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.


Complex

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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Not surprisingly, there is a focus on teaching in these troubled times on the posts from Ontario Edubloggers. I’ve tried to bring a bunch of them together for your Friday and weekend reading.


One Size Fits All, Even When It Doesn’t

Tim King leads off with a confession that he has a big head. I hadn’t noticed. The point of Tim’s post was that he requires a medical mask and couples that with sinus issues to make things ugly. The mask isn’t sized to accommodate him and that makes for an uncomfortable day.

Couple that with the life of a technology teacher in a warm shop area setting up and dealing with the tech and you get the picture that he’s trying to paint.

The plot thickens as the topic turns to computer technology and his need to fix things so that his students have a place to work. Renewed Computer Technology of Ontario may be part of the answer to his dilemma of getting parts these days.

Then, there’s the whole concept of the long, extended class periods and the need for a break …

I suspect that Tim speaks for hundreds of educators across the province.


I’m on the phone

Amanda Potts tells of a story that I can only interpret as loneliness in the days of school building re-opening.

So, we know that social distancing is the rule these days but this is how it plays out for an LST.

“Hello, this is Amanda Potts, calling from Canterbury High School. I’m your child’s Learning Support Teacher this year. Is this a good time to talk about their IEP?”

It’s just her and parents on these calls when she gets a request from a colleague. Of course, it’s from a distance but can’t be entertained as she’s setting the stage for her parents and the students she’ll be supporting.

Although I’m sure that it adds another level of concern, I like the fact that she’s concerned about family life as she calls to talk to parents.

I just have this vision of going into B41 and working on things in the summer all by myself. A school or a classroom without students is really a lonely place.


School Online – Journal – Day 12

Terry Whitmell has a collection of blog posts that’s documenting her experiences and observations for re-opening in her part of the world. She is one of a team of principals for online learning in Peel.

I think we’ve all read and heard about stories of teachers who didn’t have classes or timetables ready to go. Here’s a look from the other side.

However, with student timetables a priority, the entry of teachers next to courses didn’t begin until near the end of the day, and is ongoing as I write.

I used to help our principal and vice-principal with timetabling and conflicts can be maddening. Sometimes, it takes a second set of eyes to see something that was staring right at you! She also takes into consideration teacher preferences. It’s an interesting read – particularly if you think that it’s all computerized and all that’s necessary is to click on GO to make the magic happen.

Of course, there are all the technical nerdy things that students will have to learn like the choice of LMS and video conferencing software – I can’t believe that the system offers a choice. Despite that, her wish is for community building first.


Friday Two Cents: Be Grateful

Lest we think that it’s just teachers and principals that are affected with everything that’s going on, Paul Gauchi reminds us that there are others in the system too.

He’s a long term occasional teacher and has been watching the comments coming from teachers in the classroom.

However, the more I read posts on social media and hear stories from them, the more I cannot be silent.

He’s taking on those who have complained about:

  • having to wear PPE
  • having collapsed classrooms
  • teaching a new grade level

and reminds us that there are many out there still looking to get hired.


Managing virtual and in-person synchronous instruction

I’m not the only one who uses dog-walking time to do some thinking. Jennifer Casa-Todd recently did the same sort of thing. She’s collaborating with a group of teacher-librarians to provide a resource for their teachers, doing their teaching online. I’m hoping that she looks at the resource that Elizabeth Lyons created (and I shared on this blog earlier this week). It would be a nice product to replicate and provide additional local resources.

She brings into the conversation a number of technical solutions, all the while in typical Jennifer style, keeping students at the centre of the conversation.

  • Peardeck
  • Padlet
  • Jamboard

Those are leading products in their genre but certainly aren’t the only ones.


Why Do We Share As We Do?

I enjoyed reading this post from Aviva Dunsiger. It’s a question that people asked “back in the day” when social media was new as a way to justify diving in.

In her post, Aviva shares her reasons for sharing

  • We share this way because it allows kids and families to benefit from each other’s thinking and learning
  • We share this way because it encourages the social
  • We share in this way because it helps us remember and celebrate the positives!
  • We share in this way because of the implied message that it also sends
  • If all thinking and learning is just kept private, what do our actions say about our beliefs?

I actually read her post when it first came out – because she had tagged me in the announcement (I do appreciate it when that happens) – and I had written a reply that I continue to stand by.

We share because it makes us more observant to what is going on and we share so that we don’t forget.

To me, the proof lies in the actual implementation. Right now, I just picked up my MacBook Pro and I’m in search of a Twitter message that I shared this morning about the new Safari so that I can poke around. I was using a Chromebook when I read the original message.

My original share may not mean anything to others but it’s a chance to share my learning with anyone who cares to join me and now I get the benefit myself by going back and finding it.

There was a time when I would just bookmark it and go back but I’ve learned that that approach teeters on selfishness. If it’s good for me, it has the potential to be good for others.

That may have been the first time ever I’ve used the word “teeter”.


Push & Pull

Finally, from Alexandra Woods, a post that will break your heart. It’s not unique to her; I just happened to read hers first. It’s from the perspective of a mother and teacher.

She had a moment with her son that caused her to pause and focus on what’s really important.

Teaching is all-encompassing and professionals are doing their very best to make sure that it’s going to be positive for students. Kudos for that; that’s what good teachers do.

And yet, there’s another factor in all this and that’s the family at home. Those of us who are parents know that we turn over these little ones to someone else for the time spent at work teaching. In a normal world, the time spent not teaching is easier to manage but many teachers are observing that teaching and planning to teach is creeping into that time not officially devoted to working.

There’s always this sense that you should be doing more and sometimes a wakeup call to reality is needed.


Please take the time to click through and read these posts in their entirety. There’s great inspirational stories there from a number of different members involved in education.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Terry Whitmell – @TerryWhitmell
  • Paul Gauchi – @PCMalteseFalcon
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @jcasatodd
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Alexandra Woods – @XanWoods

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