UofC Kickoff 2012

Today was the home opener for the UCalgary Dinos men’s football team. They slaughtered the UofA Golden Bears1 . But, lots of campus pride on display. We got to the stadium too late – all of the Kickoff 2012 t-shirts were gone already. The Boy™ was disappointed, but he got over it quickly enough… Footnotes:65-6. […]

Today was the home opener for the UCalgary Dinos men’s football team. They slaughtered the UofA Golden Bears1 . But, lots of campus pride on display. We got to the stadium too late – all of the Kickoff 2012 t-shirts were gone already. The Boy™ was disappointed, but he got over it quickly enough…

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Footnotes:

  1. 65-6. seriously. I lost track of the stats, but it was something like 600 yards for Dinos, and 50 for Bears. I know. Wow.

TEDxUofC

It looks like the University of Calgary is planning a series of TEDx events: TEDxUofC – the first one being next week, just days after the TEDxYYC event. After previously saying I wouldn’t go to a TEDx event because of the way they’re set up, I’m happy to post that they don’t have to be […]

It looks like the University of Calgary is planning a series of TEDx events: TEDxUofC – the first one being next week, just days after the TEDxYYC event.

After previously saying I wouldn’t go to a TEDx event because of the way they’re set up, I’m happy to post that they don’t have to be that way.

Registration for TEDxUofC is open, and cheap. Students get in for $5. Everyone else gets in for $10. It doesn’t get cheaper than that. And there’s no “how awesome are you?” filter on the registration. You prove your awesomeness by showing up.

Now this is interesting. A series of focused events, each on a different topic, open to anyone who wants to come and make a difference. Sure, the speakers are selected ahead of time. Sure, the topics are selected ahead of time. That’s ok, and the way it’s set up looks like it could provide an interesting series of events.

Now, to try to arrange child care for The Boyâ„¢ twice a month, so I can head down to Hotel Alma (the new facility on the main U of C campus). Actually, I wonder if he’d like to go. He is a student, after all…

UofC Kickoff 2009

Today was the annual Kickoff event – the home opener for the U of C Dinos football team, combined with a party welcoming students to campus for another year. This year, the whole family went to the game, and we had a blast. Also, this year was different because it was the first time in […]

Today was the annual Kickoff event – the home opener for the U of C Dinos football team, combined with a party welcoming students to campus for another year. This year, the whole family went to the game, and we had a blast. Also, this year was different because it was the first time in a long, long time that I was able to score the free tickets offered to students…

We had to leave at half time, because it was just too much sun for The Boyâ„¢ to endure, but the first half of the game was a great one. When we left, the Dinos were ahead 10-8 over the Golden Bears. Sounds like the second half was exciting, too, with the Dinos holding onto the slim lead to win the game. Whew.

game - 6dexopen! house!dino pridetakedowngame - 5

UCalgary Dinos vs. UAlberta Golden Bears Kickoff ’08

The Boyâ„¢ and I went to the Kickoff ’08 game, and had a total blast. Lots of fun, and the Dinos won (but we missed the action of the fourth quarter – had to leave a little early with a worn out 5 year old )

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The Boyâ„¢ and I went to the Kickoff ’08 game, and had a total blast. Lots of fun, and the Dinos won (but we missed the action of the fourth quarter – had to leave a little early with a worn out 5 year old :-) )

(slideshow not visible in RSS feed readers)

Syndicating and republishing decentralized content with WordPress

I was going to write up a post describing how to use the cool FeedWordPress plugin for WordPress to syndicate external content into a blog, and republish it in the context of a class or group. But, of course, Jim Groom has beaten me to the punch, and done a much more thorough job of […]

I was going to write up a post describing how to use the cool FeedWordPress plugin for WordPress to syndicate external content into a blog, and republish it in the context of a class or group. But, of course, Jim Groom has beaten me to the punch, and done a much more thorough job of documenting the process than I would/could have done. So, yet again, I’ll just refer to Jim’s work. What I can do is provide a demonstrating workflow to show how FeedWordPress could be used to pull content from one blog into others in the context of a group, project, or class.

Take, for instance, this post I wrote back in July about the Learning Community for Blogging and Student Publishing. It’s published to my blog, and stored in my own outboard brain. But it’s not presented in the context of the University of Calgary.

What about my campus blog at dlnorman.ucalgaryblogs.ca? Should I copy and paste the post there, because it relates to UofC? Nope. I’ve just enabled FeedWordPress on that blog, and anything I publish to my “main” blog using the tag “ucalgary” will automatically get republished on my campus blog.

What about the Learning Communities blog? That post would also be useful to the participants in the project, and I’m not about to expect or compel them all to subscribe to my blog. So I just configured FeedWordPress to pull the “learning communities” feed from my “main” blog and republish posts to the Learning Communities blog.

FeedWordPress in action

FeedWordPress in action

This gives some pretty easy flexibility – I don’t have to manually republish things into various community resources, and I don’t have to make anyone subscribe to anything they don’t want to. If a one-stop-shopping type of resource is useful for a community (class, group, department, etc…) then why break that? Just use syndication and republishing to get the best of both worlds – decentralized publishing and centralized contextualization.

This process also gets around the hassle and confusion of republishing content. I’ve never wanted to publish to any place other than my own blog. I’ve never accepted invitations to write for other blogs. If I want to write something, I’ll publish to my blog. But, with automated syndication and republishing via tag-based feeds, it becomes trivial to allow content to flow into various other blogs and websites where it might be beneficial.

There is one wrinkle in the love fest that is FeedWordPress. Although it can suck categories and tags from items in an RSS feed and put them into categories in the receiving WordPress blog – it doesn’t currently create tags. It just adds category after category after category. Which works, but is messy. Hopefully a future revision of the plugin properly groks the category/tags distinction…

Finally, this post is tagged with “ucalgary” but not “learning communities” so I know it will automagically appear on my campus blog, but not the Learning Communities project blog. And I won’t have to do anything else to make that happen. Very cool stuff.

Learning Community – Blogging and Student Publishing

We held our first gathering of the “Blogging and Student Publishing” learning community last week. It was a small, informal gathering – only a handful of profs were able to make it due to summer schedules, and another handful of staff. I think the small group was actually a very good thing for a first […]

We held our first gathering of the “Blogging and Student Publishing” learning community last week. It was a small, informal gathering - only a handful of profs were able to make it due to summer schedules, and another handful of staff. I think the small group was actually a very good thing for a first gathering, though, as the conversation was extremely engaging and dynamic - something that may have been lost in a larger group. What I loved about this gathering, is that we were able to reproduce much of the vibe from the Social Software Salon event held a couple of years ago at UBC. I’m hoping to to much more of this kind of thing, to get faculty members together and properly caffeinated in order to get the conversations flowing.

We talked about many things, but I think the common thread was that this is really not about “blogging” or even technology. It’s about what happens when students are publishing their own content, and collaborating with each other. What does that mean for assessment? How do you properly engage a class of 100 (or more?) students, having them all publish content, exploring various topics, commenting, thinking critically, and still be able to make sense of that much activity?

Since we stepped back a bit from technology, we defined student publishing more broadly, to also include such things as discussion boards and wikis.

We talked a bit about blogging as an ePortfolio activity - that it may be effective for students to publish various bits of content through their blog(s) and then to let it percolate and filter until the “best” stuff is distilled into what is essentially an ePortfolio - and maybe THAT’s the artifact that gets assessed. The activity through the blogs is important, but every student will participate in a different way. Maybe it would be a valuable thing to even make blogging itself an optional thing - but those who don’t participate will have had less feedback and refinement of their ePortfolio artifacts.

I gave a quick demo of the eduglu prototype site to show some of the strategies could be used to make the workload more manageable - social filtering of content within the site, organic groups based on projects and topics, etc… There was a fair amount of interest in those ideas, and I’ll be refining the prototype over the summer.

We’re going to be having learning community gatherings on a regular basis - I’m hoping to have more faculty come out to the August event (date TBD), and have it keep growing from there.

I’m also starting work on a learning community around mobile learning (mobile devices as a platform for teaching and learning), and another on course design (to tie in with our ISW and FTC programmes here at the TLC).

My next immediate task for the learning communities project is to polish off the community hub website - which will provide a place for coordinating the various communities, as well as providing a way for faculty and staff to identify and create their own communities.

Links discussed during the gathering:

on learning communities

I’ve been working on organizing a project I’ve called “Learning Communities” here at UCalgary. It’s still a bit amorphous, but that’s actually part of the plan. What I’m going to do is offer resources and support to any communities on campus so that they can effectively get together and share what they’re doing. I’ll facilitate […]

I’ve been working on organizing a project I’ve called “Learning Communities” here at UofC. It’s still a bit amorphous, but that’s actually part of the plan. What I’m going to do is offer resources and support to any communities on campus so that they can effectively get together and share what they’re doing. I’ll facilitate meetings, find guest speakers, search for resources, organize presentations, or whatever else is needed for these communities to share the interesting things they’re doing (or want to be doing) on campus.

The project has been directly inspired by two existing projects that have been extremely successful. First, is Cole Camplese’s really amazing Community Hubs project at Penn State. The PSU ETS team has rolled out support for 13 communities that have been identified (so far) across the various PSU campuses. The communities share resources in both face-to-face sessions, and through the website created by ETS just for that community. Support and services are provided as needed. And, the activities culminate as sessions in the annual TLT Symposium conference at PSU. I haven’t been lucky enough to attend one of the Symposia, but from all accounts they sound like incredibly powerful events that solidify the physical and tangible sense of community, resulting in a highly effective professional development programme for PSU faculty and staff.

The other primary inspiration has been Jennifer Jones‘ work with Viral Professional Development at Bellingham Technical College. This is an equally inspiring project, where resources are provided and shared, and the professional development activities are really run by the faculty members themselves through a series of “play and learn” sessions. Instructors play with new tools, discuss pedagogy and techniques, and explore together in a safe environment before trying what they’ve learned in their own classes. By putting the faculty members themselves in the driver’s seats, Jen has been able to model and reinforce some amazingly powerful strategies - with a very strong pull from the grassroots levels of the institution.

So, how have these two radically different projects inspired what I’m trying to set up here at UofC? I really want to borrow heavily from the PSU model, where resources and support are offered to a wide variety of communities. I love that these communities are primarily face-to-face, and that the discussions are extended through websites provided by ETS. And the annual TLT Symposium is definitely something I’m going to try to get going here as well - taking the learning communities and providing them a showcase to gather and share not only with each other but with others who may be interested.

And, I want to take the grassroots and viral nature of Jen’s VPD work, and try to scale that across a fairly sizable campus. The most direct way I’m going to try this is by not predefining the communities. I’m going to handpick one or two just to get things going, but will work hard to make it easy for faculty members (and staff, and grad students, and possibly others) to identify, create, organize and join their own learning communities on any topic. And I’ll work hard to find resources to support all of these communities. Ideally, these communities will be about more than just technology - I’d love to see learning communities form around topics such as “large enrollment classes” and “storytelling” - with several technology-related topics also forming. I’m hoping to keep things extremely flexible, open, and organic, so there may be overlap between various communities (technologically and/or pedagogically).

Is it going to be successful? It’s way too early to tell. It could fly like a lead balloon. But, I think it’s important to try to put as much of an effort into providing effective professional development for our faculty as is possible, so it’s worth a shot.