Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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Dean Shareski

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Flickr: Spiderpops
Flickr: Spiderpops

So I read Dean Shareski’s post Why Audience Matters earlier today and just finished reading Clarence’s follow up post and thought I’d add to the conversation as well.

Dean does a great job talking about the different roles an audience can play and I’d like to extend his list.

Audience as Community

Your audience becomes a community when audience members start to repeatedly visits your blog or site. A community forms around your content. A community that becomes interested in what you have to say, follows your thoughts, or ideas, and is committed to you in some way. Be it an RSS feed, a “friend” or a “follower”. A community becomes powerful as there is a sense of purpose to your writing. There are people waiting to hear from you. Take the president/prime mister of any country, or a blog like TechCrunch. A community will wait for your words, wants to know what you have to say, and relays on you for information and ideas.

Very few students see audience as community in the educational/creation space. Although they totally understand it in Facebook, hence the reason you MUST update your profile so many times a day…the community is waiting for it!

A community of followers or readers is a powerful learning tool. It’s the reason why some of us in the blogosphere continue to blog. We have a community of people that we feel obligated to blog for. Whether true or not, there is a sense of obligation to people who have bookmarked your site or have your RSS feed. Audience as Community allows you to engage that audience into becoming what Dean calls an “Audience of Co-Learners“, or an “Audience of Teachers“. I believe before you can have either of those audiences you need to have an audience as community. Only after you have turned your audience into a community can you make something of them, empower them to help you, to teach you, to learn with you. Without that community they are just an “Audience as Eyeballs“. Much of this thinking comes from Seth Godin’s book Tribes which I highly recommend (the audio book via iTunes or Audible is my favorite).

Both Clarence and Dean talk about students and their views on audience. I also like Chrissy Hellyer’s comment on Clarence’s blog about age being an issue.

Yes….5th graders still check their Whos Amung Us maps to see if they have any new readers. Audience as Eyeballs is motivation for them…as I have found it for 4th and 3rd graders as well. Audience as Eyeballs also seems to work on YouTube no matter what the age. As the comments on most videos aren’t worth reading, the actual eyeballs on your video count.

Clarence does make a great point about students coming into our classrooms already with global connections via Facebook, XBox live, etc. Many of these connections are Audience as Community. That is there is a community of player around a game on the XBox, or any MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game).

I do believe we need to be teaching students the importance of audience. Whether it’s looking for a job, applying to a university, or blogging your thinking in school. Understanding audience and the power of creating a community around your content is something we should be teaching, should be discussing in our classrooms. The power of an audience brought Hitler to power, and at the same time elected President Obama. Audience is a powerful thing…from brands, to words, to videos, to music…..audience is worth studying.

Clarence for example has branded his classroom with Idea Hive and continues to build a community around his classroom both with his students who blog within and the classrooms they connect with around the world. An Audience as Community that leads to co-learning and teaching.

Of course teachers need to understand audience as well. Audience as Community is important for any teacher. Your community of parents can be powerful allies or enemy depending on how you engage them….or lack of engagement within a space…be it your classroom or class website.

Do we take time to teach students about Audience? The power they have both positively and negatively? Do we talk about how audience is changing do to the connectiveness of the web? Are we helping students to create positive audience interactions that help to form a community and lead to learning? I sure hope so….because audience matters.

I told this story as my 10 minute TED talk at Learning 2.008. As September 19th was The Stick’s 3 year anniversary.


http://www.thethinkingstick.com/site/wp-content/themes/Padangan/images/bg/tts.png

The Thinking Stick turned 3 a few days ago and it’s hard to imagine that it’s been 3 years since I installed WordPress and just started writing. As I started looking back through those first posts I started thinking about the journey that this blog has taken me on.

My first blog post was about a 5th grade classroom called the Polar Bear Class. The website no longer exists but this was my beginning into blogging. Talking about a class that was creating there own website. The website was not another subject, but was just what they did. It was apart of their classroom, it was a part of their learning.

My first comment came on post #10. Made by a good friend who at the time was teaching in Dubai. It was at that moment that I realized people where reading, even if only my friends….people were reading.

Post #14 Titled: Microwave Popcorn. One of the great first posts. Those of you that blog you know this post. The one that is going to get lots of comments. The post that will make people want to write, want to respond, want to engage in a discussion. The post talks about how technology works it’s way into our daily lives. How in 1982 I remember my father driving a combine in the Palouse all summer to save enough money to buy our first microwave and how today it is a part of every kitchen. My wife and I just moved to Bangkok, Thailand and our first major purchase…..a microwave.

The post was great, well written, well scripted. Guess how many comments……0!

Post #21 The Stick gets its first comment that is not from my friend Reece. The comment was left by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. Little did I know at that time that Sheryl would become part of my learning network and over the next three years I would learn more from her about building virtual communities on the web than from anyone else. You see, The Stick was the start of our connection.

Post #25 I recieve my second comment from someone other than my friend Reece. This one left by Dean Shareski. My favorite part of the comment was this:

PS. Did you know your flickr zietgiest includes pictures of nude women? I was a bit taken back when I came on your site. Just curious if you intended that or not.

You see I was still trying to figure out the tools and some how didn’t have the flickr badge configured correctly. I made changes to the badge that day and learned some quick html as well.

Over the next 3 years Dean would become a valuable node in my network and at one point while he was teaching an undergrad class in Canada and I a graduate class in the States we would have our students create a wiki together. Learning from each other and learning the value of wikis in education. The Stick started that connection.

Post #28 Tim Lauer leaves a comment on a Firefox extension that allows you to highlight text on a web page. I would later meet Tim at NECC that year and he would become the first person in my Personal Learning Network that I would meet face to face.

But the big coming out party in my eyes for The Thinking Stick was on post #36. The title: NETS in a 2.0 World. I remember writing that post while in a meeting and posting it. Basically I took the NETs (the old ones at the time) and did a find and replace with the words Technology and Information.

I went to bed that night not thinking anything of it and woke up the next morning at 5am to find 6 comments and trackbacks on the post. I was completely taken by surprise. Up until this point to my knowledge I had 4 people reading my blog and all of a sudden I have 6 comments?

One comment/trackback was left by David Warlick. I couldn’t believe it! David was one of the first people I found in the blogosphere, he’s one of those “big bloggers”. He’s reading my stuff? Not only that he left a comment and gave me the hightest complement you can give to a blogger….he linked to my blog.

I remember going back into the bedroom and waking my wife up.

“Honey….it’s time to get up.”

“5 more minutes”

“No honey you have to get up now and you’ll never beleive who left a comment on my blog.”

“You’re waking me up because someone left a comment on your blog?”

“No, I’m waking you up because it’s time to get up, and not just someone…..David Warlick!”

“Who’s David Warlick?”

That was the moment when I realized what this network really was. It’s not about blogging. It’s about understanding that leanring takes place through connections. Whether we are connecting people, information, knowledge, or thoughts. That the learning lies within the connections that we make. My blog is where I started in making those connections, connections that have lead me down a path of deeper learning than I ever knew possible.

The Thinking Stick is now 3. It contains some 598 posts and over 2200 comments and trackbacks. I’m not sure how it all happened. It’s a learning blur that just seems to be there. My blog is my connection creator, my reflection engine, and where my journey of learning has been over the past 3 years. Thanks you for reading, Thank you for being a part of my network.


Other stats if you are interested. Not that they mean anything, just kind of fun to look at.

Technorati Authority: 226
Technorati Ranking: 19,182

From Google Analytics
54% of traffic comes for Search Engines

From Clustrmaps
Running total of visits to the above URL since 12 Jun 2006: 73,720
Total since archive, i.e. 17 Jun 2008 – present: 15,145 (not necessarily all displayed – see below).
Visits on previous ‘day’: 174.

Photo Credit: Zenat_el3ain

I use to look over people’s blogs that had del.icio.us post linking to all the things they bookmarked that day. I use to think that this was a waste of my time, that those links are just links.

Then I actually started reading some.

Which lead to clicking on some.

Which now has me waiting for people like Dean and Tim to post their next round.

The great part is I know I don’t have to read them everyday. I wait until I have five or six days worth of links from Dean and Tim and then I go at it clicking and opening tabs.

Basically I’m using Dean and Tim to be my search engine of great educational and technology links. I let them do the leg work and I just sit back and reap the benefits of two guys who love to bookmark sites they find…thanks guys!

Of course I do it as well using Diigo. You can find my daily links (many of them the same…but not always) on my U Tech Tips blog. In fact, you could sign up for the newsletter there and each Friday find all my great links for the week in a newsletter in your e-mail box…or grab the RSS. It’s up to you!

So that leads me to my first gem of the day from Tim.

(null)

It’s called Simple CC flickr Search (Thanks Tim for the link). Basically it searches flickr for Creative Commons photos. But the cool part comes when you click on a photo. It gives you the embed code with the appropriate Creative Commons attribution. So the above photo looks like this with a simple copy and paste.


Photo by phitar
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

Now that’s pretty cool! It will even left or right align it for you and you can choose a small or large picture. You never have to worry about attributions again! (On flickr photos anyway 😉 )

The Second gem comes from a good friend, Alicia Lewis, who I worked with in Saudi Arabia and is now a consultant for Rubicon Atlas. My last three school’s all used Rubicon and now they have a podcast. Might be helpful if you are implementing curriculum mapping and Rubicon Atlas in your school.

And finally from Will’s blog comes this must watch TED video about the next 5000 days. Use it all by itself as a PD session. Think about this….invite teachers to a PD session. Watch the 20 minute video then excuse them. Say nothing, hint nothing, just let them walk way thinking to themselves what all this means for them, and for their students.