Overview Edublogs Serendipity webinar – Sprite and 2E


We were a very small group for our  recorded Serendipity unconference webinar this week. I think this was the combination of Thanksgiving in the USA, nearing the end of the academic year in Australia, and the fact that the conference season is still in full swing. We tend to have very low numbers at this time of year and this usually improves after Christmas.

The Session

We didn’t really formally decide on a topic for this session, one just “grew” out of the initial conversation. My interest was sparked by a references to “Sprite’s Site by Jo Freitag (@jofrei). Jo told us about her cartoon character Sprite who is twice exceptional (2E). Sprite is a gifted student with a learning difficulty/difference.


This session was fascinating as Jo told us about (and gave us links to) Sprite’s Site where  you can read about Sprite and her learning journey. We also heard about the Gifted Resources website that Jo coordinates. This is an information service for parents, teachers and service providers involved with gifted students. Jo also mentioned #gtchat on Twitter, a weekly forum for discussion around gifted issues.


This session was very exciting for me with lots of “take-aways” about the issues 2E students encounter that will help me with my own students. It has also made me think about how I might better organise the resources I use regularly for literacy and numeracy and make them more accessible for others.

Our Next Session

FineFocusSmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session. This week we have a treat in store as we will be joined by Sue Waters (@suewaters) the Edublogger. Sue is going to share her ideas and strategies relating to one of the topics suggested on our Wallwisher. The topic is ” How to manage using more than one Web 2.0 tool (incl social networks, virtual worlds and other comms tools) at once for education.” This is guaranteed to be a lively session as Sue’s sessions always are – she certainly always keeps me on my toes as a moderator!

.Join us on Thursday Dec 2nd at 23:00 GMT/UTC (6pm USA EST, Midnight CET) or Friday Dec 3rd at 7am West Aus, 10am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room

In the Future

If you are a regular visitor to our webinars you will know that we alternate “Fine Focus” sessions on specific topics with “Serendipity” the unconference sessions where we choose a topic by poll at the start of the session. Sometimes the very fact of being asked for “hot topics” or other ideas for discussion or learning tends to make our minds blank. This has prompted me to start a Serendipity Wallwisher for topic suggestions. Please visit the wall and add your ideas for Serendipity topics so that we have more choices to consider. Some of these ideas might also form the basis for future “Fine Focus” sessions.

Serendipity webinar overview – Elluminate playtime


In our recent recorded Serendipity webinar we “played” with Elluminate. This was the topic chosen after some discussion.

The Session

For this session everyone was given moderator rights.


This always gives rise to very “interesting” times with whiteboards whizzing rapidly by as everyone experiemnts with all the extra tools they get as moderators. If rapid image movement unsettles you you might want to keep your eyes closed during some of the recording :). We took a quick skim through some of the main features that moderators use: whiteboard – loading content, moving slides, seeing who has used whiteboard tools to add content; saving whiteboards; polling – publishing the results to the whiteboard; application share – giving and taking control of desktops.


I always enjoy this type of session – they tend to stretch me because everyone is exploring and asking questions. So even with a small group I am sometimes trying to address three or four questions at the same time. However I always also have some concerns that these sessions don’t always work well for participants so I wouldparticularly welcome any comments about that. I have thought about using breakout rooms for these types of sessions and may well try that next time – if anyone has any other ideas about how to run “playtime” sessions in Elluminate without a degree of chaos I would love to hear them.

Next Session

FineFocusSmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session. This week Ellena Bethea presents the second of our sessions on GoogleDocs  “Using Google Docs to Go Paperless, Collaborate in the Secondary Classroom”. In this interactive session Ellena will focus on using Google Spreadsheets, Google Drawings, and Google Forms to eliminate worksheets in the high school classroom, with an emphasis on high school science. Ellena is a fourth year high school chemistry teacher at a private school in Manhattan. Her focus is finding ways to use technology to enhance inquiry and learning in the classroom. Join us on Thursday Sept 23rd at 23:00 GMT/UTC (7pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday Sept 24th at 1am CEST,7am West Aus, 9am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room

In the Future

If you are a regular visitor to our webinars you will know that we alternate “Fine Focus” sessions on specific topics with “Serendipity” the unconference sessions where we choose a topic by poll at the start of the session. Sometimes the very fact of being asked for “hot topics” or other ideas for discussion or learning tends to make our minds blank. This has prompted me to start a Serendipity Wallwisher for topic suggestions. Please visit the wall and add your ideas for Serendipity topics so that we have more choices to consider. Some of these ideas might also form the basis for future “Fine Focus” sessions.

Serendipity webinar overview – Are those huge expensive conferences outdated?


This recorded session buzzed from start to finish. We had a very lively group of participants with an initial dead heat for topic with the final choice being to discuss the continuing relevance or otherwise of the very large (often sponsored by businesses but nevertheless very expensive for participants) conferences .

The Session

I feel that the topic was in part inspired by the upcoming Reform Symposium 48 hour onlince conference at the end of this week, and the juxtaposition of this with some of the very large expensive face-to-face conferences that have happened recently. The discussion flowed along using our usual blend of audio, textchat and whiteboard and began with some consideration of what we might consider to be large paid conferences and also some clarification of what we  understood by “unconference”.


We spent some time considering the pros and cons of the large, sponsored, but often still very costly for participants, conferences. Discussion then moved on to explore why these were so expensive for participants particularly when they are often ponsored by businesses and how they might be made less expensive.


As is usually the case when we have a session the buzzes along with lots of audio input you will get much more from the recording than frem reading this overview.

Next Webinar

ToolsStrategiesSmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session a “Tools and Strategies” “YouTube in the Classroom” when Bill Genereux, associate professor of Digital Media and Computer Technology in the Engineering Technology Department of Kansas State University, joins us .  YouTube is powerful because it is popular, but it is widely prohibited on school networks. Bill will discuss his recent efforts to learn how students and educators are portrayed on the social media video website YouTube using digital ethnographic research methods pioneered by Michael Wesch.

Join us on Thursday July 29th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (7pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday July 30th at 1am CEST,7am West Aus, 9am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room


Serendipity webinar overview – Web 3.0 where to now?


This was one of those small but very active sessions (recording here) where the blend of text, whiteboards and audio was almost seamless with all three being used in the conversation. The best way to checkout this session is to catch the recording.

The session

We started with some discussion on what we understood by the term Web 3.0. This included references to:

  • semantic tagging;
  • small, fast, customisable, virally distributed applications
  • contextual, tailored, predictive searching
  • deductive reasoning “intelligence”

The discussion moved on with most of the focus being on the issues around the tagging, searching and “intelligence” aspects. Particular concerns were expressed about the impacts and influences of this type of search on independence of mind and thought.



This session was very thought provoking and more thoughts and implications are still striking me some days after the session. I suspect this is very much a theme for further exploration in a Fine Focus discussion in the not too distant future.

Next Week

TechieSmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus!” session a “Techie How To” – “Introducing  Scratch” from guest presenter Carl Bogardus (@weemooseus). Carl will give us an introduction to using Scratch. An easy to use programming language that you and your students can use to create and share your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art.

Join us on Thursday June 17th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (7pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday June 18th at 1am CEST,7am West Aus, 9am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room


Webinar Overview – Be an “Elluminated” participant


Our recorded Edublogs webinar this week provided me with an excuse to play with Elluminate. Occasionally I do a session on some aspect of Elluminate – usually as a result of comments and questions raised in response to using a particular tool in other sessions. This time having had quite a large number of people new to Elluminate joining our webinars in recent weeks it felt like time to take a look at getting the most out of being a participant.

The Session

The plan for the session was to explore a variety of tools and options available to participants in Elluminate sessions. Thus providing some ideas and suggestions to help everyone get the most out of participating in interactive webinars.

The objectives were to look briefly at:

  • establishing an  “identity” in the virtual context
  • arranging the virtual environment to facilitate keeping up with events and capturing/saving content and ideas
  • active participation

Elluminated ParticipantsResize

As always the emphasis was on interaction and activities throughout using polling, whiteboard, text and experimenting with tools and options. Also as usual I tried to fit too much into the time and ended up feeling that I was rushing but the participants seemed nonetheless to find the session useful.


This was, hopefully, an interesting session that seemed to be enjoyed by all. As with most of these sessions this overview is no more than a fleeting glimpse and you will get much more from the recording.

Next week

SerendipitybsmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs Serendipity – unconference session so bring along your hot topics and burning issues (what makes you spit with anger or thump a tub with passion) and throw them into the melting pot for the poll to choose our topic in the first ten minutes.

Join us on Thursday June 10th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (7pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday June 11th at 1am CEST,7am West Aus, 9am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room


Polymath or Specialist?


I was ruminating a couple of days ago about how learning, and teaching, have changed in so many ways since I was a scruffy kid at a small rural grammar (high) school in the UK over 40 years ago.  Even subjects such as chemistry and biology were taught largely by “chalk and talk” and “read your textbook”. The occasional inclusion of “a film” was just that with a projector and a large reel of film. Even more rarely we migh have the opportunity to watch a BBC Schools programme on a grainy black and white screen as it was being broadcast.

Polymaths and specialists

Anyway enough of the reminiscence! What was really in my mind was how all of my teachers when I was young were definitely “specialists” they taught in their own (usually quite narrow) field, and were never asked questions or expected to know anything about anything else. I think I have had a “bee in my bonnet” about specialisation since those days. Even then I saw connections between subjects that others seemed unaware of and I found it intensely annoying that everything was compartmentalised.


It seems to me (and this is purely my own opinion) that for most of my life (until about the last 12 years) there has been a huge emphasis on specialisation. People have been encouraged for a long time to “know more and more about less and less” whether it be the works of a particular author who wrote two books or the lifestyle and physiology of a minute insect. I have always found this type of very narrow focus almost impossible for me as this degree of specialisation often seems to exclude the broader context in which the subject is set. It also (from my perspective) tends to diminish the opportunities for cross disciplinary input.

As one of those people with polymathic tendencies – and I am using polymath in its sense of varied (cross disciplinary) knowledge rather than in the sense of knowing a vast amount – I have often felt that I am labelled in a number of ways. Some of those labels that have been applied to me over the years are: “having a magpie mind” in the sense of remembering a lot of unimportant “glittery stuff”; “butterfly minded” ie flitting from subject to subject; “academic lightweight” with its implication that just because I have not chosen to “pile it higher and deeper” about one topic I therefore lack the capacity to do so!


My perception is that it is now more acceptable to be a polymath than it has been for many years. The ruminations that gave rise to this have also led me to wonder on the validity of this perception and consequently why this might be so. The first instant thought was that this is a result of the exponential growth of easily available information through Internet publishing and increased access. In my opinion the skills of a generalist and synthesist (often held by polymaths) are better suited to a burgeoning information situation than are those of a specialist. There is also the additional point that, with increased access to information, specialists are no longer the exclusive curators of detailed knowledge and information. Perhaps this is why (in my opinion) polymathy (and respect for it) is on the rise. However it may just be the usual cyclic nature of change – there have been other times when polymathy was common. Both the Renaissance period and the late 19th Century stand out in the number of polymaths who were high achievers in more than one field.

To Conclude

Finally, all I have written here is just “my take” I have no supporting evidence for any of these thoughts and opinions – just my own feeling from what I see around me and in my PLN. So my perception of a rise in polymathy is just that. As always, I would be most interested to hear your point of view.

Serendipity – Two topics!

Sorry for the delay in posting this everyone. I intended to finish it early Sunday morning but woke with a migraine, so lost the day until now.

Once again we had a dead heat for topics in our recent Serendipity unconference webinar. Those chosen were “Peer Support” arising out of discussion in previous webinars and “Education Reform” triggered by the mass firing of teachers in a US school and the reactions to this by prominent politicians. As always when we have two topics minds are focussed and we cover a lot of ground in a short time. For a better sense of the discussion checkout the recording.

Just a reminder for those of you new to our sessions that although we use the words: education,  teacher and also school very often – this is generic and used for convenience. Our discussions are of education, teaching and learning institutions in the broadest sense and we have participants from across all sectors and also globally.

We started with Peer Support which generated a lively discussion starting with a variety of ideas about what constituted peer support. The consensus was that it covers a range of different interactions. In my own personal opinion it is an overarching term that includes peer mentoring and peer tutoring as well as teamwork activities. Several of us shared occasions when peer support had occurred either in a planned way or spontaneously in our classes. There was a feeling that this might be a topic to explore more fully in a focussed session perhaps by inviting several people to share strategies that had worked in their context.

The discussion on Education Reform was triggered by recent events in the US where all the teachers in a school were fired, this was stated to be because of poor student outcomes – thanks to Shelly Terrell for the link to this article and several other related ones that she provided in the text chat.

Again this topic was one that gave rise to enthusiastic discussion and revealed something approaching despair about what is happening to education systems worldwide and the impact on teachers.


The apparent continually increasing culture of blame with teachers on the receiving end is something which has a hugely negative effect on motivation and enthusiasm. Teachers who enter the education systems of the world generally do so with a passion for their work but you only have to look at the numbers of teachers who seem to be leaving education worldwide to see that disillusion is setting in on a large scale. As with the first topic this is one that seems to call for a more focussed session or even a series of sessions. It is certainly a perennial subject when teachers get together, and one which always seems to conclude that the only solution is to keep “chipping away”. However – from my very personal perspective it seems to be getting worse with teachers becoming more and more political and sociological scapegoats for the ills of society.

FineFocusSmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus!” session a mix of  “Techie How To” and “Tools and Strategies” where we will “play” with Elluminate whiteboards from the Moderator’s perspective in “White(board) Magic!”

Join us on Thursday March 11th at 23:00 GMT (6pm USA EST, Midnight CET) or Friday March 12th at 7am West Aus, 10am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room.


Lighting up my students’ online lives with interactive Elluminate

Its a long time since I wrote a post so after Free Online PD on Friday (09:00 Western Australian time – GMT +8) where I did a session on Elluminate interactivity in the Edublogs/Elluminate community partnership virtual room I thought I really should continue my posts about using Elluminate. Last year when I was providing cross-college PD in e-learning (including Elluminate) I started a series of cartoons made with ToonDoo introducing some of the facets of working in virtual classrooms. I used a couple of these in Fridays session and thought maybe it would be fun to put some of them in posts when I’m writing about Elluminate and some of the tools and strategies that I find useful.

Most of my cartoons are two ToonDoo cartoons joined together like the one above on the social dimension in online learning.

For me – in my context – ie working with students who are often geographically isolated that social dimension is critical – both in Elluminate and in the Learning Management System that we use (currently CE6). On Friday in Online PD I tried to give all those in the session a feel for some of the strategies and Elluminate tools that I use to keep that social dimension in the forefront throughout my virtual classes.

I use a lot of game type activities – one of the simplest that is really good to help students get familiar with tools and also get some practice with them is a version of “Simon Says”. I think this has different names in different countries – so here is a short “toonscription”

Another advantage of this game is it gives you (as moderator) an opportunity to see if any students are particularly slow with the tools and to assess whether they might need extra help or are suffering from bandwidth/connection problems.

If you don’t normally have access to Elluminate and would like to try it out or use it for small meetings you can use this link to get your own free 3-user Elluminate v-Room! you are also very welcome at the Free Online PD sessions that happen through Elluminate each week Friday (09:00 Western Australian time – GMT +8). Read the Edublogger post from Sue Waters for more information.

This Friday (3rd April) we are following on from last week’s how to keep Elluminate sessions interactive by suggesting that participants try out something interactive they might use with their students. This should be an “elluminating” session! If you are coming along and plan to try something and there is anything you need clarifying beforehand then you are welcome to Tweet me @JoHart or ask your question in a comment to this post.