Saturday, August 2, 2014

Lessons Learned - the hard way (or, don't drop your phone!)

This post will contain a sad story and some free advice. One evening as my wife and I started our walk, I had my iPhone in hand to turn on Run Keeper. Then it happened, I fumbled it and it fell, face down on the cement driveway. I picked it up with trepidation and ... it was working, but the
screen was a cracked up mess! (see photo). I was very angry at myself, I knew it was an accident, but I felt like an idiot! After some checking online and phoning the Apple Store in Winnipeg. I made an appointment and they agreed (not their policy) to hold a replacement for me since I was driving in - a 3 hour trip each way. Well, the helpful and understanding 'genius' replaced my 3 month old iPhone 5S with another of the exact model and got it set up from my iCloud backup. The glass on an iPhone 5S can't be replaced due to the fingerprint technology, they simply replace the phone with the same model ... for $270, unless you had purchased Apple Care, then it is only $79! Well, I guess $270 is much less than the almost $1000 I paid for it, I then added an Otterbox case for better protection. So, I have a few lessons I learned that might help others:

#1 Don't drop your iPhone!
#2 If you are buying an iPhone, GET Apple care - at $99 it would have saved my about $100 on this incident alone.
#3 Have an understanding wife :-)
#3 Get a good case, and whether you do or don't get one - once again - DON'T drop your iPhone!!

Arghh! Oh well, lesson learned, I hope!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Journey Completed ... Another Continues

about to begin the defense
I am very pleased to announce that on June 27, 2014, I successfully defended my Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Manitoba. I have many people to thank for their support and assistance along the way, most of all my advisor, Dr. O. Cap, my committee, Dr. M. Atleo, Dr. D. Hlynka, Dr. D. Mann and external, Dr. K. King. Having Dr. King as external was exciting since she has written so much about transformative learning and technology so her input was meaningful and impacted the final product. Others were also important (my wife & family to be sure!), but also several colleagues at BU and my cohort friends throughout the program. I will leave a reflection of the entire process for another post, however, I will include the slides I used in the defense, and the abstract. A link to the final dissertation will be added once it clears the submission system at the UM. For now ... I am done! Mike Nantais, Ph.D. - who would have guessed?

Monday, June 16, 2014

COSMOS - then and now

Cover of my original COSMOS book

Neil De Grasse Tyson's remake/update of Cosmos is now over, and it was certainly well done. I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Tyson in person at the University of Manitoba a few months back. This was his first public lecture in Canada and the hall was packed. (see & hear the talk here). He is an entertaining speaker and obviously an intelligent, thoughtful person. The series was wonderfully done, making science interesting, understandable, and providing a great message. The Cosmos series brought back memories of the original with the great Carl Sagan. I remember watching it intently in my early years as a teacher. This renewal of Cosmos, along with some other events, have acted to rekindle an interest in science, and especially astrophysics. My first degree (long ago) was in Chemistry and Physics and much of my teaching career was teaching sciences. My attention has shifted, but an interest in science was always in the background, these events have really made me miss that deeper interest.

Of course, nothing can supplant the original, Carl Sagan was an amazing, intelligent, and eloquent person - a great ambassador for science. There are many videos on the net about/of Sagan: mashups with Sagan (think Symphony of Science), of Sagan speaking, and so on. I think I own and have read a good number of his books as well. I have a few favourite segments to share. In the original Cosmos, this opening segment is poetic and captures the viewer - at least this one - and the soundtrack was simply breathtaking.

My most favourite video/segment though is the Pale Blue Dot. This has become well known, especially since the renewal of Cosmos. Watch and be moved.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Light at the end of the Tunnel?

Well, the end is in sight ... hopefully. My dissertation, titled "Teaching With Social Media: A Multiple Case Study Approach", has made it through both the internal examining committee and now the external. I have a few revisions to make, then it is on to the oral defense at the end of the month!

A few weeks ago, I came across a tweet by GradSchoolElitist (@GradEletisim) with an attached image. I can't locate the original so I can't give proper credit, however, the cartoon is on the right. Anyway, the process sometimes does feel like running a gauntlet. The thing to keep in mind is that your advisor, committee, and the external are (usually - at least this is true in my case) on your side. I have learned much from these academics, they have prompted and pushed me to think and grow as a scholar, and I thank them for it. Of course, I will thank them even more if (when) I pass the defense!

For fun I have also included a video about defending the thesis, hope I don't have to do this!  ;-)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Awakening Possibilities 2014

Nice posters of sessions
outside each room -
I'm second from bottom.
On April 16 and 17, I was fortunate to attend and present at the Manitoba Teachers' Society's educational technology conference called "Awakening Possibilities". This conference was geared toward K-12 educators, in the past 6 years most of the conferences I attend are usually academic ones or ones with a more mixed audience. I was asked to present on my dissertation research, the organizers wanted some sessions based on research. My slide deck was very similar to the one I used at the National Congress on Rural Education a few weeks earlier - it is embedded in that post, so I won't embed the new one here. It can be found on my slideshare page if interested. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people attending my session, but the topic was about using social media in the classroom - from the teacher's perspective. It went well, I think. Near the beginning I ask "What is social media?" the very definition is a confounding factor in doing research in this area. This led to a good discussion and points made - not all I agreed with, but good none the less. The rest I went through the purpose, findings and some conclusions from my study.

Now - back to the conference. It was one of the best I have attended, I actually wished I was still teaching in K-12 so I could try some of the ideas presented with kids. But alas, I will have to settle for using the ideas and examples presented in my teacher education courses instead. The number of tremendous educators and projects going on in Manitoba (and SK, in the case of Kathy Cassidy) schools is inspiring, it was too bad I had to pick some sessions over others. The tweets were also going fast and furious - which helped get a sense of other sessions going on. The keynotes, opening by Steve Dembo and closing by Chris Lehman were excellent, as were the IGNITE sessions held in the evening. Many of those were by students, all so intelligent, funny, & inspiring. Some photos and video clips from the conference can be found on the MTS Facebook page.

Kudos to the organizers and MTS for putting on this excellent conference!

I created a Storify of as many tweets in the hashtag as I could capture (unfortunately it quit working on me, I don't know if there is a limit or what - it was my first use of Storify - so please forgive me). It is here;

Monday, April 14, 2014

Nineteenth National Congress on Rural Education

On March 30 - April 1, I once again attended the National Congress on Rural Education, held in Saskatoon, SK. I always enjoy this conference since it is an eclectic gathering that includes teachers, pre-service teachers, school and division administrators, trustees, and post-secondary educators. This year I was involved in two presentations. The first was along with a colleague and the senior administration of the Lakeshore School Division. My colleague (Dr. J. Kirk) and I have been working with Lakeshore School Division in a supportive research capacity during their efforts to renew education in their division through a project they call Re-Imagine Lakeshore. Brandon University is supporting these efforts through the SSHRC-CURA funded VOICE project. Exciting things are happening in this division! This presentation was well attended and the Superintendent, J. Martel was engaged answering many questions after the session.

The second session was just me - I presented about my Ph.D. thesis research for the first time. It was good practice for my, hopefully soon, thesis defence. It was also good to go back over the research and boil down the findings to fit into a bit less than an hour, yet keep it interactive as much as possible. My session was fairly well attended and and the audience included several pre-service teachers as well as a mixture from the above categories. I think my session was well received and my colleague commented positively on my slides. I spent little time on the methodology and analysis and most on the findings - creating interesting slides to support the information was a challenge since I wanted to use participant quotes to support what I was presenting, but I think it turned out well. The presentation is embedded below. I am presenting on my research again this week at the Manitoba Teachers' Society (MTS) major conference, Awakening Possibilities, as well. The audience will be a little different again - mostly teachers in K-12 I suspect. The conference has some great presentations & keynotes, so it should be fun.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Internet!

What is the Internet? A pretty abstract concept. In light of recent talk about Internet neutrality & other attacks on Internet freedom, here is an amusing take on what is the Internet. How fragile is it? This segment is from a UK comedy, The IT Crowd. Behold the Internet! Funny. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Experience vs Youth?

Once again this year, I have been having a series of guest speakers come into my classroom of education students, both in person and via technology. Most of the presenters have a wealth of experience in their area and I am always amazed at how easily they give their time to freely share, pass on their learning, and interact with soon to be teachers. This past week saw the always thought provoking and entertaining Dean Shareski join us via a google hangout - we even got to see & hear his dogs. This week was a bit of a change of pace. I invited three young, new to the profession teachers (2 in their first year and 1 in her 3rd) to come and talk to my students about the things they were doing with technology in the classroom, as well as sharing stories of their challenges, frustrations, and solutions. These three shared some fascinating ideas, interesting and creative initiatives, and some great solutions to problems that arose due to a lack of Internet access, hardware, and other restrictions. I was proud of these teachers, and they could relate to my students well, giving some great tips, some of the realities - and exhibiting the enthusiasm they had for their work. It made me think about the types of people I ask to present. The experience of these experts, such that Dean possesses, offers so much depth, thought, and wisdom to share with those new to the profession. However, the recent experience of youth, and the problem solving and learning that goes along with it, offers much for discussion and contemplation as well. I have had a range of guests drop in over the past few years, I love the discussion, reflection, and learning that it provokes. I also thank these educators who willingly give their time to share with people they do not know. I am convinced that they all offer my students so many opportunities to learn and grow. I will continue to invite a mix of guests, we can learn lots from the stories all of these people tell. So this week, I send thanks to Tiff, Tyler & Kirsten for dropping by and sharing, and prompting me to consider the vast expertise that selflessly drops into my classes each year.

If interested visit the Internet for Educators class blog roll & check them out.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Academic Writing: Take 2.

A few posts back, I wrote about (ranted about?) publishing as an academic researcher. It seems others have been struggling with the traditional approach as well. I came across a few posts on this topic in the past few weeks. Check them out:

Bon Stewart wrote a post about her reflections on writing as an academic. To quote a short section:
 I’ve been trying to be both networked scholar and proper academic, whatever that is. I’ve been trying to wear two entirely separate hats and engage in two entirely separate identity economies and…well, it’s a mug’s game.
And I don’t want to do it anymore. But. I’m not sure, frankly, which parts to drop.
 I shared some of the same thoughts - although certainly not as eloquently as Bonnie, whose writing is so very good. My post was more about how highly valued publishing in major international peer reviewed journals as opposed to the value of other work done by those in higher education. A week or so later, I noticed a tweet linked to a post by Wesley Fryer who also wrote his frustrations with higher education. In particular he comments;
I have zero desire to publish in paywalled journals a very limited number of people are ever likely to read. I’m interested in supporting open educational research and publishing.
In his post, Fryer referenced another post by Sarah Kendzior ("What's the Point of Academic Publishing"). The following excerpt encapsulates the argument:
In order to maintain her professional viability, Day stopped work that she and the public found meaningful—work that directly relates to her role as a teacher—in order to have time to produce work that “counts” to a small number of academics. To “count” is not to spread knowledge, as Day did, or develop new ideas, as Higgs did. To “count” is to preserve your professional viability by shoring up disciplinary norms. In most fields, it means to publish behind a paywall, removed from the public eye—and from broader influence and relevance. To “count” is to conform. 
I think all these authors agree, and I don't want this to seem against publishing, it is an important part of being an academic researcher & thinker - academic publishing is important and has its merits. It is a way to share ideas, research that can spur change or support other avenues of study. There is value in a peer review process - those are not the issues, as far as I am concerned. It does seem, however, that it is valued above all other work and other types of publishing. As well, often academic researchers have to give away the copyright to their own work, some journals charge a publishing fee, and then the journal is behind a paywall - and usually a pretty pricey one at that. As well, all to often the goal is to publish - period (but that was the lament in my previous post). I have decided that I will try to publish only in open access journals as I move forward. In terms of the academic game, I am fortunate since I work at a small prairie university whose faculty of ed does value K-12 experience (& I have 30 years of that). I have earned tenure ... now to get some publications so I can go for promotion in a few years! Of course, I must complete this darn P.h.D first ...

Now, I promise not to raise this again, at least for awhile ;-)