Learning to Change

Thanks to a tweet from Jeff Whipple I found my way to this video produced by Pearson’s for CoSN.

The title – Learning to Change, grabbed me first and got me thinking before I even clicked the play button. We tell teachers they must change, but do we acknowledge that we must in many cases learn how to change? I think we’ve been doing a good job of this in the Comment Challenge this month. Participants are learning strategies to make and manage changes in our blogging practices.

I don’t need to say much more here – the video speaks volumes!

The last sentence will stick with me for a long while: If the death of education brings the dawn of learning that makes me very happy. Does that statement uplift you or bring fear to your heart?

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Comment Challenge – Let’s Take Stock

Comment Audit

As part of the 2008 31 Day Comment Challenge, we’ve been asked to consider how we’re inviting conversation on our own blogs. It’s been suggested that we use Michele Martin’s post Six Reasons People Aren’t Commenting On Your Blog as a guide for auditing our blogs. Here are six common traps Michele says bloggers fall into.

  1. You sound like a press release.
  2. You sound like an info-mercial.
  3. You sound like a know-it-all.
  4. You haven’t showed them how.
  5. You haven’t created the right atmosphere.
  6. You just don’t seem that into it.

Ouch! That’s one tough list!

At first glance I think I can easily stroke two items off the list. So let’s revise.

  1. You sound like a press release.
  2. You sound like an info-mercial.
  3. You sound like a know-it-all.
  4. You haven’t showed them how.
  5. You haven’t created the right atmosphere.
  6. You just don’t seem that into it.

Number 6 was easy to eliminate. If I’m not “into it” I don’t write about it. Period.

Number 4 was also pretty easy. Figure it out people! There’s a similar structure to most blog platforms. There’s always some mention of “Comments”. Click on the link and see what happens 🙂

The rest are really hard! I suppose at times I may be perceived as sounding like a know-it-all writing press releases about what I’ve been doing and learning, and posting info-mercials that invite teachers to join my projects. That’s not my intention! In reflecting on my work I feel it’s as important to share the lessons I’ve learned as it is to raise questions. I’m trying to do this in a clear, well-thought-out manner. There are project promotions on this blog. I don’t see them as info-mercials; I’m not selling anything. I work for a not-for-profit organization that connects scientists, researchers, engineers and astronauts with classes around the world in an online collaborative learning environment. There is no cost for teachers to enroll in any of our projects and I use every means at my disposal to get the word out so as many classes as possible can get involved. As for number 5 – atmosphere, I hope people find it warm and welcoming.

This is a tough challenge; it’s very difficult to hear your own voice! Here’s how I think it sounds.

  1. You sound like a press release. You have clear, well-thought-out reflections.
  2. You sound like an info-mercial. You are passionate about the opportunities you are developing for students.
  3. You sound like a know-it-all. You are willing to share what you have learned.
  4. You haven’t showed them how. You believe in letting people build confidence by discovering things on their own.
  5. You haven’t created the right atmosphere. (I really can’t gauge this one.)
  6. You just don’t seem that into it. You write about the things that truly engage you.

You tell me – how does my voice sound to you?

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The Comment Challenge: Building Community One Conversation at a Time

We’re more than a week into the 2008 31 Day Comment Challenge and at the time of this writing, coComment is tracking 135 conversations by 92 group members. There are far too many individual comments to try to read them all! However following conversations that interest you will still lead you to many voices you haven’t heard before.

Through this process I’m learning a lot about community. It appears that we’re basically in agreement that blogging is not a solitary pursuit. I think one of the main reasons we all start professional blogs is to take part in conversation with others in the profession, to learn from and with each other. Unfortunately the “Field of Dreams” metaphor doesn’t hold true here. Readers won’t come just because you’ve built a place for them. Community doesn’t just happen; it must be built one conversation at a time.

coComment puzzle

The Comment Challenge is proving to be an excellent impetus to build community. I’ve been trying to pick out key features of the community as I’ve been watching it grow. Here are a few that have caught my attention.

  1. Purpose. Just as there is a reason why the community where you live exists geographically, online communities need a sense of purpose. In the Comment Challenge we share a common purpose – (as stated by Kim Cofino), “to become better blog citizens by actively participating in conversations and sharing our learning, especially with those new to blogging”.
  2. Culture. We are building and sharing a culture of learning. When you read through the conversations, you see it stated over and over that we are learning this, that and the other thing. What we’re seeing here is that our learning is embedded in our common purpose. For instance, we’re all struggling with the various tools we’re using to track our conversations, but we are doing it together as part of moving toward our common purpose. I haven’t run into anyone yet who has said: “Ok folks, I’m having trouble with coComment. I’m going to wait for the in-service, then try and find some time to learn it, and then I’ll be back to take part.” It has become part of our culture to learn how to use these tools in situ.
  3. Interaction. Many of us are seeing increased traffic to our own blogs, “click-throughs” from the comments we’re leaving on the blogs of others. Interaction involves risk-taking, but the professional tone and supportive manner I am seeing everywhere I go is building confidence in the individual members of the group, in turn adding to the strength of the community.

For me a lot of the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place; a picture of a vibrant learning community is taking shape!

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Things are buzzin’ at the Comment Challenge!

The volume of the edublogsphere has been cranked up this past week as over 100 bloggers have taken up the challenge to improve their commenting by participating in the 2008 31 Day Comment Challenge. Commenters have been buzzing, flitting from blog to blog, sampling bits of wisdom here and digging into conversations there.

Kate Foy and Kevin Hodgson created great videos to give us a peek into the their commenting journeys. In the spirit of fun, here’s a quick Animoto flick to give you a sense of where I’ve “been” lately.

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2008 Comment Challenge – Tracking Your Comments

31 Day Commenting ChallengeI’m really enjoying taking part in the 2008 Comment Challenge! I’m meeting familiar and new-to-me bloggers all over the place (including here on my own blog)! And as usual when I throw myself into a challenge, I’m learning so much!

Today’s challenge relates to comment tracking. This is a critical element of commenting. When you make the effort to comment on someone’s post, it’s usually because the writer struck a chord and drew you into the conversation. It follows that you would have an interest in seeing where the conversation goes. A number of blogs have a “Follow this conversation by e-mail” function. That’s the first method I used to track a conversation and I have to admit I might still use it for a conversation in which I’m deeply involved.

About a year ago I started looking for a more efficient way to track the conversations in which I was involved. I was also coming to the realization that some of my best thinking and writing was happening on other people’s blogs, leaving my own looking a bit barren. That’s when I found coComment. It seemed to offer what I was looking for – a way to track my comments and aggregate them on my own blog through a widget. If you are interested in having a detailed look at how coComment works visit Sue Waters‘ blog. She has done a superb job of explaining how to use this tool.

I had stopped using coComment a while back because I was finding it cumbersome and felt it was slowing down my posting. I’m having a fresh look now as part of the Comment Challenge. There are features that I missed before or that have been added recently that I’m finding worthy of a second look.

  1. Tags. When you track a comment you can tag it with one or more keywords. Then when you view your comment page you can click on any of your tags to see just those comments. Love this feature!
  2. RSS. I don’t think I could function without RSS so I was pleased to see that I can pull in the feed from any of the conversations or groups I’m tracking. I’ve subscribed to the feed for the Comment Challenge group and am reading the comments in Google Reader. So far, I think I like this.
  3. Social networking. I had noticed before that coComment suggests “neighbours” and allows you to add friends and follow their comments. Personally I can barely keep up with the blogs I subscribe to; I’m not even going to try to keep track of other people’s comments! I do however like the “Group” feature. We’re using it to pull together the comments of the 100 or so people involved in the Commenting Challenge. I can see how this would be an asset in the classroom and in professional learning!

There are other comment tracking systems as well. Maybe I’ll have time to look at them during this challenge. Better yet, I’ll see what others post as part of the Day 3 Activity!

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Join the 2008 Comment Challenge

Coordinated by Sue Waters, Silvia Tolisano, Michele Martin and Kim Cofino, the Comment Challenge has been designed to motivate us to become “better blog citizens.”

I think this is just the kick-in-the-pants I need to get back to being a participating citizen of the edublogsphere, one who enjoys the right to take part in collegial dialogue and lives up to the responsibility of adding to the conversation in a meaningful way.

I’m looking at the Challenge Activity for Day 1 (and I’d better hurry as this day is rapidly getting away from me). The activity is to do a commenting self-audit. It’s interesting that as I’m reflecting on my commenting behaviour, I stumble upon today’s post by David Truss where he re-visits one of his posts from a year ago. One of the comments David quotes from the original post is mine. A year ago I commented daily – on many of the blogs aggregating in my Google Reader as well as throughout the Classroom 2.0 community.

Here’s a snapshot of my Google Reader as of five minutes ago:

Google Reader

Four hundred + unread items. That’s actually not too bad, considering it was consistently 1000+ items for the first couple of months this year. I’ll admit – in juggling all the things screaming for my time, I’ve let reading slip down the priority list. And if I’m not reading it follows that I haven’t been commenting either. Well I’m back – at least for the next thirty days! Want to join me?

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