Since We Last Spoke

Hello!

Here’s what I’ve been up to since you last heard from me:

As you know, I gave myself “maternity leave” from the blog when my first baby was born. We are about to celebrate her fourth birthday, as well as her little sister’s first birthday. And we moved from our condo into a house. Lots of changes!

Professionally, I completed my MA TESOL. It was a great experience. It took my teaching to a new level, and it opened the door to teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP), which I’ve been doing for a couple of years.

I’ve also committed to not just attending the annual MD TESOL conference, but making sure to be as extroverted as I can be while I’m there. So far I’ve stuck to it for two years running and it’s just such a wonderful chance to keep up with and meet more of the inspiring people in our field. I’m hoping to get to TESOL 2016 also because it’s in Maryland. It’s a big commitment of time, money, babysitting, and extroversion, but I suspect it will be worth it!

I would love to commit right here and now to blog journaling my next class the way I used to, but we’ll just have to see how it goes. I take teaching seriously, and I also take my family seriously. The past few years there hasn’t been much left for taking a blog seriously too, even though the reflection time and long tail of notes are both so valuable to me.

So that’s my status!

Summer Institute: Quick Reflection

Summer Institute is over and I’m back home in the Twin Cities.

Looking back at the conference, I realize just how valuable it was to me in terms of content and networking.

This was largely to do with the conference itself, but also because I did some things right to maximize my experience:
– took obsessive notes
– kept my papers as organized as possible
– slept enough
– wore comfortable shoes
– was open to serendipitous socializing

There are those attitudes, soft skills, and environmental supports we say our students need. We need them too!

I’m looking forward to processing more this weekend. I’ll post more about the conference in some form and also go on to more “normal” posts on Monday.

Please Close Your Laptop

I have to go to bed soon, but I wanted to quick note a challenge that I faced in my diligent note-taking that surprised me.

I was at a presentation at which laptops were provided because part of the agenda was to have us explore a particular online course. I decided to just use that computer for my notes instead of the one I brought.

So I popped it open and started myself a word document. I happily took notes for a few minutes, then we did an interactive activity. When we came back and were regrouping, I opened up the laptop to get ready to take more notes. The presenter came over and very kindly and with no edge at all asked me to keep it closed because they were going to start again.

When I said I was using it to take notes, she thought for a beat or two and then said ok. I kept it closed anyway though. I thought that despite whatever assumptions she had made about what I was doing on the computer that she treated me with respect, and the best way I could think to repay that respect was to not be on the computer while she was talking.

But as a result, my notes are less detailed and much less accessible to me. I’ll need to spend some time keying them in.

Is this a common phenomenon? And how do you feel when you’re presenting to people while they are actively using laptops?

Summer Institute!

Summer Institute 2009 Program Cover
Summer Institute 2009 Program Cover

This is a place-holder just to let you know that I’m planning on blogging about Summer Institute, a major Minnesota conference in Adult Basic Education, that runs this afternoon through Friday afternoon.

It’s my first time ever at this annual conference, and I’m very excited about the people I’ll meet and the ideas I’ll come back with.

My plan is to type my notes, blog, and be on Twitter during the conference.  I’ve never done this before either, but at other conferences I either sit there thinking about paying attention and therefore not really paying attention, or I take great notes and promptly lose them.

I’m planning to put links to related blog posts and other materials in this post for readers’ bookmarking convenience, and because I like information hubs.

Here’s to trying new things, and let’s get started!

Entries:

Please Close Your Laptop
Summer Institute: Plenaries
Summer Institute: Teaching Personal Finance

Summer Institute: Quick Reflection

ESL Student Blog

I just wanted to point you toward a great ESL student blog. It is written by adult students who attend free English classes similar to the ones at my center.

This is a recent post of intermediate student writing.

And this post shows the students’ garden! The pictures are beautiful. Inspired and looking for a great, easy-to-read novel?  Try Seedfolks!

Web 2.0 Wednesday – Personal Branding


(I decided to participate in Web 2.0 Wednesday this week.  Thanks to Michele at the Bamboo Project!)


My Blog’s Top 5 Words:

According to Wordle, my blog’s top 5 words are organization, new, think, program, and maybe.

Wordle of my blog
Wordle of my blog

Seems about right to me.

I really appreciated the point that “personal branding” already exists for all of us, and that it can be as simple as looking at our top 5 words to begin to analyze what our personal brand is saying.  What a great stepping stone to addressing it more thoroughly!

Have you Wordled your blog yet?  What’s the state of your personal brand?  If you’re interested in personal branding, check out Chris Brogan’s free e-book.  I haven’t read it yet, mostly because I was intimidated by the phrase “personal branding,” but he’s a great resource.

And since when was intimdation a good enough reason to not do something worthwhile?

More About Goals: Thanks, Trent

I would just like to give a shout-out to Trent of The Simple Dollar.

I can’t really remember why I started reading his personal finance blog – I’m actually quite good with money.  And he does write primarily about money: managing, investing, spending less, saving for retirement, budgeting, and the like.  But I kept reading because what he has to say is a bit more universal than just money.

Screenshot of the Simple Dollars About Page
Screenshot of the Simple Dollar's About Page

Trent took a look at his life, discerned what was most important to him, and acted upon that assessment.  Moreover, he continues to act upon it, reflect upon it, and adjust his habits and lifestyle to maximize what’s important.  Luckily for the rest of us, he blogs about it, so we can see how he decided on his goals and how he acts upon them everyday.

Yes, he gives financial answers.  But beyond that, he’s just such a great influence.  He knows what he wants to do, he knows he’s not there yet, and he knows how to spend his time to get there.  He is honest with himself, which allows him to have an extremely simple and rich philosophy of how and why to do things.  And from that clarity his readers get a glimpse of what they, too, can accomplish when they decide to buckle down and do it.

So Trent, thanks for the inspiration, and keep on writing.

Docuticker – I’m A Little Obsessed

I want to give a shout-out to an awesome website an academic reference librarian showed me: Docuticker.com.

Docuticker - Blog of Documents!
Docuticker - Blog of Documents!

Basically, the blog is run by librarians who troll the universe for documents they see as important and from reliable sources (i.e. scientific research, government reports, Think Tank results, statistics summaries, etc.) and post them in a blog, occasionally with limited commentary.  The focus is on the documents.

You can search Docuticker’s archives by the date of the post or by category (there’s a nonprofit category!), and can even put it in your RSS feed, though be warned – it’s high volume posting!

That’s pretty much it.  Resources selected by information professionals, brilliantly simple for the user.  Do check it out!

And once you have checked it out… do you think that comments would add or detract from what Docuticker does?  How could it be more interactive and still maintain its apparent goal of being a pure resource?

Solution: Posterous

Thanks so much to Amy Sample Ward for blogging about Posterous!  Just email them content and they post it for you.  Woah.

This is exactly the kind of tool I should have used back when I started a blog without home internet.  There’s no process for signing up, you don’t have to do any account managing or appearance adjusting if you don’t want to, and they embed your media for you.  Yes, this helps people who aren’t familiar with much web technology beyond email.  It also reduces time commitment for anybody, no matter how tech-savvy.

It was a piece of excellent timing, because we were just brainstorming at work about some low-cost, low-time-investment ways to improve (specifically Web 2.0-ize) our website as we bide our time till a major overhaul.  Posterous would be a great way to post our informational emails as a blog; this would make them accessible to people who don’t want more email and also put them in a format that welcomes comments and discussion.  The best thing about this is we can just add post@posterous.com to our mailing list and it will post automatically.  Very exciting for a bunch of efficient nonprofiters!

I tested out my own just now.  The chief lessons I learned are that it is instant, the default style is clean white with orange links, you can BCC them, and that you should send photos as attachments rather than as links.   Things to explore: getting a better URL, changing the title, adjusting the look.

What do you think?  Who is this useful for?

Social Media is… well, Social

I have a lot of blog thoughts going through my head right now, and I think the theme that will tie them together into a relatively cogent post is that, at least for me, meaningful social media focuses on the social, not the media.

  1. Being social leads to the exchange of ideas and information.
  2. Ideas and information lead to friendships, alliances, and action.
  3. Using social media lets you be social with more people in a way that’s literally linked to the great information resource that is the world wide web.

You might have noticed that I linked to a Dinosaur Comic a line or two ago.  I did it because I have a soft spot in my heart for T-Rex, and also to make a point about the ideas and information we exchange: let’s not pretend that it’s all formal.  Not to say that it’s all informal either.  Some value I derive from social networking is directly, clearly work-related.  See?  I just helped advertise to a Twitter-based blood drive in Texas.  Way to forward a cause with social media, Emily.

But a lot of the value comes from less formal, more purely social interactions.  People don’t just swap lists of 10 ways to improve your website or strategy-of-the-day for saving money.  They swap thanks, compliments, and moral support, and in doing so build a sense that we’re on the same team.  I think of it as the cheerleader phenomenon.  On Twitter I mentioned I’d had sort of a rough day yesterday, and several people took a moment out of their days to offer a quick show of support.  Morgan, who I’ve never met, left the nicest comment ever on my blog last week and it totally made my day.  Last year my family made a Christmas wiki, which was useful and extremely fun to put jokes in.  And let’s not even get into how Twitter, blogs, email and IM let you stay in contact with friends and family you’re far away from.  So yes, social media is dead useful, but I find that what keeps me coming back is the human element.

I also really like how it supplements “normal” interactions.  For example, I commented on a coworker’s blog earlier today, a conversation that might have quick taken place in the office kitchen if we’d happened to be there at the same time.  I’m glad I heard what she had to say even though our paths didn’t physically cross today, and I hope to continue the conversation.  And see what I did just there?  I linked to her, the equivalent of meeting you in some other kitchen and bringing up the linked conversation.  I’m doing things I’d do anyway, just in a different way.

So I guess that the real, true draw of social media for me is that it gives us another way to be human to each other.

(For more about the “Why” of social media for nonprofits on a more organizational level, see the great project Beth Kanter has going.)

Ironically for a post all about being social, I don’t have a billion comment-prompting questions to put out there.  Nonetheless, comments, questions, and vaguely related thoughts are welcome.