This Week in Ontario Edublogs



Some OSSTF members will be participating in a one day strike today.•

• Keewatin-Patricia District School Board
• District School Board Ontario North East
• Moose Factory Island District Area School Board
• James Bay Lowlands Secondary School Board
• Rainbow District School Board
• Bluewater District School Board
• Upper Grand District School Board
• Wellington Catholic District School Board
• Durham District School Board
• Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
• Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board
• Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
• Upper Canada District School Board
• Conseil scolaire de district catholique des Grandes Rivières
• Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien
• Provincial Schools Authority

As well as members from Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est, Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario, Conseil scolaire Viamonde, Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir, Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario, and Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario.

Details here.

The predicted storm did manage to hit the province yesterday with many school districts cancelling bus transportation. It’s always a controversial move. I hope that everyone was safe.

Check out some of the great blogging efforts from Ontario Edubloggers.

The Best 75 Minutes of My Day.

Ramona Meharg starts with a simple statement.

Music is magic

Then, off she goes to describe how her guitar brings a unique environment to her Special Education Classroom.

The students get a choice from over 200 songs that she has on her playlist. That’s impressive. In the post, she describes their interactions with her, the music, and other classmates.

It doesn’t stop there. Like any good teacher, she can completely describes what she does and, most importantly, how it addresses curriculum expectations and elements of student IEPs.

Play this video! I bet you can’t sit still or, if you know the words and the tune, feel free to listen and enjoy while you read the rest of the post.

I Wish I Knew: How Does My Child Learn To Read?

Posted to the voicEd Radio blog, Tina Berman shares her first attempt at blogging (that I know of), inspired by a voicEd Radio podcast.

For the longest of times, I didn’t really put much thought into this. I was teaching Computer Science at the secondary school level which, by itself, appeals to a certain element of the school population which do know how to read.

Even as a child, I never thought about it. My parents read to us and weekly we would go to the town library to get a couple of books. We just read.

It was only later, as a member of the Program Department working with my superintendent and various elementary school literacy consultants that I dug deeply into the “how” rather than just the assumption that all children can read. So much research has been done, and Tina touches on some pretty important concepts in this post.

She also includes a nice collection of supporting references.

From Failing to #DisruptTexts

As I typically do, I make myself notes on the blog posts that I read for use on the radio show and in this post. The first thing that I wrote when I read this post from Melanie White was:

Might be the most important thing you read today

Maybe it’s what I consider my analytic mind, but her pie graphs really solidified her message for me.

I guess, growing up, the choice of reading and studying in the classroom really didn’t make me think. We just assumed that the teacher was instructed to use that one novel or it was one that he/she liked or had notes for. As long as we could buy the Coles Notes version of the book, we were good and didn’t have to actually do all the reading. One of the few books that I remember was The Great Gatsby. Maybe not for the story, but for the fact that we had a field trip to London to watch the movie.

It was a real yawner. And, it was far beyond us. We didn’t have an East Egg or a West Egg but we did have an East Street.

Back to Melanie’s post. She did an analysis of her book room and her results weren’t unexpected. Lots of stories written by white men. Does her collection go back in time to the days when I was in high school? Unless you haven’t been paying attention for the past twenty-thirty years, today we have a different society and a different sensibility.

Should our collection of literature change? Melanie sure thinks so. Read her post. Also, this story from the Ottawa Citizen.

T is for Teaching & Time

If nothing else, Lynn Thomas’ post about time should have you nodding your head. Embedded in it is an infographic from that highlights so many of the things that teachers have been trying to impress on the current government about the profession.

I think that every teacher knows that, if they didn’t force themselves to sleep, there are times when the job could consume exactly 24 hours of your day.

Fortunately, we live in a time when we recognize the importance of personal well-being. How many times do we see the word “balance” promoted as a teacher one-word for the year? And, I think that we all know, that won’t be reached. For teachers, the job is just too darned important. Those that see the profession as a filler between university and retirement are usually out of the profession in their first couple of years.

There are way less stressful jobs to do. And, of fairness, more stressful ones as well.

The job is always evolving too. Every time someone who isn’t in the classroom comes up with a new research or theory and administration thinks it’s a good idea, you need to adjust. Flexibility – I think that needs to be added to that list as well.

Reflection from an E-Learning Teacher

I would have to think that common sense would dictate that those who would be successful in an eLearning course would be those that need a credit to get into university. Probably their course interest was one where an individual school didn’t have enough students to offer a face-to-face class as well.

The observations from Dave Lanovaz is interesting. He taught the Grade 12 Data Management university level course. That isn’t a course that appeals to everyone so having it available online seems like a nice alternative for those that don’t have it offered at their school.

His own data manages to make me think.

The course started with 32 students enrolled and ended up with 15 students who were successful in gaining the credit. Read his post for greater details about the enrolment throughout the course. We know there are always drops and adds.

It would be easy to blame the students and move on. But, Dave is looking inwardly as any good teacher does to see what he could do better and hopefully get better results. In particular, he touches on elements that need attention to in an online course.

  • Independence
  • Relationships
  • Community

I wish him good luck in this endeavour trying to make this course better for all.

But, go back to the original premise and think about the proposed eLearning courses for all requirement. With this success rate with university bound students, what does that predict for others?

OLA Super Conference – My First Time #TLchat #OLASC

Laura Wheeler recently received a certification as a teacher-librarian specialist so congratulations for that.

What do you do as you learn the profession? – go to the OLA SuperConference.

And she did! This is an interesting post where she shares her thoughts about the conference, Toronto, and downtown walkability, noise and smoke.

It sounded like a lonely experience – she only knew 2 people there. Come on Teacher-Librarian Personal Learning Network. Reach out and get her connected!

She managed to sketchnote many of the sessions that she attended and that makes this kind of a slow read if you’re like me and like to work your way through the notes. Here’s one…

It’s time well spent.

My “Gradeless” Bookshelf

The concept of going “gradeless” is a hot topic in some areas these days. Of course, it will require a systematic change in educational philosophy. Pick your system.

Terry Whitmell writes this post to:

I’ve been hearing many requests for my list of books that inspired my research.  Here are some of the books I’ve been sharing with my teaching colleagues, to support them in their shift in assessment

It’s an interesting collection. I’ve read the work of some of the authors and there were some new ones for me.

If you’re in a position of supporting professional reading in your system, you might find some of these books as interesting acquisitions for your professional libraries.

Another Friday, and it’s another interesting collection of writing from Ontario Edubloggers. Please take the time to read these posts and maybe drop off a comment or two.

You can hear the Wednesday voicEd Radio podcast here.

Then, follow these people on Twitter for even more.

  • Ramona Meharg – @RamonaMeharg
  • Tina Bergman – @blyschuk
  • Melanie White – @White Room Radio
  • Lynn Thomas – @THOMLYNN101
  • Dave Lanovaz – @DaveLanovaz
  • Laura Wheeler – @wheeler_laura
  • Terry Whitmell – @TerryWhitmell

This post originated on:

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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

There were some simply amazing posts by those involved in Ontario Education this week.  My sincere thanks for taking the time to create the great content.  There’s a great deal to think about in the selection that I’ve chosen to look at in this post.  Please take the time to follow through to the original posts and comment.  Or comment below.

Why Technology Training for Faculty is a waste of time… (not really… but…)
I was drawn to Alana Callan’s recent post because of the title.  In reality, it was her thoughts about a post that she had read.

So, I gave a Whew! and read on.  I like the fact that she’s recognizing that the conversation is changing.  It used to be that professional learning taught the tool and you hoped that pedagogy followed.  Then, the pedagogs took over and everything was about the rationale for doings something and you hoped that the skills to actually use it came afterwards.

The reality, it seems to me, is that both are needed but far more time and opportunities have to be provided to learners.  I get a kick out of school systems that take students for 10 months to acquire skills but feel that two or three days devoted to formal “training” (whatever that means) gets the job done and you expect the world to change.  We expect learning to be continuous for students; why shouldn’t we expect the same thing from professionals?  Much time and efforts need to be devoted to professional learning for staff if you’re going to get substantial change.  In light of that, I think it explains why so many of us continue to learn by making the connections to others online daily.

We expect that students will try and fail in the learning process but we’re always there to help them get up and have another run at it.  Shouldn’t the same philosophy and patience be devoted to staff learning?

Parent Engagement:  Poorly Defined?
The 5 Most Overhyped Trends in Education
Let’s call this two for the price of one.  Andrew Campbell started the discussion with what he saw as overhyped trends and Sheila Stewart focussed in on the last one – Parent Engagement.

I guess I have a problem seeing this as a trend, much less one that’s overhyped.  My parents were certainly engaged in my education.  I couldn’t get away with anything and at least one of them were at the school at every opportunity.  Even at university, I would get the inquisition whenever we got together!  How was I doing on tests and projects and exams and …?  I think that, as long as there have been parents, there have been varying levels of interest and involvement in student school.  So, I don’t see it as a trend and I don’t care who defines it whether it’s poorly or not so poorly.

Is the situation not one of attitude?  As teachers, do we not want to recognize the role that a parent can play in making schools years a success?  Yes, there are some parents that are more vocal than others.  Yes, there are single parents.  Yes, there are parents that work permanent midnights.  Yes, there are so many permutations.  It seems to me that the doors to communication need to be open.  Telephone calls can be made.  In today’s world, there are no shortages of opportunities to communicate.  Parent Councils?  Absolutely – you see them bringing in speakers to help parents understand life as it exists in today’s world.  Nobody teaches you how to be a parent so every little bit helps.

My Day on CBC Radio: The Journey
What would you do if you threw a party and the guest of honour didn’t show up?  I was almost in that boat at the ECOO Conference.  We wanted to have a panel discussion among the keynote speakers moderated by CBC Radio’s Nora Young.  We had them all there but we were missing something important – the voice of now in schools.  After all, the conference theme was Education in the Now Century.  During the planning, when I raised the issue, Bill MacKenzie asked who I would recommend.  One name popped to the front of my mind – Donna Fry.  She was big in social media, was a classroom teacher, was an eLearning Teacher, was a vice-principal, and now was a principal.  If there ever was a person who had experienced it all….

Things would have been a great deal easier if Donna could get to the conference by driving up the 407.  That’s a little difficult when you live on the other end of Lake Superior!  Read Donna’s post to get the details of her trip east.  It wasn’t easy.  After I got her situated on the stage, the least I could do was get her a glass of water – her only request.  From there, she proceeded to steal the show!

Dude, where’s my camera?
This picture from Royan Lee’s post says it all.

I’m really at a loss to put any kind of spin on this one.  The post and the comments from Royan’s readers say it all.  If you’re not prepared to trust that teachers will use technology properly, I’d suggest that you just save your money and not buy the stuff.  Or, maybe Alana is right.  Just disable all functionality of the technology and then you won’t need to have professional learning or discourse.  The students will be safe (the only possible reason I could think of this) and you won’t have to worry at all about making new content via pictures or movies documenting a child’s world.


I would be remiss not to have a word about Andy Forgrave’s latest post…

Haiku, do you?
I don’t get Haiku.  I don’t think I ever studied it.  I don’t recall ever writing it.  I do read it every now and again from the keyboard of Andy Forgrave who tags it #twhaiku.  It’s obviously an art form I’m incapable of creating.  But Andy can and I think his stuff is good.  What do I know?  At least it’s interesting.

I wrote a post yesterday about Haiku Deck for the iPad.  Since I know two things about Haiku – it’s a Japanese poetic form and Andy creates it – I figure the least I could do is make reference to his abilities in my post.  I was also interested that Andy hadn’t shared it with me already.  One of the joys of our infrequent get togethers is to have him teach me about his latest passion.  After all, he was the one that introduced me to Prose with Bros.

I didn’t expect that my post would inspire him to write a post back on his own blog.  I also didn’t expect that he would analyze my thoughts in Haiku.  Now I must confess – I’m not sure whether his post was positive or negative – it was just Haiku!

Thanks, Andy.

Check out these posts at the links above or all the writers from the Ontario Edubloggers Livebinder.  If you’re a blogger or an Ontario Educator who wants to be added to the Twitter Ontario Educator list, there’s a form there.  Complete the form and I’ll get you added as soon as I can and I’ll create a personalize badge for your blog.

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Reflections from Sudbury

Thursday, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with a group of educators at an eSymposium in Sudbury.  With all that’s happening in Ontario, it could have been a griping type of event but I didn’t see any of that.  Instead, I witnessed a wonderful group of professionals interested in making Blended Learning work in their classrooms, schools, and districts.

The day started in the eDome at Cambrian College.  For me, it was a unique presentation experience.  I worked from a table in the middle of a round room with five screens around the circumference.  Data projectors mounted in the ceiling displayed simultaneously on the screens.  I started the morning with a presentation titled “So now it’s Blended Learning and BYOD and Personalized Learning and Flipped Classrooms and …” where we went from the olden days of computer labs and built a case for wireless, BYOD, and how Blended Learning fits together.

It was an awesome audience with lots of folks coming up afterwards to talk, share ideas, and get some more of my ideas.

I took the opportunity to sit in on a number of other sessions throughout the day.  The topics were so timely for a group that were ready to experiment and launch Blended Learning in their own reality.

A panel discussion (after some coffee!) related some firsthand experiences with Blended Learning and Student Success.  It was filled with great stories from the field that served as inspiration for the attendees.  Hey, this stuff actually does work.  Not only does it work but we learned how it becomes a saviour for an occasional teacher with split classes and video evidence from all grades and levels.  We even heard how the Desire to Learn Learning Management System could be used for communication with parents.

Then, we were off to individual sessions.  I elected to stay and hear Martha Walli talk about “Getting the Right Blend”.  I think that’s the question that was in many people minds.  We understand Face to Face; we understand full online eLearning; but what does a blend look like?  Martha shared some of her thoughts and gave suggestions about what might work from her experience.  She constantly used the metaphor of blenders throughout her presentation.  I thought it was nicely done, offering some safe suggestions for the beginning blender.  I was thinking that it would work well in the future to have a set of sliders to move between the two extremes with the various attributes to show how you could mix and match eLearning elements.  That might be a good idea for a project…

After lunch, we had a plenary session about the importance of Digital Citizenship.  I totally agree with the premise that it needs to be taught consistently throughout the province.  Yet, we still have content filters in place with some boards blocking this and others blocking that with no common set of rules.  I’ve long been a proponent that one course or at least one unit needs to be taught online for all students.  Perhaps that’s an initiative that eLearning Ontario could take on?  It would be well received throughout the province, I’m sure.

I was late getting to the next workshop – got in the middle of a discussion and then realized that it was a very long walk to the next location – I didn’t get the presenter’s names.  I was curious to see how they were going to teach some tricks and tips for using the Ministry LMS to a group of new teachers.  Each came with a login to the LMS and an empty shell.  They were shown how to construct news items, calendars, use the dropbox, and got the idea that there were conditional releases built into the software.  There were lots of requests for assistance but I think that most left with a solid idea of what could be done.

Finally, I ended up in a round table discussion with supervisory officers and principals.  We had a nice discussion about how Blended Learning could be used to solve some of the challenges that are faced.  Many of the topics were the same that we’ve had about the need for eLearning in the first place.  Small schools; small classes; teachers teaching outside their qualification areas; schools not offering desired courses, etc.  In many of the areas, it still seems like the Ministry’s eLearning offering offers hope for at least partial solutions.  Challenges are heavy duty – good minds are going to have to work hard to solve this one.

In between sessions, I got into some absolutely terrific discussions.  One was with the A/V guy talking about the setup in the eDome.  You need to be there to experience it.  Another discussion talked about the advantages of taking a Communication Technology global.  We talked about external collaborations, audience, … and how it could empower the students.  Another noteworthy discussion surrounded a plan to incorporate badges into an online computer science course.  I saw all the badges and heard how they’re all tied to curriculum expectations to be awarded to students as they address the expectations.  I really like the concept.  The only stumbling block was how to conditionally award the badges.  If that gets solved, I think the concept will take the LMS by storm.

It was a fabulous day.  I was so impressed with the quality of the people organizing the day.  It was second to none and those that attended had a first-rate professional learning experience.  I was proud to be part of it.  What a terrific group of educators – passionate and professional about their beliefs.