I don’t know if I’ll write an end of the year reflection or not (probably not) but now that I’m done with my last presentations for ’07 I do want to make note of how much the focus of what I’m doing has changed in the last year. Today, it was all about networks, not tools. All about connections, not publishing. All about working together to get smarter, not learning alone. All about how RSS connects us to ideas, how blogs connect us to people, how Twitter connects us to, um, the Twitterverse, and on and on and on. I think for me, at least, 2007 will be the year that really deepened my understanding of how the tools link us and why that’s so important. Not that I didn’t know that on some level all along, but this year, with NECC providing much of the impetus, it just became all the more cemented into my practice.
In the midst of my session in Ontario today, I video Skyped Jeff Utecht in from Shanghai spur of the moment (thanks, Jeff) to just do a couple of minutes on RSS. It was cool giving the people in the room a sense of how much smaller the world has gotten. But what was pretty profound is when I gave Jeff the choice of giving up his blog or his RSS reader, he didn’t hesitate. “I’ll take RSS and Twitter over the blog any day.” Imagine that. But it’s not hard to see why. RSS and Twitter are where the networks are most potent these days. (Of course, however, the RSS part depends somewhat on us keeping our blogs…)
Or when I Tweeted out the standard “Why do you like Twitter?”, I got 52 responses in about an hour. Not that that is anything especially earth shattering, but I really marveled at the passion in the answers. You can read them all here.
Or when I decide to UStream the first hour on RSS and within a few minutes we had people watching from around the States and Canada. Again, nothing incredible there, but another instance of the network made plain.
It’s different now, somehow, than it was a year ago. It’s more immersive. It all feels deeper, closer somehow. Even more important. Maybe it’s just the glow of the prospect of being home for a month. Or the buzz of spending a couple of days with some folks who seemed to, on some level, get the fact that this really is about more than learning the tools. It’s about creating connections, intellectual connections, for sure, but potentially more.
And, maybe in the end, it’s because when I called Wendy today from the London, Ontario airport and she asked me who I wanted to invite to a holiday party her business is throwing next week, none of first 10 or so faces that flickered through my brain where closer than about 500 miles away from beautiful downtown Flemington. (Except for one.)
And so it goes…
Clarence Fisher says
Halleluiah. Lets see the end of kids having Office pounded into them and see the beginnings of ideas and connections and global cooperation emphasized instead. The platform doesn’t matter. As a matter of fact, my classroom has Macs, Windows machines and soon -to – be Linux laptops as well. I don’t care about the platform. I care about what we can do with them and who we can connect with.
Will Richardson says
The Web is the platform…the connection is what matters.
James Farmer says
Blimey Will, I think I’m starting to agree with you re: this comments structure!
We are modeling the change we want to see: conversation, collaboration, constructivism.
Perhaps the schools are so hesitant to incorporate connective skills because such things are more difficult to assess via standardized testing.
Students are spared much of the rote learning that drove my early education, but have been given little to replace it. Yes, information is readily available but you need to know how to access it!
Cyndi Danner-Kuhn says
I completely agree that it is about the connections, and you have explained it so very well. I can’t wait to share your blog post with my pre-service class in January. Sometimes I think they think I am just telling them this stuff, it makes everything so easy when someone like you, Wesley Fryer, David Warlick, etc. confirm what I am try to say. I am sorry I missed your Twitter request today, the end of the semester always is chaos it seems. But this evening when I opened my (Mac) computer to finish grading projects (blogs & websites) I could not resist the temptation to read the Twitters, it is always a learning experience and makes me feel like I know so many more folks personally. I LOVE IT, CONNECTIONS!!!!
It still feels like the read/write web but in a way I would never have imagined.
Doug Peterson says
I was part of the physical audience that Will was doing the presentation for. It really helps that so many people track Will’s moves but the world did truly shrink yet again. While we thought that Will had been engaged to do the workshop, he brought not only himself and his expertise to the event, he brought the power of his network as well. The geographical context certainly was impressive but for me, it was the immediacy of the response when he sent out his request. When answers and assistance are only a moment away, the isolation of having to know the answers personally can go away or at least becomes less important.
Tim Hawes says
Just to echo Doug’s comments –
When you get to attend a presentation by someone with a powerful network (like Will’s) you don’t get a single presenter, you get a few hundred… Being able to skype in with Jeff, or see Will’s goggle reader subscriptions and realize that a number of people who’s feeds he subscribes to were also logged in and watching live via ustream really drove home the point about networks.
The Internet is people.
Will Richardson says
Thanks Doug and Tim…that was a fun couple of days. And really, even with all of those tools, it’s hard to do justice to all the ways I feel connected these days. Thanks again for having me up.
Chris Lehmann says
Will Richardson says
Yeah, well, I think Sheryl makes the 500 mile cut too…
Allison Miller says
Couldn’t agree with you more Will – and it’s the skill of networking, sourcing and filtering information which we need to be teaching our students so they can be able to function in the ever changing knowledge world.
Long live George Siemens and Connectivism – where “the pipe is more important than the content within the pipeâ€, so â€œthe ability to plug into sources to meet your requirements becomes the vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.â€ Thereforeâ€œ…the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowingâ€ (George Siemens, Dec 12, 2004 http://www.elearnspace.org/articles/connectivism.htm viewed 29/11/06).
I think the internet is a great way to connect. A bunch of connects leading from one great place to another. like i landed here 😛
anyway the point im tryin to make is networking is a great way to educate students on the importance of communication and social interaction on the internet. I still remember the days when we used to be taught so carefully about how to interact in a crowd, with an elderly person, a boy, a girl, etc etc, but who teaches us about interacting on the net? well the net itself of teachers like you.
Connections are great, the make you feel like you belong, give you a sense of sheltered belonging and believe you me when i tell you the importance of it and how its not being emphasized enough in todays world.
I strongly believe in tomorrows connected world and god knows how much more we’re gonna be connected, but the fact remains that education about it needs to begin now. the sooner the better. I feel the need for kids to belong and be familiar with connections is so critical today that its not just simple interaction which leads to meaningless conversations..heck everything that i learnt about the net today and the current social media is through connections and networking. more power to connections and networking!
sorry if the comment is a little long 😛
Jeremy Haugen says
I came to the same realization just a little while ago. The tools will keep changing. In 5 years, Skype will be a thing of the past, and we’ll have something better in place. For example, RSS might move to cable, and we’ll each have our own cable news channel!
The main result of this is that we need to focus on the learning, and how the tech tools make the learning better. If we don’t focus on the learning, we run the risk of ‘using technology just to use technology’, and that is a sad situation.
John Hendron says
I talked about this concept a couple of years ago in the context of my IM client. That despite having Google, Wikipedia, etc., at my fingertips, I had the creative and resourceful minds of my friends and colleagues at the ready with my IM client.
The idea of live-casting (via UStream) is an exciting development for me. Two years ago, recording my presentations and podcasting them the next day seemed geeky and being on the edge. Now, with a decent net connection, I could live broadcast.
I do believe the networks are powerful and ought to be explored for their potential. But I lament at how difficult it can be to get all of my face-to-face colleagues on board, seemingly left stranded with only the “connected,” digital acquaintances.