In Case You Missed It

Unlike certain of my family members, I don’t sleep with my phone.  That saves me from the onerous task of turning the sound down or off if you leave it in your bedroom.  I can’t imagine a smartphone disrupting a good sleep.

A couple of days ago, I installed the Twitter client and told it to give off “Chirps” when a notification comes from Twitter.  That’s about how deeply I dug into it for the moment.  For the most part, I get a chirp every now and again and I take a look at it when I can.

Today, I’m going through my morning learning routine.  Doing some reading and sharing some of the best reads to Twitter in case others might be interested.

Then, I read this article.  “7 Real Ways Blogging Can Make You A Better Teacher And Learner” from FractusLearning.  It was one of the better articles about the rationale for blogging that I’ve read in a while so I read it twice, shared it, and then moved on.

Holy Cow!

Within about 30 seconds, my phone was going nuts chirping.  Was something broken on it?

It turns out that I didn’t dig deep enough with this new Twitter client.  In addition to getting a notification every time my name is mentioned, it gives a notification for every retweet or every time someone adds the message to their favourites.  The article seemed to really resonate with folks.

The seven “Real Ways” are:

  • Idea Generation
  • Community Building
  • Motivation and Inspiration
  • ….

You’ll have to go to the article and read the rest as well as the details that are fleshed out for each.  I just read it again.  It’s a really good article.  It reminded me so much of a presentation about reflective teaching that my friend Philip and I gave at a  CSTA Conference a couple of years ago.  (He called it the Doug and Pony show…)

The challenge from the author is to consider creating a blog personally, for your class, or for your school.

It’s not a big leap to take those seven ways and use them as rationale for students to be blogging.

The thing to keep in mind is that you’re blogging – not creating the next big epic novel or research paper.  It’s such a powerful tool and is easily done.  In addition to the seven ways itemized in the article, it’s a very tangible way of showing to yourself (and others if you care to) that you’re continuously learning and growing.  What more could a professional want?

The sad thing is that those who were retweeting and favouriting the original article or those of you who read this post already get the power of blogging or micro-blogging. 

My challenge to you would be to share the original article to at least seven people in your school who haven’t got on board yet.  It’s just a matter of forwarding the link or sharing it in your school’s online communal learning space.  Your school does have one, right?

If it matters to you, your learning network may expand.  More importantly, theirs may use this as a kickstart to get theirs rolling.


These Wheels are Hot

Hot Wheels are really one of those enduring toys that have spanned generations.  I can remember putting together pieces of track from the coffee table in the living room, doing loops, crashes, etc. as a kid.  I even had a case to store them and carry them to friends’ places to have our own auto show.  It was through Hot Wheels that my goal in life is to own a Camaro.  Still working on that one, but I have driven one!  In my day, Hot Wheels were replicas of real cars.  Today’s versions have certainly surpassed that.

Although we didn’t know or appreciate it at the time, there’s just a whack of scientific principles that go into how Hot Wheels work.  I have known teachers who have incorporated them into their science classrooms.  Just think of all of the learning and inquiry that they can provide.

I was really excited to see this offer on their website.

What a deal!  There’s a form to make the request.  I checked the URL and it does land on an en-us page.  That led me to wonder if Hot Wheels does have a Canadian site.  It turns out that it does.  You can find it here.  Search as I might, I couldn’t find the same offer on the Canadian site.  But, the US pages doesn’t indicate that it’s for US schools only.  It might be worth a shot.  The program does, however, seem to be directed at the STEM initiative in US schools.

Even if the kit is not available, there are still a couple of resources worth investigating.

2015 CSTA Annual Conference


Hilton DFW Lakes

Bigger and Better than Ever!

2015 CSTA Annual Conference
July 12-14, 2015, at the Hilton DFW Lakes, Grapevine, Texas




Registration is now open for the CSTA annual conference. CSTA 2015 is a professional development opportunity for computer science and information technology teachers who need practical, classroom-focused information to help them prepare their students for the future. Conference content is peer reviewed and peer or industry led, making it relevant to today’s classroom needs. This year we are staying true to being “bigger and better than ever” so we have expanded our conference to span three days, with two days worth of workshops, more exhibitors, along with multiple networking opportunities.



  • Explore issues and trends relating directly to your classroom
  • Learn, network and interact
  • Choose from various workshops and breakout sessions
  • Amazing value (complimentary conference Wi-Fi, breakfast, lunch and snacks – CHECK!) at approximately $100/day!

Some of this year’s session topics include:

  • Advanced Placement Computer Science
  • Computational Thinking
  • Increasing Enrollment in Computer Science
  • Programming
  • Robotics


  • Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States – Invited
  • Randy Pitchford, Aaron Thibault and Jimmy Sieben with Gearbox

Pre-registration is required and will be accepted for the first 500 teachers. The registration deadline is June 26, 2015. Also, please note that you must complete the payment portion of the online form in order to be fully registered for the conference!

As always, we thank our sponsors for their generous donations. Your registration fee will include networking opportunities, lunch and resource materials. The 2015 CSTA Annual Conference is made possible by the generous support of Google, Lockheed MartinOracle Academy and the University of Texas at Dallas.


Conference registration (which includes a community session on Sunday (July 12) afternoon, Monday night’s event with the University of Texas at Dallas, and all general and plenary sessions on Tuesday (July 14) is $100 if you register by April 15. From April 16-June 26 the price is $150, and after that the price increases to $225.


Workshops are a separate price, and this year we have expanded our offerings to include options on Sunday, as well as Monday. The price for workshops is $100 for the first one, and $50 for each additional workshop (maximum number of three).


Please note that all workshops are “bring your own laptop” and that workshop registration is limited to 30-40 participants; so be sure to register early to get your workshop choice. As an additional reminder, we DO NOT accept workshop registrations onsite, and there is NO switching of options.


Register at:

For more information contact Tiffany Nash, CSTA Events and Communications Manager at


P.S. A big thank you to the 2015 Conference Planning Committee:


Doug Peterson, Program Chair

J. Philip East, Workshop Chair

Duncan Buell, Review Chair

Mindy Hart, Volunteer Coordinator

Stephanie Hoeppner

Tammy Pirmann

Dave Reed, CSTA Professional Development Committee Chair

Hal Speed, Central Texas Chapter Conference Liaison

Sheena Vaidyanathan

Henry Vo, Dallas Fortworth Chapter Conference Liaison

Lizan Ward, Greater Houston Chapter Conference Liaison

Lissa Clayborn, Acting Executive Director, CSTA


We look forward to seeing you in Grapevine!


The CSTA 2015 Annual Conference is generously sponsored by:







CSTA is the voice for K-12 computer science and its educators.


My Kingdom to Code

Writing that silly little program yesterday reminded me of how grateful I am that I learned to code.  I have no memory of why I signed up for Mr. Cook’s Grade 11 computer class.  It was the first time that it was offered and he was making it up as he went along.  There certainly wasn’t a curriculum we were following.  And, we were learning Fortran!  Not the good Fortran that we used at university.  It was pretty primitive and there was a great deal of unlearning and learning again in order to tackle Fortran IV and Watfor.

It was a classic case in action “They won’t remember your content but they will remember how you felt”.  I still remember the rush when a program was returned and I got 10/10.  There were no rubrics then and, quite frankly, I can’t remember how they were marked.  I do know that he was doing the programs along with us and compared our results against his.  We would get out cards back wrapped in our printout with the mark written in pencil on the outside.  Given all that I’ve learned about assessment and evaluation over the years, I can only think of one way to describe it – quaint!

But the marks have faded from memory.  I know that I did well in the course, took it in Grade 12, and then took plenty of computer science at university and went on to teach it in the classroom.  But what remains in memory was how good I felt to get a program to run and how he shared in the excitement.  It’s one thing that I tried to replicate when I had classes of my own.

Now, I’m not about to suggest that any student, new to the discipline today, should be thrown to the wolves and begin to learn with an industrial strength programming language.  But realize that no student shows up on the first day of class wondering what computers and computing is about.  They’ve had the experience of interaction with computing devices for years and experienced their own level of satisfaction with feedback from whatever they’ve experienced.  I would suggest that it makes that introduction to computing more difficult than ever.

Fortunately, we have great programmers at work trying to enhance that experience.

I ran into a reference to a new experience released in January this year through UKEDChat.

The program starts a just another game.  You know the type; move your character around the school with your cursor keys.  But quickly, you can see the introduction to programming coming through.  Interactions with characters and later on the constructions are in the form of Javascript.


Minecraft users are going to love this.  Students can create and share their own environment with others.  Development is done in Javascript.   Read about all that you can do in this environment here.

I think that there are probably very few students that will get excited and have fond memories if they cut their teeth on hard core coding.  But, in a game and presentation environment like Code Kingdoms, they just might!


Digital Footprint by Sylvia

Sylvia Duckworth has created another interesting Sketchnote.  This time, she takes on the concept of a student developing a Positive Digital Footprint.  See the Sketchnote below…



The content for this comes from the Queensland Government.  I searched for, found, and hopped over to see the resource.

Sylvia actually used the resource for the elementary school student.  There are three resources there worth checking out.

What I liked about this is that it’s straight forward and to the point.  I’ve seen so many resources that go on and on and try to address each possible scenario online.  They’re so long that you just lose interest after a while.

On this Family Day, why not spend a few moments talking to the young online person in your house?  These are five terrific things to consider.

Teachers may wish to consider posting this in their classroom as a constant reminder to be safe.

You can check out all of Sylvia’s Sketchnotes in a Flipboard document here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

In a conversation with Sheila Stewart yesterday, she asked what Valentine’s theme I was going to have in TWIOE.  I went along with it although I had no idea what she was talking about.  As I started this post, I figured I’d better take a look back at last year.  I guess I did make a reference to it.  This year?  I’ve got nothing.  But, there were some good reads to share, none the less.

Moving Beyond the Elements and Principles in #ArtsEd
What are you doing this weekend?  I may poke around with Zeega. I’d never heard about this until I read Colleen Rose’s post about it.  She’s always doing really interesting things in the arts and I was hooked when she said “These visual remixes allow the user to form new meaning by appropriating material that is free to play with.

Thanks, Colleen.

Learning From Today

In a regular year, visiting southern Ontario from the north is probably a warmup experience.  Well, maybe this year I’m told that it’s still warmer here in the south but you can’t deny brutal.  Aviva Dunsiger and her students had some northern Ontario visitors and, of course, she blogged about the experience.  I never minded visitors – in fact my door was always open and people would come in periodically and watch.  I do recall a visit from a superintendent my first year of teaching.  She was in the school for other reasons and I guess figured she’d knock off one of my observation requirements with a surprise visit.  You’d never get away with that these days.  She dropped in and it was life as usual.  A group of students on the computers, another group working on a problem in the classroom, another group doodling on the chalkboard, and I still remember her comment.  “I’ll come back sometime when you’re teaching”.  Be still my heart.

Anyway, Aviva shares her experience and reflects on her classroom technology practice.  It’s a nice read with her observations.  I also enjoyed the comments to the post and added my own.

What a wonderful story and opportunity for your students, Aviva. There’s a hidden message there that I think needs to be spelled out. Many time classroom visitors get to come and see a special lesson. The students are like fish out of water and you can really tell that it’s contrived. Your blog post and Richard’s comment reinforce to me that everything there was natural and part of their daily routine. I think that’s important to note and it’s this success that others should strive to achieve. Congratulations.

Serendipity: The next chapter of my story

Serendipity is sort of like the weather.  We all experience it but do nothing about it.  Joanne Marie Babalis takes it on and shares a really intriguing story of how serendipity changed her teaching practice, involving teacher-librarianship.  And, the post certainly ranks as one of the most colourful ones that I’ve enjoyed.  There are pictures of her serendipity everywhere!

Selection_092Check out what bigger “plan” is in store for her.

AirDropping Files in the Classroom

File David Carruther’s post under a solution to a problem.  I’ve heard people complain and give up because the wireless connection isn’t strong enough or consistent enough to use OneDrive or Google Drive in the classroom and have just given up.  David provides another solution – use the AirDrop feature and explains how it works.


To me, this is one of the great things about social media and sharing.  Rather than give up, look for alternatives and then share the best of them.  I’ll bet that this solution would be helpful to so many.  (There may be people who don’t even know that they have the problem!)

The always controversial “RT”

Earlier this week, I had been inspired by Tom Whitby’s post and responded with one of my own. 

I think some people would be happier if there was a rulebook about how to use social media.  Well, there isn’t, so we’re making the rules as we go.  Sheila Stewart took issue with the use of the RT.

Selection_094It’s another example of the self-promotion that seems to raise the ire of some folks.

As I was walking the dog this morning, enjoying the cold blast from Thunder Bay, I was thinking about her post and tried to equate it to real face-to-face life.  Picture three people at Tim Hortons.  Person 1 talks to Person 2 and Person 3 and says “I really liked what Person 2 says”.  Person 2 turns to Person 1 and Person 3 and says “Did you hear that? Person 1 really likes what I say.  Let me repeat it for you.”.  Picture yourself responding as that Person 1 or Person 3.  I can’t imagine it working in real life.  Why do we expect it to work in our digital lives?  What does work though is to use the moment to extend the conversation.

Pondering Professional Learning

I hate it when I miss a good discussion and I missed this one about professional learning.


Diana Maliszewski recounts a rather long discussion about professional learning and its impact on her.  The content is great and it sounds like she’s taking an AQ course that she’s happy with.

But, I think that the bigger issue is that she’s writing about it, interacting online, crediting a learning network, demonstrating growth in her profession, and an ongoing commitment to getting better.  All at the price of free.  That’s the bigger message being delivered here.  Are those who do creditation watching?

Grade 9 Learning Looks Like This!

And now for something completely different!  I sure don’t remember my Grade 9 being anything like this.  It’s an end of class reflection in Julie Balen’s class.


Flip your way through the embedded Google Slides document to see some summaries of growth mindset and learning.  I like it!

Again, another spectacular week of blogging, sharing, and professional growth from Ontario Educators.  Check out these posts and all the great sharing from Ontario Educators at this Livebinder.

This Might Change Everything

Like many folks, I suspect, I’m a creature of habit in the morning. 

At least until the coffee kicks in and the dog is walked. 

I like doing some reading for my own purposes.  I’ve always done this and tucked the best of the stories away for future reference.  My Diigo account is the perfect place.  The stories are there for later research and also my first place to go when I need to do a search on a topic since I’ve already vetted the content.

For the longest time, Zite has been my go-to reading application in the morning.  A while ago, it was acquired by Flipboard but it’s still alive and well giving me my morning reads.  However, as noted in the blog post, it’s not going to be around forever.  I always lived in fear of the day that the other shoe would drop and I’d have to change things.

Zite is an application for the iPad and Android.  For my morning reads, I grab my coffee and sit in my chair and do my reading.  Like many iPad owners, I’m frustrated with the state of the wifi and the recent iOS upgrade did nothing to fix it.  The problem is well documented and the chain on the Apple Support Forums is the longest that I’ve encountered when I turn there looking for a solution.  I’ve tried all of the suggestions there but there are, quite frankly, days when I can’t use the iPad because of problems.  It’s not that it’s a long distance from the WAP to the iPad (maybe 25m?) and I do have a technique for at least a partial solution by orienting it in a particular direction but that’s not always successful.

However, there’s good news!  I’ve always known that I’ll have to move to Flipboard but that move may be sooner rather than later.

I logged in and poked around.  This really looks promising.

All my created content, of course, is there.

It’s not that I’m new to using Flipboard.  All the topic areas that I would normally follow on the iPad are there and ready to read.

The presentation is a bit different.  Rather than flipping through the stories like you would on the iPad, it takes advantage of the infinite scrolling ability of a modern browser.  I’ll need the discipline to set a limit on the amount of scrolling time rather than testing out the definition of infinite.

Most importantly, I’ll be able to ditch the iPad for reading and just use a laptop instead.  It doesn’t suffer from the wifi woes.

I am excited about this movement.  Zite has promised to incorporate some of its searching technology into the Flipboard product as part of the acquisition.  This promises to give the best of both worlds and, without the wifi frustration, what could be better?

That’s just about me.  This might be the tipping point for schools as well.  Rather than trying to maintain a webpage with new content, the school’s web person could create a Flipboard magazine for the school and flip resources and content there for parents.  With both mobile and web options, a Flipboard solution become readily available to everyone.