Here is a link to some listed education chats on Twitter. Following a chat is a great way to hear from some people whom you might not actually be following officially. There is usually a discussion centered around a question or topic that is proposed earlier. There are usually specific times to meet via Twitter. By including the # mark and the name of the chat you can be assured that your posts will go to that specific chat. For example there is a chat every Tuesday called #edchat. If I post something with the #edchat at the beginning of the tweet it will be part of the chat. This website lists several chats that are ongoing and of interest to educators.
I have spent a lot of time and energy creating my ning network for my students. For those who have never used ning, it was a free service where you could create your own social network a la Facebook, but with more safety features. I am already part of several ning networks that I find I can't live without. http://arted20.ning.com has been a life line for me as I created new technology saturated curriculum for our art program. The personal learning network (PLN) that I was able to establish through this ning network was phenomenal. I have collaborated with educators from all over the US and China and Great Britain. There are collaborative projects you can join, images of student work, videos that pertain to art education and technology and a lot of support. If you are the administrator of one of these networks it will not longer be free.
I have waited until the last minute to make my decision about Ning because I really had to examine how valuable it was or wasn't in my classroom. If I go with the Ning mini that is being sponsored by Pearson Education for the first year it will still be free, but the ning will be greatly diminished. I will lose the groups function, which for me was the part I used the most as I had a different group for each of the classes I taught. Students posted images, blog posts, videos and answers to research and writing prompts on the ning. This will be gone.
The article Ning: Failures, Lessons and Six Alternatives has some great insights into the evolution of the paid ning network. The part I was most interested in of course were the freebies. As an educator I don't have money to pay for frilly extras and this would in the end become that. I have to be creative and find another way to do the same thing, but for free. That is the joy of web 2.0 isn't it? You can always find a free version of just about everything.
I haven't checked out any of the alternatives yet, but would love to hear from you if you have. What do you use? What will you be doing with your ning? I loath having to do all the work again of setting up yet another network, but if it will be free and maybe even better than ning I will do it. There were often problems with our ning posts and frankly the ning network administrators weren't very timely or helpful in resolving them. I guess you get what you pay for or do you? With the poor track record in resolving problems why would I pay for a product (199.00 a year) that may or may not be serviced in the way I want. I pay for my Flickr Pro account and I get everything I want and more. The ning price tag seems exorbitant and unrealistic for all the educators that are out there.
This past week I participated in the Milwaukee Digital Media Conference (MDMC) at the Milwaukee Art Museum. It was definitely an inspiring week. Being in MAM's Santiago Calatrava addition with the gleaming white Carrera marble and gorgeous daylight spilling in from all sides was breathtaking, but so, too, were the amazing speakers and colleagues I got to meet and learn with all week. One of the coolest things at this conference was that it was the first time I experienced a conference where I was tweeting and reading tweets throughout. I had been pretty skeptical of Twitter suspecting that it was nothing more than a scheme to get my information and send targeted marketing to me based on my Tweets and interests. Of course Twitter is that, but it is also a lot more.
I learned how to use Twitter to take notes in the terse 140 character-phrase required for tweets. As the speakers were presenting I tweeted what they'd said. The tweets were tagged with the appropriate #mdmc or #mdmc10 tag which then added them to the list of tweets from other participants including the leaders and some of the speakers. Can you imagine being able to actually chat with the keynote speaker at a conference?
This was a lot of fun because the insight of the participants provided another level of what was going on. There were many different sessions so you could be in one session and also follow another session or later go back and read what was posted from those other sessions. It created a really cool sub-level of connectivity that I'd never experienced before since I'm newer with Twitter. I don't have an Internet connected phone so this was all happening with my laptop. Twitter as a tool for enlarging your PLN (personal learning network) is something I'd heard and learned, but I hadn't really experienced. I am finding I almost want to check my Twitter feed more than Facebook. The part I don't like is it's hard to keep up if you're not online or connected, so I worry what I'm missing. (would love to have an iPhone! :)) Of course that's where re-tweets come in, RT in Twitter-speak. You can re-tweet something you read from someone else or if you have a certain person you know has a lot to offer in terms of tweets you can search just for their feed or @name them to get directly to them. I finally GET why so many people are going crazy over Twitter.
I learned about a lot of new tools at this conference. I will try to talk about several of them. I apologize that this is a long post, but there was so much! During our time at MDMC10 we worked collaboratively with a team of people to apply the training we were receiving to an actual project. The work that our teams did is posted on a wiki that MAM will actually use to train their junior docents. Chelsea Kelly, School and Teacher Programs Manager of MAM was fantastic in accommodating all of us.
We learned about 2 Timeline tools on the web. Both are free, but also have paid type subscriptions that offer more depth to the service. The first was Dipity. Dipity allows the user to create timelines on any subject. The timelines can also be viewed as animated e-flip books. You can add almost any media content to the timelines including images, videos, text and more. We didn't use this service as there were some issues between the Museum project we were working on and rights to images. We also learned about Time Rime, a British product that allows you to do timelines with embedded media. It was pretty easy to use and to manipulate. The final Timeline that our group created is embedded on the wiki. There wasn't enough time to work through some of the glitches like why some people's content posted to the collaborative timeline, but others' didn't or why some of us got activated accounts and others didn't, yet we could log in. This is a valuable tool that I hope to use with students and I hope to figure out some of the problem stuff, too. I could see students even creating their own online portfolio this way to track their progress throughout a semester or a year.
There is a lot more that we worked on and learned about at the conference. We discussed social bookmarking sites and learned about Diigo. I have both a Delicious and Diigo account. If you are in the same boat you can import all your Delicious data to Diigo. I think I like Diigo a lot more than Delicious for the following reasons. Once the Diigo toolbar for Firefox is installed it is amazing the things you can do. There are other tools and toolbars for other browsers so if you're not a fan of Firefox you can still use this. It is so easy to use. It is also easier I think to organize your bookmarks into groups, tags and lists. You can join groups, highlight content, sticky note content, create lists to organize your content and more. You bookmarks can be public or private and if you send them to a group or list then those who are part of the group can have access and collaborate with your research and theirs. Maggie Tsai, the inventor of Diigo skyped in to talk to us and demonstrate the value of the tool. Diigo is a free web 2.0 tool. I set up an educator account and hope to use this with my AP students this year to promote their research skills. I will put the link to the wiki demo they gave us. Not sure if you have to be member of the wiki to see this or not. This is the new way to do research I think!
I will talk about more of the conference in a Part 2 post later. For now I hope you can see that it was an amazing, but exhausting week!! I will also be posting some photos later.
I am a lot of things, but the main thing is that I see the world through the lens of the artist. I am visual and experiencing the world visually is what I do. Color distracts and enthralls me. I must be constantly learning and dabbling in new and different endeavors. I still have dreams that I will someday write a novel or at least a children's book (I'll illustrate it too!), open a tea shop/gallery and retire to a cottage near the water somewhere. I have a great imagination and I'm still curious about so many things.