Monday, November 30, 2009


I have digressed into more philosophical topics lately and I want to take a few posts and get back to some tools that some might find useful. Wordle ( has been around for a while. One of its greatest strengths is its simplicity. Copy and paste some text in and let it generate a word collage for you. You can also put in websites. I put in this blog and got the following collage.

You can manually emphasize certain words (with a ~). You can also paste in a list and it will automatically resize words based on their frequency. This is a nice feature if you want to see results of feedback or adjectives from a group. For the next sample, I just copy and pasted in the mission statement from one of our schools.

You can also edit the colors and direction of words. I made this last Wordle from our school ESLRs.
Whether it is decorated your blog or classroom walls or measuring the frequency of responses, Wordle provides a nice graphical way to share text.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Twitter Followup

At the beginning of May this year, I posted about Twitter. At the time, I was debating whether or not to sign up. Over the summer, I decided to sign up for both Facebook and Twitter. If you really want to evaluate something, you have to give it a try. I have very few followers, barely double digits and I follow about 20 people.

After using it for nearly 2 months, I have found it useful for getting links to other resources. I follow key people and have gotten some great tips for good links and resources. After a month or so of use, I found that I didn't like following people that post too much. It becomes too much to filter through for the casual user. So I edited who I was following as a result. I also protected my profile. Although being a fan of open use and transparency, I had a few sketchy people start following me. I will say that Twitter quickly disabled some of these questionable accounts before I could even view who they were.

I'm still not an avid Twitter user but I check it a few times a week and post blog updates and an occasional thought to share there. Overall, the jury is still out for me but I do see some definite benefits of Twitter for professional growth and links. I also see how it can be a grand waste of time if you don't filter your lists and keep its uses intentional and focused.

It is similar to many of the tools that our students use. It's not about the tool, but how it can be leveraged to benefit our learning.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Void of Digital Communication

Shane Hipps, in his book Flickering Pixels, talks about anonymous intimacy in regard to electronic communication. He says,

This anonymous intimacy has a strange effect. It provides just enough connection to keep us from pursuing real intimacy. In a virtual community, our contacts involve very little real risk and demand even less of us personally. Vulnerability is optional. A community that promises freedom from rejection and makes authentic emotional investment optional can be extremely appealing, remarkably efficient, and a lot more convenient (p. 113-114).

Hipps points out that social networking and electronic communication can be attractive for many reasons. However, authentic investment on a social and emotional scale is needed for genuine relationships. We need to embrace the technological opportunities in front of us but we cannot get into the trap of having it as our only means of communication. In many instances, email and chatting might be very effective. However, in others, it lacks the richness that embodies the totality of human communication and therefore impacts the messages sent and received.

Hipps goes on to say...

Given the limitations of email, the chances of miscommunication are near certain...Using email to mediate conflict is like baking a cake without a mixing bowl or an oven. The very ingredients that make reconciliation possible are absent. Reconciliation comes in the context of clear communication, meaningful listening, shared understandings, civility, openness, and a lot of patience. The medium of email inevitably removes these delicate ingredients...Electronic text as a medium stunts our best efforts to resolve conflict (p. 118-119).

Whether it is conflict or just daily communication, I think Hipps articulates an important value of not getting sucked into a shallow world. As in so many areas of our life, balance is not just desired, but desperately needed. Embrace electronic communication and tools in certain areas but be intentional to retain, promote, and sustain the vibrancy of authentic intimacy in our communication and relationships. Don't settle for something that ultimately leave you empty.