Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pleiades wishes

My wishes on falling stars, Pleiades meteor shower, 081315, 0435-0505 hours--‪#‎goodmorning‬

 1. That my daughter and my son be safe and true always to themselves
2. That my wife take care of herself almost as much as she takes care of others
3. That we endure, lovingly, to the end, which is not the end
4. That my brother be safe and healthy
5. That those of my family who have passed over be at peace or in good flux
6. That my godson continue to thrive and to inspire
7. That my brother from another mother be safe and healthy
8. That his family thrive and be safe
9. That our family thrive and be safe
10. That the world embrace my beautiful children for their caring and creative souls
11. That my school forever seek
12. That my colleagues remain friends
13. That our nation find balance
14. That our nation turn its back on hate
15. That the pieces of this most likely final move fall merrily into place
16. That our new home be as much a home as has this one
17. That I create and contribute more and better during the time I have left
18. That those who harbor greed over kindness turn around
19. That Bernie stay safe to lead
20. That commercials for prescription medications be outlawed
21. That news be news and not only diversion
22. That hackers stop hacking
23. That the fish bite
24. That you get what’s coming to you
from http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/08/perseid_meteor_shower_2015_whe.html and very much like what I was seeing from my patio chair in West Nashville

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Online Learning Network Introduction Video!

Prez Michele Eaton put together a new video and you can see it at the ISTE Online Learning Network, or you can watch it here! Either way, if you're not a member you should be. Visit the ISTE OLNetowrk page to learn how to join.

That is all.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Reflections from ISTE2015 in Philadelphia, PA, Part 3 of 3

Let's get this done.

Up at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, sitting in my family room with my two pooches and my kitty, it's weird to me that ISTE2015 is a thing of the past. Planning for it and looking forward to it is such a part of my life every year that this period of a month or so after it's over is kind of like post-partum blues. I'll be sharing stories with friends and colleagues in Second Life at http://tinyurl.com/istevenetwork this coming Tuesday at 5 p.m. Second Life Time. For the uninitiated, that's SLT, or as most folks know it, Pacific Time (set that way because Linden Lab, the company who created and develops Second Life, is in San Francisco, CA.). Please join us if you can. I hope to take folks to our "My Favorite Sprankle" art show in AvaCon grid afterward, so if you haven't yet entered the contest, this will be your chance to do so with some virtual hands-on help.

Contest information is at this padlet page.

Okay, Where was I?

Tuesday, eh? Tuesday morning I slept in. Up at 7 I ordered and enjoyed an in-room breakfast, really quite good, then walked over to Target to pick up some supplies (including 150 balloons--more later on that), then gathered up my wits and my backpack from my room and headed in on the shuttle. I will comment that Philadelphia rush hour traffic is hell, much worse evan than Nashville's very bad rush hour cluster-cuss. The 5 mile run from hotel to the Philadelphia Convention Center drop-off location took 40 minutes, and I rued my casual pace of the morning as we sat for 15 of those to get through the final light in front of the Center. I dashed to the (of course) far end of the site to the Poster Session area where we were presenting

with David Deeds, Andrew Wheelock, and Scott Merrick.


This was David's baby, and he had done a stellar job of proposing and planning a poster session where we could share virtual worlds learning and teaching with educators new to the notion or more experienced and willing to share with us and our attendees. The poster session format is a really good one, and it appeals to me because it's casual but can be very powerful if done well. This one, only peripherally with my help, was done very, very well. It was also located at the highest-traffic spot in the floor of 30 or 40 locations. I'm glad I got there early, because David was already implementing his plan. He had done the math and figured we could fill up our poster bulletin board with 40 images from virtual worlds. Andy and I helped by submitting some from our own stock and David had printed them up at his school in Guatemala and mailed them to my hotel (since at the last minute it was iffy that he would even be able to attend--luckily he was!). He had also prepped an 18 minute video (warning, file is 1.5+Gb huge) containing hundreds of photos from his own photo stash, which ran on a monitor on the table top and helped further fuel conversations. Here is a snapshot from the session: 
Andy Wheelock and David Deed man the poster session!

Part way through the two hour poster session I took off to and beyond the other far end of the Convention Center (of course) to the Marriott Hotel, where an appreciation luncheon for Core Volunteers was being held. I'm glad I did, because the "favor" this year was an outstanding computer briefcase, which I accepted, along with a box lunch for me and for Andrew and his briefcase. I had to run back to the poster session with those, though, so I could not take advantage of the chair massage station, which would have been a wonderful thing, sigh. ISTE is awesome about honoring its volunteer leadership, and has always been, though I will say it's better than ever with last year's addition of Simon Helton as Community Engagement Manager. 

We broke the poster session down ad 12:30 because we had to get to the Playground, slated to start at 2:00. I was working on adrenaline now. I popped into the Presenters' World support room and created sheets containing multiple instances of the following:
Bring this slip to Playground C (LOOK UP!) with your email on it for a chance to win one of 3 fantastic ISTE Book Store books! My email: ________________________________________
I then printed of multiple sheets on neon-colored paper and handed scissors and balloons to the lovely Mary Howard. Mrs. Howard took them to the Playground and started folding the slips small, inserting them in balloons, blowing them up, tying them, and writing in large letters with black sharpie, "Pop Me!" on each and every one of them. We roped several others into helping, and by around 1:30 we had 60 or so done. At 2:00 p.m., the starting time of the Playground, we had only 4 or 5 visitors in the Playground. As one, we picked up balloons, hauled them to the railing overlooking the busy hallway below, where two other playgrounds were enjoying visitors from the heavy foot traffic, and tossed them over into the crowds below. Stepping back into Andy and Mary's presentation, which was just getting underway, we heard what sounded like a gunfight echoing through the Convention Center. Just 5 minutes later an ISTE volunteer came waving two of the balloons and shouting "Please stop!" She was laughing, but apparently Google had been presenting one of the Playgrounds below and they were a bit upset at the commotion. I deeply apologized, but looking around I could see that we had pulled in 20 or 30 new faces, and Andy and Mary were now sharing with a rapt, if small, audience. Here are all the presentations we gave in the 3 hour block, and here are some photos I snapped:
video 
If that .mp4 doesn't work for you try this link

All three tables were hopping the entire time period. Andy and Mary kicked things off at the presentation station with an informative and inspirational session on their fabulous "Islands of Enlightenment" grant project(s), The Dr.s Patterson presented remotely about their Sub-Quan math innovations in Second Life, AW3DU CEO Rick Noll rolled out stellar developments in the ActiveWorlds platform, including the reboot of Quest Atlantis--this time with the addition of teacher quest-making kits(!!!); and finally Marianne Malmstrom and Peggy Sheehy shared some absolutely brilliant observations about what makes Minecraft engaging for both students and teachers.

The rest of the evening is a blur. As it turns out, this is the night I actually did the trek to City Pub for that huge filet mignon pictured in part 2's post. Dinner Monday was a burger at Friday's across from the hotel. All that meal stuff doesn't really matter. It was sustenance to help fuel the fire of participation in the best annual educators' conference in the world.

Wednesday, I packed everything up, checked out of the hotel, and headed over to check out the Expo floor on the last day with Andy. We sat in on a quick presentation by a vendor and Andy won a remote control helicopter in their drawing. Our last official act before I headed to the airport was to head to the far end of the Center (of course) for Anna and Sasha Barab's fantastic and informative presentation of their work with Quest2Teach, a training simulation for pre-service teachers that they have given their hearts and souls to create and roll out. Here is one of their slides, and if you'll take the time to read it you'll see why this was the perfect finish to a perfect conference. These two individuals embody dedication to forward-thinking and innovation. They are not just criticizing the way we've done education over the centuries, they are providing models for new ways to get the job of education done, and they are making them available to the world. I left the room feeling honored to have spent an hour with two of the smartest humans I have ever met. Don't believe me? Just take a look at the scholarly articles Sasha has published over the years. When you're done there, Check out Quest2Teach and request your own guest account. It may be that you can use this in some setting of your own, for the benefit of your teachers and students. I've completed all three simulations and can highly recommend the experience!

Dr.s Anna and Sasha Barab
The flights home, routing through St. Louis and sitting on that tarmac in ridiculously powerful thunderstorms, got me in too late to get to my son's gig at The End, but you can hear some of what they by all reports powerfully performed at their BandCamp site. Do yourself and us a favor and pick up a download. As their Executive Co-Producer, along with my beautiful wife, Lee Ann, we thank you!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Reflections from ISTE2015 in Philadelphia, PA, Part 2 of 3

Allllllrighty then.

I have been at this education game a while. Certainly not as long as many, as I came to it late in life. Actually, I spent the first half (or so--exact numbers to be determined at a much later date) of my life educating myself. Returning to college at the age of 40 I got all formal with it. Now, just last week, my work to help build online learning options for my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee has ramped up a bit. I'm still in the same position, but it's been redefined as half-time actually teaching and half-time supporting teachers and working on the system as a whole. New job title? Yup. How's this for a woozy? "Associate Virtualization Engineer."

I'm fond of saying that my brother, Ed, who is a real engineer, is very proud of me. Here at MNPS Virtual School, which I helped conceive and create, hired in 2010 by my dear friend Kecia Ray to do so, we are still making things up. Associate Virtualization Engineer: Really? Really.

So, to lasso my focus and drag it back around to the topic of this post, I have always contended that anyone who is sent to a conference or event by his or her school or school district should be required to report out about it to the rest of the faculty/staff. I have thus tried to always do that, usually in blog posts. This is part two of "How I Spent Your Money" for my colleagues and Nashville tax-payers. I'll get on with it.

Where was I? Checking Part 1 now.

Wow, I only made it through Sunday.

Okay.

I mentioned I took the shuttle into the Philadelphia Convention Center. Usually at ISTEs I prefer to walk like a madman. Many a year I've had to purchase foot care products to help take care of overworked extremities. This year, it took a good long while for MNPS to process my registration payment and reservations, resulting in my being parked 'way out of the beaten trail, 5 or so miles from the convention, at the Crown Plaza Philadelphia West. That had its good side and its bad side. The bad was that I had to shuttle in and cab back if I missed the last running shuttle at 7:30pm each day. I could have wangled a public bus, but not with my gear--I had a huge bag containing a green screen which I'd brought for the Online Learning Network's Community Fair and my backpack with laptop and other electronics. And Philly has a good train system but the closest station was, you got it, 4 miles away. The good side was...hmmm, well the room was clean and the staff was friendly and many of my local colleagues were there as well, including Carl Carter, Tabitha Batson, and others from The Academy at Old Cockrill. Wainhouse Reasearch's Alan Greenberg, an old colleague, was also parked out there and I ran into him a couple times for catching up.

Monday. My whole schedule is online in a Google Doc. http://tinyurl.com/scottiste2015. That helps me recall that my first deal that morning was the ISTE Professional Learning Networks Leadership Awards Breakfast. I got there early for the 8:00am breakfast and joined my dear friend Andy Wheelock at the "kid's table" up front. Susan Larson from ISTE joined us for a photo-op. I try to always sit up front in a big room because I can be distracted by everything between me and the speaker(s).

It was a table of 8 or 10 and filled up quickly, and Mike Gorman, out-going President of the Online Learning Network joined us along with other leaders from other networks. This past year I was Veep of that PLN, and by rights and tradition I should have stepped up into the primary leadership role. However, mid-year I began to see that this coming year will be a huge one for my school's growth, and together with Mike we identified the ineffable Michele Eaton to step up into that role. One of the best decisions I ever have made, methinks, since Michele is completely competent, capable, and driven and will take the PLN places I would never have imagined. Yay!

The breakfast was yummy and the event warm and thankful to all the international PLN leaders in the room. I was able to bestow the OLN's Online Learning Award to Jennifer Garcia from Equador, and then to step up on my role as Co-Chair of the Virtual Environments Network, with Andy, to do the same for Rosie Vojtek for the first ever Virtual Pioneer of the Year award. It was particularly rewarding to hear all the folks who were stepping up as first-time leaders stand up and share why they were doing so--there were probably 20 or so of those who made me proud and who made all of us excited for the future of ISTE:

After the breakfast, I joined Andy at the PLN Lounge to help share the good work of the Virtual Environments Network. We took turns speaking extempore about what goes on there (see http://venetwork.weebly.com) and then let the website speak for itself on the display screen. We seriously plugged the Virtual Environments Playground, which we'd determined was going to need that since we were parked up off the beaten path upstairs. More on that later.





That done, it was time to eat again. We made it to the PLN Leaders luncheon in time to enjoy the meal and make it to the part where we both received the President's Volunteer Service Award, Andy a Bronze and me a Silver. As soon as the requisite photo was taken I hauled myself across the Convention Center to:

Monday, June 29, 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.
PCC 204C
It was already underway. Michele had so wonderfully organized, rehearsed, and delivered this set of 8 marvelous 5 minute presentations that all I had to do was sit up at the presenter table and smile. I was particularly struck by the closing presentation by Bill Gumula, called "The Compassionate Online Classroom," which I plan to share with my teachers at our new teacher orientation come the 1st of August. Slides are here, if you're an ISTE member and can login. There are 177 of them from all the presenters!
That was, indeed, an information packed hour! Susan Poyo's "Partnering with Virtual Schools: Transforming Teacher Prep" also rang some big bells for me. We are going to need to do a lot of work with pre-service teachers to turn out capable and forward thinking teachers if we are to successfully grow online learning in the right directions, and Susan's group is spearheading that aspectd of the movement.

videoFrom that event I spent a bit of time on the Expo floor. As always it was amazing. I was to take it in with small visits over the course of the conference. Here's a quick 360 video:
Then I had to get to a small portable room at the edge of the Expo Center. I had an appointment to take a preview look at the beta Google Expedition, a Google Cardboard development that though it can use some polish, looks promising for delivery of virtual field trips to students using that cool 3D imaging hardware/software package. 

The Machinima Fest was my final official event of the day. I hiked another mile or so within the Convention Center and ended up in a good-sized theater. Though there were more folks in it than have yet attended the Festival, we looked pretty sparse in that room. Andy presided with Gridjumper helping and I sat off to the side and shared it with Periscope--we had a total of 19 viewers over the coming hour or so. New this year was a keynote speaker, and then the prizes were awarded. I have not seen a published list of winners, but I'm sure it's coming soon. Here are the award categories, and congratulations to the winners of this increasingly prestigious international film festival! You know who you are!

Machinima Awards
Best in Category Awards

Judges Awards

Technical Awards
Best Overall
Machinimatography 
Editing 
Special Effects 
Best Sound
Literary Quality Awards
Script Writing 
Captioning 
Character Development 
Best dialogue 
Best narration
People’s Choice Awards--Voting was open to the public during the week prior to the Machinima Fest.

After the Machinima Fest, I took a cab back to the hotel, caught a salad at TGIFridays, right across the parking lot, then put in for the night. I'm going to save this as I need to get to work--you know, that Associate Virtualization Engineer gig? So we'll go 3 parts. I'm certain I can get the thing done in one more stab at it, even though Tuesday was a very big day, featuring the now somewhat legendary "Balloon Popping Event" that got me in trouble with ISTE and with Google, of all companies, in the afternoon. More later, good reader. Good day.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Reflections from ISTE2015 in Philadelphia, PA, Part 1 of 3

NOTE: Time-jumping re-edit, partly written on the plane home and re-edited and continued at home. Not for the time-challenged!

I've been attending ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education) Annual Conference and Exposition since It was called the National Educational Computing Conference. My first was in 2000, in Atlanta, Georgia. I'm sitting on the dead last aisle seat on a Southwest Airlines flight home from Philadelphia to Nashville right now and there is no wi-fi, so I can't google it, but I will try to do that later (I did. It's a fact. The theme that year was "Connecting at the Crossroads."). For now, I want to get my reflections down after ISTE2015, while they are fresh, if somewhat exhausted!

So I'm working on my iPad mini, finger-typing. The guys next to me are asleep, and the seats are tiny back here, so I have unwillingly yielded personal space and need to twist in my seat to keep from establishing full upper arm to full upper arm contact with the stranger beside me or forcing the issue. I do have a cheesesteak sandwich with lobster in the bin above and I'm not afraid to use it. I'm drinking a Leinie Lodge Summer Shandy courtesy of the flight attendant partly because we were delayed by over an hour and partly because I talked to him like he is a human being. Life Lesson: That goes a long way.

ISTE. Wow. How do I even begin? ISTE's beginnings are amazingly modest. From http://www.isteconference.org/2012/about_us/conference_history

#1—NECC 1979

Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Host Institution: University of Iowa
Chair: Ted Sjoerdsma

Roots of NECC—1969 CCUC (Conference on Computers in Undergraduate Curricula) 



The major themes were:
  • A hardware debate: micros vs. minicomputers
  • Development of educational software: CAI, CMI, simulations for subject specific uses (math, science, social sciences, health, engineering)
  • Defining teacher competencies for preservice, inservice training




  • There were 32 sessions, including:
    • Computer science (4): labs, programming languages
    • Post-K-12 (11)
    • K-12 sessions (2): interest just beginning to emerge in this area
  • The history at that webpage is only updated through 2011, but to give you some idea of the growth, in that year there were 355 concurrent sessions and 629 additional sessions. This year the announced number of attendees was just over 21,000.

    ISTE is a very large globally dispersed group of like minded educators who are above everything else learners. An aside, I just dropped a sauce soaked lump of lobster onto my iPad: not a pretty thing. Back in, I think 2007, I hooked into a vibrant community of educators exploring Second Life as a platform for learning and teaching. It's primary appeal to me at the time was twofold: content creation and community. The first conference at which I participated in a Playground was in Atlanta in 2007. I remember so wanting to be a part of the group that I ran at one point to a sports bar and brought back dozens of burger sliders for everyone who was presenting.

    Cut to this year, when I can't walk 100 feet through an ISTE conference without someone wanting a selfie with me, or, better yet, a hug. ISTE is my annual validation, my spirit salve, my chance to catch up with my peeps. All year long I work with passionate, dedicated thought leaders and actually meet as an avatar or via social media regularly with many of them, and once a year we come together in the "real world," or what has been called "meatspace," or the "so called real world," and hug, collaborate, rejoice, and renew our bonds. My dear "brother from another mother," Andy; Rosie and Bob; Bron; Peggy; Kae, Tanya, Marianne; Sarah; and David, and Lee, for a few. And new peeps Mary, Rick, Chris(es), and many more. KJ, Kevin Jarrett, a dear old friend, first met in Second Life (as were most) I hugged so hard this year he accused me of causing permanent spinal injury. I love these people, and it's clear to me, deeply clear, that they love me back.
    The Kecia hug!
     All that enriches my life. Immeasurably.

    Back to the present (now the past, as I'm editing this down in my Nashville, TN living room with my dog, Watson and my cat, Ruby, asleep at my feet).

    Okay, #ISTE2015 specific:
    All my pics are on the Book of the Face. Just visit http://Facebook.com/scottgardnermerrick and open my photo album entitled Scott ISTE2015. There are also a few in posts, and those will show up in the albums "iOS Photos" and "Timeline Photos." I'll make an effort to collect all that in one place this week and add in that link here. Maybe Flickr. There, that's done. Now to events I attended.

    Moving back to get all sequential on you, I will add that the Barabs' session the last thing Wednesday (see Part 2) is the only "session," per se, that I attended, excepting those I was leading or helping facilitate. I had a bunch selected and favorited, but I really do find that showing up for my volunteer facilitator duties is some years all I can handle. This was one of those years.

    Saturday:
    I missed my 7:00am flight due to a combination of stupidity and very long security lines. Got there after running the length of BNA Concourse C to the very last gate. An 18 year old student who was with me in the slow security line was heading home to Philly on the same flight; but he missed it too, running ahead of me. I spent some time catching my old breath and rebooked for the 7pm flight. Lee Ann, who had been holed up in the cellphone parking area just in case I didn't make the flight, had to call AAA because her car would not start there, and she had to have a new battery installed on the spot. It was shaping up to be a great day. Long story short, I arrived early for the flight at 7pm and breezed through security, but when we got to Philadelphia there were such violent thunderstorms down below us that we circled for half hour before rerouting to Pittsburg, where we landed, sat for an hour on the tarmac, refueled, then managed to get back up in the air and into Philly 3 hours late. I took a cab to my hotel, located 5 miles past the Philadelphia Convention Center, and got to sleep by 2-ish.

    Sunday:
    Up at 5:30am I caught an early shuttle and popped in to register. The first person I ran into was my friend David Deeds, currently from Guatemala but looking to relocate in either China or Egypt. He teaches in the International American Schools circuit and has chosen to leave his Guatemalan placement due to being reassigned to a tech position from his teaching one. That can be the downside of being tech savvy for teachers. Life Lesson: If you are good at something administrators need done, don't show it unless you want to end up doing it all the time! David is incoming chair for the Virtual Environments Network, and we hung out for a bit. Sunday morning is time for fee-required pre-conference sessions, and I had registered for none of those, being a conscientious public servant.

    We caught breakfast/lunch at the fabulous Reading Central Market. I had a great juice smoothy at a gyros stand, with kale, mango, banana, B12 and protein. Next thing I knew we were setting up at the far end of the convention center for our PLN Networking Fair. I got down there at 1:30 with David and we were the first PLN to be set up, with the help of dear friends Rosie and Bob Vojtek. I had lugged a greenscreen to the conference for the Online Learning Network and got that set up, leaving leadership over there in the capable hands of incoming President Michele Eaton. Michele is such the better candidate for that role in the OLN, and I'm hanging in another year as Veep, since my work is gearing up to be very very complicated this coming year (more on that in a later post).
    Bob Vojtek talks up the Virtual Education Journal, which he and his Rosie publish bi-annually at the PLN Networking Fair. Check that out!
    The Networking Fair was in full swing by 3pm and ran to 5pm. We streamed video into Second Life via UStream (that's my SL avatar on the display, wearing my Lowly High Grand Poobah hat), and folks there were treated to a long series of folks stepping up to learn about what the VENetwork does. It was busy, and it was fun talking, talking, talking. Bob, Rosie, David and I were joined by co-chair Andy Wheelock, aka Spiff Whitfield in Second Life, my "brother from another mother."

    At the end of the Fair we broke down quick-like and headed over for VIP seating at the opening keynote address. Much of it was dedicated to honoring good friend Kecia Ray, who will step down as ISTE Board Chair and President in December. Documentarian and Activist Soledad O'Brien delivered an impassioned and energetic talk about the need for educators to pay attention to the disenfranchised, and I actually shed a tear or two when she shared a video featuring an interview of a 1st grader who couldn't read the word "the" without help. See details about the three conference keynoters. I deem the keynote a great success, though it maybe went a bit long. I was beginning to crash hard by 40 or so minutes in when she began to wind it up. David, with whom I was sitting, looked at me and said "Dude. Go sleep." I caught a cab to my distant hotel and did just that.

    Soledad O'Brien delivers

    I felt sooooo much better the following morning, awakening and working out in the hotel on a recumbent bike before having room service breakfast and catching a shuttle to the convention center. It was to be a remarkably full day, one in which I would receive my silver President's Volunteer Service Award, sit in on the OLNetwork's Blended and Online Learning Extravaganza, Periscope the ISTE2015 Machinima Film Festival, hit the increasingly legendary Gaggle Party, and get more hugs from more of my beloved global colleagues. 

    This is where I'll leave off, and I'll post this part later at work. But wait! There's more! I still have 3 more days of ISTE 2015 to chronicle, and they were fab ones! I promise the final half will not be so verbose. I hope I can keep that promise. I know I have a lot of pics to share, and many a successful session and event. So I'll leave you, dear reader. Until next time, keep learning and teaching!


    Monday, June 22, 2015

    ISTE2015 VEN Maker Space WELCOME!

    Hello, all,

    Heading up to good olde Philly on Saturday morning and I'll hit the ground running with Hack Education at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The ISTE Virtual Environments Network, my primary peeps, have already created a space for us to gather whether we're physically at ISTE 2015 or are home in our pajamas at our laptops, in Sydney or Kyoto, it matters not.

    Watch this one minute intro, then meet us in Second Life at http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Eduisland%202/132/168/201 for the fun, and, yes, the games!

    Visit http://tinyurl.com/scottiste2015 for my best guesses about whereabouts at any given time.