This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Happy Friday everyone. And, it’s a 13th too. And a full moon to boot. Actually a “micro” Harvest Moon. In football, we call it “piling on”. Read about it here.

But you can tough it out.

Grab a coffee and sit back to enjoy some posts from these fabulous Ontario Edubloggers.


Minding the Children

OK, I’ll confess to be guilty of doing this.

Sharing memes in June about sending kids back to their parents or in late September about parents shipping kids back to school.

In this post, Sheila Stewart suggests that doing so is not the best of ideas.

I am also not sure if such humour does much to support working relationships and respect between teachers and parents.

I guess I never saw it much more than a bit of fun poking at our profession. I’ve never really thought of them as serious; more of a look at reality in the school year.


This Blog is not Dead it’s…

I guess I breathed a bit of a sigh of relief when Jennifer Aston indicated that she hadn’t abandoned things – she was just carrying through on promises to a family about not doing school work in July.

I don’t think it’s an unfair demand; after all, kids deserve family time which can be so difficult to find during the school year between working, after school professional learning, coaching, and so much more. Why not demand a little mom time during the summer.

I’m not surprised that many of her activities mirrored what my summers were like when my kids were younger – going to the beach, going to swimming lessons, potty training, but I drew the line at soccer. My kids were baseball/softball players! (Still are)

Read the post; many bloggers would have made this into a number of smaller posts but Jennifer throws her entire summer at us.

And, she’s promising to get back on the blogging scene again. Great!


L’ADN d’un leader

This is an interesting post from Joel McLean, again about leadership.

He talks about the DNA of a leader and ties in the 17 basic abilities identified by John Maxwell.

From the 17, Joel identifies three specifically and expands on them.

  • Ability to think
  • Creativity ability
  • Production capacity

The call to action is to question yourself, if you see yourself as a leader, about how you would increase these abilities.

I’m curious though about his use of the term DNA. To me, DNA is part of your make up and not something that you can change. (I watch a lot of Law & Order). To me, it begs the question. If these skills are truly DNA, can you actually change them? Maybe an idea for a future post, Joel?

With a little tongue in cheek, maybe blood tests replace interviews?


Exploring Classroom Expectations while using WipeBook Chart Paper

Congratulations to Joe Archer…he entered a contest and won a WipeBook Flipchart. It’s part of a series of products you can find here. http://www.wipebook.ca.

Joe talks about the product, but more importantly, talks about how he uses it with his class. For me, it’s the description of the pedagogy that is exciting.

At times, and for selfish purposes, that can be overlooked when people go product bashing.

I can’t help but think about the high profile keynote speakers a few years ago who went on a rant a few years about about Interactive Whiteboards. Like anything in the classroom, they can be used well or poorly. It’s not the product itself; it’s how it’s used. “Oh, and buy my book.”

I remember years ago in my planner having a write-on cleanable whiteboard page along with the traditional paper. In my mind, the paper was good for notes that I thought would be “permanent” whereas the erasable product was more transient in how I used it. My use mirrors somewhat the classroom activity that Joe describes.

I also like the fact that Joe uses the expression “Exploring”. It conveys a message that he’s doing his own research into the product and not just following the crowd.


A Career Marked by Change: Learning the Big Lessons in Some Small Places

Debbie Donsky takes on a new role this September and uses her blog to reflect on a career – so far anyway…

I’ll confess that I was expecting something different from her title when she made reference to “small places”. I had thought that she’d be referring to the small communities that school can be in the middle of big towns or cities. But, I was wrong.

Instead, she takes the opportunity to identify 15 Big Lessons and develops each along with a picture or two.

I could identify with most of the 15 but there were three that really resonated.

  • Be where you are – reminded me of my first trips to schools as a consultant – none of them are the same and you are most effective when you recognize that
  • Be authentic – especially with kids – they have a sixth sense when you’re faking it
  • Everyone you meet can help you – and reciprocate! Together we’re better

For more Debbie Donsky, read my interview with her here.


Goodnight, World

This is the latest review of a book from the CanLit for Little Canadians blog authored by Helen Kubiw.

I’m always astounded when I talk to Language teachers or Teacher-Librarians as to how connected and insightful they are with new books or ones that have been around for a while.

The latest reviews include:

  • Goodnight, World
  • The Starlight Claim
  • Harvey Comes Home
  • Spin

Violence in Ontario Schools

There have been a number of articles released in the traditional media about a report identifying the grown of violence in Ontario schools. Sadly, the articles are not very deep except to report their sources. Then, they move on.

On the ETFO Heart and Art Blog, Deborah Weston takes a really deep dive on this. Not only does she identify the research but she shares her insights about the issue.

She notes that there are no quick and easy solutions. In particular, she addresses a couple of the techniques often given as solutions to the problem.

Self-regulation and mindfulness strategies do help some students develop their social and emotional capacity but self-regulation and mindfulness strategies do not compensate for the myriad of causes and complex intersectionality of environmental, developmental, intellectual, social, emotional, economic, and mental health needs that may be at the root of students’ behavioural outcomes.

I would encourage all teachers to read this and look at the implications. I would also suggest that the worst thing that you could do is to ignore incidents. They need to be reported so that they can be addressed, not just in your classroom, but Ontario’s school system at large.


Like any Friday, there are always wonderful thoughts and ideas shared by Ontario Educators. Please take the time to read all seven of these terrific blog posts. You’ll be glad you did.

Then, make sure that you’re following these bloggers on Twitter.

  • @sheilaspeaking
  • @mme_aston
  • @jprofNB
  • @ArcherJoe
  • @DebbieDonsky
  • @HelenKubiw
  • @dr_weston_PhD

This post originally appeared on this blog:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

Tips for Bloggers to Remember


My Sunday morning reading included the article “Ten Things Every Blogger Should Remember“.  If you’ve been a reader of this blog, you know that I’m a sucker for posts like this!  I find the perspectives very helpful as I try to get my head wrapped around my own blogging.

I also like to think that the tips and exercises are valuable for those who would have students blogging in their classroom.  It’s one thing to provide an assessment (and I’ve seen a great deal of them that I don’t particularly agree with) but it’s quite another for students to sit back and reflect on their own efforts.  The fact that it might be criteria not teacher generated lends an additional level of credibility.  Have the students read the original post with its criteria and then even write their own blog post analysing their own efforts.

So, I’m going to take a look at the 10 tips from this post and see how I think I stack up.  Feel free to tell me where I’m wrong in the comments.

1) You will probably not become famous from this project

This is absolutely true.  I’m reminded of the television commercial talking about US college football players that talks about how so many of them will go on to be professionals in a sport other than football.  The same applies here; but it should never deter you from your blogging efforts.

2) The majority of your readers will be other bloggers

I never thought about this.  I know that the bulk of people who offer replies are bloggers and for that I’m appreciative.  It does beg a question though – what is a blogger?  Do micro-bloggers count?  Does it really matter?

3) Nobody will ever read every word on your blog

There are days when @SheilaSpeaking or @NobleKnits2 will send me a DM with a typo or missing/extra word in a post.  I guess not even I read every word!  I think this reinforces the writing tips that I learned in high school – start with a good title; bring the reader in with an interesting first paragraph; close with a good summary.

4) Trolls will come

There is a big dark side of the blogging web.  Thankfully, Akismet keeps most of them from public view.  I think there’s about 100 of messages that are awaiting my attention.  I do find that most of the replies that are legitimate are polite and helpful.

5) It does take work to make the blog worth your time

I’ll agree that it does take effort.  I’m not at the point where I consider it work though.  If I did, I think I would pack it in.  I don’t make any money from this blog (although I’m open to offers…) so I don’t set a time to blog.  It just happens when I feel the urge.

6) You get what you give

There’s a great deal of truth to that.  While I read daily and try to reply, I’ve scheduled Fridays as a concerted time to give back to the great Ontario Edubloggers who take the time to share their thoughts.

7) Make your blog as much about the content as it is about the person writing the content

I agree totally.  If you want to know about me, you’re further off being friends with me on Facebook.  My blog entries  here are about my thoughts and opinions.

8) Remain consistent

I like to think I’m consistently random in topic but I do try to schedule a little something at 5am every day.  That lets me write any time I have the opportunity.  That is one of the concerns that I have about blogging in education.  Unless they develop a passion, will students only blog during class when required to?

9) Don’t rely on words alone

This can be difficult at times.  Sometimes, there’s just no image or video that’s appropriate.

10) Be yourself

Yes.  Mistakes and all, this is me.  You won’t confuse this blog with something really academic.  It’s just my thoughts and opinions on whatever the topic de jour is.

 

Don’t Let The Good Stuff Go Away


This is another “Post From The Past” that is very appropriate given that we’re approaching the end of the school year here in Ontario.  You and/or your students have been blogging all year.  Will you just abandon your efforts?  Or, will you make a copy of it to save, use as an example, email to parents, give to students to keep, or use for any other of a myriad of purposes?

BlogBooker is an awesome service.  It will take the entire contents of your blog (with a little work) and create a PDF file that you can tuck away or otherwise repurpose so that you don’t lose the effort that went into it’s creation.  Here from August 22, 2010 is my post “To do more with your blog“.

Hey, you might even want to turn it into “A Flipping Blog“!

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Yesterday, George Couros asked for a little input through a Twitter message.

image

My first reaction what that this might be a step backward in the goal of integrating technology for students.  After all, if you have a blog, why would you want to revert to a newsletter format?  In its simplest format, it could be a paper document that’s sent home to parents.

But then, I started thinking.  There are a lot of reasons why it might be desirable to have a blog in newsletter format.  Some that immediately come to mind are:

  1. Not every parent has internet at home for any of a wide variety of reasons;
  2. The blog might be private with only student access for privacy concerns;
  3. Access to blogs might be blocked at school but the teacher blogs from home;
  4. The principal of the school wishes to have paper generated for whatever reason;
  5. The blog might be part of a project where a culminating document detailing everything is desired;
  6. The blog is reset for a new year or new unit or
  7. You just want a copy of your blog in another format …

Yes, upon further review, I can see where there may be reasons for a blog to be in a different format for a specific use.

I think that the other thing about a solution would be that it needs to be easily re-purposed by a teacher to the differing format.  Typically, blogs have considerable effort in their creation and who has the time for yet another creation?

I then thought about BlogBooker.  I had blogged about its use in the past here.  At that point, I was thinking about using it as a way to create a backup for a blog or a permanent record of thoughts.  I’ve actually used it to create a couple of backups of my entire blog.  It works very easily when I want a book of everything (including the graphics and pictures that I embed in posts) but would it do the trick on a more flexible basis?

The procedure is pretty easy.

  1. Export your blog content from your blog  (it’s in XML format but most people wouldn’t care or need to care about the format);
  2. Upload the content to Blogbooker;
  3. Wait a minute of two;
  4. Download your book in PDF format.

Conceivably that PDF could be filed away for posterity or printed if it absolutely had to be.

But, what about content of a shorter duration?  I never really paid close enough attention when I did the steps above to see if it was customizable.  So, I went through the process and actually paid attention this time.

Now, I use WordPress as my host and so went to my dashboard and the export tool.

image

Well, I’ll be.  There are configuration options!  I can set a start and end date.  In terms of the content, I could choose just the posts or all content.  I’m thinking that just the posts would suit my needs best.  Click on the “Download Export File” button and it’s on my hard drive.  That was easy.  The only limitation that I could see was that the export was done month by month.  Probably not a big issue as the newsletter might well be a monthly one.

Now, it’s over to BlogBooker.

Step one is to let BlogBooker know what type of Blog this comes from.  It supports WordPress, Blogger, and LiveJournal.  That’s a good selection.  Then comes the WOW moment.  There are a huge collection of formatting options for the output.  The preferences are customizable for any purpose.  I elected NOT to use “Footnoted Links” because my blog entries have a great deal of links in them.  If the ultimate goal is to send it to a printer, then you’re not going to want each entry on a separate page, I hope.

image

Give BlogBooker a few moments and voila!  There’s the nicely formatted book in PDF format that you can download or view right in your browser.  I really like the fact that I could customize further the start/finish dates of the publication and the images are intact.  I really like the concept and it was so simple to do.  Plus, the headers and footers put a nice finishing touch on the whole product.

It even includes pumpkin shirts!

image

Thanks, George, for the question and the opportunity for me to revisit this very powerful application.  Thanks, also to Aviva and Peter for keeping the conversation going.

 

The Online World Isn’t Perfect


It would be really nice if everything that you do with technology worked, worked well the first time, and never had a problem.  Of course, you can add those wishes to the hundreds of others that you might have.  It doesn’t always work that way.

For some, it’s the end of the world.  For the hesitant user who you’ve finally convinced that doing something is good, a hiccup in the process can often be the excuse that’s needed to bail out.  After all, it can sure be frustrating.  The sophisticated user might slap their monitor and then move to fix the problem or just move on to something else.

A couple of examples have arisen in the past little while.

Posterous will turn off on April 30

The Posterous blogging platform has been a very easy platform to curate and share photos and others have made it their primary blogging platform.  I would equate it to Tumblr in its functionality and appearance.  Posting has been a slice when you install the bookmark tool or use Shareaholic.  But, it’s going to close.

One Approach:
Get mad.  Get frustrated.  Shut down.  After all, you’ve put so much work into your Posterous presence and now it’s gone.  See, I told you the internet doesn’t work.

Another Approach:
OK, I’ve got until April 30 to do something about this.  What can I do?  First of all, you have until April 30 to enjoy your efforts.  Unless you do something, it will ultimately close and all your work is gone.  Nobody wants that so read the entire post and you’ll see that Posterous gives you instructions about how to get your content out of Posterous so that you don’t lost everything.

Or, read and follow the instructions elsewhere

OK, so WordPress is the answer?

It’s not perfect either.  Check out this story from yesterday.

WordPress.com goes down, taking millions of blogs (and us) with it
That’s interesting.  This blog is hosted by WordPress.com.  I didn’t even know that there was an interruption in the service.  But, I suppose that it could be that you were affected.  I hope now.  Fortunately, WordPress seems to have recovered nicely.  All is good as I work on this post.

That does it.  I’m moving my blog.
Well, you could over react.  There are many other very good blogging sites – Jux, Blogger, Tumblr.  They’ll never have problem.  (tongue in cheek)

That does it.  I’m going to host my own.
That’s always an option.  After all, the WordPress code is free to download and install.  It absolutely is and thousands of people use their own WordPress instance daily.  That only requires that you purchase hosting space, install and maintain your code and do your own backups.

The best approach?  I think that it’s pretty clear that there are many alternatives and that’s the joy and the power of being online.  Despite the small moments of frustration and inconvenience, the stats lie heavily in favour of stableness and continuity.  You just need to calm down, take it easy, make intelligent and informed decisions and then move on.  After all, there are a lot of smart people working behind the scenes and they really are aiming for 100% uptime.

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