Meeting – February 12, 2008 at BitHeads

The CRC/NRC Virtual Classroom Program
Presented by John Spence, Martin Brooks, & Bruno Emond

Date: Tuesday February 12, 2008
Time: 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Location: bitHeads, Inc.

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The virtual classroom program is managed by the Communication Research Centre in Ottawa and the Institute for Information Technology (National Research Council Canada). The program consists of a series of thematic events where students from schools across Canada exchange over a three-hour period using videoconference equipment. The events are designed to involve three to six groups of 30 to 100 students in each school. The virtual classroom pedagogical model is based on virtual peer-learning communities supported by mentors where high-school students are challenged to work authentic problems such as ethical issues related to stem cell research, diet and body image, war debates, climate change, and world water supply.

The presentation will outline the development of the CRC/NRC virtual classroom program since 1997 as well as various aspects of the program including learning event design, test bed for ethics approved social analysis research, and technologies used to facilitate learning including the deployment of broadband access for schools, Isabel, H.323 terminals, and more recently a broadband virtual camera for asynchronous communication.


John Spence is presently a private consultant in E-learning and E-Health broadband applications. From 1997 to 2007 he held the position of Program Manager, Application Technologies, Broadband Networks Technologies Branch, at Communications Research Centre , Canada (CRC), Industry Canada. He has 10 years experience in the design and implementation of broadband technologies to support eLearning and e-Health applications. He continues to co manages with Dr. Martin Brooks the CRC/NRC VirtualClassroom Program. The goal of the VirtualClassroom program is to form collaborative partnerships to research and develop innovative broadband knowledge management and collaborative learning applications for virtual learning communities. He was program manager of operations for the successful LearnCanada, MusicGrid and Eucalyptus CANARIE projects.

Dr. Martin Brooks is a visual communication consultant. Until September 2007, Brooks led the Broadband Visual Communication Research Program at NRC’s Institute for Information Technology. Brooks was the Research Manager for the CANARIE-funded projects LearnCanada (, MusicGrid (, and Participatory Design Studio ( Brooks has previously led NRC’s Interactive Information and Knowledge Systems research groups. Prior to coming to NRC, Brooks carried out research in robotics, artificial intelligence, and software engineering at SINTEF, in Oslo Norway. Brooks has a B.A. in mathematics from MIT and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University.

Dr. Emond research has evolved over his career from issues related to knowledge representation, natural language, logic, and artificial intelligence to fundamental issues related to the modelling of human cognition, and critical issues for broadband e-learning. His main scientific and technological contributions include his analysis of logical reasoning using graphical representations, his software contributions to the ACT-R cognitive architecture, and his suite of video server applications for the education sector.

Where and When?

This event will take place on Tuesday, February 12, 2008, 7-9 PM at bitHeads, Inc. (, located at 1309 Carling Avenue (in the Westgate Shopping Centre), Ottawa, ON K1Z 7L3 Canada.

bitHeads is located on the east side of the shopping centre, facing Island Park Drive and the Royal Ottawa Hospital. The bitHeads entrance is on the outside of the building next door to Pet Smart and Blockbusters.