The Lie of Community

I’m pleased to share that my presentation for this year’s K12Online Conference is now available.  In addition, there is also a supplemental blog and podcast for the presentation.  You might want to subscribe to that podcast – plenty of great conversations coming to that feed.  I might re-broadcast them here – but then again, I might not.

Below is a VoiceThread that contains some of the questions that I think are worth talking about from the presentation.  Feel free to join in the conversation – I welcome your feedback and other thoughts.



A little while back, Terry Freedman wrote an excellent analysis of the NotK12Online situation. I agree with him on many of his points and concerns, and have had similar discussions with other members of our committee as well as other colleagues. Better yet, he models quite nicely the kind of constructive critique that I wish I saw more of online.

I get the sense that folks have made their minds up about what we hope to do with NotK12Online, which is pretty frustrating, because the little bit of information that’s out there doesn’t really match up with, or support, people’s assumptions.

But you know what they say about assumptions, don’t you?

In an attempt to set the “record” straight, as well as to push our thinking and open ourselves up to some feedback and constructive criticism, I thought I’d share some unofficial thinking about some of my and my committee’s plans and hopes for what NotK12Online might look like.

To begin with, NotK12Online is, ahem, not a conference for rejects. I regret that it was even mentioned in the letters that went out to K12 proposal submitters, and I understand the feelings of folks who took that mention to be a statement of intent or purpose. That said, if you believe your ideas to be worth sharing, I hope you’ll share them, whether or not you do so via NotK12Online.

NotK12 isn’t a separate conference, either. It’s an attempt to host an unconference-ish extension to the main event that continues, extends, and further problematizes the entire metaphor of an online conference. In addition, I hope it will serve as a scaffold for folks who need one to help them begin to share their learning online. For those who don’t need such a scaffold, I hope it will provide a needed push to publish good work that would otherwise not get shared, as well as a channel or two of compelling content.  For still others, it’ll be a distraction.  That’s okay.  Feel free to exercise your filter.

I don’t need to tell many of the readers of this blog that such a scaffold or structure is completely unnecessary and contradictory.  What I feel I do need to say, though, is that in my work with other teachers, some folks would find value in such a structure; they may well need a stepping stone into online reading, writing and thinking.

So what will NotK12Online look like? Well, it’s pretty much an aggregator populated by user submissions. If you have a piece of content that you think matches our guidelines, then you’ll publish it elsewhere, perhaps via your own blog, perhaps somewhere else, depending on the kind of content you’ve produced, and come to the NotK12Online site and tell us about it. If it fits our criteria, published on the site, it gets shared. Folks who want to respond to the content will be directed back to the original site of publication. Content shared via our site will be available via RSS. That’s pretty much it. (For now.  But we’re always interested in suggestions and ideas about making it more useful.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.)

We’re supporting two types of content at NotK12 so far this year, presentations and critiques. Any material that fits into the categories of the conference is fair game for the presentation channel. The critique channel is the one, though, that I am most excited, and worried, about.

One of my biggest complaints about conferences and online conversation in general is that most of the dialogue is usually cheerleaderish in nature or completely inflammatory. It’s too easy to just ignore or write off ideas and people with which or whom we disagree. My hope for the critique channel of NotK12Online is that we can help promote the idea that we can and should all attempt to be, at least from time to time, critical friends for someone. (Terry, by the way, modeled this quite nicely in his post.  So, too, has Sharon Peters – with Terry – in a recent podcast conversation about NotK12Online. )  Critics of events like K12Online have valuable points. K12Online presenters are not the be-all end-all experts on the content of their presentations.  Can we mix it up a little and productively extend the conversations of and about the conference in a way that’s useful?

I believe we can.  And maybe NotK12Online can be a piece of that progression.  Then again, maybe it won’t be.  But it’s worth it to try.


The Podcast: NotK12Online: A Scaffold We Hope You Won’t Need, But Hope You’ll Help Us Build Anyway

In this podcast, recorded Friday, I talk a little bit about NotK12Online, the fine folks who will be helping me to put it together, some of my/our initial ideas, and the juicy paradox of the whole endeavour.  I’ve got a great committee of folks assembled to do the beginning planning – but we’ll need plenty of help.  Below are links to the NotK12Online planning committee.  We’re all eager for your ideas, input and suggestions regarding NotK12Online.  It’s new.  It’s different.  It’s a walking contradictory paradox.  I love it.  Please contact us via the various communication links below:

Jackie Ballarini

Twitter – jackieb

e-mail – jackie.ballarini AT

Bill Bass

Twitter – wbass3

e-mail – bbass3 AT

Marcie T. Hull

Twitter – ecram3

e-mail – ecram3 AT

Bud Hunt

Twitter – budtheteacher

e-mail – budtheteacher AT


Hey Network, Can You Lend a Hand?

   One of the teachers taking our K12Online Conference course writes (in a forum that’s private – so no linktribution):

There are so many conference sessions to choose from.  Some conferences have catchy titles, but don’t grab me when I click on it.

Will you give me a few recommendations?  I teach high school social studies (including psychology.)  I am interested in Moodles and blogs and any way to combine interesting social studies sites into one place for my students to explore.  My goal for the end of the course is to have created something that will serve this purpose.

What sessions or directions would you suggest for her?  Any projects outside of K12 Online that she should be considering?  I’ll share all of your suggestions with her – and also use this post to model the power of the network.  Thanks in advance.


K12 Online – Post-Session 1

    I think we had an excellent first session of our K12Online group in St. Vrain.  I had to literally turn folks away, as we ran out of space in the classroom – and it’s a pretty tight classroom.  (Perhaps I need to run a second session?  Why couldn’t I?  The content’s there either way . . .)
    After dealing with course logistics and introductions – there’s a wide range of school district staff there, from classroom teachers (elementary and secondary), to librarians to support staff to school board members — I walked folks (or maybe sprinted – I talk fast when I get excited) through a short history of the conference.  I then shared the first half of David Warlick’s 2006 pre-conference keynote with the group.  I like his direct approach to the audience  ("I am here and I am now – but that’s not important, because you are there and you are then .  .  ." – goosebumps.) as well as his metaphors for education.  I thought it got us off on the right foot.
    For two months, we’ll be communicating mostly via Moodle forum as we begin to take a look at the various course offerings of the conference.  The forum’s just for us right now, as we get comfortable using digital conversation spaces.  I hope to invite some of you to join us, if you’re willing, at some point in the future.  I also hope that some of the participants will choose to punch through the password-protected private space and join the public conversation(s) in some way – but that’s up to them.  It should be a choice.  And, speaking of choice, thanks, K12Online, for the handy schedules for each year of the conference – it’s really easy to look at all the options when they’re all there in one place, just like a big ol’ menu of PD.  Well done. 
    John is attending our class.  He’s also scheduled to be sworn in as a school board member tonight, so I’m pleased to have him with us.  He posted his reflections on the first night of the class over on his blog.  I thought his list of learnings was an excellent summary of the night:

My take aways from last night (including ideas reaffirmed), in no particular order…

– We have barely scratched the surface of what’s possible when it comes to tapping technology to enhance learning.

– There are good and bad online protocol, "good ethical practices,"
as Bud described them.  I’m still learning which of these practices I
might be violating – and doing well.

– Geography means a lot less than it used to.  The very notion of
school "buildings" is going to be challenged far sooner than many of us

– Students will choose their own pace and hours for learning no matter what schedules we try to impose.

– The role of teacher will be far different in just a few years.
Teachers will shift from instructors to guides helping students direct
their own learning.

– We still need face-to-face time to strengthen relationships.

– We still need quiet time, uninterrupted by technology, to reflect on what we’re learning and imagine what we might learn next.

  I particularly like the last one – we all need time for reflection and imagining.  That was well said.  The trick is finding that time, as well as continuing to flex the brain so that imagination continues to be a possibility.  Now begins the hard part of courses such as these – trying to create and maintain community.  All of the right people are in that room – lots of really bright and passionate folks.  I’m excited to be learning with them.  Should be good. 


K12Online. Slow & Reflective.

    I’m pretty excited about tomorrow.   Tomorrow, I begin this class:

The K120
Online Conference is an online offering of presentations created by
educators and centered around new applications and new technologies.
It’s a way to address both teachers’ needs as well as the opportunity to
connect to an online network of professionals that can be drawn upon
for future professional development activities.

There will be four
face-to-face sessions of this PST. In between each of these sessions,
participants will be expected to engage two sessions from the
conference, for a minimum of eight face-to-face hours and eight online
conference hours.

Each participant will
write a two-page reflection and keep a log of the sessions attended.
The final face-to-face session will be a facilitated discussion about
what was learned, the benefits of the conference, and the next steps
for those involved in terms of taking their learning back into their
classrooms. This discussion will be recorded and released as a podcast.

I’m excited about the class because it allows me to do two things that I think are pretty important: 
1.  Introduce smart people to new tools and opportunities.
2.  Take our time and do it right.

    I think so many of the professional opportunities that teachers are afforded are races, mere dips of a toe into the waters of potential.  There’s lots to do and not enough time to do it.  Time is a precious, precious resource that is in short supply.  I also think that many of the tools that are influencing my network, and , frankly, me right now, encourage haste and speed and the like.  Twitter, on the short list of my favorite read/write web tools, can be reflective, but perhaps not richly so.  I wrote a tweet the other day that hasn’t left my head.  I was thinking about how busy I’ve been lately – racing from one really interesting project to the next, knowing that the excitement wasn’t a good replacement for the lasting learning that I knew just wasn’t happening for me:

      Not much reflection, though – just lots of doing.  That’s not sustainable.  Or worth sustaining.

I want sustainability.  I want reflection.  I think others want it, too.  we don’t learn by racing.  We learn by doing and reflecting and questioning.  It’s a recursive cycle, and one that doesn’t happen enough for me.  I wonder if it’s become too easy to communicate, in some ways.  Do I get so busy communicating that I haven’t bothered to say anything?  (Does that even make sense?)
    Which leads me back to tomorrow.  (Man, I really, really buried the lede in this post, didn’t I?)  Tomorrow, I begin a facilitated, slow and thorough look at the K12Online Conference, both the 2006 and 2007 editions.  Over the next four months, in two hour chunks, I hope to study and learn from the presentations of the last two years.  I want to dig in to the content that I felt whipped by so dang fast in late October when it was released.   This is what the conference invites, as  all the sessions are archived. 
    So we will.  I hope to use the class time as discussion time to talk about the different presentations, as well as an opportunity to think about how these different sessions might offer some ideas for change in our classrooms here in my district.   I’ll be asking participants, on a voluntary basis, to share their favorites with the group in 15 minute "spotlight sessions."  These, I hope, will foster conversation and inquiry into new tools and classroom strategies.
    I’m interested, too, in looking for ways to connect folks from all over to my district’s virtual classroom.  but before I do that, though, I want to meet the class and make sure they’re comfortable with that.  Stay tuned for further developments. 
    If you’ve any advice, or even a "must see" presentation recommendation for these first time K12Online Conference attenders, I’d welcome it in the comments – we’ll share your tips during our first session. 


Announcing K12 Online Conference 2007

    The following announcement comes via Darren.  If you read this blog, chances are you’ve something to offer the conference, and I strongly encourage you to submit a proposal.  At the very least, prepare to spend some time with the conference — it’s a great opportunity.

    One of the best things about the conference is that it’s not too late to engage with last year’s event.  You can visit the K12 Online Conference blog for all of last year’s info and presentations as well as information on this year’s event.  I’m looking forward to it.

    Of course, now I’ve got to figure out what to offer the event via my own proposal.  Any thoughts?

Announcing the second annual "K12 Online" conference for teachers,
administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of
Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice! This year’s
conference is scheduled to be held over two weeks, October 15-19 and
October 22-26 of 2007, and will include a preconference keynote during
the week of October 8. This years conference theme is "Playing with
Boundaries." A call for proposals is below.


There will be four "conference strands"– two each week. Two
presentations will be published in each strand each day, Monday –
Friday, so four new presentations will be available each day over the
course of the two-weeks. Each presentation will be given in any of a
variety of downloadable, web based formats and released via the
conference blog ( and archived for posterity.


Week 1

Strand A: Classroom 2.0

Leveraging the power of free online tools in an open, collaborative and
transparent atmosphere characterizes teaching and learning in the 21st
century. Teachers and students are contributing to the growing global
knowledge commons by publishing their work online. By sharing all
stages of their learning students are beginning to appreciate the value
of life long learning that inheres in work that is in "perpetual beta."
This strand will explore how teachers and students are playing with the
boundaries between instructors, learners and classrooms. Presentations
will also explore the practical pedagogical uses of online social tools
(Web 2.0) giving concrete examples of how teachers are using the tools
in their classes.

Strand B: New Tools

Focusing on free tools, what are the "nuts and bolts" of using
specific new social media and collaborative tools for learning? This
strand includes two parts. Basic training is "how to" information on
tool use in an educational setting, especially for newcomers. Advanced
training is for teachers interested in new tools for learning, looking
for advanced technology training, seeking ideas for mashing tools
together, and interested in web 2.0 assessment tools. As educators and
students of all ages push the boundaries of learning, what are the
specific steps for using new tools most effectively? Where "Classroom
2.0" presentations will focus on instructional uses and examples of web
2.0 tool use, "New Tools" presentations should focus on "nuts and
bolts" instructions for using tools. Five "basic" and five "advanced"
presentations will be included in this strand.

Week 2

Strand A: Professional Learning Networks

Research says that professional development is most effective when
it aims to create professional learning communities — places where
teachers learn and work together. Using Web 2.0 tools educators can
network with others around the globe extending traditional boundaries
of ongoing, learner centered professional development and support.
Presentations in this strand will include tips, ideas and resources on
how to orchestrate your own professional development online; concrete
examples of how the tools that support Professional Learning
Environments (PLEs) are being used; how to create a supportive,
reflective virtual learning community around school-based goals, and
trends toward teacher directed personal learning environments.

Strand B: Obstacles to Opportunities

Boundaries formalized by education in the “industrial age”
shouldn’t hinder educators as they seek to reform and transform their
classroom practice. Playing with boundaries in the areas of copyright,
digital discipline and ethics (e.g. cyberbullying), collaborating
globally (e.g. cultural differences, synchronous communication),
resistance to change (e.g. administration, teachers, students), school
culture (e.g. high stakes testing), time (e.g. in curriculum, teacher
day), lack of access to tools/computers, filtering, parental/district
concerns for online safety, control (e.g. teacher control of student
behavior/learning), solutions for IT collaboration and more —
unearthing opportunities from the obstacles rooted in those boundaries
— is the focus of presentations in this strand.


This call encourages all, experienced and novice, to submit proposals to present at this conference via this link.
Take this opportunity to share your successes, strategies, and tips in
“playing with boundaries” in one of the four strands as described

Deadline for proposal submissions is June 18, 2007. You will be contacted no later than June 30, 2007 regarding your status.

Presentations may be delivered in any web-based medium that is
downloadable (including but not limited to podcasts, screencasts, slide
shows) and is due one week prior to the date it is published.

Please note that all presentations will be licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

As you draft your proposal, you may wish to consider the presentation topics listed below which were suggested in the comments on the K-12 Online Conference Blog:


  • » special needs education
  • » Creative Commons
  • » Second Life
  • » podcasting
  • » iPods
  • » video games in education
  • » specific ideas, tips, mini lessons centered on pedagogical use of web 2.0 tools
  • » overcoming institutional inertia and resistance
  • » aligning Web 2.0 and other projects to national standards
  • » getting your message across
  • » how web 2.0 can assist those with disabilities
  • » ePortfolios
  • » classroom 2.0 activities at the elementary level
  • » creating video for TeacherTube and YouTube
  • » google docs
  • » teacher/peer collaboration


The first presentation in each strand will kick off with a keynote
by a well known educator who is distinguished and knowledgeable in the
context of their strand. Keynoters will be announced shortly.


This year’s conveners are:

Darren Kuropatwa is currently Department Head of Mathematics at
Daniel Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is known
internationally for his ability to weave the use of online social tools
meaningfully and concretely into his pedagogical practice and for
"child safe" blogging practices. He has more than 20 years experience
in both formal and informal education and 13 years experience in team
building and leadership training. Darren has been facilitating
workshops for educators in groups of 4 to 300 for the last 10 years.
Darren’s professional blog is called A Difference ( He will convene Classroom 2.0.

Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach, a 20-year educator, has been a classroom
teacher, charter school principal, district administrator, and digital
learning consultant. She currently serves as an adjunct faculty member
teaching graduate and undergraduate preservice teachers at The College
of William and Mary (Virginia, USA), where she is also completing her
doctorate in educational planning, policy and leadership. In addition,
Sheryl is co-leading a statewide 21st Century Skills initiative in the
state of Alabama, funded by a major grant from the Microsoft Partners
in Learning program. Sheryl blogs at ( She will convene Preconference Discussions and Personal Learning Networks.

Wesley Fryer is an educator, author, digital storyteller and
change agent. With respect to school change, he describes himself as a
"catalyst for creative educational engagement." His blog, “Moving at
the Speed of Creativity” was selected as the 2006 “Best Learning Theory
Blog” by eSchoolnews and Discovery Education. He is the Director of
Education Advocacy (PK-20) for AT&T in the state of Oklahoma. Wes
blogs at ( Wes will convene New Tools.

Lani Ritter Hall currently contracts as an instructional
designer for online professional development for Ohio teachers and
online student courses with eTech Ohio. She is a National Board
Certified Teacher who served in many capacities during her 35 years as
a classroom and resource teacher in Ohio and Canada. Lani blogs at ( Lani will convene Obstacles to Opportunities.


If you have any questions about any part of this, email one of us:

  • » Darren Kuropatwa: dkuropatwa {at} gmail {dot} com
  • » Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach: snbeach {at} cox {dot} net
  • » Lani Ritter Hall: lanihall {at} alltel {dot} net
  • » Wesley Fryer: wesfryer {at} pobox {dot} com

Please duplicate this post and distribute it far and wide across the
blogosphere. Feel free to republish it on your own blog (actually, we’d
really like people to do that 😉 ) or link back to this post
(published simultaneously on all our blogs).


Night Soon Falls

    Night is about to fall on the end of the first K12 Online Conference — and they’re going out in style, with a 24-hour webcast, broken up into one or two hour sessions hosted by folks all over the world.   Things get underway at 12:00 GMT, which is 5:00PM Mountain Time.  Head on over to the website to figure out where to go and whom to join.  I hope to drop in when I can — perhaps I’ll "see" you there?
    If not, remember that as the conference ends, that means a year of regularly scheduled online conversation until the next one gets going.  I’ve still got at least a week of conference presentations from this year to get through — wow.  Lots of good stuff.