It’s All a Pretty Big, Jumbled Up Mess & I’m Okay with It

I’m writing this post from the back porch of a family beach rental in South Carolina.  The breeze is ruffling the pages of the paperback Ive just put down, and will soon pick back up.  The ever-present hum/roar of waves hitting the beach drones on, in a most delightful way.  My father’s swimming in the pool below me, and my children are upstairs napping.  They have every right to be tired, because they’ve been exploring the ocean and the house and the pool and the greater Charleston area for the last several days and have plenty more exploring to do.

I try pretty hard to take a few technology breaks a year, to distance myself completely from the devices that rule my work week and can dictate, on occasion, priority.  (Well, at least, I allow myself to believe that devices, and not the people connected through them, or my own agency, or lack of it, can determine priorities. But I know that’s not the case.)

This trip, I’ve found myself taking my “break” in a slightly different way.  Today’s a good example.  I made pancakes for my daughters with a few Twitter friends.  Then we dined on the porch, about three feet from where I’m sitting now, and I announced the view.  The girls and I then hit the pool for several hours, and returned for a late lunch.  In their pre-nap stupor, as they “rested” on the couch, I caught up with several colleagues attending a conference and chatted with a couple more friends/acquaintances/people I (don’t always) know.

Some of the folks I’ve interacted with today are folks that I work with.  Many are not.  Most have no business being “here” on a family vacation.  That said, I’d have it no other way. My world’s at my fingertips on my own terms mostly all the time now, and I’m nowhere close to prepared with how to deal with that.

I feel like I balance work and personal responsibilities fairly well, sometimes leaning one way, other times the other, and I still don’t think I’m anywhere close to certain about how best to handle the blending of personal and professional that we’re smack in the middle of.  It’s new.  It’s different.  It’s awesome.  And it’s tricky.  And I rather enjoy it. I’m not quite sure why I’m choosing to think about it on a day like today, except that I’m aware that my normal “power down completely” relaxation strategy isn’t comfortable today.  Balance is important.  But balance isn’t binary.

I’m an hourly employee in a world where schedules are less and less important at a time when time’s never been more precious.  My friends and my colleagues may or may not be on the same short list of people, but they’re always close and reachable.  And that’s a fine paradox for such a sunny afternoon here at the ocean.  As I head back to my novel, I’m going to take a few minutes to ponder the point further.  Whatever’s happening at present to my nomal routines, I’m still getting some rest and relaxation, and I’m not going to squander it.

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The Podcast: Of Information & Knowledge

Today’s podcast is a short reflection on my learning experiences today, as well as some seriously first draft thinking about information and knowledge.  As always, I hope the conversation continues.

Links

The Colorado TIE Conference

Tom Woodward

The form – share your presence tools!

Chatterous – TwitterChat

Dave Cormier – “Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum”

Sarah Heller McFarlane – “The Laptops are Coming”

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Web Presence. On Purpose.

I’m writing this morning from the National Writing Project’s web presence working retreat, an event I’ve been fortunate enough to have been involved with as a facilitator since its inception last year.  This is the second time we’ve run the event, which is an attempt to provide some time and structure for teams from writing project sites who wish to think strategically about their web presence.  We’ll spend the weekend thinking through the identity of our respective organizations and what we can do online to both reflect and support that identity and the good work that all of us are trying to do in our various locations around writing and teaching and learning. That means lots of things to lots of people, but there’s plenty of intersection in the general trends.

The event is pretty intense, and, while designed for sites to think about their organizational web presences, is very helpful to me as I think about my personal and professional life online.  One of the big questions that we’re asking people to think about is how their web presences are a reflection of and a lens into their work.  My personal web presence should be like that, too.  But I’m not sure that it is.  I’ve got content spread around the web in a variety of places, everywhere from Flickr to Twitter to this blog to my wiki (which is desperately in need of an update or seven) to my work with other groups and schools and people.  There’s plenty of personal mixed in with the professional, and I think the boundaries between those two areas of my life, never truly separate in “real, offline” life, continue to blur and fade and shift from day to day, week to week, month to year.  (That’s a good thing, I think, for the most part.) How do I, as a blogger and a teacher and a learner and a father and a husband and a citizen, do my best to ensure a consistent presence across the Internet that reflects what I believe to be important?  Just as essential – how do I bring all of that content that sits all over the place into some sort of a coherent whole?  Or do I need to, so long as all that content in all of those places, and others, reflects the message(s) that I want so desperately to convey – that learning and writing and thinking and engaging and passionately working for the benefit of others are essential habits and skills for everyone, regardless of background, culture, or profession?

I think, too, about what “web presence” means.  Having a presence and creating a presence are not necessarily the same thing.  Being and doing aren’t necessarily the same, either.

These are some of my thoughts as I head into a pretty intensive planning process, where, if last year is any indication, I’ll learn as much, and probably a great deal more, than I’m hoping to facilitate.  This summer, I’ll be doing a three-hour session on presence tools, a class of software that are about making one’s presence known in some formal and informal ways, Twitter being one of the tools that I’m most curious about at the moment.  I also would like to explore more about digital identity, a conversation I sort of started here a little while back.  My work this weekend will continue to influence that work.  Lots to learn.  Luckily, I’ve got plenty of smart folks here to learn from and with.  We should all be so lucky.

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(Re)Creating Ourselves Online

The Reflective Teacher, one of my favorite reflective practitioners, left his blog behind recently.  But now he’s back with another:

Anyway, I figured it was time for a reinvention as a teacher. I see in myself a different person than I was when I became a teacher, and therefore have moved things over to another place. What’s here will be erased but not forgotten. This place is invaluable to me, but I must let it go.

The kids always call me “Mister,” and when they address me, it’s as “hey, mister.” Therefore, you’ll find me at heymister.

Worth subscribing.

As a complete aside, I find the decisions that folks make about what’s public and what’s private, and how they create (or recreate) and negotiate their digital identities completely fascinating.  The rhetorical and practical decisions that go into everything from creating a screenname to deciding what and where to post are really interesting.

I’d love to facilitate a roundtable or panel discussion about this at some point in the future.  Lots worth exploring.  And, of course, for those of you who blog anonymously (which I can understand but not quite condone), we’ll provide brown paper bags and electronic voice scrambling.  Or something like that.

Would you attend such a conversation?

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Cover It Live Just Got Better

I’ve been a fan of CoveritLive since I discovered it during Educon.  I’ve used it successfully a couple of times, and intend to use it in the future when it makes sense to.  But I wanted a few more options – like multiple authors and the ability to get my data out of their system.

Turns out, so did others. They’ve added multiple author support, automatic moderation of comments, and some other snappy options. It’s a very, very useful tool for capturing events as they happen, both for me and for an audience. (Turns out I learn better, and take better notes, when I’m doing so for someone else.) I find the linear nature of the notes and archive, too, make for a very useful and re-readable dataset. Handy for a backchannel, too.I’m a big fan of what they’re up to, and yes, I probably would pay to use the service, if they get to that. It’s just that good.
(Oh – and I did try the data export – simple embed code. Easy.)

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Twitter Vacation – Day 1

Day 1 of my Twitter break began with . . . a quick glance through Twitter. Habit. (Although I did give myself the limit of not posting to Twitter – reading is still okay. I do find Twitter to be quite valuable. But is it much of a vacation if I still scan the site when I start the day? Hmm . . .)

Still, I pledge to not use Twitter until St. Patrick’s Day, just to see what that’s like. I’m certain I’ll miss things – but I am curious to see if that improves the blogging going on here. We’ll see.

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