Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is the world really flat?

I realize that there are a TON of very well written blog posts on Thomas Friedman's Book, "The World is Flat," and that I myself have written about it on a few occasions, but a recent incident have brought the idea back in my mind

At the beginning of this month I attended the NCETC conference, with Jim Moulton as the keynote speaker. Moulton had a good deal to speak about the flat world, and more specifically about his recent trip to China. I also had the opportunity to talk with him throughout the conference (thanks to the intro from Eric & Keith). When I introduced my husband to him, it was interesting to see some ideas converge.

You see my husband, Brent, is in textiles. Textiles are the classic example of cheap labor going oversees taking away American jobs. Almost every mill Brent has ever worked for has either moved overseas, or simply gone out of business. Now he has traveled extensively and worked overseas quite a bit, especially in Asia. But what intrigued Mr. Moulton the most (and of course me) was Brent's explanation for why he still has a job in textiles.

"Although the mills themselves (and not all of them mind you) may have gone overseas, most of the Research & Development has not. The thinkers are staying here."

This got Jim very excited, for one of the points he made (I believe in his keynote, but possibly somewhere else) was that several of the countries America is competing with are not trying to create thinkers, but create doers. Ironically, I find that most of our own education system was once built upon the same principles, and unfortunately has no changed much.

But at the same time this concept of history, of ebb and flow, of how careers and jobs constantly change, reminds me of how fluid we truly need education to be. That we need to think of educating our students not for a final destination, but a starting point from which to grow upon.

Sometimes I feel like I am living in a flat world, some days I know I am.

Personal Mentors

One of the things I love to do (and always pray that it works) when I teach about PLNs is to call out to the audience and got to their favorite website, find the RSS feed and subscribe to it in my Google Reader. It is a neat little "parlor trick", but it really does illustrate how fast and easy this is. One of the byproducts of this demo is the fact that I end up with new subscriptions in my RSS feed. Now not everything in my Google Reader pertains to education (shocking I know), but I have good deal of blogs on Art & Quilting as well as on Technology. I've been a Boing Boing fan for years, but recently (thanks to a volunteering audience member) I was turned onto Lifehacker. Lifehacker is not just technology based (just like Boing Boing isn't), and I recently came across a great article on Professional Development How to Get the Right People on Your Team.

When you get that urge to start making some changes in your professional life, do yourself a favor and build in a network of support. If you’re not ready to hire a professional coach, then get yourself someone who will help keep you accountable to set and hold to your new goals. This new model of peer-to-peer coaching is priceless

The article is about building a support network for professional growth - sounds like a Personal Learning Network to me!

It even starts with creating a Mind Map (my how educational of you), of the people that influence you. Dream big and add those authors that influence how you think of things, and practical by remembering those that help you everyday.

But it gets better - see this as a peer-to-peer personalized coaching program. You each take turns being a "mentor" to each other. See Womack's checklist:

  • Create your inventory of names of people to work with
  • Ask people until you find someone who’s excited to work with you
  • Write down three to ten questions you want to be asked each session
  • Create a schedule: what day/time you’ll talk and how long each session is (ie, how many weeks/months per person)
  • Get your technology in place: sign up for Skype or create a speed dial entry on your cellphone
  • Organize a place to track results: create a folder, spreadsheet, or even an online survey
  • Dream big. Imagine the life you’d like to be living and design the questions that will guide you to making that your reality.
I hope to get my mind map up here soon. This reminds me so much of the mentoring process I experienced as a first-year teacher by one of my favorite people in the world - Susan Lobasso. I would never have survived without that support, and why can't I have it all the time!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Conference Blogging

As much as I love to blog during a conference, I am at a loss over how to do it well. There are many options out there:

  1. Compose a blog post while you are in attendance - these tend to be a bit, well, long winded. Sometimes they make sense, but often times they don't. David Warlick & Wes Fryer are big fans of this technique.
  2. Use a Live blogging tool like Cover it live. Alice Mercer is one of the first I had seen use this tool. Cindy Phthstic used it at the last conference I attended - NCETC. This has been my favorite tool, it make more sense when you read it afterwards, and is easy to do at the time.
  3. My new favorite way to cover a conference is illustrated by Dan Meyer. Now granted he is a bit more critical of presenters than I feel comfortable being, but I like the concept of organizing your thoughts. His blog post is more a review of the session with the following sections: Session Title, Better Session Title, Presenter, Narrative, Visuals, Handouts, & Homeless.
I think I'll try out Dan's technique at the next conference I attend (if there is actual travel money next semester). I hope it will help me organize my thoughts a bit better.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

NCETC Reflections

I've been attending NCETC for several years now, as one of the two NC-based tech conferences. Its hard for me to say this, but I just didn't get as much out of this conference as I have in the past. Maybe it's because I presented so much, I never got to any sessions, or maybe the bar has been set so high by NECC, its hard to compare anything to it. I felt like I was doing some of the smae old things - there seemed to be no energy and I felt like I was floundering. Everyone was nice enough to say I presented well, but I just didn't feel like I was with it. It is such a stark contrast to the euphoric high I felt a few weeks ago at MEGA, that I am at a loss to describe why.

However, the best part of this conference was getting to connect with those that I have only met briefly or know virtually. In the past I have traveled to this conference with a group of people I know, and everything is coordinated. This time I really was on my own and enjoyed the flexibility. I got a chance to really get to know Eric Cole & Keith Ledford from McDowell County, whom I met last year at NCETC, and have kept up with via twitter. I got to hang out with Cindy Phthisic (misstizzy to you :) - not as much as I wanted to - and meet Sarah Hanawald. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed meeting and connecting with people at NECC. I mean I could have stayed in my hotel room, cozied up with the TV and some much needed peace and quiet, but what MADE this conference for me were the connections, and I hope I made a few more.

To top that off, this afternoon my advisior and I were able to weedle our way in ;) to having lunch with Jim Moulton and David Warlick. Eric & Keith introduced me to Jim after their pre-conference workshop session with him, and I was so impressed with how to down to earth and excited he was about education, and how technology can enhance it. I enjoyed getting a chance to talk to him throughout the conference and was excited about talking with him more. I always enjoy talking with David Warlick and it seems we always seem to meet quite fortuitously :) Sometimes I get so excited about talking about this education, that you just can't shut me up. But hey, that is what made me a teacher in the first place right?

All in all, it was the people that made this conference for me. I hope to have the opportunity to meet so many more and continue to add some face time to my online network.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


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I'll be presenting at NCETC next week. Here's my schedule:

Prg.#: E060
Session: Create Your Own Social Network with Ning
Room: Victoria B
Room Capacity: 126
Day: Wednesday
Time: 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM

Prg.#: E058
Session: Harnessing the Power of the Network: Creating a PLC
Room: Victoria C
Room Capacity: 126
Day: Wednesday
Time: 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Prg.#: E059
Session: The Art of Instant Moodles
Room: Victoria C
Room Capacity: 126
Day: Thursday
Time: 9:15 AM to 10:15 AM

There seems to be one other person presenting on Ning, 2 others (including David Warlick & misstizzy) on PLN (oh why did I call it PLC in my session description?) and I can't find anyone else talking about Moodle. So I think that bodes well. Although last year only 5 guys showed up to my Moodle session, but we had a great time :)

I hope to blog and tweet while I am there. I'll be using ncetc & ncetc08 as my tags. Hopefully David Warlick will be adding ncetc08 to hitchhikr - the best way to keep track of conferences!

I'm really looking forward to seeing some friends and have some plans already made! Let me know if you're headed to NCETC!

2008 Edublog Nominations

In trying to decide who to nominate, I actually used my trending data from google reader. Instead of using what I read, I looked at what blogs I shared the most on my shared items page from google reader. Even though the read data is good, I think the shared items show what I find interesting enough to tell everyone else.

My Edublog nominations are:

1. Best individual blog - The Bamboo Project Blog - Michele Martin

2. Best group blog - Leader Talk

3. Best new blog - The Connected Classroom - Kristen Hokanson

4. Best resource sharing blog - Around the Corner -

6. Best teacher blog - The Blog of Ms. Mercer - Alice Mercer

11. Best educational use of video / visual - Moving at the Speed of Creativity

13. Best educational use of a social networking service - Classroom 2.0

I didn't vote on every category - if I couldn't think or find someone easily, I didn't vote for it. I wish I could say my blog reading is as well rounded as the Edublogs nominations are!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Big Ideas for Education

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I've been following David Warlick's Big Ideas For Education Project over at 2 cents worth and haven't really had a chance to participate. First of all, I think it was a great way to demonstrate collaboration and second, I like thinking of solutions rather than just problems - but you have to know the problems first. So far the issues have been condensed into eight categories. The first one that jumps out at me is

#4: Overhaul teacher education, and policies and procedures for professional development. Now this mainly has to do with the fact I deal with Teacher Education on a daily basis, but I also have the perspective of currently dealing with "revisioioning" our programs.

The major push and pull with all revisioning is "What do we want to do?" vs. "What are the requirements imposed on us by the university, and the state?" As much as I would love for us to just teach what we want and not worry about the regulations of a university or a licensing structure - it is those two items that lend credence to a program. Now many see that as a barrier - and maybe this Big Idea project is supposed to look beyond those barriers, but I think working within these structures is a reality we are faced with.

I am also struck by the way we write ourselves into a corner, that we can't escape afterwards. We know technology will change, we know that 21st Century Skills is just a buzz word and that underlying those concepts are skills that will continue to evolve and build upon. We need to build flexibility into these programs that allow for the eventual change we will encounter.

One of the ideas we are throwing around here is to create a supplemental CEU program. When our students graduate they will be thrown into the world of CEUs for keeping up their license - why not use that same model at the pre-service level. This would allow us to 1) Supplement instruction 2)Stay current 3)Model what students will experience in the "real world"

We are currently coming up with what our model would look like, and how it would be utilized throughout an undergraduates program.

One other note on this project - I did see one comment on having all teachers just have a content undergraduate degree and then get a teaching license afterwards. I struggle with this idea personally. It is hard to say what is more important content or the way you teach the content. I don't think you can be an effective teacher without both. I worry that if you loose too much of the how to teach, we will lose more teachers. I have never meant a teacher that left teaching because they didn't know their content, I have met a good deal that did not feel prepared to teach it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What blogger type are you?

Michelle Martin over at The Bamboo Project Blog directed me to the Typealyzer website that analyzes your blog. Based on your blog text the Typealyzer will assess what "role" you write from. Now I have taken several Myers Briggs test in my day - I'm a typical ENFJ, so I was interested to see what my blog is :)

Apparently I am a:

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

I like the fact that this sees my blog as not only independent and as a risk taker. I think both of those fit what I want to become as an educator, and I do think that firefighters are quite akin to teachers at times!

But how can this information help me? Well, I think understanding the persona that my blog presents to the public, can aid me in the direction I want to go in.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Kicking Moodle Up a Notch

I've been advocating for Moodle use for about 2 years now. I've done a good deal of entry level trainings, but now it is time to "kick it up a notch." I found William Rice's book, "Moodle Teaching Techniques" a few months ago, but only recently sat down to read it. He really provides great insight in utilizing the unique tools available to Moodle. Here are a few things I'm going to try next based on his recommendations:

  • Create seperate forums for groups
  • Create a "Best of" forum where you post student work that is exemplary
  • Use the forum rating system for peer reviews
  • Use the Admin>Logs to see posting log (to gauge participation)
  • Use People>Participants to see all posts by student
  • Use flow control to have students progress through a lesson

  • Have students create indepth profiles
  • Have students make review questions
I also have not used the "Choice Activity" before. He recommends using it to sign-up for group projects. What a great idea!

Hopefully, I'll get a chance to use these in practice soon. I'm looking for other hints on the web and will be bookmarking them in delicious.

Monday, November 3, 2008

My proposal

I just e-mailed off my 2nd (yes I chose a different topic and decided to write ANOTHER) proposal to my "official" committee today. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I'm pretty proud of what I produced, and amazed at the same time that I had it in me. You see, I'm not a writer, or at least I have never thought of myself as one. I enjoy reading, but writing.... not for me. Writing this proposal has been a huge struggle for me. From finding the time, to finding the inspiration I have been at wits end for more than a few months. However, the following things have enabled me to actually get to this point.
  1. Take time off from work. You'll never be able to fit it into the weekend and get everything else you need done. And if you are like me you feel more than just a little guilty about leaving the house a mess and your partner with the kids. This also helps keep down the distraction factor of a cute 1 year old. They are at daycare :)
  2. Set deadlines - like really set them. I have set deadlines in the past for myself and have just watched them float by - feeling immensely guilty and even more overwhelmed. It was amazing to feel the power of - no this is due Monday and everyone knows it. I can deal with that. Its not easy but I can deal with it.
  3. Brake everything up into manageable chunks. At first I had one large document with my proposal outline. It made the task so daunting. But when I made separate documents for each section it became much more manageable. I'd set mini-goals for each day I took off that aligned with the sections I was working on. In the end I was able to just combine them all together.
  4. Rely on your friends I called in all the favors I had, but in the end everyone wanted to help me out. From my friends who helped me edit and work through my statistics (I know all about the power valuse of my one-way ANOVA - or something like that). To my committee chairs who took the time to look at my proposal in it's infant stages to ensure that I was going in the right direction and to help me change what I need to do.
  5. Marry the right person. OK you may think that is meant to be funny, but seriously without a great partner in life - this would not have happened. Brent's constant support (he actually made me think I could do this) to taking Evan away for the entire weekend so I could put the finishing touches on my proposal were above and beyond the call of duty. I could not have done this without my friends and family.
So it's not completely over, but I'm a fair bit of the way done. Now I just hope they like it :) (Oh and that they don't read my blog... right?)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Creating a new kind of presentation

So after seeing some really interesting PowerPoint slides pop up over the blogosphere, I decided to try a new kind of presentation method. Instead of having a theme and slides with bullet points each slide conveys one thing and is associated with an appropriate picture.

It was a lot of fun to create, but it did take more time than I had planned. I used Flickr Storm ( to find pictures. You kind of have to think of one word tag descriptions for what you want, otherwise you will spend even more time trying to find pictures! I then verifyed that they were all liscensed through Creative Commons for use. This way I could use them not only in my presentation, but repost them as well. I always gave photo credit on the image itself, as well as created a delicious tag ( for all the pictures I used. This way not only was it easier for me to remember where I got the pictures from, but also so that others could find them as well.

Then I posted the presentation on SlideShare for others to use and see. Slideshare takes your presentation and creates images of the slides that can be "flipped" within a webpage (much easier than the way we used to publish PP files to the internet). The only drawback is that since they are images, there are no transitions between objects - you would need to have them on separate pages rather than all on one. This was important when actually giving the presentation for certain slides. In the end I think it worked very well. I plan on tweeking this presentation for an upcoming MEGA meeting, but overall I'm pretty proud of it and will continue to use this method - until the next one comes along!

Photo Credit:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day - Poverty

I have been very fortunate in my life, not just because I have never known what it is like to feel impoverished, but also because I wasn't raised in ignorance of it. One of the greatest skills I was ever taught from my school, church, and family was having empathy, not pity, for others. Charity, and not just in the form of "things", was important and still is an important part of my life.

However, as empathetic and understanding as I may think I am, nothing would prepare me for what I would learn from being a student teacher in an impoverished area of the state. Now my student teaching experience wasn't exactly "optimum," but I was teaching Principles of Technology to 7th & 8th graders. This is technically a Vocational Ed class, and a redesign of "Woodshop." It was a hard group, but slowly I began to reach them. The best thing I ever did was agree to help coach the girl's softball team. As an avid player, this was an easy decision, but what I didn't realize was how it would make me connect with my students more than anything. Few parents could make it to the games, since they were right after school, and we had a special activity bus to take all the kids home after games.

My parents has always been so supportive of my after school activities. I can hardly remember a home game that was not attended by some member of my family. I felt so bad for my players, that their families couldn't come see them. I had one player in particular that took it hard, and one day missed the bus to take her home. So I broke the rules and drove her home in my car. Little was I prepared for her neighborhood or her home. She had to hurry in to make dinner for her 9 brothers and sisters, and didn't invite me in.

But I learned something that day. Not to pity her because of her surroundings, but to celebrate her for persevering. That she could be happy and find joy. That was eye opening for me. There are a few students and experiences I will never forget, and I will forever be grateful about what she taught me about enjoying life.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Technology Questionairre

I was asked by a student in a Communications class to answer the following questions. My responses are as follows:

1. Has the use of technology changed in the classroom changed since you started teaching? If so, how?

I received my education degree in 1999, although the Internet was used in my college classrooms, it was not widely available nor was it used in schools. The advent of wikipedia, and other Internet resources have greatly changed the way content is taught. Another major change for technology is affordability. When I began teaching desktop computers were in labs and classrooms, but projectors, document cameras and smart boards were not widely used or available. Now laptops, and their flexibility have transformed classrooms, by having the computer labs come to them.

2. Have you seen technology use in the classroom as an advantage or a disadvantage?

I personally see technology in the classroom as an advantage in the classroom. In order to prepare our students for the 21st Century, we need to be providing them with the skills they will need after they graduate.

3. Are you required to take classes when a new form of technology has to be applied in your teaching? If so, are they helpful?

When I was in the K-12 classroom I was required to take Continuing Education Units, these were not always technology workshops, but reading, differentiated instructions, etc. The quality of these classes varied, but I always enjoyed finding out about a new technology and how teachers were using it in their classroom.

4. How do you think technology in the classroom will be used in the next ten years?

I believe (actually hope) that technology will change the classroom dynamic that we currently see. With the advent of ubiquitous computing, I foresee every student having their own laptop. That technology will be as common and as required as pen and paper are. Lessons and classrooms will need to be student and project focused rather than lecture and teacher focused.

5. When students are given the opportunity to use online courses it means that they are to be trusted to do their own work. When you observe students taking online course, do you think that they're benefiting from having full responsibility or do you think they take the easy way out?

I think you need to change the dynamics of your assignment. If everyone is given the same assignment or quiz, the temptation to share information is too great. Students need to be given projects or activities that either require collaboration and group work is encouraged, or individual projects.

6. How do you think technology use can be improved so that students can do honest work and gain from online courses?

I don't believe that the technology needs to be improved, I think the classes need to be changed to a different medium. (See answer above)

7. The Internet is a helpful tool when researching. Some sites are so helpful that the students don't even have to do much work. How do you feel about this?

If your class is the simple regurgitation of facts, rather than a synthesis of what appears on the Internet, than the class is flawed.

8. Do you think that technology will replace teachers altogether?

If as a student I could learn something by reading it in a book, then reading it on the Internet would be no difference. Even dynamic interaction of online games, etc. is not as conducive to learning as a teacher is. Computers will never replace teachers, because we need them to challenge, adapt, encourage, and assist us in ways a computer could never do.

I feel that the questions are a bit skewed towards "Internet Bad" and that my answers were probably a bit too "Internet Good." But that's what they get for asking a Tech Facilitator :)

Team Presenting

I did a 1:1 Workshop the other week with the wonderful Joselyn Todd. It reminded me of how much I enjoy presenting with other people, not only the presentation part, but the planning part. It has always helped me to be able to talk items over with others to help me synthesize what I am trying to get across. (I used to joke that reason I asked so many questions in class was because I wanted to have a 1-on-1 conversation with them rather than a lecture).

I recently came across this when working on troubleshooting an issue with a colleague of mine at CALS (College of Agriculture & Life Sciences). We were able to work out the problem by thinking it out together, and it was much more fun than frustrating.

I feel sometimes this burden to be the one that comes up with everything, that has to be the inspiration and the fixer of technology. It can be a bit lonely, and as much as my Twitter friends help, it was nice to do some in-person collaboration.

I guess it goes goes to show that authentic, project-based learning environments are good for everybody!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Creating a Ning - What I have learned so far

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I created a Ning for the College of Education at NC State about 6 months ago. We officially unveiled it at the begining of the semester, and so far have over 150 members. I've run into some "stumbling blocks" that I'd like to share with others that are interested in starting a Ning themselves.

1) Public vs. Private
This has been a big issue with us, should our Ning be open or not? In the end (and after getting feedback from the faculty), we decided to leave the main Ning open, to allow users to dictate the transparency of their pages (private, only friends, etc.). Then groups can be closed as need be. This has allowed us to have poublic and private areas of the site - and so far is working quite well

2) Private Groups
The biggest issue with Private Groups is managing membership. For example, if you want to invite someone to join a group this is the process:
-They recieve invitation
-They join Ning
-They then have to request invitation to private group
-Group admin has to approve (even if you sent them the original invite)
-Then they have to confirm the invitation before they are added
This has added several days in the group process and in between the last two steps they seem to virtaully disappear from the management tabs.

Right now I've decided to manually confirm each photograph. This is a tricky area for me, normally we would request everyone submit a Photo Release form, but since these are all "Adults" posting photos themselves (not me posting them) it gets a bit well murky.

4)Group Page
I have issues with the design of the group page and I can't appear to change it without changing the apperance on the main page - this is annoying to me and others that want to customize their group pages.

5) Changing Text
You can actually change the Welcome Messages, etc. in Ning in the LANGUAGE TAB. This made no sense to me at first and took me awhile to figure out.

6)Premium Services
They are worth it. If you are dealing with kids, you can get the ads removed for free, but in our case we didn't qualify. But I don't have a problem paying $19.95/month to get them taken off. I wish I had actually gotten the custom URL in the beginning (its a bit late now I think) but otherwise the premium services are a good way to get "credibility" for a non-educational service like Ning. (When I say non-educational I mean that they are not JUST education - they have tons of sites associated with Ning - some not appropriate)

7) Purpose
Be upfront about the purpose of the Ning. In my case, this is not a replacement of a CMS. This is a supplementary area for classes and groups within the college. Ideally it is for those that share interests, but don't know each other, to be able to meet virtually. I think this becomes even more important with our influx of Distance Ed courses.

8)Keep tabs on your Ning
The best way for me to do this is through the latest activity RSS feed. This way I'm not getting a billion e-mails, but I still feel like there is a level of oversight for the website. One of the things people (and when I say people I mean faculty) have concerns about is the ability for anyone to put anything on the site. Keeping on top of the site (which by the way has had no issues so far - cross your fingers).

I've used Steve Hargadon as my guide through the world of Ning, and went to one of his sessions at NECC, but it really took getting into it before I understood what I wanted and what it could do.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Voices of NC

One of the great things about my job is the diversity of professors I work with. There are some new kids on the block (they've been here for like 2 years now, but I still see them as new :). that are doing some fascinating things.

The most rewarding thing I can ever do is introduce someone to a tool and just have them go with it. It is amazing to me what they will come back with and how far they have grown past what I can teach them. Now these two guys I could never assume to teach them anything, but they collaborate with me and I just learn so much. OK, so now I'm gushing, but I want to share this incredible project they are working on.

Voices of NC
is a project that is focused on understanding a sense of community and place with our surroundings. It has many strands, from language and dialect, to community and diversity. I had the opportunity to work with this group last year on doing podcasting and it amazes me where they have gone with it.

They key to all of this I think is how stellar their web presence is. They are not only doing exceptional work - they are sharing it! The teacher generated projects there, but also the curricular materials generated by the faculty.

I can't say enough good things about this project. It was great to be a small part of it and I hope they continue to do more!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Creepy Treehouse vs. Walled Garden

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One of the great things about the ed tech industry is their ability to coin phrases. I had never heard of these before until I went to NECC, and although they look on the surface to be completely unrelated, they are intimately acquainted.

The "Creepy Treehouse effect" which has been discussed in-depth by Chris Lott and Jared Stein is used to describe what happens when teachers join student social areas - such as Facebook or MySpace. Based on the information session I had with our college students last semester it was obvious how much they did not want us (and I define us as any authority figures) in their space. What they are they most afraid of is the "cyber-stalking" that they expect from their peers, but repel from their parents.

Most of us have experienced this "Creepy Treehouse Effect," maybe not as a student, but as someone with a presence on the Internet. The first time someone you don't know walks up to you and asks if you are feeling better because they read your Twit about it earlier that week - you will freak out just a bit.

So how do we use the power of Social Networks without the creepiness? We create a "walled garden," a place that utilizes the tools of a social network, but in a more controled environment. There are a few tool out there to do this, but Ning & ELGG are by far the most popular. Ning is the choice of most communities, mostly because it is free - while ELGG is a server based open source system. I've written about Ning & ELGG a bit, and IMHO ELGG just wasn't at the place I needed it to be - it just had its 1.0 release. So we went with Ning & so far the results have been fantastic. The students appear to appreciate having a social network that is seperate from their personal life - while the instructors are learning more about how their students interact.

So far so good....

Sunday, August 17, 2008


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I'm a big advocate of avatars in education. One of the things I have found in working with students online is how powerful a medium it is. When students know that "the whole world" is viewing their work, and not just their teacher, they really put a good deal more effort into their product. They are proud of what they have created and that sense of individualism and personal pride is important - but how do you do that without putting your students "at risk" online? How do you add personalization without a picture - especially in tools where pictures, or avatars represent your work, i.e. VoiceThread? Here are a few of the tools/options that I have used in the past and how they have worked for me. I also have to give a big shoutout to my twitter friends who helped me find some new sites!

Have your students draw a representation of themselves, scan it in and use as their image online. This way students get to use their artwork and represnt themselves.

Portrait Avatar Maker (
This one is by far one of the "safest" creators. There are no options that would make a middle schooler giggle (see WeeMee). But there are almost too many options. I would imagine my students taking forever to create their perfect image.

WeeMee (
I like the way the WeeMee avatar looks a bit better. However, there are some options that I would not feel comfortable asking my middle schoolers or high schoolers to do, nor would I want to walk them through it.

Simpsonize (
I have to say when I first saw this I thought - now way. But I actually think this may be the best of the bunch. There are only a few options, so it won't take forever in class. There aren't any inappropriate questions, and it is just plain fun!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On My Own...Website

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I've been contemplating taking the plunge for awhile now. It is finally time to get my own website and who do I turn to for recommendations? The twitterverse of course! I was amazed at the response I received:

netposer -
hurricanesfan66 - dreamhost
alscillitani -
redefining -
billgx - &

So now I just have to decide on one!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My goal is to make me be NOT needed

My husband may die a small death when he realizes this is my goal - but it is. I want my teachers to not NEED me anymore. My goal is to teach them how to find tools, assess their validity and make them work in their classroom. I could never (and don't want to) try and teach them every tool that exists - I want to give them the skills to find the tool for themselves.

I've been asked a good deal lately to define what it is I do. Not because they don't believe in what I do (so I'm not out of a job yet :) but because they are actually considering cloning me. Seriously, we are looking at another Instructional Technologist (do not send me resumes - you know how this works - it will probably never happen). It still amazes me how people in education (and we have a degree program in IT) have no idea what an Instructional Technologist does or is supposed to do.

However, in deconstructing my job, I have discovered that the most important thing I do really has nothing to do with technology per se. People feel comfortable coming to me and discussing what they are doing. My job is primarily to listen and bring the right tool sets to the table. Yes, I may do training and develop workshops, but when it comes to what makes me valuable - it is my ability to connect the right people together.

So maybe I'm not out of job after all :)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

What is your theme music?

I’ve always had theme music. I mean there are certain songs that motivate me in my life. I believe this springs from all of the Basketball Warm-up songs that I have had played before the “Big Game.” “Shook Me All Night Long” and “Mysterious Ways” still remind me of taking the court for the first time as a Freshman in high school playing on the Varsity Team (no I wasn’t that good, but when you are 5’10” in 7th grade and your school doesn’t have JV, well you get the idea). So to this day I still have certain songs that I listen to to pump me up.

So here are mine:
Short Skirt & a Long Jacket” by Cake. This is the song I listen to when I need to quote “tour the facility and take up slack.” Anytime I need to go into a meeting and standup for myself, this is the song I either listen to or just play in my head. It gets me in the right frame of mind to just get it done.
Talk on Indolence” by The Avett Brothers. My best friend has named this the dissertation song. The beginning lyrics say, “Reading and writing and searching for reasons. The summer the spring the winter the snow, the record will stop and the record will go. The world outside just goes and goes…” Everytime I get frustrated with finding the right words- I realize that others have gone through it too.
Gonna Make You Love Me” by Ryan Adams. This is what I listen to on my walk to work. It gets me going and almost makes me want to skip ☺

So what’s your theme song?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Should you teach how to use a tool?

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One of the things that I always get asked when I do a "computer training session" is - Why do I have to come? Why can't I just play with it? I am torn on this subject, because to be honest I play with the program to discover how to teach it, so why do I bother teaching it? Why don't I let them play too?

Then I remember a conversation I had with my good friend Amy about Jane Austen. Now I love Jane Austen, and had read all of her novels, but I didn't really take to Northanger Abbey. The book seemed a bit too, well girly. What I had always loved about Austen's novels is that they were very empowering (to the heroine at least), in a time where female empowerment wasn't the most popular topic. Amy (did I mention she was a former English teacher?) was shocked that I didn't like the novel, "She is making fun of gothic novels - it is a parody." Well you could have bowled me over. I hadn't gotten it, and I probably never would have gotten it.

So I think that is the key, sure you can play with a tool, and you may even get it. However, having someone guide you in the process not only save time, but it keeps you from missing the point.

In other words, learning in a vacuum is possible, but not as rewarding.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Moodle Resources

I spent yesterday presenting about Moodle at a 1:1 conference for NC schools that are either interested or on their way to ubiquitous computing. They were excited and scared all at the same time, but it was great that they were getting an opportunity to share that. I had agreed to do a "hands-on" session which even though I knew that would be impossible I wanted to at least talk to them about Moodle could do. I was astounded to find that most of these teachers would soon be using Moodle and had never recieved any training. Not only that, but they had never used an LMS before and this was a new concept. I quickly changed my presentation from an overview and playtime with Moodle, "How the heck do I get started?" AKA "What do I need to do first?" What scared me the most though was that I couldn't help them. I couldn't go to their schools and teach all of them and I didn't know who could. So I decided to come up with the resources I could to help them. I hope to create a wiki page soon to bring all these together.

The Three Activities You Should Use the First Time You Use Moodle (Scaffold yourself - start here then move on next semester)
1) Forums
2) Assignments
3) Resources

Online Documentation:
Getting Started with Moodle
Moodle Teaching Certificate

Moodle Training (Corporate Moodle Partners)
Classroom Revolution
Moodle Rooms
Remote Learner
Provides FREE Moodle classrooms to use with your students

NC Learn - Moodle Training - Carolina Online Teacher Program

Hope to include more soon.

EdTech Talk - Its Elementary

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One of the best things about going to NECC was meeting some great people. One of those was Alice Mercer, a blogger, twitter, and educator :) She uses a cell phone in ways that would scare most people - better yet teachers (or should I say administrators ;)

So fast forward a few days and Alice asks me to join her on EdTech Talk. No I have to confess that I have listened to EdTech Talk in the past - but had no idea that it was Alice I was listening to.

Sidenote: It was great to meet people I had no idea were "famous" at NECC. I ended up just talking to so many and then later would find out that I had "heard of them before." It was a great experience, because it allowed me to have no pre-conceived ideas about them

I had a great time on the program. Although the whole time I wanted to know the backend of how they were ustreaming a skype call - you just can't take the geek outta the girl. Cliff Mims (the real star of the show) and I discussed technology skills, or the lack there of, with our pre-service teachers. My favorite part of the discussion revolved around - what can we do to fix it?
1) Cliff: Have our student teachers observe and be placed with technology proficient teachers
2) Me: Create a place (possibly a ning) for students to continue to be connected through the student teaching process as well as after they graduate - their own PLC.

We had a pretty great discussion - please check it out. They might even invite me back :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

I Blame My Father....

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As I lay here on the couch, my legs aching from waiting in line for over 4 HOURS for an iPhone I have decided to blame my father for all of this. After all, it is his fault that I am the geek girl that I am. It all started in 2nd grade (yes - I know - to some I am sooooo old and to others I am sooooo young) when my Dad brought home the Apple IIc to our humble abode. I learned to program "Hello World," played lemonade stand, printed banners and cards with Print Shop, and never quite made it to Orgeon, but I enjoyed the trail. That computer led to my joy of programming Logo and lunches in the computer lab at middle school. By the time our Macintosh 512K showed up the neighborhood was hangin' out in our basement to play David's Midnight Magic (the BEST pinball game evah!) By then, I was soldering together my first Heath Kit and would eventually help my Dad network our burgeoning computer collection. Fast forward 5 or 10 years, where I find my place amoungst the geeks of NCSU and eventually the likes of video gamers. But it all comes back my Dad, and the love for technology and playing with new things and trying to figure out how they work that has led me to this day. Where I stand in line for 4 hours to get the latest gadget the iPhone & I am loving every minute of it.

Did I mention the Apple IIc & Mac 512K are still running and in my attic :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Traveling to Edenton

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Sometimes I forget how "loud" my life is, between the 1 year-old, the construction on campus, the airplane travel it was just refreshing to have a nice contemplative and quiet drive to Edenton, NC. I was lucky that the weather held up and the drive was just wonderful. I wonder sometimes if being born near water (I was born in Seattle) draws you to the sea. Scanning the tops of the sailboats I yearn to be in the middle of the water.

I'm in Edenton for a brief stay and to help with the 21CTL Project that is working with Middle School Science & Math Teachers in the North East region of our state. I helped out with a series of workshops 2 summers ago in the Roanoke Rapids area and I'm excited to be asked to join this group in Edenton.

The best part of this project is the focus on the integration of technology to improve what the teachers are ALREADY DOING in their classroom. Using Vernier Probeware, graphing calculators and laptops, these teachers are taking their labs from the level of making graphs to INTERPRETING them. Plus, playing with probeware is just way too much fun!

Oh and by the way did I mention misstizzy was there? Whom I met via twitter at NCAECT? How cool is that?

Photo Credit: Retrieved: July 9th, 3:30PM EST.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Power of Twitter @NECC

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I have used Twitter passively over the past few months - sometimes forgetting to login for days on end, but I truly felt the power of the tool at this conference. (I hate that I missed the Twitter conversation @ the Blogger Cafe yesterday morning). It allowed for me a way to connect with others that I may never had been able to.

My memorable Twitter moments:
  • Bemoaning my lack of cowboy hat since I was watching the keynote streamed in the blogger cafe and having Marlo Gaddis pick one up for me :)
  • Having Lisa Parisi send out a large group invite for lunch which allowed me to meet Scott Meech, Bud the Teacher, Derrall, Christine, & Adina Sullivan
  • Watching the contest of "Who can Twitter This first" at the Twitter Dinner
  • The Twitter/Edublogger dinner (Thank You again Sharon Betts) that allowed me to connect with the people I have read snippets of their life for so long
  • Sharing session/Ustream information and getting to multitask (It was like traveling with a group of friends and dividing and conquering the sessions)

All in all, even though I'm sure that the non-NECC people that follow me on Twitter were completely perplexed, I think it was THE TOOL that helped make this conference experience one of the great ones.

Monday, June 30, 2008

ENDAPT - Electronic Mentoring

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Research Presentation by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach on "Electronically Mentoring to Develop Accomplished Professional Teachers."

  • Choosing your mentor based on posted background for 1-to-1 or group mentorship
  • Providing Mentor-only space for them to collaboarate
  • Almost all asynchronous and a closed community - with "guest speakers"
  • Heavily facilitated in begining, then became behind the scenes - need a good community leader
  • Mentors were well versed in online communities ffrom TLN
  • Started with structured questions then evolved to Just-in-Time Q&A
  • Did alot to build trust and building a community of practice
  • Multiple directions of conversation and support
  • 110 is when they met critical mass

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Edubloggercon Social Networking & Professional Development

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I enjoyed the first session on Social Networking & Professional Development. Steve Hargadon did a great job of sharing what he has gone through with Edubloggers & Classroom 2.0 as well as Wes Fryer with K-12 Online. I'm glad they didn't just talk about the tools, but the opportunities of a community to come together. However, I wish they could have elaborated a bit more on how they keep a social network thriving? Do you just wait to reach critical mass? DO you have to constantly be the mentor? When can the community take over or will it just fizzle out.......

Edubloggercon - The Beginning

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Its weird to be in a room full of strangers - but yet they are somewhat familiar to you. I was so excited to be at NECC early for the Edubloggercon, yet I am so intimidated by a room full of people and the fact I have no one to sit next to. The morning starts out well, except for the tone of "fight the man" against the Person recording team. Several people, including Ewan McIntosh & Wil Richardson are upset about the "corporate presence" at our fringe festival. I'm not sure what I think, except that they are a bit of a distraction, probably more so for the edutech celebrities than myself.

I trying to upload pictures to my flickr account of the day - so far the hotel internet is not cooperating. Will try later...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Traveling to NECC

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I have finally arrived in San Antonio. Its weird to travel by yourself, I don't do it that often. If I'm not with family, at least I am traveling with people from work - so it is a bit strange to be doing all of this by myself. Now, please do not get me wrong, I am not one of those people that can't do anything by themselves - according to my family I am fiercely independent - its is just weird to eat dinner by yourself. I have no idea how some people travel so much and do this all the time.

Anyways, I was thinking of the last time I was at NECC - in 2006 (I missed Atlanta due to the arrival of Evan) when it was in San Diego. I did all the typical first-time things. I overbooked myself, I went to every single session I could and wore myself ragged. I had a great time meeting so many people and became so inspired by what I heard.

I look forward to the conversations not only at NECC, but at all the "fringe offerings."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Closing thoughts on Moodle Moot in SF

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Overall, I had a great time at the Moodle Moot in SF. I don't often get a chance to "get my geek on" and it was nice to hang out with some truly great people (and did I mention our stellar dinner at Boulevard?) as well as be an adult (comparatively speaking of course) and not sit in the kiddie section for awhile.

The conference itself was great. My only complaint (besides the fact that my East Coast body clock was done with learning by 3pm) was the unreliable internet connection at the conference center. It was amazing to me how frustrating that was. I guess in the future I should BYOB (Bring Your Own Bandwidth like Wes Fryer suggests) if I need to depend on getting things on the internet done.

However, I did get a chance to see some really great people talk including the man himself, Martin Dougiamas who gave a great Keynote. I was trying to describe the transition to Moodle the other day to someone and I'm glad it jived with what Martin had to say. I think that other LMS tools were created in a vacuum as it were, they knew they wanted online courses, but had not the experience to know what actually worked. This is why I like Moodle, at the heart it is a social constructionist epistemology (which was said more than once in the keynote). In other words, it took the pedagogy of how people learn and built a tool to help facilitate that rather than the other way around. The tool fits the way people "should" teach online, rather than the other way around. I like that Martin is not only concerned with the tool itself, but how people teach with and want to better education.

And on that note - this is the end of my Moodle Moot postings - onto my next conference - NECC.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Moodle and Social Networking

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Since the focus of my research lately has been Social Networking - I was intrigued to see a presentation on how Moodle & Social Networking could be brought together. Now I believe Social Networking is bigger than just one tool (i.e. Facebook) and I align it more with the PLN (Personal Learning network - see great post by Jeff Utech) way of thinking and I was happy to see that this session took that same viewpoint.

One of things I worry about is "throwing" too many tools at my faculty. It takes so long for them to overcome some of the hurdles of tool acquisition, that I would rather use an existing tool to do some things. However, forcing a tool to do something it is not intended to do does not always work out.

So Stuart Mealor (whom as I mentioned previously was my favorite speaker from the conference) decided to use Moodle as an aggregator of sorts (reminds me a bit of something like pageflakes or iGoogle to a certain degree). He uses a Moodle Course to "house" all of his social networking or PLN info. Since I am constantly looking for a way to encourage our students to create a web presence for themselves (and not necessarily only through html coding) I really like this idea - but how did he do it?

  • He created a new role for students as a very restricted teacher and called this "owner" (I like this idea, because in the past (like with the Student Portfolio Project) I have created another instance of Moodle and stripped out some of the tools to acomplish this)
  • Each student gets their own course to use as a homepage
The following blocks or add-ins are used:
Here is his example course - you will need to view it with Guest Access

Monday, June 23, 2008

Moodle Teacher Certificate

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The Moodle Teacher Certificate Program is very similar to traditional technology certification programs (think MS Office). However, it looks like a great way to get to all the guts of Moodle (although I wish they would offer a Train-the-Trainer, it is always good to see things from the perspective of your students).

The Basics
Cost - $400 AUS
Time - Approx. 12 weeks (8 weeks of classwork - 4 weeks of exam prep)
Who - Moodle Partner (in the US this is Remote-Learner)

What I like about this program is that it assigns a "Mentor-Assessor" to help you through the process. The classwork mainly consists of creating an entire class that demonstrates your understanding of the "Moodle Standards" of the curriculum. You also have to write a reflection on the pedagogical reasons for doing certain things inside of Moodle. I like this because it seems to elevate this certification above your standard certification program.

I'm seriously considering going for this, not just for myself, but to see what I can pull from it to teach my faculty.

Stuart Mealor (the presenter) is also the Global Certification Manager for the MTC. He was probablly one of the best speakers at the conference. He obviously knows a good deal about Moodle, but is really trying to take it to the next level.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Moodle Pre-Conference Workshop with Michelle Moore

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Michelle Moore works for, which I now understand to be one of the "Moodle Partners" for the US. (More on what a Moodle Partner is later....) I like Michelle, she has obviously used Moodle quite a bit in a school setting, as well as in her role at Remote Learner. During the introductions (which took forever), I was surprised to see how many North Carolina Colleges were there. Besides ourselves, UNC Charlotte and Appalachian State were represented. Made me think we should have an East Coast Moodle Moot!

Michelle wanted to make sure that the topics discussed were of interest to the group so instead of an overview we all requested our own topics to be discussed. (Personally, its an interesting strategy when trying to gauge the knowledge of such a diverse group - but the intros as mentioned earlier took forever.)

However, there were some interesting things I took away.

Traditionally, I think of groups as those within a class for project, discussion, etc. purposes. However, not only can you do some neat things with groups in this traditional viewpoint, but also using them "outside of the box."
1)Use groups to separate forums. - This way students inside the group can post, but others can still read the posts. typically when you create separate forums for group discussion purposes they are not always available to be viewed by the rest of the class. However, they can be just as valuable to everyone.
2)Have multiple sections in one class but use groups to differentiate assignments, forums etc... Not sure if this would work on our campus, but when teaching two sections of the same class I can see how beneficial it would be for a teacher to have one place to go to
3)Use grouping for selective release of course content - I still need to think of where this could be valuable, maybe in the above scenario with multiple sections in one course?

Now Outside of the Box - and this one I get really excited about. Use Groups to control access to your course content. Now this may not seem like a radical idea, but my faculty are always wanting to "advertise" their class. They want me to give them webspace and I explain the wolfware common locker, and then they can't do web pages and it goes on and on and on. But imagine if you could have one page that has all your info and create a group for Guest Access vs. Student Access. Then you have ONE website with all the information, but granularity in terms of access. I LOVE THIS IDEA!

Typically I have issues with the way most professors use forums in their class (In fact my current research is on this). So how can we created more effective forums? One of the ways I've found recently (and I need to find the article to back this up), is to encourage not only peer to peer discussion, but peer moderation. In forums you can have students RATE posts - just like in a traditional threaded discussion board. You could also create a specific Role that allows students to "officially" moderate forums. Although I'm not sure if this needs to be a formal thing - or if it can just be done informally just as well.

Flex Page - need to look into this course design by Michael Penny More.

More notes to come....

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mooting it with Moodle in SF - Clandestine Meetings

Technorati Tags: I had been really looking forward to the Moodle Moot in SF this week. I knew that it would be a good conference when I walked to my airport gate and see David Warlick waiting for my plane. We had a great conversation about what NC State is doing to move our College of Ed into the 21st Century. When we landed in Dallas/Ft. Worth I discovered he was on his way to Hawaii (almost as good as SF) In fact I was so intrigued I almost was late to my plane!

I arrived in SF in the early afternoon and decided to drive my rental car around the area. I had high hopes for driving to Sausalito finding a quiet coffee shop on the water and letting the boats drift by. Instead I found a rally for "Stop the Spray," and no parking - but at least to get to Sausalito you have to drive the Golden Gate bridge :)

I made it back to the hotel (which is in South San Francisco - which is a town, not a location - think North Myrtle Beach).

Now I am meeting the other members of my group for dinner - but the problem is I have no idea what they look like. Right when I am thinking that I wish I had a rose in a book (see thinly veiled blind date reference) - I recognize someone. Now the odds of me running into someone from NC State in my hotel is slim to none. So I say, "You guys look like NC State people," Which if they weren't would have been quite awkward. Luckily, these were not only the other people in my group, but I actually had met some of them via a friend of a friend. It turns out that we have all been going to the same Christmas party for going on 10 years.

In other words - I love how Raleigh is such a small town. It makes the world feel a little bit more accessible.

My updates on the Conference to follow....

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

NECC Unplugged

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After my last post I had to sit back and think about why I was so incensed by some of these comments about participation. It reminds it bit like being forced to play a sport and being afraid to be chosen last. But I really had to think about why I wasn't participating. I came up with a few reasons.

1)I looked at the list of talks at EdubloggerCon and completely felt not only overwhelmed - but also inferior. What can I add to this conversation? But after looking at the list - I was determined to find a place where I fit in. As an Instructional Technologist at a College of Education, I figured this would work:
Web 2.0 in Teacher Education: Discussion and demonstration of best practices of web 2.0 technologies in undergraduate and graduate education. Co-facilitators are strongly encouraged. Please add your name and/ or suggested topic/ technology below. We'll be able to customize the actual discussion in San Antonio.
So I did it - my name is on the wiki - as permanent as wikis can get :)

2) Now the NECC Unplugged was much more accessible to me. The format was much less intimidating than a full blown session. I could demo something for 5 mins. But what? What do I do that is cutting edge? So I couldn't decide between VoiceThread & Moodle. So I chose Moodle - this way I could do a quick overview of how Moodle is different yet similar to BlackBoard.

I hope you're happy now :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Participation REQUIRED?

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I'm really excited about NECC and especially the Edubloggercon, but I am also a bit nervous. The last time I went to NECC it was my first National conference and I was just dizzy with excitement. I read a few blogs, and was excited to go to the first edubloggercon at a bar in San Diego. The group was small and I had no idea who Wil Richardson, Jeff Utech, or David Jakes were - I just talked to them - like they were normal people. Now two years later after reading their blogs everyday - I am completely afraid to make a (well you know) of myself.

Now, those of you who have met me may find it hard to believe that I can keep my mouth shut, but speaking to your "education idols" can be quite intimidating. My ideas feel feeble and unworthy. My work is so last year or my blog not updated enough. So when a cry goes out that I "should be participating in the discussion," or implying that if I'm not there to share I'm not contributing to the conversation and therefore "unworthy."

From Drape's Takes

In doing so, I had also hoped that others would follow suit, eagerly adding their names to the list of Short Talks, Speed Demos, and Facilitated Discussions.
Sadly, at this point in time, only a handful of people have followed suit.
It’s pathetic, really - to phrase it honestly.
As I think about the throngs of Twitter enthusiasts that continue sign up for Monday night’s Twitter dinner, I can’t help but feel sickened by “our” overall hesitancy to teach - particularly in light of Twitter with all of its “educational value”. Are we not teachers?"
From David Jakes

So here comes NECC, with the Blogger CafĂ© and EdubloggerCon. I can only imagine what a scrum for attention those could potentially turn into. But EdubloggerCon provides the opportunity for those who have blogged and twittered for a year to step up-let’s hear what you have to say face to face. Are you ready for that? Are you ready to earn it-really earn it?

Did it ever cross anyones mind that this is taking us out of our comfort zone? I'm going to a national conference - would teaching VoiceThread be old hat to some? Does a participant in an conference already define you as cutting edge? What can I offer?

I mean every time I can get the gumption to leave a comment on one of the "education idol" blogs - it is either the 10th of several or just comes out sound stupid and insignificant. The comment challenge, grant us nubies some leeway - but for some of us this is still really hard.

Now I understand that sometimes people need a push, and that some are dismayed about the lack of participation, but sometimes people need some time to scaffold their experiences. I may be a big fish in a small pond (i dare to presume), but when I get to San Antonio I may as well be a guppy.

So keep us little fish in mind. Yes we may be in awe of you, but don't take it to heart - one day we won't be.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Does Generation Matter?

Kids these days.... The Generation Gap.....Gen X, Gen Y, Baby Boomers and Millenials. Are we defined by our generation? Yes & No. An article in Radar magazine has me thinking about the disconnect between generations, and how that influences the teaching of those that come after us.

We make broad generalizations about those from different generations. Baby Boomers spoil their kids, Gen Xers are anti-authoritarian and Gen Yers or Millenials are just plain lazy (they are of course the children of Baby Boomers. We know these are not true fo everyone, yet we still generalize most of our students when it comes to technology. We ASSUME that students know all about computers because they grew up with them. We ASSUME they know more than we do about how they work and how to fix them. We ASSUME that because they play video games, or IM others that they can use a computer. We never step back and think - can they really?

Now I grew up on the tail end of Generation X. Yes I had my Doc Martens and anything by Pearl Jam or Nirvana was my theme song. I dressed in plaid with the best of them and "My So Called Life" was my calling. I also was fortunate enough to have wonderful parents (my mother acquiesced to my plaid by buying matching t-shirts and socks) and my father a self-professed computer nerd had me programming BASIC in 2nd grade on our Apple IIc (which I still own). I grew up with computers and they grew up with me. I watched them evolve from Command line prompts to Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. I saw disks get smaller and smaller and eventually change from square to circular.

Now is this generational? Yes and No. Watching the evolution of a product can be integral to understanding it. But it was INTEREST that kept me connected. Without the influence of my father or the "need" to upgrade my hard drive, I would have lived in happy oblivion. There are many people of my generation that were still using type writers for papers in college.

In the smae household as myself is my "little brother" (I call him little because although he is 8 years my junior he is half a foot taller), grew up in the Gen Y/Millenial Generation. Being born in 1984, the year my family bought our first computer he was completely immersed in computer culture. By the time I went to college and he was in middle school - point and click was all he knew. Yet, I get calls a 11pm at night from him grief stricken because his computer has completely gone blank and the blue screen of death has appeared in the middle of his term paper. He is a very very smart individual, but he has no desire to understand why or how his computer works - he just wants it to work. Is that generational? Is he lazy?

I think the answer comes down to interest. There are 70-year-olds that can program the pants off an 18 year-old hacker. Most of the IT teachers I know just picked computers up. I think we need to get away from the concept of digital immigrants and digital natives and more to the idea that there are those that are intrigued and comfortable with technology and others that don't care how it happens - they just want it to work.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why am I fighting for Social Networking?

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For the past 6 months, or possibly more, I have been fighting and advocating for a Social Network. We looked at all the avenues - open source, internally hosted, externally hosted, etc. etc. We tried them every which way - yet none were perfect. Yet I keep advocating for them. Finally someone asked me - Why? Why do we want to spend effort on this? What does this do that Moodle can't do?

So I had to take a step back. Was I doing this - just to do it? Was I seduced by the "latest and greatest" in technology? I mean The Office even made a jab at having a "social network" for paper buying!

So I looked at our current situation and what a Social Network could add. Currently we use primarily BlackBoard Vista and have a Moodle Server. All of the BB Vista courses are actual courses. They are all locked down by classroom participant and discussions are instructor driven. One of the issues I have always had with online classes is the lack of personal connectedness between classmates. I miss the after class discussions on the wall outside of class. BB Vista & Moodle are so "course" oriented" it is hard to "force" them to be something else - possible, but hard.

So what can a Social Network add or change? I think the main thing is that it is user centered - not course centered. You are a Student who belongs to several different groups, rather than having a Course you happen to be a student in.

The goal of this is to stimulate discussion and sharing OUTSIDE of the classroom. If we are truly going to create an online environment as close to a face-to-face class then we are missing out on the "water cooler" conversations. I think that is what a social network can add over a discussion baord or file sharing in Moodle.

I am even willing to bet my thesis on it - can you say topic change!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What research tools do you use?

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Research papers are a mainstay on college campuses, for faculty and students alike. So how do you keep track of all the articles you find and then cite correctly? Here are the tools I have experimented with:

1) Delicious: If you are using it for weblinks - why not the links to your articles? It allows for "one stop" use for all of your web tools. ut since it was not developed for research, like some of the other tools, it may not have all the bells and whistles you need for a dissertation.

2) Endnote: The program of choice for profs on my campus. It is pretty pricey (between $100-$250 depending on the academic discount you are eligible for). It helps you create a searchable database of articles. Profs love this because their research can span multiple years and everything is in one place. It also integrates with Word so that your citations are in the appropriate format.

3) RefWorks: This is currently the main option for NC State students. It is offered free through the University and integrates with the Library search system including subscribed systems like ERIC. It also has integration with Word, but its main drawback appears to be persistent access to the internet - no offline working.

4) Zotero: Seems to be a combination of Delicious and Refworks. Allows for any website to be bookmarked, but provides more tools than delicious. It integrates with Firefox, and may be the best free option available.

I'm placing my money on Refworks - not just because it is "officially used" on my campus. But because it suits the way I do research - which is mostly online database searching. I think one of the hardest parts of coming to college was adapting to how such a huge Library works. I used to go back to "my" library in Winston-Salem in college because I knew where to find everything. When I came back to State in 2004, research was a whole new ballgame. All the articles I need are in PDF online - no more photocopying. But I had to learn a new way to find the articles I needed and keep track of them.

Does anyone use anything different?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Open Forum on Social Networking

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A few weeks back I hosted an Open Forum on Social Networking for the College of Ed. My group has been running around to try and find a social networking tool that could compete with FaceBook - yet be separate. I wanted to get a good idea of where our students and faculty were as well as where they wanted the College to be. This is what I found out:

1) Students use Facebook to communicate with friends back home (OK - knew that) However, most of them also used it to connect as seniors with other future NC State students.
2) Students don't want us in Facebook. They like that Facebook is a place for them. In fact most of them plan on getting rid of their facebook page when they graduate and will be teaching themselves.
3) Faculty (mostly) don't "get" Facebook, but they do get that their students are using it.
4) Faculty don't want an official representation in Facebook, especially in light of advertising endorsements, etc.
4) We have faculty members in NINGS!!!! Yea!!!

So what does this mean? Well, it gives me hope that I can create a network where students, future students, past students, faculty, etc., etc., etc. can meet and it might actually get some legs.

So here is the CED Ning site....a work in progress... but aren't all social networks :)