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Thing One: Twitter

I’ve been using Twitter since October 2008. Seems like a long time now but at the time I felt like a late-adopter. Earlier in 2008 I’d completed SLAV’s original 23 things course and started this amazing personal/professional learning roller coaster that hasn’t shown signs of slowing yet. At that time Twitter wasn’t part of 23 Things. I know, hard to believe now! But it was definitely growing in use and was being written about regularly in the blogs I was reading voraciously at the time. I wrote about my reluctance to join in and the adventure I had when I finally jumped here and here. Safe to say I’ve been a convert ever since.
I love Twitter for lots of reasons: keeping in touch with colleagues and friends, learning about new resources, finding great stuff to read, sharing resources I’ve found, getting help, keeping up with the latest news, and having a laugh. I’m by no means a prolific twitterer, my 5700 tweets in 4 1/2 years is modest compared to many. I find I go in fits and starts of actually tweeting. That said, I check my twitter feed several times most days. I’m following about 1200 people and I have1600 followers. My Twitter ‘claim to fame’ is that @stephenfry follows me!
I use the Tweetdeck app on Chrome on my laptop although for some reason that doesn’t work on the school network so when I’m there I use the Hootsuite website.
Like Facebook, Twitter really becomes useful and fun on a mobile device, I haven’t found anything better than the native Twitter app on my phone but on my iPad I’ve just started using Twitterific after Osfoora stopped working properly for search and lists. I also use Flipboard, it’s great for #tag searches and the presentation is really nice.
I mostly follow # tags related to conferences and events – they are a great way of finding like-minded people to follow. I’ve only set up one list of my own, to follow emergency management agencies as part of my current job. I follow a few lists, a great way to keep up with a group, especially if you follow a lot of people. On that, whenever someone new follows me I check out their profile and make a decision whether or not to follow back. I almost always follow teachers and librarians or anyone with an interest in ICT. I’ll follow anyone from Melbourne and anyone I know in real life. I never follow back people who protect their updates – I’m not sure why they are on Twitter in the first place.
I have set up a Twitter account for my library. Initially it was just to use to set up a paper.li daily to embed on our website. It also tweets a link to anything we put on our Facebook page. If I was at school this year, developing the library’s social media presence would have been a focus. As it is that will have to wait till next year.
Right now I’m involved in applying to set up a Twitter account for the project I’m working on. That is far more involved than I would have thought necessary and just drives home the difference between this job and working in a school (not that that is necessarily a bad thing).
So that’s me and Twitter – to anyone out there who hasn’t had a go I say just do it, get into the conversation. Don’t think you have to read every tweet – someone likened it to the radio, it’s broadcasting 24/7 but you only listen when you choose and you only listen closely when it really interests you. You’ll learn to express yourself very concisely and you’ll find all kinds of things that you never even knew existed.

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Twitter rocks!

I know plenty of people have said it before, and plenty more will say it later…but Twitter rocks!  I have had two experiences recently that only confirm what a powerful tool Twitter really is.

The first happened last week.  I have been working on the new ning (I’ve written about the 2009 ning here and here) for next year’s year 12 cohort (we’re launching it to them during their early commencement program next week). 

As I had done with the original ning I applied via the Ning Help to have the ads removed as the ning is for purely educational purposes.  Last time it happened fairly quickly but I had been waiting several weeks with no movement of the ads. 

I have been struggling to use Twitter this term as our school internet provider has been quite erratic – even thought twitter is on the school “white list” I still get the red screen of death more often than not.  I think I’ve written here before that the iGoogle gadget BeTwittered still works even where Twitter is blocked but I don’t find it so useful or immediate as my usual Twitter client Twhirl.  Anyway, I happened to be making the effort to engage with Twitter last Friday and saw a tweet from Ning Advocacy so I replied:

ningtweet

A few minutes later I had this reply:ningreply

And not 10 minutes later the ads were gone!

The second great experience was today.  I have been helping out in a program for disengaged year 10 boys.  They are planning, constructing and planting a vegetable garden for the school.  The aim of the program is to keep these boys at school into year 11 and the VCAL program. 

My part has been to set up a blog where they can post their reflections on the project and put up their photos. 

blog

Today was the first opportunity we’d had to have them actually log on and write a post and all five of them wrote an introductory post about themself.  They also had a think about what should and shouldn’t be written on the blog and together we came up with some blogging guidelines (with help from Kim Cofino and ISB’s blogging guidelines).  They renamed the blog “The Mill Park Boys Outdoors” – I’d called it (boringly!) The Garden Project, I knew it would be changed!  When I got back to my desk I put out a couple of tweets asking for feedback.

garden

I was absolutely thrilled with the response and I can’t wait to catch up with the boys and get them to check it out for themselves.  I’m sure they will have new motivation to use the blog now that they know they have a real audience.

So thanks to all the lovely people who have responded (Roger, Shelley, Christian, Diane, Kate and Renai).  If you are interested in what our boys are up to visit The Mill Park Boys Outside and please, leave a comment!

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SLAV Perspectives on Learning V2

Wow, what a great day.  I’m just back from the SLAV conference and I’m feeling newly inspired to blog so I thought the least I should do is write something quickly about why today was so much fun, so inspiring, so invigorating!

1.  Connections

I always love SLAV conferences because I get to catch up with people I have worked with in the past or had other professional dealings with and today was no exception (hi again to Raggsy, Marg, Robyn, Judith, Reina, Anne, Rick and Geoff).  Today was even better because I got to meet, face to face, with some of my Twitter network – hello Tania, John, Jenny and Adrian.

Today I took along the netbook I’ve been given to use and was very excited to find a wifi connection available.  I’ve been checking Twitter in the past when others have been at conferences and have been interested to see their take on what’s happening.  Today I could be one of them.  What a hoot!

2.  Inspiration

Network Literacy:  The ability to create, grow and navigate personal learning networks in safe, ethical and effective ways

Will Richardson is an inspiring speaker. His keynote on Network Literacy was fascinating.  He maintains that publishing is the easy part, it’s what occurs afterwards that matters – the connections, the conversations.  That it is important to find a diverse network; that learning within a network is an ongoing process, not an event.

I love the notion of being “Googled well” – not how well you can conduct a search, but what a searcher finds if they Google your name.  What is worse: finding dodgy pictures of you or finding nothing?  Everyone, especially our young people, needs to understand how important it is that a google search of you locates a digital presence you can be proud of (and you’re not afraid of your nanna or a prospective employer seeing).

I love how he makes his ideas so exciting yet so do-able.  I love how it is firmly grounded in the learning, in the pedagogy, not the tools (although he’s got some great tips on using the tools).  His session on blogs and blogging this afternoon is what sent me here, the moment I got home.  He articulated what I realised I had been thinking – that you need to read blogs before writing one, that you need to write for yourself before blogging with students.  It gives me renewed confidence in the value of the Web 2.0 online course I’ve been developing for our teachers, and has confirmed my recommendation for participants to set up a blog for the purpose of learning and reflection.

Adrian Camm & Leonie Dyason’s session on creating a Virtual Learning Community was equally inspiring.  Adrian’s use of a ning to engage, not only his own physics students, but students from around the state is a terrific idea and it is fabulous how he has got the textbook writers to come on board.  He has helped me crystalise a couple of ideas that I have for the Professional Learning Leaders program I am involved in.  Our project is likely to be based around study skills for our VCE students, a ning might be the answer.

3.  Confirmation

I’m not sure if confirmation is the right word here, or whether it should be affirmation.

Anyway, I just want to touch on why the fact that today left me inspired is such a good feeling.  There seemed to be a number of people in the audience who are scared or can’t see how to find the time to learn new things…I’m so glad I’m not one of them.  I am very happy that most tools and sites mentioned I have heard of, if not actually used.  I am very happy to be inspired to continue exploring and sharing what I find.  I’m happy that the online connected world has allowed me to be better at my job, to find new ways of doing things, to be part of a network.  It feels great to understand that all this is not “more work”, it simply is my work (and quite a bit of my leisure too, but that’s another story).

Another confirmation/affirmation: today a former colleague (who I worked with when I was a first year out) asked me if I’d be interested in travelling to Gippsland to present to their SLAV group.  They want to learn more about Web 2.0 tools and some of the practical applications I’ve found.  Of course I said yes, now to figure out the logistics!

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Community=Connectedness

I was just trying to catch up on my Google reader which had snuck up to 200+ unread items even though I’d cleared it only on the weekend.  I came upon Jenny Luca’s post on the future of libraries, referencing John Connell’s post which clearly I haven’t worked back to yet.  As always an inciteful, thought-provoking aritcle of particular interest as I am a teacher-librarian too.  From Google reader I went to the comments (five); I don’t always do this but when I’m interested and when there is clearly some discussion going on I do.  A quick flick through the comments revealed 4 people I felt I knew…and then I stopped to think, I haven’t actually met any of these people.  I felt I knew them because of the community I have found myself in – blogs, Google Reader, Twitter – it’s a nice feeling, just needed to share that!

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What have I been doing?

I’ve really dropped off regularly writing for this blog but it hasn’t been deliberate, more the product of a busy life.

I’ve been keeping up (more or less) with Twitter. I go in fits and starts, having extended conversations with a few people over the course of an hour or so, then nothing for a few days. I check in at least a few times each day and am continuing to enjoy the banter – really love the connectedness, even when I’m just observing.

I’ve bought a couple of new toys – my very first iPod, a 16Gb nano and an FM transmitter/charger so I can use it in the car. I downloaded iTunes a couple of months ago, mostly for podcasts, and started loading my CD collection about a month ago. That was a bit erratic, I must say – many of my cd’s loaded without any dramas but more than a few (10-15 out of 120+) make iTunes completely freeze up and it won’t work again until I reboot the computer. Very frustrating, and even more so as no-one I’ve spoken to has ever had the same problem. At first I thought it was something to do with older cd’s but then one from only a couple of years ago did the same thing so who knows?

One of the joys of having the iPod and car kit has been listening to the audio files from the K12 online conference. They are mostly around 20 minutes long so are perfect for my drive to or from work. I know I’m missing out a bit by not having the visual component but I am getting a lot out of what I am hearing and lets face it, if I wasn’t listening while driving to work I wouldn’t get to hear/see them at all. I’m determined that next year I will make the effort to be listening/viewing during the conference period so I can get involved with the live events.

I’m thinking about buying a netbook for various reasons. I’ve used an ASUS eeepc briefly and thought it was pretty natty, but yesterday on twitter and today during the OZNZ Educators meeting the MSI Wind was highly recommended to me by Allison and Dean. I’ll do some further investigating, but it looks like this is a good choice. If the kids are going to have their DS’s I think I definitely need a netbook for our trip to Vietnam – wonder what the wireless availibility will be like?

I’ve been playing with lots of new toys and tools. I’ve installed Skype and had one conversation. I bought my own usb headphone/microphone and have now participated verbally (no camera yet) in the OZNZ Educators meeting. I’ve made a screencast for teachers at my school showing them how they can access our intranet from home and didn’t die of shame or embarrassment when I heard my recorded voice (thought it sounded ok actually). I used Microsoft Community Clips rather than Jing for a smaller file size and more common file type – the picture is not particularly clear but I think it does well enough to get the message across.

I’ve been keeping up with the many blogs I subscribe to through Google reader on my iGoogle page. It’s amazing how quickly the posts stack up. One moment I’m congratulating myself for getting the list to zero and the next thing there’s 20, 50, 100 new posts. I think it’s a big part of why I haven’t been posting myself, I’m too busy reading what all you clever other people have to say and figuring that you say it so much better than I would!

Mostly what I’ve been doing over the past few days (and particularly right now) is avoiding doing any preparation for the presentation I have to do next Friday on blogs and wikis. It’s for a curriculum day at my school so an audience of people I know which is nice…but doesn’t mean I shouldn’t prepare.

Before I finish I just have to play the proud mum and mention my gorgeous girls and the fabulous job they did as flowergirls yesterday. It was the first part of R & H’s wedding celebrations, which will continue in Vietnam in a month, and we’ll be there!

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Two weeks on Twitter

It’s exactly two weeks since I signed up for Twitter – it’s been quite a ride!  After 24 hours I was following 47 and being followed by 38, that’s now up to 179 following and 114 followers.  I’ve done a bit of searching/trawling to find interesting and relevant people to follow and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who follow in return.  There’s been some dodgy ones too, I’ve found myself followed by one or two women who are probably better placed in the late night tv ads!  Needless to say I didn’t follow them back.

It is an interesting notion, this one of following.  Unlike facebook where I felt quite uncomfortable asking people to be my friend (I described it as like being back in the primary school playground), following people feels different.  It’s more like you are expressing your respect for a person by following them, rather than asking for something from them by requesting their friendship.

I think I’m still a listener rather than a talker or a hub.  I’m really enjoying the flow of conversation and I’m getting much more of a sense of individual personalities that somehow don’t come across in blog posts.  Previously I read Dean Groom’s blog and thought he must be one very serious individual, someone to be admired from afar, who only had worthy things to say with no time for frivolity.  From Twitter I’ve discovered that he is a bit of a ****stirrer and very cheeky with it!  I’ve discovered that Sue Waters is human and has real life dramas with toilets and children (previously she was the perfect all-knowing blogger and general tech expert).

I’ve enjoyed participating when people have asked for tweets on local weather conditions or time or just to say hello in presentations they are doing.

So far I’ve only found one person I actually have a direct work relationship with on Twitter so I’m going to have to figure out if and who I want to target to join in.  In finding people to follow I’ve looked for teachers and teacher librarians and people whose bio suggests that their role is something similar to my new one of ICT coach.  Anyone from Australia is a definite pick – at least they are awake at roughly the same time as me; but it’s fun seeing tweets saying Good morning when I’m about to crash.

And of course Twitter was blocked at school.  I’ve had it unblocked but it doesn’t function properly, all the text is too big and the links don’t work.  Before it was unblocked I was helped by @etalbert who suggested using BeTwittered on my iGoogle page, worked a treat so a good tip if you can’t get Twitter unblocked.  Of course, that doesn’t help if someone wants to signup for Twitter as even unblocked, the Twitter site won’t work for this at my school.  Don’t know the answer there, other than people using their home internet to join – hardly the best way to promote a tool for education!

All in all it’s been very positive and I’m looking forward to getting more involved.

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What I did in the holidays

Well it’s back to work and reality tomorrow.  I was offered the positon of Leading Teacher College ICT Coach on the last day of term and told not to speak to anyone about it that afternoon as unsuccessful applicants for that and other positions may not have found out yet, and of course there is the provisional period to get through.  It has all felt a bit unreal – two weeks later and I haven’t actually spoken to anyone I work with about getting the job (did I imagine it??).  No, I’ve had the official email, it’s all real.  As I started with, back to reality tomorrow.

That being said, I have spent much of the holidays furthering my learning journey.  I have spent a lot of time working on the presentation I will be making at the SLAV People and Technology conference on Monday 13 October.  I’m happy with my preparation at this stage, the slides are almost all done and there is very little text on them!  I’ve written extensive notes which will form the basis of what I will say – now I need to pare them back into useful prompts.  I’ve created a wiki which I will invite the conference participants to view and join if they wish.  It will provide links to everything I speak about on the day so hopefully they won’t feel compelled to write notes as I speak!  I always hate that feeling when you are listening to someone speak, that you might miss noting something important!

The presentation is about the Learning with Web 2.0 program my library staff and I completed earlier this year.  Doing the preparation prompted me to revisit some of the Web 2.0 tools that I’d only touched on earlier and that was worthwhile doing.  Google Book search must have been having a blonde moment the first time I checked it out, second time around it looked much more useful.  I’ve started using Google Calendar integrated on my iGoogle page; I played around with a couple of gadgets to integrate Delicious into iGoogle but with only limited success but then I installed the latest Delicious toolbar which incorporates a sidebar which is much more useful than the old two buttons and effectively does what an iGoogle gadget would have done.  I tried again to get excited about second life, but couldn’t manage it. 

Along the way I got continually sidetracked by interesting things popping up in my Google reader.  It is fantastic, the paths you can be lead down and the fascinating thing you can read and view…but time can disappear alarmingly!  I subscribed to several more blogs (the count is now 40, up from 30 a month ago) and joined two Nings. Work Literacy  and OZ/NZ Educators.  Work Literacy  is running a 6 week professional development event which I am participating in:

Sponsored by Work Literacy and the eLearning Guild, from September 29 through November 7, 2008, this network will be THE place for you to learn about Web 2.0 and how social media tools can be used by learning professionals.
The goals of the event are to:

* Introduce you to new tools and methods for work and learning
* Discuss implications of these tools for learning professionals
*Prepare you to participate in DevLearn in new ways as an attendee or as a spectator.

Through the Work Literacy program I have joined LinkedIn which is like Facebook but for professional engagement and networking rather than social.  I haven’t decided how far I’ll go with LinkedIn, on the face of it it seems to be mostly populated with hard core business types rather than educators but as I am learning, it takes effort and persistance and the right approach to build a network.

I’ve continued to participate in the Edna group Blogging corner and their 08 challenge – it’s good to be prompted to explore or reflect and then blog about what you have done.

Probably the most significant thing (to me anyway) is that last night I bit the bullet and joined Twitter.  It was an amazing experience.  After I registered I went to Jane’s eLearning pick of the post on the Top 100 (e)Learning Professionals to follow on Twitter which I’d first read about on Lucacept and followed the process to follow those that I’d heard of elsewhere.  Many of the people’s whose blogs I subscribe to were there so I quickly found about 20 to follow.  What came next was the amazing part.  Within minutes Sue Tapp had direct messaged me as a fellow Melbourne TL and invited me to join the OZ/NZ Educators ning (see above).  Shortly after that Jenny Luca started following me and then Sue Waters tweeted to ask if I’d like her to put out a tweet to her network for people to follow/follow me.  Of course I said yes, please – Sue’s posts on the Edublogger and Mobile Technology in TAFE are a big part of the reason I decided to make the jump.  Then Tom Barrett put out a tweet to his network on my behalf.  Over the next few hours lots of people started following me so I’m following them in return – I’m now following 47 and being followed by 38…wow!  Hope I have something worthwhile to say.

I’m going to finish now because I really want to get this out before I am actually back at work…and the ironing is calling, goddamn domestica!, however I will have more to say on my Twittering soon.

Oh, and by the way, I didn’t spend my whole holidays looking at the computer…in between times I managed to see Wicked (one of Rob Guest’s last performances, very sad that he is no longer with us), go the the Melbourne Show, visit my very frail mother-in-law in hospital, have a lovely day on my own shopping in Richmond, go to the opening night of Mame at the State Theatre (and the after party, thank you to Adam and Esther), celebrate my youngest daughter’s 7th birthday with a party at home for 14 children, make a purple jewelled crown birthday cake for said party, have a couple of lovely bike rides with daughters (7 year old got new bike) and generally have a nice time with my family.  I love Melbourne in spring!

P.S. As I type this I’m listening in to the flash meeting of OZ/NZ educators…things move fast sometimes!!