Link to my ECI831 Final Project

Well, well, well. After several days and multiple errors and realizing how secure EPSB (Edmonton Public School Board) is with our very own Google Share Site, I am finally able to post my final class blog. I have included a link to my Google Site (not on the EPSB Portal) which limits you actually viewing all the links and snooping around our very own Google Doc and App Site. I had to do the entire site twice as I realized that Google would not allow me to be logged into EPSB Google Share Site simultaneously with a regular Google Site which created some very interesting moments of angst for me! I finally made it work and I hope it serves the purpose I intended; motivating, encouraging, uplifting and useful for you as you pursue technology in your own schools. I know my journey is just beginning as I look for ways to help my staff develop their own PLN and ultimately a collective PLN internally and externally.



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Summary of Learning: Pecha Kucha

A summary of learning? How about an attempt to take a snapshot of the process of learning, and where this traveller is, on the digital highway of life. Makes more sense to me.

I know, I know, some are thinking semantics Al, semantics! I am reminded of the song from the movie To Sir With Love as we say goodbye officially to the time-space continuum of eci#831. (I am only putting in the embed code so you can choose whether or not you want to endure the song!) It does capture a journey of a teacher with his students in London England set in the sixties. Enjoy if you want.

A Pecha Kucha is simply 20 Powerpoint slides with pictures or text that change every 20 seconds equalling to 6:40 seconds. Keeping the goal in mind of our presentations being between 5-7 minutes, this seemed like the perfect thing to do. I hate to admit this, but I thought this was a separate program and I spent hours trying to find the program. After my wife asked what I was doing she joined in the search and said “I think it is simply a Powerpoint with restrictions on the time each slide can be discussed.” Imagine how foolish I felt. I had seen them done but never done one myself. I could have chosen a Storyboard of some other kind but had started down this road and, being stubborn, wanted to finish what I started. It took me a total of 12 hours to review the course material, my personal notes and to represent my thoughts succinctly enough and cohesive enough to create this simple digital story telling tool. I have it here for your perusing pleasure and response if you so choose. For my classmates in #eci831, you can listen to the recording of the November 28th class as I was the first to go. If you go to the saved recorded class presentations of #eci831 you can hear my running commentary. If you click on the presentation embedded code and press play once it opens, it will change slides automatically every 20 seconds. I am hoping that Alec knows a way to share the actual presentation on my blog so the audio portion can be listened to as the slides change automatically. However, during the actual class due to a technical glitch, I was given 6:40 seconds on the page and attempted to match my words with the slides and the time simultaneously. I did it all without ropes or a safety net!

Virtual communities, Open sharing, Rhyzomatic Education, Digital Storytelling melding this all into Social Media has been very enlightening. My journey has just begun and I do believe this is my second chapter in my technology journey, as we have done some very creative technological and innovative work at Hardisty. I believe we need to deepen our journey and continue to proliferate technology.

All the best #eci831 fellow classmates. I will be keeping my Blog going after the class but I have one more entry that attempts to explain the Hardisty journey through Google Docs, Google Sites, videos and YouTube videos that explain some of the process journey we have been travelling down.

More to come and more to learn,



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We need more technology, but we have no extra funds, what to do, what to do!

Fibre optic strands

Image via Wikipedia

Blade server, server case, server blade, open ...
Image via Wikipedia

Money is important but on a scale of 1-100, money is a 25, ideas are a 75. I know of a district within Canada where money is no issue and funds are thrown into technology without any sort of plan. Sounds good and people often say if we only had more money, imagine what we could do. I would be foolish to say money is not essential, but with people power and a culture wherein ideas are welcomed, considered and implemented, money’s effectiveness becomes more useful.

With this in mind and an approach to building this technology proliferation I sought out people in the business world to see what trends were in the workplace. My Parent Advisory Council President owned his own computer company and I picked his brain as to how to introduce more computers to our school without spending copious amounts of money. My thought was (and still is) that everything we do should be concentric and be something that could be duplicated elsewhere. In Edmonton there is a program entitled Computers for Schools. These are business computers that are refurbished and made available to schools on a first come first serve basis for free. I put in an order early in my first year and  due to my place in the queue I brought in 30 computers fairly quickly. Now I had 60 computers.  In conversation with this parent he explained how Terminal Services was an idea tossed around years ago but was too expensive to implement. That had changed and he was using this with his customers. He explained that he used Blade Servers in the companies he was helping to expand their computer usage by this simple method. Basically what happens is the computers pixie boot (access the server, not the hard drive (in fact the hard drives are disabled on the actual computer) and function just like brand new computers at a fraction of the cost. So, without spending very much money, I had 60 functioning computers that teachers could access with their classes. This did not come without glitches and we had our share of issues, but the perception of the students was wow, we are getting some cool stuff to use.

I knew that one platform would not be sufficient to build computer capacity and therefore I took some of my expendable cash to work on the infrastructure of my computer network. I changed relay switches, installed fibre optics and made sure the transmission and motor (metaphorically speaking) of my computer network was a  Ferrari, not a K-car. I began working on the most robust internal network I could afford knowing that in the future this would be a jumping off point for the proliferation experiment. I also knew that wireless would become more popular so I set about to ensure this was in place and functioned well.

The saga will continue and since we are to put our projects on-line, I will put links together to actual work of students, our own internal information process using Google Docs and videos of what has occurred, is occurring and what I plan on implementing going forward.


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Collaboration and Technology-a dual edged sword.

SMART Board Class

Image by Virtual Learning Center via Flickr

In the continuing saga of my first year as principal of Hardisty School, I noticed an unused SmartBoard collecting dust and virtually untouched. Upon further investigation, I discovered that there was an assistant principal prior to my arrival of two years who thought that technology should be sought after. Hence a couple SmartBoards were purchased and then sat without really being used. The then principal decided to sell one and thus begins the tale of why collaboration is essential to assist those in collaborative groups for learning from each other.

After that assistant principal left, one teacher decided to see if they could make sense out of this new fan-dangled technology. Off she went and had some success in understanding the concept but there was not the push to implement, so she went on to pursue her luddite duties. This principal came along and wondered if we should not begin investigating how we could utilize technology. In my blog prior to this one, I had mentioned that I had a group of teachers who were more than willing to pursue this avenue and begin the parade. Simultaneously, I had created collaborative teams that were to look at curriculum together and determine essential learner outcomes and then discuss how to create common assessments. Most importantly out of this came some intense collaboration with a specific purpose; spawning the concept of synergy, synchronicity and began to create a climate ripe to begin pushing the boundaries of what was normal in a classroom. Questions came out of the collaborative groups, and, since they were in a culture of openness encouraged to think outside the box and determine how we could begin the proliferation of technology without worrying about money. The ideas began to flow. I believe strongly that money is not the answer, but ideas are the answer. Money will follow the ideas and if the ideas are strong enough we could find ways to find money and begin the technology proliferation process.

The point of this little blog post? Remember the assistant principal and teacher who basically were working on their own  trying to get this concept off the ground? It did not work, and I venture to say it will not work in isolation. Many staffs have one techno-guru, (perhaps more) but often they labour away in silos isolated from the like-minded colleagues who could mutually encourage each other. At Hardisty, once these techno-gurus found each other and began to feed off of each other’s enthusiasm then the momentum train began to pick up steam. My job as an administrator was to provide the climate and environment in which this seed of an idea could take off and begin to look Rhizomatic (Cormier) in nature. Where would it lead? None of us knew, we only knew we could do better and were determined to pick up speed in our quest.

All for now, and more to come.

Al Lowrie

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“Computers are not simply an Option Choice, they should be used as tools!”

As I spoke with the Computer Option teacher in my first year as principal of Hardisty School in Edmonton Alberta, I knew we needed to build on the great work she had done in a Computer Option class and begin to spread it throughout the school. We needed to see computers for what they were, tools, not options. I then asked other teachers if they had more access to computers throughout the school day, would they take advantage of it? A simple question, but a quest to make technology ubiquitous, instead of sparse. I was blessed with a cadre of young teachers who grew up using technology as a tool throughout their lives and during their time attending university. I also was blessed with a group of teachers not afraid to explore how to implement technology in their daily routines. Thus, the journey began, the journey to change a culture and embrace the saying: “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.”

Seven years ago I began my tenure at Hardisty School ( Not having an overabundance of money, but having an overabundance of confidence that things could change, I began the process of building a highly functional collaborative culture which would utilize technology as a tool, rather than hiding away it away in a corner of our building; labelling it an option and only allowing sporadic student use. Critical incidents are little actions that can have huge influence. (Doppler Effect)  Change can occur, does occur, has occurred and will continue to occur at Hardisty. I believe that a single event, which on the surface may not seem significant, can be the snowflake that leads to enough snowfall which can turn into a huge force such as an avalanche. Our lives are made up of the seemingly mundane. Within this mundane lives the exception, and for those who can envision things with their mind’s eye, not stuck in the past or present, looking to the future, know that a single action today can create some significant change tomorrow. (Sow a thought, reap an action, sow an action reap a habit, sow a habit, reap a lifestyle –or reap change.)

My project is to share the work done at Hardisty these past seven years and chronicle the journey that has us where we are today. I also will share some of the ideas we desire to see in the future. I have links to share with my ec&i831 classmates once I determine the best course of action to reveal the timeline of seemingly innocuous incidents which have led to where Hardisty is today. We have progressed to the point of allowing student owned devices into our building encouraging students to do their work in “the cloud” and are a school where anytime, anywhere learning is not a simple catchphrase but a reality within our building.

Please visit our website, read my welcoming statement and become acquainted with the humble, hallowed halls of learning we call Hardisty. I look forward to sharing more as we quickly cascade toward the end of the formal part of our class.

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Toe tapping and pedagogical controversy.

Bob Dylan sings about ‘wanting you so bad’ and although hard to hear all his lyrics he certainly describes his desire to get to know someone more closely.

Last night in our ec&i831 class our guest lecturer spoke of how education would look different in the future. He concluded the class by describing how education would be stratified and there would be specialists in all areas that would not necessarily require teachers as we think of them today. Here is where I disagree. I believe as we open our practice up to others, the role of a teacher may shift to be all the words he discussed last night eg: (Convenor, Moderator, Coordinator, as an example) of this is there is evidence practiced today.  I do agree it will change. However, it is a closed system and does not move quickly toward change.

The biggest handicap may be the public who have moved through the education system and all have opinions about how it should be. Think about it, successful students can get through this time bound system because they are smart, can find answers to satisfy requirements and then move on to some form of further education. The majority can traverse this maze of memorization and the regurgitation of facts to pass tests and move on to higher learning. Unfortunately, the other students do not have that luxury and struggle with self-esteem issues about “not being successful in school.” I know many people personally who did not do well in traditional school, feel bad about that but have gone on to open successful business, entrepreneurs who go out and create small businesses which often become the driver for our economy. Others take up their place in hands on work which is essential for a thriving economy and for people to feel a sense of purpose. Is this bad? Only if we perpetuate the myth that University is the goal to strive for and high marks on standardized tests are the true measure of learning. Learning is so much more multi-faceted and diverse than that one measure.  Will education change? Yes, I believe it already has in many pockets around the world and as Social Media is utilized more and more, people become exposed to new educational ideas. Perhaps the start of a tipping point can begin to influence change in  education quicker than it once did.

If we want something “so bad” to quote Dylan then we will begin to see some ideas crystallizing that will put the fun back in learning. This could spin off a plethora of new ideas and our wanting something “so bad” may start to pick up speed and the educational world will see change come about for the better. I have read many of my classmates posts that have them discouraged as they try to discuss some of the great ideas being shared in this class with others only to be shot down or simply patronized-(ie. ‘that’s nice, I have to get back to work’) in their place of work. Do not despair, be encouraged, many people are getting on the learning train as they expose themselves to more ideas quicker, and read about that success being implemented.

My first post was about Twitter and why it is useful, I am learning each day how valuable of a tool it can be to shrink our world, encourage collaboration and experiementation and critically challenge the status quo with some solid ideas that are transferable from one place to another. Pedagogical controversy is useful to knock us out of equilibrium somewhat to consider other points of view and see how they could be implemented in our own teaching.

Perhaps as we continue to want something “so bad” our enthusiasm for change might just spark another colleague. This colleague may encourage another colleague and so on and so forth.

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Sharing how much is too much, how much is not enough?

I have some diametrically opposed opinions on this topic that may be shifting as I become more conversant with Social Media tools and the value of Blogging and commenting on other’s blogs.  I think a simple children’s song may help us to think about some of those Kindergarten rules about sharing. How to play nice in the sandbox. Enjoy the song, and I will pick up the theme after you tap your toe to this children’s song. 

Is it that simple? When do people learn how to manipulate others into getting what they want? Are there selfish people who will grab what they want when they want? Is the old adage true: “get what you can, can what you get and then poison the rest?” Even Social Media Moguls fell prey to selfishness when people (other than Mark Zuckerberg sp?) tried to get their piece of the Facebook pie, claiming it was their idea stolen by Zuckerberg. Espionage is a big business in the food industry. Genetically Modified Food is a huge issue and the ability to store food for longer and longer are traits insiders are trying to develop at great financial cost. How about insider trading? Families fighting over wills? How many examples can you think of where selfishness is the watchword, not sharing? An entire thesis could be written on man’s inhumane treatment of his fellow-man. What about the Wall Street fat cats who control a good chunk of the world’s money, are they sharing and practicing the Golden Rule and some of the moral imperatives taught in Kindergartens all around the world? Have a look at this video the Story of Stuff and see if you notice any selfishness at all. 

Wow, if you check the comments about this site, they are certainly polarized. I am not taking sides either way, it is just interesting how we really are consumers of the first degree. By introducing this YouTube clip to you, no doubt some have already seen it, or perhaps heard about it from someone, you are required to respond in some manner; perhaps even delete it, which is still a response I might add. (It is about ten minutes if you watch the entire presentation.) The one on water bottles is interesting as well. People have put up YouTube rebuttals claiming this is a leftist viewpoint being shoved down the throat of young people all over North America. I am not blogging about that, the point is not all people have the purest intentions when they share. Is there something sinister in their request for things, for information, for sharing even? It is so hard to judge people’s intentions. So, does this mean we hide and not share for fear we will be taken advantage of  by those simply wanting us to share to get at something they need? I think not. If no harm will come to my family, to those children under my care at school, should I not be willing to share freely in order to encourage others to do the same? A question for us all as we move along the Yellow Brick Road of Social Media. Will there be lions and tigers and  bears (oh my!) and other scary things along the way? Probably, but sharing information with others as Dean shared in our last class is not an option in Open Education and Social Media, but rather an essential component. One need not fear to share if it will be the catalyst to start someone down the road of going deeper quicker with fragmented information. It may be fragmented but that does not make it useless because others can build off the ideas and move along quicker down this Yellow Brick Road.

How much sharing is too much, how much is not enough? I do believe it boils down to attitude. It does matter what filter or lens we look through, our own suspicions can curtail our sharing. I actually Tweeted the “about me” section of my blog to those that follow me. Somewhat of a risk, but no harm came of it. However, I do not know how that information is used once it goes out into cyberspace and this is where the reticence for sharing too much may come from. However, a big caveat to sharing is what is being shared. If a person does not go into minutiae about themselves but simply shares big ideas and/or concepts which can encourage a fellow human, I see no harm or danger in the sharing of ideas. Those ideas shared which challenge my thinking or challenge those who may follow me in Social Media become mutually beneficial. It is up to me what I do with the information that comes at me with lightning speed. As this course continues to unfold it becomes blatantly obvious to me that the more open about reading other colleagues work I become and share the same, I become a cog in the Social Media wheel that may be a true catalyst for positive change within education. Knowing this may assist me to change my initial question from how much sharing is too much or not enough, to how do I monitor, utilize and pass on what I am learning? Mr. Sharesky shared in ec&i831 we either view the internet as a place where 2 billion criminals are lurking or perhaps where 2 billion teachers willing to support, encourage, challenge and stimulate our thinking process exist to lend a hand.

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