This morning I woke up at 4:30am to call my bank back in America to do a wire transfer for our Winter Trip to Tanzania (Hiking Kilimanjaro, a Safari, and Zanzabar…yeah….we’re stoked!). I decided to use Google Talk via my Gmail account as I have become increasingly frustrated with the quality of Skype calls and I notice the other day my Google Voice account is now accessible here in Thailand. When I called my bank I let them know I was calling from Thailand, the bank assistant on the other end couldn’t get over how clear the call was. “Are you really in Bangkok, cause this is clearer than most calls I get locally.” There was no delay, no feedback….it was a crystal clear fantastic call.

Then at 7:30am this morning I had a Google Video Chat with some students in a Plymouth State University class (the same class I use to teach online and is now taught by one of the students I had in the program Kim Tufts). Again perfect audio and perfect video.

As I reflect I find that Google is slowly taking over most of my online life. There are already over 1000 people following me on Google+…by far the fastest professional network I’ve grown (more on Google+ changing my network later). 

Is this a good thing? I hear people say all the time “I don’t like trusting one company with all my information”. But don’t we do this often?

Most of us only have one bank….we trust them with all our financial information.

Most of us only have one doctor….we turst them with all our medical records.

Most of us have a credit card….we trust them with our credit history.

I choose Google because it works and I trust them.

Am I a Google fan boy? Yes….I’ll admit it…I love their products and there overall approach to innovation. They excel at “Failing Forward” and they’re willing to fail in the name of progress and innovation…..and that excites me.

Here’s a recap of my Google Life:

3 Active Google Apps Accounts: Personal, COETAIL, School

Professional Network: Google+

Voice over IP: Google Voice

Video Chat: Google Hangout/Gmail Chat

Phone: Android HTC Incredible S

Do I trust Google with all my information? 

Just as much as I trust Apple iTunes with my music, books, and podcasts and Amazon with my online purchase history. 

At the end of the day you have to trust someone….and to be honest I trust all of these companies more than I trust the hard drive in this computer, or the driver in the car next to me as I write this.

Until they fail me they’ve earned my trust.

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by Alain Bachellier

sospodcastLast week David Carpenter and I kicked off season 3 of the Shifting Our Schools podcast. It’s taken us a while to get this season going and I’m not short on the excuses why, so I won’t even bother getting started. Needless to say we are started and we’re excited to be back for a third season.

As usual I can’t keep well enough alone and decided to push the podcast just one step further this year. So now not only can you listen to use live and chat on the website, or download the podcast later via iTunes. This year we’re also going to try to open up the Skype lines to you listeners out there and allow you to Skype in with questions or comments during the show. We’ll see how this goes and hopefully will be able to make it fly this year. We’re live every other Wednesday at 8:00pm Bangkok Time (GMT+7). The best way to keep posted on the show is by following me on Twitter.

Click the button to subscribe to our iTunes podcast feed for free!
Click the button to subscribe to our iTunes podcast feed for free!

Each show revolves around an essential question which we try to stay focused on (really we do). I’m excited for our next show and if you are at an IB school or an IB teacher you surely won’t want to miss:

Can the IB curriculum be shifted?

I have strong feeling frustrations about the IB program as a technology person in my role. We’re excited to have Justin Medved joining us from Canada and it will be a great opportunity to open up the Skype Lines and see what others have to say on the topic.

I hope you decide to follow us this year as we have some fun from Bangkok, Thailand to Casablanca, Morroco.

SOS Podcast Links:
Subscribe to iTunes (Free)
Diigo Show link Group
Google Calendar of Show Times
Blog RSS

I like it when other podcasters share their set up. A thanks to Leo Leporte, one of my favorite tech podcasters….or is that netcaster. I’ve learned a lot about podcasting just listening to the different shows he produces.

I wrote this page for the Shifting Our Schools site to share with others the set up I use to stream, record, and converse all at the same time. I thought I’d share it here as well. You can find links to the different equipment I use at my Amazon Store as well.

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?

Chatting in 4th grade by jutecht.

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 to communicate this way.”

And I agree.

The same day I did this chat with 4th grade. I myselft had three Skype chats with people around the world. From the US, Shanghai, and Australia.

This is how business gets done today. It would be interesting to see how businesses use a chat client. I know when I visited Wetpaint headquarters this summer they have an internal chat system running as a way to communicate. I wonder if other companies do the same?

The big moment came this morning though when I bumped into the teacher in the hallway. She came into school today and was bombarded by students in her class wanting to know why they couldn’t chat last night when they got home. 12 of the 17 students in her class when home last night, logged in and tried to chat.


The were never told the web address…they just remembered it.

They were told that the chat would be turned off…yet they tried to use it anyway.

Two students found out how to change their profile picture and uploaded and updated their profiles on the site.

It was what they wanted to talk about in class

…..did we just excite students about learning? Did we just speak to them in their language? Did we engage them with the tools they want to be engaged with? Why the excitement? Yes, it’s new, yes it’s different…but can we get learning out of it?

Questions I still have as we set up “Chat 2” next week. The conversations with students in the class have been the best part. Talking about communication and cyberbullying and doing it in a safe environment that we (the school) can control.

This is a life skill these students will need in 2017 when they graduate from high school. The skill of course is learning to communicate in digital world using new digital tools. The chat client…not so important.

Well we made it to Bangkok without much of a fuss. Cats traveled well and we’re slowly settling into our new house in our new city. ISB is about 30 minutes outside of the city center making our view a little different from Shanghai.



The view is not the only thing different. Last night’s low of 81F and today’s high of 90F just about did me in. The wife of course is loving it and we constantly fight over A/Cs being on or off. So today we compromised and bought a fan. Although we have situated our bed so the A/C is blowing directly on me and not on her. 🙂

The new house is bare as we await our shipment from Shanghai to arrive (a 20ft container) full of “beautiful carpets and furniture” (direct quote from wife).

It was nice though to turn on my laptop and find out that ISB installed a wireless system in teacher housing over the summer. So every teacher has wireless in their house that runs off of the school’s network.

Last night I found myself reading through blogs and e-mails and skipping over links that I knew were blocked…that is blocked in China. It was great when I clicked on an edublogs.org and a wordpress.com link and they both loaded. I have some retraining to do of my clicking fingers. 🙂

Lastly I went to school today and picked up my new school issued computer.

Yep, a new Mac Book with 4GB of Ram. The last time I had a Mac was 9 years ago running 8.xx OS. I’ve been secretly wanting a Mac for the past couple of years so I’m looking forward to putting this thing through the test in the next couple of weeks.

But first I need help from all you Mac users out there. What free software do I need?

My first three are already on:


(Firefox and Skype came preloaded from the school…we’ll work on Twhirl for next year 😉 )

So I’m busy tonight putting in all my Firefox extentions. The onces I can’t live without.

But what I need from the community is the other great stuff that makes a Mac…well a Mac.

What I’m looking for in particular at this moment:

FTP client (free)
Software that allows me to share my desktop via web cam

But I’ll take anything that will allow me to do my job better, faster, and more efficient and of course all that other stuff too. 🙂

So come on all you Mac users…start thowing me those links to software I just can’t live without!

I had a great time last night. I’ve loaded Skype on my wife’s new laptop, we sat on the couch together and I showed her how it works. We work at the same school, but our offices are on the complete opposite sides of the campus, so I thought this could be a great way for us stay in touch (other than phone and e-mail). I did make the mistake of showing her the shortcuts for emoticons …next thing I know she’s laughing as I’m looking at




I think she’s hooked! I even showed her this shortcuts page with more emoticons (make sure you have the latest Skype 3.5 to view them all)

Nothing like spending Sunday night with your wife. 😉


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Yesterday Mr. Hossack’s class of 5th graders got to take part in something new and cool. They had a video Skype call with a 7th grade class in Los Angles, California.

Barbara Barreda contacted me a couple weeks ago and we started planning. Of course planning didn’t go to smoothly on our end. We are two days from ending school and the 7th grade class that was going to take the Skype call and questions was not even at school, but instead were running around Shanghai taking part in an Amazing Race that the teachers put together for them.

So, Mr. Hossack’s class filled in and really enjoyed the conversation. It was interesting to hear the students answer questions like, “Have you ever been to the great wall?” A couple students have been there and of course what they remember is that you can rent a luge and slide down some of the steeper parts of the wall. I have been on the wall and there are places that you do have to crawl on your hands and knees to get up.

It was interesting though…I’m not sure what the students in L.A. were expecting for and answer but being able to ride a luge down the Great Wall probably wasn’t it.

I find it fascinating the perspectives we all have. The Great Wall to most of our kids is like “So” it’s only a 2 hour flight away and many have gone multiple times. It would be like living next to Hollywood.

I think I also have to mention that our students do a lot of traveling. Many of them have been to more countries than I have and most have attended multiple schools in multiple countries. They are third culture kids that have a different perspective on the world and travel.

Thanks again to Barbara and her teachers and students for allowing us the opportunity to cross oceans and create global connections.

[tags]Skype, globalconnections, 21st Century Learning[/tags]

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I have been privileged this past week to spend three days with Frances Hensley from the National School Reform Faculty. A group of 20 of us from my school were able to spend 3 days with Ms. Hensley in October and she was back for three more days of Critical Friends Training.

Critical Friends Groups are:

A CFG is a professional learning community consisting of approximately 8-12 educators who come together voluntarily at least once a month for about 2 hours. Group members are committed to improving their practice through collaborative learning.

CFG’s are a great way to build learning communities in your school. What really makes CFGs work are the protocols that are used to move meetings along. The protocols are very scripted, and take anywhere from 45 minutes to 60 minutes to work through.

This week while going through the training I was focusing on how to move these amazing protocols that allow you to look at problems, issues, and conversations at a deeper level transform into digital spaces. I even presented this question to my CFG group:

“How does one take these F2F protocols and transfer them to a digital world where F2F may not be possible?”

I’m thinking about the Plymouth State University graduate class I’m teaching this summer titled. “Teaching in the networked classroom” and how I can use these protocols to run an efficient Skype conference with the students of the course. These protocols allow you to move through a question/problem/conversation in a way that allows everyone to talk and participate in the conversation. I’m sure most of you have been involved in Skype conferences or other online conferences where the chat room is disconnected from the voice conversation. We only use one aspect of a program like Skype and do not, for the most part, use the IM chat and the voice as a whole system.

In an hour my group, who were all educators and not technology people, gave me a ton to think about. We discussed how do you start a session? What does an ice breaker activity look like in this conversation? How do you create buy in? How do you set norms or rules that are easy for people to follow and that layout what the IM chat is for and how it can enhance the voice conversation.

It was an amazing 60 minutes for me that really stretched me to think in ways I hadn’t considered…which is what CFGs are all about.

I do believe this is something we are going to have to work on as a community of online learners. What does an effective meeting look like in Second Life? How do you run an effective Skype conference call, or Elluminate sessioin?

We’re going to have to rethink a few things as we move digitally and running a successful real time conversation is one of them.

[tags]secondlife, skype, cfg, learning communities[/tags]

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So Skype just updated itself on my computer and I can now SMS straight from Skype. It even works in China! I sent myself an SMS for $0.0055 at that rate, I can afford to send SMS messages. To the States just $0.112. That’s not bad! Now we just have to keep China from blocking it…keep your fingers crossed.

I think I just found a new way to remind my students of a test! 😉


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