Here Comes Everybody…But When?

Visualization of Blogs

I just completed Clay Shirky‘s very interesting book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (2008). Shirky analyzed how social media is changing the ability of people to organize for change without overlying administrative hierarchies – a change he sees as fundamental to society as the printing press. Wikipedia is a success not because it is brilliantly managed but because it is unmanaged and open – the cost of participation is low and the perceived rewards by those who contribute high. Through blogs and wikis, anyone can now publish (thought there are many examples of some who should not!). Shirky maintains that we are only now beginning to understand some of the implications of social media and its associated power to connect people around specific goals and objectives. He noted (p. 270):

“The most profound effects of social tools lag their invention by years, because it isn’t until they have a critical mass of adopters, adopters who take these tools for granted, that their real effects begin to appear.”


This is swirling around my head as I look at two posts from yesterday. Will Richardson in “Control vs Self-Control” talked about some horror-stories of technology lockdown – administrators and teachers (and students) not being allowed to use flash drives in one school and laptops being forbidden in another district, all in the name of control and standardization. Will quotes Sir Ken Robinson who stated that “we have to stop talking about school reform and start thinking about school ‘transform’.”

Meanwhile, over in Darren Drapper’s blog, he posted “Shift *Is* Happening – But Are We Shifting?“. Some statistics he noted:

The March 2008 survey of 17,000 global internet users is, according to Universal McCann, “the most detailed survey of the Social Media revolution.” In spite of the bias that such a claim emits, Darren thought these figures are something that educators everywhere should consider:

  • 83% of internet users watch video clips, up from 62% in the last study in June 2007

  • 78% of internet users read blogs, up from 66%

  • 57% of internet users are now members of a social network

  • 70% of internet users in China write a blog, 66% in the Philippines and 60% in Mexico

  • China is the world’s largest blogging market with 42 million bloggers – versus 26 million in the United States.

Darren also noted that social media – and blogs in particular – are becoming a more important part of global media consumption for internet users than some traditional media channels. In South Korea – the market Darren noted that is leading the world in digital trends – 77% of internet users read blogs each week compared to just 58% reading the mainstream press. Globally, 73% of internet users are reading blog. Shirky stated that when we change the way we communicate, we change society. These statistics point to the change that is occurring.

Wow! Put these two posts together and one begins to suspect that the rest of the world is achieving that critical mass that Shirky alluded to while America (and particularly American education) lags behind. As Skirky noted, the important question is not whether social media will reshape society but rather understanding how it is already happening.

Kids and Computers

Here at the Center for Teaching Excellence, we struggle with questions of adoption. Jeff Nugent has raised some interesting aspects of the “backwards translation” challenge that innovators and early adopters have with the 80% lagging them in adoption. We are at an interesting junction in education where early adopters are swimming in social media – we are part of the shift – and our challenge is to look back and now assist the early and late majority that make up the majority of our faculty in also making that shift. It no longer is a consideration, it looks like it is a national imperative.

Many are worried that our dollar is becoming irrelevant – I would suggest we worry instead about whether our educational system as a whole is becoming irrelevant. If we do not recognize the societal shift occurring, we will not be in a position to have an economic impact in the world a decade from now. We need to transform, we early adopters are positioned to make that transformation, and the recent statistics suggest that we start action and not debate!

Any one else seeing this imperative as I do?

[Photo Credits: Rob Goodspeed, Shareski]

Truth 2.0?

There was a very interesting article by Monica Hesse in the Washington Post this past Sunday entitled “Truth: Can You Handle It?” The article starts with a well-known witty saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

“How many legs does a dog have, if you call a tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

Monica points out that while you can find this quote in some 11,000 different web pages – including Brainy Quote and World of Quotes – Abraham Lincoln never said this. Lincoln’s quote was about a cow, not a dog. Her question – what happens to the concepts of truth and knowledge in a user-generated world of information saturation?


She goes on to talk about how students today rely on Wikipedia and Google searches without validating the information. They count on the wisdom of the crowds, and that wisdom is typically pretty good. If, however, they never question the “facts,” then pretty good will eventually fail them. For instance, a Google search for “smoking does not cause cancer” returns 4,530 webwsites. One of the key points of this article is that students today are increasingly passive and want their information fast….not necessarily accurate. Watching my emersion into Web 2.0 world of blogging and twittering, I wonder increasingly if the same can be said about us early adopters?

This was on my mind this weekend as I graded papers from my graduate students. These are all K-12 teachers working on their masters degree, and I had asked them to draft a paper describing the challenges school administrators face in implementing change in school systems. I had suggested to them that they might review some blogs written by school administrators in researching their papers, and was pleased to see that several did in fact quote from blogs. I mentioned my pleasure on Twitter and got an email back from Jeff Nugent framing questions that immediately connected my tasking to Hesse’s article. The email asked:

  • Can blog postings be used to support / refute arguments in academic papers?
  • How is the authenticity / authority of blogs determined?
  • Does collective intelligence approximate a form of peer review?

This obviously goes to the question of the validity of blog posts as a form of scholarship…but I had not dropped that conceptual thought down to the homework level. I can not find the percentage of school administrators who blog, but I would suspect that it is relatively small. If administrators who blog are on the fringes, can their views on implementing change be generalized to school systems nationwide? I really do not know, but it is troubling that I had not thought about this before making my suggestion to my students.

We are swimming in Web 2.0 rapids where information washes over us 24/7. My personal learning network consists of RSS feeds into Google Reader, network feeds into delicious, and Twitter feeds round the clock. However, as Michele Martin noted so eloquently in “Understanding Homophily on the Web,” we tend to associate online primarily with those people who think as we do, which in turn can cause us tune out the possibilities that there are other ways to think.”

She says:

“One of the things that I think we easily forget online is that there are a lot of people who are NOT represented there. Zuckerman, for example, argues that there’s a very real digital divide between developing nations and the developed world when it comes to using social media. We also have continuing divides within our own nations. In the US, only 56% of African Americans are online. I was unable to find the percentages of them who are blogging, but I would assume that it’s even less than what we see with white Americans because there are fewer African-Americans online. And Danah Boyd has done a nice job of raising the issue of socioeconomic class in MySpace and Facebook, pointing to another kind of digital divide. My point here is that if we are getting a lot of information from and engaging in dialogues with other bloggers (as many of us are), it’s easy for us to forget who is NOT part of the conversations. We end up operating in siloes without even knowing it. ”

Dog Leg

Abraham Lincoln talked about cows, not dogs. I point my students to blogs as sources of information, but do those sources have a leg to stand on? In posting this question here on the web, I am posting it to the community I identify with and feel comfortable with…so one wonders if I will hear alternate opinions?

What do YOU think?

[Photo Credits: Jean-Francois Chenier, Stella Dauer]

The Facets of Social Networks

David Warlick was live blogging in David Gratton’s session, where he drew an interesting picture from Gene Smith of the features of social networks. David said:


“The Internet has been about community all along, Usenet, forums, chat rooms, geocities Home page and webring and e-mail. To say that things have changed is wrong. What’s changed is that the barriers are gone. What’s changed is the syndication process — RSS.”

Interestingly, I had just commented to Jon Becker in his blog post about “How To Digitally Supplement a PLC” that the key was using the power of RSS to bring the conversation to the faculty.

David went on to note that social networks are all different. Using Gene Smith’s diagram, they are all about:

SN Facets

  • Identity,
  • Presence,
  • Relationships,
  • Conversations,
  • Groups,
  • Reputation, and
  • Sharing

I like this breakdown and am adding to David’s comments. Linkedin and Plaxo are all about identity. Wither and Bebo are about presence. Relationships are in many of the tools and conversations such as MySpace, Facebook, and Ning. Twitter is entirely about conversations (and can be addictive!). Groups are a major part of Flickr, Ning, Facebook and Basecamp. Reputation comes out of forums and followings – the number of posts, replies and ranking. Delicious and Diigo are built on sharing.

David asked how this might apply to education. He noted that students and teachers can ask questions and give directions, with other students and teachers responding. The whole thing turns into content, driving discussion which builds more content.

To me, the key lies in the learning outcomes. If one goes back to Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles of Good Practice, one sees connections between the seven principles and Smith’s building blocks:

Good practice in undergraduate education:

1. Encourages student-faculty contact.

– Tools that encourage relationships and communication work here, including Twitter, Facebook, and even learning management systems such as Blackboard or Desire2Learn. The key is the two-way routine contact.

2. Encourages cooperation among students.

– Groups and sharing help in the collaborative efforts needed for cooperation. Setting up a Ning site can be a useful way to not only build cooperation within a class, but with the global community as well.

3. Encourages active learning.

– The Read-Write web is not a passive environment. As students and teachers learn together through exploration of the web resources, they build knowledge and capacity to effectively compete in global markets.

4. Gives prompt feedback.

– The Read-Write web not only offers 24/7 connectivity, but fosters peer-review and formative assessment. Through the relationships build online, trust is developed and students learn to analyze and critique their own work and that of their peers, driving quality up.

5. Emphasizes time on task.

– The good news (and the bad) is that these technologies and processes expand the time for student work beyond the simple dictates of the course catalog. One of the challenges might become helping students find balance in this always on world, as Jeff Nugent noted last night.

6. Communicates high expectations.

– Through identity, presence, and reputation, faculty can model expected behavior and drive expectations. I have always found that students rise to the expectations set no matter how high, and the new social media gives students the tools to achieve those high expectations.

7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

– One of the positive aspects of social media is the exposure students receive to other cultures and other ways of thinking. This in turn can help drive their creativity and desire to explore new avenues outside the rigid curricula in place in most schools.

Much of the literature seems to paint social media with the same broad brush. David Warlick, David Gratton, and Gene Smith are helping me see the many facets that make up social media, and the multiple opportunities these open for students.

Maturing Educational Reader (Pt 2)

Yesterday, I started my update of the educational blogs that I follow, noting that my initial post “Education Blogs” is still relevant. Those yesterday and today are listed alphabetically and not meant to denote priority order – I find all of them relevant, and there are a dozen others that I tried for awhile and then dropped as not being as meaningful to my life and professional craft.

Blogosaphere 2

So here is the second half of the new twenty-five that I now follow:

ReadWriteWeb………………………ReadWriteWeb is a blog of web technology news, reviews and analysis by Richard MacManus and his team, ranked in the top 20 blogs by Technorati. Good source of breaking technology and Web 2.0 news.

Robin Good’s Latest News………….Robin Good out of Italy provide insightful and timely articles on all things regarding web media. Several months ago he had a short video podcast that he shot with his cellphone while riding his scooter through Rome. You have to love that!

Steve Hargadon………………………Steve is the father of the Ning site – Classroom 2.0 – which counts over 7,500 members including me. I enjoy Steve’s insights into Web 2.0 and its application to education.

Students 2.0………………………….A fascinating blog run by teenage students about students. Their insights into the flat world, their place in it, and their expectations for education are very revealing.

Teaching Talia………………………Talia is an Australian technical educator who creatively incorporates Web 2.0 into her teaching, and then shares her lessons learned.

Technagogy………………………….John Krutsch is another educator I met at eLearning 2008. John created the TweetCloud process that has gone viral worldwide. He has wonderful insights on using technology to enhance the human presence in teaching.

Techne……………………………….Jeff Nugent, my colleague here at the Center for Teaching Excellence, shares his muses as he explores meaningful and innovative uses of technology to support learning. It is always interesting to see how conversations overlap between the coffee pot, Twitter and our blogs.

The Edublogger……………………..This is Sue Waters’ other blog, in which she shares her tips on running an effective blog. Much of what I learned about the craft of blogging I learned here.

The Power of Ed Technology……….Liz Davis out of Wellesley MA provides practical tips for using instructional technology. I particularly like her screencasts.

The Thinking Stick………………….Jeff Utecht is the technology specialist at Shanghai American School and founder of the Learning 2.0 conference last year. His blog contains rich insights into our interconnected educational world.

The Tom Peters Weblog…………….Tom Peters has been influencing me since his In Search of Excellence back in the Eighties. His latest book, Re-Imagine!, is a must read. While Tom’s focus is on excellence in business, his philosophies are directly applicable to education. Not for the faint of heart – Tom does not pull any punches!

Virtual Canuck………………………Terry Anderson is another Canadian with extensive online experience. He is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Distance Education at Athabasca University – Canada’s Open University.

That is the list … for today. I continue to keep one eye on the horizon for new value-added blogs, and I suspect that this list will continue to evolve. I have reached the point where I may need to drop one if I add one, but so far have not felt the need to do so.

Maturing Educational Reader (Pt 1)

My third post when I started blogging was a list and description of the 17 blogs I was routinely following via Google Reader. After three months of blogging, what I have found is that my view of the world has certainly expanded. Between Twitter, comments on these blogs and my own here, and new aggregations such as Alltop, I realized this weekend that I had added 25 more blogs to my aggregator. Amazingly, I still find I can keep up with the flow as I continue to develop my personal learning environment. I thought I would take the next two days to share additional sources of my inspiration.


My initial post “Education Blogs” is here and still relevant. Here are half of the new twenty-five that I now follow:

2 cents Worth………………..……………..This is David Warlick’s blog, where he explores teaching and learning in the information landscape. As he says, he writes “…to have my ideas criticized, deconstructed, recombined, added to, and, when possible, to be used.”

BlogHighEd…………………….……………This is a Higher Ed blogger network, which features top blog posts from educators, webmasters, marketers, consultants, vendors, and more.

CoolCatTeacher……………..……………..Vicki Davis blogs from Georgia. She is a teacher, entrepreneur, edublogger, writer, avid reader, technology geek, and one of the most passionate educators I have come across. She is co-founder of Women of the Web 2 and featured on EdTechTalk.

Desire2Blog…………………..………………I met Barry Dahl at the eLearning 2008 conference. Barry is VP of Technology and Virtual Campus at Lake Superior College in Minnesota, and is an advocate for eLearning using Desire2Learn.

EdTechTalk…………………………………. EdTechTalk is a community of educators interested in discussing and learning about cutting edge uses of educational technology. They webcast several live shows each week. After each show, they usually post a podcast, chat room transcript and comment forum. Good source of links and love their podcasts, which I listen to during gym or commutes.

Educational Insanity……………………….Jon Bender is a VCU professor who blogs and twitters, much to our delight here in our Center for Teaching Excellence. Jon notes that education is the last unreformed institution from the 19th Century to now try and move into the 21st Century, and he uses his blog as a public spot to share his views on that transition.

Elearnspace…………………….……………. George Siemens is a well-known theorist on the changing nature of learning in a digitally-based society known as connectivism. I do not always agree with his views but he always makes me think.

ExploratoryLearner…………..……….…This is Bud Deihl’s blog. Bud works with me in the Center for Teaching Excellence and is both a soul mate and sounding board for ideas using Web 2.0 instructionally. He is a very accomplished bagpipe player, and his creativity spills over in to his work in communication and digital storytelling.

Half an Hour…………………….……………Stephen Downes is another theorist from the world of connectivism. He has published on elearning, learning objects, PLEs, and educational blogging. In addition to his blog, he also publishes a weekly newsletter which captures top stories from the online learning world.

How to Change the World………..……..Bestselling author of The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki is a former Apple fellow at Apple Computer and current venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and very creative thinker. He is the brains behind Alltop, and I find his business sense instructive when considering the changing educational landscape.

Injenuity…………………………..…………..Jennifer Jones is a fascinating elearning guru from Bellingham WA, working in the technical and vocational fields. She has an amazing network of fellow technologists who share lessons learned and best practices.

Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day…..Jane Hart of the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies in the UK shares a wealth of practical tips on emerging tools. She also compiles the annual list of Top Tools for Web 2.0.

Mobile Technology in TAFE…….…….Sue Waters of Perth Australia is another of my global network who has greatly influenced my own blog. She also is one of the top Edublog and Twitter cheerleaders, supporting and reinforcing new bloggers as they start. This is one of two blogs I follow from Sue.

More to come tomorrow.

A Rainy Day’s Entertainment

Stephen Downes had a fun post in the ongoing CD Cover Meme, wherein one takes three random websites – a title, a quote, and a picture – and combines them to make an album cover (and his is great). Here’s mine (really!!!):


CD Cover Meme


(Quoting from Stephen but Instructions from David Davies):

The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

Now combine these elements in your favourite image editing package and you have your CD cover. There’s even a Flickr group for other people’s CD covers. Some are very good indeed.

Makes for an entertaining few minutes on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Try it!

My PLE Journey

Doing a Lunch and Learn session tomorrow on PLEs. At Jeff Nugent’s suggestion, I tailored it around my own journey this year in building my PLE.


Having a little problem with SlideShare embed…so above is the presentation but click here to view.

We will see which generates more conversation, my face-to-face session or this blog post and SlideShare posting. Be interested in your thoughts.

My Appreciation for my Readers

Thank You

Michele Martin and others have suggested that we set aside the day after taxes are due as Blog Reader Appreciation Day. What a wonderful idea! As we travel down our personal roads, we often do not take the time to say THANKS!  Writing a blog is an intensely personal thing, and yet, the support and feedback you get from your readers are part of what motivates you to continue. I will never know or meet most of the people that read this blog, but I can see from the ClustrMap that my readers span all continents but Antarctica (have to work on that!). That is both humbling and richly rewarding!

Back in 2001 when I was teaching online in Georgia, there was a cartoon in the Chronicle of Higher Ed in which two faculty were discussing online teaching and one quipped, “I thought that this distance learning thing was going to keep undergraduates away from our offices!” I thought then and I continue to think now how out of touch that cartoon actually is. Our lives are enriched by the connections we make online, and my life has certainly grown richer this year through the friendships with fellow bloggers like Michele, Gabriela Grosseck, Eduardo Peirano, Will Richardson, Sue Waters, Wes Fryer, Vicki Davis, John Krutsch, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Barry Dahl, and of course, my office mates Bud Deihl and Jeff Nugent…all nurtured through thoughtful reading and responding in our various blogs. I of course have left quite a few out…but these are the people who have guided, nurtured, and supported my efforts. It is their blogs that have made a difference in mine. As we connect and comment, our circle of friends grow. I deeply appreciate the comments you all have made to my postings – they help refine and focus my thoughts and improve my productivity as a faculty developer.

So Happy Blog Reader Appreciation Day! You make my day this day and every day!

[Photo Credit: psd]

Catch and Release Twitter

Trout Creek

My colleague Jeff Nugent just returned from a week of fly fishing in Western Virginia, including the story of the largest trout he had ever caught – an 18-incher on Mossy Creek (picture of fish here). However, what I “caught” today was an interesting metaphor associated with his forced disconnect from being online 24/7. He said it took a couple of days to stop wondering what he was missing on Twitter, and then a realization that, just as there would always be fish swimming by 24/7 and he would only catch some (if lucky), so too it is okay to simply catch and release from Twitter, savoring those you reel in but not fretting over those you miss. This Tweeter creek will continue to flow and you do not have to fish 24/7.

Sounds like good philosophy…and I don’t have to fib about the ones I let get away!

At the same time, I am mindful of some points Wes Fryer made today in his post “Here for the Learning Revolution.” What is fantastic about the new twitterverse is the continuing conversation unfolding. You can miss some…but you can also get up to speed pretty quickly as you join back in. For instance, I blogged yesterday about the amazing unfolding of the Advocates for Digital Citizenship, Safety and Success, spearheaded by Vicki Davis. This conversation is continuing to unfold and now includes a Goggle Group page, a collective tag “ad4dcss” (with 28 sites tagged in Diigo in the first half day), a wiki, and a growing number of members. A TweetScan for “ad4dcss” shows 32 tweets in the past day. A conversation is beginning to expand about a critical issue that is capturing the passions of some great teachers. Please join in yourself! As Wes noted, conversations can begin in Twitter or one blog, move to another blog, circle back around to Twitter again, shift to an expanding wiki or other social media site, move to Elluminate or Skype, and even show up in face-to-face gatherings…such as our Monday morning coffee sessions at our Center for Teaching Excellence. While pieces may seem disconnected, a synergistic whole emerges. I find this invigorating and encouraging for our future!

Thanks, Jeff, for the great fish story and the even better life balance suggestion. And thank you, Vicki, for having the passion to make sure certain conversations DO take place!

[Photo Credit: Savethewildup]

The Double-Edged Sword

Here Comes Everybody

I have started reading Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody this weekend. I am enjoying it, but my mind is buzzing with implications. He discusses how, in the same way that the printing press opened people’s minds and the telephone increased two-way communication, so has the new web applications altered how groups form and interact. He had great stories such as how one website helped a woman recover a stolen cellphone when the NYPD was not interested in pursuing the case, or how Flickr now can develop groups around local parade photos (or national disasters) without anyone being in charge. One had only to watch Twitter early this morning to see Sue Tapp, Jenny Luca, Vicki Davis and Sue Waters get together on the fly through Twitter, shift to Elluminate, and end up creating a social networking site in Google Groups:

Advocates for Digital Citizenship, Safety, and Success

The power of social media to rapidly pull like-minded people together for collective action without market forces or profit motives is mind-boggling!

Yet, another quote that John Krutch brought to my attention through Twitter this morning seems relevant. John was quoting something George Siemens blogged yesterday, and I am taking it out context, and yet, am not….

“…technology cuts both ways. It opens and it closes. It frees and it imprisons…”


Technology cuts both ways. It opens and it closes. It frees and it imprisons. Wow! It captures some recent feeling I have had at the personal level. I have embraced social media and it has certainly opened new avenues of knowledge and communication, but has also tied up a lot of time and energy, leaving me at times feeling trapped and imprisoned by this technology.

Shirky raises some interesting questions regarding this new empowering technology…question similar to those asked by George Siemens. I feel connected with an amazing worldwide collection of amazing “friends,” yet see fewer and fewer connections with two of my office mates who work down the hall. Our office is splitting into Twitters and non-Twitters (and both sides proud of the fact). I have joined new groups fighting technologically relevant issues worldwide, and joining less with members of my local team. This technology is cutting both ways, it is opening some doors and closing others, it is creating the “haves” and the “have-nots.” This is an unsettling time and will work itself out…but I hope to feel freer and not imprisoned as time passes.

Anyone else feeling this angst???

[Photo Credit: Redwolfoz]