Monday, May 06, 2013

Just listened to Hack Education Weekly podcast:

First time listening to this podcast and really enjoyed some of the discussion.

I agreed with many of Audrey's comments on the state of MOOCs as well as this general sweeping statement of education is broken that so many love to profess without solid alternatives. However while I was listening to the podcast, the thought occurred to me as to why no one has really coined a similar term for Workshops or Seminars. We could call them MOOW (Moo's) and MOOS (Moose)..;). Although seriously the format could just formalize a framework for what is essentially happening already; one way webcasts and the multitude of two way social/discussion tools.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My online teaching experience - Part I

This year I've begun teaching a Cisco CCNP Route course using Blackboard Collaborate with the entire course taught in a synchronous online format. This is going to be the first of possibly three or four posts I want to get out there to log my experience and record some of the challenges I encountered along the way and the adjustments I had to make to my own teaching style.

Not only is this my first time teaching in this format, but it's my first time teaching the CCNP curriculum; not to mention that Cisco also chose this time to move toward using a new LMS for their networking academy infrastructure, Canvas by Infrastructure.

I don't want to spend too much time reviewing the tools like Collaborate and Canvas, but I did have to spend a few hours on each to become as familiar as possible with the features and practice different ways for how I could use the individual tools. Using a whiteboard on the fly with a tablet is not as easy as it sounds and definitely takes some practice for you to appear competent; ie so your whiteboard illustrations to not appear like something drawn by a three year old! (no offence to all you three year olds out there!)  I'm not great with a pen so I usually opt for pre-loaded whiteboard templates and icons that I can drag and drop around. Cisco's migration over to Canvas is still currently in beta, so there are still some migration issues from the old system we have to deal with, but for the most part I am really enjoying the increased communication with each student that the system has encouraged. I certainly find the potential of this interface far superior to any of the other LMS systems I have experienced. If the features and integration keep improving I can see this potentially providing an incredible experience for students. Of course the instructor still plays a key role in how the course is laid out and delivered through this system which can make or break a course.

I have just recently hired two colleagues to teach courses in our program for the first time and what has surprised each of them most has been the challenge behind organizing the layout and sorting through the infinite amount of resources available in our field. In addition, once those resources have been narrowed down, the technical concepts of each mastered enough to be taught, the next question is learning the most effective way to deliver and teach these concepts. We all know the traditional webcasts we see on youtube, Techwise TV, MS Teched and such, but if you have been in the classroom in the last few years you don't have to be a terrifically self-aware individual to realize that students do not retain or process material effectively in a 'sage on the stage' format. This has in fact been the case for years in post secondary education, but most of us were hired for our expertise and not our teaching skills, so we generally followed in the steps of our predecessors or used the example we had set for us when were were students. Of course you also don't have to look very far in terms of educational research and social media EdTech discussions to read all the hype about flipped classrooms and using class time for interactive and engaging activities and discussion. But hype aside, technology is definitely disrupting the educational landscape and we are all grappling with ways of using it in a productive manner to improve curriculum delivery and the student learning experience. Thus when I was slated to teach this online course I was extremely excited to try a new model of delivery and see if I could make the learning experience more effective.

In the next part I'll talk about how I felt after having a few weeks to experience this new environment.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spent a lot of time sorting into circles and discovering G+

Spent I don't how much freakin' time and given up I don't know how many hours of sleep sorting and organizing profiles into G+ circles. Why you ask? Well I had done a lot of this when I was initially setting up Buzz, back when I was guessing that Google were going to use Contacts as the foundation for users to filter and sort out their streams. That of course never happened, but when I fired up G+ for the first time, most of those contacts were listed for me as well as (which I realized later) a great many more who had already added me to their circles. In my innocence (or ignorance in looking for an easy way out..;)..) I initially just selected all of them and added them to a single circle, seeing after the fact that there were 450 of them!

At that point I guess I could have just removed them all, but I made the fatal time sinking mistake of starting to sort them and then getting sucked right in! Although it has taken an insane amount of time, and something I know almost all my RL contacts and the average joe would never do, I've managed to go through over half of them now and sort them into interests.

Was this a waste of time? I don't think so. When these social networks open, we often do an initial scouring for contact frenzy, add a slew of contacts and gradually drift into a normalcy within the initial circles we discovered. It's not often we go on another discovery phase because it simply takes way too much time. So this move to Google+, and accidental addition of everyone in my initial contact & suggestion list allowed me to do another shake up of my contacts and discover a whole bunch of very interesting and dynamic profiles I would never have discovered otherwise.

However the following questions still remain:
  • How am I going to fit this into my information gathering workflow along with GReader, Facebook & Twitter?
  • How much noise and redundancy will quite likely exist between the posts I currently read on these other platforms and G+? As a start, I think I'd like to ditch Twitter, but there are a number of contacts I would need to see ported over to G+ before that happens; and G+ is still early early days.
  • I really need Google to merge Buzz with G+ and get that API firing on all cylinders so some of my third party apps can bring G+ into the fold, along with some options for including GReader....although maybe that link needs some serious restructuring to avoid the obvious redundancy that will occur.
  • Do I still keep a personal & professional google account for social interaction? I am an instructor and therefore need to be very conscious of my digital footprint. However, there are often very interesting posts that are of personal interest that I would love to interact with, but may not be quite appropriate (although not significantly damaging either) for some of my students or work colleagues to be privy to. Are circles enough to maintain this separation? I still don't think so.
  • Of course can't leave out the very common complaint about having better control and managing posts with huge numbers of comments. It really would be awesome to have the option of limiting the view/notifications of future comments to just people in your circles.
Anyway, I'm gonna still be playing with this product significantly for the next few weeks and am looking forward to watching the constant evolution of this product over the next few months.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Finally figured out my QNAP problem!!!

I've been dealing with a sporadic boot problem with my QNAP 859 pro for about 6 mo now. I've been on and off with support as I've found time to try and address this problem. Even returned the unit and had the motherboard replaced. However I think we finally tracked down the problem with this last attempt! A memory problem!

I had to load up TeamViewer so the QNAP support team could access the NAS from my machine and emulate the problem where any type of sustained transfer of data caused the QNAP to reboot. The support guy ssh'd into the QNAP box and uploaded a utility called mem_stress. He then fired it up and voila!, the QNAP rebooted after 2 mins. I did it myself two more times and the box rebooted after 19s and then 6mins respectively. So it appears as though this is the culprit! Anyway, I'm in the process of returning the unit for a second tune. It'll be so good to have this unit actually functioning and in production.

On another note, TeamViewer worked really well! No port-forwarding or advanced setup required. Just install, enable full access and anyone with the session ID can connect to the machine. There are a multitude of settings to customize what can and can't be accessed as well as allowing a VPN connection. I'll have to play with this a little more as it may just work perfectly when I need to help out a friend in need.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Buzz ain't gonna fly.....

OK....I think I'm gonna have to admit it, Buzz just ain't gonna make it.

Twitter & Linked-in have taken the professional social circles of the masses by storm leaving Buzz a poor and almost still-born orphan . If you don't believe me just take a look at who has followed you (either through GReader or Buzz as they are joined at the hip) over the past little while and you'll get the idea: marketers and spammers from the backside of the Internet. Not that I've actually used Buzz to any effect, but it's still sad to have watched Google go nowhere with their social networking attempts. However I'm still gonna take full advantage of the great conversation layer it has brought to us niche Google Reader users!

I would kill my Buzz feed right now if I had another option for bringing a conversation layer to my twitter posts. As it stands I post from Buzz to Twitter, so if someone from Twitter wants a threaded conversation about one of my tweets then we can do it within Buzz. Well, that was the intention, but I bet in the 8 months that I've been doing this I can probably count on one hand how many times it has actually happened. The conversation has always occured on the cross-posts to Twitter, Linked-in or Facebook. Even though it's like pulling teeth, Tweeps comment on Tweets within Twitter. Since I'm a big user of GReader I've even got to the point where Twitter has enough interesting and unique content for me that GReader has become my Twitter reader interface.

I'm almost certain that the visionaries within Google have conceded defeat (or are in total denial) in building their own connected demographic for the masses. However they are a smart company and must recognize where they can still make an entrance. They have made some incredible gains in penetration with their individual apps and therefore adding a unified social layer to connect users of these apps may provide a sort of social "sharepoint" type of collaborative opportunity for apps users. If this is where they are going I look forward to seeing the result.

The connected demographic and communities may have been snagged by Facebook, Linked-in and Twitter, however google still have lots of opportunity to plug into these feeds with their apps; we've seen this with the Twitter integration into Google News. In my opinion this is a brilliant move that has all kinds of potential.

Monday, June 28, 2010

OneNote Sync’ing on Office Live on Skydrive

Over the last year I’ve increasingly found myself working at multiple computers. Therefore I’ve been trying to find ways of utilizing the cloud or synchronization software to allow me to access my work from anywhere without losing the flexibility usually associated with local access to the data.

For the most part this has involved utilizing live mesh to synchronize important and commonly updated folders, MS Exchange for mail/tasks/calendar, and SyncBackPro for backing up my data files. However one of the my other tasks has been to manage my OneNote access and share notebooks between machines.

Up to now I’ve simply put a folder on a server and used OneNote to synchronize locally whenever it was in contact with the server. However that server is at home for my personal OneNote notebooks and at work for my professional notebooks. Unfortunately, I have machines at both work and home that need access to both.

The other option to access my OneNote folders across machines was to synchronize them across the cloud using LiveMesh. I didn’t try it and don’t really know if there is a disadvantage to this as opposed to relying on OneNote doing the synchronization.

Now that Wave 4 of Windows Live Essentials is upon us with Live Mesh being integrated with Live Sync, being integrated with Office on SkyDrive, and OneNote being offered as a WebApp, I thought I’d take a look at how best to utilize these tools to sync my OneNote Folders.

Once logged into Office Live I opened the New menu and noticed the option for creating a OneNote notebook directly within my SkyDrive.


After creating a OneNote notebook, I then saw the option in the top right hand corner for opening the notebook in OneNote on the local machine.


I clicked on this option and after a dialog box warned me of opening a potentially harmful document, the notebook opened locally and my local OneNote app appeared to cache a copy. It proceeded to synchronize it with the web in the same way as some of my other notebooks synchronize with my local servers, so any changes I made locally would appear on the SkyDrive as well.


I was then free to copy over an existing set of sections and pages from a local Notebook into my sync’d SkyDrive notebook. I had a small hiccup during the sync of a particularly large set of pages, but it sync’d without error the second time. I tried just copying a local notebook to my SkyDrive and opening up the notebook in the OneNote WebApp, but it wouldn’t recognize it, so I’m assuming that the notebook has to be created by the WebApp first.

I’m not sure if this will be a more or less stable option than just synchronizing the local notebook with Livesync, but the advantage of this approach is that I can now open the same OneNote workbook directly on the web, and avoid dipping into the 2GB limit of my livesync cloud capacity.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Getting ready for next year…

My June's usually aren't this busy, but taking over as Chair, dealing with accreditation, hiring a tech, organizing 8 years worth of clutter, and trying to make sure we are all ready for next year has kept me and the rest of the dept hopping all month. Can't wait to take a break, but we still have quite a few things that have to get done by the end of June.

Our dept has spent the last few weeks standardizing on Course Outcomes and outlines across the program, establishing a common file structure for all the courses, creating a team task list and team calendar, standardizing on a course calendar structure and organizing the labs. In between all the admin stuff we’ve been juggling, this has probably been one of the most productive post-semester periods we have ever had, but also busiest.

Our program is now full and the applications are piling up. Not sure if it is all the EI running out or our program getting a name for itself; maybe it’s a combination of the two! However it means we are going to be pushing out a very healthy number of graduates for the next couple of years. The low enrollment over the past couple of years has allowed most of our graduates to meet great success with their employment, so now those numbers are doubling it’ll be interesting to see how those stats play out.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to things calming down a little for the summer so I can focus on little on some PD. Unfortunately September has an uncanny way of creeping up on you extremely quickly!