Viewing Canada Live & Online, Pt. 5 – British Columbia

Viewing Canada Live & Online, Pt. 5 – British Columbia

In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, we have been making our way across Canada on the blog via webcams! You can revisit our look at the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, and the Prairies, and travel northwest with us as we wrap up our survey of some of the great online views of Canada.

I’ve learned a lot as I’ve virtually travelled across the country seeking out webcams aimed at great views and historic places. Continue reading

Viewing Canada Live and Online Pt. 4 – The Prairies

Viewing Canada Live and Online Pt. 4 – The Prairies

I’m making my way across Canada from the East Coast to the West via webcams. This week I’m moving into Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta (my home province). These three provinces make up the “Prairies” and are all partially covered by prairie grasslands. Manitoba joined the confederation early on — in 1870, only 3 years after the original four provinces united — but Saskatchewan and Alberta joined later in 1905. Continue reading

Viewing Canada Live & Online, Pt. 3 — Ontario

Viewing Canada Live & Online, Pt. 3 — Ontario

Parliament Hill, Ottawa

Screen shot 2017-04-30 at 20.12.36

There has been a webcam aimed at Parliament Hill since 1995 (Find out more in this article from the CBC)! This webcam, mounted on the Birks Building on Sparks Street in Ottawa, shows views of Centre Block, the impressive Peace Tower, and the Centennial Flame (at the centre bottom of the screen) in the grounds of the Parliament Buildings. The flame has been burning since Centennial Year (1967).

The webcam requires refreshing of the page, but it’s a great view of the beautiful building that was rebuilt in 1917 following a massive fire. Continue reading

Viewing Canada Live and Online Pt. 2 — Quebec

Viewing Canada Live and Online Pt. 2 — Quebec

A few weeks ago I began a discussion about webcams on the blog. Although certainly an older technology, webcams can provide information, insight, and opportunities to look into places that we might not be able to get to offline. I provided a number of links to webcams in the Maritime Provinces of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. This week I’m moving west into Quebec for a glimpse at the province’s natural beauty, architecture, and history. Continue reading

Viewing Canada Live & Online Pt. 1: The Maritimes

Viewing Canada Live & Online Pt. 1: The Maritimes

Webcams are an older digital technology and are often overlooked in favour of photographs, video clips, and “live” broadcasts on social media, but webcams are still around, sharing live footage of beautiful sites across Canada and abroad. Nowadays most seem to be focussed on two things: weather and traffic reporting. They also have their drawbacks — footage may be stilted, unavailable at times, hindered by weather, or the website might even require visitors to manually refresh the website in order to see a new image (I warned you that this is “old” technology!). Continue reading

H800 Technology-Enhanced Learning: Reflections

H800 Technology-Enhanced Learning: Reflections

I recently finished an online postgraduate course on technology-enhanced learning that forms part of the Open University‘s Online and Distance Education postgraduate programme. This module introduced students to the key texts, terms, and debates when it comes to technology-enhanced learning from both the practitioners’ and students’ perspectives. One of its greatest strengths was that built into the class were opportunities to seek out new technologies and apply what we were learning and finding to our own unique circumstances.

The Open University’s H800 students were from all over the world and in a wide range of professions, including teachers and educators from all levels as well as tech professionals in higher education and the private sector. It was a great mix and we’ve all learned a lot from one another as well as from the course materials. One of the things that surprised me most was the strong sense of community that developed outside of the module’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), the online course area provided by the Open University.

While we were provided with online forums and the ability to video chat with fellow students within the VLE, more than two dozen of us migrated many of our conversations and discussions to a private Facebook page. I also connected with fellow students via Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts on my computer and mobile phone. I think this reflects several of the goals of the module: 1) Introduce us to a range of technologies; 2) Apply these to our own work; 3) Take ownership of our learning; and 4) Create a supportive community of practice.

Not only have I begun to use new technologies to meet a range of needs for my informal and formal learning and work as a practitioner, but I now have connections to individuals with a range of expertise that I could draw upon in the future. For example, I’ve already spoken with a few about developing the Moodle (VLE) for Slavery in the Americas that’s starting soon. I also think that as some of my posts over the past few months have demonstrated, I’ve begun to look differently at some of the technologies that I was already using in new ways, such as for informal learning, teaching potential, supporting communication, online community building, etc.

H800, Technology-enhanced learning, was as much about teaching and learning theory and debates as it was about the technology. This has been very helpful. I’ve been introduced to the language, the techniques, and the research that underpins much of the teaching and innovations that are taking place in universities across the western world. Its been eye-opening. For example, I’m excited about the possibilities of making the ‘flipped classroom’ (where instructors film their lectures to be provided to students online ahead of class so that class time can be devoted to interactive activities such as problem solving, group work, and support) a common site on university campuses.

I’m now understanding why universities and their libraries are refurbishing to provide social spaces within their buildings and providing better Wi-Fi capacity. Both the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh, for example, have revamped their main libraries to encourage and facilitate technology-enhanced group work and discussion. I’m also intrigued by the controversy over whether the ‘Google generation’/ millennials are really all that different from other ‘generations’. Do they learn differently and require different teaching strategies from their instructors than previous students? Or is it all hype? Seeing as by some definitions I am a millennial, it’s an interesting thought!

I took on H800 for general professional development and to strengthen my online course creation skills. I’m coming away with a strong understanding of current teaching and learning theory and practices, awareness of the possibilities of new and existing technologies for teaching and learning, and some great connections and good friends. It’s been a good, intense 32 weeks!


Illustrating History with Piktochart and Pinterest

Pinterest is a great resource for capturing, organising, and sharing visual information and related links to websites, blogs, and online databases. It contains countless arts and crafts ideas, recipes for making gorgeous food, kids party ideas, beautiful wedding dresses, and images of home decor to aspire to. Online retailers and bloggers embrace Pinterest and incorporate the “Pin” button into their posts, encouraging their visitors to share what they’ve found to Pinterest’s ever-growing collection in the hopes of reaching new audiences and selling more products. And it’s easy to use.

Pinterest has another important (but seriously underused) function: it allows historians and teachers to share visually appealing images — specifically infographics, but also digitised photographs and historical sources — and provide brief text captions to share with countless others via Pinterest’s platform.

My Quick Intro to Pinterest: In Pinterest, everyone has their own page (like a home page) with their own boards (picture virtual bulletin boards, each with a theme you’ve chosen). You can search for specific items using the search bar or scroll through Pinterest’s suggestions that are tailored to every user’s stated interests and recent pins. Pins are images that have a web link attached and usually some accompanying text, either an explanation of the pin, or a comment on the pin. Pinning is the act of adding a pin to one of your boards. Once someone has added a pin to Pinterest, others are then able to click on it to enlarge it, “Like it” by clicking the heart symbol, “Pin it” to one of their own boards, or share it with others in or outside of Pinterest. You are also able to see other people’s boards, including friends from other social media sites, but everyone also has the ability to make some or all of their boards “private.”

Lots of us take photographs in the process of our work, such as of a new source or information, a library, our surroundings, a statue or monument, a plaque, or a historical site or building. We can also scan and share print sources (provided that you have the right to copy or digitise the item), images of books we’re reading, and even document an entire research trip in photographs. Add the ease of taking digital photographs now that so many of us have cameras on our phones and there’s no reason to snap a picture here and there in our work.

Like Instagram, Pinterest makes it easy to upload and share images, but Pinterest connects these images to explanatory text and commentary, allows for and encourages the pinning of infographics, and includes a vital link to a website for more information.

An infographic is a visual representation of information. We see them all the time, such as in charts, graphs, and some posters. They work particularly well for data that includes numbers, such as statistics, dates, and quantities. And that’s where Piktochart comes in. Piktochart is a website that allows users to use and modify various templates (or design their own from scratch) to present information in an interesting and visually-pleasing manner. It’s free to use if you don’t mind there being a watermark at the bottom of the finished product. It’s also fairly user-friendly if you take some time to walk through the tutorials and work from one of their templates.

The big question is, how can we as historians harness Pinterest, Piktochart, and the infographic?

We can use it to share our research, inform others, and grow interest and awareness.

To start, try searching Pinterest using broad search terms such as “history”, “British history”, “slavery”, etc. to see what’s already out there. Not on Pinterest? Google “history infographics” and you’ll be amazed and inspired.

By searching for “slavery” on Pinterest, for example, I found some excellent infographics drawing attention to the shockingly high rates of modern slavery around the world and some interesting timelines of the abolition of new world slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries, which I pinned onto one of my boards. Each pin has an accompanying website for more information, some of which I wouldn’t have come across otherwise, and therefore the pin acted as a promotion of someone’s research or site. Then I started thinking about what information I would want to share, and of those ideas which I might be able to represent graphically. I knew that I wanted to share some of the stats from Isles Abroad’s first month, so I chose a template from Piktochart and in the space of about an hour (from signing up to downloading the finishing product), came up with the following infographic:

isles-abroad-feb-2016 (1)

Now that it’s online, anyone can share it to Pinterest and, if any Pinterest users are interested enough to click on the link, it will direct them back here. In the near future I want to develop an infographic showing a timeline of the slavery debates, so over the next while I’ll be jotting down dates and notes with an infographic and corresponding blog post in mind. But the data on an infographic can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Just remember to think about 1) what you want to share, 2) who you want to see it, 3) why you want to use an infographic, and 4) what do you want people to get out of it.

Tweeting about Slavery: How the Open University Made Me Re-think Twitter

I recently began taking an online course in Technology-Enhanced Learning from the Open University. I’m four weeks in and finding it fascinating. The course is delivered online to students all around the world. My tutorial group of 12 has students based in the UK, Vietnam, Australia, and Tasmania, and yet we are able to see one another, meet up for informal chats online, and participate in formal, tutor-run, “synchronous” tutorials via OU Live and Blackboard Collaborate.

One of the best parts of the course, in my opinion, is that it constantly asks us as students to evaluate the means by which they are teaching and we are learning (when it’s not busy asking us to define and debate via the online forums what ‘learning’ is). Over the 10-15 hours of study and activities each week, we are provided with information in a variety of formats and are asked to think about not only the content but the means by which the content has been presented. Videos, podcasts, transcripts of conference papers, articles from peer reviewed journals, chapters from academic monographs and essay collections… we’ve already encountered course material from all of these formats.

In the course we aren’t just exposed to a wide range of formats of digitised information, but we are asked to think about the technology we use (both high tech and low tech), why we use it, what we like and dislike about it, and what could work better for us. We’re connecting with one another on Twitter, creating online profiles, blogging, gathering resources together on a group wiki, meeting up virtually face-to-face online, and being challenged to learn about new forms of technology that can contribute to learning, teaching, and course creation.

This has also got me thinking about how I might use familiar technology in new ways to create, develop, and organise content and research. For example, for a number of years I relied almost solely upon irregular notifications of new information posted to the H-Slavery forum sent directly to my email to find out what was happening in the world of slavery history research. But then I began making an effort to become more active on Twitter (BTW You can find me on Twitter @HistoryByPaula ). By following slavery researchers and anti-slavery projects from around the world with only a click of the Follow button, I am finding new leads for resources, the latest relevant news stories, upcoming conferences, and links to Facebook pages, blog posts, and calls for papers and publications. It’s fairly safe to say that I would not be aware of most of this activity without Twitter.

For me, Twitter has gone from a website where people write little notes about themselves to a useful tool that connects me with what is going on in my field of research right now. And I don’t know if I would have recognised it as a tool had it not been for H800.