Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CCK08 Dropout

It's official. I am a CCK08 drop-out.

Say What?

CCK08 is the Massively Open Online Course on Connectivism and Connective Knowledge being taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. When the course was announced in the spring I eagerly signed up. However, as the start date for the course approached my doubts about being able to keep up with the course (plus everything else in my life) intensified. Can doubts intensify? If they can mine did. The first week I dipped my toes in the CCK08 waters; I signed up for the RSS feed, I set up my profile on Moodle, I introduced myself, I read the assigned readings. I told myself I would get more involved in week 2, when I had more time...

The Thing About September

As a teacher and parent of one school aged child and one preschooler living in the Northern Hemisphere I have to say that September is a crazy month! As a parent I'm trying to get the kids into their new routines and make sure that I register in time for all of the activities that they would like to participate in. As a teacher in a distributed learning school this is a very busy month; our enrollment pretty much doubles as we go from September 1st to September 30th. That means lots of meetings with families, helping to order and distribute resources etc. along with teaching classes and marking, ahem assessing. My husband is a teacher too, so needless to say things are a little crazy here in September. Something had to give so we dropped Beavers (the 1st step in Boy Scouts in Canada). Great, now I'll really get into the course...

I'm Fine With It, Really

Photo by A Boy And His Bike
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I've just not been able to keep up even my week 1 level of participation. I think I have to face facts; I'm a CCK08 drop-out. But I'm ok with being a drop-out. I don't feel stressed. I didn't feel like I had to read every single blog posting or Moodle forum. I was not flustered that I couldn't participate in the Elluminate sessions or watch the UStream broadcast live. I guess that as I approach my one year anniversary of building my on-line personal learning network I've gotten used to the fact that you can't read everything. You can't watch everything. I feel like I'm standing at the river's edge; there is a constant flow of interesting information (with the occasional bits of flotsam) and if you try to catch everything you'll drown.

What's Your Story?

Did you sign up for CCK08? If so, what has been your experience?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Image

I've been thinking for awhile that my blog has been looking a little busy. I had left and right sidebars with a lot of widgets. What finally pushed me into action was visiting Jan Smith's blog Re-Siever. It looked so clean and sophisticated, and the content is great too!

Choosing a Theme

It can be daunting choosing a theme, but luckily Sue Waters at The Edublogger wrote two posts back in July which were really helpful; What To Consider When Choosing Your Blog Theme and The 100 Edublog Themes Separated Into Categories To Make Choosing Your Next Theme Easier. Using Sue's posts I decided what I wanted in a blog theme and started checking out the ones that seemed to fit. Well, after lots of thought and consideration I went with the theme that I really liked... the same one that Jan Smith is using (Ocean Mist by Ed Merritt). They say that imitation is a form of flattery, and Jan's most recent post is titled Steal This, Please. I have personalized the theme though--right now that's a photo of my youngest running through the spray at a water park.

Some Bumps Along The Way

I'm finding that a few things got lost in the transfer (like Clustr Maps) and I've been trying to re-jig things. I took my blogroll out of my sidebar and given it a separate page to try and reduce clutter. I'm still playing with the layout so that it works for me.

Your Thoughts?

What do you look for in a blog theme? Are you a 1, 2, or 3 column type of person, or does it depend on the blog content? Have you considered changing up the look of your blog? Do you have any suggestions to make my blog layout/set-up more reader friendly? As always, I'd love to hear from you!

Image: Bump, bump, bump by gwen

Friday, September 12, 2008

Getting My Head Around Mobile Learning

I like using technology, but when it comes to mobile learning I feel like a luddite.

Mobile Learning the Future?

Photo by AdamLogan
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This morning I read a post by David Truss where he talks about the future of technology in education:

I predict that in about 5 short years almost every Middle School student will own an iPhone or its’ equivalent, and they will be connecting to our wireless network via bluetooth for absolutely free. Students will be ready, willing and able to use these tools in our classroom… will teachers be ready enough to maximize the opportunities and learning experiences these tools (coming to our classrooms for free) will provide?

Really?! I feel that I am terribly out of touch with what mobile technology middle and high school students use today. I have a cell phone, but it is basic. I have a pay-as-you-go plan which runs me about $11 a month. I don't text. I don't have a data plan. For a period of time when I was homeless this summer I looked in to getting a beefed up plan, maybe even upgrading my phone (I do covet an iPhone). Basic iPhone rate here in Canada is $60 a month.

Surely the majority of middle and high school students don't have a $60 a month plan?! I know I'm missing something though, because David is talking about students connecting to the school wireless internet for free.

I would love a hand-held "internet machine" (who coined that term? I know I just read it a few days ago...) that could pick up free wireless. Where I live there are a reasonable number of places that have free wifi (Starbucks, Safeway, schools).

What Do You Think/Set Me Straight

Do you agree with David Truss' prediction? I like the vision that he paints. Do you have the piece of the puzzle that I'm missing?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Reflections on Blogging 101

This is cross-posted at Tech Pro-D Tools.

A week ago I facilitated a session called 'Blogging 101' for teachers in my school district. The session was aimed at teachers new to blogging. By the end of the session I wanted participants to be able to:

  1. search for blogs of interest

  2. subscribe to blogs in a feed reader

  3. submit comments to a blog

  4. set up their own blog

  5. write their first blog post

  6. be able to add media to their posts (images, videos, etc)

The session was all built around a series of blog posts on my other blog, Tech Pro-D Tools. The posts are all tagged/labeled 'blogging 101'. The focus on the posts was mainly 'how-to', with lots of screen shots and step-by-step instructions. The session ran from 8:30 to 1:30 with two 20 minute breaks.


My goodness it took a long time to put together the 11 posts which make up the bulk of the

Photo by Cesar R.
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Blogging 101 series! My hope is that it will be useful to anyone who is interested in getting into blogging, especially if they are planning to use Google Reader and Blogger. In addition, if I do another intro to blogging workshop, I've got the bulk of my resources ready. For the record, I do not receive kickbacks from Google; I chose these two tools because I am familiar with them, Blogger is easy to set up, and it requires only signing up for services with one company.

I did not provide resources other than what was in my blog posts. I didn't prepare any handouts. In future I think I would prepare a one page handout with key information on it such as the blog address, how to contact me, and how to get into the Google account once it has been set up.


Photo by F3R/n@nd0 (FJTU)
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I tried to break up the session so that participants were interacting with each other and getting out of their seats. Having said that, I think I needed to have more of this. The participants all seemed very into what we were doing, but 5 hours is a long time to be sitting at the computer. A couple of the participants suggested a two day session would be a good format, then they could go home and try out some of the things we talked about and come back the next day with questions. I suspect two 3 hour sessions might be a good way to do this.

Group Size
Seventeen people were signed up for the session, but only eight actually showed up. I think that 17 would have been way too much for one person (me) to handle effectively. As it was, 8 was perfect. I felt that I was able to move around the room and help people when they needed it.

Knowing Your Audience
I did create a pre-session survey and 7 of the 8 participants completed it. Their experience with web 2.0 tools was all over the map and it was helpful knowing where everyone was at. I erred on the side of making my instructions in the 'Blogging 101' posts geared toward the technologically inexperienced and I think this worked well. If you are more experienced you can ignore the step-by-step screen shots and just go with the flow. But if you are uncertain, the step-by-step is there for you. I would have liked to have an exit survey, but I just ran out of time.

Random Thoughts
I was a little surprised at how many participants wanted to keep their blogs private. I had forgotten how apprehensive I was about privacy and security when I started blogging--so this was a good reminder. The session focussed mainly on the mechanics of blogging. Given more time it would be great to discuss how to write good posts, be a good commenter, track blog stats etc.

The Wrap Up and Heartfelt Thanks

I was happy with how the workshop went, and as I've mentioned above there are some things that I

Photo by psd
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would change. It took me a tremendous amount of time to write all the posts, so that's another reason I hope to do another workshop on this again to get more mileage out of all the work! Lastly, I would to thank Sarah Stewart and Sue Waters for their comments on a post I did soliciting ideas for this workshop. Sue has been a fantastic blogging mentor for hundreds (thousands?!) of new edubloggers and I am so grateful for all the support she has given me this year. Sarah Stewart was generous enough to share the outline and resources she used for her recent blogging workshop. We also had some good discussions via Twitter on how to run a successful workshop on blogging. You can read Sarah's reflections on the three sessions she and her colleague ran here.

If you have any suggestions on how to run a successful blogging workshop, please let me know. Any comments on the Blogging 101 series I ran would also be welcome!