Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Bump in the Road

Up until today, I've had very positive experiences with social networking, but my first foray into an EdtechTalk show did not leave me thirsting for more. I listened in on Teachers Teaching Teachers this evening @, but found myself confused. Like a good student I tried to get in a little early, but heard nothing. A quick Skype call with Darren revealed that he was having the same problem, so I re-tried and nothing. I tried several times using several different buttons and nothing but a black screen with the words [no video] (see top photo). Finally, I heard sound, but I'd missed the introductions in my back and forth stuff. Then I could not figure out how to do the back channel chat because all I had was a black screen (see picture) and the panel was making reference to the chat and links they were inserting. I knew I was doing something wrong, but with no previous experience, I was floundering. I even turned to Twitter for some help from a classmate, but alas she was not on! I finally tried to open a 2nd window to the techtalk (see photo) and I was finally able to participate in the back channel chat and hear the discussion. However, because I missed a bit I did not feel connected and felt almost unnoticed. I was very frustrated with the lack of clarity in connecting!

I had Skype capabilities, but no one explained how that feature worked or what needed to be done so I essentially was voiceless. To make matters worse, the audio seemed to break up at times and I missed chunks of the conversation; I'm not sure if others had the problem, but it was very frustrating to be listening for something only to lose a portion of the point being made.

I also felt somewhat of a disconnect from the content because I did not have prior knowledge of what we would be doing and there was no agenda to follow as near as I could tell. Fortunately, it was not all a bad experience as there were things being talked about that were leading me on in my quest to understand more about practial applications of technology in school. This session was lead by what sounded like English teachers (at least originally) who were using technology to engage kids. They spoke confidently about the connections being made between literacy and technology. Much of the discussion revolved around what are the qualities we look for in a learner? I felt totally unprepared to answer this question, but the responses made me realize they were speaking from the point of view of the learner in a tech. environment. I did grasp that the leaders Paul Allison, Susan Ettenheim, and Gail Desler talked about all students needing to be teachers, learners, people who share, and people who publish. Allison sounded like he had some cool things going on with kids and social networking.
They also spoke of digital storytelling and publishing. 'Sprout' (see photo) was mentioned, but I had no idea what it was and the leaders assumed this was a known application by the listeners. I now know it is a "quick and easy way for anyone to build, publish, and manage widgets, mini-sites, mashups, banners and more. Any size, any number of pages. Include video, audio, images and newsfeeds and choose from dozens of pre-built components and web services." I also know it is a site I will want to return to.

Not a lot of links were provided at this particular session,but they did mention Clarence Fisher, and I felt good that I knew who they were talking about. I even pasted a link to his website. The links mentioned were: which is a blog site by Matthew Needleman called Creating Life Long Learners, a link to something called Youth Voices that I could not get to connect to during the talk,, and

In conclusion, I would have to say I was not adequately prepared for my first Edtechtalk; I won't say it is the last time I will visit, but I think I would like to be better prepared for the technical struggles so that my experience is not tainted by my own lack of familiarity with the process. I have added two of the speakers to my Twitter account as people to follow because I realize these people have a lot of worthwhile things to share with people who are willing to take the steps to learn more about their craft!


Lisa Parisi said...

I am so glad you found your way to ETT to begin with. All new networks take some getting used to and the fact is that ETT is a powerful site with much learning going on. When I first started listening to shows, I too felt a bit lost. Now I am a webcaster running two shows. I also feel like the people in the ETT community are the strongest members of my PLN. Keep trying. You'll find it is very worthwhile.

SKing said...

Thanks Lisa I appreciate your comments. I did realize early on that the leaders were very knowledgeable people. The learning curve on the front end was high and contributed to my frustrations, but once I had things figured out and concentrated on the message I felt much better about the experience. I believe you about the people visiting ETT being an important part of your PLN; they must be a very dedicated group of professionals to do what they do! I am curious about how do you know what is going to be talked about from week to week. Are agendas posted?

Alec Couros said...

Sorry to hear of the bad experience. I am going to talk about ETT and student experiences next day in class.

megan gerwing said...

Trevor and I also had trouble hearing sound on ETT. At first it appeared that everyone was having trouble but then everyone but us seemed to have audio. Through messaging in the chat room Todd was kind enough to help us connect but missing the first few minutes left us a little lost.

Kim said...

I was wondering why you were in and out! I floundered a bit too. I think because the usual audience is accustomed to using this technology,they may not list instructions on how to use it. It took a number of tries to get my audio going but once I did, it was very clear. It reminded me of a radio interview; very relaxed. I was asked by the moderator to Skype. I chickened out because I didn't feel comfortable speaking but I also did not know how to access Skype - I didn't look very hard though! There is a calendar you can access to find out what topics will be discussed throughout the month - it's on our EC&I wiki page.

Susan Ettenheim said...

Hi Stephen,

Thank you so much for writing this blog post so we can connect and continue the conversation.

From your notes, you got a tremendous amount of information from last night's show! Teachers Teaching Teachers is literally all about exactly that... we are all sharing and learning. I hope that you will return and share what you do with all of this information and also interesting things that you are exploring in your own school.

Last night was unusual and special. Why broadcast live? Why not just talk among ourselves and podcast it? As Jeff Lebow and Dave Cormier, our mentors, might say, we broadcast live because we never know when Stephen (kicode) might stop by. As you can see I very much do know that you exist and that you were there. I asked everyone to make introductions and you did it. Thank you! Some people just lurked and didn't introduce themselves. You will be the winner because the only way is to jump in and connect exactly the way you are doing.

Since you missed the initial audio, you may have missed the info that twice a year, I have parent-teacher conferences until 8:30. I then fly home and sometimes, on those evenings, we get started a few minutes late instead of early. On the other hand, some evenings, I am on 45 minutes early, testing goes great and then we start 15 minutes late because something changed and isn't working. Why do we do it live given all of these messy possibilities? Because webcasting it live means that on any given evening, Stephen from Canada might appear or one of our new friends in India or China or a teacher from Alabama. These people are people we will not meet or be able to share ideas with at a conference. This is the brilliance of being online.

Paul did mention this week that our "show" started as a conversation among a few teachers who didn't have time to get together physically. When skypecasts first appeared on the scene and when we heard that Jeff and Dave were willing to help others learn how to open their conversations, we jumped at the chance. On one of my first broadcasts, Cheryl Oakes appeared. I couldn't believe it. I had been listening to Bob Sprankle and Cheryl and learning from them through their podcasts. I never had even thought about meeting them or sharing ideas or learning from them directly- live!

At the end of our "show" last night we did thank all of you for joining us and invited you all back. It was surprising to have a large group appear but we loved having you come. Some evenings there is a specific agenda and some are discussions. Last night was a discussion night and as you could see we are very transparent about sharing what ever we need help with that week. That is how we all learn. Every Thursday I return to my classes refreshed and invigorated. Every Tuesday, I know Wednesday evening I can share problems, concerns and frustrations with a group of trusted and helpful peers. Paul always says - although I don't think he actually said it last night - Keep it Real - that's what we're all about.

Just to touch base about a few of your issues, the ustream vs just the audio, we don't stream video. We just do the audio. We always encourage guests and other visitors to try any show on the edtechtalk network to get the feel of the programs. Most people need to visit shows multiple times to feel comfortable with the system. We write instructions but the truth is that everyone's system is different and the best help is once you're there because there is always someone who will help and talk you through it live and on the spot.

You didn't need to worry about Skype to listen. The broadcast is a Skype conversation that is "hijacked" into Nicecast (in my case) and then broadcast. Paul only talked a lot about Skype because part of what we do is call people into the conversation live most evenings. I moderate the text chat and will often private message people in the background to invite them into the conversation live. Sometimes the audio break up is a result of your connection in your home or school. Sometimes the audio chokes because something is happening on my end and I'm broadcasting. Often there will be one or two people having audio problems and everyone else is just fine so we just try to help each person as the need arises. As far as missing information because of audio problems, at the end of every show, Paul always thanks Jeff and Dave and reminds everyone that the podcast is posted both at and We welcome comments and will sometimes do follow-up live Wednesday shows when there is a lot of response online after a show.

I tell my students that the Internet and online community is like crossing streets (we live in NYC). You hold hands the first time, you try to be careful but you keep crossing streets in new neighborhoods everyday. Just have fun, ask for help and welcome to our conversation!