Remembering What It’s Like to Be a Learner

Most educators (for that matter most professionals and other workers) spend a certain amount of time doing some kind of learning. For most of us, that learning process comes with a certain amount of expected success – after all as educators, learning comes easily, right? Well, not necessarily – even if you think it will be fairly intuitive!

This past week, many of us in the edutech world have been experimenting with Plurk, a microblogging/social networking site. Popularized by a combination of NECC 2008 participation (both f2f and virtual) and the continued presence of the Twitter whale or other Twitter errors, Plurk is gaining some attention! It is similar to Twitter, but it is different enough that most of us need to banish any expectations and keep our minds open to what this new platform can provide.

Experiencing the learning curve and facilitating others through the process of learning is a great reminder for our role as teachers. Thinking about the Plurk process, I immediately called upon the KWL strategy as a reflection point:


  • K – What did I know (or think I did) about Plurk? (Most would likely respond that ‘it is similar to Twitter’)
  • W – What did I want to know about Plurk? (Is it collaborative? social? How does it work? Will I be able to develop/keep others in my networks? Why would I want ot learn/use Plurk?)
  • L – So what did I learn about Plurk? (Learning Plurk is a process and it involved an ‘unlearning’ of Twitter to some degree…Unlike Twitter, Plurk is designed to encourage threaded conversations,
    which allows for a depth of discussion revolving around the original posting/comment/question. With Twitter, the focal point seems to revolve around the ‘twit’ (per
    son posting). Digging deep is an important goal and Plurk may offer a viable infrastructure for developing that interactive manipulation. Though connections certainly occur, the interactions on Plurk are much less focused on individuals.)

Reading new Plurkers’ (and experienced edutechers) initial posts, one remembers Rainbow Ts

  • the importance of understanding the ‘learning curve‘ (patience, persistence, and hands-on exploration),
  • the frustration and confusion that often accompanies the learning of a new skill or content,
  • the pay-off of guidance, support and encouragement in the learning process, and
  • the amazing synergy that can occur when learning is social!

So, as I reflect on the improvement of my own teaching, I’m constantly reminded of what it’s like to be a learner – how about you?

Photo credits to bella lago for self-p and Cayusa for Rainbow Ts

The Power of Browsers

Hopefully you have already shed the IE browser (though I will confess the need to use it on rare occasion when websites are not designed for alternate browsers), but in case you haven’t done so, I invite you to try one of these:

  • Firefox – my absolute “go to” browser and there’s a new version (FF3) being released out of beta on Tuesday, June 17th! In fact, you can be a part of the celebration and quest to set a Guinness World Record with participation in “Download Day“. Besides the increased security and decreased crashes, I love the personal productivity and fun add-ons that make my browsing so much more effective and enjoyable! My favorites are GMail manager, PicLens, and TinyURLCreator, but I use many others on a daily basis, including ScribeFire and FastVideoDownload, not to mention Delicious and Diigo! I don’t really know how to browse without these enhancements – they’ve become that much a part of my internet experience! firefox-title.jpg
  • Flock – built on Mozilla’s Firefox foundation, this browser takes a decidedly ‘social’ slant in the browsing market. I like the integration with Flickr and other social networking sites (twitter, Facebook, etc), but be forewarned – it can be very distracting and I hardly have the willpower to stay on task with my typical internet browsing behavior! I would definitely recommend a “look-see-try,” as it might be a good fit and it definitely offers a exponentially stronger power than IE! logo.gif
  • Opera -this one is definitely a ‘sleeper’ but it offers a mobile browser for low-end phones and it has a neat “Notes” feature that allows you to create, snippet and manage text – which has come in very handy when wanting to provide comments to students in an online environment. logo4.gif

No doubt there are others out there, but we’ve definitely come a long way from the ole Netscape, which was my first browser a little more than a decade ago. Browsing and use of internet resources is definitely one of the least recognized and untapped venues, probably because we take it for granted and perhaps that is why folks end up taking it for granted and utilize the ‘convenient’ source. I would guess there is more to come in the future of browsing and urge you to learn more about your browsing tool of choice – not only for yourself, but also for teaching your students!

Do you have a favorite browser? Why has it become your favorite?

cross-posted with Colemama’s Mosaic

Time Flies

How in the world did it get to be May already??? I’m so behind – but ‘no stress’ here, right? Too much to do, so little time…but that’s a typical response, too? Well, here we go with a quick update…

I’m so excited to be a small part of the world-reknown Horizons Project 2008! This global group of students and educators, led by CoolCatTeacher, Vicki Davis, and her “partner-in-learning,” Julie Lindsay takes advantage of global human resources and collaborative skills, web 2.0 tools, and higher level thinking/learning skills via analysis of the New Media Consortium and Educause Learning Initiative’s Horizon Report 2008 to bring meaning to everyday education! This huge undertaking is a model for what can/will/should be the norm for secondary education now and in the near future. It reflects a strong commitment to curriculum, instruction, and assessment – the foundational triad. I’m also excited to see friendly twits (Tanya Gray and Ryan Bretag) involved with participating schools. More to share as this project evolves…

A much appreciated SHOUT OUT to Carol VanHook as she participated in my presentation to district Media Specialists (Google preso) and then invited me to chat with some folks from state leadership positions about web 2.0 and the collaborative impact on learning. My own experiences in meeting and working with Carol (she is in IA and I’m in FL – we met via a Discovery Educator Webinar about Second Life!) reflect the amazing connectivity and powerful collaboration that our world not only offers, but demands!!

Since the onset of 2008, I’ve (at least so far) committed to my pledge to take and write about “a daily image” – I didn’t officially join the 366 Day group, but I’ve been both frustrated and rewarded each day as I find a ‘shot,’ post it on Flickr and write a description and/or reflection about that visual. Most of the time I relish the moments seeking out a good picture and making various attempts to capture it – and rarely, I struggle to find an appropriate inspiration and/ore reflective words to describe the photo. Overall, I’m not only thrilled that I’ve continued into the second quarter (!), but also that I’ve found different levels of meaning in the ‘exercise.’ In case you’re interested, here’s the link and here’s one to view…


Enough for now! I’m predicting a more consistent and regular posting – though, no promises! πŸ™‚

Earth-shattering Trio

Imagine a threesome of earth-shattering events (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration, but rare and exciting nonetheless) all crammed into a 24-hour period! Here’s mine for today:

  • 8:30am Tilt-Wall: Lifting of the first 3-story concrete panel of our future Lorenzo Walker Technical High School – followed by an additional half-dozen or so! After months of watching worker bees doing ‘something’ behind the fence and with a looming August 2008 completion date, it was a relief to see the basic structure of the building actually appear. The crane was assembled over the weekend and by Monday, all 43 panels should be up – amazing!



  • 9:00am Sonic boom (double pop) of the shuttle reentering the earth’s atmosphere – on schedule and another reminder of our role in the universe. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any trace of space flight, but still a neat event – even the construction workers took note and looked up to the sky!
  • 10:00pm Total Lunar Eclipse Another look skyward – what an awesome sight!

Powered by ScribeFire.

Technorati Tags:

Neglect…Not Purposeful

How did it become so easy to neglect this blog? In addition to the usual business that the start of the new year brings, I have committed to some new ‘time-eating’ projects (both personal and professional) and have significantly altered my writing:

  • frequent 140 character snippets in Twitter
  • daily reflection to accompany my “Photo A Day” in Flickr 2242651215_90e3c7e742.jpg
  • formal reports for coursework (does it ever end?) this time via Blackboard, but think I’ve used them all…and
  • as noted by these few-and-far-between posts, decreased blogging

In these days of exponential change, it is not an alien concept to experience differences such as these. There’s much more thinking going on in my mind than I can produce in written form and I am fairly comfortable in that development, but there’s a constant nagging that I’m missing something…

Powered by ScribeFire.

On to 2008!

Another year, another 365 days, has passed – isn’t it funny how the quality of time becomes so critical when we reflect on how we have (or have not) ‘used’ it? And that essence becomes even more profound as we age – is that why I show less patience for the ever-slowly movement of change? πŸ˜‰

Though I could enumerate the many reflections that come to mind this time of year, I’ll only note that 2007 was another intense year of learning, living, and networking – with emphasis on the connections among them! I look forward to new insights and engaging communities in 2008. One project that will be challenging, but is important for me to attempt, is the daily photograph. I expect to gain more skill and technique with this experience, naturally. Even more vital is the hope of seeing things differently through both design and play, visually and emotionally.

This first day of the new year started off muggy and relatively warm. I meant to take my camera with me on the early morning beach walk and immediately kicked myself for not doing so as the cloudy skies at dawn were colored with oranges and purples and the water was an incredible aqua hue. First lesson in Project 365 – take your camera with you everywhere!!! For some reason, this lesson may be hard to learn! πŸ™‚ As the morning progressed, the temperature began to fall rapidly and the clouds meshed together to form an ominous overcast – not the best picture taking weather for the amateur photographer. Today’s photo shows conflict as the palm fronds don’t have their usual blue sky contrast, but did get it off before the rain showers arrived.

010108-005.jpg Naples, FL 01/01/08

Technorati Tags: ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

The ‘Personal’ in PLE

23964209n00_2056795548.jpgPersonal Learning Environment (PLE) is a descriptive term for the growth and development that professionals need to be effective. Rather than (or perhaps in addition to) a traditional class in a formal educational institution, a PLE is much more informal and often, web-based.

My current PLE includes

  • reading posts from approximately 175 blogs (education-related, technology-related, and just plain thought-provoking), writing to my own two blogs, and commenting on occasion,
  • interacting daily with about 100 “edublogger-twits” on twitter
  • dabbling with a number of different social networking tools, including ning and facebook,
  • creating collaborative wikis and Google documents,
  • backchannelling chats in scheduled and spontaneous webinars, webcasts, fireside chats, and ustream productions,
  • sharing favorites via, flickr, slideshare and diigo
  • listening to inspirational podcasts, and
  • experimenting with a variety of web 2.0 tools for my own productivity and for student learning.

The key to my PLE is that it revolves around me and my needs – wow, that sounds so self-centered…and it is! I control my blog readings (and yes, I’ve learned to become comfortable with unread feeds in my aggregator) and I manage (usually!) my time for the amount, type and place of these interactions. These facets work for me – they are my unique monogram, lwr_1126193470.jpg but they are not designed to work for everyone. PLEs are meant to be personalized, individualized – not standardized. What works for me probably won’t work for you. I may differ from you in time priority, content interest, learning preference, and stage of development – among other things. It’s okay – in fact, that’s the way PLEs are suppose to be! So, if you don’t get twitter, that’s ok – it’s also ok if you don’t want to follow me or the others I follow. You may use blogs for personal reflection or to communicate to parents or for ruminations that invite conversations – it really is your call!

Stephen Downes’ Web 2.0 and Your own Learning and Development is well worth your 20 minutes. His triad of interaction, usability, and relevance along with guiding principles are excellent foundations for thinking about the ‘personal’ your PLE. The presentation is also a good reminder for some of us trying to make these tools work for others – most of them are quite flexible in their design and their value may be best derived from personal meaning.

So much for the ‘personal’ in Personal Learning Environment – next up is the ‘learning’! I’m off to twitter now! πŸ˜‰ And a future post will focus on the “L” in my PLE….

Credit to Bella Lago for Self-p and Leo Reynolds for monogram on Flickr
Technorati Tags: , , ,
Powered by ScribeFire.

Copyright Lessons the Robotic Way!

Though this post is a reminder of copyright issues, it is also a focus on one of the many cool things going on at our campus!

Our ACE (Academy of Career Education) students are juniors and seniors from all of the county’s high schools dually enrolled in postsecondary vocational certificate classes in pursuit of a technical career. Brenda Harrison’s ACE Computer Electronics class created a video of their robots and robotic programming. Their focal point here was the content, but we all appreciated the venue of production and wanted to share it outside of the classroom.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Download the videoΒ 

Upon investigation of the background music (a key element of the production), it was assumed under copyright protection – and though, students gave attribution, ethical and legal lessons determined that more was needed – either substitute another song with public domain or Creative Commons license OR seek permission from the artist. Finding an ‘approved’ musical title was not an option – this song ‘worked’! So, with some doubt as to a positive response, a request for permission was sent to
the musician, Dani Garza – a week later, we were happily surprised with ‘permission granted’ along with the comment, “I think it would be wonderful to let students use my music.”

Thus, reinforcement for the teaching and practicing of digital ethics AND the continued efforts to allow student’s learning to include creation of new content, experimentation of new skills and sharing with others!

(crossposted at Lorenzo Walker Inst of Tech & Tech HS blog)

Technorati Tags: , , ,
Powered by ScribeFire.

Ebb and Flow

maisonbisson_267746261.jpgmaisonbisson_267746261.jpgmaisonbisson_267746261.jpgmaisonbisson_267746261.jpgmaisonbisson_267746261.jpgIt was one of those weeks…pretty ordinary with its share of highs and lows – and yet, worthy of reflection (isn’t everything really?)

  • one of the high school students made me laugh when he said to me, “…you make me think!” in a light conversation after school – seems I habitually challenge him to engage those brain cells even though he is no longer in the classroom! What a concept – learning anytime, anywhere! And it led to further discussion about learning how to learn! smiles…
  • our Principal, Jeanette Johnson, scheduled an early release day inservice with the theme of Personal Learning Networks and required ‘homework’ via a Google Doc (thereby necessitating Google accounts/gmail – a challenge for our limited wireless IP address with 40 some simultaneous account requests). She also demonstrated twitter and the power of her own PLN after a view and discussion of A Vision of Students Today. What an innovative Principal – we’ll keep her!
  • considerable work was accomplished on launching our online programs this week – between the work with FATDEC (Florida Adult and Technical Distance Education Consortium) and piloting Angel, there’s a lot of learning going on…and much more to come!
  • two web 2.0 sites are now educator-friendly with ‘no ads’! The social networking site, Ning, is now offering ad-free Ning sites when using for student-based projects. My request to remove advertising from the Mustang Book Club Ning (private at this point) was handled professionally, immediately, and with kindness! As Vicki Davis said on her CoolCatTeacher blog, “Companies who understand education know that the students will be creating their own spaces now or later and that they will benefit.” The wiki, Wet Paint, is also going ad-free for educators, according to Jason Welker on U Tech Tips ! I set up a Wet Paint wiki a couple of years ago (since abandoned), but ended up using other software – not necessarily because of the ads, but habit, I guess! Looks like Wet Paint might be worth another look! More importantly, it demonstrates the commitment of businesses (at least a few) to help educators impact 21st century learners – so educational institutions: are you up for the challenge, as well?
  • today I was able to tune into a couple of Ustream presentations at the Tech Forum in Austin, Texas! The ability to not only chat, but tweet during Wes Fryer’s keynote was almost like being there! An extra special thanks to Carolyn Foote for keeping the pipeline open (especially during my early obstacles related to bandwidth and filtering system) via @technolibrary! Though I didn’t capture all, I was especially moved by Wes’ emphasis on becoming a catalyst – precipitating, accelerating change. Need to go back and review/rehash my thoughts on change theory, as that is a key!

bhermans_117662875.jpgYes, just another ordinary week full of extraordinary experiences in my world of living and learning!

Photo credits to MisterBisson and bhermans on Flickr

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Opening Up the Interview

Networking opportunities abound in the twitterdom these days. I still find it incredible that folks all around the world with common interests can spontaneously connect and collaborate – we are definitely living in a shifting world…and I love it!

openSo, last week Jennifer (injenuity) announced she would be developing a Google Doc presentation for her job interview as the Director of Distance Learning at Bellingham Technical College. Furthermore, she invited her network of twits to participate in a backchanneling chat which would, by the nature of Google Doc presentations, be PART of the presentation! There is no doubt in my mind that she had to have WOWed them – time will tell whether that translates into a job – but the power of immediate communication through virtual networking is a compelling tool in the world of online learning (to wit, most edutwits consider twitter a daily dose of professional development!) and she didn’t just talk about it, she demonstrated and modeled it.

Back to the backchanneled interview, there were some obvious cons with the lack of audio and archived chat – though Kristin Hokanson thought to screencast much of it. Furthermore, still fascinated by the technology itself, most chat participants were not tuned in to the backchanneling guidelines – but wouldn’t that be powerful? Imagine a discussion with a network of folks facilitated by the candidate … what might that reveal that a limited conversation with only the interviewee would not? Add in an integration of skype and/or ustream audio/video capabilities and there is potential for much needed depth to the interview process.

Network This would be a great exercise for our students as they get ready to interview for a job…or even a capstone experience for a senior project collaborating with a business partner. As we continue to prepare our students for the 21st century, use of these tools in such an authentic manner can build skills and confidence – doing it in partnership with the non-school community bridges the gap to “real world” and provides meaning. Another lagniappe for learning!

Photo Credits to Monica’s Dad for Open and Maurice for The Swan

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.