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Posts from April 2010

Getting Ready for Changes!

Just thought I'd take a moment to let friends know that major changes are looming on my horizon. After nearly ten years working at the University of Chicago in various capacities, I'm leaving to start my own full-time consultancy. Working at the University of Chicago has been a privilege, and I have learned so much during my years at Lab, UEI and most recently, CEMSE.  I'm excited professionally and personally for all the adventures that await me and my family! 

It's time to now apply my knowledge and experience in new ways and am looking forward to a variety of projects that will let me follow my education passions and at the same time, stay in touch with my current colleagues. I will be continuing to work with CEMSE on various projects, mostly involving the infusion of technology into a science curriculum. Hopefully,  I will be working more directly with teachers and students overall, and I particularly want to focus on helping schools figure out the many pieces of the 21st century skills puzzle. I also plan on developing my interest in helping kids and teachers learn to search more effectively, and want to pursue my growing fascination with all things related to iPhones, iPods and iPads. So many avenues to pursue, so little time!

This summer looks to be a busy one as I jump into this work. First stop will at ISTE 2010 in Denver, which promises to be a whirlwind of activity as usual, and then a trip to visit Judy Beaver's Summer Lab program at the fabled Punahou School in Hawaii, followed by a probable trip to the Building Learning Communities in Boston. Later in the fall, I'll be a featured speaker at Connecticut's ed tech conference, CECA.

Specific projects so far include consulting working for Tiger Logic, a company that produces a very cool search technology called yolink. I'm very excited about this opportunity as I really like the product and the yolink team. yolink really scaffolds search for people and I especially like how search results can be exported to email, Google Docs, Evernote, and Diigo, to name a few tools. It's exciting to be helping a company with this innovative product, and I wouldn't be involved with this kind of venture if I didn't wholeheartedly believe in it. Stay tuned for a lot more about yolink and its role in education!

Additionally, I'm starting to blog at the O'Reilly Radar along with several really smart people who also want to see education evolve. One of these people is journalist Elizabeth Corcoran, who has a vision for helping educators better leverage technology in classrooms. As her project grows, I'll be serving as an adviser. 

Finally, a third leg of my work will involve partnering with the incomparable Steve Hargadon to co-chair an online global education conference, a nice complement my work in the Global Education Collaborative. Details are in the works, and it promises to be a synergistic event that will take place sometime in November. Again, stay tuned for details. 

So that's my story... thanks again to everyone who has supported me along this journey! I can't wait for things to come! 

Apple of My Eye: Resources Catching My Attention (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

New Survey: Are Budget Cutoffs and Layoffs Affecting Your District?

I'm really alarmed about what seems to be happening around the country in terms of thousands of teacher layoffs. Arne Duncan has predicted as many as 300,000 teachers will be pink slipped, and I think that number is conservative. 17,000 educators have been pink slipped in Illinois and 22,000 in California alone, and I'm guessing no state will be left untouched. I'm curious about how this is affecting people in my personal learning network and am planning a blog post on this topic. Help me out by sharing your thoughts in this Twitter survey.  Thanks! I'll let you know when I post my findings and thoughts.

Apple of My Eye: Resources Catching My Attention (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The Ning Debacle: It's Not About the Money (entirely)

Today, I sent out a blast in the Global Education Collaborative about the changes to Ning's pricing. Read more about it here, but the social network creation company is experiencing financial difficulties which have led to layoffs and the discontinuation of all previously free networks created on its platform. A plan is supposed to emerge within 2 weeks, and new APIs and features are expected within 90 days. Not soon enough, I say.

I started the Global Education Collaborative using the Ning platform in 2007 after being inspired by the success of Steve Hargadon's Classroom 2.0 Ning. My site has grown slowly, but steadily, and our membership hovers around 3500 members. Steve's Ning has an astounding 40,000 educators interested utilizing new and emerging technologies within his online community. Ning has changed the way I connect to other teachers, probably almost as much as Twitter. 

This afternoon as the news got out, it was fascinating to see people's reactions over Twitter. I followed a search in Twitter (#ning) and read everything from people truly shocked to others who thought it was high time people were expected to pay to others offering jobs to the laid off Ning workers. This is another example of how news can unfold via Twitter.

My first reaction was to panic and to chide myself for relying too heavily on a tool that inevitably was going to evaporate in some form. I thought about our members and how we would lose many if we moved to another platform; I thought about the all the content accrued in the GEC, too. I also thought about the current fee to have ads removed which is $19.95 per month. A friend emailed me to basically state that it's only fair to pay for services that are of high quality. I agree, but I believe that's from a business perspective, not an education perspective.

Here's essentially what I wrote in response with some edits: 

Educators pay out of pocket for many items that they are never reimbursed for, and generally, they are paid much less than other professionals. Educators pour tons of manpower hours into cultivating these networks as well. There are also many non-profits who are looking for affordable, preferably free, methods of connecting with their communities. The word of mouth support for Ning from these groups is huge, and should be valued by Ning.

Wikispaces has long had a policy of making ad-free wikis available to educators because they know the intangible value of having teachers use their product. They know that educators will spread the good word and will provide feedback to them about Wikispaces. I'm wondering if Ning has ever valued educators; many of us thought this when Steve Hargadon was let go as their education evangelist last year.

The most troubling part of Ning's announcement to me was that it was announced with no plan in place. People would not be freaking out if a transition plan had been made publicly available immediately. It should have been publicized in tandem with the announcement. I think teachers would pay if such a plan existed; we are not about free loading and know that if something is of quality, it's worth a reasonable price. 

One GEC member responded to my announcement in the Global Education Collaborative that several charities in Africa that he worked with had Nings and he would no longer continue with the company if they started to charge. Just think of all the good work that is going on around the world (where people AREN'T getting paid for their efforts) that may stop as a result of this decision. 

The bottom line is, however, that we'll just have to wait until see what plans unfold. I hope Ning is listening carefully to its user base. If you are interested in sharing stories and thoughts about this, please take my survey and you can also see the results here

Apple of My Eye: Resources Catching My Attention (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Apple of My Eye: Resources Catching My Attention (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.