This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Happiest of Fridays to everyone. Enjoy some good blog reading!


So You Are Going to Be A Teacher Librarian… now what? Part 1

Is there any location in a school that changes so frequently in response to resources, understanding how students read, or just a conducive place for learning, reading, making, or just a place for lesson planning as the library?

Elizabeth has started a series of blog posts about what goes into her thinking about design and I like how she’s generous enough to share it with us in this post and has shared it with colleagues and administrators from other schools over the years.

Today’s library is so far removed from the libraries that we enjoyed going to in schools. Certainly, we enjoyed going there and it was a favourite place for a number of reasons. Mostly, I recall, it was for books and a quiet place to work.

Things have changed. How do you make it a success? There’s lots of planning, design, and thinking that goes into it and you get a sense of it in this introductory post.

  • Things to consider – layout of the room
  • Beginning readers
  • Picture books
  • Chapter books and graphic novels
  • Non-fiction
  • Dual language

If you’ve been paying attention to education, there’s much more to come as we think about makerspaces and all the other things that happen there. As she notes, the library environment is the third educator in the room. If you think it’s just another room with books, you’ve got another think coming.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming posts.


Researcher’s Journal: Living in a post-truth world

Now that Paul is working on his PhD, he’s taking us deeper in thought as we tag along with his research.

This time, he’s looking at “post-truth“, ironically the definition that I’m sharing is from Wikipedia! This resource even has a post about mis-information.

It doesn’t take long when you turn on the evening news broadcasts from the south of the border that this concept blows up in your face. There was a time when an expert carried an expert label; now it seems like anyone who is willing to stand in front of a camera and scream gets the air play. Truth used to be so binary.

Paul’s current thoughts are influenced by Sam Weinburg and he’s good enough to give us a glimpse of his research reading.

These days, it seems anyone can be a journalist and you can start with a blog and share whatever information you want! Later, I’m going to talk about a blog post from Bonnie Stewart and she has a link to a resource on eCampusOntario about Information Abundance. Good reading and I can’t help but think that Paul’s work is important but how will it be judged objectively? What does objective mean anymore?


Minds Moving … For Adults And Kids Alike!

All teachers have a way to start their class. There’s a phrase that you often hear “minds on” to describe things. You’d like to think that students come in, sit down quietly, and get to work. About the second day in this profession and you know that they need help; it doesn’t come naturally.

Aviva shares how she personally starts her day. With an early start, she’s into the popular word puzzle games. I know that many teachers are now using it as a fun start to the lesson (psst don’t tell them that it’s good for them) but Aviva uses it for herself to get her mind going.

Then, what would an Aviva post be without pictures? She shares how her students get started independently.

It seems to me that the key to all of this is to find a bite-sized activity that’s engaging and enjoyable to do. That’s not always easy but finding it will have huge payoffs.


Redesign for online: 3 easy steps to questioning everything you do as an educator

My RSS Reader brought up this two-year-old now post from Bonnie. I don’t know if she updated it or if it was just fortunate luck but I read it and really enjoyed it. There’s so much wisdom in here that, after COVID, we can get a better understanding of now.

Warning – the title is a bit of a bait and switch but not in a bad way. As she notes, there is no such thing as three easy steps.

Online teaching is her thing so she does write from a strong background and credibility. After two years, everyone has built up a bit of expertise so her experiences have added importance.

There were a few big takeaways for me.

  • “Redesigning for online is a confronting process. It forces you to pare down both your course content AND your course communications to the bits that matter most” – Yes! Not everything gets ported over. It’s also a good idea as you prepare for F2F next year
  • “the infrastructure of the internet is actually designed FOR two-way participatory communications” and she gives terrific examples of what to do. I thought that the concept of knowledge creators versus consumers was particularly helpful. With YouTube and the like, I think everyone has got the consumer part down pat
  • “My partner, on the other hand, worked ten hour days, wrote half an Online Teaching textbook, and created an entire site of video resources and interviews about digital pedagogies” This is a rich resource

There is a presentation and the irony of the tools used isn’t lost on me but it will be a good hour of professional learning for all.


Grad Prep

After the fact, I had some regrets about sharing the post. The content was about the work that Diana puts in to support her colleagues in a couple of graduations in the school – from Kindergarten and Grade 8. She’s using her technical skills to build a presentation using green screen and a story for each student.

It was a little sobering when she mentioned that this might well be the first time for the kindergarten students to see a big audience. I never thought of that.

The regrets came from responses to the voicEd show where the concept of graduations was discussed in not so glowing terms. That wasn’t the point of Diana’s post and I hope that she missed it. Graduations are a school or district decision; not an individual teacher’s.

Having said that, I can’t recall any course where things abruptly ended after the last class. Even at the Faculty of Education just taking a single course, there was an invitation to go out or over to someone’s house to celebrate the end of things.

There have been so few things to celebrate these days that a formal graduation may just be the shot that people need, for that moment in time. There may be a time and a place to have this discussion but to tag onto this blog post isn’t it.

And don’t forget the parents – this from a friend of mine this morning…

So proud x 2 🎓🎓🎉🎉! Congratulations to both XXXXXXX and XXXXXXX on their Grade 8 graduation from XXPS! 🙌🏻 10 years in the making!

I’m sure that also the kids will get a DVD or a link to the presentation that they can enjoy for a lifetime. I sure wish I had that to look back at.


And on to LongCovid

“Masks are all but gone in my neck of the woods.”

Ditto here. In the past while, I’ve had an optometrist and doctor appointment and I’ve worn a mask. The sign on the door says so and I know that these are occasions where you’re going to be closer than ever to someone not in your immediate family.

We also wear masks to the drug store where it’s about 50/50 with staff and Walmart where the ratio is less. I’ve convinced my wife that self-checkout isn’t bad because you don’t have to stand really close to anyone.

I’d like to go with the sentiment that it’s all over. But it isn’t, by a long shot.

  • A good friend, wife, and inlaw all got it
  • Friends on Facebook have checked in with the sad news
  • Baseball was cancelled because they couldn’t field a team

Then, there’s the concept of longCOVID (longCovid) that Marie talks about in the post. It’s not pleasant and she doesn’t sugar-coat it.

Somehow, so many have bought into the concept since vaccination centres are shut down and there isn’t a frenzy to get a jab.

I had to smile a bit at her thoughts about style. Like so many, I just wish we could get to the point where it’s not here and we don’t have to worry about writing about it. We’re not there yet.


They haven’t the foggiest

I’ll give Doug some cred by pairing him with Monty Python.

Hey, Doug

If you’re looking for a little smile and some play on words, this will be your Friday morning read.


Please find some time to enjoy these posts. Then, follow the authors on Twitter.

  • Elizabeth Lyons – @mrslyonslibrary
  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Bonnie Stewart – @bonstewart
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Marie Snyder – @MarieSnyder27
  • Doug McDowall – @dougzone2_1

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Here’s a collection to kickstart your Friday morning reading, courtesy of Ontario Edubloggers.


Updating My Idioms

I felt that this was a brave and important post from Diana. Here, she takes a look at some of the idioms that she has found herself using. An idiom is a word or phrase that is used in language that represents something different other than the original meaning.

We talked about this post on Wednesday morning on voicEd Radio and I found it was awkward. I didn’t want to use the examples that Diana had given because it just wouldn’t be appropriate to say them out loud. This is one case where blogging is better than podcasting since she could put the idiom inside quotation marks to denote her use of it. Certainly when you talk, there wasn’t an equivalent that I was comfortable using.

During the show, Stephen introduced another one – “Cake Walk” – and I had no idea of the history of that one. After his explanation, I don’t think I’ll ever have the urge to use it again. I had no idea…

This is a good post and I’ll bet you’ll pay a bit more attention to your words after reading it. She treats each of the examples the same way:

  • Identify the idiom
  • What is it used for?
  • What could be used instead?

How to Identify a Spam Message

I can’t remember the first time I thought about this but it would have been a long, long time ago. Now, it’s just part of the business of being online with an email account.

Somehow your email address ends up being discovered by the bad guys through any one of a million different ways and you get an unsolictited email that appears in your inbox. In the early days, it appeared right up front and in your face. The content of the email typically has some sort of message for you requiring action on your part which usually involves clicking a link and going to some place that you didn’t intend. The goal is to get more information from you or important things like Credit Card information.

That’s what drove Peter to write this post – he had a friend who thought that they had had their information stolen. Peter responds with a good summary of what a spam message looks like for others to learn from and provides some great advice. Even if you think that you know it all, it’s still a good read and reminder.

These days, most email providers have artificial intelligence hard at work trying its best to keep those messages away from you by dumping them into a spam folder. Sadly, you still have to visit it because sometimes good messages get dumped there.

Sigh.


Cito Gaston: A Reluctant but True Leader

This is a blog post that goes hand and hand with a podcast discussion between Charles and Stephen Hurley. There’s lots of great information there about Cito and Charles and their relationship as well as a bit of history if you like that sort of thing. And, I do even though I’m a lifelong Tiger fan.

Like most sports, baseball is a source for fascinating statistics that can be used nicely in the classroom and answer the question “When will we ever use this?” Cito’s stats as a player appear here:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/gastoci01.shtml

In the podcast, Stephen kept pushing Charles to talk about leadership in schools as compared to Gaston’s leadership in baseball. Of course, it got me thinking and two managers came to mind – Earl Weaver and Sparky Anderson. There is a definite different in styles compared to Gaston’s.

Who would you want managing your school?

You’ll want to read the post and listen to the podcast – it’s about 20 minutes long and really worth the listen.

And, hang in there Charles, there may be a phone call to use your abilities as a catcher yet.


WE’RE ON THE PLANET TEZRA HELPING CHILDREN TO MANAGE THEIR EMOTIONS …

Lynn, who I remember as a principal in my school district, has partnered with a niece and a recent graduate from Kennedy Collegiate to produce a series of books for students. It’s not just any type of book and I think that it’s unique enough to appeal to parents and libraries who are in search of the solution this series will help address.

The premise for the series surrounds inhabitants from the planet Tezra. They are interestingly drawn with sharp looking colours. What makes these characters special – well, you’ll have to read Lynn’s post to get all the details but part of it is that they have difficulty managing their emotions.

The books come will come with an accompanying guide for teachers and parents to help them use the resource successfully to help manage emotions. It sounds like they’re addressing a very unique situation.

As a promotion, one lucky entrant to a draw will get a personal caricature of themselves from the illustrator.


Prevent Teacher Burnout

You hear about issues that people are having going into school every day. They’re legitimate at the best of times; teaching is a tough profession.

Living and teaching through a pandemic and the type of leadership that we’re seeing, it only makes the stress that more oppressive. Burnout is a legitimate concern.

In this post, Kristy offers her thoughts with three areas:

  • Professional Support
  • Outside-of-Work Friends
  • Family

I had a flashback to advice from my first principal that has stuck with me since then – choose your friends wisely. There are so many that just poisonous or may end up turning on you.

In each of the areas, Kristy spells out some very important things to consider. Even if you don’t feel the burnout right now, you might at some point and that makes reading and bookmarking this important.


6 actions que font des leaders solides

This tags onto the post from Charles above dealing with leadership. I first of all tried to attach the descriptions here to a manager of a Major League Baseball team.

  • They take calculated risks
  • They unconditionally celebrate the successes of others
  • They are not afraid to communicate what they think
  • They welcome change and challenges
  • They embrace a growth mindset and don’t dwell on things beyond their control
  • They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves: they rush forward

Then, I spun it to think about leadership in education. I could see his points fitting nicely into both scenarios.

It’s an interesting post about leadership and, of couse, Joel expands on each of his points as you work your way through this read.

For those who are in leadership positions, I think it’s important to realize that other’s eyes are always on you and that makes this openness, caring, and empathy all that much more important.


Supporting Student Transition from Elementary to Secondary

This is such a timely post.

In my personal transition, my preparation for Grade 9 didn’t have anything about the change in network and friends, it was all about how if I didn’t do better in Grade 8, I was going to be toast in Grade 9 or as my Grade 8 teacher called it “Coll-EEEE-giate”. I was petrified and there was no formal Grade 8 night; my parents and I were welcome to walk the halls the week before school started to find my home room and locker. It had to have a big effect on me; I still remember that room and my locker combination. 57-36-12

It was a scary experience. I don’t have specific memories of Grades 10-13 but I still remember Grade 9.

Things are so much different now. Even the buildings and philosophies are different. Some students are in the big house starting earlier than before. Yes, the building is reorganized to make it friendly but still. Grade 8 nights are big events and Grade 8 teachers are much more aware of the big change in student life ahead.

Things are definitely different than back in my day never mind throwing in all the COVID stuff. Secondary school can be an intimidating place, of that there can be no doubt. Big, bad teachers, and all that!

I found Gary’s post to be an interesting read, chocked full of advice and he even includes an a self-advocacy toolkit full of ideas and student oriented that might find its way into your set of tools.


Please take the time to click through and enjoy all these posts. Then, follow these bloggers on Twitter.

  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Peter Beens – @pbeens
  • Charles Pascal – @CEPascal
  • Lynn McLaughlin – @lynnmcla
  • Kristy – @2peasandadog
  • Joel McLean – @jprofNB

The voicEd Radio show from Wednesday.

Tree of Life Explorer


Here’s a resource that every science teacher (and others) are going to want to bookmark because I can see so many uses for it with them. It’s called the OneZoom Tree of Life Explorer and it’s so powerful and yet so humbling at the same time.

An interactive map of the evolutionary links between all living things known to science. Discover your favourites, see which species are under threat, and be amazed by the diversity of life on earth.

https://www.onezoom.org, December 14, 2021

Be prepared to do a lot of zooming and moving around.

If you follow one of the links in the window when you land at the site, you’ll be dropped into the middle of life, somewhere. Exploring around there is hugely interesting. And why wouldn’t it be. The website brags that it has identified and placed 2,235,322 species on the tree, many with images.

This is a huge resource and each time I find something of particular interest, I’m off in another direction. I love it when a resource is that comprehensive.

There is a section specifically devoted to education including instructions about installing it locally. You owe it to yourself to look through the site and then, of course, start exploring.

Changes to Audacity


I was quite surprised last night when I looked at Twitter trends and noticed that Audacity was trending. It’s been a staple on computers around here for as long as I can remember. If you find any list of top free or open source programs, Audacity always makes any Top 10 list.

It’s very visual in its presentation, has always worked perfectly, and records audio incredibly well. If you need to edit files afterwards, it’s intuitive and the visual representation of your file makes it so easy.

It’s a standalone application. It just installs on your computer and doesn’t need to run anything from the web. Files are stored locally and then you decide what you want to do with it.

So, as I saw it trending, I wondered just how it could be any better. Apparently, the software is now owned by a for profit company, the Muse Group. I hadn’t realized that the software hadn’t been upgraded for nine years. What a testament to a piece of software that just worked. It’s now been upgraded to version 3.

But, there are two things that you need to be aware of before you rush out to upgrade and they’re covered in this article. People had been investigating the new software and noticed a couple of issues. These issues weren’t with the software itself but with the terms of use.

The first issue was the inclusion of a statement that you must agree to before you install the software. It gives the company the right to collect various pieces of data, including information that could be passed along to law enforcement.

By itself, that’s pretty standard these days. If you dig through the terms and conditions of any software that you install, something like that can usually be found. It’s just such a big change from the previous terms of the Open Source software that got people riled.

The second issue is the one that I think all educators should be aware of. The newest terms preclude it from being used by anyone under the age of 13. I can tell you, from days gone by, that Audacity was always on the computer image that was produced over the summer for student use in the classroom. The interface was so useful and the program just worked. Teachers love it for its use; IT Department loved it because you just installed it and it worked.

I can’t recall any issue with the program; any requests for support was about file format, importing, editing, and general use.

Many people who are using the software for podcasting love it. It’s simple and straight forward; you just use it. How often can you say that about a piece of software?

So, in a call to action, there are recommendations for alternative editing programs and a suggestion that people may take the original Open Source and make it into another piece of software.

I’m still at a loss to understand how a company can acquire an Open Source piece of software and then inject their own terms and conditions. I could kind of seeing them forking it on their own. But how do they get to keep the name and change its fundamental functionality?

In the meantime, these two issues should get serious consideration on your part as to whether or not you’ll use it going forward.

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