This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to another Friday and a look around at some great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers. At least I think/hope it’s Friday. All the days seem the same anymore. My biggest fear it to post this on a Thursday or do a #FollowFriday on a day that isn’t Friday.


Simple Remote Learning Fixes

This is kind of a public service for those new to using a computer for serious things other than game playing or a refresher for those of us who know everything (or at least did at one time) and have forgotten but still think you can leap tall buildings. See the link in Tim King’s post about the Dunning-Kruger Effect if you think that’s you.

Tim’s post has seven things to check out. I hope that you never get to having to do #7 since both Microsoft and Apple have had some buggy updates as of late. Chances are, you’ll never have to get past #1 on his list.

Of course, one of Tim’s suggestions assumes that you have two devices, one of which isn’t working properly, to solve some problems.

Barring that, there are those that you can reach out to via your network if all else fails. I can’t think of anyone that wouldn’t empathize when a colleague has an issue and offer support. Personally, I’ve helped out a few people and don’t mind if I have what I think might be a solution to their problem.

If the device in question is on loan from a school district for home use, there may be some restraints on what you can do by yourself.


Here I Am Again

Thanks to Sheila Stewart, I now have this earworm.

Sheila uses this post to share her present feelings and to pose a couple of hypothetical questions that will ultimately be answered as we go forward.

She notes that she finds comfort in music. I suspect that she’s not alone. I tend to have music on all the time anyway and I can understand that.

I especially like finding new music which is what this post did for me. It’s not the sort of song that you’re going to put on while you’re doing a workout though. The best part though, is that it sparked a bit of a private communication between myself and Sheila. That was great

We used the song as the intro to the This Week in Ontario Edublogs podcast this past week.


Authors, Mathematicians, Researchers, And Scientists: Are We Calling Them By Name?

So this post, from Aviva Dunsiger, started with a little popularity poll that she posted to Twitter to find out what people were eating for Easter. Thank goodness for blogs; I didn’t see the post when it originally went out but did catch it later on Aviva’s blg. FWIW, we had ham steak, brocolli, and potatoes with peach crumble for dessert. Normally, our house is filled with people and there’s a much more diverse menu but this year there was just the two of us.

I’m glad that Aviva didn’t call this a statistics exercise because there certainly was a limited sample size and audience. She did get the attention of @jennzia who offered some suggestions for a much richer approach.

Aviva did mention the use of professional terms like “scientists”, “mathematicians”, “authors and illustrators” and “researchers”.

I couldn’t resist – “I’m not a scientist but I play one at school”.

And that’s not a bad thing.


Slice of (home teaching) Life

This was a short and to the point post from Lisa Corbett.

I found it rich in successes with things done on time (teachers love noting the time …) and kids remembering passwords after being away from school for three weeks. These are major successes.

Lisa also indicated that she had created a video to help families log in. From her description, there was a bit of a learning curve with the video taking 45 minutes and she’s confident that the next ones will go quicker.

There is another element that I can help but notice – Lisa’s class won’t be unique in having this experience. Now is absolutely the time for teachers to share resources. It lightens the load and the stress of doing everything yourself.

Apparently Lisa listened to the Wednesday voicEd Radio show because she did respond acknowledging how she appreciates it when people share and she’s made a connection with Melanie White for future ideas.

Folks, this is heart-warming – this is why we make connections to other educators. There is so much love and support at times.


Reflections: Week #1 Of Remote Learning

Rola Tibshirani shares how her Week #1 went.

In the classroom, we practice being passionate about each other and be forgiving to oneself when struggling. We support our feelings that no one is left alone to struggle nor to be overwhelmed.

This is an inspirational post where she outlines what the reality is in her regular face-to-face classes. It reads like a what’s what in terms of planning and implementation.

At least under normal conditions.

But, as we know, these are not normal conditions so it will be interesting to follow Rola and see how successful she can be moving forward.

I really like the fact that she closes the post with a message of mindfulness and self-caring. She includes a Twitter message from Kevin O’Shea about fatigue setting in.

It’s wise advice for all.


Coding? Now!? Who Cares?

Well, Peter Skillen does for one.

Me for another.

I’ve been using all this time at home trying to find things to stay engaged. I did clean up my workspace to the point where I can’t find anything anymore. In addition to my regular habit of blogging, I have done a bit of programming. It’s nothing serious; I just get a kick out of putting together some instructions and pressing run to have the computer do something. It remains a mental rush and piece of satisfaction after all these years.

So, Peter does restate his personal philosophy of learning and coding in particular as a way to introduce the learner to his current passion – working with Code to Learn with details about how to get involved with the coding, examples, and links to upcoming learning webinars. Past sessions are online so you’re never without.


Online Learning in a Hurry – a Course in a Hurry

Online learning has become a priority for everyone in education and the University of Windsor’s Dave Cormier wasn’t left out.

Now, however, we at UWindsor Office of Open Learning (OOL) find ourselves facing the idea of ‘teaching teachers to teach online,’ not for few final weeks of emergency remote teaching, but for a term. At least.

Dave has taken to his blog to explain the process of putting this all together, well, in a hurry. Isn’t everyone in that boat?

The result is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous times. The structure for the synchronous is

  1. Introduction to Online learning
  2. Thinking through course goals online
  3. Finding content (includes learner/web as content)
  4. Creating content (includes lecture/text etc…)
  5. Assignments and assessments
  6. The student experience (reflection on their experience in the course and what that tells them about how students will experience it.

This isn’t a quick process and you can tell from a read that there is a great deal of thought that has gone into this.

Beyond this, the University of Windsor is also offering advice for K-12 educators through three online webinars. Details here. Registration required.


I hope that you can set aside some time to click through and read these posts in their entirety. As always, there’s great advice there from educators here in the province.

Then, make sure that you follow them online via Twitter.

  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Sheila Stewart – @sheilaspeaking
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Lisa Corbett – @LisaCorbett0261
  • Rola Tibshirani – @rolat
  • Peter Skillen – @peterskillen
  • Dave Cormier – @davecormier

This post appears at:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

10 Questions for Alfred Thompson


Ontario teachers are about to embark on a “Learn at Home” initiative with the extended closure of Ontario schools.  The situation will mean different things depending upon the school district that you work for and your subject area. 

At Bishop Guertin School, they moved their classes online three weeks ago and are trying their best to replicate what would normally happen in a regular classroom.  Alfred Thompson (@alfredtwo on Twitter) is a computer science teacher at Bishop Guertin and I asked him over the weekend to share his experiences and inspiration for Ontario teachers as they start this new adventure. 


The Decision – This had to be a big decision.  Who made the decision?  Is a school day scheduled the same way? 

Alfred: Our school administration made the decision. We draw from a wide range of cities and towns in two states. The area south of the city we are located in was starting to see a lot of COVID-19 cases and we decided that moving online was the best thing for our students, faculty, and staff. We moved online a week or two before most surrounding schools. 

We are having our morning homerooms (we call it advisory) meet online every morning. Being a Catholic school, we start the day with a prayer, morning announcements, and the Pledge of Allegiance.  We usually hang around for a few minutes of chit chat as well. 


The Students – At the heart of education are the students.  How are they handling being at home and handling the technology they’re using?   

Alfred: Our students all seem to have reasonable technology and connectivity at home. Our school is committed to helping students who don’t but for privacy reasons I would not necessarily know about that. Our usual tech support people are available via email and phone. Students have their contact information available to them. 

I think our students are really missing the personal contact with each other. In some of my classes I have just left the microphones open so they can chat among themselves for a while. 


Timetables – How important is having a regular timetable?  I know that you have a couple of students overseas.  How are they handling things? 

Alfred: I have two students who have returned to China. They are quarantined in hotel rooms. It’s lonely for them so I think they like “coming to class.” Being alone they are sort of still living on Eastern US time. They get up late and go to bed late. Their first class is 9PM local time and the last class is at their midnight. I don’t know how well that will work for them after quarantine. 

For my students who are still in the US I suspect that having a regular schedule helps. Though they do tell me that learning online is harder than learning face to face. 


The Tools – What are the tools that you and the students are using?  Are they working as they should? 

Alfred: Students need an internet connected device that can run Google Meet and Zoom which are the conferencing tools we are using. We have an integrated content management and student information system that we have been using for several years. It was developed by a company that Blackboard bought out some time ago. Students and teachers are used to using it for attendance, giving and returning assignments, and even creating and taking quizzes and tests. So that works out well. 

Discipline has been less of an issue if only because it is harder for students to distract each other. I did switch one class to Zoom because Google Meet didn’t do enough to let me keep in control of the microphones.  But other than that things have gone very well. Student seem to want to learn and make the most of the time. 


The Content – What courses are you teaching?  How have you had to modify things to accommodate the new reality? 

Alfred: I am teaching three courses. Our freshman Explorations in CS course, a Programming Honors course, and a section of Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles. We’ve dropped a few topics from the freshmen course but I feel good that we will cover enough to make it a solid course. I was running ahead of my schedule with Programming Honors and feel confident that we will cover all the material. Will we get as deep as I would like? I’m less sure about that. My AP CS course uses the curriculum from Code.ORG which is largely online anyway. We’ll cover that completely.  

One thing we have been able to do is give access for a virtual machine at school that students can connect to over the Internet. This gives them full access to all the software and tools they would have if they were physically in one of our computer labs. I cannot imagine teaching these courses without that. Not switching in the middle of the semester. 

So no asterisk next to anything. Full credit. 


Assessment – Since Bishop Guertin is a college preparatory school, you’ll need to provide a mark at the conclusion of the course.  How do you handle tests, quizzes, and later on exams?   

Alfred: Personally, I have been doing all my quizzes online for years so no change there. A decision about final exams has yet to be made. For most of my courses I evaluate a semester end project. That is still possible if we decide to have a final because of the virtual machine students can access. 


One-to-one – as any Computer Science teacher will attest, there are times when you need to sit down beside a student and work your way through an issue or two.  What does that look like online?  Do you use any group-work strategies that work effectively? 

Alfred: This is tough. What I do when I can is ask a student to share their screen by taking over as a presenter. This is not ideal but it works and it also lets me model problem solving for the whole class.  When that doesn’t work I can open the student’s project directly from the shared network drive and look at it that way.  

I really need to figure out some group work. On the other hand, I have had students ask me a question and another student will give the answer faster than I do. That’s pretty cool. 


On-going feedback – Every teacher knows of this question – particularly for those mark hungry students.  “Did you mark our tests/assignments/quizzes yet?”  Since you don’t have commute time carved out of your day, do you have more time for this and return things prompter than you might otherwise? 

Alfred: I have been getting to some things faster than I used to. Losing that close to an hour drive each day does give me some extra time. Students are being very patient with teachers and each other. There is a sense that we are all in this together. 


No screen Wednesdays – I remember you sharing that teachers (and students?) were to stay away from electronic things like this one day a week.  How’s that working out? 

Alfred: We did that as an experiment this past week. The feedback is that it went well.  We will have a four-day week this week because of Good Friday as well. There is some thought to keeping a Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday schedule after that. I managed to spend a lot less time on the screen Wednesday. It was a good break even for a computer addict like me. 


Personal Workspace – Can you describe your own personal workspace that gets you through this?  Is there anything other than a computer, microphone, and camera that is needed to be successful?  In a previous profession, you used to travel far and wide helping teachers so you may have seen it all.  What advice could you give everyone at this time? 

Alfred: I have two laptops set up on my dining room table. I find that two screens are very helpful. I might even say essential. Both of my laptops have cameras, but I only use one camera at a time. I have a headset with a microphone that I wear constantly while “at school.” It has noise canceling features which is helpful to avoid distractions. I highly recommend a good headset for teachers. Less echo, better hearing, and sends a message to everyone else in the house that you are working. 

My wife retired in January, so she is not teaching. She does have her own setup in the family room which she uses. You know me well enough to know that there is no shortage of computers in my house. 

A second screen and a headset are two hardware recommendations. Setting out outside the main traffic area in your house is a second recommendation. Ideally you should have a place where you can leave your computer set up and not have to constantly set it up and break it down.  Our dining room is mostly for when we have guests so that works for me. It might not for everyone. 

Mostly, I would tell teachers to do what they can and not expect to be able to do all that they would in a normal classroom. These are not normal times. All you can do is the best you can do. 


Thanks so much, Alfred.  I know that your insights are comforting and insightful for educators. 

During this time, Alfred has picked up his blogging pace.  You can read his ongoing thoughts and observations here – http://blog.acthompson.net 

Collaboration


Last night, at the Ontario Educators’ Meetup, Ben Hazzard presented on the topic of “Connecting Teachers for Cross Classroom Collaboration”.  In the presentation, he related some of the successes that he has had with projects that involved connecting his students to others outside the school.

The concept of collaborating on a common project is a very powerful one and it works so well … provided you can find someone with the same goals and timelines as you.  But, how do you get started?

That’s where Ben’s resource “Teachers Connecting” fits into the picture.  Ben likened it to eHarmony for educators.  Come looking for your ideal match and see what happens!

A visitor to the site, after confirmed, is allowed to search through various projects and hop in.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for, create your own project and hopefully others will find you.  During Ben’s presentation, I signed up for an account and the discussion did get around to perhaps professional development folks getting together to collaborate about how we might roll out activities for newly licensed OESS software.

Checking in this morning, I already have one “buddy” – Mr. SadOne.  Maybe, after knowing each other for a couple of years, we’ll finally get a chance to do something together!

So, if you’re looking for an “out of classroom experience”, take a look around Ben’s site.  Registration is required but it’s quick and easy and you’re into the good stuff.

Social Bookmarks:
Blogged with the Flock Browser

If the Queen can do it


Interesting observations from a student in the UK.

http://students2oh.org/2007/12/26/royal-changes/

He asks a good question. If the British Monarchy is on top of things like having the Queen’s Christmas message delivered via the latest in technology, why aren’t schools up to the task? It may be an over simplification, but it does ask a good question. Somehow, I doubt that the Prince taped it on a cell phone and later uploaded it to YouTube. But that’s not the point. The point is that the whole organization recognized the power of using social media to reach the masses. To have the message on demand time shifts message. Instead of a once in a year event, it can now be played and revisited as often as you want. Through the magic of editing, the 1957 message is a perfect lead-in to this year’s message. Both are firsts; in 1957 it was the first televised broadcase and fifty years later, we have the first sanctioned Internet broadcast.

Similarly, the Ontario Ministry of Education recognizes the importance and power of new technologies. They are also cognisant of the current issues and bullying online is the focus of a recent review and report. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/safeschools/respect.html. The report is much more than an update on online bullying. It reveals the level of sophisticated use of technologies that students possess. One of the callouts says it all “… the Internet cannot be turned off – it’s global and it’s evolving.”

In the classroom, this could be a powerful tool. But, while it’s not turned off completely, it can be crippled. In typical slow to react fashion, the Queen’s message won’t be available as it gets trapped behind content filters. Capture it at home and bring it into class and play it? Don’t think so – check out the terms of use for the content. This potentially valuable resource will be unusable in many educational settings. But that’s OK. Even if it could be potentially played, there are often other hurdles that couldn’t be cleared. Wrong player, no bandwidth, abuse by others, …

But that’s OK. They won’t be able to see it in China either. http://www.forbes.com/technology/2008/01/03/china-censorship-youtube-tech-intel-cx_ag_1203techchina.html

The result is that students may get the opportunity to view it at home or at a friend’s house. What they won’t get is the ability to see it incorporated into a lesson by a professional that can help them see the importance of ever changing media.