Alan Levine PosterA really big poster of Alan

Friday night. What is it about Friday night? Wikipedia informs me that Friday is the day between Thursday and Saturday and that in accordance with ISO 8601 it is the fifth day of the week. This Friday is quite special. It is time for the Friday Follow Twitter Interview and this week’s rather intriguing guest is none other than Alan Levine.

You may know Alan as the cogdog. Alan is and has been a source of inspiration for countless bloggers worldwide including yours truly. From time to time Alan and I have had random exchanges which have always been like conversations between a couple of blokes that have known each other for ages. Alan seemingly has a knack for making one able to relax. That is the way it is with Alan. As I type Alan is somewhere on the Australian continent. Gives me a warm tingly feeling all over that. Australia is a better place with Alan in situ, albeit temporarily. I have been a big fan of Alan’s Delicious bookmarks which I have subscribed to and frequently share via Twitter. Over to Alan…

1. Please share a little about yourself with the readers.

I’ve been fiddling in educational technology since 1992 when I landed a position at the Maricopa Community Colleges- I still marvel at this as I was likely not completely qualified with my degrees in Geology, but had gained internet and technology experience while applying computers in my field. I would say everything I have learned about my field came from the internet. I first clicked a web link in October 1993, and have not left since. From 1996 to March of this year, I was a Vice President of Community and CTO for the New Media Consortium, the folks most well known for their annual Horizon Reports. Since March of this year, I have been a self-directed unemployed (by choice) traveler, just finishing a 15,000 road trip around the US and Canada visiting people I have gotten to know via the online space.

2. Describe the role played by social media in education.

Provocateur. Door Opener. Troublemaker. Addiction Agent. Bridger… it all depends on your context what the role is, and I even struggle to sort out what we mean by “social media”– there has been a social element of the online space going back to the days when it was text only. The thing that has changed since the early days is that social media, or internet technologies, are not some fringe space enjoyed by a selected group- it has pervaded our lives, the way we work, play, and conduct our business. I recall the first time I saw a paper advertisement stapled to a sign pole that instead of having phone numbers on the pull off tabs of paper, had a web address – much the same as a few days ago passing a hotel in Melbourne and seeing their invitations to engage them on twitter and facebook.

Because of the way we are using technology personally (and I will not assume it is everybody, three is a huge spectrum there of interests and even equity to access), there is an ever growing disconnect in education where there are efforts to wall off or not allow this part of the world. To me we do our learners a disservice by not preparing them for a networked world, or trying to be too protective, instead of teaching them how to navigate that space. It is all so easy to focus on the negative fear experiences of the online world, and we regularly ignore that overwhelmingly more voluminous examples where good things happen there.

I buy into the notion that almost everything is social; we do not exist in isolation, and as cliche as it sounds, I experience on a regular basis how small this world is because of its connected nature.

3. Tell me about your relationship with social media. How do you feel about social media?

We have a great thing going; she has been very very kind to me 😉 I learned very early in my career, it was pre-web when I found the Stanford FTP archives, the power of sharing everything you do online; that you can learn from others if they feel the same way. So from the beginning of the web, it was my goal to make as much as possible of the work, projects, creations I do available online – and that has paid off to me in ways I would never have anticipated. This was the gist of the presentations I have done on Amazing Stories of Sharing/Openness (

The beauty is there that there is no compulsion except your own for what, how much, little you share online. You can create yourself as a full accurate mirror or some variation of your own choice. I for one, have lost the significant difference between what I do online and what I do period – I still see people refer to being online as somehow separate from who they are, but with mobile connectedness, we are never really offline. I am not saying we should be heads down in our devices all the time, just that I do not feel any difference in moving between spaces. The vast majority of my friends, (the real kind, not the false facebook kind) are ones I have connected with online. My entire road trip was built around visiting people I have known through this space, and I can vouch that our interactions are much more genuine and real having shared a face to face experience.

And John, we have never met in person, but I have zero doubts we will know each other well when we do. This is absolutely the Third Place, and it is all so relevant to me.

4. What do you feel are you strengths?

My modesty in answering questions like this 😉

I would have to say my strength is curiosity and open mindedness. There is so much more that I don’t know than I do, and it seems foolhardy to act like I have the corner on some area of expertise. Always be learning. I also highly believe in making fun of yourself; life is too short to be so serious.

5. What advice do you like to share with people?

Don’t take advice! Take it all in, blend it with your own experience, do not be afraid to put yourself out there as a non-expert – you have the world as company in that regard. And take avery opportunity to expand, connect.

Mostly, the simplest advice is to act like your Mom taught you- play nice with others, share your toys. Be honest. Be real.

6. Are there any questions you would like to ask?

So when are we going to go on a hike together, John?

Soon I hope Alan. Soon. I enjoy a good walk and a bit of a climb. Darcy Moore and I are hoping to navigate our way around Carrington Falls and the upper Kangaroo Valley next weekend. Would like to explore Arizona. It has always captured my imagination, Arizona. Images of Monument Valley and The Wave have been embedded in my brain since I first saw photographs of those and other geological formations in your neck of the woods in these science encyclopaedias that my parents had bought when I was about 6 or 7 years old. Need to get out there and see it for myself. To touch the rock, smell the air and feel the sky. Share a beer.

You are right about the real friends. Like catching up with people you have known for years. Maybe we were all lizards on a  rock together in a previous incarnation. Lying around, soaking up the sun, catching flies. Thanks for taking time out to to be a part of this little online adventure Alan. Cheers.

Alan’s online DNA is curiously organised in these nicely arranged collections of zeroes and ones: