@dougpete


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.


Of WebCams and Conferencing

The Connectix Quickcam, circa 1995

This post started out as a comment for Doug Peterson’s (@dougpete, on Twitter) Sunday morning Whatever happened to… webcams? but it expanded (as such reminiscences are wont to do) and so I have posted it here. In light of the current emergency remote teaching protocols in place in Ontario, the rest of Canada, and the rest of the world, the topic is both current and nostalgia-inducing, and offers some insight into the pace of change in education over the past 25 years.

So, the Connectix Quickcam! The eyeball-shaped, greyscale camera, originally Mac-only and marketed before the web (and thus, the term webcam) was really a thing. Yet another great blast-from-the-past as a result of Doug’s “Whatever Happened to … ?” Sunday morning series! 

(In chasing back looking for an image of the original, I discovered that Logitech — who still markets with the QuickCam name today — had purchased the product line from Connectix in 1998, and in doing so, I was reminded of a number of other Connectix products of the time, specifically Speed Doubler and RAM Doubler, software products that augmented the hardware back then make it work a little better before Moore’s Law really started to kick in. I also remember coming up with a idea for a great piece of wetware at the time — DayDoubler, which once installed into your body allowed you to double the amount of work you could complete in a day. Sadly, like other great vapourware of the time, it never materialized.)

CU-SeeMe greyscale camera — Who remembers the Global Schoolhouse initiative?

Hurdles to Overcome

I have a sad, yet prescient, memory that took place in our curriculum office one day back then, shortly after a colleague and I set up two QuickCams and tested connecting to one another across our then-recently Ethernet-empowered room. The Manager of IT appeared in the doorway, and quickly expressed his frustration and concern that we might start encouraging the use of the cameras with the schools throughout the district during our visits! What? Wasn’t that part of what we were supposed to be doing? As it turned out, it was only one of many instances through the years when the system wasn’t ready for so rapid a change. In this particular case, I did understand his concern over the available bandwidth. Most of the world still lived on dial-up. However, the incident also emphasized that change, in education, can come quite slowly.

However, the incident also emphasized that change, in education, can come quite slowly.

Moving forward in time, I remember when Apple marketed the iSight camera, a cylinder that fastened to the top of your laptop or monitor and provided its connection via FireWire, at the time a much faster protocol than the typical USB connection.

The colour camera included microphones, and existed until Apple had introduced built-in cameras across their computer and monitor product lines. With the introduction of Apple FaceTime — and the subsequent introduction of forward-facing cameras on iPhones, they renamed the conferencing camera the FaceTime camera, and relegated the iSight name to the camera on the back of iOS devices.

But the QuickCam was almost 25 years ago, certainly things have progressed a lot since then?

These days, I use the built-in webcam on my laptop when travelling, and external Logitech C920 camera at home at my desk. I have also used my Sony a6000 over HDMI, when I want to capture a really good image.

Of course, phones and iPads have forward facing cameras, which come in handy these days for communicating with family members during this virus-induced physical distancing. 

As for meeting room software, over the past three weeks I’ve been in Google Meet/Hangouts on a daily basis, hosted around 30 Zoom sessions, used Slack videoconferencing a few times (not as easy, because it uses the system default microphone and speakers, rather than letting you configure them in the app), and then a one-off Skype call to the UK on Friday.  Zoom certainly has the most features and back-end customizations, but with all the recent hype about Zoom security, a replacement may be coming down the pipe. Any recommendations, anyone? (I have fond memories of Elluminate from back before it was gobbled up by Blackboard, I tried it out again on Friday. Screenshare capabilities are too limited. However, kudos to Alec Couros (@courosa), Dean Shareski (@shareski), Sue Waters (@suewaters), Steve Hargadon (@stevehargadon), and Alan Levine (@cogdog) for the great memories from a decade ago!)

I was looking recently at upgrading my WebCam, and see that they are essentially out of stock. It’s not due to the lack of demand, but rather due to an increased demand. Everybody and his brother has been buying up WebCams since the shelter at home started to come into effect. 

However, how prepared are we, as a system, 25 years later?

Which brings us to the present. Educators the world over are wrestling with what some are calling “Emergency Remote Teaching.” It’s not the same as eLearning, or Distance Learning, but webcams and conferencing platforms could be playing a role in helping teachers and students connect. However, how prepared are we, as a system, 25 years later? Lots of folks may have high-speed connections now , and webcams in their laptops now, but how prepared are we as a profession and as a society to make use of the technology to connect in the support of learning? What can we do to ensure there is equity of opportunity for all learners, and that the learning takes place in an environment as safe as our face-to-face classrooms?

If things had been planned out, as part of a longer term initiative, supported by all stakeholders, Emergency Remote Teaching might be better able to make use of webcams and conferencing tools. However, in this current state of duress, we’re likely to encounter a much more scattershot approach. It seems as if the change in education, as it did 25 years back, will still progress slowly.


Keyboarding

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

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

Ah, Doug!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Do You Dream of Databases? 2

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

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

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

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

Have you ever developed a database application in Filemaker Pro?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hammer_PNG3890

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


What CAN I Learn Today? #edCampSWO #edCampLDN 7


edCamps_SWO_LDN
While I had originally thought I might take in #edCampSWO (SouthWest Ontario) in Tillbury, ON at the last minute, it turned out not to be the case. Add to the mix a similar interest in also attending a second Ontario #edCamp being held on the same day in the same end of the province, #edCampLDN (London), and the dilemma truly magnified. What to do?

The OSEEMOOC spearheaded by Donna Fry (@fryed) and Mark Carbone (@markwcarbone) has been underway for a little over a month now, and Donna’s current challenge to Ontario educators is to share a “What Did I Learn Today” post with the community.   With this in mind, I decided to undertake to explore a “What CAN I Learn Today?” question, with the focus of following two Ontario #edCamps from afar.

OSSEMOOC

Face to Face Learning Rocks!

“#edCampQuinte 3 — Participants Around the Table” by @aforgrave, on Flickr

I will admit to a strong bias in favour of face-to-face learning with Twitter colleagues at an actual event. Twitter conversations last night with Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep), Brenda Sherry (@brendasherry), and Peter McAsh (@pmcash) reinforced for me that a significant effect of #edCamps and other such gatherings is the opportunity to converse with educator colleagues and friends between the sessions. It’s difficult to replace that in-person presence. Having been involved in the organization of #edCampQuinte (3 camps back in 2011), and having attended #edCampToronto (twice), #edCampWR (twice), #edCampOttawa, (as well as following the original #edCampPhilly remotely via Twitter), I’m firmly convinced that in-person attendance is the ideal way to go.

However, knowing that I would be attempting to follow the conversations and the sessions from a distance, my efforts switched to looking for a variety of ways to capture experience and the discussions occurring within and via the ether of the Internet.

Following from Afar

  1. The first step in my adventure was to create a couple of columns in my TweetDeck Twitter client to follow the #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN hashtags in real-time.
  2. In support of archiving the conversations for later review, I also made use of Martin Hawksey’s (@mhawksey) ever-evolving TAGS google-spreadsheet-scripted-visualization tool.  Not only does the tool create a spreadsheet of archived tweets from a given #tag, but it also allows for the creation of an interactive and continuously updated visualization of the participants and their conversations.

TwoTagClouds

Screen captures of the Twitter clouds from #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN

The static screen capture above doesn’t do the clouds justice. Click below to view the actual dynamic interactive archives – they’re amazing!

Understanding the Scheduling

#edCampSWO Session board via

#edCampSWO Session board via

Because the schedules at most #edCamps are participant-generated in real time from grass roots interests during the events themselves, a pre-posted schedule is usually avoided. Normally, the session board is compiled following a crowd-sourcing exercise involving either sticky-post-it-notes or whiteboards.

  1. A quick check of the #edCampSWO twitter stream led to an already tweeted picture of the initial board from Tilbury.
  2. I didn’t see a similar photograph out of London, so I posted a quick inquiry to the #tag, and within moments received two replies (from Craig Yen (@craigyen) and David Hann (@TeacherHann)) alerting me to the fact that the #edCampLDN board was being maintained in a Google Doc.  Wonderful! Check out the topics (image from start of the afternoon)

#edCampLDN Session Board posted in Google Docs

#edCampLDN Session Board posted in Google Docs

But it got better.

Collaborative Note-Taking

Not only was the #edCampLDN schedule posted online, but each entry included a link to a blank gDoc for collaborative note-taking! Great thinking!   I quickly paged through and pasted in a request to each document to capture the name and twitter handle of the session facilitators for later followup.

But what about #edCampSWO? Surely such a system might provide useful for collaborative note-taking there as well? What was required to support a similar opportunity there?

  1. Transfer the #edCampSWO session board to a gDoc.
  2. Create linked gDocs (with requests for session facilitators and their @twitter coordinates) for #edCampSWO sessions.
  3. Tweet out invitations for the #edCampSWO participants to post their notes in the appropriate documents.

By 12:30 pm I had followed through with steps 1-3 above, and by 1:00 pm had incorporated the recently-added afternoon entries to the schedule and and linked gDocs for the remaining sessions.  Shortly thereafter there were responses from Michelle Korda (@KordaKovar), Emily Fitzpatrick (@ugdsb_missfitz), Michel Grimard (@miche4195), Brian Aspinall (@mraspinall), Mary Alice Hanson (@Ms_Hanson) expressing interest in the shared note-taking endeavour.

#edCampSWO Session Board in Google Docs

#edCampSWO Session Board in Google Docs

The invitations stands for any and all attendees at #edCampSWO to transfer your notes, links, thoughts and ideas into the shared note files.

Attending a Cross-#edCamp Session Keynote via Google Hangout

Doug Peterson (@dougpete) keynotes at #edCampSWO on April 12th

Doug Peterson (@dougpete) keynotes at #edCampSWO on April 12th, animated GIF by @aforgrave

#edCampSWO had a post-lunch keynote by Ontario’s “Grandfather of EdTech” Doug Peterson (@dougpete). As it turned out, the keynote was shared from #edCampSWO to #edCampLDN via Google Hangout, and so the opportunity for shared note taking between both venues was enhanced — as well as providing an opportunity for me to join in and see Doug’s presentation. As it would turn out, the notes in the gDoc are mostly mine.   It was nice to connect briefly with #unplug’d12 friend James Cowper (@cowpernicus) who set up the Hangout, and to bring in #ECOO and #edCampQuinte colleague Peter McAsh (@pmcash).  These are all some folks I would have been catching up with F2F, had I actually been in either Tilbury or London today in First Life. 

Trending

After Doug’s keynote, I again re-issued the invite for folks at #edCampSWO to collaborated in the shared notes, and then went back to monitoring the Twitter stream. At around 2:30, a few spammers started to join in the #tags, which prompted a question in the stream as to whether the #edCamp conversations might be trending. Trending conversations attract these silly spambots. 

Screen capture of trending tags (both!) as shown by trendsmap.com

Trending tags (both #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN are there) as shown by trendsmap.com at around 2:30 pm April 12

Conversations in Other Online Spaces?

Earlier in the day (at 10:48 am my text document indicates) I noted to myself that I tend to monitor things from the Twittersphere for the most part — and I wondered at the time if there were #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN conversations going on via other networksGoogle+ and Facebook specifically. At around 4:00 pm, as the #edCamp goodbye and thank-you tweets were flowing, I looked in on both the other two networks and did searches for both of the Ontario #tags.

A solitary #edCampSWO #edCampLDN post on Facebook

A solitary #edCampSWO #edCampLDN post on Facebook

  • 1 mention (for both #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN) on Google+ (from Mark Carbone, announcing Doug’s dual-edCamp Hangout)
  • 2 co-mentions for both #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN on Facebook
  • 3 unique mentions for #edCampSWO on Facebook
  • 0 unique mentions for #edCampLDN on Facebook

So, No. Real-time conversations tagged with #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN were essentially only happening within the Twitter online space.  Not a real surprise, as Twitter has been extremely effective among those Ontario Educators who have embraced social media over the last half-decade. Google+ was kind of late to the party, and Facebook tends to reflect a more personal, rather than professional focus.

Pinterest? Nope. Nothing there.

So. What DID I Learn Today?

First some general acknowledgements.

  1. Tracking #tags is a great way to gather information from afar (people, links) for subsequent followup.
  2. Most of the conversation during and about the sessions occurred in the Twittersphere, not Facebook or Google+.
  3. Sharing sessions via Google Hangouts work well. (Hangouts can now also be recorded to YouTube for asynchronous sharing.)
  4. Shared, collaborative Google docs present a wonderful, as-yet mostly-untapped potential for collaborative learning.
  5. Gathering/Curating/Sharing a list of subsequent reflective blogposts from #edCamps to continue the conversations is often only a serendipitous effort at best.

Some Suggestions:

  1. Future #edCamps might wish to promote a shared, online schedule and note taking function like #edCampLDN modelled today. Getting folks involved in advance and having some folks working behind the scenes to support and facilitate the note-taking.
  2. Have one audience member sit up front and share each session via a Hangout or livestream as an option for those who can’t attend. It is easy enough to do today with the wonderfully accessible technology existing today.
  3. Select dates for #edCamps in conjunction with other organizers to allow for some potential cross-#edCamp sessions — but also consider scheduling events within the same area on different dates to maximize the opportunities for F2F participants to attend both. (The next two upcoming Ontario #edCamps also scheduled for the same day — May 10th: #edCampSault in Sault Ste. Marie and #edCampIsland on Manitoulin Island.) Note that there were 9 #edCamps held today around the world — a new record for one day, I believe.
  4. Photos! Pictures say a lot, and help others from afar to see the goings on.  I enjoy sharing photos from the #edCamps I attend — and missed not being able to capture some of the action today. Consider arranging for one or two attendees to act as #edCamp photographers and share their images via a Flickr set.
  5. Encourage attendees to blog and share their reflections and learnings. Find a way to curate the posts to help attendees and others learn from the #edCamp after it is over, and to promote ongoing conversations.

Do We All Need a Designated Person-On-The-Ground? Or Can We Be That for Each Other?

I recall with fondness asking tweeps Danika (@DanikaBarker) and Zoe (@zbpipe) and Doug (@dougpete) to act as my personal Advance-ManPerson-On-The-Ground in their respective parts of Ontario to keep an ear to the ground for the as-then-yet-unannounced dates of opening for new Apple Stores. That’s another story, but the idea of having someone working with you in another location is a powerful one.

It would be a difficult task to line up individuals for all the various sessions happening at a distant event (especially when #edCamp attendance and session topics are determined rather more spontaneously than other conferences) — but the idea of a collective, collaborative shared Team-On-The-Ground acting collaboratively for others is a powerful one.

It would be wonderful to see this become yet another characteristic of the evolving, grass-roots #edCamp experience.

So, What Did YOU Learn Today?

I look forward to reading the still-accruing notes and yet-to-come blog posts from both #edCampSWO and #edCampLDN. And looking back through the Twitter stream to search out photos to help visualize the events. I know that there is a lot of learning that will follow on from today — seeking it out and making use of it is both the challenge and the adventure.  🙂

In the interests of helping to aggregate posts that come from today, these Google forms may come in handy. Please consider sharing your thoughts and your learning!

What did you learn today?