I sure didn’t go looking for this expression but when I found it, it fit and was used perfectly.

I use an advertising blocker in my Browser.  My current choice is uBlock Origin. There are lots of them available and I’ve tried a few of them.  I’m fascinated with how they work.  When you have a slow internet connection like I do, it’s a real time saver.  Without it in place, you can actually see the browser start/stop as advertisements pop into place. 

I was actually doing some research when I found the term.  I had reached a web page where there was a banner that said something to the effect “It looks like you’re using an Ad Blocker – please consider whitelisting this site”.  I will admit to whitelisting some of my favourite sites because I know that it may be the only form of income that they have, I value the service that they provide and the writers that provide the content.  This research did lead to some interesting reading.  One of the articles, in particular, talked about the increasing aggressiveness of some advertising and it used the term “obnoxious” to describe it.  I thought it was an interesting choice of words at the time but, after this morning, I totally agree.

I was checking my Twitter feed and there was a news story that was of particular interest.  I was reading on my iPad.  Of course, Twitter is only good for 140 characters and a link.  I clicked the link in my Twittelator app and the in-app browser partially loaded the newspaper app and then it crashed.  So, I did what any rational person would do – I loaded it again, expecting different results.  Nope.  Crash.  So, I loaded the website directly in the newly released Firefox browser.  It took forever to load.  Forever is probably not accurate but in the digital world, I think we all know what I mean.  In among the few stories that appeared, there was advertising after advertising.  They just kept coming.  Eventually, they stopped and I started to scroll to find the story.  The browser struggled trying just to scroll down the page.  The advertisements seemed like my browser was full of slideshows.  Then, a pop over advertisement appeared in the middle of the page and it kept scrolling down the page with me.  There was a teeny little red X in the corner which is the universal sign for closing the window.  Either it didn’t work or I have fat fingers because I tried it a few times but kept clicking on the advertisement under it.  I finally scrolled to a spot where there wasn’t an advertisement and the X just didn’t work.  I finally gave up.  Absolutely obnoxious.

In my browser folder (I collect browsers), there was a copy of the Adblock Browser.  I loaded it and went to the website and it displayed like a charm.  I was curious and so really did spend the time to view the site in both browsers.  By my estimates with my ruler and my wife’s quizzical looks, 45% of the screen was devoted to advertising.  It would have been more except I didn’t know how best to factor in the pop over advertisement so I left it out.  Wow!  Then, I decided to give Firefox another chance and went to the site using the privacy mode.  It seemed to do a bit better job although I now noticed that the same advertising appeared three times on the opening page when I scrolled down.  Then, Firefox crashed.

By now, I was on a mission so I visited the website in my desktop browser and uBlock Origin indicated that it had blocked 26 requests.  Is that obnoxious or what?

In part of my original research, there was a great deal of concern expressed by content providers about ad blocking software and the financial effect that they will have on the industry.  As we know, some ad blocking software will accept payment from some advertisers to allow the content to go through.  The articles indicated that this is only the beginning as advertisers start to consider their options. 

I understand and probably wouldn’t be using blocking software except the sheer volume of advertisements on some sites, the tracking cookies that they provide, and how some of the advertising can take longer to load than the story that you’re trying to read.  So, at least for the time being, this software will be kept in place here.  But, like all things technical, you know what the industry will get caught up and we’ll be looking at something new in the future.


I was in a bit of a goofy mood last night as I checked my email and saw some new Twitter followers.  One of them, in their bio which I always check, had claimed “I’m a life-long learner”.

So, in goofy fashion, I thought to question this.

Me:  You’re a life-long learner?

Them:  Yes

Me:  What did you learn today?

Them:  Well, nothing today but you know what I mean.

Sadly, I think I do.  It’s one of those buzzwords that are part of what some folks need to hang on themselves to try and prove themselves as current.

It begs the question – as opposed to what?  “school learner and then I’m done”.

Another one that gets me going to is “I’m a connected leader”.

I wonder – is this as opposed to “disconnected leader”?  Or “unconnected leader”?  Or “connected follower”?

Even the labels that are attached by the technology industry can be interesting if you ask “as opposed to what”.

Do all these buzzwords devalue the original words when you try to brand yourself in that fashion?  If you believe that there are two opposites, then there must be a tipping point when you leave one and become the other.  Who makes that determination?

What if the bio simply said…

I share. I learn. You judge.

Then, you don’t have to take their word for it.

A blogging portfolio review

It’s funny how things come around when you least expect it.

In my post about the Pipesapp, I started thinking of the reading that I hated in high school.  Coupled with that was the writing.  I was probably every English teacher’s nightmare.  I didn’t do well and so really wasn’t terribly focused on any lesson.  I remember the talk about portfolios and how I should put my best writing in there and periodically review it, throwing out the content that I didn’t care for any more and replacing it with something that I was proud of.  I still remember my inner voice “yeah, that’s OK but what if you weren’t proud of anything”.  Then, reality kicked in; this counted for marks so I went through the motions.

Of course, I got better and I do thank those teachers for the lessons that didn’t seem important at the time but later in life became a staple that really did help me grow professionally.  I began to collect all kinds of artifacts and did, and still do, review them periodically.  For job interviews, they were so helpful.  For helping set personal priorities in a world where you can get easily distracted, they help to rein in my thinking.  For the most part, I try to “binderize” them and, at times, that can be a challenge.  Many of the artifacts are, in fact, digital so they’re kept one my computer and backups and I do a screen shot to add to the latest binder.

Yesterday, I was so excited to watch the Minnesota/Oakland football game.  With the success that both teams were having this year, this Vikings fan just knew that it would be the “game of the week”.  Hah!  It wasn’t even televised here.  So, I thought that I might do something else while listening to one of the other games as white noise.  I had my computer open and started doing some blog reading.  I have my favourites and was remarking as to what draws me to them.  Over all, it’s the quality of the writing and, since I’d followed some of them for quite some time, I smiled when I thought about how the writing had matured and changed over time.  I think that, overall, that’s what keeps me coming back.  I never know what to expect next.

Then, it was time to turn that reflection on myself.

From the gear menu above, , I have access to what’s called the Archives by WordPress.

Scrolling to the bottom, I see:

Wow, I’d been blogging since 1970!  As my editors will agree, that entry was one of my famous mistakes.  The two blog posts from 1999 were some configuration deally so it looks like I started to blog in earnest in January of 2008.  That must have been some sort of New Years’ resolution.  The number in parentheses is the number of posts during that month.  Scrolling up and down shows the posts per month – if you’re a regular, you know that half of them are automated daily summaries of what I’m reading. 

But I was curious and started poking around some of those earliest posts.

Now, I make no claims, and rightfully so, to being a scholarly blogger.  It’s just a hobby where I try to put down my thoughts on any given day.  But, I’ll be honest – those first posts were pretty bad.  If they were part of a paper portfolio, they’d be ripped from my binder, crumpled with disgust, and thrown into the recycle bin.  However, I have this hoarding mentality.

From those early days, I’ve read so many other good blog posts, communicated with wonderful blogging experts, read blog posts about how to blog and I like to think that I’ve learned so much along the way.  Today, I make room daily to try to write something.  I like to mix it up a bit – from reviewing software, to sharing my thoughts, to make connections to my past, to interview amazing people, …  I know that the conventional wisdom is to “find your niche” and write to that.  In a couple of months, this blog will be eight years old apparently.  If I wrote the same way about the same sort of things, I think I would have been burned out a long time ago.  As I look, I still have 49 partially completed posts in my WordPress account and all kinds of ideas tucked away in Evernote.  I hope that the ideas never dry up and the satisfaction that comes from writing and proofreading never goes away.  Well, maybe not the proofreading so much.  (Hi Lisa, Sheila)

I never had this tool when I went to school.  Writing was all about putting pencil to paper and the proofreading was a truly separate process.  Coming up with a perfect finished product was an ordeal.  Blogging has changed all that and I enjoy it.  Would I be a different and hopefully better writer if I could have shared this with the many passionate and patient English teachers I had?  I’d take that bet.

There’s been a lot said about “student voice”, whatever that is.  I prefer to think of blogging as something creative that encourages me to read more and research before forming an opinion or thought on a topic.  Only then do I turn it into a post.  Blogging also seems to make me get to the point quicker.  We know that people often don’t stick to the end if the post is more than 1000 characters.

So, any blogger that’s hung on to this post this long – do you feel the same way?  Do you have better thoughts?  I’d love to read them.

And, to any English teacher, do my thoughts make any sense?  How does blogging fit into your curriculum?

The fine print

Put up your hand if you read the fine print and understand the implications for every application or piece of software that you install and use.

Photo credit: mercucio2 from morguefile.com

I didn’t think so.

Me neither.

I wonder if lawyers do.  It seems to me that they’d be the only people that could fully understand the “party of the first part” stuff and all of the truly important implications.  After all, it would have been a team of their colleagues that wrote the original.

It’s a good discussion for the classroom. 

Have you ever taken an application’s terms of use and gone through it point by point?  It would make for a great conference presentation.

“Now many of you people use Snapchat?”  How many use the product world-wide?  Snapchat provides a picture of its popularity as a social network here.  So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that so many students use it.

Have they read the legal terms and conditions?

Do they know that the terms have been recently changed?  This article is worth discussing in class.  “Snapchat now owns some of your selfies forever“.

It will add credibility when you talk about social media with the traditional words of wisdom.  “What gets posted online stays online forever”.  “Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see”.  It would be a good time to revisit the stats.  “Snapchat is the best way to reach 13 to 34 year-olds”.

Would something like this encourage students to read the fine print and understand just how they’re using software?  Would it help them to understand the implications and just raise their awareness?

I think we can all agree that it’s a situation that’s not going to go away.  In the time that it took me to put my thoughts together for this post, I downloaded an application in another window.  Time to install and start using.

Oh yeah, after reading and understanding the legalize and agreeing that I’ve read and understood everything of course.

Flipping learning – #FlipboardEDU

There’s a concept that has been making the rounds lately – FlipboardEDU.  I was going to use the adjective “new” but great educators have been using the concepts for a long time now, both with Flipboard and other curating tools.  Personally, I started with Zite which is now part of Flipboard.

Follow the hashtag #flipboardedu.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that Flipboard is one of my favourite stops for morning reading.  By pulling together topics and other things in a manner that I find “strategic” for me, I’m able to pack just an incredible amount of learning into the time spent with my morning coffee. I’m constantly finding new resources and/or fine tuning my current collection for the best results.

Here’s a bit of it.

Now, I’m not too proud to show that I follow myself too!  Even paranoids have enemies. It’s actually a nice way to follow up on stories that I read on the iPad but I need to actually sit down at a computer to try things out.  Whatever works, right?

What continually impresses me is how effortless the process is.  I’ll also share some of the reading that I do to Twitter and, as I’ve mentioned before, it all trickles back to being bookmarked to my Diigo account.

As I was looking at things today in the context of FlipboardEDU, I really see the value.  My learning is richer because of the boards, topics, people, and lists that I follow.

Why not use it for more than that?

Ideas like:

  • Creating a Flipboard of articles for a particular subject area and make it available for students as they work.  They can spend less time finding things and more time on task actually using it
  • Creating a Flipboard of articles for that topic for yourself – make it private – and fill it with “teacher-type” resources to support the classroom teaching and activities
  • Creating a Flipboard of media articles where your school is in the news and make a link to it on your school or class website/wiki
  • Creating a Flipboard of tips and tricks to master a task so that all a student has to do is access the Flipboard to get answers
  • Creating a Flipboard of homework assignments and answers?  Flip a picture of the answer or solution for completeness
  • Creating a Flipboard of photos from around the school or taken while on field trips.  Nothing speaks louder than pictures.  Or speaking of speaking, add audio tracks and movies to this or any Flipboard you’re creating.  You’ll have an incredible resource for open house or Grade 8 night or …
  • Running a conference or an EdCamp?  Flip resources, pictures, Twitter messages into one place
  • Flip a Twitter chat into one document by searching the hashtag.  I know that many progressive boards are using the medium to bring their learning together.  #peel21st comes to mind.  Why not archive it and show it off to demonstrate learning or to engage new people to join in?
  • Create a Twitter list of staff members and then a Flipboard devoted to following that list to stay in touch with everyone’s learning
  • Actually create a Twitter list of anyone dealing with your school (teachers, parents, community, students) and have all the results sitting in one spot

I’m sure that you can come up with more ideas once things get rolling.

On the Flipboard site, there’s a great article about the how-to if you’re intrigued “Enhance Your Class Magazines with Flipboard’s Compose Feature“.

Much of this can be accomplished within the Flipboard application itself but there are times when you find a resource elsewhere.  Flipboard has you covered there “build & SHARE your Flipboard“.  I’ve got the bookmarklet ready to go in every browser that I use.  And, to see what I’m collecting, it’s just a matter of clicking the Flipboard link that you see to the right to get to a list of my public magazines.

I know that, for some, it will be “ok, here’s yet another tool” and to a certain extent that’s true.  But in the big fire hose that’s the internet, making information useful and immediate makes at least investigating worth your time to see if the concept fits your needs.


Lisa Noble yesterday asked where I find things.  I don’t really know except to say that I just keep my eyes open for things that catch my attention.

I had such a moment last evening as I was catching up on email and newsletters.  I have email accounts on Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft and use each for differing purposes.  One of these purposes is to filter the resources accordingly.  So, it won’t come as a surprise that, when I’m subscribing to a Microsoft resource, I use my live.ca account.  I think everyone has their own way of keeping track of things.

This approach has worked for me for a long time since it allows me to focus on a particular topic, depending upon the service.

I’ll also admit right now that I do take a look at the Junk / Spam folders because there are times that things I want to read end up there according to the rules written by the provider to keep us safe.  I do admit to being amused with the bad attempts at phishing.  Maybe I should write a post about responses to email spammers.

Anyway, as I cleaned out my live account last night, I noticed that there were some things in the junk folder.

Checking it reveals:

So, Lisa, that’s how I find things that amuse me.  I’m actually quite interested in the specifications, pricing, and availability of the Surface Pro 4.  I was quite surprised to see them end up here.

I think Brandon Grasley summed it up nicely…

Update Week

It’s been a week of updates around here.

Like most concerned computer users, I do updates as they come along to get the advantage of using the latest features, enjoy a sense of feeling that things are safer, and hopefully look to a new and refreshed computer that’s more responsive and enjoyable to use.  In other words, I want it all.  The advantage of having your own home, personal computer is that it can truly be “personal” and that you get the updates on your terms without waiting for some corporate refresh. 

With desktop operating systems, it does mean downloading and installing which can be a real challenge with the very slow internet connection that I have here.  Usually, it means leaving the computer to its own and doing the downloading over night with the actual hands-on upgrade the next morning.  Or, if I’m in a rush or have a bunch to do, it’s a quick trip to my daughter’s who has the type of internet access that is necessary to do it live.

With all the upgrades that I did this week, it turned out to be a combination of both.  Usually, I’m very happy with upgrades.  This week – not so much.

iOS 9

It was time to upgrade the iPad.  Since iOS7, it has been really sluggish and I’ve turned to articles all over the internet for tips and tricks to speed it up.  Of course, since it’s an Apple device, you don’t have a great deal of tweakability.  With the first iOS 9 installs, it went from bad to worse.  It’s really slow and applications were crashing all over the place.  The update to 9.1 was only 111MB so I figured it couldn’t get much worse.  I did the installation, which seemed to take forever, and have a slightly more reliable tablet now.  It’s still not like the good ol’ days though.  And, as with any upgrade, so many apps need to be updated as well.

El Capitan

Early reports about this upgrade to Mac OS X were so overwhelmingly positive.  They talk about how fast and snappy it was.  To be honest, I was actually pretty happy with the older versions but, hey, if things can be better why not?  It was a huge download and install.  ~6GB to download and then a long, long time to install.  I did not experience the initial love that the fanboys were talking about.  Instead applications take so much longer to launch.  But, once launched, they seem to run just as well as before.  I read an article this morning talking about files taking a while to be indexed so I’m hoping that’s all that needs to be done.  I may just leave it on overnight and see if it just needs to be left alone for a while.  Of course, the big Apple applications like iTunes and the Office suite are in need of an update too.  But she has Netflix and a couple of walking trips to Tim Horton’s helped kill the time.  

Windows 10

Updates to Windows is an enigma inside of a puzzle for me.  For the most part, Microsoft makes it happen without any intervention.  Out of habit, I do check for updates and there are times when some are just sitting there waiting for the go ahead.  Or, there’s a message indicating that a reboot has to be scheduled but I have the option to do it now.  There was a cumulative update for Windows this week that required a reboot.  As a Windows user, we don’t have control over these things anymore.  And, to its defence, Windows 10 is new and so updates should be applied.  Besides, I might actually use Edge if it gets extensions so I don’t want to miss that.  This time, upon reboot, I only got a half-boot and then it hung.  I tried rebooting a couple of time with the same results.  Has my enthusiasm killed it?  A couple of boots into Safe Mode were in order and I didn’t notice anything out of place.  One more reboot and magically things worked and Windows is running like it should.  Weird and I have no explanation.


As far as I can see, there are two types of Ubuntu users.  Those that are happy and stick with the LTS releases and others who install the every six month updates.  I’m in the latter camp.  I know that there are many Linux users who look down their nose at Ubuntu because it’s a whole lot less technical to operate.  I just like the fact that it works and works so well.  This computer dual boots to Windows or Ubuntu depending upon what I want to do.  On Thursday, version 15.10 was available to the public and so I downloaded it.  It was 2GB for the download and the installation only took about half an hour.  Upon reboot, all my settings were intact and visually there didn’t appear to be much new.  Upon poking around, I notice that LibreOffice 5 is now installed.  In my readings, there have been enhancements made to Unity but this end user didn’t notice anything different.  My Firefox is still the default browser and the whole system does seem to run a bit more responsively.  I always get a smile when, while watching the installation, you see the message “removing obsolete packages”.  You hope that all installations do that but Ubuntu explicitly states it.  Without that, I’d be the ultimate digital hoarder – I hate to throw anything away in case I might need it.

I’ll confess to a sense of digital well-being after doing all the updates.  Normally, they appear at different times.  Maybe it’s a full moon or a digital competition or something but to have them all appear at the same time was a bit weird.  Ultimately, we end users are the winners as things usually get better and more functional with each update. 

And, in this online world, hopefully just a bit safer as well.