Tag Archives: potcert

Moving On

Began work on a wiki today note taken on the OCTEL MOOC to pass onto our director of teaching and get a few followers at the college (I hope) until our teacher training program can kick in. There’s some chance we will lose the HD mechanic SME and program builder unless he is given some assistance in teaching which has as yet to be supplied. There seems to be a continual mixup of people and resources that’s become the norm here and if staff doesn’t initiate on their own, nothing will happen.

As for me, there is one priority project to complete involving converting a set of biology courses from html pages to Moodle 2.2. Have been at this for a couple of months and was finally supplied with the directions on how I’m supposed to do it. No indication at the beginning that there were specifications and editorial standards beyond the usual for this type of conversion and it’s nice to finally get them:-)

As for losing my job June 30 I’ve decided to move on and not take a possible contract position here. Working conditions continue to worsen and all we’ve built in in almost 6 years has been erased in the last week. Change only comes when the chemestry is right and this place is not ready or even capable of moving anywhere except backward. Just not in the culture of this place to support people unless it advances certain others and the daily dissapointments are simply not worth enduring any more.

So on we go to somewhere else and in the mean time I’ll try and fill in enough of the wiki to make it worth visiting. Would also like to write down some of the things that show why an institution isn’t ready to change. But not at the moment.


My job ends on June 30. The college was expecting the first budget increase in a number of years to come in at about +2% (promised in the most recent election). Instead we are being cut about 7% plus losing 225 students in academic upgrading to a new public school model that will “allow” failing students to continue in high school until they are 21 on the assumption that eventually the same methods of teaching will work. Since most of our upgrade students have dropped out before HS and perform below 8th grade levels this move will essentially remove these people from any educational system.

As for exact numbers, staff let go are mixed in with staff being hired into the yet to be announced restructuring plan. Know are 14 instructors gone and many that are taking early retirement among the staff. Our department of “Learning Design and Technology” is to drop from 7 mixed staff to 2 instructional designers and ¾ of a media person. Two of us are gone, one is still on undetermined sick leave, 1¼ move to Public Relations. Many of the things we did are to be subcontracted out and it appears other positions across the college lost will be refilled by contract employees or casuals.

All these changes are the result of surprise government cuts and do not involve the college administration beyond having to figure out some way to save the college from collapsing. I have my opinions but they don’t help. This side of change is not the happy side where we go on to new and better things. This is where you have to force yourself to not be bitter and poison yourself—not easy. In addition we all have to function at some level until we are dumped and this includes helping those who will stay on. Please don’t assume I’m taking this with grace, many of the people surviving have never done anything beyond performing as expected and it is unfair that they survive and I’m gone.

As with all change, there are some positives but I’m going to have to think about them and not come up with some phony happy ending.

Interesting links:
Givers take all: The hidden dimension of corporate culture

This article covers some very good points about helping teachers with technology. Observations in the replies are worth reading too:
How to Get Hesitant Teachers to Use Technology http://plpnetwork.com/2013/03/27/hesitant-teachers-technology/


Thought I might be able to catch up in the class… Not going to happen:-( Technology really isn’t my thing. I use it at work all day and love the many things it affords but the fact is, the students our school serves can’t afford technology and adoption of more and more tech mediated “schooling” is simply pushing them away. It might be that a new form of teaching growing from tech will help? Tech itself will remain a rich kids toy and out of our students’ lives for some time to come.

That said, even here in the far north, technology is important and our best chance of getting some part of it to our marginalized students is by having their teachers introduce it in a way that pares it down to being affordable and relevant. Only… are the faculty actually interested? Up to now part of the reason we haven’t been able to connect to all the great things that might help distribute education is the lack of faculty interest in teaching applications that don’t reach “their” students. Most see no advantage and some refuse to adopt even Moodle use and this is a significant factor.

Or I think that’s it. For years I’ve been feeding tech tips and free training courses like this one into the faculty development department system at work without any response or evidence of it being used. It’s frustrating and after years of it I was just deciding to give up and along comes our brand new dean of Teaching and Learning asking me to build all the information into a “Faculty Resource” in the shared folder area we use for cross-department messaging. (Turns out the new dean helped build a program in “Hope Studies” and nursing theory that I volunteered to help pilot a few years back through another college so not all free courses come to nothing).

Not entirely sure what to include but I’ve got at best a month before the person who “runs” faculty training gets back from sick leave. In addition the person who’s been hired to help her comes on board soon too and the silo doors will slam closed again. This has to be done from home as there is too much work at work at the moment to stop work on current projects during paid time for this. Anyway, in the weird world of education I’m “not qualified” to do this and paying me challenges the notion that learning is strictly confined to the school room to be of any real value:-)

Not sure where to start? Tutorials in Moodle come to mind as a beginning. We have two people to provide help with Moodle who naturally need to attend to the students first. Not sure why the instructional staff have been avoiding Moodle as every class we offer is either based in it or has a companion site tied into it. It could be that training allowances allow people to go away and PD happens on lunch breaks without compensation. (People are overworked and need their lunches).

Doesn’t matter, with cut-backs our Moodle help will be dedicated to student needs only and faculty will have to train through PD–and now prove they have taken the training. By the way, this is a stage all schools will experience as cut-backs gut staff and all the informal relationships that sustain the organization (like my informal Moodle help services to instructors off the side of my desk) disappear.

Time to start collecting Moodle tutorials. Already have a list to review and also think I’ll throw in some samples of quality sites for extra course content. We hired someone last year who collected thousands of mostly candy and fortunately this spring we have someone new who sends in great stuff. It might be worth doing a compare and contrast to explain the difference? Might have time.

Speaking of this here is a good site for scientific images and short lessons:
2012 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge
> http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6119/518.full <

And a good picture of street proofed Little Red Riding Hood:

Our video person

Sending this along to show off some work by our video producer. This link takes you to the college page: http://www.portagecollege.ca/News_Front/College_Employee_Wins_Video_Contest.htm and the link to her video is at the bottom. Due to our northern location and somewhat rough lifestyle is can be very difficult to people to move here and stay. On the other hand, this means opportunities, especially for young people starting careers.


Before I can start another assignment for potcert I need to figure out how to disassemble some courses built a few years ago on a Flash platform that is very nice but will not play with our upgrade to Moodle 2.2. Essentially there are three types of file embedded into the interface and there must be a way to reassemble the files in some way that will make the very costly courses useable again.

I could put this down to a limitation of the LMS to adapt to all interface models but really this was an experiment that seemed promising at the time and when technologies changed to courses were left in the cold.

Will keep track of the project and post as often and as soon as I can.


Thoughts on our LMS

Before this question came up here in POTCERT I hadn’t thought much about our Moodle LMS. Working with it at the entry and editing level, Moodle seems about as exciting and worthy of thinking about as the pavement in the parking lot or maybe a drab old filing cabinet. It’s just a display case with a few operating levers but otherwise lifeless.

Now to think of it as something with potential qualities reminds me that I’ve never been trained in it and in fact never cared to be trained and this might explain my neutral relationship to something I spend 8 hours a day working with. Titled in the vein of the tragic life of lowly courseware clerk and the chilling indifference of the bloodless Learning Management System might make this a more interesting story but I am at a loss to come up with observations of much value.

Our largest limitation is bandwidth and the reality of students on dial up internet. This is not the fault of Moodle though it would be nice if we could partition off portions of each class so students could work at, say, a chapter level without having to load the whole course each time. Not sure how to do this technically but there must be some way to daisy chain chunks of courses together to lighten each segment to only that needed? The advantage would be a greater use of visuals without having to link out to them which creates a maintenance problem when sites go dark part way through a class. We are fortunate to have great graphic design and video people on staff and would love to build more in-house allowing their creativity to shine even more. And practically, the content we are subbing out is more polished but creates a constant crisis of late delivery and high costs better spent on our staff. We cut quality in other places to pay for bad sub-contractor performance, get nothing but grief for being over schedule and over budget and then work unpaid overtime to get thing up and “live” hours before classes start. Because we have a production studio and talent we only need subs for impossible deadline jobs anyway. Of course that’s 99% of the work load

Having our school contained within a complex electronic mechanism we are forced to think of school as a place without color or lively activity and now that I think of it, this creates a sort of dull-light-on-a-foggy-afternoon practicality that has been noted but we take as normal. Or maybe not normal but a fight we’ve already had over the predictable crashing of the system every time a bit of fun gets going. The LMS has become the whole college’s business as it integrates further into every corner and it seems like everyone else thinks of Moodle as a musty old spreadsheet of decaying data rather than a lively dance floor. Guess the name says it: Learning Management System with emphasis on Management and away from Learning. Single system solutions appeal to administration but I wonder if there are really advantages to being dependent on single platforms for everything?

Word has it a rather famous online university housed about 50 miles from us had customized their Moodle 1.9 to the point that it may take years to upgrade to version 2.0. Think in terms of technology a person tends to think quick responses, flexibility, staying current and a sort of energy swirling around the core learning mandate. When a system “integrates” across departments it risks becoming “owned” or controlled by conflicting interests which in turn makes it a political object to fight over. For instance, integrating registration into Moodle makes the whole system subject to security protocols the make a mess of editing access and teacher/administrator permissions. We’ve had to build a second file sharing location on a separate server to trade files and every time the power spikes it seems we all need new passwords or firewalls spring up blocking exactly what you wanted to work on. This is more like living in an occupied city that working in a college setting. (Except for us boomers who went to physically occupied campuses during the Vietnam War).

I really enjoyed reading the “Rebuilding the LMS for the 21st Century” article. The chance to have a “platform” dedicated to learning sounds very attractive and worth looking into. Pearson’s OpenClass sounds worth looking into though again I hear the universality and integration words that speak of too many cooks in the LMS. And then there’s concept of “hosting” and being dependent on outside maintenance and support that costs a fortune and can be extremely unreliable.

At some point the ideas of “distributed education” and the “learning society” will probably melt all this into the background but for now the LMS is a piece of complexity we have to deal with. Maybe we need to install screens on parking meters and for a quarter a chapter you can get your lessons on the street named after the course and pick up your diplomas printed on parking tickets or stamped on tokens good for the next year’s curriculum.

Chapter 7 sort of

This article came in just after Christmas:
Research for Practitioners: How to Improve Knowledge Retention
By Julie Dirksen
December 26, 2012 http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1080/?utm_campaign=lsmag&utm_medium=email&utm_source=lsm-news

Article itself on a recent study of knowledge retention is behind a membership wall at the eLearning Guild. An alternate by the study’s authors’ is available here:

Click to access karpicke-sci11a.pdf

Whole report here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6018/772.abstract?sid=3a378ac2-ba8f-4cab-82b7-4ebfe4eb3b07 (free, but requires registration).

Quoting from the abstract:

“Educators rely heavily on learning activities that
encourage elaborative studying, while activities that
require students to practice retrieving and reconstructing
knowledge are used less frequently. Here, we show that
practicing retrieval produces greater gains in meaningful
learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping.
The advantage of retrieval practice generalized across
texts identical to those commonly found in science
education. The advantage of retrieval practice was
observed with test questions that assessed comprehension
and required students to make inferences. The advantage
of retrieval practice occurred even when the criterial test
involved creating concept maps. Our findings support the
theory that retrieval practice enhances learning by
retrieval-specific mechanisms rather than by elaborative
study processes. Retrieval practice is an effective tool to
promote conceptual learning about science.”

As someone with a history of crashing on tests, plus training in graphic arts, it has always been a wonder that mapping has consistently failed me as a study technique. Having been assessed a number of times as a “visual learner” the only conclusions are that I initially construct maps that already evidence misunderstandings. Or that my memory is like Swiss cheese—nothing, even visuals, stays there for long. Or, yikes! elaboration by visuals, metaphors or other cues intrudes on my verbal constructions—this is a principal of user interface design—and confuses the message?

This topic also caught my attention because the majority of the tests and exams I load into online courses are purely based on recognition or recall. To my mind, neither of these methods of “knowing” gives evidence of learning beyond surface registry. There’s nothing lasting here. Which begs the question–why bother teaching things that are strictly temporary and then test at the shallowest level? How low can expectations go? Having two journeyman’s licenses in carpentry and gas fitting I understand that some abstractly “known” concepts need to be held for use later in the field (and even for passing exams) but when the whole of your learning experience is based on the promise of possible potential utility in an unknown future of shifting eventualities aren’t we skating pretty close to nonsensical knowledge?

Anyway, according to the authors, the results of the study:

“…suggests a conceptualization of mind and
learning that is different from one in which encoding places
knowledge in memory and retrieval simply accesses that
stored knowledge. Because each act of retrieval changes
memory, the act of reconstructing knowledge must be
considered essential to the process of learning.”

To me this is a clue to why blogging (or any sort of reflection on course subject matter) enhances learning. Ever time something is brought out it not only strengthens memory, it is learned again and likely from a slightly different perspective. As speculation it might be that there is an advantage in having things remain malleable rather than fixed in place by certainty or dogma? That learning is a continuum poorly appreciated by testing as we practice them now?

Terms used:

Retrieval practice: used here had student study a science text and then recall as much as they could. Later, they studied again and repeated the recall for a second time. This double recall practice is designed on the assumption that students are retrieving concepts from long-term memory, hence the term “Retrieval Practice.”

Concept Mapping: considered an active learning task, vital concepts are written down as nodes then linked together by relationship to each other. Similar but not the same as mind maps and topic maps, concept maps attempt to graph whole systems by illustrating how various components (nodes) influence, modify or enhance each other. Very useful for science studies.

Recall vs Recognition: recognition involves picking the right option from the list while recall asks the student to pull answers from memory.


As a counter to my reflection written from frustration it’s important to credit the actual speaking in public of doubts and irritations with blogging as a course requirement have pointed out a need to discover more on the subject. Talking to yourself out loud and then reviewing the recording seems to have the characteristics of maybe not psychological importance but it does carry the quality of action in a learning environment where responding is integral and it may not be necessary for replies to come from outside. Awareness of being in a learning space (as a sort of imaginary witness to the words and behaviours of residents within the space–or maybe as a space governed by social contract to certain standards) has a transformative effect that I have trouble explaining yet feels important to the purpose and justification of blogging as an educational object.

Can it be as simple (simple?) as the act of writing causing something to jump into a different level of perception? Not only the ability to view what was formerly a vague thought without need for supporting logic, but an affirmation of importance and “realness” set loose? Obviously, I could tak this into a corner so task is not to answer myself now and move back out into researching the affordances of “sharing your thoughts” as a starting point. Blogging has some fundamental place in education and society as well as a need to explain itself to me.

As a bonus to me and maybe not my readers thinking about changes at work sent me looking for resolution. At work, our department of teaching and learning technologies it the target of a lot of confusion and plain old abuse for being the imagined leader of change. As a survival tactic we ourselves have taken on the role of confident advocates for change. In fact we are no more certain than our detractors that what we are doing is of value and face the bonus of dealing with major project direction changes on an almost minute by minute basis.

This is no surprise to anyone familiar with institutional behaviour though it also suggests a way for me to name my problem and investigate a way to resolve it. This sent me back to a Collaborate recording hosted by Nancy White back in the Change11 MOOC. And on from there to other resources referenced by Nancy.

Not sure if this makes any sense to anyone? Might be that my annoying blogging of a problem has set something in motion that I need to complete for my own sake?

See also Are You a Social Artist?

And this short video of what our office should look like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=Nsb_P–0QtQ

Compilation ? Refelction

Well…been working on a compilation of my blogs so far for Potcert and it appears not many assignments were actually done as required. So I need to distract from these omissions by reflecting on where all this useful content has been squandered.

First my job has changed in the period of the class and it now involves basic housekeeping of previous online courses to ready them for wider distribution and moving to our updated LMS. This is necessary work as wider distribution means more tuition coming in and if I was an accountant I’d be really excited. With no design work nor contact with practicing instructors it seems I’m locked in my office for the next year pushing buttons on my computer.

To compensate for this I’ve tried being present in my blog but talking to myself is what I already do all day. Also find blogging frustrating. Like talking into the void with no response. After a while a person gets tired of being the most uninteresting person at the dance and has to start reaching out. How can blogging be useful to students when it so isolating that we need to order them to “reply to three others” in every assignment? How absurd is it to have to force young people to talk to each other? Could it be that the blog is some twisted illusion of “empowerment” by locking students into the same old model of demonstrating learning by speaking in the singular under strict guidelines knowing that even the comments received are requirements of the assignment?

It seems that there really isn’t a revolution in education going on here, only a move to another medium and some pretty decoration. When was it decided that telling people what to do would cause them to learn? Are we confined to producing highly polished little mirrors of the material we teach that never penetrates below the surface?

Anyway, this course has caused me to see education as background data to a conversation that may never resolve itself. The courses I’m reassembling are simply catalogues and stock piles of information—objects. Learning is happening somewhere else.

Copyright (lost in draft file)

Update on Canadian Copyright Modernization Act from Kwantlen Polytechnic University http://libguides.kwantlen.ca/content.php?pid=318095&sid=3092175

For educators important changes include:

  • Fair Dealing is expanded to include the purposes of education and parody and satire  (education is not defined but is likely limited to classroom or distance courses through a course management system
  • Works available on the Internet can be reproduced, sent over the internet and performed in public before students, provided it is for an educational purpose & provided it has been legitimately posted and there is no expressly worded prohibition stated on the site (just a copyright symbol is not enough to prevent such use)
  • Legal copy of a video or dvd can be shown in public on the premises of an educational institution, for educational purposes, before an audience comprised primarily of students; this seems to remove the need to purchase public performance rights for classroom use which is presently the case
  • New exception created: the “mashup” exception
  • Off air recordings of news or commentary can be shown to students for educational purposes, on the premises of the educational institution (no longer need to destroy the copy after one year or pay royalties).
  • Changes to the statutory damages rules that distinguish between commercial and non-commercial infringement. The law now includes a cap of $5000 for all non-commercial infringement.
  • Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) or digital locks are expressly protected by Bill C-11 and it is illegal to circumvent them for any purpose

Please note: Bill C-11 amends the existing provisions of the Copyright Act.  Within a few weeks, the changes to the Copyright Act that are now in force will be reflected in the online version of the Copyright Act published by Justice Canada.  


And from our librarian: “One of the significant changes is that a “legal copy of a video or DVD can be shown in public on the premises of an educational institution, for educational purposes, before an audience comprised primarily of students” meaning public performance rights (PPR) no longer apply in the educational setting. Any video or DVD that we have in our collection can now be shown in class.  In the future, distributors may have a higher purchase price for colleges, but they will no longer have a separate PPR price.”


Some of the courses we build are cut directly from the publisher’s textbook companion site and permissions are arranged with the district sales force = no effort no worries. Within those courses (and contained inside the LMS) there may be additional comments and insights from the instructor which generally don’t alter course content, only add to it. Should students bring copyrighted material into the course discussion area this too is protected from dispute as it is clearly within the boundaries of educational use.


Other places where copyright touches our department are courses built directly by our department—usually in trades—with additional content from design contractors. This material is covered by buying the rights from the contractors as part of their billing. For instance a cartoon project was completed by a freelance animation company contracted through an outlet called O-Desk which I’d recommend to anyone needing professional content. https://www.odesk.com/?vt_cmp=brand&vt_adg=odesk&vt_src=google&vt_med=text&vt_kw=odesk&gclid=CKmg6Pqh1LMCFaU5Qgod0FcAEA


We also use “local” contractors in our area to build the framework for whole courses. One person in Calgary specializes in scaffolding and we will send her piles of messy assembled by subject matter experts we hire. They normally aren’t teachers and seem particularly clueless in putting their thoughts together. Quite a talent building sense from chaos and this contractor is a genius at it. Outside solving the copyright problem we get great content and stay out of the endless bickering and sniping that accompanies SMEs. And the scheduling falls outside our department so the ridiculous deadlines we are expected to meet passes us by. 


A huge amount of time is burned up in copyright checking and I try to stay out of the discussions. I’ve had design work “stolen” from me and the legal stuff is too unpleasant to go through. To me, the best way to avoid copyright infringement is to have the author’s picture displayed on the work—you don’t steal from people you can see.


A term used by our graphics and video producers is “Cheese-Monkying.” It’s a variation on a “mashup” collage  where an image is altered in such a way that it’s impossible to tell it came from a copyrighted source. It’s a fine art and kind of cool though for legal reasons we’ve had to start asking the art people if there’s any Cheeze-Monkeyed content in the work we have them do. There’s an alternate meaning to the term here:


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