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

2015 week 30 in review


Prepping for the big upgrade of our LMS from Desire2Learn 10.3 to D2L Brightspace 10.5. Lots of testing to do, to make sure stuff we’ve integrated still works. I think it’ll go pretty smoothly, but there are a lot of moving pieces, and without a service owner in IT, we’re having to make some decisions on the fly. Good times. On track to be upgraded on August 24, with our test server being updated in the next week so we can begin intensive testing (we’ve had access to it in our Test2 environment, but have had… issues… with authentication, so haven’t been able to do much real testing. hoping to ramp that up this week…)

Made some great progress on getting the Learning Technologies Coaches program going. Still too early to share details – but soon…



I decided to stop waiting for my bad foot to magically get better, and just start riding again. Feels good. Rode to work one day this week, and am planning to do much more of that. Also, got out on the highway to ride out to Cochrane and back for an easy ride.

Oh. We also added a family member.

meet bella

Tyler Hellard on the state of journalism

Columnists, Gawker, ViralNova, porn and websites profiling other websites prove that the Internet was a wonderful thing and we absolutely broke the shit out of it. Well done, team!
So what’s the point? A lot of this stuff isn’t thought provoking, it’s rage provoking. Which, I suppose, makes it traffic/pick-up provoking, too. Newspapers are supposed to be for the benefit of public discourse, so it kills me that pageviews could be keeping these assholes in work. I love hate-reading as much as anyone (my entire Saturday is built around reading Wente’s column), but that doesn’t mean I think this stuff is good for society or that I’m not willing to go without. We don’t need these generic “person has opinions on all the things” columnists in our newspapers anymore. That’s what the Internet is for. Burn it down.

Source: Pop Loser No. 42: Go Take a Flying Fuck at the Moon

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