Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

EVENT: Teaching and Learning Uses for Social Networking Technologies

October 9th, 2009

A little while ago, I tuned in for 3 of the speakers in this event, and found them all to be very different even though they share a theme (educational uses for social networking technologies). I’ll include my notes from each speaker below, so you can get an idea about the type of projects discussed. You can find the description of each session on the event website.

Some interesting points that I found in all three presentations:

  • You have to integrate the technology into the teaching and learning. It can’t just be added on top of an old learning structure, and expect the students to engage with it. Things have to be properly planned out and executed to the best of your ability!
  • With these ‘social’ technologies, the students are a part of the process, not just a casual observer. You may not want to give them the power to veto your use of certain features, but it can be useful for them to feel included – especially when the technology doesn’t work the way you were expecting. Their input and feedback is as important as yours (maybe MORE because they are supposed to be getting an education out of it!).
  • Choose solutions that utilize interfaces most users are already familiar with. Getting “past” the technology is often one of the hurdles to having an engaged group.

(My notes on each speaker below)



October 6th, 2009

I didn’t catch all of the keynote today, but there was one big announcement that I wanted to repost here.

Flash01Flash CS5 will include the ability to develop iPhone Applications using Action Script 3.

This is one of those announcements that is both positive and yet a little disappointing. Let’s start with the good stuff — Flash can be a great tool for developing interactive applications delivered online. We’ve all seen examples of Flash at work, with things ranging from online games to animations to video sites like Youtube. People with a creative mind can take Flash really far! Now Flash developers can create iPhone Applications that can be delivered via the Apple iTunes Store (or iPhone developers can use Flash to develop… either way). Sounds great!

Apple and Adobe have not been playing well together when it comes to Flash on iPhones. I’m not pointing any fingers, but I know that I want to pull my hair out every time I have trouble accessing a site on an iPhone because it uses Flash. The hair-pulling will continue, unfortunately, because they have not agreed to permit in-browser Flash support for the iPhone.

Regardless, it is a good first step — now I hope they can take it all the way home!

Some Links:

Now to find out about Connect Pro on the iPhone…. saw a tweet about this (#adobemax #adobemaxgs on Twitter) and didn’t catch it in the keynote. This would be a really great addition!

I hope I have some time to tune in to the sessions tomorrow… it’s always good to keep up on this stuff!

Event: Flattening the Classroom: Building Collaborative Learning Environments

October 5th, 2009

Event website

This two-day virtual event focuses on effective collaboration. I’ve missed some of it, due to some technical difficulties, but what I did catch was pretty interesting!

Diane Chapman – What is Collaboration?

Collaboration – a dirty little secret?
I’m not sure I agree with this statement… at our school, the lack of a potential for collaboration in some of the campus-wide tools is the dirty little secret that isn’t such a secret anymore. A key point made that I do agree with, however, is that collaboration has to be PLANNED in advance. Sure – it can be fun to be spontaneous, but it can get messy very quickly without a plan.

“Plan for inevitable bumps in the road” – This applies to any technology, and is often forgotten when using it.

“Group think is NOT Collaboration” – I love this quote!! “Group think” is when a group gives in to a dominant idea, instead of everyone participating equally. Something that we have to teach groups to remember, and something group members have to practise. Going along with the ideas of the group is not the same as adding your ideas to the mix. Yes, it’s easier to go along with everyone and seems to get the job done faster — but it defeats the purpose of the whole exercise!

The role of creativity in collaboration: unique viewpoints, not equal to chaos, important to collaboration.

Noshir Sarosh Contractor – Understanding and Enabling Online Collaboration Networks

Social collaboration is not as much about who you know, or what you know, but others’ perception of who and what you know. These notions make up different kinds of networks, and the different ways in which they work. It doesn’t just involve a collection of people, but people, networks, data, and the relationships between all of these areas – a “community”.

The best collaborative ideas come out when the community is not made up of people from the same circle – but we still often end up creating social networks with people that are from our area of the world.

Michelle Pacansky-Brock – VoiceThread: Collaborative, Community-Oriented Learning Spaces

What is a voice thread?

Online media “album” featuring presentations, imags, documents and videos. Thse open up into collaborative conversations where users may comment in text, voice, or video. She has used this from w/in Blackboard courses. Users are of varying skill and comfort level – she is there to demonstrate “mastery” (goes along with first speaker, who says that modelling is very important).

Students commented that they liked to hear their peers’ voices and see pictures and images – gave a better sense of the community.

Beryl Levinger – Technologies That Enhance Collaborative, Interdisciplinary Learning

DPMI – an INTENSIVE program, that leaves students with many skills that will aid them in professional life.

Feedback is an important skill…

Use mostly synchronous collaborative technologies for co-creation.

Tool-rich – mastery of a set of tools within a framework, some applied collaboratively and online, but some individually and on paper.

  • Results Framework
  • Logical Framework

Community-oriented – creating social bonds that enable them to work together effectively, and enjoy their time together, seeds are sown for collaboration

Avowedly collaborative – harness collective intelligence, use of wikis

Cheat, steal and be lazy! – DPMI Motto, and my second favourite quote of the day!! – build on the thinking of others! (Ha! I just posted about this topic!) Shared ownership and empowerment to collectively take action.

The ability to collaborate is as important as the outcome of the collaboration.

Collaboration as a learned skill…

Uses Zoho Wiki, Zoho Notebook (a shell that links all of the students’ personal notebooks… where they post various media, notes, etc.), Poll Daddy, Zoho Polls (peer-to-peer feedback), students must present poll results in their final presentation and explain how they used poll results to affect the final product.

Wiki inconveniences (that Google Docs addresses) – wikis don’t handle spreadsheets and diagramming very well, are generally asynchronus (only one student can update at a time). Use Google Docs for this, but link to the docs from within the wiki so that all content is accessible from the wiki.

Twitter – has gotten some students to participate that would normally not (sometimes because they are not as fluent in English, and is an easier method of communication). Yet, feels like a distraction. Still experimenting with it.

CMAP Tools – Synchronous/Asynchronous for mapping relationships

Students appreciate the collaborative aspect of the program MORE after the program than during it. Down the road, they realize that the skills that they have learned in the program are valuable for the real world, and they are skills that not everyone learns.

Telling Stories in Land and Food Systems: Future Advocates & Citizen Journalists

Podcasting – repurposing lectures, but not dynamic use of the technology

Day 2

Janet Salmons – How Did WE Work? Assessing Collaborative Assignments

Students are wary of group work, because they don’t trust their groupmates (to complete their tasks, to take the project as seriously, to provide a certain level of work) or the instructor (to fairly assess group work, to protect the group members from ‘bad’ group members).

  • Assessment of collaborative work requires planning, checkpoints
  • Assessment not only of outcomes, but of the process itself.
  • Assessment of the group and the individuals (not necessarily the same thing! peoples’ contribution differs!)

Balance instructor-driven and learner-driven styles.

The Twit-xperiment: OUCC

May 28th, 2009

Some OUCC tweets
A sample of the OUCC Tweets

I’ve already shamefully admitted that I’m late to the Twitter game, and like grade school, I’m the last to be picked for a team.

This week presented me with an opportunity to experiment with a task that other Twits have been doing for a while now – Tweeting an event.

I had already found some good examples — I recently went to a music festival, and searched Twitter after the fact for Tweets from the attendees. What I found was a collection of Tweets that journalled the entire event. People posted before the event, letting others know they’d be there, and trying to arrange a meet-up. People posted when they got there, about Montreal, about the places they stayed and the things they ate. Of course, people posted from the event – about the bands, the venue, the vendors and the “Industrial Burgers”.

After seeing this, I thought I might give it a go with OUCC. I managed to find someone on Twitter who was planning to go, and as it turns out we were really the only people Tweeting OUCC!! Hahaha… That said, you don’t need lots of people to successfully Tweet an event. There were people who couldn’t make the event watching the Tweets and sometimes even commenting back. We covered the essential points, and concisely as possible. I thought the end result was pretty interesting.

OK, now to the specifics. I started by using an iPod Touch to Tweet on the first morning. It has a pretty decent Twitter application (TwitterFon), and it uses a WIFI connection. This worked well in the actual sessions (the Keynotes in AMC, the sessions in TRSM all use the Ryerson WIFI). This didn’t work out AT ALL at the dinners, or in the movie. It would have worked with an iPhone or Blackberry, however. I also found that the iPod touch was a little tricky to type on, so my tweets took a long time and had to be kept pretty short. That meant that I wasn’t putting the speaker’s name in a quote… just took too long, and I’d be missing the next thing they said. I also ran out of battery power half-way through the day.

After lunch on the first day, I switched to a laptop. I found it to be MUCH easier to use for entering text, and add to that the ability to copy & paste, and my tweets suddenly had more context. This also meant that I could quickly find websites that were mentioned in some of the sessions and include them in my tweets, for later reference. The downside of a laptop? They’re bigger to lug around (I didn’t have a NetBook, so…), they’re more distracting to other attendees, and they can get pretty hot on your lap.

I think a small “NetBook” style computer might be a good option for this kind of thing. I don’t know how great they are for battery life, but they’re smaller yet still full-featured.

One of the best experiences I had during this was a request from “the other OUCC Twit” to ask a question of a panel that I was attending. He chose to go to another session, but was still able to get info about the session I attended. Sure – you can do the same thing with instant messaging – but this way, the information is given to ANYONE who may be following us.

This is the essence of Twitter, I think. You don’t need to join a specific discussion forum or topic-based website to find a community discussing certain things. You just need to be smart about your searches. If you’re Tweeting an event, or something that may have a specific topic, add a pound sign to a string and try to get people to include it in their Tweets.

It’s not just about broadcasting your every move – although that’s how some people use it. It’s about finding connections with other users through topics, creating your own little community through the people and topics  you follow, and creating a context on a system that appears to have none. Pretty interesting.

Yikes – that was a long post. I definitely went over my 140 character limit.

OUCC 2009 – Day 2

May 26th, 2009

Day 2 of OUCC 2009 is now "over"…

Today was a short, but full, day that ended in lunch and the dispersion of all of the folks I’ve gotten used to seeing over the last two days. We’ve learned, laughed, broken bread together, and have taken "biological breaks" together (rather, at the same time…). I’ve met people that do some of the same things I do, but at different schools. I’ve made questionable jokes and shared thoughtful insights with people I only just met.

It was a successful conference for me, from every angle.

Day 2 was full of speakers. Again, these speakers had differing topics, but all ended up sharing something or other. I don’t just mean ‘technology’. There’s *supposed* to be a technology spin to everything in this conference, so that’s far too easy!!

For me, the common thread for all of the speakers today was Strategies, Projects and Resources.

The first session was a panel discussion with the CIOs of  Windsor, York, McMaster, OCAD, Laurier and Ryerson. I’ll have to admit that quite a bit of this discussion, as well as that of James Norrie (which followed) was above me, in that I understood the topics but that the actual discussion was meant for my bosses and not for me (much talk of ‘governance’). That said, I came away with some interesting insights. Probably the most interesting series of points had to do with offering students systems (like email), vs. having them sign up for one of the many full-featured and free online systems of their choice. This was a conceptual discussion, not a practical one – so things like the Patriot act were not addressed at length. As highlighted above, it’s a discussion of strategy (whose needs, and how are they served and implemented?) and resources (do we really save much $$ by not offering the services?).

James Norrie’s talk highlighted the way our approach to projects is backwards. The focus tends to be on  Capacity (referring to $$ primarily), then on the projects, then the strategy. It’s important to consider the strategy first, then work out the details of the projects and capacity. He made an interesting analogy that went something along the lines of "If you get the recipe right, you can always play with how you bake the goods."

Our final speaker of the morning, Ann Medina, spoke of being prepared for the future by expecting surprises. She talked of her experiences in the field of journalism, and connected them to her love for video games and how both of these things taught her to be prepared for unexpected changes. Specifically, she discussed how video games can teach you how to strategize and allocate resources, which can be applied to real life.

All of these things certainly apply to anyone working with technology – the changes are so constant, and sometimes unexpected. We need to be prepared to accept the changes, take on the new challenges, and rethink how we do things. It’s part of what we do – and for many of us, part of who we are.

I’ll end this post here… I will be posting a bit of a rundown of my Twitter experience during the conference, which was really very positive.



OUCC 2009 – Day 1

May 25th, 2009

This is me, at the OUCC conference at Ryerson 2009.

Last night was a good intro – fun dinner and movie night (Star Trek was supercool!).

Today started with a bang! I got a dragon engraved on my cell phone at the Rogers booth! Ahahahaha… but seriously, this morning was packed with great stuff. I should also mention that I’m taking the opportunity to learn about the use of Twitter for events, by Tweeting during this conference. There are sadly only a couple of us tweeting about it, and you can find our posts by searching by oucc or #oucc on Twitter. I’ll post a recap of this part of the experience later.

We’ve had two great speakers today: Ann Cavoukian, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario; and our keynote speaker David Suzuki. On paper, their talks were different – hers on the protection of our personal information, and his on the environment. When it came down to it, they talked about some very common things. Take into consideration that we are at a technology conference, where nearly everyone has gadgets – mostly used for communication, and accounts, and take in gads of information in this advanced culture of ours. Now consider that when you get to the very core of it, both of our speakers spoke of the roles and needs of individuals, as a part of a community. They both spoke of "the economy" as a construct that puts up roadblocks to the work that they do (which affects us all), and of the difficulties people have dividing facts from opinions. 

I won’t go into detail about each of their talks… please look them both up. Both are interesting, engaging, experts in their fields and I was pleased to attend both talks.

I’m now in the afternoon sessions, and have been Tweeting all along. The sessions have been interesting, the Twitter exercise has been fun, and I’m pretty sure dinner will be great! (Hahaha… you know where my mind is. Don’t take it to mean that I’m bored – I’m ALWAYS thinking about food). 

IF you are at OUCC and want to contribute to our information gathering on Twitter, please do! All you need is a wireless Internet device ( computer, smart phone, iPod touch — and Ryerson provided the wireless info in your registration badge), a Twitter account, and some thoughts!! Simply add #oucc to your updates (TWEETS!) and they’ll be aggregated with ours in the search! We would love to have more voices tweeting along with us.