Ask yourself, “Will it help you achieve your learning objective “better, faster, safer, easier, or cheaper?”

I have had the opportunity to with thousands of online faculty and to observe hundreds of thousands of online students in the SUNY Learning Network (SLN). From that vantage point I can sense/feel the increased interest in and usage of audio and video-enhanced online instruction/communications/interaction. And at work I feel it too. Skype and elluminate meetings, workgroups, and collaborations are a regular thing now. I see a definite trend away from purely text-based interaction in the world of online teaching and learning from both faculty and students. And though that certainly does not mean that text-based communications will disappear, there is something about audio and video communications in instruction that significantly enhances the experience for faculty and students in terms of creating more engaging content presentation, and enhancing interaction, collaboration, and feedback. (My friend Phil Ice has done some research on this. In my efforts to explore what it really means to be learner-centered as an online educator in my own online instruction, I have come to the conclusion to really do that, I have to let go and let students be engaged and express that in ways that are meaningful to them and their lives. This is not as easy …or comfortable as it sounds. I would probably be characterized as one of the most learner-centered online instructor by friends and colleagues …and yet I struggle – so I know how hard it is.

I also feel that an LMS that locks down and controls access and ownership of student content is problematic and contributes to my frustration and struggle. I mean if we are asking them to generate content, then why does their access to their content go away at the end of the term? How can you call a tool a blog if they don’t own it, can’t personalize it, it is NOT public AND it (and their content) gets taken away at the end of the term – and so on… This tension I feel between the LMS and student-created content is one of the main reasons I teach mostly “outside the box” and have been presenting everywhere I can about teaching and learning in the cloud:

I always tell the faculty I work with NOT to get attached to “tools” as they change, get bought and killed, or just disappear… I tell them to be fearless and that there are tons of tools, so that if one goes away there are others to take its place I tell them that you need to start with a learning objective, NOT the tool, and you just need criteria to evaluate tools – Does it help you achieve your learning objective “better, faster, safer, easier, or cheaper?”

i am highly polychronic!

I just took this really cool quiz in FB to determine how polychronic

apparently, i am highly polychronic!

You multi-dimensionally approach work projects with flexible, adjustable plans and shared responsibilities. You tend to believe the success of business transactions is ultimately determined by the individuals involved and their cohesiveness as a team. Work is founded upon quality interpersonal interaction and long-term investment in community, which takes precedence over all forms of activity. Communication tends to be spontaneous and high context. Decision making is based on extensive group involvement, discussion, and consensus. The essence of leadership is the subtle balance of group consensus and personal vision.highlypolychronic

teaching outside the “box” and in the “cloud” – slideshare handout of resources

I teach ETAP 687 intro to online learning , a fully online master’s level course where the majority of the content, interaction, and feedback for The course take place in and outside the course management system  “box” in the “cloud”. I will show you what happens when several web 2.0 technologies (twitter, voicethread, diigo, edublogs, jing, meebome, seesmic, youtube, gcast, audacity, polldaddy) are stitched together into one fully online course In moodle. I will talk about how I did it and why, and what the students thought about it. And I will also invite you to explore selected tools For yourself, and to join my netoworks, so you can share with me what you know and what you learn.

*   Specific educational need(s) met by the use of technology

  1. Create engaging content
  2. Facilitate engaging interaction and collaboration
  3. Provide engaging feedback/evaluations/assessments

*   Rational for selecting technology


  1. To explore my passion to understand learning and to push myself to practice what it really means to be learning centered teaching To add interaction, engagment and visual appeal. To provide student access beyond the end of the term.
  2. To blur the boundaries of the CMS “box” take students out and bring others in to the classroom.
  3. Because it is important for the future of my students I feel an obligation to participate, evaluate, document and expose and engage students and faculty to and in this process
  4. Because it is important for me and I like it. To explore, test & evaluate I am a learner too!!!
  5. Because today I can. web2.0 is here. Giving me access to 1000 of tools. My criteria: better faster, safer, easier, cheaper.
  6. Big why: to improve engagement and learning. for them:

*   Example(s) of implementation (whenever possible, use live Site to demonstrate)
show the course

*   Benefits/drawbacks – my reflections – my student reflections
Students have and keep access to their stuff. They get permission to explore a lot of tools and the opportunity to develop a sense of, and control of their digital self.
Lots of work, lots of accounts…

*   Future applications/considerations
More students = will have to redesign
Have to find new podcast tool
Improve twitter interaction
Improve seesmic interaction

some of my digital footprints – who i am

who i know …

what i link to . what i bookmark  . where i  go …

what i share . what comments i leave . what i blog …

the pictures & videos i post .  the art i create . how i express myself …

the POWER of the social web

1. Where do YOU LEAVE your digital FOOT PRINTS ?
2. Lots of variety of things to do, explore, and experience.
3. Social – friendships,
4. Finding and exploring affinity with others. Connecting & sharing interests.
5. Skillz* Developing technical skills necessary to participate in the 21st century.
6. World is at your fingertips. Knowledge and Answers are available anywhere/everywhere/anytime.

7. Learning from experts. Access to experts.

8. Access & opportunity to connect with your “rockstars”
9. Not just consumers -& not just about consuming content.
10. Creating content. Participating and making contributions to the social landscape.
11. Dream and express yourself. Reflect, reveal, experiment & try things on -self-expression defines you – via your blog, videos, comments, avatars, names & profiles.
12. Share what you find and what you create. Share what you know. You become a teacher.
13. Teamwork – collaboration
14. Opportunities and potential are endless. Opportunity to help others -opportunity  to recognize your global responsibility. opportunity to learn to use technology ethically and responsibly.
15. What footprints are you leaving?
16. Unlike in sand the digital footprints you make and leave once made do not wash away
17. What you do online are your digital footprints that make up your digital persona – they are an extension of you.
They represent you.
You have to be aware, monitor, and filter them. You have to take care of them.
You have to take responsibility for them.
You have to be in charge of your digital self….
The social web is an amazing place that enhances and enriches our personal and professional lives.

Think about this… online you are … and you become … who you know, what you link to, what you share, what you bookmark, what comments you leave, what you blog, the pictures & videos you post, the art you create, how you express yourself, where you go…

the avatar as a representation of “self”

One of my current students uses her dog, Bishop, as her profile image. I love that she does that. It gives me a warm feeling about her. She mentioned in one of our discussions that she chose him because she was concerned about her privacy and security.

She said:

I think it is funny that you mention my use of my Bishop for an image. I had a reason. In a class we had on cyber security, it said to never use a real image of yourself unless you want it broadcasted. We learned how to build an Avatar. I do not like my Avatar because when I made it, the selections did not include large or handicapped people as a choice. Everything was “beautiful people” and personally, I think that is very wrong. I have never gone out there to look further to see if there are other places (I used Yahoo) to see if you can build a real person. So I chose Bishop as he is my familiar.

As soon as i read her post i did a google search and started playing with 2D avatar generators to see what i could come up with. Below are links to the ones i found an played with. The resulting images i have inserted in to this post.

Avatar Generators:



These last 2 are my SecondLife 3D avatars. I lived in my newbie SL skin (left) for almost a year before changing her to a more “realistic” me (right) : ) Not sure why, but i never messed with her looks much till i saw someone walk by that looked just like me, and then i started thinking about it and wanted her to look more like the real me, so i plumped her up and got some “good” hair to look more like mine. Then i didn’t touch her looks again till i had to do a presentation in SL ( and wanted to represent myself more realistically and less like a newbie. Have not really touched her since… i had a hard time finding appropriate clothes. I think about the online representation of self often. Colleagues and i have talked about, especially in the hyper-sexualized world of secondlife. I note it everytime i log into some place on the social web and see how friends and colleagues choose to represent themselves, or when i am required to upload yet another image to another profile somewhere… I am charmed by those who choose animals or some image that whispers insight into the person. I like that invention and creativity very much. None of the new little avatars i generated “really” look like me. There is a suggestion of me, i suppose. Brown skin, hair, and eyes. long curly hair… i really like the little one with the black skirt and shirt, but i will not be running around the web changing my profile images to any of these anytime soon.

I understand and respect the need for privacy, and for some, not wanting one’s “real” image floating about the net. For some there may be a sense of loss of control. I guess i feel “in charge” of what i put out there.

The course starts today!

Today is the offical start date of my summer online course, etap687. It is a master’s level fully online course at UAlbany in the education department. If you are interested, here is a link to a tour of the course. I also have a cool prezi presentation that i am currently doing about my experiences teaching this course last semester, title teaching outside the “box.” I am excited and anxious and hope that i have set everything up right and that it will all work with no tech difficulties. I have about 8 students enrolled so far and am really looking forward to meeting them and learning more about them and the online courses they will develop as part of their course.

To prepare for this term, i copied the course from last term and updated it. I’ve had some challenges with this along the way. Links broke, i had to recreate several discussions, and any student-level documents that i had as part of the course i had to recreate as well. It has been interesting. i made a few modifications to the course based on feedback from the students from last semester. Mostly in the instructions to activities so that things would be clearer from the beginning. I also decided to keep the students from last term in the course diigo group instead of setting up a new one for the new course – to build community.

I am very concerned about the amount of work the course will be in terms of my own course management. Last term it nearly killed me. And my husband and family were not amused by the amount of time i spent on it. Part of the issue is manually having to tabulate all the discussion gradings. I have not made any modifications in my approach to discussion, and so expect that it will be a lot of work again. If only the course management system did this for me automatically, i could spend more time interacting in the course a less time trying to count and track all the discussion ratings. i have heard that a newer version of moodle does this… alas, i don’t believe that is the version we are in.

In any case, i am really looking forward to teaching this course and learning lots from my students. I still have to go check my rubric, and the sun is coming up  : )

You can follow our course announcements on twitter and have a look at our icebreaking activity.  I also really look forward to peering into my students reflections as they take their course through their own blogs. Links to their blogs are on this blog,

here we go!

my criteria for evaluating whom to follow on twitter

I have been using twitter since December 2007… so waaaay before Oprah and it going mainstream. In fact, i am not sure i like everyone and their brother talking about it and doing it…it kinda makes me cringe when the local news anchor mentions twitter to sound hip and with it, but it is in a way that you know he has no idea what he is talking about. it feels like it has become uncool in some way.

Anyway, in the beginning, i followed everyone that followed me. I guess i thought it was the polite thing to do, and i was just pretty much stunned that anyone that i didn’t already know would want to follow me.

I don’t do that any more. And i am much more selective about whom i will follow and let follow me. i now intentionally want to filter noise from signal. Some people will twitter about any/all random thoughts in their heads. i use twitter primarily professionally and to document my exploration of the social web and instructional technologies (this is my signal), but as i have said in a previous post, i have experienced a blurring with my professional self, and so you will find in my stream occasional personal tweets about my life/family (this is my noise). I look for a balance of noise and signal, and where there is more signal than noise.

So, how do i decide if i will follow you, or follow you back?

  • I look at your twitter profile. do you seem interesting in some way? i followed a guy who said he likes  pudding @ryenyc. and i am following a cat @fluffythecat who diligently tweets meow every day.
  • what is your name? are you a person or a business? are you a real person? i will block most businesses that are not edtech focused. i will block most vendors unless i use/like their product. it is astounding how fast some of these vendors will tweet/follow you when you mention their product. Sometimes i am impressed, sometimes it feels slimy.
  • where are you located? not that it matters. i am just curious. and interested.
  • where do you work? if you work for the ministry of education in Colombia, i am interested. If you are the Sr. Director of Tech Evangelism at BB, not so much.
  • how do you define yourself in your bio? You can loose me here, if you say something stoopid.
  • do you provide a web link to a blog or site with more info about you? i rarely follow someone with no web link. lately, i have been DMing (direct messaging) people without links that follow me asking them for a link to get to know them better before i decide if i want to follow them.
  • how many people do you follow? if you follow 1,259,537 people, i will NOT be 1,259,538.
  • how many follow you? if 1,259,537 people follow you, i might be curious about that, but i probably won’t follow you unless you are obama or brent spiner.
  • what do you do? higher ed faculty, k12teachers, instructional technologists will likely get a follow, people shilling books or services will most likely be blocked.
  • i look to see how many updates you have and when you joined. If you joined yesterday, have 2 updates, and 1,369 followers, it’s a pass.
  • i look to see what your ratio of posts to @replies are. If you only post you are suspect. If you are @replying only you are suspect. I look for a balance.
  • i look at whom you @reply to and what you are talking about. If your @reply conversations are too personal or i can’t figure them out…
  • I look at how often you post. if you post too much, you are irritating. If you don’t post enough, you are not relevant.
  • I also look at whom you are following and who follows you. I also look to see if we have people we follow or interact with in common.
  • i then look through 2-3 full screens of your twitter stream. if i learn one thing from you, i will follow you. all it takes is one thing.   : )

My purpose for twittering is for professional development and community and to extend my PLN. i want to engage in interaction on things that are of interest to me with people that interest me or that know more than me about things that i am interested in –  namely instructional technology. I also love twittering conferences and documenting my web2.0 experiences. I also use twitter to update my facebook status feed.

Without a doubt or without any reservation i say that twitter has been the most powerful influential professional development experience in my life. It is a vibrant exciting living expression of my community of practice. It gives me access to experts all over the world that i might never have met otherwise. and it gives me a forum in which to document my work, express myself, interact with others, and establish my own professional presence, credibility, and level of expertise.

it not an overstatement for me to say that i heart twitter  :  )

who am i? boundaries blurring…personal “noise” vs. professional “signal”

forgive me, i am having an existential moment . . . i am reflecting on who i am and how i represent myself online. I have become increasingly self-conscious about this over the last 6 months, and by that i mean i have been noticing and observing things about myself and how i think, feel, act, and articulate myself online.

i use the social web professionally extensively. In addition to in my online teaching, i use the social web to connect with colleagues. I would characterize this as my primary use of the social web. In the beginning i used it exclusively professionally- to talk to and keep in touch with my professional community, and to share with them what i do – an amalgamation of professional networking, collaboration, and increasingly a significant component of my professional development -my own personal learning environment – helping me to keep up with who and what is going on in my field. I am always aware of my digital persona… I always have in the back of my mind when i post anywhere and anything “Larry Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium, will read this…” : ) And that awareness is very interesting to me when calibrated against my desire to authentically represent myself online. Yes, i filter. i am very conscious of my professional persona and protecting that. I am very well known in the national online education community and am adjunct faculty at UAlbany. i put energy and care into my digital presence and my online persona. The personal stuff creeping in is something i can’t control completely. I am sensitive and aware and i monitor.

A serendipity that i did not anticipate is this blurring of my personal and professional selves… i resisted it somewhat for the first 2 years and just in the last half year or so i have slowly noticed myself letting that blur happen and enjoying it…partly because friends and family have found me, and partly because i want my students and my professional community of followers to understand that i am multi-dimensional – that i am not just what i do. In my bios, one will note, that i have always said that i am 1. Isa’s mom, 2. an artist. and 3. that i know a little something about online learning : ) So this awareness of myself as a multi-dimensional being, and diligence at representing myself as such, has always been there unconsciously emblazoned publicly on all my profiles.

I am sprinkled all over the social web, twitter, diigo, delicious, facebook, seesmic, linkdin, spock, plaxo, youtube, slideshare, flickr, and on and on and on . . . There is something about the presentation of self online that requires these presences, and the little artifacts posted to each, to give one substance/credibility/real-ness online – they are a digital commodity – used to gain status, relevance – or merely as proof of one’s existence. I think of them as my footprints, a history and journal of sorts of my meanderings through the social web, and my thoughts and interactions along the way. I also think of them as extensions or facets of myself that when looked at as a whole do a pretty good job of representing me and what i care about. These little artifacts give me digital substance, that if lost, would be like loosing my memories, erasing my existence, and if deleted purposefully, would feel self-injurious… Richard Smyth has an extremely engaging notion of memories in the digital age that has got me thinking a bit too about my memories and the digital pushpins and footprints that i leave online in facebook, twitter, etc., and that make up my digital self…these little inane pushpins in the time line of my social web life have become increasingly and inevitably a blurring of my personal and professional selves …  i have been thinking about this a lot.

Richard talks about technology as aides de memoir – mnemonomics (managing memory) he describes as a theory for understanding web2.0,  communications technology, and  social networking as collaborative memory. Memory he says, started out as oral stories stored in human brains and exchanged f2f. Literary memory followed with the alphabet and print stored in books and libraries. Today, he says, our memory is increasingly stored electronically and digitally – evinced in social bookmarking, for example. He talks about the collective intelligence inherent in social networking, where who you know becomes how you know – epistemology as community. He asks: how is web2.0 changing the nature of memory? how do these technologies supplement our memory? how do they free our minds from having to remember?

From the profile fotos i post, to the little bios i am obliged to write on all the sites i join, i have noticed things. But, i only started noticing when they changed – recently. For example, since 1994 i have had one digital photo of myself that i have used professionally for all my profiles, publications, online and in print, etc. When i first digitized it 14 yrs ago, i probably “selected” it as a good likeness, nice composition, and a pretty image of me. After that though it was just alex.jpg, the image i used for everything. I didn’t think about it at all – for 14 years . . . in the facebook world where people change their profile images like socks, it just never occurred to me. (The same was true for me in SecondLife – i lived in my newbie skin for more than a year – i just didn’t occur to me to change it.) It was not until my friend, Thomas McGuiggan, from high school friended me that it started occurring to me. I wanted Tom to know what i look like today. I noticed. That old grainy orange-ish 14-year-old image of me just seemed wrong somehow. One minute the image was real enough, the next i felt self conscious that it was not my authentic self. I have changed my FB profile 3 times since February 2009. Not really sure why. Vanity -maybe. Because i can -probably. Because i am now aware of it- i think.

I think it really started when Elizabeth Hanson friended me in FB about 8 months ago … she is a friend that i feel really close to and love from college. She put up pictures from college, we talked in FB, other friends of ours joined…i got “engaged” in the whole FB thing … when the 25 random things meme went ’round Elizabeth’s was one of the first i read. I loved it. (I have a thing for a well turned phrase and Elizabeth is an artist with a pen.) I didn’t get tagged right away, but loved reading the notes of my friends and acquaintances. When i was tagged, i LOVED writing my 25 things. I had no problem coming up with 25 things … my master list was over 60 items. I also worked very hard on that list. I spent time making sure they were each just so. I also noticed that some of them, though completely “me,” I just could not post (even though part of me really wanted to). . . And so i filtered … consciously… and noticed that i was filtering. I had a conscious sense of observing myself prune that list down, however, interestingly enough i did not notice till after i posted, that none of my things have to do with what i do : ) weird right?! …not one of my 25 things random things about me has anything to do with my job … i totally love that! And i don’t understand it. It was a very interesting exercise for me that may have been a tipping point of sorts in some way.

Here is the time line as best as i can figure – June 2, 2008 and then again on June 13– i posted my first non work-related videos on YouTube. In August 2008 Elizabeth friended me and posted old college photos of us and our friends.  January 6, 2009, my friend Kevin Lim twittered and blogged about changing the way he uses twitter ( January 7 i posted my first twitpic – – note that none of my twitpics are work related – these are posted to my twitter stream – the point being that this is not just in FB, but that this phenomenon is happening in all my social sites. January 9th Thomas friended me in FB. January 27 i read my friend Alex Ried’s wonderful blog post on why blogging is so hard ( Approximately on February 1, 2009 Elizabeth deleted just about everything on her wall. (This astounded me. How could she do that – like she was erasing her memoires or part of herself – she points to her Virgo nature and penchant for tidiness and thinks of the FB wall as ephemera…) February 3 i posted my FB 25 random things about me. February 11th i changed my FB profile picture for the first time. February 15, pondering my friend’s wall deletion, I posted the question on seesmic, do you delete stuff you post? Around this same time i started actually visiting and hanging out in FB regularly, where previously i merely had my various feeds auto update my wall.

Alex Reid said in his digital digs blog post that these mundane little things. . .

…may not matter to you, but they matter to me. Of course twitter also becomes a way of sharing interesting things discovered online and having quick conversations, so it is not all daily minutiae. But my point is that even that minutiae can become a way of creating a networked identity that becomes a basis for stronger and more productive connections.

Kevin Lim in his theory is the reason blog post waxing philosophical about twitter noted:

Pragmatically, most would say that the conversation is a signature of being human, which in itself is a value which we cannot yet reproduce mechanically simply by constantly tweeting links. The reward of twitter was that our connections felt alive whenever someone @replies (reciprocates).

In a low-resolution environment of 140 characters, I thought I could get by with being human through a simple machine. On the contrary, twitter was about the celebration of being human, and I had a choice whether to partake in it.

My new friend George Siemens just wrote in his newsletter:

The internet, specifically social networking tools like Twitter, assaults the boundary between our private and public selves. The many representations of “George” – father, son, brother, employee, friend – move toward one on Facebook. Social networking and social theory explores this blurring of identities through Erving Goffman’s (a connection to Manitoba!) work: “front stage” and “back stage” concepts have been a useful way to understand social life. Goffman wrote in 1959 of how we keep certain information private, part of the process of impression management.” Impression management is not solely under our control. If you have presented at a conference, commented on a blog, or had someone take an image of you and post (and tag) on Flickr, you exist online. Others participate in defining and broadcasting who we are.

I don’t like thinking about it as “impression management.” And yet, there it is, no matter what i believe, we all filter and consciously or unconsciously make choices about how we represent ourselves online, in person, on the phone… etc. True, some people are (as my friend Kevin Lim says) more noise than signal – but being all signal is not right either. I want a balance in my life, and i want to connect with people that balance.

So, Sarah, i want to know that you found your pink hair dye today, and to see photos of the socks you knit, what you are making for dinner, and that your doppler is out of date. Your tweets are relevant to me. Alex, i want to know that you have contactors coming to your house today, about the demo in your department meeting, and that you showed your little girl twitter – and that you have a new blog post. I like the snark you sometimes have in your voice. Kevin, i LOVE hearing your twitter voice, knowing what you are eating for breakfast/lunch and what you are doing while you eat, and knowing that you get turned on by pedagogically-focused gaming links : ) George, I am interested in hearing about your parent-teacher conference and when you are looking for coffee… Because your “noise” gives you context and makes me feel closer, more connected to you and our common human-ness, which makes you more real to me, helps me trust you, and makes your “signal” to me, and its impact – that much more powerful.

I am what i bookmark and what digital breadcrumbs i leave about the net. I am who i know and who i interact with online. I am known by the digital pushpins and footprints i leave about. AND i am more than what i do for a living. It is really important to me that people know that – and that people know me – my real multi-dimensional self.

on social presence

There is evidence to suggest that a strong sense of community in the classroom helps reduce student feelings of isolation and “burnout” associated with higher attrition levels in both classroom-based and distance learning. A positive sense of community also promotes the likelihood of student support and information flow, commitment to group goals, cooperation among members and satisfaction with group processes and efforts [e.g. Rovai (2002)].  Classroom Community is comprised of various elements of community including trust, spirit, connectedness, belonging, membership, various forms of support, and the rich, and productive milieu that communities of practice can engender for teaching and learning.

In my work with faculty helping them to become effective online instructors, i work very hard to establish a strong personal online voice to demonstrate/model online personality as a component of my teaching presence and to establish a positive social presence and sense of class community that you can only cultivate by building trust with individuals. As an online instructor I set the tone for this in my online course by how i speak, interact, and present myself. I also facilitate and model it for my students, so they have a sense that I am a real person, and that it is ok for them to be real too in the online class environment. This does not mean being chummy with your students, or lax, or anything that you are not. This means representing yourself authentically and as a real multidimensional being online, so that your students will “know” who you are, can judge and gauge their relationship with you, and have a sense of you. If as, we believe, learning is a social process, then it is essential to develop the ability to effectively design and facilitate effective online social presence and class community in online teaching and learning environments and the faculty that teach in them.