Faculty Development in An Open World


I just finished reading Curtis J. Bonk’s new book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that Wiley, the publisher, emailed me after I reviewed Dan Willingham’s book in a previous post and asked if they could send me Bonk’s book for possible review (with no strings attached).

I said yes and the next week received a copy of this book at no charge.

With that said, this book has resonated with me and I found Bonk’s approach interesting.

In many ways, Bonk is as much a fan boy of Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat as I am.  Just as Friedman had ten flatterners, Bonk has ten openers:

Ten Openers: (WE-ALL-LEARN)

  1. Web Searching in the World of e-Books
  2. E-Learning and Blended Learning
  3. Availability of Open Source and Free Software
  4. Leveraged Resources and OpenCourseWare
  5. Learning Object Repositories and Portals
  6. Learner Participation in Open Information Communities
  7. Electronic Collaboration
  8. Alternate Reality Learning
  9. Real-Time Mobility and Portability
  10. Networks of Personalized Learning

WE-ALL-LEARN provides a framework for his book and the premise that anyone can now learn anything from anyone at anytime.  Bonk  spun out chapters on each opener, illustrating each concept with stories, a bit of research and statistics, and implications for education in the future.  Working in the field, I recognized some of the people he named, but I also learned new pioneers.  Bonk continually reinforces that these openers ought to be changing education as we know it, as our world is quite different from our parent’s world.

In Bonk’s view, these openers need to viewed through three overarching trends.  First, the pipes are getting bigger allowing access to tools and infrastructure.  Second, more and more pages of content is becoming available as free and open content. Third, a participatory learning culture is evolving around social media.

One of the things I found fascinating was my own reaction to the book.  I buy the basic theme that openness ultimately improves education, and I consider myself someone who is part of a participatory learning culture.  I was pleased that Bonk provided a companion website with hyperlinked references and other resources.  But my first inclination was to begin following Curt Bonk’s Twitter account…and I could not find one for him!  Other than his blog, I did not see Bonk participating to the same degree that he discusses in his book.  I have never met him and may be way off target, but I was somewhat surprised that I could not immediately connect with him the way I did with some of the people he mentioned in his book like Stephen Downes, Vicki Davis, Clay Shirky or Dave Weinberger.

So I was thrilled with the content and miffed a bit by the author!  Weird reaction!

I also found that increasingly with books like this one, I read it with a laptop nearby, so that I can quickly go look at something new and immediately start the learning process for myself.  I had never seen Dancing Matt before, so really enjoyed viewing his Youtube video while reading that section of the book.  This bouncing between the web and the written word is a new but interesting process…and it suggests that in many ways, this should have been an e-book as opposed to a print book.

His final opener has to do with personalized learning…something we reflect on often in faculty development.  Bonk stated that we should be striving to move from where we see personalized learning as the ideal to a culture where personalized learning is the accepted norm.  With the pipes, pages, and participatory culture, anyone can establish their own learning path on any topic, whether it be improved teaching, learning a new language, or finally programming the VCR (…just kidding).  The implications for faculty development are huge!

Bonk has fifteen predictions at the end.  I will leave it to you to check them out, but I liked that he is questioning the status quo.  With the availability of all the world’s knowledge in our pockets/cellphones, the typical four-year college process no longer makes sense to Bonk.  He suggests that formalized education will expand rather than contract.  But informal learning with global partners will play an equal role to the formalized higher education model.  Learning will be authentic from passionate teachers…but those “teachers” may no longer be credentialed.  Bonk also served up a dozen issues that will have to be solved for openness to succeed.

I work with faculty daily on best ways to incorporate the internet into their teaching practices.  In the past three years since I came to VCU, the access to learning on the web has exploded.  Bonk’s book is pushing me to reconceptualize how I should facilitate faculty development in an open world.  I recommend the book to you and would be interesting in your thoughts on the evolution/revolution of faculty development in these exciting times!

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Who Blogs Anymore?


Apparently not me.  When I started blogging two years ago, I was averaging three posts a week.  Now I am down to one a month for the past few months.

Luckily, there are those who do blog, as my Google Reader affirms daily!  I still enjoy reading blogs, but I have fallen out of the habit of routinely commenting and blogging myself.

A few weeks back, I finished reading a fascinating book by Scott Rosenberg called Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters.  Having spent the past decade growing up with the internet, I found this book timely and full of interesting background around a subject that I thought I already knew!  It also is inspiring me to give my blog new energy!

In the opening eight chapters, Scott details how blogging began and grew by focusing on a person or two per chapter that highlighted his conceptual points.  He starts with Justin Hall, a nineteen-year-old in 1994 who began sharing everything about himself on his website, but more importantly, added links to other sites as part of his sharing.  Dave Winer began posting his own soapbox and invited others to do the same.  The early bloggers had to know HTML, but they helped each other figure out that it was not that hard to do.  Jorge Barger coined the term “weblog” (though he wanted it to be called Web Log because he thought “blog” was a hideous term!).  These early bloggers saw their role as a service – filtering the mass of information for their readers.

The chapter on Evan Williams, Meg Hourihan, and the development of Blogger was particularly interesting.  I found it fascinating that the same person who made blogging easy by developing Blogger also created Twitter, which in some ways is the reason I blog less.  If I were to name my personal learning aids, Twitter would be first and blogs/RSS reader second.

Sometime in the past week, I sent my 5,000th tweet – and that fact did not even register!  In the past two years, I have posted 157 times to this blog, so that would suggest that my choice for social dialogue is Twitter.  Yet, Twitter – while great for connecting and communicating – remains less a reflective medium than a reactive one.  And I still benefit from reflection.

Thus this blog continues to serve a useful purpose for me.

As tools such as Blogger made it easier to blog, the number of blogs continued to rise.  Some rose for political purposes, such as Josh Marshall‘s Talking Points Memo.  Others tried to make money off blogging, such as Robert Scoble and Michael Arrington of TechCrunch fame.  I have been a Boing Boing fan for several years, yet did not realize the rich history behind this website until Scott laid out its story.

Scott also detailed some of the darker sides of blogging, detailing the story of Heather Armstrong and how her blogging led to her being fired from a job.

The final three chapters review the rise of citizen journalism and its impact on mainstream journalism, as well as the evolution of blogging itself as more and more blogs develop (including of course my own blog).  As Scott noted, in the late 1990’s, the word “blog” did not even exist, and a decade later, 184 million people worldwide had started a blog.  Not all keep it up, but the impact on connections and communication remains staggering!  More importantly, just as there now seems to be “an app for that”, so too blogs cover such amazing diversities of fields that any area of interest probably already has a blog covering it.  It is simultaneously globally ubiquitous and razor sharp in its focus.

Blogging continue to evolve.  Scott noted that some of the energy that previously poured into blogs now pours into social media like Facebook or Twitter, yet people continue to look for ways to find their voice, and blogs serve that purpose well.

At our Center for Teaching Excellence, my colleague Bud Deihl has launched a new initiative around digital storytelling.  While his focus is the use of digital images to tell a story, in many ways blogging has always been about telling a story.  Scott ends by noting that bloggers are:

“…writers who sit down to type character after character, word upon word, day by day, steadily constructing, out of their fragments, little edifices of memory and public record…Individually they are stewards of their won experience; together they are curators of our collective history…”

Who blogs anymore?  I hope I continue to…and I hope others continue to not only reflect on my thoughts but offer me their wisdom in return.

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Is the CMS Dead? (…and other UMW FA 2009 Fun)

Bud Deihl and I traveled north a few miles to attend the University of Mary Washington’s Faculty Academy 2009 in Fredericksburg, VA.  It was a chance to reconnect face-to-face with some of my Twitter friends like Martha Burtis (see her reflections on this day here), George Brett and Laura Blankenship.

One of the highlights for me was the lunch debate between the Right Reverend Jim Groom and John St. Clair on “Is the CMS Dead?”  In a lively back and forth, the original Edupunk Jim suggested that the course management system was only good for management, not learning, and as such, SHOULD be dead … but appeared to be more undead (I knew zombies would appear at some point in his talk).  John countered that he thought the talk was about CMS – conservative mid-sized sedans – and that he thought most people wanted a sensible automobile and not some do-it-yourself hovercraft!

Both gentlemen gave great passionate arguments to their side.  I talked to Jim afterward and asked why the question had to be CMS “or” open systems?  In the past two semesters, I have used the Blackboard CMS for the things it does well (document and link management, rosters, grade management), but also used blogging, Jing and wikis for collaborative work with my students.  In other words, Blackboard served as a portal and launching point for my students into the open web.  This seemed to me to be a case of “AND” rather than “or.”

I enjoyed the lunch debate, but in reality, the whole day was fantastic!

James Boyle gave an invigorating keynote on “Cultural Agoraphobia: What Universities Need to Know About Our Bias Against Openness.”  Having just come off the Board of Directors for Creative Commons, he was uniquely qualified to discuss this issue.  He started with a history of the internet and how openness was a bug meant to be fixed later, but the internet grew more rapidly than anticipated and openness spawned many wonderful opportunities and profitable enterprises.  It definitely caused problems and concerns, but also amazing positives in the business world, entertainment, government, and education.  Yet, Boyle stated that education has yet to deal with its concerns and instead simply is biased against openness.  He noted that openness meant not only the ability to copy but also the ability to improve.

Thoroughly enjoyed the talk.  Jeff Nugent has recently had us at the CTE discussing licensing our Center organizational web material with a Creative Commons license.

I attended a great panel discussion by UMW faculty on their use of blogging in their classes.  It was a chance to see a very diverse mix of blogs associated with writing classes, art classes, science classes and math classes.  One of the take-aways was that blogs allowed time for students to reflect on critical issues for which there just was not time in 50-minute classes.

Cole Camplese of Penn State University gave an excellent talk on emerging trends impacting teaching and learning.  I loved his observation that we view what our students do as “technology,” but that it is only technology to those of us born before technology.  To the students raised in a wired world, it is simply a means of communication and connection.  I was blown away by the fact he listed that 40% of students at Penn State no longer bring a TV to campus.  They get their “TV” and entertainment straight off the web.  He noted that our universities are still designed as if our students are going to receive our wisdom and reflect it back to us, when in reality, through their own content and knowledge creation, our students act more as amplifiers than reflectors.  At Penn State, they have cast blogs as a form of digital publishing and are exploring ways for students to keep their own digital content.  If blogs are viewed as personal content management systems, then digital expression is seen as a form of scholarship that must be systematically supported.

I was also impressed that a third of PSU faculty reported using YouTube instructionally.  🙂

The last session of the day was a workshop run by Laura Blankenship on “Creating a Personal Learning Network for Yourself and Your Students.”  We will be discussing the same topic at our upcoming Teaching and Learning with Technology Institute in June, so I was interested in seeing how Laura presented this concept.  She did a great job by first focusing on problems that needed solving, and then brainstorming from the group web applications that could be used to solve these problems.  In the course of the discussion, we discussed RSS feeds, Google Reader, delicious, Jott, and a host of other tools.

One last side thought – Twitter was very active among participants, and the hashtag #umwfa09 made note-taking unnecessary.  However, Twitter had scheduled maintenance today which hit right at the end of Cole’s talk, and it was momentarily frustrating to lose it mid-conference (so much so that I complained about it in Facebook!!!)  🙂

Great day – looking forward to Day Two tomorrow!

Personal Reflections

End of the semester, and a good time for reflection.

For their final assignment, we asked our graduate class that Jon Becker and I taught on Educational Technology and School Leadership to reflect on their 15-week journey. Their reflections are captured in the Wordle above. We had twenty-five K-12 teachers who immersed themselves in the Web 2.0 stream for a semester and examined applications to their teaching and to school leadership. The reflections indicated that they thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

The Wordle points out some obvious observations – everyone focused on technology and their students. Many discussed the immediate application of web tools to their teaching in their own classrooms.

I was struck, however, by some of the personal observations that did not emerge in this Wordle. One student noted that she had just been selected as Teacher of the Year for her school, which she attributed to her engagement in our class and her excited reapplication of her learning from our class into her own school. Another student stated that she had originally wanted to move out of the classroom and into administration because she felt burned out in the classroom. Our class had so re-energized her that she now saw that she could have a greater impact on children and learning by remaining in the classroom and helping her digital kids grow. Several students used the same term in their individual reflections – “life-altering”.

While I am both proud and humbled by the impact this course had on many of our students, I suspect much of the impact was similar to the impact I saw in myself this past year. The more I network and connect, the more it impacts me on a personal level. Our students began to see this too. Many reflected that “professional development” had taken on personal aspects that they had never considered before.  It was a paradigm shift to move from professional development as something you attend to professional development as something for which you take personal responsibility.

This provides interesting context as we get ready for our week-long institute with seventeen faculty on teaching and learning with technology.  Trent Batson lamented yesterday that “life on campus goes on as normal. Faculty members are still expected to publish in traditional journals, still expected to meet their classes in rooms equipped with chalkboards and designed for lectures, and still expected by their students to tell them what they should know so they can write it on paper during a test.” Our hope in the institute is to break that cycle – help faculty see – at a personal level – the impact that the web now has on teaching and learning.  Jeff Nugent suggested one way to prepare for this week was for each of us facilitating it to return and update our own notion of our personal learning network. So here is what I came up with:

(Link to full size image)

My PLE contains traditional methods of information gathering like journals, listservs, and even morning coffee sessions. But I am also mindful of and tapped in to numerous web applications, where I hear the conversations taking place worldwide on topics of interest to me. Some of those conversations pop up in Delicious, some through my Google Reader, many from Twitter or Facebook. When I go seeking information, I tend to look in Delicious or Wikipedia, but I also still Google things, though I am increasingly looking to Twiiter as a search engine.

While I tried to collate items in neat areas of “collect, communicate, collaborate, and create/share,” the truth is that the interconnections are numerous and blurry.  Twitter is all of the above.  Our class wiki was all of the above.  Delicious many times is all of the above.

The key for me is that the web now weaves itself into all aspects of my work life at a deeply personal level.  In keeping with the interactive nature of the web, it is no longer enough to passively receive information.  Personal learning includes actively connecting and communicating with my network across multiple paths.

It seems that the “buzz” about PLEs and PLNs has died down recently, yet I found it illuminating personally to relook at my own concept of my own learning environment and network.  I suspect that it will continue to evolve.  What do you think?  What resonates with you?  What seems off base?

I would be interested in your thoughts.

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Telling Your Story Differently

Like any major institution, there is sometimes overlap in training opportunities being offered around campus.  We noticed this morning that I have a workshop on blogging today and Technology Services has one next week.  Interestingly, mine is about web publishing and instructional opportunities (with 4 people signed up) while the other is about the mechanics of setting up a blog, and has 12 people signed up.

Workshop In Stone

I probably read too much into this, but it suggests that people are not interested in the conversation about “why” one should or should not blog, they just want to know “how” to do it. And one reason I read too much in to it is that whether we are talking 4 or 12, few faculty in general even consider blogging as part of their professional life.

The issue may not even be blogging per se, but rather “workshops” as a verb.  Few faculty in general see a need to change how they do what they do.  While workshops remain a necessity to efficiently provide training, those who read this probably have shifted much of their professional development to the social media landscape (as I have).  But the majority of faculty do not use social media for their PLE, and if they see no need to change, they probably view workshops as something they do not need.

This was on my mind when I opened the April edition of Tom Peters Times newsletter, which arrived today in my email and contained several interesting articles on customer experience.  It linked to the following video of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant rapping his mandatory pre-flight  safety announcement.

You have to admit that this person delivered his message in a new and compelling way!

I am not suggesting that I begin singing my workshops…that would definitely drive down participation.  But I do think we in faculty development need to [re]examine our approaches in light of social media.   Taking a cue from the marketing types, networks like Twitter, Yammer, and Facebook could all be used to announce and draw in participants.  But more importantly, I need to look at the total delivery.  Would a “conversation” about blogging with faculty here be enhanced if bloggers from around the world joined the conversation by live streaming?  Why do I look at workshop format as locked in stone?  As the flight attendant noted, maybe I need to shake things up a bit!

And if the “customer experience” was enhanced, would word of mouth spread that news around campus, growing demand?

Be interested in your thoughts.

{Stone Carving from Flaming Text}

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Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace (per Wikipedia) “is today appreciated as the ‘first programmer’ since she was writing programs-that is, manipulating symbols according to rules-for a machine that Babbage had not yet built. She also foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on these capabilities.”  Wikipedia goes on to explain:

“During a nine-month period in 1842–43, Lovelace translated Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea‘s memoir on Babbage’s newest proposed machine, the Analytical Engine. With the article, she appended a set of notes. The notes are longer than the memoir itself and include (Section G) in complete detail a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with the Engine, recognized by historians as the world’s first computer program.”

I first became aware of Ada Lovelace while in the Navy.  The Department of Defense computer program “Ada” was named for her.  Ada Lovelace Day, March 24th, was created by Suw Charman-Anderson to “to draw attention to women excelling in technology” by having everyone publish a post on this day about a woman in technology she or he admires.

I certainly have some fantastic role models in my PLE, so thought I would highlight them:

Laura Blankenship

danah boyd

Martha Burtis

Kim Cofino

Vicki Davis

Gabriela Grosseck

Jane Hart

Gayla Keesee

Jennifer Jones

Michele Martin

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Sarah Robbins

Barbara Sawhill

Elaine Talbert

Sue Waters

Then again, being surrounded by women who excell at technology is old hat with me.  My twin daughters grew up digital and continue to this day to use technology.  Melissa Frail is at MathWorks and Stephanie Watwood works out of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  Ada would have been proud of them…and all the women listed above.  They all will serve as wonderful role models for my two granddaughters, Molly and Marin.

Swimming in the Complex

Every now and then, you are reading a book or article, and a phrase jumps out and grabs you.  It happened last night on page 198 of David Weinberger‘s delightful Everything is Miscellaneous.

“The task of knowing is no longer to see the simple.  It is to swim in the complex.”


David’s book is an interesting look at how our attempts to categorize knowledge by systems such as the Dewey Decimal System worked for books but fails in the messy interconnected web world…and that is not bad!  In essence, the web allows every person to have a customized library of knowledge built around what makes sense to that individual.

Teachers and educators are in the “knowing” business.  When I work with faculty and suggest 21st Century solutions to their problems, I am generally met with resistance.  It is easy to understand why.   With the exception of a few early adopters, faculty generally have an established concept of how to do research.  They correctly note that they gained their success and became tenured professors through a time-honored process that did not involve the web.  Social networking has not been part of that process.

Tomorrow, Jeff Nugent and I will be working with operational research faculty at the INFORMS Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium. We are going to discuss what the research suggests about how people learn, how students have incorporated the web into their lives, and how technology can transform teaching and learning. We have a full day with them, so it should be interesting.  I am looking forward to seeing how open they are to ideas of messiness in teaching and learning!

Two nights ago, Jeff was a member of a panel discussing the Millennial Generation to Mass Communications students and faculty. One panel member stated that FaceBook did not have a place in education. Jeff countered that social networking was vital to education today. He noted how Twitter was typically the first means by which he learned of breaking news, and tried to describe how following in Twitter was akin to friending in FaceBook. He realized that the older members listening to him had no idea what he was describing. They did not get it.

I am starting to realize that one reason I do get it is that I swim in the complex every day. My normal routine every morning  and routinely during the day (7 days a week) is to first check emails, then Twitter, and then Google Reader, where I subscribe to over fifty blogs, a dozen news feeds, and some that are difficult to classify but definitely form part of my personal learning environment. I now assume that I will be part of a backchannel conversation in any meeting or conference I attend. This did not happen overnight, but it did happen in less than two years, and I now cannot conceive of returning to the old “manual” way of learning and knowing. It certainly is not simple, but it is right in line with David Weinberger’s reasoning.

Back in June, I used the stream analogy to reflect my emersion into Web 2.0.  It still fits, which is why David’s words resonated so powerfully with me. So, my advice to my colleagues is simple – the longer you try to keep your life simple and organized, the less you will know and the less you will be relevant.

Strong words or on target? Be interested in your thought!

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Brilliant or Stealing?

I am not a Twitter rock star.  I follow 140 people who I truly believe help me grow, and I have as of this morning 163 following me.   I have found Twitter to be a powerful part of my PLN.  I continually learn from my network as they post interesting comments, ideas, and links.  It appears to me to embrace the concept of the Creative Commons – a community sharing alike.

When I get an email notice that someone in now following me, I check that person out to see if I should do likewise and add this person to my network (or block if it is obvious spam).

I got a notice that Todd Gilmore from Oklahoma was now following me.  I checked out his Twitter account and see that he is following 1,776 and has 227 following him.  From Twitter, I linked to his website – Technology Story.  This is where it gets interesting.  Here is what his site says:

Executives must stay current on the happenings in the technology marketplace at this point. To do anything less is to become irrelevant as a leader. There is a fire hose of announcements, analytics, and trends getting published every day. No one with a real job could spend the time necessary to review all of this information in order to find the valuable pieces. This is what we do on your behalf. Technology Story is a filtered river of information that gets delivered every other day or so. It is reduced to easy to read bites so that you can invest as little time as possible and still be up to date on the latest. Subscribers also have the ability to search the archives in order to resurrect a piece of information they once read that has now become specifically needed. The feeds include many links to deeper resources, surveys, and recommendations. The cool Website of the day feature is alone worth the price of admission.

The price of admission is $100 a year.

Now, I am sure Todd Gilmore and who ever he works with use more than Twitter to filter the river of information flowing each day over the web, but should I facilitate this through my Twittering?  Is he brilliantly using Web 2.0 tools in a way that makes money for himself or is he using my freely given intellectual property to profit only himself?  I am not seeing this as a Share Alike relationship.

Is anyone else bothered by this?  Should I ignore it, block him from my Twitter account, or follow him to see if he shares through Twitter and helps my PLN grow?  I would be interested in what others think.

{Photo Credits: Tallent Show, ryancr}

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Living In the Real World

Stephen Downes is one of my heroes – a pioneer in online learning.  However, I think he missed the mark with his post yesterday entitled “My Take on the Top 25“. Stephen took Jane Hart’s Slideshow of the Day list of the top 25 technologies – and commented on where they fit (or did not fit) in his own world.

A quick disclaimer, I may have took notice because I was one of 192 professionals that submitted our top ten tools to Jane, who compiled them into her Top 100 Tools for Learning. Given the number of submissions and the depth of expertise of the submitters, this list strikes me as pretty balanced and interesting.  But I may be biased.

However, in reading Stephen’s post, I was struck by a feeling that I have not had since my Pentagon days – one of “NIH” – or “not invented here.”  NIH was a condition that sometimes struck officers of one branch of the military if an officer from another branch suggested a solution.  Stephen seemed to be unimpressed with many of the tools because he had already written a script or code that did similar functions and saw little utility in the tools listed.  He basically downplayed or outright stated that he had no use for 15 of the 25 tools.

I would suggest a different take.  Most faculty (and I include myself) are not as inherently gifted at coding or programming as Stephen is, and instead are simply looking for tools that solve problems in their very real world.  Many of the tools in Jane’s list meet these needs.  They have for me.

What I find interesting in Jane’s list are the possibilities it has suggested.  Rather than saying “I do not use this tool”, I looked at the list for suggestions on tools I might use to solve problems I have with my online teaching (and my students’ online learning).  I now routinely use 21 of the top 25 tools (though that was not true two years ago).  The four tools that make up my PLE (delicious, Google Reader, blogging with WordPress, and Twitter) are all in the top fifteen.  I am using Camtasia and Wikispaces in my online Blackboard class.  Firefox is my default browser.  Pictures in my blog come from Flickr or SnagIt, and I routinely network with others through Ning and Slideshare.  In fact, I continue to be blown away by the fact that one of my powerpoints I uploaded on a whim to SlideShare, Teaching In A Flat World, now has over 7,000 views in just the last 5 months – not to mention nearly 600 downloads and 16 embeds in others’ websites.  Long winded way of saying that I find tremedous value in these tools.

What is your take?  Do you find Jane’s list unhelpful (does it not fit your world)…or is it helpful – does it open up new possibilities for teaching and learning?  Be interested in your thoughts!

{Photo Credit: LexnGer}

The Twitter Sphere – Two Uses

A couple of tweets caught my eye today (and had Jeff Nugent and I in deep conversation!).

Steve Rubel Tweet

followed by:

In the first, Steve Rubel pointed all of us to a blog post by Leah Jones entitled Enabled Serendipity. Leah talked about how Twitter continually enables her to find and meet other people who are passing through life in the same places she is at. If she is in an airport or passing time at a restaurant, she will tweet that fact and find other people doing the same thing, and hook up with them. I was not sure whether she was tweeting with a laptop or a cellphone (and it probably does not matter), but the fact remained that she had taken a communication application and turned it from a virtual connection tool into a physical connection tool.

She noted:

Due to the Enabled Serendipity of Twitter, I now have a global community. I’ve met people around the country and abroad. I’ve fallen in and out of something close to love. I’ve been able to make introductions that turned into jobs. I have a new group of friends in Chicago that don’t roll their eyes when I talk about nerdy-nerdy things and I’ve even got most of my family on Twitter…

Not sure I have the cajones to serendipitously meet people this way, but I find it fascinating that she is so comfortable doing it. As we become more “wired” and wireless, will this become more common and an accepted practice?

The second tweet came from one of the participants in our summer Teaching and Learning with Technology Institute, Audrey Short. At the Institute, Audrey teamed up with another participant, Cindy Kissel-Ito, so that both would begin using Twitter and also have their summer students use Twitter. Audrey was teaching an ESL course, while Cindy was teaching a World Studies course. The combination gave non-English speakers access to partners to practice English, while the World Studies students gained access to individuals from other cultures. Audrey’s tweet pointed us to her Tumblr site where she reflected on the course and her students comments on their experiences. It was obvious that the pairing of the classes had a positive impact. One student said:

The most enjoyable activity in this speaking class for me is to talk with the world study students because I am shy person and this activity helps me to remove my shyness and this activity help me try to find some word to make the person understands me, so this activity improve my vocabulary.

As Jeff noted to me, we are beginning so see this “free” tool used in some interesting and unique ways, with little regard as to its long-term viability (which has been rocky to date). It appears to be already becoming part of the landscape even though no one knows whether it will be here in six months – or look the same, and we are certainly not seeing many people asking:

“Who owns all of this social data?”

“How is this data being used?”

I don’t know…and if you do, send me the answer (in 140-characters or less). But…as more and more systems try and regulate (or ban) social media (for instance), I find it refreshing that we have two positive examples of uses of Twitter. The whale wins in these cases!

{Photo Credit: Lemasney}