Disrupting Professional Development

The beauty of the K12 online conference is that you don’t need to panic that you haven’t been able to keep up. It doesn’t matter. The presentations are all there waiting for you. While online learning implies an anywhere, anytime approach, there is great value in sharing the experience face to face. Duh.

So on Tuesday I invited a few folks together to watch some presentations, talk about them and share our own experiences. It was good. There were people there for whom they had never heard of many of the ideas and really needed to wrap their heads around the implications for teaching and learning. For those without a network to support them, this is invaluable. Even if one person can come away with a plan or at least a connection, I’m pleased.

And here’s the other thing. Traditionally we send a teacher to a local conference, pay sub costs, registration fees, mileage, meals and maybe accommodation. You can conservatively estimate a cost of about $500 a day.  I brought it supper at about $10 a person and I would say we had an experience, equal if not better than a day at your typical conference. I’m in the midst of reading Disrupting Class and Scott McLeod’s presentation deals with some of the ideas in this book. This is really an example of disruptive professional development.

I’d encourage you to plan your own local events. Use the essential questions at the bottom of each presentation to guide you. If you have something in the works or just want to flesh out the ideas some more, leave a comment.

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The WOW factor still matters

I’m not sure if this says more about my social life or my connected life but whatever. You can judge for yourself.

So it’s Friday night, my wife is out watching my girls perform in Annie. (I’m really a good parent, I watched them on Saturday I just don’t need to see it three times). So I find myself watching Jeff Utecht in Bangkok on his computer, streaming his former colleagues in Shanghai gathering together on a Saturday watching presentations from K12 online.  You may have to read that sentence twice to get it.

Jeff held a similar event a couple of years ago.  2 years ago, streaming video was not readily available but Jeff did record some of that event for viewing after the fact.  Today, streaming video is as easy as email. But Jeff had to do some fancy configurations to stream his Skype call from Shanghai back to Bangkok out to the world. I was concerned that the internet might break at any moment. Jeff has a reputation.

As much as I live this stuff everyday, there is still a WOW factor here. The WOW of an almost seamless discussion with people who care deeply about the things I do. I think WOW is good. I think WOW should be leveraged not as an end but a means to really important stuff.  I agree that WOW isn’t enough anymore but to think that I could have a rich conversation with folks who offer a completely different perspective from the other side of the world would seem significant.  I think having rich conversations locally is important and that’s exactly what the teachers in Shanghai were doing.  There’s no reason why we would have to choose.

All K12 Presentations should be 19:53 minutes

This year’s K12 Online conference asked presentations to be limited to under 20 minutes. This is really making the conference much more digestable but of course in reality, you can watch them whenever you like.

Among the oodles of ways to view the conference, I prefer subscribing via itunes. There is both a video and audio only channel. You can simply search for K12online and you’ll see both the 2007 presentations and this years.

Yesterday I watched Alec Courosbrilliant presentation and today I loaded my iphone with a few more. In particular Sara Kajder‘s Presentation “Promise into Practice” which coincendently was exactly the same length as Alecs’…19:53.  I haven’t even viewed the video but felt the audio itself was compelling.

Sara reviews an action research project in which they examined particular pedagogies of constructivism combined with technology.  The examination of new literacies and reluctant or under achieving students is fascinating in itself. Sara is open and honest about the research which for me always adds credibility. Not everything is a panacea but certainly as Sara outlines the main ideas of the study, offers some compelling reason to consider a new look at English Language Arts and in particular literacy.

This is the kind of piece that might really support change and help policy and decision makers struggling with the validity of new literacies to take a second look.

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19:53 minutes worth of goodness

Alec Couros‘ presentation Open, Social, Connected really delivers on how to present for an online conference. The challenge of creating content for an online conference is a daunting and exciting adventure. While this year’s presentations were limited to 20 minutes or less, they weren’t and aren’t restricted to any specific format. We’ve yet to develop too many standards in what makes a good online presentation. I’m not ready yet to thrown down the rubric. There’s too much to be explored.

Where Alec wins is in his wise mix of media including public domain video and audio, thoughtful graphics and animation, green screen, humor and a personal touch. I’ve always enjoyed presentations that show me context. Who are you? Where do you live? David Warlick did a great job with this in prior keynotes and Clarence Fisher focused largely on place in his keynote last year. Alec begins his presentation by providing a context and allowing us to get comfortable with his content.

Since his content is about open content, Alec uses video from public domain to create transitions to his piece. In this way, it’s easy for us to follow.

His feature on twitter might challenge Common Craft as a visual way to explain twitter. Not the same style but equally effective.

I could go on but you’d be best to watch it yourself. Again, whether you are watching because the concept is intrigues or not, watch as one way to deliver an effective online presentation.  The bad news is this kind of work takes more time than most are willing to offer. But good work requires this. Nicely done Alec.

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Let’s Roll

While last Monday was the official start of the K12online conference, this Monday is when we really get rolling.

Two presentations each week day begins. As a convener I’m excited to see that conference continue to grow and expand. This year there are a number of improvements and additions.

  • Presentations are all under 20 minutes. In the past, there was no limit and while this conference is really bound by time, the emphasis on concise, compelling presentations allows users to view more presentations. You can always go deeper if you wish as most presenters provide links for more information.
  • More opportunities to interact. Along with 4 live events, the Live Events Committee is providing 3 essential questions for each presentation using Voicethread called A cup of Joe. This again can help foster and focus discussions.
  • Increased accessibility.  This year we are using dotsub which enables audio to be translated into a variety of language.
  • NotK12online. This is the most risky, unusual part of the conference. In an attempt to address of number of gaps in the conference, notk12online hopes to provide a space for additional presentations and critiques.  Hard to explain so head here for some better explanations.

While some will argue there is much of this kind of content already online, our target audience is largely those folks who may not have the skills or time to find it all.  So email the conference link or specific presentations to someone you know who would benefit.  Harness the power of networked learning.