Archive for the 'top 5' Category

Notes on Clickers

Monday, January 13th, 2014


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.


  • Turning Technologies has physical clickers and smart-phone clickers

    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

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

  • Poll Everywhere

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


  • Socrative
  • Flexible and free. Waiting for other shoe to drop. What Mr. Clare Sr. uses.

Web/Smart-phone based:

  • Mentimeter
    It is new and promises to be free, but I have not used it.
  • mqlicker
    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:


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

Live classroom interaction, polling, chat…

  • Piazza

    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
    Signal – good buzz (possibly for the API) with a free trial

My Productive Practices

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

productive matrix

At this time of year the interwebs get very productive creating blog postings about productivity, and this blog is all about me adding  information to an existing saturation, so here goes:

These two recent articles have some good ideas for a more productive 2013:

Geeks are always keen to approach organizing their lives as an engineering problem.  Hence the obsession with David Allen’s Getting Things Done is a time-management methodology  and the steady flow of ideas that come out of

Here’s what I consider my top five most productive practices:

  1. The OHIO principle for E-Mail: Only Handle It Once.  
    Don’t keep re-reading waiting until you’re ready for a response, choose to handle then or not respond at all (with an exception for the “can’t read this here” problem with mobile devices – but mark it as unread).  I’m not a dogmatic process-to-zero inbox person, but I do work sequentially. I’ll only mark as read when the messages is “no longer my responsibility” and some times that means responding asking for clarity to buy a little time and share the responsibility of transmitting a clear message.
  2. Tasks are important and ubiquitous.
    I think I’m one of the few people who values Microsoft Outlook’s Tasks feature, and there’s all kinds of other task Apps.  The trick for me is having those task synced across all my devices, so that when I have the moment of inspiration or recollection I record it easily.  Tasks (or your calendar) is often an important next step after E-Mail comes in that allows you to “deal” with it at an initial level and mark the message as read.  It’s also worth noting that a project is not a task.

10 Strategies & Arguments for Rob Ford’s Appeal

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Here are some strategies and arguments Toronto Mayor Rob Ford could submit to the judge for his appeal of his dismissal from office over a conflict of interest conviction:

  1. Submit your argument on city letterhead, that always looks impressive.
  2. Argue that you can’t be convicted of violating a law you never read.  Your testimony was very clear that you never read the law or the city council handbook.
    • Please note Mr. Mayor: You can’t read the law now, people have been very clear that they want you to stop driving and reading.
  3. Stick with your testimony that you thought that a conflict of interest requires two parties to benefit: There’s no one else that’s benefited from you being mayor.
  4. Ask to have the sentence changed from you are no longer the mayor in 14 days instead and don’t serve two more year of your term to you are only the mayor for 14 days over the next two years. It’ll be a little more work, but you can handle it!
  5. If they want to remove you as mayor they first have to go to city hall and prove that you are actually doing the job of mayor. Celebrate with the football team this week.
  6. It’s a streetcar’s fault.
  7. It’s a bike lane’s fault.
  8. Mention that you confused the council handbook with a copy of the Toronto Star, and thus refused to read it.
  9. Suggest that it wasn’t you who did all of this, it was Chris Farley.
  10. At least get your frequent defendant card punched.

If that doesn’t work then you should at the very least ask the judge for your business card and bumper stickers back and uninvited the jude from Fordfest.


More on conviction of Ontario municipal conflict of interest

My collection of RIMZingers

Monday, September 19th, 2011

My top-five Research In Motion jokes about their streak of poor products and refusal to attribute their current situation to their unconventional Co-CEO model:

  1. Research In Motion is said to be losing so much money now that Gary Bettman and the city of Glendale are interested in investing.
  2. At RIM our motto is “The buck stops here… and over there.”
  3. At RIM we know that “Those that learn from history repeat it”. In fact, this is exactly how we pitch our products to our CEO, an then repeat for our CEO.
  4. RIM’s mistake with the Blackberry Playbook was underestimating the overlap between tablet consumers and people that use E-Mail.
  5. Do you know why messages are so secure on a Blackberry? No one uses it.

Best of luck to a Canadian innovator…. that could use some good luck.

BlackBerry Playbook

Monday, April 4th, 2011

The BlackBerry Playbook coming out on April 19th has some familiar plays in it – if you grew-up in Ontario:

  1. RIM is a Waterloo-based company
  2. RIM is/was known for their trackball
  3. The device is running the QNX operating system, developed by Waterloo/Ottawa-based QNX Software Systems (which RIM just bought)
  4. The screen and input device is are an all-in-one deisgn
  5. The whole enterprise seems like a string of poor decisions to create something that will be expensive and will not be successful

Where have we seen these plays before?

The Unisys ICON! Wikipedia Article:

The computer built specifically for use in Ontario schools commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Education.

(Thanks for the image,

Unisys ICON computers were kicking around my public school when I was a kid. They didn’t do much beyond very basic word-processing and had a lot of games on them, thanks to the local board of education, and a few of my friends. They were all networked, and relatively reliable, save for the poor teacher/”computer lead” who gave admin access to some of the Grade 8 students.

The ICONs had a trackball (the PlayBook won’t, but the BlackBerry Pearl and others do), it had an all-in-one hardware design, and sat in the corner of our classroom, mostly unused.

The most relevant commonality is that the old ICONs were running the QNX operating system!

The ICON was ultimately deemed too expensive to keep in use or develop for and was cast-off in favour of Apple and others’ more user friendly products.

So now you know Ontario: when you think BlackBerry Playbook, think Unisys ICON.

Update: Tuesday April 19, 2011

Apparently two more things they have in common is no E-Mail application and they both can’t connect to the internet on their own!