Thinking Outside the Box

wetpaint.comI want to share with you an exciting opportunity that has come up. For a long time I have been an advocate of the wiki service Wetpaint.com. Recently, Wetpaint and I have been discussing how we can work together in promoting their services. This has resulted in an agreement between myself and Wetpaint.

Back in December when I quit my job here at SAS, many of you will remember that I was looking to do something different. Through that search of finding ‘something different’, I struck up conversations with different Web 2.0 companies. These were companies that I felt had great products that could be leveraged for educational purposes and were looking for an educational consultant to help them improve and spread the word in the educational community about their services.

I have actually been in contact with Wetpaint since November when I found out teachers at our school had started some 30+ wikis on the site. At that time, I knew very little about Wetpaint but knew there must be something different about this product. Jason Welker (a true Wetpaint educational master) gave an after school presentation in early November at one of our Tech Wednesday’s and that was all it took. By the end of the month, we had Wetpaint wikis everywhere. I had to send out an all mail to our staff to find out who was creating them there were so many!

At that time, Jason Welker and I started talking to Wetpaint about offering ad free wikis for educators. We offered wikis created by SAS staff as test sites as they played around with taking ads off sites. Our teacher’s loved it and on November 6 of last year, Wetpaint officially launched their ad free network for educators. This demonstrated to me that Wetpaint was a company that was dedicated to promoting educational technology.

About that same time however, China decided to block Wetpaint. I started receiving e-mails from staff who were frustrated that the sites they had been working on, had been using, and had students using, were all of a sudden blocked. I contacted Wetpaint right away to see if they could help. I have to admit they were awesome! They tried everything they could on their end including trying to move all the SAS wikis to a new server and IP address. On our end, we tried to find a way to allow access and after a month of trying with no success to unblock the sites, they went dormant (you can still see many of them on Wetpaint if you search for SAS).

Within all this, I had started to communicate more with Wetpaint and in December when I quit my job here at SAS, I contacted them with an e-mail that had the subject: Thinking outside the box.

In the e-mail, I outlined what I thought I could offer the company. Our conversations went back and forth and to make a long story short, starting June 1st, I entered into a partnership with Wetpaint as an educational consultant for their community called ‘wikis in education’.

My Job has two parts:

1) To introduce Wetpaint to educators around the world

2) To help build and facilitate a community of educational users at Wetpaint

I’m excited for the opportunity to work with a company that is willing to think outside the box and understand that the educational needs of these products are different than the corporate or open social-network world. The conversations that I’ve had with Wetpaint via e-mail and Skype have been exciting. I look forward to collaborating with them on new projects and helping to establish a supportive community of educators.

Why do I tell you all of this?

Because I tend to write about what I’m thinking and doing, my blog is still my blog, but I want to be up front with everyone. I will, to the best of my ability, give full disclosure statements on all posts that I write that deal with what I’m working on with Wetpaint (and all other companies and organizations I have agreements with).

I am excited about this opportunity. I’m not sure what it all means at this point for me; but I wanted to do something different, and having opportunities to collaborate with forward thinking companies like Wetpaint, is part of that!

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29 Comments

  1. Jeff, this is great news for you, but mostly for Wetpaint, Educators, and students!!!!!

    Way to take an idea through a course and into something wonderful and bigger than imagined :)

    • Thanks Alicia,

      I’m excited that I’ll be working with teachers to help them develop great learning opportunities for students.

      Exciting times in the digital age!

  2. Congratulations on this new adventure. Enjoy. And maybe someday soon, you will be able to show me why I would switch from wikispaces (which I love) to wetpaint.

    • Thanks Lisa,

      I’d be happy to talk about the differences. I’ve used both platforms extensively over the last couple of years.

      What I really love is the simple templates they have created for teachers who are just getting started. With a click of a button you can install a template for a course outline, an overall course, or outline for students to start collaborating. They really are trying to make it as easy as possible to get educators started using wikis.

  3. I was coming to comment that I would like to know more about what the differences are from here to wikispaces. More details in a future post on those things you mentioned would probably go a long way toward helping me make up my mind as I try to plan for next year.

    • Thanks Dan,

      I’ll try and do a comparison chart in the future. I like wikispaces as well….simple and clean. I just find that the user interface on Wetpaint is more user friendly and easier to use. As well as the integration of YouTube searches and other media…they do a good job of making it simple for people to understand. As they say in their videos.

      “Just click and edit”

  4. Jeff,
    Thanks to wetpaint and Jason W. notation about SAS that I was able to find your blogs and learn about SAS. After introducing it to teachers in my school in January we were blocked and not permitted to use it at school any more. I am so glad to hear your great news, that means there is hope for our schools in the near future. Your blogs (and tweets) are so informative to teachers like myself, we are just trying to learn more and pass the knowledge on. Congratulations!

    • Thanks Patricia!

      I’m glad you find my content useful. Jason W is an educator to watch. That guy understands how to motivate students in this space and tie it into his classroom.

      We’re all learning and I hope that this opportunity will be another learning experience for me as well.

  5. Jeff, thanks for sharing your comments and your journey. This demonstrates that we can make significant changes! Great for you. PS, I love wetpaint, it may be my summer share!

    Cheryl

    • Thanks Cheryl,

      I’m excited to be leaving China and being able to access Wetpaint and all other other amazing tools that I just haven’t had time to play with the past six year….six years I’ve been behind a government firewall blocking my own learning and the learning for our students. I’m excited to be free to support teachers and students in these new spaces where I don’t have to worry about the web site being blocked at the State level. I’ll take on any IT Manager about a site, but the government is a little harder nut to crack. :)

      Looking forward to learning with you at NECC in a couple weeks!

  6. Jeff-

    What a great journey for you. I am a Seattle resident (where the HQ of wetpaint resides) and just today I was talking to my principal about setting up a wetpaint wiki for our “Journey With an Afghan School” project. I will be in touch with you and the wetpaint team about setting up an ad free wiki soon…

    And on a personal note- it was almost a year ago this week I was listening to a podcast on my ipod you had created for an edtech conference while I was mowing my lawn. You were talking about your personal network and I was blown away by the “improve” nature of your presentation as you were twittering, skyping and web 2.0ing your way as people were responding in real time. Thanks for this blog and your passion for getting web 2.0 tools into the hands of teachers and students. If you are ever in Seattle for a business meeting and need a guide around The Emerald City, I’d be happy to show you around.
    -Ken

    • Ken,

      I spend many a day in Seattle when we’re home for the summer. Actually Safeco is my second home. :)

      E-mail me and let’s set up a time to talk this summer about Wetpaint and your school. I’ll be around Seattle from July 17ish to July 25 when we fly out to Bangkok.

      Looking forward to the conversations!

  7. Jeff

    Congrats on your new role in education. I used wikispaces in my English and history classes a couple of years ago. Unfortunately as I began to develop some solid ideas the site was blocked at school. Over the summer our school is evaluating several wiki formats with the goal of choosing one format to unblock and introduce to the entire staff. I look forward to following your writings and playing with Wetpaint as a potential format for next school year.

    Enjoy your day,

    Kyle

    • I like this approach schools are starting to take. I mean, if schools are going to be that strict about blocking sites then lets at least have conversations around one platform that all students/teachers can use.

      So you unblock a wiki service and a blogging service to allow students into these spaces….not the openness we like, but progress all the same.

      Let’s chat!

  8. Congrats, Jeff. I hope it turns out to be what you’re looking for and that you don’t have withdrawal symptoms from the loss of direct contact with students. Since I started my current job 3 years ago, I have found the loss of that contact very difficult to deal with!

    I have a question to ask of you… I am submitting my MA dissertation in the form of a wiki. It addresses the subject of the use of social media in professional practice, so it seems appropriate to me to submit it using social software. However, I can’t seem to secure a space without adverts. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a piece of academic writing to be splattered with ads. However, since I don’t work in the K-12 sector, I don’t qualify for a free ad-free space, even though this constitutes part of my formal education.

    Is there any way that Wetpaint would see this as falling under the umbrella of education and allow me an ad-free space without charging?

    • Karyn,

      Michael here, from Wetpaint. Our ad-free program is extended to all qualified education related wikis (higher ed included), and a dissertation wiki most definitely qualifies. Please email me with the URL (michael at Wetpaint dot com) and I’d be happy to remove the ads.

      Michael

    • Thanks Karyn!

      I see that Michael has already responded to you but just wanted to point you and others to the wikis in education wiki.

      http://wikisineducation.wetpaint.com

      There you can find more information on who is eligible for ad-free wikis…and yes all higher-ed wikis that deal directly with education qualify!

      w00t!

  9. Sounds like a great opportunity and I know wetpaint will come ahead on this deal! I am very interested in knowing the difference between wikispaces and wetpaint also.

    • Thanks Pat!

      It should be a fun adventure and I’ll see if I can find some information that compares the different wiki services.

  10. Congratulations Jeff! You are an inspiration to me! At the end of the week, I will be losing my job due to funding and other administrative decisions and I too am looking to “do something different.” I’m working hard to build my P/PLN (personal and professional learning network) and hope that exactly the right opportunity comes along for me as it obviously has for you!

    Congratulations again!

    • Thanks Valerie,

      Good Luck on finding your “different”. Don’t be afraid to dream about the possibilities that are out there. We talk all the time about teaching the wonder, excitement, and curiosity out of our students. But we as adults are many times the same. We allow “life” to get to us and we quit dreaming…quit reinventing ourselves, and that’s when you fall into the trap of life.

      When I quit my job I was excited (wife was a little freaked) but it allowed me to dream. I contacted every company that I thought it would be cool to work for wanting to try something outside of education. I have been ‘in’ education since I was 6 years old….and there is a strong part of me that believes that is not a good thing.

      Get out of the box, allow your PLN to help you and explore the possibilities…the digital world has opened up so many!

      Let me know how I can help!

  11. First, Jeff—

    Tell Wet Paint that you’re worth twice whatever they’re paying you! I’ve been a tried and true PB Wiki user for years, but I’m going to give Wet Paint a closer look on your recommendation alone.

    That’s how much I value your advice!

    The best part of your story, though, is that it highlights just how open Web 2.0 tool creators and services are to feedback from educators. I’m constantly blown away by the conversations that I have with creators and services because almost without fail, they’re willing to try to make using their products easy for teachers and students.

    I’m not foolish enough to believe that their commitment is purely altruistic—after all, my students are their future customers—but I really believe that most of these guys and gals have the best interest of schooling in mind…..

    And that’s just plain cool!

    Rock on,
    Bill Ferriter

    • WOW Bill I am honored!

      I hope to soon open a ‘sand box’ for educators to play with Wetpaint before they have to create an account. As soon as I have that up and running I’ll post about it.

      In the mean time, let me know how I can help!

      Jeff

  12. Hi Jeff

    My first reaction to your move was disappointment, as I have been following your blog for some time now, and have been inspired by the expertise you have displayed in incorporating ICT and Web 2.0 in school. I was also trying to plan a way of collaborating with your students/classes in some way, as I am at a school which enrols Chinese nationals.

    Then I realised how important it is to have an educator on board with the development of Web 2.0 tools such as WetPaint (which I have used) – to enable best practice examples for others to be shown to new users, and to help in their development.

    Look forward to following your future posts, and I hope to be less tardy in setting up a link to international users from now on.

    • Hi Linda,

      Don’t get to disappointed. My “full time job” is working for the International School of Bangkok next year in Thailand so hopefully we can hook up for some collaboration.

      For me this is the best of both worlds, working at a school who understands that need for technology people to have PD time of their own to learn and explore which ISB is allowing me to do, and partnering with a company like Wetpaint as part of the PD for myself as I help others learn about their product and use it in the classroom.

      So one foot in the school one foot out of the school. We’ll see how this goes next year and if I can balance the two. Still being tied to a school and to students is important to me…keeps my head out of the clouds and my feet on the ground where real change happens. :)

  13. Congrats on your new adventure. I look forward to hearing how it goes. Your blog has been one of my favorites for over a year as I almost always learn something new on your posts that I can share with my readers. I think I retired from teaching too soon as there are so many new cool tools out there now.

    • Thanks Betty,

      It will be a new adventure…..one I’m excited about with endless possibilities.

  14. Congratulations, Jeff! Wetpaint is a tremendous resource, and is quickly becoming the wiki of choice among the teachers in our district. Personally, I have used numerous wikis, including Wikispaces, Google Spaces, PBWiki (my first), and others, but I have begun to recommend Wetpaint most often. This is because of the ability to have ad-free pages, the large numbers of designs and templates, and the ease of use. I have become an unpaid evangelist for the site (feel free to name-drop for me!). I’ll look forward to seeing your influence there!

  15. Hi Jeff…

    I am happy to hear that Wetpaint is now offering ad-free spaces for education. I have played with Wetpaint and do like the features / templates, but until now Wikispaces was where I (and staff/students at my school) resided simply due to it’s ad-free program for educators. It was simply an option that carried too much weight.

    My workshop on wikis at the Laptop Institute in Memphis is five weeks away…now I’ll have to have another look at the Wetpaint version. Darn you for making more work for me Utecht!!! LOL

    Cheers my friend,
    Whip

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