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¬†

Planet WCET’08…is a lifeless asteroid

Partly as an exercise in personal autonomy (we’re doing a workshop on “Personal Learning Environments” so what better way than to walk the talk) and partly just in a fit of pique that the conference itself wasn’t already doing something, I created this netvibes page to aggregate the activity from the on-going WCET conference in Phoenix. It took about 30 minutes to put it together (except for the scraping of the conference schedule, which took 3 minutes once Tony Hirst showed me how to do it with the =importHtml function in Google spreadsheets – thanks Tony!)

I sent it round WCET and everyone seemed impressed, and we showed it in our PLE Workshop yesterday, but alas I fear I have given birth to a non-life supporting planet. You see – there is NO CONFERENCE WIFI. I am sitting in a session right now on “Disruptive Innovations” with about 30 people in it, and mine is the only laptop out (N.B. I was ‘permitted’ to use the secret back-door account, which despite my desire to protest in solidarity, I cannot help but make use of.) So the lingr backchannel that Chris set up is likely not going to see a lot of action, nor don’t expect a whole lot of tweets on the #wcet08 channel (despite the fact that there are at least 8 active twitter users here that I know of, plus many whom I don’t know yet). Sigh. Anyways, for those at the conference who do get online through the overpriced connections in their room, here you go, Planet WCET’08. Feels a bit like Pluto… – SWL

By the time I get to Phoenix…

…I’ll hopefully have the materials finished for the pre-conference workshop on Personal Learning Environments I am leading along with Chris Lott and Jared Stein at this years’ WCET Conference. If not, I figure I’m always good for a bit of song and dance (though I must admit I’ve always been more fond of Isaac Hayes’ version):


The day is shaping up, though, to be a good one. We are going to try two streams. The first, mainly led by Chris, is for people new to blogging, RSS and syndication techniques (as these seem fundamental to many people’s notion of a PLE). The second, which Jared and I will share, is split between “Growing Your Network by Moving Your Office Online” and my session on Mashing up your PLE.The sessions will be very hands on, the hope being that people walk away with their PLE tuned up and more able to accomodate this method of network learning in both their own practice and with their students.

If you are planning on attending the WCET conference, consider joining us for this full day session on the Wednesday, November 5th. If the past is any indicator, it will be a funky good time in Phoenix that day. – SWL