Europe bound

Well to say I am excited would be an understatement. An opportunity arose through my work to attend a conference in England and I was able to convince my family to come along for the ride.

It is a quick trip. 2 1/2 days in London, 3 in Manchester and 3 in Paris. First time for all of us in England and France.

It took a bit of convincing for my daughter, who will be in her second week of high school at the time. There has been some stress about going to high school, mostly around social stuff. She’s a strong student so I have no doubt that she’ll be able to catch up on a week of missed school. And a trip to France for a kid who is heading into her 9th year of French immersion will be a learning experience all on its own. She’ll be the one who this anglophone will be relying on in Paris.

In the end, it was her friends who convinced her that Europe was the better option than high school. She has good friends who understand the bigger picture. Not always easy to find with high school girls. I can’t wait for her to see the Eiffel Tower, something she has dreamed of since she was wee. To cross something off your bucket list at 14 is a special thing.

The day we arrive in London is the day that England plays Spain at Wembley stadium. I’m a soccer nut, and we somehow managed to snag tickets to the inaugural UEFA Nations League game. We’ll be exhausted having just done an overnight flight from the west coast of Canada and arriving in London that morning. But it will be worth it.  So worth it to attend a European soccer game with my son, who is almost as big of a fan as I am. Almost.

Truth told, I’m a bit of a nervous mess about the whole thing. My son’s allergies (peanuts and tree nuts) weigh on our mind whenever we travel. We have our foods and routines that we know are safe. But traveling to other countries – especially a country where we don’t know the language – is still a stress inducing affair. We do our research as best we can, but we don’t have the flexibility to just pop in anywhere whenever we get hungry, or grab any old snack food when we feel the hangry’s coming on. So, that is a complication. But one that is fairly easy to manage.

I worry about things I cannot control. I live a privileged life in the safety of a small city on the west coast of Canada. My kids and I know nothing but safety at the most basic level. Foreign to us are the threat that someone could drive a car into a crowd at any given moment.  But threats like that are real, watching the news a week ago of a car driving into a crowd just a few blocks from where we will be staying in London.

I fret over how much to share with my kids. Do I tell them that our government says that travelers in the UK and France should “exercise a high degree of caution traveling in both countries? I don’t even know how to prepare for that. What does “exercise a high degree of caution” even mean to a family that has known nothing but safety and security? Do I tell my son that we need to be even more vigilant when attending high profile sporting events? Of all the places I have wanted to travel in the world, I never thought I would feel anxious about traveling to England and France.

It’s likely the Dad in me, worrying more than necessary about remote things. Because, despite the warnings, these do remain extremely remote possibilities. And while I do fret, I also struggle to contain my enthusiasm and excitement at the opportunity. Honestly, I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. We Gen X’ers are not supposed to get enthused quite this much.

Sometimes my small northern Alberta roots really show through. I’m still just a smalltown boy with big city dreams at heart. I always said I wanted my kids to have a different life than I did growing up. This is exactly what I meant. I don’t want London or Paris to be some mythical place in their imagination that they only hear about/dream about like I did as a kid. I want them to have opportunities I never had as a kid. To experience life. And have the opportunity to cross things off their bucket list at 14 that it has taken me 51 years to do.

 

2017 the good

Trying to put the suckitude of 2017 behind me and compile a list of things that made me happy in 2017.

Watching/listening my kids doing things they love brought me a lot of joy this year.

This year, my daughter stepped waaaaaay out of her comfort zone and played organized basketball for the first time.

 

She continues to dance (ballet and Jazz), play music (piano and, this year, flute in her school band), and take photos. Two of my faves from her.

 

 

 

And bake. Oh man, can she bake.

My son loves soccer and excels at it. I love watching him play.

He showed his determination and grit this year mastering some pretty killer freestyle bike moves.

 

He also spent a lot of time at the skatepark perfecting tail whips, and on the trampoline prepping for his future parkour career. The things he can get his body to do never cease to amaze me. He also picked up illustration in a big way this year and has been churning out some fabulous pieces.

In August, I rode in my first cycling event. 45k in the annual Tour de Victoria.

 

I taught my first course in the RRU Masters of Learning & Technology program.

Visited Toronto for a couple of events this year and loved spending time in the city. Been close to 20 years since I was last in TO and that was an overnight trip. This time I felt like I got a chance to see a bit of the city, caught a Jays game with friends during the CC Global Summit, and spent a day wandering like a tourist. I got to hang out at the CBC and down by the Henry Moore.

My son and I rode Test of Humanity, a great cross country bike trail in Summerland BC.

I bought a rowing machine.

Saw Chicago with my daughter.

 

Took in CrankWorx at Whistler where my son met some of his mountain bike heroes.

 

Running into Martyn & Blake from @globalmountainbikenetwork capped a great day at #crankworx 🚴🤘 #onehappykid #meetingyourheroes

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Reno’d the upstairs bedrooms. Ripped out a whack of gross old carpet and repainted three rooms. A task that we have wanted to tackle for a long time.

Discovered a bunch of tasty new local beers, including 2 of my new faves Phillips Short Wave and Driftwoods Raised by Wolves. Also got gifted a nice Arizona IPA from Alan appropriately named Road Rash .

 

Rediscovered my turntable.

 

 

Came back from my brother-in-laws Okanogan farm with boxes of fresh cherries.

 

 

Built a grind box with my son.

 

 

One grind box complete

A post shared by Clint Lalonde (@clint.lalonde) on

 

Became friends with both my kids on social media for the first time & witness how deftly they are maneuvering their way through their connected social world. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how they continually use these platforms as learning tools to find and follow their passions, from cooking and baking, to illustration and biking.

Witnessed one of the best Gold Cups that Canada has had in a decade, and the emergence of an exciting young Canadian soccer talent in Alphonso Davies.
Also watched the Whitecaps do their deepest playoff run in their short MLS history.

 

They take soccer security seriously in Houston

 

And saw Canada mount a joint World Cup bid with the US and Mexico. Crazy to imagine that there may be a World Cup game in my neck of the woods in my lifetime.

The Oilers playoff run in the spring gave me hope for the hockey future. Of course, that has been dashed this fall…but hey! Still the best Oilers team in many many years.

Improved the backyard chillaxing space with the purchase of an outdoor firepit & a new BBQ.

Refurbished a BMX bike with my son.

 

Bought a new XC mountain bike. 29-er that has me floating over the west coast roots.

Made music with many friends.

Hung out with my Dad.

Started curling.

Celebrated 14 wonderful years walking down the path with my wife.

2017 wasn’t nearly as sucky as I thought.

 

 

Finding zen on ice

So, just to follow-up on my last post, I’m ok.

The symptoms I described to my Dr. are pretty classic stress and anxiety, so we’re going with that. We’re still awaiting a final diagnosis on my Dad’s dementia, but once we have that then my Dr. and I will get together and come up with a game plan in case there are preventative measures I can take now that could help mitigate me developing whatever it is he has in the future.

This is not my first dance with anxiety to the point where it negatively impacts my life. I had a wake up call about 5 years ago when I mistook a panic attack for a heart attack and ended up in the Emergency department. Thinking it’s a heart attack didn’t help. Still, I now know what a panic attack feels like and, because of that, I can recognize when it starts and often breath and talk myself through the episode.

Anyway, after that incident, I made some changes. Regular exercise, better diet. Mindfulness. I’m adding a new one this time around. Curling.

It has been a long time since I curled. 1984 to be exact when I curled in a high school bonspiel. Yeah, I grew up in a part of the world where the social highlight of the high school year was a 48 hour all-weekend curling bonspiel. Of course, for a rowdy bunch of 17 year olds in Northern Alberta, the curling took a backseat to the underage binge-drinking at 2am Saturday.

All in all, it’s been great fun. The other guys I am curling with have either never played, or, like me, haven’t curled in years. So we are all playing and learning together. And the opposing teams we have played have been great giving us advice and helping us learn the finer points of the game.

Yeah, there are other things I am doing to get back on track. I’m saying no to a lot of stuff right now, as those of you who subscribed to my recently launched newsletter have likely discovered. And I am trying hard to get back into a normal routine, including back on my bike(s) which have been gathering dust in the garage since I rode the Tour de Victoria in August. And yeah that newsletter thing. But right now the thing that has been most effective in snapping me out of my anxiety induced funk is curling.

Ok, Ok. The post-game beer helps, too.

 

In a world completely possessed by the human mind

My Dad spent 20 years teaching math for trades prep at a community college. So when the geriatric neurologist asked, “what is 100 minus 7?” and he answered “97”, I knew something was not right.

My Dad loves math. As a mason, he lived and breathed applied math constructing and building impressive stone and brick structures to within a fraction of an inch.

I wasn’t at the appointment. My sister relayed the results of the cognitive quiz to close family members via Facebook Messenger. That in itself was its own source of cognitive dissonance for me. What fresh hell was going to await me in my Facebook feed when the algorithms mined this trove of personal information?

“Where are you?”

“At the doctor.”

“In what city?”

“Saskatoon.”

“In what province?”

Silence.

A week later I am driving my father and his girlfriend through the scrubby brushland of northern Saskatchewan. The part of the province where the prairies give way to the trees. The liminal forest. We drive past the remains of a small prairie hamlet; a single lonely grain elevator surrounded by a handful of mostly abandoned pre-war houses. Like most small prairie outposts in Saskatchewan, a cemetery marks the past of what was a once vibrant farming community. It is the cemetery where my grandfather is buried.

“Dad, do you mind if we stop at Grandpa’s grave?”

“Sure.”

I pull the truck over and get out at the small cemetery containing a few dozen markers memorials and headstones. The grasshoppers pop like popcorn around my feet as I walk to where my grandfathers grave is. I look at the headstone.

I have one incredibly vivid memory of my grandfather passing away in 1974. I am sitting in my Dad’s lap in a chair in the living room of our house in Regina. I am snuggled into my Dad, his arms wrapped around me. He is crying. It is the first time I recall seeing my Dad cry. The next time I would have that vivid a memory of my Dad crying would be almost 40 years later when my Mom passed away.

“Dad, when did grandpa die?”

“Oh, must be 14 or 15 years ago now”

I think I misheard. He must have said 40 or 50 years ago, right?

“When?”

“I think it was 14 years ago.”

14. I heard it that time, clear as a bell.

His dementia has yet to be diagnosed. We’re in the stages of that now. There is clearly something happening.

I saw signs he was slipping when I was visiting him in Thunder Bay in the spring, but my Dad, like most Dads I suspect, has his share of odd and idiosyncratic behaviors and I, playing the antagonists part in a Harry Chapin song, glossed over what should have not been glossed over. I got irritated when I should have been concerned by his repeated questions of when I was coming and when I was going.

My sister saw it earlier. She raised a warning last fall. “He’s not the same,” she said. “He’s vacant. Not really here.” But I dismissed it as Dad being Dad.

But this is not about my sister, or even my Dad really. Those stories are theirs to tell and I have likely probably told too much. You get the wider context. What I need to do here is tell my story and how this is affecting me. Because the events of this summer have been affecting me and I need a way to process what I am feeling. The way I have done that in the past is through blogging. Writing. To find support. To commiserate. To connect. To process. To document.

To remember.

I have always blogged as a way to remember. My mind is a tricky place. Memories get hazy fast.

Which is the psychological mind-fuck going on in my head right now.

Is this my future?

Speaking to relatives, there is some evidence that my grandfather also suffered from some form of dementia in a time when it was silent and unknown. It was just called getting old. And now my Dad. It’s hard to ignore the fact that a family history increases your risks.

Already I question whether what I sense in myself is psychosomatic or real. I forget things. My grasp of language, especially speaking to people, is halting. Hesitant. I sometimes blank and struggle to find the right word. My writing has become….less clear. I find myself withdrawing more, hesitant to take on things that are new or messy or complicated. I have felt my work slip, often feeling overwhelmed and stuck with where to start. Caught in the inertia of disorganization.

Is this happening to me?

Maybe it is the zeitgeist as I witness the minds of heroes of my generation conspire against them. I don’t know. I am sure that has something to do with it. What I do know for sure is that I have an appointment to see my own doctor in hopes of quelling the voices inside my own head. Hopefully to calm my own sense of anxiety.

In the meantime, the hard work begins with my father to ensure that he gets the care and support he needs. It feels like the start of a new chapter.

Photo by darkday CC-BY

 

A decade of EdTech blogging

On May 30th, 2017 this blog turned 10. A decade of blogging about education technology, open education and assorted bric a brac. This ol’ blog has hung out with me over the course of 3 jobs and a Masters degree.

It wasn’t my first. Geez, I had completely forgotten about that Make Your Own Media blog, from back in a time when the online alt-media label was a leftie commie hippie pinko thing. This hasn’t been my only one. At one time I had a regular little blog network up and running, talking about bikes, being a Dad and Canadian soccer. But this is the one that has stuck through the years and has professionally defined me.

WordPress was at version 1.2, although I think the first instance of the blog might have actually been on b2 or b2evolution.

Things looked a bit different then. Circa 2007.

Actually, not bad. But I was like a kid in a candy store, trying on different themes each day. This one I landed on for a long time (2008-2012).

And then had some fun switching again in 2012. Pretty sure that is Scott Baio.

My first post? Remember that viral video sensation A Fair(y) Use Tale? The subject of post #1 on May 30, 2007. If you go to that blog post, the DotSub video embedded there no longer works (this one does, though).

I imagine there are more than a few broken links in and among the 392 published posts. That’s 39.2 post per year. 3.26 post per month. About one per week for 10 years. That makes me feel good, although the one per week metric is likely skewed by the prolific output early on. Things have slowed over the years.

There are also 119 draft posts.

Top 10 posts (although, I only enabled the WordPress stats package 6 years ago, so likely skewed a bit to newer articles)

1. Remix, Mashups, Aggregation, Plagiarism oh my Nov 2012
2. Open is a noun, verb, adjective…and an attitude Oct 2012
3. The pedagogical features of a textbook March 2014
4. So, here’s the thing about the video in my Coursera course Sept 2012
5. Embedding Interactive Excel Spreadsheets in WordPress using OneDrive May 2015
6. View documents in the browser with Google Docs Viewer Sept 2009
7. The business of textbooks or why do students prefer print? Aug 2013
8. Zoom and Pan large images with Google map interface Jan 2009
9. Love and hate are beasts and the one you feed is the one that grows Oct 2012
10. On using OpenEd: an opportunity June 2015

You have left 1058 comments (thank you). Spammers have left 13,930 (thanks Akismet).

I could keep going on and on with numbers and screen shots. But those are only the tip of the iceberg about this blog.

Yes. Onto the qualitative.

It is pretty hard to fully grasp how important this blog has been in my professional life.

It began as a way to keep my technical skills up. As a web developer, I was interested in the technology and getting that to work. Setting up my own sites gave me a playground to test, try and learn. Having my own blog, maintaining my own digital identity and taking on the technical maintenance of a domain of my own helped me understand how the web works. I not only played with WordPress, but also cPanel, WHM, DNS settings and a whole host of other technologies that go into maintaining your own site. Yes, it has been frustrating and maddening at times, but I am a better technologist because of it. I gained numerous technical and digital literacy skills by being a participant and not merely a consumer of the web.

It also forced me to learn how to learn using the web as my primary resource. Google problems, find solutions, post in forums. When I had blog questions, you have often been the source of many of the answers.

It was thanks to my first stint at BCcampus from 2004-2006 where I worked with the fantastic Scott Leslie that I was introduced to the EdTech blogsphere inhabited by people like Scott, Brian Lamb, Sylvia Currie, Martin Weller, and D’arcy Norman. Here was a community that I wanted to join & I wanted to participate in. These people were talking and (more importantly) doing really interesting stuff, and blogging seemed to be the natural way to connect with them. This was still very early social media days. Twitter wasn’t really a thing yet. Blogs were where people connected.

In those early days, there weren’t many people reading this blog. There were few comments. Little traffic. But it felt good to have an outlet. To develop a voice. To feel connected to a wider edtech community.

In the fall of 2007, I had my first big a-ha blogging moment. I wrote a post about using Yahoo Pipes to create a D2L widget that pulled in numerous RSS feeds. That is when I discovered the (predominantly Canadian) D2L community as that post got shared and passed around. D2L noticed, and asked me to write an article in their newsletter. Professional win. In the years I was at Camosun, I wrote a few posts about D2L, including some on the infamous Blackboard lawsuit. It was those D2L posts that connected me to the D2L community.

When I started working at Royal Roads, I started writing quite a bit about Moodle and connected with the larger Moodle community.

In 2008, I got a first notice from Stephen Downes (via a blog post from Alan Levine). I was like – whaaaaa? I mean. It’s Stephen friggin Downes who has written a thing or two about blogging.  I had articles from my other blogs go viral (as viral as things could go in pre-social media days), but having your work noticed by someone you respect is a validating feeling, especially for someone who felt imposter syndrome at not having the same level of academic credentials as some of my peers. And that was a really fun Lamb mash to make.

It wasn’t my only encounter with EdTech mentors and thought leaders. A real network learning moment happened in 2009 as I was beginning my Masters program. I wrote a post fishing the network for ideas about what essential readings should be on my edtech reading list. I mentioned that one of our assigned books was Tony Bates & Gary Poole and was looking for more suggestions. Who responded? None other than the author of the textbook I was using, Tony Bates. Now, I had drunk the network learning kool-aid a few years earlier, but having someone who literally wrote the book about the field I was a student in respond to my blog post…well, that was pretty special. And illustrated what I still think is one of the most powerful reasons to have learners engage in open networked learning activities. Even though that first interaction was rather transactional, it did make me feel like I was becoming part of the profession – that I was beginning to connect with the peers in my field.

Things have changed in the blogging world in the decade since I began. In the early days, traffic came mostly from referral links – people commenting on their blog about something I had written on my blog. Even today, there is something extra special about writing something that moves someone else to respond and write their own post. To either validate, or push your thinking. It still happens, but not as often as it did a few years ago. Today, most traffic comes from Twitter or LinkedIn.

The act of blogging is also an act of meaning-making. To be able to take these disparate strands of ideas rolling around in your head and create something cohesive is an exercise in the creation of knowledge. Writing forces you to think. And writing in public forces you to think differently. Forces you to be clearer. There are times when a post may take me days even weeks to write. The topics can be a reason to research something deeper. I make a statement, then question myself – is what I wrote true, or just an assumption I have? I often get pulled into research, or down a rabbit hole and blog posts that may have started as one thing morph and take on a different life.

Responding to comments is also a meaning making activity. While the affirmative validation is nice, I’ve found the ones that gently nudge and push back often help me dig deeper into what I’ve written, either questioning my own perspectives, or working hard to validate and defend. You have helped clarify my thinking, probably more than you realize.

Writing this blog has helped me think long and hard about audience. Sometimes I write for a general audience, sometimes for an edtech audience, sometimes for the MOOC audience. Sometimes for the open education audience, and sometimes specifically for friends. Sometimes I write to show gratitude, give thanks and recognize good work and good people. Sometime I write for an audience interested in copyright and Creative Commons. And sometime I just write for myself. Ok, I write a lot for myself. But rarely do I write something without someone in mind.

This blog has allowed me to promote ideas that are important to me, like the idea of supporting what you use and helping youth develop media and digital literacy skills. And has allowed me to be a bit silly and have some fun (somehow it usually involves something Alan is involved in).

I’m pretty sure this blog has gotten me hired at least once. And I used it as evidence of my work in EdTech for my application into a Masters program.

I guess the wider grand narrative is that this blog has been a central component to my professional digital identity for the past decade. But more importantly, this blog has connected me to a network and to numerous different communities with people who have progressed from commentators to collaborators, mentors to peers, from colleagues to friends. It has been my living proof that the internet is more than Perez Hilton and snark, bad YouTube comments and angry spew. This blog has connected me to much of the good of the internet. It has connected me to you.

Thanks for 10 years.

Note: This’ll be the last EdTech’ish post here. I’ll be moving much of my professional life to EdTech Factotum. This site will have more of some of the other stuff I used to blog about mentioned above. Likely some politics, a lot of soccer, parenting, media criticism and bikes. So, stick around if that is up your alley.  Still like to have you here. But if it is mostly EdTech, OpenEd, online learning and that stuff, EdTech Factotum is the spot to be. On Twitter, Facebook, weekly newsletter and, yes, blog.

 

Email is the new RSS (or a factotum is born)

My ongoing project this year is to establish a new professional digital identity for myself. EdTechFactotum.com will become the hub of my professional life.  I’ve also set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page where I’ll be writing and posting about EdTech, open education, online & blended learning, and the like.

While this site will remain, it will begin to morph over the next while to become a more personal space and a place to talk about things not necessarily related to educational technology, open education or teaching & learning.

I like that word – factotum – as it is an apt description of how I see myself. A generalist & a jack of all trades. The word makes me smile, too, because it reminds me of a real Jack – Jack Black. Yeah, that Jack Black, star of one of the most underrated movies about education ever made School of Rock.

No seriously. School of Rock has some great messages about education. Project-based learning, passion-based learning, collaboration, teamwork, authentic learning & assessment – it’s all there in School of Rock. It is no coincidence that Black’s characters name is Dewey, a smart nod from a scriptwriter in the know. The grade grubber in the movie, Summer, referred to herself as the class factotum and that term has stuck with me. So, while I admit that the term factotum does have an air about it, know that I got it from a Jack Black movie.

Anyway, the title of this post. Maybe it is because RSS isn’t a mainstream thing anymore , but I have been noticing a big increase in the use of good old fashioned email newsletters. While I still rock the RSS, some of the best content seems to be coming to me from email newsletters, so I am going to give a weekly newsletter a go.

I think what I like about the email newsletters is that they offer curated links with commentary. This last part is important as it provides a view and context around why the content is important. People like Stephen Downes and Doug Belshaw do this really well, and it is a skill that I want to work on. I read a lot, but don’t often take the time to explicitly summarize and contextualize what I am reading. So, I am hoping that a weekly curated newsletter may be the way to help me better understand the content I read.

To help constrain the newsletter, I am limiting the newsletter to 3 articles each week. I am not sure what day of the week to publish. For now, I am going to start with Friday mornings and see how that goes. I am using TinyLetter as the mail client. (changed this. it’s now self-hosted) You can sign up at EdTech Factotum.

I’ll likely set up a blog there as well. I had been experimenting with GRAV, but think I was trying to force GRAV to do something that it wasn’t really made to do, so have put that on hold for now, opting instead for a simple HTML5UP CC licensed landing page that I mucked around with. Good for now.

I also had some fun playing with Canva, coming up with a logo design. It’s a fun tool for quickly creating interesting images and graphics.

While I was at CC Global, there was a photographer named Sebastiaan ter Burg who captured a nice shot of me that I will likely be using as my avatar (I’ll reserve little Clint for my personal stuff).

I don’t know if I’ll stick with all of these, but it has been fun playing around with some new tools as I continue to work on developing a separate professional digital identity.

Okay, off to set up issue #1 of the EdTech Factotum newsletter, on the way Friday.

 

Sharing some stuff from my open EdTech road show

I’ve been on the road doing some talks and workshops this spring, and this blog post is more of a way for me to aggregate the various bits of media that has resulted over the past few months. Dumping stuff to my outboard brain.

Piloting Open Learning – Sandbox Collaborative podcast

My colleague Amanda Coolidge and I were guests on the Sandbox ColLABorative podcast with Brian Fleming, Deputy Director of the ColLABorative at Southern New Hampshire University. I met Brian at EDUCAUSE last fall and he invited us to take part as guests on the podcast, where we talked about the BC Open Textbook Project and the BC Open EdTech Collaborative and the work of BCcampus more generally. Podcast and transcript (nice!)

Open Technology: The Third Pillar of Open Education – Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Rajiv invited me to speak at KPU on open technologies. This was a completely new talk for me, picking up on some of the streams of my work over the past year on open technologies, privacy, student data. The talk is still rough and needs to be refined and I am grateful that I had a patient audience. But this is a theme that I hope to be able to speak more about in the future. Here are the slides

Open Technology – The 3rd Pillar of Open Education from Clint Lalonde

And the video (not often I have a talk captured, so grateful to Meg Goodine at KPU for putting their new Kaltura server to work).

BCNET Conference

BCNET is an annual higher ed IT conference here in BC. Think of it as a regional EDUCAUSE. I did three talks at BCNET. One was an operational talk with BCNET on the Kaltura Shared Service. The other two were in partnership with BC institutions.

NGDLE: From Monolithic to Disaggregation was a talk/facilitated discussion I did with Marianne Schroeder of UBC and Maureen Wideman of UFV. This is another theme of my work for the past year – exploring the changing role of the LMS and what kinds of potential opportunities and challenges institutions are facing as the LMS changes and evolves from the single learning technology, to be a central technology that others integrate with. I had some fun with the slide for this, as you’ll see, drawing comparisons of the LMS to a Swiss Army Knife.

Next Generation Digital Learning Environments (NGDLE) from Clint Lalonde

The second presentation was with Scott Robarts and Auralea Mahood of Capilano University where they spent some time talking about their eportfolio project, built on WordPress. My piece was to come in at the end and talk about some of the other projects happening around BC built on WordPress at TRU and RRU, and again promote the work of Brian, Tannis and Grant and the BC EdTech Collaborative.

BC WordPress CoP in Higher Education from Clint Lalonde

Creative Commons Global Summit 2017

So grateful to have been able to attend this event (thank you Creative Commons). I didn’t present, but was part of a Virtually Connecting session with Doug Belshaw, Laura Hilliger, Terry Greene, Alan Levine & Helen De Waard talking about co-op’s. I’ll have some separate posts about the summit and co-op’s in near future. For now, here’s the Virtual Connecting session.

Digital Pedagogy Network Symposium

The talk I never gave at the SFU/UVic Digital Pedagogy Network Symposium on open tools, open pedagogy (I had to miss my time slot waiting for a plumber at home). I’ll share the slides here anyway.

Open Tools Open Pedagogy from Clint Lalonde

Building an Open Textbook

I did make it for the second day of the symposium where Amanda Coolidge and I facilitated a 2 hour workshop on building an open textbook where I did a deep dive into some of the early research about open textbooks, drawing on 2 blog posts I wrote about pedagogical features of textbooks (here and here.

How to Build an Open Textbook from Clint Lalonde
 

It’s not only data I am shuffling

It feels like a long overdue digital spring cleaning. About a month ago, I made the decision to migrate a bunch of websites that I host (including this one) off of US servers and onto Canadian servers.

Overall, the move went well but not without a few hiccups, as you might expect as you move from a platform that you have used for over a dozen years.

I had a reseller account with Hostgator, which meant I had access to WHM, which is a step above cPanel (for those of you who have worked at reclaiming or hosting your own sites). At one time, I had a stable of about 30 web properties that I managed, including sites for external clients, so a reseller account made sense.

This isn’t the case anymore. The sites I still have are either my own, or pro bono ones I host and maintain for side projects I am involved in, like my kids school PAC’s or sports teams they are involved in. So, a reseller account was overkill and expensive, especially with the exchange rate between US and Canadian dollars being what it is. Economically, it made sense to move.

But it also made sense just for my own digital comfort. Hosting in the US has always made me feel uncomfortable, although (as has been proven many times over) it doesn’t matter where you post digital data – those with power and know how can find, get and use any piece of information that they want.

Hosting data on a Canadian server vs a US server in a post-Snowden world almost feels more like a symbolic act than one that offers any real protection of data. Still, there are laws in my province and country that have been put in place to ostensibly protect our security and privacy. Not that I have sensitive data that I am trying to hide, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care.

Privacy and Free Speech by Clint Lalonde is a modified image released under a CC-BY-NC-SA license. The original image is SnowdenDAY - Brasília (DF) by Mídia NINJA CC-BY-NC-SA. This modified version has been cropped and the quote box and quote has been added.

Privacy and Free Speech by Clint Lalonde is a modified image released under a CC-BY-NC-SA license. The original image is SnowdenDAY – Brasília (DF) by Mídia NINJA CC-BY-NC-SA. This modified version has been cropped and the quote box and quote has been added.

The other nice thing about repatriating my sites is that I can actually support a local business in my hometown. After being with Hostgator in the US for a dozen years, I have now moved back to a local company called Islandhosting. Before moving to Hostgator in 2004, I had hosted a number of sites with Islandhosting and was a happy customer. The only reason I left in 2004 for Hostgator was because, at that time, Islandhosting didn’t have options available for me to effectively manage numerous domains. Hostgator did and so I moved. But things have changed and I now have access to tools like Installatron and add-on domain management with Islandhosting that they did not have in 2004.

Context Collapse

In addition to the technical migration, I have also been feeling this need to attempt to detangle my digital personal and professional lives. Context collapse (PDF) is real and I am increasingly feeling the need to carve out more private, personal spaces on social media, as I hinted at back in January and (I realize as I re-read my own post with subtext) September.

Closing up when you have operated openly for most of your career is a difficult thing to even think about. For over a decade now, I have tried to present myself as a real person online in all the different SM I inhabit. Those of you who follow me in multiple spaces hopefully get the same view of me on Twitter, Facebook, and here on this blog.

But choosing to attach my name to everything I do means something different in 2017 than it did in 2007. So many contexts have changed, from where I am in my career, to my family, to social media in general. I have had instances where the things I do in my personal life affect my professional life to the point where people have felt it appropriate to threaten my employer over my actions as a private citizen. I realize this is far from the abuse I have seen hurled at others I know who have public profiles closely tied to their private life. But still, not easy to deal with.

At this point, I don’t know if I can even detangle my personal and professional digital identities, but I want to try. Context collapse, while real, can be managed. This year, you’ll likely hear about these detangling attempts as I put some walls up around some gardens.

The biggest walled garden: Facebook

Facebook seems like the best place to start as that is where I seem to experience the most context collapse.

I have started by setting up a public Facebook page that will be nothing but content associated with my professional life. This is where I will be sharing my work related stuff – open education, education technology, my work with BCcampus or teaching with Royal Roads. That stuff all goes here.

To go along with that, I’ll begin tightening up my Facebook profile. Some of you whom I am connected with professionally I will likely suggest connecting via that page. I am going to be fairly ruthless with Facebook and limit it to family and very close friends. Please don’t be offended if you and I are no longer connected via my personal FB account. It’s me, not you.

There will likely be other changes in the future. This blog. I expect there will be changes here, but not sure what those will be yet. Likely another site. Twitter? Geez, who knows.

But I don’t know if it will make a difference. Can I ever take this space back and post stuff as me without there being context collapse? Can I have a public open voice online that doesn’t bleed over into my professional life? Do I even want that?

I always have to remind people that I am not an academic. Really, I am support staff. I don’t have the same reasons for participating in public spaces that academics and researchers do. The benefits and constraints are different. The context is different.

So maybe this is where I start. Why do I participate on social media as me? Why do I blog as me?  The answer these days isn’t as obvious as it used to be.

 

Making a virtual move

I am working on moving this site (and a number of others) to a new Canadian web host. The cost of maintaining an expensive reseller account with a crazy US-CAN exchange rate combined with the ever increasing ick factor at having so much of my digital identity located on servers in the US is prompting me to move.

Hopefully the move will be smooth, but I do have about 10 years of assorted experiments, mucking around-ness and half ass hackery living deep within the code of these virtual walls. So if there is funkiness on the site over the next few days, the move will likely be the reason.

Image:  Patent Drawing for J. O. Lose’s One Wheeled Vehicle by Darren Cole CC-BY

Done Feb 17/17

 

Does Open Pedagogy require OER?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a student showcase of Digital Humanities projects, put on by the Digital Pedagogy Network. The Digital Pedagogy Network is a collaborative project between the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University.

The context of the event was to give Digital Humanities students an opportunity to showcase the DH projects they have been working on to fulfill the requirements of their various undergrad/graduate level DH programs at UVIC and SFU. I am grateful to SFU Digital Scholarship Librarian (and Whitecaps soccer fan) Rebecca Dowson for suggesting that I attend. I am very happy that I did.

First and foremost, the student projects are fantastic. These are students that are working hard to capture and preserve significant, but often overlooked, pieces of our cultural heritage, like the Fred Wah archives. Fred Wah is a Canadian writer and Parliamentary Poet Laureate. His online archive is a DH project by English student Deanna Fong. Then there is the Wosk–McDonald Aldine Collection a digital preservation project being worked on by DH students and made available on the open web which celebrates the work of Aldus Manutius, “the Renaissance’s most innovative scholarly publisher”. There is a curated digital exhibition that explores authorship and readership of Victorian-era pornography created by BA students Erin Huxley, Keirsten Mend, Donna Langille and Leah de Roy, and a cultural mapping exhibition of the legends that are included in E. Pauline Johnson’s 1911 text, Legends of Vancouver,  which is based on the narratives of Chief Joe Capilano of the Squamish nation (and which prompted a great discussion around the tensions involved with non-Indigenous people researching and mapping Indigenous territories).

All of these educational resources, created by students and available on the open web. But none openly licensed.

Which made me consider open pedagogy and the way in which open pedagogy is defined. Granted, that term “open pedagogy” is fairly new and evolving. My first exposure to the term was in a 2013 (was it really 4 years ago?) blog post from David Wiley where David defines open pedagogy as being directly connected to the (at the time) 4R permissions of OER (emphasis mine).

Open pedagogy is that set of teaching and learning practices only possible in the context of the free access and 4R permissions characteristic of open educational resources.

So, with that definition, the assignments that these students have done are not open pedagogy. While some of them do use open access resources (mostly public domain resources), none of the students have released their material with an open license, and, in fact, some resources are made available with full copyright and only under academic fair use policy.

But yet publicly available. On the open web. Students working on the open web, on meaningful projects.


But yet, not open pedagogy, at least by David’s definition.

Which made me wonder: is open pedagogy only possible if the work by a student meets the 5R open licensing criteria? Or is what makes open pedagogy open is that students are working in the open with their work on display to the world? Is that the defining feature of open pedagogy?

Don’t get me wrong. Encouraging students to release meaningful and significant work they do with an open license is the best possible outcome as it enables the widest possible distribution and application of their work. But if a student creates a meaningful piece of work and simply makes it open access on the web without actually assigning and open license to the work, does that make it a less meaningful and impactful open pedagogy experience?

To the students who created these projects, I would say the answer is no. In a Q&A I asked them to talk about working in the open and how they felt as students to have their work in the open and view-able to the world.  Their responses were that they felt it was important to have their work in the open; that they felt the work they were doing needed to be open and accessible to the wider world, and the world needed to know about this work. Not one said the reason they wanted their work open was to have it reflect favourably on them, or that it would look good as part of a digital resume/portfolio. They felt an urgency that their subject matter be made available to the broader pubic.  It mattered to them, and that motivated them. They wanted to do justice to their subject matter.

To me, this is open pedagogy. The motivation that it gives to students that what they do matters in the world. That they are contributing to something bigger and greater than themselves. That the work is meaningful. Yes, it would have an even greater impact if this work was released with an open license, but the fact that this work is not openly licensed doesn’t make it any less of an open pedagogy exercise to me.

As I was expressing this point on Twitter, Tannis  Morgan at the JIBC sent me a link to a wonderful blog post she wrote that made me realize that, despite having a French-Canadian last name, I should have paid closer attention to French class.  In the post, Tannis digs into the history of the term open pedagogy and finds traces of it in the linguistic culture wars of a 1979 Canada with Quebec educator named Claude Paquette.

Paquette outlines 3 sets of foundational values of open pedagogy, namely:  autonomy and interdependence; freedom and responsibility; democracy and participation.

In her post, Tannis wraps up with an astute observation

In other words, open pedagogy is currently a sort of proxy for the use and creation of open educational resources as opposed to being tied to a broader pedagogical objective.

Which begs the question; what is the broader pedagogical objective of open pedagogy? Does open pedagogy only exist when it is connected to the use and production of OER’s?

Addendum: After I wrote this, I realized that I had read an excellent 2014 interview with Tom Woodward in Campus Technology where Tom spoke at length about open pedagogy as a broad and holistic set of values and approaches.

Looking at open pedagogy as a general philosophy of openness (and connection) in all elements of the pedagogical process, while messy, provides some interesting possibilities. Open is a purposeful path towards connection and community. Open pedagogy could be considered as a blend of strategies, technologies, and networked communities that make the process and products of education more transparent, understandable, and available to all the people involved.

I think this holistic view of open pedagogy as a messy space where the values of openness inform teaching and learning practices is one that appeals to me.

Photo: BCOER Librarians by BCcampus_news CC-BY-SA

 

Adding Creative Commons licenses to Kaltura MediaSpace videos

I’ve been working on an internal BCcampus project to set up and configure Kaltura MediaSpace for our internal use. We have a number of use cases, not the least of which are providing a central hosting space for videos created as part of a grant associated with the BC Open Textbook Project. Since these videos will be openly licensed (as is everything we create at BCcampus), I want there to be a visible Creative Commons license with each video to let users know the terms of usage for each video.

Out of the box, MediaSpace has a lot of functionality, but the ability to apply a Creative Commons license to a video is not one of them. So, with a bit of consultation with my colleague (and knower of all Kaltura secrets) Jordi Hernandez at UBC, I was able to add a basic CC license field to the videos we host in Mediaspace.

It is actually a pretty straightforward 2 step process. First, you need to create custom metadata fields in the Kaltura Management Console (KMC), then you have to enable the fields in the Kaltura Mediaspace administration console.

I am using an OnPrem service of Kaltura. The MediaSpace instance I am working on is 5.38.07.

Create Custom Fields in the KMC

After logging into the KMC, I went to Settings > Custom Data. This is where I will set up the custom data scheme and define the CC licenses. Click Add New Schema to create a new Creative Commons Metadata Schema. Give your Schema a name, description and a system name. The system name should be one word and short. We want each video to be able to have their own CC license, so we want this metadata schema to apply to Entries and not Categories.

Once you have the Schema set up, you will want to add the actual licenses as field values. Choose Add field and enter in the different CC licenses that you want to make available to your users. These are the options they will see when they upload a new video, and what people who view the video will see on the screen associated with the video. I chose to make my list a Text Select List so that it would appear as a drop down menu for the person uploading the video.

One nice feature of the custom metadata schemas in Kaltura is that you can enable these items to be searched for in the built in search engine. So, with CC licensed material, someone could come to our video portal site and search for nothing but CC0 videos in our collection. I haven’t explored this fully yet, but it does seem to work at a granular level. Which is both good and bad. Good if you want to search for a specific type of CC licensed content in our collection, like a CC0 or CC-BY video. But not so great if you wanted to search for all CC licensed videos regardless of flavour.

Once that is done, the Schema is setup and we can now slip over to MediaSpace to apply it.

Add the custom fields to the upload form in MediaSpace

I logged into the MediaSpace admin console. The area we want to play in is called Customdata. It may appear with a line through it in your admin console. That just means that the module has not been activated.

Go into the Customdata module and make sure it is enabled. In the profileid field, you should be able to find the custom metadata schema that you just created in the KMC. Choose that. You can also make the field a required field and, if you wish, enable the showInSearchResults field to enable the search index.

 

That’s it. Save the changes and you now have added a custom CC license field to your videos. When someone uploads a video to MediaSpace, they will have an additional field in a dropdown menu that they can choose a CC license to apply to the video.

And, when people come to view the video in the MediaSpace site, they will see that the video is licensed with a Creative Commons license.

Now when we upload a video to our MediaSpace site, we can assign it a Creative Commons license that people can see.

Good first step

For me, this is a good first step that gives us the option to apply a visual marker to the video in MediaSpace. However, what would be great (and I am not sure that this can be done) would be to have that CC license metadata embedded in the page in the correct metadata format for CC licenses. This would ensure that it would be found in search engines when people search for CC licensed content.

The second improvement would be to somehow embed that CC license metadata right in the video so that if some were to take a copy of this video, the original license information would go along with the actual video when they downloaded it. Doubt that is possible, but that would be a great feature for organizations like ours that produce a lot of openly licensed content.

Finally, I think that it might be a good idea to add a visual bumper as part of the video that would spell out the CC license. It is what we currently do with our videos, and is good practice to help make it clear that the content is openly licensed.

Photo: CC Stickers by Kristina Alexanderson CC-BY

 

Open Network Learning at Royal Roads University

Next week I begin teaching a course in the Royal Roads MA in Learning & Technology (MALAT) program. The opportunity to teach in the program came up via George Veletsianos and the MALAT program head Elizabeth Childs.

This is a course that George usually teaches in the MALAT program, but George (and Elizabeth) are currently busy developing a new MALAT program at RRU.

Last week, I had the chance to see the new program when I attended a 2 day session at RRU with other associate faculty from both the MALAT program and the wider School of Education.

The new MALAT program at RRU is intriguing. Really intriguing. Theoretical foundations for the program emphasize open pedagogy and network learning.

At Royal Roads today working on new MALAT program. Network learning? check. Open Pedagogy? Check. Very exciting and progressive program design.

A photo posted by Clint Lalonde (@clint.lalonde) on

Over the past 5 years, there has been extensive consultations with various stakeholder groups. The results are a graduate level education program that feels innovative, contemporary, and grounded in the reality of what it takes to learn in a digital, networked enabled world.

It’s a bold vision. Students in the program will take an active and participatory role with the wider education community. They will openly blog (on a newly set up WordPress network at Royal Roads) and develop a social media presence, using both of these tools as pedagogical springboards to take a deep dive into the world of open, networked learning.

Not to dismiss my own experiences as a MALAT grad and the program at the time I was a student (yes, I have all kinds of tendrils intertwined with RRU and this particular program), but there is a small part of me that is slightly remorseful that the timing for a program like this wasn’t quite right 8 years ago when I enrolled as a student. Blogging, using social media, developing a professional network, and using social media tools as personal learning tools is how I operate.

Needless to say, I am smitten with the vision for the program.

What has jazzed me the most in the days since the retreat is that my thinking has been re-energized. I have been jolted back to some of the past work I did on network learning and informal learning, much of which went into my Masters thesis. Things I haven’t thought or written about in years. I realize that I miss having the time and space that a graduate program provides to really think about this stuff; about how the Internet has changed the nature of informal learning, and how important it is to prepare learners with the skills and knowledge to truly become life-long learners.

I see it everyday in my kids as they digitally manouver between formal and informal learning situations. They follow their own interests and passions via YouTube videos and online courses. Beside the regular social stuff that teens and pre-teens do with friends, they do video hangouts with their friends to complete homework assignments. They get daily mobile prompts on their phones to complete micro-French lessons, and stay playfully motivated to keep ahead of their uncle on the leaderboard. They collaborate on school projects with their peers using web-based tools, conducting research online.

These are the types of learning activities I see pedagogically reflected in the new MALAT program that excites me. And I feel lucky to be part of the ride.

Photo: Open Teaching – Thinning the Walls – Revision #2 by Alec Couros CC-BY-NC-SA

 

I am not quitting social media

But I have been scaling back my use of it.

It began, quite inadvertently and unconsciously, over the holiday break when I realized that there were days where I didn’t post – or even check – a FaceTwitLinkFlickagram feed. Which was unusual.

As I reflected on my use of social media in the past year, I realized that my use of social media had amped up in 2016, especially Facebook. I was spending a lot of mindless time on FB and it was making me feel anxious and stressed. The intense heated rhetoric leading up to the US election on both FB and Twitter didn’t help and I was feeling compelled to be on SM a lot. It wasn’t until the holiday break when I went days without checking and posting that I realized just how much SM was stressing me out.

So, as a new year begins, I am trying to be more mindful of my use of social media. FB and Twitter don’t sit open on my computer. I only check once or twice a day, usually when someone tags me as I have disabled most notifications on my devices to help curb the Pavlovian response. I am only on for a few moments at a time, check notifications, and then pop off. I am not automatically sharing photos or stories I read, despite actually doing more reading, albeit in physical and not digital form. Getting a daily physical newspaper has been the way I have been keeping and mitigating the FOMO for larger issues, although I know I am missing details of friends lives.  However, overall, I feel less tense and stressed, more focused on my immediate surroundings and find I am actually not missing SM all that much.

The one bit that does cause me a bit of angst is that I have spent the past 10 years building a professional digital identity using social media. Although my network and SM use has never been written into a formal job description (in fact, in the early days just the opposite where my use of SM was viewed by some colleagues with F.U.D.), I know that my use of social media is a big component of my professional work and a significant part of the value I bring to the different groups I am involved with. It does cause me some tension when I know that there are things I should be sending to my network and, even though there is no formal expectation from the people I work with that I amplify stuff, I do feel an unspoken (and largely self-induced) expectation that I be engaged. I am not sure if/how I should communicate this scaling back to people in my network, which is why I am writing this blog post that (ironically) most of you will read after I post it to my various social media networks.

I suspect I am not alone in this uncomfortable feeling. I have consciously chosen to blur the lines between my personal and professional life by being engaged on SM as me. It still feels like the most genuine way to use social media. But I do wonder if, by choosing to scale back my use of social media, it may somehow impact me professionally.

I am especially aware of this as I head into teaching a course at Royal Roads University that begins in a few weeks. If there was ever a time I would want to actually ramp up my social media use to model network learning principles to learners, now would be the time.

Also adding to my apprehension about scaling back my use of social media is the fact that my daughter is turning 13 and wants to begin engaging with social media. One of the rules we have always had about her SM use is that when she starts to engage, she needs to have me in her network at least until she gets the lay of land. So, my feeling that I need to scale back on my SM use comes at an awkward time, both personally and professionally.

All this is to say, you are likely not seeing quite as much of me out there on FaceTwitLinkFlickagram and that is intentional. At any given moment, I’ll likely scale it back up. But for now, I’m ok with sitting on the side for a bit as I rebalance and try to find a new equilibrium.

I am also curious as to whether you feel this tension as well. When you have completely blurred the lines between professional and personal on SM, do you feel pressure to continue being fully engaged on SM even when you don’t want to? When your personal wants a break? How do you handle it, and do you communicate with your network that you are scaling back?

 

Of Bikes and Books

At the start of 2016, for the first time in a long time, I made resolutions. 2 specific.

  1. Cycle 3000 km.
  2. Read 10 fiction books.

These resolutions were inspired by 2 things.

In 2015, my love of beer caught up on me and I tipped the scales at 225 on a 5’10” frame. Turning 50 this year, I needed to make some changes. I know that the standard resolution of “lose weight” was too general. I needed something specific. So, in addition to renting a rowing machine (which actually happened towards the end of 2015), in 2016 I got back into cycling on a regular basis.

I’ve always biked, but in recent years working at home more and my mountain biking taking a back seat to small kids, my mileage had taken a real hit. So I started 2016 with a goal of riding 3000 km. I thought it was an achievable goal. A tad under 60k a week. My plan was to ride into the office 2 days a week on 10 k routes, and then a longer ride on the weekend.

I used Strava to track most of my rides and, while I didn’t hit 3000, I am pretty happy with my Strava total.

There were times I didn’t use Strava, like weekends where I took on some singletrack trails with my son (who got into mountain biking in a big way this year which was fantastic as it re-ignited my passion for MTB, something I have not done since before I had kids).

All in, I figure the best I did was around 2300 km. Short, but I am still happy with that. And, despite a recent uptick in the weight, cycling this year has helped me stay under 200 lbs for most of the year.

Some of my Kindle library. Many samples waiting to dig into in 2017.

The second goal was inspired by David Wiley and Martin Weller. At the end of 2015, both wrote blog posts about the books they read in the previous year (and I see that, today, Martin has written one for 2016). As I read their posts, I realized that, while I read – non-fiction, reports, papers, research, blog posts, etc – I had really fallen off the fiction wagon. So I made a modest goal of 10 fiction books this year, far short of the impressive output that Martin managed. 48. Enough to make some lovely charts and do some analysis on.

This goal I met, again with help from my son who, at 10 and like his sister, seems to be developing a voracious appetite for fiction.

Here (in rough chronological order) is the fiction I read in 2016.

  1. Neuromancer William Gibson
  2. No Relation Terry Fallis
  3. Fool Christopher Moore
  4. Good Omens Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  5. High Fidelity Nick Hornby
  6. Little Brother Cory Doctorow
  7. Armada Ernest Cline
  8. Holes Louis Sachar (my sons favorite book of the year)
  9. The Dragonet Prophecy Wings of Fire book 1 Tui T. Sutherland
  10. The Lightening Thief Rick Riordan
  11.  The Hunger Games (book 1) Suzanne Collins

So, a couple notes about this list. There are some decidedly YA titles on this list. The last 4 are books that my son and I read together. I still read to him every night before bed and the final four books on the list (Holes, Dragonet, Lightening Thief and Hunger Games) were his choices. I almost thought I should not include them, except for the fact that I really enjoyed all 4. Holes was much richer and complex than I expected, and The Lightening Thief felt like a great way to introduce classic Greek mythology to a contemporary audience.

Despite having watched the movies and reading books 2 and 3 in the series, I had not read the first Hunger Games book. Reading it with my son at the same time I was reading the non-fiction Hillbilly Elegy and while the US election debacle was unfolding added an extra resonance to the plight of Katniss Everdean. District 12 as Appalachia in a pre-Panem America. So much about the novel has been topical this fall – the role of the media and manipulation, who controls the media, reality television, the plight of the working class, the excessive indulgence of the elite oblivious to the plight of working class until it is too late. The novel has been a source of rich political discussion with both my kids, who are both fans.

While Little Brother was also a topical read this year, by far my favorite book on the list was Good Omens. Smart and funny, it reminded me of the best absurdist satire of Vonnegut. I had never read either author and Good Omens proved to be an excellent way to whet my appetite for more from both Gaiman and Pratchett.

Disappointments were Armada and No Relation. While both Fallis and Cline had debut novels that I really enjoyed (in The Best Laid Plans and Ready Player One respectively), both of these newer efforts were weak and I struggled to finish them.

In addition to the Hillbilly Elegy, the other non-fiction title that made an impact on me this year was Quiet by Susan Cain. While I had it on my list for awhile, attending Educause in Anaheim this year where she keynoted was the impetus that spurred me to dig in, and I was happy I did.

A penny dropped for me while reading Queit in that, as I ws reading it, I realized that I have not been a good advocate for my introverted daughter with her teachers. Consistently year after year in the 7 years she has been in the public school system, her teacher assessments have always included the wish that she speak and participate up more in class. I have taken those assessments to heart and (high irony alert here for someone who considers himsefl quite introverted) tried to push her to be more participatory.

After reading Quiet, I realized that I have been so wrong and it isn’t my daughter who I should be coaxing to change It’s not often that I have read a book where I can see such a clear connection between the book and my life, but Quiet was one of those books that has made me change my attitude.

Oddly, no books about cycling. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever read a book where cycling is the main theme or subject. Hmmmm. #2107Resolution. That and this.

Photo: Cyclists Manifesto by Richard Masoner CC-BY-SA

 

Setting up Public Channels in Kaltura Mediaspace

Part of my work at BCcampus is to co-administer a provincial shared service of Kaltura with my colleagues at BCNET and UBC. Kaltura is a suite of tools for hosting and streaming media. Mediaspace is the YouTube like front end for Mediaspace. Because of that, BCcampus has access to some of the Kaltura tools for our own business uses and, for the past couple weeks, I have been mucking around with our new Kaltura Mediaspace instance.

In general, I find Kaltura a beast. It is complex, and there are multiple layers of administration to go thru depending on the tools you want to use. It is powerful, no doubt, and has some wonderful features. But likely not a system you want to tackle off the side of your desk to fully grok how it works and, just as important, fully maximize a fairly sizable institutional investment.

At any rate, I have been making some progress on setting up our Mediaspace site. You can take a look. Keep in mind it is being built in real-time and not fully configured and setup. But for now, I have some basic branding in place and a few channels with some content set up.

One task that I was failing at was creating public channels. I was able to make channels and add videos to channels, but could not seem to make those channels publicly visible unless you had an account. Every time someone would click on the Channels link, they would be taken to a log in screen. For an organization that does open work, having closed channels was a no go.

So, after poking around, I went back and did what i should have done in the beginning, which is RTFM. Or, in Kaltura’s case, RTFM’s. Started here, which led me here and here and here and here. Here and here. A bit over here. Some stuff from this 23 page PDF here.

Ok, well, you get the idea and why I say complicated. Oy! And no where could I find the damn setting to make a channel public.

Finally, in a brief 30 second conversation with my colleague Jordi at UBC, I found the setting. In the Mediaspace admin area, there is a setting called supportPublicChannel that needs to be enabled.  That was it. One little setting. Click that and, boom, public channels.

 

Man, there it was. Right there in the Channels section of the administration console. Hours of pouring thru technical support documents & Google searches on how to enable public channels and the problem was solved in 30 seconds by talking to Jordi.

There were a few steps I did before this that I’ll add in here just in case others are struggling. This info is specific to those in the BC Kaltura Shared Service, which is an on prem instance of Kaltura. If you are not in the shared service, this may not work for you. The other caveat is that I have been working on this off the side of my desk for a couple of weeks now, along with other config issues with Kaltura and Mediaspace and, because I don’t have the awesome discipline of CogDog to document and share on an incremental basis, may be incomplete and missing stuff (and let’s just pause here and acknowledge just how fantastic CogDog is at documenting the technical work he is doing knowing that there are very likely others out there struggling with the same thing).

But, to the best of my memory, here is what I did prior to making that final switch above.

When you log into your KMC and go to Categories, you should see a MediaSpace category already set up as part of the initial system wide configuration. Under channels, I have created 2 channels – EdTech Demos and SCOPE

On the MediaSpace category, the entitlement (what Kaltura calls permissions) are open. These can be overridden at lower categories.

 

Drilling down to the next layer, Channels, I have set default channels to be Private.


When someone creates a new channel, they may want to work on it before making it open. When you create an actual channel, you will need to override this setting, as this screenshot of the actual SCOPE channel shows. In this case, I have overridden the Channel defaults and made the content privacy no restriction, while adding a restriction on who can actually add content to the category (only the channel administrator).

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In the Mediaspace admin area, when I create a new channel, I now have an option to make it a Public channel.

So, this was a spot that I was getting confused at because, until I flicked the supportPublicChannel option on, I was not seeing the Public radio button. But I was seeing the Open radio button. So, when I clicked Open, I thought that would make the channel, uh Open. But no. In Kaltura, Public and Open are different concepts and it wasn’t until I enabled the supportPublicChannels switch that the public radio button option became available during my channel setup. Clicking that button made the channel publicly viewable without people having to log in.

Now, when I upload a video, I can publish it to multiple channels, including the open and public ones.

 

Like I said, this is likely missing out a bunch of other steps I have done along the way to enable public channels on our Mediaspace instance. But for those of you in the KSS struggling with setting up public channels – supportPublicChannel was what finally did it for me. Thanks Jordi!

 

Supporting what I use 2016 edition

Ok, time for my annual supporting what I use post. For those of you who have followed my blog for the past few years, you’ll know this is an annual event around the holiday season where I encourage you to financially support the free and open tools & services you use to help keep them free & open.

This whole annual supporting what I use series of posts goes back to a blog post that George Siemens wrote in 2012 where he singled out the important work that Audrey Watters brings to the EdTech community; work that, unlike many of us, is not underwritten or supported by an institution or company. Audrey is an independent agent, making a living off her writing, speaking and related events. This year, I’ve gone back to supporting Audrey with an ongoing monthly contribution that can hopefully help her concentrate on publishing important pieces, like her annual top EdTech Trends of the Year posts (essential EdTech reading). I encourage you to do the same.

In addition to supporting Audrey’s independent work, I am renewing my commitment to Open Media for their work in advocating for internet rights and freedoms in Canada. And, as this past year has shown us so clearly, more work needs to be done in the area of critical digital and media literacy, which is why MediaSmarts is also getting a donation from me.

Which brings me to my last choice, which is a bit different this year in that it is a business.

I’ve subscribed to a daily newspaper.

I have done this for a couple of reasons. First, in reaction to the recent election in the US (built on the back of Brexit in the UK) and the war on truth we are facing. Propaganda and misinforamtion have always been a staples in politics, but these recent results have shown that now, more than ever, I need to step up and support organizations committed to fair and accurate journalism, and (for me) that means a daily newspaper.

And I am getting a physical copy delivered to my home. This is part of the second (and perhaps less obvious) reason I am subscribing to a daily paper. For my kids. I want to have newspapers in the house that they can pick up and read.

As my kids get older, I am finding I have increasingly less control over their digital environments, and have to rely on the critical media and digital literacy skills they are developing to make good decisions about the media they consume. In a digital household where our media choices are often highly individual based on the devices we each have in front of us, there is little chance for serendipitous happenstance for my kids to discover information outside of their mediated filter bubble. It is something I worry about with digital books, too. As much as I love reading books electronically, there is something about not having my collection public on the bookshelf within my own home that reduces the random discoverability of topics and subjects to the other people in my house. Sure, there are plenty of ways for me to make my digital collections known, but my kids aren’t really cruising past my Goodreads account on a daily basis on the way to the breakfast table like they do our family bookshelf.

When I was a kid living in northern Alberta, the daily Edmonton Journal subscription was a critical part of my media diet for the simple fact that it was just left lying around in the house. Same goes for the books on my family bookshelf. I often read things that were outside of my normal areas of interest simply because I had proximity to books that I would not have picked myself. So, I want to have a general daily newspaper lying around the house that they can just pick up and read to both widen their horizons, and to help understand what good journalism looks like.

If you are interested in seeing what I have supported in the past (to perhaps give you some ideas of your own), you can read my previous posts here, here and here.

Image: Newspapers by Alan Foster CC-BY-NC-ND

 

 

12 apps of Christmas

Yeah yeah, I know. It’s the middle of November, what the heck are you talking about Christmas for?

Well, a couple of my ETUG colleagues Leva Lee and Sylvia Riessner pitched an idea a few weeks back for a special Christmas theme ETUG event called the 12 Apps of Christmas that I have been working on.

Drawing inspiration from similar 12 Apps of Christmas events from across the pond, (and how fantastic that Chris Rowell thought to CC license everything and create a build your own 12 apps of Christmas tutorial website!) the basic idea is to put together some bite sized microlearning activities that gets our local edtech community suggesting, testing, collaborating and reflecting on the usefulness of different apps.

No surprise, but there are thousands of apps targeted at EdTech that are varying utility and quality, and the EdTech’s task of being able to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff is becoming increasingly important. Institutions, like UC Irvine, have developed processes around testing and assessing the usefulness of cloud based educational technologies, and rapid EdTech evaluation models are being considered and developed. We’re also seeing collaborative efforts to assess educational technologies, like the Common Sense Media educators portal which collects & aggregates information from teachers about the usefulness and pedagogical value of different learning apps.

The idea of 12 Apps of Christmas is that each day starting December 1st, we’ll release a new app via the (currently under development) 12AppsofChristmas.ca website. The app will include a description, some possible ways it could be used in a teaching & learning context, and a very short (15 minute) activity that gets people trying out the app.

The apps are being picked by various members of the BC ETUG community. Criteria for what apps to include are pretty basic; free, available on multiple platforms, easy to use, and lightweight in the sense that it shouldn’t take people a lot of time to figure out how to use them.

Once the activity is completed, we hope that you’ll spend a bit of time evaluating the app & leaving some review comments on the app post (I’m building the site in WordPress & will use the commenting feature). We’ll include a few question prompts to help frame the evaluation, but the idea is that the whole process should not be too onerous and should be flexible enough to allow people to hop in and out and take part with whatever time they have.

While the 12 Apps of Christmas is by no means an extensive review process, it will hopefully be a fun activity with a minimal time commitment will get those interested in educational technology collaboratively playing, testing and evaluating different apps and technologies.

Photo: Blue Christmas by Jamie McCaffrey  CC-BY-NC

 

Learning analytics & transparency

Just got back from EDUCAUSE. I’ll have more on the conference in future posts, but wanted to quickly post a couple of thoughts I have had around learning analytics and transparency based on what I learned at EDUCAUSE and as a result of an EdTech demo session I did this morning with an LMS vendor on learning analytics.

I went to EDUCAUSE with a few goals, one of which was to try to learn more about learning analytics. Specifically, what (if any) are the compelling use cases and examples of faculty and institutions effectively utilizing analytics to solve problems, what are the ethical issues around data collection, how are institutions informing their students & faculty of these concerns, and what technologies are being used to facilitate the collection and analysis of analytics data. And while I didn’t find complete answers to these questions, I did come away with a better 10,000 foot view of learning analytics.

The primary use cases still seem to be predictive analytics to identify academically at-risk students, and to help institutions improve student retention. I get the sense that, while student retention in Canada is important, it is not as critical for Canadian institutions as it appears to be for U.S. institutions. There are likely more use cases out there, but these 2 seem to be the big drivers of learning analytics at the moment.

Earlier today, I attended an LMS demo session on learning analytics where I had a chance to see some of the analytics engine built into the LMS. The demo included a predictive analytics engine that could be used to identify an at-risk student in a course. Data is collected, crunched by an algorithm, and out comes a ranking of whether that student is at risk of completing the course, or of failing the course. When I asked what was going on within the algorithm that was making the prediction about future student behavior, I got a bit of an answer on what data was being collected, but not much on how that data was being crunched by the system – that is, what was happening inside the algorithm that was making the call about the students future behavior.

This is not to single-out a specific company as this kind of algorithmic opacity is extremely common with not only learning technologies, but almost all technologies we use today. Not only are we unaware what data is being collected about us, but we don’t know how it is being used, what kind of black box it is being fed into, and how it is being mathemagically wrangled.

Now, it’s one thing to have something fairly innocuous as Netflix to recommend movies to you based on – well, we don’t really know what that recommendation is based on, do we? It is likely what we have viewed before is factored in there, but it is also likely that the recommendations in Netflix are pulling data about us from services we have connected to Netflix. Mention on Facebook that you want to see the new Wes Anderson movie and suddenly that becomes a data point for Netflix to fine tune your Netflix film recommendations and the next time you log into Netflix you get a recommendation for The Royal Tennenbaums. I don’t know for sure that it works that way, but I am pretty certain that this information from around the web is being pulled into  my recommendations. Search for a movie on IMDB. Does that information get shared back to Netflix the next time you log in? Probably.

As I said, the decisions coming out of that Netflix black box are fairly innocuous decisions for an algorithm to make – what movie to recommend to you. But when it comes to predicting something like your risk or success as a student, well, that is another scale entirely. The stakes are quite a bit higher (even higher still when the data and algorithms  keep you from landing a job, or get you fired, like teachers in New York State). Which is why, as educators, we need to be asking the right questions about learning analytics and what is happening within that black box because, like most technologies, there are both positives and negatives and we need to understand how to determine the difference if we want to take advantage of any positives and adequately address the negatives. We can’t leave how the black box works up to others.

We need transparency

Which brings me to the point that, in order for us to fully understand the benefits and the risks associated with learning analytics, we need to have some transparent measures in place.

First, when it comes to predictive analytics, we need to know what is happening inside the black box. Companies need to be very explicit about what information is being gathered, and how that data is being processed and interpreted by the algorithms to come up with scores that say a student is “at-risk”. What are the models being used? What is the logic of the algorithm? Why were those metrics and ratios within that algorithm decided upon?  Are those metrics and ratios used in the algorithms based in empirical research? What is the research? Or is it someones best guess? If you are an edtech company that is using algorithms and predictive analytics, these are the questions I would want you to have answers to. You need to let educators see and fully understand how the black box works, and why it was designed the way it was.

Second, students should have exactly the same view of their data within our systems that their faculty and institution has. Students have the right to know what data is being collected about them, why it is being collected about them, how that data will be used, what decisions are being made using that data, and how that black box that is analyzing them works. The algorithms need to be transparent to them as well. In short, we need to be developing ways to empower and educate our students into taking control of their own data and understanding how their data is being used for (and against) them. And if you can’t articulate the “for” part, then perhaps you shouldn’t be collecting the data.

Finally, we need to ensure that we have real live human beings in the mix. That the data being analyzed is further inspected and interpreted by human beings who have the contextual knowledge to make sense of the information being presented on a data dashboard. Not only does that person need to know how that data ended up on that dashboard and why, but also how to use that data to make decisions. In short, faculty need to know how to make sense of the data that they are being given (and I’ll touch on this more in a future blog post when I write about Charles Darwin University Teaching & Learning Director Deborah West’s analytics presentation which centered around the question “what do teachers want?”)

One approach from UC Berkeley

At EDUCAUSE, I saw a really good example of how one institution is making their data processes more transparent. In a presentation I saw from Jenn Stringer, Associate CIO of UC Berkeley, there was a slide that hilighted the data policies that they have put in place around the ethical collection and use of learning analytics data.

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These principles are reminiscent of the 10 learning data principles set out by the Data Quality Campaign and the Consortium for School Networking.

Additionally, UC Berkeley also makes a student analytics dashboard available to the student so that they get the same view of the analytical data that their faculty get. I think both of these are excellent starts to working ethically and transparently with learning analytics data.

But for me the big question remains – what are the compelling use cases for learning analytics, and are those use cases leading to improvements in teaching & learning? So far, I am not sure I came away from EDUCAUSE with a better understanding of how analytics are being used effectively, especially by faculty in the classroom. If you have some interesting use cases about how analytics are being used, I’d love to hear them.

Photo: Learning Analytics #oucel15 keynote by Giulia Forsythe CC-BY-NC-SA

 

Looking for Canadian Creative Commons projects

If you have been involved with the Creative Commons community, you will have no doubt run into Kelsey Wiens.

Kelsey was a Canadian ex-pat working in South Africa, and was deeply involved in Creative Commons South Africa. Kelsey was also the driving force behind Open Textbooks for Africa.

Earlier this year, Kelsey relocated from South Africa back to Canada and I have been working with her (and others, like CIPPIC) to reinvigorate interest in the Canadian Creative Commons affiliate. With Toronto hosting the 2017 Creative Commons Global Summit (mark the dates April 25-28, 2017), it would be great to have an energized local affiliate representing the host country.

There are some really interesting projects happening at Creative Commons these days, not the least of which is the CC Certification program that Alan Levine is working on with Paul Stacey. Paul is also co-authoring a book on open business models with Sarah Pearson.

One of the projects that Kelsey and I are working on is developing a map of open projects in Canada to try to get a better understanding as to where the pockets of openness are happening across the country. The CC Canada community is well represented by educators (especially post-secondary educators)  and we have a pretty good idea as to what some of the major open education projects that are happening across the country. But Creative Commons is much more than Open Educational Resources, and it is those other areas where we are trying to find pockets of openness.

So, if you are involved with a Canadian based Open Access, Open Data, Open Government, or Open Source Software project, please take a few seconds and connect with us by filling out this short form. I am especially interested in finding out about Canadian GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) projects that might be using Creative Commons licenses.

Please feel free to share with your networks, and help us map Canadian open projects.

Photo: Creative Commons 10th anniversary by Timothy Vollmer CC-BY

 

Open puts the public in public education

Really encourage you to take a few minutes and watch Robin DeRosa’s great Ignite Talk DML2016 on open education.

In 5 short minutes (NO, DON’T CLAP I DON’T HAVE TIME!) she connects the various strands of open education (open access, open educational resources, and open pedagogy) to the broader societal mandate of our public institutions, which is to serve the public good. And while Robin is based in the US, the main thesis of her talk is applicable to anyone working in public education anywhere.

I don’t see how higher education can be relevant in the future without being even more open than we are today. We need to be more deeply engaged with the public; as educators, as researchers, as institutions designed to serve the public good. Open has to be both the default value and the default process by which we operate, or else we risk becoming alienated from the public whom we are here to serve, and risk adequately preparing our students to become fully engaged citizens.