Category Archives: General

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SAMR and Seniors

My daughter Stephanie, is in the final stage of  completing her therapeutic recreation program at Brock University.  While she was home this weekend with her boyfriend Brandon,  she was sharing about her experiences volunteering in agencies as part of her program requirements.  As I was listening to her talk, I couldn’t help but think about what role technology might play in changing the possibilities for these people who need support and care.

I explained the concept of the SAMR model in the K-12 education framework. The real “win” is achieving the redefinition stage to improve learning and engagement, but certainly one can not estimate the learning and value of moving through the first three stages.


The three of us spent a fair bit of time wondering what would impact on seniors care be if we applied the SAMR model to leverage technology?  Is seems on the surface there is little to no technology available in these care facilities.  Tablets and touch screen interfaces greatly simplify the use of technology and could be a real game changer.

Some of the possibilities we discussed included:

  • increase connections with family using tools such as skype or Facetime
  • pondering the value of increased visual connections
  • increased mental stimulation: simple/appropriate games (self play and/or interactive, e.g. word games/puzzles such as scrabble)
  • improved access to online content – one way (read only)
  • stimulation from interactive content
  • idea exchange (text chat spaces for examples)
  • planning for face to face (F2F) activities (crafts, debates etc.)

Some how the possibilities seemed invigorating and obtainable. It may be about shift, just like in the K-12 education space.  It was a great discussion about making a difference through change.

Just wondering …


Livescribe on the Road

Do you spend a lot of time in your car?  You might like to leverage your livescribe pen while on the go and, literally,  on the road.

Simple simple tech tip:


  • bring your livescribe notebook
  • plug your pen into your car stereo system using a standard audio cable
  • start playing a recorded session you want to listen to
  • adjust volume
  • hit the road

First up for me will be my livescribed session of Audrey Watters’ excellent session at Educon on the Politics of Ed Tech on one of my road trips this week.

Related Resources

Read Audrey’s blog at  Hack Education


Taking Time to Notice

This morning I pulled into a parking lot, and happened to notice how the rain drops were glinting in the trees. I took a moment to pause and capture these pictures with my iPhone.

Shot 1

Shot 2

Shot 3


People Power to Make a Difference

I received an email from on Nov. 16th with the title:  Half-a-million Canadians changed the Internet

I thought it was worth sharing the following excerpt from the letter as a great example people pulling together to champion a cause, in this case in a technology/internet cause.

“A year ago the CRTC decided that big telecom giants could force their small competitors to adopt metered billing. This would have killed Big Telecom’s independent competitors, and it would have meant a more expensive and controlled Internet for all Canadians. It was this outrageous move that led to launch the now half-a-million strong Stop The Meter petition that forced the CRTC to reconsider their plan.

Yesterday (Nov. 15th 2011) , finally, the CRTC pulled back from its mandatory metered billing decision. This decision won’t stop all big telecom metering, but it could provide a much needed unlimited, independent option for many Canadians. It is truly rare for people to outmaneuver Big Telecom lobbyists, but together, we did it. Thank you for playing a crucial part in safeguarding the affordable Internet.

We changed the foundation of Internet billing in Canada—that’s a game changer—but we’re concerned that uncompetitive pricing may be buried in the pages of the policy that the CRTC released yesterday. We’ll study the details of this decision closely in the coming days and, with your help, take whatever action is necessary to push for fair pricing.”

Thanks to all who participated to make a difference to all.


Remembering Jack

Jack Layton was a remarkable Canadian in many ways.

A few key words from his  Letter to Canadians  stood out for me.

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Food for thought: How are these words reflected in the way you live your life? What will you do to keep the spirit alive?


4 Great Questions

A few days ago my wife received an email from a friend indicating that she was going through some challenging times. In the message she asked for my wife’s perspective on four questions (below).

  • Things you would change if you could?
  • Lessons learned?
  • Things you are glad you did?
  • What do you hope for in the next 5-10 years?
I thought these were great questions that certainly put one into reflective mode.
What would these mean to you personally?  professionally?
What actions will you take?
Happy reflecting.

Traveling with your iPad

Adventure 1

I have traveled from Canada to the USA several times in the last few months. Wanting to be connected via 3G in a cost effective manner, I ordered an AT&T sim card for my iPad with the understanding that I could activate the sim once I was in the USA with a wifi connection.

  • Attempt 1 – I was unable to activate the card due to lack of wifi in the location I was at.
  • Attempt 2 – I was unable to activate the card since the sim account activation process would not validate a Canadian credit card  & address against the USA based template using a local hotel address.
  • Attempt 3 – I was unable to activate the card since the sim account activation process would not validate a plain vanilla no address credit/cash card as the name field cannot be left blank.

Adventure 2 –  excursion to Austria to perform with the KWCO orchestra.

Our hotel was located in downtown Saltzburg Austria conveniently next to a small shopping mall which contained a T-Mobile store.  They had iPad compatible sims for Austria in 1GB or 3GB packages ($15 and $22 respectively) which are active for 30 days. There are options to top up the data if required and/or reuse the chip again on a future trip.

I popped in the sim card, entered the sim card password and the T-mobile network was detected in about 5 seconds. All as it should be – easy, convenient, affordable and hastle free for the end user.

Kudos to T-Mobile. I think the North American TelCo.’s could take a few pointers from the European approach re service levels and customer satisfaction.

Now to research a better travel to USA from Canada solution — starting with T-Mobile.


A Tribute to Ron Millar

On Monday June 13th, I had the pleasure of attend Ron Millar’s retirement celebration. It was a great event and I appreciated the opportunity to provide some remarks about Ron and his career.  Having worked with Ron for most of my career, I also wanted to share my comments here in a more public way.

Ron Millar


Ron, the Millar family and guests,

I thought it was fitting for this event, that I have my speaking notes on an iPad.   This year I celebrated my 30th year in education with the WRDSB.  I have known Ron and had the pleasure and honour of working with him in a variety of capacities for almost my entire career.

For those of you that know me, you are aware that it seems things always work out in threes. Fittingly, there are 3 sections to my remarks tonight: Things in Common/stats, Memories and Going Forward.

Things in common & stats:

Ron and I have many things in common, and I thought I would highlight a few of those things today:

–       glasses & beards: we delighted in saying if you can’t tell us apart, Ron has a beard and I wear glasses

–       an appreciation for black: the dress code is embedded, no memos or phone calls 🙂

–       curiosity

–       passion for learning

–       and one additional point that I would bet most of you don’t know.

Ron and I both taught mathematics at Glenveiw Park Secondary School. On the theme of numbers, I wanted to share a few of Ron’s statistics from his amazing 44 year career.

–       he has worked 2332 weeks or 11660 days, factoring his continued summer work

–       he has been granted 880 sick days, and being blessed with good health,  most have not been used

–       since the beginning of email, Ron has received approximately 544, 000 messages in his WaterWorks (work) account. I know he often teased about declaring email bankruptcy and deleting them all, but I know if fact that they were answered.

–       Ron bought the first instructional computer for the Board, a TRS 80 I believe. Since that day, he has piled up some impressive stats:

–       $44 million spent on computer hardware – about 47,000 computers

–       $4.5 million spent on software

–       $4 million spent on staff development activities – this year is CATC camp #20

–       oh yes, and the number 15 is important. In the days when WaterWorks (our email system) was just starting, Frank & I  were assured that it would take about 15 minutes per day to manage the WaterWorks project needs. I think in reality, it took all of our daily time except for 15 minutes – but well worth it when you look at what is has become today.


–       the days of the modem workshops, stringing phone line cables in the Education Centre on Saturday mornings as part of workshop prep

–       thank you for starting my passion for iDevices

–       ITS events always have a picture of Ron taking of picture of Mark who is taking a picture of Ron (tradition)

–       Our ‘water cooler’ time – starting everyday talking about some new thing that one of us learned

–       Ron teaching my daughter Charlotte her first Latin pun – sempre ooby sub ooby – always wear under wear

–       Listening to Ron talk enthusiastically about a new technology

–       Zipping to Buffalo to get those first precious iPads into Canada

–       Arranging amazing system events for the Computer Contacts with speakers such as David Warlick and Alan November

–       Joking that if Ron got up a little earlier and I stayed up a bit later, we would offer 24 hour coverage for ITS

–       Dilbert – in one of my favourite cartoons,  the IT department raids Dilbert of his desktop, laptop, disks and USB key. After they leave, Dilbert points out they missed the wireless pen!

Hats:  Most of you, like me, have never seen Ron physically wear a hat — but he does wear them. I think of them as the hats of the master learner. Ron has excellent people skills and has a wonderful ability to pop on the right hat at the right time. He might wear:

–       a question hat and ask a probing question at just the right time

–       a support hat, sensing when you need help

–       a friend hat when you need a listener

–       an energy hat to get some new project going

–       an experience hat to guide a process or project along in the right direction

–       a research hat to validate our work

–       a mentor hat to share knowledge or help you see a new insight

–       an R&D hat to look into the future

–       a smile hat – time for a little humour or practical joke to keep the mood light or

–       a passion hat to keep the learning and energy high

Going forward

When I thought about how to wrap up my comments, of course I came back to the theme of 3 buckets. Ron, each bucket has a wish for you.

Bucket #1: a wish that you will enjoy a happy retirement for as many years as your career

Bucket #2:  a wish that you will continue to be as passionate about your retirement activities as you have been with your work

Bucket #3: a wish that you will stay connected – don’t be a stranger.

Thanks for bringing your ‘A game’ everyday to learn, facilitate, problem solve and make WRDSB a great place to be.


iRon says iRetire


Congratulations on an outstanding career Ron.


Photos from Philly

I thought I would share a few of my ‘non’ Educon pictures from the conference trip.

1. The original Liberty Bell.

2. These giant iPods are statues in front of City Hall. These are actually domino pieces photographed from the ‘non dot’ side.

3. A room of presidential statues with yours truly attempting to blend in with the famous crowd.

4. Street musician.

5. Now this is cool tech! A car battery is used to power the speaker, an iPod generates the music (on white & yellow box), a few connecting boxes and a wireless mic (with musician).

6. The Philadelphia Apple Store at 16th & Walnut.

I had a great time at Educon 2.3 – a fabulous conference and learning experience.

~ Mark