Knowledge networking in action

Back in September last year I attended a Teachmeet at Oxfam in Carlton. @becspink and I had sneakily signed up for two spots to fulfil our “creative coffee morning” task for INF536. Lewis Allen and Clinton Milroy were there from AITSL to promote the Teacher Feature section of the AITSL website. They wanted to film some teachers for the site and I managed to get myself involved. Luckily I was well-dressed and made-up ready to go out later that evening for my wedding anniversary (21 years, thanks for asking!).

I’d managed to forget all about it till today when going through some survey responses for the video I’m creating for INF532 someone had provided a link for a video they’d uploaded to Teacher Feature. Unfortunately the videos didn’t want to play on the AITSL website but I managed to track them down on Youtube. I was expecting to cringe when I watched myself, I always think I’m stumbling over words and saying way too many umms and ahhs when I’m being recorded, but I was pleasantly surprised (and thank you Lewis for responding so quickly to my request to have my name spelled correctly). Anyway, I’m happy enough to share the video here – what do you think?

If you go to AITSL’s YouTube channel you can see the playlist of videos including those recorded with Bec Spink, Mel Cashen and Leigh Murphy.

New tool no. 1 – Alltop


This is the first of a series of posts to complete the activity from Module 2.3.

When I first read that I had to “identify six (6) digital tools that are: (a) new to you, i.e., they were not already part of your PLN before you began this subject; and (b) of particular interest to you in developing your PLN, or introducing knowledge networking into the curriculum” in order to “record the process of selecting, testing/trialling and evaluating of each tool as entries on your blog throughout the session” I was a little worried. I’m a serial signer-upper – pretty much everything that had been mentioned I’d already signed up for, tried out and either continued with or rejected and moved on. This was going to require a bit more digging. I’ve come up with three that I already knew a bit about (and had accounts for) but really had done nothing with – Quora, Pearltrees and Tumblr – posts on these will appear soon. Then, on my daily Medium email, I saw an article about Meerkat, a new live-streaming app for Twitter – yay! a new tool to try. I’m still looking for number 6 – all suggestions gratefully received – but luckily I chanced upon Alltop from Guy Kawasaki’s LinkedIn Behind the Scenes post on how he posts on social media. So here we go, new tool no. 1:


Alltop is not new, apparently it’s been around since 2008 but one way and another I hadn’t come across it until recently.

Alltop describes itself as providing “aggregation without aggravation”. The creators of Alltop have set about providing an answer to “What’s happening” in a topic by providing links to the five most recent articles from selected websites, blogs and other RSS feeds (such as searches). You can search for topics, browse from categories on the header or browse alphabetically. On a topicIf you see a headline that interests you, hovering over it displays the first paragraph. If you want to read more simply click the link to be taken to the site.

Alltop Digital Media News

Aggregated sites are selected by people, not algorithms, and they are open to suggestions.

You can create your own page of links from selected sites and interests. For this you need to create an account and log in. Now, next to each feeds header you will see a plus sign which is clicked to add that feed to your own page.

Once you’ve curated your own collection you can share it with others – it will have a URL similar to Alltop has gathered together My Alltop pages of “famous/cool friends“. I didn’t recognise many but was interested to see Rohit Bhargava who I referenced in my digital essay on curation last year.

Alltop has a free iPad app as well as the website. The app includes images for the five Hot Topics from any topic page and an annoying banner advertisement at the bottom (Adblock Plus Chrome extension takes care of the ads for me on my computer). Entering your username allows you to see your My Alltop on the app but you can’t add new content to it there.

Signing up

There is no option to sign in with Google, Facebook or other open ID. Simply select a username (lucky for me my favourite, hbailie, was available), enter a password and your email for verification purposes.


Alltop is a very clean looking way to view recent content on a broad range of topics. The capacity to select what you want to see on you own page is useful. I particularly like the way that hovering on a link gives the first paragraph, it makes it very easy to decide whether to view the full story or not and allows me to look over a lot of content in a short time.

Alltop would be very useful for people who have never used an RSS reader before as it makes the process of finding and adding content very simple.

Not being able to edit your content on the iPad app makes it less useful to me as I’m most likely to use it on my iPad on my daily commute.

Not all topics I’m interested in have their own page and some of the search results seem a bit random. A search for “teachers” found “Christian Church” (!); Education; English Language Teaching”; Gambling” (!?!); “Homeschooling”; “India” (?), and “Inspiration”. Hmmm.

Will I keep using it?

Probably, a bit. I have My Alltop paged linked on my Chrome bookmark bar and the app on my iPad. When I have an idle moment I might well open them up. But it won’t be every day.

Knowledge Networking Artefact

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by hbailie

My artefact for assignment one will be a video titled “Get connected with Google+”.


A video targeted at teachers who do not identify as Connected Educators, primarily for my own school but not specific to it. The video will firstly explore the value of becoming connected through quotes and data from teachers (crowd-sourced through Twitter, Google+ and Teachmeets) and theory from literature. The second part will demonstrate the use of Google+ as a non-threatening starting point for developing a PLN. Google+ has been selected as it is part of Google Apps For Education and offers flexibility in connecting and sharing within user-defined groups (circles) and specific interest communities.

Digital Tools and Spaces

I plan to use some or all of the following (and possibly others too…)

Google forms
WeVideo/YouTube Creator Studio/iMovie


Using Google forms I have set up a survey which I have been sharing widely on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Google groups and to email communities. It can be filled out from here too – please do!

Network literacy

Module 3.1 How do McClure and Rheingold’s views on network literacy differ? What do you see as having changed between these authors’ definitions of being ‘network literate’?

It is no surprise that McClure’s (1994) and Rheingold’s (Network literacy part one, part two, 2011) views of network literacy are different given that McClure’s words were penned nearly 20 years before Rheingold’s videos were recorded.

McClure acknowledges the importance of networks to conducting everyday transactions but does not recognise the value that the addition of nodes adds. In contrast, Rheingold notes that in social networks the addition of extra nodes adds extra value, not proportionally but exponentially.

I think that when McClure wrote it was impossible to imagine what today’s social networks would look like but that doesn’t make his advice inaccurate. It is indeed a vital twenty-first century skill to be able to “identify, access, and use electronic information from the network” and equally important in both the professional and personal lives of most people.

Rheingold places more importance on understanding how networks work whereas McClure emphasises knowledge and skills needed to use them.


McClure, C. R. (1994). Network literacy: A role for libraries? Information Technology and Libraries, 13(2), 115-125

Network Literacy Part One. (2011). Retrieved from

Network Literacy Part Two. (2011). Retrieved from

Defining the connected educator

Have you moved beyond cooperation? What role is collaboration playing in your professional learning and practice? What’s new and different about collaboration for 21st century learning? (Nussbaum-Beach, 2012, p. 13)

I have always been a strong supporter of collaboration at work. In my various library teams over the years I have supported and promoted each individual in using their strengths and passions so that together what we provide is greater than the sum of its parts. While no one is irreplaceable the tone and character of what we provide has shifted as individuals come and go, and along the way I have learned and grown through these experiences. I have never thought that pigeon-holing individuals into specific, discrete duties, based on job-title, to be in the best interest of the organisation.

As a learner, and particularly in this course, collaboration plays an enormous part in my construction of knowledge. The subject forums are the prime place where this occurs but our blogs, twitter, formal and informal online meetings, and even the occasional real-life catch-up all contribute. In INF536 the obligation to not only write a series of blog posts but to also comment on the posts of three others each time challenged us to be collaborative and was a great learning experience. In contrast, INF506 did not even require us to make our blogs public which I felt was a crazy contradiction in a subject called “Social Networking for Information Professionals”. As Nussbaum-Beach says “sharing and reciprocity are expected” (p. 13), they should not be optional.

Are you multi-literate? Of these literacies, which is most surprising to you? Which do you find least and most challenging? (Nussbaum-Beach, 2012, p. 17)

This section is a self-evaluation rubric for new literacies of the 21st century:

  1. Facilitate and inspire learning and creativity
  2. Design and develop digital-age learning experiences and assessments
  3. Model digital-age work and learning
  4. Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility
  5. Engage in professional growth and leadership

I believe I am multi-literate and scored myself 3 or 4 for most items. None of these is surprising, I nodded along in agreement as I read each section. All of these are challenging to do well but I probably find modelling digital-age work and learning the easiest because it simply is how I work and learn. Successfully inspiring others to join the digital-age is a big challenge –  it is one thing to work in this way yourself, quite another to lead, promote and inspire.

We’ve described how we think about the connected educator. Take a moment to reflect on your understanding. How are our perspectives alike? How are they different? (p. 21)

One thing I think is fundamental to being a connected educator is having a growth mindset. If we could shift those fixed mindsets that prevent some (many?) teachers from trying new ideas we’d go a long way toward making connected educators the norm.

Map yourself

I found a few people I know (both online and in real life) on the map. Zoom into Melbourne and you’ll see me there, there’s only three others at this stage.

Tag it

Diigo is an old friend but searching the tag clc-voc revealed no results. Am I doing something wrong?


Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Hall, L. R. (2012). Defining the connected educator. In The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age (pp. 3-24). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

A new culture of learning

Thomas and Brown’s (2011) new culture of learning resonates strongly with me as an educator, but even more so as a learner. Since 2008 when I first embarked on a “23 things” learning experience I have been exploring, engaging, following interests, connecting and learning using the fabulously vast resources of the online world. I came into this Masters course not so much for the specific qualification but to find structure and direction to focus my explorations. In the end I hope to find some new career options; whether or not I take them up is moot as I will be equally happy to find new direction within my existing career.

In all subjects so far (INF530, INF536, INF506) I have learned just as much with and from my fellow students as from exploring the course materials. Distance education has been an eye-opener and a fabulous surprise in how rich and rewarding the engagement has been. Many years ago I started on-campus Masters studies and never once felt anything like this level of engagement with other students. We sat in the same room for 2-3 hours a week and nothing more (or since). In this past year of study I’ve had many interactions with my fellow students which continue despite the subject/s being complete. My PLN continues to grow.

Just as it is for Allen (Thomas & Brown, p. 26), Google is the first port of call for many people faced with an error or problem these days and I’m certainly one of them. Whether it’s battling Apple’s Configurator for our class set of iPads, finding the best app for a purpose or trouble-shooting computer errors I can almost always find and answer or a forum where similar experiences are being discussed and learn from them.

Beyond a depressingly unsuccessful go at learning about Minecraft (at a full day workshop) and an uninspiring exploration of Second Life for INF506 I’ve not ventured into the world of massively multiplayer online games. Perhaps the closest I come to it is managing the family footy-tipping contest at Footytips. When we first started (about 7 years ago) my brother and his family were heading overseas for an exchange year and I thought it would be a good way to keep in touch. It was and is, but really it’s a very insignificant part of how we connect as a family.

It is clear to me that allowing students the freedom to explore their own interests and passions will facilitate the learning of concepts and skills beyond the topic – like Sam who learned valuable citizenship habits through the Scratch community (Thomas & Brown, p.21). In my school, as a teacher librarian, I promote project-based/challenge-based/inquiry-based learning by engaging with teachers and supporting them in myriad ways. We are a mixed-ability staff and some are much more ready to give up teaching to start enabling (as Thomas did (Thomas & Brown, p.25))  than others but there is recognition that old ways need to change and some commitment to giving it a go.


Thomas, D., Brown, J. S. (2011). Arc-of-Life learning. In A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (pp. 17-33). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

New models of information production

De Saulles, M. (2012). New models of information production. In Information 2.0: new models of information production, distribution and consumption (pp. 13-35). London: Facet.

What are some of the defining characteristics of the Internet and world wide web that have stimulated the creation for new models of information production?

What are some of the challenges that these models present to educators and/or information professionals?

The digitisation of information and the proliferation of devices with internet access means that information that was once scarce and/or difficult to access is now freely available. The world wide web, and in particular, Web 2.0 have made it possible for anyone, even with limited resources, to publish to the world. Formats like blogs and podcasts are logical, democratised, developments of pre-internet formats such as newspapers and radio broadcasts. What is new is the built-in powers of search engines and the metadata accessible through social media giving rise to new developments in the study of human trends. These can be used in diverse ways such as tracking the spread of disease to manage health resources, targeted marketing, or identifying and responding to the issues most important to voters at multiple levels.

These new models of information production present both challenges and opportunities to educators and information professionals.

With information no longer scarce and precious we are challenged with dealing with too much rather than too little information. Educators are challenged with teaching students the skills required to filter and think critically about what they find and, just as importantly, what they share. Information professionals, whose core function of getting the right information to the right person at the right time has not fundamentally altered, are challenged by this oversupply of information making their role more and more complex. At the same time there are new opportunities as the skills of information professionals – organising, classifying, disseminating – are needed more than ever in the era of big data.