The Strength of Weak Ties

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Introducing the ChatCast

Whenever you assemble creative and talented people together, good things generally happen, and this was the case at NECC. EdubloggerCon was a huge success, and so was the Blogger Café, with people strengthening and intensifying relationships through face to face discussion.

An interesting, and serendipitous, strategy for learning in the conference presentations occurred, which I am calling a ChatCast. Basically, a group of people attending a session chat (we used Skype) during the session about the topics being presented, and in effect, create a small learning network within the presentation room itself. People can agree or disagree on what is being said, send links to each other, and generally learn from each other. The process turns a passive “set and get” experience into a dynamic, active experience, potentially more powerful than just sitting isolated, and silent. Instead of learning from one, I can learn from all involved. Overall, it's invigorating.

After the session, the transcript of the chat can be posted as a blog post-that’s the ChatCast.

Here is the first example, posted on Jeff Utecht’s blog, The Thinking Stick. It involves myself, Jeff, Vinny Vrotney, Brian Crosby, and Brian Grenier and was done during Tim Magner’s presentation entitled New Schools, New Tools: Starting the Conversation about School 2.0. (NECC tag = n07s624)

The second example involves more participants and was done during Will Richardson’s spotlight session, From Hand It In to Publish It: Re-Envisioning our Classrooms (NECC tag = n07s584) and again was published here on The Thinking Stick. This chatcast was a little different, because Clarence Fisher and Dean Shareski, who were not in attendance in Atlanta, were participating from Canada. In fact, here’s Dean’s comment:

[8:04:19 AM] Dean Shareski says: I left my machine on, drove across town, logged back in to see I’m in the middle of a live chat session at NECC….when will it stop!

So here is a session, being led by a great presenter, with equally talented people in the audience, and some not in the audience (at least not physically, what does this do to the concept of audience?), all interacting and responding to each other, and in the process, amplifying the experience.

And then it gets posted for all to read and comment on. From Jeff Utecht, commenting at the end of the presentation:

[8:33:45 AM] Jeff Utecht says: Thanks everyone up on the in a few minutes.

A few minutes…anyone, anywhere can read it in a few minutes. Cool.

So I’m interested to see how this evolves and spreads to other learning venues. Comments on both posts at The Thinking Stick address using something like this in a classroom. I’ll be interested to see if other conferences pick this up (you have to have ubiquitous wireless, something not always available) and to some extent formalize it like NECC has formalized blogging as part of the conference. Perhaps they should have a chatcaster backchannel as well. I'm wondering how Skype could be used to let people listen in on presentations, and whether video could be involved as well.

Your thoughts?

tags: necc necc07 chatcast


  • At 6:00 PM , Blogger Durff said...

    How can we facilitate this active learning through learning network formation in our classrooms and in our workshops that include those outside the echo chamber? If the workshop includes you guys, we all know you will be active this way. But how about those who are uninitiated?

  • At 6:13 PM , Blogger David said...

    Yes, that is the question, isn't it. Gladwell's ideas in The Tipping Point apply here, perhaps we are the connectors he talks about. Your question is a great one and should be the focal point of regional edubloggercons, which by the way, will help spread the idea of personal learning networks. Thanks for the comment. David

  • At 7:59 PM , Blogger John Maklary said...

    I think there would need to be a formalized process. I hate to say formal because that kind of goes against this ad hoc type of tool. But if you are planning a conference, a chatcast calendar could be set up on the conference website listing those who will be facilitating the cast, like Jeff did at NECC. I'm not sure if a Skypecast could be set up in advance where you could broadcast the url. If not, a note out on twitter could point to it when the time comes.

    This is a fascinating idea. I attend and present at TCEA in Austin in February. I like the chatcast concept so much that maybe I'll inquire with the powers-that-be to volunteer to coordinate it. Might be a good test for NECC and other conferences.

    John Maklary

  • At 8:15 PM , Blogger David said...

    John: I agree with your statement about formalizing the informal. I like your idea of a facilitator, someone who keeps asking great questions, etc. I'm not sure how you would organize the in-presentation Skype environment, everyone would have to be invited to join the chat, so that might be problematic, but its probably doable (don't know my way around Skype that much). I can tell that it was very invigorating, and I never thought more in a session than I did where I participated as a chatcaster. Keep me posted about your progress at TCEA.

  • At 8:27 AM , Blogger Steve Hargadon said...

    I really like the idea, especially because, even in interactive sessions like EduBloggerCon, it could allow for thoughts and ideas to be brought up that don't make it into the general dialog... But I'd want the discussion to be threaded. Is there a chat tool that does that? The other option I was thinking about was to create a network for every conference, and then create a forum topic in a social networking tool for each session of the conference. I'm just not sure how a forum discussion would handle "real-time" chatting.

  • At 9:58 AM , Blogger Andrew Pass said...

    This seems like a really neat idea. However, actually as somebody who does a lot of teaching and presenting I might get a little nervous about what the people were actually writing, obviously my own insecurities.


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