This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Well, it’s been a bit of a cooler week but it sure was warm out. I hope that you were able to take advantage of it. I hope that you were also able to enjoy blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers. I know I did and here’s some of what I read.


Questioning Experts More Than Expertise

Noa Daniel was guest host on This Week in Ontario Edublogs on voicEd Radio and we had a chance to talk about her latest post. It reminded me of a quote from a former superintendent to those of us in the Program Department.

An expert is someone from out of town…

I don’t know if that was an original quote or he was sharing it from someone else. His context was about paying big speaker fees to bring in someone to talk on Professional Development Days when we had the capacity already within the board. Those of us in the Program Department were to find those with the expertise and encourage them to share it with others. Why pay to bring in an “expert”?

In the post, Noa takes on her view of this and I enjoyed her thinking. I also thing that it’s more important than ever with the lack of travel bringing in “experts” to address educators. Why not work with the expertise within a district where they can address local issues directly rather than some hypothetical situation somewhere else?

Does COVID push us away from outside of town experts and towards celebrating the expertise that we are developing locally? Something to think about.


Two Approaches to Building Online Communities

Diana Maliszewski’s post follows Noa’s very nicely. I think that most of us understand the power that can come from online communities. So, how do you build that community?

Diana identifies a couple of different ways.

One is modelled by the work from Matthew Morris and Jay Williams with their #QuarantineEd initiative. It’s an online community of learners, building on the efforts of the group of contributors with a direction by Matthew and Jay. Matthew talked a bit about it when he guested on This Week in Ontario Edublogs and shared the numbers. It’s grown from an experimental conversation with TDSB educators. And, it’s caught the attention of the Toronto Star.

The second scenario is something that many of us have seen many times. An existing user will tag you or plead to the masses to follow this new account. The prudent social media user will, of course, check that person out before inviting them into your community. Many times, that person has contributed nothing to date. Why would you want to embrace them? My rule has always been “You’ve got to be interesting”.

Diana includes here thoughts; she’s a skillful navigator of social media and I think you’ll find her advice incredibly helpful.


What ARE Kids Learning?

It was great to see Stephan Pruchnicky back at the keyboard sharing thoughts again. It was kind of sad to read about why he wasn’t and I hope those days are behind him.

He’s got one message in this post and it appears in big letters.

I think it’s a great reflection point for teachers, students, and parents.

Are we so focused on teaching being covering materials specified in the Ontario Curriculum that we’ve turned a blind eye to other important things that might have been learned?

Something to think about going forward.


Forward.

I had to smile at Beth Lyon’s comment that it was only towards the end of June that she finally decided on her word of the month. You’ll recall that she didn’t choose a year long “one word” and instead opted to do one per month. Given all that’s happened, it has turned out to be a genius move.

It’s easy to lose track of time. I bought a Lotto Max ticket last Saturday and kept checking it with my OLG app, getting messages about it that seemed bizarre. Then, after a bit of thinking, I realized that it was for a draw on Tuesday and not Sunday or Monday when I was testing it. Keeping track of time is a challenge these days.

Beth makes reference to a couple of excellent blog posts from other Ontario Educators, Lisa Corbett and Amanda Potts, and uses that to force her thinking and come with a new direction for the month of July.

The post is dated July 3 so I hope she’s nicely back on track.


How To Make Math Moments From A Distance

From Kyle Pearce and Jon Orr, a really, really long blog post under their MakeMathMoments umbrella.

I’m not sure that I can truly sum it up in a paragraph or two but I really found the content interesting. It should serve as a reminder that mathematics is everywhere; it’s beautiful; and it’s really relevant.

Many of us grew up with mathematics being the stuff that is covered in mathematics textbooks. There was content, questions, and answers. For me, it was third year with Ross Honsberger in a course called “History of Mathematics” where he showed us the fun, beauty, enjoyment, and the relevance of mathematics being everywhere.

It’s such an important concept and one that lives with me and it’s easy to see mathematics everywhere. In the post, these gentlemen give us some great examples that go far beyond the typical questions you might find in a textbook. Bookmark this for future inspiration and resource.


Distance Hugs: My Self-Reg Stumbling Block

I kind of knew that Aviva Dunsiger wrote this post on the Merit Centre blog even before I read through the article.

I know Aviva to be a loving and caring teacher and I would suspect that displays of affection have a home in her kindergarten classroom. Things there are so much different from the students that I taught. My students might have had gestures of emotion but I would never expect a hug to be part of the mix.

In the offing for her and her teaching partner at the close of the school year was a thank-you gift from a student and a parent. Aviva wondered if there would be enough control for her not to hug the child or the child not to hug here. It’s an interesting and certainly relevant wonder these days.

She describes how hugs are like currency in her classroom.

  • Kids use hugs to connect with others.
  • They greet us in the morning with a hug.
  • They look for a hug when they’re sad, scared, angry, tired, or hurt.
  • Hugs comfort many of our students, especially in that first month of school, when leaving home is one of the hardest things that they have to do.

You’ll have to read the post to see what happened and Aviva’s musing about what things might look like in the future.


WRITING: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

It takes a brave person to write a summary about a blog post talking about writing but here goes…

On the TESL Ontario blog, Milica Radisic takes on the topic of writing and I found this observation interesting.

Second, since almost 90% of my students are highly educated, have done a number of university courses and presumably read a number of books, I wonder why they make mistakes that, at least to me, seem basic.

Gulp!

In the post, she shares her thoughts about

  • Run-on Sentences
  • Commas
  • Transition Words

I wonder about my own writing. Quite frankly, the last time I took an English course would have been in Grade 13. There were the odd essays that I was required to do in some subjects but I missed most of that because my course choices were largely Mathematics and Computer Science. By their nature, there is writing but it’s more technical than anything else.

Since I started writing for this blog, it’s been a return back to those secondary school skills. I find that I’m using a semi-colon more than ever and I did do some research to make sure that I was using it correctly. There’s always the nagging feeling that I just might make an error and, because it’s so public, everyone would see it.

I found reading this a really reflective activity and, as a regular blogger, I do want to do my best. I hope that I can live up to this standard.


Please take some time and click through to read these posts in their original form. They’ll get you thinking.

Then, follow these writers on Twitter.

  • Noa Daniel – @noasbobs
  • Diana Maliszewski – @MzMollyTL
  • Stepan Pruchnicky – @stepanpruch
  • Beth Lyons – @MrsLyonsLibrary
  • Kyle Pearce – @mathletepearce
  • Jon Orr – @MrOrr_geek
  • Aviva Dunsiger – @avivaloca
  • Milica Radisic – @milicaruoft

This blog post originated from:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

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

Guilty until proven innocent?


There was considerable time spent on my part on the release of this new feature that teachers can incorporate into their workflow if they are using Google Classroom.

It’s called “Originality reports” and it’s Google’s spin on checking for plagiarism in student work.

It’s not the only player in the field. Just do a search in your favourite internet search engine for “plagiarism checker” and check out the results. In Ontario, another product has been licensed by the Ministry of Education.

The genesis of that licensing happened about the same time that online learning became popular. The logic was that since you couldn’t see the student face to face working on a project, there was no way that you could guarantee that the works submitted were her or his.

I remember discussing the product with our eLearning teachers at the time. Their response was pretty negative. Particularly those that were teaching English, they claimed that their professional judgement was better than any program. By working with the student for a semester, they were able to identify writing styles and literacy skills and could see it grow throughout their time together. Consequently, while the licensed product was available to them, none of them said that they had used it.

Now, to be honest, this was long before there was an “app for that” mentality for computer users. It would be interesting to have that conversation today.

Collaboration is something that I promoted when teaching Computer Science. Granted, we didn’t write long essays but I’d argue that any programmer develops their own individual coding style much like writers develop a writing style. When there were times when I questioned original work, it was a matter of sitting down next to the student and have her or him explain the program to me. Between that and my insistence on written documentation for each problem, I think I did an OK job of making sure that things were original.

Like many of the other products, Google starts off by promoting this product as an aid to help students submit their best work. In the next breath though, the article indicates that Google has access to billions of resources online. That makes sense – that’s one of the things that it does best. So, it’s not a huge leap to make the claim that work that isn’t properly cited is easily identified.

We live in a day and age of privacy concerns and Google addresses it in the announcement, claiming that the student work remains the student’s. Unless of course, they blog about it! But the announcement also indicates that there is a plan to expand this to creating a repository of past assignments for checking things already submitted at the school.

I think it’s going to be an interesting follow to see the success of this product.

  • will die-hard users of other products make the switch?
  • will it only be available in Google Classroom?
  • if a teacher was hesitant to use another product because of professional judgement, will they try this one?
  • will a demo at the beginning of the semester frighten everyone enough that it’s not needed throughout the course?
  • how will parents react to their child’s work being used by a Google product?
  • how many submissions for conference presentations will be focused on promoting this tool?

I’d be interested in reading your initial reaction to this product. Are you in or out? Why?

Writing Prompts That Just Might Change The World


After I wiped away the tears, it occurred to me that this post could be much, much more than just a morning inspiration.

These 20 Photos Are Going To Make You Cry. But You’ll See Why It’s Totally Worth It.

There’s nothing like a good visual to prompt and inspire writing.  Each one of these go over the top very nicely.

Imagine viewing the image and imagining what was going through the minds of all the participants in the photos.

  • What happened just before the photo was taken?
  • What happened immediately afterwards?
  • How did the people in the photo feel about the moment?
  • More importantly, does this inspire your young writers to want to do something to improve their part of the world?

Could these writing prompts be a real call to action?

Writing Interactive Stories


OK, I’m hold enough to confess that I got hooked on the game of Zork a long, long time ago.  Zork was an interactive game that prompted you for various moves at every step.  It was great to visualize and each step potentially changed the story you were immersed in.

For the most part, electronic books follow the printed book where stories are linear.  It works and stories are written that way.

Except for genre of interactive adventure writing.  To do that, you need to investigate Inklewriter.  This application provides a wonderful environment for writing but, more importantly, it helps the author write the interactive, branching story.  Just writing your story and when it comes time to branch, just add the options along with the paragraph that will be the destination!  Inklewriter keeps track of everything so that you don’t have any points where your reader is left hanging!

For the visual among us, a map of your story is generated on the fly.

The interface is straight forward and dead simple to operate.

The clean interface features a toolbar on the left and the big area for assembling your story.  For a small fee, Inklewriter will convert your masterpiece to a Kindle document.

Check out a demo story here.  (The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

You’ve got to give it a shot.  You won’t believe how quickly and easily you, or your students, can writing your own interactive story.  This is a definite keeper – you’ll want to bookmark this.

Writing Posts


It’s been a week of reflection and thinking about being better about blogging for me.

I’m going to finish it off thinking about individual blog posts after reading this post.

From the post, here are the 11 tips and my thoughts as they apply to me.

  • Be Useful – if your post isn’t informing, inspiring, entertaining or making someone’s life better – don’t publish it until it does.
    • That’s great advice.  I actually always have a “person” or two in mind as I write posts.  It helps me focus.  That may make the post not applicable for all but I like to think it’s good for some.
  • Share your Opinion – opinions are often what sets bloggers apart from the pack.
    • Oh yeah.  @dougpete always has an opinion.  If I’m wrong, let me know.  I’ll get back to you with how you’re wrong about thinking me wrong!
  • Cut out the Fluff – before you hit publish, revise your post and remove anything that doesn’t add value.
    • I don’t do this very well.  I find that my writing is generally conversational in nature and that each sentence leads to the next.  Perhaps a rethink of approach is necessary.
  • Visualise Your Reader – writing with a reader in mind personalises your writing.
    • Absolutely.  This is what makes my world go round.
  • Make Your Posts Scannable – only 16% of people read every word online. Format your posts so that your main points stand out.
    • This is good advice.  I actually learned this by analysing the posts that I enjoy.  A big long involved post, over multiple pages, and with all kinds of references seldom sees me engaged by the end of the post.
  • Work and Rework You Headlines – a good headline can be the difference between a blog post being read, or ignored.
    • This is another area that I need to work on.  I’ll start with a working title and then write the post.  At the conclusion, I’ll re-read the post and then see if the headline makes sense.  I think I need to work this better to get better results.
  • Write with Passion – when you show you care about what you’re writing, your readers are more likely to care too.
    • I do this as well as I can.
  • Give your Readers something to do Next – ask your readers to DO something once they finish reading. It could be to read something else, comment, apply a lesson, share the post etc.
    • I seldom do this.  At times, I do as people to comment.  This is good advice; more of a “call to action” for the readers.  I do need to do this better.
  • Tell Stories – stories are powerful ways of connecting with, inspiring and teaching your readers – they also create memories
    • I never used to do this but have tried to do it in my recent writing.  I think it helps put context to what I’m writing and gives people reading the raison d’être for the post
  • Give Your Posts Visual Appeal – the inclusion of an eye-catching image or a well designed diagram can take your post to the next level.
    • I don’t find that I do this all the time.  Even writing this post, I’m wondering what kind of image or diagram would fit.  I’m drawing a blank here – so no image.
  • Practise – the best way to improve your writing is to write. Practise Makes Perfect.
    • This was good advice in English and Language classes and it remains excellent advice.  I know that not all of my posts hit it out of the park.  That’s where analytics come to play and make it helpful.  I am appreciative of the daily visitors who come hoping that I’ve got something good for them.  I wonder what the good/bad ratio would be.

This was another good exercise to do for me.  Thank you Darren Rowse for the original post.  As I look at his post and, in particular, the amount of reader interaction that he commands, I’m impressed.  He’s obviously got it right – can I get better?