SS Open PD Soars In Session 2

Last night's open Social Software in the Classroom session went extremely well. In fact, the stark contrast between last night's class and the class that "tanked" a week ago makes it hard to believe that the two classes are even related.

After twenty or so minutes of initial connection issues (our Ustream audio/video feed didn't work), we were able to have a wonderful discussion about social software and our students. Naturally, I used social software (the new Google Presentations) to facilitate the discussion. We finished our class reviewing some of the wiki basics we had covered in our first session, closing by discussing a few advanced wiki concepts (including wiki Templates and embedding RSS into a wiki page).

Technologically speaking, we ended up using YugmaSkype to connect teacher participants from around the world (teachers from various locations across the United States, a few from Australia, and one from Argentina). For the record, YugmaSkype was flawless (although my Skype quit out on us a few times - possibly from so many connections) and I anticipate using it again in the future.

Thanks again to all those that participated - our discussion was one of the best I've ever had in a Professional Development session. I hope to see you again next week (due up: Google Tools).

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The Flaw In NECC Presentation Proposal Submission

In preparing submissions for the 2008 National Educational Computing Conference, I'm keenly aware of one great flaw inherent in the submission process:

  • NECC 2008 submissions are due nine months before the conference!
In any other field, this nine-month gap may not be detrimental. In our field, however, nine months is an eternity. In the field of educational technology, the landscape changes, our attitudes change, and our students change.

Nine months ago, for example:
  • There was no retail version of Windows Vista, no Feisty Fawn, and we all thought that Leopard would be out sooner than later.
  • There was no iPhone, no iQuiz, and no iPod Fatty.
  • There was no Google Presentations, no TeacherTube, and no Skitch (still in Beta, but definitely a must-have).
Nine months ago:
Nine months ago:
  • Virginia Tech was just another school.
And finally, just nine months ago:
Indeed, to say that it's been a wild ride would be an understatement. I just hope that we can all write our NECC proposals in such a way to allow for even more change in the coming months.

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SS Open PD Tanks in Round 1

The technology demons were out in full force last night in our first "open" professional development session (Social Software in the Classroom). Indeed, the glitches were many. Nevertheless, the session did end on a high note as we engaged in a wonderful conversation about our need as teachers to include a higher level of social software in our classes.

Here's a list of the troubles we encountered (in chronological order):

  • Turns out our district's firewall won't currently allow people to view Quicktime video streams emanating from within the district. Ouch - especially since this was how we planned to share screens.
  • Twenty minutes later, enter YugmaSkype - For some strange reason, we weren't able to add all of the participants to the screen broadcast, even though we were connected through Skype. Weird.
  • Twenty minutes later (and loads of audio feedback) I set up a Ustream broadcast.
  • A minute or two later Sue Waters comes to the rescue, "Do you want to use an Elluminate room?" Did we ever!
  • Except for one of the teachers at my site. Fifteen minutes later, we were still dealing with her $%@#! USB headset and it's incompatibility with Elluminate. Yuck.
Finally, we were able to hold a pretty decent discussion about Karl Fisch's video, changes in our world, and changes in our students. The participants were extremely patient (for which I am grateful), and those that went the distance left happy with how things turned out.

That said, I still want to thank those that made this, my first attempt at an open professional development session, an effort that I'd like to attempt once more:
Thanks for the efforts, guys. We'll chalk our efforts up to "a learning experience" and try it again next time. And since Robin and I hashed things out for over two hours today, I think next Wednesday's session will yield much better results.

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Social Software in the Classroom - Ready for takeoff!

Well, here we go. I just finished setting up the video/audio stream with our district tech gurus (yeah, even smarter than I am) and holy crap: I'm starting to think that this thing is actually going to work.


Here are the details for this Wednesday's "open professional development session" entitled Social Software in the Classroom:
  • Class will be held once a week (for five weeks) beginning Wednesday, September 19.
  • Class will be held from 4:30-7:15 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. Click here to translate these times to your time zone.
  • If you don't have a Skype account, you will want to create one ahead of time (free), as Robin Ellis will be moderating a Skype chatroom throughout the class. To join in, send her a quick message through Skype: robin.ellis1
  • Our class wiki (with schedule and future participant portfolios) will be available here:
  • A quicktime audio/video stream will be available here: rtsp:// Because we will be using Quicktime to stream, you will want to ensure that your Quicktime software is up to date ahead of time. Visit this site to get the latest version (free).
If you are a teacher, administrator, or technology specialist that would like to learn more about the many free, online tools that can be used to enhance your teaching, then consider yourself personally invited to join us. We'd love to have you and look forward to an exciting, open, and collaborative experience.

  • To join in on the action, please join the wiki we'll be using for the class.
  • For teachers not receiving in-service credit, perfect attendance is not required.
  • While this class is intended to help newbies learn more about the educational uses of Web 2.0 technologies, experienced users are equally welcome (and appreciated, as the sum of our knowledge is what truly makes these new technologies so appealing).
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Collaborative Professional Development: How to (hopefully) get it done

I had an excellent informal learning "session" today with Brian C. Smith (New York), Brian Mull (Louisiana), Karen Janowski (Massachusetts), Robin Ellis (Pennsylvania), and Kelly Dumont (Utah). In an attempt to discover the best way to build upon the model for global, collaborative professional development created by Darren Kuropatwa, I have been searching for a way to:

  1. Share my screen
  2. Stream audio/video of my class
  3. Provide a chat-room for communication between classmates regardless of geographic location
Thus, as I was messing around with a partial solution (Ustream) for the upcoming Social Software in the Classroom professional development class that I will be co-teaching with Robin Ellis, I sent out a Twitter tweet announcing partial success:
A few minutes later, I'm greeted (through tweet) by several other interested parties.

To make a long story short (we played for over an hour), we worked out what should be a pretty darn good way to create a highly collaborative global classroom environment with up to 10 different sites.

Total cost: $0.

As of right now (translation: if we don't find a better way to do things), the order of class preparation will be as follows:
  1. Install Skype on client machines - I'll be doing this in our computer lab.
  2. Install YugmaSkype on client machines - This is optional because Yugma installs itself when you try to use it, but installing it ahead of time will speed up the process.
  3. Have all participants create Skype accounts - I'll be taking my teachers through this process at the beginning of our class. Remember, you can have up to ten people connected through Yugma and roughly that same number for Skype audio, but you can have an unlimited number of people in a Skype chat.
  4. Add participants to your Skype list (or the Skype list of the person whose screen will be broadcast) - then when you try to initiate a Yugma shared desktop session, you can easily select participants.
  5. Initiate a conference call (Skype audio) with up to ten distant participants - these are the participants that will be able to hear instruction clearly (through Skype). Ideally, you could have one person per site connected through Skype audio.
  6. The meeting host that will share the screen then starts YugmaSkype and invites up to ten participants.

    At this point, up to ten people (or sites) can both hear the instructor and see the instructor's screen. We will also be doing the next step(s) to allow more than 10 sites to participate:

  7. Use to broadcast the video (and somewhat limited audio) of whatever else we may want to show (a screen, class, or instructor). Ustream is free, but you can only create one stream per computer. In our tests, the audio from Ustream was sub-par (choppy and had consistent lag). However, if it proves adequate, we may resort to using it entirely for audio.
At this point, I would love to hear from you. Where are the chinks in our anticipated armor? What has worked best for you? What problems will we encounter?

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What It Means To Participate In EduBloggerWorld

At first I was disappointed. Then I better understood reality. When I first saw Suzanne's forum post on the newly created EduBloggerWorld ning, I wasn't sure exactly how to respond.

Why is it that teachers seem so reluctant to utilise this amazing learning/sharing/social opportunity? I think that edublogger world has huge potential, but I am concerned that my patience will not last till that potential is fulfilled.
Suzanne was, in part, expressing a frustration that there are times when the EduBloggerWorld ning appears to have relatively little participation. And you know what? She's partly right. There are times when the ning may feel a little empty.

Emptiness on the ning, however, does not mean that our community members aren't participating.

As a community of educational bloggers, I think that we need to make sure that our priorities are straight:
  1. Twitter
  2. Blogs
  3. EduBloggerWorld Forums
  4. Our students
In that order. That way we can make the most of our time online.

And while I may be kidding about listing our students last (yes, they should be at the top of our lists), I do think that we often forget that most of the members of our community were bloggers long before they were ning participants (and rightly so). As a result, I recommend the following:
  • Take a little time to read other members' blogs. You may find them through Google, Technorati, or in our EduBlogger listing of Member Blogs.
  • While you're on the Member Blogs page, go ahead: add yourself to the list.
  • Probably the best way to encourage EduBloggerWorld participation is to simply participate yourself. Using the EduBloggerWorld forums to comment on other member's blog postings would probably bring them in, as well.
  • Finally, when you choose to write on your blog about something that you think would benefit the entire EduBloggerWorld community, please tag your posts using the appropriate EduBloggerWorld tag. This list of tags is being maintained by our community.
So here's to the continued growth of a valuable community. May the force be with us all.

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The EduBloggerWorld Second Virtual Meetup

On behalf of the entire EduBloggerWorld community I would like to invite you to participate in the virtual meet-up that will take place on September 18, at 9 p.m. EDT. To view what time that is in your time zone, click here.

In this, our second meet-up, Vicki Davis will be hosting the Women of Web 2.0 webcast on EdTechTalk. The main topic of discussion for this episode will be “Non Traditional Professional Development”. Guests on the show will include Dean Meyer, Steve Hargadon, Julie Lindsay, and myself. Your participation will also be encouraged as interaction with participants in the accompanying chat-room is always an entertaining addition.

If you have never participated in an EdTechTalk discussion before, you may want to visit this page ahead of time to ensure that you’re up to speed before the discussion begins.

We hope to see you soon!

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The Infinite Typing Monkeys

During the past several weeks, several events have transpired, leading to this strange blog post.

  1. I've been exploring various social networks, trying to determine if any educational value can be found within.
  2. I've nearly finished reading Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur.
  3. School has started up again in my District, leaving teachers and students in a mad scramble to find the time to accomplish all that must be done.
That said, as I initially sat down to write about my feelings, I found the linear nature of written text to be far too cumbersome to truly express the inter-connectedness of what I had hoped to say. As a result, I've decided that a more effective way to present my thoughts might be in using the classic graphic organizer. What you see below is the result.

The EduBlogger March of the Penguins

It will be helpful for you to understand that I began my "rapid-fire" of thoughts while concentrating on the chilling words with which Keen has chosen to open his new book (emphasis my own):
I've spent the last two years observing the Web 2.0 revolution, and I'm dismayed by what I've seen.

I've seen the infinite monkeys, of course, typing away. And I've seen many other strange sights as well, including a video of marching penguins selling a lie, a supposedly infinite Long Tail, and dogs chatting to each other online...

I call it the great seduction. The Web 2.0 revolution has peddled the promise of bringing more truth to more people—more depth of information, more global perspective, more unbiased opinion from dispassionate observers. But this is all a smokescreen. What the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment. The information business is being transformed by the Internet into the sheer noise of a hundred million bloggers all simultaneously talking about themselves.

I have strongly mixed thoughts about Keen's message.

On one hand, while harsh in his judgment, I find Keen's words to be hauntingly truthful. I worry that we have become a society obsessed with being heard - hoping to find some semblance of audience - often not taking the time ourselves to listen to others. I seriously question:

  • Do we listen to our students?
  • Do we listen to our readers?
  • Do we even listen to ourselves?
On the other hand (and in contrast), aren't there justifiable times when teachers should post to their blogs without listening to others ahead of time? I personally think that if you're using your blog as a tool for reflecting on your classroom practices, then additional reading may not be needed (the lack of which should at least not prohibit you from writing).

Either way and when all is said and done, I'm happy to be counted among the infinite typing monkeys and hope that teachers all around the world will continue to join in on the madness.

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Open Professional Development - A Whole New Level

In celebration of my 100th post to this blog, I've decided to extend an invitation to you, dear reader.

Beginning September 19, at 4:30 pm (MDT) I will be teaching a "Social Software in the Classroom" class to roughly 20 teachers in the Jordan School District. The class is will be held from 4:30 until 7 pm on Wednesday nights until October 17 (5 class sessions).

In order to better demonstrate the power/wonder of the many newly created Web 2.0 teaching technologies, I would love to either:

  • Have you join us as a student (either through Skype or other communication)
  • Joint-teach the class with you (with you teaching teachers in your location while I teach them in mine - we could then develop a curriculum together). As of right now, I have begun to develop a few topics of discussion for the class, but am open to any suggestions that you might want to cover.
You may view my initial plans (as well as participate as a student) by following these steps:
  • Visit the T4 Moodle
  • Enter the "Social Software in the Classroom" class
  • Create an account
  • Enter 'collaborate' as the enrollment key
I look forward to your input and would enjoy working with you.

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