How Can We Help?

The "Fail Whale" made an appearance at the #140conf meetup

It was the last question asked from the audience at the #140conf meetup at the New York Times building yesterday in Manhattan. Just over 70 social media gurus gathered to listen to three members of the NY Times team speak and then a panel of educators (of which I was honored to participate in) moderated by founder Aparna Vashisht.  Liz Pullen, Deven Black and I fielded questions regarding how Twitter was being used by educators for professional development, with students, and as a social networking tool in education.

Here’s a link to the  Ustreamed recording of the panel if you are interested in listening/viewing the discussion that Aparna moderated. I think that many in  the audience were surprised at just how networked teachers CAN be. So I think that when Chris Kieff closed the conversation that evening with “How can we help?” we were right to answer with Donors Choose and to just continue supporting educators as professionals.

What My Droid Does – Part 3

I get it now.

I understand why everyone has been so obsessed with their iPhones for the last couple of years. But I am also happy that I can do everything that they have been able to do, and in some cases… I can do it better. One of the videos that I show when I facilitate workshops on iPod Touches in Education is this one. I find it amazing that these young women were able to create such wonderful music and I have been enjoying listening to my own children create their own music with my iPod Touch and now with my Droid using the following music apps.

  1. Strings – Guitar Solo Lite
  2. Piano – Piano Play
  3. Percussion – Hit It! Lite
  4. Wind – Magic Flute
  5. Tap Tap Revenge – There’s talk…Join the Facebook Group to bring TTR to Android Phones

Here are some other apps from the Android Market that I have found useful. I wanted to share them here.

Scan2PDF Mobile
“Scan2PDF Mobile is a  new software release which uses your mobile phone to scan documents and convert them to PDF files. It all happens on your phone allowing you to scan documents anywhere – as long as you have your phone. Think of it as a document scanner/fax machine that you always have with you!”

Google Voice
If you really don’t understand the benefits of using voice, please read this article from MacWorld.  If you want to use your Google Voice number full-time from your Android phone, here’s some tips on how to best go about it. Incidentally, all Android powered phones come pre-installed with the following Google Apps:

  • Quick Search Box
  • Gmail
  • Latitude
  • Google Contacts
  • Google Goggles
  • Gooogle Voice
  • Maps
  • Google Talk
  • Finance
  • Google Calendar
  • You Tube
  • Buzz – (We’ll talk about this in my next post.)


I also have marveled at how effortlessly folks have Tweeted from their SmartPhones including the fast posting of pictures and video. I started off a couple of months ago using Twidroid but have happily switched to a different Twitter app called Swift.

With this app I can easily follow @Mentions, Direct Messages, the timeline of my friends as well as search Twitter and check out profiles. It’s easy for me to share a picture via Swift as it’s integrated with my camera. Plus I can select which hosting services I want to use for pictures and videos that I take and want to Tweet.

If you happen to be looking for something cool and creative to do with some of your pictures, you might want to take a look at PicSay for the Android phone. You can use it to color-correct pictures, add word balloons and all sorts of effects. The paid version has a few more bells and whistles, but I’ve been happy with the free version so far.

What apps have you been using with your Android phone? Please share them with me here. Thanks.

Is it information overload?

It’s been a week since Educon2.2. Countless blog posts have been written and the stream of Tweets with the #educon hashtag is still, well, streaming.

So, a week later, this constant stream of information brings me back to the conversation that Liz Davis and I facilitated. I think the quote from Sarah Houghton-Jan that we shared before we began our protocol last Sunday really resonates with me now as we are generating all this content about Educon, and I am curious as to what everyone is doing will all the information.

“We have become far more proficient in generating

information than we are in managing it.”

When people ask you where you find the time to do all that you do and read all that you read about education, do you stop and ask them what they are doing with their time? Do you ask them how many countless hours they spend watching commercials or TV in general? Do you ask them what they listen to while they are exercising or commuting? What do people do with their time?

What options do we have to help us organize and filter the

information that comes to us.

During the conversation that took place at SLA on Sunday, January 31, folks in our session talked about what tools they used to
collect, aggregate and disseminate information. Here are some of the tools our group used:

  • Delicious
  • Diigo
  • Google Reader
  • Gmail
  • RSS

Actually, I took some flack from Mike Wacker and Sean Nash about using a Wordle to give a visual of what the group was collectively using, but oh well. We used Google Forms to do some group questioning and then could have used the Spreadsheet Gadget to do an embedded Word Cloud in the Spreadsheet, but Wordle has so many more options.

  1. Is there something you are doing with your time that you could eliminate or reduce to pursue something you are interested in professionally? Is that so bad?
  2. Do you realize you are not alone?
  3. Talk with people about what they do to manage their information. We would have never heard about how Ben Wilkoff uses Gmail to manage his informaton without the conversation at Educon. Now we just need him to make the screencast or write the blogpost we urged him to create.
Source: Liz Davis's Flickr Stream

We all didn’t have the solution to managing our information, but we took comfort in knowing that we weren’t alone and in being able to talk openly about different ways to manage all the information.
Is there something special that you do?

Is there someone that helps you manage your information?

Is there something that you heard in our session that you have tried and found to be successful?

Please share.

What is relevant?

I’ve enjoyed reading the reflections post-Educon2.2. There’s been much food for thought. So much that I couldn’t quite pin point what my big take-away from the weekend was. I had Tweeted on Saturday that “mentoring, leadership and individualized learning” seemed as if they were going to be big themes on Saturday, but when I opened my little notebook today, here’s what I saw:

To who was I referring when I wrote this? Was I writing about the students or the educators? I am not sure. It should absolutely be both. Here are my thoughts from Saturday (Sunday is another post in the works).

Disclaimer: I’m putting this all in my own words and not in the words of the articulate conversation leaders.

Session 1: Subversive PD: Creating a culture of collaboration to bring educators into the 21st Century

Danja Mahoney, Michael Springer, and Beth Knittle got us to talk about how to make professional development not suck. (Please see disclaimer.)

Three shared concepts from this session were:

  1. make sure you have achievable goals
  2. encourage your attendees to leave with something tangeable
  3. plan for time to play

These three facilitators did an excellent job in creating an environment where we truly had a conversation. We talked in our small groups as well as a whole group.

I left the session in agreement with many in the room. The best type of PD is individualized. It’s also the toughest, most time-consuming and most rewarding type as well.

Session 2: Taking the load off a learner’s mind: Cognitive Load Theory in Education

First of all. Chris Craft is an excellent storyteller. Second of all. Chris knows a lot of stuff I don’t know. I want to know more.

Cognitive Load Theory:

(We can design instruction that prevents overload.)

  1. intrinsic – our natural level of load
  2. germane – this is what we want for our students
  3. extraneous – what we don’t want

Chris shared that the goal of learning is to effect a change in long term memory. He spoke briefly about what the brain is capable of remembering (chunking) and of  automaticity. The conversation lent itself nicely to Universal Design for Learning and how to reduce extraneous loads for our students.

Session 3: Improving Professional Development with Online PD

Barbara Treacy and  Chris Champion began this conversation with the question “What can and can’t be taught online?”. I really thought my group would come up with a specific list, but instead we began a wonderful conversation about designing effective professional development. The idea is that with the tools available to us today like Screen-cast-o-matic and Scribd, it’s all about the facilitator and the participants networking and using the resources effectively. Ultimately, we can teach anything online.

So, how do we make it relevant for our students be they children or adults? How do we teach with rigor?

I honestly don’t have the two sentence answer. I don’t think it exists. I’m not even working on coming up with it. I am, however, taking pieces of these three sessions and embedding them into my plans for the upcoming weeks hoping for improvement. There’s always room for that.