Monday, October 19, 2009

AVEALMEC Conference on Social Networking November 5-8, 2009

In the picture you can see a group of people I'll be joining in early November at a conference with infinite heart but no walls. But I'm having a heck of a time getting the slide show done for my presentation there because I'm so distracted. I'm up before dawn. I was looking for graphics till late last night searching Google Images and Flickr and Creative Commons for images I can use in my presentation. This alone could take hours wandering through other people's flights of fancy, which they have elected to SHARE; to allow me to put online if I will only acknowledge their hand in their own work, to pay forward to the community (Mireille's term on Webcast Academy). Creating a slide show for a respected audience is a journey where every step takes you halfway there; you never arrive!

I stop to reflect here, how did I KNOW about Creative Commons, and what it means? How did I know I could find CC images at Flickr and the Creative Commons website, and turn the license filter on for Google Images? Did I read that somewhere or hear it word of mouth? Yes, I did, but not in a book or in any traditional media. As we speak, Twitter is constantly bleeping my radar, and even my Gmail is flooding me with messages on the latest SCoPE seminar, The Art of Teaching (looks to be a great one). I just joined the Educator's PLN Ning ... now that's kind of a mirror within a mirror, messages are coming through for existing participants to Twitter in more (yet another layer of mirror within mirror).

I'm not sure what's going on with George Siemens's and Stephen Downes's CCK09 at the moment but I heard on EdTech Weekly that it had only a few hundred participants, not bad for a free online course, but down from its mega-status of thousands in its initial rendition. I know that Alec Couros is giving an interesting Open Course at the moment (which I had every intention of joining but never did), and Leigh Blackall is starting one as well, both of these inviting participants from anywhere, for whatever reason or benefit they hope to gain from it. I've never met either Alec or Leigh, but I've invited both to give keynote talks at WiAOC free online conferences, and both readily agreed. Why? Heike Philp has offered to try and set up a live synchronous discussion online with anyone her PLN suggests. Someone said, ok, I'd like to talk with Noam Chomsky. So she asked him, he agreed, she set up the discussion, and now anyone can replay the recording. News about all these events reaches not just me but everyone in my extended social network in ways we didn't have available last year, last month, yesterday even ... how about tomorrow, Google Wave anyone?

These events and courses have a wonderful dynamic, one that I apply instinctively to the EVO Multiliteracies course I'm about to moderate again. I don't really have time for any of these courses, nor for preparing for my ALVEALMEC presentation for that matter. My professional development cup runneth over with creative juices that spill in all directions. Matt Montaigne is one of these teachers who seems to be everywhere at once, pushing people forward in their learning with this project and that (Earth Day webcasts, for example, on the Worldbridges Network). I was surprised to hear him say on a recent EdTechTalk shows that these efforts were chaos, he gets them started and then they just surge this way and that and leave messes that no one sees and no one mops up, but enough energy reaches the target that the impression is one of sustained and directed effort. Why am I surprised? I'm like that. I imagine many creative people are, minds as cluttered as an artist's atelier. It would be interesting to sound some of the other presenters at this conference on social networking out on exactly that topic.

This is how energy is harnessed and channeled in a PLN. It's messy. And while trying to focus on meeting an arbitrary deadline to prepare slides for a presentation to be given two weeks hence (if it were two days, I would be genuinely focused; there's nothing like a real deadline!) I am moving all over the network that brought me to this point. If not for the network, I would not have been given the opportunity to make the presentation. If not for the network, I'd be able to actually put this presentation together in a timely manner. But you can't have the upside without the downside, so we need to get used to it, and revel in it!

Seth Godin has introduced the notion of "tribes" as being groups of people who congeal around an idea that some dominant figure within that tribe leads. Switching conventional notions on its head, charisma he says, is not what the leader needs to attract followers, it's what the leader gets from the act of leading others, or better said, moving to the forward position where the leader appears to be at the head of where the tribe was going in the first place. It's an interesting concept, and hopefully a tribe is something that can be subsumed in the framework of the talk I'm giving at AVEALMEC.

In this brief posting I've again taken a step leading me only halfway to my destination. But each step needs to end (even as the destination shifts like an amorphous paradigm. Wasn't it just there? Where is it now?) so I'll wrap up this thought. Where have I arrived in this step? This posting has been about the role of a network of peers and their peers which is constantly channeling us information which we can use to convert to the knowledge that makes us interesting enough that others will invite us to speak at gatherings ranging in formality from conferences (online or face to face) to ad hoc discussions (again, online or face to face).

If you follow this out to its logical end, it means that any of us in the network is potentially interesting enough, and therefore no better than, anyone who is speaking to them at a conference. I say potentially, because the information is there, but it has to be aggregated and processed into knowledge, and then be communicated effectively. Some people are better at that than others, or simply have more time. The network provides the information but the better the network the more time it consumes. Those of us who are getting used to that reality are reveling in it, and exuding an energy that makes us want to share our passion with others, like those who created and shared the graphics that I'll put in my presentation, as part of the scaffolding on the launching pad I am trying to create for the talk I plan to give at AVEALMEC.

The more I learn about this conference, the more I see of the buildup and the accumulation of artifacts on the web, the more I anticipate being a part of it. I'm looking forward to savoring the aggregation of content and hearing what the speakers have to say. This conference has a very appealing look and feel. It's being done right. Congratulations to those putting it on! For more information: