Final Project

Here is a link to my final project.

I chose to create a wiki based on what I learned in my personal learning and what I learned through teaching this course this semester.  Coupled with that I also included some of the research that I have been doing on interest.  The reason why I chose to go that way in terms of how I researched my pedagogy is because keeping students interested in the process is at the heart of what we want to do and at the heart of connectivism in general.

This wiki is still a work in progress.  I have content on all of the pages that I have created but what I need to refine is the description of the assignments for the students along with the assessment.  Doing so will allow the students to see how they are assessed and then can offer insight as to what they expected for their assessment.  The videos themselves are short, I did this so that the students could see the key concept and how to do that concept and then be able to try things out for themselves.  As I am not yet in a distance teaching scenario I would still be there to support the students as they need.  I have separated out the actual technical skills they might want as a quick reference just in case they need to figure out how one thing or another works quickly.

I chose to separate a students and teacher section as well.  The reason for this is that since I am one of the people in the division that people ask a lot of technical questions of I thought that I would separate out the boring parts of pedagogy and the course outline out so that the wiki is a lot more streamlined for each user type to experience.  I have included a list of the reading that I found relevant to the project itself.

This process has taught me a lot about wikis.  I was not aware just how easy it was to have everything linked to each other through tags or between internal pages.  Before this I was using my actual wiki that I have been using this semester as a simple web page that was easy to update.  One project that I will be considering for next year is having the students create a tutorial themselves using Jing or a From here on out I will be using the tagging tools among other tools to integrate different content into my wiki.  On top of that the technical production skills that I have been gaining over the semester have been awesome.  I have had the chance to start producing commercials for the Culture Club at our school to try and get students more interested in participating in the various activities held through out the school.  It is a time consuming process to do well but as I saw on Friday this is a rewarding process when students are enthusiastic about the video at the very least.

On the Wiki I have put on 6 separate projects that worked well with my students.  I have put the outlines for 6 projects but as stated above this site is a work in progress so I will be adding refinements as the time goes.  One of the projects that my students really enjoyed did not work out as I had hoped at home so I will be updating the wiki when I get back to school on Monday.  I am pleased with the result so far and hope that it will prove to be an invaluable resource when I teach this class again next year.

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Final Reflections

When I was looking at putting together a video or presentation I found myself limited to the amount that could be communicated through it.  So I put together a Coles Notes of the post below in video form.

I struggled with this class considerably through the semester.  I struggled a lot more than I ever thought I would during a technology based class.  This is a class that is built around a community and for some reason I could not wrap my head around that and participate in the community that was established.  I came into the class looking at Social Media from a personal perspective and thought that I recognized all of the ways that the tools could be used.  But only recently have I realized that as professional tool things like twitter are invaluable to be shown different articles or places that information could be gathered.  For some reason I had it in my head that a professional network would resemble the way that a personal would look.  This is similar to expecting to have a friendship with your colleagues in your building and being disappointed in the fact that they only want a professional relationship.  I wish I would have come to that realization sooner.

Not only that but my time teaching with technology has always been doing technical classes which are only concerned about students having a certain set of skills.  With no context I always viewed the tools I was showing the students as just another tool to display typing practice or to show off their set of photos.  I realize how unfortunate that is since there is more to it than that if you can pick the context that students interact with the technology in.  Since classes like Communication Production Technology and Information processing are context neutral it is hard for me to pin down a story for them to portray during the class.  This is something that I will have to work on in time.  Whether it is structuring my Production class so that the students are in teams that I treat as if they were a production team and I am a client.  Unfortunately looking at the way that I structured things this year if the students do not have a story that they would like to develop it is like handing them a set of automotive tools without them owning a car.

I found the structure of the class both intriguing and frustrating at the same time.  I loved the fact that there were people from all over the world who were tuning into the class and finding other people’s perspectives was interesting.  But as someone who has been working with these tools for years, I didn’t have any large revelations technologically speaking.  The blog has been a good way for me to voice my opinions and have other people interact with them.  Having others comment on my post helped me to focus on my attitudes towards social media and how I could change them or how I wanted to stay the same in them.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who commented/read my blog.  Your input is/was greatly appreciated.

I think that now that the class is drawing to a close I will take another look at Twitter.  Not for anything personal but as a professional tool.  When I first signed up for twitter I was trying to use it as a personal tool and got quickly frustrated as there wasn’t enough happening on there for me to feel any sort of connection with it.  Truth be told I created my last twitter account during a PD session in September and really didn’t mean for that twitter account to be propagated into the class group.  I have searched my gmail logs to try and find a spot where I might have sent the address into Alec but I haven’t found it yet.  I just thought of it as my web presence blending over to where I didn’t necessarily want it.  I really hope that it isn’t looked at as a slight that I didn’t use twitter.  I really did not mean as one.

I would say I came into this class cynical about social media in general as my experience with it as a communication tool with friends has been disappointed to put it mildly. Leaving this class I would say that I have warmed to somewhere in between mildly cynical to mildly enthused about the technology. I would like to say thank you again for your patience and your reading.

That brings me to my video.  I decided that I would try out some new things with it so I started learning Adobe After Effects.  I had worked with it here and there and have used it in my classroom from time to time but hadn’t taken the time to learn more about it. The video went from a small project to a very large project and I managed to bring it back to a medium sized project. As with anything like this there are always things that I would like to have done differently but here it is. Most of this was done with still images and some rotoscoping. If you would like more information about the process please ask.

Thanks for reading.


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Net Neutrality: And it begins

So I was reading my daily dose of internet news and came across this story.

The issue is that Comcast is trying to charge Netflix from using their network.  The threat is currently if Netflix does not start paying Comcast they will start blocking the content from Netflix.  Where this gets really interesting is that Comcast is trying to purchase NBC and will be able to offer its own video services through the current Comcast services or Hulu which it would own if/when it purchases NBC.

If we look at this from a perspective of education this becomes a huge problem as the ISPs could be making deals with certain media companies over who can show what.  Since the ISPs hold the keys to your internet connection if left unchecked these corporations could specifically dictate what media you and your classroom could see.

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Net Neutrality Part 2

Another issue that was mentioned in last night’s class was the appification of internet devices.  The internet relies on devices to get the information out.  There has been a large push by Apple to try to streamline the internet into “apps” which help people wade through the information in a way that is easy to read on a small screen.  But the issue is that all of those apps have to be approved by Apple.

There have been many stories of apps being approved or unapproved with little to no reason.  The apps that are rejected just don’t fit into the corporate profile that Steve Jobs is trying to lay out.  Steve tries to take the moral high ground on these issues by saying they don’t want certain things on their phones and was quoted as saying:

” (W)e do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone…You know, there’s a porn store for Android….You can download nothing but porn. You can download porn, your kids can download porn. That’s a place we don’t want to go – so we’re not going to go there”. (Steve Jobs)

This seems like a harmless enough comment but when you look at it there have been apps approved for Playboy and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.  When other people from smaller companies try to put forward similar apps they are rejected and have to resubmit.  This is a big deal to them as that was going to be their revenue stream that is shut down because another company did not think it was worthy.

Another example was Google submitting their Google Voice app to work on the iPhone.  Apple immediately rejected that app with only vague reason.  The problem when you have a closed market like this is that anyone could be rejected and only those who are in charge get to say what is worthy to be in our classrooms and our homes.  The same thing could start happening with the internet in general if people get too used to this and allow the corporations to dictate the content like Apple does.

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Net Neutrality

We have become addicted to the internet as a society/culture and most of that has been because of the openness of the internet.  Right now with a little know how and an idea you can get anything on the internet.  But there is currently a movement in some parts of government and business that could start putting a hamper on that openness.

The issue lies in whether the internet differentiates between the data that we are receiving and on which devices we are receiving these things.  If you look at what is happening with Google TV enabled television sets and set top boxes they can not see any content from certain networks even though it is an internet enabled device.  The networks don’t want you to because they want you to stick with subscribing to your set of channels and be able to broadcast as many commercials as they can. Another example of this is that Bit Torrent (a file sharing protocol/company) had to take Comcast to court because their internet service was throttling how fast someone could share something.  While the second example seems like it has only negative and illegal connotations, I have had friends who are teaching english abroad share their wedding pictures over bit torrent so people could look at them at home.  If companies get their way the option to share things like that will be either a lot slower or those opportunities will not happen at all.

Not only does this apply to the ways we get content but in some cases can be applied to the content itself.  The Great Firewall of China limits access to the internet for any device.  When you are in China you have no access to various social media sites or anywhere that you might be able to spread information that the government would deam unsatisfactory.  Up until recently we as Canadians have not had to worry about the government wanting to snoop in on our online activites.  But unfortunately the Conservative government has tabled various bills (C-50, C-51, C-52) which start requiring that ISP (Internet Service Providers) provide their customer information to a governing body with no court oversight, which doesn’t seem like it is too bad until you couple that with ISPs having to rework their networks so that the RCMP can do surveillance on your data in real time.  These bills also start giving police options for data warrants that look at all of the data transmission in real time.

Now where the really comes in for education is that if the internet is no longer neutral the corporations and government can start dictating what data is easily accessible and what data is not.  Your ISP could make a deal with certain companies or interest groups to make traffic to certain site run faster.  An example would be your connection to being blazingly fast where your connection to is not.  Or on the interest group side of things if you’re interested in abortion or the legalization of marijuana then you might not have any access or easy access to any of the information you’re interested in.  Anyone limiting what the internet can and can’t be is a slippery slope.

Unfortunately the justifications the people in charge make for these changes are the most reactionary.  As soon as the issue comes up instead of talking about corporate deals and censorship the way politicians get people on board is talking about “terrorism” and “child pornographers”.  While I agree both are problems, it feels like an over reaction to give the government such massive controls over everything that we do.

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If I sent you into the woods. . .

I’ve been thinking about the role of Web 2.0 skills in terms of technology and immediately thought of this bit by Joe Rogan (NSFW -Language).  Where he poses the question, “If I sent you into the woods with a hatchet, how long would it take you to send me an email?”

Looking at my friends who went into other fields of study I wonder how much they actually use Web 2.0 skills.  My first example is my friend Dave, he got his Masters degree from the University of Waterloo in “Encryption technologies as it relates to satellite communication”.  Basically he did a vast amount of studying on how to encrypt cell phone signals.  If I was to ask him how much Web 2.0 skills helped in doing the work that he does (which is working for Research in Motion doing signal testing), he would tell me not at all.  Dave is one of the people that helps to make the web accessible from your cell phone and he doesn’t rely on the skills that we are saying are really important.

My friend Warren went and got a Masters degree in Aritficial Intelligence.  He then went work at EA sports for a year where he was a programmer.  If I asked him whether he would have found any of the Web 2.0 tools useful when he was working at EA sports or during his schooling he would have said no.  When comparing the students who supposedly know so much about video games, which when we really look at it they are just consumers of video games and talking about it afterwards. 

If I quizzed any of my other friends who have done various Masters programs/Ph.D. programs in everything from English to Neuroscience, I would bet almost any amount of money that they would say that they didn’t use Web 2.0 tools during their time at school.

Like Joe Rogan mentions above (paraphrasing): None of us really understand how the things we use work we are just consuming it.  While our students are able to use the technology they don’t understand how any of it works.  Computers/cell phones are magic devices that they just use and have no concept of any of the layers of infrastructure that go into those devices.  While it isn’t important that they have an understanding of these specific things while they are in high school, the students need to understand that there are other things at play than “My phone isn’t working”. 

The argument can be made that the students we are dealing with aren’t all going to go to this level of education.  Or need an entire understanding of these things.  But if we only focus on that students need to have Web 2.0 skills we are doing our students a disservice because if we are raising a group of consumers then there is going to be far fewer people to push things and find new things to do with computers.

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The Objective of Education

I just read ‘The Objective of Education is Learning, Not Teaching’.  The author starts with an interesting point that, “a child learns such fundamental things as how to walk, talk, eat, dress and so on with out being taught these things”.  That might true for quite a few things but there is one thing that stands out that children are very specifically taught and that’s potty training.

If we are relying on students to teach each other and staff then one of three things will happen:

  • The students will buy in and it will be a great experience.
  • The students will not buy in and the only teaching will get is how little they were interested about the subject and did not care that they couldn’t inform the crowd.
  • Misinformation will be thrown around the room.

If we look at the authors example of his son and the 13 year old that he idolized, the actual information was rejected based on the face that the 13 year old had to be right.  If we take this example and try to apply it more broadly this is the same thing as Sarah Palin saying that there were going to be death panels and her being believed, or that Barack Obama’s recent trip to India was costing 200 million dollars a day.  The people that read the blogs/saw the news stories saw them as fact because the news person that they trusted told them.  Just like Ernie there was misinformation being spread and then the person that heard that information would not be swayed even in the face of evidence to the contrary.  This plays into the entire story about old philosophy professors argument that is made in this article.  Except now instead of just trying instruct people some of the “professors” of our time make people scared and then tell people things that will make them feel safer.  Instead of dealing with issues they try to make people afraid and then make decisions based on making them money and making the people feel better about whats going on.  This became absolutely apparent when I read the Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein where people had discovered that the easiest way to get people from a Socialist government to a purely Capitalist one is to strike when there has been a disaster and people are willing to accept anything that is passed towards them since they are in shock and can’t process everything that is coming to them.

Sorry for jumping around here but if we look at the statement “Why doesn’t education focus on what humans can do better than the machines and instruments they create?”  This is a valid point only if we trust what the machines can do for us.  Putting on my Superman III/Office evil genius hat for a second, if I have a group of people that have been educated to only trust what the machines can do better than them then the time is ripe to write banking software that starts taking their money.  They won’t be worried that their bank balance is slightly lower than it should be because the machine did it for them.  Another perfect example is electronic voting machines in the US election system which people have shown can be hacked to allow only certain votes to come through so that each “ballot box” can favor one candidate over another.  Instead of having a human do the unnecessary task of counting paper ballots and have someone be accountable for it we have machines which can normally count well giving us invalid results.

Finally the author asserts that the thought of students having self discipline and getting their work done brought forward an image of “George Orwell winking in the back of the classroom”.  Truly I hope that they are kidding, having a student have the self determination to find things for themselves and do their own work is the antithesis of what Orwell is talking about.  What is completely Orwellian is “people of trust” making everyone scared and then telling them what to do.  To go back to my original example, yeah a child would probably figure out to go to the bathroom themselves but I tell you folks if that is what we are setting everyone up for things are going to get shitty before they get better.

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Back in the Saddle Again

After a lengthy break from blogging I’m back at it.  It has been an eventful time in the last couple weeks the most exciting was being the Math Chair-person for the provincial Math and Science conference.  I created a wiki for people who came to see my presentation but more exciting than that was that the conference was almost entirely paperless.  We purchased a thumb drive for each person that came to the conference and I had the honor of filling 360 thumb drives full of data. 

But I digress there was another more interesting thing that I thought about/discovered:

While I was in Kipling we allowed Facebook usage for the students.  That meant once a month or so when Facebook would change their privacy policy I would take the students through their options.  I realize more and more there are skills with Social Media that the students need to learn.  One of which is that they do have a right to privacy even on social networks.  Over the last few weeks I got curious about a few old students and decided to look them up on Facebook.  I was proud when I saw that they had no visible information, not even the ability to add them as friends.  They had taken control over their online profiles and even though I was curious about how they were doing I was more impressed that they were figuring things out for themselves.

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Facebook Messaging System

Well the folks back at Facebook are trying to change the way we do everything again.  This time they are trying integrate text messaging, email and the regular Facebook messaging system into the same thing.  The hope on their part is that by consolidating a person’s messaging they will use it almost exclusively.  What is neat about the system is that it allows people to reply from whatever device they would like.  If the person in question has a smart phone then they can chat using the application for that phone. If the person has a “dumbphone” then the messages will show up as text messages from Facebook.  They are also allowing people to limit the people that can send them messages.  By coordinating everything through their Facebook lists people can switch to an allow messages setting which starts limiting who can contact who.

Mark Zuckerberg said in his press conference, “Email is just too formal”. To combat this they have taken out the need for a subject line and tried to model this new messaging system around a conversation.  They are going to have every message that you send between friends whether it is through SMS, Email or Facebook show up in the same conversation so you don’t need to go digging through seperate accounts to figure out what was said. 

To put on my tin foil hat for a second here this gets a little daunting.  Facebook at this point starts to control everything about how people speak to each other.  The same can be said about Google I realize but Google has a better track record in terms of privacy. 

For more information it is here.

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An Interesting Problem

For my Media Production class I had a group of students working on a Machinima style video (using Halo 3 to act out scenes for a video that they are making).  I left the room for a moment and came back and the students were playing the game improperly.  I told them to get focused and play the game the way they were supposed to.  At which point one student said to the other, “You know that is the first time that I’ve ever been told by a teacher to focus on my Halo playing”.  The students then had a debate whether that was a good or bad thing.

The interesting thing I find that is that they came up with that it was a bad thing.  They realized that by including the video games they loved in a project they were then creating a thought that playing that game was work.  In hindsight I realize that it is a fine line that we walk between incorperating pop culture and involving the students that way and having them back off because it is co-opting their interests and using them for education.

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