Oops, I did it again.

So my blog and I have had a love-hate relationship. Earlier this week, I just went to pop into to check on one thing, and got a white screen of death from WordPress. It was a variable passing error or something crazy. It did give me a list of the file that was causing the error. It was apparently part of the theme that I had installed.  I’m not sure what happened to cause the error, but I had updated a few things a few days earlier, so maybe something broke during those updates. At any rate, I couldn’t even access the login page directly via URL. I was pretty much scuppered. So after I got home from work, I tackled it again. In the end, out of frustration, I went in via FTP and simply deleted the entire folder for the theme. I didn’t know if that would completely destroy the site or not, but I was out of options. When I went to the direct URL for the login page, I was presented with the familiar WordPress login screen. Hooray! I logged in, and was immediately met with a message that the ‘current theme was broken’ and that WP had automatically reverted to a default theme. Since I had deleted the other theme, being ‘broken’ was a bit of an understatement, but I appreciate the effort. 

So I learned to be more careful how and when I update things. I do have backups made of the site, but had no idea how to start with a reinstall, so I’m much happier with this result. I think I’ll stick with the default theme for now. It’s simple and clean. I just put my own header pic on it, and that’ll do. Until the next time I break something. 

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Who says you can’t go home?

Tomorrow marks the start of another school year, and for the first time in 5 years I’m heading back to a classroom. I made the decision last year to not return to my role as a consultant in our school board. There was a few factors that played into the choice, most notably the arrival of Andrew in our family. Other factors included being tired of the distance to get to the office when we had purposefully chosen to build our home 7 years ago in-town. I now have 3.4 km one way to school, when it was 86 km to the board office. Crazy. It feels like I get 2hrs of my life back everyday.

Over the summer, I had more than a few people give me odd reactions to the news that I was returning to a classroom. The most common was to ask me if it was my choice? I’m not sure what I was supposed to answer to that. It was my choice, but is it one that people aren’t expected to make? Do not many folks move from those central board-level positions go back to where they can actually interact with students on a daily basis and, ya know, teach? I know of several who have. Granted, there are others that move on to administration positions as well. But there was enough people who gave me the same reaction, that I noticed it as a trend. Odd.

At any rate, I’m back in the classroom, have a great timetable that I was totally not expecting to get, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the year will bring. Lots of ideas of things to try out in the class are in my head, and I think the biggest thing will be trying to decide how to narrow down those ideas to make it manageable. Small steps to start I suppose, but I’m excited to be getting back to the science classroom. Hopefully my Jedi teaching powers are still intact…

My classroom awaits!

Please ignore…

This is mostly a test. Had to change how a few plugins were setup, including the one I use to auto-tweet posts as they are posted to the blog. If you read this, please consider it a test, and return to your normal routine.

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Among The Missing

I think I’ve been among the missing on the blog for a while now. I’ve got a few ideas for posts brewing in my head as I wind up 5 years as a consultant and prepare to head back to the classroom in the fall. I plan on getting to some of those thoughts soon(ish). I’m also just finishing up a course I’ve been taking for the last 2 months, cause I had too much time on my hands. Oh, and the 3 month old little boy is taking up the rest of it. (The ‘too much time’ comment was sarcastic, in case you wondered… )

In the meantime, here was my own personal top ten I received on Father’s Day. 🙂

My own personal Top 10

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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.

40mm

40 mm lens for my DSLR.

 

Andrew and #learning2030

Warning: Tired parent. Rambling ahead! 

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a taping of TVO’s The Agenda at Trent U in Peterborough. They are doing a series focused on education, and this show focused on the use of technology by teachers and students. I was fortunate enough to get to speak a bit during the show and rambled on a bit towards the end of the program. There’s been lots of great discussion around the issues raised, and I hope that this serves to continue to elevate the level of conversation about changes to education in Ontario. TVO has called their series Learning 2030 because a child born last year when they started would be due to graduate high school in 2030

I’ve been considering all the challenges and changes in education a lot these past weeks. Due in no small part to this.

Andrew
Meet Andrew. Andrew was born this past weekend on March 16th. Andrew has an older sister Anna who is currently in Grade 4 as well. So our family now has doubled our stakes in the value of the Ontario education system. Andrew enters a world where he will never not know about the iPad. Where he will always be able to see his grandparents face to face, even though some of them live 1200 kms away. His world will include video surveillance and real-time tracking and analytics about many aspects of his life. His generation will face challenges that we are still in the process of uncovering, let alone dealing with.

Of immediate concern is the education system that he will be entering shortly. Full day kindergarten awaits him (at the moment anyway, political winds of change notwithstanding). Will it be helpful to him or not? Will Ontario continue its path towards more high-stakes, full-scale testing in the name of ‘improvement’ that can be measured in numbers that make for happy real-estate agents and politicians? Will his teachers continue to be maligned in the pubic sphere by politicians and a populace that think they understand what’s wrong with education and how to ‘fix’ it. Will his education consist of problem-solving, deep thinking and understanding, or will it be a ramped up version of worksheets for a digital age?

As you can sense, I have some questions…   As a teacher, I’m not sure that I see answers that I deem worthy of implementation. I wonder how to do some of the things that I think are required, and look at the whole Titanic-sized system and wonder how we can change the course of the ship. Sometimes I think that the answer is to reboot it completely, and rather than make change in the one we have, to think of ways to re-invent it from the ground up. Of course, there are numerous questions that arise with that, due to the highly politicized nature of education that is funded via public coffers. Everyone deserves a say, and everyone thinks that they deserve to be not only listened to, but obeyed. Democracy works on principles of the value of debate, but not every idea is created equal, or can be implemented.

So what to do? Do we examine the concept of curriculum itself? Change the way we actually produce and write the documents that are meant to guide learning because those documents are predicated on everyone learning the same thing at the same time. Will modern learning look like this? Do we examine the point of schools themselves? Do we examine what it means to be a teacher? Is what happens in a classroom the only thing of value? Do students learn valuable things when we engage them in things that are traditionally ‘extra’-curricular? Does this mean that they are not ‘extra’? Does this mean that things like the workday, job descriptions and pay need to be examined to critically assess whether or not they would actually meet the needs of a learning environment for not just 2013, but off into the future of 2030 and beyond?

Big questions I know, but I’m not sure that we can do anything without asking some of those deep questions. Do I have answers? I’m not sure, I have ideas, but most of the ideas I have seem to require a fundamentally different system that the one we see now. And I’m not sure how to address that.

I do know one thing. As a teacher, I’ve been convinced of the value of open-ended, deep learning that gets beyond a surface approach to curriculum topics, so I will continue to advocate and promote that in my work. As Anna & Andrew’s dad, I’ve got a new sense of urgency. Change takes time, and deep, systemic change takes that much more. We may have been talking about what learning will look like for Ontario students in 2030, but now I’m talking about what learning looks like for my kids. Not just in the future.

Today.

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!

Intro Guitar Class

I’ve just joined a open class offered up by @bryanjack. He’s teaching intro guitar at his school, and opened up the class to the web. I’ve been thinking about how to play more and learn more guitar and music lately, and this seems to be a great idea. A community of players of all abilities working together, jamming and learning. Mostly I hope to get some motivation out of it. Learning some new things about songwriting, recording etc.. but mainly its the community of players that is the best thing. Really looking forward to seeing what students create, both in his class, and the online motley crew that he’s gathering together.

You can see my intro post and video over at the class website.

Rock on!

 

Photo blogging

It’s been about a year and a half since I stopped doing my photo-a-day project. I had done it for over 2 years at that point, and had really learned a lot about photography and editing. There were a few reasons for ending, but I wasn’t unhappy to stop with it. It was time. 

But now I think I might be back in the 2013/365 game. I took a few pics over the first few days of 2013 and posted them. I’ve used a few of the topics on Today’s Posting for inspiration, but not everyday. Some days it’s just been a snap of life. I think that this time, I’m not so interested in making the perfect photo, but rather making a bit of a document of the year as it occurs. 

One thing that has gotten me back in the game is the changing options for making photos.  I have a nice DSLR that I use for my photograpy and I used to drag it around with me in the car whenever I went anywhere. But in the last year, after acquiring on iPhone 4S with a 8 MP camera (the same as my first DSLR only a few years ago) I’ve found that most of the pics I’ve taken have been with it. It’s a truism that the best camera is the one that you have with you. So I’m not so concerned about having my full size camera with me, as I have a decent one in my pocket all the time. 

The other thing is the variety and utility of editing options available on the phone and iPad. With their new app, Flickr has rekindled my interest in using it for both editing and posting to Flickr. Instagram never really captured my favour, and with the recent brou-ha-ha about privacy, I’m happy to leave it alone. I’ve also been playing with various editing apps on my iPad, and have found that Snapseed and Camera Awesome and iPhoto for iPad are really fun editing apps. In fact, all the pics I’ve taken and posted so far have been editing in one of those three apps and uploaded to Flickr. One of the things that got to be a drag was the daily routine of putting pictures from my DSLR on my computer in iPhoto or Aperture, editing if needed, and uploading. Now I’ve done it all from my living room comfy chair and my iPad. Even the ones from my DSLR have been added to the iPad using the camera kit attachment and then editing right on the iPad. Easy peasy. 

So far, so good. Easy, fun and I’m learnig a ton about these various options. One might say I’m a bit amped up again about taking and making photos. Rock on! 

Amped