This Week in Ontario Edublogs


This is the last post and Wednesdays voicEd Radio show was the last one before Hallowe’en. I had fun picking “scary” songs for use on the show and I love this one. How old does it make you feel when you realize that it came out in 1958?


The Next COVID Crisis – Mental Health

My treatment of this post from Paul McGuire was unique. I had actually read it last week and knew that I had to think it over many times before writing something about it here and bringing it forward to the This Week in Ontario Edublogs show on voicEd Radio.

When I first saw the title, I thought that it might be a simple gloss over of something that would serve as a reminder for us to check in on our neighbours. I’m glad that I didn’t stop there and read the entire post. And then, read it a few more times.

It wasn’t a flyover post at 50 000 feet. It was a deeply personal post from Paul where he opens up about himself, how he’s doing, and is incredibly vulnerable with his words.

There’s another very strong message from this post that doesn’t come through in the words but rather in the sense of the post. After all, who would have thought that a system leader, a principal, a person that I personally selected to give Ontario principals a voice in the Bring IT, Together conference planning process, and a man who literally climbs mountains would find himself in this position?

From my notes for the show, there were a number of questions that I wanted to discuss and we never got around to it. I still think they’re important questions that need answers.

  • What about those who are not strong enough to seek help?
  • What are others doing to get through this?
  • What about those who are forced to go into work in less than perfect conditions? (i.e. everybody)

Mental Health – a postscript

I almost never have two posts from the same person on this Friday review. When I went back to re-read Paul’s original post, I see that he had written this as a response.

To anyone worried about what I wrote, I want you to know that I am really resilient and I will get through this. I have before, I know how this works.

There were a couple of reflections from Paul that stood out to me.

  • He has a large community of support that was there in response to the first post
  • This COVID stuff is new and unique and he has addressed it personally and can see a light at the end of the tunnel

He hasn’t reached that end, apparently, but delivers an uplifting message that enables him to look clearly for that.

And that’s really important.


Fake Math vs. Real Life

After reading this post from Kelly McLaughlin, I’m convinced that I grew up, learned, and quite frankly enjoyed “Real Math”. “Real Math” is done with pencil and paper and brain power. To date this, I go back to a time where having a calculator was seen as diminishing the study of Mathematics and therefore it was considered cheating to use one on the test.

I remember third year Statistics at the university and going for a meeting with Dr. Gentleman to get advice about whether I should buy a good algebraic calculator or an RPN calculator. Only a math nerd of those years would even entertain the conversation or have a university professor who would offer advice on something that we take as mundane these days. For the record, not only did she know calculators inside and out, she was a fabulous Statistics professor.

I wonder where a person would actually have to go to find a “real math” class these days. So much research has gone into the teaching and learning of the subject and so many resources created that challenge the educators today as to which one to use.

In Kelly’s case, she relates a conversation with a student that must make her feel good on one hand that she’s found a technique that has reached the student. I truly believe that mathematics should be enjoyed and applaud her for that. On the other hand, that trip isn’t complete until the student realizes that this “Fake Math” is indeed mathematics.

Great story; I loved it.


What My Teachers Were Saying About Me

Matthew Morris has the job that I always wished that I could have had. He got to go back to the school where he was a student. Only this time, he’s on the other side of the desk. I’d love to go back to my old school just to look around. I wonder if the Grade 13 lounge is still a lounge for students?

Even teachers have lounges and that’s the setting for this post.

Matthew notes that there is the teacher message of “empathy, kindness, service, love” in the classroom that isn’t necessarily the topic of choice when they gather in that lounge. Some of the messages that he repeats are anything but.

Based on a couple of quotes that he shares, I suspect that he may have though that when the topic of Matthew came around, it may not have always been positive. Of course, it’s just a wonder but now he’s got me wondering about me.

I mean; we all had our moments, didn’t we?


Post-pandemic classroom chaos

I know that it’s still “early” in our recovery of schools to some sort of regularity but Amanda Potts takes the time to let us know that her kids are not alright.

They curse, they use tacks and Sharpies in interesting ways, they put pencils in girls’ hair, they throw spitballs, and that’s just the stuff that she’s caught in her Grade 9 classroom.

This brought me a smile since I read it just following Matthew’s post about middle school kids and staff rooms. Amanda is wondering about the discussion among Grade 8 teachers.

If there is any way to rescue this, adolescents are always unique human beings. We’ve all been there; Amanda shares a painful story about Michelle which might serve as the positive spin on all this. We eventually grow out of being adolescents and turn into adults that, at times, act adolescently …

The question that her post leaves in my mind is are these kids acting as they would have normally or has their behaviour been amplified because of the lockdown? Let’s hope that they turn out alright.

Just before I move on, there’s one strong remembrance that I have of emerging adolescents and that’s one of body odor. Maybe Amanda’s kids have at least got that right!


The Things That Carry Us

There were two reasons why I included Joel McLean’s post this week.

  1. He wrote it in English as a result of confessions from the voicEd show about my understanding of French being as good as my Grade 10 teacher made it
  2. It’s an inspirational message about what gets us through the day and, once you realize that, you can actively plan to make it happen. And, he shows us how.

The premise is built around “Anticipation”.

In Joel’s mind, Anticipation isn’t a single thing but shows up in some many places.

  • Family Anticipation
  • Health Anticipation
  • Passion Anticipation

He encourages us to create our own anticipation. It seems to me that this is an activity worth doing.


Slice of Life: New books

Lisa Corbett shares a story that took me back to a very strongly worded message from the Media class while at the Faculty of Education.

ALWAYS preview movies from beginning to end before showing them in class. Going live is no time for surprises.

In this post, Lisa absolutely breaks this rule but not with a movie.

It’s with respect to a book that she bought for her class and they break the cover together. If that isn’t a cause for anticipation on her part and on the part of her students, I don’t know what is!

Read about her experience – here’s a spoiler – she closes with a comment about another book that she ordered.

Tonight the other pre-ordered book I’ve been waiting for was waiting for me when I got home. It came wrapped in clear, protective plastic. How special is that?! I can’t wait to unwrap it with the class tomorrow.

I love it when good things happen; I really love it when people blog about it to share their experience.


These great bloggers can be followed on Twitter.

  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Joel McLean – @jprofNB
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261

The voicEd Radio show is available here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


And, it’s another Friday. Actually, it’s Thursday morning as I write this post but that’s the way things roll around here.


Writing a SPOOKY Story!

I’ve written about Cameron Steltman’s writing activity for his students many times before. I think it’s truly unique, inspirational for both students and parents, and easily borrowed by others who want students to write for a purpose and write for an audience.

It’s straight forward.

He starts a new blog post with a theme and instructions for his students. Their job is to read and understand his post and then do some writing of their own in the replies. There’s so much right with this activity.

This time, he uses this image to inspire.

The student job? They look at the image and write a spooky story telling Mr. Steltman, their classmates, their parents, me, you, and anyone else who drops by how they interpret the image and turn it into their own spooky story!


Negative TikTok Challenges and Student Digital Leadership

The typical approach to dealing with bad things in education comes from a long time ago from the Baretta theme song .

“Don’t do the time if you can’t do the crime.”

Or maybe something more contemporary.

We know how well that works out. Jennifer Casa-Todd has a different take on things. In a school where there is one principal and one vice-principal for 1000 or more students, those enforcing the rules are really outnumbered.

Consistent with Jennifer’s message in SocialLEADia, she sees another way. Put the power of students to work to address this. I feel that it honours their leadership and an innate desire to do the right thing.

The prompt for this was the Negative TikTok Challenge and Jennifer includes them in her post.

  • September: Vandalize school bathrooms
  • October: Smack a staff member
  • November: Kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school
  • December: Deck the halls and show your balls
  • January: Jab a breast
  • February: Mess up school signs
  • March: Make a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria
  • April: “Grab some eggz” (another stealing challenge or inappropriate touching)
  • May: Ditch day
  • June: Flip off in the front office
  • July: Spray a neighbor’s fence

Her approach is an interesting turn on things and I think she may be on to something. Your school needs to have this book in their library. There’s so much wisdom here and it’s all based on the premise that people want to do good things and things for good.

Disclaimer: I did help Jennifer with advice and proofreading of this book.


Leadership and the matter of judgement:An open letter to Prime Minster Trudeau

I enjoy reading Charles Pascal’s writing and insights. Given his past career choices, he’s gone places and seen things that the rest of us in education only get to hear about third or fourth or more hand.

Many of us “could” write to our leaders and get a form letter back (or nothing in the case of around here) but taking your message public could be powerful in that we’re seeing his insights if we care to read them. And I did.

In this case, it’s an letter to our Prime Minister about his choice to go on vacation during the first Truth and Reconciliation holiday. Charles uses the analogy to baseball as commitng an unforced error. There were a lot of things that could have been done on that day. I would think that he would have been welcomed to many communities across the country to address them and the nation.

As we know, we’re just off an election that was controversial in itself. There’s some great advice in Charles’ post

Prime Minister, it is not too late to close the gap between your many worthy and important publicly stated aspirations and meaningful actions. 

Will he follow Charles’ advice?


It’s That Time of Year…

One of the powerful voices helping people understand how media works, its power and influence, and how we should interpret that media is Media Smarts. This year, Media Literacy Week is October 25 to October 30.

Anthony Perrottta is a regular speaker during this event and this year is no exception. He’s doing to give a talk about Digital Portfolios and The Power of Story.

His presentation is on Wednesday at 4:30 and you can sign up from the link in the post.

One of the advantages of COVID for professional learning is that we don’t have to go anywhere except to our computers to take in quality professional learning so do it.

The post also includes links to Anthony’s past presentations.


Talking Like a Teacher

I don’t often disagree with Diana Maliszewski and I’m not sure whether or not I do this time around.

She was asked to co-present a lecture on “Finding Trusted Sources and Evaluating Information” but was advised to not “talk like a teacher”.

In the post, she takes the time to address both the pros and cons of “talking like a teacher”. Maybe I’m narrow minded but I don’t see both sides. I replied to the post on her blog with:

Thank you for my morning smile, Diana. It’s a phrase around here when I correct my wife and kids over language errors “Daaaaad, you’re such a teacher”. I wear it like a badge of honour.

I don’t think you should ever apologize for being a teacher. You’ve devoted your life to your craft and I’m guessing you were asked to speak based upon your skills and reputation. It’s a great compliment. Consider the thousands of people that could have been asked, it ended up being the two of you. I can’t believe that it was a random choice.

My wife is a nurse and when I have a boo-boo, I go to her for her skills; I don’t rely on what I’ve seen on television.

Nobody can have it all but you can certainly relish in the parts that you do have and you will always be a teacher. That’s to be celebrated.

It’s a few days later since I first read Diana’s post, I talked about it on the voicEd Radio show and now I’m writing and I remain every bit convinced of my position.

Either way, knowing Diana, the presentation would have been fun and full of great information, I’m sure.


NETWORKING AT THE TESL ONTARIO ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Probably something like this has never been so important as it is during these days. Networking has always been an important part of conference going and was an important concept for Cyndie Jacobs and I when we co-chaired the Bring IT, Together conference in 2013 and 2014.

Dave Fraser starts off this post with the familiar approach.

When we think of “networking” at a conference, we tend to think of coffee breaks and catching up with colleagues in hotel lobbies and banquet centre hallways.

Been there, done that, and it’s a great chance to catch up with old friends from all over the place. But, that’s only part of the potential. Cyndie and I realized that there was a lot of “other” times with potential for participating in other things. In this post, Dave outlines a bunch of other opportunities that they’ve planned for other than the sessions. I think that’s incredibly important as well as the sessions and it sends the message that the conference is more than a money grab from registrations – that the organization places value in making connections to take away from the event.

It’s tough to pull off when everyone’s online but they seem to have thought through this to give attendees the chance to meet up with others with similar interests. Round table discussions would be interesting.

The platform that they’re using is a new one for me to look at and explore.


Math Links for Week Ending Oct 15th, 2021

The mathematics person is me always looks forward to posts from David Petro. I find it just plain interesting to work my way through them, smiling at his interpretation before I right click and open in a new tab so that I can return and continue my trek through his post.

This past week, regular readers of this blog will know that I was so excited with one of his curated items that I used it as inspiration for a complete blog post here.

He runs the gamut of classes and grades so not all of the links will be immediately useful for everyone except those that like to play with mathematics just for the sake of playing with mathematics and who doesn’t? There’s nothing wrong with a little side learning and this blog covers that nicely.


Please take the time to follow these great Ontario educational bloggers.

  • Cameron Steltman – @MrSteltman
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @JCasaTodd
  • Charles Pascal – @cepascal
  • Anthony Perrotta – @aperrottatweets
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Dave Frazer – @teslontario
  • David Petro – @davidpetro314

This week’s show on voicEd Radio.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Wednesday was another live voicEd Radio show for This Week in Ontario Edublogs. It was great to talk about the blog posts from others before I get to blog about them here!


Mentoring Moments: Importance of Our Names

Writing on the Heart and Art Blog, Nilmini Ratwatte Henstridge takes us on a discussion about names. I’ve mentioned before; a wise person once told me that it’s the most important thing that we own. Teachers need to respect that and call students by their correct name, or if it’s going to be different, it’s because of student choice.

Nilmini has an interesting spin on the concept where she suggests that the student “Names Stories” should be identified and celebrated in class. Especially these days, it’s so important.

In my case, I’ve always gone by “Doug” or a nickname of “Andy” after my father. It’s only when someone calls me by my official name that my head snaps a bit. A standard joke around here is that only a police officer or a doctor calls me “Douglas”.

To help the cause, Nilmini provides a list of books that can be used with students. There’s something powerful about reading about it. Just the fact that it’s in a book adds an air of credibility to the process.


The Mirror’s Reflection

If you do nothing more that just click through on this link, you’ll end up on the new Matthew Morris website which features his blog. It’s been a work in progress for a while now.

It’s looking good.

As Matthew continues to write, I’m finding that he’s revealing more and more about himself and I’m finding myself immersed where he’s been in situations that I I’ve never been. In this case, it was being one of a group of 4 in a class of 60.

There’s a great deal of wisdom in this post for all although Matthew is definitely very open and public about his approach to learning and being honest with himself.

I mean being authentic in your relationships with the children you are charged with teaching but I also mean rigorously reflecting on your shortcomings or blindspots as a person, and by extension, an educator.

We all have shortcoming and blindspots. Sometimes they keep us from reaching where we want to go and other times it shuts out things that we’d rather not see and/or deal with.

This post has really got me thinking about so much. I suspect there will be more to come in subsequent posts.


Contexte déficitaire: changeons de paradigme

Reading Joel McLean’s posts always slow me down as my Grade 10 French kicks in. Ultimately, I do rely on a translation program to make sure that I’m close to his meaning.

In this case, I really was and he takes on the statement that I know that we’ve all used.

j’ai fait de mon mieux / I did the best that I could

How many times have you used that expression? For me, it was probably more often that I care to admit.

As Joel notes, it can be used as an excuse for not getting the best results. After all, you did the best that you could, right? The fault lies with someone else. Somehow, it allows us to accept failure or at least not reaching the ultimate goal.

In the post, Joel suggests a different way to respond and look at things with an eye towards a solution that helps you get better.

It’s a lesson that everyone should take to heart.


Where’s the joy?

From Amanda Potts, a post that exhibits her own humility and vulnerability.

Just where is the “joy” in education?

Her context is a new course that she’s teaching “Understanding Contemporary First Nation, Metis and Inuit Voices”. a Grade 11 English course.

Now, anyone who has ever taught Grade 11 knows that it’s one of the more challenging years in a student’s and, by inheritance, a teacher’s timetable.

She’s taken a ton of professional learning opportunities and yet still feels like she needs to do more to actually do the course justice. From her description, I feel her message and yet I’m wondering how many other teachers are teaching the same course without the background that she’s acquired.

I love the statement that she shares that she won’t allow herself to get this wrong. I can’t help but think that this will be a very long year for her and I do hope that she can find some joy in her efforts.

It’s not just her post that’s important here; it’s garnered all kinds of comments from visitors to her blog so she can start with the comfort that there is a network of people behind her.


Halloween Costumes for English Teachers

My immediate reaction to this post from Kristy was this was more for elementary school teachers until I paused and remember that we did dress up a bit as well. The only restriction in my class at Hallowe’en and Christmas was that you couldn’t dress up with tinsel as that would do a number on computers.

I was lucky, I guess, in that my school colours were orange and royal blue. Often, Hallowe’en would land on a football game day or before/after and we could wear a jersey along with some other things.

In the post, Kristy gives us a list of 21 suggestions. Three of them seemed doable for this computer geek…

  • Go as an E-reader (14)
  • Go as a Banned Book (20)
  • Go as a Copycat (21)

Interestingly, on the news tonight it was reported that school boards are encourage people not to dress up for Hallowe’en.


Friday Two Cents: Comic Strips: Shepherd

The latest comic strip from Paul Gauchi brought a smile to my face. In fact, it might bring a smile to many who are struggling with going back to the face to face classroom and are considering alternatives.

With the return to in class learning, many educators have to reteach basic social skills, such as walking in a straight line or using “please” and “thank you”.   

So, is there an alternative to this noble profession?

Check out Paul’s comic to see a spin on it.


Student Perceptions of Gamification: A Comparison of Research Studies

Gamification is a word that I haven’t heard used in education for quite some time now.

It’s more common to hear words like “sanitizer”, “social distancing”, “masks”, … as a result of the return to schools while dealing with COVID.

So, it was with interest and a fresh outlook that I read this post from Mike Washburn.

It was interesting to see this topic addressed after such a long bit of absence. I suspect that there are still those that don’t understand the difference between gaming and gamification.

Gamification for gamification’s sake is as Ian Bogost has so eloquently said, bullshit (Bogost, 2015)

As classrooms return to near normal, I have a feeling that the usual suspects will be back at it as they understand the power when done properly. For others, it might be starting at the ground floor. The one thing that has change as a result of all the learning at home is that students are far more familiar with computers than ever before.


I hope that you can click through and enjoy all these posts.

Then, follow the authors on Twitter.

  • Nilmini Ratwatte Henstridge – @NRatwatte
  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Joel McLean – @jprofNB
  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Kristy – @2peasandadog
  • Paul Gauchie – @PCMalteseFalcon
  • Mike Washburn – @misterwashburn

The voicEd Radio show is available here:

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Ah, summer vacation. I hope that this relaxing period of time gives you the chance to check out these great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.


Create Safe Spaces

There’s a pretty important message in this post from Nilmini Ratwatte-Henstridge, writing on the Teach Better blog. It would be important if you were returning to class on Monday and it’s going to be important on the first day of school after the break. It’s going to be important going on after that.

It’s tough enough being a kid at the best of times. Imagine their pain having learned online for the past year plus and then all of the other things that are going on in society. In a normal world, the classroom may be one of the better places to address this but they’ve had to deal with it themselves and with whatever success online learning has provided.

In the post, Nilmini talks about creating these Safe Spaces using story telling and reflection. It doesn’t absolve the teacher from being a part of the conversation but, when used well, can make even more of the experience.

Nilmini also talks about using a number of organizers to help students thinking critically about issues which can be so powerful.

  • Four Squares Template
  • Venn Diagrams
  • T-Charts

If you’ve had success with these or others, I’m sure that she would appreciate hearing from you.


Before you click “End the call”

As Will Gourley notes, there will be a collective sigh across the province when the last online session is closed. We get that and you’ve already had the experience.

I guarantee that not a single soul wishes to do it over again either.

The last few days of the school year are always a challenge. Students know that marks have already been submitted so that bit of leverage has gone. In Will’s class, he lists a number of activities that he has provided for his students. This includes a little dancing. Will claims that he was up dancing with the kids, including their play list; that would make a great video.

How did you end the final days of the school year?

The post closes with a reminder of ETFO’s position about in-person learning.


Noticing and Wondering #SOL2021

This is Melanie White’s implementation of Safe Spaces where

the students were able to respond openly, realizing there was no “wrong answer”

I think this is so important. Nobody likes to be shut down and a stern “Wrong” is a real conversation closer.

Too many questions can be so school-like and academic and so she just sticks with two – “What do you notice? What do you wonder?”

The approach drove me to think – it’s only school where you have all these questions and all you have to do is answer them. In the real world, you basically start with those two open-ended questions and then proceed to find answers and more questions of your own.

Doesn’t that make so much more sense?


Drivetest: Everything That’s Wrong with Ontario

When I read the title of this post from Tim King, I started to get worried. What would an accomplished driver of vehicles such as him have against this? Did he fail a test or something?

His thoughts aren’t about licensing but more about the process.

He notes that there was a time when the Ministry of Transportation ran the show but it has since been outsourced. Same with the 407. I had a family member take a trip partially using the 407 recently and received a bill in the neighbourhood of $45.00. That’s a tank of gas.

Around here, the offices have long lineups to get in just like Tim’s. With the shutdown, things are just starting to get back online. Maybe this will encourage everyone to do their renewals online?

At the bottom of the post, there is a nice collection of links to resources to further your learning.


Top Ten Tips for Attending Virtual Professional Learning for Educators

I’m always leery when I see a title claiming these are the “top” of anything. But, Michelle Fenn has a pretty good list of things to consider if you’re up for professional learning. I like the number of organizations that respect their members and the challenges that they’ve been through and offer learning sessions for free.

Learning online is difficult – you know that. If you’ve been on the teaching end for the past while, you lived that. Imagine professional learning.

From her list, I found three that stood out to me.

  • Organize your time   
  • When possible attend LIVE sessions
  • TWEET! TWEET! (also a great way to take notes)

To her list, I would add a technique that worked so well for me. Find a professional colleague or two in advance of the event and go through the program together. Instead of having to pick between conflicting sessions of interest, have it covered by sharing the load and created a shared Google document for taking notes. You walk away with your learning and observations of your colleagues.


Google Earth Projects & Learning More About Each Other

I love the concept behind this project that Jennifer Casa-Todd writes about. Not for a specific class, but an initiative spearheaded by the Student Council.

They surveyed students looking for ideas for food and song that said something about their heritage. What a way to share your heritage with others in a unique way!

Now, I’ve only thought about doing it once. Apparently, the Danish side of my background enjoys sea food and eel. I draw the line at that – thankfully, my Dad never insisted on these as regular meals. I more identify with a culture that has hamburgers as a staple. I do remember visiting a fabulous Danish restaurant once in Toronto. They really aren’t plentiful. I’m not sure if it’s there any more. I did dig and found a non-seafood option!

But, poking around on the web, I do recognize some of the pastries that my grandparents seemed to have on hand at times.

Traditional Danish Food: 14 Recipes You Must Try


Slice of Life:
Slice of Life: done

From Lisa Corbett, a pair of blog posts. The first is untitled and the second is “Done”. Both paint a story of the stark reality that is her June.

As teachers, we all have memories of students and how they affected us during their tenure in our class. It will bring an emotional response when she thinks

These are the children who will always be in my memories. “She was in my class. That was the year we were online.” I’ll be saying when they finish high school or if I see them in the newspaper. “I taught him the year of Covid-19. Remember that?”

Closing down and marking the school year as “done” is even described differently and tugs at your humanity.

You need to read both as I suspect she’s sharing stories that many teachers are thinking and experiencing and don’t have the benefit of a blog to put it out there.


Please take the time to follow this yet again wonderful collection of Ontario bloggers.

  • Nilmini Ratwatte-Henstridge – @NRatwatte
  • Will Gourley – @WillGourley
  • Melanie White – @WhiteRoomRadio
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Michelle Fenn – @Toadmummy
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @jcasatodd
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261

The voicEd Radio show is available here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I always conclude this Friday post with an encouragement to click through and read the posts highlighted here. You can’t miss them; I make them large, bold with a live link. I’ll do that first this week just to encourage you. There’s nothing like the wit and wisdom of Ontario Edubloggers.


Online Instruction of Students with Learning Disabilities

Deb Weston does a nice analysis of online instruction for students with learning disabilities. This is her particular area of expertise. Her conclusion appears at the bottom of the post.

Online learning does not support the needs of most students with learning disabilities

I suspect that we all saw that coming.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go through and read the entire post. She does a pretty fair and balanced approach to the topic. I think that you’ll find that you’ll agree that students with learning disabilities don’t have a monopoly over the points she discusses. They apply to all students.

The big takeaway since online is going to be around for a while is to look at the positives and work to reinforce them. Then, look at the negative issues she lists and see if there’s not a way to mitigate them.


Tips for Teaching Online

The duo of Lisa and Steven Floyd team up with a post that includes a dozen tips for teaching online. This is a nice followup read to Deb’s post above. So, what can you do and what can you avoid doing?

All of the points discussed are important and I’d encourage thinking about all of them. Three really leaped out at me.

Develop a “one-stop-shop”
I think that this is crucial. Even after a year of on again off again teaching and learning online the skills that are necessary aren’t fully developed everywhere. In particular, having to “go here”, then “go there”, then “go here”, … is a recipe for failure. A portal where everything is in one spot is so helpful. If you know how, have any link open in a new tab or a new window so that the student is back “home” to the portal when they close it.

Only use new tools if necessary
As educators, we know that there are so many really valuable tools out there to address various things. You really do need to think carefully before introducing new tools. In a face to face classroom, it’s easier for success because students can just look at the person next to them if challenged. Not so online. The key is to focus on what’s really important and necessary to address curriculum expectations. Knowing a gazillion different tools really isn’t in the curriculum.

Constant feedback to students – don’t need to submit everything
If there’s one thing that is really unique during times of teaching and learning online, it’s feedback. Face to face there are more ways to provide that feedback – through body language, a look, a word, … you do it constantly and probably not consciously. Feedback when online is an intentional act for the most part. I love the tip that not everything needs to be submitted for marking. Save everyone a little stress!


Belonging

There’s a world of advice is this post from Ann Marie Luce.

It’s sad to read the story of a friend with a “personal loss”. Reacting in times like that is what makes us human and hopping in a car to provide the support is something we do all the time. Obviously things are different these days.

Ann Marie then turns this into the concept of “belonging” which is always a big deal in education. There’s nothing worse than not belonging to a group when you really would benefit from being a part of it.

In a former job, I remember going from school to school and would appreciate the invitation to go to the staff room and join a group for a coffee or lunch and a chat. That isn’t happening now. Even staff members on the same staff can’t pull that off. There’s a challenge for principals to make up for this.

Ann Marie identifies a number of different topics surrounding the notion of belonging. They could be used as a challenge by leaders within a school or a rubric by educators about the leadership provided to them. And, if you’re the teacher/leader in the classroom, there’s lot to think about there.

Professional Learning opportunities are a shortage these days but reading Ann Marie’s questions and relating them to your situation may be the best thing that you can do for yourself today.


Numbers.

With a title like that for a blog post, there really was nothing given away so I had to click over to Mike Washburn’s blog to see what was up.

I enjoy reading people’s interpretations about numbers as they apply to communities or social media. It opens up all kinds of questions about just how big a community should be to make it worthwhile or worth your while to contribute back. Or, some people judge their own value by community size. Or, does it really matter? Mike offers his thoughts in the context of the size of a conference keynote session. Big crowd size can indicate an appreciate for just who the speaker is and the organizers will appreciate that the money they spent to hire a keynote was worth it.

He turns to the concept of those enduring understandings and asks whether you’ll remember a message from a keynote speaker or a message from a colleague that you worked through a problem with.

It’s an interesting concept and might just put the whole mindset of a conference with keynote speakers in the past. So, is the important number here not necessarily the size but the number one as in that person with whom you made the connection and the learning?


Cultivating. Cultivation. Cultivate.

In the beginning, Beth Lyons’ concept of a word for a month versus a word for the year seemed like a quaint oddity.

Over time though, it has taken on considerably more value to me as a reader and fan of her blog. She very clearly outlines her thinking about the word of the month. For the month of April which is quickly ending, it’s “cultivate” and a number of words derived from that.

By itself, it’s not a unique word for education. My agricultural background had me thinking of the word “tiller” instead. (it was easier to spell) It’s a tool used by farmers and gardeners to further break the soil after it has been ploughed. It’s only then that the ground is in a position for seeding and the actual growing of any crop.

Of course, Beth didn’t take the agricultural route in her explanation; after all, she’s a teacher-librarian but the parallels between the agriculture and the library are very apparent and so reasonable to me.

And it just wouldn’t be Beth if she didn’t recommend a couple of books along that way.


“How can I help?”

Michelle Fenn takes this question and addresses her personal educational world and that of “imposter” which quite frankly, I don’t buy into. If a person wasn’t constantly learning, growing, and researching maybe I would. But her description of her work life is anything but that.

It was in the last paragraph of this blog post that really brought back memories and appreciation for the topic.

The four small words, “How can I help?” can make a powerful impact.

For a number of years, I had a job similar to hers and reported to a number of different superintendents. Like anything else, they all had their strengths and management styles. Perhaps the one that had the largest impact on me professionally fit into Michelle’s description. I don’t think the relationship started that way but it certainly evolved. We were both early to work and late to leave types and would drop in on each other unexpectedly and we often would use these words on each other when we’d see the other one working through a dicey problem. We weren’t necessarily experts in each other’s portfolio but asking the question always seemed so full of empathy and just having another set of eyes or resources available made all the difference in the world.


My mom in dementia

Every now and again, a post will come along that does make me tear up a bit and this story of Paul McGuire’s mother is one of them.

One of the things that truly sucks is getting old. And, it’s not necessarily that you’re getting older but everyone else around you is and you’re there to see it. In this case, Paul reflects on the way that this horrible disease has impacted his mother.

I like the way that Paul honours his mother; after all she’s not in charge here. The real villain is the dementia and it really doesn’t care.

I think that I know enough about blogging to know that getting it written saves that moment in time and gives you the opportunity to really work your way through your thoughts. Paul does so nicely here.

My sympathies to you, my friend.


OK, just a final reminder – click the links and read these great blog posts.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Deb Weston – @DPAWestonPhD
  • Lisa Ann Floyd – @lisaannefloyd
  • Steven Floyd – @stevenpfloyd
  • Anne Marie Luce – @turnmeluce
  • Mike Washburn – @misterwashburn
  • Beth Lyons – @MrsLyonsLibrary
  • Michelle Fenn – @Toadmummy
  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp

This week’s podcast can be listed at:
https://voiced.ca/podcast_episode_post/cultivating-learning-and-community-on-and-off-line/