This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Happy Labour Day Weekend.  Anyone else going to the Harrow Fair? We go every year so that my wife can get her fill of banty hens.

If not, settle back and read some of these interesting blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.


Why Twitter? Response

Have you ever made someone create a blog post?  I did and Jennifer Casa-Todd responded nicely.  She started with an innocent enough question….  I think it’s probably a question that everyone would like the answer to.

 

That opened the door for me and a blog post inspired by her inquiry.  Read her post and you’ll understand her motive for the original question.

She’s looking for some data for her research so if you have literally 15 seconds to help her out, answer her three question survey.

I’m hoping that she shares the results; I know I’m interested.


#BIT15Reads: Joining the club and choosing a book

Last year at the Bring IT, Together Conference, a self-directed learning/discussion book talk was introduced with great success. 

Alanna King is getting a head start on the concept this year.  Using her expertise with Goodreads, she’s started the process.

I think it’s a natural progression.  Not everyone can attend and join in the discussion face to face at the conference.  But, anyone with the book and an internet connection can read and participate.  This could go world-wide – please consider sharing her initiative far and wide.  The more that are involved, the better the results and proof that our connections are so powerful.


Neil Postman Had It Right—Back in the 80’s

The year is 1987 and the location is Tel Aviv.  Peter Skillen reminisces about a conference with the theme “caution versus enthusiasm”.  In this post, Peter shares some of the thoughts from Neil Postman on the topic.

Even though the years have passed, there’s still so much common sense in Postman’s observations.

What’s changed?

Innovation and big business.  Attend any computer conference or visit any technology store.  The amount of technology available to schools and teachers back then was minuscule compared to the offerings today.  Add to it the number of people who work on commission and you have a huge intrusion into schools and school districts trying to sell the latest, greatest, and shiniest.  That’s not going to go away soon but it wouldn’t hurt to step back and question why.  If the answer is “because so and so is doing it” or “it’s the standard in business and industry” or based on a theory of questionable origin, then I’d suggest that the wheels are wobbly and need to be tightened.


Curricularize Coding? Not a New Question!

Peter must be clearing out his personal library.  In the next post, he shares evidence that good Ontario educators understood the value of programming in 1986.  Of course I was, because as a secondary school computer science teacher, that was my job.  Peter reminds us that there were elementary school teachers who understood the power as well in this scanned article from ECOO Output, an eagerly awaited publication from ECOO when it had Special Interest Groups and was more than just a conference.

His inclusion of this picture of Ontario Educational Technology leaders brought back some memories of people I’ve worked with over the years.  I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen Ron Millar wear anything but black.

Oh, and Peter also includes a nice article from the SIG-LOGO group.  I’ll confess to being completely distracted and spending quite a bit of time going through the above picture before I read that though.  Sorry, Peter.


Back-To-School 2015: Your Creative Advice

Stephen Hurley’s latest post is both a smile and a plea for help.

I find myself wearing two hats on this one. The first is the hat of an educator who has had the opportunity to witness quite a few opening days. But I’m also the father of two children who, at 8 and 6 years of age, are just beginning to negotiate their way through the formal school system. Truth be told, I find myself favouring the father hat these days.

Being a teacher and a parent is an interesting combination, and really challenging at times.  Going back to school is just the beginning.

But, with young kids, it’s a challenge for everyone.  Indeed, how do you make it an exciting and non-threatening event?

Stephen offers some suggestions and is looking for more.

Do it quick; school starts on Monday.

The smile part – I’m sure that he’s yet to experience the situation where a student / teacher conflict happens and the teacher is a friend and the student is, well your kid, and you know what she/he is capable of.


Case Method — classroom catalysts, from story to discourse and back again

You might have missed this post from Richard Fouchaux because he neglected to include the word “free” in the title.  But, make sure you give it a read.

He’s putting it out there – if you’re interested, show a little online love and follow his blog for the results.


As the return of school is nigh, it’s great to see that Ontario Educators are still learning and sharing.  Please take a few moments to click through and support these wonderful bloggers and all of the Ontario Edubloggers.  If this is the year for you to start sharing your wisdom with others, please add your blog URL in the form provided.  There’s so many good things happening.  Be a part of it!

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Do’s for Student Blogging


I read this blog post this morning and really enjoyed it.  “Top 20 Do’s and Don’t’s of Blogging”.  The focus was to the professional blogger and so some of the topics may not necessarily apply for student blogging.  The other thing is that it contains a lot of don’t’s which sound a lot like rules and you know students (and teachers) when it comes to rules – they want to push to see how far they bend before they break.  Inspired by this, I thought I would take a look at putting together a list of Do’s specifically for schools.  It’s all positive!

DO – Follow the school’s acceptable use policies for social media.  This might include just using student first names and last initial or a particular tool.  No problem.  The goal is the writing after all.

DO – Use a graphic organizer to brainstorm thoughts before sitting down to actually blog.  I’m a big fan of Popplet.

DO – Use all the components of the writing process.  After all, you’re writing – Prewriting, Drafting, Revising, Editing, Publishing are all nicely done online and “pass the laptop” peer editing with elbow partners works well.

DO – Publish for others to read and comment.  Parents always enjoy the opportunity to see student work live and immediate and can comment right on the spot.  I had an advantage explained to me once by an eLearning teacher that I hadn’t thought about but it sure makes sense.  By publishing so that others could read, plagiarizing went away totally – first of all the original author might find it and secondly classmates would rat them out!

DO – Use the hashtag #comments4kids.  There really are kind souls that like to support the blogging process by adding a comment now and again.

DO – Simplify the writing process.  Depending upon student age, why use a big, full-blown word processor with every bell and whistle known to human kind unless you like the myriad of teachable moments when the question “What does this do?” comes up?  Your blogging environment may have just the right number of options for most writing!

  • WORDPRESS

wordpress

  • BLOGGER

blogger

DO – Use the writing tools that comes with your blogging platform.  As a WordPress user, I totally rely on WordPress’ assistance!  (I’m still trying to avoid writing in the passive voice…)

proof

DO – Include images.  Not the “go to Google Images page and right-click the first one” ones though.  Discuss Creative Commons resources (including Google’s) or, even better, have students create/photograph/scan their own artwork for inclusion.  Make it theirs.

DO – Blog in other languages.  What a great way to promote a second language than to publish it in the best possible, polished format.  Don’t forget that mathematics is a wonderful second language too.

DO – Blog regularly.  I would suggest that “one and done” is just a waste of time.  Make it a regular place to publish or journal what’s happening.  A comparison of writing at the end of the year will show how the writing has matured.  Don’t forget also to create a BlogBooker so students have a record of everything in one spot.

and a bonus…

DO – Consider your back.  Instead of loading up your personal knapsack full of papers to take home for marking, do it online!  You can easily use all forms of assessment publicly on the blog or privately through your wiki or email.

What do you think?  Blogging in the classroom is positive.  What did I miss?  Add them in the comments below.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I can’t believe it’s Friday already.  The RCAC Symposium was just last week and it was another very inspirational day.  But the blogging from Ontario Edubloggers kept on coming.

I ran into one of those Internet/Blogging memes by being named.  I guess it’s a fun way to get folks who are blogging to interact with each other and gives them a chance to let folks know a bit about them.  A few people have already responded.

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Joint Work in the Digital Staff Room

This one was from Brian Harrison who actually was the person who tagged me.  Read the original piece at the link above.  To whet your appetite, here are 11 Random Facts about Brian.

image

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The second one that I found came from Royan Lee.  He called his post:

Dean Shareski’s Homework

And, 11 things you might want to know about Royan.

image

Interesting.

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Brandon Grasley calls his Joyful Blogging in Response to @fryed

brandon

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Donna Fry “Brings Back Joy

Donna

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Just Laugh…

Aviva Dunsiger shared her thoughts about what happens when technology goes wrong in the classroom.  You see a lot of frustration from folks when technology doesn’t work.  It means that perhaps the lesson has to go to a “Plan B”.

It’s a cruel reality when working with technology and everyone who has ever tried to use technology has run into it.  In the staffroom afterwards, you’ll get the inevitable “That’s why I don’t use technology.”  It’s difficult to take on that discussion as you’re banging your head against the wall.

But, let’s not let it interfere with the process.  Our profession has always had points of failure that mess up good lessons.

  • assemblies that make the school run on shortened days;
  • students “sick” on the day of their presentation;
  • bulb blown on whatever projector you’re needing;
  • early dismissal for the sports team;
  • and everyone’s favourite – snow day!

The one thing that we keep hearing is how it’s not the technology; it’s the teaching; it’s the connections; it’s the collaboration…

Maybe we should step back from the technology more often and practice what we’re preaching?

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Thanks, everyone for being so open and sharing with your thoughts.  Please enjoy these and all Ontario Edubloggers at this Livebinder.  If you’re an Ontario Educational Blogger and your work isn’t listed, add yourself via the form!

 

Time for a Renaissance?


There’s a great song that’s worth listening to or reading the lyrics.  It’s from Aaron Tippin and entitled

“You’ve Got to Stand for Something” and is based upon the famous quote “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”.

One of the things that I’ve always encouraged in my classroom is a moment of reflection on virtually everything that we do.  Whether it’s a program that’s written, a test that’s been taken, an action (good or bad), a presentation given or a lesson taught.

Personally, all of my lesson plans had a spot at the bottom entitled reflections where I would jot down my own thoughts after a lesson.  It was based on the premise that if I got the chance to teach this lesson again, I would do it better.  Better resources; better timing; better engagement; better …

As you wait for the pre-pre-pre-pre-game show before today’s Super Bowl, I would challenge all bloggers to spend a moment on their own blogs.  Do you have an “about me” or “mission statement” for your blog?  Take a moment to read it and then go back in time to your very first entry.  What did your mission look like with your first blog post?  What does your mission look like with your most recent post?  Pick something in the middle.  Were you true to your mission?

I probably should have said your first “real” post.  Most first posts are “I hope this works…”.

I would suspect that most blog ambitions are about changing the world one blog post at a time as you “muse” or “ramble” or “think” or “comment” about the issue de jour.

Is it time for some action or realignment?

  • Did you originally promise your readers that you would blog regularly?
  • Did you promise to reflect upon your experiences in the Grade 5 classroom and now you’re in Grade 1?
  • Did you promise to review the latest and greatest of software or pedagogy for your followers?
  • Did you get into blogging because it was a course requirement?

Are you keeping your promises?  If not, why not?

  • If you promised to blog regularly, are you? Or is your blog dead with a last post date months ago?
  • Is your present reality the same as the original or have things changed?
  • Is your original mandate now just a fond memory?
  • Is your course over and you’ve moved on?

Things do change and your priorities do shift.  Can you revisit the purpose of blogging in the first place and re-write your original mission to reflect your current reality?  Was your original purpose too restrictive or unrealistic?  Go ahead and fix it.

Have you abandoned the blog?  How about one final entry to that effect?  You’ll make many visitors happy knowing that they don’t need to waste time waiting for the next post.  Or, better yet, delete the blog and remove some dead wood.

If not, and I really hope this is the case, how about revisiting your “About Me” or “Mission” page and spending a few moments to tighten the language?  I know that when I visit a blog for the first time, the latest entry sets the stage for me.  If I’m going to add you to my RSS feed, I will read the “About Me” page to get a sense about who the author is and the goal of the blog.  That’s very important to me.  But, I would submit that it’s even more important to the author.  Take some time to be reflective.  Who are you?  What’s is your mission?  What do you stand for?

Is it time for a renaissance in your own personal blog?

The Ultimate Bloggers


So, it’s January 5.  How are you who are taking the postaday2011 or postaweek2011 challenge making out?  Well, I hope and I hope that you’re able to find inspiration and ideas to keep your blog live and vibrant.  If you’re partaking, I’d enjoy reading your blog.  Please leave your link in the comments.

Bloggers are researchers, story tellers, entertainers, and inspiration for the reading masses.  They collect readers and build community and readership loyalty if they’re doing their job correctly.  Despite all this, the concept is not new.  There is a whole group who I’d like to call the “Ultimate” because they do the same thing daily, weekly, and most of all reliably.

These folks are the regular comic strip authors/editors.  They’ve been doing their genius for years and we’ve all enjoyed their efforts.  Who doesn’t know the names Charles M. Shultz or Jim Unger or Ripley or the story telling characters Dilbert or Blondie or Andy Capp?  Who can’t empathize at times with The Born Loser?

You can enjoy your favourites and find new cartoons for free with a simple subscription.  At Comics.com, the registration is free and the possibilities/inspiration/humour is endless.

If you’re the type that needs a reminder to read your favourite comic, you’re covered there.  With a free subscription, you’ll end up with your selection(s) in your mailbox for inspiration every morning.  This is really handy if your local newspaper doesn’t carry your fave.

Think of what you’ve done with comics over the years.  Who hasn’t cut a copy from the newspaper and put it on your bulletin board?  Or included it as inspiration in a lesson?  Or quoted your favourite comic strip character in a conversation?  Or used Comics in the Classroom?

Using all of this as inspiration, why can’t blogging be the same?  It’s certainly a similar artform.  It’s a short article that gets to the point and conveys its message.  In fact, it’s probably a great deal easier since you don’t have to have the drawing to go with it!

If that genre intrigues you, read on.  Ontario Educators could certainly replicate this with their Bitstrips for Schools accounts.  With that, you too, could become an ultimate blogger.  But, real comic strip makers have teams of authors.  Hey, you do too.  Look out on that sea of 20, 25, 30 faces.  There are lots of stories just waiting to be told.  Putting it all into perspective gives you real appreciation for comic strip authors.  Don’t forget the Ministry licensed Comic Life.  Create your own strips there or as I showed earlier, do your own Ripley’s style research.

It makes postaday and postaweek a little more doable!

Regular Blogging


The folks at WordPress have a deal for you.  Of course, it’s in their interest to have people blogging regularly.  As well, though, those of us who read blogs like to read content regularly that could benefit from this deal.

“As part of the DailyPost, we’re launching two campaigns:

  • Post a Day 2011: Post something to your blog every single day through 2011
  • Post a Week 2011: Post to your blog at least once a week through 2011″

You’ll find people who are making this part of their New Year’s blogging resolution by the hashtags postaday2011 or postaweek2011.

When I talk to people about blogging, there are typically three things that they identify as blockers.

  • I don’t have the time;
  • I don’t want people saying negative things about my thoughts;
  • I don’t have the ideas.

To that, I would respond…

  • Make the time if you want to be a blogger.  Once you get on a roll, it’s very easy.  Surprisingly, most people don’t want to read the great long blog post.  Instead, readers want something that quickly gets to the point.  So, get to the point and post it.  It takes less time than you think.
  • Ah, the fear of transparency.  I would argue that it would be a pretty boring world if everyone agreed with everything that you say.  And, if worse comes to worse, you can alway moderate any comment…
  • I don’t buy this one for a second.  Particularly in education, every day is a brand new day.  Whether it’s new observations, new software, new people, new connections or new learning, it happens fast and furious.  Imagine what would happen if all great educators blogged about that unique teaching success that made their day.  Stop hoarding; start sharing!

The only catch in all of this is getting satisfaction.  Are people reading your thoughts?  If that’s important to you, check your blog’s analytics.  You may be surprised by the numbers that are dropping by.  And, you’ll have the cred to visit the Blogger’s Cafe or Gathering at your next conference.

Even if you don’t have the legions of followers at first, if you’re regular and are interesting, people will start to follow and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve put your thoughts down and shared them.  A week, a month, or a year later, when you have some reflective time, it makes for some interesting introspection to re-visit your thoughts.

If you’re looking for a quality resolution, you can’t do much better than blogging for yourself (and others).

If you’re an Ontario Educator, I’d really like to add your content to the Ontario Educator LiveBinder.