Question 61 of 365: How do we make renewal more accessible?

Standard

Sometimes, making a single change to a long held practice will completely renew your interest and commitment to that practice. One of those times was this week.

I am renewed in my fascination and commitment to blog comments.

For years, I have thought that along with PDF’s (as Will Richardson puts it), they were where ideas went to die. They only lived as tiny little attachments on the end of a post, an asterisk on an idea. While they may spark a lot of debate or be the most interesting part of a blog, I could never help but feeling as though they were a waste because of how little they were incorporated into everything else I was doing. Sure, you have been able to subscribe in e-mail to comments on blogs, but it never felt like a cohesive conversation. Sure, people have had threaded comments for a couple years, but it always worked more like just an extension of the regular commenting structure than a real debate of ideas. The threads never really went anywhere besides what the original blog post had envisioned.

So, why this renewal?

The switch to Disqus comments has fueled my new outlook on comments. The simple ability to respond to a comment directly in e-mail and then see all of the threads as a conversation in gmail has made me think that there really could be a commenting renaissance in our future. Because each comment now has its own short link, I can send it out on Twitter or Buzz and continue the conversation.

I am now looking at my comments as ways of forming relationships and beginning/continuing conversations that were impossible to do previously. And, all from one simple switch to a different commenting system.

So, this has gotten me thinking about whether or not the entire process of renewal can be made more accessible to others. It makes me want to figure out which feature of a process could be changed in our every day lives that would cause us to buy-in anew and want to create something.

Which aspect of collaboration can I change to incite renewal for others?

Which part of meetings can I shift in order to renew interest in talking with one another?

What can I change in the writing process to allow people to see it as a renewing force in their life?

And there is the crux. In order to make renewal available to everyone, there is a level of investment required. All of these things do require someone to DO something. So, by focusing on things that people are already doing, we may be able to shift them one or two degrees in order to bring about real change.

In essence, what I need to figure out is not so much what are the changes I can make for others, but to really figure out what people are doing and go from there. Unless I have a good understanding of exactly how people are using a given tool, protocol, or idea; I will have no chance of making a lasting change that brings about renewal. I need to hear more stories about how people are meeting and collaborating, about how they are asking questions and about how they are leveraging the people that they know in order to find answers.

Until I listen, I can’t renew or reinvent anything.

SpeedGeek Learning Version .1

Standard
I am pleased to announce the following features within the first prototype at http://speedgeeklearning.com:
I would love it if you would test out all of them and see what there is to see. I would also love any feedback that you can provide this prototype, either by simply e-mailing it to me or by leaving comments on the Planning site (if you don’t have access to that yet, let me know).

The other two things you can do to help the project at this point are as follows:
  1. Think of any way that you could use the SpeedGeek Learning platform within your own work. If there are any videos that you use and would like to collaborate upon, let’s set you up with an instance of your own. If there are certain big questions you would like to answer, let’s answer them with video and collaborative documents. Start to think about pushing the platform to be what you would like it to be. I am up any ideas you have. Just let me know.
  2. Spread the word that the prototype is available. I would love to get as many people answering these questions in the collaborative document and passing the link around as possible. If you feel the need to blog about it, do so. If you feel the urge to tweet, please do so. I pushed out the initial idea, but this is the first version that I can actually show off.
Thank you so much for your continued interest. I can’t wait to get to phase two, which will include:
  1. Recording your own videos within the interface.
  2. Analytics about individual video views
  3. Greater collaboration with the presenters of the sessions
  4. More ways to organize the sessions
  5. Further design work to flesh out the platform

Online Learning and Web 2.0: OL Teach 2008 (Secondary)

Standard
Online learning is not about computers, the internet, or learning from home. It is not about giving kids a different educational option, or even leveraging the power of digital natives. It is my belief that the goal of online learning is to make learning ubiquitous. It is about pushing our education to include everything, from the context of the everyday to the workflow of original thought. This presentation aims to explore this notion of ubiquitous learning. Please, push back at these ideas, it is the only way they will get any better.

The Presentation:

The Collaborative Podcast:

The OL Teach Text Messages:

Get your own at TextMarks!

The Backchannel and Moderated Discussion:

The Voicethread for Sharing Ideas:

The Links for further learning:
Preserve the learning links:

Creation as norm links:


Authenticity as expectation links:

Please feel free to leave comments or questions (video, audio, and text) on this blog post, you can also reach me by e-mail at ben@learningischange.com.

Online Learning and Web 2.0: OL Teach 2008 (Elementary)

Standard
Online learning is not about computers, the internet, or learning from home. It is not about giving kids a different educational option, or even leveraging the power of digital natives. It is my belief that the goal of online learning is to make learning ubiquitous. It is about pushing our education to include everything, from the context of the everyday to the workflow of original thought. This presentation aims to explore this notion of ubiquitous learning. Please, push back at these ideas, it is the only way they will get any better.

The Presentation:

The Collaborative Podcast:

The OL Teach Text Messages:

Get your own at TextMarks!

The Backchannel and Moderated Discussion:

The Voicethread for Sharing Ideas:

The Links for further learning:
Preserve the learning links:

Creation as norm links:


Authenticity as expectation links:

Please feel free to leave comments or questions (video, audio, and text) on this blog post, you can also reach me by e-mail at ben@learningischange.com.

Digital Ex-Patriots and The Formula for Transparency

Standard

itunes pic
Well, I may be going out on a limb with this one, but I have described in the podcast a level of discomfort with technology that goes beyond the simple immigrant/native debate. The fear and panic that is associated with technology in the classroom comes from Digital Ex-Patriots. These people (parents, teachers, administrators, etc.) are so sure of their anti-technology stance that they are actively pursuing a life (of education) away from technology integration. These are the people that we must win over if we are going to continue our collaborative efforts and truly create change. Please let me know what you think about this concept in the comments or in an e-mail (benjamin.wilkoff@dcsdk12.org)




Show Notes:

What Myspace can teach us about School 2.0

Standard

itunes pic
This podcast was brought about because of the classroom discussion that my eighth graders had about what a terrible affect Myspace can have on their lives. I wanted to start brainstorming a school-sponsored space that we could substitute for Myspace that would be an extension of the classroom. This space would have the ability to connect students over academic interests as well as personal interests. It would allow for photo sharing and digital storytelling within these photos. Primarily, however, this space would allow students to comment on everything. Each element of the space (a module) would have a feedback form, so students would get comments about their school notes, their podcasts, their blog posts, their beliefs, and their photos. I can’t think of anything that would engage students more than being able to get specific feedback on all of the important aspects of their lives, and to do it all in an environment that wouldn’t allow the inflammatory remarks that are a systematic part of Myspace. Let me know what you think of this idea and its feasibility at benjamin.wilkoff@dcsdk12.org or http://yongesonne.edublogs.org

The Perfect Online Professional Development Community

Standard

I have really been thinking a lot about how to create an online community for all of the teachers in my school district who are as passionate about technology integration, reflection and collaboration as I am. The way that it stands, I feel so isolated in my quest for new and more effective ways of teaching. I know this is not the case, that there are probably hundreds of teachers who feel the same way, but that isn’t really much comfort when I don’t know who they are and I have no way of contacting them. I almost feel like I need to send out a classified ad: Young passionate teacher seeks the same in order to learn and collaborate about technology and pedagogy.

I can’t think of a better way to ask for a community than to create one and hope that other people join up. I have already run this idea by a few, more experienced, Edubloggers, Bud Hunt and Karl Fisch. They have both responded pretty well to the idea and are willing to help me get it off of the ground.

After my initial e-mails to my administration and these two great teachers/resources, I thought that there would be no way of stopping such a mammoth idea. My principal loved it, and the feeder area coordinator thought it would work well with some of our other goals. But last night, I received an e-mail from the Web Services manager of my district. In it he said that I should consider using two semi-crippled technologies (Firstclass and SchoolCenter) that teachers in my district are already fairly comfortable with (and the district has already paid for). I say that these are crippled technologies because they have real holes in their capabilities. They just can’t do everything that I want to do with this community.

Even with this minor setback, I have decided that I will not compromise (at least initially) my vision of the “Perfect Online Professional Development Community.” I would like to see just how collaborative, easy to use, scalable, social, and reflective I can make this experience for other teachers. So, without any further explanation, I would like to unveil what I think are the essential pieces of a new generation professional learning community.

A central portal will give you access to the following (I am thinking about using protopage):

    1. A master blog that would guide discussion.
    2. Blogroll
    3. Recent Blog Articles (a la SuprGlu)
    4. Archived Blog Articles (in a newsletter type format)
    5. A Google Earth Mash-Up of all of the school represented in the community
    6. Bios of the teacher bloggers (if they wish to include them) done in a social way so that collaboration is easier (an Elgg.org-type personal page)
    7. A calendar for event planning (Skypecasts, Classroom Demonstration Webcasts, Classroom Picture Flickr Stream)

The other aspects of the community that will not be directly shown on the portal’s front page except for simply linking to them:

  1. A Q+A section for both teaching questions and technical help questions (Ning.com has a great set-up for something like this).
  2. A Digg-Style Article/Website recommender.
  3. A Wiki for success stories of technology integration or improved practice (a little like David Warlick‘s Telling the New Story Wiki)
  4. Walk-Throughs (screencasts) for how to create blogs, collaborate, etc.
  5. A way of dealing with comments both attached to and unattached to their original posts. (co.mments.com has a pretty great strategy)
  6. A professional development bookshelf (akin to either this one or this one)
  7. A way of signing up for an e-mail RSS system for new posts (most teachers check their e-mail religiously)
  8. A belief statements wiki about technology or teaching in general for certain collaborating members or individuals (this could be a running list of belief statements and/or a running list of questions that these belief statements beg to be answered. I also like the idea of using standpoint.com somehow).
  9. A system for sharing lesson plans and ideas (both formatted and unformatted) including a collaborative document center.
  10. A cross-school project starter (partnering up similar teaching styles)

Questions I still have about how to get this done:

  1. How do we get as many different positions represented in this community (principals, core teachers, librarians, elective teachers, etc.)
  2. Should we try to protect anonymity on the blogs?
  3. Just how much do most people know about these technologies? Will it be like starting from scratch for most people? And if so, should I send out a formal (or informal) survey about these ideas (What have you done in your classrooms with technology? Do you like to create you own lessons? How much do you enjoy reflection? Do you want feedback on your classroom ideas from other teachers? How worried are you that this is going to take too much of your free time? How many of you already blog?)?

Well, that is pretty much it. I would like to make this project as appealing and voluntary as possible, so that everyone who is in the community has a lot of buy-in. Let me know what you think of this grand scheme. What is possible and what is not possible?