NECC – trying to keep up in the echo chamber.

I tried to stay up late last night to catch the happenings in Texas at NECC but by 1.00am my eyes were not cooperating. Urgently needed sleep so listened to my body and obeyed. Always wise!

Managed to catch a keynote live this morning Melbourne time. Wasn’t even aware they had scheduled a keynote for what would have been evening in the US.  Derral Garrison had set up a ustream of James Surowiecki delivering his presentation based on his book, ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’.  I discovered the link late so started watching halfway through the presentation. This is his understanding of what makes a wise crowd (from Wikipedia)

Four elements required to form a wise crowd

Not all crowds (groups) are wise. Consider, for example, mobs or crazed investors in a stock market bubble. Refer to Failures of crowd intelligence (below) for more examples of unwise crowds. According to Surowiecki, these key criteria separate wise crowds from irrational ones:

Diversity of opinion
Each person should have private information even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.
People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them.
People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.
Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.

When I came in he was discussing the problems of existing in an echo chamber – the idea that we function in conversations with like minded people and as a result we reinforce each other’s beliefs. He stated the importance of having people who act as devil’s advocates -people who challenge ideas and get us evaluating  our ideas and thinking through concepts with an open mind. When he started talking about the echo chamber my ears pricked up. When I started blogging John Connell wrote a comment welcoming me as a new voice to the conversations – he said something to the effect that it is always nice to have a new blogger enter the fray as it brings new ideas to the table and helps broaden the echo chamber that is the edublogger world. While I was watching from the fringes (hate the word lurking- horrible connatations and not a fair description in my opinion) I had assumed the edublogger world was huge and that I would never gain a voice. I don’t think my voice is terribly significant, but I’ve found I do have one and the edublogger world is not as huge as I imagined.

One of the things I’m noticing in blog posts I’ve read about the conference is the number of ‘names’ (read influential bloggers) who are bemoaning the fact that there are more parties in the discussion now and it’s getting harder to have the kind of in depth discussions like they had at edubloggercon last year. Isn’t this just an indication of exactly what they have been expousing about the adoption of technology for connective purposes. As people switch on to the transformative power of making connections we are going to see more people enter the conversations. We need to embrace the ideas coming from these new entrants and welcome them, not make them feel like newcomers on the block- it may well be that they can serve as devil’s advocates, challenge the thinking and lead us in new directions.

Vicki Davis was using Cover it live to feed observations out from the keynote -worth reading as a reply on her blog  . You can catch the keynote in replay (I think) by visiting the NECC site.

I’d recommend you all having a read of Silvia Tolisano’s recent post, ‘Who would listen’. She talks a bit about the types of things that are synonomous with the idea of an echo chamber. It was a thought provoking post. I should have left a comment because it’s been in my mind for awhile now. Another one to have a read of would be Steve Dembo’s post ‘When does average Joe become Joe expert?’ Both of these posts reflect on names in the blogosphere and our tendancy to listen to what they have to say because they have established a name for themselves. 

I saw a comment after the keynote from someone who said it wasn’t relevant to education. I think it is really relevant. We have to be aware that when we immerse ourselves with like minded people we can lose perspective. My comment in the ustream chat was that many of us work in schools where we are the one of the few voices suggesting change and the only place we find like minded people in in our PLNs. If we spend a lot of time online we run some risk? of seeing things through the rose coloured glasses we don.

Food for thought anyway.    

NECC -the Clayton’s conference experience

We used to have a drink here in Australia called Claytons -it was the drink you’re having when you’re not not having a drink. (No alcohol!) Well, I’m having the Clayton’s NECC experience – the conference you’re attending when you’re not attending a conference.  

Last night it was Edubloggercon – the unofficial opening of the conference for all the educational bloggers who were fortunate enough to attend. Tony Richards alerted me to the fact that things were starting up and twitter followed not long after. From then on it became a case of chasing the next ustream or mogulos (new live channel program like ustream -set up my own channel after finding it!) live stream so that I could listen to and watch proceedings.

Bud Hunt – who set up a mogulus channel to live stream -also set up a Chatterous group for edubloggercon – I hope if the group is different for the official start of NECC he lets people know via Twitter because I found it invaluable in keeping up with what was going on. Vicki Davis alerted me to it via a tweet. She was another one thinking about those of us not in attendance -constant updates were coming from Vicki about live streams that we could watch.

I spent the next couple of hours with tabs open everywhere trying to track conversations of interest. I don’t know if it’s good or bad being able to flick between screens and choose what you attend – you do lose the thread a bit. It was great to be watching when Dean Groom from Sydney asked a question in one of the sessions. I was able to send him a tweet straight away saying that I was watching him ask a question. Way cool. 

A couple things I noticed being said. Jeff Utecht commented that the discussions weren’t deep enough. they got interesting in the last 15 mins and then things had to wind up. David Warlick was live blogging and I was intrigued by this that appeared:

Hummm! so what has to start getting closed down for educators to start realizing that education business is in jeparady?

Thinking about Virtual High School, as more and more students start signing up for online literature, or online history, and principals are going to be coming around and say, “Ms Johnson, our enrollment is down, as you know, and we’re going to have to let you go.”

Hmmm -made me think. Just what is Clay Burell up to??? (You’ve been so tight lipped couldn’t help but think this is where you’re headed!!)

Better get this posted -day two about to start!!

Johnny Bunko – career advice worth reading at any age.

I’ve pretty much lived my life thinking there was a plan. Well, maybe not thinking there was a plan, but certainly making a plan for myself and working towards enacting the plan. I remember contemplating the turn of the century when I was in my teens. I worked out that I’d be 34 in 1999. I figured way back then that I’d be married with a couple of kids and had established some semblance of a career for myself. And guess what, that’s exactly where I was at the turn of the century and I felt pretty pleased with myself because I was working the plan really well.

I don’t know quite what happened, but in 2001 I started to realise that the plan was OK, but there had to be a bit more to it. I started by moving out of my comfort zone and seeking work in new locations. I wasn’t moving very far afield, but I was challenging myself by placing myself in new situations and seeing how well I coped. I found I coped really well and, in fact, I was relishing the challenge new situations presented to me. It wasn’t always smooth sailing and I did encounter setbacks which knocked me around a bit, but they seemed to teach me a little more about myself and I grew in confidence as a result.

Late 2007 I started reading blogs and was subscribing to them via my Google Reader. This was a turning point for me because I started to entertain the idea that I might be able to contribute to the conversations I was reading about. So I started writing. I had no plan, other than to share knowledge. And you know what I’ve discovered? I’ve discovered that pursuing something because you have a passion for it with no predetermined outcome can take you in directions you never really thought possible.   

What’s led to this moment of self reflection? It’s the reading of Johnny Bunko: The last career guide you’ll ever need  by Dan Pink.  I first heard about this from Garr Reynold’s blog, Presentation Zen. Garr created a great slideshow about Dan’s book and this prompted me to get a copy to read for myself. (Garr is conducting a seminar next Friday -4th July – at the Wesley Convention Centre in Sydney. I’m flying up to attend. Can’t wait. If you’re in Sydney I’d recommend you check it out. Garr has fantastic ideas about how we should present information. Invaluable for teachers.)  Here’s the slideshare presentation;  


You must read this book. IMHO, it should be required reading for students contemplating career choices. I’ll certainly be plugging it at my school. For that matter, I think it should be requred reading for everybody- we all can learn from the advice metered out by Dan.


If I’d read this book in my youth perhaps I wouldn’t have been so focused on the plan and would have paid more attention to the kinds of things Steve Jobs refers to in the slide above. (from Garr’s presentation) Along the way I’ve done some of this, and following my gut has been something I’ve relied on more heavily as I’ve aged. Maybe this comes from maturity and really knowing ourselves; understanding that inherently we have some sense of what is right for us. Maybe I just needed someone to point this out to me earlier. Don’t get me wrong, the plan hasn’t worked out too bad; I’ve got two great kids and a supportive husband who is understanding throughout this blogging journey that to some extent pulls my focus away from the homefront. I feel incredibly fortunate.

Here’s another slide from Garr’s presentation that maps out the six key lessons from Dan Pink’s book. My advice is watch Garr’s excellent presentation and go and buy yourself a copy of the book. I think you’ll like it.



School’s out Friday

Time for another School’s out Friday. I’ve been on holidays for a week now, but many schools finished today for a two week hiatus. I’m sure you’re up for a bit of a laugh and who better than Melbourne’s own Hamish and Andy to provide just that. This is them engaged in Team Ghosting – Ghosting being a sport they claim to have invented. It requires you to invade the personal space of other people by walking as close as you can to them without them noticing. It’s caught on and been banned in a few schools apparantly. An interesting thing I noticed when watching was the location where this footage was shot – it’s the corner of Swanston St. and Grattan St. and the building they’re in front of used to be called the Melbourne College of Advanced Education; this is where I studied to become a teacher. A little while ago now!!

Have a great weekend.  Rest up those of you who’ve just made it to the hols.   

Searchme – Stacks are fun (and useful too!)

Got a comment on my blog from the crew at Searchme about new features they have added that make this new visual search engine even more appealing.  They’ve added video and image search as options. The video search is interesting. The pages (only from YouTube at the moment) load automatically for you to view – as you click through the results that flip across your screen you can watch them without having to visit the YouTube site. Probably best explained by watching the video Searchme produced to explain the process;

The other very cool feature that I think has many positive benefits for education is the introduction of what they are calling stacks. Stacks gives you the ability to save webpages from the search you are conducting. To do this you click on ‘new stack’ in the top right hand corner of the screen and give it a name. You then click on the page you want, pick it up and drag it into the stack. Your stack can be a combination of webpages, video and images. You can share your stack by emailing the link or by grabbing the code and embedding it in your blog, facebook, myspace, delicious, twitter  and various other accounts. Again, watch the demo video they have produced to explain how you do this;

I can see the possibities for student research with stacks. I think this is going to be a very appealing option for the students I work with – they like the visual format and the click and drag appeal of storing pages is going to be a winner. The fact that they would be able to share their stacks with others would be incredibly useful for group tasks. This will be an easy sell provided the search results are up to scratch. Being a new search engine in beta there may be problems with getting a thorough search result so patience will be required and we may have to qualify this with our students. Nonetheless I think it’s worth pursuing – I’ve no doubt our students are going to love it.  

**update: note this comment from Babu Satasiya from Searchme;

If you do not find pages, you have option of adding your urls in stack and it will be imaged on priority basis and you have all your custmize stacks ready to share with your friends on facbook, myspace and as per your wish.


NECC musings.

Today’s the first ‘working’ day of my school holidays and I’ve been sitting here musing about the NECC conference that is taking place in San Antonio, Texas over the coming weekend. A group of Australian educators are leaving on a tour today that takes in this conference and I am envious that I’m not travelling with them. After blogging for nearly six months I feel such a part of this network of learning and feel that I’m going to miss so much by not being in attendance. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t follow through and write a proposal to my school asking that I be permitted to attend. It was a possibility, but I quite literally couldn’t find the time to get it done. It sounds ridiculous, but I really don’t feel like I’ve had a spare minute in five and a half months -there was always something more pressing that needed doing and so here I am, musing about what might have been! 

I don’t think I really need to worry – my network knows I’m here and I’m sure much from the conference is going to be fed out virtually to those of us watching from the fringes. Vicki Davis has just posted about her Cool Cat Teacher’s PLN      that she has very kindly set up which will feed a lot of info to those of us not attending. There’s an NECC 2008 tab where you can track info feeding out of the conference. Vicki has uploaded a presentation that she and Julie Lindsay (an Australian expat working in Qatar) are going to be sharing at the conference. It’s about Digital Citizenship and all going well it should be embedded here.  


Lisa Parisi has just written a great reflective post about how we bring others with us as we learn to integrate technology to support the learning in our schools and her feelings about attending NECC for the first time. It’s well worth reading.  I love what she has to say about risk and how failure makes us better at what we do – it echoes a post I wrote recently about similar sentiments.   

So, to all of you out there lucky enough to be experiencing NECC physically, not virtually, I wish you well. Soak it up! 

SlideRocket presentation – working here! (and a lesson about how good the network is)

I posted recently about how I was reworking a presentation using Garr Reynold’s principles and SlideRocket’s cool effects. That presentation was Saturday but the presentation didn’t make it to the audience. I had to rely on my previous PowerPoint – nowhere near the quality of what is embedded here (IMHO).

The presentation was completed but I couldn’t cache it. I sat up until after 1.00am trying and eventually sought the help of the network. I put out a tweet asking if anyone knew anyone from SlideRocket who could give me advice. Angela Maiers replied and said that SlideRocket had an account on Twitter and that I should direct message them. I found them on Twitter and did just that. Had to get some sleep so got up at 6.30 and checked Twitter. Sure enough, direct message from SlideRocket telling me that I needed to download the latest version of their offline client. Did that but still had trouble caching. DM’d again and let them know. When I returned home from the presentation there was a DM from SlideRocket saying they have reported the bug and will be trying to remedy it.

I’m letting you know what happened because I think it’s a fantastic example of how great the network is. I’m in Melbourne, Australia, Angela Maiers is in Des Moines, Iowa and SlideRocket’s offices are in San Francisco. I find it really cool to be able to send out a call for help and halfway around the world my tiny voice is heard and answered within a few hours. I explained all this to my audience this morning and I think a lot of them were pretty impressed, or maybe they were wondering just what it was I was taking about!

Despite my problems I’m still loving SlideRocket and don’t begrudge the time I spent putting the presentation together. Someone, somewhere might want me to do it again (!) and I learnt more about the app as I was using it. As always, you always learn best when you have a need to learn – good lesson for us all as educators to remember. The presentation is visual – very little text so probably a bit hard to follow if you’re not listening to me speak about the process I went through in learning about and initiating digital stories to complement our literature circle studies. The videos students produced are embedded in the presentation and take a while to load- if you want to see them (and they’re there warts and all!) you will have to be patient. Just a note- there is one there that was a response to the essential question, ‘What does it mean to be human?’ There are quite a few images of 9/11 – if you haven’t seen the footage for some time the images can be quite confronting. Interestingly enough, these students were in Grade 4 when 9/11 happened. It obviously had quite an impact on their lives.   

**thanks very much to Nat and the staff from SlideRocket – I had trouble getting the presentation to play here and they have been in constant contact helping me to sort things out. Didn’t know such service was possible today – they have been amazing.

Vodpod videos no longer available.







School’s out Friday

Yes, I know it’s Saturday. I spent most of last night trying to get my Sliderocket presentation finished and cached. I’ll explain that drama in my next post. Yesterday was the last day of term for me for three weeks and aren’t I glad. That’s not because I want to see the back of the students I teach; far from it. I love my students; they are so giving and bring such joy to my life. I’m just really tired and need some time to regroup and recuperate.  

I first saw this video of Taylor Mali performing his slam poetry ‘What teacher’s make’ on Dennis Harter’s blog, ‘Thinking allowed’. My nine year old son watched it with me. I loved it when he agreed with Taylor when he said he wouldn’t let students go to the toilet because they were bored. My son laughed and said that’s what he does when he’s bored – asks to go to the toilet!   

I just love how Taylor expresses the essence of teaching in this piece. Making a difference is what we do when we’re doing our job well; this should be recommended viewing for all teachers. Taylor deserves a standing ovation. 

SlideRocket continues to impress.

I’ve spent tonight putting together a presentation I have to give on Saturday for a group of Teacher-Librarians. It’s about the experiences I have had with Literature Circles and Digital Storytelling. I presented at last year’s ASLA conference in Adelaide and have been asked to give that presentation for the Melbourne audience I’ll be speaking to.

Things have changed for me in terms of presentation style since Adelaide. I’ve become a convert of Garr Reynold’s approaches to presentation and as a result have spent some time reworking the slides so that it is visual rather than text driven with bullet points. I’ve also had access to SlideRocket so have reworked the presentation using this new application. (Reading their blog suggests that the public beta release may be soon!)

SlideRocket continues to impress me. I’m loving what you can do with images. When you insert a picture you can upload from your computer or can select to upload from Flickr or Yahoo. If you choose Flickr you can select to use creative commons pictures. The pictures to select from load from within SlideRocket – far easier than moving out of the application to Flickr itself. You can easily scroll through options. When you find what you want you double click on the picture and it uploads to your slide.  When you hover your mouse over the image the photo credit details appear. Brilliant! Acknowledgement for the creators is immediately apparant.

Each time I use it I discover more cool features. It doesn’t support wmv files so I’ve had to convert the files i’m using to flv format. I did this by uploading them to YouTube and then saving them as an flv using keepvid. Zamzar probably would have been faster, but i’ve never uploaded to YouTube before so have learnt something that will be useful in the process. Now when I get students to upload I’ll know what I’m doing. Always an asset to look knowledgeable! 

When I’ve finished I’ll upload the presentation here so you can take a look. Not tonight – getting very late again!!