Mapping a Network


Recently, I asked all of you a question, “What would you do as a Director of Blended Learning?

Immediately after the first response came in, I realized that I would need some way to aggregate all of the answers. I didn’t want a list and I didn’t want to simply copy them all into a spreadsheet. These responses were coming in from all over, and I wanted a way to show just how vast a passionate learning network can become. So, I decided to figure out a way of mapping them. This post serves as both a way to see all of the responses and as a tutorial to visualize responses for other projects.

Step 1: Create a New Fusion table in Google Drive (Scroll down to where it says fusion table)

Step 2: Start adding all of the columns you will need. These are the ones I used:

  • Name
  • Job Title
  • Quotation
  • Location
  • Avatar
  • Profile Link
  • Conversation Link
  • Video Response

Step 3: Choose the field types from the drop down next to each column name (or from the add column menu). These are the modifications I made:

  • Location should be a Location type
  • Avatar should be an Eight Line Image within the Text Type
  • Profile and Conversation Links should be a Link type within the Text Type
  • Video Response should be Youtube, Vimeo, or Google Map type within the Text Type

Step 4: Start Aggregating all of the responses. If you want some help with this, just share the Fusion Table like you would any other Google Doc and get others to populate it.


Step 5: Style your HTML for the mapped locations from the “Map of Location” tab. Here is the format I made:

<div class=’googft-info-window’ style=’font-family: sans-serif; height: 12em; overflow-y: auto’>
<table border=”0″ cellspacing=”10″>
<td><img src='{Avatar}’ height=’90’ style=’vertical-align: top’/><br><br>
<b><a href='{Profile Link}’ target=’_blank’>{Name}</a><br><br></b>
<i>{Job Title}<br><br></i>
{Quotation}{Video Response}
<a href='{Conversation Link}’ target=’_blank’>Continue the conversation.</a>


Step 6: Publish your Fusion Table

You can view the raw data here, or you can simply look at and explore the map below:

If you would like to see your response on this map, please go to this YouTube video and answer the question, “What would you do as a Director of Blended Learning?”

Question 167 of 365: When does the game change?

Image representing Flowr as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

I wrestled for 2 years when I was in elementary school. I was never all that good at it, but I did manage to win a few matches. Mostly, I only remember trying to sit against a wall in an invisible chair.

We were supposed to put our backs up against the wall and bend our legs into the sitting position and hold it for as long as we could. We would line up by age along the wall, with the youngest by the water fountains in the cafeteria. We could only hold out for a minute or so, and we would complain the whole time. Our muscles just weren’t ready for that kind of stress. The middle schoolers, though, could take it for upwards of five minutes and they didn’t make a sound. Somehow, the invisible chairs that they were sitting on held them up much better than ours did.

That was the game, though. Sitting in an invisible chair with our matching wrestling uniforms on. The chairs were pretend, as were most of the grunts and grimaces because we knew that we were going to give up at the first sign of real pain. We knew that there wasn’t any real point to powering through because there was no winning. The chairs would always be fake and we would always lose the game. It would always be more work than it was worth.

That is kind of the way that I feel about social networking within an organization. I can see the huge benefits to sharing information around an institution, allowing everyone to feed off of the smartest ideas and the most efficient workflow. The value of communication and collaboration is clear whenever an important document is created or a new feature is floated. And yet, it just feels like sitting in an invisible chair to try and get people to share information or collaborate with one another. It feels as though it is more trouble than it is worth, like I am exercising a muscle that I am never going to actually get to use.

At least it did, until today. Today, I saw a glimpse of what institutional social networking really could be if it was done right. This afternoon, I realized that lowering the barrier to entry was possible. I could be talking about Google Buzz or Wave coming to Google Apps or I could be talking about Facebook or LinkedIn really branching out into the business space. I could also be referencing Yammer or Ning or some other well known piece of social software. Instead, I am talking about a product that hasn’t been out more than a month and has none of the press of these much larger players.

I am talking about Flowr.

More accurately, though, I am talking about the fact that Flowr just created Google Apps integration with its social networking package. The software on its own, allows users to share status updates, ideas, polls, files, and events. Couple with the system that many institutions are already using for e-mail and collaboration equals WIN. It is mind-boggling that I will be able to login to a single space and share information with everyone in the institution via a social stream and then share different information specifically with groups that can then connect that information to Google Docs or Google Calendar Events. It is as if someone pushed a really comfy chair underneath me while I was trying yet again to lean against the wall with my knees bent.

I’m not saying its the holy grail, nor could any web application deserve that moniker. What I do mean to say is that by making such a vital part of connection in modern life that much easier, I believe that institutions may actually start to focus on what will actually cause them to succeed: valuing their humanity. By this I mean that companies will finally see that it is people sharing information and that the people are the ones that will add to the understanding and institutional knowledge and culture. While their is great lip service paid to this idea, it really is only when faced directly with the possibility of searching through (via a great search bar in Flowr) or filtering out (via tags) all of the contributions of an organization that people come to their senses about what is truly worthy of pursuit.

So, the game changes when the things that we thought were impossible become possible. When things that were once invisible become things you can depend upon. It is when you now need things that formerly didn’t exist. This will happen with enterprise social networking, but I think that it probably isn’t the biggest invisible thing that we will come to rely upon in the next few years.

More likely, our invisible chairs and muscle strains will become clearer with age. Just as the middle schoolers could hold it longer than we could in early elementary, we will start to realize just how valuable those chairs are going to be just as we need them to support the weight of our work.

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Strategy for Collaborative Learning

Image representing Google Docs as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase

I recorded this podcast a few weeks ago, but I have sat on it for that long in order to mull everything over for a while.

The topic for this podcast is all about how we enumerate the exact needs found within the classroom that would require us to be collaborative and use tools like Google Docs, Wikis or Blogs. Many of us feel as though these needs are self-evident, but in the face of resistance, we need to be able to write them out and share them with others.

I will let the psudo-rant speak for itself, but I would like to repeat the question/s that I ask at the end:

What do you believe the needs are for a collaborative learner that would lead you to using Google Apps? What was the needs analysis that you underwent that led you to believe that a collaborative space was necessary?

(This sounds like a ridiculous question, but I think that it actually gets at a small portion of Karl Fisch’s much larger and better questions, found here.)

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The answer to a question no one asked

LONDON - APRIL 13:  (FILE PHOTO) In this photo...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Here is an e-mail that I sent out just a few minutes ago to the team that is helping to decide the fate of Google Apps for Education in our district. Please comment as you see fit:

Something that came up in our meeting today has stayed with me all night and really got me thinking about the purpose of our work toward using any collaborative suite within DCSD. It was the simply asked as “What was the question that Google Apps is the answer to?” Or, to put it another way, is there a need (stated or unstated) that exists for this toolset, or are we simply introducing an unnecessary complication to the process of our overall strategy.

It is clear to me that there isn’t a mass of people people clamoring for synchronous collaborative tools. It isn’t exactly on the tip of everyone’s tongue in our district, and in many ways, I believe that many people would say that there are lower hanging fruit or “bigger fish to fry.” Even in many of the needs assessments that have been conducted for Project Click [our overall strategy for leveraging technology for all stakeholders in our district], the synchronous editing of documents, spreadsheets, and presentations hasn’t been overwhelming. So, if the need doesn’t exist (or if the need is only voiced by “power users”), of what value is pushing forward with a rollout (whether in a few months or much later)?

It is my belief that the toolset that Google Apps provides is in the cliched quadrant that exists where many users “don’t know what they don’t know”. The reason why the specific question of “how do I write a document with other people at the same time” hasn’t been asked by many people, is that they don’t know that it is a possibility, or that they haven’t seen how it can shift learning.

So, my guess is that the questions that Google Apps (or some other collaborative suite) is an answer to are as follows:

  1. How do I maximize a small number of computers or short times on those computers so that all kids/adults can participate on a single project?
  2. How do I plan a unit’s worth of lessons (or do create a grant proposal, or outline job responsibilities) with the person down the hall (and in another school) in the hour before I have to teach the first lesson (or give the presentation, or submit a recommendation)?
  3. How can I avoid sitting through 120 presentations on a given topic without resorting to group work without individual responsibility?
  4. How can I make commenting, peer review, and reflection an integral part of the writing process?
  5. How can I better conduct action research on the fly with others in an easy place to keep track of it?

These are questions I have heard and questions that I have had. For each of them, Google Apps has been “an” answer. This does not mean that we won’t hear the specific needs request for all of the tools that Google Apps has to offer, but I believe that we are more likely to hear things like this that really speak to needs of pedagogy or process. They speak to a lack of knowledge for what exists, but a willingness to find out more.

Perhaps it took until today for me to figure out that the use of a Google Apps for Education domain (or a like-tool) is not meant to be a stop-gap at all. It isn’t really meant to be for the current needs of our district. It is meant to reach for the future needs of our community. It can be used to answer the questions that we haven’t been able to provide answers for, yet.

Anyway, this is what I have been thinking about tonight. Thoughts?

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Add Video Tutorials to Google Sites


Although I am very excited about using Google Apps for Education for school communication and collaboration I can honestly say that I am not at all happy that I can’t just simply copy embed code over to a Google Document or paste it directly into Google Sites and expect to see results. Well, I think that I have figured out a pretty good work around for at least creating video tutorials. The reason why this is so important is because I have to convince a whole bunch of people to start collaborating very quickly. I’m not sure that I know a better way of doing that other than creating specific tutorials and then putting them into a collaborative space that begs for feedback (i.e., Google Sites).

So, here is what I did:

Step 1: Record your tutorial using ScreenToaster and then upload it directly to Screentoaster. Once this is completed, you will be taken to the video with the correct URL.

Step 2: Copy the video ID, which looks something like this:

Step 3: Head on over to your google site and edit a page you want to put the video into.

Step 4: Insert a Gadget (click on insert and then “more”)

Step 5: Search for the embed flash gadget, or simply use this URL to access it directly.

Step 6: Input the following information into the fields you are presented with:

(The URL of the flash is and the Flash Vars is “video=paste_your_video_id_here” (without quotations))

Step 7: Click okay and save

This will allow you to create very quick tutorials on any subject and then embed them into your Google Site. I would say that this is much harder to do than simply copy and pasting some embed code, but I think that I will go through a little bit of greif in order to make sure that teachers and students can collaborate easily without having to worry about yet another login to access a wiki tool that allows for a simple embed.

Logging back in…

One of many Google signs
Image by Extra Ketchup via Flickr

So, I have run into quite a few hiccups with my Google Apps and Moodle Integration so far, all of which I think are my fault. I single handedly broke the portal by installing a rancid plugin. I have also been trying to push the integration farther than intended because I don’t want to be stuck talking about “moodle” and “google apps” as individual entities. I want to talk about the greater strategies for communication in an online learning space and having conversations about the ways in which we treat children’s privacy in a k-12 school.

Yet, I have had more meetings about specific tools in the last few days than I have in the last year. It seems as though, as much as I try to dodge my responsibility for being the “tech guru” (our art teacher’s words, not mine), it seems to catch up with me. I have to both talk specifically about how to create groups in gmail, and talk about how creating groups in gmail will create an ongoing message board of sorts when anyone clicks reply all (or we turn on labs to have that be the default). I need to be able to teach others how to create a Google Site and subscribe to the pages of importance, but then go deeper into what makes the subscription different than simply going back and checking on student’s progress.

The hard part is really getting to that deeper level. Once people see you as the person who has the “tech answers” it is hard to push beyond that. I guess that is why I continue to ask so many questions. I want to know things and be able to do things, not because I want to teach others, but because I want to learn for myself. I’m not sure that many people accept that there is just as much that I want to learn from them, as they may want to learn from me. How do I convince them?

With that question asked and not answered… here is my bit of concrete skills for the day.

If you would like to be able to log back into moodle from your Google Apps installation, you will need to either use the built in gadget that comes with the moodle-google package or you can simply use that gadget and put it onto any webpage. So long as you are logged in to google apps or moodle, you should be able to put this gadget in any webpage and perform a hocus pocus of single-signing in back to moodle.

<script src=”;up_selectedTab=&amp;synd=open&amp;w=320&amp;h=200&amp;title=eDCSD_Moodle_Gadget&amp;border=%23ffffff%7C3px%2C1px+solid+%23999999&amp;output=js”></script>

(notice that “” is where your moodle directory would go and instead of “eDCSD_Moodle_Gadget”, you would want to have your own information).

Sometimes, cookies really are amazing things. I have yet to try it out on anything too fancy, but I like the idea that you could put this onto your blog, a wiki site, or any other webpage in existance that takes this kind of embed and have students get right back in to their moodle access (and therefore, google apps). Anyone care to think of a good use for this outside of what I have already outlined.

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Moodle as glue


I have to say that for a long time I really missed the boat on Moodle. All this time I really just thought of it as a way to put courses online and distribute online content to students. While it is still those things, it took me a couple of weeks of heavy research to really figure out what the true genious of moodle is: The way it talks (and listens) to other things. Now, I am not just talking about the new integration between Moodle and Google Apps, although that is pretty cool. I am in fact, talking about the ways in which it can authenticate to many systems at once (Firstclass, LDAP, a drupal server, etc.). I am talking about the ways that it can accept content from many sources and formats and call it its own:

I believe that I have finally found the glue for our online school. Whether or not we end up using Moodle for our Learning Management System needs remains to be seen. But, the simple ability to have students go to one place to access all of their content and have it actually make sense. Well, that is just beautiful.

(Just to make sure that I am being as forthcoming as possible, the most beautiful thing for me is in the fact that students will be able to be created in Infinite Campus, automatically created within Moodle, then automatically created in Google Apps. The less manual entering of student I have to do, the more I get to play around with the future of learning.)

Another Senior Project: Social Network Research

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t have a lot of time to write this post (crazy things happen when I get excited about an idea) , but I really want to share this resource.

This project is for a Senior to do research on Social Networking. It is very well formatted and asks for some real accountability from the students. They actually have to create a social network to analyze, not simply piggy back on existing (and somewhat less desirable networks). I would love to see more projects like this one that ask students to think critically about the technologies that they use and come up with some conclusions that can be shared with the rest of the learning community.

Social Networking in schools doesn’t require just a little bit of thought. It requires a lot. From all stakeholders.

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Best Senior Project, Ever.

LONDON - APRIL 13: (FILE PHOTO)  In this photo...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

As I have been looking for people who are working to roll out Google Apps for Education in their schools, I wasn’t really thinking that I would find a student so engaged in the process. But, I think this may qualify as the best Senior project I have ever seen.

I can’t get over just how cool a student creating a blog to chronicle the progress of rolling out Google Apps is. This particular student clearly wants both teachers and students to be using it to its greatest potential. I think my favorite quote from his blog so far is as follows:

Two of the students I was working with were techno-phobic a the beginning of our sessions last fall.  They consistently told me that they didn’t like computers, and were the first ones to simply give up when they didn’t get it the first time around.


The first one, most recently, made the same comment to me – “I don’t like computers” – and I simply asked him if he liked cars.  Of course, he said yes, and I asked him what you do to a car when it breaks or isn’t working right – he said that you simply fixed it (in a matter-of-fact tone).  So I then asked him what you should do when a computer breaks – the thought about it for a minute, and said, “fix it I guess.”  After that, he never told me he hated using the computers – and later in the week last week was the only one who actually followed along with my instructions and was getting everything right the first time – he even started to help other students if they had a question about the sites we were working with.


The second one kept iterating to me that he hated computers and that they never worked for him – I kept insisting that computers were pretty cool things when you think about all of the things you can do with them.  Then, when I was talking about how global data on the internet really was – he paid extremely close attention.  Now, this student really had very rudimentary typing skills (from lack of exposure to computers as opposed to lack of potential or ability) and therefore got relay frustrated, and usually had his partner do the typing for their online labs – last week, he actually took the computer from his partner and was insisting on typing everything himself.

This is a teacher in the making. He said that he realized that he was having the time of his life talking to teachers about how to use Google Apps. If you would like to encourage him a little bit (or ask him questions) , he put his email on the front page, but here it is for easy access: rminnick(at)

I would also like to highlight some of his handywork. This is a great presentation, and I can’t wait to ask him what he left out of the online version (he said that he took out some activities because he wants to keep them as trade secrets).

With students like this, why is it that so many schools do not recognize their contributions or honor the ways that they can add to the learning environment. What if we asked all of our seniors to create a site like this to chronicle their passion? What if we had a huge repository of all of their creative endeavors?

And what if we didn’t just ask this of them in Senior year, but every year of their education?

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The Missing Community for Google Apps?

Image representing Google App Engine as depict...
Image via CrunchBase

As I am working hard to roll out Google Apps for Education for our online school, I am struggling to find the community that supports it. With all of the great things that Google Apps has to offer, it is mind boggling that there wouldn’t be a single community spaces (or even a series of well-developed communities) that would be talking about best practices for collaborative document creation or the easiest ways to communicate with students using global contact lists.

Does this place exist?

Well, this is what I have found so far:

But, these sites are not enough to me. I want a conversation about student learning with Google Apps. And the way that it will start is by stating in one place just who is using Google Apps for Education and how to contact them to ask questions. One of my favorite bloggers, presenters, and teachers (Lucy Gray) has taken us in that direction quite a bit by offering a Google Form to identify yourself.

Please go and add yourself!

And, here are the results (some ussual suspects, but many potential collaborators that I have never made contact with).

The next step in this process of creating community around the topic is to tag every blog post, presentation, and wiki edit, tweet and video with “GoogleAppsEd” or #GoogleAppsEd.

I want to see us start tagging ourselves as GAE users, not because we love Google or because we believe that they are best thing to happen to education since the invention of erasers. I believe that the conversation is important because if we would like students to collaborate using these tools, we must be using them to collaborate.

The last step, that I would like to figure out is setting up a series of online meetups to talk about the issues inherent in rolling out Google Apps for Eduction. Here are the ones I would start with, but please add ones that you woud like to discuss in the comments:

  1. The legality of giving students e-mail adresses as young as Kindergarten.
  2. Using Google Apps as a wharehouse for our data.
  3. The Google Terms of Use
  4. Advanced uses of Docs (forms, turning things in via sharing, etc.)
  5. Advanced uses of gmail (academic uses of chat, system-wide groups, etc.)
  6. Advanced uses of calendar (student and faculty calendars meshing)
  7. Labs for google apps including Moderator.

I think that there is a lot more here, but I just want to start the conversation. Please spread the link to Lucy Gray’s spreadsheet and form and the tag for spreading the conversation. Let’s talk soon.

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