What education will look like in 10 years

“What education will look like in 10 years” is the title of the talk that I gave at the UBC Terry Talks conference a few months ago. Terry Talks is a conference modeled after the famous TED talks and it was a raging success. In my talk I touched on the different ways in which I believe education is going to change. I spoke about how it is going to become more collaborative, more “real” and more open. I gave examples of places where all of these changes are starting to manifest themselves and drew some predictions of where things are going to go.

They don’t show my last slide, but in it is a big shout out to a few people like Brian Lamb, Jon Beasley-Murray, Jim Groom, Scott Leslie, Gardner Campbell, Alan Levine and D’Arcy Norman, all of who’s presentations, tweets, blog posts, comments and plain old conversations have helped to shape so many of my ideas and beliefs. I think that this stuff really matters and it was your collective influences that helped me to see that.

Here is my talk embedded below:
To see more of the talks you can visit the Terry Talks Website.

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Top learning tip… make friends!

I really think that  having friends in your class is one of my best indicators of success. Last term I had some classes where I had friends, I had classes where for many reasons I was unable to get to know anyone and then I had classes where I found friends around halfway through the term. These divisions were almost exactly reflected in my grades. Having people to discuss the content with, having people to study with, even just having the joy of seeing a friend be that extra motivation to go to a lecture made a huge difference for meHCI team.

This term things are much better. I know people in every one of my classes and it has truly made a huge difference to the way I feel about school. I want to be in every class, not just because of what I will be learning, but also because of the great social interactions that I will be having. I am so excited for an academic term filled with social-academic connections that will do wonders for my grades as well as for my overall happiness!

My team from CPSC 344
My team from CPSC 344

Learning tools for 2008/2009… revised!

So my last post was a bit premature. Here are some of the revisons to the plan:

1)  OneNote has failed me. It worked so well in my previous classes, but I am finding it useless at the moment. Why? Well the lectures are carried out differently. In my previous classes the PDFs required a lot of diagrams and annotations… OneNote handled that perfectly. However, at the moment all the PDFs that I get are pretty self-contained, the only thing I need to do is summarize and organize the material in them.

2) So in order to replace OneNote, I am using FreeMind  again. I think the reason that I didn’t enjoy FreeMind when I used it last year was that I didn’t have a system for icons and decoration. Now that I have a system (and another mindmap to remind me what my system is)! I am really enjoying taking notes on FreeMind. Below are some pictures of the start of my maps:

CPSC 344 HCI.1

Here is my “cheatsheet” map telling what all the icons mean (as I come accross a new type of content I just choose and icon and add it to this sheet so that  don’t forget the mapping).


3)I’m probably not going to use the map on my wall, just due to the fact that I have the FreeMInd maps now. I might start printing them though and stick them up!



Fickle… I know. But hey, in order to succeed we need to try new things!

My learning tools for 2008/2009

So I’ve now had a week of classes. It feels great to be learning again after 8 months of solid work. Since I last wrote a similar post to this I have a gained a much better perspective on all the tools out there and know what works for me and what doesn’t. So, here goes my big bad list of learning tools for university:

Microsoft Office OneNote:

I cannot find any note-taking software that comes even close to OneNote’s ability to keep notes for school. The three levels of navigation and ease of printing PDFs straight to OneNote (seeing as almost all professors insist on delivering their notes in PDF and note HTML) puts OneNote ahead of everything else. I would desperately like to use EverNote (because I can use it from more places than my personal computers with OneNote installed), but it doesn’t let me scribble all over course PDFs like OneNote does.

Mind Mapping:

My big mind map
Last year I tried out FreeMind as a means of organizing notes after they were taken. It was great software and worked pretty well, but I just didn’t enjoy using it. I think that the limits of current screen sizes is what makes virtual mind maps so difficult. I just felt like I could never see the full picture and the detail at the same time (which, I believe is something mind maps should let you do). So instead I went lo-tech and have taped a giant white piece of paper to my wall that I will use to map and connect all of my courses on. It is a new experiment, let’s see if it works! I might also resort to using FreeMind again especially for the guest lecturers that are going to be coming in to my Software Engineering Course as there won’t be any predefined lecture notes that I can annotate in OneNote.

To-do lists:

I tried Remember the Milk a few months ago and for some reason it just didn’t stick. I revisited it about three weeks ago and now find it invaluable. The big change I think is that you can embed your to-do lists everywhere! I have my list in my gMail, my iGoogle, my Google Calendar my iPhone and on my desktop. I can send tasks to it using Jott. I find that if my to-do lists are not in my face I forget to look at them. With Remember the Milk I can have a constant reminder.

Remember the milk lets you categorize items, add recurring items (a great one is “pay bills”) and lets you know when things are overdue. Remembering to hand in an assignment, or study for a midterm will be a whole lot easier with Remember the Milk.


Most courses require some degree of memorization. Quizlet is so much better than any other online flashcard app that I have tried. It gained me plenty of marks last year and everyone that I know who uses Quizlet swears by it. It is easy and fun to use. It is collaborative. It has tests. It will soon have an iPhone app. Enough said.

Time Management:

Google Calendar is possibly the greatest tool ever. My life would be incomplete without it. I actually have over 15 calendars in there that I use to organize my life and keep track of the people around me.

Collaborative Projects:

I’m already using Google Apps for my work on the Student Leadership Conference, so I will probably use that (if my team agrees that is) in my Software Engineering and Human-Computer Interfacing projects. I’m still looking for a good collaborative way to do UML diagrams, seeing as how expensive Gliffy has become.

Pen and Paper:

For my Math courses I’m going the old fashioned notebook route. I really don’t see any other way (seeing as I don’t have a tablet PC). Hopefully the big mind map will compliment it nicely though and maybe help to make some connections between the three Math courses that I am taking.

I will monitor the effectiveness of all of these tools and update depending on what works and what doesn’t (or if I find something around the internet that blows one of these out of the water).

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In honour of Dr, Donald Wehrung

Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I was invited to attend a ceremony to celebrate Don Wehrung’s contribution to the International Student Initiative at UBC. It was an incredible ceremony and all the speakers did a fantastic job of highlighting what a great man Don truly is.

Don is the person who was asked to head the International Student Initiative when it started back in 1996. The goals of the program was to increase the number of international students at UBC. Don has been incredibly successful, around 10 percent of UBC students at the moment being international. One of the most important contributions that Don made (at least as it applies to me) is starting the International Leader of Tomorrow (ILOT) Award . He lobbied the university for money to provide what has become the most generous international scholarship program in Canada. At the ceremony Karen McKellin the Associate Director of the International Student Initiative told the Audience that Don risked his job to provide international scholarships at UBC. Some of the most important people at UBC including the Dean of Arts and VP Academic both told stories of how Don personally fought for funding on a case by case basis for ILOT winners. The dedication, care and selflessness that he has shown concerning less privileged international students is remarkable.

Don’s actions and initiatives have shaped almost every aspect of my life. The staff that he hired and the recruitment program that he developed have directly influenced how I see the university and what I have experienced. Damara Klaassen who came to my school in Ghana and showed me all the pretty pictures that sold me on UBC. Badre Hassani, who on my first day at UBC made me feel so completely at home, taking me into his office, serving me tea and even giving me an international calling card so that I could contact my parents. Karen McKellin who on my third day alone in this strange country/city/campus helped me to transport all of my possessions from one side of campus to the other. All these people, Don’s staff, their kindness and caring created a love and awe for UBC that lingers with me still.

The ILOT award that I was lucky enough to receive has allowed me to come here, to form this great life that I have. At UBC I have found new passions, friends and interests, all of which are incredibly dear to me. Everything that I own, everything that I do, all the relationships that I have made would not have been possible without Don, his staff and their never-ending commitment to my success. I lack the  necessary eloquence to truly describe just how grateful I  am to them for all that I have. That gratitude is there though, in overwhelming amounts for not only me, but also for the many other students that he has helped.

Thank you Don.

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In the Summer Time!

Summer has just started and I am already finding it to be perfectly fantastic.

The first new development of my Summer was moving out of traditional dormitory style residence into Suite style residence… aka… an apartment. I now have a kitchen to cook in (an activity that I really need a lot more practice with), a lounge and bathrooms all to myself and my two roommates instead of an entire floor of 22 people. I also get to share this apartment with the lovely Miss Amy Tipton, one of my favorite people in the whole wide world.

The other great part about summer is that you just get to do more of the stuff that you should be doing during the year. I’ve got to spend a lot of time with so many friends that I never had time to hang out with while advising in Place Vanier.

Rock Climbing

I’ve been rock climbing and reading and watching movies (MacKenzie left me a great list of must watch movies that I am slowly making my way through). Being able to read for pleasure again is something that I am particularly happy about. I went to the second hand bookstore and bought an armful of books that I will soon add to my LibraryThing.

My Summer work term at OLT is also kicking into gear. All the students for this term have been hired and we are in the process of finalizing what everyone will be working on. I think my main focus will be on using WordPress Mu as a content management system… so expect some cool hacks and plugins to be written as a result. It is so exciting to think that when I start school again in the summer that there will be a number of UBC web services out there that I have helped to create.

Opening the Irving K. Barber Learning Center

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Julie Mitchel if I would be able to speak at the opening of the Irving K. Barber Learning Center. She wanted me to give a student’s perspective of what the Learning Center means to the students of UBC. I accepted, not really understanding what I was getting myself into. As the weeks went by subsequent meetings with Julie made me see that the ceremony was a lot more important than I ever could have imagined. For a great description of what the ceremony was actually about, Phillip Jeffrey wrote an excellent post here. I am still unable to express just how terrifying it was to speak after people like Professor Stephen Toope and Gordon Campbell. It went off pretty well though and I think my speech was well received. Pictures of the event (courtesy of Philip Jeffrey) can be found here. A video of it can also be found here (I talk right at the end).

It was an amazing experience and I feel so honored to have been a part of it.

Getting the creepy out of Facebook

Facebook ModelThis was supposed to be a long and intense post, blending many different discussions that I’ve had over the past week, but I don’t have time and since I just got my new WordPress site, I need to write! (I’ll get the rest of it up some other time).

Here is the Jist of it:

I have spoken to so many people who tell me that “Facebook is creepy”. One of the biggest taboos here is to say “oh, I saw it on your mini-feed”. People get all weirded out as if they didn’t know that one of the key reasons of Facebook’s success is the fact that it is so good at distributing your information to those who know you.
Jocelyn and Ciara... Ballas
Jocelyn and Ciara (my resident Facebook experts) were lamenting that fact with me and we came up with the idea that maybe the problem is just the language that has evolved around Facebook. We put information on Facebook for people to see. We have complete control over who can see that information. It’s like creating a poster about yourself. It isn’t creepy looking at someone’s poster. Jocelyn and Ciara came up with some alternative names. They suggested something like “exploring” or “learning”. I think of it as “researching your personal social network”. Someone reading your profile is a good thing… it helps them to know you better. Someone reading your wall-to-wall with someone else is also a good thing. It’s flattering. Someone cares enough to read about you. If there is something that you don’t want people to read about you… you shouldn’t publish it and if you have to tell somebody something private… that’s what private messages are for.

Time to be a mentor

I am technically a “mentor” for the UBC Blog Squad. Although I haven’t done much mentoring. In fact they pretty much school me in dedication and writing ability. Many of them have written some absolutely fantastic stuff.

So here goes, my attempt at a bit of helping out:

I’ve noticed that many of you haven’t changed your blogroll yet (although I see that Genevieve has added a bunch of things to her one). Your blogroll can really complement your blog, by telling people at a glance what you are interested in. It shows people what you are reading and gives background for your own writing. It also doesn’t have to simply be one long list. If you go to the “blogroll” tab in WordPress you will see that you can add categories.
You can then add specific blogs to each category. Here is a quick example of what this would look like:

There is also a link at the bottom of the “add to blogroll” section that you can drag into your browser so that when you see a site that you really like you can add it to your blogroll very quickly.

P.S. My actual blogroll is a terrible example. Seeing as I am not using WordPress at the moment changing it is a lot harder for me to do than for all of you!

Three flavors of course blogs, very yummy…

In a comment on my post “who owns a class blog Jim Groom said:

That is the rub, when you open up a system like this, there are a number of ways of going at it, and having the ability to meet as many of them easily makes your life simpler.

I agree whole-heartedly with Jim. My judgment has been clouded lately by the Wp-o-matic’s ability lack of to update posts on the fly and the lack of a “delete all” button on any of WordPress’ pages. Today though, I saw the light. I now have a clear vision of three simple, definable, student driven course blog structures.

  1. The ghost blog:

  2. This blog is for the professor who doesn’t want to be confused by hundreds of student posts knocking around his/her blog. The blog simply uses BDPRSS and my add-to-BDPRSS widget (source code coming soon I promise) to populate a WordPress page with aggregated student entries. When another year of students comes, the old posts will still be there (or not, or in another blog that that the new blog links to), but as newer posts come in, the old posts will fall off of the bottom of the feed and the blog will have just new fresh content. No having to delete anything!

  3. The Communal blog:

  4. This blog is for the professor who wants to get stuck into the blogging experience with the students. This also probably the easiest (although I used to think it was the hardest) to implement. Jim reminded me of the “Add Sidebar Users” widget, which I will tweak slightly to make setting up this kind of blog super easy. Our new blogging service will allow students to sign up as just subscribers if they want to and with Campus Wide Login they won’t even have to remember their username. Zero work for the professor!

  5. The spam blog:

  6. Jim did great things with WP-o-matic. I found a tool that works even better for what we want to do (in fact, it is the one thing that I can now do better than the current incarnation of eduglu). FeedWordPress by Charles Johnson is another spamblogger that updates entries if they change in the feed. The biggest problem that I had with other versions of spam blogging tools was that they took dynamic content, republished it and then made it static. This might work for blog posts (which don’t generally change very much after they have been written)… but for something like a course syllabus or wiki feed (I’ll save that discussion for a later day) the content in the repository has to be continually updated. Otherwise we just have old junk entries lying around. FeedWordPress fixes that. FeedWordPress also has a nice “delete all” button that will get rid of feed entries that are marked for deletion. Best of all, the author has provided an excellent API and a bunch of hooks so that I can massage this plugin into doing my complete bidding.

    I will be finalizing and testing these methods tomorrow and over the weekend and will hopefully have some concrete examples by early next week.

    One last thing. These structures do not have to be independent. the communal blog can be combined with the spam blog (giving students the option). A ghost page can then be created in a different tab, feeding in content from other sources as examples and even points of discussion for future posts by the students. A ghost blog can be archived by simply feeding it into a spam blog and so on.