working out loud

How to Support New Pathways to Leadership Online

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I feel fortunate and thoughtful. Fortunate because I’m currently at an event for work—in a gorgeous setting—surrounded by brilliant, thoughtful, caring, fun educators—and I’m learning. Thoughtful because, well, I’m learning, and I’m trying to parse through what I’m hearing in conversations around the room and online, and think about how it applies to my work.

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working out loud

Tools I Use to Manage a Lot of Work and a Hectic Life

tools_to_manageFor a long time now I’ve been wanting to document and share the tools I use to help me manage communications work at the National Writing Project, and really, life in general. My motives are two-fold: maybe it will help others and maybe I’ll get some good suggestions by putting this out there.

First, some criteria I’ve established for myself:

  1. Whatever the tool is, it must actually make my work easier or more manageable in some way. Just because something is pretty or nifty is not enough of a reason to use it. That being said, I’m shallow. I like pretty if I can have it.
  2. It must have a desktop/web version and a mobile app.
  3. I’d prefer not to pay for stuff, but I do believe in paying for well-crafted tools/services.
  4. It must have collaborative features so I can share work and processes with others, and to that end, it must be available on PCs as well as Macs, iOS as well as Android.

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working out loud

A Little Fun With Curation

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Background

A big part of my “day-to-day” working at the National Writing Project is curating—selecting, organizing, and presenting information online. The public aspect of this can been seen on nwp.org, Educator Innovator, or our social media accounts. I’m not the sole curator for our organization, luckily I have help from brilliant colleagues, but in a way, I’m the primary curator for online content.

The Task

Yesterday, we were a “core partner” for Digital Learning Day, and a couple weeks ago our team decided that we’d do a Storify of the day’s events as part of our post-event coverage (and in case you don’t want to read this whole thing, I’ll give you the final product now (though I do hope you read this anyway)). For those of you not familiar with Storify, it’s basically an online platform for curating content from across the web. One of my colleagues focused her attention on gathering assets throughout the day for this project, but knowing what a tremendous amount of content was going to be shared online via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, and hundreds of other sites, I was also glued to the stream, grabbing highlights along the way. Here are some questions I considered while gathering the info:

  • What is the story? Yes, it was about digital/connected learning, but it was also about how teachers engage students in learning using technology and what the products of learning were. The day was also about considering access and equity issues regarding technology and education around the U.S., and what the future of digital learning looks like.
  • What’s our story? NWP and its Educator Innovator and Digital Is initiatives were core partners, along with other partners that we often collaborate with. In fact we had a collaborative project called #Make4DLDay which was a set of challenges to engage people in “making” to celebrate. I wanted to try to represent everyone who is closely related to NWP in some way.
  • What’s the source? Not only did I want to represent partners and individuals related to NWP, I also wanted our story to have a variety of content that would include thoughts, perspectives, stories, photos, and video from several major sources like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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working out loud

Design: Letting Go to Move Forward

exitIn the design aspect of my full-time job and my freelance design gigs, one thing that can be painful is making a final decision. For myself, and I think for everyone involved, the inability to decide on a design, or at least a solid direction, stems from wanting to get it just right. And man, if it’s a logo? Forget about it. Plan on at least twice the amount of time and 10 times the number of options you thought you were going to present, and everyone still won’t be 100% happy.

I tend to be fairly decisive on my own because I know it often isn’t ever perfect. I’ll like most of one idea, or some of another, and yes, I’ll mix and match things to get the right blend—but I know that even if I like it, not everyone will. Plus, I usually don’t have the luxury of time to do whatever it takes to achieve near-perfection. I’m not willing to sacrifice progress for that, and I’ve learned to live with that. But when it’s someone else’s project, finding that “good enough” can be tough.

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working out loud

Coding for Democracy

Today, for work, I had the pleasure of watching a webinar on Connectedlearning.tv (also embedded above) where a panel of people heavily involved in making/coding/connected learning discussed the +/- of the “learning to code movement.” On the panel were some Writing Project folks (and friends of the Writing Project)—Mia Zamora, Joe Dillon, Doug Belshaw, and Mitch Resnick—and they had some really smart things to say about why learning to code is important.

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working out loud

Just Pick Up the Phone

helpTonight during dinner I got a call from a coworker. This never happens so I knew it must be an emergency. When I answered I was greeted by a very apologetic, very worried person who had basically pushed a button they shouldn’t have pushed. We’ve all done it, right? Pushed that one button that somehow erases hours (or God forbid, days) of work. Lucky for this person I’ve had enough “oh shit” moments of my own to push me to make copies of code, saving revisions as I go, just for instances like this. Within a few minutes I was able to restore what was lost. Just like that.

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working out loud

The Making of Making Learning Connected: My Part in #clmooc

making_clmoocOne of our initiatives at the National Writing Project this past summer was planning, building, and implementing our first-ever MOOC (though instead of Massive Open Online Course, we changed the “C” to mean Collaboration). It was part of the Summer of Making and Connecting, and as intriguing and exciting as this concept may sound to you, I am not here to actually talk about the “what,” but mostly my part in the how. (Not wanting to leave you hanging though, this post by Terry Elliot, one of the facilitators, will give a good idea of some of the theory behind the #clmooc endeavor.)

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working out loud

Out of My Cage for Personal and Professional Growth

f2fI love working from home. Yes, it has taken some time to figure out and define boundaries with the other occupants of my “office,” especially the three shorter ones, but I’ve gotten better at shutting doors and using my noise-canceling headphones without feeling cold or neglectful. And, of course, you can’t beat the dress code.

That being said, I’ve discovered that while I often feel more productive at home than in the “real” office, there are times I miss the face-to-face interactions that being in a traditional office affords. My work teams have been doing much more video conferencing via Google Hangouts, but it’s not quite the same.

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working out loud

Working Out Loud

working_out_loudAt the National Writing Project I’m the manager of much of NWP’s presence on the interwebs, and I’ve recently had the privilege and opportunity to work with teachers from around the country who are helping to create, facilitate, and implement some of our summer initiatives. This is the Summer of Making and Connecting and besides getting to observe some pretty amazing work around the country, it’s been refreshing to take a new look at what I do professionally.

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