It’s a Blogosphere. Get over it.

Found this article in a news link the other day. It seems that the growing list of terminology surrounding the “new web” (can I call it that?) is getting up some people’s noses…

“Blog”, “netiquette”, “cookie” and “wiki” have been voted among the most irritating words spawned by the Internet, according to the results of a poll published on Thursday. Topping the list of words most likely to make web users “wince, shudder or want to bang your head on the keyboard” was folksonomy, a term for a web classification system. “Blogosphere”, the collective name for blogs or online journals, was second; “blog” itself was third; “netiquette”, or internet etiquette, came fourth and “blook”, a book based on a blog, was fifth. “Cookie”, a file sent to a user’s computer after they visit a website, came in ninth, while “wiki”, a collaborative website edited by its readers, was tenth.

I must say that I quite like the term “blogosphere”, although to be fair it didn’t make much sense to me until I became a blogger myself. However, I think it describes the blogging ecosystem rather well. It is amazing the way that we who write blogs all seem to become interlinked together… My friend Simon was telling me that when I published a podcast recently about his Flat Planet Project, the site hits on his wiki spiked into the hundreds over the next few days. It really is a very connected world.

Whenever I talk to teachers about blogging with their students, the usual first questions are “How will anyone ever find what we wrote?”, and “Why would anyone read what we write?” These are obvious questions, but to ask them is a great underestimation of just how big the Internet really is and the curiousity levels of the people who use it. I don’t really know how people find it, and why they read it. But I know they will and they do. I can’t explain how and why, but I know it works. If you build it, they will come.

One of the very first posts I ever wrote on this blog was about the nature of blogging as I naively understood it at the time. One of the things I wrote back then (that I now understand with much greater appreciation) is this…

…the true worth of blogging cannot be appreciated on a small scale. A single blog post, or even a single blog, is not what it’s all about. Blogging gets it’s power from becoming a large scale ecosystem, a thriving community of people all cross linking to each other, creating connections and networks of ideas. The power of blogging is way more than the sum of its individual parts, and to gauge the power of this new medium it needs to be seen in the light of the much bigger picture that it creates.

To me, the word “blogosphere” works well to describe that concept of connectedness between bloggers. I cannot think of a better pre-Web2.0 word to describe the same thing. Besides, I’m told that Shakespeare invented many words and phrases that did not exist before he dreamed them up… If he was trying to express an idea and there was not a readymade word to adequately say it, he just made one up. In fact, he made about 1700 of them up, according to one source I looked at.

The funny thing about that early post I wrote was that it was written in response to a book I read about blogging called “Who Let the Blogs out” by a fellow called Biz Stone, (Biz was behind things like Xanga, Odeo and Twitter). Within a week or so of me posting it, I stumbled across a response on Biz’s blog where he was commenting on my blogpost which was originally commenting on his book. As a beginning blogger, it was at that point that I realised just how truly interconnected we all are through this “blogosphere” thing.

So, like it or not, Blogosphere it is.

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Simon Says the Planet is Flat

Flat Planet Project If there was ever a doubt that the tools of Web 2.o are dramatically simplifying the way we can embed digital technologies into our classrooms, let me point you towards a neat little project run by a couple of amazing teachers who decided to dabble with the possibilities of a wiki. This wonderful piece of web collaboration was put together by Neil D’Aguiar from Richard Challoner Secondary School in New Maiden, Surrey, UK, and Simon O’Carroll from Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. It’s a great example of how something as simple as a wiki can be used to develop a sophisticated web project that works simply and easily across the boundaries of time and place. The site can be found at

I first met Simon when I was on a teacher exchange to Canada during 2006. We shared a workroom (and occasionally chicken wings) and became quite good mates. As a teacher of Religion, Simon was a relative newbie to the integration of technology into his classroom, but during the year he enrolled into a part-time Computers in the Classroom course. Each day after his course he would come and have a chat to me and ask questions about web technologies, and I really enjoyed our talks. It was fun to watch him get more and more fired up about the uses of ICT in his classroom, and in particular the things that Web 2.0 was making possible. We spoke about blogs and wikis, podcasting and social networking. Simon started to blog regularly, and still has a nice little blog happening at He played with a number of different blog engines like WordPress and Blogger. Then he started to investigate wikis, playing with Wikispaces and PBwiki. He’d come into work each day and tell me about some new discovery he’d made on the web, or ask for my opinion about some new technology. It was really exciting to see the web through his eyes.

Not long after I got back to Australia, Simon wrote to me to tell me about the Flat Planet Project that he started with Neil from the UK. It’s humbling to realise just how easy it can be to start a project like this, because it is was simple as just making contact and asking for a partner, as he did with Neil. It’s such a beautifully simple idea… connect two sets of students from two schools in two countries, give them a common task and provide them with the tools to work across the web. No wonder the site was chosen as the Wikispace of the Month for April! As I look through the pages they have created, you can just tell what a great job the kids did, and from all accounts they thoroughly enjoyed working on it. You can see the positive benefits of this collaboration, and just how much more meaningful this task was because of its authenticity. This is what the new web makes possible!

I wanted to highlight the work done by the kids at Challoner and Trinity, and the great work done by Simon and Neil in leading the kids through this project. Education can be stiflingly conservative at times, so it’s wonderful to see teachers stepping out of their comfort zones and extending both themselves and their kids with projects like this. Good on you Simon, Neil and all the kids who took part!

I’m hoping to interview Simon and Neil very soon on The Virtual Staffroom Podcast, so keep that RSS feed tuned in!

Funny but Flat

A friend sent me an email with this note in it.  I had a chuckle at the intended humour, and quickly realised just how close to the mark it really was.  I made a few minor modifications to it, but here it is…

Question: What is the truest definition of Globalization?

Answer: Princess Diana’s death.

You ask why? An English princess with an Egyptian boyfriend crashes in a French tunnel, driving a German car with a Dutch engine, driven by a Belgian who was drunk on Scottish whisky followed closely by Italian Paparazzi on Japanese motorcycles; treated by an American doctor, using Brazilian medicines.

This is posted to an Australian blog site, using American technology, and you’re probably reading this on a computer that use Taiwanese chips and a Korean monitor, assembled by Bangladeshi workers in a Singapore plant.

That, my friends –  is Globalization!

I realise there are probably a couple of liberties taken with the truth there, but on the whole it is amazing when you start to think about just how global the world has become in the last couple of decades.

The point is, how do we tap into that level of diversity in our schools?   The world has become one big village, and more and more people in the world of business and government seem to know how important is is to be able to share and collaborate together in that village.  The one environment where we still forget (or ignore) this global village concept seems to be in our school system, where working globally is still largely seen as a novel approach to teaching moreso than a necessity of a 21st century education.