Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The best of times, the worst of times: 2013 packed and sorted

Film of the year: 56 Up 

1.  TV show

2. Appointment TV
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Enlightened
  • Fresh Meat
  • House of Cards
  • Justified
  • The Returned
  • Borgen
  • Eastbound and Down
  • Hannibal
  • Game of Thrones
  • Ja'mie

2. Disappointment TV
  • Sons of Anarchy
  • Homeland
  • True Blood
  • Walking Dead

3. Fond farewell
  • Treme
  • Breaking Bad

4. Beer
Innis and Gunn

5. Dining experience
Segovia and Deer + Almond - on the Red and Assiniboine in January

6. Film
56 Up

7. New director
Robert Greene - Fake it so Real and Kati with an I

8. The documentaries have it
  • Bully
  • The Imposter
  • Trumped
  • Brooklyn Castles
  • Undefeated
  • Fake it so Real
  • Kati with an I
  • We Steal Secrets
  • RIP: a Remix Manifesto
  • Blackfish

9. Book
The Everything Store

10. More books
  • Shift and Reset
  • Ready Player One 
  • How to Write Short

11. Nemeses
  • Imperial Parking
  • Sugar
  • Eyeglass shops that won't adjust your glasses unless you purchased them at that specific location 
  • Surprise double-charge parking meters
  • Me

12. Logo 

13. Talk-show guest
Elvis week on Letterman

14. Missing talk-show guest
Jay Thomas' annual story about the Lone Ranger on Letterman

15. Video game experience
Bioshock: Infinite

16. Video game frustration
Curing Vampirism in Skyrim

17. Social Media

18. App
Figure by Propellerhead

19. Headline

20. Musical comebacks
  • David Bowie
  • Prefab Sprout
  • Pet Shop Boys
  • Julian Cope
  • The Feeling
  • Paul McCartney
  • OMD
  • Polyphonic Spree
  • Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
  • Linda Thompson 
  • Richard Thompson

21. Musical disappointments
  • The Sounds
  • Shout Out Louds
  • Tegan and Sara
  • Adam Ant

22. Album
Public Service Broadcasting - Inform Educate Entertain

23. Song

24. Funny

25. Overrated
Daft Punk

26. Live
  • Paul McCartney in Winnipeg
  • Sparks at Coachella
  • OMD at Coachella
  • Japandroids at Coachella

27. Stand-up special
Jim Gaffigan - Mr. Universe

28. Stand-up bit
Brian Regan - readers debate non-readers

29. Live stand-up/media critic
Russell Brand at the Burton Cummings Theatre

30. New journalism

31. New hobby

32. Podcast episode

33. Podcast
WTF with Marc Maron

34. Banned from the language forever
  • Selfie
  • Twerk
  • 11:11
  • Unique 

35. Fashion

36. Class debate
Does noticing 11:11 mean you're spiritual? No, but it's a good magazine title.

37. Person

38. Endangered species
  • Active sentences
  • Apostrophes
  • Sentence structure

39. Ad campaign

40. Worst ad campaign - hint: it has "unique" in it.

41. Digital newspaper
New York Times

42. Paper anything
Q Magazine

43. Rosie the Riveter lives

44. Blog

45. Website/magazine
Fast Company

46. Bonehead trend
Hating on the Winnipeg Jets - just three years after they return to the city

47. Parking job

48. Action figure
Star Wars Black Series

49. Music store
Electric Fetus, Minneapolis

50. Goodbye
Lou Reed
Roger Ebert
Bonnie Franklin
Marcia Wallace
Nelson Mandela

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Everybody's talkin' about communications jobs, week of Dec. 8, 2013

1. Ecommerce and Social Media Manager, Botanical Paperworks

2. Communication Assistant, Alzheimer Society

3. Editor, Fanfare Magazine Group

4. Producer (French), CBC

5. Communications Advisor, Canadian Museum for Human Rights

6. Manager, Communications, Marymound

7. Manager of Communications, Canadian Centre for Child Protection

8. Marketing Coordinator, Ram Industries

9. Client Relations Coordinators, Marketing and Communications Office, U of M

10. Aboriginal Website Intern, City of Winnipeg

11. Communications Officer, City of Winnipeg

12. Marketing Coordinator, Cabela's

13. Marketing Coordinator, Crosstown Civic Credit Union

14. Marketing Account Coordinator, Summit Search Group

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ten new words that cantt leave you defriendless

See number 10. (Photo from Global). 

1. Ad verb - Action words you only see or hear in ads, like "gangbusters."

2. Cantt Chart - A bar graph showing everything you won't accomplish by the deadline.

3. Crappens - Unplanned shit that comes into being.

4. Defriendless - Feeling vulnerable when a non-friend insults you and your friends do nothing.

5. Forbodinner - The creepy feeling that something bad is going to happen after a meal.

6. Phonbia - An irrational fear of any phone number you don't recognize on call display.

7. Pornmotions - Publicizing a film or video with "adult situations."

8. Premembrance Day - Remembering war veterans before Remembrance Day, to justify shopping on the day off.

9. Presearch - Procrastinating about undertaking a systematic investigation into something.

10. Saskatchcicles - The ice hanging from football players' Sasktesticles during the last Grey Cup.

Everybody's talkin' about communications jobs, week of Dec. 1, 2013

1. Marketing Coordinator, PCL

2. Manager, Special Events and Facility Rentals, Canadian Museum for Human Rights

3. Change Management Specialist, FineLine Solutions

4. Marketing Coordinator, Crosstown Civic Credit Union

5. Communications and Special Events Coordinator, Grace Hospital Foundation

6. Marketing Associate, Wawanesa

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The apologist's simple guide for defending Star Wars

Star Wars is now and forever, especially if your name is Kenton Larsen and your room looked like this photo in 1977.

As I'm wont to point out, I like to defend my love of the Star Wars movies in terms that everyone can understand:
"Star Wars is like sex: even when it's bad, it's still pretty good."
It's good for a laugh, but it doesn't do much against the taunts of those who would question Star Wars' mettle against Star Trek (the long flight to nowhere), Lord of the Rings (the long walk to nowhere), and Harry Potter (the wand-wanking boy wizard to nowhere).

At some point, these tasteless buffoons will pull out their trump card and say, "If you're so smart, what about those terrible Star Wars prequels with Jar Jar Binks, fart jokes, and Manakin Skywalker?"

This is where most Star Wars fans respond with a well-timed "Doh!," "fuck you!," or "Mortal Combat!"

Fear not, Obi-Wan: there is another way to defend Star Wars, and director J. J. Abrams will help me make it so, Number One.

Repeat after me:

  • Star Wars Episodes I to III are about childhood. 
  • Star Wars Episodes IV to VI are about adolescence. 
  • Star Wars Episodes VII to IX will be about adulthood.

The fart jokes, Jar Jar Binks, Manakin Skywalker, and long, boring discussions about trade routes? Why, that's how kids view the world. The plucky Rebellion against the evil Empire? Remind you of your teenage rebellion against the folks? Bingo!

The upcoming trilogy will be dark and substantive, because there's no way it can be about anything other than dying and passing along the torch to another generation, who will fight your battles all over again.

If my viewpoint is correct (and it is), this means we'll be back to childhood by Episode X. Bring hither the fart jokes!

Everybody's talkin' about communications jobs, week of Nov. 17, 2013

1. Call for Applications, Banff Centre Press Work Study

2. Instructor, Tech Management, RRC

3. Digital Content Manager and Social Media Strategist, Lester Communications

4. Temporary Web Communications Associate, Talentcor

5. Copy Editor, Nights, Winnipeg Free Press

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Revisiting the complete works of Lou Reed: 50 observations

Grandpa Reed has something to say to the troubled teens at Lollapalooza, 2009.

I love Lou, I really do.

Man, it bummed me out when I heard that Lou Reed died. One of my favorite musicians, the man exuded invincibility: "tough, acerbic, authentic, and uncompromising," I said on this blog after I made the trek to see him perform live in Chicago at Lollapalooza 2009.

Like a lot of Lou Reed fans, I got into the man's music after hearing Walk on the Wild Side - quite possibly the best hit song to beat the censor ("But she never lost her head, even when she was giving head..."). His album, Transformer, remains the easiest way to get into Reed's music: catchy tunes, glossy production, and David Bowie on background vocals - what's not to love?

For a lot of people, Lou Reed begins and ends here. It's too bad, because his life's work holds up to closer scrutiny. I know, because I've been spending the past week playing through his entire catalogue - from his work with the Velvet Underground to the end of his more-challenging solo stuff - and all you can really do is look upon his works, ye mighty, and despair.

Like the Who, Lou Reed is best experienced as an album artist; trying to compile the key tunes into a one-volume greatest-hits package inevitably falls short. For instance: do you include the challenging Coney Island Baby or the poppy Charley's Girl (from the same album)? Do you include the almost 11-minute concerto Street Hassle or the happy-go-lucky Real Good Time Together (also from the same album)?

It's quite possible to create a compilation that positions Lou as a pop artist, rock and roller, gender-rights activist, rapper, hipster, comedian, or drug addict. Instead of doing any of these things, I took notes as I played through the albums, which include these 50 highlights and observations (links open in YouTube):

1. Must-have albums
The Velvet Underground and Nico
New York
Songs for Drella

2. Avoid these albums at all costs
The Raven
Metal Machine Music

3. Rock!
Future Farmers of America

4. Can't get it out of my head
How do You Think it Feels

5. Not as depressing an album as they say

6. Best Lou singing vocal
Nobody But You

7. Best 80s new wave
No Money Down

8. Best song from a terrible album
Who am I? (from the Raven)

9. Best New York accent
I want to boogie "witchoo."

10. Best stab at having a hit
Satellite of Love

11. Worst stab at having a hit
The Original Wrapper

12. Best Andy Warhol quote on Songs For Drella (Warhol tribute album)
"I hate Lou, I really do..."

13. Argument for anxiety
Waves of Fear
Paranoia in Key of E

14. Worst Father's Day
My Old Man

15. Guest vocal
Bruce Springsteen's spoken-word monologue on Street Hassle

16. Transformation
Stephanie Says by the Velvet Underground becomes Caroline Says by Lou Reed

17. Funniest song about addiction
The Power of Positive Drinking

18. Scariest song about addiction

19. Least-convincing song about addiction
Egg Cream

20. Sound-alike alert
Warrior King
Future Farmers of America

21. Pixies rewrite

22. Worst strategic alliances
The Killers

23. S and M's greatest hits
Venus in Furs
The Gift
The Blue Mask

24. Walk on the Wild Side's unofficial sequel
Halloween Parade

25. Current-event songs
Good Evening, Mr. Waldheim
The Day John Kennedy Died
I Believe

26. Corporate rock
Don't Talk to me About Work
Future Farmers of America

27. Lou the gamer
My Red Joystick
Down at the Arcade
Video Violence

28. Don't let Steve sing
Steve Buscemi - Broadway Song

29. Early meth reference
Sally Can't Dance

30. Love songs
I Love You
I'll Be Your Mirror
Satellite of Love

31. Shoulda been a single
I'm So Free

32. Short and sweet
New York Telephone Conversation

33. Happy Lou
I Love You, Suzanne

34. Country life is rubbish

35. Formulaic Lou
I Remember You

36. New York landmark
"The Statue of Bigotry" in Dirty Blvd.

37. Man about town

38. Eulogy album
Magic and Loss

39. Religion

40. Let Moe Tucker sing
I'm Sticking With You
After Hours

41. Let Nico sing
Femme Fatale
I'll be Your Mirror
All Tomorrow's Parties

42. Let John Cale sing
Style it Takes

43. Velvet rock
What Goes On
White Light/White Heat
Sweet Jane
Rock and Roll

44. Provocative questions
"How do you think it feels to only make love by proxy?"
"What goes on in your mind?"

45. The Velvet Underground had fun?!
Temptation Inside Your Heart

46. Glockenspiel
Sunday Morning
Stephanie Says

47. Coo-coo or askew?
Andy's Chest versus Andy's Chest

48. Music video
No Money Down

49. Live
Jesus with Blind Boys of Alabama

50. What's your favorite Lou tune or album?
Post it in the comments before or on Twitter @kentonlarsen

Everybody's talkin' about communications jobs, week of Nov. 10, 2013

1. Director, Philanthropy, United Way

2. Reporter, Global

3. Publisher and Regional Advertising Director, Winnipeg Sun

4. Anchor/Reporter, Global

5. Reporter (morning show - contract), CTV

6. E-Learning Specialist, Canadian Museum for Human Rights

7. Web Marketing Manager, Whyte Ridge Music Centre

8. General Manager, West End Cultural Centre

9. Interactive Media Arts Design Instructor, School of Trades and Technology

10. Information Writer, David Aplin Group

11. Associate Vice President, Donor Relations, University of Manitoba

12. Media and Communications Officer, International Institute for Sustainable Development

13. Managing Editor, International Institute for Sustainable Development

14. Digital Media Coordinator, International Institute for Sustainable Development

15. Senior Manager, Sponsorship and Communications, BMO

16. Editorial Intern, It's Love

17. Business Development Officer, PSI and SI, CMA Manitoba

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Everybody's talkin' about communications jobs, week of Nov. 3, 2013

1. Marketing Manager, Botanical PaperWorks

2. Marketing Coordinator, International College of Manitoba

3. Communications Intern, Food Matters Manitoba

4. Communications Coordinator, Barkman

5. Copywriter and Advertising Specialist, MPI

6. Senior UXUI Developer, Q Power

7. Communications Specialist, National Leasing

8. Reporter/Photographer, The Stonewall Teulon Tribune and Selkirk Record

9. Editor, 100 Yen Film

10. Communications/Special Projects, Manitoba Arts Council

11. Director, Social Media, Great-West Life

12. Medical Writer/Editor, University of Manitoba

13. Communications Officer, City of Winnipeg

14. Communications Officer, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation

15. Director, Sales and Marketing, The Fairmont

16. Marketing Assistant, WAA

17. Graphic Designer, ClarkHuot

18. Development Manager, Independent Production, Bell Media

19. Communications and Publishing Team Opportunities, International Institute for Sustainable Development

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Igniting the Burning Schoolhouse of love

Burn, baby, burn!

When I was a kid, one truth was self-evident: every kid wished the school would burn down.

We weren't exactly roving bands of bloodthirsty teens; it was more that we viewed the building itself as a symbol of math, grammar, history, and other terrible things we'd no longer have to do if the place just went away.

Since it never did, we lived out our dreams every Victoria Day by begging our parents to buy us the Burning Schoolhouse: a piddly Roman candle placed in a cardboard, faux-brick schoolhouse. You'd light the candle ("the fireplace"), and it burst into flame as smoke poured out of the schoolhouse windows and the thing burned to the ground. What's not to love?

The whole presentation was pretty lame, so as kids watched it burn, they'd have to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks: "There goes the science lab! Better jump out the window, Mr. (teacher's name)! Guess we won't be having gym class on Monday!" As far as I know, no one ever said, "Oh, the humanity!"

Even better, it turns out that the Burning Schoolhouse is a Canadian invention and almost unknown outside of the country. According to the book, 1000 Questions About Canada, the Burning Schoolhouse was "devised and manufactured in the 1930s by Hands Fireworks Inc."

Sadly, the Burning Schoolhouse is no longer listed in the company's catalogue. Too bad, because now that I'm an adult teacher, one truth is self-evident...

Everybody's talkin' about communications jobs, week of Oct. 27, 2013

1. Policy Coordinator, Corporate Legal and Insurance Services, Red River College

2. Copywriting and Advertising Specialist, MPI

3. Communications Specialist, National Leasing

4. Traffic Coordinator, Corus

5. Reporter/Editor, CBC

6. Communications Officer, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation

7. E-Learning Specialist, Canadian Museum for Human Rights

8. Communications Associate, Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority, Selkirk

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Everybody's talkin' about communications jobs, week of Oct. 13, 2013

1. Weekend News Editor/Presenter, CBC

2. Reporter, CTV

3. Various Positions, OutWords
OutWords needs a sports editor, distribution manager and volunteer designer. Positions are paid an honorarium. Contact Ksenia Prints at editor@outwords.ca. Contributors: the pay is 10 cents a word for anything that is printed in the magazine. Contact Ksenia Prints at editor@outwords.ca and ask to be put on the contributor list.

4. Publicist and Communications Coordinator, MTC

5. Managing Editor, MAWA Book Project

6. E-Marketing Specialist, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries

7. Communications Officer, University of Winnipeg

8. Marketing Coordinator, Qualico

9. Managing Editor, Integrit Media

10. Manager, Communications and Public Affairs (term), WAA

11. Marketing Associate, Wawanesa

12. Writer and Social Media Coordinator, Canadian Mennonite University

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dan and Kenton command you: listen to the Media Nerds podcast!

And you thought we were nerdy from the outside.

"We" are Dan Vadeboncoeur and Kenton Larsen. Since we're nerds who like to talk about the media, we thought we'd start a podcast called Media Nerds, in which we ("the nerds") talk about stuff ("the media") that interests us. Hijinks ensue.

You can listen for the low, low price of free by:

1. Visiting our website.

2. Visiting our page on Stitcher Media.

3. Subscribing to us on iTunes.
4. Downloading the Podcasts app onto your mobile device, searching for "Media Nerds" in the store and subscribing.

We think you're going to like us. And if you don't, you're probably a jock, jerk, bully, or someone on whom we'll one day seek comical revenge. Enjoy, peeps!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

CreCommedy Nights hit Rumor's on Nov. 3 and 4

Double your comedy pleasure.

CreCommedy Nights are coming to Rumor's Restaurant & Comedy Club on Sunday and Monday, Nov. 3 and 4, 2013.

Each night features 14 of Red River College's funniest Creative Communications students from my comedy writing class making their stand-up comedy debut - three hilarious minutes of material each.

Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 7:45 p.m. There is no admission after the show starts.

Tickets are $10 a piece, each night sold separately. You can buy tickets from me between now and Halloween. After Halloween, tickets will be available at Rumor's by phone (204-488-4520) or at the door on the night of the performance (but last year sold out in advance - so you know what to do).

The rosters (subject to change):

CreCommedy Night one:

1. Matt Allen
2. Stef Cutrona
3. Andrew McCrea
4. Matt Tworek
5. Jared Gauthier
6. Zach Samborski
7. Kimberly Leduc
8. Daniel Wiebe
9. Tony Carvalho
10. Jacob Thiessen
11. Elizabeth Fraser
12. Kieran Moolchan
13. Nolan Bicknell
14. Alan MacPherson

CreCommedy Night two:

1. Matt Bedard
2. Taylor Cole
3. Jared Falk
4. Jesse Pelletier
5. Brittany Paulhus
6. Tyler Geurts
7. Megan Redmond
8. Colin Enquist
9. Jesse Marks
10. Brendan MacGranachan
11. Rebecca Henderson
12. Jon Wilson
13. Marshal Fries
14. Kristen Shaw

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fortune from misfortune: my prediction for the Breaking Bad finale

I know how Breaking Bad ends.

OK, I don't really know how Breaking Bad ends, but I think I do, which is good enough. For me. Cough, cough. 

Plus, I really want to stake my claim to the one plot point I see no one else talking about, so I can gloat and tell everyone to kiss my arse on Sunday. Oh yeah: that's the Lord's day; let's make it Monday.


Walt frees Jesse (who, in turn, frees Brock) and doles out major whoop-ass to Todd's gang and Grey Matter Technologies (he kills the gang in a bloody massacre, and financially ruins Grey Matter by associating himself with it in some way - Grey Matter's worst nightmare). By the end of the episode, Walt is dead one way or another (the ricin is for him - he has it in his mouth in case he needs it).

Jesse lives. Walt's family lives. Saul lives - in Nebraska.

My big contribution: Walt's lotto ticket bearing the coordinates of the buried money (and now Hank's grave!) pays off. Walt's dead, but he leaves his family with a clean fortune handed down to them by bloody misfortune.

As predicted on Sept. 16: 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Using Dropbox in education: 50-million users can’t be wrong

Beware the Dropbox bogeyman.

Dropbox is an awesome technology tool that a number of teachers, support staff, and students are already using at my college, but that has not been officially introduced into the classroom or endorsed by the institution.

It's one of the reasons I believe that "work-approved" might be the most-dangerous two words in any workplace, including the educational environment.

My theory is that if “opinion leaders” (or “trust agents” in online parlance) adopt and use a piece of technology at work without being prompted, there’s probably something pretty useful going on there, in addition to a strong argument for considering a carefully planned approach to workplace (in my case: "classroom") integration.

In my discussions with staff, Dropbox comes up a lot. I use the app every day, love it, and have integrated it into my life so I can’t live without it. However, what intrigues me most about this innovation is that schools and other workplaces have been so slow to adopt it.

What is Dropbox?

Dropbox is a free web and mobile app tool that stores and syncs files, so you can access, update, and share them from home, work, or virtually anywhere using your laptop, desktop, smartphone, and tablet.

When you update documents, they sync across these devices, and Dropbox saves a copy to your laptop’s hard drive for backup. It has deeper implications in the classroom as a learning tool.

Writer Chris Murphy says:
“Dropbox is the embodiment of the consumerization of IT. It makes saving files online mindlessly simple. Want to give a bunch of people access to your 12-MB PowerPoint presentation without crushing their inboxes? Save it to Dropbox and give them access.”
Dropbox is part of the migration to cloud computing through services like Apple’s iCloud, Microsofts’s SkyDrive, and Box. What makes Dropbox special is its simple design, ease of use, famous investors (U2’s Bono and The Edge) and 50-million users (by its own estimate).
What’s the controversy?

Can 50 million users be wrong?

Many workplaces have a pathological fear of technology "housed on off-site servers" for reasons of privacy, performance, and security. The concern about online security isn’t without merit, as evidenced by recent cyber attacks against Twitter and the New York Times.

Murphy acknowledges this common fear and adds another issue to the pile: “transfer(ing) limits trying to upload from my iPad an enormous file containing video of an entire half of my daughter's soccer game.”

So, Dropbox isn’t perfect. However, the alternative – using an internal Dropbox system – is no walk in the park. At my college, students and instructors have a public “shared folder” and a private “secure folder,” which require separate passwords to access.

As anyone who’s worked with an internal IT system knows, this system is equally vulnerable to blackouts and security issues. As well, it’s impossible to access the internal system using mobile devices.

I, and Murphy, argue that the answer can’t be to provide “something inferior” or, even worse, “nothing at all” out of a fear of the worst-case scenario.
“IT needs to get excited about this trend,” says Murphy. “In the not-so-distant future, if not now, your employees will expect a "bring your own cloud"- BYOC - policy that mimics their consumer experience.” 
“Mobile devices will increase pressure to provide an easy way to move things created on a PC to a smartphone or tablet, and to share huge files without exceeding corporate inbox limits (or resorting to Gmail).”
Downloading and setting up Dropbox for yourself
  1. Visit Dropbox.com.
  2. Start a free account (you get two gigs to start, but you can quickly increase that amount by suggesting Dropbox to your friends).
  3. Run the installer.
  4. Double-click on the Dropbox icon in the pop-up box.
  5. A Dropbox widget appears on the top of your laptop’s menu screen. You can create folders in your Dropbox, and simply drag and drop files into the widget to save them.
  6. Download the Dropbox app to your smartphone or tablet. Sign in with the same account and – presto – you can access your files.

Downloading and setting up Dropbox in the classroom
  1. Visit Dropbox.com.
  2. Sign in using the account you created, above.
  3. Create folders for each of your classes or subjects.
  4. Click on any folder in the Dropbox and “invite to folder” using students’ emails. Once you’ve invited everyone, the folder is “shared.” Everyone can add, edit, and delete content. However, Dropbox has a “save” for folders deleted accidentally – you, the Dropbox owner, can “show deleted files” and restore them. If you don’t want students to be able to edit the files, you can upload PDFs.
  5. Finally, encourage students to download the Dropbox app on their smartphones and tablets.

In addition, you could provide each student with a Dropbox folder inside each class, so only you and that individual student could see it.

Integrating Dropbox into the classroom

Now that you’ve got it all set up, this is where the fun begins. You can use Dropbox to:

1. Share assignments and readings. 

Using Dropbox eliminates the need for you and your students to use external storage devices and easily share and collaborate on documents. This includes documents that are too large to send by email.

The great thing is that you can share the documents from “anywhere.” I’ve been known to remember to send my class an assignment or article on the bus ride home from school and – presto – off it goes from Dropbox and the comfort of Winnipeg Transit.

2. Backup important files.

Writer Julie Meloni says:
“If Blackboard or your Web-hosting provider goes down, where would your students turn? How long would it take you to recreate those systems? If your documents were also stored in a public folder in your (Dropbox) account, anyone could access them from any device (including mobile devices), and you would have a backup ready to transfer to another system.”
In addition, Dropbox saves your files to your computer’s hard drive, so even if the worst-case scenario happens (the app gets hacked or goes away) you’ll always have them.

3. Collect homework.

Dropbox provides each file with a time stamp, so you can tell what date and time it was delivered.

4. Evaluate students’ homework and portfolios.

As I mention earlier, teachers can create shared folders for each student, allowing them to submit private assignments and save collections of items, like portfolio pieces, without anyone but you and them seeing it. The teacher can open the assignments and make changes or comments.

5. Get students to have discussions and work collaboratively.

“Shared” and “public” folders allow you to get students to work in groups or publicly, as you require. You can also use Dropbox as a substitute for Google Docs and wikis: one student saves a document in the file folder, and another opens it and adds or amends content.

6. Be creative.

Teachers shouldn’t be limited by what they believe they can use this tool to do; by using it and being open to student suggestions, more uses will inevitably arise.

How Dropbox increases student motivation and achievement

I’ve recommended Dropbox to individual students who’ve asked about it. The great thing is that it takes very little training (if any) to figure out, and is so useful that students generally start using it by default and coming up with new ways to incorporate it into their day-to-day routines.

In addition, using Dropbox encourages students to use other great mobile apps – like Evernote, Documents (formerly Readdle Docs), GoodReader, Documents to Go, and hundreds more, which are compatible with the app.

I also believe that integrating Dropbox into the school environment goes hand in hand with starting an iPad school program and effectively using it in the classroom; consider Dropbox as the gateway to a larger world of iPad apps, cloud computing, and mobile technology.

Justo de Jorge Moreno (2012) of the University of Alcala in Madrid studied using “networking and Dropbox in blended learning by university students.”

The study (which suffers from a rocky translation to English) aimed to measure the “autonomous, collaborative, and proactive learning of students” as they correlate to online and face-to-face learning when these students use social networking and Dropbox.

The findings:
  • “The implementation of blended learning has a positive effect on in learning outcomes.” 
  • “Students with higher levels of learning are related to the increased use of resources…and more proactive in blended learning.”
  • “The implementation of blended learning has a positive effect on in learning outcomes (raising exam and work pass rates) in the subject.”
  • “The use of ICTs (information and communication technology standards) can help by allowing more interaction between students and the teacher and ultimately improve the necessary process of student learning.”
In another study, Eugene Geist (2011) examined “the practicality and efficacy of using tablet computers in the higher education classroom.”

The research involved supplying iPads to “students in a senior-level teacher preparation class” for 10 weeks and encouraging students “to use them in the way that felt the most natural and beneficial.”

Of note is that the students not only found tablets useful for themselves, but also “beneficial in their clinical work in elementary school classrooms.” Among the reasons why:
  • “They allow children to explore independently. The intuitive interface allows children to manipulate objects in a natural way with little adult intervention.”
  • “They give children choice of the games and experiences. On a traditional laptop, an adult is often required to change programs or experiences.”
  • “They give the child control over their computer experience.”
  • “The experience is an active rather than passive experience. The touch screen interface allows for active interaction with the programs at a level not possible for young children on traditional computers.”
Geist’s conclusion is a call to arms for mobile technology and the app:
“The "app" will become the new way to deliver information quickly and efficiently. It is no longer just sufficient to have a webpage or to use a course management system such as Blackboard or Moodle. Students want to do everything on their phone or pad device rather than on a laptop or desktop computer. By 2025, we will have children that have grown up never knowing a time when they did not have mobile devices with instant access to information. We must be prepared.”
Dropbox is not just the tip of the iceberg for tablets and apps, but perhaps also the canary in the coalmine for traditional IT departments. While your IT department may be well-intentioned it’s, as Geist says, “fighting a losing battle” and missing the larger point: the technology is not only about “apps and mobile,” but changing one’s mindset about education altogether.

The reality is that there will always be privacy and security concerns around technology. While anyone is well advised to be vigilant when using online resources, there is little evidence to suggest that Dropbox is any worse than, say, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Amazon – websites and apps that hundreds of millions of people use every day.

As Geist says, “Mobile technology is moving speedily forward whether teachers and university faculty like it or not.”

Schools not only need to keep up with this shift, but lead the way. Getting left behind is not an option.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Did Gilligan ever get off the island?

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale:

When I was a kid, my favorite TV show was Gilligan's Island. As outlined in the abhorrent theme song above, the show was about the fate of the crew and passengers of the S.S. Minnow after the boat gets thrown off course by a freak storm and strands the crew and passengers on an "uncharted desert isle." Wacky hijinks ensue.

Campy and corny - think Lost: the Sitcom - most of the episodes are about our gang trying to get off the island, only to be sabotaged by the Minnow's first mate, Gilligan - the clumsy and misunderstood Jar Jar of his day.

Too young to understand the show's conceit, I was sucked into each episode with the possibility that this time, unlike every other episode, Gilligan and the gang would be rescued.

On one occasion, it seemed that rescue was unusually imminent (as Bullwinkle used to say: "This time for sure!"), but my mother interrupted with the bad news that it was time for me to go to school. In the pre-DVR world in which we were then imprisoned, she promised to watch the show and tell me what happened when I got home.

After the longest school day in history, I ran home and burst through the front door.
Me: "Mom - did they get off the island?"
Mom: "Did who get off the island?"
Me: "Gilligan - did he get rescued?"
Mom: "Uhhhh...yes, he did." 
I was floored. Of all the shows I missed, it was the one in which Gilligan got off the island?! I went to school the next day and spread the good news.

Years later, I saw a promo for a reunion movie called Rescue from Gilligan's Island. My eyes grew dim realizing that I'd been had: Gilligan and the gang had been stuck on the island all these years.

Reality collapsed around me much like it did to the characters in Inception, and I realized that it was really I who had been stuck on a desert island - a fool's paradise! - and that while I was watching Gilligan, I had inadvertently become Gilligan.

Will I ever get off the island?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

14 new words to help you be more like Anthony Weiner

See numbers 10, 11, 12 (photo from the Telegraph).

1. Anxiet - Stress-related weight loss.

2. Cheaple - Thrifty human beings.

3. Fatio - A paved, outdoor eating area.

4. Hacktics - Actions or strategies designed to cause chaos.

5. Hughway - The acting technique in which actors work out and grow sideburns.

6. Lakred - A large volume of holy water.

7. Lambinal - A mild person with a bad temper.

8. Massagony - The organized hatred of massage therapists.

9. Mentorly Ill - Getting a headache from having too many mentors.

10. Perpetweeter - A person who regularly commits wrongdoing on Twitter - like, oh, the guy pictured at the top of this post.

11. Perversevere - Continuing to behave in an objectionable way with no indication of success - like, oh, the guy pictured at the top of this post.

12. Selfishies - People who only share photographs of themselves online. Like, oh, aww, forget it.

13. Unitasker - A person who can only listen to music, talk on the phone, drive a car, OR do his or her homework.

14. Zooters - Generic name for any restaurant serving chicken wings within an establishment that also houses animals.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Everybody's talking about communications jobs, week of Aug. 18, 2013

1. Copy Editor (term), Winnipeg Free Press

2. Reporter, Mix 103.7, Fort McMurray - recently vacated by CreComm grad. Job isn't posted yet, but you can send a resume/demo to Wallis Snowdon (wsnowdon@mix1037fm.com)

3. Account Coordinator, Direct Focus

4. Production Manager, MTYP

5. Marketing Coordinator (part-time), Traffilog

6. Communications Manager, ACI

7. Project Manager, Interactive Digital Media, Province of Manitoba

8. Web and Social Media Marketing Coordinator, Pinnacle

9. Multimedia Journalists, Winnipeg Sun

10. Events and Fundraising Coordinator, ALS Society

11. Communications Officer, RCMP (Civilian Staff)

12. Graphic Designer and Copywriter (two positions), McKim Cringan George

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Everybody's talkin' about communications jobs, week of July 28, 2013

1. Weekend News Editor/Presenter (part-time), CBC

2. News Producer (part-time), CTV

3. News Editor (part-time), CTV

4. Graphic Designer/Prepress Operator, Derksen Printers

5. Sales and Promotions Coordinator, Festival du Voyageur

6. Development Consultant/Coordinator, Camerata Nova

7. Designer/Writer, Blacksheep Strategy

8. Communications Coordinator, Travel Manitoba

9. National Manager, Communications and Marketing, Ducks Unlimited

10. Manager of Communications and Marketing, Summit Search Group

11. Digital Marketing Associate, DMT Development Systems

12. Visual Manager, Club Monaco, Polo Park

13. Marketing Coordinator, Carstar Manitoba

Wouldn't it be gross if...you discovered the key to life?

Assiniboine Park from Wikimedia: keep your pants on, folks. 

From the mouths of babes.

Back in high school, I once drove through Assiniboine Park with some friends, and one of them - apropos of nothing - said, "Wouldn't it be gross if everyone in the park dropped their pants, and you were forced to smell their bumholes?"

After initially mocking him, we broke into discussion groups, hashed out the issue in detail and came to a consensus: it wouldn't be so bad if you wanted to do it, but if you were forced to do it, it would be awful.

Years later, I'd discover that we'd not only cracked (Get it? Cracked? Awww, forget it.) the conundrum, but also come up with the key to school, work, and life.

My friend who initially posed the question is doing well in Toronto, where he does PR for the Canadian government. He says the job stinks, but it's not so bad if you want to do it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Everybody's talkin' about communications jobs, week of July 21, 2013

1. Marketing Director, Pride Winnipeg Festival

2. Anchor/Reporter Weather, Global

3. Reporter/Anchor, Global

4. News Camera/Photographer, Global

5. Host, CBC Radio

6. Network Producer, CBC

7. Museum Education Assistant, Canadian Museum for Human Rights

8. Arts Management Consultant, Manitoba Culture, Heritage, and Tourism

9. Marketing Coordinator, Telpay

10. Event Planner, Freedom Concepts

11. Writer, Multimedia, D'Arcy and Deacon

12. Marketing Coordinator, Assiniboine Park Conservancy

13. Entry Level Marketing Analyst, Hall Recruiting