Wednesday, May 06, 2015

#rhizo15 content: media for dialup

what good is content that can't be accessed?

how accessible is your content?

how do you know?



Saturday, April 25, 2015

Week 2 #justlakeit #oeglobal #rhizo15: assess this

I'm a big fan of open education resources (OER) and an even bigger fan of Banff National Park, so I welcomed the opportunity to attend the Open Education Consortium's 2015 conference with open arms. I'm primarily attracted to Banff due to its proximity to some of the best skiing in the world, and mine to it (it's a 100 km from my door). 

I played hooky from the pre-conference workshop and did some professional development at Lake Louise Ski Resort. I learned a lot (and yes, I did share the notion of "learning subjectives" with my instructor during the lesson). #jusklakeit

We worked on technique which had me turning my skis as I'd never before (remarkable to me given my 30+ years skiing experience, and the previous certification as both a coach and an instructor). 

This change in technique also meant the use of different groups of muscles in my legs, which turned to rubber in very short order. Both of these were very subjective forms of assessment; however, my instructor, Tom Bazley was able to see the difference in the turns and we got all subjective from there.

After the lesson, I fired-up TraceUp. See below for the "objective" assessment results:

Managed to tear myself away from the Inn and get myself to the Lodge for:

This was my first trip to #oeglobal and I didn't know what to expect.....

My first impression of the conference common space itself, was: 
"Whoa, there are lots of suits in here...." 
Why this was the case? My best guess was that many attendees held "more senior" positions within their respective organizations. 

NOTE: While the pre-conference Open Advocacy Day at Open Education 2015 required formal business attire, that was on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC and organizers had prescribed the dress code in that instance)

As you might have already guessed, many of those wearing suits were older, most were Caucasian, and nearly all were male..... 

[Full disclosure: I pretty much fit the profile, right down to the suit--although I did opt for jeans, t-shirt (of the #ForkU #rhizo15 variety no less ;-)) & jacket on the last day of the conference].

Stephen and me

I've long been interested in "accessible" and "open" most particularly in information and communications technology implementations.

I have a tiny instructional design and learning development company. My work with corporate clients allows me to pay my bills, and to be a patron of the arts. 
I often refer to myself (and I'll leave it to you to decide how much of a joke this is) 
as a corporate whore. 

Notwithstanding the degree to which I have to "sell out" to keep the lights on,  it's important to me to conduct myself in a socially responsible manner and remain a contributing member of my community. More about that later....

I see a big part of my work toward "social responsibility" to be in fostering openness when and where I can. As I see it, this means spreading the word to whomever will listen  and to educate anyone who'll listen on the value of Creative Commons licensing of materials, and particularly CC-BY and CC-0.  

On the topic of CC licenses--to both the amusement and consternation of some at the conference, because I kept bringing it up--I have particular issues with the CC-NC license. 

Before embarking on my rant, I'll recognize the fact that developers and producers are free to license their materials however they wish. That said, I'm not sure how many consumers and developers appreciate the implications of the "non-commercial" license.

For example, one of the graphics rolling over on the front page of the conference website--the pretty scenery one with the lake, mountains and trees, entitled Banff, Alberta Canada--is tagged with a CC-BY-NC-SA license. 

Since organizers charged a fee to attend the conference, the NC prescription of this license means that it shouldn't be used here--or whatever agreement reached with the photographer would have made a caption/title "used with permission" more apt. Who cares? This amounts to no more that a tempest in a teapot--right up? I'd say sure, it does. Right up until it doesn't....

Notwithstanding my obsession with licensing, its gratifying to see overall attitudes toward small businesses changing for the better:

  • notions of revenue and sustainability aren't as dirty or untouchable as they've been 
  • small businesses which believe in the efficacy of open are welcomed to the table
  • there's space for all who support development, research, and use of all things OER 

Since Week 2 of #rhizo15 week has been brought to you by the word measurement, I'll measure #oeglobal as successful as evidenced by this list of open educational resources-based small businesses. 
Each run by a real person, who's passionate about open. 
Each intent on making OER accessible, relevant, and sustainable:

I'll sign off with one more measure of success. 
These organizations provide resources, strategies and support for those looking to adopt and leverage open educational resources for self and community:

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A retrospective for #rhizo15--subjectively speaking

This retrospective is something I'm posting because I'm:
  • not sure how else to provide an introduction piece for #rhizo15
  • hoping it'll further my own understanding of how I got here
  • sure it'll be highly subjective 

I grew up in a small, rural town in Ontario, Canada. Very early on, I got the sense that there was much more out there, and I'd do well to "get outta Dodge" and seek experiences in the larger world.

 A month after my 18th birthday, I dropped-out of high school, packed-up what belongings I could fit into a backpack, and hitchhiked the 3250 km to Calgary.  This adventure was filled with experiences--some more positive that others--and drove home the realization: I really  learn when I'm pushed out of my comfort zone.

My experience on road construction, as a surveyor's assistant, landed me a similar gig working on seismic exploration crews, based out of Calgary. We spent the fall working hot-shot (per-diem) living out of motels in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan), and in the winter, after freeze-up out of camps (Northern Alberta, and NWT (as it was known then)) settings. This led to many more learning opportunities--perhaps chief among these being: "remaining in a remote camp for a month can result in 'cabin fever.'" 

I'd already planned to return to school for the winter semester, and I can tell you the month straight in camp did nothing to undermine the decision. This marked the first time a job experience sent me back to school. 

My return to school lasted until just after basketball season ended. It was then I retired from high school, for the second and last time, and returned to Calgary.

On the return to Cowtown, I decided it'd be a better idea to find a gig that would allow me to actually live and work in the city itself. Responding to a help wanted ad for "management trainees" resulted in me becoming a 3rd-party commercial bill collector. Perhaps the best thing I can say about this is that my teenage self had no real concept why this might have been a bad idea from day one. "Ever since a bad day at work" has had an entirely different context.

Following a couple of years, and transfers to Edmonton and Toronto, this was the second job experience which sent me back to school. This time as a non-matriculated pre-university student at Woodsworth College--University of Toronto. What awaited in the working world ensured that I was a much more motivated learner than I'd been on my first return to school. I began night classes in the spring, and was a full-time undergrad at New College by the fall.

After completion of my undergrad (in English) I returned to the my home town to be with my father, prior to his death from cancer. I'll spare you all the gory details and just say that I'll forever be grateful for the opportunity to at least begin remediation of the relationship we shared before he was claimed by this particularly nasty disease.

It was also during this time that I got my first experience as an educator. I signed-up on the supply teacher list at a high school in my home town. My first day was with a "special education" class comprised of "behaviourally exceptional" students intent on making short work of the newest candidate for the position of Mr. Spence's substitute at the school. It was mid-October and I was the 10th contestant

After day one, I visited the office to return the classroom key. The school secretary asked, "How was your day?" She seemed a little puzzled when I responded, "great, have me back any time...." (It was only later that I found out that I'd been the 10th contestant!)

By the end of that school year, I'd been hired as the permanent supply teacher, and had been designated at the principal's proxy for discipline at the school. I'm especially proud of this fact, because:

  • I was hired as a non-Catholic by a Separate school board--apparently very rare
  • I was able to make a positive impact at the classroom, school, and board levels
  • I did all this without a teaching certificate
I moved on to youth work following this, and remain an advocate for youth who've be labelled, ghettoized or otherwise marginalized. In more recent times, this involvement has been, and is, on a volunteer basis with various employment, mental health, social service initiative--both at the board, and "front line" level. 

My mother taught me very early that volunteering and contributing to your community is a critical aspect of being a citizen. My first formal volunteer position was a member of the Gatineau Zone: Canadian Ski Patrol System--the only zone in the country which permitted recruits as young as 16 years of age.

To this day, it grates when someone tells me they're "giving back." It's all I can do not to scream:


The mid-90s represented yet another return to Calgary. Ultimately, this led to another job experience resulting in a return to school. I'd decided that given the opportunities, it'd be a good idea to secure employment in the recreation sector. Calgary is the closest major centre to some of the best recreational opportunities on the planet, year round. I settled on golf and skiing, with a side helping of snow boarding--which brings us....

The precipitous learning opportunity took me WAY outside my comfort zone. I'm here to tell you a broken wrist will do that. I learned it's very good idea to always wear wrist guards when snowboarding. I also learned:

  • there's an acronym for this type of injury: FOSH (fall outstretched hand)
  • the scaphoid bone's blood supply makes it particular susceptible to avascular necrosis
  • this type of injury takes a long time (12 wks) to heal and/or often requires surgery 
The day before I'd signed-on to work year-round for the company which owned the resort in question, along with a series of others. Six weeks later, when I showed up to work summer lift maintenance with a cast on my wrist, their occupational health and safety department wouldn't let me on site and I was laid off. I ended-up at the employment insurance office to file for benefits and to see what options there might be for education/retraining. This led to enrollment in a fast-track, object-orientation software engineering (OOSE)program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

My OOSE certificate, BA in English, and practical experience in education led to various technical writing, curriculum development, facilitation and training gigs for corporate, educational, government, non-governmental organizations audiences. It was during this time that I became the Training Developer by SMART Technologies Inc or, as I was fond of calling myself, "Employee Zero" of their training department. It also prompted the latest entry on my "return to school job experience" list. While at SMART I applied to the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT) to complete a M.Ed degree in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning with a specialization in Computer Applications. I choose this program since it would allow me complete degree requirements remotely, while also travelling 80% of the time conducing face-to-face training sessions for SMART (if you attended a SMART Board interactive whiteboard Masters Session in North America between 2001 and 2004 there's a good chance we've already met ;-)

I have to end there (thank goodness exhaled the .0004% of you who've made it this far) and will be back with more regarding the last decade, although much of that may be found scattered across various communities, networks and spaces of the world wide web. And, especially in terms of how I got here, I'd be remiss if signed-off without at least mentioning my introduction to Jeff Lebow and Dave Cormier and EdTechTalk a decade ago.