George Siemens writes about subscribing to people:

When I subscribe to someone’s blog, I’m really subscribing to them. The content
they write about today will be obsolete soon…but as long as they keep writing
and reflecting, I learn from them. I stay current through them. Now, how do we
do that with our learning content?

Good question, but I think a better one is: How do we do that with our students? Don’t we want to subscribe to our students’ growth and learning? George is pointing out that when we subscribe to a blog, we’re subscribing to what that person is learning. That’s remarkable. And in addition to the content of their learning, we can see their process and development—how they’re learning. To a teacher, which is more important?

Subscribing to people can mean opening the floodgates to a flow of really ephemeral, mundane details that may or may not offer meaningful glimpses into a person’s life. Leisa Reichelt at Disambiguity calls it ambient intimacy and suggests there can be valuable signals in the noise.

Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level
of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because
time and space conspire to make it impossible. Flickr lets me see what friends are eating for lunch, how they’ve
redecorated their bedroom, their latest haircut. Twitter tells me when
they’re hungry, what technology is currently frustrating them, who
they’re having drinks with tonight.

Who cares? Who wants this level of detail? Isn’t this all just annoying noise?

There are a lot of us, though, who find great value in this ongoing
noise. It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just
acquaintances. It makes us feel closer to people we care for but in
whose lives we’re not able to participate as closely as we’d like.

Teachers traditionally have spotty access to this kind of flow of daily details from their students’ lives. But we know that these apparently-trivial details often provide crucial context. Making sense of the background noise can help teachers reach students more effectively. So. . . ambient teaching?