Seize the Moment

As I write this post, it’s about 5:30am on Wednesday.  I’ve got to get rolling pretty soon and get over to the Convention Centre for the workshop day at Bring IT, Together.

But, opening the drapes demands a quick picture.  The view is so spectacular.

Last night, we had an opening reception and people did make it through the rain.  (Except for Brian Aspinall who apparently was enjoying a late dinner instead of joining us)

The green shirted committee was hard at work pulling things together and everyone was walking about engaged in conversations and exploration.

Cyndie Jacobs found her first but I soon ended up in a conversation with three ladies from “out west”.  We were gabbing about education, online learning, curating web content, innovation, and so on and, quite frankly, I didn’t know who I was talking to!

I took a look at her nametag and it turns out it was Verena Roberts.  We’ve only met online and now it’s face to face.  (See my interview with Verena here.)

I can help but be struck with the conversation.  It was like we’d known each other for years and were just catching up.

We even took a bad selfie.

I think that’s the strong message about what and why we do what we do.

There may have been a time when you just connect with people that you actually know.

Now, “connect” takes on a whole new meaning.  We connect in many ways – physically or virtually – and neither is to the exclusion of the other.  The important message is to do it.  You can’t wait until the moment is correct.

Seize the moment.

I hope that everyone seizes that moment over the next three days.

Getting Ready for #BIT14

Over the weekend, I was in Grapevine TX at a planning meeting for the 2015 CSTA Conference.  This year, I am the Program Chair so I was excited to take part.  We were evaluating the workshop and session proposals and put together just an incredible program.  It’s not just me – I think everyone around the table stood back when we were done and gave a collective “Wow”.  The details are embargoed for now but will come out shortly.  You’ll read about it here.

I did have an interesting, unrelated observation…I was going to buy a poppy there and compare it to the one that I bought here in Canada.  I didn’t see anyone selling poppies though.  Not even at the VFW booth in the airport.  Perhaps wearing a poppy is a Canadian thing?

Anyway, I flew back into Detroit late last night after being challenged with some mental airplane math – Grapevine is in the Central Time Zone which observes Daylight Saving Time so I had changed the time on all of my devices.  We were moving to the Eastern Time zone where the clocks change as well and I just had to reconcile in my mind the takeoff and landing times from my itinerary in my mind.  The payoff this morning was a bit of sunlight for the morning walk so ultimately it’s worth it.

At the airport, I dined on some Texas BBQ which I’m sure was 70% salt.  As I got over the bridge, my tongue was hanging out so I decided to hit the drive-through at McDonald’s just to grab a drink.  Believe it or not, there were three of us in line and it took almost 10 minutes to get through.  As I sat there, my wife pulled out my phone to see what was happening – I’m too cheap to pay the huge Bell costs for roaming internet – only to find at first look I was still connected to a US signal.  As soon as we made the turn and the building was between us and the states, we picked up a Canadian signal, connected, and the notifications started going off like crazy.

One of them was from Brian Aspinall who had written a blog post “What to Expect – For The #bit14 First Timer“.  I mentally bookmarked that to read once I got home.  I needed that drink to quench my thirst.  That was the first priority.

Brian had written an interesting post.  It was something like I was going to write for today so I won’t replicate it.  Please read Brian’s post above and then come back here for the rest of mine.

Instead, for those who will be attending this year and were there last year, I’d like to highlight some of the ways that we’ve improved your conference experience. 

  • The registration desk will be moved to the front part of the prefunction area instead of the side.  You’ll see it as soon as you enter the Centre.  Hopefully, you won’t see a large lineup.  Registration opens Tuesday night.  For people who are walk-ins, on-site registration will take place there as well;
  • You’ll enter the Exhibit Hall from the front instead of the side this year.  We found that the side entrance just wasn’t big enough and was a source for traffic jams;
  • The Learning Space will not be in the Exhibit Hall – we’ve moved it to the front, near the entrance to the Exhibit Hall.  It’s a really funky looking meeting nook with some cool furniture.  Please, please, please – sign in.  Not electronically, but there will be a big plastic sheet where you can show off your Twitter handle for everyone to see.  Later on, grab your mobile device and start adding Ontario Educators to your network;
  • If you’re using an Apple TV or Chromecast device, we hope not to get blind sided this year!  We have a way to get you connected – if you’re a presenter, you should have received an email about it already.  If you ignored that email but still need to use your device, please revisit it!
  • We’ve created a couple of new rooms in the Convention Centre to accommodate more presentations.  Last year, we filled every nook and cranny and needed more.  So, there will be two ad hoc rooms created with drape and piping on the main floor.  To be consistent with the Convention Centre naming convention (say that fast three times), they will be rooms 101 and 103;
  • The committee will be wearing beautiful Hunter green shirts.  I finally won something.  Please take the time to say thanks to the committee for a year’s worth of planning;
  • The Social Committee has added a new social event – the #Selfie Scavenger Hunt.  There will be prizes so check out the rules and make sure that your device is charged.  All the social events are listed here;
  • You probably know this already – we’ve added additional conference hotels;
  • We have a new route for the Run with Alana;
  • We’ve made arrangements for discounts for your dinner.  Just show your wait staff your conference badge;
  • The social activities have exploded!  You liked it last year; you’ll like them even better this year.  There are over 150 people registered for the Photowalk by the Falls; 70 people for the Run with Alana; over 65 for the Jam session; over 50 for the Minecraft LAN Party – you can’t help leaving the event without making new connections;
  • The Convention Centre has upgraded their bandwidth.  Last year, they had enough for a good sized business conference but they don’t know teachers.  Everybody has at least two devices connected all the time;  They’ll be broadcasting two networks – if you have a device that will connect to a 5GHz network, that should be your preferred choice.  If you have older stuff, there will be a Legacy network as well;
  • We have a social network team that’s really working the social networks – look for #BIT14 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Google Plus;
  • There will be a large number of sessions offered in French.  We hope that this, the fact that the website and Lanyrd are available in both languages, will make the conference friendly for all Ontario Educators;
  • We will have the coolest entry in the Exhibit Hall.  I’m not sharing that detail; you’ve got to find it and interact on your own;
  • There’s a lot of push to make the Lanyrd resource easier to use.  make sure that you have the app on your portable device;
  • and probably there are other things that I’ve overlooked.  You’ll find them.

When you arrive, check in and then go sign the wall in the Learning Space.  Take the time to visit with the Exhibitors; play in their discovery areas; say hi to someone in a green shirt.

Most of all, have three wonderful days of learning and connections.  This is THE technology conference for Ontario Educators. 

Well, That Worked Well

As folks from Ontario know, Friday’s are pretty special for me.  I create a blog post to highlight some of the great blogging that I read from Ontario Edubloggers.  I hope that readers of this blog are inspired to go and support those folks.  I also spend a few minutes doing #FollowFriday shoutouts to Ontario Twitter users who have been active – usually Thursday afternoon and evenings.

Donna Fry wrote a kind blog post acknowledging this yesterday. “LEARNING FROM ONTARIO EDUCATORS

Doug’s #FollowFriday “Active Ontario Educators” posts on Twitter are the perfect starting place for new and old tweeters alike as we build our online PLNs in social media.

What I find very cool happens when folks retweet my message, thereby increasing the notifications.  It reinforces the notion that we’re connecting ourselves here in the province.

There was just one hitch for my regular routine yesterday.

I wasn’t going to be around to do the #FollowFridays as per normal.  But, I still wanted to make it happen.

So, I tried something new.

I was working away on things for the Bring IT, Together conference Thursday evening and had my twice daily Google Hangout with conference co-chair Cyndie Jacobs.  I’ll confess (hopefully she doesn’t read this post) that she didn’t have my entire attention.

Instead, I was giving something new (for me, at least) a shot.

I’ve been a long time fan of Hootsuite as a way to monitor my followers and my lists on Twitter.  There was one feature that I’ve never used before – that being scheduled Twitter messages.  There was no better time to try it out.

So, I did.

It was a snap.  It was simply a matter of composing the Twitter message like I normally would.

Then, clicking the calendar icon revealed a calendar and a time picker.  To do the deed, I just picked tomorrow at 5am so that they would appear like they regularly would.

And, it worked very nicely.  The Twitter messages got sent out just like normal.  As I review them now, there’s really no indication that there was anything different about the sending of them.  I like that.  Very much.

Now, there are other tools like Buffer that can allow you to do the same thing but I like the fact that it was just an option in my regular browser routine.  For me, this is a keeper if I ever need to do it again.  For a long time, I’ve been scheduling blog posts to appear at 5am and that allows me the flexibility of writing them when the mood hits.  Now, I can do the same with Twitter.

The only bit of angst was in the composition of the messages and NOT selecting the scheduling option.  We wouldn’t want them to appear Thursday night now, would we?

Should Have Done This Years Ago

Years ago, maybe five?, I had a Lenovo laptop with a whopping 2 MB of memory.  At the time, I wanted to try out Ubuntu in a dual boot situation.  I already had purchased the Dell Netbook that came with Ubuntu and I really liked it.  So, off I went to the Ubuntu website and downloaded Ubuntu and made the machine dual boot.  One side was Windows XP and the other side was Ubuntu.

Of course, I had to download the 32 bit version of Ubuntu with the limited memory that I had in place.  The computer was OK on the Windows side but just screamed on the Ubuntu side.  It was just so fast; it was hard to believe that it was the same computer.

When that laptop died, I indulged myself with this computer.  It has an i7 processor and 4GB of RAM.  Windows 7 was OK but like most Windows installations slowed over time no matter how many times I tweaked it.  I’m sure that it’s self-inflicted.  So, I decided to make the computer dual boot to Ubuntu.  Now, when you have the slow internet that I do, you really have to pick and choose your downloads wisely.  I could go somewhere and download on their high speed – but I still had the Ubuntu DVD from my previous installation.  I was just going to test for proof of concept anyway – so I installed it and started to use it.  Darned if it didn’t make this computer fly.

I kept using it, and when updates came along, I would just apply the updates.  I was totally happy.  The last update was 14.04LTS and I was very, very happy with it.

Until I tried to install the Opera Browser.

Oh yeah.  That other decision has come back to byte me.

Opera only comes in a 64 bit version so I couldn’t install it.  I went online seeking advice and there was no natural path from the 32 bit version to the 64 bit version.  It calls for brute force installation from scratch.  Just backup your Home Directory after revealing hidden files so that you can resume Ubuntu life.

I looked at my face mirrored in the monitor.  You dummy.

Right out of the box, Windows 7 was running 64 bit.  That was only half a hard disk away.

The timing was right.  Ubuntu, which updates itself every six months, has just released version 14.10.  Why not?

So, I started the download and went to take the dog for a long walk.  There’s no sense in sitting at the keyboard watching the download process inch along.

Sure enough, when we returned, there was a disk image sitting on my desktop.  I just need to burn it to DVD, reboot from the DVD and then install.  Wait!  Do I have any DVDs?  It’s been so long since I’d burned one.  Fortunately, having a son in the television editing business means that there’s never a shortage of video stuff.  I walked down the hall and got a blank.  Of course, I needed to dig into the ol’ brain cells to remember how to burn a DVD…done!

I rebooted and was so impressed with the installation screen.

I could:

  • Run Ubuntu from the DVD (nah, I’m here for the duration);
  • Erase the entire hard drive and install Ubuntu 14.10 (goodbye Windows);
  • Erase the petition and install Ubuntu 14.10 (yes, but that would remove everything and I’m not that radical);
  • Do something else; (I was totally intrigued by this but passed…)
  • or, the preferred solution – you have Windows 7 and Ubuntu 14.04LTS installed – upgrade Ubuntu to 14.10.  Yes!

Half an hour later, I’m done.  During the process, I noticed that Ubuntu had archived certain things and then restored them.  On first boot, I hit Firefox to see that my theme (Puny Weakling) and all of my extensions save.  It was just a matter of copying my Home Directory and I was back, good to go.

I had bookmarked a couple of upgrade advice resources:

Some I had planned on doing anyway, some were new and some were ignored.  After all, Ubuntu is all about open ideas and concepts – even in its installation.

I installed Ubuntu Tweak and messed about.  I think we all have an idea of what our computer should look and act like.

And, I’m back in business.  No stopping me from trying out Opera on Ubuntu now!

If this works out well, maybe I’ll buy more RAM.

I’m never completely computer happy.

Pre #BIT14 Interview with Derrick Schellenberg and Brian Aspinall

Michelle Cordy (@cordym on Twitter) continued her series of interviews leading to the Bring IT, Together Conference in Niagara Falls on November 5-7, 2014.

Last night, she talked to Derrick Schellenberg (@Mr_Schellenberg) and Brian Aspinall (@mraspinall) about their sessions.  This time, the focus was on inquiry in the classroom.  Both Derrick and Brian have TLLP projects and they served as the basis for the interview.

It was a rainy, rainy night here last night and I was unable to get a good, reliable connection to watch the interview live last night.  There are parts of the interview where internet connections were definitely an issue.  I guess I don’t have a monopoly on that.  Anyway, you can enjoy the interview since it was recorded.

Look for shout outs to Royan Lee, David Fife, and James Cowper and their blogs.

Michelle’s previous interviews leading into the #BIT14 conference…

Connected, But In Different Ways

I had a big smile as I read Brandon Grasley’s comment to my post yesterday.  I didn’t realize that my comment about losing internet access two days in a row would inspire his comments.  But I learned that we both live in what the internet would call a limited fly zone or “rural”.

Now, when I was growing up, a few of my friends lived in what would be my traditional view of rural.  

You got there by taking a county or township road, turn at the mailbox (do a favour by picking up mail if the flag was up or the box was turned), and then driving down the lane with corn fields on either side or beans if the crops had been rotated that particular year.  You park in a big gravel area and then head into the house.  Every farmer had a blade for their tractor and they were responsible for clearing their own lane in the winter.  That’s my definition of rural.

Now, being connected or not being connected makes rural take on a new meaning.  From my house, I can see our local community, buildings from a community in Southeast Michigan, and the local elementary school.  Yet, being connected here doesn’t have the huge set of options that being literally half a concession road away would.  

Just down the road, and it’s well marked by my dog on our morning walks, DSL is a reality.  When the school board implemented a fast Wide Area Network, cable internet access was pulled to the elementary school.  If we walk by, my smart phone can actually see the networks being broadcast.  I wonder if I still have an account there?

And yet, when we get home, the options are limited.  But, they certainly are much better than they used to be.  In the good ol’ days, we paid for a second telephone line.  On that line, I ran a BBS for the public with a private area for my students.  In the evenings, we could take down the BBS and dial in to a service provider and go online.  It was blistering fast with my USRobotics modem.  

Of course, blistering fast is time dependent.  You couldn’t survive with those speeds today.  But, apparently, from the roof of my house, you can see a communications tower about 8km away.  On a good day, I can get speeds close to 3MB down and .5MB up.  This is light speed compared to the good ol’ days.  When I purchased the service, I also purchased an extended capacity package since I knew that my wife and kids would be connected and using data.  We wanted to avoid overages.

It sounds like my package is more robust than what Brandon enjoys.  With his tiers in 5GB increments, he’d be in the second tier if he was doing a task like downloading the Mac OS X upgrade I did yesterday.

So, in a way, it was comfortable knowing that I’m not the only one that has to look for alternatives for big downloads, like an OS upgrade.  It’s a shame that this is not recognized by the internet or the content providers.  Most software and media these days are available only by download; the concept of going to a store and buying traditional media is all but gone.  Apparently, Apple does encourage you to visit their store to use their network.  I’d only have to go to the north end of London to do it.  There are some places in the community that offer free internet access but filter out access to online stores.  I totally understand that; often the access is provided as a courtesy not for some rural guy trying to download an upgrade from the Google Play store.

I know that I’ve been in conversations with folks about the inequities of connectivity.  It’s usually framed from the student perspective and the answer typically is to visit the local library or stay after school.  And yet, it’s not just the student.  As Brandon notes, he takes advantage of his district’s BYOD policy.  I know that I used to go into work on weekends to get major jobs done.  These days, I go to my daughter’s place.

While the whole suite of options isn’t available to everyone, they are most certainly better than they used to be.  Those that draft policy defining just what connected means need to consider the implications of all those affected.  We don’t all live in downtown Toronto!

I had a colleague once who encouraged everyone to think without boundaries.  She was fond of asked “Doug, if you were the King of the World, what would you do?”  In the connected forum, I think I’d pour research and development into providing “internet over electricity” and then making it a commercial product.  

Wouldn’t that go a long way towards achieving equity?