Archive for October, 2008

Links for 10/31/2008

Friday, October 31st, 2008
  • InternetNews Realtime IT News – Windows 7 Gets Its Coming-Out Party This article includes a brief overview of Windows 7, the replacement for Windows Vista. But where does the 7 come from? I thought it went Windows 3, Windows NT (this would be 4), Windows 2000 (5), Windows XP (6), and Windows Vista (7) – making this Windows 8, right? And how ’bout the consistency of that naming scheme? In terms of a pattern this is something like A, B, C, B, D, A. (Where A is a version number, B is two letters, C is a year, and D is a name.) Weird stuff. Anyway, perhaps this revision will help schools with a Windows base make an easier transition to a modern operating system. tags: windows

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links for 10/30/2008

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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/

Google Learning Institute in Monterey, Ca

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

I’m happy to be announcing this. The “civilian” version of the Google Teacher Academy (no application necessary) is coming to the CLMS/CLHS/NHSA and CUE Technology Conference in Monterey, Ca this December 4th. Here’s the description and registration link from the conference website:


Google Learning Institute (Bring your own laptop)
9:00 am – 4:00 pm – Special All-Day Class!

This is a high-energy professional development experience that introduces participants to innovative ways free Google tools can be used in education. A full-day of fast-paced presentations and hands-on activities includes experience with advanced search techniques, collaborative web-based applications, and inspirational instructional strategies. Google Certified Teachers share the ways they’ve implemented tools such as Google Docs, Google Earth, Google Sites, and… even more. Participants who complete the workshop are given access to the Google Learning Network (GLN), an online group focused on supporting educators as they learn more about the power of Google to support learning. Fee: $250

IMPORTANT
Enjoy extended, hands-on workshops on the practical educational uses of each tool or concept. Advanced registration required, extra fees apply, no refunds provided, sessions/equipment subject to change. These sessions are first-come, first-served and usually sell out. Submit payment with REGISTRATION ASAP and call to ensure your space is reserved.

I hope to see some of you there! And if you’re planning on coming, don’t miss the (free) edublogger meetup the following night – sign up now so we can all get excited about you coming: http://www.edubloggercon.com/monterey2008

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. :)

NECC 2009 Submissions: New Approaches

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

I recently shared my submissions for the CUE 2009 conference in March. Last night I had only two and a half hours (my own fault of course) to modify some of these for the NECC 2009 conference that follows in June. In the end, I took a few interesting approaches as I managed to squeeze in four sessions:

  • First, I focused on BYOL sessions. I realized that the 20 Minute CUE tips sessions I submitted would be great if expanded to a full hour Bring Your Own Laptop (BYOL) session, so I focused on submitting these hands-on topics first. I felt good about submitting sessions where participants will be learning by doing. And, in the two that I submitted as “lectures” on account of how much material I wanted to cover, I still designed them so that attendees with laptops could follow along or explore related resources as I speak. And of course, I plan to engage them throughout the session.

  • Second, I ignored the “Supporting Research” field in every application. For the BYOL sessions (which focused on mastering a specific new learning tool) I realized that the this section seemed even more irrelevant than usual. So, I simply entered “N/A” in this field. Once I did this, it was so liberating I just continued doing it for the lectures. In the past I either dropped in a mountain of mildly relevant sources (that didn’t impact the session at all), or else really wasted a lot of time finding a few good resources (that didn’t impact the session at all). I’ve always found the NECC applications much more work (for sessions that are no better) compared to other conferences. A title, description, and abstract should be plenty… applicants can include an outline, a purpose statement, outcomes, or supporting research in the abstract if it strengthens their case. Requiring each of these things for each session seems like a waste – and in my case it makes for some very redundant submissions. At any rate, I was pretty happy with my new approach, but it remains to be seen how important this field is to the readers. Perhaps I won’t be presenting at all.
  • Third, I spent much less time than usual fleshing out the outlines and word smithing my titles, descriptions, purpose, and outcome. In past years the sessions I spent the most time on (and cared most about) have tended to get rejected, while the “throw away” sessions I also included were sometimes selected. I’m still excited about these topics, but as you’ll see if you click through, they are far less polished submissions.

We’ll see if these approaches are fruitful. In any case, if you’re interested in seeing what I submitted, here are the full submissions below (these are archives from my presenter page at the NECC site, so most of the links won’t work):

I’m likely to present these topics elsewhere this year regardless of whether or not they get chosen, so I’d love any feedback you might offer even though the deadline has passed. Also, with NECC Unplugged back this yearNECC Unplugged back this year, I’ll sign up to present any of these topics that generate interest even if they are rejected by the selection committee. :)

Links for 10/03/2008

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

CUE 2009 Submissions: Maybe You Should Drive

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

In the past I’ve shared my major conference submissions on this blog, particularly at this time of year, when I try to update old sessions and dream up new ones for CUE and NECC. Three weeks ago (on September 12th) I submitted eight new or updated sessions for CUE 2009: Driving Student Achievement. I took a very bare-bones approach to my submissions this year, so most of these are very short, but I feel good about the ideas none-the-less. Below are the titles and descriptions of the eight sessions. Click through for the abstracts as well (in rtf format) – some include outlines, others are very brief.

Blogs, Wikis, and Google Docs:
Which one is right for your lesson?

(20 Minute CUE Tips Session)
Why use a wiki when you have a blog? When should you use Google Docs instead of a wiki? This session will clear up your confusion and free your creativity. Abstract

Build a Better Browser:
An Overview of Firefox Themes & Extensions for Educators
(20 Minute CUE Tips Session)
Rediscover the web! Firefox is now faster, more secure, and fully customizable. Learn how themes and extensions can be used to turn your web browser into the ultimate learning machine. Abstract

I Want To Believe:
What’s the research value of Wikipedia and Knol?
(20 Minute CUE Tips Session)
Anyone can publish anything online. So what’s the value of information on collaborative sites like Wikipedia and Google’s Knol? Learn how students can make the most of what they find. Abstract

Maybe You Should Drive:
Taking Control of Your Own Professional Development

(1 Hour Concurrent Session)
New tools provide powerful ways to find solutions, expand horizons, and pursue passions – whenever and wherever you want. Learn what tools to use, and how to use them most effectively. Abstract

Learning to Network and Networking to Learn:
Beyond The Tools…

(1 Hour Concurrent Session)
There’s always new web tools, but it’s more important to become part of an online learning network than to master any specific tool. Learn how to connect, converse, and contribute. Abstract

Search, Learn, Share:
An Introduction to Google Tools in Education (An Update)

(1 Hour Concurrent Session)
Google tools such as search, Docs, Sites, and Maps are standards for educators. Learn how the latest from Google, including Knol, Lively, Chrome, and more, can create even greater impact! Abstract

Twitter Me This:
Join a Global Learning Community & Feel Good About It

(20 Minute CUE Tips Session)
It’s a blog, it’s an IM… no it’s Twitter – more efficient than email or RSS! Learn to connect with others, discover resources, and share what you’re doing using “social microblogging.” Abstract

Note: I still need a new title for this – “Twitter Me This” has been used often elsewhere.

We all Scream for Ustream:
An Introduction to Video Streaming in Education

(1 Hour Concurrent Session)
Any lesson can be an episode in an online show for students! Discover how streaming video can also create a permeable classroom. Learn tricks like how to share your desktop. Abstract

Note: In retrospect, I think this should’ve been a 20 minute CUEtips session. ;)

Ultimately, I hope you’ll be interested in these – I’d appreciate any feedback or questions you have. Whether or not these sessions are selected for CUE, I’m likely to present them elsewhere this year… and I can always make adjustments as I flesh these out for the upcoming NECC submission deadline. :)