Monthly Archives: September 2013


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The third type of digital divide and why mobile devices should remain on


Much has been written about the digital divide. And we are now seeing research and publications focused on the “second-level digital divide” as mobile devices become increasingly ubiquitous. Now we’re talking about the structural inequities among not just who has digital access, but rather, the kinds of access and digital access skills.


In addition, the pervasiveness of mobile computing means that North American post-secondary classrooms are increasingly a site for a third kind of digital divide: between instructors struggling to wrest students’ attention away from their mobile devices, and students as tied to said devices as day traders to the Nasdaq. Maybe it doesn’t have to be one or the other: mobile computing can add value to any classroom.



Here are seven ways to leverage mobile capacity from the very first class.


1. Ice Breaker: App Show and Tell

People love apps (estimates for 2013 range from somewhere between 54 – 86 billion downloads). Ask students to stand up, mingle around, and query someone they haven’t met “What’s your favourite app and why?” What are the most popular apps represented in your class? What does this say about commonalities and differences?

2. Course Playlist

Playlists are the contemporary equivalent of mixtapes. What song(s) symbolize the themes of this course? Put together a collaborative playlist. Play a song at the beginning and end of every class.

3. In-ClassTwitterchat

Individual reflective activities are regarded as productive and constructive. Why not take 10 minutes and move the conversation into the social-digital realm? #yourcoursename


4. Open-search-engine pre-test

Mobile devices are banished from final exams – rightly so. Yet the skill of locating credible information efficiently is essential in any profession. Invite students to preview a modified final exam at the beginning of the course using their mobile devices to access information (they can work in pairs if not everyone has an Internet-enabled search engine on their phone). Extra points for the instructor if the pre-test is designed more for critical understanding/analysis than fact-memorization. Optimally, students will directly experience why attending class is a value-add over just reading the text.


5. Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Collectively develop an innovative idea based on the course content, or identify a community project or cause, and work with them to secure funding. Try to fund development using crowd-sourced micro finance (such as Kickstarter).


6. Social Justice

Identify a cause and create an online petition. Or locate, critique, endorse petitions. Reflect on the challenge of consensus building, ethics, values, decision-making.


7. Collaborative Learning Assessment

Invite students to collaboratively co-create the final exam throughout the course using a mobile test-maker application.



All of the above strategies are aimed at addressing classroom engagement and leveraging the reality that students will bring and access their mobile devices, whether sanctioned or not. But most important, these strategies can address the skills gaps identified in the concept of second-level digital divide. And do so in the spirit of new and emerging teaching and learning frameworks:

Paragogy and heutagogy.

(Also on Slideshare)







A small investment that can add big value to your training or workshop


People attend courses and workshops for a variety of reasons: some are there to learn, some are forced to attend, and others are curious-but-skeptical. Yet whatever the reason, how can we add value in the form of creating a compelling and memorable experience? An experience that effectively reaches beyond the workshop into the “real world” inhabited by our learners?

An obvious way to help bridge the learning-practice gap is to offer a package of professional, relevant and well-designed handouts. We trainers reassure ourselves that this invaluable resource will serve as an oft-consulted reference for learners post-session. Yet, how many of these things have you unearthed and pitched out in an office-purge years later? It’s a natural tendency to “file it and forget about it”. So…What else is needed?

I have attended two recent faculty development sessions where the speakers employed an ingenious and appealing strategy. So brilliant, so obvious, why have I never done this before? I am decided that I will now incorporate this into every single workshop:

Give each and every participant a small, meaningful token – a symbol – of the underlying meaning or “spirit” of your session.

Don’t tell them ahead of time. Do it near the end of your workshop or talk. Involve them in an activity demonstrating how they might use it.



In the Motivational Interviewing workshops that I facilitate, we talk about the skill of affirming as one of four foundation skills in this counselling approach. Last week at a session I gave for Queen’s University Health, Counselling and Disability Services clinicians, I handed out “saphires” (plastic, from a discount store) to each participant, and asked them to consider an affirmation that they could offer to a challenging student they are working with. Long after the workshop, that “jewel” on a practioner’s desk is a tangible reminder of mindful practice, and more evocative (and concise) than the 40 page handout I provided! (Or even the one page ” MI Tips ” for that matter).

Learners give their time, attention and wisdom to us when we co-construct learning communities. In the spirit of reciprocity, I have decided that going forward, a symbolic token to take away represents a significant value-add for learners and a reminder of what we have collectively shared.












These essentials combine great design with utility and don’t break the bank


September is the time for students to gather together their learning tools (aka school supplies) for the coming year. What about teachers and presenters? Obviously, a laptop computer is handy. What else? Here are my essential presenter survival tools, all of which conform to my criteria of great design + utility + affordability. Plus a few extras that should not be forgotten on your packing list.


Remote mouse / slide advancer


If you use slideware, there is no excuse for being stuck beside your computer throughout your talk. If you haven’t yet gotten around to getting one of these, buy one immediately and take it with you everywhere. I like Logitech’s version which comes with its own case. And don’t forget to retrieve the little USB key at the end of your talk!








So useful! Have you ever been one of five panel speakers all trying to copy their presentations to the conference’s laptop a few minutes before the symposium’s start time? Or you are presenting using someone else’s computer, and there is only one USB port available, and you need to plug in both your presentation and your slide advancer (see above)? I especially like Belkin’s version where each of the four USB ports has its own area (USB hubs with parallel ports can get a mite overcrowded). I am not sure if anyplace still carries this one, but can try here…







External laptop speakers

Cyber acoustics

Even if the training venue has a sound system, it doesn’t always work. You want to play your demonstration videos or your intro music, and these Cyber Acoustics portable USB speakers are super-light and magnetically snap together for travel. They also cost under $20.00.







Back-up of your presentation and handouts

What if you drop your computer? What if it gets stolen? For sure someone can borrow a laptop for you. They can’t help with the presentation though, so bring a spare USB key just in case.


Extension cord

It amazes me how many training rooms I have been in that don’t have an electric outlet anywhere even remotely convenient to plug in a laptop or projector. And for lack of my own extension cord, I have wasted precious time waiting for someone to track one down – they are invariably rare especially when needed most.


Extra pens you don’t care if you get back

If you want people to write stuff down, acknowledge that some folks may not have anything to write with. It’s easy to pack a few cheap pens, just in case.


Bottled water

Do not assume there will be a water source. Some training venues are dryer than the Sahara desert.


Energy (preferably in the form of chocolate)



I don’t want to risk a melted mess all over my stuff, but I do want chocolate. My preferred energy sources are M&Ms and Luna Bars.





Rolling Briefcase




OK – now where to stash everything? I have searched years for the perfect “training suitcase”, and I think I finally found it: great quality, good looking, well-designed, compact and affordable. This Swiss Gear four-wheeler has a mini-office organizer in front and a spacious interior for overnight travel necessities. It’s also carry-on size for most airlines, and packs up all my stuff with room to spare.

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