Dinner with John and Jan

I was really fortunate Tuesday night to catch up with John Connell and his lovely wife Jan who were visiting Australia with Cisco, the company John works for. His job is Education Business Development Manager for the Emerging Markets – covering South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia. John has been an encouraging mentor for me as I’ve traversed the edublogosphere. I first met John at the ASLA conference in Adelaide last year where I presented about Digital Storytelling. John was a keynote speaker along with Stephen Abrams. Both spoke about the need to transform education in response to our changing technological landscape and both mentioned that they wrote blogs. I spoke to John in the tea break and told him of my desire to get involved in the transformation and he told me that he could see that I would. An empowering statement from him that helped put the fire in my belly to get involved. I started reading his and Stephen’s blogs (along with Will Richardson’s) and started my exponential learning curve that has led to this blog and all that has come with it.

John has been a reader of my blog and has made the encouraging comment or two along the way. These have certainly inspired me as I hold him in high esteem. John’s blog is insightful and he ponders the difficult questions that arise as we all tread carefully through new territory. When he knew he was visiting Melbourne he emailed to ask if we could meet up. I was thrilled. Those of you who operate in this online world will know that it’s exciting to meet someone face to face who you know only through their words. As it turns out, I crashed a dinner that was already organised – John was obliging enough to ask if I could attend! 

I had a lovely time meeting John and Jan and am very pleased to report that we had a lot to talk about and not all of it was centred around blogging and education. It really is wonderful when you meet someone and you find that they are just like you sensed them to be from their online presence.

Thanks John and Jan. Hope to meet up with you again some day.

NECC – it’s all about conversation (even at 1.00am!)

Last night I wasn’t going to tune in to the NECC buzz. I was tired and knew I was taking to my kids out in the morning to meet up with friends. But a tweet from Will Richardson alerted me to a ustream of Konrad Glogawski’s session about blogging communities and I couldn’t resist tuning in.

While it was exciting being able to see and hear Konrad’s presentation – I still marvel at just what is possible these days! – what was most exciting was the vigorous and thought provoking discussion in the ustream chat. Follow this link to check it out. It was wonderful being able to share ideas with educators from all over the globe. Teacherman 79 has written a post about the experience. Thanks very much Will for enabling this opportunity for those of us not in attendance.  

Interestingly enough, I’ve read a post by Chris Betcher (Betchaboy) tonight that has made me think – always a good thing! It’s called Going Live vs Doing Life and I find myself agreeing with Chris’ sentiments. The gist of what he is saying is that perhaps we need to be thinking about immersing ourselves and appreciating the real life experiences we are having rather than focusing on how we disseminate the experience to the world. Probably best to block quote from Chris’ post;

I could be completely wrong, and maybe some of the Twitterers will leave a comment about how they deal with the whole mobile tweeting thing, but I always find that in order to tweet about what I’m doing I have to mentally stop doing it. To me, it’s more than just multitasking, it’s about mental timeslicing and taking your attention off the here-and-now of what’s actually taking place around you in order to tell the Twitterverse about what’s going on around you. This is not meant to be a criticism, and I’m glad that people do it so that others who wish they were there can get an insight into what’s going on, but I hope that folks find the balancing point between actually living the event and spending all their energy helping the event “go live”.

I know that I find it hard to do the mental timeslicing that Chris refers to. Even last night when I was participating in the discussion I had to focus on what I wanted to say and lost some of the thread of Konrad’s presentation and even the chat. I think John Medina talks about the difficulties of trying to multitask in his book Brain Rules. I have a copy of it but haven’t found the time to read it (surprise, surprise, seeing as I’ve been up till all hours of late!!) – I must make this a priority!

Regardless, I’m very thankful to everyone in Texas at the moment who are making genuine efforts to share knowledge through this community. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this is without doubt the best staffroom I’ve ever been a part of!    

 

Laura Stockman – inspiring others across the waves.

Sunday morning I was grazing through my Google reader, kicking back and hoping I’d find something that would inspire me to write. I found something better than that, I found something that inspired me to act. 

I checked out Will Richardson’s latest post and discovered Laura Stockman, an 11yr old from New York who has been writing a blog called Twenty five days to make a difference.  Laura’s mother Angela was involved with Will and Sheryl Nussbaum Beach’s PLP cohort and Laura was inspired to write a blog as a result of this. Her blog was written in honour of her grandfather and Laura has set about performing good deeds with the resulting donations going toward charity.  Laura’s blog has moved beyond the initial 25 day target, largely because Laura has felt empowered by what this experience has meant for her.

Angela has written a very moving post about Laura’s presentation to the PLP cohort last week. Here’s what she said about her discussion with Laura when she decided to continue beyond 25 days;

You know, when Laura decided her blog was going to be more than a twenty five day experience, I questioned her decision.

“There are all sorts of things that we haven’t thought about. This is going to require a ton of effort on your part. It’s going to require a huge commitment,” I said. “It might not work.”

“Oh, it’ll work fine,” she told me. “It’ll work because I want it to work. “

Laura gets it. She already knows that it’s self motivation and belief that can drive you forward. Some of us don’t get this until we’ve had a fair bit of life experience, if we ever get it at all. Here’s an 11 yr old teaching us how to navigate life.

I went to Laura’s blog and read through quite a bit of it. I was so impressed by the essential good in what she was doing. She wasn’t raising millions, but she was performing simple, honest tasks that were contributing to the greater good. She’d recently Skyped into a classroom in Florida and was disappointed that the kids couldn’t see her as she didn’t have a webcam.  In a blog post that followed she recounted how Skype had sent her a webcam so that others would be able to see her when she made calls. She posed this question in her post;

Is anyone else out there interested in doing this? I really enjoy blogging and Skyping about blogging and ways that kids can make a difference. This is really cool. 

This was my answer;

Hi Laura,
The students at my school in Melbourne, Australia would love to have you Skype into our classroom. Time differences between our countries is a bit of a problem. It may well be you would have to Skype in in the evening. If you are interested you can email me at jenny.luca1@gmail.com. We raise money for local and international charities at the end of our school year and your story would be inspirational for them.

Laura replied with enthusism;

Hi Ms. Luca!

I would LOVE to do a skype chat with you! My dad and mom are really excited about this too! I’ve never met anyone from Australia before! I can definitely do this in the evening. Please just let me know what works for you and your class. Thank you so much for this invitation!!!!

My class is responding with just as much enthusiasm as Laura. They’re posting comments on her blog and already we’ve been discussing what we can do to help Laura and her charitable efforts. She is going to Skype into our classroom next Wednesday morning our time (evening her time) and my class can hardly wait. Already Laura ia extending her reach globally and her 25 days project looks set to ignite action all the way to Australia.

I’ve been in email contact with Angela and we both feel that this has potential to become a global project. Will’s post has drawn people to Laura’s blog, and other educators from differing countries are keen to learn from Laura. Maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to work together to make an impact for a global cause. What a potential learning experience for our students this could be. Angela’s words from her post are important here;

If I’ve learned nothing else this year, it’s been precisely that: when we are truly committed to making something happen, it happens. It doesn’t matter who or what might be standing in our way. If the goal means something to us in the end, we don’t let our fear or our lack of resources or the politics of a situation or our bruised egos stand in the way. We just make things work. Because it matters, this work that we do, and it’s bigger than the credit that anyone could receive or the mistakes that might be made along the way.

What an amazing affirmation for a young girl with a desire to make a difference in honour of her grandfather.   

Thanks Laura. You are an inspiration. 

Presentation tomorrow!

For those of you who’ve been reading, you’ll be aware that tomorrow I will be presenting at the SLAV conference in Melbourne. Susan Bentley, the Elibrarian who I work with, is presenting with me. It’s a big deal for me, largely because I am charged with the task of switching on a group of teachers and teacher-librarians to the idea that adopting a Web 2.0 approach to their teaching and school library practice is a vital thing to be doing. It’s also an opportunity to be inspired once again by the words of Will Richardson and see the effect his words can have on the participants. I’ve said many times before, one of the turning points in my adoption (transformation!?) came when I attended a 5 hour workshop run by Will at the Expanding Learning Horizons conference in August last year. Hopefully we’ll see him have that same effect tomorrow.

I made a PowerPoint for the presentation and have spent a considerable amount of time putting it together. I’ve been inspired by the words of Garr Reynolds in his presentation to Google staff and will be interested to see if his philosophy plays out for the audience I’m addressing. Susan and I presented this to our staff on Thursday and got a good reception so all should be well. The other exciting, but complicating thing, has been that I scored an invite to SlideRocket after I posted a plea on their blog when I realised they had sent out 500 invites and I didn’t get one. This is a presentation tool that allows you to do some pretty cool things with your slides and your presentations are stored online. When I imported the PowerPoint into SlideRocket I had problems with text overlays on my slides – it ‘s taken me ages to figure out how to address this and I’ve still got problems with my text not transferring over when I cache the presentation. Looks like I’ll be hard at it tonight trying to sort this one out. The great thing is that you can cache your presentation to your hard drive in an offline feature they offer. I’m doing this to avoid loading problems I may have tomorrow if the bandwith is not so good. Of course, you can’t expect things to go smoothly.   Ever.   I’d really like to use it as it’s a great example of the new tools becoming available, and how you can get things happening for yourself in this world if you are active and ask questions. If need be I’ll just revert to the original Powerpoint – no need worrying – just gotta go with the flow!    

My other charge is to ustream the presentation. I have a channel and am taking a video camera and tripod so that I can get it out to the world. Another great example of how to use these tools to best effect.  You can watch it on ustream at 11.30 tomorrow here. I, of course, will be delivering the presentation so won’t be able to participate in the chat room but I hope some of you do. I’d be interested in getting some feedback so please post a comment to let me know what you thought- I’m tough, can handle criticism, so let fly! (doesn’t mean I won’t be curling up in a foetal position tomorrow night if all goes wrong – you may never hear from me again!!)

I’ll be uploading the presentation to Slideshare and will post a link to it once I’ve got the thing sorted – hope it doesn’t take all night.

Dean Groom has written a good post today in response to the Web 2.0 conference that took place this week in Sydney. Read it. He articulates well the frustration felt by many who have made the shift and are trying to convince others of the need for change. We can’t give up  -we need to be the evangelists leading the flock!! 

How to deliver a great presentation – Garr Reynolds can and maybe me too!

I’m presenting at the SLAV conference about Web 2.0 on Monday May 12th at the Telstra Dome. Will Richardson is delivering the keynote address so it’s a bit of a big deal. My head is quite literally spinning with what it is I need to say to try and turn a few people on to the potential of Web 2.0 tools for learning. Tony Richards, from IT made simple, is going to help me out by ustreaming my presentation. Tune in and see whether or not I can deliver the goods. I’ll post the link closer to the date. Tony’s helped me out again by posting this YouTube video on his blog, Learning – Thinking -Playing. This is Garr Reynolds, who writes a blog called Presentation Zen, talking to Google staff about how to deliver an effective presentation. It’s long -72 minutes- but totally worth watching!

I’m watching. I’m learning. Just need to deliver!   

 

Blogging serious for your health – join Twittercise!

I’ve been talking a lot recently about trying to get balance in my life – kinda feel like things are a bit out of control and I need to work smarter not harder (favourite saying of my husband!!) This is looming larger as I face the prospect of the start of term two tomorrow and all that that will bring with it. We have our Project Global Cooling concert on Saturday the 19th of April and this is going to mean full on commitment for the next two weeks along with parent teacher nights and the expectations of my job. To top it all off I read Will Richardson’s latest post that referred to a New York Times article (In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop) about bloggers who have suffered heart attacks and died recently. It seems that the pressure of posting regularly and pipping other bloggers at the post may have contributed to the deaths of two prominent bloggers in the technology arena. These are bloggers who get paid per post. I don’t get a cent yet feel some of that pressure. I have to admit this is self inflicted as I set myself the onerous task of trying to write a post a day this year- sometimes I do think I am my own worst enemy.

I’m about to set myself another onerous target and announce it publicly here. All this blogging has led to a sedentary state of affairs and all that comes with it. I used to be an avid exerciser (are you getting any clues about me yet- my obsessive compulsive addiction to things- I’m learning things about myself as I write!!) I used to be proud of my biceps and triceps but no more. Something needs to be done. I have an impressive set of weights in my back room but haven’t been near them in months. Time for change. Tomorrow sees a new lifestyle that marries with my networked life. I’m introducing Twittercise and encourage you to join me, particularly if you live in Australia or have a complimentary time zone. I’m going to tweet on Twitter when I’m starting my Twittercise session and hope it may prompt some of you to get out of your seats and do a bit of good old fashioned exercise. It may be walking the dog, doing sit ups, or pumping weights. Whatever works for you. We have to recognise that the sedentary online lifestyle is doing our health no good. Balance is very important and a healthy body and lifestyle contribute to this (as well as the regular blog post!). Hope to see some of you readers joining me. I’m jennyluca on Twitter – look for the tweets – probably around 7.00 – 7.30 Melbourne time all going well. Our new approach to our networked life starts tomorrow!! 

Twitter made simple (or is it?)

This is all over the Web at the moment and plenty of people in the blogging world were heads up to it four days ago when Lee Lefever posted it on his Common Craft site and YouTube. One of the ways they found about it was from the topic of the video; twitter. Twitter is a means of social networking. You answer the question, ‘What are you doing?’, in 140 characters or less including spaces. You follow people in your network and are privy to both the mundane and useful answers to that question. I’m following people in the edublogging/education world and look at twitter throughout the day to see if there’s anything happening that I should make myself aware of.

I have to admit to having a few problems with Twitter. (I know – plenty of you out there are devotees and love it). Most of these relate to the need to achieve the right balance in our lives. I get worried about the addictive nature of feeling like you need to know everything instantaneously. I keep reading Will Richardson and his love of Twitter is obvious – he uses it as the supreme networking tool and it obviously has its advantages for someone whose working life is this Web 2.0 world. I’m a wife, mother of two relatively young children, hold down a full-time job managing a library as well as teaching English, try to keep a house in order and maintain connections with my extended family and friends. To top it off now I’m writing this blog in my spare time! Just discovering Twitter has further complicated the work/life balance I was already struggling to navigate. I know – I can already hear you out there saying, ‘No-one is twisting your arm to do this. If you don’t want to, just don’t look at it.’ And if you’re saying this you’re absolutely right. It’s up to me to find the balance I need to be comfortable doing what I’m doing without letting anything (or more importantly, anyone) drop off my radar. I almost feel like it’s the wrong time for me to be immersing myself in this world- eight years down the track and my kids would be pretty much self-sufficient (maybe!).  Can’t really do much about this now – I feel like I’m in deep and actually am loving learning again. I don’t feel stale when it comes to my working life and am excited about what education can (will?) look like in the future.

Wow. That was a fairly indulgent piece of self analysis. I don’t blame you if you switched off halfway through, but if you didn’t, thanks for listening. Needed to get that one off my chest.