Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Say it with a Flickr and a smile :-)

Today's post is more of a visual connection than that of text. Last night, I came upon a blog post that featured "a set" of images in Flickr and was absolutely fascinated by the concept.

This set of images is by Alan Levine and he shares them openly to use in your own presentations or blogs, etc. (of course give credit where do) Some folks have even had them playing as a running loop before or during breaks at conference sessions. While I wish I would have thought of this, I think the concept is to create one or two or more of your own. Take a moment to preview and enjoy.

So here is one that I chose specifically to use from the set.
A Powerful Set of Images Can Say So Much More
Making Connections: I work with a social community called WeAreTeachers and the purpose for the community is to provide a platform for teachers of all types to collaborate and publish their own content to share with others for free or for a fee. This allows teachers to seek and share knowledge with other teachers, learners and colleagues.
We also have a presence inside Facebook with an application called I Am Teacher. Check it out, it's a great community gives you the opportunity to collaborate with teachers around the world.

Next time, I will create a few of my own visual posts to share. If you have any powerful visual content, please share, in the meantime preview the set.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blogging - Who has the time?

The blogospere is hot right now!

I consider myself to be a "newbie" when it comes to blogging and quite honestly, don't really understand what the main purpose or need it addresses. However, after spending a week at NECC and EduBlogger, I realized that these "bloggers" were creating a network of shared learning experiences and collaborative discussions. It seemed to me that this group of bloggers were like some type of "click" or group of folks that knew each other and were simply connecting with one another. Honestly, I felt like an outsider and that something was going on that I never knew existed. I asked a person in the group, "how did you get to know all these folks?" Her answer, "I'm meeting them here for the first time. I follow their blogs and feel like I've know them for a while."

Since then, I've learned that there are two types of bloggers: FB (Famous Bloggers) and NYFB (Not Yet Famous Bloggers). And then there are LRs (Loyal Readers). You see one thing I learned from my new online friend is the way she got started was by way of following RSS Feeds using a "reader" such as Google Reader or any of the others. So these folks that were so connected and seemed to have their inner circle were probably meeting for the first or second time in person but had probably been meeting virtually practically everyday. This begged the question - "Where do you find the time?"

As I embarked on this new world of following FBs and NYFBs with my reader, I gathered up a collection of more than forty-five bloggers that I try to follow. That in itself was time consuming. I found myself staying up till 2AM reading blogs and threaded discussions that kept taking me on further tangents. But more importantly, the further I read, the more I began to feel like I knew the blogger - his tone, his demeanor, his values (somewhat) and his quirkiness. Nonetheless, it was and can be very time consuming.

Next came the actual blogging part. Where, when, what, how do I get started? Initially, I found myself waisting an entire afternoon thinking, "what do I have to say that anyone cares to read about?" And of course, the further I got into it, no one was or is reading about it so why am I doing it? I still don't have the answer to that yet, but I do it because it allows me to express my thoughts and capture key learning from posts I have learned from others. As I read blogs from other FBs and NYFBs, I realize that I think these folks blog to do the following:

- Share insights and their own perspectives
- Capture events as they happen
- Spark discussions
- Dialog with others in a way that is unique
- Provide reviews to some new learnings or resources
- Collaborate with others to come up with new ideas
- Reflect
- Network
- etc.

I guess the list could go on and folks have their own reasons for blogging, maybe just to become famous.

So first I created this presence using It was pretty straight forward with not a lot of major work to get it up and going. Then came the content. What do I write about - family, work and play. I came upon a blog post as I got started on my path to blogging - Simply Said... How to Blog.

This "Dumb Little Man," (that's what he/they call themselves) gave great insights for getting started and all things considered. Here are just a few...

1. Name - Blog under your name and ignore the harassment
2. Time - Don't put your primary income in jeopardy; set a blogging schedule
3. Dynamic - Vary the site, incorporate feeds, twitter updates, etc.
4. Schedule - Create a schedule or routine and "get up early
5. Honesty - Understand your restraints and be forthcoming with your readers
5. Topics - Use life to give you ideas
6. Sharing data - Sharing proprietary company data - not good
7. Are you even into it? - Start a blog and work at it
8. Do it right - Choose a topic that you are seriously in love with
9. When beginning, read Problogger religiously
10. Widgets - A distraction; a blog is about your readers
11. Images - Grabbing images from Flickr, elsewhere, give credit

These are just a few of the ones that I captured read more on this excellent post from Jay.

So task number one for me. Create a schedule. This is mine and it is helpful to me and my job. I do have work too you know...

This is my schedule posted right in front of me. I check it and try to follow every morning.

7:00AM - bike ride
8:00AM - Get ready for the day
8:30AM - RSS Feeds / emails, etc.
9:00AM - Project reviews
10:00AM - Community Development / Blog posts
11:00AM - Reporting, data collection, bus. dev activities
12:00PM - Got to eat some time
1:00 - 3:00PM - Marketing activities / project lists
3:00 - 5:00PM - Review, debrief, ongoing projects and updates

So far this seems to work for me and helps me manage my time without spending all day blogging or reading feeds from others.

I actually have it good. My job at is a social community for teachers and part of what we do is provide a community for teachers to share and collaborate with other teachers of all types. That being said, part of my role is to help foster community and drink the koolaid. For now, I am enjoying this new found skill of blogging and hope to some day be at least a NYFB. If you are an FB, NYFB or an LR or none just thinking about getting started with a blog, I look forward to meeting you virtually and continuing on my path - wherever it leads me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Video Killed the Radio Star.... Social Communities killed...?

Clearly music videos, Mtv, VH1 and the likes revolutionized the music industry and the shift to music listening/watching. For movie watching, the same applied - laser disks, VHS tapes caused shifts in technology to CDs, DVDs, Video-on-demand to DVR and video downloads, flash movies and of course, who could forget - YouTube. And the list goes on... Now iPods, iPhones, Twitter, social media and so much more are causing change in how we go about our work, school or play.

I've started reading "Here Comes Everybody" by Clay Shirky. The basic notion is the power of organizations / groups without formal organization-like structures. And how this transpires is by way of enhanced communication tools that support group conversations and group actions. This is being made easier because the tools like social communities, blogs, wikis, Twitter, etc. are enabling sharing on a global scale by multiple individuals coming together. It's absolutely fascinating and I am not all the way through the book to provide a more detailed synopsis.

Our social tools are not an improvement to modern society; they are a challenge to it. New technology makes new things possible: put another way, when new technology appears, previously impossible things start occurring. If enough of those impossible things are important and happen in a bundle , quickly, the change becomes a revolution. (pg. 107)

Social networks and tools offer groups and individuals an increase in the power of communication and action outside traditional organizational structures. It is unprecedented. Look at how you obtain information in a Google search. Typically you will land on a Wikipedia result which contains information from a variety of sources or individuals. Blogs provide a wealth of information from average folks like you and I with their own perspective or thought around a particular idea or topic. Recently, I participated in an education Technology "unconference" called EduBlogger Con. It was absolutely amazing how individuals gathered to not only write about what was happening in a session instantaneously, but to also question and seek input from other individuals by way of Twitter or Live Blogging. Even more, several folks were video capturing the sessions live through a USTREAM connection allowing folks unable to attend live to be a part of the event from their computers at home. And to cap it all off, all communications were being aggregated online through Summize (now acquired by Twitter) allowing everyone to capture the days content and discussions both near and far.

I think it goes without saying, we are in the midst of a revolution. However, I believe that only a small percentage of organizations, institutions and individuals have fully begun to understand or embrace the "shift" we are in - including myself. During my past year and half at WeAreTeachers, I often wonder if what we are doing will be embraced by the mainstream when what we are doing is really for those individuals who embrace creating change and looking for way to engage and communicate through non traditional organizations much like what Clay Shirky writes about. We are trying to get teachers to reach globally and to share/teach through a social community with others that doesn't necessarily conform to traditional "school" formats.

So if what we are witnessing is a revolution, what is the tipping point that allows it to become mainstream? Surely is has to be more than just a small group of "bloggers" or leaders of the pack who embrace this notion. How does it become all inclusive in terms of how individuals leverage the global audience? How do we make this a part of how we teach in schools, engage in project in our work place, participate in community in our daily lives?

If video killed the radio star, will social communities kill one-way content creation/acquisition? What has or will social tools allow you to do - better?

More on Clay Shirky:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lights, Games and To Do Lists

To me, Web 2.o means embracing new ways of interacting and engaging others. It might be through social interactions or it might even be by way of productivity resources to help you do what you do easier and more efficiently. That being said, as I was playing with the App Store for the iPhone, I came across some apps around flashlights, games and to do lists - quite a few I might add. And it occurred to me — is there something meaningful or telling in the fact that there are so many of these type of apps. I guess I really only need one flashlight or one To Do list application. Why so many? And why would app developers think that this is something we need?

Then I thought... maybe it's because this is how we run/live our lives (now going deeper into philosophical thinking) at work, home or with others. Lights - we are always searching for truths, knowledge, faith, lost items, etc. Games - in search of doing right or good, we often play games or get sidetracked on our path. To Do lists - it seems that we are always checking off what we need to get done and what is on our list so that we make it through our workload or path in life.

In my humble opinion, I think that there is only one true Light that we need; games are meant to be fun, so enjoy them; and as far as our To Do lists, I don't really think I will ever finish them and more it does allow for a way to keep me organized and sane. But for the most part, I can't control what happens and quite honestly, it's not my will or "to dos" that I personally need to focus on. Rather, to do for others.

This was just a daily reflection that I wanted to capture and share that came to mind while on my morning bike ride. Keeping in line with the keep it simple idea, this is my morning bike ride - the light at the end of the tunnel and putting it all in His hands. Enjoy your day.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

STOP... collaborate and listen!

For those who follow this blog, let me take some time to STOP and say:
Yes, I finally got it and no I did not wait in line on Friday — waited till Sunday and only waited about an hour. I am so amazed with what Apple has done with this phone. It is absolutely amazing - check out the video for yourself. My favorite is the App Store - there are hundreds of free and pay applications that you can download. Thus far, I have 42 apps on my iPhone. Some of my favorites are:

Where - search for nearest Starbucks, Gas Stations, among other items.
Pandora - listen to music that suites your fancy.
AirMe - take pictures and upload to Flickr. (see my photos)
Facebook - for obvious reasons.

And a lot more you can learn about on the Apple site.

As I think about the process and development efforts that came into creating the iPhone and more importantly all of it's functionality, I often wonder what it was like sitting in "the room" with Steve Jobs and R&D, Marketing, etc.? They had to totally "Think Different." (pun intended) But seriously, first of all, it doesn't really mirror any phone that's out there and to some extent not even their desktop or laptop units. The fact that you can scroll, type, and engage at the touch of a finger or the tilt of your wrist is astounding. I can spend hours wearing down the battery and never make a call. That's a total experience - check email, RSS feeds, send photos online, listen to music, watch videos on You Tube and even use it as an overpriced flashlight - really. I can't wait to see what move Apple makes next with it's laptops and other technologies. While there are some weaknesses; overall, I give it two thumbs up.

With that, it's worth the STOP to think if maybe this is the PROCESS they took:

For the past year and a half, I have spent a great deal of time helping to launch a social network for teachers - This video totally mimics our daily grind. Countless meeting have been very similar to this situation. Yes, I'm the blond girl - always wanting to come back and add one more item; insert the URL address, add some community feel and so on. While I think it's great to incorporate Web 2.0 tools and technologies and make the most whiz bang product, it's equally important to "keep it simple stupid" and I think far to often we miss that point in whatever line of work we do or even in our own personal lives.

I really do think that there is a lot to be learned here. One the simplicity in the design and applications of the iPhone and the humorous reminder of The Process video not to over think every situation. Learn to STOP... collaborate and listen.