Research & Collaboration Tools for Students, Staff & Faculty: a Free eBook

I’ve just finished revising and updating the eBook and paper book versions of my book, “Research & Collaboration Tools for Students, Staff & Faculty: Creating a Modern Memex“.  It should be helpful for anyone doing research, but especially for high school students, university students, teachers and faculty. At 55 pages in paper book format, it is a short but informative read.

As a personal learning project, I’ve made the book available in multiple formats, so that it is accessible to everyone who is interested in reading it. Feel free to send a link to this page to anyone who you think might find this short book helpful. I’ve published it using the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions for the book.



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Posted in education, Google, Open Source, WebApps

Quickly Find Inexpensive and Convenient Airfares with Google Flights


I was looking for airfares to Brazil a couple of weeks ago, and discovered a delightfully useful new tool that makes finding inexpensive and convenient flights easier than ever: Google Flights.  No, Google is not running a travel agency now, but they did create a great tool for searching for flights in a variety of helpful ways.

For example I was looking for a flight from Victoria, BC to Sao Paulo, Brazil in January, so I entered my ideal itinerary, and the results were interesting.  The least expensive price for the dates I entered was $1328 Canadian, including all taxes and fees, which isn’t a bad airfare (see 1 below). Not a great deal, but not bad, until I noticed that the travel time was 61 hours, including a 34 hour layover in Vancouver, BC (see 2 below)!  The next best flight had a travel time of 20 hours, but cost significantly more at $1733. Helpfully Google lets me know that if I leave on January 24 and return on February 7 there is flight for $779 (see 4 below).  That sounds very interesting, so I click on the link.

Flights to São Paulo - Google Flights Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized

COHERE Conference EdTech Presentations Oct 22-23, 2015

cohereI’m participating in three presentations at the COHERE Conference (Canada’s Collaboration for Online Higher Education and Research), and am leading two of them.

First I’m presenting on behalf of George Veletsianos on a research paper that I helped gather and analyze data for, titled “A Systematic Analysis And Synthesis of the Empirical MOOC Literature Published in 2013-2015“.  It is a meta study that presents a comprehensive picture of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) literature by examining the “geographic distribution, publication outlets, citations, data collection and analysis methods, and research strands of empirical research focusing on MOOCs.”  The article is is based on was co-authored by George Veletsianos and Peter Shepherdson.

Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized

Back to College Tech Guide 2015

macbook-air-2015It’s usually in August when parents start asking me for advice on what laptop they should buy for their children heading off to university. If you are in a specialized technical oriented program like computer science, engineering or architecture, please consult with your faculty before purchasing your laptop. LifeHacker also has a quite long and detailed guide to buying a laptop That said given my years of experience, here is my general advice for the incoming class of 2015:

For a Standard Student Setup if you have a budget between $1200 and $1800 for a laptop and other hardware I would suggest the following: Read more ›

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Posted in education, Work

uBlock Origin Can Speed Up Your Web Browsing

ublock-origin-logoAd Blockers can go a long way towards fixing two chronic problems we experience while browsing the web:

  1. Annoying ads, including pop-up and flash video ads, and
  2. Websites that are sometimes surprisingly slow loading pages.  

One of the more reputable ad blocking browser plugins is called: uBlock Origin. You can download it for your Chrome and Firefox web browsers.

How does uBlock Origin do this?  When you load a web page in your browser, you are not only loading the HTML and graphical images from the web site your are visiting, like for example: , but you are also loading cookies and advertising images from up to 20 or 30 other web servers.  Depending on where in the HTML page the advertising images are requested, your web browser may wait until those images have downloaded before displaying any of the web page.


Another positive that comes with ad blocker software is that the ad images and cookies can add up to quite large downloads, not only slowing you down, but increasing your bandwidth usage. Read more ›

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Posted in education, Work

Worried About Browser Tracking Cookies? The Privacy Badger is Here to Help!

Privacy Badger from the EFF

Privacy Badger from the EFFIf you are like me and are somewhat concerned about the ability of large companies and three letter organizations (ahhem… NSA) tracking your web browsing through web browser cookies, evercookies or more recently, super cookies, shared by online advertising networks, there is now a trusted solution that should help: The Privacy Badger from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Privacy Badger web browser plugin block’s cookies from 3rd party websites from loading when you visit a website. For example if I navigate to the New York Times website, there will be browser cookies from that load to help keep make the browsing and reading experience more enjoyable, and to provide useful features.  There will be other 3rd party, typically ad network cookies that will also load that can track my web browsing between websites that belong to the ad network to provide me with more interesting and relevant ads.  In the case of the NSA they are tracking me to make sure I’m not doing anything they don’t approve of.

Privacy-Badger-BlockingIf either of these strike you as creepy or wrong, Privacy Badger give you fine grain control over with ad network 3rd party cookies you will allow to track your movements. Privacy Badger automatically blocks the cookies from organizations they believe are not trustworthy, but allows you to easily un block them if you with. On the other hand, you can block cookies from any website you like. In some cases blocking cookies can “break” websites, so you always have the option of either not using the website, or telling Privacy Badger to not block cookies that website uses.

I hope the image on the right gives a better sense for how pervasive the practice of 3rd party ad tracking cookings are. You can see in the Privacy Badger settingsthat on one webpage for a local newspaper, there were 31, 3rd party trackers loading with the webpage.  Privacy Badger goes a long way toward giving you the control over your on line privacy, from the web advertising companies at least.


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Posted in Work

When Implementing Successful EdTech Projects Don’t Forget The Pedagogy!

Are new educational technologies more effective in helping students achieve learning objectives than the old technology they replace? How IT professionals implement educational technologies, and how instructors use the technology can mean the difference between no impact on student achievement, and higher grades with more engaged students.

While some educational technology projects aim to lower costs and others to increase access to education, this presentation explores the intersection of educational technology and pedagogy (teaching methods). I look at the relative effectiveness of educational technology implementations as varied as: Digital Textbooks, Clickers, Streaming Video Lectures, Mobile Learning, Virtual Labs, Collaboration Suites, and Learning Management Systems (LMS). Hopefully readers will have a better understanding of how to assess the value of educational technology / pedagogy pairings, as well as better understand the key features that make for successful EdTech projects.

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Posted in education

Paper Towns… Or Modern Learning Communities

Who knew that online communities on YouTube and else where can be wonderful learning communities for young and old alike; places where we can follow our passions and help each other at the same time. John Green gives an inspiring and informing TED talk about modern learning communities.  I talked about this a couple of years ago in a blog post called, YouTube & Facebook: Education Distractions or Learning Tools? Enjoy!

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Posted in education, Google

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