Jumping, Leaping James

29 11 2010


“Daddy, Daddy! Take a picture of me jumping down the stairs!” James insisted, while I was fresh through the door.

   “Please, let me just take off my shoes and put my things down first,” I dully answered, trying not to let on that I was really worn out from a night, then a full morning, of parent-teacher interviews, followed by marking a load of Math tests. After I got changed, he was at it again. I trudged down to get the fancy Nikon professional camera my father left to me, that is always on full automatic. I was too tired to try all the bells and whistles. I only fully understand the old manual machines, that had a simple light metre. I attached the state-of-the-art flash that actually adjusts itself according to the chosen zoom setting. I got in position, and shot frame after frame while James the Superhero repeatedly leaped from high places all over the sub basement in our house.

I was very glad that I chose to spend a few wonderful minutes getting shots of frantically energetic James doing things that my mother used to bellow at me about. He did not have to endure anything negative. I did ask him to be careful, however. I clearly remember the thrill of boucing down some wooden stairs in a cardboard box in the 1960s, followed by getting airborne and landing hard on the concrete. My mother howled all sorts of criticisms, insults and humiliations down the stairwell at me, rather than come to my assistance. I strive to never be that way, and succeed nearly all the time. James was enthralled by the images of his amazing antics.

   Two days after the bouncy, jumping day we went for a walk in Baker Park in Calgary. There were hoards of starving birds landing on our hands, hungrily pecking at the crackers we offered. We fed Black-capped Chickadees, Boreal Chickadees and Red Breasted Nuthatches. After that, we were delighted to meet some Canada Geese!


iHelen: Education in 2025

20 11 2010


A Day in a CBE Student’s Week in 2025

by Miles Burn

Setting: Brentwood District, Calgary, Alberta. A  Monday, in November.

Main Character: iHelen, a Gr.7 student.


“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” screeched the rooster hologram, set to activate at 6:30 a.m. It was time for iHelen to get ready for her school week. Yawning and strenuously stretching, she reached for her laptop to hastily check the weather, the latest fashion news, and to see if her BFF, iAlex, had added to a discussion thread for their D2L project. The digital duo was working on a Gr. 7 Science assignment, studying the effects of invasive species, habitat loss and global warming on the Common Porcupine. The friends were planning a trip up to Nose Hill Park in the afternoon to see some porcupines first hand. The duo had paired up with two students in Kenya – iAbasi and iJomo — who were studying the African Crested Porcupine, and they were planning to go to study specimens in the wild too. The four were to collaborate on producing a comparative study of habitat degradation, focusing on the two species of porcupines. There was to be a Skype session between the sides of the team that evening, early morning for the Kenyans. iHelen and iAlex had last met face to face at school on Thursday, but iAlex had shown some poor social and cognitive presence for the project by not adding to the discussion thread. iHelen sent iAlex another Pager message, and sent a text via her cell phone.

After breakfast, iHelen decided to contact her Science teacher via D2L’s new Holgraphinate function. She put on her Holograminater glasses, and used the D2L computer screen scan function to blip her ID tag.


 The tag had a bar code, and an embedded chip for security purposes. Only iHelen knew the five-digit password to verify her credentials. She joined the queue to speak to Mr. iDuncan during his office hours. She aimed the hologram beamer at the table top, and pointed the transmitter towards herself. While she waited, she got a Twitter message from her little friend:


iDaisy: “Can u play Virtual Fashion w me tomorrow?”




iHelen: “u bet!”


Suddenly, Mr. iDuncan’s hologram blipped onto the table. . .


 “Good morning, iHelen, how can I help you?” asked Mr. iDuncan, his virtual social presence and tone indicating that he was a very busy mentor, a TPACK mogul.

“I have a question about our assignment.”


“How will I understand the Kenyan boys on Skype?”

“Well . . . they do speak English as one of their languages.”

“Will they be hard to understand?”


 “Oh, come on, iHelen. If you really can not understand their speech in the Skype session just use the new Chat function and type your questions and ask for scripted answers. I can give you more help when you come to class. Don’t for get your data gatherer, for the trip up Nose Hill, alright?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Mr. iDuncan promptly disappeared. “Now, that’s ‘teacher presence’ for you!” she scowled. iHelen’s cell phone beeped frantically, and she picked up a message from iAlex: “Sorry about thread. Had stuff typed up and forgot to add it. I put it in thread. See U at school.”


        iHelen picked up her laptop, waving goodbye to her parents who were enjoying the Virtual Great Outdoors program. Her dad was exercising by a computer-generated lake, and her mum was enjoying some fresh strawberries on a park bench. Her sister, iAriel, and brother, iJames, Day 2 students, were enjoying a virtual Dairy Queen ice cream cake on Virtual Yummytube.




iHelen was a Day 1 student. She went to school every other day and spent the other days collaborating on online projects, like her Science assignment. The CBE’s schools had doubled their student populations by having this Day 1/Day 2 split, and when students were in school they engaged in PhysEd, Drama, and other group activities that required face-to-face social presence. They also had group meetings with their core subject mentors every other ‘on site’ day. On her way to Simon Fraser Junior High, iHelen passed by what had been Captain John Palliser School and the Nose Hill Library. Due to there being less need for school buildings, many were being converted into extended care facilities for an aging population, and some were being made into giant green houses because of the effects of global warming. Droughts and diminishing glaciers, leading to depleted river water volumes, were creating a need for indoor farming measures. Captain John Palliser was in the process of having solar panels and wind turbines put onto its roof, so that it could be a self-sufficient green-powered organic green house. It would recirculate its water, to avoid taking from the dwindling Bow River. At the Nose Hill Library, there were no books but iHelen could order hard copies in with her ID tag. Mostly, the library was a public place where people could access computers.



          When she got to school, iHelen met iAlex, and they synthesized the research they had gathered on the Common Porcupine. They were ready for their conference with Mr. iDuncan. Their research involved yearly population statistics for porcupines in Nose Hill Park, what invasive species were affecting them, and how global warming was impacting vegetation growth. They had identified the animals’ main diet of bush and tree bark. The two were ready to specify how they were to share the knowledge they were to produce, after their own field study, along with the contributions from the Kenyan students. It was to be done on a Smart board, and iHolo footage of a porcupine was to be shown to peers through D2L’s Holgraphinate function. They were to create a presentation, involving their counterparts in Kenya. Mr. iDuncan was showing a more genial teacher presence, now that his crammed office hours were completed. “So, it looks like you are ready to go,” he commented, after running through the checklist of assignment requirements. “Remember, you are being assessed on how you collaborate with each other, with the Kenyan boys, and you are being graded on the presentation that you are posting for others to read. After you get feedback, you’ll need to send me your reflective journals and self evaluations. Don’t forget to check the rubrics, and the exemplars I provided. You will need to respond to the feedback from the Kenyans. Now, off you go to Nose Hill!”

          iHelen and iAlex raced to find their assigned scooters, that ran on hydrogen cells.


 They found their machines, and used their ID tags to activate them. When they got to Nose Hill, they parked and deactivated the scooters. Next, the two activated the GPS Tracker function on their cell phones, which linked to the porcupines in the park. All the animals had been fitted with microchips in their ears. The nearest one was just 723 metres away, in a willow bush. They could see the location by satellite map. On their way up the hill, they identified some invasive species which were affecting the porcupines and they took pictures of them. Caragana shrubs were everywhere, as they were thriving in the drier conditions produced by global warming. Beneath the bushes were rotted remains of poplar trees and willow bushes. There was no evidence of porcupines eating the caragana shrub bark.


  They kept walking, and observed that other inedible invasive species, such as Goat’s Beard and thistles, had also affected native plant growth and pushed out porcupines’ food sources.


 Finally, they located the porcupine, and noticed that it had eaten a fair amount of willow bark on the surviving bushes in the surrounding area.


           iAlex took some footage of the porcupine. iHelen started to quietly cry. “Hey, what’s wrong?” iAlex asked.

          “I can see that the porcupine has eaten nearly all the bark,” iHelen exclaimed. “What will it do when it gets too dry for the willows to grow? I’ll tell you – no more porcupines!”

          iAlex looked dejected. “Yes, you are right. We still have not found out if we can reverse the effects of global warming. It won’t happen overnight . . . HEY! Maybe we can include this issue in our project, and share the question of how we can save the porcupines!”

          iHelen brightened up. “Great idea!”

          The two trooped back to their scooters, brainstorming and collaborating on their plans. iAlex and iHelen parked their scooters and then ran to iHelen’s house to prepare for the Skype session. They synthesized their data, and produced their side of the project. Then, they studied iAbasi and iJomo’s collaborative contributions. The Skype experience was so engaging, that the two girls were raving!


 The boys were on the serious side, but did chuckle a little about the two gregarious Canadian girls. Both sides of the team enjoyed the face-to-face Skype conference, and there was pure social and cognitive presence. They arranged to incorporate part of the Skype discussion into their presentations, in both nations. The girls commented that they thought the images of the African Crested Porcupine that the boys had studied were really cool. The beast’s quills were huge! The girls were saddened, however, to find out that like the Common Porcupine, the African Crested Porcupine was also being threatened by invasive plant species and drier climate conditions. The two sides decided that they would have to collaborate asynchronously online on the presentation, splitting up the tasks, as it was time to call it a day for iAlex and iHelen.


 After the Skype session was over, iHelen’s dad gave her a ride home in the family car, powered by hydrogen. He began to regret taking iHelen along for the ride, as the two would not stop loudly chatting about their project, about fashion trends, and about some new heart-throb pop idol. . . .











Kenyan students                              bet.com

African Crested Porcupine   elistmania.com

Computer Room Picture       www.highschooldublin.com

Caragana Picture                      www4.agr.gc.ca

Goat’s Beard Picture             communities.canada.com

Thistle Picture                       raydw.com

Personalized Learning in Cyberspace

7 11 2010


What is the role of distributed learning in a Personalized Learning model? How can D2L facilitate personalized learning?

Questions to Guide Your Discussion

  • How do you see teaching changing in a connected learning environment? How does connected learning facilitate a move to personalized learning?
  • How do you see teaching nurturing creative and critical thought changing within a connected learning environment? How does nurturing creative and critical thought facilitate a move to personalized learning?
  • What does online collaboration ‘look’ like? What distributed learning tools would be integral to nurturing collaboration online?
  • What would a personal learning space be like? What distributed learning tools would be integral to this space?

    Share your thoughts as a group or an individual under the Personalized Learning and D2L discussion forum.

Teaching is certainly changing for the better in a connected learning environment because students are mentored so that they participate in producing information. It becomes personal because learners must find information through virtual sources, and they are not nurtured to be passive learners. It is up to teachers to teach students fundamentals, from keyboarding to collaboration, so that they have the basic tools to succeed.

In a connected learning environment, fostering creative and critical thought will be much easier as students will need to be inquisitive, be able to separate fact from opinion (evaluate), be able to synthesize information from a plethora of sources, and, finally, be able to create (produce) their own responses to what they have accessed online.

When students are in this process, they are not alone nor passive. They are working in a community of learners who are doing the same things and at the same age level. It becomes more personalized because rather than be limited to hard-copy resources in the classroom, the students have access to astounding arrays of research and knowledge. They pick and choose resources, analyse them, evaluate them and then choose modes to present (create). For example, they can choose blogging, podcasting, video links, etc., to share what they have learned (produced).

Online collaboration looks like learners sharing ideas and resources, through virtual mediums such as Delicious (Social Bookmarking), blogging, presentation sharing, podcasting, etc. Students will be able to collaborate through tools provided through D2L, or other mediums. Many are already onto this in their personal lives, through chat rooms, Twitter and Facebook. On D2L, the Discussion tool could be useful for sharing ideas so that students can examine them, and collaborate on building products. The Chat tool would be useful for students so that they can talk in real time about topics. For example, students could use the tool to work on group projects, or to help each other out on assignments. The Locker tool can be a place to store projects that could be useful to share online, or to store any sort of useful information. The Pager is a fantastic way of getting a concern dealt with fast, and is a great alternative to chat because it does not need to be scheduled. My daughters regularly use the Pager tool on D2L to communicate with their homework buddies, and others. They connect so that they can solve homework questions together. ePortfolio is a good place for students to store notable pieces of work that can be shared with chosen others, or to the world at large. In future years, students could actually use it to show a succession and evolution of creations (products). Elluminate is a great way to make online communication much more personal. As we move away from traditional models of teaching and learning, it is becoming a world where there is more physical distance between learners, their peers, and mentors. It is important that students be able to converse, with tones of voice, eloquence, etc.

A personal learning space could have some, or all of the following attributes. Students would use RSS/Feed Reader resources and Social Bookmarking Tools to gather information needed for tasks. Also, they would use web browsers, for finding items not within the above-mentioned tools. They would communicate with peers through threads (Discussion Tool), Chat, Elluminate, to collaborate on creating (producing) projects. In this way, they are not being passive learners, but are being co-operative. To share their information, they would use blogging tools. E-mail, threads and the Page tool would also items in a personal learning space. Students could store their projects with the Locker and ePortfolio tools. As students/mentors become more adept at enhancing their personal learning space, they will be able to incorporate items like Personal Productivity and Personal Dashboard tools so that peers can know their schedules and so resources are more accessible.