Is Networked Learning Doomed in Virginia K-12?

classblogsThe Fall semester wrapped up mid-December with my departure for two weeks to visit family in New England, so I never really had the opportunity to reflect on my first use of blogging as a mode for instruction and class communication.  Three grandkids have a way of prioritizing your time!  Now that I have returned to Richmond…and before Spring semester starts, I wanted to think about my Fall class again.

Those who follow me will remember that this fall I had 13 bright Masters students in my ADMS 647 Educational Technology for School Leaders class.  Back in August, I noted that I would have my student blogging into the new academic year, something none of them had done before.  Over the 14 weeks of the class, I had the opportunity to watch each of them evolve and mature as bloggers.  We aggregated their blog posts on our class Google Sites page to facilitate viewing and commenting.  Their first posts were tentative and more like paper essays than real reflections.  Through commenting, they learned from each other and began to add links and then multimedia.  A tipping point occurred when several recorded  personal videos using Jing or YouTube and uploaded them as their blog posts.

I remember that almost all of my students self-reported themselves as technophobes back in August.  That did change.  By December, they reported that they felt confident with using blogs, and more importantly, they were experimenting with new approaches to both blogging and the use of educational technology in their classrooms.  It appeared that they were no longer scared of technology, and in fact felt empowered.  As one of my students said quoting Vicki Davis:

“…I will not be waiting on the fence where technology is concerned. As Vicki Davis had said in the video that I had outlined earlier “we need to stop waiting on SUPERMAN and be SUPERCAN“. I will definitely be looking on what I can do…”

Similar sentiments were expressed by quite a few of my students.  I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed participating in this evolution and growth.  I made a point of commenting on each blog each week, and over time, several students began to reciprocate and comment on my blog.  They easily took to commenting on each others posts, primarily since they were already an established community from the summer face-to-face classes.  By the end of the semester, I felt a part of this community, one filled with excitement!

Part of the intent of this class was to expose these future school administrators to the open and public web, with both the opportunities and the threats associated with being a public intellectual.  I was therefore disappointed that with one exception, no one outside the class ever commented on any of my students’ posts.  Over the 14 weeks, these students generated 210 blog posts covering a variety of topics.  Yet, 209 of these posts could have just as easily remained within the walled garden of Blackboard.  Of course, I do not know who outside the class might have read these posts but not commented.  If my blog is any indication, that certainly happened.

I definitely will continue to use blogs as a means of networked learning in future classes I teach.

So if I appeared to develop a class of Web 2.0 explorers, why the grim title to this blog post?  It started with a tweet from my friend Jon Becker last Friday:

becker_tweet.

That link led to a Daily Press editorial “Texting While Teaching“, which reported that Virginia is developing guidelines that require teachers to only communicate with students through official/professional/school-based channels.  In other words, as I read this – not through social media or open Web 2.0 applications.

There was an associated article Saturday in the Washington Post: “Virginia school officials consider state guidelines to prevent sexual misconduct.”  This article notes that these guidelines are a response to a horrific case of child sexual depredation by former Manassas teacher Kevin Ricks.  The article reported:

“Ricks, 50, a former Osbourn High School teacher, was arrested in February and convicted of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy who had been a student at the school. A Washington Post investigation, whose findings were published in July, revealed that Ricks had abused boys over three decades and had infiltrated their lives by plying them with gifts, taking them on trips, staying in touch with them via Internet social networking and throwing alcohol-soaked parties.”

Definitely unforgivable.  However, the reaction by the Virginia Board of Education is that all teachers must forgo the use of social media with their students due to the actions by one.  It would be as if after a male drunk driver killed a nun in Virginia back in August, guidelines were established to ban driving by all males in the state.  I am being cynical, but the knee jerk reaction is similar.

Interestingly, the Washington Post website reporting this proposed ban gives you the ability to share this article through Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other social media.

facebook_banIt is also interesting that at the same time these guidelines are being developed, Facebook passed its 500 millionth user.  I watched Lester Holt‘s documentary “The Facebook Obsession” last night on CNBC.  There was an interesting comment towards the end of the show.  Facebook was viewed more as a utility than an application.  One person stated that Facebook is becoming a global infrastructure for communication.

Our children deserve a safe learning environment in school.  At the same time, a role of education is to prepare children for the world they will inhabit…and increasingly, social media is a part of that world.  Guidelines are needed, but flat out bans are the wrong approach.  Rather, a tiered approach is needed to introduce elementary aged children to safe networks, with graduated access as students age, so that high school students understand and are capable of operating in a socially networked world as they reach their teen years.

We have not even reached Facebook’s sixth birthday yet.  Social media and networked learning are still in their infancy.  Yet amazing teachers like Kim Cofino, Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay have shown the potential networked learning affords.  It will take some time to sort through the issues and the rewards.  I find total bans on texting and social networks counterproductive at the very time we are attempting to engage our students in learning with the tools they are already using for informal learning.  We do not ban teen males from driving…we provide driver’s education.  Should we not do the same for social media?

As always, I would be interested in your thoughts.

{Facebook Graphic: Michael Garrett}

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Learning Swarms?

coverWired Magazine in the August issue has a cute article discussing the future that never happened.  When I was growing up, I watched the Jetsons and Johnny Quest every week, but the cold reality is that my flying car and jet packs just have not materialized.  But while that is true, the world has changed in ways George Jetson would never have imagined.

I was thinking about that as I read a new article from the Gartner ResearchTom Austin gives his predictions in “Gartner Says the World of Work Will Witness 10 Changes During the Next 10 Years”.  I am not saying that I disagree with Tom when I said I thought about the future never happening.  Tom is a group VP, Gartner Fellow, and research area lead for applications that augment how people work.  A smart guy who I think is on target.  My concern is with higher education.  I am worried that higher education will continue to assume the future looks like the past and will not readily adapt to these coming changes.

Given that I spent twelve years in community and technical colleges, it should not be surprising that I see a strong role for higher education in preparing our students for the world of work that Austin discusses.  One could argue that higher education has a mixed record when it comes to the efficacy with which it has performed that role in the past, but with the world changing so radically, it is becoming more of an imperative.

In the article, Austin notes the following changes that are coming:

1. De-routinization of Work
Every job can be described in terms of skills required. Austin suggests that routine skills will be automated, and increasingly, jobs will be marked by the non-routine; areas like “discovery, innovation, teaming, leading, selling and learning.”

2. Work Swarms
Austin labels a new form of teaming “swarming”, which form swiftly to meet a specific need, often with individuals outside the organization. David Weinberger might label this crowdsourcing.

3. Weak Links
With swarms, the strong ties of typical networks give way to looser ties.  I tend to visualize the nearly 500 people I follow on Twitter that way.  I would not be following them if there was not some connection to me and my work, yet I could not say those are strong links.

4. Working With the Collective
Austin calls the informal organizations that exist outside direct control of an enterprise, but groups that can impact the success or failure of that enterprise, “the collective.”  Increasingly, businesses will have to tap in to the chatter in Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to ferret out business intelligence. An example of that occurred to me this past weekend, when Sears replaced my home air conditioner.  The work did not complete on time, requiring an unexpected motel stay.  When I tweeted my frustration to no one in particular, I was contacted by Sears social media group, who are now negotiating some compensation for my troubles.  Good on Sears for doing that…it is an example of a business tapping in to the collective.

5. Work Sketch-Ups
If work is becoming more non-routine and crowdsourced, then detailed plans will be a luxury.  Many plans will be done using informal sketch-ups and fly-by-the-seat-of-ones-pants.  Messy but agile, which will probably be the competitive mark of the future.

6. Spontaneous Work
Spontaneous does not mean reactive, rather it is a proactive attempt to identify new opportunities. Sounds like the work we do in our Center for Teaching Excellence!

7. Simulation and Experimentation
Austin suggests that the film Minority Report will illustrate the future of work, where individuals will seamlessly shift through a hyperlinked world to examine the analytics and look for new patterns.

8. Pattern Sensitivity
Spotting and adapting to new patterns will become increasingly important, because much that happens in the world can no longer be predicted by a linear model.

9. Hyperconnected
Hyperconnectedness not only applies to the ubiquitous nature of the web and its impact, but also to the multiple connections businesses will have with both formal and informal groups of people.  Relationships will therefore increase in importance.

10. My Place
People will still have a “place” that they think of in conjunction with work, but that place may or may not be affiliated with a formal organization.  The nine-to-five job will fade in favor of the 24/7 virtual worker.

So what do these ten changes suggest for higher education?  Some degree program seem to look to the past to predict the future.  Austin would suggest that is foolish.  Having said that, let me be quick to note that not all institutions of higher education think this way.  I love the  Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver advertisement campaign that ran last year, which they called The Top Ten Jobs of 2015 Don’t Exist Today.  They get it.  If one agrees that higher education should prepare students for the future, then we need to prepare students for jobs that do not currently exist.  Memorizing facts alone will not help these students…but learning how to learn and how to think critically will.

swarm2I like the concept of work swarms.  I can see a parallel with the Massive Open Online Course that George Siemens and Stephen Downes conducted last fall. With 12,000 learners in a single course, George and Stephen could not “teach” in the classic sense.  Instead, they facilitated and developed an environment in which the learners could take ownership of their own learning.  In the near future, I can see faculty members listing the facilitation of learning swarms on their CVs.

This fall, I will be having my grad students blog rather than use the safe discussion board inside the walled garden of Blackboard.  I have always enjoyed facilitating discussions in online classes and have done so for a dozen years.  But I increasingly feel that I am not preparing my students for life in the hyperconnected world…and if I do not prepare my students (who are all K-12 teachers), will they be equipped to prepare the next generation that is rising through our school system.  If my personal learning network is any indication, there is power in the swarm.  Our students need to experience that power.

I do not have the answers, but I feel that I have to start adapting and reaching out to others who are adapting, so that we can prepare our students.  What is your take?  Is your school system or college or university on top of these changes, beginning to react, or not even aware they are coming?  I would be interested in your views.

{Photo Credit: Wired Magazine, Chris Rudge}

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Bill Kist Book

kistOver the weekend, I finished reading Bill Kist’s book The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age.

Of course, given my past posts, this book really resonated with me.  But I think it is a good resource for any faculty exploring the use of social media in instruction.  One of the things I liked is that Bill is not totally commited to technology for technology’s sake, but rather really explores possibilities that enhance learning.

The book is written primarily for the middle school and high school teacher, though I think it could easily be applied to higher education classes as well. The chapters are divided into Short, Tall, Grande, Venti, and Refill – Starbucks allusions that work well.  When you order a coffee at Starbucks, the coffee tastes the same whether it is in a little cup or a huge one.  Likewise, Bill has provided social media applications for a low tech teacher to a “venti” one.

At the “short” end, Bill looks are collaborative learning without jumping in to too many web tools.  Using Word forms and index cards, he illustrates how to move from a linear lecture to a simulated hyperlinked activity in a classroom.

The “tall” chapter moves the concepts of community learning on to the web, primarily through internal blogging (such as the Blackboard 9 blogging feature, which allows for blogging within the walled garden of the class).  He has some nice examples of teacher guidelines, some of which I am adopting for my fall class.  He also addresses issues of safety and fair use when working with students in a web environment.

At the ‘grande” level, he looks at moving this use of blogging outside the LMS to the open blogosphere.  I like the guidelines to students that basically equate to “would your mother approve?”.  I recently introduced a faculty member to blogging, and her first post (on Mel Gibson) singed my eyebrows!  Students (and faculty) do need some guidelines, and Bill’s chapter gives some good ones.

At the “venti” level, Bill is exploring tearing down the four walls and looking at what classes look like in hybrid settings (and remember, he is writing about middle and high school classes – what if you did not have to come to school every day?).  His examples obviously work well at the college level, but are pretty radical for K-12.

His “refill” chapter explores some fascinating questions.  Will social networking be used to free students or more tightly limit their freedoms?  What is the relationship between entertainment and education (or as I would suggest, what does learning look like in a web-enabled world?)?  Is there enough time in one’s schedule for social networking?  And finally, what should our schools aspire to?

Regarding time, I read the first chapter of Clay Shirky‘s Cognitive Surplus last night, and he would suggest that we have plenty of time if we would just get off the TV!  I will follow up with more from Shirky as I get deeper in the book.

Kylene Beers wrote the foreword and titled it “Preparing Students for a World Gone Flat.”  My blog has remained with the flat world theme even though that concept is morphing.  Our students, be they K-12 or higher ed, are living in a web-enabled world and interacting in and through the web daily.  It seems to me that too many of our instructional settings attempt to block out this reality rather than see it as an opportunity.  Bill’s book does a good job of laying out options for teachers and faculty as they grapple with those opportunities.  Faculty can order a short cup or a venti cup, but faculty at a minimum need to understand what students are tasting.  Bill’s book gives some ways to start down that road.

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No Groundswell in Higher Ed?

I am about one-third the way through Charlene Li‘s and Josh Bernoff‘s 2008 book, Groundswell.  The groundswell that these two analysts from Forrester Research discuss is the impact of social media on businesses. Striking a similar theme to that espoused by Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody and David Weinberger in Everything is Miscellaneous, Groundswell looks at what happens when ordinary individuals link up and get what they need from other individuals without relying on traditional institutions like corporations.

From their perspective, many businesses see the fact that people are discussing their products and services on Facebook, Twitter, and in blogs as a threat – out of the control of their PR and marketing departments.  Yet, as some businesses have learned, it is also an opportunity.

The focus in this book is not on the technologies of social media, but rather on how these technologies create new opportunities to build relationships.  In looking at numerous technologies, they ask specific questions:

  • Does it enable people to connect with each other in new ways?
  • Is it effortless to sign up for?
  • Does it shift power away from institutions to people?
  • Does the resulting community generate enough content to sustain itself?
  • Is it an open platform that invites partnerships?

When they work with a company exploring social media, they do not focus on the media first.  They ask about the company’s customer demographics, their objectives, and their strategy.  Only when that is laid out do they then look for good social media tools to fit their customers, their objectives, and their strategy.

They suggest that social media can be used five ways.  First, it can be used to listen to customers – a continuous stream of monitoring rather than snapshot surveys.  Second, it can be used for two-way conversation with customers.  Third, it can be used to energize enthusiastic customers to market for you.  Fourth, it can be used to build embedded self-directed support for the use of your product or service.  Finally, it can be used to systematically improve your product or service by empowering customers to help generate improvements.

This book was written two years ago and only surfaced on my radar recently.  If anything, social media has become even more of a force in business since 2008.  When I recently mentioned a problem with my home internet on Twitter, Comcast tweeted me back within ten minutes and gave me the tip I needed to correct the problem (which was not Comcast at all but my home wireless router).  I was not even asking for help and I got it – this is the new world of business social media.

So where is the groundswell in higher ed?

Granted, many universities (mine included) have begun to use Facebook and Twitter to connect with students.  Yet the “average” class is still an isolate lecture-dominated space.

Derek Bruff alluded to this in an interesting 5-minute Jing presentation a few days ago called “Revolution or Evolution? Changing Instructional Practices in the Academy”:

Derek suggested that mainstream faculty were not ready to leap to embedded use of social media as part of their instructional process without taking small steps first – gradually evolving.

Yet I wonder if we in academia will have the luxury of slowly evolving?  Rob Tucker in a post in O’Reilly Radar called “Disintermediation: The disruption to come for Education 2.0“, notes that when “we talk about Education 2.0, though, we are prone to think that we can design it – that we can consciously and deliberately lay the groundwork for its effective implementation. Our deliberation, though, may be less powerful than the larger forces driving its rapid evolution. One such force will certainly be disintermediation.”

He compares what is happening now in education to what happened to the travel industry.  Computers and the internet initially made travel agents more productive and were embraced by the industry.  But then average individuals gained the ability through sites like Expedia and Travelocity to cut out the travel industry and make travel arrangements themselves.  As a result, the number of travel agents fell by 45%.

Rob asks if the same thing is now occurring in education?

Good question.  Anya Kamenetz in DIY U seems to advocate against traditional (and costly) institutions of higher education in a world where open educational content is freely available (or that is my impression – it is the next book on my summer reading list).  As Derek notes, whether we use social media in classes or not, our students are already connecting to a larger and informed world than what is inside the four wall of our traditional classrooms.

So I return to Groundswell and suggest that it provides a strategy for examining social media as an enhancement for learning.  Rather than willy-nilly jumping on Twitter or Facebook or a Ning, these researchers suggest that we first examine our students and where they lie on their Social Technographic Ladder:

Social Technographic Ladder

Social Technographic Ladder

.

As many have noted, there is no such thing as a digital native or digital immigrant.  So age has little to do with where our students are on this ladder.  One of my heroes from the world of work, Tom Peters, blogged recently about how he had fallen in love with social media – blogging and Twitter in particular.  Tom is even older than I am!  So individuals across the age spectrum are now using social media.  Our students are quite diverse, and understanding their use of social media will help faculty members customize the learning process to fit their use.

Second, we need to look at our learning objectives for our course/lesson and ask how social connections and networking might leverage the learning planned for our course.  I agree with Derek that this is untapped potential for our classes.

Only after we look at our student base and our learning objectives can we then look at the possible options in social media that could enhance the learning.

As Rob Tucker noted at the end of his post, this will be messy and trial and error will have to occur:

“What is certain is that disintermediation rarely has a delicate touch. It will change the way we teach and change the way we learn in the decade and decades ahead.”

It is not that the groundswell has not occurred in higher education, but that too many are ignoring its potential.   To ignore it any longer is to risk losing relevance in a world where networked learning is becoming the norm.

I would be interested in your thoughts.  Has the groundswell begun to move beyond simple recruitment and advising to actually impact teaching and learning at your institution?

{Graphics linked from the Groundswell website}

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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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Individual Assessment in a Collaborative World

I had the good fortune last Tuesday to participate in a podcast with Kathyrn Murphy-Judy, professor of French in the School of World Studies here at VCU.  Facilitated by Jeff Nugent and joined by Bud Deihl, we spent nearly an hour discussing the uses of social media in our classes.  As Jeff set the stage, he noted that as faculty continue to explore ways to take advantage of the learning opportunities afforded by the participatory web, they face new challenges about how to assess student learning in a context that values collaboration and shared knowledge building.  After all, we want students to collaborate and build knowledge together, but at the end of the day or course, each student must be assigned a grade.

As always, I learned a lot listening to Kathyrn and bouncing ideas off my two colleagues here in the Center for Teaching Excellence.  Have a listen – I would be interested in your thoughts and feedback!

{Photo Credit: JustABigGeek}

Timesharing Dogs

We had a fruitful faculty brown bag lunch conversation today.  The topic was Building Connections and Communities through the Web.  Ten folks present locally, and since Jeff Nugent was using UStream, another crowd actively joined via the internet.

I used these slides to guide the conversation:

My framing questions revolved around (1) “What is a community?”, (2) “Does building community enhance student learning?’, and (3) “What web tools can now be used to build connections and community?”.  I used three vignettes to illustrate my thoughts on social media and connections.  First, my many connections with Gabriela Grosseck through College 2.0, delicious, Google Reader, our blogs, Slideshare, and Facebook, all of which have informed my own teaching and learning.  Second, the viral reach of Slideshare for one of my presentations from last year.  And finally, a Twitter shoutout by Will Richardson earlier this week and the resultant comments tweeted by others.  These all illustrated connections, but I asked the participants to reflect on how one gets from connections to community (and the image below evolved out of a sketch Jeff made on the back of a notepad):

One participant said that social media to her was like visiting the SPCA.  She could not go in and choose one dog.  All dogs were lovable, all dogs needed to be adopted, and she would leave crying and unfulfilled.  When I suggested that maybe she needed to just rent a dog this week and a different dog next week, she said, that would be like timesharing dogs – an unworkable solution!

The conversation that resulted was rich and nuanced.  It flowed from professional versus personal digital identities, issues of privacy, student misunderstandings on their own digital identity, and time management regarding the tools.  Jeff made an excellent point of differentiating users of social media between broadcasters and instructional.  Broadcasters have to be present in multiple applications and visibly engaged in multiple applications.  Instructional uses suggest more nuanced approaches with clear boundaries.  Bud Deihl illustrated how “conversations” could start in one application and spill over into other applications, such as his networking with his fellow graduate students through LinkedIn.

There was some concern about how we as educators advise our younger students when we are just trying to figure out the – as Michael Wesch calls it – mediascape ourselves.  Conversations like we had today are one way – and commenting via blogs is another.  I would be interested in the thoughts of my readers on how you visualize using the Read/Write web to build connections and community, both professionally for yourself and instructionally for your students.

Of course, one benefit from today’s session was that I did pick up several new “friends” in Facebook!  🙂

ps – One unrelated and yet relevant event today.  I posted the above powerpoint in Slideshare last night so that I could embed it in our wiki and here in this blog.  Overnight, I got an email from Slideshare noting that the editorial team had selected it to be showcased on their Education page.  I also got tweeted by Gabriela saying that she had seen it there,  Another example of connections and community.

An International View

There was an interesting point raised by one of my VIF students in our online class taught by Jon Becker and myself this weekend.  Half of our online class are Visiting International Faculty studying for their Masters in Education here at VCU, and half are Virginia teachers studying in our Ed Leadership graduate program.

When I first arrived from Mexico to teach here, it was very noticeable for me to see that students here are more used to that kind of fast, graphic and entertaining way of displaying information or teaching and it took me some time to adapt to those “new students’ needs”. Here I have been in the process of becoming a digital resident.

I think that in developing countries, this change is happening but at a much slower pace because of the differences in access to the internet, just by looking at your ‘ClustrMap’ (in your Blog) and the red dots representing the access numbers from different countries, I could realize the way many countries are so far behind in terms of Web 2.0 tools usage.

I have been looking at the ClustrMap and seeing the connections spanning the continents.  He looked at the same map and saw the missing opportunities being illustrated by the sparseness of some of the dots.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy working with international faculty.  They help ground me in some fundamental truths.  Friedman, Shirky, and Weinberger have all pointed to the democratization afforded by the web.  All true, but evolving slowly and not there yet.

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Communities and Tools

A week from tomorrow, I am scheduled to lead a Brown Bag lunch session on “Building Community and Connections Through the Web.”

Bud Deihl and I were brainstorming this session (and he earlier also blogged about it).  As we talked, we realized that “community” is very nuanced.  The following slide emerged from our white board doodling:

So that got me wondering.  I belong to many communities.  Some of those communities overlap and others do not.  I use different tools with different communities.  In discussing the tools and their use to build connections, I thought I would tap into my blogging community to see how you would list tools matrixed with communities?  Does one tool suffice?  Do conversations in one tool spill over into other tools?  Are certain tools optimized for certain communities?

Some obvious tools that could be discussed as part of building community and connections include:

  • Twitter
  • Yammer
  • Blogs
  • Delicious / Diigo
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Apps (Reader / Docs / Sites)
  • Ning
  • Wikis
  • Netvibes
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Slideshare
  • Jott

What am I overlooking?  Be interested in your thoughts.

Photo Credit: Dietmar Offenhuber, Judith Donath, MIT Sociable Media Group

Blogging Instructionally

I was slated to run a session today on “Blogging in the Academy” but ended up going a different direction instead.  Our workshop description stated:

Blogs have begun to move beyond personal journaling to emerge as a possible form of academic publishing.  Blogs today provide a reflective medium for publication of teaching and research, and provide a point of connection for community building within one’s discipline.  How do blogs fit in with other academic duties?  How can blogs help scholarship and is it possible for blogs to harm scholarship? Should students blog as part of their learning journey, and can students effectively blog if faculty do not?  This workshop will explore the use of blogs in both classroom and academic disciplines.

The last time we ran this session in September, we spent the entire time discussing blogging as scholarship.  As it turned out today, in polling the participants up front, no one was interested in blogging as scholarship, but each either wanted to have students begin blogging as a way of fostering student connections and communication, or they wanted to blog themselves, or both.  I found this fascinating, because several have discussed in the past week the concept that blogging is dead.  Paul Boutin in Wired magazine wrote Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004.   The CogDog barked that “Maybe Blogging is Dead After All (Or Our Conceptualization Is).” Yet it seems that when early adopters move on to something else, the majority backfill the void and pick up the practice. As Jon Becker noted in “Greatly Exaggerated,” he was not buying that blogging is dead…and the interest I saw today demonstrated to me the same idea.

So I moved rapidly past the discussion on blogging as a public intellectual, and instead focused on instructional blogging.

One example that I could rapidly showcase is the work Jeff Nugent is doing with his Mass Comm Learning with Digital Media class.  Jeff has his students blog as part of their weekly assignments, and has collected their blogs in a Netvibes site.  As Jeff noted over coffee earlier this week, he has been gratified that some of his students are now making connections with the global blogging community, and are no longer writing for a grade, but rather for a readership that they value.

What drives that value are comments.  Blogs are a great personal reflective journal, but when others begin commenting, and one returns the favor by commenting on the blogs of others, connections get made – exactly what several professors today wish to have occur in their classes.

Blogs are not mainstream…yet.  The ECAR 2008 Study of Undergraduates and Information Technology reports that about one-third of students contribute content to blogs.  I would hazard a guess that blogging by faculty is much less percentage-wise.  Yet, a small group of faculty registered for our workshop today so that they can begin.  I find solace and hope in that!

{Photo Credits: CogDog, Salendron}