A place where stories, thoughts and ideas come together

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Workshop on Blogging

For Saturday, we planned a 45 min introductory course on blogs basics for the North University students, followed by an Open Space dedicated to changes in today's education, the impact of Internet, knowledge work and of course blogging.

Once again, things did not work as planned. The audience was formed of 50% beginner bloggers, and 50% to-be-bloggers, still unconvinced - what's in it for me?!
Here's the plan of the intended 45 min presentation: Posted by Hello

After 30 min, I realised we won't get their attention if we only give them the big picture.
I needed to tell them blog stories, to read them blog excerpts, to make them really taste blogs.
Thanks God this time the Internet connection was there!
Spontaneously, Mircea, my host, stepped in the discussion, bringing new stories in, speaking about friends he never met and their excellent blogs, about happenings and events reflected in blogs... At the end of one hour, we knew we got them: all these innocent souls, without any exception, were ready to learn the technicalities needed for starting a blog:-)

And surprise! reviewing the novices' blogs, I realised some of them were actually pretty good: they worked on templates, included pictures of different sizes, links and so on.

My only problem was the way they got started: their professor made them start a blog for posting their term papers. It was OK as starting point, but 10 pages long term papers are not quite the right stuff for a blog. And then I was afraid that making blogging compulsory would eventually kill it. That brought us to the "art" of blogging, and finding one's voice.

And I couldn't avoid telling them how bad my first blog was- the one I used to maintain for the ECDL for Everyone project, the same one I presented at BlogTalk1.
And how I had the chance of "standing on the shoulders of giants": it was Rebecca Blood who told me I should care about my audience, Phil Wolff who encouraged me, and David Weinberger who adviced me to start my own blog. At the time, my ambition was to hide myself and to maintain an impersonal, objective blog. Now I know that there isn't such thing - a blog must belong to someone and bear the mark of his personality, and this was my message to them.

Writing about technical matters (they are studying machinery building technology) doesn't mean they have to be absent from their blogs, well hidden and anonymous. Some of them already understood it pretty well, bringing their personal life stories and opinions to their blogs. And the others will have to work on it!

The last part of our talk was about changes in education, and their special chance to learn from the best and to pick up their own mentors. I name it "our talk", because in the end, the event turned up into a real workshop, and the students brought an important contribution to it: creating their own blogs in front of the audience, pointing us to new resources, asking intelligent questions, discussing about each other's weblog.

The evaluation notes at the end of the event showed us they got the message: they phrased it even better than we dared to!
|| Gabriela 1:38:00 AM
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Speaking at the North University in Baia-Mare

One of the students attending my online course on blogs invited me to Baia Mare to give a speech on KM and to moderate a workshop on blogs last week-end.
My host, Professor Mircea Lobontiu teaches at the North University, already maintains four blogs (as far as I know, maybe last night he started another one;-), and he has converted part of his students to blogging.

On Friday afternoon, I delivered a 90 min lecture on Knowledge Management to an audience formed of students, academics, journalists and local business people.

This is what I spoke about: Posted by Hello

It was the first time I delivered a presentation using a mindmap only. In Luxembourg I tried to combine mind maps with Powerpoint, but I encountered some technical problems.

It worked pretty well, and it gave me a lot of freedom - I was able to skip some nodes and insist on others without letting the audience to notice the fact. No Internet connection was available in the room, but I managed to link to some screen captures instead.

I encouraged the audience to ask questions during my speech, and they interrupted me several times, giving me the necessary feedback. There were several people in the audience who were reading weblogs, but just a few ever heard of Wikipedia. I challenged them to contribute to the Romanian part of Wikipedia, making them aware of its self-regulated operation.

The interesting part is that I included a short comment on copyright, copyleft and Creative Commons in my speech - and I found out that a day before me, they listened to another speaker who made a presentation of Intellectual Property and copyright. Of course, only copyright was on the agenda!

Story telling was the salt and paper of the speech - I could see in their eyes they loved it, so I added more stories than I intended in tbhe beginning. It was a rewarding experience, and the echos are showing me that the audience enjoyed it at least as much as myself!
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Sunday, April 24, 2005

The growing Romanian blogosphere

Between two contracts, I'm in a sort of unplanned prolongued vacation. I can't imagine my self without work to do, as I have a special talent to keep myself busy and to volunteer for all kind of assignments.

First, my sister in law invited me to speak to her students at the National Art University in Bucharest. It was an one hour informal meeting dedicated to Social Software, but we talked about several other things too: about self-directed, self-organised learning, ePortfolios, podcasting and so on. Not all of them were active Internet users, but they were aware of the opportunities Internet offers to an artist today.

Then I managed to meet George Popescu, who's both teaching and practicing journalism, and who was one of the first who wrote about blogs in Romanian newspapers. He writes a blog himself and he's teaching a course on the "Culture of Internet" to his students at the Faculty of Journalism in Bucharest.

During Romania International University Fair, I paid a visit to Dragos Novac at the BI booth, and afterwards we had the chance to talk, sitting in the Spring sun on a nice terrace, about blogs, outsourcing, the Romanian business environment, and many other topics.

Later, in Timisoara, I visited one of my blogging course students - Claudia Novac - at her office , and we talked about possible ways to encourage the partners in the Leonardo da Vinci PACE project to start blogging.

I had another meeting with Carmen Holotescu , and we spent several hours together exchanging and commenting links, project ideas and blogs teaching experiences. Several collaboration ideas poped up, let's hope we will find the time to put them in practice!

One of Carmen's students is doing a study on the Romanian blogosphere - it will be nice to make her sent the results to Blogcount! Carmen herself maintains a pretty complete list of Romanian blogs. There's another one here at Romanian RSS feeds directory.

It looks like I forgot how it is to rest a bit - I'm a workaholic, I know, and I'm a blogaholic too.
Lots of work, no pay - well, it is part of the game - no risk, no win!
And I got so much during my ERCIM fellowship, that nowI feel like sharing, paying it forward somehow;-)

One of my students asked me to describe how a blogger looks like. I served him some remarks about what a blogger does first thing in the morning (checking Technorati, Bloglines citations and so on), but today he came up with a new feature: a real blogger is always looking for the next person he could convert to blogging!
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Low blogging, lots of unfinished work, new projects

Another month is gone with very low blogging here. Actually, my whole last month’s life revolved around blogs: I worked on my blog course, I met Romanian bloggers, I wrote papers on blogging, I lead a workshop on blogging... And I blogged a lot in Gabrielia, my blog in Romanian language, and in my other blogs.

I tried to give a new impulse to my blogging students, challenging them to talk about a few specific topics, such as:

  • do I need to use all the available blog features? What is the 20% of absolutely necessary and most used features?
  • what do I do to promote my blog and what are the results?
  • do my readers perceive me correctly?
  • could I use my blog as a professional portfolio when looking for a new job?
  • what are the advantages and disadvantages of an online course, without any face-to-face interaction?
There wasn’t much feedback. It looks like you can learn the technique, but if you miss the spirit...
There were some notable exceptions, but more about this in a later post...

I sent a paper to the Business Informatics conference organised every two years by my Alma Mater in Bucharest on the use of weblogs in education, titled “Collaborative Learning using Weblogs”. I had another topic in mind for it, but the time was very short and I thought I could base my paper on a blog post made few weeks before on blogs in education(sorry, only in Romanian, but some of the links are relevant!). The post was triggered by a information request made by a Romanian journalist from Jurnalul National while I was still in Luxembourg.

Well, bad assumption – it proved to be really difficult to turn a blog post into one section of a scientific paper. The rules of these two are completely different:
  • hyperlinks in the blog post versus explanations in the paper (with the corresponding references);
  • personal feelings and opinions versus objective findings;
  • a friendly tone vs an impersonal one;
  • free form versus an imposed structure.
I made it till the end. But I will never again assume that it will be easier to write a paper on a specific topic because I blogged on it before!

And of course, I sent an abstract to the ECKM ’05 which will take place in Limerick, Ireland, titled "At the Crossroads of Knowledge Management with Social Software".
I intend to reuse parts of an internal report written for CRPHT on Social Software, and to have a closer look at the manner in which Social Software supports KM, with emphasis on particular KM activities at the individual, group and societal level. I’m planning to illustrate my statements with examples from various weblogs, wikis, social networking and folksonomy sites.

I’m not only “emotionally involved” with ECKM (and I have plenty of reasons to be so: participated in 3 of the 5 editions, know a lot of the “usual suspects”, member of the organising committee, Larry Prusak as keynote speaker), but I also have a particular reason to be there this year: if everything goes well, I’ll already be in Limerick in September, working on a new and exciting project.

I'm already in contact with my new team mates, as we are considering a possible participation in a workshop on Distributed Software Development in Paris, colocated with the IEEE International RE Conference 2005.

The deadline of the "User-Centered Evaluation and Online Communities" call for book chapters is at the end of the week, and I still don't know if I will make it or not. I have a few good ideas, but there's still a lot of work needed.

How was that nice quote? I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Thanks, Google;-)
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