Friday, February 27, 2009


Back from the Learning @ School 09 Conference in Rotorua and reflecting on the highlights and points to improve on.

On day one the Keynote was Andy Hargreaves speaking on 'The fourth Way of Leadership and Change'. My mind was half on the topic at hand and half on preparing for my own workshop on collaboration. I thought it might be a good opportunity to try out a collaborative tool called Etherpad so I created a document and spread the word on twitter. If you have a look at the doc you'll see text highlighted in different colours, these colours represent the various authors involved from the conference.
The tool was fabulous and worked better than I could have hoped. I actually had to create a second document to accommodate more authors as etherpad only allows 8 participants at a time. I was a little put out but pleased that I couldn't get back into my original document because it was in full use by others. Thinking about it now, it was great having others help me in my note-taking and the collaboration was so successful. I also liked that if I missed or forgot something, someone else added it in.

So how good is it? I think etherpad did what it was setup to do and our group were able to expand on the issues and thinking being put before us. The chat feature is good for clarifying before adding content. It was note-takiing so a little hap-hazard but with a quick review of the PowerPoint provided for the keynote it all made perfect sense.

Thumbs up Etherpad ... 8 1/2 out of 10. More users would be nice, or a copy/paste overflow to a second document.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pimp my Gmail: Backup your files.

I have been using Gmail for about 3 years and have used 5% of the storage capacity of the service without deleting a single message. At the same time I have had 3 computers and needed to deal with the nightmare of file storage. This is what I use for files I want to keep safe and refer to often:

Backup to Gmail: It's a basic program that allows me to right click any file and send it to my Gmail account.

If you are a serious Gmail user then you'll be using Firefox for your browser as it has more features than IE. Regardless of this, Gmail can be a mess unless you use 'filters and labels' so you'll want to create a label for your backup files and filter those files to that label.


  1. My important files are online and secure within my account and accessible anywhere.
  2. Because my files are in Gmail they are searchable.
  3. Nifty little addons let me see the file type.
  4. Gmail keep adding storage space to my account.

There are a bunch of tools that make Gmail work for you so will elaborate on those in future posts.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Putting the 'C' in I.T

There aren't too many things that come along that make you wonder 'How did I ever get on without this before?' But the power of Collaborative applications like Google Docs and wikis is such a situation. What further amazes me is the awe that comes from people when you introduce them to the simplicity and efficiency of working this way.

I'm currently introducing and training a cluster of 10 schools in using Gmail, Calendar, Docs and iGoogle, believing that having a sound infrastructure and tools established early on is what will build and maintain our professional learning Community.

What we have managed to do so far this year:
  • Nearly everyone has a gmail account and we use a convention with names so that we know who we are Communicating with either via email, chat or Video-chat.
  • The facilitators work calendar is shared publicly.
  • We collaborate on planning documents and schools are able to share longterm plans with the facilitator to inform him about future training or resource support.
Where this is heading:
  • Effective professional development is regular, focussed and meets the needs of the individual as well as the collective. There is an abundance of quality material online through blogs and it makes sense to introduce teachers to it. At this stage I am only sharing my reader favourites with lead teachers in the cluster. It is possible to view my reader profile page publicly here . Feeds can also be added to a teachers iGoogle page.
  • iGoogle - The ability to aggregate data into a single web page is an extremely useful and powerful tool in a cluster situation. In the not too far future teachers will be using blogs and wikis and using online accounts for a number of applications. The iGoogle pages will make sense of that chaos, giving us a snippet of what has changed within our community and a choice of what we want to view or not.
  • I have started a Diigo group for our cluster as well. Social bookmarking is a powerful way of sharing ,storing and explaining resources on the internet. I'll keep it simple at first and provide links to good quality web 2.0 resources. With some PD members will learn how to use the internet as a planning assistant and will start adding their own bookmarks in Diigo for everyone elses use.
That's the beginning of our infrastructure setup for communicating and collaborating. The motivation for wanting to use these tools I hope has come from reinforcing the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.