Arduino – how to do something useful beyond lighting up an LED

After today everyone in my robotics class will have completed their first Arduino circuit: make an LED blink. I don’t like doing things without a purpose so I want to share what you can do with an LED blinking.

A TV remote has an LED – it doesn’t deal with visible light, it uses infrared. The challenge is knowing the sequence. Each TV company uses a certain sequence of on/off. Thankfully there are people who worked out the codes and made them available!


A tear is shed for #Charlottesville


The first play I acted in was when I was around 9 years old.  The play was about Martin Luther King Jr. – Skin Deep.  My father was one of the authors of the play and it was pretty powerful.  I had a pretty small role but the play stuck with me.

Fast forward a few years and we were travelling in the United States and visited the graveyard where Martin Luther King Jr. was buried.  My dad disappeared and when we found him he was talking on a pay phone to someone about the play he had written and that he planned to put it on again.  Turns out he had looked up Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, in the phone book and gave her a call.


As a result of this phone call Yolanda King came to visit us to see the play.  Certain events stand out in your life and this was one for me.

This past weekend the violence in the United States erupted to the point that people died.  As I listen to the news and hear the term “identify consciousness” I am sickened to see how hate has continued to fester all these years later.  Slavery may no longer be legal in the United States (is it simply offshored now?), many of the inequalities that the civil rights movement fought against have been rectified, but our world is still festering with racism, intolerance and hatred.

When you come to protest carrying torches and bats, you are not starting a dialogue.  You are inciting terrorism.

To those I saw on Twitter that suggest the left is hypocritical because they denounce violence on the right, but ignore the counter protesters that promoted violence I ask that you consider this:  I denounce the violence on both sides, but when I heard Yolanda King talk about her Father being shot and killed when she was a little girl my heart broke.  He was killed because he wanted to be treated equally.  He was killed because he wanted blacks and whites to get along.  The violence this weekend was started by people who want to tear others down instead of bringing everyone up.

Black Lives Matter exist because in our world we have systematic racism that is accepted as normal.  Race, gender, religion, sexuality – none of these should cause us to not treat people with respect.  Yolanda managed to forgive a society that murdered her father.  I choose the path that was revealed in living room those many years ago – for every difference there are similarities that tie us together as the human race.  We need to denounce the violence but it can’t stop there, we each have a responsibility to ensure the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about is realized.

John McTavish and Yolanda King



#CanadianTeachers need to care about copyright reform. #onedu #tldsblearns

When I started teaching in the late 90s there were four main textbook publishers: Nelson, Pearson, McGraw, and Gage. Today only two remain, Nelson and Pearson.

While you may not think textbooka are relevant, I assure you the content is. Nelson and Pearson (and McGraw before it was sold this past year) have some interesting products that make Canadian content accessible and useful for students and teachers. In this age of “alternative facts” it is more important than ever to ensure we have high quality resources that use effective pedagogy.

Each textbook also used a plethora of Canadian talent – writers, editors, fact-checkers, reviewers etc.. Are we ok with Canadian voices being silenced and replaced with American resources? Do we value the work of others or simply rely on photocopied sheets from God knows where?

If you value Canadian content, take action. Buy a resource to determine if you want to use it next year, contact your MP and ask them what they are doing to protect Canadian voices.

Ian McTavish, OCT

Find out how many people pass the Ontario Literacy Course

A couple months ago I read a blog post where the person wondered how many people actually pass the OSSLC – they assumed that almost everyone did and that the course was a joke. I hate assumptions so I started looking for the answer.

Ontario Open Data was my initial starting point. I absolutely love that the government provides data – I have used it many times. Turns out that this information is not available. Next I tried a freedom of information request and I finally have the answer.
In 2015-2016 17,648 students passed the Ontario Literacy Courses in public (and Catholic) high schools in Ontario. This is out of 21,173 students that attempted the course. An 83% success rate is a far cry from 100%. It is also very close to the graduation rate (86.5% in 2016) which makes sense as it is a graduation requirement. 

What does it matter? I am actually relieved – a perfect success rate would call into question the integrity of the course. Obviously we want students to be successful but we are not going to water down our expectations to ensure success. It also opens new questions – how many people don’t graduate only because of the literacy requirement. How can we intervene to increase the success rate? Making data available allows people at the grassroots level make informed decisions.

Happy Canada day

Most countries are formed by war. Canada is one of the few that was formed by dialogue. Watching our current Prime Minister joining the protesters in the Teepee on Parliament Hill and listening to their concerns I am confident that Canada will continue to grow stronger as long as we listen to each other, learn from the mistakes of our past and always strive to do better.

The end of the year

drive teamJune is here, I am always sad to see the end of the school year but this is also the time of year where I start getting excited about the new year.  In a couple of weeks my computer programming course will be done.  Next year will involve a new course – robotics control systems (TER3M).  I’ll still teach computer science and library.  This will be an exciting change and I’m starting this blog to document my personal learning as well as providing me with an easy platform to share regular updates with my class.  Time to start a new journey after taking some time to recharge in a canoe!