Brief reflections on the SNB #PDLM

The Sudbury North Bay Region's PDLM

Thanks to Tim Robinson for tons of work on the presentation.

Last Monday the Sudbury-North Bay (SNB) Region hosted the e-Learning Contact (eLC) Provincial Digital Learning Meeting (PDLM) online using Adobe Connect (AC – just kidding). Each region has a turn at hosting a PDLM, and ours was hot on the heels of eSymposium (eSymp) on November 19th (

I want to mention first that I work with a truly amazing group in our region. I’m privileged to be Chair for our region (no one else wanted to be) and was also lucky to be co-hosting this PDLM with Andrew Swartz from Northeastern Catholic DSB. All of the eLCs in the region contributed a great deal to the event, and [spoiler alert!] it was very successful!

The Agenda

  • Welcome, etc.
  • D2L Update
  • Best of eSymposium (three breakout sessions)
  • Break!
  • Mini Virtual Ed Camp
  • eLO update

I think most of this is “normal” (although awesome, because SNB was hosting), but the Ed Camp was different for us.

Mini Virtual Ed Camp

We were using Adobe Connect, so we opened up a fresh chat pod and asked the participants to type in topics they were interested in. We hosts watched the torrent of ideas rush past, and we noticed three topics “trending”: Carousels, Integrations (particularly GAFE and O365) and ePortfolio.

We set up three breakout rooms, one for each topics, and asked people to choose which they wanted to go to. We made it clear that we weren’t “presenting” in those sessions, but that anyone there can ask questions and anyone there can answer them. Participants could go to a room to learn something new, go to a room to act as an expert, or anything in between.

It worked well

People mostly stayed put, although they were welcome to move between rooms (only about 5 people did). That’s partly because participants have to be moved in Adobe Connect (they can’t just wander on their own; they need help from hosts).

I didn’t get to attend the breakouts myself, but feedback I heard was that the 30-35 minutes was about right for those topics. Much longer and people might have found their attention wandering. The groups were also large (one around 35), so that’s pretty big for easy online chit chat.

I’d like to participate next time

I’m hoping a future PDLM includes some Ed Camp time; I’d like to try it out. I wonder if a service other than Adobe Connect would be better to allow people to move between rooms, or if multiple meetings would be better (separate URLs).

I think a face-to-face Ed Camp would be pretty sweet too – I’d love to see one here in the Sault.

Big plans… :)


Joyful Blogging in Response to @fryed

A picture of a boy playing in water in an urban setting.

“Real Joy” by Todd Baker (technowannabe) via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

Donna Fry challenged me and other Northern Ontario bloggers to be joyful in our blogging and share in Lee Kolbert’s challenge. Here’s my entry in the fun.

The Process

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

Here we go:

Acknowledge the nominating blogger

Donna Fry – big thinker. Read her stuff (I know I didn’t need to say that, since you do already).

Share 11 random facts about yourself

  1. I like to read fiction, but I stress about what I should read.
  2. Math makes me happy.
  3. Coffee is a food group.
  4. I have read Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede about ten times, and I just read some of it to my daughter. I didn’t read the whole thing to her, though, because she couldn’t wait for me and she finished it on her own.
  5. I like cooked tomatoes, but not raw tomatoes. I don’t know why.
  6. My favourite part of winter is that there are no mosquitoes.
  7. If I had no need to work, I don’t know what I would want to do with my time.
  8. My favourite pie is blueberry, followed by raisin and pumpkin. In case you needed to know, like if you’re baking at Christmas time or something.
  9. I wear my watch on my right wrist.
  10. I know how to knit, but I’ve prioritized other things in my life, so I gave all my needles and yarn to my mom.
  11. I feel guilty when I don’t keep up with a podcast or a blog.

Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you

1. What was the first “subject area” you studied after leaving high school?
Pure Math and Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. I eventually settled on Combinatorics and Optimization with PM/CS as minors.

2. If you could cook anything, what would you cook for supper tonight?
Pizza, probably with barbecue sauce mixed with the pizza sauce, topped with mozza, asiago, chicken, and red onion.

3. What makes you stop and pause during your day?
Something reasonable but unexpected, whether it’s something I hadn’t thought of or something I disagreed with. Sometimes that changes my mind.

4. Cats or Dogs?
Dogs. Cats are a big, fluffy allergen.

5. If you could have only one Pinterest Board, what would the topic be?
Stuff To Make

6. What was the catalyst that got you blogging in the first place?
I was loving Twitter for connecting with people and having conversations, but sometimes I had more to say. Hence my tagline, “When Twitter isn’t long enough”.

7. What is one (funny) childhood misconception that you had, or that you have experienced with a young child?
I thought “delicatessen” was pronounced “dell-ih-CAT-iss-in” until I said it aloud as an adult. I was laughingly corrected.

8. What was your favourite summer job?
I worked at the UW Instructional Support Group helping students to learn computer science. That’s the job that showed me I wanted to be a teacher. It was a winter term job first, but I returned to it through various seasons.

9. Where do you find flow?
Writing is my flow generator. When I write, things become clearer. I don’t write enough, it seems.

10. What was one personal challenge you faced in 2013?
Finding a balance between work and family is an ongoing challenge, but I think I’m winning. Now I usually only work a lot at night if I want to.

11. What are YOU passionate about?
Mostly I’m passionate about learning stuff, as evidenced by my rather large number of interests.

List 11 bloggers

  1. Kerri Grasley (@KerriGrasley,
  2. David Jaremy (@DavidJaremy, (see David’s response)
  3. Doug Peterson (@dougpete, (Doug was nominated more than once; here is his response)
  4. Peter Anello (@PJAnello,
  5. Steve Wilson (@GeraldtonSteve,
  6. Lisa Donohue (@Lisa_Donohue,
  7. Brian Aspinall (@mraspinall, (see Brian’s response)
  8. Danika Barker (@danikabarker
  9. Eva Thompson (@leftyeva, (see Eva’s response)
  10. Colleen Rose (@ColleenKR,
  11. Mark Carbone (@markwcarbone,

Post 11 questions

  1. Who is the “most famous” person you’ve ever spoken with?
  2. What’s one thing you’ve learned recently for pleasure but not for work?
  3. What’s your favourite type of exercise?
  4. What is something you love to do in each season of the year (name 4 things)?
  5. What’s something you have to do that you feel self-conscious about?
  6. Who helps you to “overcome”?
  7. If you could magically change one thing (and only one!) about the state of technology in education, what would it be?
  8. What do you appreciate?
  9. Who have you thanked today? For what?
  10. Is “unplugging” a good thing for you, or a bad thing, or …?
  11. How did you feel when you were nominated?


Thanks to everyone if you decide to participate, and thanks to Donna! That was fun!

What should the average person know about computers?

Doug Peterson wrote a post today entitled “Why Coding?” and it got me thinking about what’s important to know about computers.

My wife and I chatted this morning on the drive in about how computer use is like math – lots of people can follow memorized procedures, but if some “unusual” problem comes up they’re totally stuck.


My in-laws are having trouble getting their laptop on their wireless network. Other devices connect fine. My father-in-law called me (I’m a half hour drive away) for help. Unfortunately, after walking him through a few “easy” steps (they’re kind of hard to explain over the phone, actually), he couldn’t fix it. I’m heading there after work to try it myself in person, and I have a little USB wireless adapter to try if nothing else works.

But would I ever expect them to dive deep into their DHCP settings? No, of course not, not even with me on the other end of the phone line. I think the goal for them is to know a few easy things to try when common things go wrong (like rebooting, flicking the wireless hardware switch on and off, etc.). And that comes from experience and from some understanding of how things work.

I don’t know about the Hour of Code

Learning to code will help to provide that, but I think there are probably other ways to learn it as well. Doug recommends a computer studies class for everyone, and that seems like a good idea to me as well, but I wouldn’t recommend a Computer Science class for everyone. Learning Java or C or HTML is less accessible, but learning to configure a wireless network isn’t so arcane that the average person shouldn’t tackle it. Is coding like running before walking?

I use Excel and Google Spreadsheets a lot in my work. Like, constantly. Even for personal stuff, and not just financial stuff. Spreadsheets have some nice, easy functions that make stuff efficient. If everyone knew how to use TRIM(…), CONCATENATE(…), basic computation, and filtering in a spreadsheet, it would be a better world. Does that count as “coding”? If so, I’m in.

Warning: Unnecessary Personal Anecdote

Feel free to skip it.

When I was young and foolish I was driving north from Waterloo to the Sault. The battery warning light in my Malibu came on, and we got a little concerned. It was a Sunday, and I didn’t know how many garages would be open if things were bad. I considered driving the rest of the way (5 or 6 hours) or calling to the Sault for help. Instead we stopped at a GM dealership about thirty clicks up the road.

They determined that I needed a new alternator, and unfortunately it would take a couple of days to get one. I sighed, agreed, and we spent two nights in a motel while we waited. When it came in there was a cost for the part (several hundred dollars), including a $75 “core charge” if I wanted to keep the old, broken one. I declined and saved the $75.

While they were under the hood, the shop manager came up to me to say that the tensioner was seized as well – another hundred-and-something for that. I grudgingly agreed – what could I do?

When I got home, my father-in-law explained how a tensioner works, and that likely it was the only thing wrong. I didn’t know this stuff, and so I likely got taken for several hundred bucks while leaving a perfectly good alternator for them to resell. That hundred-dollar part cost me a thousand dollars.

I didn’t need to be able to replace my tensioner myself, but had I known more about how that stuff worked I would have been a lot better off.

So here’s what I think

Learn something new about a part of computer technology that’s confusing to you. I don’t know CSS. I’m not a wizard with C++. I’ve never developed an app. Those are things that I would consider if I was going to learn something new and useful. Find something that’s new and useful for you, and start there. Maybe it’s blogging, maybe it’s Twitter, maybe it’s lisp. Pick something to get competent and confident with.

And have fun.