A Year in the Spiral

It is the last day of 2008, and as with many others, it is a time for reflection.

2008 was certainly a very different year from my 57 previous ones.  Even though I had worked with computers for years and had engaged in online learning for the past dozen years, in many ways I was a creature of the Web 1.0 era.  I did not grow up with interactivity – I grew up with Basic computer language and dial-up modems.  The computer was a tool that I used primarily offline, but I did go online to go places (my online class in Blackboard, Google, Mapquest, even Wikipedia).  In my developmental years, my web interactions were mostly one-way and teacher-oriented.  I remained in control of my journey and knew where I was headed.

With my colleagues at the Center for Teaching Excellence, Jeff Nugent and Bud Deihl, I had begun dabbling in Web 2.0 apps like Ning sites (Classroom 2.0 and College 2.0) and delicious in 2007, but I was still primarily a voyeur.  My colleague Jeff would prod me to try out different sites or check out different blogs, but I did so rather passively.  My “network” for the most part consisted of people I worked with and a couple of others.  At the start of the year, I was subscribing to about ten blogs and a variety of journal and news sites. It was not until January 13, 2008, that a blog post by Michele Martin grabbed me.

Over the course of a couple of days last January, Michele discussed her own growth online and illustrated this with her social media spiral shown above.  I saw myself in that spiral, and recognized that to grow, I needed to move higher up the spiral.  I had moved from isolated consumption to aggregation in 2007, but I was still of the mindset that few would be interested in anything I might have to say.  I really cannot say why, but Michele’s spiral was the tipping point for me that moved me to start my own blog.

Michele cheered me on during that first month, as did Sue Waters, a new “friend” whose advice and guidance helped be grow as a blogger.  My network began to grow as I entered the spiral of commenting and blogging.  By May 2008, I felt confident enough to join the 31-Day Blog Comment Challenge.  It was exhausting but illuminating, and it added new friends like Ken Allen to my network.  Along the way, I learned that my “personal” learning network was really a social one and not an individual one.  I was learning from the likes of Will Richardson, Michele Martin, Wes Fryer, Vicki Davis, Jeff Utecht and many, many more – and that learning was social.  These superstars were interacting and commenting on my comments and blog posts!

As I taught this fall, my frequency of blogging slowed.  Part of that is due to the time spent microblogging in Twitter with many of the same people I follow through their blogs.  Part of it was due to redesigning my online course – Instructional Uses of the Internet.  The redesign was driven in large part by my experience in the spiral.  2008 was the year I made the leap to social networking, and it was transformational.  I now view my life and my job through a different lens than I did a year ago, shaped by the global friendships I have made and continue to make.

Learning in a Flat World.  The name still fits.  This will be my 125th post this year.  There have been 310 comments, comments that helped me learn – and comments from all over the globe.  I am still humbled by the ClustrMap above.  My readership is worldwide with nearly 4,600 hits since I started tracking it last February.  More importantly, I have gotten to know some of the gifted people behind those red dots marking the globe.  I see them as mentors, colleagues, collaborators, and friends.  I see the world as a different place from the way I viewed it pre-2008.

Tom Friedman remarked that the world had gotten flat and closer due to the internet.  While I loved his book and had done several seminars on THE WORLD IS FLAT, I do not think that I really understood that until 2008.

To those who have journeyed with me this past year, my deepest thanks!  You have made me a better educator!

Just think what 2009 might bring!

7 comments to A Year in the Spiral

  1. Sue Waters says:

    Happy New Year Britt.

    Definitely agree that 2008 was an amazing year so wonder what 2009 has for us!

  2. Ken Allan says:

    Kia ora Britt

    A Happy New year to you and yours.
    I’m looking forward to dropping in on your blog this year. Good onya.

  3. What a great year, Britt–so glad that you jumped into the blogosphere!

  4. Virginia Yonkers says:

    Like you, I came from the basic, dial-up world of the Web 1.0. The switch to high speed really opened things up for me. However, I was wondering how you think using Web 2.0 has changed your teaching and professional life (i.e. research, interface with your colleagues, even who you consider your colleagues to be)?

  5. Britt says:

    Great question, Virginia. I can only speak for myself, but I do feel that both my teaching has changed (towards more of a collaborative research style with critical questions) and I do find that I now have “colleagues” worldwide who I have never met. For instance, I met Gabriela Grosseck, a professor in Romania, through College 2.0 and delicious, and subsequently worked with her to publish an article on using delicious in my classroom teaching. Finally, I now find out about new trends, techniques, and applications through blogs and Twitter, whereas in the past I would have relied on print journals. So Web 2.0 has certainly impacted my professional life!

  6. inpi says:

    Happy new year, Britt!
    My life has changed, too, since last May, as I started blogging with the 31days Comment Challenge. I don’t forget your support and kindness in my first steps!
    Since school began again, in September, I’ve been engaged in the Students Blogging Competition with my young students: it has been my turn to share and give back what I had been given.
    Thus, 2009 will certainly bring us more surprises and chances to learn, but I’ll do it along with my new young companions, from now on engaged
    in the same quest!
    Ines

  7. […] to a post entitled “A Year in the Spiral” by Britt Watwood of Virginia Commonwealth University, I’ve got a new way of thinking […]

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