Category Archives: network literacy

Network literacies are essential – what are we going to do about it?

Being netsmart is something Howard Rheingold has been talking and writing about for some time. In this video, he very recently presented a keynote on this topic at Utrecht University.

Howard talks to the audience about network literacies: attention, participation, collaboration, crap detection and network know-how.

As I listened to his talk – nothing new for those who have been following his thoughts and writing, but certainly always worth listening to – I thought again about the need to recognise the importance of teaching network literacies to our students. And I don’t mean the once a year session snuck in by a teacher librarian, I mean a recognition by staff and leadership that we need to seriously work on a plan to integrate network literacies into our curriculum.

I’ve been working with others on a plan of attack for helping our VCE students who are having problems with study – time management, literacies, etc. Howard’s first identified literacy in the networked age is attention, and this is something I’d like to spend some time unpacking with the students.

Howard recounts a realisation during his lectures that students were not looking at him but multitasking online. He quotes statistics warning us that multitasking is disrupting our attention span more than we realise, and that only 5 or 10 percent of people manage to multitask without losing attention. What is it about these students? I really like his term, mindfulness or metacognition – being aware of where you’re putting your attention. I agree that we could identify for students attention probes which would encourage them to be aware of their use of media during class, lectures or while doing homework. Since trying to be more aware of my own online habits, I’ve had to admit that my attention is dispersed and that I’m addicted to following that little sound that alerts me to a tweet or Facebook message. I realise I need to exercise self discipline, knowing that these things can wait until I’ve finished what I was working on. This is what I plan to discuss with my students.

The aspect of manners is an interesting one in an age when private phone conversations are heard by everyone on a train, or when tweeting during a conference means you might look rude to others or even the speaker. As Howard says, maybe in the future it won’t be considered rude not to pay attention to the lecturer, but as far as I’m concerned, there are times when I ask students to close their devices and look at me, and other times I’d like to allow them to be productive online and take notes or do some on-the-fly research while listening. Listening without doing anything can be difficult. Why do you think people doodle? Still, we do have to make decisions all the time about what we are going to pay attention to. Are we going to look at that cat meme right now? Oh, why not! What was I saying again…?

So what Howard is recommending is that we take that unconscious process of multiple distractions and our behaviours and make it conscious so we take some control. Do I follow this link or email now? Why might I want to? What else am I supposed to be doing? Am I going to pay attention to it later?  How am I going to make sure I find it again? (This is where I couldn’t live without Diigo). This is a conversation I’d like to have with my students. Howard suggests that we could modify our attention behaviour and make it automatic, following strategies instead of impulses.

He’s right when he says that you’re the only one who knows what you need to get done today, and your priorities need to be your own. This is why I won’t conduct the study skills sessions with students in a rigid way recommended one way of doing things. Howard recommends establishing new habits, finding a regular place for these and repeating them. A simple act of writing down 2 or 3 goals on a piece of paper, away from the computer with the space to think, can make a difference when you keep those goals close to your sight while you work as a reminder, to help you refocus and assess your productivity.

As Howard says, attention can be trained, and we know this from thousands of years of contemplative traditions and also from neuroscience.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, some of our English teachers have started using Goodreads for wider reading. Yes, I’ve been pushing it a little – well, maybe a lot. It is about the reading network but I also believe it’s going to provide many opportunities for teaching network literacies. I expect students will feel so comfortable within this platform that it won’t be all deep and meaningful conversation about literary things. But, as Howard points out, casual conversations may seem trivial but help people get to know each other and trust each other, and understanding how networks work is part of esssential literacies these days. We do live in the age of social media, and the information society is becoming more of a network society, with the interconnection of all sorts of knowledge from different disciplines. Do you agree that diverse networks are more important than expert networks? That they are more likely to come up with better answers?  

I really do believe that we should teach our students the importance of switching off regularly, and I say this as a person who has problems switching off. I assume it’s very difficult for our students to not be connected all the time. It’s not common to be alone for long – does that mean we lose our ability to feel comfortable in silence, in our own heads, with our own company?

I really think we, as educators, should have this conversation and then do something about creating the regular opportunities to talk to students about these things.

I’ll leave you with Howard’s minicourses.

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Filed under network literacy, Uncategorized

Control your identity online

This has been cross-posted from I get to say what’s culture.

Taken from Jenny Luca’s presentation

Kids these days are connected and mobile. Wherever they are, they have access to information and can communicate with their friends online.  Although I do believe that the media sensationalizes and demonizes social media, becoming informed about how to stay safe and behave responsibly online is crucial – for teachers and parents. Even for those of us on Facebook, it may come as a bit of a shock to realise how much we are unaware of in terms of privacy settings.

Do you know how much of what you or your kids post online is visible to others?

The Generation Yes Blog alerted me to the new A Parents’ Guide to Facebook by Connect Safely.  You can download the whole document as a pdf file here or take a look at an overview of recommended settings for young people here.

I like the recommended settings for young people as an alert to what Facebook users should be thinking about. Actually, I doubt whether most young people would be taking the time to fine-tune their settings, and Facebook doesn’t seem to be making it easy or intuitive to do so. That’s where kids need education. We all do, teachers and parents, so that we can recommend to our young ones what they should be taking control over.

I’ve included screen grabs of some of the information on the Recommended Privacy Settings for Teens here –

Jenny Luca has created some top quality slideshow presentations which I highly recommend. Take a look at them on her wiki.

You can also find good information on ACMA cybersafety website.

Finally, I’m sharing my ‘cybersafety’ Diigo links here.

I do think we need to be informed as teachers and parents because the issue of cybersafety and digital citizenship is not only relevant but crucial to our students’ lives.  Kids know how to work out technology but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be informed about consequences.

What do you think?

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Filed under Digital citizenship, network literacy, technology

Interview with Judith Way, author of Bright Ideas

If you think about people who are a constant and inspirational support in your professional life, you know that you are indebted to these people on a daily basis.


I’ve decided to feature an interview with Judith Way, a Victorian teacher librarian who has made a significant difference in the professional lives of teacher librarians and others, and whose unassuming, friendly nature has endeared many, both in Victoria and globally.

Judith’s blog, Bright Ideas, which she writes for the School Library Association of Victoria, is one of the first things I check daily because I know that she is on top of what’s happening in the world of education. Although she may not need an introduction since so many are connected to her through the blog, Twitter and OZTL-NET, to mention only a few platforms, I’ve included a short biography as an introduction to a recent interview I conducted with Judith.

Judith Way is a teacher-librarian with a Graduate Diploma of Children’s Literature and a Master of Arts. Recently she was recognised for her work with the Bright Ideas blog through the  2010 IASL/Softlink International Excellence Award .She has also been the recipient of the School Library Association of Victoria’s John Ward Award for outstanding contribution to teacher librarianship in 2007 and the SLAV Innovators Grant in 2009. She was awarded the Children’s Book Council of Australia Eleanor E. Robertson prize in 2003. She has presented at conferences locally and internationally. Judith writes the Bright Ideas blog for the School Library Association of Victoria.
How did you come to create and write the Bright Ideas blog?

Due to the success of the School Library Association of Victoria’s Web2.0 online program in 2008, there was a real momentum for more online resources for school libraries, and the idea that schools would showcase what they had developed to encourage others was a big part of that. I was honoured to be asked by SLAV to write the blog on their behalf. I had undertaken the ’23 things’ course through Yarra Plenty Regional Library in 2006.

What were your initial thoughts/feelings about the blog?

Excitement! What a fantastic opportunity to delve into the web 2.0 world and see what we could all make of it in school libraries.

Was it difficult to take the first steps in creating a blog identity and developing a readership?

The first thing was getting a body of work up on the blog. No-one is really going to read a blog with one or two posts on it, so building it up was vital. I then promoted it via the OZTL-NET listserv and down the track joined Twitter. That really developed the readership. Then I joined the ILearnTechnology blog alliance in January this year and that furthered readership again.

What were some of the difficulties you experienced along the way?

School library staff tend to be a modest bunch, so encouraging people that their web 2.0 efforts should be highlighted and shared with others was a challenge.

What were some of the highlights?

Getting lots of positive feedback from readers, especially in relation tothe school library examples that were shared.
Last year Bright Ideas also had the honour of being voted the “FirstRunner Up” in the Edublogs Awards for the ‘Best Library blog”. What a fantastic vote of confidence that was.
Notching up 200,000 hits earlier this year was also a terrific milestone and it was an unbelievable recognition to be awarded the 2010 IASL/Softlink International Excellence Award in September.

How is the role of the teacher librarian changing, if at all?

In one way it is changing dramatically. In another way, it isn’t changing at all. What do I mean by that? We are facing enormous changes in the way we present learning opportunities to students. Social media and eBooks have changed the landscape for many school libraries. But we still want to teach our students how to research well and to love reading- whatever the medium.

What would you say are the most important goals of the teacher librarian/ of educators in general in these times?

To remember the power you have to make a difference to the lives of your students. You have the ability to be a positive role model in terms of using information well, both content and morally. To teach students how to make a positive digital footprint and how to be cybersafe and cybersavvy. To pass on the love of reading. These are lessons they will carry throughout their lives.

Thanks, Judith, for your thoughts, and also for the untiring support you provide for teacher librarians and educators everywhere.

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Filed under Education, network literacy, networking, Teacher librarians, teachers, technology, Web 2.0

When are students leaders and experts? Listen2Learners @ State Library of Victoria

When are students leaders and experts?

When we hand over the stage to them to play in.

When we give them more to do than listen to us.

When we trust them to be responsible and capable.

Yesterday I saw evidence of this at The State Library of Victoria’s Listen2Learners. Thirteen school teams, some collaborative, presented their learning to adults. They were articulate, intelligent, knowledgeable and impressive. The buzz in the room was palpable.

Young people may be learners today, but tomorrow they are employees, employers, citizens, CEOs and community leaders so decision makers in government, business, industry and the social arena are taking notice of how young people learn with technology.

What young people think and have to say is helping to shape decisions and inform policies.

I was impressed and excited by the showcase of what kids – many of them primary – can do given meaningful, collaborative, real-life projects and connected through technologies to learn from and with real people. My excitement was tempered by the thought of them entering secondary school, the fear that this freedom to learn would be taken away from them due to a fear of technology and the restrictive nature of a score-centred curriculum.

The groups showcased a variety of focus, approach and location. Sacred Heart School, Tasmania collaborated with Pularumpi School, Northern Territory. A student from the Tasmanian school said that the best part of the project was meeting the other students, learning about how different people and places can be in your own country. They worked in Google docs, online social networks, and used Skype to communicate and collaborate.

Students from Prospect Primary School, South Australia, became teachers when they reversed roles to show more than 70 teachers and school leaders how to produce a movie.

Their work had all the hallmarks of good teaching and learning; planning and storyboarding, brainstorming an authentic enquiry question, setting assessment criteria, modelling and coaching.

Students ran an online radio station, they demonstrated how rural schools connect for the best science education, created video games, prepared a cybersafety program for incoming primary students for orientation day, created applications to help users develop numeracy skills, used technology to learn instruments and play in online bands, designed a Multi-user Virtual Environment (MUVE), connected with students from around the world in virtual classrooms, and more.

It was extraordinary to see what these young students were capable of doing, and inspiring to witness their passion, engagement and enjoyment.

These kids really knew what they were talking about. They had to ask the hard questions throughout the process, and in many cases they had to provide written applications for a place on the team. They knew what they were talking about because they worked through the process and were engaged, not because they had listened to what they teacher had told them or studied a text. When I listened to these kids it was obvious that they had worked through the what/how/why and understood the thinking around and inside their project and process.

This was by far the most inspiring learning opportunity for me this year. And, to boot, I got the opportunity to chat with Stephen Heppell.

Read about the schools taking part in this event.

 

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Filed under 21st century learning, Collaboration, creativity, Digital citizenship, Education, network literacy, networking, Web 2.0

Nicholas Carr at The Wheeler Centre: We’re drowning in the shallows

Last night I attended a talk by Nicholas Carr at The Wheeler Centre.

One of the world’s most ground-breaking and thought-provoking writers on technology and its impacts talks to Gideon Haigh. The celebrated journalist and author of The Shallows, presents his arguments about how the internet’s pervasive influence is fostering ignorance.

Nicholas Carr has a point: the internet is addictive; there’s so much to investigate and dip into, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to move from A to Z without darting off into various directions along the way, and you may not even get there at all.

The pioneering neuroscientist Michael Merzenich believes our brains are being ”massively remodelled” by our ever-intensifying use of the web and related media.

I’m not even going to go into the topic of brain rewiring, but I think that if our neural pathways can change depending on the nature of our activity, then we are still not doomed as long as we don’t turn into robots.

It is possible, though, that we might be at risk of losing our ability to focus on any one thing in a deep way, what with so much clamouring for our attention and our focus being diffused  through a myriad of hyperlinks.  And this is worth thinking about especially in the context of school education.

However, during Nicholas’ talk and subsequent question time, I realized that the culprit for the loss of deep concentration, defined loosely as either ‘the internet’ or technology,  was being bandied about in a disconcerting way, and that it is important to define exactly which activities on the internet we are talking about when we start blaming ‘the internet’ for rewiring of neural pathways and even ignorance.

Nicholas Carr referred repeatedly to online activites such as those on Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging/chat, when he spoke of distractions which prevented us from deeper concentration and understanding. He was using a broad brush to paint a picture of what the internet has to offer,  focusing on the more superficial exchanges as if this was all there was to the internet. Gideon Haigh, the presenter, jumped on the bandwagon and made a disparaging remark about Web 2.0 in education, saying that Facebook and Twitter were hardly learning – and he got an applause for that remark. It was obvious that the audience were not all on the same page. How is it that ‘the internet’ is limited to the more superficial social media? And please, inform yourselves before you judge technology as the cause of lower academic performance. Technology and the internet are only as good as the people who use them, and that is always about educated and intelligent teaching.

From  my own experience, it’s clear to me that the introduction of new technologies requires support, not only how to use these technologies, but also the thinking behind pedagogy – how to use these technologies  to enhance learning, not to tick off boxes for technology use. Obviously technology without the support is going to mean a backwards movement.

If the internet –  and Nicholas Carr also mentioned ebooks with the distractions of hyperlinks and commenting, online research, and multimedia –  if all these things are responsible for the loss of deep concentration, then why don’t we blame television for distracting us from serious novel reading, and why not blame popular music (and the radio) for taking away generations from an appreciation of more serious music and the ability to listen to a long ‘classical’ music performance? Even years ago how could we compete with Sesame Street when teaching young children in the traditional way?

If Nicholas laments the quietness which, he claims, is conducive to deeper thought and concentration, solitude even, then we should really retire to a convent and possibly an Amish community, so that there is no electricity to enable all these distractions.

I know that’s a little extreme but really – aren’t we being a little purist? Who are the people who focus deeply on reading? Are we talking about a scholarly article or book, because then we are talking about academics, not those of us who prefer to sit in front of the television for light entertainment after a long day.

As one of the guys in our computer centre said to me recently – by encouraging teachers to use the internet, aren’t you leading them along the path to addiction, and what will happen to stillness?

I think ‘stillness’ disappeared long ago even with the advent of radio and television. Yes, modern technologies are more mobile, more interactive, more engaging, but aren’t we in control of our online behavior? And if not, we should be. Pick out the wheat from the chaff, or teach yourself to do it. And if you want stillness, perhaps you should consider monasticism.

So Nicholas, before you say that what we need is money going into good teachers instead of into technology in education, please do your homework. Why should the two be mutually exclusive? We have always needed good teachers but we also need teachers who prepare kids for their world. And like it or not, that world is connected. More than ever we need to understand what engages young people and how they learn and socialize, so that we realize the power of social learning. Not because we think Facebook is the answer but because we think Skyping a class from the other side of the world and engaging in authentic conversation is more engaging and informative than reading from a textbook. Because we think that choice and hands-on creativity is more productive than passive learning. Because we find experts all over the world, and not just in the teacher who happens to be standing in front of the class.

I was amused that Carr quoted a 6th century bishop, Isaac of Syria, when he said that our furtive internet behavior was responsible for the permanent loss of the capacity for dream-like concentration:

“With prolonging of this silence,” wrote Isaac, “the turmoil of memories is stilled in my heart, ceaseless waves of joy are sent me by inner thoughts, beyond expectation suddenly arising to delight my heart.”

Bishop Isaac of Syria was a monk, an ascetic. The silence he speaks of is no doubt the silence that comes with private prayer and monastic isolation. Should we then go back to eating in silence while we listen to the readings of the lives of saints?

Finally, Carr discovers shocking statistics about multi-taskers. New research shows that multi-tasking results in poor comprehension. I say there is a difference between multitasking well and dividing your attention between too many things and not doing any of them well. Definitions, people! Let’s not be sloppy with our definitions, let’s be specific when we judge an activity such as multitasking, or something like ‘the internet’.  It’s just as easy to blame the internet as it is to blame society. As Alison Croggon says

The internet is whatever we make it. It isn’t an abstraction: it’s the collective creation of millions of individual human beings.

To conclude, if Nicholas Carr has decided to take a break from being connected 24/7, then rejoined online life after discerning what was valuable and what wasn’t, then isn’t this just part of the evaluative process we should all be going through? Aren’t we doing that already? As teachers, isn’t that part of our job in forming critical thinkers?

I am reminded of the episode about ‘the Internet’ on the IT Crowd. Seems appropriate for today’s post.

Nicholas Carr’s latest book, The Shallows,  is worth reading – or skimming…

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Filed under debate, internet, network literacy, Social media, teachers, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

TLs, expand your field of vision

Everything has changed since information became available to all on the internet. Not so much changed as exploded. When something explodes, it shatters into countless pieces which means the whole we used to know needs to be re-examined.  Why are we still looking at the old ways of teaching, the old focus of our instruction, fellow teacher librarians? Yes, more than ever, our job is to help students learn how to manage this information explosion. Hence, information literacy is still a major focus for our instruction. But let’s expand our vision, let’s analyse that newly reconstructed whole to see what other literacies we need to teach – we need to learn in order to be able to teach. Digital literacy, network literacy.

I found this video on the Fair use and info ethics page on the NECC Library Learning Tools BYOL Smackdown wiki set up by Joyce ValenzaCathy Jo NelsonKaren KliegmanWendy Stephens, and Keisa Williams at the National Educational Computer Conference in Washington, D.C. 2009.

There is a wide range of skills covered in this wiki for teacher librarians, including the traditional information literacy/fluency as well as Digital Citizenship. In a way, digital citizenship is an extension of information literacy. If information literacy is about learning to navigate the whole information package online, then digital citizenship is learning how to behave online, how to responsibly work with and create from what is available online. All educators are responsible for teaching digital citizenship but teacher librarians are certainly well placed since they are already experts in the management of information.

Why stop at research skills when you can equip students to behave responsibly and ethically as they use digital content to view, create and remix?

I recommend you browse the many and varied aspects of this wiki. Fellow teacher librarians, isn’t it exciting to have such a broad and challenging role!

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Filed under 21st century learning, network literacy, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0

Students speak about success of global project

As part of the evaluation of this project, I interviewed a few students to get their feedback. You have no idea how long it took me to convert the interviews to film and embed them in this blog. Sorry about background noise. We will also ask all students in the global cohort to give feedback in a survey. Stay tuned!

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Filed under network literacy, networking, Social learning, Web 2.0, writing