Perseverance


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!


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


Getting Charged Up About #edCamps

"Devices a-Charging" animatedGIF by @aforgrave

“Devices a-Charging” animatedGIF by @aforgrave

On the eve of #edCampPTBO (Peterborough, ON), a goodly number of us have our iDevices and batteries plugged-in and charging in preparation for tomorrow’s learning. With the Twitter chats, the shared Google notes, photographs, and websites to bookmark, educators tomorrow will be connecting both face-to-face (F2F) and over the Internet.

Having attended two Ontario #edCamps so far this fall — (#edCampToronto and #edCampBarrie, images above) — and ten Ontario #edCamps to date over the past three years, I continue to be inspired by the energy and enthusiasm that teachers all over the globe share when they gather together on Saturday mornings for grass-roots organized professional development. For the most part, these events are not organized by school districts, but rather by active and self-directed educators within a geographical area — quite frequently mobilized and organized through conversations on Twitter. Check out the hashtag #edCamp.

I am especially pleased to know that there will be twenty-five #edCamps taking place over this coming weekend and next. I’ve not always paid attention to the numbers each weekend in the past, but I’m thinking that this current intensity is reflecting the continued surge in interest in the #edCamp personal professional learning model. (Scanning ahead into 2015, the currently scheduled events average around 4-5 per weekend. Here in Ontario, and following quickly on the heels of Toronto, Barrie, and Peterborough,  #JEDCamp Toronto will run on Sunday, October 26th, and November 8th will feature bothOntario’s #edCampOttawa and #edCampSWO (South Western Ontario).  April 18th will bring #edCampHam (Hamilton), and informed sources tell me that #edCampIsland (Manitoulin Island) 2015 will take place  in May.  Keep an eye on the edCamp Wiki for new announcements.

"25 EdCamps Over the Next Two Weekends" image by @aforgrave from edCamp.wikispaces.com

“25 EdCamps Over the Next Two Weekends” image by @aforgrave from edCamp.wikispaces.com

Featuring participant crowd-sourced agendas, participant-facilitated conversations and sessions, the free-form nature of the day lends itself very well to individualized and differentiated learning. With anywhere from 5-10 concurrent sessions to choose from, participants vote and then devote their time according to the “rule of two feet” — if a particular session is not meeting their needs, participants simply move to another session and pick up there.

If you’ve not yet attended an #edCamp to find out what the buzz is all about, why not?

Update: Images from #edCampPTBO (Peterborough)

#edCampPTBO
Beautiful Fall Colours en route to #edCampPTBO
Welcome to #edCampPTBO !!
Lotsa Good Learning in the room #edCampPTBO
All #RedShirts Survived #edCampPTBO #ST:TOS
Cathy Beach (@beachcat11) and Shelly Merton
It's @colinjagoe and @beachcat11 at #edCampPTBO
Mitch Champagne (@MitchChampagne) opening talk
Get and Stay Connected at #edCampPTBO
The Session Board at #edCampPTBO
#edCampPTBO Session Board
Math: Open Questions and Problem Solving
Math, Open Questions, and Problem Solving ... #edCampPTBO
@Kerrlaboration at #edCampPTBO
Talking about Maker Spaces at #edCampPTBO
Talking about Making Stuff, at #edCampPTBO
Learning about Sesame at #edCampPTBO
Cathy Beach (@beachcat11): Digital Learner
@Jackie_Waller at #edCampPTBO
Continuing the Conversation at #edCampPTBO
Learners at #edCampPTBO
Conversations at #edCampPTBO
@mpilgrim7xgy and @Jackie_Waller and @colinjagoe
@Jackie_Waller and @colinjagoe
Welcome to #edCampPTBO at Fleming College
Sir Sanford Fleming (3D Anaglyph)
Sir Sanford Fleming
Battery? Check. Memory Card? Oops. #edCampPTBO

 

 

 


Let’s Look Behind the Cloud of the #ontsm Tag 16

“#ontsm Visualized” by aforgrave, on Flickr

There is a wonderful opportunity for Learners and Learning lingering behind this visual representation of participants who used the #ontsm Twitter tag over the past 60 hours or so. Dig into the conversations and tweets, and join into the conversation yourself.  While this cloud capture image was made last night, there’s a whole related, yet untagged story developing on Twitter today and the emerging collection of blogs posts that have arisen since yesterday’s Pearson social media “summit” event. More will follow.

While I hope to find the focus and the time to extend my thoughts again on this blog in the coming days, at this point I’d like to float out some initial points that (I think) folks need to let resonate a bit:

 What’s Going On?

  1. the traditional publishing industry is undergoing a need-to-survive process of redefinition in the age of the Internet, web 2.0+, and mobile devices; education publishers are part of this larger group
  2. social media is a rapidly growing force in our society, of which we are only beginning to understand the effects;
  3. educational institutions, governing agencies, and schools are at varying stages of an initial response to the recent advances in technology that are already exerting a massive influence on informal learning;
  4. connected educators are actively seeking and wanting to help education evolve in response to the same forces;
  5. the institutions of learning will be required to undertake the same need-to-survive process of redefinition that newspapers, the music industry, television, and other “published” media have had to address since the high-speed Internet connected world has arisen — post-secondary institutions are already at it — ask them about MOOCs.

I fear that too few educators and educational institutions are as yet actively engaged in real conversations about where formalized learning is headed in the medium-to-long term. (Envisioning where we’re headed takes research and focus, we don’t yet get support for Google 20% time for innovation in our line of work.)  Our parent partners and our society in general are not yet asking this question loudly enough — but one day, they will.  Our learners, from their own perspective, ask this question on a daily basis.

Economics and Learning

There is a not insignificant tension between the decisions made in an effort to influence / respond to economic pressures on one hand, and the laudable goal of educating ourselves and our children on the other hand;  one need only look at recent decisions within the province of Ontario related to the provincial deficit and contracts to see this at a superficial level. However dig below that and ask questions about how closely what schools do relates to the larger economic picture (standardized training for jobs, the factory model of learning, corporations the provide education content) and one can see that there is a close intertwining of the two. Stepping back and educating for the love of learning and creativity and art is hard to do from a standpoint of a business case. It’s much easier to design teaching for concrete results, than it is to create an educational environment that support learning for creativity.   Please note that I use the words teach, teacher, student, schooling distinctly from educator, learner, etc.)

Get Involved

The Pearson get-together yesterday was only one instance of a gathering of educators in one space where the beginnings of conversations about the future of learning, social media, technology, communities, pedagogies, business took place. Conversations at grass-roots edCamps are continual (to date, there have been eight instances in Ontario, edCampHamilton takes place this coming weekend), conversations at events like the annual ECOO conference (#ecoo13 bringITtogether.ca October 23-25 in Niagara Falls) are in preparation, and the conversation is ongoing during the in-between times at events like the annual August Unplugd.ca retreat in Algonquin Park. And of course these discussions occur all the time online, and at other events outside the boundaries of our province.  Anyone should feel that it’s okay to share their thoughts on these issues.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to marginalize / ignore / dismiss / avoid that which we do not understand, or that which we fear, or not to focus attention on that great big elephant over there in the corner of the room in the hopes that it is just a figment and will go away if we wait long enough. It can be too easy to say, “that’s not my job,” or “that’s above my pay grade,” , or to feel ignored, or to delegate our collective responsibilities to someone appointed to “deal with it,” or, after countless attempts, to give up in frustration and stop trying to make a difference.  That we develop and exercise our voice as part of a collaborative effort remains one of the most important — and social — potentials that social media provides for us. For this reason, it is important — dare I say, critical — that educators understand and act to see that it clearly understood by our learners (and, by extension, society) as we move forward. Why should we let our learners be subject only to the dominant Voices of the traditional institutions and publishing agents? Should we not seek to empower everyone with an educated Voice?

Perhaps it’s time to see and ensure that our role as educators extends beyond the boundaries of our classroom walls — in the same way that we seek to integrate the external world within them.

Where is Learning going?

I invite you to join in this conversation, here, and with the authors of other posts written in conjunction with this event.


Broten: Oxymorons, Verbs, and Grammar 3

“@Dalton_McGuinty must feel ashamed right now. #rally4edu” by aforgrave, on Flickr

January 3rd, 2013 was a sad day for Ontario Educators, for Education, and for the democratic rights of Ontarians.

Kudos to Dave Lanovaz (@DaveLanovaz on Twitter) for posting his open letter to the Premier of Ontario on his blog Thursday morning. Check out the conversations in the 65 comments posted there in the last 36 hours.

If you’re not from Ontario or haven’t been following the education drama here over the last few months, you can read details of Thursday’s news in Doug Peterson’s post, The Hardest Job, as shared on his blog Friday morning.

All in all, neither a Merry Christmas nor Happy New Year for those of us dealing with an unwillingness to budge on the part of the Minister of Education, her negotiating team, and the Liberal Government. 

However, on the upside, there was an opportunity for some language learning lessons for the Minister of Education, Laurel Broten (@LaurelBroten on Twitter), as reflected in a number of conversations Thursday morning on Twitter.  (Note that even though the Minister of Education’s Twitter account immediately followed a lot of Ontario edTech leaders when it was first created (who gave her that sage advice?), she has never once replied to any of my DMs or mentions. (Like the time on August 28th when I personally invited her and @Dalton McGuinty to come out of Queen’s Park and meet with us on the lawn during the #rally4edu.) Nothing. Not interested in listening or talking, I guess. 😥

So. On with the language learning opportunities for Minister Broten and the government:

Oxymorons

In reflecting on the words Ontario’s Education minister yesterday morning, it seemed as if the actions of her government were at odds with the language in use.

Broten announced Thursday that the minority Liberal government will impose the contracts [collective agreements] on approximately 130,000 elementary and high school teachers under the controversial Bill 115 before students are set to return to the classroom on Monday. from CTVNews.ca

In seeking to provide a bit of commentary and perhaps some tension-breaking levity (thanks, Alana!), I posted the following update on Twitter.

Broten Oxymoron1

I was increasingly amazed throughout the day as my phone continued to beep and chirp every time someone retweeted or favourited the tweet. Imagine my surprise Friday evening when a Twitter summary email (“the following users have tweets for you”) listed that @msjweir, @mkgoindi, @tk1ng, and 37 others had RT’d the update. Seeing that, I clicked on the View Details button and grabbed this — four hours since the summary email had added another 20 odd additional retweets. Go figure. Another one popped up as I was writing this!

“Regarding that Level 5 Exemplar…” by aforgrave, on Flickr

I do my best folks. Every once in a while something like this resonates with people. I think we all see and understand the deep unintended irony inherent the Minister’s words and actions.

But that wasn’t all.

Verbs

Broten also announced that the Ontario government will now move to repeal the bill – known as the Putting Students First Act – as it “has achieved what it was put in place to do.” from CTVNews.ca

Continuing in the soul-saving spirit of humour, @acampbell99 shared a definition yesterday morning of a new verb, “broten,”

Broten_verb

This morning I received my latest copy of The New Ontario Education Dictionary of Words (it is updated daily), and, just to check, I turned to the appropriate page. And there it was.  (Coincidentally, this is quite an interesting collection of consecutive, yet somehow relevant words!!)

Pg 216

Grammar

One final note. I thought I was having a conversation yesterday with the Liberal Press Office on Twitter.

LibPressSec_Grammar

In receiving the mention from the Media Office account (@LibPressSec) in response, I checked out their Twitter updates and found that there were perhaps 6-10 updates that were being posted, over and over again, directed at various folks who where clearly commenting on the day’s events. Rather than engaging in conversation with the folks posting on Twitter, the account was simply re-using the same statements, ad nauseam. The one that I received had a problem with the participle. (It wasn’t the only one with that error, but I saw it reposted over and over unchanged.) I don’t know if they ever #brotened it or not, as per my suggestion. They were probably not listening either.

However, now that these little language lessons have been carefully documented, I’m most certain that their learning will commence.

With over 130,000 educators in the province on the job, the government will be sure to get the message.