How Does ECOO Get Its Board of Directors? 1

Note: This post is a companion to a response to the post “Support Your ECOO,” posted on edVisioned.ca on April 4th, 2017.

A New Year, A New Board

The Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO.org) strikes a new Board of Directors every year, coincident with the Annual General Meeting (AGM).
The ECOO Board is comprised of ten sitting members:

  • President (annual)
  • Vice President (annual)
  • Secretary (annual)
  • Treasurer (annual)
  • 4 Directors-At-Large (two-year terms, two selected per year)
  • Conference Chair (annual, appointed)
  • Past President (annual, appointed)

Check out the ECOO Board of Directors, 2016-17.

The Nominations Process

The ECOO Bylaw very clearly lays out the process that is to be followed in establishing a new Board of Directors, and there are clear timelines which are to be followed in advance of the AGM.

  • The incoming Board is to establish the Nominations Committee at its first sitting following the AGM. (Article 4, Section 5.7)
  • The Call for Nominations must occur no later than three months before the AGM. (Article 8, Section 7.4a)
  • The Call for Nominations must close no later than 40 days before the AGM. (Article 8, Section 7.4b)
  • The Nominations Committee is to cause the names of the nominees along with their resumes to be published and distributed to all members (Article 8, Section 7.4c)  
  • If there is more than one nominee for an elective position, the Nominations Committee undertakes an election process using online voting, culminating with a final opportunity for members to cast in-person ballots at the AGM. (Article 8, Section 7.4c and 7.4d, paraphrased)
  • The Nominations Committee makes the results available to the membership at the AGM.

Read the full details as set out in the ECOO Bylaw.

Classes of Membership and Voting

ECOO has two classes of membership, Active and Life. Both are entitled to vote.

Active Members of ECOO are comprised of conference attendees from the previous year’s conference and any non-conference attendee who has separately paid the annual membership fee. Life members (there are about 20) are individuals who have rendered meritorious and outstanding service to ECOO and have been recommended by the Board.

If there are any contested positions (more than one nominee for any one role), then all members of ECOO are informed via email and their membership number is used to authenticate their online vote. Final voting may take place in-person at the AGM, at which point the votes are tabulated by the Nominations Chair and made known to the members present. The results are then posted to the ECOO website and the membership is advised, usually during an address during the final day of the annual conference. 

Do you recognize these ECOO Life Members?

Looking Ahead to the 2017 Nominations Process:

  • The Chair of the Nominations Committee for 2017 is Kristy Lurker.
  • Following the model of previous years, the AGM will likely occur on the Thursday of the annual conference, November 9th 2017. Note that the announcing of the date of the AGM is done by the Board, and cannot officially occur earlier than 120 days before the AGM. (Article 8, Section 1.1) 
  • Based on the date suggested above:
  • Call for Nominations for 2017 should occur no later than August 9th, 2017.
  • Call for Nominations for 2017 should close by September 30th, 2017.
  • Details regarding the nominees will be shared with the membership (posted on website, mailing to the membership)
  • Elections will take place (should they be necessary), culminating with the final voting, counting, and announcing of the results at the AGM.

A Call to Engagement

The ECOO organization is only as strong as its members. Without support from the membership, an organization falters. The Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) has an opportunity to be much more to Ontario educators and learners than just an annual conference. It requires the engagement and the involvement of the membership in order to fulfil its potential as a provincial leader in supporting technology-related learning.

Our current Board of Directors has the opportunity to take ECOO to the next level. In addition to an annual conference, the board is looking to understand how the members wish to engage and is currently conducting a survey of the membership. Please consider adding your voice to help set the vision and establish some plans for the coming year.

As a closing reminder, don’t forget that the Call for Session Proposals for the annual conference, #BIT17 Bring IT, Together! 2017 remains open until this Friday. Educators throughout the province are invited to put forward their session proposals for consideration. Share your learning!

Please continue to support your organization so that it can support you, your peers, and future educators for years to come.


Support Your ECOO 4

“Submit your Session Proposals for #BIT17 Today” Support your ECOO!

Last night I had an opportunity to “attend” a Board of Directors meeting for the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario. I’ll share a little bit more about that in a moment, but first some history.

My History With ECOO

The Educational Computing Organization of Ontario started way back in 1979 (I was likely a student in grade 11 then), and about 30 years later, I had the opportunity to join the Board of Directors. My participation on the board at the time was prompted by a statement made by the ECOO President on the website, that “ECOO might not survive the Annual General Meeting if interest was not shown in maintaining the organization.”  I was shocked. That was 2009.

Having attended many an annual ECOO conference as a beginning educator in the early 1990s and later for many years as a conference presenter, I had highly valued the opportunity to meet and learn from other educators on an annual basis. Not wanting to see such a valuable organization as ECOO pass into history, I undertook to act as a member of the Board of Directors from 2009 through to 2013, and then served for two subsequent years as the Chair of the Nominations Committee for the annual Directors election. In addition, former President/Past-President Ron Millar and I drafted revisions to the ECOO Bylaw at the request of the Board in 2013, resulting in changes to increase the opportunity for the Board to devote time to projects beyond the annual conference. Specifically, the role of Vice President and Past President were re-introduced to the Board, and four two-year Director-At-Large roles were introduced to support longer term projects and assist in continuity from one year through to the next. ECOO has a conference committee to deal with the conference; ECOO has a Board of Directors to set a broader vision and support other things.

The Importance of Bylaws

Having become familiar with the ECOO bylaws over the years, it has become clear that there are times when such rules exist for a reason. Take, for example, the concept of the quorum. Without sufficient numbers, a Board cannot operate, nor can an Annual General Meeting take place. With ten positions on the ECOO board, a minimum of two-fifths (four Directors) is required to conduct business. In the case of an Annual General Meeting, the membership must be represented by at least 15 members. Could you believe that in recent years, with over 1000 members attending the annual conference, it has been a challenge to get 15 members at the Annual General Meeting? We need more members involved in the AGM and extra-to-conference projects.

Another important facet of the Bylaw that became clear surrounds the annual forming of the new board. According to our Bylaw, an incoming board is required to establish a Nominations Committee at their first meeting. This committee is required to exist throughout the year, and needs to follow very clearly defined timelines regarding the call for nominations, the closing of the call for nominations, the election process, and the establishment of the new board. It is expected that the Nominations Committee will review the needs of the organization, and work to ensure that candidates are put forward to ensure a strong Board to support the organization.

ECOO Bylaw 11, Article 7, Section 2.1

Recently, I was required to call upon another aspect of our bylaw, that being the requirement for me to exercise my right as a member of ECOO to attend Board of Directors meeting. Although I had made repeated requests for the opportunity to attend the April 3 board meeting as an observer, the requests went unanswered. I had clarified my right as a member under Article 7 Section 2.1c (Membership; Rights of Members), and finally received an inaccurate reply stating the meeting was “only for the Board of Directors.” As late as the 9 pm start time I was still pressing my case to attend, when the lone remaining Director from my time on the Board sent me the link to the Adobe Connect room.

Thank you to the ECOO members who lent their support in solidarity with my reminder of our collective right to attend our Board of Director meetings.

Board of Directors Meeting, April 3, 2017.

It was with pleasure that I joined the meeting shortly after 9 pm, only to find that the board had gone in camera. I sat there staring at a blank screen from 9:03 PM through until 10:38 PM (over an hour and a half).  In the end, the board offered approximately 30 minutes of an open meeting from 10:38 PM until 11:08 PM, at which point the meeting was adjourned.

Suffice to say, I was quite displeased at the lengths to which I had to go to ensure my attendance at the meeting, and found it most unfortunate that most of the meeting was not held in the open. Where is the transparency in the governance of the organization?  What issues are so secret that they need to be held out of view of the membership? Why was it so difficult for me to attend the meeting in the first place? After having supported ECOO for several years in a variety of capacities, why was I being denied the opportunity to find out what the Board was up do?

Members may take some small solace in the fact, that after several weeks of repeated requests and re-stated promises, a summary of board meeting notes was finally posted to the organization website yesterday afternoon, April 3, the day of the Board meeting.. There had been no updates to the organization website since the minutes last posted as of October 3, 2016, aside from the posts (a, b, c, d, e) and changes that I myself have made over the past two months in an attempt to keep the site fresh and current. Those #BIT14 banners and #edCamp notices from 2014 were way past their prime.

“ECOO.org website updates,” by @aforgrave

Support your ECOO!

The ECOO organization is only as strong as its members. Without support from the membership, an organization falters.

The Call for Session Proposals for the annual conference, #BIT17 Bring IT, Together! 2017 remains open until this Friday. Educators throughout the province are invited to put forward their session proposals for consideration. Share your learning!

ECOO is also currently conducting a survey of the membership. Please consider adding your voice to help set the vision and establish some plans for the coming year.

In closing, the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) has an opportunity to be much more to Ontario educators and learners than just an annual conference. It requires the engagement and the involvement of the membership in order to fulfil its potential as a provincial leader in supporting technology-related learning.

Please continue to support your organization so that it can support you, your peers, and future educators for years to come.

 


Doug and Pete’s Technological Listing of 10 Things to Fear 5

Comfort Zone, credited to Barrett Brooks

What Do Educators Fear About Using Technology?

Doug Peterson (@dougpete, on Twitter) and Peter McAsh (@pmcash, on Twitter) sat down to brainstorm a response to the original Colleen Rose’ post What Do Educators Fear About Using Technology?, and Doug posted 10 Things to Fear this morning. As I read through their list, I found myself mentally generating possible responses to their compilation, and found myself drawn to reply:

First, let’s look at fear:

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Definition: Fear, as returned via Google, edited

 

Perception, Attitude, Behaviour and Learning Outside our Comfort Zone

Year’s ago, I learned that our behaviours are influenced by our attitudes, and that our attitudes are influenced by our perceptions. Fear is perceived — we need to start with our perceptions of technology and our come to grips with our attitudes towards it so that we can modify our behaviours as we address its role in supporting learning.

Moving from fear towards comfort requires moving through a zone of discomfort.  I did a quick search for a header graphic and selected the one seen above (Comfort Zone, credited to Barrett Brooks (@BarrattABrooks, on Twitter) via a How your Comfort Zone is Sabotaging your Success on Huffington Post.) You may be interested in seeing the results of my simple search and choose a variant that works for you.

I will confess up front that there are times when I find it difficult to encounter fear with technology. And as a result, I found myself coming up with some rather flip responses to some of the entries on Doug and Peter’s list — there are no doubt some real challenges expressed there. But I also found that a good number of the entries on Doug and Peter’s list would be what we might term as “heard rationalizations,” — things that we have heard people say over the years, rather than true rationales against using technology. Rationalizations help you argue against something with yourself. Instead we need to cultivate with our learners a “find a way” mindset towards finding solutions. So watch for a few short comebacks embedded within the following. But in general, I’ve also tried to provide a start at a valid set of possible supports.

Developing a comfort with discomfort is a great way to start.

My responses to 10 Things to Fear.

  • “The kids know more than I do!”
    • In life, everyone knows different things. Learn to learn from one another.
    • Ask yourself, “When did you stop learning? Why did you stop learning?” “What do you think you need to learn more about?”
  • “I don’t have time; so many other things that are more important.”
    • What is more important than learning?
    • Re-assess priorities from time to time. Think critically about what you are doing and whether it still fits. Maybe there is a newer, better way?
    • Buddha says, “Your purpose in life is to find your purpose in life.”
  • “How do I know that it fits the curriculum?”
    • What a great question! Ontario’s Language curriculum is dated 2006, which is before Twitter existed. The “leader of the free world” exerts considerable influence through his “writing” via the technology of Twitter. We always need to assess the relevancy of the curriculum.
  • “My school doesn’t have enough computers for every student to have their own.”
    • Get more.
    • BYOD
    • Have your students share. Re-organize lessons to use groups or centres. (There are days when I still struggle with this. But it works.)
  • “I need a workshop on this.”
    • Find a friend to learn with.
    • Search YouTube for a video.
    • Join an open, online course.
    • Worst case, go find a workshop on this. But seriously, we don’t need workshops on everything; We need to change our beliefs and then our behaviours about how we learn. In this day and age, waiting for a workshop is an excuse.
  • “Nothing worse than booking the lab, taking the entire class there, and then half the computers are broken.”
    • Yeah, that is a bummer. Been there. As I learner, I would be ticked off. I’m sure the principal, the superintendent, the trustees (and the parents of your students!) don’t want half the computers to be broken. This is a school issue, and there are folks who can help you to get it addressed.
    • In the meantime, have the kids work with a partner.
  • “It’s not in the curriculum.”
    • See “How do I know that it fits the curriculum?” above.
    • “Coding” is only minimally reflected in Ontario’s K-12 curriculum. Ontario currently faces a shortage of programmers on the order of tens of thousands per year. The Ontario Ministry of Education knows this. But so do a lot of teachers. A lot of teachers are making space for coding, rather than waiting for “a curriculum.”
  • Too much curriculum; not enough time to experiment.”
    • Time is a real constraint, no doubt about it. What is important?
    • With time, you can learn to make time. Again, learning is an investment. Careful investing requires making careful choices.
  • “I’m not sure I have a login on the school network.  Who do I ask?”
    • Ask a colleague at your school.
    • Ask your office administrator.
    • Ask your best teacher friend who teaches at a different school.
    • Ask your principal.
    • Check for a “help desk” on your district’s web site.
    • Email someone on the OSAPAC committee.
    • Follow up with that person you met at that conference you went to a year ago with whom you exchanged emails after you had that discussion about that thing.
  • “I have a Mac at home and the school has Windows.”
    • Excellent! You can do a lot great stuff with a Mac!
    • 95% of what you need is web-based, and the web is cross-platform. Your school is good to go, as long as you have good Internet.
  • “The IT Department has the computers locked down and I can’t run the software I need.”
    • 95% of what you need is web-based, and the web is cross-platform. Your school is good to go, as long as you have good Internet. Is there an echo?
  • “What if the kids get into a porn site?”
    • Responsible IT departments have this covered for you.
    • Relax. Most kids are immediately horrified whenever something even remotely “inappropriate” shows up on a screen at school.
  • “I can teach the topic better without technology.”
    • Can the students LEARN the topic better WITH technology? If so, use the methods that best support their learning.  It’s not about technology OR your teaching, it’s about their learning.
    • Technology is not the answer to everything, and not everything is best learned via technology. Us it when it makes a difference.
  • “I’m a Google person trapped in a Microsoft world or vice versa.”
    • Ouch. Yeah. Or a Mac person trapped in a Microsoft world.
    • Either make friends with what you are given, advocate for alternatives, or find ways to transfer the necessary skills to your board’s chosen platform.
    • Be happy, in the olden days, folks worried about whether they had WordPerfect or MS-Office, and honestly, it’s what you write that is important, not the program you write it in. But yeah.
  • “Our computers are too old and not powerful enough.”
    • They must be good for writing.
    • What is the replacement cycle at your school/board? If they are that old, you are just about to get an upgrade!!!!
  • “I’m concerned about student privacy.”
    • Being cautious about student privacy is a good thing. It’s not an excuse to do nothing.
    • Use your concern about student privacy to learn and educate your learners.
  • “I’m concerned about my own privacy.”
    • Being cautious about your own privacy is a good thing. It’s not an excuse to do nothing.
    • Use your concern about privacy to learn and educate yourself. Again, find a friend to learn with.
  • “Somebody needs to be the champion of cursive.”
    • I discovered one day (not too many years ago) that it is important to know cursive so that you can read cursive.
    • I discovered one day (not too many years ago, but the same day as I discovered the item above) that very little of what we encounter in schools today is written in cursive.
    • I also learned that using cursive as an educator exacerbates the learning challenges for my identified students, and that printing fits a UDL model. My printing has always been easier to read than my cursive.
    • Voice-to-text is a marvellous technology. For everybody.
    • Slowing down the brain by writing by hand still has a place in helping one to think.
  • “Nobody has ever hacked my filing cabinet.
    • Probably true. But are you sure?”
    • Nobody is likely to hack your computer for your lesson plans either. Worry more about your PIN and your bank card.
  • “The printer never works – I have to print their work so I can mark it.”
    • No you don’t. (I really only ever had this as a need once.)
    • Learn to print to PDF. CutePDF is one of many answers if one doesn’t already exist at your school.
  • “What if the technology isn’t charged and goes dead in class?”
    • Been there. It’s a lesson in learning to be prepared, and one that your learners need to learn to deal with themselves.
    • Do you have a car charger for your phone? Why?
    • Be that person at a conference who totes around a power bar or extra phone battery. You can make friends that way. (‘Truth!)
  • “I tried once and failed badly.  Once burned, twice shy.”
    • There is a story floating around about Thomas Edison and the light bulb. The number 10, 000 comes up in it. He probably got burned at least once.
    • There is an acronym floating around: FAIL: First Attempt at Learning.
  • “Phones are banned in my school.”
    • Do you need phones? What question are “phones” providing the answer for? Is there another answer?
    • My P/J students don’t have phones. Getting phones isn’t an answer to their needs.
    • Why are phones banned? Who do you need to convince? (Answer: You only need to convince yourself to get started on this path …)
    • Are phones banned for teachers and administrators, too? Is this hypocrisy?
  • “The bulb in my data projector is burned out and my principal won’t replace it.”
    • Yeah. Data projector bulbs are pricey, no doubt.
    • Why won’t your principal replace it? Is the issue financial/budgetary, or is it philosophical?
    • Back in the day, I arrived at a new school one September and we had ONE overhead projector for the whole school. We were promised we would have new overhead projectors for all for the following September. Back then, I decided that rather than have my practice and my classroom be disadvantaged for a whole year, I would buy one myself. A couple years later, I lobbied my principal for a SMART board, and the overhead projector became redundant. How important is a particular piece of technology to your teaching and learning practice?
  • “Nobody else does, why should I?”
    • Do you believe that “it” is important?
    • Somebody needs to be first. Why not you?
    • Somebody needs to be second. Why not you?
    • The person who goes first needs a friend, and the person who goes second can be that friend. You and a friend can share the honours and support one another.
  • “What do I do when something goes wrong?”
    • Excellent question! What DO you do when something goes wrong?
    • Learn to develop the comfort requried to answer the question, “What do you do when something goes wrong?”
  • “I don’t want to show a weakness in my knowledge in front of the class.”
    • Knowledge Doubling Every 12 Months, Soon to be Every 12 Hours
    • Nobody expects you to know everything. You may be an expert in one or several fields, and in those areas you are likely well ahead of your learners. But our understanding of the world is continually evolving, and you probably know that.
    • You probably already know that kids like to connect with the real you. Encourage a two way dialogue about learning. What can you learn from them?
  • “I’ve never had a Scratch workshop; maybe my school could hire somebody.”
  • “What if a student puts 2 spaces after a period?”
    • As a learner and as a educator I put two spaces after a period for decades and the world never ended. It was the convention then. Nobody complained. Then one day I read an article about how the convention was changing (print publishers needed to save money and someone had calculated the real savings) and so I simply taught myself to tap the spacebar once instead of twice after a period. Today, I only worry about having an accidental double-space between words in my report card comments, because THAT is the one real no-no where it matters.
  • “What if their essay or report includes emoji?”
    • Do you include emoji in your emails and texts? 😉 I’m partial to the winky-face, because there is a lot to wink about in learning. You can even say “smiley face” or “winky face” to Siri and she will put it in your paragraph or text for you!
    • Consider audience, context, and format. Emoji are a new addition to our text-based communication, originally a work-around on the limits of the keyboard as a way to include emotion. Maybe you can work with the learner on tone, voice, and the use of irony and hyperbole as new techniques in communicating on multiple levels?
    • Remember that primary students are taught to self-assess their work using smiley faces before they learn to couch their emotions in words. Words are just a different symbolic representation.
  • “Many of the resources have US content. What about Canadian resources?”
    • US English. UK English. Put a U in colour, honour, neighbourhood. Can you get a little Canadian Flag to show in the menubar instead of the US one?
  • “It’s the librarian’s job.”
    • Lucky you! You have a librarian.
  • “How do I mark it?”
    • Ask the Ministry of Education. (Sorry, that’s an old joke.)
  • “If my board or school thought it was important, they would do workshops and train me.”
    • Breaking News: Boards and Schools don’t have a monopoly on deciding what is important.
    • Breaking News: Board and Schools don’t have the time and resources to do workshops and train you on everything you need/want to know.
    • OTF, OSSTF, ETFO, AEFO, OECTA, and TVO all offer workshops for teachers. So do our professional subject associations.
    • Search out an #edCamp near you!
  • “Two words – Fake News”

I think I got a bit punchy towards the end. Maybe Doug and Peter were scraping the bottom of their barrel by that point, too.

Help to Make Peace with Technology in Learning

For anyone who might like to add to this — especially with concrete responses to the real challenges, feel free to ask for access to edit the shared document that I’ve made available to Doug, Peter, and Colleen.

Again, learn to develop a comfort with discomfort!

If you are a member of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO), look to bring a colleague or three to the annual Ontario education technology conference, Bring IT, Together #BIT17, November 8-10th in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

If you are NOT a member of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO), you automatically become a member by attending our annual Ontario education technology conference, Bring IT, Together #BIT17 November 8-10th in Niagara Falls, Ontario. So come, and bring a colleague or three with you and learn together!

There is nothing to fear, technology-using educators are a friendly bunch!

#BIT17 Bring IT, Together 2017 promo, by aforgrave


5 Powerful Learning Forces (as Visualized WITH an App) 1

IMG_2020I was out running errands this morning, and a couple them involved me sitting and waiting for a bit. I read “5 Vintage and Powerful Teaching Moves That You Don’t Need an App For,” by Royan Lee (@RoyanLee, on Twitter). He included the link to his image source, Unsplash.com, and that had me browsing and interpreting the first five images from the context of learning.

The five annotated images are my response are:

  • Risk
  • Foundations
  • Time
  • Design
  • Exploration

It would be a great exercise in reflection (reminiscent of a Rodd Lucier-style workshop) to browse the site and select 5 photos on your own. Annotate them, and share them. That Rodd (@TheCleverSheep) is always up to stuff like this.

IMG_2021

IMG_2022

IMG_2024

IMG_2025

After Photo

“After Photo” for iPhone and iPad

For me, as a bit of an exercise in creative constraint, I decided to limit myself to the first five photos presented to me, and with whatever app seemed appropriate readily available on my iPad. A Google search for “best apps for adding text to photos” led me to The Best (and Worst) Free Apps to Add Text to Photos on the CreativeLive blog.  After Photos received a 5-star recommendation, and so I downloaded the app and applied an appropriate “powerful learning force” noun to each photo.

I enjoyed searching through the large collection of fonts (I did expand the collection available in the free app by adding a few more via the in-app purchase of $1.39), positioning and scaling the text, and playing around with the text colour selection and shadowing. All-told, the experience fit perfectly into my available waiting time, and was a great opportunity to respond to some images with some reflection.

Perhaps you might like to take a few minutes over the next day or two to visualize your own thoughts about important factors in either teaching or learning. What are you using for your source material, and how are you accomplishing your visualization? What words come to mind for you?

Attributions (images sourced on Unsplash.com)


Do You Dream of Databases? 2

“Sunset on a Set of Boxes Sitting,” image by aforgrave, on Flickr

Cross-Posted from a long comment response to a Doug Peterson (@dougpete) question, “Whatever Happened to Filemaker Pro?” on his Doug – Off The Record blog.

I knew when I read Doug’s post this morning that it would be impossible for me to let it go without commenting. But where to start? How could I start and not go on for hours and hours? And I expect that he knew that it would be difficult for me to not reply. I remember the day when John Taylor introduced us to one another at ECOO. I’m fairly certain he was looking at pushing the OSAPAC database of licensed software to the web from FileMaker at the time.

My original thought was that I would reply by writing my own post on my own blog. But the post would be out of the blue and wouldn’t have the context that Doug’s post provided. In the end, I posted a long comment on Doug’s blog, and based it on his prompt questions. To go broader would open the floodgates and I’d never get any sleep. But I did decide to cross-post it here to EdVisioned.ca all the same. After all, I spent upwards of five years from 1998 to 2003 breathing, eating, and sleeping in Filemaker. I’m sure I had a few Filemaker-inspired dreams along the way.

Have you ever developed a database application in Filemaker Pro?

Database101Oh, yeah. You know I have! It all began with a demo version on floppy disk in the back of Guy Kawasaki’s Database 101 book, purchased one lazy Sunday afternoon while browsing computer section at the the local bookseller, a year or so after I started teaching. That was pre-Chapters/Indigo, pre-Internet. But I did have a Mac, and a background in programming and Hypercard, and the first real project was to develop a lesson planner for a summer course I was taking. Why spend all that time formatting the pages when common fields across the various lessons in the unit could be automagically arranged, and I could add and re-sort the lessons with a nice table of contents to boot? I remember carrying that Mac to and from class and school in one of those big bags.

“Ontario Curriculum Unit Planner,” photo by aforgrave, on Flickr

Subsequent to that, the Class Organizer was a database that I developed and then shared at an ECOO SIG-ELEM in Kingston (Doug wrote about Special Interest Groups last weekend), and then came a school report card in my third year of teaching — followed by district Report Cards, Provincial Report Cards, and then the Ontario Curriculum Unit Planner (units still available via Queen’s University as PDFs) for the Ministry of Education.

Do you have a need for a database in the things you do on a computer?

To this day, I maintain student records and manage a bunch of classroom tasks from within Filemaker. Record keeping is the very raison d’être of a database, but the reality is that most folks do not “think” in terms of databases. I’ve had conversations with people over the years (looking at you, Peter Skillen) about how our thought processes and problem solving are influenced by the tools we understand and use. You are familiar with The Law of the Instrument, perhaps as initially clarified by Abraham Maslow in 1966: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” For years and years, the hammer of choice for many in Ontario was WordPerfect, and every single problem was solved with it. Now, decades later, comfort with spreadsheets has increased, but the subtleties of difference between spreadsheets and databases are lost to most. While visiting the Google Showcase at pre-ISTE NECC in 2009, I recall asking their booth folks if Google had a database program under development to complement Docs, Sheets, Slides — and I just received blank stares from the folks there. Now, a few years later, even Microsoft’s Access has disappeared from Office365. Databases are a hidden entity. They manage our finances, they organize and store our blog posts behind the interface of WordPress, but most people do NOT think of a database when faced with a database problem. It is not in our toolbox.

What sorts of things do you collect that would be suitable for inclusion in a database?
There was a time when I worked towards what one might call The Grand Unification of Data Architecture, where any and all information worth capturing was stored within a set of linked databases and was available to be searched and cross-linked and referenced with other related bits of data. Calendar entries, journal entries, financial data, family and contact information, events, presentations, goals, books and movies and media, quotes and research findings, long-range plans, any and all information belonged gathered together in a single related data-entity. As it has turned out, in the same way Facebook has given a web presence to the masses in a way that HTML never did, the multitude of mobile apps that exist today for managing groceries, workouts, friends, photos, and so on have provided everyone with a splintered and fractured collection of databases that can be used without truly understanding the methods beneath. Have a problem? There’s an app for that, no need to solve the problem yourself.

keep-calm-there-s-an-app-for-that-MODIf you’re not using a Filemaker Pro version, what are you using instead?
Over the years, I have played around with other data structures, MySQL being the most long-standing complement to my use of the latest versions of Filemaker. When the web really kicked into gear in the 2000s, the gathering and provision of data via AJAX became a new technological pursuit for me. That meant working with MySQL, HTML/CSS, and Javascript — three separate components. From the days of FileMaker 2.1 through FileMaker 15, one of the strongest features of FileMaker has been the way in which it marries the traditional modal-view-controller components within the domain of one application. With Filemaker, developers simultaneously manage the data structure, the interface, and the business logic. The most recent releases of Filemaker continue to support publishing web interface as well as generating mobile apps. For me, however, with today’s prevalence of apps and cloud computing, a lot of my data is stored within someone else’s data architecture. There are instances when I wish it were easier to hook the bits together, but the need to create things from scratch out of necessity has been supplanted over time with ready access to a multitude of specialized apps. The emerging potential of APIs has yet to be realized.

A Hammer, a Screwdriver, and a Flashlight?
In closing, as with coding, there is an untapped depth of problem solving potential that today’s learners are missing out on because the strengths and benefits of database structure and manipulation are not readily understood by folks. We have a wonderful category of tool available to support our thinking, but it’s not in the toolbox of the masses. A screwdriver may have joined the hammer for some, and perhaps a flashlight once in a while, but we really have yet to explore the full set of tools to which we truly need access. Databases are one such tool.

hammer_PNG3890

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” – Abraham Maslow, 1966.


#ThinkingFlow

Transcript

Like you, I spent much of my time learning to think with a pencil in my hand. The results of our school learning and thinking were captured on paper that wound up on the teacher’s desk. Textbooks and notebooks were both medium and message. Although the pencil remains a versatile tool that influences our thinking processes, we need learners to be agile with a variety of tools.

Today’s learners have the potential easily create and manipulate documents, photos, audio and video files, are developed across a variety of different devices and a in variety of non-paper formats. The work of their learning no longer simply translates into stacks of paper on a teacher’s desk.

As our learning and working flow more easily from one medium to another, how will this affect the flow of our thinking?
How must we adjust learning over the next three years in support of a smoother #thinkingflow?

Attributions