Category Archives: Blogging

Writing Oasis (and the power of HootSuite)

Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating. – John Cleese

I am currently enrolled in an online seminar called Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Issues for Organizations (#xplrpln) where we were encouraged to try something new to kick off the seminar. The tweet below from Cathleen Nardi, a member of my personal learning network (PLN), helped me respond to this call for action.
John CleeseOne of my goals for this seminar is to work on blogging more regularly – I tend to get sucked into my long list of to-do items rather than taking the time to write. To combat this, I tackled blog writing in a new way this week after watching this 1991 video of John Cleese talking about the five factors to make your life more creative and to get into the open mode.

As John recommends, I sealed myself off from the rest of my hectic life by creating a writing oasis. I made a quiet space for myself for a specific period of time. And it worked!

How did I create the writing oasis?

  • I brewed a good cup of coffee and cleared off my dining room table (staring at bills and school fundraising forms is not helpful to this endeavor).
  • I did not log into the Jive community that I manage or into my e-mail (those are my derailers that help me procrastinate).
  • I watched Mr. Cleese again for inspiration and a good laugh — humor can’t hurt!
  • I set a timer for 40 minutes.
  • I picked one of the blog ideas that I have stored up in Evernote and just started writing thoughts down without worrying about the structure of the post.
  • I stopped when the timer went off.

I plan to create another writing oasis this weekend to come back and polish up the post before publishing it next week. I have designated Wednesday mornings as my writing oasis time so if you try to reach me prior to 10am that day I hope that I don’t get back to you until after 10:01am central time.

Will I be able to turn this into a habit? I hope so. I’m going to reread a series of blog posts from my colleague Susan Barrett-Kelly about forming new habits over the weekend to pick up some more tips.

1) Change Habits, Keep Resolutions | The Development Sherpa

2) Make Your Habits Your Allies | The Development Sherpa

3) Never Too Old For New Habits | The Development Sherpa

I’m writing this blog post as a result of reading a blog post by Lauren Klein in the Jive Software user community: Blogging – How to Get Started? She recommends to just do it!

What blogging technique has worked for you? Please share!

SIDE NOTE: The Power of HootSuite

In this week’s first #xplrpln Twitter chat, there were some fellow participants who mentioned that they had not tried HootSuite as a way sift through the the onslaught of information that bombards you when you try to learn via social media. So I thought I’d share why and how I use this tool. I’m sure there are other similar tools out there as well – share in the comments!

In an effort to #showyourwork, I’ve shared how I happened upon Cathleen’s tweet below. Cathleen, Rick Bartlett (@rbb2nd) and several other #edcmooc colleagues are currently enrolled in a massive open online course (MOOC) called Creativity, Innovation and Change that I have been following on Twitter at #cicmooc. While I decided that I couldn’t commit to enrolling in #cicmooc during this busy time for me professionally, I have been reading a few blog posts and lightly following the tweets by watching a stream in HootSuite that appears next to my #xplrpln stream. Cathleen’s John Cleese tweet appeared in my #cicmooc HootSuite stream earlier this week.

I find that setting up Search streams in HootSuite helps me quickly scan through tweets that might be of interest based on particular hashtags. Note that you can use OR searching to have one stream bring back tweets from different hashtags that you want to group together in some way. I can’t imagine using Twitter without a tool like HootSuite. I do not monitor Twitter on a regular basis so want to be able to see older tweets that I would miss if I only look at my real-time stream.

Hootsuite

My Hootsuite Tab called ‘Online Learning – MOOC’

Another great feature of HootSuite (and I swear they aren’t paying me to say this) is that you can create a stream that follows a particular Twitter list. So, for example, I have a HootSuite stream that is showing me all of the tweets from people on the @NU_MSLOC #xplrpln list, all participants in this seminar.

Q: Why would I want to do this in addition to following the #xplrpln hashtag in a stream?

A: Because I can learn so much more and further develop my PLN.

When I follow a list in HootSuite, I see all of the tweets from everyone who has been included in that list, not just the tweets that include the #xplrpln hashtag. I’m going to make an assumption that people who have signed up to participate in #xplrpln are a pretty interesting bunch (and this has proven true so far!) so I’d like to see what else they are sharing on Twitter, not just their #xplrpln tweets. And this is one of the benefits of building a PLN. I will likely learn something new from one of these tweets. I will be able to get a sense of who amongst this group of seminar participants I might want to connect with in other ways outside of the context of this particular online seminar.

This is a stream of @NU_MSLOC's #xplrpln Twitter List

This is a stream of @NU_MSLOC’s #xplrpln Twitter List


photo credit: Paul Stevenson via photopin cc

That’s a wrap! Or is it?

I started this blog at the end of January 2013 with the following note in the About section:

This blog is a public place for me to think out loud and document my learning journey. On January 27, 2013 I started participating in the E-learning and Digital Cultures Coursera MOOC. I’m hopeful that this blog will help me reflect on what I am learning and become a repository of resources that I can refer back to in the future. Once the #edcmooc is over, we’ll see what happens!

This #EDCMOOC course is now officially over. I am happy to report that I am not a MOOC dropout anymore. I met all of my learning goals that I created in week one. I will admit now that I was not expecting this outcome.

  • I tried new digital artifact tools and even drew on an iPad.
  • I wrote a few blog posts and found that I actually like to blog!
  • I read and viewed at least some of the course content, although not as much of it as I would have liked.
  • And I definitely enhanced my own personal learning network! See my EDCMOOC PLN Google Map.

A few days ago, I submitted my digital artifact: EDCMOOC: A Maiden Voyage , finished reviewing three other artifacts and just reviewed my peer feedback. I appreciated this constructive criticism:

I have to admit however, that the thoughts did not seem organized (which is perhaps reminiscent of the class “hurricane-like” feel).

much more than this brief comment:

Nice Prezi that I enjoyed reading and looking at.

While this course may be over, I think this blogging / MOOCing adventure has just begun. I’ll leave the blog up because I think I might have some more to say!

 

#EDCMOOC – Week 1 Scaffolding to Avoid Dropping Out

I’ve dropped out of a MOOC before, so when I started participating in a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) called E-learning and Digital Cultures last week I wanted to set myself up for success. To do this I reflected on the way that I learn and the reasons why I never participated in the MOOC about MOOCs in Fall of 2011 despite my initial enthusiasm. I didn’t really commit to it the first time around. I neglected to set aside dedicated time to the MOOC and didn’t set up a framework to manage the massive amount of content.

As a graduate student in the MS Learning and Organizational Change program, I took several courses that were mostly self-directed, such as my independent study and my capstone project. These courses had some instructional scaffolding built-in that kept me on track, such as advisor meetings and assignments that prepared me for the final papers. It also didn’t hurt that a grade would be entered into the system at the end of the quarter!

In order to set myself up for success in this completely self-directed course, I decided to spend most of the first week setting up my own scaffolding around the course content and online discussion. One of the first resources I found helped me get started: 25 Tips To Make the Most of a MOOC. I tend to go down rabbit holes if just dive into the content so I intentionally did not look at the Week 1 materials until I had done the following:

Luckily, I am comfortable with most of these tools so did not get bogged down in trying to learn about them. I wonder what this would be like for someone who is not a regular user of social media tools?

I also have created the following learning goals for myself:

  • Try some new tools for creating digital artifacts so that I am able to complete the final project which involves creating a publicly available digital artifact which expresses something important about one or more of the themes covered in the course. Drawing / creating visuals is not my strong suit, so this will push me.
  • Write a few blog posts — I’ll admit that this is a bit scary for me but I’ve written two posts already and nothing bad has happened so far.
  • Read and view at least some of the course content during the week it is assigned.
  • Enhance my own personal learning network to support my role as Assistant Director of Academic Services in the MSLOC program at Northwestern University.

So far, I have met my goals for Week 1!

Watching the recording of the Google+ hangout with the course facilitators hooked me. I kept thinking that a trip to Edinburgh might be in order in the future as I observed this group of colleagues facilitate an authentic discussion that shows that they are also learning through this process! I agree with my colleague, Jeff Merrell, that they conducted a great session (See ‘Where are’ vs. ‘who are’ the professors. Thoughts on Google Hangouts and #edcmooc).

My personal learning network has grown already. I’ve started following various edcmooc’ers on Twitter and Google+ as well as some of the blogs.

As I was thinking about creating a digital image for this week, Juliette Swett, a student in the MSLOC program, tweeted about a new tool for creating images and connecting content. Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 2.01.58 PMI played with ThingLink over the weekend and created a very quick and dirty overview of my first week in this MOOC. It represents my attempt to create scaffolding around the massive amount of content and conversation that is being generated. So far I feel like I’ve just been peeking through a fence watching #edcmooc with an occasional shout out on Twitter. I would like to engage more thoughtfully (and publicly) with the actual content in Week 2. You can see the image below that I created to represent my Week 1 experience. It is best to go to the artifact itself so you can interact with the image.

For an interactive version of this artifact, click here.

ThingLink – First Attempt

Scaffold Photo Credit: j neuberger via Compfight cc

We write to taste life twice. ~ Anais Nin

A colleague of mine, Georgianne Hewett (@georgianneh), just shared a fun Twitter tool called All My Tweets that shows you all of your tweets on one page. She asked the question, what do your tweets say over time?

She then shared her favorite quote from her own list of tweets:

We write to taste life twice. ~ Anais Nin

This quote couldn’t have come to me at a better time (I started this blog earlier this week). Rather than getting hung up on worrying about how I will come across to whoever happens upon this little space I’m occupying on the web, I’m just focusing on writing, on tasting life twice and reflecting publicly.

This is also why I love Twitter. Not only did I read an inspirational quote, I also found a new tool. Plus I pasted all of my tweets into Evernote so that I can now search them. I went back and looked at my first tweets which made me realize how much has changed in my digital literacy journey since 2009 when I created my Twitter account.

  • Tweet #1: setting up a twitter account – finally taking the plunge Jun 27, 2009
  • Tweet #2: Attended a social media workshop today and finally understand the benefits of twitter – or is it just one more thing to distract me? Jun 27, 2009
  • Tweet #3: won’t get much of a following with so few “tweets” – so far Twitter hasn’t pulled me away from FB – wonder what will grab me about it? Jul 03, 2009

I guess 3 1/2 years later I’ve answered my question about what will grab me about Twitter. It expands my personal learning network, it helps connect me to something larger than myself, and it sends me little gifts.

1573 tweets later, I’m convinced!

Gather with Purpose

I have found that the intersection of community, technology and learning is more meaningful when I step back and ask myself and my colleagues the following question:

What meaningful work can we do together that we could not accomplish individually?

In other words, how can we gather with purpose?

The phrase Gather with Purpose came to me while my MS Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) colleague, Jeff Merrell, and I were preparing a case study about creating a collaborative learning community for the 2011 Chicago E-learning Tech Showcase.

We shared three themes that we (MSLOC staff and faculty) had begun to identify as important for stewarding collaborative learning communities:

  1. Make Emotional Connections
  2. Encourage Discovery
  3. Gather with Purpose

During and after the case study presentation the theme that has resonated the most with people is Gather with Purpose. As Jeff Merrell mentions in a blog post, perhaps this is because so many of us have sat through class sessions (virtually or face-to-face) and meetings that seem like a waste of time. An instructional video or e-mail update would have sufficed.

In order to come up with the themes, we thought about the ways that a collaborative learning community has been fostered within the MSLOC program and then grouped them together. Some examples of gathering with purpose are:

  • Video Presentations: Student teams create video presentations that are shared with the whole class prior to a class session. The class session is used for discussing and critiquing the presentations in order to make connections and go deeper.
  • Simulations & Role Plays: A virtual class session is used to practice consulting. The instructors act as clients and students act as consultants. A scoping call with the “client” happens prior to the virtual session.
  • Knowledge Jam: Instructor gathers a panel of subject matter experts to participate in a knowledge jam with the students around a particular topic.
  • Group Reflection/Brainstorming via Google Docs: 15 – 25 students simultaneously answer questions, reflect or brainstorm a topic at the same time during hybrid or virtual class sessions. Everyone has a voice, not just the extroverts!

For me, the phrase Gather with Purpose is a reminder to slow down and be intentional about designing and planning virtual, face-to-face and hybrid gatherings/meetings/class sessions. The phrase helps me be more present during both the planning phase and the actual gathering. It also allows me as a participant to be more present because it acknowledges that all of our voices are needed when we gather. Our lives are all so busy and it is easy to just quickly slap together a ppt deck rather than take time to ask ourselves why we are gathering.

  • What is it that we can do together that we cannot achieve alone?
  • How can we make emotional connections and be energized by our gathering?
  • How can we design gatherings that hold people’s attention and perhaps even allow participants to go deep and stop multitasking?
  • What is the content or knowledge needed for this meeting and how will that be delivered or acquired prior to the session?

I hope that this blog can help me be more intentional with my own learning and reflection. Perhaps it will allow me to gather with more purpose online. While I am entering into blogging as purely an individual endeavor, I have a feeling it will open up some new connections and maybe even increase my own personal learning network along the way!

Related Resources

image from slightlyeverything on flickr