This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It would be hard to start this post and not talk about snow. It’s been a heavy week around, especially for a November. Buses were even cancelled one day and, in typical Essex County fashion, the main roads were dry by noon.

It’s time to share some of the great posts I read recently from Ontario Edubloggers. And, by the way, if you’re in Ontario and blogging or know of someone who is, please add it to the form that’s there to collect for the purpose of growing the list. Or, directly here.

Did you get your flu shot yet?

Your public service notice this fall from the Heart and Art Blog and Deb Weston. It’s personal for her.

In 2009, my students invited their classmates to a birthday party. One of the students had the H1N1 flu virus. In a class of 24 students, 18 students missed a week of class due to this flu. Their teacher, me, was then hit with the flu. I missed 4 days of work. I felt like I had been hit by a truck. Upon hearing I was diagnosed with H1N1, my partner got his flu shot and slept in another room until I was well. The flu compromised my immune system and months later I contracted Whooping Cough.

It’s hard to believe that, despite the facts, we have this conversation every year.

Since you can get it at a pharmacy now, there’s no “waiting for a doctor” excuse any more. Just do it.

I’ve got mine.

He talks about me at home

There was a time when student-led conferencing was solely an elementary school thing it seems. So, it was with real interest to read that Amanda Potts had mom and a family of three show up for parent/teacher interview – two students that she taught.

From a reading perspective, I found myself bouncing back and forth with empathy from teacher to student who had just been outed that “he talks about me at home”.

From an education perspective, I thought that it was a real winner that this parents wanted to talk about the choice of reading that was selected for this class. I don’t imagine that happens a lot.

The timing of reading this post and an invitation to listed to a new podcast from Amanda and Melanie White made it full circle here. I enjoyed both.

You can read more about this podcast on Amanda’s blog as well.

A Stitch in Time

I knew about much of this from Colleen Rose through private conversations. She wasn’t going to be going back to the classroom to start the fall semester after having had a great summer.

Colleen goes very public with details, including a TMI warning in this post.

I think that it’s cool that she’s turning the whole thing into a learning event – how much more “teacher” can you get than that. In this case, it’s teaching herself to knit. Kudos for doing that.

What impressed me about this post is that there’s a common thread running through it – yes, it’s pure Colleen, but there’s technology everywhere. Mapping a trail, taking pictures (lots of them), medical technology, Dr. Google, listening to podcasts, and YouTube tutorials for learning her new skills. Way to go, Colleen.

The post even includes a shoutout to her union for taking care of things for her.

Parlons Minecraft BIT2019

Jennifer Aston delivers an interesting post about a session that she and her daughter delivered at the recent Bring IT, Together Conference about how Minecraft has found its way into her French classroom.

Her slidedeck, which she freely shares is here:

Unlike many of the sessions that I attended where the slides were filled with text and drawings, etc., so that the speaker becomes redundant, Jennifer recognizes that she’s very visual in presentation and that the slides, by themselves, doesn’t really tell you what’s happening.

So, she clumps her slides together with speaking notes so that we can follow and understand the message.

Nicely done and it’s great to know that the practice of ensuring that presentations in both Ontario’s official languages are still offered.


Matthew Morris doesn’t give detentions. That’s interesting. Maybe he doesn’t need to? Or maybe he’s got another way of handling the things that detentions would claim to solve?

What I found interesting was his note that he’s asked by students “do you give detentions?”. Even that question speaks volumes that the students are coming from a school culture that includes them.

I can’t recall giving them out. In fact, we were specifically told not to since most of our students were bused to school and after school detaining would open a can of worms. I remember noting that there were still lots of after school sports, clubs, and activities. But, as a new teacher, I wanted to follow the rules.

This ran through my mind after reading Matthew’s post

beatings will continue until morale improves

If the goal of detentions is to improve things, maybe there’s a better way to reach that goal.

Secret Truths of Empathy While Learning to Advocate

Hmmm. Thanks to this post from Ruthie Sloan, the secrets are now revealed!

The big takeaway, if you need it is that

empathy is not sympathy

It certainly isn’t accumulating the number of check boxes on a student IEP either.

What might happen if we began our meetings and our journey with deep and genuine curiosity (beyond check boxes on IEPs but about the ‘whole-child’ and those who are also learning how to support)? How might this affect our capacity to cultivate empathy? What might it do to our filters and translations?

If we truly believe in working with the “whole-child”, then a more global approach is essential. Ruthie uses the term “moral imperative”.

I can’t help but think that the suggested approach would be deemed to be too inefficient and not cost worthy in the eye of the bean counters. Plus, with cutbacks in support…

I think you can fill in the details.

Community Archives and Identity

This is actually a very short message informing us about a presentation that Krista McCracken is delivering to an Algoma sociology class.

Slides are available here.

Unlike Jennifer’s approach of not including speaker notes, Krista does have speaking notes to go along with each slide.

Of course, looking through a slidedeck isn’t the same as being there but this was intriguingly interesting and I used a search engine to find out more about the Archives talked about in the slideshow.

Please take the time to click through and enjoy the original blog posts. As always, there’s some great sharing going on.

Then, make sure that you’re following these leaders on Twitter.

  • @dr_weston_Phd
  • @Ahpotts
  • @ColleenKR
  • @mme_aston
  • @callmemrmorris
  • @Roosloan
  • @kristamccracken

This post appeared at:

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


An Interview with Zoe Branigan-Pipe

Zoe Branigan-Pipe (@zbpipe on Twitter) is one of those folks that I’ve known and interacted with online long, long before I ever met her.  If you’re wondering what a “21st Century Teacher” does, you need to follow Zoe.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview her.  Think you know Zoe?  Read on; I’ll bet there’s plenty you don’t know!

Doug:  My wife always knew that I ran in different circles but I don’t think she knew the depth of commitment until you two met.  Do you remember when?  (hint, Washington at the ISTE Conference)

Zoe: I remember it clearly because it was the first time for me to experience the joy and excitement you get when meeting someone face-to-face that you’ve interacted or followed on social media. It’s where I met Kent @kentmanning and @aforgrave as well – and have since developed such meaningful friendships. I feel so fortunate as it is these relationships that have supported, nurtured and developed me – professionally and personally!

Doug:  After that meeting, I think my wife really got the gist of why we value the electronic relationships that we use to learn from each other.

Zoe: That reminds me of a funny story. Do you remember the time when you sent me my address through a Twitter DM? It was only a week after getting my first iPhone and I neglected to turn off my location settings before using Twitter. Awkward!! Luckily, at the time, not many people were following my Twitter account! But, like I said, it was nice that you had my back. Thanks!

It is incredible to think how many stories that we’ve shared since! I remember a few years ago tweeting you during class (not sure if it was allowed back then) because I couldn’t figure out how to do a screen capture on my PC computer. You answered me in about 30 seconds.

Doug:  Professionally, I knew you as this person that was doing great things at your brand new school in Hamilton.  The consultants at the time raved about the things that you were doing and I remember inviting you and your principal to present at the Western RCAC.  How was that experience?

Zoe: Yes, I’ve been so fortunate to have started my career with some pretty supportive leaders!  I attribute so much to my principal at the time, Bill DeMille. He was one of the first Principals in my district to see that the way we were  doing things wasn’t working for so many students (or teachers). It was he that first introduced me to Clay Christionsen’s  “Distruptive Schools/Classroom”. Bill was a bit of an outlier in our district and way ahead of our district’s time of “21st Century Fluencies”. It was truly unfortunate that he never got the recognition that he deserved before he left due to a serious illness. I owe much gratitude to him for giving me trust and respect as a teacher leader.  I am glad to have had the opportunity to not only work at a cutting edge school (for that time) but to work with such an innovative thinker.

This RCAC that you mention was the first of several times I presented for this conference. I met many people, including Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep) who was at that session and since we have also shared in the development of many projects, including Unplugd at Northern Edge Algonquin.

Doug:  Now, you’re gearing up for #ecoo13.  You undoubtedly have the best session title:  Redevelopment of an Urban Landscape –> Geography, Math and Minecraft: An Inquiry Driven Project presented by Zoe Branigan-Pipe

Can you tell the readers what to expect when they attend your session?

Zoe: I’m excited to be at  ECOO again this year, not just as a presenter, but because I’ll get to interact with so many people that I admire and learn from! My session will demonstrate the process and methods that I used to teach and assess an integrated, language and math unit in a completely differentiated way and with a variety of blended learning and interactive tools. The Barton and Tiffany project is something that can easily be recreated in any community and lends itself to social activism and civic involvement by addressing higher order learning through meaningful and authentic questions. I know that you are from the Windsor area so you might be interested that we even used some of the blueprints and online sources to look at how the Windsor Community was impacted when the 401 was rerouted through what was once a commercial and residential community. Issues of development, mapping, and housing are those that resonate with all of us. Why not bring it into the classroom and use current tools to explore, engineer and help nurture visionaries?

Doug:  Why not indeed?  That is so cool.  You’ve always been on the cutting edge of things.

I’d never heard of the Livescribe Pen until I heard some of the great things that you’ve done with it with students.  Can you tell us some of the ways that you’ve used it?

Zoe: I’ve always described the Livescribe as a contradiction of technology since it is pen/ink and paper.  The beauty of the tool is that anyone that can use a pen and regardless of their tech ability or level of understanding can also use the Livescribe. The fact that the pen allows people to also record their voice while they write and then access the recording by simply touching the ink on the paper makes it seem like magic. It also is a key tool in helping students who’ve struggled in getting their thoughts down. It helps teachers write assessments and gives students an opportunity  to use an audio format to demonstrate. It really can begin to level the playing field. My students appreciate being able to use this tool, especially because their minds often think faster than they can write! I also love it because I can do audio anecdotal notes that give way more information than the usual or more traditional checklist.  I didn’t even tell you about the fact that whatever I write can also be uploaded to the class website for pre and post learning. Seriously cool and so much potential!

Doug:  So, I have mine now and it’s in my computer bag always with me.  I’m afraid that I don’t use it to its greatest potential.  What advice would you give me?

Zoe:  I love the tool when I’m trying to describe or share something with someone (like a screencast). Think of it like a photocopier. You can jot something down for someone, rip the page out for them and you still have a copy yourself (once you plug it in). I think you might also like it for a podcasting feature when interviewing someone since it is much less intimidating then a microphone or video camera. Just write down the questions, ask the interviewee to answer them by drawing a dot on paper and pressing record. So much more personal to hear a voice. I bet this might be something fun to do while teaching your grandchildren to draw, doodle and write and they hear themselves during the process!

With that said, Doug, we need to all know when the right time and place is to use this tool. I don’t use it instead of my iPad or computer, I just use it for tasks that I can’t with those other tools or when it is more convenient or practical. Even my students sometimes ask for the Livescribe when they have an iPad sitting in front of them. I don’t think it is an either/or question.

Doug:  Now, you’ve won the Canadian Microsoft Virtual Innovative Educator Award. What does that involve?

Zoe: I’m pretty humbled to be representing Canada at this international conference. I am not sure where it will be held this year.  I will be sharing how I’ve integrated Project Based Learning methods and how the use of Microsoft tools has impacted my practice as an educator. I’m excited to interact with other international delegates!

I also feel that this award should be for my Gifted Class at Dalewood who gave their time and trust to pursue different types of projects. These students have had a strong influence and impact on me and I often tell them how humbled I am to have had this opportunity to have a small part in their learning journey.  These students have reminded me that our system often expects them to fit into a box instead of the box changing shape for them.

Doug:  Enjoy the experience.  I attended the one in New York a couple of years ago and the connections and the enthusiasm of those there is mind numbing.  I still treasure the pictures, notes, and of course blog posts from there.

Were you on your own with this innovation or did you get support from your centrally assigned consultants?

Zoe: Um. Difficult question Doug. I can’t say that I received support from the system consultants with this project, however, the Superintendents of Leadership did support me by funding some conference costs and I appreciated that! I’ve also appreciated the support that the Ministry of Education provided over the last few years through both the TLLP program and the faculty forum. They continue to keep me posted and call or email me to see how things are going. It is a support that I never expected – but has been authentic and meaningful.

As you know, recently, I was in Israel working with teachers and leaders from around the world, including our own Deputy Minister. The question of system and school support was a key discussion as it pertained to learning and teaching in the 21st Century. Do you know what the #1 factor was when it came to teachers feeling safe to explore and try new tools and methods? It was the principal’s support. This was regardless of the country, the type of system, the grade or level,  school or religion. Every teacher said it was the Principal’s support and trust. My principal – Joanne Hall, has been a key factor in supporting me with this project and with other non-traditional teaching methods that allowed me to engage students with tools and methods that interested them. From the beginning she provided me with the tools and trusted my judgment.

At the system level, however, there is definitely reluctance with teachers trying new tools or pedagogies, especially when there is not a lot of evidence out there that supports its success – or that the evidence is constantly either contradicting itself or is outdated. As you know, when technology is developing and changing at such a fast rate, our systems need to figure out ways to support teachers who are working at all ends of the spectrum, like we do with students.

Doug:  That’s always been the way with technology and why we support people who try new things.  If you wait until someone declares something “best practice”, the train will have long left the station.  There’s no shame in trying and running into challenges to solve!

Together, you and I did the Great OSLA Faceoff!  We have the T-Shirts!

We reprised it for ECOO and also for a school in my old district.  Can you share with the readers what that involved?

Zoe: Ha Ha! I think this was where I first realized you were “Yoda” and I was “Luke”.  I hope that you have learned who these characters are since then!!

What a great way to combine the learning of ‘methods’ and ‘tools’! It was fun to work behind the scenes collaboratively to learn, find and share how new web tools can be creatively integrated into the classroom but it was even more fun when we made it into a play-by-play drama! The audience loved the fast paced presentation and appreciated involvement!

Doug:  Our friend Diane took and shared this great picture of us.

zoe and doug

Zoe:   I really treasure that experience Doug!

Doug:  I’ve had the opportunity to visit your wonderful family.  I was impressed with the computer abilities of your two boys.  Did they get that from school or just picked it up from their mom and the technology lying around the house?

Zoe: Both my boys, middle school age, would say that they didn’t learn anything from me, but I hope that I had some influence on their ability to use a variety of technologies responsibly and creatively. I run servers for both of them to play and create in the Gaming environment. Both of them have iPhones because they enjoy photography and sharing or interacting online. Recently, I noticed my youngest son Nathan using Google Hangout with his friends while he they were working on Minecraft. I asked him how he knew Google Hangout or Circles and he rolled his eyes at me saying, I just saw the “hangout” button and tried it.  Imagine. My son Jack has many friends in different countries that he interacts with daily through games like Starcraft or Minecraft. Our computer is set in our family room and I enjoy listening to them play and interact! Their vocabulary, their level of thinking, their respect for one another, their ability to collaborate and problem solve – it is inspiring and reassuring and yet it isn’t always reflected in their school assessments.

Doug:  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Stewie.  Is he a technology supporter?

Zoe: Stewie loves Skype! He gets a little anxious when I travel for conferences so Skyping him helps. I should also mention that Stewie is my Australian Shepherd!

Doug:  Your husband has been a runner for years and I know that he’s got you out pounding the pavement.  What kind of a routine do you have?

Zoe: Running has really helped me balance my life.  Now that my kids are older, I’ve been able to find a way to reconnect with myself – my health and my personal growth. I’ve learned to spend less time online or in front of a screen and enjoy time exploring and experiencing learning in a different way – a way that gets me physically and mentally inside a community. Running with my husband Brad has given us a chance to reconnect. When we travel, we try to run at least once in every town/city. I value experiences and memories like running across the Golden Gate Bridge, through Steinbeck territory, Big Sur and along the Beach in Naples.  It is almost surreal to think about running through old Jerusalem.  It isn’t just about training or fitness, but about an experience or journey.

Doug:  Tell us about your marathon runs.  Are there more in your future?

Zoe: I’ve run two Marathons this year – Ottawa and Toronto.  When you met me Doug, I’d never even run a mile. Setting a ridiculous goal (like running 42 kilometers) was the best thing that I ever did.  Challenging myself physically and mentally helped me see things in ways that I didn’t see them before. I think it is important that everyone find something to experience that helps them nurture themselves. It has made me a better teacher (a better person) in many ways and helped me see the value of pushing people to places that hurt because often they come out the other side stronger.

Doug:  I hope that you’re booking “Run with Alana” for the #ecoo13 conference!

Zoe:  What a great idea. I’ve noticed that many people in our circles are finding and sharing passions and goals that go beyond just teaching and learning. I’ll never forget singing along with Andy Forgrave (@aforgrave), Colin Jagoe (@colinjagoe) (on their guitars) and others in a corner of the Hotel one year. We need to model to our students and colleagues the importance of exploration and creativity in areas of life that go beyond education!

Doug:  OK, the million dollar question:  Mac or PC and why?

Zoe: Isn’t it about the tool that works best for the particular project? It depends what I need them for.  I use PC mostly at school and enjoy the fact that my students can use open source systems like Linux (or whatever)(. They enjoy building PC computers.  More and more, I’m finding the operating systems are working together seamlessly and it doesn’t really matter what it is.

Doug:  Great answer, Zoe!  I wish more fanatics felt that way!  Have you ever had a technology in your classroom that you didn’t like or use to the best of your abilities?

Zoe:  Some tools and technologies have replaced other things over the years. For example, I love my document camera, but now we use iPads instead. I love the Front Row audio system as well. Front Row Canada has provided my class with a new “Juno” unit which allows wireless audio podcast recording.  Over the years I’ve had a chance to experiment with Podcasting, including doing podcasts with expeditioners in the South Pole. With more time, I’d like to use this tool more often!  I am fortunate to have a set of iPads in my classroom and a mini laptop station, which I bought from the money I saved by NOT using the school photocopier!! True story! I rarely use the school computer lab as most students are bringing in their own devices.  

Doug:  I hope that your fund raising suggestion inspires others!  Does your philosophy include interactive white boards?

Zoe: I have a SMARTboard and projector in my classroom as well. There is much talk about  SMARTboards and their impact in teaching and learning. It is my opinion that any tool can be used well or not well and just depends on the level and depth of learning we expect.  It frustrates me when people generalize about tools and their impact. There is much value in the use of an interactive tool, just like there is value in any tool depending on how it is used.  We’ve really been enjoying the touch screen interactivity during our coding projects. It is fun to create a java script or HTML and then play with them on the Smartboard! So many of my students prefer to stand and touch the screen, especially when traveling the world or playing with math tools.

Doug:  You’ve always been embracing the new changes in technology and pedagogy as they come along.  You’ve taught at a Faculty of Education and now there’s a change in your assignment for next year.  What do you bring to the table that people need to be excited about?

Zoe: I have really enjoyed teaching at Brock University. I will continue to work part-time for the faculty of education teaching I/S students about technology integration and social media. As well, I will continue to teach Additional Qualification courses such as the Junior Basic Qualification courses.

I’m really excited for my new position with the HWDSB next year to support the Gifted Education Program. I will work with teachers, schools, students and their families in developing programs that are current and engaging.  I’d  look forward to extending this job beyond the board and developing partnerships across the province and further. I have so much to learn and I’m pretty fortunate to have so many online connections to help me develop and grow into this job!

Doug:  I think I speak for the thousands that know and/or follow you when I say that we wish you the best of luck.  You’ve always shared your learning on Twitter and through your blog:  Please promise to keep us in the loop as you experience this new adventure.

Zoe: Thank you so much Doug. As I’ve said already, it is with your support and guidance that empowers me to take risks and try new things. I feel so lucky to be working at a time when we can connect beyond our classroom and school. I feel so lucky to know that even when I make a mistake or am feeling defeated that I have friends to pull me up and point me back in the right direction. Life is full of opportunities and I will continue find the current and exciting ways to learn from/with and teach others!

Doug: All the best, Zoe.  Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview.

You can follow Zoe Branigan-Pipe on Twitter at @zbpipe.

Blogging About the ECOO Conference

It’s been a week already since the ECOO Conference in Toronto.  It was a great few days and certianly a lot of learning at the time.  How does it stick?  One of the ways is thanks to the blogging of folks that were there.  I set a Google Alert for #ECOO12.  I know that I would miss blog posts but hopefully, Google wouldn’t.  Here’s what we found….

The ECOO Experience #ecoo12

Scott Kemp presented at the conference and shared his thoughts plus his presentation slides “It’s Not About the Number – Learning Without Marks”.  I thought that the session was particularly timely.  There’s a lot of discussion about assessment and the value of our current system.


ECOO 2012 – Learn in the NOW Century

I thought that I had missed my friend Diana Maliszewski.  She warned me that I wouldn’t recognize her at the conference and she was right.  I expected some sort of wild and whacky hair colour.  I didn’t know until after the fact that the Minecraft icon who bowed to me was actually Diana inside!

Her blog entry is actually her report to her principal about her reflections on the conference.


Moving From Newsletters to Blogs – My Presentation-That-Never-Was at #ECOO12

This session was on my personal calendar to view.  After all, I had blogged previously “Your School Doesn’t Need a Newsletter”.  I had re-read the original post and was curious to see how closely aligned my thoughts were to Erin Paynter’s.  Sadly, I had to announce to the Thursday morning group that the session was cancelled.  However, Erin has at least provided the slideshow that would have been used.  A good Plan B.  Thanks, Erin.


ECOO12 – BYOD Panel Discussion

Mark Carbone and I have had this discussion lots of time.  Over this period, the focus has shifted from “Is this a good idea” to “How do we make it work?” to “We need to step back and evaluate this going forward”.  In fact, it was the focus of my keynote at the summer CATC Camp a couple of years ago.  At ECOO, Mark assembled a panel to continue the discussion.


In the post, Mark lays out the format of the conversation including their guiding questions.

Sticking Your Neck Out

One of the keynote speakers at ECOO had an impact away from the conference.  Colleen Rose shared a quote from Michael Fullan that her principal Donna Fry had shared with her.  This quote is indeed worthy of thought.


Take a Risk- Tales from ECOO

@hendylou shared her thoughts continuing the theme of risk taking by sharing some of her thoughts during the panel discussion.


The focus that John Seely Brown noted about the bottom fixing itself is very interesting.  Instead of the top down “One and Done” approach to PD, it really amplifies the notion that professional learning is continuous and needs to be personalized.  In the quest for personalization, we need to be willing to take those risks and fail in order to learn.  Absolutely.

Let’s Play! Now Let’s Document!

Early Years’ teachers always seem to be able to on what’s truly important.  Jocelyn Schmidt talked about her presentation at the ECOO conference.  It sounded like there was a great turnout, noting that she was overwhelmed by those who were in attendance.  And they all weren’t full-day kindergarten teachers.



I really liked the brainstorming wordmap that was provided on the blog.  She must have really enjoyed the time that John Seely Brown’s comments on Montessori.

‘Digital Storytelling’ presentation at ECOO

What would a technology conference be without sessions about digital storytelling?


I had to smile at the comment that digital story telling is one of the things that her students do best.  What better testament for the effective use of technology?  When you think of all of the pedagogical and technological learnings that one needs to be successful, wouldn’t it be great if everyone could make that claim?

Forming an ECOO Presentation

Every wonder what goes into a success conference presentation?  Tim King read a book.  Actually three books that helped him frame his discussion.


The message in this session is important for all to hear.  You can’t just stick 25 boxes in a room and call it computer integration.  Who cares if 25 kids can type 25 stories in a word processor at the same time?  Tim explored how to try to reach the promise that technology affords.  It doesn’t look like the traditional setup.


Camille Rutherford had an interesting presentation. “Using Technology to Support the Distribution of School Leadership”


We’re using the technology for everything else.  Why not distributed leadership?  Can there be no better evidence that we need to have everyone onside and learning?

Minecraft Madness and Play at ECOO 2012

This was where Diana was headed!  What can mining and Minecraft bring to the classroom?


I think that it’s so cool that Liam found a group of students ready to sit in on his session.  They had to be from Royan Lee’s group.  I think it’s also cool that they were there to learn along with their teachers.  Did you ever think we’d see that?  Often students come to a conference to work on a panel and then leave.

Excitement for #ecoo12

And, why not go to a conference for some quality time with your dad?


That was one of Jamie Weir’s goals for the conference.  (I also wanted to talk to her dad!)  I didn’t get the chance but hopefully she did.  I did get an opportunity to have a nice chat with Jamie which was one of the highlights of the conference for me.  As she notes, it’s always nice to get together and chat with people that we learn with daily.

There were lots of great posts describing the ECOO experience.  Thanks everyone for sharing.  If I missed yours, blame Google and please let me know!

You can read these blog posts at the original site and all of the great blogs from Ontario Educators here.