Monday, December 5, 2011

What are you reading now?

 Canadian Bookshelf is social media for books. It is an online community for discovering and discussing Canadian books. Canadian Bookshelf makes it easier to find your next great Canadian read.

It is an interactive virtual library stocked with books by world-renowned and up-and-coming Canadian authors writing in every genre.

Canadian Bookshelf doesn’t sell books directly on the site. They provide quick links to a range of retailers you can choose from to make your purchase.

Don’t forget to check out our blog, which apart from mere speculative opinion, will also feature author interviews, contests, maps, and podcasts

Enter a keyword in the search bar, browse by author or category, or check out featured books or lists. Once you hit on a particular book, you can find out all sorts of other things:
  • More books by the author
  • More information about the author
  • Lists on which the book appears (which will lead you to other interesting books)
To do more, you can sign up to be a member. As a member, you can begin creating and checking out others’ lists and recommended reading. You’ll be able to rate and review books, and comment on others’ recommendations. And you’ll get access to special content and contests, special alerts on new books, and the Canadian Bookshelf newsletter.

TDSB instructors could start their own tag and talk to each other about Canadian books and resources for classroom use and for professional development. Or just for fun - what do literacy instructors like to read?

For Christmas, they are offering a special service: #GiveCDN
"This holiday season, we're making it easy for you Give Canadian. For the next few weeks, we'll be helping our readers match their most special someones with the perfect Canadian Book. If you would like some expert advice, email your holiday book shopping quandary to, and we'll do our best to get you sorted."

Monday, November 28, 2011

free books!

Richard Byrne teaches US History and Civics to high school students at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris, Maine. He also runs the resource-rich, creativity-inspiring Free Technology for Teachers blog.

Richard has been writing a series of books about using digital technologies in classrooms that you can download for free.

Here is a sample:

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Noun Project

The Noun Project collects, organizes and adds to the highly recognizable symbols that form the world's visual language, so we may share them in a fun and meaningful way.

Here is their pledge to you:


The symbols on this site are and always will remain free. We believe symbols can not be effectively shared with the world if they are not free.


Everyone likes simplicity. We want you to be able to come to our site and effortlessly find and obtain what you are looking for. Simple as that.


We think a language that can be understood by all cultures and people is a pretty amazing thing. We also think our symbols and the objects or ideas they represent are works of art worth celebrating.

Highest Quality

We get excited about things like scale, proportion, and shape. We are committed to design and quality in everything we do.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What does your web look like?

Here is a fun activity - a web-related personality quiz called Webify Me.

Answer 20 questions about what you would do in certain situations and get a web page that is all about you.

Here is mine: Weblocked. Click on each item to learn something about me.

P.S. The thing about the keys is definitely not true --- but everything else is so ME :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Media and Occupy Toronto

In the last post we looked at a City TV report from Occupy Toronto. What other news reports have you seen or heard? Have you read any newspaper articles?

Here are a couple of places to find some television coverage:

CBC: Occupy Toronto takes to the streets again

CTV: 4 protests, a priest and a proposal: Top 'Occupy' moments

Global: Occupy Canada continues

Can you tell when reporters are telling you facts and when they are giving their opinion?

Here is an example from Sun TV as reported by the Canadian Journalism Project: Ezra Levant reports on Occupy Toronto; protestors release unedited video

Ezra Isaac Levant (born 1972) is a Canadian lawyer, conservative political activist and media figure. He is the founder and former publisher of the Western Standard, hosts The Source daily on Sun News Network, and has written several books on politics.

Go to the site and watch the first video.
What do you think about the report that Ezra Levant aired on SunTV?  What is your opinion about Occupy Toronto after you watch this video?

Then watch the second video.
What do you think about the video made by the people in the park? What is your opinion about Occupy Toronto after you watch this video?

Do these videos tell different stories?
Do you think these stories are fact or opinion?

What do you think about the stories? If you only watched one, what would your opinion of Occupy Toronto be?

What is a good way to find out facts about a story? When is it good to listen to opinions about a story?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Democracy at the Occupations

"The antiglobalization movement was the first step on the road. Back then our model was to attack the system like a pack of wolves. There was an alpha male, a wolf who led the pack, and those who followed behind. Now the model has evolved. Today we are one big swarm of people."

Raimundo Viejo, Pompeu Fabra University
Barcelona, Spain

Adbusters used this quote to start the Occupy Wall Street campaign.

What does it mean?

One thing it means is that there is no leader or committee that makes decisions for the group.

Every day at noon and 6 p.m., Occupy Toronto holds a General Assembly. People can make proposals at the General Assembly. Decisions are made by consensus. The General Assembly in Toronto uses hand signals to vote:
  • Agreement – raise both hands above head, wiggle fingers
  • Semi-agreement, further consideration – raise arms straight out in front, small wiggle
  • Strong Disagreement, not to be used lightly – arms raised in block, ‘x’ over the head
  • Request for further discussion – hands in triangle above head
  • Wrap it up please – roll arms over each other
Here is how it looks:

You can see them using the People's Mic. This means that people repeat what the speakers say so that the people at the back can hear.

Some reporters are saying that the movement is disorganized and the demands are not clear.

Here are the minutes from the first General Assembly: Occupy Toronto General Assembly October 15th, 2011 minutes.

What do you think? Are they disorganized? Are they unclear?

If you want to ask the people at  St. James Park questions, go to the livestream and put your question into the chat.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Toronto

What do you think about the Occupy Wall Street movement? It started like this. Adbusters put out a call for people to Occupy Wall Street to
"demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington. It's time for DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY, we're doomed without it."
Occupy Wall Street has been going for 38 days. The movement started to spread all over the world.

Now we have Occupy Toronto Market Exchange at St. James Park on the corner of King Street and Jarvis Street. Saturday was Occupy Toronto's one-week anniversary. Have you been down to visit? Have you joined any of the marches?

Have you heard them say "We are the 99%!" What does this mean?
In 2006, there was a documentary called The One Percent about the growing wealth-gap between America's wealthy elite compared to the overall citizenry. The film's title means that in the United States in 2001, 1% of Americans control 38% of the nation's wealth.

Here is a blog where people from the other 99% are posting their stories: We Are the 99 Percent

What about in Canada? Is it the same here?

Here is what Jim Stanford, an Economist in the Research Department of the Canadian Auto Workers, tweeted the other day:

What do you think? Do you think that wealthy people and corporations control the government in Canada? Do wealthy people and corporations have too much influence? Do wealthy people and corporations get too many benefits like tax breaks and subsidies from the government in Canada?

Where can you find out the answers to these questions? If you find a good place, let us know in the comments.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Changing Education

Did you have a chance to look at the Learning and Violence project interactive multi-media tools yet?

For adult educators and learners, the issue of how people have experienced, or are experiencing, violence can be the elephant in the room. Learners feel that they cannot bring it up and, if they do, many educators feel out of their depth. Many of the mechanisms people develop to survive violence can work as barriers when they want to learn something new and sometimes these mechanisms result in behaviours that look to educators like learning disabilities, lack of motivation or resistance.

The Changing Education multi-media tools are designed to help us name the elephant and open up the conversation.

Jenny Horsman, a community researcher and educator who coordinated the project and whose long-term work on the issue of how experiences with violence impact learning informed the research, says, "It is important it is to come to learning whole and full of hope. When we feel stupid, there is nowhere to go. But when we try a whole new conversation, we can try a whole new set of approaches.”

The tools will soon be available on DVD for those who do not have access to the internet. The project is looking for new partners in Canada and internationally to develop tools for learning in workplaces, schools, corrections and homes. Visit

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Multimedia tools for learning about violence and learning

The Learning and Violence project would love show you the interactive multi-media tools they have created to support learning and teaching in a context of violence.

Join them at George Brown College, 200 Front Street East (Front and Jarvis) in the Front Lobby on Friday October the 14th.

10:00 to 4:00 check out the new tools yourself – and chat to the creators, instructors and students who have used them.

12:00 to 1:00 Listen to what people have to say about them.

If you can't get to the launch, check out the resources on the website.

"Violence shapes us. It can make us stronger as learners, teachers, and simply as people in the world. It can also make it hard to trust ourselves and others, and difficult to learn. Its impact on learning is not well recognized, but the resources and allies found here can help all of us – whatever our role or experience – to address this issue creatively. On this site you will find:
  • practical ideas to make it easier to learn or teach when violence or hard times mark our lives and/or the lives of those we work with;
  • people and organizations exploring violence and learning through research or practice."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Special-needs voters get civics lesson

A class at Frontier College in Toronto is helping students learn about the voting process ahead of the Oct. 6 provincial election.

Click here to watch Zulekha Nathoo's story.

Election Math

What do you know about government deficits and debt?

What do you think of the election promises about raising and cutting taxes and spending? Do you believe the politicians? Do you think you could do better?

You can try out your own election math at the CBC Election Promise Calculator.

The current Ontario budget deficit, forecast at $16.3 billion for the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to budget figures.

Program costs and revenues are detailed in the calculator. They can be adjusted to see the impact on the deficit, which changes in accordance to changes in the position of the sliders.

Look what happens when we make all the spending zero...

We still have $97,415,000,000.00 deficit.

What programs would you cut?
Or would you increase program spending?
What taxes would you raise?
Or would you cut programs?

Can you make these decisions?

Here is what the leaders of the three parties said they would do in the debate:

But is this the right time to be trying to balance the budget? Or should we be "stimulating" the economy?

Unemployment in Ontario is at 7.5% (read more here).

Here is what the leaders of the three parties said about jobs in Ontario in the debate:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Voting 3 Ways

What do you think about our voting system in Canada? Do you think it is fair? Do you think it is democratic?

At Three Ontario Votes you  can try voting under three different systems to see how different voting systems work:
  • the first-past-the post system we use in Canada
  • the alternative vote system they use in Australia
  • the proportional representation system they use in the Netherlands
You can try the three ways of voting at Three Ontario Votes until election night on October 6.

You have to agree to participate in the research. You do not have to put in your riding. It is a bit awkward finding your riding in the drop down menu because they are not in alphabetical order. You can keep typing the first letter of your riding until it shows up. You can find your riding here if you know your address or postal code.

Then you cast ballots 3 times according to the rules of the first-past-the-post system from Canada, the alternative voting system from Australia, and proportional voting from the Netherlands.

At the end you can complete a short questionnaire about your political preferences. This will help the researchers understand more about how people would like to vote.

After the simulated ballots have been cast, the researchers will tally the vote counts and then determine the results of the vote in each system. The researchers would then examine how those results show the consequences of different electoral systems.

The three systems

You can read information on different electoral systems and how elections work in Canada, Australia and the Netherlands at Three Ontario Votes. Here is a chart about the three systems from a CBC story about the project:

Our system is called "first-past-the-post." It means whoever gets the most votes, wins. It means that if Candidate A gets 40 votes, Candidate B gets 35 votes and Candidate C 25 votes, then Candidate A wins even though only 40 out of 100 people like that candidate best. In Canada, parties often win elections with about 40% of the "popular" vote. This means that 40 out of 100 people voted for the winning party and 60 out of 100 people voted for other parties.

You can see that in the last Ontario election that, in Toronto, the Progressive Conservative Party got 23.53% of the vote, more that the NDP, but got no seats from this area. (This chart comes from the CBC Ontario Votes 2007 Ridings page. You can see more results from 2007 here.)

Here is a 6:31 minute video about some of the problems with first-past-the-post system:

Here is a 4:27 minute video about the alternative vote system:

Here is a 2:05 minute video about a proportional representation system from New Zealand:

We had a referendum about changing to this system of proportional representation voting in Ontario in 2007. People voted to keep the first-past-the-post system.

Here is a chart showing what would have happened in the 2003 Ontario election under the two systems:

FPTP = First Past The Post and MMP = Mixed Member Proportional)
Here is a 6:25 minute video about the Ontario referendum:

*Remember to visit the TDSB LBS Wiki for more election resources.

Monday, September 19, 2011

You and the Ontario Political Parties

CBC is running Vote Compass again.

"Vote Compass is an educational tool developed by political scientists. Answer a short series of questions to discover how you fit in the Ontario political landscape."

You click on one of 5 boxes to say how much agree or disagree with about 30 statements. You can also answer, "I don't know." You do not have to enter your Riding or Postal Code to get started.

In the next section, you answer some questions about how you feel about the four parties and the four party leaders.

For these two sections, it helps to know what the leaders look like and the party logos. You drag and drop pictures onto a continuum.

The last set of questions are demographic questions about you and where you live.

When you are done you will see a chart with all the parties and you. Here is mine. I am always way out in left field :)

You can open up Learn More to find out how your compare to each of the party platforms question-by-question or compare all the party platforms. I found this section quite interesting. If you click on the "party rationale" links, the section expands and you can see a section of the party platform about that subject.

 If you try the Vote Compass, leave a comment below and let us know what you thought of it.

A note: Some users will find that their Vote Compass results do not match their personal sense of alignment with the political parties. The results are not intended to predict which party a user feels that she or he is most closely aligned with; rather it merely specifies how the user is aligned with each of the political parties on the basis of the questions included in Vote Compass.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ontario Election 2011 Words

Welcome back! I hope that you all had a nice summer.

The big news in Ontario this fall is the provincial election. TV Ontario (TVO) has lots of good information about Ontario elections and voting here. (All links will open in a new window.)

Do you know who you are going to vote for? If you can't vote in THIS election, who would you vote for? Do you think it is important for people who live in Canada and cannot vote to think about this question?

Word clouds are a a way of analyzing a document. One way of making a word cloud is to paste the text into Wordle. Words that are used most often show up larger and brighter. It can give you an idea about the content of a document. Here is one I made from the lyrics of the song Summertime:

I couldn't get Wordle to work on my computer so I used TagCrowd. You can find other options here. Check out WordSift if you want to do word analysis as well. Very cool.

Here are the word clouds that Mark Brosens of TVO's The Agenda made from the election platforms of the 

Ontario Liberal Party,

Ontario New Democratic Party,

Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and the

Ontario Green Party.

Look at the 4 word clouds. Did you learn anything new about what each party thinks is best for Ontario? Do these word clouds help you decide which party best represents what you think?

What issues are most important to the people in your class? Type them out into a word document. If 5 people think that education funding is an important issue, type education funding 5 times. Copy and paste your document into Wordle. Post a link to your word cloud into the comments so we can see what is important to you.

Then check out what others in Ontario are thinking here: The Citizen's Agenda - Click on a polygon to see a video of the question and issue raised by people who attended the Agenda Camps around Ontario.

Friday, August 19, 2011

world water week

More than 2,600 humanitarians and policymakers meet in Stockholm next week to hash out ideas about how to tackle escalating problems surrounding water scarcity and access to sanitation, particularly in urban environments.

World Water Week delegates are seeking long-term sustainable solutions that will transform how water resources are managed. The goal is to try and improve the lives of almost 900 million people who lack access to safe water, and more than 2.7 billion who lack access to basic sanitation, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) statistics.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

squaring the circles

Sir Ken Robinson talks about education in the 21st century:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Matt Damon on education vs training

Matt Damon talks to Piers Morgan about President Obama, audacity and the difference between training and education!

It seems to me that more and more we are choosing training instead of education for adult literacy learners. Is that true? Is it what adult literacy learners want?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent education

Salman Khan talks at TED about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script -- give students video lectures to watch at home, and do "homework" in the classroom with the teacher available to help.

And more importantly, how to structure learning that rewards experimentation, encourages risk, AND results in mastery. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day Video from Reuters

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blending on International Women's Day

It is that time of year again. For the 100th time!

I was working at home last year for the Reuters International Women's Day live blog (see details below) and spent quite a bit of time over there reading and talking about where women are today. It was fascinating. If you are using computers with your class on March 8, this might be a fun thing to check out.

There are some good videos here: that you can watch to get ready for an International Women's Day discussions - either on the live blog below or in your class.

There is some excellent reading at the Trust Law blog:
Call out to all bloggers and Tweeters for International Women’s Day – 8 March 2011

As part of the Women @ Thomson Reuters network’s focus on International Women's Day, Julie Mollins [my sister] has created a dedicated International Women’s Day web page on  Click here to view.  Not only does this page bring together great Reuters news content, we also have a fantastic dynamic live blog which will capture insights and perspectives from both staff and external contributors around the world throughout the day.

View our initial blog postings hereWe invite you to participate on that live blog.

We have begun to populate dedicated pages on and Thomson Reuters Foundation’s site in advance of 8 March with some initial stories. Take a look at the blog posts on Reuters The Great Debate site - please feel free to start adding your own responses to these articles. In addition we also have special coverage on TrustLaw and AlertNet broadening the range of topics and angles for reflection.

This year will be the 100th anniversary of IWD, so perhaps you would like to join the live blog and discuss:
  • What progress do you believe has been made, or ground lost, on the gender agenda over the past 100 years?
  • What needs to be achieved over the next decade and into the future?  
Thomson Reuters Foundation also launched a new page titled TrustLaw Women this week.  View that page and blog your thoughts. 
Blog on this year’s IWD 2011 theme which is “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women” 
Perhaps you could attend a local IWD march in your area and tweet back.  Check here for a list of activities around the world. 
Are you hosting an International Women’s Day event?  Celebrate by sharing your Tweets with us. Follow us on Twitter at @women_on_iwd.
We would love to have you contribute on 8th March and welcome you to “dip in” and blog or tweet throughout the day.

Have a great International Women’s Day!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Listening List

In the Our Stories Moodle course I posted some stories from Story Corps. If you are interested in more places to listen to stories, there is a list of links here. I have not tried any of these out yet. If you find a great one, let us know.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Good List

Instructors and learners are always looking for web-based skills practice opportunities. Laubach Literacy Ontario keeps a pretty good set of annotated lists. Check them out here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

hyperventilating over learning

Here is a great story about the power of blended learning written in preparation for International Women's Day:
But how can you not hyperventilate? My students, many of them first-generation Americans and the first in their families to attend college, are doing real research. They are doing the research that was previously restricted to scholars who possessed letters of introduction, invitations, and appointments. My students and I have none of these things. We are in a public school during a recession. And yet, we are true researchers.

 In the morning, students knock on the library door, begging to be let in. “We open in five minutes!” I call. I savor the first five minutes of the day alone with my coffee cup and my own research. Currently, I am researching Berenice Abbott, the WPA photographer known for her “Changing New York” photographs of the city. Her work is among 700,000 archived materials in New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery.

You don’t have to live in New York or own a library card to access the Gallery. Like Google Books—which also digitizes historical books—the Gallery is available to anyone with an internet connection. All you need is five quiet minutes in the morning with your coffee cup—or four, depending on the day.

Today I will only have four minutes. Students are rapping on the door, pounding harder. They want in, and come barreling through.     

 “Morning, Miss!” “What new books do you have?” “Can I use a laptop?” “Can I borrow headphones?” “How do I embed video in PowerPoint?” “Where are the Shakespeare plays?”

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dealing with Student's Reactions to New Teaching Strategies

Dealing with Student's Reactions to New Teaching Strategies

Online discussion with Kate Nonesuch January 10-16, 2011

Have you ever been excited about introducing a new research-based strategy only to have your learners meet it with resistance?  How do you overcome this barrier?  Next week, you will have the opportunity to participate in a discussion on the Math and Numeracy List with Kate Nonesuch, an instructor in adult literacy and numeracy for nearly 30 years, on "Dealing with Student's Reactions to New Teaching Strategies."

The discussion will focus on recognizing student resistance and looking at strategies for overcoming it, making learners part of the teaching team, and in charge of their learning.  The suggested pre-reading resource is Kate's article on page 20 of the Focus on basics issue at the following link:  Nonesuch, K. (2008). Changing Practice, Expanding Minds. Focus on Basics 9(A), 20.

To subscribe to the Math and Numeracy List, go to, fill in your name and email address, select on the Math and Numeracy, and click subscribe.

Please feel free to send this information out to colleagues, researchers, learners, or anyone who is interested in Math and Numeracy