Coffee with Cole Registration is Open

Just a quick post to say that the Coffee with Cole sessions are now ready for RSVP. I put four on the 2015 calendar and five so far on the 2016 calendar. Each one is limited to just five guests and they are on a first come first serve basis. Once we have the groups locked in Cheryl will send you an invite for your calendar. I really look forward to these hours to have informal conversations about what we all do here at UChicago.

Coffee in Valletta

Camp is Coming

Last year we did something radical with our annual all instructional design meeting — we blew it up. We decided really at the last minute what we really wanted was a by the community, for the community event aimed at the entire learning design community. What we got was an event that I would have to say blew the doors off the place — The Learning Design Summer Camp notion was born. Over 100 people showed up, with probably about half of them working in the wiki in the days and weeks prior to the event helping to shape it. Our goal was to raise the level of the conversation and I think we accomplished that.


This year is only different in that the event looks even more interesting. If you jump over to the ETS Wiki you’ll see what I mean. What is important to remember here is that there isn’t really a formally charged planning committee — it is organic and that what makes it work. Today my friend and colleague, Allan Gyorke sent me a link the LDSC09 store where you can buy all your LDSC stuff … it is all very impressive and very cool. One last think I’ll mention is that the event is free and since we’re moving to a larger venue we are entertaining the idea of opening it up to the World. Before I go through the effort on that one, I’m wondering if people would come from other places to take part in some killer conversations over a two day period? Let me know what you think … I’ll have much more to say about this as the time grows closer.

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!

Thoughts from the Twittersphere

Yesterday I spent some time at the College of Information Sciences and Technology’s Graduate Symposium listening to Dr. Abdur Chowdhury, Twitter’s Chief Scientist give a keynote talk. I’ve written about Twitter for a couple of years now, but what is so interesting about Twitter these days is what is going on behind the scenes. While they are a relatively new company, they are really working hard to make sense of the river of data that flows through the 140 character text box they offer. Abdur was the co-founder of Summize where they used analytics to discover trends across the web … when Twitter bought it he moved over to start decoding massive trends brought about by Twitter’s user base. Later in the day I was then on a panel with him talking about Twitter to those assembled it was very interesting to hear his perspective on things and to see how he is leading the way in making sense out of all of those Twitter messages.

As an aside, one of the questions that seems to occupy lots of cycles is about Twitter’s financial model. I could tell during the question and answer period yesterday it is something that gets the folks at Twitter a little frustrated. I recently read an article in Wired where they make the claim that Twitter can go for quite some time without worrying about that and I am betting they are figuring it out behind closed doors on their own time.

One thing he spent a lot of time on was how they can pull content from peoples’ tweets and find real news trends. He referenced Mumbai several times as an example of where Twitter was able to bring the terrorist attacks to our attention even before the news. We saw it a few weeks ago with the flight that landed in the Hudson … pictures and reports came from the Twittersphere before the news had any clue. This isn’t new for people who have been paying attention, but it was a good push for me to revisit the capabilities of Twitter Search. It seems like everyone is discovering the power Twitter has to offer.

Being on the panel reminded me of how interesting the Twitter experiment Scott McDonald and I did in the CI 597C course we taught last year. I got to talking with Abdur about it and the research we had planned to do … talking about it all has made me even more interested in using Twitter to better understand what is going on in my classroom. When I did a google search on how far back tweets go, I came across Twistory. It is a site that uses the API to pull out the exact time and content of any given user’s Twitter account. What is really cool is that you can then use Google Calendar to subscribe to the output to visualize the data.

Seeing Twitter Conversations

Seeing Twitter Conversations

Now this is where it gets really interesting to me … you can put anyone’s name into it and add their twitter stream to the calendar. This set off an ah-ah moment for me. What it means is that in a class you could easily visualize the backchannel conversation between and among students. Imagine how rich the data can be now looking at what happens in class — are students passing twitter notes, digging deeper into the conversation, exchanges resources, etc? This is the first time I’ve been able to create a tangible paper trail of the interactions happening behind the scenes. I can’t wait until Spring 2010 when Scott and I teach our Disruptive Technologies course. We met this morning at the coffee shop to start talking about how we would integrate this and we’ve decided that while we are focusing on our themes of community, identity, and design that we’ll ask students to do research into how the community is coming together and evolving by mining Twitter data in this form (or another). I can’t wait to see how it goes down and to explore other ways to use Twitter and its API.

Perfect Status

It comes as no surprise that I like Twitter for lots of reasons … the primary reason for me is that it seems to solidify connections in close to real time. Facebook has surprised me in its ability to do something similar in the recent months. Both seem to be really interesting steps forward in the online conversation space. The one thing that both of them have going for them is a very powerful, “what are you doing right now” approach to status updates. This simple question pushes people to participate and to me it is the most powerful piece to coalescing community.

With that in mind I read a really good piece at the NY Times the yesterday called Being There, about the art of the status update. My favorite line from the whole thing was a simple statement about what a status update really is …

Spontaneous bursts of being

I really enjoyed the article and decided to conduct my own status update InstaPoll on my network to see what I got back. What I found was that people want to be drawn into a conversations via a status updates. Most are interested in the notion of engaging with those “around” them. That is really interesting to me … some people view the status update as shouting into an empty room, but what it looks like from my very informal and unscientific data gathering is that people crave engagement … they want to respond to where others are in the moment.

Seems to only make sense given our intense interest in not only providing constant updates, but our incessant need to know what people think in 140 characters or less. Some of the better responses to my question, “What makes a great Twitter/Facebook status update?” are below … if there is anything you might want to add to this conversation leave as a comment.

  • @colecamplese re: your survey. I think good status updates offer a chance to continue a conversation. personal/professional items are good.
  • @colecamplese asking a question everyone has wondered but never asked?
  • @colecamplese I think they are (should be) different… Tweets for more frequent (often mundane)…Facebook for daily/weekly “bigger stuff”?
  • @colecamplese Small, mundane little things that when taken out of context seem oddly amusing….and lots of punctuation.
  • @colecamplese whatever you feel in the moment.
  • @colecamplese NOT where I am or what I’m cooking. New blog post, new idea or concept, looking for discussion – yes
  • @colecamplese totally depends on the reader IMO. Interesting stuff to ME makes it a great post. (news, games, VW stuff, etc)
  • @colecamplese I totally agree with Bart. I love opinions, what peeps are doing, where they’re headed, etc.
  • @colecamplese something that makes me laugh
  • @colecamplese re instapoll Posts that helps me learn/think. Links to interesting stuff, plus reasons why I should click. News, questions
  • @colecamplese layers.
  • @colecamplese witty comment about common activity.
Instant Feedback

Instant Feedback

Telling Stories and Lending a Hand

Last week I was doing some reading and came across a post that made me very happy. It is about a new project to find ways to crowd source the notion of helping out in our local schools. Dave Eggers, the author of the wonderful book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, had a dream — he wanted to find ways to connect with and help local schools. He acted on that dream. Behold, Once Upon a School. I’ve been relatively vocal here about my recent dissatisfaction with schools in general. I’m now seeing the public school system at work and I am concerned for how it is all going to turn out for our kids. I’m in school myself and I am looking at all of it with a very critical eye … I have become very interested in helping to find ways to connect with and improve education — across the board.

I’m lucky in that my job allows me to feel good about what goes on in higher education. What I am concerned about is that most of our students aren’t getting to experience great learning environments every single day. They get some good ones and some less than perfect ones. I think it is even more spotty in the K-12 space — not because of the teachers, but because of the unfortunate realities of the system. I watched Dave’s presentation and fell in love with the idea of finding new ways to connect with my own local schools. I went to the site, put in my area of expertise, added my zip code, clicked submit and waited to see what classroom I could spend time in. There was the reality right in front of me, not a single classroom in State College. What could we be doing more of as a community to connect with teachers and schools? We’re a powerful bunch, what should be done?


Last week I visited my colleague Ellysa Cahoy’s blog to find that she was participating in an interview meme. I usually avoid these things but given I am pushing to keep moving on the One Post a Day challenge, I figured having a little extra content wouldn’t kill me so I took Ellysa up on the offer. The other thing is that Ellysa is going to spend some time with us in ETS this Summer as one of our Faculty Fellows … never hurts to get on the good side of the innovators!

Here’s the part I don’t like about meme’s — the chain letter aspect Even so, I’ll follow the rules that were laid out to me. If you’d like to try this too, just follow these instructions:

  1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
  2. I’ll respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions.)
  3. You’ll create a new post on your blog with the answers to the questions. Be sure you link back to the original post.
  4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

You’re designing the next killer iPhone app. What would it be?

I’d design an open platform for designing iPhone Apps for newbies. One thing I’ve noticed is the level of expertise needed to build native apps. If that is too much of a cop out then I’d build a location aware social network aggregator that would sync with my email, direct me to a place to get a good cup of tea, and tell me where to eat … maybe that app exists though!

Is traditional blogging dying a slow death at the hands of Facebook / Twitter updates?

I don’t think so, but I’d have to know what “traditional” blogging looks like … I think people are figuring out where and when to publish. The new tools that are making their way into the mainstream all seem to be built around short bursts of content or status updates. Blogging is a much more thoughtful process in my mind. When I only have something quick to say I post it to Twitter, but when I am really working through some ideas I tend to write blog posts. The other tools also seem so tied to a dedicated social network, while blogging seems much more open. I may be different than others, but I see all of these tools to be part of a larger eco-system … one that is built on personal publishing and online identity. With all that said, I just think we are seeing a shift in the amount of content being created because the micro post is now more acceptable in an environment like Twitter. We’ll have to wait and see where it all goes.

If you viewed your life as a piece of software, what version number would you be? (i.e., Cole 2.7)

That is a really tough question. I know that I am a different version than I was before I had children, but other than that is tough to say. My children have changed my perspective in ways that no other single event in my life has. So I am clearly not a 1.0 release. I doubt I’m 2.0, but would be willing to put my self somewhere in a 3.0 release schedule. I think before I went away to College I was a totally different person with a very limited world view. That, graduate school, working, and having kids have fundamentally changed me for the better. So all that to say I’m changed, but not done changing. I’m into my third decade on this planet and I hope to continue to grow and learn. I’ll say I’m 3.6 (for my age). Fair enough?

The mobile Web: Platform for new teaching and learning opportunities, or just a unique interface design format?

Its both, but the mobile web is here to stay. I think I’d skip over the mobile web and think more about connectedness in general. What I think is the big story is the ability to grab information from really anywhere. We’ll see new opportunities emerge because of ubiquitous nature of Internet access. I’m thinking about a device like the Amazon Kindle and while it doesn’t really shine as a web browsing appliance, its instant connectivity and access to the Amazon store is a big deal to me. I’d really like to see students with those devices being able to buy chapters of books at a time instead of paying way too much for textbooks that are rarely used. I think the mobile web is going change quite a bit and will provide us all with new things to explore.

What’s your favorite children’s book to share with your kids?

Hands down, the Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. Nothing better. I still try to read it to my son and daughter every time I pick a book. I’ve always loved it!

Commenters from 2008

I’ll follow along with the exploits of Alan, D’Arcy, and Jim by posting my top 10 commenters over the last year. Clearly those guys get more comments than I do, but it is nice to see that we (for the most part) appear on each others’ list — Sorry Rev, I will get better this year. The thing I notice about this list is how local it is to State College and Penn State in general. On my list there are only four people who are not PSU folks — I just find it interesting. At any rate, there it is. 222 different people left comments this past year and I can tell you that is plenty to keep me happy! Sort of blows my mind when I think about it. A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to share your voice in 2008!

  • Jamie Oberdick 29
  • Shannon Ritter 25
  • Alan Levine 16
  • Allan Gyorke 14
  • Bryan Alexander 12
  • Steve Brady 12
  • D’Arcy Norman 11
  • Robin Smail 11
  • Brett Bixler 10
  • Bart Pursel 9
  • Jeff Swain 8
  • dave 8
  • Brad Kozlek 8
  • Jim Groom 7