Archive for February, 2014

Connected Circles: The 3 Faces of followers by Nicki Hambleton

Connected Circles: The 3 Faces of followers by Nicki Hambleton

Out of the mouths of babes……

According to my 14 year old son Piers, there are 3 types of participants on his youtube channel:

The Watcher

The enthusiast who views and follows everything. They give credit to your work and reinforce that what you are doing is valid and worthy.

The Encourager

The encourager who “likes” your video and motivates you to carry on. These followers give you a positive boost with a comment like “Cool video” or “Love this”.

The Giver

These  suggesters ultimately take the time to consider their comment. They take you forward and give  ideas to improve your work.

As a train enthusiast, who makes videos of his model layouts as well as actual train compilations, Piers finds all these dwellers useful in their own way, but he gets the most learning from the suggesters. It reminds me in a way of Rodd Lucier’s model of Connectedness mentioned in my previous posts and how it takes time and energy for followers to connect and truly help in our development.

He says “you go on youtube to learn, to be entertained or to laugh” and the types of channels he subscribes to usually fall into one of these categories. But as his network online grows, he says it is invaluable to him “to have a community of passionate people willing and happy to share and suggest”. As he becomes a seasoned video maker, “geeking out”, he equated this new found confidence in “public speaking” on his videos to being able to present verbally and improvise during class yesterday to his peers in an English lesson character summary from Of Mice and Men. As a mother observing her teenager seemingly constantly plugged in, it was refreshing to hear how his out of school passion could impact so positively on an aspect of his school life.

It is through these conversations that we learn the true meaning and understanding of the youth and how they connect and learn. They were born into this world and sharing online with strangers is not as alien as it may be to some adults. The more we have these conversations the more we can connect appropriately and understand and integrate into their world. By discovering what makes them tick it is only then that we can truly integrate technology into our curriculum areas.

Deviantly artful

My Art students in the International School of Milan in 2006 connected and shared on, the world’s largest online art community, to gain valuable feedback. Through connecting with its participants there was a vast range of specialised expertise and amateurs all ready and willing to feedback positively, ask questions and learn from one another. It seems to be just as strong today but with a different range of focus areas than when it first started out. Now manga, anime and fan art dominate the followers, watchers and givers and Erika in Grade 8 regularly uses it as her go-to learning zone. She says she is still at the “messing about” stage and as she grows in confidence and develops her skills  she says “I am not ready to share just yet, I mostly use it for tutorials.” Posters like Naschi and Ryky inspire her through their illustrations and Concept Cookie teaches her the technical skills through tutorials. Many watchers like Erika, regularly comment on how much they value these “experts” sharing their work and often fall into the “Encourager” bracket. When Erika does post she is encouraged by these smallest of comments that someone has taken the time to post. She says, “I know it’s not a lot, but just those small comments saying “Aww that’s cute <3” or even “I love it” really do make my day. That’s one of the things I really do like about the internet.”

I wonder how we ever coped before the internet?

Erika also regularly uses Tumblr, one of the biggest visual share zones, after Flickr. So too is Instagram an extremely popular portal to view and comment on photos and to be inspired by but not in the same  way interactive way as deviantart. Behance is another visually focused site for showcasing ones art portfolio and is becoming a popular choice for art students for inspiration much like Pinterest. It is important that a community reflects the diversity of its dwellers yet keeps its focus clear. This ensures it attracts the right sort of followers and keeps the passion alive.

Quinci, an IB Visual Art student in Ghana in 2009, was hugely into digital art and at the time showed me an online community he spent much of his time on called neoseeker. There are over 600,000 participants in the neoseeker population with showcases of digital portfolios and an active forum of tips and tutorials.



Quinci spent most of his online time on the Graphics and Animation Forum learning, communicating, sharing and growing as a digital artist. Just a quick dip into one of the posts and I feel completely out of my depth. It is clearly a professional and serious place to be a part of and full of talented and intelligent individuals putting time into helping each other out. Quinci, now in his 3rd year at Design college says, “It saw a big decrease in activity around the time I started university because most of the people that frequented were getting wrapped up in other responsibilities.” His design orientated social network became a real life close-knit family where these forums were not be needed so much with the proximity of a whole university of like minded passionate individuals. There is a plethora of online communities for art to connect and share with: Promoting Art back in 2010 shared their top ones here and I wonder what new ones exist today.

I guess this sort of reciprocated learning is similar to an online forum for a writer or a coder, as youtube is for Piers and deviant art for Erika. It occurs to me, rather belatedly, that our Course 1 reading (Living and Learning with New Media, Macarthur Foundation) reflects exactly what we are doing through COETAIL:  building a network, finding like minded souls, connecting globally, sharing our passions and thoughts and learning from one another. Gradually we hope to develop from the enthusiast and learner to becoming the expert, the geek and the giver.

It is within these connected circles that we will grow as educators, become strengthened as an individual and eventually find our voice to share with to the global audience.

So this all gets me thinking…..

Connecting youngsters

How can the younger members of my art classes participate online as experts in their field – where would they feel confident?

Some of these online forums are not appropriate lounges for 11 and 12 year olds. Where do they go, where do they learn from, and most importantly where can they communicate with like minded passionate youngsters?

Currently they share within the relatively closed and protected communities of Picasa and Voicethread, sharing their photography and visual ideas and commenting on each others work to encourage and suggest with occasionally blogging.

How can we protect yet open them up to a wider network? Do any other schools have links with other classes to share and collaborate with? Would anyone know if their art department would be willing to link with mine in a sharing community.

Going viral

What appealed to me most from 21 things for the 21st century educator was the Virtual Classroom and Collaboration tools. It seems to me that both of these are hugely valuable in today’s classroom and ones that I would like to embed more effectively in the curriculum. So, with this in mind, I am about to embark on a social experiment with my Grade 7s in consultation with Andrew McCarthy, as part of their sculpture unit on Sustainability. It feels like an ideal opportunity and time to introduce the idea of connected circles to them and to expose them to the real world of social media before they throw themselves legally into the world of FB when they hit 13. I want them to reach out to the global community, to ask questions, to find out relevant information and to see how far they can connect. I would love for them to share their findings back to this community and receive feedback on their learning. The idea is only a small seed at the moment and a little risky on my part but I am willing to take it and to chance failure in a bid to utilise the resources at our digital fingertips. But I will need some help…..

Would you be willing as the time approaches to follow the class Twitter handle, use the hashtag and share their questions to your networks?

As I continue to develop the UBD planner for the unit tentatively called “Food for Thought” and the ideas takes shape, I will share the concept online.

Watch this space……



Connectedness visual note by Nicki Hambleton

As the evening of Valentine’s Day was drawing to a close, I stumbled on an article from Mashable that had been shared on Facebook and the title caught my eye:

Instagram Strangers Help Man Plan the Perfect Proposal

The story goes like this: Guy wants to propose, decides on Portland, contacts stranger through Instagram for help, guy proposes, girl accepts. Of course the article tells it much more beautifully than that and with an accompanying digital story. But what fascinated me was this connection and trust in complete strangers on what was probably the most important day of his life. I use Instagram purely as a photography sharing place, more often than not with food shots or stimuli for just great composition or ideas. Strangers follow me, I follow strangers. It is a strange concept to me but it works. However I would never have thought of connecting with others like @iamcartermoore.  When I first joined Instagram I was not sure of what was expected, the etiquette or even the point. This felt a bit similar to the “lurking” stages of the early relationship I had with Twitter. I watched, took note, occasionally posted. Carter found kindred spirit and connection with Branden Harvey, a fellow photographer and film maker  and through this random link they became life long friends.

Getting in touch with my Connectedness

According to George Siemans, “connectivism starts with the individual” and that the  “learner remains current in their field through the connections they have formed”. (A Learning Theory for the Digital Age 2004)

My relationship with Twitter follows not such dramatic or love struck storyline as Carter Moore’s but with a similar sentiment. From taking that first step of observing and reaching out, to connecting and interacting with others and developing friendships that the true power of the internet is clear. By making these connections so we grow, our reach is further and interactions stronger.

It has been a busy week with food for thought. During the COETAIL live cast on Tuesday, listening to the conversations flow, it was a statement by Dana Watts that stood out. ” We learn most by collaborating together with others”.  It got me thinking:

How do the youth of today connect and grow as learners? In what ways is this different to how we learnt as teenagers and how we now connect to grow and develop as adults?

We have always been connected it’s just our reach goes out further these days with the Internet.

Last week’s post took me back to “7 degrees of connectedness” by Rodd Lucier and that how to be truly connected we must work at how we connect and what we actively do as part of these connections. It was by initially “messing around” with Twitter and stumbling on blogs that I grew as an educator and learner – it was the most effective PD I had ever had and one that I was controlling. By scrolling through my feed often an article or link would grab my attention and take me forward. So is this the way my students learn?

It is like those happy accidents when mixing paint or doodling with an idea, or playing with the ingredients of a cake or casserole that new directions are born.
It is when we are looking for something else that we usually find something that becomes the hinge pin, the starter, the turning point. It’s like playing in the sandpit as a kid. No rules, just fun.

Messing Around in the sandpit

Whilst reading “Messing About” (Living with New Media) I wonder how youngsters increase their own learning when challenged by something that they are passionate about.

learning from youtube Minecraft screenshot

learning from youtube Minecraft screenshot

I watch my son Luca, transfixed and thoroughly engrossed in his latest new kingdom on Minecraft. He is in control of his learning, growing exponentially and to think that it all started with a brick, a little piece of lego that evolved into what is arguably one of the most successful games with youngsters. The power of Minecraft- teaching kids to dabble, tinker and mess around, find their way, share and play.

The opportunities for using and developing your creativity by dabbling and playing with ideas is not a new one. As a teenager myself, I messed with ideas and sketches, devoured books and magazines to feed my creativity and spark new direction.  Luca shows me how he is building a pirate ship on Minecraft, following a Youtube video. He is ten and he is not alone. This is the world they have grown up in. Youtube is the biggest and most extensive instructions manual on anything you could ever want.

Hamish app development screenshot

Hamish app development screenshot

In school, Hamish in Grade 7 shows me an app he is building to help support and raise awareness of our Global Concern group, PAW (Promoting Animal Welfare). In order to do this he has had to learn how to code, dabbling with the software and through trial and error discovering what it can do. He says he frequently finds information through Youtube tutorials. My eldest son Piers is passionate about model trains and shares this through his Youtube channel, connecting with strangers to share his passion. Olivia studying iGCSE Visual Art in Grade 9 uses Tumblr as her go-to site. Here she discovers a plethora of visual inspiration and artists all over the world to share and connect with. Nanako, also a Grade 9 Art student, tells me how she first “messed around” with Photoshop and a tablet to create her own art. She backs up MacArthur’s claim that it is only through interest-driven subjects that students will actively pursue and maintain this stage of learning and again her preferred method is to try things out, tinker with the software and, if need be, use Youtube tutorials to steer her in the right direction. Nanako is one of our Apple Orchard students and to whom connections across our region are hugely beneficial as an artist. She adds that this stage of learning only works if the area is self chosen and  one that she is passionate about; teens simply would not have this same level of drive in a subject or topic they are not interested in.

But it is still on Facebook that students work and collaborate together, using FB groups to ask and answer questions about schoolwork. These closed but valuable communities support their learning and give them much needed support through the social media they interact with the most. It is still the most used platform for the youth of today.

Andrew Marcinek says in his blog post, “Students get it. They understand how easy it is to connect with one another, but don’t fully realize the greater potential.” (“Help Students Use Social Media to Empower, Not Just Connect” Edutopia 2010). I still wonder why Twitter is so underused as a portal for posing questions from the youth and as their learning zone. I can see the benefit of its use in class but I am halted by the over 13 restrictions with my Middle-schoolers.

I would love to pilot Google + communities with a class or group and see how they could use it to connect and interact. But our school has not switched Google+ on for students yet, so I wonder if anyone has any other suggestions for helping young students to connect? I have ideas to connect students on Skype with an artist in London we are studying as part of an Expressive Painting unit and to link my GC PAW participants with fellow activists and animal lovers worldwide to collaborate to raise awareness.
Is FB the most popular outlet because of its “socialness”, its distractibility; “I can just look at this for a moment so I don’t have to do my science homework”. We have all done that/do this: I’ll just look at that interesting article on Colossal or take that “What city am I?” quiz instead of writing reports… or just read another COETAILer post!

So what is more important – spending time connecting with others to build your PLN and learn from them or to spend that time surfing, discovering and stumbling on something that could be the start of a new direction for you. Clearly both are valuable and we cannot progress without the opportunities for either to occur.

So where do we find the time to dabble and play in the jam-packed 24 hours we have each day?


Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

Title quote adapted from “I didn’t get where I am today” from The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Book and TV series by David Nobbs.
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Jeff Utecht's Reach visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Jeff Utecht’s Reach visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Hanging Out

When I was at school you had groups of friends in your tutor group who you stayed together with for most classes and throughout your journey up the school. We kept in contact with our Primary friends who lived nearby and I had friends in the Girl Guide group I went to each week (yes I was a girl guide, don’t judge me!) and the dancing school I attended. I had different “networks” of friends who I connected with in different ways. (Reach by Jeff Utecht: Communities and Networks 2010)
As I grew older these groups changed or evolved or dissipated. When I went to Wimbledon School of Art a whole new bunch of like-minded individuals became my confidants, my learning zone, my mentors and my friends. We saw each other every day, socialised and “hung out”. (Living and Learning with New Technology: Genres of Participation by MacArthur Foundation, November 2008). But when I moved away to university that all changed. We only kept in contact by phone or letter or saw each other when I visited home. Some friendships simply fizzled out. As my life changed so too did my friendship groups. What if we had had the Internet? How would we have reached out to others and kept these networks alive? How might we have spread our connections beyond our immediate groups?

But, back in 1980’s, we didn’t have the internet, and it was difficult to connect and wonder, like the dulcet tones of Simon Le Bon, “Is there anyone out there?” (Duran Duran “Planet Earth”, 1981)

Nowadays we can reconnect with lost loves, fallen friends and past students through Facebook. I can rekindle those conversations, relive those moments and revive what made us mates again.
The opportunities are even greater for connecting and maintaining those friendships and developing new ones through social networks. No longer do we seem 1000s of miles away from  families and friends; with just a click of a button we can see hear and communicate through Skype, FaceTime or Google hangouts. We can see their everyday movements, what they’re watching, doing, thinking. It’s like we are still there in their lives just on the other side of the world connected by a screen.

The real thrill of connecting happened when I joined Twitter back in April 2009. Back then I didn’t really know what I was doing or how to tap into the vast network out there. I didn’t use hashtags or connect properly, I just followed and read with occasional tweeting. None of my friends back home used Twitter so I decided that it would become my learning zone, eventually my support network and ultimately my PLN. But it was whilst listening to Jabiz Raisdana present at the first Learning2 conference I attended in Shanghai in October 2011, that really started the ball rolling. He shared how the Internet is a place to watch, take note connect with, collaborate and learn from. Since then, he and Keri-Lee Beasley have published an ebook A Cultural Guidebook based on Rodd Lucier’s  Seven Degrees of Connectedness. During that early stage I was a “Lurker”, a “Novice” and I yearned to move up that ladder towards “Collaborator” and “Confidant”.

Reaching out on Twitter

Reaching out on Twitter

The power of Twitter is clear the more you interact. Just today, Jason Graham reached out to his PLN to ask a question about Flipping the Classroom. We reach out to others in our network for guidance, reassurance or answers. It is a powerful place and we need to participate to be part of it and keep it going. Nowadays I respond, share and connect on a deeper level using Tweetdeck to organise my many lists, hashtags and people I follow in order to dip into the conversations and take part in what is happening whenever I can. I believe that you gain more by giving more.

How is your “connectedness”? What changes do you make in how you participate and respond in order to connect on a deeper level?

Keeping it Alive
I am energised when I talk and connect with like minded individuals. Chatting to Jane Harris over lunch, she mentioned the Sigmoid and Gompertz curves and how she was developing a leadership model that could apply to students behaviours and actions using the SAMR model.

The Learning Activity Engagement Life Cycle by Jane Harris

The Learning Activity Engagement Life Cycle by Jane Harris

Innovators build the excitement and get the project, the group or the task underway with ideation;  the Growth leaders keep that momentum going making the ideas work and the Efficiency leaders plan and deliver these to maintain the process. This same theory  can apply to developing a community and how the participants are crucial in maintaining momentum and ultimately the longevity of a group.

A community needs these different types of individuals to keep it alive. The innovators bring new interest and start the conversation going with new direction or ideas. This attracts the participants to join in. But without  growth and efficiency  the initial momentum and buzz soon wears off- how many times have you joined a group or forum or met new people only to discover weeks or months after that we had forgotten all about it as the interactions fizzled out and other matters took over.

It takes time and energy and work to keep a network alive. (Reach by Jeff Utecht: Building your Network). As busy educators we signed up to COETAIL knowing that we are not alone on this journey. We are supported with a backing of 100s of COETAILers who have gone before us or who are currently on the programme and who validate it’s worth not just as a qualification but for the people we will meet.

Reaching Out

As I finish, the CNY lion dance drums fill my apartment. If the internet had been around when I was in school I could have seen this spectacle live, chatted to other art students from around the world and shared work globally to grow and learn from.

Patrick Green’s The Relevant Teacher visual note by Nicki Hambleton

We take for granted the opportunities for connecting through Skype in the classroom, the lessons we can watch on TED and the blogs we can follow through the magic of RSS. Patrick Green in his keynote at Learning 2 mentions the need to be A Relevant Teacher  in this world where we no longer teach just the content but how to access the content, select and synchronise.

We must “help them to sift through the sea of stuff” (Welcome to the Collaboration Age, Will Richardson) and model the behaviours and actions students should take to survive in this world of digital information overload.

Keeping abreast of all the information and opportunities out there is the challenge. Keeping in touch with others, connecting and building networks and utilising this new media is exciting yet time intensive.

To Vivian (chezvivian) and Jason Graham I thank you for reaching to me and to Scott, Matt, Pana and Joe I salute you for taking the time to read and respond to my initial introductory blog post and joining me on this journey. To everyone else in COETAIL online2 I look forward to connecting with you and sharing the fun and laughter on the way and reading all about your journey and what you do.

All these new friendships I will hold dear to me, my new community of learners, my PLN, my mentors, advisors, confidants and friends. To COETAIL online2 and anyone  who has stumbled on this monster of a post and lasted until the end, I welcome you into my PLN and hope I can share with you what I gain from this experience and travel on this journey together.
Reach out and keep in touch.

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The Winding Road

Posted: February 2, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I am a reader, a writer of lists, a drawer, a photographer, a creator of 100 ideas a day, a teacher, a mother, a visual note taker. I am on a journey into unchartered territory, excited yet nervous of the winding road ahead.

When embarking on a new journey, we plan ahead, read and research the location, pack accordingly and talk to others who have been there before. We know where we are going and how we will get there. We know what we will find and what we will see when we get there.

Technology and art are not like that. They are forever changing, evolving and mutating. We have no idea what will be in the Art scene in a year’s time or what will be the new digital trend. Part of me is excited not knowing, yet the other is wondering what next? How will I learn, develop, integrate and teach more? Striking the balance between what I believe and what I discover, what I have always done and what I am going to do.

I have no idea where I am going ; I have some idea of how I will get there and faith that I will with the help of such a vast network of supporters: this connected and largely unknown group of like-minded individuals to help us get to wherever the destination is. This is a chance for me to find my voice, to share ideas, to learn and grow. I anticipate the highs, the lows, the frustrations and the thrills of trying out new things, collaborating and changing as a person, a teacher and an artist. I know the journey will not necessarily be an easy one, with twists and turns, potholes and dead ends, but I hope too that there will be beautiful scenery, wonderful views and good company and conversation along the route. I am ready.

and so it seems that the journey is the destination.

This is me……

Posted: February 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
pencil drawing

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