Monday, April 28, 2008


A special report from discusses a new tribe of nomads - those unwired mobile users, always connected to each other.
Another big misunderstanding of previous decades was to confuse nomadismwith migration or travel. As the costs of (stationary) telecommunications
plummeted, it became fascinating to contemplate “the death of distance” (the title of a book written by Frances Cairncross, then on the staff of The Economist). And since the early mobile phones were aimed largely at business executives, it was assumed that nomadism was about corporate travel in particular. And indeed many nomads are frequent flyers, for example, which is why airlines such as JetBlue, American Airlines and Continental Airlines are now introducing in-flight Wi-Fi. But although nomadism and travel can coincide, they need not.

Humans have always migrated and travelled, without necessarily living nomadic lives. The nomadism now emerging is different from, and involves much more than, merely making journeys. A modern nomad is as likely to be a teenager in Oslo, Tokyo or suburban America as a jet-setting chief executive. He or she may never have left his or her city, stepped into an aeroplane or changed address. Indeed, how far he moves is completely irrelevant. Even if an urban nomad confines himself to a small perimeter, he nonetheless has a new and surprisingly different relationship to time, to place and to other people. “Permanent connectivity, not motion, is the critical thing,” says Manuel Castells, a sociologist at the Annenberg School for Communication, a part of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

I have to admit that I'm not quite a mobile nomad. I avoid my cellphone as much as possible. I get a bit annoyed while eating dinner and a friend checks her text messages. But I'm part way there. I have this blog, I'm on LearningTown, I'm playing around with Twitter and Spaz, I want an iPhone, and I may have even texted a photo or two to a friend.

So, is it me? Or do these articles seem a little off, a bit not there - like hip parents trying to appreciate their son's latest and favorite band, but not really getting it?

Where I see a disconnect is in the lack of Web 2.0 discussion. Or in the idea of weak ties getting weaker while family and close friend ties grow. For instance, bringing Twitter into the discussion, (or even blogs/comments for that matter), would add a new dimension to the worries about not interacting "with the wider society around them" or not gaining from the various viewpoints of strangers. In my opinion, there is probably truth in the changes happening to in person communication. (Answering texts in the middle of dinner, for instance.) But I don't think that it's at the expense of interacting with strangers. What I do think is very relevant and I can't remember it being mentioned is the Digital Divide. What happens to those without computers, the Internet, mobile devices, text/IM plans? Are they left in the lurch?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Act Locally

Here it is, already the end of the month and I'm just answering The Big Question for April--which is actually a great illustration of my answer. I procrastinate! I always mean to get around to doing things...

So, the question on the table is what would I like to do better as a learning professional. At the risk of sounding corny and at the risk of giving myself yet another thing to feel guilty about, my answer is that I want to use my talents to help my community.

I live in Bay View (a section of Milwaukee, WI) and there's a lot of talk about our schools, especially the local high school. While there are plenty of good things occurring at the school, there are also low test scores, high drop out rates, and bad attendance. Most parents in the neighborhood send their kids to other high schools, whether private or public ones in other parts of the city and county. Not a good sign. So what can I do? I have no idea, but I can't help but think that if I truly care about education, this would be a good place to invest a little of my time.

This probably doesn't mean that I'd jump in and start analyzing curriculum or designing instruction. However, I could attend public meetings. I could join a committee. I could share my passion for learning.

Of course, as a procrastinator, I'm a champion at creating excuses. I'm sooooo busy. I have school papers to write. I have projects for work that I could be catching up on. I have dogs to walk. I, I, I.

I need to get involved.

On another, but related topic, I've been thinking about the power of the social networks forming for ISD folks. For my final paper in Learning Theories, I'm focusing on Web 2.0 technologies applied to Communities of Practice. I'll probably mention LearningTown - a ning site that went up not too long ago. There are fabulous discussions going on. Lots of networking and sharing. Thinking about my own goal as a result of this month's Big Question, I wonder whether there may be ways to bring a community like that together on a volunteer project. Like the monthly Big Question, what if there were a monthly Big Project. Everyone contributes to a final product that would benefit public education. I can just imagine the mess this would involve, the risk for failure...a whole slew of roadblocks. But what if...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

$10 Did What?

Yesterday I watched a short segment on Good Morning America. A teacher (and her students) was featured as the person of the week. Giving each student a $10 bill, 20 students in all, she told them they could do anything they want with their $10. They could spend it on themselves or others. They could decide individually what to do or work as a group. The only clause was that they needed to write an essay on their decision. The end result? Over $6000 went to charities and helped their community. So, what subject was the teacher was teaching? English.

I couldn't help but be impressed. In school this semester, I've been studying learning theories, and this seemed the perfect example of combining elements of constructivism, andragogy, and motivation. The activity itself didn't teach essay composition, but the teacher noted that she expected the students to write from the heart. She gave meaning to their essays and created engagement.

I Shouldn't Do This

Or should I? I'm a student in instructional and performance technology. I read lots of blogs on the subject, but don't feel I have anything to say yet. What could I possibly contribute? However, it's no fun being on the outside, either. So here I am jumping into the mix. Will I sink or swim? Maybe I should have taken lessons first.