An Ontario guitar resource

Yesterday was Friday and a chance to recognize some educators from the province who have been actively online engaging others. One of the people that came through was David Spencer.

David shares, in his response, a page on his educational wiki. It’s devoted to the guitar. I clicked through to enjoy the content that he shared there.

It had me smiling during these COVID times. When I was young, I played the guitar. My problem (amongst other things) was that I was young when I shared with my parents. We went to the local gentleman who taught guitar lessons and my hands were too small to wrap around the guitar. But, he had a solution and I learned how to play the steel guitar and western and Hawaiian music. To be honest, it’s not something that’s done regularly around here anymore.

This winter, from boredom, I pulled out my old electric steel guitar and picked up just like it was yesterday. If you’re of a certain age and are learning to play the steel guitar, I think it probably was compulsory to play Blue Hawaii by Elvis Presley.

Now, I’m not that old to have seen the movie first time around but I did date an Elvis fan. I was pleased that I was able to play it from memory without error. I guess I had played it that often enough to commit it to memory.

Anyway, back to David.

He has created a wiki to pull together learning resources for his students. I clicked through the link that he shared and was interested in the resources that he provides. Yes, there are all kinds of resources on the internet doing much the same thing. David’s resource is enough to get students to know and remember the tuning for a guitar.

Often, we seem to be living in a world where we’re just consumers of someone else’s efforts. Haven’t we all gone looking for something and had to settle for something that was less than desirable?

I like David’s approach to customizing things just as he sees the need. I’m a big fan of the wiki format – wiki meaning “quick” in Hawaiian (love the connection here). You truly do create and share content quickly. In my case, I used pbworks and am located at

With a wiki you typically don’t spend all kinds of time tweaking this and that for look and design. You use the wiki to quickly develop a resource. David has taken the time to download wiki software and is running it at his own domain.

Is his solution workable for you?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

In one week, we’ve gone from socked in with snow to having to clean the yard now that we’re down to grass. (I own a dog, remember)

Enjoy some recent post from Ontario Edubloggers.


I was delighted to see The Beast back at the blogging keyboard. It’s always interesting to read their initial thoughts and then the back and forth between Andrea and Kelly.

Their opening line got me really thinking.

Every school has a population of students who are incredibly complex.

It reminded me of this – “A riddle wrapped up in an enigma”. That so describes teaching. You just have to solve for everything.

But The Beast is ready for it. They even took a course from Nogah working on the notion of a wicked problem. What follows in the blog post is a wide range of ideas and discussions between the two of them.

It’s a good read and, unfortunately, they do not provide a solution. But there is good advice there for anyone trying to reach a solution. And that’s a good thing.

Leadership is Exhausting #1: headships & heirarchies

I’ll admit right up; I did not know that Tim King was co-chair of his technology department. Should I have known? When I read that, I thought that this would be a great catalyst for the school.

“Status Quo” doesn’t exist in Tim’s vocabulary.

If there’s anyone who would be a good apple cart overturner, it would be him.

He did get a real dose of educational reality in the experience. It is indeed hard work being at the head of a department in a school. There are all kinds of challenges in the position and you’re the one that needs to provide the answers. We all know that everyone is working so hard these COVID days but those who teach niche subjects end up with multiple sections just so that they can run. Why? Such educators believer that it’s important to offer that opportunity for students but it does come at a cost. Even a two-section split requires lesson planning for two different curriculums.

Tim has left that position; he was there for two years and he shares some of the things that he was able to bring back to his school.

He should take satisfaction in that.

After Cheggification – A way forward (Part 1)

Those of us who work in K-12 may not be aware of the challenges involved in higher education. Dave Cormier gives us an insight to what’s happening. He even inspired me to read about the Academic Integrity policy at the University of Windsor.

I suppose that it probably always was a challenge – students cheating on their work – I can remember at university some people going through discarded printouts looking for answers to programming problems. It always amused me as I wondered how many people discarded working solutions. But, anyway.

If you do a search for “plagiarism checker” on the internet, you’ll find all kinds of solutions. When you visit them, they typically sell themselves as tools for student achievement. Chegg is the one that Dave addresses here. Simply put, you ask Chegg a question and you get answers. (among many of the other advertised features). In a regular world, that’s a great study aid. But, when you’re learning at home and need a little assist …

So, the teaching staff is offering solutions to address this in their evaluations.

  • Response 1 – Make the exams harder
  • Response 2 – Entrapment
  • Response 3 – open/take home exams and assignments replacing high stakes exams

Dave notes that each of these solutions make things more difficult for students. For the malpractice of some, everyone pays. It reminds me of having to stay in class at recess because someone else in the class messed up.

Dave takes off in a different direction. The questions themselves…

“Well-structured questions” which seem like a logical, reasonable solution. I mean, weren’t we all schooled as teacher candidates about having quality questions and activities. But then he talks about “Ill-structured questions” and how it might change everything.

It’s a tease for his next post which I’m looking forward to reading.

Creating Characters!

I’ve mentioned this many times before but I think the way that Cameron Steltman handles blogging with his students is genius. It’s not your traditional blogging approach; it’s better.

His goal is to get kids writing and he addresses the desire that every teacher has for writing – getting kids to write for an audience.

He actually writes the blog post as a provocation and the students reply to this provocation. So, there’s none of this dead space that we so often see when teachers try to get students to blog. Because the students know that their classmates and maybe even mom and dad will be reading, the quality of the writing is quite impressive.

In this case, Cameron’s class is working on storytelling and he has them create a character. There are rules

  • a name (first, middle, last)
  • a few favourite things
  • 3 personality traits (e.g. funny, humble, disturbed, etc. )
  • a flaw (something that can create conflict)

The responses are awesome. During the This Week in Ontario Edublogs show, Stephen suggested that it would be an interesting extension to have the characters created actually meet and interact with each other.

There’s a next level of sophistication for you.

Extra Help w/ Bookings

In a regular year, it would come in the form of a request “Sir, can I drop in a lunch or after school for some extra help”. Now that so many people are teaching online, surely there is a technological solution.

Cal Armstrong provides a solution in Microsoft Office 365 called Microsoft Bookings. Since I don’t have Office 365, I’d never heard about Bookings before.

I found it really helpful to go through and read Cal’s post. There are lots of screen captures there to step through the process. It actually appears to be straight forward and I can see why he uses it. He sets the table for students to electronically book a bit of Mr. Armstong’s time for extra assistance.

Even more valuable than the mechanics of working your way through Bookings is the wisdom that Cal shares about the actual implementation. There are controls that the teacher can put into place so that it doesn’t get out of hand and respects teacher time and privacy.

I can’t help but think that this is a valuable tool and I also wonder how many people like me are oblivious to its presence.

Mom Was My Hero.

This was a first blog post from Jamie McKinnon that I just happened to catch as he announced it on his Twitter feed.

As you might guess from the title, it is a personal tribute to a mother who has passed. It’s a little different than the typical blog post that I feature in this post but that doesn’t change its importance.

And what better words could an educator use about someone else than

Mom was a ferocious learner, never stopped, curious and passionate

I’ll admit a little hesitancy to go through and read this. It seemed kind of personal and I was afraid that it might be one of those stories where people were separated by COVID as I was with a friend and a cousin who passed away earlier this year.

Jamie uses the post as a tribute to a wonderful mother. While her passing is nonetheless sad, the memories of a long, active life come through loudly and clearly.

Going back to in-person learning: Multiple Perspectives

Jennifer Casa-Todd shares a story of a presentation that she made recently. It was about digging into different perspectives about a return to face to face instruction/learning.

School districts world-wide are certainly all over the map about this. The consensus is that it’s a good thing but how do you do it and respect every educational partner at the same time? Secondary schools in Ontario are a good example of this. It was on the news this morning that the state of Michigan will be returning soon.

So, Jennifer’s activity?

I divided participants up into four different groups: a) Parent who is struggling to find care for their child; b) Student who is doing well in a virtual environment; c) Politician who is getting pressure to open schools d) Director who is seeing student failure rates go up.

It would have been interesting to see the responses. I found it interesting that one of the groups wasn’t teachers but that may have been by Jennifer’s design.

I hope that you can find some time to click through and read all of these interesting blog posts. They’ll get you thinking for sure.

Then, follow these bloggers on Twitter.

  • TheBeast – @thebeastedu
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Dave Cormier – @davecormier
  • Cameron Steltman – @MrSteltman
  • Cal Armstrong – @sig225
  • Jamie McKinnon – @jnmckinnon
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @JCasaTodd

Snow days in 2021

Well, the promised snow storm has hit parts of Ontario. As I type this, it’s about 7:30 on Tuesday morning and the snow continues. There are 1-2m drifts in front of both the front door and the back door so I can’t ignore it even if I wanted to.

And, I don’t really want to. I’m one of those people that put the ear buds in and walk back and forth across the driveway pushing the snow up on the sides. It’s a peaceful time. But, I’m no dummy. I will wait until things stop before I go out because I’m not wanting to do it twice.

As per normal, I was up about 4:30 and took a look outside while I was making morning coffee. It didn’t seem too bad at the time. Mental note; I should turn on the outside light to get the real story. I hadn’t heard any snow ploughs and really didn’t until about 7:00. I checked the school boards’ transportation sentinel and it reported nothing but then, it’s still early. I think they aim for 6:00 to make the call. Later on, the call was made and transportation has been cancelled.

That really didn’t come as a surprise; I checked Ontario511 and it wasn’t looking good across the promise.

Well, at least not good in southern Ontario. Black is bare; white is snow covered; yellow is parkly covered; dashed black is reduced visibility.

There are some interesting overlays to the map. One is the cameras that are all over the province. I took a look at a few. Even the 401 wasn’t bare so I could see that’s not a place to be. If it’s got issues, then most other roads will as well. It was a little bizarre that Essex, Kent, and Middlesex had the snowiest of roads. Normally, we dodge storms.

At least the ploughs were out.

Aviva Dunsiger was, of course, up and online at that time so we had a bit of a chat back and forth about the weather. Oh, and schools. Apparently, in her world, things aren’t revealed until 6:00 either. What to do on snow says is a controversy there. She shared this article from the Hamilton Spectator.

Snow day changes rebuked by Hamilton’s public school board trustees

Kudos to the trustees. Even in a good year, there’s something about snow days and just being a kid. It’s a great time to help out with the shovelling and then join friends for some tobogganing and skating. In this year, though, it’s particularly tough since you have to maintain social distances but that doesn’t stop kids. I have fond memories of toboggan bumper cars.

Today’s also the first day that most of the province moves from the lockdown to being slightly less locked down. Everyone has paid their dues over the past weeks and we will be careful but there should be a moment of relief. I mean, the lockdown has been lifted but you’re not going anywhere anyway. And, it’s Shrove Tuesday. The paczkis are calling.

I took a look around to see what was happening elsewhere. Toronto and area opens schools today. How are they handling it?

Heavy snowfall in Toronto-area forces some school boards to close in-person learning

There’s a mix there as to what happens today.

Around here?

It’s tough being a kid these days, never mind being a teacher of those kids bouncing from one mode of teaching to another. I remember the protocol that was enacted a few years ago; school buildings never close even if buses aren’t running.

It’s also interesting to turn to social media where #SnowDay was trending.

It just seems like there’s no way of winning no matter what decisions are made. There are always those that aren’t going to be happy or supportive.

It’s just been such a tough year on students. It would have been nice to have cut them a break today. Well, if not today, maybe sometime soon?

But it’s the year 2021. Things are not normal. It’s not business as usual. So, why wouldn’t we be all over the map even with something as special as Snow Days.

Oh, and as far as the driveway goes, my watch counted over 11 000 steps going back and forth across the driveway. I still have one big drift to attack but that’s for tomorrow.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s Friday and time for a walk around Ontario visiting some great recent blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers. Here goes.

I just saw a Coyote

This was a strange title coming from Jennifer Casa-Todd’s blog so I immediately had to check it out. Coyotes have actually been in the news recently.

So, I clicked through not knowing what to expect. Nothing bad, I hoped. As it turns out, she thought she saw a coyote. After a discussion with her husband, she went back to make sure.

You’ll have to visit the post to see what happens next and how Jennifer turns it into the sort of message that we’ve come to expect from her blog.

All in all, it’s an interesting experience to live through with her and a good lesson/reminder to be learned by all.

Slice of Life: When to call

Lisa Corbett gives us a personal look at this question.

When do you call home when something happens with a child at school? It’s probably a sign of our litigious times that she’s asking the question. I’m guessing that there was a time where the determining factor might have been whether blood was flowing or not.

At the secondary school level, I don’t ever recall it being an issue. If a student felt he/she needed attention, they would visit the nurse’s office. Not that there was a nurse there but someone in Guidance would be there to help.

When I coached football, the EMS always sent a truck and some of their workers to enjoy the game and be there in case they were needed.

I had to smile as Lisa talked about her “magic ice” because that could be taken a couple of different ways!

In these days of COVID, what amount of coughing leads to a call home?

Lisa poses a good question and I’m sure would appreciate your insights.

Historical Thinking for the Common Good

Paul McGuire’s recent post had me doing something I’ve never done before. I devoted a whole blog post to it on Wednesday in advance of discussing it on This Week in Ontario Edublogs on voicEd Radio.

There were so many angles to the whole thing that I just needed to get straight in my mind. I love history these days but certainly not when I was in school.

There were two major things that drove my thinking:

  • why did my remembrance of school history remind me of memorizing names, dates, places, etc. Why didn’t it try to put things into context like – why did John A. Macdonald do what he did? What was happening at the time that was so significant?
  • why don’t we have the best history teachers teaching introductory courses? They could make history come alive and encourage further studies in history
  • I very much appreciate living in such a history rich community

If you look beyond the simple discussion of History as a discipline, Paul will have you looking and asking questions about education in general and that’s a really good thing.

Junior Kindergarten Online – Journal – Days 6, 7, 8 & 9

From the picture at the top of Terry Whitmell’s post to her rather long observations of a week in the life of a junior kindergarten student, this is a true life journal. I’ve got to believe that her observations would apply to many more people than you might expect.

There are lessons to be learned by those people who make blanket statements like teaching on line is a simple pivot from a regular classroom.

  • Technology isn’t always a 100% positive partner in learning.
  • While teachers are always looking at terrific ideas in their mind about how to engage students, they don’t always work.

I’ve been in Terry’s position and I will vouch that she’s not making any of this stuff up. It’s a faithful discussion at things from the home side of learning from home. The one thing that she didn’t mention that happened here is a series of visits to the snack cupboard.

Your heart has to go out to the junior kindergarten student who is living this as their first experience in education. People are doing their best so it’s not a lash out at any one or any thing. It’s a sign of our reality.

In her call to action at the bottom of her post, Terry has some very good recommendations for how things might go better from her perspective at home. Take a look; there just might be some inspiration there for you.

Virtual Debt #SOL2021

This post, from Melanie White, came on the heels of me reading a post about the amount of money that a teacher is personally spending for the privilege of teaching at home.

I didn’t understand her title completely until I got right into the post. Reading an email from a colleague who had a breakdown opened my eyes to another type of debt.

“virtual emotional debt wracking up expenses beyond calculation”

It’s a tough read when you plunk yourself into that environment. Melanie is always incredibly descriptive in her writing.

There’s also a wonderful message in her post for these who are living with teachers these days.

Listen to the Poets: Leadership Reflections from the Inaugural Day (with a very personal ending)

Amanda Gorman’s contribution to the recent inauguration set the stage for Charles Pascal’s recent reflection about poetry.

He opens up and shares about poetry in his life – Robert Frost, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, …

Reading his post and his love for poetry reminded me of watching the inauguration. My wife and I were blown away from Gorman’s part in the event. We both agreed that she indeed was the hit of the show.

I remember saying to my wife – that’s not poetry as I remember it. Probably my worst experience was in grade 8 where we had to memorize a poem and rewrite it from memory, including the punctuation. I remember the poem experience to this day – “The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I never understood the poem or his name.

I also don’t ever recall enjoying someone reading poetry like I did here; she did such an over the top job. Charles also takes us back to previous poets and inaugurations.

And, it’s not just Charles that noticed; Ms. Gorman will be at the Super Bowl as well.

Final assessment ideas: Physics/Science BINGO!

Lest you think choice boards only have a place in the elementary school, you need to check out these ideas from Andrea McPhee.

Her science department decided not to use final exams after they went to online teaching. I think that most people would agree that this is a significant and important decision.

But education lives and dies by assessment. Something had to be done. I don’t know how many science teachers read this blog but it seems to me that science doesn’t have a monopoly on this. I felt that Andrea goes through and describes the process of setting this up well enough that you could apply it in any discipline. This was a refreshing and indepth discussion well worth the read.

She includes a link to a planner template as a Google document so that you can easily make it yours. You really need to know your curriculum inside and out to be most effective.

What’s next? EQAO as a choice board?

The content discussed here comes from these great bloggers. Of course, you’re going to want to follow them on Twitter.

  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @jcasatodd
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261
  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Terry Whitmell – @TerryWhitmell
  • Melanie White – @WhiteRoomRadio
  • Charles Pascal – @CEPascal
  • Andrea McPhee – @ms_mcphee

Click through and enjoy all of their great blog posts.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Check out these recent posts from Ontario Edubloggers.

Watch Birds and Savour Books

From Jessica Outram, two terrific suggestions for what to do when you’re at home and not going anywhere.

The entry point for both is low but the payback can be very high. Around here, we have two bird feeders hanging just off the patio and, as the temperatures get colder, it gets very popular. Neither of the neighbours have a feeder so we’re the only place around here to eat. So, it’s not uncommon to see the whole gang as the weather gets colder.

It makes Christmas gifts easy to give. A book on identifying birds, bags of sunflower seeds to attract Blue Jays, …

If it ever gets boring (and it doesn’t), there are always quick trips to Point Pelee or Jack Miner.

I enjoyed Jessica’s story telling of how things play out for her with birds. At times, it seems like you’re looking down at a vibrant community. Are people watching us in this way? Do any of the birds that dine here make it to her place? Like most of her posts, she tells an interesting story and you’ll want to read it all.

Then, there are the books….

OneWordx12: Are you in?

A New Year. A New Word.

There are actually a couple of interesting and relevant blog posts from Beth Lyons to check out this week.

The first one proves that she saw something coming in 2020 by doing the whole #oneword thing a month at a time instead of choosing one word for the entire year. I found it really interesting to go through her list of 12 words and try to map out (or guess) what was happening in her personal and professional life.

Then, she starts off 2021 with her word for January. I thought that this was an interesting choice. Yes, it’s one word but she uses it in a number of different contexts just to illustrate how complicated things are these days. I’m not going to mention it here because I think you owe it to yourself to visit her blog to see her writing.

I am going to use one of her thoughts as inspiration for a future blog post. Maybe tomorrow.


Wow! That’s all that I could say when I was done reading this post from Amanda Potts. What an opportunity for her and for her students!

So, she’s bought into Beth Lyons’ concept of a word for a month and “Ask” is January’s word. After reading the post, I’m guessing that it wasn’t in place on December 31 but it’s certainly advice with a real example of success for all.

I know that people are looking for mega-inspiration activities for students to keep them engaged in online learning. So, out of boredom? or inspiration? Amanda wrote to a number of authors of the books her students are reading in class.

In 20 minutes, she had an confirmation from one of the authors that they would drop in virtually to her class and interact with them. What an opportunity.

Amanda summed it nicely when she said that all she had to do was Ask. Awesome.

During the This Week in Ontario Edublogs show on Wednesday, I asked Stephen Hurley is he was willing to share his expertise in Podcasting to a class that was interesting in taking the leap. He was very enthusiastic about the prospects so if you’re considering it, why not ask? He’s on Twitter as @Stephen_Hurley.

No pressure, Amanda, but I’m looking forward to a blog post from you sharing with us how your online guest worked out.


The EduGals are back!

They have an interesting approach to sharing this message. It comes as both a podcast and a blog post.

I had to do a screen capture here just to show you that apparently they’re everywhere you get your podcasts.

I was doing some other work and listening to them in the background and was actually quite interested in their marriage of Brightspace and Google Assignments.

I’ll be honest here; I can pick up quite a bit by listening but this is so rich in content that I needed the blog post to completely understand their message. I thought that they had done a nice job in their explanation complete with their own documented captures.

If you’re using this combination of services, there’s probably some wisdom here that will make your job easier.


I’d only recently followed Hema Khodai’s blog and was pleased when my RSS program indicated that there was something to check out.

Interestingly, the content didn’t come from her but from another educator, Tharmila Apputhurai. The post is only a couple of paragraphs long but I’ll admit that it was one that brought out so much emotion in me.

During 2020, I think I’ve heard so many different personal reflections about what COVID means. But, nothing like this.

I felt as if I had been ordered by my acca to stay in the bunker until the sound and sight of the violence was gone.

I did have to look up “acca” since it was a new term to me and that even further personalized the message for me.

I hope that the message of healing in 2021 rings true.

What’s Your Superpower? Mine Is Teaching!

If there’s a testament to why I follow people on Twitter, this is it. I’ve followed Nilmini Ratwatte-Henstridge for a while now and, quite frankly, she’s been a person that pops up on my FollowFriday list regularly.

Recently, she shared that she had a blog post for us to check out. And I did.

I can’t imagine that, after 2020, there isn’t a teacher who hasn’t felt being pushed further in their profession than at any other time. Nilmini is that boat and shares a list of 10 things and reflections about her feelings.

  • Strike a Balance
  • Discover Your Network
  • Ah, this thing called Technology
  • Be Yourself

You’ll have to click through to discover all 10! I’m betting that you’ll find out all kinds of things about her and probably yourself in these days.

I don’t know if I could agree with “Discover Your Network” more than I do as I write this. I’ve had my network for years now and daily I’m inspired and uplifted by the connections that I’ve made.

Since Ontario Educators are connected anyway these days, why not created your own Personal Learning Network for ideas, inspiration, and people to plan with?

A #VisibleLearning Look At My Playing Reality: Finding Joy In Remote Kindergarten

I’ve always said that they don’t pay kindergarten teachers enough. I’ve often felt exhausted just walking by their classrooms.

In this post, Aviva Dunsiger pulls back the curtain and gives us an inside look at her classroom, activities, and all that it takes to pull it off. It’s a long post but worth putting time aside to read.

There are interesting personal thoughts about what she thinks she’s doing. I always found it interesting to compare what I thought I did with my principal or superintendent in the debriefing after being supervised. My thought always was that I was overly hard on myself. How about Aviva?

So, she lays it all out there in this long post full of thoughts and documentation and she’s looking for advice. Do you have any?

It’s been another great experience to read these posts and then share my thoughts with you. There’s such a wide range of topics. I hope that you can find the time to click through and read the originals.

Then, follow these people on Twitter.

  • Jessica Outram – @jessicaoutram
  • Beth Lyons – @mrslyonslibrary
  • Amanda Potts – @ahpotts
  • EduGals – @edugals
  • Hema Khodai – @HKhodai
  • Nilmini Ratwatte-Henstridge – @NRatwatte
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca