This Week in Ontario Edublogs


This Wednesday, Matthew Morris joined Stephen Hurley and me for This Week in Ontario, the Podcast. You can listen to it here. With Matthew’s insights, we took on a few new topics. You can read my thoughts about them below. As always, insights from great Ontario Edubloggers.


5 Things Every Teacher Should Do During Summer Break

This was a post from Matthew Morris. Here, he takes on the very popular blogging format “# Things …” and shares some advice about what to do during this time off.

  • Sleep
  • Purge Your Classroom
  • Un-Plug
  • Reflect on the Year
  • One New Thing for Next Year

Fortunately, for the podcast, he woke up early and plugged in, thereby breaking at least two rules on his list! But, as you work your way down the list, you’ll undoubtedly agree with them. Most support the notion of mental well-being.

I found that the “Reflect on the Year” to be one of the more interesting things when you consider that most people would consider this a year to forget. To be certain, we don’t know what the fall will look like so consolidating them with the on the fly learning that’s happened in the past few months could be very important.

It’s also advice that Subject Associations should be heeding. For the most part, teachers made it work but I’m sure that many of them could provide guidance to make things better. Just this morning, ACSE member Lisa Rubini-Laforest indicated that she will be leading a panel discussion at their virtual conference this summer about teaching online. All Subject Associations should be highlighting their expertise in this area and the sooner the better.

Take the lead; do them early, record them and place them online so that they’re accessible when most school districts do their end of August professional learning.


Cancel Culture and our students

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding that social media has got meaner over the past few months. Personally, I have isolated some people from me because of a number of reasons. I’m emotionally happier as a result.

The concept has not gone unnoticed by Jennifer Casa-Todd and she takes on the topic in this post from the perspective of students. They can be brutal at times. She asks about various things that will get you thinking. One in particular struck me as needing to be answered.

If we are talking about adolescents, will their entire future be marred by one mistake?

Of course, Jennifer has many other thinking points and that will make reading her post worthwhile.

Trending this morning is this post from Margaret Wente

It’s an insight from the other side, from one who was “cancelled” due to pressure from Social Media.


6 Similes to describe how it felt to teach during COVID 19 Quarantine

During the podcast, I mused that only teachers and students would be able to use the word “similes” properly. Matthew indicated that rappers could as well!

In this post on the Heart and Art blog, Will Gourley does a top six list…

“Teaching during a quarantine”

The similes are certainly worth the read and has to bring a smile to everyone. I know it did for me. I also learned that AWOL doesn’t always have the meaning that I thought it did after watching years of M*A*S*H.

It seems to me that the best of the six was comparing learning to eating an ice cream code with a hole in the bottom. Read the post to see Will tell you why he feels that way.

It’s a great read and I get a sense that it might have been healing for Will as he got a lot off his chest. Read and share.


ENGAGING FAMILIES – COVID AND BEYOND

Where students come from a family to school, the insights from With Equal Step are really important.

Over and over again, we heard about how parents had a renewed appreciation for teachers (or a first appreciation) and how teachers had appreciated the support received from families.

The observations in the post about silos and bridges are important. There’s wisdom here for everyone.

While teachers and parents may be frustrated that they can no longer easily hand off our child to the other at the door, our new immersive connection reminds us that, “Diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous ones.”


How do research plans change in a COVID context? #MyResearch

I think that everyone could learn something from the observations in Anna Bartosik’s post.

I think that most people can envision the days of going to the library to grab some books or microfiche and doing the research. Since Anna made the reference to OISE, I remembered a couple of coffee places and the cafeteria at FEUT where many of us would meet and work together on things.

So, now you take all that away.

Well, we now have different/better tools. Just open a shared online document and a video conferencing window and take it from there. Anna shares her experience working in this environment.

microphone icon from noun project

Sure, we have the tools, better tools but …

And, I also learned about the Noun Project.


Is This When We Change Our View Of Planning?

I love it when Aviva Dunsiger says I’m right.

As Doug indicated in his comment, many people might be preparing for worst case scenarios right now. While I was quick to reply that my teaching partner, Paula, and I are not doing that, maybe that’s not completely true.

Well, maybe not in so many words but I’ll take what I can get.

So, Aviva is doing some planning

  • I’m planning for possibilities
  • I’m planning with connections
  • I’m planning to connect
  • I’m planning through reading
  • I’m planning to blog

Knowing her as I think I do, none of these come as real surprises.

Probably all teachers could say they’re doing these things and they wouldn’t be wrong. But I would point to the one in the middle. (Mental note: should have used a numbered list)

The value of connecting needs to go further than “I gots me a Twitter account”. Connecting means building that account to have a critical mass of wisdom both supporting and challenging your assumptions and more importantly to put yourself out there, offering advice, asking for suggestions, working collaboratively, being humble…

Just don’t get yourself cancelled.


MakerEdTO 2020 Virtual Conversations

I’m really liking it when organizations are rolling with the punches and coming out the other side winning.

MakerEdTO is one of those groups and Diana Maliszewski shares with us how it was done.

Of course, they couldn’t get together and make things happen by all being in the same place at the same time. It wasn’t talking heads; they worked on giving everyone selection and used online breakout rooms to make it happen.

There’s a great deal to be learned from this post and I’m sure Diana would be more than accommodating for those who want to ask questions to make educational gatherings like this work, even in these times.


Please take the time to click through and read all these wonderful posts and then follow these educators online through Twitter.

  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @jcasatodd
  • Will Gourley – @WillGourley
  • With Equal Step – @WithEqualStep
  • Anna Bartosik – @ambartosik
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL

This post appears on

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to another Friday and a collection of wonderful blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.


A virtual climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro – Join Us!

Here’s something that everyone can get involved with at home. Paul McGuire was planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro this summer. Obviously, that’s out given our current situation.

But, like many activities that would normally be done in real life, Paul and his Christie Lake Kids team have gone virtual and they want you to join them.

No, not there, but your location.

Each day for seven days we will put out to those who are interested 1) a step count that approximates the steps you would take on that particular day (8-10,000 steps); 2) a commentary embedded for you to listen to that goes over what that day on the trail is like;  3) a video log of that day by Arienne Parzei; 4) a conditioning follow-along video by Chase Tucker; 5) some music to inspire you for your day; 6) some Kilimanjaro interesting facts and; 7) a fun African recipe.

Why wouldn’t you do it? Or at least part of it?

Remember – “Communities move mountains”


Saying, “I am not racist” is not enough pt 1
Saying, “I am not racist” is not enough pt 2

From the ETFO Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning blog, there are a couple of posts from Will Gourley.

This is a very transparent and open commentary on what we all are experiencing in our communities and watching news on television.

In the first blog post, Will shares what he considers his level of privilege. I suspect that many of you will be nodding your head in agreement with his observations.

In the second blog post, he outlines what he plans to do personally about things. It’s an admirable plan.

Throughout, he makes the very valid case of the difference between “I am not racist” and “I am anti-racist”.


The Future of eLearning

Staying with the Heart and Art Blog, Deborah Weston shares her thoughts about eLearning and our future.

Given that we are at a time in history where a pandemic is pushing school work onto eLearning platforms, I can see growth in the technology of eLearning platforms for many students.

Nobody chose to have us where we currently stand. But, teachers have answered the call and are doing the very best that they can given limited professional learning, access to technology for themselves and students, lack of preparedness for the variety of tools, privacy, security, etc.

As she notes, there is an absolute flaw in Ontario’s implementation of Online Learning. For years, we’ve embraced and worked with the notion that one solution isn’t appropriate for all students. Yet, Online Learning is forcing many to back off and try to make that notion fit.

The ultimate solution can’t be a memo from Mowat Block. It needs to seriously listen to parents, students, teachers, and administrators. There is no one size fits all solution here.

I believe that school districts, federations, and subject associations need to step up and provide professional learning opportunities for addressing classrooms effectively in the fall. When you consider that the typical teacher studies for one or two years at a Faculty of Education, a few hours at the end of the summer just doesn’t seem appropriate. Teaching is a profession of continuous growth and learning and needs to be respected at this time.


Good Will: it’s what holds the education system together

This is a very personal post from Tim King. Tim share the mathematics of his own involving salary, hours worked, hours volunteered, and professional growth taken.

Despite all this, teaching position have been lost. The current scoreboard is available here.

I think that any teacher who reads this post will share a feeling of the same story in their career. Teaching isn’t a 9-5 job with other hours left for other things.

Teaching is a commitment not only to the learning of students but also to the interactions with those students to prepare them for their future lives. Throw in marking, lesson preparation, and all of the other activities that happen outside of the physical school and you get the picture.

All this for 1% while Members of Provincial Parliament vote themselves a cost of living raise!


W is for Wonder

Lynn Thomas is still working on the alphabet!

This is actually quite a long blog post with a great deal of thought and contemplation on her part – obviously aimed at wondering what the upcoming school year will look like.

In particular, she addresses

  • What will school look like in September?
  • How will mental health and well being – of students and teachers – be supported?
  • What about equity?

As Stephen Hurley noted in our radio show – curiouser and curiouser. Lynn does a terrific job of expanding and sharing her thoughts on each wonder.

To Lynn’s well-thought-through list, I would add another …

Are School Districts and is the Ministry of Education prepared to fund any solution so that it’s done properly with the interests of students foremost?


Dad’s Gold

Melanie White adds her thoughts about her husband in this entry to the Our Dad Shoes blog post.

The post is a heart-warming collection of stories – even this Minnesota Vikings fan could cut some slack with the Green Bay Packers construction helmet logo.

I can’t help but be moved by the personal family stories about how they got to where they are today and the character(s) her husband assumed to help in difficult circumstances.

May her boys always honour this

The boys see his tenacity, his unwavering commitment to them, and he knows their teasing is loving kindness. But they don’t know that their dad is an alchemist who transforms the unimaginable into living gold.


No Title

For me, the power in Matthew Morris’ posts lies in the stories that he tells through his lens. I’ve mentioned many times; I can have empathy but can never fully understand his reality. His posts do help with that.

It’s easy to listen to podcasts or to read blog posts from people sharing what a wonderful job that they’re doing in this very difficult time.

But things have become more difficult

These teachers don’t literally kneel on the necks of children but some suffocate them of future opportunity by their mere position of privilege and power and pretentiousnes

As Matthew notes, school are grounded in what they consider stability. I think he makes an argument for serious consideration when he compares the stability of education with the stability of society.

You need to read and ponder the points in this post.


I hope that you can find time to read through all of these posts. You will learning something from each of them.

Then, follow these bloggers on Twitter.

  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Will Gourley – @WillGourley
  • Deborah Weston – @dr_weston_PhD
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Lynn Thomas – @THOMLYNN101
  • Melanie White – @whiteroomradio
  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris

This post comes from:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


I had a bit of a surprise yesterday afternoon when I opened WordPress to write this post. Generally, I don’t look at the dashboard but this caught me eye.

Wow! I knew that I had a few posts but 9 000? Now, truth be told, every other post for some time now are links from my previous day’s reading so they’re not all original work by me.

Anyway, it’s another week of great posts from Ontario Edubloggers. Please sit back and enjoy.


Living in the Times of Covid – 19: A Journal

Paul McGuire shares an interesting observation in this post

There is no balance in the time of COVID -19. There are highs and lows and all are good. 

We probably all go through this on a regular basis but being permanently at home only serves to amplify them. Paul isn’t the only person to make this observation that I’ve noticed this week. I would think that the real problem would come when a person is unable to distinguish between them.

So, Paul is aware of what’s happening in his world and shares some observations of life going on outside it. I found it interesting and like that Paul’s coping mechanism can be so powerful – just write.

Whether it’s a blog, an article, a journal, a note … it’s a way of getting the weight out and that’s always a good thing.

Don’t freak out at the image on the landing page of this post. Sometimes, the silly just takes over.


Keep Calm and Teach ONLine

It was refreshing to read this admission from Deb Weston.

I’ll be honest with you, reader, I’ve had some lasting moments of being completely overwhelmed with the circumstances we are going through as teachers. Isolated in our homes, we deal with steep learning curves while worrying about our students in their lives and in their learning.

I’ve read so many things about how well learning is going; the kids are really excelling and all that. You just know that that may well be a bit of an exaggeration.

I suspect this article was written before the announcement by the Ministry of Education about the purchase of iPads and Internet access for students as she does identify a lack of these as part of the frustration that’s happening. But, even dropping off technology with “no touch” isn’t an immediate solution to a problem. It’s an attempt to level the playing field and will get better over time, I hope. I’ve got a blog post of my own about this in brainstorming mode.

(update: I’m reading now that this purchase may not be for new technology and I’m researching)

It’s also not just access to technology that is at hand here. Deb correctly has sympathies for those students who would normally handle things in Special Education settings but now are unable.


Content and Copyright Considerations in Distance Learning

I thought that this post from Michelle Fenn tagged nicely after Deborah’s post. So, you do have access to the internet. We all know that you can find absolutely anything and everything out there.

However, finding and using it can be two different things…

In the post, Michelle addresses:

  • Posting YouTube Videos
  • Reading Books Online to Students
  • FairDealing and Copyright
  • Privacy Policies and Statement

She touches the surface on these. It’s difficult to address them all here so make sure that you check out her post. Michelle does give an excellent piece of advice because not all resources are created equally.

Be proactive and check with someone in the Instructional Technology department at your school board to ensure that you are following recommendations before asking students and parents to sign up for a digital tool.


Distance Learning: Week One

And yet another post from the ETFO Heart and Art Blog. This one comes from Kelly McLaughlin. Here, she lays out her plan for Week One that she has for students that address Mathematics, Literacy, Geography, and Science.

The activities were to be done asynchronously and she let the students know what times she was available for assistance.

There was an element of concern and empathy that I thought was important to note. Using the tools, she polled her students to see how they were doing in the various subject areas, on a personal basis, and as learners.

I could see this feedback as being very crucial for future planning. The response would inform her as teacher as to how the students are coping and would allow her to adjust future learning activities accordingly.


5 Things That Will Change After Coronavirus 

Hmmm, Matthew Morris, only five?

It’s hard to argue with any of the things in his list.

  • Social Distancing – we’re starting to see districts outside Ontario planning to open schools. The good thing is that many of the schools are not planning for school as usual. Schools are build for the masses; they line up to go in, they mob the hallways, they get squashed into classrooms
  • Online Learning – if we learn one thing about using technology and learning, it’s that you can’t just flip a switch and move from face to face to online. Look for a move for more blended learning approaches
  • Self-isolation – I liked his observation here, particularly is it applies to the use of social media. We’ve always know that there was bullying online but when online is your only answer, it only follows that so does the bullying
  • Quarantine – he takes an interesting look at this concept in a different way. It was the concept of racism and speared by the leader to the south of us. There is a history of naming viruses from their place of origin and, even though it hasn’t been conclusively proven, COVID-19 has been referred to by location. And, it’s not the use of the location, it’s in the way that it’s pronounced
  • Super Skepticism – we live in a day and age where you can turn and find resources to find any opinion that you want. A good global citizen will definitely stand and question everything

I really, really liked the items that Matthew has identified and he takes them on in his particular style.


Inspiration to Join the TESL Ontario Board

Here’s an opportunity for those involved in TESL.

How about joining the Board of Directors?

On the TESLOntario blog, Paula Ogg talks about her inspiration to join the board.

I am passionate about creative problem solving, design thinking, and design-based research, so I hope in the future I will be able to share and use these tools and techniques to give others a voice in TESL leadership.

While I’ve never been a TESL teacher, I find that whole group of educators very interesting and inspirational. The TESLOntario website does a wonderful job of collecting and sharing resources.

If that’s where your interests lie, you may wish to get further involved.


Dixit: A Game for Everyone (Language, Thinking and Abstract Learning Skills)

Zoe Branigan-Pipe shares a card game that is played in the Pipe household and in her class. I think a lot of people are playing games to while the time and keep things under control these days.

At home, I play this with my family (ages 16, 17, 20 and adults). I also have an ELL student living with us who loves using this game to learn vocabulary. He uses a translater to help him express his ideas.

Then, she gives us a big long list of educational things that she sees from playing the game and using it in her classroom.

Zoe, I’ll leave you with a quote I get from my kids

“Daaaad, you’re such a teacher”

I always take it as a compliment.


Please take a moment to check out these posts and read the complete insights from these great bloggers.

Then, follow them on Twitter.

  • Paul McGuire – @mcguirp
  • Deb Weston – @DrDWestonPhD
  • Michelle Fenn – @Toadmummy
  • Kelly McLaughlin
  • Matthew Morris – @callmemrmorris
  • Paula Ogg – @TESLOntario
  • Zoe Branigan-Pipe – @zbpipe

This post originated at:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


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


Simple Remote Learning Fixes

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

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

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

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

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


Here I Am Again

Thanks to Sheila Stewart, I now have this earworm.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

And that’s not a bad thing.


Slice of (home teaching) Life

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

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

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

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

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

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


Reflections: Week #1 Of Remote Learning

Rola Tibshirani shares how her Week #1 went.

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

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

At least under normal conditions.

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

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

It’s wise advice for all.


Coding? Now!? Who Cares?

Well, Peter Skillen does for one.

Me for another.

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

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


Online Learning in a Hurry – a Course in a Hurry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

This post appears at:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

10 Questions for Alfred Thompson


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

So no asterisk next to anything. Full credit. 


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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