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?

Underwhelmed


As I write this post, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to post it in the traditional way.  My internet access is provided by “Canada’s Rural Internet Strategy”.  They’re currently down again.  They were down yesterday afternoon as well.  It’s frustrating.

Yesterday morning, I decided that I would upgrade my Macbook Pro to the latest operating system, version 10.10.  It looked like it wasn’t going to be a nice day outside so installing an upgrade and then poking around learning it seemed like a good idea.  I checked the update and it would take approximately 17 hours to download the 5.13GB upgrade.  That’s more than I was prepared to devote to this activity.  Fortunately, my daughter has a speedy internet connection through Cogeco – she was working – so I asked to do my upgrade at her place, got approval, and I was off.

Normally, I’d wait for a week or so for bug fixes to be made available but I think this version of Mac OSX should be different.  It appears to have been in Beta testing for a long time and with so many brave souls.  I had a feeling that it might be a pretty safe release.  And, it’s free.

After stopping for a coffee on the drive in, I sat down to do the download and two hours later, I was ready to go.  Now, it’s not like I needed to do the upgrade – I was quite happy with the way things were running – but the common wisdom is to stay with the latest release for security and functional reasons.  Plus, I have nothing by the highest admiration for the programmers who manage to weave their magic through the code to make things even better.

So, after the installation and reboot, I was interested to see what was what.  If you read the Apple fanboys, this is the greatest, most beautiful release of the OS ever.

Unfortunately, my first impressions are anything but that.

TITLE/MENU BAR
Starting at the top…

I did like the fact that the menu bar at the top can be turned black.  So, instead of the bright white strip that we’ve become so familiar with, it’s now darkened and considerably less harsh on the eyes.  There’s a new font in use which is functional and that’s OK.  It does have a bit of an Ubuntu Ambiance look to it but I think I prefer Ambiance’s look.

At this early juncture, many of the icons are either now invisible, having blended into the black, or are barely visible.  Look for upgrades once word gets out.

INTERFACE
This leads to the most noticeable change when you first log in.  The whole interface has changed.  Quite frankly, it’s not a look that I took an immediate like to.  I suppose it’s Apple’s answer to Microsoft’s Modern UI but, with it’s bright childish looking colours, it’s very much like the new commercials on television.  Is it to attract a younger environment?  It certainly is a departure from the professional, finished look in previous versions.  I use the Graphite interface which isn’t too radical a change.  Switching to Blue really is shocking and not attractive at all, to this eye.

In fact, looking at some of the icons, I harkened back to the fruit-coloured iMacs.  Bright, and they really stood out.  Everything since then has been professional looking silver and black.  Now the icons…

    

The translucent menus are an interesting effect.  I wonder if that’s also taking some processor power to work.  Under Accessibility, there’s an option to reduce the amount of transparency.  I think I’ll give that a shot and see if it makes a difference.

HANDOFF
The early reading I’ve done states that “Handoff” is the biggest game changer in the upgrade.  So, if I’m working with Safari on my laptop, I can hand off where I am to another iCloud device.  My first reaction was to ask when I would ever use that.  But, I guess I’ve been using a similar functionality with browsers for a long time.  Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox will let you synchronize histories across browsers on different devices.  

NOTIFICATIONS
The notifications panel is a nice looking addition.  I added in my location and no longer have to look at the outdoor thermometer.  If I was using the calendar, events would pop up there.

SPEED
Whenever anything changes the interface of anything, you need to take a look at any hit in performance.  With one day of messing around, I do notice that performance has taken a hit.  After looking around, I see that my Time Machine is doing a backup so that’s understandable that there may be a hit there.  I’m also guessing that perhaps Spotlight is indexing my computer?

SPOTLIGHT
Speaking of Spotlight, this is an area that everyone needs to take a look at and consider carefully.  When Ubuntu added search to the Dash, there was a big uproar that searches weren’t limited to your computer by default.  With Spotlight in 10.10, the warning is right up front.  Read all that you can about Privacy.  Your search results, including your location, are sent to Apple to help “improve” your results.  Are you OK with that?  I’ve got to think that one through and so have turned it off for the time being.

ITUNES
I’ve never been a real fan of the old iTunes.  The way that it worked never seemed all that intuitive to me.  But, it was the only game in town so I learned to use it.  This new makeover however does seem more friendly.  The mind is a funny thing; I don’t know if it’s that much different or whether it’s a tweak to the old that’s just ringing bells with me.  Oddly, it doesn’t take on the graphic colours for the minimize, close, full screen buttons.  It’s only using the Blue theme.  Did that slip by consistency control?

OTHER TITLES
I thought I was rather smart in heading in to town to use the fast internet there.  I’ll confess that I didn’t think it through completely.  I expected that everything Apple that I owned would have been upgraded.  It was only later when I got home that I saw the notifications that things were waiting in the App Store for upgrades.  Pages, Numbers, iMovie, etc. all had been upgraded because they were “influenced” by the new user interface.  So, I downloaded them to stay on top of things. Argh.

But, the App Store is having difficulties keeping track.  Even they were updated, they’ve now been flagged again today as having an update!

I suppose that the new look and features will grow on me with time.  With the huge download, I’ll confess to being underwhelmed.  Nothing has reached out and grabbed me yet as being worth all the time and effort that I put into the upgrade and then poking around looking for new features.  I suspect that my weeks ahead are going to be filled with upgrades as all of the other software on the computer are revised to work with 10.10.  If we learn from the experience with iOS8, there will undoubtedly be upgrades and bug fixes in the near future.  

I can’t wait until I get internet access restored so that I can read what others are experiencing.  In the meantime, I’ll just tether my laptop to my Android phone and get this post online.

If you’ve upgraded, I’d be interested in your experiences and thoughts.

Messy


I got the inspiration for this post from the Daily Post.  It’s a feature that I subscribe to that regularly gives ideas for what you might want to post to your blog.  Normally, I smile and continue reading but this one actually had me intrigued.

It’s not really a fair question because my office space is in a cubby off to the side of our bedroom.  On any day, the bedroom is messier — not because it’s messy, but because it’s lived in.  There’s a place for everything and everything is in its place.  It’s just that there are so many places…

I wanted to focus instead on my computer’s desktop.  It’s incredibly clean.

But, it wasn’t always that way.

I used to delude myself in thinking that I could have many major projects on the go and my computer’s desktop was the perfect place to store everything.  But all that changed one day.  I had a support person who was incredibly organized and needed to use my computer because hers was down.  She took one look and said “I can’t work on this!  How the $^#&#^$ can you work like this?”

I used my best teacher voice.

“Whatever do you mean?  Can you show me a better way?”

And, she did.

It turns out that she does use her desktop as a storage place for parts and pieces for current projects.  In progress, her desktop looked very messy and like mine.  But the difference was that only what was needed for the ongoing project was available.  When she was done, it was just a matter of right clicking on the desktop, creating a new folder, lassoing all the pieces and putting them into the folder.  The folder then went into another folder for storage.  At the end of the day, the enclosing folder got copied to a backup drive while she put her coat on.

Continue working on a project?  She opens the big folder, the enclosed folder and then drags all the components to the desktop and picks up where she left off.

Now, I couldn’t just immediately say that she was right and copy her procedure.  My analytical mind said “I could save some time if I just created the folder inside the folder first and work from there”.  It seemed to make sense until a project required components from a number of programs.  Then, I was “Saving As” and trying to hunt down the project folder.

Then, I got her teacher voice.  “You’re doing it wrong.  Weren’t you paying attention?”

So, I got a remedial lesson and started counting keystroke and mouse clicks.  Darned if her method wasn’t more efficient.  In fact, the more involved and diverse the project, the more efficient the technique.

I learned the lesson and every desktop that I’ve used ever since is very clean and I use her technique daily.

As I write this post, I’m in ScribeFire in Firefox but I’ve done some screen captures to illustrate my points

I don’t care where they land.  As soon as I publish the post and check to make sure that everything’s online properly, they’re headed to the special folder that looks like a recycle bin.  And, I’ll be back to clean.

Now, the keen eye will notice that there’s a folder called “Doug’s Documents” and another called “Windows”.  That’s where everything ultimately ends up.

I know the Psych major out there will quickly identify this as superstitious behaviour.  But it’s worked well for me.

Do you have a better way of organizing things?

Nerd Test


OK, you may need to take a break from the family and turkey.  (making an assumption here)

Or, maybe you just want to be the life of the party this Thanksgiving.

Or, maybe you always wanted to know your level of nerdiosity.

Self-help and analysis quizzes are pretty popular on Facebook these days.

But, they just scratch the surface.

Do you want to dig deeply into the inner you?  If so, then you need to take the Nerd Test, ver 2.0.

It will have you thinking…but you can have a badge when you’re done, if you want.  Here’s mine.


NerdTests.com says I'm an Uber-Dorky Nerd God.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and talk to others on the nerd forum!

And, I am classified….

If you have compulsive tendencies for things like this, don’t look at the menu on the left side of the screen.

Happy Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is a chance to reflect and give thanks for so much.

I’m so thankful to have such a wonderful family.  This day has always been an opportunity for everyone to get together and celebrate.  When we can, we turn it into a three day event.

On the blog, I am so thankful for you dropping by and reading.  You make it all worth while.

I know that many of the readers here are from the United States and Thanksgiving is celebrated there in November.  If we can get past the football and over indulgence, it’s interesting to note the reasons behind Thanksgiving.  Here’s an interesting read comparing Thanksgiving in both countries.

However, and whenever you celebrate, for today from this Canadian – Happy Thanksgiving.

Reblog – A Sign for Trustees


Some Twitter posts from yesterday made me smile…

But the value added by Lorna Costantini…

…had me going back and reading my original post.

I can’t believe that I posted it over a month ago.  How time flies.  Now that candidate nominations are closed, we have a LOT of people running locally, including one running for mayor who wanted to withdraw but wasn’t allowed to!

It just takes a tour through our town (or any town in the province, for that matter) to see all of the signage up for display.  I remember my father telling me the difference in importance between a sign on someone’s lawn versus a sign placed on public property.  I’ve always wondered about the value of lawn signs, certainly I’ve never been persuaded by someone’s names.  These days, I now look for choice of font and sign design, balance, colour, …  (such a nerd)  I supposed that the biggest takeaway would be the sheer numbers of individual signs as either a straw poll for popularity or the amount of money that someone has committed to getting elected.  I will admit that I do appreciate someone who takes the time to make sure that the sign is level.

For probably the week after the election, the lawn signs will still be there, but they’ll eventually get taken down and hopefully recycled.  During the election campaign, there will be many candidates who turn to social and electronic media to reach out to folks.  My original post talked about the use of technology during election campaigns and I tried to argue the case that lawn signs have a limited life and could be recycled.  Social media presence has the ability to live on after the election.

I still stand by my comments; maybe I’m even more committed to them.  But, I think the post was way too early.  It’s just now that we’re seeing the influx of signs and social media presence.  To that end, I’d like to bring the post forward and ask that it not be applied to just trustees but to all that are running for election.  Just change “school” to whatever institution applies.

Here’s the original post.


Jaimie and I were out for our morning walk and we saw a red and white election campaign sign on a neighbour’s lawn.  We thought – hmmm, a politician who wants to align themselves with the Liberal Party.  As we got closer, it turned out to be a sign for a candidate for the local Catholic School Board.

For my non-Ontario readers, a quick briefing.

In Ontario, we have three major political parties:

and a collection of other parties.

We also have four publicly funded school boards.

  • English Language Public School System
  • French Language Public School System
  • English Language Catholic School System
  • French Language Catholic School System

In addition, each municipality has a mayor, perhaps a deputy mayor, and councillors that are elected every four years.  School board trustees are elected at the same time.  Social media made for some interesting moments at a previous election when people started to take pictures and send a copy of their ballot out on Twitter.

It’s interesting how social media permeates so many of the things in our society.  During the last municipal elections around here, the buzzwords were “transparency” and “openness”.  Even though our community retains the fame (and signs) of being the Safest Community in Canada, there have been issues that have arisen that I’m sure will result in a higher than normal turnout of voters.  So, it seems to me that it’s more important than even for candidates for the school boards to be very visible.

During the last municipal elections, many turned to social media.  I thought, at the time, this was a great idea.  It’s free – but a blog, or Facebook presence, or Twitter presence would raise the visibility of candidates.  I actually started a list of candidates on Twitter and followed the discussion about the election and their thoughts on education.

Then, the election was over.  Down came the lawn signs and the efforts to talk about issues on social media.  To be fair, there are still three local trustees that maintain a presence and do interact on social media.  But, from my perspective, that’s about it.

I wish I could properly attribute this quote but it’s stuck with me.  “The Primary Goal of any Politician, once elected, is to get Re-elected”.

As we walked by the lawn sign, we mused that it will be up for a couple of months and then taken down.  Similarly, how many social media accounts will do the same?

When you think of the things that could be done…

  • promote events at your representative schools;
  • check-in when you do school related activities;
  • share your rationale for school board votes;
  • share pictures of educational events;
  • promote the cause of school/district initiatives (Green Schools, etc.);
  • support fundraising activities;

In fact, here are a bunch of reasons why you should tweet.

Doesn’t it make sense to develop an educational digital footprint, care and feed it during the campaign, and then continue after the election?  Your constituency won’t learn about you from a random lawn sign; through social media, they’ll know your record, your successes, your passions, your dedication….