Second Last Class – Seeing Early Results

I’ve been teaching a course called Oral Rhetoric, a course where I work with students on their public speaking, both in face-to-face situations and in creating online audio recordings. Yesterday was the second last class and we spent most of the class time listening to their second last assignment, a commercial/pitch to advertise their final assignment – a story of theirs that they create a recording of and post online. The recordings of their pitches we heard were wonderful, and why wouldn’t they be. These students have spent all their lives listening to radio and tv commercials. They might not have Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of commercial-listening to gain expertise, but they do have hours and hours of soaking in just how persuasion works.

Over the term, I asked them to read about and practice two kinds of rhetorical skills:

Both the traditional and the current forms of rhetoric were in evidence in the pitches we listened to, but what really thrilled me were the spontaneous responses. We’re using PBWorks for our course container and it allows comments on pages. At the bottom of the Pitch page, was a conversation, a series of comments praising many of the pitches. I was thrilled because I had been trying to develop a Community of Practice approach in the course. After almost every presentation or posting of student work, I asked students to describe their own experiences while doing their own presentation/recording and to give positive feedback to at least three of their classmates. This was an assignment and posted on a weekly Discussions page on the course wiki. I wanted them to learn from each other, and to get used to learning from colleagues as a way to continue learning in their futures. The responses in the Comments section of the Pitch page were an unrequired, spontaneous manifestation of giving each other feedback. What that says to me is that some of the students have developed the habit of responding, and could recognize the technical possibilities (the Comment space at the bottom of the page) for sharing those responses. They have both the communication and the digital know-how.

Makes me happy

Joan Vinall-Cox, PhD (905)
JNthWEB Consulting –
Social Media & Learning

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My therapist – Twitter

When I started on Twitter, in January 2008, I added many ‘friends’ I was already following in other social media, and some of my fellow freelancers from the Halton-Peel Communicators Association. My social media friends I had discovered from blogging on Elgg (now Eduspaces), a network aimed at academics studying education and learning. I browsed blogs in Elgg and found people to follow. I loved the social quality and having ‘friends’ online. Anyone who followed me, I followed back, ’cause that was the custom and the polite thing to do. And I tried to read all their blogs (and felt inadequate when I got behind). Despite knowing how to scan and skip when reading other blogs, I felt these people were my friends and I had a social responsibility.

When I joined Twitter in January 2008, I initially followed the same practice. It was actually a relief because I allowed myself to follow fewer blogs, and just keep up in micro-blogging. In the morning, I would go to Twitter and search back to the last post I’d read before going to bed the night before, then I dutifully read up to the current posts, if I had time. Every time I had a break, I went to Twitter (less fattening than a blueberry muffin) and tried to catch up.

It was onerous, especially as I kept following back the people who followed me. I began to compromise. I only read posts that had links. I chose favorites among those I was following and set them up in their own group, so I could follow the condensed version. I noticed that some of the people I chose to follow, didn’t follow me back. I commented in presentations on the asymmetrical structure of Twitter, as opposed to the reciprocal structure of Facebook. Yet every time I got the email announcing someone was following me, I clicked on the Twitter link but I began getting hesitant about following back.

I looked at their most recent tweets, and if they didn’t really interest me, or looked like pushy sales stuff, I began not to follow back. Some just looked like they were exploring, and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, but I couldn’t see the benefit from following them. So I didn’t. The ones I regarded as sales broadcasters I began to enjoy not following. I felt assertive. I felt like I had boundaries. (Yes, I read a lot of those self-help books ;-> ) I felt strong refusing them.

One day I clicked on the link of someone new following me and looked at the posts, and then looked closely at the avatar. Both were obscene. I’d noticed that there was a link labelled “Block”; I used it. I didn’t want to appear on “her” list of followers. (I’m not sure it was a female; these things can be faked.)

If this is obvious behavior to you, it wasn’t natural for me, an older, Canadian female. But Twitter led me step-by-step into deciding who I want to follow and who I want to totally block. It was gradual, and great. Outside of Twitter, I have begun to openly say “no” when I want to. I’m polite if they are and the context allows it. When someone recently asked to do a guest post on my blog, I looked at her work and was impressed, but realized I didn’t really know her, and I didn’t want to share. So I emailed my unwillingness. I did the same thing when a company asked to place something on my blog. I was complimented, but I didn’t want to include. it. Both people thanked me for my response. (I think many people just ignore them, but their approaches were polite, so I responded in kind.)

In this way, weird as it seems, Twitter has been like a therapist for me; I have learned I don’t have to follow back and I can block rude and pushy followers. And I like that!

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The Web is a Creativity Generator generating a Culture of Creativity

Photo by Tabea Dibou, from Flickr

We can see more people creating more works than ever before in history. And it’s because of the web and because the web is social. On the web, much is possible. Whether you are finding the right beautiful photo (with the right Creative Commons license) to illustrate metaphorically the connectivity and the beauty of the internet for a blog post, or whether you are playing with a web app (Skitch – to draw

or to explain something

The web is a space where people want to make, to create. I’m creating this blog post, because it’s FUN! And easy. The phrase “user-friendly” developed with the personal computer. Web apps are aimed at being user-friendly to entice and encourage people to use them, to be creative.The social aspect of the web, the possibility of being seen/heard/recognized, even if only by a very few others, encourages people’s creativity. I might not have composed this blog post if the one I created yesterday hadn’t been re-tweeted, and got  a comment. That thrill of recognition is energizing. So people are playing on computers and posting their creativity on the web. As we get responses ourselves, and even if we just see others get responses, we are encouraged to join in the play. And playfulness spreads.

So serious people who sell cars and race cars become part of the crowd playing:

Two typographers ( Pierre & Damien / ) and a pro race pilot (Stef van Campenhoudt) collaborated to design a font with a car.
The car movements were tracked using a custom software, designed by interactive artist Zachary Lieberman. ( )
Which I downloaded – and played with.

Art, play, creativity – that’s how we humans learn and that’s what makes us happy and healthy. And the web is our creativity playground.

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Why I Use More than One Social Bookmarking Service

Not that I’m paranoid (or maybe I am but I like to call it cautious skepticism) but I am always aware than any of the free web services that I use, or even ones I’ve paid for, could go belly up and my stuff on it (them) could vanish into a black hole. So when I read about speculation that my wonderful collection of bookmarks on could disappear, I feel my paranoia is justified.

Internet search marketers could lose some invaluable free tools from Yahoo such as their Site Explorer. Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb was concerned what the deal meant for Build Your Own Search Service (BOSS), Yahoo’s search developer platform Search Monkey and social bookmarking service Delicious, which he described as “one of the last era’s most heartbreaking symbols of untapped potential in social media”.

Bing is exciting as an effective challenger to Google, but if that competition comes at the cost of cannibalising Yahoo’s innovative search work – then we won’t be so excited about Bing any more.

I also celebrate that I have a strategy to deal with this. What are the odds that two similar web services will disappear at the same time? Not good, I hope.

My web stuff paranoia has led me to set up another social bookmarking service called Diigo. So I have two active accounts on different social bookmarking services.

So does that mean I have to save everything I like twice? Well, sort of, but that’s because I’ve recently taken to using Evernote, a broader and more visual saving application. But back to strictly social bookmarking. I only save once.

How? you ask. In Diigo, under my account name, I go into “Tools” where I can “Import Bookmarks”, but more importantly, I can “Save Elsewhere”. I have added my account here, and every time I save to Diigo, I also save, without any extra work, to

So I’m prepared! If Yahoo and Microsoft let die, I still have all my bookmarks in Diigo. (Same thing if something happened to Diigo.) And I have Evernote too!

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The Web is a Bottomless Toy Chest

I like to play on the web, and my biggest problem is my “I-can’t-catch-up” anxiety. There is always more to explore. And for free, either for the basic version or for a month. I can never try everything out. I can’t catch up. Ever.

I make things even more intense by following people who suggest really interesting web toys. Like Jane Hart, with her Jane’s E-Learning tip of the Day

If you teach or train, or just like to play on the web, you should check out her blog, and subscribe to it.Another of my current people to follow ’cause they give really neat toys – whoops, I mean URLs – away, is Steve Rubel – – Twice he mentioned Posterous. The first time, I tried it but left it orphaned. The second time, months, maybe years, later, I found my original account and started playing, even sort-of lifestreaming, copying him. Great fun.

His constant exploration and evolution is inspiring. Check him out, and subscribe to him in Posterous, and maybe to me too;-> As they say on tv, “Time well wasted!”

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Reading Content; Content Reading

All learning is contextual, in my opinion. You have to already know some aspect in order to learn more. I remember my Psych 101 prof, many, many years ago, saying that any book with more than 10% new content would be unreadable. So this video, found through krea_frobro747 on Twitter, appeals to me because it makes sense of my experience both as a reader and as a teacher of reading. Anyone concerned children learning to read, here’s foundational knowledge. (Might help mild dyslexics, too.)

In fact, when I roam the web trying to learn, I have problem trying to understand posts where I can’t bridge the gaps because I’m missing crucial knowledge. I guess the real take-away from this video is the more content you know, the more texts that are accessible to you, and the more you can teach yourself.

It’s like watching (or reading) the news. Initially it’s all disjointed and confusing. But watch and read long enough, and you pick up what you need to know to understand it. You see the patterns; you learn more faster. That’s why experience is valuable; your knowledge net is large and finely detailed.

Styles in MS Word – A Jing Video

I’m attending the PBWorks Camp for teachers, and this is my homework for my second week, a screencast made using Jing on how Styles in MS Word can help in writing long pieces such as academic papers or business reports:
I re-did this a number of times, dealing with –

  • fitting what I wanted to say to the time available
    • figuring out what to leave out
    • making sure my set-up worked
  • reducing the size of my Word screen so I could fit everything into a smaller frame
  • stumbling while I was recording

I really like learning from screen captures myself, so I enjoyed creating one

Twitter Means Business

I’m ambivalent about my title because I use Twitter mainly for learning, communication, and entertainment. I recognize, however, that business is becoming increasingly a part of Twitter. I recently posted a picture on TwitPic …

Like a Liberty Print
Like a Liberty Print

and commented that it reminded me of a Liberty print.

(I have fond memories of a dress made from material I got at Liberty’s in London, and several scarves I treasure, including one my husband discovered in a second-hand store and bought for me. I haven’t shopped there for years because I haven’t been in London for years.)

What happened next was this –

Libertys of London Tweet
Libertys of London Tweet

plus an invitation to follow them. I looked at their site and saw that they had a number of people tweeting using the business name plus the (I assume) first name of the person posting the tweets, which strikes me as a good way to display a business and keep the personal touch so important a part of Twitter.


I didn’t chose to follow them, because I live a continent away and because my prime interest is people I know, web businesses that can have an impact on what I want to do, and people I can learn from. (I love the freedom of not following back without feeling rude. So different from invitations in symetrical social sites.)

I found it very interesting that my casual mention of their business brought them directly to me; they are obviously monitoring Twitter, which I didn’t expect from such an old and traditional company – which shows me I should be careful about stereotyping. ;->

Today, in a Google Group I am part of, Gloria Hildebrandt – – linked to this site –

Business & Twitter
Business & Twitter

It is clear to me that even businesses not directly connected to the web and social networking are seeing the business possibilities that Twitter offers.

So while I keep on enjoying the learning and entertainment that Twitter provides me, I also recognize that it has many uses beyond the purely personal.

Always Beta, Never Done

The most fascinating thing about the web is that there is no end; there is always more and new.

The most frustrating thing about the web is that there is no end; there is always more and new.

Everything is always changeable. My website – – is not the same now as it was a half-hour ago. I just added my most recent brilliant idea,

Currently, I look at Twitter using the third or fourth application I’ve tried. It’s Nambu now; it was TweetDeck, and who knows what I’ll try next. And Twitter is the poster child for constant change, as Tweet after Tweet flips by.

My friend showed me her new laptop today, and I drooled enviously, although mine does everything I want and need and is only a little more than a year old.

I’m behind in my Bloglines again, no, make that still. I never did fully catch up.

Trying to catch up! - via Creative Commons/Flickr
Trying to catch up! - via Creative Commons/Flickr

So I love the web, and I learn so much from what often feels like frittering my time away, but there is no end to  what you can learn to do and learn and do on it. Clay Shirky, in Here Comes Everybody, says in the first 100 years after the invention of the printing press, it broke more than it fixed. I know that the printing press brought endless developments with it from dictionaries to science, from the Enlightenment to romance novels, and more. And here we are in the same early stage with the web, where everything is alway beta, never done!