Thursday, February 10, 2011


I was interested to hear about spacing after periods in class today, so I decided to look even further.  I was disturbed to hear that one space after periods was expected in the Internet.  Luckily, I have a way out.

According to APA style (6th edition), one should "Use two spaces after periods instead of one. More space in between sentences allows for easier reading and comprehension".

However, MLA says differently. One should "Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise instructed by your instructor)".

And Chicago also agrees, saying "that there is no reason for two spaces after a period in published work". Chicago does go on to say that some people prefer two spaces, however.

I think that it is a matter of personal preference, or which style guide we are using.  So, as someone who is writing exclusively in APA (thank you, Faculty of Education), I will stick to two spaces.  Besides, I won't have to re-learn anything!

-Matt N.


Fonts.  I didn't know that I had to worry about which ones that I used before today - I just thought that as long as it was easily readable, then it is OK.  Apparently I'm wrong.

Here's an idea that I got from reading JPod (by Douglas Coupland):

These sentences are 60% more boring when read in Courier New.

Baby videos (Times New Roman)
Baby videos (Courier)
Baby videos (Helvetica)
Baby videos (Trebuchet)

Death-defying leaps through flaming polar bears
Death-defying leaps through flaming polar bears
Death-defying leaps through flaming polar bears
Death-defying leaps through flaming polar bears

Cause of death:  acute trauma to the occipital hemisphere.
Cause of death:  acute trauma to the occipital hemisphere.
Cause of death:  acute trauma to the occipital hemisphere.
Cause of death:  acute trauma to the occipital hemisphere.

Optimum dryness factor:  27%
Optimum dryness factor:  27%
Optimum dryness factor:  27%
Optimum dryness factor:  27%

Clearly the most boring font is Courier New, followed by Times New Roman.  Helvetica and Trebuchet are both not too bad.

-Matt N.

Technology...good or evil?

The question posed to the class today was,

"Is technology value-neutral"?

This is a very interesting topic, partly because there are so many types of technology. A spear could be technology. Microsoft Office could be technology. An atomic bomb could be technology. We attach values to these things, but I wonder if we are attaching the values to the use of the technology, rather than the technology itself.

Google's informal corporate motto is "Don't be evil". This, along with being funny, suggests that technology is, in fact, value-laden. Google is one of the first things that comes to most people's minds when they think of a technology corporation. They (Google) aspire to "not be evil". I think, however, that they are referring to what they do with their technology.

Techology refers to things, not actions. You don't "technology" something, you use technology. Lifeless items are in of themself neutral - it's how they are used that gives them value. Even things that are seen to be evil - say, an atomic bomb - only are evil when paired with an intent or a use.

In conclusion, technology itself is neither good nor evil. There are, however, many good or evil actions associated with technology that need to be taken into account when figuring out how one should use technology for the betterment of the world.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Usage-Based Billing

The uproar this week on the Canadian interwebs has been about UBB, or Usage-Based Billing.  UBB, for the uninitiated, means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will give you a small cap, say, 25 gigabytes, and then charge you per gigabyte of data that you download over that.

Here's the CBC story.

Now, most ISPs already do that.  The big difference is that the upper limits we have now are huge - say, 200 GB that most users, even heavy ones, will not hit.  What people are upset about is that the CRTC gave lower limits as its guideline, so people would essentially be paying the same price for less.

An analogy was given online - what if you were told that from today on, you could only buy 50 litres of gasoline at today's price per month, and for every litre over that, you would pay $500.  People would revolt, and the automobile industry would collapse again.

The analogy is not so far off.  $500 per litre of gas may seem ridiculous, but imagine paying $1.12 per gigabyte.  This is a ridiculous price inflation.  The CBC quotes Rocky Tetrault, president of TekSavvy (an independent ISP) as saying, "The rates are absolutely atrocious. How the hell are we doing above one dollar for extra usage?...It's in the thousands of multiples beyond what the costs are."

Canadians reacted violently to this news, starting petitions and posting information all over social media sites.  One petition, "Stop The Meter", was posted widely over Facebook, and it is believed widely that this site helped generate over 200,000 signatures to a petition against the UBB ruling by the CRTC.

Luckily, the grassroots movements seem to have made the government take notice.  As of this morning, Feb. 3rd, word came from the government that "the prime minister and the minister of industry will reverse this decision unless the CRTC does it itself".

It appears that the Internet is safe in Canada, for now.  I was worried that with the implementation of this ruling, we as teachers would have our access to the Internet either limited or completely denied.  The Internet, and especially some of the higher-bandwidth sites like YouTube, are excellent resources for teachers, and one of the better ways to connect with students.

In celebration of free Internet, here is something from AutoTune The News.

-Matt N.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Copyright and Canadian Values

We spent some time today talking about copyright and plagiarism in class. I feel that this is an extremely relevant topic, but I feel that we are uninformed to what the law actually says. So, here is a short overview of the Copyright Act.

1.  To have copyright means to have the sole right to produce, copy, publish, adapt, or distribute your work (3).

2.  Copyright lasts for the life of the author, and then to the end of the 50th calendar year after that (6).

3.  Infringement (quoted directly from the Act - section 27):
  1) It is an infringement of copyright for any person to do, without the consent of the owner of the copyright, anything that by this Act only the owner of the copyright has the right to do.

(2) It is an infringement of copyright for any person to
(a) sell or rent out,
(b) distribute to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,
(c) by way of trade distribute, expose or offer for sale or rental, or exhibit in public,
(d) possess for the purpose of doing anything referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c), or
(e) import into Canada for the purpose of doing anything referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c),
a copy of a work, sound recording or fixation of a performer’s performance or of a communication signal that the person knows or should have known infringes copyright or would infringe copyright if it had been made in Canada by the person who made it.

4.  Fair Dealing.  You can use a work for research or private study, criticism or review, or news reporting.  Educational institutions may copy for instruction or examinations, except where a work is commercially available in a format suited to that purpose.  Schools may perform a work, but if it is recorded, must pay royalties after one year, or destroy the recording (29).

5.  Electronics.  Computer programs may be copied or adapted for single use.  They may make only one copy (30.6).

6.  Music and schools.  Schools and religious or charitable organizations may perform a work in public, play a recording in public, or play a communication signal carrying either of the two without penalty (32.2).

7.  Criminal remedies.  It is an offence to sell or rent an infringing copy, or to distribute an infringing copy (42).

8.  Private copying.  As long as you do not sell or rent or distribute, persons may copy entire works onto an audio recording medium (80).  Authors, makers, and performers have the right to payment from makers of blank audio recording media (81).

As a reward for making it through the legalese, here is a Reebok ad from a while ago that you might not remember.

There is a lot more in there, but these seemed to be the important parts.  It's really hard to talk about copyright when you have no idea what the law actually says, I think.  When we were speaking in class about this, I got the impression that our knowledge of the law came from hearsay and not fact (especially from myself), so I have gone to the source here.


Friday, January 21, 2011


Today, I created my first podcast.  Unfortunately, Blogger won't let me post it here, so I have uploaded the file to YouTube and copied it below.  Happy listening!

Definition of Podcasting provided by Wikipedia.

***EDIT*** To upload this podcast, what I had to do was save the podcast as an .mp3 file, then create a movie in iMovie with this as the soundtrack.  I then saved that project as a .mov file, and uploaded it to YouTube.  I then took the "embed" code off of the YouTube site, and embedded it into the blog using the "Edit HTML" tab.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Movies and Teaching

First things first:  Watch this.

I think that this is an example of how NOT to test.

Let's discuss:  we looked at a movie in class today that talked about features of teaching using a film.  The features were:

Review the film first

Make the environment optimal for learning

Prepare the class for what they will need to get out of the film

Review the film and answer questions


In the above video, Dwight has given a fire safety lecture, and he wants to test the retention and application of his materials.  Although I question his methods, I do applaud his follow-through and testing in a practical setting.

I think that we as teachers need to take both the above video from the Office and the film that we watched today (and the lessons learned from it) into account when using film in class.  After we watched the film in class, we were given a test.  Some of the class were given different instructions than others on how to watch the film, and so they did poorly on the test.  This is important to remember - as we've been told many, many times, assess what the students have learned in class.  What we need to take from the video in the Office is that students need to know that they are going to be tested, and for the test to be a FAIR assessment of what they have learned, rather than trying to frustrate and trick them.

Side note:  I found that in one of my classes, showing YouTube videos was a great way to connect with the students, because it showed them that I was in tune with what they thought was important.

Final points:  Videos are great to use in class, but I find that they can be overused sometimes.  A video should never be a substitute for teaching, but rather an aid and a complement.  Videos cannot administer tests, get to know the students, or assess for purposes of learning.  But they can accent a point that we are making, show information in a new way, or just give you (or the students) a break.