MagNet Presentation on Researching Using the Web

I’ve noticed that when I speak, I have my deepest focus on what I’m saying and trying to communicate, but that I pay substantial subsidiary attention to the audience’s reaction. If they don’t respond, it doesn’t matter how good my material is and my intentions are, I feel like I’m tanking. So, yesterday, when I presented, I automatically checked the audience’s reaction.

Before I fill you in on what happened, let me describe the set up. There was a big screen at the front of the third of the ballroom we had, in the middle. I project well, but I couldn’t be heard without a microphone. I was using a PowerPoint (because I suspected the wifi would fail. It did.) so I was tied to my laptop, especially since the remote that worked before and after the session didn’t work IN the session. My laptop was on a podium, on a platform on the audiences’ right at the front of the room.

Let me clarify, My podium was in line with the edge of the audience seats on one side, the screen was in the middle of this wide room, and the audience stretched out in a slight curving layout beyond the screen. There were only a few rows, but it stretched 20 feet, maybe more, across. My over 3 feet high platform had my podium on it and a six foot table, with at least another six feet across the floor to the screen, and, as I said, the audience ranged beyond that. It was the most bizarre set up for a speaker I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve been in some clumsy ones.

Then there was the beginning as the IT guy tried to make the wifi worked. I tried to speak while I was re-starting (wifi still didn’t work) and re-setting up myPowerPont program. Not smooth. Finally I started, only to be interrupted by audience members and coached on how to position my head so the mic would work. I kept on going, only somewhat daunted.

During my talks, I usually throw out little bits of humour to get a sense of the audience. I did this to the MagNet audience a few times, and nobody laughed. Whoops. I kept going, but noticed subliminally that I was feeling disconcerted. Looked out at the audience and noted that a substantial number were highly focussed on taking notes. Decided that must be a good sign, and, anyhow, the show had to go on.

I got several positive comments after I finished, but I won’t know until I get the formal feedback, what most of the audience thought.

When I present, I love having a slideshow to help me stay on point and keep me going when I talk! It’s a great security blanket when I don’t feel much resonance from the audience, and so it was yesterday. My PowerPoint was there when the wifi wasn’t, and when I felt worried about whether the audience was with me.

I have some observations, I hate under-designed, almost anti-speaker designed venues BUT I can survive them.

Finally, in lieu of handouts, I put my presentation up on SlideShare. This morning I received an email from them telling me it would be up in their News & Politics feature page for 16 to 20 hours, (News & Politics?!?) so that’s an audience reaction I can enjoy ;->

Beyond Google featured on SlideShare
"Beyond Google" featured on SlideShare

MERLOT 2008, Web 2.0, Part 2

I’m home again from the MERLOT Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and found it exciting for a number of reasons, especially as it was the first academic conference I’ve ever attended that had a strong focus on the importance of web 2.0 for teaching and learning. I think the MERLOT members are ahead of many other educators because they are most concerned with distance learning, and the possibilities of web 2.0 are really useful in making online courses rich and lively.

Here are some of the presentations I attended:

The 12/10 Conspiracy: Guiding Faculty and Staff Exploration of Web 2.0  as Learning Tools – Fritz Nordengren gave a highly polished performance using the 12/10  tarradiddle as an amusing shell for valuable suggestions about how to encourage exploration and adoption of web 2.0 applications to support learning and teaching. I found his reference to the PEW Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users especially helpful. I agree with him that people have individual needs and often require individual coaching, and that we are still defining what the basic technology skills are. Very enjoyable and informative.

ZSR Library Presents: Blogs & Wikis @ Wake Forest University – Susan Smith, Lauren Pressley and Kevin Gilbertson, from the MERLOT 2008 program:

Blogs and wikis are valuable communication and educational tools. These technology-enabled instruction tools can supplement or replace the traditional LMS. To provide the faculty with 21st Century educational tools, Z. Smith Reynolds Library offers locally hosted blogs and wikis for classroom use. This service supports the university’s academic mission, as well as allows the library to fulfill its mission of collecting, indexing, and preserving local content. To create a successful program, library staff integrate instructional design and technology training for faculty. This presentation will provide a program overview, explanation of the instruction, and the specifics of the open-source technology implementation.

I like their approach of hosting WordPress – and MediaWiki installations on their server for multiple accounts. WordPress is a highly regarded free blogging application; I use the account myself, while theirs is the version. MediaWiki is the wiki used for Wikipedia; I prefer wiki applications that are totally WYSIWYG while MediaWiki requires some wiki coding. Intelligent and interesting presentation.
Talking with Technology: Asynchronous, Synchronous Communication and Beyond Using Free Software – Takako Shigehisa. Of special interest to teachers and learners of languages. In this excellent presentation, the following applications were introduced: Audacity, which I use in my own Oral Communications course, Photostory3, SkypePowergramo, and Chinswing, plus Gizmo ProjectVoiceThreads and iVisit – A rich selection of very useful teaching/learning tools.
Facebook and Podcasting: Convergence for Freshmen – Peter Juvinall suggests going where the students already are:

Facebook provides a unique opportunity for educators in that it enables a convergence of communication technology. This presentation will cover the benefits of using Facebook as a classroom management solution, the lessons learned from a freshman-level class, and a proper approach to using it in a classroom environment in conjunction with podcasting and traditional means of classroom communication.

Interesting approach, although I’m not sure I’d want all my students on my Facebook account, and not sure they would want me on theirs. Juvinall, however, makes sophisticated use of Facebook Groups and other possibilities. Very interesting and student-oriented approach.
eLearning Strategic MERLOT – Robbie Melton is an amazingly skilled speaker, and I found her strategies fascinating and practical. As the chief academic officer for the 5th largest system of education in the USA, with a 29% increase in online learning this year, she has her institution use MERLOT as an integral part of faculty development. As a teacher of rhetoric, I was deeply impressed by her speaking skills, and personally envious. As a teacher educator, I admired her sensible approach for involving both teachers and students using MERLOT.
Wikis and the Pressure of Public Writing – Dorothy Fuller case study on having groups do collaborative research and writing using wikis was very valuable. Her description of how inhibited people are when editing other people’s text, matched my own reactions to using wikis. This is an important aspect to using wikis for collaboration; we, as a culture, have to learn the ‘skill’ of sharing writing tasks in a public space. An informative piece of research.
Web2.0, the Social Media and Academia: Using Personal Learning Environments to Expand Teaching and Learning – my presentation – described by blogger Lauren Pressley She kindly didn’t mention the technical snafu when the Hotel Hilton’s irritatingly weak wireless system caused my computer to crash, leaving me to talk through the last third instead of showing. My PowerPoint can be found on SlideShare here –

So I learned a lot at MERLOT – check out the richness of the program if you like, – – and I met people interested in the web applications I find both useful and fascinating for teaching and learning. Some people I will encounter again on the social network based on Ning called MERLOT Voices –
I recommend MERLOT membership –

MERLOT 2008 – Web 2.0

MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is an interesting organization, made up of people from a variety of disciplines, focused largely on distance learning. It is the first academic conference I have attended with a strong focus on the use of Web 2.0 in teaching – something I’ve been looking for.

So I’m here in Minneapolis, where I admired the architecture Wednesday, and I’ve been attending sessions since then. Darcy Hardy was a good and interesting speaker yesterday morning, talking about online education, leadership, and success. She shifted my attitude on distance education and online learning.

The session, MERLOT Introduces Web 2.0 Friday morning, demonstrated the new MERLOT social network, set up on Ning, called MERLOT Voices.

This should give members a place to play with/in a social site and connect with others of similar interests. MERLOT Voices combined with the resources of the original MERLOT website, gives teachers access to a huge repository of teaching resources.

In No More Traditional Classes, Dr. Dan Lim looked into a future where iPhones would be part of mobile learning, and game-based education would be far more common. Michael Scheuerman, in Report on a Longitudinal Study – comparing synchronous and asynchronous elements in online courses, came to the interesting conclusion that synchronous elements required less faculty time than asynchronous.

Neil Griffin described a number of examples of free software available to teachers (or anybody). He mentioned exe for learning packages, Match-up for quizzes, Audacity for audio recording, Media Coder for converting file formats, –  and others.

Saturday started with a plenary with Bernie Dodge, the originator of WebQuests, speaking on “What Would Dewey Do?” His thesis was that technology is where our society, and our students, live now, and what they need to learn about experientially. As I’ve used the concept of WebQuests since the late ’90s, I was delighted to meet him in person. What he had to say about the Web 2.0 environment and teaching and learning matched my views. I, too, see wikis and podcasts as very useful learning tools, and VoiceThreads, but, like Dodge, am not sure of Second Life which seems to demand too much energy for the technical details, leaving not enough for the content.

I’ve attended Web 2.0: What is it and why Use it? which was a good basic introduction and VR3 – Virtual Reality: Vehicle for Recruitment and Retention describing East Carolina’s experience of having a virtual campus and classes in Second Life, another introductory taste of a tool.

So far, I’m having an interesting and educational time. As often happens at a conference, my informal conversations are among my richest learning events, whether I’m talking to young web, learning and graphic designers in a Japanese steakhouse, vendor reps at lunch, or other teachers at coffee breaks.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the conference.

We May be on the Cutting Edge/Signs of Hope


  • I have a friend who is updating a well-known business writing textbook. She wants to add an assignment where students have to using podcasting or videocasting, and wants my help in figuring out how to set it up. I see an inroad into college and university communications courses – provided, of course, that the teachers use the assignment.
  • The board of a volunteer organization I work with has set up a wiki and begun using it to plan, record and communicate.
  • A provincial math education organization is using a wiki to plan. (Ontario is a very, very, very big province and CommonCraft has described the problems with planning by email –

I see these as signs that people are becoming more conscious of web 2.0 possibilities. It may not have gone viral – yet – but it may be starting to. Work Literacy has been developing frustratingly slowly but maybe, just maybe, the tipping point is approaching.

Using the Web in Schools – Two Solitudes

Recently I posted a comment on a blog and checked off the little box that okays email notification every time a comment is added. The blog post is on Will Richardson’s Weblog-ed: learning with the read/write web and it is an urgent call for educators, aka teachers, to get more knowledgable about the web and it’s amazing pedagogical possibilities – (Richardson is also the author of a very helpful book, one I’ve purchased myself, called Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.) As I write this, there are a total of 78 comments on Rihardson’s post, with none directly negative, and few even remotely questioning his premise of the importance of teachers of ALL subjects learning how to use the web to enhance their students learning, and their own.

I saw Richardson’s post a few days after my own post on the subject – which links to other posts with the same urgent call. Steve Hargadon has posted a well argued essay on the same subject with the same sense of urgency – – and gone even further and created Classroom 2.0 a “social networking site for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education”. One of the three hosts who will respond to any questions asked is Canadian edublogger, Konrad Glogowski, who is studying the use of blogging in education.

If you spend any time on the web, even minimal searches will lead you to a very active edublogsphere (strange word, I know, but based on blogsphere as defined in Wikipedia). And, you will see there many very very passionate advocates for using what Will Richardson calls “the read/write web”, what is also called “Web 2.0”, and, increasingly, “Social Media”. Many of these passionate advocates are trying to figure out how to get more of their colleagues to join them in learning about the web and how to use it in teaching and learning. That’s one of the solitudes.

There’s another, larger, solitude. One of my closest friends hates the computer and the web. She reluctantly uses computers for writing, for email, and in her teaching, where one of her courses is on a CMS (Course Management System), but she is very clear about really disliking the whole experience. She’s very bright, very knowledgeable about pedagogy, and very passionate about teaching well. We have lots of great conversation, and she’s very tolerant of my web evangelism. She acknowledges my passion for the web as a teaching/learning tool, but it’s clear her aversion is deeply rooted. We’ve been talking about why she feels this way, because I want to persuade her that the web can make her life and her teaching easier and richer, as it has mine.

I didn’t start out a lover of the computer. In fact I feared and resented it initially. My credibility and my lack of credibility in this debate come from the same reality: my background. I am a writer and a former English/Communications teacher, and know little about HTML coding and many of the more arcane technical aspects of computers. If it isn’t easy, I don’t want to know about it. That’s why I love Web 2.0, social media, the read/write web – because you can create content, text and images, almost as easily as you can read on it.

I initially felt blackmailed into using a computer; word-processing made putting my thoughts down on paper, writing, much easier than typing or hand-writing. So even though I had to get my husband to navigate through DOS every single time I wanted to write, I couldn’t give up writing using word-processing. Eventually Windows was developed and I learned to turn on the computer by myself. (And eventually I got a Mac and computer life got even better, but that’s another story!) Then the Communications Department at my college was cut and teachers with up to 15 years seniority were laid off, almost half the department. I was traumatized, and when a coordinator whose program I had been assigned to, wanted me to include writing using word-processing and how to file using Windows and other web stuff, I said I’d do it. I was terrified, but I knew some computer experts and made them my mentors. So I understand my friend’s reluctance to use web applications for herself and her students; I’ve been there.

One of my friend’s explanations of why she hates using the web is that she gets frustrated and hates asking for help. Hating to ask for help is, I believe, an occupational overuse syndrome commonly found in teachers. We’re used to being the one in the room who knows the answers. We’re the fount of knowledge, and if somebody else knows more than us, that can feel disorienting, or even threatening. I believe that if I hadn’t been traumatized by the fear of losing my job, I might not have found the flexibility to learn from my mentors and (even scarier) my students. So I understand where my friend’s, and many other teachers’ (and administrators’) reluctance is coming from.

But (and this is central to the issue of teachers in all subjects needing to learn more about the web and infuse their new knowledge into their teaching) there are three realities:

  1. The web is, and I can argue this both theoretically and practically, the most profound change in human communication ever, more profound, even, than the changes coming from the printing press;
  2. Our students are naive wanderers in this new communication wilderness and need to learn how to protect themselves on it, not by hiding from it, but by knowing how to think critically about it and act sensibly on it; and
  3. Our students are unaware of many web possibilities and need to learn how to use the web for their learning and for their future work.

So, what’s the answer? How do I persuade my friend to explore the web more? How do we, the passionate evangelists of the edublogsphere, persuade our colleagues to start exploring the web’s pedagogical possibilities? Of course there is no one answer, but there are some paths:

  • Keep on offering workshops to our colleagues and administrators;
  • Find out the interests of our colleagues (as we would of our students) and show them the web uses they are most likely to find attractive;
  • Explain that although the web was difficult to use initially, it has become much easier to learn about; (nobody needs to use DOS or HTML any more);
  • Show our colleagues and friends that much of their learning about useful web applications can be learned in private, using the web itself – by searching, by reading edublogs, by using the so-called “Tours” that many applications provide to help you learn how to use them;
  • Put up information on the web for those who are interested but wary; and
  • … Any suggestions?

Will Richardson writes a blog and has published a book for teachers – called Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.

Steve Hargadon has created Classroom 2.0 a “social networking site for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education”, especially those in elementary education.

I have a wiki on ways to use the web in teaching and in business – – useful for those in secondary and post-secondary education.

And I’m going to continue to use my blog space here to suggest web applications, both long-term and new, that teachers and others might want to use. Please feel free to bookmark this site, until you learn how to RSS to save web site addresses.

(Coming soon;->)

Me & My MacBook

Educating for the 21st Century

Because I am part of the very active edublogger community, I sometimes have a false sense of security about what is happening in education. Every so often, though, I talk to a teacher, or even, as I did this morning, a tech professional, and am startled at the gaps in knowledge about our new communication technology. Web 2.0, or its new name, “social media” is both useful and easy, but many people don’t know the possibilities it offers for family, non-profit organizations, education, and business, – although some business are beginning to see how valuable it is.

While on Twitter, I clicked on a link and found myself reading a Time/CNN article called How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century. I see it as essential reading for all teachers and educators and all parents of school-age children. Claudia Wallis and Sonja Steptoe, the authors, speak out about what is needed for our kids and our continent to succeed, and why change is so necessary. Then they describe some innovative programs in 21st Century-oriented schools.

What our Students Need for the 21st Century

  • “Knowing more about the world. Kids are global citizens now”
  • “Thinking outside the box. Jobs in the new economy–the ones that won’t get outsourced or automated–‘put an enormous premium on creative and innovative skills, seeing patterns where other people see only chaos,'”
  • “Becoming smarter about new sources of information. In an age of overflowing information and proliferating media, kids need to rapidly process what’s coming at them and distinguish between what’s reliable and what isn’t.”
  • “Developing good people skills. EQ, or emotional intelligence, is as important as IQ for success in today’s workplace.”

Here’s what schooling could look like –

I was lucky enough to be forced into the 21st Century communications technology. At one point in my career, in the previous century ;-> I was told to teach the basics of using a word-processor and how to set up a filing system on a computer, as part of a Communications course I was assigned. I panicked, but I was also resourceful. I went to some friends who knew computers and asked for help, and I bought books that looked like ones I could learn from. (Usually the “Dummies” variety ;->) I also joined a committee where we planned and did P.D. for other non-computer teachers who were trying to learn how to use computers for teaching and learning. (I figured they must know lots about edutech, and I could learn from them!) In other words, I created a learning community for myself. I both learned and had fun.

I mention this because it’s much easier to find a learning community now with all the social media aimed at teachers. I set up this blog to be part of teachers’ learning communities, and I bring what I’ve learned about the social media here to share. One final connection from this article, which I hope you’ll read in full, a site set up to make life easier for teachers and parents –