This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s been another week of great posts from Ontario Edubloggers.

Look what crossed my desktop this week.

Trolls Creep Into the Education Debate in Ontario

From Paul McGuire, a message that I don’t think should come as a surprise to anyone.  Teachers and education are always a target by those not in education.  I’ve mentioned this many times before; we’ve all had less than perfect experiences in education.  It only takes issues like we see these days to fuel the fire.  People feel the desire to fire back.

And, of course, there are those that will fire back in their own trollish fashion.

A great collection of definitions of “troll” appear here.  Pick one.

Paul offers an insightful post that I really enjoyed.  But then, I’m a teacher for life and so I’m bound to agree with him.  I do tend to block those that are overly trollish to me.  I don’t need that negativity in my life.

There are two things that I think are really bad behaviour.

  • The anonymous troll – they don’t have the guts to sign their real name to their thoughts.  Look for them adding comments on public newspaper articles.
  • The troll within – those within the teaching profession who have an axe to grind and take shots at colleagues.

Morale Compass

Yes, Ann Marie Luce said morale.

I saw this post as a two-parter from her.  At a recent workshop she attended, a common theme of morale and climate within the school kept being discussed.  I think it probably was an insightful observation by those who were in attendance.  Things are certainly different than when we were in school.  I suspect that, if we’d been a fly on the wall at our teachers’ staff meetings, that the comments might have been the same.  Kids today.

Later in the post, recent announcements in Ontario became the topic of her focus as she identifies some of the issues facing our schools and our teachers.  Kudos to her for keeping tabs on things even though she’s thousands of miles away.

She poses a key question…

How can we work together to value and support each member of our community?

In the midst of everything that’s happening, it’s a question that everyone should be asking because, as Ann Marie notes…

we CANNOT do it alone!

The problem(s) with mandatory e-learning…

I was around at the beginning of online learning within our district.  We had many questions at the time.  The big question that helped frame things was essentially to make sure that online learning was significantly better than correspondence courses.  Students should get the same learning experience and should graduate with the same knowledge, skills, and attitudes as those in traditional face to face classrooms.

We found that it wasn’t easy.  We also determined that online learning wasn’t for everyone and there was even a FAQ posted to the website that indicated that online learning might not be for everyone.  That has since been removed.

At the time, we addressed many of the same points that Kyleen Gray identifies in this post.


  • Plagiarism and Cheating
  • Teacher Selection and Training
  • Literacy, Technology and Independent Learning Skills
  • Lack of Classroom Relationships
  • Stagnant, Impersonal Course Material

Things are different today.  Witness the large number of services that now offer courses online.  At the same time, read the stories behind the low success rates despite the claims from the services.  Personally, I’ve had mixed experiences trying to learn new skills online.  (typically trying to learn a new programming language)

While I think that our consortium did a decent job offering opportunities for the students that enrolled, we didn’t have the mandate that every student in the problem take four courses to graduate.  Revisiting the above observations is going to be more important and mission critical than ever.



Strategies vs Models

This post, from Mark Chubb, had me thinking in a tangent that I hadn’t had before.  The difference between strategies and models.

Including a graphic that will make you investigate and think.

Mark’s done his homework on this – including references and links to the work of Cathy Fosnot and Pam Harris.  Clicking through and reading his research is highly recommended.

This table provides a nice summary.

An important part of his argument is attention needed for developmental trajectories.

This isn’t a quick and easy read with all the supporting links included but they form a crucial part of the message.

D is for Debate

Lynn Thomas is working her way through the alphabet and is now on D.

“Is there any point in public debate in a society where hardly anyone has been taught how to think, while millions have been taught what to think?”

In an educated society, debate whether personal or with others is really a skill.  It also requires the maturity to recognize that your initial position may be partially or completely incorrect.  Our media doesn’t always acknowledge a change in opinion and, often when it does, uses the term “flip flop” instead.  The topic of the debate, in these situations, goes away and the focus shifts to the person.

When I first read Lynn’s post, I scribbled myself a note:

We live in a society that often vilifies the other person and not necessarily the opinion they have – i.e. they’re bad so that means their ideas are bad too

Lynn offers a strategy straight from John Dewey about how it look like in the classroom.  I wonder, though, can it look that way in real life?

Choose your own… PD.


I really appreciate it when Cal Armstrong opens his mind and shares some of the thinking that he’s doing.  He’s always got great ideas.

In this case, he was one third of a Professional Development Day.  He says that he would have 30-40 teachers at a time.  Now, we’ve all been in laid on professional learning events and we know how they go over at times.  Particularly with a technological bent, people are all over the map with their expertise and their interests.

So, Cal did a “Create Your Own Adventure” activity in OneNote.

Depending upon your path, you might end up, well, I guess at an Office, whatever that means.  You will get a chance to discover that if you stick with his post.

Cal shares a link to the Notebook so that you can relive the experience.  I spent a bit of time poking around myself.  Cal’s sense of humour comes through!

There was a chance to see new tools that are available to staff.  There were some challenges with the IT implementation and controls at the school.  But, it sounds like a great approach.  Could you use it?

And, we need to know more about this, Cal.

Since this would be my swan song as the tech guy 

#BIT19 Call for Proposals is OPEN!

On the ECOO blog, Ramona Meharg lets us know that the Bring IT, Together Conference is now open and looking for session submissions.

I don’t know about you but I’d go into any session presented from the folks who are included in this edition of This Week in Ontario Edublogs.

Please take some time to click through and read these original posts.  Drop off a comment if you’re so inclined.  Tell them Doug sent you!  <grin>

Then, follow them on Twitter.

Please check in every Friday and see what great things are happening on the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers.

This post appeared originally on:

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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

And it’s a very special Friday in Ontario….

Enjoy these offerings from Ontario Edubloggers.

Stretched Thin

Tim King’s recent post is one that’s all too familiar to educators.  It’s about professional development that he received for a student hard of hearing in his classroom.  It’s only about a month into the second semester though.

And, in the technology classroom with its potentially dangerous tools, it’s really important to be able to ensure that all students know about the safety issues.

we are working hands on with 400° soldering irons, sharp edges and live electricity

It seems to me that this professional development should have been made available in this case before the class started to ensure that all students understand and are aware of how to be safe in that environment.

Speaking of environment, one piece of the advice for was

In the PD it was also suggested that we have acoustically effective rooms by covering walls and floors with soft surfaces that don’t create hard, echoey soundscapes

How do you do that in just about any classroom, never mind a shop area?

With cuts bleeding the system, what else will be affected?

Proofreader or Instructional Leader?

If creating report cards for a class is a tough job, imagine reading an entire school’s worth in the principal’s chair.  We know that, for any job, a second set of eyes is always helpful.

Sue Bruyns argues that it’s more than just looking for spelling mistakes.

In this post, she indicates all of the other things that she looks for as she checks out the messages that will be going home to parents.  As important as spelling is, for her the message about the school and its place in social circles is equally as important.

I think this is a good post for all administrators to read; I’m sure that many will find themselves nodding affirmation as they go through it.  Others might add a few new things to their check lists.

For those creating report cards, it’s a reminder of how important that message can be and might give you some ideas of your own for the future.

I did crack a smile when Sue shared her strategy for dealing with those who were unfortunate enough to be named toward the end of the alphabet…  how about those of us mid-way, Sue?

When Students Shine!

We all know the answer to that – great things happen.

It’s always interesting to see what motivates these great things.  In this post from Rola Tibshirani, it was curiosity about a dead bird.

Which led them to Facebook and Twitter which led them to the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care which led them to Patty McLaughlin which led them to that expert visiting their classroom which led to a inquiry/passion based research project guided by design thinking.


It’s a wonderful post describing how educational dominoes tipped over to make it happen.

Have a read; it might inspire you to think differently about creativity and to keep your eyes open for the next bit of classroom inspiration.

New books: take an eReading March break!

Just in time for March Break, the Professional Library from the Toronto District School Board offers some professional titles for “over the break” reading.


This is great for the educators in the TDSB.

Going into any library can be an intimidating experience and we’re so fortunate to have teacher-librarians to stay on top of the latest and greatest titles for us.

Even if you’re not with the TDSB, and you’re looking for some reading over the break, stay away from the newspapers (they’re just so depressing), read this blog, and check out what your own district offers.  And, if they don’t have the titles listed here, perhaps a friendly suggestion would be in order.

Canada’s New Food Guide

The release of the new food guide raised a few eyebrows around here.  Disclosure – I married the farmer’s daughter and that farmer was a dairy farmer.  We were both surprised at the recommendation that water should be your first choice; it always had been milk.

Anyway, Stepan Pruchnicky uses the new guide as inspiration for better eating among students.  He addresses a couple of concerns

  • eating healthy is a more expensive option
  • many of the new guide’s recommendations require some kitchen skills

and offers some suggestions.  They’re nicely thought through.

With respect to the above, I could see

  • more interest in creating school community gardens
  • connections with associated secondary schools which often offer hospitality and food services programs and have rooms devoted to this – field trip!

What would you suggest?

Spending time with professional teachers

While looking for thoughts from people that attended the ACSE Conference, I ran into this post from Emmanuelle Deaton from Hatch Coding, a vendor in that field.

I enjoyed her quick overview of the conference and her name dropping indicated that she did make some good connections there.  It would have been a great opportunity for her to participate by giving a lightning round presentation.

I thought this comment from Emmanuelle interesting.

I also noted with interest that, like us at Hatch Coding, most teachers at ACSE are all “coded” out. That is to say, that the co-opting of the term “coding” by anyone with a toy robot and the co-opting of the term “curriculum” by anyone with anything to sell in STEAM is having a deleterious impact on pedagogy.

People are indeed doing some great things with their robots but it’s still found in pockets of excellence or pockets of experimentation.  Where it fits into the big scheme of things hasn’t been totally fleshed out and the inconsistency can be frustrating.

Still, there are people making big bucks with fly by keynote speeches talking of the value of coding in various forms.

The Hatch Coding blog doesn’t allow for comments on posts but there is an email link if you have strong feelings and want to share them.

Design Thinking and 3D printing challenges

Jen Apgar told me once that she didn’t blog.  It’s too bad because I thought that she did a nice job with this post in the Elementary Special Interest Group for ECOO on TeachOntario.

She attended a Skills Challenge for students in the Junior years.

With the support of InkSmith the students had learned how to go through a design thinking process, were given the choice of 4 different users to solve for (3 humans and 1 dog) and then designed their first prototype on a web based version of Tinkercad.  Then on the day of the challenge then received their printed prototype, and tested and made modifications and they were then given an additional problem that would require them to iterate again.

It sounded like an interesting event.  I wonder – are these types of skills developed everywhere?

I’ll apologize here; it’s been my goal to share blog posts that are in the free and open.  This one is behind a login/password on the TeachOntario site which is available for free to all Ontario educators.  If you do go through the efforts to log in, you might as well join the Special Internet Group and look for other content there.

It’s been another week of great writing and reading from inspirational Ontario educators.  I hope that you can find time to check out the original posts before you go south, skiing, or just sink into the couch and relax next week.

Before you do, make sure you’re inspired enough to follow these educators on Twitter.

This post was originally posted to:

If you found it anywhere else, it’s not original.

Pre #BIT14 Interview with Derrick Schellenberg and Brian Aspinall

Michelle Cordy (@cordym on Twitter) continued her series of interviews leading to the Bring IT, Together Conference in Niagara Falls on November 5-7, 2014.

Last night, she talked to Derrick Schellenberg (@Mr_Schellenberg) and Brian Aspinall (@mraspinall) about their sessions.  This time, the focus was on inquiry in the classroom.  Both Derrick and Brian have TLLP projects and they served as the basis for the interview.

It was a rainy, rainy night here last night and I was unable to get a good, reliable connection to watch the interview live last night.  There are parts of the interview where internet connections were definitely an issue.  I guess I don’t have a monopoly on that.  Anyway, you can enjoy the interview since it was recorded.

Look for shout outs to Royan Lee, David Fife, and James Cowper and their blogs.

Michelle’s previous interviews leading into the #BIT14 conference…

Yesterday in Ontario MicroBlogging

Normally, on Fridays, I share some of the wonderful Ontario Blogging efforts from the previous week.  I thought I would take a slightly different tact this week.  There have been a lot of “last day(s)” thoughts shared on Twitter on Thursday.  Here’s some of what caught my eye in case you missed them.

I’ve created a Storify of some of them.  I could have kept going and going but I’ll leave that up to you if you wish.

You can follow all of the Ontario Educators on my lists here and here.  It’s so good to see the professionalism of the discussion at the end of a very long and eventful school year.

If you want to be added yourself, visit here and complete the form!

Check out the complete Storify here.

(I think this is a record for the number of heres in a post!)




Just to finish with a couple of blog references.


This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Once again, there was some great sharing from Ontario Educators this week.  Some of what caught my eye…

Redacted, Frozen, Blocked, — and Saved
Andy Forgrave’s latest post brought a smile to me.  It was on the heels of a move in What’s the Phrase in a game with @tgianno.  She absolutely kills me in word games and the new game features the category “First World Problem”.  Fortunately, I won one round.  The answer was “Have to Change Password Again”.

Well, it seems to me that Andy’s run full steam into his own share of first world problems in the activities described in his latest post.

These things are the things that we bump our heads on regularly as we live in an online world.  Somehow, Andy’s post made me feel pretty good knowing that I’m not the only one!

Pause the World Daddy…I Have to Pee!

This is the sort of title for a post that I know that @Noeline would love.  It immediately catches one’s attention and you just have to drop everything and see what Stephen Hurley’s up to this time.

Stephen often talks about having children a little later in life that the rest of us.  In this case, I think that he’s able to pass along some wisdom to his son Luke that I wasn’t.

For me, there was no pause button.  Particularly in the spring, it was up and at ’em, drop the kids off at school and child care, go to work, run a workshop from 4-6, rush to a baseball diamond to hopefully catch up with my wife and kids.  If it was a “good night”, there was only one child playing baseball.  On a rushed night, one of us would go to one place and the other to another place.  The third forgotten, by her words, child would be tagged along to one or the other.  Then, it was home to baths and beds anywhere from 8:30-9:00.  And, finally some dinner and an opportunity to get caught up on each other’s day.  Pause wasn’t an option, it seems.

Hats off to Stephen that he’s being able to have the discussion about pausing a busy life.  For all of us, we know that things aren’t getting slower.

Hello (NapoWriMo #17) and Position of Responsibility
I normally feature teacher posts in the Friday Ontario Edublog posts and today I question that.  Why not a student post?  I’ve been following @bgrasley’s blog and TheBookyBunHead‘s blog as they attempt to deal with a month of poetry.  Both of them constantly amaze me with their insights and their ability to keep it up.

Two of their recent offerings showed some very inspirational things for me.

“Hello” includes an image and a quote before the poem.  The quote is awesome and should be posted everywhere that there are eyes to read.  In particular, any discussion on character.

“The only person you should try to be better than… is the person you were yesterday.”

Love it!

“Responsibility” kinds of ties so many things together.

“Should I lead?”

So many people opt for the easy way out and say “No”.

Highlight From Our Geometry Focus
There were two things that stood out in Marcie Martel’s latest post.

First there are some wonderful pictures showing the activities that her Grade One class enjoyed as they played, discovered, and learned all about geometry.

You can just visualize the classroom abuzz with activities as the students enjoyed the various areas for exploration.

I don’t care who you are.  You’ve got to appreciate hula hoops for a Venn diagram…

The second thing doesn’t seem to be planned and it deals with connectivity…a second grade class from Michigan happens along to comment on the blog post and the activities.  They’re studying the same thing.

Does it get much better than that?

Please take the time to read and enjoy the posts above and all of the good things coming from Ontario Educators.


This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Friday posts are my most favourite.  I like to take some time to honour some of the spectacular blog entries from the great collection of Ontario Edubloggers.  Please click through and support these folks.

The Impact of Culture on Feedback

I thought that this post from Royan Lee was one of the more important ones that I’d read in a while.  In the post, he explores just what feedback means.

This one needs to be shared far and wide.

He inspired a couple of blog entries from me on the topic.

Third From the Top


Meant to be?

I followed a tip for a blog post from the WordPress inspiration post and ended up at Royan’s post.  In the first of the entries, he made me reflect upon the evolving nature of formal (read that as report cards) feedback.

Hot and Sour Soup

It was a comment on that post that led me to the second.

I think that it’s great that we allow ourselves to tinker and think about so many things when it comes to feedback.  It would be so easy to just take the handbook and do what you’re told to do.  I included a dialogue between two Ontario educators about the paperless classroom as an example of the professional discourse that we are fortunate enough to see, if we’re connected.

It also reinforces the sorrow that one feels for those who elect not to get online and participate.

The Science of Passion-Based Learning

Writing an article for the PLPNetwork, one of Ontario’s treasures when it comes to educational thinking, Peter Skillen takes on some research and his thinking about passion-based learning.  He makes the argument that passion based goes beyond simple engagement.

He deals with the devil – memorization as a baseline for the discussion.

His post caused me to think about my own experiences.  This time, it was about the computer programs I’d written over the years.  At university, it wasn’t uncommon to nap in the evening and then head over to the computer centre for the middle of the night programming.  That was, for me, engagement.  (and the reality that the mainframes were much more responsive then).

But, passion appears when I would work all day, wolf down some sort of supper and then program and debug (admittedly more debugging than programming) all evening and then all night.  Yes, I was engaged, but it was the passion for the project that kept me at it.

In this post, I think that Peter really nails it.  Kudos, bud.

Persistence Pays Off….

They never had pottery in art class when I went to school.  But, if you were attending Nipigon-Red Rock District High School, you’d get an opportunity to be creative in this field apparently.

A recent post indicates that there’s more than just that.  Students had to experience what it was like to be a real potter and reclaim their own materials.  This post includes a nice collection of photos showing the process the students followed.  Wow!

Commander Hadfield Saw Us!

And, if that wasn’t enough, how about some out of this world experiences for the students!  They created a video and sent a Twitter message to Chris Hadfield in the International Space Station where he watched it and tweeted back!

The experience is captured forever in this post.  Also check out the reference to principal Donna Fry’s explanation about their involvement with the project.  Again, wow!

Please check out these posts at the links above.  You can check out the rest of the great things coming from the keyboards of Ontario Educators here.

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Where are We?

Happy #FollowFriday, Ontario Educators.  Hope that it’s a good one for you.

Have you ever wondered how far and wide our participants are?  I have too.  One of the things that you can do when you register your Twitter account is give the name of a community.  If you’re openly transparent, you can give your complete address or Geo-Locate yourself with your Smart Phone.  Or, you could play it safe and just give a general location or none at all.

As you know, I’m big about visualization and am constantly looking at ways to create them.

I always wondered if I could plot our little group on a Google Map given the information that’s provided freely in Twitter profiles.  The current list totals 314 of us.  Even I wouldn’t go through the list one by one and plot on a map.  I’ve always wanted to find some way to automate the process and I managed to put the puzzle together this week.  Here we are in the province.


And, here’s how I did it.

I needed a way to get at the data and it turns out that a service that I subscribe to does a wonderful job of it.  The service is called  It’s designed to let you access accounts or lists to pull the information.  So, I gave it the address to the Ontario Educators list at and does its thing.  One of the export options is to export in CSV format and it’s now sitting on my hard drive.  Cool.  If you ever have to work with data, you know that there often is some cleaning up to do.  In this case, there was a bit but Libre Office did a wonderful job of it.

First of all, not everyone had provided an easily accessible location so I deleted them.  That left me with 155 valid entries.  If I was concerned, I’d have to dig deeper but I just wanted to make sure that I could make it work.

Then, I needed to clean up locations.  There were some “Toronto”s and some “Toronto, Ontario”s and some “Toronto, ON”s and some “Toronto, Ontario, Canada”s.  Hmmmm.  This appeared to be a problem until I clued in that everyone was from Ontario anyway.  So, I did a Find and Replace for “Ontario”, replacing it with nothing.  Ditto for “Canada” and “ON”.  That cleaned up the list very nicely…except for the “ON” part.  It kind of butchered the “Toronto” folks but that was easily fixed.  A quick scan up and down the list revealed some folks who had misspelled their town.  Fixed.  So, that gave me a column of Ontario towns and cities.  Next, I want to be able to plot them on an Ontario map so in the column next, I filled a bunch of “, Ontario”s.  And, next to that I filled a column with the community concatenated with the province.  =A1&B1 in C1 composed things nicely.

Time to save the file.

Now, the question becomes one of how to get these communities on a map?  There’s a terrific service called Click2Map.  It provides a simple map editor and features a wizard that pulls markers (in my case the communities) from an uploaded file.  You can watch the wizard plot the points and soon there’s a bundle of markers where Ontario resides on the map.  Now, it’s just a matter of zooming to isolate the province and I have the map as shown above.

You’ll notice that what folks from Northern Ontario say is true.  Those of us in Southern Ontario are dense.  Or at least densely populated.  Let’s zoom in and get a better picture.


Isn’t that interesting?

And, not to ignore our friends in the north, we can zoom to reveal…


You’ve got to love Highway 11.

Back to Southern Ontario, Click2Map does recognize that there will be times when the markers are close together and you can bundle them.  Southern Ontario bundled looks like this.


I did have a great deal of fun playing around with the / Libre Office / Click2Map combination.  Even though the entire database wasn’t useful, I suspect that the trends would be similar if everyone had their community located.

I can see all kinds of classroom applications flowing from this activity.

  • Go beyond the province and try to find other areas that are identifiable by location.
  • Talk about how much information that you provide online.  (Make sure to compare it with what’s already in a phone book for perspective)
  • Could telephone numbers or email addresses be harvested in a similar manner given the appropriate data?  What could you do with a file of email addresses?

In the meantime, scroll back to the top and see the distribution of Ontario Educators on Twitter.  I don’t imagine that the distribution comes as a surprise.  If you are an Ontario Educator and wish to be added to the list, please add yourself to the form at:  I’d really like to add your blog to the list of great content that we’re generating in the province.  You can access the blogs added at the link above or at