ECOO is Going to Have an Election! 1

“Election Coming,” animated GIF by @aforgrave

The Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) will be holding an election sometime within the next 30 days, culminating with an announcement of a new Board of Directors at the Annual General Meeting on Thursday, November 9th, 2017. The AGM takes place each year at the annual ECOO conference, Bring It, Together! (bringITtogether.ca)

The Call for Nominations officially closed on October 1st, 2017, and the word to the nominees from the Nominations Chair Kristy Lurker is that there are a number of contested positions this year. ECOO is going to have an election!

Each year, as per the ECOO Bylaw, the appointed Nominations Chair posts a Call for Nominations to fill four single-year positions on the Board executive (President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer), and two two-year positions for Directors-At-Large. [Because of an unfilled resignation in an existing Director-At-Large role, a third Director-At-Large position will be backfilled (to sit for the second year of the term), making a total of seven positions to be filled as of this year’s AGM.]

While details of this year’s process are yet to emerge, watch for the posting of the names and biographies of the nominees on the ECOO.org website in the coming days, as well as a notification via email to all eligible voters. Once the terms of the election are made clear, ECOO members are invited to review the qualifications of the nominees and consider what they would like to see their organization accomplish in the coming year and who they best feel will fulfil the mandate.

To all members, please participate in this important annual undertaking! Your ECOO Board is elected to serve you! Check out the Responsibilities of Board Members. Please select a solid group of representatives from your peers so that we can all keep the organization strong and thriving!


Keyboarding

“Keyboard,” by Dan_H, on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Doug Peterson‘s Keyboarding post this morning relates a recent experience for him and raises some questions regarding keyboarding and its place today in schools. I originally started this as a comment response, but the GIF at the end needed to go somewhere, and so I share following here.

Ah, Doug!

Yes, you should have saved this topic for Sunday morning when I have more time to reminisce instead of getting ready for school. As such, this morning’s trip down memory lane may be slightly truncated.

So first of all, while most would say “hunt and peck,” my father would rather refer to the much less known, but perhaps more authentic-sounding  “Columbus Method.”  (With the Columbus Method, as dad used to explain, you spot a key and land on it.)

When it came to my course selection during high school (1976-1981), my dad was not supportive of my taking a typing course. I used the Columbus method (pretty efficiently, but without the option to copy-type) for many years to come.

Years later, when I got my first Mac, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing was the program of choice. I spent some time with the program, but still used the Columbus method to get the job done.

As one of our first system-wide technology purchases back in the day, we invested in the ALMENA method (“learn the keyboard in one hour”) with the intent of having all grade 4 students learn to touch-type and thus save significant time getting their words into text through all the grades to follow. I recall this generated a bit of pushback from some secondary teachers who would have seen this as encroaching on their course enrolments, but the trustees saw the benefits. It was while I was supporting the ALMENA method that my superintendent walked by my desk one June and noted that I wasn’t a touch-typer. The irony of bit deep, and after a two week investment of practice that summer (some Mavis Beacon, some ALMENA), not only was I touch-typing, but able to copy-type as well!  (The true secret, as emphasized by that two-week endeavor), is to stop looking at the keys. Short term decrease in productivity, long-time return on investment)  Sadly, the Grade 4 initiative later went unsupported, and my guess would be that few folks are teaching keyboarding in our elementary schools today.

If we jump forward to the present day, however, we are past the advent of Dragon Naturally Speaking (which required that you train the software in the nuances (pun) of your voice) and we now have pretty good automatic voice-to-text available on our phones and through Chrome extensions like Texthelp’s Read and Write for Google Chrome.  Invariably there will be some faulty word recognitions which require manual editing, but the technology works quite well for confident speakers. It’s been an undertaking in my classroom in recent months to help kids gain some facility with this method. Speaking full sentences significantly enhances the context-recognition, and that tends to come from having a fully-formed sentence already in mind. As well, speaking your punctuation really helps, too. All the same, this past June we had exceptional students writing their grade 3 EQAO with the support of Read and Write for Google Chrome — and this advancement will only help more kids as we move forward.

In closing, I have noticed yesterday and this morning a couple of new “keyboard features” in the iOS 11 update on my iPad.

First, there is a single touch (swipe) gesture that can substitute for the two-tap (shift key, then tap) normally required for the secondary characters on the keyboard keys. If you simply swipe down on the key, you get the secondary character. It works quite well, once you get into the habit (still working on that, it’s only been two days). Whether it works in the long run (will we develop a separate muscle memory for keyboarding on a touch device? I use the Columus method there …) remains to be seen.

“‘Swipe Down’ keyboard / Microphone or Keyboard input (tiny buttons)” GIF by @aforgrave

The second “feature,” however, may yet still see further evolution before reaching a more practical state. Upon bringing up the iPad keyboard, the voice-to-text microphone key still rests in its spot to the left of the space bar. That’s where I expect it to be. But at the end of a voice-to-text input, the voice feature cancels back to a large keyboard space, but shows only a small microphone icon and a small keyboard icon. Perhaps the thinking is that having used voice-input, you will want to return to voice input? But if you want to return to the keyboard (which, if you are wanting to make a correction or two, seems to be the more usual case) you need to then tap the keyboard icon before you can begin revisions. I’m hoping that this can be adjusted in a preference somewhere, as it’s going to irk me until it gets fixed.

(Note that after my iPad ran out of battery juice following the second paragraph, I left the world of voice-input and returned to my Mac keyboard for some touch-typing input. These days, my eyes are on the screen while my fingers magically seek out the keys without effort.

Touch-typing/copy-typing remains a valuable skill in 2017, and kids should learn it early on, to supplement the continually improving methods of voice-input.


Google Data GIF Maker: Not Sophisticated, Potentially Misleading?

“Google Data GIF Maker – BEWARE,” animated GIF by @aforgrave

A couple days ago I wrote a post entitled Google Data GIF Maker: Not Ready for Prime Time. I was intrigued with the ease with which it created a nice animatedGIF.

However, I was:

  1. confused by the limited documentation;
  2. perhaps mislead a bit by the interface;
  3. concerned about the results it produced.

I continued to poke around a bit more in the days that followed. I wanted to understand how the tool might be processing a set of values and deriving the visualization. I submitted the following data set to the tool:

“What will the Google Data GIF Maker do with this data?” capture by @aforgrave

The Data GIF Maker generated the following:

“Increasing & Decreasing Data: What does this show?” animated GIF by Google Data GIF Maker

Clearly, something didn’t seem to be jiving with my expectations.  Yes, there is a trending from right to left (green increasing, red decreasing), but what does the final state mean with red at 0% and green at 100% yet displaying bars of relative width at a ratio of 1:4? (I counted pixels. 120 red, 480 green for a 600 pixel wide GIF.)  This seems remarkably similar to that odd 80% that I kept arriving at in the previous post, and is very misleading. What’s going on?

“What Does This Represent?” (final state of data GIF)

This morning I followed the breadcrumbs back to the original source post upon which the rest of the Internet had based its promotions. The post, Make Your Own Data GIFs with Our New Tool, was authored by Simon Rogers, (@smfrogers, on Twitter) Data Editor at the Google News Lab. I noted a couple of details in his post which seemed new to my understanding — and critically important.

First, the post clearly provides simple numbered instructions — something that seemed to be lacking in the re-hashed third-party blog posts I originally read. The first numbered instruction is clearly at odds with the instruction within the Data GIF Maker interface.

Where Simon’s instructions state “1. Enter two data points,” the interface instead provides two fields, with each asking for “Values (comma-separated).”

Second, the title bar on the page also seems at odds with the actual function.

Whereas the title bar reads “Trends Visualization Tool,”  the details in Simon’s post state “If you want to show search interest, you can compare two terms in the Google Trends explore tool, which will give you an average number (of search interest over time) for each term (emphasis added). Then input those two numbers in Data Gif Maker.”  In other words, calculate the average values for your two sets of data, and put them in here. What? No trend over time is actually assessed by the tool?

So, for all the appearance of taking sets of data and showing how they change over time, my previous suggestion that the tool simply animates a wobble back and forth seemed to be actually in tune with what the tool was designed to do, namely, given two data points, provide a flashy, eye-catching wobble that arrives at a clearly determined comparative ratio. No real data crunching happening here folks. No trend being visualized. Nothing to see here. Carry on.

Note, however, that this tool is aimed at journalists, and offers them a way to quickly create visualization that suggests a trend or a change over time (“Trends Visualization Tool”). Without proper understanding and application, such a tool could very easily create a very misleading effect, unintentionally or otherwise.  As readers and consumers of media, we need to beware anything that could be misleading.

In closing, consider the same data provided above, but crunched as per the instructions.

“Crunch the Data the Google Trends Way,” animated GIF by @aforgrave

Does the following Google Data GIF Maker product in any way visualize either the trend OR the end state as reflected in the data?

“Trend? Final State? Or Just Two Averages? ” animated GIF by Google Data GIF Maker

I would like to see this tool evolve to do what I had originally hoped it was doing. I don’t think the code required would be all that difficult to implement.

However, I do believe that Google needs to be really clear up front with us about:

  1. how they want folks to be able to use the tool;
  2. what the tool is actually doing;
  3. and most importantly, what their understanding is of how the general population will interpret the results.

I’m going to forward this post to a few folks who have a lot more time and experience invested in Data Visualization than I do. Perhaps they can chime in and let us know where this might be going over time.

Attribution

Masterplan font by Billy Argel from fontspace.com  (licensed as Freeware, Non-Commercial)


Google Data GIF Maker: Not Ready for Prime Time? 1

Interface for Google’s Data GIF Maker, screen capture by @aforgrave

 

June 3rd: This is now the first of two posts on this topic. The second post, Google Data GIF Maker: Not Sophisticated, Potentially Misleading, documents some additional investigation. Please consider the two posts in tandem.

Given my fondness for making animated GIFS (see posts tagged animatedGIF on my de•tri•tus blog), the announcement of the Google Data GIF Maker last week had my attention from the start. It looked like a really cool tool for visualizing the relative quantities of two sets of data (two web search topics, say, or the frequency of tweets from two different Twitter accounts). No sooner had I seen it, than Doug Peterson (@dougpete, on Twitter) tweeted about it and mentioned me to make sure I knew about it.

I poked around with the tool, but lacking any documentation (and not finding any in the articles (here’s one, here’s another) that had been posted to announce it), I was flying blind as I tried to get it to work. Did it draw the values from a couple of search URLs? Nope. I looked at the examples. With two numbers (one in each of the Values fields) that summed to 100, it would wobble back and forth and end up with a split representing their relative fraction of the whole. But clearly it must do more than that! It was asking for comma separated data values. Hmmmm. Clearly I needed two sets of relative data that it could compare!

Peter McAsh (@pmcash, on Twitter)was kind enough to download an archive of the @BringIT2017 Twitter account for me to compare with the data that I have from the sister @ecooWeb Twitter account. I spent a few minutes formatting the monthly data into comma-separated values, and then unleashed the tool on the data. The fan came on my laptop, the web tool ground away for numerous minutes, and then it gave me this:

Comparing Tweets by Month, 2015, for @BringIT2015 and @ecooWeb, generated with Google Data GIF Maker (GIF is 4.6 MB!)

It looked nice, but somehow, the data representation didn’t look right. Despite one number significantly dwarfing the other, the visual splits seemed to be somewhat arbitrary.

I tried again using data from 2016, which I knew from inspection was even more offset in favour of @BringIT2016. Still, it didn’t seem right at all.

Comparing Tweets by Month, 2016, for @BringIT2016 and @ecooWeb, generated with Google Data GIF Maker (4.7 MB)

I was also puzzled by the fact that both years resulted in an 80/20 split — Not only did that seem highly coincidental, but I also knew that it was not correct. Maybe I was misunderstanding the tool? I tried the 2016 data again using the “+” option rather than the “%” option. Hmmm.

Comparing Tweets by Month, 2016, for @BringIT2016 and @ecooWeb — using + versus %, generated with Google Data GIF Maker (4.6 MB)

Was the %/+ nothing more than a numerical unit in the footer? Perhaps it has NO effect on the function of the tool.

By this point, I was actively questioning whether the Data GIF Maker was even representing the provided data in the GIF, or perhaps it was simply animating the wobble back and forth and just listing data points in the footer. (I knew the answer — and realized that I could simply confirm my belief by grabbing a single frame from the gif — see below), but I wanted to press on and see if I could actually get the tool to accurately represent the data. Maybe the Data GIF Maker wasn’t as smart as I was expecting it to be? I was assuming that it would take the two corresponding data points from the two lists, do a mathematical comparison on each to generate their relative fractions A/(A+B) and B/(A+B) and express/draw them as percents of the total width — but perhaps I needed to present the data already pre-calculated for it? I transferred my data into a spreadsheet, performed the calculations, and re exported the data as percentages of the total into two pre-compared lists.

Data re-transferred into percentages, for the period January 2015 through to May 2017.

Here is the final result.

Comparing Tweets, Relative Percentage, Jan 2015 to May 2017, for @BringIT2016 and @ecooWeb, generated with Google Data GIF Maker (4.6 MB)

Yeah. The animated representation is all glitz, and doesn’t accurately represent the true data at all. That’s really too bad. Here is the same GIF, but I have slowed down the frames so that you can see the percentages listed and compare them with the relative proportions of the whole. They are completely arbitrary and way out of whack!

Comparing Tweets, Relative Percentage, Jan 2015 to May 2017, generated with Google Data GIF Maker — GIF frames slowed down. (733 kb! Much better!)

The Google Data GIF Maker might look cool, but it is extremely misleading!

I spent a few minutes with a spreadsheet tool to create a stacked bar graph, and then took the resulting graph into Photoshop to create what I had actually hoped the Data GIF Maker was doing. Here is my own animated GIF of the actual data, represented in proper proportions of the width/area.  Enjoy!

My own data GIF of the same figures, created using Excel and Photoshop, by @aforgrave  (435 KB, and that’s at 256 colours!)

Some notes regarding the GIFs created by the Google Data GIF Maker:

  • The GIF files are huge – on the order of 4-5 MB each.
  • To get the smooth animation, they have a lot of frames, literally hundreds of frames for 12 pairs of data points.
  • The files don’t use an optimized colour palette, which also increases file size considerably. They could easily get away with an 8 colour palette.
  • All those decimals in the percentages suggest a precision that doesn’t exist in the data.
  • And again, they emphasize glitz at the expense of accurately representing the data. It’s nowhere close.

I’m keen to see the Data GIF maker evolve, as it certainly creates a nice product with much less effort than is required to do the same task manually. However, for the time being, the fact that it doesn’t accurately show the data is a deal breaker.

Here’s hoping the code will evolve to address that!


I’m a Member of ECOO — Are You?

“I helped Bring IT, Together,” animatedGIF by @aforgrave — Share using the #ecoo tag

Having attended the 2016 Bring IT, Together conference in Niagara Falls last November, I am a member of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO). If you attended #BIT16 last fall — even for a day — then you are a member of ECOO, too!  This frequently comes asa surprise to first-time attendees, but it is true!

Your ECOO membership is supported by a $25 annual membership fee, which for most members is collected as a component of the conference registration. Folks who do not attend the annual conference can elect to pay the $25 fee directly to the ECOO office, thus maintaining their membership, although most members simply renew by attending the conference annually.   Life members are recognized for their service to the organization over the years and are exempt from paying the annual fee.

Your ECOO membership cycle is tied to the timing of ECOO’s Annual General Meeting. Attendees at November’s #BIT16 have a membership which extends through the remainder of this school year, through the summer and into fall, expiring at the subsequent AGM with the conclusion of voting. In 2013, ECOO moved to include an electronic balloting process for the selection of the Board of Directors, so even if you do not attend the conference in a given year, you remain eligible to vote as long as your membership is current.  Active ECOO members may nominate their peers to stand for the Board of Directors, and may also stand for election to the Board themselves. Watch for details related to the Call for Nominations to the Board of Directors later this summer. The Call remains open for three months so that there is plenty of time to nominate your peers or consider standing for nomination yourself!

I have been a member of ECOO for over 20 years now. The organization provides a great opportunity to connect with new colleagues and collaborate with longstanding education friends.

ECOO is more than just the annual conference, and so if you are a recent conference attendee (and thus, a member!), reach out with the #ecoo tag on twitter, say hi, and connect with other members throughout the year!

The ECOO Board of Directors are currently conducting a survey of the membership and would like your input! If you have not yet submitted your thoughts, please take a moment now to do so! The Board is working to establish future priorities and needs to hear from the membership! PROVIDE YOUR INPUT NOW

NOTE: The “I helped Bring IT, Together” animated GIF above is based on my original, “Doug Peterson Brings IT, Together” animated GIF from November, 2016.  I snapped the pic of Doug with his animated shirt at the ECOO registration booth.

“Doug Peterson Brings IT, Together,” original animated GIF by @aforgrave

 

 

 

 


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.