Online Spaces as Real Places – You Can Help

I have been asked to create a short (5-8min) video on the potential of online spaces as learning environments. The audience for this piece is, of course, the world, but more directly it will be presented to Faculty at the University of Regina next week.

Some of the ideas floating around

  • Online identity & presence is just an extension of one’s self. Each of us will use networking tools to do many things. There is not just one way to use a tool, each individual uses tools as they are useful or offer benefit to their unique situation.
  • New emerging environments encourage new connections and fascinating behaviors.
  • Learning is no longer confined to classrooms.  We can open the door to people from around the world or just folks in our own province, city, even our own class. Online spaces allow for us to connect & collaborate.
  • Fewer constraints than real life spaces. Time & Place are no longer issue. Many of us can learn & work anytime, anywhere.
  • Online spaces have the ability to bring people together synchronously for online events, instant communication. or asynchronously, allowing learners independence in their learning while connecting with other folks that share interests, at any time, all over the world.

I will highlight examples of online spaces

  • much untapped/unrealized potential for directed personalized learning & support.
  • Mainly seen as a place for entertainment – celebrity gossip, sports, fantasy leagues, gambling, downloading, socializing with friends.
  • I plan to show snippets of blogs, Ning, Second Life, Ustream, EdtechTalk & maybe even Facebook.

Finally, I want to touch on how educators and learners use these online environments. You can help with this. I hope to piece together educators from around the world speaking about how they use online spaces (very short, just a couple sentences). This could be done a number of ways, perhaps a response to my youtube video, or maybe just a quick Skype call that I could screen capture, or you could email me a short blurb.  The purpose for this experiment is to drive home the fact that people exist in online spaces all over the world and have the intention to promote learning.

I have created this short recording as a plea for help and example of how I use online spaces. Not all these videos have to look the same. Maybe you’ll be outside, maybe you will just hold a piece of paper, maybe the more talented would sing or something. Ok, I am getting silly, but you get the point.

Disclaimer: I am open to suggestions from readers on all of this. What am I missing?

Why I like Web 2.0…

I was inspired by this blog by Anne Collier, which was written in response to Andrew Keen’s Cult of the Amateur. I am part way through this book and felt as though it was time for a brief rant. In his book, Andrew argues that all of the with the millions of people using the social web we are creating a plethora of poor content. Further, he persuades readers by claiming that mediocre pieces distract from the important research and creations that professional organizations create. While this is true to some degree, it doesn’t out whiegh the benefits we reap from this new age of media.

In response to the cloud of gloom that Mr. Keen blows over the idea of online creation and participation, I offer these reasons of why I see web 2.0 tools to be an integral part of education as we continue to live our days on this planet. I believe that these tools provide both the teacher and student with new opportunities that rarely existed in schools as recently as 3 years ago. These web 2.0 tools open the vault that is active student directed participatory learning. Users are encouraged to participate, to produce for an audience, to collaborate with peers and experts in virtual spaces. Often like minded folk share highlights of successful pedagogies and practice. Teachers are using web 2.0 tools to empower and engage students in these new skills. It must be understood that in order to do this successfully they must be willing slowly adopt tools into their personal tool belt in a methodical and reflective process. It must be understood that these tools are not going to go away until a new media invention makes them irrelevant.

Good teachers will realize will promote these tools in classes because they provide another reason to reinforce fundamental life lessons of etiquette, morals, values and privacy. By having dialog about these concepts with regards to the tools, students are given opportunity to reflect upon and evaluate their real life morals and values. In our role as as the grand sage we strive to mold learners to practice self assessment to continually strive to produce quality examples of their learning.

In some ways, I agree with Mr. Keen, that their is much rubbish floating around this WWW. It is time we began to investigate how these tools can be used not only by our students but by society. In the past I mentioned that I don’t hold the crystal ball, but I don’t see social media evaporating soon. My complaint is that Mr. Keen does not offer suggestions to improve the social web. Nor does he aptly recognize the positive contributions of amateur participation to society in terms of learning, discovery and collaboration. As the world shrinks we need to adapt.  Let us talk about how we are going to do that.

Mentorship: Educational Discourse

I am blessed to be participatory in a diverse network of thinkers and learners whom mentor me on a daily basis. I am beginning a series Mentorship Recognition Pieces. I think mentorship needs to be celebrated and appreciated more and I hope to do that with through these brief Biographies.

This is a shout out for Kelly Christopherson. Kelly works tirelessly connecting online and ensuring he runs the best school possible. In his writing, Kelly devours the idea of online learning networks in real ways. The perspectives he shares at Educational Discourse are rich with reflection and advice for balancing an online learning community with the daily demands that teachers face. When he is not drafting a new post, @kwhobbes shares insight with his twitter colleagues, builds Ning communities for fellow Administrators to connect and attends a wide array of online professional development opportunities. I share Kelly’s blog because he is representative of an administrator that has shifted his thinking about learning.


Photo Credit @kwhobbes Twitter Profile

Collaborative Book Review & Sharing

I can’t afford books. I live the life of a student. I read what is published online but often like to sit in a comfy chair to read from paper. So I visited the library. Now I am reading two insightful, opininated books Wikinomics by Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams and The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen. Wikinomics takes the leftist view, Cult of the Amateur the right. I can relate to very well to the arguments of both books and look forward to reading them this afternoon.

I wanted others opinions on these books, so I sent a shout out via Twitter.


Here was some of the feedback from two edubloggers that I follow and who’s opinions I definitely respect.

That is not where this sharing ended. While searching for more info on both books I came across Lawerence Lessig’s critique of Andrew Keen’s, Cult of the Amateur. I knew this would be of interest to Darren, so I tweeted the link to him.

I don’t know about any of you, but this type of collaborative interaction definitely builds my background and demonstrates the power of the online network. This book talk has taught me much more than any of the Oprah Book Clubs I have participated in 😉 and this all happened within the last two hours.

A Good Day

Today was a big day.

Alec Couros has invited me to participate as an assistant with his EC&I 831 Course. Tonight was the first class via Adobe Connect. I am very excited about this opportunity. Not many folks are teaching assistants without first taking the course, nevermind a graduate level course.

Dean Shareski made my day brighter by inviting me to join him on Friday to shoot video and later accompanying him to work with classrooms within Prairie South School Division.

Having these mentors is quite a honor and definitely a testimony to my learning of educational technology over the last while. These two individuals are instrumental to my personal/professional development and I am honored to work this closely with them so early in my career.


Later in the day, I returned to the University of Regina to complete the final course of my Education Degree. The course is on the the teaching of writing, so I have no doubt this blog will see improvements in my writing. Returning to class feels odd. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a second year course and I am ready to graduate with my second degree. It may be that I feel ready for the classroom, I feel ready to teach. Perhaps, it is because I have taken control of my own learning process and the class is disconnected from the network (so far). I had some ideas for bringing web 2.0 to my peers. I am going to speak to my prof about creating a common tag for internet resources. Hopefully I will coerce somebody to join me on I already have plans to create a wiki for my major project, and hopefully I will be able to push the idea on my group members.

I continue to explore, learn and develop professionally. Thanks be to the network.

Dan Pink Webinar & Google Docs

An interesting thing happened tonight. Steve Dembo hosted Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind. Daniel spoke live at this Webinar through WebEx. Upwards of 190 people listened, some of whom participated in live chat. Great Learning happened. It became interesting when CoolCatTeacher, Vicki Davis created a google Doc for Show Notes. 29 people participated collaborating to create the document.

As I contemplate how learning happens, I see possibilities for Google Docs in the classroom and auditorium. In January, I begin a position with the Center for Acedemic Technology and The Center for Teaching and Learning. One of my tasks will be to present to faculty from around the University of Regina on relevant ways to adopt web 2.0 tools into their teaching practice. I think Google Docs is a good place to start. Whether it is compiling notes or participating in a larger scale project. A good example of this comes from Digital Ethnography @ Kansas State University and Professor Wecsh’s Video A Vision of Students Today. Students used Google Docs to compile stats and info.

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Don’t just sit there, Collaborate.

As a requirement of the class that I am taking from Dean, my thoughts this past two weeks have been on collaboration. This is a reflection on my collaboration as it happened through this time frame.

Right off the bat Erin Dawson and I were sharing like minded direction during our elluminate session. We both wanted to create a wiki project on inclusion of technology in K-8 Science. Seemed like a great idea, but then it snowballed and evolved into elementarytech. This wiki demonstrates a broad spectrum of projects that infuse technology. We used mindmeister to brainstorm ideas and communicated mostly through email. I have heard the the quote from Alec Couros, “10 miles wide, 2 inches deep” and definitely applies to this wiki, we lacked direction. But I am still attached to it, I feel it has good potential and I intend to collect future lessons, links, units in this space. If anyone is interested, please come share with us. This is space that is ever growing.
Nicole Hofer created the Digital Citizen Ning group, I was familiar with Ning from my involvement with the digitalintern group and find it to be a neat platform to share and build community. I contributed a couple videos, but have intent to blog and develop this further. At the very least it is a good example of networking. I may use Ning to connect my students during this internship.

The neat part about the project with Dean was the opportunity to correspond with Jeff Utecht‘s Class. Micheal, David and Matt created a great wetpaint wiki Web 2.0 for Newbies. I hopped on and began a Twitter in the Classroom page.

With application to the classroom floating in my mind I was lucky Damien Bariexca linked me to his class wiki. His reflection of his wiki experience is just what is needed for new teachers, like me.

But that is just a taste of the collaboration, it is happening instantaneously. Through everything, twitter and come to mind, but also through comments, reflections and discussion. The network is a grand thing.


Yesterday was a good day, I am no longer writing for my personal audience but for stranger’s and new friends. Recognition happened twice yesterday.

First, it was awesome to be introduced on the stuff nobody told us (a project by Christian Long and Damien Bariexca) blog yesterday. Though stuff nobody told us is still in it’s infancy, it has very relevant posts for new teachers or those that need a refresher. Their blog is looking for new teachers in their first 1-3 years to comment and encourage further development and dialog. So check it out.

Then later in the day, Clarence Fisher, an established blogger and all star teacher whom I have been following and idolizing, referenced me in his post on twitter in the classroom. That floored me,I was grinning ear to ear all night.

This feels like a huge accomplishment. All of a sudden, my writing and thoughts are being appreciated by many. My network is growing. I feel the sense of pride and ownership that my students will feel when their work is published and recognized.

Thanks everyone, I know this will happen more in the future and I won’t write about each instance, but right now I am just an amateur in a big world and this was extremely meaningful to me.

Who twits?

I twit. Just started, it was fine at first. Just me, by myself, just twittering away, no followers or leaders. I posted it on my blog as a cool tool and thought ‘groovy, another line of communication.’ There I was floating in the 140 characters. Why did I start? Don’t know, just heard about it, thought it would be neat to try. Now it is one of my most useful resources, it connects me to a network of individuals who lead and guide me (sometimes with 5 or 6 posts a day) through the web. To those 18 I follow, thank you. It is one of my most valuable tools, along with RSS and and it is all because of the network. It takes a lot less time than reading or writing full out blog post and it challenges the writer’s ability to be concise as well as write for a more specific audience of followers.

As I was going through my reader, I found a post by Alja Sulčič that inspired my reflections. Alja wrote these true words,

“Many are wondering at what makes people Tweet, but as with most Web 2.0 phenomena you can’t really know/understand what it is all about until you give it a try (and I mean really give it a try by actively participating!).”There are so many tools in the web 2 world that it is easy to be intimidated by them. I like exploring, always have, and now exploring is a skill that is becoming a valuable tool. Through my leaders tweets, my access to tools, resources, and neat idea’s has exploded. So I urge you, try this one out. But use caution it too has addictive properties.

add me and let us learn together.

I see lots of classroom possibilities for communication on collaborative projects. Perhaps, a series of project updates for the class to keep everyone on the same page and connected. or comparing weather with a group of grade two classrooms around the world. I am definitely going try this out at some capacity. Does anybody know of any classroom stories of it’s use?

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