Archive for the 'General' Category

Pictures from the family trip to Florida

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

We had a great 5 full days at Disney World Florida and then a full day (two nights) at Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Center.

Disney World Florida 2018

Kennedy Space Center

First Blog Post of 2018

Monday, January 8th, 2018

The new year effectively starts in September for anyone working in Education (in Europe and NA), for me that’s never been more true then this year as I transition from Brock University to University of Toronto.

I started working on the University of Toronto’s project to transition from a Blackboard 9.1 based system, The Portal, at the end of October. When I took the one year job and secured leave from Brock University I didn’t know what platform the University of Toronto had selected, but I had hoped it was Canvas and was relieved when it was finally confirmed. Now titled Quercus, the University of Toronto’s new Canvas-based teaching and learning environment, has been introduced to all U of T instructors and 3000+ students.

Canvas Cloud Comes To Canada

First UBC then a few months later, U of T adopted Canvas hosted by Instructure on Amazon’s cloud infrastructure in Montreal. I feel that this will be the start of conquests for Canvas in Canada similar to what’s occurred over the last five years in the United States. SFU an OCADu and others in Canada had self-hosted the community version of Canvas for a while, but this is the start of a cloud-based option hosted in Canada.

As many Canadian insituations make big cloud transitions across all of their IT services I welcome another LMS option that can be selected based on pedagogical and feature-based decisions, not otherwise important legal concerns.

If you’re wondering, I still feel that there’s a lot of value in the equivalent budget spent on Sakai and strong pedagogical support. In any case, the ability for the LMS to integrate other relevant platforms and the sum of all those parts is how everyone now measures the component of the LMS: the toolbox approach.

Real New Year, Real Challenges

Catching up to Dick Tracy

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Wikipedia on Pebble TimeTonight as we got ready for bed my 5 year old had a question for me about the Northwest Passage. He’s a Stan Rogers fan and a rail fan and wanted to know the difference between the Ontario Northlander rail service and the Northwest Passage.

I tried to explain about the Franklin Expedition, but I realized as I explained it that Franklin is also a turtle in Canadian children’s story series. So I tried to also explain that Franklin was the captain’s last name, and the horrible thing that happend to him and his crew was over 150 years ago and all the ways we travel today are much safer. But, I didn’t think there was too much of a distinction made between the two Franklins and that time line was a guess.

A good question for Siri (we ask her a lot of things) but we’re in PJs (no pockets). It occurred to ask the Wikipedia app on my Pebble smart watch, and sure enough, my watch Bluetooth’ed its way to my phone, on to Wikipedia, and returned a summary of the Franklin Expedition.

That was pretty cool.

It’s the kind of thing Google Now and Siri can easily do (and the Apple Watch), but there was something even cooler with the the answer coming from something strapped to my wrist that’s there when I do the dishes or change the tires on my car. The largest general reference work ever strapped to my wrist, and nowhere near as precious of anything else I’d accessed it from before.

Definitely one of those “the future is now” moments.

An App Store for Web-Based Instruction

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

LTI Connections from LMS to other nodes
Do what you do best, and link to the rest. A lesson of the web learnt quickly by those who’s success depends on being creative online.

The latest released version of Sakai, version 2.9.3, improves on the existing features that allows for the connection of Sakai courses to external tools. The forthcoming version of Sakai, Sakai 10, takes this provision even further.

The biggest improvement is institutionalizing the configuration process to allow approved external tools to appear as peers to Sakai’s own tools when instructors choose what they would like to add to their course site, especially in Sakai 10.

The Sakai tool and the specification that supports the connection is the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) specification.

Presently, in the Brock University context, instructors need to know that the Brock University service, web-based tool or Publisher they are interested in integrating into their course: exists, supports LTI specification and that Isaak/Sakai can be connected through LTI. The instructor then must contact administrators to have the connection added to his/her course. The connection is only made once the proposed integration has met Brock University’s technical and privacy standards. This new model of pre-approved tools and their listing alongside other Sakai tools now only requires the instructors interest – prompted from any source, including students previous experience.

This ability to add tools alongside Sakai’s current listing of possible tools also provides an opportunity for university services to tightly integrate with courses in addition to making instructors aware that they exist.

The following posting discusses (in too much depth at times) the current status, the Sakai tool and LTI specification, examples of tools that could be integrated and a framework for the selection of tools to be added to this “App Store for Instructors”.

Notes on Clickers

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Clickers

Some notes on physical and virtual classroom “clickers” that I’ve maintained in Evernote over the years and shared a few times. Seemed like a good thing to blog about.

Phone-based:

  • Turning Technologies has physical clickers and smart-phone clickers

    www.turningtechnologies.ca/

    If you are using a textbook from Nelson or Pearson there might be a chance that you could get the software and base for free from them — but the students would have to pay. ITS’ AV Services also have around 50 of these for sign-out.

  • Top Hat Monocle

    www.tophatmonocle.com/

    Uses phones, laptops, etc. and they are always keen to do a demo.

  • Poll Everywhere

    www.polleverywhere.com

    Is free for under 40 people but gets expensive as numbers are added.

iOS-based:

  • Socrative http://www.socrative.com/
  • Flexible and free. Waiting for other shoe to drop. What Mr. Clare Sr. uses.

Web/Smart-phone based:

  • Mentimeter https://www.mentimeter.com/
    It is new and promises to be free, but I have not used it.
  • mqlicker www.mqlicker.com/
    is new and promises to be free, but I have not used it.
    A Brock University Economics prof really liked this option
  • Not free at all is:

Also:

Then the Chronicle of Higher Ed. has some quick idea for low-tech clickers:

chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/low-tech-alternatives-to-clickers/34184

Live classroom interaction, polling, chat…

  • Piazza https://piazza.com/

    Piazza allows for large groups to ask questions and vote up the important ones. It is a very interesting way to get feedback in a large class. It is free and has an LTI integration that the CPI can add to any Isaak/Sakai site.  It surprises me how often instructors interested in “simple” polling like the realtime feedback Piazza gives.

  • More survey & marketing style http://www.signalhq.com/
    Signal – good buzz (possibly for the API) with a free trial