Dilemmas and Tensions


Forward and Backward: Ontario #HPE Curriculum from 1998 to 2018.

It has been over two weeks since our new Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson (@LisaThompsonMPP, on Twitter) stated (six times) regarding Health and Physical Education, “in September, teachers will be using the 2014 curriculum.”  As yet, there has been no official directive issued from the Ministry of Education to school boards in this regard, and the current 2015 HPE curriculum remains posted on the Ministry of Education web site. We are now just 3 weeks out from Labour Day, and the pending return to school.

In fact, just today I noted the following posted to Twitter:

Thirty public school boards have now made public statements in response to the proposed roll-back, along with statements of support for the current 2015 curriculum from an additional 32 religious, legal, health and education organizations.  Check out the Statements on the Rollback of the HPE Curriculum as collated by Andrew Campbell (@acampbell99, on Twitter).

As uncovered in my previous post, Clarifying the Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum, the curriculum in place in 2014 (March 25th, to be exact, as uncovered via The Wayback Machine) was The Ontario Curriculum, Health and Physical Education, Interim Edition, 2010 (revised). Were the Ministry of Education to follow through on their rollback to “the curriculum teachers were using in 2014,” one would assume that this would be the document they would reference. 

I decided it might be instructive to do a bit more digging and see if I could find the document that was released PRIOR to the Interim Edition, 2010 (Revised), given that the Interim Edition was the re-release of the 2010 (Revised) document that caused considerable consternation. 

Back to The Wayback Machine

A bit of poking around by paging backward on The Wayback Machine from edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/health showed that the first appearance of the previously controvertial 2010 (Revised) document occurred between December 2009 and January 2010.

Following the initial January 2010 release, the 2010 (Revised) document lived on the Ministry of Education website for a period of several months of calm, before a sudden condemnation caused a media fury in late April, and resulted in an abrupt about-face by then-Premier Dalton McGuinty. The 2010 (revised) document was withdrawn, and a couple months later the Interim Edition, 2010 (revised) appeared on the Ministry site. It is this curriculum version — essentially the 2010 Health and Physical Education document with the 2010 Human Development and Sexual Health section removed and the 1998 Growth and Development section inserted — that would be “the curriculum teachers were using in 2014.”

As part of this research, I came across a very interesting paper by David Rayside (University College, UT), presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, Concordia University, Montreal, June 2010: Sex Ed In Ontario: Religious Mobilization and Socio-Cultural Anxiety. The paper documents in very significant detail the various pressures in play at the time and the significant work done during the period 2007-2009 in preparing the 2010 (Revised) version.

Here are only a couple of excerpts:

From the beginning these discussions included Catholic educators, who seemed no different from public system educators in the numbers of them calling for change in the sex education component to HPE. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association had become an advocate for greater attention to LGBT issues, and did not shy away from advocating change in elementary schools. They recognized how much information students were getting about sex from outside the school, and most of them agreed that bullying and harassment based on sexual difference required concerted attention. There are no indications that Catholic educators consulted over the new curriculum were out of alignment with those public school educators who were calling for significant updating of the approach to sex education.

page 7, Sex Ed In Ontario: Religious Mobilization and Socio-Cultural Anxiety.

After the January 18th posting and distribution, silence followed. Many many people knew about the curriculum; thousands had been involved in consultations; hundreds of school board officials in both Catholic and public systems knew about it and then received copies of it in January. Some would already have sent the new curriculum through the system to ensure adequate preparation for September.

page 10, Sex Ed In Ontario: Religious Mobilization and Socio-Cultural Anxiety.

If you are interested in understanding (as I was) more of the background and behind-the-scenes political forces, I recommend the paper to your attention.  Suffice to say, this one paragraph says a lot: 

On the morning of April 20th, 2010, veteran anti-gay evangelical crusader Charles McVety issued a press release denouncing a new Ontario sex education curriculum, and calling for protest against it. Fifty-four hours later, Premier Dalton McGuinty withdrew what were seen the most controversial sections of the Health and Physicial Education document (HPE) for a “re-think.” This was an unusual and embarrassing reversal for a Liberal leader widely viewed as strategically canny.

Page 2, Sex Ed In Ontario: Religious Mobilization and Socio-Cultural Anxiety.

1998 to 2010 to 1998 to 2015 to 1998?

Now, it was interesting to note that I was unable to obtain an active link to the initial release from 2010 (Revised) document. Unlike the 1998, 2010 Interim Edition (revised), and 2015 (Revised) documents, the short-lived 2010 (Revised) document is not archived on The Wayback Machine.

However, the file name in the URL gave sufficient direction to lead me via a simple Google search (look for health18curr2010.pdf) to a copy of the actual document still available on a third-party website.

In trying to understand what was controversial enough to be withdrawn in 2010, and what might now be controversial in 2018 again three years after the implementation of the 2015 document, I have done a document-by-document comparison of the contested sections of the documents: 1998, 2010 (Revised), Interim Edition 2010 (Revised), and 2015 (Revised).

Forward and Backward: Ontario Health & Physical Education Curriculum from 1998 to 2018

You can click on the image above to get a full-screen view of the comparative PDF, but essentially there is clearly a forwards and backwards battle underway with the safety of Ontario’s children at stake. If the current government has its way and officially rescinds the 2015 curriculum, then the old Growth and Development section will once again be in force, throwing that component of Ontario Health education back to 1998.

That 62 stakeholder organizations, including The United Church of Canada Ministers, the Metropolitan Community Church, the Ontario Principals’ Council, The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, Registered Nurses Association Ontario, Anishinaabe Nation, Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, Ontario Public School Boards Association, Catholic Principals’ Council, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations, Association of Ontario Midwives, Ontario Physical and Health Educators’ Association, and 30 Ontario public school boards, have come out in support of keeping the 2015 curriculum should give this government serious pause before they send us back 20 years. 

Sadly, should Minister Lisa Thompson rise to the challenge and respond to the very real need to provide educators with greater clarity around the “2014” curriculum, she need only copy the text from either the first or third columns of the comparison table, and paste it into the fifth column, which I have relabeled in advance as “Ford/Thompson 2018.” 

With that simple act, coupled with a quick cover memo to the Directors of Education throughout Ontario, she would make her throwback 20 years to the 1998 curriculum complete.


Clarifying the Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum 1

First, Watch This

Ontario’s new Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson (Huron-Bruce) (@LisaThompsonMPP) took slightly under three minutes today to attempt to address some questions surrounding her government’s confused messaging around the Health and Physical Education Curriculum.

My take-away from those three minutes were three continually restated messages (please forgive me if I misunderstood any of them, but I think her repetition helped with my summation):

Minister Thompson’s Three Messages:

  • “In September, teachers will be using the 2014 curriculum (6x). Teachers are going to be familiar with the curriculum because they utilized it in 2014. I have every confidence teachers will be using the curriculum from 2014, because they’re familiar with it.”
  • “(In the fall), we will embark on the most comprehensive consultation (5x) this province has ever seen when it comes to education. We made a campaign promise to respect parents …. and we’re going to be doing that. We heard from tens of thousands of people from across this province during the campaign that they were not consulted.”
  • “I encourage [Teachers] to become involved in the consultation (4x). I encourage anyone who wants to share their perspective to do so.”

Throughout the interview CityNews reporter attempted to get clarity from Minister Thompson regarding the actual “2014” curriculum (and/or the 1998 curriculum) and the Minister would only refer to “the 2014 curriculum/the curriculum used in 2014.”

So, how can we clarify “the 2014 Curriculum”?

Currently the only HPE curriculum available on the Ontario Ministry of Education website is the 2015 document:

It should be noted that this document is accompanied by a large collection of support documents including:

So, Where is “the 2014 Curriculum” ?

The Internet has come a long way in the last 20 years, and is a significant element in both influencing and understanding why a 1998 curriculum is out of date in 2018.  You can actually use the Internet to go back in time to specific dates via an archive called The Wayback Machine. So if you want to see what curriculum was on the Ontario Ministry of Education website on say, March 25th, 2014, you can!

edu.gov.on.ca from March 25th, 2014 via TheWaybackMachine, capture by @aforgrave

On March 25, 2014, the Health and Physical Education page listed two curriculum documents:

Despite significant consultation to arrive at the 2015 (revised) document, the Minister wants to return to what was in effect in the previous year, 2014. This would be the Interim Edition, 2010 (revised) curriculum.

So What Does the Interim Edition, 2010 (revised) document Say?

Page 32 of the Interim Edition, 2010 (revised) document makes clear why the document is so-labelled, and discusses what expectations Ontario educators are to address:

Growth and Development (1998). The Growth and Development expectations from the 1998 health and physical education curriculum have been included in this interim edition of the document pending further consultation on the expectations related to human development and sexual health that will be included in the final revised curriculum.

Throughout the 2010 document, the Growth and Development section (the contentious content within the Healthy Living strand that is coloquially labled “sex-ed”)  bounces educators, students, and parents back to what was in play in 1998.

Reading through the 2010 (Interim) document we see the restated “sex-ed” curriculum from 1998.

You can read all through the Interim Edition, 2010 (revised) document and see that the Growth and Development section remains unchanged from 1998.  It was, in fact, the need for additional consultation on the Growth and Development section in 2009-2010 that kept the Interim curriculum in place until it was approved following a comprehensive consultation undertaken by the Wynne Liberal government, culminating with the release of the 2015 (Revised) curriculum.

Aside from the same 3 documents supporting Daily Physical Activity in Schools going back to 2005, there are no other documents available in 2014. No parent guides, no grade-by-grade guides, no quick facts. So going back to 2014 would not only throw the 2015 Growth and Development strand back to 1998, but it would also remove access to all of those resource materials that parents and teachers have had access to since 2015.  Guides to topics such as Consent, Sexting, Mental Health, Concussions, and Staying Safe are new since 2014 — throwing them out is not in the interests of Ontario learners in 2018.

Parent Resources accessible in a multiple languages

Also of interest with the current 2015 curriculum is the inclusion of parent guides not only in English, but also Arabic, Chinese (traditional, simplified), Farsi, Korean, Polish, Punjabi, Somali, and Urdu.  There is no evidence of similar efforts to communicate with parents on the page from 2014 and backwards.  Removing resources to support Ontario’s diverse learning communities does not reflect well on the “government of the people” either.

The Minister of Education Needs Stop Obfuscating

That the Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson, refuses to acknowledge that her “2014 curriculum” regarding Growth and Development (“sex-ed”) is from 1998, is very problematic. We should expect open and transparent answers from our elected representatives, and her responses from July 26th and earlier are clearly avoiding the issue.

The People Respond

Although Lisa Thompson has said little with any clarity since the initial announcement of the curriculum rollback, there has been considerable response to date:

As of this date, 16 18 Ontario school districts and 19 Ontario religious, health, and educational organizations have openly replied with public statements in response to the government’s announced repeal. Ontario educator Andrew Campbell (@acampbell99, on Twitter) is compiling a list of Statements on the Rollback of the HPE Curriculum, and adding to it daily.

To date (July 27th): Toronto District School Board • Waterloo Region District School Board • Trent-Valley District School Board • Peel District School Board • Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board • Trillium Lakelands District School Board • Grand Erie District School Board • Bluewater District School Board • York Region District School Board • Durham District School Board • Halton District School Board • District School Board of Ontario North East • Ottawa-Carleton District School Board • Lambton Kent District School Board • Upper Grand District School Board • Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board • Simcoe County District School Board • Limestone District School Board • The United Church of Canada Ministers • The 519 • Next Gen Men • Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights • Ontario Principals’ Council • Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario • Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada • Registered Nurses Association Ontario • Sherbourne Health Centre • The Ontario Association of Home and School Associations, Inc. • Anishinaabe Nation • Association of Ontario Midwives • Faculty at Trent University’s School of Education • Prof. Lauren Bialystok (OISE/UT) • Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association • Ontario Physical and Health Education Association • Ontario Association for the Support of Physical and Health Educators •  Canadian Pediatric Association • Ontario Public School Boards Association • The Women Abuse Council of Toronto

Where Will You Stand?

If you are an Ontario educator or parent, where do you stand? Where does your Board of Education stand? How will you participate? 

 

==

Attribution:

The video at the opening of this post has been embedded from the original source, Education Minister gives confusing interview about sex-ed curriculum (July 26, CityNews)

 

 

 


The Media that Makes Us … 2

“TV — then” animated GIF by @aforgrave

This post started out as a comment on Doug Peterson‘s “Whatever Happened to … CMT Television?” from Sunday, May 27th, 2018. As has happened a few times before, in the end I decided it would be easier to post it here with all of the embedded media. As is often the case with Doug’s Sunday morning features, my mind was sent on a journey down memory lane by his question de jour.  

Doug frequently ends his post with a series of prompts, and when I have the time, I like to try to check them off while drafting my reply. I also need to remind myself every time NOT to draft my reply in the comment box on the web form — invariably I will lose much of my draft if I spend too long working in the web browser. When my iPad shut down today (it had reached 0%) I switched to a Google doc, and so it became a lot easier to add in all of the necessary links. 

  • Have you ever listened to CKNX?
  • How about CKLW?
  • How about CMT?
  • Do you have a favourite media start to your day?  Music, television, or something else to get the blood pumping?
  • In a world of specialty television stations, has a favourite of yours changed format?
  • Do you remember push buttons on the radio to access presets?
  • Did Bruce Springsteen have it right?

Have you ever listened to CKNX? My Early TV

As a kid, growing up in the country outside of Owen Sound, our farmhouse roof-mounted antenna received one television station, CKNX Wingham.  It was a CBC affiliate, and was found at channel 8 on the dial. (As the only station, however, there was no need to “find” it. We just left the dial at channel 8.)

If you watched CKNX Wingham channel 8, then you likely remember “Circle 8 Ranch,” and the set decorated with split rail fence, bales of hay, and barnboards.  The show featured local country regulars and guest artists. Believe it or not, after decades of not having thought of that program, I was just able to conjure the fiddled theme song from memory and hum it to myself.  Turns out it is called “Down Yonder.” I never knew the name until I found it referenced just now Al Heiser’s lyric in  “When Circle 8 Came On.”

Twice I travelled to the TV studio in Wingham to get recorded for TV. The first time was to participate as part of the local contribution to the MD telethon, and the second time was as a member of our high school Reach for the Top team.

I remember with great excitement when CKCO Waterloo installed a re-broadcast tower at Lions Head and we suddenly got a second station. It was a CTV affiliate, so it had something different from CBC.

The game changer came after the local TV repair man had to visit and repair our set (he had to replace tubes), and suddenly we got a third channel. As another CBC affiliate, he said it was the same as CKNX Wingham — but it was way better. CKVR Channel 3 Barrie was owned by CHUM/CITY out of Toronto, and it had a decidedly metropolitan flavor. It catered to the transplanted summer cottage crowd in the Muskoka’s and Halliburton. Suddenly, I could watch Star Trek!  I had only seen two episodes prior to that — “Spock’s Brain” and “Is There No Truth in Beauty?” while visiting cousins in Cambridge who had cable. By the time Star Trek arrived in my neck of the woods, it was in syndication, and it formed part of my end of the day routine the summer I had started working a full day during the summer to earn enough money for a ten-speed bike. We would start early in the morning, work for hours in the fields, and stop at 4:30, which just gave me enough time to settle in front of the TV for Star Trek at 5:00.

How about CKLW? My Early Radio

As for the radio, and CKLW out of Windsor, that also has a special memory. When I started driving on the farm (in my case, the tractor didn’t have cab, let alone a radio, but our panel van did), CKLW was the station that I tuned the radio to. Again, our local radio station CFOS had the news, and was a CBC affiliate. But CKLW came from far away (“The Motor City”) and it’s music was from a different place. Getting the radio station tuned in was part of the routine (adjusting the seat, adjusting the mirrors) before carefully starting the vehicle and putting it into gear. That would have been 1976. I was 14.  

CKLW top 80 from 1976 via RadioTimeLine.com

I also had an old radio in my bedroom (like the TV, it still had tubes in it — as well as push-button presets) and it played dialed way down at night beaming the music through the dark from Motown into my ears as I fell asleep, stirred during the night, and woke each morning. I bet that was pretty much the same for a lot of teenagers when radios were still a thing.

How about CMT?

Now, as for CMT, that has never really been part of my viewing/listening pleasure. I checked this morning to see if Longmire had been produced by CMT, but it turns out it was A&E. I have a vague recollection of watching some drama that might have originated on CMT, but I can’t find out what it was. As for tuning into CMT for the music, that’s something I’ve never done. I like ALMOST all kinds of music.

Kingston-based  Arrogant Worms have little tune called “Trapped in a Country Song.”

My Radio Today

For years now, I have turned my radio/iPhone/car to CBC Radio One for the news, for Ontario Morning (on the way to work), the afternoon drive from Ottawa (on the way home), and manage to pick up q with Tom Power, Gardening with Rita and Ed Lawrence, The Debaters, The Sunday Edition, The House and Day Six, Spark, Tapestry, Unreserved, The Next Chapter, This is That, Randy’s Vinyl Tap, As It Happens, The Current, and Ideas.  Heck — Check out the CBC shows, they’re all great!

 

The other place I have turned my radio for years is to SOMA FM, an Internet-based radio station out of San Francisco. I’m partial to Groove Salad, Space Station Soma, DEF CON Radio, Thistle Radio, and my real fav, Secret Agent. I usually have SOMA FM on when I’m at home working on stuff.

Over 30 unique channels of listener-supported, commercial-free, underground/alternative radio broadcasting to the world.

57 Channels, and Nothing On?

I cut cable TV 10 years ago and live on the Internet. So my TV now comes on demand through the Apple TV, the Internet, or an app. I’ve recently discovered the Acorn TV app and the BritBox app, and am enjoying a lot of Brit mystery shows.

Whaddabout the Newspaper?

I did buy a newspaper a couple of days ago (first time in many years), and I couldn’t get over how small it was. I asked the cashier how much it cost. He didn’t know. It was $2.50.



• Main section 3 pieces of paper folded = 12 pages.
• GTA section 1 piece folded + 1/2 page insert = 6 pages.
• Sports 2 pieces folded = 8 pages.
• entertainment section 2 pieces folded = 8 pages
• Smart money and business section 1 piece folded + 1/2 page insert = 6 pages.

Total: 10 pieces of Newsprint = 40 pages

25¢ per piece of paper.

Then and Now

There’s no doubt that media has changed since I was a kid. It used to be in black-and-white, only available when the antenna was permitting, and only arrived when it was scheduled to and based on what was available. Now it’s in full color, available 24/7, on-demand, and based on what you want.

 


Support Your ECOO 4

“Submit your Session Proposals for #BIT17 Today” Support your ECOO!

Last night I had an opportunity to “attend” a Board of Directors meeting for the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario. I’ll share a little bit more about that in a moment, but first some history.

My History With ECOO

The Educational Computing Organization of Ontario started way back in 1979 (I was likely a student in grade 11 then), and about 30 years later, I had the opportunity to join the Board of Directors. My participation on the board at the time was prompted by a statement made by the ECOO President on the website, that “ECOO might not survive the Annual General Meeting if interest was not shown in maintaining the organization.”  I was shocked. That was 2009.

Having attended many an annual ECOO conference as a beginning educator in the early 1990s and later for many years as a conference presenter, I had highly valued the opportunity to meet and learn from other educators on an annual basis. Not wanting to see such a valuable organization as ECOO pass into history, I undertook to act as a member of the Board of Directors from 2009 through to 2013, and then served for two subsequent years as the Chair of the Nominations Committee for the annual Directors election. In addition, former President/Past-President Ron Millar and I drafted revisions to the ECOO Bylaw at the request of the Board in 2013, resulting in changes to increase the opportunity for the Board to devote time to projects beyond the annual conference. Specifically, the role of Vice President and Past President were re-introduced to the Board, and four two-year Director-At-Large roles were introduced to support longer term projects and assist in continuity from one year through to the next. ECOO has a conference committee to deal with the conference; ECOO has a Board of Directors to set a broader vision and support other things.

The Importance of Bylaws

Having become familiar with the ECOO bylaws over the years, it has become clear that there are times when such rules exist for a reason. Take, for example, the concept of the quorum. Without sufficient numbers, a Board cannot operate, nor can an Annual General Meeting take place. With ten positions on the ECOO board, a minimum of two-fifths (four Directors) is required to conduct business. In the case of an Annual General Meeting, the membership must be represented by at least 15 members. Could you believe that in recent years, with over 1000 members attending the annual conference, it has been a challenge to get 15 members at the Annual General Meeting? We need more members involved in the AGM and extra-to-conference projects.

Another important facet of the Bylaw that became clear surrounds the annual forming of the new board. According to our Bylaw, an incoming board is required to establish a Nominations Committee at their first meeting. This committee is required to exist throughout the year, and needs to follow very clearly defined timelines regarding the call for nominations, the closing of the call for nominations, the election process, and the establishment of the new board. It is expected that the Nominations Committee will review the needs of the organization, and work to ensure that candidates are put forward to ensure a strong Board to support the organization.

ECOO Bylaw 11, Article 7, Section 2.1

Recently, I was required to call upon another aspect of our bylaw, that being the requirement for me to exercise my right as a member of ECOO to attend Board of Directors meeting. Although I had made repeated requests for the opportunity to attend the April 3 board meeting as an observer, the requests went unanswered. I had clarified my right as a member under Article 7 Section 2.1c (Membership; Rights of Members), and finally received an inaccurate reply stating the meeting was “only for the Board of Directors.” As late as the 9 pm start time I was still pressing my case to attend, when the lone remaining Director from my time on the Board sent me the link to the Adobe Connect room.

Thank you to the ECOO members who lent their support in solidarity with my reminder of our collective right to attend our Board of Director meetings.

Board of Directors Meeting, April 3, 2017.

It was with pleasure that I joined the meeting shortly after 9 pm, only to find that the board had gone in camera. I sat there staring at a blank screen from 9:03 PM through until 10:38 PM (over an hour and a half).  In the end, the board offered approximately 30 minutes of an open meeting from 10:38 PM until 11:08 PM, at which point the meeting was adjourned.

Suffice to say, I was quite displeased at the lengths to which I had to go to ensure my attendance at the meeting, and found it most unfortunate that most of the meeting was not held in the open. Where is the transparency in the governance of the organization?  What issues are so secret that they need to be held out of view of the membership? Why was it so difficult for me to attend the meeting in the first place? After having supported ECOO for several years in a variety of capacities, why was I being denied the opportunity to find out what the Board was up do?

Members may take some small solace in the fact, that after several weeks of repeated requests and re-stated promises, a summary of board meeting notes was finally posted to the organization website yesterday afternoon, April 3, the day of the Board meeting.. There had been no updates to the organization website since the minutes last posted as of October 3, 2016, aside from the posts (a, b, c, d, e) and changes that I myself have made over the past two months in an attempt to keep the site fresh and current. Those #BIT14 banners and #edCamp notices from 2014 were way past their prime.

“ECOO.org website updates,” by @aforgrave

Support your ECOO!

The ECOO organization is only as strong as its members. Without support from the membership, an organization falters.

The Call for Session Proposals for the annual conference, #BIT17 Bring IT, Together! 2017 remains open until this Friday. Educators throughout the province are invited to put forward their session proposals for consideration. Share your learning!

ECOO is also currently conducting a survey of the membership. Please consider adding your voice to help set the vision and establish some plans for the coming year.

In closing, the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) has an opportunity to be much more to Ontario educators and learners than just an annual conference. It requires the engagement and the involvement of the membership in order to fulfil its potential as a provincial leader in supporting technology-related learning.

Please continue to support your organization so that it can support you, your peers, and future educators for years to come.

 


Doug and Pete’s Technological Listing of 10 Things to Fear 5

Comfort Zone, credited to Barrett Brooks

What Do Educators Fear About Using Technology?

Doug Peterson (@dougpete, on Twitter) and Peter McAsh (@pmcash, on Twitter) sat down to brainstorm a response to the original Colleen Rose’ post What Do Educators Fear About Using Technology?, and Doug posted 10 Things to Fear this morning. As I read through their list, I found myself mentally generating possible responses to their compilation, and found myself drawn to reply:

First, let’s look at fear:

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Definition: Fear, as returned via Google, edited

 

Perception, Attitude, Behaviour and Learning Outside our Comfort Zone

Year’s ago, I learned that our behaviours are influenced by our attitudes, and that our attitudes are influenced by our perceptions. Fear is perceived — we need to start with our perceptions of technology and our come to grips with our attitudes towards it so that we can modify our behaviours as we address its role in supporting learning.

Moving from fear towards comfort requires moving through a zone of discomfort.  I did a quick search for a header graphic and selected the one seen above (Comfort Zone, credited to Barrett Brooks (@BarrattABrooks, on Twitter) via a How your Comfort Zone is Sabotaging your Success on Huffington Post.) You may be interested in seeing the results of my simple search and choose a variant that works for you.

I will confess up front that there are times when I find it difficult to encounter fear with technology. And as a result, I found myself coming up with some rather flip responses to some of the entries on Doug and Peter’s list — there are no doubt some real challenges expressed there. But I also found that a good number of the entries on Doug and Peter’s list would be what we might term as “heard rationalizations,” — things that we have heard people say over the years, rather than true rationales against using technology. Rationalizations help you argue against something with yourself. Instead we need to cultivate with our learners a “find a way” mindset towards finding solutions. So watch for a few short comebacks embedded within the following. But in general, I’ve also tried to provide a start at a valid set of possible supports.

Developing a comfort with discomfort is a great way to start.

My responses to 10 Things to Fear.

  • “The kids know more than I do!”
    • In life, everyone knows different things. Learn to learn from one another.
    • Ask yourself, “When did you stop learning? Why did you stop learning?” “What do you think you need to learn more about?”
  • “I don’t have time; so many other things that are more important.”
    • What is more important than learning?
    • Re-assess priorities from time to time. Think critically about what you are doing and whether it still fits. Maybe there is a newer, better way?
    • Buddha says, “Your purpose in life is to find your purpose in life.”
  • “How do I know that it fits the curriculum?”
    • What a great question! Ontario’s Language curriculum is dated 2006, which is before Twitter existed. The “leader of the free world” exerts considerable influence through his “writing” via the technology of Twitter. We always need to assess the relevancy of the curriculum.
  • “My school doesn’t have enough computers for every student to have their own.”
    • Get more.
    • BYOD
    • Have your students share. Re-organize lessons to use groups or centres. (There are days when I still struggle with this. But it works.)
  • “I need a workshop on this.”
    • Find a friend to learn with.
    • Search YouTube for a video.
    • Join an open, online course.
    • Worst case, go find a workshop on this. But seriously, we don’t need workshops on everything; We need to change our beliefs and then our behaviours about how we learn. In this day and age, waiting for a workshop is an excuse.
  • “Nothing worse than booking the lab, taking the entire class there, and then half the computers are broken.”
    • Yeah, that is a bummer. Been there. As I learner, I would be ticked off. I’m sure the principal, the superintendent, the trustees (and the parents of your students!) don’t want half the computers to be broken. This is a school issue, and there are folks who can help you to get it addressed.
    • In the meantime, have the kids work with a partner.
  • “It’s not in the curriculum.”
    • See “How do I know that it fits the curriculum?” above.
    • “Coding” is only minimally reflected in Ontario’s K-12 curriculum. Ontario currently faces a shortage of programmers on the order of tens of thousands per year. The Ontario Ministry of Education knows this. But so do a lot of teachers. A lot of teachers are making space for coding, rather than waiting for “a curriculum.”
  • Too much curriculum; not enough time to experiment.”
    • Time is a real constraint, no doubt about it. What is important?
    • With time, you can learn to make time. Again, learning is an investment. Careful investing requires making careful choices.
  • “I’m not sure I have a login on the school network.  Who do I ask?”
    • Ask a colleague at your school.
    • Ask your office administrator.
    • Ask your best teacher friend who teaches at a different school.
    • Ask your principal.
    • Check for a “help desk” on your district’s web site.
    • Email someone on the OSAPAC committee.
    • Follow up with that person you met at that conference you went to a year ago with whom you exchanged emails after you had that discussion about that thing.
  • “I have a Mac at home and the school has Windows.”
    • Excellent! You can do a lot great stuff with a Mac!
    • 95% of what you need is web-based, and the web is cross-platform. Your school is good to go, as long as you have good Internet.
  • “The IT Department has the computers locked down and I can’t run the software I need.”
    • 95% of what you need is web-based, and the web is cross-platform. Your school is good to go, as long as you have good Internet. Is there an echo?
  • “What if the kids get into a porn site?”
    • Responsible IT departments have this covered for you.
    • Relax. Most kids are immediately horrified whenever something even remotely “inappropriate” shows up on a screen at school.
  • “I can teach the topic better without technology.”
    • Can the students LEARN the topic better WITH technology? If so, use the methods that best support their learning.  It’s not about technology OR your teaching, it’s about their learning.
    • Technology is not the answer to everything, and not everything is best learned via technology. Us it when it makes a difference.
  • “I’m a Google person trapped in a Microsoft world or vice versa.”
    • Ouch. Yeah. Or a Mac person trapped in a Microsoft world.
    • Either make friends with what you are given, advocate for alternatives, or find ways to transfer the necessary skills to your board’s chosen platform.
    • Be happy, in the olden days, folks worried about whether they had WordPerfect or MS-Office, and honestly, it’s what you write that is important, not the program you write it in. But yeah.
  • “Our computers are too old and not powerful enough.”
    • They must be good for writing.
    • What is the replacement cycle at your school/board? If they are that old, you are just about to get an upgrade!!!!
  • “I’m concerned about student privacy.”
    • Being cautious about student privacy is a good thing. It’s not an excuse to do nothing.
    • Use your concern about student privacy to learn and educate your learners.
  • “I’m concerned about my own privacy.”
    • Being cautious about your own privacy is a good thing. It’s not an excuse to do nothing.
    • Use your concern about privacy to learn and educate yourself. Again, find a friend to learn with.
  • “Somebody needs to be the champion of cursive.”
    • I discovered one day (not too many years ago) that it is important to know cursive so that you can read cursive.
    • I discovered one day (not too many years ago, but the same day as I discovered the item above) that very little of what we encounter in schools today is written in cursive.
    • I also learned that using cursive as an educator exacerbates the learning challenges for my identified students, and that printing fits a UDL model. My printing has always been easier to read than my cursive.
    • Voice-to-text is a marvellous technology. For everybody.
    • Slowing down the brain by writing by hand still has a place in helping one to think.
  • “Nobody has ever hacked my filing cabinet.
    • Probably true. But are you sure?”
    • Nobody is likely to hack your computer for your lesson plans either. Worry more about your PIN and your bank card.
  • “The printer never works – I have to print their work so I can mark it.”
    • No you don’t. (I really only ever had this as a need once.)
    • Learn to print to PDF. CutePDF is one of many answers if one doesn’t already exist at your school.
  • “What if the technology isn’t charged and goes dead in class?”
    • Been there. It’s a lesson in learning to be prepared, and one that your learners need to learn to deal with themselves.
    • Do you have a car charger for your phone? Why?
    • Be that person at a conference who totes around a power bar or extra phone battery. You can make friends that way. (‘Truth!)
  • “I tried once and failed badly.  Once burned, twice shy.”
    • There is a story floating around about Thomas Edison and the light bulb. The number 10, 000 comes up in it. He probably got burned at least once.
    • There is an acronym floating around: FAIL: First Attempt at Learning.
  • “Phones are banned in my school.”
    • Do you need phones? What question are “phones” providing the answer for? Is there another answer?
    • My P/J students don’t have phones. Getting phones isn’t an answer to their needs.
    • Why are phones banned? Who do you need to convince? (Answer: You only need to convince yourself to get started on this path …)
    • Are phones banned for teachers and administrators, too? Is this hypocrisy?
  • “The bulb in my data projector is burned out and my principal won’t replace it.”
    • Yeah. Data projector bulbs are pricey, no doubt.
    • Why won’t your principal replace it? Is the issue financial/budgetary, or is it philosophical?
    • Back in the day, I arrived at a new school one September and we had ONE overhead projector for the whole school. We were promised we would have new overhead projectors for all for the following September. Back then, I decided that rather than have my practice and my classroom be disadvantaged for a whole year, I would buy one myself. A couple years later, I lobbied my principal for a SMART board, and the overhead projector became redundant. How important is a particular piece of technology to your teaching and learning practice?
  • “Nobody else does, why should I?”
    • Do you believe that “it” is important?
    • Somebody needs to be first. Why not you?
    • Somebody needs to be second. Why not you?
    • The person who goes first needs a friend, and the person who goes second can be that friend. You and a friend can share the honours and support one another.
  • “What do I do when something goes wrong?”
    • Excellent question! What DO you do when something goes wrong?
    • Learn to develop the comfort requried to answer the question, “What do you do when something goes wrong?”
  • “I don’t want to show a weakness in my knowledge in front of the class.”
    • Knowledge Doubling Every 12 Months, Soon to be Every 12 Hours
    • Nobody expects you to know everything. You may be an expert in one or several fields, and in those areas you are likely well ahead of your learners. But our understanding of the world is continually evolving, and you probably know that.
    • You probably already know that kids like to connect with the real you. Encourage a two way dialogue about learning. What can you learn from them?
  • “I’ve never had a Scratch workshop; maybe my school could hire somebody.”
  • “What if a student puts 2 spaces after a period?”
    • As a learner and as a educator I put two spaces after a period for decades and the world never ended. It was the convention then. Nobody complained. Then one day I read an article about how the convention was changing (print publishers needed to save money and someone had calculated the real savings) and so I simply taught myself to tap the spacebar once instead of twice after a period. Today, I only worry about having an accidental double-space between words in my report card comments, because THAT is the one real no-no where it matters.
  • “What if their essay or report includes emoji?”
    • Do you include emoji in your emails and texts? 😉 I’m partial to the winky-face, because there is a lot to wink about in learning. You can even say “smiley face” or “winky face” to Siri and she will put it in your paragraph or text for you!
    • Consider audience, context, and format. Emoji are a new addition to our text-based communication, originally a work-around on the limits of the keyboard as a way to include emotion. Maybe you can work with the learner on tone, voice, and the use of irony and hyperbole as new techniques in communicating on multiple levels?
    • Remember that primary students are taught to self-assess their work using smiley faces before they learn to couch their emotions in words. Words are just a different symbolic representation.
  • “Many of the resources have US content. What about Canadian resources?”
    • US English. UK English. Put a U in colour, honour, neighbourhood. Can you get a little Canadian Flag to show in the menubar instead of the US one?
  • “It’s the librarian’s job.”
    • Lucky you! You have a librarian.
  • “How do I mark it?”
    • Ask the Ministry of Education. (Sorry, that’s an old joke.)
  • “If my board or school thought it was important, they would do workshops and train me.”
    • Breaking News: Boards and Schools don’t have a monopoly on deciding what is important.
    • Breaking News: Board and Schools don’t have the time and resources to do workshops and train you on everything you need/want to know.
    • OTF, OSSTF, ETFO, AEFO, OECTA, and TVO all offer workshops for teachers. So do our professional subject associations.
    • Search out an #edCamp near you!
  • “Two words – Fake News”

I think I got a bit punchy towards the end. Maybe Doug and Peter were scraping the bottom of their barrel by that point, too.

Help to Make Peace with Technology in Learning

For anyone who might like to add to this — especially with concrete responses to the real challenges, feel free to ask for access to edit the shared document that I’ve made available to Doug, Peter, and Colleen.

Again, learn to develop a comfort with discomfort!

If you are a member of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO), look to bring a colleague or three to the annual Ontario education technology conference, Bring IT, Together #BIT17, November 8-10th in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

If you are NOT a member of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO), you automatically become a member by attending our annual Ontario education technology conference, Bring IT, Together #BIT17 November 8-10th in Niagara Falls, Ontario. So come, and bring a colleague or three with you and learn together!

There is nothing to fear, technology-using educators are a friendly bunch!

#BIT17 Bring IT, Together 2017 promo, by aforgrave


Do You Dream of Databases? 2

“Sunset on a Set of Boxes Sitting,” image by aforgrave, on Flickr

Cross-Posted from a long comment response to a Doug Peterson (@dougpete) question, “Whatever Happened to Filemaker Pro?” on his Doug – Off The Record blog.

I knew when I read Doug’s post this morning that it would be impossible for me to let it go without commenting. But where to start? How could I start and not go on for hours and hours? And I expect that he knew that it would be difficult for me to not reply. I remember the day when John Taylor introduced us to one another at ECOO. I’m fairly certain he was looking at pushing the OSAPAC database of licensed software to the web from FileMaker at the time.

My original thought was that I would reply by writing my own post on my own blog. But the post would be out of the blue and wouldn’t have the context that Doug’s post provided. In the end, I posted a long comment on Doug’s blog, and based it on his prompt questions. To go broader would open the floodgates and I’d never get any sleep. But I did decide to cross-post it here to EdVisioned.ca all the same. After all, I spent upwards of five years from 1998 to 2003 breathing, eating, and sleeping in Filemaker. I’m sure I had a few Filemaker-inspired dreams along the way.

Have you ever developed a database application in Filemaker Pro?

Database101Oh, yeah. You know I have! It all began with a demo version on floppy disk in the back of Guy Kawasaki’s Database 101 book, purchased one lazy Sunday afternoon while browsing computer section at the the local bookseller, a year or so after I started teaching. That was pre-Chapters/Indigo, pre-Internet. But I did have a Mac, and a background in programming and Hypercard, and the first real project was to develop a lesson planner for a summer course I was taking. Why spend all that time formatting the pages when common fields across the various lessons in the unit could be automagically arranged, and I could add and re-sort the lessons with a nice table of contents to boot? I remember carrying that Mac to and from class and school in one of those big bags.

“Ontario Curriculum Unit Planner,” photo by aforgrave, on Flickr

Subsequent to that, the Class Organizer was a database that I developed and then shared at an ECOO SIG-ELEM in Kingston (Doug wrote about Special Interest Groups last weekend), and then came a school report card in my third year of teaching — followed by district Report Cards, Provincial Report Cards, and then the Ontario Curriculum Unit Planner (units still available via Queen’s University as PDFs) for the Ministry of Education.

Do you have a need for a database in the things you do on a computer?

To this day, I maintain student records and manage a bunch of classroom tasks from within Filemaker. Record keeping is the very raison d’être of a database, but the reality is that most folks do not “think” in terms of databases. I’ve had conversations with people over the years (looking at you, Peter Skillen) about how our thought processes and problem solving are influenced by the tools we understand and use. You are familiar with The Law of the Instrument, perhaps as initially clarified by Abraham Maslow in 1966: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” For years and years, the hammer of choice for many in Ontario was WordPerfect, and every single problem was solved with it. Now, decades later, comfort with spreadsheets has increased, but the subtleties of difference between spreadsheets and databases are lost to most. While visiting the Google Showcase at pre-ISTE NECC in 2009, I recall asking their booth folks if Google had a database program under development to complement Docs, Sheets, Slides — and I just received blank stares from the folks there. Now, a few years later, even Microsoft’s Access has disappeared from Office365. Databases are a hidden entity. They manage our finances, they organize and store our blog posts behind the interface of WordPress, but most people do NOT think of a database when faced with a database problem. It is not in our toolbox.

What sorts of things do you collect that would be suitable for inclusion in a database?
There was a time when I worked towards what one might call The Grand Unification of Data Architecture, where any and all information worth capturing was stored within a set of linked databases and was available to be searched and cross-linked and referenced with other related bits of data. Calendar entries, journal entries, financial data, family and contact information, events, presentations, goals, books and movies and media, quotes and research findings, long-range plans, any and all information belonged gathered together in a single related data-entity. As it has turned out, in the same way Facebook has given a web presence to the masses in a way that HTML never did, the multitude of mobile apps that exist today for managing groceries, workouts, friends, photos, and so on have provided everyone with a splintered and fractured collection of databases that can be used without truly understanding the methods beneath. Have a problem? There’s an app for that, no need to solve the problem yourself.

keep-calm-there-s-an-app-for-that-MODIf you’re not using a Filemaker Pro version, what are you using instead?
Over the years, I have played around with other data structures, MySQL being the most long-standing complement to my use of the latest versions of Filemaker. When the web really kicked into gear in the 2000s, the gathering and provision of data via AJAX became a new technological pursuit for me. That meant working with MySQL, HTML/CSS, and Javascript — three separate components. From the days of FileMaker 2.1 through FileMaker 15, one of the strongest features of FileMaker has been the way in which it marries the traditional modal-view-controller components within the domain of one application. With Filemaker, developers simultaneously manage the data structure, the interface, and the business logic. The most recent releases of Filemaker continue to support publishing web interface as well as generating mobile apps. For me, however, with today’s prevalence of apps and cloud computing, a lot of my data is stored within someone else’s data architecture. There are instances when I wish it were easier to hook the bits together, but the need to create things from scratch out of necessity has been supplanted over time with ready access to a multitude of specialized apps. The emerging potential of APIs has yet to be realized.

A Hammer, a Screwdriver, and a Flashlight?
In closing, as with coding, there is an untapped depth of problem solving potential that today’s learners are missing out on because the strengths and benefits of database structure and manipulation are not readily understood by folks. We have a wonderful category of tool available to support our thinking, but it’s not in the toolbox of the masses. A screwdriver may have joined the hammer for some, and perhaps a flashlight once in a while, but we really have yet to explore the full set of tools to which we truly need access. Databases are one such tool.

hammer_PNG3890

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” – Abraham Maslow, 1966.