As a gold-standard certified introvert and digital immigrant, the interactive, public, exposed aspects of Web 2.0 send me squarely out of my comfort zone. And, happily, they land me right into my zone of proximal development—aka the squirming-is-good-for-you zone. When I began teaching middle school, it was a similar stretch.

The latest opportunity to get into the zone is a social network on Ning called Classroom 2.0. Steve Hargadon got it rolling as an experiment in creating a low-threshold introduction to Web 2.0, and it has begun to snowball nicely. I jumped in today with a mixture of trepidation and gusto.

Right off the bat, I ran across this post by SparklingDrift:

So, this is the first time I’ve been involved with Ning or any kind of
social network. Normally, I lurk. Big time lurk. I have a pretty good
list of Google Reader feeds and my own diet of info that I hoover
semi-omnivorously (Arts and Letters Daily, Will R, Metafilter, Bookslut, Mr. Verb, Presentation Zen
etc.) But I’m not so much into..talking…to people…even people who
aren’t right there. Yet, teaching scary 16-year-olds…No problem.

Aha! A fellow introvert! Someone who understands the quiet comforts of lurking; someone with whom I can have a deep, meaningful conversation about. . . not talking to people. [Little-known fact: introverts have a highly-developed sense of irony. Achingly acute.] So what in the heck is a hardened lurker doing here? It turns out his motivation is a lot like the rest of us: to listen, to learn, to engage, to challenge our thinking by pulling in other perspectives, to find out whether Ning and other social networks offer a new twist on understanding Web 2.0. Stay tuned; I suspect there’ll be more SparklingDrift coming to this space soon.

Zen and the Art of Social NetLurking aside, my first impression of Ning is that it makes a great fishbowl. There’s a lot of good discussion modeled in a transparent, defined space, and it’s both welcoming to observers and easy to find and follow (easier, anyway, for the newcomer than tracking conversations in the wilder, wider expanses of the blogosphere).

So if Classroom 2.0 is a fishbowl, that makes all of us willing lunkers. Goldfish—that’s carp to me and you—have a long, storied place in Asian folklore and legend. During the Japanese holiday Kodomo no hi, or Children’s Day, carp-shaped flags called koinobori are flown as symbols of hoped-for strength and health. The carp is renowned for its strength in swimming upstream against the current.

Celebration of children, and swimming upstream: these seem entirely fitting associations for what’s going on in Classroom 2.0.