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