A history of reading

I’ve always been fascinated with all that there is to read and learn when you’re a connected educator. The problem for me has always been how do I keep track of it. In yesterday’s OLDaily, Stephen Downes shared this article and his thoughts:

An Ode To RSS, A Vessel Of Freedom In Elearning

That got me thinking of my own journey. It’s been a long journey through a number of different paths.

In the beginning, there was no tool to really bring it all together so I created my own! It was a simple web page written in HTML using a text editor. In it, I had the links to places I wanted to read and a short description. I suppose in some way, it was like what we would consider bookmarks in today’s browser. But, it was mine and I controlled everything. It was nimble enough to be modified in a heartbeat if needed. That was the beginning and then things exploded from there.

Onto the scene came RSS which was a real game changer. One of the features that browsers wanted to be best at was putting RSS just a click away. It was simple enough; you’d just go looking for that cute RSS icon on a web page and subscribe to the feed.

At the time, there were lots of readers available and I tried many of them. As I look back over this blog content, some of them even became blog posts. There always seemed to be something missing, sometimes just cosmetic, so I wrote my own. It wasn’t terribly difficult; RSS feeds are just text files that need to be parsed and then presented.

The problem, as anyone who writes code knows, is that it needs to be maintained. Quite frankly, I kind of lost interest in that project and decided to settle on someone else’s efforts. After a number of tests, I elected to go with Google’s Reader. It was close enough to everything that I thought a reader should be. Then, as everyone who uses RSS and the Google Reader knows, it went away. We were at a big loss!

I tried a bunch of alternatives and never really found something that reached out and grabbed me. Many blogs allowed you to subscribe to their content via email and that seemed handy enough. I still do that today with some blogs.

I’ve always felt that, if something is good enough for you, that it’s worth sharing and so I do maintain a Livebinder of Ontario Educational Bloggers and a public facing Blog Roll of blogs that have made the voicEd Radio show. They’re good for sharing but really don’t do the trick for personal productivity. My daily reader before the dog wakes up takes me into Flipboard which is nice for some predictable and some not-so-predictable resources.

I still wanted a reader that not only would keep a collection but would let me know when something new was there. There’s nothing more frustrating and time consuming to click on a link in someone’s profile and then find out that they haven’t written anything in years.

So, after wandering around all this digital landscape, I landed back with RSS. From that article, this basically sums it up!

There is probably no technology more beaten down, more discarded by “innovators,” and yet more irreplaceable and urgent today than RSS.

And that’s where I stand today. After an exhausting set of evaluations, I ended up with The Old Reader. It may not have all the design and noise and animations that you might expect in other products. But, since the loss of Google Reader, I’m now feeling like I’m back in charge of my reading and that’s worth it to me. I’ve been in control for a long time now and it feels just right.


This Week in Ontario Edublogs



Some OSSTF members will be participating in a one day strike today.•

• Keewatin-Patricia District School Board
• District School Board Ontario North East
• Moose Factory Island District Area School Board
• James Bay Lowlands Secondary School Board
• Rainbow District School Board
• Bluewater District School Board
• Upper Grand District School Board
• Wellington Catholic District School Board
• Durham District School Board
• Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
• Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board
• Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
• Upper Canada District School Board
• Conseil scolaire de district catholique des Grandes Rivières
• Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien
• Provincial Schools Authority

As well as members from Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est, Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario, Conseil scolaire Viamonde, Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir, Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario, and Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l’Ontario.

Details here.

The predicted storm did manage to hit the province yesterday with many school districts cancelling bus transportation. It’s always a controversial move. I hope that everyone was safe.

Check out some of the great blogging efforts from Ontario Edubloggers.

The Best 75 Minutes of My Day.

Ramona Meharg starts with a simple statement.

Music is magic

Then, off she goes to describe how her guitar brings a unique environment to her Special Education Classroom.

The students get a choice from over 200 songs that she has on her playlist. That’s impressive. In the post, she describes their interactions with her, the music, and other classmates.

It doesn’t stop there. Like any good teacher, she can completely describes what she does and, most importantly, how it addresses curriculum expectations and elements of student IEPs.

Play this video! I bet you can’t sit still or, if you know the words and the tune, feel free to listen and enjoy while you read the rest of the post.

I Wish I Knew: How Does My Child Learn To Read?

Posted to the voicEd Radio blog, Tina Berman shares her first attempt at blogging (that I know of), inspired by a voicEd Radio podcast.

For the longest of times, I didn’t really put much thought into this. I was teaching Computer Science at the secondary school level which, by itself, appeals to a certain element of the school population which do know how to read.

Even as a child, I never thought about it. My parents read to us and weekly we would go to the town library to get a couple of books. We just read.

It was only later, as a member of the Program Department working with my superintendent and various elementary school literacy consultants that I dug deeply into the “how” rather than just the assumption that all children can read. So much research has been done, and Tina touches on some pretty important concepts in this post.

She also includes a nice collection of supporting references.

From Failing to #DisruptTexts

As I typically do, I make myself notes on the blog posts that I read for use on the radio show and in this post. The first thing that I wrote when I read this post from Melanie White was:

Might be the most important thing you read today

Maybe it’s what I consider my analytic mind, but her pie graphs really solidified her message for me.

I guess, growing up, the choice of reading and studying in the classroom really didn’t make me think. We just assumed that the teacher was instructed to use that one novel or it was one that he/she liked or had notes for. As long as we could buy the Coles Notes version of the book, we were good and didn’t have to actually do all the reading. One of the few books that I remember was The Great Gatsby. Maybe not for the story, but for the fact that we had a field trip to London to watch the movie.

It was a real yawner. And, it was far beyond us. We didn’t have an East Egg or a West Egg but we did have an East Street.

Back to Melanie’s post. She did an analysis of her book room and her results weren’t unexpected. Lots of stories written by white men. Does her collection go back in time to the days when I was in high school? Unless you haven’t been paying attention for the past twenty-thirty years, today we have a different society and a different sensibility.

Should our collection of literature change? Melanie sure thinks so. Read her post. Also, this story from the Ottawa Citizen.

T is for Teaching & Time

If nothing else, Lynn Thomas’ post about time should have you nodding your head. Embedded in it is an infographic from BusyTeacher.org that highlights so many of the things that teachers have been trying to impress on the current government about the profession.

I think that every teacher knows that, if they didn’t force themselves to sleep, there are times when the job could consume exactly 24 hours of your day.

Fortunately, we live in a time when we recognize the importance of personal well-being. How many times do we see the word “balance” promoted as a teacher one-word for the year? And, I think that we all know, that won’t be reached. For teachers, the job is just too darned important. Those that see the profession as a filler between university and retirement are usually out of the profession in their first couple of years.

There are way less stressful jobs to do. And, of fairness, more stressful ones as well.

The job is always evolving too. Every time someone who isn’t in the classroom comes up with a new research or theory and administration thinks it’s a good idea, you need to adjust. Flexibility – I think that needs to be added to that list as well.

Reflection from an E-Learning Teacher

I would have to think that common sense would dictate that those who would be successful in an eLearning course would be those that need a credit to get into university. Probably their course interest was one where an individual school didn’t have enough students to offer a face-to-face class as well.

The observations from Dave Lanovaz is interesting. He taught the Grade 12 Data Management university level course. That isn’t a course that appeals to everyone so having it available online seems like a nice alternative for those that don’t have it offered at their school.

His own data manages to make me think.

The course started with 32 students enrolled and ended up with 15 students who were successful in gaining the credit. Read his post for greater details about the enrolment throughout the course. We know there are always drops and adds.

It would be easy to blame the students and move on. But, Dave is looking inwardly as any good teacher does to see what he could do better and hopefully get better results. In particular, he touches on elements that need attention to in an online course.

  • Independence
  • Relationships
  • Community

I wish him good luck in this endeavour trying to make this course better for all.

But, go back to the original premise and think about the proposed eLearning courses for all requirement. With this success rate with university bound students, what does that predict for others?

OLA Super Conference – My First Time #TLchat #OLASC

Laura Wheeler recently received a certification as a teacher-librarian specialist so congratulations for that.

What do you do as you learn the profession? – go to the OLA SuperConference.

And she did! This is an interesting post where she shares her thoughts about the conference, Toronto, and downtown walkability, noise and smoke.

It sounded like a lonely experience – she only knew 2 people there. Come on Teacher-Librarian Personal Learning Network. Reach out and get her connected!

She managed to sketchnote many of the sessions that she attended and that makes this kind of a slow read if you’re like me and like to work your way through the notes. Here’s one…

It’s time well spent.

My “Gradeless” Bookshelf

The concept of going “gradeless” is a hot topic in some areas these days. Of course, it will require a systematic change in educational philosophy. Pick your system.

Terry Whitmell writes this post to:

I’ve been hearing many requests for my list of books that inspired my research.  Here are some of the books I’ve been sharing with my teaching colleagues, to support them in their shift in assessment

It’s an interesting collection. I’ve read the work of some of the authors and there were some new ones for me.

If you’re in a position of supporting professional reading in your system, you might find some of these books as interesting acquisitions for your professional libraries.

Another Friday, and it’s another interesting collection of writing from Ontario Edubloggers. Please take the time to read these posts and maybe drop off a comment or two.

You can hear the Wednesday voicEd Radio podcast here.

Then, follow these people on Twitter for even more.

  • Ramona Meharg – @RamonaMeharg
  • Tina Bergman – @blyschuk
  • Melanie White – @White Room Radio
  • Lynn Thomas – @THOMLYNN101
  • Dave Lanovaz – @DaveLanovaz
  • Laura Wheeler – @wheeler_laura
  • Terry Whitmell – @TerryWhitmell

This post originated on:


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

Banned books

I ran across this story the other day and kept the tab open and I continued to revisit it, learning more each time. It originated from the Readers’ Digest site.

These Are the Books That Were Banned the Decade You Were Born

Growing up, books and reading were big around our house. Every Saturday morning, my mother took my brother and me to the town library to get books to last for the upcoming week.

I can remember being fascinated by the reference section but, of course, we couldn’t book those out so we eventually moved to the area that was age-appropriate. I can also remember being hooked on Hardy Boy books and read them all. At the time, these were very popular and it wasn’t uncommon that the next book in the series was not available.

Those were shelved in a particular section of the library and we were given free range of it. There also was an adult section that we were told that we couldn’t go in to. Now, for a child of that age, you can imagine the curiosity that that inspired.

The neat thing about the library was that, as long as we stayed in our area, we could check out any book that we wanted. Seemingly, there were no restrictions at all. I can recall basically trying out books by various authors and there were some I liked and some I didn’t. It never dawned on me that, other than by age, there were other factors at work determining what was available and what wasn’t.

School was a different beast. For me, the difference between school and the public library was big. At school, we were told what we had to read; at the library we were less restricted.

I enjoyed working through the article identifying books that I had read, mostly at school but some for recreation or to meet some English class quota. Later on, the selections were just reading for fun. Titles that come back to mind over the decades from this article include:

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • 1984
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The Sun Also Rises
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • Catch-22
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Of Mice and Men
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Hunger Games

To be honest, the concept of banned or challenged books really was foreign to me. I never appreciated that there were big forces at work ensuring we had access to these books. Speaking of foreign, I recognize that the original article originated from south of the border. So, I went looking for a similar listing of Canadian works and found this.

Challenged Works

I know that, having worked with Teacher-Librarians over the years, all of the research and energy that they put into making sure that their collections serve students in their learning community. I also know that preferences can vary from school to school.

But, for this moment in time, it was just a nice look back and think about the reading done in my past.

I did get a book for this Christmas and it sits just to the right of me. I’m glad that my mother instilled a love of reading in me although I don’t think that she could have foreseen that it has changed over the years to include so much online.

And yet, there’s just something about holding a book.

Riveting reading

Often, you see parents who are trying to entertain children while in waiting rooms hand their smartphones to the child and let them play with it. What if there was something that would engage and, at the same time, educate?

There is with Rivet: Better Reading Practice.

How about access to over 2000 appropriate books? That’s what you get with this application.

I did a quick install to take a look at things and was so impressed.

The graphics in the stories are very well done and clicking on words are helpful for getting through those tough words!

The Google Play store lists these features…

– 2,000+ free, leveled children’s books
– 8 reading levels to grow with your reader
– Engaging, kid-friendly interface
– Tap on tricky words for help
– Rate, review, and save favorite books
– Browse categories or search by keyword
– Read books from your favorite YouTube creators
– Track reading practice
– Listening allows kids to practice reading out loud 
– Earn badges and rewards by achieving milestones
– Choose one of our 8 fun avatars
– Personalized book recommendations

And, teachers, for use in the classroom? Check out the Educators page.

But my students don’t all have smartphones? I installed it here on my Chromebook and it works like a champ. Actually, it uses the entire screen better than many of the Android applications that I have installed.

If you’re in the market for an additional source of reading, check this out. You’re one download away from expanding your library.

And popping those balloons are fun too!

A Convergence of Thought

A couple of things entered my reading today.  The first was an infographic asking “What Does An Educational Technologist Do?”  It’s an interesting graphic and worth the time to follow the link and take a look.


The second reading was a blog entry from George Couros titled “What should a networked educational leader tweet about?”  Just as the infographic is worth the time to study, so is Mr. Couros’ blog entry.  In particular, the summary at the bottom of the article about what or what not should be tweeted.

In both cases, I would suggest that these are significant descriptors.  For those of you who have access to the services of an educational technologist, I would think both are good standards for the position and worthwhile discussion with them.

But, I would take it even further.  Not only should these be considered, there is another aspect.

How often does this communication happen?  Is it sufficient when the educational technologist is in attendance at a conference or a presentation and parrotting points made by a speaker?  I would say no.  Doing so is like saying “I’m here and you’re not”.

The message that an educational technologist often gives is one of you needing to be a lifelong learner and get with the program. But what about her/him?

If you believe in lifelong learner for others, how about yourself?  If you believe in visible learning, how about yourself?

Is it not desirable, heck, even a requirement that you show how it’s done?  If it’s important to learn, I would suggest that it’s at least as important to illustrate that.  Only then, do you lead and learn by example.  Are you not learning something new every day as you would expect others to do?

Take another look at the two resources.  They really show a great convergence of ideas and should be part of a roadmap for success.  Otherwise, it’s pretty difficult to answer the question “Just what is it that you do?”