Hashtag #spoileralert

Hashtag: #spoileralert
– After reading poems by Emily Dickinson, and Tweets on Twitter

My future hides before me;
The ending pre-ordained.
The losses will continue
But bright joys may remain.

My feet will grow more tender;
My knees and hips more lame.
I may remember much;
I may forget my name.

The ending could be sudden,
Or agonies, – and slow. 
But life that waits before me
Holds time and love and hope.

Twitter and (University) Students

I use Twitter to collect ideas and know-how on using the web in teaching, especially the Thursday night #lrnchats – they’re fun.

Recently a former student asked me about whether I was using Twitter in my teaching. I had just discovered some of the benefits and pleasures of following and being followed by students.

Here’s a slightly altered version of what I told her (images added):

Originally I avoided having students follow me on Twitter, but when a former student asked to follow me, I’d follow them back. Then I got a second course – teaching scripting for documentary podcasts – and several students from previous Oral Rhetoric courses who had already been following me on Twitter signed up for my second course. I didn’t actually use Twitter as part of my course, but seeing the Twitter comments of some of my current students was fun and informative.

Student Tweet

I also got some unsolicited positive feedback from a student from several years ago –


And I found out, through a tweeted link, what one former student was doing in her business and civic life –

The Star article on Julie Tyrios

As a result, I have relaxed about having students, even current ones, follow me.

At this point, I don’t plan on requiring students to use Twitter, but I might incorporate it a bit more in future courses, but only if I think it will add to what they’re learning. Probably I’ll just show them how to use hashtags, and then create one for the course that they can use, if they want to. I’ll have to be careful not to have information only on Twitter, so that those who don’t Tweet won’t miss anything important.

Connecting on Twitter with students too – that’s fun!

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!


Posted via email from joanvinallcox’s posterous

Why I use Seesmic Web for my Twitter app

I’ve used a number of applications to play on Twitter.

Currently I’m using Seesmic on the web. Here’s why:

I like being able to keep Twitter open on a tab. I can do that with the original Twitter, but Seesmic lets me have multiple threads open, and Twitter doesn’t.

Tweet Deck lets me keep several threads open but I don’t like leaving it open while I’m online because it seems to slow down my computer. That means I have to open and close it every time I want to check what’s happening. (I’m avoiding Seesmic Destop because I anticipate the same problem.)

I also prefer the light background of Seesmic over the dark background in TweetDeck.

But here’s the current deal-maker –

In Seesmic I can see the image just by resting my mouse on the link! That doesn’t appear to be true in the others; I have to click on the link and a new page opens. I like the Seesmic preview of the image, which saves me time.

What do you use as a Twitter app, and why?


See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted via email from joanvinallcox’s posterous

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 –  http://ohouse.ca/ – 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 – jnthweb.ca – 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!

A Little Learning is …

a dang’rous thing”, at least according to Alexander Pope. He declared that we should “Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring.” I, however, think a little learning is a wondrous thing; it can addict you to drinking deep at the Pierian Spring, that is, at wanting to know more and how to do more.

This post is part of a carnival of blog posts hosted at Dave’s Whiteboard. To drink deep at this particular Pierian Spring, check out http://www.daveswhiteboard.com/archives/1724.

Daves Whiteboard / Carnival
Dave's Whiteboard / Carnival

Little Learnings – a Bit at a Time, as Needed

I came to the digital world initially with fear and reluctance at a time when those who knew how the technology worked were seen as the digital specialists. People with a communication background who were enthralled by the communication possibilities offered by the digital world (as I came to be) were invisible to those looking for web expertise. When I was told that part of my writing course would include introducing my students to MSWord, back in the 1990s, I began to look around my college for help because I realized that I couldn’t ask my husband, as I did at home, to come into my classroom (a computer lab) and open and set up the program for me. Besides, he preferred Word Perfect.

So when my college offered half day courses in various computer aspects, I signed up. I took many of the courses, (Word I, II, & III, Web Browser I, II, III, & IV) many times. (My working memory has always been a bit wonky; I need a lot of repetition and/but I get bored easily. Bit of a problem sometimes;->)

I bought books on MSWord and tried to sort out what would be useful for my students. I couldn’t figure out how to figure out stuff in the books. What the @#$%, for example, was this thing that had “Normal” written in it? And why would anyone want to use a “View” called “Outline”? Meanwhile, in my writing classroom where I was ?teaching? students how to use Word for their essays, something interesting was happening. Some of my students were telling their friends, and sometimes even me, some things that could be done using Word. One taught me about Styles and Tables of Content. Wa-HOOOO! (Sometimes translated as “eureka”!)

2009 Version of MS Words Styles
2009 Version of MS Word's Styles

While I didn’t totally depend on the kindnesses of students, I was encouraging social learning in my classrooms, not just because it was a trendy pedagogical approach, but because it helped me where I worked! I was learning from my students that the trendy pedagogical approach of group work was highly effective for teaching writing and computer use, and that it was highly effective for my own learning. They learned how to use a word-processor to make their own writing easier to revise and edit; I learned various aspects of word-processing that I was responsible for teaching, and that I could also use in my own writing tasks.

I was shanghaied onto a PD committee to introduce other professors to the web and other things digital. I knew that I didn’t know enough to be on it, but I was crafty enough to know there would be people on it I could learn from. I attended religiously. There was a woman my age, (shall we say “mature”) who taught humanities subjects and was not a computer programmer or technician, but knew so much about the web’s technical aspects! She had her own website hosted on our college’s server. I was filled with admiration for the way she dressed, and for her knowledge and ability in the digital world. I decided (unconsciously) to take her as my role model. After all, she wasn’t young, male, or a computer programmer, so maybe I could learn more digital stuff and be more like her.

When I tried to learn more, for example HTML code, so I could have my very own website, (hosted on my college’s sever) I was frustrated. I heard about “WYSIWYG” software for creating websites and I was intrigued. A little learning (people can put up websites without learning HTML code because there’s software that lets you do it based on how it looks!) made me hungry to learn how to do this thing that was easier than learning HTML code. (Although I had memorized <b>bold</b> and its companion <i>italics</i>.)

I took weekend courses in this WYSIWYG software, where we followed detailed instructions so we all could produce identical web sites, presumably based on the learning theory that if we followed instructions once, we would know how to use the software. (Did I mention my wonky working memory?) I learned enough to go out searching for easier WYSIWYG software and found Netscapes’s Composer. I was thrilled and excited; I could figure out (with the help of a website put up by a female professor whose name is lost in the mists of my memory) how to put together a web site, and I did, individual link by individual link.

My First Website, made with Netscapes Composer
My First Website, made with Netscapes Composer

A little

  • employment-forced,
  • employment-aided, and
  • social

learning had moved me along, and also taught me how much more there was to learn, and started a dangerous ;-> addiction.

(A young writer I coach likes to say, in square brackets, at points in her novel draft, “much happens here”.)


So my awareness of

  • how much I am a social learner and
  • how manuals and books only work for me after I already know something and
  • how important the web is to human communication (more than the printing press, even!)

has led me to

  • blog and
  • join Facebook and
  • Twitter.

Through blogging and Bloglines I have encountered some people repeatedly, most of whom I’ve never met f2f, but I feel like I know them. Some of them have commented on some of my blog posts and/or “friended” me on Facebook and occasional messages between us – usually connected with education and the web – have made them feel like colleagues – and I need colleagues now that I teach only part-time, and yet still hunger for fellow learners in this rapidly changing communications world. Many of these colleagues I follow on Twitter, and recognize their icons.

Ah Twitter, that time-sink and/or valuable resource, that place for sharing treasures, over-sharing quotidian detritus, and just plain bitching complaining!

So I was again searching for the perfect WordPress template for my edublog (this one) and I found it, except that the body was in serif font! I can’t stand serif font, except on paper, and even there, not so much. I NEED Lucida Grande, or at least some kind of sans serif. (Good audience-aware web design, IMHO, requires sans serif on screens because it’s easier on our eyes.) I poked around and figured out that for U.S. $15.00, I could get an upgrade that would allow me to alter the CSS. (Did I mention how little I know about HTML? Even more about CSS.) I had poked around on Google and found out the definition of CSS and it sounded … interesting. So I used PayPal and got the upgrade. But I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. I tried. I searched and found out more. I even read the FAQs and tutorials. For a break, I opened my TweetDeck and  … complained.

I got a direct message from one of my web colleagues inviting a phone call, called, talked for a long time with both of us looking at both our blogs’ backends (really – not a rude thing at all;->). Eventually, after much help from the phone call  and another book (WordPress for Dummies) I got the sans serif font I wanted in the body of my blog – as you can see!

When I boasted in a later Tweet, I got the kind of feedback I most value –

Feedback on Using CSS to Change My Font
Feedback on Using CSS to Change My Font

Thanks so much Dave!

And when I later got a request for a post for Dave’s Carnival –

Daves Carnival
Dave's Carnival

I was delighted for this inspiration, this opportunity to look at the cascading impact of each bit of little learning, and the generosity of digital colleagues!

So, what’s my point? My point is that real tasks and social colleagues, whether coffee line-up or digitally based, move a little learning into into a deep enough draught at the Pierian Spring, so that we

behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise!

The more we learn, the more we see there is yet more to learn, one small real task and consequent social encounter at a time.