My PLE inspired by Wonderland Cafe. Everything is connected when you're on the web, and it's all about connection.
I grew up drinking hot cocoa in our family's diner, Lakey's. It was at this rural Caldwell restaurant that I would sit at the counter with my dad or maybe one of my cousins, whose parents owned the restaurant.
There, I would drink hot cocoa from a plain, white diner mug with a matching saucer. Usually, I dipped a spoon into the savory, sweet mixture, because it was too hot for me to drink. But it didn't matter. I wanted to be able to drink a grown-up drink like my dad, who also drank his hot concoction from the same kind of mug. His was coffee, of course, not cocoa. But since I was too small for coffee, it had to be cocoa, but boy could I pretend.
My Internet Version of Drinking Hot Cocoa With Dad?
I bring this up because it's nearly impossible for me to not connect the experience of growing up in a restaurant family with just about everything in my life from my preferences for comfort food to go with good company to my funky, diner-inspired designs. In fact, I recently launched a project that I'm working on in my EdTech 506 class called Wonderland Cafe.
Wonderland Cafe - A fictional cafe that exists in the mind and on the web. A place that brings together the coolest stuff that geek culture has to offer.
As I said in the explanation about that project, Wonderland Cafe will hopefully give people a place to interact on the Internet that's both safe and interesting. Lessons will cover topics like creating good passwords and being safe on social media sites.
You're Cordially Invited to Wonderland Cafe
I'm bringing it up now in a post for EdTech 543 because I had an opportunity to do a cross-over project. We needed to create a diagram to represent our personal learning environments (PLEs) - you know, our go-to places where we can go to learn about whatever our hearts desire. For me, Wonderland Cafe represents this concept very well because at the heart of it, it brings people and different kinds of media together, hopefully for a comfortable chat and always for enlightenment and learning of some sort..
Here's how I arrived at my image in light of these influences:
The concept itself offered me a visual aesthetic to start with - picture the black and white checkerboard motif that's common in both "Through the Looking Glass" and on the tile floors in roadside diners. It also gave me a verbal metaphor. That is to say that searching the Internet and social media for something is a bit like scoping out the menu in a diner. You know that there's something delicious - like my diner hot chocolate - if you'd only take the time to look.
But diners like the Internet aren't just places for foods that nourish our souls. They're also places where we can find relationships that do the same. Given that I was already going with a Wonderland theme with my PLE graphic, it seemed natural to add a visual Alice introducing herself to a new friend.
While some may question the connotation of Alice and the Dodo, there's really no harm intended. Rather, the Internet like the local diner is an excellent place to meet folks that are exotic and interesting. That's what makes them both so much fun.
Finally, I wanted to represent the icons of the social media sites that I use the most for my PLE. I wanted to imply - again - that I was ordering them up kind of like I was ordering up my hot cocoa at the local diner.
And I also wanted to imply - also like a menu - that they are meant to be used with one another. For example, I can just tweet or I can tweet with a link to my blog post or my Scoop.It account. Think of it like this.
1. The tweet alone = the hot cocoa 2. The tweet with the blog post = the hot cocoa + some pie 3. The tweet via Scoop.It = the hot cocoa with some whipped cream. (Scoop.It + a dollop of whipped cream… Get it?)
If you've ever eaten and had conversations at diners, you know that somehow all the foods on the menu seem to complement each other as does the company we meet while sitting at the counter.
It's the menu and the place that tie these things together. If you've ever worked in a restaurant, you know that the kitchen can be a very chaotic place. The Internet and social media can be, too. Fortunately, in both these cases, the menus help people navigate all the goodies that the kitchen offers.
See? I told you that my diner experience influences just about everything I do...
And Now to be Really Social…
The other component of this assignment for EdTech 543 had to do with, you guessed, being social. In this particular case, we were to take a peek our the PLEs for six of our classmates and compare their concept to ours. I actually liked this because it's always fascinating to me to see how other people visually represent their idea of connection with others.
I'm going to start with my thoughts on the ladies in my group, Alanna Shaw and Mary Carter. First of all, I have to say that both of these gals are just the coolest - totally someone I'd have cocoa with in a real cafe. They're dynamic and interesting and fun to do group work with. I used to really hate group work, but grad school has changed that. They are just the latest examples of successful collaborations I've had in this program.
The Three Muskateers
Alanna's design was really clever. She went with a beehive concept. Right away, I knew what she was getting at. Bees are very social and known for their communication skills; those are what keep the hive running. Aside from being really cute - can I say that? - it also demonstrated the power of visual metaphor to me. As a graphic designer, I appreciate people who communicate well visually. Alanna definitely does. She makes a lot of the graphics for our group work and is a very talented designer.
Mary's design centered around the jigsaw puzzle, which I also found very clever. Hers were color-coded according to what each color meant. So if you see a blue puzzle piece, you know that Mary is talking about communicating. Green pieces represented creating; Orange pieces represented connecting, and hot pink pieces represented collecting. It was a very easy way to get an at-a-glance understanding of how she thinks, which is organized. (I wish I were!)
In both cases, I got that good man-I-wish-I-had-thought-of-that feeling when I saw the graphics. I definitely felt they were successful in their execution.
And just an interesting side note about the pieces from my group… All three of us chose to create visuals that put our social media and Internet icons in some sort of container or hole. Alanna's references went into the holes of the honeycomb. Mary's went into the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. And mine were stuck into the squares of the chessboard. Each type of image - even though the visual metaphor is very different for each of us - requires that each piece fit well with the one next to it.
This just goes to show you why we make such a good group in my opinion. And it also shows how we view communication as an interlocking concept. We didn't discuss this ahead of time, either. Pretty cool, huh?
Other Cool Ideas for Connecting…
I will say that the ideas of squares or interlocking blocks wasn't limited to my group. Kristen Taubman also went with this approach. She was different than we were in my group, however, in that she used the social media icons as the actual structure for her graphic. I appreciated this approach because from a graphic point-of-view, it was easy to know exactly what she was going to talk about. It was also interesting to compare it with mine because although I needed to talk about my involvement in social media I also had an extra message - the Wonderland Cafe message - to get through. It was good to have that juxtaposition.
Next, I chose to look at Katie Lauritsen's PLE image partly because it was so different than those of the women in my group. She went with a Venn diagram for hers. As with Alanna's work, I recognized right away what she was doing, and I appreciated the concept of the centerpiece being the overlap of all her varying interests like publishing, reflecting, collecting, and connecting. That's an experience that I've had with these sorts of things as I also mentioned in my own explanation.
Taking this reflection in a different direction, I think it would be cool to talk a little about Ally Gilin's image. Ally used visuals that are tried and true for me - hands. The idea of holding hands or touching hands automatically gives this graphic a connected and personal feel. This is no small feat in an online environment that can feel a bit removed. She also created separate categories for her concepts, each represented by a different-colored hand. I liked that her version of connecting with her PLEs was so different from mine.
Finally, I wanted to talk about Chris Denny's graphic. It was very different in that he chose to do a vertical bookmark-shaped graphic. It made it easy to read due to the top being labeled with the header "Personal Learning Environments." I know that this is useful due to my studies in EdTech 506: Whatever comes at the top determines the viewer's understanding of everything else. It was that label that made me decide to put my PLE label at the top of the page instead of the bottom, which was my original plan.
Final Thoughts on PLEs
This was a useful exercise for me not only because I really had to think about what I wanted to say about my PLEs but also because I had to look at mine in reference to other people's. In the latter case, it was helpful to me to see how others approached the assignment. It made my choices for my Wonderland Cafe PLE all the more clear.
Standard 1: Design Standard 2: Development Standard 3: Utilization Standard 4: Management Standard 5: Evaluation