Father’s Day

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the Dad’s out there! Being a Dad has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Having the chance to help shape my two little ones lives is a blessing beyond belief. I’m just blessed in so many ways and I have to say that Father’s Day seems more about them than me. It is very cool.

And to my own Father, I know you know how important you’ve been to me! You’re not only an amazing Dad and Grandfather, but have been an amazing role model for me. Thanks so much and I love you!

Horsing Around

Horsing Around


I’ll be on the road, so who knows what the one post a day for this month will look like during the next week … I’ll try to post something interesting as we travel to Orlando, FL for the week. I know, I know … why the hell am I going to Orlando at the start of Summer? I’m asking myself that question as well. In all seriousness it should be fun, hot, and hopefully relaxing.

autoWhile I am not ponying up for a new iPhone 3Gs, I have upgraded to 3.0 and plan to take advantage of the newly announced free AT&T hotspots. I love the idea of easy login on my phone for wifi access along to way and while traveling. Even at home, where PSU has recently partnered with AT&T to provide customers access while on campus — that’ll mean I can use wifi in certain places without dealing with the iPhone VPN. BTW, does anyone know if it is possible to store a VPN password? I am so tired of checking something online while on campus and having it just spin … if the VPN would auto engage and connect that wouldn’t be an issue, but I can’t for the life of me figure that out.

Either way I’ll be connected as much as possible while traveling. I’ll be doing my best to stay away from email, but I do plan to use some of the time away to take some pictures and continue playing with iPhoto and Photoshop. I’ll be posting stuff here and over at my Flickr space.

Mobile Podcast Access

ITS Podcasts

ITS Podcasts

The news that people can access iTunes U content on their iPhone and iPod Touches with the 3.0 software is such a great thing! I’ve wanted mobile access since the beginning of iTunes U, so seeing this work on my own iPhone was really very cool. The scenario of students having real mobile access to protected course content while they walk across campus is now a reality. We still don’t have the full suite — mobile recording, posting, and acquisition but we are getting really close.

Now that I think about it, with the new voice recorder one may be able to rig up an easy to use mobile solution that would allow one to record in the Recorder application, email it to a blog to create a new entry, feed the RSS into an iTunes U section, and make it instantly available for download. Not sure that would work, but I’ll give it a try.

To get back on topic, I wonder how many students will really take advantage of this? I’m constantly trying to project my own scenarios onto the way student should use the tools we give them … that is something I should stop. I doubt using the iTunes app on the iPhone for accessing PSU iTunes U course content is really part of their dream scenarios. I could be wrong and I am anxious to understand this a bit better. Over the next several days we’ll be making it very easy for people to authenticate and get into their private courses … and once that happens we may see some new mobile access start to happen in the fall. I am hoping that with this new capability that Apple also gives me a way to track its use through the weekly statistics we get. Only time will tell, but this is a very cool move in the right direction!

Last Day

It started out really rough. Our daughter did not want to move to a new school and she certainly wasn’t all that into it when she first got there. To tell you the truth my wife and I weren’t all that thrilled either. We loved her pre-school and Kindergarten experiences at the local Montessori school and we really didn’t like the vibe we were getting from the public school administration. In retrospect things have turned out great, but it has been a year filled with tears, learning, growth, tolerance, and new perspectives. Its been hard at times, but I think all of us are stronger and better off because of it.

Some of our own hang ups came well before school started … the biggest was the outright refusal to really create a peanut free environment. Given Madeline’s severe allergies, we hoped the district would cooperate and go nut free — we felt that since there were lots of other students in the same boat they’d find a way to do it. Not so. We had to come to terms with the fact that she’d have to sit at her own table, wear her allergy emergency kit around her waist, and be subject to different treatment than most of her first grade friends. This was really hard on us — probably more so as we projected visions of being picked on and looked at as an outcast on her. None of that ever happened. As a matter of fact, several of her friends wanted to get cool hip packs like Madeline had and on most days all of her friends sat with her at the peanut free table. That was a huge relief for us.

The year started so rocky the we spent the first few months looking hard at alternatives — none of it felt right. We toiled over keeping her in the public school, but ultimately decided that moving her to private meant paying lots of money and knowing that she’d eventually have to work her way back. The structure was a shock and the rules angered both Madeline and my wife and I. We felt at times she was singled out because of her free spirit and that she was being “put in line” to act like the other kids. It bothered her. We spent lots of mornings those first few months dealing with tears about going to school. That was difficult as we saw this little girl who just months before would spring out of bed for school in the morning do everything in her power to not have to go. I can understand feeling that way in high school, but first grade is still about wonder and magic. It took until after the winter break for it to turn around, but it did. She started to love school again. That made us very happy.

No Tears on the Last Day.

No Tears on the Last Day.

Even with her growing into it all I was still very concerned with the overall impression I got of the work she was doing. I was writing about it quite a bit this past year and have even used lots of what I was thinking about to fuel many of my more recent talks. I watched my refrigerator go from a full on spectrum of color and creativity to a black and white dumping ground of xeroxed curricular projects. I coined the term “Worksheet Nation” to help describe what I saw happening before my eyes and I was pissed by the State’s proud display of the Adequate Progress my daughter’s intellectual participation was adding up to. I spent a lot time just complaining about all of it. Then we started to do some different things at home — we started an ePortfolio together and even though we haven’t posted as much as I’d like it still exists. We encouraged her to stretch her reading more, we talked quite a bit more about how she was feeling about what she was learning, and we asked her to reflect on what she was doing. It helped. And I think it helped me a lot.

I needed to grow up about all of it more than she did.

I’ve watched my little girl walk into her first grade year terrified and emerge as an even more powerful and confident little girl. She’s grown so much this year — and in ways I didn’t expect. She taught my wife and I some really valuable parenting lessons about allowing her to be herself, to back off, and to not project our negative impressions of things onto her life. We know she is a sensitive and wonderful little girl who found ways to make all new friends, survive a new environment, and win the heart of a teacher she was initially unsure about. In the end I am so proud of her and I can’t believe I just watched her run up the walk as fast as she could to go to her last day of first grade. As we drove up this morning I asked her about first grade and she closed with scream of, “I loved it!” I’m so happy I caught that on audio … if you want, you can listen to the short Maddiecast of Madeline’s Last Day of First Grade. I’ll want to be able to revisit this and how it all worked out many times in the future. Thanks for indulging me with this post.

Expanding the Community

As we begin to enter into the core of our TLT Faculty Fellowship work for the Summer a whole new line of thinking is emerging about how to continue to expand our network. Two weeks ago I got an email from an instructional designer at one of the other Penn State campuses looking to discuss one of the things I’ve been banging through that was really helpful and particularly insightful. What was great was that it inspired a whole string of discussions that culminated with her submitting a proposal to be part of a Hot Team on mobile learning. I’ve been really excited about the notion of including people from outside ETS on our research projects and have to some degree — but it has been mostly folks from University Park and it hasn’t really stretched into what I would consider a long term relationship.

Credit tracyhunter via Flickr

Credit tracyhunter via Flickr

With all that in mind, I invited Allan Gyorke into the conversation and over the course of a week or so we started to really toss around the idea of inviting a Learning Designer to spend a week with us here in ETS during the summer … sort of an extended conversation to open our mutual eyes to the realities and opportunities inherent in our very different working environments. I’m not announcing that we’ve settled on anything, but I am soliciting thoughts on this extension of the Faculty Fellow concept by bringing in a week long Learning Design Fellow. I’ve outlined the goal in a position paper that I am sharing with folks, but thought I’d make this an open conversation for those interested. Here is what I am thinking …

The goal of the Learning Design Fellows program is to provide a residential experience to a learning design professional not currently working for ETS at University Park. Each year ETS will select one Learning Designer from across PSU based on the content of a simple proposal to spend a week engaging with ETS around a proposed practical research question. The residency will occur during the week of the Learning Design Summer Camp on an annual basis. The Learning Design Fellowship will be funded by ETS and will require outcomes that can be shared throughout the following year.

So with all that in mind, does anyone have any ideas to throw into the mix? I’d love to hear what you might have to say!

Private Networks

I read an interesting post by danah boyd this morning titled, “Twitter is for friends; Facebook is for everybody” that lays out an interesting teen use case for Twitter in light of Facebook’s continued growth and popularity. We’ve known for some time that the age demographic on Twitter is skewed much more towards my place on the spectrum than say college kids or teens. We also know that more and more high school (and middle school) kids are adopting either Facebook or MySpace as a place to connect and socialize with friends. It is in that point that danah makes a really interesting observation when she says the following in response to a high school student named Dylan that she recently interviewd …

What Dylan is pointing out is that the issue is that Facebook is public (to everyone who matters) and Twitter can be private because of the combination of tools AND the fact that it’s not broadly popular.

What she is saying is that because Facebook is so over the top popular with teens, their parents, relatives, and nearly everyone else that Facebook itself might as well be public. Sure it has a lock on the front door, but if every single person you know in real life has that key then there really aren’t any secrets. What is fascinating to me is the behavior “in the know” teens are exhibiting in Twitter to game this “openly private” conundrum they are in … they create private Twitter accounts so only their real friends (not Mom and Dad) can have access to. So FB becomes the place they shout everything, while Twitter is under the radar enough that they can whisper quietly to each other. Amazingly simple and amazingly smart. danah goes on to wonder if Twitter continues to become more popular will teens end up with yet another social network where they really aren’t free to be? Good question.

In my mind I see the same kind of thing emerging in my own social network use — I need different platforms to do different things. Facebook is overrun and I cannot use it like I really want to. Too many people have access to my profile for me to post some of the content I might want to post. Sure FB has the message features, but they feel really out of place — almost like I am violating some code of conduct by sending a private message to a single person in my network instead of writing it proudly on their wall. The Twitter direct message feels very different and I use that quite a bit more. I’ve felt the same pain with IM … over time I collect too many people that add way too much noise to my communications channels and have to create a new account. It seems like we are stuck in this loop and until something more like Google Wave hits we may be stuck in it. Any thoughts?


We’ve been crazy about making tag stickers for all sorts of events. We use moo.com and take images that either we create in house or ones people coming to the events submit to us. Last summer we had some really cool ones made for the Learning Design Summer Camp from personal icons people submitted to the wiki. A few months earlier, we had an amazing set of them made for the 2008 TLT Symposium that became quite the popular item around campus and beyond. I even stuck some to my laptop and the back of my Cinema Display!

My Laptop. Credit ghbrett on Flickr.

My Laptop. Credit ghbrett on Flickr.

For one reason or another we chilled on the tag stickers at this year’s Symposium and instead got a bunch made that were really designed to be a save the date. I have to say I missed not getting a brand new killer book of them, but seeing that I still have a bunch left over from the last several events I think I’ll live. Well, here is the really strange thing … and this is a little beyond odd. I was in the Men’s bathroom in our building on campus the other day and I noticed a tag sticker under the toilet seat. I’ll have to say it shocked me, but it is a hell of an advertising location — either that or someone is trying to tell us something. Either way, you can now save the date for March 27, 2010 for our next TLT Symposium. We just landed Michael Wesch as our opening keynote and I know the program and planning committees are already starting to do their work. Perhaps this new sticker location is the work of the marketing and communications committee?

Odd Placement

Odd Placement

Short and Sweet

Over the last couple of years most of us have become ultra familiar with link shortening services like tinyurl and bit.ly to save extra characters when using Twitter or for sending out really long URLs in emails. I’ve heard lots of thoughts on how to make them better and have had more than one conversation about why they could lead to the end of the web — I think that is probably greatly exaggerated. The argument goes something like, if everyone uses [insert service name here] to share their links and that service goes away, we have no real record of where we were linking to. I have seen instances where tinyurl has been down or eaten links so I’ve moved away from it.

I have been using bit.y a little more often and this morning took the time to explore what I think is really powerful — the dashboard style view into what is going on with those links as soon as you send them out. Essentially bit.ly provides you with some nice anayltics into how many clicks you get from sending them out. What I don’t know (but would love to experiment with) is if the person who clicks on bit.ly shortend link is also signed into the service, do I get to see that person’s username? That would be incredible as part of an open edu focused approach … I could essentially replace the same kind of click through tracking an LMS offers by simply passing URLs through an authenticated service.

Click to See Detail

Click to See Detail

What is interesting to me is that this is yet another very simple piece to a very open and flowing LMS concept — I’ve written about the New York Times TimesPeople toolbar before as a simple way to push resources to a cohort … now in cooperation with something like bit.ly URL tracking I am getting a solid way to see what is going on with those resources. Nothing to earth shattering here, but a little something interesting to think about over the weekend. Anyone have a bit.ly account and want to experiment a bit?