Doug – Off the Record


A comment on Media Bias

The following was submitted as a comment on Doug Peterson’s July 4th post, entitled “Media Bias.”

Good morning Doug!

There’s no doubt that one needs to have an understanding of the bias inherent in a given media platform as part of interpreting the news from that platform. It’s very clear that the polarization of politics south of the border are clearly evident in the various news outlets there. I wondered if there was a comparable diagram for Canada, and so I googled “media bias Canada Canadian chart” and discovered a number of interesting things by rooting through the search results.

The Media Bias Chart 6, Ad Fontes Media

There is an updated version 6.0 (June 2020) of the Ad Fontes Media chart you have shared. It appears to incorporate even more media, but is navigable in the version 5.0 interactive form.

The Canadian Encyclopedia has a very nice article about the kinds of bias that can appear in the media, with examples from Canadian contexts.

I did come across a “bias chart” of Canadian news media, posted on Twitter, however based on the attached tweet and other information surrounding the tweet, I question whether it is based on objective data or whether it actually represents a bias inherent in the poster/artist who created it?

Is there bias inherent in the following representation of the bias in Canadian media? There is no attached data or cited source to support this image.

unattributed source: “Canadian Media Bias Chart,” shared on Twitter

What do you think?
How would you go about assessing the validity of this representation? 

It would be interesting to know if Ad Fontes Media has data to support the verification (or creation) of a Canadian Media Bias Map. 


Pens. And Taking Time to Think.

When I wake Sunday mornings I look forward to reading Doug Peterson’s, “Whatever happened to…” This morning, Doug pose the question about  ….pens

This is a good topic. On one hand, you might say that everyone has pens and uses them all the time. On the other hand, we can acknowledge that some people probably don’t use pens very much at all anymore. Pondering on that this morning, it surprised me. Personally, I wouldn’t have put pens into the category of things that aren’t used anymore until Doug raised the question this morning and I did a little self assessment.

Note: Sometimes when I respond to Doug’s Sunday morning post, I like to take his list of questions and just work my way through them, one by one that’s what I did this morning. Today, as I got towards the end of the list, I realized there was some good reflection arising as a result. That part comes at the end of this piece

So in responding to Doug’s first question, related to pens in easy reach, without thinking too much or going and digging throughout my place, I realize and can report that my writing implements are in one of two spots: 

  • I have a single pen attached to a small clipboard in the closet at the door that I can use whenever someone does a delivery and needs a signature. I added the clipboard when I got tired of having the ink drain from the tip about halfway through my signature when I used the wall as a writing surface. (Note that since contactless delivery started a month or so ago, no one needs a signature anymore.)
  • I have writing implements within reach of my desk. In one cubby I have a couple of pen cups: one with pencils, and one with pens. In a drawer, I have multiple pencil cases, each one containing a family of similar markers (sharpies, highlighters, fine points) or pencils (colored pencils) for various art projects. Also included are the metallic ink sharpies (silver, gold, and bronze) that do such a good job of marking up all the various power adaptors so that you can tell after the fact which adaptor matches up with which device.

I have a couple of pen sets that I have received as gifts. They come in nice presentation boxes which do a great job of storing them and keeping them dust free. The boxes also serve to allow them to remain unused.

Over my years as a learner and educator, I tended to standardize on a particular brand/style for a few years at a time as pen technologies evolved and my preferences changed.

  • In middle school, I went through a phase where I used green and black Bic ballpoint pens.
  • In high school and university, the Pilot fineliner felt tip was my pen of choice, along with yellow highlighters for highlighting, and in combination with the fineliners, doodling. I never really liked the thin, scratchy profile that ball point pens provided, and so I moved to felt tips as they provided something a little bit closer to a calligraphy effect. However, pressing down too hard on the tip of the Fineliner would ruin it, and so I went through a lot of those in the days before I first had a computer and started doing a lot more by hand. 
  • During my high school and university days, I also used mechanical pencils, with those really really thin long leads and replaceable eraser tips that hid underneath the clicker tip. For fun, I called them electric pencils, rather than mechanical pencils.
  • At some point in the past 20 years my preferences evolved away from felt tips back to ballpoints, specifically when gel pens and larger diameter tips came into play. I think the large diameter ball points now have something like a 1.4 mm sphere which gives you a much smoother ink coverage and much less of a ballpoint effect. Maybe those pens are up to 1.7 mm? Anyway, that’s what I have multiples of in the pen cup at my desk. I would have purchased them a year or two ago now.
  • I will also mention that pencil technologies have also improved over the years. I have standardized my pencil purchases to the Staedtler brand of Wopex pencils.  Rather than being made out of raw wood, they are made out of a wood dust and glue compound. They last much much longer and really don’t break. If you carefully avoid losing them, a single Wopex pencil can last for more than a year. Over the last couple of years in the classroom, I know I had a couple pencils used in rotation that were in service for more than 18 months each. The secret is to put your name on them and not lose them.

I have stopped collecting hotel and conference pens. I don’t need them. When travelling with my brother this summer, he was offered a replacement hotel pen when we were stopped for a visit in Spruce Grove, Alberta, just outside Edmonton. He had been using the same plastic hotel pen for the longest time, stored in the pen slot in his travel diary, and the clerk at the front desk noticed that it was an older version of their brand, and graciously offered a replacement, which my brother happily accepted. I’m sure he had travelled and made notes with that pen for years.

I do have one conference pen that I have continued to keep, and that is an ECOO pen that was provided as conference swag. I’m fairly certain it was the year that David Thornburg keynoted, or perhaps Derrick de Kerchhove. I know I should find the pen and dig into the ECOO records to confirm that, but I will leave that as a fact check for another day. The pen is unique in that you reveal the ballpoint tip by turning the cylinder, and rather use the clicker at the top of the pen to turn on the light that is built-in. The pen is purpose-designed and built for use to take notes in a darkened conference hall. 

I also have a very nice hand turned and finished wooden pen from Diane Bedard. I know you have one from her as well, Doug. They are beautiful keepsakes, each one unique. 

Now, as for the keyboard having taken over, indeed it has. Although pencils and pens were a significant part of my daily life as a classroom teacher for providing feedback and marking, since I retired last June I find that my use of the pencil and pen has all but abated. Virtually everything I do now is via keyboard, fingertip, or voice. I wrote this entire piece using my voice on my iPad, using the magic of my finger tip for editing. 

I’m conscious and reflect on it periodically that we grew up thinking with pencils and pens in our hands, and for many years have ruminated on the fact that various types of thinking are encouraged/supported when a pencil is in hand. Mathematics, for example, has never flowed easily out of the computer keyboard for me, and so I always revert back to the pencil for that. Similarly, drawing is so much easier with a pencil or stylus than anything that can be accomplished with a keyboard and mouse. For that reason, I was so happy to see the iPad Pro arrive, supported by the Apple Pencil a few years back. There is a flow to using a pen or pencil that contrasts greatly with the granular nature of using finger clicks on a keyboard. The act of typing requires you to break your thought up into specific little bits, and that seems to impede the flow.

There’s no doubt that moving to a keyboard and word processor augments the writing process, allowing you to make revisions and edits to the original, cutting and pasting and backspacing without the need to completely rewrite from scratch each time. However, that can come with a price. Sometimes the flow of the pencil, without the constant stopping to deal with a red underline or a typo can make for a much more productive experience of drafting. However, knowing that you can take your draft with you on whatever device you happen to have handy makes for a much more portable writing experience. Where did I leave those paper notes again?

This past week was a very hectic one for me. It was one in which I found myself juggling multiple jobs with multiple tasks/projects within each job. Using multiple google accounts, conferencing platforms, competing calendars, and a huge number of windows and tabs on my multiple monitors, I reached a point where I needed to focus everything down to a shortlist on a piece of paper, written by hand, using a pencil. Sure, I typically use Things to organize and track of my tasks, and sometimes Monday for a particular context. But on Thursday, my brain needed something that reduced to a primal (primary?) simplicity.  I was easily able to grab a pencil from the cubby near my desk, but I then realized that I had no paper readily at hand. There were a couple of receipts sitting on my desk that I could have scribbled on, but I needed something bigger with the clarity that comes from a blank page. I do have lots of paper in my office, stored in the cabinet beneath the printers. I didn’t need any of the specialty papers that are there in multiple colours and multiple weights. I just needed a simple piece of paper for the task at hand. A simple piece of 8 1/2 x 11 white paper, folded in half, allowed me to capture a short list with four points. Unlike the electronic lists that go with me on my phone or iPad if I’m not at my computer, I just needed a paper list that would still be sitting there at my desk the next time I returned. 

It was the first time in I don’t know how long that I needed a piece of paper and wrote something with a pencil. We’re talking weeks, if not months. As I made that list, I also acknowledged that I was going to take some time off on Friday to relax and regroup. Slowing down to write with a pencil reminded me that I needed to slow down in general. It was a good call.

Thanks, Pencil. Thanks, Pens.


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.