K-12 Online Conference Disappointments

This week I had been quite excited to not only be a contributor but a participant in the K-12 Online Conference, in spite of a very hectic week, but I suffered disappointment for the second time when my headset somehow proved not to be compatible with the Elluminate environment software. Having experienced frustration the first time ten days ago, I attempted to go in extra early tonight to do the necessary sound checks. However, for some reason the java applet was not going to work in Firefox, the docking station was having difficulties recognizing the headset, and to make a long story short, I just could not get in to the environment until the event had already started. And, sure enough, my headset was not going to cooperate. This is a month-old usb headset that has been otherwise serving me well.
I spent half an hour trouble shooting, going in and out of the environment, testing, and so on. I finally could hear everything fine, but could not use the microphone. I tested the mic on audacity and it worked fine. Nothing I tried worked in the elluminate environment.

While all this was frustrating enough, what I found most disconcerting and disappointing was that my pleas for tech support were largely ignored. It seems as though no one was designated as a tech support person to trouble-shoot and help those who were having difficulties. The most advice I was given was direction to a tech support page for elluminate, which was not helpful at all.

For a conference that is striving to be community-driven, it is disappointing that the moderators would leave a participant struggling in the background.

The experience left me appreciating the perspective of a newbie who cannot get technology to work for them for some trivial reason. Technology then becomes off-turning and just not worth the effort. This conference is supposed to be inclusive, interactive, social computing at its best. When one voice is silenced because of a failure of technology, I guess I had expected collective supportive, not alienation and a sense of helplessness.

Women of the Web 2.0: growing fast!

Could any of the four of us believe that this initiative could have taken off so fast? Once again, I am in awe of the power of the connectedness of the Internet. And apparently, the need for an environment for the feminine voice in social computing…. The blogosphere has been giving us some press and we now rank #1 and #2 on Google! What really made my day, though, was when Stephen Downes kindly blogged about us! I had joked with my WOWser buddies that I always do a dance around my dining room table when he gives me a mention! And so I was able to do another dance! (What man might do that? ;-)

I am so grateful that Jen Wagner has had the time, vision and energy to manage the WOW2 site, with its bulletin board, blog and store. Yes! We even have a shop! Gotta get my WOW2 mug soon….

The very fast growth has been humbling – I have barely had any time to devote to checking out our new members – to my shame. It is reporting period at our school and my first obligation (after family, of course) is to my students. And I have been spending background time on arranging a solid presentation for the upcoming K-12 Online Conference.

WOW2 has been a great source of professional development for me so far, and I really hope that many other women will share that experience as well. The four of us simply want to provide a place where we can share best practices, facilitate discussions on web ethics as we teach, and provide resources and a sounding board and support for each other in a friendly and collegial manner.

It is a way in which we can give back to those who have supported us.

Our first webcast took place tonight and it was impressive who came out to lend support. It was a great show and I will try to link the podcast from my blog soon. Special thanks to those WorldBridges fellows at EdTechTalk, Dave Cormier (fellow Canadian with a sense of humour *almost* as refined as mine!) and Jeff Lebow for walking us through it.

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Podcast of student interview about The Flattening World

It is about time I uploaded the final version of the podcast of the interview with Sonny, my former student, who spoke so eloquently and articulately about Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat.

The podcast has been spoken of wide and far and I am so pleased to get his voice out there on the global level. What struck me most about Sonny’s review was his frustration that, as a teenager, he felt he did not have the global voice that seemed so evident in Friedman’s book. He felt marginalized and voiceless and without direction in a world that was being flattened in front of his eyes. This is a student with a privileged education and background in a cosmopolitan city (MontrĂ©al). This is a student who is on his school’s student council and has attended national student leadership conferences. And still, he feels voiceless and powerless. If this is so for him, what of the public school students in the inner city schools? What of the students in rural schools in not-so-developed countries?

I want to desperately show Sonny, and students like him, the power of the web – that through these web 2.0 tools, he can have a voice and he can be heard. And it is not just for the affluent schools, but these tools are cheap and can be used easily. I want teachers to see that they can easily integrate these tools in their classroom practices and provide a transformational experience for their students.
His thoughts inspired the theme to my upcoming presentation for the K-12 Onlline Conference – “Listening to the Voices: Student Empowerment through collaborative Learning Projects Beyond the School Walls”. I want all of us to hear our students’ voices and let them see that they are empowered by these great tools.

My greatest privilege as a teacher, indeed one of my fundamental roles, is to provide opportunities for my students. By showing my students how to effectively use these tools is to provide some fabulous life-changing opportunities for them.

Please listen to Sonny in this interview. He is the voice of our youth wanting to be heard and wanting to be included in our rapidly changing world.

The Power of Peer Review; My first Podcast interview; Women of Web 2.0

Once again it has been an incredibly busy week filled with new experiences of the read, write, speak, listen web (that is my name for it).

My students responded to a blog post I made in personallearningspace , which is a sheltered blog community of students and teachers from different classes around the world. I created a community just for our students and made a post in the community blog about the latest issue in our school – the benefit of a co-ed environment. A research study in Canada has just released the results – the largest of its kind in the world – about co-ed and single sex education. Once again, our students responded to the head master’s address (the topic of my blog post) at an assembly earlier in the week. Their responses to the blog post were thoughtful and articulate. Our head went in at the end of the week to read the comments and post a comment himself. My goal was also to have the students learn to comment appropriately and we went through Vicki Davis’ (CoolCatTeacher) blog entry about how to comment like a king or queen. It was very helpful!

On Friday, I audio recorded my first interview-soon-to-be-podcast with a student who had read the book, The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman. The podcast will be attached to my review of the book for the upcoming edition of Coming of Age: The New World Wide Web. The first edition of the book – definitely a must read for educators interested in web 2.0, can be found here. This sixteen year old student was articulate, poised, thoughtful and his points about our current education are informative. He did a great job!

Last week I also completed my very first grant proposal and it is for a prototype of promoting blended learning in the classroom with the use of a moodle. Yes, I am already doing this, but this way I can promote its use even further!

Imagine my surprise early Saturday morning when I discovered that the Cool Cat Teacher had written a wonderful description of her students’ reactions to my students’ reviews of their wikis way back last Tuesday. I had entirely missed out on that even though I have her blog feed! Several weeks ago I had asked my students to go through the Westwood students’ wiki information about Online Safety and critique their work. I collected their responses and posted it back on the class blog of those students at Westwood. Yes, the power of peer review over the Internet is amazing! Students use the Internet all the time to help each other with homework and keep in touch. Having the feedback with students you have not met face-to-face in some ways is more powerful because the students can be honest and worry less about offending someone (as long as they show good citizenship and use constructive criticism – which I insisted upon).

I can’t wait to show my students that they really helped out another class of students and helped to improve the writing and presentation skills of those students! I hope they will be as encouraged as I was!

I should give a mention too, to the upcoming K-12 Online Conference. It sounds like a very exciting event – or set of events – and I even made a proposal, although am wondering if I have half a chance given some of the others that I know of who also submitted a proposal! Last night, Wes Fryer even made a cameo appearance at EdTechTalk to describe it and give some hype. He has a great blog and is one of my favourite reads.

In a few minutes, I am meeting in a skype conference with some truly terrific women who use Internet tools in amazing and inspiring ways. We are planning to collaboratively create a proposal for the upcoming NECC 2007 for a panel discussion. As a spinoff about some of our ideas, Jen Wagner (technospud extraordinaire) has come up with the idea of extending our collaboration by creating a website – Women of Web 2.0. Right now it is a work in progress and frankly I am astounded at Jen’s ability to put so much together in a mere 24 hours! More is to come, I am sure! Please check it out and let us know what you think!

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