After a Skype conversation with Darren Draper, one of driving forces behind the Edublogger World Ning, I've had this idea swirling around in my head that I have no hope of realising. But I'll put it out there just in case some techno whiz kid is looking to build the killer app for teacher professional development. But first, a story from my past.
One of the first places I was sent to when I started teaching was this little town called Wirrulla on the Eyre Highway heading towards Ceduna on the West Coast of South Australia. It was small, only had two shops, a garage, a post office, a police station and of course, the local pub. It was the central hub of the town, the meeting spot for a coldie and to catch up with all of the locals for a yarn and a game of pool. Being on the main street, whenever one drove through Wirrulla, you went past the pub and you could always see who was there by simply identifying the vehicles parked out the front. Having your car, ute or four wheel drive in the car park was a form of calling card, a notice so that if you wanted to catch a certain individual about how much cash they wanted for a side of lamb, or if they were available to play in the B grade footy team, you knew straightaway if they could be caught at the pub. At the time, I shared a house with the local Tech Studies teacher and although we lived less than 100 metres away from the pub, sad to say, we always drove and parked our cars at the front of the pub so that others knew that they could catch us for a beer and a chat. (We were sensible and usually walked home, though!)
This system works really well in country South Australia. I'm wondering if my imaginary application for edubloggers could work in a similar way. Something like this:
You fire up your laptop and head to www.edubloggerpub.org where upon login, your avatar vehicle with personalised numberplates drives on screen and parks in front of the pub. (I'm the old Toyota ute with WEGNER on the rego). Other edublogger vehicles are in the virtual carpark so you already know who you can expect inside. Click on the pub front door and you enter the actual pub. I'm picturing it being a bit like one of those "Where's Wally" scenes (I think it's Waldo in North America) except with avatars clustered around tables in conversation, virtual drinks in hand (a la Second Life). Because everyone is logged in, everyone can see who's entered the pub (a bit like a chatroom). People are clustered in groups actually connected and speaking (like a Skype conference) and key words appear in a tag cloud above the groups' heads so that you get a quick idea of the topic at hand. And then someone can give you a shout out (like an IM popping up) and invite you to join their conversation. You drag your avatar over to the group, click Connect To The Conversation and put your headphones on to actually start conversing with the real people attached to these avatars. Because that's the really important part of the deal, talking in real time to people - that's the thing that the text based apps can't quite do yet. But things like Skype where you can talk in real time, only ever present your network so the group clustering is harder to pull off.
Luckily, we have tools that do various parts of this dream application - twitter, EdubloggerWorld Ning, blogging, Skype, Second Life but I'm pretty lazy and want something that does it all, a quintessentially Australian influence on this edublogging thing.
So, that's my concept and that's where my skills end. Whaddayareckon?Photo credits:
Wirrulla - Hotel (with permission ) by Brian Dean
http://flickr.com/photos/33937977@N00/404244563/ Ute 04 by BeauGiles