Posts Tagged ‘community’

a little late reflecting on a crazy year that was…

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

… and getting back into it this year.

Phew, I needed that couple of weeks of holiday to slow down enough to get my brain to breath (deeply) and stop puffing. It was a big year. New job that I had to learn, research proposal and ethics application, setting up blogs, finally getting what Twitter was all about, finding people to follow (and getting followers), bloggers feasts with like minded people in education who have a passion for technology, developing a personal learning network (PLN), conferences in Melb, Wollongong & Mooloolaba (that’s a few o’s & l’s), chairing a committee, having three different bosses in the year, being dissappionted at some of the attitudes of those administrators who control resources. etc. etc. By December 23rd I was quite ready for a holiday break.

I actually went cold turkey for two weeks with no access to the network/interweb and headed off to the bush for a lot of nothing. Well, I did manage to read a couple of huge sci-fi novels, do some beach visits, bush walks, catching up with family, some photography and generally develop a relaxed frame of mind too distracted by nothing to think about much at all. Rather indulgent, but bliss. Might try and do that a little more frequently this year.

Two weeks is a long time – anywhere, and getting back into things the second week of January was another matter. Just reflecting on what I’d done over Christmas and New Years, meant that those people in my PLN would also have had any number of adventures & experiences. I wondered what my Twitter followers had been up to, and what of my colleagues at work. Interestingly (or disturbingly) I found it difficult to get back into the flow. I logged back into Twhirl to get my Twitter stream and noticed things were as lively as ever, but I couldn’t jump back into the stream. Very weird. I did notice that some regulars weren’t tweeting and reckoned they were probably on holidays too. So, why did I feel awkward? I did want to connect back into my network, but something was stopping me.

Maybe the cold turkey had removed my need to tweet (my addiction had been cured?), or I had lost some Twitter mojo, or maybe I had to get my head back into the space. Anyway, after a week or so of hesitation and a couple of tentative tweets, I just plunged straight back in! I thought that maybe that would be the best way. People weren’t going to invite me back, I had to commit myself to engage again. And you know what surprised my most (but shouldn’t have), I was immediately welcomed back and made to feel part of that stream and my network – and another lesson learned.

All is well with the world – I’m a tweep. So, now I’m all set for another year of sharing, learning, growing and contributing to my PLN. As BIG Kev would’ve said, “I’m excited!”

learning about learning technologies and such stuff

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

I’m currently at the Learning Technologies 2008 conference being hosted by the Sunshine Coast TAFE in Mooloolaba and having a good time (it may be wet, but my enthusiasm won’t be dampened). The main conference presentations begin today, but I attended a couple of workshops yesterday afternoon – Web 2.0 Re-designing the learning landscape, and Connecting in Second Life. A couple of good sessions that helped me think a little more about why we would want to use Web2.0 tools or venture into virtual worlds. Anne and Jo both talked about the necessity of asking questions before choosing the technology/tool for your teaching/learning. A useful framework to use is one that helps clarify; the content, the teaching mode, and the learner so that an appropriate tool can be chosen to support what you want to do.

But I do wonder if sometimes we need to say: “2, 4, 6, 8, blog in, don’t wait”? I don’t think I mind that approach. Why? Because at least people who jump in at the deep end, usually learn to swim. I acknowledge that this might not be the most appropriate approach for everyone, but it is a good way to learn, not just about how blogs work, but also helps one to think about how blogs might be useful as a learning activity/experience etc. The caveat for this would be that it may be useful to do a trial or test the waters with students first, rather than try to bring a whole class along with while you’re trying to learn to swim. Otherwise you may get distracted by the struggle to keep afloat and lose sight of and /attention for the students.

Another thing that I’ve been reminded of, is that education is dealing with the same/similar issues at all levels, be they at Primary or Secondary school, University, Adult Education, Professional Development/Training, or TAFE. The principles are the same – simplistically put: what is the content, how will it be learnt, how will I know it has been learnt. So, to be at a conference where everyone hopes to learn and share, I ‘m encouraged to notice that we’re all in the same book, maybe not in the same chapter, or on the same page, but at least the story/narrative is familiar and in the same genre.

I’ve also been fortunate to bump into a few members of my PLN and it’s been fun to meet people face to face. Twitter usernames and avatars don’t always mean that you will be able to recognise someone in a crowd, so there was a bit of peeking at name tags to make a positive ID. Anyway, good to catch up with @AnneBB, @howard61 and @borborigmus at the welcome reception last night at the Mooloolaba Surf Club. So now it’s Thursday and I’m looking forward to gaining some more insights from the presentations today. The sun was up early (just after 5 am – don’t ask how I know) and the weather has cleared so it will be a little warmer today.

that was the comment challenge

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

It’s now June 1, and that means the 31 day Comment Challenge (for May 08) is over. :-(

Michele has set the final task as one of reflecting on the top 5 lessons those participating have learnt. While I wasn’t able to complete all tasks for the ‘challenge’ (there’s something to be said for the discipline of making some priority to do the tasks), I’ve been able to see the value of having a structured task/activity to encourage people to step out of their comfort zones and into their learning zones. It reminds me of the Learning 2.0 program (that originated at the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County) and the ‘23 things’ activity as another great example of a learning initiative to get people actively engaged in experiencing a range of Internet and Web 2.0 applications. I’d definitely participate in something like this again. :-)

What I’ve learnt (amongst other things) is that:

#1. There are a lot of great people blogging out there. Through the activities I’ve come across many new bloggers and I’ve subscribed to a number of new blog feeds that I hope will add value to my learning and help me in my role in supporting the use of technologies in higher education.

#2. I’ve got something to contribute through my blogging. I realise that have my own experience and perspectives to bring to the educational blogging community and that others may find these useful. So, through the last month I now feel confirmed, particularly that I’ve only been writing my ‘professional’ blog for two months!

#3. I can comment on what other people are writing. I’ve enjoyed being able to confirm ideas, suggest/provide other perspectives and help develop ideas and stories on other people‘s blogs. It’s still early days for me (as a blogger/commenter) but I’m now thinking more about what I might be able to share with others that could add value to what they do.

#4. Commenting can help build relationships and make stronger, deeper, authentic and lasting connections. The network building through this activity has been very valuable I look forward to it continuing as I meet more people online. I am looking to meeting some of these people face to face and will look for opportunities to do this.

#5. I’m very happy to have people comment on my blog. There’s a sense of engagement, support and validation when someone makes the effort to leave a comment. It’s even been fun to comment/reply back to the comments left on my blog – I’ve come to see this as an important aspect of being part of the blogosophere as it maintains and enhances the interactions.

…and just because I can – I think I’d like to add a sixth…

#6. That being involved in this activity has helped strengthen me as a blogger and developed my understanding of the possibilities of ‘the blog’ in education. I’m now much better situated to provide informed advice and recommendations on social media in my work context and elsewhere.

Finally, a huge personal thanks to those people who managed to make this happen; Sue Waters, Silvia Tolisano, Michele Martin and Kim Cofino (with sponsorship by coComment and Edublogs). I’ve really appreciated the time they’ve invested to guide us through this month of learning – they can be assured the investment has paid off!

Now I need to pay it forward – will you?

a strategy for commenting?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Sneaking back into the Comment Challenge today, I was forced to think about my blog commenting strategy by Michele’s task for Day 28. Well, I didn’t have one did I! Not anything that I was aware of anyway. I suppose my strategy was to say something when I thought I could make a contribution and to pass on by, if not.

We were encouraged to read a post by Caroline Middlebrook (who is what I’d call a professional blogger), and in doing so I had to wrestle with what I wanted out of being a participant in the blogosphere.

This took me back to why I started my blog and what I hoped to get out of it. I’m definitely not in it for the money (at this point in time), but I realise I might need to think about what return I get for my efforts. This means that I’ll need to make an effort to get a return – very rarely will you make a profit if you don’t make the initial investment. But whatever you’re blogging (or commenting) for, be it fame, fortune or fellowship, the principles of/for making connections must be the same.

My motives are more about having/using my blog as a place where I can develop my portfolio (as process) and put some of my ideas, experiences, reflections and work, ‘out there’. I know I’ll learn a lot more if people ‘talk back’ and leave comments in response to what I write. If this is to occur, I’ll need to be somewhat strategic about what I write about and make the connections between that and what I read on other blogs. I have been challenged to think about how to gain some momentum in all this, and if I want to be able to add value to what I do (and gain some sort of confirmation that I’m traveling down the right path) I’ll need to get people to have a reason to visit me. I can see that it is probably up to me to do this – be proactive about it. Maybe I have to stop thinking about how many dots I’ve got on my clustrmap or how many subscribe to my rss feed and think more about my participation in my learning community and those I come across. I’m in this to learn as well as to share.

So, I think my strategy will develop and evolve over time and hopefully support my needs and aspirations. Being authentic, discerning, generous, provocative & critical (if necessary) would be some of the types of responses I’d provide when commenting and this would (I hope) encourage others to visit me to what I’ve got to say. Over time I’ll also probably tend to refine my list of favourite blogs but realise that this network will be fluid as I come across new ones and maybe stop visiting those I don’t get any value from. I hope that through my commenting I might also challenge and encourage others on their learning journeys.

Hmmm, I’ve been surprised how well the ‘commercial’ metaphor has applied to my thoughts on educational blogging. Thanks to Michele for another thought provoking activity…

social networking (online) – does what for me?

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

My blogging experience is limited and, having only recently started to interact with the blogosphere and become involved in the Comment Challenge, I’ve found lots of value in the community of people I’ve started to interact with. It’s still early days, but one thing I’m interested in is the size of the community that I’m exploring (mostly educators interested in web 2.0 and social software/e-learning) and the one that I might make for myself as time goes by. I’ve recently started Twittering and I’m currently following 89 people and guess I will probably look for/ stumble upon/ find a few more. I’ve noticed some people are following over 1500! How do they keep up with this? Just what is the optimum number of people to follow? Will I be able to keep up with all the tweets? Will I want to? What value do I get from it?

I think my interest is more professional than anything else, in how these technologies can support learning. I have tinkered with the personal side of all this and it is a bit of fun – but I’m not getting the same ‘reward’ (as from the professional aspect) as what I’m finding are mostly inane activities that do nothing for me – I’d even dare to call a lot of it spam… You might like to read Jon Husbands piece, Social Networking Stunts Your Growth which features a great video that provides a nice reflection on the ‘Social Networking Wars’.

Facebook, MySpace etc. have their uses, but I can only see value for myself in some of their functionality (let alone the myriad plugin applications available) – maybe I need to explore further and even ask for advice before I make judgement. But people (like Danah Boyd) who are better qualified than me have written about this… I am aware that some colleagues are using Facebook and setting up groups to supplement their teaching (even though all our units are in BlackBoard Vista) and I’ll need to investigate further to see how they, and their students, are generating value and building relationships.

I suppose I’m sitting around the leading edge of the bell curve with regard to using social software/networking. Not at the pointy end, but closer to the mainstream (what/where/ever that might be) which is probably at the geeky end of things for someone of my vintage. So, I’ve started to think about the time and energy I’m investing in this social networking and social software. I liked the question Sue Waters asked recently in a Tweet, “How does Twitter support your learning”? I didn’t respond as I’ve only recently begun to tweetThinking about that, I can probably mention a few things, that’s for a later post.

But, I want to get to my question(s): How big will my social networking community get? How many relationships can I sustain? I’ve heard that we can deal with up to 150 acquaintances before our capacity to have a meaningful relationship starts to run a bit thin. I wonder how many ‘close’ friends will I be able to have? 15? Maybe it will be about finding the right mix of people with whom I can engage, people who might challenge and nourish me. I suppose it’s all part of the Comment Challenge and the development of networks and finding those who will support my growth as an educator/learner both professionally and personally, in both the online and face to face contexts. I suppose that over time things will become clearer and the number of meaningful ‘connections’ will settle at some happy medium where I can be part of a network of like minded souls like me.

What do you think? How many is too many friends in Facebook, or people to follow in Twitter? How many blogs/rss feeds can/should you subscribe to? Anyone have a comment to share?