One of the best decisions I ever made…

haiku for February 3, 2012:

quiet, gentle awe

a simple flower opens

all the world listens

~ ~ ~

This post has been composing itself for weeks now…

in smiles,

in stretches,

in walks,

in those dozing off to sleep moments,

in those wake up with a start in the middle of the night moments,

in those sleepy “just look at the sunshine streaming through the window” wake-up-in-the-morning moments,

and most definitely through the long (long!) workday hours of my life these past several weeks.

~ ~ ~

This post is a tribute to a woman I’ve never (yet) met face-to-face.

This post is a tribute to the magic of Skype, the magic of the Internet, the magic of technology, the magic of PLNs (personal learning networks / professional learning networks) and SLNs (social learning networks) — without which Joanna and I would most likely never have met.

This post is a tribute (also) to the learning journey I’ve been traveling these past several years (please see this link for more info).

~ ~ ~

Several weeks ago (Dec. 15, 2011), I received news of a devastating announcement, news that EnglishCafe.com would be closing, shutting down, no more — as of Feb. 1, 2012 or sooner.

Since that time, so much has happened!

After a few frantic days of trying to ‘save’ the memories of EnglishCafe, of mentally attempting to adjust to a life without EnglishCafe (rearrange the letters of E N G L I S H C A F E and you can spell “changes life” — and indeed, EnglishCafe changed my life). EnglishCafe ‘was’ my life, or at least a very large part of it!

~ ~ ~

So, what to do?

As is my usual tendency, I ‘did’ a lot.  Notified people I knew who might know of jobs, amped up my jobhunting, followed lots more folks on Twitter, spent more time on LinkedIn, cried (wept), threw things, walked, walked, walked, talked, talked, talked, and kept logging in to EnglishCafe… which was no longer the same.

As I was recording screencasts (for my own memories) of various posts and profiles on EnglishCafe, I would repeat, a lump in my throat, the mantra that this “just can’t not be anymore” often followed by “but how, but what can I do, what can we do?”  During one of these screencasts, I voiced an idea that popped into my brain, “What about a Ning?”

When that screencast was finished, I went to Ning.com.  I had learned of Nings years ago (Thank you EVO, thank you CarlaArena) and had experimented with a few of my own Nings (back in the day when they were free).  I made the decision that I could not justify paying to keep the Nings I’d created once Ning went to a fee-based service, so had not used them much in recent months/years. But my memory and experience told me that a Ning might just, might just, might… be an answer.

~ ~ ~

A new Ning is born… December 22, 2012

Was it really only a week later?  December 22, 2012 I explored Ning, set up a free one month trial Ning, played with it a little, then a lot, read, read, read, read, read the excellent help files Ning provides. I pondered. I dreamed. I began to wonder…

And that is when I made one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (December 27, 2011).  All that I’ve learned throughout my online experiences has taught me to value collaboration, feedback, constructive criticism.  I knew/know/acknowledge that I will never please the entire population of the world, but also knew that I should not be creating this site alone.

There were complications. Because of the contract I and others had or had had with Global English/EnglishCafe, because of the uncertainties we were all experiencing as a result of the announcement of the site shutdown, because of the different directions other teachers on the site were taking, because of the high emotion a collective we were reeling from, because of many factors, there did not seem to be a likely colleague to work closely with.

But then, some angel of inspiration let me expand my thinking… why did it need to be a fellow TESOL (teacher of English to speakers of other languages) colleague?  Why couldn’t it be a colleague with expertise of online learning?

So… then… who?  It must be someone I ‘knew’ fairly well, knew instinctively I could work with (and whom would be / might be willing to work with me — not always an easy thing to do!). It needed to be someone who would be / might be willing to devote a fair number of hours.  It needed to be someone willing to ‘tell it like it is’ and ‘give it to me’.  It needed to be someone who wouldn’t just agree with me on nearly everything.  It needed to be someone with a sense of humor.

So… who?  Immediately, four names came to mind.  Two were not really considered because I knew their lives were too busy and it would be a huge burden to even consider asking them.  Of the other two, I will admit I chose “female over male.”  And so I approached Joanna.  And she said “Yes!”

And that is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

If you visit the Learn English With A Worldwide Perspective (LEWWP) site you will see evidence of our (Joanna and I) work together.

It is, of course, also the work of Ning, also the work of everyone mentioned above, and it is an ongoing work of collaborative energy.

~ ~ ~

It is my strong hope that at TESOL 2013 or another international conference, Joanna and I will be able to meet in person, perhaps with another member or two of LEWWP and share more details about our online PLN (personal/professional learning network) development journey.

~ ~ ~

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Collaboration

daily haiku:

recipes, workshops,

ingredients, handshakes, smiles

sunshine splashes through

~ ~ ~

Collaboration is a word that came to  mind quite often today.

What does the word ‘collaborate’ mean to you?

This weekend I watched and listened as my husband collaborated with a neighbor to frame in a new gabled roof  over our porch.  The tips and tricks to framing, to most carpentry/construction projects are beyond my current knowledge zone, but the maneuvers of collaboration were familiar.

At the JMRL booksale today, evidence of collaboration was evident. I’ve attended this sale for years (hope to be one of the volunteer collaborators one day) and part of the fun each year is noticing improvements to the overall operation.  The volunteers work all year, intense organization is involved, and streamlining the schedules, steps, tasks, procedures while adhering to library policies, attending to neighborhood parking challenges, increasing profits — is a massive undertaking! Kudos to the team.

Today I attended an interesting two-hour workshop about cooking with microwaves. The presenter shared several new-to-we-attendees ideas, many of which prompted questions as we prepared various recipes. It occurred to me as we nearly simultaneously asked the same questions (several times over), that this type of workshop would be an ideal way to prepare for writing a cookbook. Collaborating and revising the recipes themselves, but more importantly the details to include in the published collection — details more likely to ‘answer in advance’ the questions a majority of consumers might have.

As a co-moderator for EVO_Drama_2012  [“Electronic Village Online” (EVO) an online five-week workshop focusing on the use of drama in language learning], a spirit of collaboration is a must!  The co-moderators live and work in Argentina, Taiwan, Arizona, Vietnam, Virginia, New Hampshire, Delaware. It is exciting and rewarding, but not always easy.  Technology (tools such as wikis, Skype, YahooGroups and more) help immeasurably.

Reflecting on collaboration, family comes to mind, too. Planning weekend visits, holiday meals and travels, especially as my folks grow older, requires an increasing amount of collaborative effort.

Synonyms for collaboration include:

teamwork

joint effort

participation

partnership

working together

alliance

Today was a day full of collaboration — participating, witnessing, benefiting from, and more.

Was it the same for you?

~ ~ ~

And this afternoon I baked an apple pie (photo above) and prepared a new recipe from a cookbook I purchased at the library sale!

The result was a combination of two recipes and additional doctoring by moi — a sausage slumgullion of sorts:

sausage, onions, garlic, cumin, savory, black pepper, corn, garbanzo beans, peas, butternut squash, a few raisins, a smattering of date bits, served over small portions of angel hair pasta with Romano cheese!

delicious!