BLC – Day Three



Bob Sprankle

Originally uploaded by Edublogger.


What a fun day of stimulating conversation and exchange of ideas!

Last night we enjoyed an evening of entertainment and levity on the Boston Harbour Dinner Cruise. I spent most of the dinner with new colleagues from LEARN finding out a bit more about my new job environment. Later I enjoyed some conversations with new friends who I had originally met at NECC.

I made it through most of the keynote session this morning by Dr. Yong Zhao who showed off a number of Internet trends such as youtube and Second Life. The compelling part of the session, for me and a few others, was the skype chatcast that quite a few of us were adding to. This phenomenon of backchanneling during sessions was even part of the topics we discussed. Yes, we poked a little fun at each other along the way (while David Jakes once again kept us on task), but we also enjoyed some powerful discourses about the speaker’s topic, the conference and the role of web 2.0 tools at such a conference.

I attended two sessions later in the morning – Darren Kuropatwa (New Tools, New Pedagogies – Developing Expert Voices), and Christian Long-Chris Lehmann (Designing High School 2.0). Again, we brought in a number of people into a skype chatcast (who were both in the session and off-site) and had amazing discourses about not just these sessions, but some others that were going on. Many said later about what an invigorating experience it was to have so many voices chiming in with their ideas, responses, experiences, and even dissents. I have to say it was one of the most intellectually stimulating experiences I have had for some time. Definitely a high point was when George Siemens came into the chat and we had a lively discussion about sustainable change in an educational environment and the affordances of a laptop as a tool.

Later, at lunch, I had the great privilege of having Bob Sprankle – Podcast Guru – show me how to use Garage Band on my new MacBook Pro. Wheeee! Imagine having private tutorials with Dave Warlick for pro-blogging tips and Bob Sprankle for podcasting tips all in one summer! Somebody pinch me!

Much more so than NECC 2007, I found most of the sessions promoted or used web 2.0 tools for educational purposes. One would certainly get the impression that a LOT of educators are using these tools in the classroom. However, in many of the audiences of the sessions I attended it was clear that many, many teachers (who were attending this tech-oriented conference) were NOT familiar with these tools and were clearly not using them. We have certainly not reached any kind of saturation point with comprehension of such things as rss feeds, podcasts, and skype. We have a long way to go, baby.

Über-bloggers and even more reports on BLC

While I have been here at BLC, I have watched the evolution of the über-blogger. This term refers to those bloggers who are no longer satisfied with merely taking notes for a later blog post, or even blogging on the fly. No, bloggers have now found each other. They have moved beyond the private experience of writing their own takes on the sessions to the social experience of back-channeling the sessions using either skype or twitter. I was invited into a skype conference with several bloggers who were either onsite (even sitting next to me) or were vicariously experiencing the conference through the collective notes of the attendees. David Jakes has been sharing some of these skype conference chats. I think this practice is another development that has arisen out of the Bloggers’ Café phenom of NECC 2007. To me, it is is a very valuable learning opportunity (that even our own students should be encouraged to use). We learn more through the collective experience in the moment than by writing our own thoughts, then asynchronously responding later.

More session reports:

Joyce Valenza – School Library Websites: State of the Art Information Landscapes for 21st Century Learners (audio-recorded)

Joyce is a tremendously passionate and dynamic speaker and presenter and her session included a wealth of perspective and resources. I found her paradigm of using student pathfinders (wiki-based resource pages) to organize a library webpage to be very appealing.

Her notes and resources can be found on the schoollibrarywebsites wiki.

She believes it is no longer an option for a school to not have a library website – it is a MUST for our 21st century students.

Ewan McIntosh - “We’re Adopting” – An Adoption Strategy for Social Software in Education (audio-recorded)

Five point strategy:

identify key user groups
identify and understand your key users and influencers
let key users evangelise
turn evangelists into trainers

emergent behaviours

lead by example
lead by reminding
provide adequate support
lead by mandate (never had to do this)
personal and school benefits complement each other

It’s not about the tech, it’s about the teach.

More Notes from BLC

I am seeing a recurring theme here at BLC. In the last month before I left school, I said something very radical, but what made a lot of sense to me. I have becoming convinced that we should be putting all our students’ products and projects online. Everything. Essays, multimedia projects, photos of that which could not be made digital. I got some strange looks from the senior administrators, although no one responded.

And so here I am listening to stellar presenters from around the world who are demonstrating best practices and showing amazing student work – all posted online. What are they using? Flickr, youtube, meebo, podcastpeople, the list goes on. The value of sharing online is now becoming widely recognized. However, I would say we are not yet at a critical mass.

More session reports:

Bob Sprankle – Podcasting with Purpose – (audio-recorded)

Benefits for Writing (podcasts)

Students Decide
Peer Teaching
Guiding Questions from Teacher
Team Writing Benefits

Research Skills
Teaching Others

Purpose to work – Podcasting creates purpose – relevance, audience

(So the wind won’t blow it away) creates artifacts to return to

podcasts can be part of living portfolio

writing for a global audience

George Lucas says we have to do away with learning in isolation

information literacy, relevant learning, global communication

Great to hear Cheryl Oakes’ voice during this presentation = great interview with real elementary students!

self-directed learning – students are very self-aware.

These teachers have let go of the control of their class and their students and permitted students to create their own ideas for podcasts –

Bob mentions – A whole new mind – mentions the importance of “design” – podcasting fits this need

He also mentions The Book of Learning and Forgetting – now on my book list.

We learn from the company we keep – quote from book.

What podcasts are we listening to? What blogs are we reading?

Teachers and learners become information artisans – DAve Warlick

Bob says that artisans today are the blog writers

Bob describes the instance of his class with the wikipedia lesson that Dave Warlick shows off at a presentation/blog – someone challenged the lesson – students respond – the process is iterative

The Medium is the Message – how podcasting has changed us – more personal

digital world – two kinds of people – producers and consumers – power will go to producers – quote from an adult visitor to room 208

Data – does the data show learning gains? Watch what they are doing – when they are teaching what they ahve learned – they are showing that something is happening.

Ewan McIntosh – Is your public body public? (audio-recorded)

identity 2.0??

The kind of spaces we have:

Secret Spaces – Mobile sms im

Group Spaces – beebo, facebook, tagged

Publishing Spaces – livejournal, blogger,flickr, phtobucket

Performing space – secondlife, world of warcraft, f2f in school

Participation Space – marches, meetings, markets, conferences

Watching Spaces – television, gigs, theatre, youtube

how implicit or explicit is your digital life?

(forced to write this) things I like:

citrus scents, summer days, a clean house, driving along the lake

Things I don’t like:

being late, paying bills, running out of milk for coffee

I work on creating curriculum and sharing ideas with educators – I also look after the needs of three teenagers and a busy household.

viral success cannot be planned

fear: always loathing?? – school 2.0 not happening because educators are afraid of trying it out –

love the fear, don’t loathe the fear

overplanning – room for serendipity, are you allowed and able to fail?

do you allow students, teachers to make mistakes??

why bother?? 2007 – this is the year that 16 year olds were born in teh same year as the web browser

are we ready for this? something has changed, we have to change

Will ICT have any impact – where has it made the biggest impact?

emerging technologies make the biggest impact – IWB’s has less impact on than when implemented 5 years ago

word count of – CDs = 0

emerging practieces – ways to share it all – make the biggest impact

ways to share it all – ie blogs??

don’t incriminate yourself – just don’t speak

take the 5th amendment – influence of the blog

bloggers are flattening out

wikis – another way for teachers to share it all

shares a wiki with what teachers created best practice guidelines for staff blogs

blogs are conversations – so converse!

who do you consult? roman army or wirearchy

track them – see what people are saying about ..you, your conference, your org

finding bottom-up culture; losing permissions-based culture

don’t do a me-too! look at your own cultural context, why they don’t accept the way things are (for me – what is it about Québec? )

do you want everyone to blog? why? examine why you want these tools

he likes very social public body

opens doors to a communicative body – a connected public body

Thoughts and Notes from Building Learning Communities 2007

I am so glad I came to BLC this year! This conference has quite a different feeling from NECC which I attended a few weeks ago in Atlanta. True, I had something like five public presentations while I was at NECC and I also got swept away by the Bloggers’ Café opportunities for social sharing. I had arrived in Atlanta the day after my last day of school – so I was quite exhausted during and after.

The week before NECC I made an impulsive decision to attend the Building Learning Communities Conference – mostly because of the reasons stated above. I had scanned the names on the presenters’ list and knew this was going to be an opportunity for some very rich and engaging stimulation. And I have not been disappointed.

Tim Tyson, principal of Mabry Middle School in Georgia was the opening keynote speaker. Below are some notes I had sketched out during the presentation. He is a modest, articulate, engaging speaker whose passion for his students, his teachers and his school clearly shines through.

Tim Tyson discusses the importance of relevance in education – how project-based learning that connects students with other people and places in the world is RELEVANT and how the evaluation of it is authentic to both the learner and the teacher.

He stressed the importance of having students make meaningful and valuable contributions to the world – when do we contribute something meaningful or significant – when we are adults – or is it right now (for students)? Let’s make it a choice rather than default.

Tim gives example of authentic relevant learning, the student video of stem cell research – alarming topic – but students were on fire for the topic. They were challenged to create a video that would capture the importance of the issues and communicate that to the audience in a 2 minute video.

The first session I attended was Reel Celtic Connections by Ewan McIntosh. I audio-recorded the presentation and hope to have that podcast up and available soon. I had read Ewan’s blog and listened to a number of podcasts where he has shared his ideas, so I was prepared for some solid depth. The title can be misconstrued. His presentation focused on the educational changes that have taken place over time in Scotland and how he strongly believes we need to be addressing this generation of students who have been raised in the era of the Internet. Ewan also stresses that changes to educational systems have to be done at the LOCAL level – there is no one size fits all – but the culture and situation of the system should be taken into account. He is not a believer, he says, in school 2.0 or classroom 2.0 for this reason. This challenged me to take a critical look at my own cultural situation in Québec that need to be examined as we reshape our educational landscape to better suit our students.

Ewan’s presentation was augmented with video clips and a google earth visit to Scotland. One big take-away for me was the government inspectorate report that Scotland recently released that summarized data which demonstrated that emerging technologies are making the biggest technologies impacts on schools! We need to get that word out!

Will be collating my notes to the other sessions I have attended soon! Two more days to go! Wow!

On a social note, I am having a grand time meeting such peeps as Darren Kuropatwa, Dean Shareski (fellow Canadians), Ewan McIntosh, and others – some of whom I was able to have dinner with last night.

Karl Fisch – *Did You Know* He Was a Best Buy? NECC 2007



Karl Fisch – Did You Know He Was a Best Buy? NECC 2007

Originally uploaded by sharonpe.


Sorry, Karl – I couldn’t resist the title!

While we were in Atlanta at NECC 2007, a bunch from the bloggers’ café poked fun at the HUGE Best Buy bags that were being given out and we had our pics taken in the bags. To see more bagged bloggers, check out the photos with the tag “bagged, necc2007, (or) necc07″.

With time to catch a breath or two in my schedule, my somewhat relaxed mind has returned to blogging thoughts. I am here in Mont Tremblant resort at a family lodge with my husband’s family reunion enjoying the Blues Festival (free outdoor stages with cool blues bands playing throughout the day), the lovely environment and great weather.

Today I took the opportunity to listen to a podcast from NECC 2007 as I walked a trail around the resort. Lori Burch does a great job of summarizing, synthesizing and evaluating several sessions from the Monday of NECC 2007.

Lori summarized and gave her take on the presentation entitled “21st-Century Learners Design Ultimate School of the Future Today” by Julie Evans which provided the results to the speakup survey conducted nationally by Project Tomorrow (alas, American nationally – not internationally) by willing schools. The survey is an ongoing project by tomorrow.org.

The central theme of the NECC presentation was the necessity of listening to the voices of the students as they articulate what the school of the 21st century should look like.

Julie Evans reported that the students who responded to the survey, our current generation of young Internet users, stated that *communication* was the number one motivation for why they used online tools. It was their desire to create and sustain relationships that drove them to use the Internet. Wow! This is my main motivation too! As I listened to the results to the survey, I found that my own forty-something experiences and motivations were quite similar to those reported by an overwhelming majority of teens.

From an educational perspective, this desire for sociality can be tapped for successful global projects. It reinforced my own experiences that students welcome an opportunity to communicate and establish relationships with students in other places around the world.

Lori reported that the most interesting aspect to the NECC presentation was the student panel that followed Julie’s report on the data results. Real students were there to voice their opinions and share their ideas about 21st education. Those students, just as I have found with my own students, were surprisingly practical and exhibited a good deal of common sense. They saw the potential of technology to further their learning experiences and offered some suggestions as to how to make this a reality. Without overtly saying so, they wanted the technology to become “invisible” and ubiquitous to all. They wanted less training on software and Internet tools and more access to the technology hardware (i.e. laptops and cell phones) and teachers. They stated their desire for good teaching practices (i.e. teachers! please update those homework webpages regularly!) and teachers who were accessible outside of class time.

The students were less concerned with Internet safety and more concerned with ethical online behaviours (i.e. plagiarism and bullying) which, to me, is in keeping with the (inter)national statistics about the dangers of online predators and the need for a course in digital ethics.

Lori also reported on the session about historical digital story-telling and is interesting as well, but not quite as compelling as listening to the voices of real students. All in all, I was quite grateful to learn vicariously through Lori’s audio report. Thanks, Lori!

Revisiting NECC 2007

Many of you are aware that my life has been choc-a-bloc full of activities in the last few weeks. Not only did I go through those crazy last few weeks of classes and exams with two parents in hospital (hundreds of miles away), present at NECC on three occasions, and start a new job, but I also had the awesome task of arranging and hosting a family reunion for my husband’s family (15 kids, 10 adults) – none of whom are local to us, but traveled from such diverse places as Ireland and Dubai. We are now all at the resort town of Mont Tremblant in the Laurentian mountains of Québec and I can catch my breath for a moment or two.

I just now FINALLY uploaded my photos from NECC 2007 to Flickr and what special memories they brought back!

Here is a collection of some of them:

Karl Fisch - Did You Know He Was a Best Buy? NECC 2007

At Best Buy - Two Canadians for the Price of One!  NECC 2007

Jen Wagner a Best Buy at NECC 2007!

NECC Poster Presentation - From Jerusalem to Montreal

LEARN poster presentation

Sharon and Jeff Utecht at Bloggers' Café  NECC 2007

WOW2 Webcasting at NECC 2007

Audience members at WOW2 Webcast - NECC 2007

WOW2 Webcast audience members

Women of Web 2.0 Presentation at NECC 2007

Jen Wagner and Dave Warlick

WOW2 Webcast - with Chris Walsh

The Bloggers’ Café Phenom



The ITM Crew

Originally uploaded by Wesley Fryer.


True confession time. I did not attend many of the sessions at NECC in Atlanta. And while I felt a trifle guilty about this at the time, I had to firstly remind myself that my own schedule for presenting made this a bit difficult, and secondly, once I discovered the Bloggers’ Café, my desire to attend the sessions evaporated.

For those of us who have been paying attention to the edublogosphere in the last year or two, the Bloggers’ Café offered an opportunity to meet exceptional educators from around the world face-to-face. It was particularly exciting to look around the area (really just open area slightly set apart from the main thoroughfare on the way to the exhibit hall) and see so many of the great folks who have appeared as guests on our WOW2 show since October. Every time I visited, I met someone new – someone whose name I recognized, or who recognized me. Conversations that had begun earlier, whether on a blog or in a webcast or podcast, were continued and updated.

But it was much more than just rich conversations.

What I call The Bloggers’ Café Phenom was much more than that. It really drove home to me how online identity, even with all the media supporting it, is still limited in its dimensionality of presentation. Possibly it was the live social dynamics within a group that cannot be supported in an online environment in its current state. There was an instantaneity and spontaneity that I have not witnessed in online exchanges. One wanted to be *there* in person, not virtually, to participate in the discussions and laughter. A person could read the situation by interpreting body language and eye contact. Even with video, I doubt if this could be replicated.

On the last day of the conference, Dave Warlick went around the Café with his recorder and asked us who we were and our blog name. Then he asked us a question that really got my neurons all fired up – “What have we learned here about the Bloggers’ Café that we can take home with us and use in our classrooms?” (probably a decent paraphrase). I have spent a few days thinking about that one! For me, I think it reinforced my belief that a blended instructional approach (both face-to-face and online) is best to optimize learning for students. With all the current focus and attention on online learning environments (moodles, wikis, blogs, Second Life), we cannot dismiss the importance of that immediacy of face-to-face contact and the power of group dynamics. Discourse of ideas can take place in many ways. Online environments certainly augment and enhance discourse and further the learning process. We should be careful in the design of our instruction that we find a balance between face-to-face and online instruction that is seamless and transparent (i.e. not all about the tool, but about the discussion or task). I hope this is the kind of response you were looking for, Dave.

I learned much more about those special people than just what we talked *about*. I learned that John Pederson has a great sense of humour (sorry John, just didn’t pick up on it in the same way on your blog), that Karl Fisch was a delightfully modest and self-effacing man, that Chris Lehman does a great interview at the drop of a hat, and that Dave Warlick has seemingly boundless energy – particularly with audio device in hand!

Yes, it was obvious from the demographics in the Bloggers’ Café that the edublogosphere is still primarily peopled by white well-educated men (from North America? Well, the conference WAS in Atlanta!). As my husband points out, this does, after all, reflect the reality of the technology sector in general. As a woman who has worked as an educator of technology for a number of years now, I can say that just as I have discovered through my online relationships, the men in the edublogosphere have ALWAYS been inclusive and welcoming. And so it was in the Bloggers’ Café. There was utterly no sense of gender discrimination and, if anything, women’s voices were particularly welcome. There were a number of really terrific women who were there hanging out in the Café as well: Sharon Betts(whose session I *did* attend!, Cheri Toledo, Alice Barr, Jen Wagner, and Cheryl Oakes to name just a few.

Jen Wagner and some others are continuing The Bloggers’ Café Phenom by creating an online portal – TheBloggersCafe (not yet live). Even if you weren’t there in Atlanta, please join us there!