This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Zoe Branigan-Pipe was the guest host on the voicEd Radio This Week in Ontario Edublogs show this week. Our paths have crossed so many times in the past. Probably our biggest togetherness was hosting the Great OSLA Faceoff, repeated again for an ECOO conference, and then for a local elementary school. She was interviewed for this blog here and you can check out a picture of the Beauty and the Beast.

So, it was nice to chat again; normally, we would meet up at the annual ECOO conference but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this year. For me, the big value of spending money on professional learning comes from face to face connections.

Zoe has been a long time social media leader; she’s like the poster child for making authentic connections. And, of course, she’s among the amazing group of Ontario Edubloggers.

BlackLivesMatter. No Time for Silence.

We started the show by taking a look at Zoe’s post. I was quite surprised when she mentioned that she had to tone it down upon advice from colleagues that it might not go over well with others in her district. I found this disturbing in the summer of 2020.

What remains is a post full of links to resources across the web. Teachers who are looking at addressing Black Lives Matter in their classrooms this year would find this a treasurer trove of content.

Some of it will take some modification for a particular purpose in an Ontario classroom but the gold comes from the resources developed by ETFO linked to by Zoe.


Speaking of ETFO, the Heart and Art Blog features a new blogger this week, Velvet Lacasse.

The post was essentially an introduction to Velvet post but I had a Wayne’s World moment when I read her thoughts about becoming a Union Steward in her first year of teaching. There’s no way that I could have found the time to do that.

In my first year, OSSTF was just a deduction from my paycheque until the New Teachers’ Night where I learned a little bit more about what District 34 was all about. Eventually, I did become part of the Collective Bargaining Committee but I wouldn’t have dreamed it for my first year in the profession. Her observations about attending the Annual Meeting is bang on. You get the real provincial perspective there.

Velvet brings a wealth of social activism to the blog and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Education Will Never Become What It Should Be Until It Is Freed From Politics

This blog post, from Tim King, is about as long and involved in content as the title of the post. TLDR; is this statement.

To further complicate things, education is run by politicians. 

That sets the stage as Tim pulls apart so much of what’s actually going on and what could be happening. Of course, this would only happen if decisions were based upon the advice of those educators that are actually in the classroom. As we’ve seen this summer, that’s so far removed from what we see about the decision making process.

As an almost daily follower of the 1:00pm Premier news conference, I keep waiting for something other than “best plan in Canada”, “we spent this much money”, “union bosses are the problem”, etc. Sadly, it doesn’t come.

Tim sees a world where education is best served by a removal from political connections. This is firmly embedded in the BNA Act and so it won’t be happening any time soon. Besides, what’s an election campaign without addressing education?

It’s still a good read and I’m sure that many educators will agree with Tim’s points so it’s comfortable that someone has taken the time to write them out. At the same time, it’s just difficult to ever see significant change being made.

Unless we create the “Teachers’ Party” and somehow get the majority of seats.

Math Games – building a foundation for mathematical reasoning

I have a fondness for mathematics and really enjoy posts like this from Mark Chubb and others in the mathematics education realm. I do check out the links to the resources that are shared.

Now, I’m old enough to remember multiplication charts and memorization. I remember doing word problems ad nauseum; I knew enough about mathematics to recognize when my teacher really knew her/his stuff and when they were struggling to get by.

When I think back, mathematics was always about gaming for me. Like any good game, there was a real sense of accomplishment when you got it right. It was almost strategic. I never did tests top down; I picked and chose those questions that I knew I’d be successful with.

While it was about gaming, I don’t recall actually playing something that might formally be defined as a game. That’s a relative new concept and today’s student has that advantage with the wise teacher picking and choosing the best of the best from so many choices.

In this post, Mark shares a number of games that are worth evaluating for your own classroom. I like the reference to using them as part of a distance learning program; may you elementary teachers not need to consider that this school year.

Yet, there’s something about a hip pocket.

Let’s Get Explicit

In a million years, I don’t think I would have made the connection between Open Educational Practices and hip hop artists on my own.

But, Terry Greene does in this post and it’s a fun read. He addresses the five essential elements of hip hop.

  • Lyricism (Rapping)
  • Turntablism (DJing)
  • Breaking
  • Graffiti
  • Knowledge of history

I immediately zeroed in on the concept of “turntablism” but I shudder when I think of using my own personal record collection…

For those in this world with Terry, there’s an element of wisdom and reality in each of these elements. The biggest message is that the same ol’, same ol’ doesn’t have to continue.

Your first inclination might be to take a pass on this post but at least give it a read and see another side of teaching.

Warning, Terry uses bad words in this post.

What is Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Education loves a good buzzword. Recently, I ran across this

15 Words Teachers Officially Never Want to Hear Again

If you check it out, you’ll find a collection of words that you’ve probably heard from a keynote speaker somewhere. They have this ability at times to use words and make it part of their presentations and you feel badly that you didn’t know that.

Then, there are some words where you need to sit up and pay attention to. Deborah Weston takes on new terminology that we’re going to see in Ontario Curriculum as it’s revised, starting with the new Mathematics Curriculum, addressing mental health.

Deborah digs into the roots of this and shares her thoughts. A note that should make you sit up and notice

SEL is now also a distinct section of the updated curriculum

She does a nice job of stepping through the curriculum pointing out where it occurs in the elementary school curriculum, by grade. The question whether or not it’s a learning skill or will have to be reported on separately is addressed from her perspective and offers come questions for the future.

Footage of the Falls: Back Then and Now

You know, if I lived in Northern Ontario, I’d visit visit Kakabeka Falls regularly. As a family, we’ve been there a few times – once going to the Calgary Stampede, a couple of times on the way to relatives in Minneapolis, and a couple of times just as a married couple looking for an interesting place to camp. I can agree that there are all kinds of things out and about at night!

As Sheila Stewart notes, it never gets old. Our context these days from Southern Ontario is visits to Point Pelee, Erieau, and the “Niagara of the South”.

What a find it must have been to have discovered some footage from the 1950s and, in the spirit of good sharing, doing some editing and putting it on YouTube.

Much more commonly are modern videos of Kakabeka Falls.

Thanks to these terrific bloggers for continuing to share their thoughts and ideas in their blogs so that we can all share in the learning.

Make sure that you’re following them all on Twitter.

  • Zoe Branigan-Pipe – @zbpipe
  • Velvet Lacasse – @velvet_lacasse
  • Tim King – @tk1ng
  • Mark Chubb – @MarkChubb3
  • Terry Greene – @greeneterry
  • Deborah Weston – @DrDWestonPhD
  • Sheila Stewart – @sheilaspeaking

This post originates from:

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

Valentine’s Day



One day strikes happen today in:

  • Algoma, Greater Essex, Limestone, Niagara, Renfrew County, Toronto, Toronto Catholic (designated early childhood educators only) and Waterloo school boards, Moosonee and Moose Factory District School Authorities and Bloorview, John McGivney Children’s Centre, KidsAbility and Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre School Authorities.

With Valentine’s Day happening this week, you might be interested in adding a bit of the red on your blog, website, presentations, etc.

If that’s you, Mixkit Video has you covered.

At this page, there’s a nice collection of content that’s freely available through their licensing for this purpose.

While you’re there, you might want to check out their huge library of videos that are equally as free to use.

Just the good stuff

I think that this is a terrific utility that should find its way into any classroom toolbelt where teachers are using video from various sources.

The application is Vibby.

The best parallel I can think of is the yellow highlighter that so many of us have used to highlight text in books as we read.

Vibby lets you do the same thing with video. Here’s a quick overview.

So, you no longer have to have students sit through an entire video if there’s only a small part of it that is appropriate. Use the Vibby utility to create a “vib” and use that instead.

It’s certainly more high tech that giving a starting and ending time and using the scrubber bar.

Another use that comes to mind involves a bit of video literacy, having students review a video and identify or highlight parts of the video for a specific purpose.

I think we’ve all sat through a video where you’re just about screaming “Just get to the point”…now you can actually do it!

International Day of the Girl

@mzshanksalot, a teacher and Computer Contact at Windsor Ontario’s Marlborough Public School can be very passionate about her personal beliefs.  This passion has spread to a group of young ladies who have created a video for the International Day of the Girl and shared it on YouTube.  The event caught the attention of the local newspaper and the story can be read here.

I love how technology has allowed these young ladies to share their voice on a very important issue.  In this case, they used PowToon.  It will be difficult to watch this video and not become emotional about their message.  How do YOU enable students to share their voice?

From YouTube, here’s a description about how the video was created.

A video about facts of girls around the world and the day for them. There are also quotes on what we should do and artistic pics representing education importance for girls…

A Sad Passing…

…of a product.

Recently, Cisco announced that it would be discontinuing the Flip Video Camera.  I think that’s a shame.  I remember when it was announced that Cisco was purchasing the product.  I thought that with Cisco backing and some energy, real innovation could come with this technology.

Thanks, andyi (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I recall my first experiences with this.  It was actually a few years ago.   I had had a number of meetings with my superintendent.  We were both wrestling with the concept of YouTube and what impact it would have on students.  At the time, YouTube was blocked but students were finding all kinds of ways to get around the filters so that they could be entertained.  There’s no sense putting the time and effort into bypassing a filter for the educational value so there was a great deal of “Cat Flushing a Toilet” viewing happening.

At that level of intake, certainly YouTube wasn’t worth the time, effort or bandwidth.  The IT Department had cautioned us that we didn’t have enough bandwidth to open it to the system.  We weren’t terribly excited about just passively watching videos anyway.  We were more interested in the construction of the video.  A few years earlier a large amount of money had been infused into Technology Departments to kick-start the system with the offering of Communications Technology to secondary school students.  After a bumpy start, the program was flourishing.  In fact, some students were doing amazing things with video production.  Shameless family promotion starts here.

Every year, we would purchase a small piece of technology and put it into the hands of our Computers in Education School Contacts for use in the school.  We had experimented with iPods, Palms, and more in the past and so I suggested that we purchase a small digital video camera this year around.  We both quickly brainstormed some ideas and decided that this could be a “YouTube killer”.  After all, we had full day release time with the contacts for five days throughout the year and I would make working with this technology an integral part of it.  So, we decided to make it happen.  I started to do my homework and narrowed the field down to two pieces of technology that fit in this genre – the Flip Camera and the RCA Small Wonder.

Quite frankly, I didn’t think there was a bad choice to be made.  I liked the technology and I liked the potential.  We ended up purchasing the Small Wonder camera.  I liked the larger screen and the lack of a flip out screen for durability.  It was quite an event when 80 of them, one for each school, arrived on our doorstep.  Our inventory control involved my secretary labelling the boxes so that we could ensure that every school got one and the technology was distributed at the first meeting of the year to quite a mixed response.  The elementary school contacts loved them and had them unpacked and looking for the power switch immediately.  A couple of the secondary school contacts were Communication Technology teachers and saw them as toys and could never produce the same results that they could with professional quality equipment.  I even had a colleague in another board ask me “Can they do this? as he pulled out his dynamite high-end camera.  No, but does every school have one of those?  Well, no….”

All of these groups were right.

We stayed the course and it was great.  The intent was never that they would contend for status in a Communications Technology course.  In fact, it could be argued that they would seed student interest in video production to the point that they would choose this as an option.  They were designed as a “first person shooter” for students to just be able to shoot and tell a story.  They weren’t “cheap” but if one got dropped and broken, it wouldn’t break the bank to replace it.  With replaceable batteries, there should never be a reason for no power again.  Since it contained a memory chip, you could replace memory in a moment rather than scrambling for a video cassette.  Or, just plug the device into the USB port of your computer and pull the video or images from the camera to your desktop.  The uptake everywhere was so successful that we quickly had schools wanting to know how to purchase more – my science colleague wanted to document science experiments – and even the Communications Technology folks wanted more because of the portability.

We started to see:

  • videos of school productions on websites;
  • green screen video productions; (just set your computer to a green background colour and display it on your SMART Board)
  • public service announcements from the child on the street;
  • three word stories;
  • parts dropped overboard on a trip to Pelee Island on the Jiimaan;
  • earth day videos;
  • birthday party celebrations;
  • graduation videos;
  • video book reviews;
  • videos created for every type of project imaginable;
  • video from angles like lying on the floor looking up that would normally cause one to shudder with an expensive camera;
  • special education students using new words in a sentence with immediate feedback of their performance for self evaluation;
  • and so much more.

As a Windows Board, we used Microsoft’s Photo Story and Movie Maker to edit and assemble our stories.  They were absolutely awesome.  I was recently at David Suzuki Public School to help out with a Grade 1 class for a Reading Project and part of our multimedia production involved recording a rap.  Guess how it was recorded?  I can’t speak highly enough for how much of an impact this sort of technology provided us.

While we used the Small Wonder, the Flip Video has as many or more success stories.  It’s a shame that Cisco couldn’t find a way to financially keep the product alive, or at least, sell the division to someone else who could.

There is a lot of speculation as to why this happen – including the use of the Smart Phone for video production instead.  Definitely the functionality for creating short videos is there but at a different price point; different level of durability; and without the potential of putting it in the hands of all students to tell their story.

It is sad to read this about the Flip Video camera.  The devices are so strong and durable that they’ll be around and used for a long time yet.  Perhaps we’ll see another life breathed into it or a subsequent technology.  It seems to me the next step would have been to add wifi capabilities and some simple in camera editing.  The Flip Camera will really be missed.  Witness the response so far…