This Wednesday, Matthew Morris joined Stephen Hurley and me for This Week in Ontario, the Podcast. You can listen to it here. With Matthew’s insights, we took on a few new topics. You can read my thoughts about them below. As always, insights from great Ontario Edubloggers.
This was a post from Matthew Morris. Here, he takes on the very popular blogging format “# Things …” and shares some advice about what to do during this time off.
Purge Your Classroom
Reflect on the Year
One New Thing for Next Year
Fortunately, for the podcast, he woke up early and plugged in, thereby breaking at least two rules on his list! But, as you work your way down the list, you’ll undoubtedly agree with them. Most support the notion of mental well-being.
I found that the “Reflect on the Year” to be one of the more interesting things when you consider that most people would consider this a year to forget. To be certain, we don’t know what the fall will look like so consolidating them with the on the fly learning that’s happened in the past few months could be very important.
It’s also advice that Subject Associations should be heeding. For the most part, teachers made it work but I’m sure that many of them could provide guidance to make things better. Just this morning, ACSE member Lisa Rubini-Laforest indicated that she will be leading a panel discussion at their virtual conference this summer about teaching online. All Subject Associations should be highlighting their expertise in this area and the sooner the better.
Take the lead; do them early, record them and place them online so that they’re accessible when most school districts do their end of August professional learning.
I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that social media has got meaner over the past few months. Personally, I have isolated some people from me because of a number of reasons. I’m emotionally happier as a result.
The concept has not gone unnoticed by Jennifer Casa-Todd and she takes on the topic in this post from the perspective of students. They can be brutal at times. She asks about various things that will get you thinking. One in particular struck me as needing to be answered.
If we are talking about adolescents, will their entire future be marred by one mistake?
Of course, Jennifer has many other thinking points and that will make reading her post worthwhile.
Trending this morning is this post from Margaret Wente
It’s an insight from the other side, from one who was “cancelled” due to pressure from Social Media.
During the podcast, I mused that only teachers and students would be able to use the word “similes” properly. Matthew indicated that rappers could as well!
In this post on the Heart and Art blog, Will Gourley does a top six list…
“Teaching during a quarantine”
The similes are certainly worth the read and has to bring a smile to everyone. I know it did for me. I also learned that AWOL doesn’t always have the meaning that I thought it did after watching years of M*A*S*H.
It seems to me that the best of the six was comparing learning to eating an ice cream code with a hole in the bottom. Read the post to see Will tell you why he feels that way.
It’s a great read and I get a sense that it might have been healing for Will as he got a lot off his chest. Read and share.
Where students come from a family to school, the insights from With Equal Step are really important.
Over and over again, we heard about how parents had a renewed appreciation for teachers (or a first appreciation) and how teachers had appreciated the support received from families.
The observations in the post about silos and bridges are important. There’s wisdom here for everyone.
While teachers and parents may be frustrated that they can no longer easily hand off our child to the other at the door, our new immersive connection reminds us that, “Diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous ones.”
I think that everyone could learn something from the observations in Anna Bartosik’s post.
I think that most people can envision the days of going to the library to grab some books or microfiche and doing the research. Since Anna made the reference to OISE, I remembered a couple of coffee places and the cafeteria at FEUT where many of us would meet and work together on things.
So, now you take all that away.
Well, we now have different/better tools. Just open a shared online document and a video conferencing window and take it from there. Anna shares her experience working in this environment.
As Doug indicated in his comment, many people might be preparing for worst case scenarios right now. While I was quick to reply that my teaching partner, Paula, and I are not doing that, maybe that’s not completely true.
Well, maybe not in so many words but I’ll take what I can get.
So, Aviva is doing some planning
I’m planning for possibilities
I’m planning with connections
I’m planning to connect
I’m planning through reading
I’m planning to blog
Knowing her as I think I do, none of these come as real surprises.
Probably all teachers could say they’re doing these things and they wouldn’t be wrong. But I would point to the one in the middle. (Mental note: should have used a numbered list)
The value of connecting needs to go further than “I gots me a Twitter account”. Connecting means building that account to have a critical mass of wisdom both supporting and challenging your assumptions and more importantly to put yourself out there, offering advice, asking for suggestions, working collaboratively, being humble…
I’m really liking it when organizations are rolling with the punches and coming out the other side winning.
MakerEdTO is one of those groups and Diana Maliszewski shares with us how it was done.
Of course, they couldn’t get together and make things happen by all being in the same place at the same time. It wasn’t talking heads; they worked on giving everyone selection and used online breakout rooms to make it happen.
There’s a great deal to be learned from this post and I’m sure Diana would be more than accommodating for those who want to ask questions to make educational gatherings like this work, even in these times.
Please take the time to click through and read all these wonderful posts and then follow these educators online through Twitter.
Especially for those of us who have been in it for said haul.
Just to date myself, I learned how to program via punched and mark sense cards. A program wan’t just as assembly of instructions or blocks; it was an assembly of these cards. Debugging was much more of a challenge. Not only did you have to find whatever bug was causing you grief but then you had to create a new card (or erase the coded in bubble) and then replace the one causing you problem in the deck. There was a great deal of pressure to get it right the first time through to avoid this process.
Of course, things changed; I ended up taking courses with terminals (yay, no cards) and then the personal home computer revolution came along. This really was a change in things. From my first TRS-80 computer to Windows PCs, I’ve written programs on them all. You really had to know your machine and I’ve often said that these were the last times that I really understood computers.
A big change was coming with the concept of windows running on a computer. Originally from the XEROX Parc, the whole notion of user interface being more than just text on a screen really took off. As we know, Apple was the first to adopt this. It was about this time that knowing all the ins and outs of a computer became less important. In fact, the way that things were tightly controlled led to comments like:
A Macintosh is a computer with training wheels that don’t come off
But usability and functionality really took off and Microsoft followed with its own take of a windowed environment. It’s a far cry from today; it was more like text occupying its own window that you could resize. Windows 1 seems so distant from Windows 10 of today.
For a step back in time, I enjoyed this video. It’s claim is that it’s the first “Hello World” program for Windows.
If you’re a programmer, you know that “Hello World” programs are the ultimate proof of concept that you could write and then run a program in whatever language you’re using.
This little video brought back so many memories including the one big advantage that Microsoft had over Apple. You could have coloured windows. Sadly, I remember using this colour combination at one point. Maybe it wasn’t such a big advantage after all. Colours in windows today is a little more subdued and Apple continues with its plain jane windows frames.
35 years seems like an eternity and it is in the computer world.
But, with all of our love for nostalgia, I can’t see anyone ever longing for a return to this world.
Neerja Punjabi is currently seconded to TVOntario as Director, Educational Partnerships K-12. Previously, she was a principal in both the Peel District and Toronto District School Boards. During this very different time, she took the time to have a discussion with me.
Doug: My first question is always this – do you recall when we first met?
Neerja: I have been active on Twitter since 2011, which was my first year as a new elementary school principal. I wanted to learn and connect with educators who were sharing ideas in an open forum. I started following you on Twitter during that time because you posted amazing professional learning resources, which I was interested in reading and learning from. You have always modelled the #NeverStopLearning philosophy.
Doug: You seem to be a regular on #FollowFridays which is always an indicator that you’re actively sharing content. I’m guessing that our connector in common would have been Urs who I worked with in OSAPAC days. Would that be your guess, or was it someone else?
Neerja: I met Urs Bill when I joined TVO last year. But you Doug have been a big part of my professional learning network for a very long time, even though we had never formally met. The #FollowFridays feed was another reason for the connection to meet like-minded educators who added value to my professional growth.
Doug: I’m always in awe with people that manage to converse in multiple languages. You would certainly be in that category. Can you share your level of fluency and your languages spoken?
Neerja: I was born and brought up in Hyderabad, India, and we had to learn at least three languages in school. Attending a convent school where English was the medium of instruction, we also learnt Hindi and Telugu as second and third languages. I am very fluent in speaking these languages. In addition, Punjabi is my mother tongue, and I learned it at home. Urdu is very similar to Hindi, and because of that, I can speak it very fluently.
This article from @npr resonated with me. It specifically mentions a research study done in Hyderabad, which highlights my upbringing and exposure to several languages:
Doug: Wow, that is so impressive. As a former principal, how was your fluency in these languages an asset?
Neerja: Being fluent in all these languages was a definite asset for me as a principal in Peel District School Board. It helped me to build meaningful relationships with parents and grandparents in the community. I could share my experiences and stories of resilience as a new immigrant with new families immigrating to Canada, particularly from South Asia, giving them a message of hope and a sense of optimism. Speaking in one’s native tongue helps build trust and creates a sense of mutual respect.
Doug: Now, you’ve been seconded to TVOntario, one of the real education gems in the province. Your role involves Educational Partnerships. What does this involve?
Neerja: I would like to give you a little bit of background first about why I decided to take up a secondment with TVO, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary – ‘50 and Never Stop Learning’ this year. TVO has held a very special place in my heart. As a new immigrant coming to Canada 31 years ago, I was fascinated by the broadcast programs which were offered by TVO. When we decided to immigrate to Canada, we knew we had no friends and family here, and the one TV channel we relied on was TVO. Saturday Night at the Movies was a weekly television series on TVO, the public educational television network in Ontario with Elwy Yost and my husband and I watched the two back-to-back Movies. We have many fond memories. Also, my children were avid watchers of the Polka Dot Door (with Polkaroo) and Arthur which were very popular programs. They learned so much through these two shows. TVO played a big role in supporting our immigrant family’s successfully acclimatization to the Canadian values and culture.
My secondment to TVO has been a wonderful learning journey. As Director, Educational Partnerships, I have developed and led TVO’s strategy to coordinate partnerships and outreach activities across the K-12 educational community, including communication and liaising with school districts, federations, affiliations and employee group partners, EDU, and Faculties of Education. We have promoted awareness and adoption of TVO and TVO’s digital products and services in targeted professional learning sessions across the province.
Doug: You and your team had a big presence at the Bring IT, Together Conference in Niagara Falls last November. Who is on your team and what are their roles?
Neerja: Our ‘small but mighty’ team comprises both TVO employees and educators who have been seconded from either a Board of Education or from the Ministry.
Here is a list of our phenomenal team members:
Urs Bill, Manager of TVO Mathify and Educational Outreach (seconded from the Ministry of Education)
Natalie Perez, Outreach Support Officer
Jenny Cadena and Tony Yeung, Resource Coordinators for TVO Mathify
Albert Wisco, Community Manager for TVO Teach Ontario
Kyle McCreight, Digital Media Producer
Jennifer Montgomery, Education Officer (Seconded from YRDSB)
Leah Kearney, Pedagogue/Instructional Liaison (seconded from TDSB)
Maureen Asselin, Instructional Liaison (seconded from HCDSB)
I’ve been an exhibitor at that conference, and I have a not-so-fond memory of exhaustion from standing so long and repeating the same message over and over. What is your memory from the event? Was this your first time at this conference?
Neerja: First, let me thank you for sharing our blog on your WordPress and Twitter. Your support has meant a lot with expanding our outreach efforts across the province.
In 2019, I attended the BIT conference for the very first time. My team members who had participated in the conference before were very enthusiastic about this opportunity for networking and connecting with so many like-minded educators who were the early adopters of digital learning. There were so many teacher-leaders who participated in drop-in sessions to learn more about TVO resources. Many explored the TVO carousal and registered for TVO mPower and TVO Mathify. Many educators were inspired to join our TVO outreach team as TVO Ambassadors to continue to spread the word.
Doug: TVOntario hosts so many wonderful resources for education. Can you share a link to where they are and a quick overview?
Neerja: Here is a link where you will find copies of one-page support guides (toolkits) for TVO mPower and TVO Mathify, as well as a one-page overview of all TVO resources:
Doug: I’ve always been a fan and supporter, in particular, of the Mathematics support that TVO offers. Can you give an overview of those specifically? I think that, in these times, they are even more important.
Neerja: I will talk about two TVO resources in particular that offer support in Mathematics.
TVO Mathify is developed for Ontario students and educators, and this resource seamlessly supports the learning of grade 6-10 math. Mathify helps educators to boost math engagement, confidence and reduce math anxiety. It enables students to extend or support their own learning through live, individualized 1:1 math tutoring sessions with TVO Mathify tutors who are also Ontario Certified Math Teachers.
TVO Mathify addresses and accommodates the different scheduling needs of you, your students, and their families during this time. Teachers and students can engage in math lessons and learning at times that work for them and their schedule – over and above any pre-planned lesson times.
TVO Mathify is also:
Intuitive to use for teachers and students. No big learning curve required.
Safe and secure. No ads, no pop-ups, no purchases, no downloads, and no one collecting data on you or your students for potential sale to for-profit organizations.
FREE to Ontario teachers and students and available.
24/7 access to prepare, post or access questions
Extended tutoring hours for students:
Mon-Fri 9 am-9 pm ET
Sun 3:30-9 pm ET
TVO mPower: is a fun and innovative online game-based resource that builds problem-solving, critical thinking and math skills for students K-6. It is an award-winning, ad-free children’s content that supports the Ontario curriculum, developed with a commitment to diversity. Creative online math games support the development of foundational K-6 math & STEM skills in the classroom and at home.
We use a variety of resources to develop TVO mPower; these are foundational to our work: Curriculum Documents – The Kindergarten Program, The Ontario Mathematics, Science and Technology and Social Studies Curricula are used in the creation of the math games, STEM games, and TVO mPower narratives. This ensures the alignment with Ontario curriculum expectations and best practices. The game iterations are based on feedback from classroom teachers, ongoing playtesting and the ongoing research and development process at TVO.
In summary, TVO mPower has 65+ free, creative online games that support the development of foundational K-6 math and STEM skills while fostering positive attitudes towards math. TVO mPower is:
A safe, advertising-free play space
Free for all Ontarians
Available on laptop, desktop computers and tablets
Doug: Have TVOntario and your team ramped up your resources and support during these times of school closures?
Neerja: Educational partnerships team continues to be innovative in providing outreach virtually through webinars. We have conducted several online webinars for interested educators. Recently we have been asked to deliver two webinars to over 100 educators from a Board of Education to their educator community. Also, educators can access support by registering on TeachOntario
-an online community for Ontario’s educators. We share our resources, and new content is posted regularly. We also share our resources through social media.
Doug: Is it safe to say that you and your team are working from home these days?
Neerja: Yes, you are right – we are currently working from home. We use digital collaboration platforms for our meetings within the organization, and we connect with educators across the province through scheduled synchronous and asynchronous webinars. TVO TeachOntario has been an incredible resource for connecting our team and connecting Ontario educators. In terms of the bigger picture, here is a Blog which highlights some of the ways TVO is conducting business as an organization:
Over the past few months, these FREE TVO resources have had a significant impact and benefit on our educators, students, parents, and guardians. Many students continue to actively use resources such as TVO Kids, TVO mPower, and TVO Mathify. We will continue to serve our communities during these difficult times and have our resources available for anyone who needs the support.
Doug: During all this, you remain connected to your network on Twitter. What value do you see in staying connected?
Neerja: Twitter is a platform where I am continually learning, sharing and connecting with educators. At TVO, we share a commitment to lifelong learning and the belief that learning has the power to ignite potential and change the world. My engagement and use of this platform truly align with this deep-rooted value to #NeverStopLearning, which I fully imbibe.
Doug: I asked Superintendent Hazel Mason this when I interviewed her
– if you had to identify 10 “must follow” users on Twitter, who would they be?
Neerja: I was overwhelmed when I saw my name mentioned on this list from Hazel Mason (@Hmason36 on Twitter) in June 2017. Hazel was my Superintendent, a fantastic leader who had high expectations for all her team members, and I hold her in very high regard.
There are so many phenomenal educators and leaders that I continue to learn from regularly on Twitter. Here are the names of those who have helped me and continue to help me on my learning journey:
Rose Pillay, @RosePillay1
Bill Ferriter, @Plugusin
Jackie Gerstein, @jackiegerstein
David Culberhouse, @DCulberhouse
ONT Special Needs, @Ontspecialneeds
Zohrin Mawji, @ZohrinMawji
The Agenda/TVO, @TheAgenda
Edutopia – @Edutopia
Mindshift – @MindShiftKQED
NCTE – @ncte
Doug: I know that you’re a very positive person. When do you see us getting back to normal, or whatever “normal” will become?
Neerja: Thank you, Doug, that is very nice of you. Yes, I am a positive person, and from what I know is that this too shall pass. In the meantime, we need to focus on ensuring that all safety measures are in place and follow the Public Health advice diligently. By taking personal responsibility, we can collectively flatten the curve. In addition, we need to keep track of the regular updates on COVID-19 shared on the Ontario.ca website. It is an excellent idea to be mindful of what is being expected to keep us all safe.
Doug: If you were returning to one of your former schools as principal, what sorts of changes do you see having to be made for everyone’s safety?
Neerja: I understand that returning to school at this time would require a deep reflection and a call to action to support all learners, especially those who are underserved and who may have big gaps in their learning. Providing students with the best learning opportunities will be the highest priority for me as the lead learner in the school. In addition, my focus will be on building positive and trusting relationships with my staff, students, parents, guardians, and extended community partners.
Doug: Thank you so much for taking the time during all this to share some of your thoughts, wisdom, and insights. Stay safe.
You can follow Neerja on Twitter at @PNeerja
Make sure that you check out the TVOntario resources at the link above.
Sue Bruyns is just steaming ahead with her goal of writing daily for the month of May. This post caught my eye because she made reference to a post that I had written for a Sunday “Whatever happened to …” post as she was inspired to blog about drive-in theatres. I’m humbled that she remembered the post from two years ago.
Drive-in theatres make a great deal sense as a way to provide entertainment and yet still maintain social distancing. After all, you’re in your car and only exposed to those who are with you. What was nice to me, in reading this post, is to see Sue be retrospective to drive-in theatres from the London area. I remember them as well as the one near Grand Bend that see alludes to.
Of course, the technology has moved on from VCR to DVD to pay per view to streaming … but there was still something special about going to the drive-in. Ramona Meharg joined the social media conversation as she grew up in the same area. That led to some interesting reminiscing back and forth.
Like any outings will be though, the elephant in the room will be what to do when nature calls. As long as you have an empty tub of popcorn, guys won’t be too hard pushed but Sheila Stewart sealed the conversation with an exclamation point and a costly option.
This is a good question. Students wonder about it all the time. Teachers should wonder as well.
In fact, I suspect that we all wondered when, as students, something would be placed on the blackboard for us to do.
So, he posted this as a question for his students in their learning management system and shortly received 21 answers.
As a teacher though, wouldn’t you like to think that anything you’ve taken time to have planned, decided what expectations it addresses, and the be prepared to allocated your precious resource of time towards assessing it, is meaningful?
To help determine this, you might want to ponder this…
“Work that overlaps with real life skills by putting on individual talents and interests”
In the seemingly never-ending blog post series by Shelly Vohra, Part 13 lets her take the time to think about what the future of education looks like. She addresses five things in this post.
Wellness / Social and emotional learning
Assessment and Evaluation
Teacher professional learning
She addresses each of the topics thoughtfully.
It’s the last two that I think need special attention at this time. It’s during conferences and professional learning opportunities that all else can be addressed.
When I was president of ECOO, I introduced the concept of the #ECOOcamp. We know that the big conference can be a challenge for some people in terms of release time and costs. Our concept was to offer the same sort of experience on a smaller, local basis. Unlike an EdCamp which can be a hit or miss proposition, the #ECOOcamp had a defined schedule with topics so that you knew what to expect when you devoted a day (we chose a Saturday) to the event. We had a successful event the first year in Owen Sound, and it was repeated a second year there and expanded to include another event in Peterborough. The current leadership of ECOO showed no interest that I could see in continuing this year and, of course, now that we’re all bottled up, travel just isn’t possible.
But great minds should be able to come up with all kinds of alternatives. We certainly have a province of people becoming familiar with the concept of presenting/teaching online! OAME has already done a virtual conference. Connect 2020 is offering its conference online. I’ve registered for that.
It’s time for all subject association and school districts to come forward with an explicit description about what value they assign to their conferences and their support of professional learning for their members.
As if I wasn’t editorializing enough, I find it frustrating to watch colleagues throughout the province trying to work with different learning management systems. Why wasn’t the Ministry tasked to license a common platform so that everyone could learn and grow in the same space?
</rant> Shelly promises to develop her thoughts on these topics as she continues to share her thinking. I look forward to them.
Heather Swail writes a pair of posts on a theme that everyone is experiencing right now; I’d never thought of the term “The Long Spring” but it is so, so appropriate.
During this Long Spring, Heather is spending it with teenagers. You know, those “Digital Natives” that take to technology like ducks to water because they grew up with it. It’s us old people that have challenges because we immigrated to this environment. I never agreed with Prensky’s model – then or now.
Yes, these natives may know how to use technology but education is more than just using technology and Heather shares her observations in this pair of posts.
Fluency is in short supply and fancy is in quarantine. All my energy goes to the screen. The Silver Screen? The Silent Screen. Like everyone else, I am trying to find a way to make virtual personal, and engage across spaces that are physical, emotional and existential. By 4 pm, I do not want to even see a screen door. I do not want to see my phone. I do not want to write.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned with teens on screens (and middle-age teachers on screens):
Leave your Doritos and trail mix (at home?): crunching on an open mic is really loud and distracting
Watch your mic: whispering loudly to your hovering mom that “this sucks, how long do I have to stay on?” when your mic is on – not great for your teachers’ self-esteem
And that’s just the start. Click through and read the rest. As teachers, we all observe what’s going on. I love Heather’s observations. It also makes me a little more thoughtful when I have my Friday afternoon Zoom Beer with friends.
If you think Zoom teaching is all pyjamas, coffee, little windows, digital assignments, digital marking, and then call it a day, you’re not paying attention.
I’ve had friends share with me the challenges that they’re experiencing every day. It’s not going well for everyone despite the success stories that we’re hearing all over the place. I wonder if all this glad-handing isn’t being interpreted by some as confirmation that online courses are a good thing for everyone.
Learning is damn hard; learning online is even harder.
I have to give a shout out to Chris Vollum for putting this story out there for all to read. And, I hope all those who think that everything is just rosey takes the time to read and empathise.
Chris describes a Zoom session that started out like so many and maybe even threw in some extra goodies for the whole experience.
Then, for one young lady things went wrong, terribly wrong.
Read the post and see how Chris arrives at the conclusion
Thirty students from different schools with all grades represented taught me – and each other – a great deal; that there is no substitute for human connection. And that the new normal is a massive adjustment that swings opposite to every instinct we have about the innate need to connect, in-person with one another.
Please take some time today or on the weekend to click through and read these terrific blog posts. You’ll be glad you did.
Then, make sure you’re following these bloggers on Twitter.
It couldn’t have happened better if it was planned!
As regular readers know, yesterday I was inspired to look back on My Childhood Community as inspired by Zoe Branigan-Pipe’s Twitter messages on the weekend. It was a fun look back at things.
Daily, I’m in contact with Former ECOO President Peter McAsh and a while back he shared with me a project that he was working on for the town of St. Marys. My knowledge of the place actually does go back to my childhood and playing baseball there. We were positive that you could hit a home run over the fence into the quarry. Our efforts really fell short! A frequent truck that we would see would carried the name St. Marys Cement. That’s pretty much all that I knew although I’ve dropped in to see Peter a couple of times and have taken mini-tours trying to figure out how to get to his place!
Anyway, to the project and why featuring it is a nice followup to yesterday’s post. As Peter had been developing it, I was his ongoing tester.
Now, Amy is a Curator & Archivist and that gives her access to a lot of historical and modern images from about the town. Peter used her assistance to create this walking tour.
All you have to do is visit the site at the link above. Wander your way around the town and click on the bookmarks to see what they reveal.
Oh, look, a library!
Peter used the free ArcGIS Story Maps utility to create this tour. Now, it’s online and visible to the world to help promote the town of St. Marys. Can you find the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum?
Peter has long reminded me that he’s a Geography major as his first choice and he uses his skills here to develop this walking tour.
If you and your class are looking for a social studies / geography project, could this fit the bill? And, if you’re interested in pounding the streets of St. Marys when all this stay at home stuff is over, bookmark the link.
In the meantime, you can take the tour virtually on this site.