Saskatchewan! Connected

This post will likely only appeal to those living in my home province, Saskatchewan.

Residents and visitors to the downtown business districts and post-secondary institutions of Saskatchewan’s four largest centres will soon be able to access the country’s largest wireless Internet network, free-of-charge. Premier Lorne Calvert and Minister responsible for Information Technology Andrew Thomson made the announcement today in Saskatoon.

The Saskatchewan! Connected initiative will offer users basic Internet service in Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Regina, and Moose Jaw via a wireless Wi-Fi network to be operated by the government Information Technology Office, SaskTel and other partners. The service will also be available in select business districts in close proximity to downtown Saskatoon and Regina.

This should be interesting. More information here.

Leadership Meme

I’ve been tagged by Dean who was tagged by Kelly. Here are a few thoughts on leadership (“who’s leading the parade anyways”).

Relative to your leadership role…

What’s working well?
I try to get people excited about new technologies and digital literacies, and when I am successful, it looks something like this.
– Give people a general overview of the new innovations in education, what is changing, how it is changing and present dynamic sessions which appeal to many disciplines.
– Shortly after the sessions, contact attendees casually (e.g., in the hallways, at coffee, at the photocopier) and engage in conversations specific to their context. Ask questions like, “Of the things you experienced, what might be relevant to your work and context? What little things can we get started on?
– Support people independently in the ways they need. Encourage, connect (to others and to resources) and follow-up.
– Get out of the way. I think this is the most important. You’ve started the process, but you can’t (and shouldn’t) control the overall process. Get out of the way, and you may learn something yourself.

What brings you great pride and joy?

– Seeing people become better instructors/teachers through critical reflection and better understanding of digital literacies, web 2.0 and other related technologies. I love to hear stories of my preservice teachers becoming leaders in their respective schools, not only in relation to ICT, but as excellent teachers and role models.

How have you made a difference for good in the lives of those you serve?
– This is a tough question. I’ve always felt that as a teacher, you may not see the results of your achievements until years after. If you are lucky, glimpses of success may come a bit sooner. In my very first job, at a very tough school, I was given the “bad kids”. At first, “bad” didn’t even close to describing it. In my first 3 weeks of teaching, I had all of my tires slashed, a knife pulled on me and several other threats of physical violence. Yet, less than three months later, I had a row of apples left on my desk (one from each student). Basically, I had made it past their probationary period. Today, 14 years later, I still speak to these students. I have continued to watch these students live, and grow, and learn. They are still part of my social network, both physical and virtual. I often hear from them that I was a positive influence in their lives, and how I made them feel that they could succeed.

What brings you quiet satisfaction?
– Seeing people wake up with the realization of the great influence that proprietary software and commercialism has on education, and then do their best to release themselves, their peers and their institutions from this grip. It’s a joy to watch students and colleagues gain a critical understanding of the world in respect to embedded power and influence.

What have you learned over the last few months?

– Being proactive is still an important activity. Here’s how I once again came to this important realization. I saw the Julie Amero story on Alternet back in January. I couldn’t believe it, what an incredible state of affairs for the American justice system. I contemplated blogging the story, but ironically I self-filtered. See, I’m a big opponent of web/information filtering of any kind in schools. If kids can go home and see the “bad stuff” on the Internet unsupervised, how will they ever be able to learn how to self-filter themselves. I think schools are vitally important in helping students become critical consumers of information, and where issues like Internet pornography and other related topics, should be discussed. In a sense, highlighting the story in my local circle may have given way to a type of FUD. “See, this is why we need school filtering. Things like this will happen.” Bottom line: things like this shouldn’t have happened, the justice system is technically incompetent in dealing with such a case and if anyone is to blame, it’s not Julie Amero.

Yet, I should have blogged this story stating some of these points. I didn’t have the time, so I chose to ignore it.

How can you use this information (above) to move your organization forward
– Blogging, in this case, is reflection. Better understanding one’s successes and failures cannot assure future success, but it is certainly a good place to start.

Media Education 101 Presentation Download

I’ve only gone through this briefly, but it looks like an excellent, free resource from MNet.

The Media Education: Make It Happen! program is a series of free resources to help educators understand and facilitate media literacy in their classrooms. The program consists of a booklet, PowerPoint workshop, and a facilitator’s guide with handouts.


Media Representation of …

I’m putting together another wiki/wikitation for an upcoming Ed. Foundations class. I have been asked specifically to talk about how the media represents various cultures and groups in our society.

Media Representation Wiki

One of the videos I’ve included is one titled “Boys Beware”, an anti-homosexual propaganda film from the 1950’s. I first viewed this video a couple of years ago, and as I view it now, it still shocks me.

I don’t think I have to say much about how it erroneously equates homosexual men with diseased pedophiles. While the anti-gay messages found in popular forms of media today may not be as explicit, it certainly still exists.

If you are interested in the topics partially addressed in this wiki, feel free to use this wiki or add your own ideas and resources. I’d love to see this wiki grow, reshape, change and be useful to others.

Critical Thinking About MS Word And .doc

A story from Kairosnews emphasizes a couple of important question relating to openness and openthinking.

Many of us teach cultural analysis and critical thinking in our writing classes. Our first year readers are full of cultural commentary, and we use these texts to teach our students to question the status quo and understand more deeply the implications of the choices they make in this consumer culture.

Do writing teachers do the same when they tell students to submit their documents as .doc files or tell them they need to buy Word from the campus store? Have teachers questioned the assumptions behind their personal use of MS Word?

The article supports this questioning by pointing out several issues and assumptions regarding the .doc format. Notably:

    – The prevailing assumption seems to be that using the .doc format makes it easy to share documents, ignoring the many incompatibilities between versions of .doc produced by different operating systems and versions.
    – “When a new version of Office is released and it produces files that are not compatible with other versions of MS Office, this pushes everyone to purchase and upgrade to the latest version.”
    – “Microsoft has a known history of using file format incompatibility to force competitors from the market.”
    – While MS Office may have some really good features, many of these features are not used often, and without exposure to other tools (e.g.,, how can one compare?
    – There is a lack of significant innovation from version to version of MS office, and this may be due to the hypothesis “monopolies don’t have to innovate”.

If you are a teacher of critical thinking, the power of influence of our everyday tools and technologies is something you should not ignore.

Update: I just noticed that Becta has officially announced there to be “six credible alternatives to Microsoft Office in schools“. Why is it we never see these alternatives? Think critical.


This is the best example of Skype or video-conferencing I have ever seen in the classroom, or elsewhere for that matter.

Grade 4 Students

My fourth graders have produced a 5 minute video that tells the story of how we “Skype” a classmate that has leukemia into our classroom.

See the video here.

What a wonderful project. After a week of listening to school administrators justify why certain technologies are blocked in schools (e.g., Youtube, Skype, Blogger), this video has given me even more evidence of why it is unwise (and likely wrong) to do so.

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Giving Away Open Source On USB

Slashdot points to an article from ZDNet Australia which outlines an open source initiative sponsored by the greater district of Paris.

To help make kids aware of alternatives to proprietary software, the Ile-de-France, the political district of greater Paris, will give 175,000 school children and apprentices USB keys loaded with open-source software.

And the paragraph I really like:

The project will “represent for students a tool of freedom and mobility between their school, cybercafes and their home or friends’ PCs,” the council said. The operation will cost US$3.38 million (2.6 million euros).

Mobility and freedom: these are certainly important attributes of the open source software culture, and an important endorsement for teen culture. This is especially true in light of the latest Windows (Vista) release this week and criticism regarding its effect on digital freedoms.

The freedom of expression that was once available to users of the Internet Protocol is being stripped away. Our freedom to play, experiment, share and seek inspiration from the creative works of others is increasingly restricted so that large companies can lock our culture down for their own profit.

Now how do we get an initiative like this in Canada or the US? We need to act soon and thoughtfully to halt the decay of these important creative freedoms.