Sunday, April 29, 2007

This Twittering Life

This Twittering Life
An analysis of the hype (before we educate with it)


A few Internet years ago, we started blogging our mind away. And it was a revolution. Take a picture of your mind, your thoughts, then publish -let the world react
over it. As part of the blogging process, you adjust the lens focus, let RSS nudge you with otherness and its stream of consciousness, you jazz it all up in Flickr and blog on.

All in all, a far less time consuming experience than waiting
for a publisher to give you a chance. Actually, you do not want a sense of finished book permeating your posts, you want conversation. (Come to think of it, who wants a publisher today anyway...).

Twitter comes into the picture
http://twitter.com
A new turn of Web 2.0? Not sure, but suddenly, we want the instant to be published.
Twitter allows to blog time itself. Briefly, of course. Not everyone has something to blog about and not every thought deserves more than 140 characters. Conversely, Web 2.0 reading needs require you that keep it short. Who can read more than 140 characters without an interruption? Even when there are no links, your own eyes soon get scanning the page.

Time and ideas to blog are a commodity. The mere moment and the instant call for a microblogging of their own as well. And they call it revolution. Perhaps with reason. We'll see.

Trivial topics

In the twitterment seach engine, the tags of topics include food, going to sleep, the weather and places. It does make the life of a blogger seem more real when you read those posts. It's a kind of peeping into your life, a Big Brother for the blogger?


Thus it creates a sense of sharing the intimacy of the blogger; lets say, the blogging context or conditions. Spying on them, but not interrupting them. Not sharing the thoughts in your brain, but rather how your neurons talk to each other to produce the post: what you are reading, what your friends are reading.

Can this create a new conversation pulse, pace or rhythm? For example, l
et us all write at the same time or stop to eat at the same time. Does it add a sense of togetherness in the loneliness of the blogger's posting time?

At a Twittering distance...

A single person who blogs creates conversations among blogs. If we go beyond the individual, what all those twitters together amount to? Do they render a new twittersphere. Collectively, what do they mean?

They are making it all more complex and sophisticated to read meaning . On the surface, it's as if you published your customised online status in your msn. Yet, this is absolutely different.

What brings twitters together (the human ones, that is)
What do twitters want? If blogging is a shared thought, and twittering is sharing the very instant you are in... I guess that twitters long for a closer proximity than blogs can afford. It is not thought, but action or impressions that you get from mes
sages.
Blogs are a present perfect, but twitter is a present continuous or -when read after the instant has elapsed- an eternal present.

No Trespassing
And there is communication to think about. In Twitter you simply tell the 'what' and the 'where'. Twitters are not messages or posts that require any answer. The tool does not foster it, at least. A twitter is just that, no invasive technology

Yet it is social, you can direct people to find or read others. You can make fr
iends and subscribe to them. I am not sure if there is a good way of searching who is there. A directory of sorts. Perhaps there isn't any as part of the non intrusive aspect, you just get to know people just as you do when exchanging your msn (unless you publish it in your blog as I do in my links).

The Twitter Lesson
Whether Twitter makes a turning point in web history or not is none of my concern. What matters to me is:
  • What is it about Twitter that allows for its viral spread fashion?
  • What gives us that certainty that we are probably facing a Web2.1 tip of the iceberg?
My point is not a marketing one. My point is understanding the Web and its direction before I can think of ways of integrating new tools to my lessons.

I cannot forget I am a teacher. In teaching, particularly in ELT teaching, I notice a tendency to use Web 2.0 tools directed to students for age old teaching needs, which may have originated in
  • students
  • teachers
  • institutions
But how the world is changing, how the landscape of the educational needs of the future is shaping seems to be, for the most part, ignored by ELT teachers. I like to think about the nature of the tools and what they enable before imposing my grid on them. I always think that if we are poor bloggers, one day one of our students will laugh at such a ridiculous use of a blog. Students tend to be far ahead of teachers in technical aspects. I think the day when they make sense of all this new web better than us is not far ahead.

Learning from Twitter

Before rushing to be the first ones to use this tool for education, what can we learn from Twitter? What have they done so right? Are there principles we can apply to our own blog and wiki designs?

Yes, I think there is lots to learn:

-Keep it simple, very simple
Explanations and design. Look how little they explain. The pics and site colour couldn't be less web2.0 and yet, their simplicity makes it limitless.
-Let others own it
There are already a number of add-ons going round the web to enhance the Twitter experience. People are finishing the product.
-Be inspirational

Don't do everything yourself. Do you think Twitter developers could not think of other ideas as an msn pluggin for Twitter? Of course they could. But better let others roll the ball over.
-Integration
Think how the tool can be integrated to your students way of studying or connecting, mobile, msn, online. The more, the merrier
-Make it as scalable as possible
Let the ones who have the need, become co-developers
-Invite to have fun with the tool
Do not make it look like a time-consuming task. Do not demand too much effort from the contributor. A blog post or well thought out comment, for example, demand much more than Twittering.
.................
Now...
Somehow I would like to look at my own blog and wiki for students and put them to the Twitter test.
Hmmm
.....................

Looking for Twitter
So I've done my little research. Let me share it.

The essential links
All things Twitter
The Official Blog
http://twitter.com/blog/
The Pbwiki
http://twitter.pbwiki.com
Main pages in the wiki
This list of Twitterers who are not humans or individuals (generally speaking):
This can give you an idea of the kind of feeds you can integrate to your class. There are organisations and Web2.0 companies , news services, events, weather, transport and fun.

The wikipedia has a entry I am sure will grow
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter

Twitter Buzz
Time magazine
This article focuses on how Twitter is the tool for bloggers with little time, the event that made us all know and talk about it, the shallowness of it all...

MSNBC
This article compares Twitter with IM, on the whole, a positive review

From the Twittersphere (I think this word is my coinage!)
All things Twitter at
http://twitterati.tv/

Bloggers on Twitter
Kathy Sierra, from Creating Passionate Users, focuses on the shift of attention web 2.0 users are involved in. The dangers of not achieving a flow state with so many alerts, addiction, i.e hyperconnected environment.

Kathy says:

"We're all feeling the enormous weight of not being able to keep up.
We can't keep up with work. We can't keep up with our social life. We
can't keep up with the industry, our hobbies, our families. We can't keep up with current events. We'll never read a fraction of those books on our list. And we are hurting.

Worst of all, this onslaught is keeping us from doing the one thing that makes most of us the happiest... being in flow."

This is in Spanish. Pablo Mancini reflects on the`the future trends that Twitter embodies.
"Algo sí ya está claro: la influencia unidireccional se ha ido para
siempre y la lógica de los nuevos medios y su lenguaje encuentra un
engranaje mucho más poderoso en las redes distribuidas."
(One thing is certain: unidirectional influence is gone forever and the logic and language of new media finds a more powerful gearing in distributed networks.)

How to become a Twit

Today, a still small number of netizens -about 100,000- are twittering their lives away. Apparently, addiction is also possible.Cure here:
http://www.twitterholic.com/

Interpretations of Twitter differ, see this

"A lot of tweets are sent from work: "Waiting for a meeting to start.
Why is it so hard to be on time," "Pouting. People aren't returning my
emails, and I have post-annual-report-submission anxiety." And Twitter
is not a mere procrastination tool. It acts as a mental escape hatch."


Other uses from other professions, get inspired...
Useful or just cool
Examples of use
Comunicazione interna

Five ways to make Twitter work for you
Status reports, agenda alerts at a conference, a note to yourself, new updates and release announcements, picture captions. Similar list from Lifehacker

Note this
Micro-Attention-Sharing- a comparison with del.icio.us

The lists of apps can give you an idea of the use
http://twitter.pbwiki.com/Mashups
e.g. find out when your public transport route isn't running (London Underground and SF BART)

From Wired Blog
Twitter on your desktop, Firefox browser, Google homepage, Gtalk, Google map, and how to get a tiny url to fit the 144 character limit.

You can combine your Twitter with your blog post
Email
Send RSS to Twitter
Feed your blog to Twitter

Twessenger, update your windows live messenger personal message
Update from Secondlife

Can it be more ubiquitous?
Yes, it goes on...More here, read a book to twitter!

Enough! I am twittered out.

Follow up in my del.icio.us
http://del.icio.us/fceblog/twitter

Acknowledgements: I first learnt about Twitter from Maestro Alberto, an Italian teacher. I signed in back in Jan 2007.
What attracted me to it was the widget. I was then looking for a tool to post class updates to students who had been absent and needed to know the class highlight. Luckily I did not do it. Now I imagine my students suggesting far better uses.

Are you using Twitter with your students or just for yourself? Let me know or befriend me there to get to you.
Here is my own Twitter (I am adding a permalink in my blog)

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Networked Thoughts

Networked Thoughts

I am experiencing a network overdose. I mean, I am writing about a topic and suddenly a seemingly unrelated post or image I saw yesterday or this morning comes to force itself into my post.

I guess you call that intuition, some kind of knowledge or certainty that the nodes in my thought actually belong to the trail that will lead me to a conclusion. Or at least, a mind plateau: a somewhat balanced new state of affairs that satisfies me and leaves me with a sense of accomplished task so that I can press publish and continue with my RL (real life).

I am always fascinated at this mashup way of framing knowledge roads in my mind. I think it has always been a mashup, even before the word or the meaning we attach to it existed. Years ago, while reading Virginia Woolf and a bit of T.S Eliot, I thought the term stream of consciousness best described it.
Now I think my mind is a folksonomy invaded by RSS, technically speaking. I am thinking about what other nodes in my del.icio.us network have tagged as 'valuable' (which is in itself a form of mind frame or identity ) and, suddenly, the mental RSS notification refreshes and I know it is time to stop and go to a classroom.

This is a picture of my mind now
(Spoiler warning: read at your own risk)
-Students's wiki homepage updated
-How technology is changing, not the changes, but the direction
-What is the direction of schools, traditional, taxonomic? Can they change with Web2.0
-What is the change agent? Where can we start to change?
-How assessment methods (mainly summative) lock us into School 1.0 (to be encouraging... maybe we should say School alpha)
-How to speak to a small crowd of people who will be listening to me presenting my thesis (not soon, mind you, but anyway in my thoughts right now) and really make sense of it all in a few minutes.
-The images from a slideshare I've just seen about business implications of social software is looming in front of me...
-Which programs makes those cool graphs?
Ctrl + K and I am at Google but...
-Time! Just enough time to eat and then a string of lessons this afternoon.
OK. Try to post about it this evening.

Thoughts over. You get the picture? I am RSS-ed!!

Because time is like a notification. It stops the mind from focusing and flowing into thoughts.

I know, not promising.
How to get somewhere with a swinging mind like that. The hopeful note is I do not think I am on the verge of madness. I am quite sure this happens to all of us -or does it?

On a quantitative basis, let me sum it up like this:
221 people in my del.icio.us network
524 feeds in my RSS

No wonder.

On a qualitative front, how much reading am I actually doing?
This is the question
.
I think I read quite a lot. But so differently. What I have stopped doing is following single nodes in the network for a long time (except perhaps the commenters in this blog, I'll tell you why, just read on)
As my focus shifts from one topic to another I need to find again the relevant person, mind, converser to learn from them.
Then I am surprised. I wonder why I do not always check first something like: what do Will, Stephen or Jay say about this? Well, that is the frame of mind that changes with the Web2.0. The attitude. Even though they are the great bloggers, if I did that, I think I would be adopting the top-down model of thinking and organising info they always blog against.
But perhaps they read each other first before posting. Right. Because they also comment on each other first.
You go in circles from the latest published to the core. You check the topic of conversation, then the conversation, then the people. And last -how could it be least?- you do check the big names. But not out of a need to read the "right" or "best" opinion, or the punch line, authoritative, expert view on the issue. Nope. It's just that you cannot start talking about something as if it were new when they have published it and everybody has been informed. That would not being there in the conversation. Again it's not looking for authoritative views but the people in their network. They have so many readers: it is their readers I want to know about.

And how does all this relate to my networked thoughts? Well, because if I do not write about what I read, if I do not filter it from myself I can get intoxicated with an RSS overdose. I would conclude that my RSS reading skills improve only if I write. And writing provokes research, i.e. a web search (let me explain: not in Google. Ah sorry, you already know, no need to explain) and then a process, and then you publish it.

Hopefully you survive my networked thoughts. Have you? Phew!

Now, right now, we are talking. What do you say?
Comments...


Related Post: RSS Digestion: Too Much to Read?

Picture Credit:
lusi

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Friday, April 06, 2007

CyberCompliment Day

Yesterday I got this mail from Jennifer Wagner with an invitation to post:

Just an idea from Jen

If last Friday, March 30th, was Stop Cyberbullying Day, then I would like to make THIS FRIDAY — April 6th –

*CYBER COMPLIMENT DAY!!*

Take the time to think of those who have helped you in the world of
bloggers and let them know by posting a comment to their blog.

Let’s take the time to know that we appreciate each other and lets show the world that blogging can be BENEFICIAL & POSITIVE too!

Please use the tag: CyberCompliment in your posts!
Grins — who will you compliment?


Jen



I decided I would sleep over it. And this morning I woke up with these thoughts...

The thing is that I try to use blog comments as a means to engage in conversation; not as a way of giving the writer a two-thumbs up on what he wrote. Unless you feel grateful for that particular post.

If blogs continue to be opened every second, the ratio between viewers and comments will only render a deeper and wider gap. Even getting viewers will be more difficult -let alone comments. And the time that reading and participating and tagging takes...Many people will think over your posts and you may not even get to know.

I remember this from the film Gone with the Wind:

"Do not squander time. That is the stuff life is made of."

(Just try replacing 'time' and 'life' for 'blog'; and the word 'that' for conversation. See?)

So let's say that taking the time to comment on someone's blog is a way of showing your love. But I'd much rather stick to the conversation, Jen. If I go to a blog today just to comment no matter what they posted yesterday... well, aren't we missing the whole point in blogging? For mere feeling of gratitude, I prefer a private email (via email or a Web2.O means such as MyBlogLog or Explode, not so private, but anyway).

Then, there is the question of who to thank. Oh my! I should say the credit goes to my RSS reader for bringing it all to me. After all, bloggers simply share, they did not write to teach me. Who knew me two years ago when they wrote that influential post on me now, today?

But let's try anyway...Thank you for...
  • for blogging, I mean, sharing
  • for letting me get into thoughts
  • for reading my comments -here or there
  • for writing comments or posts inspired on those comments
  • for the time you take to read and share
  • for your efforts to network and keep in touch
  • for supporting those who are puzzled by less than pleasant online experiences (and to those who dare talk about those online experiences)
  • for the unifying feeling that even outside and beyond the walls of a walled area of study or a network of teachers of varied subjects, there is this conversation about education going on in diverse and unique blogs.
Reading the above, I think you know exactly who I am addressing this to. Thank you for being there.


A special thank you to Jennifer for triggering off these thoughts.

Picture credit: I received the picture and permission to use it in my email and I read over Jennifer's blog she purchased it. Thank you again.

Let's take a look at the blogosphere and see what develops on this.
http://www.technorati.com/tag/cybercompliment

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Monday, April 02, 2007

ESL/EFL Wikis

ELT Teachers Using Wikis
(a mini directory)

As part of my summer learning in Jan and Feb, I joined an EVO Online workshop B4B (Blogging for Beginners). I joined quite late because I was busy designing my wiki for students. Among the participants, I found a few 'false begginers' in blogging who caught my attention for a number of coincidences:


Coincidences
  1. We have all set up our firsts blogs roughly around the same time (March 2006)
  2. We were thinking and designing our first wiki projects in January 2007
  3. We have chosen the same tools -Blogger and Wikispaces
  4. We all use del.icio.us- pab, monicabh, jenverschoor, fceblog (only Mary, kushikatsu , uses the network)

Interesting, I thought. Similar experiences, objectives and potential seamless integration of the tools we are using. Lots of collaboration/network possibilities here.

I left comments in their blogs (here and here) and emailed them separately. Only to find even more coincidences:
-Jennifer and Mônica also teach Cambridge FCE courses.
-Mônica is also studying at university and intends to use the wiki project as part of her research.

Can it get any better? We'll see.

I think you've met but...
Now it's time to get to know each other better. Here is a detail of our online work:

Mary Hillis
Blog: One Teacher's Journey
Wiki: ESL for Migrants

Paul, Pab
Blogs:
Pab's Potpourri (for teachers)
The Writing Studio (for students)
LTD Project Blog
(for teachers)
Wiki: The LTD Project
(I'm a member of this wiki)

Mônica Veado
Blog:Movie Reviews (for students)
Wiki:Movie Reviews

Jennifer Verschoor
Blogs:
My Integrating Technology Journey (for teachers)
Open Classroom (for students)
Wiki: Open Classroom

And mine
Blog: The FCE Blog (for students)
Wiki: Corpus

I will be watching how these projects evolve. I hope you also post about them. Lot's to learn from each other, don't you think?

Apart from my posts here, I will also post brief updates from my Corpus wiki (see About this project).
I'll call it PLOG, i.e. production blog.


My questions to teachers with wikified classrooms
-How are your projects getting on? What are the difficulties you are encountering? Have your students welcomed new ways of learning?

Stay in touch.
(If you write about this in your blog, please link to this post's permalink so I'll find you.)
...............................

While we wait for comments, here's a reading list:

Links to other EFL wiki projects

For teachers
Dude has a wiki about Web 2.0 tools and innovative lesson plans and ideas,
EFL and Web 2.0

EFL Geek has an ESL & EFL wiki with forums.

And Graham has more than one, I am a member of this one:
Pod-EFL all about Podcasting ideas.
Evogaming

And the Webheads love wikis too, of course!
BaW07
Open Webpublishing
Barbara Diew's authors and participates in many wikis
Not so new and with an intriguing title, Writing Matrix, makes me wonder why sometimes collaborative wiki projects do not take off.

For students
Nancy, from Canada, has a well organised wikidot. She is concise and clear. Love her style.

Illya, who teaches CAE, has a wiki to organise vocabulary.
CAE Words

From Argentina, Rita Zeinstejer -the pioneer- worked with CAE in wikispaces last year. Her students took part in the IWE wiki. I saw a wiki of hers with students describing their city. Beautiful.
(Unfortunately I lost the link. Can you add it here Rita? Your work is a seed for mine)
...............

More in my del.icio.us
http://del.icio.us/fceblog/wiki

If you are not in my del.icio.us already, would you like to let us know about your wikis?


Attribution: Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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