flipboardOK…so let me clarify that title. I honestly think textbooks are on their way out…or at least I hope they are. Really it should read “Flipboard as core curation artifact for classrooms” but that wouldn’t have you here reading now would it. 🙂

I’m in love with Flipboard. I have been for awhile now….it’s one of the first apps that gets downloaded on all devices. But lately as I’ve been thinking about the death of textbooks and what might replace them I have started to dig deeper into Flipboard and really think it has a ton of potential to be that core curation body of knowledge for teachers and students.

Why Flipboard:

  • Can be installed on all devices! I mean all devices. Windows, Mac, iDevices, Android. That by itself gives it a top marks!
  • Beautiful layout: Design matters…and Flipboard knows that. Every time I show Flipboard to a teacher or student they instantly love it…what’s not to love. Big pictures, magazine flare, beautiful transitions.
  • Connected: You can connect Flipboard to a ton of different accounts and at the same time connect it to hashtag conversations giving you all kinds of different ways to bring information together in one space.

Flipboard Magazines:

This really is the game changer. Flipboard rolled out magazines a while a go. Allowing a user to create a magazine and “Flip” things into it. Others can subscribe to your magazine and see what you find interesting. You can check out my magazine here ——————————————————->

So basically a teacher would have a flipboard account….set up a magazine for thier class and then “flip” all the articles, resources, etc they want students to access into the magazine. The students subscribe to the magaizne and have all that content dispalyed beautifully on their screen….no matter what that screen is.

Class as Content Curators:

Of course….that would work but I think we can go farther. I don’t want the teacher finding all the content for the course. I want students to have the ability to add content to their “textbook” as well. Content that we can discuss in the classroom, that can spark conversation…the real reason we come together..to be social. What if we could have all the students in a class adding to the “textbook” have them find things that interest them on a given topic and allow them to “flip” that into our “textbook” as well. Flipboard allows that too…where you can invite others to add to your Flipboard magazine. Game changer!!!!

But Wait There’s More!

Because ever student is going to need a Flipboard account to make this work they also will be able to create their own boards around content they enjoy. The class magazine (aka textbook) becomes part of that but so does other things that interest them. Also…..because you can search a twitter hashtag and add that to your Flipboard. A class hashtag now becomes part of the conversation. Where kids can tweet something, hashtag it with something like #engp1ju (English Period 1 Jeff Utecht) and have all that content in their new “textbook” as well.

Social and Academic

I talk a lot about breaking down the barriers of social and academic. That this is the world we live in where we work and are social at the same time. A Flipboard account would allow students to have both. A student could have a Flipboard account that had:

  • Class Magazine (textbook)
  • Class Twitter hashtag
  • School Twitter hashtag
  • Their Instagram account
  • Their Facebook account
  • Google+ Account (School or/and personal)
  • Their own Twitter feed
  • News from things that interest them
  • Their Tumblr account

[box] Bonus: Check out the Flipboard tutorials here to get started![/box]

Easy Sharing

Then there is the sharing component. I read something in my Tumblr stream that applies to what we’re talking about in class and I can…with two clicks….add that to our class textbook.

Every student is using Chrome of course (they are right?) so we add the Flipboard extension to Chrome and again in two clicks students can add any website they are on, any article they find to the class textbook.

Or we share it to the class twitter hashtag. Or we share it to our personal account. Our personal and academic lives overlap and what we have is……just life.

If you know of a class…or your class is doing this…please let me know. Cause I think this has HUGE potential to bring everything together. I’m even starting to wonder if it would be worth pursuing for COETAIL? To show teachers who we can create a “textbook” based on the latest things people are reading, tweeting, finding, and sharing. Kim and I might need to have a conversation. 🙂

I’m a few hours away from calling a taxi and starting the 17 hour trip to Portland, Oregon (via Seattle of course) for the ITSC11 Conference e. I’ll be doing three sessions. Blended Classrooms, Blogs as E-Portfolios, and 10 Digital Tools for Digital Educators.

It’s this last session that I always have the hardest time with. What 10 digitals tools should educators know about? There are so many and depending on the attendees, you never know what people really want. That’s why this session usually ends up being a great discussion starting with “What do you want to know about?” and off we go.

As I’ve been thinking about the session I keep coming back to how important RSS is to the web. What seems like a such a simple piece of the larger web, this little bit of technology pushes and pulls information around the web behind the sense so gracefully that you probably use it in one form or another everyday without realizing it. Yet, if you can understand it, it becomes a very powerful way to push and pull information around the web where you want it to go. 

Apple, iTunes and Podcasters have made a living off of RSS. Ever wonder why most podcasts are on a blog? Because blogs come with RSS technology built in and iTunes Podcasts run off of RSS feeds. When you “Subscribe” to a podcast in iTunes you’re just subscribing to that podcasts RSS feed. iTunes simply delivers the content to your computer. 

RSS is a push and pull technology. It allows you to push and pull content around the web with ease. Many people don’t use RSS Readers anymore with them being replaced by Twitter streams, yet the use of RSS goes beyond just pulling content to you.

Here are some ways that I’m using RSS at my school and in my professional life to make things easier and to tie things together. 


COETAIL is a 5 graduate class certificate program that Kim and I run here in Asia (more on the explosion of this program soon). For each cohort we run we set up a blog such as this one I set up for the cohort in Taipei. Part of the problem I was having was when I found content to share with the participants I needed a way to push that information to this blog without going there, logging in and writing a blog post. Using the FeedWordPress Plugin that takes the content in an RSS feed and turns it into a post I now have a way to pull information I share on the web to the site.

Next was finding an RSS feed that was simple and quick and didn’t take much time to use. I decided to use Tumblr as a way to quickly gather web clipping I wanted to save all in one spot. Next I came up with a tagging system. Most blogging systems and even social bookmarking sites have an RSS feed for every tag. Tumblr does and it also has a fantastic Chrome Browser (one of the 10 tools) extension that works great. Now I have a quick way to get information to the different cohorts. Once I find something I want to share I click the Tumblr extension which automatically grabs the URL and the title of the webpage I’m on. I quickly add a description, click on the advance button and add my tags. If I want the information to go to the Taipei site I use the tag coetail@tas. If I want the information to got to the ISB site I use coetail@isb. If I want it to go to all the coetail blogs I simply use the tag coetail. 

Within seconds I can push this content out to the web on Tumblr and then pull it back into different blogs based on tags. 

ISB Blogs:

Using this same idea, students have to write a reflection about their GCW Trips (Global Citizen’s Week) that we went on last week. The trip leaders don’t have all the student blog addresses and we want the students to own the reflection, we want it to become part of their learning/eporfolio here at ISB. Using the FeedWordPress Plugin on our WordPress MultiSite install I created a tag for each trip. Students write their reflection on their blog and tag the blog post with the specific tag for their trip. I then set up a blog for each trip, grabbed the RSS feed for that specific trip tag and pulled all the blog posts into one blog that teachers can easily read and grade.

Here’s the idea:

URL to sitewide tag: http://blogs.isb.ac.th/blog/tag/gcwmekok/

The Feed for the tag: http://blogs.isb.ac.th/blog/tag/gcwmekok/feed

Where all these posts end up: http://blogs.isb.ac.th/gcw-mekok-village/

One great feature of the FeedWordPress Plugin is you can have the link to the post send you back to the original source. So if you want to leave a comment on a student blog post click on the title and it will take you to that student’s blog where you can leave the comment. Again keeping the student in control of their content.

This setup could be used in a number of ways. You could create a class blog that basically acts like an RSS reader. Students blog about your class, tag their blogs for your class with a specific term and you and the rest of the world get all the information in one spot, yet the students retains ownership of the content.

How about this….every tag in Diigo has an RSS feed: http://www.diigo.com/rss/user/Jutecht/qrcodes

You could connect your Diigo account to your Twitter account so that every time you share a link on Twitter it pushes that link to Diigo where it’s bookmarked (directions here). Once there you can push the RSS feed of the specific tag you use where ever you want it. In a Moodle, on a Blog, a Google Site…..anything that reads an RSS feed could then display this information. Think about this for a second…..one click to Twitter and you push content to Diigo which pushes it out to a blog. One click….three sites get the information and you share with others across networks. 

I’m sure you can think of countless other ways to use this in the classroom….it really is a technology worth learning and is a basis for many things on the web today.

reduce clicks
Some rights reserved by ntr23

Many of you that follow me on Twitter might wonder why I’ve been using a hashtag on every tweet I share with links to websites I find interesting. The simple answer is I’m lazy…..I always look for ways to reduce my clicks.

I use to bookmark the websites I found, then I blogged about them now I Twitter them. The problem is, the sites were easy to find on both Diigo and Delicious and on my own blog. But now I share my links on Twitter and trying to go back and find links I know I’ve shared is hard. Thanks to Packrati.us now I have one less step in saving websites I like.

Head over to Packrati.us and sign in with your twitter account. You can then sign into your Delicious or Diigo account or both, depending on what you use, and you’re all set. Now any time you tweet or retweet a link that has a hashtag in it, Packrati sends that link to your social-bookmarking site of choice and turns those hashtags into real tags on the site.

I connected my Diigo account to Packrati because I already have my Diigo account forwarding all my bookmarks there to Delicious as a back up. So now one tweet and my information goes to three places. Twitter, Diigo, Delicious. 

I’m always trying to find ways to reduce my clicks on the web and this little trick just saved me about 3. 

(Prepare yourself it’s a long one!)

(Read to the bottom to find out why it took me over 12 hours to post this reflection!)

What a week this has been and with the launch of the book today, it’s made it all the more amazing of a week.

As of this writing, Reach was downloaded 801 times today. My networks and communities once again surpassed my expectations. As I told my wife yesterday, I’d be tickled if 200 people downloaded the Free PDF. To have 800+ do it in the first day alone is just mind boggling. As I say in the book, once you become connected to this network, professional development like you have never known before starts to flow your way. This book as been as much a part of my own professional development this year as anything else. On top of that I get to reap the benefits from people posting about it, quoting it, and thinking about it on their own blogs, twitter updates, and everywhere else on the network.

Some have asked if the book is OK to share with others. I have released Reach under a Creative Commons 3.0 License as found on the copyright page of the book. Meaning you are free to distribute it as you wish to your school community or to your own network within the guidelines of the Creative Commons Copyright.

Part of what I wrote about in the book, and part of what I believe overwhelms people, is this idea that you have to be everywhere and that every site is a silo. When really, once you understand the connectivity of the Internet, it can all come to you in one place, and you can talk to your network through one channel.

So in sharing Reach today I decided to do a little experiment on where my network and community (and yes they are different….you’ll have to read the book to learn how) are coming from and how they are connected.

So I released the Free PDF within all my networks and communities. This blog, the U Tech Tips blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Here’s how the downloads panned out (as of 10pm June 15th).

This Blog: 511

Twitter: 228

LinkedIn: 0

U Tech Tips: 32

Facebook: 32

I was surprised at first that more people downloaded Reach via my blog than via Twitter. I was expecting the ReTweets on Twitter to help push that to the top spot.

But here’s what I forgot. My blog is connected to everything. So when I posted the link to download Reach to this blog it went to Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Plus to a lot of RSS readers. My blog has always been the center of my connected universe and still is today. LinkedIn surprised me. I don’t use it that much, hardly ever post anything there, and although there are a lot of people there looking to connect, not too many people are reading that stream. Of course my LinkedIn network could have used any of the other links as they all feed into LinkedIn, again that’s how that site fits into my personal learning network.

Why give it away for free? It’s my first book and we’ll wait to see what you all have to say about it as a book and me as a writer. Some of you have commented already that you can hear my voice in the book, and I found that I’m a much better writer of my thinking than a technical writer. We’ll see if it translates to a book.

Let’s be honest. If I wouldn’t have given this book away for free, I’d have been lucky to sell 100 copies (thanks to the 15 people who bought copies today!) and I have a day job that pays. It was more important to me to get the message out there. To basically throw my writing out there and see what you all think about it in a different form. My “Reach” is much greater with the free copies than it ever would have been with a book that had to be bought.

Yes…some of you will still buy the book. As Seth Godin (who’s idea and thoughts on this I have followed) has said, “We buy books as a souvenir”. I believe in that. Some of you might buy the book because you’ll want it as a souvenir, and for that I’m greatly honored. But, for most of you it will be a one time read and never thought of again. It’s information that will be out of date as soon as Facebook decides to change it’s privacy settings again. 😉

The PDF passwords will work until Friday night around 10pm PST. After that I’ll shut them off. The first two chapters will always be free via the Reach website. If you come to any of my 8 presentations this summer you’ll be given a code for the free PDF as well…and who knows I might always give it away free again at the start of school. 😉

Of course this has me very excited, that I was able to give something back to the community. But the launch of Reach today was over shadowed by a more amazing gift this week. A gift that….well…..can not be topped.

Last Tuesday I sat in a crowd of about 200 people watching the Class of 2010 from Aberdeen High School recieve their scholarships and awards for the year. I had been invited down by a former 4th grade student of mine, Claire. She had written me a letter saying there were a bunch of students that I had taught who are now graduating that would like to see me again. Little did I know that Claire and my wife had been planning for months to get me to Aberdeen for something very special.

I sat there in the crowd listening for names of past students, trying to recognize my little fourth grade students in these now 18 year old bodies. Some were easy, others I couldn’t believe the changes.

Claire had received a couple scholarships and awards and then without warning she started giving a speech.

“Each year the Renaissance Action Team senior members along with many other seniors recognize teachers that have made a difference in their lives. This year 21 seniors participated in the program started by the Renaissance team called honorary diplomas. This program allowed these seniors to dress in cap and gown and go visit a teacher that made a huge difference in their life. These seniors prepared brief speeches and presented diplomas to their teachers while telling them exactly what it is that changed their outlook on life.

For some seniors this was easy, they just walked down the hall, into a classroom, and made the presentation. Six teachers at Aberdeen High School were honored this year. For fourteen others, they went back to their elementary or junior high school to tell a past teacher of the impact they had. With thirty pairs of eyes watching them these seniors presented diplomas to their teachers. For one, the process even included tracking down a retired teacher’s family and making a surprise visit to him, and then, there was me.

In this audience is a man who has no idea what is about to happen, in this audience is a man who changed my life. For the past month or so I have been working to make this moment happen, and right now, as I stand here, I really hope he is out there, and possibly catching on to why his wife was so insistent on him making the trip here.”

About this time Claire’s mother takes a picture of me and I catch the flash out of the corner of my eye. I look at her and she’s smiling….and then it hit me.

I’m not going to share the whole 3 page speech that Claire gave…it’s way too special and humbling for me to share it (sorry…but true).

I will share my favorite two sentences out of the speech and the two that sent tears rolling down my own cheeks.

“Mr. U found things we liked, and created a way to learn around them. He talked to us as if we were equal, not like we were ten, and Mr. U was always smiling. It was obvious and still is that Mr. U is passionate about what he does, and he cares about the students he has.”

That meant more to me than anything…for the simple fact that it was my own fourth grade teacher Mrs. Hubble who always referred to us as “Ladies and Gentleman”. She told us that we are all equals and should be treated as much. That has stuck with me through the years and to this day, I have always only referred to a class as “Ladies and Gentleman”. I do believe we are all equals in a classroom, and sometimes it’s as little as how you refer to people that makes all the difference.

Claire, if you’re reading this, know you have made my teaching career. Your speech was simply perfect and how you remembered ever project we did in such detail after all these years I’ll never know. Please know that for all you feel you have learned from me, I learned from you ten fold! Thank you for being such a special person in my life.

It’s been one amazing week that has reminded me why I love learning.

“Education is not the preparation for life; It’s life itself” ~John Dewey

As I’m ready to post this last night I get a phone call from my brother. My nephew was on his way. At 4:40 this morning I became an Uncle for the second time. I’m not sure one person deserves this much amazement in one week. What a week to remember!

Take 14 minutes out of your day today or tomorrow and watch this video:

Web 3.0 from Kate Ray on Vimeo.

Is it sad that this excites me?

I love Tim Berners-Lee’s last statement:

“If we end up building all the things I can imagine, we’ve failed.”

This coming from the “father of the World Wide Web”.

The video really talks about now that we have all this information on the web how do we organize it and make it work for us?

In the past week I’ve radically shifted the way I use Twitter, that more closely aligns with this new semantic web approach. It’s been an eye opening experience for me and once again I’m excited about the possibilities that are twitter.

It’s very much about connections, and Twitter is a connection between people. I follow people who I believe will lead me to good content. But how do you know what that good content is in a stream that is over 3,000 people? That is where using semantic web tools such as Twittertim.es comes in. If you haven’t yet given this site a go….I strongly recommend it.

We’ve said for a while now that the “cream raises to the top” and now with a semantic tools like Twittertim.es we have that.

Basically what Twittertim.es does is make since of your twitter stream by collecting all the links that are being shared by those that you follow and gives weight to them based on the amount of times a link appears. Those links with the most tweets and retweets create your Twittertim.es style newspaper.

I no longer follow a stream of people, I use the people to lead me to the best content out there. Today I opened my twittertim.es page and the top 10 stories were all interesting to me. There isn’t another newspaper out there that could do that. This is completely tailored to my specifications based on the people I follow and the news they are reading and retweeting.

Using this same idea, over the weekend I completely redid the decks in Tweetdeck on my computer. I deleted all the lists of people I was following and recreated decks around content. I’m now mining Twitter for the content that is relevant to me. At first I thought that I’d miss my lists of people, but honestly I’m checking Twitter even more, I’ve added one list back, that of the people at my school to help encourage them to continue to use Twitter. I retweet things they post, and respond to them. Now here’s what my Tweetdeck looks like:

Direction Messages
isbangkok list
New Followers

Because I follow mostly educators and Web 2.0 people in Twittertim.es I no longer need those lists in twitter. I let Twittertim.es find the most relevant information from all the people I follow and deliver it to me in an ever changing, up to date way that I could never keep up with.

Because Tweetdeck allows me to add a “New Followers” deck I can easily follow new educators that are following me, just adding to my network and making my results in Twittertim.es that much more relevant.

Tweetdeck has now become a place of content, not a place of people. The lastest news about the Mariners, or the Redshirt protesters in downtown Bangkok. I’m mining Twitter for the content that I want. I add and delete hashtags with what I’m interested in that day. As WordPress 3.0 is coming out soon, I’ll be adding the #wordpress to the deck and when the protest is finally over in downtown Bangkok I’ll delete that deck.

The content is constantly changing depending on my needs. Part of my responsibility then is to share what I find interesting back into the content stream and allow it to be tossed around by the community. It people believe my resource is valuable they retweet it. Just how much content is out there? Only four things I’ve ever shared have shown up in my twittertim.es. Two of my own blog posts (which was an honor) and two things that I shared. Everything else was content I did not know about or was not aware of.

Just another way to find the content you want among a stream of chaotic information.

Google BuzzGoogle Buzz has been out for a while now and has been slowly making its mark on the social-networking scene.

As I’ve been investigating Buzz (a.k.a. playing with it…but investigating sounds so much more important!) and how it changes social-networking, it hit me the other day how this might just be the communication tool I’ve been looking for in schools ever sense Twitter came out.

I’m hoping that Google brings Buzz to the Education Apps soon. There are a lot of schools (including mine) that are embracing Google Apps and taking a serious look at using the set of tools as the default mail, calendar, contacts, docs application for the school. Doug Johnson has been writing about Google Apps a lot lately and his latest post is a must read if your district is considering the move.

I don’t know about your school but at my last two schools the ALL MAILS that get sent around are frustrating to many. Like a lot of schools teachers already get close to 100 e-mails a day and adding a couple ALL MAILS that are someone looking for this book or that supply, someone who lost their keys, or a jacket for a trip to cold weather (OK….this one might be Bangkok specific). You name it, it’s probably come through in an ALL MAIL.

Buzz Update

There has to be a better way to handle these right? Like many schools ISB created a “Public Folder” that was suppose to be a place for people to post such requests. The problem is nobody goes there unless they know that something new is there to look at, but how do you let people know there is something new…..you got it….you send an ALL MAIL.

It’s a frustrating circle that Google Buzz might just solve. Think about having a Buzz type program running at your school. A place that you check off and on to see the “back channel” of your school. The latest social gatherings, the 1st grade teacher looking for Paper Towel tubes for a project. or the high school teacher sending a reminder about the art show. What if the school used Buzz as a social back channel. That was there, but not in your daily inbox. A place to share resources, links, and have conversations as a school community.

As excited as I am to see Google Groups get added a couple weeks ago, I hope we’re not to far away from seeing Google Buzz. I really think this could be a communication channel that schools have been missing for awhile.

Update: Thanks to krea_frobro747 on Twitter who pointed out that Google released a blog update stating that Google Buzz will be coming to Google Edu Apps “in the next few months“.

I have to share this story with you if for no other reason….I’ve shared it with anyone that would listen to me at school today. I believe this story shows the power of:

1. What can happen when we allow students to be “out there”.
2. What happens when our teachers become networked and can bring that network to their students.
3. That through connections educational possibilities are endless!

This couldn’t have come at a better time with Clint H leaving a comment on my last post about a conversation he had with his IT Director:

He has some very persuasive arguments for his ‘walled garden’ approach (including “nobody ever reads public blogs anyway so what’s the difference?”)

Really….nobody reads public blogs anymore……..please read on!

So here’s how the story of connections played out last night.

1. I do a lesson in one of our 5th grade classrooms where we have a great discussion around what it means to blog, what good blogging looks like, and the difference between leaving a comment and a compliment. We also learn how to add an image to our post and how to add a link. Following the teachers lead based on this blog post, the students homework is to write a reflective blog post about the science experiment they did and what they learned. I leave the room with this challenge:

I will read all your blog posts tonight and the best ones I’ll send out for the world to read.

Of course they no nothing of the 4700+ Twitter followers I have or the 400+ Facebook friends. Nor should they care…what is important here is that their teacher is connected into a wider community to help foster a global audience.

2. Late last night I visited the classes netvibes page and started going through the student’s blog posts leaving comments on everyone of them. I was proud to see that most everyone’s blogging had improved from before our lesson and some students had really taken the time to sit down and write out their thoughts.

img_33671One such student was Haley who wrote out the experiment that the students had done in class. A great little bit of procedural writing (writing connection). I decided that this was one of the top 5 posts in the class and sent a link to her blog post out on Twitter and to my Facebook Friends asking them to please visit the blog if for no other reason to put a mark on her map that there really are people out there who will read you if you have good writing (Hey, I’m not above a little fake audience to start a conversation with kids that will lead to deeper writing and understanding!).

3. It just so happens that Allanah K (who I had the pleasure of meeting last year) was on Twitter last night and reads my tweet about the students writing. Intrigued by Haley’s blog post Allanah takes the idea to school with her today in New Zealand and asks the students if they would like to try Haley’s experiment. By the time I get to school today Allanah and her class have finished their experiment and have blogged about it on their class blog….of course giving full credit to Haley.

Where to go from here:
Of course at this point my mind is racing. This experiment has to do with teaching variables and just think of all the variables we can now ask as we collect data.

  • What if we share our data with the class in New Zealand?
  • I wonder if longitude and latitude is a variable we need to consider (Social Studies)
  • I wonder if we’ll get the same results? (Science)
  • How can we best represent our data for someone else to read? (Math, Science)
  • Why is writing clear instructions important? (Writing)

Of course there are hundreds of possibilities now that can happen now that these two classes are connected. With a time difference of only 5 hours a Skype call even with students talking about their data and experiments to each other…or more blog posts with more explanations.

Yes this all came about because I am connected…but it’s not about me….it’s about the connections. Miss B is a friend of mine on Facebook and seeing me post the students blogs there….copied and pasted the addresses and sent them out to her Facebook friends. She too is a connected teacher, but up until this point had never thought of using her network of friends and other educators in this way.

There is great power when we put students out there and allow them to share their thinking. These students have had a blog for two weeks now and this is their first major connection as a class. As we continue to learn about blogging, as our writing improves and more importantly our thinking improves, I know we’ll see more connections like this….it’s just to powerful of a learning platform not to.

So to the IT Directors out there that say “It’s to scary.”, “We can’t do it.”, “What’s the point?” I give you this.

That making deep connections only happen when you put yourself out there….sure we can play it safe…but playing it safe has never lead to deeper understanding!

Image Credit: id-iom

Last year I was pretty critical of EduBloggerCon. For me it was too big, too scripted, and…well…you can read the post.

This year….smaller, deeper, and more thoughtful. Exactly what I was hoping for and personally what I need to push my own thinking. It was one of those days where you went to one but watch others via Twitter. You wanted to go to all the sessions…and in some ways you did via the conversations that happened between the actual sessions.

Last year I said it was too big…around 250 people. This year around 75 people….not a bad size.

Last year it was to scripted….this year it was flexible, adaptable, and conversation based. Not adaptable enough for my taste but that was due more to the people that went than the organization of the sessions.

With empty sessions all over the wiki, nobody should complain that the conversation wasn’t what they needed. If you wanted a conversation the spots were available to put up a topic. I did just that wanting to discuss the changes that are happening with blogging because of Twitter and this whole “live stream” service (more on that later).

So….here are my take aways from EduBloggerCon 2009

Best Practice of PD (My live notes)
A great session that had a group of about 30 break into smaller groups, discuss ideas on what worked at our schools and then came back together to share as a group. We came to the same conclusions that it seems we always end up at:

  • Getting administrators on board is key
  • You have to meet teacher where they are
  • There are different approaches, no one right model/way to shift teachers
  • Change is hard
  • Change is frustrating

Build Your Own Tool (My notes)
A great session that allowed us all to dream about the tool we would create if we had a coder. That’s exactly what Mark Wagner wanted out of the session and has had success with when he rents a coder to create applications for him.

Where School Reform Meets Madonna:
This session was too deep for me to even take notes on….I was too busy thinking about the conversation that was going on. It was a great intense hour with one liners that filled twitter faster than any single one person could type.

My take away….or just good reminder…came from Scott McLeod when he reminded me that kids that are 14,15,16 years old are all about ME. How do we tap into that ME and make the world relevant to them? It’s where they are developmentally and it’s not a bad thing. These kids are trying to find out who they are, where do they fit, and the web and their web presence is a part of that. How do we tap into that ME, find what is passionate to them, and then find them an audience that makes learning relevant? It’s good to be reminded just where these kids are at. We talked about that they don’t use Twitter or blog because that is about spreading your message and not about ME. ME is about ME and my friends, it’s exactly what Facebook offers them…a place to hang out with their friends, talk with their friends, and be with their friends. Can we tap into this? Can we use this to our advantage? How do we use this in a learning enviornment? Should we?

Edu Blogging:
Lastly was a discussion I lead on where is EduBlogging heading and/or is it dead already?

It was a good discussion that talked about how the conversation is changing. That at a point in time we use to actually take time to read and leave comments on blog posts. Now we read, and retweet blog posts. We talked about how Twitter is the new aggregator and is replacing RSS as a way people are getting their information. On this blog for example, I have more readers that come via Twitter then I do via the RSS feed.

Because of Twitters live constant scrolling feed, we also talked about how the “life span” of a blog post is shrinking. I use to get comments on a blog post lasting weeks. Now I post a blog, it gets a comment or maybe two in a the first 10 minutes, gets retweeted for about 20 minutes and then it’s old news. I’ve also been running tests about the timing of blog posts. Being in Thailand I found that blog posts that I posted on my lunch hour had fewer views then those that got posted late at night. I have a theory this has to do with time zones as most educational twitters are in North America. So I’ve set different blog posts to go live at different times and have found that I get more readers on a blog post if it is posted around 3pm EST. This is a great time to release a blog post as educators on the east coast are just getting out of school and checking Twitter, while educators on the west coast are checking Twitter over lunch. Depending on the blog post I can see views fluctuate by the 100s.

Now…please do not think that I’m all about the number of readers. It’s just an experiment that I’ve been running (and seeing I’m posting this at 11pm EST we’ll see how it goes) to see if the “life span” of blog posts are getting shorter…so far….I think they are.

We then talked about our students blogging and what is the reason for it. David Warlick brought us back from a rant at one point to focus on that all of this, whether blogging, or twitter, or facebook updates, it’s all about conversations and communication. Yes, the conversations are changing. But in the end we’re just communicating with different tools. Whether it’s paint drawings on walls in a cave or quick 140 character Twitter messages. We have an internal need to communicate and that’s the fundamental skill we need to be teaching students.

So those are my “official” take aways from today. Of course all of these conversations have been had before, and could have been had on the web. The real reason I’m here are for all the conversations that can’t be had via the web. It’s shaki
ng hands, giving hugs, and just catching up. It’s the quick conversation over lunch or over a drink. It’s the time together with people that is the reason we all decend on Washington DC. I look forward to the rest of the conference and just being with other educational technologists.

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Yes, I have once again changed my Twitter Desktop App…and yes I’ll probably change again in the future. That’s part of why Twitter is so much fun. You get to explore, try new ways of looking at your data, your searches, your stream of information.

Twitter is a playground to me. It has been since I started using it in 2007 (man that seems so long ago!). It’s been fun to watch it grow over the past couple of years and hit the mainstream in the past couple of months. I’m excited to see where it goes, but in the mean time let’s keep playing!

I downloaded the Seesmic Desktop Application a couple weeks ago and had a play with it. I enjoyed my time with TweetDeck and still haven’t uninstalled it, but after Kim had me try Nambu which is a Mac specific Twitter Desktop App, it sent me on a search for a new one.

Many people don’t get Twitter. Even after signing up for an account people still have a hard time understanding how it works, or why you’d want to use it. I think using a desktop app is the only way to truly understand Twitter and use it successfully.

Because Twitter has gone mainstream it makes it a nice news feed, friend feed, and information silo. Using a desktop app like Seesmic allows you to create groups of users, follow search terms, and keep track of a lot of different content easily. Seesmic has a great set of videos to get you started.

For example I have a column that follows any mentions of the Mariners (it is baseball season after all!). I have a couple different columns of users. People often ask me how I keep up with so many followers. My answer is simple….I don’t. I quit trying to keep up with them a long time ago and instead I’ve taken a data mining approach to Twitter and I’ve created groups that work for me.

I have a group called “My PLN” if you’ve in education and you’ve shared a link that I’ve enjoyed or happened across you get put into this group (2 clicks and 2 seconds). I have a group called “My Peeps” these are my close friends and colleages I work with. It allows me to keep a close eye on say Dennis Harter my colleague and what he’s tweeting about.

The other nice feature of Seesmic and most Twitter Destop Apps is that it allows me to easily unfollow or block spammers, making it easy to manage my profile from within the Twitter App itself.

Then there is the added bounce of being able to update your Facebook status within the same application, now if only they could add FriendFeed updates…they’d have the trifecta!

On my Mac I run Seesmic in a Space. It gets a space all to itself and simple runs in the background. I go to it when I need something, have a second to catch up on a conversation or need information on something happening in real time. I go there when I have something to share, when I feel like I can add to the value of others stream of information or when I simple want people to know what I’m doing….after all that was its original use.

TwitterCamp still has the most potential

TwitterCamp was the first AIR app that I installed and today I still think it has the most potential for use in schools, conferences, etc. I was glad to see that it was updated last November to work with the new and improved Twitter. I love that they have now released the code to the open-source community to help improve on. There is no other app that displays Tweets the way TwitterCamp does and it engages people when put on a big screen. Now that it seems to be working again (still testing it as I type) we could have some fun with this at NECC09. Now….were do we get one of those flat screen TVs? 😉

(Thanks to Brian Smith who captured this picture of Mark Wagner taking a picture of TwitterCamp running at NECC07. The first bloggers cafe and we hijacked the flat screen. Who’s idea was that anyway?)

All three of my presentation here at ETC09 continue to hit on the point of creating a PLN you can trust and find ways to use. It’s so powerful…..but it’s hard to explain just how powerful of a learning tool it is without having people really get in there and get their hands dirty.

So today I found a new use for my PLN. Every time I try something this like I’m amazed at the help and response I continue to receive from educators around the world who are willing to jump and help out at the drop of a hat.

So here’s the story of today:

Although Borneo is amazing their Internet connection is…well…should we say inconsistent and slow. It’s up and down, completely unreliable, and frustrating to say the least. The one service that seems to run without fail is Twitter. I’m not sure if it’s the small packet size or what but Twitter continues to run while the rest of the web comes to a screeching halt (I never that we’d see that happen!).

So this morning I’m preparing for my presentation and go to edit the wiki page I had created for my “Digital Tools for Digital Educators” session. The Internet was running really slow and with only two hours to go before my presentation I was getting worried that I wouldn’t have anything preloaded.

So I used the one tool that worked….Twitter. I sent out a call to anyone with a good Internet connection to please go and add a must have tool for educators. An hour later I have enough tools to fill my 90 minute session and then some. Complete with YouTube how-to videos, examples of use in the classroom, and much more.


Now I’m part of this network, and I understand that this is exactly how it’s suppose to work, but it still amazes me! I started my presentation today in a room of 50+ educators by thanking educators around the world who two hours before had just created my presentation. I talked about how this came to be and just how amazing this was going to be that these 50 people were actually being taught by teachers around the world…..I just happened to be the voice for them all.

It was great to see people coming up to a whiteboard that was in the room and writing down the names of those who have twitter accounts here at the conference as they start to build their own network. During one of my sessions yesterday I asked those on Twitter to please write their Twitter handles on the board to help others start their PLN. It was a great example of how a PLN can be used to created content through connections.

In my first session I shared a quote with the group that came from a Vanity Fair article entitled: How the Web was Won. A fantastic look at the history of the Internet.

We thought communities trumped content. ~Steve Case (1985)

How interesting that even before the web as we know it today was created that the founders of what would become The Web already knew that what these connections allowed were communities and in the long run it would be these communities that made The Web so powerful.

I believe that’s what this little story of mine shows. Sure the content is there, but it’s the community that was the important part. And not just any community, but a community of people who live in a “nearly now” space. Which is the true power of Twitter. If I would have posted this on my blog it never would have happened. Without the community I would not have had the content. The connection with people lead to an amazing opportunity for people here on an island in the South Pacific to learn. An opportunity for them to learn from educators around the world. My job was simply to display and point people to the collective resources.

Thank you to everyone who helped me out with this presentation. I hope someday I can return the favor.