This Week in Ontario Edublogs


After a snowy week, it’s nice to be able to sit back and check out some blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.


February Patience

Aviva Dunsiger has taken the suggestion from Beth Lyons about doing a #oneword each month rather than one for the year and February is going to be “Patience”.

I think every teacher will agree that February is a tough month at the best of times and the 2021 version is just so much worse. For teachers throughout the province, face to face teaching resumes this February. This following weeks of teaching online. Or as Aviva puts it

we’re about to begin a September in February

As a result, she’s questioning the concept of patience as she, dare I say pivots, back to face to face.

I can’t help but think that patience isn’t necessarily patience online versus face to face. The concept of dead air comes to mind. It’s OK in the classroom since there’s all kinds of other feedback cues but online?

There are some interesting questions that she asks that I think every teacher might ask themselves. Heck, they’re good questions for everyone.


The (A)politics of Education–In a World Where There is No Such Thing as Neutral

This post, from Debbie Donsky, is a nice followup to the recent post from Matthew Morris. In fact, Debbie does make reference to Matthew’s quote and Faculties of Education.

I had to look up the definition of “apolitical” just to make sure that I understood what I thought it meant.

Having no interest in or association with politics. 2. Having no political relevance or importance: claimed that the president’s upcoming trip was purely apolitical.

“apolitical.” Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary. 2010. 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. 18 Feb. 2021 https://www.thefreedictionary.com/apolitical

Throughout the post, Debbie mentions some of the issues of the day. From my perspective, I’m not sure that I could be considered apolitical about these things. I clearly have my leanings on things.

The notion of not bringing politics into the classroom was perhaps well minded about days near an election. It seems to me that most things of importance these days are political.

Debbie does a really deep dive about the topic and ties it nicely to education. It’s a good and powerful read.


STUDENT PROJECTS TO PROMOTE CREATIVITY

I’m not sure why you would ever assign a project to students that didn’t promote creativity but maybe that’s just me.

On the TESTOntario blog, John Allan uses this premise to introduce or re-introduce some pretty important tools.

  • CANVA
  • WinkSite
  • Google Tour Creator
  • QuestGarden

For each, John gives a nice discussion and there’s plenty of reference to good pedagogy there. There are all kinds of ideas. I think that I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating.

Online learning from home is better if students understand the tools involved. So, in these days where schools are back face to face, it’s a good time to use these effectively in case the unthinkable happens again. If not, they’ll still generate some great learning opportunities.

For each of the tools, John provides a “how to”, an “example”, and a ‘blog post.”

Consequently, it’s just not a list of tools but a launchpad to using these tools effectively.


Improvement is the Enemy of Change

This provocative title leads us to a discussion and observation of two of the high profile issues of the day. Charles says he’s non-partisan.

But, my thoughts as I read this — political? You betcha.

Far too often, huge and wasteful attention is paid to the superficial expressions of a problem rather than putting in the energy and time to go deeper to discover the real obstacles that get in the way of meaningful movement towards the desired outcomes. 

Charles Pascal uses this as a way to discuss

  • paid sick days
  • profit motive that drives 60% of Ontario’s long-term care facilities

These are topics for discussion in any year. In a year with COVID and the desire to keep virus spread, they take on increasing importance.

Briefly, doesn’t it only make sense for people who are sick to stay home? Wouldn’t paid sick days help address that?

And, isn’t it just obvious that cuts to expenditures to increase profits at long-term care facilities put residents and workers at greater risk?

We’ve seen the effects of both of these things. It’s on the news constantly. In this post, Charles goes into each topic at great discussion. This is a very sobering post to read. I’m glad that he took the time to share his thoughts with us.


Building practices for great equity: Careful engagement in Collaborative Learning

Beate Planche reached out to me to let me know of her blog and this was the most recent post. She gives us a nice discussion about Collaborative Learning and some links for additional reading.

Thinking back, I really didn’t get any direction about collaborative learning while at the Faculty of Education. We did talk about “group work” but it was never with the deep understanding that Beate drives home in this post.

Even as an educator, I’ve been in situations where we were “doing collaborative learning” at professional learning events. Often, it was contrived and seemed like a way for a presenter to fill time.

If you follow Beate’s post, she describes a practice that is a great deal of work and doesn’t elevate the teacher from the actual learning. If done effectively, the teacher is moving and working hard to encourage students.

In the study of Computer Science, a collaborative process described as Pair Programming can be found here. It’s a popular topic at Computer Science professional learning events.


Time is the…

As I read this post from Sheila Stewart, bells went off in my head. She says she stumbled into this song.

She was struck by the last of the song

Time is the mirror
Time is the healer
Time is the teacher

My song? And in response to Sheila’s call to action from the post… Certainly not as obscure as hers but very powerful as I really and truly paid attention to the lyrics.

And I enjoyed listening to Sheila’s suggestion as well.


Snow Day = No School Day

I knew that someone would be writing about Snow Days on the Heart and Art Blog. Heck I’d even written a post myself on Wednesday. Well, I wrote about it on Tuesday for it to appear on the Wednesday.

So, back to Heart and Art because this post isn’t about me – Deborah Weston took on the topic. I’ve got to believe that part of her inspiration came from social media as teachers throughout the province checked in on what was happening in their districts.

It seemed to be divided into two camps – Camp 1 let Snow Days be Snow Days and Camp 2 was The Show Must Go On. I can actually see how the logic would flow in the Camp 2 camp from those who are at the system level and make the decisions.

I’m getting tired of the terms “pivot” and “flip to” and Deborah uses them to share her observation about what might happen. It’s a good read for all teachers, to be sure, but I would suggest even better for decision makers.

If you can just easily pivot from a planned face to face lesson to online, the lesson can’t have been very good to begin with.


I hope that you can find some time to click through and read these original posts.

Then, follow these bloggers on Twitter.

  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Debbie Donsky – @debbiedonsky
  • John Allan – @mrpottz
  • Charles Pascal – @CEPascal
  • Beate Planche – @bmplanche
  • Sheila Stewart – @SheilaSpeaking
  • Deborah Weston – @DPAWestonPhD

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to another Friday and countdown to the early spring predicted by Wiarton Willie. Enjoy some great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers as you count.


Gearing Up for MST with a Master Storyteller

In these COVID days, you would understand how someone might lose their enthusiasm for doing extraordinary things. That’s anything but the case for Noa Daniels and this post shows just what extraordinary might look like.

She and her grade 8 students have partnered with Lucky Budd about storytelling. This is kind of amazing to think that this would happen but why not.

In the post, Noa describes everything and it sounds pretty awesome. It’s also not the sort of one of that’s done over a weekend. You’ll have to read to get the complete details.

Her students are also appreciative about what’s going on. Here’s a sampling of the comments from students

  • I thought it was cool how the story connected with the 3 rivers in BC: the Skeena, the Nass, and the Stikine
  • I found it very interesting and I really liked how you paused during the story to add suspense. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and telling us about how you got into storytelling.
  • I think it’s very inspiring that although the first time you tried to publish a book it didn’t happen but that didn’t stop you from trying.
  • I also really liked the suspense and sound effects you added when you were telling the story. It was really fun listening and you have such a cool vibe!

The complete story is in her post which makes it well worth the read.


I Want to Break Free!

Here’s a sentiment from Richard Erdmann that we all want to experience. Even the notion of going mall walking which, quite honestly, I never particularly care for takes on new importance simply be the fact that we are prohibited from doing it. In my case, I actually miss shopping with my wife who actually touches everything that she might be interested in purchasing. It drives me crazy. When we get the chance to do it again, I think I’m going to have a different outlook.

Cabin fever and stir crazy are two things that I can definitely related to. These days, the highlight is going outside to walk the dog which fortunately is still ok within the rules.

Richard’s situation is a lot more serious and his notion that he is not only missing the experiences but that he’s being robbed of them will give you pause and a chance to empathise.

I don’t know what else to say, Richard, other than to agree with you that we will eventually get through this. Let’s hope that it’s soon. Numbers across the province continue to show promise.


Stress and The Evolving Teenaged Brain: A Study in Contrasts

From the self regulation blog comes an interesting post from John Hoffman. Regular readers here will recall a post I made last week about a group of teenagers who felt robbed that they were not able to get their driver’s licenses.

I remember thinking, at the time, that their logic wasn’t rational – everyone is paying the price during the lockdown. Maybe now I can cut a little slack when, according to John, their rational mind isn’t fully matured until age 25.

But he notes the research that indicates that the teenage mind is specially vulnerable to excess stress. If what we’re living through doesn’t meet that criteria, I don’t know what would.

All this leads to the announcement of an upcoming course specially for this age group through the Merit Centre – Feeling Stress: A Self-Reg Mini-Course for Teens.


What I’ve learned from being a Virtual Teacher so far

I’m hoping that Amy Bowker’s “so far” doesn’t extend too much further and that any more learning comes from reflection.

She does a really good job of identifying her thoughts and feelings about teaching during these times. It’s sad but predictable that students are just plain disappearing by turning off camera or microphones or just not showing up. I can’t imagine the stress on the teacher who needs to mediate those actions.

As I read through Amy’s post, the word “communication” kept popping up. It lies in the answer to so many things that she addresses. Social cues, working with parents, retention and engagement all can be addressed with effective and ongoing communication.

All of it seems so simple until you realize that a teacher doesn’t have all the tools available that she would have in a face to face classroom.

Regardless, there are powerful observations in her post with lots of ideas and a plan for the future.


Per / Con / In / Re – form

Another great post comes from Will Gourley on the Heart and Art Blog. I can’t help but think immediately – are there any other words that end in “form”?

In the post, Will shares his observations on each of these. Each of these words take on a paragraph and you feel the weight of each of these on him personally. In football terms, I would call it “piling on”.

There’s real wisdom is this quote. Pause and think about your own reality as you read this.

I worry that too much emphasis has been placed on performance and conformity without serious consideration to being fully informed of the true social, emotional, and physical costs of virtual learning. 

I can’t help but think that the emphasis part is easy because it can be summarized with a visual checklist. The other part is so difficult to understand and address. Yet, it’s so important.

Thanks, Will, for summarising these “forms” so nicely.


Why Code Illusions?

It’s a question asked of Peter Skillen as a lead in to this activity.

My response is “Why not code illusions?”

If we believe in the power of programming, then we should never question a good premise for a programmed solution.

In this case, Peter introduces us to a nice visualization of an optical illusion that I’m sure you’ve seen many times. You may actually have created the illusion yourself. You may have pulled out a ruler to prove that it is indeed an illusion.

Peter doesn’t provide a solution but it’s relatively easy to program, especially if you take a good look and analysis of the animation that he provides. Of course, I’m not going to include it here; you’ll have to visit Peter’s post to see it for yourself.


Sick Days for All

From Deborah Weston, a bit of a sobering post dealing with sick days. Much has been said about sick days for teachers, particularly how they don’t take them since it’s more work to prepare lessons for someone else than to drag yourself in to work.

We see the messages everywhere these days.

If you have a fever, shortage of breath, or a temperature, please do not enter.

Advice about this also applies to the workplace.

If your collective agreement has provision for sick days of some sort, it makes staying at home easier.

But that doesn’t apply to all. Deborah has done incredible research on this topic and pulls back the curtain to reveal the impact of no sick days.

  • Put Workers at Risk
  • Spread of Illness to Communities and Workplaces
  • Impacts Parents and Guardians
  • Women Face Labour Inequity
  • and more

She fleshes out each of these and ends the post with a true call to action to her readers.

Devote some time to this and you’ll find another counter to the simple statement “We’re all in this together”. Really?


These are terrific and thoughtful blog posts. Please take the time to click through and read them all. Then, follow these bloggers on Twitter. (and follow their blogs too!)

  • Noa Daniels – @noasbobs
  • Richard Erdmann – @rerdmann
  • John Hoffman – @UncommonJohn
  • Amy Bowker – @amyebowker
  • W!ll Gourley – @WillGourley
  • Peter Skillen – @peterskillen
  • Deborah Weston – @DPAWestonPhD

Monitoring the flattening


If there’s been any winner in all this COVID stuff, it’s the people who manage data and provide visualization of just what is happening. I’ll admit that I check our local Health Unit for daily numbers. Today’s number shows a continuing drop in daily cases.

As we’ve come to know though, that’s only part of the important information. I’ve learned more about Rt and Cases per 100 000 than I ever thought that I would. It’s the sort of data that allows a community like ours to be compared to Toronto. The populations are so different.

I was playing around with a new online comparison utility today and it helped with the process of comparing region to region. You can start with a visual that shows the province, colour coded

But then choose the health units you’re interested in. I compared Toronto to a few from the southwest. It was simply done by following instructions and choosing those you wanted.

One piece of information that I found interesting and hopeful was the totals for vaccinations given. We’ve got a long way to go as a province and it can be monitored here.

One thing that I haven’t found yet is a visualization of the long term care places that are reporting incidents. Or, long term care incidents as a percentage of the local health unit totals. I’m sure that that information has to be important for decision makers.

You can check out HowsMyFlattening for yourself here.

Down but not out


It was a big radio day for Colin Jagoe. He was touring the province on CBC Radio talking about the challenges of teaching and parenting given the current reality for teachers and parents. He shared his public performance agenda with us on Facebook.

  • 6:10 Windsor
  • 6:50 Ontario Morning (serves Peterborough, Kingston, Muskoka)
  • 7:00 Kitchener
  • 7:40 Thunder Bay
  • 7:50 Sudbury

That’s a busy morning. I had thought that maybe he’d been interviewed once and it was just repeated but I was wrong. It was a fresh interview at each stop.

Yup. 5 different shows and call from different local hosts. 

I tuned in to the Windsor interview with Tony Doucette. I thought Colin did a good job and let him know it. As his provincial tour continued, others checked in with similar opinions. It sounds like he was a hit everywhere.

I missed all of the other shows because the dog and I were out pounding the pavement. But we were there in spirit.

Later in the morning, I went back to the CBC Windsor radio page looking to listen to Colin’s 10-15 minutes of fame again. Unfortunately, his interview wasn’t online.

But, I found something else!

The other big news yesterday other than Colin preparing for his speaking tour was a major outage of Cogeco internet service. Obviously when this happens it doesn’t discriminate who loses service.

In one case, a kindergarten teacher at St. Anthony’s school in Harrow lost her connection with her students. I couldn’t help but think that secondary school students would shout “Snow Day” and head out to meet friends. But, it was the second day of school for the kindergartners and they’re amongst the most engaged and excited students.

What to do?

Spoiler alert! It’s in the title of this segment and fleshed out in the descriptor.

At the time of this writing, the story is still up and alive on Tony’s page on the CBC Windsor site. Check it out at https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-106-windsor-morning. It might be the most inspirational 8 minutes and three seconds you could do for yourself today.

Did any reader fall into the same boat and lose internet access yesterday? How did you handle it?

Exceptions


When all this COVID stuff hit our radar this past spring, I was impressed with the Premier’s approach. It truly looked like “we’re all in this together”. In fact, I blogged in favour of the actions that he and the Prime Minister were taking. We didn’t necessarily like the measures that we were asked to take but we took them.

Then, somehow, things changed. There was a determination that we were somehow coming out of this and rules were relaxed. Then, we went through different stages of treating things, later to be dealing with colours.

Amidst all this, we started to see exceptions to the rules. We now know that big box store are OK, smaller retailers aren’t and we’ve got kind of a mish mash of things happening in our world.

With all these rules, we’ve come to understand that there will be exceptions to the rules. I’d like to think that they’re carefully thought through but some of the decisions just befuddle me.

The latest puzzle starts today. Despite the province being in a lockdown situation, there are essential services that have to continue. The government has a plan for “Targeted Emergency Child Care for School-Aged Children”. The City of Windsor has details of the plan here. By visiting the page, you can see the list of approved sites to provide the childcare and then this big list of people who are eligible for the plan.

If you look through the list, it’s difficult to argue with any of those professions. While I haven’t worked in any of those ones, I value those who do and the functions that they provide.

It’s just who is missing that really upsets me. Educators!

School resumes today, as ordered by the Ministry of Education. For the most part, it will be remote teaching but there are certain educators that are required to be back in the building, face to face with students with special needs, without consultation.

So, despite the Premier coming out to news conferences telling us how he loves educators, they will be forced back to teaching with no provision for care of their young children. To be fair, there are educators who don’t have children or do have children but they’re old enough to work independently and aren’t affected as much as others. I hope that they look around their virtual staffroom and feel the pain that their colleagues with younger children are enduring.

In my social media feed recently, there have been two messages that I’m seeing over and over.

  1. The promise from the Minister of Education that teachers would received “training” on online teaching before school resumed in September and people letting us know that it didn’t happen other than a missive to “use Google Classroom” or “use Brightspace” (regular readers know that I hate the expression “training” when it comes to educators. You train dogs…)
  2. The true concern of not having a solution for caring of their own young children who can’t be left alone. Many are reporting that they’ll have to enlist the help of grandparents who were otherwise alienated during Christmas because of the directive to not have family gatherings. Others are planning for a modified “take your kid to work” event. Others, as I write this on Sunday morning, are just plain worried and have no plan

I’m also reading that some school districts aren’t prepared at this time for moving their elementary school classes online with technology. Some have indicated that today will be spent contacting students’ parents to find out who needs to borrow school technology. Now there’s a JIT (Just In Time) solution.

In spite of all this, teachers are consummate professionals. At personal expense to their own health, finances, and well-being, they will make this week happen. They’ll use their personal devices because often school purchased equipment doesn’t come with suitable cameras or microphones. They will learn on the job the value of having at least two monitors to get the maximum benefit from the online teaching experience. Secondary school teachers have had the first part of the year to refine their skills; for others this will be all new for this school year.

They’ll play by the rules because they came into the profession to do the best job that they can as educators. They will make it work because there is no alternative.

Rules are rules.

Until the next exception comes along.