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A Response to Participatory Culture in a Networked Era

I recently picked up Jenkins, Ito and boyd’s Participatory Culture in a Networked Era again. I initially started during #DigiWriMo, but as is often the case, I got distracted. However, I picked it up again in part due to my work around online communities. It is a rather unique book, marrying conversational tone with a sense of rigour provided via the addition of references and the removal of any tedious repetition. As danah boyd explains in a post on her blog:

The book is written as a conversation and it was the product of a conversation. Except we removed all of the umms and uhhs and other annoying utterances and edited it in an attempt to make the conversation make sense for someone who is trying to understand the social and cultural contexts of participation through and by media.

This made it quite easy to follow along as a reader, but not necessarily easy to summarise. It would be easy to reduce the book to a few themes, such as equity, control, public good, youth and activism. However, this seems to miss so much.

Participatory Culture is best considered as a collection of thoughts that you could easily pick up in pieces or come back to again and again. So rather than an overview, a better approach is to simply share some of my entry points. To participate in my own way, I have collected some of the more poignant quotes and adapted the Visible Thinking protocol ‘See-Think-Wonder’ to add my own thoughts and wonders.

All young people have agency and voice, but not everyone has the opportunity to connect this agency and voice to a broader public stage and to sites of power. This is where I think participatory and network culture has the potential to address some of this inequity.- Mimi Ito

This response reminds me of Nick Jackson’s argument that it is not student voice which is at stake, rather our focus should be on providing the opportunities for student action. I am left wondering what chances students get to connect beyond the classroom and what opportunities are being left untapped?

Networks are more than simply clusters of individuals; they are enterprises formed around shared goals and values; they require us to learn to work together to help others achieve their ambitions, even as we extract value from the community towards our own ends.- danah boyd

So often the focus of developing networks is where communities are located and the possibilities offered by the technology. I wonder how we go about refocusing attention on the why, rather than the what? The goals and values, rather the specific outcomes and achievements?

The more diverse the contributions, the richer the solutions the community will develop around common problems and concerns.- Henry Jenkins

David Weinberger suggests that, “the smartest person in the room is the room.” While Cathy Davidson talks about collaboration by difference, with a focus on diversity. I wonder how we go about actively fostering such ‘smarter’ spaces which encapsulate differences in a meaningful manner in order to develop richer solutions?

Part of what we collectively struggle with is the need to unpack what people think about youth and technology versus what we are able to see through our research.- danah boyd

There is so much discussion about research at the moment and what this might mean for educators. I have lost count the amount of people I have shared danah boyd’s It’s Complicated with, sadly they often take note, but continue on responding to teens as usual. I wonder then how we open a space for critical dialogue about technology in general?

For some adults, the phrase “digital immigrant” functions as a kind of learned helplessness: “I shouldn’t be expected to learn how to use this new technology because I wasn’t born in the right generation.”- Henry Jenkins

I think that there are dangers to many of the labels that applied when grappling with technology. One of the things that I took away from Doug Belshaw’s book on Digital Literacies was the importance of defining as a community the various terms and concepts which we use. I wonder what other edu-phrases are in desperate need re-evaluation?

Many young people are actively looking to participate in public, but they don’t necessarily want to be public (Marwick and boyd 2014b). That subtle difference is important because it means that they spend a lot of time making content available, even while the meaning is rendered invisible.- danah boyd

This was one of those lingering take-aways that I took from boyd’s other book, It’s Complicated. It can be easy to misconstrue the desire to live life out in the public means that today’s youth do not care for privacy. I wonder if inviting adults into the digital classroom compromises this? Something pointed out to me by Eric Jensen.

How do kids get into deep verticals in communities that reinforce expertise and are challenge- and inquiry-driven? How do they develop technical literacy and skills in social networks, in status and reputation-building?- Mimi Ito

The idea of ‘deep verticals’ really caught my attention. This is often the challenge made to dynamic spaces, such as Twitter, that they are often shallow. I wonder if the focus needs to be the connections and if maybe going ‘deep’ occurs when such inquiry moves across platforms?

Our response at the school level has been to declare certain social media or participatory culture practices off limits, to ban use of Facebook or YouTube, rather than to provide trained adults who can offer guidance in how to use social media safely, creatively, constructively, and ethically.- Henry Jenkins

It feels like we spend so much time talking about the way in which youth use technology, yet when it comes to supporting them in a meaningful way the room goes silent. Alexandra Samuel touches on this in regards to parenting, but I think that it is just as pertinent for teachers. I wonder if, like Annie Hartnett, the answer is giving space, but also being there for support when needs be?

Too often, in today’s schools, a student’s writing ends up on the teacher’s desk and sits there waiting a grade. Rather, we should think about literacy as involving the capacity to engage with networked publics, to share what you write, and to receive feedback from some kind of larger community.- Henry Jenkins

This comes back to the Jackson’s point about action, as well as Belshaw’s essential elements, in particular the constructive use of tools. I wonder with all the focus on feedback why there is not more focus on authentic audiences and spaces?

So we always have to ask who gains and who loses? What’s at stake? What are the risks? What are the benefits?- Henry Jenkins

Jenkins touches on an important point, that everything has its positives and negatives. Marshall McLuhan’s tetrad provides a useful tool for representing these varying points of view. I wonder what is overlooked by continually focusing on supposed gains and overlooking inherent biases?

Just as we don’t want corporate agents making decisions for us about what constitutes valuable participation, we should be cautious about imposing our own outside perspectives on what makes these sites meaningful to their young participants.- Henry Jenkins

I recently got into a conversation with a colleague about the use of spaces, such as Twitter. He wisely questioned whether we, “should really care how online spaces exist? Pluralist view would be that they can exist in any shape or form and that people should be able to gravitate to the place for what ever the purpose may be.” I wonder if the push to conform to someone else’s rules and expectations is any different for adult participants?

We really need everyday folk to step up and take on responsibilities in public life, whether it is by blogging, organizing, or funding.- Mimi Ito

I feel that one of the developmental steps when it comes to blogging is the act of supporting others with their journey. This maybe adding a comment or sharing a post on. Clive Thompson argues that the hardest thing is often the cognitive shift of opening up your writing to just ten readers. A million is easy. I wonder how many people, young and old, are held back by fear of this unknown?

People participate through and within communities: participatory culture requires us to move beyond a focus on individualized personal expression; it is about an ethos of “doing it together” in addition to “doing it yourself.” Many of the cases we often use to illustrate the concept fall short of these ideals.- boyd, Jenkins and Ito

This balance between doing it together and for yourself reminds me of the notion of #ittakesavillage. I wonder what is needed in order to work towards such an ideal?

The technologies do not themselves make culture participatory. People do. And they do so by imagining – and working to achieve – new ways of connecting, coordinating, collaborating, and creating.- boyd, Jenkins and Ito

So often when we talk about participation, we are consumed by the technologies. However, platforms will come and go, it is the people that will remain. As Ben Werdmuller explains, “The supposition that Facebook is its software is completely wrong. Facebook is its network. You could build a new open source platform today that had every single feature on Facebook — although it would be quite an undertaking — but you still wouldn’t have the same effect. The thing that makes Facebook special is that everyone is already on it.” I wonder how we can empower people to utilise their collective power to take back control of the spaces that they exist in.

So there are my thoughts, what about you? How are you engaged in participatory culture? As always, comments welcome.


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Alan Levine recently put out the request for different perspectives around the idea of a Creative Commons Certification. The idea was to simply create a quick video or recording. Sadly, spontaneity is not always my strength, so here is my belated response …

What role does Creative Commons play in the things you do? Personally, Creative Commons has a lot to do with meaning making. It represents the foundation on which an open culture is built upon. As an educator this is as much about modelling the sharing mindset as anything else. Sadly, it is often seen as a point of compliance, with little value to be gained. Spaces like Google make everything so easily and accessible, the problem is algorithms will reach a point (if they already haven’t) where they will be able to pick up such indiscretions. On top of that there is something in the act of attribution. Not only does it recognise the source, but in its own way encourages the further sharing of others.

What would it mean to you to have a Creative Commons certification? I am not sure what it would mean? Maybe the feeling of community, that is what seems to be produced by many other certification processes. It may help to develop some clarity around such topics as copyright and Creative Commons, as well as build capacity around what it means for everyday practice.

What might it look like to earn a certification? As much as I read about the power of multiple choice quizzes, I prefer the act of creating and reflecting. The problem with this is that it depends on someone assessing. I really like Doug Belshaw’s Trello badges where he provides a series of steps to be followed and evidence to provide. I am not exactly sure what this would look like for Creative Commons. Maybe it could be a portfolio? Maybe something annotated. Maybe it could have multiple levels. Really not sure.

Here is my video made with Adobe Spark:

You can find more contributions here. So what about you, what would being CC Certified mean for you?

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An open plea for people to share

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As I ponder and reflect on another DigiCon Conference, I was astounded by the lack of sharing. Very few people seemed to publish their resources for their sessions. I am not sure if people were sharing in spaces where I wasn’t looking or if they simply forgot to use the conference hashtag when sharing, therefore getting lost in the ever flowing stream that is Twitter.

I really would like to go to ten sessions during each block, but there is only one of me. However, a part of me would like to catch a glimpse of what was on offer.

Personally, I put in hours preparing for my sessions. If someone from ‘across the pond’ can benefit from what I make so be it, maybe I might benefit from their feedback in return?

In regards to sharing openly, Doug Belshaw recommend s creating a canonical URL. The intent is to provide a starting point for people to engage with and build upon your work and ideas. This could be one space in which to share everything or you could have a separate link for each project. What matters is that it is public.

When it comes to creating such a space, here are some ideas and possibilities:

  • Padlet: A digital pinboard that can be useful for capturing a range of media files.
  • Google Apps: Maybe it is Docs or Slides, but the cloud based nature of Google Apps means that it is easy to share out.
  • OneNote: Like a Google Apps, OneNote allows you to collect a range of content in the cloud and share it out.
  • Adobe Spark Page: An easy way of quickly making a website in which to share links, images and text.
  • Slideshare: A space to upload and share presentations, whether it be a PowerPoint, PDF or Google Slides.
  • Storify: An application which allows you to easily curate a wide range of content.
  • Blog: Whether it be in the form of a post or adding content to a static page, blogs offer an easy means to collate content in one space.
  • GitHub: Although this involves a bit more effort, GitHub provides the means of creating a static site or a repository.
  • A space to share Microsoft Files and resources.

Maybe in the end the answer for canonical URL is something more communal, a collection that you can re-purpose. Maybe it is about using collaborative tools like Docs and collaborating with others across the whole conference? Maybe, like with #GAFESummit, it is about having a central space where all the resources can be found? Whatever the solution, surely there needs to be a better way of sharing than clambering to copy down link after link throughout a session. Oh, and don’t start me on URL shorteners.

So what about you, what are your thoughts? Maybe I am wrong? Maybe you have another space which people could use? As always, comments welcome.

For those interested, here is a collection of links that I have curated from the conference. Feel free to copy, add, re-purpose as you like.

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I have used the phrase ‘#ittakesavillage’ for a quite while. I’m not sure when I started, maybe it was at the ICTEV conference a few years back? Maybe it was my exploration of Reggio Emila. Whatever the beginnings, I’m not sure that it matters. The real question is what it actually means? In response to one of my tweets where I included the phrase, Steve Wheeler unpacked some of the origins of the term. Touching on the work of Marshall McLuhan and notion of the global village, he spoke about what it means to be a part of the community. In some ways this post captures what is significant, but as Roland Barthes says in Mythologies, once myth is translated into symbolic use, origins no longer really matter. This had me thinking that I could add my own twist on the tale. However, even this overlooks something. For meaning is better understood as a communal act. Therefore, to properly define it, I put it out to the village to get a better understanding of what it meant collectively. I was astounded by the wealth of responses. I have subsequently taken these ideas and elaborated on them in order to once again personally make sense of the intricacies of what it might mean to be in the village.


Andrea Stringer spoke about confidence and the importance of standing up. This attitude shows itself in so many ways. For some it is a willingness to exist in the unknown, to be open about process, rather than always stuck on the product, and to reflect on what has been learnt. The problems that often exists is a confusion between confidence and arrogance. For example, for some when an early career teacher puts their hand up to present at a conference or share their learning online, it is arrogant, when in fact it takes confidence.


Coming from a similar perspective, Anne Del Conte spoke about the courage that is needed to exist in new spaces and networks. One of the things that is guaranteed in the chaos of an online environment is that you will make mistakes. There are so many new habits and nuances to get our heads around that it takes courage to step out and work through them, to learn openly and make mistakes. The reality is though that education and the world do not stop evolving, so to think that we do not need to change and adapt misses something. Therefore, we need courage.


Jacques du Toit spoke about the power of having a PLN. Maybe this is personal? Maybe it is professional? Maybe it is both. What is important is that in today’s day and age you are not alone. It must be remembered that a PLN is not merely a collection of business cards or follows online, it is not simply the staff you may work with, rather it is the organic network that you participate within, something that you grow, that means choosing where you choose to plant your seeds and how you cultivate this. Networks can be done offline and on, but it always involves purposefully engaging and participating.


In the form of a poem, Margaret Simkin captured the importance of sharing across the pond. This takes many shapes and forms. Maybe it is a resource. A perspective. It could simply be time. What matters most is that such giving is done without expectation of reciprocation. That is the strength and power of things like Creative Commons. Such communities are built around people who share openly as a mindset, a way of being. That is, giving back for a greater good.


From across the globe, Maha Bali spoke about the importance of being spontaneous. This might mean sharing personal thoughts or creations, but it also includes the way we go about things. David Culberhouse talks about spending regular time at the well, while Pagan Kennedy describes the need for a new area of serendipitous study, which carries across subject and learning areas. For some having a network is all about branding, the problem with this is that it is limited. We need to tactically allow time and space for new ideas, for it takes serendipity.


Adding his voice to the mix, Matt Esterman spoke about the importance of connections. It can be so easy to get caught up in discussions about networks. However, there would be no networks without connections. In his seminal post on Connectivism, George Siemens explains that,

“The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.”

With this in mind, connections then become about holding onto ideas loosely. I think that Steve Brophy sums this up best when he says, “be the connection that gives others a voice.”


Kevin Hodgson talks about appreciating those around us. Just as we need to listen and share, sometimes all that is required is to recognise those voices and contributions around us. Maybe it is sharing someone’s post or a shout-out using something like #ff (Follow Friday). Maybe it is buying someone a coffee (IRL or via a button on a website). Maybe it is just sending an email or leaving a comment on a post. There are many ways to show people that you care and that you appreciate what they do.


Bob Schuetz referenced Reed’s Law which talks about the exponential possibilities of network learning. However, this cannot be achieved without contributors. Lurking has its place, but the problem  is that without participation, networks would not exist. David Weinberger sums this up best when he explains that, “Even if the smartest person in the room is the room itself, the room does not magically make all who enter it smart.” Being in the room is about participating in the room.


Reflecting on his connected journey, Chris Munro touches on the importance of dialogue. It can be easy to sit back and consume content. Maybe have one of those Twitter accounts which follows hundreds of people, but never actually posts anything in return. However, more often than not growth and development occurs when their is wondering, reflection and responding. Sadly, we are often adverse to critical conversations, confusing them with being confrontational and negative. However, with this in mind, it is important to continually come back to empathy and active listening.


Jon Andrews reminds us that in a village it is important to question things. It can be easy to drink the koolaid. To RT everything in support. However, tribes are not always helpful. Sometimes what is needed is a degree of pessimisism and scepticism. This is about being constructive.


Eric Jensen spoke about the importance of the village idiot. That person seemingly labelled mentally incapable or somehow inconsequential. Although this is often seen as a negative, I would argue that removing expectations of labels can in fact be liberating. It is so important to have those people who take on the beginner’s mindset, asking the seemingly stupid and naive questions. More often than not these are questions that many others are wondering, but are just too afraid to ask, burdened by the expectation of knowledge. Like the court jester or a comedian on a Friday night, such a perspective often affords provides voice that otherwise goes unheard.


Steve Brophy touched on the importance of learning together. One of the unique conditions of the village is that they are often flat. Fine there are some people who take on the monicker of Thought Leader, but more often than not this is often applied by those outside or contradictory to participatory intent of the network. Instead it is about the co-creation of content. For this to happen, there needs to be Co-Learning. Such an environment means providing feedback, willingly sharing and being open to debate and discussion.


Ian Guest captures the heart of the digital village with a discussion of intertextuality. A term coined by Julia Kristieva, intertextuality refers to the interrelationship between texts. This comes in many forms, whether it be paying it forward, linking with hashtags, connecting through hyperlinks or transforming texts into our representations. It can be easy to forget, but at the end of the day, it takes a text to connect and grow.

So what about you? What does the village mean to you? As always, I would love to know. Feel free to share a comment, your own post, a tweet.

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Digicon16 Presentation - Blogging Seven Ways

Here is the blurb for my session at #Digicon16:

In this presentation, participants will be provided with the why, how and what associated with blogging. Whether it be the difference between platforms and what they allow. Ideas for what blogs can be used for. As well as the challenges associated with blogging, including restricting content and transferring content.

You can find further resources here.

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One of the challenges with a new learning platform like Compass is where it fits and how it compares with what went before. Here then is my comparison between Edmodo and Compass:

I think that there are many aspects that neither platforms deal with, including the ability to incorporate rubrics and the possibility to collaborate. Some other possibilities are Alice Keeler’s Rubric Tab, as well we Google Classroom and Google Apps for further communication and collaboration.

There will always be limitations to applications such as Edmodo and Compass. The challenge sometimes is finding what works best for you.

This was originally posted at ebox

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Twitter is one of those unique platforms. There is so much said about it. Some dream of what it could be. Others swear by it as a means of professional development. Some rue the changes. Others talk about the public/private conundrum. Some are critical of the branding and death of the real comment. What is interesting is that with all of these attempts to make sense of the platform, how people use it is always somewhat particular to them.

Riffing on Ian Guest’s recent post unpacking how he uses Twitter, here are some of the ways I use the platform:

  • Hashtags: Clive Thompson once described tags as the soul of the internet, in regards to Twitter they are pretty important. I often use them to follow up different ideas and information, this is especially the case when participating in a cMOOC, such as #ccourses or #rhizo14. I also use hashtags to tune into different communities, such as #VicPLN, seeing what is being shared and if I can help with anything. In regards to my own posts, my thinking has been influenced by a post from Mark Barnes, I consciously restrict myself to two hashtags when I post.
  • Publishing: one of my main uses is to share ideas and information. This is often done outside of Twitter itself. If it is my blog, the Jetpack plugin allows me to share posts when published, while I often share directly from news aggregation applications, such as Feedly and Pocket. For this, I usually try and capture a key quote, rather than just tweet out the title. This is about my own sense of meaning making, as well as a way of commenting to the author what I find interesting. For other spaces, like Flickr, I use an IFTTT recipe to publish to Twitter.
  • Engaging: When pondering something or seeking different perspectives, I will often put it out there on Twitter to see what I get. This is something that Clive Thompson talks about in his book Smarter Than You Think. I must admit, I have found that open questions or calls for help themselves often receive little attention even with thousands of followers, therefore if I really want a response I will tag particular people. Sometimes this can produce momentum where others will then add further thoughts. In addition to this, I regularly engage in different conversations online. Along with sharing ideas, I see this as a part of giving back.
  • Chats: I must admit, I have never truly fallen in love with chats as others have. In part, I have always been a little sceptical about what ideas can be gained, but to be fair my bigger concern is time. My life as it presently stands does not always afford me 30-60 minutes to tune into a chat. Subsequently, I often break the unwritter rules and just drop in and out based on what else is happening. Sometimes I will come back to the Storify’d archive, but not as often as I would like. What I do like about chats is the stronger connections with other educators that such spaces allow.
  • Consuming: I have been through different iterations when it comes to reading tweets. I remember when I started I would scroll through every tweet each day. I actually managed this for quite a while, until I started following far too many users and felt that I needed to dig deeper. I then resorted to creating a list, which contained all those people that I felt I didn’t want to miss out on. Now though I rarely use Tweetdeck and find lists too cumbersome when using the Twitter application, I therefore just take a dip in the river every so often when I have a spare moment or two. To support this serendipity, I use IFTTT to save tweets directly to Pocket. While I also sometimes check out the highlights, as well as the links that people occasionally tag me in. Early on, Twitter was my source of ideas. However, I rely heavily now on the 100+ blogs in Feedly, as well as other sources, such as newsletters and Nuzzel to curate my content.

I have written before about Twitter, capturing the different possibilities, but a focus on supposed affordances overlooks the nuances of personal use and development over time. Although I have used Twitter for quite a while, how I use it has changed and morphed. Sometimes it is about where it fits within my life, sometimes it is about purpose and intent, other times it is simply about trying new things.

Take for example sharing visual quotes. I used to use Quizio (an application I actually discovered via Twitter). I share less images now, but probably spend more time creating them. A part of this is about developing a unique style and signature.

So what about you? How do you use Twitter and how has it developed over time? As always, comments welcome, but even better, write your own post and share it here.

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Will Richardson recently reflected on his journey in regards to blogging. He spoke about the changes that have occurred over time and how these have impacted his writing. In another post, he discussed how his authorial voice has morphed from being a ‘tools guy’ to a focus on system change. What is interesting are the actual changes to his writing. Whereas in the halcyon days of blogging he would publish 50 odd posts a month, there came a time when things changed and he wrote less.  A part of this was the change in audience and environment. More recently, he has returned to daily writing as a habit to clarify his own thinking. The lesson that stands out through all of this is that there is no single way to blog.

It can be easy to view a blog as being a set of hierarchical processes. A product organised around a series of clearly defined steps, whether it be creating a space, writing a post, organising around categories and inserting content. This is how blogging is often often spoken about, something simply to be learnt, rather than why and for what purpose.

Another similar such approach is a focus on search engine optimization (SEO). This often leads to worrying about a desired structure of the content, as opposed to the content itself.

A more useful way of appreciating a blog is as a continual act of change and development. This is not a focus on improvements towards some impossible ideal, but rather something that is continually morphing and evolving. Adapting to both the content and intent. On the one hand, the platforms and practises change. Something that Martin Weller has touched upon. However, this development is also personal and more nuanced.

When I think about this blog, there have been many iterations over time. Initially, I started out with the intent to record some of my thoughts and reflections. As I became more connected online, I started engaging in different communities through my blog, such as #Rhizo14 or #CCourses. In addition to this, I began exploring ways to involve different voices, whether it be highlighting comments in a post or curating perspectives, as well as experimenting with modes of expression, including narrativesreviews and an openness to process. On the flipside, my use of different platforms has changed overtime as I have made more sense of the various niches. After beginning with Blogger, I have since moved my main website to WordPress via Reclaim, as well as explored various other platforms.

I was recently asked by someone online how they could get their blog up and running again, beyond simply posting more often. My initial ideas were to tell a story about what you are learning right now, make something new, be the connection that gives other’s a voice or return to why. However, what matters most is where you are at right now. For example, look at the personal blog of Bec Spink. In the past she has included posts exploring classroom habits, uses of Evernote and work associated with her Masters study. Bec Spink does not necessarily post that often on personal blog anymore, but she regularly posts on the Code the Future site. Although she could dual post, sometimes development involves new spaces and new projects. As our focuses change, so to does what we write and post.

In the end, I agree with Bill Ferriter that blogging is about “reflection and making contributions and learning through thinking.” However, what this actually means in action is dependant on context. Although lists of ideas can be useful in providing inspiration, it is always best to start with your own situation and go from there.

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How does one celebrate a milestone, such as 300 posts, if not to celebrate the voices that matter most. Those people who have spent the time to stop by and add to the conversation. In the past, I have written posts compiling comments across a year or curated responses to the problem of practice shared out on Twitter, but what interests me is what it means to others to be a part of the village?

After putting put the call out there, these are the responses I got:

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It Takes Confidence

Hearing an early career teacher talk about her aspirations of becoming a principal reassured my optimism for the future of education…only then I heard experienced teachers say something along the lines of ‘can you believe the level of confidence?’ and ‘get through your first five or ten years first’. I have previously encouraged early career teachers to present, only to hear the concern of what others would think. I‘ve blogged about the Tall Poppy syndrome which is familiar to many Australians. On the flipside, I’ve known of early career teachers who believe that after their first year, they’ve ‘got this’. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

If we invest in our early career teachers through coaching, could we influence their confidence, while modelling humility? Arrogance in education has no place, but confidence on the other hand, is about trying to improve oneself, which is vital for all teachers and learners. It was inspiring to learn about the tall poppy campaign developed by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science. Young Tall Poppy Science Awards aim to recognise the achievements of Australia’s outstanding young scientific researchers and communicators. It is up to us to encourage, guide and inspire all our colleagues and I for one, would love to turn around the concept of the ‘Tall Poppy’ and make it a positive attribute of all teachers. Just imagine what more we could achieve, if we supported and promoted all our teachers, especially the early career teachers who enter this profession intrinsically motivated and enthusiastic.

Andrea Stringer

@stringer_andrea / Andrea Stringer

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It Takes a PLN

Being a connected educator is essential to all aspects of my teaching life. I cannot imagine being the teacher I am, without my PLN. The idea that ‘it takes a village’ is central in my beliefs of being a connected teacher. Growing and interacting with a PLN allows you to discover new ideas, be challenged and pushes you to grow. My PLN keeps on evolving, and I love the diversity of ideas, opinions and interactions. I strongly believe in the power of being a connected educator, sharing ideas and conversations.

I happened on your blog after connecting with you at GTA Sydney 2014, but it has been our interactions and communication that has allowed me to grow in admiration of what you do. I admire your efforts in writing, sharing and connecting.

Jacques du Toit

@jdtriver / The Teaching River

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It Takes Sharing

I found your blog through Twitter,
and it set my heart aflutter.
So many excellent shared ideas
developed over many years.
Your experiences openly shared with others:
teachers, fathers, kids and mothers,
contribute to our greater good
and spread beyond your neighbourhood.
Thank you so very much
for bothering to keep in touch.
Knowledge enriches all if we freely share
within the village and beyond,
and all the way across the “pond”.
When suffering from a sense of despair,
please remember, we, your followers, care.

I read a lot and usually find inspiration from tweets such as yours. Twitter is like my faculty!

Thank you  for taking the time and initiative to raise the concept of ‘it takes a village’ with me!

Margaret Simkin

@margaretsimkin / Digitalli

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It Takes Spontaneity

That might actually be my best advice to any blogger – don’t overthink it. If an idea crosses my mind I just write it. Sometimes straight to my blog, sometimes to another venue that will get more widely read…but I really value the number of people who blog spontaneously because it makes the blogosphere a more conversational space among whole (read: vulnerable) people.

Maha Bali

@bali_maha / Reflecting Allowed

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It Takes Connections

It takes a village to raise a teacher. Everyone has something to share and everyone has something to learn. We aren’t alone and in a digitally connected age we never should be.

Matt Esterman

@mesterman / My Mind’s Museum

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It Takes Dialogue

I think that this phrase speaks to the complexity of teaching. None of us have all of the answers to the myriad of professional dilemmas that we grapple with, on a number of levels, every day. By connecting online, I’d like to think that we are each sharing our thinking and ideas and drawing on those of others for the benefit of our students. The complexity of teaching stems from the fact that every one of our students are unique, as are the interactions in every one of our classrooms. What works for me might not work for you but what works for me might just nudge your thinking towards something else that works in your context. Reciprocally, by distilling my thoughts into 140 characters, or being discerning about links and resources I share, and sending them out to the world, I invite feedback and dialogue. This shapes and influences the next stage of my own thinking and understanding. We are not going to put the [education] world to rights but we are doing our own small bit for the greater good.

I often ponder how the many years of relative isolation in my early career (I started teaching in 1992) might have been different. How my learning might have been accelerated by exposure to voices beyond the walls of my school and local area. What I do know is that, until my engagement with Twitter (and subsequent graduation to blogging), the breadth of my professional conversations was quite limited. I had my own department within my school supplemented by occasional face to face contact with a wider network of people (most often working in the same subject area as me). These external voices were part of local associations, national bodies and the very occasional conference. All too often though, these fora were about sharing resources and socialising (no problem with that) rather than discussing their application in context. It was not until I had the privilege of working in Initial Teacher Education that I came into more regular contact with a wider range of perspectives on education and some global voices. But even then, dialogue was still limited by hierarchies, opportunities and physical constraints on time and space.

I remember my anxiety at putting out my first tweets. I was cautioned by some peers against sharing too much. Someone might steal your ideas and materials! Thankfully I didn’t see it that way. I reached out to connect and learn.

Now I can’t imagine not being a connected educator. I’m very grateful to be part of the global education village.

And a final footnote: I’m now living and working on the opposite side of the world from where my career began but more connected than ever!

Chris Munro

@CmunroOz / Reflections on Teacher Professional Growth


It Takes Appreciation

Kevin Hodgson

@dogtrax / Kevin’s Meandering Mind

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It Takes Courage

I jumped in feet first and put both feet in ‘it’ by committing several gaffes in the misty fog of Twitter protocol. It didn’t help that I had never used any form of social media before and was totally out of my depth! I was yelled at with capital letters, threatened to be blocked, probably muted and politely ignored. Someone even made a crack about grandmothers being allowed to use mobile phones – I know, right? So ageist! If only I had known how to search for things like the following tips from @carolinemlittle … Maybe I showed my human side, my fallibility, a little too much? (Originally published as I’d Like to Take This Opportunity)

Anne Del Conte

@annadelconte / Anne’s Angle

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It Takes Contributors

Connected learners have an intuitive sense of the value of their social networks. Easily described, but can the value of a learning network be quantified? Reed’s Law states the utility of a network can scale exponentially with the number of participants. The formulaic interpretation is 2n-n-1. Of course, for this principle to be maximized every participant needs to be a contributor to the network. In other words, all villagers must share.

Robert Schuetz

@robert_schuetz / Nocking the Arrow

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

It Takes an Idiot

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the internet lately. I’ve been thinking about what was promised when I first started tinkering with html and Mosaic browser (I never actually learned much html. Just enough to be a little dangerous). What I’ve been thinking about is how the internet promised the democratisation of information. It promised to be a place where everyone had a voice. What it very quickly seemed to become to me was a marketplace. The voices were all touting their businesses and the information was all tainted by vested interest. Even when individual voices could be heard they were mediated by business and advertising and therefore they were only for those worth advertising to (teenagers, basically). MySpace passed me by, and I was late to Facebook, and it felt as though what was promised in 1995 was a long-forgotten “non-core promise” that circumstance had rendered untenable.

I don’t remember how I came across It was probably as a result of attending ICTEV13. Anyway, I came upon this post and I disagreed with it wildly. Aaron’s post challenged me in ways that made me uncomfortable and forced me to give reasons why not everyone should be using their voice online. Basically, it forced me to add my voice to the village. And in doing so, I found the internet that I thought was going to exist in 1995.

Aaron is my village square. He’s the place I go when I need to connect with educators outside my own school. I stay at home (metaphorically) a great deal. When I venture out, the village square is still there. Aaron is still speaking and inviting other voices to add to the conversation and the learning is ubiquitous. I suspect I’m the village idiot, but a village needs all sorts of voices, so I’m happy to take on whatever role I can.

So, happy 300 Aaron. Many happy returns of the day.

Eric Jensen

@jentzly / Edulurker

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It Takes Co-Learning

It takes a village.  This proverb has unified you and I  in so many ways as learners.  From connecting online through to co-presenting face to face, we have both seen the immense value that co-learning can bring.  My best professional learning experience is still our co-presentation at DLTV.  We had been enriched beyond our wildest expectations before we had even presented.  The experience has continually resonated with me because we were both willing to contribute, to question, to listen, to speak up and I know we are both forever changed as a result.  How many professional learning experiences can boast that?  Not many I would imagine.  The village process sparked so many ideas and I want to give that experience to other members of the village.  I created CoLearn as a direct result of our village learning experience.  CoLearn is about being willing to contribute to the learning of other learners and to be willing to have others contribute to yours.  It is about co-learning together, providing a critical friend and hopefully sparking change and innovation in your classroom.  CoLearn is “it takes a village” personified and I think is way for real change to happen in schools.  I want to thank you Aaron for being a part of my village.

Steve Brophy

@SteveBrophy3 / Transformative Learning

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It Takes a Text

I’m currently working on an assignment for the Discourse and Linguistics module I recently completed. With that at the forefront of my mind, it’s hardly surprising that it colours this post. Without his permission, I wouldn’t dream of undertaking an analysis of Aaron’s blog, however there’s a feature on which he draws heavily, and which also speaks to the theme he provided – intertextuality (Kristeva, 1986).

Most of what we say or write we’ve heard or written before. Our social encounters and experiences, personal and professional, have shaped our thoughts. In turn this contributes to the knowledge from which we draw and the meanings we construct. When we make an observation or express an opinion, we do so using the words we have heard (or read) and the images we have previously seen. Sometimes we do this explicitly, making the source of those words clear by using quotation marks, or using other indicators. Often we are less aware of a specific source, but know that what we are saying belongs to a particular discourse, for example classroom practice or technology integration. This link between the text we’re producing and those which preceded it is called intertextuality. It also pays forward into those texts which succeed it and together this chain, or network of texts constitutes horizontal intertextuality. Vertical intertextuality links our text with the others written, not referenced or drawn from, but which work within the same discourse. Those texts may be in the same medium (blogs), the same mode (‘written’ text), or indeed be different media or modes.

Aaron assiduously references other posts he has written, helpfully drawing together themes across his work, indicating ways in which we might make meaning for ourselves. This is termed an intertextual collection, and because the overarching theme is centred on education (or perhaps more evocatively, learning), it could also be said to constitute disciplinary intertextuality. It is important to remember that when producing our own text, we not only reproduce the texts of others, but transform them. If I was teaching the origins of the Universe for Y9 students for example, I would need to turn the texts I have accessed over the years into one accessible to a 14 year old. Perhaps Aaron does similar work to this in ensuring his writings are accessible to a broad readership, but also to challenge our reading and understanding; pushing us to think afresh to produce our own texts. A presentation seen and heard at a conference would be transformed both by being summarised, and turned into a different mode of representation.

It would be remiss to comment on READWRITERESPOND without remarking on the obvious additional affordance that being on the Web provides and which extends intertextuality. Hypertext. Few educational bloggers I read are as intertextually prolific through hyperlinks as Aaron. Some hyperlinks are explicit and reference other texts dually, both through a quotation or title, and through the hyperlink markers of different coloured text and mouse-over supplementary information. Other links are implicit, using the markers alone, but hinting at where the hyperlink might lead through the words themselves. Hypertextuality extends the meaning potential of the post immeasurably. Although as readers we have some agency in how we read and make meaning from a text, we are nevertheless guided by the order the author has provided. With hypertext however, we have far more choice in how we construct our knowledge, by following links to other texts, and if we feel so inclined, beyond those too. Our learning chains or ‘traversals’ (Lemke, 2002) are as different and individual as we are.

By now, any discourse analysts having got this far will be screaming “What about the blog post header image prompts?!” They are indeed significant in so many ways, but then I’d be into the realms of multimodality, hypermodality and the deep analysis I said at the outset it would be inappropriate to conduct. I will round off though by returning to the start, and back to Aaron’s prompt “It takes a village.” I’m still not sure I fully understand the implications, but my interpretation is that by working together cooperatively, we can achieve far more than individually. Intertextuality plays a central part in the social, cultural and historical processes which enable ‘villages’ to do what they do. (Orignially published It Takes a Village)

Ian Guest

@IaninSheffield / In the PICTure & Marginal Notes

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It Takes Scepticism

Often those with the largest followings generate the greatest impact & spread stuff virulently and unquestioningly. I’m not saying here that I ‘know’ what is or isn’t right. I equally see how it can transform usually inert educational behaviour in some into enmity as the scale and proliferation of uncritical consumption becomes apparent.

I wonder why this phenomena occurs. The need to belong, to affirm, to simply connect people and ideas? Online, does groupthink, as it takes on a personality and entity of its own, serve to exclude rather than include others and arrest participation from outside? Again online, does groupthink slowly immunise itself from what it perceives as irrelevance from others? Does groupthink calcify its own attitudes or philosophies rather than welcome and accept that there is something good about variety?

Jon Andrews

@obi_jon_ / Reflections of a Reluctant Writer

So what about you? What does being a part of a village mean to you? As always, I would love to know. Feel free to leave a comment or write your own post.

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