Notes from Chicago eLearning & Technology Showcase

I attended the Chicago eLearning & Technology Showcase on August 5. My objective was to learn more about the marketplace of employers, contractors, services, and technology. I was looking for opportunities: for myself, by applying my skills or developing new ones; for our work at the American Library Association, new products and developing a network of contractors to help develop them.

I’ll mix and match ideas from these sessions:

Keynote: Cammy Bean,  Careers in eLearning

Choose Your Own Adventure, Tim Buteyn and Stephania Buteyn of ThinkGap Learning Solutions

Free and Cheap eLearning Tools, Apryl Cox Jackson and Jennifer De Vries

Curb Appeal: Connecting Strategy & Engagement Through User Experience, Ed Roach and Gary Bersh

Using Mobile Technology to Mak On-the-Job Learning and Coaching Practical, Marty Rosenheck

Some tools I learned about:

Twine. Free tool designed for interactive storytelling, adapted to make branching scenario-based scripting, exported in HTML for review by SMEs. Then used in Articulate.
Articulate, simpler to use, easier learning curve than Adobe Captivate, also, it’s expensive, out of reach for the contractor.

The hub of elearning activity is the enterprise, particularly larger corporations, and the services they contract for, as evident in attendees and background of spekaers.

E-learning is a visual medium. Design matters. Think like a web designer. Look for interface examples from ecommerce or other sites outside of elearning. Make an effort to engage.

Best elearning is short videos available as needed, at the task, Marty Rosenheck has concluded. Cammy Bean calls it “spaced learning.”

Focus on performance, social element. Human. Space the learning, as opposed to the cram. Think like a web designer. Look for interface examples from ecommerce or other sites outside of elearning. Make an effort to engage.

Marty Rosenheck, from CognitiveAdvisors.com, calls himself a learning experience designer because that’s how people learn.  Center for Creative Leadership survey showed that 70 percent of learning is experiential; 20 percent, informal and social; 10 percent, formal. The apprentice system was the best for learning, but it’s not scaleable. Technologies now enable it: Mobile, Experience API (works like SCORM instead of tracking courses, it’s experiences) analytics, the cloud, badges (based on a specific project or accomplishment). He talked about the nano-coaching model, citing Elliott Masie, an alternative to the learning management system, designed for formal courses.

The mix of skillsets–

Cammy Bean calls it pieces of a pie: 1) learning theory; 2) creative (visual and writing); 3) business 4) technology. When you try to do it all, you’re ineffective. Where’s your sweet spot? Where are your gaps? Similarly, Ed Roach presented a triangle: learning theory (ISD). Creative. Tech. Model for learning, presented by Rosenheck: Plan-Do-Reflect. The reflect component would encompass note-taking and journals, which has been of interest to me.

Rapid development tools means that anybody can do it, but it’s also lead to “elearning malpractice.”

Applying to my work and career–

I sensed that the elearning efforts in enterprise were marginalized and undervalued, and a challenge is to persuade management to use it, and employees to take and finish courses. Less convincing may be needed for our library customers, for whom larning is a core value; as vendors, our challenge is to offer enough value for it to be purchased. We could position our products as for the library as a whole, more than individual librarians, and build products, such as subscription-based platform, that can offer as-needed tutorials or videos, and tools for assessment that our customers, not our instructors would apply.  Replace our certification with badges that are performance-based?  Educause is using badges.

 Give badges for real performance output, not just taking a course.

Both for me personally and in ALA Publishing, the creative skill set is our strength. We could benefit by learning from instructional design, learning theory skills. Technology as a core skill for career is a long-shot at this stage, and at the same time, at a rudimentary level, a must for “rapid development” or prototyping.

Cultivating Personal Learning Networks

A big part of my work is developing network among writers, speakers, and leaders in the library and information services community. I ask questions, listen for opportunities in the marketplace, and seek referrals. I’m attracted to the idea of personal learning networks, which uses similar techniques. A gift of the Internet is all the learning opportunities outside of formal education, expanding from people you would meet face to face.

Howard Rheingold discussed how to cultivate a personal network with his Twitter network, coming up with a series of eight practices, which he explains in his book Net Smart. “Personal Learning Networks,” he writes, “connect the co-learners with the texts with the texts, videos, open-courseware lecures, info radars, and social media discussion platforms available online, and PLNs tea themselves how to better use PLNs.”

  1. Explore multiple media– blogs, twitter Facebook social bookmarking Q&A sites, and people you meet. Be open to serendipitous encounters. Use what works for you. PLN candidates will emerge.
  2. Search after you’ve explored. Use terms you’ve picked up. Look at blogs, twitter feeds, and other social media.
  3. Follow candidates’ activity streams in blogs and social media, like RSS, Twitter, YouTube, Quora, Tumblr, Scoop.it, Diigo, Flickr.
  4. Tune your network by dropping people who don’t seem worth regularly spending attention on. Add, observe, keep or delete. Reciprocity is not an expectation with following.
  5. Feed the people who follow you by sharing value when you find or create it, whether  it’s information, social, entertainment.
  6.  Engage the people you follow. Be polite and careful about making demands on their attention. Could be tricky with people you don’t know.
  7.  Inquire of the people you follow and those who follow you. Ask engaging questions. It’s magical if the answer can help others too. Don’t ask about facts quickly discovered with a web search.
  8.  Respond to inquiries made to you. Contribute to “diffuse reciprocity.” Feed the network if you know something you think others need to know, even if you aren’t returning a specific individual’s favor.

Asking what jobs customers need to get done

Brian Matthews, presenting his paper Art of Problem Discovery at a recent conference for Association of College and Research Libraries, referenced Clayton Christensen’s idea of asking the question, “What job do your customers want to get done?” Choosing not to go into that in his presentation, he said to Google it if you want to know what Christensen meant by that. So I did.

I love newspapers, and I’ve long thought that conversation about the newspaper response to the Internet was applicable to publishing.  I listened to this interview with Clayton Christensen and read the article “Breaking News,” from the Fall 2012 issue of Nieman Reports.

 Disruptive technology has hit publishing, of course. In my work at the American Library Association, we develop professional education resources for the library and information services. In the past few years, our fee-based webinars and asynchronous online courses have generated a substantial and growing revenue stream. Still, the bulk of our revenue in book sales, which have declined sharply in the past 18 months. I’m drawn to the ideas of Clayton Christensen for a response.

What jobs do librarians and other staff of the library and information services need to get done?

So many that have nothing to do with professional development, I’m thinking. Where to start? Brainstorm style thinking  of all that need to get done, then narrowing to those we can help with? Brian Matthews’s list of  jobs his academic library customers needed to get done included getting clothes to wear for interviews. Some academic institutions are getting into lending clothes, apparently. Should the library get into that? The career center would be the more likely home for the service, but perhaps the library partners with them. They do have an expertise in purchasing materials for circulation.

In conversation with an academic librarian, I learned of a job to get done: The library is committed to innovation and change in services and is hiring staff that have not been to library school, thus missing some of the “culturalization” an MLS program offers. She suggested ecourses that would teach the principles of intellectual freedom in libraries to these new staff.

Christensen identifies three questions about your business once you have an understanding of jobs your customers need to get done.

  1. How to improve existing products so that they are better than the competitions?
  2. What existing products are no longer viable and should be cut?
  3. What new products could address a different job to be done?

“Culture eats strategy every time.” In ALA Publishing, we are no doubt a book-publishing culture.

As successful companies mature, employees gradually begin to assume that the processes and priorities that have worked in the past are the right ones for the future. Once employees operate under these assumptions, rather than make conscious choices those processes and priorities become the organizational culture.  We have a challenge before us.

I’ve heard talk of an ALA University, which carries come potential. I think elearning, more likely than books, will help our customers get their job done. Christensen would argue that such an initiative would need to be a new unit, separate from the influence of ALA Publishing or ALA divisions and with protection of senior management.  Perhaps part of our early success in our elearning offerings is that they were separate from our traditional publishing processes.

First things first.  We need to start asking, what job do our customers need to get done.

I finished a MOOC!

Now a few months since I completed my MOOC,  time to reflect and close it out.

My final project was a Prezi. I did my best to keep it simple. The project was peer-graded by three classmates, a couple of whom noted my communicating my idea simply. I’ll take it as a complement. Here is.

A writer and editor by trade, I’m most comfortable communicating with text. I was lured the course’s promise to explore visual communication. And it brought me to an uneasy acceptance of that cultural discourse is increasingly visual. My trade is relegated. Packed in my closet are boxes of black and white negative sleeves, proof sheets, and favorite prints. I long ago figured out that writing has little value in the job marketplace without pairing– with topic knowledge, technology tools, or other media. I can still compose a photograph with freshness, I’m not convinced that investing time in digital photography is the best path for job skill building.

While each week’s assignments used video shorts to communicate, we read also. Plodding through the first week’s theoretical text reminded me of my distaste for academic writing. Sown were seeds of doubt on my choice. I wanted hard skills. I could be learning Google Analytics. Even so, I acknowledge that if it’s higher ed institutions driving MOOCS, then learning should be at the theoretical level. I see lots of topics in MOOC or iTunes U that appeal to intellectual curiosity, but not for me now, with my focus on skillbuilding for jobs.

The attrition rate for MOOCs is famously high. I doubt its significance in these early days, when people sign up for little more than passing curiosity. I was infused by a spirit of perseverance, a need to practice discipline. I wanted to finish.

Like many of my classmates, I took a MOOC to learn about MOOCs and the class was self referential in many ways. “Are we all guinea pigs?” somebody commented Google Hangout.

The potential of the MOOC was interaction with classmates. The course designers built in opportunities, such as incorporating RSS feeds of blog posts with the #edmooc tag. Participants created communities in Facebook and Google Plus. I  didn’t take advantage of the peer learning opportunities mainly because of time constraints. I wanted to view and read assignments, reflect, and blog my impressions before reading comments from others. By the time I got that done, usually on a Monday evening, it was on the next week’s assignments. I thought that when the class was over, I might go back to Google Plus. I haven’t. Yet.

I haven’t browsed MOOC catalogs since March. I thought of a social network analytics class. It was heavy in computer analysis, but not the kind I would be using.  I knew it wasn’t realistic with a vacation planned and tasks deferred over those weeks in my first MOOC, like tax preparation. Next up to me is learning with good old fashioned books Web Analytics: an Hour a Day and Google Analytics.

Now to get that certificate of completion.

#edcmooc Week 4: Redefining the human

This week’s showings of the #edcmooc film society may have been my favorite overall. How will I find shorts like these in the future?

The films “Robbie and “Gumdrop” portrayed robots in a human way, and in so doing trigger thoughts of what defines us as human. Robbie makes a comment, out of nowhere, about choosing to be Catholic. Faith is a quality that is distinctively human, but more striking is the act of “choosing,” which shows agency in the robot. The robot Gumdrop is, in a word, charming, which is itself human. To dissect it, I liked her humor and expressiveness of emotion. The whimsical film presents the robot as an actress being interviewed. In that context, we invite our stereotype of “the actress,” and observe her heightened self-awareness. She is indeed self-possessed.

I tend to be skeptical of futuristic portrayals of cyborgs– or humans enhanced to the degree that they blur their human identity. Too out there for me. The mood and tone is dark, a dystopian world. The images reminded me of what I would have imagined reading cyberpunk fiction like Neuromancer. The Bostrom article presents the concept of “transhumanism” in a way that removes it from fantasy. I see how technology is leading us incrementally toward posthumanism. I love the options Bostrom presents to people’s natural desire for a long life: “choosing a healthy lifestyle or making provisions for having themselves cyrogenically suspended in case of de-animation.” Um, I’ll stick to my carrots and regular exercise.

The Bostrom article takes a logical and socially conscious approach. Education itself is an enhancement in a sense. Bostrom writes, there are limits to what can be achieved using “education, philosophical contemplation, moral self-scrutiny and other methods proposed by classical philosophers with perfectionist leanings.” He sees a role for education in helping society make wise decisions about technological enhancement, with knowledge, democracy, and rule of law. The film “True Skin” portrays an underclass that is “organic” and shown in suffering state. “My only chance was to enhance,” the protagonist said. Bostrom writes about uploading memory, which turns up in the film as memory insurance, concept echoed in “True Skin”: uypload your memories, and if something happens to your body, they can be downloaded to a root so that you can live forever.

Reading Bostrom, I’m reminded of the Ignite presenter Anna Newitz quote, “You can’t stop the signal.” Whereas I might find technological enhancement to be undesirable, an affront against nature. now, viewed as a continuum, I look at it differently. What enhancements? How shall we enhance? As Bostrom suggests, how can we do so in a socially responsible way.

Perhaps I have to rethink my position on whether steroid-using baseball players should be voted into the Hall of Fame.

Films
Robbie
Gumdrop
True Skin
Avatar days

Reading
Bostrom (2005) ‘Transhumanist values’ reproduced from Review of Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 4, May (2005)

Perspectives on Education
System upgrade: realising the vision for UK education (2012) EPSRC Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme.
Carr, M. (2008) Is Google making us stupid?

#edcmooc Week 3: Reasserting the human

Again in #edcmooc, we navigate a world that is both physical and virtual, now looking at where human-ness lies.

Steve Fuller’s TEDx Warwick talk raises the question that I haven’t considered in some dozen years (thankfully),  distracted as I’ve been by the mundane of getting through the day: what it means to be human. In readings and film, #edcmooc has looked at education’s role in human development, while looking at the technology as either an instrument or an outside force. Fuller gives historical perspective, hearkening to the ancient Greeks, who put education at center of being human. In the modern artifice, we take an engineering approach. Humanity is apart from physical existence; it can be enhanced. A slide presents a dichotomy of interpretations of humanity.

  • Closer to god: signature science, optics.
  • Closer to animals: signature science, natural history.

The lecture presents a framework for interpreting the week’s selection of films. Surely throughout the class, we’ve seen lots of optics in futuristic clips.

As advertisements, for Toyota GT86 and the phone services of Heart to Heart, present by a simple message. Toyota presents the natural world as “real,” more human than the pixel images of technology. It also emphasize human agency. Autonomous cars are coming and clearly are a threat to the auto industry. Human control of the machine is portrayed as better. In “Heart to Heart,” a telephone conversation is a richer form of communication to the man who reaches out to his wife for a warmer, more intimate communication medium than text-based messages offer.

The quirky “They’re made of meat” raises questions about what it means to be human. I think it’s a play on the slang “meat space.” Visiting aliens view human communications as bizarrely meat-based. It flips our perceptions, where the physical is generally considered to be more real. So too, in World Builder.  The woman is incapacitated, in a “Neuroholographic Recovery Room.” The man, through a computer program, builds a romantic village street, that is both centuries-old, with fountains, and modern, with power lines. The woman experiences this world only in her mind, but it is sufficient to give her pleasure.  Both these films suggest a level of communication and interaction that is meaningful, yet beyond the physical world.

The Kolowich article suggests that online education is made more human, with video or audio. I think the real point is that it is more engaging or even entertaining. As Fuller states, what is human is a complex question, and Kolowich is not engaging at that level. That aside, I would agree that the richer sensory experience enriches the education. In my work in ALA’s elearning program, we have encouraged instructors to use video or audio clips.

I found much of Monk’s arguments to be compelling. My wife is a school librarian, and we have often discussed how the reading and reading aloud with is undervalued in today’s K-12 world. A few ideas echoed my sentiment after viewing the promotional clip of Week 2 for Corning.  I like the quote Theodore Roszak: “ An excess of information may actually crowd out ideas, leaving the mind (young minds especially) distracted by sterile, disconnected facts, lost among shapeless heaps of data.” Building on this, Monk writes “Accumulation, manipulation sharing of information edge out contemplation, and expression of ideas and the gradual development of meaningful connectons in the world.”  If technology drives education, it ends up in a place where technology excels.

The O’Reilly Radar blog pointed to a Dan Meyer blog post with this excerpt. (Note the use of metaphor!)

The Internet is like a round pipe. Lecture videos and machine-scored exercises are like round pegs. They pass easily from one end of the pipe to the other.

But there are square and triangular pegs: student-student and teacher-student relationships, arguments, open problems, performance tasks, projects, modeling, and rich assessments. These pegs, right now, do not flow through that round pipe well at all.

Online education does make it possible for this sort of connection and overcomes the limitations of time and space. I see the real potential of the MOOC to be outside the classroom or the lecture hall. I’ve used a Google+ Community as a place for my interaction, but I’ve hardly had the time to manage the readings and these summary posts, and my activity with other students has been minimal. I haven’t tested whether the potential that I see is realized in this course.

Films
Toyota GT86: the ‘real deal’ advert
Heart to Heart
World builder
They’re made out of meat

Ideas and Interpretation

Humanity 2.0: defining humanity – Steve Fuller’s TEDx Warwick talk (24:08),

Perspectives on Education
Kolowich, S (2010) The Human Element. Inside Higher Ed
Monke, L (2004) The Human Touch, EducationNext

#edcmooc Week 2 Looking to the Future

Anna Newitz quotes a line from movie from serenity “You can’t stop the signal,” stating that it represents both the hope and the fear of technology. With social media technology, revolutionary ideas will get out, but you can’t stop the mind control. The interpretation fits the selection of films for viewing in Week 2.

The corporate films show the promise of technology, revolutionary ideas in the form of invention. The Corning film uses comforting images of family and children, wholesome stuff. Health is improved with technology, as is workplace productivity. Overlooked were military applications, where augmented reality is applied today.  “Sight” flips augmented reality, as a disturbing gamification representation of a date. The dystopian films “Charlie” and “Plurality” portray government’s use of technology to control individuals, restricting privacy and civil liberty. Appropriately, Alison, in “Plurality” is a journalists who traditionally are the check against government control, the voice standing up for the people.

Depicting technology in writing or film will come with a point of vew. The essay “Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the Internet” brings attention to the use of metaphor as a signal for point of view. Shirky uses MP3s as a symbol of the corporate power of the recording industry losing its control of the market and methods for people’s purchase and listening of music. He then connects it by metaphor to higher ed. Online courses represent an unbundling of courses from expensive university degree programs. Bady, in his response,  equates the MOOCs to corporate for-profit education. He argues that true mass education was offered in higher quality “mass education,” state universities, now strained by reduced government funding.

Gardner Campbell’s provocative keynote speech calls for an “opening” of education. I take that to mean breaking the boundaries of the traditional classroom or lecture hall and allowing for connection to other ideas. I think the MOOC model facilitates this, as #edcmooc is demonstrating. Campbell’s ideas resonated with the principles for innovative breakthrough that Steven Johnson describes in his book Where Great Ideas Come From. He argues that moving beyond the context of research or a discipline and allowing outside influences is the secret sauce of innovation. Johnson quotes Arthur Koestler, author of Teh Act of Creation, “all decisive events in the history of scientific  thought can be described in terms of mental cross-fertizlization between different disciplines.” Transcontextual learning.

Films viewed
A Day Made of Glass 2
Productivity Future Vision
Sight
Charlie
Plurality

Annalee Newitz Ignite talk (7:15) social media is science fiction

Reading
Johnston, R (2009) Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the internet. First Monday, 14(4).

Perspectives on education
Shirky, C. (2012). Napster, Udacity and the academy. shirky.com, 12 November 2012.

Bady, A. (2012). Questioning Clay Shirky. Inside Higher Ed, 6 December 2012.

Keynote speech
Campbell, Gardner (2012). Ecologies of Yearning. Keynote at Open Ed ’12, October 16, 2012, Vancouver BC. (63:19)

#edcmooc Week 1 Utopias and Dystopias: Looking to the Past

Films viewed
Bendito Machine 3
Inbox

Thursday

Readings
Chandler, D. (2002). Technological determinism. Web essay, Media and Communications Studies, University of Aberystwyth.
Daniel, J. (2002). Technology is the Answer: What was the Question? Speech from Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa, Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 27-29 May 2002.
Noble. D. (1998). Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education. First Monday 3/1.

I first viewed all  the film shorts and took notes, then read the articles. The article “Technological Determinism” helped me develop a perspective on the films, all of were dystopian with the possible exception of “Inbox.” The basic questions is whether technology shapes society or whether society shapes technology. The commons sense answer is, well, both. I had to resist the urge to drop the academic article as too theoretical to bother with. I couldn’t help thinking of skills on my professional development list that would directly apply to work. I’m glad I persevered. I don’t accept the argument for technological determinism, which I see as categorical, though I would acknowledge that technology does  signficantly shape human interaction.

A quote from Isaac Bashevis Singer resonated with me: “We have to believe in free will. We have no choice.”  A quote from Ruth Finnegan, who is strongly critical of technological determinism, expresses my view, especially in the context of the #edcmooc course, “there is something to be said for it as a way of illumnating reality for us.”

The film “Thursday” for me best expresses the idea of technological determinism, as the characters seem to be in cycle of being directed by technology, and distanced from the natural world. In “Bendito Machine,” the characters, while powerless at least seem to make a decision to engage with the technology. The characters in “Inbox” put technology to a social use in their lives.

The Daniel speech allows for a positive, utopian view of technology in education, while acknowledging realistic pitfalls to watch for. He sees technology as solving three limitations in spreading education worldwide: cost, access, and quality. Quality is the toughest to achieve. I believe in these principles, which is one reason, I’m taking a MOOC course.

The Noble implicitly argues against technological determinism. The author addressed use of educational technology through a lens that is economic, political, and social. Through a strike, he and colleagues have resisted technology. Yet, now 14 years hence from this 1998 essay, perhaps technology does roll forward, no stopping it. I would imagine he and his colleagues are making course content available online, even if only through learning management systems with restricted access.

The Balanced Money Formula

I appreciate simplicity in design, including in my personal finances. Reading the Get Rich Slowly blog,  learned about the Balanced Money Formula, presented in the book All Your Worth, by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi.

book coverWarren and Tyagi recommend allocating after tax take home pay as follows.

  •  Must Haves: 50 percent
  • Wants: 30 percent
  • Saving: 20 percent

A few items deducted from our gross income get allocated elsewhere. Health insurance is a Must Have; retirement contributions go to Savings. To get the math right, they should also be added to take home pay. Must Haves is looked at in a narrow sense  as primarily food and shelter, but also any loan payments, any items where you’re under contract for, transportation to work, utilities, and the like. The book includes worksheets for Must Haves and Saving. The Wants are simply what remains– to be spent, by definition, on whatever you want.

The formula basically puts pencil to paper on the adage: live within your means. Warren advocates for consumers protection in her writing and policy positions. Generally, we Americans are typically not as good as our parents’ generation at living within our means, but on the other hand, they had nowhere near the access to credit that we do. We need more discipline, or, as Warren’s critics might put it, a nanny state.

Regarding a savings program, the authors recommend allotting 5 percent to extra mortgage payments and 10 percent to retirement. If your employers contribute to retirement, you can go less. The remaining 5 percent, if you have kids, should be for college, I guess.

I don’t recall exactly because presently our savings for college is for the bill coming due in a few months. Saving for our kids’ college has brought peaks and valleys to our Money Formula. We pay partly with withdrawals from Section 529 Savings Plan and also the short term savings.  Soon after our kids were born, Chris left the workforce and we lived lean on my salary, putting what was left over into retirement, but nothing substantial to college. When she returned to the workforce, we strived to mostly live on my salary and put hers into college savings. As it happened, the various enrichment activities for our kids — music lessons, sports fees, camps — came out of the second income pot. With the expense of college today, it’s hard for it not to skew cash flow, and therefore, the balanced money formula.

I haven’t yet analyzed our ledger. I’m guessing it will take a few hours, but I think it’s worth a chunk of time to get the status. “What do you count college as?, ” Chris asked, “A Must Have or a Want?” It’s a Want, by the formula, but society is telling us that we ought to want it bad for our kids. If it’s a Want, then it’s not specifically accounted for with the book’s worksheets.  Our Savings allotment will come up high. I think our Must Haves are close to in balance.  By subtraction, our Wants will come up low. The authors would say, enjoy life a bit. No, we can’t not now. We’re scrambling to save for the big Want of responsible middle class parents; it’s simply masquerading as Saving.

Spreading the ideas of Bringing Nature Home

We recently attended a lecture by Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, and left energized by his ideas. A couple of slides used visuals to powerfully convey the decline in forested land, showing forested land in the United States first in the mid -1800s and the second in modern times. The audience gasped. An entomologist, Doug Tallamy’s idea is simple, achievable, and hyperlocal. By landscaping our backyards with native plants and trees, we can regain what was lost. Native plants bring insects, which attract birds, and in turn wildlife, rebuilding the ecosystem. Conversely, trees and plants brought over from faraway lands, don’t attract the insects native to ours.

A recurring theme in the lecture, a running joke really, was complaints from neighbors, despite the beauty of native plant landscapes showcased in slides. In fact, we found the Tallamy lecture by way of joining local native plant group Wild Ones, which I learned of by reading a newspaper article about a legal battle between native plant gardeners and a homeowners association. As Tallamy noted, few people give much thought to where their plants are from. People will pick out what they like at the garden store or follow the recommendations of the landscapers. In the question and answer session, Tallamy commented that landscapers will carry natives when people start asking for them. I can’t help but think that people would be more receptive to native planting if only they saw Tallamy’s lecture. People simply don’t know. Is the lecture on the Internet? How might the idea spread?

First there is the book, . “The book is indelible,”  said Art Plotnik, writer and our editorial director when I started my job with ALA Editions, the American Library Associations book publishing imprint. It’s as true as ever, while words in bits swarm and morph in the Internet. Bringing Nature Home was published by Timber Press in 2007 and revised in 2009.  The first 70 pages are open in Google Books.

The book sprung the lectures, like the one we attended, and they’re announced on the book’s  website. Searching YouTube, I found a two-minute clip (below) of the lecture that we saw and a full-length video of a lecture on biodiversity at Butler University.

I found a Facebook page for the book, and I liked it. Past lectures turned up in search as event pages.  I went to my LibraryThing account and added it to my library. I went to Goodreads, adding it to my Want to Read list.  I searched Google+ , which I’ve used only for job-related Hangouts, and found related links in the stream and made my own. Nothing on Tumblr.

The book lends authority and credibility. Internet spreads the ideas. If it’s spreading the ideas you want–and isn’t that why people write books — then unpack them and post them.