supporting technology integration

In late 2013, our Provost struck a Learning Technologies Task Force, to develop a plan to sustainably implement and support learning technologies across all faculties at the University. The result of that task force was the production of the Strategic Framework for Learning Technologies in the summer of 2014 – a document that lays out some high level priorities and specific strategies to address them. Much of the document directly guides the work of my team (the Technology Integration Group in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, Educational Development Unit) – I keep a copy of it handy, and have a poster version of the priorities and strategies pinned to the wall in my office. One of the interesting aspects of the Framework is the emphasis on combinations of learning technologies and spaces – that we need to consider the physical as well as digital aspects of the learning environment.

One of the major strategies described in the Framework involves providing coaching and mentoring for instructors who are integrating technology in their courses. This is a model that was pioneered by some faculties during our recent Blackboard-D2L migration, and having coaches available in those faculties was an extremely important factor in the success of that migration.

Those D2L coaches were grad students, hired by the faculties as a special form of teaching assistant. They were given professional development (workshops, training, orientations), and community support and facilitation. It worked really well, and this is what the Framework strategies are designed to sustain and scale up across the university.

So, we will be launching a full Learning Technologies Support Program – this will offer Learning Technologies Coaches in all faculties. Funding will be provided to Associate Deans Teaching and Learning, with some recommendations for how they might implement the model in their faculties. The way we’re implementing the program, each faculty will have a high level of flexibility. Some might opt to have a Coach (or Coaches) providing deskside support. Some might need Coaches to be primarily supporting those instructors who are innovating in their course designs. Or, a combination. Or, something different. We will also need to figure out how to incorporate instructors and coaches at various locations – including the 4 campuses in Calgary and sites in Lethbridge, Edmonton and Qatar. With 13 faculties involved, each will need to do something different to meet their unique needs and context, and providing that level of flexibility will be essential to the success of the program – if we just hired a bunch of Coaches centrally and farmed them out, we’d lose the domain-specific context that is extremely important when working with instructors.

These Coaches – and we won’t know exactly how many will be involved in the program until faculties decide how they want to proceed – will be supported through my team in the Educational Development Unit. We’ve created a new position – Technology Integration Specialist – and that person will be primarily working with the distributed network of Coaches, forming a community of practice and providing professional development and communication across all faculties. The hope is that this community of Coaches will learn from each other, and that we’ll be able showcase successes from each faculty and use those to improve and enhance the learning experience for all students.

It’s going to be strongly based on a distributed community model, with a domain-specific focus in each faculty. The new Technology Integration Specialist role will be extremely important in connecting people across faculties and roles. At a high and abstract level, it might work something like this:

Learning Technologies Support Program

I firmly believe that this is the most important program to support the meaningful integration of learning technologies at the University. This goes far beyond licensing shiny tech, or installing new apps. It’s the careful and intentional allocation of significant resources to develop a strong community of people, working to support instructors in their practice. This gets to the core of how instructors can adopt new practices and appropriate technologies to (hopefully dramatically) improve the student learning experience.

This has been my main project for awhile now, and I’m thrilled to see it move from planning stages to actually beginning to implement it. We’ll be documenting the activities of the program, as well as other initiatives that implement the Framework, on a new-but-not-yet-public Learning Technologies website. More on that soon…

2015 week 35 in review


It was a week that had the full range of highs and lows as a manager. We finalized the plan for a large project, with funding and timelines, and everything is go. Awesome. The posting for the Technology Integration Specialist, the person who will be largely running that project for the next 2 years, closed Friday, and the interview and hiring process should happen pretty quickly now. Things are moving along extremely quickly on that now.

And, we are saying goodbye to a valued and important team member, who has decided to go back to teaching in the classroom – his experience as a teacher was one of the things that made him so important in our team. He’s going to leave a really big hole in the team, and we’ll be posting the position ASAP.

The Learning Technologies and Spaces summer research project wrapped up as well – still putting the final touches on the project website (which will also be used as the hub for the Big Project), and then we’ll be sharing that widely. Lots of great work there – talking with students, instructors and staff about their experiences with learning spaces and technologies at the UofC. The video produced by our summer research assistants is online already:





I picked the week that smoke from the Washington State fires smothered the city to start riding to work again. Still, worth it. And I was able to blame my slowness and lack of lung capacity on the smoke, rather than on my being horribly out of shape. Winning.

smoke in the valley

2015 week 34 in review


I took a week off, but lots of important stuff happened. Surprisingly, the university doesn’t stop when I leave campus. Crazy!

The Educational Development Unit’s Strategic Plan was published as part of our department website. What a fantastic, inclusive process. The EDU’s strategic plan is going to be the foundation of everything we do, and it will be extremely useful to have this as a public and living document. Also, the EDU Portfolio, to document what we do as a department.

D2L is upgrading our environment to the latest-and-greatest 10.5.1 next week (we’re still running on 10.3.something), and there were lots of things that needed to be checked/verified/tested/not-lost-in-noise. In hindsight, this was a pretty horrible week for me to be away. But it was also pretty amazing, seeing team members track the important moving pieces, develop testing plans, coordinate with people across campus, and manage the final stages of upgrade planning with the vendor. Absolutely fantastic work. I couldn’t be more proud of the entire team, but especially Izzy, who absolutely knocked it out of the park this week. I was going to dial in to the Big Go/No-Go call to help make the final decision, when I realized there was literally nothing that I would add to the process at that point. She’d already shepherded the process and called the ball. I am so completely impressed by her, and by her growth in the new role. Fantastic!





I took some much-needed time off, and headed out of town for a few days. Thankful for good friends who tolerate friends imposing themselves.


the most important edtech advancements

Jim wrote about his thoughts on the most important advancements in educational technology. I think he’s onto something – the exact tech isn’t important. Nor are the logos on the shiny things we build and/or buy. My personal stance is that we’ve seen 2 major changes on our campus – neither of which are directly related to specific technologies.

  1. Human-scale technologies
  2. Distributed, coordinated, domain-specific community support

The first shift is nothing new – it’s also not constant or consistent. It’s about individualized ownership/control/access to technologies. Some new tools are cheap enough that people grab their own copies – even gasp without asking permission, or even notifying anyone. Some tools are good enough that The University grabs a few copies and hands them out more freely for people to do stuff. I’ve seen people do things with creating online resources for their courses that was simply not possible even a few years ago – and even if technically possible, involved the need to spin up projects, find funding, management, designers, etc…. Now, an instructor can sit at her computer and create really good resources for her courses, on her own, without needing to ask permission. And students can do the same. That’s a fantastic shift.

We’ve been doing things in my group to help with that – we’re setting up a Faculty Design Studio, to give people a place to come work with higher-end tools. We’re ramping up a “tech lending library”, so people can sign stuff out, without needing to go through Project Management or funding requests. Want to play with a GoPro camera to record something for your course? Go for it. Need a tripod, microphone, camcorder, lights? Sure thing. Keeping technology available at human scale is important. It’s more than Enterprise Platforms and [Learning|Research|Administration] Management Systems.

We’re also changing how institutional programs are being run. Our Instructional Skills Workshops involve participants recording themselves presenting or facilitating. In the Olden Days™, that involved a big video cart, with microphones, cameras, mixing boards, DVD recorders, CRT monitors, etc… and was a Big Deal to set up. Now, we have a set of Swivl robot camera mounts, some iPod Touch handheld video recorders, and a tripod. Done. Videos get uploaded to Vimeo1, and it’s all faster, easier, and better than what we did before. And instructors are signing the Swivls out to do similar things for their own courses. Great stuff.

The second shift is probably the more important one, though. Distributed, coordinated communities of practice to support instructors who are designing their courses and integrating learning technologies. We’ve moved from a centralized model – where everyone had to come to The Big Department In The Middle™ to get “help” to fix their courses. That wasn’t great for a few reasons – it can’t scale, without dozens of staff members in TBDitM™ – but also, it positions the support for technology integration as some Other. Something bolted on by other people outside of an instructor’s faculty or department. Something foreign, extra, separate. Superficial.

communities of practice across campus

The community of practice shifts the support model into being native in each faculty and department. With domain-specific understanding of the pedagogies used in each context, and of the activities that make up the learning experience. And of the technologies that enable, enhance and extend these activities. We had this, informally, before – but isolated pockets of in-context support were not able to benefit from what people had learned or tried in other contexts. So, intentionally designing the central portion of the support community as a coordination hub to enable people across campus – NOT as a “come to us in The Middle and we’ll fix your stuff”, but as “hey – let’s come together to learn about what we’re all doing, and how we can share that to make it all sustainable and meaningful for everyone.”

That’s where the magic is. Coincidentally, I’m currently looking to hire the person who will act as our coordinator/collaborator/cruise-director for this distributed community of practice.

  1. until we eventually get a campus video platform set up – 4 years and counting on that… []

2015 Week 33 in review


Super busy week – got the Learning Technologies Support Program kicked off, to start the process of helping faculties hire grad students to work with instructors to design learning experiences and integrate learning technologies.   To support that program, I’m hiring a Technology Integration Specialist! We’re looking for someone to act as the community lead for the 16 Learning Technologies Coaches, and to work with folks in the Educational Development Unit and across the University to integrate technologies. The posting is active as of yesterday, and closes August 28, 2015 – to be hired ASAP after that.

We reviewed the Educational Development Unit’s IT Plan this week – some major pieces we need to build up very soon, and hoping to tie into University platforms wherever possible, so we don’t have to build or license our own stuff as a last resort.

It’s been pretty amazing to see the Taylor Institute take form – first as a virtual organization in borrowed/inherited space, and then as a newly designed group about to move into almost-complete newly-constructed space. All of the metaphors!

almost ready



I’m taking another week off next week. Slowly burning off the vacation days that built up over the last year or two. Hoping to stop getting cranky emails from HR soon…

Writing this post on my iPad was the first time I’ve really felt frustrated with using it as my primary mobile computer – the long URLs choked the WordPress editor, and made writing the post a hot mess. I’m really hopeful that some of the rumoured iOS 9 improvements will make living on an iPad as main-mobile-device more seamless1.

I hang my head, because I wound up writing the post in OneNote for iOS, then copying/pasting back into the WordPress interface. Actually, that workflow worked pretty well – I’ve really been digging OneNote2.3

  1. I can’t find any way to sort lines of text on iOS – seems like an important thing, but apps are so extremely streamlined/simplified/babyproofed that features that are essential on the desktop are not available on an iPad. frustrating. maybe there’s another app that can do it? I’ve checked what I have. Shouldn’t have to install an app to sort some text… []
  2. I’m still reconciling my place in the world, with all of the Microsoft software I’m using lately []
  3. I wanted to try the OneNote Publisher for WordPress – WordPress Plugins – It sounds useful, but having tried it on this post, the markup it generates is horrific, it breaks Markdown by helpfully encoding the [] characters. Manually copying the text from OneNote and pasting into the raw HTML editor in WordPress works pretty well, though… []

Mobile photoblogging with iOS and WordPress

I’ve been photoblogging here on my blog for a few years now. This blog serves as the single point of publishing for my photos – they get posted here, then pushed to Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook. I’ve posted over 4,000 photos here (with the most recent shown as thumbnails on the Photos page). Almost all of them have been done through the WordPress iOS app on my phone (and some published from the desktop, through the browser or MarsEdit).

I’ve made a few tweaks to streamline the process – the default category for posts is “Ephemera” – and unless I intervene to set another category (and remove Ephemera), posts don’t get displayed on the front page of this site, nor in the main RSS feeds. This way, I don’t have to worry about spamming the 3 RSS subscribers when I post a bunch of puppy photos.

The process works pretty well, but man, there are a lot of clicks. I did a quick recording to show what it took to post this photo – the process of mobile photoblogging from a phone to WordPress could use some streamlining…

2015 week 32 in review


Not much. Took the week off to hang out at home. Spent a bunch of time thinking about work, though. This article by Marc Hedlund was good fodder for thought – I’ve been struggling with feeling disconnected from “making stuff” rather than just “being a manager”. I think I’m starting to find my way.



Not much. Got out for a bike ride, but just the one. Relaxed. Foot’s feeling better. Progress? Oh, and we fired up the backyard fire pit a few times. Not a bad way to relax…

firepit is go

2015 week 31 in review


It was a tough week – 7 high-profile layoffs over in IT. One of them was my partner for the Blackboard-D2L migration. The project would have failed miserably without her guidance from the IT side. She’ll be missed by many. Four of the layoffs were IT Partners – the team I was in for 3 years back when I did my tour of duty in IT. I know a lot of people, myself included, who were shocked by many of the names on the list.

The summer learning-technologies-and-spaces research project is really coming along nicely. We have to student research assistants working with the team for the summer, interviewing instructors, students and staff about how they use technologies and spaces, and what their needs are. Some really great stuff coming out of the project, and I can’t wait to release the findings at the end of the summer!



Not much time to get out for a ride this week – The Boy™ commuted with my on the train because he was in a golf camp all week. But, that gave me a chance to carry in the big/heavy 10mm lens on my DSLR to try to shoot the new building…

Taylor Institute Morning Construction

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