D'Arcy Norman poses the question, "How do you connect to people online?" This post is my response to that question.

It's this blog that I value the most as a connection point with others. It's where I started dabbling in this networked way, where I connected to my first edublogger colleagues, people who I hadn't met but whose words and ideas drew me in and got me writing and sharing my own little piece of the world. Through comments left by others and by responding to comments on others' blogs, I widened my circle of connections and the network started branching out in unexpected, intriguing pathways.

New concepts like Leigh Blackall's networked learning, Will Richardson's connective writing and Konrad Glogowski's classroom learning communities were all new perspectives that I would not have encountered in a non-digitally connected world. They taught me about the transferability and reinterpretation of new ideas, as much as someone more recently like Dan Meyer with his "Be Less Helpful" mantra.

It's probably because I enjoy the process of writing that this particular outlet has such appeal. I've migrated and used other tools to connect - ning, Twitter, delicious, and even more recently Second Life but invariably, my network has been built on the back of edubloggers or secondary connections from those edubloggers. There are those people who started their connection in a similar fashion at a similar point in time - people like Jo McLeay, Darren Kuropatwa and James Matthew Nelson. Initially, I felt an obligation to add anyone who read my blog (identified via comments) to my blog reader and thanks to a feature in Bloglines that I used at the time, anyone who I could identify from the subscriptions list. But interestingly for a bloke who hasn't all that much new to add to the conversation, the readership has grown beyond that need for reciprocal subscribing. I realised that I can't read and converse with everyone who reads this blog, and that are many bloggers who I read who don't know that I exist!

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This realisation certainly helped me to manage my usage of a tool like Twitter where I can have a massive disproportion between followed and following. I must confess that I feel more comfortable in the asychronous world of the blog post where I can write something, set it free, see whether it strikes any chords out there than the weirdly hybrid synchronicity of the 140 character "Is anyone reading this? Whoops, now I'm having a conversation." I share better from my ramblings here than by pumping out URL shortened tidbit links - that's just not my skill set and there are plenty of others who do that much, much better.

The connection to others is very hard to explain. There are others out there scattered across the globe to whom I have felt a collegial connection; a new type of friendship that starts with a shared interest in web based and enable learning but manifest itself in a desire to find out a little more about the person behind the blog and have a much more personal conversation. It's interesting - sometimes people connect to what I write and sometimes they connect just to me as the person they have gotten to know via this blog, twitter exchanges, invitations to participate in projects and Skype conversations (although these happen much less often than they used to). Alex, Doug, Chris, Ken and Darren are all more than just names in an aggregator or a contact list - I think of them as friends who would help me if I needed it.

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I don't venture that far from home either - a combination of family commitments and a job that doesn't require much travel - but via these connections, the long term comment exchanges, the occasional Skype chats and the @messages on Twitter, I've managed to meet quite a few other educators both far and near. I can still recall having a meal with Michael Coghlan and Alan Levine with only half his voice left during his speaking tour down under and hosting Tom Barrett and his family for dinner at our place was simply a delight. None of this possible without online connection. I get hints from others like Clay, Dean and Chris that should I ever venture into their neighbourhood, the welcome mat is already waiting.

How do I do the connecting? The work day is invariably very busy and I have this two hour window from 8.30 - 10.30 pm each evening after the boys are in bed where I can open up the laptop and do a task switching blend of planning, reading, chatting and exploring. My iPhone has become the most constant connection now, as it is easy to just turn on and connect whenever a spare opportunity arises. I use a Pageflakes startpage to jump off into various places, I use GMail and Google Reader, Tweetdeck on the laptop, Twitterific on the iPhone and I keep a watchful eye on some of the Nings I have joined, my delicious network feed and the occasional Skype chat. I'm still getting past that "ghost town" feeling whenever I venture into Second Life and find it interesting that some of my real world insecurities in social situations have followed me in there. Writing like this in text form seems to be comparatively liberating.

The longer I have played in this digital world, the wider and more diverse my network has become. It probably has an overwhelmingly "education flavour" to it all but that's OK with me because the spread of educational situations is so varied. I'm not quite the free ranger - in fact, I am still bemused that anyone finds what I have to say to be of importance - as if something works, I tend to stick with it.

So, D'Arcy, there you have it. My response to your prompt. Your blog was amongst the first added to my aggregator. Yours was one of the first where I saw fit to criticise a blog post. Your education world is vastly different me here in suburban Adelaide but there you have it, we're connected. In the loose, multi-directional, serendipitous cluster of nodes that make up my Personal Learning Network, this is how I connect to people online.


Stephen Downes posted a couple of years ago about one of my blog posts that:

...we should not be reading people, we should be reading topics.

I didn't really understand what he meant until I read this recent post from Claudia Ceraso. The whole post is an excellent explanation of where PLN building can take an educator who is prepared to persist but not strain too hard for results.

Learning awaits the node that builds network. The network does not revolve around a guru or star blogger. Although you might be inclined -at first sight- to affirm it is so. Seeing a long thread of comments in a high ranking edublog can give that impression.

Whatever makes a post or blog a gem is that blogger's ability to express what other people wish they could, but they can't. Yet. Or perhaps something you were sensing was important, but didn't have a name for it; therefore, no conversation dealing with the core issue had been built around it. A blogger may offer a playground of a post to imagine how we can think new ways of learning. I think many newbies have believed this is about the blogging revolution. This is the kind of success we should be after. Owning the learning in your blog. Without comments on the post, it is still unidirectional. Close to what fascinates me about blogging, but not it.

Oddly enough, for those taking the conversation ahead, it is not countless visitors or comments what they are after. They are indeed making connections and exchanging Twitter trivia preferably with a closed or selected circle of people, but it is not because they are popular that they flock together. It's because Therefore, rapport. Once those minds get in touch, they accept the kind of learning that occurs cannot happen in isolation. That is what makes the network continue paying attention to new ideas from those selected bloggers. Because it is the only sustainable way to learn informally. You know they are your best learning triggers. That's when learning sticks.


Jeff Utecht via Stephen Downes says:

It was a good discussion that talked about how the conversation is changing. That at a point in time we use to actually take time to read and leave comments on blog posts. Now we read, and retweet blog posts. We talked about how Twitter is the new aggregator and is replacing RSS as a way people are getting their information. On this blog for example, I have more readers that come via Twitter then I do via the RSS feed. Because of Twitters live constant scrolling feed, we also talked about how the “life span” of a blog post is shrinking. I use to get comments on a blog post lasting weeks. Now I post a blog, it gets a comment or maybe two in a the first 10 minutes, gets retweeted for about 20 minutes and then it’s old news.

To me, it sounds a bit like Jeff is seeing the end of blogs as a dominant Web 2.0 technology and I'm sure he speaks for no one but himself in his assessment of where things seem to be going. I don't disagree that connected conversation is changing but I'm not ready to write off blogs as a major platform for communication just yet. So, I'm using this "dated" technology (tongue firmly planted in cheek) to provide a alternative perspective to Jeff's statements here in the sort of slow type-out-loud way that I personally find hard to express in 140 characters or less. a point in time we use to actually take time to read and leave comments on blog posts.

Well, I don't comment as much as I used to but I'm personally still reading as much as I ever have. There are some bloggers in my aggregator who have slowed down but new voices are there, ready to mix into the daily flow of connection. For me, there is still something exciting about opening up the Reader and looking into my Must Reads folder to see if anyone has posted since I last looked. I'd rather read about Dean Groom's experiences in the US in my aggregator than the hit'n'miss tweet possibilities. Twitter doesn't get you inside some one's mind like a blog post can.

We talked about how Twitter is the new aggregator and is replacing RSS as a way people are getting their information. On this blog for example, I have more readers that come via Twitter then I do via the RSS feed.

I'm not a big fan of checking out blog posts as they are tweeted. I'd much rather wait until I browse my reader - the tweet that announces a new blog post is a bit like the mobile phone ring tone when you're engrossed in a task but its urgent tone doesn't mean that it is more important than what you are currently focussed on. Obviously I'm not "people" but it could be just that I find Twitter to be much harder work than blogs for tracking, initiating and participating in conversation.

Because of Twitters live constant scrolling feed, we also talked about how the “life span” of a blog post is shrinking. I use to get comments on a blog post lasting weeks. Now I post a blog, it gets a comment or maybe two in a the first 10 minutes, gets retweeted for about 20 minutes and then it’s old news.

I'm not convinced. I think it tells a story about Jeff's readership in particular but it is a bit of a sweeping generalisation overall. In my case, comments can't be influenced by Twitter because I'm not broadcasting there. So maybe this blog attracts readers who operate in a similar fashion to myself or my content isn't based on breaking "new stuff" so it really can't get old, so to speak.

Some of this gets down to the purpose of the chosen tool. My blog is a personal opinion piece, a repository of my classroom and professional practice, a creative outlet, an idea clearinghouse and whatever takes my fancy. I like the fact it is my piece of cyberturf, a bit like staying home instead of going to hang out with others at the pub. If my blog posts have a shorter life expectancy, so what? The people who I'm interested in communictaing and connecting with will still take the time to leave me a comment or a pingback, especially in a personal network where edtech heads are not the only nodes. If you're too busy tweeting or plurking, and can't see that different technologies serve different purposes, adding to the array of communication choices not replacing them, then I guess I'll leave you to your #hashtags, your DM's and RT's, and your twitpics. And just in case I get mistaken for a Twitter basher, I use Twitter but probably in the same way someone like Jeff will. For me, it is an information stream that I dip into from time to time, and even more occasionally throw a bit into as well. For me, it just a lot of hard work to get to the level of power user, when other avenues are still extremely rewarding for me.

Hmmm... maybe I should tweet this blog post out to see if it does make a difference. Just kidding.

Cartoon from Geek And Poke.


Just so you know, any resemblance to any edublogger, highly or lowly Technorati ranked, is purely coincidental. This is just the urge I get after reading so many comic strips lately.

Ahhh, I feel so much better now ... I mean, I hope that this (ahem) helps some other edubloggers feel at peace with themselves and their place in the learning universe.


Live blogged notes - my thoughts in italics.

Changes that technology are bringing to the world is going to affect education as well. Need a personal interaction with new tools before one can implement their use in the classroom - look inwards and become a networked learner. Publishing is the easy put - it's what happens afterwards that makes the difference.

Story of Laura Stockman  - blog called 25 Days To Make A Difference. 60,000 hits  on her blog - people connected to her passion, community service. Now made a connection to Jenny Luca in Melbourne to raise money for children affected by the Victorian bushfires. Referenced Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody as a great book for illustrating the shifts that are occurring.

Kids  are connecting via phones etc. via their close personal networks firstly  and then connecting via interests.  How do we shift massive numbers of teachers into a new way of thinking with the new technology?

Networks are all around us  - do you have global connections? Yes

Need to learn how to connected to networks. Knowledge is in networks. The network is smarter than the node. No self-directed learning going on in his kids' lives. Concept of editing as we know it is gone - we need to learn how to edit what we read online.  Literacy is "malleable". Teach our kids to learn online in safe, effective and ethical ways. Teachers should model their own network literary skills throughout schooling.

Looking at the tools - RSS, blogs, Google reader, search feds, social bookmarking.

Afternoon session - looking at the concept of Connective Writing. How many of us are teaching kids to read and write in a hypertext environment? Put up a blog post from Doug Noon showing ten or more links to other blogs, articles, pdf's, videos etc. Also looked through the use of diigo to annotate sites - called it "connective reading".

Talked about - fans write new chapters for the book - No. 1 is Harry Potter with over 390,000 chapters. Writing does not only occur in text - showed (listened to) Radio WillowWeb. Real writing for real audiences for real puposes. We can write for a global audience.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm a pretty low grade live blogger. I run out of steam very quickly and I am a lousy, lousy twitter backchanneler - I don't think I added anything coherent to the stream of @willrich45 tweets as the day progressed. Maybe I was conscious of my own small presentation coming up after afternoon tea.

Anyway, I think it was interesting that tool wise I didn't really learn anything new from Will face to face - but that is more an tribute to the actual powerful potential of the same tools he was showcasing (and that I have spent time over the last four years learning to leverage). I think that the day was more geared to educators who are still relatively "green" to Web 2.0 - but don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the day and there was plenty to think about from the challenges Will kept putting out there.

I'm still disappointed about the very small (but loyal) crowd that attended the seminar - sometimes Adelaide does live up to its "hicksville" image. Where were our school leaders and department decision makers who need to hear about this stuff? I suppose I should be glad that when Will went outside for his morning coffee to overlook the Torrens Lake that it actually had water in it.

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First the edublogger ... then last year heralded the new term edupunk ... now thanks to Paul Luke, it's time to meet the edugroupie.

Seriously, this is a deep thinking South Australian educator who is as well read as anyone online. Do him a favour and put his blog in your RSS reader of choice - I'm pretty sure an edugroupie would appreciate a bit of subscriber and comment love.

Image: Fan de...


Thought I'd put some of my contributions to one of the PLP Nings up on my blog as it is worth cataloging here for future reference.

Discussion in my blogging forum / early January.

It took me a couple of years before I was sure enough about blogging as a vehicle for learning in my classroom but in 2008, my students were involved in a very successful blogging program. Each student had an individual blog which was linked to a main classroom blog. I was hoping that this would become a learning community and over time, with the right nurturing, I believe that is what happened. I've blogged about this process in greater detail on my own blog.

My colleagues in my learning team also started individual blogs for their students but they seemed to peter out midway through the year. There are a number of factors that I believe caused that and the next group of teachers taking on this age group this year will learn from that. Every community has its leaders and if you as teacher can identify these students at an early stage then you can encourage and praise their work so that they lead the way and model the potential. Moderating their comments regularly shows the students that you value their interaction. One area I'd like to improve in 2009 is injecting my own comments into their posts on a more regular basis. One or two students really took that role on their own accord - one girl posted more than 100 comments for her 29 classmates over the course of the year.

Now blogging and writing in this way is not motivating for all students but I think I had greater take up from the students knowing that their blogs were not being formally assessed. A few reluctant boys (in terms of their writing) certainly improved in their output and became more conscious of proofreading their efforts because they knew an audience was reading. A core group of students have continued to post and comment during the holidays which is our major summer break right now down under. It is a real pleasure to know that they value and want to use this tool in developing their written voice - and most of the kids doing the writing will not be in my 2009 class!

Follow up comment / just a few minutes ago.

Things have been very quiet and I haven't been putting any new discussion up for a while so I thought I'd just pop in and give you all a bit of an update on my classroom blogging program. We've just started the new school year here in Australia in the middle of a heatwave (5 days in a row over 40 deg C / 100 deg F!!!) and most of my 2008 class have moved next door with my trusted colleague, Maria. But it was interesting to watch my little blogging community over the holiday break and see who was still contributing and how. A small group of students kept commenting and posting over the summer break - one student posted 16 times (which beat me easily) and contributed many comments for other active bloggers and trying to draw other less active bloggers into the conversation. Regularly during the week, I'd have a number of comments to approve and I tried to make sure I did so promptly so that the conversation would continue. And when one of most reluctant writers posted about - - (because of the great support the kids had built up for each other) I felt that the time and effort to help these kids connect and respect each other through their writing was worth it.


Joanne and I had a rare afternoon going to see a movie down at Glenelg without the kids for our fifteenth wedding anniversary. One of the simple pleasures was just having a wander around the bookstores in Jetty Road without the worry or pressure of the boys - just browsing and checking out exactly what was of interest. I don't get to read that many of the recommended reads from my PLN simply because Aussie bookstores stock very few of those titles. One book did catch my eye, a book that I remember Kim Cofino recommending called No Logo by Naomi Klein, and I purchased it. That still amazes me that an American teacher working in Bangkok can recommend a book to read for me here in Adelaide. Another book by Seth Godin grabbed my attention but at around A$35.00 for the hardcover, I only glanced at it briefly. The blurb on the back was enough to help me understand where I've been going wrong on this blog for quite a while.

I've been really struggling with this blog for some time now. Posts have not come easily for the last six months or so and I haven't felt like that I've had anything important to write for quite a while. It wasn't quite blogger's block but a sense of that the longer I left this space alone, the greater chance of it turning into one of those blogs that gradually becomes one of those spots in the aggregator where after a while you notice, "Well, that person hasn't posted for a long time. Wonder if they will ever post again or should I just unsubscribe?"

(Footnote: Rachel Boyd, if you're reading, your blog is one that I'd love to read again on a regular basis.)

What I got from the back of Seth's book is that a blog is a place to write about ideas. I reckon that would be a good starting point to get back to writing here on a regular and passionate basis like I was a year or so ago. I don't have to wait until I have achieved something of interest in the classroom, have a grand theory relating to the role of technology or a new Web 2.0 tool to evaluate.

I just need to write about an idea. No more fretting about the worth of my thoughts. No more waiting until I have enough background. My readers will help to fill in the gaps and point out the gaps in my thinking. For now, it's time to simplify my expectations for this blog and focus on one thing.

My idea.

Image credit:

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When ken rodoff launched his Edublogs Awards bid, he established his campaign site using a platform that I had not come across before - Weebly. It is actually an extremely popular blogging platform with over one million users already. (I can hear readers thinking out loud, "He's only found out about Weebly now!?")

Anyway, I decided to set up a site to have a go at this microblogging concept. My idea to add in bite sized chunks of web content and thoughts that fall outside the parameter of this blog which is mainly focussed on the professional side of my life. I don't expect that many people will be that all that interested in the minor things that catch my fancy but it is interesting to play with a new platform and see how it stacks up against a familiar technology like WordPress.

Like Stephen Downes said yesterday, I don't need to spend time describing how to use it or dissect its features when I can just link to or embed the appropriate resources.

I noticed that it doesn't easily allow for embedding of single Flickr images or have any method of comment moderation so I'm not sure that I'd use it in the classroom. But the click and type in the editor feature is pretty handy and has a shorter learning curve than the WordPress dashboard.

Anyway, you can check out Graham Wegner - Mix & Mash if you want a short snack sized break from my edtech ramblings and see if Weebly is a worthwhile new format for blogging.

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I have a feeling that I've been tagged for these sort of things before. But newer edubloggers can't be expected to wade through my archives and my longer term readers don't want a re-hash, so I'll have to dig deep for the latest 7 Things Meme. Thanks, Tony!

1. I've switched allegiance three times in my life in my choice of AFL team. This can be seen as a form of sacrilege by die hard life long Aussie Rules supporters like Warrick but I can explain. I became a Port Adelaide Magpies supporter from the local SANFL in Year Five because my best friend told me to. He also told me that I had to pick a VFL team as well - so I picked Hawthorn. I supported them all the way through their successful premiership era, had Leigh Matthews as my favourite player and then in 1987, the VFL expanded beyond the borders of Victoria. A new team from Perth called the West Coast Eagles joined the big league (which became the AFL a few years later) along with the hapless Brisbane Bears and suddenly it was possible to follow a team that wasn't Victorian. I even had an original yellow Eagles practice guernsey with Brian Narkle's No. 7 on it when I was playing B grade footy in Ceduna. This was fine until 1997 when Port Adelaide (remember them? My first football allegiance?) joined the AFL as the second South Australian AFL team. I had to go back to my roots, especially as my favourite all time AFL player Gavin Wanganeen came back from over the border to be the inaugral captain.

2. I've rolled my father's Toyota Hilux utility one night after a day on the tractor seeding. I wasn't wearing a seat belt but luckily walked away - in fact walked all the way home.

3. I am a big fan of the reality show Survivor having watched all of the series except for the fourth Marquesas series (when they screened a pathetic Australian version of the show.) I love the strategy, the characters and the interesting locations - but if Jeff Probst ever quits as the host, the show will not be the same.

4. I met my wife Joanne while teaching in Port Augusta. She was a teacher too, eventually at the same school and we got married in 1994. The first year of our marriage was our last in the country before heading back to the big city lights of Adelaide.

5. I have alternative tastes in music ranging from Public Enemy to Husker Du to Incubus.

6. I've slept under the stars in my swag beneath the grain siloes at Penong on the West Coast of SA.

7. When I tranferred to Adelaide, I had to list all of the schools I was prepared to accept a position at in preferential order as part of my guaranteed return to the city. I wrote down Flagstaff Hill Primary School as my number one choice for no other reason than there was a golf club next door that I could join - and there's where I was sent!

Nothing like a viral reason to post in the New Year so I'm tagging the following:
Warrick Wynne (over at his new blog)
Darren Draper
Lauren O'Grady
Jess McCulloch
Tom Barrett
Ken Burgin
Miss Profe

That's 22 pieces of trivia in total about me floating around - so that's enough for quite a while. See you in '09.