Prior to this summer session at CSU (readINF506), my online networking experiences were limited and contained within pockets of academic necessity – forums for subjects, wiki and GoogleDocs for a collaborative assignments and occasional tentative comments on blogs. (Oh, did I mention a dash of NeatChat and Skype). Then suddenly I was on Facebook (FB) and Flickr for the first time, mentally juggling accelerated ‘catch-up’. Even the Delicious account I had quietly hovering needed a rethink due to the changes they’d recently effected and sending links to other collections wasn’t intuitive for me. The podcast made by one student was quite helpful and initiated my foray into PodOmatic. Of the three, FB’s push to activate ‘friends’ I found the most intrusive and annoying. So much of what I read seemed to refer back to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and getting maximum exposure – usually related to the ability to make money out of the site. I was happy to keep this platform just for the ‘study group’ and asked other ‘friends’ to wait until March when my focus would alter again. Did I believe then I would go back to pre-Facebook involvement? No – always thought I’d keep using FB – but I’d have more personal content and contacts. Now that I feel familiar with my fellow students, I’m keen to keep in contact with this INF506 group – it becomes another established link with like-minded people who’ll each provide glimpses into their own PLN.
My established MEd (TL) study reflection blog was then supplemented with another blog (Teacher-Librarians Connecting) as part of a project. Though the physical group existed – how it would ‘develop’ as an online presence became a work in progress and an interesting challenge. The content of both blogs is definitely supported by the access to ideas and artifacts through all the Web 2.0 networks and sites to which I’ve connected. Oh! and Twitter! I think of it as ‘snippets with links’ – usually visually filtered for the occasional ‘gem’. This microblogging tool is well suited to what Watkins (2009, p160) describes as the emerging ‘mobile-media lifestyle’. Apparently ‘we digest bits and pieces of an ever-sprawling narrative universe’ (esp. YouTube) and we are ‘constantly consuming’. He believes we have ‘evolved from a culture of instant gratification to one of constant gratification’. Have we? My own RSS feeds and Scoopit! links keep me busy enough each day – and I have limited topics. So I do see some evidence of how that ‘digital constancy’ can creep into a life. With the New Year (resolutions!) this concern produced plenty of online articles on topics associated with the management of one’s time, collection of links and online activity to retain a balance in life – both real and online. Some comments I agree with about the superficiality of ‘Like’, ‘Retweet’ and ‘Rescoop’ as not always being quality curation. It was a reminder that we need to interact with information, connect it to our existing knowledge and experience and add to it for further dissemination. Though we have now experienced the very influential effect of the Twitter platform in politics and during natural disasters.
The majority of my online life is academic – where I’m building my PLN and capacity to step up and establish myself in a career with the potential to influence a wider sphere of colleagues. My few ‘virtual world’ experiences limit how I think I can make use of that environment as a teaching and learning space. I’m planning to attend two SecondLife events this week that should give me some ‘food for thought’ – though I keep returning to the niggling feeling that the teachers and young students in my circle have a very great need to focus in other areas that require less ‘tool mastery’. Perhaps when I know more of its uses and I’m more adept within a game environment I’ll value its desirous problem solving attributes more.
Will I ever be the same? I hope not and I know not! Though ‘befuddling’ to begin with – the jump into the Web 2.0 water has made me feel part of a future where the current is strong and wide. It’s empowering to be part of the @ flow.
Baer J. (2011) Five Reasons Social Media Measurement is Making You Lie to Yourself. Retrieved from: http://bit.ly/x1g7TW
Watkins, S. C. (2009) The Young and the Digital. Beacon Press, Boston.
Image 2: Personal photo from local library.