I spent the day today at the NSW ICT Integration conference in Sydney, run by the NSW Association of Independent Schools. The conference is an annual event for those teachers in the NSW independent school sector who carry the responsibility for assisting their colleagues integrate ICT into their work. There were workshops in all sorts of fairly hands-on topics, from wikis and blogs, to Moodle, to graphics tablets, maths and literacy startegies, and so on. It generally seems to be more of a practical how-to conference than a big-picture strategic thinking event.
The keynote address this morning was delivered by James Farmer, owner of Edublogs.org. I interviewed James a few weeks ago for Virtual Staffroom, so when I found we were both going to be at the same event I was keen to meet in real life. James’ keynote was really interesting, and focussed on the use of blogging as a form of macro-LMS, and he showed lots of examples of how teachers had been using Edublogs with their students. His talk was really looking at how RSS and all the widgets in Edublogs can suck in data and feeds from many different sources and aggregate them into one place, making a blog a more of a personal digital hub. I was surprised just how much overlap there was between his talk and what I was trying to allude to in this previous post.
On the way out of the auditorium I mentioned to James that I’d see him in one of his workshops later. He looked at me oddly and said that I was probably beyond the level where I’d get a lot out of his session, since it aimed more at how to get started with Edublogs. Since I probably already knew most of of that, I decided to go to a couple of sessions on Moodle and Wacom Tablets instead, which were actually quite useful.
After lunch I was walking past one of the exhibitors’ tables and James was sitting there with his laptop, and we got chatting. “Want to see how Edublogs works?” he asked. You bet! So for the next hour or so, James gave me a personal guided tour of the backend of Edublogs, showing me the server and site statistics, graphs of server performance, and all sorts of other nerdy but extremely cool stuff. He shared a little about how the data was structured and showed me some useful software tools he uses to manage the service. Edublogs has over 100,000 users now, so it was really interesting to see it from the backend. I also got a few sneak peeks into some coming features for Edublogs… I’m not sure how much of that I should share here but it seems to me that Edublogs is certainly the best place to host an educational blog these days and it will only get even better!
As I sat there chatting to James, I was having a flashback to Dave Warlick’s keynote session from the 2006 K12 Online Conference where he talked about derailing education and about getting “off the rails” to take side trips of value. I certainly felt the value of those side trips today, as I skipped the session I was supposed to be attending so I could spend time learning about something I found far more interesting.
Thanks James for sharing your time with me, and giving me a little peek into Edublogs… It was fascinating. Oh, and thanks for answering all my dumb questions too! 🙂