Friday, December 17, 2010

Closed Captioning

One of the aspects of online learning that I struggle with is ADA compliance. Not the concept of ADA compliance, I completely agree that universal web design is better for everyone, but how do I implement ADA compliant web resources.  In the past this has been done by checking my website periodically to make sure that my websites are compliant by tools such as SortSite or designing with standards from W3C in mind. But in my mind, those are the easy things. Basic website design is easy to make compliant, what I have found more and more difficult is multimedia.

Technically, every time we post information to a website for our students to use in a class it should be compliant. This means that audio files have transcripts, video files are captioned, PDFs are accessible etc. Most of my faculty don't even think about making their content accessible until they have a student they have to make accommodations for and redo their entire class.

For my part I have tried to support faculty in these endeavors as much as possible and be an example of compliance with our college website. Yet, I have found that even I have forgotten to be compliant. So this semester I have been working with my graduate student to close caption our official college videos. This may come as a shock, but I have never captioned a video before.  My GA worked on it for about a month and could not get it to work. This week I was able to spend a couple hours tackling it. Finally after a few updates, the right versions of the right software, and a bit of luck I was able to add captions to a 2 minute video. Now, this was the first time I tried, and I'm sure after this it will be much easier for me, but I was surprised at how much work it took to make these videos compliant. To add insult to injury, I couldn't actually host this video on our Clipshare video server and had to directly upload it to our website.  What I was not aware of is that the close captioning process actually creates a text file linked to specific time codes in the video. These two files are linked, but seperate. As long as they can find one another, everything works fine.

So there is a happy ending, I have my captioned video and I have played by the rules, but would a teacher or professor have the amount of time to make this effort?  What gives me hope is how easy Youtube has made it to add captions to their videos. I can only hope that it gets easier for all of us to make our multimedia accessible, and for us all to value the effort it takes.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Privacy and Social Media

I am honored to be asked by Phil Tietjen of Penn State University to answer a question for his class on Social Media. The question is: How do you see the role of privacy in relation to Web 2.0 or social media? Does it deserve more attention among educators?

I believe that privacy, or the lack thereof, is one of the larger issues surrounding education technology. How do we protect our students in an online environment and at the same time take advantage of all of the benefits that Web 2.0 tools have to offer? It is a difficult question to answer. I am torn between my role as a teacher to "protect" my students and my role to promote them and the work that they do everyday. There is such a balance to be struck between those that are afraid to try any Web 2.0 tool because of privacy concerns, and those that post pictures of their students online with full names.

But I think the rubber meets the road when we think about how would you actually implement a Web 2.0 product in your classroom and what concerns would you take into account.  Now that varies by product and by grade level in my mind. There are tools such as Voicethread and PB Works that allow for controlled user creation as well as for student use under the age of 13. Students don't need e-mail addresses to have accounts and their full name is not displayed. They make it easy for me to feel comfortable inside the constraints of COPA and CIPA and are well suited to elementary and middle school students. I encourage the use of "Avatars" by younger students, this way they can display their work on the internet for their fellow classmates and parents to see can still be met, but in a way that strangers cannot identify them.

However, once students reach high school and are over the age of 13, how does our use of social media change or should it? Seth Godin says it best with “Everything you do now ends up in your permanent record.  The best plan is to overload Google with good stuff and to always act as if you’re on candid camera, because you are!” The Wall Street Journal reported back in 2008 that College Admissions officers are using the Internet to research prospective applicants. Why not help our students create a positive Digital Footprint of their work and emphasize how important it is to their future.

In the end it comes down to what it best for your class and your students. Parents and students have the right to be informed about the privacy implications of Web 2.0 tools as well as the great learning opportunities that these tools can provide. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

MIA - but I have a good excuse....

I've been Missing In Action for over a month now - but I have a great excuse. I have been in CHINA!!!  Between preparing for China, actually traveling, and then coming back I have had little time to blog.  However, I did come back with some inspiration and will post more soon!

Monday, October 25, 2010


I am at heart a wannabe computer programmer. I dabble in programing, especially in HTML and PHP code, but I really just know enough to do damage rather than create anything. But programming logic just makes sense to me. One of my favorite things to teach and work with is Lego Robotics, and I specifically worked a good deal with the Robotics Invention System (RIS) 1.0 & 2.0. When I heard that the MIT Media lab (who had collaborate with Lego on the RIS) had created a programming language targeting k-12 students that had the same type of drag and drop blocks that RIS has, I was dying to work with it. But as with most things, it was pushed to the side and I didn't get a chance to really dive in. This summer I made it a priority at ISTE to take advantage of the workshops on ScratchMitch Resnick, the creator of Scratch at MIT, held a BYOL session at ISTE that was one of the best sessions I attended.  We did some pretty basic programming in Scratch, but I could see the potential.  Now, I just needed to find a faculty member who would be interested in trying out Scratch in their classroom.  Luckily, I didn't have to wait too long.  Dr. Micha Jefferies came to me asking how we could take an existing project she used with her elementary education students, creating a board game, and using technology to create the game. This was the perfect opportunity for students to use Scratch to create content-based games.  The purpose of our technology integration was not to learn how to program, but how to use this technology to teach a specific content.  I plan on posting a series about our project and how it is developing this semester.

Monday, October 18, 2010

When technology works....

I have a few blog posts in my mind trying to get out and while I am at EDUCAUSE (see previous post) I will be trying to finally post them. Yesterday, I needed to be in two places at the same time, and I was able to pull it off. While I was here on the West Coast I needed to present at the Friday Institute in Raleigh on social networking and yes, I was able to pull it off. How was I able to do it, you guessed it video conferencing, and it worked :)
This week the Friday Inst is hosting the Teacher Leadership Institute with a focus on teaching in 1:1 schools. It is one of my favorite workshops to be apart of and brings a great group of people together. Unfortunately, this Fall it occurred at the same time as my trip to EDUCAUSE. I was able to be part of the planning team, led by the wonderful Joselyn Todd and Sherry Booth, but I wouldn't be able to do - what I think i do best - teach and facilitate. Once again technology not only came to the rescue, it allowed for us to demonstrate what we have been encouraging our teachers to do, innovate and use technology to transform the classroom experience. So instead of having to be in Raleigh in person, I was able to video conference with Skype and give my presentation as well as ask questions.

So here is my foolproof guide for Video Conferencing on the fly:

1) Nothing is fool proof :)  Have a back-up plan. In my case I created a screencast of my presentation that could be used if we had technical issues. I provided a high quality video to the team leaders, and also placed a version online to be embedded in the institute wiki.

2) Test and test often. One of the downsides of VC on the fly is that I couldn't accurately test the ability to Skype until the day of the seminar.  So we did the best we could by testing the quality of Skype in the room that would be displaying the VC and then I tested in the conference center the first opportunity I could.

3) Don't announce the VC until you are sure you can pull it off.  We never promised a Skype session, so if it didn't work, we wouldn't have to backpedal.  The Skype session was a bonus.  Now this isn't always possible, but in this case it was better to underpromise and exceed expectaions than over-promise and disaapont everyone.

All in all I feel that we really did get to showcase the best of both worlds and I got to be apart of both!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


After my ISTE experience this summer I was a bit disenchanted about conferences and how much  I"get out" of attending. I was hoping that attending a different type of conference would be more rewarding and inspiring. I am currently attending EDUCAUSE a higher education tech conference. For the first time in a long time I am traveling with colleagues.  Instead of traveling alone and looking forward to meeting old friends, I am traveling with a group and no one I know (either in person or online) is planning to be here. From a traveling experience it is much more enjoyable and I am having a good time in the evenings. However, I have yet to attend a session that has inspired me or showed me something new. I had been hoping that a different perspective on education would reveal something new and innovative. I made the mistake the first day of going to not only sessions that interested me, but topics that I knew something about. This may seem backward, but I don't want to hear the rehashing of topics I already have heard and seen before, I made a rookie mistake. So today I will be going tosessions I know nothing about, but have a vague interest in. I have high hopes for today and will see what comes......

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Twitter Experiment FAIL

I am a huge fan of Twitter. I have found it instrumental to my growth as a education professional and have made more connections and ultimately friends through using it than I ever thought possible.  However, I have never really gotten my faculty to get on board with the idea of using it in their classrooms.  This summer the perfect situation dropped in my lap.  A professor wanted to actively use Twitter is his class.  It was a large class (over 140 - one of the few large seminars we have in the college) and he had used classroom response systems in the past (i.e. clickers), but wanted to have more open ended questions in class and to give his students options to have a back channel.  This was exactly what I had always talked about Twitter being great for, and I had an instructor that was willing and anxious to use it.  He also had two Teaching Assistant that would be able to man the Twitter stream while he was teaching. I couldn't ask for a better set-up.

The first thing I did was help him and his TAs set-up Twitter accounts so they could get used to using Twitter, and I recommended they use a product like TweetDeck to help keep up with all the various Twitter streams and searches.  Then, I went into their second day of class for the semester, explain what we would be using Twitter for, give some examples, and help everyone create Twitter accounts.  We also introduced a #hashtag for the class so that they could tag their posts for class.  The #hashtag would be used so that students could not only differentiate the posts they write as being class related, but also so students could search for the class #hashtag to see what their fellow students were tweeting.
There were a few students in the class that already had Twitter and were excited and started Tweeting with the class #hastag right way.  I pulled up Tweetdeck on my computer to show the #hastag search and tweets slowly popped in, but only 3 or 4 people were showing up.  I started to get questions from the class asking why their tweets weren't showing up.  I assumed the issue was confirmation e-mails or maybe it just took the system awhile to get them in.  I left the class feeling OK, we had accomplished what I set-out to do and I felt everything would be working by the next class.  I could not have been more wrong. After the next class session I received several e-mails from the professor and the TAs that tweets were not appearing in the search.  So I did what any good tech support person would do - I googled it, and much to my dismay found:

According to Twitter:
  1. You are missing because of current resource constraints: Right now, some users may not be seeing their Tweets because of resource constraints. This is more likely affecting you if you're a new user (with an account less than a couple of weeks old). Our search engineers are working on this known issue, and your Tweets should start showing up in search soon!

In other words these students are not appearing in the #hashtag search and may NEVER appear in the #hashtag search.  I tired to set up a Twibe and a Hootcourse, but the momentum had died, my professor was no longer interested, and my grand Twitter experiment just circled the drain. I'm not sure what I'll do next semester, but until this gets fixed, I doubt I will be recommending Twitter.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Are teachers born or made?

Are teachers born or made?  I live in the realm of licensing, of pre-service teachers, certification and MATs. Yet, I have yet to come to terms with not only what makes a good teacher, but how does one become one? I am reminded of my colleagues that have no teaching certification what so ever, yet are some of the best teachers I know. I remember some of my fellow teachers that had all the right papers, but could never command a classroom. Why is that? I have tried to make sense of it all, and as proud as I am of my institution and the strives the we make, I have to recognize that some people are just born teachers. Maybe teaching is more like an art than a science. Artists can still be artists without all the fancy degrees, but yet people still go to school to hone their craft, to learn more why they do what they do. Does that make it a waste of time? Do they become better artists? How can we grow to respect teaching as a talent as much as or even more than a piece of paper can prove?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Edubloggercon 2010

Edubloggercon Group 2 - I'm walking in at the top of the stairs, didn't quite make the picture.
This was my 3rd Edubloggercon and one of the main reasons I enjoy attending ISTE. The unconference format really allows for flexibility and collaborative learning than a typical conference session.  I get much more out of discussions rather than lectures and I wish roundtables were more common at ISTE. I attended about four sessions and overall I enjoyed the experience. Steve Hargadon does a great job organizing it every year and I was surprised and delighted to see so many new people. However, there was something missing. I'm not sure if it was the size that EBC has grown to, the sessions I attended or what, but it just wasn't the "earth shattering" experience I have had in the past. Maybe it was the sessions I attended, but more than likely the novelty of EBC, combined with the people that were there that first year made such a big impression it is just hard to top. Not that I'm giving up on EBC or that it isn't a great experience, but this year EBC and ISTE just left me a bit, well depressed. Then again EBC was and is like any conference, it is what you make of it and if I don't like something, I need to be the catalyst for change. Now I just need to think about what I would do differently.......

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

ISTE & Edubloggercon 2010

I am woefully behind in my blog posting about ISTE & Edubloggercon from last month.  I had no idea how fast August would get here! My overall impressions of ISTE & EBC are pretty mixed. Here is my Pro/Con list from this year (or should I call it + / Delta ?)

  • Getting to Meet People
  • Shuttle to convention center from hotel
  • Traveling by yourself - setting your own schedule
  • Enjoyed EBC and the Edubloggers Cafe

  • Having to Meet People
  • Hotel 20 minutes away from anybody, anywhere
  • No rental car
  • Traveling by yourself - lonely
  • Didn't get a lot out of formal sessions
  • Edubloggercon tacked about 2 extra days to the conf experience. Making 6 days total away from home
So what does this mean? Well, I'll be traveling to Educause this October, a higher ed tech conference. It will be interesting to see the differences between the two.  Part of the issue is that I seem to live in this in-between world. I'm not quite K-12, but not quite Higher Ed either.  What I do know is that a conference is all about what you put into it, and maybe I just didn't put enough into ISTE this year.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Video as Refelective Practice

One of the things that I enjoy about the summer is the number of campers that visit our campus, and specifically our college. I try and make time with at least one group each summer. Last year I had the opportunity to work with middle school students and we built played around with physics and mousetrap cars. This summer I had the opportunity to work with a new group of students, they were high school students part of the GEAR-UP program. I brainstormed with the lead on the project and we discussed all the different activities I could help out with during their week long experience. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that using Flip Cameras to document their camp experience and to use this as a reflection for the week. I had about an hour and a half with them every day from Monday - Thursday.

This was one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences I have had teaching since I had my own classroom. These students challenged me in a way that caused me to pause and really think about what we were doing. The best part about this was that I was able to articulate the reasoning behind this to the students, and once they understood the "Why?" it was easy to move forward with the project. I had forgotten not only how powerful honesty can be in a classroom, but that empowering students to take charge of their own learning can be the best thing I could ever teach them.

I missed the last day to travel to ISTE, but a student sent me their speech at their luncheon on the last day:

I am honored to speak with you today about our instructors that have spoken with us throughout the week. I would like to start with Ms. Bethany Smith. Ms. Smith has taught us a lot of things we did not know about the MAC BOOK. It is very much different than the average laptop. She has been helping us on our reflection movies for the week on our flipcams. Unfortunately do to time CONSTRAINTS we can’t show you our finished products, but they are available online. She is a very intelligent, a fun person, and has a lot to share. We would like to say, Thank you!

They worked hard on their video projects, but it wasn't the end product I was the most proud of, it was the journey they took to get there.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Art of Blogging

Turns out Will Richardson has been blogging for 9 years. Will and David Warlick were the first education bloggers I ever read, before I even realized what blogging really was. Turns out I created my Blogger account back in November of 2004. I certainly haven't been as prolific, nor have I written as much as those two gentleman, but I have to say that I have enjoyed blogging. As I'm waxing philosophically about this, how apropos that Lee Kolbert is requesting some advice for new bloggers. So here is some of my advice:

  • Set aside time to blog and respond to other blog posts. Think of it as your reading e-mail time.
  • Go ahead and write your posts and save them as drafts. Get your ideas out and then refine
  • Please do not write meandering live blog posts that make no sense to anyone (except you). I find that if I take live blogging notes in Evernote or Word and then refine that into a blog post I get better results.
  • Post and post often. Just because no one comments doesn't mean no one is reading. Which reminds me, use a tool like Google Analytics or Sitemeter to display who comes to your blog. It is a great feeling to see "hits"
I have enjoyed my blogging experience. I didn't get any book deals, or movie rights, but I've loved it just the same :)

Friday, June 4, 2010

iPad vs. Netbook

One of the things I dislike about tech conferences is the amount of stuff I lug around them. At ISTE for the past several years I have had my laptop and power brick with me at almost all times from dawn until way past dusk. I feel like I need physical therapy for my back when I get home! Last year I saw many more people carrying around a Netbook, and although I am a Mac girl at heart, I didn't let that get in the way of purchasing an Asus EeePC netbook.
My criteria for getting a netbook were/are the following:

1) Light weight machine for travel
2) Easy access to calendar and e-mail
3) Word processor of some type for note taking
4) Twitter platform

Basically, I wanted a machine that I could use at meetings and conferences to do the basics. I don't need to do video editing or complex web design. I just didn't want to lug around my main machine all over the building and across campus. I also wanted to see what the limitations/advantages of a netbook would be be for our students. I've been really happy with my netbook. I had worries about keyboard size and screen size, which have not been an issue for me. The weight and size are perfect (although finding the perfect bag has been hard), and it has been great to bring to meetings. The downsize has been I haven't found the perfect twitter app (I'm on Ubuntu - any recommendations?) and getting to my e-mail and calendar (I use Groupwise for work, Gmail & iCal for personal) has been sub-optimal.

Then the iPad came out, and I had just enough money in my budget to go for it, so I did. Of course as a Mac fangirl I was pre-disposed to like it. But as a supplemental device to my main machine, it has worked great. Easy access to e-mail that syncs seamlessly with my e-mail on my Macbook. Great Twitter Apps and access to iCal calendar (still going to web client for Groupwise calendar). But multi-tasking is sub-optimal, and would I really enjoy taking notes on it? So I set-up the perfect test - a conference. For the first day of Futureweb I used my iPad, for the second I used my netbook, and Day 3 would be the winner.

Day 1 - iPad
Evernote has been the perfect app for notetaking on the iPad for me. I can make my quick notes on the sessions and then use those to write blog posts later. I think I blogged more about this conference more than any other because of how easy it was for me to take notes. I was also not originally a fan of the Apple iPad cover, but am loving the wedge shape it creates to make it easier to type. Another bonus - no computer bag, the iPad fits in one of my larger purses. The battery was at 54% when I left for the day. I think I'm in love. However, it has been hard to multi-task between my Twitter client and note-taking. I'm used to a smoother transition and miss the ability to view tweets while I'm taking notes. This maybe a deal breaker.

Day 2 - Netbook
Evernote doesn't exist as an application for Ubuntu, so I'm using the web browser. Currently I'm using Firefox, but I need to start using Chrome to save on screen realestate. I'm using one of the default Ubuntu Twitter clients and it is just not up to par - I miss my Tweetdeck columns. Maybe my issues are Ubuntu related and I should try Windows 7 (I just shuttered a little). The netbook is definitely heavier than the iPad, but it still fits in my big purse. The battery lasted all day.

Both the Netbook and the iPad met my criteria for what I wanted out of a portable device, but the integration with my work machine makes the iPad a winner. There are still a few disadvantages of relying on only an iPad, and when I travel to ISTE I will have my laptop and my iPad, but the Netbook will stay in the office. I'll keep working on perfecting the netbook, and the tools I use with it, but Round 1 goes to the iPad.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm proud of my faculty OR How to start a 1:1 Laptop Project

When I was in college Wake Forest University & UNC required laptops. I had friends that complained about having to turn in their homework "online" in something called "WebCT." AT the time I was so thankful that NC State did not require laptops, why did you need one when we had such great labs? We didn't have wireless, we had 14.4 modems - computers were great, but they weren't exactly portable, nor connected devices. I had better luck lugging around my Zip disk reader and zip disks than a laptops.

But two years ago (and possibly longer) the idea for a real 1:1 ubiquitous computing initiative at our college really started to flourish. I started investigating other Colleges of Ed that were using laptops with their pre-service teachers, as well as our sister institutions in the state. I found little to no implementation plans that went beyond hardware specs and connectivity issues. (The one standout from this is the University of Texas at Austin) The Friday Institute's 1:1 initiative and local middle school going 1:1 truly served as a catalyst to getting this project going. But, what we are hearing from the K-12 initiatives, that is absent in most of the Higher Ed initiatives is the importance of not only technology support, but workshops on how to teach differently with laptops. That is is a pedagogical shift, not just a technological one.

Starting this Fall we will be "strongly encouraging" (more on that wording later) all of our incoming Freshman to have laptops by their Sophmore year (most of our classes don't start until the sophomore year). But what I am the most impressed with are my faculty and administration. This isn't me trying to push something through, this is truly a collaborative effort. So when we have a meeting about what kind of technology workshops to hold to support this initiative I was struck by the outcomes.
  1. My faculty volunteered to teach the majority of the classes.
  2. The focus is on pedagogy, not technology
  3. They respect my ability to teach technological pedagogical strategies, nit just how a program works.
Can I just say how proud I am to be apart of this project. That everything that I fight for in the future of education is embodied in these statements. That we should be changing pedagogy, not just adding on technology in our classes, that it needs to come from the faculty, not just administration, and that yes I may not be a content expert in your field, but I can show you successful technology integration strategies. This is an instructional technologist dream.

So what are these workshops you say? Well the list is:

Wednesday May 12th 9 - 11 1:1 in a New Learning Ecology John Lee
1:1 computing environments are prompting a new learning ecology, which takes shape given four unique conditions. This session will provide a hands-on opportunity to explore these conditions as well as five related strategies for 1:1 teacher professional development.
11-12 Panel of current K-12 Teachers in a 1:1 Environment
Hear from the front line what it is like to teach in a 1:1 environment. How did their teaching change? What do they wish they had been prepared for in university? What should our upcoming graduates know about teaching in a 1:1 environment?
1-3 1:1 Classroom Management Strategies Angela Wiseman & Carol Pope
Classroom management can look drastically different in a 1:1 classroom. How do you structure your class to work effectively in this environment? Angela & Carol will share with you advice based on their experience in transitioning to the 1:1 classroom.
3-4 Capturing and Encouraging In-class Discussion Kevin Oliver
Now that your students have laptops how do you use them to encourage digital discussion in class? What types of tools exist to facilitate in class discussion? In this session we will discuss the basics of setting up and capturing a back channel discussion, as well using various online polling tools.
Thursday May 13th 9-11 Making it Work: Roundtable Discussion on Teaching in 1:1 Eric Wiebe
What does a 1:1 class look like? How can you make it happen inside your existing classes? In this session we will have a more open discussion about what your fellow faculty have done to integrate technology in their classes. Bring your syllabus and start planning for next year.

11-12 New Literacies & Project Based Inquiry for 1:1 Classrooms Hiller Spires
Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) has had a resurgence as an important learning design that can readily incorporate new literacies and media as part of the learning process. Learn how to engage students in PBI in your 1:1 class.
1-3 Collaboration in the 1:1 Classroom Angela Wiseman
How do you encourage collaboration among your students? How does this change in a 1:1 environment? Web 2.0 tools that encourage collaboration such as Google Docs will be discussed.

3-4 Grading Assignments Digitally Bethany Smith
In a paperless environment, how do you provide feedback? Utilizing tools such as comments in Word, Adobe Reader and others we will discuss the best ways to provide feedback to students via Moodle.

Friday May 14th 9-11 Top 5 Uses for Moodle in the 1:1 Classroom Bethany Smith
The best way to start using Moodle is in a 1:1 Classroom! Using your syllabus as a guide you can map out your entire semester of readings assignments and much more online in Moodle.

11-12 Facilitating Discussion in class and Online Carol Pope & Bethany Smith
How do you create an engaging discussion? How do you get your students to actively participate in online discussions? Carol & Bethany will discuss different strategies and technologies to get the most out of your students online participation.

1-3 Gathering Classroom Responses in a 1:1 Environment Heather Davis
How do classroom response systems (i.e. Clickers) work in a 1:1 classroom? Heather will discuss her experience in using Moodle quizzes, Me Too!, Clickers and the Turning Point software as an assessment strategy in her course. 3-4 Communicating with Students using Multimedia Lori Holcomb Sometimes showing students how something works can be more effective then just telling them. Using tools such as Screencasting, Web cam videos or even podcasts can serve as an important communication tool with your students.

3-4 Communicating with Students using Multimedia Lori Holcomb
Sometimes showing students how something works can be more effective then just telling them. Using tools such as Screencasting, Web cam videos or even podcasts can serve as an important communication tool with your students.

We will be Ustreaming and backchannel chatting through the three days of training. We are still building our wikispace at It will be a whirlwind of a few days, but I really feel that we can move our college forward with this project.

danah boyd Q &A - WWW2010/Futureweb

danah boyd's afternoon Q&A brought up some great questions surrounding the ethical use of large data-sets put out by social media companies, and the growing concern over privacy issues. As in her morning keynote, this was an excellent discussion over research methods, and the importance of qualitative date. A few topics from the beginning of the session include:
  • When is big data a reflection on life?
  • Most misuse is unintentional
  • We mean well, but we need to think like a hacker. Think of the unintended possibilities when releasing data
  • How do you allow for context in your data?
  • IRBs are not asking the tough ethical questions (as someone who went through a horrendous IRB process I actually respect it a bit more)
  • We need to be OK with being forthright about what we CAN'T derive from our data
This then transitioned into more information about teenagers and their use of SNS (danah's main research topic currently). I really think that her research would fit so well into our educational/developmental psychology classes. So much of what she talks about, teachers understand the back end reasoning for, it is just now manifesting in different ways because of the Internet. Some of her points are:
  • Teenagers creating themselves into being
  • Come with ideas of social ideals
  • Want to be cool
  • Lamenting that they have no privacy
  • If it's publicly accessible parents feel they have the right to look
  • Adults think about what they have to lose
  • But teenagers think about what they have to gain with sns
This brings up an interesting discussion point of "friending" your parents and what is acceptable usage. danah contends that parents should be giving their teenagers space and not friending them. When I specifically asked her about teachers friending students, I agreed with her stance a bit more. Her recommendation was for teachers to have two facebook accounts. One for students/school usage. She does not recommend that you "friend" any of your students with this page, but leave it publically open and utilize it as a communication channel. An open door policy if you will. Then have a separate FB account for personal use that is completely locked down. I think most teachers have been doing the completely locked down part, but now I realize the importance of having FB as a communication venue. My brother for instance doesn't really check any e-mail - but he checks his FB mail, so I use that to communicate with him. It really just allows for another avenue, especially one that students can use to contact you.

I also thought it was interesting when I talked to her afterwards that she doesn't see Ning as a social network, but as a community network - that they are actually distinct and different entities. I'm going to have to think on that one a bit, and hope it doesn't negate my current research projects :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

danah boyd keynote @ WWW2010/Futureweb

One of the reasons I was interested in attending Futureweb in the first place was because danah boyd (and yes that is in all lowercase like e.e. cummings) would be one of the main speakers. The majority of my thesis was based on her research in social networking systems, her work constitutes one of the seminal works on defining what a SNS is and how it can be researched. Lets just say I'm a fan. Her talk at WWW2010 however, was about Publicity and Privacy in the Context of Big Data

But, what I felt she really talked about was the mixed-methods approach to research. She was trying to convince this very quantitative world that deals with large data sets, that quantifiable data doesn't answer all of our questions, that quant data has issues and is incomplete, and to remember that all data connects to a human being. That data analysis can have an impact on the samples themselves.

Her points on privacy, and the evolution of privacy concerns in the digital age are spot on. "We rely on security through obscurity" and our culture has changed to a "public by default, private through effort." That we have no problem sharing our Personally Identifiable Information (PII) but are incredibly worried about sharing our Personally Embarrassing Information (PEI).

The talk of Facebook at this conference alone has made me want to close my account. I feel like I have a good handle on what information I post and consciously don't post on FB, but the privacy changes and the way the company uses my information, my data, makes me cringe.

Overall, this was one of the better keynotes I have ever seen. Not only is danah boyd an excellent speaker, but her slides were like a Presentation Zen gold mine (and I'd like to note she and I use at least 2 of the same pictures in our presentation repertoire). Futureweb has posted some of the video clips from the talk, and danah herself has posted the entire text.

Can I be like her when I grow up, wait if we're the same age can I still do that?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Futureweb WWW2010 Conference Day 1 - Afternoon Panel

The afternoon panel of WWW2010 was an interview with Sir Tim Burners-Lee (the inventor of WWW) and Danny Weitzner (previously with w3c and now with the Obama Administration) conducted by Lee Rainie (Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project). This session was really about how the web needs to serve humanity properly and what are the ways to accomplish that vision. The discussion mostly revolved around the Net Neutrality debate and how the FCC and government needs to be involved to prevent ISPs from blocking or degrading content. That users should be able to use any ISP they want, any application they want, and access any content they want. The discussion never went into "The Internet is a fundamental basic right," but they were pretty close to getting there. Weitzner (who kept prefacing everything with "I used to work at a non-profit trying to fight the government and now I am the government trying to make the changes I was pushing for - so this is weird") tried to focus on how the government was trying to close the access to internet barrier by funding the "middle bone" connecting the backbone to more rural areas of the country and then having ISPs charge from the middlebone to homes rather than all the way back to the backbone. This is the heart of the NC Connectivity project and I have high hopes for this in the Northeastern part of our state. But they recognize that infrastructure is only part of the problem, that 30% of Americans have never used the Internet - Why? Is it access or is it lack of understanding? I think it could be a mixture of both and I'm glad to see that a technology infrastructure person doesn't just think - "If you build it they will come."

Now of course the Q&A portion came up and I asked my question - "What is the future of education in the Internet Age? How do you envision the classroom of the future?"

I didn't exactly get the answer I was looking for. Burners-Lee answered that he learned best in an individualized, customized environment. That he would want the latest and fastest computer, a fast internet connection, a large monitor and huge speakers. That he would connect to other people around the world, but that learning didn't have to occur in the classroom. That last bit gave me hope, I don't think that the size monitor students have will make such a huge difference, but I do like that he is thinking of learning and the classroom outside of school walls. I was blown away by what happened next - Danny Weitzner asked me what a future classroom could look like. I responded with the best 60 sec elevator speech I have: (written much more eloquently than I actually said it)

Technology in the classroom should be ubiquitious, it should involve constant contact to the internet. That students do not need to be in a classroom to learn and that they should be making global connections. That project-based learning should be at the heart of the classroom - working on real-world problems and solutions. That our students may come up with the answers to problems that we have never been able to solve if we would give them the opportunity to do so.

At the end of the day - getting the nodding heads of the crowd and Vint Cert, just about made my day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Futureweb WWW2010 Conference Day 1 - Opening Session

The opening session for WWW 2010 (which btw is pronounced dub-dub-dub) was given by Vint Cert, the chief Internet Evangelist for Google, and AKA the Father of the Internet. His plenary session was eyeopening - I mean just look at the description:

Bandwidth, Clouds and Things, Oh My! What happens when bandwidth isn’t a bottleneck? What happens when end to end speeds approach or exceed a gigabit per second? What happens when billions of devices populate the Internet, including appliances? What happens when the smart grid meets the Internet of Things and clouds interconnect in a rainbow of photons? How does this transform the World Wide Web? These and other ideas will occupy our attention as we explore a speculative future.

Many of the sessions I would listen to as part of this conference will be focused on not only the Future of The Internet, but what data we have about the current Internet. Some interesting points:
  • 1802 Million Internet Users
  • Asia has the largest Internet population, but only 20% penetration
  • Authenticity of both people and servers is important and has privacy implications
  • Digital signatures - in which jurisdictions will a digital signature be honored?
  • Bad passwords and lax users are the worst security breech in existence
  • We have naive browsers, smart botnets and malware. We have compromised computers through our browsers. (love this analogy - it is akin to someone using your car while you sleep).
  • Compare cloud computing to the separate networks of 1973. We need inter-cloud interactions and liberate data
  • The WWW is one large copier, and the answer is not DRM, but Intellectual Property Rights
  • We don't need to replicate the physical world in the digital one.
  • Bit rot - how do we hold onto information as the systems and software of the future come? Will a webpage made in 1995 be available in 21995?
  • You should have MULTIPLE strong identities, just like we have multiple ID badges.
  • We need liscence free shared spectrum to increase bandwidth available. We need radio based distributions. For this to happen policy needs to change in the US
I fell I could write an entire blog post on each and every one of these posts. But, the main takeaway from his talk was that the technology will not get into the way of what we are trying to do, but will be held back by what we can imagine possible.

There are some great videos available from FutureWeb if you would like to see it check it out!

Monday, May 3, 2010

I met the inventor of the Internet.....

... and he isn't Al Gore. Seriously, I met Vint Cert & Sir Tim Burners-Lee the pioneers of the hardware and software that made the Internet and the WWW possible. How does little ol' me get to meet such important people? Shear luck. The WWW2010 conference, which last year was in Madrid and next year will be in India, happened this year to be in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but boy am I glad it did. Technically, I went to the co-hosted Future Web Conference, which was basically a sub-section of WWW2010 and we didn't get the free food or cool bags (I ended up buying one they were so awesome).
This was the most geeky and less techie conference I have ever been to. It was the 500,000 feet look at the future of the Internet, including ideas about Net Neutrality, Open Source, Internet Access and Privacy. My next few blog posts will hopefully give a glimpse into this world of WWW and how I think education fits into all that. Also, I did a test of my new iPad and comparing its usage with my Netbook - I'll be posting the results of who won the conference travel award soon!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

MEGA: Collaboration in 21st Century Classrooms: Showcase

My favorite part of the school year is when we wind down and get to show-off all the projects we have accomplished over the year. The MEGA Showcase is the best place for this to take place! MEGA has evolved over the years and is one of the major outreach arms of the College of Ed. (I highly recommend signing up for their listserv). The showcase is starting to feel like a reunion of sorts, where people I know on Twitter get together to share what they are doing in person. Kelly Hines came all the way from Chocowinity Primary School to share how she "goes global" with her elementary students. Meredith Stewart brought her amazing students to showcase all of the collaborative writing projects (Have you seen her literary magazine!) Eric Cole from McDowell County schools shared their podcasting projects. Lucas Gillispie showcased his WoW in Schools project - edurealms. All of the students were crowed around his demo! I could go on and on about these amazing projects, check out the complete list on the event page. If you've never made it to a MEGA Showcase, I heartily encourage you to come and learn from others in the educational community. We really are doing some amazing things in North Carolina!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Maker Faire NC 2010

Many of you may not know that I started my "official" teaching career as a shop teacher. Sure it was called Technology Education, sometimes known as Vocational Education, and more commonly known as CTE (Career and Technical Education) or as we are now known Technology, Design and Engineering Education (TDE). (Can you tell we keep trying to reinvent ourselves?) I came out of college ready to teach wood and metal shop, use CNC machines and robotics for instruction and build my own computer. I loved every minute of it. I ended up teaching Printing & Graphics and had 2 AB Dick printing presses. All of this is a long winded back story about how Maker Faire and "The Maker Culture" are so important to me, and I think have a huge place in education. It is quite apropos that my book club read "Shop Class as Soulcraft" this week to get me in the right frame of mind.

So what is Maker Faire NC? It is a place where anyone that ever wanted to build, create, solder, program, and sometimes destroy comes together to play. It is a place where geeks can strut their geekiness, and kids can build something out of trash, where learning by doing is the most important rule in the world. It is an educators paradise. This is the culmination of everything that I believe in as a person and as an educator.

So what did I learn at Maker Faire?
More importantly I was inspired by so many people to go a Make something and I think that is what Maker Faire is all about.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Oh and did I mention my quilt group, Triangle Modern Quilters, had a booth? We crowd-sourced a quilt, everyone had an opportunity to sew for either the first or millionth time and help us build a memory of Maker Faire NC :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Laptops in the Classroom

I am pleased to announce that the College of Education is moving forward with their 1:1 Laptop Program. Our goal is that all students graduating from the college have an understanding of how to teach in a 1:1 environment. I am in the midst of a huge professional development undertaking to help our faculty model teaching in a 1:1 environment. This has been a dream of mine for some time and I am so excited that it is coming to fruition. I hope to stream out our session and will post more information soon.

Which is why when I saw this on a university listserv I died a little. (All names and subjects have been removed)

As I mentioned in class yesterday, I really do want your feedback about my idea to ban the use of laptops in the face-to-face section of CLASS starting next semester. I know that at first blush that seems a strange idea - banning technology in a course about technology, but let me explain where I am coming from. There are only about 15 or 20 students out of 100 who use their laptops in class - but that small percentage uses them intensely.

So what have we learned about the place of laptops and cellphones and other mobile media over the course of the semester? We have examined a wide variety of helpful tasks that they certainly enable. But do any of those tasks take place in our classroom? The lectures and powerpoints are all posted online so note-taking is brief outlining. I take us to the relevant websites and so the student is freed from that task as well. So far I can't see any imperative positive reason for laptops to on during the class. The only borderline reason would be that students have gotten used to taking notes on their computers. However, my in-class TAs for both this year and last year report that laptops rarely are opened to word/text pages. They are almost exclusively opened to social websites. Those observations are consistent with my "front of the class" observations when there seems to be little relationship between course content and keyboarding behavior - not much typing, a lot of point-and-clicking accompanied by broad smiles and suppressed laughter. I enjoy the class, but I'm thinking that the smiles and laughter aren't always stimulated by the lecture !

The next thing I think about is the damage that mobile technology does to our time in class together. We have looked at a number of reports this semester about multitasking. The current data seem to indicate that we do an awful lot of it, but that invariably we would do each task better if we did them one at a time. It is the pressure of time that forces us to multitask. Those results argue for the perspective that checking email, Facebook, whatever during class leads to poorer retention of the material being covered in class. One might argue that a student should be free to make that decision on their own. Obviously, I have trouble with that argument, but I have even more trouble with the implied argument that student A can make that decision for students B, C and D who are seated around them. It is one thing for a student to choose to distract themselves to the detriment of their own learning, it is a far different thing to subject the students around them to those distractions.

Cell phones are already prohibited - although a few of you seem to have forgotten that.

So what I am asking is not if you would like laptops to be banned from the class. Rather, what I am asking is do you have any non-entertainment, academic reason for them not to be banned? I don't think you can respond to these posts so please send me your feedback at

I instantly thought of the video going around about a professor that destroyed a laptop in class to prove a point.

I started to write my response immediately, but had to hold it in the draft queue. I have learned to keep emotional e-mails around for awhile before I send them, especially when it is someone I do not know. Luckily, the responses that came back were well constructed counter arguments that included discussions surrounding small group work, back channeling, change of lecture style, etc. including:

An emerging trend in my own learning approach is to use technology to supplement a presentation.. If I am listening to a speaker who cites a resource or topic that adds value to what s/he is saying, I often pull up resources from the web that enrich his/her presentation.. It is a richer context.. and actually improves my retention of the teachers/presenters thoughts.
and my favorite:

Sometimes, the reason students are doing things other than what is required for the class they are in is simply because they are bored. If I have the choice of listening to a presentation which essentially regurgitates and minimally expands upon slides I've already downloaded and viewed and a chapter I've already read, versus getting some productive work done via clearing out some emails, working on another project, or so on, I'll choose to do the ladder items.

The discussion seemed to degenerate from there into an all or nothing scenario and eventually grew into.....

Obviously there is middle ground to be explored. But when a laptop brings the multi-million dollar entertainment industry into the classroom no professor can compete, nor should they have to - that is not our job.

I find this interesting since if a professor is a primarily a lecturer and they are on stage talking for an entire class period with minimal interaction with their audience, ahem I mean students, then that sounds a lot like a performer or "entertainer" to me.

What gives me hope is that there is discussion about middle ground, and that is exactly what we need to be talking about. Banning laptops are not the answer, neither is ignoring the issues that arise from laptop use. Is the a bigger classroom management issue, of course it is. Does this merit a discussion with the class - YES!! Should pedagogy change in a laptop classroom - ABSOLUTELY!!! What we can't do is teach the same way we have in the past and expect nothing to ever change.

And to be honest - lets stop blaming the technology for "taking me off task," I can be just as bored without a laptop as I can with one.

I had several concerns about posting this in such a public forum, my intent is not to disrespect or misrepresent any faculty issues. I would never have written this if this had been an individual e-mail, but due to the fact that this was sent to a listserv, the writers themselves have placed this in a public domain.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The ever changing world of free in cloud computing and Ning

One of the things that educators in general love is "free," but free always comes at a cost. For some it is living with Google Ads on your page, for others it is living on the generosity of a company . Last week the rumors about Ning and their change in direction from a primarily free service to premium offerings rocked the tech world - not just the education one. We've seen this before, and the majority of us live in the "fear" of when our free services will leave, either due to abandonment of a project altogether (re: Google Lively) or change to ads or pay for services (re. Wetpaint)

However, I was really surprised that Ning took this direction. They initially really seemed to understand community and how to build one with a mix of free and paid options. When the word came out that Gina was leaving Ning - I should have known something was up.

Now I pay every month to remove ads from my Ning. I feel that when I use this as a teaching tool I needed to be ad free. I was also lucky enough to have the budget for the less than ~$250 a year to keep it running. Comparing this to running something internally - it was actually more cost-efficient for the external model.

I really do like Ning, I like the concept, the way it works, and how easy it has been to use, but it is not Ning that makes a community. I recently finished my thesis research on Ning and found that what makes Ning such a great learning resource is the way it empowers the users of the community, not the just the creators of the community. We talk a good deal at our university about how to define our courses to be platform independent, so that we don't rely on BlackBoard or Moodle or Ning to deliver our content. I think it is important for us to teach our pre-service teachers how to conceptualize the use of tools "in the cloud" so that they would work on several different platforms. So that the losing of one tool isn't as devastating. And there have been some great alternatives posted by Mashable and Buddy Press. The use of created social networks will not go away, it will just grow more diverse.

As for me, I'm keeping my Nings and I'll pay for them, but I doubt I'll present about Ning anymore.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


The edchat topic from yesterday was all about passion and how do we encourage it in teachers. I hadn't had the opportunity to really participate in an edchat discussion lately (and if you haven't I highly recommend it), and this question in particular resonated with me. One of the reasons that I love my job, is that I am not only allowed but encouraged to engage in activities I am passionate about. I think what the heart of our discussion was the lack of freedom and the stifling of creativity that teachers feel in their schools. That all to often teachers try new things that don't go smoothly and give up. Tom Whitby counteracts with this that we should embrace failure and learn from them. That it is this challenge that we should be embracing. This immediately brought to mind a completely unrelated experience:

Imagine Bethany as a teenage softball player, she is good, but lacks confidence. She can hit home runs, but the minute the count isn't in her favor, she crumbles. With two strikes down, her Dad yells from the crowd, "You hit like a girl." In her head, she yells back, "What is that supposed to mean?!?!" as she hits a home run.

Now, my Dad wasn't trying to put me down for being a girl (in fact he is one of my biggest fans) but he knew I needed to get mad. That if I was just fighting with myself I would lose, but that if I had something to push against I would demand to be heard.

I'm lucky, I am in a situation where I can do what I love and advocate for change in the education world. But I'm not in the trenches, I'm not fighting it every day. But I have been there, and maybe Tom is right we need to be "undaunted by failures. In fact, a passionate teacher should be spurred on by defeats."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Educon 2.2

I promised myself I wouldn't read or post any blogs until I posted on my Educon 2.2 experience. So with my Google Reader Feed exploding, I am finally writing about my experience. And Educon 2.2 is definitely more about experience than anything else. There is something about being in that building and meeting everyone Face-to- face that is beyond anything I have experienced in a long time in education. But let me back track - what is Educon?

Educon is the brain child of the principal of The Science Leadership Academy (SLA), Chris Lehman, in Philadelphia. SLA is a charter school associated with The Franklin Inst and is an example (to me at least) of how charter school's can change the way we think about education. Educon 2.2 takes the best part of a conference - the conversations and focuses on them. It reminds me of how we say that edtech is about "Content not Tools."

Friday started with a very insightful personal tour from one of the students at SLA. Muhammad was so excited to show me around his school, and what he was passionate about. To me that is the best testimony you can have of any school - kids excited to share what they are doing and happy to be there. And isn't that excitement, that enthusiasm we have for school - don't we want our students to have that as well?

I had an incredible time at the rest of the conference discussing "What is Creativity?" or "What can we learn about learning from Play?" and even "How to stump Education Lawyers" but what it came down to me was the conversations I had with other both in and out of sessions. My Dad used to tell me how important it was to "network," and I never really believed him until I started creating and cultivating my own PLN. And what I've discovered is that these in-person connections at places like Educon make my online connections much more richer.

In the end - I think it is my interaction with people, especially Muhammad that I will take back with me. I believe my friend Jason said it best when he says,
What will you do tomorrow in your schools to help those around you ‘defy gravity? Will you merely return to school re-energized by meeting many of your PLN face-to-face looking to improve what you do? Clearly, that is one reason we attend a conference like EduCon but what about those around you? Will you reach out to the folks in your department, down the hall, even in a neighboring school across the district or in your state?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ignite Raleigh 2: I survived

So one of the drawbacks of winning the Ignite Raleigh 2 voting is that you actually have to present, in front of people that you don't know (turns out there were 700 of them)! Now most of my job involves pushing faculty and students outside of their comfort zone, but it has been a long time since I felt like such an outsider. Now don't get me wrong I teach and present for a living, but my audience members are normally either 1) Captive, i.e. students or 2) Educators that want to hear what I have to say. Last Wednesday I felt like a Freshman on The Debate team, geeky, but not geeky enough.

Now don't get me wrong, I am extremely grateful to have been apart of Ignite Raleigh 2, and my fellow speakers were fantastic, but they all seemed to know each other. It was more like crashing a reunion of social media experts, and to top that off they made me go first! However, the advantage of going first is that 1) I got it over with quickly and 2) I got to enjoy all the other presentations - which were almost all extraordinary.

Some of my favorites included:

NerdGirls Unite! Fact: Women Don’t Have to Be Lame by Charlotte Moore

I was completely impressed with Charlotte's confidence as much as her subject matter. As a "Nerd Girl" myself, I was excited to hear what she had to say and thought she did an excellent job.

Mayberry Modernism – Why the Triangle is America’s Hotspot for Way Cool Houses by George Smart

Did you know that Raleigh has the third largest concentration of Modernist houses? I didn't and now I totally want to buy one! George did an excellent job of telling a story about our area that was both interesting a compelling.

13 Reasons Women Should Take Up Boxing by Lisa Creech Bledsoe
Lisa aka (@glowbird) was one of the first people I followed on Twitter that was from Raleigh and not in education. I have always enjoyed her tweets and was interested to meet her in person. She was really nice to me back stage and a genuinely kind person - that is not afraid to beat you up in the ring. I may just have to take up boxing!

Overall, I really did enjoy my experience, but I'm not sure I would do it again. I'm appreciative of everyone that gave me their support and to the group of friends that showed up in person. We had a small edutweetup prior to the show where I got a chance to meet and talk with @PCSTech, @kellyhines, @msstewart , @cliffims, @ericcole, @keithledford among others. I am very appreciate to them for taking my mind off of the rest of the evening.

I hope to post the video soon. Right now the Ustream channel doesn't have the first two presenters. But you can watch it here just the same.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ignite Raleigh

I have put my money where my mouth is and have thrown my hat in the ring (wow 2 cliches in the first sentence already :) to present at Ignite Raleigh.

I'm a fan of the Pecha Kucha style that Ignite Raleigh promotes of 5 minutes/20 slides. I've worked with a few classes to use this style for their final project presentation and it has worked great - if you combine it with Presentation Zen. So that is my presentation topic

Presentation Zen or How to not to be boring while presenting at Ignite

I was surprised at the lack of overall design and presentation style at last year's Ignite - so I hope my presentation will change all that :) So if you get a chance and are so inclined, please vote for me! Also - NCTies peeps - it is the Wednesday night of the conference, maybe we could get a group to go over?