Value of Teacher Volunteerism: some rough numbers

Like the legal and medical profession's requirement to do pro bono work, SHOULD EDUCATORS be required to serve populations that otherwise would not have access to particular areas of learning?  I believe they should.  Access to learning and education benefits society as a whole and an informed populace is necessary to a successful government.  The requirements and how this should be achieved, however, deserves discussion and debate.

This appeared in one of my course discussion boards and got me thinking about  the extent and value of existing teacher volunteerism in the absence of any requirement to do so. In Canada I believe all collective agreements recognize extracurricular work as voluntary.

I'd argue that all extra-curricular activities at schools during lunch breaks and before/after school is pro bono work. My limited research suggests that pro bono obligations in the legal profession are a minimum of 50 hours per year or the equivalent of 3% of annual billing[1].

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation conducted a workload and volunteerism survey[2] finding that 92% of teachers “run and support extracurriculars”. Extrapolating these numbers out to Ontario’s general teaching population of almost 115,000 teachers[3] and 30% volunteering 5 hours per week and 13% at 10 hours per week, that’s well over 12.5 million volunteer hours each year in a 40 week school year and that still only accounts for 43% of teacher volunteers.

That’s a big number.

If we think of an eight hour work day, that’s the equivalent of 1.6 million extra days of labour volunteered into Ontario public schools. That’s the equivalent of an extra 8000 teachers each year. At an average annual salary of $51,000[4], these volunteers are contributing well over $400 million in extra services.

That’s just in Ontario.

With more than 300,000 teachers in Canada[5] we can estimate the value nationwide to be well over one billion dollars.


Just for fun, if the same volunteerism patterns are applied to the United States’ 3.7 million teachers[6] , that’s more than $13.2 billion.

I know it's dangerous to extrapolate study findings too far beyond the target population, and I've rounded numbers (down in all cases) while putting this together, but the broad picture painted is clear. Teachers are already very generous with their time and work hard to keep it voluntary providing individuals the freedom to back off or ramp up as life circumstances change.


[1] Anand, Raj (2007), “Fostering Pro Bono Service in the Legal Profession: Challenges Facing the Pro Bono Ethic” (Paper presented at the Ninth Colloquium on the Legal Profession: Legal Ethics in Action, Osgoode Hall Law School, 19 October 2007), online: Law Society of Upper Canada






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Some authentic applications of Augmented Reality (AR)

Hsin-Kai Wu (2013) suggests AR should be understood as a concept rather than a specific technology. It is helpful to understand AR as a negotiation between the user and content delivery systems leveraging the power of several technologies to create intuitive and seamless, context-aware interactions between user and content. AR, therefore, is a novel concept for displaying digital information as a meaningful overlay attached to physical objects as viewed through a mobile device (Hsin-Kai Wu, 2013). Where it differs from other online content is spatial positioning of the content and the use of naturally occurring trigger image.

On the surface, it is easy to think of AR as just a fancy QR code – the user scans it and is directed to a web page, application, or a YouTube video. In this regard it is no different than a QR code, or a simple URL. AR is most effectively used when the user accesses relevant information relevant to a particular space or artifact.

A school celebration of the arts day offers a good example. Using an app like Aurasma to create content channels. Each piece on display can serve as a trigger image that, when viewed through a smart device, can overlay content specific to the user’s subscribed channel. It could be a video of the artist explaining the piece, or a clip of the artists’ work in progress, or the teacher pointing out important features. In this way, a single trigger image can simultaneously (though virtually) offer different relevant content to different users .

AR applications would work well with architectural reconstructions. Visitors to the remains of historic spaces could use the SightSpace3D app to walk through virtual recreations of physical structures as though they were in the past and inside the structure. Users could watch a video tour, or manipulate a scale model on a computer but AR connects the users’ movements in physical space to movements in virtual space offering a more immersive experience.

Another effective example of AR is Minecraft Reality. This app uses data (structures and land forms) from the game Minecraft, an immersive 3D virtual space, and displays it in physical space as though attached to the trigger image. Sharing work in 3D spaces is usually done as a projection while the user offers a tour through the space all from one point of view. With Minecraft Reality, several users can view the same structure using the same trigger image through their smart device camera, and tour around and inside the structure by physically moving around the trigger image.

Finally, my favourite example is WordLens which was recently purchased by Google and redistributed as Translate. The user can view a foreign language sign or poster while travelling and, viewing it through their device, have the app replace the foreign text with English text (of whatever the selected language is).

These are what I consider to be authentic uses of AR, or uses that really make use of the technology’s affordances. SightSpace ties physical movement to virtual spaces, Minecraft Reality make 3D spaces explorable outside a computer, and WordLens offers just-in-time translation services by simply pointing the camera at foreign text. Aurasma is a novel way to attach student voice to physical objects, though the novelty effect is short lived and, alone, rarely justifies expensive technology investments  (Juan, 2010). Further, Wrzesien (2010) suggests that some innovations may redirect learner attention from the content to the technology thus detracting from the technology’s effectiveness as a learning support.


Hsin-Kai Wu, S. W.-Y.-Y.-C. (2013, March). Current   status, opportunities and challenges of augmented reality in education. Computers   & Education, 62, 41-49. Retrieved from

Juan, C. L. (2010). Learning Words Using Augmented   Reality. International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies   (ICALT) (pp. 422-426). Sousse: IEEE. Retrieved from

Wrzesien, M. A. (2010). Learning in serious virtual   worlds: Evaluation of learning effectiveness and appeal to students in the   E-Junior project. Computers & Education, 55(1), 178-187. Retrieved from


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"The Anti-Education Era" by James Paul Gee, a SpeedRead

The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning by James Paul Gee

Gee, J. P. (2013). The Anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Collaborative Book Review by
Yukiko Bonnefoy, Møre og Romsdal, Norway
Miles MacFarlane, Winnipeg, Canada
LaKisha Scott, Atlanta, USA
Jenna Wallace, San Antonio, USA

With more than 20 books, almost 200 journal articles, and more than 300 conference lectures to his credit, James Paul Gee is an innovative thinker and prolific author at the intersection of linguistics, communication, cognition, identity, and technology, in both real and virtual spaces. Gee is most recently known for his application of gaming theory to learning situations. Gee is a member of the National Academy of Education and is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University.

His most recent works include Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning, and Literacy (2013), Collected Essays on Learning and Assessment in the Digital World (2014), and Unified Discourse Analysis: Language, Reality, Virtual Worlds, and Video Games (2015).

This review focuses on his 2013 book, The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning.


Dealing with broad societal issues but focusing on the educational context, the author seems to target educators, but the subject matter could have a wider appeal. The content addresses issues far beyond the classroom showing how individuals and the broader social context affect how we think and perceive the world. More than a book of educational reform, Gee addresses the deep philosophical and psychological factors that cause us to be stupid. Anyone with an interest in how society functions and what can be done to improve the human condition will enjoy this book.


People are ill-equipped to cope with today’s fast-paced hyper-connected world and much of what we do stand in opposition to what we want. It is this, Gee suggests, that makes us stupid. Recognizing what makes us stupid is the first step toward being smart.

In our reading, Gee’s provocative and confrontational style pushes an unflattering mirror in front of the reader highlighting everything that is wrong with individuals and civilization. He then describes possible applications of technology that could direct the collective wisdom of humanity toward positive change.

Book Summary

Essential Ideas

In the first half of the book, Gee describes at length how people’s thought processes and behaviors result in stupidity. Gee suggests that the human brain was not designed and has not yet evolved to cope with the complexity of human relationships, society, and types of problems we now face. He suggests that we can use digital media to compensate for where we struggle and augment where we have it right. Digital media offers the means and context for coalescing human wisdom and experience into something not only manageable, but effective in helping us achieve our collective goals.

He outlines fifteen different ways in which human thought is misguided or deceived. These errors limit our ability to live in harmony with people and ideas and prevent us from approaching the world intelligently. Given the depth and pace of change, Gee says, we are, as a species, at greater risk of social, economic, and climatic catastrophe. He frames and details each of the fifteen challenges and, in the end, offers an approach to learning that leverages the collective wisdom of our species. In this way, we can overcome these challenges moving us farther from being “stupid” and closer to being smart.

The amount of ink devoted to what makes us stupid and the provocative language about human intelligence, creates in the reader a sense of discomfort and defensiveness. Gee describes numerous examples of how what we are doing is not getting us what we want. By holding up to humanity a mirror that exposes every flaw and blemish; he forces the reader to examine one’s worldview through a different lens. He offers much that is wrong, and only hints at possible solutions. For receptive readers, this will churn the ground on which belief systems are built offering an opportunity to rethink, debate, and collaborate on new foundations for a better world.

Major Points

Gee suggests that our current education system needs to engage learners in more social, authentic, and meaningful learning experiences that promote reflective thinking through collaborative mentorship. Rather than trying to get our brains to work more like computers he wants us to develop the unique creative and meaning-making capacities, and let computers manage our information storage and processing needs. We tend to think of human intelligence as a measure of an individual’s cognitive abilities. Gee urges us to think beyond that to humans augmented with technology connecting with other augmented humans. In this way, we can manage very complex scenarios more effectively.

Humans are good at identifying patterns but sometimes generalize too quickly, not appreciating the broader context of that experience. Such a narrow or limited focus is a barrier to understanding. Beyond limiting our experience, Gee says who we relate to (solidarity) and who we aspire to (status) similarly limit our thoughts and behaviors and our social position further affects our ability to participate in society. In the search for solidarity and comfort stories, we can often be led to believe things that are factually wrong. This mentality can lead to “us versus them” dichotomies, marrying individuals into groups that reflect one’s own existing beliefs and perceptions. Such groups can have a negative impact when they isolate the individual from other perspectives and other opinions. Similarly, learners in highly customized, personally adapted settings are sheltered from authentic challenges and do not develop the ability to problem solve or deal with the non-customized world. Likewise, institutions can also experience limited or narrowed focus when formalized processes lock participants into thinking and behaviors that prevent the institution from evolving as needed.

In the last portion of the book, Gee points to some scenarios or structures to address the sources of human stupidity. He describes the importance of both virtual and real spaces where people from a variety of backgrounds converge, by choice, in fluid and flexible groups to explore a common issue. These so-called affinity spaces promote a synchronization of intelligence that leverages the wisdom of the group and the affordances of digital technology, to make and communicate meaning. He offers Talk, Text, and Knowledge mentoring (TTK) with digital technologies as the foundational skills upon which a smarter civilization can be built.

Analysis and Evaluation

Strengths and Weaknesses

Gee’s book evokes a visceral response from the reader as he holds the unflattering mirror to humanity in an uncomfortable confrontation with our very belief systems and worldviews. Front loaded with blunt rhetoric about humanity’s stupidity, readers seeking solutions rather than colorful commentary on how awful the world is may be turned off and abandon the book. However, we found the longer we stood in front of the mirror, the more we saw the truth of his provocative assertions.

Two-thirds of the book clearly defined and gave examples of humanity’s stupidity while the final third, rather than offering solutions, gave only suggestions of a solution. This mentality is frustrating as a reader because the book title promises that we can “Create Smarter Students through Digital Learning” yet it is consistent with his thesis. Gee says that we must create purposeful communities where everyone has a voice and put our collective minds and technologies to finding solutions - solutions will not come from one single author.

Implications for Education

Understanding the many ways people get things wrong, and the ways in which we avoid the ruth, educators can better recognize the origins of misunderstandings in students and correct them. They may also use this understanding to craft learning experiences that address these human inclinations to help learners make meaning from determined truths.

Learning experiences, Gee suggests, should make use of digital technology to create both real and virtual points of contact where individuals can gather to learn, share, debate, teach, explore, take, and contribute ideas on a particular topic. Education can be restructured to make use of affinity spaces and leverage the synchronized intelligence of a vast and diverse learning community to create even better learning experiences than exist now.

Educators should identify those strategies and pedagogies that promote empirical thinking and leverage the power of communications technology to build productive and positive affinity spaces for learners. In this context, we can even rethink the definition of learner from one who simply receives or creates knowledge to a term that embodies the notion that they are contributors and active participants.

Relevant Quote

Gee (2013) stated:

To be smarter today we need Minds, not just minds. We need synchronized intelligence we need to be able to dance the dance of collective intelligence with others and our best digital tools. Talk, text and knowledge (TTK) mentoring and digital tools can be deployed in ways that reverse our brain bugs and social bugs to make us smarter. (p.208)

This quote communicates the essence of Gee’s path away from the stupidity toward smartness. The terms he uses in this quote are elaborated on at length in the book, and his full meaning is hard to comprehend out of context. Essentially, we need to confront our flawed and narrow thinking (brain bugs and social bugs) and use the unique capabilities of our brains (Minds) and technology (digital tools) together with diverse others (collective intelligence) in a coordinated (synchronized intelligence) and collaborative (mentoring) effort to make meaning based on empirical evidence.

Book Club Questions

Gee suggests that the pursuit of empirical reasoning is critical to creating a better world. He also suggests that religion, as a complex set of mental comfort stories can get in the way of our capacity to reason. He does propose that science and religion can co-exist as complementary frameworks for understanding the world. Do you agree? Can science and religion support each other in the pursuit of truth?
Gee identifies Affinity Spaces as important elements of a thriving civilization. Understanding Gee’s vision of affinity spaces, discuss examples of affinity spaces in which you already participate. To what extent do your affinity spaces reflect the criteria outlined in Chapter 20?
Gee describes video games as potential virtual spaces for learning and describes how affinity spaces can exist in the context of a game. There is a lot of criticism about the effect of video games on today’s youth. Is Gee on to something, or is this simply a bad idea? Is there unlocked potential in virtual gaming spaces, or do the dangers outweigh the potential benefits?
Humans often seek meaning over truth. Sometimes we find meaning that is void of truth or truths that do not yet have meaning for us. Gee urges us to recognize and false meaning, and find motivation for embracing truths for which we do not yet have meaning or use. Discuss examples of meaning without truth and truth without meaning. Explore the challenges of dealing with each scenario.
Gee suggests humans have to acknowledge our penchant for mental comfort stories. Nietzche famously said, "God is dead" but went on to say how we will always invent something new to take God's place. Can humans live without mental comfort stories?
How fitting is the title The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning for the book? What alternate title would you give it?



Individuals with an interest in sweeping social change will appreciate Gee’s observations and recommendations for changing the way we think to achieve a better world. Senior education leaders will find the messages a challenge to traditional learning approaches and may find Gee’s ideas useful as a framework to guide reform efforts. Educators, in general, may find the points related to society’s “stupidity” somewhat confrontational spurring reflection on their practice and experiences.

While the book proposed ways in which technology could improve education, we wouldn’t recommend it as a “how-to” book for those searching for practical strategies to implement digital technology in education settings. Rather, it serves as a conversation starter for those interested in improving education in the 21st century.

Additional Resources

James Paul Gee. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2015, from

DMLResearchHub. (2011, April 4). Games and education scholar James Paul Gee on video games, learning, and literacy. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from

Elbouza, M. (2014, May). The Anti-education era – Response to Gee. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from

Ellis, K. (Director), & Borovoy, A. E., & Rosenfeld, L. (Producers). (2008, April 12). Big thinkers: James Paul Gee on grading with games [Video file].
Retrieved February 16, 2015, from

Güss, C. D., & Tuason, M. T. (1942). Fire and ice: Cultural influences on complex problem solving. In COGSCI 2009: The Annual meeting of
The Cognitive Society (Vol. 1947).

Lewis, M. (2013, July 10). Reflection on the anti-education era by James Paul Gee. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from

Lilly, T. (2013). The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning. IJEP-International Journal of Educational Psychology,
2(3), 353-355.

Shapiro, J. (2014, July 3). Games can advance education: A conversation with James Paul Gee. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from

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Mental and physical fatigue and multitasking

Then and Now

source: Reddit


I've been sitting at the computer for several hours now. For a while I worked on my research paper. When I need to reduce the cognitive load I popped on to Facebook for a bit. Then, I caught up on the latest posts for my course and spent some time reading a couple of articles. After that I replied to some emails and logged in to my account to pay an e-bill.

So, I did some research and writing, I socialized, I played a game, read some news, wrote some correspondence, paid some bills.

Every time I switched my focus, I did so because I was ready for a change bit not quite ready to go back to the cognitively demanding activity. Even after all that time doing something other than my paper, I'm still not ready - still not feeling like I'm ready to give it my best. Of course, when I really think about it, I've not been active. While my brain is switching activities, my body is still in the same position.

Lately I've been doing my coursework while walking on the treadmill and found that my powers of concentration are much stronger. Not only that, I can sustain effort on one activity far longer than I could if I was sitting at the desk task switching.

My research paper, ironically, is on multitasking and I will be posting more on that research later. As I posted elsewhere, distractability has long been an issue of concern for educators. Then, in the 1960s a new term emerged describing a computer's ability to perform more than one task seemingly simultaneously. By the 1980s, lots of people knew about a computer's ability to multitask and the notion sounded good enough for people to try. At this time, use of the word distractability decreased, and multitasking increased. (Check it out using the very cool Google NGram Viewer).

Now, I'm not saying there is a direct correlation, but it wouldn't surprise me. Cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable and us humans work hard to avoid it. Given our penchant for describing things in the best light possible, and rationalizing poor decisions or unfortunate situations I think we have simply re-branded distraction as purposeful and productive multitasking. Sitting at the computer is more appealing to me than reading on the treadmill because the potential for getting more things done at once is alluring.

It is clear though... crystal clear... that multitasking doesn't do anyone any good. The problem is we think we are the exceptions to the rule, we are the ones for whom the research does not apply. Well, the hard truth is that there are no exceptions. We all suck at trying to do a bunch of things at the same time.

So, does knowing this help me better manage my workload?

I wrote this during a break from writing report cards in a browser window with more than a dozen tabs open.

Self-control is another big part of the multitasking picture, but that's for another day. I need to get back to my report cards. Maybe on your break you could share strategies you use to manage multitasking in the comments below!

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Apps for whatever you are teaching and learning

Occasionally people ask about “must-have” apps for their devices. My preference is to focus on apps that ease the burden of communication, collaboration, and playing with ideas. These iOS applications are agnostic of content area and well worth the minimal costs. I suspect many are also available for other platforms, but I'll leave that to you.

Explain Everything ($3.49) gives the user a Khan-Academy-Like work space with the ability to record and share their voice and what’s on the screen. It’s like putting an interactive whiteboard in everyone’s hands.

GoodReader ($5.97) is my favourite reader app. It handles a lot of different file types, connects with several cloud storage services, and lets you create and share annotations with a pretty robust tool set. You can store files locally for off-line access.

Voice Dream ($11.99) speaks the contents of text files. Like GoodReader, it handles a lot of different file types and plays nicely with many cloud storage services.It remembers where you left off, has adjustable pitch and speed controls,handles challenging document including headers and multiple column formats. Tables, though, are a little wild to listen to. Other voices are available as In-app purchases for $3.49 each.

Dragon Dictation (Free) is a great way to get ideas from kid’s heads onto the (virtual) page. Voice recognition is much more accurate now than it was in the past and this app is very handy. The active listening time is limited so longer passages or thoughts might take a few starts/stops, but I’ve found it to be very accurate and easy to work with.

Coach’s Eye ($5.79) lets the user annotate video files with lines and shapes. There are a couple of in-app purchases that also let you place multiple timers and a protractor to measure angles. With slow-motion, shuttling, and live narration, it’s a great tool for science… and sport too. It’s a little pricey, but makes replays, slow motion, and onscreen annotations extremely easy.

Google Translate, formerly Word Lens (Free) provides through-the-lens instant translation of text to the selected language. Still a little choppy, and not great for small text, but a very cool app for language learning. Each language pack used to come as in-app purchases but since the app was purchased by Google, all the language packs are now free.

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MOOCs and Motivation

Image source:

Click to enlarge.  Image source:

Addressing learner motivation in self-directed open learning environments

Reading about motivation and volition in instructional design, I contextualized the ideas within self-directed open learning models, like MOOCs, which reflect social constructivism. Here, participants join large groups working toward a common goal, but pursuing their goals in smaller self-selected learning communities.

For most participants, MOOCs are voluntary and pursued independently. Often loosely structured, these courses allow individuals meet their own learning goals in contexts that are interesting to them while connecting with others of similar mind. This embodies Keller’s (Simsek, 2014) first two principles of motivation: attention and relevance .

MOOCs can draw thousands of participants suggesting that many people are highly motivated to learn. However, with completion rates averaging only 13% (Jordan, n.d.) there seems to be a lack of volition to see the program through to the end.

Learning systems such as this, Bouchard (2009) suggests, create a pedagogical void; the learner herself is both learner and educator. Pedagogical tasks such as sequencing, pacing, formulating objectives, finding resources, following up, and evaluating may or may not be part of the learners’ skill set. In their absence, learners may feel overwhelmed, experience failure, and lose the will to continue (Knox, 2014). These three outcomes reflect the absence of Keller’s (Simsek, 2014) last three principles of motivation: confidence, satisfaction, and volition.

Clarà & Barberà (2014) suggest that MOOCs represent a way of being, rather than a way of learning. That technology-enabled ubiquitous connection and constant engagement reflect the practice behind an attitude of life-long learning rather than the rigor required for formal education. In this respect, MOOC participants neither fail nor succeed, they just make more or less progress to achieving a learning goal.

Instructional planning for MOOCs and social constructivism with autonomous learners has to address the pedagogical void. While learners are highly motivated to begin with, and can act on their own curiosity, instructional designers have to consider developing the metacognitive processes that increase confidence, lead to success, and sustain learner volition.

Additionally, the connectivist learning approach, an offshoot of social constructivism, approaches learning differently through a process of aggregation, remixing and reflecting, re-purposing, and sharing (Kop & Fournier, 2011), very different from experiences these learners may have had in the past. Orienting learners to the big pedagogical picture may also contribute to success.


Bouchard, P. (2009). Pedagogy without a teacher: What are the limits? International Journal of Self-Directed Learning, 6(2), 13–22.

Clarà, M., & Barberà, E. (2014). Three problems with the connectivist conception of learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(3), 197–206. doi:10.1111/jcal.12040

Jordan, K. (n.d.). MOOC Completion Rates: The Data. Retrieved from

Knox, J. (2014). Digital culture clash: “Massive” education in the e-learning and digital cultures MOOC. Distance Education, 35(2), 164–177. Retrieved from

Kop, R., & Fournier, H. (2011). New dimensions to self-directed learning in an open networked learning environment. International Journal of Self-Directed Learning, 7(2), 1–20. Retrieved from

Simsek, A. (2014). Interview with John M . Keller on Motivational Design of Instruction, 5(1), 90–95.

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Securing your network in Web2.0 environments

Off-line WiFi router allows students to connect with their personal devices.

Enterprise network security strategies in Web2.0 context.

Network Security

I found an excellent article that addresses some of the issues surrounding network security in the age of social media and collaborative online spaces. Almeida (2012) describes how Web 2.0’s characteristics create great opportunities, but also some vulnerabilities, specifically how some protocols are harder to detect and how some content can be delivered in different ways. Sites with dynamic content creation (non-static) may be safe one time, but not another.

Consequences and Strategies

He goes on to outline possible legal and financial impacts from such content highlighting the need to create an effective security strategy. The strategy, he suggests, should be based in policy but supported with technology. Policies created after broad consultation should reflect enterprise philosophies but address particulars in enough detail so as to be actionable.


Almeida identifies eight approaches that together allow access to social media and minimises exposure to malicious content:

A. Application control list: examines network activity for signs of traffic from disallowed destinations.

B. Application traffic shaping: limits available bandwidth for particular applications

C. Monitoring and review: analysis of network traffic logs can reveal usage patterns

D. Browser settings: should be set to maximize security (https)

E. Anti-malware software: deep scans for both inbound and outbound traffic

F. Authentication: password management, two-step verification, token-based or biometric passwords

G. Avoid clickjacking: logging out of applications and minimising cookie longevity

H. Data loss protection: software solution that monitors data use and patterns to reveal suspicious actions


What I appreciate about Alemeida’s approach is that it recognizes the value of social media and it’s potential for positive contributions to an enterprise seeking to make it a safe experience. One thing that is explicitly missing from his list but is implied elsewhere in the article is the importance of education and training. Controlling the technology puts interventions in place, but controlling for the human element offers preventative protection.


Almeida, F. (2012). Web 2.0 Technologies and Social Networking Security Fears in Enterprises. International Journal of Advanced Computer Science and Applications, 3(2), 152–156. Retrieved from

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Oh DEAR, Drop everything and read? Really?

Some 15 years ago, Drop Everything and Read was where some song or sound played at random points throughout the day. Everyone was to stop what they were doing immediately and start reading the book they were to carry around with them during the DEAR week. Then the announcement would come on some time later and we were to resume regular activities.

I hated it.

Most teachers hated it.

It was intrusive, it interrupted those kids who were in flow, and created two new points of transition in the day. Besides that, it just isn’t the way we read.

Following up on a post to the English Teachers' Association NSW Facebook page, I decided to have a quick peek to see what I could find.

(Wu, Wu, & Lu, 2014) Suggests that careful planning and some kind of structured approach to teaching reading is important. DEAR is included as one such strategy.

Another literature review reveals that a regular scheduled program of reading for pleasure in school has a positive impact of a child’s love of reading, and the value they place on reading (Pegg & Bartelheim, 2011). DEAR is mentioned as one such initiative.


Lee-Daniels (2000) report describes experiences with a year two class engaged in DEAR. She found that excitement for the program wore off and needed regular invigoration. She describes an incentive strategy to build intrinsic motivation as well as some other strategies for keeping DEAR fresh.

Olivar, Manalo, & Palma’s (2014) report seems to approach DEAR as a context for content engagement rather than reading for pleasure. They also address the issue of intrinsic motivation but describe their interventions in terms of assignments and projects as motivators to engage in DEAR.

Pruzinsky (2014) suggests that, while DEAR may seem to divert time from heavy content courses, the time spent reading strongly benefitted students. He describes the larger program by which he engaged students and made DEAR part of the program rather than a diversion from it. This article has many ideas for implementing an effective DEAR program.

Cummings (Cumming, 1997) describes the positive effects of a DEAR program in a remote Canadian community with a largely oral tradition. The author used participant generated content and variations on reading locations and times in an attempt to establish a culture of joy in reading.

None of that research had measurable data to support claims, but the bottom line seems to be that DEAR is effective if it is responsive to the audience, is tweaked along the way to keep it interesting, and is part of a regular program. Certainly not the kind of DEAR I experienced early in my career.


Sources cited:

Cumming, P. (1997). Drop everything and read all over: Literacy and loving it. Horn Book Magazine, 73(6), 51–53.

Lee-Daniels, S. L., & Murray, B. A. (2000). DEAR me: What does it take to get children reading? Reading Teacher, 54(2), 154–159.

Olivar, L. L., Manalo, J. A., & Palma, A. M. (2014). Awareness of maritime students in Lyceum International Maritime Academy on the Drop Everything and Read ( DEAR ) Program. Academic Research International, 5(3), 206–213.

Pegg, L. A., & Bartelheim, F. J. (2011). Effects of Daily Read-Alouds on Students ’ Sustained Silent Reading, 14(2).

Pruzinsky, T. (2014). Read Books. Every Day. Mostly for Pleasure. English Journal, 103(4), 25–30.

Wu, R., Wu, R., & Lu, J. (2014). A Practice of Reading Assessment in a Primary Classroom. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 4(1), 1–7. doi:10.4304/tpls.4.1.1-7


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Epistemological Dissonance as a Barrier to eLearning

While it may appear that mobile adoption is limited and slow, I would argue that, given tablet computing really only took off when the iPad was introduced not quite five years ago, education is embracing mobile technology if not quickly and enthusiastically, then carefully and with some curiosity.


By the third quarter of 2014, Apple sold 13 million tablets worldwide direct to education with another 8 million in 2013 (Cavanagh, 2014). In 2012 there were 4.5 million sold to education within the US alone (Etherington, 2013). While Apple has the dominant market share, the combined presence of other mobile computing vendors is not insignificant. This supports a significant investment from education into mobile technology hardware.


A survey report from Interactive Educational Systems Design, Inc. revealed that just over 20% of responding schools had tablet computers in general use (2012, p. 12) with almost half of respondents indicating that number is expected rise. This seems to support the rapid adoption of a new technology. About three quarters of the respondents also indicated a strong interest in pursuing the use of tablets for teaching and learning. Interestingly, though, three quarters of the almost 90% of respondents with no Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy also indicated a reluctance or unwillingness to pursue BYOD initiatives in the near future (2012, p. 22). This suggests a reluctance in mobile adoption, but likely speaks more to control and management than pedagogy.


So schools are purchasing mobile technology and plan to increase access, but what are they doing with them? This, I believe, is the crux of the perceived problem.


Mobile technology challenges the way we think about teaching and learning, for engaging with content, with others, and, some suggest, for how we think. Initially mobile learning was celebrated for making learning possible “Anytime and anywhere”. Cook (2012) suggests that “all the time and everywhere” better reflects our evolving understanding.


A technology’s affordances emerge over time as humans use, problem solve, explore, and create with the tool as illustrated in Shorkey & Webel’s (2014) examination of technology use in Social Work education. Siemens (2004) proposed connectivist learning theory, a new model for understanding how we learn in an age where access to people and information is ubiquitous. He suggests that learning need no longer be linear developmental steps, rather, learning can be the random assemblage of connections amongst humans and information.


This epistemological rethinking challenges how we design curriculum, how we create learning opportunities, how learning institutions are designed (Leather & Marinho, 2009). Critics of connectivism point to gaps in connectivist learning as a theory (Clarà & Barberà, 2013, 2014) but acknowledge that the educational landscape is changing and such proposals are valuable. Given the deep philosophical change connected with effective use of mobile’s affordances, it is reasonable to expect some level of discomfort and hesitancy amongst educators and administrators.


While educational institutions are taking careful steps, individuals are running ahead fully embracing mobile technology. One survey anticipated by 2014 there would be 1.75 billion smartphone users worldwide with a full 70% of the world using mobile phones (eMarketer, 2014). A Canadian survey revealed that more people are using mobile technology and their level of sophistication in terms of demands of the device is also growing (Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, 2012).


The understanding of mobile technology as extensions of our own human capacity is more widely accepted (Siemens, 2004) and individuals are using technology in increasingly sophisticated ways that are integrated with daily life. As extensions of and supplements to our memory, a mobile device is an intensely personal tool. Perhaps, when thinking about mobile in education, we can look at how to capitalise on the new capabilities of their learners to achieve both individual and enterprise goals.

The full embrace of technology by education will happen when our tools, practices, and philosophies align.


“What can we do with the device?” becomes “What can we do with learners who have devices?”


Sources Cited:

Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. (2012). 2012 Consumer Attitudes Study. Retrieved from

Cavanagh, S. (2014). Apple Touts Strong iPad Sales in Global School Market. Retrieved September 20, 2014, from

Clarà, M., & Barberà, E. (2013). Learning online: massive open online courses (MOOCs), connectivism, and cultural psychology. Distance Education, 34(1), 129–136. doi:10.1080/01587919.2013.770428

Clarà, M., & Barberà, E. (2014). Three problems with the connectivist conception of learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(3), 197–206. doi:10.1111/jcal.12040

Cook, V. (2012). Learning everywhere, all the time. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 78(3), 48–51. Retrieved from

eMarketer. (2014). Smartphone users worldwide will total 1.75 billion in 2014. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from

Etherington, D. (2013). Apple has sold over 8M iPads direct to education worldwide, with more than 1B iTunes U downloads. Retrieved September 20, 2014, from

Interactive Educational Systems Design. (2012). 2012 National Survey on STEM Education. Retrieved from

Leather, D. J., & Marinho, R. D. (2009). Designing an academic building for 21st century learning: A dean’s guide. Change, (May/June), 42–50.

Shorkey, C. T., & Uebel, M. (2014). History and Development of Instructional Technology and Media in Social Work Education. Journal of Social Work Education, 50, 247–262. doi:10.1080/10437797.2014.885248

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from


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40% Cutbacks to IT Department -> What do you do?

This was created as part of my participation in the graduate course Educational Hardware Systems at the George Washington University. The scenario was to make a plan that addresses a 40% cutback in funding for IT in your enterprise. These are my thoughts... would love to read about your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.


I’m considering this exercise in the context of a public school district. Some assumptions:

  • Schools in the district are equipped equitably
  • Current state of technology is no worse or better than any other average year
  • There are no new policy directives requiring technology


Prong 1:
Pursue BYOD program to reduce load on existing hardware, leverage personally owned technology, and ease the need to purchase/replace hardware. Focus hardware supports in low socio-economic schools to support students who may not have their own devices.

Business: Using sample data from Operations Management Technology Consulting GmbH(Luxembourg & Sommer, 2013) Hardware accounts for about a quarter of IT expenses. Reducing capital investments in new computers while increasing access and connectivity will help achieve budget goals without impacting productivity.

Technical: (Hardware) Consider technology use agreements, level of support for personally owned devices, securing data and network integrity. (Humans) Preparing learners for maintaining and appropriately using their own technology, and preparing employees for working with an unpredictable pool of hardware will present a challenge.

Educational: Accessing information and productivity tools on one’s own device may well be more motivating than having to use an assigned computer. One study (Mang, Wardley, & Bay, 2012) reported that more than 40% of college students reported not using the full capabilities of their assigned hardware because they knew they had to return it at the end of the year. Using one’s own hardware increases the motivation to fully understand and utilize their technology tool.


Prong 2:
Network/Internet maintenance and development to ensure robust and reliable connectivity.

Business: Every aspect of enterprise relies on the network for its operations. Online spaces and resources are as much a part of the enterprise as the physical spaces (Futhey, Schroeder, & Benatan, 2013). Connectivity must be supported and developed first and foremost.

Technical: Consider bandwidth requirements for accommodating bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and increasing multimedia streaming. While enterprise-owned hardware may reduce in number, or at least stay static in a period of austerity, prong 2 will produce increased network load and introduce security issues.

Educational: Access to online resources, communications technology, and productivity tools are integral to 21st century education. Whether learners are using their own devices or those provided by the institution, robust connectivity ensures access to the broadest and most comprehensive learning resources.


Prong 3:
revise maintenance/upgrade schedules to keep existing devices in operation for the foreseeable future. Running vintage software on vintage machines can leverage speed and performance from old computers, as long as security patches are in place. Ensuring enterprise hardware is secure, protected, and well-managed will control maintenance costs (Nash Networks, 2009).

Business: Adopting a BYOD program places maintenance obligations on the end-user. While this has the advantage of offloading costs, it also means a loss of control over the technology used. Providing some support and maintenance services on a cost recovery basis goes some way to reducing overall costs while supporting end users.

Technical: Consider rebalancing investment equation to determine which of the existing enterprise devices are worth refurbishing or upgrading in order to extend usability. Where network and device security is not compromised, resist upgrading applications to the latest version. Strip browser add-ons, plug-ins, and reduce/eliminate startup programs to free up operating memory. Repurpose or redeploy older computers for light-load purposes (eg. simple office applications, email, browsing). Also consider replacing desktop computers with much cheaper thin-client devices that make use of cloud computing resources.

Educational: Ensure a pool of computers at each site capable of running required software (student/learning/content management systems). Maintaining status quo with hardware does not preclude the use of new browser-based applications though older browsers may not always support the application demands.


Prong 4:
explore budget alternatives: Extend amortization schedules for technology purchases. Explore rented/leased hardware which shifts budget requirements from capital to operating expenses. Operational expenses are more flexible and allow for greater scalability as needed (Baker, 2010).

Business: Consultations with the organizations’ Chief Financial Officer may reveal changes in acquisition/ownership practices that allow for continued access to learning resources in addition to reduced costs.

Technical: Consider limitations or restrictions that may come with leased/rented equipment. Duty of care, insurance, maintenance obligations, penalties associated with the lease agreement must be clearly understood, communicated, and implemented.

Educational: The budget line from which a purchase is made is not likely to affect how a student learns.


Prong 5:
Transition to cloud-based services offering productivity software and storage solutions. This will lower the total cost of ownership by reducing need for local storage infrastructure (Sundeen & Sundeen, 2013). It also supports less expensive thin-client

Business: A Forbes article on Cloud Computing reported savings of more than 20% on infrastructure costs with a shift to cloud computing.

Technical: Consider data security – what data needs to be stored locally, what can be cloud based.

Educational: Educational experiences using cloud resources opens the door to greater collaboration, wider access, and more current tools.


Sources Cited

Baker, G. (2010). Why CIOs Should Shift from Capex to Opex -- CIO Update. Retrieved September 03, 2014, from

Futhey, T., Schroeder, T., & Benatan, E. (2013). Creating the IT architecture for the connected age. Retrieved September 03, 2014, from

Luxembourg, Y. P., & Sommer, T. (2013). IT Costs – The Costs, Growth And Financial Risk Of Software Assets. Muenchen, Germany. Retrieved from

Mang, C. F., Wardley, L. J., & Bay, N. (2012). Effective Adoption of Tablets in Post-Secondary Education : Recommendations Based on a Trial of iPads in University Classes. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 11, 301–317.

Nash Networks. (2009). Total cost of ownership (TCO) of IT (Vol. 9, pp. 1–14). Retrieved from

Sundeen, T. H., & Sundeen, D. M. (2013). Instructional Technology for Rural Schools : Access and Acquisition. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 32(2), 8–14.    Send article as PDF   
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