Digital Habitats now in print!

On our FLNW tour I shared the proof with my traveling companions. Sylvia took this picture! I’m excited that Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities” is now PUBLISHED! You can find the early ordering details on the book’s blog site. It will be a while until it shows up on Amazon.

In case you are a new reader (and have not read my obsessions about the book over the years), here is the book info:

Technology has changed what it means for communities to “be together.” Digital tools are now part of most communities’ habitats. This book develops a new literacy and language to describe the practice of stewarding technology for communities. Whether you want to ground your technology stewardship in theory and deepen your practice, whether you are a community leader or sponsor who wants to understand how communities and technology intersect, or whether you just want practical advice, this is the book for you.

Written by Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John D. Smith, the book brings together conceptual thinking, case studies and offers a guide for understanding how technology can help a community do what it wants to do. It gives a glimpse into the future as community and technology continue to affect and influence each other.

Future of Learning in a Networked World

Derek relaxes on the Angel's Lake trail, Olympic National ParkSix of us are in Forks, Washington, on our Future Learning in a Networked World 09 Pacific Northwest US road trip. We are at Manitou lodge, all with our laptops, uploading pictures, writing and having a conversation with each other all the while.

Five of us started out in Vancouver after the OpenEd conference. I joined up at Mt Vernon Washington, where we drove down Whidbey Island and hopped the Keystone Ferry to Port Townsend, a quaint old seaport town now quaint tourist town. Then we drove to Port Angeles and the Thortown Hostel where we stayed Sunday night. Monday, after learning we could not drive up Hurricane Ridge (Olympic National Park) due to a rock slide, we hiked the 3.7 miles (2000 ft elevation gain, all up going, all down coming back) to Angeles Lake. Alas, my legs made me turn back – only 10 minutes from the destination. But others made it, one swam and I savored the stories as I nursed my knees back at the car. (Hey, when the sign says Strenuous, pay attention, Nancy!) Then we drove to Forks where we had a lovely dinner hosted by local educator Marsha West and her friends, complete with stories around the campfire. And all along the way marvelous conversations about learning, openess, reinventing education, the pros and cons of the m-word (manipulation) and of course a bit about food. Yeah. I want to share those stories. But…

If I were to put a mood on our collective travels, it would be epitomized by this picture of Derek Chirnside: Laid Back. I made a commitment to myself to blog (each day?) and share my learnings, but I sit here at the computer, more interested in talking with others, going outside, letting things percolate.

Laid back.

So I’m going to go with the flow and simply point you to our photos for now, and hope I can savor, distill and share a bit later.

Australia workshops and appearances in November

crossing signsAre you one of my Australian pals? Interested in spending time learning and talking about some shared interests? Well I’ll be down under for nearly three weeks in November.

Matt Moore of Innotecture and Carol Daunt Skyring have set me up with a roller coaster ride of events, some of which are open to the public and you can register for them now. So here is the run down (there will be a trip blog!)

You can get all the workshop topic and registration details on the Matt sponsored workshops in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne here –> Nancy White in Australia

You can get the details on the Carol sponsored workshops and conferences here .

  • Sydney Nov 9th – 2 half day workshops 1) Stewarding Technology for Communities 2)  Graphic recording/facilitation.Hands on, messy fun.
  • Sydney Nov 10th – 2 half day workshops, Introduction to Online Communities and Advanced Online Communities with Matt Moore. Sydney events will held at the Australian Technology Park in Redfern.
  • I’m open and available on the 11th in Sydney. For play or work or both!
  • Canberra November 12th  – 2 half day workshops, Introduction to Online Communities and Advanced Online Communities with Matt Moore. Canberra events will be held at ANU University House.
  • Adelaide November 13th keynoting E-Dayz 09 Day 2 (Thanks to Michael Coghlan)
  • Gippstafe on the 16th with Brad Beach’s group of advanced online facilitators.
  • Melbourne November 17th – 2 half day workshops, Introduction to Online Communities and Advanced Online Communities with Matt Moore. Melbourne events will be held at Abbotsford Convent.
  • Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast Learning Technologies  Conference and Preworkshop, Nov 17- 19. I’ll be keynoting the conference and running a pre-conference workshop. I’m available for play and/or private groups/consulting on the 20th if you are interested. Let me know!

Hopefully there will also be informal gatherings, tweetups  and the like! G’day!

Don’t know where this is going…

Chris Lott posted a really important bit at the end of his overview of Alan Levine’s OpenEd09 presentation on Alan Levine’s Amazing Stories of Openness. And lest I forget, don’t miss the recording of Alan’s work. It is… well… AMAZING! I was lucky to be part of the project with two stories of my own, told by candle light outside a Hawaiian beach bar!

The video of the session is great too, because Alan is always engaging and funny. At the end of his presentation he made a comment to the effect that he “didn’t really know what these stories led to.” But that’s the beauty of the shared experiences: they don’t lead to anything. In the same way that we don’t have conversations at a table (or tell stories around a campfire, virtual or not) and wonder where they will lead. Those stories are the destination… those experiences are what it is about.

A bell rang when I read Chris’ words harking back to EdMedia in Hawaii this June. Alan again gave an incredible presentation on “50+ Web 2.0 ways to tell a story.” During the Q&A I asked Alan what I think turned out to feel like a harsh question. I asked what he knew about people’s USE of all these ways of digitally telling a story? What did it matter? How was this wonderful set of possibilities put to use? He replied something to the effect of Gee, I don’t know. I never asked that question. (my memory, not a direct quote!)

I squirmed in my seat, feeling like I had put Alan on the spot. At the same time, I worried about what we preach when we are all excited about something, about the signals that sends out. Does seeding possibility matter? Does fostering hopefulness? Something really stirred but I did not pursue it.

Then Chris comes along and helps me remember about the power of NOT having a destination all the time. Of things that don’t, at least at first “lead to anything.” Amen! Yeah!

Then I read Chris paragraph again and went WAIT A MINUTE!!! Read it again…

But that’s the beauty of the shared experiences: they don’t lead to anything. In the same way that we don’t have conversations at a table (or tell stories around a campfire, virtual or not) and wonder where they will lead. Those stories are the destination… those experiences are what it is about.

I have to pull two things out. Of course, stories are destinations. But shared experiences don’t lead to anything? WHOA! Yes the do!!!! To me, this is the power of Open Education. Of informal networks and communities of practice.  Shared experiences lead to the kind of learning that often rocks my world.  They just aren’t usually directed. We don’t have a plan for them. Yet.

So in the end, yes, often we don’t know where we are going. But dang, we ARE going somewhere. What matters is paying attention.

Phew, I’m glad I got that off my (very congested, noisy) chest!

P.S. I got sick this week and was unable to drive up to Vancouver BC to OpenEd09. (And no one would have wanted to get near me!) But thanks to an active Twitter stream (cool early analysis here) and live/recorded videos of every session (beautiful organizing, team!) I was able to benefit from much of the content and conversation. Yeah, I missed the beer. Yeah, I missed seeing my friends. That  can’t be replaced, but for a distance experience of a F2F conference, this was one of the best. I should probably write a whole post on this, but tomorrow I join up with my Future of Learning in a Networked World pals to continue the FLNW09 road trip. I missed today – kayaking on Bowen Island – due to this wretched bug I have. If you are on Washington’s Olympic  Peninsula, ping me. You can join us for an hour, a day, etc!

Photo Credit: ManojVasanth on Flickr

10th Anniversary of the OnlineFacilitation Group

Little did I know when I started a Yahoogroup for online facilitators in 1999 that our little band of fanatics who gathered to share kinship in a little known field would survive 10 years. In ten years we have grown to nearly 1600 members (though I suspect there are a lot of dead emails!), and many ups and downs in volume. As you can see, things have really tapered off the past few years.


When we started, there were very few places to talk about facilitating online groups and communities. Now there are  groups springing up all over, and some steadfast old-timers as well. Our conversations are spread out over various social media, as it should be.

Last week I asked people to share some stories about their involvement with the group. Here area  a few. I am a little embarrassed that some were more thank you’s than stories. All I did was start the group. But nonetheless, these also brought a smile to my face.

From: “pattianklam”
Subject: [of] Re: 10th Anniversary of OnlineFacilitation Yahoo Group Aug 12th – share your story

1999 really was a pivotal year. Cluetrain Manifesto, first articles on KM and social network analysis (Rob Cross and Steve Borgatti), Communispace founded, Blogger released … a real cusp. Congrats, online-facilitation (and especially Nancy) for providing space for pioneering.

From: “Kathleen Johnson”
Subject: [of] 10th Anniversary of OnlineFacilitation Yahoo Group Aug 12th – Katrina Relief

Inspiration from this group is what started me volunteering in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. I came down to Mi8ssissippi to volunteer for a couple of weeks and ended up staying here for going on four years.

I had online groups prior, and that is why I joined this group – so that I could work on the exploding virtual world of communication.

And that is what has driven my work here in Mississippi in the aftermath. I started gutting out homes and now I operate a multi-million dollar non profit that started with an application in late 2005. More than  20,000 volunteers later, 536 homes, and working across Mississippi
and Louisiana – primarily in disenfranchised communities working with private corporations and a FEMA contract for a pilot program for Case Management – we have moved mountains.

What has driven all this? An online group and a website and very few dollars for marketing.

What has inspired me? Nancy and her eloquent gift of language, networking skills,  and her never ending spirit to reach out and keep giving.

Nancy – thousands upon thousands in Mississippi have benefited from your gift of your volunteer work to this Yahoo Group and other sites you work tirelessly.  They have reached out across a virtual world and made this volunteer engine work in Mississippi.

I am inspired by you, in awe of what you have accomplished, and most of all I thank you.

Kathleen Johnson
Waveland Citizens Fund 501 (c) 3
Katrina Relief
Waveland, Ms. <>

From: Tony Carr
Subject: [of] More birthday thoughts

Hi Nancy and colleagues,

I really that my earlier post was far too understated. What I really  want to say is that this has been a list that can profoundly change  lives and practices and ease communication across an increasingly  dispersed community of practice. A large part of this has been the warm,  relaxed facilitation, generosity, and commitment to reflective  conversation which you have exemplified, Nancy.  For several years into  this decade I found onfac to be my significant single communication and  networking resource concerning online facilitation. Whether it was for
information about online conferences, volunteering opportunities, online  facilitation courses, or conversations about practice this was THE place  to be! During the last few years I have shifted my attention towards  online facilitation information and conversation available through blogs  and rss including your wonderful blog. It sounds like this has been the
experience of several people here so there is an ongoing conversation  about the role of e-mail lists in the current knowledge ecosystem.

Best wishes

From: “Olubodun Olufemi”
Subject: [of] Re: More birthday thoughts

Hi Nancy,
It has been ten years and time indeed flies. I joined this group sometime in the past (I cannot remember when) and have been very happy to see a forum that has been helpful in increasing my knowledge on a wider range of topics. It has been to me information source fo a number of free courses and online events which I have spread to many friends.
I am proud to  identify with this group and sincerely hope I will continue to retain my membership of it as well as encourage friends from my country Nigeria to join.

Best wishes to this community and the initiator

Olufemi O.J.
University of Lagos, Lagos Nigeria.

From: Jane Horan
Subject: [of] Re: more birthday wishes to Nancy and the group

Reading through Tony’s posting jarred my memory with this community & Nancy White…..

My first adventure with the online world was throught the Fielding Institute (1997-1999) – for me, the online learning experience was extremely powerful and I wanted more.

After graduating from Fielding I was looking to replicate this experience and I came across Nancy White.  I participated in one of the early classes (I think in 1999) with Nancy & Michaela – which led to another class with Michaela and George Simmons on cross cultural groups, and eventually to an online collaborative study with INSEAD, IBM and others to examine e-learning.

Similar to Tony, I also participated in a WEB CT trial with the education department at Bristol University.   Funny, how things come full circle, I’m now a PhD student at Bristol (and still living in Asia).

While I’m not an active participant, I have always found this online facilitation group to be a wonderfully supportive community of like minded individuals – with a great mix of discovery, insights and trends.    When there was talk of ending this group or migrating to a different platform – my heart sank.   Some read newspapers (online), I read postings from all of you on a regular basis.

Thank you for bringing this group together, Nancy and thanks for 10 great years of sharing!

Jane Horan
Singapore & Hong Kong

From: “kksantacruz”
Subject: [of] Happy Birthday!

Hi Nancy,

Happy Birthing Day and thanks for creating and maintaining (the really hard part!) such a stimulating, friendly and forward looking group! Thanks fellow members for providing the good thinking and goodwill that make this group unique in my experience.


Kathy Kelly
Collaboration Specialist
Intuit, Inc.
member since 2000

From: Barbara Steinberg
Subject: Re: [of] 10th Anniversary of OnlineFacilitation Yahoo Group Aug 12th
– share your story

Wow. I was a member from the very first day. Does this mean I’m getting
old? nooooooooooooo. I’ll be 29 next year. 😉

Congrats Nancy.


From: Anne Papina
Subject: Re: [of] 10th Anniversary of OnlineFacilitation Yahoo Group Aug 12th
– share your story

Wow, congrats!  I hardly post these days, but I’m still around … probably have been a member for most of those  10 yrs…. still enjoy reading the group, just not as closely as the old days… you’re right about having too much to follow now!

take care