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coordinating networks

January 22, 2010

Or drowning in them. Sink or swim: coordinate or drown? I just clicked Vance’s overload article. “How can teachers deal with technology overload?” at…. As an example of overload, I started this post early in the first week, saved most of it to drafts without posting. We are now nearing the end of the second week, and, after over a week of “I’m going to finish that post today.” That was then: today is today. Maybe this “today” is the day.

Overload: it’s not just for the classroom. There are also personal networks, non-classroom professional networks, community networks, special interest networks, and so on. Nor are all networks separate, discrete and clearly delineating entities. They overlap, some more than others.

Vance addresses the challenge teachers face when they “need to master so many new skills” but also reminds readers (including me) that “these competencies have been needed since the turn of the century” with skill sets continually enlarging in this one. In order to survive in these waters, like sharks, we need to keep moving and feeding.

What do we need to be familiar with? Let me count the ways, tick them off the list of skills and concepts that Vance adapted from himself (adapted from Stevens, 2008). Yes, you can read them in the article but repeating is aide memoire for me as well.

1. Web 2.0 and social networking
2. RSS and feed readers
3. Podcasts (harvesting and producing them)
4. Microblogging (e.g. Twitter, Edmodo)
5. Distributed and personal learning networks
6. Aggregation and tagging
7. Digital storytelling and applications of multimedia to new literacies
8. Communities of practice and connectivism
9. Informal / just-in-time (JIT) learning
10. Synchronous communication tools such as: instant messaging, online presentation venues incorporating interactive whiteboard, voice, and video
11. Asynchronous collaborations tools such as: blogs, wikis, Voicethread, Slideshare, Google docs, etc.

Do you see the most common thread? Not time or immediacy (live feed and synchronicity hype to the contrary) but sharing. If we don’t share, it’s not communication. Dissemination, exchange, collaboration. If there is no exchange or dialogue it is not interactive.

Let’s examine the list for familiarity levels: know about, consume, distribute or exchange, aggregate or collect to share, create. They won’t be the same for each. Classification would be another category ~ not just how but where or in which networks do we use them? Bloom’s Taxonomy comes to mind.

Another consideration: which applications will we use, find most useful? Realistically, we won’t use all of them, but there is no way to know without test driving them. Another workshop goal is to learn more about familiar applications… not to mention that app we installed but have not gotten around to using enough to become more than superficially familiar with it.

I’m going to manage overload by not expecting to do everything and letting myself go off on tangents that catch my fancy ~ an distinct advantage to being more or less retired. As an aside, I am also looking at and weighing these applications from the perspective of networks and computer networking in other contexts: local community and action networks.


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  1. Vanessa Vaile permalink

    Yvonne ~ I’m privately (or maybe not so privately now) thinking of this workshop as part of my 2010 "project chaos management." Ironically, new tools that (hopefully) will help initially create more chaos unti internalized and normalized. Could we call that the chaos management paradox? Strictly speaking though, "chaos management" is an oxymoron. Better chaos than entropy… where the oxymoron might be "entropy engagement" (or reanimation).

  2. Yvonne Caples permalink

    Thanks for your aide memoire! It helps to keep us in focus…there is so much excellent content…it’s difficult to not just get lost absorbing it all. You hit the nail on the head about sharing and I had never really thought about it before…that seems to be the flipside of the overload teachers are experiencing…we have so much incredible information and ideas being disseminated to us and unprecedented access to like-minded educators around the world…with new content and connections being added every day. Now I just need to learn how to manage it and use it most productively.

  3. Hanaa Khamis permalink

    Vanessa, i like the concept v chaos management – an accurate description v my life:) #evomlit

  4. Michael Shade permalink

    Vanessa – your last paragraph describes my situation almost to a t. I think "not expecting to do everything" and "letting myself go off on tangents that catch my fancy" are very sound learning strategies. And in any case, most of the Multiliteracies material is going to remain online after the end of the course, so you can do as much or as little as you want to, when you want to, at your own pace. How unlike most of our students’ learning experiences!<br><br>And thanks for reminding me of Vance’s overload article, which I haven’t read yet. Too busy elsewhere 🙂 .

  5. Vanessa Vaile permalink

    Neurologist studying the brain chemistry of learning call it grazing behavior (though having had goats, I think browsing is more accurate). Since that kind of exploring does not always yield short term rewards (no material treats) to reinforce the behavior and the benefits of exploratory learning are more long term (species survival), the brain reinforces with a shot L-dopamine. The learning high…

  6. Nina Liakos permalink

    Great post, Vanessa, very helpful. As you see I got round to it very late, but better late than never. I am not retired yet but I still agree with your goals of not expecting to do everything and going off on tangents. Despite not doing as much as I had planned or would have liked to do so far, I have to say I have started using some new tools (as well as Twitter, which I had but didn’t use). I like the idea of chaos management (haha) although it’s a bit oxymoronic! The chaos is the fire hose, and we have to manage somehow to sip from it….

  7. Vanessa Vaile permalink

    I like Vance’s term, "intuitive chaos navigation."

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