Saturday, November 1, 2008

Twitter: What's in it for education?

I'm responding to another post today, this one: "Actually, I'm still a bit confused as to the educational uses of twitter/twemes, etc. Any useful tutorials you could suggest?"

Ok, Twemes is a mashup that aggregates tweets around a #hashtag. The catch is only that those tweeting have to put the #hashtag in their post somewhere. But if you are microblogging to a group, or microblogging something of interest to a group, then it's useful if your group has established early on that they will be following Twemes, so people have in the back of their minds that they can reach the group by tweeting and embedding the #hashtag in their post, and then anyone can go to the Twemes site and find all the posts to Twitter (tweets) containing that #hashtag. Another advantage to this system is that you don't have to be on Twitter to see the Twemes. You can see whatever has been #hashtagged simply by visiting

The more interesting question is why should educators use Twitter in the first place. For some time I've been using 'twitter' as a tag in my Delicious:, so I had a look at the almost 100 links I've got stashed there and pulled out the ones most pertinent to education. Here they are:

If you want an educator's perspective on Twitter from the get-go, have a look at If you want a more specific example of how Twitter helped one teacher, There's also the inevitable Commoncraft explanation of Twitter:

My personal awakening with regard to Twitter was when I heard Jeff Utecht's presentation at the 2007 K-12 Online Conference. Jeff solicited help from his Twitter network when he started recording his presentation, and when help arrived I was able to understand how such a network works and how it would be useful to ME. You can listen and see if it strikes the same chord in you:

I'm sure I came on this next one through Twitter. The author notes that SHE came on this article through Twitter and points to another article, but you can read hers first and then go there. The point I'm making is that none of us in our distributed learning network would likely have known about this article had we not been on Twitter, so this is an example of how Twitter put the network on to something that we would not have found out about otherwise. Here's the microblog "review" post: and here's the article about using Twitter in academia:
This work was also discussed in SMiELT at, and yet another writer has reviewed this work here: so this one made a big splash when it touched down.

If in further doubt, entertain yourself with this ditty:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Screencasting via UTipU

I created my first UTipU video today. Thanks Nellie for the good tip, worked very well!


I wanted to see the button that can be generated. That's it above, not that impressive. I wish it could say what it was. In any event, the video, about creating animations in PowerPoint (now I'll bet you REALLY wanna watch it !! ;-) is here: That link offers you a download (free, and well worth the bandwidth).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stop presses! This just in ...

VANCE STEVENS has addressed at a distance delegates at a conference in Rasht, Iran. Originally planning to travel in person to the conference, Vance adapted a workshop which was never given in Sudan with intent to give it at the 6th International TELLSI Conference held at Guilan University on October 8 & 9, 2008 <>.

Until it became clear that permission to apply for a visa would not be granted by the Iran Foreign Ministry, Vance was listed in the conference program to deliver a workshop Thursday afternoon, just before the closing ceremonies <>.

Thanks to the efforts of MORTEZA BARIN, who was able to raise a wireless connection at the appointed time from the conference site, Vance was able to deliver his presentation from his office in UAE using a version of Elluminate provided Webheads by Learning Times. The presentation was recorded and may be viewed at

Links to URLs are
Clipping courtesy of

Morteza's Comment:

Morteza has been trying to post this comment from Iran but he gets a blank page when he clicks on Comments and tries to post. He can read the comments already there but can't post from where he is in Iran. He sent me this and asked me to put it here:

A Dream which changed into a Reality
I was very disappointed and very worry about the tools and amount of cooperation for having a live conference at the main time according to the conference time. After two days going here and there and speaking with conference organizers finally i found a wireless internet connection the Conference main Hall. And changed our place with another person who wanted to have a presentation in that place. I was full of stress and my blood pressure went up I thought I was burning in the fire but everything changed and first connection with Vance showed me there a way to do it. At that time I asked someone to go invite Dr.Susan Marandi to come to the main Hall. But She was invited to meeting for discussing about TELLSI.I asked God to help me and

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Connectivism: Too much Noise?

George Siemens commented in the Connectivism and Connectivist Knowledge Moodle this morning on "how structure influences the ability for students to learn. Too much noise and learners are overwhelmed. Too much order and learners are not challenged. Some ambiguity in the learning process permits room for exploration and creativity." Noting that the course itself was 'traditionally' structured, he said "it's the conversation that's more chaotic...does that detract from the learning experience?"

My reply

We often hear that the goal of learning is to prepare a learner for a real-life experience of some sort. As a language teacher and learner, I can think of sitting in classes where the teacher tried to reduce the whole of the language into an ordered subset (here, learn these conjugations, that's what the test will be on). Later you find you were not prepared for the real world. I would say, too little noise, too little challenge definitely, but also too little emulation of what the real world is like. In fact, ambiguity is rampant and managing work and learning tasks involves filtering and reduction. If the work of filtering is done for you then the opportunity to learn is reduced, not only of the knowledge to be acquired, but of the heuristics to be applied in the real world. I think field dependence and independence describes how comfortable individuals are with coping with noise, but I would say it is a necessary part of the learning process.

Connectivism and noise in real life

Writing that was almost the first thing I did over coffee this morning. It's Saturday in the UAE, a day off, and though I'm not on the east coast diving, I still woke up at six thinking about how much I had to do (noise in my head) and switched on the computer. Do I then systematically work through my task list? No, that would be too structured and would ignore the wealth of connectivist activity (noise and clamor) that had accumulated in email and on Twitter and Google Reader while I slept, and which in fact impacts very much how I carry out the tasks I choose to do on my day off. Reflecting on what I just said I see that if I did not connect with my network today then I would be doing my work as if it were yesterday and I might be seriously out of date (as in 'that's sooo yesterday' ... on the other hand I might actually get some work done ;-) So perhaps touching base with the network is succumbing to the siren call of all that noise, and distracting me into procrastination. I'm not the first to have observed that this might be the case. So I decided rather than discipline myself into efficiency (after all, it's my day off) I would ADD to the noise (with this blog post) and try and document some of that noise and in the process see how connectivism fits into my workflow (or work stoppage, as the case may be).

Now where was I (sorry got up to make coffee, glance at morning papers, another part of my distributed learning network). Oh yes, how many windows are open on my computer? Here's one with an email I wrote but didn't send. Why not? Perhaps the answer will be in something I was looking up in another window (clicking, searching).

Scrolling through windows I come on Twitter. Let's see what the latest is there. That window has lots of tabs open because when I click on what people in my Twitter network suggest I check out, each item opens in a new tab. Twitter is very convenient in this respect. You can click on a tweet, the item appears in its new window, and when you click on the Twitter tab you're back at exactly where you left off. I like to keep Twitter running because it's the epitome of connectivism and connectivist knowledge. And noise. There's a lot of noise in Twitter, but never more than 140 characters of noise, so the noise is almost a whisper. Yet the pearls of wisdom shine there. I've learned a lot through Twitter, not only about things I can use in my practice, but also about how networks and the people who comprise the nodes in them work (and play, and interact both frivolously and seriously, and also that both are important; that you're not your best at work without taking time for play, and visa versa).

So Twitter is a big part of my day-to-day (hour-to-hour? minute-to-minute? nanosecond-to-nanosecond?) connectivist tools and influences, and one of the elixers I feel I need so that I can keep my work up to (today's) date. Email is another, obviously. I follow a couple of really good professional mailing lists. One of them is Learningwithcomputers,, an offshoot of Webheads that is active and well moderated in a way that Webheads isn't. Webheads is the other list,, and the flip side of the coin. There's a lot of noise in both places, but people keep coming back to and swear by Webheads. And they've been doing that for ten years now. In fact, Webheads is ten years old today:, which is something I should mention on Twitter shortly (assuming I dare put off doing my real work for just a little while longer; oh, what the heck, the whole morning's gone already!)

Now it's pretty amazing that a group, which started as an eGroup before it was a YahooGroup, and which we then came to look on as a community of practice, and which we now see as part of an even larger distributed learning network, can grow and remain not just cohesive but effective and inspiring, for an entire decade. There may be many other groups and communities and networks in play at the moment, one of the most impressive being the one that has jelled around the Connectivism and Connectivist Knowledge seminars, yet none have stood the test of time as have Webheads. This is really interesting because Webheads has in all that time been essentially leaderless. It's been a mob phenomenon, as Claire Siskin once said, refreshingly without any one person pushing an agenda. It's been a truly co-operative venture, which has sustained itself on the learning that each individual achieves through working within the network. And playing also, not just working.

So to complete this post, I was going to try and document all the stepping in and out of windows I've been doing this morning as I sit alone at my computer while remaining incessantly in touch with my network. Speaking of which, stop presses! Miguel Guhlin just twittered about TipCam free screen recorder (for Windows) that uploads to YouTube! How cool is that? And Jeff Utecht twitters to say he is planning to podcast every presentation at the Learning 2.008 conference in Shanghai so that's another network we can avidly follow while we're engaged in CCK08, as we get our proposals in for EVO which starts rolling now through February, and I'd promised to announce the next Webheads in Action Online Convergence today, on the tenth anniversary of Webheads. All this assuming I can skim off time from the demands of 'real' work, the kind that pays the bills and sustains my DSL pipe from my home and workplace to the network where my 'real' work gets done (now which is the 'real' work; will the 'real' Slim Shady please stand up?)

Whoa!! too much networking. Stop the noise, I wanna get OFF! Maybe I should go for a jog (hang on, first gotta download the latests podcasts from so I can stay connected via my iRiver ... What else would I do with my brain while exercising?? ... )

TinyURL for this post:

Friday, September 12, 2008

Connectivism Oversimplified

It must be the start of the school year. You can tell because I haven't blogged in a while. Meanwhile the super-course on Connectivism and Connective Knowledge being facilitated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes has started in the vicinity of as well as a few thousand other online spaces. One of them is a Moodle where the thread Skeptic has gained a following (you'll have to log in to access the thread A devil's advocate has healthily questioned whether reading thousands of emails of introductory nature has been worthwhile, is this then what is meant by connectivist knowledge, and therefore does the theory of connectivism have any substance or is the emperor being exposed to be wearing no clothes. Along with dozens of others, I was drawn into responding as follows. I thought I'd post my comment here so as to have SOMEthing to say in my blog, which I can then tag CCK08 and see if it surfaces somewhere.

My post ...
Trying to couch my thoughts in some kind of parameter I guess I'll start with process and product. The desired product is to get some pearls from the discussion but to attain that you've got to go through the process of trolling a lot of seabed. Put more palatably, in order to learn from someone, you've got to get to know the person and establish what each of you wants to learn from one another. Kind of hard when there are almost 2000 people who've suddenly landed in an online space, but let's negate that and say that these 2000 people had no contact whatsoever with one another. Clearly in that case they would learn nothing (from one another). It seems to me that what connectivism describes is how important it is that the connections be made in the first place and from that, assuming these are intelligent people with something to contribute to the discussion, someone's gonna learn somethin'.

It's up to each of us to decide how much energy to devote to this means of learning as opposed to switching off the computer and reading a good book, say. But to me it's not just whether each message contains some information I can use, what's of value is to see how the organism flows in synch, how pearls in the mix might be aggregated and made to surface. And of course to reflect on what's happening.

I'm not sure this posting will help YOU to understand what you are gaining from this course but writing it has helped ME to couch what I might learn in my own personal framework, and if we juxtapose a lot of such frameworks, what would we have? A scaffold??

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

CALL Consultancy

It's past time for another blog post (school just started, 5 classes, busy!). I'll make one here from a recent email. It's in reply to someone here in the UAE who asked me if I could make a proposal for a modest computer-based language lab. His company is involved with vocational training of national oil company employees and these companies like to buy a 'package' that they can build to spec and then plug their students into. I used to do this kind of work when I worked for the Military Language Institute here in Abu Dhabi, and we were frequently invited to scout remote locations and propose computer-based facilities for satellite clones of what we had done at the MLI. My feeling at the time was that what we had done in our context was to put tools in the hands of the knowledgeable practitioners we had with us at the MLI in Abu Dhabi, but that if you grafted the same thing onto another location minus the skilled practitioners, you were unlikely to achieve the same results. Not only that but our proposals were frequently warped and sidetracked by the commanders at the bases who had their own ideas of what students should be doing for language training, and these ideas would be best served by purchasing shrink-wrapped software and inflicting that on students, rather than encouraging teachers and students to flourish in the constructivist learning environments we had in mind.

It's been a while since I've been involved in such projects, but the following is in reply to someone who requested that I submit a proposal for such a language learning facility. He was asking that this proposal be comparable to that submitted by a well-known vendor of educational software in the UAE:

"I've worked a lot with [that vendor]. They are good people. Competent too. But they are not teachers. They can sell you a product and support it and display decent command of that product, but they can't really advise you on how to use the product, and in this situation the product you buy might not really be what you had in mind, or what some teacher you've yet to hire has in mind, to accomplish what you had in mind when you bought it.

"I don't sell products commercially. My expertise is as a consultant. I think I know how people learn languages and I know what tools exist online to support my view of how people learn languages, and as most of these are free, I'm surprised when people go for what commercial vendors have to offer without examining their underlying premises. I think this is often through some basic misunderstanding of what is needed and what is available, and such misconceptions can usually be traced to the person in charge who has the money and who is hiring the likes of us to find the products that can be bought that will support what might under fine or perhaps even rough focus be a bogus view of language learning.

"I think it is essential to define what you think the students should be doing in your lab. That's what I might help with, but it would not be to prescribe, but to discuss with the stakeholders what their view is and to try and apprise them of the most current thinking on the topic, and maybe put them in touch with current thinkers. There are several communities of tech savvy educators who are in perpetual discourse on this topic. If I were to have input on this process think it would be to put your practitioners in touch with this community, through its blogs, podcasts, live webcasts, presentations, and seminars etc and get some dialog going as to what you want the students to do. Otherwise THAT crucial aspect is driven by the vendors, which will sidetrack you until someone comes along and sees what you have in hand, and figures out how THAT can be used to instantiate a viable view of language learners and how your students can best learn via technology."

So that's my thought for today. Any other thoughts out there you'd like to share in comments to this post?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Trial by Twitter

This article was prepared in preparation for publication in the On the Internet column in the June 2008 issue of the TESL-EJ ( If wishing to cite anything from here, please reference:

Stevens, Vance. (2008). Trial by Twitter: The rise and slide of the year's most viral microblogging platform. TESL-EJ, Volume 12, Number 1:

A draft version appears here: The TinyURL for this post is

When I decided to write this article, Twitter was riding the crest of a wave sweeping the microblogosphere. Nevermind that till Twitter's release in 2006 there hadn't even been a microblogosphere. But this Internet niche has proven durable, compelling, mildly addictive even, and integral to the workflow of the most ostentatiously connected educators and knowledge workers. Twitter was an idea that converged with a need few even knew existed. Still today, many are saying "Who needs it? Why?" Others are saying "WE need it, bring it


What is Twitter? According to Wikipedia, (as it appeared June 25, 2008): "Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send "updates" (or "tweets"; text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) to the Twitter web site, via the Twitter web site, short message service (SMS), instant messaging, or a third-party application such as Twitterrific or Facebook. Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and instantly delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. The sender can restrict delivery to those in his or her circle of friends (delivery to everyone is the default). Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, RSS, email or through an application."

For the more graphically oriented, the Commoncraft series by Lee and Sachi LeFever includes a video explaining "Twitter in Plain English": Twitter was rated number 19 on The PC World post "The 100 Best Products of 2008," edited by Mark Sullivan, May 26, 2008,146161-page,12-c,electronics/article.html#.

That in a nutshell is the story of Twitter. Now to fill in some details: Twitter is currently (in this present nanosecond) the most popular of the genre of 'microblogging' tools that emulate SMS messaging but fall short of blogging by whatever you can say in a blog beyond a very short text message of 140 characters (the maximum permissible length of an SMS text message when sending 8 bit data). Coincidentally this happens to be a text-length that encourages brief and succinct responses to the question, "What are you doing right now?"

But if that's as far as you've got with Twitter you're a long way from fully appreciating it. In fact, as with many other milestones in our lives, Twitter's aficionados can most likely recall the moment when they 'finally got' Twitter -- and many have documented these moments in a wiki set up by Alan Levine here: .

'Getting' Twitter

I 'finally got' Twitter when I heard Jeff Utecht's presentation entitled “Online Professional Development,” podcast as part of the 2007 K-12 online conference: Jeff recorded his presentation as a description of what he was doing at his computer in Shanghai while walking us through how he was using Skype and other social networking tools to connect with his professional network from there. So he was crafting his presentation as a live Skypecast, and he mentioned that he had just put a message out on Twitter inviting anyone online to Skype-in and discuss with him how they were using these tools themselves. A few minutes later, he had a bite, as someone responded to his tweet and spontaneously joined him in Skype. The presentation then became a conversation which illustrated how Jeff's network functioned in connecting him with other educators to further each other's professional development through taking advantage of such opportunities to learn from one another. That was when I decided to start using Twitter myself.

As a further illustration of how Twitter contributes to the conversational aspects of professional development, as I am writing this (everything in Twitter happens 'now') there has just appeared a tweet from Cristina Costa where she points her network to some reflections on her experiences with Twitter. In her posting "Are you twittering this?" on the Pontydysgu - Bridge to Learning blog,, Cris says she at first "put twitter in my have-an-account-but-not-using-it-tool shelf. And it remained there for a while until Carla Arena and the Blogging 4 Educators team spiced up my curiosity about it once again. They were twittering and I started following them. I was fascinated by the amount of relevant information, bits of personal insights and also some trivial tweets that were arriving at my desktop in a twinkling of an eye. It was fun and most times relevant. I started seeing the point of it."

Another illustration of 'finally getting' Twitter comes from a post in the blog GNUosphere (, no author mentioned) where the blogger questions the value of Twitter. The post has since attracted over two dozen comments, each of which addresses some aspect of what it means to 'get' Twitter. The post was of course "twittered" to attract so much attention. Here are some sample comments:

  • I think the effective part of Twitter is the immediate feedback when you have a question or comment that you need to “get out there”. You know it will be seen by your followers and may get you the precise answer within seconds. I have been able to pick up many valuable resources as well as collaborate with teachers who have similar interests.

  • I find Twitter to be more of an interactive conversation than blogging. When I blog and get comments, it is generally just a conversation amongst a few people. On the other hand, on Twitter, the conversation group seems to be in the hundreds.

  • I've wondered about the value of Twitter too, but I'm becoming a believer. I've picked up several things of value, not the least of which has been keeping in closer touch with the flow of thought among several close friends. I really do like the community feel of it.

  • Well Twitter led me to your question, so it must have some value. Through Twitter I have made connections that go beyond reading and commenting on blogs. I've found new tools, jumped into presentations and conversations on UStream that I would have missed had I only heard about it after a blog post, and had some fun too.

  • The manner in which information is shared transcends the blogosphere. The information shared is instant in access, shared on a more personal level, and often in response to a request. I do not find myself feeling connected with blog authors, on Twitter however, the unique conversation aspect creates a level of connectivity that is lacking in blogs.
Connectivism and the network: The crucial factor

To 'get' Twitter, you have to have your finger on the pulse of what is pumping lifeblood through the Internet, and that is the people on it and how they come together, connect, and relate to one another in virtual learning networks (for seminal explanations of connectivism see George Siemens's reading list for his upcoming course on Connectivism and Connective Knowledge,; the course is free, and you can find out more by following gsiemens on Twitter).

I threw in the word learning just now to keep this article on the topic of this journal, but in fact the concept behind Twitter is applicable to almost any kind of virtual network. When people say what they are doing right now they might be feeding the baby or doing laundry, or more interestingly, "Just landed in Bangkok, hey the wireless works." Now let's put the word learning back in, and suppose that people in your network understand that there might be a low tolerance for things vacuous, and through their postings they genuinely seek to inform and engage one another. Then the postings might be, "See Flickr photos from a tour of Jokaydia," (e.g. or "Webcasting live right now on the Worldbridges network,," or "Reading a great new article by Marc Prensky" (e.g. Young Minds, Fast Times: The Twenty-First-Century Digital Learner - How tech-obsessed iKids would improve our schools, from the June 2008 issue of Edutopia,; announced through 'tweets' almost the moment it appeared).

Now suppose when you log on to Twitter you have a page full of postings like that staring back at you. Suppose you have cultivated a network of professional colleagues who reliably feed you URLs you might want to check out, and you've weeded out those who dwell on sagas in the laundromat. Let's further suppose that you might actually not mind hearing that someone whose writings you respect regularly goes online from the laundromat, or that someone else has an affinity for the brewer's art and intersperses a litany of pointers to interesting blog postings with mentions of tasting this or that amber fluid. One person I follow travels in west Texas on some tech-related work, the nature of which I haven't quite inferred, and tweets occasionally that he is in this bar or that restaurant, and implicitly invites anyone who is in the neighborhood to pop by and carry on the conversation over refreshments. I wonder if he gets any takers (and if so, I assume they would be like-minded people interested in the technology he blogs about), but that's not the point. What we're talking about here is just-in-time informal learning, social networking, low affective filters, a playground for knowledge workers where you can "follow" almost anyone you choose and enjoy his or her 140 character musings, often with a provocative URL to explore, from time to time, day to day, and even minute to minute. These gems of genuine interest are lodged in a matrix of emerging personalities that are themselves interesting. The result is an engaging mix of personality and professionalism, what Clive Thompson (2007) refers to in "How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense" (Wired Magazine,

One of the most compelling aspects of this kind of connectivity is the immediacy. Once a network is established then people gradually get to know one another on it. They start to converse, to respond to and support one another. If I see on Twitter that someone has just begun streaming a presentation on, and if I have a moment to learn something new right then (and the most successful users of this kind of networking are able to multitask or briefly postpone whatever else they are doing in order to avail themselves of such moments) then I will check out what's happening, and I seldom regret such decisions. I'll learn a new concept or try out a new tool, or I'll make a new contact. Working in this way doors will open to other doors I didn't know existed. After a while a lot of doors are open and I begin to feel more familiar with my virtual surroundings. On the flip side, productivity can suffer if one does not appropriately balance the lure of the constant feed-stream with the discipline to address tasks requiring focus. Or does it? Perhaps heightened productivity depends on taking time for such reflection and percolation of information, ideas, and insights.

From Kathy Sierra's post from March 16, 2007, "Is Twitter TOO good?" in her blog Creating Passionate Users,

Kathy's whimsy prompted Alan Levine to created the knockoff graphic below in his posting "SPLJ 2.0" in his CogDogBlog April 26th, 2007, at:

My own habit of using Twitter is to bring it up over coffee each morning and review the bustle in the Twittersphere while I was asleep. I soon have multiple tabs open on my browser where I have followed the most interesting links, and I then start tagging these at according to my own folksonomy (an idiosonomy?), which might in turn lead me to others who have tagged these sites as well. These links suggested by people in my distributed learning network contribute significantly to my professional development and to keeping me informed and abreast of my field. I can continue my learning by listening to podcasts in my car on my way to work in the morning, often suggested to me by people I follow in my Twitter network, and often recorded by the very people whose tweets I've been following over morning coffee.

The true value of Twitter is in this network. There are other microblogging platforms such as Jaiku <>, Pownce <>, Plurk <>, and even Tumblr <>. Tumblr is a different kind of microblogging platform to the others, which allows users to post (or microblog) a variety of media on the fly. For more on Tumblr (from the horse's mouth) there's an interview at EdTechTalk between Paul Allison and Tumblr founder David Karp, here: Plurk is more similar in concept to Twitter, though as with Tumblr, it lets you easily incorporate media in posts. It has an intriguing interface, lets you quickly add Plurk 'fans' from your Twitter followers list, and arrays posts on a time-line where you can pull-down any given one and have conversations by postings comments. Plurk awards users Karma points for effective social networking behaviors (e.g. posting, commenting, introducing others to Plurk) which can be exchanged for enhanced features such as the right to customize a user name. There's an amusing Bubbleshare slide show presenting telltale screen shots from Twitter and Plurk which reveal the less than ideal performance of both programs, at Vicky Davis's Cool Cat Teacher blog, "A photographic journey into Plurk: See for yourself before you jump the twittership," from June 26, 2008: Like Twitter, Plurk is blocked over public Internet in the UAE, so I often use Pownce simply because it isn't. Pownce is a microblogging platform with a pleasant interface which is also media friendly and allows more than 140 characters, but neither Plurk nor Pownce have the network that Twitter does, for me.

Of course how one develops one's network, and where on prefers to do that -- whether with Twitter, Plurk, Jaiku, or Pownce (or some combination of these) -- would be particular to the individual, but there is a critical mass of participation of many users on Twitter that has driven it to the height of this genre of microblogging. It's the happening place where fusion constantly occurs. There might be several discos in town, but often there's only one that's hopping, or that has the magic, the dynamism, the appeal, and Twitter seems to have achieved the status of being where the action is (at present).

Using Twitter

Due to its wide traction, Twitter users sometimes make news in the way they spread news; for example:

  • "Twitter faster to report news than all other media" is the title of a post on May 12, 2008 in the Xar J Blog and Podcast, with regard to reporting on the recent earthquakes in China:

  • During the recent California forest fires, Twitter proved effective in helping displaced people locate the nearest available emergency accommodations

  • Twitter is used in combination with to report the situation on freeways during morning commutes. Jott is a service that let's you leave a voice message using a mobile phone, which it then converts to text. Commuters phone in from their cars in traffic, the text is then posted to Twitter, and a network of followers develops to keep each other informed of up-to-the-minute traffic reports.

  • "Twitter Saves Man From Egyptian Justice", by Michael Arrington, April 16, 2008, in Tech Crunch: is about a man arrested in Egypt (for taking photographs of a demonstration) who used his cell phone to twitter from jail and thus alert his followers who managed to locate him and secure his release.

The simplicity of Twitter makes it amenable to mashup, or use of Twitter API's (application program interfaces) in combination with other tools or applications to enhance its capabilities beyond those envisaged by the program designers. One way of measuring not only the popularity but the versatility of a simple idea like Twitter is by looking at some of the third party software developed for it. For example, there are at least two ways of accessing Twitter through enhanced user-interfaces (see Kevin Chu's (2008) "Twitterific vs. Twhirl" in /dev/null/Kevin at - sic, the correct spelling is Twitterrific, with two r's).

Here are some compilations of Twitter resources, in no particular order:

Gladys Baya's Tweetwheel graphic shows which of her followers are connected to one another, posted at:

Here are some examples of numerous mashups with Twitter (listed alphabetically):

A Twitstat chart showing number of tweets registered on Twitter over the past 6 months

Uses in teaching

What does all this have to do with language teaching? Here are some posts and resources that have addressed pedagogical uses of Twitter recently:

  • Seth Dickens, April 29, 2008 post entitled "Twitter - MicroBlogging" in DigitaLang lists some advantages of Twitter when used with language learners. For example, due to small posting requirements, "language students don't need to feel pressured into writing huge, long blog posts (which I have found can be off-putting for students who are writing a “normal” blog.) With Twitter the emphasis is on posting short, but sweet posts and often. Another
    thing I really like about Twitter is that you can send your Twitter posts from a mobile phone (Moblogging?) This could also give our students more freedom to practice their English when its most convenient to them. Out in the centre of town? Seen something amazing? Let your classmates and friends know all about it! Practice your English while your doing so! I'd also like to see if it's possible to centrally “aggregate” several Twitter feeds. I was thinking of trying to set up a wiki which I'd use to tie all the Tweets from a
    class together in one place. It would also make for some really interesting inter-personal reading. Ever wondered what your class mates are doing on a Sunday evening? Check Twitter and see if they are telling you!"

  • David Parry, January 23rd, 2008 post entitled "Twitter for Academia" in academHacK
    cites 13 areas where Twitter impacts his classroom. In summary these are
    1. Class Chatter: conversations continue inside and outside of class
    2. Development of Classroom Community
    3. Get a Sense of the World: Use to gain some appreciation.
    4. Track a Word: "Through Twitter you can “track” a word. This will subscribe you to any post which contains said word."
    5. Track a Conference: or follow an event via Twitter feeds
    6. Instant Feedback: Twitter is "always on"
    7/8. Follow a Professional or a Famous Person: e.g.
    9. Grammar: Twitter can lead to discussion and insights of its own unique grammar
    and ambiguity as well as of the rules it breaks.
    10. Rule Based Writing: Discover insights based in 140-character discourse units
    11. Maximizing Teachable Moments: Twitter provides context often lacking in traditional
    classroom situations
    12. Public NotePad: "good for sharing short inspirations, thoughts that just popped into your head"
    13. Writing Assignments: can be based around Twitter capabilities.

    • Jeffrey Young, writing January 28, 2008 in
      Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus, in "A Professor's Tips for Using
      Twitter in the Classroom," reports how David Parry required the 20 students in
      his “Introduction to Computer-Mediated Communication” course to sign
      up for Twitter and to send a few messages with the service each week as part of
      a writing assignment, with notable changes to classroom dynamics.

  • Twitterlearn lets you "sign up for regular quizzes via Twitter, allowing you to test your knowledge of Spanish, Italian and German, with French coming soon. Each of the series are linked to our podcasts and the content being tested in the regular quizzes is based on the content of our podcasts. In most cases the quiz will feature a phrase or series of words to be translated into the foreign language. By clicking on the link published with each 'tweet' you will be able to check your answer on the website."

  • Nancy White has set up a wiki to invite Twitter users to share how they have used Twitter to collaborate (and also indicate their wish list for Twitter development. Many Twitter collaboration stories (in classroom and professional development contexts) are appearing at

Microblogging: What's on the horizon?

There is one very disappointing, perhaps even fatal, flaw with Twitter, one that is seriously compromising its effectiveness as we speak, and that is its inability to scale. Google's great success was based largely on the ability of Sergei Brin and Larry Page to cobble together sufficient banks of computers that would keep their brainchild running as it not only cached the entire Internet but coped with the accelerating demands of exponentially expanding droves of appreciative users. But Google had a business model based in cleverly directed advertising that supported its maintenance of warehouses full of computers, which were farmed and expanded as needed to handle the load, whereas Twitter seems to not have the means to support its expansion. Limiting tweets to 140 characters kept it lean and simple but Twitter's database has since just this summer been overwhelmed by its burgeoning popularity. The service occasionally goes down, and whimsically displays a graphic of cherubic birds supporting a pastel whale on improbably stressed ribbons, which like Twitter itself, are perhaps a good representation of whatever it is that keeps Twitter on the air.

sigh ...

  • Twiddict posts on its site, "We love Twitter. We hate when it's down. If you're addicted to Twitter as well, tweet your heart out through Twiddict and avoid life-changing withdrawal symptoms during Twitter downtime. We'll make sure your tweets end up where they belong". This site gives a status report, but it is sometimes more
    optimistic than my own status :-(

As I've been writing this article over the past month, when the service has been working it has not often supported its "OLDER" button. When this button is grayed out you can't access the database of tweets left by your network beyond a single page. If your network comprises a hundred or more colleagues, then this one page of tweets spans only the last few hours of their twitterings. The result is the most damaging thing of all, loss of cohesion of the network. Now I no longer have access to people who normally post when I sleep at night, or during times that I am away from the computer more than a few hours. And it's not just me. Microbloggers are complaining throughout the Twittersphere about this problem, an annoyance experienced by all.

Konrad Glogowski is using to help him keep up with his Twitter network

Last year's NECC conference had a vibrant Twitter back channel. This year, delegates are preparing their Plan B.

These problems with Twitter have been taking place just over the past month, and it is hoped that those managing Twitter will be able to revive the service and return it to its former stature. It is clear that Twitter has struck a chord among educators who enjoy and benefit from maintaining frequent symbiotic contact with so many others in their wide learning networks. As current king of the microblog mountain, Twitter has a valuable investment in its reputation for being able to reliably deliver that network on demand to its myriad loyal users. But this fan-base is slipping away as Twitter continues to frustrate those whose lifestyles and workflows now pivot so tenuously on Twitter. Although Twitter has been the tool of choice, like a trusty old car that is starting to give problems, if this tool no longer functions, people will soon opt for another. What people were actually enjoying was the new and effective way of interacting with their network. Now that the concept of microblogging through a constant interchange of SMS messages has proven so stimulating and popular, the herd could instinctively migrate to more stable pastures. Twitter could yet recover, but if not, it will not be long before another tool appears to take its place.

A day after posting no comments have been made to this post yet but the following appeared in Twitter (thanks network :-)

Monday, June 2, 2008

What about AUTONOMOUS Teachers?

Have six weeks gone by already? I must have been busy. I was in New York for the TESOL conference there, meeting Webheads galore, and then I stopped off in London on my way back to Abu Dhabi where, on April 7, 2008, I had been invited to present at the Learner Autonomy SIG Pre-conference event here:, scheduled as part of the 42nd Annual IATEFL Conference in Exeter 7th-11th April 2008.

My presentation was a part of the "Autonomy and the language classroom: opening a can of worms!" project,

I repeated my Exeter presentation at an event April 12, 2008 at the Abu Dhabi Men's College in Abu Dhabi. I started with a short report from the LA SIG Preconference Event in Exeter, and then did the larger presentation on The Multiliterate Autonomous Learner: Teacher attitudes and the inculcation of strategies for lifelong learning, "with focus in particular on the influence of teacher attitudes towards technology as it might impact autonomy in the newer generations of learners."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Carla Arena Interviews AdVancEducation for a class project. Like, wow!

I didn't expect a lot from this when Carla asked me if I would record something about Abu Dhabi, the city where I live, for the benefit of an online class that she teaches. I wrote back that I had no idea where to begin, and could she just Skype me and ask me some questions. So she did, and produced the most charming blog posting:

Of course you can hear the recording at Carla's blog. Amazingly, the posting has attracted well over a dozen comments.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Future of Learning in a Networked World: Gala Dinner in Bangkok

My son found the above video when he Googled 'Youtube' and 'Vance Stevens'. It's from the FLNW event I attended in Bangkok recently, a kind of spontaneous, ad-hoc, movable feast with an unconferency feel to it. I thought this would be a good place to put it, and next day I found a posting in the Learner Autonomy and iLearn group on Facebook with a question getting right to the crux of the future of learning in a networked world. While preserving the identify of the poster (or if he asks me to, I'll credit him here) I decided to post his question here with my comments:

The question

I've been wondering if technology does really enhance teaching/learning or if we just use it because it is out there and looks good in our resume! At a conference, I heard the question: “Do we use technology in ELT because it solves our teaching/learning problems? Or do we use it because it is out there for everyone to explore?

I believe that many(?) of us come from a generation that was not born with computers around and less in our foreign language learning processes. This background surely limits our views on the real advantages of modern technology.

I have mixed feelings when I see myself or others struggling with technology. Our heavy training was not on technological competencies and it seems we cannot leave those tasks to more technically competent co-workers from the computer science department. As foreign language teacher/advisors, we are expected to add all these new skills to our old bag of tricks. I bet it's time to make our discipline a multi-disciplinary profession.

At times I see how we bend technology for our own sake and we tend to believe that it is just a nicer, faster and more colorful way to achieve the same academic goals we have already 'achieved' with a pen, paper, chalk a board or a book in our hands.

Thanks for any comments this may raise.

My reply

Your comments get right to the point, and I'm happy to say the answer is YES, technology does indeed enhance exactly what you already know how to do with a pen, paper, chalk, etc. Pens, paper, chalk are in fact technology. Sometimes these are the most appropriate technologies to apply to a given pedagogical nut you wish to crack. I myself use a board marker and whiteboard (slightly tech advanced from chalk etc, but does the essentially same thing). In part 2 we'll ratchet up the technology scale ...

You might say that a WIKI is a tech advancement over that and in some cases, where you want to preserve your chalkboard, and let students write on it AFTER class, and say embed video or audio in it, or have students record with Audacity and embed their own audio, and bring that to class next time and start from there, might POSSIBLY be an improvement over the old method where the board is erased at the end of the day.

No matter what the metier, workpeople are constrained by available tools and knowledge of those available. Nowadays when so many new tools are coming online, it's good for teachers to know what's available. How do you do that? You join a community, for example Webheads at where you can LISTEN to conversations on what tech is available and how teachers are using it, the same way you would learn a foreign language, just go where it's spoken and listen, and when you feel comfortable, join in.

This would give you a better knowledge of what tools to use. After that it would be up to you to decide, with your improved knowledge of what tools you could alternatively use, which ones would be best suited to the pedagogical nuts you wish to crack.

I think that any reasonable argument would reach the conclusion that it's best to at least KNOW what is available and then consider from that perspective whether it's best to continue using the tools you have available now or to try out some new technologies if those appear better suited to the job at hand.

The most important point, as you have pointed out, is that the job at hand has not changed. Your methodology does not change. You can and should continue to teach using the techniques you find effective. The question which you asked and which we all should seek to answer from an INFORMED perspective, is when does technology HELP what you are already doing, and when might it get in the way.

So no, we don't use it just because it's there, but because it's there, we should seek to inform ourselves what is out there, and use that which will help our students achieve a better grasp of whatever it is we are trying to teach, or more correctly, what it is we are trying to help THEM to LEARN (which is another issue, relating more to the autonomy side of our discussion).

As with learning a foreign language, it's not enough to go to a country where the language is spoken, you must go with intent and desire to learn that language. With technology, teachers must WANT to learn it – that is accept that it might be a valid addition to a bag of existing tricks. At that point, where you are truly receptive (where you are AUTONOMOUS, another way of putting it), you find that it's all around you, and if you converse with others trying to learn it, easy to pick up.

Hope that helps, and sorry for the delay in replying,


Sunday, March 9, 2008

New Millenium Professional Development

I’ve been asked to propose a task force to promote the use of pedagogical technology at the place where I work. This has really got me thinking about how to preach to someone other than the choir. I think I'm going to need some help from my community on this one. I'm being asked to really effect change at an educational institute where there is not a lot of awareness of the very latest issues in educational technology and their impacts on learning. How do I start this ball rolling?

The first issue to be addressed before such a task force can be agreed upon is why it is needed? I believe it is needed, but why would anyone else think so? So the first task of the task force should be to determine its scope regarding the nature of the need in the perceptions of those concerned.

In helping the task force to approach such an analysis, I could suggest many things that my colleagues might want to read. It would be easy to go overboard here. I suppose I should select a baker’s dozen items that I think people should read, but thinking this through just a bit more, perhaps I should think of this as a baker’s dozen number of topics. Each topic would have a set of background readings, one of which would be the one I would recommend be read if one wanted to read just one thing on that topic. The other readings would be available in case the first reading succeeded in piquing interest in the topic.

Not all of the recommended items would be readings per se. A couple would be videos or other media. Sometimes these are more approachable than readings. The various media would illustrate the emergence of multiliterate approaches on the Internet.

Putting off for the moment coming up with the readings, here are the baker’s dozen of topics I am thinking to choose. Many of these items overlap and impinge on other items in the list (RSS is a major component in blogs for example, yet both topics are important enough to be treated separately, and the concept of blogging could accordingly stand alone apart from other asynchronous collaboration media mentioned in item 12.)

  1. RSS and push/pull technologies and feed readers
  2. Aggregation: tagging,, and folksonomic classification systems as opposed to taxonomic ones
  3. Podcasts: harvesting them primarily, but also producing them, as vital resources in ongoing professional development
  4. Paradigm shift: multiliteracies and new learning heuristics
  5. Blogging and microblogging
  6. Digital storytelling
  7. Social networking
  8. Distributive learning networks: communities and connectivism
  9. Web 2.0
  10. Informal / just-in-time learning
  11. Synchronous communications: instant messaging, online presentation venues incorporating interactive whiteboard, voice, and video
  12. Asynchronous collaborations tools: blogs, wikis, Voicethread, Slideshare and similar, Google docs and similar, Google notebook

How can I expand and fine tune my list of items? I will engage my community of practice, my social network, my distributed learning network, my community of colleagues, most of whom I have never met face to face although we’ve been interacting for the past 5 or ten years. I have asked them for their advice.

This is in fact the key to staying up on the new technologies. It’s a question of keeping attuned to a network of people with something worth sharing. In the most recent age of print literacy one would encounter needed resources in libraries and through journal subscriptions, where the network would consist of a range of static authors.

In the new age it is possible to interact with writers and thinkers directly, but though this is possible and with emerging technologies this possibility can be exploited with great benefit to all concerned, for those who are hesitant to get 'up close' at the very outset, it is not absolutely necessary to interact with people synchronously any more than it is necessary to meet an author of a book or journal article. However, the crucial difference nowadays is in knowing where to find that network of people with information to share most relevant to the individual. It turns out that these people are less frequently publishing in traditional media. So the first thing to learn, as it is with what we should be teaching our students, is HOW we stay on top of things, given new developments in technology having major impacts on both literacy and learning.

So the first challenge of this task force should be to develop a core of educators where I work with a greater awareness of what the new technologies are and their potentials for education, what some people characterize as having transformational potentials. Once consciousness has been raised to a requisite degree, the task force can then begin identifying areas within existing curricula where these technologies might apply. It would be hoped in this phase to involve teachers within those departments who could in turn be made aware of the affordances made possible by principled use of technology in the service of the teaching goals of the various departments.

If anyone reading this has any ideas on how I can better approach this, or if you can think of other topics for my baker's dozen, I'd really appreciate your comments.

I am posting this in draft form in order to hopefully elicit comments and suggestions, but I intend to change this, for example to fill in the readings, at some point in the near future.

Tiny URL for this post:

Meanwhile, Tom Robb was kind enough to send me a copy of his chapter:
Helping teachers to help themselves. In: Hubbard, Philip and Mike Levy (Eds.). Teacher education in CALL. 2006. xii, 354 pp. (pp. 335–347).
More about this book here:

Robb suggests that supporting teacher autonomy in technology at the program level would benefit from the following elements:

  • Survey of institution's technical support environment
  • Hire a (CALL or technology) specialist
  • Recognize and reward self training and innovation
  • Set up a faculty development program
  • Budget for training and resource personnel (equal amounts on human, hardware, and software resources)
  • Encourage networking
  • Provide release time and funding
  • and finally, the kicker: brute force, require the use of technology

Also Kim Cofino lists diverse aspects involved in "the shift to a 21st century learning environment" in her post: Making the shift happen, Always Learning (Feb 24, 2008):

  1. Vision and philosophy - "Expecting teachers to change their practice, without providing a thought-out vision and philosophy for why they should change will only result in frustration."
  2. Leadership - "at some point, school leadership needs to clarify and confirm that this is the direction the school is heading. There needs to be an official acknowledgment of the vision and philosophy and clear expectations that change will happen."
  3. Paradigm shift and transparency - "you also need to develop a clear framework which details exactly what the roles are for each individual involved ... - each person on staff will be responsible for some aspect of this transition and they need to know how they fit into the bigger picture."
  4. Curriculum and professional development - "Embedding this new model for teaching and learning into the curriculum development process is a natural way to institutionalize change - if it becomes part of our curriculum, it becomes part of our teaching and learning practice."
  5. Staffing and equipment - "Why would we hire someone with no teaching load - someone who just “helps” people all day? Unfortunately, without the human support (which can range from being a teaching model in the classroom, to curricular or pedagogical support, to technical support, to a “safety blanket”) the technological troubles can end up feeling insurmountable for teachers new to this model of teaching and learning - exactly what you don’t want."
  6. Infrastructure and communication - "Once staffing and equipment are sufficient, clear infrastructure and communication strategies need to be put in place ... Having resources and knowing how to access them or how to get support are all very different things."
  7. Resources - "To help teachers and administrators cope with the rapid pace of technological change, developing easy to use resources (like “how to” sheets for both students and teachers, or common rubrics and assessment tools) can make the use of new tools far less intimidating."
  8. Reflection and adaption - "Another important aspect of reflection is sharing our successes. Finding consistent ways to publicize success - not only within the school, but also to the wider school community, helps teachers gain confidence, explore new areas of teaching and learning, and promote positive attitudes towards this change. We can often get bogged down with solving problems, but sometimes the solution is sharing success."

Cofino's post provides numerous links to additional resources for developing the various aspects which must be addressed in accomplishing such a shift.

Monday, February 4, 2008

All I know about Blogging and Microblogging

I've been participating in the EVO session, where I've been helping moderate this past week, culminating in a WiZiQ chat recorded here:

Someone wrote early in the week asking what they should blog about. My reply seemed to be appreciated by the group, so I thought I'd blog it and tag it in such a way that it would fit in with the experiments the group is conducting on the Writingmatrix model, finding posts created as part of a group by tagging them, in this case b4echallenge, and then finding the posts by searching on the common tag in Technorati.

On the purpose of blogging

Ideally you should pick as a topic for your blog something that you would like to have an online conversation about. I've heard people (who don't know better) say things like "blogs are just online journals, aren't they?" This implies a one-way information transfer. If that's the case you might as well put up a static web page. Of course blog software can make it a lot EASIER for someone to put up a 'page' somewhere. But thinking of a blog in terms of unidirectional information flow misses the point considerably. A good blog will invite comments. If you turn 'trackback' on in your blog then you can see when other people are linking to you from their blogs. Appropriate use of TAGS (labels or categories in some blog software) will reveal your blog to people who search Technorati or Google Blog Search for blog posts on topics of interest to them.

So, true, the topic of your blog can be anything that interests YOU. But if you think of it in terms of Web 2.0, read-write, many-way conversation opportunities, then this might help you to direct your postings to things that are of interest to others as well.

This interest doesn't have to be popular. Blogs and other web 2.0 tools address the great need lacking in conventional publishing for vehicles for communication on niche issues, what has been called the 'long tail'. It may turn out that what interests you might be of great interest to someone else. A blog is a good way to find that other person, other people, and discover and communicate with a small but dedicated group.

There's more about trackback and pingback in section 4.1 here:
Dieu, Barbara, and Vance Stevens. (2007), Pedagogical affordances of syndication, aggregation, and mash-up of content on the Web. TESL-EJ, Volume 11, Number 1:

On tagging:

Tags are a concept it took me a while to get my mind around, and some have asked 'how do I do it?'. At the bottom of your blog post you'll see a field where you can write in tags for your post. In some blog softwares these are called LABELS or CATEGORIES. Essentially you're meant to write in a few words (or strings in computerese) there that best describe your post.

After a while you'll find that a lot of the words you use repeat themselves in such a way that they develop a classification system, and in aggregate with millions of other people doing the same thing your classification system forms a 'folksonomy' (a word similar to taxonomy, which is a pre-ordained classification system).

Powerful tools have been developed to feret out tags from among the millions of posts created in the blogosphere. We use Technorati but there are 12 more tools listed here:

We have found that by using a tag unique to a project we can 'aggregate content' (or 'find all the posts on the topic'). This can be used in classrooms as with the writingmatrix project.

You should definitely label, tag, or categorize your posts. This is very important. You can have as many labels as you like except where blogger, for example, limits you to 200 characters. In any event, you should tag ALL posts you create in conjunction with this post by the tag (label or category). Tags are essential, key, to the social nature of blogging. You will see how it works if you start tagging your posts right away.

Pay attention to how to delimit your tags. In blogger you delimit with a comma. This means your tags can be more than one word. But many sites have you delimit with a space (so tags are one word, or one_word like this - if you space delimit in blogger you will end up with one long tag, but you can go back and fix it, don't worry).

Also, you should ensure that your blog is public (unless you want it to be private). In Blogger you go to settings to make your blog public. If it's public it can be found by tag search engines such at - if it's not public it won't show up on the searches we do.

On Writingmatrix

This week I'll be talking about the Writingmatrix project, which you can read about here: . At that link, there are links to many recorded presentations and publications already made about this project.

There's a LOT you could read there so I'll briefly explain that teachers in different countries had students blog and tag their posts with a unique key word, 'writingmatrix'. The students in these countries then used to find other blog posts (with ANY authority) tagged 'writingmatrix'. They browsed the available blogs with intent to find some that interested them and then they left comments in each other's blogs, or tagged them in, and/or linked to them from their own blogs (causing the link from their post to appear in the blog they linked to) and writers developed audiences in this way and met online in other ways as well.

The beauty of the project was that it was totally spontaneous, no pre-arrangement with anyone is necessary, and in fact anyone here can do a Google or Technorati search on 'writingmatrix' and see what comes up and/OR tag a blog post 'writingmatrix' and find it in the Technorati listing later. We could do the same with the tag 'blogging4educators' and if you want to double your fun you can tag your posts both ways, plus add any other tag that occurs to you.

I have made some screen casts about Google Reader. One of them shows how you can search on blogging4educators in Technorati (and follow the feed on that SEARCH in Google Reader).

On Microblogging

Someone wrote expressing disappointment that it was taking time to develop a following through blogging. I replied:

  • Remember that blogs appeal to NICHE interest. Persevere. Blog from the heart.
  • Be sure you TAG TAG TAG. People use searches like Technorati and Google Blog Search and others (Google 'blogsearch') to find postings on topics that interest them. Tags are key to their finding your blog.
  • Twitter is emerging as a tool for getting you on the map. This is a good article on how Twitter can help drive traffic to your blog:
I've tagged more perspectives here:

And finally, getting down to the nitty gritty ...

Someone wrote to ask:

i'm on blogger and i can't find my blog on technorati. i only see it as a link on one of my friend's blog. i can't find it on google either. :( so clearly i haven't checked something properly. do you happen to know what?

I was waiting for this question.

Technorati and search blogs to help you find ones you you are looking for but don't know about yet. I haven't used blogsearch that much and I don't know whether or not it searches for tags in blog postings.There is information here that says it utilizes blog 'structure' but I found no mention of tags. A search on blogging4educators only turns up 19 results. I turned the safe filter off, and got the same.

Notice point 5 at the above URL. It points to information about pinging

Now, how does Google or Technorati know that a blog exists? It has to at some point ping that blog. A ping is like a sonar packet of data that one server sends another, which the receiving server acknowledges and returns a ping to that effect. So to start the process your blog has to ping Google or Technorati and say, yoo hoo, here I am. Normally the search engines troll blog sites and look for blogs, ping them, and once they've found them, follow them, but in case you have to go proactive, there is information on how to do that here:

I know more about this with Technorati. Technorati searches on TAGS in blogs, but you have to be sure your blog is PUBLIC (somewhere in your settings you can make it so). This will enable it to communicate with blog search engines (i.e. ping them and answer pings). If it still doesn't show on listings, you might have to manually send a ping to the search engine.

David Warlick has some information about how you can do that with Technorati here:

Also, you can register with Technorati. Once you've done that you can 'claim' your blog. If you follow this procedure you'll eventually reach a point where you can ping Technorati. Yoo hoo, I'm here !!

When we were experimenting with writingmatrix we had a lot of people, including me, who could not get their blogs to show up in Technorati listings despite numerous attempts using all the tricks mentioned so far. I wrote them to ask what was going on. They wrote back that they would look into it. Eventually they came up with a tweak on their interface whereby you can adjust the level of authority you want your blog results to be invested with. If you are researching latest developments on a vexing physics problem you might want to weed out hits where the poster is not known. If you are dealing with first time bloggers (educators, that's us!)
then you want to see posts of blogs of students and colleages with zero 'authority'. So now Technorati have made it possible to search on posts with ANY authority. This is what you want. You can see how to adjust this in my screencast given in the wiki for Week 3:

- Managing Feeds in Google Reader (3.5 mb) or

When I do a search in Technorati on blogging4educators tagged posts with ANY
authority I get 48 hits. If i change this to 'a little' authority that number reduces to 8 hits.

What is 'authority'? According to Technorati, authority is the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. The higher the number, the more Technorati Authority the blog has - from

At our level of blogging, use ANY authority in your searches.

This probably sounds more complicated to some of you than you wish it was, but this is the reality as far as my colleagues and I in the Writingmatrix project have been able to work it out over the past several months. On the up side, my posts are now showing up in Technorati listings ;-) So try some of the hints indicated above and let us know if it solves your problem (and if not, that's ok too, because your feedback will help push us to the next level of discovery)

In summary: How to get involved in Writingmatrix

Writingmatrix is a very minimalist project, as Paul Allison says, it's "Using the web as it is".

1. Have your students blog.
2. Have them tag their posts 'writingmatrix' (plus any other tags they want to use)
3. Have them check technorati for posts on writingmatrix with any authority
Just use this link:
With any luck they'll start seeing their posts in there (oooh there's one of mine!)

4. Have them find posts in there that they like (455 listed at the moment)
5. Have them comment on those posts
6. Have them link to posts they like in their blogs

In reality, the teacher might want to come to grips with the concepts above in order to understand what to do if the students' blogs aren't showing in the listings.

The result should be that your students' blogs appear and that they attract some attention in the form of comments, links back, and so on.

Let us know if it works (or if it doesn't and we'll try to figure out how we can improve the system). And if you already KNOW, been there done that, then we want to hear from YOU.

Ever Inquiringly,