Reflections on Gardner Campbell’s Ideas

DS106, Food for Thought, LwICT, Read/Write Web, Reflection 1 Comment »

The purpose of this post is two-fold. Although I am reflecting on both an article and a video by Gardner Campbell as part of my DS106 online course, I also want to introduce regular readers to the concept of a “Personal Cyberinfrastructure” that is definitely going to empower University students and, in time, perhaps even our own high school students.

In this first formal writing assignment of the DS106 course, students are asked to reflect on Gardner Campbell’s “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure” article and his YouTube video entitled “No Digital Facelifts: Thinking the Unthinkable About Open Educational Experiences”.

I will reflect on Gardner Campbell’s ideas by reacting to the following three questions:

1.     Why do people not want a bag of gold?
For all readers to gain a better understanding of Gardner Campbell’s “bag of gold” question, you must, at least, view the first 3:30 minutes of his above YouTube video. Furthermore, all readers will be particularly impressed with the talents of Tim Owens, who took this portion of Gardner’s audio track and, using the kinetic typography animation technique, created a very powerful Vimeo video called “Bag of Gold”.

Based on my past experience as an Education Technology Consultant in the K-12 environment, I believe that educators may reject a “bag of gold”, particularly a bag of new, “technology-related gold” for the following reasons:

  • Educators today are overwhelmed with all the additional tasks they are requested to do over and above their normal teaching duties. Hence any additional tasks, which may be perceived as requiring more effort and time commitment, are simply refused or ignored.
  • There is not enough time to teach the prescribed curriculum, let alone learn how to integrate technology.
  • The benefits are not perceived to be worth the time investment.
  • With new technology, many teachers are no longer the “experts”. This imbalance can cause some educators to feel threatened when teaching students who are now more experienced in their own technology-rich environment.
  • Some senior teachers may have lost their motivation to learn new things outside their own particular subject area(s) and may be quite content to maintain the status quo.
  • Too often new “bags of technology gold” may exhibit “hiccups” (e.g. loss on Internet connection) where one has to, not only plan a technology-related activity but also, prepare a non-technology alternative to reinforce curricular concepts.
  • One “bag of gold” is not enough; some teachers require a “bag of gold (e.g. computer) for each student, before they are willing to consider integrating technology into classroom practice.
  • It is easier to reject and pass the “bag of gold” on to a colleague, who can become the school “expert” rather than becoming a “risk-taker” and learn to use technology with one’s students.

2.     What is a digital facelift?
I interpret a digital facelift as adopting a new approach that has the potential to be innovative while one fails to take advantage of these new opportunities because such individuals are so entrenched in their old ways.

For example, many readers have witnessed the short “broken iPad” video that clearly demonstrates how a young child can become somewhat confused when the new skills, which they have acquired, no longer apply to the “old technology”. However, I am very concerned with a limited number of teachers who continue to apply old skills to new technology.

To help the reader better understand this situation, I will illustrate a rather rare scene that I have witnessed. Several years ago, some schools in my division were purchasing interactive whiteboards. These interactive devices displayed, through a projector, the software application that was on the teacher’s computer. The potential for engagement was the interactivity that occurred when a student used the whiteboard “pen” or his/her finger to activate or drag elements on the screen.

Unfortunately, I did witness one situation where the potential student engagement was forfeited because the teacher only seemed to recognize the similarity in the word “board” between “chalk board” and “white board”. This individual simply used the whiteboard as a projection screen and if a classroom whiteboard activity was merited, no students were allowed near the board as this new technology was reserved exclusively for the teacher who continued to teach “from the front of the class”. I can only hope that with time and experience, this teacher relinquished control and allowed the class to become engaged in their own learning through “hands-on” interaction with this powerful technology.

Gardner Campbell shared three important recursive steps that educators and students can take to avoid having a digital facelift. These practices are steps that we as teachers normally carry out but they can be amplified using technology or our by infusion through our provincial Literacy with Information and Communication Technology (LwICT) continuum. These steps include:

  • Narrating – Having both teachers and students “think out loud” as they tell the story of a particular subject area. For some this process might be similar to blogging.
  • Curating – How do you arrange your “progress portfolio” so that you can find resources and references quickly? True, students may choose to keep all their assignments in a traditional notebook. However, more and more students and teachers will begin using software applications to scan text and store data online for organizing and later retrieval.
  • Sharing – For me this practice is the most important. Constructive feedback from peers, together with a wider global audience, can motivate students in ways not possible in the traditional one dimensional student-teacher interaction. When students and teachers share their portfolios and resources online, everyone benefits through “leveraged learning”. Gardner quotes a colleague who states that “meaning happens when two people connect”.


In fact, teachers are slowly beginning to take advantage of the connections and learning that is afforded through the online communications of a Personal Learning Network.

 3.     What are the potential benefits/drawbacks of Personal Cyberinfrastructures?
I believe in Gardner Campbell’s proposal that first year university students should purchase their own domain name and start creating their life’s portfolio online. This is not just an idea but it is one that is put into practice by students at Mary Washington University who are enrolled in the first year Digital Storytelling DS106 course. True, for some it can be a challenge to think of an available domain name that is both professional and reflective of their passions. For example, I would have preferred if my domain was “” but because this domain was already owned, I had to insert hyphens in my version of this name.

The benefit of creating and reflecting through blogs in one’s own domain is that it creates a digital footprint which can be a powerful learning tool. One only has to look back at the various bench marks entries to witness the learning and connections that have been made as a student progresses through university.

Writing and reflecting are a powerful way of synthesizing lessons and lecture information. Furthermore, online research together with RSS feed information can be blended into one’s online notes to add quality and perspective. University students who do this faithfully and share such resources through a PLN or study groups can create a formidable resource for completing assignments and studying for exams.

However, I do have concerns for individual students who are less mature in their outlook or perhaps do not value their privacy as much as I think they should. Imagine the less mature students who, in their rush to pick a domain, choose one similar to the “Top 10 Worst Domain Names”. Furthermore, some less mature students might choose a domain name that seems “cute”, when viewed through the eyes of a first year student at a frat party but may lack the same appeal when viewed, several years later, by the HR department of potential employers.

In addition, I do think that there are students today who share “too much information” through social networking such as Facebook. Some do not hesitate to tell their “friends” (and potential thieves) that they “will be away from my home for all of July while I travel through Europe”.

There is no doubt in my mind that students need to be cautioned about selecting appropriate domain names and writing blog comments in a professional manner without surrendering their privacy. Gardner’s recommendation is that students might learn about aspects of blogging, wikis, web 2.0 applications, and privacy from faculty and advisers during the first year in university. An important celebratory event would be the purchase of an appropriate domain name and the application of such wise council as students begin creating online blogs and portfolios.

To those readers who think that Gardner Campbell’s recommendations are strictly theoretical, I suggest that they investigate the DS106 environment and view blogs of those who are enrolled for university credit. One will be amazed at the learning and support afforded these students as they become engaged and reflect on their learning journey.

For readers who might think that this post is focusing strictly on university students, I encourage you to examine Gardner Campbell’s ideas and think how these ideas might apply to senior years’ students in our K-12 environment. Perhaps there are high school students that you know who want to use web 2.0 tools and blogging to document their learning journey. Imagine the positive impact that you can have now and in their future if you provide help in selecting personal domain names and concerns regarding personal online privacy.

In conclusion, I think that we, as educators, need to make our own learning more transparent to our students. Furthermore, we should welcome the opportunity to learn from, and with, our students. I believe that Gardner Campbell articulated our next important steps when he stated at the end of his “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure” paper that:

“… we must start with individual learners. Those of us who work with students must guide them to build their own personal infrastructures, to embark on their own web odysseys. And yes, we must be ready to receive their guidance as well.”


[The Teachable Moment: I wanted to reward my regular readers who made it this far in my lengthy post. Jim Groom (aka Reverend), who is one of the amazing DS106 facilitators, recently shared this time-sharing tip. As an educator, who has access to YouTube videos, have you ever wanted to be able to quickly show your students the educational “nugget” without having to watch the entire video? If so, Jim recommended the Deep Links “YouTube Help” document. Essentially, one can append a time position “qualifier” to the end of any YouTube video URL or address. For example, if you wanted your students to focus on the message starting at the eight minute and 23 second position, one would simply add to the end of the YouTube video URL: #t=8m23s  To demonstrate this facility, I will list below two focal points in Gardner Campbell’s YouTube video. I trust you will find this time-saving strategy to be of benefit.

Gardner Campbell’s “No Digital Facelifts: …” YouTube “deep links” video entry points:

  • Bag of Gold:
    Start position at: 2 minutes and 3 seconds
  • Three steps to help avoid the “digital facelift”:
    Start position at: 14 minutes and ten seconds

To verify that these “deep links” work as indicated, readers must copy the address between the square brackets and paste this string (without brackets) into one’s browser address field. This process will start the YouTube video at the selected entry point rather than at the original starting position.]

Take care & keep smiling :-)

–   Flickr – Creative Commons image “Get Connected!
by Paco Paco –

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K12 Online Conference – Don’t miss it!

Application or Web App, Freebie, Professional Development, Read/Write Web No Comments »

Professional development for educators today can be a very expensive and demanding. Costs of conference registrations, hotels, meals, and travel have all dramatically increased. True, one can stay in his/her home town or city and still attend local conferences but these, too, have their own set of challenges including the following:

  • popular sessions fill up quickly;
  • sessions that one may want to attend often run concurrently, so one is forced to attend a particular presentation while missing other learning opportunities scheduled for the same time slot;
  • one attends an hour session, only to find that within the first 5 minutes of the presentation, the topic or focus is not the best fit
  • sessions are often focused on “nice to know” but may not have the ultimate fit of “just-in-time” delivery

If these seem to be some of the concerns that you encounter, then I have a professional development solution, which is called the K12 Online Conference found at: Two weeks of presentations start today, and because it is online, the above problems and restrictions are totally eliminated.

Most educators, that I know, love to hear the four-letter word … “FREE”.  In other words, there is no registration fee for the professional development provided during the K12 Online Conference. Neither must you travel anywhere, in fact you can partake of these inspiring educational sessions while sitting in the comfort of your own home, lounging in your pyjamas. This year’s theme is “Purposeful Play” and although the pre-conference keynote by Angela Maiers entitled “The Sandbox Manifesto” has already been presented on Monday, November 21st, you are not out-of-luck as you would be in traditional conferences. In fact, one of the most important aspects of K12 Online Conference presentations is that they, together with any pertinent resources, are displayed and archived on the web. In fact, interested educators can review not only the current year’s videos but also presentations shared during the previous five years from 2006-2010.

To begin taking advantage of this powerful learning opportunity, all you need is a computer with speakers and Internet connectivity. Begin by pointing your browser to the K12 Online Conference main page and continue investigating any of the following links:

Those educators using Twitter, may wish to follow the comments made regarding the K12 Online Conference by searching or filtering tweets using the “#k12online” (without quotes) hashtag. Furthermore, I find this online learning opportunity a great way to learn about educators with whom I might share a kindred spirit. I am always looking out for new ideas shared through educational blogs and if you feel the same way, I encourage you to examine Sean McGaughey’s “K12 Online Blog and Twitter List“.

... this K-12 Online Conference is not only “the conference that never ends”. It should also be considered as “the conference that keeps on giving”.

Like our students, we are all on individual learning journeys. Some of us are further along and others are just beginning. Furthermore, for learning and assimilation to be meaningful, concepts and ideas need to arrive when the person is ready and they have to make sense based on the individual’s past experience and where s/he is at. For example, a presentation which shares various mobile educational apps, which run on an iPhone, may not apply to you today, particularly if you don’t own a cellular phone. On the other hand, if you are a primary teacher, you may find Sharon Bett’s 2008 presentation “Never Too Young – Three Tools for the Youngest” to be just what you need to hear based on your needs today. I did my best to address the wealth of information that is contained within the K12 Online Conference archives in last year’s post entitled: “K-12 Online – Acknowledging the Archives“. In fact some administrators or leaders of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) may recommend to their colleagues that certain educators review past presentations and report back as to their favourites so that the larger audience can benefit from their research.

In closing, I can’t think of a better, more apt description of the K12 Online Conference than I used in my previous post called “K-12 Online – The never-ending conference” when I stated:

In summary, this K-12 Online Conference is not only “the conference that never ends”. It should also be considered as “the conference that keeps on giving”.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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K-12 Online – Acknowledging the Archives

Application or Web App, Professional Development, Read/Write Web, Tutorial 1 Comment »

In this blog post, I will review two K-12 Online Conference presentations from the past year’s archives. My reason for focusing on the past sessions, rather than the present, is based on the following professional development assumptions.

Some educators, that are new to the K-12 Online Conference, may peruse this year’s presentation descriptions and perhaps feel somewhat intimidated by the sophistication and knowledge of the presenters. However, I have always maintained that all educators, like their respective students, are travelling along their own personal learning continuum. As such, it is important to find professional development sessions that meet each individual’s current needs. Perhaps, equally important, is that the learning opportunity arrives “just in time” or when the learner is most receptive. When one finds timely, professional development sessions with a “good fit”, there is a much better chance that such opportunities will help educators move forward in their learning and encourage a willingness to try new strategies, applications, and resources.

As I indicated in my last post, the K-12 Online Conference provides professional development opportunities through a powerful instructional video mechanism which facilitates investigation when the individual learner is “ready”. Furthermore, unlike a traditional keynote speaker who delivers his/her message and then exits the stage, these video learning opportunities are conveniently archived for review as far back as 2006. Such wide ranging video learning opportunities can be perused, played, and even paused (to note a particular interesting web resource address) as one extracts the relevant and meaningful message. In addition to the archived videos there are also very important supporting resources and applications that should be investigated as well. True, you might think that when you review a video presentation created for the 2007 K-12 Online Conference, that you are three years “behind the times”. Not so …, I contend. Regardless of one’s position along their personal timeline, one doesn’t stagnate when one tries to implement new ideas. Furthermore, when one reviews a K-12 Online Conference video and related resources created in 2007, one can be assured that the message still has applicability and the related computer applications have improved dramatically over the past three years and now have so many more educational features.

Now that these assumptions have been identified, I will continue by briefly outlining two rather interesting, archived, K-12 Online Conference presentations from the past.

K-12 Online Conference theme for 2008
“Amplifying Possibilities”

I chose to look at an introductory or “Getting Started” keynote entitled “How Can I Become Part of this ReadWriteWeb Revolution?” I was immediately set at ease as I watched three educators, Alice Barr, Cheryl Oakes and Bob Sprankle, sitting outdoors, sharing their educational insights with their video audience in a rather down-to-earth manner. As they talked about introducing technology to students, each educator held up a “flip video” and captured the dialogue and expressions of their colleagues in a very conversational manner.

They agreed that VoiceThread was an excellent mechanism for helping educators begin to learn about technology and utilize web 2.0 applications with their students. I liked Bob’s comment, which I am paraphrasing, when he stated that …

bringing in these technologies (e.g. flip video units) has a transformational effect that can help educators move out of their comfort zone and patterns of what they have been doing for years. When you hand out a flip video to your students, you no longer control learning and no longer are you the gatekeeper of knowledge.

These three educators have formed a professional learning network called the “seedlings” and I encourage other educators to connect with them.

K-12 Online Conference theme for 2009
“Bridging the Divide”

Each of the video presentations in the K-12 Online Conference is filled with a wealth of pedagogical information. Indeed, some use amazing techniques to get the message across to the audience in a meaningful manner. My favourite instructional video presentation has to be last year’s “Getting Started” keynote by Joyce Valenza entitled “The Wizard of Apps” which is embedded below:

Joyce uses a very unique video presentation to share her message in an entertaining and informative manner. I encourage readers to view Joyce’s additional “Backstory to the Wizard of Apps” where one can appreciate the collaborative endeavour that went into producing this remarkable instructional video. Undoubtedly, the creation of this video engaged students who were passionate about performing and producing this polished presentation.

This 'new tools workshop' wiki resource, is a 'one stop shop' for educators ...

However, learning is not limited to the actual K-12 Online Conference video presentations. Rather, dedicated presenters like Joyce Valenza often provide a wealth of extensive additional resources. Not only does Joyce supply links to her presentation slides, she also supplies a link to her “new tools workshop” wiki which provides a plethora of possibilities for educators who want to explore the potential of using web 2.0 applications in their classrooms.  This “new tools workshop” wiki resource, is a “one stop shop” for educators wishing to explore applications that will engage students and enhance classroom teaching. With this presentation and her accompanying resources, Joyce and her students, have set the bar high for future presenters.

I trust that I have demonstrated that the K-12 Online Conference archives of 2009, 2008, 2007 & 2006, contain relevant educational ideas and resources, that interested teachers can learn from, long after the video presentations were first shared online.

In closing, let me challenge readers to take action in the manner suggested in Dean Shareski’s 2010 keynote “Sharing: The Moral Imperative”. When we find educational resources that help us to better “teach and reach” students, we make time to share these ideas with others. I just did … and I trust you will too.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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K-12 Online – The never-ending conference

Professional Development, Read/Write Web 1 Comment »

Today marks the start of this year’s free, K-12 Online Conference. I encourage all educators to visit this site and investigate the list of presenters and topics that will be shared over the next two weeks.

Early last week, I was lucky enough to view the powerful pre-conference video presentation by Dean Shareski, of Moose Jaw, entitled: “Sharing: The Moral Imperative” in which, he suggested that “the ability to teach and share beyond our classrooms is moving from ‘nice to do’ to ‘necessary to do’”. Furthermore, Thursday evening, I joined more than 75 educators in a “Fireside Chat” where Dean Shareski, not only reviewed his pre-conference presentation and answered questions from the audience, but also shared a second, remarkable, instructional “behind the scenes” video to help educators better understand why and how his original “Sharing” video was created.

Today I just spent 20 minutes viewing Rodd Lucier’s informative and practical video presentation entitled: “Creative Commons: What Every Educator Needs to Know”. I found the video to be very informative and I would suggest that it would be an excellent resource to share with students. Of particular interest to me was Rodd’s description of the process and immediacy that occurred when he requested help in having a Creative Commons classroom handbook translated from Swedish to English. I encourage readers to visit Rodd’s blog site entitled: “The Clever Sheep” and download this free, “Creative Commons In the Classroom” e-book.

What do these two Canadian educators have in common? True, they are both concerned with sharing ideas, resources, and strategies to help educators move forward to better meet the needs of their 21st century learners. However, they both chose to use the K-12 Online Conference as their delivery vehicle. For example, if Dean and Rodd had presented these keynotes at a traditional conference and you were unable to attend their sessions, you would be out of luck. It would be necessary for you to search out a friend or colleague that was actually in attendance and rely on his/her interpretation and willingness to share thoughts on the topic’s relevance and resources. Furthermore, you, or your school division, would have to spend money to pay for the related conference registration, travel, and accommodation costs. With the K-12 Online Conference, you pay no fee, you may review the presentations at your leisure, and you can even sit at home in your “jammies” gaining practical, classroom-based professional development from educators around the world. Furthermore, and most important, once this annual two-week online conference closes, the presentations are archived so that interested educators can still review and glean useful information many years later.

In summary, this K-12 Online Conference is not only “the conference that never ends”. It should also be considered as “the conference that keeps on giving”.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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K-12 Online Conference 2010

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One of the most popular “four letter words” that educators like to hear is “FREE”. Imagine the tremendous opportunities that would exist if these popular four letters could apply to the traditionally, very expensive process of professional development.

If you have Internet connectivity, you too can take advantage of a very unique, free, annual, educational professional development opportunity. I encourage readers to reserve time during the first week of October to beginning exploring the potential learning opportunities at the following web resource:

The K-12 Online Conference is a free, online, annual professional development conference offering opportunities for educators around the globe to share innovative ways web 2.0 tools and technologies can be used to improve learning. Our conference this year will take place in October, and will include four different strands: Student Voices, Leading the Change, Week in the Classroom, and Kicking It Up a Notch. Our conference is entirely organized and facilitated by volunteers, which include a conference organizer for each strand.

If one checks out the schedule of K-12 Online Conference presenters, one will find that this year’s four strands and sessions are arranged as follows:

  • Pre-Conference Week: October 11-15, 2010
  • Week 1: October 18-22, 2010
    • Leading the Change (Keynote and 9 additional presentations)
    • Student Voices (Keynote and 9 additional presentations)
  • Week 2: October 25-29, 2010
    • Week in the Classroom (Keynote and 9 additional presentations)
    • Kicking It Up a Notch (Keynote and 10 additional presentation)

“Cultivating the Future” is the theme for 2010. I encourage readers to review the descriptions of the wide variety of multi-media presentations and mark down the dates and times so that you can experience them “live”. However, don’t worry if you have a conflict and are not able to get online at the time of a specific presentation. One of the most important aspects of this K-12 Online Conference is that presentations are archived so that one is able to review both the multi-media sessions and the wealth of online resources at your convenience. In fact, educators can go to these archives of sessions presented in 2006, 2007, 2008, or 2009 to gain access to relevant, educational ideas and resources that may have been presented years ago but still have relevance today. It is no wonder that the K-12 Online Conference is described as “the conference that never ends”.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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