Tag Archives: 21st century

Blogs are NOT airy-fairy, soul-searching, self-indulgent

You know how you can’t let some things go?

Well, the back of my mind is often processing ways to demonstrate to people the value of reading and writing blogs. Recently I read an educator’s comments about introducing teachers to Web 2.0 practices, where he says he wouldn’t start with blogging, but provide teachers with examples of great blogs to read. Often people considering blogging will say that they don’t know what to blog about. It’s a bit like a student getting an open essay topic; it’s difficult because it’s undefined. That’s why reading blogs of people who share your interests is a good starting point for new bloggers or even sceptics. What I’m actually saying is – you don’t know what you’re missing – there are people out there who are really worth knowing, in all parts of the world and in many spheres of life and occupation.

John Connell linked to a series of blog networking interviews by Lilia Efimova in his post about passionate bloggers. People whose blogs centred around knowledge management topics were interviewed by Lilia about how they used blogs for networking. What’s particularly interesting is the variety of backgrounds represented. Lilia’s interviews covered the following:

  • professional background of a participant and characteristics of her network in KM field prior to blogging
  • changes in the network or networking practices because of blogging
  • uses of weblogs for developing, maintaining and activating relations as a starting point for articulating stages of the process at more granular level
  • place of the weblog in the ecosystem of networking tools (mainly focusing on what weblogs are good for and when they do not work).
  • important networking-related issues that haven’t been discussed

Here are some examples:

Brett Miller, a system engineer, says

 “I know more people in different areas of KM when I knew before.” Blogging helped him to reach people he wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

Dave Snowden is a founder and a Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge, a consulting company focusing on complexity, sense-making and narratives. He was formerly a director of IBM Institute of Knowledge Management and founder of the Cynefin Centre for organisational complexity. He has about 50 science bloggers in his RSS reader.

“They scan journals for me, so I don’t have myself … I’ve learnt to trust them over the years … it’s much better than summarisation surface”.

Euan Semple is an independent advisor for social computing for business (www.euansemple.com). He started blogging with his personal weblog The Obvious. He says:

“Previously I was subject to geographical constraints or social constraints or organisational constraints as of who I was likely to meet and suddenly with online networks I’ve been able to connect to […] the whole bunch of interesting and interested people whom I suddenly had an access to in a way in a normal life I would never ever had that chance. I could then establish relationships and (and again something I get very hot about) is that these are not pretend or unreal or virtual relationship, the real relationship, where you build up trust and affect and those powerful things that make people work together. Online.”

And also:

[Blogging] is “a collective pointing that helps to find stuff, once you have an established group of bloggers you read and trust. And their ability to find a good stuff to point to it, increases your signal to noise ratio on the web … Blogs do that better than other tools because of the context – you have to say why that is important, why are you pointing to something”.

Luis Suarez works at IBM as social software evangelist. He is located in Spain, but travels frequently for his work. He says:

Weblogs allow you to get beyond what people publish and to get as sense of what a person is like – to build a profile of a person as a person, not a business entity. Not how long you have been married, but how people write articles. When you write a blogpost you are giving yourself out as a person. The line between life and work is going to disappear.

The question of blogs developing trust is an interesting one. Luis says that trust is developed through a ‘willingness to expose what you don’t know’, and ‘a willingness to learn not yet finished thinking’ or ‘taking a radical position that invites criticism’, ‘being brave and bold’. He added that ‘there is something special about somebody coming to your place to leave their words there’.

Talking about changes in professional network as a result of blogging, Monica Andre, who worked in a research lab in Lisbon focusing on information behaviour and information management, says:

“I didn’t realise that linking and giving credits to someone’s work would extend my professional network extended very quickly.” She then told a story of being contacted by a municipality government from Spain who wanted her to speak at an event. “I didn’t know I was followed by them. If [people] leave comments, you have a clue, a footprint. It turns out that guy who was reading my blog suggested the government that I would be a good person to talk as a keynote speaker”. When she received an email she thought it was a joke, but they called to confirm.

These are only a few examples of what people had to say about blogging in Lilia’s interviews, just to whet your appetite. You can read all interview summaries on Lilia Efimova’s blog Mathemagenic.

It’s difficult to ‘convert’ people to reading and writing blogs and to online networking in general for a variety of reasons I’ve spoken about many times in previous posts. It may be as difficult as religious or political conversion. To those of you reading this post, I’m preaching to the converted, I know. So please tell me, have you had successful experiences in converting those resistant to blogging that you would like to share?

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, internet, learning, teachers, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

Making parents our partners in 21st century learning

If we want to shift learning and teaching into the 21st century, there are a number of people we need to take with us. Apart from teachers and school administrators, we can’t ignore parents in this move, and we really should be thinking about how we do this. The K12 Online Conference 2008: Kicking it up a notch tackles the subject of parents as partners – Parental Engagement in the 21st Century – Leveraging web 2.0 tools to engage parents in non-traditional ways – giving much food for thought, as well as practical suggestions of ways to move forward.

Lorna Constantini and Matt Montagna connect from afar online and ask how we can move forward from teachers’ and parents’ fear of the internet. They remind us that parents haven’t been brought up on the internet, so it’s natural for them to fear something that is foreign. The question is, what can we say to parents that will influence them in a positive way about their children’s online lives? I like the way Lorna and Matt have brought it back to what parents can understand – that we are all social beings, having an innate desire to connect with people and develop relationships, and that social networking is just a new form of traditional social connections.  As Matt points out,

 although online networks can be playful, they can also be powerful, enabling people to meet others with similar interests, solve problems together, create software programs together, participate in social and professional discussion with people we may not know in the physical world, etc. Our kids do this instinctively and fluently, posting content, interacting with content posted by others, learning from and teaching one another, having conversations with people all over the world – the opportunities to learn are tremendous. If we look at this new focus for young people, we should realise that they’ve moved away from what has long been the criticism of passive television viewing, and found new engagement in an interactive environment. If parents understand the positive aspects of social networking, they will realise that this shift is enormously powerful.

A major concern for parents is safety on the internet. Matt and Lorna talk about reassuring parents that young people are better at warding off potentially harmful situations than we give them credit for. They also ask a serious question, one that we need to discuss in schools: Who is guiding and mentoring our young people online now? Who is rolemodelling ethical and effective online interactions? And the answer is, apart from isolated individuals, nobody.

Schools may think they are by using filtering software, but it doesn’t encourage responsible use. All it does is encourage kids to find ways around filters, and it also blocks valuable and educational content. On the whole, parents don’t know what their kids are doing on the internet, so they are unable to provide guidance. This needs to change! Why? In every aspect of kids’ lives, parents provide key guidance that their kids need.

Here’s the best suggestion for parent PD that I’ve heard – why not get parents to set up Facebook accounts, blogs, and interact with some of the other Web 2.0 applications. This is a great way demystify their kids’ online socialising, enabling parents to shift from policing to mentoring their kids. Rather than lecture parents about the theory, we should just urge them to give it a shot.. give the example of email, which was new once, but we’re now used to it and depend on it.

And what a great idea to use new tools and platforms to reach out and connect to parents. Parents as partners is a Facebook group set up for parents – an online forum for questions and support which also models new technologies. I think modelling is the best way to teach someone. Just as important as modelling, transparency is a great way to let parents in on what their kids are up to. Have a look at the live video broadcast of kids away on an excursion, where parents can chat with their kids. Lastly, the NING network allows ongoing communication and collaboration between parents and teachers. Interestingly, the parents who were involved in the NING are the ones who were not involved in school in any other capacity – another example of the power of online tools.

We might feel isolated in our schools in advocating mindset change, and connecting with each other, either online or in person, is a powerful thing to do. But we’ll be banging our heads against the wall if we don’t find a way to effect a mindset change in all members of the school community. If we get parents on-side, they’ll be our partners in supporting students in 21st century learning. As it says on the Parents as partners blog, students achieve better when parents are involved in their child’s education.

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Filed under Education, parents, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0

Captain Planet and Powerful Learning Practice

Did you ever watch Captain PlanetMy older son, now 18, used to love the show, and for some reason I’ve had an image in my mind of our PLP team as Planeteers. This Monday a small team from our school will be embarking on the Powerful Learning Practice journey led by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach from USA, and within our own sphere, Jenny Luca. I can see our only male member, Kevin,  as Captain Planet and the rest of us as Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart. We will join rings and sing in unison (or polyphonically), only one of us will have to rewrite the words so that they cleverly express some kind of transcendentally splendid PLP message. Any suggestions? 
 
Why am I raving? I suppose I see this as a mission of sorts – a mission I have some idea about but also many questions; a journey that equips us with new understanding and skills for 21st century learning and teaching which we will pass on to the rest of the school community.  What’s important to remember is that behind the small team is the larger team – the rest of the staff: talented, hard-working, and committed people. Although we, the Planeteers, are excited about meeting the rest of the cohort, and taking part in the program on the first level, we are not doing it for ourselves, but will return to the larger team with our new learning, making a difference to the whole school. You see why Captain Planet comes to mind? We’re on a mission – hopefully not as pushy, holier-than-thou converts, but people who are priveleged to draw from the experience of others and eager to share with our colleagues. As the good captain says: by YOUR powers combined, I am Captain Planet!
Now excuse me while I find my lycra superhero vest.

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, learning