Tapping Technology to Teach – Part I

You may have noticed that PVybe has been using cutting edge technology to teach online for some time now. I will be writing a few pieces this week that speak to technology and teaching. How we have used it in the past and how we are using it now. This post is about my online community and marketing experience from 1998-2008, focusing on community outreach, and online teaching and technology.

The next piece I write will be about what Pawsitive Vybe is doing with technology in the present. I may or may not do a future of technology piece sometime soon. If you have any questions or comments, or a story you’d like to share, get them ready to be dropped in the comments below. This is a very quick history, as I’m distilling 10 years and perhaps millions of words, down into a couple thousands words in a few blog posts.

It All Started with Mo

The idea of learning online started for me back in 1998 when the internet was in it’s infancy and I was learning how to jam with a really awesome dog, Kimo.

Back then we all learned how to play through clubs and VHS video tapes. As the net started to move to a hi-speed model, I saw the application of video online. I whipped up some video, did a ton of Flash development, and started on this Quixotic quest to entertain and inform dog sports enthusiasts online across the planet.

K9Athlete was my first project in 2000. A few self hosted videos, some training articles, a snappy image driven design was the base of the project. It was even built on Flash for a year or so. After trying for a couple of years, unsuccessfully, to build some bridges between sports and a team to administrate the site (k9athlete.com was always supposed to be a multi-sport project), the project was mothballed.

Here are some Screenshots of K9Athlete.com, back in the day:

Video Distance Learning in 2003

During this time, 2003-ish, I was contacted via MSN Messenger by Marcus Wolff, a fledgling disc dogger in Germany.

I remember teaching Marcus some Fidgets and grips via webcam on a video chat while sitting at my desk. A few months later I was in Germany performing and teaching seminars with him and Sabine Bruns. It was pretty amazing. The world was suddenly very small. It was an exhilarating experience, real time video teaching over thousands of miles. It would be several years before I did it again.

Evolution – Email List to Forum to CMS

Also in 2003-4 I started a new project. k9disc.com, which became my focus and my passion. A leaner and meaner forum driven site with more focus on my particular skillset and area of interest, teaching people to play disc with their dogs, k9disc.com was a successful online community. Built upon Joomla and phpBB, k9disc.com grew to over 1000 members and was a goto website for Disc Doggers around the world.

Before k9disc.com, the main form of communication amongst disc doggers were the disc dog email lists. Email lists are great for informing and notifying people, but they are terrible for teaching and community. The same questions get asked, over and over, there is no permanence and it’s very easy to fire off a nasty email and never see it again. I built k9disc.com to make teaching possible and to foster a stronger sense of community. I think it worked quite well.

From 2004-2008, k9disc.com was staffed and administrated by yours truly. It was a labor of love and a tremendous learning experience. I learned how to administrate, design and hack an open source php based CMS system. I learned to hack PHP, to use phpMyAdmin and admin MySQL as well as to design and administrate the Joomla CMS. I was delivering instruction online and building a community, but the technology was not quite there yet to charge for it, and the amount of time necessary to administrate a large site like that was pretty much a full time job. It was rewarding emotionally and socially, but it took up so much of my time – 10+ hours per day, every day, was too much time for a hobby even though the community was rockin’.

… to be continued…