Posts Tagged ‘distance education’

Indigenous education in Canada (part 5)

Friday, August 5th, 2016

So what to do? Establish a strategy within the government and, in particular, Carolyn Bennett’s office, which acknowledges and exploits this invaluable asset. Then, find a community wherein a pilot project could be developed.

West Québec’s Pontiac riding is comprised of urban/suburban, immigrant, agricultural, indigenous, and remote communities, operating in both official languages, all within a vast and varied geography; in other words, the perfect representation of Canada. Additionally, Pontiac’s southern zone is in the National Capital region and within reach of federal and corporate technology partners.

These attributes make Pontiac the perfect test bed for a pilot project (leading to national deployment) that applies established Canadian research, expertise, knowledge, and the Liberal innovation legacy of broadband communications and distance education to the development of a virtual classroom strategy benefiting indigenous education.

In brief, the project would develop a white paper and a series of demonstration events in virtual classroom education techniques, and a documentary final report. It would pave the way for national deployment of similar events, and would ultimately contribute to the achievement of the policies outlined in the ministerial mandate letters.

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Indigenous education in Canada (part 4)

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

In 2002, Canadian Heritage and Industry Canada began supporting advanced research in interactive media on the CANARIE network. Performance Space Meets Cyberspace (PSMC) was a two-year investigation into new online channels for a virtual classroom of Canadian culture that connected producers, stages, museums, classrooms and audiences across the country.   This project has been cited internationally as a groundbreaking prototype in online performance and story telling.

While PSMC proposed a new pan-Canadian virtual arts and culture space, it also gave insights into communications in other fields, including contributing a paper on e-democracy and a virtual Parliament to the Liberal Party’s Canada 150 conference.  PSMC discovered new methods of participant engagement and consensus building among groups over networks, essential elements to improving education. Many of the events included First Nations story telling, and sharing of indigenous knowledge.  Communications of this sort, by its very definition, is inclusive and two-way, an essential value in the Liberal policy book.

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Indigenous education in Canada (part 3)

Friday, July 29th, 2016

In 2001, the Liberal government began supporting research conducted on Industry Canada’s CANARIE ultra-high-speed network to develop methods to improve the quality of education in remote and indigenous communities. The Rural Advanced Community of Learners (RACOL) project was one such landmark in distance education, cultural exchange, and community enrichment.

RACOL overcame limited local resources and vast distances to bring together students and teachers in the Fort Vermilion school district – an area about twice the size of Denmark – using broadband technology. It enabled the math teacher in High Level, the physics teacher in La Crete, the trades instructor in Rainbow Lake to teach all the students of this vast region in synchronous learning. It also set the stage for a sharing of storytelling and indigenous knowledge (e.g. environmental issues) not just within the district, but also with the rest of Canada. Revitalization of this approach can bring immediate results to the Liberal’s mandate to ensure quality of education for First Nations students.

Deputy PM Anne Mclellan launches final RACOL report

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Indigenous education in Canada (part 2)

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

“Make significant new investments in First Nations education to ensure that First Nations children on reserve receive a quality education while respecting the principle of First Nations control of First Nations education.”
Excerpt from mandate letter to the Hon. Carolyn Bennett

New initiatives aimed at improving education for remote and indigenous communities must include best practices in virtual classrooms as part of the mix, and Canadian research in this field is the best in the world. The economics surrounding this are both political and practical. Value and results must be seen in government investment. Virtual classroom practices provide supportive options for increasing quality of education, and economic value where student numbers are low and communities are remote. At the same time, virtual classrooms blended with on-site personnel and resources can support learning within a local experience and within the local cultural milieu.

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Indigenous education in Canada (part 1)

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

A research community centered on virtual classrooms began to coalesce in 2001 thanks to funding provided by the previous Liberal government. The funding, provided by Industry Canada and Canadian Heritage, led to innovative and successful methods of improving education and cultural dialogue across Canada, including remote and indigenous community partners. Two multi-year, multi-partner projects particularly informative to current Liberal government priorities.

The deployment of the research languished for years, but revitalization of this invaluable educational/cultural asset should be an essential component under the new Liberal government’s strategy on Indigenous Education. We learned the lessons on how to provide quality education to remote communities more than a decade ago. With advancements in technology, quality education using virtual classrooms is now even more readily and affordably enabled through commercial Internet providers. Revitalization begins with a ‘flip of the switch’.

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VR and perception

Friday, August 16th, 2013

“I think virtual reality does have a remarkable quality in that it gives people an experience that is rather angel-like, floating as the consciousness point in this variable world. I think that – if nothing else – at least it demonstrates the existence of consciousness, which is not necesarily apparent in everyday experience. I should maybe go into that a little bit more….”

by Jaron Lanier and Frank Biocca
from the ‘Journal of Communication’, Autumn 1992, 42(4), pages 150-171
(Kovacs reference on page 167).

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Has e-democracy’s time arrived? You bet it has!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

From Canada 150 “Towards a Virtual Parliament: has e-democracy’s time arrived?”

We must capture the imagination with a new 21-century national institution: A Virtual Parliament.

An initiative such as e-democracy can have a uniquely Canadian flavour. An imaginative application of communication technology would benefit  governance on a number of meaningful levels. So, let’s begin seeking a vision of a virtual democratic community based on Canadian research.

To illustrate what I mean by virtual community, I refer you to a wonderful project I served on that was funded by Canadian Heritage and Industry Canada in the early 21st century. Federal funds were alloted under the Government Online program, and channeled to a number of major research projects pertaining to everything from e-health, distance education, to cultural content. Actually, I was involved in several projects, but the one I have in mind is RACOL, an incredible bit of research and application that connected 5 schools in a sparsely-populated portion of Northern Alberta.

The following is taken from RACOL: Rural Advanced Community of Learners (go to the website to see a great photo of Dep. PM Anne Mclennan):

“One of the major challenges to rural communities in Alberta is to provide high quality education for their inhabitants. With the evolution of broadband networks, it is now possible to facilitate even more effective learning for distanced students. The Rural Advanced Community of Learners Project (RACOL) is developing a model of teaching and learning that exploits the potential of broadband networks and advanced digital technologies. Rather that falling into either of the synchronous or asynchronous distance learning camps, RACOL exploits the best of each. Capabilities such as broadcast quality digital video, streaming media, electronic whiteboards and educational objects will aid in the facilitation of effective learning and address the needs of students in rural and remote school districts.”

I witnessed some incredible stuff. Basically, the core value of any virtual community of practice is an overall uniform experience, i.e. remote = local. It is a difficult idea, but one just has to listen to your average CBC national radio host doing an interview to see how challenging it is to think a-geographically. Example: Toronto-based host asks a Vancouver guest about something happening “out there”. The language centralizes the discussion on Toronto, but for the listener, and the guest, “out there” is neither here nor there!  So, virtual communities of practice on broadband require alot of practice (whether that practice be education or democratic renewal). We must live with it, everyday, in every office, in every riding, as part of our daily experience.

What about e-democracy? If you can teach on broadband, perform music on broadband, deliver health care on broadband, you can lead a democracy on broadband! And in a country like ours, eliminating the sense of “out there” for any constituency makes for a healthier and more vibrant democracy. Finally, what better place to introduce a pilot project than at the first great convention of the party of 21st century progressive thinking; ours! I’d appreciate any participation in getting such a pilot off the ground, in order to provoke the development of a larger strategy, and to get the attention of those in the party who make these decisions.

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Diploma in interactive media and technology

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Michael has designed and directed an intensive study of interactive and new media history, theory and practices called the Diploma in New Media/Sonic Design for the School for Studies in Art and Culture, Carleton University, including 2 digital media labs and a substantial online and video-mediated presence. The diploma was open to music, film, and art history students, and some courses were available as electives to mass communications, architecture, and engineering majors. The diploma was available as both a concentration within BA/B.Mus degrees, and offered as a stand-alone academic diploma. Here is a screenshot of the diploma’s webpage.

Diploma in Music and New Media


I designed and delivered 5 full-year courses including 3 lecture courses totaling 216 classroom hours, a professional work study, and a graduating ePortfolio project including a monthly class presentation. My area of expertise is digital artd production and composition, and it was necessary for me to become fluent in the broader context of new media in order to design and teach this diploma. I also became a visiting worker at the National Research Council and the Communications Research Centre during my tenure at Carleton, and became a consultant on some of Canada’s groundbreaking virtual classroom/distance education research projects. My goal was to make this diploma into a seamless real-world/virtual learning experience.

“Media and Technology in Art and Culture” was the diploma’s introductory course. I have posted the course outline here:

Media Technology in Art and Culture

This is an example of my introductory course notes which was also based upon an article published by:

Leonardo: the journal of art, science, and technology (MIT Press)

Subsequent courses included:

  • a comprehensive survey course of computer applications and commercially-available resources (24 lectures, 72 hours in total);
  • an introduction to object-oriented programming (12 lectures, 36 hours);
  • object-oriented programming and project development (8 lectures, 4 student seminar sessions, 36 hours);
  • supervised work study placement with professional partners (7 hours per week over 24 weeks);
  • a graduating ePortfolio (24 weeks, including one monthly group meeting with supervisor’s presentation).

This is a slide presentation I derived from my courses, which I have delivered as a regular visiting lecturer to the Computing and Creative Arts Program at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario:

Electroacoustics: noise, technology and the new musical aesthetics

I produced a series of documentary videos for this course entitled “Prototypes”, an introduction to the history of electronic media and the exploratory worlds where art, science, technology and culture meet. The following episode is presented in the first lecture:

Prototypes: the art of the electronic age

Finally, I’d like to show you some of the amazing projects created by the students for their honours e-Portfolio:

1. Alison was a chip architect at Nortel who wanted to study interactive media. This is her incredible project: The Connections Project.

2. Maya wanted to work in digital animation. She is now a grad student at Ryerson. Here are some of her works: Maya animation.

3. Andrew was a music and film student who was fascinated with immersion and interactivity. He created a presence-sensitive environment in OSX. He is now a grad student and TA at SFU. Here are his storyboards and code: Immersion.

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Addressing Multiple Classrooms (part 3)

Friday, June 18th, 2010

On April 9th 2002 audiences in Ottawa and Kanata Ontario were connected with St. John’s Nfld. (Atlantic time plus one half-hour) in a large-scale interactive performance event. Carleton University’s new media and sonic design students presented creative projects in digital media and performance, and collaborated with musicians at Holy Heart High School in St. John’s for what is believed to be the first musical work composed for a multimedia broadband event. Of all the events in the series, April 9th was by far the most elaborate in terms of programming and technology.

The event was co-produced with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the Virtual Classroom of the Communications Research Centre (CRC). Dr. Martin Brooks of the NRC’s Institute of Information Technology led the technical team. The CRC “BADLAB” was set up as the master site, with Carleton and St. John’s connecting to CRC as interactive sites. The event’s backbone was CA*net3 ( The BADLAB, St. John’s and Carleton U were all connected to CA*Net3 via CRC GigaPOP8, Memorial University of Newfoundland GigaPOP, and ONet GigaPOP, respectively. Three high-end Pentium boxes running Linux utilized ISABEL, a conferencing application designed to create multi-media, multi-point distributed events. (See Figure 1)

Three workstations were set up at Carleton, with two running as separate interactive sites equipped with cameras to capture the audience and the performers, and the third to act as flowserver and stream the multimedia. This flowserver in turn connected to the CRC flowserver to compensate for limited bandwidth to the Architecture building. CA*net3 was accessed via the university ethernet whose bandwidth provided 10 Mbps of transfer, although actual transfer speeds were affected by general network activity on the campus at the time of the event. The single workstation in St. John’s would connect directly to the CRC flowserver.

A principal goal of this event was the merging of interactive cyberspace with a public performance forum. Large projections were utilized to create a sense of presence in the main audience venue at Carleton. Data projectors cast light on adjoining wall surfaces, offset by a 90-degree angle. (See Figures 2 and 3). ISABEL provides multiple programmable window sets within each projection. This, for example, made possible a kind of theatrical depiction of actors facing one another in a naturalistic conversational style. However, the scale ofthe projections produced a kind of cinematic amplification. Furthermore, roving cameras allowed me (as director and animator located across town at the CRC) to remotely “reach” into the locations and provoke participation from the audience. Indeed, the traditional distinction between audience and performers was deliberately blurred through a variety of engagement devices. The main venue on the Carleton campus was not an electronic presentation space. The closest ethernet port was several meters outside of the site in a small meeting room. The 10Mbps nominal connection speed at this port was seriously hampered by general network activity on the campus. This resulted in a recurring freeze effect to and from Carleton, although the CRC Kanata to St. John’s connection was unaffected. A fundamental challenge exists in locating a public performance facility that is directly wired to broadband. Such a facility would also require professional caliber presentation systems found in conventional theatre, stage or television production.

Two responses were particularly noteworthy. The usual shyness of being on-camera was very evident among the students; and, the default posture was to attempt eye contact via the videoconference. Participants tended to address projections rather than cameras, tending towards eye contact and facial images. Participants had to be occasionally directed away from the virtual facial image of a conversational partner and towards the camera lens. The makeshift venue also produced clumsiness with respect to more normal videoconference interaction. Separate monitor kiosks would allow an individual to 12 engage in cyberspatial conversations on a more human scale; with split video feeds generating the large-scale audience depiction. Issues relating to theatrical lighting, audience illumination and large-scale projections also require some kind of solution. The challenge in using Linux-based computers was the non-commercial, nonthoroughlytested nature of the operating system. Applications, drivers etc. were rife with incompatibilities, with devises such as the data projectors failing without warning.

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Addressing Multiple Classrooms (part 2)

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

I returned to the Banff Centre on November 27th 2002 for the final event of phase one. As was the case at the start, this event connected Banff with a class in Ottawa for a studio tour with demonstrations. The CLE was again deployed, this time with extended audio, VGA and NTSC video inputs via a mixer. Cabling allowed for a walk-about from room to room, with a floor crew including a switcher/director, two cameramen, and a floor director. On this occasion, students in Ottawa were located off-campus in an auditorium of the National Research Council. While the NRC is a primary node of CA*net3, Banff’s connectivity was again influenced by local network activity. However, the point-to-point connection exhibited dramatically improved audio and video quality.

Students were again given a demo/tour of Luscar, plus the Rice Studio television and video production facility. Rice includes a fully-equipped 2500-square-foot studio space with cyclorama and computerized lighting board. The production complement includes a Panther dolly, portable crane, and an extensive lighting package with both Tungsten and HMI lamps. Visually, the project now began to approach broadcast quality.

A number of significant production issues emerged from this early event, all of which relate to the merging of public performance space with cyberspace. By introducing production techniques derived from television and cinema, as well as developing original solutions, phase two of this project will address the following objectives:

  • Lighting. A challenge exists when illuminating an audience/participant group for a broadband performance. Large projections, monitors, performers and a participatory on-camera audience all require specific solutions be resolved within the same physical space, and cyberspace.

  • Audio. Increasing the capacity of audio transmission to a stereo (and possibly surround) format, to better suit musical events, and to create an ambient envelope that more readily expresses the feeling of a physical space that has been virtually “transposed” from one location to another.

  • Classrom/Performance Space Design. Human nature draws us to eye contact in any interactive relationship. It is therefore necessary to devise a solution that allows for large-scale presentations and human scale interaction to coexist within the same space and within the same virtual event.

  • Audience/Participant Engagement. When does a group of active participants become an audience? The issue of encouraging and maintaining involvement is affected by the size of an audience. Through an evaluation process, this project will seek to determine when that threshold has been breached, and will also experiment with various creative methods of “reaching through” a portal to engage participation at another location. Focus groups will vary in size and complexity in order to determine data with respect to a continuum of engagement.

  • Remote control Options. To what degree can a remote participant group/audience influence capture technology at another location? The issue of allowing for a degree of remote technological intervention not only allows for refinements, but also further encourages participation.


Experiential cyberspace, and indeed all computer-generated realities, can be defined simply as a light source with associated audio elements. Comparisons with other light-source media are therefore unavoidable. Interactive teleconferencing requires sophisticated production values to hold its own against the formalism and refinements of conventional television, cinema, gaming, etc.
Finally, there is the issue of public deployment, and the eventual opportunity to test a streaming method to make such an event readily available to a larger audience on the Web. In this instance, new issues such as content and participation controls, bandwidth management, and so forth, enter the equation.

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