I spent a productive and exciting day at Marin Country Day School, attending one of the occasional meetings of the Bay Area Independent School Technology Network (BAISNet). The day focused on Web 2.0 in schools in two sessions, a morning group meeting and then several breakout groups. You’ll find the meeting outline and notes at WikiSpaces.
Edward (Bay School, formerly of KQED) and Michael both focused on student and teacher use of wikis at their schools. Michael referred to wikis as “bulletin boards” within his school, a helpful use of an old metaphor to explain the function of a new technology. I regularly wrestle with the competing values of reducing our intranet to a small number of tools and providing the best tool for each purpose. Both WikiSpaces and MediaWiki do a better job of keeping the discussion forum close to the wiki than do either Moodle or Drupal.
Barbara focused on VoiceThread, which I was happy to see for the first time. MCDS elementary students posted photos and drawings of themselves and various subjects and then commented on them with audio. I like how Voicethread supports multiple source media, so that users may post content in the media they happen to have or best fits the subject matter. The Voicethread team also seem to have paid very close attention to adjacency in their user interface. They cluster the icons for submitted comments closely around the original post and display user tools just underneath.
Hoover, Joanne, and Tracy from Sacred Heart focused on their use of Moodle. SacredSF has over 200 Moodle courses, an impressive rate of participation in taking courses online using this platform. Hoover also demonstrated that they have teachers using Moodle at a high level — one was making use of at least six different types of Moodle objects. Discussion forums at SacredSF also seem very active.
Barbara encouraged people to join the Independent School Educators Ning (ISENet) as a way to extend our network beyond the friendly confined of BAISNet to an international audience. It’s quite possible that the launch of ISENet will answer my longstanding question of where are the independent school bloggers. Though still small in number, it is helpful to forge connections with the leading national figures in one place. I have great hopes for this social network, even while no relishing the need to judge whether to post a blog entry to my blog, the Ning, or both. Perhaps I will use it only when seeking feedback on specific questions.
I also hope that the new BAISNet Wikispace that Barbara started will really take off. It is well past time to build documentation and hold certain discussions in a wiki rather than all via email. It’s time to end the practice of starting the annual email-based discussion on “topic x.”
I was pleased to receive positive feedback to my use of connectivism to demystify the appeal of Web 2.0 tools to a small number of wildly enthusiastic educational technologists. Hoover questioned whether connectivism is just a different word for social constructivism, and I pointed him toward the idea that constructivism, even within a social context, finds the source of learning within the individual. Connectivism posits that learning takes place beyond the individual, within the network itself. The network learns, primarily by taking over the functions of information storage and retrieval from the individual.
I was also pleased that a dozen attended a roundtable discussion entitled “Take your web site to 2.0 with Drupal.” In a complete shift from three years ago, we now have a critical mass of school technologists frustrated with the limitations of commercial school web site providers and seriously considering open-source alternatives.
BAISNet meetings happen serendipitously, usually when email discussion on a particular topic reaches a new high, or when someone realizes that the group has not held a meeting in many months. Flying down from Portland for the meeting was totally worth it, both for the specific knowledge I gained today, the feedback I received on my new ideas, and the reminder that the Bay Area has a truly valuable concentration of independent school technologists who understand how to share information for the good of the group. Kudos to Barbara for organizing this meeting and Hoover for shepherding this group for many years (and driving me from the city to the meeting and back!).