The first week back after Christmas break - simultaneously slow and quiet, and intensely busy and productive.

TI Learning Spaces

We’re working on improving the tech in the active learning studios in the TI - the biggest visible change is the addition of power bars (3 AC plugs and 3 USB plugs) on each station, so students don’t have to engage in creative engineering to access the plugs in the floor boxes.

more power!

We streamlined the application form for instructors who want to teach university courses in the Taylor Institute, which should help with the next round of applications for Spring and Summer 2017. The process opens on Monday, and runs until Feb. 17, with announcements made about 2 weeks after that.

Team members have met with all of the instructors who will be teaching in the TI this semester, and have consulted with how to adapt the spaces and technologies as appropriate. Lots of interesting courses taking place in the building this semester, from an incredibly diverse range of faculties and departments!

And with that, I think we’re ready for the start of the W2017 semester on Monday. Go team!


The Taylor Institute’s 2017 Conference on Post-secondary Learning and Teaching is shaping up nicely. The call for proposals is open now. You should come.


I was… encouraged… to create a Twitter account again, because I was missed online. I never stopped being online. If anything, I was more active and productive online. But, twitter is still a thing, and there’s no sign of things changing soon despite actively trying to explore and shift things away from multi-billion-dollar corporate silos.

I also got tired of tilting at windmills. So. I created another account. My previous 2 accounts were parked by Twitter - the first (@dnorman) was snagged by someone else, the second (@dlnorman) flagged as “suspended” - so I had to create a new one. I’m now @realdlnorman. I’m not sure what I’ll be tweeting about. Likely, the usual nonsense. 1


I’ve been thinking quite a bit about 2 things lately - dimensionality and intermittent reinforcement.


I finally got my copy of Nick Sousanis’ Unflattening back, and dove in. It’s an amazing dissertation on dimensionality in communication - a PhD dissertation in comic form, exploring the nature of visual vs. textual communication, the nature of self and identity, and of knowledge and learning.

Nick draws on E.A. Abbott’s Flatland, a mental exercise from the perspectives of beings living in 1, 2, and 3 dimensions. If text and audio are one-dimensional (there is forward/backward, before/after), images are 2 dimensional (with the possible addition of a time dimension) with concepts laid out in spatial relations with each other. It’s striking that almost all of academic discourse is one-dimensional - completely textual, with supplementary images, but essentially serially presented. Nick’s dissertation-in-comic-form shows the difference between text (which is natively one-dimensional, but can be presented as interpreted in 2 dimensions) and graphic communication (which is natively two-dimensional). What other forms of natively-two-dimensional publishing would be effective? What would natively-three-dimensional academic discourse look like?

2 quotes, ironically recast as 1-dimensional serialized text rather than 2-dimensional comic form…

“This requires a perceptual shift - a way of thinking - in which a rigid enclosed mind-set is reconceived as an interconnected, inclusive network. Distinct viewpoints still remain, now no longer isolated - viewed as integral to the whole - each informing the other in iterative fashion. In this new integrated landscape lies the potential for a more comprehensive understanding.” P. 31.

“Perception is not dispensable. It’s not mere decoration or afterthought, but integral to thought, a fundamental partner in making meaning. In reuniting thinking and seeing, we expand our thinking and concept of what thinking is.” P. 81.

Intermittent reinforcement

I saw this article by magician/tech ethicist Tristan Harris via Stephen Downes, and it nicely pulls together several aspects of online culture that make it so 1) addictive 2) superficial 3) ossified. Fear of Missing Out. Reload syndrome. Twitter, email, feeds. It’s the techno-magicians who design these online casinos who then want to “fix education” by turning their billion-dollar-gazes at universities and schools. Xenu help us all when they finally get their chance.



Too cold to ski. But the sun is up when I get home from work now, so that’s nice.

  1. Also likely, not campus IT stuff, even if it directly overlaps with my day job and PhD work. Open communication with a muzzle is fun. ↩︎