Intriguing structures

Sparking interest and capturing the attention of busy learners can be a challenge at times especially if you aren’t present (either virtually or in-person). But online environments and free or inexpensive digital tools (apps) can make it easier for you to curate or present a collection of intriguing information, encourage critical thinking and develop self-directed learning skills. One of the ways you can do this is to present information in an interactive calendar.

I found a few examples you might enjoy from The Public Domain Review and Oxford Continuing Education. These examples are called “countdown calendars” as a new resource is released each day during a selected month – similar to the way an Advent calendar works.

Works Entering the Public Domain

Free, online educational resources – Oxford CE

Allow yourself some time as there are endless rabbit holes to dive into!

If you’d like to experiment, you could try using the following tools:

Create using a website editor like  BeaverBuilder or Divvy (look for masonry display options or photo displays). Or try some of the new options in Gutenberg blocks.

Try an opensource tool like H5P! Lots of different options – interactive presentations and even an Advent calendar tool (beta).

Enjoy exploring. Let me know if you create anything to share your interesting collections with learners.

Accepting loss

As we get older, things change in ways we may not have anticipated. I was certainly surprised at the unfriendly tone of the recent emails I received from the most recent owners of my Flickr account (SmugMug). I hadn’t uploaded anything since about 2015 but kept my Flickr photo site primarily as an archive of a really important time in my development as an edtech instructor and learning designer. The recent changes in the management of the popular Flickr photo sharing web service surprised me (they shouldn’t have) and they ultimately led to me deleting my long-time account (a free and sometimes Pro member since 2004 when Flickr was launched by Ludicorp’s Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake.

In 2004, I was just completing my Masters in Educational Technology at University of BC and an instructor (Brian Lamb) had gotten me interested in the possibilities of blogging and social sharing. He introduced us to Flickr, blogging, wikis and all kinds of intoxicating ideas about free-range learning and sharing.

I loved Flickr right away as it was so easy to post images to the Internet and share them with friends. I started uploading so that I could link images to my blog posts (Dave Winer’s Manila). ‘Hypertextuality’ was adding so many dimensions to my writing I was constantly thinking of new ways to share and images were a natural way to catch attention and spark discussion. The community feeling on Flickr was amazing – people offered suggestions for improvement, pointed me at other images I might find inspiring or useful and I got several friends hooked on the service as well. It was an exciting place to be and I enjoyed seeing images and exchanging messages with people from around the world.

Like so many free things on the web in those days, making money was really the primary objective. By making the service free and functional, the founders quickly drew a large audience and were soon bought out by Yahoo (Yahoo acquired Ludicorp and Flickr in March 2005 for somewhere between $22 and $25 million. I wasn’t a big fan of Yahoo – their search engine, their mail service or other features. And I really wasn’t happy that all my content was migrating to US servers. But I stuck it out and changed my email, cut back on my uploads and even signed up for a couple of years of Pro so that I could feel like I was paying my way.

In 2017, Verizon Communications bought Yahoo (and Flickr) and they reorganized. I was busy with other things and didn’t pay a lot of attention.

Then SmugMug bought Flickr in 2018 and it changed again. More rules, more restrictions, more fragmentation – due in large part to the huge participation in Flickr. I can understand that it was getting unwieldy and expensive. I believe that they did their best.

But this year, the tone seems to have changed. I was offended by the blunt email I received demanding that I modify my account as I either was in non-compliance of new regulations on free accounts or I had images in my collections that didn’t meet their standards??? It was obviously a generic email cuz I rarely posted images of friends and family. In fact, my non-compliance was two small private albums of a friend’s visit and a family trip to Hawaii.

I took the protected albums down, and spent some time reading all the marketing hype and the new rules for photo storage. I hadn’t actually uploaded anything for years but apparently I was still being asked to remove much of what I had. I requested a backup of all my photos and considered deleting my account. I checked the first level of paid account and it really wasn’t worth it. But I got really nostalgic as I looked back at some of the photos and the conversations and found that several old friends were still posting.

But at the beginning of this week, I got another email from Flickr. They obviously hadn’t checked my account as it still accused me of having two albums behind a password and used what I considered fairly agressive language to tell me that my account could be deleted. That was it – I logged into my account and followed the instructions to delete…sadly.

I did check around on the Internet to see why Flickr was being so agressive to try and drive me to pay for my light (actually non-active) use of their service. The experts seemed to agree that SmugMug had no choice but to push people to pay as they just weren’t making money. Hard to believe with such a popular service. I guess storage is still more expensive than it was originally touted to be.

Flickr always offered generous upload limits and promoted it as a free service for everyone – from the person who took snapshots while traveling or during events, to the professional or wannabe who were trying to develop their skills or promote their work to earn a living. I guess I no longer fit their preferred audience as they didn’t offer a place or a service that was worth paying for. I don’t want everything for free; but the Internet services are so varied and increasingly “walled gardens” that I have to be selective. I can’t afford them all so I pay for the ones I use a lot.

I guess SmugMug just forced me to recognize that I have many other expenses that I need to cover and indulging in a fun photo-sharing site doesn’t fit my budget.

I’ve also recognized that my sense of loss is more about the time, the freedom, the people in the community, and the sense of fun and discovery. I remember when Flickr was fun. Now it needs to be profitable. I understand what drives the owners but it ain’t for me anymore. Bye and thanks for the opportunity to play in your photo pools.

A history of Flickr:

Flickr forever, Mar 17, 2022 –

New limits – Mar 2022 –

Honouring Indigenous Writers

What have you been reading lately? Are you part of a book club? Have any of the books you’ve been reading been written by indigenous writers? I’m guessing (perhaps unfairly) that you might have to say “No”?

Well, here’s your chance to change that. Get to know an indigenous writer – make the effort to read and hear the voice from another culture – and it’s much easier to do over the next week. What’s special about the first week of March? It’s Open Education week and, UBC is hosting an event to raise the profile of indigenous writers AND benefit Wikipedia!

Although I missed the first event – a Reading with Smokii Sumac and Daniel Heath Justice, (they’ve posted a recording), I’m signing up for the rest AND exploring the possibilities of the Weekly Activities shared by the folks at UBC – if you’re nervous about contributing to Wikipedia (a lot of rules!), this is a great array of options for you to check out. I’ll be doing it cuz I have to admit I’ve skated around contributing to Wikipedia because of all the rules and policies in the way! This is a chance to engage with Indigenous writers AND learn how to add value to one of the most commonly used and cited online sites – Wikipedia.

Talk about two birds with one stone! What can you lose – check it out and get involved.

Honouring Indigenous Writers – Weekly Activities

Perspectives on Pro-D

I’ve been thinking a lot about what we mean when we talk about professional development, especially when we talk about it in the context of higher education (or post-secondary education). As a long-time edu-consultant, I’ve been in a kind of ongoing flow of PD throughout my career; sometimes that PD was formal and credentialled but often it was open, self-directed and visible through my practice or open sharing. I’ve been involved in helping faculty, staff and students learn more effectively with and through technologies. I’ve often wondered at the lack of consistent approaches to PD and varying reasons given by faculty, administrators and technology staff as to why everyone is not more ‘digitally literate.’

A recent research report (Summer 2020) by Professor George Veletsianos and colleagues offers some insights derived from a careful analysis of narrative comments in data collected by annual surveys (2017-2019) conducted by the Canadian Digital Learning Research Association (CDLRA). (Note: a brief summary of findings is available on Veletsiano’s blog Institutional Perspectives on Faculty Development for Digital Education in Canada.) 1

Although the report’s findings and suggested actions are often derived from a relatively small number of responses to the pan-Canadian surveys, they are supported by some significant prior research papers or publications. As I finished reading the paper I was not surprised to learn that the digital education PD training was handled differently across the country, that it wasn’t always available to non-faculty, and that faculty was often perceived to be uninterested in teaching online.

The recommendations for action included finding ways to change the institutional culture to support and reward or recognize ongoing PD and to collaborate with other institutions to offer some types of digital education, accessible to all (the paper specifically mentioned the efforts of BCcampus and eCampusOntario in this regard). While it is useful to have such a thorough analysis of Canadian educational institutions (thanks to the work of the relatively new CDLRA) and the recommendations are useful, I think that they didn’t go far enough in encouraging collaborative PD options through a focus on Openness.

I have been an enthusiastic participant, consumer, producer and practitioner in many open educational opportunities over the years (despite being on the outside of formal options through higher education). And, luckily for me, we live in a province where the government supports an organization like BCcampus and they, in turn, provide so many Open options and offer me ways to share my enthusiasm for Open with others.

During this final week of January we (I’m co-facilitating with my colleague Gina Bennett) are offering a FLO MicroCourse – Open Options to Enrich your Career. Gina has been exploring and participating in Openness for longer than I have and in different directions so we’ve had a lot of fun pooling our resources and experiences in open learning and practices. I’ll be blogging and tweeting any highlights or issues that catch my eye and interest and, better still, after we’re done, BCcampus will convert the resources and basic learning structure into a freely available OER on SCoPE.

1 The paper is open access: VanLeeuwen, C.A., Veletsianos, G., Belikov, O. Johnson, N. (2020).  Institutional perspectives on faculty development for digital education in Canada. The Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 46(2), 1-20.

More perspectives on professional development in higher education –

Visible pivot resources in Alberta

stumbling stickman figure

I tripped over some open (visible and open licensed) resources for Alberta`s higher education community the other day. I had not spent a lot of time looking in Alberta for Pivot resources for instructors because I took a quick look right at the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown and didn’t see much.

Turns out I gave up on them too soon. Here`s a few ways to help you move into online teaching during the pandemic (or to improve your practice if you are already online but not feeling very comfortable or competent!

Athabasca University

Turns out AU staff and faculty made a heroic effort and prepared a well-organized collection – Moving Education Online – by early April. Something for everyone – K-12 Students and ParentsK-12 Teachers and AdministratorsHigher Education Check out the open, online courses and the varied online learning resources.

University of Alberta

I found a collection of pivot information on the page: Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption (some practical advice – seemed too focused on internal tools and responses to be helpful outside the institution?). A much richer resource of well-organized ideas on the Teaching and Learning Lifeline page – check out Teaching Materials and Best Practices; FAQs about Implementation; Synchronous and Asynchronous Teaching.

University of Lethbridge

Not labelled as a pivot resources, the Teaching Online page has some interesting resources you might want to check out. I liked the list of preparatory questions – very useful for those new to online. While their Fit for Online Teaching Bootcamps are over, they do link to self-paced modules in an open textbook.

Funny thing I found while search for UofLethbridge pivot-related information – I tripped over a really rich resource from UofToronto University Health NetworkTeaching and Learning in the Time of COVID-19 – the most diverse collection I’ve found so far!

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of online teaching resources from Alberta higher education institutions! It’s what I found after an early morning search. If you know of other pivot or remote teaching resources from Alberta (or other provinces), please contact me (sylviar at educomm dot ca).