Monday, November 30, 2009

365 Project: November

"The thinnest yellow light of November is more warming and exhilarating than any wine they tell of.
The mite which November contributes becomes equal in value to the bounty of July."

- Henry David Thoreau

Rather than pick a favorite photo this month, I'm going to embed a SlideShow. For a supposedly austere time of year, November has proven unexpectedly rich and rewarding. I loved it all!

"I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its tone is mellower, its colours are richer, and it is tinged with a little sorrow. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and its content."| -Lin Yutang

You can view all of my 2009 photos to date here.

The two groups to which I contribute are 365/2009 and 2009/365.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


"Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present." -George Washington, Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior

In my last posting, The Prevailing Common Sense of the Field, I addressed the topic of "tweckling," or heckling on a Twitter backchannel. I concluded with a question: "Are there 'rules' - should there be?"

Evidently the answer to my query is a definite "yes."

While I was visualizing bored captives of a Death by PowerPoint presentation trying to stay awake (and maybe extracting a measure of revenge by wandering far off topic via undercover conversations), a much different scenario was being played out in a very public venue.

Academic, researcher and blogger, danah boyd, was recently invited to speak at Web 2.o Expo in New York City. During Dr. boyd's discussion of social media, a pointless, inappropriate, even vicious stream of comments was projected on a screen positioned behind her back. When event personnel told her that the audience was initially upset because she was "talking too fast," boyd tried to adjust her presentation style, to no avail. The crowd responded with outbursts and laughter.

Dr. boyd later wrote in her blog, "when I walk off a stage not feeling invigorated, all I get is the raw drain, the gut-wrenching, nauseating feeling of pure misery. 20 minutes of being punched in the face, kicked in the stomach, and the shameful sensations one gets when one is forced to watch a Lars von Trier film. That's how I felt at Web2.0 Expo."

danah boyd gave one of the keynotes at AASL's Rev Up Learning conference in Charlotte, just a few weeks ago. She was a compelling and knowledgeable speaker. It's inconceivable to me that she would be unprofessional in any public speaking engagement. Unfortunately, the audience at Web 2.0 Expo was much less than professional in their response to Dr. boyd's perceived flaws.

We teach our students to be good digital citizens, we preach the evils of bullying, whether in real life or online. If professionals cannot model civility, then how do we expect children and teenagers to display it in their own lives?

There are many positive aspects to backchannel conversations, but there should be some ground rules. Chief among these is civility.

"In a time of social fragmentation, vulgarity becomes a way of life. To be shocking becomes more important—and often more profitable—than to be civil or creative or truly original." -Al Gore, politician and former U.S. vice president

"Civility" by divinenephron

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Prevailing Common Sense of the Field

Tweckle - to heckle on a Twitter backchannel
- a hashtag that has been given over to tweckling -broadstuff

This tweet caught my eye today:
librarybeth Conference Humiliation: They're Tweeting Behind Your Backs (Chronicle)
and led me to Marc Parry's posting about "twecklers."

At the recent AASL Conference, Rev Up Learning, participants tweeted non-stop during the keynotes and sessions. Most of us were too busy recording salient points to engage in idle chit chat. I know that I used these streams of tagged comments as a virtual notebook, a way to capture key concepts for later evaluation.

But what if...the presentation were more of a Death by PowerPoint...say, in a mandated professional development workshop or a faculty meeting? Is engaging in backchannel exchanges rude, inappropriate, counterproductive?

One of the commenters on Parry's posting defends Tweeters, suggesting that
"The speaker did not respect the experience/knowledge of his audience (or, arguably, the prevailing common sense of the field itself), and thus the audience did not respect the speaker's time or message."

Another, sees tweckling as a positive force:
"The pressure is on conference organizers and keynote speakers - choose the speakers wisely and the speakers had better be prepared (and engaging as well). This is part of a quality improvement movement, and I'm all for it."

There were those who disagreed:
"I read the transcript of the back-channel talk. Sure the presentation may have been dated and generally awful, but I can't see that all the twittering added anything constructive. It was childish. Another thing that twitterers might want to consider is that when you defame someone via twitter you are doing so publicly, and could be opening yourself up to a lawsuit."

A study done by the University of Leicester, Twittering the student experience, highlights some of the positive educational uses of Twitter. No mention is made, however, of tweeting in the lecture hall.

In our connected world, we're frequently making things up as we go, trying to reconcile new tools and old protocol. What are the rights and responsibilities of attendees at workshops, conferences, lectures, and meetings who choose to engage in backchannel discussions?

Are there "rules" - should there be?

"Megafon" by Matti Kolu

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Good, The Bad, The Extraordinary: Reflections on Rev Up Learning

"Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action." -James Levin

On Sunday, I returned home from Charlotte, NC, where I attended the AASL's national conference, Rev Up Learning.

I was a first time attendee and a member of Joyce Valenza's Geek Squad. Here are my impressions of the whole experience.

The Good

The Bad
  • Internet connectivity was erratic and unreliable. Presenters were frequently unable to demonstrate key sites with a resultant lack of interactivity for the audience.
  • the Bloggers' Cafe was tucked away out of sight (though we got the word out, and attendance was large and enthusiastic).
  • the Celebrate Conference for new attendees was poorly handled. There were separate lines for getting validated and entering the room, and it was obvious that hundreds of eager newcomers would be turned away, disappointed.
  • the Learning Times site did not function as promised. Those of us with blogging privileges were occasionally unable to post; visitors to the home page could not always view promised resources.
  • some content was not available to non-attendees and non-members.

The Extraordinar
  • the Geek Squad modeled those frequently touted "21st century skills": lifelong learning, effective information management, collaboration, creation of content. We talked the talk, then walked the walk. Through impromptu presentations and one-to-one mini tutorials, we reached out to colleagues and extended our own learning.
  • when the official site had problems, an unofficial alternative space was created and shared
  • many presenters added their handouts and slideshows to the Unconference wiki, in the true spirit of advancing knowledge

Overall, I consider my first AASL conference experience to have been a valuable one. In the future, I hope our organization will recognize and actively seek the input of its members, in both the planning and implementation of these gatherings. Some day, perhaps, the Conference will morph into something more akin to the Unconference.

For now, we have the opportunity to reflect on an experience that was mainly positive, and help move it in the direction of greatness.

"What is the good of experience if you do not reflect." -Frederick The Great

"Change is the end result of all true learning." -Leo Buscaglia

Monday, November 2, 2009

Only One Page

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

I've always loved to travel - it's in my genes.

One of my favorite childhood books recounted the escapades of Richard Halliburton, a globetrotting adventurer, who did everything from retracing Ulysses' voyage throughout the classical Greek world, to swimming the Panama Canal, to flinging himself into the Mayan Well of Death (twice!). I still treasure a battered copy of Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels that my father purchased before I was born.

A few weeks ago, I visited Milwaukee and Green Bay with my son. Tomorrow, I'm setting off for Charlotte to attend the AASL's Rev Up Learning conference.

While online interaction can be a satisfying way to expand your horizons, there is still a certain glamour and excitement in physical journeys. Some things need to be experienced in real life.

So I'm off to meet new friends, greet old ones, talk and eat and tour and take pictures. I love my home, but I need these Journeys to satisfy the wanderlust in my soul.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” Mark Twain

"Lady's Airship" by Coffeelatte