This is the feature image including a quote from Tim Klapdor

Andrea Stringer recently wrote a post about the people who inspire you. Rather than write a list of names, which is often the way with such movements as #FollowFriday, Stringer summarises the characteristics of those who inspired her and who she aspires to be:

  • Successful without sacrificing integrity
  • Place people before profit
  • Generous with their time
  • Build relationships & connections (established & new)
  • Listen to understand, not to respond.
  • It’s not always about what you can do for them.
  • Genuine & Authentic. How they act in public is who they are.

Stringer’s post and list had me thinking about two things. Firstly, how I myself stacked up against those characteristics? How successful have I been? At what? Am I still generous? As my family has grown this has become a challenge. Being less active on social media and more focused on comments and my commonplace book, I would like to think I listen to understand, but I am never quite sure.

The second wonder was what it means to be connected today? I have long been an advocate of being a connected educator, however I am not sure what happened? In recent times it feels like things have changed. Maybe it is me? Leaving the classroom to work in an administrative role three years has changed my position? Or maybe it is just connected education in general? Maybe the focus around online communities of practice has changed? Maybe the platforms have changed? Maybe people have changed? Maybe people move beyond paywalls and closed spaces? All in all, it just felt like an itch I could not scratch.

Dai Barnes’ sudden passing brought this all to the fore again. I did not know Dai in person, our connection was online, yet he felt like an integral part of my personalised learning network. In particular, he came into my world through the TIDE Podcast. I listened to each and every episode. I was always left thinking, reflecting and wondering. The perspective that Doug Belsaw and Dai brought together always felt novel and refreshing. I once reflected that each episode was like going to the pub for a quiet Sunday session only to be surprised:

I think that TIDE is akin to turning up to a shabby pub on a Sunday afternoon, thinking that you are just going to have a causal conversation about this and that, only to discover a session of drinking craft beer. The session seems to drag on into the night and somehow evolves into finishing things off with a glass of top-shelf single-malt whiskey.

The particular memory that will stay with me is of Dai recounting a job interview for a deputy head position in Episode 117. A part of the process involved modelling a lesson. For this he looked at creating a social credit system in school. In a conversation towards the end of the lesson, one student touched on the problem where a student may have built up so much credit at the end of year that they could do anything. Dai recounted how he continued this conversation, suggesting that you could even jump on the table. The next minute he found himself caught in the moment and subsequently “jumping on the table like Jesus.” Needless to say, he did not get that job.

Link to audio

What I liked about Dai was his seemingly carefree attitude and openness. He would say it as he saw it even if it ran counter to sentiment. He was not wedded to any ideas and technology in particular. Thinking about various problems, I would often wonder what would Doug and Dai say?

If TIDE was a Sunday session that seemed to drag on without realising it. For me Dai’s sudden passing was like having a moment where one of the party vomits and you just don’t feel like drinking anymore. I will miss Dai dulcet tones and his unique perspective. As Tim Klapdor suggested:

Dai made a dent in the universe, its shaped just like his bare foot.

This has reminded me that being a connected does matter, but that I have probably need to thank those people in my community that I have come to take for granted. If there is anything to come out of this it is to tell those around you why they matter.

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

There is so much written about the benefits of Twitter in regards to learning. This is often epitomised by Twitter Chats, regular catch-ups revolving around a hashtag and a series of questions. Some of the limitations to Twitter Chats is that it can be a challenge to keep a track of all the ideas being shared, as well as engage in deeper conversation.

A twist on the usual chat structure is the SlowChat. This usually involves a question posed with the intent to provoke conversation. Like the usual Twitter Chat, this is captured by a hashtag. Some examples include the #teacher5adaySlowChat or Paul Browning’s participation in the rotation curation #EduTweetoz using #whyiteach. These chats are usually built upon the back of preexisting communities and usually done with some intent.

An alternative to these hashtag chats are the incidental ones that occur each and every day. These organic ‘chats’ often start with two in conversation. Sometimes the beginning is a particular topic or question, other times they start with the sharing of a particular reading or resource. As the conversation continues, others often come on board, bringing different perspectives. Sometimes they are tagged into the conversation, while other times they simply join in. Not only does this provide a depth of discussion, but without the constraints of the hashtag allows the conversation go in whatever direction it needs to. Individual value is gained by each participant. For some it is possible answers gained, while others it is clarification.

An example of such a chat occurred recently when Andrea Stringer shared out a link to a report of pre-service teachers:

What followed were questions about quality, elaborations on the differences between a teacher, leader and coach, suggestion for alternatives, such as co-teaching, a focus on development and the sharing of various resources. What this demonstrated was the power and potential of a PLN and networked learning. As Andrea Stringer highlighted:

What is even more significant is that Deborah Netolicky has continued the conversation in her own way, writing two posts teasing out the notion of quality teachers and unpacking what they do.

Often when people talk about the benefits of Twitter, they focus on structured activities such as Twitter Chats or the limitations of 140 characters. However, we must not overlook the power and potential of serendipity that it allows. Simply spending time at the well, as David Culberhouse would put it, can produce unforeseen rewards.

So what about you? What learning have you been a part of online that was unintended, but had a significant impact? As always I would love to hear.

DISCLOSURE: I do not own shares in Twitter and do not believe that every teacher should join Twitter. I am however interested in the various nuances of the connected life and helping give voice to this. This is why I am interested in Ian Guest’s current doctoral work.

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

One of the biggest challenges in regards to digital literacies is who is telling your story? It can be argued that if we don’t take ownership of your own narrative, then someone will tell it for us. This is what is meant when people ask whether you have Googled yourself. Doug Belshaw talks about being mindful of the way in which tools shape the way we think and interact, I feel that we also need to be mindful of the way in which they tell also tell our stories for us.

One way in which we tell our story is by curating it. Heather Bailie suggests that in regards to digital literacies our focus has moved from the traditional idea of read, write and react, to a focus on being able to create, curate and contemplate. Often we talk about social bookmarking as a means for curating content and ideas. This could include sharing links to a digital magazine, like Flipboard, or adding to an online repository, such as Diigo. However, such collections have their limits. Although they may provide a means for communicating and commenting, they are often best considered as a resource you can mine at a later date. For a more extensive discussion of curation, see Sue Waters post.

A different means of telling your story is through blogging. As a medium, blogging offers so many different possibilities. Maybe you want to reflect upon things. Maybe you have media you want to share, more often than not you can simply embed it. Maybe you don’t like the structure and layout of the platform, then go find another one, there are enough. The reality is the possibilities with blogging are limitless and often only confined by your imagination. For example, a relatively new open sourced platform that I have started exploring is Known. I think that it offers something in-between twitter and long form blogging in my own space.

A medium which is a bit different to traditional blogging, but offering the same creative potential, is Storify. Designed to help make sense of what people post on social media. Not only does it provide the means to curate information from different platforms and places, but it also provides the means to fill in the story. Some of the different curations I have seen include:

Although you can search for content within Storify, the tendency is to use hashtags to collect ideas and information. You can then either share the Storify product or embed it within a blog.

For a short guide to curating a story with Storify, watch the following video:

So what about you, what are the ways that you are telling your story? I would love to know.


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