UEN is located at the University of Utah

UEN is located at the University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah

Monday, October 26, 2015

Steve Jobs - Movie Review

This weekend I had the pleasure of catching the new Steve Jobs bio-pic starring Michael Fassbender as the iconic Apple Computer founder and CEO.  Although the film is entertaining to Apple Fanboys like me, it may fall flat for the general movie goer, or worse for Windows Users!

Set over the entire life of Steve Jobs this movie concentrates on three specific events.  The unveiling of the first Mac Computer in 1985, the launch of Job's solo company NeXT in 1988, and finally the 1998 release of the first iMac and Jobs' return to Apple.  A personified camera approach follows Jobs through the preparation of each event highlighting personal conflicts with Apple Co-created Steve Wozniak played by Seth Rogen, Apple marking director and Jobs confidant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), and Apple CEO John Scully (Jeff Daniels).  Also present in the drama are Jobs' former high school girlfriend Chrissann Brennan (Katherine Waterson) and daughter Lisa Brennan.  Combining the drama of Jobs' paternitiy dispute with Brennan as Lisa's father and his "reality distortion field" in dealing with Apple colleagues, the film spins through the three events with a cache of flashbacks to summarize his controversial career. 

While Fassbender, Winslet, and Rogen all put on powerful performances, it does seem weird to see Kate Winslet stressing out backstage of an Apple event and not on a sinking ship.  Seth Rogen also surprises in a serious role where he continuously confronts Jobs about the poor treatment of the Apple II design team.  Three actresses portray Jobs' daughter "Lisa" as she learns how to deal with her father who describes himself as "broken" before declaring he will make a device that holds all of her music in her pocket.

If you're an Apple fan and love to learn about the bizarre character quirks of Jobs then you'll certainly enjoy this movie.  I will share, however, that this isn't a "big screen" movie.  Save your money for Star Wars Episode 7 and wait for Steve Jobs to hit Blu-Ray, or better yet - iTunes.  I have a feeling this flick would probably look best on an iPad.


Friday, September 11, 2015

The New Canvas User Interface Is Here!

If you've been using Canvas, the Learning Management System from Salt Lake based "Instructure" then you may have noticed a total overhaul to the way your user dashboard and class landing pages look.

Instructure released the news of their updated User Interface back in June 2015 at InstructureCon, but many School District and University Canvas Admins are just now turning on the new feature.  UEN, for example, updated their Canvas Interface at the end of August just in time for the start of fall online classes.

Look to the left!
Perhaps the best way to explain the changes to the Canvas interface is to think of it like crossing the street in England - always look to the left first.  That's where you'll find any real changes to the menus and quick links.

The Old Canvas Dashboard

Notice on the old Canvas dashboard that the quick links to Inbox, Settings, Logout and Help are all located in the upper right hand corner of the screen.  Recent Activity appears in the center and the To To List and Feedback all fall on the right side of the page.  All of these features are still available, but you'll need to look to the left for these items and more user friendly icons.

The New Canvas Dashboard

With the new interface the visual icons make finding things not only easier but also more intuitive.  Each class appears in a colorful square with shortcuts to announcements, assignments, and discussions under each box when necessary.  This will look very familiar to Google Classroom users!  If  you don't like the color of a class' square don't panic, you can adjust it on your screen by clicking the "cog" icon in the upper right hand corner to select a color you like better.  

The To Do list, Coming Up notifications and Recent Feedback are all on the right side of your screen just as they were on the old interface.  There's one more step, however, to logging out.  The Logout icon is gone from the top and instead you'll click "Account" from the left menu and then Logout from the pop out menu. (see below)

Other than these new features on the dashboard, the rest of the updates will be found once you dive into your courses.  Be aware that the course menu still remains on the left side of your screen, but the menu is interactive and browser responsive.  In other words, if you have your window size too small the menu will hide under the Dashboard Menu until you click the settings grill icon which also looks strikingly similar to that in Google Classroom.

The New Canvas Course Landing Page with Menu Hidden
Click on this "Hot Dog" or "Hamburger" icon to open the menu...

The New Canvas Course Landing Page with Menu Open

Once you get a chance to interact with the NEW Canvas User Interface you should find it to be a little more friendly than the old interface, and much more intuitive.  Personally I find it much easier to explain and demonstrate to new Canvas users.

If you need more help with the new interface be sure to check out the Canvas Guides demo at

100 - New Canvas User Interface Overview from Canvas LMS on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Twitter Chat Overload!

Participating in an EdChat on Twitter can be a lot like kayaking or mountain biking.  If it's your first time, you'll definitely be overwhelmed.  Things move at a very quick pace and trying to take it all in will send you flying over a waterfall or flipping over the handlebars, metaphorically speaking.

If you're new to Twitter and jump into an EdChat be prepared to let some things go.  Just like shooting down a river in a kayak you'll need to focus on what is in front of you and try your best not to be distracted by everything going on in your peripheral vision.

Imagine going into a staff meeting at your school and trying to follow all the things going on if everyone talked at the same time!  Impossible.

A twitter chat may seem like this at first.  You'll see questions and answers filling up your device, Tweetdeck or Twitter.com page faster than you can read.  The nice thing, however, is you don't have to listen to everything.  You can turn off the noise by only looking at specific people or specific hashtags.  In other words, pick and choose what you want to read and think about - don't try to do it all!  That would make about as much sense as trying to identify wildflowers while zooming down a mountain at 30 mph.

Here are a five tips for safely consuming all the incredible information coming at you at warp speed during an EdChat on Twitter:

1.  Don't jump into the deep end until you learn how to swim!
Believe it or not, you don't need to have a Twitter account to be on Twitter.  You can easily access a twitter user's page and tweets by going to the address www.twitter.com and then /their name.  For example, all of my tweets can be seen at www.twitter.com/edtechakk.  It's also possible to do the same thing to read over tweets that included a hashtag, check out https://twitter.com/hashtag/utedchat to see what's been happening with the Utah Ed Chat.

2.  Make it simple and just watch.
If you do have a Twitter account you can try following an Ed Chat by showing up on Twitter at the predetermined time and watching all the tweets fly.  You'll see tweets appear from the moderator with Q1:, Q2: etc before each question.  Participants will likely respond with A1:, A2:, and so forth.  If you see tweets with ideas you like go ahead and click the star button to favorite these tweets.  That way it will be easy for you to go back and look at your favorites at a later time when the EdChat is over or the pace has slowed down.

3.  When you're ready to participate try following some of the other participants.
It's one thing to favorite a few tweets, but you may start to find there are a few Tweeters that you really like.  Follow them!  Don't be afraid, simply click on their name or icon image.  If you are already following them you'll see the icon with "Following", and if not, click it!

4.  Use a tool to help control the pace and stay focused on specific topics.
TweetDeck is simple and free!  Install the app for your Mac or iOS device and then compartmentalize the flood of tweets.  It's easy to follow a hashtag, specific person, activity, direct messages, etc.

5.  Search previous EdChats to find resources you might have missed.
Many EdChat hosts will use the tool Storify to create an archive of the conversation.  A chat I recently hosted about balancing technology and teaching can be seen at https://storify.com/edtechakk/balancing-teaching-and-technology  If a Storify isn't available you always do a search for the EdChat's hashtag, like #utedchat, and then go back and read all the tweets that were made with that hashtag.

Now that you have an idea of what to expect and a few tools to use to make it easier to be a part of an EdChat on Twitter, here are a couple you might want to try out:

Utah EdChat = #utedchat
Wednesdays from 9-10 PM Mountain
Full Schedule here: http://www.ucet.org/utedchat/

EdChat = #edchat
Tuesdays from 7-8 AM Eastern
Get more info at http://edchat.pbworks.com/w/page/219908/FrontPage

EdTechChat = #edtechchat
Mondays from 8-9 PM Eastern
Hosts and topics are listed at http://edtechchat.wikispaces.com/

MDEdChat = #mdedchat
Tuesdays from 8-9 PM Eastern
Archives and info can be found at http://www.jaredwastler.com/#!mdedchat/c21qz

SATCHAT = #satchat
This one is hard to follow because it's on Saturdays from 7:30-8:30 AM
Catered to administrators, SatChat is explained in detail in the following Edutopia article:

And for more tips on hosting a Twitter Chat, check out https://blog.bufferapp.com/twitter-chat-101