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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

#mobilesapiens : a Crowdsourced Keynote

It’s been exactly a week since I stood onstage at the lovely Kamehameha Schools presentation hall in Hilo Hawaii  (aka The Big Island) to do the closing keynote for the Hawaii Island TechEd Collaborative Conference  (#hitc2014). It was called “Digital Life” and, I’m told, named so because my “Digital Life” parody video of the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was an inspiration at a faculty meeting.

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I had a great day doing a short workshop on fostering creativity on a daily basis (more on that “Make du Jour” session later), chilling with my former creative partner (musical genius and other half of History for Music Lovers, Herb Mahelona), and sketchnoting the opening keynote from the incomparable Adam Bellow. (you can see all the frenetic sketchquotes in my G+ albums)


I found the above point serendipitous because that is almost exactly what I had fashioned my talk about.

You see, my Digital Life video makes some valid points about how technology (and mobile phones in particular) have completely reworked us, as Marshall McLuhan would say, and can at times seem a little sad, for example in the lines “Nothing is real until we Instagram our shots….You’d better post it, or it’s not legit”.

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My video was a reflective artifact made for #edcmooc (you can read more about it here), but I knew I needed to make this keynote a strange combination of philosophical and practical, poignant and positive (no more P’s!)

I decided early on that I wanted to

explore ways in which technology – and in particular mobile technology, because that is where I think education is going quickly – makes us more “human”, or at least helps bring out our human-ness in doing human-y things.

I like Bellow’s triad of “Connect, Create, Share”, but I’ve been talking about radical transparency, openness, and sharing quite a bit lately and wanted to steer clear of a heavy emphasis on that. My final factor in the tricolon was “Reflection”, so I figured I’d start by reminding everyone how ubiquitous and desirable mobile tech (with its sister, Social Media) is and why we can’t ignore it in education, then move on to how we do, can, and should use it to




I knew I needed some major crowdsourced knowledge, because, as David Weinberger makes clear:


The first thing I did was start collecting great resources in my Diigo list (you can check them out here).

A LOT of inspiration (but more like we were completely in synch in our thinking) came from blogger / philosopher extraordinaire, Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth). I highly encourage anyone to keep up with him (or try to) on Twitter and Blogger.

About a month before the event, I sent out a Google spreadsheet collaborative brain dump to my PLN on Twitter. Why? Because I know that it’s about…


The spreadsheet (which I purposefully made a spreadsheet instead of a Google form so that everyone could see each other’s thinking) asked 5 questions:

1. In what ways do you think mobile tech in particular makes us more “human”? (you can keep it succinct or link to a vlog or blog post)

2. CREATIVE: In what ways do you think mobile tech in particular fosters or enables creativity? I need specific anecdotes, apps, or projects/examples

3REFLECTIVE: In what ways do you think mobile tech in particular allows/encourages us to be more reflective – about our work or ourselves? I need specific anecdotes, apps, or projects/examples

4CONNECTIVE: In what ways do you think mobile tech in particular enables/ encourages us to be more connective – both to each other (globally or locally) and to nature (by freeing us from the binds of a “lab”)? I’m looking for specific anecdotes, apps, or projects/examples

5. Other: a place to put other thoughts, questions, or links to resources you think I should have

Holy Moley what a wealth of insight I received – I encourage everyone to check it out (again, HERE)

I was so impressed that so many brilliant, perceptive minds took the time to help me out on my data and anecdote quest. I ended up quoting several of them in the slide deck, like my dear Vancouver friend Brenda Ball ( @misssball ):


In my keynote I pulled a #showyourwork and  talked about this process of crowdsourcing one’s PLN and even showed screen shots of the spreadsheet. I think it’s really important that we embrace this method of learning and working, and that we help our students realize that it’s a valid process as well (read: “not cheating”).

Believe it or not, I was really struggling with a title…played with everything from “Handheld Humanity” to “Moveable Types”…but it was finally the spot-on brilliance of Herb Mahelona (he keeps it real for me) to decide on #mobilesapiens.

I played with a few other forms of crowdsourcing in the keynote as well. I left some slides blank so that at lunch time I could stalk conference-goers and shoot photos of them engaged with their phones. I figured this would be a great surprise and have that “real-time” effect wow that for some reason still boggles us old folks. Thankfully, Kamehameha’s Veronica Partida ( @veeeerow )helped me with that, and it’s her shots in the final deck.

Also, since my talk was in the afternoon (read: “lethargic-part-of-day”) I made a slide sequence whereby people had to stand if they, for example, used their cell phone today to watch or share a YouTube video, for example.


At the close, I challenged audience members to take a selfie and post it in real-time on a padlet I’d created for the event accompanied by a hashtag about themselves, a big takeaway from the conference, or a “digital life” six-word story. Like this:

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In the end I received great feedback and a few audience members shared that they were appreciative I did highlight a few actual “apps” and projects in addition to the big picture stuff. Plus, some of my “backchannel babes” (read: “dear friends”) chimed in:

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You can check out the entire slide show but keep in mind since it’s been imported to Slideshare, the videos won’t play (I did include most in the links in the description).

After returning home, I made sure to thank everyone (mom would be happy)…

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If you’d like to offer your 2 cents and respond to my queries about #mobilemakesushuman OR would like to offer stories of successful crowdsourcing, please post in the comments…

#digitallife #brendaball #smartmobile #society #connect #human #humanity #davidweinberger #create #crowdsourcing #pln #technology #SteveWheeler #marshallmcluhan #knowledge #adambellow #twitter #showyourwork #mobile #reflect #mobiletech

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