BLC: What Can I Do Now That I Couldn't Do Before?

This was the second of the three presentations I gave at the Building Learning Communities conference. I thought it was the one that went over best and I don't think it was podcast or chatcast.

What I was trying to do here was show two tools, flickr and wikis. I discussed how I think about using them in a pedagogical context and how the same approach can be used to think about using any new tool.

I was up until 3am the night before preping the presentation. What was really cool was an email I received from the folks at Slideshare to tell me this slideshow was featured on their site ... 13 hours after it was uploaded; 179 views at the time. It's up to 797 as I write this.

One of the things I've written about often here is the practice I try to instill in my students of "Watch it. Do it. Teach it." The good folks at pbwiki gave me three wikis, worth $250 each, to give away. (They said I could keep one for myself but I decided to give them all away.) Slide #50 shows how I'm giving them away. I ended this presentation by saying to the teachers in the room: "You watched it. Now you'll do it. (The best three will get the wikis.) But then take it with you back to your kids and teach it."

I still have a wiki to give away so if you were in my session you can still wiki a wiki. Please email me with your flickr picture and wiki urls when you're done. The two winners of the Gold Level wikis are:

Dennis Richards and Claudia Estrada.


The audio content (my student's voices) isn't here but almost all the images are also links.

The Missing Links
Slide #39:,,

Update August 4, 2007
The winner of the final wiki-give-away is Debbie Bates. Congratulations Debbie!!

BLC: Learning the Guitar

This was the first of the three presentations I gave at the Building Learning Communities conference. If you look at slides 5 and 6 you'll get a sense of what I was trying to do with TwitterCamp and chatcasting. There are a couple of links that aren't functional in the slideshare version embeded here. I've added them at the end of this post.

Bob Sprankle (may we break bread again together soon) podcasted the presentation and Joyce, Barbara and Jeff chatcasted it. The chatcast is below but I also pasted it into a wiki David has made for all the chatcasts of the conference. Get in there and continue the conversation. There were a few points I didn't get across clearly so I plan to add my editorial comments on the BLC chatcast wiki (when David builds it).

I was pleased with the way this presentation went but we started late. We wrestled with a few technical hurdles and so rushed through the end. My closing comments would have come across better if we had watched the 5 Minute University video (linked below). I also didn't get a chance to talk about how personally I take it when other teachers do and don't use technology to amplify their student's learning. My oldest daughter started grade 1 this year. She'll graduate high school in 2020. My youngest daughter will graduate in 2026 and my son in 2016. That context is paramount for me when I watch Karl Fisch's video Did You Know? (Watch the UK remix linked below if you haven't seen it yet. Version 2.0 is good but the music isn't as viscerally affective as it is in version 1.0.)

Here's the stuff. Let me know what you think; here or on David's wiki (when it's up).

Audio (60 min 24 sec, 41.5 Mb) (with thanks to Bob)

Direct link to slideshow.

[7:54:19 AM] Barbara says: Darren is saying numbers do not matter....talks about peer teaching...asked what the optimal size is ..he says 18 to 20
    Editor's note: On further thought I think about 20-25 is closer to the ideal size.

[7:55:27 AM] Barbara says: Using feed windows to open up walls

[7:56:09 AM] Barbara says: Scribe posts are in ...forms text book...use unique course tag
    Editor's note: Actually scribe posts are on the class blog; is used to create the "footnotes" for the textbook the students are authouring.

[7:57:06 AM] Barbara says: Also has link Find out and learn how to do this yourself

[7:58:52 AM] Barbara says: Smart boards are not erased just use a new page so all pages are saved and uploaded to blog and have access to everything that happened in class

[7:59:33 AM] Barbara says: Ditto podcasts

[8:02:00 AM] Barbara says: New tools = new pedagogy

[8:02:52 AM] Barbara says: Links, tags RSS will have the biggest impact...everything can be brought together no matter where one is located.

[8:03:31 AM] Barbara says: Homeworking casting using RSS pushes out homework to the students
    Editor's note: This idea is from Doug Belshaw in the UK.

[8:03:59 AM] Jeff Utecht says: I'm back and thanks for the notes...I like what he's saying.

[8:04:27 AM] Barbara says: welcome back

[8:04:34 AM] Jeff Utecht says: :)

[8:05:00 AM] Barbara says: interested in making what he does reproducable and acalable

[8:05:28 AM] Barbara says: and sustainable

[8:06:02 AM] Barbara says: Bob Technology integrator... called out

[8:07:37 AM] Barbara says: Room 208... and others who are working on being sustainable moving from being an architect to a gardner

[8:07:47 AM] Jeff Utecht says: Like that!

[8:08:57 AM] Jeff Utecht says: How do you learn?

[8:09:28 AM] Barbara says: Audience does it do away with lectures? Answ. Some classes are group work some are tests some are lecture and next year some will be twitter lectures

[8:09:55 AM] Barbara says: Asking is Flat Classroom replicable?

[8:10:06 AM] Barbara says: Mentioned you jeff as judge

[8:11:29 AM] Barbara says: Now taking about Coming of Age and Scribe posts

[8:12:04 AM] Barbara says: Students on scribe gets to the point ...what you need and a way to teach other people

[8:12:36 AM] Barbara says: You learn it when you write may spend 2 hours on it but it is worth it

[8:13:19 AM] Barbara says: disclaimer not every kid spends 2 hours

[8:13:24 AM] Jeff Utecht says: Darren is the master of scribe posts!

[8:14:02 AM] Barbara says: I think it is an easy thing to implement but on the other hand i can't get anyone to do it in our community

[8:14:22 AM] Barbara says: Talking about students one upping which makes the posts better and better

[8:15:04 AM] Jeff Utecht says: Barbara can you model it at a staff meeting?

[8:15:27 AM] Barbara says: Good idea....duh

[8:16:00 AM] Barbara says: that will also solve my problem with getting minutes from our meetings

[8:16:09 AM] Jeff Utecht says: exactly!

[8:16:38 AM] Jeff Utecht says: Assign two teachers to take notes...have them both post so you get two different perspectives of what was said?

[8:16:57 AM] Barbara says: Audience Who chooses Hall of Fame?

[8:17:22 AM] Barbara says: Like the two tecahers unless they both think the other one will do it

[8:19:38 AM] Barbara says: Choices first made by Darren and then later by vote

[8:19:59 AM] Barbara says: Discuss with students how many votes get you in

[8:20:43 AM] Jeff Utecht says: That's a cool idea

[8:21:52 AM] Barbara says: each class discusses who can vot ie teachers, students , outside teachers, and how many votes are required. some set the bar really high some allow teachers to vote some say only students

[8:22:26 AM] Barbara says: He emphasizes that the push comes from the students

[8:23:13 AM] Jeff Utecht says: Yep...internal compatition drives us all...that's when you know you're doing real teaching when students push each other and you become a facilitator.

[8:23:21 AM] Barbara says: Times up so finishing up talking about k12 online and coming og age

[8:24:11 AM] Barbara says: Closes with blooms revised taxonomy

[8:24:19 AM] Jeff Utecht says: Cool!

[8:24:58 AM] Barbara says: End with student who says knowing someone is scribing allows you to focus on what is being said not on taking notes

[8:25:09 AM] Barbara says: signing off for a few

[8:28:12 AM] Jeff Utecht says: Thanks Barbara

[8:28:36 AM] Joyce Valenza says: I love Darren's term: twitterpating learning activities.

The Missing Links
Slide 1: Me and my new friend

Slide 4:

Slide 7: video source

Slide 18: Coming of Age

Slide 22: see version 2.0

Slide 23:, Did You Know? - UK

Slide 24: video source

Slide 29: flickr storm, Love at first sight ...

Update: July 26, 2007
Thanks to a tweet from Chris Craft I learned that Slideshare added a new functionality a few days ago; slidecasting (slideshow + podcast = slidecast). This presentation is now available as a slidecast on slideshare. They've made the tool impressively simple to use. My slides, Bob's audio; an unintended collaboration. I love when serendipity smiles. Thanks again Bob. ;-)

TwitterCamp @ BLC: The Tweet That Wasn't

I gave three different, but related, presentations at the Building Learning Communities conference. (Next post will be all about them.) I had planned to give presentations in rooms without walls; my personal riff on Playing With Boundaries. It didn't happen.

We were going to have TwitterCamp installed and displayed on a Promethean board while I showed the main presentation using a projector. The idea was to have everyone in the room join my twitter network and tweet what I was talking about interlacing their questions, concerns, compliments, complaints, confusions, uncertainties, anxieties and doubts to each other. We would have a place where I could see the tweets (making thoughts transparent) and also have others on my twitter network tweeting with their ideas and reactions as well. I was aiming for a conference without boundaries; or at least a conference with glass walls.

Lester Ray and Cyndy Everest from Apple were heroic in trying to make this work. Joyce also came to the rescue. She installed Adobe AIR and TwitterCamp on her laptop which we plugged into the Promethean Board and used another laptop where she was logged in to my email account. She accepted twitter invites from everyone in the room so that their tweets would display through my account. (Next time I do this I'll set up a unique twitter account for the conference and have people befriend the conference.)

Although everything was installed properly (at least I'm fairly confident it was) the tweets never displayed. All I got to show people was the naked skin I had created (thanks to a couple of helpful tweets from Alan Levine) without the little puffs of transparent thinking I was hoping for. Fortunately Barbara Bareda, Joyce Valenza (both in the room) and Jeff Utecht (in Seattle) chatcasted it. (I think Jeff has already published that but I will too in my next post.)

I was really proud of the skin I made. I customized it with images from my blog and one for the conference. Here's a screen shot ...

BLC: Imagining the Possibilities

Sitting here in the Boston airport waiting to board a plane to Toronto then home. What an amazing three days! Here's why:

First, the people. Joyce Valenza, Tony Parkin, Glynnis Barett were in "my posse" when I was here last year. We had the opportunity to see each other again and spend some time catching up on the last year. Missing Alan Mills.

I was about to begin this sentence talking about new friends but that wouldn't be accurate. I know so many people via their blogs that when we get a chance to meet face to face like this it feels more like old friends picking up where we left off: Dean Shareski, Bob Sprankle, Ewan McIntosh, Will Richardson (who has become completely twitterpated), David Jakes, Christian Long and Chris Lehmann. I also got a chance to meet Barbara Bareda, Vince Jansen and Sharon Peters. There were so many more new names and faces. BLC continues to be a warm and inviting experience where everyone is welcome in every conversation.

Dean, Christian and I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon getting chased out of the dining room and down the hall. (We didn't realize how loud we were talking as each of us took turns challenging each other to clarify our thinking.) We were having a passionate conversation and pushing each other to figure out what are the bare essential tools needed to amplify learning and success for our students. At least we started there and rambled far and wide ending at a place distant from where we began. Then Dean went for a nap. ;-) I think it was Chris who said his wife has a "control-alt-delete" button for Christian ... or was it an energy shield. ;-)

Last night Chris, Christian and I stayed up late in the lobby sharing pictures and videos of our kids. Three proud dads sharing the love we have for our children. I already respect these guys as brilliant minds but this was a bond formed on a completely different level. Earlier that evening though, David Jakes had the line I've been carrying around in my head ever since.

Thursday night at BLC was a boat cruise around Boston harbour. A bunch of us were standing on the upper deck outside talking about our kids, our students and our views on teaching. The passion was palpable. Dave listened for a while, held out his arms and said "I love you guys!" The strength of weak ties Dave. ;-)

Now that's only the tip of the iceberg with this year's conference. This was, bar none, the best conference I have ever attended. There was a breathtaking array of talented speakers; but that's not what made it. The attention to detail that Christine Bridge and her team made of absolutely everything was of the highest calibre; but that's not what made it. The tech support provided by the good folks from Apple, Lester Ray and Cindy Everest was outstanding; but that's not what made it. The participants made it.

Read David's blog. You'll find a series of posts he calls chatcasts: Fire up skype and invite everyone in the room to participate in a live chat while the presenter speaks. Open it up to the folks who aren't physically there on your twitter and skype networks and you begin to get a sense of what participating in this conference was like. As the presenter speaks pictures are taken, uploaded to flickr and shared within seconds. The speaker says something that a member of the chatcast challenges, finds the source and drops the link into the chatcast. Dean starts streaming the audio live via a skype conference call. Invite students into the chatcast, have the presenter respond to questions in the chatcast as they too participate, and .... it was intoxicating! People from the UK, Canada and the US, who weren't physically there, were there.

Today, David and I took the bus to the airport together. It felt like we were drunk. We talked about a lot of things but both agreed, this is what future conferences should look like. What the presenter has to say is just a prompt; it's fodder for the people in the audience to reflect, to push back, to wrestle back and forth with and develop their own thinking. Slides are available via slideshare for anyone anywhere to follow along. Photos uploaded to flickr so the remote participants can see what the room/presenter looks like. Technology really amplifies learning. Physical space just slows everything down. But when you marry the two together ... the possibilities are limitless.

I gave three talks this year; all either podcast, chatcast or both. (More details coming soon.) The slides for every presentation are online at slideshare. I had a computer meltdown just before the conference so my last presentation, Developing Expert Voices, was a rough draft of what I really wanted to say. I felt that I had talked too much and come across rather flat. I failed to factor in the chatcast. Before I started I told everyone in the room (about 50 people) to download skype and contact either David Jakes or Sharon Peters to join the conversation. (I think David got 20 requests within 2 minutes.) In the silences between slides or as I waited for a site to load (the net was running really slow) I didn't factor in the breadth and depth of the conversations going on in the periphery of my talk. I think the periphery became the centre. Skype wasn't designed to do this but this is what it was made for. On the bus David and I agreed, this is something to do with our students.

Imagine a 20 minute lecture where all your students back channel about what you're saying. Outside guests or experts are invited in. Someone acts as a "rudder" to keep the conversation on track. The discussion is displayed on a SMARTboard or with a projector. The chatcast is immediately dumped into a wiki. The rest of the class is devoted to reorganizing the wiki clarifying what was said, answering questions (student to student as well as teacher to student; and don't forget the people, students, teachers, mentors or parents beyond the glass walls of the room) summarizing the big ideas, reframing the discussion in terms of what needs to be explained again and where we're going next. Imagine the possibilities ...

Ewan @ BLC

I'm at the Building Learning Communities conference in Boston. It's intoxicating to talk with so many people I've long respected and admired. I was here last year too. The conference has doubled in size from 300 to over 600 people. The sessions offered are an amazing array of talent and thoughtful thinkers but the best part is the face to face conversations we're having afterwards.

Actually, that's not the whole story. Twitter and using skype to chatcast in sessions has added another dimension to the entire experience.

Ewan McIntosh gave a breathtaking talk this afternoon. Bob podcasted it and David chatcasted it. Dean tweeted that Ewan is his new yoda and look at this ... he's already on flickr!

Photo source: Yoda's Playlist

Twitter: Ephemeral Learning Tool

I'm a little behind on my reading but I've read Chris' and David's thoughts about using twitter in the classroom.

Since I first started tweeting I've been thinking about pedagogical applications of twitter. For me, the pedagogical virtue of twitter (or anything like it: jaiku, pownce, IM, etc.) is how it can be used to make students' thinking transparent; to the teacher and each other.

Here are some of my nascent thoughts. In each case I would be using twittercamp to display tweets on the smartboard although the same could be done using a computer & projector setup:

(a) Kids, in groups, are working on a complicated problem (I teach math so, it's a math problem). They tweet their progress and difficulties as they work through it. They learn from each other and the teacher gets some powerful insight into their thought processes. This allows for very focused and concrete feedback to students to refine their thinking and improve their skills.

(b) While I give a lecture students tweet their thoughts about it to each other. Comments that clarify or question what I am saying. They can also tweet any confusions they have as they arise. This makes the lecture much more dynamic as it takes on the character of a conversation. The teacher isn't "interrupted" so they can develop new concepts fully but they can also respond instantaneously to student's learning needs. This also provides a live, in class venue where quieter students can be heard and get their questions answered immediately. The open nature of this discourse also allows the teacher to modify their presentation on the fly to address the needs of the learners in the room.

(c) This one isn't so much for the classroom as it is for teacher professional development; twitter as an integral part of any presentation.

I'm planning my workshops for the upcoming Building Learning Communities conference. I plan to have an interactive whiteboard set up running twittercamp. As I give each presentation I am hoping that people in the audience will both tweet and chatcast while I speak. Again, changing the character of the presentation from "show and tell" to a conversation. This last idea arises out of the blogger's cafe from NECC and my vicarious participation via my twitter network.

I would have students use their cell phones to tweet. They would set up nicknamed accounts and I would have a classroom account. Only members of the class would be added to this particular twitter network. In this way:

 • Student's identities are protected.
 • Students are more motivated by being able to use their cell phones in class.
 &bull The process models good pedagogy responsive to student's learning needs.
 • Students learn to use a cell phone as a learning tool.
 • [your suggesstion goes here ;-)]

Tweets are ephemeral. In my view, tweeting homework, assignments, due dates, classroom updates or anything like that is more appropriately posted to a classroom blog.

The power of twitter in the classroom lies in harnessing the instantaneous and ephemeral nature of the tool. These ideas are my first draft thinking re: twitter and pedagogy. I'm interested in seeing how others develop different educational uses of it.