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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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Geolocating Myself In The Landscape of Grand-Pré

Chris Campbell

In keeping with my less thinking and more making goal for Making Learning Connected this year, I woke up and saw it wasn't raining, so I hopped on my bike and off I rode to take some pictures of the Landscape of Grand-Pré for the sixth make cycle of #clmooc this year which is to GeoLocate Your Space. I'm also letting go of my need to do things sequentially and jumping in since I figured I'd be racing the rain and get some exercise too. The US National Park Service is facilitating this final cycle, and while I'm not in the US, in Canada we have Parks Canada and I'm lucky to also live in a province that has 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (and I've visited all three).

This morning I went for a bike ride around one of my favourite areas which happens to intersect with the UNESCO World Heritage Site Landscape of Grand-Pré. Rich in history, the first people of the area, the Mi' kmaq, settled here for over 4000 years, established trade routes and used the fish, fowl, and medicinal plants to survive and thrive. French settlers reclaimed farmland from the sea with a series of dykes built in the 17th century. The settlers called the region (which encompasses the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) Acadia and they became known as Acadians and traded and lived with the Mi'kmaq people.

The building of the dykes and the draining of the land used an ingenious low-tech solution with the tides (which are the highest in the world) draining the land. A simple wooden valve would let water drain out at low tide and would close as the tide rose. Around Grand-Pré this resulted in over 1,300 hectares of farmland that is still used today. By 1755 the area was under control by England and most of the Acadians (over 14,000 people) were expelled and lost their homes and land. The British resettled the land with New England Planters began farming on the fertile land and maintained and expanded the system of dykes.

One of my favourite bike rides goes through the dykelands which are still active farmlands with cows, fields of corn, and other things grown there. This morning I took a shorter and more direct route, pausing first at one of the new signs for the Landscape of Grand-Pré UNESCO World Heritage site and then going to the view park (which has a webcam which I didn't realize until later and then saw myself when I rewound it!). One of the best parts of living in the Annapolis Valley is the way that the geography is clearly visible. When I start out on a bike ride from the Ridge Road I can see where I'll be going further down. In the distance I can see other places where I've been as well. When you're in the Valley you can look up and see landmarks on the mountains around too, so it's fairly easy to figure out where you are.

Most of the time while riding my bike the focus is on moving. I love it when I take a long ride and my feet never touch the ground, but that means I may not pause and just see things as I pass them by. So this morning as part of this challenge for #clmooc I slowed down a little bit (while keeping my eyes on the rain-filled clouds in the sky). After surveying the dykelands from the view park I went down to the Grand-Pré National Historic Site interpretation centre (which wasn't open yet as I was early) and took a few pictures there (and practiced a bit of my French with a tourist from New Brunswick who was also early). Then I biked along the side of the Historic Site on the road which leads to the dykes (which isn't technically a trail, but lots of people bike and walk dogs there).

I stopped and took some pictures of the cows in the field there and they looked at me. Then I continued down the road and saw a deer carefully watching me further down the road. As I approached the deer slipped into the bushes and I saw a squirrel scurry across the road as well. Then the road winds through a cornfield on one side and a field lying fallow on the other. Then you meet the dyke wall and while I usually just continue along the road, today I rode up onto the dyke to take some pictures there. It's beautiful seeing the ocean and Blomidon in the distance with the grass growing tall along the top of the dykes (and the root system is an important part of solidifying the dykes as well).

Continuing back on the road I paused again when I could see the town of Wolfville in the distance with the buildings of Acadia University above the trees that are all through the town. The final leg of the journey was along the trail beside the abandoned railway line, beside the town library which is in the old train station, and then onto the street and up the hill to my house. A lovely, leisurely ride exploring my town with some fresher eyes on a cloudy morning

Games and Learning

Chris Campbell

Every year with the Connected Learning MOOC the pattern with me seems to be diving in, getting caught up in other summer stuff, and starting to lose the thread. It's a challenge for me to stay within a routine when I change my routine. In the summer I will usually travel and that is where the pattern changes. When there is a game that I play it will work in the same way where I will be heavily into it (and maybe even a bit obsessed) and then will either not have the time or get frustrated by something and then the interest will wane. That's the same sort of thing that happens with learning too!

In thinking about teaching and learning and games the things that work best for me balance surprise and improvisation with structure. So that means the key is having a set of rules and paths to follow to make sure that there is a way forward and milestones and guideposts along the way. While for many it may seem obvious, the key event for me which transformed the way that I do just about everything was realize the importance of outcomes. What is the goal?

Whether it is editing, writing, teaching, learning, or playing a game, having a simple and clear goal seems to be the key. If you know what it is you can expand or contract what you are doing to fit within the constraints that you have. You can do a 5 minute version, a 45 minute version, or even a 5 week version of something. Games can have complex mechanics where you need to learn how to work within the system or even figure out the controls. Once you have that down you build on that and move on to other things. While writing this the games in my mind are more computer-based ones as those are the games that I play the most now.

The games I keep coming back too are simple and beautiful. My favourite now is Alto's Adventure which is a small and simple game where you snowboard and capture escaped llamas. The controls are minimalistic and it's easy to start playing, but the complexity grows. This is the type of goal that I strive for with any workshop or thing that I teach. What is the most basic, important thing to learn and how can that form the basis of additional learning? It takes a lot of work and thought to get to that point and in a game something that is well-designed gives me joy and keeps me wanting to come back to it. Teaching something more than once can help a lot as you see what works and what doesn't, what's important and what isn't.

I played with Twine a bit to create a game that was a sort of essay about games and it was neat to be able to easily create a game that is text-based. The goal was just to share a bit of history, but it was good to write in a slightly non-linear way with some loose planning to get started. The tool is fairly easy to use with additional complexity that would allow you to make much more interesting things with it, but in keeping with my goal to think less and make more, I finished it and now will share my Game About Games (which is hosted on Phloem.la).

Currently Tracking

Chris Campbell

Morning writing on 750words.com

Morning writing on 750words.com

Apps for tracking my health

Apps for tracking my health

It's the beginning of summer and a good time to reflect a bit on what I'm recording every day with various devices, apps, and sites. I first did an inventory of My Tracking Toolkit last year in February and I'm still using a lot of the apps there. The prompt for this update is from starting to use Mike Lazer-Walker's caffeine-tracking app Cortado as it made me think about the uses that other people have for the data that I'm generating. What made me want to use Cortado was a blog post by Lazer-Walker about why you shouldn't trust him. There is a whole bunch of data out there and it's valuable.

For me the value is in being able to check back on what I've been doing and to remember things. In looking back at my other post about this, it didn't list everything I was using, but that's ok as there is so much stuff around and some things drop out of the rotation while others stay. The random tracking that I do is via the Reporter app which collects data through a questionnaire that pops up throughout the day. It's flexible and powerful and always with me.

One site for collecting and analyzing my data is Zenobase, which is Eric Jain's service that allows you to record, import, analyze, and visualize data. While I've been using it for a while and have set up a bunch of data sources, I haven't dove in to explore the full potential of it, but I'm glad there is a place for my data. The other site where I track a lot of stuff and that I still use several times a day is Nathan Yau's Your Flowing Data, which is my backup for recording films, coffee, beer, bike rides, and weight. A lot of the health data also goes into Apple Health either automatically or using the Sync Solver app on my phone.

Maybe a good way to go through what I track is to think about a typical day and the tracking that happens as it progresses. The data is almost always shared somewhere else too, so I have a few IFTTT recipes that work with Craig Eley's Sifttter script that assembles a lot of this into a daily summary added to my Day One journal along with the data that goes into Zenobase.

Questions in Reporter

Questions in Reporter

Starting when I wake up I set the Reporter app to awake and make my first question of the day which is how well I slept. Then I stop the timer on my Fitbit One which recorded my sleep. It also records my steps and I will hop on the Wii Fit and weigh myself (I still don't have a smart scale) and add the weight into the Fitbit app on my iPhone (and send it via Twitter DM to Your Flowing Data using Drafts). I do some stretches and mediate (with the Stop Breathe & Think app) and check those activities along with a few others using Coach.me.

Coffee and oatmeal are breakfast most days and I record the caffeine with Cortado along with an entry to Your Flowing Data for the coffee and oatmeal with Drafts. Then I start recording the water I drink and food I eat with Lifesum on my iPhone. Lifesum has been great for me and it has helped me control my weight by allowing me to track what I eat. I have a Gold membership which allows me to link my Fitbit data, so it keeps track of my activity to be able to adjust the calories available. The nutritional and calorie information is also shared with Apple Health, so I have all that data there too.

If I go for a bike ride I'll track the ride using Cyclemeter which uses GPS from my phone, a Wahoo Blue SC Speed and Cadence sensor, and a Polar H7 heart rate monitor to track my ride data. After my ride it automatically shares data with Strava and I'll use Drafts to record the kms ridden onto Your Flowing Data. Right now I don't have a mount for my phone or a bicycle computer so I don't see the data as I ride, which is good. Sometimes I'll wear the Polar FT4 watch which shows me my heart rate and the time elapsed, and I prefer to be minimalist and simple while riding.

When I'm out and about I'll check in to locations using Swarm from Foursquare which goes to Sifttter and Zenobase. If I have something to eat or drink goes to Lifesum and Cortado (for coffee). When I spend money I track that with Next (which I just started using) and it's been working well for me to keep track of spending. The steps I take go to my Fitbit and more passively with the Human app which reminds me to move if I sit for too long and does a great job at recording when I'm moving in a vehicle or walking.

When I watch a film I record it on Letterboxd (I usually tweet about it with the Letterboxd link to let people know what I am watching). I also record how I watched the film (theatre, DVD, online service) using Your Flowing Data with a DM sent from Drafts. I also have a question in reporter about what I watched that shows up in my final report. If I'm reading a book (either in print or on my iPad) I'll record that using Goodreads (which gets collected through Sifttter too).

If I listen to music or podcasts during the day I'll record those when the question "What did you listen to?" shows up in Reporter and iTunes songs show up thanks to Last FM using the Audioscrobbler plugin. The Last FM data goes to Sifttter and Zenobase as well. But I don't manually record individual songs or podcasts if I listen to more than one episode. I also don't record tv shows (except for in my answer for "What did you watch?" in Reporter in the final report for the day).

Finally before going to sleep I'll click on the Sleep button in Reporter and answer about what I watched and listened to. Then I start the timer on my Fitbit to track my sleep and I go to sleep before starting the whole cycle again the next morning.

My Favourite Teacher

Chris Campbell

I'm in the middle of the connected learning that is happening as part of #clmooc this year and Joe Dillon tagged me in the Google Plus community as part of his #celebrateteachers audio recording about his favourite teacher. The challenge is to make something about your favourite teacher. Teachers are wonderful people and the great experiences I've had learning and being inspired by teachers makes me feel honoured to call myself one. I can without hesitation say that my favourite teacher is Miss Croft in grade 3 at Smythe Street School, in Fredericton, New Brunswick. I can vividly remember the moment that set me on the path to be creative and to be a teacher as well.

It was morning in the classroom and a guest was coming in so Miss Croft wanted the classroom to have some art around it. So she asked me if I would paint a picture of a rocket (she remembered that I loved all things related to space and astronauts and science stuff) to put up on the wall. She gave me a big sheet of paper and some paint and I eagerly painted the Apollo 11 rocket and the orange gantry beside it. I felt pure joy being able to make something in the unstructured time before class started. I don't remember the guest, but I do remember how I felt and later realized how important it was to know and remember what learners love and how encouraging them makes a big difference.

Miss Croft was a great teacher and brought all sorts of guests in to the classroom to help us learn. We did so many projects and made so many things. Lots of stuff that we did probably wouldn't happen today in the same way because of safety and insurance concerns. We hand-dipped bees wax candles that we put in antique holders on a Christmas tree (we didn't light the candles on the tree). We also used bees wax and paint brushes and cloth and dye to do batik. The school had a kiln and we did pottery and made mugs and bowls.

There was always a sense of adventure and discovery in the classroom with interesting people to meet and things to do. One of the guests was Peter Paul who told us about the Maliseet people and powerfully influenced my ideas about First Nations people and connections to the land. Later when I joined the New Brunswick Filmmakers' Co-operative and filmmaking became my passion, I saw the first film made at the coop was about Peter Paul and it was him telling stories and making a birch bark canoe. So many connections forward and back in time between people and places for me can go back to that school.

Another remarkable guest I remember was Alden Nowlan, a writer and poet who was writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick from 1968 until 1983. A big man with a large beard and a booming voice, he spoke a bit and passionately read poems. He cried a few times as well which made our class a bit uncomfortable, but he also laughed. He read his poem The Bull Moose (which was when he cried) and signed autographs afterwards and drew a picture of himself as a moose for me. Experiences like that helped me fall in love with meeting people and asking questions. I often think of how lucky we are to be able to provide the opportunity for someone to share things they care about with our learners. I'm so glad that I had Miss Croft as a teacher.

Paprika Recipe Manager

Chris Campbell

I love to cook and while it's fun to improvise in many aspects of life, I need recipes to cook most food. There are a bunch of great cookbooks around the house, but now there are so many great recipes online to draw from, it can be a challenge to keep track of them. The best way for me to keep a growing collection of delicious recipes is to use the Paprika recipe manager. It's cross-platform, mobile-friendly, and powerful.

A well-designed app on all platforms, it's become an essential part of the cooking process. It makes it easy to figure out what ingredients to get with shopping lists (organized by grocery aisle), and with the iOS version it can add of the ingredients to a reminders list to make it even easier. Through cloud sync it keeps all my recipes up to date whether I'm using the Mac version, my iPad in the kitchen, or my iPhone when I'm out and about. Being able to find a recipe on my phone while in a grocery store is great to come up with a meal when I see some fresh ingredients.

The most powerful feature for me is the ability to capture recipes from a web page using the built-in web browser. It works in all versions and is kind of magical. When you find a recipe you like you click on the "Save Recipe" button and with most recipe sites it's able to capture the recipe seamlessly. If it can't read it, you can select and copy and paste the elements to bring the recipe in fairly easily. It's synced to the cloud, so when I switch to my iPad the recipe is there. The other important part of the capture is that it gives credit and a link back to the original recipe. It's good to be able to go back to the site where the recipe is from and to be able to share that link with others. Giving credit matters.

It's not just a collection of recipes though. There are timers (generated from the recipes whenever times appear) that you click on to time the steps of the process. When you click on ingredients they get crossed off the list, which is important if you sometimes forget whether you added things or not. You can adjust the size of the recipes to make them bigger or smaller with all of the ingredients automatically changed so it all still works.

There are more advanced features that I haven't used much yet such as the ability to assemble recipes into menus or even plan out a week or a month of meals. Using the calendar would be great as you can plan out when you are going to have things and the grocery list that is generated is for the week or month and not for just one recipe. There are other nice elements like the ability to easily share recipes via email or a converter that will let you make sense of different measurement systems or tablespoons to ml to cups.

I open Paprika every day when I think about food and what to make. It's well-designed, powerful, and easy to use and brings the power of flexibility and sharing to everyday cooking. For me the kitchen just wouldn't have as many possibilities without it.