Sunday, January 07, 2007

 

Free Falling Blog Club - Epilogue

What an amazing afternoon! I have been rethinking everything that occurred, and it has taken 24 hours for me to finally process enough to write about the January meeting of the Free Falling Blog Club.

The Joys of Skype
We got off to a bit of a rocky start. I have had microphone issues with my computer, so I decided to have the Skypecast running on my laptop and Tapped In running on the pc. I think the wireless laptop connection might make the Skype connection unreliable (I just checked and found another port on the broadband hub that I might plug the laptop into for next time...gotta find the correct connection cable). When I got into the Skypecast room, there were already people there ready to go. There was a bit of confusion about the beginning time. I intended to officially begin at 4pm CST, but I wanted to open up the room at 3pm so I could play around with Skype before we actually started. The Skypecast page said it began at 3, and the wiki said it began at 4. Factor in that people from all over the world were attending and you get some confusion! I'm sure there is a way to explain that more fully in the Skypecast details, but I didn't think about that ahead of time.

I think I figured out what happened next...I opened up the Skypecast on my PC and tried the sound just in case. I could hear, but I couldn't be heard (not surprising, but I thought it was worth a try). Then I joined the Skypecast from my laptop. I think that is when the big problems began. I could be heard for a little bit, but then things started getting crazy. I switched my microphones around, rebooted the laptop (which is incredibly slow...it seemed to take forever...maybe 5 or 10 minutes), and I couldn't get back into the room. I finally got around to reading Skype's FAQ today, and saw that the moderator can't leave. Logging into it twice was probably a big mistake. No one else had moderator privileges, so we were stuck for a moment. I could hear people talking, I was IM'ing some folks, and desperately hoping that Chris would show up to save the day! I had no idea what to do next, and I was panicking!!! Thankfully, BJ Berquist from Tapped In was there to keep the talking going while I tried to get my problems fixed. Chris quickly created a back-up room, we notified everyone of the switch through the Tapped In chat and the wiki, and then officially began only 2 minutes late! Chris ran the technical end of the Skypecast and I began the discussion.

And what an awesome discussion it turned out to be! When I blogged six hours before we began, there were 12 participants signed up on the wiki. There ended up being 20 people who participated through the TI room and in Skype that we know are educators interested in Web 2.0, but there were dozens of others who were in and out of Skype that were listening! Chris had his hands full pulling the strings behind the curtain to make sure that everyone could hear and that everyone who had a relevant comment could speak. He did a wonderful job in spite of his own computer woes!

Podcasting
It seemed like the topic of podcasting drew several people to the conversation. After we introduced ourselves, Jen, Paul, John, and Allanah shared what they are doing with podcasting. It was great to have Silvia join us to hear all the ideas that her K12 Online presentation generated among us! She did a great job, and I hope our conversation was evidence of that to her! Several people were looking for podcasting tutorials, and Jen did a great job of grabbing links from somewhere and putting them in the chat window. I have put them all in one spot on the wiki. It would be great to have those links reviewed on the wiki to make it easier for people to find what they are looking for (There goes another thing on my to-do list!) There were a few other questions about podcasting that I have posted to the wiki, and then there were lots of suggestions for cool tools to use (yes, those are on the wiki as well). It would also be great to have that information in our K12 Online Tapped In room.

The Urgency of Web 2.0
This discussion took us right through the first hour of the conversation, and then we turned our thoughts to Graham Wegner's presentation on “No Teacher Left Behind - The Urgency Of Web 2.0.″ Graham was with us as well, and I appreciate all that he contributed to the discussion.
We talked about how we became interested in Web 2.0, and we discussed ways of spreading the word to other teachers. Graham's phrase "Innovation in Isolation" really struck a chord with many of us as we are trudging along in our schools, juggling many responsibilities in addition to trying to learn all we can about better ways to reach students. Again, there were lots of suggestions and links shared that have all been put into the wiki. Thanks especially to Terry Freedman for joining in with lots of great insights, including tips for becoming an award-winning blogger and inside information about the latest edition of Coming of Age!

Connecting
I feel as if we all have taken another step toward connecting globally with like-minded educators. I have new people to add to bloglines, new contacts in Skype, new folks to look for in Tapped In. I think I found another teacher or two to work with Chris and me on our proportions project, and I have lots to share with the teachers on my school's 21st Century Team and the teachers across Alabama in the 21st Century Schools Project.

Next Steps
Chris has suggested (and I agree), that it would be a good idea for someone in the Southern Hemisphere to host the next blog club meeting. If this is a global adventure, it should sometimes occur at times that are convenient for other parts of the world. The more people that are involved in planning the meetings, the more global the focus can become. I am more than willing to help someone (I'm really itching for another chance to do the Skypecast correctly), but this was such a learning experience that I want to share the opportunity.

I am planning to show some initiative in our Tapped In room and try to generate more conversation there. As Sue said today in an email, Tapped In is truly the ultimate Web 2.o community. As I looked in the About Us room, I saw that several people from yesterday's chat had visited the room without joining the discussion. I added some discussion prompts, and I plan to add more. Anyone can add topics and reply to other posts. This is a wonderful place for us to ask and answer questions from each other. It is a place where we don't have to coordinate time zones, we don't have to be unmuted to speak, we don't have to worry about flashers (that's for you, Terry!), and each person can steer the conversation in any direction they choose!

I have at least one other "next step" I want to take. I want to practice making a skypecast on a much smaller scale before I try it again with a large group. Judging by all of our visitors today, I could just create the skypecast and the world would join in. I would rather attempt a conversation about some aspect of education with 4 or 5 people so I could practice all the different features of Skype that I read about a day too late! (I don't think they would have made sense to me before I actually experienced it for the first time. I have to actually do something before I understand it.) Would anyone be interested in having a conversation anytime soon? This definitely would not be a three hour marathon, just a half hour or so. Let me know if you are interested and I will set up a time. Next Monday would be good for me (Jan. 15) because it is a school holiday and my husband will be home to take care of the kids. Later in the evening would work for me as well because I am a night owl.

I would love feedback (positive and constructive) about yesterday's event. There were many opportunities for improvement, but overall I felt really excited about it. Thanks again to everyone who let this newbie ask my questions and step into this new world that we are creating together! For more information about the Free Falling Blog Club, check out the wiki!

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Comments:
I certainly hope my post didn't come across as negative - I was only bemoaning the complications of Skype and the people who obviously scour skypecast lists looking for places to drop in and speak, regardless of what the skypecast is about! Your hosting skills were very good and it is probably easier to hold a meaningful conversation with five or so people as opposed to over twenty plus interruptions. The TALO group based here in Australia have used a application called TeamSpeak which I haven't tried out, but apparently it is the app of choice for many multiuser game players. Maybe that could be a possibility down the track. As far as hosting a Blog Club event, maybe I'd be keen but I'd probably want to try 9.30 pm here which would be middayish for Europe and quite early morning for North America. The other complicating factor would be the start of our school year is right at the start of February - very, very busy but what teacher isn't!!? This comment hasn't really moved the conversation forward here but I will say that I was extremely flattered that you wanted to discuss my K12 Presentation. I have been very pleasantly surprised that it has made an impact - and under some pressure to talk off the cuff about it!
 
Graham,

I didn't find your post to be negative at all! I was feeling the same frustrations with all of the interruptions in the conversation, but at the same time I find it absolutely amazing that people from all over the globe were participating and interrupting! I am reminded of my childhood visits to my grandmother's home and the unreliability of her telephone because it was still on a party line. When it rang, you didn't know if the call was for her or for a neighbor. The neighbors could listen in on her conversations at any time. Communications have come such a long way since then! What an exciting thought to consider that there are better ways to have a conversation with someone on the other side of the world. I would imagine that my grandparents never had a conversation with anyone from outside of the United States, and yesterday I was able to talk with 20 or more people from around the world at the same time!
 
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