Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two For Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

1. Nudge Mail - Reminders Made Easy
If you use your email as a to do list, nudge mail can help keep you organized. Once you sign up, you can forward your email to "monday@nudgemail.com" or "2hours@nudgemail.com" and your email will return as a reminder when you need it. You can even "snooze" a message if you aren't quite ready to deal with it yet.

2. PS Give - Make your holiday shopping benefit others.
Bid on items and give to charity at the same time. Organizations include Boys & Girls Club, Children's Defense Fund, Keep America Beautiful, National Breast Cancer Coalition and more.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Two For Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

The students in my digital journalism class created screencasts for a number of different Web 2.0 tools.

Here are two of my favorites:
1. Shelfari - A social network for people who love books
You can use Shelfari to find good books to read, review the books you have read, discuss your books with others and more. Check out this screencast by Agazi Desta to learn how to get started.

2. Webs - Create your own Website for free
This is a great tool for not only creating Websites but also creating communities. This would be a great alternative to Ning as it includes the option to create a discussion forum on your site. Arien Woodrow made a screencast that shows you how to get started using Webs.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Two For Tuesday, November 30th 2010

As we enter the holiday season, these two coupon websites might help with your holiday shopping.

1. Groupon - Get daily local deals delivered to your inbox. Coupons include half price dinners at Boston area restaurants, dry cleaning discounts and tickets to local sporting events. They also have a smartphone app you can download to your phone.

2. Living Social - Like Groupon, Living Social delivers local daily deals to your inbox. They also offer discounted vacation "escape" packages.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Two For Tuesday 11/23/2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

1. Freerice.com - Test your vocabulary and help fight hunger. For every question you get right, rice is donated to people in need. FreeRice is a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Program.

2. EarthCam - Times Square - If you can't be in New York City for the Macy's Day Parade you can watch it live online via EarthCam. EarthCam shows live video streams from cameras all over the world.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Twitter and the Teenage Boy

Last week I introduced Twitter to 12 high school seniors (I work in a boys school) in my Digital Journalism class. None of them had used Twitter before. They knew of it, but did not have accounts. Facebook is their go-to social network, but they were interested in learning more about a tool that they had heard so much about. They had the classic response to Twitter - "Why would anyone want to know what I had for breakfast?" and they were surprised to discover that there is much more to Twitter than they knew about.

I showed them the basics, how to find followers, what it means when someone follows you. They learned about the Iran Election, Moldova and Mumbai and we discussed the differences between Facebook and Twitter. They wrote about their reactions. Here is a little bit of what some of them had to say.

"Twitter is a great resource that I intend on making full use of when I’m older, but until then, for me, Twitter will be used only for educational purposes while Facebook dominates as my main means of social media." - Colin E.

"There are also many more things you can do with Facebook that you just can not do with Twitter that involve more personal or direct contact." - Jack

"I do not think Twitter is relevant to people in our age group. From what I have seen, the people on Twitter are either teachers, celebrities, business corporations, or endorsers. I could hardly find people within my age group on Twitter, and I feel a that is a big factor for teenagers." - Agazi

"For now, I will stick to Facebook since my amount of followers is so small and I have nothing interesting to Tweet. However, one day as I hope to own my own company, Twitter may be the tool to spread my new products or works across the globe." -Kevin

Overall, they could see the value of Twitter for others, for the world and for them in the future. But they were in agreement that right now in their lives Facebook does everything Twitter does and more. I wonder if I had girls in the class if they would have responded differently? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Two For Tuesday 11/9/2010

1. Eight Websites to Create Animated Gifs Online
If you have enjoyed the animated gifs shared by Jdangles on the Morse18 Website, now you can make your own. Upload a series of pictures and use one of these tools to do the rest for you.

2. Alltop, all the top stories
Alltop is a great resource for blogs on a variety of topics which are organized alphabetically. Topics include education, entertainment, philosophy and much more.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two For Tuesday 11/2/2010

1. QR Code Readers
Download one of these readers to your smartphone and scan the image below. (I use I-nigma on my iPhone).

2. Scan this QR code to find out more about QR codes.
You can turn any web address into a QR code with bit.ly.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Two For Tuesday 10/26/2010

1. Markup.io: Draw on any webpage. Share your ideas
Add your drawings and notes to any webpage and share your notes and drawings with others.

2. If Facebook existed Years Ago...
Find out what Abe Lincoln and Charles Darwin wrote on your wall.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two For Tuesday, October 19th 2010

1. The True Size of Africa A small contribution in the fight against rampant immappancy by Kai Krause
This map makes it very clear how big Africa really is. Be sure to zoom in to get the full picture.

2. Powerful list of 28 Online Image and Photo Editing Tools
These free Online tools can take your images to the next level. They do much more than rotate and resize. Many of them give Photoshop a run for its money.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Two For Tuesday 10/12/2010

1. A Day in the Internet
This info-graphic gives you a visual sense of how big the internet really is.

2. The Most Widely Spoken Language in the World
Another interesting info-graphic showing the different languages spoken around the world and the countries they are spoken in, visualized as a subway map.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On being different...

(cross-posted from Morse18)

Each day I arrive on a campus swirling with blue blazers. My bright colors pop against a back drop of navy and khaki. Boys tower above me, many almost a foot taller than my 5′ 3″ self. My voice reaches their ears at a different pitch, less bass, more melody.

Teaching at a boys school is both a joy and a challenge. There are times when I feel my gender dramatically and times when I am just another faculty member on campus. I’ve never before been a visible minority. In my previous coed schools, not only were there girls, but most of the faculty were women. I didn’t stand out in any way.

Working here has given me some sense of what it is like to “represent” a group of people, to speak for my gender, to help boys hear a different perspective. I’m certainly not alone in this. I have many female faculty members who have paved the way before me and help me everyday to fit in and find my place. My male colleagues have made this a comfortable and welcoming place for women. Finally, I thank the boys who treat me with respect and welcome what I have to offer as an educator, regardless of what I am wearing (which most of them don’t notice anyway).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Digital Journalism Online School Journal goes Live!

Named for the classroom where we meet, Morse18.com is an Online journal created by the students in my digital journalism course. My students researched a variety of technology tools and chose Wordpress. We purchased server space on Blue Host and installed the Magazine Basic template. Thanks to Jeff Utecht for inspiring us with his Magazine Basic site.

Please take a moment to check out this site. My students will be thrilled to see some hits on their stats page. If you are interested in learning more about the course, here is a link to my syllabus. I taught this course last spring, but have changed it completely for this year, the syllabus is a work in progress. I welcome your feedback on both the website and the course.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two For Tuesday 9/28/2010

1. Where Good Ideas Come From - Video by Steven Johnson
In this video Johnson illustrates (literally) how good ideas come to fruition. He addresses the time it takes and the collaboration that is required to take something from a hunch to a reality. My favorite line: "Chance favors the connected mind."

2. Guy Walks Across America - Viral Video
This is an incredible stop motion video of a man walking across America. Be sure to scroll down on the page to watch the Behind the Scenes video that shows how they created it. I am amazed by how accessible media has become. While it was extremely complicated to create this particular video, it didn't take a lot of money or expensive technology.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Seven Shanghai Surprises

I have just returned from the Learning 2.010 conference in Shanghai, China where I was invited to facilitate a cohort of learners on the topic of social media. It was an incredible experience in so many ways. Here are just a few of my thoughts on the experience.

1. English
- I was amazed my how much English signage there is in Shanghai. All of the street signs are in Chinese and English. The ATM machines and the ticket machines for the Metro all provide English as an option. Sometimes the English translations are interesting, but I couldn't even begin to translate my English to Chinese, so I won't complain.

2. Better City Better Life - This motto is everywhere in Shanghai. Guy Kawasaki speaks about the importance of having a motto. China has embraced this concept whole heartedly. The construction in Shanghai is beyond imagination. And, at every construction site you will see "Better City, Better Life."

3. Unconferences really work - I have been to several unconferences and I even run one every year at BLC. They are daunting to put together because you have to trust in your participants to build the conference. The Learning 2.010 team was extremely brave to take a previously structured conference and reconstruct it in the unconference model. I think it really helped to have the facilitators there to help run sessions, but by the last session the unconference ran itself.

4. Social Media in education has its benefits and challenges - The topic for my cohort was "Social Media." On the first day we wrote about the benefits and challenges of using social media in the classroom. I think my cohort made some excellent observations.

5. Building Community is up to the Community - Facilitating a group of teachers is challenging. Michael Lambert and I did the best we could to meet the needs of the people in our group. We were constantly adapting and changing our plans to try to react on our feet to the feedback we were getting. I hope we succeeded, but in the end I realized it really isn't up to me. Each person has to find their own way into the learning. I can help guide them, but we each need to take responsibility for our own growth and connections.

6. My Edtech Rockstars really are Rockstars - It was amazing to be given the opportunity to spend a week teaching and learning with people whom I have respected and admired for years. I felt incredibly honored to be in their company. I had the chance to work and hang out with Kim Cofino, Darren Kuropatwa, Wes Fryer, Alec Couros, Jeff Utecht, Julie Lindsay, Tim Lauer, Steve Hargadon, Gail Lovely and Melinda Alford, Chris Betcher, Gail Lovely, Michael Lambert, Laura Heikkila, Ann Krembs , and Madeleine Brookes. Most of whom I had never met face-to-face. They all proved to be as inspiring in real life as they have been online.

7. Jeff Utecht is an Amazing Host and Tour Guide - Shanghai would not have been the same without him. He took us to eat some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten, showed us the sights and taught us how to bargain like a pro. I am profoundly grateful to him for everything. Thanks so much Jeff!

And of course @intrepidteacher's charming wit was a bonus!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two For Tuesday 9/21/2010

1. Rhymer.com - Free Online Rhyming Dictionary
For all your rhyming needs, Rhymer finds beginning rhymes, first syllable rhymes, last syllable rhymes, end rhymes, and double rhymes for any word. Next time you are writing a poem and need a good rhyme, this is the place to go. (Thanks to Pedro R. for suggesting this one.)

2. Tracking the Oil Spill in the Gulf - New York Times Animated Interactive Map
This map shows how the spill has grew and moved between April 22nd and August 2nd 2010. You can also see where the oil made landfall, efforts to stop the leak, effects on wildlife and more.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Two For Tuesday

Every Tuesday during the school year I try to share two links that I think might be helpful to educators and students. Last year, I created a separate blog to share the links. This year, I've decided to move these links to this blog.

Here are two interesting links to start off the school year.

1. Yolink - Search more efficiently and effectively
Yolink searches your searches, shows you where your search terms appear in your search results and gives you the context for those results. Download the Firefox add-on and improve your search results today!

2. Sign Up Genius - Manage your sign up lists Online
You can organize your team, event, dinner or party with this free invitation service. It includes templates to help you create your invite and automatic email reminders to keep everyone organized.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Just Blog It!

I have been so lame about blogging, that I just got off the couch and decided to write something, anything just to get myself going again. Here are a few things that are going on with me these days.

1. School just started and I am once again teaching digital journalism. So far it is going well (we've only had two classes). Two new things I'm doing - starting each class with 8 minutes of writing and planning to do more actual journalism (not just learning about it, but doing it).

2. I'm heading to Shanghai on Sept 11th for a week to facilitate a strand of the Learning 2.01o conference. My cohort will be looking at social media in education. I'm really looking forward to it, but I'm also a little nervous. I'm really not a world traveler. I've never been to Asia. This should be a really interesting and challenging experience.

3. I was recently elected to the MassCUE board. The annual conference is fast approaching and I'm looking forward to attending with a different perspective. I'm also looking forward to being a part of this organization.

OK - It isn't a fancy post. No images or big messages, but at least I got something out there.

It is great to be in a profession that offers so many fresh starts. May we all have one this year!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

10 Tips for Managing Information Overload

Yesterday at the BLC conference I presented on how to manage information overload. Together we looked at the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for this all to prevalent problem. Here is a list of 10 things you can do to keep your Online life under control.
1. Have compassion for yourself - We are all works in progress, don't be too hard on yourself if you don't know everything. No one can know everything. It is OK Not to know.

2. Measure - There are many tools that you can use to measure your use computer use. They run in the background and will give you data on the sites you visit, the applications you use and how much time you spend on each tool.

3. Set goals
- Before you open up a browser consider what you are hoping to accomplish.

4. Triage
- Filter on the way in, not on the way out. Look through your email and create filters so that not everything comes in to your inbox. For example, if you are CCd on an email you probably don't have to look at it immediately. Filter those messages into a separate file to look at later. Also check out Howard Rheingold's resources on mindful infotention.

5. Ask a Librarian
- Don't overlook the human resources in your own building.

6. Don't check email until lunch
- If you are the fastest responder to a problem, you will get all the problems. If you wait to respond, they may figure out their own answers.

7. Be effective, not just efficient
- Being efficient is doing things right, being effective is doing the right things. Make sure you are doing the right things right.

8. Use a productivity tool
- Applications like Evernote and Remember the Milk can help you to keep track of all your tasks and information. You can learn about other productivity tools here.

9. Mark as read
- Don't be afraid to go through your reader and mark everything as read. Start fresh. If it is important it will come back up to the top.

10. Take time outs
- Explore the Pomodoro technique which suggests you use a timer and set it for 25 minutes of work time and then take a 5 minute break. And, during the work time you keep track of your distractions and take a look at when they occur and what they are.
Do you have a good strategy for managing your information overload? Have you tried something on this list that has worked for you? Please leave a comment and share it with us.

image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelmarlatt/3150759027/

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Full Brain after First Day at BLC 2010

I have had a great first day of the Building Learning Communities conference, but my brain is full. The day started with an interesting keynote by Mitch Resnick, the inventor of Scratch. I do a lot with Scratch at my school and it was wonderful to see all of the projects that students are doing with the Scratch software. Mitch pointed out that good technology should have a low floor, so that it is easy to get started with, a high ceiling, so that students can take it far, and a wide walls, so that students can follow their own interests. Scratch certainly has that and I think it is a great rubric for evaluating any software.

In my second session I was not the smartest person in the room with Dean Shareski. School is no longer the primary place for learning. He asked the great question, what does it mean to be a life long learner? How do we move past an educational model that is tethered in time and place. Students have already moved there, when will schools follow?

In Jeff Utecht's session on Blended Learning, he showed us how his school is using blogs as online portfolios of their work over their entire school career. He suggests finding a container that works for you, whether it be a blog, a wiki or a ning, and using that to hold student work. He also encouraged us to be connectors for our students to use our own networks to help network our students and expose their work to a wider audience.

Finally, I learned about different iPad apps at Seth Bowers's session. He showed us too many to talk about, but he nicely posted a list here.

If you aren't at the conference, you can follow a lot of what is going on by searching #blc10 on Twitter or checking out the delicious bookmarks tagged BLC10. If you are here, I hope you will leave a comment and or a link and share some of the highlights of your first day!

Monday, May 10, 2010

An Interview with Steve Hargadon about the Early Days of Classroom 2.0

If you read my blog, you know that I recently wrote a paper on the early days of Classroom 2.0. In March of this year, Steve Hargadon, founder of Classroom 2.0, was kind enough chat with me about the topic. Our conversation lasted more than an hour. I've edited his thoughts down to just a few minutes and have posted them below. If you scroll down you can also see the transcript for this video. Enjoy!

Video Transcript - Steve Hargadon reflects on the early days of Classroom 2.0:

I bet in the beginning it was the conversations. Maybe a combination of the conversations and the other members who were already there. Part of it was the network being public and open so you could see without being required to join. You could see who was there and what they were doing. And you didn’t have to join, but it let you see what was taking place. Maybe that was a little bit of an inducement overall and more of a positive. The conversations were really interesting. The threaded forum discussion allowed for conversations to take place that weren’t really fully taking place on blogs. It was a better version of listservs. And I think that was really the magic for Ning. If Ning hadn’t had forum discussions it wouldn’t have been anywhere near what it is because then all of the sudden there were these really interesting discussions that were taking place with lots of people where everyone could participate. And my guess is that that was pretty attractive. You didn’t have to start a blog, but you could actually come in and be part of the conversation. I think the network really benefited from not having any kind of commercial association. Like Wikipedia it was a place you could trust. There wasn’t an overt agenda. It was an experiment in communicating and connecting.

I spent a lot of time sort of tweaking classroom 2.0, phrases, changing it from “friends” to “colleagues.” My guess is that you accumulate enough of those changes and it does make a difference. I had actually been a tour guide for 5 years and so I had some sense of group dynamics. I had to figure out how to manage expectations, help people act thoughtfully to each other. I’ve thought personally that there is that sense of nuance to what’s really going on that helps distinguish a network’s creator/moderator who is able to manage the personality of the network. After you have worked a certain amount of time with a community and there is an established tenor or voice or sense of character to a network, that I didn’t have to be as overseeing. If you go into Classroom 2.0 it tends to be a very friendly discussion. And I think that is because that became the character of the place and people knew it so they supported it.

It was really hard for me to transition from what I felt was being the heart of the network to just being the guy who keeps it going. And now with 40,000 people I’m just shepherding a network now, not a community. This is a network. But to me the power, the backstory there is the power in the tools to communicate outside of traditional power structures and I’m really fascinated by that. These kinds of networks are creating very fertile ground for a grassroots revolution in education.

The value of Classroom 2.0 has shifted to being an example site or a launching place. It needs to be a tool set that early adopters can come in and play with. It can give them something back. They can get some visibility, notoriety. They can get some strokes back. As long as it is a place where a beginner can come and sign up and actually see that there is value in social networking in education, then classroom 2.0 has done its job.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Edubloggercon East and BLC 2010!

Lisa Thumann and I will once again be facilitating Edubloggercon East at BLC on Monday, July 12, 2010 at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Tower, Boston, MA from 9am - 5pm. Come all day, or any part of it! It is absolutely FREE (thanks to the generosity of Alan November!). Please add yourself to the I'm Attending Page if you will be joining us!

At the first annual EduBloggerCon in Atlanta on June 23, 2007 it was suggested that regional EduBloggerCon events be held to expand participation. In that spirit, the Third annual EduBloggerCon "East" is being planned just prior to, the Building Learning Communities Conference (BLC10) in Boston, MA.

The 2010 BLC conference runs from Wednesday, July 14th through Friday, July 16th in Boston, MA. The conference is held in downtown Boston and is sure to be another exciting and inspiring learning experience. Lisa and I will be presenting, along with many other great educational leaders.

EduBloggerCon is based on the idea of an "unconference," and is being organized by the participants in real time on this wiki. Another way to describe this event is as a "collaborative conference," where the conference attendees help to build and create the experience. Different than the inaugural event in Atlanta, we've not actually scheduled any sessions yet, and we're going to do so together as a group at the start of the day--based on the submissions of sessions that attendees have indicated they are willing to facilitate or would like to learn about.

Last year's unconference was a wonderful learning experience attended by educators from all over the country. I hope to see you this July in Boston. It really is a great time!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Missing You!

poulingail @lizbdavis Hello Liz You've been pretty quiet and I love following you We want more! Blog it, tweet it, whatever! 9:25 AM Apr 20th via web

This tweet from @poulingail brought home to me how disconnected I have been for the last month. Thanks so much Gail for noticing! Unfortunately, it is probably going to continue for a little longer. But it sure is nice to know I've been missed.

Here's what I've been up to:
  • Adopting a 9 month old Havanese puppy named Tommy.
  • Taking care of my kids, Ben and Abby, and my husband Rob.
  • Working with my faculty to integrate technology.
  • Playing with my new iPad and exploring possibilities for use in the classroom
  • Coaching the middle school crew team.
  • Rowing.

Life feels pretty crazy right now. I am still reading blogs and Tweets, I just haven't been participating in the conversation lately. I am listening and hope to jump back in soon. I miss my Online PLN.

Sometimes real life takes over...

My Family:

Our new puppy Tommy:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Here Comes the Educators: Experiences of early members of Classroom 2.0

I am currently taking a course at The Berkman Center for Internet and Society. As part of the course, I had to write an 8-10 page research paper. A draft of my paper is published below. I would like to thank everyone who helped me with my research. If you have some time to take a look, I welcome your feedback. (You can find all of the responses to my survey here.)

Over the course of a typical school day, most classroom teachers spend 80% of their time interacting with an average of 17 students and no other adults. While educators may be accustomed to working this way, Online social networks provide the opportunity for teachers to reach outside of their small communities and connect with other educators around the world. In March of 2007, when Steve Hargadon created Classroom 2.0 on the Ning platform, there were few opportunities for these kinds of connections. Facebook and MySpace were primarily networks for teenagers and College students, and Twitter was in its infancy. Educators were beginning to dabble with Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. Several prominent ed-tech bloggers were espousing the benefits of these tools for the success of students in the 21st century. Many teachers were reading these blogs, some were blogging themselves, but there was yet to be a community out there for newcomers to talk to each other, ask for advice and seek support for their explorations of this new territory.

In his book, Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky describes three essential elements for the success of a social network, “a successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users.” (page 260) Classroom 2.0 had all three of these. It promised to be a place for beginners to explore the possibilities of using collaborative tools in the classroom. The Ning tool allowed for a space that could be limited to members with a specific interest in education. In his March 24th, 2007 blog post titled “The Value of a Social Network?” Steve Hargadon, the founder of Classroom 2.0 on Ning, identified 6 key elements that made Ning the perfect tool for the job:
1. Instant connection to others
2. Low initial technical understanding to do so
3. Quick access to the dialog of the community without RSS needed
4. RSS capable, once comfortable
5. Individual blogging built in, super easy to post and experiment
6. Socially-engaging

Finally, Classroom 2.0 made a bargain with its users to provide “a supportive comfortable place to start being part of the digital dialog.” And it worked! Early adopters found like-minded, friendly educators who welcomed each other, shared ideas and frustrations, answered questions, and made them feel a little less alone. These educators had done some exploration into the new world of Web 2.0 tools, but the Classroom 2.0 community allowed them to delve deeper into the social networking experience and evolve their professional learning communities beyond the four walls of their schools. In the beginning their experiences were intense. Many dived headfirst into the experience spending many hours blogging and contributing to the forums. As they became comfortable on the Ning site they branched out into Twitter, and Second Life and in turn left Classroom 2.0 behind. This community provided a bridge to much larger networks at a time when it seemed like a new Web 2.0 tool was being created everyday. Classroom 2.0 was a safe home base to come back to for support and guidance until members felt ready to move on to more sophisticated Online spaces.

Not everyone was impressed with Classroom 2.0 when it first started. Prominent education blogger, David Warlick was particularly skeptical and wrote about his feelings in his March 30th2007 blogpost titled “I Just Don’t Get it Yet – Social Networks,” David described himself as “a little under-impressed”

I don’t need someplace else to go to on the Internet. I need it to come to me, to my aggregator, or my mail box. I need it to be organic, infinitely shapable, and to be a valuable conversation. So what am I not getting here?

There were 27 comments on his post. Many agreed with Dave’s perspective on the site including other high profile bloggers like Will Richardson and Kathy Schrock.Hargadon’s comment on Warlick’s post put these responses in perspective.

Ning wasn’t developed for the David Warlicks and Will Richardsons of the world, and so to gage its value by how much it would help them isn’t accurate.

Steve’s reference to the tool, the bargain and the promise of the Classroom 2.0 site was prescient. The site promised to be a place for beginners to find each other and Ning was the perfect tool to use for the purpose. Classroom 2.0 turned out to be for many an organic place for valuable conversations on the Internet.

To better understand the early adopters of this platform, I reached out to 500 members of the Classroom 2.0 community and asked them to respond to a short survey about their experiences. Out of the 28 who responded to my survey, all joined Classroom 2.0 in the first two years of the networks existence, 21 respondents joined the network in 2007 and 7 joined in 2008. All expressed their initial excitement about “meeting” new people from around the world who shared their interests. Most described a rollercoaster experience with the site, starting out slowly, increasing their interactions and intensity after an initial period of lurking, many became intensely involved for a time and then tapered off as other social networks claimed their attention. Most of the early adopters are no longer active members of Classroom 2.0, but they agree that this seminal educators network had a strong impact on them. However, it couldn’t sustain their attention as their level of sophistication increased and the beginner bargain no longer served their needs. While many of these early adopters have moved on, new members continue to sign on in droves. In April of 2007, the network claimed 200 members. In March of 2010 the network had more than 40,000 members, an increase in membership of 20,000% in just 3 years.

Before joining this network, more than two thirds of these early adopters were reading and writing blogs, and using the Delicious social bookmarking tool. Half were using wikis and watching YouTube videos. Today these respondents are highly involved with social media. More than 80% are active on Twitter and Facebook, 89% are using collaborative tools like Google Apps, 68% are still blogging, and 70% are using social bookmarking tools like Delicious and Diigo. When asked how influential Classroom 2.0 was on their use of Web 2.0 tools professionally 75% agreed that their experiences on the site influenced their future use of these technology tools in their professional life.

Many respondents had similar initial experiences on the site. They were excited by the connections and the similar interests among members. Bryan Falcon, who joined in May of 2007, wrote “Classroom 2.0 felt like an environment where it was safe to be giddy about technology, but at the same time voice frustrations with shortcomings of tech.” David Truss, who joined in April of 2007, thought “it was pretty amazing to see so many teachers thinking and talking about education in the same way that I was… it was not happening in my day-to-day life!” The early members of this network were early adopters in general and most were advocating for more technology use in their own schools. It was not uncommon for these teachers to be a single voice amongst a sea of resistance. This site was a safe place to not only be excited about these new tools, but also to solve problems and express frustrations. When the site first started you could be pretty sure that most of your face-to-face colleagues weren’t going to be reading what you were writing. It was public, but the community existed outside of the four walls of each person’s school. Teachers could be more candid about their true feelings.

One of the greatest barriers to the adoption of any new technology tool is the amount it takes away from the other things that we have, need and want to do. Time is a precious commodity. In his book Here Comes Everybody, Shirky writes,

Any new claim on someone’s time must obviously offer some value, but more important, it must offer some value higher than something else she already does, or she won’t free up the time. The promise has to hit a sweet spot among several extremes. (page 262)

Classroom 2.0 hit that sweet spot for many of its early member. They quickly saw the value and potential of the site, particularly the ability to get a global perspective on education that they previously didn’t have access to. Paul Bogush, who joined in September of 2007 recalls experiencing “a total buzz from interacting with folks from across the world.” Kevin Hodgson, who joined in April, 2007, “saw the potential right from the start – teachers want to get out of the isolated feeling of the classroom and connect with other teachers.” Lynne Bailey’s (joined April of 2007) “first impression was a bit of amazement at the immediate invitation to be friends with educators I didn’t know from countries around the world.”

The “friendliness” of the site was a common experience for respondents. The concept of “friending” was very new to educators, most of whom graduated from college and graduate school in a pre-Facebook era. Many didn’t trust the idea of Online “friends.” Thus, most were surprised to find such an amiable Online community. Matt Clausen, who joined in April 2007,remembers “being impressed by the range of conversations in the forum and the incredible friendliness of the community as I got started.”

Once these educators signed on, many become intensely involved in the community. For most this was the only network they belonged to and they jumped in whole-heartedly. This level of interest could not be sustained. Several respondents found the site became repetitive and stale after a while and moved on to other things. Nathan Lowell was the 50th member of the site, joining in March of 2007. He writes,

I started out being very active. I really wanted it to be a place where we could build a large community of active participants. After the first year I became rather jaded with the same questions being asked over and over… I realized that the churn on the site is not really helping develop a depth of understanding among participants… I think there is potential here, but it’s not being realized. The conversation is all at the surface.

Lynn Bailey also feels that “…the same questions get asked in new forums.” Others miss the more intimate nature of the network in its early days. Kevin Hodgson reflects, “I think the site hit a point for me where it was just too big.”

While the number of members of the network has grown, so has the number of networks vying for attention. Gayle Berthiaume, who joined in May 2007, explains, “I was more active at first because I belonged to fewer social networks.” Ben Wilkoff, who joined in April of 2007, agrees, “It is a good way to engage in a network if you don’t already have a network, however, once you have an engaging network, it isn’t required.” Many find that networks such as Twitter provide higher level interaction now that they have become more sophisticated users of technology. Despite moving on, most look back on their time in Classroom 2.0 with fondness and highly recommend it to colleagues who are just starting on their Web 2.0 journeys. Lee Kolbert, who joined in February of 2008, shares “As a presenter myself, I always recommend CR20 to others who are looking to build their [Personal Learning Networks] and learn from others.”

Classroom 2.0 promises to be a place for beginners to explore the possibilities of using collaborative tools in the classroom. For many, once its members move past the beginner stage, the site no longer can sustain their interest. Others believe in the importance of staying on to guide and nurture newcomers. Sylvia Martinez, who joined in April of 2007, explains, “I have a strong personal belief that people who stay in networks are crucial to provide expertise and history… it’s important to stay open to newcomers even if the questions repeat and the conversation seems to never go anywhere.” Sylvia continues to be a very active member of the site, frequently starting and contributing to discussions. Other early adopters have become Classroom 2.0 “Hosts.” They are featured on the main page and the members page of the site and seek out and welcome newcomers.

2007 was an exciting time for educators interested in technology. Classroom 2.0 promised great things, used a terrific tool and fulfilled its end of the bargain for the hundreds of people who joined in its first year. Most have moved on, but all credit their experiences there as shaping the way they interact Online today. With more than 40,000 members today, the site can not recreate the intimacy of those early experiences, but clearly it continues to serve a purpose for the thousands of new members who join each month. Steve Hargadon could not have imagined what his site would look like after only 3 years. David Warlick may not have understood the promise of the site at the time, but he can no longer deny its appeal. Teachers may spend a majority of their day in isolation from other adults, but now they know they are only a network connection away from reaching out to a global community of people who share their interests, frustrations and a desire to learn from each other. As Steve Hargadon writes in his White Paper,Educational Networking: The important role Web 2.0 will play in education, “In a profession that can be profoundly isolating and lonely even though teachers are in the midst of interacting with students all day, educational networking holds a significant key to improving opportunities to find both emotional support and support for exploring new ideas.” (page 5) Classroom 2.0 has unlocked the doors for thousands of educators to a world of new possibilities, and has had a particularly powerful impact on those who began their Web 2.0 journey there just 3 years ago.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Foursquare & Buzz: Building Community or Too Close for Comfort?

I recently started playing with two newish social media applications, Foursquare and Google Buzz. Foursquare is an iphone app where you "check in" to different places when you visit them. If you are the first to check in, or you check in the greatest number of times, you can become the mayor of that location.

The mayor of my local Starbucks is @KevinPalmer a social media blogger who I follow on Twitter. He lives just a few blocks away from me. I DM'd him and suggested we meet for coffee (at his Starbucks of course).

Google Buzz is a new Twitter like service that is integrated into Gmail. The iphone app can show me who is buzzing near me; it will even give me their approximate street address.

The idea that social media applications like Foursquare and Buzz could connect me to people in my neighborhood is exciting, but also pushes my privacy boundaries. I live in a pretty urban suburb of a big northeastern city. I know a few of my neighbors, but not too many. I don't usually say hello to strangers on the street.

These might be great tools for my community, but they also scare me a bit. For the most part I've gotten over my fear of making virtual connections. I remember when that was pretty terrifying. Now it is just a way of life. Maybe the logical next step is to bring those virtual connections full circle, back to the real world. That is still a little outside of my comfort zone, but I'm willing to give it a try.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Anticipating Educon

The Educon 2.2 conference is only 6 days away. Educon is one of my favorite conferences of the year. It brings together the top thinkers in education and provides an environment perfect for learning from others. This will be my third Educon and knowing how fast it goes by, I'm trying to savor every minute that leads up to it.

Lisa Thumann is my conference buddy. We met three years ago at Educon and hit it off immediately. We both have two kids at home, so a trip away is both exciting and difficult for both of us. We try to make the most of our freedom, but feel the pull of home in the background. Sadly, we only see each other twice a year, at Educon and at BLC. So we tend to be a bit attached at the hip when we are together.

This year I am flying down to Educon with Danja Mahoney (also a mother of two little ones), who I met last year at Educon 2.1. Lisa is picking us up at the airport and then the fun/learning begins. Hopefully we will have time for something to eat before heading over to the panel discussion at the Franklin Institute. Last year I met a bunch of my PLN at TGI Fridays before the panel. I hope we have time to do that again.

The panel topic this year is "What is Smart?" A topic near to my heart if you follow this blog and know how much I'm into Carol Dweck and her "You're not born smart, you get smart" philosophy. I'm interested to see what the panelists have to say and if Dweck comes up in their conversation. I hope she does.

After the panel there is a reception which always feels like a whirlwind of seeing people that I know Online, but haven't met or see only rarely. There is also a meetup of Independent School educators planned by Jim Heynderickx. This will be the beginning of being pulled in many directions. So much to do, so little time.

This year I am only presenting one session on Sunday, so that leaves Saturday pretty stress free for me, except for deciding which of all the amazing sessions to attend. I'll be Tweeting a lot from the conference. You can follow my experience through Twitter. I also have put togehter a Twitter list of Educon Attendees. If you follow the list you should be able to get a taste of what is going on (let me know if you aren't on the list and I'll add you). All of the sessions at Educon are streamed live. So even if you can't attend live, you can always attend virtually.

The Sunday morning panel features former Watertown, MA resident Michael Horn. I met Michael and interviewed him a while back, but haven't seen him since he moved to sunny California. I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say and saying hello.

Lisa and I are facilitating a session on Sunday on Managing Filter Failure, Getting to the Good Stuff. We are going to use a modified Ping Pong protocol to help participants get to the heart of the problem. And then we are going to brainstorm some solutions. This will be a true conversation, no slideshows or presentation planned. I'm looking forward to seeing what we all can come up with when we put such great minds together. Although, we are up against a lot of big names during our session - hopfully we will get a few people to come brainstorm with us.

Shortly after our session it will be time to head out. I know how fast it all goes by. I'm savoring every moment leading up to it and will try to stay Zen about making the most of the experience. I'm sure I'll be blogging about it when I return. Looking forward to seeing some of you there! Be sure to say hello!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

10 Tips for Beginning Bloggers

My brother has recently started blogging and asked me for some tips. I thought I would share them here. I started blogging in 2006 and it has been some of the best professional development for me that I have ever done. Blogging forces me to think, reflect and write about my experiences. Blogging helps me retain my learning and connects me to others who help and support me in my endeavors. If you don't yet have a blog, I recommend giving it a try. You don't have to blog every day or every week. Just establish a place Online to share your thoughts. If you give it a chance, I think you will find it a rewarding experience.

Here are few tips to get you started.

1. Writing: You don't have to write long posts, just a few paragraphs work best. People don't want to read much more than that. You don't have to be perfect, just get your thoughts out there and press publish. Don't obsess too much about your word choice and grammar. It is your ideas that matter. Include an image and break up your thoughts. Lists work really well, so do bullets.

2. Platforms: Choose a blogging platform that works for you. If you are more technically inclined, you will probably want to use Wordpress and host your own blog. You can also use something like Wordpress.com which will host a wordpress blog for you. If you are less technical, Blogger works really well. Plus, since blogger is owned by Google it does help get you higher up in Google search results. Many teachers also use Edublogs which is run by Sue Waters who is a great support to educational bloggers.

3. Authority: Claim your blog on Technorati. I'm not sure how much your Technorati authority matters anymore, but many people search for blogs to read on Technorati. You want yours to be there to find.

4. Statistics: Keep track of your readership. I use StatCounter to track visits to my blog. There are many other options including Google Analytics which will tell you who has visited, where they came from and where they live. It is really fun to track your stats when you first start blogging. It is nice to know that there are some people out there actually reading what you have to say.

5. Blogrolls: Include a blogroll. When you link to other bloggers they appreciate it and will check back to see what you have written and are likely to include a link back to you on their blogs. It also helps your readers find other bloggers to read on the same subject.

6. Searching: Subscribe to a Google blog search of your name, the name of your blog and the URL of your blog. You want to know when other people refer to you and/or your blog so you can see what they have to say about you, respond with a blog post or at least leave a comment thanking them for the reference. Add your blog to Google blog search if it isn't there already.

7. Twitter: Get a Twitter account and Tweet when you have a new blog post. Twitter is the source for most of my blog traffic. But make sure that isn't all you do on Twitter. You also should tweet other people's blog posts and other links of interest. Check out this post if you are new to Twitter.

8. Subscriptions: Provide a way for your readers to subscribe to your blog via email. I use Feedburner for this. There are many readers who want to get updated when you post a new blog, but who don't use a feed reader. Giving them an email option expands your regular readership.

9. Contact: Include a way for your readers to contact you. I use Retaggr for this. Not only does Retaggr provide a contact form, it also provides links to other places you can find me on the web and includes some information about who I am.

10. SEO: Tag or label your posts. Including a tag helps your readers find posts on the topics they are interested in. It also helps with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which pushes your blog to the top of search engine results.

Bonus: Include numbers in your post titles. O.K. I have no idea why this works, but my most popular posts all have numbers in the title. Hopefully it will work with this one ;-) Go figure...

Do you have a blog? Do you have a suggestion for new bloggers or for me? I would love to hear them. Please post a comment and share with us. Are you a new blogger? Share a link to your blog so we can check it out!

image source: Blogging Research Wordle from
Kristina B's photostream on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/barnett/2836828090/