Website moving day

After a long time of thinking it over, I decided to move away from hosting my own WordPress installation on my website. The upkeep, security and headaches were simply not worth the effort it was taking to maintain it. Not to mention that I blog so infrequently it seemed like overkill to keep maintaining my own. The final straw was that for the last few months, my security plugins were giving me updates on the brute force login attempts. The software was blocking all these attempts, but when I looked at it last, there were about 3 or 4 IP’s per day being blocked for exceeding the login attempt limit, and when I looked at the realtime data, there were login attempts happening at the rate of 10 or more an hour from all over the planet. Bots I assume, but the all represented a possible user gaining access to my site.

WordPress is great, but for an amateur web guy like myself, it was too much to try and do on my own. So, I’m moving my blog to, where hopefully they can look after all the security and issues with that. My domain will still exist as a portal, and possible a portfolio that I can maintain in a simpler way. There’s a link on that site that will point to here. I’ve also registered this site as and that points here as well. Just because.

So, if you’ve got me in a feed reader (which has been really quiet…) you might want to update the feed. Or just follow me on Twitter. Which is likely how you got here in the first place, so.. yeah.

Learning all the time

As the school year winds down, I’ve had a bit of time to think about what the year was like and the things that happened. I was commenting today with Heather Theijsmeijer about assessment and learning with high school kids on her post, and I mentioned the NPDL project that I was involved with this year. (I was also involved in a cool project with Heather, but that’s another post… )

I’ve posted a summary of the project here on this site if you’re interested in how the whole thing went down, but it was definitely a highlight of the year. New Pedagogies for Deep Learning is based around Michael Fullan’s ideas of the 6C’s, and how to help kids learn deeply about things. I think the part that I finally wrapped my head around this year, is that this is all a work in progress. The big, untold secret about education is that NOBODY has the answers, and that all we can do is work towards a better understanding of how to best help students learn. So with that in mind, an NPDL project was cooked up. As luck would have it, Jamie Reaburn-Weir and I had a chat about wanting to try some sort of collaborative project with our classes. As she’s an English teacher, and I’m Science, the ideas was definitely one that intrigued us. So we had some discussion and landed on a project where our classes would work together to collaboratively create some digital media to demonstrate learning in a variety of ways.

As I eventually came to realize, the biggest thing that I took away from the project was that getting students to do reflections was really valuable. Both for them, and for me in terms of what the next steps would be to continue to deepen the learning. Some students’ reflections, as well as a video chat Jamie and I did are posted on the Reflections page of the project summary. I think that the idea of using audio and video to do reflections is important as well. Some of the students did written ones, which were good, but they didn’t have the flavour of hearing voices and seeing faces. Those things are important too.

The NPDL opportunity was one that paid dividends in not only the student learning, but also the teacher learning. And as we continue to leverage our networks of colleagues, I realize that the learning doesn’t have to be limited to those that are explicitly involved in a particular project, you just have to be open to trying different things out. And if someone offers an opportunity to try something, you should just try it.

Open Everything Exams

I just finished marking this semesters’ exams. I had tried something a little differently with my Astronomy class. It was a small class, and we’ve been experimenting with different things as we’ve gone along. For the final, I thought it would be interesting to give an ‘open everything’ exam. Notes, books, internet. If you have access to it, you can use it. I obtained a cart of netbooks for the exam, but many students brought their own laptops, and a few used their mobile devices.

A few interesting things happened.

  1. Students took way longer to do the exam than I thought. I think that they spent more time searching for answers, than they did actually putting down their answers. I think that they were looking for confirmation of what they already knew rather than trusting their knowledge and simply answering the question. It makes me think that I need to reconsider the format of this type of evaluation.
  2. Some students chose to hand-write answers rather than use the technology. Sometimes old-school is preferred for some tasks.
  3. I was simply using the tech as a substitute, and I need to consider better ways to ramp up the integration to make it more purposeful in that context.
  4. The reaction of the kids to the exam was the most interesting thng, and I think that as they’ve never had this kind of approach before that it will take time and more of this kind of thing before they get comfortable with the idea. Like I said, they relished the idea of using the internet, but they used it as a crutch rather than as an augmentation to their own abilities.
  5. The one thing that stood out, was that the students with the better tech skills were better able to transition to this kind of assessment, the ones that were not as strong in using tech approached it differently. Interesting.

Just a few things to consider for as I move on into next semester.

Video Physics

One of the things I want to do in my return to the classroom is to use more inquiry-based activities for the science students. Today I had them engage in an activity in physics where they were challenged to find the acceleration due to gravity. We’ve done a few other labs involving acceleration, and they’ve used a few different techniques and pieces of equipment. Each group designed and carried out their own investigation. I’m keen to see how the different approaches pay off. In the spirit of equality, I decide that I’d play along as well, and I downloaded two apps from Vernier, Video Physics and Graphical Analysis. Each app was $4.99 (yikes!) but I was very interested in how they’d work.

I used the Video Physics app to video a student as they dropped their weight against a wall. Then, using the app, I was able to plot the path of the object as it fell. That took about 2 minutes to figure out. Then I was able to see the graph of the motion with one tap.


With another tap, I was able to send this data to the other app, Graphical Analysis. There, after about 5 minutes of fussing around, I figured out how to select a section of the line, and fit a linear equation to it. This equation (y=mx+b) also gave the m-value, which was the slope. Since this was a velocity-time graph, the slope was the acceleration due to gravity. My value came out to 9.593 m/s^2, which is pretty close to the accepted value of 9.8 m/s^2! Not bad for a few minutes with 2 new apps!


So, I think I’m a fan of these apps for physics. Now, how can I get a 6 or 7 iPads for my science classroom?! 🙂 If you’ve got an iOS device, like physics, and have $5 to drop, try these out. I’d recommend the Video Physics one for sure. I’ve already used it to analyze the launch of a toy rocket at science club this week. Too much fun.

Photo Experiments

Happy St. Patrick's Day

My favourite picture from the last few weeks.

I restarted a 365 project this year with taking a photo-a-day. I talked at the start of the year about the reasons for stopping and restarting. So far, I’ve not missed a day. I mostly use the suggested photo from Today’s Posting, but not always, I’ve taken liberties with my shooting and done more slice-of-life photos than photos-as-art photos.

The real change this year has been the move to the iPad as my photo editor of choice. I looked back through the 70+ photos from 2013, and I haven’t edited one of them on my computer.  In fact, the majority of the photos have been taken with my iPhone 4S, rather than my DSLR. The ease of the workflow has been astounding. For the phone pics, by setting up Photostream between my devices, any picture I take is automatically zipped over to the iPad, where I then edit and upload using a few choice apps. If I take pics with my Canon Rebel DSLR, I simply pop in the camera connection kit, pop in the SD card and upload to the iPad, then proceed to editing.  Most pics have been edited on the iPad in my favourite easy chair, for the most part.

As for the apps, this is where I’ve noticed the speed of the workflow increase significantly. Rather than firing up Photoshop or Aperture or iPhoto on my computer, I simply launch one of a few choice apps. I like the official Flickr iPhone app for use on the phone, but they don’t yet have an iPad specific version. The two that I find myself using most often are Flickrstackr and Camera! Awesome.  Flickrstackr is great for basic photo edits, and uploading to my Flickr account. In fact, if they had commenting features added in, Flickrstackr would be just about perfect for photo managing and social networking on Flickr.  Camera Awesome has become my go-to app for filters and effects. I’ve bought the add-on packs to have a few 100K of options for filters and effects. It’s pretty easy to find one that fits the pic that you’ve taken.

There are a few others that have been useful and I’ve played with a bit including Photoshop Touch, iPhoto, ColorSplash, Snapseed and Dipic.

So photo taking has become fun again. Combine the ease of a great camera that goes everywhere I go in my pocket, and the ease and fun of editing and uploading and I’ve got a process that’s a ton of fun.


40 mm lens for my DSLR.


Research Frameworks into the Classroom

I used this presentation last week to help facilitate a discussion about ways to think about classroom practice, teacher learning and student tasks in light of a few research-based frameworks. I tried to tie together TPACK, Elmore’s instructional core and Puentedura’s SAMR framework into some sort of coherent whole. While not perfect, we did have a great discussion about different tasks that students engage in with technology, and where in SAMR they might fit. There was some great debate about what an augmentation v.s. a modification of a task might actually mean.  I freely borrowed from Puentedura’s slides and ideas about how to present his SAMR model to put this together. If it can be of use to anyone, feel free to use and adapt!

Stories of #Bill115

It’s pretty hard to avoid discussion of Bill 115 in Ontario education circles these days.  The labour action by OSSTF and ETFO is in the news every day.  I have two stories to share.

An ETFO colleague, who used to teach with my wife received the devastating news that she had a diagnosis of breast cancer this fall. She received this news on the first day of school. On the very day that Bill 115 stripped her of her bank of sick days. So in addition to dealing with the stress of a horrible disease, she and her family had to sort out their options for taking the necessary leave to deal with her illness and get well. That is not fair on many levels.

Just this week, another colleague and friend has ended up in the hospital. As the doctors work to diagnose his illness and figure out what is wrong, he is rapidly burning through his newly allotted, Bill 115 sick days.  There are many questions that arise, as this colleague is in in final year of teaching. This was meant to be one of his ‘best 5’ for pension purposes in his retirement. But if he’s off on leave, does this affect how this income will be calculated, and therefore impact his pension for the rest of his life if he choses to still retire?  Again, questions that are not fair to be asked as you try and heal.

Both of these teachers have put in 30 (ish) years of service, and all that good faith and trust was taken away with a stroke of a pen.

I think of them when I have to remind myself why OSST and ETFO have chosen to stand up and fight Bill 115. Because it’s not right or fair to many of our colleagues.

I’m sure there are many other stories of impact. Do you have one?

When did it start for you?

Earlier this week, I saw some posts and discussion from my friends and colleagues @thecleversheep and @zbpipe about a framework that they had developed around the idea of connectedness in a Professional Learning Network context. I found the idea of being able to parse out how relationships can exist in multiple ways and that this existence can lead to the richness that is a PLN.

I urge you to check out the original post and thinking, as well as the follow-up infographic. It makes a nice introduction to the concept for people who maybe have not participated in any sort of online network as a professional.

Like all good things do, it got me thinking. Smile I remembered a conversation about this from ECOO with @danikabarker and I got to wondering when this whole thing began for me. Thanks to my ability to look back in my personal time machine (my work calendar in the FirstClass email client) I was able to pinpoint it.  On October 8, 2008 at 9:00 am, I participated in an Adobe Connect conference with Suzanne Riverin, who was our Regional eLearning Contact about some work I was doing in preparation for presenting at a regional conference on eLearning later that month.  She thought that I should meet and talk to one of her colleagues about some of my ideas. It was at that time, that I was introduced to Rodd Lucier, who I came to know as The Clever Sheep, and through whom my journey to online relationships was kick-started.


It’s so interesting to reflect on this all now, and how these relationships have expanded and crystalized over the years. I have more stories about other PLN’ers, but those can wait for another time.

So, how did it start for you?

June 2004 Transit of Venus

Taken in June 2004, during the first Transit of Venus in over 100 years. We set up our solar telescopes outside the high school, and were joined by a group of intrepid students and teachers for this twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

If the clouds co-operate tomorrow, we’ll have the 2nd of those two chances, and none alive now will get to see the next one. Unless the singularity happens and we are all living heads on robot bodies. Only then we may have a chance to see another.

Just like seeing a solar eclipse, you can’t look at the sun, you need eclipse glasses, or a special filter for the FRONT of a telescope to block most of the light. Be safe out there!