Monday, November 17, 2014

Failing Fast Approaching

In the age of self promotion, collecting "followers", and even sharing the reach or price of your social network on your social network, I submitted a session for the February TCEA Convention called FailCon in hopes of going back to a time when sharing your failures didn't compromise your social reputation.

I'm happy to report that this has been approved as a 90-minute session during TCEA. Not ideal for a mini-con but a good start for the first time. Who knows, maybe it will fail completely?

FailCon is actually a company leadership event catching on across the globe. It is the idea of having leaders share stories of failure in order to prepare for success. In 2008, Engineers without Borders started writing and publishing their annual Failure Report. Their site explains "[we] believe that success in development is not possible without taking risks and innovating - which inevitably means failing sometimes". Their report showcases the decisions and outcomes of failure along with how the failure still brought about innovative change.

I know I am starting to sound like an old fogey when I refer to "the times before". But there was a time previous to social media and everyone's own conferences when the statewide convention was where we would connect, commiserate, and motivate one another. A trip to a state conference meant you could share with others what you were doing and they understood your lingo, language, and passion because they were trying the same thing.

We all had similar failures. We had different successes.

But we were willing to admit these failures openly because we weren't competing with one another for followers or conference attendees. We weren't building our brands. We weren't self promoting. We weren't followed by our district communication department, principals, superintendents, or others like we are now on Twitter.

And all this isn't bad. It is just how the times have changed.

So FailCon is an idea of gathering a group together to share about failure and what was learned by failing. I'll be co-presenting with my pal Eddie Mathews from Kerrville ISD. We are also going to borrow from Jean Case's Be Fearless campaign to encourage people to continue to move forward after failure in order to make big change in their organization.

I'm posting about this in November because I am really excited by the session. And it may be something worthwhile or maybe it fails utterly. Either way, it is going to be great to try out! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

ReVision Replayed

Here's something you may not know about me. Back in the early 2000s, I had this idea for creating a broadcast television show for kids to "revision" Music Television videos. The idea was to take a song and create a new music video combining their skill sets with the emotional connection to the song. I had students who were doing this on their own and sharing their revisions by CD or hidden on an FTP site.

This was all before blogging and video streaming was common. Beyond just being a television show, I felt a show like this could do something not seen in most TV programming: connect the audience to the content of the show through their experiences of being the content creators. At the same time, as a former video production teacher, I felt the show could produce a national curriculum to teach students proper filming and editing technique. As the show would grow, the curriculum would include more celebrity tips to strengthen the relevance of the curriculum.

So how do you go from idea to production?

I contacted producers. At the time, HBO was airing a show on their family channel called "30 by 30 Kid Flicks". Each show aired a student film and then interviewed the students who produced it to share their filming techniques. I had contacted the producers and they sent me a lot of production information including some rough-cut footage from the show. I also contacted a number of film producers in Texas to see if there were any student film groups or contests and to find out if they would be interested in helping develop this.

Over the course of a few months, I worked with a team to develop a production option package that I could "sell" to a broadcast company. It had multiple phases including show pacing, curriculum delivery, website community, awards for "best of", promotional considerations, and even interviews between music artists and their new video producers. At one point, there was mention of the possibility that these ReVision videos could be considered a category at the MTV Video Music Awards broadcast.

Through connections made in all this, I had the opportunity to pitch ReVision to two major music television companies. I had no idea what I was doing. I did think my passion toward the project would really sell the idea.

If you have ever seen "Shark Tank", you have seen a pitch. I had to sell my entire idea to a panel in less than 4 minutes. In retrospect, I can see ways I could have done it better but overall I think I was really convincing. I didn't want oversight on the project. I just wanted a production credit to continue pursuing other production ideas. This idea was a step toward other projects. I wanted to be a producer.

In the end, neither group was interested as both were moving away from producing music television. I packed up the idea and moved on. I figured I had done all I could. Plus, I had a full time job in education where I was completely satisfied. This was simply a hobby idea gone mad.

A few years later, I was reading an article on this company called YouTube and how they were being sought for purchase by Google. Before Google bought it, YouTube was buried under several copyright infringement cases and it made zero profit. It was video Napster. People were posting copyrighted content all over it and the broadcast media companies were trying to censure their content while suing YouTube for allowing it.

Reading that article, I remember how Google shared they were considering YouTube as a way "to create a new new platform for delivering web content and video streaming". I immediately figured Google would be creating online television programming channels and it could be a place for a ReVision show.

Copyright was the major issue plaguing YouTube but ReVision was a way to apply transformation to copyrighted works in order to release them as Fair Use. It was my BIG idea.

I had my work cut out for me.

At that time, Google had a suggestions page where they invited the public to submit ideas for them to develop in a site called Google Labs.

On multiple occasions, I submitted the idea for ReVision. It took some time and lots of attempts, but I made contact and there was interest. But, they wanted more time spent on the ideas involved with copyright, transformation, and fair use. This was to be tied directly into the curriculum.

I wish I could say that ReVision caught on but it did not. At a certain point, ReVision was taking up so much time that I had to consider leaving my job to work fully on research and development without pay. It was a passion until it was going to cost me.

While Google didn't pick up the tab for my idea, research, and final presentation I did "sell" the idea to UMG which formed Vevo in 2009. Selling an idea doesn't mean you receive a lot of dough. I didn't make a bankroll from it but I did help fund my Writer's Guild of America membership for that year. In order to sell an idea, you have to copyright it. In order to sell an idea and maintain copyright for broadcast television, you had to go through the Writer's Guild.

All in all, it cost me a lot of time. I spent months in research with materials provided by production studios, copyright analysts, and the Google research team. I learned A LOT and still monitor the growth of YouTube and Vevo. Tracking media consumption and development is a side hobby for me.

But it was an idea and passion I created, developed, shared, and moved forward with for a few years.

Who knows? Maybe ReVision will happen someday. My name won't be attached to it but I would be happy to see it produced somewhere. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Chrome Extensions

More and more teachers are adding Google Chrome to their computers. I am often asked which browser I prefer to use and I don't have a definitive choice. We are in the age of the browser war. Microsoft has Internet Explorer. Apple has Safari. Google has Chrome. Mozilla has Firefox. My definitive choice is I use all four. Different sites operate better in different browsers.

And none are as great as Netscape ever was! (PS: There is a Windows 7 version of Netscape Navigator available still!)

But Google Chrome offers a lot of add-ons to make their browser work better as a web-utility system instead of just a common browser. Where Apple has apps that run in its iOS system, think of Google's Webstore as a place to get apps that run in its Chrome web browser. 

TCEA has been keeping a Google Document open to share FREE Chrome extensions for teachers. I put the list together with descriptions for our staff in CISD to access. 

Before going through the list of extensions, make sure you do two quick things:

1. Download the Google Chrome browser on your teacher computer. 
*Teacher computers are open for installing based on your teacher login. Student computers will need a technician to come in and install any changes. 

2. Once the Chrome Browser is installed, login to the browser using your Google EDU account (contact Joel if you need help - don't create an account, use the account Joel made for you). 

The Chrome browser login will sync contents to your online Google account. And in some apps, if you lose network connectivity, the app will store contents to your computer to continue to work even offline. 

Now, explore, read, test, and play in this list of FREE & charming Google Apps for Educators.

Use the comments section below to post additional information, your test results, or other comments about Google Apps.