On tagclouds and half-gallon jugs

I’m a little blasted – two nights of little sleep, lots of traveling by plane and car, and plenty of high-output work. That, and I am presently in a cabin in the northern Arizona mountains, and it feels absurd to be jacked into my laptop. So this will be brief.

Alan and I prepared and delivered a workshop and a closing plenary for the Northern Arizona University’s E-Learning Institute today. We have both been pretty busy of late, so no substantive work had been done before my arrival in Phoenix yesterday. All the prep was done in three short frantic jam sessions — an hour in Phoenix, a couple pilsner-fueled hours late last night (after enjoying a very fine meal and ample conversation with our hosts and others), and another hour this morning while mainlining caffeine at a famous local coffee shop. We could have made life a little easier on ourselves if we had simply recycled our old material (I think we could have gotten away with re-delivering our ELI Fish Tacos stuff), but I look at my periodic collaborations with Alan as a chance to try new things, to do things I wouldn’t be able to do so well on my own, and thankfully Alan agrees and is always ready to experiment. There was a moment in the hotel last night, well past midnight, when I looked over at him in the hotel, clearly exhausted, shaking his head at some frustration, and I realized this was about the tenth time I had put him in such a jam. I am lucky that he apparently still has patience for this stuff, because he’s simply awesome to work with.

And I’m really very pleased with what we came up with. We streamlined our focus for the morning workshop Rip Mix Feed Reloaded. For once we didn’t try to cover every social software tool in the universe, and instead used del.icio.us and Flickr as exemplars for the activities. We took a couple of simple hands-on activities and used that work to generate a collaborative tagcloud page, a couple of photoblogs (here and here), and a SuprGlu page. The participants seemed a little disoriented when we threw tagging at them so early in the workshop, but there seemed to be some ‘a-ha moments’ when the work products were unveiled later on. Though we didn’t explicitly discuss weblogs, wikis, or RSS, they were all touched on contextually as we proceeded, and I think the most important points about the social and aggregative nature of these tools (not to mention the key role of Creative Commons license) were communicated pretty well. I’ll be using this format again.

We immediately went on to the closing plenary, where we delivered our presentation off of a tagcloud page we had stocked with some del.icio.us-flagged items that we found interesting. We came up with a very simple outline before the session, and then let ‘er rip. I feel like we came up with a nice balance between the unrestrained vibe of The UnKeynote and a more traditional presentation. When things were rolling, there was a semblance of structure yet plenty of serendipity.

Kudos to the participants here at NAU, it was fun and stimulating. Great to talk with Don, Beth, Jeff, Shelley, Dawn and others. And I really dug Flagstaff. I’d say more (there are shout-outs and link-love to give), but it’s time to cut the line and get some food. I am a little awestruck at the prospect of two whole days with nothing to do here at Alan’s cabin, not even childcare. My downtime skills are atrophied, so here’s hoping I find my leisure legs. I’m looking deep within to tap my inner slacker.

More on this by Alan.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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