Slowly Stepping Out

Photo Credit: repchukdenys via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: repchukdenys via Compfight cc

As I look back at a term of EDCI 569 I think about my digital identity. Slowly I am stepping out of the box. More of an introvert by nature, it’s not often that I put myself out there in any social situation. In a room of strangers I constantly fight fear and discomfort. I struggle with the small talk and watch the clock to see if I’ve put in a polite amount of time. When in the presence of friends and people I am comfortable with I am a different person; much more talkative, slightly inappropriate and a bit more of a social butterfly. The online world of social media is one big room of strangers to me. Always afraid to put my thoughts out there, I was afraid of being judged, afraid of being responded to. In my mind, I never had anything worthwhile to contribute and my questions were too embarrassing to ask.

Two things happened during my time in EDCI 569. One is that I learned the value of communication. We had guest speakers who shared their beliefs and passions with us. They were energetic and inspiring teachers who brought the value of sharing, joy, storytelling and creation to us. They are people who use social media as their canvas to spread their thoughts and passions with others. They encouraged us to do the same. The second thing that happened is I turned 40. Something interesting happened when I turned 40; I stopped caring. Not about myself, but about what others think or perceive about me. This is helping me to find a voice, not only in life, but online.

I teach my students that if they need to know something then they need to ask. I encourage them to speak up and voice their opinions. I tell them that if there is something they are passionate about, then they need to be heard and fight for it. Slowly but surely, I am beginning to do as I say. I have posted publicly to my blog, put my voice out through Sound Cloud, shown my face on Vimeo, and explored and questioned through Twitter. I have been motivated by the Tiegrad Fitbit group to explore other active communities. There are engaging conversations going on out there and a lot of great people to talk to. They are friendly and generally not judgmental.

We have the tools to connect with real people of all types, and the world has indeed become a smaller place. It seems like such a waste to not go exploring.

A Final Learning Project Reflection

As a final reflection to my learning project, I decided to try something different and create a short video blog. I’m not used to being in front of the camera. Maybe it’s time to go and buy a selfie stick! This is not the end to this learning journey, but it has instead been a wonderful introduction to a new community and more balanced lifestyle. While always active, it is easy to slip into the pattern of being tired or not having time to exercise. Not only has this been a learning project, but it has put me back into the habit of daily, conscious exercise. It has forced me to create time for myself. There are many activity tracker communities, many online nutrition tools, and many data collectors that I explored along the way. The realization that I came to in the end is that it’s not the technology that makes the difference for me.  Thank you Alec for giving us the opportunity and freedom of a wide open learning experience and thank you to the Tiegrad Fitbit group!

Meditation Meets Learning – A Reflection of EDCI569

Here is our final reflection on EDCI 569, completed as another collaborative project by Jardi – a mixed up mash-up of Jarod Fong and Heidi James. Although we have never met face-to-face, we enjoy working together and appreciate the opportunity to connect over shared work and interests.

Our project is a video reflection on our term of learning. We began by creating a theme based around one of our Learning Projects: meditation. The rest fell into place: we co-authored the script through a Google Doc and then each did some individual filming. Through Voice Memos we added the audio track together. We checked the final project through BlueJeans, and posted it to YouTube. We called it “Meditating on our Learning”.

Thank you to Alec Couros, Dean Shareski, Alan Levine, Audrey Watters, Sylvia Martinez, Dave Cormier and all of #tiegrad for another amazing term.

A Collaborative Look at Mendeley…and some fun in Google Hangout

Collaborative Blog Credits: Thank you to Jason for taking the time and doing a fantastic job of teaching us the ins and outs of Mendeley. It made the learning process much more meaningful. Another thank you to the group of people I learned with and who co-created this blog post with me: Jason, Heidi, Melody, Leanne, Tanya, Harprit, Angela, and Mardelle.


Recently a group of us from #tiegrad logged into a Google Hangout session together (after a less than successful attempt to meet via Bluejeans) so that Jason Kemp could school us on Mendeley as a reference tool.  In the past, we had each used a variety of reference tools with success, including EasyBib, Refworks through UVIC, EndNote, and Zotero, but many people were recommending other tools this fall and exploring some of them seemed like a good idea. A number of us found ourselves overwhelmed when looking at each of the options, however, and similar requests for help and information began to surface.  Believing that Mendeley might be The One, a group of us emerged from the #tiegrad pool, all wanting to learn about this tool; we all boarded the collaboration train. If there is one thing we have learned about ourselves in this last year and a half, it’s the benefit of sharing the load and hashing things out together.

After a request for help from the group was posted a out on Twitter, Jason agreed to host a Mendeley sharing session. He admitted to being a bit nervous (as any of us would have been), as he had only recently made the switch to Mendeley himself. He explained that he was looking for a reference management software that was user-friendly and had obtained a copy of Endnote from a friend, but had difficulties using the program. Jason had used Mendeley briefly for another course, but this was only to create a bibliography.

We initially decided to meet up on Bluejeans for our Mendeley session, but soon after we logged on, we began experiencing major issues. As Jason was sharing his screen with the group, it became unresponsive. Unfortunately, Jason didn’t realize the participants could not see his screen and continued to proceed with the presentation while the audience, similarly, remained unaware for several minutes. This is a problem when presenting using a program such as Bluejeans to screenshare; it’s not always immediately apparent to either side that there is a problem. After several attempts to rectify the situation, we decided to switch over to Google Hangout (GHO). For many, it was their first time using GHO to present and we found it to be very slick and easy to use. After the presentation was finished, a few other members were able to share some of the features they had discovered (such as the chat window, screen captures, using accessories to dress each other up and other useful and entertaining tools). This was an awesome way to learn about GHO’s capabilities.

As many of us do when learning a new program, Jason had viewed a quick tutorial on Mendeley on YouTube and then began to play around and learn a few of the components of the program. Jason noted that it was very intuitive and had an easy help option; these were features that many of us were looking for in a reference tool. Mendeley easily imports .pdfs, cites as you write in Microsoft Word, creates a bibliography for you, and allows sharing libraries between users. Check out the short, user friendly tutorials that can walk you through the basic functionality of Mendeley.  Mendeley Minutes cover such topics as: importing topics, organizing your library, and how to use the group feature.

It is easy to get started on Mendeley. Simply sign up for an account, download the appropriate software, and then download the tool-bar plug-in for Word.  Mendeley trumps many other citation tools with its built-in Literature Search. As articles are curated, Mendeley suggests related articles based on key terms, authors, and tags. Mendeley will indicate whether the articles are available through its library, or directs you to where they can be found. Logging into your UVic Library account while searching makes it easy to copy and paste titles suggested by Mendeley into Google Scholar to acquire a found article. Your library builds quite quickly! Each article suggested by Mendeley comes with an additional list of suggested related articles to explore. The program then auto populated the information for referencing. There is also a Chrome extension tool that will allows for clipping articles directly into Mendeley which is very convenient.

Another Mendeley advantage is the fact that there are apps available so you can access the program on other devices and it syncs easily. Once an article is added on your computer, you can see it from any of your devices. Annotating articles using an iPad, for example, will update the article in your library, making all changes visible from any platform you choose to use. One #tiegrad lit review team has been using the group feature in Mendeley to successfully share articles. This feature works well for small groups, as it automatically syncs the articles to each member but, unfortunately, the group limit is 3 participants; adding more members requires paying a substantial membership fee.

In the end, our fabulous Mendeley Guide, Mr. Jason Kemp had us comfortably navigating our way through the world of online resource curation and citation. Mendeley has proven to be an efficient and effective tool that allows us to search, read, make notes, curate and cite our sources. It organizes our sources however we need, offers collaboration among colleagues (three maximum),  and integrates beautifully into Microsoft Word making it easier to insert citations and create bibliographies as we progress through our lit reviews.

screen-shot-2015-03-14-at-1-54-54-pmOur Google Hangout session was a success. It is nice to know that with so many of us using Mendeley, support and new ideas are only a tweet away. While the business end of our session was very productive, we also laughed and enjoyed our #tiegrad community. There is nothing better than dressing as a pirate or mixing and matching props and backgrounds online. The collaborative nature of Google Hangout offers a wonderful mix of business and play. Just remember, that only three microphones can be active at once. Perhaps this is something that Google can increase in the future. Are you listening Google?


The Power of Awareness: A Fitbit Update

Several weeks ago I strapped on a shiny new Fitbit Charge HR. We have been on many adventures together. It is not quite as shiny and new as when it first slid out of the box, but it is still a reliable daily partner that tracks all sorts of statistics for me. Not only does it reliably count my daily steps, but it has tracked my heart rate and given me a fairly accurate measure of my resting rate. It estimates the distance travelled in a day and the number of calories burned. Although I do find the calories burned a little optimistic. Nevertheless, it is a good motivator. That is what I would like to tell the world today.

Being aware of the data has made me more accountable for what I am doing and how I am doing it. As Heidi so eloquently discusses in her blog; it is about being mindful and aware. The Fitbit app has made me aware of how I am treating myself. It has given me the information that I can now use to make adjustments.

Screen Capture from my Fitbit App
Screen capture from my Fitbit app

The app tracks my hours of sleep as well as my sleep patterns. I find this fascinating. I know that I work best with between seven and eight hours of sleep. Within those hours I am usually restless between twenty and thirty times. What I have learned from this is that my calculated seven hours of sleep is really only six and a half hours of sleep. The solution, go to bed just a little bit earlier.

Screen capture from my Fitbit app

From a young age I was taught the importance of water. I should be drinking two liters of water a day. Before the app I was lucky to get through a couple of glasses. Now I make a conscious effort to log the amount of water I drink and have been reaching the goal of two liters a day. It has meant a few more trips to the bathroom, but I find that to be a fair trade off to proper hydration As a result of these two pieces of information I have been more alert and rested, and far better hydrated.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, the Fitbit has also encouraged me to walk further and walk more often. Why? The answer is simply that I am now aware and thus motivated to move more. With the exception to days where I spend hours on end reading articles and hunched over my computer, I have been good about walking, running and reaching my ten thousand steps.

I am converted. I love the Fitbit and the idea of wearable health tech. The community around me that encourages me with smiles and the occasional taunt is a great motivator. This is supported by data and numbers that give the information and help me to be aware of what I am doing and what I am consuming. Now if only it will write a lit review for me…

The Superpower of Storytelling

7803683540_76d8f5f45d_zWe were very fortunate to have Alan Levine (@cogdog) stop by our #tiegrad class. A masterful storyteller and tool creator, he spoke, engaged, entertained and educated us in the online world of storytelling. He introduced us to tools that I look forward to trying with my students:

I have always loved stories and embraced storytelling as a way of communication between my students and myself. Storytelling has a superpower; it can instantly break down barriers and turn an otherwise cold, and stuffy environment into one of warmth and laughter. However, as it is another form of public speaking, it can be un-nerving for some students. The idea of standing and presenting in front of peers causes sweat glands to react and breathing to become shallow. However, being comfortable in one’s skin in front of people definitely has its future benefits. What if instead of teaching formal presentation skills, we teach story telling?

I believe that children are natural storytellers. From a very young age, they communicate their world to us through story. How they interpret their world is free of formula and full of spontaneity. There isn’t necessarily a beginning, middle and end to anything that children will say. Their stories can be made up or based in reality. They often come with wild levels of exaggeration and emotion. The stories that children tell are pure. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could achieve that level of freedom with my middle school students?

For years I have asked for creative writing. The first tool I give them is a framework…a box to put it in. I’ve done free writing, but it’s most often a warm up, not the exercise itself. Thanks to the words of @cogdog, I will be setting my students loose again and encouraging freedom in their storytelling.

A video is worth 10,000 words and a lot less frustration


Photo Credit: clasesdeperiodismo via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: clasesdeperiodismo via Compfight cc

A little tidbit about me; I enjoy working on my car when I have time. I find great satisfaction in pulling things apart, putting them back together and fixing the problem…hopefully. Not too long ago, fixing the car would involve finding the right chapter in the manual, deciphering the technical language, and hoping that what I saw on my car looked vaguely like the pictures. The process of instruction was long, tedious and required a level of understanding that allowed you to understand the manual itself. I would read instructions word by word, look at the car, read it again, look at the car, envision what the words were telling me to do, pretend to do it, check the instructions again, and finally, maybe commit. There is a whole new resource out there for mechanic wannabes. Enter and their YouTube videos that show all sorts of repairs for all sorts of makes and models of car. By simply searching for “O2 sensor 2002 VW Jetta”, I was instantly connected to a 4 minute and 9 second video that gave me a complete understanding of how to do the repair on my car. video:

Like anything else on the internet, you must choose your resources carefully. A simple Google search will reveal a huge number of instructional videos. The quality ranges from a guy in a home garage with scratchy sound, shaky video and more than a few questionable techniques. Other videos show the entire job in painstaking detail. They might be good if you can stay awake for the duration of the show. The quality of videos is excellent. The videos are well thought out, properly lit and shot by someone who knows their way around a camera. Verbal instructions are clearly overdubbed and describe exactly what is happening in the video. When there is a repetitive movement, the video is sped up. What was the most important part for me? The fact that what I saw in the video was exactly the same as what I saw under my car. With devices being so small and so capable, it is as if I had a mechanic under the car showing me what to do. Actually, that is exactly what I did have…a mechanic, under the car, showing me what to do. It made the whole process much easier and smoother. The frustration level was considerably less than what I have experienced in the past. While I never wish for my car to need a repair, it does bring a certain amount of happiness when it does. Now I look forward to exploring the world of repair videos for my bike!