Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network 2.0

CYPLN in 3 Formats

It is with great pleasure and no small amount of relief, that I announce the second edition of Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network: A Gardener’s Approach to Learning – formerly known as A Gardener’s approach to Learning: Cultivating at our Personal Learning Network.  Switching the title and subtitle was the idea of my wife and business manager, Brenda.  She’d long felt that  “A Gardener’s Approach..” did not clearly describe the content and function of the book.

This second edition started innocently enough when, with an afternoon to kill, I downloaded Apples iBooks Author (iBA) software, a free download that helps us create interactive iBooks for publishing through the iBooks book store and iTunes.  Since it was my latest book, I dumped the text of Gardener’s Approach.. into iBA and started playing.  My initial reaction was not that different from what I initially though if iBooks.  They glow and flow, but provide little opportunity for the reader to talk back, which I believe should be a core goal for the next generation of learning content.  The iBooks I’d seen were still primarily intended for top-down reader-passive content consumption.

However, when I started factoring in the great fun I’ve had with Apple Keynote’s dazzling animation capabilities and the ability to insert keynotes into the iBook, I continued to play, adding animated tutorials for some parts of the book.  

I initially struggled with the HTML feature of iBooks, which I couldn’t figure out for the life of me.  I’ve been coding in HTML for nearly 20 years.  They I learned…

It seems that what iBook Author means by HTML is actually Dashboard Widgets, which are small programs that can be downloaded and installed on your Macintosh computer and run in the background – and now in the widgets space on later versions of Mac’s OS.  They have come in nearly every category of software, but are usually utilities such as calculators, calendars and clocks. I saw no use for any of these utilities in my book, so I set out researching and teaching myself how to write my own dashboard widgets. 

As I played (which is what learning often feels like to me), ideas started forming for interfacing my iBook with the web and specifically with web pages that would give readers the ability to add and comment on their own stories of networked learning.  It was at that point that I was hooked.

Of course, reading through the book, I learned how dreadfully out-of-date it was, so I started editing and rewriting major portions of CYPLN and adding at least one chapter.  After all, the first edition was written before the Apple iPad launched.  So, after many edits and re-edits, with the tireless assistance of Brenda, and the launch of Bookry, which provides a tool for creating much slicker widgets than I was writing, I’ve published Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network 2nd Ed, in print, ebook (for Kindle), and iBook (with color, motion, and conversation).

The most interesting part of this endeavor was the act of using many of the skills and techniques described in the book in order to learn how to publish it in these new formats and with these new features.  My own PLN grew.

I hurriedly produced the video below as an introduction to some of the features of the iBooks version.

 

The print and ebook versions, like the first edition of CYPLN, feature QR-Codes, which give the reader access to many of the features of the iBook – without the flair. 

One concept that jelled for me during the proces was that of scale. Because the ebook and iBook versions of CYPLN was digital, weightless and so easily distributed, I’ve decided to price for scale. So the iBook and ebook (Kindle) versions are only $2.99 (USD). Since the print version (259 pages) must be produced and shipped, I have to charge a little more, $8.99, which gives me a profit similar to that of the digital books.

This will take you to a page with links to the various purchasing venues: http://goo.gl/EUu7B

Enjoy!

Learner as Hacker

Bud The Teacher posted a great blog article last week, Centering on Essential Lenses. His references to lenses reminded me of a bulletin board I use to have in my classroom that said something to the effect that, “This classroom is your microscope on the world.” Not being much of a bulletin board guy, it usually stayed up all year and for some years my classroom was a telescope.

I especially liked Hunt’s references to DIY and hacking, and I agree about many people’ misconceptions of the word, hack. I use the word a lot and often to the widening eyes of the person or people I’m talking to.  I usually use it to describe a cleaver, sometimes elegant and often disruptive fix to a problem or unattained goal – and it always refers to a particular person – the hacker.  

Photo of Steve Jobs, taken by Ammar Abd Rabbo
I guess it’s our nature to villainize the people who disrupt business as usual, though we also often adore them (see right).  But do we talk about hacks and hacking in our classrooms.  Do we teach children where and when to use a comma as if the concept was written on stone and delivered from “on high,” or do we explain it as a clever hack that solved some particular problem of communicating in print?

I’m a big-time hacker.  Most of my toys, growing up, were the result of fashioning various shapes of scrap wood I found my my Dad’s workshop, using straightened nails, into the toy gun, or truck, or boat that I wanted.  Programming code is my primary language of hacking today, though I still do it with my hands, recently hacking the plans of an adirondack chair I downloaded (have I said lately how much I love the Internet), because I couldn’t find the cedar planks in the widths called for by the “Materials List.”

I talk and write a lot about learning – that “Being educated today has more to do with your ability to learn than it does with what you’ve been taught.”  ..and learning is often the practice of hacking.  It’s about tricking Google into reveal exactly the information you need and examining the information, pulling together its aspects to determine its validity and value and reshaping it to fit with other similarly fashioned bits of information.  Then fitting that new knowledge into an old condition and even hacking that condition so that it fits your solution.  

Learning today should rarely be about being told something, though a well-told story is a wonderful thing.  Learning today should be about hacking.

I taught my students about inventions and inventors, but I should have told the stories of how he or she did that, about how he hacked those filaments and electricity into something that would ultimately result in this…

Those stories need to be told, admired and emulated and they need to be an integral part of our classroom conversations.

“How did you learn that?”

“How do you know that’s true?”

“How would you find out why?”

“How do you think she came up with that conclusion?”

“What information do you think we would need to find that out?”

Practice it this summer.  Hack some new knowledge.

“Bon Voyage!”






Rolling Along…

I’m writing today, simply as a way of keeping a certain amount of momentum going here. I just got back to my office from an afternoon cholesterol walk, two miles, with my camera, but nothing worth removing the lens cap.

At this point, I am fairly isolated from much thought about education, beyond passing one or two things via Twitter and/or Google+. I have several long posts in draft box, but probably will not get back to them soon.

It became clear during the final months of 2011, that my two web servers were not  adequately handling the load of Citation Machine and Class Blogmeister, and certainly not the millions of readers of this blog. So I have a new “Uber” server and only two weeks to move all of my sites over. Trouble is that I have no idea how this move is going to go, how many of my sites it’s going to break, and how much debugging I’ll have to do to fix them. So my head’s going to be pretty deep in code and Linux shell commands.

EduCon 2.4
January 27-29 in Philadelphia

The good part… it’s the sort of work that allows me to have some video going in the back ground, and I’ve discovered a channel on YouTube that carries old episodes of Inside the Actor’s Studio. Great fun and interesting to learn which actors are actually as gregarious as the parts they play.

Chances are that I’ll not surface again until EduCon, which I’ll attend only for the Sunday portion. I anticipate much frustration deciding which conversations I’ll attend.

Backchannel Transcript for TEDxLondon

I spent a good part of yesterday with a front row seat at the TEDxLondon event held in the acclaimed Roundhouse. But mostly I was in my office, running the livestream through my MacBook air and Tweeting quotes and reflections to my nearly 14 followers on Twitter.

A while back I tinkered around with the code of my personal backchannel tool, Knitter Chat, so that it could capture colearners tagged Twitter posts as well as the audience members’ Knitter postings. Just before TEDxLondon started, I crawled into the code and reset it to capture anything tagged with #TEDxLondon between 14:00 and 20:35 London time — and it worked, for the most part.

Anyway, I’ve been reworking the code on Knitter to handle the volume and export it into Wikispaces, a much more sophisticated wiki service than the PMWiki server that I run. I concluded this morning that neither Wikispaces nor a couple of other high-end community editing tools could handle files of such size, even when divided into three parts for the three sessions. So I went back to my PMWiki server — the one that I use for the backchannel transcripts for my presentations and keynotes.

So here are links to the three sessions. You can edit and insert text if you are not intimidated by the coding. There is a guide at the bottom of the page, if you choose to click edit and enter the password (teacher).

Very Educational!

  1. Session 1: What’s Wrong?
  2. Session 2: What’s Right?
  3. Session 3: What’s Next?

I also uploaded Wordle word clouds from the three sessions, What’s Wrong?, What’s Right? and What’s Next?

More reflections will likely follow!

Visit to the Museum

A picture of Mona Lisa rendered with spools of thread and scene through a crystal ball

It might sound more like the truth to say the Brenda got me out of my office yesterday for a visit to the museum, but it was actually my idea. The North Carolina Museum of Art has recently moved into a new building. I would love to say that it is a beautiful structure, but my most honest observation is that that it’s strange and interesting — which is often what I say about art that I like.

I’ve come to see art museums differently since some folks I met at a conference took me to a an art museum in Shanghai for a visiting collection from Europe. Three things struck me anew as I looked at those works, painted hundreds of years ago. First, I suspect that locals as they saw these works back then, must have been in awe. Pictures were probably not very common and the skill of rendering them may have seemed magical.

Secondly, I am fascinated much of the art that I see up close, because it’s like going back in time. You are looking at a scene through the eyes of someone who is there. You see that this is what they thought of themselves, not what historians think of them. I guess the history teacher in me would call it primary source documents.  But it’s a lot more organic and immediate than that.

Finally, I am astounded at the cleverness of their world, their houses, farms, towns, cities… They probably weren’t up to code, but I suspect that their houses were constant works in progress. They needed an extra room, and the found a way to add it, even if it meant digging it into a hillside.

The two biggest differences that I see between my world and the ones I saw through the eyes of those artists yesterday is that they lived without electricity and we’re living without large animals among us. 😉

– Posted using BlogsyApp from my iPad