Week 12 in Review

I’ve been offline for a couple of weeks and it was all the good things it can be when you go on a vacation to Maui, leave the phones and ipads in a drawer and spend your days boogy boarding with sea turtles.  Nonetheless, I did manage to squeeze in a couple work days last week.

Innovation Classrooms:  This year, we equipped a small classroom with a 60″ monitor and a WePresent.  Once a user has set up the WePresent on their device, it works like a dream, allowing you to walk into a room, get on the room wifi, and punch in a 4 digit code via an app.  No more cables, no more podiums, no Crestron panels, and the audio quality has been great.  The one complaint is that the 60″ monitor may be a bit small, and I find myself zooming documents to make them easier to read.

We’ve found some money in our budget to do a couple more rooms and this time we are trying out some different configurations. We are going to do another small room with a WePresent and two 60” monitors on perpendicular walls, one of them mounted on a tilt mount and the other on a swing mount. The rooms are squarish in shape and get used for a variety of teaching purposes and we think that it will be useful to have some flexibility with a monitor on the swing mount. The WePresent won’t duplicate onto 2 monitors without an add-on, but we think there is utility in having the monitors have different purposes if they are in use. The WePresent monitor setup lends itself to student use, and instructor can simply hook up to the other one.

We are also going to do a larger, bowling alley room with a 70” monitor on a tilt mount and a WePresent. We struggled with this type of room configuration—we are introducing the monitors/WePresent set up as a way of diverging from a traditional student-rows-facing-front-monitor-for-powerpoint-presentation setup.   But bowling alley rooms don’t let you do this as easily as the small, square rooms. We are going to revisit this setup and see where a second monitor should be placed, if at all.

The $ details: We are challenging ourselves to think about equipment that we can feasibly replicate across dozens of rooms. The easiest solution is to purchase and install with one vendor. But we are learning that there is considerable money to be saved if we do our own install and if we purchase the mounts through an online supplier like Monoprice. Basically, the mount savings alone across 10 rooms equal the ability to do an additional room, and the install savings are recovered across 5.

We also learned that the typical podium, projector, screen setup costs in the range of 10-12,000$. Our rooms are coming in at less than half of that and we think that they will also be easier for instructors and students to use, and be better suited to a BYOD environment. I think of our approach as an Ikea approach to classroom technology—we are trying to introduce flexibility and simplicity within an environment where refreshing the equipment won’t be a huge burden on the institution.

Video:  We’ve been watching the progress with BCnet and MediaCore closely since we have a huge need for some video management given all the activity we do with video.  The big ‘if’ is whether our little institution will be able to manage a shared service license with MediaCore, so we are going ahead with plans to get open source Kaltura loaded and tested on a server here.

Coincidently, one of our programmers mocked up a nice little app that will allow us to have students and instructors record video directly into Blackboard (via our Flash media server).  This will take a load off of our Blackboard server, and will also be a way of allowing students to record 20 minute-1 hour role plays and simulation exercises directly onto the Flash media server.  It’s a little project that provides a huge impact in solving a number of nagging process issues we’ve had around video.

Week 9 in review and a bit of nostalgia

FullSizeRender copyInnovation Classroom:  We decided we had a bit more room in our budget to set up  two more classrooms with the WePresent and will try out a room configuration with two monitors on perpendicular walls, perhaps with one on a flexible arm. Our instructors are often moving the furniture around and using the rooms in different ways, so we think that giving more flexibility to the placement of the monitors will better reflect that and get away from a bowling alley set up.

SSHRC:  We submitted a SSHRC proposal and in true JIBC style it was pulled off in less than 2 weeks. Sincere kudos to my Dean for even attempting the impossible.

Praxis:  Since the Western Diversification funding announcement,we’ve been getting a lot of interest in our Praxis sim software.  Enbridge wrote a piece about it this week over here.

I had a short working week, having spent most of it at a hospice where my mom was battling lung cancer.  She left the world peacefully and quietly this week, which  is really all you can hope for with lung cancer.  My mom wasn’t a smoker–her cancer was second-hand smoke related–which is unfortunately not uncommon in women. Incidently, my mom is the third person we knew who died of lung cancer without ever being a smoker.

The hospice was located a short distance away from where I spent the first 7 years of my life, so I had the chance to walk around and snap some photos.  I’m kind of fascinated by how neighbourhoods change and evolve, and I was equally surprised at how good and how bad some parts of my old neighbourhood was.  My memories of it were of sunshine, and neighbourhood kids, and joy.


This was the house I lived in. It was a mid century trac house, and my parents went a bit crazy on the Danish teak furniture so basically it would be a East Van dream house.






This was Barry’s house. He was a friend of my brother’s and an only child. I remember that we loved playing over there because he was a bit spoiled and had a ton of toys. His mom was a super nice lady and used to pack us up in her camper and take us to Harrison Hot springs every year.  In true 70s style, she’d let us run around Harrison without a whole lot of supervision, and feed us peanut butter sandwiches on Wonder White, which I loved.




This was the Hippy House.  It looked a lot different so I had a hard time locating it.  I played with a girl at this house and I loved it because there were always tons of people at her house (I’m pretty sure there was a carport at the side where they’d all sit and hang out).  My dad wasn’t thrilled with me playing with the hippies – the town was pretty conservative and having a house of hippies was a  bit unusual. They didn’t stay for very long.



FullSizeRenderThis was the corner store where we’d buy our candy. There was a shortcut through somebody’s yard to get there, and we would go there and buy chips and Popeye cigarette candies.






This was my school. I noticed it’s called a Traditional School now, but  I don’t remember it that way at all. In fact, my favourite teacher of all time (Grade 2) loved art and would periodically put aside all school work and have Art Weeks, where all we would do all day for an entire week is make art.  That is my best K-12 school memory, which is a bit sad and special at the same time.