PLE Workshop/Mashing up your PLE session

Yesterday it was my IMMENSE privilege to co-facilitate a pre-conference workshop with Jared Stein and Chris Lott on “Weaving your own PLE.” I think for all three of us it was an experiment, developed at a distance through Google docs, wikispaces and a couple of Skype calls. Ultimately, it is up to the participants to judge if it was a success, and the proof will be in how many of them continue on with what they started over that day, but it felt like it went pretty well.

My contribution was a 2 hour session on “Mashing up your PLE.” We had decided to split it into 2 streams, and the (suggested self-)selelction criteria was prior experience reading and writing blogs (and, sort of as an obvious corollary, awareness of RSS.)

(As an aside – we are WELL aware of the issues that surround this approach. We made every effort to emphasize: personal choice; that PLEs involve people and resources not on the network; the PEOPLE are critical, and that they need to grow their OWN networks, not adopt someone else’s; etc. But our goal was to get people who were not swimming in the flow, but who will increasingly be met by students and colleagues who ARE, to start, somewhere, anywhere. To take the plunge, with as many supports as we could muster, in the context of a pre-conference f2f workshop, to sustain it long term.)

I picked 4 “mashup” skills or techniques that I think can help people who already partly immersed in networked learning to be more effective networked learners:

It was a lot to get through in under 2 hours. I know I blew through a lot of stuff and that I often speak too quickly when I present, partly out of nerves, partly for the same reason that I am an exuberant gesticulator – this stuff gets me excited! But I did see lots of eyes lighting up: feed2js always blows people away, you can see the wheels turning of how they can use it; the google spreadsheet “importHTML=” trick works like magic, and while people don’t immediately grok how this is SO much more powerful than importing a page in Excel, when you show them the “More Options” publishing options suddenly you can see the penny drop; I think I sold a few people on “constrained search engines” but it’s Google Coop On-the-Fly that really gets the jaws dropping; and finally, both OER Recommender and the WorldCat/Amazon greasemonkey script provide pretty vivid examples of how you can bring educational resources directly INTO your everyday web experience with NO EXTRA EFFORT!

My only regret is that in my current position (and in my current practice) I typically only get to do these kind of sessions once before I move on. Which is a shame, because in this particular case I have a ton of ideas of how to improve it. For instance, taking a leave out of Alan (and many others’) book, I realized that if I had connected there 4 pieces in more of a story, it would make it more compelling. And in terms of making it educationally more effective, I think that forming the room into small groups, showing them a number of different techniques in each of these areas, and then setting them a problem to solve together (e.g. “figure out how to scrape this site. Feel free to use Google spreadsheets, Yahoo pipes, Dapper, or any other method you think will work”) would make this way more memorable and effective. But ultimately require more time.

Anyways, this was a ton of fun to work on if only to once again get a chance to work through some ideas and practice of my own, which is ultimately what keeps driving me to do new presentations each time, they are one of my only “teaching” opportunities I have right now and allow me to work out stuff that I’d otherwise not get a chance to dig into. – SWL 

OPML file of all Northern Voice attendee blogs

I hate technorati. It doesn’t freakin’ work. And this year, for whatever reasons, there seems to be a reluctance to provide a “Planet Northern Voice” aggregator like in past years. So my solutions was to cull all of the “blog” feed URLs from the attendees pages. I’m using this directly in my Google reading – I had not realized that Google Readers let’s you constrain your search to a folder of feeds, so by simply searching on “Northern Voice” in this folder of feeds, I’ve got my own aggregator of just NV posts that in my opinion provides way more depth of coverage than technorati (and without all the cruft of the Jaiku feed someone put together which includes all the flickr and twitter feeds as well). Hope it is of help – you are of course free to use it yourself and add  other feeds if you feel it isn’t comprehensive enough. – SWL

Current list of U.S. eLearning Patents and Patent Applications

I believe, though could be mistaken, that this valuable list of current US e-learning patents was created by Jim Farmer at im+m.

This next comment goes in the “Scott complaining about something that is free” bin, but Jim, is there any way you could maintain this (if that is what you are doing in) in something like DabbleDB or a GoogleDoc spreadsheet? Something that automatically produces an RSS feed (and that you could give permission to others to add to, so as to not have to shoulder the burden alone).

Efforts like this that keep the community appraised are immensely valueable. And I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but much like the case with the Ed Tech conference listings I documented a while back, in this day and age we need to be looking at web-based formats and tools by default, ones that produce RSS and allow collaborative editing. There is simply too much too kepp track of to do otherwise, and it is only in spreading the load that we can hope to keep up. – SWL

Heave ho, scallywags, there’s events listings o’er thar to liberate

(Avast, me hearties, this is the last of the pirate postings. Just be glad they weren’t podcasts 😉

So the other ‘mashups’ itch I’ve been wanting to scratch recently revolves around events listings, specifically a list of ed tech conferences that’s been around for a few years. Now before ye raise the topsails and give chase, hear me out – the landlubber who created and maintains this list every year is to be much praised, as I have done so in the past, as are the folks at CIDER for posting it as HTML.

But in this age of participatory media and user generated content, does it make any sense for lists like these to get created and maintained by one person, in a Word document?

Aye, you say, but it was probably the easiest tool at hand for what was a selfless act of giving back to the community. Right you are; but howseabout I shows ya how to take this page, database-enable it and allow others to add to new events to it in about 5 minutes with free, easy-to-use web-based tools. Come aboard all ye who’s coming aboard… Continue reading “Heave ho, scallywags, there’s events listings o’er thar to liberate”