I’ve been very unplugged for a few months. First I was busy with my move from China back to BC, Canada. Then I was truly unplugged on a trip to England and France, then I started work immediately upon return. I love my job as Vice Principal of Open Learning with the Learning Innovations Network Coquitlam (LINC). But I have a huge learning curve that I’m working on and that has continued my tendency to be unplugged.
A couple years ago this long of a gap in my digital presence would have driven me crazy! I would have considered a week-long haitus from my network to be an eternity. Since then I’ve made a shift… and I’ll share a metaphor that exemplifies that shift in a bit…. but first I’d like to share some of my personal life-cycles of some tools I’ve used.
Blogging & RSS
Start blogging -> I have nothing to say -> I should really write a post -> I actually want to write a post -> I need to blog about this -> I get to reflect out loud and people give me feedback -> I can follow others in an RSS feed -> I need to read everything -> ‘You have 1,000+ unread items in your reader’ -> I’m drinking from a fire hose, this is too much -> I just read items my friends in Google Reader have ‘stared’ (highlighted) -> I only read from my RSS on my phone, when I have a few minutes, and the 1,000+ unread items don’t bother me.
Why would I want to tell people that I’m brushing my teeth? This is like facebook updates without Facebook -> But Claudia seems to think there is something to this -> Wow, these teachers are sharing great links -> I can’t miss a tweet, need to read them all -> I’m drinking from a fire hose, this is too much -> hey, I can narrow this by following a list in Tweetdeck -> and hey, I can follow a hashtag to focus this even more -> I can go away and when I come back, my network will still be there -> This is better than my RSS feed -> If I miss something in my RSS feed, and it is good, it will probably get back to me via twitter.
Wow, like twitter but more conversational -> I’m drinking from a fire hose -> this is too much, I’m out!
Not only is this like drinking from the fire hose, but I’m not even thirsty for it.
Adding people to circles -> Why am I doing this? -> I’m already drinking from enough fire hoses, I’ll wait for others to lead the way and let me know if I should drink from this one too!
I used to see information like a large pool or lake… a resevoir of information to be collected, and held on to. Now I see information like a river… a constant stream of too much information to hold on to. The stream runs whether I’m near it or not. I can hop in a canoe and paddle along for a while… but when I get out of the canoe I need to just let the river flow by without worring about what I missed. I can’t pool that information, and even if I try, it is too much and I feel overwhelmed (kinda like drinking from a fire hose). I need to enjoy paddling in the stream when I’m in it, but let the stream go by when I’m not.
My network narrows the stream of information for me. My digital colleagues and friends highlight the information worth looking at, and allow me to drink from a managabel stream rather than from a fire hose. Certain people are very selective about what they will ‘star’ in Google Reader. Certain people consistently share amazing links on Twitter. Certain hash tags tell me what to pay attention to at a distant conference and hashtags like #cpchat are great to go to when I just want to find a good article to read. Certain people will always take the time to answer my questions, (even the dumb ones), or at least point me to someone that can answer them. And… others look to me in the same way.
The End ?
There is no end. The information river is getting bigger and we will need to give up our canoes. We will need to navigate it with a river raft, rather than solo in a canoe… but my network will be there with me, helping me paddle and steer the raft. It will be harder and harder to navigate the river of information going by without a network of support to help guide me or to support me when I don’t know which way to go. There will be many new rivers to navigate, new tools to help us navigate, and new network connections to help us find our way. Toffler was right, ““The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
…and New Beginnings
One key thing we need to recognize is that for people who enter the river now, the growing rapids can be too much. We need to figure out ways to share our networks and support those who want to navigate the river of information that flows into an unknown future. It was actually easier for us to navigate and learn to paddle on our own a few years ago, now we need to act as river guides for those that join us… and with our support, they too will quickly become guides, and new nodes in our networks.
Thanks for paddling this way!