5 way to make life easier for the audience

There are ton of things a true conference road-warrior needs in their bag, if they are to survive out there in time-lag conference venue land. So here’s a few tips on how to get fit.

1. Haz your own wifi!

First, get your own wifi via 3G. It doesn’t matter if you tether, get a personal hotspot or use 3G on your phone, you need it. Where people once brought a laptop to a conference, they now bring a laptop, a phone and an iPad, and most venues have not worked this out yet. Let’s assume you carry your own DVI to RGB converter, an audio line and a VGA cable. Look after these things, most of the fails are not about the computer or the projector, they are due to crap cables that result in frantic waggling buy young men in block polo-shirts. Tag your stuff, spend a few bucks on a plastic key-fob and then use thing electrician ties to fasten it to your stuff. Make sure you put your mobile and your social-media contacts on it, that way when you leave it behind, they can give it you back. Those mini-dv to RGBs are expensive and easy to forget after a presentation.

2. Make it easy to give yourself away

Get a QR code made up to a web-page that bounces everyone to your webbyness spaces. You can use something like LiveBinders for this. Regardless of what you are presenting – know this, you are dealing with a pack who want resources! – you can’t win anyone over with rhetoric. They want stuff, in fact there is a special breed of conference goer, who will not even bother to listen to your set, they roll in, swipe the resources and freebies, like teenagers raiding the pantry after the weekly shopping. So make sure you have something – a reward for them listening, something that you have not previously handed out online, but keep it online, so that in your LiveBinder they can grab it. Get yourself a large luggage tag, the encapsulated type, a nice durable one. Put your QR code inside and you can fix it to the inevitable conference lanyard, so people and scan it as they talk to you. It’s a great way of kicking off a conversation, and stops you looking for paper and a pen.

3. Have a ready to go back-channel

Consistently, I find that only a small percentage of teachers at ‘system driven’ conferences have Twitter. Most people spend less than 2 hours a week online in an effort to learn about technology. I know this because I poll the audience. So in your kit bag, use Today’s Meet, as it’s fast, simple and doesn’t require any sign-in or commitment to get onto social-networks. Prime it with a brief overview of why your talk matters and links to your own blog. Don’t hand out the presentation at the start! Figure out what your driving question is to the audience and ask them to reply to it on Todays Meet. Something that will take 2 minutes tops. Next create a poll, using something like poll-anywhere, so that even if they don’t want to write anything, they can give a response. I often ask about time online, simply as it gives me an instant view of who I’m talking to, and therefore what I’ll talk about. There is no point in talking about the need to spend 200 hours learning something, if your audience says they have 2, which actually means 1. At the end of your set, ask for feedback – and again allow them to use Todays Meet or a poll. It’s a handy way of finding out what you’re not so good at.

4. Play with new tools to present with

It often strikes me that those who talk about the ‘future’ have the most primitive delivery skills. PowerPoint, with pictures of games is still PowerPoint. Powerpoint talking about change, isn’t change. It falls to those that lecture to at least attempt new ways of doing it – as often their message is about ‘new’ yet presented in a rather conventional way.  Perhaps use an iPad, try out AirPlay to connect an AppleTV (which you can hook to the projector) and stream to it, or you go iPad to VGA and use Scribblar or other to turn your iPad into something more interesting.  There are so many new ways of presenting and making things interactive, yet often a keynote is little more than 30 slides of rhetoric.

5. Accept that the audience are not great at active listening

“If I always do what I’ve always done, I’ll always get what I’ve always gotten.” – Eric Hoffer

Research reported by Ralph Nichols, distinguished communication professor at the University of Minnesota, reports that listening is a learned skill. His research findings indicate that most people forget fifty percent of what is said in the first two minutes, and twenty-five percent after eight minutes, and can retain the rest of the information only for about a month. To retain more information participants need to use active listening skills, try to anticipate where the presenters’ lecture is going and get an opportunity to interact with the material. We retain only 10-25% of what we hear after a thirty –day period. The lower the interaction the lower the retention. This is part of the ‘change’ problem, the way we attempt to persuade is simply not effective. In an audience distracted by Twitter and the excitement of connecting with people at a conference, our brains are processing all sorts of ideas and intentions for the day. This is slightly different to a University lecture, where people are engaged in a routine that lasts months, not a single day. So, rather than quote references to evidence (something many people don’t bother to do), include the full paper or report in your Live Binder. This allows people to find it more easily.

How to make QR Codes with Google

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QR codes or Quick Response Codes are not quite new, but are increasingly visible in our daily lives.  They are quite simple to create, with many online services allowing you to make them, for example Kaywa QR Code Maker.  For those who have to know the details, here’s a more in depth look at QR Codes. I’m not a tutorial blog, so I guess you’ll figure out the step by steps – if I at least give you some starter points. What I’m really interested in here is that Google can already make QR codes.

There are lots you can do with QR codes – and I recommend a look at iCandy, which will give you lots of ideas – and ways to share your little black and wahite boxes via social networks as well as print them out. For desktop and laptop users (Windows, Linux, Mac) and for  iPhone users: i-nigma or QuickMark for Android users.

Now, I imagine naysayers and skeptics will say … “yeah but no one has a camera”, among the raft of other reasons in opposition to using them. I’m offering no response to solving that one – so I’d stick with using it yourself and just leaving the things around, see if they notice.

Think about how giving primary kids. Make some Kindy-rings. Make 10 QR codes, laminated as swing-tags. All they have to do is show them to the webcam and Ding! you’re little ones are visiting websites you want. No faffing about with them typing in a web address. Even better, they can then do a bunch of things without the teacher hovering.

This is a primitive view of what is possible – with a little creative design, you can do all sorts of games and activities with QR codes I imagine.

Did you know Google will make them for you? All you have to do is visit http://goo.gl – their URL shortner.

Add a link to your own blog (or other website) – and Ding! you’ve made a short URL. Oh, you wanted a QR code. Well, simply press details and bingo, it creates a QR code that you can save – or if you’re so hopelessly smitten with Word, just drag and drop. Here’s a link for you to try out just to show you how easy it is. Now wait a second – this get’s better – because goo.gl uses metrics – so you can see how many people are visiting (using your QR) code. So now you can see if they are going where you want – and more interestingly perhaps – when and where from.

Tineye – Reverse image search

Here’s something you might like, because it adds a new dimension to critical literacy, and plugs into your browser. Tineye is a delightfully simple, but clever tool. It allows you to find out where an image came from how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or if there is a higher resolution version.

You can install a browser plug-in to right click and find out more. Here is one I grabbed from Jude’s recent blog post.

It could be handy for finding out just where that image came from, priming discussions around original  source, attribution, copyright etc., or just really handy for finding out how far images that you’ve created as info-graphics have gone since you posted them to the internet. Either way, it’s a valuable addition to the war on ‘crap’, that I also recommend you read from Harold Rheingold’s article in Educause.

The Metaverse: An infographic to represent our world

I seem to spend and extra-ordinary amount of time exemplifying what ‘the metaverse’ is.

I am not a futurist or philosopher — but felt like trying to visualise my interpretation of the metaverse interchange in this infographic. I confess I do subscribe to the discourses around connectivism.

Some of society today gathers at this interchange. The metaverse is not congruent to those displaced or consciously objecting to it. It exists regardless of political or ideological opinion.

Moreover, the ‘real world’ increasingly mirrors the metaverse. Part of what we want is unworldly (manage a cartoon farm, fight in a war, yell at politician) – yet infuses every aspect of life. You don’t need a spinal stem implant or drink Kool-aid. If you are jacked into the technology, you are part of world interface.

The metaverse offers tangible connections, whereby the latest knowledge and facts might be transferred; and intangible connections relating to the development of a critical inquiry approach to learning (anything); a stimulating and rejuvenating environment; a global connection beyond the individual level, making our digital-self a connected agent in a highly complex network of things.

There are repeated attempts to filters and partition this interchange by hierarchical structures. Employees, students and citizens endure FUD, filters, policy and socio-economic barriers that serve to impair diversity and create access-inequity in our ability to mine; construct and grow knowledge for own future. Rather than deal with the metaverse; those with incumbent social capital prefer to simplify the point of technological/human convergence as ICT.

I make a distinction between ICT and The Metaverse – because the world does.

Consider 1:1 laptops in the classroom. While a teacher may be using ICT, they may not be plugging learners into the interchange that exists in the real world. ICT is unrealistic, the ‘metaverse’ — an authors invention, is now an expanding reality for those whom have the ability and desire to do so.

The characterstics of ICT are limited by selective and contestable interpretations of what ‘information, communication and technology’ are. Generally, ICT is based on physical reality – the computer, the netbook, the filter, the modem, the spreadsheet, the virus, the internet – the syllabus demands. To reinforce this, ICT-czars tend to prescribe (or ban) ‘tools’ to be used in order to perpetuate their particular whimsical belief. ICT is not the metaverse.

think of it this way: sculptors sometimes say ‘the sculpture was already in the rock; I just found it’. And, quite literally, it makes no sense to say that the sculpture was not in the rock – where else would it be? Stephen Downes (2006)

The metaverse is salient to knowledge – and the connections we make in acquiring, distributing and using it. By visualizing the current ‘accessible’ facets, I hope that it overcomes the partitioning problem. Yes you have 1:1 laptops; but in order to take in the potential of the metaverse – as a network – the stimulus, connections, people, objects, articles (things) need to have an portal. Chances are, if your predominant experience of ICT though a portal – your experience, connections and knowledge is more erroneous than someone with access to the metaverse. The problem then becomes – who do you trust to lead you, now that you don’t need managing.

Photoshop turns 20

I admit it. I had Photoshop 1, and still have it running on a black and while Macintosh. I managed to hack out a living, largely based on Photoshop, and though the features have long surpassed my needs, it really represents software that has grown with the worlds demand for eCreativity. Unlike Office Automation tools – Photoshop has turned and twisted with the times, from humble beginnings for pre-press, through to amazing effects for multimedia. I never feel using Photoshop as being a chore. While people may say technology is a fad, Photoshop really tells a different story.

Here are some great articles from Life Hacker … that demonstrate just how much this application has done for everything we see and read today. Happy Birthday Photoshop!


Eyeplorer is a great visual search tool – which does more than simply connect to other terms in a chain … you get the idea right? It visualizes facts as well as relationships between facts, pulling information from the place that kids love to go – Wikipedia. There is also a note tool, so content can be clipped and snipped for later use. I gave it a run though with Miss6, she loved it … so did I – check this map for Volkswagen!

Cleaning up YouTube

Having decided the Bubblegum post was far too long, I’m making up for the sin with kicking a few small but mighty bits. Worried about seeing hot babes on car bonnets while watching ‘proper’ YouTube clips? Freaking out when another Evony ad informs your class that they can be some wenches Master? – Rejoice – for now you may use SafeShare.tv. Does what is says. Interesting to learn if this beats the firewalls in schools.

Here’s the video before (to save you looking) – Heather Nova singing Stayin’ Alive on YouTube — and the cleaned up version here … views? thoughts? (not about Heather). The first link is just because that Jag is so cool.

Breathing Earth – Visualisation of our world

VISUALISING information is something that today’s online generation recognises as ‘feedback’. The interface is not so much a ‘tool’ to intereact; but a system from which they gather information about the ‘world’ and their impact though the cycle of decision/outcome that occurs. Breathing Earth is a stunning example of what ‘good design’ beings to statistical information and how colour, layout and typographic information helps create a more engaging shared reality. There are numerous uses for this; not least in playful learning, and well worth checking out.

Etherpad – Live Text Collaboration


One of the common comments people make in workshops about Google Docs is ‘what if two people are editing’. Well in reality that doesn’t happen that often, and even so, Google Docs informs you … but in a real time classroom, it can be kind of annoying. Etherpad, is fantastic for classroom collaboration. It has been in closed ‘beta’ for a while and has always looks good. The ‘real’ deal is even better. Being able to work in real time, with ‘live’ text significantly changes the interaction between students when collaborating. Not only can you ‘see’ who is doing what, but the digital text needs negotiation by the group. Knowledge is therefore being constructed in real time, using Etherpad at the centre of mutli-modal activities. Students could be using text books, visual resources or recording live events and dialogue. It bridged the gap between live blogging and chat, where time is the publishing criteria, to a live activity that allows students orgnise it. Best of all, there is nothing in ‘Etherpad’ that puts students at risk – it is a great tool, and will enable many classrooms to engage in ‘live’ activities – especially if the collaboration is over distance, cultures or disciplines

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As pointless as cleaning graffiti from a skate park

image: Anthony Theobold

There are somethings that I now consider to be as pointless as cleaning graffiti from a skate park when it comes to Educational Technology.

There are also different types of ‘pointless’ too. Some are pointless as in the very near future they will be so ubiquitous in life that we can hardly call them a mastery skill. Others are pointless as the incumbent hierarchical management frameworks built up over decades, suffering what Clay Shirky calls the ‘tragedy of the commons’. As the tide of teacher-relevance retreats back from incumbent management structures, we are seeing growing and strengthening personal learning networks.

Here are my top 10 pointless activities.

Pointless#1 – Teaching ‘Office’ as a mastery skill. Its a life skill to work the basics, but it is not a value add when leaving school to join the work force.

Pointless#2 – Presenting a Slideshow if the speaker reads any of the sentences in it to you. This is why Beavis and Butthead knew more than anyone what made a great MTV video. Don’t present it – I’m gonna start drifting off within 5 minutes

Pointless#3 – Attempting to explain what Classroom2.0 means, if they have not heard of Web2.0 in the first place

Pointless#4 – Trying to develop anything for which you do not have control. If you’re immediate conduit to success is via someone who fits ‘Pointless#3’, then two things will happen enventually.

  1. Your original idea and effort will be mis-interpreted and not allow you do what it was you thought they understood you were going to do.
  2. It’s mis-understood, but is sufficiently ‘out there’ that anyone that they talk to about it will be impressed enough that they won’t need to talk to you anymore. This is the transference of IP by proxy.

Pointless#5 – The act of reading and writing online must generate a sense of audience for students. If they have no audience beyond thier immediate geographical walls, then publishing online will not develop the skills needed to participate in the global discourse of the future.

Pointless#6 – Seeking (or Googling), then pasting into Office. Bernie Dodge has been telling people this for decades – well before read/write interwebs. Don’t do it – it is low level, boring and repetitive. If you can’t ask questions in a computer room for which the kids Google the answer – then get out the room.

Pointless#7 – Students being made to watching teachers use technology – or watching step-by-step quides in powerpoint. If you can figure it out, then spend more time figuring out how to create interesting activites with it and not worrying about ‘if’ they can use it. If you can, you can be sure they can.

Pointless#8 – Wikis – Unless you know the value of the discussion TAB.

Pointless#9 – Class Blogs – if all they ever do is write in limited text types (report being the obvious). Also pointless if you don’t have an effective model to scaffold the growth of the writer. Pointless if they never comment or get comments. Pointless if they do not reflect activity that can be HEARD, SEEN, LINKED IN. Blogging as a diary is just a glass diary.

Pointless#10 – Claiming to use Web2.0 without also being an active participant in a global Educational Technology community, sharing, learning and willing to deal with the multi-time zone nature of an effective personal learning network. Kids who have no choice but to spend their time with you. However – you have a choice – walk the walk, don’t go through the actions. Make a BIG noise.

Finally, I’d just like to say, that maybe the graffiti is actually beautiful, that it is personal, inspiring and replaces the cold, unfeeling concrete below. I like to look at the local skate park in the morning to see what’s been added. As long as it’s being added I think the day will be good. When I see the guys with the water blasters – I think what a waste of time it was. And that Miss ‘Bel makes me surly too.