Sunday, October 21, 2007

Achieving Sleep/Network Balance

Achieving Sleep/Network Balance
Time and space are probably the two notions that have been disrupted to the core in our networked learning scenario.

Today I read these three posts intertwined in a conversation. They create a space of their own.

Graham Wegner's
Alan Levine
Three Blogger Dinner in Adelaide
Russel Montgomery
I'm loving this

My comments and rants

I'm loving this too, Russel. About teachers not catching up with this... well, probably that is not the main point. If any of us stopped syncing with the network (via blogs, readers, Twitter, you name it) for a week, we would start feeling rather old, slow and badly in need of updating. But that is not the point. Teachers do not need a crash course in tools, they need to learn to think outside the box and realise it is worth checking a few blogs or run a Google search to find a better, social and networked way of doing simple things. With a difference.

I'm also wondering about sleep/network balance. Networking takes up working time, family time, no matter how seamlessly integrated blogging is in your daily activities. It is one more thing you do. Sleep is essential to have an alert mind to process so much information coming in so many new forms. So we are talking about life/work balance, which is something worrying every employer who finds his life has been hijacked by office work -making them findable and on duty anywhere, anytime. It's an aching working scenario many of our students will plunge into one day.

Social networking needs tweaking. This is another instance of learning. Please do not hurry to call this a literacy -we'll see. For the time being, it is vital to learn how to make decisions of when to connect, how to connect and perhaps, most importantly, who to connect. Is that an art? Maybe.
It is the art of planning for serendipity to happen. It is a way of ensuring meaningful conversations for you and your network.

Graham says,
"Build your network with care"
So true. But networks have to be as organic as possible. The nature of knowledge is distributed and so should be the network that allows us to make a reading of it all.
Knowledge is constructed in conversations taking place with ever changing nodes in the network. Talking to the same experts for years forms groups and sustainable communities of practice. Not bad; it's simply not enough. Networks to me are about expanding your learning possibilities. It is interesting to note that most edubloggers would agree that the wider your network, the more you can learn or know. But if you look at their RSS feeds, they are certainly reducing the number of subscriptions to the 'essential' sources. Paradoxical; yet natural. There is simply limited time to deal with all that.

Alan says,

"In my years of doing this stuff, pre-blog, even pre-web, there is nothing like having a face to face meeting with people who have known only online; and I have been saying on this trip, I have never been disappointed, surprised because I already know them."

To a certain extent, I agree. I have met a few Argentinean bloggers and I have certainly not been disappointed. If you know how to read their blogs (this is a literacy), you already know them. But it is necessary to observe their distributed presence. Go further into how they manage the "being there-ness". Some people change a lot once they start emailing what they dare not publish (for fear of jeopardizing their jobs, for instance). On the other hand, some awe-inspiring blog writers, make poor presenters of their own ideas. I'd rather read their blogs!

It does make a difference to know how a blogger creates a presence for a distant reader. It makes a difference to me to read Alan's tweets when he is worried about the rain and his trees - I can understand those feelings. I have lost an irreplaceable orange tree. It makes a difference when he is humourous about people not getting it. It certainly made a difference to me when he quoted one of my posts and took my mind further into the conversation. In a sense, I know Alan.

There is probably nothing like the thrill of a face to face meeting. Yet, the more I browse, the more I understand what a network means -as different from a group- it is clear to me that the things we may need to read the most are going to come from people who, perhaps, will never ever meet face to face. It will be more of what Alan calls being-there-ness. Making a web scenario a here and now for a meaningful conversation.

With a bit of luck -and quite a few extra dollars to afford any ticket from Buenos Aires, I will meet you
one day. Hope so, really. But I seriously wonder. Sadly.

The blogger's time management is instrumental when we want to talk other teachers into the conversation. The first perception people have about publishing your thoughts is the amount of time it all must take. So true. I cannot say my blogging (by which I mean, reading, updating, tagging, commenting, analysing and synthesizing in posts) is an activity that can be done in, say, one hour a day. And there is family and health to take care of. And jobs. And why not a totally unrelated hobby (like dancing tango) that can make us feel good about being playful. People immediately feel their time going away and the old adage ..."I like what you do. Actually I would if I could, but..." closes possibilities.

Teachers have an urge to get things done. Agendas, planning, curriculum. Teachers are used to dealing with the unexpected in the classroom. There is no time to say, "Wait, I should connect to a few people round the world and then see how we can solve this globally". Blogs are about the process; teaching -for a wide majority of people outside the "network"- is about getting things done fast. It's about resourcefulness, making do with what you've got (filters and all). We know it can be done pretty faster with a network (that takes a bit of time and patience to build!).

I like helping other teachers to get into this, but until the question of time is solved, I realise my message with be lacking in fundamental things. I can play the devil's advocate with myself. I can easily be challenged with posers such as:
  • How do we moderate the disruption this new way of learning brings along?
  • If I dedicate so much time to this, can I say I am modelling a new kind of teacher? Or am I just a representative of just one kind -which need not be the best or the model?
  • How much time do you dedicate to your networked learning?
  • Can you get things done with this network that never sleeps?

The answer is definitely not to go back to a simpler world. Cutting off does not help. The world is complex; but so much more engaging.

These are -no doubt- interesting times to be a teacher in.

Image attribution
Sleeping Bo
by joi
by paal

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Friday, October 12, 2007

UStream TV Powers the Network

UStream TV Powers the Network

In and out of the game, and watching and wondering at it
Whitman, Leaves of Grass

I cannot let this week go by without jotting down a few thoughts. I sense that with so many presentations awaiting from the k12online conference next week, I'd better write this down before the next wave of learning sweeps it all away from my mind with new shining concepts. 

This is not a finished post. These are the notes of the post I would like to have time to write.

We know it is not about the tools. But still. There is an essential sense of appropriation when we play and toy with the possibilities. I think there is an unnecessary sense of urgency sometimes. As if we had to justify the time invested. If we play, we must find an educational purpose for every tool. I fear this is not exactly so. We should play because the learning we extract is worthwhile.

The time to design educational uses is somewhere beyond the thrill of it all. It requires reflection and directed questions. It is not spontaneous, although the proximity of the network can accelerate your thoughts. I think that designing educational uses of tools is about understanding how things are sometimes an extension of what we know. And also identifying the spots when knowledge requires a change of paradigm.

Personally, I think we will not be able to establish any serious conversation with school authorities or administration that resist change until we can explain pedagogies without an overflow of enthusiasm.

I have tried to follow the edublogosphere collaborative testing of live streaming tools -UStream and Operator 11. 
Chatting in UStream has probably been one of the most disruptive, social experiences in the last weeks. Reacting to the ideas of the participants or streamers and getting instant feedback seems as good as it gets while attending conferences online. The backchannel chatroom has an aura of privacy. Of whispering thoughts to unauthorized attendees (or gatecrashers). It is quite different from speaking up so that the whole room hears you. It is more inviting to reflection. Just like reading your RSS in isolation. Only you never get your RSS-ed edublogger answering you, or posing your questions to the presenter.

This is what I felt today as I participated in David Warlick's "Our Student's, Our World" presentation, from within John Pederson's notebook. So transparent, so seamless. I wonder whether more sophisticated technology is necessary to move ahead in the direction of the mission widely stated in so many pioneer edublogs: connect, converse, network.

What's in a network?
This is the key issue I believe. Here we are getting together via, blogs, Twitter. When there is a need to discuss together, we UStream. We need Skype in, we do it. This week we have had as much contact with the network as with our families. So what? What do we do with all of this? Why should we think of classroom uses before thinking of our own?

I sensed the network, solid and long ago built by some edubloggers suddently trembled. There seems to be a reaching out for feeds, then you are overfed and the day comes when you reduce it to 60. Or so I read in some posts. Is that a network? I wonder. After two years of close interaction with the same nodes, you probably become a group. Oddly enough, the same people who trim their RSS feeds will say that the more people in your network, the more you may know.
The point is that you do not need to know them personally to access knowledge. And this week, it was clear that you may find people willing to offer time and collaboration too. 

It is not the circle of the wise that counts. It is learning to connect with the ever shifting node in your network that will make your learning a different experience. Not connecting in a 1.1 mode as LinkedIn connects people. It is to be done in circles, closer and further away from you. To reach someone else, you need a node in between? Nope. Your network should be like a search in Kartoo, not like a Yahoo directory of good quality folks. You never know where depth of knowledge lies.

However, the closer circle takes you further more often.  But let's face it. The variety is only in the suject matter being taught. It is always educators we connect to. No wonder it is difficult to talk to people who simply don't get it.

A network should be peopled by diversity. Of all kinds, geographical, ideological, linguistic and discipline of expertise.

Vicky Davis in her TV show about the book Wikinomics said something about the network. We are about to realise how to accomplish great things. We are still thrilled at the hype of the new. At the getting in touch with so many like-minded voices -when schools still don't get it. 
If we have learnt something this week is that we are not islands of our own. We are a network.

What makes this network flock from tool to tool together and sit glued to a TV screen till late in the evening? Because we find value. Because learning together, discovering together makes us a network.

Even the concept of network has changed this week. Will Richarson mentioned in one of his Operator 11 tests that there were some people he kept in touch with everyday. Now these days he has been in touch with not so near nodes. And learning.
Mind blowing.

The need for Skype in the UStream
It is frustrating at times not to have the two way conversation. But the chat would be lost. If we all had a chance to speak we would not do so on top of each other. In a chatroom, you may identify two or three threads of conversation coexisting, intertwining. Some taking over others. But it is messy and progresses in bursts of inspiration or need to share. It has a value. When and to what purpose do we use one or the other (chat or Skype? What is the criteria to choose and plan?

I keep thinking how conferences change with UStream. Events will no longer be local or international. 

It's late. I must stop rambling. Something ijohnpederson said in the chat comes back to mind:
Sleep is so 1.0

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

UStream TV -learning is so much fun

UStream TV -learning is so much fun
Yesterday evening was a huge learning curve for me. I did not attend any conference, but still. You could say I have already acquired some 21st century skills to run my blogs and wikis, then I should not be so surprised, but last night I was amazed again. Technology leaves me like a child at play sometimes.

There is always an element of unexpectedness that makes it all so powerful. I certainly did not expect anything out of the ordinary to happen yesterday after my day of lessons was done. Back home, computer, eat something and open up to learn with the whole edublogosphere at a tweet's distance. This is quite an ordinary thing these days for me.

It was certainly not in my plans to change TV or my night reading for UStream TV, and end up receiving a Skype call from David Jakes at a pub in Chicago to say hello to Steve and be introduced to Will Richardson. Pity the bar was so noisy and I did not know how to mute the sound from the website to hear only David's voice on Skype. Anyway, thank you guys. Pleasure waving to you (you did not see me, but I was waving to my screen!).

I was probably the only one from South America, yet I was not alone with other teachers (up to 40 towards the end of the show). You are never alone online, how could I with such a powerful network posting endlessly.

I lost most of the first part of the interview because I had to create an account to take part in the chat associated to the live streaming. It is far from fun to simply sit and watch or have a one-way conversation these days. It's a read-watch/write-talk web. Call it the result of my self-teaching of new literacies. I do not know. It does not make sense any other way. Nope.

Today I am catching up with the postings and the video to see and read what actually happened while I was frantically busy opening a UStream TV account. Here's what I found:

Dean Shareski's said,
Have you heard the one about the bloggers who go into a bar?

Will Richardson said,
The UStream Experiment (Con't)

So, what would I have said to Will Richardson last night if I had had the chance?
Hi Will. My name is Claudia Ceraso -of fceblog fame. I teach and learn from (not 'in') Buenos Aires, Argentina. I am incorporating more tools to my daily life and learning than I have actually tried to use in my classroom. I adopt quickly. For my colleagues I am a true pioneer (fancy that!). So why am I taking so long to use them in the classroom? Because I need to go beyond the hype to see the purpose. I refuse to assign a single blog post as homework. Because if it cannot be as much fun for them to learn with the tools as it is for me, or you there at the pub learning to live stream, I fear we have missed the point.

Yes, I guess this could have been pretty much it. An imaginary dialogue between Will and I. Maybe next time. Maybe some post sometime.


It has to be like these three guys enjoying a beer together in a pub and naturally interacting with their network. A blend of f2f and distance interaction is, perhaps the most natural 21st century experience.They are supposed to be 'experts' in new literacies and they are still surprised. They are experts because they have not forgotten the fundamental rule of enthusiasm at the simplest discoveries when learning.

Pure enthusiasm underpinning it all. That's the state of mind a teacher needs to plan a lesson. It can be contagious, viral enthusiasm. Plain fun. Let it be so. Amen.

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