Wetpaint vs Blackboard

Major Mark Rea sent me this video and wiki to share. He’s a Major in the US Army and uses a wiki with cadets as part of his fitness program. Recently, he recorded his students thoughts on using a wiki instead of using BlackBoard (which I assume they have used before). Some good honest feedback and a fascinating wiki. Oh yeah….and he has a podcast on iTunes too. (Full Disclosure: I am the educational ambassador for Wetpaint Educational...

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Building your Tribe and Leading a Community

Yes I’m still all about Seth’s new book Tribes and leading communities. If you want to know what skill is going to be needed in the future. It is going to be someone who understands and has the skill to create and lead a community of people. Someone who can organize and help the community lead themselves. When I approached Wetpaint last January I had to sell them on the idea of what they needed was a leader for their educational community. Someone who understood the needs of educators. Someone who spoke their language, understood their concerns, and who could help them figure out what you do with a wiki once you actually sign up for it. That person of course was me. 🙂 ….or so I hoped it was. Wetpaint took a risk on me and the idea that by creating a community around their product, they were in fact creating a user base for their product. It’s not a new approach. Why does Google give away Google Apps to education, or Microsoft give away $3 copies of Windows XP in China. It’s about growing a user base around your product. Because some day those kids are going to be out of school and what they will know and turn to (you hope) is your product. I approached Wetpaint because I believe they had the best product on the market, and although late to the free wiki for education space they had a product that once used would sell itself. Add to that a community of educational users for support and you have the makings of a great community and web service for educators. In the seven months (5 officially) that I have been working with Wetpaint the communities numbers at the Wikis in Education site have gone from around 200 to 1200+. I wish I could say it was all my doing, but again I believe the service sells itself and with more educators getting on board we would naturally see this increase. What I do think is different those is the supportive community that has formed at the Wikis in Education site. The Discussion Forums have started to fill up not only with questions but also answers from other wiki users. The community is starting to breath on it’s own. I’m there to support, answer questions, talk strategies, and once a month give a tip and...

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Chatting with 4th graders

ISB just launched PantherNet. Our Moodle system that syncs (or is trying to) with PowerSchool. It’s still in Beta but early feedback from teachers: “Where has this been?” That’s a good sign! Yesterday I met with a fourth grade teacher eager to see if PantherNet could fit into her classroom. I haven’t used Moodle much in the elementary but there is only one way to find out if it could be beneficial in the learning process. The only way to do that is find a teacher who is game to give it a go, spend some time with it, and see what happens with the students. I met with the teacher for about 30 minutes yesterday talking about her classroom and finding out what she wanted from the program. It’s not about doing one more thing, it is about replacing something the teacher is already doing and then see if: A) It works for both the teacher and the student.B) See if there is added value in the learning process. After our 30 minute talk the teacher was very excited, asked if I could come back in an hour to give chatting a go with her students. So, we created a simple chat in Moodle to see if there would be any use of it in a 4th grade classroom….a clear and simple experiment. The topic: What are some of your favorite things? We chatted in class for about 30 minutes. It was interesting to watch the students interact in this way. Some would write something and then run over to their friend to see if they saw it. A couple observations: Keeping the chat on topic was difficult. Both the novelty of using chat and the ability to say thing you might not say in class came up. We talked about both issues when we debriefed at the end of the session. Taught students to use @ when responding to someone on a specific topic. They picked it up very quickly. Looking at the image above, students are still trying to use complete sentences and proper grammar when chatting. Is this the correct writing style for a chat? As the student were chatting the teacher and I watched and discussed what we were seeing. My favorite moment came when she turned to me and said, “This is like a new genre. We need to be teaching students how...

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Wetpaint lifts 40 file upload cap for Educators

(Full Disclosure: I am an Educational Ambassador for Wetpaint.com) When I met with Wetpaint this summer they asked me what were a couple of things they could change right now to make a difference. We brainstormed what would be easy to change and which items would take time and programing. The easiest thing it turned out what giving educators more space to upload files. So today Wetpaint announced that educators can now upload 250 files to their wiki. With each file being a max of 2mb that’s 500MB of space on their servers. That’s an improvement from the 80mb that the rest of Wetpaint users get. The other issue that we’ve been working on is the COPPA issue. Because of COPPA Wetpaint has not allowed students under the age of 13 to register for an account. Making wiki use in elementary or middle school useless for students. Wetpaint has been trying to find a way to both comply with COPPA and allow use of their services. I asked them if we could solisite the help of the Wetpaint educator community to try and help us solve this problem. They agreed and today I created two new pages on the Wikis in Education site. COPPA Letter for Teachers:This page is where I hope the community can come together and create a template of a letter that educators could send home with students getting parent permission to create an account and join a class wiki. Help Wetpaint with COPPA:This page is a place for educators to try and understand COPPA and brainstorm solutions. What I find interesting is here I am in Thailand where COPPA does not apply, but because Wetpaint is located in Seattle, Washington they have to comply with a Federal Law. How are laws like this going to affect collaberation around the world?….we may need to rethink a few things. Anyway, if you feel like helping out I’d appreciate it. Just head on over to the site and start editing the pages. One of my goals for this year is to help Wetpaint be able to lift this ban on student accounts. Not for Wetpaints sack but for educators and students the world...

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One small step for EARCOS

I had two great days in Manila spending time with the EARCOS team looking at how technology and the web can help to streamline some of their internal practices and also looked at how EARCOS can use technology at both it’s Administrator and Teacher conferences to help connect participants. Up until now, the team at EARCOS has been sending a Word Document to those giving workshops. The presenters fill out the form and then e-mail it back. The EARCOS staff then copies that information into a FileMaker Pro database where they create the schedule. So we sat down and talked and created an online form that presenters will use for workshop submissions. EARCOS doesn’t have a license for a FileMaker Pro server (and it’s expensive) so the data will be created in a MySQL database. Once all the presentations are in the MySQL database, it can be saved as an Excel file and then imported into FileMaker Pro…taking a total of maybe 5 minutes. When we started adding up the time the office staff sits around copying and pasting data for the two conferences alone we figured we picked up close to 3 hours of productivity time a week total among the staff. We then looked at other ways we could use this same method to streamline data collection. Membership directory, Salary Survey, Principal’s Salary Survey, Weekend Workshop Proposals, etc. Their webmaster has some skills and started cranking out forms left and right and also created a web based interface for in office use to view the data. This became essential when we talked about how much the Executive Director travels around Asia visiting the 110 member schools and looking at sites for future conferences. By creating a web interface the director can login and view the data that he needs like the number of sponsors for a conference, or quick access to information about a school. We then turned our focus on the conferences themselves and this March with the teacher’s conference we will launch a conference website in the form of a wiki that will allow presenters and participants access to information and each other before, during, and after the conference. While I was talking to the staff they mentioned how much time they spend updating presenter handouts for the conference. A presenter e-mails them the material and they publish it to the website. They figured 75%...

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