A change this morning


Today is Wednesday and time for my weekly voicEd Radio show, This Week in Ontario Edublogs. Stephen Hurley and I will be chatting live about some recent blog posts from educators in the province.

That’s nothing new; we’ve been doing it for four years now.

What is new is that it will be at a different time.

The show will be live this morning at 8:45 rather than our normai 9:15 start.

As usual, Stephen’s and my conversation will be inspired by blog posts. This week, they come from the keyboards of:

  • Melissa Turnbull
  • Diana Maliszewski
  • Alanna King
  • Zelia Tavares
  • Lisa Corbett

I apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.

For those who listen to the show after the fact as podcast, it will be online later in the day at:

And, of course, all of the recordings from previous shows are there as well.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


In one week, we’ve gone from socked in with snow to having to clean the yard now that we’re down to grass. (I own a dog, remember)

Enjoy some recent post from Ontario Edubloggers.


Complex

I was delighted to see The Beast back at the blogging keyboard. It’s always interesting to read their initial thoughts and then the back and forth between Andrea and Kelly.

Their opening line got me really thinking.

Every school has a population of students who are incredibly complex.

It reminded me of this – “A riddle wrapped up in an enigma”. That so describes teaching. You just have to solve for everything.

But The Beast is ready for it. They even took a course from Nogah working on the notion of a wicked problem. What follows in the blog post is a wide range of ideas and discussions between the two of them.

It’s a good read and, unfortunately, they do not provide a solution. But there is good advice there for anyone trying to reach a solution. And that’s a good thing.


Leadership is Exhausting #1: headships & heirarchies

I’ll admit right up; I did not know that Tim King was co-chair of his technology department. Should I have known? When I read that, I thought that this would be a great catalyst for the school.

“Status Quo” doesn’t exist in Tim’s vocabulary.

If there’s anyone who would be a good apple cart overturner, it would be him.

He did get a real dose of educational reality in the experience. It is indeed hard work being at the head of a department in a school. There are all kinds of challenges in the position and you’re the one that needs to provide the answers. We all know that everyone is working so hard these COVID days but those who teach niche subjects end up with multiple sections just so that they can run. Why? Such educators believer that it’s important to offer that opportunity for students but it does come at a cost. Even a two-section split requires lesson planning for two different curriculums.

Tim has left that position; he was there for two years and he shares some of the things that he was able to bring back to his school.

He should take satisfaction in that.


After Cheggification – A way forward (Part 1)

Those of us who work in K-12 may not be aware of the challenges involved in higher education. Dave Cormier gives us an insight to what’s happening. He even inspired me to read about the Academic Integrity policy at the University of Windsor.

I suppose that it probably always was a challenge – students cheating on their work – I can remember at university some people going through discarded printouts looking for answers to programming problems. It always amused me as I wondered how many people discarded working solutions. But, anyway.

If you do a search for “plagiarism checker” on the internet, you’ll find all kinds of solutions. When you visit them, they typically sell themselves as tools for student achievement. Chegg is the one that Dave addresses here. Simply put, you ask Chegg a question and you get answers. (among many of the other advertised features). In a regular world, that’s a great study aid. But, when you’re learning at home and need a little assist …

So, the teaching staff is offering solutions to address this in their evaluations.

  • Response 1 – Make the exams harder
  • Response 2 – Entrapment
  • Response 3 – open/take home exams and assignments replacing high stakes exams

Dave notes that each of these solutions make things more difficult for students. For the malpractice of some, everyone pays. It reminds me of having to stay in class at recess because someone else in the class messed up.

Dave takes off in a different direction. The questions themselves…

“Well-structured questions” which seem like a logical, reasonable solution. I mean, weren’t we all schooled as teacher candidates about having quality questions and activities. But then he talks about “Ill-structured questions” and how it might change everything.

It’s a tease for his next post which I’m looking forward to reading.


Creating Characters!

I’ve mentioned this many times before but I think the way that Cameron Steltman handles blogging with his students is genius. It’s not your traditional blogging approach; it’s better.

His goal is to get kids writing and he addresses the desire that every teacher has for writing – getting kids to write for an audience.

He actually writes the blog post as a provocation and the students reply to this provocation. So, there’s none of this dead space that we so often see when teachers try to get students to blog. Because the students know that their classmates and maybe even mom and dad will be reading, the quality of the writing is quite impressive.

In this case, Cameron’s class is working on storytelling and he has them create a character. There are rules

  • a name (first, middle, last)
  • a few favourite things
  • 3 personality traits (e.g. funny, humble, disturbed, etc. )
  • a flaw (something that can create conflict)

The responses are awesome. During the This Week in Ontario Edublogs show, Stephen suggested that it would be an interesting extension to have the characters created actually meet and interact with each other.

There’s a next level of sophistication for you.


Extra Help w/ Bookings

In a regular year, it would come in the form of a request “Sir, can I drop in a lunch or after school for some extra help”. Now that so many people are teaching online, surely there is a technological solution.

Cal Armstrong provides a solution in Microsoft Office 365 called Microsoft Bookings. Since I don’t have Office 365, I’d never heard about Bookings before.

I found it really helpful to go through and read Cal’s post. There are lots of screen captures there to step through the process. It actually appears to be straight forward and I can see why he uses it. He sets the table for students to electronically book a bit of Mr. Armstong’s time for extra assistance.

Even more valuable than the mechanics of working your way through Bookings is the wisdom that Cal shares about the actual implementation. There are controls that the teacher can put into place so that it doesn’t get out of hand and respects teacher time and privacy.

I can’t help but think that this is a valuable tool and I also wonder how many people like me are oblivious to its presence.


Mom Was My Hero.

This was a first blog post from Jamie McKinnon that I just happened to catch as he announced it on his Twitter feed.

As you might guess from the title, it is a personal tribute to a mother who has passed. It’s a little different than the typical blog post that I feature in this post but that doesn’t change its importance.

And what better words could an educator use about someone else than

Mom was a ferocious learner, never stopped, curious and passionate

I’ll admit a little hesitancy to go through and read this. It seemed kind of personal and I was afraid that it might be one of those stories where people were separated by COVID as I was with a friend and a cousin who passed away earlier this year.

Jamie uses the post as a tribute to a wonderful mother. While her passing is nonetheless sad, the memories of a long, active life come through loudly and clearly.


Going back to in-person learning: Multiple Perspectives

Jennifer Casa-Todd shares a story of a presentation that she made recently. It was about digging into different perspectives about a return to face to face instruction/learning.

School districts world-wide are certainly all over the map about this. The consensus is that it’s a good thing but how do you do it and respect every educational partner at the same time? Secondary schools in Ontario are a good example of this. It was on the news this morning that the state of Michigan will be returning soon.

So, Jennifer’s activity?

I divided participants up into four different groups: a) Parent who is struggling to find care for their child; b) Student who is doing well in a virtual environment; c) Politician who is getting pressure to open schools d) Director who is seeing student failure rates go up.

It would have been interesting to see the responses. I found it interesting that one of the groups wasn’t teachers but that may have been by Jennifer’s design.


I hope that you can find some time to click through and read all of these interesting blog posts. They’ll get you thinking for sure.

Then, follow these bloggers on Twitter.

  • TheBeast – @thebeastedu
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Dave Cormier – @davecormier
  • Cameron Steltman – @MrSteltman
  • Cal Armstrong – @sig225
  • Jamie McKinnon – @jnmckinnon
  • Jennifer Casa-Todd – @JCasaTodd

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


After a snowy week, it’s nice to be able to sit back and check out some blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers.


February Patience

Aviva Dunsiger has taken the suggestion from Beth Lyons about doing a #oneword each month rather than one for the year and February is going to be “Patience”.

I think every teacher will agree that February is a tough month at the best of times and the 2021 version is just so much worse. For teachers throughout the province, face to face teaching resumes this February. This following weeks of teaching online. Or as Aviva puts it

we’re about to begin a September in February

As a result, she’s questioning the concept of patience as she, dare I say pivots, back to face to face.

I can’t help but think that patience isn’t necessarily patience online versus face to face. The concept of dead air comes to mind. It’s OK in the classroom since there’s all kinds of other feedback cues but online?

There are some interesting questions that she asks that I think every teacher might ask themselves. Heck, they’re good questions for everyone.


The (A)politics of Education–In a World Where There is No Such Thing as Neutral

This post, from Debbie Donsky, is a nice followup to the recent post from Matthew Morris. In fact, Debbie does make reference to Matthew’s quote and Faculties of Education.

I had to look up the definition of “apolitical” just to make sure that I understood what I thought it meant.

Having no interest in or association with politics. 2. Having no political relevance or importance: claimed that the president’s upcoming trip was purely apolitical.

“apolitical.” Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary. 2010. 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. 18 Feb. 2021 https://www.thefreedictionary.com/apolitical

Throughout the post, Debbie mentions some of the issues of the day. From my perspective, I’m not sure that I could be considered apolitical about these things. I clearly have my leanings on things.

The notion of not bringing politics into the classroom was perhaps well minded about days near an election. It seems to me that most things of importance these days are political.

Debbie does a really deep dive about the topic and ties it nicely to education. It’s a good and powerful read.


STUDENT PROJECTS TO PROMOTE CREATIVITY

I’m not sure why you would ever assign a project to students that didn’t promote creativity but maybe that’s just me.

On the TESTOntario blog, John Allan uses this premise to introduce or re-introduce some pretty important tools.

  • CANVA
  • WinkSite
  • Google Tour Creator
  • QuestGarden

For each, John gives a nice discussion and there’s plenty of reference to good pedagogy there. There are all kinds of ideas. I think that I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating.

Online learning from home is better if students understand the tools involved. So, in these days where schools are back face to face, it’s a good time to use these effectively in case the unthinkable happens again. If not, they’ll still generate some great learning opportunities.

For each of the tools, John provides a “how to”, an “example”, and a ‘blog post.”

Consequently, it’s just not a list of tools but a launchpad to using these tools effectively.


Improvement is the Enemy of Change

This provocative title leads us to a discussion and observation of two of the high profile issues of the day. Charles says he’s non-partisan.

But, my thoughts as I read this — political? You betcha.

Far too often, huge and wasteful attention is paid to the superficial expressions of a problem rather than putting in the energy and time to go deeper to discover the real obstacles that get in the way of meaningful movement towards the desired outcomes. 

Charles Pascal uses this as a way to discuss

  • paid sick days
  • profit motive that drives 60% of Ontario’s long-term care facilities

These are topics for discussion in any year. In a year with COVID and the desire to keep virus spread, they take on increasing importance.

Briefly, doesn’t it only make sense for people who are sick to stay home? Wouldn’t paid sick days help address that?

And, isn’t it just obvious that cuts to expenditures to increase profits at long-term care facilities put residents and workers at greater risk?

We’ve seen the effects of both of these things. It’s on the news constantly. In this post, Charles goes into each topic at great discussion. This is a very sobering post to read. I’m glad that he took the time to share his thoughts with us.


Building practices for great equity: Careful engagement in Collaborative Learning

Beate Planche reached out to me to let me know of her blog and this was the most recent post. She gives us a nice discussion about Collaborative Learning and some links for additional reading.

Thinking back, I really didn’t get any direction about collaborative learning while at the Faculty of Education. We did talk about “group work” but it was never with the deep understanding that Beate drives home in this post.

Even as an educator, I’ve been in situations where we were “doing collaborative learning” at professional learning events. Often, it was contrived and seemed like a way for a presenter to fill time.

If you follow Beate’s post, she describes a practice that is a great deal of work and doesn’t elevate the teacher from the actual learning. If done effectively, the teacher is moving and working hard to encourage students.

In the study of Computer Science, a collaborative process described as Pair Programming can be found here. It’s a popular topic at Computer Science professional learning events.


Time is the…

As I read this post from Sheila Stewart, bells went off in my head. She says she stumbled into this song.

She was struck by the last of the song

Time is the mirror
Time is the healer
Time is the teacher

My song? And in response to Sheila’s call to action from the post… Certainly not as obscure as hers but very powerful as I really and truly paid attention to the lyrics.

And I enjoyed listening to Sheila’s suggestion as well.


Snow Day = No School Day

I knew that someone would be writing about Snow Days on the Heart and Art Blog. Heck I’d even written a post myself on Wednesday. Well, I wrote about it on Tuesday for it to appear on the Wednesday.

So, back to Heart and Art because this post isn’t about me – Deborah Weston took on the topic. I’ve got to believe that part of her inspiration came from social media as teachers throughout the province checked in on what was happening in their districts.

It seemed to be divided into two camps – Camp 1 let Snow Days be Snow Days and Camp 2 was The Show Must Go On. I can actually see how the logic would flow in the Camp 2 camp from those who are at the system level and make the decisions.

I’m getting tired of the terms “pivot” and “flip to” and Deborah uses them to share her observation about what might happen. It’s a good read for all teachers, to be sure, but I would suggest even better for decision makers.

If you can just easily pivot from a planned face to face lesson to online, the lesson can’t have been very good to begin with.


I hope that you can find some time to click through and read these original posts.

Then, follow these bloggers on Twitter.

  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Debbie Donsky – @debbiedonsky
  • John Allan – @mrpottz
  • Charles Pascal – @CEPascal
  • Beate Planche – @bmplanche
  • Sheila Stewart – @SheilaSpeaking
  • Deborah Weston – @DPAWestonPhD

World Radio Day


Today is World Radio Day. How are you celebrating?

I’m thinking about all the great radio that I’ve had the privilege to listen to over the years. Growing up and going out with friends, there were only two radio stations that were ever on the car radio. AM mono radio at its best.

CKLW – the Big 8 – it played all the great, hot and popular music of the time.

WCAR – the problem with CKLW was that it had a smaller playlist at the time. When the same old song came on again, we’d switch to WCAR.

There was a great deal of loyalty to those stations. I don’t recall scanning for anything else while in the car.

There were a couple of other radio stations that would be turned on at either my place or my girlfriend’s place. The biggy was CKNX from Wingham where you could get the crop futures and other farming advice. Add at 1:00, there was “In Memorium”.

CFTR – the university years! The good old power stations from Detroit didn’t quite reach where I went to school in Waterloo and Toronto. But, there was still great music.

and, of course, when my best friend came from Toronto, we had to listen to CHUM.

Of course, there were those late night trips back and forth to university. I had a tendency to drift in and out if I was listening to music and so would scan for talk radio. I seem to remember a station from Chicago that did the trick for me.

Around that time, a new phenomenon happened. You could listen to radio stations through your cable television service! The university’s low power station CKMS was available there. It brought to me the idea of progressive rock and listening to complete albums instead of just what was popular.

And then the reality of getting a job and driving to work. It seemed like old home moving back to the broadcasting area of Windsor/Detroit. CKLW had changed though. Actually, radio had changed and AM and FM were both broadcasting in stereo if they wanted. But, I carpooled with a colleague and the station was stuck on WRIF.

These days, we seem to have returned to our country roots and the radio is set to CJWF which actually broadcasts on two channels. One from Windsor and the other from Leamington so we’re covered wherever our dog walking takes us.

Except when we’re in the car where the dog is not allowed to enter! There, we have SiriusXM radio. We pay for all the stations but leave it on E Street Radio.

Of course, these days, radio stations are more available than ever. In addition to the local over the air stations, there are all kinds available through television service and, now that I have decent internet connections, via the internet.

Yet, local still lives. Even in the heavily saturated Windsor Detroit media market, we have a local who has applied for a radio station right here in town. Media people will know Marty Adler from CBC, Windsor Raceway, and Leamington Raceway. If anyone has the expertise to make it happen, it’s him.

A few years ago, I got into this. I had a request from Stephen Hurley to do a live radio show on voicEd Radio based on my This Week in Ontario Edublogs Friday blog post. Uncreatively, we gave it the same name on his fledgling radio station and we’re live for an hour on Wednesday mornings. You don’t really need high end gear to do the show although he does the actual heavy lifting and has much more sophisticated stuff. My “studio” looks much like my regular workspace.

It’s nothing like the studio at WKRP but, with a lot of coaching from Stephen, it works. I like concept. While podcasting is increasingly popular, often it can be over produced. There’s nothing like going live, mistakes and all!

It’s funny when you think of the original premise of radio. You turn to a station and listen. Things have certainly become better and more popular over time. Yet, that same premise still exists.

So, find some way to celebrate World Radio Day. Radio has always been there for us and there’s no hint that it’s going to go away soon!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to another Friday and countdown to the early spring predicted by Wiarton Willie. Enjoy some great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers as you count.


Gearing Up for MST with a Master Storyteller

In these COVID days, you would understand how someone might lose their enthusiasm for doing extraordinary things. That’s anything but the case for Noa Daniels and this post shows just what extraordinary might look like.

She and her grade 8 students have partnered with Lucky Budd about storytelling. This is kind of amazing to think that this would happen but why not.

In the post, Noa describes everything and it sounds pretty awesome. It’s also not the sort of one of that’s done over a weekend. You’ll have to read to get the complete details.

Her students are also appreciative about what’s going on. Here’s a sampling of the comments from students

  • I thought it was cool how the story connected with the 3 rivers in BC: the Skeena, the Nass, and the Stikine
  • I found it very interesting and I really liked how you paused during the story to add suspense. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and telling us about how you got into storytelling.
  • I think it’s very inspiring that although the first time you tried to publish a book it didn’t happen but that didn’t stop you from trying.
  • I also really liked the suspense and sound effects you added when you were telling the story. It was really fun listening and you have such a cool vibe!

The complete story is in her post which makes it well worth the read.


I Want to Break Free!

Here’s a sentiment from Richard Erdmann that we all want to experience. Even the notion of going mall walking which, quite honestly, I never particularly care for takes on new importance simply be the fact that we are prohibited from doing it. In my case, I actually miss shopping with my wife who actually touches everything that she might be interested in purchasing. It drives me crazy. When we get the chance to do it again, I think I’m going to have a different outlook.

Cabin fever and stir crazy are two things that I can definitely related to. These days, the highlight is going outside to walk the dog which fortunately is still ok within the rules.

Richard’s situation is a lot more serious and his notion that he is not only missing the experiences but that he’s being robbed of them will give you pause and a chance to empathise.

I don’t know what else to say, Richard, other than to agree with you that we will eventually get through this. Let’s hope that it’s soon. Numbers across the province continue to show promise.


Stress and The Evolving Teenaged Brain: A Study in Contrasts

From the self regulation blog comes an interesting post from John Hoffman. Regular readers here will recall a post I made last week about a group of teenagers who felt robbed that they were not able to get their driver’s licenses.

I remember thinking, at the time, that their logic wasn’t rational – everyone is paying the price during the lockdown. Maybe now I can cut a little slack when, according to John, their rational mind isn’t fully matured until age 25.

But he notes the research that indicates that the teenage mind is specially vulnerable to excess stress. If what we’re living through doesn’t meet that criteria, I don’t know what would.

All this leads to the announcement of an upcoming course specially for this age group through the Merit Centre – Feeling Stress: A Self-Reg Mini-Course for Teens.


What I’ve learned from being a Virtual Teacher so far

I’m hoping that Amy Bowker’s “so far” doesn’t extend too much further and that any more learning comes from reflection.

She does a really good job of identifying her thoughts and feelings about teaching during these times. It’s sad but predictable that students are just plain disappearing by turning off camera or microphones or just not showing up. I can’t imagine the stress on the teacher who needs to mediate those actions.

As I read through Amy’s post, the word “communication” kept popping up. It lies in the answer to so many things that she addresses. Social cues, working with parents, retention and engagement all can be addressed with effective and ongoing communication.

All of it seems so simple until you realize that a teacher doesn’t have all the tools available that she would have in a face to face classroom.

Regardless, there are powerful observations in her post with lots of ideas and a plan for the future.


Per / Con / In / Re – form

Another great post comes from Will Gourley on the Heart and Art Blog. I can’t help but think immediately – are there any other words that end in “form”?

In the post, Will shares his observations on each of these. Each of these words take on a paragraph and you feel the weight of each of these on him personally. In football terms, I would call it “piling on”.

There’s real wisdom is this quote. Pause and think about your own reality as you read this.

I worry that too much emphasis has been placed on performance and conformity without serious consideration to being fully informed of the true social, emotional, and physical costs of virtual learning. 

I can’t help but think that the emphasis part is easy because it can be summarized with a visual checklist. The other part is so difficult to understand and address. Yet, it’s so important.

Thanks, Will, for summarising these “forms” so nicely.


Why Code Illusions?

It’s a question asked of Peter Skillen as a lead in to this activity.

My response is “Why not code illusions?”

If we believe in the power of programming, then we should never question a good premise for a programmed solution.

In this case, Peter introduces us to a nice visualization of an optical illusion that I’m sure you’ve seen many times. You may actually have created the illusion yourself. You may have pulled out a ruler to prove that it is indeed an illusion.

Peter doesn’t provide a solution but it’s relatively easy to program, especially if you take a good look and analysis of the animation that he provides. Of course, I’m not going to include it here; you’ll have to visit Peter’s post to see it for yourself.


Sick Days for All

From Deborah Weston, a bit of a sobering post dealing with sick days. Much has been said about sick days for teachers, particularly how they don’t take them since it’s more work to prepare lessons for someone else than to drag yourself in to work.

We see the messages everywhere these days.

If you have a fever, shortage of breath, or a temperature, please do not enter.

Advice about this also applies to the workplace.

If your collective agreement has provision for sick days of some sort, it makes staying at home easier.

But that doesn’t apply to all. Deborah has done incredible research on this topic and pulls back the curtain to reveal the impact of no sick days.

  • Put Workers at Risk
  • Spread of Illness to Communities and Workplaces
  • Impacts Parents and Guardians
  • Women Face Labour Inequity
  • and more

She fleshes out each of these and ends the post with a true call to action to her readers.

Devote some time to this and you’ll find another counter to the simple statement “We’re all in this together”. Really?


These are terrific and thoughtful blog posts. Please take the time to click through and read them all. Then, follow these bloggers on Twitter. (and follow their blogs too!)

  • Noa Daniels – @noasbobs
  • Richard Erdmann – @rerdmann
  • John Hoffman – @UncommonJohn
  • Amy Bowker – @amyebowker
  • W!ll Gourley – @WillGourley
  • Peter Skillen – @peterskillen
  • Deborah Weston – @DPAWestonPhD