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500 Bucks or DS106 Radio?

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Like gravity, the influence of two bodies on each other is inversely proportional not only to the square of their distance but possibly even the cube of the distance between them. -Hall

California is in fiscal trouble.  As such, professional development funds are in short supply.  At my institution, I can apply for access to no more than $500 in professional development funds annually.  Needless to say, $500 doesn’t even cover the registration fees for most of the conferences that I would like to attend, not to mention travel, hotel, etc.  So I attend webinars – disconnected, single topic, 1 hour lunchtime endeavors.  I read.  I cultivate a network.  While these are more or less valuable endeavors, they lack the “everything else” factor, the physical, the personal, the proxemic.  Professional contact, laughter, beer, fiery rhetoric, the mind-focusing effects of travel stress, new cities (or more often new conference centers and hotel lobbies), strange coincidences, late night philosophes, one too many, cramped cab rides, true immersion, true connection.

Recent ds106 happenings – the call-in mandatory bitch session, the live from ELI2011 roundtable, and a conversation with @downes this morning (during which Stephen Downes provided another perspective on the question of why Candian EdTechs and EdThinkers seem to kick so much ass – my Canadian colleague cites weather and population density, Downes says it’s because Canadians enjoy real freedom) – have me thinking about communication in various contexts, both in workshops and online courses.  The typical conference backchannel is often a disconnected affair, an adult version of Piaget’s collective monologue.  Occasionally something interesting will bubble up.  More often than not, the presenter doesn’t pay enough attention to make it really more than an afterthought – something is lost in translation.

Enter ds106.  Given the freedom of optional participation, the course has functioned for me as the best kind of immersive, connected professional development, and ds106 radio has played a huge role in that immersion.  The late night/early morning AM/PM worldwide radio crew, the experimentation, the back and forth, the epic multi-DJ radio jam, all of it.  ds106 radio is like mass communication for the few.  That is, you can find out how many people are listening (+/- 1 or 2 – it’s a safe bet that some folks are out there but not showing up in the counts), address them directly via Twitter (or give them the business for ignoring it), take requests, shout out to every single listener (except the ones you don’t know are there), pass the mic to Japan, and just generally connect in unusual and interesting ways.  It feels different than any other online class, or online experience, or workshop or really anything.  It feels like real connection.

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