School Online – Journal – Day 7

Isn’t technology fun? Maybe, or maybe not.

Here are some snippets from my Friday:

Welcoming new pre-service teachers to Ontario Tech University

  • Adobe Connect was new to them.
  • Several didn’t have earbuds or headphones, and so any audio from their speaker went back out their mic, creating a disconcerting echo. I’m hoping that they’ll have them on when classes start next week.
  • With almost 30 students, our thumbnail faces were literally “thumbnail” size.
  • This was the FIRST orientation activity where they were actually asked to speak to each other.  All previous had been webinars…. three days’ worth!
  • Result?  We had a great time getting to know each other.

Picking up a new laptop

  • I had to sign in and out at the board office.
  • I had to wait to be escorted, rather than heading to my meeting.
  • There were two of us in a huge room, both of us masked.
  • We were almost finished when I mentioned that I would be in a school next week, and found out that they then needed to add more to the setup so that I would be able to access Wifi.
  • Result? It works well…. except that you must be on the Internet to use many of the new tools.


  • As mentioned in a previous post, our ISP “up north” has disappeared.  And they billed me twice for last month, so I’m out a rather large sum of money.
  • So, when I made the trip up the 400, it was to a place with no connectivity.
  • Thank goodness for my personal phone and its data plan: I was able to tether to download, and send email.
  • Result? Headed in to town today, signed a contract with the ONLY LTE provider, and am now back online.

Data Tools

  • I was able to download the results of the Google Form survey of our online teachers, and bring it into Excel.
  • We made the survey simple for the teachers, but that made the data much more complex.  For example, when asked what courses teachers were assigned this year, some replied with course codes, and others with text descriptions.  And we asked one question, but received up to 8 data points.
  • I created columns for each subject, and then hand-entered the first letter of the subject (M for Math, E for English), as well as a few more specific codes.  What is the logic of having GLE as a special education course, and GLC as careers?
  • Once each record was coded, I was able to sort.  I then created a new worksheet for each subject area, and copied the teacher information to the new worksheet. 
  • Within each worksheet we may need to create more columns, in order to sort by specific course codes.  However, for many subject areas it may be sufficient merely to scan to pick out who wants to teach BOH4M0 or BTA3O0.


  • The building of the timetable is ongoing, and a gargantuan task with more than 9000 students and about 400 teachers.
  • Most of our most experienced timetabling Vice Principals are either retired, or have been promoted to Principal.
  • So, my contribution next week will be to fill in for one of the latter, who will join our School Online team in order to ensure we timetables for classes to begin next Wednesday.

It’s the weekend.  I finally have Internet again, and am capturing yesterday’s experiences before they disappear.  I’m looking for clothes to wear next week. It’s been six months since I wore my “Principal” costume, so I’ll have to dig.

On Monday I’m looking forward to experiencing our new hybrid secondary school model, where 50% of our students will attend for the morning, and then return home for both asynchronous and synchronous learning.  I’m going to learn all about PPE and distancing with teenagers!  And I would imagine that my afternoon will be spent trouble-shooting with our teachers who will be teaching synchronously for the first time from their classrooms, after working from home in the spring.

Because I also teach, in the morning I’ll be meeting my pre-service teachers, with whom I worked throughout the 2019-2020 school year, but this time it will be in Adobe Connect rather than at Ontario Tech University. I’ll be behind closed doors in the “Principal’s Office”, and if I’m interrupted by school staff it will just be a learning opportunity for my students.

I hope everyone is taking time for themselves this weekend, and doing something that relaxes and refreshes.  There are going to be a lot of new experiences next week for our students, for our F2F teachers, and for our Online School teachers.  I’ll be listening, observing, and learning along with all of you! I’ll let you know what learned in my next blog post.

Photo credit: Hans-peter-gauster-252751-unsplash.jpg

School Online – Journal – Day 6

Well it’s almost bed time for me, and I’m having to think hard to remember what my day looked like today. It started out slow, and then ended like a freight train!

As I mentioned earlier, our teachers don’t yet know what they will be teaching next week. So, a survey was designed to be sent out to our more than 400 secondary teachers, to request their input as we begin to assign teachers to classes.

Since we are a new school there are no distribution lists. So, I hand-keyed all the names, and hoped that our Outlook email system would find them accurately.  It did, for the most part, but there remain about 20 teachers whose names on our list don’t quite match their email names, and so they won’t have received the request to complete the survey.

It took me a couple of hours to copy and paste both the subject line and body text, and then to BCC each person. When it was done I breathed a sign of relief…. until I received the “gentle” email pointing out that I had identified this year as 2020-2012!  I must have copied that at least  10 times without noticing.

All I could do was laugh!

The survey will be due at the end of the day tomorrow, and then I’ll work with the resulting spreadsheet to create lists for each of the courses we offer, so that we can do our best to match requests to available classes.

That matching will take place on Saturday (no choice but to work the weekend), so that we can get the information out to teachers.  Fortunately the plan is to begin teaching on Wednesday, so they’ll have a bit of breathing space at the beginning of the week to plan, and to reach out to their students.

In my last post I talked about the challenges I anticipate. The one that is preoccupying me is how we create community for our teachers, so that they don’t feel isolated as they embark on a full year of distance learning.

I find that I do my best thinking in the middle of the night. So, it’s off to bed.

I hope your “school start” is going well, or at least as well as it can in these unique times.