Social Media: Drinking from a Fire Hose

Social Media can feel overwhelming.  Between all the various tools to connect and navigate, the options on sharing – photos, urls, text, videos etc., the other tools to organize your social media not to mention all the usernames and passwords, it can quickly feel overwhelming – like trying to drink from a fire hose.


by Official U.S. Navy Imagery on Flickr  creative commons button by-sa Some rights reserved

This is a phrase I heard during a keynote by Alec Couros at the NWelearn conference several years ago.  At this point in time, I was not active in social media and was seriously wondering if it was worth “adding one more thing.”

stacked by Chrissy Wainwright

by Chrissy Wainwright on Flickr  Some rights reserved

Stopping to Explore

The solution Alec Couros suggested was to not worry about what you missed.  You just need to stop by every now and again and take a drink from the river of information.   I have followed this advice and found some incredibly helpful information when I needed it, or an introduction to a new idea or technology that proved useful later.

daughter of milam by anurag agnihotri

by anurag agnihotri on Flickr  creative commons button by-sa Some rights reserved

Blogs and RSS

One of the first tools I used was an RSS reader.  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication – which while it does make you feel like it is something you could wrap your mind around – really doesn’t answer the question  of what is RSS.  You can search “define RSS” in google and you will get the definition along with a number of sites to explore.  Or we can turn to CommonCraft on Youtube for a visual explanation:


So, you use RSS to help you keep track of your blogs and other sites that use RSS.  I currently use Feedly to gather all the RSS feeds I have discovered.  I like the ability to sort, organize, and search.  It can still be overwhelming, but you have to remember that you are not “required” to read everything, just the titles or images that catch your eye.  Or maybe use the search for terms like “presentation” to find people talking about technology for presentations.

 People, Products and Twitter

I have found that twitter can often provide a quick look at something new. With only 140 characters there is a limit, but often links will be added using a url shortner (,, that take you to blog posts, articles or other expanded information.  It has been through these short moments in time that I have found some cool tools (gingko), insights from big names in my field (, informative graphics (), and inspiration

So, while social media can be overwhelming, don’t feel you have to “do” or capture everything.  You are in charge of how you use social media.  Explore a little, but do some planning as well.  Plan to take time to use the tools in a way that in useful for you.

At times you may feel like you are letting information go down the drain, but there are tools – searching, filtering, etc. to help you find the information when you need it.  Take the time to learn those features and you will be in charge of your social media.

fire hose drain Kat N.L.M.

by Kat N.L.M. on Flickr   Some rights reserved



Building My PLN: Who to Follow?

In considering what I want to learn and how I want to develop there are many ways I have used to find people to include in my professional learning network or PLN.   In this post I will look at the process I used to find two individuals and some of the tools I have used to organize my PLN.  Before looking for people, blogs or other resources, it is good to consider your areas of interest.

Areas of Interest

My list grows and changes as I learn more, but at the moment I would say these are my areas of interest – with some sub-categories:

  • Instructional Design
  • Faculty Development
  • Online Learning
    • Quality
    • Course Design
    • Delivery
  • Technology for Learning
  • Just plain cool technology
  • Teaching
  • Learning
  • Visual Design

So, now that I have some general areas, the question is how do I go about finding people, blogs and resources to add to my PLN.  Here are two ways that I found key people in my PLN.

Just in Time Answers

One of the first places people use to find answers is “Google.”  In the process of working on various projects, I will use this same process to find solutions to problems I encounter.  In the searches, I will often discover a  blog that consistently has great answers, suggestions and solutions.  This is the type of resource you want to include in your PLN – one that consistently has answers to the questions you are asking.   For me, this resource centered on designing learning experiences.

The eLearning Coach

The elearning Coach blog is written by Connie Malamed.  Her background is in design and her blog post usually focus on the implementation of a strategy, tool or technique, making them perfect answers for questions.  In addition to following her blog using Feedly, I followed her on twitter and connected with her via LinkedIn.

Who are They Following?

After adding several people with practical answers like Connie Malamed.  I started paying attention to who they were following on Twitter, whose posts they retweeted and who they referenced in their blog posts.  Through this process I found someone who makes me think.  I enjoy when I discover a new idea or a new perspective.  It is important to include people that make you think and bring alternative perspectives.

Howard Rheingold

Howard Rheingold is one of those people that brings new ideas into my thinking.  I do find that I agree with much of what he says and he does bring practical ideas to my attention.  But he is also one of my resources that pointed out that you need to include multiple perspectives.  You don’t want a PLN that constantly agrees with you – you don’t get new ideas that way.  I find that his principles in NetSmart are good guidelines to follow.

Tools for PLN

In building my PLN, I have found the following tools most helpful:

Feedly allows me to follow blogs, put them into categories and easily access new posts from one location.


I use twitter to see what people are sharing and talking about.  I have also looked up hashtags for conferences I cannot attend to follow the backchannel.  WordPress also allows you to automatically send a tweet when a new blog post is published – allowing me to easily share what I am exploring.


Along with individuals, LinkedIn also has groups.  I have found some valuable people in the Instructional Design and Moodle groups who I have followed on Twitter and added to my Feedly account.

So there you have some guidelines to help you in building your PLN.  Who will you find? What tools are you using?  Feel free to share in the comments so we can all build our PLN.


Organizations and Conferences: AECT

One of the best things that happened to me as a student teacher is that my mentor encouraged me to attend a conference with the rest of the Foreign Language Department.  I loved gathering all the best practices and ideas that I could incorporate into my teaching.  I continued to attend regional and national conferences each year I taught in K12.

When I moved into Higher Education, the organization and conferences did not meet my professional needs anymore.  I felt lost and out of touch.  I needed to connect with other professionals outside my own organization.  Most of my colleagues were fantastic to work with, but there is something about getting out of the regular environment that energizes you in a way that an internal conversation or training just can’t do.

Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT)

Last year I joined and attended the national conference for AECT. This organization is about instructional design – designing good education that incorporates and takes advantage of technology.  Some may see other aspects of the organization -as there are others, but this is what I needed.

This conference was different.  In lacking a professional organizational “home” I had turned to blogs and twitter to find other professionals.  In attending the conference many of the names and faces were familiar.  Several of the featured speakers were people whose blogs /twitter feeds I followed – Howard Rheingold, David Wiley, David Merrill, Tom Reeves.

One morning of the conference they had what they called “Breakfast with Champions.”  I bought my ticket and went.  In the room were approximately 20 tables with names.  All the featured speakers and many of the other “big names” in instructional design were each seated at their own table.  This was an opportunity to go sit and have breakfast with amazing professionals!  As a doctoral candidate everyone was interested and willing to help me with research ideas so the conversation  became centered on my research interests. I can’t wait to go again!

Professional Learning Networks (PLN)

So how does a professional organization fit into your PLN? In beginning the creation of your PLN, look for an organization.  Look in all areas of your interest, for me those interests have included teaching, technology, instructional design, learning, French, change management and Chemistry.  Once you find an organization – join that organization.  Take advantage of the conferences, workshops and resources available through the organization.  As you find people that have similar professional interests, you can follow their blogs and twitter feeds to see what they are studying and exploring, and who they are following.  Bringing a wealth of information to you, to learn and grow as a professional.

Technology for Building a Professional Learning Network (or tech4pln)

Today begins a six week course that will focus on exploring technologies for a professional learning network (PLN).  In this short time frame, together with my students we will blog about our learning and will create a wiki resource.  (See While there is not much to see at the moment, I hope we will have a wonderful resource in six weeks.

I began my own journey in developing a PLN in 2010 when I started this blog.  I participated in the MOOC Personal Learning Environments and Networks 2010.  This was before “the year of the MOOCs“, so I feel it was quite different than the MOOCs of today.  It was scary putting my thoughts and writing out for the world to see.  I wondered if anyone would even want to read what I wrote.  I connected with several people from around the world and enjoyed seeing how their experiences were similar and sometimes very different than my own.  I have gone back and re-read some of my first posts and been reminded of some of the goals and inspiration I had.  In preparing for this course there is one idea that continually comes to the forefront.  The idea of documenting a learning path. 

Learning Paths

There is an article from 1966 entitled The Case Against Teaching. (There is a similarly title article from 2001, but we are going to stick with the one from 1966). In this article, West is discussing the need for change in the education of physicians.  This was a time when internships, practicums and working with patients as a student was rare.  West argues that in order to become doctors, students should watch doctors doing doctor stuff – not listening to lectures (he says it much more eloquently).  This got me thinking about teaching and learning.  


We have all experienced school in some form or another, and thus have seen “teaching.”  However, since we all need to learn, have we seen “learning?”  So much of learning happens inside, with pondering, reflection and connecting to previous information that we can’t really “watch someone learn.”  But, but using something like a blog, we can document our learning – creating a learning path that perhaps someone else may follow and thus learn from our learning.

So armed with blogs, twitter, LinkedIn, Diigo and Wikispaces, we begin this journey of learning.  If you’d like to join us check out the link to the wikispaces and the Diigo group below, follow #tech4pln on Twitter and explore the list of student blogs.


West, K. M. (1966). The case against teaching. Academic Medicine41(8), 766-71.


The “Frame” of School & Stop Learning and Start Thinking

In working on some research for my doctoral program I was lead to Punya Mishra’s blog, Mishra is one of the creators of the TPCK (or TPACK)  model.  Curious about the most recent posts on the blog I found Banksy’s biggest trick OR why I hate art museums (with a link to a full article by Isabel Wilkinson about the “trick.”)

As I am working on research thinking about teaching, strategies, technology, learning, improvement, quality, preparing, supporting – I read the account from a school perspective.  Now I do agree with the art comments and the perspective that there is beautiful art all around us.  Just because someone puts something in a museum or an acclaimed critic declares a specific person the “greatest” does not in itself make it art.  Wilkinson states in her article “It’s a classic example of art without the frame – and it raises the important question: how much does our experience of art rely on context?”  With all my thoughts on teaching and learning I thought about how we “frame” education.

Stop Learning…OR why I hate school

Mishra’s title states “…OR why I hate art museums”  I have heard plenty of “…OR why I hate school/education”  I also recently watched the TEDxTeen video, where the Jacob Barnett encourages us to stop learning (as in the traditional school type of learning) and to start thinking.  At the end he reiterates his point and includes – if you are in a specific field – chemistry, biology, math, instructional design – “be the field.”

But back to the “frame” or context.  How do we “frame” education and learning?

Framing Content

There is the level of a teacher “framing” content.  I lived an experience during a geology unit in an integrated science class I was teaching.  My job was to help this group of 9th graders get “caught up” in science so they would be ready for the rest of their science classes in high school.  The summer before I taught this course my husband wanted to renew his rockhounding hobby – and bring me along.  I was reluctant at first, but gave in when he found a spot in a small cove nearby.  He could look for the rocks, I could just sit and enjoy an afternoon at the beach.

By the time I taught that unit on Geology, my husband had me hooked.  I was looking at rocks in a whole new light.  Just last week we finished tumbling some of those first beach rocks which were petrified wood.  These brilliant bands of blue appeared, seemingly out of no where.  My mind immediately started thinking about what elements would cause a blue color? why didn’t we see the blue before? what did we use in the final polish stage – did that turn something blue? So in my geology unit, I brought in some of the rocks I had found and many more of the rocks from my husband’s collection to use as examples.  My student “caught” my excitement about rocks.  I had them bringing in all sorts of rocks to share.  Living in south central Los Angeles, the majority of the rocks were pieces of concrete – but they were looking at their world in a whole new way. And because they were looking, we had real conversations about science and their world  “What is this one?” “Well what do you see?” “Well, it is kind of crumbly right here.” “What kind of rock would have that characteristic?…why?”

Just as a museum, or a art critic “frames” something and designates it as art, so too must teachers “frame” their content.  In a recent webinar by Tom Reeves he described a biology course that created short videos to catch the students’ attention – to “frame” the content.

Framing Education

Learning happens everywhere, just as there is art all around us.  But all too often we need someone to say “Hey look at this!”  We need someone to “frame” it for us. We all have an idea of what education looks like and it will have a strong resemblance of what our own education looked like.  So how do we provide the “frame” for courses, for programs, for schools, for education without the resulting “that’s why I hate schools”?

I do think we each need different “frames” at different times.  And sometimes it takes time, much longer than a class period or a semester or a  year.  In watching Jennifer Roberts talk for the Harvard Initiative on Learning and Teaching, she talks about slowing down.  One of her assignments requires students to study a piece of art, in person for 3 hours straight.


Just as with art, if we take the time, we can find our own “frames” for learning.  Learning can happen anywhere, just as art is all around us. The question is how do teachers “frame” teaching and thus influence the “frame” of education.

Using Multiple Instructional Models – SAMR and TPCK

It appears that most people are looking at my Why We Need Learning Theories post.  I think combining instructional models fall into a similar thought.  My current internal visual is actually using various magnifying glasses to closely examine an instructional design through multiple perspectives.  I would argue that good designers do just that – look at their work from multiple perspectives.

Not long ago I ran across the SAMR Model developed by Ruben Puentedura as a framework for evaluating how technology is being implemented in teaching.  Here is a visual of the model:

SAMR full model

Basically if the technology integration is at the substitution or augmentation level you will not expect to see much change in the teaching.  It is when the technology is integrated at the modification or redefinition level that we see transformation in education.

At AECT during a session on MOOCs David Wiley talked about how we know what strategies work well in a face to face setting with a class of 20, perhaps we just haven’t found the strategies that work in a really large course online.  Which made me think of this model – what are the strategies to integrate technology so that is causes the teaching/learning to be modified or redefined and thus transform the teaching/learning?

I wanted to review Dr. Puentedura’s work and was only able to find conference presentations posted on his blog and some YouTube videos.

In watching one of his longer presentations, I saw that he uses several models, including Mishra & Koehler’s  TPCK model.  At the beginning of the second part of the presentation Dr. Puentedura talked about the model in a way that gave me a new perspective on TPCK.  He states that you need to think about the content, pedagogy and technology “at the same time.” (at 3:05) They need to be connected and brought together.  There needs to be an opportunity for the content, pedagogy and technology to have equal influence on the design. This fits with my own best experiences where I am discussing a specific course with a faculty and bringing my technology and pedagogical expertise to the table with their content and pedagogical expertise to find best strategies in moving their course to a hybrid or online model.


I like how he easily jumps from model to model, making connections across them.  Which is better seen in the first part of the presentation. I think all too often people get “stuck” into one way of thinking – I use this model and this is the best model for me and my course/students, I will always use this model.  I’m all for models – they help make the design of courses transparent.  But I do like looking as a design through various lenses – which is what I feel Dr. Puentedura is recommending and modeling in his presentation.


In an interview with Stefan Olsa from the Center för Skolutveckling in Sweeden he says something at the end of the interview that caught my attention.  The question was where do you see schools in about ten years? (at 3:55) He would hope to see a school where the technology is integrated at the redefinition level, “where the students become the true owners of their own learning.”

The Constant Change of Technology or The Death of SlideRocket

Technology is constantly changing.  I do my best to have options and have a plan for when services are no longer available. I try to walk the middle ground on the technology “vs” arguments – focusing on the benefits of each side.

So, I am struggling with my grief over the loss of SlideRocket.

SlideRocket is/was a presentation option which was recently bought by ClearSlide. I assume that the presentation tools will be integrated into ClearSlides sales presentation options, but I am not in sales.  I am in education. And while I tried to sign-up for free trial to see if I could still access the presentation tool – perhaps I just needed to pay, I was informed that a salesperson would be contacting me.  I have yet to hear from Samantha.  I guess they don’t want to waste their time with educational institutions.

I have been searching for a replacement – which I have to find before December 2013. There are many presentation software/cloudware options available, but I have yet to find one that works as well as SlideRocket. In trying to pinpoint what it was that made SlideRocket AMAZING, I can’t narrow it down to one specific thing. I think it is the combination that was brought together so beautifully to create this tool.  So here is a list of the things that I wish I could find in one solution.

Not a Copy of Your Average Presentation Software

Creating a SlideRocket presentation was different. The tools were within easy access and yet had powerful options. There was an ease that came with inserting images, shapes and text. With little effort you had access to impressive design tools.


No, emailing large files back and forth or tracking the most recent version in cloud storage. It was easy to add additional people to collaborate on the presentation.  While same time collaboration was not as slick as GoogleDocs, with a little coordination each person could do their portion of the presentation.


In addition to the ability to collaborate, it was easy to share the presentation via a link. You could also use the permissions to add a password, collect emails and names and manage the ability to download, share, embed or print.

Faculty could add the same presentation link in several classes, but only had to update it in one place.  No need to worry about uploading large files into the learning management system (lms).  No need to worry about extra software.  No need to worry about access across devices – more on that below.

Adding Audio

The ability to upload audio files or to record directly into SlideRocket was one of the major selling points to our faculty. All other options that I have found thus far, have obstacles in terms of large file sizes, high learning curve or additional hurdles for the students.  It was also possible to record one slide at a time, with the ability to time the animations. Many of the other options available require you to record the entire presentation.  So updating the one slide in the middle becomes more time consuming than it needs to be.

Flash and HTML5

Another key component for faculty in using SlideRocket was the early availability of either flash or HTML5.  This made the presentations accessible across many devices.


The analytics in SlideRocket turned out to be wonderful for faculty. It was easy to see who was accessing the presentation and when.  In addition you could see the average time spent on each slide.


If enabled, any viewer could add comments to any of the slides.  Great tool for providing detailed feedback on student presentations.


It was easy to add a learning check or allow viewers to provide feedback to the presenter.  While the answers did not sync with the lms they were still useful and easy to access.


The design factors in SlideRocket were easily accessible.  The available templates made you feel like you could create something amazing. And I loved how all the templates were created as models, to help everyone make great presentations. I have seen some of this in other solutions, but not to the extent of SlideRocket.  And I know that many of the design things I could do in SlideRocket I could also do in your basic presentation software, but for some reason it felt easier in SlideRocket.

New Tool Suggestions?

At this point it comes down to prioritizing and deciding what we can do without. I would have to say that the ability to easily add audio and access through the lms are at the top of the list. As I’m looking for solutions, I’m open to your suggestions…

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