This Week in Ontario Edublogs


This week was the last opportunity to invite an Ontario educator as a guest for This Week in Ontario Edublogs. After checking that he wasn’t supposed to be in school, Matthew Morris joined Stephen Hurley and me on voicEd Radio Canada for a discussion. It was a great end to a great summer of guest hosts as I noted yesterday in a blog post. Make sure you follow them all!


The Lox Dipset Verzuz, Brotherhood & Black Men’s Mental Health

As per normal, we started the show with a recent blog post from our guest host. Matthew had written a post sharing his thoughts about a Verzuz match that he had managed to catch as a result of a prompt from a friend.

Now, I’m appreciative of this post for a couple of things. At the end, Matthew reflects on the reality of aging and that’s probably the deepest message to take away.

For me, though, the concept of Verzuz was new. From my memory, I saw it as a combination of Battle of the Bands and Wrestlemania. In this case, a couple of acts faced off and I’ll admit that I was really engaged with what I saw. I’ve seen a lot of first class acts in my life but watching two of them face off professionally against each other was really engaging. I watched it on FITE.TV here.

Personally, there was a lot of learning for me here. The concept and then a history of other matches plus even more at the site. I’m so appreciative of everything I learned and thank Matthew for that. There’s also a strong message about mental and physical health that we all need to hear at times.


Dress for Success

These young kids today.

Diana Maliszewski shares a post inspired by a previous post from Aviva Dunsiger about updating a wardrobe for the teacher. Her post is riddled with links to advice about what a teacher should look like. I can’t help but smile and remark that this would be great advice for teachers decades ago when you could just stand in one spot and lecture. Perhaps it’s good advice for those who will be teaching in a hybrid setting? <grin>

We’ve come a long way since then. I remember the advice from Teachers’ College and had sports jackets and ties – my kids even bought me a motorized tie rack one year for Christmas.

The realities of teaching just aren’t consistent with dressing up in your Sunday best day after day. Teachers are mobile, active, up and down, and fully engaged in what’s happening in the classroom. The trend is toward dressing accordingly.

Now, that doesn’t mean dressing in grubs but there’s the reality of what you need to wear to get the job done and remain comfortable and yet professional looking. And, of course, shoes. My dress attire should be shorted to one pair of brown shoes and one black. I fall far short of the 15 that Diana claims she has. (Where does she keep them all?)


The summer of Gratitude – some reflections

Laura Elliott had originally written this as an opt-ed for the Toronto Star and made it available for all of us on her blog. Thanks for that, Laura.

It’s a very personal story of being open with her feelings and dealing with it. I can’t help but be so impressed that she’s so honest and open with her personal life.

In the post, she addresses three concepts:

  • Habituation
  • Comparison
  • Stressful life events

and fleshes each of them out as they apply to her personally. She could have ended the post there but threw in one final challenge.

If you are a teacher or administrator you might consider an initiative in your school that asks your community to commit to this practice and share

That’s a huge challenge but might just be the type of thing to get through what promises to be an autumn of challenges.


William G. Davis:Only two disagreements over a four-decade relationship

With the passing of William G. Davis, we’re hearing so many tributes to the man and what he brought to Ontario. In this post, Charles Pascal shares his thoughts. I found the notion of only two disagreements kind of amazing when we talk about politicians.

But then, these were politicians from years ago and things were different.

Actually, quite different. I’m not a political scholar by any means but I actually knew this. Heck, I was a student when this happened at the leadership of the Premier.

  • system of colleges in Ontario
  • expanded universities
  • launched TVOntario and OISE

It’s hard not to think about it personally. Would I even have been able to attend university under the older model? Who would have been my babysitter without the Polkaroo? When I was at the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto, many courses were offered down the street at OISE and it had a fabulous library. What was education like before that?

I suspect that most people would point to the extension of funding for Catholic Schools as one of Davis’ lasting legacies. I did crack a smile as Charles recounts a conversation that he had with the Premier over this.


Preparing for your first day of school

From the Seven Generations website, comes this piece with advice for their students. I’ve seen some other schools that haven’t updated their own websites since June. They could easily pull the advice from here because it’s such great wisdom.

  • Start getting yourself into a routine
    • Especially waking up – how long will it take to get to school? Where do you meet friends? Where do you park? How do you know where to go once you get there?
  • Prepare the essentials
    • You probably won’t need them all the first day but do in advance because it will be busy. But, you know that your teacher will hit the ground running on the second day, for sure
  • Familiarize yourself with your schedule
    • Especially if you have a lot of class changes – reality in 2021? There may be new rules just for navigating the school. I can remember my old high school where we had some staircases that were either UP or DOWN which made travelling between classes a challenge
  • Know essential locations on campus
    • Your locker, cafeteria, washrooms, library, where to catch your bus, …
  • Your first day of class
    • OK to be nervous – here’s a secret – your teacher will absolutely be nervous so don’t sweat it!
  • Make the most of your experience
    • This is such wise advice. One of my biggest regrets, particularly at university, was not taking advantage of everything that the school offers. It actually wasn’t until I attended a Faculty of Education that I truly studied and understood all that my schools had made available to me and I somehow failed to take advantage of them

This is such wise advice. Even if you’re going to a different location, it’s terrific information for all. All schools should have something like this on their website.


A Poem for the First Day of School

If you’re a teacher or a student or a parent and have a passion for education, you won’t be able to get through this poem from Jessica Outram without at least a bit of emotion. In my case, I’ve got something caught in my eye.

She uses this form of writing to send us all an incredibly powerful message about schools and education.

In a time and era where it’s so easy to be down and depressed with everything, this is such a powerful reminder of the importance of education.

“everyone here a twinkling star in the system of our community.”


How I Approach the First Days and Weeks of School

It’s not too late to read this post from Shawna Rothgeb-Bird and maybe adjust things for next week and maybe even beyond. The post is an honest and open description about what’s going through her mind and planning for things beginning next week.

  • Before School Starts
  • First Day of School
  • Boîte de moi
  • Student Info Forms
  • Nametags and Labels
  • Unstructured Outdoor Play Time

Of course, all these topics are personalized according to how Shawna thinks things will roll out. I’ve read her thinking for quite a while now and I would have no doubt that she could make all this work and, if it doesn’t, she adjusts on the fly.

For elementary school teachers (and maybe even secondary), it’s a nice read as she shares her thinking and it just might inspire you in your approach.


I hope that you can find the time to click through and read all these posts. Then, follow these amazing bloggers on Twitter.

  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Laura Elliott – @lauraelliottPhD
  • Charles Pascal – @CEPascal
  • Seven Generations Education Institute – @7GenerationsEd
  • Jessica Outram – @jessicaoutram
  • Shawna Rothgeb-Bird – @rollforlearning

This week’s voicEd Radio show can be accessed here.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s always a pleasure and an honour to recognize some of the great writing that appears on the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers. I hope that you can find the time to click through and read all of these wonderful posts.


A moment of reckoning in Canada

From Paul McGuire, what I would call a pretty significant and important blog post. Paul addresses the First Nations issue that has been so prominent in the news this past while. He pours his soul and thoughts into the document and then digs into some historical records to give us even more information. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up not knowing any of this and am playing catch up now. I so appreciate when people are sharing their own research.

In closing, he reflects on the recent incidents at Ryerson University. I’m sure that we haven’t heard the last of this and we may well be seeing history being made before our eyes. Even the Toronto District School Board is reportedly looking into the history of the names of all of its schools.

Beyond the historical references though, the images that Paul shares of the children’s shoes all laid out on Parliament Hill will slap you right in the face. It’s a somber and enduring image for me.


Lucky Shot

From Sheila Stewart, some of her very personal and open thoughts about getting her first shot of a vaccine. I think that everyone who is now getting vaccinated is feeling like they’re a little late to the party. You can’t help but notice the long lines waiting for shots on the evening news – at least from Ontario stations. We also received news from Detroit where it doesn’t appear to be big news anymore. The really big news there is the Governor opening up the state next week.

Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

Beyond the first steps of finding a place to get a shot, the second issue to be resolved is which shot. We live in an area that was perceived to be a hot spot a few months ago and so AstraZeneca was the first one available. This were different for her.

I find it interesting how we’re probably more than medically literate these days – I couldn’t begin to tell you who the manufacturer was of the vaccines that our kids had before they got to go to school. But I know way more about AstraZenica, Moderna, and Pfizer than I would ever have thought I would. Sheila has gone deeper thinking that there was a component in Moderna that would adversely affect her.

Click through to read the post, find out about the component, and her personal trek to getting that important first shot.


Something stinks

You can’t sugar coat this post from Amanda Potts. If I’ve ever seen a bait and switch blog post, this is it. And, I mean it in a good way. I love her writing.

She starts out talking about how fuzzy the end of this school year appeared to her at the time which evoked one emotion and then switched to her going out to her garden with her cat to witness a skunk at her hosta plants which brought out another emotion!

I will admit that I’m not much of a gardener but I’ve learned so much about hostas from living around here. In our Navy Yard park downtown, we have apparently 202 different varieties – https://visitamherstburg.ca/mary-mary-quite-contrary-how-do-your-hostas-grow/

Each of them are labelled – the labels actually go out before many of them break surface so I imagine there’s a master map somewhere. As a fan of the little guy, my favourite is Holy Mouse Ears. They didn’t appear one year and are back now and they are so much smaller than the others.

Even the word “hosta” intrigues me. Most often, I see it written as “hostas” and I get it because I don’t ever think I’ve seen just one. Or, I’m missing the whole point completely which is entirely possible.


Summer Tech with Amber Mac: 6 Hot Picks

Amber MacArthur was a keynote speaker at a Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee’ Symposium and an ECOO Bring IT, Together Conference. I follow her blog and her presence on Facebook as she’s always digging around and researching so much dealing with technology.

Recently, she shared some of her “hot picks” for this summer and I was intrigued with the gaming router. We have an issue with one part of our house that doesn’t get very strong wifi and so I’m looking for a solution. This may be it; there are a number of extenders available and I’ve tried and returned them because they seem to be laggy.

Anyway, she picks these:

  • CREATE YOUR OWN VIDEO GAMES: NINTENDO GAME BUILDER GARAGE
  • MAKE YOUR OWN MUSIC VIDEOS: LEGO VIDIYO MUSIC VIDEO MAKER
  • GET PAIN-FREE STREAMING AT HOME: TP-LINK ARCHER GX90 WI-FI 6 GAMING ROUTER
  • MAKE COOL DRINKS WITH KITCHEN TECH: BREVILLE BLUICER 3X PRO
  • EXERCISE OUTSIDE WITH ALL-DAY MUSIC: HUAWEI FREEBUDS 4I
  • COOK OUTSIDE WITH CLEAN ENERGY: BIOLITE CAMPSTOVE 2+

As luck would have it, she went live on Facebook yesterday and talked her way through each one of them – and there’s a giveaway involved if you drop off a comment to her before June 20.


Trouble with Hybrid Learning

From the Heart and Art Blog, Deborah Weston shares a well thought out and reasoned opinion about hybrid learning which we’re now interpreting as some students face to face in classroom and some students online at home.

It actually seems like a simple solution to anyone except teachers, I’m guessing. It’s only as a teacher that you realize that there are so many logistics to making it happen. One of the things that the proponents never mention is the lack of immediate 1:1 moments that you get face to face.

Deborah does a nice job of gathering all of the elements together in one spot in this post.

  • Cost Savings
  • Less Community Supports
  • Hybrid Hurts Relationships
  • Competing Agendas (Online vs In Class)
  • Long-term consequences

I have no doubt that educators who read this will totally agree with her thoughts. Unfortunately, I suspect that many decision makers will never see it.


Anti-Racism and Archival Description Work

On the ActiveHistory blog, Krista McCracken shared her learning from a recent workshop – Anti-Oppressive Description and Re-Description Workshop.

I was really interested in the description and the activity involved. I’ve been in many workshops but this one was so different and beyond anything I’ve ever had the opportunity to attend.

In this case, it was an opportunity to look at historical records and the language used to describe the events. Some of the suggestions from the workshop include:

  • Use objective voice in description and avoid using passive voice 
  • Use accurate and strong language such as lynching, rape, murder, and hate mail when they are appropriate. 
  • Describe relationships of power when they are important for understanding the context of records.
  • Describe records in a way that supports communities, not just academics

I can’t help but think that this wouldn’t be controversial. Will it make history more accurate or will it make history more responsive to what is happening right now?

Fascinating.


HOW TO CREATE CUSTOM GOOGLE KEEP HEADERS FOR BETTER ORGANIZATION

I love it when someone shows off some technique that I hadn’t thought of or haven’t used in a while and it inspires me to so some additional learning. Such was this post from the Edugals.

Every time I use Google Keep, I have this sense that I’m only scratching the surface of what I could do with it.

If you’re a Google Keep user, this blog post and the video that goes with it are worth your time to work through. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

And, if you like templates, this is a nice post to visit! They’re sharing.


Please take some time to enjoy these wonderful blog posts.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Sheila Stewart – @sheilaspeaking
  • Amanda Potts – @Ahpotts
  • Amber MacArthur – @ambermac
  • Deborah Weston – @DPAWestonPhD
  • Krista McCracken – @kristamccracken
  • Edugals – @edugals

This Week in Ontario Edublogs is broadcast live most Wednesday mornings on voicEd Radio. This week’s show:

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I’m not quite sure what to say here. Normally, I’d wish everyone a good return to school on Monday after the March Break. But, it’s April and nobody’s going back to a school building on Monday although classes resume in some places and teachers are getting ready for the day to resume online classes on Tuesday. I think we should just relish the fact that it’s Friday and just pretend that it’s a good day. Agreed?

Oh, and read some great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.


How To Easily Create Bitmoji Stickers in Google Drawings

Wednesday was a special edition of This Week in Ontario Edublogs. Since educators are on holiday which involves not going anywhere, I reached out to the EduGals who joined Stephen Hurley and me on our voicEd Radio show. They were absolutely delightful to have a conversation with and I gained an extra level of appreciation from where they’re coming from and their positive approach to education and technology in education.

This post from them I think is timely now that we’re returning, in Ontario, to a bout of learning from home which means a whole lot of digital. While everyone appreciates a numeric mark or a letter, how about something a little more exciting and digital? Stickers!

It’s a long post, full of screen captures that will take you through the process along with descriptive text. Alternatively, they’ve prepared a YouTube video if that works better for you.

This might be just what you need to change your game.


The good, bad and ugly of online learning

Charles Pascal pretty much has it covered in the title of this post. The comments to this post add even more fuel to his premise.

To be clear, there really isn’t anything wrong with online learning. As Charles notes, it’s been done for over 100 years in Ontario. For students, the ability to take a course online is a real solution for scenarios like a course not being offered at their school for whatever reason, the need for an additional credit, the ability to keep up with studies if forced to be home for sickness reasons, etc.

For those who are not educators, the shift to requiring four courses for graduation or to just pull the plug on a return to school and doing everything online is seen as an easy educationally valid “pivot”. (Gawd, I hate that word)

If we’re learned anything from what’s happened over the past year, it’s that a seemingly simple change to online learning for everyone just isn’t a quick and easy solution. There is so much to be factored in. We’re now seeing some school districts taking next Monday as an adjustment day. As my old employer has on their website:

On Monday, the 19th, both elementary and secondary teachers will connect with their students to make sure they’re ready for the following day and determine any technical needs and access to resources. They will also provide students with some work for the day they can complete, independently.

from https://www.publicboard.ca/News/ourstories/RemoteLearningUpdate/Pages/default.aspx#/= April 15, 2021

Clear and supportive efforts from a government are needed at this time and Charles shares his thoughts about what he see and what he doesn’t see right now.

A very good read.


The Lab That Isn’t A Lab

Normally, a post like this would get a read from me and then I’d move on because I like to have current blog posts on this Friday post of mine. From Tim King, this goes back to 2012 but I think it’s worth another look.

I can’t speak for Tim’s reality but, in my old school, when scheduling came along all the department heads were brought together to try to allocate classes to appropriate rooms and resources. Personally, even as computer science teacher, I wouldn’t want to be in a computer lab. There is a need for planning, collaboration, problem solving even before a finger is laid on a keyboard. If you think of the typical hard technology classroom, it has two distinct areas – desks and then the saws, lathes, welding, equipment, etc. in another. In my old high school, we had a program where students could learn to sew or cook and they sure weren’t plunked into a room full of sewing machines or in the kitchen!

Tim ended up being assigned to a computer lab and he didn’t want it. You see; his subject to be taught is computer engineering, which if you care to look at the expectations, is all about the nets and bolts of tearing apart computer components and putting them back together. It’s hardly the setting that the district IT Support Team would want done on a computer lab that would have been installed and customized over the summer. You can read “customized” as meaning that all the fun as been taken out of the computer so that they are reliably working day by day.

I know that we used to invite computer engineering teachers to a warehouse where the computers to be retired were housed so that they could select an appropriate number and type for their program.

There are all kinds of permutations for how this could happen.

But, beyond the discussion of Tim’s classroom and I’ll bet he’s not alone, there’s a bigger message about top down efficiency decisions made arbitrarily and expecting good intentioned teachers to make it work. You wouldn’t put a French class, for example, into a room outfitted for English classes just because there are a lot of new books there without seeing if they’re appropriate.

It really is a matter of understanding all the courses and all the resources and listening to those involved to come up with the best solution.


It’s Getting Ridiculous

I love the reference to basketball that Matthew Morris starts out with. After all, I’m not a Kings fan but there’d be screaming if he ever said something about the Pistons.

In the post, he shares his feelings about going into a school of 200 people every day during our current situation. High in his mind is the case of the Toronto teacher who is intubated in a hospital.

I’m glad that he brought up the news stories – everywhere it’s the same. Local doom and gloom and COVID numbers for the first 10 minutes or so and then a shift to something else. I can’t help but note that the stories are the same and that I could match his CP24 with CTVWindsor and there wouldn’t be much of a change.

Ridiculous is his summary word for what he’s seeing. I agree but would add a couple of colourful adjectives before ridiculous if I was writing this post.


The 500 – #375 – Late For The Sky – Jackson Browne

First up, an apology. Apparently during the voicEd Radio show, we got Marc Hodgkinson’s name wrong. That should never happen.

I check in with his blog when my RSS reader flags that he has a new post. I’m really enjoying his working through “The 500” Greatest Albums of All Time.

This time, it’s the “Late For The Sky” album by Jackson Browne. I was pleasantly pleased with this post. I thought that I knew much of Browne’s work. As it turns out, I was completely wrong.

From the album, I only knew Before the Deluge

But the rest was new music for me. This album was released in 1974. Man, I missed so much!


Nothing is Better Than My Classroom

It was wonderful to see Sarah Leroux back and contributing to her blog.

This post is a reflection of her teaching from at home. It sounds like she has a great workspace with all the amenities and that’s a good thing. But, apparently it pales when compared to her classroom.

Can you agree with this sentiment?

I understand that it may not be the safest place for us to gather, at the moment, but as a passionate in person teacher, I live and thrive off the energy of my students. Their Aha moments, their jokes, their collaboration. Not only do I TEACH better, in class, but I truly believe, for most of my students, they LEARN better in class. 

Click through to her post and read her thoughts.

I’ll be willing to bet that you can’t disagree with her.


The P3 Ends- But the Memories Live On

You’ve got to feel for Noa Daniel.

She had a real niche in the blogging, podcasting space with her P3 collections. Three songs are submitted and Noa crafts them into a discussion for the podcast. Between the interview and the post-production, you can tell that she’s put so much into each episode.

I had the honour to be on her show and I was number 61. Her complete collection at Spotify is 158 episodes. That’s quite impressive. Sadly, it has come to an end and Noa explains why in the post.

My songs were:

  • Blue Hawaii – Elvis Presley
  • Growin’ Up – Bruce Springsteen
  • Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin

It was a great experience to be asked to join Noa for the show.


On this Friday, I hope that you can click through and enjoy these posts as much as I did.

Then, follow these people on Twitter.

  • EduGals – @EduGals
  • Charles Pascal – @CEPascal
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Marc Hodgkinson – @Mr_H_Teacher
  • Sarah Anne Leroux – @sarahanneleroux
  • Noa Daniel – @noasbobs

An Interview with Neerja Punjabi


Neerja Punjabi is currently seconded to TVOntario as Director, Educational Partnerships K-12.  Previously, she was a principal in both the Peel District and Toronto District School Boards.  During this very different time, she took the time to have a discussion with me. 

Doug:  My first question is always this – do you recall when we first met?

Neerja: I have been active on Twitter since 2011, which was my first year as a new elementary school principal. I wanted to learn and connect with educators who were sharing ideas in an open forum. I started following you on Twitter during that time because you posted amazing professional learning resources, which I was interested in reading and learning from. You have always modelled the #NeverStopLearning philosophy.

Doug:  You seem to be a regular on #FollowFridays which is always an indicator that you’re actively sharing content.  I’m guessing that our connector in common would have been Urs who I worked with in OSAPAC days.  Would that be your guess, or was it someone else?

Neerja: I met Urs Bill when I joined TVO last year. But you Doug have been a big part of my professional learning network for a very long time, even though we had never formally met. The #FollowFridays feed was another reason for the connection to meet like-minded educators who added value to my professional growth.

Doug:  I’m always in awe with people that manage to converse in multiple languages.  You would certainly be in that category.  Can you share your level of fluency and your languages spoken?

Neerja: I was born and brought up in Hyderabad, India, and we had to learn at least three languages in school. Attending a convent school where English was the medium of instruction, we also learnt Hindi and Telugu as second and third languages. I am very fluent in speaking these languages. In addition, Punjabi is my mother tongue, and I learned it at home. Urdu is very similar to Hindi, and because of that, I can speak it very fluently.

This article from @npr resonated with me. It specifically mentions a research study done in Hyderabad, which highlights my upbringing and exposure to several languages:

https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2013/11/14/244813470/new-study-shows-brain-benefits-of-bilingualism.

Doug:  Wow, that is so impressive. As a former principal, how was your fluency in these languages an asset?

Neerja: Being fluent in all these languages was a definite asset for me as a principal in Peel District School Board. It helped me to build meaningful relationships with parents and grandparents in the community. I could share my experiences and stories of resilience as a new immigrant with new families immigrating to Canada, particularly from South Asia, giving them a message of hope and a sense of optimism. Speaking in one’s native tongue helps build trust and creates a sense of mutual respect.

Doug:  Now, you’ve been seconded to TVOntario, one of the real education gems in the province.  Your role involves Educational Partnerships.  What does this involve?

Neerja: I would like to give you a little bit of background first about why I decided to take up a secondment with TVO, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary – ‘50 and Never Stop Learning’ this year. TVO has held a very special place in my heart. As a new immigrant coming to Canada 31 years ago, I was fascinated by the broadcast programs which were offered by TVO. When we decided to immigrate to Canada, we knew we had no friends and family here, and the one TV channel we relied on was TVO. Saturday Night at the Movies was a weekly television series on TVO, the public educational television network in Ontario with Elwy Yost and my husband and I watched the two back-to-back Movies. We have many fond memories. Also, my children were avid watchers of the Polka Dot Door (with Polkaroo) and Arthur which were very popular programs. They learned so much through these two shows. TVO played a big role in supporting our immigrant family’s successfully acclimatization to the Canadian values and culture.

My secondment to TVO has been a wonderful learning journey. As Director, Educational Partnerships, I have developed and led TVO’s strategy to coordinate partnerships and outreach activities across the K-12 educational community, including communication and liaising with school districts, federations, affiliations and employee group partners, EDU, and Faculties of Education. We have promoted awareness and adoption of TVO and TVO’s digital products and services in targeted professional learning sessions across the province.

Doug:  You and your team had a big presence at the Bring IT, Together Conference in Niagara Falls last November.  Who is on your team and what are their roles?

Neerja: Our ‘small but mighty’ team comprises both TVO employees and educators who have been seconded from either a Board of Education or from the Ministry.

Here is a list of our phenomenal team members:

  • Urs Bill, Manager of TVO Mathify and Educational Outreach (seconded from the Ministry of Education)
  • Natalie Perez, Outreach Support Officer
  • Jenny Cadena and Tony Yeung, Resource Coordinators for TVO Mathify
  • Albert Wisco, Community Manager for TVO Teach Ontario
  • Kyle McCreight, Digital Media Producer
  • Jennifer Montgomery, Education Officer (Seconded from YRDSB)
  • Leah Kearney, Pedagogue/Instructional Liaison (seconded from TDSB)
  • Maureen Asselin, Instructional Liaison (seconded from HCDSB)

Doug:  In advance of the conference, you and your team submitted a guest blog post here: https://dougpete.wordpress.com/2019/10/26/bring-tvo-into-your-classroom-2/

I’ve been an exhibitor at that conference, and I have a not-so-fond memory of exhaustion from standing so long and repeating the same message over and over.  What is your memory from the event?  Was this your first time at this conference?

Neerja: First, let me thank you for sharing our blog on your WordPress and Twitter. Your support has meant a lot with expanding our outreach efforts across the province.

In 2019, I attended the BIT conference for the very first time. My team members who had participated in the conference before were very enthusiastic about this opportunity for networking and connecting with so many like-minded educators who were the early adopters of digital learning. There were so many teacher-leaders who participated in drop-in sessions to learn more about TVO resources. Many explored the TVO carousal and registered for TVO mPower and TVO Mathify. Many educators were inspired to join our TVO outreach team as TVO Ambassadors to continue to spread the word.

Doug:  TVOntario hosts so many wonderful resources for education.  Can you share a link to where they are and a quick overview?

Neerja: Here is a link where you will find copies of one-page support guides (toolkits) for TVO mPower and TVO Mathify, as well as a one-page overview of all TVO resources:

bit.ly/TVOVirtualLearning

Doug:  I’ve always been a fan and supporter, in particular, of the Mathematics support that TVO offers.  Can you give an overview of those specifically?  I think that, in these times, they are even more important.

Neerja: I will talk about two TVO resources in particular that offer support in Mathematics.

TVO Mathify is developed for Ontario students and educators, and this resource seamlessly supports the learning of grade 6-10 math. Mathify helps educators to boost math engagement, confidence and reduce math anxiety. It enables students to extend or support their own learning through live, individualized 1:1 math tutoring sessions with TVO Mathify tutors who are also Ontario Certified Math Teachers.

TVO Mathify addresses and accommodates the different scheduling needs of you, your students, and their families during this time. Teachers and students can engage in math lessons and learning at times that work for them and their schedule – over and above any pre-planned lesson times. 

TVO Mathify is also: 

  • Intuitive to use for teachers and students.  No big learning curve required. 
  • Safe and secure.  No ads, no pop-ups, no purchases, no downloads, and no one collecting data on you or your students for potential sale to for-profit organizations. 
  • FREE to Ontario teachers and students and available. 
  • 24/7 access to prepare, post or access questions  
  • Extended tutoring hours for students: 
  • Mon-Fri 9 am-9 pm ET
  • Sun 3:30-9 pm ET

TVO mPower: is a fun and innovative online game-based resource that builds problem-solving, critical thinking and math skills for students K-6. It is an award-winning, ad-free children’s content that supports the Ontario curriculum, developed with a commitment to diversity. Creative online math games support the development of foundational K-6 math & STEM skills in the classroom and at home.

We use a variety of resources to develop TVO mPower; these are foundational to our work: Curriculum Documents – The Kindergarten Program, The Ontario Mathematics, Science and Technology and Social Studies Curricula are used in the creation of the math games, STEM games, and TVO mPower narratives. This ensures the alignment with Ontario curriculum expectations and best practices. The game iterations are based on feedback from classroom teachers, ongoing playtesting and the ongoing research and development process at TVO.

In summary, TVO mPower has 65+ free, creative online games that support the development of foundational K-6 math and STEM skills while fostering positive attitudes towards math. TVO mPower is:

  • Learner-centred
  • Assessment-driven
  • Ontario curriculum-based
  • A safe, advertising-free play space
  • Free for all Ontarians
  • Available on laptop, desktop computers and tablets 

Doug:  Have TVOntario and your team ramped up your resources and support during these times of school closures?

Neerja: Educational partnerships team continues to be innovative in providing outreach virtually through webinars. We have conducted several online webinars for interested educators. Recently we have been asked to deliver two webinars to over 100 educators from a Board of Education to their educator community. Also, educators can access support by registering on TeachOntario

https://www.teachontario.ca/

-an online community for Ontario’s educators. We share our resources, and new content is posted regularly. We also share our resources through social media.

Doug:  Is it safe to say that you and your team are working from home these days? 

Neerja: Yes, you are right – we are currently working from home. We use digital collaboration platforms for our meetings within the organization, and we connect with educators across the province through scheduled synchronous and asynchronous webinars. TVO TeachOntario has been an incredible resource for connecting our team and connecting Ontario educators. In terms of the bigger picture, here is a Blog which highlights some of the ways TVO is conducting business as an organization:

https://www.tvo.org/about/tvo-announces-covid-19-response

Doug:  Have you noticed an increase in the number of students/teachers/parents taking advantage of all that you offer?

Neerja: TVO’s Digital Education Resources

https://www.tvo.org/education-tools

have been featured on the Ministry of Education’s Learn at Home site:

https://www.ontario.ca/page/learn-at-home.

Over the past few months, these FREE TVO resources have had a significant impact and benefit on our educators, students, parents, and guardians. Many students continue to actively use resources such as TVO Kids, TVO mPower, and TVO Mathify. We will continue to serve our communities during these difficult times and have our resources available for anyone who needs the support.

Doug:  During all this, you remain connected to your network on Twitter.  What value do you see in staying connected?

Neerja: Twitter is a platform where I am continually learning, sharing and connecting with educators. At TVO, we share a commitment to lifelong learning and the belief that learning has the power to ignite potential and change the world. My engagement and use of this platform truly align with this deep-rooted value to #NeverStopLearning, which I fully imbibe.

Doug:  I asked Superintendent Hazel Mason this when I interviewed her

https://dougpete.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/an-interview-with-hazel-mason/ 

– if you had to identify 10 “must follow” users on Twitter, who would they be?

Neerja: I was overwhelmed when I saw my name mentioned on this list from Hazel Mason (@Hmason36 on Twitter) in June 2017. Hazel was my Superintendent, a fantastic leader who had high expectations for all her team members, and I hold her in very high regard.

There are so many phenomenal educators and leaders that I continue to learn from regularly on Twitter. Here are the names of those who have helped me and continue to help me on my learning journey:

  • Rose Pillay, @RosePillay1
  • Bill Ferriter, @Plugusin
  • Jackie Gerstein, @jackiegerstein
  • David Culberhouse, @DCulberhouse
  • ONT Special Needs, @Ontspecialneeds
  • Zohrin Mawji, @ZohrinMawji
  • The Agenda/TVO, @TheAgenda
  • Edutopia – @Edutopia
  • Mindshift – @MindShiftKQED
  • NCTE – @ncte

Doug:  I know that you’re a very positive person.  When do you see us getting back to normal, or whatever “normal” will become?

Neerja: Thank you, Doug, that is very nice of you. Yes, I am a positive person, and from what I know is that this too shall pass. In the meantime, we need to focus on ensuring that all safety measures are in place and follow the Public Health advice diligently. By taking personal responsibility, we can collectively flatten the curve. In addition, we need to keep track of the regular updates on COVID-19 shared on the Ontario.ca website. It is an excellent idea to be mindful of what is being expected to keep us all safe.

Doug:  If you were returning to one of your former schools as principal, what sorts of changes do you see having to be made for everyone’s safety?

Neerja:  I understand that returning to school at this time would require a deep reflection and a call to action to support all learners, especially those who are underserved and who may have big gaps in their learning. Providing students with the best learning opportunities will be the highest priority for me as the lead learner in the school. In addition, my focus will be on building positive and trusting relationships with my staff, students, parents, guardians, and extended community partners​.

Doug:  Thank you so much for taking the time during all this to share some of your thoughts, wisdom, and insights. Stay safe.

You can follow Neerja on Twitter at @PNeerja

Make sure that you check out the TVOntario resources at the link above.

Thanks for reading.  Periodically, I interview interesting people like Neerja.  You can read them all here – https://dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews/

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I hope this is Friday. All the days seem to be the same anymore. If it is, it’s the weekend ahead. What are you doing to celebrate?

I might have to cut the grass again.

It was a major sense of accomplishment here to roll the calendar forward a day to schedule this post for a new month. It’s the little things.

Anyway, enjoy some of the recent works from Ontario Edubloggers.


If you aren’t still in a school library…

Beth Lyons shares a reflection about life as a school librarian who isn’t going into a physical library these days.

And then she asks

Am I still a teacher-librarian?

It’s an important question to ask. For many of our who were out of the classroom during major disruptions to the normal, it is something that we always pondered “You wouldn’t know; you’re not in the classroom”, “You don’t have to do report cards”, …

I think it’s natural to see yourself as having a bulls-eye on the forehead at times like this and to do some self-examination.

But step back a bit. There are thousands of teachers who aren’t in their traditional classroom. That doesn’t make them less of a teacher. More that ever, being in a school isn’t the defining factor of teacher. Similarly, being in a library doesn’t define who is a teacher-librarian.

The rules have changed, to be sure. But the things that make a school a school continue. The same applies to Teacher-Librarians. While a classroom teacher knows her/his curriculum backward and forward, a Teacher-Librarian typically knows everyone’s expectations. It seems to me that they can be the best resource a teacher working with a class online can have. While all the resources many be digital for a while, the Teacher-Librarian can be working harder than ever providing research and assistance for colleagues. Beth shares what she’s doing in the post.

Here’s an excellent read to support that notion – School Librarians Take the Lead During the Pandemic.

I think it’s normal for everyone to ponder their abilities with these new situations. Now is not the time to pull back; it’s more important than ever to be visible to others and supportive like never before.


Setting Up Communication with Students in Distance Learning

Alanna King shares an insight to the learning space that is carved out of the King household where she and Tim are now working with their classes.

This post is a wonderful story and truly answers the question “Can students get involved in community service during this time”?

And, it comes from Tim King’s Computer Engineering students. He shared a form with staff members indicating that his students could offer some technical support. In Alanna’s case

I would like a secure Google Doc/Form way to communicate mark updates with students. I’m wondering if we can use something like DocAppender on a spreadsheet to mail merge a column to users with a specific email address e.g. 72 goes to aking@ugcloud.ca and then to have the recipient create a read receipt/digital signature to confirm that they have read it.

One student stepped up with a solution and documented it via a YouTube video.

In these days with all kinds of stories swirling, this is just so inspirational. I hope that the rest of the staff is tapping into this resource. It just has to lighten their load and put their mind at ease knowing someone has their back if they run into problems.

Where do you look for support at this time?


Leadership and Learning under Lockdown

Sometimes, it definitely are the little things that we take for granted and Sue Dunlop reaches out with her experience during the lockdown in her section of the world.

When you think about it, Education is all about timed events. The morning bell is at #.##, National Anthem and announcements at #.##, Every class is ## minutes long. You have exactly # minutes to travel from one room to another otherwise you’re going to be marked late. Lunch is at ##.## and final dismissal is at ##.##. Everything is programmed and timed down to the last minute.

If you’ve ever tried to make an appointment with a superintendent at her/his office, you have to go through a support staff person and will be given a time slot during the course of the working day.

For the most part, the classroom or office door is closed (literally or figuratively) while work is happening. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ve done since kindergarten. Education is no place for a timetable non-conformist!

In light of all this, there are special moments and that’s the point of this post from Sue. You go to the mailroom or the staffroom or out into the hallway between classes or a whack of other quick moments when you’re not switched ON. Those happenstance moments are what Sue is missing at this time.

She’s trying to replicate it during lockdown. And yet, it’s still not the same. Even to have an informal chat on a video conference, you typically have to schedule a time when all participants are able to be there.

Sue concludes with a call to action for leaders to contemplate once they’re back together. I suspect it will be a part of a long list of reflections about this experience. If nothing else, I’ll bet that we all have a deeper sense of appreciation of those moments.


It isn’t a pivot, it’s a giant leap

When I coached football, we had three quarterbacks and one of them was left-handed. We had one play that required a “pivot” and what should have been simple (I thought) wasn’t for everyone. One took too it easily and the other two had challenges. It didn’t come across as a natural action for one and for the left-handed one, it was difficult to even describe because the play was a mirror reflection. I am right handed and there’s no way that I could gracefully demonstrate what was needed.

I learned there that things aren’t always easy and transferable. Peter Cameron has a very distinct edge in voice with his advice to the Minister of Education calling the transition from regular classroom teaching to “Emergency Distance Learning” a simple pivot. His words brought back that football memory immediately. It was almost surreal because I can’t remember the last time I actually ever used the word pivot.

If I had to select an educator that I would think could make the move to distance learning relatively easily, Peter would be high on my list of choices as I consider him well connected. But, like so many, he notes that his misses the daily interaction with students. So, he definitely hasn’t simply pivoted to the new reality.

In other news from Peter, he shares a reminder of the upcoming MAD (Make A Difference) PD event this weekend. Details are here.


Math Links for Week Ending Apr. 24th, 2020

David Petro is always good for some resources for Mathematics and, with his deep understanding of it and the Ontario Curriculum, shares resources and ties them directly for classroom teachers.

This week’s collection resources, video, and images featured a flash back to FEUT Professor Fraser who was part of my teacher education. He shared this puzzle…

It was a wonderful puzzle and I was thinking about coding a solution when I scrolled down and saw that someone had created a moving example illustrating why it works.

The other important takeaway from David’s post announces that, although the annual OAME Conference is cancelled, there will be a “virtual OAME” in its place. Everyone is invited and it’s free.

I look through the sessions and was proud to note some names from my former school district and most certainly many folks that are part of my #FollowFriday posts. It’s a nice replication of the traditional conference including door prizes.


DigCitTO and the future of conferences

DigCitTO had dropped off my radar. It’s a short duration event normally held face to face. Driving all the way to Toronto, finding parking, etc. really makes it prohibitive.

But, the organizers went ahead and held the event anyway, shifting to the online world. Editorial Note: microwaving something from M&M pales in comparison from the great downtown Toronto food.

As it turned out, I could only drop in a couple of times for a few minutes to see what was up.

In this post, Diana Maliszewski shares her conference attendance (or partial attendance) including a session that she co-presented. All in all, good reading.

She did close with some musing about the future of conferences. Some, perhaps, could live in an online presentation world. I think that those of us who have attended sessions know that online that they can easily turn into a “sit ‘n git” with the worse of them. It really takes a skilled presenter to bring interactive elements into such a session. I look to Speaking Bureaus to provide learning into engagement techniques because this will be our future for a while anyway. Diana has a question mark beside the OLA Superconference. Gulp.

Regardless, there are so many things that I would miss – exhibit halls, interactive sessions, hugs from friends, first meetings with new friends, walking a strange city, finding old friends and meet up for dinner, sitting in a pub or bar sharing war stories and so much more. Organizations use the opportunities to foster partnerships and use attendance fees to fund themselves. So much would change if this format was lost.


Classrooms After Covid-19

How’s this for coincidence?

Shortly after I scheduled my post for Re-opening questions, I got a message from Deb Weston that she had written this post.

Like my crystal ball, Deb took the opportunity to envision what classrooms might look like once teachers and students are able to return to them.

She has a nice discussion on the various elements as she sees them. There are just so many concerns and decisions that have to go into the planning. While my approach was largely from my thoughts in a secondary school background, she brought into focus what an elementary school might have to plan for.

What comes through in both of our posts is the concept that schools are a large mass of humanity compressed into small facilities. Bizarrely, the media seems to be spending more time reporting on how baseball might open or hockey might wind down than what schools re-opening might look like.

The biggest cost item (other than hand sanitizers) would be staffing and she takes some time doing the mathematics and predicts that a 42% increase in the number of teachers would be needed.

I’d like to suggest that both posts would be good reads and “look fors” when the bell rings. You can’t just flip a switch.


Please find some time to click through and read the original posts. We live in interesting times and there are some great thoughts generated.

Then, follow these folks on Twitter.

  • Beth Lyons – @mrslyonslibrary
  • Alanna King – @banana29
  • Sue Dunlop – @Dunlop_Sue
  • Peter Cameron – @cherandpete
  • David Petro – @davidpetro314
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Deb Weston – @DrDWestonPhD

This post originated on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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