I know 2009 hasn’t finished yet, but Animoto (which I used to create the above video) has an image limit of 250.
This looks good but isn’t very really very revealing. I’m well aware that I’ve been tweeting about tomorrow’s EdTechRoundUp TeachMeet (#TMETRU09) and with the people featured in orange. That’s why this is a visualization. It’s a pretty rendition of stuff I already knew.
TweetStats, however, produces something more revelatory:
We’ll ignore the fact that the service has mis-reported early 2009. 😉
What’s interesting is that this reveals something. It shows when I tend to tweet, how often I’ve done so in various months. There are other graphs beside these that give other interesting details.
Herein lies the difference between visualizations (uses non-numerical, qualitative stuff to represent something already known) and infographics (uses quantitative data to show or reveal something new).
It’s rare in this fast-paced world of Twitter and synchronous communications to come across high-quality reflections on how we connect online both professionally and personally. The video below, put together by D’Arcy Norman with contributions from the likes of Dean Shareski, Jim Groom and Barbara Ganley, is 15 minutes long. It’s absolutely worth your time – watch it now:
Connecting with people online is, in a sense, a very strange experience. I can know a lot more about someone that I’ve never (and probably will never) meet in person who lives on the other side of the world than I ever will about a work colleague. In fact, as I’ve often commented to people when doing this, I think meeting people online actually leads to better relationships than if the situation is reversed.
For instance, this might sound silly but I’m always very careful never to wear my glasses when meeting people for the first time. Why? I don’t want them to pigeon-hole me. The next time they see me and I’ve got my contact lenses in I’m the guy ‘not wearing his glasses’. It’s a perception thing.
Meet people online, however, and it’s almost a window into their soul. One thing I find fascinating is people’s choice of avatar on Twitter. Some people choose to have an image of themselves to aid recognition when people meet them in person. Others change their avatar often. The people I’m interested in, though, are people like me: people who stick to one avatar and use it everywhere they go online. Presumably that’s because their avatar says something about them. Here’s a few by way of example from people in my Twitter network – what do you think their avatar and bio says about them?
Primary MFL teacher, ADE, eTwinning Ambassador, speaker and blogger, improving techie and generally enthusiastic gal who loves her iPhone
Changing the node set…
In the video embedded above, Dave Cormier talks about the ‘light’ connections we make with people and how these build up over time. I think this is what D’Arcy Norman (author of the video and, as of last month, no longer on Twitter) and Stephen Downes (a one-way user of Twitter) don’t get about social networking. Yes, 140 characters may be all too brief. But if I connect with you 50 times over the course of a few days, having had to craft each message to fit within the 140-character constraint, I bet we know each other a whole lot more than we did previously. And then you can go and look at my Flickr stream, my blog, etc. for more background. It’s not a replacement, it’s complementary.
Knowing an individual’s personal background and beliefs helps you judge when making decisions on whether to follow their advice and/or lead. But that’s not always best done only on the strength of meeting them face-to-face. I, for example, am much better (in terms of being coherent, understandable) when expressing myself using the written, rather than the spoken, word. Most connections online these days inhabit a world that is partly synchronous, partly asynchronous.* People may respond straight away to something you put online, or they may respond hours, days, weeks, months, or even years later. Because online content is an implicit open-ended invitation to give your opinion and make comment, you can do so at your leisure. This promotes thinking and drafting when blogging, and iterating towards your actual opinion when using tools such as Twitter.
People who haven’t seen videos or listened to podcasts in which I feature are often surprised when they meet me in person. For a start, I’m often younger than they thought (one person commented that they assumed, because of my avatar, that I was ‘a fat, balding, forty-something’ – thanks!) People also don’t tend to realise I have an, admittedly diminishing, Northumbrian accent – replete with the rolling R’s. I’m all for personality and individuality, but sometimes these two factors – my age and my accent – have proved to be barriers in the physical world. Not so online. 🙂
So an ode to the internet and the connections it makes. No, scratch that. An ode to the people who give up their time to connect to people. To those who make my life better by contributing, questioning and criticising my work and my thinking. It’s great to have and to be part of an active audience!
* There’s probably a word for this, but I don’t know what it is!
I’m very pleased to see that other educators have run with the #movemeon idea I floated. There are now literally hundreds of tweets that have been tagged – you can view them in real-time here, or an archive here.
My favourite way of viewing them, is via visibletweets.com using the ‘rotation’ animation:
Once we reach a significant number of tweets – I suggested 1,000 – then I’m going to collate them. Using the self-publishing service Lulu.com there will be a freely-downloadable e-book along with a book purchasable at cost price. 😀
I’ve put together a wiki at http://movemeon.wikispaces.com to depersonalise things – it’s about the ideas and the collaboration, not me, after all! You’ll find the same links as I’ve given above over there.
We do, of course, need a cover for the book and so it’s time to crowdsource that. On the wiki is a page with a template to provide your contribution. You know you can do better than my feeble effort, provided to get things started:
Please do share this with as many people as possible. Not only would I like the book to look as good as it can, but I’d like to make sure that as many educators as possible can tap into the wealth of tips and ideas that have been shared. I’ve certainly learned a lot! 😀
Update: view the latest #movemeon tweets via Twitter Search!
If you’ve been living under a rock, Twitter is a communications medium limited to 140-characters that has taken the world by storm.
Thus we get tweets similar to the following that recommends people to follow:
I’d like to propose a new hashtag to help new and existing teachers share and pick up tips. It’s based on the title of a section of the Historical Association’s Teaching History magazine that aims to move student and newly qualified teachers forward. Thus we’d get something like:
I think this would be manageable. After all, how long does it take to reflect on a lesson, realise something and fire off a 140-character message? :-p
I first came across 12seconds.tv last year when it was in ‘Alpha’. It was an interesting diversion at the time, but I didn’t use it much and quickly forgot about it. Recently, I’ve noticed my email inbox filling up with notifications that people were following me on 12seconds.tv.
Thinking it was worth another look I’ve put together this ’12 ways of using 12seconds.tv in education’. Please feel free to add your own! 🙂
Image CC BY darkpatator @ Flickr
I was delighted to welcome my mother home from her three-and-a-half week visit to the UAE at the weekend. We got talking about what she’d been up to and she mentioned that she’d spent a lot of time reading books. In fact, she said, it was refreshing not to be constantly bombarded with information from the UK media. What followed was an interesting conversation between us in which I advocated carefully selecting a range of (conflicting) media perspectives from which to draw information and form opinions. The answer is not necessarily to cull the number of news sources but to make sure they’re not all telling you the same thing… 😉
To that end I was looking for more places from which to get my information instead of the same-old, same-old, when I came across The Twitter Times. This takes not only stories linked to by those you follow on Twitter, but those of ‘friends of friends’. You may argue that everyone in my Twitter network is likely to be related to education in some way. That’s correct, but some are tangentially connected to that topic and have networks that span many other disciplines and interests. You can see my Twitter Times and judge for yourself here.
One blog post that was linked to many times earlier this week was What problems does Google Wave solve? I noticed that it was originally written in Portuguese; ever since I started reading Ideas: a History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud I’ve realised that my monolinguism affects my conception of the world (and self). I investigated further.
The Google Wave post is a reasonable one but I found another post by the author (Daniel Tenner) more interesting. Entitled Counting hours doesn’t make sense it included this gem:
When we measure results instead of hours, something interesting happens: the distinction between work and not-work blurs away and vanishes, for two reasons. First, clever ideas can make a huge difference to results, and ideas occur anywhere, at any time. In fact, they’re least likely to occur while sitting at a desk working. Secondly, it soon becomes obvious that our actual output of things done is correlated far more to how we feel on the day than to how many hours we spend “working”. The real measure of work is not hours – it’s energy.
We all have a certain amount of energy each day, that can fluctuate depending the day, on our general level of fitness, nutrition, health, state of mind, etc. Some activities (such as going to the gym) increase our daily pool of energy. Others (such as staying up all night or getting drunk every evening) decrease our daily pool of energy.
‘Productivity’ by the hours one works is implicit in our culture. It’s the reason that, despite increased efficiencies and an ever-increasing population, we work longer hours now than ever before.
My wife thinks that I work all of the time. And she’s right, I do. But then it depends what you mean by ‘work’. I’m just as I’m likely to think of something related to elearning in the shower at home as I am about football when I’m in the office. It would make as much sense to say that there’s a synergy between my work and my leisure interests. Consequently, it makes no sense to demarcate and delineate ideas and energy to physical spaces, especially when we live in such a connected world.
It’s always struck me as strange that despite what we know about physiological and psychological ebbs and flows in human beings we remain tied to straightjacketed corporate routines. And none more so than in education. Take, for example, the (current) Autumn term. Each half-term is usually around 7 weeks long – just at the time when the nights are closing in and energy is likely to be lowest. Which is the shortest term? Spring! We start off the year at an naturally energy-sapping time. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.
What’s important in any organization is that the core purpose of that organization is delivered upon. In education that’s the education of young people so they can operate effectively in the adult world. Their minds should have been opened in the process, their horizons raised, and their imaginations fired. That’s unlikely to occur when the adults who surround them are tired and clock-watching.
So when you’re feeling ‘unproductive’ just remember that you’re being human. It’s not about the hours you put in but about the energy you devote and the results you achieve.
Get the energy right and the results – whatever you or your organization decide they should be – will follow. 🙂
Image BY-NC ms4jah @ Flickr
As with many things I write about on this blog, three things have come together recently to make me think about an issue in more detail. Briefly, these are:
I don’t know when or how it happened (I suspect high-stakes testing had something to do with it) but we’ve managed to completely disconnect teaching and learning from real-world experience. There’s a few pockets of good practice and glimmers of light, obviously, but behind a lot of what happens in classrooms is “you’re doing this because it’s on the test.”
Thankfully, the three examples above point to something different. Here’s how:
I came across Courtenay Bird’s blog just before I intended to head off to bed one evening this week. Courtenay’s interests lie in sales, marketing, project management and technology. Hence her interest in infographics. Here’s an example:
It got me thinking about project-based learning and how fantastic creating an infographic would be as a learning experience for students. By their very nature infographics demand a level of expertise by the person who creates them. Look at the research David McCandless at Information is Beautiful carries out before producing one of his masterpieces!
Infographics have to reflect real-world issues and do things with data that interests people. They have to be relevant and meaningful. That’s why I think they’re great for what I would called ‘real-world learning’.
There’s more wonderful infographics below:
I’ve only just come across Morten Oddvik’s work. Morten is an innovative Norwegian educator who focuses on learning outcomes rather than activities. A recent blog post of his – Didactical Project: Cultural or Intercultural Competence? – caught my eye because he’s doing something very difficult: using media-focused cultural references to enhance students’ learning about important (and quite high-level) concepts.
Take a look at this:
As you can see, Morten hasn’t simply taken the rap-music-is-a-form-of-poetry route. Instead he’s done something infinitely more valuable; he’s using something students are already interested in to help them learn about a range of concepts. This is another example of project-based learning. Morten’s focused on learning outcomes and using the content as a scaffold towards that. Great stuff! 😀
Finally, I’ve revisited the work of Dan Meyer recently. Dan blogs at dy/dan and is well known within the edublogosphere for his high work rate and high-quality resources. As my Dad’s recently gone to the UAE as a consultant Maths teacher, I’ve been showing him some of the stuff Dan’s been up to.
I think one of my favourite posts by Dan is one from 2007 entitled Graphing Stories. In it, Dan chronicles not only a formidable amount of work on his part as if it were nothing, but how his high-quality resources and use of human interest led to huge learning gains by his students:
I’ve seen some really bad, disconnected-from-reality lessons during my teaching career thus far. And it has to be said the worst one I ever saw was a Maths lesson. Dan shows on his blog how even the most abstract of concepts can be taught visually, kinaesthetically, and engagingly. That, to me, is what it’s all about!
You should definitely check out his series What Can I Do With This? where Dan takes images and uses them to teach mathematical concepts. Inspiring! :-p
The above shows that if educators focus on learning outcomes rather than activities to take up lesson time (and the high-stakes examinations at the end of a course) then real progress can be made by students. As a subject specialist it paints me to say it, but I think it’s time to move to a project-based curriculum where skills and competencies are focused on rather than simply ‘knowledge’.
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
People come from far and wide to read this blog:
At my previous blog (teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk – back online soon!) I used to reflect monthly on blog visitors and subscribers via RSS or email. In a relentless drive to improve vistors’ experience when visiting the blog I’d analyze which browsers were being used, their screen resolution, and so on.
I haven’t really done that since moving over to blogging here at dougbelshaw.com/blog. Whilst I don’t intend to produce monthly blog posts on the matter, I thought it would be interesting and useful to reflect on the information I’ve got about blog visitors and subscribers! 🙂
The following graph shows how many visits were made to this blog per week between 26 February 2009 (when I installed the Google Analytics WordPress plugin) and today:
Visits are slowly on the rise and are affected significantly by the school year! I’m slightly concerned that people spend, on average, less than two minutes here and tend to only visit one or two pages or posts.
Perhaps I need to make the blog easier to navigate and flag up related material?
So what are people looking for when they come here? The Top 10 most visited posts/pages is make interesting reading:
Unsurprisingly, stuff that was of direct practical utility – either in the form of a downloadable resource or a how-to guide – featured heavily in the Top 10. Geeky stuff also features significantly. I was, however, delighted to see that my Director of E-Learning interview presentation on How E-Learning can contribute to raising achievement was up there as well and that people, on average, spent over five minutes reading through it! 😀
Finally on the general visitor front, I’m pleased to see plenty of people coming from referring sites:
At one time this would have been dominated by Bloglines. Google, as with most things, now rules the roost!
The above chart shows a combination of those who subscribe to the RSS feed via a feed reader or by email. Almost exactly 10% of the 964 people who subscribe to this blog do so by email. The great advantage of this is that I can see who they are and (potentially) contact them without having to put up a public blog post. 🙂
Subscribers act differently to general visitors. The latter might only ever view this blog once, having searched for a very specific thing on a search engine and leave after gaining that new knowledge or insight. Subscribers, on the other hand, have (presumably) made a judgement that this blog consistently produces content that they find relevant and useful.
You’d expect the Top 10 posts/pages for subscribers to be different. And it is!
I think it’s fair to say that the majority of subscribers to this blog are those related to education in some way. And that would make sense given that the tagline is Educational Technology, Leadership & Productivity!
The best indicator of which posts have been most popular, however, comes from the sidebar widget at dougbelshaw.com/blog (RSS/email readers will need to click through to see it). This is powered by the previously-mentioned Disqus and measures how much interest a post has caused based on factors such as the number of comments it generated directly, how many tweets there on Twitter link to it, the number of trackbacks it received, and the number of pageviews.
To finish off, then, here are the current Top 10: