What’s Your “P” in PLN Stand For?

My post from last week drew more attention than I anticipated. I developed the presentation 21 Ed Tech Leaders You Just Have to Meet for a session I was facilitating at the annual NJAET conference, but do to the power of online social networking, its audience was much larger.

I found the comments people left to be exactly what I was looking for. A few responded to my request to suggest other ed tech leaders to follow such as Wesley Fryer, Doug Johnson, Scott McLeod, Clarence Fisher, Cheryl Oakes and Stephen Downes.

Karen Janowski called me out on the fact that my list of 21 did not include any ed tech folks that focused on struggling students and Universal Design for Learning. I surprised myself with that one as I go to Karen for lots of support and refer people to her UDL Toolkit on a regular basis. Paul Hamilton, Brian Friedlander and Ira Socol also would have been great additions to my list as advocates of using tools designed for students with special needs to help the general education population.

But it was Miguel Guhlin‘s comment that got me thinking back to the process of selecting the 21. Though I did make sure to include some local educators as I was presenting to a NJ association, and I also wanted to provide a variety of areas of expertise so that I would have something in the presentation that was of interest to everyone in attendance.  But much of the voice of the presentation was in HOW I presented the information.

What does your “p” in PLN stand for? If you look at the big numbers, my “p” stands for professional. But when it comes down to it. The ed techies that I communicate with on a regular basis are part of my personal learning network. I had a story or an anecdote to say about pretty much every one of the 21 ed tech leaders I presented on October 14. There are a few on the list that I don’t have a personal connection with, but that I just learn so much from,  I had to share their story.

Do you separate your personal and professional learning network? I’ve learned in conversation that many of my colleagues are doing the same as me. They are keeping their networks on Plurk small and personal. They use Twitter to share resources and ideas.  We all seem to benefit from the social bookmarking in Delicious and Diigo and from networks there as well.

There are a few additional ed tech leaders that I would have liked to include in my original post from last week. Along with those I mentioned above, they are Jeff Utecht, Alan Levine, and Hall Davidson. These are three ed tech leaders I would like to meet. There are many more, I’m sure.

What Do You Mean 30 Is Too Old for Facebook?

What do you mean I’m too old for Facebook?

You have got to be kidding!

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was making the 70 mile commute down to Camden City, NJ to teach a workshop called Technology for Tots when some, shall we say, immature, inexperienced, basic lack of diplomacy, intern on the radio ranted on for ten minutes about how nobody over the age of 30 should be on Facebook.

I had to pull over at the rest stop.

At the time I was not yet on Facebook. Since that day I have been meaning to sign up. Pretty much every day I answer these questions because I truly value social networking as a means of developing as a professional and relieving the feelings of isolation.

Plus there’s the Nings I belong to and Classroom2.0 and don’t forget e-mail. I’m on SecondLife, occasionally I Skype or ooVoo with someone. I recently even joined Linkedin.

So, a new contact in my PLN, Beth Ritter-Guth, shared a link in Diigo today that caught my attention and reminded me of that comment regarding Facebook. The link was to an article posted on the ReadWriteWeb. I was hoping that this article, Study: Women Outnumber Men on Most Social Networks would have the statistics on the ages of Facebook users.

Social Network Sites
Gender and Age Analysis of Social Networking Users: Social Network Sites

And there it was – the proof I guess I was waiting for – that I was not too old to join Facebook. Once I added up the women, men and the unspecified, I was ready to join the over 580,000 over-the-age-of-34 (TAKE THAT RADIO INTERN) Facebook users.

I am now registered. I was happy to find so many people in my PLN already on Facebook. It makes me truly wonder what I’ve been missing.

I might need to try another radio station or stick to listening to my iPod in the car.

The Journey Continues…

I really liked the format that  Liz Davis suggested for our session at BLC08. It kept us on task for the short time we had and we were able to organize a large amount of information and still (hopefully) present it in a clear fashion. In the spirit of the positive responses Liz and I received two weeks ago, I have decided to repeat that format this Monday when the teachers (and their administrators) return for our roundtable discussion on what everyone enrolled in the Initiative has gained from immersing themselves in their newly formed professional learning networks.

The format is simple. We schedule the morning around three questions: What? So What? and Now What?


  1. We’ll revisit our essential questions that we answered together and published as a Google doc.
  2. We’ll talk about the discussion of the merits of joining Twitter and Diigo as a way to establish your personal learning networks and maximize the benefits of social bookmarking.

So What?

  1. We’ll use Diigo Webslides to scroll through everything that has been bookmarked to the CMSCE-4-Learning group asking the person that bookmarked the site to give a quick description of it.
  2. We’ll talk about the discussions in the Forum and the participation and usefulness of the Forum as a place to communicate.
  3. So what did you learn? Everyone around the table has a chance to share their experiences. Those that did not join the group should speak specifically as to why and what would help/encourage/guide them to participate.

Now What?

  1. What do you want to do? What grade levels and subject areas to you want to begin working with?
  2. What is or is not appropriate in this new learning environment? Firewalls, Acceptable Use Policies and Internet filtering can sometimes keep us from accessing the tools and resources we need to accomplish our objectives.
  3. Questions and comments from all participants.

Backchannel Backlash

For the life of me I can’t remember who I overheard say it or where. It was sometime before NECC. But the statement was, “at this point presentations are for the presenter and the backchannel is for the attendees”. THIS WAS SO NOT THE CASE AT BLC08.

image from http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com

Most of us came prepared for the backchannel. I know when I arrived at Liz Davis’s house Sunday evening, the first thing I did was make sure I could connect to her wireless network. Her husband just laughed. He knew Liz and I would be lost in the technology for the rest of the evening. Come on – admit it. The desk in your hotel room looked similar Dave Truss‘s. There’s no shame in admitting that you came to BLC08 prepared to document, record and participate in as much as possible to build your learning community.

The caliber of sessions I attended was outstanding. I missed two because Liz and I presented twice. (You can view our session wiki at http://bolc08.wikispaces.com/)

So back to the backchannel. Most of the sessions that I attended were UStreamed. Bob Sprankle even recorded podcasts of several for his subscribers. There were dozens of sessions that I wasn’t able to get to since they have not yet been able to perfect the science of cloning. So, UStream and podcasting extended my conference experience by allowing me to attend additional sessions.

One of the sessions that I set up the Stream for had 30 people in the chat room. Now I have no way of knowing if all 30 were from outside of the Newton Marriott, but when I asked the facilitator, Darren Kuropatwa, if I could relay some questions from the chat, we were able to include BLC08 virtual attendees Lisa Durff, CathyJo Nelson and Bud Hunt in the conversation. Had I not been following the backchannel, Darren would not have known until much later that some of his viewers had questions.

Speaking of just-in-time teaching and learning…

Where’s the learning with the backchannel?

Is it a distraction? Maybe sometimes.

It is what you make of it. I feel it’s part of our collective intelligence. It allows for the opportunity to offer a different point of view than what you might be thinking of had you been viewing the presentation in silence or isolation.

The backchannel affords us the chance to discuss, in real time, the topic at hand, rather than going back later when the speaker is unavailable.

Karen Janowski set up a Ning for BLC08. They have a group that is getting together the links to the UStreams from the conference.

Listed below are the resources that I have put together so far. Some of them I have on my iTouch, some in my Diigo, some in my head.

BTW – If you can remember who made that comment about the backchannel – let me know, would ya – I’d like to talk to them about it.

Pre-Conference: Alan November Published Google Doc with links to everything thanks to Dave Truss

Keynote: Ewan McIntosh http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/562434
Keynote: John Davitt http://bobsprankle.com/bitbybit_wordpress/?p=440

Everything Old is New Again with Darren Kuropatwa and Clarence Fischer

A Day in the Life of a Technology Teacher Presentation by Darren Kuropatwa

Joyce Valenza’s “Web 2.0 Meets Information Fluency: Designing Projects for 21st Century Learners”
Resource: http://newtoolsworkshop.wikispaces.com/

Dave Truss
This, My Blog Has Taught Me
This is just one of three presentations that Dave did while at BLC08

Clarence Fischer at BLC http://ping.fm/NhJb4

Reflection from the end of the conference:

iTouch The Future…I Teach Myself

It’s amazing how many applications are available for the iTouch / iPhone. So far, I’ve blogged about sites for music, math and science and I’ve only made a dent in what’s available to use with students. There are also many sites that we can use for ourselves for productivity and just for fun. Today’s post will be a little bit about all three.


· iDetect http://spicyclam.com/idetect/
This is an internet detection connector. If you have an iTouch, iDetect will automatically connect you to wi-fi if there is one available.

· Google Notebook – Mobile Version http://google.com/notebook/m
If you have an iGoogle page set up for yourself, this is great to have access to on your iPhone or iTouch. You could use it in lieu of a Google Doc to access information on-the-go. I’ve used it to access sets of links similar to this Google Doc that I’m no interested in sharing or publishing as a webpage.

· Glide http://www.glidemobile.com/
Sync with your desktop to view Powerpoint and Word docs on your iTouch. It’s a complete mobile desktop. Here’s an article about it.

· Widgetop http://www.widgetop.com/mobile.html
This is the mobile version of Widgetop Check it out if you are a fan of widgets or if you are a developer and you’d like to submit one to them.

· Pogonotes http://www.pogonotes.com/iphone/pogonotes.php
These “notes” are accessible beyond the iTouch unlike the notes that comes pre-installed – take a look at their site.

· iPhone Typing Test http://www.iphonetypingtest.com/
Try it out – see how fast you type with one finger.

· iNetwork Test http://www.inetworktest.com/
Measures the speed of the network your device is attached to.

· iTouch RSS Converter http://rss.blogcast.jp/login.php
iPhone/touch RSS Converter enables you to bring your favorite audio and video podcasts without syncing with iTunes. This tool allows you more space for many music and video on your iPhone and iPod Touch. Try your favorite podcast and you can also discover many podcasts from other people’s choice.


· Quizzler http://www.quizzlerpro.com/quiz/online/index.html
Preloaded quizzes for SAT prep vocabulary, Harry Potter Books, State Capitals, Animals and Nature and more. When you tap on the wrong answer it highlights in red. When you tap on the correct answer it highlights in green so you know to move on to the next question.

Purchase Quizzler Pro to create quizzes yourself.

WARNING: Quizzler was originally developed for Pocket PCs and Palm handhelds. You can adapt the quizzes for the iPhones and iTouches, but their website suggests contacting them directly with any additional questions. It makes me think they are working on developing software specifically for the iTouch.

· iBookmark http://ibookmark.myiphone.pl/en/
There is a function that allows you to import from Del.icio.us


· iDoodle http://www.idoodleapp.com/
I could have used this one in the iTouch Math sites for geometry. You can “replay” your strokes. New to this latest version of iDoodle – you can now add text

video tutorial found at: http://www.idoodleapp.com/iDoodleGuide/index.html

· Free eBooks http://iphoneplaza.net/books/
They currently have about 20 books- supported by ads for Amazon. (There’s a link right on the main page for a “Deluxe eBook Reader”. It’s a link to buy the Kindle on Amazon.com)

· iPhlickr http://www.chandlerkent.com/iphlickr/
This site is not affiliated directed with Flickr -but allows you to search and view your Flickr photos or the millions of other photos on Flickr from your iPhone or iTouch.

· Google Talk http://talkgadget.google.com/talkgadget/m
IM your Google contacts from your iPhone / iTouch

A few additional items I wanted to mention…

If you are looking to Jailbreak your iPhone – check out Mark Wagner’s blog. He is a fellow Google Certified Teacher that I had the pleasure of meeting in person at NECC in San Antonio last week. He has some great posts on the topic.

Wouldn’t it be great if Diigo had a mobile site?

Still to come iTouch Foreign Languages, iTouch Social Studies and you never know what else I’ll come across. Feel free to leave me a comment with some suggestions. And as always, there were a few sites I looked at that I didn’t list here. Feel free to view my Google Doc.

NECC 2008 – Something was different

I could write several paragraphs about how I was looking forward to meeting my PLN face-to-face. But with the exception of the very few people I did not get the chance to see, meeting the educators I’ve been communicating with online met and even exceeded my expectations. What has been keeping me from posting my thoughts has been the other people I met at this year’s National Educational Computing Conference.


Before I tell you about the 4 educators that left the biggest impression on me, let me first tell you about the interesting way I arrived at NECC this year. This is my 3rd NECC in the last 4 years. Usually the CMSCE funds my entire trip, but since I will also be attending BLC this summer, I went to one of our partners and asked if they would help with my expenses. I was very fortunate that Promethean agreed to pay for much of my expenses in San Antonio in exchange for some sessions on the conference floor.




I had a set schedule of sessions at 11, 1 and 3 each day that kept me from attending many of the sessions given by the people in my PLN that I could have learned something from.  I had limited time to spend in the Second Life Lounge and Blogger’s Café as it seemed I always had to be back to the conference floor. And the largest affect it had on me personally was that I had to wear a vendor shirt the entire day. Not only was I snubbed by many vendors until I whipped out my “other” name tag that had “CMSCE, Rutgers University” printed on it, but my insecurities led me to believe that those that didn’t know me yet felt that I was maybe in the “wrong” place due to the label on my shirt.




  1. I met a teacher where I presented (6 times) who never left the booth – did not even know there was anything to do besides the conference floor – and was not interested in checking anything out even when invited to join me. This left me wondering what percentage of the educators that go to NECC actually attend the sessions and what percentage only visit the conference floor. Dean Shareski estimated that only about “300 of the 17,000 attendees have any sense of what powerful online communities are all about” I think he’s right. It’s a number we should all work on increasing.
  2. Two technology teachers I sat next to during a lunch break had never used a wiki before and had no idea what social bookmarking was. Brian Crosby overheard some teachers on the shuttle commenting how none of them thought to bring their laptops. Is this population of 17,000 so connected that they would feel a need to bring their technology with them? We think of our iPhones and laptops as appendages, but we are in the minority.
  3. A vender snubbed me (I assume it was because of my shirt) until I switched my name tag to the Rutgers University side at which time they immediately became interested in me.
  4. An educator convincingly told me she used Twitter to keep up with technology trends, but when I checked out her profile, she followed three people (one of which was me). I know I can be passionate about my PLN as I rely on many and most of you for an exchange of quality resources and information. I think Mark Wagner said it well on his blog a few days ago when he wrote “I definitely advocate sharing your passions, but we need to remember that they are after all constructing their own meaning and that this usually happens gradually and organically over time.” 

I keep thinking about Educon. I’m looking forward to meeting again in Philly. I know the format with be slightly different and the numbers will be slightly larger – but the conversations that came out of that weekend generated many of the networks that exist today. I was in the Blogger’s Café with Riptide_Furse (who I was psyched to meet face-to-face) when Jennifer Dorman did her session on Diigo. I didn’t recognize her from the little Twitter avatar, but Rip told me who she was, and I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself because I had to run back to the floor and do another vendor session, but I would love to have a detailed conversation with her regarding her comments on her blog. Jennifer wrote “I do question whether or not huge conferences like this one are truly the best delivery method for edtech content.”


Many times I’m torn between the responsibility my work brings and the thirst for intellectual challenge and entertaining social interaction. Sometimes I can mix it all together. Laura Deisley  and Bud Hunt helped with that as did many others.


So, my question is…What impact does NECC have on the educators that never leave the conference floor? Many of us feel that as long as you have a computer, access to the Internet and a webcam you can open your classroom to endless opportunities. If this was the case for every classroom, that would be the end of the conference floor. Chris Lehmann  – I can’t wait for Educon 2.1.

Headed out to NECC 08

The Riverwalk in San AntonioSo much has happened in this corner of the ed tech world this past week.

On Wednesday, June 25, we welcomed 50 new talented educators into the Google Certified Teachers group. It has been great hearing about their experiences in Mountainview, CA and the knowledge and enthusiasm they bring to our group.

On Friday, June 27, I welcomed 24 New Jersey educators into the Center’s 21st Century Learning Initiative. Teachers from Chatham, Hamilton, Spring Lake and Camden school districts met at our Center on Rutgers’ Busch campus to discuss what we need to prepare ourselves to teach students in the 21st Century. I introduced the teachers to Twitter and Diigo and asked that they spend the next month immersing themselves in developing a personal and professional learning network and giving some thought as to what they would like to gain from their networks as an individual.

We meet again at the end of July.

Today, as I finished my Flipcharts for NECC, I watched the UStreams and backchannel chats of EduBloggerCon in San Antonio. I also procrastinated and it’s now almost 11pm and I have still not packed.

Tommorow – Texas and NECC 08!