This evening’s brainstorming session about the Storychasers project using a skypecast was a success, although the experience was a bit mixed. We ended up with forty participants who stayed with us to the end, but we had a rocky start for several reasons. A few people using Macintosh computers reported that they were able to join the Skypecast, but many (myself included) could not access the conversation from a Mac and had to find a Windows computer to use. Had I realized further in advance that this would be a problem, I certainly would NOT have scheduled this meet-up with a Skypecast. Added to this was the disturbing fact that the skypecasts website is apparently not closely moderated, and some very inappropriate skypecasts were going on today and scheduled.

As a result of this, I DISCOURAGE all educators FROM EVER using the skypecast website or functionality with students or in formal professional development settings… EVER. Skype is a great videoconferencing, IM and audio-conferencing software tool, but unfortunately it appears that the skypecast website is not useable for educator meetups, and certainly not student meet-ups either. That is too bad. We didn’t have any problems with people disrupting or being inappropriate in our skypecast, which lasted over an hour, but did have some trouble with microphones not working for some participants. I will edit the raw recorded audio at some point from this conversation and post it as a podcast here. For now, you can access both that unedited audio (from the first 44 minutes, thanks to Miguel Guhlin) as well as the transcript of the text chat from 45 minutes into the discussion. (That’s when I figured out how to start a group skypecast chat window. Alternatively we could have set up a Chatzy page and used that, but I didn’t think of this or see Amanda Riddle’s tweeted suggestion in time to do this.)

Several specific things were suggested as actionable items during our conversation. One was creating “Group” functionality within the Storychasers website for different story chasing projects which teachers and students can pursue. I did this tonight by enabling the Organic Groups module in Drupal. It’s official description is:

Enable users to create and manage their own ‘groups’. Each group can have subscribers, and maintains a group home page where subscribers communicate amongst themselves. They do so by posting the usual node types: blog, story, page, etc. A block is shown on the group home page which facilitates these posts. The block also provides summary information about the group.

To do this I had to also download, upload, activate and configure the Views module:

The views module provides a flexible method for Drupal site designers to control how lists of content (nodes) are presented. Traditionally, Drupal has hard-coded most of this, particularly in how taxonomy and tracker lists are formatted.

Configuring modules in Drupal is very similar to the way plug-ins are handled in WordPress.

As I wrote in a forum comment on Storychasers, I have high hopes for our project website:

My goal is for our site to have all the functionality of a Ning site plus much more customized and powerful features that are not possible currently with Ning. From what I’ve seen so far with Drupal, that goal certainly looks achievable.

Several people this evening expressed an interest in learning more about Drupal and how to setup / configure / manage a Drupal site. I’m considering some different options we may be able to pursue. The online documentation included on the Drupal support website is what I used tonight to get these modules added and configured, but I know my workflow could have been much faster if I’d had a mentor helping me along!

If this project is of interest to you, particularly with its emphasis on student-created digital stories, please join our Storychasers learning community.

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  • mberosky

    Thanks for the heads up about skypecast!

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