Degrees of Separation


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This is a presentation I did as part of a TeachMeet@PLANE on the 25th of July, 2012. I talk about why I find it essential in having a Personal Learning Network (PLN) for the work that I do. Make sure you look at the presenters notes, in order to make some sense of it all.

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  • Introducing me…My name is Brendan Jones, aka jonesytheteacher. I'm Head Teacher PDHPE at Erina High School on the NSW Central Coast. At the moment I'm on a temporary appointment with PLANE doing of cool stuff. I’m pretty much everywhere online as “jonesytheteacher”. I adopted the identity “jonesytheteacher” for two main reasons:1. My name's Jonesy2. I'm a teacher I've also adopted it as my signature across all of my web presences, a tip I picked up from Ben Jones (not my brother). For me it means one personality online. I'm jonesytheteacher on Twitter, Yammer, my blog and I think I'm consistently me across all of them. To me a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is essential for the work I do. The story I'm about tell is how being online makes PLNs easy to build, grow and benefit from. My inspiration for this story was bacon...
  • Now if you use Twitter and you follow me, I did tweet this afternoon that my talk would be mouth-watering. I'll bet some of your mouths out there are watering right now! But I don't mean that Bacon...
  • I mean this Bacon. Maybe this picture is making some mouths water - I don't know.
  • For those of you that don't know or remember, there was a meme a while back called the 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon. On the slide I've pasted the URL for the image you can see and one for the Oracle of Bacon, where you can test the theory.This meme was all based on the premise that for any actor in Hollywood, there would be no more than 6 degrees of separation (or links) to Kevin Bacon. The image on this slide is the tech version - check it out when you get a chance - the flow of connections is quite elegant This got me to thinking - the degrees of separation between me and other educators (as part of a network or PLN) could be seen the same way. We have a need to be connected, because that's a big part of ongoing learning. And there are a lot of ways that being online benefits the establishment and maintenance of a PLN. So I see the Bacon Theory as a great example for teachers to emulate. And it’s based on research, believe it or not!
  • As the slide says - degrees of separation is underpinned by some premises that I found intriguing. The Degrees of Separation idea . And The Small World Phenomenon. We've all experienced this "do you know so and so?" "Oh - its small world" Coincidently,I've discovered that an online PLN makes my world smaller too - connecting with people, sharing ideas and working together on projects - across town, across the State, country or the world.
  • But why was it called "The 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon"? Was it because he had a prolific career? Maybe. But in an article I read about this, it was more the type of things he did that made the phenomenon come into being. A lot of his movies were ensemble's. This meant he came into contact with plenty of actors, and so the networks he built became tighter and the paths between connection shorter. I think there's a message in that for us as educators building our own connections and ultimately PLNs - the more experiences with more people (a variety of people and influences, to be exact) so it follows our connections will be much richer.  I've found too that you find the same people popping up a lot of the time in different places - and that's good. It's like having a mate waiting for you in a new country when you go on holidays. They can show you around, introduce you to a few people and then things happen from there.
  • So here's how I see the Bacon Effect working for a person wanting to connect online with other similar folk. Keep in mind that what you're seeing is just one node in that big "Small world Phenomenon" network image from before. A smaller version is in the top LH corner of the slide
  • Here's an old school example of how I used The Bacon Theory to connect. I would come from my school with my own set of connections (bottom LH corner). I applied for a PL session (conference, workshop etc) that I knew would lead to me meeting new people and their extended network. (top RH corner)I had to justify and apply getting to the event based on the conditions in the yellow boxesMy application went to someone (or perhaps a team) for approval where it could get stuck in a feedback loop, or get lost on a desk, or get sent back, or hit the what I call “The Wall of Refusal”If my application is successful, I get to the event. Between me and my final goal is a filtering process (finding people, connecting, making small talk and conversation, "what do you do", "Wow - that sounds cool", exchange email addresses and promise to keep in touch)The connection is ultimately made, but the multiple degrees of separation can provide a lot of disconnect points
  • Compare that to how I do things now. Don't get me wrong - the event/ conference process is still available and valuable (and the physical meeting up process is great), but it’s not the only way anymore. I can be in touch 24/7 with anyone I've connected with, and many of the connections are only 1 or 2 degrees of separation – of my making.For example – Say I want to start a project on something. Usually I’ll need to learn about the topic, find others that might help, form a team and work together.So online I go. My existing online PLN might not be able to help directly (actually, it's pretty rare that they can't), but I'll bet they know someone who can. Some tweets later, or one post in Yammer or a quick look at some Delicious stacks and I have a contact or 20 to pursue. I make my contacts, we jump on Google docs, brainstorm together and our project is under way. When we finish, we blog about it and our work is added to the collective knowledge within and outside our project team. Not hypothetical - I do this right now.And the process works so that I benefit from my PLNs connections, and they from mine.And the yellow boxes from the "old way" are now largely mine to consider before I commit to starting the project.
  • All good stories have to have a connection to your own life to mean something, I reckon.For example, some good jokes actually start as real life annecotes that strike a funny chord with most people.So believe it not, I am connected to Kevin BaconThe top LH image is of Shane Emmett. Shane is brother to Belinda Emmett, who was married to Rove MacManus before she tragically died from cancer.Shane taught at Erina. Now, thank God for MySpace, because the lower RH image is of an ex student from Erina commenting on Shane's My Space page. (Who said My Space was useless?)And I worked with Shane at Erina. So all that is left to do is consult The Oracle of the Bacon.
  • Wohoo! I have a Bacon number of 4.And you now have a Bacon number of 5! Well inside the magical 6!
  • Thanks for listening!
  • Degrees of Separation

    1. 1. Degrees of SeparationBrendan Jones@jonesytheteacherErina High School
    2. 2. Baconcc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Patent and the Pantry:
    3. 3. Kevin Baconcc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by sagindie:
    4. 4. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon(tech version) play the original version
    5. 5. Degrees of Separation is underpinned by some intriguing premisesThe Small World phenomenon - human society is a smallworld type network characterized by short path lengthsSix degrees of separation: Artistic visualization. By Laurens van Lieshout (User:LaurensvanLieshout) (Own work) [GFDL( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons*PLN’s do that – make the world smaller*
    6. 6. Why Kevin, specifically?It is suggested that Bacon connects to many actors because he acts in many different kindsof roles and ensemble filmsHmmm ….
    7. 7. My Degrees of Separation Icons via
    8. 8. My Degrees of Separation - old schoolWhere? When? What? Cost? Time? Icons via
    9. 9. My Degrees of Separation.. nowWhat?When?Where? Cost?Time? Icons via
    10. 10. My connection to Kevin?Image via Image via Via My Space
    11. 11. Via The Oracle of Bacon I worked with Shane!
    12. 12. Finito