Tag Archives: Facebook

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Media (Part 1) – guest post by Alexander Sheko

I asked my son, Alexander Sheko, (also known as Sasha) to write a post about how he uses social media for his academic and personal pursuits. He is currently in his second year of Master of Urban Planning at The University of Melbourne, and at the stage where his interest in mindful and pro-active involvement in urban and environmental issues have blended his studies, personal life and work. I have recommended the use of social media to him since his later years in secondary school, so it’s interesting for me to note that his use of Twitter and Facebook have taken off at a time when they could serve a real purpose in connecting him with experts/like-minded people and enabling him to organise and promote forums and events. As a teacher librarian with an interest in social media in education, this observation has confirmed for me that students will appreciate and use social media platforms when there is a real world significance – and this is often problematic in schools where the agenda is more about practising for life rather than experiencing life. If nothing else, I hope this post will help educators reflect on possibilities for real life connections made possible for our students using social media. 

Photo by Alexander Sheko

Social media – especially popular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter – are often characterised as frivolous time-wasters, manifestations of first-world banality and ennui. They are platforms on which to post cat pictures and selfies, the means of production by which we broadcast the minutiae of our lives to nobody in particular, craving likes, follows and other reassurances.

Certainly, they are often seen as counter to productivity, tools of procrastination. We might switch to another tab when a manager or (not so long ago, for me) a parent enters the room. Of course, there is more than a grain of truth in this perception. When attempting to focus on a set task or meet a deadline, it can be unhelpful to have the ping of a Facebook notification providing an excuse for distraction. And unless one is an academic in the field of communication analysing memes as “nuggets of cultural currency”, it is probably less than productive to spend hours looking at Doge, Dolan, Insanity Wolf and the such.

However, as with all tools, the utility of social media is determined by the user and the manner in which they are used. Contrary to the prejudices discussed above, tools such as Facebook and Twitter can be invaluable in finding information (and new sources thereof), sharing and discussing opinions, and making useful connections with others. Over the past year, having begun studying a postgraduate degree and exploring career opportunities, I have been able to use these tools to considerable benefit.

Finding information is perhaps the most basic way that these tools can be used. I often recommend Twitter to those reluctant to use it as a quick way to receive updates and notifications on topics of interest. For example, following a variety of news sources is a good way to get a large number of headlines and snippets of information that can be followed up (perhaps using a service such as Pocket to save articles for future reading), while following cafes and restaurants in the local area can provide updates on changes to menus or opening hours, special events, etc.

Of course, this one-way communication does not fully utilise the interactive nature of social media; however, it often does make use of social media’s networking effects. By following a particular journalist, politician, musician or writer, you are likely to see who they interact with and what information sources they use. You may also get useful recommendations from the social media platform along the lines of “people who liked X may also like Y”. This is a great way to expand your pool of information sources, providing a greater variety of perspectives.

For example, rather than only reading about sustainable transport (an interest and potential career path of mine) through local mainstream media sources such as The Age, Twitter has helped me find sources providing information and opinion from around the world, covering a more diverse range of topics and a broader set of perspectives. (For those interested, I often read The Atlantic Cities, Sustainable Cities Collective, Next City and Co.Exist, as well as blogs such as those of Mikael Colville-Andersen and Brent Toderian). Of course, whatever your interest or profession, finding and following a few key sources and active individuals will start a cascading network effect that will expose you to an increasing array of information and opinion sources.

I’ve talked mostly about Twitter so far, as I’ve found it the most useful platform for finding information in the ways I’ve discussed. Facebook can also be used for this purpose by following pages of organisations of interest (for example, I “like” the Public Transport Users Association page, which often posts articles and other updates on public transport issues in Melbourne). However, I find it is not as useful due to its more dominant use in socialising with people known in “real life” (friends and family). One aspect of Facebook that I do find quite useful, however, is group pages on particular topics that allow for sharing content and discussion.

For example, I often visit Urban Happiness, a group that was started by a professor from the faculty in which I am studying at the University of Melbourne. This is quite a successful group, with 650 members at time of writing, and frequent activity and interaction on urban-related topics, such as architecture, transport, placemaking, design, environment and policy. The group’s members include students (past and present), teaching staff and other interested people. Members are from a range of backgrounds (planning, architecture, landscape architecture, engineering) and include those employed or active in a variety of professions, sectors and locations. This diversity is incredibly useful in exposure to a broad range of information (when people post information that is relevant to their background or expertise), a variety of perspectives (when various people comment and provide their take on material posted by others) and a diverse pool of knowledge that can be accessed (for example, when posting a question to the group page).

I’ve published this despite the fact that it is only a portion of what Sasha had intended to write. When his life is less hectic, I hope to convince him to complete his post, or perhaps take part in an interview-style post. 

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Digital literacies – year 10 orientation

I can’t believe how long it’s been in between posts. Anyone out there still? So, I am finally back in the blog with something to share. We’ve just been taking an intensive stream of orientation classes for year 9 and 10 students. I thought I’d share what I’ve been covering with the 10s. The topic is digital citizenship and the possibilities are many. The time is limited, and the fact that I don’t know the students by name (or personality) makes it tricky to have a really rich discussion – which would have been really nice.

I took a risk. I wanted to provide a more interactive experience for the students so I opened up a chat room on TodaysMeet. I knew what would happen – silly comments – but I hoped for more. There was a small but encouraging number of sensible comments. Who can blame students when given the opportunity to chat during class? Even as I spoke to them about sharing their responses, comments, ideas and questions, I knew that a chat would contain chat. I pulled out a few reasonable comments and questions. I was still happy with the activity because we were talking about social media and they were involved.

Bill: The analogy comparing tattoos with our digital footprint was very creative

Malcolm: Can’t things posted online be deleted?

Malcolm: Why was it funny when the TED talker said something about narcissism?

Ian: Why has the speaker made a connotation to the Greek characters?

George: What’s the full story of Narcissus?

Sean: I never thought about it like that.

Jacob: I’m an expert at deleting history.

AJ: I deleted my online tattoos

AJ: This is why I don’t have my face on Facebook

AJ: So I think what he is saying is that we all have digital tattoos

Tiger: Face.com lol creeps

Learn to use privacy settings

https://myshadow.org/trace-my-shadow

Is immortality when the records of you on the Internet exist longer than you do (forever)?

This is what they were watching while they were in the chat room –

After a discussion about what some of the ideas in the TED talk meant – digital tattoos, digital immortality, online tracking, going over the top with photos and videos on your phone, social implications of over-connectedness – I gave the students some time to investigate their digital shadows on Trace My Shadow.

trace my shadow

How this works: you check all the devices you use, and which applications you use, eg social media, and where. This enables you to investigate the traces you’ve accumulated and look at these in detail, while getting tips on how to reduce these traces. I had 95 traces. The students were interested in this and I observed a fair bit of surprise. Of course, they were too cool to express any real concern.

I redirected the conversation to what an employer might find about them online. We watched the following video –

They googled each other and then themselves to see what others could see of them online. We spoke about inappropriate postings and I said that I assumed they were too sensible to do such things. We talked about the stereotypical adolescents in the eyes of stereotypical adults, and I told them that I wanted to stand up for them, and that I’d seen evidence of so much positive online contribution from young people – initiative, creativity, collaboration, social and environmental conscience. I asked them how they would stand out from the crowd in terms of positive digital footprint. They were pensive as I conjured up a situation where an employer had to choose one of them, and they were of equal academic standard, but some of them had a digital profile which demonstrated their social service, particular interests and talents, and co-curricular activities at school.

We skipped back to online safety and privacy, and we watched a silly video about dumb passwords, followed by a very short one about how to create a strong password.


I asked them if they  could live without their phone. We talked about manners – whether it was acceptable to use your phone while you were in company, and if they took photos and videos of everything and everyone. We watched the following video but we didn’t take it too seriously.

I admitted that I was the guy who turned his phone on in bed once the lights were out. They thought I was pathetic. I agreed.

There was so much more we could have talked about. If you’re interested you might like to have a look at the Libguide I’ve created. There is a second theme on this page – attention. I’m particularly interested in this topic, and follow Howard Rheingold who is an expert on it. A couple of the groups had longer sessions and we started this topic off by watching the old selective attention test. I expected some of them to have seen this and asked them not to spoil it for others. Watch it if you haven’t already done so. I won’t say any more about it in this post because that would be a spoiler. I wish I had more of an opportunity to develop these conversations in a deeper way. It was fun.

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An introduction to digital citizenship for year 8s – in 20 minutes

Our new Year 9s (still 8s) arrived today for their orientation. Thanks, Nick, for inviting me to do a few sessions as an introduction to their ipads. I’ve shared the slideshow and hope it will make sense without much of the talk behind it.

 

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30 minutes with the year 10s – what do you teach them?

At the end of the year the library staff do a series of very short sessions with the year 10s to support their transition into year 11. Our team showcases databases and other online resources, talks about learning styles, and the such. My session last year centred on Google Search, with the students doing A Google a Day.  Since last year Google have enhanced this program with a very catchy game which is sure to engage students. This year I thought I’d expand my focus area to include aspects of digital citizenship.

This is how I intend to proceed. I’m starting with a question which I think cuts to the core of learning and teaching in our age:

In the age of Google, what are the most important skills we need to develop?

There’s no doubt that, in order to manage and make sense of information on the internet, we need to be smart online. Students’ online and offline lives merge into one; they are always connected, and so they  need to be netsmart just as they should be ‘life smart’.  There’s enough material here for a year’s program, and while creating libguide resources for Digital Citizenship, I’ve been wondering how I can convince the school of the value of this.
Since I only have one short session with the students, I’m going to briefly talk about 2 aspects of being netsmart –

1. Our Privacy online (We need to be smart and discerning)

2. Critical consumption (or what Howard Rheingold calls ‘crap detection’)

So, first our privacy online. I’ll start by showing the students this video that Jenny Luca has shared in her blog post.

Hopefully the video will engage the students and spark some thinking about how much can be gleaned online about their personal information. Of course there’s so much sensationalised and biased information in the media demonising young people’s online lives but I’m not sure if that doesn’t just make them switch off. I’m hoping that the humorous approach will engage their attention so that the final message will sink in.

Following that I intend to challenge the students to google themselves and each other, making them think about what other people would find out about them if they were googled. I wonder how many would start to be worried about what their digital footprint might look like. Actually, I’m not sure they would find much about themselves online, and this would be a perfect opportunity to discuss the positive aspects of their digital footprint, and how they could create one which would impress a future employer or at least create a transparent, positive identity they would be proud to present to the world. I think the obvious question also needs to be asked: why do they need a digital footprint in the first place?

I’m also keen to discuss, as Jenny did, the difference between http and the secure network communication using https. Jenny said she was surprised that many students didn’t realise the difference and were impressed with the information.

Finally, I’ll be showing the students the Facebook tab in the Digital Citizenship Libguide, and we’ll discuss how privacy works on Facebook, and talk about advanced privacy controls.

Then we’ll move on to the very important aspect of being netsmart which includes critical consumption (crap detection). We’ll read through a summary of Web hoaxes and misinformationand the students will form small groups to ‘evaluate the websites’ in the list on the Libguide to decide which are not reputable, and match them with a category from web evaluation box. They won’t have time to work through the Internet Detective tutorial but I included it because it’s such a useful and specific lesson on the identification of disreputable websites.

There are so many more areas to cover but for now I will settle on the collection of resources in the tabs within the Digital Citizenship guide: cybersafety, digital values, digital footprint, Facebook, copyright, being net smart, Creative Commons, web evaluation, digital literacies and our networked world. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to work with students within these areas next year.

Image source: http://www.veletsianos.com/

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Facebook is like chairs – and bridges, dance floors, door bells?

A first for Facebook – its first advertising campaign. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced:

For the first time in our history, we’ve made a brand video to express what our place is on this earth. We believe that the need to open up and connect is what makes us human. It’s what brings us together. It’s what brings meaning to our lives.

How do you like it? The point of Facebook is not the technology but the connections between people, global connections. Absolutely agree with that.

“Chairs, doorbells, airplanes, bridges – these are things people use to get together so they can open up and connect about ideas and other things.”

Okay. Starting with a chair is quite clever; a chair (or seat) is one of the simplest cross cultural symbols and has existed for centuries.

“Dance floors, basketball, a great nation. A great nation is something people build so they can have a place where they belong.

So now Facebook is getting a teeny bit ambitious perhaps. Or are they, considering their place in world populations? Here’s an infographic comparing Facebook’s population with that of the most populated countries in 2010.

Here’s an updated one showing Facebook’s population in a different context.

“The universe – it is vast and dark and makes us wonder if we’re alone. the reason we make these things is to remind ourselves that we are not.”

Facebook – really? Suddenly you are the answer to the world’s ontological questions? Get real, please.

Mashable posted its reaction to the video:

Mashable editor-in-chief Lance Ulanoff previously pointed out what he thinks is wrong with the ad: confusing analogies, absence of technology and a plethora of vagueness that spoils an otherwise beautifully shot commercial. “It was created to celebrate the social media platform’s 1 billion active monthly users and my takeaway is that Facebook is an empty chair,” he says.

And then spoofed the Facebook ad with this image –

I don’t know about that one either. It leaves me luke warm.

Don’t get me wrong – I use Facebook a lot. Despite the frustrating, intrusive and changeable nature of its dealings with users, it’s still one of the most effective ways to communicate both personally and professionally. Connections are great – it’s what you make of them. As a teacher, you have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. It’s unwise to befriend students but, knowing they’re there, it’s the place to set up groups that students will inhabit – because they’re already switched on. Most of the time.

Good try, Facebook. Maybe you should get some user feedback for your ads before you decide on the best one.

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How much personal information do we give away every day?

                                                             Image: ‘Facebook Wants a New Face
Facebook Wants a New Face

A couple of days ago my son had an unsavoury phonecall in the middle of the night from someone who had taken the trouble to conceal his number and his real voice. The incident prompted a discussion about privacy, about Facebook and ‘Friends’ and led me to notice this video in a blog post within Judy O’Connell’s Scoop.it .

Privacy International – Data Trail from This is Real Art on Vimeo.

I’m all for the positive connections for students (and anyone, really) on social networking sites but I suppose unless something goes wrong, we might be tempted to overlook the reality of things. I think, as much as I enjoy sharing things with ‘friends’ online, I should review what I’m sharing and who I’m sharing it with. As educators we should be addressing issues of privacy and the implications of our digital footprint, and the best way is to model it ourselves.

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21 signs you’re a 21st century teacher

Yes, the phrase (is it a definition?) 21st century teacher has been bandied about and annoys some people, but whatever you want to call it, shouldn’t we all, as educators, use this checklist to check our relevance? Or at the very least, we could evaluate these checkpoints to determine whether we judge them to be important in the scheme of our work as educators.

As a teacher librarian I can only do these things if I find a willing teacher with a class. Not much you can do without a class – a one-off lesson doesn’t make a great deal of difference. Some of the things I have done with classes include:

  • Your students work on collaborative projects…with students in Finland/USA.
  • You share lesson plans with your teacher friends…from around the globe. Most teachers don’t see the point of sharing. Sorry, I don’t want to sound critical, but I’m talking about those I know both in my own school and colleagues in my city. I say, try it, and see how much more satisfying teaching becomes. What you get back is amazing. Not to mention valuable connections with other educators. Start a PLN!!
  • Your classroom budget is tight…but it doesn’t matter because there are so many free resources on the web you can use. Yes, there is so much out there. I collect it, share it, promote it, but don’t often have any takers. What’s the problem? Teachers are too busy, too content-driven, too VCE-focused (not their fault), too afraid, too put off by technology not working. All valid reasons, I’m not knocking teachers, but from my perspective, I’m always thinking about how I can make a difference here.
  • You realize the importance of professional development…and you read blogs, join online communities, and tweet for self development. Oh yes, definitely, perhaps compulsively. Love it. Highly recommend it. Does it eat into you personal life? It becomes your life.
  • Your students share stories of their summer vacation…through an online photo repository. Yes, one of my classes used Flickr to share aspects of their life with classes in Finland/USA
  • You showcase your students’ original work…to the world.  This is something I feel strongly about. Authentic audience, global sharing. Students love receiving comments from people outside the school. Whatever I create, I make sure it’s out there for everyone. I’m proud of what I/we do.
  • You have your morning coffee…while checking your RSS feed. What do you think I did before writing this post. The rest of my family are still asleep. Yes, I know, I’m nuts.

Some of these have given me ideas –

  • You give weekly class updates to parents…via your blog (I have documented class activity in blogs, but haven’t gone the step further to sharing with parents. What a great idea.
  • Your students participate in class…by tweeting their questions and comments. (I would love to do this but I’m not sure about permissions. Fear of social media is still prevalent at school. I think this needs education.
  • You ask your students to study and create reports on a controversial topic…and you grade their video submissions. (Teachers have begun to offer videos as presentation options, but a consistent assessment rubric would be a good idea, and there is still the feeling that writing is most important as this is what is assessed in year 12. Videos are okay in middle years but after that teachers start to get nervous, understandably. We need an assessment revolution.
  • You prepare substitutes with detailed directions…via Podcasts. What a great idea! Yesterday I was talking to a teacher from another school who records his corrections as podcasts. I love that. And I think it would be less laborious than squeezing everything you want to say in the margins.
  • Your students create a study guide…working together on a group wiki. Another great idea! I’ve seen nings allow students to discuss essay topics and texts so that ideas and content are developed collaboratively. I might search for examples of study guide wikis to see what these look like. Any suggestions?
  • You visit the Louvre with your students…and don’t spend a dime. Must do this with an art class. Or any class.
  • You teach your students not to be bullies…or cyberbullies. How do I convince teachers that taking the time to teach responsible and productive online behaviour is just as important as a content lesson? Again, I blame the system
  • You make your students turn in their cell phones before class starts…because you plan on using them in class.  Bit of a sore point at school; we still ban many things. I am required to chastise students who play games on their notebooks, but at the same time, I show them problem-solving games on my iPad. We need a mindshift.

The last point: You tweet this page, blog about it, “like” it, or email it to someone else…

Yes, I write a blog post, tweet it, and add it to Facebook. I’m not writing this for myself…

What about you?

Read the full list here.

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