Ten Step Program to Being Connected; or Getting Connected for Dummies


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

I recently presented a session at DigiCon15 about Becoming a More Connected Educator. To provide a voice for those listening, I created a Google Form asking a few questions of those in attendance, such as how they are connected, what are the biggest challenges and any questions they may have. There were a few that I addressed at the end of the session, including moving beyond sound bites and giving back. However, one question that alluded me was a ‘get connected’ for dummies. So here goes, my 10 step process to becoming connected or as requested, a getting connected for dummies:

Work Out Why

Too often people are told, sign up to Twitter and get connected. Not only does being connected not simply equal signing up to a platform, but it misses why we might do it in the first place. In part, my initial reason was wondering what impact sharing and being open might have for learning. Although being open is still at the heart of my reason why, I would argue that now it is less about wonder and more about action, that is, how might we use the possibilities enabled through networked learning to build ‘smart rooms’ that consciously make possible new ideas and beginnings.

Grow a PLN

There are too many posts out there that discuss personalised or professional learning networks as something that can magically be done. Follow these people and hey presto you are connected. As I have discussed before, PLN’s are better thought of organically, a rhizome, with no central root system and no central belief system. Instead, there is one connection leading to another. This being said, the strength of a PLN is often deemed by how we nurture and grow it. Andrew Marcinek and Lyn Hilt reflect upon our role in regards to the health of our PLN and the need to continually reinvent it. One of the challenges is where you choose to spend your time and further your connections. For many it seems to be Twitter, others it is Google+, for some it is in spaces like Edmodo, while there are those whose connections are fostered between blogs. At the end of the day, the choice is yours. Some possible starting points are to participate in a Twitter chat, join a community on Google+, join in a blogging challenge like #youredustory or go to a teachmeet or an edcamp.

Find Your Tribe

One of the keys to connecting online is finding your communit(ies). So many of my early connections were based on a sort of convenient hypocrisy. My room was made up of people I had grown up with, went to school with or worked with. Often such connections become about sharing stories about this or that, but not necessarily common interests and passions. What can be hard is that there is not necessarily a directory of tribes, rather it is something relational and discovered by listening and engaging online. It needs to be noted though, that sometimes finding your tribe might actually mean standing up, leading and connecting people around a cause.

Surround Yourself with People who Scare You

On the TER Podcast, Cameron Paterson spoke about finding someone who scares you to be a mentor. I suggest taking this a step further, I suggest surrounding yourself with people who scare you. Often we start out meeting people at conferences or following people who seem to have similar interests. The next step is actively seeking out new connections. This does not mean that you need to automatically openly engage with these people, but instead tuning in and critically evaluating the various ideas and arguments. David White describes this as elegant lurking, where the purpose is to assess credibility of those involved within the discourse.

Support Others and Give Back to the Community

Although it is fine to observe from a distance, at some point communities thrive on participation. As David Weinberger points out, “Even if the smartest person in the room is the room itself, the room does not magically make all who enter it smarter.” Too often people get caught up in the ‘original’ trap, feeling that they themselves have nothing new to say or add. However, being in the room can mean different things to different people. I think that Steve Brophy puts it best when he made the call to “be the connection that gives others a voice.” To me, giving back is about participating, being someone’s +1, paying it forward, attributing ideas where possible. Putting his spin on this, Seth Godin says in Tribes that the challenge is, “to help your tribe sing, whatever form that song takes.”

Create a Place For People to Find You

Online, it is important to own your identify before someone else does. Anne Mirtschin talks about creating a digital badge, incorporating three key ingredients: a consistent image, clear username and detailed profile. In addition to this, it can be useful to guide people to a splash page, such as About.me, which brings together all our different spaces online. Some alternatives to this include pointing to a personal blog or a Linkedin account. Although trust within online spaces can be a difficult, by at least being open about who we are and what we might stand for at least helps build trust and deeper connections.

Have More Meaningful Conversations

In a recent post, Dean Shareski lamented on the lack of depth to many of the conversations he finds online. He reminisced on the ‘raw and natural tone’ that was prevalent when he was drawn to blogging ten years ago. Although idle chatter may be the glue which unites us, Shareski suggests that our challenge is to use this social capital to ‘provoke deeper, more interesting ideas’. For some this has meant moving conversations to more private mediums as Voxer and Slack. While others have taken to creating podcasts and web shows as a space for deeper conversations. Although Peter Skillen maybe right in saying that no wisdom can come be found in one-line, however it can be the stimulus for further thought.

Curate the Chaos

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. For me, creation is the means that we use to collect information. Many find all their resources via various social media platforms, however, there are other means of engaging with ideas, such as Nuzzel, Flipboard, Zite, Paper.Li, Feedly and Tagboard. Such platforms offer their own means of aggregating information. The next step is making sense of it all. In regards to social bookmarking, there are many different possibilities, whether it be Evernote, Delicious, Scoop.it, Pinterest or Diigo. For a more extensive list curation tools, see Christopher Pappas’ post.

Make Stuff Worth Stealing

I think that Doug Belshaw puts it best when he says, “Remixing, re-appropriation and riffing off other people’s work just seems to be part of what we do as human beings.” A step beyond engaging online, whether it be providing your perspective or adding a comment, is making stuff worth stealing. Instead of worrying about how much money could be made or how people might use ideas, Austin Kleon suggests we need to, “do good work and share it with people.” In his book Open, David Price touches on four key values which he sees as being integral to the 21st century: sharing, being open, giving things away for free and trusting others. A great example of such communities of sharing, riffing and giving away are cMOOCs like the CLMOOC, Connected Courses and Rhizomatic Learning.

Be a Lead Learner

How can we really say that students and learning at the heart of the classroom if we ourselves are not learners ourselves? Jackie Gerstein argues that we should not only be leaders when it comes to learning, but actively modelling the process by continually articulating our understandings and experiences. Gerstein provides a model to support this iterative process, focusing on prototyping, testing, failing and tweaking. Blogs or vlogs can be a useful means for not only documenting this process, but also gaining precious feedback and perspectives to support growth and improvement.


I am sure that there is more to it than what I have touched on here and like Tom Whitby, I wonder why we still need to continue to talk about such topics as PLN’s. However, we are all at different points in our learning. So what about you, where are you at? Is there something that you would add to or elaborate? As always, comments are welcome. For it takes a village and that village includes you.

Getting Connected for Dummies (1)
flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license


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Becoming a More Connected Educator #digicon15

I recently presented at the inaugural #DigiCon conference on the topic of ‘becoming connected’. It is a topic I have touched on before. However, I elaborated on this a bit more. Here are a few resources associated with the presentation:

Becoming a More Connected Educator (DIGICON15) – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

While I Amy Burvell created some image that connect with the presentation based on her #3ofme series and available at her My-conography page:

Pln Burvell Become Burvell +1 Burvell

 

 


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Making with Google Drawings

Quickmakes Drawings

Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15 http://bit.ly/quickmakes

Often Google Drawings is overlooked as being a simple graphic program, offering not much more functionality than Microsoft Paint. You are able to add images, text, shapes, links and lines, while in regards to images, you can crop, re-colour and adjust the basic image settings. That means no touch-ups, no effects, no textures. However, what makes this more than Paint is the collaborative nature. The ability to easily share opens up many possibilities, whether it be working on a project, creating a brainstorm or just sharing a file to be remixed. In some respect the perceived limitations of Google Drawings are often its strengths.

For example, there are some out there who use Drawings to create eye catching visuals. Bypassing the many applications, instead using Google Drawings to create infographics. Tony Vincent has made a fantastic video documenting how he did this to create an infographic associated with Periscope.

To support this process, Alice Keeler uses templates so that all the different elements are already there off the page in the margins. In addition to templates, the simple ability to easily share and remix a make is sometimes enough. See Sylvia Duckworth’s wonderful presentation for different possibilities, including:

  • Creating flowcharts and mindmaps
  • Developing collaborative brainstorms
  • Making visual graphics

So what about you, how do you use Google Drawings? Would love to know.


Here are some resources to support:

Getting Creative with Google Drawings – Sylvia Duckworth

Google Drawings Graphic Organisers – Matt Miller

Creating a Drawingsing Template – By Alice Keeler

Making Mind Maps – By Alice Keeler


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Forming Data using Google

Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15 http://bit.ly/quickmakes

Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15 http://bit.ly/quickmakes

Although considered as a application which allows you to generate surveys, Google Forms is better thought of as a means for organising data, in whatever shape or form that maybe. A part of the suite of applications which make up Google Drive, it has many connections with Google Sheets. At its heart Forms contains nine different question types: text, paragraph, multiple choice, checkbox, choose from a list, scale, grid, date and time. See this Form for a better explanation.

In addition to these options, you can also use a range of add-ons that provide additional functionality, such as the ability to eliminate options after a user has chosen it (Choice Eliminator), write complex math problems (gMath), generate a Form questions from the data in a Sheet (FormRanger) and shut off a Form after a number responses or a certain day (formLimiter).

Some possible uses for Google Forms include:

  • Creating a quiz as formative assessment
  • Developing a survey for students to provide feedback
  • Organising a sporting carnival
  • Planning an essay or story

These ideas are only the beginning, for seeing Google Forms in isolation limits its wider potential. Once you understand that the data is fed into Google Sheets, you can then start exploring some of the possibilities within Sheets. For example, Kenneth Durham has used Autocrat, a Google Docs add-on, to provide his staff with feedback when he does observations. This includes creating a template in Docs and a Form which then feeds the information into Sheets. All of this means that by filling in the Form, staff are automatically sent an email with their feedback.

So what about you, what are some of the different ways that you have used Google Forms?


Here are some additional resources:

Google Forms: Quick Start Guide by Alice Keeler

Unleashing the Potential of Google Forms and Using Google Forms for Differentiated Instruction by Anthony Speranza

Script Central – By Jay Atwood

A Guide to Using Google Forms with Autocrat by Kenneth Durham

80 Interesting Ways to Use Google Forms to Support Learning by Tom Barrett

Using Google Forms for Formative Assessment by Bianca Hewes


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Blogging with Medium

Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15 http://bit.ly/quickmakes

Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15 http://bit.ly/quickmakes

The term blog derives from ‘web log’ and was initially coined to describe “discrete entries (posts) typically displayed in reverse chronological order.” This though has changed over time. Now it incorporates a range of different methods for creating and communicating. Sometimes it is organised inside a bigger system, but more often than not it is standalone.  There are many different platforms out there, each having their benefits and negatives. What does not change is the focus presenting mixed media, including video, text, images and audio.

It seems that when it comes to blogging there are as many reasons not to blog. These include not enough time, fear of the public audience and feeling that you have nothing to write. What stands out the most to me though is actually knowing where to start. Sometimes this start is about finding a why, but more often than not it is about where and how.

Unsure which platform to use, how to setup a blog or whether you can maintain regular blogging, a good place to start is Medium. Founded by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone, the intention was to encourage Twitter uses to create longer posts. In a reflection on why he loves Medium, Marcin Wichary highlights a range of benefits, such as the simplicity of use, looks great on any device and makes it easy to collaborate. While in a separate post Mathias Elmore suggests that when it comes to writing, Medium has some real benefits, including the ability to write, read, annotate and engage all in the one place.

I am not sure if I think doing everything in one place is the ideal solution, nor do I feel that Medium is the best platform. Here I am with Audrey Watters’ call for a domain of one’s own. However, Medium does provide a good starting place.

Some possible uses for blogging are:

  • Being a connected educator
  • Critically engaging with information and ideas
  • Showing your work and learning
  • Leading by example

Here are some additional resources associated with Medium (and blogging in general):

Ten Reasons Why I Love Medium – a post from Marcin Wichary unpacking the different features of Medium

Medium as an educational tool — the feedback era – a post from Mathias Elmose discussing the benefits in regards to writing and feedback

Getting Started in Medium: Writing and Reading – two posts from Ian O’Byrne explaining how to get going with Medium.

Syndicating to Medium – a post from Jeremy Keith outlining how to syndicate your posts to Medium in order to gain the benefits of posting in your own space, as well as the reach offered by a space like Medium.

Why I Blog (And How You Can Too) – A guide from Sue Waters to everything associated with blogging

Seven Reasons Teachers Should Blog – An exploration from Steve Wheeler into some of the reasons as to why to blog

Why I Blog – A reflection from Corrie Barclay on the range of reasons why to blog

An Introduction to Blogging with Global2 – A post I wrote exploring the potential of Global2 and Edublog for education

Successful Blog Posts – A post from Doug Pete looking at the mechanics of a blog post

Anywhere but Medium – Dave Winer makes the plea for readers to post anywhere but Medium, rather than let it become consensus platform. Instead, we need to make a stand for the open web and at least post elsewhere first.

Tips and tricks for Medium writers – The editor at Medium provide an extensive guide for using the editor when publishing in Medium.


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Creating and Making with Adobe Voice

Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15 http://bit.ly/quickmakes

Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15 http://bit.ly/quickmakes

Adobe Voice is an iOS application which allows you to easily present ideas and information in an engaging manner. A part of a suite of mobile only apps created by Adobe, including the website creation app Slate, it provides connections to range of content to create slick and stylish presentations in minutes. Once finished, you can upload videos to and share via Adobe Creative Cloud or download them to the camera roll and publish elsewhere.

One of the best features of Adobe Voice is the access to range of Creative Commons content. Whether it be images, icons and music, each of the different sections provides the option to search from within the application. This means that you do not have to leave the application in order to find appropriately attributed content. The issue though is that, like with much of Creative Commons content, it can be hard to filter out inappropriate images. It is often for this reason that many popular sites are blocked in schools. My own workaround has been to simply use original content gathered via the iPad camera. However, this then limits the potential of the app.

Some possible uses for Adobe Voice are:

  • Create a video timeline
  • Record a picture book
  • Develop an instructional guide
  • Gather together different reflections

In regards to data and privacy, although you can avoid uploading to Adobe Creative Cloud, you are required to create an Adobe ID Account to use the app. This includes providing a range of information that is used to identify users. In addition to this, Adobe may also collect data in regards to how people use their applications through the use of cookies. This information is used to identify improvements with the product.

Here are some additional resources:

Adobe Voice & Slate Blog – A blog with a range of tips and tricks about how to get the most out of Voice and Slate.

Adobe Voice An Introduction – A guide to making a presentation using Adobe Voice

Adobe Voice Ideas and Examples – A range of ideas for getting started with Adobe Voice in the classroom

Adobe Voice YouTube Channel – A collection of examples and guides associated with Adobe Voice

Adobe & Privacy – Answers to common privacy topics associated with Adobe Voice


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An Introduction to the GIF

Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15 http://bit.ly/quickmakes

Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15 http://bit.ly/quickmakes

GIF stands for graphic interchange format. It is a type of loop-able image that lasts for only a few seconds. Andy Rush explains that originally they were designed for practical visual indicators, such as under construction signs for a webpage or animated email buttons. However, as with most things with technology, as time has passed, GIFs have developed a life and purpose of their own.

A key to the success of a GIF is repetition. Sometimes this is because the image creates a closed loop continually repeating. However, GIFs also have a potential to tap into our curiosity of storytelling, where although the clip may not necessarily create a closed loop, the engagement with the moment keeps the viewer watching again and again. Mariana Funes provides a range of reasons for GIFs, including the creation of the impossible, a representation of how we think, an act of becoming. While Clive Thompson explains,

The animated GIF lets us stop and ponder a single moment in the stream, to resee something that otherwise would zip by unnoticed.

What differentiates a GIF from other short video forms, such as Vine, Twitter and Instagram, is that there is no sound.

In regards to creating a GIF, there are many programs that you can use to make them, including IMGUR, Photoshop, and Camtasia. Common Craft provide a range of options, both free and paid, in their thorough guide. However, a site that often overlooked, that allows you to make GIFs quickly and easily is gifyoutube.com.

Basically, you put ‘gif’ in front of any YouTube video in order to convert it. The site provides a few options, such as adding captions, deciding start time and setting the duration. Although you can search the site for published GIFs, I prefer to publish animations at Giphy, a site best understood as the YouTube for GIFs.

Some possible uses of GIFs in education include:

  • Providing comments and captions over the top of a short clip
  • Creating a visual story (see Nathan Bransford explanation of the writing process)
  • Make a provocation to discuss what might happen next
  • Developing an explanation for a skill or instruction
  • A summary in images (see this Reddit board representing entire films as GIFs)

While here are some additional resources exploring some different programs to create a GIF:

A Quick and Incomplete History of the Animated GIF – A thorough collection of reflections and resources from Andy Rush

Why Do You Want to Make a GIF at All – An extensive collection of links, perspectives and examples from Mariana Funes. For a shorter version, see her Medium post, The Animated GIF

The Animated GIF: Still Looping After All These Years – An analysis from Clive Thompson about the history and place of the GIF in society

Do You Speak GIF? – An introduction to Giphy from Mariana Funes

If You Have to Say It, Say It In GIF – A detailed account of GIFs and where they maybe heading

How to Create Explainer GIFs – How to explain your ideas quickly and easily using a GIF

Giffing – How to make a GIF using Photoshop, which includes a great collection of examples.

Making GIFs with IMGUR – How to make a GIF with IMGUR

Creating Animated GIFs with MPEG Streamclip and GIMP – How to make a GIF with MPEG Streamclip and GIMP

Soundbitification – A reflection on the rise of the short form from Amy Burvall and its impact on attention

Ooh Ooh Mr Kotter! I Know How To Optimize My GIFs! – Alan Levine provides an explanation as to how he took a GIF and optimised it using Photoshop.

Full Movie GIFs – A Reddit page dedicated to movies told as a GIF.

The Publishing Process in GIF Form – A post from Nathan Bransford unpacking the writing process using GIF images.

Lola Who – Brandon Tauszik talks about the idea of a GIF being a piece of art.

Eight-second videos are long enough to infringe on copyright, says UK judge – A case covered by Glyn Moody which touches on GIFs and copyright.

Looking at This Viral GIF Could Be the Perfect Way to Cope With an Anxiety Attack – A simple GIF designed to support breathing when stressed and anxious.

GIFDeck – A site that allows you to turn Slidedeck presentations into a GIF.


If you have any other resources or experiences with using GIF animations in education (or elsewhere), feel free to share. I would love to know.


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