En Route to PLP Ontario

Today I was looking forward to heading out in the afternoon for the PLP Ontario session with Will Richardson. My Blackberry blinked as morning communications rolled in. Traffic reports from Twitter were indicating some construction delays along the 401 route at Woodstock, but hopefully those would be clear by the time I was on the road.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, warm for this time of year. I made by traditional pre-drive stop at Tim Horton’s – black coffee, half decaf, then set my playlist on my ipod and off I went. Current traffic reports were now clear other than some paving west of London, so I was anticipating a good trip.

The drive was great, as expected. The unexpected was the road signs. I saw 3 signs that caught my attention. This first two were the standard wooden painted signs.

1. Fatigue kills, take a break.
2. Tailgating kills, leave some space.

While you can’t argue with either one of these statements, there was something unsettling about them. I guess it was the negative spin on encouraging positive driving habits.

The 3rd sign was one of those programmable, over the highway ones. You would expect to see a message concerning traffic conditions. The message was:

Don’t text or email while driving.

Whoa! – not expected at all. October 26th is hands free day on Ontario. Make sure you are ready for safe travel. Looking for hands free gear?   Many local vendors will have equipment, but you might be interested in checking out this cleverly named website:  Lets Yada

Drive safely!

~ Mark


iPod Touch Classroom Project

Last Friday we  held the kickoff meeting for our iPods in the Classroom project.


The meeting provided an opportunity to bring teachers, administrators and central staff together to talk about the purpose of the project, complete some initial training, look at logistics and set next steps and timelines in place. The purpose of this project is multifaceted. Our comprehensive approach will:

  • Investigate the impact on teaching preparation, roles and instruction in a setting where each student will have a wifi enabled mobile device
  • Use iPods as an integrated learning tool in alignment with our identified instructional strategies and high yield tools
  • Align the use of the mobile devices to technology integration frameworks including:
  • Infuse a Digital Citizenship component concerning appropriate use, expectations, responsibilities and security with an eye to aligning to our existing Acceptable Use Procedure
  • Learn about the logistics of using mobile devices: charging, syncing, content management, device reliability etc.
  • Look at the use related resources: video cables (iPod to TV/data projector), document cameras, listening centre hardware (linking and daisy chaining audio)
  • Support the professional learning with research based evidence of the impact on student engagement, learning improvement and student assessment

The selected schools will provide an opportunity to examine the use of the iPod in the following environments:

  • a technology focused JK-6 school
  • a JK-8 school with an emphasis on grades 6-8
  • a congregated enrichment class

The day provided a good opportunity to familiarize staff with the operation of the iPod Touch units and explore some of the potential applications to be used. Alignment with our Board’s key learning strategies and the technology frameworks will keep us away from using the ‘drill and kill’ style applications.

A highlight in the training was conferencing in an Apple Education Expert to instruct over our Adobe Connect web conferencing system, licensed for use in Ontario schools. We anticipate using the web conferencing throughout the project to facilitate sharing between teachers at the selected schools. I am hopeful we can establish a protocol to use the conferencing to facilitate viewing a live ‘model classroom’ environment once the appropriate understandings re privacy and protocols have been put in place.

It was a great day and we are excited to have this initiative moving forward. I will share what we learn in future blog posts.

~ Mark

Presenting on the Web – session 2

Further to my earlier post this week about my live web presenting session, we had additional successes with our Thursday night session with our computer contact group. What did we do differently?

1. I changed the setup in the presenting area in my office, which was the remote site.  We adjusted the lighting to make the room slightly darker and eliminated some backlight which caused a little glare in the first round.

2. I relocated my speaking notes from my desk to a raised vertical stand tucked in closely to my laptop to minimize my eye movement. The net effect allowed me to look more directly at the camera so the setup was more like a newscast arrangement.

3. In the meeting room end, we turned the MacBook laptop around so the web cam was facing the audience. This certainly gives you a better sense of connection with the audience as the presenter. We are able to do a better job adjusting the mic settings to allow me to hear questions from the audience more clearly.

All in all, a much better experience. The next meeting with this group is scheduled for February. At that time, we will offer a chance for some of the 100+  attendees over the two session to join us in an online meeting. If winter driving is a factor, we should have improved attendance with the online option – bonus!!!

~ Mark

Adobe Connect: Presenting Live on the Web

I have participated in many online meetings with audio and screen sharing of agendas etc. Yesterday I had a chance to do a presentation using Adobe Connect, a professional web conferencing solution with our elementary school computer contact team.  This product is licensed for use in Ontario publicly funded schools.

I was the remote presenter – but not too remote in this case, just tucked away in my office, although I could have been anywhere with a decent internet connection. I was viewed at the meeting on a projection screen via the client laptop and data projector setup in the meeting room. This seemed like a good test run environment as I could attend the meeting if we had any technical issues. I was really interested to reflect on 3 aspects of the live presentation.

Technical Reliability: Our technical set up worked very well overall – no major issues. On two occasions there was a brief pause in audio and video delivery. In my role as presenter, I was aware this was happening as the green bar which bounces to indicate the mic is active stopped moving, so I was able to pause and wait for the condition to pass. There are many factors which may cause a minor hiccup in the audio and/or video stream including server performance, network traffic, firewall connectivity or local machine performance at either end. We will do some monitoring in future session to gain additional insights into this.

Presentation Considerations: It felt very strange as the presenter as in this particular case I could not see or hear the audience. I felt like I was talking in a vacuum. It is very difficult to get a sense of whether or not you are delivery the presentation well when there is no audience cues or reaction. It is amazing what you pick up standing in front of a live audience. You automatically make eye contact, adjust your voice levels and pace, move around (at least somewhat) and visually you have a sense of whether or not the audience is understanding the content.

In terms of my office setup, we did check web cam clarity, volume levels and adjust lighting (watch for shadows). Having a suitable backdrop is important. My bookcase was acceptable, but many backgrounds are not. I made note of two things in this area.

1. The relative height of the web cam relative to your eyes. You need to think of the ‘shot angle’ in the same way a newscast is done. I think  having the web cam a eye level so you can look straight ahead is better.

2. I had a few notes on my desk to refer to in addition to the powerpoint slides being broadcast along with the web cam images. I want to raise up the notes to minimize the number of times you glance away from the web cam.

Audience Reactions: I was interested in the audience reaction. While many saw this as a useful tool that offered many benefits, some expressed a preference for face to face meetings. No reaction is right or wrong, just interesting to note.

Next Steps: We are running our second meeting presentation tomorrow night so I will try to make some adjustments to my setup. I want to set up a 3rd connection which would show the audience on one of the web cams to give me a better sense of audience reaction. We are also going to monitor the bandwidth usage while the session is occurring, so that will be interesting.  We will offer remote attend to our next set of meetings in February.

It is great to keep moving ahead.

~ Mark

Links: 2009-10-13: Tools for new bloggers

Links: 2009 10 13  — A few tools for new bloggers

1. 20 Simple Blogging Productivity Tools

2. Tips for writing on the web

3. Blogging Secrets

4. Royalty Free  Music and Sound Effects

5. Show yourself  Widget

6. Share this  button

7. Online photo  editing

Happy blogging.

~ Mark

CDN Thanksgiving – Reflecting

Thanksgiving weekend seems to be a time of tradition and reflection. As I write this post, I can see the beautiful trees outside shimmering in their various spectacular colours, observe the table is being set reflecting our family traditions and enjoy the aroma of the turkey cooking.

I certainly have much to be thankful for: good health, a wonderful loving family  and many good friends. In my role as CIO for the Board, I have a career  that is challenging, rewarding, engaging and  filled with opportunity. I have a wonderful staff and work with a talented and dedicated leadership team.

This year I have connected with many new people through professional associations and online collaboration opportunities. I appreciate the opportunity to learn and share with a great group of people. Technology has really been an enabler in facilitating these online connections. What an exciting time to be alive!

I sincerely hope I can return the many blessings I have by giving to others and making a difference.

~ Mark

K-12 Education: Content Filtering

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the first Central Ontario Computer Association (COCA) for the 2009/2010 school year. COCA provides a forum for ICT educators representing approximately 25 school boards to dialogue and collaborate face to face 5 times each school year. I always look forward to these meetings as I know the dialogue will be rich and engaging – a tribute to the forward thinking, action oriented people in these roles. Hats off to you for making a difference!

The agenda for this particular session was organized to provide an opportunity to discuss current educational issues and topics including:

  • Report: Ministry of Education licensed software for Ontario school Boards (OSAPAC committee)
  • Brainstorming: What would a Ministry of Education integrated ICT document look like?
  • Presentation: ICT Ethical Use
  • Presentation: iPods in the classroom project with a research component
  • Discussion: Twitter in the Classroom
  • Discussion: Round Table

I will be interested to follow Mike Redfern’s work on his Ethical Use of ICT project which will provide an in depth look at technology and social networking issues in the K-12 educational setting.  I will provide some information about our (WRDSB) iPod projects and research initiative in a future post.

As I anticipated, I found the round table discussion particularly interesting. Many points were raised, but the one that really stuck with me was content filtering. Content filtering is always an interesting topic for discussion because it is so multifaceted.

  • filter or not?
  • if you do, how much?
  • if you do, is it done centrally or at the school level?
  • how do you align content filtering with educational resource selection processes for print, video etc.?
  • block or allow social networking?
  • keep students safe
  • sufficient band width
  • how do you define ‘educational content’ in a way that makes sense in a K-12 context?
  • should content filtering be more age or grade appropriate?

There are no easy answers. It is easy to find valid reasons to sit on either side of the fence for each point. Oh yes, how do you apply content filtering to keep everyone (students, teachers, school administrators, technicians, parents, school board officials) happy?  That is a $64000 question!

Now, throw another huge component into the discussion: copyright, digital rights, document ownership. Yikes. A few people commented that their Board had recently opened up YouTube as part of the progressive move toward more openness in the content filtering in an effort to teach online safety and digital citizenship.

BUT – What about the YouTube end user Terms of Use policy? Section 5 (see below), in the terms of use policy contains some very specific language. I have emphasized some of the areas that I feel need careful consideration from school Boards when making a determination to allow or deny access to this site.

5. Your Use of Content on the Site

In addition to the general restrictions above, the following restrictions and conditions apply specifically to your use of content on the YouTube Website.

A. The content on the YouTube Website, except all User Submissions (as defined below), including without limitation, the text, software, scripts, graphics, photos, sounds, music, videos, interactive features and the like (“Content”) and the trademarks, service marks and logos contained therein (“Marks”), are owned by or licensed to YouTube, subject to copyright and other intellectual property rights under the law. Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use only and may not be downloaded, copied, modified, produced, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, translated, published, performed or otherwise exploited for any other purposes whatsoever without the prior written consent of the respective owners. YouTube reserves all rights not expressly granted in and to the Website and the Content.

B. You may access User Submissions solely:

  • for your information and personal use;
  • as intended through the normal functionality of the YouTube Service; and
  • for Streaming.

“Streaming” means a contemporaneous digital transmission of an audiovisual work via the Internet from the YouTube Service to a user’s device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be copied, stored, permanently downloaded, or redistributed by the user. Accessing User Videos for any purpose or in any manner other than Streaming is expressly prohibited. User Videos are made available “as is.”

C. User Comments are made available to you for your information and personal use solely as intended through the normal functionality of the YouTube Service. User Comments are made available “as is”, and may not be used, copied, modified, produced, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, downloaded, translated, published, performed or otherwise exploited in any manner not intended by the normal functionality of the YouTube Service or otherwise as prohibited under this Agreement.

D. You may access YouTube Content, User Submissions and other content only as permitted under this Agreement. YouTube reserves all rights not expressly granted in and to the YouTube Content and the YouTube Service.

E. You agree to not engage in the use, copying, or distribution of any of the Content other than expressly permitted herein, including any use, copying, or distribution of User Submissions of third parties obtained through the Website for any commercial purposes.

F. You agree not to circumvent, disable or otherwise interfere with security-related features of the YouTube Website or features that prevent or restrict use or copying of any Content or enforce limitations on use of the YouTube Website or the Content therein.

G. You understand that when using the YouTube Website, you will be exposed to User Submissions from a variety of sources, and that YouTube is not responsible for the accuracy, usefulness, safety, or intellectual property rights of or relating to such User Submissions. You further understand and acknowledge that you may be exposed to User Submissions that are inaccurate, offensive, indecent, or objectionable, and you agree to waive, and hereby do waive, any legal or equitable rights or remedies you have or may have against YouTube with respect thereto, and agree to indemnify and hold YouTube, its Owners/Operators, affiliates, and/or licensors, harmless to the fullest extent allowed by law regarding all matters related to your use of the site.

Independent of the nature of the content posted on YouTube, and whether or not there is a clean adherence to copyright and digital rights management, the terms of use document specifies that the site is for personal use. In Canada, classrooms are defined as public, not private.  As I understand this, personal use sites such as YouTube, do not have a legal place in Canadian classrooms much in the same way there are restrictions on the use of music and video. There is definitely more studying and thinking ahead in the complex arena. For now, I think we are positioned well with our current approach.

Related Reading

View the full YouTube end user Terms of Use

~ Mark