Archive for the 'ET&L' Category

See The EdTechTeam Blog

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

From May 2 to August 10 we were doing some legit team blogging over at the EdTechTeam Blog.  It was a great experiment in Team Blogging and we hope to be back again soon with more new content. Meanwhile, pop on over, check it out, and leave a comment if you find something you’re interested in. :)

See You On The Plus

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

I am closing down the edtechlife blog, at least for now. The activity here has been minimal for the past year (with only six posts in the last 12 months). For several years my effort has been more focused on Twitter, but now that I’ve been able to move that activity to Google+, I can also post much more substantial posts (with more meaningful dialog) in the same place as my shorter posts. I’ve been feeling bad for sometime about not being much of an edublogger anymore, but the truth is I’m doing my edublogging on Google+. I hope you’ll join me there. 

Because this will likely be my last post at edtechlife for a while, I’m embedding the following RSS feed as an opportunity to introduce any remaining (or future) readers to my Google+ stream (so I’m parting with one last mildly geeky adventure with WordPress – I installed the Embed RSS plugin): UPDATE: That didn’t work (at least at first). Here is the raw feed if you’d like to subscribe to my G+ posts in Google Reader (or elsewhere).

http://feeds.dlvr.it/6f719f7d6a7f435c904951330870d2aa.xml

So what does it mean that I’m shutting down this blog? Because 99% of all comments here in the last year have been spam, I am (finally and sadly) turning off comments for posts older than 14 days. That should leave time for some final goodbyes here (and for interaction on anything I might post in the future), while saving me from fighting spam on this and any older posts in the future. Please come comment over on Google+ (or contact me via your favorite method) if you’d like to comment on any of these posts. The posts themselves (and any existing comments here will remain archived for the foreseeable future). So, aside from turning off comments, all it really means is that I’m letting go of the guilt I feel for not posting here more often. :)

Also, over a year ago, I launched the EdTechTeam as a focus for my business efforts, and I hope you’ll join me there as well. The EdTechTeam is a global network of educational technologists. We offer professional development, consulting, and organizational change services to schools, districts, and other educational institutions. Naturally, I’d love to hear from you if you’re interested in our services… and I’d also love to hear from colleagues who might be interested in joining the team. Incidentally, the Educational Technology and Life Corporation is our “parent” corporation, so the edtechlife name lives on in that way too. :)

I anticipate having some exciting new things to announce on the EdTechTeam site (and on Google+) in the coming year… and I hope you’ll all be there for that.

Meanwhile, to those of you that are still following this blog in Google Reader (or elsewhere), thank you for all of the support and learning opportunities that you’ve shared over the years. I’ve been thankful for every reader and every comment, and the years I spent writing this blog and responding to all of you (and reading your blogs) were a great foundation for the work I’m doing now – and that I’m certain I’ll be doing in the future. Thank you all.

UPDATE: I’m testing sending my Google+ posts here to this blog (where they’ll be open for comments for 14 days), so perhaps this goodbye was a bit hasty (in some ways), and this is just the beginning of a new kind of content here. We’ll see. In any case, the sentiment remains… and I’m still letting go of the guilt. :)

Announcing: Google Docs Mass Uploader!

Friday, February 6th, 2009

I’ve begun a much needed overhaul of this blog. A lot of work was needed behind the scenes to update wordpress and to fix my link posts. I still have some technical issues to iron out and minor projects I want to get to, but I did squeeze in a major project I’ve really been looking forward to… I’ve finally launched the edtechlife.com products page.

The most exciting feature is the new Google Docs Mass Uploader. This cross-platform Java application has one purpose: to upload multiple documents at once to Google Docs. The interface allows users to authenticate to their Google Docs account, and then drag and drop multiple documents (or folders full of documents) for upload. The application also provides feedback on upload progress. I’ve wanted an application like this (on my Mac) for some time, and I hope that this might enhance others’ use of Google Docs as well. Particularly in the case of educators, students, and learners of all ages, I hope that having the ability to upload multiple documents at once might facilitate even greater collaboration. To learn more, visit the products page and try it out!

SearchLearnShare.com, a metasearch tool I’ve blogged about before (here and here), is also featured on the products page. Phase 2 is expected to be complete next week. I’ll make another announcement here when it is. In the meantime, head on over to the products page and try out phase 1!

Both these products are currently in beta and are offered to everyone for free. I hope you’ll consider a $5.00 donation to help support the development of these tools. I would also be grateful for any feedback you can offer regarding your experience with these products. Please use the comments below (or the form on the products page) to share your thoughts, requests, and suggestions.

Search, Learn, Share (Phase 1)

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Well, phase 1 is really just search and learn so far. ;)

In any case, the first prototype of the first phase of the “Search, Learn, Share” project is now ready for testing. So far it doesn’t do much, but it does accomplish these two things:

  • It presents users with this question: “What Do You Want To Learn?”
  • It uses their input to bring back a variety of resources, including websites, books, news articles, images, and video. (I’m focusing on Google’s specialized search tools for the prototype, and sadly Scholar has no API, so scholarly articles cannot be pulled in… yet.)

In the future it will also allow users to save, annotate, and share their searches (with the option to save related searches into “projects” and the option to subscribe to updates from a particular search) and their individual results (in a manner much like other social bookmarking serivices – in fact, I’m hoping for some serious integration). There’s other features I have planned, but that’s the gist of it… in a nutshell. ;)

At this point, this simple first phase prototype is ready for testing. Please let me know what you think – and what you’d like to see.

Version .01 – A tabbed UI that works only in Internet Explorer.*
Version .03 – A “single page” UI that works in any browser.

*I include this here because I think I might actually like the tabs better. What do you think?

I look forward to your feedback… and I hope some of you might even find the tool at this stage helpful for yourself or for your students.

What Do You Want to Learn?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Yesterday morning I took my first concrete steps toward a prototype of the web-based learning tool I’ve been working on. I wrote a bid request on Rent A Coder. Happily, I’ve already had two responses, including a bid to complete the job for $299… gotta love outsourcing. :)

I’m also interested in feedback on the idea and features, so I’m posting here as well. I hope some of you will offer comments in return. Here’s a few excerpts from the bid request:

Search, Learn, Share: A Learning-Focused Metasearch Tool

Brief Summary:

This project is a prototype for a learning focused metasearch tool. The product is unnamed, but the tagline is: Search, Learn, Share.

Phase 1: The user will be presented with the question “What do you want to learn?” and an empty search box. Entering something into the search box and hitting return will result in resources being returned from several sources, including books, scholarly articles, news, blogs, and the web in general – with each type of source in its own section of the page. Other sources might include images and videos. This saves the user from having to visit multiple sites for multiple types of information.

Phase 2: The user can then annotate and save their search – or their individual results. This way they can return to useful searches and results again in the future. Results can also be grouped into projects or “folders.” Naturally annotations include keywords or tags to allow organization via folksonomy.

Phase 3: In addition, if users choose to share their results (publicly or with their “friends” or “co-learners” in the system) then others will be able to benefit from their annotations. Users will also be connected with others who are learning about (and sharing) the same thing.

For the prototype this could be built primarily on existing Google APIs – and the app itself might be built on Google’s App Engine.

Modeling another site:

addictomatic.com – This site has much of the functionality described in Phase 1. Items from different sources are displayed in separate boxes. Users can decide how to arrange the boxes and which sources to include or exclude. This prototype will draw from some different sources and will (in phase 2 and 3) allow saving, annotating, and sharing of valuable sources.

questia.com – This research site provides users with results from books, journal articles, and news sources. The sources provided in these searches come only form Questia’s online library of full text documents. This prototype will perform a similar function, but will draw from all over the web. As mentioned above, this prototype will also add the function of saving, annotating, and sharing valuable sources.

The most important sources to include in Phase 1 are: Google Books, Google Scholar, Google News, Google Blog Search, and Google Web Search. Other sources can include Google Images and Google Video. Other non-Google sources can be added in the future.

Other info:

Ultimately, this is one home page for users to visit, but once they login there are many features available:

- Top Center: The single search box described in the description, which asks “What do you want to learn?”

- Center: Boxes for Books, Articles, News, Blogs, and Web – as well as Images and Video. Each box includes items (with descriptions or thumbnails) from these sources.

- Left hand column: Saved searches and results, organized by project folders and by keywords or tags.

- Right hand column: Social features, including a box for “friends” or “co-learners” with an outline of what others are learning. For instance under “What’s Mike Learning?” the user will see a list of the newest three saved searches made by the user’s friend Mike. Below this will be a box displaying other users who have made searches similar to the most recent one made or viewed by the user.

If you’d like more detail (or are interested in coding this), please click through to the bid request.

In the future, I see this software taking on more of an active role in users learning. For instance, if a user enters certain search terms (in response to “what do you want to learn?”), the system might rewrite the search to better return results that will help someone learn about what they searched for. For instance, the system might add “how to” or “explanation” or something like that to the search terms… or add helpful quotes. Ideally, the system could learn from other users searches and annotations (or ratings) and thus provide a “human-powered” search element not unlike mahalo.com too. Also, from a pedagogical perspective, I’d love it if the system could help guide users through an inquiry process in addition to returning results – it might also suggest additional questions to ask or additional things to learn about – either in search of greater detail/understanding or in search of related knowledge.

Of course, there is a business model behind this, too. I imagine a hybrid of advertising and membership revenue would work well. I think contextual ads (and perhaps banner sponsors) would be appropriate for free accounts, and a premium (ad free) version would be available as well – and would include some features missing from the free version. Something like $9.99 a month or $99 a year might be reasonable. Premium features might include additional project management features (or anything above that isn’t required to be free based on the API licensing agreements with Google and others). Of course, when users aren’t accustomed to paying for search – or community – sorting out which features will be premium will be a challenge. I’d love feedback on this business model as well.

In any case, the target audience (and advertising target) would be “learners” – which I’m told is a bit too broad. So, who would use this? I’m interested in it because I would. But who would we market to? Students? Teachers? Adult learners? It seems it makes search (and social bookmarking) potentially less geeky since it makes it all so easy in one place. On the other hand, it might just be a fringe geeky sort of thing. (Incidentally, I was surprised to find sites like Google Scholar have monthly unique users in the order of 2 million, while delicious.com has something more like less than half a million.) Again, I’m interested in your thoughts about who might use this.

Thanks in advance for any feedback you can offer. :)

Also, if you’d like to join a mailing list about this project, click here: http://groups.google.com/group/search-learn-share/

Help Wanted: edtechlife is Hiring

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Three months ago I took a first stab at answering the question of “What’s next for edtechlife?” Happily, some of you shared your opinions in a poll I included with the post. Some of those ideas are starting to come to fruition – and others may yet have their day. :)

In any case, it’s clear at this point that it’s definitely (and finally) time to expand the “organization” – I need help, and some of it as immediately as possible. I have one big new project underway (a bit more on that below), but my immediate needs are focused on expanding the services I already provide to schools, districts, and other educational organizations. I have a relatively immediate need for these three things – and figured I share here in case any of you might be interested. These three needs could be filled by one or more people – and all three would be part time, at least to start:

  • A Trainer in Southern California – I’ve known for sometime that I should increase the capacity of my business by brining in others to do what I do, but I’ve finally reached the point where I have literally committed to more events this year than I can possibly lead myself. Knowing how much time I need to prepare for these events and how much time I need at my desk to meet the needs of other clients, I know I can’t sustain this load for long – particularly if I want to launch my new project. And in some cases, I am actually double booked right now (with the knowledge of the clients – don’t worry). So, I’m looking for someone with a similar skill set willing to step in and begin leading workshops (or co-leading at first) as soon as possible – as soon next week actually. If you’re in the area and interested, take a look at my workshop topics and see if you might be interested in (and prepared to) lead any of these.
  • Someone to Follow Up on Leads and Expand the Business – In essence, this is another function of what I do for myself and my clients and I’m now finding myself with more leads than I seem to have the bandwidth to follow up on. Also, as I move to focus more on new projects I will need help in keeping existing projects running well – and in expanding them. This work could potentially be more of a partnership… and if it were the same person who was helping to lead workshops (in Southern California or elsewhere), this person would more or less be generating more business for himself or herself as well.
  • A Bookkeeper and Administrative Assistant – Again, this is another element of my current work, and one that I think could be rather productively delegated. I’ve used Google Calendar, iWantSandy.com, and other services (including Mint.com) to automate much of this, but having someone to make entries into Quickbooks, to handle invoices and reimbursements, and so forth would be ideal. This skill set is less likely to be found in the same person who might be leading training or following up on leads – but there’s no reason it couldn’t be if you’re interested in the work.

All of these three immediate needs are related to my current service oriented business. However, I am much more interested in growing in a direction that involves providing a product rather than (or in addition to) a service. I am working toward what may be a separate startup based on an idea for a web-based learning tool, which came out of a brainstorm several months ago and has been evolving ever since. I’d be happy to share the details if you’re interested (and perhaps that will be a separate post), but ultimately, it means I will need additional help (and likely, additional funding as well). This is a project I will not be able to create – or even prototype – on my own. I just plain don’t have the skill set. So, I’ll be looking for help in a few other specific areas – and I’m looking for individuals who might want to be a part of a bootstrapping startup working towards seeking additional funding – while doing meaningful work:

  • A Coder – I’ll need someone who can help create a prototype of a web based tool. Experience with various Google APIs (and with the App engine) would likely be a plus. It’s been suggested that Ruby on Rails might be an appropriate language for the prototype. I need to write a more detailed scope of work in the coming weeks and/or months, and I have some folks interested in working with me already, but I thought I would put this out there and see who else replies.
  • A Designer – This could potentially be the same person as the coder, at least at first, but I’ll need someone to design the look and feel of the site as well as the logos etc. I have my own ideas, but I’m sure they’re not very good compared to a professional’s – and I can’t implement them myself anyway. ;)
  • A Marketer – If this is going to fly, I’m going to need some much more serious market research and an actual marketing plan – and I know that marketing is not my strong suit. This might potentially be the same person as the designer at first, but not necessarily.

I’ll also be looking for colleagues with more business experience than I have myself (particularly when it comes to a web startup) to work with the company or serve on the board. This project is a much longer term scale than the needs above, but I still see this as something to work on this year, with hopes of having something people could actually use in time for the 2009-2010 school year.

In any case, ping me in the comments or by email at mark@edtechlife.com if you might be interested in any of these opportunities – particularly any of the first three opportunities, as those are the most critical needs for me right now. I look forward to the talking to some of you about the possibility of working together more in the future. :)

What’s next for edtechlife?

Friday, July 18th, 2008

The question in the title of this post won’t be answered here… it’s actually a question for you, the readers. Now that I’ve finally finished my doctoral program, I’m kicking around all kinds of ideas related to growing this business. So far, I’m doing exciting and fulfilling work, but I own a job, not a business – and I’d like very much to move beyond that. I’d also like to be able to make more of an impact on teachers and students than I am able to as an individual consultant. Ideally, I’d love to find a way to tap into the amazing community of enthusiastic educators and educational technologists I learn from online so that more of us might be able to pursue profitable work that effects change on a greater scale.

What I do is very much wrapped up in what I learn from all of you online, so I thought it might be appropriate to put this question to you. If you are so inclined, please take this brief poll – and feel free to share your own ideas in the “other” selection or to leave other thoughts in the comments.

I very much look forward to your feedback. And keep in mind this is just a first crack at these ideas – and at this way of collecting feedback… be kind. There are also many more ideas to come. Some just didn’t fit here.

I know this post isn’t about student learning – and that might put some folks off, but this post might model a new way of learning – and of gathering data for decision making in the era of the social web. Of course, I’d wager that some of you might even have some better ideas about how I might tap into the community to help grow this business. If so, please share. :)

Then again, some of you might be put off by me asking for free business advice and ideas… but I still feel like we’re all part of a large learning community that is working towards a greater good and that is the spirit in which I ask for your feedback. Can you tell I’m a bit nervous about this?

Oh, incidentally, I’ll obviously be looking for folks to work with me in the future, regardless of the directions I decide to explore. So if you’re interested – or if you have any hair brained ideas for working together – please let me know. ;)

UPDATE: I’m thrilled to be getting responses to the poll and in the comments. Here is a chart of the results:

This Blog Doesn’t Exist

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

I remember reading this somewhere once upon a time – and now I feel the truth of this on a very personal level:

If your website doesn’t show up in a Google search, it might as well not exist.

About a year ago I was thrilled to see my blog had climbed to the top result in Google when searching for Mark Wagner (with no quotes or other terms necessary)… this is particularly cool for two reasons: I work in educational technology so I want to be easily Google-able, and there are just a truck load of Mark Wagner’s out there!

This made it very easy to locate my own blog posts – and for folks who were in my workshops to reconnect with me. Now, though, that seems to have all changed… this blog is entirely gone from Google results!

You can still find some mentions of me (and this blog) on other sites… but the blog itself is gone. If I search for the title of the blog or the URL, the top hit is my old blogger blog, which points here in its final post. If I do a site specific search on Google using the site: operator (by typing “site:edtechlife.com” or any variation on this), I get… absolutely nothing! I tried a few specific searches like “site:edtechlife MMORPG” that were sure to turn up some of my posts – and nothing!

What happened?

What did I do?

And how can I fix it?

Did I link back to myself too many times from my workshop wikis? Did I in someway displease the Google Gods with my content? (This seems doubly ironic given my relatively new role coordinating the Google Teacher Academy.) I’ve put some effort into finding a course of action for fixing this, but haven’t been very successful. Simply put… I need the help of my network.

Can anyone help or point me in the right direction?

UPDATE: It took until today (Tuesday 07/08/08) for this to be rectified, but this blog exists again. It seems I’ve lost the top spot to the baseball player, who’s made it to a starting position in the big leagues. I’ll have to work on that. ;)

Meanwhile, thank you to everyone who helped out in the comments below.

Blog Guilt & Upgrades

Friday, September 7th, 2007

Blogging – Not IF, But When, Where, and Why (Via Sharon Peters.) It was easy for me to relate to this bit Sharon Peters wrote recently:

It has been much too long since my last blog post. When I lamented how far behind I felt in my writing recently to a friend, she wisely pointed out that my “life stress score” was probably pretty high. She went through the list – kitchen renovation, two parents and nephew in hospital, hosting a big family reunion, child leaving home for university, change of job, change of routine….. okay, okay!! I have been a little busier than usual in the last few months!

I guess just starting my second year of my own business, trying to finish my dissertation, having a baby on the way – and even making an offer on a new house because of it – my own life stress score must be pretty high right now, despite (or perhaps because of) my efforts at life style changes to live a more balanced life. While it’s a good thing that I’m quitting work around six each night to spend time with Eva, relax, and take care of other things, it does mean I’m stressed on account of getting less done each day. ;)

In any case, I’ve been struggling with a lot of blog guilt as this blog seems to keep falling far enough down my priority list that I don’t get to it very often. This post from Liz Strauss suggests some reasons bloggers are blogging less these days, many of which resonate with me: 5 Leading Bloggers and 5 Reasons on Why We’re Blogging Less (Via Successful Blog.)

My list is not much different:

  1. I too have to make money, and thankfully I’ve had workshops and projects to keep me busy. Also, of course, I’m trying to finish my dissertation as quickly as possible so that it doesn’t cost me more than it has to… not to mention I want to finish the bulk of it before the baby comes in February. When deadlines loom it’s harder to make time for the intangible benefits of blogging – even though I’ve experienced them time and time again.
  2. I too have gotten busy – see the bit on life stress above. ;)
  3. I too am talking in shorter bits, mainly on twitter. I also find myself commenting more on other’s blogs than ever before (when I make the time to read my feeds).
  4. I suppose I agree with the blogging less is blogging more sentiment – in essence, quality is more important than quantity. Unfortunately, I don’t find myself putting in the time for quality posts any more than the quantity of posts right now. But, that is my aim for the future.
  5. And of course, as the title of this blog would suggest, the blog is not my life. Still, I often miss the time for reflection and composition, and I miss the feedback, camaraderie, and sense of contribution that blogging brings as well.

In any case, I’ve taken the opportunity this morning to make some long needed upgrades to this blog:

  • I’ve finally aggregated all my workshop wikis. Links to workshop wikis have been added to the Professional Development Topics page, which has also been added directly to the side bar of the blog, instead of buried on the Our Services page. I can’t believe I never saw the list of wikis and list of topics offered as the same thing before this week!
  • I’m finally using Del.icio.us. About a year and a half ago I stopped using FURL. With help, I imported everything into this wordpress blog. From then on, if I had a link to post I did it here. But then I felt it had to be “post-worthy,” so I have literally hundreds of links in draft form because I never wrote anything meaningful about them. (Talk about the weight of blog guilt.) So for some time now I’ve contemplated social bookmarking again – and I figured I’d use del.icio.us this time for the experience, but I still want all my content in one place. I’ve seen others use the daily blog post feature that aggregates all your del.icio.us links into a blog post once a day… I just can’t believe it took me until now to recognize this as the solution to my problem. I can link away in del.icio.us and still have all the content available here – and no single link annotation needs to be post worthy. Watch for a link post beginning tomorrow morning. :)
  • This is more of a change in process, than an upgrade, but now that I’ve discovered how much I want blogging to be a part of my day, I’m going to try to make it a routine rather than an item on the to do list. I’ve done well working exercise into a daily routine and I’m going to try to tack an hour for reading feeds (30 minutes) and composing a post (30 minutes) to each morning before hitting the to do list. We’ll see how that goes. It’s either this, or the effective but admittedly dangerous habit of “do it now” which I’m using this morning. ;)

Even so, I still get sick thinking of all the draft posts I created following workshops this summer, and even just in the last few days. Perhaps I’ll get to them in the coming weeks, since September is a bit slower for me, and there will soon be more contributions here…

What am I doing?

Friday, July 6th, 2007

Between catching up from NECC, preparing to be gone for another conference next week (followed by vacation), taking on a new (volunteer) project, keeping up with my long-term work, and starting in on Chapter three of my dissertation, I haven’t wound up posting anything new here on this blog. (By Monday I hope to have chapter three up.) I have, though, had an active online presence this week. I’ve been posting updates to twitter, and following a host of colleagues there. Please check it out if you’re interested: http://twitter.com/markwagner/

I suspect I have another blog post about twitter coming up… it’s a strangely engaging communication “tool” and others are already starting to write a great deal about how it might be useful in education – to say nothing of it’s social significance. Here’s a few sample (in no particular order, though I tried for chronological):

Idea: TwitterStory where everyone contributes… (Via theory.isthereason.)

Twitter in the Classroom? (Via 2 Cents Worth.)

Twitter Me This: Brainstorming Potential Educational Uses for Twitter (Via http://eduspaces.net/csessums/weblog/rss.)

Twitter: Ephemeral Learning Tool (Via A Difference.)

I Feel Like a Twit Part II (Via The Four Eyed Technologist.)

TwitterLit is genius » Slacker Manager (Via A Teacher’s Life.)

twittergram.com can now handle wav files (Via Scripting News.)

A new journalism tool? Twitter? (Via Scobleizer – Microsoft Geek Blogger.)

I think I missed a few good posts on twitter in education I’ve seen recently, so if you know of any, please post them in the comments. Meanwhile, I still need to get my own mind around this and see what comes out as I process it.