Forest and Trees – Ontario Educator Style

A couple of weeks ago, I released my LiveBinders effort which was a way of sharing all the Ontario Educators who also had active blogs in one form or another.  The LiveBinder format allows for the easy display of any kind of links in your browser and, through tabs, an easy way for me to categorize the blogs by content.  I was pleased with the results and I think it was unique way to showcase the results of some of the excellent works from folks throughout the province as they share their ideas with their colleagues, the rest of the province, and indeed, anyone in the world who happens to drop by their blog.

So, in one spot, you could navigate to any Ontario educator blog, read it, and then rather than wandering around, link by link, to see what else was new, catch it all in one spot.  They just appear in the LiveBinder window and the navigation remains at the top of the screen so that you can quickly reach out and see what someone else has to say.  So, if I wanted to see @jaccalder’s latest, it’s just a matter of clicking on her “Ramblings” title and voila.

Whenever you try to do something like this and be inclusive, you realize very quickly that you’re not inclusive by any stretch of the imagination.  Within minutes of posting the blog entry, I received a message from another Ontario Educator asking why their blog wasn’t included and could I add theirs?  The answer is twofold – first of all, I don’t know every blog in the province and secondly, absolutely.

I then came to the realization that this probably wouldn’t be the only person.  A little noodle scratching later and I thought – you know, the content in a LiveBinder is just webpages.  Why don’t I write one to collect information from anyone who wanted to contribute and put it into a table so that I could use the web to collect this data rather than waiting for anyone new to come along and have to engage in a dialogue to get the necessary information.  I could write an active server page with an Access database like I did years ago when I wrote the Webquest Locator to collect and display webquests according to subject level.  So, I got about the task of writing something. I’m always challenged by appearance and design but maybe I could at least do something functional.

Then, for whatever reason, I paused and thought – man – you are so old school.  Sure, given enough time and FTP services, you could make this functional BUT the whole premise behind LiveBinders is that it displays webpages in the window.  All that I’m looking to do is collect four fields of information.  There’s a far easier method.  Haven’t you been the one that encourages people to use the excellent resources available on the web?  Literally, in seconds, I had a Google Form created – and it looked good too.  There was, in fact a template that had almost Twitter-like colours and even included some birds in its design.

I could spend hours on design and not get anything that looked that good!  With the appropriate tool, it was done in seconds.  Since, with each tab in the LiveBinder, you have to land somewhere, I elected to land on this collection form.  It looks great and it is absolutely functional.  The results go into a Google Spreadsheet serving as a modern-day table for this simple project and I just make the document notify me whenever someone happens to make an entry.  Then, I check to make sure that it’s legit – spammers are always looking for new ways to spread their poisonous word – and it becomes part of the collection.

It worked well.  From the original layout, to date, about a dozen new blogs that I didn’t know existed have been added to the collection.  Since it’s up there and live, I’m hoping that it will grow so that we can showcase the efforts of as many Ontario educators as possible.  If you know of one that’s not there, please have the author swing by and fill out the form.  I’d love to have them included.

Back to the original concept though, there was an important takeaway for me.  Even with all the skills that I might have in my arsenal, I need to make sure that I look at a problem from all angles.  With so many great tools at my disposal, brute force should only be a last resort!  Think it through, Doug.  Hence the title of this entry.

A Fountain of Ontario Educators

Here’s a great way to showcase a collection on Twitter.  The utility is called TwitterFountain.  With a few settings, you’re up and running showing off a stream, your stream, or the results of search on Twitter.  I’m thinking that it would be an awesome way to showcase a Hashtag on a monitor.  The flow of entries is continuous and you just want to know what’s next.

It’s a matter of picking how you want the messages to appear (there’s a wide variety) and TwitterFountain can bring in background images from Flickr or Picassa to show a very nice background.

An embed code or URL seals the deal.  Unfortunately, the background images don’t always come across.

So, today’s tribute to Ontario Educators can be found here.  (Play around with the settings in the bottom right corner to see the possibilities…)

Awesome Learners

I couldn’t help but reflect on the OTF / CUE Google Workshop for Educators’ experience yesterday as I continued to apply my own personal learning to a project that I was working on.  Beyond the learning, I started to think about the personalities involved and how lucky that we are to have this group of folks to learn with.  It’s actually quite humbling to sit at the Tweetup and during the learning session and realize that you’re working along with some of the great educational minds and technology leaders in the province.

There are Computer Science teachers who have created resources that are shared throughout the province (and beyond); some people who live and breathe project based learning; folks whose classes are constantly online creating and sharing projects; cutting edge teacher-librarians; business educators bring contemporary skills into their classrooms and so many classroom instructors whose students are doing all kinds of incredibly innovative curriculum related things in their classrooms.  Amazingly, in this group of leaders, there were no overpowering egos.  The entire group were just there to network, to learn, and to bring new learnings home with them.  Everyone seemed to just want “more”.

It’s quite amazing to be there and to be part of the conversation that took place during the day.  Many of us were using Twitter to share our excitement and there were other Ontario educators who couldn’t join us that were following along from the comfort of their homes!

What put it all in focus for me were two blog entries that I enjoyed yesterday.

First, @peterskillen captured the day by pulling together all of the Twitter messages that were tagged with the #otfcue label.



What an awesome way to relive the day.  Thanks, Peter.  The entire post may be read on his blog, The Construction Zone.

The other was @jaccalder’s entry where she admitted to stalking the session in her recent blog post.  She took our key learning points from the day and summarized them with appropriate links to dig right to the source.




The real value came from the synthesis of the Twitter messages and suggestions for how they might work in the classroom.

Both blog entries are worth reading.  Both will engage you so make sure that you allocate sufficient time for the task.

What a great experience!  When you organize a workshop, you hope that you make changes to a classroom or two.  With this event and the subsequent conversations, look for great innovation coming to Ontario classrooms.  If you’ve been looking in the right places, there is already a discussion for the need to expand the reach that was seeded with this initial offering.

A lot of people want to join with this group of awesome learners.