Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ever have one of those days?

I've been reflecting a lot on my life recently.  I've done a lot in my short time on this ever evolving rapidly spinning planet.  Yet, as fast as the world is turning sometimes my brain does not want to keep up.  Last year I had an idea.  O.K., I had lot's of ideas:  Podcasting from my car, live reviews of web resources on and a little project I called Digital Decompression where professionals in education and technology could come and discuss the weeks events, share findings or just vent. 

I have revisited the idea of a Podcast from the car and have decided, I don't like the end result.  Because I have to concentrate on driving, trying to piece together my thoughts just didn't work well and I'd end up with a mismash of information that I would spend the majority of my Friday evening editing down to a 30 - 40 minute podcast. Not to mention I was putting too much pressure on myself to get an episode a week done.  While they turned out "OK", (hear for yourself at the idea just never got into "overdrive" - oh that was just bad. Besides, it appears that one of my esteemed colleagues Kevin Honeycutt had a similar idea with "Driving Questions in Education" but it seems he also realized that recording a podcast on the run may not be such a good idea and it turned into an exciting forum for interviewing leaders in ed-tech! Way to go Kevin, I've enjoyed these! We'll see what happens, I may still occasionally record a podcast at 55 mph, but it won't be weekly. will soon be making a triumphant return (perhaps as early as this weekend).  I have a passion for finding ways to incorporate cloud technology into educational settings and that's what Webtopia is all about.

And finally there's Digital Decompression, the true point of this post.  Digital Decompression was an idea I had that would allow Ed Geeks from around the world to get together and discuss their latest failures, findings, and trumphs.  After all, these are the components that make us who we are.  I found that the debate rooms provided for free at  provide an opportunity for up to 6 individuals to be featured using a webcam and up to 1000 participants to join the chat.  I spent months advertising and hosting the event, but only had one successful session that included all of 5 people.  Most of the time, I sat by myself in the session, waiting for someone to join me.  Of course this was before Twitter allowed me to build my incredibly strong PLN full of people willing to share ideas and hold discussions online.  I'm hoping that I can cajole the likes of @jenwagner, @stevekatz, @kevinhoneycutt, @Luke1946, @vanishingpoint, @ijohnpederson, etc...into joining me in Digital Decompression. Like the way I name dropped there?! :-) 

More to come on this in the future! Hopefully the Digital Decompression will return next week!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Wild Wordle Rumpus

Something I've been meaning to post about, also happened this past Saturday night. While the whole @Biodome10 fiasco was going down there was a simultaneous meltdown occuring within my PLN on Twitter. 

Apparently, for a brief moment in time Wordle disappeared.  If you are unfamiliar with Wordle, you can take any written content and Wordle will create a "pretty tag cloud" of your words.  This is absolutely a fantastic tool and I don't mean to lessen it's importance to visual literacy in any way, shape or form. 
That being said, I am glad that Jonathan Feinberg after having "received an email concerning a perceived trademark infringement on the part of the Wordle web site. In the spirit of 'better safe than sorry', ... took the site down..."  The reason I'm glad this happened (this may upset some people - but hear me out) is simply because it showed us that the wonderful world of Web 2.0 is an ever evolving universe.  Sites can suddenly go supernova and just as quickly vanish.  Too often we in education and technology latch onto a new tool and claim it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.  It is always important to hold onto just a bit of skepticism.  Fortunately, my PLN suddenly rose above the fray and immediately started sharing alternatives to Wordle:
  • Clusty Cloud Creator
  • ABCya
  • Tagul
  • and my personal favorite Wordsift from Stanford University (That not only builds a cloud but performs searches from the cloud, creates a visual thesaurus and a host of other information based on the cloud)
Bravo, PLN you proved that you are not Lemmings and that you can adjust and adapt after loosing your right arm! After the shock set in -  the feelers went out and in minutes educators were building tag clouds again.  We're they as pretty? Maybe not.  Were they as powerful? Absolutely!

Another example happened to me a few months ago as I was trying to convince someone to move their bookmarks online and start storing them in a delicious account.  Well guess what? Delicious is still free and is still owned by Yahoo, but now you have to have a free Yahoo account to sign up!  A small price to pay in my humble opinion for such a powerful tool, but for some it isn't worth the hassle.  OK, alternatives? Diigo, Clipmarks, Ma.gnolia and Stumbleupon are just a few.

My point is this: We all like free.  But nothing in life is truly free.  So many of these great Web 2.0 and now Web 3.0 apps are in Beta testing. By definition Beta means volatility! The cloud is the new Wild West of the World Wide Web and people will want to make a profit. They may come up with an amazing new application, invite you to Beta test it and suddenly six months later they go Alpha and that great utility is suddenly costing you $50 a year to use.

But if your smart (which I'm sure you are), you will learn the skills needed to use the tools.  This way you can quickly jump ship and immediately begin using the alternative free tools that just went Beta!  So, the price you pay to stay ahead of the curve is a little bit of knowledge.  Not a bad trade off!

This post may be edited later, since I am going on a few hours sleep and do indeed feel I am rambling at the moment.
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