Sunday, May 4, 2008

How I got here and where I am - a journey of online participation

My final assignment for Learning Theories is to write a paper on any learning theory. That leaves it pretty wide open! As usual, I'm having a hard time nailing down exactly what stance I want to take. As my topic I chose Web 2.0, Communities of Practice, and probably with a little Wlodkowski's Cultural Motivation thrown in. Now what do I say...

As part of the paper, I thought I might be able to share my own experiences. I was making a few notes in the outline of my paper, but thought better of it. I'm here as a blogger to reflect, so I should put my reflections in a post. So what follows is a brief (ok, long) summary of my journey into this crazy, crazy online web 2.0 world.

Years ago, my ever so thoughtful husband bought me a pink iPod and a pink jogging suit for Valentine's day. Can you say sweet? I can't remember the year, but as a clue it was a first generation iPod mini. It must have been around the same time that I had bought my first computer - a Mac mini. It didn't take me long to discover podcasts in iTunes. I was addicted instantly, even falling asleep listening to them at night. I had to give up my music, since all my memory was taken up by podcasts. However, my interest slowly faded - it was constant work to sync and charge the iPod. The iPod ended up in the pile of abandoned things.

Around the same time as the iPod entered my life, so did participating on message boards. (Or maybe the message boards came first.) There's a couple I'll check in on daily. I got used to talking online publicly with others, albeit anonymously. I'll admit to being a bit embarrassed about sounding geeky/crazy to friends, as I'd say things like "yeah, I heard about [insert something cool] that!" Only to have to admit that it was someone online who had told me. Apparently, not everyone talks to people and forms relationships online! As I became more comfortable with message boards, I used them for professional reasons such as getting computer and programming help from tech boards. I was even subscribed to a couple listservs for elearning. (Anyone remember CourseBuilder for Dreamweaver?)

Now jump forward to 2007. I discovered blogs. Yes, they had been around for quite a bit already, and I read them here or there, but they weren't part of my routine. Suddenly, however, they became important to me. I found instructional designers! My manager was encouraging me to become one, but I wasn't sure. Finding all those blogs created interest for me. I felt curious, compelled, motivated. Passion formed. I built a huge subscription base in Google Reader. I checked it almost daily (and still do). I also joined LinkedIn after reading a news article about it. Why is that important? Because it was the first time I wasn't anonymous on the web. It was more than a little frightening to me. Then I signed up for school! That was a big step - committing to a Masters program. An online Masters program. I give blog reading a lot of credit for that, but I also owe thanks to my manager for prodding me, and also credit goes to plain, old luck - for just happening to work within a training team because there was no where else to put me (as a web developer).

To summarize up until this point: I talked on message boards, listened to podcasts, and read blogs, and was a member of LinkedIn. I started going to school for IPT (instructional and performance technology). Now here is where the next major step comes in. I started feeling like I was on the outskirts. I was reading the blogs, and even left a comment here or there - anonymously. But it didn't feel like enough. Creeping into my thoughts was the idea that I too should be a blogger. What a scary proposal! Took me several months to actually step up to it. And now I'm here. Trying to figure out my place. Learning etiquette. Talk to myself :)

And to bring it full circle with the start of this post, the next step was my instructor saying that maybe an idea for my final paper could be on blogs and Communities of Practice due to a small assignment where I applied online participation to the stages of "legitimate peripheral participation." Well...I could do that from an academic point of view OR (big or) I could do it from a personal perspective. I jumped the hurdle and started this blog. Not more than a couple days later, I got an invite through an e-newsletter to join LearningTown (a ning site). Then I heard a podcast by some teachers talking about Twitter. So I joined Twitter. Then I did some research on popular Web 2.0 sites in preparation for my final paper. I discovered, a social networking site for discovering music. Then I decided to give a little personalization to my blog by adding badges for my delicious links, twitter, linkedin, and thesixtyone. I am truly connected and it has been a whirlwind couple of weeks.

Where do I go from here? According to a Pew survey, I'm not a "creator" - I don't find media and rework into my own artistic formats. That would be interesting to try. I also need to continue participating - blogging and commenting. Maybe I can put my digital camera to use and start a flickr account. It'd be great to have an iPhone to keep me connected while away from home. Another big step - letting IRL-people know that I'm here. So, far I've been shy (i.e., scared silly) to admit that. It's one thing for strangers who are doing the same things to know about this, but it's quite another to fess up to people who don't even own computers or cell phones. They'll think I'm nuts! In in terms of work, perhaps a little too radical. Those however are my own fears and not necessarily fair to people I know. Time to get over it.

To conclude, if anyone is out there reading this - any suggestions for me? Where do I go from here? How can I make my experience richer, more purposeful, more beneficial to me or others? Because that's what it's all about.

1 comment:

Sarah Stewart said...

Just read your comment on Tony Karrer's blog-you should get blogging again :)