This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to another Friday and a look around at some great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers. At least I think/hope it’s Friday. All the days seem the same anymore. My biggest fear it to post this on a Thursday or do a #FollowFriday on a day that isn’t Friday.


Simple Remote Learning Fixes

This is kind of a public service for those new to using a computer for serious things other than game playing or a refresher for those of us who know everything (or at least did at one time) and have forgotten but still think you can leap tall buildings. See the link in Tim King’s post about the Dunning-Kruger Effect if you think that’s you.

Tim’s post has seven things to check out. I hope that you never get to having to do #7 since both Microsoft and Apple have had some buggy updates as of late. Chances are, you’ll never have to get past #1 on his list.

Of course, one of Tim’s suggestions assumes that you have two devices, one of which isn’t working properly, to solve some problems.

Barring that, there are those that you can reach out to via your network if all else fails. I can’t think of anyone that wouldn’t empathize when a colleague has an issue and offer support. Personally, I’ve helped out a few people and don’t mind if I have what I think might be a solution to their problem.

If the device in question is on loan from a school district for home use, there may be some restraints on what you can do by yourself.


Here I Am Again

Thanks to Sheila Stewart, I now have this earworm.

Sheila uses this post to share her present feelings and to pose a couple of hypothetical questions that will ultimately be answered as we go forward.

She notes that she finds comfort in music. I suspect that she’s not alone. I tend to have music on all the time anyway and I can understand that.

I especially like finding new music which is what this post did for me. It’s not the sort of song that you’re going to put on while you’re doing a workout though. The best part though, is that it sparked a bit of a private communication between myself and Sheila. That was great

We used the song as the intro to the This Week in Ontario Edublogs podcast this past week.


Authors, Mathematicians, Researchers, And Scientists: Are We Calling Them By Name?

So this post, from Aviva Dunsiger, started with a little popularity poll that she posted to Twitter to find out what people were eating for Easter. Thank goodness for blogs; I didn’t see the post when it originally went out but did catch it later on Aviva’s blg. FWIW, we had ham steak, brocolli, and potatoes with peach crumble for dessert. Normally, our house is filled with people and there’s a much more diverse menu but this year there was just the two of us.

I’m glad that Aviva didn’t call this a statistics exercise because there certainly was a limited sample size and audience. She did get the attention of @jennzia who offered some suggestions for a much richer approach.

Aviva did mention the use of professional terms like “scientists”, “mathematicians”, “authors and illustrators” and “researchers”.

I couldn’t resist – “I’m not a scientist but I play one at school”.

And that’s not a bad thing.


Slice of (home teaching) Life

This was a short and to the point post from Lisa Corbett.

I found it rich in successes with things done on time (teachers love noting the time …) and kids remembering passwords after being away from school for three weeks. These are major successes.

Lisa also indicated that she had created a video to help families log in. From her description, there was a bit of a learning curve with the video taking 45 minutes and she’s confident that the next ones will go quicker.

There is another element that I can help but notice – Lisa’s class won’t be unique in having this experience. Now is absolutely the time for teachers to share resources. It lightens the load and the stress of doing everything yourself.

Apparently Lisa listened to the Wednesday voicEd Radio show because she did respond acknowledging how she appreciates it when people share and she’s made a connection with Melanie White for future ideas.

Folks, this is heart-warming – this is why we make connections to other educators. There is so much love and support at times.


Reflections: Week #1 Of Remote Learning

Rola Tibshirani shares how her Week #1 went.

In the classroom, we practice being passionate about each other and be forgiving to oneself when struggling. We support our feelings that no one is left alone to struggle nor to be overwhelmed.

This is an inspirational post where she outlines what the reality is in her regular face-to-face classes. It reads like a what’s what in terms of planning and implementation.

At least under normal conditions.

But, as we know, these are not normal conditions so it will be interesting to follow Rola and see how successful she can be moving forward.

I really like the fact that she closes the post with a message of mindfulness and self-caring. She includes a Twitter message from Kevin O’Shea about fatigue setting in.

It’s wise advice for all.


Coding? Now!? Who Cares?

Well, Peter Skillen does for one.

Me for another.

I’ve been using all this time at home trying to find things to stay engaged. I did clean up my workspace to the point where I can’t find anything anymore. In addition to my regular habit of blogging, I have done a bit of programming. It’s nothing serious; I just get a kick out of putting together some instructions and pressing run to have the computer do something. It remains a mental rush and piece of satisfaction after all these years.

So, Peter does restate his personal philosophy of learning and coding in particular as a way to introduce the learner to his current passion – working with Code to Learn with details about how to get involved with the coding, examples, and links to upcoming learning webinars. Past sessions are online so you’re never without.


Online Learning in a Hurry – a Course in a Hurry

Online learning has become a priority for everyone in education and the University of Windsor’s Dave Cormier wasn’t left out.

Now, however, we at UWindsor Office of Open Learning (OOL) find ourselves facing the idea of ‘teaching teachers to teach online,’ not for few final weeks of emergency remote teaching, but for a term. At least.

Dave has taken to his blog to explain the process of putting this all together, well, in a hurry. Isn’t everyone in that boat?

The result is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous times. The structure for the synchronous is

  1. Introduction to Online learning
  2. Thinking through course goals online
  3. Finding content (includes learner/web as content)
  4. Creating content (includes lecture/text etc…)
  5. Assignments and assessments
  6. The student experience (reflection on their experience in the course and what that tells them about how students will experience it.

This isn’t a quick process and you can tell from a read that there is a great deal of thought that has gone into this.

Beyond this, the University of Windsor is also offering advice for K-12 educators through three online webinars. Details here. Registration required.


I hope that you can set aside some time to click through and read these posts in their entirety. As always, there’s great advice there from educators here in the province.

Then, make sure that you follow them online via Twitter.

  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Sheila Stewart – @sheilaspeaking
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261
  • Rola Tibshirani – @rolat
  • Peter Skillen – @peterskillen
  • Dave Cormier – @davecormier

This post appears at:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

Coding for Young Mathematicians


I summarized my thoughts about Lisa Floyd’s presentation at the Bring IT, Together Conference like this.

Calculators are successful in Mathematics not because we learn how to write the code to create a calculator but because we use it to get a deeper understanding of non-trivial Mathematics

When I saw this in the program, I knew that I wanted to attend. Lisa has been doing a great deal of research into Mathematics and Computational Thinking and was a keynote a few years ago. I didn’t know what to expect but I was hoping for something other than a “Let’s do something cool in Scratch and then try to tie it into Mathematics or some other subject area”.

I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve attended many a session like I described above. I always enjoy them (despite the sarcasm) but I always wonder about the claims of how students all understand coding and Mathematics as a result. Is that really true?

I was hoping that this wouldn’t be another like that. Plus the fact that she mentioned Scratch AND Python was intriguing.

As she notes, “Ontario does not have coding in K-8”. Of course this is true but we sure have all kinds of Mathematics! She gave us a number of different examples featuring Geometric Art, Gtowing Patterns, Plotting on a Grid, Probability, … In the presentation, she gave us lots of examples and talked us through the process that she uses.

None of the examples started with a blank screen! She stressed the concept of having students remix her content. By running what she distributes, the students see a Mathematical concept and then their understanding is pushed and enhanced by working with the code to make things something better.

Her approach is very visual by showing the results of the program and then takes on the Mathematics concepts. Tweak this, change that, what happens when you do this? How can you make the output look like this. The primary focus was purely on the Mathematics and the coding was secondary. It was a refreshing approach.

Lisa’s approach was cemented for me on the Friday. I attended a session where we were programming robots using a drag and drop language specifically written for those robots. We were to program them to do a task without knowing just what was happening. Often the tool that we needed was in another menu and we were encouraged to try some numbers to see how far in one direction we could make it go. Turning wasn’t a matter of turning 90 degrees, but applying force onto one wheel going in one direction while the other went in the other direction. We eventually figured it out but lost considerable time in the process. There were something like six groups in the room and nobody got the right answer; some were closer than others. Lisa’s concept of remixing would have fit right in.

I really do like her approach. I made myself another note…

Instead of debugging the program, she could spend time debugging the Mathematics involved…

You can check out some of the examples she used, in Scratch, on her website. Type the URL correctly; Lisa notes that a person with a similar spelling as chosen a different career path.

I had an opportunity to interview Lisa. You can read it here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I almost did it again.  Instead of “This Week in Ontario Edublogs”, I started to type the title as “The Week in Ontario Edublogs”.  I’ve done it before and that’s why this post’s numbering doesn’t reflect the actual number of times I’ve written this post.  Sigh.  Let’s just say I’ve written it a lot.

And here’s what I was excited to read this week.


An Alternative To A School Cellphone Ban

After a bit of a dry spell, Andrew Campbell is back blogging.  What caught my eye about this post was that he claimed that the Premier made reference to it on social media.

As Andrew notes, this isn’t a problem that schools have created, it’s one that parents and students have brought into schools with them.  So, Andrew offers the simplistic solution – have parents make students keep the devices at home.

I suppose that such a simplistic approach is doable.  After all, there are other things that are not allowed in schools and there are heavy handed consequences for doing so.  The same could apply to cellphones.

I think back to my schooling and we actually had to purchase a sliderule for use in school.  One of the wealthier kids in the class came with an electronic calculator and was absolutely forbidden to use this device which gave exact answers in favour of using a device that approximated the answer.

Calculators were introduced with some folks screaming about the demise of civilization (at least the Mathematics part of it) and yet these devices are just taken for granted these days.

I suspect that years from now, people will look back and laugh at how we anguished over the issue of BYOD and bringing powerful and enabling devices into the classroom.  The issue they might be debating could be about whether reading about Einstein or interacting with a holograph is more educationally sound.


Back To The Map Of Canada: What Do You Do With That 2%?

This post from Aviva Dunsiger brought me back nightmares about quicky PD sessions given in staff meetings.  Often they’re about 15 minutes long, totally out of context for me at least and ultimately we wrote them off as filler.

As you read Aviva’s post, you can visualize her heart rate climbing as a result of anxiety.  I’m surprised that she didn’t bring in something to do with self-regulation.

Personally, I can recall such PD sessions where I got my colours done in that 15 minutes to tell me that my learning style was something other than what I thought.  Then, there was the time we all had to sing and, believe me, you don’t want to hear me sing.  After the meeting I approached the superintendent and offered to lead a session to have everyone create a program and was turned down.  I guess there are priorities.

It seems to me that doing something in a staff meeting with teachers from various grades and subject areas is actually a very hard task.  It needs to be generic enough to be meaningful enough to everyone and yet valuable enough to justify the time devoted to it.

Not an easy task.


This week we did…something

It’s the time of year for Progress Reports – the things that go home in advance of Report Cards.  There was a time when these were a quick glimpse about socialization and a status report on work habits.  Now, they’re substantially more than that.

This post from Lisa Corbett paints an interesting picture of the challenge of making something worthwhile at this time of year, given her approach to the teaching and learning done in her class so far.

Because of the work I’m doing to spiral in math this year I am feeling like I don’t have a lot of things to use for comments on progress reports. I’ve decided to focus my commenting on some of the mathematical process skills.

I think that, when you read it, you’ll empathize with her plight.

Perhaps for the Mathematics subject area, she could just put a link to this post in the student progress report and have the parents read what’s going on here.


Focus on Trees – Part One

Absolutely every now and again, it’s really important to take a look at the learning environment and that’s what Ann-Marie Kee does here.  In particular, she identifying various trees and their significance on her school property.

Could you do that?

I think to some of the new builds where a bulldozer comes in and flattens everything and a boxy school building appears.  A little later, perhaps some grass and a few trees as part of a planting or community partnership.

You’d never be able to say this with that approach.

I think of our trees as keepers of our culture.

And, I just have to include this.


Preserving the Cup

Skip to the end and Beth Lyons says it well.

But our educators can not pour from an empty cup.

One of the things that Beth has observed is that this year is a bit different from others.  She claims to be an optimist but is struggling to have optimistic thoughts these days.

She sees teachers stretched thin already.  Herself included.  And, it’s only October.

Who better than a teacher-librarian who has interactions with every staff member in the school to make that observation?

Is there a magic potion that can be taken to turn this around?  I think we all know that the answer is no.  I can’t help but wonder if the recent election hasn’t contributed heavily to this – we live in a time when positive messages take a back seat to the negative.  It has to take a toll.

Caring for others is important but Beth notes many times that it’s also important to take care of yourself.  It’s not being selfish.

We need to get beyond that.


100DaysofCode

Peter Beens is participating in very active pieces of personal learning.  Earlier this week, I noted that he was part of the WordCamp in the Niagara Region?  This is different.

When you click through, you’ll see that this whole project is very comprehensive. Much like other challenges like the 30 days of photography challenges, Peter has to work on something every day. He’s doing so and documenting it.

You’ll also click through to see the activities and Peter sharing his notes on his work.

Wow!


‼️‼️ELECTION DAY‼️‼️

And, finally, a new Ontario Blogger. This is from Indigenous Awareness.

Essentially, this post is a summary of positions about Indigenous issues from the major political parties in Canada. When I first read it, I was feeling badly that I hadn’t read it in advance of the election.

And yet, now that we have a minority government in place, perhaps the messages and positions from the parties are even more important. Will they be held accountable?

By themselves, each of the parties have shared their positions. But, since no one party will be able to pass legislation without assistance from another, looking for common threads or close to common threads might be a good indication of what might happen.


As I say every week, please take the time to click through and read these posts in their original form. There is great thinking and sharing of ideas there.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter to stay on top of their future thinking.

  • @acampbell99
  • @avivaloca
  • @LisaCorbett0261
  • @AMKeeLCS
  • @MrsLyonsLibrary
  • @pbeens
  • @indigenousawrns

This post appeared originally on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

Creative Coding in Python


I ran into Sheena Vaidyanathan at the recently CSTA Conference. (See my interview with her here. It includes links to resources that she’s created.)

Now, running into Sheena isn’t strange; she’s a regular at this conference. It was the circumstance that was strange. Just five minutes before I saw her, I had cleaned up the check-in desk and saw that someone had left a book on the counter. It was called “Creative Coding in Python” and written by Sheena with a 2019 Copyright.

I had a quick flip through the book, noting all the colourful pages and then put it on the back shelf for the owner to claim it.

When I saw Sheena, I figured she had to be the owner and was showing it off. I had a quick discussion about it, thinking that she was selling them at the conference but no, she wasn’t. And, this copy wasn’t hers. She told me to take it if nobody came looking for it.

Fortunately for me, I guess, nobody came to ask about it so it came home with me and provided me with the chance to read it cover to cover on the flight home. Now, I did have a couple of other books on my iPad to read that would be considered more recreational but I’ve given up being worried about looking geeky long ago!

I was nicely surprised with the format. I’ll admit, your typical Computer Science book isn’t exactly a page turner! But this one was. I didn’t have Python on my computer to try the examples but I did them in my head and it wasn’t long before I was at the end of the book.

I found the content a nice combination of old and new school content. I wondered to myself if you actually had to be old school to recognize the old school content.

There are five chapters, each devoted to a specific content that introduced and expanded on the concepts.

  • Chapter 1 – Create your own chatbots
  • Chapter 2 – Create your own art masterpieces
  • Chapter 3 – Create your own adventure games
  • Chapter 4 – Create your own dice games
  • Chapter 5 – Create your own apps and games

As to be expected, new concepts are added as you go along and the programs become more sophisticated as you work your way through the book. In the side columns, Sheena introduces and fleshes our computer concepts along the way.

So, who is the audience? Sheena teaches middle school and the writing level and activities would fit very nicely there. Of course, there are all kinds of tools for development of code in Python; she goes conservative and talks about using IDLE. I could see this book being used as a reference for a teacher learning and using Python with students. I could also see it being in the Resource Centre for students to check out if their regular classes are using a block based application for those who want to go further.

Of course, keeping with tradition, the first program is a “Hello world”.

The book is available through Amazon here. Click the cover and explore things.

Nifty


One of my favourite sessions that is held at the CSTA Conference is “Nifty Assignments”.

Nifty Assignments is a project to gather and distribute great assignment ideas and their materials by K-12 CS teachers for K-12 CS teachers. Each year a few assignments are showcased by the authors at the Nifty Assignments session held at the annual CSTA conference.  It is intended to be a replica of (and homage to) the highly successful, and longstanding, Nifty Assignments session at the Annual ACM SIGCSE conference devised by Nick Parlante.

Of course, there are rules – and a philosophy.

Anyone who has ever taught Computer Science knows that the problems included in textbooks can be simple and often not all that inspiring. You know that you end up creating many (most?) problems on your own. Make them relevant to your class, cover the concepts you’re teaching, engage students, etc.

Well, there’s one great Computer Science textbook – the greatest of all time Oh! Pascal! But beyond that, Computer Science teachers know the drill.

So, Nifty Assignments is an attempt, via session at the conference to address that. It’s very popular; whatever room it’s held in seems to always be packed and this year was no different.

The nifty resource can be found here.

This year’s collection has the following topics.

The slidedeck for the presentation is available as well. Check it out here.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1SRXQjHb321b3QNb5VxUVNgf6MTLNo8RXOFgVhpsWSVE/edit

Follow the links on the individual topics to get to the details for these five great, er, nifty assignments.