I have been Tweeted! This summer I spent more time than usual traveling and presenting at conferences, or padding my CV, whichever. It is a good time to focus on this part of my academic career- I am the home stretch- done with classes and able to focus more on my own particular interests, and I still get to register for conferences at the discounted student rate! It is pretty much win-win. As I was traveling to the Chicago area anyway for a family gathering, it seemed like a good idea to submit a proposal to speak at a conference happening there at the same time. At least I will save on airfare, I figured. So, I cobbled together yet another talk on Maker culture and was accepted to present at the first annual EdTech Teacher Summit. After presenting at and attending the ISTE conference in Atlanta earlier in the summer (with about 14,000 other attendees!), this conference was on a much smaller scale, and with only 6 choices per session compared to about a hundred, I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of audience.

The talk was scheduled for a full hour, the longest I have presented while in graduate school. All in all, I do feel like it was one of my more successful presentations. Having more time to delve into the topic and integrate more opportunities for it to be interactive than a more typical 30 minute talk (with time for Q&A!) let me relax and enjoy the experience. I was also able to pull the audience in more during the talk, to contribute their experiences- anything to break up the “sage on the stage” format! However, this is always a bit risky, and there was a man in the audience who made a comment that made it apparent that he had been expecting my talk to cover more advanced territory, while I was focused on “what is Make?” and “how can it be implemented?” Yet, he was pleasant and stayed until the end, so I approached him after the talk and apologized if my title had been misleading. He assured me that he had enjoyed the talk and gotten things out of it, and I would see that from the Tweets he had sent out during the talk.

So, as soon as I was back in the car, I whipped out my smart phone and got on Twitter. Lo and behold- I had been Tweeted about! I am not sure why, but seeing so many comments with my Twitter handle (wyld_peace) attached to them was quite a rush! From the feed, it seems that there were at least four people who were Tweeting out during the talk, posting quotes and even photos of some of the slides. And not only was it an incredible ego boost, it was also great, real-time feedback about what comments and slides had more of an impact on the audience. And, I was able to see not only what mattered to that immediate audience, but then what was favorited and retweeted from the feed. What a great experience in “real” assessment!

As part of the FCL lab’s foray into social media, some of us have taken to Tweeting when we are at conferences or workshops, although I always feel a little self-conscious when I do it. “Really, I am not on Facebook or texting, I am Tweeting your talk”, I want to say. Yet, as a presenter, I did not notice anyone on their phones or tablets or such, in ways that were distracting or felt rude to me.

In short, to all of you on the fence- I say Tweet on! From my own perspective as a presenter, it is flattering and an informative source of feedback, and when I am in the audience, I am paying special attention to find things that would be interesting to Tweet, so I might even be more attentive. This is a great use of social media that can make our learning and sharing more interactive- which is one thing we do know makes learning more effective and impactful! See you in the Twitterverse!

ISTE2014 has ended, and I am back home and reflecting on what this experience meant to me. This was by far the largest conference I have attended- at over 16,000, it is probably four times bigger than what I usually consider a crowd! Getting to guest blog for the conference was a great boost to my ego, and I was tweeting out regularly from talks and other events I attended- and I think I might have doubled the number of followers I have on Twitter! Just seeing the email that was sent out to tens of thousands of ISTE members before the conference, with the list of guest bloggers, with my name on it, was a rush! One of the highlights of the event was getting to chat with Dale Doughtery, one of the co-founders of Make, and the main face of MakerFaire and MakerEd. I have introduced myself to him before, but this time I could talk to him about my research and thoughts on this movement with a lot more confidence. I even broke down and did the fan-girl thing and took a Picsie/Pixie (Susan, Michelle, and I are still figuring out the spelling- it is our word for a selfie with multiple people in it) with him. I am including the link for the second blog I wrote for ISTE since the topic is relevant here too! Enjoy!


There’s nothing like a little guilt to set you on a new path. My adventures with writing these blog posts actually started because I felt guilty that some members of the Free Choice Learning Lab were doing a lot more to contribute to the group than I tend to do.  Part of that is because I have historically been a bit of an interloper in the lab group anyway.  Even though it is called the Free Choice Lab group, it has predominantly been comprised of the grad students working with Shawn Rowe, mostly out at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, and the few of us who work with other FCL faculty and projects have always been welcome to attend any of the group’s events (and I have felt welcome!), but we were outsiders.  While this is currently changing and the other FCL groups are being more actively included in the webpage and such, this is how it has been for most of my time at Oregon State.  This is compounded by the fact that I am a commuter student, driving up from Eugene, and I usually only attend meetings if I am on campus, of if the technology is not being totally frustrating for me to call or internet in, in some fashion.  Needless to say, I let those who were regular members of the group shoulder most of the responsibilities for organizing meetings and retreats and writing for the blog and other such tasks.

However, this is a lovely group of people, and many of my favorite people that I have met in grad school, are part of this group, and I do care about them. So, when three active members, Laura Good, Katie Stofer, and Harrison Baker all graduated in the spring of 2013 and went on to jobs elsewhere, I could tell that if some other people didn’t step in and take on some of the work, my dear friends would be doing even more than their share! So, I tentatively agreed to write for the blog. At first, I was non-committal- “sure, I can be a guest blogger on occasion”,  but as the topic kept coming up in meetings, I decided that once a month really was not that much to ask, so agreed to take on a regular stint.

And, to my surprise, this has been fun! This type of writing comes much more naturally to me than the academic style that is usually asked of me (sorry to anyone who helps edit my “real” papers!) and I even like thinking about what I will write my next post about, as I go about my month.  I think I am funny, in a witty sort of way, and I appreciate the soap box from which to ponder and rant.

And, the best part is, that the universe is once again reminding me that when you do the “right thing” (i.e. helping out my friends) good things happen! Because of this blogging gig, I have been able to talk myself in to being a guest blogger for a pretty big technology in education conference later this month (ISTE), and a blog they asked me to write about Make as a lead up to the conference was posted through another on-line education website!  On top of that, the fun FCL performance group Eepy Bird, posted a link to my post on their Facebook page. And, it keeps coming-  this weekend I got an email from a couple of guys who are creating a more affordable CNC machine ( a Maker tool…) and someone sent them  my piece and they want to talk too… who knows where it will all end!

So, moral of the story- do the right/nice thing when you can. Try something new. Keep trying- when I recently reread my earlier posts, I was not impressed, but I feel that with time and practice, I am finding my voice. Here’s to finding yours!

The Fun and Learning of Snow Days …..
The last week has brought an unusual amount of snow to the Willamette Valley and in particular Corvallis – 9 inches. The town is not well prepared for this amount of snow coupled with extended below freezing temperatures. This means that the snow stayed around till today on roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and well everywhere. Coming from back east this seems a bit unreal that 9 inches of snow has kept schools and businesses closed for 5-7 days. However for a free choice learner, a studier of human nature and a parent these past 7 days have been a blast to part take in and observe. (The truly only difficult thing was trying to readjust and balance my own personal & work schedule with the increased time the children and husband have been around the house.)
Now for my observations in learning from the snow days …
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow – snow predictions where do we find them – Thursday night the house was full of looking up weather predictions, one was not enough, so multiple ones were reviewed. Which site or news show was correct? Who was using the same data? Where were they collecting the readings or data from? All of these questions were flying in the house. Now let’s talk about the social network postings – the questions about whether or not “we” as the collective Willamette Valley would “get” the predictions were flying about. Some were based on data some on past experiences, some on hope for or against the arrival of the snow. The grocery store – I had this person form California come up to me completely upset as my son and I were gathering some special “snow food” to go along with some of our family traditions – he was distort. He had never been in snow and picked living here due to lack of snow. He owned a bicycle and was concerned about how he would get around town if it did snow. He stood there for over 5 minutes, following me around the store trying to convince me that I should not be excited about this and that others are upset. It was rather interesting. I asked him if he had read the weather reports and he said no, he was not going to and was hoping for the snow to not come. Again it is how we each handle things differently. Very interesting. Evening came, bedtime came, how many of you after all the data gathering still slept with your PJ’s on inside out in hopes for the snow to arrive? At least three in our house did. Is this a culture things or just our family tradition?
Snow Fun – The snow arrived and the excitement arrived. Snowman building. There are multiple methods for snowman building. So many methods that some even get upset if you do not follow the methods that they are used to using. For example do you push the snow into a pile or gather in a bucket and place in a different spot? This is a slight difference, but I have learned an important one as the pushed snow can have leave litter making the snowman “dirty” looking. Also do you add a little water to ice over the snowman to make it last longer or let it be? Again another important point. Do you use sticks, stones and moss for finishing off the snowman or do you use buttons, carrots and real clothes? Again these conversations were extremely interesting to listen to – the reasoning and negotiations involved in making the final decisions were at boardroom level from 9-12 year olds. Then after all of these conversations came the conversations of getting the needed materials from the adults and then the conversations with them. It was great to be an observer on these as I had my younger one and was not in charge of these … love it. Social Media postings of pictures of the various snowmen have been great!
Sledding – oh the joy of physics! We live in a hilly area, so there was a large amount of places that sledding could take place. Well different people have different tolerance for difference speeds and sometimes this is learned in a situation like sledding. Transfer of skills from skiing like stopping, proper falling and rolling also took place. Fortunately no one got hurt, but many learned a lot about what they could, could not do and liked and did not like. Again the postings on the social networking sites have been a blast to follow.
Inside fun – the chemistry of baking cookies … the science of washing dishes … the fun of making ice cream by using the freezing temperatures outside … the fun of frozen things on your porch that don’t normally freeze and realizing that there is actually water in that thing …. Your neighbors burst pipes or frozen water pipes so you are helping carry water jugs over … games you never get to play as you are running everywhere to carry out your normally scheduled life. These postings have been the best. The photos of the various baked goods alone have made me gain weight. The postings of people sharing rides with the 4WD is also something that was a nice thing to see unfold. The community seemed to come to each other’s needs.
Inside Cabin Fever – the realization the some sort of regular schedule is a good thing. This was very clear on the social media sites. Cabin fever was mentioned as early as Monday with only being in from Friday through the weekend. By Thursday with the prediction of the freezing rain, the posts were beyond hopeful that this did not happen as they were more than ready for a regular routine to return. I have to admit that for myself I felt it by Thursday, but not really before. This may be because we have a 4WD vehicle and I was able to get out some or having a child with a choric illness does not allow me to have a completely set schedule so I live without a set routine. I have had to come to terms with this over the last few years. The children expressed it in a different way – I saw it in an increased inside volume of noise. The normally quite children from the neighborhood, along with my own were so load that I could hear them all the way at my mailbox when they were in the house. This has never happened before. Again a different way of expressing their cabin fever or change in routine.
All in all the last seven days of snow covered Willamette Valley have brought many different opportunities for fun and learning that have occurred outside of the normal routine. Some have been really cool and others for some (like bursting pipes) are hopefully a onetime life lesson. I feel really lucky that during this time I had the opportunity to sit back and do some participant observations in the make shift learning lab of the snow covered town of Corvallis.

This was not my intended topic for today’s post, but with so much history this week I thought it was a necessary post. A couple of months ago I wrote about creating and using Twitter and what it means to us in the free-choice learning field. With the 24-hour news cycle, social media, and even blogs we get news quickly. We are constantly connected through our computers and smart phones. How were people connected to news 150 years ago? 50 years ago? In those years two significant events happened that changed our nation’s history: the Gettysburg Address and President Kennedy’s assassination.

This past week PBS aired a program about Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address. The focus was on how he used the telegraph to connect to the country, how the telegraph allowed him to “feel the pulse” of the country and ultimately shape the words he used at Gettysburg. Lincoln used the telegraph as a tool for taking in information and for sending information out. Lincoln used the newest, quickest way of communication in his day just as we all use Facebook and Twitter for news and information today. One of the speakers on the show even said, “Lincoln would have been big time on Twitter”.

And what if Twitter existed 50 years ago? NPR drew me in this morning using the Twitter handle @todayin1963 to live tweet the events of the day President Kennedy was pronounced dead. The tweets, however, are ongoing as news continues to develop as though we’re using Twitter in 1963. Would this media source have changed the facts (accurate or not) people heard that day or would it just be a different media source to hear it through?

How we receive our news and how we share it is ever-changing. We’ll always have a new technology that lets us get that much closer to what’s happening in our world. For Lincoln’s generation is was the telegraph and for my generation it’s Twitter.

As a side note, you can follow the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum on Twitter @ALPLM, where they often post Lincoln quotes.

One week ago I was not a Twitter user. After hearing about it for years and seeing other people use it, I wasn’t convinced it was a tool for me. I personally have problems communicating in 140 characters or less (mainly because I don’t usually put a limit on myself) and I think Twitter has changed language use. We see words not being capitalized, the use of numbers where letters should be, an insane amount of shorthand, and #somanyhashtags I can’t #decipher what someone’s actually #tryingtocommunicate.

And then I heard this story on NPR, which claims that Twitter can boost literacy. And I got to thinking, am I just uncomfortable with Twitter because I haven’t fully immersed myself in the experience? Is there something to it that I’m missing? So on Monday, I created an account (@mamileham) to see how this cultural tool is used and what it means for us as researchers of free-choice learning.

Twitter is a cultural tool that’s here to stay.  It allows people to connect and communicate in a way like never before. As this video says, “you wouldn’t send an email to a friend to tell them you’re having coffee. Your friend doesn’t need to know that.” But what if someone is truly interested in the little things? With people connecting (@) and mentioning (#) where they are and what they’re doing, we can follow and understand what they are experiencing and possibly how they’re evaluating and making sense of the world.  With Twitter, the video says, “[people can] see life between blog posts and emails.” What if we could see the meaning making (in almost real time) between entering and exiting a museum based on an individual’s tweets?

I’m not completely sold on Twitter boosting literacy, but I do understand how we are using social media to share information, find information, think about who we are (i.e., identity formation), and that tweeting is a new language. You have to learn and then know how to use the @ and # but maybe it’s worth learning. However, think about how all those #hashtags sound when used in real life.