Author Archives: Giulia

Wifi in Schools

Wifi in K-12 schools in Victoria, BC specifically.

There was so much twitter action, I had to collect what I could. The tweets are a bit out of order chronologically but I tried to make sense of the themes.

I’ve been watching the debate brew over at and while I believe that wifi is harmless, I haven’t had a chance to weigh in yet.

The motions about wifi were eventually withdrawn in the end but the EMOTIONS are still running high; this debate is not over.

I wanted to link to an article about the nocebo effect of media and the “idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields” [in plain English: just hearing about false effects of wifi makes you think you are feeling ill from wifi].

Unfortunately, like a lot of peer reviewed research, this article is locked behind a bloody paywall.

Imagine if the general public (i.e parents lobbying governments and school boards) had access to the most recent scientific literature! Then they wouldn’t have to resort to bunk science that is freely available, like this stuff that litters the Internet.

Yes, I can turn even a wifi debate into a call for more Open Access.

In any case, here are some of the interesting tweets from today’s discussions:

Drive by learning

Evidence that learning cannot be contained within the boundaries of a course, I’ve taken a couple double takes reading both Audrey Watters’ and Mike Caulfield’s excellent critiques about Sugra Mitra and his Hole in the Wall project in India.

Caulfield also tweeted a link to this excellent essay by Morozov touching on the topic of his book about solutionism,: which is “an intellectual pathology that recognizes problems as problems based on just one criterion: whether they are solvable with a nice and clean technological solution at our disposal”

This harkened me back to last year during #Change11 week 24 session hosted by Geetha Narayanan. I was totally blown away by her live session (of which I can’t seem to find the archive). I took many notes. Even on paper!

I still don’t feel my final version did her work justice, but it still works for me as an excellent memory anchor of her wonderful thinking about deep, meaningful learning which she describes as slow learning.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

This short clip George Siemens recorded after Geetha’s keynote at the Global Summit 2006, summarizes her perspective very succinctly.


Slow learning can best be understood in counter position to fast knowledge.

Slow food movement, we enjoy the flavours of the food. We appreciate cultures, traditions, food making and world making that comes with it.

You must understand that food is a complex phenomenon. You can’t just eat it while doing something else

This is what is happening to learning.

Learning is happening very much on the run. Many of the discussions have been to destabilize the school structure. We are asked to do more and more and more in less and less time, such that students don’t understand flavour of their learning.

Slow learning is about the first person consciousness. It’s the primacy of experience, to make learning directly embedded in your first person consciousness.

We’re finding the major patterns and trends in teaching and learning are memetic; composed of fashions and fads, rather than search for true value inherent in learning.

There is a place for technology. In fact technology will be at the core of new learning and will contribute to a lot of change. But not as long as policies and corporations push for a marketed product.

You can’t put learning in an information kiosk.

The current mantra of the government of India, “have kiosk, will learn.”


Critically Reflective Doodler

My Flickr stream and blog are filling up with these digital doodlings from conferences and meetings. I’ve made some pretty cool connections by doing these sketchnotes.

One of my favourite connections dates back to May 2012, when I attended the University of Guelph’s Teaching, Learning and Innovation Conference. The Godfather of Adult Education, Stephen Brookfield was the keynote speaker.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

Stephen’s books are required reading for many university courses. My centre’s library houses several of them for loan to faculty and teaching assistants. His work on critical reflection and his critical incident questionnaire are cornerstones of good teaching practice.

His talk was really great. Natasha Kenny offers up a brilliant summary and reflection.

My notes, as usual, were more visual and admittedly, not as detailed nor critically reflective as Natasha’s. But it’s fun and helps me remember. Each image acts as an anchor to a point in his talk.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

I tweeted them out after the talk

Three months later, I had Stephen Brookfield tweet me directly!


So now my visual notes also live on Stephen Brookfield’s web site and quite possibly, will exist in the next edition. To say I am honoured is an understatement, for sure.

It’s kind of nice, when your respected edu friends are impressed by it too.

And if that wasn’t cool enough, out of the blue, stuff like this happens:

By making my notes available under creative commons to such a well respected author and educator, it made my world that much more intimate and connected.

And yes, this would make a good amazing, True Story.

Data Mine

Another great #etmooc session this eve. Audrey Watters dropped some awesome thought bombs. She posed some challenging questions, as we move beyond the analog manilla envelope (like her mom collected of her school artefacts) into the digital realm and quintillions of bytes are collected daily.

How do students, teachers, administrators, schools, and governments decide who owns what, for what purpose?

Starting with the terms of service, which we admittedly all quickly click through without thoroughly inspecting who is giving and who is taking value. (TLDR= too long, didn’t read ~ TOSDR = terms of service, didn’t read!)

Issues of control, protection, privacy (anonymity, pseudonymity) are all factors. Now that so much of our learning is digital, it’s not only the data from our transcripts of our final grades that schools hold. Such good questions about the data that exists from our assignments, time on the LMS, time watching videos, number of attempts at quizzes, frequency of comments on blogs or discussion boards, chats, location and many more that boggled my mind thinking about.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

Keeping something for future generations is the definition of posterity, which is deeply ironic given the announcement this week that the online blogging platform Posterous will be shut down next month. Again this highlights the importance of hosting one own’s data or at the very least maintaining your data in a format that is portable, mobile, in an open standard. This is intrinsically linked to the importance of keeping the web open so that our data can be machine and human readable on multiple platforms. We should be able to inspect and reflect on our own data, to be subjects not objects of our own research for our own purposes. In the matter of utility, we should be able to decide when to share our data and for what purpose.

Props were given to UMW’s Domain of One’s Own project, of which of course, I’m a big fan. Listening to Audrey discuss the issues, I’m ever more certain that even if you don’t want your data to be permanent, that agency is critical.

Audrey’s ideal solution is akin to a concept of the Personal Data Locker, where we have an open, standard login identity like OAuth. While Facebook and Google would love to hold the keys to our login identities, this control should belong to us so we are the masters of the many remnants of ourselves online. Managing your own data is a key literacy. Controlling your data is controlling your memories.

Shouldn’t we have the right to forget, delete, keep, own and share as we navigate the boundaries between private, public, and personal?

For more info, read Audrey’s post, watch the ETMOOC archive, and check out the Google Doc chock full of resources.

More Learning from MOOCs that Matter #ds106 #etmooc

I was excited to be a guest in #ds106 this evening for Week 6: It’s All Designed. Of course, DS106 is not like any other MOOC and is not big on the M part of the MASSIVE, but its specialness is important to reiterate in this time of MOOC madness.

I’m hoping some of the students take up @cogdog‘s suggestion to do one of the assignments I submitted, Learning by Design.

I’ve done many visual notes of talks over the past couple years, but I’m always happy to do a new one. Luckily, this week I was able to catch the inimitable Howard Rheingold‘s interactive and informative talk to Alec Couros‘ successful experiment in community-course-MOOC, ETMOOC.

After the session I reflected a lot on the intersection of my note taking, attention, participation, and critical consumption. This spurred pages of reflections which then stalled me from hitting the publish button. (THIS ALWAYS HAPPENS!)

I get so caught up in all the connections of ideas that run through my mind that I have a hard time creating a coherent post. Of particular note, this is extremely relevant to the ETMOOC topic this week about digital literacies. If I am not a part of the participatory culture and all I do is send out a doodle of some key words with cute stick figures, how am I contributing?

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

Some presenters really like the drawings, others not so much. I showed my daughter the drawing from Howard’s talk and she said, “that’s just a confusing jumble of words”. Hmmm, much like my brain, jumping from one idea to the next. Great ideas come this way, but also great procrastination.

A post of coherent thoughts often gets mired down by my attention, or inattention as the case may be. I loved Howard’s suggestions about dealing with all the things that cross your desk in a day and prioritizing so that your ATTENTION matches your INTENTION. Today, I made a list, as he suggested, of all the things I want to accomplish. This post is one of them. Harnessing the power of my attention is definitely a goal for me today.

Keeping my attention is not a new problem. In the days long before cell phones and laptops, I often had difficulty paying attention in university lectures. I simply would fall asleep. My notes started very tidy and organized but after about 20 minutes they would devolve into almost electrocardiogram style notes just barely registering my pulse.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

In biology class, I noticed that if I started doodling I was able to stay awake and I tended to remember what the prof was saying. Sadly, I didn’t do this often because I was embarrassed about my doodling. Doodling was decidedly NOT academic.

I’ve since learned that taking notes visually has helped me maintain my focus and learn more.

If I could travel back in time, I’d give my teenage self the permission to draw as much as she wanted during lecture. In the absence of time travel, the best thing I can do to contribute to a better learning environment is to encourage doodling in more university classes.

Now that I work in educational development and am a part of a great network of learners and teachers, I have had the pleasure to listen to some of the greatest teachers and they incorporate numerous ways for learners to keep their attention on learning. In ETMOOC, I’ve attended a couple sessions and the use of the whiteboard and chat as a way for learners to share their perspectives is really great. Unfortunately, JAVA is still forbidden at my university so I only connected via the iDevice Application. This NO Java situation is fairly good, you can listen, watch the slides read & type in the chat, but unfortunately no whiteboard ability. As such, I decided to continue on with my drawing of notes vs interacting directly.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

I learned from Howard’s talk that 5% of the population can multi-task. That is definitely not me. Taking notes is not multi-tasking for me. It is an integral part of my listening. It allows me to make immediate connections to the things I hear and prevents my mind from drifting onto other topics. This comes at a cost, I cannot do much else than draw and listen. No chatting, no tweeting.

In addition to what was happening in the chat, whiteboard and probably twitter, Howard had the folks in the group also volunteer to retrieve links and provide context to the links inside an etherpad.

We’ve been using etherpads and wikis here at Brock and it’s always great to see such rich uses of collaborative editing documents.

In situations where there is really great pedagogy at play, taking visual notes is extremely difficult and perhaps unnecessary. Par of me wishes I had participated fully in Howard’s talk and then did visual notes afterwards on my reflections on the enduring learning.

This type of metacognition or mindfulness about my strengths and weaknesses, learning preference and learning goals are all part of what Howard called infotention. Awareness of these factors should allow me to make better, faster decisions next time; knowing when to listen and when to participate and when to do both.

This is what literacy means to me. It’s personal but it’s evolving, so sometimes it should be public and shared.

#ds106, valentine edition

Lots of funny #ds106valentine caption assignments seizing the moment today.

How could I not oblige?

After watching smart librarians attempt to engage in civil, meaningful debate on twitter I thought I should make them a valentine for all their hard work.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe
(but don’t feed the trolls)

Then for no particular reason other than Tom Woodward finds the weirdest, coolest Internet Detritus. Like this, for example:

So true.

les rockets morph into candy hearts

les rockets morph into candy hearts

Happy Valentine’s Day #ds106!

EDCMOOC: Utopia, as x approaches c

There’s a lot to like about the EDCMOOC currently running in Coursera. It’s probably the closest thing I’ve seen to a cMOOC on an xMOOC platform. That said, the platform hinders its greatness. This course would be just about perfect if it existed entirely on the open web. Indeed, much of it does.

I like that the organizers decided to focus their attention on curation so they have more time to provide thoughtful prompts and meaningful engagement. While scanning the work of tens of thousands of people is impossible, I feel like I have all the information I want from the facilitators.

In truth, I had no intention of even participating in the course. Like many of the other xMOOCs I’ve signed up for, I had just planned on skimming. So far the majority of xMOOCs follow the pattern of Video, Quiz. Yawn. Video, Quiz. Stimulus. Response. Stimulus. Response.


When Gardner Campbell incited T.S. Eliot, “That is not what I meant. Not at all” he was pointing at this structure, labelled as Bateson’s first level of learning (at best!).

Ecology of Yearning [visual notes] @gardnercampbell keynote #opened12

We have a wealth of genius on the open web, we don’t need to reduce it to a pavlovian response test.

But the EDCMOOC hints to me of the opening that Gardner yearns for. The mere fact that his lecture was included on the resources page speaks to it for me.

I love that EDCMOOC is entirely comprised of creative commons material and publicly available resources. I don’t love that the content locked behind a password. Though, I realize that Coursera can offer analytics, accountability, marketing and recruitment more than the open web currently can.

Of course it’s highly practical to want these things, I mean we’re talking about education in the 21st century and apparently, that’s broken. But other than a lot of PR (and consequently thousands of students) Coursera has not brought a lot to this already really great course.

It’s actually a bit fascinating to see that the use of publicly available course materials is out of devious necessity rather than ideological design. That’s the kind of opening of education I like to see.

A lot of the course lends itself to meta contextual critique and this layering of theory onto itself is helpful for me, in that there are no assumptions made that THIS is the BEST way or that there even is a best way.

The resources are visually rich, which is important to me. Even the text resources about metaphor are dense with visual language. I probably need about 4 more posts just for the Johnson & Lakoff article alone.

The videos were great to watch; they ranged from clever vignettes to deeply metaphorical animations to being just downright creepy. I chuckled at a few of the character names pulled from famous-for-surveillance philosophers, Benthem & Foucault to the bureaucratic victim in the film, BrazilHarry Tuttle.

I’m not sure if I’m naturally drawn towards pessimism or I just like making fun of Microsoft but I had a hard time watching their utopian future advertisement videoand the Corning one without scowling. I know that if any of those things worked like that for me, I’d definitely consider it utopian. But honestly, if my wireless connection can keep three of us in the house connected for an evening, I’d consider THAT utopian.Technology just fails and we deal with it.

I thought it would be interesting to snip parts of the video out and play around with what would happen during the inevitable crash or unintended consequence occurs.

At the beginning of the film, we see a woman, late at night in a foreign land, donning some babelfish translating shades getting ready during her cab ride to check into her hotel. Murphy’s Law would definitely indicate this exactly when you’d get an exception error.


The next day, this woman will have a meeting with some locals, who for some reason are really far away. In the future everything will be whitish blue and very sterile so any odd odours will be very noticeable. Be careful if you wave your hand about trying to clear the air, as you might swat all your data out onto the table in front of you. Sploosh. Oops!


This could lead to the AI in your data analysis app to come to some alarming conclusions for you and your colleague.


At the end of a long day, finally when tele-baking with your family your uber intelligent fridge does an analysis of the ingredients and finds you in breach of the homeland food security act.

animated gif of futuristic dad and his futuristic fridge

That combination of foods may be deadly

I realize that’s all very silly, especially when the other videos are really actually quite good and already full of their own dystopian views but I like to add a bit of dystopia to the utopia every once in a while.

As for my utopian view, it’s been great watching Sheila engage in the course content. I’m drawn to her wonderful musings and love how she tries new things like the data analysis and her clever reference to The Ghost in the Shell, which I used as my animated GIF for my first #Change11 post.

Ghost Typing in the Shell

Ghost Typing in the Shell

It’s these grand harmonies of the spheres where the you find resonances across the globe of people who fascinate and teach you, mostly without them even knowing it (except maybe on a WordPress ping?) and there’s a little bit of excitement because they like things you do too.

That’s what connectivism is to me and though I’m surprised to find it sprout from unlikely xMOOC sources, I must remember that when these things happen rhizomatically that’s when they are best.

Remixing with Popcorn

First, check out the Mozilla Popcorn tutorial:

You can click on Projects and REMIX an existing project. I modified this one in 20 seconds by changing the Google map to St.Catharines and the tweets to #Brocku:

Here is slightly more extensive remix of the Buffy Vs Edward YouTube video, looking at the bureaucratic blockades Jonthan McIntosh faced after YouTube pulled his popular video due to an unverified copyright claim by Lionsgate.

And to get really meta, here is a screencast of how I did the video with a popcorn text commentary overlay:

spring eternal

All GIFs are from the film Baraka

All GIFs are from the film Baraka

My post on permanence reminded me of this story I read back ages ago from Owning Your Own Shadow by Robert Johnson.
All gifs are from the film, Baraka.

Once upon a time, many moons ago in the middle of a tiny village there was a natural spring that flowed with the most magical water. The water brought health, healing and eternal youth.

For many years the villagers shared the spring for the more it was shared, the more it flowed and its effects were even more magical.

Magical waters brought health.

When word spread of the spring across the lands and overseas, many foreigners made great pilgrimages to visit the village just to take a sip of this wondrous spring.It was such a great journey for some that they would carry containers to capture and bring back the spring water with their friends and family from home who were too weak to make such a great journey.

When some of the villagers saw this, they became concerned and decided that they should limit how much of the spring water foreigners could take away. Some decided they would stand guard around the spring all day. They created tickets and made everyone stand in line to visit the spring. Some people, not wanting to wait in line would sneak in at night and take the spring water when the security was not present.

Eventually, the villagers noticed the footprints of these nocturnal trespassers and decided the best solution would be to create a fence. Over time the fence became a wall. Any villagers who disagreed with the walls were outcasted, pushed out of the village; their land was sold and huge buildings were built to accommodate the paying visitors.

birds around the towers

The wall grew into a towers

As the wall grew in height and width it changed into a series of towers and this not only blocked any view of the spring but in some places it obscured the sun altogether.

In the dark shadows around the tower, makeshift markets popped up selling trinkets and other useless memorabilia that made a mockery of the spring.

What none of these people noticed was that the spring lost all its magic. It no longer had any special characteristics. It became plain water, which if you even tasted it wasn’t even safe to wash with it, let along to drink and quite possibly instead of giving your eternal life it would make you ill.

Down the path, far away from this madness, where the villagers who had been exiled and ridiculed continued to share and be open, a tiny little spring of water popped up. And it was magical.

It was magical

It was magical

Every time greed grew and people tried to control access to the spring, it lost its magic and the spring would pop up in new place.

Where you least expect it

Where you least expect it

Never Gonna GIF You UP

Never gonna let you down…

In a series of events that can only be described as a Rick Roll gone horribly wrong, my 13 year old is obsessed with Rick Astley. Which must be some kind of ultimate Rick Roll, I’m sure.

For Christmas, she has requested an animated GIF of Rick and seeing as it’s GIFest, how could I not oblige?

Here you go my darling, your very own original Rick Astley GIF:

4 animated GIFs of Rick Astley singing Never Gonna Give you up

Never Gonna GIF You Up