Sasktel’s Great Bait & Switch

Last year, I terminated my mobile phone contract with Rogers, and signed a three-year contract with Sasktel Mobility. I chose Sasktel at the time for two reasons. First, their coverage area within Saskatchewan is much better than Rogers’ (although now it is comparable to Bell or Telus). Second – and this was the most important reason – Sasktel offered a $40 unlimited Canadian texting & data plan (the data portion of my average $80/month bill). Seeing that I am a heavy data user and that I travel frequently across Canada, this was by far, for me, the best mobile data deal in Canada. However, that all changed when Sasktel drastically changed the terms of this contract through the institution of what they term a “fair usage policy”.

I do not believe that I received official word from Sasktel about this change, although I may have (perhaps a text or a letter?). But, I noticed a subtle change in their advertising on billboards and other signage. Sasktel began to advertise their “unlimited in Saskatchewan data plan”. I found this odd, as it seemed to describe the same plan that I had, except the company had never before described the unlimited data plan as being limited within Saskatchewan. So, curious, I stopped in at a kiosk and was informed that my plan had indeed changed. Instead of the unlimited Canadian data plan that I had signed, instead, I found myself stuck with an unlimited Saskatchewan-only data plan with only 200 MBs of Canadian data!  There is now a $.10/MB fee charge on any data over 200MB. To put this into perspective, a 1GB overage (which I could easily accrue) will now cost me an additional $100/month on top of the $40 I pay for the standard data portion of my bill. To take this further through a somewhat extreme but plausible example, if I use what Sasktel originally termed as ‘unlimited data’ (softcap of 10GB, connection slowed thereafter) outside of Saskatchewan, it means that this plan would cost $1000 more per month than stated in the original contract.

So, I took to Twitter and expressed my outrage at these changes, and after a short dialogue with the @sasktel Twitter account, I received an email from Sasktel. You can read the entire message here if you are interested, but I have only included the portion related to the “fair usage” policy.

The purpose of the Fair Usage Policy is to ensure that all customers have equitable access to wireless services. It also ensures that SaskTel can continue to offer competitive rates. We did revise our out-of-province roaming in February 2011 by imposing a limit of 200 Mb of data outside Saskatchewan per month within all plans, after which customers may pay additional charges of 10 cents per megabyte and data speeds may be reduced for the remainder of the month (to 256 kbps which is equivalent to SaskTel’s High Speed Light DSL Internet service and is capable of streaming standard definition video).

From time to time the Fair Usage Policy is revised to meet changing circumstances in the industry such as the incredible increase in demand for wireless data. All providers are experiencing these issues.

I applaud Sasktel’s public relations team for coming up with this “Fair Usage” policy, and for a second there, I actually felt guilty that by signing up for an unlimited data plan and then by actually using it as it were … ummmm … unlimited, that I have been contributing to the high cost of mobility coverage in our nation. It seems that this is my fault, and Sasktel is only providing me with an ethical framework linked directly to a strict financial penalty – just in case I get out of line.

Or, I could read this differently. Maybe Sasktel simply underestimated its growth and success in this market, and therefore, was negligent in understanding the real costs of its services? Maybe Sasktel’s infrastructure has not grown as quickly as its success in attracting new subscribers? Or perhaps, Sasktel just doesn’t see a serious obligation to honour commitments to its subscribers, those that signed up for contracts under very strict terms. I see shades of all of these possibilities in my communication with Sasktel, and you may as well. If any of these points are in fact accurate, is this a company that you’d want to do business with?

What should Sasktel do to make this right? It’s simple. Honour your existing contracts through grandfathering the original terms. If you don’t want to provide unlimited Canadian data to your subscribers in the future, that’s fine, but provide the services that you have committed to in contracts such as mine. I used to have the best data plan in Canada. I now have the worst data plan in all of Canada, and I am tied to a company that I no longer trust.

I know that many of you reading this don’t live in Saskatchewan, and directly, this issue may not be of concern to you. But perhaps by sharing this in some way, I can help get this issue resolved for many of us, and it may prompt other mobile providers to be more serious about the commitments they make to subscribers. Thanks in advance.

Open Access Course: Social Media & Open Education (Fall 2009)

I will be facilitating an open access graduate course this Fall titled EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education. I expect about 15-20 registered (for credit) students, but I am opening up the experience to all other interested not-for-credit participants. This will be the third time I have run the course, and it has been quite successful in the past. I have rethought a few pieces, and I am hoping that this offering will be the best yet.

The course wiki is available here: The “synchronous sessions” page is slowly being filled out as I work to schedule presenters and appropriate weekly topics. Additionally, I have set up a Google Form to gather information about those who would like to participate as not-for-credit students. Quite a few people have already signed up, and we’d love to have you participate as well!

Participation is quite flexible. This can mean simply joining in on the weekly synchronous sessions (these run every Tuesday from Sept 15/09 to December 08/09, 7 p.m. Saskatchewan time). You could also help inform our reading list by tagging relevant articles & media as ‘eci831readings‘. You could respond to the weekly lectures through your blog, or whatever media/site you choose, and tag these as ‘eci831responses‘. Or, you could comment on student blog posts (feed/links will be available after Sept 8) and expect other participants to engage you in your writing spaces. And, I am sure there are many other ways to participate, create, and collaborate that we have yet to discover.

If you have any questions about the course, feel free to contact me. And if you are interested, we would love you to join us in this upcoming, collaborative learning experience.

CBC Radio Interview: False Amber Alert

I was interviewed by CBC Radio today regarding a false Amber Alert message that was being forwarded via SMS throughout Saskatchewan, especially in the Estevan area.

From the Leader Post:

REGINA — Saskatchewan RCMP are advising the public that a text message Amber Alert circulating around the province relating to a missing child is a fake.

RCMP detachments and various municipal police services have fielded a number of queries since Tuesday night from concerned citizens throughout Saskatchewan in response to an Amber Alert text message they received on their cellphones.

The text message read: “Amber Alert 3 year old girl taken by a man driving a new silver truck plate 72B831. Keep it going so they can find her.”

It looks like other versions of this false Amber Alert have been going around since last February and have been reported in several other States.

The piece from CBC Radio (Blue Sky) is included below. My interview starts about 7 minutes in.

Call for Papers: Technology & Social Media in education

I will be the guest editor of an upcoming issue of in education journal. Please consider submitting an article or feel free to pass on this call to others.

Editorial Call for issue 15/2 of in education (formerly know as Policy and Practice in Education)

In late 2007 the editorial board of Policy & Practice in Education made the decision to move the journal into a digital format. The rationale being,

in publishing research the intent is to reach as wide an audience as possible, publication costs have become insupportable, and competition is growing. We considered using the management and distribution services of a commercial publishing house, … however the notion of making knowledge more easily and broadly accessible suggested we look at open access publishing (Lewis & McNinch, 2007, p. 5)

To that end, from our current pdf print-based format, we are continuing to evolve the journal and with this forthcoming issue we will move more broadly into and across the digital landscape. However, that does not mean we will disregard the previous work of the journal from the past 15 years, but rather build upon and transcend those discussions, ideas and iterations. As we stated in our initial move to the digital format, the journal will continue to address issues, research and practice in the education of teachers, however we intend to augment the latitude and significance of the notion of education. As a result, we are inviting articles and reviews of works that not only explore ideas in teacher education, but also a broader and more inclusive discussion in education. We envision a discussion that also utilizes the ubiquitous growth of the digital arts and sciences in the everyday practice of living and how that (in)forms both formal and informal education.

With this forthcoming issue we are fortunate to have Dr. Alec Couros as guest editor and background coordinator. Dr. Couros will be launching this latest iteration of the journal as we continue and grow the conversation in education. Watch for the journal’s digital space to be launched in November of 2009.

Special Issue: Technology & Social Media – in education
To mark this important transition of the journal, a special issue will focus on technology & social media in education. Submitted articles should focus upon current theories, practice, or emerging trends and understandings within the context of teaching & learning, learning environments, or informal learning.

Some suggested topics are listed below:

    – Social and participatory media (e.g., blogs, wikis, microblogging, video sharing) in teaching & learning.
    – Mobile technologies, txting, or microblogging in learning, or implications for social justice & politics.
    – Practical or philosophical discussions on open content or open educational resources.
    – Implications & trends regarding open publishing & academia.

    – Online communities as formal and/or informal learning environments.

    – Openness and/or networks in teaching & learning.

    – Case studies of successful technology integration into learning environments.
    – Discussions of distance, online, distributed, or flexible learning models in practice.

    – Changing views & frameworks of knowledge and implications for education.

    – Social networks, participatory media, and the implications for information & media literacy.

    – Personal learning networks (PLNs), personal learning environments (PLEs) or related frameworks.

    – Other topics related to social media, technology, and education.

Length: Manuscripts, including references, tables, charts, & media, should range between 10-20 pages (2500-5000 words). As the journal will be primarily web-based, we encourage articles that leverage digital forms of expression and dissemination.

Style: For writing and editorial style, follow the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2001, 5th ed.). References should also follow APA style.

Review Process: Authors are informed when manuscripts are received. Each manuscript is previewed prior to distribution to appropriate reviewers. Manuscripts are anonymously reviewed. Once all reviews are returned, a decision is made and the author is notified. Manuscripts should consist of original material, and not currently under consideration by other journals.

Copyright: Accepted material will be distributed under an appropriate Creative Commons license (non-commercial, attribution)

Cover Page (for review purposes): Include title of manuscript, date of submission, author’s name, title, mailing address, business and home phone number, and email address. Please provide a brief biographical sketch and acknowledge if the article was presented as a paper or if it reports a funded research project.

Abstract: Please include a 50-100 word abstract that describes the essence of your manuscript.

Software Format: Submit in Word (.doc), Rich Text (.rtf), or Open Document Format (.odf). Other media welcome through prior consultation

Deadlines: Abstracts should be submitted by July 31, 2009. Once reviewed, if your abstract is approved, you will be asked to submit a completed manuscript by October 1, 2009.

For all inquiries or submission information, please contact Dr. Alec Couros via email or by phone at (306) 585-4739.

Update: The call for this issue is now closed. Thank you to all of those who have contributed abstracts or who have passed this call on to others.

Twitter Search in Plain English

Twitter search and tagging is becoming increasingly relevant, especially in light of recent events in Iran. This timely video from Common Craft explains the basics of Twitter search, tagging, and trends. This may help people who are not currently on Twitter to understand it’s usefulness and relevance for capturing public thoughtstreams.

Official: Skype for iPhone Available Tuesday


cnet News just announced that Skype for iPhone will be released on Tuesday, March 31. This means that iPhone users will be able to make VoIP calls with their iPhone over wifi networks. The app will not work on cellular phone networks. However, I assume that a jailbroken phone with the installed VoIPover3G would work to get around this technical limitation.

In any case, I’m looking forward to trying Skype from my iPhone.

Also relevant and recent, read why “Skype May Be The Biggest Winner From The Web 2.0 Era” (ReadWriteWeb).

Update: So it appears that Skype will be available just about everywhere, except Canada.

Streaming from the iPhone w/ Qik

I have been playing with Qik for the last couple of weeks. Qik is a service that allows you to stream video from your mobile phone. It has been released officially for the Blackberry, but has not yet been authorized for the iPhone. Thus, to use it on the iPhone, you need to jailbreak your phone.

Qik - University of Regina Tour

Today, I took a short tour of my campus green while I streamed video from my iPhone. The video is automatically recorded, so if you are interested in seeing the results, click here. You will notice that I seem like I am talking to myself, but I am actually responding to the text chat that is superimposed over the video on the iPhone. Viewers reported good results, although several complained that they had to continue to hit refresh to see the live video.

So, minus the lack of content and mumbling, what do you think of the quality of video and audio? More importantly, what are some possible implications or educational uses for video from a mobile device?

Status of OpenMoko

I will likely pick up an iPhone 3G this week. While I have been wanting to pick up one for some time now, I would be happier if there were an open alternative. I have been watching the OpenMoko project for some time now, but it appears the device still has some major technical issues. See the video below:

OpenMoko Train Wreck from Dave Fayram on Vimeo.

Perhaps by the time my (ugggh) 3 year contract with Rogers runs out, there will be a mature, open alternative. I really hope OpenMoko gets there.

Speak Up 2007 – Selected National Findings

Project Tomorrow has released its “Selected National Findings“, an analysis of data from online surveys, focus groups and interviews of parents, teachers, school leaders and students in the US. Project Tomorrow touts itself as “the nation’s leading education nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that today’s students are well prepared to be tomorrow’s innovators, leaders and engaged citizens of the world.”

These findings were particularly interesting to me.

Re: Filters (both technical and human) –

Students’ frustration with school filters and firewalls has grown since 2003, with 45% of middle and high school students saying now that these tools meant to protect them inhibit their learning. And since 2004 we have heard repeatedly and more strongly each year, students’ discontent with school rules that limit their access to technology at school and rules that prohibit them from using at school the very technology tools and devices that they use constantly outside of school (cell phones, email, IM, Text messaging) in all aspects of their lives. That discontent factor has grown by 46% over the past four years. The other major obstacle today is the teacher – over 40% of students in grades 6-12 cite their teacher as an obstacle since it is the teacher who increasingly is limiting the “when and where” of using technology at school.

Re: Personal Learning –

When asked how their school could make it easier for them to work electronically, almost 2/3rds of middle and high school students said “let me use my own laptop, cell phone or other mobile device at school.” 50% would like to be able to access their school work related software applications and projects from any computer in the school network and have unlimited Internet access on campus. Students also would like tools to help them communicate with their classmates (45%), their teachers (34%) and to organize their schoolwork (42%).

Re: Emerging Technologies –

Over 50% of students in grades 3-12 would like to see more educational gaming in their 21st century school; only 16% of teachers, 15% of administrators, and 19% of parents endorse that concept. While 53% of middle and high school students are excited about using mobile devices within learning, only 15% of school leaders support that idea. Less than half as many parents as students see a place for online
learning in the 21st century school. And even fewer teacher, parents and school leaders want students to have access to emails and IM accounts from school.

Re: Student-Directed Change –

As one high school student in a recent focus
group told us, his vision for the ultimate school is a school where the teachers and the principal actively seek and regularly include the ideas of students in discussions and planning for all aspects of education, not just about technology. As the student so eloquently said, “This is about our future after all. Our ideas should count, too.”

There are many familiar themes here, yet the same barriers exist. While it is great to see another report supporting much of what is written daily in my corner of the edublogosphere, I am looking forward to reading a report that describes the results of a project in an educational context where many of these barriers have already been addressed.