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I’ve made a few tweaks to Twitterator over the last couple days, the most significant of which is a measure of compatibility with DabbleDB. If you create a basic DabbleDB database with a single column of twitter usernames, you can specify the URL to the .txt or .csv versions of your database and Twitterator will add them to your list of Twitter friends.

This new feature should really help if you want to provide an easy way for a bunch of people to subscribe to a set of twitter users all at once. You could maintain, for example, a list of K-12 science teacher twitter users. Make as many groups as you want and simply provide the URLs in a blog post, on a wiki page, or in a Google Docs document.

Leave a comment if there’s another feature you’d like. I’ll see what I can do to put it in. Please let me know if you find a bug.

I may attract the trademark police for this, but so be it.

It seemed like an innocent enough question at the time, but when Steve Dembo (teach42) posted a tweet last week looking for a way to import a list of Twitter names to follow I decided to run with it. It seemed like a straightforward programming challenge, and after a little twittering back and forth with Dave Briccetti I had it pretty much worked out in my head.

Twitterator, then, is a really simple web application that takes a list of twitter usernames and allows you to follow them in one fell swoop. Take a look and see what you think. I have to warn you though. This is a pretty basic CGI script, and it’s not going to be particularly fast. It depends on Twitter.com’s servers being available which can be a bit of a crapshoot. Using Twitterator may cause dizziness, shortness of breath, locusts, giant meteors, and (wait for it) sexual dysfunction. Tell you doctor if you’re using Twitterator. Don’t taunt Twitterator!

I think this could be pretty useful for training sessions. For example, you could keep a list of twitter usernames in a file on the Internet somewhere and use that URL to follow those people. You could keep lists organized by academic subject or whatever else works for you. Once the file exists at a certain URL, a bunch of people could start following those people within minutes of creating their Twitter accounts. You can also paste in a bunch of usernames manually from a blog post, wiki page, or some other source. I tried to make it as bulletproof as reasonably possible, but you’ll have to ensure that the usernames are listed one per line.

Feel free to leave suggestions for improvements or creative uses in the comments. I hope everyone finds Twitterator useful. It’s fun to exercise my programming chops once in a while, and if this brings Dembo one step closer to world domination then it’s all been worth it.

Update: All Twitterator links have been updated to point to the new URL.

We’ve been preparing to implement the ITIL standards in my district for about a year now. Now that five of us have achieved the foundation certification, I think we’re poised to make some significant headway this year. This presentation from the TIES Conference is a description of some of the ITIL fundamental concepts and a summary of my thinking about how we’ll tackle them in Buffalo. This is most definitely a work in progress.

I’ll post my slides here after my talk, but for now you can follow this links to learn more about ITIL:

Update: Here’s a link to my slides from this talk. I think most of them will make sense on their own, but anyone who looks at them will obviously miss some key things that were discussed in my talk at the conference.

Kurt Steinhaus is Deputy Cabinet Secretary of Education in New Mexico. (He’s also a marathoner who ran 4:38 at the 2007 Duke City Marathon.) The title of his talk is “Enjoying T-Time by the Sip or by the Gulp?”. His slides will be available on the conference wiki.

Kurt wants us to take action in three areas:

  • 21st Century Skills
  • Robust support systems that function “just in time.”
  • Innovative teaching and learning to keep pace in an increasingly digital world.

Kurt visited Minnesota a couple weeks before his keynote (something I’ve never seen before) and stopped to visit some schools.

What trends did he see?

  • Relentless, intense passion
  • Support system (technical and teching and learning)
  • More school-wide integration

Kurt observed some transitions underway in Minnesota and elsewhere:

  • From purchased licenses to Web 2.0 and open source
  • Application-based to Web-based and mobile learning
  • Isolated and offline to collaborative and online
  • Copyrighted content to shared content
  • Submitting reports to blogs and web publishing

What is the future of technology in education? It’s already here, it’s just not in every school yet.

How can we move forward?

  • Step 1: Where are we?
  • Step 2: Reach a broad consensus on a clear message (vision or goal).
  • Step 3: Meet them where they are and use your “bag of tricks” to move resources toward achieving the vision.

Kurt talked about how to advocate for your vision. Prepare a “One-pager” that you can give to key decision makers. Include the following things and customize your one-pager for each audience.

  • Name
  • Compelling vision
  • Brief overview of history
  • Rationale (why is this essential)
  • Funding request (include recurring and non-recurring costs)
  • Research base

Also, develop an “elevator pitch” that you can deliver to a decision maker in 30 seconds in any setting. One of Kurt’s recommendations: “Make your friends before you need them.”

Here are some notes from my presentation about virtualization technology. I’ll update this post after my session to cover some of the topics that come up in the discussion.

Learn more about virtualization

Here’s part of an email I received recently:

I’m trying to find a way to work with a wiki with my students. We’re trying to do some collaborative writing type activities. I want them to work in real time in the same document so a wiki seemed perfect. However, because we don’t allow email access I need them to do it without registering as a user of the wiki (the only way I know would require an email address to register). I tried it with several different types of wikis, but every time some peoples’ work was lost. It seemed like when someone saved what they had entered, it deleted what someone else had typed. I thought working in a table might help since they would have a specific place to type and not actually be entering in the same space, but that didn’t show any real improvement. Unfortunately, we don’t have Moodle at this time – maybe next year – since that would probably eliminate our registration problems.

My strategy has alway been to divide up the wiki editing into smaller chunks of content on multiple wiki pages to reduce the chances of editing collisions. It’s far from a perfect solution. Google Docs would work, but the lack of student email accounts would prevent that.

Is there a better solution out there? Is there a wiki engine that support simultaneous edits gracefully? I’m all ears.

Here are links to all of the sites I’ll be mentioning in my talk at IL-TCE on Thursday and Friday.

Blogging

Google Maps mashups

Tag searching

Wikipedia

Other

Update: I popped into Steve Dembo’s presentation to hear what Web 2.0 apps he’s using these days. Here is his top10freesites wiki.

Jimmy Wales joined Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur on net@nite recently. It was a pretty standard conversation about Wikipedia that wouldn’t surprise anyone who frequents the site. There were a couple quotes worth noting, however. I’ll keep these handy when I do presentations that mention Wikipedia and the inevitable question about reliability gets asked.

Amber asked how Jimmy would respond to people who say that Wikipedia can’t be trusted (at 31:41 of the recording). He replied:

People do need to approach Wikipedia with some understanding of where it comes from and how to use it. Certainly if you’re a regular user of Wikipedia and you’ve tested it against your other knowledge and against other sources, most people will report it’s actually really pretty good overall. At the same time because it is live editing and anything can be changed at any time you have to be a little cautious. If you read something a little crazy or suspicious you should always check it out. And there are a lot of techniques as an advanced user. You can look in the history. You can look at the discussion page to see if some point has been debated. Check the references at the bottom. You can always tag something. If it sounds suspicious to you, tag it with a tag that says this fact needs a cite or something.

One of Leo’s interns who happens to be a sophomore in high school asked how Jimmy would recommend convincing schools to accept Wikipedia as a trusted source (at 53:02 of the recording). Jimmy’s advice:

Be careful how you use Wikipedia. It really isn’t a trusted source. It really is edited real-time and it could be full of mistakes. That really isn’t the right role for an encyclopedia in the educational process. I think it basically should be fine in schools, it should be acceptable, to add a footnote saying I did a lot of my preliminary research in Wikipedia just to acknowledge where you got a lot of knowledge. But in terms of citing specific facts, you really should go to the sources and look it up there. Because that’s what you’re supposed to be doing. The encyclopedia is supposed to give you the broad overview not be a primary research tool.

This is exactly the advice I give when asked. Perhaps having the quote right from the horse’s mouth will be useful.