Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Into the 'Atmosphir'



Have I mentioned how much I love this amazing video game design platform?

I've been in on the beta testing of Atmosphir for a couple of months now, and I'm constantly amazed by the power of this application.

Atmosphir is available on all platforms (Mac, PC, & Linux).

Do yourself a favour and head over to the Atmosphir website to get yourself invited into the beta testing :-) Not only will you be able to quickly and easily design and play your own levels, but you can also play and edit the levels that have been designed by all other Atmosphir users...

While you're at their website, you'll also find many awesome walkthroughs that demonstrate many of the features found within this video game design platform, like the one below :-)





Monday, December 8, 2008

Alone in the Twitterverse?


The Twitterverse.

Just how quickly is this global community growing, and how many other communities has it replaced for you?

Twitter has become a mainstay within my online profile. I gain knowledge through the Twitterverse every day, and I try to give back to my 'tweeps as often as possible.

My Twitter network is NOT vast. I'm currently following the tweets of about 100 people on Twitter, mostly edubloggers and educators, and there are currently about 65 people following my tweets. As far as I'm concerned, the size of my network doesn't matter - followers come and followers go - it's the quality of my network that matters most.

For that reason, I find it necessary to undergo periodic grooming of my Twitter network - the odd 'twitticure', so to speak. In fact, it's almost time for another twitticure, to trim away some of the unwanted / unneeded parts of my Twitter network.

Twitter has become a very valuable tool for me, and I am constantly touting its' benefits to other educators who aren't already converted. But one thing that I've found is that it can be tough for those who aren't that 'connected' to begin forming their own Twitter network.

Thankfully, many blog posts and wikis are beginning to identify lists of people to follow on Twitter. These are great resources to develop for newbies and veterans alike, and I hope that many of these lists continue to grow and flourish.

What would you share with someone who's looking for a sure-fire way to grow their network?

What advice could you share to help a newbie get started with Twitter?

in 140 characters or less ;-)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm 'it' - thoughts on Wordle

So, here it is the morning of 'Awakening Possibilities' and I've got a million and one things to do. However, the first thing I saw in my Twitter feed was that I'd been tagged by John Evans in a Wordle meme. Since this is my first time being tagged in a meme, I felt I better make this a priority.

I've used Wordle several times in the past to create these unique word clouds. However, I've never created a Wordle with a blog RSS feed. I didn't realize that it was so easy to do this directly within Wordle.

This wordle was created with the RSS feed of this blog:

Image Source - http://www.wordle.net/gallery/wrdl/346188/TECH_Talks

But, I also went on to create a Wordle with the RSS feed of another blog that I've been spending more time with as of late. This one's based on the IGNITE@Brooklands blog, which has been a space for 9 and 10 years olds to reflect on their experiences as they take part in a 3-day IGNITE Camp, designed to promote interest in technology and engineering.


I wanted to see how the two Wordles differed based on the target audiences. You see, TECH Talks is my professional blog, whereas the focus of IGNITE@Brooklands is the elementary students who are involved with IGNITE Camp.

As soon as I saw each of my Wordles appear before my eyes, two things became immediately apparent:

1) It's amazing how accurately Wordle captures the main focus and concepts. It's so obvious to see where my current interests lay, and it forces me to reflect on how my understanding of these concepts is taking shape :-)
Link
2) The language that is used is so different dependent on the two target audiences.

Thanks for including me in this meme, John. It's always good to take the time to reflect on your own learning and understanding. It's all about 'Awakening Possibilities' that exist with all of the emerging technologies that we have available...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Interest IGNITEd :-)


For the last three days, I've been hosting an IGNITE Camp at one of the elementary schools in my division. The idea behind IGNITE is to 'IGNite Interest in Technology and Engineering'. This is done through building electronic circuits, dismantling computers and building/programming robots using LEGO Mindstorm kits. While engaging in all of these activities, the Grade 4/5 students were given cameras and encouraged to document everything through photos. We blogged about our experiences at IGNITE@Brooklands, we created VoiceThreads with our observations, and the students also created videos by assembling all of the many photos that they had collected throughout the three days.

IGNITE is a program that was initiated by IBM a few years ago, and our provincial Department of Education has modified IBM's initial concept for this program so that there are more curricular connections for the students and the activities are more global than compartmentalized...

We had many visitors throughout the three days - administrators, consultants, teachers and parents. Everyone who popped in was amazed by how engaged ALL of the students were. Thanks, MECY & IBM, for the opportunity to host IGNITE. Looking forward to seeing what happens over the next couple of weeks when we run two more IGNITE Camps :-)

BTW, I closed today's session by sharing Dean Kamen's TED Talks presentation. Dean's the inventor of the Segway, and he was approached by the US government to develop a prosthetic arm for injured veterans What he put together in only 13 months will astound you...



Enjoy,
Andy

Monday, November 17, 2008

'Awakening Possibilities'


Consider this your official invitation to attend 'Awakening Possibilities', a live event being held in Winnipeg, Canada the evening of November 27th, 2008. I've been pouring a lot of time and energy into putting together this event as a follow-up to last year's MB Edubloggercon, which was sponsored by ManACE. Not only do we want to see you there, but we also want you to help us spread the word about 'Awakening Possibilities', so please share the following .pdf wherever you see fit - print in out and hang it in your staffroom, e-mail it to a friend, or post it on your blog or wiki -

'Awakening Possibilities' will feature short presentations by many prominent edubloggers. We'll hear from Darren Kuropatwa, Clarence Fisher, Chris Harbeck and John Evans, all of whom will be in attendance. We'll also hear from Alec Couros, Kathy Cassidy, Jeff Utecht and Dean Shareski, all of whom will be presenting virtually at 'Awakening Possibilities'.

We'd love to have you join us for 'Awakening Possibilities'. If you'll be anywhere near Winnipeg on November 27th, 2008, send me an e-mail to get involved - andy@mckiel.ca

Of course, no matter where you are, you can participate online. To find out more about this event, please visit the 'Awakening Possibilities' wiki.

I hope to see you there :-)
Andy

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Incredible Journey

Image: 'Goldstream River' - www.flickr.com/photos/41864721@N00/2998189077

I have traveled out to Vancouver Island at least twenty times and there are many things that I love about the island. I've spent the last twenty years living in the prairies, but I'm not prairie born or bred, so I'm drawn to the mountains and the ocean. I love to get out on the water, sit on the beach and watch the waves roll in, and go for hikes to discover the panoramic vistas that await.

I've finally accomplished one of my longest-standing goals when visiting Vancouver Island - witnessing the salmon run. Typically, I only get to the island during the summer months or over the winter break, so the timing is off. Therefore, when I was invited to attend a November conference in Vancouver, I planned to hop onto the ferry and attempt to catch the coho as they trekked upstream.

For those of you who have witnessed the salmon run firsthand, I'm sure you'd agree that it is an awe-inspiring experience. They fight so hard to make progress up the river, knowing full well that once they reach their destination, they've truly reached the end of their journey.

I tried to capture the essence of the salmon run in the following video. While it is impossible to bring this experience to life without witnessing it firsthand, this video should give you an idea of the scope and magnitude of the challenges that the coho salmon face as they push onward and upward... enjoy :-)

The Salmon Run
video

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Futility


Over the last few days, I've felt like banging my head against the wall on more than one occasion. The hotel where my conference is being held, and where I've spent the last couple of nights, claims to offer wireless Internet access to all of it's guests. The picture above captures the essence of the quality of their wireless access - a snapshot of a 3.3 MB download that still requires 18 minutes to complete...

I guess I've just become used to connecting to the internet at much faster speeds than this, because I feel so restricted by ridiculously slow connection speeds. Although my connection almost never times out, it is painfully slow even for menial tasks like loading flash-free webpages.

Last night, I almost went off on a little rant about this issue, when it took me 40 minutes to attach a 2 MB file to an e-mail that had to be sent. I was prepared to question whether the hotel even had the right to call this access. But I'm glad I caught myself, because I was reminded of the fact that for many people around the globe, access doesn't come any better than this. I sometimes take it for granted that the fast reliable access that I have day in and day out is an experience shared by all, which certainly isn't the case.

As frustrating as this can be, it pays to remember that slow access is far superior to no access...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Down By The Bay... follow me :-)

I've been in Vancouver for the last couple of days for some SMART sessions, and I wanted to get out and see some of the sights around town. I decided to go for a 'little' walk - almost seven hours of meandering around Vancouver's vibrant streets and serene sea walls.

I've embedded my adventures from last evening into the following Google Map. Take a closer look at some of the great views along the way :-)

All Around Town


View Larger Map

There's no better way to learn a city than to get lost in it's streets and rivers.
Hope you've enjoyed my adventures :-)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Five Minutes to make a difference.

Image: 'cinderella' - www.flickr.com/photos/14784969@N08/2580895303

In this day and age, time is of the essence.

Every day, I'm forced to consider how to make the best use of my time. I like to think that I manage my time fairly wisely. However, I always find I end up a few minutes short when it comes to having enough time to accomplish all of my daily goals. There just isn't enough time in the day. As much as Merlin Mann's 43 Folders blog helps me along with my efficiency and productivity, I still find I could use just a few more minutes each day...

This is a common complaint I hear from the teachers with whom I work - time is of the essence. Too many teachers shy away from emerging technologies and web tools because they feel that they just don't have the time. They don't see the fact that many of these tools can increase their productivity and lead them toward more creative and innovative ways to reach their goals and objectives.

How much of a difference could five more minutes make? This is an idea I've been pondering for some time now. I think it was probably triggered by a comment that Darren Kuropatwa made in one of the first K12 Online Conference podcasts released earlier this year. Darren mentioned a presentation he was asked to give for the administrators in his division. He was given five minutes to share his knowledge of blogging. Darren's first thought was that five minutes wasn't even enough time for a proper introduction - what more could be shared in only five minutes? But the longer he thought about it, the more he realized that it is possible to pack a wealth of information into only five minutes.

You can make a big difference with only five minutes - just watch Chris Lehmann's ignitePhilly presentation for proof of this:



Look at the growing popularity of TED Talks and all of the many steaming video services afforded by the web. YouTube is single-handedly changing our media viewing habits because we all crave what it has to offer - and we feel that we can spare a few minutes here and there much more easily than committing ourselves to a task that's much longer in duration.

If you had five minutes to make a difference, what would you do with it?

Five minutes to make a difference.
That's all I want...


Thanks for reading,
Andy

Thursday, October 16, 2008

When Your Hands Are Tied...

Image: 'Gassa d'amante' - www.flickr.com/photos/11779957@N07/2521208486

Wouldn't the world be a much easier place to live if you always had the power and ability to control situations that are sometimes beyond your control?

For example, filtering web content.

Divisional web filtering solutions can sometimes pose such barriers to us as educators. While I fully appreciate the need to limit the access students have to some of the virtual trash that the Internet houses, I think we're shooting ourselves in the foot by blocking everything that may pose a risk to our students.

We strive to teach our students all about the ethical and responsible use of technology. In doing so, we discuss some of the dangers associated with sharing private information. We work with our students to help them understand that their online actions leave a permanent mark. We encourage our students to show the same level of respect for their online acquaintances as they would with their off-line peers.

When it comes to accessing online content, we tend to tighten the leash on our students and deny them access to some valuable resources. Many divisions block YouTube content. Twitter use isn't allowed by a number of the divisions in my province. In fact, in many divisions, access to a number of the free and useful online tools that pop up each day will be blocked by the time these tools become mainstream.

Why do divisions/districts feel such a strong need to restrict access to this content? Is it for the sake of the students or are we filtering this content from the teachers? If it's because we don't want our students to stumble upon content that may not be appropriate for them, we're really wasting our time. In most developed and developing regions, students have more access to technology at home than they do at school. And too many parents don't pay close enough attention to how their children use technology at home. If a student wants to access inappropriate material online they will, whether they do it at school or at home.

If we had open access to the good and the bad in all of our schools, I think it would empower teachers to engage their students in more discussions about the ethical and responsible use of technology. Sure, allowing our students to visit YouTube may result in a few minutes of wasted time, but it could also generate some great discussions, motivate reluctant learners, and encourage a great deal of collaboration. I get jealous when I read Clarence's posts about his students uploading videos to YouTube, because I know that many of the teachers in my division would love to do this with their students, but their hands are tied :-(

Although it's frustrating when our hands are tied, bringing more people into the fray may help to loosen the knots.

Here's hoping...




Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Smallest Footprint

Image: 'We've come this far.' - www.flickr.com/photos/79105258@N00/737263197

Sustainability has become a very relevant issue in many of our lives today. With the exponential growth evident in all aspects of society today, there is an increasing need to take stock of the effect our species is having on the environment.

The threat that we are depleting our natural resources is not new. The fact that we are wasting many of our 'renewable' resources has been evident for decades. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth shed much light on this issue a couple of years ago. More recently, The Story of Stuff opened our eyes to the amount of waste we create and showed us some of the errors of our ways. But the fact remains that the destruction of our planet is still continuing at an alarming rate and little is being done to stop it.

Last Friday, my school division had the insight to invite Dr. David Suzuki to speak to us via video-conference from British Columbia. Dr. Suzuki has long been an advocate of the environment and he has fought hard for many years to preserve our natural surroundings. According to Suzuki, the peril of the environment is imminent and we must act now to save the environment. We must all strive to do our bit to protect and preserve nature in it's truest form. And right now, the key to having a voice on this matter is to raise the issue of environmental activism with our political candidates. The fate of our nation rests in our hands and on October 14th, that fate will be determined for the next several years. What happens to the environment really isn't our problem. It's a problem that we're passing on to our kids and our grandkids. It's not enough to simply teach our kids about these problems and offer solutions. We must act on behalf of our children. They don't have a voice when it comes to voting - our children need us to act on their behalf.

As we move forward as a country and look to the future of our government, we must ensure that the party that's voted into power in Canada will do their part. Rather than passively observing and documenting all of the ill-effects that our planet is suffering, they must take a stand and act now. We must all take it upon ourselves to raise the issue of the environment and question our candidates in this regard. How are they prepared to act if they get elected?

We've heard all of this before, but what have we done about it?

What have you, personally, done about it?

I feel very strongly that technology holds the key to solving a lot of our sustainability issues. Technology is responsible for giving us the big picture in terms of what's happening on a global level. Rather than focusing on smaller community challenges and solutions, we can act on a much larger scale. Technology brings us together in such a way that we really can work collaboratively and find solutions to the problems that are affecting us the world over.

For the benefit of our planet, we must focus on reducing our 'footprint' on the earth. We have to move towards more sustainable practices, and we must help others to do the same.

As one person, what are you prepared to do in order to leave the smallest footprint?

For those of you who would like to hear Dr. David Suzuki share some of his views of what he would do if he were elected as our Prime Minister, check out this audio podcast, recorded at Queen's University last year:


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Connections

Image: 'How Small Can Big Be' - www.flickr.com/photos/8523711@N05/2182689585

For the past few weeks, I've been participating peripherally in CCK08 (Connectivism & Connective Knowledge), the massive open online course that is being facilitated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. While I'm not nearly as involved with this course as I'd like to be, I do feel as if I've gained a lot through my participation. George and Stephen are to be commended for their efforts in pulling this off so smoothly - I shudder at the prospect of trying to coordinate regular uStream and Elluminate sessions with a potential audience of over 1900 students. While there have typically only been about 50 participants in these sessions to date, they've pulled it all off without a hitch :-) Kudos!

I have always been intrigued by the value of networks. Networking with others is, and has always been, a key indicator of success. I have friends and family members who are in business for themselves, and they all say that networking is the single biggest key to their success. Of course, networks take many different forms and have many unique functions.

Through my involvement with ManACE (the Manitoba Association For Computing Educators), I network a lot with some very well connected technology educators around the province. I have gained a great deal of knowledge through my participation on the ManACE board. I have also contributed a great deal through my involvement with this organization.

I value the knowledge I have acquired through my role in my various interpersonal networks. However, I'm only just beginning to develop and explore the learning opportunities that exist as a result of my participation within various online networks.

I've dabbled in Facebook and dickered with Second Life. I'm tweeting more with Twitter and can't get by without an RSS ticker. I'm well versed in all things web 2.0 and I see the potential that exists to glean knowledge from my online networks.

Over the years, I can honestly say that I've experienced an equal amount of give and take through my face to face connections with others. But when it comes to my online connections, I've been too much of a lurker for too long. I've lingered on the fringes of my online networks and I've collected a bunch of knowledge that I've really only been sharing effectively with small groups of people through my traditional networks. I have come to the realization that I need to find more ways to give back to some of the people in my online networks. It's time for me to find more ways to reciprocate and share some of the knowledge that I've been guarding.

Knowledge doesn't do anyone any good if it's locked away somewhere and is not being shared effectively. The time has come for me to focus on the maintenance of my connections and ensure that information and knowledge continue to flow through me. It's time for me to give back and strengthen my connections.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Raising Your Voice

Image: 'Me suena' - www.flickr.com/photos/40421323@N00/2875972610

If you've got something important to say, what's the best way to make sure that people hear it?
Easy... tell someone.

But let's say that you have an idea that you think could change the world... how does one little person get their one little idea out into the hands of everyone else in the great big world? Is it enough just to raise your voice in order to make sure that you're heard by more people?

I think not. This is where the title for this blog post originated. Rather than raising your voice, I think the real issue becomes: 'How do you talk so that people will listen?' If you're trying to really implement change, do you have to tell lots of people, or just tell the right people?

I think Google's onto something with Project 10^100. Encouraging people to share their innovative ideas in a public forum will lead to some amazing thinking. I can't wait to see the innovation that is generated from this venture. Of course, the ideas will really be brought to life when people start to talk about them and create some buzz. Ultimately, whatever Google sires through this project will be far greater than the sum of its collective parts.

Talking so that people will listen is a concept that I've been tossing around in my head for some time now. I don't like to raise my voice, yet I do like to be heard. So how do I get my message across?

I'm still trying to find my voice.



Monday, September 22, 2008

Identity. Identit(ies)?


Who are you? Who do you want to be?

Identity. Identit(ies)?

That's the allure of the internet for many people today. The fact that, through our online lives, we can be anyone we want to be. This is the reason that social networking sites have grown so entrenched in society today. This is also the reason that so many virtual worlds are thriving. The internet allows everyone to be who they want to be, even if it's just for a little while.

For a long time, I've struggled with deciding who I want to be. In real life, I'm lots of people. Those people close to me know me as a family man. Those people with whom I work may know me as an educator. Some of the people I serve on boards and committees with may think of me as an innovator. In real life, I am many different people and sometimes the boundaries can become quite blurred. For example, as a father of two young girls, I sometimes teach my children lessons as a teacher would do for their students. As an educator, I often try to tie ideas and people together to support mentoring and collaboration.

Online, I have a lot of identities that compliment my real-world identity. While some people create various online identities to fill a void that exists in their real life, I try to use my online identities to further develop aspects of my real life. But I don't think that I've been as successful with this as I'd like. I spend a lot of time managing my online identities - too much time. Managing your online identity is something that I think too many people overlook.

Managing multiple identities can be tough. All identities, real and virtual, need to be nurtured in order to survive and flourish. I've seen a number of my online identities flourish and then flounder because they haven't been given the attention that they deserve.

My identit(ies). That's what this blog is all about. I've dabbled in blogging for a few years and, to be honest, I don't think I've ever done it really well. I've never really stuck with it or been commited enough to it. In most cases, I've blogged as a way of documenting my real-life adventures. My blogs have each served a specific purpose for a fixed time and place, documenting and developing various aspects of my real life. I've always moved too quickly on to the next chapter or the next tool, prematurely ready to adopt new identities that haven't always meshed with my existing identities.

Enter TECH Talks. This is where it all begins for me again. You see, I've had some time to think about which identities I'm prepared to grow and nurture, and which identities are going to fall by the wayside - so long, and thanks for the memories.

This blog will be a place where I can play with my identities. A place where people can come to learn all about me. TECH Talks will be both a forum for me to share some of the things that I've created, and it will be a place to highlight some of the things that have been shared with me.

In establishing the TECH Talks blog, I'm not just creating a new identity that's on par with all my other identities. This is the one that matters. This is what it's all about.

TECH Talks is how I want to be seen.
It's the me I want to be.

My new identity.