“You had to be there” is history

I was not at ISTE2014. And that is not really so important. Thanks to my twitter feed, however, I felt as if I was there on several counts. Serial tweeters @BethStill, @RafranzDavis, and @Angela_Watson kept me abreast of successful sessions and major insights, not only through their own tweets but through rapid-fire retweeting with the #ISTE2014 hashtag.

This generous retweeting introduced me to numerous other great contributors such as @chrislehmann, @carrierossTX, and @aimeegbartis.
In fact, it was Aimee Bartis who retweeted this link: http://gettingsmart.com/2014/06/ignite-sessions-new-faculty-meetings/ about using the Ignite session as a template for energized faculty meetings.
That post by John Hardison @gettingsmart was a further gold mine of ideas, presenters and enthusiasm – all coming out of ISTE.

I also have to salute Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) for tweeting on behalf of the all-important analog connections through face to face interactions and keeping the focus on our kids’ learning in the midst of so much tech hype.

I wasn’t at ISTE2014. Yet, thanks to my growing PLN, the idea that “you had to be there” is history. #ISTE2014 provided enough access to inspiring messages and powerful speakers so that even if ed tech is not my highest priority, I can feel well informed and included in the conversation.

Learning to Build Community; Sharing to Sustain it

I am in the middle of a terribly compelling read: The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist (2003).  Recommended to me by a good friend, I am finding much in its pages to wake up and shake up my thinking and feeling around not just money, but my fundamental beliefs related to scarcity and sufficiency.  At the same time, I’m thinking about my inner and outer resources: what are the things I hold dear and what do I have the greatest joy in sharing?

My last post talked about the value of being able to learn as more essential to progress than knowing stuff.  Getting beyond thinking that revolves around money and thinking about resources that I have and what I would call important, I recognize both my unbridled enthusiasm for learning and my deeper need for sustaining and sustainable community – not simply having community but creating, developing and nurturing community.  An in my pursuit of learning, I have often discovered communities of like-minded individuals through workshops and courses. However, the experience was often fleeting. Shortly following the conclusion of the event that brought us together, despite our promises to stay in touch, our individual and group connections sputter and eventually fade into the (often digital) background. My sense of community with that set of people may remain faintly in tact, yet it rarely becomes the go-to resource which sustains me and lasts over time.

Oddly enough, and I hesitate to admit it, I have found pieces of that aspired community experience specifically on twitter. I feel like I have gained a few twitter neighbors with whom I gladly connect and share. It helps me to have just a few such neighbors in that vast online world who are able to offer genuine interaction when I need it and whose wider contributions of links and thoughts, I can often use and incorporate into my practice. When I look at this development in the context of resource flow, I see that in order to create more of the community I so desire, I can dare to share a bit more.  The community can become stronger, better, fuller when I offer what resources I have, however humble.

With so much talk about making a difference in the world, it’s easy to scare ourselves away from acting on anything based on all the inadequacies we bring to the task matched up with the magnitude, complexity and variety of needs to be addressed. It is exactly at this intersection where learning builds the bridges we need to get beyond our hesitancy to act. Learning, experimenting, risking, discovering – these are the experiences which build and strengthen communities when they are shared and extended beyond the two halves of our constantly churning brains. This process also  fairly accurately describes my  increased involvement in online media, especially through this blog and twitter: a steadily unfolding learning experience, a flow.

On a more practical note: I have found that it also pays to repeat some thoughts which we’ve previously shared and to stay tuned to others because when we least expect it, that critical piece of learning we were missing may just show up at the right time. (Thanks for Rafranz Davis and Beth Stiller for recently sharing tips about how to use google forms which I was able to immediately apply!)  And if that doesn’t happen, all we have to do is ask. Right, neighbor?

My 10 best online discoveries of 2013

Once in a while, it’s worthwhile to look back before forging ahead. Here are 10 online discoveries that rocked, changed or otherwise shook up my lifelong learning curve:

1. Twitter -Joined in July, never looked back. Proved to be an extremely powerful and fascinating tool for expanding both my horizons and my reach. Still working with it on a fairly rudimentary level. Look forward to learning more, reaping more benefits.

2. Rafranz Davis – I stumbled onto an article of hers via twitter and my engagement with the aforementioned medium has never been the same.  Follow her and you will gain access to a huge number of diverse voices within education and at the same time feel encouraged to make your own mark at your own pace in your own very distinctive way. What I so admire and respect about Rafranz is her capacity to remain extremely real (and therefore vulnerable) in her interactions as she hosts an audience of thousands. (I know, it’s not about the numbers, but still…) Thanks, Rafranz! (I’m thinking fierce…)
3. Terry Heick and Teach Thought – again another twitter discovery of great significance; A welcome source of reason and insight. Already invited this group to join my first ever “What if” Summit: https://edifiedlistener.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/the-1st-annual-what-if-summit/ .
4. Elena Aguilar – Education’s “Coach of the Decade” in my book. Speaking of, buy and read her book, The Art of Coaching to really grasp the depth and weight of what she brings to the conversation on school transformation. She has also provided me with ample encouragement as I have ventured to find and express my voice online.
5. Tom Whitby consistently offers plenty of food for thought on a range of topics in education both through his own blog posts and countless valuable links through tweets. It was in response to a blog post of his about the wisdom of the “college for all” assumption in US education that I wrote my first comment way back in July.
6. Knoword – This is just a great vocabulary game that it has been fun to share and even more fun to play. If you enjoy literacy on any level, get this game: knoword.org
7. On similar note, a link to this literacy challenge offered by substantial surprise and amusement: http://games.usvsth3m.com/write/
8. My oldest son, James, is a producer and DJ of electronic music. Thanks to his input I have become acquainted with platforms for storing and sharing music, primarily mixcloud.com and soundcloud.com. It is by far one of the coolest things to plug into one of his mixes while preparing stuff for work and know that “Wow, that’s my boy!” Have a listen:

9. brainpickings.org – talk about intellectual nourishment! My best buddy Cathleen turned me onto this daily feast of literary, artistic and humanist nuggets. Looking for ongoing mental and emotional sustenance? Add Brainpickings to your twitter feed and be edified.

10. Evernote – I’m still growing into this app. It has enormous capabilities and features that may well change the way I work – once I get around to playing with it and really discovering what could happen if I truly chose to get organized. Hmm…..

So that’s my top 10 online discoveries for 2013: some great individual contributors, some tools, games, and above all, plenty of fuel for learning. Who knows what’s in the pipeline for 2014?
Happy New Year, by the way!

Lurking, listening and proud of it

This post is a shout out to a fellow educator whose thoughtful insights on what it means to be “connected” helped me put my own professional/personal online activities into context.  I first encountered an article by Rafranz Davis in the following way:

A twitter link posted by Tom Whitby on Oct. 2nd led me to a blog post celebrating CEM (Connected Educator Month)  by Stephanie Sandifer which lists a number of articles written by prominent and perhaps not so prominent connected educators (http://ed421.com/?p=3068).  That’s where I found Rafranz’s article on edSurge: “Connected, Lurking, and Listening” https://www.edsurge.com/n/2013-09-24-connected-lurking-and-listening

In this eloquent article she describes those educators who read, follow,  take in and experiement with what social media forums such as twitter and the many related chat groups offer but who do not yet actively contribute. These folks are termed: “lurkers.”  Her point is that educators who are not out there tweeting and blogging to beat the band can and do benefit from the myriad possibilities to seek out new perspectives, special expertise and the comfort of shared stories, even if they themselves are not yet joining the conversation or creating output.  And here the emphasis is on “yet.”  Rafranz offers readers insight into her own path to full connectedness and also illustrates how many of her colleagues discovered their own paths in learning to make use of their online learning for the benefit of students.

This post spoke to me so directly because it captures where I see myself: I am a social media lurker when it come to topics educational. My twitter feed has become a genuine fountain of ideas and worthy perspectives which I enjoy sharing per e-mail with colleagues and friends as the situation fits.  Occasionally I will retweet something out to my 4 (!) followers but that doesn’t have the same priority.  My own blog posts show up in my twitter feed but if anyone arrives there I think it is largely by accident.  And all of that is completely OK.  I didn’t enter the twitter stream to become a big fish.  I wanted to find out what all the positive fuss was about.  Now at least I have a good inkling and I look forward to making the most of my lurker/listener existence.  Am I a connected educator? Sure.  And I am happy to say for the time being I feel connected enough.

I also want to add that the notion of being connected enough is one I have been wrestling with based on some of the more prominent voices in the educational twitterverse.  In some cases I felt discouraged because I wasn’t tweeting up a storm and widening my online reach, although that aspect of online presence still does not interest me.  This is yet another reason that Rafranz’s voice arrived at just the right time to remind us all that there are many roads to learning and expanding our professional repertoire.  And good, deep listening is a piece of the communication puzzle that is so often left to chance and allowed to founder.  Lurker/listeners have a significant role to play in the educational commons were create daily.  I am proud to be among them.

Thank you, Rafranz, for the words of encouragement and boost of confidence.