Media Literacy Monday

Could there be a bigger opportunity than the Monday after the Super Bowl to talk about advertising and Media Literacy?

Who could forget this classic advertisement from 1984?

Could there be a better message than this one?

It’s a nice reminder that commercials can also do a public service.

CBS has a page devoted to the commercials that it will show during its broadcast – – this should be your best source for the original content, right from the broadcaster.

Amazingly, there was a time when a media literacy lesson couldn’t be taught the day after Super Bowl.  You might have to record the commercials at home or wait for you media department to edit and distribute the commercials.  Increasingly YouTube and other media sources are unblocked, the actual advertiser is making the commercials immediately available.  And well they should to get the bang for their buck.  Today’s going price is $5M for 30 seconds.

But, how do you actually plan for the lesson?

Frank Baker shares an excellent lesson plan just for times like this.

Deconstructing a TV Commercial: Media Literacy” is a terrific lesson for investigating any commercial.  He has a page devoted specifically to the Super Bowl here.

With these resources and, certainly, the tools that we have available in the classroom, this is one of those teaching moments not to be missed.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s time for my weekly wander around the province to see what Ontario Edubloggers are writing.  As always, it’s been a great week curating these things and then culling to share some interesting things in this post.

Stop. Please.

OK, this could be me.  Nothing I hate worse is going to any kind of meeting and have someone go off on a tangent about a conference they’d attended or a book that they’d read (or more likely skimmed) and I have no idea what they were talking about.  Somehow, it’s comforting to look around the table and see other glassed over eyes.  With some people, it’s OK to interrupt and ask for them to put it in context or give some background.

So, I could really sympathize with the gentleman that Colleen Rose describes in this post.

There’s huge takeaways for everyone here.  Unfortunately, there will be some that will just give you “the look” and then continue.  But, the person who is serious about getting the most for their efforts will take the time to get everyone on the same playing field.  I know that I really appreciate that.  There’s so much to learn that, for anyone to assume that everyone knows everything, not recognizing this is just ludicrous.

I also honed in on the word “training” in Colleen’s post.  That’s key.  I’ve mentioned many times that you train dogs to sit or go outside.  You don’t “train teachers”; there’s no singular phrase that gets my dander up than that one.  And, if it’s truly a professional learning experience, for that gentleman to not be recognized and coached is just malpractice.

See where Colleen takes her discussion in the post.

My Brother is Autistic: Part 1

My Brother is Autistic: Part 2

My Brother is Autistic: Part 3

Royan Lee is one of the most open and transparent individuals that I’ve known.  I’ve had the honour of interviewing him, meeting him and his family, and just have learned so much from his ongoing open learning on social media.  He’s in the middle of at least a four part story about his brother that bares all.

my brother was at the end of his run with public schooling, an ominous time for any family whose child has complex needs. 

I’ll confess to never having had to deal with this type of situation in my own family but a couple of instances in my school.  I’m riveted to his series of articles and look forward to the story continuing.

Character Education Videos

Not too long ago, making videos in the classroom was a fairly involved task.  I can remember the first efforts with the video camera and then finding some way to capture the tape contents to edit the content in a separate program.  When the RCA Small Wonder came along, the whole world changed.  You could take these things everywhere and capture so easily.  The concept of the public service announcements was within the reach of everyone.

Now, it’s even easier with your tablets and phones.  The result is a powerful medium for student publishing.

Peter Cameron shares a couple of videos in this post.  I had to wonder if the College of Teachers would be called in with this public video.

Poor Evan and Logan.

It’s only when you play the video that you realize that they didn’t need calming down – Evan and Logan were giving us tips!

I still would like to see these two doing Yoga in the middle of the classroom though…  <grin>

Broadcasting Tips from the Field

Today’s technology also lets you go far beyond the immediate location.  In this video, again shared to YouTube, Marie Swift shares a great video tutorial.  This time, it’s all about becoming a better broadcaster.  I had to smile during the first segment with the clasped hands.  That’s a technique that was taught to me to stop me from flailing my hands about while talking.

It’s a great collection of tips that are certainly shareworthy with students.

Promoting Student & Teacher Voice using Dotstorming tool

In this post, Jennifer Casa-Todd has shared her thoughts about Dotstorming which I think is certainly worthy of attention if you’re a fan of getting feedback from an audience in any of a variety of situations.  A long time ago, there were these clicking devices that were promoted as the next greatest way of promoting metacognition and student voice.  I hated the stupid things; not that it wasn’t an interesting technology but that the software was a bear to operate and getting all the things connected could be a challenge.  Then you had to explain the rules and how they needed to be operated.

On one student placement, one of my teacher candidates was encouraged to use them and he couldn’t get them to work so came up with the next best thing – he had students put their heads on their desks and put their hands up to vote anonymously.  Since the debriefing when the students came back to the Faculty, that’s been my Exhibit A for choosing, testing, and using technology wisely.

The lesson is well worth teaching but technology has got better.  Check out Jennifer’s post for a great collection of ideas.

OLA SuperConference 2016 & Treasure Mountain Canada 4

If you weren’t able to attend the OLA SuperConference, Diana Maliszewski has a really good summary of things you mised.  If you’ve never been to this conference, you really need to check it out at least once.  I had the pleasure of presenting once with a local teacher-librarian (who I had a chance to have lunch with this week) and then also was part of the great OSLA faceoff a couple of years ago.

I really enjoyed living the conference through this post so thanks so much for that, Diana.

The highlight for me was this picture of a group that were part of our computer contact network in addition to this work as teacher-librarians.

How Alanna go there is beyond me!  <grin>  But, she would fit in so nicely.

My congratulations go to Sharon in her retirement as well.

Catch the Spiral! 

Many teachers share their lessons on the web and announce it on social media.  For that, many are so thankful.  Instead of reinventing the wheel, why not share?  A good lesson gets better with many eyes.

Jon Orr takes things in a different direction.

In this post, he doesn’t share a resource or a particular lesson, but instead shares his pedagogy, a technique that he calls spiralling.

I thought it was a rather interesting concept.

Why not click over and see what it’s all about and see his inspiration and decide whether there’s a place there for you too.

The genius that comes from Ontario Edublogs never fails to amaze me.

Please take a moment to check out these wonderful offerings and appreciate their efforts.  Then, check out all the Ontario Edubloggers for even more.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to another Friday and my week-ending post where I share some of the great efforts of Ontario Edubloggers I’ve read recently.  This week features another great collection of thinking starters for you.  Please read on…

Student-Teacher Bond

Here’s your feel good post to read this week, courtesy of Jamie Weir.

She was inspired by another’s blog post to do some thinking and renewed connections with her own students.

Do they teach stuff like this in teacher’s college?  I know that they sure didn’t when I was a student there.  It was all about learning how to teach the content that we would be using when we “got our jobs”.

Today’s thought – You can paint all you want but if you don’t have a canvas, it’s all wasted time and energy.

WOVEN – 21st Century Communication

Denise Nielsen introduces me to the concept of WOVEN.

It’s an interesting take on understanding contemporary communications.  The goal is to work towards the creation of an infographic.  I think that the result could be extremely interesting and serve as a model for more teachers.  As she says, “stay tuned”.

Seven Great Extensions for Google Chrome

I’m a sucker for blog posts like these.  I don’t have the time or the desire to explore and evaluate every extension/add-on that’s available.  So often, I take the coward’s way out.  I let others do the heavy lifting and I just benefit from their experience.

In this post, Mike FIlipetti shares some of his favourites for Google Chrome.  Now, Chrome isn’t my go-to browser – I prefer Mozilla’s Firefox but so often the extensions/add-ons are available on both platforms.

Sadly, it sounds like he hasn’t evaluated them all either!

Regardless, this is a nice collection and they’re worth experimenting with to see if they fit with your reading flow.  Unfortunately, the list contains Evernote’s Clearly, which according to the recent news and the host site is no longer supported.  That’s really too bad; it’s a very useful tool.

Why Edgorithm?

Education is full of words that have been contrived and, I’m convinced, used to make things difficult for the end user.  In a post on Brian Aspinall’s blog, Enzo Ciardelli explains the thinking behind the creation of the name and the logo.

It’s an introduction to the new resource a few Ontario educators have created to support elementary school coding, Edgorithm.

Their rationale?

If you’re interested in this area of computer science, check it out.  As always, you get more from the resource if you’re contributing back.

Student choice vs. “you are still the teacher”

Kristin Phillips gives us her take about student choice and student voice.

I think she gives a compelling explanation of where voice and choice can be important and yet someone needs to remain in charge in her closing paragraph where she takes the concept to a personal level.

It makes me think, however, about when and where student voice and choice should come into being and how we interpret this as teachers.  It reminds me of parenting.  I always gave my children a choice about the pajamas they wore.  I never gave them a choice about going to bed.

This is a very interesting and well argued post.  It’s definitely worth a read if you’ve read all the arguments for and against and still need another look at the topic.

Your Digital Footprint

I think we’ve all heard the arguments “What do you want to find when you’re Googled?  or Binged?”  “We want our kids and our students to be well Googled.  Or Binged”.

I think it’s a discussion and understanding that all educators need to have.  But you don’t always hear it from all educators, just the informed or paranoid ones.  You seldom hear it from a principal.  But Mark Renaud, a principal, blogs about it and includes references to stories about student acceptance to higher education and the institutes that “Google/Bing” their applicants.

It’s good fodder to have when you hear the argument, “Yah, in theory they could…”

The references are all American.  I’d love to see some Canadian sources addressing the same topic.

The Physical Environment and it’s impact on learning

In this post, Kristy Luker gives us a tour of the Hamilton-Wentworth’s Enrichment and Innovation Centre.  It’s an interesting collection of learning spaces.

It’s part of their gifted program.

Success for an environment like this depends upon someone championing the cause.  I think back to the Technology Learning Centres that my former employer had.  It was a great opportunity for students – in our case all Grade 7 and 8 students got the opportunity to experience learning outside the traditional classroom.  Sadly, when its champions left, the program went away.

I do like the concept of letting students experience alternative learning environments.  It needs to be available to all students.

If your head isn’t spinning with all kinds of ideas from reading these posts, you’re doing education wrong.  To continue on the thought that I started with this week – these folks are truly walking on their bridges as they build them.  Drop them a comment to show how much you appreciate their efforts.

A couple of projects

You know, it doesn’t make any sense to have a “connected classroom” (whatever that means) unless you’re connected to something.

I’ve seen a couple of projects fly by on Twitter the past couple of days that look interesting and are worth your time for a second look.

Virtual Valentines: Melting the Miles between Classrooms

Notification of this project came via a Twitter message from Stacey Wallwin.  It looks like some schools from Superior-Greenstone are already in.

The map which displays the classrooms involved in the project does indeed let you know that this project could meet its goal of “circumnavigating the globe”.

What RESONATES with you?

Peter Cameron’s class is heavily vested in adventure and is looking for partners.  Here’s the message that caught my attention.

Are you interested in bringing this sort of excitement to your classroom?  Drop Peter a note and see how you can get involved with their next adventure.  The more the merrier.

Of course, there are common threads to both of these opportunities. 

  • You’ve got to be connected in a meaningful way.  If you’re involved, you need to be committed.  I’ve seen so many projects fail because there’s the initial buy-in but no follow-through;
  • There’s the geographic bit.  Oddly enough, both Stacey and Peter call northern Ontario home and yet the connections are at considerable distance from there.  The excitement and enthusiasm could come from anywhere though.

So, are you and your students up for a new project for the upcoming year?  Check these two as possible candidates.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Friday! You know what that means.  Here’s a sampling of the great things I read from Ontario Edubloggers this past week.

#OneWordONT – Our Collective Focus for 2016

There have been a number of blog posts and other sharings about one word that might be a focus for the year 2016.  While I don’t necessarily think that one word does it for such a complicated environment, it is good for professionals to reflect on their practice.  There have been some interesting words shared.  I think, that put together, there’s a certain power, richness, and sense of purpose.

That’s what you’ll find in a recent post to the OSSEMOOC blog.  All of the one words that could be found were put together in graphic format.

10 days – 10 posts

Sometimes, you just need a push.  And, to be pushed with friends can be extra helpful.

To that end, Tina Zita has challenged educators to make an attempt to be more active in some sort of social media.  An immediate thought might be blogging (and that would be my personal preference) but she doesn’t narrow it to that.  So, you could be just as active on Google + or Facebook.  The key to being connected is to be, well, connected.  It goes in both directions so share and share alike.

She shares a huge list of things that can get in the road of being connected and has made a personal vow to continue despite the excuses.  Good for her.  We all win when there are more voices sharing the learning.

Will you join her?

What a Difference a Mentor Makes!

Cathy Beach shares a wonderful post that I think we all should consider writing.

It goes to the question – to whom do we owe sincere thanks for support and feeding our passions?  In her case, it was Chuck Hopkins.  What a wonderful reflection on the impact that he’s had on her.

It’s a lovely post and sounds like a wonderful opportunity for this university student.

We need more of this; we didn’t get where we are now by ourselves.

Taking Pride in Your Work

You may just want to take your students on a field trip to a grocery store as David Fife lays the groundwork for this post.  It’s a terrific story that he tells that leads into the big message.

I can absolutely see this happening.

Not only can I see it happening, but as David notes, it should be happening a great deal more.

I think that it goes even further.  I don’t think that you can take sufficient pride in doing the same thing over and over again.  For this to work, you really and truly need to be doing something pride-worthy.  To me, that translates into change in routine.  When change and growth happens, and you’re proud of it, you also grow as a professional.  This is a post to share with your staff and others within your sphere of influence.  (I just did)

It reminds me of another proverb that I heard somewhere and cannot attribute the source – “Autograph your work with pride”.

Voice Controlled Ball

When I saw this title on a post from Brian Aspinall, I thought that he’d found a way to control his Spheros via voice.

It wasn’t, but it’s still interesting all the same.

Instead, it’s a project written in Scratch and uploaded to the Scratch Project collection.  In these days of voice assistants on your phone, it’s an interesting project for students to take and use voice input in their own coding.  Hopefully, there will be some interesting remixes that Brian shares with us.

Looking At Classroom Management Through A Self-Regulation Lens

There are many years difference between the age of the students that Aviva Dunsiger teaches and those that I taught.  But, we both could have had the same university professor and associates talking about classroom management.

I had a variety of placements while at the Faculty of Education.  There definitely were a couple of control freak placements but there was one that stuck with me.  The students came in noisily as teenagers do, looked at the blackboard for directions, and then headed off to do their work.  There was no formal “sit down and listen to me” moment.  I remember asking about the technique and marvelled at the response.  It was the first “who owns the learning” discussion that I’d formally had although it wasn’t in those terms.

When I got my first job, I fell into the control freak mode.  It was easier and, with students coming from different backgrounds and not on the same page, it was just efficient.  But, it wasn’t satisfying and it sure tired you out.  But, I had had the influence of that one teacher who really took self-regulation into action and eventually, I “got it”.   Each year, you do need to go into full management mode if for no other reason than to take attendance.  Once you impress upon the students just who owns the learning, it gets better.

Of course, that was with teenagers who generally can be reached.  It’s interesting to try and imagine kindergarten students with an even more diverse background in the same situation but it’s an important concept and I think one worth sharing.  They’ll have to be set up to succeed but it’s a good move.  Like they say, “everything I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten”.

Ultimately, it’s the best life skill.

How to Write Report Cards

I have no idea who wrote this post.  But, since so many people are in the process of reporting, it’s at least worth a smile.

Now, I’ve written many a report card in my day, led many report card workshops, and supported many others writing their own report cards.  By the way, I don’t do that any more so quit sending me questions and requests!  You have “people” who do that and I can’t really help that they “don’t get back to me”.

Anyway, having read this post, I realize that I was doing it all wrong.

If you need a smile, give it a read.

Of course, none of my blog readers would procrastinate.

Please take a moment to drop by the blog posts above and bump up their number of visits and share a comment or two.  I’m sure that they would appreciate it.  Then, head over to the big list of Ontario Edubloggers for even more.  If you’re blogging and haven’t been included in that list, please fill out the form and I’ll see that you’re added.

In praise of lotteries

I’ve always wanted to be quotable. 

With all the furor about the Powerball lottery in the United States this past week, I have the perfect opportunity.

So, here goes:

“You can’t be functionally literate in the 21st century until you understand the mathematics and probability behind your chances of winning the lottery and be able to write a computer program to simulate your chances of winning.”

I know; it doesn’t work for me either but feel free to quote me anyway.

All the “lottery in the news” is perfect if you teach coding. 

In the news, you’ll see reports about how the probability of getting hit three times in a rowboat on Lake Erie is not as high as your chances of winning the lottery.  We just accept it as fact because some speaking head on the television said it.  They must be smart, right?  Then you realize that they’re just reading some other person’s words on their teleprompter.  Those people did their research on the internet probably from some university research project involving huge databases and probability.

But teaching about this is one of the fun moments as a computer science teacher.  I can still hear the complaints – “Siiiirrr, this isn’t math class”.

Yet, in some languages where a random number is actually a number with 7 decimal places and found between 0 and 1, a great deal of mathematics was needed to first of all explain how the computer generated that number and then was forced to do some computations to generate an integer (or as too many students would say “interger”) between 1 and the desired high end.  You might end up with a statement like this:

roll := int(rnd(0)*6)+1

The sheer beauty of the logic and mathematics behind that isn’t always appreciated.

Modern languages make it easy.  You just have a statement like:

roll = math.GetRandomNumber(6)

It was so much more elegant when the statement was cryptic. But the end result was a random number.  Or is it?  Time for a discussion about pseudo-random numbers.

This past week, a few of us computery sciencey people were having fun with the concept in a Facebook discussion.  We convinced Alfred Thompson to do something in his secondary school classes and, as a good social media person, he buckled under the pressure and did it.  And, of course blogged about it. “Lottery Inspired Projects“.

Now, doing something like this typically isn’t done cold turkey.  Like anything you build on a concept.  I actually enjoyed doing this sort of thing with students.  We would start with something simple like flipping a coin a number of times and might end up with a program like you see below in Small Basic.

Simple enough, right?

Next step and, while the above would be developed as a class, the task would be to modify the program to simulate the roll of a six-sided die.  And, of course, one die isn’t enough for most games so we’d then modify the new program to have two dice.  Inevitably, we’d sit back and wonder – just how fair is the computer in doing this?  We’d actually do a hands-on activity after I visited the mathematics department to borrow their class sets of dice.  We’d roll the dice and tally the results to get an idea of what combinations were more likely.  Then, a little plotting on graph paper was in order to get a visual of what it might look like.  Then, back to the computers to write a program that would generate the graph.  By now, there wasn’t a disengaged student in the house.  My Dungeons and Dragons gang were then off on a tangent because there are more things in and out of this world than six-sided dice.

Next, on to the biggy.  The lottery. 

When I mention that this was a big step, I would inevitably get one of those “D’uh sir.  It’s just like a dice with 69 sides”. 

Oh, your teachable moments!

Flipping a coin or rolling a die is pretty easy stuff.  After all, who cares if you get two heads in a row or if you roll three fours in a roll.

It’s a whole different game when you play the lottery.  Once a ball has been chosen, it gets put into a rack and photographed for the television viewing audience.  You never see the operator pick it up and put it back into the tumbling ball cage.  It’s a concept called “Sampling Without Replacement”.  The concept led to a couple of interesting things.

  1. What’s the difference between “Sampling Without Replacement” and “Sampling With Replacement”?  The difference between flipping a coin and simulating a lottery is the absolutely perfect way to teach the concepts
  2. Now the biggy – how would you ever write a program that simulates “Sampling Without Replacement”?

At this point in time, the relatively simple concept of flipping a coin is just a fond memory.  We’re now into some pretty sophisticated computational thinking for Grade 11 secondary school students.  To their credit, I can remember classes that wanted me to just stop.  They would take it from there. I always kept a cupboard of computer magazines and some students had remembered typing a game from the magazine into the computer.  And, good games always have a random concept to them. 

Noise was never an issue in the classroom.  As long as the talk was on topic, things were good.  I was big on brainstorming or, as one student called it, “thinking out loud”.  I wish I had access to one of today’s phone apps that monitor sounds.  In the beginning, it would be loud but once they got onto something, it died.  I’d love to map that to determine whether they were focused on a solution once they found it or if they didn’t want to share their work with others. 

I can remember original solutions that involved less than elegant solutions involving arrays, lists, multiple variables, … Given enough time, most solutions actually worked.  It was fun watching the students work in groups on the project, hiding their work from classmates, and then showing off their logic at the end.

Next steps?  Dealing cards was always fun.  Now you have numbers, letters, and suits.  The fun never ends!

Where would we have been without a lottery as a model?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

OK, not an introductory paragraph about my philosophy of winter weather.  It’s here so I’m dealing with it.  Instead, off to some of the great things that I read from the keyboards of Ontario Edubloggers this past while.

How to Survive Winter

When I read this title, I thought that it was going to be a really light and fluffy cutesy post that would be appropriate given that snow was on its way.  Instead, Michelle Cordy wrote one of those posts that really has affected me emotionally.  I found that kind of scary because I do read a great deal.  I don’t know Michelle terribly well; we’ve worked together but we haven’t interacted much beyond that.  I found this post to be spectacular and full of advice for what should be at least for a moment of contemplation for anyone who reads it.

I am a Canadian gal and I want to give advice on how to survive winter.  Not literally.  I mean those winters we all experience in our lives. Those seasons in our minds when our ideas don’t flower. This is how to notice the signs that you are in a creative cozy time and how to come out the other end.

I read the post from top to bottom and continue to find something to take away each time that I read it.  That’s my personal test for blog greatness.  There was so much written on and between the lines of this one.  One of the major takeaways was how she addresses the difference between soul and ego.  Ego seems so superficial when put in many contexts; for me it was social media, spurred on by her references.  Ego is full of retweets, the closed circles of clowns playing for each other, the “Hey, look at me once again promoting a talk on video I did years ago”, the put downs made especially for the closed audience.  The soul doesn’t need a soapbox; the soul is there to remind you to “Make sure you are doing an amazing job at something.”  When was the last time you conscientiously did that in a world of distractions?

My only complaint was that the post was too short.  I think that’s why subsequent reads were so important to me with different takeaways each time.

Just wow, Michelle.  Everyone, I think, could use a dose of your advice “Feed the soul and starve the ego”.

Creative Problem Solving: What’s the Point?

This is a wonderful read after Michelle’s post, written by Anna Bartosik.  The underlying message for me was about changing a mindset; changing an attitude.  The result, after consuming three days of her time…


Given the success and then blogging about it, I’ll bet that she’s up for more.  Sometimes, you add to a CV to make it look good and, even better, you look good by doing things better.  That’s where the real change happens.

The CV is for others.  What are you doing for yourself?

My Top 3 Posts for 2015

I like to think of myself as a regular fan of Sue Dunlop’s blog.  I think all Superintendents should blog.  After all, most of them are big proponents of visible thinking.  Just not theirs …  Instead, they tend to do those things “in camera”.

So, when she listed her top three posts for 2015, I was curious to see if I’d read them all.  I really do like her writing and I’d hate to think that I missed one that she thought was one of her top ones.


I especially loved the post about not tweeting during a keynote.  In fact, I think I mentioned it in one of my TWIOE posts. If you haven’t read it already, it’s not too late.

While there, check out her lists of blogs that she follows.  All great choices.

Free Images for your Online Creations!

Every time I read posts like this one from Deborah McCallum, I find yet another place to bookmark.  It’s an important reminder that teachers of digital literacy need to continually share.

Even though it’s 2016, we still exist in a world where there are people who thumb their noses at copyright and do whatever they want with other people’s content.  If they’re spreading that attitude in the classroom, the cycle will never end.  Whatever happened to just doing the right thing?  There’s been so much written and discussed that claiming ignorance can hardly be an excuse.

The age of Information! Educators and learners alike are increasingly involved in creating meaningful projects online – but where do we go to find images that we are allowed to use? How do we properly cite them? How do we promote digital citizenship?

I seriously do think that every post like this, especially if it’s geared towards students, should include the best resource of all – creating your own.  That’s so valuable in many ways beyond simply having a blog post or website or newsletter with a picture in it.

Staying Inside the Lines: Reflections on Learning from my Adult Colouring Book

I can’t believe the response that my sharing this original news story about colouring books to my Twitter feed generated.  Lots of people have commented and a couple have blogged about what it means to them.  The latest was from Jennifer Rimnyak.

She took an interesting spin on the article.  Unlike the others that turned towards colouring in their classroom, she took it in the context of her own experience with colouring.

As a teenager, you guessed it, I was a pretty hardcore perfectionist. Those tendencies still rear their ugly head from time to time now in my adult life, but as an educator my mindset really has changed.