Thursday, December 3, 2009

I've officially MOVED!!!

Please update your reader.  You can now find me at  I will no longer be posting to

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Prove it BEFORE it's Approved!

I attended the ISTE Eduverse talk last night titled "All Technology Uses are NOT Created Equal: Accelerating High-Yielding Practices" with Bernajean Porter.  The information presented is near and dear to my heart and was shared in such a great way that I am excited to share it with everyone around me.  One of the things that Bernajean mentioned during her interview was that when teachers are being trained, they need to learn the new technology, then figure out how to apply it to the curriculum, and finally implement it in the classroom.  Bernajean emphasized that trainers should ask teachers to do all of this before awarding any continuing education credits (or whatever they may be called in your area). 

I thought about this for a long time.  This very topic has been in my head for a while now but hadn't really heard anyone else talk about it, specifically in a public forum.  I totally agree with her thinking in that it would promote true technology integration on behalf of the teachers.  I also believe that it would improve me as an instructor because I would have to force myself to see more things going on in the classroom.  This would be a huge time committment for me to not only work one-on-one with many teachers but to also review and approve the works they create in order to receive credit.  The benefits, however, that come from this type of training/assessment are too good to pass up.

Another thought I had was that the credit they receive could be much higher.  For example, now I give 1 hour credit for each of my sessions.  I'd be willing to award double or triple credit depending on the topic because of the work, brain power and creativity going into the workshop on behalf of the teacher. On the other hand...I can see a possible attendance decrease due to the difficulty level for many teachers. Or would I?  Quite possibly, after a few workshops like this, teachers might see an improvement in the quality of the workshops and be more likely to attend.

I will be sharing the information from this talk with my principal and district technology leaders over the next few days.  I will also be asking permission to try this method with a few of my workshops this year.  I think testing it with a few perfectly selected workshops would be a good way to implement this program. 
Please take a look at the eduverse video and share it with those around you.  There is a lot of other good content in the program besides this topic that I feel everyone could benefit from in their schools.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Unexpected Blessings of the Second Life

Upon entering Second Life, I had plans to only use it for attending workshops. I hadn't even considered the virtual world could have other things to offer, so I spent the first few months learning everything I could about education and how it is being done in Second Life. After those few months, however, I noticed something changing. I noticed that I was gaining more confidence in myself by volunteering, networking and attending the workshops on ISTE Island.

What? A virtual world helping me be a better person? How could this be? I began asking myself what else I could learn from this space.

I started talking to a lot of people, specifically veteran users, about this thought. I realized quickly that many people that have been in SL for a long time are hesitant to share their stories with just anyone, especially those fairly new to SL. Why? Well, through my own experiences, I have learned that if you talk about this too much, it raises eyebrows a bit (which, quite frankly is why I have written this blog post 3 times and trashed it before posting). Once I found a few friends that were willing to talk, I realized that I was not alone in this. Many of the avatars I spoke to had a great story about using Second Life to better themselves.

How does this happen? I have found for myself and for many others that in Second Life or any other virtual world for that matter, everyone has an opportunity to shine and it's easy to find lots of different people with the same interests as you. On those same lines, everyone is willing to listen to your strengths and help you find a way to use them. Virtual worlds are fantastic places to find a mentor. Yes, we do this in real life, but not quite at the level I see in Second Life.

If you talk to Mo Hax for any length of time, you may hear him refer to "The Disney Effect". These words couldn't explain my feelings about Second Life any better. When in the virtual world, it is very similar to being at Disney World. Most everyone welcomes everyone else with open arms. People will strike up a conversation much quicker than in the real world and the quality of helpfulness comes out in everyone. I've never met more people willing to help me learn a new skill than in Second Life. ISTE Island alone is full of docents and other avatars willing to help newbies and veterans alike on just about any topic.

Through the course of conversing, finding your way to contribute to the world and making connections with others, many find their "place". We find a connection to a group of people that have similar ideas and goals as we do which helps us to grow our knowledge in that area, in turn building our confidence.

I don't think anyone goes into a virtual world thinking it can change their life, but I can assure you it has mine. Not only do I value the friendships I have made, but the opportunities as well. Think of anything that interest you. There is SOMEONE in Second Life with that same interest and talking with them will allow you to learn more about that topic and quite possibly create a lasting friendship with a person that shares your interest.

For me, I have met my business partner, a truly wonderful educational mentor and even a few fantastic people that I now call close friends in the real world . I've met some of the most amazing educators in the world through Second Life and then had the opportunity to meet them in person at NECC 09. I've run 5Ks, had lunch and even gone dancing with Second Life friends. One of the coolest things is that I've had job offers and have helped people find jobs through Second Life. The networking alone is something no one should want to pass up and in my opinion is a more effective method of networking than the real world (inexpensive, less time consuming and you can do it in your jammies and fuzzy slippers).

The opportunities in Second Life are limitless if you are willing to open your heart and your mind to the possibilities that wait for you. Yes, it is a bit of a different way of getting the job done, but if done right, you will find that it is an effective way of accomplishing the task.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Over the course of the last couple of days, I have had a few different conversations about how computers are used to help us in our daily lives. The first conversation started with a workshop I was doing on PLN's where we were talking about twitter and all the great things social networking has to offer. During that workshop, I had a veteran teacher say that she has a hard time seeing computers as something fun. She went on to say that when she was learning about computers, they were introduced to her as a way to do work. Because of that idea, she has never been able to grasp how they can be fun or used for enjoyment.

This idea of computers being only for work was interesting to me and made me think a bit. This was actually true for me as well. I remember one of the first things I did on a computer was type a paper and I also remember seeing images of men and women in professional clothes typing away on them. The teacher's comment also made me think about the images that often come up in clipart when you search for the word computer. Although they are changing a bit lately, there are lots of pictures that show professional people working at a computer. All that being said, it's no surprise that many adults have an image of a computer being made only for work.

Yesterday, as my students were presenting projects they made for a unit on MS Powerpoint, one of them did a presentation that focused on how play can foster learning and she made a comment about how students can be working, but because they're doing it in a fun way, they don't even notice. This brought me back to the first comment and made me think a bit more.
We started out using computers as a way to do work. Then, we found out they can be pretty cool to play with too. Now, we are looking at mixing the two. Why can't work be fun? Why can't we use a game to accomplish a task? All of this made me understand why some teachers struggle with me saying things like "let them play a bit to figure it out" and "use the technology to teach the lesson, not as an extra piece".

Then, naturally, my mind moved over to Second Life. Wow! What a prime example of this! So many look at Second Life as a game. When I tell people I use it every day, they look at me like I'm a weirdo. Yes, there is a lot of play in SL (my favorite part is the dress up) but, most nights you'll find me working. Whether I'm networking, attending workshops or hosting meetings, I use the virtual world for work.

Today, about lunch time, I got an email from that first teacher that was struggling with computers being fun. It read like this:
"My 1st period students loved the iLab. Nearly 1/2 had never been in the lab before. Just wanted you to know that we worked AND (drum roll please) we had FUN!!! "
I was so tickled to hear her response and actually got the opportunity to see her introduce to the iLab to a group of students later in the day. The excitement and enthusiasm in her voice rang throughout the room. I could tell that she had thought about her comment as much as I had.

I encourage everyone to consider this idea. I'm sure many of you reading right now have had an experience working with someone that you have trouble connecting with in the use of technology. You might just be working with a teacher such as mine. It is of no fault to them, they just need to be retrained and to find something that helps them realize that learning and using computers can be fun. Be their guiding light and help them find the excitement that we all see!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Symphony of the Mind

I'm reading Daniel Pink's book A Whole New Mind right now in conjunction with some leadership materials here and there. While reading the chapter on symphony, a quote caught my eye:
"all aspects of well-being, including physical, environmental, mental, emotional, spiritual and social health.....contribute to the healing of ourselves and our planet"
Within the same page of that quote, I found this one:
"The ability to perceive one's own life in a way that encompasses the full spectrum of human possibility is essential to the search for meaning"
Upon Mo Hax telling me I "had to read this book" I never thought it would have the impact it has had in relation to leadership and self-fulfillment. While reading the chapter on symphony, I struggled to understand it and connect it to myself until I related these two quotes to each other. What is being said here directly relates to the characteristics of a good leader as described in the book "Building the Bridge As You Walk On It" by Robert Quinn.

This struggle with providing symphony in my life and figuring out how to make it work has been a huge part of me moving forward. Someone just this week asked me, "how do you do all that you're doing?" This question immediately reminded me of these quotes and the last chapter I read in the Building the Bridge book. The simple answer to this is that I have to. To fulfill all of my dreams and be happy within, I have to create symphony in all areas of my life. That includes the work, the play, the running, the family time, the learning....all of it.

I tweeted a quote this week that has been bouncing around in my mind after reading the chapter on symphony. That quote came from my principal, Lynn Rhymer, a few months ago when I was telling her that I didn't have time to exercise. She said to me, "If you really want to do something, you'll find the time". That comment has branded itself on my brain never to be forgotten and always brought up when most needed. Truth is, no matter how busy you are, you can't let the other parts of your life go. Each area is as important as the other and they all need to be nurtured to create your own beautiful symphony.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Close Look at 3 Twitter Clients: Nambu, Twhirl and Tweetdeck

As I have become more involved with twitter, I have discovered a need to explore more tools for managing my tweets. I used twitter for months using the web based version, but it got really annoying having to go to the website and refresh all the time as I started following more and more people. That prompted me to explore tweetdeck and twhirl. At that time, I probably was following more people than were following me. I just needed something that allowed me to see quick updates of changes to my twitter feed. I chose twhirl for it's simplicity and small window. At the time, Tweetdeck was way to advanced for my needs.

Now, the opposite is true, I have more followers than I have people I follow. This is true because I can only handle so much data coming across my screen in one day, so I don't feel it is beneficial to follow every person that follows me. Due to this change and an increase in @ replies and direct messages, I felt a need to re-evaluate my choice of a tweet client. @tgwynn kept mentioning Nambu and I notice that everyone is still talking about tweetdeck so I figured I would compare those two with Twhirl. My findings:


  • Boring color scheme

  • the window is more rectangular and takes up more room on my desktop than I would have liked.

  • Everything was very easy to see (home, mentions, direct messages)

  • Buttons are all rollovers with no text-took a minute to figure out how to do a reply, etc.

  • Easy download, just dropped into the dock.

  • I liked how the dock icon gives a number so you know how many tweets you have.

  • I accidentally deleted all my tweets (Really they were just hidden-show all hidden gets them back but I freaked out for a minute)

  • Can't seem to delete a tweet

  • Double click to to reply

  • Puts a little icon in the upper right near your clock for easy access.

  • Made for Mac and has an iPhone app


  • Nice simple layout with one skinny window that doesn't take up a lot of space on your desktop

  • Nice color scheme that is customizable

  • Found out quickly how to do a tweet, reply and direct message

  • Easy to set up accounts

  • Buttons that allow you to see all of your direct messages and @ replies

  • Requires Adobe Air

  • For Mac or PC


  • I was hesitant to try tweetdeck as I felt a little overwhelmed by it the first time. This time it was much easier.

  • Starts out with 3 panes and a large window that takes up most of the desktop (not my preference) but there is a button that allows you to quickly decrease the size to one pane or expand to all panes.

  • The panes are customizable for what you need. You start out with one pane of friends tweets, an @ reply pane and a direct message pane. You can add panes for facebook status, profile information and more.

  • Colors are customizable

  • Easy to find the tweet bar for status updates and @ replies.

  • Has an iPhone App

  • For Mac or PC

All 3 applications have the following features

  • URL shorteners (which are great for quickly making url's a smaller size to fit in the 140 character limit)

  • Ability to add multiple twitter accounts

  • Notification sounds and popups for new tweets

  • Link with some kind of photo/video sharing service to add photos and videos to your tweets
There is one thing missing on all 3 of these and that is a place to make notes about each user. This is something that I have found very useful in Second Life and would love the opportunity to use this type of notetaking for all of my social networking tools.

So, what did I pick? I went with Tweetdeck. I was most impressed by the ease of use in seeing everything I need in one window but also being able to shrink it down to fit on my screen. I still will most likely not suggest tweetdeck to new twitter users (would probably still go with Twhirl) but for those with several followers or followees, Tweetdeck provides an easy way to manage all of the updates.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Life of Julie Sugarplum

It's been a while since I did an update on the happenings of Julie Sugarplum, my Second Life Avatar. Lately, she has been working with a lot of people new to Second Life to help guide them through the learning process (how to walk, talk and dress). Seems this is a peak time for new recruits as there are many just starting college courses that are either totally or partially held in Second Life. It's fun to see full classes wander through ISTE island looking for help.
I've been picking up more docent shifts to allow more time for helping these new folks and to catch up with friends I haven't talked to in a while. In addition to the docenting, I've also scheduled a time (with Mo Hax) every Sunday evening around 6pm sl time to be in world to help anyone that wants to give second life a try or just to meet up with friends for some good old fashioned fun! Feel free to join us--we meet at ISTE HQ then typically head out to explore other islands, based on the interest/content areas of the people that join us.
Virtual Pioneers, one of my favorite groups, has had some great meetings lately. Recently, Xavier Razorfen and Austen Rae shared photos and stories from their recent trip (in real life) to China. This talk was one of the best I've attended in a while. Not only did they have fantastic pictures and stories to share about the people, the culture, etc., but they also had items to give away, quizzes and a decorated venue to make you feel like you were right there with them. That is the great thing about Second Life, you can really go all out making a presentation spectacular and it's great when people take the time to do it. If you are interested in learning more about Virtual Pioneers, visit the Virtual Pioneers Ning.
NC SL Educators recently held another meeting where we talked with Virtual Pioneers founder, Spiff Whitfield and also visited VSTE Island with Mandie Mimulus, Alfredo Bedrosian and Thunder Insippo. The theme of this meeting was to learn more about groups in Second Life that are available to teachers. It was a great success and we received a lot of great comments about the opportunities available with these groups. Our little groups of NC educators is growing and due to that, I recently asked Trig Inkpen to be a group officer. He will be helping to coordinate upcoming meetings, share information with the group, etc.
There are a few new things Julie Sugarplum is exploring that I hope to share with you soon. Fun thing about Second Life is that there is always something new to learn. I hope you'll join me in world soon! Would be glad to help you get started!


The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent anyone else's view in any way, including those of my employer.
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