How I Became a WebHead

Last year, 2005, I began using some Web 2.0 tools. I began using tools such as blogs, podcasts, webcasts and even wikis. It was unremarkable at first. I mean, I just thought I would learn new technologies for the sake of learning something new. Little did I realize how transformational it would be!

While listening to my first Webcast, Worldbridges, I kept hearing reference to “the Webheads” Jeff Lebow and Dave Cormier, who both run, facilitate, and moderate the site. People seemed to be quite enamored with the Webheads and I was intrigued. Whenever, I heard a Webhead speak my ears would perk up and I would think, “Gee, they sound like regular people, but pretty well spoken, pretty up on technology and fun to be around!”

One Sunday I was checking the time for the next Worldbridges Webcast when I saw reference to an online class, “Becoming a Webhead.” At the same site, Electronic Village Online, I also found eleven different six-week online classes with connections to the Webheads, plus links to TESOL, the site for Teachers of English and Speakers of Other Languages.

I decided to join the “Becoming a Webhead” class and off I went to sign up. The classes are free, international in scope, rather time consuming, definitely life consuming – and the best professional development I have had for years. An added bonus is that the class offerings such as class syllabus, chats, messages and products will remain available on the Internet for any of us to go back to, or for anyone deciding to join outside of the six week time frame.

Our main moderators were Dafne Gonzalez and Teresa Almeida d’Eça who designed, directed and wrote the course. (http://dafnegonzalez.com/baw-06/) These two women single-handedly orchestrated a beautiful piece of International Music involving blogs, podcasts, webpages and many Web 2.0 tools for all course participants.

The journey of a Webhead Wannabe, 2006

Beginning January 16, 2006 I began training to be a Webhead. I checked the syllabus and found that I needed to begin using tools with which I was somewhat familiar. I thought that would be easy! I thought wrong.

Week 1 — Getting acquainted with Yahoo Groups. Introductions. Exploratory Survey.
Well, it seemed easy enough to join Yahoo, make some introductions, and answer a survey. Then, looking deeper, I found that I needed to read articles and reflect on these in a message form. Okay, 10 hours later I was still reading, reflecting, instant messaging and meeting new people from around the world. Everyone was so friendly, saying hello, sending hugs, Beijinhos!

Week 2 — Text and voice synchronous communication tools: Tapped In, Yahoo Messenger and Skype in Worldbridges.
Great week. I knew perhaps two of the tools. One tool wouldn’t work on my ibook with the audio, so I was limited to chatting in YM. However, Skyping in Worldbridges was incredible. Again, I made a mess entering the Skype conference because I forgot to turn down my Webcast before I entered. Oh well, this is a learning curve! Then there were more readings, more reflections, live conferences to participate in, and reading the daily 100 messages in our Yahoo group.

Week 3 — Building an online presence: Blogs, podcasting and Web pages.
I tried out the different online free Web pages, then most of us found Yahoo 360˚ and enthusiastically joined and organized a Web page, blog, social network of friends and Email. For Week 3 I posted a really long reflection at “webhead Cheryl Oakes”. I also created a blog at Suprglu, which points to and collects all my blogs. I had accumulated quite a few through this process and needed a place to store them all.

Week 4 — Virtual classrooms and voice Email.
Being Webhead Wannabes we found some great new audio tools, such as Springdoo, which creates ‘talking Email’; Podomatic, which allows users to find, create, and share podcasts; Handybits VoiceMail, which allows users to dictate rather than type Emails; and Odeo, a great podcast tool. My reflections for this week had to do with the excitement of Podomatic and Cris’ students leaving Valentine messages for us to listen to and comment on. The messages in the Yahoo group continue to grow, and each evening I can’t wait to read through them and find new software or website suggestions.

Week 5 — Developing class materials: online surveys and worksheets, and interactive exercise creators.
During week 5 I volunteered to be the Thread Manager. I committed to reading the daily messages, which I was already doing, commenting, and then categorizing the threads into a meaningful collection for posterity. It was overwhelming and I began to verbalize that I was looking forward to graduation! You can check out the threads at Becoming a Webhead. This page will give you a really good grasp of the connected group and the bonds that have formed through the Becoming a Webhead online course.

Week 6 — Blended learning. Wrap-up: conclusions and evaluation.
Graduation as a Webhead in Action. It took me all week to formalize the threads from the previous week. Each day I looked forward to our graduation ceremony. Most of the 80+ participants contributed something for our virtual graduation buffet, as you can see at Graduation Ceremony or at Becoming a Webhead 2006 Graduation Webcast.

The most humbling aspect of this International class was that many of my new friends chatted daily and wrote daily in their second or third language and learned about new technology tools and skills. I am in awe to be among such great visionaries. I had fun, I am proud to be a Webhead.

The Future

Once we were officially graduated we were invited to continue and become a Webhead in Action. Many of us immediately joined that group and I continue to read daily messages at both groups.

Why am I writing this article? I just want anyone and all to know there are tremendous resources on the Internet. Through Web 2.0 tools and resources any of us can take advantage of online professional development. There are supportive people who will help you along the way.

I hope to see you next January 2007, when the next Electronic Village Online courses will begin again. I will be managing threads in the Becoming a Webhead. I’ll look for you there. Hugs and beijinhos (little kisses) to my Brazilian and International friends.

Email:Cheryl Oakes
Webhead Blog:http://webheadcoakes.blogspot.com/2006/02/webhead-cheryl-oakes.html

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