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.

~ ~ ~

Advertisements

EVOs rock!

haiku for today:

What color are thoughts

in the minds of mourning doves?

bright?  gray?  moss green?  void?

~ ~ ~

The hours flew like birds today — here, there, front yard, back yard, swoop!

EVO‘s are fabulous!  Free 5-week online workshops.

They overwhelm your life (or can) but oh the camaraderie, the expertise, the opportunities to learn and share.

It’s only officially one day in — but so much happens the firs few days!

It’s not too late to join.

Hope to see some of you there in a workshop, 15 to choose from!

~ and the race is on!

haiku for today:

eye of hurricane

swirls to and fro, spirals up

out-down-in! Huzzah!

~ ~ ~

The madhouse and mayhem of EVOs (Electronic Village Online) five-week free workshops has begun — it is officially Jan. 9th in some parts of the world!

What are these workshops, you might ask?

For five weeks in January-February, participants and ESOL experts can engage in collaborative, online discussion or hands-on virtual workshops of professional and scholarly benefit. These sessions will bring together participants for a longer period of time than is permitted by the land-based convention and will allow a fuller development of ideas than is otherwise possible.
 Sessions are free and open to anyone around the globe. Bring your colleagues!
http://evosessions.pbworks.com/w/page/48510148/Call_for_Participation2012

Sessions I’m involved in:

EVO_Drama_2012   Co-moderator

BAW  Participant, primarily a lurker, repeating the session because each year there is such energy, AND new things to learn!

Tutoring With Web 2.0 Tools   Hopeful participant, but also ‘newbie mentor’ for this group — thankfully the moderators of this group are wonderfully efficient, professional, prepared! (This means, I hope, that I will have very little ‘work’ to do, and much to glean and enjoy learning!)

~ ~ ~

The first days are always a bit insane, but incredibly fun (at least to / for me)!

As an example of some of the ‘fun’ for me: I’m reading through Week 1 introductions where folks are sharing tools they use, and although I am familiar with many that are being shared, I learned about this one:

http://www.futureme.org/  which looks like fun!

I usually try to keep my Yahoo Group settings to receive individual emails, but I think I may have to resort to daily digest this year… 50+ messages per hour is a bit too many!

I’ll close with a happy thought:  The weather here has been positively balmy, with spring jasmine blooming, daffodils thrusting their way up, birds chirping madly, and more!

physical exertion needed!

haiku for today:

Which animals might

have sore buns? Even the sloth

hangs rather than sits…

~ ~ ~

As the ELLwithHolly page on this blog explains, I have been incredibly busy these past many days, developing a language learning site using the Ning platform.

I purchased a nifty adjustable computer stand

And I use it on top of tables and/or serving stands — it allows me to stand up and work.

So I sit, then stand, then sit.

Sometimes I use my exercise ball:

But still… working (often) nearly non-stop from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. means that my rump is sore! My neck is sore! My shoulders and feet and legs and back are sore!

I need physical exertion!

And the time crunch is intense — balancing:

  • responsibilities to spouse and parents and home
  • private tutoring appointments with local ELLs (English Language Learners)
  • co-moderating a five-week online professional development workshop Jan. 9 to Feb. 12
  • **http://evosessions.pbworks.com/w/page/48510148/Call_for_Participation2012 (Registration is now open; check out this year’s offerings!!)
  •  editing a book (for a friend who hopes to publish)
  • job-hunting (in case the new site I hope to launch soon does not result in sufficient success; to keep all options open)
  • volunteer commitments with AIWR (Alliance for International Women’s Rights)
  • trying to find time to continue to saving pages from EnglishCafe.com (my ‘life’ for the past 3+ years; the site will be shutting down soon) using Firefox’s extension Scrapbook — an awesome tool that I highly recommend!
  • and more!

Life is indeed full. An apt way to begin a new year, don’t you agree?

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Post #3, seeking a higher degree of clarity…

…and finding my groove (or trying to).

I like the idea of my blog evolving into a daily haiku+ by which I mean that I hope to make the time to compose and post at least one haiku each day, and (+) add more reflective posts.

My plan of the moment is to add the haiku to each day’s post and to copy it to the haiku page I’ve added here to my blog.  This plan may change as/if I do continue and discover that this idea no longer feels right.

Today’s haiku (composed whilst still in bed this morning)

birdsong fills the eye

morning’s visual caffeine

unbidden alarm

~ ~ ~

For today’s post, I’ve been reflecting on how excited I am to have begun learning WordPress (finally!) and to be working (again) toward refining, defining what I want my blog presence here to be.

Having worked for over three years now on EnglishCafe.com, and having posted 419 blog posts there [http://www.englishcafe.com/blog/Smiling7], blogging is not exactly new.

When I taught abroad (Korea, 2004-2005), I created my first blogs, inspired by an EVO (Electronic Village Online) workshop, and used Tabulas to experiment with.  On a whim, I just googled and found that some of those links still exist (I stopped paying for my Tabulas account several years ago, and didn’t think the links would stay active:

http://jonquil.tabulas.com/2004/04/19/@235620/

http://blogblossoms.tabulas.com/2004/04/19/@235607/

http://smilin7.tabulas.com/

What fun to revisit them! 🙂

But the dedication to blogging consistently (as in daily) has escaped me.

I have a personal goal of maintaining this newly-revived WordPress blog for at least one year, and am more enthused than many of you might ever understand about the idea of actually composing 365+ daily haiku! (I believe haiku to be a noncount noun, but haiku or haikus seem to be accepted as a correct spelling by many).

An eclectic with tangential tendencies” is a phrase I often use to describe myself.  Compassionate, passionate, in many directions!

A challenge I will definitely have, a challenge I hope to conquer, is how to effectively house all of my tangential tendencies in one WordPress blog.  I hope that as I make gains on meeting this challenge I will acquire a following of readers (both lurkers for the mystery they contribute, and frequent commenters for the motivation and food for thought they provide).

RSS feeds are something I still have only basic familiarity with.  I have created a PageFlakes page, have added many feeds there and have some others that come through GoogleReader.  However, I’ve not yet mastered the daily drill of looking at the feeds!

I’ve been following and reading several listservs (ed.gov) Chris Brogan, Larry Ferlazzo, and ASCD SmartBriefsby email posts — for some time now.  As a fan of Twitter, I try to find time (but do not always succeed) to visit, scan, explore links shared there. A select few Twitter folks are set to have their tweets texted to my cell phone (one of my favorites = CarlaArena).

Keeping up with EnglishCafe.com, email, blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and more on a daily basis is daunting!  And pushes me to the brink of needing ‘digital detoxification‘ more often!  And yet I love it!

But I do not love how ‘it’ keeps me from enjoying the outdoors more than I used to.  These are common laments, certainly not unique to me. I find it somewhat laughable that one way to find balance might be to maintain this blog!

In an earlier post, I mentioned Shelly Terrell’s 30 Day Challenge.  As I reread my posts and revisited links, I realize that I am beginning with her 2010 list

http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/2010/02/01/goal-pass-the-baton/

and sort of combining it with her 2011 list

http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/30-goals-2011/

Motivational nudges abound from awe-inspiring educators around the world!

There are many, many others who inspire me whom I hope to mention in future posts.

Now I need to return to my fulfill some duties as co-moderator of the EVO_Drama_2012

*link to info about this year’s upcoming EVOs: