remote control. So teacher centred!

In the post, the ladies take you through the process as a teacher and a students and offer some sample codes so that you can experience what they’ve been working with.


There’s lots of great content yet again this week that will inspire you and help you take your game to the next level. Please take the time to click through and read all of these wonderful posts.

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

  • Rolland Chidiac – @rchids
  • Paul Gauchi – @PCMalteseFalcon
  • Terry Whitmell – @TerryWhitmell
  • Melanie White – @WhiteRoomRadio
  • Larissa Aradj – @MrsGeekChic
  • Alanna King – @banana29
  • EduGals – @EduGals

This post comes from:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

Extension tutorial


This was very cool.

I was working my way through my reading the other day and ran into this tutorial and worked my way through it.

How to Build a Chrome Extension

Now, to be honest, I’ve worked my way through a number of similar tutorials in the past. I’ve been successful in the particular activities but ended up just deleting my work.

This one is a little different, certainly relevant, and well laid out.

Bottom line, it’s a tutorial that lets you search an online database for COVID-19 statistics and display them in your browser. Sure, you can go to a website and search for results but it’s handy just having them there in your browser, a click away.

A second goldmine find here is a link to active data to feed the program.

https://coronavirus-19-api.herokuapp.com/countries

Of course, the data is as up to date as the last update.

I’m also thinking of Computer Science classrooms where you’re always looking for the answer to “why are we doing this”? Here’s a real-life example to work through. There is minimal internal documentation but that can be elaborated and then, of course, there are the mods.

The tutorial is easy to read and work through. Lots of copy/paste but a nice display of where the various files go in the file system of your computer.

Why are we doing this?


It’s a question that every teacher has had to answer way more than once.

Because I told you so

It’s good for you

Both seem logical but they may well have worn thin as those are the answers often given at home as well. Well, at least around here.

It may well be that this question is being asked by parents of students who are doing at least part of their work online. Some, even more than that.

For those using Google products, Google has produced a TechToolKit for parents and made it available here.

In the document, it addresses:

Each of these sections can go a long way toward demystifying all the jargon that can come into play with technology use.

Photo by Niclas Illg on Unsplash

Now, it’s obviously Google-centric and not everyone works in that world or even solely in that world. It seems to me that this is a good model for school districts, schools, or individual teachers to use as they look to further communications between home and school about just what tools are being used to work with students.

There’s even a consolidation at the bottom of the document of a template that could be used in email communication to get the word out.

Does your district or do you communicate clearly in this manner with your parents? Do you have a similar resource to share?

25 years ago


Twenty-five seems like such a big number but my reading feed has been just full of an event that occurred 25 years ago.

Windows 95 was launched!

Wow. That makes me think. Mick Jagger is getting old.

I hated the concept. My first personal computer was actually the Unisys Icon and there was a ton of learning to get up to speed. The operating system was QNX and that took some learning. Fun learning, but still learning. Then, there was the followup of TRS-DOS, MS-DOS, PC-DOS, CP/M, and then working with the Commodore PET. There was Windows 3.1 but we never took it seriously. It was a fad! These days, it’s Windows 10, MacOS, Linux, and ChromeOS.

The common thread to all of this was that you worked with things at the command line by typing instructions. I’ve often said that those were the last times that I actually knew how a computer work. All this graphic front end stuff took much of the control away from the keyboard and put it in your hands via mouse. Now, it’s often with your finger.

Of course, at the time, there was the Macintosh Operating System that many of us looked at with distain. “A Macintosh is a computer with training wheels that won’t come off.” Now, a new set of training wheels was going to come to the PC? Heresy.

As we know now, I was completely wrong. Even desktop for Linux has a graphic interface to interact with. I still have this nagging feeling though that I don’t know all that a computer is capable of. Perhaps there will be a time when I can come to grips with that.

At the time, other than I was expected to know about this for my job, there really wasn’t any reason to switch from DOS. After all, I had WordPerfect and VisiCalc. Who needs more? I think that the application that finally convinced me this was a good thing was Microsoft Publisher. After all, who could live without WordArt?! It was the beginning of the end with people mistaking graphics for content! And, I confess, I led workshops and that was always on the agenda.

Windows 95 put the Information Technology Department through the wringer as well. Networking was nowhere near the plug and play convenience that we enjoy today. You had to buy cards and sometimes work hard to get a driver that worked. Today, we seldom think of such things.

If you’re interested in a little throw back, you can experience the excitement of Windows 95 here. It loads about as quickly as I remember my computers back them loading. And, who could forget the excitement of CGA and VGA graphics! If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry. You’re not missing much by not knowing.

It actually was fun just plugging around with this old interface.

Like most computer things though, it is now but a memory for a computer museum. We have so much more power and functionality these days.

It’s hard to look back and think that we had it all with this cutting edge stuff.

Do you have any fond or not so fond Windows 95 memories?