WordCampEd 2008

I got the opportunity to go to WordCampEd at George Mason this Saturday. Special thanks to Dave Lester- our host and the organizer of the conference (blog and twitter)

It was pretty interesting to me in a couple different ways.

One, I got to meet (in some cases just sit in the room with) a lot of interesting people and add their various feeds into my aggregator. There’s something interesting about these type of conferences. There really small and intimate. They are full of people who really want to be there, and that are passionate about the topic.

Two, I’m really convinced that HCPS needs to go to the WPMU model. We’ve got all sorts of schools doing their own thing with tons (relatively) of individual blogs. This means individual updates, individual theme uploads, individual plugin uploads and most importantly no community outside the school and little interconnection within the schools between blogs.

I think that’s what most people don’t get. In my opinion, Jim Groom has done such interesting things at UMW because he has worked hard at connecting the individual blogs, at creating community. He makes comments, he brings key posts to the forefront for attention. He’s made a unified whole. That’s where the power is and it’s interesting power because it’s exponential. We saw evidence of that in the usage stats for UMW Blogs. You get people on there, you get classes communicating and you’ve built something that draws others in, that inspires other professors and students. The technology isn’t inconsequential but it sure isn’t the focus.

I want to see that being done in HCPS. We’re much larger and our courses are much more homogeneous so we should be able to get even more out of our community. I want classes from different schools working together. There’s also power in being able to see how much activity is going on. I’m reading a book on persuasion right now 1 and the first thing they talk about is how much impact the actions of others has on what we decide to do2. So if I can show lots of other teachers using blogs I have a powerful tool to convince others that it’s worthwhile.

That’s gives me an interesting segue into what Patrick Murray-John is doing with Simile 3 and using it to mine the data being produced by the blogs to reformat the information in ways that change how you might discover relationships between blogs authors and classes4. I usually feel the more ways you can look at information, the better.

We also got a chance to look at what WP 2.7 was going to look like and there were some really beautiful options that’ll make life much more pleasant for me- including-

It was pretty good stuff and Automattic was kind enough to send Jane Wells to talk to us about it. She did a great job and even took the time to see if Jim was really as crazy as his posts to the WPMU mailing list made him appear5.

I got lots of ideas, large and small, from all the presenters. Once I actually do something with them I’ll make the posts and give the credit but it makes sense to me to put up before jabbering on. Supposing my classes make enrollment I’ll be teaching three edtech classes at the Univ. of Richmond in the next couple of semesters and plan to do them entirely in WordPress. I’ve now taught two courses in Blackboard and have tired of punching myself in the face every time I use it.

1 yes, my goal is to totally manipulate the world and logic sure doesn’t cut it

2 solid research on this- we are all just lemmings

3 we all know how much I like Simile

4 reminder to self- blogs don’t connect, people do

5 he’s not by the way- I couldn’t convince him to attack anyone the night before the conference

6 thoughts on “WordCampEd 2008

  1. OOoooooo, yeah!

    The upgrade to the dashboard alone will be amazing, but with the advent of internal upgrades instead of the annoying download, delete WP file, then upload, then install, I’m looking forward to 2.7.

    Once you get the WPMU up and running, let us know how it goes. WOuld love to see if something is possible if and when I ever get kids into blogging (still working on the wiki collaborative model over here).

  2. Tom,

    I think you are right on about the communal elements of WPMu in this regard, and I think that is where it could effect real change across schools in your particular environment. Not to mention I couldn’t think of a better steward of such a community.

    Also, I think the design possibilities it provides you for imagining this space (which in many ways is the crux of the power of WordPress in general) opens up some really creative opportunities. The ability to design a space that people want to use and build upon is key and it’s a job that has got your name all over it, for you excel at such endeavors. I’m always excited to see how far you will push things. And remain, as always, your biggest fanboy!

  3. Ben- Agreed. It’s nearly magical. 🙂

    In a lot of ways I find blogs to be far easier than wikis but I guess it depends on the goals. But I’ll keep you updated.

    Jim- To me that’s the main thing people miss about what you’re doing. They see the tech but miss your community building.

    I’m hoping I can get things rolling because I agree with you completely. It’s a game changer. While I don’t buy the fanboy comment, I’d like to at least try to make you proud.

  4. In terms of community, it would be worth checking out BuddyPress, which Andy Peatling recently announced will have its first release on Dec. 15. It basically gives you Facebook in a box (the way MU gives you wordpress.com in a box), and if you choose to run MU, I think it would be a great addition to any educational implementation. Allowing students to form groups for discussion, projects, etc. both within courses and across disciplines would really enhance the online learning opportunities of a WordPress install (says someone who has taken lots of online classes and always found them limiting when unable to cross-reference other students and courses that are talking about the same thing from a different angle).

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