I've been working in educational technology for the last 14 years: first at OMSI, then at Portland State, and most recently at rSmart, focused on Sakai open source collaboration and learning technologies. As of February 2013, I have joined former data-journalist Marshall Kirkpatrick's startup, Little Bird, here in Portland, Oregon as Doorman: leading marketing, sales, and support.
I'm profoundly excited by Little Bird. While it may seem like a dramatic departure from my edtech work, at it's heart, Little Bird is ultimately a powerful tool for learning, bringing you directly to the leading people and most worthy content in any topic. Little Bird can help anyone do with purpose what I have done haphhazardly and organically: building my own understanding and relationships by connecting to people that matter, first online, but then also, almost always, offline as well. Needless to say, I wouldn't be joining Little Bird if I hadn't first learned from, and then met and developed a relationship with Marshall on Twitter. Now with Little Bird, we are working to enable everyone to learn and build relationships that can change their work and lives.
This last April I had the privilege of telling a story on stage at Back Fence PDX, the innovative storytelling event brought to us by @melissalion and Frayn Masters at Portland's Mission Theater. At Back Fence, regular folks get up on stage and each tells a true, personal, unrehearsed story that lasts no longer than eight minutes, all linked to a general theme for the evening. Melissa and Frayn preselect the storytellers and audition their stories before the event, so it's not an open mike. Back Fence is more like blogging live in a nightclub.
My story for the evening's "fish out of water" theme recounted some misadventures in my unorthodox schooling and an all-too easy walkabout in wild Utah that together ultimately led to the simple lesson: when all else fails, study hard for the SAT.
Watch my whole 8-minute story below. Excuse the choppy video and wear your headphones to catch the audio.
In June, Back Fence was back, this time with a story from the whitest African-American I know, Rael Dornfest, the craggy mind behind the now-mythic Values of N and a user experience engineer at Twitter. Rael told the tale of his family's wild ride into the dark heart and eventually out of apartheid South Africa to the tune of that night's theme: "caught red-handed".
Also in June, Back Fence featured the precariously Kentuckian @jshardison with a real "don't try this at home" story dripping with Southern atmosphere and exploded bits. I have no idea what this man is or does, but I just try to stay at a safe distance.
Videos of Rael's and Jeff's stories weren't captured, but bring your funny bone, your dy-NO-mite and your "what have I done lately" for social justice to Back Fence this coming Fall. Get thee hence for local, organic, homemade entertainment.
I admit I've been lurking in a very slackernly manner in all the discussions in the Sakai community about content authoring, 3akai, UX, K2, Sakai NG and other unpronounceables, so I'm sorry if all this is a day late and a dollar short. Feel free to ignore me if you're part of Sakai and are way too far gone for any more input. After all, these are just thought experiments ;) If you're not part of Sakai, you might learn something about Drupal at least, so it may well be worth your time.
I draw some lessons here from Twitter and Drupal not to suggest that Sakai duplicate them, but rather that we hold those models in mind as we move Sakai forward. Even without these experiments, some of these ideas may be in our thinking about Sakai, so if they are familiar, take it as a vote of confidence. But if not, I'd like us to have at least thought through why we would not take them as inspiration or why we would choose another path.
In the lessons I draw from Twitter and Drupal below, I may come off as a bit of a zealot. Frankly, I have a greater appreciation for Twitter and Drupal as tools that I have for Sakai as a tool—my greatest appreciation for Sakai has always been for its community. But I would like to appreciate Sakai-the-tool as much or more than Twitter and Drupal, and I think I could, given the directions I see Sakai heading now.
But why Twitter and Drupal? When I'm thinking about all this Sakai stuff, my first thought is to reach for existing models. And the models I reach for are the handy ones. Why? Because there must be some reason I keep certain tools handy. There are lots of good tools, but the ones that fit so comfortably in my hand are well-worn for a reason. I also know them well—keen edges and ugly nicks—and so can draw the best lessons from them.