This is the beginning of my webcaster portfolio. I joined Webcast Academy in April, 2006.
Paul Allison had initiated a Skype call once a week so a group of teachers in NYC collaborating with teachers from all over the country could plan together. He was following edtechtalk and worldbridges. I took a look and saw the announcement for Webcast Academy. It sounded interesting! I once asked Jeff and Dave - Why live? Why open up the audio live as opposed to just the closed Skype call or a podcast. Their answer was - because you never know when a Paul Allison or a Susan Ettenheim might show up. They would change the name for the person in question of course! I would listen in - they would see my name pop up and invite me to call in. But I just wanted to listen I would babble.. and they would say - why not join in?
I had been working in online community for a few years and had spent many hours learning and honing skills on enticing users to "join in" to online text chats and message boards, but now I found myself on the other side of the fence and their warmth of invitation and the fact that I was missing that work, finally caused me to slowly, sometimes... click that button and call Worldbridges. All the rest is history of course.
It wasn't easy for me at first, which is what makes me a fair teacher at school. I know what it's like when it's hard! Below are some memorable broadcasts. I seem to be eternally famous for the monologue in the beginning when everyone could hear me but I could not hear them. I talked on, talking through the problem, hoping that if I kept talking and showed that I was trying, they would not leave and give up on me! Cheryl and I have continued this tradition with our latest jing screencasts of how to kick the stream. We each created the screencasts, but each of us only recorded our half the conversation- what a wacky screencast that made!
There were periods when everything would just fall into place Wednesday evenings for Teachers Teaching Teacheres (Paul named the show) and there were periods where nothing would go right and week after week, the show was late or the call dropped 4-5 times during the one hour. I think the greatest challenge for Paul was not planning a show but planning how to restart a show 4 times in one hour when he never knew when the call would drop - and keeping everyone engaged and coming back! At least I paid for those rough evenings by having to spend hours and hours editing to get anything to post on the blog. Another big time for me was when Paul went on vacation last summer and decided that the show must go on. Last summer and this summer, it has been interesting, but I sure will be glad when he comes back! Alex and Arvind, two webcasters I admire also know how important it is to have a partner in this work!
Finally, just to freeze this in time a little, I had my first surgery (in my whole life!) two and a half weeks ago (summer of 2007). While it was not major, it required being off the repaired foot for two weeks. For two weeks, I looked forward to getting up early every morning and turning on my Skype to catch up with those across the globe who were learning and struggling with the new programs. I would work online until I just got too tired and then turn off and sleep. As every day went by, I could stay up a little later and soon I was even back online in the evening! Then, as you will all remember, Skype went down.
I was much better by then but still sitting with my foot elevated. It was the most eerie, lonely day. I was working online and it's not as though I was ever with anyone, but all of a sudden, I felt so isolated and lonely all day! That was when I realized just how much this community has meant to me and how much it has become part of my life. I look forward to all of Jeff and Dave's crazy new ideas. I wonder and care about people I've never met all around the world. I love following the digital chalkies in the rural areas of Australia. I am fascinated by the variety of lives, jobs and things we all do for fun! I love hearing about the mountains, the beaches and the food! It's funny because I really have never loved traveling. I will go somewhere and have a great time, but generally I'm very content where I am and find incredible beauty and challenge around me all the time. This online world though, is one in which I always love to travel and be with everyone working on these great projects!
This was my most recent broadcast as opposed to my first broadcast, but it was probably one of my most important broadcasts. Reading over what I wrote in my intern portfolio, I am reminded about how Lee often helped me and rescued me in times of webcasting "distress." Paul edited the show so I take no credit for the editing or posting of it but my challenge was to make everyone welcome and comfortable in participating live in what was a challenging time of sorrow for the community.
It was a little hard getting the mood right and the pace at the beginning but then everyone just jumped in and shared. Members kept offering to leave the skype call to make room for others to join and speak. Paul twittered the show and word got around and people just showed up. It was great to have Brad show up. I hope he will reconnect now and become a regular again. I hope Lee's memory will remind us all to practice and carry on the best of what we all treasured of her habits. I along with everyone else still expect that green light to come on in my skype list and can't quite bear the idea of taking her name off the contact list. In a powerful way, this community has created a tone in which it might very well be completely appropriate to keep her name on my contact list and have her remain as my friend and mentor in this crazy new virtual world of inspiration and collaboration. My graduation from Webcastacademy is dedicated to Lee.
I chose this webcast to share because it was one of my most difficult. School had just begun and there was a lot going on with a new semester. The show started out fine and in an attempt to take advantage of the live nature of the show, we called in a visitor who had very bad sound quality and a very passionate story. I did the best I could do to manage the audio and the show and was then attacked on the blog for being anti-female. This was very difficult for me. I was part of the very first wave of women online and ran one of the very first searchable databases for women. I attended a women's college and had specifically taken high school girls as interns at work in those early Internet days and ran an evening intern program specifically for women in the workforce who were trying to catch up with technology.
Webcasting puts you out there and no one really cares about what you did for the last 20 years. This is good in that everything is in the moment but sometimes it is hard too. It is similar to teaching high school where if you don't know the answer at the moment it is needed or you make a mistake at that moment, that's all that counts. This webcast was a good lesson for me on being patient and always being aware of how things are perceived by others, no matter where the webcaster is and what the webcaster is trying to do.
This was a webcast that was a continuation of a discussion from the week before. There was a lot of practicing during the previous week to make sure that all participants were comfortable with the technology. Paul was away so it was just me streaming, and moderating and my main broadcasting computer was gone so I was broadcasting from the little HP tablet with an Apple laptop set up nearby to follow the chat. The tablet has such a small screen that it is hard to follow a lot of different windows.
There was a point where I felt the audio was being compromised and we wanted to include some other voices in the discussion, so I had to take a chance and hang up on a few people. That immediately stabilized the call and allowed for additional people to be included. You always take the risk of hurting someone's feelings by hanging up on them though and it's very risky when you really value them and want them to remain part of the conversation in the chat room. We talk about how it is hard to show your feelings in email. It is just as easy to be misunderstood or hurt someone's feelings in a telephony call.
This webcast was also a particular challenge because there was so much valuable information and links being shared in the chat room. Another thing that happened during this webcast, which was very good but unusual, was that there were a lot of people we did not know - first time visitors to the show and probably to edtechtalk, although some people said that they had been following edtechtalk for a long time off and on. Thank goodness for Lee, who managed the chat room, welcomed people and put links in the chat room to help everyone follow the discussion. This also made it possible for me to go through the chat to compose the show notes. This was particularly important since we are hoping that people will find these 3 August shows to be of value even when they return from summer.