Then and now


I (Clare) found this post so interesting and relevant. In my university dissemination of research is strongly encouraged so I have tried to make better use of social media — this blog! With 26,000+ hits and counting our website has certainly helped us disseminate our research in ways we could not do with traditional print (e.g., peer reviewed journals).

Originally posted on The Research Whisperer:

Photo by Jeff Sheldon | Photo by Jeff Sheldon |

In the last five years or so, I’ve completely changed my attitude to communicating research.

Guess how much I used to do before?


I published in journals and scholarly books. I presented at academic conferences and ran a research network. I dutifully applied for research funding. I thought of myself as a good, productive academic.

And that was it. I wasn’t really on Twitter and I blogged about our network activities – but only really for our members. I didn’t do community forums or write for other non-academic publication outlets.

Don’t believe me? Read on!

View original 744 more words

61 Years Later…

Sunday marked the 61st anniversary of the landmark case in the U.S.:  Brown vs. Board of Education. The supreme court case declared segregated schooling unconstitutional. However, 61 years later many schools remain separate and unequal. Often students in low socio-economic neighbourhoods, which tend to have a more diverse population, remain at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in more affluent neighbourhoods . Rebecca Klein, author at the Huffington Post, put together six powerful graphs which illustrate how far we still have to go for a truly equitable educational system. Below are a couple graphs from Klein’s article:



To read the entire article click here:

Happy Victoria Day

For our Canadian readers, Happy Victoria Day! For our international readers, Happy Victoria Day! and let me (Yiola) tell you about our federal holiday.

Since 1845 (which is before confederation!)Canada has recognized Victoria Day. Queen Victoria’s (of England) birthday is celebrated here in Canada; in fact we are the only country to celebrate her birthday as an official federal holiday. Following her death in 1901, the holiday was made to be known as Victoria Day, a day to remember the late Queen who was deemed the “Mother of Confederation”.

We now informally call Victoria Day “May 2-4″ and this holiday marks the beginning of our summer. Locally, people begin their gardening, cottagers open their cottages, and fireworks abound. It is a happy time and great way to welcome the coming of a new season.

This year, Monday May 18th marks the holiday which left me confused because May 24th is a Sunday… and so I wondered why May 2-4 was not celebrated next Monday? The link below explains why:

I hope where ever you are, the sun is shining and there are fireworks in your soul. Enjoy today!

More on Incremental Change in Education

In January, I (Clive) wrote about Mary Kennedy and her stress on incremental change in education – as opposed to “bold” innovation. Since then, I’ve come across an excellent book that takes a similar stance: Enlightenment 2.0 (HarperCollins, 2014) by Joseph Heath, a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto. Though decidedly progressive himself, Heath writes in support of Edmund Burke’s advocacy of cumulative improvement, the rationale for which he paraphrases as follows:

“If everyone insists on reinventing everything, we’ll never get anywhere, simply because no one is smart enough to understand all the variables and grasp all of the reasons that things are done exactly the way they are.” (p. 88)

Hence the title of his book: this is a second take on an “enlightenment” approach to social reform, one that builds on past practice in just the manner Kennedy recommends. But Heath raises a crucial question:

“[O]nce we acknowledge this, is the only alternative to fall back into an uncritical acceptance of tradition? Or is it possible to use this insight as the basis for a more successful form of progressive politics?” (p. 83)

I’ll continue to read the book and let you know about Heath’s alternative (that’s a promise!). Meanwhile, one solution that occurs to me in the education field is to give teachers more voice, so they can share their practices and fine-tune them. More opportunities for teacher dialogue are needed: in school settings, during PD events, in university classes, etc. In this way, teachers can help each other tinker with how they do things, rather than having some “expert” come in and tell them they’ve got it all wrong. There’s a place for outside input, but it should be used critically – and incrementally.

Teaching, teacher education, incremental change, Joseph Heath, Enlightenment 2.0.

Don’t Compare Your Life to Someone’s High-Light Reel by Henrik Edberg

My brother sent me (Clare) the following blog my Henrik Edberg on the positivity site.

I just loved it because is so sensible. Enjoy!

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”
Lao Tzu

Today I’d like to focus on a negative habit that creates insecurity within, erodes self-esteem and can make you feel quite unhappy with your own life .

It’s something that has sprung up as we have moved a part of our lives on to the internet and social media.

And that habit is to compare yourself and your life to other people’s high-light reels.

What do I mean by that?

That it’s so easy to start comparing your life to the lives of friends, old classmates or celebrities of all sizes as you each day see how perfect their homes, kids, love lives are and how filled their lives are with wonderful moments.

But is that their whole lives that is shared on Facebook and Instagram?

Usually not.

It’s just the high-light reel of that person’s life.

The positive moments. And it’s natural thing really, to want to share such moments or days with your friends or followers.

Now, for some people this may develop into something destructive. Into a way of creating a more perfect image of one’s life to get that hit of instant gratification as people add positivity via comments, likes and upvotes.

But everyone has problems at times. They fail. Get sick. Have flaws, bad days or negative habits. No matter who you are or what you look like or do.

I have those issues too. Just like anyone else. I still stumble and fall on some days. Doubt myself or am pessimistic from time to time. That’s human.

So don’t strive for being perfect or measuring yourself against someone else’s high-light reel.

Here are three healthier steps you can take instead:

  • Step 1: Compare in smarter way.There will always be people who have more or nicer things than you. Or are better than you at something. No matter what you do.
So if you want to compare then do it in a way that won’t make you feel envious and inferior. Do it by comparing yourself to yourself. See how far you have come. Look back at the obstacles you have overcome, what you have learned and how you have grown.
  • Step 2: Spend your energy and time on what matters the most.Step by step spend the hours in your day and week on building habits that will make you a better person and a happier one too.
For example, aim at being optimistic 70% of the time if you have been it maybe 50% in the past month. Or go out running for just 5 minutes for starters tonight instead of checking those social media accounts one more time.
  • Step 3: Let go of what drags you down.If necessary unsubscribe or remove social media accounts from your flow if you feel they are dragging you down and lowering your self-esteem. Even if those things might also be entertaining right now.

Life isn’t just a high-light reel no matter who shares it.

So look beyond that, remember that everyone is human and stop comparing yourself to that limited view of someone.

In the long run you’ll be happy that you did.

Trends in YAL

I try to stay connected with current trends in Young Adult (YA) Literature so I can have thoughtful conversations about these texts with the student teachers in our literacy courses. An article by Publishers Weekly highlighted some of complex topics currently being explored in YAL. Some of the themes YA publishers are prompting include texts “that look thoughtfully at mental illness and suicide” as well as “books that tell sophisticated stories about gender identity across the LGBTQIA spectrum”. To find out about specific YA titles exploring these topics see the following link:

Language and Literacy and Connecting Community

I  (Yiola) am sitting in a Tim Horton’s, sipping on a double double with milk, and very (yes I just used the word very when it was completely unnecessary!) suddenly feel inspired. I was in the midst of writing about this terrible “work to rule” strike happening in our public schools when a topic far more inspiring came to mind… the power of language and its connection to community.

Moments ago, as I had my head buried in the lap top focused on my blog, out of the corner of my eye I saw a group of older men chatting in their native language… a language that happens to be my own native language, Greek.  I felt a sweet spring of inspiration and connection to these men who gather around the table, sipping their coffees and socializing. It brought back the stories my parents shared of my grandfather walking 2 kilometres each day to the local “cafenio” where he would meet his friends and chat the afternoon away.  I visualized the cobble stone road that led from my Papous’ (grandfathers) house in his village (Yermasoyia); the narrow, hilly road that was lined with small villas and heritage homes. The more I heard the Greek phrases channel through their discourse the more at home I felt in this generic Tim Horton’s shop. I tried not to stare at them as they spoke. What occurred to me, and what may seem obvious and yet not entirely understood until felt, was the intensity of connection and understanding I experienced simply based on my understanding of language. I felt empowered because I knew their language. I felt connected. It felt familiar and safe.

Shortly after another group of men entered the Tim Horton’s and they too began socializing over coffee. This time I did not recognize the language spoken and yet I deeply appreciated the value of their connection. How wonderful to have people in your life that you are able to connect to through shared language. Shared language = understanding.

I look behind me. A couple sits in the booth in silence, each reading a section of the newspaper. Again, a strong sense of literacy at play; a strong sense of cultural connection.

Language and literacy is everywhere. Our language identifies us and connects us to the world.  How magnificently simple and yet so directly relevant to literacy and language development. Immersion in language, opportunities for sharing, talking, communicating, relevant reasons for reading and writing… a simple class field trip to Timmy’s may be in order…

Ashleigh Woodward: A Natural Blogger

In my (Clare) literacy course (at the graduate level) this past year I gave my students options for their final assignment. It had to be a “product” and could take any form. Many chose to use digital technology (e.g., Powtoons) while others did artistic presentations (e.g., original painting, scrapbook). Ashleigh Woodward chose to start a blog. It is truly terrific – here is the link to it.

I think that Ashleigh is a natural blogger. I love her range of topics: 20 books to read in 2015, bullying, books about residential schools, Three Ring (a program designed for teachers to use when collecting evidence about student learning) …

Here is one of her blogs:

Teaching vs. Googling: Purposeful Technology in the Classroom

My grandma was a teacher for many, many years. She taught all over public schools in Ontario and Quebec, every grade K-8, and spent many of the final years of her career in special education classrooms. My three great aunts were also wonderful teachers, as was my great-grandma – all on the same side of the family. Times were different, teaching was different – but some things were surely the same. When I think about their careers, though, I’m left with a burning, frantic question.

How did they teach without the internet?!

Can’t spell a word I want to use? Apple’s dictionary program. Want to share files with a colleague? DropBox or AirDrop. Need somebody to cover my yard duty? Group email. Want my students to meet and interview an MPP? Skype. Stuck for a graphic organizer or a primary PE game? Pinterest. Need general information or want to find a good math game? Google. Want to get some interactive map work going? SmartBoard. Want to get my students watching some videos about the nervous system? QR Codes and iPads. Need to gather instant feedback as we prepare for a test? Smart Clickers. Shared writing as we practice quotation marks? Laptop and Word. Inputting marks and generating grades? GradeKeeper. Writing and publishing report cards? Trevlac. Posting class field trip forms and reminders? Whipplehill website.

… I could go on, and on… and I probably already have overshared. I didn’t even touch on YouTube, PowerPoint or social media!! There’s no denying how the word wide web has allowed us to connect with other educators, around the world, to share ideas, resources and strategies. Look at Teachers Pay Teachers! That’s an entire other blog post in and of itself. All these resources are out there and available to anyone who knows that search terms to use, and who is willing to spend some time and possibly a little bit of money.

This brings me to my point. Grandma would have considered all the students in her class, and created assignments, lessons and tasks for them to complete, from scratch. They were tailor-made, in many cases, likely using a textbook as their base. While we pride ourselves on moving away from textbooks in an effort to differentiate our students’ learning, I worry that printing booklets from TPT or showing instructional videos is merely repurposing the textbook.

My view, for what it is worth, is that technology is a tool to help us, as teachers, deliver content, and to help our students demonstrate their understanding. It is not a catch-all of worksheets to be printed  and distributed without purposeful instruction, meaningful learning or engaging inquiry. Technology can support us in our teaching, in our ability to meet the needs of the students in our classroom, but it should not be the only place we turn to for Monday’s lesson. I think that in Ontario we still have a lot of creativity and “craft” associated with our profession, as we do not follow the scripted, step-by-step lessons mandated by many school boards in the States, and this is to our students’ immense benefit.

Image 20-Best-Websites-Elementary-Teacher-Should-Know-Infographic

Anti-Plagiarism Tools


At my (Cathy’s)  institution,  like most HE schools, plagiarism is an  issue.   According to Wikipedia, “Plagiarism is not a crime per se but in academia and industry, it is a serious ethical offense.”  I deliberately quote Wikipedia because that (sadly) seems to be a popular source for many students these days.  As the cartoon to the left implies, is copying from the internet plagiarism?  The many new sources for plagiarism checking indicates “yes”.  My institution supports a plagiarism locator called Turnitin.  It is a relatively simple tool to use. Once the text is submitted to the Digital Learning System, the tool highlights all words in sequence that can be located on the www and Google Scholar.  Hence, copying the words from Wikipedia becomes as evident as copying a paragraph from a journal article.  The professor has to look at the text and determine if the highlighted parts have been properly cited.  If not, the text is  plagiarized.  Although professors have access to this and can use it to check for plagiarism, it is used instead as a formative feedback took to encourage students to monitor their own work and how they are sourcing. Regarding Turnitin, Jennifer Haber, Professor of Communications at St. Petersburg College shares this email from one of her students:

Keeping an eye on the similarities percentage area keeps me aware of possible situations where I may be using too much (or even too little) outside resource information. Due to its ease of use and instructive benefit, I would say the service has played a significant part in my becoming a more improved writer. I would favorably recommend its use to any institution of learning.

This kind of feedback has sold Professor Haber on the use of this tool.  Besides Turnitin, many more of these tools are popping up on the internet.  Two popular sites are:  Best Plaigerism Checker and Proofreader  and  Plagiarisma.Net (links provider below).  With these kinds of free tools available and the  bad press plagiarism has been receiving, its  wonder that students still plagiarize.  Perhaps these tools will help reduce it happening in our schools.  Let’s hope so.