aforgrave


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.


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