Author Archives: Nancy Smith

UCL – University College of London – Open Learning Institute

I discovered UCL when I googled "Digital Anthropology" and it came up in the search results.  I was inspired to find out more about what digital anthropology was after watching a recommended video from our ECI 831 course - Michael Wesch’s Anthropological Introduction to YouTube


UCL, or the University College London is ranked as one of the world's top universities and was established in 1826.  The University created  e-learning website that offers a range of non-credit open courses to the public called UCLeXtend.

Currently there are 34 online courses offered by their University faculty on a variety of topics including anthropology, education, engineering, global health, healthcare, information studies, research methodology and more.

I was interested in learning more about anthropology - specifically digital anthropology.
I found this video online that describes the global research project the University did that aimed to understand how social media is used in different countries and how it is used and the consequences for its use.

The project has a dedicated website called "Why We Post - Social Media Through the Eyes of the World" 



Nine anthropologists collaborated on the research for 15 months in nine countries around the world.  They immersed themselves in the communities to research the role of social media in everyday lives of the people living in a community in Brazil, Chile, China, England, India, Italy, England, Trinidad, and Turkey.

The researchers published and shared eleven open access volumes of their research online in multiple languages.  Translations of this research and the free online course are available in Chinese, Italian, Hindi, Portugese, Spanish,, Tamil and Turkish.  The research was published in February 2016, so it is fairly current.


UCLexTend offers a free online course called "Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media".  It is a five week course which explores the impacts of social media including how the consequences of social media may vary between different countries and on topics including politics, gender, equality and privacy.

The course offers a new definition of social media which concentrates on the content posted, not just the capabilities of platforms.  It examines the increasing importance of images in communication and the reasons why people post memes, selfies and photographs.

I have registered for the course and will be starting it shortly.  I am impressed with the high quality of the online materials presented so far and anticipate the course will be very valuable.  If anyone is interested in my opinion after I have completed it, I would be happy to share.

I am inspired by a quote on their website for what I will be learning

Adopting an anthropological and comparative approach, we strive to understand not only how social media has changed the world, but how the world has changed social media.







Aaron Swartz – How his legacy impacted me

I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know who Aaron Swartz was prior to learning about him in our #ECI 831 course this semester.

Dr. Alec Couros, our instructor shared several resources we were to review about Aaron Swartz:
Admittedly, it took me longer than I hoped to watch both of these videos (both are over 1 hour in length each) but I watched both this weekend and was captivated at the story of who Aaron was, and the impact he made on our world.

I think deeply about things and want others to do likewise. I work for ideas and learn from people. I don't like excluding people. (Aaron Swartz, September 2004)
The documentary The Internet's Own Boy introduced me to who he was.  Aaron was a young American activist who was a computer programmer who used his intellect and beliefs to help make information more freely accessible to everyone using technology.

His accomplishments in his short 26 year life are astounding, to name a few:

- he was the co-founder of Reddit
- he helped develop the web feed RSS
- he worked with Lawrence Lessig on designing the code to help build Creative Commons
- he was a vocal activist again SOPA/PIPA legislation

The documentary shared stories and interviews from Aaron's family - including home movie footage of a precocious young boy playing with his brothers.  Clearly, he was a very smart young man who had a strong curiosity for learning and for using computers at an early age.


I was stunned when at 14 years of age in 2001, he said he imagined the future of the internet was going to "be a two-way web, where users can really write their own webpages".  He was a high school dropout who was unhappy with the systematic way his school taught information.  The film described how traditional school was not challenging enough for him, and that his thirst for knowledge had him accessing information online to learn whatever he desired.

The documentary described how he went to Stanford University and worked on a startup company called Infogami in 2005 which was a CMS (Content Management System) that allowed the creation of websites in the form of a collaborated or wiki site - based on the vision he had for the transformation of the web 4 years earlier.

As a mom to a 14 year old son, I can only imagine what his mother was thinking!  

I expected the rest of the story would tell us how this young man, who went on from Stanford to co-create the popular website Reddit would make millions, live a lavish and eclectic lifestyle from his earnings, but he did not.

The documentary shared interviews with colleagues and friends who reinforced how well respected Aaron Swartz was in the tech community.  He was a modest man who lived within average means and he held strong beliefs that people should expect more from society for access to information.

He used his knowledge and passion to download a large number of scholarly journals from MIT, which ultimately led to his arrest and long legal battle agains JSTOR (Journal Storage). 

The film explained how SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) was intertwined with his story and how perception of what his actions were could have been perceived as online terrorism. He promoted online campaigns for social justice issues and fought to release information he thought should be freely accessible by anyone.

He died on January 11, 2013 after taking his own life.  The inventor of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee delivered his eulogy and Lawrence Lessig's Harvard Law lecture is a moving tribute to what he did and believed.  


One can't help but wonder what else he would have done and led if he would have lived?

Did you know who Aaron Swartz was or what he did?

Do you share his belief that everyone should be able to freely access information and online content?

Final Project Update – November 4, 2019

I have been inspired reading the blogs of my fellow students and watching some of the videos they are sharing of the progress made so far.  It reinforces that not everyone is born with the gift of playing music on the guitar or piano being able to paint or sew ... and it takes hard work and determination and lots of practice to get really good at something.

I should know that it takes practice to get better and improve at a task, and yet, I have ALWAYS struggled with giving up too soon.  I want to buy a book, or watch a video and expect that I should be
able to master a skill, which I understand is completely unrealistic!  But, I am impatient.  It drives my husband crazy that I don't tend to read directions/instructions or event follow recipes.

I have started - and ultimately quit - more hobbies and projects than I care to remember.  It is a quality that I want to work on improving and this final project has been a humble reminder that I still need to work on!


So, I decided to take action and break down my goals for my final projects into actionable steps.

My goal for this week was to record the audiobook version of my book.

To be clear, this has been a goal of mine since the book was published in February 2018.  However, the process of how to accomplish this goal has been overwhelming, and therefore has never been completed.

I researched a variety of means to get this done.


  • I Googled "How to record an audiobook" and found out that I could basically do it myself, or I could hire someone.  
    • I did look into hiring someone, but I figured that would defeat the purpose of this final project exercise.  Plus, it would cost between $400-$1200 
    • I immediately was overwhelmed by the advice on many blogs on how "easy" it is to self record your own audiobook.  Most spoke about editing software, expensive microphones and the need for a recording studio for good sound.
    • I tried using Garageband which is free software on my Mac computer, but I was impatient with how complicated it seemed.
  • I went to the Calgary Public Library and discovered that they have an Audio Recording Studio that I could rent for free.  The studio comes with all the equipment needed including the microphones/editing software etc.  
Ultimately it was reading the blogs of other students that helped me determine the actionable step I could do - thanks to Kayln, Amanda , Kyla and others I decided that I could use Anchor.fm  to record my audiobook.  I had written my own review in Week 2 on how to use Anchor, so I was already familiar with what the app is and what it does.  Without any hesitation or procrastination, I created a free account and got started.

I watched several Youtube videos on "Audio Book Narration Tips for Beginners" and gleaned several tips I decided to implement.

Focus on the pace and volume.  When I am excited, I tend to speak quickly so be aware of speaking slowly and clearly.  
Pause for effect.  Be sure to let information resonate with the listener by using an intentional pause 
Humanize my reading.  When I started recording I got dressed up, stood up and pretended I was delivering a presentation or book reading to an audience.  I LOVE public speaking, so this helped make my reading sound more personable.

Within 9 hours I had completed the audio recording of my book!  The only technology I needed was my phone and the Anchor.fm app.  I took breaks and drank lots of water so that I didn't sound tired, raspy voiced or like a robot.

I recorded each of the chapters of my book as an episode of the podcast.  Once I finished each chapter, I reviewed for any edits that I needed to make - I used the handy ⚐ (flag) feature whenever I was recording and knew I would need to edit that part (ie. I sneezed, my dog snored)

I then hit publish and Anchor then guided me to take action for the next steps to get this published and here is my audiobook! 


Is it perfect?  No.  

Is it done?

Once the podcast chapters were published I finalized my artwork, and channel description.  I then clicked the link to have Anchor distribute my podcast to all of the various players.  Did I mention that this is all for FREE and only took a couple of clicks of the mouse?

I shared the links on my social media channels (Facebook page, and Twitter )

So far, I have had 11 people listen!  Maybe it was some of you?

Thanks for reading.  I'm curious, can you relate to my perfection procrastination?  





A turning point in my education

It is difficult to me to describe the impact this week's topic of Open Education has had on me.  It feels as though a massive shift in my understanding of how my collective experience and education has collided.

My previous understanding of what I thought open education was very limited in my definition.  I thought it meant that people could simply access online courses or materials for free without limitation to access.

Needless to say, I had a lot to learn.

The videos in our course materials this week were incredibly thought provoking for me.

I started with watching Ze Frank's Ted Talk from TedGlobal 2010 called "My Web Playroom".  I was captivated with his creativity and how he leverages the web to build a network of "connecting to people".  He also happens to be a very funny and engaging presenter so I was hooked.  I had seen some of his projects online before, but did not know he was the orchestrator of them.


I loved how he experimented with new ideas and content!

This theme of being willing to experiment and try new things.  To remix what exists with something new.  To share with others and have their input on your ideas was the consistent theme in many of the videos from this week's course materials.

Frankly, this was the inspiration I needed because I have been stalled in making much progress in my final project.   The simple, safe work is completed.  I shared my progress last week in my blog - basically, I have built the shell of the resource page for my website www.socialcitizens.ca
But now the hard part has to happen.  I need to build the content for this page.

I have wondered why I haven't done this before now.  It isn't because I don't think it is a good idea, or that others have asked.

Dean Shareski 's  video Sharing: The Moral Imperative may provide the best answer to my internal question. In his video he addressed some of the same questions I have had about my work

is it worth my time?
How do I make it valuable and meaningful?

And I would add:
What if what I share isn't good enough?
Who am I to take this on?

But his video inspired me to take action. I really was struck by his statement that teachers should give their time and energy for sharing - and that essentially, education is sharing.

I then went to Anchor.fm and recorded the audio book of into 6 episodes. I have been procrastinating doing this for over a year. It was Dean's video that inspired me to just get it done.

Here is the link to my podcast/audiobook: https://anchor.fm/s/fc6d180/podcast/rss

I will be writing another blog post about the other readings for this week - stay tuned!

What did you think about the course material from this week #ECI831?  Did it inspire you to think differently about open education?




Update on my Final Project – October 2019


For my final project I have been working on outlining the plan for how I will build out the resource page for my Social Citizens website.

Progress Checklist (Completed):

✅ updated my 60 minute parent presentation
✅ delivered parent presentation at Calgary Academy on October 16th - had very positive feedback
✅ created Resource page on my website (see below)

Next Steps for October - November:

𝤿 research links to include on resource page
🗸 write 4 blog posts that are timely and relevant (maybe a Tik Tok explainer?)
𝥷 record audio for podcast or audiobook
𝥷 create explainer videos on key topics from my book

Step 1: Learn options for my website builder, Squarespace.

So far I have built the page but have not published it.


Honestly, I am so impressed with how easy Squarespace is to use.  I am not a web designer and yet I feel like my project looks really good!

For the resource page I have the option to add:
- website links
- videos
- download section for documents
- Podcast links

Now that the structure is there, I can start building out the content plan.

Step 2: Schedule a content plan.

I decided that I would approach my content calendar in two phases:

Phase 1: build out content for my existing book.  I spent over 10 months writing and researching the material, so it is important to leverage this.  Specifically, I will:

- create short videos of the key topics
- record audio version to be uploaded as either an audio book or podcast (still in research mode to determine which I will do)

Phase 2:  research existing resources and link out that would be a helpful resource to parents on digital citizenship and raising kids in a digital era.

Do you have any suggestions for me on topics or resources I should include to help parents?  




How to Use the Podcasting App – Anchor FM


I love podcasts.
I have been an avid fan of listening to podcasts for a few years.  I listen to them on my commute to and from work on the C-train, while I take my dog for a walk, and when I am doing mundane chores around the house.  Nothing helps me get through a pile of laundry that needs to ironed, than listening to one of my favourite podcasts.  Before I know it, I am lost in the rich stories or ideas shared and not bored of pressing yet another shirt!

Podcasts allow me to learn new things, hear stories and understand different perspectives.  They open my world to new information and the independent creators offer a unique approach that differs from the main stream media outlets that have dominated how we get our entertainment and information for so long.

I have been thinking about creating my own podcast for a few years now, but have not made any progress in doing it.  The main reason is I am intimidated by HOW to do it.

I have gone to several "How to Podcast" workshops, and I even attended a conference called the PodSummit in Calgary to gain more information.  After each event, I left intimidated by all of the technical aspects, equipment required and the time it would take to launch a podcast.

That is why I am excited to learn more about Anchor FM which is described on the website as "the easiest way to make a podcast.  Everything you need, 100% free."

Needless to say,  I am intrigued and a little skeptical.

I researched the Anchor FM website, and then looked further into other reviews on Google.  Here are some of the pros and cons I think this app offers:

👍It is FREE.
👍It allows you to record and host your podcast
👍It is easy to publish your podcast using this app
👎The editing and mixing features are limited.
👎There are some complaints online about the app having stability issues



How to use Anchor

Anchor has an excellent playlist of "how to videos" on their Youtube Channel called "I should start a Podcast".
.
I watched the entire playlist, followed the instructions and found it to be incredibly valuable for content that was easy to follow and non-intimidating.

I feel ready to get going - so stay tuned for more.

Reflecting on Knowledge and Learning


This week I in our class #ECI 831, I was introduced to the work of Associate Professor Michael Wesch who teaches cultural anthropology at Kansas State University.  Our course reading list linked two of his Youtube videos,

Michael Wesch - From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able
Michael Wesch - Anthropological introduction to Youtube

However after watching the first I was captivated by his innovative use of video and his message and proceeded to spend several hours watching more videos and reading more about his work.  I was captivated in his approach and exploration of how new media affects both human interaction, connection and learning in a world with "ubiquitous information at unlimited speed."

I often reflect on my own learning experiences compared to what is available to us today.  For example, when I was in elementary school in the early 1980's, we did not have computers available to us for learning.  Instead, the focus of learning at school was on our teacher.  They determined what we would learn and how.  I recall taking copious amount of handwritten notes, recording what was either written on the blackboard or on overhead projectors.  Entire class times would be spent copying this information.  This would be supplemented by a text book and maybe summarized by a film if we were fortunate enough to have a film projector available.


via GIPHY

Michael Wesch would describe my learning as one way.  My teacher would be at the front of the classroom directing and conveying all of the information - and knowledge at us.  Our ability to absorb, remember and recall the information would determine our success in school.  It was sink or swim in an era of information dumping.

Today, we are experiencing a massive shift in how we learn.  In his TedX presentation, Wesch describes how our society is now "bombarded with information and that critical thinking is so important."  Teaching has moved from one way like I had experienced, to "many layers of conversation."

He shared that it is imperative that students today are able to "move from being knowledgeable to knowledge - ABLE.  That they are able to find, sort, analyze, criticism, and create."

I was struck by his video, "A Vision for Students Today" from 2007.  In it, students share countless examples of how they are not engaged in their learning despite new technologies in the classroom and unlimited access to online resources and advances in teaching compared to when I went to school nearly 3 decades earlier.

So that leads to the question for this weeks blog post prompt:

How do you take up teaching in a world where knowledge is becoming obsolete? What steps should/could we as educators take in relation to bringing social networks into the classroom?

This also reminds me of the current issue many schools are debating about allowing kids phones in the classroom. Every week, I read another news story about how a school is banning devices like this school in Canmore Alberta
The common thread from most articles is the use of cellphones interferes with students learning and can negatively affect socialization. In fact, I find most articles are just a dump of all of the negatives 
that we often hear about technology:
- sleep deprivation
- developmental lags in young children
-depression
- negative socialization issues
At least this article I have linked mentions that the school is not against technology, as long as it is used as a learning tool in the classroom.

Should we shift our teaching to show our students HOW to use technology FOR their learning?
How can we involve students so that we aren't wasting their time with one way communication and instead are getting them to think of ways to weave the many resources available to them to better understand concepts, connect and learn with real world problems that are relevant and relatable.

The last video I watched in my rabbit hole deep dive was a recent one shared by Michael Wesch that was incredibly relevant to me as an online teacher. I tweeted it with our course hashtag, but here is the link. I am focusing on online learning rather than the classroom, since I am currently teaching two online university courses and can apply this immediately:

My main takeaway is that I should use technology and social media more intentionally. The goal should be to build a community of learners who can share and create vs. learn in isolation. I can help facilitate that through creating welcomingspaces, human connection with video and demonstrating that I am learning as well.




For my final Project #ECI831

I have decided to focus my major digital project for #ECI 831 in Option A: to undertake a major digital project that involves the integration/development of open educational resources related to my practice.

Specifically, I am going to design, implement and assess a parent education initiative on social media.

I am going to use the book I self published as the core content and I intend to create a variety of open source resources based on the material I wrote.  When I decided to write the book, I was motivated by parents who were looking for a resource to help them with their kids and managing technology and social media.
I had always intended to build out more resources for parents beyond the book, but I never have.  My website www.socialcitizens.ca has a blog and I have been terrible at being consistent about writing.  In fact, my last post was in April .... of 2018.  

I previously had a section that was intended to have lots of resources for parents where they could find more information, but I removed it from my website because it was empty.  I never found the time, and did not make the time to complete it.

So, that is why I think this might be the right time for this project!  

Here are some of my ideas for content I plan to research, create, curate and collaborate on:

- research links to existing articles, videos and online resources to help parents with information on social media, research etc that will help empower them with information to help with parenting their kids in an area they may not feel comfortable or familiar with.

- create a free version of my book - I am thinking either a video series or an audio book that could be available online from my website

- create a podcast series where I interview experts that provide insights and information from different perspectives for parents to learn from.

- write at least 4 blog posts by the end of the class on the www.socialcitizens.ca/blog on this project

I welcome ANY feedback from my classmates.  Would this be a valuable resource?  Do you agree with my content suggestions that I might build out?  Any other suggestions.

P.S. I would like to offer to send anyone who is interested in a copy of my book.  I would really value your feedback on that too.

Thanks everyone!

My Relationship with Social Media….

This week we were asked to describe our relationship with social media and how has it affected personal or professional life.

Social media has had a HUGE impact in my life both personally and professionally.

Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated with connecting with people.  When meeting new people, I LOVE to hear their story.  Who are they?  Do we share something in common?

So, when social media launched I was immediately hooked.

My first social network was a Facebook account.  It was amazing to be able to connect online with my large family that are scattered throughout the world.  I recognized quickly that I could connect with people instantly and loved staying current on what they were up to in life.  In 2008 it was my high school reunion, and I planned the entire event using Facebook to connect with former classmates!


I joined Twitter in 2007 - it is one of the only platforms that I was able to secure my username @nsmith - this was a great feat considering how common my last name is!  It took me a long time to figure out what Twitter was or how I would use it personally/professionally.  I focused most of my effort on building my personal brand as a social media professional and connected with many like minded professionals globally.  It was amazing to me that if I tweeted at someone like an author that I liked - sometimes they would reply back!  I was able to have a conversation with people that I would not otherwise have access to in real life.

My career shifted in 2010 from being a marketer responsible for creating marketing campaigns to promote Alberta as a destination to visit with Travel Alberta and I moved to creating social media accounts for the organization.  It was a defining moment in my career and I was fortunate to become one of the first wave of professionals for social media.  Yes, I got paid to be on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all day :)

I was able to experiment with different types of content and loved the opportunity to connect with people around the world on a shared interest - Alberta!  I discovered the power of community and started to share content from real people who would take beautiful photos while experiencing the Province.

Since then I have been fortunate to work in the field of social media and have helped many brands and companies on how to use social media effectively for marketing and communications.  Currently I work with the City of Calgary and we are changing how we connect, inform and engage with citizens using social media.

Today I actively use Facebook for staying in touch with friends and family, Twitter to find out what is happening in the world and about topics I care about, Linkedin to connect with colleagues and network professionally, and Instagram to be inspired with beautiful photos and to share images of things I love like hiking, my dog and my garden.

I love to help people navigate how they can use social media effectively and I currently teach social media courses at Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary.  I also speak at conferences and give workshops on the topic.

So, I guess you can say my relationship with social media is pretty strong.




Hi, I’m Nancy.

Hi, I'm Nancy.

I am excited to be a part of this session of EC&I 831.  I am a passionate advocate for social media and have been an active participant in this social wave since it all began back about 15 years ago.


It was a natural fit for me, since I am a very social person.  I love having conversations with people and learning their story and making connections to what we have in common.  I have experienced the positive aspects of what social media can do to help bring people together, to learn more online and much more.



via GIPHY

This is my 2nd course in my grad studies.  My goal for this course aligns with the goals I had for my 1st course:

1. I want to become more aware of HOW to incorporate social media in my teaching to help facilitate the learnings for my students of the benefits of social media for establishing a personal learning environment and network.  I have been focused on teaching how social media works technically, but am keen to help students understand the WHY it can be so powerful.

2. I want to learn more tools and techniques on how to enrich my online courses so that students who take courses online feel the same engagement and connection to the material and me as an instructor as they do when we are in the classroom.  This has been a challenging one for me.  I applied several of the approaches we learned in EC&1 834 in my most recent session of teaching and had very positive feedback from my students.  I also felt WAY more connected to the students and the content, so I'll take that as a big WIN!

Looking forward to getting to know all of you over the next few months!