It’s #ISTE10 OMG!

After 24 hours of ISTE10  it was hard to tell which hurt more: my feet or my brain. So much to see and learn (an understatement of gross proportion). I’ve dusted off ye olde blog to brain dump a few things observed and learned. Below is the list of topics covered in this post for easy peasy reading and skimming:

  • EduBlogger
  • The Power of People: Twitter Thoughts
  • Apple+iPad= UnSponsorship Award
  • Go look at these guys: It’s Learning, Shmoop, Adaptive Curriculum, Tech4Learning and BrainPop (of course!).

First off– pretty much all of EduBloggerCon (#ebc10) was quality and one of the best experiences so far at ISTE. A big thanks to Steve Hargadon & colleagues for their organization of this. The icing on the cake is that it was free –no extra pre-registration to participate! The Tech Smackdown after lunch highlighted some quality up and coming tools and I was thrilled to see the collaborative writing tool Storybird included. My students and I have dabbled with this site and I think there is a lot of potential for this site. I’ll post  my thoughts separately on the whole “Are Wikis Dying” conversation I participated in. Short answer: No/Yes/Maybe.

People Power: Twitter

TwitterIf there was an award for the 10,000 pound gorilla in the room it is  Twitter. Most sessions so far have had very active backchannels, which provides a mix of amusement, enables connections between attendees, provides avenues for rich resource sharing and also a chance for those of us locked out of the full sessions due to fire code (or virtually attending),  to follow along . Most importantly, since there is so much good stuff going on, you can benefit from fuller conference coverage, especially through the use of the new tool paper.li  and the #ISTE10 “newspaper” powered by Tweets. But the real story isn’t about Twitter; it’s about how people are working together, in generally helpful and useful ways, through the backchannel. I don’t know if I would go as far as to say the #iste10 hashtag is trasformative but I do think it’s been an essential positive part of my experience.

The pervasiveness of Twitter makes me wonder if ISTE will give us a field on our name badges next year to prominently display our Twitter Ids? I can only speak for myself, but I  will recognize a Twitter name before the  real name of a person. Hmmm, what does this mean???

Apple is here –right?
If you were to award UnSponsorship from a company that would go to Apple.  Apple’s full force presence in the exhibits is conspicuously absent this year. But, from the looks of things, does it matter? I’ve seen lots and lots and lots and lots (did I say lots?) of iPads this week in use by attendees. These are followed by iBooks, iTouches and iPhones.The iPad is being handed out as prize candy by vendors everywhere.  There are little sessions popping up through the unplugged portion of the conference about the iPad. The EduBlogger conference also featured a session on the iPad.  Apple has the best kind of visibility with everyone using their stuff this week.

Products, Tools, and “Good Stuff”
So this is just it’s own separate post for later. Some highlights:

If you are shopping for interesting ways to host/facilitate your courses walk right past Blackboard and Moodle and head straight to It’s Learning and Edmodo.   Heck, even if you are not shopping or the lead decision maker in your school/district, just go look at what’s possible to be inspired! Both vendors are in the way back of the exhibits and around the corner from each other.  I have to say It’s Learning is elegant and just makes sense. One nice feature allows video capture and audio comments right into the course site without extra authoring software. It just makes sense and takes the techie out of the learning. Edmodo is known best for its Facebook like look, feel, and features which gives it some nice familiarity for students.

I’ve been a long time fan of Tech4Learning, BrainPop, and Adaptive Curriculum. Shmoop is new on the scene and is worth a look too. Go say hi to these student-centered folks.

In Summary:
There is soooo much more to say –like the great sessions and conversations I’ve had, which are the most important parts of this conference and really require my brain to do a bit better at synthesizing for a posting. Globalization and our social responsibility is a recurrent theme and I just can not cover that well in 5 minutes or less of typing!

So what have you seen? What are your thoughts on Twitter? Vendors? Ideas that you find worth sharing ( riff on #TEDxDenverED).  The floor is yours.

Getting Out of Topic Purgatory: A Poll

I have about three to six blog post ideas a day. I don’t know if this is low, average, insanely high, or reveals a touch of narcissism? They come to me at random moments; weeding a flower bed, not paying attention during a committee meeting, or scraping some type of mysterious goo off  kids’ playroom floor.  I take the decent ideas and place them in my  wordpress draft pile, aka “topic purgatory.”  I’ve been trying to find a moment to write something semi-literate on one of these, yet purgatory is just getting more crowded.

I started the blog to create a collection of ideas and develop my writing a bit more. If I was grading myself I could get at least a 50% if I had published the list of topics! I’d rather not offer up all of the reasons I’ve been a tad lame at my posting pattern. I have not mastered the teaching-doctoral student-administrator-wife-mom thing.  Blogging, with laundry, has taken a back seat. The good news is my husband is fine with doing laundry. He’s not so keen on taking the blogging.

I really want to write because it helps me think through all that clutter of ideas and thoughts I read via twitter, other blogs, journals, and conversations. So I thought, why not poll any interested souls on some of the topics you think are worthy of more blog coverage? I don’t really have an expectation that I will have huge numbers of replies, but I do appreciate the feedback.

Below is a poll with a list of topics plucked off the purgatory list. Please chime in, or add your own idea.

Fab Find: Stixy For Flexible Online Creation Collaboration and Sharing

Stixy: For Flexible Online Creation Collaboration and Sharing.

If you are big fan of collaboration or need to figure out a way to do more dynamic sharing of content online, then you will want to take a peak at Stixy. Described by one colleague as “Google Docs meets Voicethread, meets a wiki,” Stixy offers a unique collaboration platform for a variety of content and media file types.

I am both a heavy user of Google Docs and Voicethread in my professional work and teaching.  Stixy seems to have the potential to fill a niche gap between the two –allowing document sharing, editing, commenting and collaboration. It allows different file types for posting and provides different options to mark up the screen and provide feedback to the author/presenter.

With versatility comes a loss of simplicity that is Google docs and Voicethread. Stixy’s user interface could be a bit more streamlined, and clearer to the “everyday” internet user.  However, after playing around for a short while, you will soon get the hang of the site.

Stixy is currently free and in beta. As with many new Web 2.0 sites, it’s hard to tell how long the beta will last, however it is still worth exploring and trying out.

I am curious if anyone out there is using Stixy with students yet? Something for business?  I am playing with different ideas on how to use it in my next online course this summer and this seems to be a nice tool  for students to collaborate and share their research projects through.  When I figure  out exactly how I will be introducing Stixy to students, I’ll post more details. Until then, enjoy!

Fab Find: PaperRater

I tweeted awhile ago about PaperRater, and after testing it, I am selecting the site as today’s Fab Find.  PaperRater is a free grammar checker and automated proofreading service geared toward students and anyone who is writing professional copy. The site also provides plagiarism detection.

If you are a WordPress user then the grammar and proofreading check will feel a little familiar. For an automated system, PaperRater provides some decent analysis of your work with some reasonable suggestions.

One of the nicest features is the originality/plagiarism detection which proactively alerts the author to any text or content that is either not cited, or sounds like it is copied.  Most anti-plagiarism services are offered to teachers in assisting them in finding copied work after submission by the student. Since most authors are now consulting online sources as they create their own work, I like that PaperRater is offering a helpful service to writers to ensure they are not unintentionally copying work or not citing original content. I imagine that PaperRater could be used constructively as part of a writing assignment for students to check how well they are doing with citations.

Faculty and teachers can still use the PaperRater’s antiplagarism service by cutting and pasting a student document into the web page and then receiving a report on suspected missed citations and blatant copying.

Try PaperRater now: http://www.paperrater.com

In Twitter Search I Trust (Or Why I Am Googling Less)

When Twitter first launched I did what any entrepreneurial educational technologist did and registered for an account.  It was the infancy of Twitter, when tweets read more like a public collection of Facebook updates. The media coverage was full of speculation, curiosity, and of course humor (see the famous “Twouble with Twitters” video). I only had a couple of colleagues trying it out, so I really didn’t have any lively banter or collaboration going on.  And it seemed most people interested in following me were spammers.

Somehow this didn’t dissuade me from checking regularly on Twitter’s evolution and progress.  I searched for keywords and lurked with interest on a few regular hashtag conversations, especially  #edtech, #eLearn and the more recent  #edchat .  Folks whom I’ve never met, but with similar professional interests, were sharing resources, tips,  ideas and articles that provided just-in-time relevancy to my field.  And then somehow, without really noticing, my web searching habits began to shift. I was soon doing searches on topics  first via Twitter, and  then Google, but only if needed.  This completely surprised me because back in March of 2009 I read  “Twitter Destined to Replace Google Search” on twitip and thought “whatever!”

So what changed? Well for one, my Twitter searching seems to follow a pattern. Generally, I am trying to do one of the following things;  answer a question, solve a problem quickly, or get recommendations for resources.  Doing Google searches is somewhat effective –but not exacting. As the twitip article describes, Twitter is positioned to give a better search experience because people are directly powering the content, which provides context to the search.  A search engine can not find context, or even relevance within the content.

Twitter provides me two ways to carry out my searches; I can ask my question to my twitter community, while also performing a key word search through Twitter, or using  a Twitter search engine like Topsy. Generally, I get good leads from each approach, and often these leads will help me refine a more effective and efficient  search of data via Google.  The icing on the cake is that my Twitter community is only a touch screen away via a mobile device. There is no shortage of mobile apps for smartphones or the iTouch.  I can truly have one information hub no matter what device I am connecting with, bringing continuity to the search process.

I am not alone in appreciating the differences and unique benefits of a Twitter search.  I found a piece from Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research describing  Twitter search “your own personal groundswell.”  Which brings me to the social aspect of the search process and the immediate ability to receive validation on a topic or a new direction and theory. I compare the social search aspect of Twitter like attending a social event at a conference or seminar. I am able to engage as much or as little in the conversation as I want, and I am bound to pick  a good tip or resource just from listening in. Obviously the folks at Google seem to think there is something unique about this since they have started including Twitter feeds as a part of the Google searching experience.

I haven’t thrown Google out the window but I continued to be surprised and delighted at the number of professional communities on Twitter.  In my case, my work in ed tech spans k12, higher education and eLearning communities. I no longer need to wait 8-12 months to read about a new innovative teaching method in a  journal because we are able to report and share our experiences immediately.  In the case of education, I argue this allows us to innovate more rapidly since we are able to accelerate the publication process and avoid long peer-review processes, that while important, can take away from the timeliness that is essential.  I am pretty confident other professional fields are experiencing the same thing. But I am digressing and should pick up on this riff for a future posting.

So friends, fret not if you are Google fan, or even  if you are Google.  There is a something for everyone and Browsy brings us the ability to Twoogle (but of course!). So now can have the best of your aggregated data and social searching worlds in one web interface.  Thank goodness.

Updated– Twitter v. Google Search: A Superbowl Postscript