Steve J. Moore

Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

The Constant Conference: Building a PLN with Twitter, Blogs, and Plurk

In Education, The Web on March 4, 2009 at 10:10 am

I don’t want to mix amongst my personal and education blogs too much, but I’m really overdue for a post on here and I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while. Rather than re-rewriting my ideas about this subject, I think it’s okay (considering my only slightly overlapping audiences) to re-post. “Repost”, by the way, should totally be a legal Scrabble word. I’m just sayin’.

Below is an entry from my Education blog “teachersaid” posted on February 12, 2009.

The long-term subbing job I have has allowed me some great opportunities so far. I’ve got my foot a little farther in the door at this school, for one thing. I know about job openings before they happen and I can speak easily to other teachers and administrators. Since I work at a computer all day (I’m a computer aide sub), I’m able to spend a great deal of time reading and completing my homework. I don’t think I would have attempted going to grad school full time right away if I had a teaching job right now. This way, I’ve been able to ease into my program and give it great attention.

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Furthermore, and perhaps most beneficial so far, I have been able to build and maintain a powerful personal learning network (PLN) online. I started using Twitter (@stevejmoore), Plurk (stevejmoore), and GoogleReader (Steve) to connect with teachers and administrators across the country and beyond. I’ve been able to find blogs, ask burning questions, and ultimately make significant connections with people whom I would have otherwise never met.

You’re obviously here, so I have either asked you to visit this page or you’re already hip to the benefits of reading Education blogs (maybe you’ve built a PLN of your own too). In case you’re with the former, I’ll explain each service that I use as a teacher, a grad student in Administration, and as a writer.

I’ll use a macroanalogy that most everyone should be able to grasp: the conference. When you go to a conference of any kind there is a similar format. Why do we go to conferences? To learn new information about our profession and to build relationships with other professionals. In my experiences, there are three basic environments at conferences: the keynote speech, focus groups (workshops), and mingling (unstructured). I use a digital counterpart that meets each of those networking criteria.

Blogs

These are the keynote speeches, the main events of conferences and PLNs. All social media networks lead to blogs at some point. This is where authors, the pros pen their prose. Like at conferences, there is usually one big headliner who sets the tone for the whole, and several more mini-keynotes that function as bullet points to the larger headline. This is a good way to stucture your blog reading. Have fewer big blogs you read and focus your attention on. These are bloggers whom you may not ever personally contact or meet like LeVar Burton or Erin O’Connor, but whose material is widely read and considered a part of many larger conversations. Then, there are a myriad other bloggers that you can find whom are more specific in their situation and whom you may come to know personally due to their smaller readership.

For example, I’ve come to know Scott Elias, a principal in Colorado through my spiderweb-like PLN. I live in Springfield so I started searching Twitter for teachers using the service nearby through a service call Twello. I found Melinda Miller, an elementary principal in nearby Willard, MO. I started following her and checking her blog regularly. Through her, I found Scott. He and Miller run a blog and a podcast together called The Practical Principals. I’ll write more about them in the Twitter section.

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If blogs are the main event, then Twitter is the exact opposite. When you’re at a conference, you spend most of your time socializing and browsing: snacking on Chex Mix, drinking mysterious hotel punch, and browsing tables of displays that other people like you have set up. Maybe you’ll exchange emails, web addresses, and chat about your classroom practices. Maybe you’ll end up collaborating on a project together in the future.

This casual open forum is like Twitter. This service is like walking into a giant ballroom full of people and eavesdropping on conversations as you walk through. When you someone posts a link, it is like one of those displays leading to more information you may or may not be interested in. The bottom line is that you are exposed to a great deal of people and materials very quickly in little snippets. Twitter is a social gateway for building longer conversations, it’s like browsing the internet and making bookmarks of people rather than sites.

I mentioned Scott and Melinda before in blogs. Twitter is different than a blog because of the length. Twitter is often referred to as “microblogging.” There you are limited to 140 characters to express your opinion, state your question, or reach out to someone. At the risk of sounding very 1996, I’ll liken Twitter to a chatroom, one that never ends though. The more you use it and the more people you follow, the larger and more powerful your PLN can become.

Plurk

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Lastly, I discovered Plurk through Paul Bogush. His blog was nearly named the “Best Education Blog of 2008” by the Weblog Awards. I found him on the awards page and started reading his work. I started following him on Twitter and saw that he linked to something called “Plurk” on his blog page as well. Being the curious person I am, I decided to check it out. At first, I thought that this service was a lot like Twitter, only newer and more strange. I started following Paul and his “plurkers,” as they’re called.

You see, Plurk isn’t open and microcosmic like Twitter, nor is it as large in structure and as singular as a blog. Plurk is like the part of a conference inbetween the casual browsing and the big group keynote speeches. The small groups or workshops on specific topics, that is what it is. You can participate in whichever ones you want and the people running the groups are usually very casual about it. Plurk has a character length like Twitter and resembles another form of the chatroom. The difference with Plurk is that conversations are grouped by the person publishing each comment.

Just like at a conference, with Plurk, your reputation counts for something. You earn Karma through your volume, regularity, and quality of comments. Plurk is a great place to go with a question for other teachers.

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The Ghost in the Machine: Part 3

In Nature, Science Fiction, The Web on February 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm

by Ryan Burrell

This post is part of an ongoing collaborative conversation.  You can view Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Part 3

This discussion has so far covered some mathematic theory, and a histoy of life before the web.  Now, let’s examine the future in pursuit of our original line of inquiry: Does the Internet reflect Humanity or vice versa?

We’ve given our conversation the title of “The Ghost in the Machine“, because the subject matter deals with the duality of human experience – the mind reflecting the body, or the body reflecting the mind.   A series of anime movies based on the questions involved in the original thesis, entitled The Ghost in the Shell, were produced in 1995 and 2004. The series focuses on the question of delineation between man and machine (the films are quite excellent on a number of levels and I highly recommend renting them and experiencing their intellectual pathways firsthand).  In the movies, consciousness has expanded to encompass all information, begging the question: How do you define the difference between software and biology – thought and algorithm?

Such questions are highly appropriate for our lines of reasoning.  In The Ghost in the Shell, it was extremely common for people to have cyborg implants, called e-brains, as well as external memory devices where they could offload their thoughts, memories, and other information..  A physical body was no longer a necessary requirement for “life”, and one’s stored thoughts, ideas, and memories could be shuffled around from location to location, easily merging with other data types and being shared across networks…for good or evil.

An Extension of Humanity

In an extremely short time relative to the whole of human history, the Internet has impacted us all in ways we don’t even realize.  A completely new method of communication and interaction has been opened to us, and we’re just beginning to understand its potential.  Like the e-brains, wetware upgrades, and external storage units of The Ghost in the Shell, we have used the Internet to extend ourselves beyond our normal capacity, both literally and figuratively.

In a very real sense, the Internet has allowed us to extend our capacity to store our thoughts, memories, and even feelings.  Services like Evernote or Remember The Milk replace the string around the finger of past days, but bring also the capability of being accessed anytime from nearly any location.  Xanga, Blogger, WordPress, and any of the other myriad web logging services allow us to store snippets of time and ideas in a centralized location – yet still accessible freely by all.  Even applications like Twitter, that thrive on an endless stream of output about things as trivial as our moods, store all of their data as external records of our feelings at any given point in time.

We no longer have to rely on our long-term memory capabilities, but instead store them externally – outside of our physical selves.  These items of data, units of thought, and cubits of thinking have gained a permanence beyond what previous media (such as books and recordings) can offer. A book must be reprinted on physical materials, but a database can be duplicated a multitude of times and its information dispersed in the blink of an eye.  This metadata serves to make up a vast amount of what we’ve lovingly termed The Web, and obviously points to the Internet being a product of humanity’s contributions.

An Advancement of Humanity

But what about the idea of reciprocal change?  We have created a complex network of thoughts and ideas – a network rapidly becoming accessible to more and more of the world’s populace.  The data we contribute to it isn’t locked away, to be perused only when the fancy strikes us.  No, instead the vast majority of information stored on the open Web can be accessed by anyone…and that information can be a powerful force of change.  The Internet exists as an extension of our humanity, but it also serves as an agent of adaptation and movement.

Every conversation we have with another person, every book we read, every song we hear, every new idea we encounter, changes us in some way.  In daily life without the Web, a thousand new experiences may cross our path, both large and small.  Add in the ability of the Internet to spread information at an exponential rate, and its ability to change us is obvious.  We have created a perpetual motion device; we have created an engine that publishes our ideas and feeds new ones to us in one swift movement.

With the ease with which we can access such information, we change more rapidly.  New ideas can be traded more easily, and refinements made more quickly.  Trends can be communicated instantly, future predictions more readily available.  Our societal ideals and cultural influences, the very things that we feel make up each of our unique viewpoints…all of these can now feed off each other and adapt beyond any previously known speed or capability.

A Paradox

It is not the first time in human history that such a situation as what we are observing with the Internet has existed.  The construction of Roman roads led to an unprecedented spread of commerce and communication.  The printing press made efficient mass reproduction of thoughts a reality.  Television allowed not only a lightning-fast transference of ideas, but also the subtle visual cues that went along with them.

But at no other point in our history have we had the ability to communicate so openly, to save our ideas so easily, and to share information so quickly.  Ideas abound about the creation of a “global consciousness”, an interlinking of thoughts and ideas occurring at such a rate that a whole greater than the sum of its parts is created.  Perhaps this is a good thing, or perhaps it is not.  Yet, confusing though it may be, one thing is clear:  The Internet exists because we created it, but the Internet is creating the next great chapter of humanity.