Digital Identity and the neighbours

640px-Neighbourhood_Watch_Sign

Creative commons  A British neighbourhood watch sign by unisouth is licensed under CC by 3.0

Over the last few weeks I have had an opportunity to reflect on my digital identity and to think about how I manage the information that I put out into the world. I must admit that I am still mostly at the lurking stage and often second guess myself as to what I want to put out to the world. As a rather private person, raised in a stiff upper lip British household it is not natural to draw attention to myself. “What would the neighbours think?” was a common line used in my childhood to describe any behaviour that seemed out of the norm. The idea being that you don’t want to stand out, that only brash and egotistical individuals constantly tell everyone what they are doing or thinking. With this in mind, I approached Twitter with deep skepticism and trepidation. It is a very vulnerable feeling putting your thoughts into cyberspace. I have often wondered how to overcome this reluctance, as try as I might, it is hard to reframe years of thinking.

As my group of followers grows, and begins to include experts in many areas, it becomes even more intimidating to put my thoughts permanently into cyberspace. Trying to decide on the persona of my account is also a concern. Do I want my employers to read the same things as my friends? Do my Masters colleagues need to know personal details or should I stick to informative articles? I know that some people have multiple accounts, but the idea of managing even more information in even more places is too much for me at this stage. I like Google Plus for its ability to put people in different circles. Why can’t Twitter do that?

In order to improve my identity I have so far changed my profile on Twitter, tried to check it and post daily. I have combed through the followers of people I admire and have found new people and new hashtags to follow. I am trying to set aside time each day to check feeds, post comments, and add to conversations. I am still more comfortable retweeting interesting articles and tweets than creating my own so my personal goal for this week is to try to post more original content- pictures from my class, ideas I think are important…. Who cares what the neighbours think!

A recent retweet on @_valeriei- Does Posting More Content Lead to More Engagement? New report tracks 2 years of data: made me think that perhaps the neighbours are so overwhelmed with their own data that they don’t really notice or care. Perhaps the key is not to create a giant PLN but instead a manageable one in which I feel supported and listened to and can make meaningful contributions that lead to active engagement.

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WordPress- Work in Progress Update #3

So I have bowed to public pressure (and expert opinion)  and left my Weebly behind in order to branch out into new and supposedly better places. I have spent the last couple of weeks reflected on my digital identity and have found it somewhat lacking in inspiration, focus and pizzaz. I have some experience with WordPress from a previous university course but it ended badly with the entire site being frozen and then completely disappearing. Months of work gone in a single poof! Not good for someone who wrote directly on the blog and didn’t back anything up. In despair I fell back on a Weebly blog, as I already own and maintain a classroom site. But, having been challenged, I am now a little more savvy and ready to get back into the game.
First step was signing up for a free WordPress account. No problem. Next step, picking a theme. Usually I just scroll around for something that looks nice (preferably in my favourite colour- blue) and try to copy it, but this time I took the time to read the WordPress tutorial and boy have I been missing important information. According to the tutorial before choosing a pretty picture it is important to consider:
Style
Function
Content
Time and Energy
“Pick a theme that says you.” suggests the tutorial. Wow, I could take a lifetime trying to figure that out! Who am I? A wife, mother, teacher, student. Do I want to appear hip and cool or teachery and clever? I have different identities for different parts of my life. Do I need more than one blog or do I create a hybrid entity that encompasses bits of me? The site recommends looking at existing blogs to find one to emulate. I quickly lose track of time and find myself engrossed in an endless range of witty, pointless and highly entertaining sites out there. You really can write about just about anything! My favourite part though was reading the blog titles. They were all catchy and aimed at getting your attention like “Truth and Cake” “Highly Irritable” “Harmless Drudgery” or my personal favourite “Aging Gracefully My Ass”.
After going a bit cross-eyed after looking at all my options I decide to bite the bullet and pick something knowing that if don’t like it I have the option to change later. Wilson  is listed as a “clean, simple and bold theme”. A tad boring perhaps but simplicity is appealing at this point. I feel bold just having made a choice – perhaps my theme is working already. Now for the customizations. One good thing about going for the free version is that choices are limited. Colours are set unless I want to upgrade and pay. I continue reading but start to glaze over at all the details.  I have now been on the computer for over an hour and only have a blank blog with a bad title. Decide to switch to the “Get Going Fast: A Checklist” page. The fact that the page exists tells me that I am not the only one with a life.
To tell the truth, it is a bit overwhelming to suddenly realize how little you know about a topic. The funny thing is,  some of my colleagues at school think I am rather tech savvy because I have a class blog and use Twitter. I am beginning to feel like a fraud and a wannabe. I realize that I have very surface level knowledge and that I need to invest a lot more time and energy into really understanding what a WordPress blog can offer. So please don’t laugh at my new site with the sidebar containing features I still have no idea about.
Stay tuned. I am planning on adding a few new features every week. It currently feels like a block of stone full of potential just waiting to be discovered…
Update: I have discovered the perfect MOOC- A WordPress Boot camp offered by   http://edtechopen.com that promises to teach me:
WordPress basics and how to create more than “just another Blog” and creating a website with more. Share links, connect networks, manage themes, styles, widgets and plugins– and have a rich discussion about all the ways this tool can be leveraged for personal, professional and educational uses.
P.S I love the proofreading button I just found

Learning Project Re-visited- Colds and Floods Update #2

It’s amazing how a bad cold and a flooded basement can bring clarity and focus to an issue. I had convinced myself that learning to play squash online was something I that I both wanted to learn and had time to explore. Then life, as life does, handed me a double whammy of a nasty cold and a knee deep flooded basement. I didn’t realize how close to the edge I was until these two little (well maybe not so little) events caused me to crumple. My precious blog writing, deep researching and thesis defining weekend morphed into piles of crumpled kleenex and endless phone calls to plumbers, insurance companies, and restoration services.  “I don’t have time for this!” I wailed to the universe in vain. I had a teary moment where I briefly entertained the notion of jumping on a plane and leaving it all behind- starting fresh in some tropical, sunny country where husbands don’t work away, children don’t need to eat or have clean clothes, masters projects write themselves and dirty, flooded basements are non-existent. Reality interrupted my thoughts when I heard yelling and realized that two of my son’s friends, drawn by the excitement of a disaster, were now wading around in the basement begging to be electrocuted. My son meanwhile was trying to Macgyver his own pump system by dismantling a fountain in the yard- hoses, clamps and tape strewn everywhere. I realized that feeling sorry for myself was not an option and someone had to take control of the mess before things got even worse.

Right. First assess the situation.

  1. Basement filling with water
  2. No food in the house
  3. Dirty clothes overflowing hamper
  4. Lit review to write, articles to read
  5. Blog needing to be switched from Weebly to WordPress
  6. Kids need to be taken to and from sports
  7. Watch squash videos and practice

Need a plan.

  1. Call plumber
  2. Call my mother
  3. Go grocery shopping- buy kleenex
  4. Ask for help driving children
  5. Put on load of laundry
  6. Try to carve out time to watch squash video and play squash     Hmmm…..

Suddenly learning how to play squash seemed the least of my worries. In the spirit of survival I decided to combine my learning project with my new blog. I will now be learning how to create a super sized WordPress blog. I will learn how tags, categories, pings and SSR feeds work and check out the myriad of options that WordPress offers. A quick glance assures me that I can spend hours viewing tutorials and experimenting with features. I am keeping in mind that I am starting pretty much from square one so I’m not sure if I will be hosting my own website at the end but I know that I will improve my online identity and I will be learning a necessary skill that will allow me to both nurse my cold and regularly check the sump pump in the basement. It is good to have a plan.

Learning Project #1

For my EDCI 591 learning project we were given the option to learn something online. I had a good time thinking of all the options but kept coming back to the fact that I am already spending way too much time just sitting in front of my computer. My new Fitbit has encouraged me to become more active and I want to continue making fitness a priority as it had slipped so far off my radar in the last year that I am in danger of losing all motivation forever.

In the last year my children and husband have all become very interested in playing squash. My son is very good, playing competitively for his school team and my daughter has decided that she too wants to play regularly. On the weekends my family heads out to the squash courts and leaves me to do my work on the computer. I have decided that I don’t want to be left behind to slog away on my papers anymore while they have all the fun. I want to play too!

Therefore, I have resolved to learn how to play squash online so that I may join in on the family fun and learn a new skill. I initially thought that I would have a hard time finding online resources as I have never heard of anyone learning a hands on sport online. I was very pleasantly surprised by the volume of squash advice on the internet. Videos, rules, step by step advice, dos and don’ts all a click away. I plan on learning online during the week and then heading to the court with my iPad to document my progress. I’m curious to see if learning a sport cerebrally while sitting down in front of a computer will translate to better form and confidence on the court. Wish me luck!
The first sites I will be visiting are:
http://squashskills.com/

http://www.squashgame.info/

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gQsAKZ71tU

Fitbit Educational Philosophy

As part of my Masters in Innovation and Technology I am meant to be blogging about important developments in my scholarly thinking and Literature Review progress. I am supposed to be becoming knowledgeable in current educational theories and philosophies. However, instead of focusing on these very important areas I find myself thinking about a deceptively simple black band around my wrist. My latest tech toy- the Fitbit Charge, has been consuming my life this week. It is a device meant to promote a healthier lifestyle by recording steps, stairs, distance, calories and sleeping stats that you can view on a downloadable app.

I initially bought the Charge because I was curious about how many steps I took in a day at work as a Grade 1 teacher. I am seldom sitting down and was secretly hoping that I could reach the magic 10,000 steps a day simply by going on with my day to day activities and I would be off the hook for any other form of exercise. Unfortunately, I only achieve about 7,000 steps during a typical day so right away found myself doing laps of the kitchen while cooking dinner, pacing while on the phone and jogging up and down my stairs while putting away the laundry.

Words cannot describe how ridiculously happy I am when I reach the magic 10,000 mark and my Charge vibrates. I actually pump the air and let out a whoop of joy. I glow with pride when I receive an email telling me I have added a stair walking or distance badge to my collection. Interestingly, I see this same reaction in my students when they are playing a motivational app. My whole family and class have gotten into the spirit and they now regularly ask me how many steps I have and how close I am to my goal.

The best part of the device is how it constantly reminds me that exercise is important and that I need to make an effort to make it a priority in my life. Being a mom of two with a husband who travels constantly means that I always have something more important to be doing than worrying about my fitness levels. In the past I always justified my lack of fitness by falling back on the old “I don’t have time excuse”. The Charge shows me that every little bit counts. I can add steps any time of the day by going for a walk and talk meeting with a colleague at recess or jogging around the car a few times before getting in (not around the kids though- they find it embarrassing.)  I recently discovered that a number of students in my Grad cohort also own Fitbits so we have created a community group where we can see each other’s progress and compete for the title of top walker. There is nothing like seeing your name at the bottom to motivate an impromptu walk!

In fairness, I am only a week into using this new gadget and the excitement might wear off soon but so far, I am loving the effect that a simple motivator has had on my psyche. Analyzing my reaction to the positive reinforcement that I have received and seeing the dramatic lifestyle change that has occurred this week makes me think of my students and how I could use some of these same concepts to help motivate them in the classroom. Imagine the powerful learning that could occur if we were able to measure and set goals for how often we used math in our day (Mathbit) or how many times we used a powerful word in a conversation (LAbit).  I think the Fitbit might be on to something that perhaps isn’t so far removed from my Masters work after all. The Fitbit philosophy might become the next motivating, relevant and personal learning environment of the digital age.