2014 week 50 in review

Work

  • learning spaces – my group is going to be focusing on the design of learning spaces starting in the new year – especially on how physical and digital learning spaces overlap, and how design can help to shape engaging learning experiences.
  • paperwork. the absolute worst part of my job is reconciling the damned AMEX statement each month. I’m getting better at it, so it’s slightly less painful now. Might be worse, if vendors actually took AMEX…
  • the office non-denominational winter-solstice tree-shaped social artifact is up and decorated.
  • cleaned out a storage room to use for the “technology lending library” – starting to collect a few different bits of tech that instructors can borrow to experiment with. Swivls, microphones, cameras, etc…
  • got a Canon HF G30 compact video camera, to use with some projects. Holy. What a fantastic little camera. 20x optical zoom (and 400x digital zoom! I haven’t tried that yet). f/1.8 lens. Wifi control and streaming. Crazy.
  • moved into the new iMac 5K as my main work computer. Wow. So many pixels. But they’re too small to actually see… Already starting to crunch away at the Reclaim Hackathon interviews to get a second and third episode up soon. Ish.

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Other

  • the skiing line of the year – no. way. in. hell. I’m getting into skiing, and I admire the lines and skill of these people. But nope.
  • took The Boy™ out to Nakiska again today. What an absolutely amazing day. He’s getting stronger and more confident. So amazing to see him get better every time we go out.

Nakiska

2014 Week 49 in Review

Work

  • I posted the first episode of what will become a series, pulling from the footage recorded during the Open Ed Reclaim hackathon at UMW. More to come, ASAP.
  • plans for the 2015 Design for Learning conference are shaping up nicely. Nearly ready for submissions. This is the key teaching-and-learning event at UCalgary, and it’s going to be another great one.
  • quick chat with Brian at TRU about their initial plans for an LMS migration. Just when I thought I was done talking about LMS migrations…
  • Spent much of the week debugging slow performance on our application and database servers. Still have no real solid evidence on what’s bringing the servers to their knees, but I sure am enjoying the constant stream of Pingdom “YOUR SITE IS DOWN” notices, and gentle nudges from our IT Operator account that the server is down. The servers hosted by IT. cough Anyway. Using Apache scalp to mine the apache logs, and MySQLTuner.pl to try to figure out WTF is going on. No luck yet.
  • Spent the week trying to use a Surface Pro 3 as my mobile device1. Some people love it. I don’t. I initially thought of it as a big-ass, expensive iPad. It failed miserably at that. Then, I thought of it as a more expensive MacBook Air, but crippled by Windows 82. Yeah. That basically sums it up. So, now it goes into the tech lending library for people to experiment with, and I happily go back to my iPad for mobile stuff, and MBA for desktop/less-mobile stuff.

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Other

not much. aside from taking Friday off to go skiing with The Boy™ at Nakiska. Still pretty barren on the slopes, but we still had a blast!

upper elbow, nakiska

also, I took a stab at resurrecting my b0rked Sigma 10-20mm lens. Figured the worst that could happen is I screw it up so it doesn’t work. more. Anyway. I disassembled it, tapped a piece back into alignment, screwed it back together, and hey-presto! My all-time favourite lens is back in action, and I’m going to be using my DSLR again.

Canon XT with Sigma 10-20mm

  1. I tried first last weekend, and after a few hours rage-restored-to-factory-condition and put it back in my backpack []
  2. holy. what a half-baked designed-by-committee experience that is. painful. either “touch” apps that don’t really use the touch screen, or desktop apps that show up in micro resolution. []

Reclaiming Educational Technology: the business and politics of edtech

During the Reclaim Hackathon at UMW last week, several of us were talking over food and beverages and realized that we had the opportunity to document the current thinking in the “edtech scene”. It’s something that we hadn’t tried to do explicitly before, but we realized that if we don’t do it ourselves we’ll be left with the narratives pushed by the Big Business of Edtech Venture Capital™. So, David Kernohan and I took it on as a project. We recruited Andy Rush to record a series of impromptu interviews with some of the people who were present at the event1, and off we went.

I took on editing the footage into something that tells the stories, starting with this:

Reclaiming Educational Technology: the business and politics of edtech from UCalgary Taylor Institute on Vimeo.

Thanks so much to Audrey Watters, Kin Lane, and Martha Burtis for agreeing to participate (and to the many other folks who took part – they’ll be making appearances in future episodes – OOH! THE SUSPENSE!).

I’m planning on several additional segments/episodes, exploring the nature of innovation, shifts in culture and technology, and more. I’ll make time to put those together ASAP. When all of the smaller segments are done, I’ll try to work them together into a longer documentary that ties everything together.

  1. I’d have loved to interview everyone, but even these brief interviews produced an hour and 48 minutes of raw footage – we’ll have to plan follow-up sessions later… []

2014 Week 48 In Review

Work

Read

Travel

  • returned from Fredericksburg on Monday. Car, train, train, plane, (de-icing), plane, car, home. Whew.
  • hoping to get out to Nakisha on the weekend for the first ski day, if it’s not -5000˚C or anything crazy like that…

2014 Week 47 in Review

Work

  • extremely short work week, due to travel for Open Ed etc…
  • Open Education 2014 was pretty amazing. The conference has changed pretty drastically over the years as it’s gotten bigger. That’s a good thing – but the vibe has definitely shifted from a fringe/evangelist gathering to a full-on Real Conference. Still lots of butts-in-seats, but lots of amazing stories and projects being shared.

OpenEducation2014NotesThumbnails

  • Reclaim Your Domain: UMW Hackathon – including some early work on a documentary project to capture the current edtech scene and frame it in ways other than the standard Silicon Valley VC Solutioneering narrative. More to come on that soon…
  • visiting the amazing new Digital Convergence Center at UMW – an inspiring facility, but it’s the team here that makes it so amazing. Can’t wait to see what kinds of stuff they do together. Lots of interesting ideas that might be repurposed into a new Institute for Teaching and Learning cough
  • Speaking of which, the crane was removed from the Taylor Institute construction site. Progress! Still a year away, but we’re getting closer…

It’s going to take a long, long time for me to work through all of my notes, photos, videos, etc… from this week. Wow.

OpenEdPhotos

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Travel

  • Washington DC, for Open Ed. Highlights include a touristy walk through the National Mall to visit a couple of museums. My mind was blown in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
  • Fredericksburg VA, for Reclaim Hackathon.
  • dang. there is a lot of history here. and it’s surreal to see things that have always just been movie sets to me before…

Obelisk

Other

  • I’m definitely getting old. er. Or at least feeling it. Travel and conference and hackathon and social and travel. Exhausting.

2014 Week 46 In Review

The work-log format wasn’t working, and was missing huge chunks of stuff through the week. So, being more fully inspired by Audrey Watters‘ and Clint Lalonde‘s week-in-review styles…

Work

  • started placing orders for items to add to the fledgeling “technology lending library” that will be managed/provided by my group in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. So far, it’s a very small library, but I’ll be adding things to it as I’m able, and offering it all out for instructors to explore/experiment/use. So far, we’ve got a Swivl robot camera mount, a couple of iPod Touches for recording video, a GoPro HERO4 Silver for HD video and wifi goodness, and some microphones. I’ll be adding iPads and a MS Surface Pro 3 tablet in the next couple of weeks. More to come… I need to figure out a good process for making sure people can sign the stuff out and actually use it, and track what they do with it so we know what’s needed…
  • tweaking our D2L environment so faculties can ramp up their use of ePortfolios, now that email addresses aren’t considered Super Secret Private Information after the switch to O365 and everyone activating their @ucalgary.ca addresses.
  • I was volunteered to a new General Faculties Council subcommittee on learning spaces – the Campus and Facilities Development Subcommittee (CFDS). This should be a great group to be working with, and we’re being asked to look at physical learning spaces across the university.
  • working on a regular report to our Teaching and Learning Committee on the state of learning technologies at the UofC, and tracking our implementation of the Strategic Framework for Learning Technologies. I’ll miss the TLC meeting next week because I’ll be dodging bulletsattending Open Education in DC.

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Travel

Other

  • got a Nest thermostat. choked down my distaste for the all-seeing eye of Google. It’s very shiny. The Nest, not the Eye. Maybe also the Eye. But being able to better manage my home’s furnace as we dove into the first Polar Vortex of 2014 was nice. It’ll pay for itself in weeks at this pace…
  • picked up a Fitbit Flex. I’d tried an el cheapo iBody pedometer thing to see if I liked the personal analytics. Turns out, yeah. I do. Go figure. So I sprung for a decent device, and am really liking the Flex so far (like 2 days in).

my reclaimed content workflow

Alan’s post this morning got me thinking about what my reclaimed/co-claimed/com-plained content publishing workflow has evolved into. At a high level, this:

Content publishing workflow

Basically, I host as much of the stuff I care about as possible. My blog (and a handful of tools running on subdomains on the same server) serves as the primary place where I post stuff. Much of what I publish doesn’t show up on my blog’s front page or RSS feed, but it’s there for me, and I use it all daily.

Of the whole thing, I consider 2 parts absolutely essential: the WordPress-powered1 blog/site running at darcynorman.net, and my Aperture library living on my home laptop. If I ever lost either of those, I’d be out of action. So I back them up somewhat rigorously (but could definitely do a better job of it).

The rest of the workflow, I treat as less critical, even ephemeral. If some of it disappeared, I may not even notice. If the third party stuff vanished (or I decided not to renew subscriptions), I’d feel it, but I’d be able to move on. Evernote is probably the one piece of third party kit that I’d find hardest to live without – it serves as the glue to hold all of my work stuff together – notes scrawled on iPads, snapshots from my phone, notes from meetings etc… all pulled together in a platform-agnostic holding pen in Evernote.

  1. running a few plugins and a customized theme to make it behave the way I want it []

2014 Week 45 in review

  • The EDU folks all met with the director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning at our Qatar campus (she was in town for the week, working out of our offices). We figured out lots of ways that we can collaborate.
  • starting to order items to add to the “tech lending library” fleet, as well as stuff we can use to make videos etc…
  • reverted the elearn.ucalgary.ca site to the old broken Drupal version because it was too jarring having some stuff in the awesome new WordPress knowledgebase1, and other stuff in the old site. When we’ve had a chance to move all content to the new site, I’ll just throw the switch and be done with it all at once.
  • started rebuilding the UofC D2L mobile apps in the DubLabs application framework2. They’ll do the first build of the app (just working on CAS authentication now), and then I can take it from there. Should be a better mobile app that’s more than just a webkit wrapper. Hopefully.
  • again, more stuff that needs more time to grow before it can be blogged.
  1. which is powered by UCalgaryBlogs.ca, and will have the elearn.ucalgary.ca domain mapped to it when it goes live – need to figure out how to handle redirects to old static files via .htaccess on the shared server, though… []
  2. after D2L moved the service to a third party []

Audrey Watters on the nature of educational technology

Audrey Watters, presenting to Pepperdine University:

Ed-tech works like this: you sign up for a service and you’re flagged as either “teacher” or “student” or “admin.” Depending on that role, you have different “privileges” — that’s an important word, because it doesn’t simply imply what you can and cannot do with the software. It’s a nod to political power, social power as well.

Many pieces of software, despite their invocation of “personalization,” present you with a very restricted, restrictive set of choices of who you “can be.”

This is gold. It gets to the very heart of the problem. And it’s not restricted to online learning (and online learning technologies) – see my last post on a prof who bans “technology” in the classroom, effectively enforcing the restrictive set of choices of who her students can be. This isn’t about the evils of restrictive Learning Management Systems – it’s about the evils of restricting learning.

And this, on the nature of education itself:

To transform education and education technology to make it “future-facing” means we do have to address what exactly we think education should look like now and in the future. Do we want programmed instruction? Do we want teaching machines? Do we want videotaped lectures? Do we want content delivery systems? Or do we want education that is more student-centered, more networked-focused. Are we ready to move beyond “content” and even beyond “competencies”? Can we address the ed-tech practices that look more and more like carceral education — surveillance, predictive policing, control?

We have choices to make – and we (collectively) are making choices – about what we think education is, and what it should be. If we don’t put some real thought into the reasoning behind, and the implications of these choices, we’ll wind up in some uncanny valley of education where all of the checkboxes are properly checked, but it’s not education as it could have been. As Gardner Campbell says, “That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.”

on banning technology in the classroom

UCalgary made the national news, with this segment titled “Calgary professor bans modern technology in his classroom1.

I really don’t know what to say about this. My gut reaction is something like “if they’re tuning out and checking Facebook in class, that’s data about how the class is going, and banning technology would just hide the symptom rather than actually fixing anything.”

Also, the prof still uses her own tech in every class, with laptop and projector etc… fired up. So, it’s not about technology on its own.

This is about control, more than technology. I’m not sure what to make of that. I don’t know the prof, and have never seen her teach. She teaches linguistics and psychology – perhaps her specific subject matter or teaching style work better without “technology”?

I have a bit of a problem2 with instructors having that much control over adult students. She does allow some technology – students are using pens and paper – but bans other technologies that are deemed disruptive3. As one student says in the segment – they’re paying to be there, and they should be able to make their own decisions about what technologies they use.

Ironically, I also see instructors who fall on the other side of the spectrum, mandating that students MUST USE TECHNOLOGY because of reasons. We’re talking about adult students from diverse backgrounds and contexts, and mandating (or banning) anything may just not be appropriate.

Yes, there should be codes of conduct. Mute your speakers. Don’t use loud clicky keyboards. Don’t sit in the front row and watch Netflix marathons, etc…. But, is “banning” technology really a solution? Does it just emphasize that The Instructor is In Control, and that Students Must Behave? The reinforcement of the power relationship may be doing more to have students “on task” than the lack of modern technologies.

update: Dr. Siedivy wrote an article in the Calgary Herald back in September, I’m still not sold. This feels like conflation of cause and effect. Are students unengaged because they have Modern Technology™, or are they facebooking and tweetaring because they’re unengaged in the class? She talks about her sister being unengaged in her technology company meetings, and “multitasking” on mobile devices instead of being bored. Sounds familiar. But, in meetings/conferences/whatever where I’m engaged, the Modern Technology™ either a) stays closed, or more likely b) gets used to support engagement in whatever conversations are happening. Boredom begets unengagement begets “multitasking”. Banning multitasking doesn’t make people magically feel engaged and included in the activities.

  1. although it’s clear that the professor is a woman, so whoever titles segments at Global National obviously doesn’t watch the segments, and has a strong sexist bias when it comes to professors, who are certainly all men of course []
  2. as the manager of the Technology Integration Group, I may have a bit of a bias []
  3. Disruptive as in “causing a distraction”, or Disruptive as in “giving power to those who are not standing at the front of the room”? []

careful. this is a highly sophistimacated doomawacky.