In the fall of 2005, I was surprised when leaders of the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) decided not to publish one of the articles I’d submitted for their quarterly magazine, The TechEdge. I’d faithfully contributed to and published in the TechEdge since 1996-97, and this was the first time I’d ever been told, “No. We don’t want to publish your article.” It wasn’t a case where TCEA didn’t want me to write for them anymore, instead they objected to the SPECIFIC ideas in a specific article. I had originally titled the article, “Blogging the Conference,” and renamed it when I submitted it as “Blogging TCEA 2006: Create, Share & Access.”

I blogged about this on September 25, 2005, in the post, “Disruptive Technology Censorship?” Certainly TCEA had and has editorial rights to determine what ideas they do and do not share in their various publications. The interesting thing in this context was that my article was apparently TOO POTENTIALLY DISRUPTIVE for the organization. What I proposed was conference attendees blogging the conference, sharing Flickr photos, and inviting discussion/conversations about sessions on their own blogs/websites outside the control and purview of TCEA leaders and conference organizers. In that 2005 post I reflected:

I do not view this situation as upsetting, rather, I find it to be quite instructive. The disintermediation of traditional publishing that I discuss in the article is naturally a disruptive phenomenon, I think. I am not going to rush to conclusions, we’ll see how this situation continues to develop, but my perception at this point is along the lines of Virginia Postrel’s analysis in her book, ““The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress.”. Traditional, established organizations often play the part of “statists” rather than “dynamists” in opposing change, or at least being reluctant to embrace it.

That may be the case here. If so, it is not necessarily a bad thing, more an expected thing. I would expect TCEA to come around eventually. Blogging, according to my own crystal ball, is here to stay, and publication methods like blog tagging that allow users to “blog a conference” are going to move forward with or without formal organizational support.

With NECC 2009 just around the corner and a wealth of folks planning to document and share their learning from the conference with the entire world, not only via blogs and Flickr but also sites like Ustream and CoverItLive, I was reminded of this article I wrote in 2005. Recent events in Iran and educational blogger responses to those events also reminded me of this article.

Until today, my article “Blogging TCEA 2006: Create, Share & Access” had not been shared publicly on the open web. I’d planned to seek an alternative print publisher for it, but never made the time to do so. Today I’ve both republished it here on this blog post, and also added it to my TechEdge article archive on my older site, “Tools for the TEKS: Integrating Technology in the Classroom.” These ideas may not seem nearly as radical today, given the explosion in social media use we’ve seen and continue to witness, but they certainly were challenging in September of 2005 for TCEA leaders. Many organizational leaders, I’d assert, still have problems / issues with this type of organic, distributed content creation and sharing. We’ve come a long way in three years, but we still have a long way to go.

Here’s the article!

Blogging TCEA 2006: Create, Share & Access

by Wesley A. Fryer
www.wesfryer.com
September 2005

This article was not published by TCEA. Please see this Septebmer 2005 post for more background.

The annual conference of the Texas Computer Education Association (www.tcea.org) is one of the largest gatherings in the US of teachers interested in more effectively utilizing technology in their classrooms. This year, I invite you to help make the conference even better by joining a volunteer crew of text and photo bloggers that will document the event better than ever.

The advent of web technologies like text blogs (www.edublogs.org), photo blogs like Flickr (www.flickr.com),  and tagging/search tools like Technorati (www.technorati.com) are revolutionizing the way people create, share and access real-time content. Rather than wait weeks or perhaps months for a conference CD to be released containing presenter handouts and media attachments (that may have been created and submitted months before the actual conference), read/write web tools like those discussed in this article permit anyone to create, share, and access multimedia content created during and after a conference immediately.

Translated, this means that during the TCEA 2006 conference, you will be able to access real-time critiques and highlights of presentations, comments about vendor offerings, photos from the vendor fair or presentation rooms, podcasts, and anything else posted to the Internet with a shared “tag.” A post’s “tag” is like a keyword label.  In this case, the key that will let you into this free information exchange is the tag “tcea2006.” To access any web content posted with this “tag,” you can point your web browser to the following Technorati tag web address:

http://www.technorati.com/search/tcea2006

I would recommend that as an organization, TCEA officially embrace this concept by posting a link to this dynamic Technorati search on its homepage before, during and after the conference. Whether or not this is officially sanctioned, I invite you to join in as a publisher as well as content consumer. Here is how it works.

AN EXAMPLE: THE WEBZINE2005 CONFERENCE

An excellent example of a recent conference that put into practice these techniques of distributed, organic content publishing and organized access was the Webzine2005 conference in San Francisco September 24 and 25, 2005. The official conference website (http://webzine2005.com) includes links to a multitude of resources, including some created and literally built by the conference attendees themselves. According to the website, “WEBZINE is a real world, face-to-face celebration of independent publishing on the Internet.” Not a surprise a creative gathering like this would model cutting edge publishing techniques for others to study and possibly emulate.

The Webzine2005 conference Wiki (http://webzine.jot.com) is a dynamic website anyone can log into and either create new webpages on or edit information on existing pages. This works like the free WikiPedia (http://en.wikipedia.org), except it is driven by a commercial application wiki service (www.jot.com) rather than free, open-source Wiki software (www.mediawiki.org).

In the upper left corner of the Webzine2005 conference Wiki, there is a link to “Technorati tag: webzine2005.” This actual hyperlink is www.technorati.com/search/webzine2005 – an address which as of this writing, contained over 75 different posts related to the conference and its presentations.

This model of content publication is not only dynamic, innovative and exciting, but revolutionary as well. Why? It is revolutionary because gatekeepers of content control are completely excluded from this organic publication process. In business economics, this is referred to as “disintermediation.” On this subject, WikiPedia authors observe:

… disintermediation is the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain: “cutting out the middleman”. Instead of going through traditional distribution channels, which had some type of intermediate (such as a distributor, wholesaler, broker, or agent), companies may now deal with every customer directly, for example via the Internet. One important factor is a drop in the cost of servicing customers directly.[1]

This article could be renamed “Disintermediating TCEA 2006,” but that title might scare off many potential readers! The idea, however, is relatively simple: direct publishing power to conference attendees, with access rights granted to a global audience. Creative, dynamic, and powerful. And also free, once you have access to the Internet.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

Participating as an information consumer in this TCEA 2006 documentary blogfest is easy. Simply point any web browser to the following address:

http://www.technorati.com/search/tcea2006

As the conference draws nearer and actually begins, increasing numbers of posts tagged as “tcea2006” should appear in the dynamic search results of this web link.

My challenge to each attendee of TCEA 2006, however, is to not merely participate in this blogfest as an information CONSUMER, but also as an information PRODUCER. This models a key contention I have for digital literacy acquisition in the twenty-first century. Our students must not merely be consumers of digital content, but also producers of their own original multimedia content. Experience is the best teacher. Here is how you can get involved.

STEP 1: Set up a free blog that supports tagging

A growing variety of options exist for creating a weblog. To blog TCEA 2006, I recommend you setup (if you have not already) a blog that supports “tagging.” One of the best blog software options is WordPress (www.wordpress.org), an open source software tool offering a wide variety of customizability options for users. Edublogs (www.edublogs.org) is a free service for educators offering hosted wordpress blogs. Visit their website to create a free WordPress blog.

Blogger (www.blogger.com) is also a popular free blogging service, but currently does not support blog post categories (a straightforward way to organize your blog entries) or an easy way to create new tags other than modifying your Blogger template, which can seem a bit daunting (http://help.blogger.com/default/bin/answer.py?answer=120&topic=39). For those reasons, I recommend setting up a WordPress blog with Edublogs instead of Blogger. It is free, straightforward, and effective for this and other blogging purposes.

STEP 2: Create a “tcea2006” blog category

Technorati (www.technorati.com) treats blog categories and tags as the same thing. Technically speaking, they are not equivalent, but for our purposes, they will function the same. If you are an experienced WordPress blogger (or become one in the future) you may consider installing a free plugin like Ultimate Tag Warrior (www.neato.co.nz/ultimate-tag-warrior/) and use actual “tags” rather than or in addition to categories for your blog posts. That, however, is an advanced topic we will not address further here.

When you login to your WordPress blog with your username and password, you will be able to click a “manage” link, and then select “categories.” After making those menu choices, click to create a new blog category titled “tcea2006”. Make sure you do NOT insert a space in this category. This is the category you will select and use for each of your TCEA 2006 conference blog posts.

The last administrative configuration change is to make sure the Technorati website is notified as soon as you post new content to your blog. In WordPress, click on “options” and then the “writing” menu. At the bottom, under “update services,” make sure you already have the web address for Technorati (http://rpc.technorati.com/rpc/ping) and Ping-o-matic (http://rpc.pingomatic.com) added. If they are not, add them so blog tracking services will be notified as soon as your blog is updated.

STEP 3: Start blogging

From any computer connected to the Internet: at the conference, your hotel room, or anywhere else, log onto your blog website using your administrative username and password, and post new content to the blogosphere. If you have your own laptop, you may consider using a software tool like Ecto (http://ecto.kung-foo.tv) to post content even faster, without logging in through a webpage.

I recommend you post recommended web links you learn about at the conference, information from great presentation sessions you attend, reflections about the conference keynote speakers’ ideas, links to software and hardware that catch your fancy on the vendor floor, and anything else worth sharing with others from the conference.

If you are using blog software that does not support tags or categories, you can manually tag a post by adding the following code to it:

<a href=”http://technorati.com/tag/tcea2006″ rel=”tag”>tcea2006</a>

There are many benefits to your participation in the TCEA 2006 blogfest.

1. Participation is free!

2. The process of blogging at the conference will enhance your own retention and ability to remember what you have learned.

3. Your posts may help other people locate great resources they did not personally encounter but can use in their classrooms when they return home following the conference.

STEP 4: Post TCEA 2006 Photos to Flickr

To really get into the experience of sharing your TCEA 2006 experience, create (if you don’t already have one) a free Flickr account by visiting www.flickr.com. Flickr is a website that allows members (free account holders as well as “pro” account members) to post photos and “tag” them with specific words.

Using your digital camera or picture phone, take pictures at TCEA 2006 and upload them to your Flickr account. It is possible to configure your Flickr account to specify an email address (which you will want to keep private from others) that can be used to directly web-post photos from the conference to your Flickr account. These photos can even be automatically tagged “tcea2006” so you do not have to manually tag them using a web browser later. For more information about how to do this, visit www.flickr.com/account/uploadbyemail after creating your Flickr account. If your photos are not set to automatically be tagged, manually tag each one “tcea2006” (again WITHOUT a space) so your photos will be indexed in the Technorati search for TCEA 2006 web resources.

STEP 5: Post TCEA 2006 website recommendations to del.icio.us

Del.icio.us (http://del.icio.us) is a popular “social bookmark” website. It not only allows users to post and share websites they want to remember and recommend to others, which include a short sentence about the site, but also allow users to “socially” link to other saved websites posted by others with the same “tag” or category.

The process for posting website recommendations to del.icio.us is the same as previously described, except TCEA 2006 conference attendees will need to register for a free del.icio.us account and then tag their posts “tcea2006.”

For more tips about tagging and Technorati, refer to www.technorati.com/help/tags.html.

HAPPY POSTING!

We live in a rapidly changing informational environment, where anyone has the potential to “publish at will” content that can include text, images, sound files, and even video. For those with ideas to share and stories to tell, there has never been a more exciting day to be alive. Join us as a creative content publisher at TCEA 2006! See you online, and hopefully at the conference!

Wesley Fryer is an educator, digital storyteller, and creative podcaster. Catch up on his latest thoughts at wfryer.wpengine.com.


[1] “Disintermediation.” Wikipedia. 25 Sep. 2005 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disintermediation>.


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