Web 2.0


After school, Wednesday, in our staff meeting time, I finally stepped up and talked about the idea of Sharing using digital tools for the first time. I mean it's not the first time I've talked about using Delicious or any other social media tool, but it is the first time I've couched the whole thing around the premise of sharing, and the possibilities that sharing with a wider network of educators than just the ones at your site might open up. I've shied away from really talking in a formal way to my colleagues about networked learning - a mixture of not wanting to push my own potential zealotry and a worry that most won't have a clue what I'm talking about anyway. It's hard to get the message just right so that they can see that this is a way that regular classroom teachers can go, because after all, it is the techhead, laptop loving freak pushing the ideas. If they could just sit here in this spot and see the potential stretch out in front of them like I can ...

I chose to show the first seven minutes of Dean Shareski's opening keynote video for the K12 Online Conference, which has stoked the fires of inquiring debate in a number of places across the web. I will chat to a few colleagues tomorrow and see what they got out of it. My worry is that not that they won't see value in this form of sharing, but that they will see it as something beyond them, beyond what time will allow for them, beyond what their capabilities are as an online navigator.

What I struggle with as well is this notion of self-directed learning as a professional. I believe that participation in networked learning is ideally suited for this - tools like Twitter are subverted for educational sharing. But Twitter is mainly about sharing stuff that other people have created or found, and Delicious is the same. Neither ask the participant to put themselves "out there" like writing a blog post or adding content to a wiki or even posting a reply to a forum. So, why is that so many teachers find the use of social media for sharing to be such a step that they are unwilling to take? I find it hard to imagine their reluctance and need to be shown because I (like the majority of edubloggers I assume) have learnt how to use and manipulate social media through active participation. Workshops and PD sessions on how to use Google Reader and Delicious seem to run counter to the whole point of self directed learning through technology.

Also I feel that for a practice to stick, to become habitual, the desire to explore further must come from within. Maybe some teachers will never grasp the concept of online networked learning for their own professional improvement ... but I have at least raised their awareness of what it is out there if they choose to look beyond their own self imposed boundaries.

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I watched this video with interest today:

Social Media Revolution 2 (Refresh) from Erik Qualman on Vimeo.

I noted that Facebook now has a population that would place it third in the world were it a country. But there seems to a growing groundswell of discontent with savvy web users looking to delete their accounts amid cries for a more open alternative. (Thanks for the links, Warrick and Alex.)

I'm questioning my citizenship. It's not as if I would be missed. I don't play any games, I ignore every second friendship request, decline almost every other cause or invitation and don't post any photos. I joined so that I would have a working knowledge of this social media phenomenon. And an interesting world it is. I could get lost for hours linking from one friend list to another, future-gazing on how former students have made their way through life, seeing how old schoolmates have handled impending middle age and shaken my head at how naive and gullible so many younger kids are.

Maybe Facebook is redefining privacy. As one slogan might go, it is certainly "home of the brave" but I am not so sure that is "land of the free." Apparently, it is quite hard to renounce the Facebook homeland once you've been under its rule for any length of time.

I learn more about my online friends in my aggregator than I can ever get on a FB status update. Connecting on the open web - that's what I'm interested in. It might be time to move on.




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.

...at 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 fanfiction.net - 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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I must be such a disappointment to my Facebook Friends.

I very rarely update my status, I have no photos to speak of and I regularly reject requests for (Lil) Blue Cove and Likeness Quizzes. I have a friends list that is a curious mix of educators I have never met and teachers I used to know.

Just recently, I've experienced a new phenomenon in the Facebook Friend stakes - the ex-student who is amazed to find their old teacher online. I've found it interesting to accept these requests as the ex-students in question are all now adults and having them on my list is an interesting peek into their lives answering that age old question that many teachers have about their previous charges, "I wonder how [insert ex-student's name here] turned out?" 

I could (and have) got lost for hours looking at my new Friends' Friends lists, seeing names I recognise and wandering through the mainly open profiles, checking their Friends lists, seeing more familiar names and so the process goes on. It seems that if my ex-students have made it onto Facebook, then their life seems to be on track and that spending a year or so in my care hasn't unduly affected their opportunities in life. One of them even wants to become a teacher (shock, horror)!! 

Sadly, my new Friends' lives look far more exciting than my own. But then again, everyone else looks like their life is exciting framed up in the Facebook interface. And you can't Superpoke ™ fun at that.


I had a sick day yesterday. So, after  visiting the doctor and the pharmacy to get some industrial strength antibiotics, I decided to put some time towards preparing for my thirty minute slot during the upcoming Will Richardson day. It's pretty cool that he's coming to little old Adelaide and that not only do I get to attend the event and see one of my original Web 2.0 teachers and major early influences (along with Downes and Blackall) present but I get to show one of my own contributions as an "influential South Australian educator" in my use of a wiki as a platform for learning. I hope there's a big crowd coming because if I'm being chosen as an innovative user of read/write technologies, then we have a long way to go here in South Australia in realising the potential of these tools for our students' learning, and Will's insights and influence will be invaluable. I'm hoping I get to meet and talk to him as well - after all, he was the second person to ever comment on my blog and that was a major encouragement when I felt at the time that my attempts at establishing connections were somewhat futile.

So, that will be cool.

It is interesting that I'm going to be giving an overview of the Spin The Globe project because that was another opportunity to work with someone I highly respect for his writing in the edublogosphere in Doug Noon. It's also about 15 months since any work was done on that wiki so it really feels a bit dated in terms of being innovative. Anyway, I decided to re-listen to the Teachers Teaching Teachers podcast that Doug and I were invited to be a part of so I could isolate some audio quotes from Doug to add to my presentation. I was getting towards the end of it when the host, Paul Allison asked us if we thought that we'd continue to work on the wiki in 2008. Interestingly, we both said yes at the time and that has turned out to be an incorrect prediction. Both of us ended up following other priorities last year and so the wiki stands as a digital artifact of our little experiment in collaboration. Some of Doug's quotes are extremely insightful and offer the reasons (more apparent now in hindsight) why we both have not returned our students to the project.

"One of the huge ironies of the internet is that I think people are paying attention to stuff far away and ignoring their local area."

"I saw them starting to team up in the classroom at the same computer and I began thinking about collaboration and how you can't draw a line around it. If people are collaborating, it might happen at any level of the process."

"Graham and I were talking about how Alaska and Australia was an awfully big chunk of real estate to bite off for sixth graders and we should've have probably, and I told my kids feel free to change references to Alaska to Fairbanks. You know we can narrow it down from there."

Especially at the age group involved in the primary (elementary) school sector, getting students to look at concepts through local issues, before taking on the global has been my priority since the fading of the Spin The Globe wiki project. I'm not discounting the important of global awareness but one of the outstanding insights both Doug and I observed was how little our classes really knew about their own place in the world.

So, listening to and looking back at something that I've been asked to push forward as a "good example" of wiki use has been an interesting exercise, and has made me appreciate Doug's perspective and wisdom even more. I hope that the educators coming along to see Will (and in a very minor way, myself and the other two South Australian educators also doing 30 minute showcases) walk away with the feeling that read/write tools are a great fit for the progressive pedagogies of Australian educators, rather than feeling that they have to get their kids blogging or get on the lookout for a global wiki partner. The question "What do you want the kids to learn?" has to be front and centre and I sure hope the goal is not just how to use a wiki.

On a slight side track, Wes Fryer's recent trip to New Zealand and his willingness to share his thinking as he participated in the Learning@School conference confirms what I sort of suspect in terms of a US view of what education is compared to an Antipodean perspective. It was very interesting to read his reactions from Pam Hook's keynote (does he read Artichoke?) especially this one [Wes' notes were in caps, so he wasn't shouting!]:


From my understanding, Wes would be thought of as a progressive US educator and here he was having a lightbulb moment (correct if I'm wrong and you're reading, Wes) and Jane Nicholls weighed in with some telling words in the comments of this post:

In New Zealand effective learning and teaching has everything to do with technology integration. Trevor Bond states that an ineffective teacher plus technology equals an expensive ineffective teacher. For technology to be successfully integrated there must first be a solid pedagogical platform. Teachers must be reflective and have a good knowledge of their own teaching philosophy. They need to assess why and how the technology will enhance their classroom practice and they need to know about their students and how different technologies will extend their reach.

She writes more that extends that piece of thinking and then Greg Carroll put in his point of view from which I've isolated this poignant quote:

Technology can very easily GET IN THE WAY of effective learning and teaching - and it is the order of those two things that makes all the difference. Learning is about what the learner NEEDS and NOT what the teacher does.

I think this is what is missing from some of the "viral" videos about future learning around the place in that it seems the message is that creativity and collaboration can only be fuelled by technology. That these need to be promoted for classrooms still amazes me - and they are seen by many as new learning for this century amazes me even more so. I can really sense Tom Hoffmann's long standing and reasonably regular frustration.

So, tying this all back to my wiki reflecting is that Doug and my experiences with Spin The Globe show that collaboration is not a worthwhile goal by itself and that it is pretty easy to be seduced by the techno-possibilities. By all means, if technology provides the best learning experience or is unavoidably entwined, then go for it. But if it isn't really what the students need, then forget about it and try a different approach.


Whilst flicking from one task to another I've been checking out some of the "Videos We Like" on Vimeo. I didn't know much about Vimeo until Dan Meyer did his dy/av series and hosted his awesome summer series (during our wintertime) there in mid 2008. He's pointed to a few since then and I find it's more of an arty hangout for filmmakers of varying types and small ad agencies. So, I'm poaching an idea directly from Dan and asking a simple question:

What could you do with this in a classroom?

Suddenly from Magnus Engsfors on Vimeo.

Or this?

lost in a moment from dennis wheatley on Vimeo.

The quality is way better than YouTube and there seems to be less wading through the junk to get to the interesting stuff. But maybe that's just me. These will look great on the interactive whiteboard - but in what context?


Well, we've started back at school this week and I have to admit, everything feels like a continuation from last year and across the state, the basic way school gets done will be pretty much the same way it's been done for quite a while now. The changes at our school are subtle and not all that obvious to the casual observer but there are tell tale signs on the new teachers' faces as they suffer information overload about inquiry learning, interactive whiteboards, co-planning and You Can Do It. I must admit that I enjoy the fact that we are a school pushing forward to improve what we offer our students but it can be a bit of a culture shock for the newcomers from less frantic settings.

And if, as some prominent edubloggers propose, we need a learning revolution it will come as a complete surprise for many of those schools and educators. When most Aussie teachers hear the word "revolution" associated with education, they think of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Digital Education Revolution. With the unfortunate acronym of DER and plenty of scepticism about the actual vision and subsequent implementation, the whole idea of "revolution" has lost most of its punch down under. Then when our Federal Education Minister starts looking back over her shoulder for ways to improve the Australian education system by inviting controversial New Yorker Joel Klein to provide advice on how to move our schools forward, then the "revolution" terminology starts to look somewhat farcical.

The internet hasn't transformed Australian education - yet. In general, it hasn't transformed Australian educators either but that's not to say it isn't possible. But change is slowly happening with the few of us pushing the web as a participatory learning platform tending to be steady small scale influencers rather than being Che Guervera-like figures.  After all, no-one wants to get fired. It's much more evolutionary than anything else.

So, I find phrases like "I'm Here For The Learning Evolution" to be mildly irritating. Much of the conversation surrounding this tends to focus on the deficiencies of one country's education system (which ironically us Aussies consider for improvements to our system!) and when I look at how few K-12 educators are even using the web for their own learning, how can they even get their unknowing colleagues on board for a people's revolution they don't even know exists?

In 2009, I'll just keep evolving my practice and do my best to help my disconnected colleagues to plug into the potential. Sorry, Wes. Count me out.

... if Web 1.0 was about translating the pre-digital world into digital while maintaining familiar structures and formats...

...and Web 2.0 is about flattening the playing field, allowing anyone with a connection to become author, critic, friend, artist, entrepeneur, journalist, inventor or creator ...

...then it seems that Web 3.0 might be when the powers that be get the vaccum cleaner out and try and suck the genie back into the bottle...