Friday, April 29, 2011

Heat And Energy From Crap

For this, my 140th blog post, I will highlight an interesting, albeit unconventional 'crap' project by my Chemical Engineering colleagues, Dr. Ian Gates and Dr. Michael Kallos, in the Schulich School of Engineering: Turning human excrement into electricity. This is a serious project with some 100K in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Congratulations boys and best of luck with this knowledge building and world changing innovative work.

And thank you, my loyal reader, for joining me on my short, but well-deserved break, from end-of-semester marking. Bye for now.

Spring Snow in Alberta

Planted seeds and a few bulbs on Sunday Apr 24.
Snow on Thursday and Friday.
Happy Spring!

Great April snow images in Calgary CBC [URL] in Edmonton Journal [URL].

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dementia - Getting used to a new reality

Today, I am taking a few minutes to capture my thoughts about dementia, and link to a few items that have recently been in the news. 

My mom, sisters and I called it our family's "new reality" when dad was diagnosed as having progressive dementia. It was particularly challenging, emotionally, for us to learn about Dad's diagnosis when he was in the emergency room after suffering a stroke. Our fragile illusion and tenuous hope that he would recover were shattered by the emergency room doctor's frank description of the damage caused by the stroke, as well as the other damage, likely related to diabetes, that the scans had revealed.

Dad was still physically our dad, and still smiled his same smile. I cherished the moments when we had a conversation that echoed of the dad I knew and the relationship we had before the stroke. I also learned to cherish my new relationship with my dad - I touched him more often because he would let me and he needed me to do things for him. I held his hands or stroked his arm, he would let me put lotion on, or I would hold a straw to his mouth so he could drink, or feed him supper with a spoon - none of these things happened before the stroke or the dementia. Dad and I had new conversations and there was a different kinds of openness and sharing on both sides that did not occur prior to the stroke - like the time dad observed that my mom took on too many burdens, that my children were quite competitive, and when he reflected on the strength of our family. "We have a strong family, we are lucky", he said. Dad struggled to communicate at times, and I ached for him.

It is sad to see that Ralph Klein is suffering a form of dementia that robs him of his ability to speak [URL, URL, URL]. I was in grade 9 when Ralph Klein was first elected mayor of Calgary. As a leader, he touched many lives in Alberta, and will be remembered both fondly and not so fondly [URL, URL, URL]. 

Dawna Friesen's blogpost, My Dad and Dementia, also caused me to reflect on the many changes we observed when my dad was placed in long term care after his stroke and diagnosis of dementia.

Finally, today I learned about the Fred Lewicki Memorial Lecture, a series inspired by Sigrid Lewicki and her husband's experiences living with dementia for 9 years. From this article, I also learned that the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is expected to double in the next 20 years, which is a New Reality for All of Us, and a call to action for our health and education systems.

Friday, April 8, 2011

iPads Change the World of Work?

I have written about wanting an iTrifecta in a previous post. I now belong to the iPod, iPhone and iPad hat-trick club. 

I was, therefore, very interested in this article, forwarded by my friend John, about a collection of personal case stories about the changed world of work for artists, teachers, physicists, painters, musicians who use iPads: 

How the iPad revolution has transformed working lives, by Charles Arthur and Killian Fox, in The Observer, Sunday 27 March 2011

"Fifteen million iPads were sold last year. As iPad 2 launches, Charles Arthur looks at the impact of tablet computers on the way we relate to technology, and five users tell us about how the iPad is feeding into the way they work".

As a dropbox newbie, but avid user of other cloud apps, I can totally imagine how this device can be a game changer.  In my comment, Girlprof has a iTrifecta, I wrote:  In January, I finally got an iPad - neat thing is, a colleague gave it to me for my kids. I brought it home and the kids grabbed it. The next time I actually got my hands on the iPad it was littered with dozens of new apps and games and fingerprints. It is a great gaming tool - my child also uses it for learning French. "Mom, I need to iPad to look up a word". Both of my children watch movies, play games, draw pictures, create animations, doctor photos, send email and drive cranes on the iPad. I keep learning new ways to use the iPad from the under 10 crowd at my house and at the hockey rink as they gather around and play with this mobile device. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Musings on educational technology

Having a great morning reading and responding to some of my student teacher's blogs. I feel so positive and hopeful about the strength of our education system and the possibilities for learners with these bright new teachers entering classrooms.

In response to one of the blogs, I wrote this:

In educational technology, we design learning experiences, and then investigate whether the technology-enabled approach to learning is better or more effective or more efficient than the present method or the method it proposes to replace; we get excited and passionate about the design and use of technology for learning experiences that were not possible before -- true innovations that take us into unexpected and unintended directions. That is when things get interesting -- lest you think this is an "unexamined enthusiastic endorsement" of technology, it is not. Technology is not neutral, and we have to engage in disciplined research and inquiry into both the benefits and the drawbacks of technology-enabled learning environments, as well as be mindful of the political, social and economic contexts within which education takes place (both informal and formal). No small task that takes no small amount of courage (Clifford, 2001). 

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Little Grab Bag of Neat Online Tools & Articles

Wondering what to do with your laptop while you sip your mochaccino? Want to UP your techno-savvy and inform your perspective on future trends? Over the past few months, I have received suggestions and tips from fellow educational technology folks and put these in a folder -- as it grew, I realized I needed to DO something with this grab bag of online goodies. So, enjoy your stroll through these neat online tools - I am sure you will come up with neat ways to use these tools and ideas. 

Text Messaging Polls - A graduate student demonstrated and used with us in my graduate seminar - it is a great online survey tool that uses text messaging from any cellphone for input.

Page Speed Online
By Google, Page Speed Online analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions to make that page faster. Reducing page load times can reduce bounce rates and increase conversion rates.  One of my course pages got a 39 / 100 - I got some great advice on how to improve my load time.

TitanPad - Collaborative Document Editing
Similar to Googledocs, many people can collaboratively edit a document - difference is that you can get started immediately with no need to create an account. So, to record notes during a meeting, brainstorming on the fly, and quick document creation, this seems like a great tool.

Learn how to visually organize your interest web with a 55 second tour!
Play with this and create some bookmarks to organize your online life - its fun!

Read this Special Report: Dumping print, publisher bets the ranch on apps to consider what is happening with eBooks. 
Excerpt:  "This is revolutionary," he says, stroking his finger at the iPad's glass surface and prodding to open an app he has developed. "This is the Looking Glass. This is Alice in Wonderland. We are at the beginning of an entirely new medium."  The increasingly popular e-books sold on Amazon's Kindle, Apple's iBook store and Barnes & Noble's Nook store are electronic reproductions of paper books. So, for publishing innovators such as Callaway, it will be Apple's App Store that will ultimately transform books into a new medium. Titans from Random House, Penguin and HarperCollins are jostling with the likes of Callaway for a piece of the pie. Experts say it's like a Wild West gold rush, perhaps the biggest moment in publishing since Gutenberg's invention of the movable-type printing press in the middle of the 15th Century.

Feeling a little overwhelmed and overloaded by information? Turns out, you are not alone - Ecclesiastes and Seneca were distracted, too. Read this book review, "Too Much To Know" in Inside Higher Education.  A book by historian Ann Blair, Too Much to Know:Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age, about the history of information.
Excerpt:   History certainly offers no clear predictions of the future, but I tend to think that we will manage much as we have in the past, creating problems for ourselves but hopefully also enough solutions to carry on.

Still need something to do while you sip a mochaccino?

After watching this VIDEO: Apple Debuts New iPad 2 ad, with "We Believe" theme, ... 

Browse Helene Blowers list of 23 techno-things to do on the 43 things website! Originally created for the Learning 2.0 program at the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, Helene's is a great list of 23 learning challenges to give to student teachers, or teaching colleagues, or faculty friends, as a weekend challenge to UP their techno-savvy! Or, you can send them to the 43 things website to start their own list...

Enjoy learning new things.  Our children and our teachers deserve to learn, build and share ideas together in connected learning and knowing communities. 

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