Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A cookbook for 21st century project management

I just returned to Abu Dhabi from the CALICO conference in Amherst where I talked about my chapter in the book for which I was a section editor and that was featured on CALICO’s portal web page prior to the conference;. The book is on CALL in limited technological contexts and my chapter  “Shifting sands, shifting paradigms:  Challenges to developing 21st century learning skills in the United Arab Emirates” discusses not limited technology per se, but limited experience with the latest uses of technology causing educators to not exploit its full potential and benefits.  I point out in my chapter what some of the hurdles are preventing teachers from embracing the new technologies and I set forth a strategy for overcoming them.  In a nutshell the strategy explains how we can be change agents by getting our colleagues to interact with us using 21st century Web 2.0 technology tools and writing use of these tools into the curriculum where they are taught by teachers whom we help to familiarize with some of the uses and affordances of these tools.

I posted the slide show outlining the chapter at, direct link I put the full text of my final draft of the book chapter itself at Google Docs and create a tiny url for it at  The text is hyperlinked from the slide show, and I linked to the slides from the Google Doc. I hope to make a slidecast for the slide show and podcast that at if I can find a spare moment.  This would further model my ideas for teacher training, and for helping students acquire the multimedia skills essential to communication in the 21st century.

The paper articulates what is needed for several projects I’ve got going at the moment.  The slides would probably get me through several talks I’m giving in Brazil and Argentina in July and August this summer.  For example, in my presentations at BrazTESOL I’ll be talking about some of the affordances of teaching and learning through a PLN (personal learning network) and the social networking, tagging, RSS, and paradigm shifting associated with that concept.

I know I need to couch all these topics, unfamiliar to many, in terms that teachers can easily understand, to help them see the benefits and importance to them. It won’t be the first time I have addressed such audiences; for example, explaining tagging to Ministry of Education English teachers at their most recent Nile TESOL Conference, where they were in Cairo and I presented online from Abu Dhabi

I wrote the book chapter in 2009 after having proposed a set of technological innovations to a previous director of the department where I work, but I have since got my teeth into some other projects, which I hope will help teachers learn more about the technologies they might be using with students as they prepare to teach from materials I am writing in conjunction with one of these projects.

Curriculum for students

In curriculum development, I am helping to develop a computing support course to students in an intensive English program at the Petroleum Institute.  My part of this project is to create curriculum introducing tools such as Google Docs and Delicious to support an English dept. focus on collaboration, team building, and Internet search.  The problem for teachers is that in order for them to effectively teach these skills to students they have to themselves be experienced users of the tools.  As this is not yet the case, I will need to find ways for the English teachers to use the tools in the run-up to these components being taught.

My plan is to create documents for them in Google Docs, create a project tag, and show the teachers how we can track latest versions of shared documents pertaining to our own collaboration and find them online via Delicious and other tools that will track tags.

Community building and professional development for teachers

I’ve been speaking and writing at length for much of the time I’ve been at the Petroleum Institute on these tools and on my many experiments with how they can be used with students as well as teachers in their professional development, but it is only recently that there has been wide enough interest among colleagues with whom I work face-to-face to allow me to take my ideas mainstream.

One manifestation of this interest is where colleagues and I in TESOL Arabia are rejuvenating the TESOL Arabia EdTech-SIG with emphasis on online potentials for promoting the “three C’s” of collaboration, communication, and creativity.  Jim Buckingham and I kicked off this latest phase in a joint presentation recently at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi where we connected with Phil Cozens presenting on-site that same morning in far-away Ras Al Khaima  We used the Adobe Connect platform that PI recently purchased and where I have been granted permission to set up and conduct online meetings.

Since that success, those interested in taking the lead on promoting use of such tools in the UAE have met online to discuss leveraging them to help bring teachers up to speed with technology throughout the UAE.  To this end we might have regular online training sessions this coming year, and the English teachers at the PI might want to get involved, in part as a preparation for teaching the intensive English course in the Fall.  So these developments could play into one another.

A further opportunity for teacher training will arise when I teach my PPOT (Principles and Practices of Online Teaching course on Multiliteracies online again for TESOL from September 3 to October 6, 2010 I am planning to run the course in conjunction with a face-to-face continuing education course for colleagues at the PI where the live audience can benefit from interaction with the distributed one and visa versa. If English teachers at the PI take advantage of that then this will serve to ground them in some of the tools and competencies they’ll need to most effectively teach the materials I’m creating for our students.  One of the English teachers completed my previous rendition of that course, so we’ve made a start here already.


To organize and promote such courses and show how the many parts of the overall endeavor are loosely joined, I am starting to conceive of a cookbook for 21st century project management.  Here is its first item, a recipe for getting a project off the ground using open education resources.

1.       The first thing you should do is agree on a tag for your project.  For example, the one we agreed on for the TESOL Arabia EdTech SIG was taedtechsig.  Some of us had already been using uaedu which seemed like a nice choice until we tested it in Twitter and with Spezify and found it was already in use and that some of the hits were not especially educational: and  Similarly, we found that edtechsig produced hits from NileTESOL in Cairo Now this brings up another point.  If we wish to aggregate content only for us then we need to create our own unique tag (taedtechsig produces no competing hits, thereby fitting this bill).  However, if we wish to call attention to colleagues in Egypt to what we are doing then we could use their tag, and our content will appear when they attempt to aggregate their own.

So two affordances of tags can be immediately seen.  First, they can help you aggregate content on your topic.  That is, if we want to see content placed on the Web related to this topic, we can use certain tools to locate and pull into one place content where its creators have used that tag, and second, if we want to create content and bring it to the attention of colleagues in a common endeavor,  we can tag it, and hope they will be able to find it.

For TESOL Arabia EdTech SIG I will use the two tags that will cause content I view or create to aggregate with other content tagged taedtechsig, and also I’ll tag the same content edtechsig in an effort to get the attention of our colleagues in Egypt.

2.       The second way to loosely join the disparate parts of a 21st century project is to tag them.  Tagging can be done initially by creators of content. However, consumers of content can also tag content they find online using Delicious or Diigo, or other such tools.

Delicious for example can be used to illustrate to both teachers and students how quickly a web site tagged by one user can become known to another.  Delicious is a great way for anyone collaborating on a project involving Internet research to see what has been found by team members, or a way of aggregating content on a tag; see for example,

As another example, both creators and consumers of content on Flickr can tag there. In other words, if I post a photo on Flickr I can give that photo (or set of photos) a tag. However, I can also tag photos I find interesting on Flickr (assuming I’m logged on to Flickr, and that the photo has been granted a creative commons license allowing others to tag it).  Many are familiar with this same concept from Facebook, where we can tag photos of friends there, and the site provides a means for seeing on one page all the photos tagged for a particular user.

So to summarize this as a recipe in the cookbook, once your group has settled on a tag, then all members should tag as many sites used by the group as possible. This can be done by both creators and consumers of that content. Group members who create content (post photos or create blog posts, for example) should apply the agreed on tag to that content.  Those who view that content online should tag it using their preferred social bookmark system.  Then search tools such as Spezify and Delicious and Diigo can be used to find content as it aggregates around that tag.

Another important use of tags is as ‘hash tags’ or #tags in Twitter.  Using #tags has affordances beyond a simple search.  You can search in Twitter and find #tags (and other content matching your search) but if you use #tags then you can click on them to bring up all content using that #tag.

The 3 C’s

Use of these techniques puts the “3 C’s” of 21st Century Learning into your online projects and those of your students.  The three C’s are communication, collaboration, and creativity.  Here are a few ways that these are addressed through the cookbook for 21st century project management.  These lists are simply starters; they could be added to endlessly.

(how you can communicate with others in your group using these techniques)
  • Create a tag for your project
  • Create a portal and link all of your stuff here
  • Create a #tag
  • Tag all sites and associated sites in Delicious and Diigo
  • Tag other artifacts as needed
  • Set up Tag Games to see what others are tagging
(how you can work with others online)
  • Wiki for content (like this one!)
  • Etherpad clone
  • Ning Alternatives (see
    • Cloudworks
    • Spruz
    • Mixxt
    • Etc. etc.
(some ways you can be creative and innovative using Web 2.0 tools)

  • Wordle
  • Wallwisher
  • Tag Gallaxy (works only with Flickr)
In an attempt to crowdsource additions to this list, I've created a wiki here:

If you'd like to add more tools, visit that link and add them, and I'll synch the lists from time to time
(must be a better way :-( Vance :-))

Thanks to these tweeters in my PLN :-))