New Digital Dialog class begins (Fall 2009)

I sent the following message to all current members of our Digital Dialog learning community this evening.

Hello Digital Dialog Ning Members:

We started a 15 week class this evening titled, “Digital Dialog: The Intersection of Technology, Learning and Faith” at our church in Oklahoma, and I posted resources as well as the recorded audio from the session to our Digital Dialog Ning.

I’ll be adding more resources to the Ning throughout the fall as this course continues. Please chime in with your ideas and thoughts on the forum and our website. We’ll continue to record sessions, and may webcast/live stream some sessions later in the fall.

Thanks for participating in Digital Dialog!

Wes

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Elgg learning community for 5th grade Sunday School created

I’m going to be teaching 5th grade Sunday School this year at our church for a third year, and this time around I think we’re going to try using a walled-garden learning community website powered by the open source platform Elgg. Last year we tried using Moodle, but that didn’t work really well. Parents had lots of trouble logging in, and I wasn’t pleased that students didn’t have their own “profile pages” like they do on other social networking sites and couldn’t “friend” each other. The first year I taught the class we were going to use Imbee, but didn’t, and ended up trying to use the Grapple-provided website which was really just an online bulletin board powered (I think) by phpBB. It wasn’t a learning community or a social network, and it wasn’t engaging for the kids– it was basically a flop. I’m hoping to change that this year. Last year when Moodle didn’t work I switched to just using a blog to share updates with parents as well as media we created, but I don’t think that was really very successful either, in terms of reaching many parents. I should have surveyed them at the end of the year, but I didn’t.

One of my main goals in setting up our Elgg learning community is to keep parents in the loop, and encourage both students and parents to discuss what we talk about / learn about in class each week when they go home. I was enthused to find an Elgg plug-in tonight that supports prayer requests and praises (Kneemail) and am activating that on our site now.

I’m looking forward to hopefully learning more about Elgg in the weeks and months ahead. Our church is rolling out a new website in about a week that is supposed to have more social networking / learning community support built into it, and I’m supposed to learn more about that from our outgoing webmaster / communications director at the end of the month. There’s a chance we could use that new church website for our 5th graders, but I’m thinking I’ll go with Elgg since I’ve heard great things about this platform for youth learning communities (mainly from Jim Klein) and am looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about Elgg through this use of it for 5th grade Sunday School! I’ll post more about my learning here during the year. I’ve joined the “Elgg’s “Walled Gardeners” group” and I’m sure I’ll find lots of ideas and support there for this effort!

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Digital Dialog: The Intersection of Technology, Learning and Faith

I’m planning on facilitating a class this fall at our church on Wednesday nights which I’m titling, “Digital Dialog: The Intersection of Technology, Learning and Faith.” This will be a 15 week course at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Oklahoma, and class will begin (I expect) at 6:30 pm each Wednesday night of the fall term following the meal at “The Gathering.” Anyone is welcome to attend and participate, whether or not you are a member or Sunday visitor to our church. The course description I sent this evening to our church administrative assistant for publication is:

Digital technologies provide unprecedented opportunities to learn, connect and communicate with others around the world. In this class we will explore using laptops, smartphones, and the Internet. This class is BYOL: Bring Your Own Laptop! Guest wifi connectivity will be provided during class, but a laptop or smartphone is NOT required! We will not only discuss how we can constructively use new technologies for learning and communication, but also explore how these resources can intersect with and impact our journeys of faith, our families, and our Christian community. New topics will be addressed each week, based in part on Wesley’s forthcoming book, “Powerful Ingredients for Blended Learning.” More info is available on www.powerfulingredients.com.

The bio I submitted (adapted from my personal website bio) is:

Wesley Fryer is a digital learning consultant, author, digital storyteller, educator and change agent. With respect to school change, he describes himself as a “catalyst for creative engagement and collaborative learning.” Wesley serves as a co-convener for the annual K-12 Online Conference and is the executive director of the nonprofit Story Chasers Inc., the lead partner in the statewide Celebrate Oklahoma Voices digital storytelling project. His blog, “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” (www.speedofcreativity.org) was selected as the 2006 “Best Learning Theory Blog” by eSchoolnews and Discovery Education, and is utilized regularly by thousands of educators worldwide. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator and a Google Certified Teacher. Wesley is married to Shelly, and together they have three children, ages 11, 9 and 5. Wesley is serving his third year as a Deacon for First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, is a fifth grade Sunday School teacher, an active member of the Friday Morning Men’s Fellowship, and has taught Stopmotion filmmaking courses the past two summers for the FPC Fine Arts Camp and the Edmond Fine Arts Institute.

Technically I’m not a “Google Certified Teacher” YET, but that should change on August 5th when I attend the Google Teacher Academy in Boulder, Colorado.

I’m not positive I’ll be able to pull this off, but I may attempt to broadcast and archive these classes with Ustream. I may use a separate Ustream channel, however, rather than my main one since these classes will have a decided focus/slant toward Christian themes which relate to technology.

Last fall I taught two five week courses at our church following a similar format, one on “Exploring the Biblical World with Google Earth” and another on iTunes University. The Google Earth series is available as a podcast on iTunes. Just search for “Google Earth” and you should see it under the “podcasts” category. These episodes are all available as free downloads.

Exploring the Biblical World Google Earth on iTunes

At a minimum I’ll likely audio-record these sessions and make them available as weekly-updated podcasts. I am not positive but I’m think that instead of using my Moodle site to share resources, I’ll use the Digital Dialog Ning site.

If you have any ideas related to these issues or questions I’d love to hear them. This should be fun. Last fall we had a good class of about 10 regular participants, and I think everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about a variety of technology topics including ways they related to our faith and families. At some point down the road I want to write a book titled “Digital Discipline” or “Digital Dialog,” but this fall it seems to make most sense to use my forthcoming Powerful Ingredients book (written with Karen Montgomery, which should be completed by the end of August) as our curriculum. The book doesn’t and won’t include the Christian themes and slant of this class, but that will be easy/straightforward to add in our Wednesday night discussions during these classes.

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