We’re hiring: Taylor Institute Operations Technician

We’re looking for a rare combination of technical skills and strength in collaboration and consultation on the use and integration of a wide array of technologies in the new Taylor Institute building. It’s going to be an extremely important role, working with everyone in the Taylor Institute, and from across campus, to effectively use the shiny new stuff that’s being installed in the building (literally – right now, installation is under way!). Mobile collaboration huddle stations. High end audiovisual systems – with laser powered projectors! Working with folks who are making cool stuff in the Faculty Design Studio. And lots of other stuff that we’ll all be figuring out together once the building opens in April 2016.

If you know anyone who would like to come work with a pretty amazing team, send them our way

Taylor Institute under construction

2015 week 40 in review


Big week on campus:

UofC Report to Community 2015





It was bound to happen. The Boy™ is now The Teen™. Holy. He was born after I started working at the Learning Commons (then Teaching and Learning Centre, now Educational Development Unit of the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning). I’ve made a teenager in the time I’ve worked on edtech at UCalgary. Yowza.

  1. see? I can use appreciative language too! []

2015 week 39 in review


We kicked off the Learning Technologies Coaches program this week, when our Technology Integration Specialist started on Monday! Already so much progress on that project – can’t wait to see how it grows and adapts through the first semester.

As usual, had some really great meetings/talks within the Taylor Institute – it’s really amazing, how incredible the entire team is. Also, lots of project meetings, and coffee meetings with people across campus. Blah blah institutional yadda etc…

Joni published a nice interview with our new Academic Chair of the Taylor Institute, Nancy Chick. UToday – New chair champions scholarship of teaching and learning  – Nancy is pretty amazing, and fun to work with.



  • via Stephen Downes: Evernote vs. Google Keep: Which Does More? – I moved to OneNote a year ago. I’m loving it. Evernote feels like it’s trying too hard to sell me things. Google is too creepy and unreliable to trust with anything I care about. Which leaves Microsoft. Who knew? OneNote has been totally solid, flexible, and works great on every device I use.
  • Campus Technology: Chalk & Wire Pledges Continued E-Portfolio Access 
  • Tom Woodward: Google Script Drop Box/Display Package 
  • Todd Conaway: Teaching & Learning Centers 
  • Karl Rivers – The top 10 edtech lessons I’ve learnt after 15 years in schools via Claire Coulter – 10 really good lessons learned on edtech
  • Brightspace Community – Lang-Term Changes in 2016 “As a part of the continued effort to make Brightspace more intuitive for you and your users, in January 2016, improvements will be released to some of the default system language terms, including Dropbox to Assignments and News to Announcements.” Also, they’ll be dropping “Pager” – likely because no student born in the last 20 years will have any idea what a Pager is. It’s like an iPhone, but without apps, no voice support, no input, and can only display 1 line of maybe 32 characters of text. You know, the kind of thing a messaging platform should be named after in 2015…
  • MPAUS – Medium Fusion™ Manual Height Adjustable Mobile AV Cart – The mobile carts for the collaboration huddle stations going into the Taylor Institute – 37 of these, with 50″ touch screens mounted, and some really great tech to let participants actually do stuff together.
  • 2015 Research on Teaching & Learning Conference – McMaster’s teaching and learning conference, in December 2015. I’ll likely be going, and have submitted a proposal to present (although the focus of the conference is highly Research-oriented, so that may be a longshot)
  • TCPS 2: CORE  – I’m finally taking the Research Ethics course. Holy painful. Glad I still have a browser that can play Flash and MP3 files.


  • Cory Doctorow: How Canada’s Tories destroyed the country’s memory, and its capacity to remember – Glorious Leader says everything is fine.
  • Joni Miltenburg: Starlight and Northern Lights  – Joni’s been publishing some really impressive stuff on her photography site.
  • Cory Doctorow: Ian McDonald’s “Luna: New Moon” – the moon is a much, much harsher mistress  – I think this is my next read.
  • Rob Beschizza: When you will die  – I let this run in “fast” mode for awhile. I should not have done that.
  • The Atlantic: Images From Offworld (28 photos) 
  • via Nick Heer: Samantha Bielefeld – Solitude in Solidarity. People wonder why there aren’t more women in tech. All a woman needs to do is write – in Samantha’s case, starting a tech blog – and they get buried by the ranting underbelly of violent hate speech. We – all of us – have to stop tolerating this bullshit. It’s not funny. It’s not freedom of speech.
  • David Hedley: Clear skies forecast for Sunday’s lunar eclipse 
  • You Call this Progress? The narrative that we’ve been under the most profound change ever is broken. My grandfather saw more fundamental technological and social changes than we’ve seen in the last 50 years. He sailed from England to Canada as a child – basically an indentured servant sold as an orphan (although his parents were alive and well, but couldn’t justify the cost of raising another child). He saw the start of powered flight, commercial transatlantic flights, moon landings, satellites, probes sent to other planets. Also, morse code to daily mail delivery to teletype to computers to 100 channels with nothing on. (he died in 1980, so missed the internet revolution). Toefler was right about future shock, but was wrong that we are the only people to have experienced it.


The puppy is growing like a weed. Almost 2 pounds now. Yeah. Still pretty tiny. But she’s ambitious, and doesn’t know that she’s little…

bella has skills

2015 week 38 in review


What a great week. Started off by planning my goals for the year. It’s going to be an epic year, both personally and for the department, and it’s great to see things laid out (and with serious progress made across the board).

We had our Educational Development Unit ePortfolio retreat, where we started putting together the content for the department’s ePortfolio. We’re tying our activities to our EDU Strategic Plan, and making everything visible as a live ePortfolio. Lots of great ideas. Collaboration across the entire EDU. So good.


Early plans for our 2016 University of Calgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching. This will be the fourth annual conference, and it keeps getting better every year. Some great ideas brewing for the next one. Can’t wait! And, it’ll be the first one to take place in The New Building™, so it should be interesting just for that.

Beakerhead. The official blurb is “Beakerhead is a smash up of art, science and engineering, where everyone is welcome!” – it’s a cool, public, all-hands, city-wide event that turns Calgary into a centre of weirdness and awesomeness for a week each September. There were a few events on campus this year, including a workshop rehearsal of Clem Martini’s in-progress script for The Extinction Therapist. Fantastic. Weird. Thought-provoking.


And an event on Bionic Fliers, where Festo came to talk about their biomimicry work, and show a prototype of a drone designed after a dragonfly – 4 fully articulated wings with 13 ? degrees of freedom. Amazing. And it flew. Briefly. Who knew, that the altitude at Calgary would cause issues for a flying prototype that works right at the edge of what’s physically possible for flight? Awesome. Lots of things learned through that process. Can’t wait to see next year’s model.

Festo's flying dragonfly drone

Then, my team volunteered (or was volunteered – #mwahahaha) to help with a school visit in our Taylor Family Digital Library. 80 grade 8 kids came to campus to play with various Maker kits provided by our Doucette Education Library. Arduinos. Snapcircuits. Mindstorms. And lots of other stuff. We worked with a group to plan, record, shoot, and edit a greenscreen video. None of them had ever done that, so it was fun for all.


And finally, we got a tour of the new “active learning classroom” in our Haskayne School of Business. It’s a brand new room – construction was completed only a couple of weeks ago – and it’s fantastic. 10 collaboration pods, each handling 6 participants comfortably, so a class of 60 students can use the room for intense small group collaboration. It’s really fantastic. Can’t wait to see what people do with it – it’s almost physically impossible to just lecture in the room, so it’s going to be used for much more interesting and fun things.


Now, I need a nap.




  • Jason Kottke: Children of Men: Don’t Ignore the Background
  • Introducing Peace, my privacy-focused iOS 9 ad blocker – Marco.org ios9 safari content blocker by Marco Ament, powered by Ghostery.
  • Dan Frommer: The most popular paid iPhone app right now is an ad blocker – Who knew? People are fed up with invasive advertising. And then, this happened…
  • Marco Ament: Just doesn’t feel good – Marco killed Peace. I bought that ad blocker, and then Marco had a change of heart and pulled the app because he didn’t like blocking ads that his friends serve on their sites. He’d like to kill the evil ads (defined loosely as “ads run by people I don’t know”), while keeping ads running on his friends’ sites. Can’t have it both ways. Adblocking in iOS9 has made the web much better, uses less data, sucks less battery, and doesn’t invade my privacy (as much). Advertisers don’t get to do that to me ever again.
  • Don’t Let Your Stressed-Out Boss Stress You Out It’s stunning how quickly your stressed-out boss can turn you into a stressed-out team member. This is partly because of the contagious nature of emotions. They spread like wildfire among people—and even faster if one of those people has some control over our fate, as bosses do. Another reason our boss’s stress becomes our own is that many of us are already close to stressed-out ourselves. We too have been sacrificing and giving up a lot for a long time, and the cracks are showing. It doesn’t take much to push us into a bad place.


This is the 52nd of these Week in Review posts. Wow. A whole year. I wasn’t sure if I’d find it useful, or if anyone else would. Turns out, yeah. Both. I find it invigorating to take an hour each week to think about what we’ve done, what I’ve read, and about other stuff that’s happened that week. A personal snapshot, but it seems to be useful to at least a handful of folks as well. Awesome. I don’t know if I’ll keep doing this – one thing I’ve realized, when looking at the archives, is that the number of non-week-in-review posts has dropped off. I need to fix that. Time to get back to blogging. Probably not to a Bava or Cogdog level, but more than simple documentation posts as well.

Patrick Finn on the importance of Loving Thinking

Patrick sets up the rehearsal for The Extinction Therapist Beakerhead rehearsal session

Patrick Finn is an incredibly inspiring prof, and we’re lucky to have him here at UCalgary.

His work on helping to transition from critical to loving thinking is extremely important. I’ve watched his TEDxYYC talk a few times, and revisited it again after this week’s Beakerhead theatre workshop rehearsal of The Extinction Therapist – an event led by Patrick, with actors presenting their early interpretation of Clem Martini‘s unfinished script. The play was interesting, weird, and thought-provoking – all things we need more of.

Patrick Finn @ TEDxYYC: The Importance of Loving Communication

Also, check out Patrick’s book, “Critical Condition“, with more on his work on loving thinking as an alternative to critical thinking.

Why Reclaim Hosting is important

possibly Jim and Tim at work running Reclaim Hosting. Or some other guys.
Edtech (and tech in general) is largely hostile to humans. It has evolved to try to lock people in so that data about them can be sold and resold. This is why Reclaim Hosting is so important – Jim nails it with a mini-manifesto for the company:

Tim and I aren’t “businessmen” (though I joke about it), we’re edtechs who have an intimate understanding of higher ed. We have a strong sense of where technology and teaching converge in interesting ways, and remain committed to augmenting what we’ve helped build at UMW and share it far and wide.

We don’t advertise. We don’t use our interface to play psychological games. We don’t hate-sell through fear and uncertainty as so many in the web hosting world do. We don’t and won’t take VC funding. We won’t be bought, which means we won’t sell you out. And while we do have the best service and cheapest prices around, more than anything we have an ethos that is rooted in the vision of helping people understand how the web works and use that knowledge to return teaching and learning to the scale of the individual—the only way it can be done right. That is what education is, and that is what we are all about.

(emphasis mine) – look for any other edtech company that makes a strong statement for its users. Few and far between. I’ve been happily hosting all of my own stuff with Reclaim Hosting since day 1. Best hosting ever, paired with some really fantastic people running the show.

2015 week 37 in review


We did the interviews for the Technology Integration Specialist position – hoping to be able to make an announcement early next week. Super excited to get this role up and running, so the Learning Technologies Coaches Program can start ramping up.

One thing that surprised me – in filling out the paperwork, the form asked me the gender of the applicant. Not a difficult question, but my initial reaction was “no. that’s a stupid question. I’m not filling that in.” – and I thought about it, and couldn’t think of a good reason why I should be providing that information about an employee. Anyway. I left that field blank just out of principle.

Our Online ISW project team met to plan things. We’ll be adjusting our online ISW program, refining the content, and redeveloping it as an open online resource for others to use. We’ve got a lot to start with, and are working with some really fantastic grad students to get things rolling.

Had a quick Skype call with David Porter and his team, to discuss how we’re using the Swivl robot camera mounts in the EDU. They’re working out really well for us, and I’m planning to buy another six-pack (if I can find the Canadian source – Swivl Global HQ didn’t respond, and buying directly through the Swivl website makes them rather more expensive, without specific Canadian shipping options. Free Trade and all that.)





I rode 3 days this week. Felt great, but I’m not sure if I’ll be trying to ride every day. Might try dialling things back a bit. But then I’d miss things like this on my commute…

sunrise by bike

2015 Week 36 in Review


It was a crazy week. I think the EDU was offering all programming simultaneously – Instructional Skills Workshop, Course Design Workshop, D2L Work Sessions, Curriculum Review orientation, all at the same time. It was great to see so many people coming together in the EDU. Space planning is interesting, and we had to shuffle a few bookings to make room for everyone, but it worked out great. I got to wear a few hats, which is always great – and we had a couple of instructors working in the Faculty Design Studio. Can’t wait to see what they make.

full house for Curriculum Review

I sent out the communication packages for the Learning Technologies Support Program this week, so people in all faculties can start planning what they want to do, and how they want to hire their Coaches.

And, we’re hiring again – Online Learning Environment Specialist – an extremely important role, working with instructors to support their integration of various learning technologies. 





I rode my bike 3 days this week. I skipped Thursday, after riding home into some fun headwinds Wednesday evening. And I took Friday off to make it an extra-long-weekend. Feeling stronger, and am hoping to keep riding until the snow piles up. I don’t think I have winter riding in me anymore…

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

it's an older code, sir, but it checks out.