Big and Transparent and Computer Science

With the amalgamation of school boards in Ontario, we ended up with some pretty big school districts.

District Elementary Schools Secondary Schools
 Toronto  477  123
 Peel  213  42
 York Region  175  33
 Toronto Catholic  167  29
 Thames Valley  133  30



List of school districts in Ontario. (2017, February 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:22, July 14, 2017, from

I always thought that my former district was big as a result of the amalgamation.

One of the keynote addresses at the recent CSTA Conference was Brenda Darden Wilkerson – Director of Computer Science and IT Education, Chicago Public Schools.

Those of us who have been on the planning committee for a long time recall the year that we had the conference in Chicago, some 15 years ago.  As is the practice, a member of the district is invited to serve on the committee to ensure that the program would be helpful for local teachers.  I still remember looking at each other when our member said “We don’t teach Computer Science”.  As a result of Brenda’s work in the area, Computer Science is now built right into the plan of studies for Chicago students.  What a monumental achievement!

How big is the Chicago Public School system? Compare to the above with 480 elementary schools and 172 secondary schools.  A complete breakdown is available here.

As her talk was taking place, the presentation showed a map of schools.  It completely overlaid the entire city.  I tried to find the same map on my computer and the closest that I got was available here.

Screenshot 2017-07-14 at 14.38.30

Clicking on an amber dot for an elementary school or a cyan dot for a secondary school reveals a summary:

Screenshot 2017-07-14 at 14.39.39

After picking a few, you’ll get a sense of the types of school and types of challenges for students and community.  Watching news reports will serve to provide more thoughts about the challenges faced.

You’ll also get a sense of the challenge to implement such an initiative as Computer Science for All, going from nothing to everywhere.

Why would you undertake an initiative like this?  I think it’s easily seen as being “just the right thing to do”.  We know that it opens doors that otherwise wouldn’t be open.  We know that students will do better in other disciplines when they know the skills of Computer Science and Computational Thinking.

As our speaker noted

Kids can’t be what they won’t see

I think that this is a wonderful success story.  Obviously, not every student will benefit from the opportunity but, at least now, they have that opportunity.

When you look at the number of schools involved and the challenges tackled, it makes our little challenges pale by comparison.

OTR Links 07/15/2017

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It was a little strange this week not doing the weekly radio show with Stephen Hurley to give an advance look at what would be in This Week in Ontario Edublogs.  Unfortunately, we were not able to connect on a time on Wednesday so you get to see them all here first! Great stuff from Ontario Edubloggers.

Don’t forget – if you’re an Ontario Educational blogger or you know of one, go to the landing back at the link above and add the link to the blog.  If you’re just looking to find new people to follow, I have the link to my Ontario Educator Twitter lists there as well.

Language, Culture & Math

Deborah McCallum is always good for providing a thought provoking post and this one doesn’t disappoint.  It’s a really powerful reminder that teachers are there for the entire package and not to cherry pick topics.

With so much emphasis on improving mathematics test scores, it’s easy to overlook this.

Screenshot 2017-07-13 at 07.01.43

‘Limited Pedagogy’ in the Past? I Don’t Think So!

I was thinking that maybe Peter Skillen had finally lost it.  Hadn’t he already blogged about this before?

Well, maybe, probably, yeah, definitely, …

But it’s a topic well worth repeating.

We didn’t have ‘limited pedagogy’. We had a robust and vibrant movement and approach based on the work of Jean PiagetJerome BrunerSeymour PapertFrank SmithLev VygotskyIvan IllichPaulo FreireA.S. Neill and countless others who promoted discovery learning, constructivism, student-centred approaches, open classrooms, active learning, multi-age learning groups, etc.

Check out Ontario’s Hall-Dennis Report (Living and Learning) of 1968.

The bizarre thing is that we didn’t have limited pedagogy in the past, in the past we had limited technology!  I can remember when the Ministry of Education provided three Icon computers per school.  Various sources were used to increase access to technology for students but the environment wasn’t perfect for a harmonious and easy use of technology in the classroom.  When you have to “take the kids to the lab”, it could easily be assumed that it was a special event that had nothing to do with regular teaching and the excellent pedagogy that was understood.

But those excuses lie in a past limited by funding and access.  We now have access and a marriage with good pedagogical practice should deliver on the promise.

Holy cow, it has generated a lot of discussion though.

I Packed. I Came. I Shared. And Now I’m Left Wondering.

If you’re a reader of Aviva Dunsiger’s work, you won’t be surprised about the wondering work.  I think that her “wondering” makes for an improved environment for her students.  We talk about inquiry and wonder being essential for students; why not for teachers?

This time, she’s wondering about people leaving her session early.

Screenshot 2017-07-13 at 07.15.55

These are good questions to search for answers.  There may well have been other circumstances.  Perhaps it was just the fact that it’s summer and it was nice outside.  Perhaps people could connect the dots and didn’t feel they needed the hands-on time.

There could be a million other reasons but I’m sure that Aviva’s wondering will result in a different approach in the future.

Perhaps do the “play” first and then tie the big concepts together afterwards?  We live in a PD environment where people are encouraged to “learn with their feet” and to move on if their needs aren’t being met.  That’s great in theory but how do you know where the session is ultimately headed?

#Iceland: Getting our bearings

Alanna King’s on holidays in Iceland with family.  This is one in a series of posts about a summer exploration there.

There’s a great description of what’s happening to the family as they take a look here and there.

I’m just surprised that Tim didn’t rent a motorcycle and leave it to Alanna and Max to catch up later.

The best part is the beautiful pictures that she’s sharing.


Making a Positive Impact

I’m not going to say much except to highlight this last line from Jennifer Casa-Todd’s post.

How might you make someone’s world brighter today?

It’s not always easy.

On my recent trip to Baltimore, I spent a lot of time in airports (I live in fear of missing my flight) and so I’ll try to strike up a conversation with people.  In one case, I offered my iPad to play a game on to a child who was a little wild.

Airport people like being left alone, I guess.

Attempting isn’t always appreciated but I hope that I never stop trying.

What Does an Innovating Leader Look Like?

I taunted Paul McGuire to write a post so I guess that I should include it here.

So, what does an innovating leader look like?

I would hope that you say “like me”.  I would also hope that you say “I lead by example” instead of “I lead by telling people what to do”.

I always see red flags when people use the term(s) “leader”, “innovator”, or “innovating leader” in their own bio or other places where they describe themselves.  That is indeed the lowest of the low hanging fruit.  Wind fall, perhaps.  It’s more impressive when others use that term to describe them.  Then, I sit up and notice.

Screenshot 2017-07-13 at 07.33.00

The best piece of advice I ever received came from my father.

Be humble.  You look good when you make others look better.

A long-overdue tribute

I’m always a sucker for a well-crafted blog post title and that’s what this was from Diana Maliszewski.

I started to read and got interested when she made reference to the Maker Festival in Toronto.  Then, somehow the topic turned to a special trip to Toronto.


Pictures and stories about an anniversary are really few and far between so I did read to the end.

Congratulations, you two.

There’s always something to love from the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers.  Please take the time to click through and read the entire posts and drop off a comment or two.  They’ll really appreciate it.

OTR Links 07/14/2017

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Computational thinking in k-5

Proctor – noun
1. a person appointed to keep watch over students at examinations.
2. an official charged with various duties, especially with the maintenance of good order.

Such is the definition of “Proctor”.  Thanks, always referred to the process of hosting a session at a conference as an “introducer and thanker” or just “host”.

However, at the CSTA Conference, they’re known as “Proctors”.  Either way, every session had one.

Those of us on the conference committee were instructed that we had to be a proctor for at least one session and I was fortunate to get my first choice for this one.

“What does integrated computational thinking look like in K-5 by Cheri Bortleman”

I was curious about the content and approach.  I’ve seen so many presentations claim that they’re teaching “Computational Thinking” because they teach Scratch.

That may ultimately be the tool that’s used when you take computational thinking into the coding realm but is it the first step taken?  Is it the only approach to be taken?  Does computational thinking fit into all areas?

I was really pleased to see that Cheri addressed these concerns.

We started with this activity done in pairs.

Screenshot 2017-07-12 at 10.20.19

After a debriefing, a modification that ended up with nested loop, then remixing a new activity, and reinforcement with a video of what it looks like when NBA players do this sort of activity, everyone in the room was on the same page.  Not only did they have fun and see the insights of this unplugged activity, everyone was working from the same definition of computational thinking.

There were great visuals posted on the wall around the room and, at the end of the session, I encouraged everyone to get their smartphones out and take 21st Century notes.









As you can see, things scale up nicely.

We were encouraged to dig even deeper here:

OTR Links 07/13/2017

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Getting tips

Definitely, one of the more popular exhibitor booths at the CSTA Conference was the CSTeachingTips table.

It wasn’t hard to tell why.

They had put together a very popular collection of their tips and they were also on the list for the exhibitor scavenger hunt. But, all they had to do was step away from their area for a bit and we got all kinds of inquiries:

Can you tell me where CSTeachingTips is?

The answer was to give just a bit of patience!

Or, if they were looking for the actual tips, they’re all available on their website at

Here, you’ll find the tip sheets funded by a grant from the NSF.


If you don’t want an entire sheet, there is a search mechanism to let you zero in on the tip or the type of tip that you want.

It’s a resource that all Computer Science teachers and all those teaching coding or learning about this at a Faculty of Education should check out.

OTR Links 07/12/2017

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Computer badging

At the CSTA Reception last evening, those in attendance had a change to mix and mingle and there was a special speaker.

She was from the Girl Scouts and shared with us the concept of badging.  For this former Boy Scout, it was a bit of a review.  I can recall all of the badges that I had accumulated during my time as a Boy Scout.  There were so many important skills that we had to demonstrate to an evaluator in claim our badge.

I hadn’t thought about the process for a while so it was a nice review.  Now, this is a Computer Science conference and I and many others came to attention when the discussion turned to badging for digital skills.

The complete list of badges available can be viewed online and they’re searchable by category.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the category STEM listed.

Screenshot 2017-07-10 at 04.46.09

Things have certainly changed from the days of living and surviving in the outdoors.

I really hadn’t stayed in touch.  How about the Girl Guide program in Canada?  The online presentation is different but Computer Skills are available as a badge there as well.

With my background being so many years ago, I was very pleasantly surprised to see the inclusion of these skills to the badging program.



OTR Links 07/11/2017

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.