Assignment 1 for #ds106

The following is a pretty sore excuse for my first assignment in Jim Groom’s #ds106. However, I wanted to at least keep up with some of the assignments. I’m amazed and inspired by some of the stuff that has been created by the participants so far, and I’m learning a lot about how Jim has set up the course.

I found myself with a few extra minutes today so I thought I’d attack Assignment 1 which was meant to be a short 30 second story. I think the video is closer to 5 minutes as I ramble on, kind of get to the story, and somewhat get to a point. I didn’t want to do any more than one take, and didn’t have time for any video editing this time around so it is what it is. It’s simply raw video of me walking through the snow, thinking about warmer climates, a tip that D’Arcy gave me, living life by the second, contemplating what an Italian guy said, and spending time with fish and my precious daughter.

See video below. Thanks for pushing us, Jim.

Need Your Help – unKeynote/Keynode

Graham Attwell and I have been paired together as co-keynotes at the PLE Conference in Barcelona, Spain, July 8-9. The organizers have asked us to do something different than a typical keynote, so we previously asked for feedback on the format. Here are some of the ideas that emerged from that process.

Today, Graham and I met, went through all of the responses, and decided to go with format outlined below. However, to make this work, we would really love your responses. Please help!

How (We Think) the Session is Going to Work:

We have put together a a list of questions (see below) and are inviting your responses. We will put together a joint presentation based on your slides.

We will present the ‘keynote’ together but will be encouraging participants – both face to face and remotely – to contribute to the keynote as it develops.

Where We Need Help:

  1. We’d like you to respond to one or more of these ‘key questions’ found below. We suggest responding through the creation of a (PowerPoint) slide, or creating a very short video (less than 1 minute?). Or, if you can think of another way of representing your ideas, please be creative.
  2. We’d like you to provide questions for us. What did we miss? What are some of the important questions for consideration when exploring PLEs/PLNs in teaching & learning.
  3. Please send your responses to (and cc: by July 6/10.]

Key Questions:

  1. With all of the available Web 2.0 tools, is there a need for “educational technology”?
  2. What are the implications of PLEs/PLNs on traditional modes/structures of education?
  3. What are the key attributes of a healthy PLE/PLN?
  4. What pedagogies are inspired by PLEs (e.g., networked learning, connected learning)? Give examples of where PLEs/PLNs have transformed practice.
  5. What are the implications of PLEs/PLNs beyond bringing educational technology into the classroom, and specifically toward workplace/professional learning?
  6. If PLEs/PLNs are becoming the norm, what does it mean for teachers/trainers (or the extension: what does it mean for training teachers & trainers)?
  7. As our networks continue to grow, what strategies should we have in managing our contacts, our connections, and our attention? Or, extension, how scalable are PLEs/PLNs?
  8. Can we start thinking beyond PLEs/PLNs as models? Are we simply at a transitional stage? What will be the next, new model for learning in society? (e.g., where are we headed?)

We’d love to get as many responses as possible to make this work well. It doesn’t have to be much, or anything comprehensive. Just pick up on one of the pieces and let us know what you think on the matter. Again, we need these by July 6/10.


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.

Edtech Posse Podcast 5.6 With Howard Rheingold

Dean, Rob, Rick, and I had the privilege of speaking with Howard Rheingold for our latest podcast. In this podcast we discussed “twitter, community, and the challenges of creating inquiry-based learning”. It was a great conversation where I think we all learned and reflected quite a bit, and I hope you enjoy.

Howard Rheingold

Keynote: Harnessing the Power of Social Networks

I gave a keynote presentation yesterday titled “Harnessing the Power of Social Networks in Teaching and Learning” at the University of Delaware. Below, you can find the archived video and my slide deck.

I want to thank all of the good people at the University of Delaware who invited me, greeted me with wonderful hospitality, and let me be part of their excellent summer faculty institute. It was a terrific experience!

Tweet & A Poke: Camosun Keynote

I was fortunate and honoured to have given the keynote address at Camosun College’s 2009 Walls Optional conference in Victoria, BC. The presentation provided a brief overview of the changing nature of knowledge, the rise of social networks, and the impact of emerging technologies/media on teaching & learning. Below, i have included the recorded video feed, the slide deck via Slideshare, and a link to the original Keynote file. Note that the Keynote file is very large (over 300MB) as it includes video files. Also, this file includes my speaker notes which were written as personal prompts and not as the actual, given dialogue.

Full video of the presentation is available here.

Slide deck (via SlideShare).

Full presentation available here in format.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the presentation, or any of the content discussed. And thanks to the good people at Camosun College, the individuals I met at the #VictoriaTweetup the night before, and those that drove in from outside of Victoria for the event. It was a pleasure to meet you all!

Update: A version of the video is now available.

CBC Radio Interview on Twitter

I was recently interviewed by Sheila Coles of the Morning Edition about Twitter. We talked about some of the implications of Twitter for teaching, learning, and privacy. The full interview is available here.

Also related, Rocketboom has done a recent segment on “The Twitter Global Mind” and it’s definitely worth watching. My favourite quote from the piece: “Twitter currently controls the most contemporary thought stream humanity has ever seen.”

Open Thinking Turns Five

My first post to this blog is dated March 11, 2004. So this post marks the fifth birthday of my blog! Happy Birthday Open Thinking!!!

Happy Fifth Birthday Open Thinking!

This space has helped me to enjoy some of the greatest learning experiences of my career. It has connected me to many brilliant thinkers. It has enabled me to write and evaluate ideas in the open. It has become a storehouse for my thoughts, and an important component of my digital identity.

Had anyone told me how important to me this would be five years later, I would have never believed it.

Please join me in wishing Open Thinking a happy fifth birthday!

Professor Denis Rancourt & Academic Freedom

In response to the recent firing of Professor Denis Rancourt from the University of Ottawa (detailed here), my colleague Dr. Marc Spooner has written and sent a letter to the President of Ottawa U, Alan Rock. This is a passionate, well-written piece that outlines important ideas for those who defend the principles of academic freedom. I commend Dr. Spooner for his bravery and action.

RE: Professor Denis Rancourt & Academic Freedom

It is with a great deal of regret that I compose this letter. However, an overwhelming sense of alarm compels me to write to you as the president of the University of Ottawa because your institution is my alma mater, the university where I received my doctorate, worked as a part-time professor, and served many years as an elected representative on the Graduate Student Association (GSAED, 1999-2004). Collegial affiliation is a powerful “tie that binds”, and I cannot pretend that momentous events at the place that shaped me as an academic are of no concern to me now that I have taken a position elsewhere.

So it is with immense dismay that I read two recent articles in the Globe and Mail (February 6 & 11, 2009) outlining the suspension, possible firing, and forcible arrest and removal of Professor Denis Rancourt from the University of Ottawa campus.

It was at the U of O that I came to understand the power of the great ideals that have always guided the Academy. Ideals that are fundamental to the Academy’s role in a progressive and inclusive society and so compelling that if borne in mind for even a moment would surely disbar us from allowing faculty disagreements, academic differences, and/or bruised egos to cloud our judgment and let the petty politics of the day win out.

At your behest the university invoked an armed branch of the state, the police, to squelch speech. This speech did not promote hate nor incite violence, but simply took a critical view of the institution itself, and the larger polity it serves. The university’s action was not only irresponsible, but reprehensible, anathema to the very cornerstone upon which the academy rests.

There must be space for dissent and critical reflexion in a pluralistic and peaceful society and universities ought not shirk their responsibilities in this regard. To the contrary, they ought to be shining examples of it– beacons of freedom, diversity, and rational and passionate dialectic. In a world where, all too often, parties seek to resolve conflict at the barrel of a gun, or through force and intimidation, a university’s role as a space for dialogue and respectful disagreement becomes all the more evident and all the more vital. As the first point in the CAUT’s policy statement on academic freedom1 reminds:

“Post-secondary educational institutions serve the common good of society through searching for, and disseminating, knowledge, truth, and understanding and through fostering independent thinking and expression in academic staff and students. Robust democracies require no less. These ends cannot be achieved without academic freedom.” (Source)

As to the specific of Professor Rancourt’s grading policy: I first implore that we do not make the fallacious assumption to mistake grades for learning. Second, to suggest that under a pass/fail (or in Dr. Rancourt’s case an all “A”) approach students do not learn, become unmotivated, or that such a system is not a well-respected and credible marking scheme is simply unfounded. I proffer the University of Saskatchewan’s medical school and the University of Prince Edward Island’s Bachelor of Education program as two examples; the former highlights that, even with something as self-evidently important as a medical doctor’s education and training, such a system can be employed to great success; the latter is an example of its adoption by those who research and practice effective pedagogy.

Professor Rancourt and I worked on several projects in my time at the University of Ottawa that I truly believe made tangible contributions to the campus, community, and greater society, despite not always sharing one view of the way forward. Had I been in his position these last four years I no doubt would have employed a different set of tactics than those utilised by Dr. Rancourt throughout his longstanding conflict with the Physics Department, the Faculty of Science, and the Central Administration. Although Dr. Rancourt’s tactics, or my tactics, or anyone else’s tactics, might offend, a discussion of them is simply not germane when the issue at hand is the fundamental right and essential need for universities to respect academic freedom and divergent viewpoints.

I believe in my academic colleagues. I believe in their intelligence, their expertise, their experience, and in their difference. I also believe that our actions should follow that which we profess. To act on anything less than the belief in the fundamental principles of academic freedom is an assault on the creative act of teaching, and an insult to the abilities and expertise of our colleagues as we seek, in the ideal, to serve in the public interest.


Marc Spooner, Ph. D.

Flickr Perversion

Yesterday, I received an email notice saying that a few of my Flickr photos had been favorited. These particular photos were of my children, mostly of my daughter. Every time this happens, I go to see who the Flickr user is, and most of the time, it is a family member, a close friend, or someone I know through Twitter (or other social network). I did not recognize the user in this particular case, and when I went to see their photos, the Flickr message alerted me that none of the user’s photos were available. Seeing as my photos had been favorited, I went to see what other photos had been marked as favorites by this user.

My jaw dropped to the floor.

What I saw was three pages of favorited photos of preteen girls, most shots in bathing suits or with little clothing. Had I viewed any of these photos individually, isolated from the others, I am sure that this same feeling of disgust would not have come over me. But these photos, viewed together, favorited by some anonymous user, told a very different story. These photos of these girls were without a doubt being sexualized, and my four-year-old daughter was amongst these images.

Note: The images I include below are the actual screenshots. My daughter does not appear in these images, and she was the only girl in these photos that was well clothed. I have included these screenshots because I think it is important to get a sense of what happened here. However, I have significantly reduced the size of this image for (hopefully) obvious reasons.

girls 3photo on Flickr

These photos are legal. The actions of the user who favorited these is also legal (although incredibly disgusting). I did not want photos of my child to appear here. So, this is what I did:

1) Blocked the user. This means my photos would no longer appear in the list. However, if your photos are viewable to the public, this means they can still be viewed, just not favorited.
2) Contacted Flickr: I reported this user, and within a couple of hours, the user was taken down.

End of story? Nope.

I get another email, telling me that more of my daughter’s photos had been favorited. Same story. I check out the user, no photos, but many favorites. It gets worse.

Small Screenshot of Photos Favourited by Flickr Pervert

This time, there were four pages of girls favorited by this user. The girls were a bit older, but in the majority of the photos, the subjects were handcuffed, often in sexually provocative poses. Again, my daughter’s photos appeared. I blocked the user, contacted Flickr. Same deal. But obviously, that’s not enough.

I admit, I live my life (in the) Open. I have been lucky that I have never had to block a person from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc., before this time. Sure, there has been the odd griefer here and there, but usually, these problems resolve themselves if you deal with them appropriately, or in some cases, ignore them. My belief is that in all aspects of life, we should not have to live our lives in fear. I’m an idealist. I believe in the power of good people, and I have been lucky enough to have been surrounded by good people in both my temporal and virtual realities.

But these types of incidents shake up everything one believes. So now, rather than provide answers, I want to provide some questions for anyone willing to respond. Here are some of my questions.

1) What must parents know about the realities of the Internet in regards to how we deal with the photos (and identities) of our children?
2) What are the benefits of an open vs. a closed reality? Are the benefits of openness (e.g., in regards to our families) worth the risks? And, what are the credible risks?
3) What precautions should we take, or perhaps, what precautions do you take in the presentation/development of your family’s digital identity?
4) What rights and responsibilities do we have as parents to protect the digital identities of our children?
5) How do we proceed from here? How do we help other parents to understand these important issues?

I’d love to hear from you. While openness will be a continued theme in my educational life, I continue to rethink these philosophies on the most personal of levels. It is also my belief in openness that guides me in telling this story. I believe that we need to face these issues head on, inform others, raise awareness, and work to solve these problems together.

366/2008 Project Complete

While mainstream media sites like the New York Times and have already released their photos of 2008, they seem transfixed by the BIGGER picture. I say to you MSM, what about the photos that are most important to ME? Luckily, D’Arcy Norman inspired me (and many others) late last year with his 365/2007 photo project. I am quite proud and happy that I fully participated in the 2008/366 photo project. I took a photo each and every day of 2008, and managed to upload those photos daily as well. Here is the result of my work.

And here’s a direct link to the set if you want to see the description behind each photograph.

I have learned a lot through this project. I have learned tips and techniques that I think have made me a better photographer. I have learned a bit about myself in terms of my dedication and discipline to a project. I wanted to quit many times, especially on the days where I lacked motivation or inspiration. I learned to view the world differently and realized how many beautiful moments exist all around us. D’Arcy does a much better describing this through his discussion of “mindful seeing.” And, most of all, I learned what is most important to me. While we all take different meaning from the photographs we view, I am sure that from these photographs you can guess the things that are most important to me.

Thanks again D’Arcy.

And a Happy New Year everyone, all the best in 2009!