An Interview with Cyndie Jacobs

cyndieRecently, I had the opportunity to interview my co-chair for the #ecoo13 conference, Cyndie Jacobs.  I call her “the great connector” for her efforts on Twitter and other social media.  She seems to hunt out problems in search of a solution and has the ability to make the connection to people that she knows can assist in the search for a solution.  Through this, and her other efforts, she really does excel in bringing folks together for the benefit of education.

Doug – Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Cyndie.  This should be fun.  Can you tell the readers where we first met and why?

Cyndie – You’re very welcome Doug! We met very briefly at the first OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century workshop, then I invited you to the Curriculum Forum retreat in February 2010 as a guest presenter. Our theme was Web 2.0 and it was my first experience with Twitter.

Doug – I have fond memories of being packed into that small room for the Curriculum Forum.  How did social media take off with that group of Ontario leaders?

Cyndie – I’d like to think it was a 100%  success. The reality, though, is that those members for whom it is a true benefit have stayed with it and are using it both professionally and personally. There aren’t many, but we continue to encourage the use of social media among the Forum members. At our retreat this past February, we saw many more members tweeting using the hashtag and posting some of the information on Facebook.

Doug – For those unfamiliar with the Curriculum Forum, could you explain what it is all about and how it’s so important to Ontario Education?

Cyndie – The OTF Curriculum Forum is comprised of a representative (usually the President or Vice-President) from each of the 51 Subject and Division Associations in Ontario. We meet three times during the school year for what we like to think is valuable professional learning. We bring in new organizations to describe what they have for teachers, people such as Jowi Taylor (Six String Nation Guitar), new educational tools and anything we believe teachers in the classroom could use. I prefer to think that this is the fastest and most efficient way to reach the classroom teacher – bypassing the Ministry, the school board and the Principal in the school. If a teacher needs a resource, here it is! (As we all know, new initiatives and resources are often held up for years at EDU or at the board office awaiting approval and distribution.)

Doug – One of the next big things where you conscripted my assistance was the first ever Google event in Ontario.  Can you refresh our memories of that weekend?

Cyndie – That was the result of the Curriculum Forum retreat on Web 2.0. I contacted Google and requested to hold a Google summit here in Ontario on a Saturday in October. It had never been done outside of the US. They couldn’t call it a Google event. Rather, it was CUE (Computer Using Educators) and was facilitated by Google-certified teachers. We had arranged, through OTF, to cover hotel for out-of-towners and I arranged for a computer lab at Humber College. It was such a thrill to meet so many of the ‘tweeps’ at the tweet-up on the Friday evening! I had been communicating with all of them on Twitter since February 2010. The day was very successful, IMHO, and folks left with many new tools and resources.

 Doug – The Ontario Teachers’ Federation has really taken the lead in the contemporary use of social media, not necessarily for specific subject disciplines, but as a way to connect Ontario Educators.  How successful do you think that’s been?

 Cyndie – Very successful, in that many of the ‘tweeps’ in our PLN joined initially because of the OTF events and, since 2009, have met, introduced others to the PLN and it has now become a huge network of busy, thriving Ontario educators. The involvement of ECOO and the annual conference has helped to grow this network immensely.

Doug – Can you give some specific examples that would point directly to your involvement?

Cyndie – In the early days of the OTF workshops, I was there as the OTF social media support – posting on Twitter and Facebook. At other OTF events since I joined Twitter, I attend to tweet about the event. If someone in the office wanted to get some information out far and wide, they would ask me to tweet it! Since those early days of my involvement with social media, I do a significant amount of the ‘connecting’ as you call it: connecting Subject Association folks with others in the PLN; connecting Ministry folks with tweeps in the Associations; providing input, when asked, about how best to ‘spread the word’ – through Social Media; etc. I am very much a detail-oriented worker and like to ensure that as many people as possible are connected to whatever it is I am doing. I suppose you could say that I fulfill my role as “the great connector”!

Doug – So now you and I find ourselves as co-chairs of the 2013 Educational Computing Organization of Ontario’s Conference.  If you’re into social media, you’ve got to have visited at least once to find out what it’s all about.

What things about this Fall’s conference would you like to highlight?

Cyndie – I’m hoping that the whole ‘social’ aspect of Bring IT, Together will be a new focal point. Running with Alana Friday morning, learning how to take great night photos with Peter Beens and Ron Millar, a banquet overlooking the falls, a social event with door prizes and the endless opportunities for networking, sharing and learning from each other. I’m also looking forward to the mix of people we will have there: the OASBO ICT folks, French-language educators, National Film Board, our keynotes… It’s going to be awesome!

Doug – Making a physical move outside the proximity to Toronto is a big thing.  Why Niagara Falls?

Cyndie – Location. location, location. As with many Toronto born and bred folks, getting away from the big smoke is a great thing. Niagara has so many things to offer conference attendees: Niagara Parks has tours, events and activities (especially for those who want to bring their families); wineries nearby; the falls themselves (spectacular); museums and other attractions within walking distance; and it’s still within the Golden Horseshoe for those who attend the conference from southern Ontario. It’s a natural to attract people from far and wide!

Doug – I think that it’s consistent with your approaches for connections that the conference will also feature some new partnerships for ECOO.  Why is this important?

Cyndie – ECOO is all about how we share and grow. With new partners, this becomes much easier and hopefully, in time, ECOO will become the go-to organization for everything technology and education-related. As education becomes increasingly tech-oriented, educators, parents, vendors, students…they will all have a reason to be connected to ECOO. We are here for them and for each other!

Doug – A good conference should promote the connections above and beyond the new learning.  What sorts of opportunities do you feel participants will take advantage of?

Cyndie – There are several: the new ‘Learning Space’ will allow folks who just want to explore solutions or share new ways of doing things to spend some time together; exploring night photography; any and all social/networking time; having a full French-language stream will allow the francophone educators to be an integral part of ECOO and of the learning; with OASBO ICT as a partner, educators will be able to interact with those who provide the technology. And many, many more 

Doug – Are you up for a trip to a wax museum?

Cyndie – Not me, personally. Madame Tussauds in London in 1972 was enough for me! however, there are plenty of other Niagara attractions I’d love to visit – if there’s time!

 Doug – Now that you have retired, you can now devote your energies to all kinds of things.  The ECOO Conference is one but I know that you’re back at the helm of the Uxbridge ‘uxperience’.  Can you tell us something about that?

Cyndie – It’s my annual contribution to my musical heritage! ‘uxperience’ is a variety show comprised of local adults who volunteer their time to put on a show every year at the beginning of May. I am the Music Director, so my role is to teach the chorus their songs, work with the band, play in the band for the band feature tune then conduct the whole thing for the show! It is my passion. I’ve been in the show for 21 years and see myself continuing for as long as they want me to do it. We select a local charity each year and all funds raised are donated to them. This year it’s the Uxbridge-Port Perry Animal Shelter. Since the show began in 1992, we have donated well over $100,000 back into the community. The theme for this year is sports: “Let the Games Begin”!

Doug – When does uxperience start its run?  If people are interested, where is it and how do they get tickets?  Do you have a website to promote it?

Cyndie – It starts tonight, May 2 and runs through Saturday, May 4 with 2 shows on the 4th. The website is and there should still be tickets left. They are available at Sugar FX in Uxbridge. If anyone reading this wants to attend, they can message me on Twitter (@cyndiejacobs) and I can put tickets aside for them!

Doug – In addition to being yourself on Twitter, you’re going to be the online ambassador for the Ontario Music Educators’ Association.  What do you intend to do in that role?

Cyndie – I hope to bring music educators to the OMEA web site ultimately to join OMEA, but also to see the amazing wealth of resources we have to offer music teachers. The Arts are so important for learning. I’ve just added the OMEA Twitter account to the new Tweetdeck, so I’ll be posting articles, resources, information and anything of interest musically on Twitter and Facebook.

Doug – I know that you’re a big TweetDeck Air user.  What tool will use now that Twitter has announced the end of TweetDeck?

Cyndie – I’ll be using the new Tweetdeck! I had a long chat with Andy Forgrave last night and we looked into the new Tweetdeck. It will allow me to reply to a Tweet either as myself or from the OMEA account, depending on the what the content is. It seems to have many of the features of the old blackbird-on-yellow Tweetdeck. The new one is the black Twitter bird on blue. I’ve also set up the OMEA accounts on Hootsuite, but it seems more complicated to me – so far. Maybe with some basic experimenting and a lesson or two from the master – YOU – I’ll be fine!

Doug – Finally, you’ve always promised that in your retirement you’re going to blog and share your thoughts and insights into education.  What’s the address of your blog?  When do you see it taking off?

Cyndie – I knew you’d ask this… The address is I just went there to verify the address and it said it’s under construction. I have no idea what that means. My good friend Peter Beens created it for me almost 2 years ago and I have been avoiding it, I think. I’m quite ‘out there’ with my opinions and I don’t tend to hide very much behind rhetoric or BS. I call things as I see them. This wasn’t the best recipe for blogging in my former role at OTF! I did use the blog last summer after my partner died to get the message out that life’s too short to put things off. I think it was read by many of my tweeps. I’m thinking that a safe topic on which to blog would be EQAO – since it is universally a source of angst and disgust by educators. I promise – I will get to this blogging thing and I’ll do it before too long! I’m just not too sure that people will want to read what I have to say about education – my thoughts and insights aren’t always mainstream, you know! (This could be interpreted as an understatement)

Doug – Thank you so much for taking the time for the interview.  I’m excited to partner with you for the ECOO Conference.  This is going to be a great deal of fun.

Cyndie – Thanks for interviewing me, Doug! I know that your blog is very widely read, so I’m flattered that you’ve asked for this glimpse into who I am. #ECOO13 will be an amazing event – for both of us and for everyone involved!

If you’re not following Cyndie on Twitter already, you really should do so.  You can find her at @cyndiejacobs.


Padlet Feature Great to Have

I’ve been a big fan of Wallwisher for years.  I was looking through my collection the other day thinking about how I’d used them in the past.  Generally, I use them as a giant brainstorming board for presentations or anywhere I want to have participants share their thoughts.  Here’s one of them.  (blurring done by me)


It looks like a mess and I think that was part of the allure for me.  If you use Post-it Notes for communication, then you get it.  All that you have to do is double click somewhere on the board and a blank note opens and you start typing.

The only problem is that at the end of the event, you’ve got to read the stuff.  You can mouse over the notes to highlight and that’s nice but, as you can see, it still looks like a dog’s breakfast.  Quite frankly, when I’m analysing things, I’ll pick up the notes and move them around in order to have some grouping.   Generally, the order in which a note is placed on the wall doesn’t matter although you can make some intelligent guesses by determining which notes are placed on top of others.

Just today, I received a notice that Padlet (the new name for Wallwisher) had incorporated a new way of having notes.  They call it streaming and it looks like this.

Big changes now.

Create a new board as per normal.  But, go into the Gear and select Layout.  You now have a couple of options.

By choosing the stream options, you invoke the new scheme for layout on your screen.  Now, it doesn’t matter where you double click to start a new note – it will always be placed in order and lined up with other notes.  Very neat and tidy.  You can still pick up a note and move it around but it will always be kept in order.

It’s a great feature that will be handy for reviewing the notes after the fact.  If you’re a Padlet user, give it a shot and see if you don’t like this new feature.  Now that you have a choice, where would you use each?

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Another one of my enjoyments is Geography.  I’ve always been a sucker for a new atlas or watching a meterologist do her/his thing during the news.  I love looking through Google Earth and each time that I do, I recall geography learning from secondary school.  I get a kick watching the Geography Channel where a lot of this comes back to mind and there’s room for new learning.

National Geography also has a very popular quiz which is also available on the web!

It is a fun little memory jogger.  Enter the 10 question quiz as either an Apprentice or an Expert and get to work.  The clock and your memory and quick recall are put to the test.

Results are tabulated and you’re challenged to compete “with the world”.  The world has nothing to be worried about with me but it’s a great deal of fun.  It’s also amazing to think of the information that somehow I do know and can recall.

It’s not the sort of activity that you’re going to leverage into a full blown lesson but certainly it’s a great icebreaker and an opportunity to reinforce the importance of knowing geography terms.  Give it a shot and see how well you do!

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Tis the Season…

…apparently for online presence awards.

Look for posts all over the web next week titled “Top 10 Reasons Why Blogging Awards Are Dumb” or something.

But for the moment, enjoy the moments and find some way to take away something positive from them for your own personal use.

There are probably a tonne of reasons why awards are offered including promoting a business interest, but I prefer to look at this as an opportunity to add even more to my overworked RSS reader.   I’m always on the lookout for new things to read and explore but, even more these days, I’m looking to see what others are experimenting with.  Particularly with online blogging efforts, if every post looks like the last, it may be difficult to make daily visit.  If a site just reviews a Web 2.0 website, I worry about the longevity of interest.  After all, you could just grab the title and visit the resource yourself.  I also recognize that there are some people who make a living from public speaking or selling a product and their blog or other web presence is there to raise awareness of them.  Good for that.

I’ve been involved in three recently.  I was inspired to write this post by a Twitter message from Alfred Thompson.  So, thanks, Alfred.   BTW, Alfred’s blog is one that I read all the time.  You should too!


Edublog Awards

My first trips here wasn’t actually the awards but in the The Edublogger Blog.  I found the viewpoints and the ideas so innovative.  Iyou hang around a while, you start to learn a bit more and I know of many who blog using their platform.  The power (and frustration) in their awards lies in the global reach of the nominees.  I think that it may be the most difficult to vote objectively on since there are so many nominees that I have never heard of.  It’s so difficult to evaluate them all but I did take a scan through their award nominee page and have already added new blogs to my RSS feed and will spend some time looking for new people to follow on Twitter.  Surprisingly, this keyboard was nominated in two categories.

nom-edtech-1ssjwcu nom-lifetime-qncy9g

It raises three questions – Good enough?  and Old enough?  Spell checker?

Sue’s going to kill me if she reads this post…

I’m sure it will be corrected if she wins the award.  For all that she has done for the Educational Blogging cause, she would be a worthy winner.

The EduBro Awards

I haven’t been to every US state computing conference but I’m a long time fan of MACUL, the Michigan Group.  Particularly since they’re just over the border, every other year when their conference is in Detroit, I can just hop the tunnel bus and a short walk later I’m at Cobo.  Opposite years, it’s a longer drive to Grand Rapids which has to be one of the prettiest places in the world.  I’ve met many educators from Michigan and they are so cool.  A highlight has to be Sally bringing her just born daughter to a session I was doing for our annual meeting and to introduce her to me.  If you ever do the whole conference, go to the social – there’s nothing like partying with a Michigander.  In Michigan, they are creative, innovative, and fun-loving and so it comes as no surprised that they’d take the same approach to their awards.

For fun, you create your own categories and then nominate from there.  I’m waiting patiently because I think I’m the only one nominated in this category.

I nominate @dougpete for Most Dedicated to #FollowFriday

I’ll be so demoralized if I don’t win this one.

MindShareLearning Awards

As much as I love promoting Ontario online efforts, Robert Martellaci takes his recognition country-wide.  In his awards, you’ll find Canadians from coast to coast and I’ll bet that you’ve heard of most of them.  So much great Canadian content and thinking.  It’s great to see such a promotion celebrating the efforts of Canadians.  I did win one of these awards even though I’m not teaching at the university this year.


I wonder if Robert will want it back?

The poison pens keyboards will be out shortly demeaning the concept or awards.

In the meantime, recognize that a lot of time and effort has been put into this by the individual organizers with the goal being to keeping the online education movement going and fun.  To me, that’s the real power behind all of this and, for that, I extend my thanks.

Really Using Wikipedia

One of the great things recently is the absence of posts and questions about whether or not students should use the Wikipedia as a source for project research.  Ever the optimist, I’d like to make the assumption that teachers are finding and allowing (hopefully encouraging) the use of this very powerful tool.  As we know, from good researching, it’s not going to be the sole source but certainly is a credible source to include in the mix.

With any researching tool, though, how do you know that you’re getting what you need?  Don’t you get that nagging feeling at times that there’s probably something else that you’re missing?  Are you and/or your students really using the Wikipedia to its full potential?

WikiMindMap is a tool that map just come to the rescue.

In a nutshell, it will create a mindmap based upon a query that you send it.  And, it searches any of the localizations.  So, head to the website and choose your source.

I find that, at first blush, I get the best results from

As an example, I’ll choose something that I know will have lots of results.  For example purposes, I’ll choose something very broad like “Ontario”.  WikiMindMap returns the following:

Look at the results!  There are some very specific resource (wikipedia pages) that can be clicked upon for direct access to that page.  As you’d expect, the nodes with the + sign will expand to reveal even more related content.  It seems somehow appropriate that Government and Politics might be interesting…

More resources and nodes to expand!

The powerful part is that all these results fall from a single specific search.

For the student having difficulty zeroing in on a topic from the start, or as inspiration for areas that they may not have even thought about, I really like this tool.

It’s very illustrative of a searching mind or tactic.  Certainly, it’s not going to be the only place to search but it’s as good a tool as I’ve seen recently to help expand the original topic and then narrow in to specific results.

Give it a try to see if you don’t agree.