Monday, December 25, 2006

2 weeks of playdough

Christmas break is here and I'm looking forward to doing not much and puttering around the house. My daughter has discovered televsion (she resisted all previous attempts at "couch=training") and thus (finally!) gives Kate and I breaks to cook, clean, read, whatever. Lu's favourite is Little Bear, and then Franklin (probably the Cockburn intro). Three years ago, Little Bear, Franklin, and Cockburn were not names I associated with kid's shows (constellation, Arctic explorer, folk icon)... how far I have fallen. Well, Christmas day, the gifts are long unwrapped, and I've got 2 weeks of playdough, snowshoes, blocks, books, puzzles, and kid's shows to look forward to. Playdough video here, btw.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

blog cabin fever

Like I said in this year's Christmas letter... I have written many things this year, dispatched many trees in the service of this writing, but, alas, very little of it was good writing.

Friday, November 24, 2006

GarageBand workshop

GarageBand has many purposes among educators. Some are using it to create student or teacher podcasts, others are using it more musical composition or to aid in creating media-rich presentations. There are a number of communities sharing GarageBand-made music, many by and for children & students. Here are some useful links:

Tutorials & Guides
Apple's intro to GarageBand capabiliites & possibilities
Apple's guide to GarageBand includes tips & video tutorials
NewMediaGuides on Audio thorough guide to audio editing, hardware choices...
MediaBlab how to build your own microphone popscreen

Shared GarageBand songs & ideas: very cool, GB songs and loops wicked cool, amazing repository of sound
Garageband sample songs Apple's rss feed of student GB projects

Other related links: all about audio, includes GB resources
Audacity free cross-platform audio editor & recorder
Apple project gallery student video uses GB
Teaching with GarageBand creating recorder accompaniments

Any other feedback or suggestions?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

campus 2020 thoughts

I recently spoke at a "Campus 2020" forum where participants were asked to respond to some questions about the future of post-secondary education in BC... here were my responses:

1.  Understanding the future: How will the BC of 2020 be different than today? How will these differences affect the way people live and the way people learn? What will this mean for our post-secondary education system?

Threats to the environment will create & deepen issues which are not present priorities; mostly related to habitat loss, agriculture & forest land alienation, and loss of biodiversity

Electronic learning & the interactive web will challenge & replace much of what occupies present pedagogical space. By this I mean that new media and new ways of connecting people & ideas don’t necessarily fit well with how education is done in most schools

The connection/disconnection of people from sense & place will become a major theme for both of these trends, and post-secondary education will increase the time, effort, and money it applies to this theme.

2.  Creating opportunity: In 2020, what are the barriers people face in getting the education or training they want or need? Are those barriers geographic? Financial? Technological? Other?
Yes, yes, and yes. Besides these ones, I think one could find lots of evidence for age, gender, and race barriers in BC.

Probably the best thing we could do to address barriers is to deconstruct colonialism in the system and make it easier for people to take post-secondary education at any age or situation.

Another barrier will be overcoming the socially isolating tendencies of technology and environmental disconnect.

3.  Understanding the purpose:  As we move toward 2020, what are we educating people for – jobs? intellectual achievement? informed citizenship? personal interest? all of these and others? Can our institutions, programs and services be better designed and governed to support these goals?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. and Yes. Like the caption on the 2020 Think Pieces page states: “be intrigued, be enlightened, be outraged, be an explorer.” Whatever the purpose or designation of an education program (trades & training, arts, sciences, continuing studies), allowing the experience to be open to experimentation and dissent will help guarantee that it stays intriguing and enlightening. Practically, this could mean developing and funding programs enhance quality of life and aren’t tied to research dollars.

As a secondary teacher I’ve seen what often happens to elementary students when they come to high school. We beat the “play” out of them and then wonder why they lack creativity and original thought. Society can do the same things to college & university grads, so I think it is really important that young people squeeze all the revolutionary juice from their post-secondary experience -- deep questioning, energy, passion, originality; the man will try to beat it out of you, so get your kicks in while you can.

4.  Defining quality and measuring success: How we will define terms like “student”, “teacher”, “program”, “institution” in 2020? How will we measure their success? Do we have the appropriate mechanisms to measure our progress? 

Too little emphasis on accountability and things don’t change, teachers and students get lost in the system or stuck in a rut.

Too much emphasis on accountability and individual experimentation gets stifled, teachers and students have to follow the program and don’t have the free space to innovate. Collaboration is forced from aboev, and not allowed to develope as an deeply felt need withing a community of educators. It is tough to create mechanisms which support the right kind of accountability without prescribing behaviours for teachers and students.

Concepts like life-long learning will become more relevant as people see education as something they return to over and over again and as education becomes deschooled. Campuses will still be important places, but they have to offer something special to compete or coexist with virtual schools and independent learning

5.  Supporting innovation: As we move toward the future, how should our post-secondary system define BC’s position on the national and world stage? How should we support individuals and institutions to be innovative and responsive to change and opportunity?

Take some cues from the environment: we have an incredible biophysical heritage in BC which has sustained people for thousands of years and must continue to do so.

Take some cues from the interactive web: innovative work which honours student identity and pushes teaching and learning is taking place in elementary and secondary schools all over the province. This work experiments in multi-modal literacy and both reflects and develops a new kind of learner. I’m talking about podcasts, blogging, wikiwork, videojournals, web portfolios, gaming, and forums. Post-secondary universities need to pick up where this leaves off and really provoke society with high-quality, thoughtful, poetic forays into new media and critical response to relevant issues.

I think the most innovative work will focus on the issue I’ve raised, that of connecting people with their senses, with others, and with the earth in a future that faces environmental crises and pervasive technology. With our cultural and ecological diversity, high-tech & media industries, and the need to move beyond resource extraction in BC, I think we could be a real leader on this issue. I know many post-secondary institutions have already started to make this shift, but it is by no means mainstream.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Finding Enkidu

I've been meaning to put a bit of this online for a while (I haven't tried to embed video before). It is a scene from a video project I completed to accompany a writing project on the ecology of identity.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

summer before you know it

To beat the clock, I've continued my school year ritual of rising early to get stuff done before anyone awakes. Now I've banished school worries for the summer time, and have used this time rather selfishly to watch movies and tv shows. Movies so far: bronx tale, capote, casanova, fargo, godfather series, green mile, junebug, match point, prime, red eye, and syriana. For tv: Carnivale season 1 and 2, Deadwood season 3, next will be Lost and Entourage. I'll put these shows on half the screen and flip through related websites, email, or read ezines on the other half of the screen. Headphones in, everyone else sleeping, cat on a cushion and the first cup off the coffee pot beside me, maybe yoghurt with saskatoons; I'd say this is a pretty good if self indulgent way to start a summer day. It's either that or go swimming.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Now that was a nice river

The Stellako flows out of Francois Lake and drops 45 metres over 11 km down to Fraser Lake. With a shaky knee and gimpy foot I didn't go more than a few hundred metres down the river and I caught a total of 0 fish in the river. The lake was easier and the whole place was quite idyllic. I was there with a bunch of yahoos but that was by choice!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Samorost Game

O.K. this is a very cool game which stole an hour from me early this morning.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Spring Break in Victoria

Magnolia trees blooming, cherry trees spent... wow - a nice change from snowbanks and the "dog days" in PG when the melting uncovers successive layers of canine droppings. neways...
I attended an interesting discussion at Royal Roads University last week. It was a meeting of people interested in the role of Arts in Health Care with the aim of forming a basis for national dialogue and organization. An amazing assemblage of people: artists who did paint therapy with cancer aptients, hospital admin looking for info on how aesthetics and wholistic architecture affects healing, a plant therapist (who uses gardens and person-plant connectons to aid in rehab), an interfaith chaplain looking at the role of meditation in healing, an aboriginal artist/filmaker who developed a shield-making workshop to uncover and discuss personal symbols, an educator who focused on healing the mind/body split through ecotherapy, directors, artisans, health care workers... very enlightening discussion. I was a guest of one of the organizers, and tried just to listen, but was pulled in a few times when the talk came around to ecology, identity and technology.

Friday, March 03, 2006

March 3 workshop links

Blogging and Beyond... Educational Technology to bridge the gap between curriculum and identity. Here are the workshop links:

Formal Webquest search site
Tree octopus... the result of an informal webquest
Free & easy blog service (Blogger)
Geography 12 course blog
An English teacher's blog
Committed Sardine blog (education)
Wikipedia... the big wiki
Amazing collection of fiction
Example of a forum (Bigfoot)
Example of a Web Portal
Example of a community (msn)
Example of a community (Bjork)
Example of a cybrary (Holocaust info)
Instant Messaging service
Peer 2 Peer information
Class project involving realtime/RSS (free) directory
Zencast - free podcasts

For public_html (web share folder) try as an example. The idea is that anything you put in your public_html folder (which most of our district techies can "enable" for you) will appear at the addres http://(your school address)/~(your username) --if you have trouble with this, email Jason Mager (techie) at the board office for help. He has done some workshops on this.

Try itunes music store to see their free podcasts and video podcasts. My Geography 12 webpage should have podcasts up as soon as I have permission forms in.

Try any of the above tools with a Google search in your currciuluar area (e.g. blog, wiki, portal, rss, podcast with science, math, elementary, language arts) -- it won't take long to find something you can use.

Thanks for attending and good luck experimenting!

Friday, January 13, 2006


Watch a 15-yr-old in a school computer lab and you'll see something new to a generation: yurting. Like Mongol nomads, the students pack their familiar things, move to a new pasture on an established route, and set up a temporary home. The goods, however, are virtual, and the landscape is digital. A yurt (actually a stretch of grazing land, but often used for the circular Mongol tent or gher) is an encampment built by students where they store and display photos, songs, movies, software, sites, and text -- a changing scene which reflects (and alters) individual and group identities. This is something different than putting family photos up in the office cubicle, or wearing something that reflects personality -- it is an external, dynamic, and portable "unpacking" that changes with the context. Students are erecting yurts which articulate their values, goals, tastes, and trends -- at arms length (literally) from their own words and actions.

Stewing, like yurting, is a new phenomenon in our age of technology-inflenced learning. A stew, for the purpose of this discussion, is the product of research, exploration, synthesis, and identification that learners experience when working on tasks in an online envrironment. Often taking the form of a video or multimedia preentation, the stew is a place to stick all the "stuff" a student finds relevant to a topic under investigation. Initially, the stew is often a computer desktop full of video clips, text files, url links, mp3s, jpegs, and gifs. In the past, the project-junk which was hunted and gathered in magazines, libraries, and textbooks, was then copied or redrawn and pasted onto a poster. Now, it is archived and retrieved in a system designed by the learner. The pathways to the information (and thus, I suppose, the learning process) has the potential to be much more synced to a learner's own style than the pre-planned research in the past. The stew can still taste pretty bad, but there is (maybe) a greater sense of ownership. Mongol nomads called there stews "sulen" if someone would like to play with this idea in the yurting metaphor.