Sunday, December 23, 2007

They May Look Different but, the Message is Still the Same

It's been interesting to follow the discussions on using other microblogging tools such as Pownce besides Twitter. Some writers have sounded somewhat defensive and upset over having to try one more thing. I don't think I could entirely explain what this jumble of PLNs, chats, and teleconferencing apps. means in the long run. I would have said Skype instead of teleconferencing, but I was invited to try out Grandcentral, which alleviates the need for paying for the Skype-In feature and it may have some other features I can use in place of Skype. Each of these apps. seems to have their own following or people experimenting with what is possible. I've never been bothered by using multiple tools interconnected to get the most out of each one, rather than dealing with multiple weaknesses of just one tool. After all doesn't this really come down to communication and the most effective method to carry out a discussion across the internet, one's network, and to also get enough people aware of your ideas that someone responds? In the case of webcasting for me it is that more people participate through listening and also exchanging ideas in the chatroom.

This whole quest to interlink these PLNs and chatrooms began now that I've become involved with the Webcasting Academy, I noticed that there are usually 2 or 3 or even more people posting tweets about events happening live on Edtechtalk. If I happen to be following the twitter stream I usually try and participate. Most of the time the chat room has between 10 to 40 participants. There is no shared calendar function in Twitter, so unless a person is following the calendar through the website or someone happens to post to a shared chatroom they rely on the haphazard method of following closely their twitter stream. Also when I check to see if someone has responded to something I've asked in Twitter, again I must be careful about keeping track of someone writing back. I'm fortunate now because I can use Snitter to manage and make up for deficiencies in several aspects about the Twitter website and stream I'm trying to follow. When I check the tweets, I notice several possible means through which people post either as a general message, using the @, or by using the direct message method. Again I rely for the most part on Snitter to help me keep track of everything that is happening within the Twitter stream. Pownce has two features built in such as a direct response to a post as well as a calendar for events to be shared by others in the network, built in, and this could help, but this isn't the point really of why I use it.

Someone sent out a tweet the other day about another app. called MoodBlast. It has a fairly simple interface and allows a person to simutlaneously post to several different points on the internet at once. I was impressed because they've built in a way to post to a service such as Facebook and omit words that will still be posted otherwise to Twitter, Tumblr, and Skype. So what is the point of learning all these different tools? Well I would like to see events that happen on Webcasting Academy and Edtechtalk to reach a greater audience. I would like to see the continued development of tools such as MoodBlast to make the need to stick with one PLN such as Twitter no longer necessary. Why would someone be bothered or mind just signing up for other tools if they can post their 140 word Twitter posts and yet someone on Facebook or Tumblr or Jaiku can still read what they wrote? Part of the problem for now is following all the sites, but I envision a time shortly in which this bother of which tool to use for one's PLN will be of less and less important as the forwarding will work both ways between sender and receiver.

Yesterday, I began to interlink as much as possible the different services. Facebook seemed to have the most options to bring in other social netorking tools such as delicious, twitter, and flickr. I had set up an account with Jott a couple weeks ago and yesterday I posted to Twitter and then it was automatically picked up and posted on my Facebook front page.

Now, I'm trying to get in an invitation to Jaiku, if anyone has one. There is a feature to use small icons to indicate what the micropost is referring to either music, writing, etc, possibly a way to let the reader elliminate posts that they are not interested in. It may look different but the message shared between it and everything will be the same.

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Catch the Buzz

Haven't posted anything in several days, but I noticed many educators getting excited about this student created web site.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Incredible Mr. Limpet and Second Life

Having been enjoying the many resources available in Second Life, I realized that the environment is growing on me. I was trying to think of what in my childhood were some of the experiences that could have prepared me to accept its "cartoonish" nature. I thought back to one of my strongest emotional experiences involving cartoons and that had to be when I watched the movie, The Incredible Mr. Limpet, one night at my aunts while all the adults were having a discussion at the kitchen table.

In the movie Don Knotts wants to be a fish, and in this instance his wish is fulfilled. But for a child like myself that loved watching cartoons, here was someone who got to become a cartoon. Relative to Mr. LImpet, the creators of Second Life have chosen flying rather than swimming as a primary way to experience the new physics of this environment. Swimming here seems more like the video games in which after you've fallen off the path you have to move slowly through a sludge like environment. Perhaps someone will come up with a "penguin" mode so a person can sail through the water.

I remember being caught up in the movie as the two worlds of Limpid collided and interweaved, but the essential message was that being a cartoon underwater was a place were one's dreams could come true relative to the harsh and unfair real world. He becomes a hero, falls in love, and with the help of his friend Crusty, defeats the Nazi submarine navy. At the end of the movie as Limpid swam off in the sea and his "oogah" sounds faded off I remember the tears welling up in my eyes and feeling sad. Was it because the two worlds that he had been in were going to forever be separated? I can't be sure because getting back to how I felt I only remember the sadness.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Importance of Personal Learning Networks

This is my second attempt at writing and trying to explain the deep feelings I've felt after watching Jeff Utecht's preso on personal learning networks. Last year I went to the NECC in San Diego and came away energized and excited for the school year. I learned about ideas and teaching tools that I either had no or a little exposure to. I thought about implementation of these tools as I started meeting with some of the other teachers at my school. My Bloglines account was up to about 220 feeds and that was after I trimmed it and even lost all my RSS feeds while trying to set up NetNewsWire (I've since switched to using Google reader and Netvibes). I was determined to bring onboard at my school more of the teachers on my 4th and 5th grade team to the triumvirate of blogging, wikis and podcasting. As the school year started I slowed up on my reading to set up what I was doing and helping other grade levels with and stopped blogging all together by the later part of September. I wasn't too bothered by this as within the RSS feeds that I subscribed to were some of the most brilliant, thoughtful, connected and cutting edge teachers that I could find. I started a few blog posts about some idea that someone had written about, or examples of what I was also reflecting on based on current edtech events, and by the time I was ready to publish I would usually see 4 or 5 references to what I was writing about only articulated in a much clearer way than I could muster. I didn't fret too much about this as I keep a writing journal that I write and scribble on with an old style fountain pen with "sea blue" ink. By the time the December break came around I had met someone whom I'm now engaged to and by the beginning of March we were talking on Skype every day for at least an hour and my RSS reader was piling up with articles. I went to the CUE conference in Palm Springs and got to see Will Richardson for the second time since the NECC give a keynote address, saw David Thornberg and his amazing reflections, and got to see Steve Hargadon in the Open Source area. Over the course of the school year I felt more and more disconnected to the writers whose thoughts and experiences I had followed for close to two years. I wasn't an active participant in the conversation but had become a passive observer and reader. I didn't know how to reconnect. But two things altered my understanding of what I was doing wrong in my professional development. The first flash of understanding has come with my signing up for the Webcasting Academy, listening and interacting at Edtechtalk,  and a few friendly and welcoming chat messages from Lisa Durff . And it wasn't until I saw Utecht's preso that I really understood why I've felt so connected over the past few weeks. I've been stumbling and fumbling but beginning to build my personal learning network. And as Jeff says this isn't the same as a learning community. I've been signed up for a long time with all the communities I could find on Ning, Yahoo groups, Google groups, and newsletters, that seemed pertinent like Edutopia, Edtechweek, Discovery Education Network, Technology and Learning etc. for a long time. I'd occasionally post a comment or reaction. They are a part of the information I need along with my RSS reader, but it was the PLN that I was missing. I've been needing the interactions that were more like a true conversation and personal either through chat, or Skype or Twitter. It makes me want to cry to think of what I was not understanding. Perhaps for some of us because we become the go to person or source of information for some tech or computer question that we lose the understanding that we have needs as well as fulfilling the needs of help others around us. Start now, build your personal learning network. Watch Jeff's presentation. Unfortunately many of us exist in a place where most of the other teachers around us may not be ready for Twitter, and chatting, and Skype and Ustream, but don't make the mistake I did and let yourself be fooled into thinking that a personal relationship with a staff at a school or the district office can substitute for what you need deep inside for your own learning. Don't limit your conversations to those whose views you are trying to move into the 21st century. Unfortunately our colleagues around us may take a long time or perhaps never reach the same level of understanding of what we feel so passionately our students need to keep learning and the classroom relevant for them.

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Jeff Lebow's WebstreamingUstreamChatting Unconference Keynote

Earlier in the week I was privileged to participate in an unconference keynote by Jeff Lebow at the NEIT and NYSAIS conference via a Ustream feed that also allowed me to interact and chat. The experience was pretty overwhelming, and I struggled the rest of the school day to understand and process what I had gone through. The vision and work Jeff put into what he was doing amazed and heartened me. It was as much about vision and utilizing what's available and pushing others into a conversation to help them understand as it was about perfection. The conference space bandwidth was quickly overwhelmed with what he was doing. But it worked, maybe not perfectly, but all these tools are available as open source or free. Yes, we see satellite feeds and video feeds all the time from TV networks, but what he did was on an open internet access point with tools available to anyone. Having the vision to dream of what these tools can do for education, playfully applying them without regard to trying to impress or sway anyone, and helping other educators/librarians/technologists learn about what these tools may/will do for the education field eventually by promoting conversation was the point. All the conference participants were expected to actively participate by any of several possibilities. What made this conversation different was that it was more a "digital conversation," as Lisa Durff points out, as it was a face to face conversation. As Durff also points out our students may have types of face to face conversations all the time but we need to help them move their digital conversations to a meaningful and organized level. Here are some of the web apps. that were used: Ustream, Meebo, Snapvine, VoiceThread, Twitter, Widgetbox to promote participation.

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Lesson Learned

For numerous reasons I haven't posted much in the past year. Why start posting again? I think I've altered my stance on learning about technology tools that don't relate or I can't implement for my students to use. Last winter/spring there was a lot of excitement over the use of Twitter and Second LIfe. I half-heartedly set up accounts but didn't go much beyond that. I realized right away that I wouldn't be having my 4th and 5th grade students twittering or creating avatars anytime soon. Now however I realize that for some things I need to learn them regardless of having direct applicability to my students. In fact I felt rather disconnected to the edutech bloggesphere (is that spelled with two "g"s or one?) by not learning more about them. My RSS reader was full of articles that I couldn't relate to. Instead of trusting the educators and bloggers whom I've grown to feel close to through their writing, I let my own personal growth lapse and I suffered because of it. Lesson, some things I need to learn for myself and the fun of doing so just because. So if you haven't tried something, but all the brightest people you read are, I would recommend doing something about it.

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How do you Handle your Data Streams?

I thought I had a glimpse the other day on why I'm fascinated by data streams big and small. For my students I feel connected to them, somewhat maternal I have a better knowledge of when and what they like to work on. I know which of them has been working and solving the puzzle of Wikispaces. I feel maternal and protective that everything is ok with them. I can feel connected to them even when I've been to the dentist and not taught at school that day. Many students that are the least successful on the standardized assessments shine and grow on the production of virtual code, data, pictures, sounds, real time flow. Am I moving to a place where the stream as source is what I crave? Too impatient to wait for the archival process. Is Wikipedia . . . I have a bad habit of working in fits and starts, but streams even when down to a trickle still flow. How do you handle your data streams? I put them in places they don't belong. My Entourage email box fills with tiny little edits, and I let it be because the steps are small but just as important as many other items that fill my email. I keep multiple copies of these streams through RSS and I have apps. and web apps. so that I can look and play with the data, or let the data play with me. Streams, got to keep the streams flowing and becoming more meaningful, the path of conversation and learning. I've never understood completely certain books, but have my own vision of what they hold. An example of one of those is the noosphere of Teilhard de Chardin. All that data circling over head and through us the Wifi photo microwave cellphone voice internet video streams. . .

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