Archive for June, 2008

NECC 08 Highlights: Monday

Monday, June 30th, 2008

I may have been too negative in my online reflections related to edubloggercon and the bloggers cafe. It is absolutely amazing to be here with everyone – with so many opportunities for learning surrounding me. There have been many highlights today alone.

Glogowski on Student Blogging

The first and perhaps the most high of the highlights, was attending Konrad Glogowski’s Blogging Communities in the Classroom: Creating Engaging Learning Experiences. I had this to say about it in twitter:

At Konrad Glogowski’s presentation on classroom blogging communities (Hyatt Sequin A/B)… It’s packed.

Konrad (to a chorus oh mmm hmmm’s): If you you have time to read everything your students write, they’re not writing enough.

Konrad got 27 minutes in before getting asked “was that on the district server?How do you handle harassment.”

Konrad’s answer was good: we start by spending a lot of time with the kids talking about creating community.

As a former English teacher, I’m enjoying Konrad’s humorous and humane approach to helping students develop as writers.

Konrad on redefining writing: move from authoritative pronouncements to ongoing discourse.

Konrad sharing great “how to grow a blog” graphic metaphor.

Will Richardson ustreamed the presentation and archived the chat.

Because Konrad has just finished up his dissertation, too (this presentation was based on his research), I felt an additional connection. He showed lots of excerpts of student writing from his study, which inspired me to take a more specific approach to presenting my own dissertation later in the day. I was amazed and impressed to learn after his presentation that he was preparing to leave this afternoon – for two months in Africa working for teachers without borders. He considered it a big unknown and expressed his concerns about it. He seems to be a man living life to it’s fullest… in part by engaging in meaningful risk taking. :)

Jakes and Shareski on Presentation Design

After some time in the Bloggers Cafe (more on that below), I next made my way to see David Jakes and Dean Shareski present One Hour PowerPoint: A Strategy for Improving Presentations. It seems Jakes may have submitted a powerpoint session (almost as a joke) after realizing that more sophisticated sessions often got rejected. But there was nothing unsophisticated about this presentation, and by all accounts it was masterfully executed (I only saw about half – plus the preview I saw before hand). I had this to say about it on twitter:

Arrived 11 minutes into @dnakes’ preso – it’s PACKED! They’ve now been watching a video for at least 3 minutes. Hmm.

He’s got the crowd enraptured with his brain based segment – 1st of his ten things.

Metaphor from Jakes: its a dial up connection between the ears and the brain – but a broadband connection between the eye and the brain.

Jakes is teaching about flickr and creative commons. Good stuff but I’m moving on.

I watched them lay a solid theoretical foundation justifying better presentation design, but as they transitioned into talking about tools I knew, I figured I didn’t need to stand in back and stretch to see anymore… but of course it turns out I missed some great examples and demos. I can’t wait to see the presentation online, but at this point can’t seem to find the link. I think their approach will influence my own Images, Impact, and Interaction workshops in the future.

Wagner (That’s Me) on MMORPGs in Education

Again I had some time in the Blogger’s Cafe, but soon I made a quick trip to the Presenters’ World (prep room) and then headed to present my own session, Massively Multiplayer Schools: Do MMORPGs Have a Future in Education? This was a round table presentation of my dissertation findings. I was happy with the turnout (which required extra chairs) and was able to speak to the practitioners who showed up more than to academics, which suited me fine – I felt I might be making more of a difference for students and teachers. It really felt good to present – I think that may have been some of what I’ve been missing here. I feel really useless walking around with all these workshops in my head and nobody to share them with despite being in a conference of 13,000 teachers who want to learn more about using computers with their students. The round table went great (and allowed some discussion on a reasonable scale), but even so, I couldn’t help but feel that the large presentation I did at NECC two years ago for a huge packed room (before I had formal research to report) probably had more of an impact. Happily, I got a chance to “present” again less than two hours later.

CUE Social

In the meantime, I visited the CUE social at the Global Connections lounge. It was small (we’re not in California), but I was able to connect with some colleagues I don’t see very often. And, after the Second Life demo announcing the CUEniverse (CUE’s SL presence), we pulled up the ustream of a Creating Live Web TV for the Classroom for Global Audiences… a session on ustream, presented by Will Richardson and a panel of others including Steve Dembo, Ewan McIntosh, and more. It was the first time during the conference that I found the stream a really valuable alternative to being there face-to-face. Unfortunately, I made a bit of a fool of myself as I tried to join into the chat while only half watching the session during the social. :(

Walden University Residency

In any case, I left the social (and the session) early to once again make a sort of cameo appearance at the Walden University residency. Educational Technology Ph.D. students attend NECC during the day and then the residency in the evening, where the debrief, continue to learn, and work on their progress in the program. One of my committee members runs the program and asked me to speak to them about the dissertation process (and my experiences at NECC). I enjoyed being able to “give back” a bit – and I enjoyed presenting my paper to academics (who had much harder questions for me) following my round table with practitioners. I left here feeling a bit more like I usually do at conferences.

The People

Ultimately, though, the real valuable moments of this day (as is often the case at conferences) were the serendipitous – and often very short – conversations with my fellow attendees and fellow edubloggers.

As much as I may have missed the Blogger Cafe format from last year (and yesterday), it has still been an amazingly cool thing to wake up, come downstairs, and have breakfast with edubloggers I respect… to bump into and learn new things about others over lunch (or frantic preparations) at the Bloggers cafe… to connect with CUE colleagues over a drink… and to run into so many people whose work and writing I respect simply while walking beside the river downtown. Even though I’m splitting some of my time and attention with my family, this is cool. Very. Very. Cool.

For tomorrow and Wendesday, I’m torn between wanting to present as much as I can via NECC Unplugged (if there are any slots left) and wanting to find a way (or place) to have more conversations of the sort we were able to have in the Bloggers’ Cafe before the NECC Unplugged sessions. (Ironically, the speakers for these sessions are “plugged” in with Mics.) On this second front I may have discovered something useful this afternoon…

An Alternate Blogger’s Cafe?

As I commented on Jeff’s post I think the Global Connections cafe (where the CUE social was) might be perfect as an alternate location for the edublogger cafe. It was empty when I was there at about 3, but it was outfit just as well as the blogger’s cafe… lots of tables, comfy chairs, the widescreen tv, the whiteboard with short-throw projector, power, etc. If folks are up for it, I think it might fit the bill. I’d love to have more informal conversations and learning there the next two days. I don’t know what it would take to get a critical mass there, but perhaps it can start with something like this post.

Bloggers Cafe Reflection

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

After sleeping in and breakfast with Clark and Eva, which felt like a true luxury after the last few weeks (and especially after some very short nights sleep at Google), I spent most of my first day at NECC in the edubloggers cafe.

In general, I found it to be what I had hoped – a place for informal gathering and conversing. Unfortunately, I personally didn’t do much learning.

It was somewhat slow in the first few hours I was there, but I got to connect with a few people I hadn’t met before – and with a few colleagues from California that I don’t see very often. Eventually, though, I decided to set to work on my presentation for tomorrow. I’m glad I did, because it took a lot of time to get my mind back to a place where I can talk about my dissertation at an academic level. (I’m not thrilled about how dry my presentation is bound to be – I hope some people that care show up.) In any case, it was tough to stick to my work as the cafe began to fill up and exciting conversations sprung up all over.

Happily, I was able to take a few breaks to participate in Jeff Utecht’s streaming of the cafe and to contribute to (or listen to) a few good conversations. And once I was finished I got to play a bit with Brian Smith’s XO, which was a great experience, long overdue for me.

Later, I forewent the keynote (is forewent a word?) in favor of the edublogger rib cook off. John Maklary, Brian Grenier, and some of their fellow texans produced a dinner that fed dozens, including Eva and Clark – and Eva’s parents (her mom Debbie is also a techie teacher, and her dad comes along for the ride). It was a great social experience, and I was able to connect with several edubloggers I respect in a personal way I never had before. Sharing baby pictures with Ewan McIntosh sort of captures the value of the evening for me.

Still, I didn’t do much learning. So, going into day two I have two things on my mind…

First, I am trying to sort out how to get the most out of this conference… especially with Eva along I feel compelled to justify the expense in terms of some new learning or inspiration for the coming year – if not by new business opportunities as a consultant and professional developer. (Ideally, I’d love to come away with ideas for growing my business.) I may actually go to sessions. I may actually visit the show floor. (Admittedly, these things weren’t terribly productive for me at the last two NECC conferences, but I must admit it seems arrogant to say there’s nothing I can learn from in the formal conference. Perhaps I can “skim” the floor and skim the sessions the way I skim my aggregator.)

I will definitely have breakfast with Google Certified Teachers tomorrow – I can’t wait to meet the ones from New York!

Second, as others are, I am concerned that the blogger’s cafe might not be available as an informal learning space tomorrow. The NECC Unplugged schedule might preclude that. As I see it, we who want to the informal setting have two choices (if indeed the NECC Unplugged sessions are too intrusive):

1. Move somewhere else for our informal learning. This would be a real shame.

2. “Stand Up” to the unplugged sessions (in as sensitive and reasonable a way as possible) to “protect” the cafe and keep it from becoming a breakout room.

I’m not at all ready to exert any leadership in this, and I think the proper reaction will depend a lot on the situation “on the ground” in the morning. I’m merely making sense of it for myself (and anyone who cares to read/listen), and I’m hoping it is handled well when (and if) the time comes.

For my part, I’ve removed my name from the agenda – I’d signed up for a short talk and a speed demo only a few days ago when I was feeling somewhat guilty for not having jumped in to contribute earlier. Now I feel guilty for removing it. I’m not presenting much this year and I want to share as much as I can with as many as I can… but not at the expense of my own learning (this is the one conference I come to as an attendee) and not at the expense of others’ informal learning opportunities.

I suppose another goal for me over the next three days is to figure out how to share what I can… and perhaps that screen in the bloggers cafe should be for something other than tweets – perhaps we should be presenting to each other.

Again, I’d love to hear other perspectives on this. And, again, I’ll reiterate my respect for the efforts of Steve Hargadon and the other organizers. I just see a potential problem here – and I hope it is handled well, without the loss of the edublogger cafe as we loved it last year… and as it was today.

UPDATE: Apparently my reflection/whining came a few hours too late. It seems there was a tweetstorm against the idea of NECC unplugged in the bloggers cafe, after which Will Richardson connected with Steve Hargadon and moved NECC Unplugged “down the hall.” Still, I’ll leave the rest of this reflection up, for my sake if nothing else. It helped me focus for the day. :)

UPDATE 2: Nevermind. The NECC Unplugged is happening in the bloggers cafe. I’m bummed about it, in particular because it seems some edubloggers are staying away… but it’s not awful. It’s great that lots of people are sharing, and it is still possible to have conversations around the fringes. We’ll see how it goes. I hope there will still be time and space to play, share, and learn. (Of course, there’s no reason I can’t play, share, and learn regardless – and I am learning, though it might be about different things than I though. The bigger frustration is the wireless – I finally paid to get on an alternate network!

Edubloggercon Reflection: Looking Ahead

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

As I commented on a post by Darren Draper just over a month ago, I was concerned that edubloggercon and NECC unplugged might be too structured to maximize conversation. I was extremely excited to see the gathering of minds present at this year’s edubloggercon (and it was much larger than last year – by Steve Hargadon’s estimates it grew from about 65 to over 200). Steve was once again heroic in his efforts to make it happen, but sadly I did indeed find it to be too structured for my tastes.

The Problem

During the first session I popped in and out of each room (as was my habit at NECC before the edubloggercon and bloggers cafe). I attended to other things and connected with those I could on the fringes. In the largest room something very like a panel session had developed. There was a very large panel to be sure, but a much larger audience… in general there was one person speaking and about 80 or so listening. Plus, this was the room with the intrusive Pearson camera crew (which is a topic well covered elsewhere). In the Second Life Cafe, where one of the other sessions was held, the topic was exciting, but the “presenter” stood at the center of 30 or so folks who were as near as I could tell only listening. I had a resource to share, so passed it on to someone in the back before going on my way.

During the second session, I actually attended a session in this same space – the talk on Clay Shirky’s book. This was considerably more participatory than what I’d seen so far that morning… not unlike a Bible study actually (as Will Richardson almost said at one point). Folks were quoting the book and interpreting it. Significantly, those who began the talk wound up moving to become part of the outer circle so that there was no clear leader. This helped more voices be heard. But, again there were 30 or so people present, and only one could talk at a time. As my somewhat tangential live blog reveals, I wasn’t inspired to say much.

In the third session, I joined several others I respect in another panel session in the big room. I was not at all engaged. I live blogged a bit of my thoughts on this, too. Eventually, I got into a back channel chat… and realized many of the people in the chat were in the room… chatting with each other instead of talking!

The Solution

I finally wrote something to this effect in the chat, and thankfully several of the folks in the chat (and in the room) were up for moving to the blogger’s cafe, where as Jeff describes, we finally created something of an unconference. Most importantly, multiple conversations could occur and overlap – and we were able to “play” in a serendipitous fashion. This was by far my favorite part of the day – and the conference thus far. This picture by Ewan McIntosh really captures it for me. :)

Looking Ahead

For years I’ve been interested in maximizing the conversations that generally occur during the five minutes before or after a session. I’ve been a fan of Dave Winer’s Hypercamp* concept and have at times advocated for an edu-hypercamp. I think something like this might be part of the solution for the next edubloggercon. Perhaps we can set up a space with two (or more) mini-presentation areas (not unlike the bloggers cafe actually), many “round tables” for people to retreat to for further conversation (this is key!), and plenty of power and wi-fi. Folks could then sign up for 5 minute (or 15 minute) time slots at the presentation areas, or the presentations could be even more spontaneous – even if that means a line might form. ;)

I also think that more topical longer sessions might also be effective – if the facilitators reacted to the number of participants. If it is a sufficiently small number, perhaps a conversation could be facilitated. In this case, ideally the facilitator wouldn’t even be necessary, as in the bible-study like session we had on the Shirky book. However, the Shirky session was too large for this. I’d advocate the practice of splitting off into smaller groups to discuss (if memory serves, this is what small group bible study is all about – to run with the analogy). Then, the large group could be reconvened to share the “aha!” moments of their conversation. And as with a hypercamp room, round tables could also be available for splinter conversations – I did mention this was key, right?

Others have noted that few of us stood up to make a difference. I recognize my own lack of participation in planning the edubloggercon and NECC unplugged, so I want to offer my help (to Steve or whoever) in organizing the next event to include elements like this. I’d also love to help setup the Edubloggercon West as a sort of pilot of these ideas at the CUE conference next March. I know I missed it this year (after starting the wiki page for it), but with any luck I won’t be having another baby that month. ;)

Now, the best argument I’ve heard against these proposals is this: that there may tend to be a measure of elitism among core groups of edubloggers and that the more structured sessions might help more people participate. Now, many of the edubloggers I respect most love meeting new people and learning from them. But, I also see some exchanges that are more like fans meeting a star, and these are often considerably less valuable to both parties. So I know keeping it small or segmented might potentially isolate some people… but honestly, I think the possibility of good conversation out weighs the certainty of mass disengagement. I suppose, by the way, that this is applies to my philosophies about K12 education as well.

A Call To Participate

I’d love to hear what others think of these issues and potential solutions – and I’d love to hear any additional ideas, particularly if they might be incorporated into future edubloggercons. :)

*Dave Winer’s diagram has one huge “blogging table” – but I think smaller “round tables” are key to generating more conversations and more personal connections.

Edubloggercon Live

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

I just saw David Warlick using Cover it and decided I’d jump on that myself for my notetaking. Sorry the notes are rough. Leave a comment to let me know what you think – or to reply to the content.

Google Teacher Academy Resources

Friday, June 27th, 2008

I’m thrilled to announce that all of the Google Teacher Academy Resources are now publicly available.

Only Google Certified Teachers (GCT) are free to edit and add to the site, but anyone may view the site and take advantage of the resources shared there. The site includes all off the presentations, print materials, and online resources from the most recent GTA, including Google Docs presentations you can use yourself and 14 all-new or updated crib sheets you can download or print for easy reference. This might be particularly useful for anyone leading workshops on Google tools for teachers.

Enjoy – and let me know what you think.


Thursday, June 19th, 2008

The original version of this post somehow got hacked and filled with spam links. Sometime after I fixed it, I noticed the post was blank. Not sure if it was my fault or a hack. So, since folks have linked here for reference, here’s the important bits. ISTE initially sent out this recording policy to all presenters:

Full video/audio capture of NECC sessions and activities is strictlyprohibited without express written permission from BOTH: 1.) the session presenter/s, and 2.) ISTE. Those holding official ISTE-issued press credentials may capture footage for media coverage purposes only.

Amateur video/audio capture is permitted of ambient environments,informal exchanges and sessions, and sessions and activities not
organized by ISTE, etc., provided that appropriate permissions have been granted by the parties affected. ISTE assumes no liability for
copyright and/or intellectual property violations that may occur as a result. Amateur video/audio capture is also permitted in NECC sessions
and activities provided that the length of capture does not exceed 10 minutes AND appropriate permissions have been granted by the presenter/s.

Under no circumstances may any length or quality of video/audio capture of NECC sessions be used for marketing, advertising, or commercial purposes without express written permission from BOTH: 1.) the session presenter/s, and 2.) ISTE.

I was somewhat vague in my suggestion that folks might consider being subversive and ignoring it… at least the bit about getting ISTE’s permission. I asked “Just how edupunk are you?” – which was my first use of that term. Then, a day later, following a firestorm in the edublogosphere, ISTE release this revision:

For NECC 2008, ISTE’s permission is not required for non-commercial video and audio recording of sessions and workshops.

However, for NECC 2008, written permission from the session or workshop presenter is required prior to capturing a video or audio recording. Any permitted recording should respect the presenter’s rights and not be disruptive.

Under no circumstances may any length or quality of video/audio capture be used for marketing, advertising, or commercial purposes without express written permission from both the session presenter(s) and ISTE.

Ok, the links and comments should all make sense now. I apologize for the disruption in service. ;)

Passion and PD: A Discussion Starter

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

In the online facilitator’s course I’m taking right now I was asked to create a discussion starter for the “break room” forum in my class. I played off of my previous posts on passion and professional development to come up with this, which I thought I’d share here.

A passionate student is a learning student. We have to tap into our students’ passions as people to tap into their desire to learn.

As an educational technologist I often say that “pets and babies will teach teachers more about technology than I ever will.” I’m finally experiencing this myself – I’ve got a four month old baby boy named Clark. Suddenly I’ve got digital video camera and a new interest in sharing video online. My first YouTube video was Clark “discovering wind” in the park – he loves it!

What passions do you have that most motivate you to learn?

I’d be particularly stoked if anyone would like to respond here as well. It’s been a long while since I did any sort of “getting to know my readers” activity on this blog. :)

PS. Here’s the actual video: Clark Discovers Wind. (I put no effort at all into editing it, you can see his dramatic reaction to the wind at about 2 min and 20 seconds into it.)

Appropriate Tones for Elements of Online Classes

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

This post was also written in response to a discussion prompt in the class I am taking (on facilitating online classes). We were asked to match each of the six elements of an online class you see below to specific tones described in Chapter six of Facilitating Online Learning.

I set out to write this and realized a table was the way to go. Obviously multiple tones will work for many of these elements, but for the sake of the table I’ve focused on a just one or two for each.

Appropriate Tones for Elements of Online Classes
Elements Tone(s) Explanation
Announcements Neutral, but engaging Announecments need to serve a pragmatic purpose. They are the gateway to the class and need to be a clear and concise as possible.
Personal stories Informal or humorous Personal stories are an opportunity to connect with the participants. They can also serve to releive tension within a hard working learning community.
Responses to questions posted in Facilitator Forum Neutral, but receptive and thoughtful Facilitators need to be careful not to judge participants (at least not harshly) in their responses. They need to "hear" participants concerns and respond with care – both in the details they provide and in their efforts to remain supportive of the participants.
Comments in a class discussion Analytical or Whimsical An analytical tone is appropriate in discussion comments if the facilitator is contributing something new (and thought provoking) to the discussion. Use of a variety of tones is good, though, and even whimsical responses can add a bit of levity to a heavy discussion.
Feedback on an assignment Neutral or immaginative Feeback on an assignment must serve it’s purpose clearly and conscisely – and without offending the participant. However, if the facitlitator can also inspire participants to take their ideas further, greater learning and innovation might result.
Private messages to a participant Nurturing or curious Private messages can serve a wide variety of purposes and thus can carry nearly any tone, as long as it is fit for the purpose. However, in most cases the facilitator will need to support participants privately. In some cases, though, where a participant needs to be confronted about a missed due date or inappropriate behavior it might be best to express some curiosity about the infraction rather than to blame or "lecture" the participant.

Links for 2008-06-17

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Passion and Professional Development… Online

Monday, June 16th, 2008

I’m currently taking an online class in facilitating online classes. After having been a student online for many years at the beginning of my doctoral program, I’m looking forward to teaching online in the Fall. In the meantime, as a student who has to make discussion posts, I once again have new fodder for blog posts.

In this assignment we were asked to compare and contrast face-to-face and online teaching, based on reading an online facilitator’s reflection and chapter one of Facilitating Online Learning.

As I read the assigned reading for this week I was reminded of an article I wrote a while back. It was based on my experience as a professional developer, and I called it “Passion and Professional Development: Four Philosophies For Lead Learners.”It was focused primarily on face-to-face learning. In fact, one of the philosophies was called “the face-to-face philosophy.” However, many of the principles carry over into online facilitation. I’ve structured my comparison and contrast of face-to-face and online teaching based on these philosophies.

The Lead Learner Philosophy… Online

At the time I wrote that professional developers (and teachers really) should think of themselves as Lead Learners, rather than trainers or instructors. I believe this philosophy can still be an asset online. It complements the “guide on the side” philosophy advocated by our text book.

The Face-to-Face Philosophy… Online

Though it shouldn’t come as any surprise that some of this philosophy doesn’t apply online. I think other parts do. For instance, I wrote that lead learners should respect the participants in their sessions by tapping into the participants’ experience, passions, and creative energy. In essence I was arguing against wasting anyone’s time with a lecture. This may be doubly important online. As the “What It Means to Teach Online” reflection suggested, even grading becomes “secondary to the connections… being made with and between students.” Also, this need to tap into participants’ passions is the reason behind the protocols and rituals the text book advocates we include at the start of a course. The conversations in our break room are an example of this. In this case, my philosophy might be better called the Personal Connection Philosophy… or something like that. ;)

The “And Life” Philosophy… Online

This extends the philosophy of personal connect further. The idea is connecting with participants’ lives outside of school might help them learn more than staying focused purely on ‘academics.’ The text book presents this as the first principle of effective moderating: “Moderating takes place in both a professional and a social context” (p. 5) This also works for the facilitator; the best facilitation will happen when we are personally connected to the class. As the facilitator in the reflection said, “I realized that I could share myself with my class, through my writing, in a way that would truly help my students get to know me.”

The Kindergarden Philosophy… Online

I’ll just repeat the essence of this one, because it is just as true for adults learning online as it is for Kindergartners learning in a classroom: “Each positive experience a student has in kindergarten is a $1 deposit in their ‘love of learning’ bank, but every negative experience is a $10 withdrawal.”

Other Thoughts

What we loose in body language, nuances, and immediacy, I think we more than make up for in participation and reflection. I now find it much harder to be a student in a face-to-face context (though I still enjoy leading workshops). As a student I miss several key features of online learning:

  • Everyone can participate… as much as they like.
  • No one is interrupted… and conversely the opportunity to jump in is never lost.
  • There is time for reflection – and for composition of answers.

Without these things, I feel much “stupider” face to face. I’d like to help participants take as much advantage of these elements when teaching online as possible. ;)