Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Latest 2010 Issue: Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology

CJLT 36(1) - Fall 2010

Table of Contents

Editorial: A Special Issue of the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology on Knowledge Building, by Michele Jacobsen

Abstract: In a pervasive media and technology landscape that is increasingly global, participatory and connected, one in which learners and teachers can increasingly become creators of knowledge rather than mere consumers of prepared messages and ideas, it is vital for the field of educational technology to take stock of the latest research on knowledge building. Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter, innovative pioneers in the area of Knowledge Building in education, define the construct of Knowledge Building as having several characteristics that distinguish it from constructivist learning in general. Two key characteristics of Knowledge Building are intentionality and community knowledge. Intentionality captures that people engaged in knowledge building know they are doing it and that advances in knowledge are purposeful. Community knowledge captures that while learning is a personal matter, knowledge building is done for the benefit of the community. Scardamalia and Bereiter emphasize that in contrast to being spontaneous, a knowledge building culture requires a supportive learning environment and teacher effort and artistry to create and maintain a community devoted to ideas and to idea improvement. Distinct from improving individual students’ ideas and understanding, the collective work of Knowledge Building is explicitly focused on the creation and improvement of knowledge of value to one’s community – advancement of the knowledge itself.

A Brief History of Knowledge Building, by Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter

Knowledge Building and Mathematics: Shifting the Responsibility for Knowledge Advancement and Engagement, by Joan Moss and Ruth Beatty

Developing Deep Understanding and Literacy while Addressing a Gender-Based Literacy Gap, by Yanqing Sun, Jianwei Zhang, Marlene Scardamalia

Social Network Analysis to Examine Interaction Patterns in Knowledge-Building Communities, by Donald N. Philip

Partnerships for Knowledge Building: An Emerging Model, by Thérèse Laferrière, Mireia Montané, Begona Gros, Isabel Alvarez, Merce Bernaus, Alain Breuleux, Stephane Allaire, Christine Hamel & Mary Lamon

Knowledge Society Network: Toward a Dynamic, Sustained Network for Building Knowledge, by Huang-Yao Hong, Marlene Scardamalia, Jianwei Zhang

Understanding the nature of science and scientific progress: A theory-building approach, by Maria Chuy, Marlene Scardamalia, Carl Bereiter, Fleur Prinsen, Monica Resendes, Richard Messina, Winifred Hunsburger, & Chris Teplovs

Early Development of Graphical Literacy through Knowledge Building, by Yongcheng Gan, Marlene Scardamalia, Huang-Yao Hong and Jianwei Zhang

Towards a Knowledge Building Community: From Guided- to Self-Organized Inquiry, by Stefano Cacciamani

Beyond Courseware: Designing for Collaborative Knowledge Building in Undergraduate Interprofessional Health Sciences Education, by Leila Lax, Marlene Scardamalia, Judy Watt-Watson, Peter Pennefather, Judith Hunter & Carl Bereiter

Conclusion--Can Children Create Knowledge? By Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia

CJLT 36(1) - Fall 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Engaged Teaching or Leave? Is that the question when students text in class?

Much like our counterparts in schools, campus teachers are having to re-tool their practices to take advantage of the latest technology innovations in support of engaged teaching, and to respond thoughtfully and effectively to students who have ready access to media and technology (and know how to use it!).  The quest towards more innovative, responsive and engaged teaching practices can be an exciting adventure for some, and a long, hard slog for others - depending upon their teaching philosophy, the learning theory and perspectives behind their current practices, and their skill and creativity with technology. In fact, a colleague and I are currently researching how to use audience response systems in large lecture environments - it is a great learning journey!

A colleague sent me this recent Inside Higher Education article, entitled "Should Profs Leave Unruly Classes?". In brief, the article describes how some profs are choosing to deal with distractions and distracted students -- they walk out. Huh? I sent this along to my graduate students, who offered these comments:

1. "As we allow Student Owned Devices into all of the schools, we have encountered similar concerns. My argument is, if you engage the students, the you will not have the problem. Is it any different for students to be doodling in there “notebooks”. Profs, as with any educational professional, need to pick up their game. I’m not sure why they are concerned with student being off task in their class, the worst that will happen is that they will fail the class. These are my 2 cents."

2. "I agree... I think if kids are "doodling" with their personal devices, this can be a learning opportunity for the teacher or prof. What can they do differently to better engage students? True, we can put it on the students and say they will fail, but I think this is an attitude of complacency in our practice. Surely we can do better than that."

What do you think?  Have your say by commenting on this blog...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Network of 21 Century School Systems - CASS

A new community of educators is gaining momentum....

Working Toward the 12th Dimension of the CASS Framework for School System Success

In fall 2010 CASS initiated the Network of 21st Century School systems to build leadership capacity by combining research and practical wisdom in four areas: • a forward looking, shared vision of 21st century learning and teaching, • transforming school and system leadership • IT governance • school systems as knowledge building organization". Check it out:

Is it also true for Canadian Intellectuals?

Just read an interesting article [forwarded by a colleague]:  The Crisis of the American Intellectual. I couldn't help but wonder, is this true for Canadian intellectuals, as well? As a "cautionary tale" thought experiment, I reworded one paragraph that stuck out by inserting bold words:

... But the biggest roadblock to change today is that so many of Canada’s best-educated, best-placed educators are too invested in old social models and old visions of schooling to do their real job and help society and the education system transition to the next level.  Instead of the opportunities that inquiry and technology bring to the classroom, too often, they see threats; instead of hope, too often they see danger; instead of the possibility of progress they see the unraveling of everything beautiful and true....

What do you think? Is there any truth to this thought experiment?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Five minutes to Twitter

I had a few minutes to spare today... thought a meeting started at 9:30, and it is actually scheduled for after lunch... Anyways, I figured it would be neat to start a twitter account... something I have been meaning to do for a few years now...

My first tweet:  This holiday weekend I am looking forward to four hockey games, three shopping trips, two big sleeps and a very large bottle of red wine!

And my first re-tweet: Dave Hancock - Minister Hancock responds to Alberta Views article "More Choice, Less Education"

I am now following 24 other tweeters and have a follower!

Fun to come!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jacobsen: Engaging Ideas in Education - Dec 7th

Engaging Teaching in a Participatory Digital World

Abstract:  A participatory digital world calls for changed mindsets about schooling, knowledge, teaching, learning, and assessment. Information delivery approaches to schooling must give way to active, engaged, and collaborative teaching and learning relationships made possible by social networks and a changed media and technology landscapes.  Already comfortable with broadcast and interactive technologies, teachers need support to embrace online and blended participatory learning designs for students who build knowledge in the 21st century.  Simply training teachers how to use current technologies will not shift how they work with disciplinary knowledge, how they design for learning and assessment, and how they embrace technology for idea improvement. Instead, teachers require continuous professional support as they learn to design rich, authentic learning tasks and cultivate a knowledge building culture with their students.

Post-talk Conversation and Reflection

Thank you for attending my talk, and for asking such great questions!  I hope that you will comment on my blog! Just click on comment, and follow the steps.

The complex challenges that arise when technology comes to school require that all members in the educational system to establish a shared vision (Alberta Education's Inspired Education is a great start! - Thanks, Dave Minister Hancock; The Institutional Learning and Teaching Plan, UCalgary - Thanks, Dennis Sumara!), to work together and think creatively to find solutions and appropriate actions, and then to pull in the same direction to achieve widespread changes.

Here are the videos I referenced during my talk - enjoy the full-length versions:

Seymour Papert Interview - One Laptop per Child (OLPC)
Innovator: Powerful Ideas, Children and Computers

Students Take on Modern Technology
Digital technology affects opportunities for learning

Sunny View School in Toronto
Choice and Voice for Every Child

I Wish... By Crosbie Heights
Hands on Vs. Hands U

Ridgeway Crystal Beach High School
What kids love to do with technology

Helpful Horse: Wild and Free
Inquiry Exemplars: Galileo Network

Check out these AMAZING Galileo Network Inquiry Exemplars:
Other Cool Videos that I wanted to show, but did not have time:

SMART Table - Touch. Learn. Together.
Touch interactivity

Cisco TelePresence... Just for Fun! 
Kids being kids

The Internet of Things
An interconnected system of systems

Arthur C Clarke predicting the future in 1964
Nobody has a crystal ball

Idea new ad on 'Education for all'
Mobile and Participatory Learning Opportunities - I showed this one to my own children, who shared my wonder and dismay that all children in the world do not get to go to school.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ooops - where did November go? And, the addiction to family.

I am booking appointments into January 2011 right now, and it is not even December. So, I figured I had better blog at least once or I will miss this entire month!!  I do not remember September, it is just a blur. October was crazy, with a conference in Newfoundland and another in Ontario, teaching a graduate course (excellent students, btw), keeping up with two research projects (and a new one that got funded), doing analysis and writing for a self-study of our graduate programs, editing the special issue of a journal, writing a proposal for a grant, EDSA, GPEC, DAC and FEC meetings, doing a few media interviews, talking with prospective students on the phone, moving from one office to another, and updating several websites.

But this month of November, which begins with All Hallows Day and ends with Mark Twain's and Winston Churchill's birthdays, has to be the busiest I have experienced as a faculty member in the last 10 years... No, Really!!  I have the marked up, over-crowded postit-note plastered, dog-eared daytimer to prove it... BUT, SShhhh!! So far, I have successfully fended off attempts by my handlers to put my calendar online and accessible to others for booking meetings....  Anyways. To one of the points of this post.  The other day, I got a note from my dean congratulating me and my team on a job well done. It is hard to describe how awesome it was to get this feedback and recognition; a simple little note, a moment of recognition for a job well done, and in spite of carrying two industrial sized bags around under my eyes from cramming my marking into the wee hours  of the morning, I actually felt much lighter, even more positive about my job, and that much more happy to come to work.

Speaking of how one can be busy AND happy at work, I also try to maintain a healthy and balanced home life with dear husband and two children. Not. Always. Easy. Nor. Is. It. Nirvana. So, I actually paid attention to this National Post article when it crossed my virtual desk this week:  The Greatest Addiction of All. I can certainly relate to the opening narrative in which a little child cuddles on a parent's lap, the cares of the day fall away, and all seems well in the world. Most mornings and evenings, and several times a day and at night on weekends, I, too, get numerous cuddles and kisses from two manic, wriggling, over-heated, often piercingly loud, sometimes smelly little bundles of unrestrained joy... Yup. There is the fantasy of parental bliss, and there is the reality.

Parenting is just as challenging, if not more demanding, than being a full time professor. In future posts, I might just detail some of the more humorous incidents and events that characterize my parenting journey. Suffice it to say, I often feel like a border collie - screaming banshee - Nanny McPhee - cross as I shepherd my two offspring through school, music lessons, sports activities and family and household chores and routines, take a deep breath before you smack one of them....  All of which foreshadows the next part of the article that resonated with me:  "Research may depict parenthood as a bile-inducing, rage-fueling, stress-producing ordeal, but parents tell us that becoming parents is the best thing they ever did". Truly, while they are a work in progress, my two offspring are my greatest creations. Cute, smart, funny, exasperating, argumentative, entertaining, gifted, demanding, irritating....

My sister sent me this earlier this month, and I finally got around to reading it:  Men are from mars, kids are from Pluto. Very funny and liberating -- so what if your child wants to wear a Halloween costume to kindergarten? Every... day... for... a... month...  Must be normal on Pluto....

I realize I am blathering a bit. But, I do have a point. How to reconcile the tiny little cherished moments of bliss with the daily grind of full-time work and full-time parenting? Though the connection may seem awkward, it makes total sense to me:  it appears that the tiny little moments in parents' lives, those cuddles and kisses, the lap time, AND those sporadic, congratulatory notes from the boss, are like narcotics to addicts. Yes, it is the hope for reward, not the reward itself, that often drives us; and it is the tiny little moments of bliss that sustain us through the hard work it takes to do anything well.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

MUN's Murphy Mashup: Learning in a Smarter World

I am attending the EDGE 2010 Conference in St. John's Newfoundland today, and felt the urge to blog about an excellent keynote by Dr. Elizabeth Murphy (and not just because I enjoyed Mark, Mary, Dale and Michael's panel on blogging!).

Dr. Elizabeth Murphy's keynote presentation, entitled "Learning in a Smarter World: Imagining the Future", was delightfully different (at least to me).  Dr. Murphy provided a brief introduction and concluding remarks that framed an engaging media mashup that she thoughtfully prepared ahead of time. Dr. Murphy's call to action focused on using our imagination and innovative technological resources to design smarter learning and learners. Key messages include:
  • Imagine a world in which every child is capable of critical and rational thinking. Imagine a world in which every child has access to all knowledge. 
  • Imagine every child regardless of gender, geography religion,  race or income with open access to all knowledge and to sophisticated learning tools.
  • Imagine more intelligent computers that help all students learn more effectively and efficiently. Imagine high quality learning activities and materials in the hands of every child.  
  • Imagine children learning through play. Imagine children engaged and enthralled by every learning experience.
  • Imagine learning experiences designed for the whole child. Imagine a system of learning that responds to children's individual needs.
Dr. Murphy skillfully wove together readily available YouTube videos with thoughtful commentary in a compelling media mashup about smarter learning and the future of education. She distributed cards with a link to a set of delicious bookmarks she prepared so that people could enjoy the videos again after the presentation.  Murphy's media mashup was a great approach to a keynote about imagining smarter learning.

I encourage you to experience a version of Dr. Murphy's presentation as preserved using delicious bookmarks and comments:  Elizabeth Murphy's Edge 2010 keynote, Learning in a smarter world: Imaging the future

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Divon's news: Tech-savvy teens take skill to the classroom

Read a recent news article about teens learning with technology.  I really enjoyed talking to Jordana from Metro News about Sharon Friesen and my research on engaged teaching and technology enabled learning. Jordana quoted accurately and in an appropriate context:
  • “We found they were a lot more creative in the types of projects teachers did with students, and they pursued more long term projects because the kids could take the technology with them at night to work on projects at home,” said Jacobsen.
  • ... in spite of all the new advances in classroom technology, Jacobsen stresses the importance of having teachers on board. “All the technology in the world is not going to change things in classrooms if the teachers aren’t designing rich learning experiences for the students. So engaged teaching matters more than ever.”
Be sure to comment on the article.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Engaging, Purposeful and Meaningful Homework

Calgary Catholic School Board has posted a new homework policy online; The Board has asked for feedback from the community.   Global National's Francis Silvaggio asked me to comment on this policy, and aired a few of my responses on Oct 6th:  No Homework Policy.  Other views that I expressed during this interview include:
  • CCSB has proposed a balanced and flexible policy that enables teachers to be responsive to individual student learning needs;
  • A clear focus on meaningful and purposeful homework has been articulated;
  • Reasonable expectations for the quantity of daily homework have been set for children in different divisions (i.e., K-grade 3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12);
  • Homework can take different forms, from practice, to completion, to enrichment, to project work; 
  • Punitive measures to discipline students for incomplete homework - no missed classes or loss of privileges - are inappropriate. Instead, focus on good communication between school and home;
  • Roles and shared responsibilities for students, parents, teachers and school administrators have been identified.
As an educator, I support the idea of regular homework that is engaging, meaningful and purposeful. I believe that homework can be a great opportunity for children and parents to connect and communicate about learning strengths, interests and needs.  In higher education, professors and instructors have a great deal of flexibility given the learning characteristics of our adult students - most students do individual and group work outside of scheduled instructional time. For teachers and students in K-12, I believe that our expectations for homework outside of instructional time need to be guided by sound educational research on learning and teaching, and also be tempered by our understanding of the many demands on home and family life. Teachers and parents are BOTH focused on student / child success in learning, and effective processes can be put in place to communicate and negotiate a set of shared expectations for schoolwork and homework.

As parents, my husband and I engage with our own children on learning tasks most evenings and on weekends. The learning tasks we do together range from printing and practicing with text, lots of reading using diverse materials, fun activities both indoors and out, arts, crafts and music, and math and science explorations using a microscope, a stove and measuring cups, shovels and seeds, tools in the garage, and various other materials. That said, we are a family that also has to balance full time work and school, with music lessons, choir lessons, sporting activities, housekeeping, meal preparation and clean up, laundry, pets, and so on! In our busy and purposeful full-time lives, we expect to work together with the school on purposeful and meaningful homework tasks that help our children love school and love learning and experience success.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Education Canada: The Hard Work of Learning and the Challenges of Good Teaching

    Read this new article by Davis and Sumara (2010) on the weekend. In it, the authors challenge readers to consider a "change" focus versus a "challenge" stance in designs for learning. I plan to assign it to my student teachers for discussion and debate next semester.  In the meantime, I encourage educators to read and contribute to the discussion using the comments feature on the CEA Website:

    Here is what I posted: 

    This is a thoughtful and important article to discuss with my student teachers - Thanks for the great read!  Two parts that really resonated with me:
    "... teaching that is focused on challenging learners is organized around the much more demanding tasks of setting situations that allow students to negotiate the level of difficulty, of trusting they will choose the tougher route when they are able, of really listening to where they’re coming from and what they know."
    --- the design of meaningful work and learning opportunities, introducing challenging ideas, trusting students to make good choices and to engage, and attentive listening to learners
    " [teachers] are doubtlessly challenging their students, refusing to make things easy and constantly expecting more than of learners than learners might imagine themselves capable."
    --- Seymour Papert introduced an idea decades ago, "hard fun", that relates to a key idea that you are describing here - learners want to be challenged and engaged in a scholarly community of inquiry, and in these communities they thrive. Ref:

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    A Day in the Life of an Associate Professor

    It has been a while since I wrote a "day in the life" blog. So, as I enjoy my Saturday morning coffee, here is a look back at my busiest day last week.

    6 - 7 am - Answer email, read and respond to a graduate student paper, organize calendar.

    8 - 9: 30 am - Drop dear child off at school; Drive to work; Talk to two colleagues by phone about research projects and committees; move more stuff into new office. 

    9:30 - 11:30 am - Academic Workload Advisory Committee

    11:30 - 12 - Squat and gobble while printing handouts, agenda and updating website

    12 - 1:30 pm - Chair, Educational Studies in Language, Culture and Technology Meeting

    1:30 - 3:00 pm - Graduate Programs in Education Council

    4:00 pm - Music lessons with child

    6:30 pm - Sound check and mingle with cool educators!

    7:00 - 9:15 pm - Panelist, CRC's Digital Citizenship Symposium

    9:45 pm - Fill vehicle with gas and find my way home.

    Thankfully, most of my days are not this busy - most professors can and DO handle a few of these busy days a month. In fact, many of my colleagues seem busier than me - emails at all hours of the day, and slightly disheveled attire and grooming, attest to their hectic and demanding schedules! [Having fun here, friends!].

    An academics' busy schedule demands that we make trade-offs - we all have to make choices about how we spend / invest our time in order to maintain an active research program, prepare articles and grant applications, offer quality teaching and graduate supervision, do journal editing and make conference presentations, engage in administrative and leadership service on dozens of committees, and cultivate a healthy and happy family life. On that note, I have to go get ready for hockey practice with my two kids. Cheers.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Are tech-savvy students better learners?

    Are tech-savvy students better learners?

    As children of all ages head back to school this fall, many of them will have the benefit of having a laptop computer all to themselves. But does having this level of access to technology guarantee the individual student will be successful in their studies? According to two University of Calgary professors, access to technology is only one part of the equation.  Quality teaching matters more than ever when computers come to school....

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Best In Class Fund - Students Can Win 20K in Technology for Their School

    Girlprof supports putting technology into the hands of children for engaged learning at home and a school, which is why I became involved as a member of the Technology Advisory Board for the Best In Class Fund (BiCF).  Secondary students and teachers from Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia can apply for a 20K grant and geek squad support for their innovative ideas about using technology for learning.

    Get Involved to Win 20K for Your School!! Learn more: BiCF Guidelines

    In brief, grade 7 to 12 students can work together with their teachers to develop an imaginative and engaging VIDEO and WRITTEN proposal to outline / demonstrate how they would like to integrate digital technology for learning in the classroom - be sure to focus on how technology will provide educational benefits in YOUR classroom. Students will work on the 2 minute video, and teachers on the 500-word written proposal, and submit both by Oct 24th.
    • What is your ‘big idea’ about why your school needs technology from Best Buy?
    • How will having new technology impact student learning?
    • Why are you passionate about technology in education?
    Key Dates
    * October 24 - Submission deadline at midnight, PST
    * Week of December 13 - Announcement of program winners
    * Spring 2011 - Video follow-up with grant recipients to evaluate impact in the classroom and to show how the program has come to life in the winning schools

    Research on Engaged Learning With Technology

    My own educational technology research focuses on quality teaching and engaged learning with technology - most recently, I have studied the learning benefits of laptop programs in junior high schools with my colleagues, Sharon Friesen and Candace Saar.  Read more about this and related research:
    1. CBC Website: Researchers Like Laptops in Calgary Classrooms
    2. GlobalTV: U of C researchers probe whether tech-savvy students have an advantage
    3. CHQR: Researchers study computer use at SW school 
    4. UCalgary: Are tech-savvy students better learners?
    5. St. Albert Gazette: Okay class, There's an App for that 
    6. Education Canada:  Teaching in a Participatory Digital World

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Robert Thirsk: Open the Door to Opportunity

    Enjoyed an inspirational keynote by Bob Thirsk, Canadian Astronaut from the Canadian Space Agency, on Monday morning at Alberta Education's EMERGE Conference.

    Powerful Ideas that Thirsk used to frame his talk that included photographs from the international space station, a video made by the crew and many, many stories about "the right stuff" for kids who are considering a career in space.

    1. teachers are cool - Shirley Cole, Powell River, BC, barely remembers the day when John Glenn launched into space and she played the audio link for her grade 3 class. Most students just saw it as a passing event, but one student, Thirsk, was obviously inspired and went on to a career in space.

    2. A career in space is not science fiction: Canada employs thousands of people in the Space industry

    3. We learn best when we are engaged - careers in space are not desk jobs!
    Get students involved in hands on activities inside the classroom and beyond via science centres, science fairs, get students involved in these fantastic learning opportunities. If you cannot get to Montreal, you can learn about these resources and use them through videoconferencing

    4. A Career in Space is Challenging
    Astronauts take inspiration from JF Kennedy, 'we chose to go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard (get rest of the quote)
    We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon... (interrupted by applause) we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

    5. Failure is not an option – speed of events and decisions, using expensive equipment, astronauts operate on behalf of researchers who have spent years designing their experiments, just like failure is not an option for students at exam time, at high school graduation, and so on, failure is not an option.

    6. We go to school to learn how to learn
    The door to opportunity only opens when students acquire the needed knowledge, skills and attitudes - there are specific ksa's that scientists and astronauts need to be successful. Astronauts need to understand very complicated systems, machines, vehicles; the space station is complex on another level of magnitude.
    - Willingness to undergo advanced training on an lifelong learning basis; massive amounts of information need to be acquired in a short period of time

    7. You don't have to be a geek to love math and science
    We do wear white lab coats, but we also wear backpacks, space suits, hiking shoes; we love going to work, and get new challenges each day, every day is different.

    8. Practice makes perfect
    The bulk of an astronaut’s time is spent learning and practicing for the mission, and preparing for optimal and off-optimal outcomes, unanticipated events
    Simulations - practice, doing procedures over and over to get it perfect

    9. Its more fun to work in a group than to work alone
    Attitude - decisiveness, team work, persistence
    This is the most important competency of the three - you can always learn the knowledge and skills to do the job, but not everyone can learn the attitude needed to do the job well and be successful.

    10. People are more interesting than facts
    Students want to learn about the people who have made a difference, the explorers and inventors, and what attitudes and skills were necessary, instead of just the events and accomplishments - kids are inspired and learn from the dispositions, the attitudes, the people themselves, who they were.

    11. opportunities are built upon a strong educational foundation
    the next generation of space workers are in today's classrooms - so, teachers have an awesome responsibility to inspire the next generation of explorers, inventors and astronauts.

    Gesture and Object Based Technology

    Dr. David Merrill, co-founder and president of Sifteo, was the first keynote at Alberta Education's Emerge Conference 2010 in Banff, Alberta.

    Powerful Ideas David shared:

    Key idea: it can take TIME to refine and improve how we use a powerful technology.
    - Computer Mouse - a great idea that lasted over 40 years, from Englebart's (1968) original mouse, to the iMac mouse (1995), and latest wireless and gesture mice. Supports a range of interactions, and is also limited.
    - Theremin (1928), gesture controlled pitch and volume, to O'Modhrain (2000), Stanford, who explored haptic feedback to increase playability of the Theremin, to the Wii (2006), to the Ocarina (2010), and the iPhone that supports multi-touch.
     - Videogames, Damien Lopez (2008) worked on a taxonomy of game controllers, and the types of interaction they support.

    Key idea: Why our tools matter: they are objects that help us to think (Draws upon Seymour Papert's seminal work on "objects to think with"). Trying many alternatives with a minimum of effort increases our good solutions and enables us to explore problems more fully.
    - Rapid prototyping, Experimentation, expression
    - Access to tools matters - anytime access allows us to try more possibilities, to rethink the problems themselves

    Key idea: Siftables:  Play, Learn, Create
    - Key advances: multiperson, more mobile, 3D spatial, 2-handed all fingers bodily interaction, tangible: cognitively beneficial
    - Object-based, gesture-based interaction with computers

    David Merrill's TedTalk - demonstration of Siftables.

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Latest Issue: CJLT / RCAT 35(3) - Fall 2009 - Online

    Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology / La revue canadienne de l’apprentissage et de la technologie (CJLT / RCAT):

    Table of Contents

    Editorial: CJLT: Changes in the World of Academic Publishing
    Michele Jacobsen


    Online synchronous communication in the second-language classroom
    Elizabeth Murphy

    Patterns d’interactions écrites asynchrones entre des classes branchées en réseau
    Stéphane Allaire, Thérèse Laferrière

    Using Videoconferencing to Provide Mentorship in Inquiry-Based Urban and Rural Secondary Classrooms
    Qing Li, Patti Dyjur, Natalya Nicholson, Lynn Moorman

    Gaming geography: Educational games and literacy development in the Grade 4 classroom
    Heather Lotherington, Natalia Sinitskaya Ronda

    Implementation of web-based learning in colleges of education: Barriers and enablers
    Daniel W. Surry, Adrian G. Grubb, David C. Ensminger, Jenelle Ouimette

    Cliquer, glisser, dactylographier ou sélectionner dans un menu déroulant : manipulations préférées des étudiants universitaires / Click, slide, type or select in a pop-up menu: Favourite manipulations of French-as-a-second-language university students
    Nandini Sarma, Alysse Weinberg, Martine Peters

    The effectiveness of web-delivered learning with aboriginal students: Findings from a study in coastal Labrador
    David Philpott, Dennis Sharpe, Rose Neville

    Use of Social Software to Address Literacy and Identity Issues in Second Language Learning
    Jill Hutchinson

    New Editor: Dr. Heather Kanuka,

    Fall 2009 issue of the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology / La revue canadienne de l’apprentissage et de la technologie (CJLT / RCAT):

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Flapjack App & the Calgary Stampede

    If you are from the prairies, and even if you are a professor in the ivory tower in this city, you know that a Stampede is approaching Calgary. The first half of July is the time of year that most Calgarians and Hundreds of Thousands of Visitors don cowboy hats and boots, and travel to city center to enjoy the rodeo, the chuckwagon races, agricultural exhibitions and the midway. The Stampede Parade is this Friday morning, and corporate and academic Calgary shut down offices and classrooms for the morning so that staff and students can take in the show. 

    Part of enjoying the Stampede Spirit and Fun is the annual quest to find free flapjacks throughout the city and surrounding area. Those of us who are used to this brand of Western hospitality do not find it curious at all to see folks line-up at 7 am for a free coffee, sausage and flapjacks. In fact, this brand of hospitality has spread beyond the Calgary Stampede and free pancake breakfasts often accompany folk festivals and other events at other times of the year.

    On my drive to campus this morning, I learned about a new app for my iPhone on the CBC - the Flapjack Finder. I have written before about my enthusiasm for Apple's iPod, iPhone and iPad...  In fact, just yesterday, I made my first visit to the Genius Bar -- Top Marks for Andrew and the other geniuses!!  Anyhoo, back to finding flapjacks.  You can bet that I have already downloaded the Flapjack Finder on my iPhone, and that I plan to slap on a straw hat, grab my kids and husband, and find some free and flat throughout the area in the next two weeks!!


    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    Happy Canada Day 2010

    Canada Day is a welcome summer holiday. Our entire extended family celebrates July 1st by going to a parade together in our city, then gathering at one of our houses to stuff ourselves on home baked treats, cold drinks and a barbeque. During the parade, our children wave Maple Leaf flags, scramble to pick up candy, and suck on freezies. This year, my husband and I plan to try something new by taking the kids to the evening Rodeo. As a fitting conclusion to the day, we all enjoy evening fireworks in our city as well as on CBC.

    Canada Day offers an opportunity to reflect on how privileged we are to be citizens of such a peaceful, beautiful and prosperous nation.  Funny how Canada started with a Prime Minister who dreamed big about a railway to link East and West....

    Canadians will enjoy Canada Day in many ways on July 1st, but first and foremost, it's about celebrating the strengths in our families, in our diverse citizens, and in the country and land we all love. I hope my many friends and colleagues will have fun tomorrow, and also take a moment to consider how incredibly fortunate and how incredibly proud we are (and should be) to live, work and play in Canada - this great country of ours.

    Happy Canada Day!

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    Good bye Michael Anton Jacobsen (1940 - 2010)

    Family and friends,

    Thank you for your many kind words, thoughts and prayers -- my mom, my sisters and I felt so lucky to be with my dad when he passed away Friday evening at 6:00 pm. He died as he lived - in the embrace of his loving girls.

    It has been a long good-bye since dad's stroke in March 2008 -- we have celebrated the extra time we have had with dad as he progressed through the different final stages of life. Dad still went to the July 1st parades in his wheelchair, to family homes for Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner, and to his grandson's hockey games. We had many more birthday celebrations together. He enjoyed being outdoors in the sun, and always let us know, even as speech and eventually words failed him, how much he loved his family.

    Through the joys and sorrows, we have been blessed to have had more than two extra years with dad since his stroke -- this extra time allowed us to enjoy dad's company, tell him often how much we loved him, and to be together as a family. After his time in the hospital, and a short stay at an extended care facility in Calgary, the five of us won the lottery and Dad was transferred to the Bethany Care Center and lived within five minutes of his wife, children and grandchildren.

    This last week's vigil has been one of laughter, love and tears as dad's girls, his sons-in-law and his cherished grandchildren shared our many memories, and prepared for dad's / grandpa's passing. We are a strong family; we are helping each other with the next steps of preparing for the public service and celebration of dad's life this Friday at Bethany at 5:00 pm; we are also strong because of the love and support of our extended family and many good friends. In closing, thank you for your many kind words and wishes as we have been on this journey as a family.

    With a peaceful heart,

    Friday, May 28, 2010

    CNIE 2010 Keynotes and Ning Online

    This is the first year in a long while that I haven't attended the annual CNIE Conference (formerly either the AMTEC or CADE conferences). So, imagine my delight in finding the three keynotes online. Kudos to New Brunswick Community College for capturing the video and coordinating with the presenter's slides.

    Watching and listening to Nora, Alec and Daniel was great -- in fact, I would argue that post de facto online access is better, in some ways, than real time. I can play, pause, re-play, repeat the video / audio in ways that are better than real time. I can insert phrases in my French-to-English translator, which would be tricky in real time. Admittedly, the video was of varying quality, and there were some hiccups with the audio. Notwithstanding the dollars and time saved, and the lesser impact on the environment (see Anderson and Anderson's article about online vs. f2f conferencing), without real-time attendance, I still missed the many sessions and panels that are unavailable online. By staying home, I missed visiting with friends from across the country and around the world, and hearing about their latest research and teaching. Still, it is great to have the "keynote" taste of the conference available online.

    Another "layer" for remote, post de facto participation, is the CNIE Ning site:  This community resource includes videos, photos, forums and links. Hi Bruce!! Hi Brad!!

    I cannot wait to see what the "Cascades of Innovation" CNIE conference is like in Hamilton in 2011.

    We Need Academic Journals and We Also Need Academic Publishing to Change

    My colleague, Tony, asks: do we need academic journals anymore? As the "soon to be former" editor of a peer-reviewed, academic journal (Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology), my answer is a resounding YES.   In various editorials for CJLT, I have written about the value and necessity of peer-reviewed forums for the sharing and dissemination of academic research and scholarship. For example, in Winter 2007 CJLT Editorial,  I wrote:  A great deal of hidden volunteer effort supports the scholarly review process of an academic journal. After a paper has been reviewed by the editorial team, it is blinded and sent to three expert peers for their assessment of the manuscript’s quality and potential contribution to the field. Peer reviewers submit comments and a recommendation to the editorial team to aid in the publication decision making process. At least 21 peer reviewers contributed their feedback and expertise to the review of the seven manuscripts in this issue. Peer review, by its very nature and, some would argue, by necessity, is anonymous. A journal maintains its scholarly integrity by employing a valid and reliable peer review process.

    In my Winter 2008 CJLT Editorial, I argued, "Academic journals disseminate both new research and the critique of existing research as an important part of the inquiry and knowledge sharing process. Scholars rely on academic, peer-reviewed journals for research on which they can build their own investigations and scholarship. ... Good academic journals tend to publish competing and even contrasting articles about a particular research field, question or topic – this approach to academic debate, combined with disciplined inquiry, is believed to characterize a vigorous, growing and dynamic body of knowledge and reliable research in a discipline. Canadian academics believe it is a right and a responsibility to analyze, synthesize and critically evaluate the current knowledge base and to identify inaccuracies, faulty arguments and claims that are not well supported with evidence".

    Academic researchers, scholars, graduate supervisors and graduate students, campus and classroom teachers, journalists and citizens, will continue to need reliable, trustworthy and credible peer-reviewed research on which to build ongoing research and teaching and living efforts. Our current academic journal publishing and peer review models have served us fairly well (with a few notable exceptions -- leaked emails about climate change, anyone?), will continue to serve us well, for the most part, and also have to change and evolve in order to remain relevant and to serve the community well.

    Here is my comment on Tony's blog:  "You are asking a few good questions here, Tony. I believe that our academic journal publishing models DO need to evolve and change, and that the type and magnitude of change needed will take no small courage and a great deal of effort on the part of academics, faculties and institutions. As editor, I advocated for CJLT to become fully open-source and online in order to make present and past educational technology research freely and widely available. Going open-source and online is only the first small step for academic journals. Across disciplines, there is an enduring and widespread snobbery about "online" versus "serious, top-tier publishing in a paper journal" - going for tenure or promotion, anyone? I agree with my colleagues, Mark Bullen and Ryan Tracey, that there is a strong need for good academic research, and with Sean Lancaster, that the blind peer review process is vital for credible and trustworthy academic publishing. Peer reviewed academic journals also need to incorporate interactive and participatory social networking models in support of developing active academic research communities online. Key challenges that academic journals face include, but are not limited to: variable institutional support and academic merit for journal editors, heavy workload, quality and quantity of peer review, an enduring culture of snobbery and entitlement, and sustainable funding. Does academia have the appetite to change the status quo in academic journal publishing? We can always hope..."

    A blog post by the Speculative Scotsman, Publishing Apocalypse... Now, has a relevant message, and funny bit about a grumpy old man, that I believe we can apply to academic publishing:  "Publishing is assuredly not, as Keillor would have it, dying. It is only changing - as all things do. That it is not what it once was, that the industry has had to adapt to new technology, new media, new modes of communication, is symptomatic not of the end - woe betide us all - but of evolution". 

    Academic publishing is evolving, and will continue to evolve, however painful and disruptive this process might be, in the coming decades. I look forward to watching from the sidelines. 

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    Should we filter and firewall in schools?

    For teachers and students to make full use of social participatory web 2.0 technological resources and processes for 21st century learning and competencies, then they need unfiltered, unrestricted access to these online resources in the classroom. In some of my classroom-based research, I have heard from a majority of teachers who are extremely frustrated by the filtered / firewalled restrictions placed on the rich and plentiful resources available online. Who is restricting access to things like blogs, wikis, youtube, facebook, and many other online resources and processes that characterize the social web? Often, it is the school jurisdiction or school IT folks - people who do not have a BEd.

    A plethora of resources, experts and processes are available online - in education, we need to seriously consider and debate WHY we would restrict teachers and students from access to this growing and expanding online knowledge base.

    Issues to consider:
    - Decisions about appropriate online content / resources / processes to be used in the classroom should be made by teachers. What are the Alberta Education, Alberta Teachers' Association, CASS, School Council Committee, etc., positions on this issue of professionalism and teacher selection of online content and technological resources?

    - Often, at the district level, and even at the school level, technology personnel, who are not educated as teachers / school leaders, are making "appropriate use" and "censoring" decisions about online content / resources / processes that are available to / restricted from teachers and students in classrooms.  Who should decide what knowledge, perspectives and ideas are worthwhile, necessary and appropriate for Alberta teachers and students? Are we comfortable leaving these important decisions about "appropriate" and "valuable" and "dangerous" in the sole hands of technology staff? In the sole hands of administrators?

    - POLICY regarding access to online content, technological processes and resources, should be created based on consultation among all relevant stakeholders - administrators, teachers, school jurisdictions, parents, technology personnel, AND STUDENTS.

    - Every school jurisdiction, or even school, should be able to determine the policies that make sense WITHIN a greater provincial context and policy structure. Provincial policy and school jurisdiction policies on access to online content and technological resources should be reevaluated at the beginning of each school year to take into account changing students, changing technologies and changed thinking about teaching and learning.

    I believe there is a role to be played by research:
    - Which school jurisdictions have the most restrictive policies and why? How are these policies working? How do teachers, students and parents feel about these policies?
    - Which schools or school jurisdictions have the least restrictive policies and why and how are these working?
    - How do school jurisdictions and administrators justify the filtering / firewall policies that are in place? Are these policies defensible? Are these decisions supported by data from different stakeholders? Information from the research literature?
    - What do parents say about access to online content and technological processes? How have we collected this data? Who have we asked? Whose opinions count?
    - What is the real incidence of serious problems with unfiltered, unrestricted access, as opposed to ad hoc reporting or imagined problems or fear mongering?

    Feel free to comment on my comments and ideas.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Designing for Inquiry and Technology Using Intelligence Online

    One of the key technologies I use with student teachers to explore designs for learning is Intelligence Online [IO]. Each semester, I am impressed by the creativity, imagination and skill displayed by my student teachers as they prepare inquiry projects for their future students. 

    Here is some student teacher reflection that demonstrates the depth and breadth of new knowledge constructed and shared over the Winter 2010 semester.

    JK's The Big One: The IO Unit 
    SZ's Teckno Noob Not So Noobish Anymore
    Bamboo Sensei The Secret to Inquiry

    This post will expand as I add more examples to it.
    For now, I have to get the rest of my marking done!

    Happy 40th Earth Day, I guess

    I am all for the earth, and for what it is worth - and the planet IS amazing. In fact, I spent six hours reflecting on the beauty of our little corner of the earth as I drove through the Palliser Region yesterday. In plus 20 temperatures with a springy wind, I marvelled anew at the pussy willow sage green and gold rolling hills; the massive just-plowed endless fields ready for planting; the man-made irrigation systems, aqueduct and canals; the treelines, the scrub, the tumbleweeds; the marsh and ponds on which multicolored ducks and geese landed; the beautiful light cast by a rising sun, and then by a tie-died peach, orange and red setting one as I coasted home.

    When my children asked, "Why do we celebrate Earth Day at School, Mom?", I resisted my skeptical response about rabid, eco-politico-socio-engineers and the profiteering green pirates....  (take a breath and read here for some Earth Day Predictions 1970 style) and the unethical scientists who fake data to skew political agendas.... (I love Rex Murphy's take on ClimateGate) and how "authentic living" is a new form of exclusionary language that denotes a new form of social status and economic privilege and snobbery (BTW, I am looking forward to reading Andrew Potter's new book).

    Instead, .... cue robins singing and early tulips poking through the soil and spreading compost on my raspberry bed... , Ahh, yes. Eaaaarth Daaaay.  Well, kids....  At breakfast, I talked about our shared responsibility to care for the earth, the unlimited beauty of the planet, doing our part to recycle and reuse rather than throwing things into the landfill, why we have a yuck-bucket under the sink and compost green and brown waste, and limiting consumerist practices, etc and so on. They seemed satisfied; after all, this is all part of their normal experience. Good.

    As to the role of schools in providing environmental education programming, the science-technology-society connections are very promising, if taught through inquiry, steeped in disciplinary knowledge and connections, and using a participatory and democratic approach.  I know that my children, along with many other Alberta children, and campus students and faculty, will participate in some fun and well intentioned games and activities today at school and learn a few new ways to be more responsible citizens of the planet. Good to great.

    For the older kids, I suggest a little bit of reading and reflection today, accompanied by a great deal of time out in the fresh fresh air and undiluted sunshine. Here is a good article, "Earth Day Turns 40" by Ronald Bailey. Key idea: the US environment has fared well since the first Earth Day four decades ago - pollution levels have dropped while populations have increased since 1970. Since 1980, ambient concentrations of major regulated air pollutants have dropped by 54 percent, while U.S. population grew 34 percent, energy use increased 32 percent, automobile miles nearly doubled, and GDP rose by 126 percent. Looking good.

    Here is another good article, "Earth Day Then and Now" that Ronald Bailey wrote 10 Years Ago when Earth Day was 30.  Key Lesson?  The prophets of doom were not simply wrong, but spectacularly wrong. We are not all baaaaaad as the eco-handwringer-mea-culpas would have us believe. We are actually doing great. 

    Enjoy reading and thinking and going outside on Earth Day.
    Comments are spectacularly welcome.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Girlprof wants an Trifecta: iPod, iPhone, iPad

    Apple's iPod and iTunes changed the music / entertainment industries and how we think about multimedia content, distribution and choice. Going another step further, Apple's iPhone has changed the communication and creation industries and how we create and accessed multimedia using mobile devices. And then, changing the game is Apple's iPad which is poised to impact several industries, from book publishing and retailing to news creation and sharing...

    Two Year Old Plays with Apple iPad - Lee Wilson on iPad for Education
    Reminiscent of a video I saw in graduate school of a 2 year old playing with a Macintosh, in this article Wilson links to a video of a little girl playing with an iPad.

    I tell my research and teaching friends that I waaaaant an iPad. Now. I neeeeeeed an iPad to go with my iPod and iPhone! For research, of course! In educational technology, we like to check out what the latest tech is good for... (see my colleague Dr. Mark Brown's post on The Impact of mLearning). For teaching, of course! Especially to share news about how it is being used, by who and how it impacts learning (Seton Hill Gives Incoming Class a MacBook and an iPad). And mostly for fun (and so my kids will give back my iPhone and iPod).

    A few good reads on the iPad, Apple and Mobile technology:

    - The Power of Apple
    - Real-world iPad annoyances: A timeline
    - The iPad Has Inspired Me to Give Up My Toaster
    - Last Week I Didn't Pick Up My Laptop Once; and I didn't miss it
    - Why Apple Is Kicking Everyone's Ass
    - Fanboi's Top 10 Free iPad Apps
    - iPads on Campus
    - High schools aim to have every pupil using a laptop: Pilot program points to death of textbooks
    - UPDATE:  Consumer Reports review of iPad and Kindle

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Apples With Many Seeds: For the love of books and teaching

    Our Faculty of Education is lucky to have a host of engaged teachers who engage learners who go on to share their developing and emerging teaching talents with children.

    One of great teachers in our Faculty is Tammy Flanders, who toils away in our library and technology resource area. Tammy is a bibliophile - one of those interesting and inspired individuals who love books, love to acquire and organize books, love to read and love to teach others about how to love books and love reading. As a fellow techno-pedagogical bibliophile, I recognize the fire in Tammy's eyes as she tells a story about the latest book she is reading or walks you over to the shelf to see that the Faculty has the whole collection of Australian author John Marsden's Tomorrow Series, and did I know that there is a movie coming out this September based on the first book? (Yes, I am eagerly reading the first book about Ellie and her friends, and plan to sign the others out so back off!).

    I encourage you to visit Tammy's Blog: Apples With Many Seeds, where you will find a great mix of book reviews and classroom ideas about how to engage learners with great books in interesting and innovative ways. Another great feature of Tammy's blog is her blog list of other bibliophiles (BTW, she appears to add links to this into the wee hours of the morning!).

    UPDATE: Something is in the air today, because I just came across another neat book site: Jenny Sawyer's PickoftheWeek at PickoftheWeek is a short weekly vlog of a book hand-picked to appeal to today's teens. "Books with great stories, great characters, books that tackle big subjects. Books you just can't put down," says host Jenny, who has gained a reputation for making classic works of literature -- often required reading in classrooms -- accessible and exciting for today's readers.

    Saturday, April 3, 2010

    Rex Murphy is right to criticize the "human rights" gong show in Canada

    In today's National Post, Rex Murphy skewers the Canadian "human rights" industry for its incredible gong show: "Please Don't Call it Human Rights"

    "Is Canada a serious country? Do we staff close to a dozen offices, provincial and federal, spend nearly $200-million dollars across the great expanse of the country, to explore the human rights implications of rude heckling in comedy clubs? Or, the human right to undress in the locker room of your choice? For this, did the great armies of the West storm the beaches of Normandy? For this, did Solzhenitsyn and Sharansky endure their endless nights of hell in the gulag?"

    Good point, Rex.

    In addition to Rex, my second favorite is Margaret Wente at the Globe and Mail: "Have you heard the one about the stand-up comic and the lesbian? Actually, it's not that funny."

    Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    Research and Teaching careers can be family friendly

    In his Carpe Diem blog post, "Research Careers: Not Very Family Friendly", Mark Perry, an economics and finance professor in Michigan, points to a recent report by the AAUW, "Why so few?", about the paucity of women in STEM careers (i.e., engineering and science), and cites a few good quotes from Diane Auer Jones' Chronicle of Higher Education piece, "Are Women Partly to Blame for the Gender Gap in STEM Fields?". In these three articles, one can quickly grasp that there are diverse opinions about the presence of and reasons for the gender imbalance on campus (which appears to be more worrisome in some faculties versus others), and what might, can and should be done to address the "problem" however it is defined.

    First, the McSnarky part of me has a simple (but ultimately unsatisfying and surface) answer for the "gender" imbalance: follow the research money - In Canada, there is 9 NSERC dollars invested for every 1 SSHRC dollar - so, Science and Engineering have BIG bucks, and few female faculty, while other faculties / disciplines struggle to get their research funded and have a higher proportion of female scholars.... Seems I have observed this trend in Medicine, too.....

    Back to balancing career and family.
    Having written about the intersections between academia and motherhood before, I felt moved to comment on Perry's blog: "I am a female professor who has been in academia for 20 years - I am part of a very small minority, male OR female (6 of 80+ faculty), who has small children at home. It is a challenge to juggle research, teaching, service on campus and maintain a healthy home life -- something always has to give. In my life, my children are a priority so I am not a research chair, an associate dean or list hundreds of publications [on my cv]. However, I do have two well balanced children in sports, a happy marriage and some teaching awards, some publications, two modest research grants, and edit a peer reviewed journal. Having a family does slow down a career, but I would argue that my children have made me a better teacher and researcher in that I am a sharper observer, extremely well organized (I have to be) and I have a deep well of empathy that I may have lacked when I was a single graduate student who worked 16 hours a day".

    I believe that female faculty CAN and DO make good progress in their non-science academic careers by investing in and enjoying their teaching and graduate supervision, pursuing research that is important and worthwhile, take an active role in collegial governance and service, AND, build strong families and keep things in balance at home for self, partner and children. In my faculty and at my campus, there are many examples of women having it all by doing it all, and making an academic career and family work by working very hard and strategically -- the reasons and explanations are diverse and the stories are inspiring.

    Our campus recently celebrated the appointment of a Female President, who happens to have enjoyed a highly productive, well recognized & well decorated career in Engineering (gasp!), moved into leadership in a male dominated field and enjoyed widespread support as a dean of engineering, WHILE raising two children in a two parent family and doing extensive work in the community. Of course, one can argue that this woman is an exception, and of course Elizabeth is an exceptional woman, but based on this and other examples of female professors who enjoy a successful academic career while raising a family, I have to argue that research and teaching careers CAN be family friendly -- often, it is a question of political and social awareness, keeping work and home in balance and making strategic choices about what is important, doing only work that you enjoy and believe is important and worthwhile, and learning to say NO when it makes sense.

    Sunday, February 28, 2010

    Crosby Goal, Iginla Assist for Canada Gold in Men's Hockey!!

    It is completely fitting that my 87th post will be about a golden goal by Sidney Crosby, the 22 year old hockey player from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. Wearing his famous jersey, Crosby #87 popped a magical shot from Jerome Iginla past the U.S. goalie Ryan Miller after more than 7 minutes of nail biting overtime play. CBC's headline, Canada outlasts the US for hockey gold, doesn't capture the fast and physical game that our Canucks played right up to the last second.

    Our household of parents, kids and friends spilled outside to hoot, holler and celebrate the win with neighbors and strangers! What a great game! What a great goal! Great for Canadian Hockey!!

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Will Computer Engineer Barbie ... Work?

    A colleague sent me the link to this post, Real women engineers reflect on the new high-tech Barbie, on Seattle Blogs. It looks like Mattell has a new line of Barbies. Let's see... there is Babysitter Barbie, News Anchor Barbie, New Born Baby Doctor Barbie, Rock Star Barbie, Dentist Barbie, and Computer Engineer Barbie. Interesting. I wonder if this new marketing technique, aimed at selling more Barbies to girls and collectors, will work? It will be interesting to see which "career" Barbie sells the most, and to who (what do moms buy? what do dads buy? what do little girls want?). My bet is on the News Anchor or Rock Star.

    I cannot help but wonder if this meek attempt at social engineering / product placement will work? Is there any hope that a doll with a laptop and a bluetooth headset will inspire girls to consider engineering careers, to buck the norm? McGratton, a software engineer, doesn't think so. In her blog post, Barbie and Me, Emma McGratton plans to ask female engineering students at the Girl Geek conference: "Does the fact that Software Engineering Barbie will soon join the Barbie stable of playmates mean that Software Engineering is now considered an acceptable profession for Barbie loving girly-girls?" McGratton promises to post the findings in an upcoming post.

    In a linked blog, Is Barbie Ready for An Engineering Degree?, VP of Product Management, Deb Woods made a few good suggestions on upping the authenticity of this Barbie: "Still not sure that girls need a Barbie with a laptop and a bluetooth headset, but we do need to find creative ways to get girls more interested in technology related fields. Hats off to Mattel for trying a different angle on this one, let’s just get the Barbie doll to look like a ‘normal’ teenage girl though and maybe put an Open Source for Girls t-shirt on her."

    Geek Dad made me laugh with one of his five suggestions on how to up the authenticity of Computer Engineer Barbie: "A switch to turn on dark circles under Barbie’s eyes from having worked until 2:00AM three days in a row to get all the bugs fixed before the new release is deployed". Good stuff!!

    This new line of career barbies makes me wonder, Why didn't Mattell make the Professor Ken doll? Then I started to look around my campus and realized what he might look like: Wrinkled, rumpled and out of date wardrobe, eighties comb-over hair style, thick spectacles, mainlining coffee, dragging a full sack of books and marking home each night, bags under his eyes, pale skin untouched by the sun, .... NO!! A boy barbie like this would never sell. Bah ha ha ha....

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Going Beyond Real Time and Using Real Time Better

    I am a professor in a faculty of education; my specialized area of study and practice is educational technology. Part of the joy I experience in my line of work is figuring out the best role for technology in learning -- how can access to technology help us to imagine and design better learning experiences for students? How can new media and digital tools empower us to design learning experiences that would not be possible without the technology?

    In the design of my inquiry and technology seminar for student teachers, I built from the ways that real teachers use technology in promising ways in classrooms with real students. I research the ways that students from kindergarten to high school learn best and better with technology, and the ways that teachers design meaningful, authentic and challenging experiences for students. Based on my own research, and that of many others, I design learning experiences on campus that reflect the work that student teachers will do in their own classrooms with students. I require my students to engage with each other to design and develop projects and appropriate forms of assessment for their students. Student teachers complete the tasks that they design and subject these to peer review and critique.

    Educational technologists aim to understand the dynamic connections within, between and beyond the disciplines as they design and study meaningful and innovative learning environments for today's campus. “Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources” (Januszewski and Molenda, 2008). What is the appropriate use of technology for learning on campus? The answer to this question varies depending on the purpose for instruction, the discipline of study, the characteristics of learners, and so on.

    Educational technologists know that today's learners have ready and reliable online access to an ever expanding knowledge base and to each other. No longer tethered to the books in their hands, or the lectures by learned professors at 10 am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, our university students can and do connect with experts, expertise and other learners anywhere in the world. Today’s social networking, augmented reality, enhanced visualization tools and mobile Web 2.0 capabilities have put powerful tools into the hands of every campus student and educator. So, given this new world, it is important to ask why so many professors still require a $100 textbook when students and the professor can access the original research and the researcher directly online? Why do we still see the standard lecture, textbook and test model in most campus classrooms?

    Educational researchers understand learning to be an active social process. So, if learning is social, why does the "higher education experience" primarily consist of adult students sitting, listening and watching a professor who works through (or worse, reads) a set of prepared slides in an hour? This kind of "info-delivery" presentation can be done (often better) using a podcast. Why do many professors rely on lecture and multiple-choice exams? Part of the answer is scale - many professors do not know what else to do with 250 - 300 students in a classroom. Most professors have had no formal training as educators beyond their own watch and listen experiences as students. I argue that today’s educational technologies both require and enable us to rethink what face-to-face instruction and what online instruction is "good for" as we re-design and support new ways of blended learning on campus. Professors need support as they chart new territory with educational technology in their campus classrooms.

    Educational technologies both enable and require new approaches to learning and assessment that transcend our hierarchical, industrial-based educational models. Educational media empowers us to go beyond the real time lecture three times per week. Let's explore what can happen if we make a few small changes in our "info-delivery" style educational designs. Here is my answer to the question, "if not lectures and tests, then what can I do?"

    First, let's replace one of the three lecture time slots each week with some podcast lectures. With the support of an instructional designer and a media specialist, the professor prepares three 20-minute expert podcasts that students can access online and download to their iPod / iPhone. During each podcast, the professor goes beyond the textbook to present key ideas and concepts in the discipline of study. The professor highlights unsolved problems and gaps in the current understanding in the field. Each podcast can be framed by study questions and ill-structured problems that can become part of the learning task in the course.

    Second, let's use the two remaining face-to-face times in the classroom for engaged discussion and debate. Most professors love a good debate over ideas and questions in their disciplines. When we invite educational technology into our higher education classrooms, professors have the opportunity to design learning experiences for students in which they engage directly with current disciplinary problems, issues, questions and ideas. So, when we bring 250 students together, let's design group tasks and opportunities for students to communicate, debate and interact with each other and the professor. Real time is best for real interaction, for that give and take discussion and debate over ideas and concepts and latest research findings. Real time is great for modeling the lastest research methods and techniques in our fields of study -- let's podcast the lecture, and use our face-to-face time for what it is good for, and use our educational technologies in a blended model for what the technology is good for -- going beyond real time.

    Using online podcasts, both the professor and the students can go beyond real time. Students can download the podcasts on their iPod or iPhone (or other mobile media device), and access the podcasts. What do students gain when they view the expert lecture podcast online or using their mobile device? The podcast offers these "beyond real time" capabilities that extend beyond a face-to-face lecture: Stop Action, Replay, Repeat, Slow motion, Freeze frame, Sharing. Students can listen to the podcast as many times as needed to master the content and understand the key concepts. Students can take the podcast with them on the road -- while they travel to campus, while they work out, and whenever they have time and attention. The students can use the podcast to learn more about the content and bring their questions to class for discussion with their peers and the professor. The professor benefits from expert advice on designing and presenting their content and key messages with the support of instructional designers and media specialists.

    When students are required to speak up, share their diverse experiences, draw upon the research in order to participate in a debate with other peers or with the professor, they are ENGAGED in their learning. Educational technologies can help us to give students a good reason to come to campus, to come to class - a reason that goes beyond listening to the professor and preparing for a multiple-choice test. We can use well designed, professional quality podcasts to present expert ideas and ill-structured problems. Students can engage with expert podcasts in ways that make most sense given their learning style and lifestyle. When we bring students together to demonstrate what they know, to ask their questions, to build knowledge with their peers, to create knowledge artifacts and work on group projects, then we are engaging them in real learning, in real time, and with real problems and issues in our dynamic disciplines of study.

    So, using a relatively simple technology - podcasts - we can reform the standard lecture and test model. Podcast technology help us to imagine and design better learning experiences for students by making best use of online and face-to-face time. A simple educational technology like a well designed expert podcast, and on-campus interactive discussions, demonstrate how new media and digital tools can empower us to design learning experiences that would not be possible without the technology - going beyond real time.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    ... and, the Wheels Continue to Fall Off the Global Warming bus...

    From today's Calgary Herald: Wheels fall off global warming hysteria By Lorne Gunter

    News of the manipulations, distortions and frauds perpetrated to advance and preserve the environmentalists' cause celebre are so numerous and coming so fast, it's hard to keep up.

    From Saturday, Jan 30, on The Clamour of the Times blog, by Professor Philip Stott, Global Warming: the Collapse of a Grand Narrative. Two great parts:

    1. These rats are leaving the sinking ship far faster than any politician, many of whom are going to be abandoned, left, still clinging to the masts, as the Good Ship ‘Global Warming’ founders on titanic icebergs in the raging oceans of doubt and delusion.

    2. And what can one say about ‘the science’? ‘The ‘science’ is already paying dearly for its abuse of freedom of information, for unacceptable cronyism, for unwonted arrogance, and for the disgraceful misuse of data at every level, from temperature measurements to glaciers to the Amazon rain forest. What is worse, the usurping of the scientific method, and of justified scientific scepticism, by political policies and political propaganda could well damage science sensu lato - never mind just climate science - in the public eye for decades.

    And today, Feb 2, on The Clamour of the Times blog: The Truth Will Out:

    - Luckily for science, the atmosphere has now altered dramatically. Since December, 2009, since the UEA e-mail revelations, and since the Copenhagen fiasco, the wall has cracked. The Grand Narrative is increasingly losing its hold on the media, and the dam is breaking.

    - Thus today, even in The Guardian, bastion of ‘global warming’ ecochondria, we have an exclusive (sic) to expose possible flaws in the ‘science’ of ‘global warming’. The move from the tabloids and the red tops to the ‘heavyweights’ is complete. As I said in an earlier posting, the media, as ever, hunt in a pack, and they tend to fall like nine pins.

    The Blogosphere spread the news about unsettling the settled science fast. Still, its good to see that mainstream media is finally publishing the ClimateGate issue as "news".

    UPDATE: Here is an article my colleague sent me by Tim Ball, professor emeretus University of Winnipeg, in the Canada Free Press, Jan 29: Andrew Weaver, IPCC Computer Modeler and Political Chameleon. Brief synopsis: Can anyone explain why a computer modeler gets a nobel prize for weather and climate forecasts, I mean scenarios, and a climatology scientist with almost three decades of experience researching climate cannot get a meeting with a politician? It is because Ball didn't cook his data until it was "green" enough?

    Saturday, January 30, 2010

    Hidy and Howdy: the Spirit of the Winter Games Lives on 22 Years Later

    Until recently, the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver has seemed like an abstraction to me. Sure, I bought some Vancouver 2010 mittens for my kids, and my girlfriend gave me some neat post it notes and a great pin. My ambivalent feelings changed to true excitement and anticipation on January 19th, when my husband and I took our children to the Olympic Flame Relay celebration in our city. Both of my children were handed a bright red flag to wave around and there was lots to see. A huge stage was set up with huge televisions on each side, so the view was great from where we were standing. My children were excited by the performance artist who created a painting on the spot that will hang in City Hall, and sang along with some of the musicians. We enjoyed the crisp evening air, the music and the crowds of families, children, teenagers, seniors dressed in volunteer gear from LAST Olympics. Around here, we all know that means the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta held February 13 - 28, 1988.

    As I stood there with one child or the other in my arms, I couldn't help but reflect back to the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988. In January 1988, I started my first term as a university student - it is sometimes hard to believe it was 22 years ago. Wow! Twenty-two years ago I marveled about being on campus, about taking courses and writing countless essays, about spending hours in the library, about being a part of an active learning community. I drank countless delicious coffees from the coffee place that is kinda still operating in Mac Hall. I wish we still had the giant cookies on campus that the old food services used to make - these were oatmeal type cookies full of multigrain stuff and dipped half in chocolate; one of these with a large coffee was heaven! I used to run in the Oval back then, so I could afford one of these bad boys each day and still fit in my jeans. There are days when I still feel like a newbie on campus - usually at the start of every semester, or when I have had a few too many coffees in one day!

    Back when I started university in Winter 1988, I was just about finished paying off my first car, and figured I should get into some student debt before buying a home. ;-) Hah! Tuition for my first semester was around $1100 - a bargain by today's tuition hit. I remember enrolling in four classes that were required for admission to the business school: math, math, economics and english. I was excited to open my brand new textbooks and course outlines (this feeling never changed, which probably explains why I eventually became a professor...). Once a week, I would have lunch with my grandfather who was very interested in hearing all about my experiences as a university student.

    As a first term university student, it was pretty darn exciting to have the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. I rode the C-Train to campus most days, and it passed right by Olympic Plaza near city hall. From campus you could see the new Ski Jumps, bobsled tracks and luge runs at Paskapoo, I mean Canada Olympic Park. The University of Calgary had a brand new Olympic Oval and several new residences in the athlete's village that would eventually become student housing. One could take a five minute walk from campus to McMahon Stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were held. Along with my parents and siblings, I watched two hockey games and enjoyed nachos and hot dogs at the still fairly brand new Olympic Saddledome -- since renamed after some petroleum company. The campus was teeming with people from all over the world - after all, athletes and media and coaches from 57 countries were in Calgary for the Games.

    I remember wearing a spring weight jacket to campus that February and the media panic about "no snow" and the chinooks - I also remember getting hit by a typical Calgary deep freeze later that February. Campus rumors abounded about sightings of Katerina Witt or Elizabeth Manley practicing their figure skating routines on Oval ice. Everybody seemed to be wearing those corny volunteer snow suits & touques designed by Sun Ice. The new students' union building had 10 fast food outlets and a huge bookstore - a big improvement over old crappy Mac Hall. In the evenings, you could see the Olympic Flame atop the Calgary Tower from all over the city.

    So, it was with no small emotion that my family and I welcomed the Olympic Flame into our city in January 2010. My husband and I hoisted a child each up onto our backs or shoulders so that they could see Airdrie's torch bearer and the Olympic Flame. All four of us sang along with the anthem and the songs. Later, we were able to snap a photo of our children with the Olympic Torch that will stay in our city on display. We watched the fireworks from the van as we drove home to get our children tucked into bed. The emotion and reflection caused by this event took me by surprise and filled me with excitement about the upcoming Vancouver Games, and gave me a cherished opportunity to reflect back on my beginnings as a university student 22 years ago the Winter that the Olympics came to Calgary.