Reflections on Instructional Technology and Media

Coopetition December 11, 2008

I was in a meeting today where the term “coopetition” was used and immediately started thinking about all the ways coopetition makes sense within a 21st century educational environment.

What is coopetition?

The term is a mash-up of cooperation and competition and it seems to really capture the spirit of working and learning in a global economy.  In the age of web 2.0 and open source apps, we are hearing consistently about the power of collaboration and cooperation. What we create together is stronger than what I may be able to create alone.  Yet at the same time the nature of capitalism is competition. How do we prepare our students for this dichotomous world?

Coopetition has taken hold in the gaming world – especially where you are gaming online with others around the world. In order for you to experience personal success, you have to cooperate with others to make sure your team succeeds.  Talking with a middle school principal about this today she says that middle schools have been operating under this premise for years, they just did not have this particular term for it.

In some ways, my work in the e-learning environment is a form of coopetition as well. As a state virtual school, we are dependent on the cooperation of the face to face schools in our state. We need them to be successful. In order to be competitive with other state virtual entities and other software and content providers, we have make sure that our team approach with face to face schools is a success.

This term just really sums it up well – as any good vocabulary will do. Thanks for expanding my personal dictionary.


NECC 2008 Day 1 June 30, 2008

Getting ready for the Monday morning session. Sitting in to watch Vicki Davis, AKA Cool Cat Teacher, talk to us about her use of wikis in the classroom. Had a great dinner last night on the River Walk here in San Antonio and then went to the opening reception where I collected an obscene number of ribbons to attach to my badge. Still sad I never found the ones that said “Rock Star” on them.

I am experimenting with Twitter as a communication tool with the group of educators from my school district who came with me. I set up a new account, had them all follow it and set it to send the messages to their mobile phones. This way I can send a tweet to the new account and it will automatically go out to everyone in our group. However, I have already learned this morning that not everyone is receiving the  tweets properly, so I may have to go back to sending good old fashioned text messages to each of them – might cost me an extra 30 seconds 🙂

It is still half an hour before Vicki’s session is supposed to begin and already the room is full. We are in the Open Source lab and most of the laptops they planned to make available to us are dead in the water because the rest of the power supplies did not arrive in time. Good news is that it looks like most participants brought their own laptops with them so it really is not a big issue. I left my laptop in the hotel room – really did not want to lug it around today  – but since I arrived at this session super early, I got one of the provided laptops that does have a power supply!

Getting started with the wikipreso!  They are trying to find someone who can UStream.

They have a backchannel chat room set up for this session using Chatzy. Love this idea – give the class a vehicle for side comments that is not disruptive to the session. Someone is monitoring the chat and will use the topics of discussion from the chat to answer questions in the latter part of the session. Wow – finding it hard to keep up with the chat and the presenter at the same time.

There is a wiki for the session (surprise)!  Wikispaces is co-presenting this.

Yay – CCT (Cool Cat Teacher AKA Vicki) is now showing her classroom wiki. Uploads docs for students to download. Lists projects and blog posting assignments. Cool – you can embed video directly in wikispaces – no need to upload to Teacher Tube first 🙂 CCT has her students create eFolios in Wikispaces – she creates the template for them to use. Students tag assignments with “turnin” when they are done. CCT then has those sent via RSS to her aggregator and automatically knows when there are assignments she needs to grade. Plans to aggregate to Ning as well.

Cool idea – CCT has her students set up a PLN (personal learning network) page for each project they do within NetVibes.  Thinking about how my district might use this for the NC Graduation Project!  CCT notes that her students  – who are in Rural Georgia have already had their world view changed in significant ways by collaborating with other students using wikis in the Flat Classroom project.

New term for me “techno-personal problems.”  CCT is referring to the ways students get into trouble online – i.e. changing the assignment date on the wiki. She and her administrators are proactive on how to address these issue – and guess what – they do not respond by taking away the technology – they use typically student management techniques such as detentions. Her advice is that every time you use a new technology in the classroom, expect trouble from a student within 1-3 days. Teachers need to be vigilant and watch the techno activity and deal with trouble swiftly.

CCT teaches her students that Blogs are for opinion and Wikis is for facts/assignments.

Very cool – wikispaces will grab RSS and embed directly into the wiki page. An example is grabbing tagged bookmarks from and placing them on the wiki page.

Fun session and well done!


Edible sites? April 18, 2008

In celebration of National Library Week, one of our high schools hosted a contest for teachers to create “edible books.” The idea was to create some edible representation of a book. My favorite was the cupcake Grovers for “There’s a Monster at the End of This Book” for two reasons: first the cupcakes were too cute (and something I might be able to replicate) and second, it is one of my favorite childhood books and is now a favorite of my two year old. The teachers did a great job!

So this got me thinking, how would you you represent your favorite web site or online tool in edible form? Any ideas?


Web Filters – A Poem April 10, 2008

We have a web filter
We are compliant with CIPA
We do not block applications
Needed by our teachers
To teach students
In the 21st century

Our filter blocks categories
Determined by a committee
Of teachers
And technology specialists
And media specialists
And district leaders

We block sites
To protect our children
Not to block instruction
When a teacher needs access
To a site that is blocked
We Unblock it

Requests to unblock sites
Are sent to an instructional leader
Not a technology hardware manager
Who is not grounded in
But is more concerned about
The network

We allow web 2.0 apps
Like blogs
And wikis
And podcasts
And video streaming
And social networks
And social bookmarks
And anything that will prepare
Our students to learn
In the 21st Century

We believe that a web filter should
Allow for creative learning
Not restrict it
We understand that students
Will sometimes encounter

Sites that are not appropriate
I would rather have students encounter
A small number of questionable sites
If that means they have access
To the tools they need to learn
Rather than having inadequate access to learning tools
In order to never encounter risky sites

I believe that students
Need to be taught
How to navigate the web
And all of its glory
And all of its dangers
If they are never exposed
How will they learn to be
Digital citizens

I am sad that there are students
In our state
In our country
Who cannot collaborate
With other students beyond their classroom
Because their school leaders
And district leaders
And teachers
And parents
Are scared

We have a web filter
We are compliant with CIPA
We do not block applications
Needed by our teachers
To teach students
In the 21st century


Evaluating social bookmarking sites April 4, 2008

Ross White from LearnNC asked me today on Twitter what value Diigo has over other social bookmarking sites like So I thought I would look closely at the two sites to see what I could determine. Both are considered to be social bookmarking sites. However, Diigo goes a step further. Diigo is really more like a mash-up of social bookmarking and social networking. It is as if Facebook and had a child and named it Diigo.

Like, Diigo allows you to post your bookmarks online, tag them and share them. However, Diigo allows to to create a network of friends and see what their recent activity is – much easier to see the new items bookmarked by your friends than in There is also a comment wall which allows for friends to engage in conversation or discussion about sites. Additionally, Diigo allows you to create lists in addition to tags. Tags allow for a dynamic set of resources to be viewed. Lists allow you to create a static set of resources when necessary. It is another option for organizing bookmarked sites. You can also designate sites as favorites.

Finally, Diigo allows you to create groups so that people who might have something in common can share bookmarks with the group that they think the other members of the group might find interesting. Diigo is quickly becoming a favorite resource from what I can tell by listening in the twitterverse. Good site to check out. And share with others. Find me and friend me 🙂


Adding Shelfari to my PLN April 2, 2008

David Warlick illustrated his PLN (Personal Learning Network) and really captured the concept well. Since I am currently in the Shelfari exploration mode, I wanted to investigate how I could use this web 2.0 app to expand my own PLN.

The way I find new books to read is by looking at what others are reading. This is especially true when I am looking for professional books to read, whether those are books about educational technology, ed leadership, professional learning networks, culturally proficient pedagogy, and so on. I look at what others are reading and determine if I think it could help me grow.

This brings us to Shelfari. You can create a group and make it public or private. You and any other members of the group can add books from your own shelf to the group shelf. This way you can create a collaborative library. How cool is that!

In my school district, the school and district leaders are constantly reading new books each year in various categories. Wouldn’t it be great if we could share the books we found beneficial with one another and be able to go to a single URL to access it?

OK – I need to help me grow as an instructional technology leader. I have created a public group in Shelfari – Ed Tech Reads – I want you to join the group and add any books from your shelf that are related to instructional technology so that we can all expand our PLNs.


Going on a Shelfari

I have been marginally aware of the existence of Shelfari for several months now, but have only started exploring the site and its potential use this week. So I thought I would share what I have seen and what I would like to see in terms of the use of this product in the K-12 environment.

What is Shelfari?

Shelfari is a web 2.0 tool that allows you to identify what books you have read, what you are currently reading, what you hope to someday read, what you own, and designate favorites among them.  You can rate the books, write reviews of them, and TAG them. Like many web 2.0 tools, you can add friends and compare your shelves. You can find others in shelfari who are reading the same book or ask for feedback on a book you might be interested in reading.  You can create groups and focus on specific books in the group.

Books can be added to your shelf manually through a search by title, author, or ISBN. Book lists can also be imported. The books are displayed on the shelf with their book covers shown which makes it really attractive.

How can this be used in the K-12 environment?

School Library 

My immediate thought goes to the library media center. How cool would it be for the media center to have a shelfari account in which they could create a shelf for:

  • new books that have just arrived in the library
  • book of the month themes
  • books for specific projects
  • potential new books – let students and teachers review and recommend
  • summer reading lists
  • teacher reading lists

I’ll bet you can think of may more!  All of this can be done using tags. For example, compare my entire shelf list to my Harry Potter list.  All I did, was to tag each of my Harry Potter books with “hp” and then the shelf is easily generated. You can see how creating a march2008 tag for each book you want to feature in March will let you create special lists for any need you have!


Another thought – many teachers have their own classroom library. They could create a tag for all the items in their classroom and then create another to make a wishlist. Parents could then see what teachers need – you never know, one parent might just expand your classroom library for you! Teachers could also share what they are reading and which books are their favorites. We all know that when children see adults share their love for reading, it increases the liklihood they will read more!


Let’s take this a step further, what if students created their own shelf! They could add the books they read throughout the year and watch their shelf grow. This is so potentially powerful, it gives me goosebumps (not the book sereis, the actual bumps on my skin). One word of warning – Shelfari says that it legally only allows children 13 yrs old and up to create their own account. I can understand this – there is no way to block their access to some of the more adult lit that other shelfarians are sharing. Maybe a good idea for younger users, is to create a classroom account and add books as a class through the year. You could then tag the book with each students name or pseudonym to create a shelf for each student. Might be a cool way to see which books are the most popular.

I am still learning this app and I am sure I will have lots more ideas about this.  How many of you are using Shelfari? Find me and friend me!