Learning2gether with Earth Day


I have just celebrated Earth Day with the usual suspects in a convergence of small pieces loosely joined, and I blogged about our part of the program here:

Where I teach, I had each of my students make a Prezi presentation starting with a motto (the topic of the current unit in our textbook Viewpoints) and then develop that into a message or slogan for the environment.  Their Prezis are linked from this page:

I told the students that they would be a part of an annual movement of students worldwide based around Earthbridges <http://earthbridges.net> who get hundreds of their students together each year to commemorate the event and stream much of it live. 

This year April 22 was on a Sunday, which was a problem for schools in much of the world, but here in UAE we teach on Sunday, so we added our contribution to that movement under April 22, “the Real Earth Day”, here:

The Earth Day event coincided this year with Learning2gether, the online professional development effort I coordinate and engage in on Sunday of every week. Thus, I invited my Earthbridges colleagues (whom I’ve met only online) to join us and talk about their history of Earth Days on Earthbridges. We made a live recording of our contribution and archived what we did here:

I created a Prezi to show how the whole thing came together:

As Learning2gether gains traction, I am invited to give presentations on the topic; e.g. at the last TESOL Arabia conference and again in Philadelphia at the International TESOL Convention, both in March of this year. The TESOL Arabia presentation was simulcast in Second Life, as you can see from one of the screenshots here: 

I wrote an article on Learning2gether for the International TESOL Presentation and put it here, along with the more recent slide show of the presentation itself

The core concept of Learning2gether is collaborative learning, and Earth Day is a golden opportunity to bring this kind of learning home to our students.

April 22 next year will fall on a Monday and I invite you to be thinking from now about how we might engage our students in learning from one another globally. In order to effectively work in this manner with students, teachers need to gain some personal familiarity and experience with social, collaborative learning, or with any new tool or medium before they can become comfortable with using it with students, so any steps we can take in that regard are worthwhile.

That’s what Learning2gether does.  You can become involved at the following links.  See what’s happening next Sunday and what we’ve done already:

You can claim a Sunday spot if you wish, share your expertise, and help us all learn together.


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Rethinking Multiliteracies

I’m about to start again my multiliteracies course but I’ve been giving it a major re-think in light of some of the awakenings many of my colleagues and I have undergone this past year.  One of these has been the awakening prompted by Nicholas Carr and his suggestion that Google is making us stupid, explained more thoroughly in his book The Shallows.  Another influential book making people think through critical multiliteracies is Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble. Yet another awakening has been the re-envisaging of learning environments around networks that has been developed over the past three years by educators participating in and reflecting on MOOCs.  A MOOC that is going on right now is called EpCoP MOOC, a study of e-portfolios, which is yet another topic gaining increasing acceptance lately, and which I’ve already started incorporating more overtly in my multiliteracies courses, as Me-Portfolios.

The Shallows

On August 5, 2011, the NPR On the Media program hosted by Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield recorded a live event on the question of whether the internet will deliver us or destroy us: http://www.onthemedia.org/2011/aug/05/ .  The second segment of that event starts out with a cute song that I spliced out of the mp3 file I downloaded from that URL.  Maybe this piece can create a light mood for my newly conceived multiliteracies course:

However, on to meatier matters. Earlier in the show Brooke and Bob had been holding a debate, the kind where each debator is assigned one side of the argument (and then later in the program they reverse roles, so in these segments they are each acting their assigned parts, sometimes with exagerated sarcasm). Bob brings up Nicholas Carr as indicative of the Internet’s tendency to send us off into shallow multitasking directions seemingly at once, to the point where we lose our very ability to think as deeply and reflectively as our counterparts in previous literary eras. 

Brook Gladstone solicits Kate Hayles to speak about hyper-attention where people, especially young ones, are adapting to the presence of so many stimuli in their media environment (http://media08.wordpress.com/2008/01/17/my-article-on-hyper-and-deep-attention/). I alluded to this in my blog post entitled the Narrows and the Shallows: http://advanceducation.blogspot.com/2011/08/narrows-and-shallows.html (the narrows is what David Weinberger says we risk if we do not expose ourselves to information proliferating on the Internet).

Yes, it goes without saying that our brains change with every new learning experience, but Brook’s conclusion also is similar to mine, which is that these changes are developing what we already are, not making new humans out of us: “I’m just suggesting that this new technology just makes us more of who we already are. If we’re lazy, well, then we have all these opportunities to steal and cut and paste, and if we’re hedgehogs, we can just burrow, burrow deep without end.” Television didn’t make a generation of kids lazy, it simply gave lazy kids an opportunity and a means to escape what they were trying to avoid, while people like Clay Shirkey did not succumb totally to the lure of Gilligan’s Island, but obviousy found time to develop themselves in ways that would express the full potential of what they in fact were. In Shirkey’s case, judging from his writings, the Internet was a critical tool in that development.

Here’s the complete transcript of this segment on Personal Impact of the Internet:

and the audio relevant to this discussion:

Here are the other two transcripts from this broad/podcast episode:


The Filter Bubble

Brooke Gladstone sums the Filter Bubble up nicely at the start of her interview with Eli Pariser here: 

“Does the Internet cocoon us with likeminded people or do the hours we spend online expose us to more points of view? In his new book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You, author Eli Pariser contends that the Internet is actually forcing us into echo chambers, that it looks at our Google searches, our emails, our Facebook posts, studies the links that we click on and decides what we want to know.”

This is another train of thought that would be fun to develop and keep in mind as we progress through the four weeks of this TESOL PP107 Multiliteracies course.



The first MOOC that called itself a MOOC took place in 2008, and since then there have been a dozen or more. Participants in the recent EduMOOC started developing a wiki page on the topic, which you can find if you search on the expansion of the acronym, Massive Open Online Course 

It’s rare that I can find time to participate fully in MOOCs but the whole point of MOOCs is that you learn as much as you like of something in your own time and at your own pace by taking advantage of an opportunity to learn not only acknowledged experts in the field but from hundreds and thousands of other expert peers like yourself. My participation in EduMOOC resulted in a paper in the form of a Google Doc, which I presented in PowerPoint format in August 2011 first at the University of Oregon and then at the Moodle Moot Virtual Conference online event organized by Nellie Deutsch. These left the following artifacts available online:

As relates to the multiliteracies course, I explain in these links how I have been organizing my course along MOOC precepts almost from its inception in 2004. Accordingly I have decided to break the upcoming iteration of the course along the lines of the subject headings of one of Dave Cormier’s three excellent videos on MOOCs, “Success in a MOOC” (all three videos can be linked from Leigh Blackall’s page: http://leighblackall.blogspot.com/2011/01/networked-learning-explanation-made.html).  

Dave says that success in a MOOC involves 5 phases:

  1. Orient
  2. Declare
  3. Network
  4. Cluster
  5. Focus

It seems appropriate to make the first four phases the topics for the four weeks of the TESOL PP107 multiliteracies course.  The last phase, forcusing, can be a follow-up activity that should follow logically if the course is successful.  In the EVO rendition of the course, it will be the topic for the 5th week, as outlined at 



Another thread that will run through the course is the Me-Porfolio aspect. This section pretty much replicates what I said about Me-Portfolios in the Google Doc referenced above. First of all, I need to make clear why I evaluate participants (pass or did not try) on their Me-Portfolios.

I have started referring to these sets of linked artifacts as “Me-Porfolios” to draw attention to their constructivist / connectivist nature. User choice in material to be covered makes it logical to encourage participants to adopt Me-Porfolios in
  1. specifying their own course objectives and outcomes as they orient in the course; 
  2. presenting their individually tailored plan of achieving those objectives, and; 
  3. documenting their accomplishments through an online portfolio linking to deliverables prepared in showcasing those outcomes.

As per the most recent rendition of the multiliteracies course:
Some references:

  • Videos and articles on e-portfolios from EpCoP MOOC: https://sites.google.com/site/epcoplearnspace/ct1/Subject1
  • K12 Online Conference 2009 | Googlios: A 21st – Century Approach to Teaching, Learning, & Assessment:http://k12onlineconference.org/?p=478. Abstract: “This presentation sheds light on a model that demonstrates relationships between emerging tools and learning theories and between Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), and ePortfolios. By using Google Sites as a main dashboard that “mashes up” multiple Google Apps like Blogger, Youtube, Google Reader, Google Maps, Google Docs, and iGoogle into an ePortfolio, students can build and organize their own Personal Learning Environment (PLE) simultaneously with “building bridges” through their Personal Learning Network (PLN)–all while supporting e-portfolio authentic assessment.”
  • Graham Attwell, E-portfolio Development and Implementation, http://blip.tv/file/300988
  • Dr. Helen Barrett, Electronic Portfolios and Digital Storytelling for lifelong and life wide learning,http://electronicportfolios.org/. Dr. Barrett’s work has considerable depth; consider:
    • An excellent interview with Robert Squires June 18, 2010, on Instructional Design Live: http://edtechtalk.com/node/4791
      • Here she says that ePortfolios should have the characteristics of ownership, purpose, and process
      • In other words, ePortfolios are property of the creator, done authentically, and never completed, something students will want to maintain intrinsically
    • Other of Dr. Barrett’s links:
  • Two articles by Trent Batson, http://www.trentbatson.com/
    • http://campustechnology.com/articles/2008/04/eportfolios-hot-once-again.aspx – “The learning management system may seem like the quintessential academic technology application, but instead the ePortfolio is. Both will be transformed by the distributed nature of the Web (data and functionality residing in multiple places), but the learning management system will start to lose its identity as a unified system when it is distributed to operating system functions or Web functions, while ePortfolios will retain their identity even when distributed because ePortfolio is glued together and its development guided by learning theory. … ePortfolio is the learning technology of this age.”
    • Particularly points 7-10 in “Ten Rules of Teaching in this Centuryhttp://campustechnology.com/articles/2010/09/15/10-rules-of-teaching-in-this-century.aspx
      1. Re-examine and adopt the move from teaching to learning 
      2. Re-visit the accountability measures on your campus 
      3. Make a corollary change in assessment 
      4. Insist on teaching only in technology-enabled classrooms
      5. Make sure your students have technology management tools of their own 
      6. Insist on faculty having management tools for their own professional development 
      7. Do not discard the lecture or class discussion approach when appropriate, but use it primarily for the purpose of helping students address the essential problems of the course: Use lectures and discussions to help students to make progress in their projects and therefore to build their course portfolios.
      8. Make sure your students have a digital repository of some sort–a portfolio system, a wiki, a blog, a Web page builder, a place to store and manage the evidence of their active learning.
      9. Require your students to interpret their collected online evidence at regular intervals and, finally, in capstone Web presentations. 
      10. Make the collection of evidence the primary work of the course. In other words, students should be graded largely or entirely on their final portfolio for the course. In a learning-centered course, the portfolio is the sine qua non.
These suggestions require that educators become aware of the paradigm shifts required of them and of knowledge workers in general as we all adapt to the 21st century in which we find ourselves. I count ten such shifts in my article:

Stevens, Vance. (2010). Shifting sands, shifting paradigms: Challenges to developing 21st century learning skills in the United Arab Emirates. Chapter 20 in Egbert, J. (2010). CALL in Limited Technology Contexts, CALICO Monograph Series, Volume 9. pp.227-239. My last draft version of this article can be found online here: http://tinyurl.com/vance2010calico.
Accordingly, I made e-portfolios a part of my course for the first time as a stated assessment tool the last time I taught the PPOT course in September 2010.
When I tried this on students initially, they were hesitant and confused over what was expected of them when I asked them to create e-portfolios.  It was anything but straightforward to convey to them that these portfolios are not for me, they are for them.  It’s a break from tradition for a teacher to say, ‘I’m not really evaluating you on this, you are evaluating yourself, I’m only insisting that you go through this process.’  Accordingly I was constantly fending questions that were variations on ‘what does the teacher want this to look like?’
Eventually in this last course I decided to model what an e-portfolio might look like by creating a portal that would link to participant work on their e-portfolios. This portfolio of portfolios modeled one possibility for them and helped us to identify successful examples of e-portfolios as theirs became all linked in one place here:
Readers of this article who feel they’d like to get in there and experience a MOOC while exploring the relationship of e-portfolios to MOOCs, can avail themselves now of an opportunity of prime relevance to this topic, EpCoP, an e-Portfolio and Communities of Practice MOOC, is running through August and September this year 2011.  This MOOC is a ‘lite’ version, with only a few hundred participants enrolled so far, but it’s been gaining traction.

The EpCoP MOOC course is proceeding through 7 levels:

  1. Establish an understanding of e-portfolios
  2. Decide on a purpose of your e-portfolio: 
  3. Find a space for your e-portfolio
  4. Gather evidence of your learning at your e-portfolio  (from Sept 1, 2011)
  5. Determine how you will engage in reflective practice
  6. Decide on who to share your e-portfolio with and refine your collections
  7. Reflect on and evaluate your e-portfolio


EpCoP MOOC is taking place in these spaces:

Visit EpCoP MOOC


A course syllabus emerges

The course as it has evolved so far has patterned itself first on Stuart Selber’s triparite breakdown of the topic of multiliteracies (http://prosites-vstevens.homestead.com/files/efi/papers/tesol/ppot/syllabus.htm), and more recently on Mark Pegrum’s five lenses through which to view digital technologies (http://goodbyegutenberg.pbworks.com/w/page/10972809/Syllabus_Outline2010). It is still useful to view our current course content through the warp and woof of these threads while incoporating the new directions that a study of a topic whose nature changes with each new development must obviously take.

This table encapsulates the past course frameworks:

Selber’s aspects of multiliteracies:

  1. funtional
  2. critical
  3. rhetorical
Pegrum’s five lenses:

  1. technological
  2. pedagogical
  3. social
  4. sociopolitical
  5. ecological


Week 1 – In the orient phase we introduce some literature on MOOCs and e-Portfolios and have participants find or designate a space where they will anchor their Me-Portfolios for this short course

I’ll set up crowdsource spaces where participants can suggest tools useful for the course.  These tools include

  • Blogs 
    • Blogger with tabs, especially conducive to portfolio approach
    • Posterous is becoming one of my favorite blogspaces, so media friendly, and conducive to group work
    • WordPress is the choice of many
  • Wikis
    • My favorite is PBWorks
    • which I prefer over WikiSpaces
    • GoogleDocs is an excellent wiki for collaboration
    • Etherpad clones are great for classwork

EpCoP MOOC event – Tuesday September 6 01:00 GMT

Learning2gether event – Sunday September 11, 2011
Vance Stevens has made changes to the TESOL PP107 Multiliteracies course at http://goodbyegutenberg.pbworks.com that he and colleagues have developed over the last several years, based on their experience and what has been learned from facilitating about a dozen iterations of the course.  In particular the course is more overtly rooted in the MOOC paradigm (where MOOC stands for miniscule open online course) with distinctly connectivist attitudes.  Assessment is done by what I call Me-Portfolios.  Accordingly we will try to make the course weave itself to some extent with what is happening the the EpCoP MOOC (the E-portfolios CoP MOOC running through September). I look forward to discussing the rationale for the course with participants or with anyone interested.  The event takes place at 13:00 GMT in Blackboard Collaborate (Elluminate) http://home.learningtimes.net/learningtimes?go=273662


Week 2 – By now we suggest that students declare their interest and intentions in the course through their Me-Portfolios.  This declaration should include a statement of what they expect to learn or gain from the course and a statement of how each anticipates accomplishing the stated goal.

Digital storytelling and relevant Web 2.0 tools can start to be introduced here. Participants are likely to already have their favorites, so again a crowdsourced document will be useful:

    EpCoP MOOC event – Tuesday September 13 01:00 GMT

    Learning2gether event – Sunday September 18, 2011
    This week we join in progress SLanguages 2011 – 16-18 September 2011 http://avalon-project.ning.com/events/event/show?id=2244249%3AEvent%3A24324&xg_source=msg_invite_event 
    Website or Map: http://www.slanguages.net
    Organized By: Heike Philp aka Gwen Gwasi on EduNation and AVALON Learning Islands

    Week 3 – In the network phase, participants find each other’s Me-Portfolios and make comments.  Their own posts should be documenting how they are achieving the objectives they declared in Week 2.

    Tools that will assist here are feed readers and social bookmarking sites.

    • Social bookmarking
      • Delicious and Diigo
      • How to use both at once
    • Feed reading
      • Google Reader (everyone should set up their own)
      • Other uses of RSS
        • Pageflakes, Netvibes, and similar
        • I’ll think of more
      • Tags
        • Tag games
        • Spezify, Addictomatic, and similar

    EpCoP MOOC event – Tuesday September 20 01:00 GMT

    Learning2gether event – Sunday September 25, 2011

    In the second of  the new embedded series organised by Dennis “Osnacantab” Newson: Webheads in Second Life, Jeff Lebow will run an informal workshop on filming/recording in Second Life demonstrating the online program screencast-o-matic http://www.screencast-o-matic.com  he used for recording Graham Stanley’s recent inworld talk.. The event takes place at 13.00 GMT at Webheads H.Q. EduNation, Second Life, 


    Week 4 – At the cluster stage the Me-Portfolios are getting fleshed out with artifacts documenting how knowledge is being created and developed. At the end of the week participants will be expected to present their portfolios at a synchronous online event or leave a recorded screencast of their presentation embedded in their portfolio, or both.  

    Tools needed will be those relevant to this goal.

    • Synchronous presentation tools
      • Elluminate
      • WiZiQ
      • Big Marker
      • Big Blue Button
    • Screencasting tools
      • Jing
      • Camstudio
      • uTiPu

      EpCoP MOOC event – Tuesday September 6 01:00 GMT


      Learning2gether event – Sunday October 2, 2011, 12:00 to 15:00 GMT

      This is graduation day for this round of TESOL Principles and Practices of Online Teaching courses. Participants in PP107 are invited to show and discuss the portfolios they created for the course.

      Twitter comments

      View on screencast.com »


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        Having F.U.N: Frivolous Unanticipated Nonsense

        I didn’t realize you could “favorite” a tweet !?

        View on screencast.com »

        The link in the tweet points to:

        Speaking of having F.U.N. with Web 2.0 tools, this post was made with a Jing screen capture uploaded to screencast.com, and the URL for the screen capture was then emailed to Posterous.  The URL then translated into the image that you see above, all done pretty seamlessly through Posterous.

        Another nice thing about Posterous is that subscribers to this blog get a notice of this posting in their email, and they can comment on the post simply by replying to the email (and the comment will appear here, want to try it?🙂
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        Just curious if anything will come from this attempt to reach Danny Silva

        View on screencast.com »

        Links refered to above:



        Success! Danny responded to the message I sent him
        (and he gave me permission to post it here):

        View on screencast.com »

        In subsequent interchange we decided to work via a wiki. Since Danny is a Google Educator, a Google Doc seems the logical choice. We can post our questions there and Danny can answer them or point us toward the answers.

        I’ll set that Google Doc up and link it from here.

        Never doubt the power of a PLN!

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        Earth Day at Aqabat Talhat, Oman, April 22, 2011


        Each Earth Day my colleagues in education and I around the world mark the event through some gesture of appreciation toward the planet.  For the last two Earth Days I’ve participated in globally webcast round-the-clock events going for 24 hours as Earth Day hits each time zone around the world. These events are organized informally through a wiki, and in these two years I have brought students where I was working at the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi in touch with other student participants in the event, and left artifacts marking the occasion online as follows:

        Earth Day 2009

        Earth Day 2010

        On the occasion of

        Earth Day 2010, I again made students at the

        Petroleum Institute a part of the world-wide Earthcast 24 hour webcastathon conducted each year

        by http://earthbridges.net. Numerous URLs

        were generated in conjunction with this event:

        Video streaming by Ustream

        Earth Day 2011 was not so easy to set up as an earthcast this year. April 22 fell on a Friday so there were no Earth Day celebrations at the PI. Furthermore, this Friday happened to be the Good Friday before Easter Sunday so many schools that would have normally participated in the event around the world were not in session. Consequently, a Voice Thread was set up to accompany the webcast:



        However, since Friday is the normal weekend in the UAE, my friends and I in our running group the Wasps Hash House Harriers were free for the weekend, so we decided to do a good deed on Earth Day, in a spot with the beautiful view shown in the picture at the top of this posting. My friends are pictured here:


        This spot is called Aqabat Talhat and for centuries it was an important pass connecting the Batinah coast in Oman with the 2200 meter high Saiq plateau in the scenic mountains of Oman.

        When I first arrived in Oman the Saiq plateau was inaccessible by car unless one was able to secure a pass from the ministry of interior to be allowed past the military checkpoint on the only dirt track leading up the mountain from Birkat Al Mooz, and that pass was never granted to tourists. The reason this stricture was in place was that Saiq had been involved in an insurrection against the then-Sultan of Oman, Taimur.  The British SAS had hiked up the mountain and helped quell the rebellion, and when I arrived almost 30 years later, the only way up there was to follow in their footsteps.  As my friends and I found out, it was ok to BE on the mountain, the only thing forbidden was to be in a car at the checkpoint going up. Consequently in the years 1985-1995 I made many hikes up from various places around the mountain that you could drive to over rough tracks in order to hike the rest of the way up to the Saiq plateau and explore the area on treks lasting days at a time. 

        One of the best of those walks was the one up from Hijar at 900 meters in Wadi Bani Khurous up to Aqabat Talhat at 2200, which on April 22, 2011, I’m fortunate to be pointing out here:


        I’m especially fortunate because I didn’t have to walk up.  At about the time Bobbi and I left Oman in 1995, the Saiq plateau was starting to undergo long-overdue development, with the result that there is now a system of tarmac roads there, and free passage past the military checkpost, which still exists, but only to ensure that visitors have 4×4 vehicles, due to the need to gear down on some stretches of the steep road.

        The last time I came here with my family last January, we hiked in from the small town of Rus at the end of the tarmac road from Saiq and sheltered for the freezing cold night in the stone structure constructed long ago from rocks found in the area, which still stands sturdy to welcome those who at one time could reach it only after an arduous trek up the mountain from Hijar. On this visit we found that previous visitors had come in a large group (possibly military on exercises) and left their trash lying around, mostly empty blue metal cans of Pocari Sweat and discarded Tanoof water bottles.

        On that visit I resolved to return to this once pristine spot with plastic bags and haul out the mess. I proposed to my running group that they join me and in the end we had eight of us with the time, energy and inclination to commit to hiking in for a clean-up.


        What we actually did was to build a fire there and dispose of the plastic into the clear blue air.  I realize that might have created a perterbation in the ozone but at least it got the stuff off the land.  We gathered the cans and crushed them and put them into the garbage bags we’d brought, and hiked them out again. 


        We had planned this as a day trip, and without packs full of food and warm clothing and extra water we were able to move fast.  I had told our group to prepare for a 3 hour trek each way, anticipating that there might be children with us.  In the end, there were only the fit and sturdy. Traveling light we were able to get in and out in half that time.  It’s a great short walk.  There are places you can go from Aqabat Talhat if you want to extend your visit.  But on this trip we just hiked to the pass with the panoramic view and left it much more pleasant for the next set of visitors.

        It’s hard to imagine what was in the minds of those who had left all that garbage around on their visit, but at least the blight they had left for others was removed in our gesture for Earth Day 2011.

        These pictures were all taken by my son, Dusty Stevens

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        Aggregating content around a “class tag” (using Delicious)

        View on screencast.com »

        I’ve been meaning to create this blog post ever since the first leg of my flight home from TESOL New Orleans, when I sat by chance next to a fellow conference-goer and shared insights about distance professional development all the way to Chicago.  Our conversation touched on how Jenny, whose job entailed helping teachers where she worked in Alaska keep up to date, managed to connect them in online professional development.  We mentioned a lot of sites which we both thought we’d like to recall at a later date.  Once we landed, we both had time to kill, and I was invited to join Jenny and her colleagues at their departure gate (my flight wasn’t for hours!).  While there, we had a “class” or seminar to recap what we had shared about online professional development.

        When I have a class, or any online or blended event for that matter, I like to set up a tag for it.  Tags are a good way to crowd-source communication with one another.  For example, if your friend posts a picture of you on Facebook, your friend lets you know about it by tagging you in the photo.  You are informed that you’ve been tagged, but not only that, anyone with permission can search Facebook for all photos with that tag; i.e. all photos of you on Facebook (as long as you’ve been tagged in them).

        Similarly, when I am teaching a class, I will create a tag for that class.  If we have a class party (or if participants take pictures of each other interacting colleagially at a conference) we can upload photos to Flickr with that class tag and they can be found there aggregated around that tag.  If I find a URL I want my class to see I can tag it in Delicious with the class tag, and so can anyone else in the class.  That’s because if you preceed a tag with http://delicious.com/tag/ <– and put the tag after the slash/ then anyone who tags a site with that tag can call the others’ attention to the site when it appears in the listing of links created at that URL by anyone anywhere using Delicious who has tagged a site using that tag.

        Obviously you don’t want a lot of clutter to appear at that link, so you need to pick a tag that isn’t being used.  You can test this by trying the URL out. For example, for a class I am teaching in the spring of 2011 I might create a 2011s030efl, or something that it would be very unlikely for anyone else to co-opt.  You want this tag to be mnemonic, but also unique to just your event. If you test out http://delicious.com/tag/2011s030efl and get no hits, then that tag is yours, and only yours. (And you’d be surprise how well students can remember tags like this that look cryptic but have intuitive logic to them).

        For our class in Chicago airport, Jenny and I settled on the tag vance-chicago.  Then we went online and showed each other links.  As we hit the links we tagged them vance-chicago. And you can see what we came up with here:


        Later I went through and edited the tags by adding more tag descriptors to the sites in addition to vance-chicago and embellishing the notes to tell why we selected those tags.  Now when you visit that link you get a “student’s” view of what such a list of links should look like. 

        This technique can be applied to any event that resembles a “class”.  For example, on April 10, 2011, I conducted a session archived against that date at http://learning2gether.pbworks.com/2011spring. The purpose of the session was to talk about the ISTEK conference that had just taken place in Istanbul. The participants at that conference considered themselves a part of each other’s PLNs and they left artifacts of their encounters all over the web. 

        Our recap was with Nik Peachey, one of the plenary speakers there, who is always full of ideas for links and tools to try out. You can see/hear the recording of our Elluminate session here:

        Because I knew we’d want to compile a list of links, I suggested participants play tag games; that is, I asked those who visited any sites mentioned to tag them ‘istek11‘ in Delicous or Diigo. For the reasons mentioned above, I had done a search already in Delicious and come up with no prior links — well actually there was one link from Elizabeth Anne, who was also a presenter at ISTEK — so this tag was perfect in that any items with that tag would likely be ours).

        I’m not sure how you search Diigo (there is no obvious search tool at http://diigo.com) and I don’t think anyone created any tags with Delicious during the session, but after the event wound down, I went back myself through the presentation to find sites mentioned and to tag them (and annotate them) in Delicious. This was the result:


        So this is a URL where anyone who wants to can highlight for anyone interested any link they think should be associated with this event. This link points (at this writing) to just the links I put there, though anyone on Delicious can tag sites relevant to this event using istek11 and in so doing add them to this list.

        As you can see, this technique is useful in any case you would like to compile a list of links for a group of collaborators.  This technique allows you to manage or crowd-source that process.

        It will be interesting to see if others in the ISTEK PLN will treat this as an opportunity to crowd-source a list of links that might help them compile links associated with the conference, as I suggested in 140 characters here:

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        Just curious about visualizing social network analytics

        View on screencast.com »

        Here’s something my PLN brought me over morning coffee this morning.  Actually the one this morning was in response to something I’d posted before on a thread to TALO (Teaching and Learning Online) http://groups.google.com/group/teachAndLearnOnline.  Michael Coghlan started the thread by suggesting:

        Try going to http://www.google.com/s2/search/social#socialconnections while you are logged into a Google or gmail account!

        I followed up with …

        This is really nice.  Here’s something similar. 

        This is a podcast by Dave Cormier talking about a bit of software called Gephi.  http://www.edtechtalk.com/EdTechWeekly186

        If you’re interested in social network visualizations it would be worth listening to the first 15 min of the recording, where Dave talks you through the slide show about how he tracked his own network on Facebook and thereby distinguished the most connected from the least connected. 

        His conclusion is striking.  This kind of software can be applied to connections within a MOOC, where networking is essential to success in the course, and identifying participants who are not making connections early enough to intervene and perhaps help them get with the program.

        Roz said:

        i think it’s creepy

        And then Barbara Dieu contributed:

        Linkedin has a tool that does the same thing.
        What is interesting is that as I visualize these graphics , people I am connected to in Linkedin are not necessarily the same as in Facebook, Twitter or Gmail. Some networks may overlap but others are totally different.

        Indeed.  I like Dave Cormier’s take personally, these are all ways that, well yes, gather data on us and display them in such a way that they might be available to sinister forces, but ignoring such ramifications (is Google evil? Is Facebook?) they do provide us tools with which we can examine our own surroundings, and then act on those data in positive ways (let’s hope).

        In any event, the tools are out there, for better or for worse.


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