1:1 Done Right?

I’ve read through this article on Edutopic by Ira Socol a few times now and find something new each time.

The Basics of Open Technology

It’s about an implementation of technology in Albermarle County Public Schools.  If you follow Ira on Twitter, you’ll not be surprised that UDL is a passion and it’s part of the technology plan.  I love the phrase on the superintendent’s office “All means All”.

Ira’s got a special spot on my Twitter collection as he was among one of the first group of people that I followed and I’ve never been disappointed.  He doesn’t lob up his thoughts – he’s very direct and quickly gets to the point – I really appreciate that.

Take a few moments to read this article; it isn’t long but it’s rich in content.  It’s summarized nicely with “Trust in Children and Childhood”.  If you’re an IT Manager, you might just cringe at some of the practices but I find that it’s a truly kids first approach and let the technology help them as opposed to a technology first where we lock everything down and grant you the right to use bits and pieces of it.  It’s not just a play on semantics; it’s a strategic approach.

Now, for the majority of people returning to school next week, this won’t be a reality.  But, if your school has adopted a BYOD practice, you can coach students and families to use technology to enable and support their learning by following this one link from the article.

It’s the MITS Freedom Stick.  “The MITS Freedom Stick is a portable, use-anywhere accessibility solution.”

People often know of a few open source resources but the MITS Freedom Stick has amassed them together with a focus on inclusion of all students.  In the case of Albermarle schools, it’s installed – you can install them yourself or keep them on a memory key.  It’s a great collection.  Some of the titles are compared to the commercial version of the product, probably for parent/teacher convenience.  Students won’t care or will already know.

This should also serve as a discussion point for so-called 21st Century schools.  Are you really?  Maybe it’s time to talk about Early 21st Century and Mid 21st Century.  It’s not just providing a tool that should matter.  Shouldn’t students have access to the tool that will make them successful instead of a one size fits all selection?

For further reading, the Albermarle County Public Schools are part of a series on Edutopia called “Schools that Work“.  It’s good reading for understanding and asking the question “Why not us?”.

Additional Resources:

Clipart on Demand

Sometimes, I could just kick myself.  I always seem to be the last to know.

I was working on a document yesterday and got the text right.  I thought a couple of pieces of Clipart would be nice to break up the text and to illustrate the message I was trying to create.

So I did what I always did.  I looked to the collection of clipart on my hard drive and then went searching for something in my collection of nline Creative Commons resources looking for something that had a friendly license that I could use.  As I was doing this, the little voice in the back of my head said “It’s too bad that this is a multi-step process.  Shouldn’t there be a better way?”

I completed the document and had a few minutes so I thought – if I don’t look, I’m guaranteed not to find it.  If I do look, there might be a chance that I could.  I was using Google Docs, as per usual, for the creation so I went poking around the add-ons.  You can see, from the green checkmarks, some of the add-ons that I’m already using.

As I’m scrolling, I see lots of great enhancements that would make a great word processor even better.  It didn’t take long until I got frustrated looking, but hey, this is a Google resource – I’d be better off searching.  So I did.

Son of a gun!  I added it immediately. 

That voice in the back of my head started talking again – you know about Open Clipart.  I searched this blog and, sure enough, I’d written a blog post about it before.

The acid test is always to search for “house” to see what’s available.

37 pages of results is good enough for me!

I found a suitable piece of Clipart for my document, just tested to see how easily it was to insert, re-size, wrap text around the image and was impressed.  This is a keeper.  How did I last so long with the old method of juggling multiple resources to get the job done?  D’uh.  It’s now a permanent part of my configuration.

I guess I should pay more attention to my own blog.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Every week, I gather from my reading blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers to include here.  Folks, you never fail to amaze me with the depth of your thinking and abilities to pull it all together.  Here’s some of what caught my eye this week.

Standing for Principles or Shooting Myself in the Foot

Before shooting herself in the foot, Diana Maliszewski puts in down in a stance about the Microsoft acquisition of Minecraft.  Now, she’s been a big fan of Minecraft for as long as I can remember, a regular presenter about its benefits, and I remember her blocky outfit at an ECOO Conference a couple of years ago.  She takes her time to explain her thoughts about corporate presence in education.

I stepped back and looked around the labs here.  Sony laptop, Wacom tablet, Logitech mouse, HP keyboard, Bose speakers, an Apple looking at me from the top of my iPad.  The only thing non-corporate would be that I’m writing this post in Linux.  It’s too late to close the barn door here.  We buy by brand and each of the products has built upon the nature of the previous technology.  It’s not just a mouse, it’s sculpted to fit the hand. The tablet has wrist recognition.  The keyboard is noiseless.  Where would I be without corporate involvement and making things easier, more productive, more ergonomic, and ultimately better for me?

So, I wonder about her stance on Minecraft.  Will it being branded and supported by a corporate entity change the experience?  How much change would affect her abilities as a classroom teacher to get the best from it for her kids?  Is this a fight worth fighting or is it just a natural evolution?  I would never have predicted that her views would have changed.  It was an insightful read for me; she really nicely shares her opinion about this.

Big Hairy Plans… with a Slower Start

Talk about your outwork visibileness.  (I know – that’s not a word but it’s the first thing that came to mind.)

There were a couple of big takeaways for me from this post by Heather Theijsmeijer.

    1. Great planning and exploration can be stymied by a work action.  It would be great if negotiators could read this and understand the impact that labour disputes have on the most important elements of education – students and progressive educators;
    2. In the post, Heather has laid out her plans for her courses for next year.  By being this open, she’s made herself accountable to herself and the parents/students who follow her blog.  She’s set the table with the comment “I want to blow this course wide open.”  Who wouldn’t be excited to have a teacher that can make a statement like that!

    There is No Road Map to Teaching Success

    If you need to read another blog post about changing everything and taking chances in your profession, then this one from Enzo Ciardelli should be on your reading list.

    My Teachers’ College experience goes back a little further than 12 years but I suspect that I’d say the same thing.  It’s a rather conservative experience while you learn the theories and practice from days gone by.  Practice teaching has the potential of being less conservative when you’re out in the “real world” which is still a contrived environment with students on better than normal behaviour.  Your first couple of years teaching are pretty conservative too.  You don’t want to upset the apple cart until you get that permanent contract.  After that or, after 12 years?  It is time to improve on your practice and take those risks.


    Every teacher should have a chance to raise a child.  Sure, you learn about human growth and development in Teachers’ College and you smile as you see your students grow and mature under your classroom watch.  But, as Danika Barker points out in this post, there’s something completely different and special about your own mini-me.

    After a year for parental leave, she’s returning to her classroom and will soon learn another side of parenting.  It’s hard to see your own kids learn and grow while under the care of someone else!  And it continues – first day of kindergarten, first day of high school, first day of college/university, first day at a job…

    Editorial Comment – and they learn some really dumb rules that don’t apply anywhere else than at daycare. 

    It’s good to see her back online and blogging.

    Creating Interactive Math Tasks With Google Sites

    One of the powerful things about working in the Google world, after you get past the wide variety of options (See Peter Beens’ Alphabet/Google A-Z document), is the ease and consistency across the tools.

    Kyle Pearce is constantly writing and sharing ideas and was recently asked a question about implementation with something other than iPads.  Chromebooks makes for a natural question.

    The post is a tutorial about how to extend his original content and extend it to other platforms.

    Step by step, you’ll work your way through an example with lots of screen shots.  He demonstrates his way through the creation and then invites you to test the final product.

    As summer winds down, it’s evident that great thinking from Ontario Educators continues.  Check out all these posts and all of the Ontario Edubloggers here.  If you’re an Ontario educational blogger and not on the list, please do use the form and add yourself.  Lots of people would love to read your blog.

    What Did You Do This Summer?

    Yep, that ol’ story.  It’s a great ice breaker to get kids to talk about things in those first few days of school.

    Some of the students may have had an opportunity to travel and explore far and wide.  Others may have just enjoyed their local neighbourhood. 

    Either way, the activities are great fodder for some story telling provided they took pictures and remembered to bring them to school.

    Or not.

    Why not build on the concepts introduced in a couple of blog posts here?

    With Google Maps, you’re never at a loss for some great imagery.  (unless you really go off the grid)

    One of our favourite trips in the summer is to Point Pelee National Park.  It’s always a wonderful trip around the boardwalk and then to take the trip to the Tip to see what it looks like on this visit.  It’s never the same twice.  With Google Maps and Streetview, I can share part of the story via screen captures. 

    From a classroom perspective – what a great start to a class blog, or a presentation software, or a multimedia authoring experience, or a document, or ….

    The Location:  Kind of redundant – once you get to Leamington, there’s signs everywhere.  Just keep heading south until you can’t go any further on mainland Canada.

    The Sign:  The entrance is a tribute to migration – I always think of mid-century art.

    The Entrance:  This is as far as Google Streetview goes.  It would be interesting to see them do a complete treatment of the park like they’ve done with so many fascinating places.  Or perhaps not.  It’s just fun to explore and learn.

    But in the park:  It never fails to impress that we’re on the 42nd parallel and to see who else is – Rome and Barcelona made the sign.

    The Excitement:  There’s nothing like taking a seat and heading to the point.  Cars are only allowed so far then it’s Pelee Transportation or walking the rest of the way.

    So, what did you do this summer?

    Will This Sway You?

    With apologies to that store, I decided to write once and post twice.

    Yesterday, it was “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” on this blog.

    I’ve always wanted a chance to try out Sway from Microsoft to see what I could do.  I’ve seen Sways (?) from others and they kind of look like a newish version of a Prezi.  So, I decided to take to Sway to see what I could do with yesterday’s post.

    I found that it was easy enough to put together.  If you’ve ever put together a presentation using any other piece of software, you’re all set.  If you’ve ever worked with HyperStudio, you’re familiar with the concept of cards and ideas flowing from one to another.  If you’ve ever worked with a story telling application, you’re familiar with the concept of sequencing.  The nice thing about porting the post to Sway is that I did have the natural opportunity to chop up the document via the various blog posts that were part of my original blog posts.  Some had text; some had images; I used emphasis, accents, and bullets without problem.  They all had links which carried forward.

    I played around with a number of the themes that are included.  There is a search for images if you’re interested along with a warning about respecting copyright.

    I tried to pull things together and make it true to the original point.  It was almost like Sway had read my mind in terms of the organization of the screen.  Or, I’ve been working with software long enough that it just falls into place.  Or, just dumb luck?

    The Sway provides an embed code so I can add it to this post.  As you can see from below, that didn’t work.  WordPress stripped it out the raw code.  There’s only a certain number of media that will work and Sway is  not on the list?  If you want to see it outside this post, the link is here.  The claim is that it will appear the same way regardless of the device you’re using to view it.

    (This is what was left after the stripping…)

    You can navigate using the buttons in the bottom right or by scrolling your mouse.  I elected to have the Sway go horizontally.  Actually, I was going to make another one with it going vertically which I think would make it look more like a blog post.  Sadly, when I tried to duplicate the original, I got an error message –


    So, I’ll stick with the original.  It’s an interesting result.  I don’t know that it will be a replacement for a blogging tool but the result is kind of impressive.  If you’re looking for a combination presentation/storytelling interactive tool, give it a shot.

    A quick tutorial to get you started appears here.

    The resulting document is stored in the cloud which actually saved my bacon this time.  I was about half done and decided to take the dog for a walk.  I just left my computer open, figuring to get to it when we got back.  Well…I was doing the creation in Windows 10 and it decided that it needed to reboot itself.  Fortunately, I just went back to Sway when I returned and picked up where I’d left off.  There doesn’t appear to be a way to download the document so if you’re using this in a presentation, make sure you’ve got a good internet connection.  Ever the paranoid, I typically will have the document open and running before I set up so that I don’t have to rely on the internet.

    Just remember that the content is important – the bells and whistles should be added for style and not be the driving reason to use the tool!

    This Week in Ontario Edublogs

    As I type this, news has been announced of a tentative agreement between OSSTF and the province.  The trolls are already out commenting on news reports and I’m sure that there will be more as speculation grows on the contents.  Of course, details won’t be made public until the membership gets a chance to look at it.  Hopefully, this is a sign that movement is possible and that all of the professional organizations are able to reach an agreement.  We’ll see.

    In the meantime, the professional learning and sharing continues throughout the province.  Here’s a bit of what I read this past week.

    “Guide” Vs. “Sage”: Is It As Easy As That?

    Aviva Dunsiger used this old horse as a starting point for her thoughts.  I remember grimacing the first time that I heard it.  I know that the intention was noble – stop standing and lecturing but it’s become the mantra of many who haven’t been in a classroom for years – like it’s an all or nothing concept.  It’s one of those cutesy sayings that you hear during presentations and, if you read Aviva’s post, you realize that it’s only surface deep.  Teaching is much more than nine words strung together.  She addresses it nicely and even includes a confession.

    Guide on the Stage

    Daniel La Gamba was motivated from this post to share his thoughts and create a Sketchnote on the topic.  I don’t know – will “Guide on the Stage” be the next “Sage on the Stage vs Guide on the Side”?  You can probably tell that I’m not a fan of short sound bites but I really think the wisdom comes from the last line in his post.

    With September fast approaching, I encourage teachers to not be in the periphery. It is not the act of guiding that should change, just the proximity to the learning.

    The key here, as I see it, is that teachers shouldn’t just “mail it in”.  Teaching is an incredibly active and personal activity.  One of the observations that I made as a DeLC was working with eLearning teachers who had their entire course and teaching online.  Their number one frustration – not having that face to face human contact.  I think that teaching in this mode made them better teachers in the long run.  It really reinforced the notion of what it means to be a teacher. 

    Sadly, we were unable to comment on the blog post itself – the folks who were using Twitter as a forum could really have fleshed it out there.

    There was considerable discussion about this online with Daniel taking a very active part.  Included in this discussion was George Couros who, while not an Ontario Edublogger will get special notice because he continued the discussion on his own blog “What about the title of “teacher?

    What does it mean to be Reggio-inspired?

    Not having been a kindergarten teacher, I always enjoy listening and reading early years’ professionals talk about their classrooms and their approaches.  I have two wonderful friends who take the time to explain things to me.  This post, by Joanne Babalis is a very nice summary of how she was inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach.

    Loris Malaguzzi often spoke of learning as a tangle of spaghetti, rather than a linear path.  Well my mind certainly feels this way, especially when I am inquiring, reading/researching, thinking, interpreting, and reflecting.

    This post isn’t a quick and easy read but definitely is worth the time to comprehend.

    And, I really liked the Jerome Bruner quote.

    Why We Need Intentional Innovation in Education

    So, on to a discussion about “intentional innovation”.

    It sure is.

    After all, who doesn’t want to be “innovative” – whatever that means.

    In this first of a series of posts, A.J. Juliani takes a look at what innovation means and then takes a spin when you put the word “intentional” in front of it.  There’s a challenge to the reader about being intentionally innovative this school year.  And why not?  The post is nicely summaried with the description “meaningful and relevant”.

    This is a good place to start your creative thinking.

    The Connected Student

    You know, as I check the sundial, it says 2015.  It’s a crime that we still have to talk about the benefits of students/teachers being connected.  Yet, there remains a need.  I was watching HLN last night and both the Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew shows were encouraging the world to get involved with the conversation via a hashtag.  Are there really still people that see that on the screen and wonder what it is?  Hopefully, not teachers – I could guarantee any student with a computer, tablet, or smartphone knows absolutely knows what it’s about.  Nobody uses the term “pound” anymore, do they?

    Now, I’m not suggesting that you flip your classroom with these two shows but spend a few minutes online and you’ll see awesome discussions and connections for educators, students, and classrooms.  If you’re not connected, you’re completely missing out.  Jennifer Casa-Todd shares a beautiful post outlining the possibilities that exist for the connected student.

    Then, she follows up with a huge list of suggestions for how to get started, along with a couple of Sylvia Duckworth Sketchnotes.  What can you do?  Share this post with your administrator and colleagues.  It’s time to get with it if they aren’t.

    Are Teachers Taught About Creative Commons?

    This is not a new concept and yet something that a lot of people don’t really understand.  Donna Fry takes on the topic and uses the framework of the student remix as the rationale for why students and teachers need to understand the principle.

    If you read the second sentence carefully, you’ll take your understanding to a new level.  Most people think that Creative Commons is just about finding free stuff that you can use without violating copyright.  Let’s up the ante.  Yes, there are times when someone has the perfect image to use in a project.  But, if you’ve been at this blog for a while, you know that I’m a big fan of students creating their own original works.  If they’re posting it online – any why not, read Jennifer’s post above – use this as an opportunity to discuss licensing in a very personal manner … their own.

    It only takes a moment to look at the licensing options under Creative Commons and decide what’s appropriate for them.  Here’s what I’ve put on this blog.

    Is it Initiative or Compliance?

    The nice thing about scheduling blog posts is that you’re never really done until it goes out!  This morning was a perfect example.  I thought I was done and so Jaimie and I were off for our morning walk.  We had stopped at a bridge and were just staring in awe as the water from a tributary was flowing into a bigger part of the river when my birthday present from my wife on my wrist buzzed.  I looked and Brian Aspinall had just posted something to his blog and had tagged me with it.  Oh well, something to read when we got home.

    I did read it and now was faced with a dilemma.  Do I save it for next week’s TWIOE or do I include it here.  After all, this post doesn’t go live until tomorrow morning.  I decided to do it now because I think it’s something that everyone should consider for their classroom and its management.  What do your students do when they’re done the current task?  Brian shares his list.

    In the post, he asks that, if the students choose from this list, are they demonstrating initiative or compliance?  It’s pretty clear from the tone of the post that he’s thinking compliance.  I would agree in the way that he wrote it.  Given those options, I think if I was a student, I would just tend to work slower on the original project.  Those all look like extra work to me.

    You do have to make the choices wisely.  If the list includes something that’s really cool or interesting, others will rush through the task in order to join in on the fun.

    Why not read Brian’s post and add your ideas to the list?  The time is right with school starting in a couple of weeks to set classroom expectations and certainly managing time should be one of the issues.

    Thanks to all of the above for contributing to share your expertise and pushing our thinking.  Please take a moment to click through to the original blog posts and share your thoughts.  Looking for more?  Check out the Ontario Edublogger collection.

    A Word Cloud Generator with an Angle

    Word Clouds.  We’ve seen them, we’ve done them, many of us wear the t-shirt.  

    It’s a quick and easy way to create a graphic based upon text.  Essentially, the size of the word is based upon the frequency of the text.  Many teachers use word clouds to  have students analyse their writing or to create a poster/graphic based upon key words.

    But, suppose you worked a little mathematics into it!

    Jason Davies has actually worked a lot of mathematics into his Word Cloud Generator.  Just start with this little protractor at the bottom of the screen.

    Play around with the parameters, or just grab the arrowheads and rotate.  So, suppose I’d like a Word Cloud with every word at a 45 degree angle…

    generates this…

    …and that’s just getting started.  

    I haven’t had so much fun tinkering around with a toy for a while.

    What’s even more interesting is reading how the generator works.  The product is a great example of what can be done as parts are remixed from code on GitHub.

    Give it a try.  I’ll bet you can’t stop with just one.

    You can access the Word Cloud Generator here.