Powerful serendipity.

After today, I am on a mission to do a better job of keeping record of the amazing learning I have enjoyed these early weeks of summer because I have been paying attention to my network on Twitter.  I  have written about/mentioned Twitter before and shared what I learned from Kathy Sierra last week because of a random streaming url tweet, and the point of this post is not to convince anyone to use it/create an account. Well, maybe just a little. I am just struck today (as I am listening to David Weinberger’s keynote “Learning from the Net’ streaming from EdAccess 2009. His slides are here) by the number and variety of online conferences and presentations I have been able to join over the course of the last very few weeks – and I am amazed when I look at them as a collective.  Sure, the experience is not quite the same as traveling to and being present at a conference, but I can assure you that the learning is no less powerful.  All of the experiences have included a live stream (plus timely availability of an archive) + a backchannel chat – either through Twitter or some other tool.  I knew about only a couple of these in advance; most were shared as urls in tweets inviting folks to tune in.  To give you a sense of the magnitude of what has been available and what I have been able to participate in, here is my reconstructed list since just mid-May:

1.      Course to Dis/Course – ‘This short online conference – May 14 & 15, 2009 – is being organized by Martin Weller, George Siemens, and Grainne Conole.’  Session recordings can be found here.  ( I knew about this one in advance and had registered to participate.  The conference was free).

2.      On May 18th, I tuned in to an EDUCAUSE Solutions in Action Webcast – ‘…a lightning round of speakers about the ways that they are introducing new technologies to faculty and celebrating innovative approaches to teaching and learning.’  The session archive is available from hereThe session was free.

3.      On June 5th, I caught Alec Couros at the University of Delaware’s 2009 Summer Faculty Institute for his keynote, ‘Harnessing the Power of Social Networks in Teaching & Learning’.  A video of the session is available from Alec’s blog, open thinking (along with some other really good stuff from Alec. His blog itself is worth following on a regular basis).  I tuned in to this session because someone there tweeted the url to the live stream. I was amongst the twitter followers Alec mentions in the beginning of his talk.

4.  That same day  someone tweeted a link to a live stream of Jon Mott’s ‘Loosely Coupled Gradebook’ session:  from the Teaching with Technology Idea Exchange (TTIX).  Visit Jon’s blog, The End in Mind, for a link to his presentation slides and Ustream capture – or visit the TTIX space (link above) for an archive of Jon’s presentation and more. I didn’t catch all of Jon’s presentation – I had been listening to Alec and there was time overlap. But, not to worry, Jon sent me the url to the saved presentation on his blog so I could access the whole thing at my convenience.  I have colleagues here who are interested on his topic, so now I can share this opportunity with them – even though they didn’t catch the live session.

5.      On June 11th, I listened to a live stream of Kathy Sierra from the New Media Consortium’s Summer Conference.  (See previous post with notes from this session.)  The video archive from the conference is available here.  Again, I tuned in because someone sent out the call to join in at the live stream url.  I am so glad I did.  I did not know about this in advance. 

6.      On June 12th, I caught Alec again along with Dean Shareski streaming form a conference in Texas.  See Dean’s Ideas and Thoughts blog for more about their keynote and a link to the conference video archive.  Once again, the contact was a result of a tweet…I did not know about this ahead of time.

7.      Then just yesterday, June 22, once again I caught Alec streaming via a tweet (he is a really busy guy living the ‘open’ life!).

8.      Today, as I mentioned, I listened to David Weinberger streamed from EdAccess (See links above to access more information).  The ‘archive’ for this one includes a conference wiki.  Take a look here.

 Are you catching the pattern??  Hints: “tweets of urls to live streams” and “archives” are available.  I believe this pattern is quickly becoming a standard expectation – especially in times of budget exigencies making travel too costly for many.  Again, listening to a streamed session is not the same as being there, but it is no less powerful if one joins in the backchannel and follows up with the archive. Not to mention the connections that result from meeting new folks online and having the opportunity to add them to your network in a more ‘permanent’ way than the traditional exchange of business cards at the standing-room-only cocktail reception.  By linking up in Twitter, etc…folks can re-join around common interests at any time, not whenever they get around to digging through that conference binder and hoping cards and notes weren’t lost….and then there’s the archive.  The archive might just be THE most important affordance, in fact.  Here is built-in ability to share with others – exactly what was seen/heard complete (often) with slides and/or the presenter’s materials. (And some really cool folks like Alec Couros share their materials and invite you to use them yourself if you so choose!).

 Okay, I know…about now you are thinking that I spend my entire work life trolling for streaming links.  Not quite.  Sometimes I turn on conference streams and run them in the background while I multi-task on other stuff.  I do admit that most days I keep TweetDeck running all the time – in the background.  Some days I hardly look at it. Others, I tune in just in time to catch good stuff like streaming urls.  Then on the most special of days I join the conversation for a while. Those are the best experiences where I can gather AND share – in real time.

Take a look at Jim Vanides’ latest blog post ‘Twitter Experiment-The First 18 Days’ and particpate in his survey about how much time educators should spend on Twitter.  Personally, (and based on my experiences like the ones I have written here) participation in Twitter should be a REQUIREMENT of EVERY educator.  This type of network connectedness is not to be missed.  Put it in there with ‘keeping current in the field’ if you prefer the more traditional terms to describe what academics should do. But there really is no substitute for what happens in twitter if the network  is constructed with even minimal care and only intermittent tending.  A more committed participation yields even higher return. 

I can assure you that my own learning has been expanded far beyond what I might have ever imagined just a couple of years ago.  Often that learning is messy, and unexpected but always exciting and giving me new ideas to try out.  And…I have connected with a MUCH broader professional community as well. (Sometime I’ll get around to a post on my own PLN.  For now the focus is what I have recently learned from Twitter). If you are still not convinced (and I don’t know how anyone is not at least curious about Twitter given its role in the unfolding of events in Iran) I invite you to check it out and see what you might learn.  Find someone you know and see who they are following.  Tune in.  Pay attention. See what happens.  And lest you think that the opportunities I have listed are in some way inferior because I did not witness them in person, I invite you to visit the archives links and see for yourself.

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