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aaahhhhh……I sit here in the open air lounge of the Magellan Resort, a soft breeze is blowing off the ocean as I over look the pool below and out across the bay to three islands. It’s gonna be a wonderful sunset tonight. I’m telling you overseas conferences are really hard….I mean it. 🙂

I’m continuing to think about the Web and how we use it to connect. Maybe this is all for nothing…but I can’t stop thinking about it.

When it comes to building social networks or online communities I think it’s clear to understand what you are and who you are trying to build the site for and what you want them to do.

For example I helped to build the community site for the EARCOS Teacher’s Conference I am now at. I choose to use a wiki for a couple of reasons.

1. Not everyone here is tech savvy….the tool of least resistance.
2. The conference doesn’t need all of the features of say a Ning or full social network.
3. Less is more.

The wiki is meant to serve only one purpose really; to create an easy way for presenters to upload handouts, documents, and such to participants of their sessions. Before this year presenters would forward their handouts to EARCOS who dedicated a person to upload the documents to the conference website. The issue became of course that people would send multiple updates of their handouts creating work for someone else to manage those documents.

My work around….put presenters in control of their own handouts. Using a wiki was the easier way to do this. Create a page for each presenter, give them accounts that allow them to upload, and get out of the way.

So far the website is growing with over 120 members of 1100 conference goers joining the site before the conference even begins tomorrow. Not bad for something that is brand new to this conference.

Of course the wiki can do much more than just hold documents….it allows people to connect to each other…or is that connect to content?

In this case I believe the wiki serves the purpose to connect people to content. It is a network of users looking for, sharing, and using content created by others. Through this common content they will (hopefully) connect to people who have the same interests as them. Whether it be someone in the same session, or just someone they happen to meet within this community.

My hope: They came for the content and will find people to connect to.

That’s different than how some networks are created. Some networks are about the content and through that shared content you find people. Other social networks start with connecting people and through those connections you find content.

Of course there are no clear cut lines here and it’s all one big ball of grey.

It’s almost:

What came first the person or the content?

When you create a Personal Learning Network it’s about both. You follow content you are passionate about but also people you know or want to connect with.

When people start using Twitter they get stuck in not knowing who to follow…not what. Twitter is about people at its roots, not about the CNNs or the BKK News. You don’t follow “The President” you follow Barack Obama.

RSS Readers are different, they allow you to follow content. A Google News search for a current topic. A specific RSS feed for a sports team, or a blog with relevant information. Through these feeds we get to know people, what they are like, their voice online, and over time we consider them friends as if we know them.

When I started my RSS reader I followed David Warlick, Will Richardson, Clarence Fisher, Dean Shareski, Tim Lauer, and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach not because I knew who they were but because I liked their content and what they had to say….over time they have become friends, people I know and now, I follow them because of who they are.

When we are creating social networks I think it’s worth taking some time to reflect on what you hope to do with it. Classroom 2.0 is about connecting people. The content there is great, but it’s the connecting of people that makes that social network so powerful.

In the end I agree with Christopher….maybe I’m over thinking this and really what it’s about is learning to filter information, whether that is a person or content. The skill of understanding how data flows on the Internet and how you can make it work for you is a powerful tool.

Example: I created the Twitter hash tag #ETC09 for the conference I’m at. I then went into Tweetdeck and started a new search for #ETC09. Now I have the latest tweets just for this conference. I did the same for #gr8t as a way to mind the data of that network as well. Those are two of my columns in my tweetdeck…all the rest are based on people.

How do you connect: People first or Content first?

I leave tomorrow for the EARCOS Teachers Conference (Twitter hash and web tag #ETC09) where I’ll be giving four presentations.

My first one is on Networks and Communities and although my Twitter Network has pointed out to me this is not a new presentation for myself…I do feel like there is something different. I’ve pushing myself to think deeper about personal networks and online communities and I need to be clear about my message and what I believe before I step into the room…or at least clear enough so that those in the room can help me push my own thinking on the subject.

Ben Grundy via Twitter helped me when we started talking about RSS vs Twitter.

RSS is about finding content, Twitter is about finding people

Not sure about that statement but it’s one I put out on Twitter and as I write this post is still being bounced around. Like others I find myself using Twitter for many different purposes including finding content…but I followed people first…not the content.

In past presentations I have focused most of my time on using RSS Feeds for both learning and teaching and less time on Twitter. Has the time come for this to be reversed? Is the “Nearly Now” taking over the reader?

More to come as I continue to think….your thoughts welcome!

A comment left by Dan Christian yesterday on my post about the changing landscape of blogging. Has me back here thinking about my job as an educational technologist.

First I think we need to understand how I view my job and what I think the job of an educational technologist should include.

First and foremost we are educators. Our job is to educate. Our students range in age from 60+ to less than 5 years old. Our mission is to teach them how to use technology to learn, create, be more productive or make a task easier. The only way we can do that is to have a solid understanding of what is out there, that tools exist both as part of the computer’s operating system and on the web that allow us to do our job easier, to learn differently, or connect us to people, thoughts, ideas that we never had access to before.

What? My Technorati Authority rating is down to 188? Wait? How? It was at 198 just hours ago? To make matters worse it was at 251 in June.

What happened? Where did all the links go?

Don’t worry…I have a theory…here me out.

First of all please do not think that I am all hung up on my ranking within the edublog community. No, I just find the whole thing fascinating. So here’s my thought.

Just finished up a full day at UNIS-Hanoi and thinking about where the conversations focused today. I spent the day talking with groups of teachers; Math/Science, Languages, Humanities, etc. We talked about my opening session and then got into some ideas on what learning looks like in a 1:1 tablet program that they have launched this year…how does it change the learning landscape for students?

What does this mean?

When a News Agency uses Twitter to release breaking news.

And they are following some 1500 people.

What does this mean about gathering the news?

Have we once again collapsed the time of when an event is happening and when news break?

I keep thinking about how I could have used Twitter when we had an attack on our compound in Saudi.

The AP and BBC called some people on the compound 3 hours after the event. Would Twitter have changed that?

What implications if any does this have on society?

(Just thinking out loud)

I had an idea the other day to use Twitter to get news coming directly from the Sichuan Province. I had just learned about twitterlocal.net a website that will track the twitter users coming from a specific location.

So I went to twitterlocal and searched for Sichuan. I took a look at the feed and go figure everything was in Chinese. Not a problem…head over to Google Translate and paste in the twitterlocal URL for the feed coming out of Sichaun. What you get is this.

Now I can see the latest information from people on the ground where the earthquake actually happened. Don’t have to rely on the media or any other source…I go directly to the people on the ground. Getting the latest pictures uploaded to the web and latest news from the ground.

So, so, powerful!

We all know what happens when you get administrators that understand this Web 2.0 stuff. Shift happens!

Gourmet Geeks Image Andy Torris a good friend of mine, fellow Gourmet Geek, and oh yeah Deputy Superintendent at our school has the wheels a spinning on what Web 2.0 can mean for a school community.

We had a great conversation starter today. What Andy and I really need is a day or two to talk through how this stuff will/can work….and we both believe it can.

“I know there is power in Twitter!” he says has he starts talking about the Twitter account he set up for our school.
We have some ideas on how our community can use Twitter to stay up on what is happening within the school. The school can use it to point to recent or updated information.

Think of the following as Twitter updates:

Practice for softball has been canceled today do to rain.

Don’t forget to vote in the board election this week.

Latest posting from principals can be found here.

Fund raiser this week for Habitat for Humanity remember to support our clubs!

As Andy and I continued talking today we both started talking about marketing and communication and how these tools could be very powerful for a private school such as ours in Shanghai. We also talked about Facebook and having more of a presence there.

“I’ve already created an account.” he says with a smile on his face.

Our conversation goes even deeper about how we need/can engage students at this level. We also talk about the new site I launched today for our school. A Netvibes Universe page that has all our feeds in one place. You can go to www.saschinaonline.org and you will be redirected to our Universe (check out my Universe via the new link at the top of my blog).

This type of site I think has some great power for larger school districts. Could you imagine being in a school district of 20 or 30 schools and have one site like this for the community that brings the district together?

I’ve been reading a lot about marketing lately and I think that’s part of all this. We need to market our schools to our students, our parents, our communities. How do we do that? What tools can we use?

If you’re not already following Andy I would add him to your list of reads. He’s an administrator who can see the larger picture and together we’re gonna figure out how a school can embrace these tools and use them in a multitude of ways to communicate and market our school to the community of Shanghai and expats that might be moving here.

Twitter.comLast week while at the Second Life ISTE social hour someone brought up Twitter and “I don’t get it.”

So I took it upon myself to try and explain what makes Twitter so….should I say addicting.

I tried…and failed horribly, but it has had me thinking these past couple days, what is it about Twitter that makes it so interesting.

Twitter is kind of a mash up of blogging and instant messaging I’ve decided. It has the conversation feel of a blog conversation as people post links, talk about what they are working on in their schools, or personal lives, and allows for a asyncroness conversation to take place. It has the feel of IMing because you choose your friends, post in short 140 character bursts and the use of symbols such as @ and D are used to continue a conversation with one or more people.

I have found Twitter useful on many occasions when I’m looking for help or am stuck on a project. Earlier this year my Twitter network helped me through my troubles with Moodle. Yesterday I send a twit help for presentation topics for the k12online conference (presentations are do June 18th). My Twitter network kicked into action and within 20 minutes I had 4 great ideas of things I could present on. If I would have blogged about it I would have had to wait for people to check their RSS feeds and respond, if they had time, and offer suggestions. I could have IMed people but Twitter let me ask my 60 friends with one message. Those that wanted to respond did, those that couldn’t help go one their marry way.

Twitter is another conversation…different, interesting, and I think allows you to get to know people on a different level. I learn about son and daughter baseball games, who likes to BBQ, and who has playground duty this week. Of course I keep my twit friends up to day on Mariner scores. 🙂

I understand that Twitter is not for everyone. But I am finding it increasingly helpful. I don’t have a twitter badge on my blog because I feel as though it’s a separate conversation that doesn’t really add to my blog in any way.

Because of this asyncroness man- to-one conversation that Twitter allows there are some very interesting ways to use it. I am looking forward to using it in our upcoming Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai, and am thinking of a way that we might be able to use it as a technology department next year. We are 8 people across 6 schools on two campuses 2 hours apart. It might be interesting to see if something like Twitter would allow us to stay in contact, help each other out, and improve our communication.

With being able to use it on your cell phone I can picture some uses for it in the classroom as well. With kids able to answer questions via a text that appears on a teachers twitter account. You would have the name of the student, their answer and be able to give them personal feedback with a direct twit.

These networks that allows many-to-one communication are going to continue to grow in popularity I reckon, as we continue to want to stay connected and want different conversation vehicles. Anyway you slice it many-to-one communication can work in the classroom. After all isn’t that what a teacher does on a daily bases?

My Twitter account


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So people often ask me what is Twitter and why do you twit?

Well I think theartguy found it yesterday:

Time for bed. I’ll “see” you in the morning, fellow lurkers in this virtual teacher’s lounge!

Twitter.comWhen I read this twit, it hit me. This is what twitter has become for many…for us I think. A virtual teacher’s lounge were topics/conversations can change with the coming and going of people. You offer help, ask for help, give suggestions, links, or just talk about your boy’s baseball game last night, what you are planning for dinner, or what’s happening in your life.

It is along the lines of the same conversations you would hear in a teacher’s lounge. The only difference you’re always there and you share conversations with your “friends”.

I do have to admit I’m enjoying this virtual lounge better than the real lounge when I taught 4th grade back in the States. Of course being a male teacher I ate my lunch with my team who were all women, and let’s just say I learned more about being pregnant then I ever wanted to know during those 3 years. My education while teaching came in the teacher’s lounge for sure. 🙂

and it still does! Today I’ve learned the following:

MBAmom So eBay buys StumbleUpon – http://tinyurl.com/2b796v – I would’ve suspected Google instead of eBay – wonder what’s next?

dkuropatwa From anywhere in the world send snailmail anywhere in Canada, free! http://easypost.ca Just got self sent test mail today.

crafty184 Amazing new tool, browser-based cross platform screen cast recording site. Read my blog at http://tinyurl.com/27jsxa

Those are just three of the things I’ve learned today because of Twitter.

So what is Twitter? It’s a network of thoughts, some you might be interested in some not. Some make you laugh and others make you wonder why you keep twitting.

Twitter is also making it easier to be connected. They now have a netvibes module that allows you to twit from your netvibes page. Facebook also has a twitter app so you can port your twitter to facebook. Slowly but surely all these networks are being tied together.

The virtual Teacher’s Lounge…that’s a pretty good description!


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