Social Media – Part II – The Long Tail

(Cross Posted at edSocialMedia)

The Long Tail was first coined by Chris Anderson in an October 2004 Wired magazine article to describe the niche strategy of businesses, such as Amazon.com or Netflix, that sell a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities.” (Wikipedia)

The Long Tail became relevant to me as I connected with education 2-15-2009 11-37-40 PM (WinCE)technologists around the world through my blog and Bloglines RSS blog reader.  We were the sliver on The Long Tail that was interested in education and technology — a small distributed group with a niche interest.  The Internet allowed us to connect to a global network of educators.  I soon found myself listening to a number of educational technology podcasts.

My first podcasts were conference presentations by Alan November and John Palmfrey at the NEIT conference in 2005.  Then, I found Wes Freyer’s blog where he produces some of the most amazing podcasts from conferences around the country.  Next, I found EdTechTalkJeff Lebow and Dave Cormier hosted a weekly live webcast with a text chat room to participate in the back channel where they interviewed people from the EdTech world.  The live broadcasts with a chat room for listeners to participate created real community around their show.  All shows were archived as poscasts with chat transcripts as part of the post.

blue-with-headphones (WinCE) After listening to a number of EdTechTalk podcasts, Jeff and Dave begin speaking about Webcast Academy, a way to learn how to Webcast.  I thought, “this has to be full and I’ll never get a spot”.  Then, “Is this really free?  Who is funding these guys?  Who else is participating in Webcast Academy?” Jeff and Dave answered these questions and more in their Back to Basics episode.  I signed up for Webcast Academy and arvind grover agreed to be my co-host.  We learned to webcast though a series of podcasts and then a series of screencasts.

After 5 webcasts on Webcast Academy, Jeff and Dave asked us to make the jump over the EdTechTalk.  Our first interview on EdTechTalk was Chris Lehmann, during his planning year for Science Leadership Academy. Over the past three years, we produced 95 shows and have grown a great deal as webcasters.  The EdTechTalk network has grown to over 11 weekly and bi-weekly webcasts.  Webcast Academy continues to graduate classes of webcasters to EdTechtalk.

So why tell this story?  Why do I think it is amazing?  As I said in my last post, social media is all about participating in the conversation.  EdTechTalk allowed arvind and me to be part of a global conversation around education and technology.  We found The Long Tail of educators interested in technology.  A few short years ago, this was not possible.  After 95 webcasts, we learn new tools and techniques each week as we continue to build our network of educators who are pushing the boundaries of learning with technology.

Image 1: http://flickr.com/photos/arvindgrover/770886287
Image 2: http://flickr.com/photos/alexragone/3283792900/

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Nomination for Technology & Learning Leader of the Year : Jeff Lebow

Recommendation for Jeff Lebow

I first met Jeff Lebow while listening to an EdTechTalk podcast that was published in the Winter of 2005. EdTechTalk and Worldbridges were foggy to me back then. I was not sure if it was a few or many people. A huge server farm or just a few.

After listening for a while, I realized that it was only Jeff and Dave Cormier supporting the servers, putting in the time, and creating content for EdTechTalk. Then Jeff offered something called Webcast Academy. A way for the average user to learn how to webcast — to participate and use the EdTechTalk servers to enhance the community that Jeff had created. I thought, “I would never be able to get into that class — There must be so many people signed up by now — and plus — I have three young children and can’t participate live.” I signed up anyway and started listening to the podcast recordings of their Webcast Academy sessions. After a few sessions, I actually learned how to webcast, found a co-host and started to do a weekly show with arvind grover, Director of Technology at Hewitt School.

Fourty episodes later, we’re still webcasting with the support of Jeff Lebow. I’ve never given Jeff a dime, and he has happily funded our servers and training by working at his day job over the past two years.

Watching EdTechTalk develop over the past two years has been amazing. We now have over 8 weekly webcasts and an environment that supports teachers integrating technology around the world.

With this type of influence, Jeff Lebow, deserves your award. As the world changes, alternative ways of professional development will become more and more common, and I believe that the professional learning community that Jeff Lebow has created is a powerful example of this new world of professional growth.

Thank you for your time.