Tag 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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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

The yeast to activate learning

Jabiz Raisdana, AKA @intrepidteacher, shared an interesting post a few days ago, which he entitled Singing Hearts, in which he wrote about how a group of eighth graders in Missouri connected with his 3 year old daughter in Qatar.

Like many stories of connections made across time zones, cultures, and age groups this one involved some risk taking, some curiosity, some opened minds, and I hope some learning.

After reading The last child in the woods , which spurred Jabiz to increase his daughter’s contact with nature, he and his daughter went outdoors with their cameras to explore their surroundings,

even if our immediate surroundings was an empty dry desert field covered in garbage and construction refuse. 

The result of this little expedition was a photo essay which Jabiz shared with his twitter network, and which then resulted in @wmchamberlain sharing the blog post with his class and receiving more than 40 comments which you can read on Kaia’s post.

In this little expedition, Kaia not only connected with the outside world in a physical sense, but also the world of people beyond her immediate environment.

Hello from New Zealand.
Kaia
We really liked looking at the pictures of the backyard and the desert! Amazing stuff, you did a great job with the descriptions. We thought that it must be very hot in the desert, its been raining here in New Zealand today so the desert seems exciting and interesting. (Room 8 Melville Intermediate School, New Zealand)

Those pictures were awesome. You did a great job speaking in your first photo essay. You took ordinary things that everyone passes by and made them look wonderful. I like your blog and I will visit it more often. You can visit my blog at jacob-everybodysbog.blogspot.com Thanks and keep up the good work. (Jacob)

With her father as her guide, Kaia has connected with people in his learning network, people who are interested in learning from others, regardless of location, age or race. A simple photo story has been of interest to others who have contributed their thoughts and a little of themselves.

 Although, at such a tender age, Kaia would not fully understand the meaning of her experience, she has surely felt, to some extent, the power of connecting beyond her home and immediate family.

She is still too young to really grasp the connections that she is making, but in a few years these connections and this type of interaction will be ubiquitous in her life. I hope that her teachers are ready to help her continue on this journey.

Jabiz reflects on his feelings as a father who has shared his young daughter’s experiences with his online network:

… having Kaia exposed like this made me hyper aware of how vulnerable I am making her…

… I started to think about how much trust we ask that parents put in us as teachers. Kaia’s blog started as a way to share photos with family, it has quickly become a way that we are documenting her life. And now, it is becoming a way that she is connecting with people throughout the world. This is scary. Part of me wants to pull back and keep her our little secret. But if we want our students to feel comfortable and be cautious online, we must be able to do the same with our own children.

Jabiz’s blog reflection on the positive and negative potential consequences of his experiences ends in questions he poses directly to his readers:

What do you think? What is the value in this experience? Is the risk of exposing ourselves and our children online worth the connections that will be made and the lessons that will be learned?

I was amongst the commenters following Jabiz’s post, and so was John Strange, Professor of Professional Studies at The University of South Alabama.

John Strange says:

My response was you will not get the yeast to activate a closed system. They must engage the world. It is so important to energize learning through the techniques you, Mr. Chamberlain and others are using. I am not concerned about the issues of letting people into our lives. I think it is absolutely essential if we are to move forward with true learning, for all of us.

If I hesitate  when reading ‘ I am not concerned about the issues of letting people into our lives’, then I only do so momentarily, because the example of Jabiz supporting his little girl’s learning is an excellent model for us as educators and parent. If we hold the hands of our young and vulnerable students and our own children, and then still go outside of our private little worlds, then we learn to navigate the richness of connections with what is beyond our step.

For me, personally, every day spent reading what other people share online, in the form of blogs, Twitter posts or photos on Flickr, opens up a new window to the lives and experiences of others. There’s no way I could go back to what I had before. Could we even go back to pre-Google days?

I like John Strange’s concept of networking being the yeast to activate learning – it surely is.

Just in reading this one post, I’ve learned so much, and connected with so many people. It’s disappointing when someone contributes a comment and doesn’t provide a link. A blog, for example, provides knowledge of the author, and we can ‘know’ each other through our contributions in writing or pictures. We share what we think is appropriate, while preserving our privacy, and I think this is what we need to teach our students. Their digital footprint can be modelled on ours, and this not something we can do theoretically.

Apart from learning about Jabiz and his daughter, Gaia, I’m happy to have discovered John Strange who shares so much of himself online through blogs, points of contact and photos. Take a look at his page to see an excellent example of the richness of digital identity.

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How do you explain a ning without sounding silly?

This is cross posted from my other blog, English@wfc

 ningvideos

Following our school’s involvement in Powerful Learning Practice, our team has been asked to present to the whole staff next Monday. Maria and I will be talking about the ning in our English classes. We decided to present collaboratively, with Maria doing most of the talking and me driving the ning tour. Our idea was that teachers would find the ning more relevant and convincing if a classroom teacher presented. Sadly, I think that they would be less likely to listen if a teacher librarian was presenting, because we’re associated with the library (which means we’re seen as chained to the library circulation desk and focus on books).   Today we got together to decide how we were going to proceed.

The most difficult thing is deciding what is essential – we don’t have more than 10 minutes or so. We don’t want to overwhelm everyone but if we don’t present in some detail, it won’t make much sense to anyone.

For me, the essential part of the ning in supporting the English curriculum has not been the technology, but the possibilities for discussion and interactions. Within online discussions, every student gets an equal chance to participate in discussion at his own pace. The authentic audience and connections with others form a community of learners. Instead of responding to the teacher, students interact with each other; their learning is social. Although it’s not exactly Facebook, the ning has provided a Facebook-like platform for classroom learning.

What we’d like to stress is that the teaching is more important than ever. Yes, the ning is technology, but that’s not the focus. The ning is not some technical textbook with multiple choice questions and answers making the teacher redundant. Scaffolding the learning process is even more vital than ever to ensure rich discussion and push students’ thinking towards  critical and reflective responses.

During our planning session,  Maria and I focused on identifying the way the ning enhanced teaching and learning beyond traditional teaching methods.  We anticipated teachers wanting to hear why they should tackle the technology, what was special about the ning. That’s a fair enough question: there’s no point in using technology for its own sake. So let’s see…  Well, as I’ve already said, there’s the authentic, peer audience, and the interaction within that, and secondly, there’s the threaded discussion. When students are asked to write down their thoughts in class, it’s normally just the teacher who collects and reads them. Perhaps a few might be read out in class. The ning provides the transparency for all students to read everyone’s contributions, but also to reply to a specific one. Students can read every other student’s ideas, and respond to any of these.

Apart from the connection to the other students in the class, our class was joined by The Kings’ School boys in Parramatta. The ning has also provided an opportunity to bring in an expert, in our case,  our book’s author, Allan Baillie, who was able to answer specific questions of each boy individually. We provided authentic, engaging learning. The boys got a kick out of having their questions answered by the man himself.

I also love the simple fact that the ning contains everything so neatly – from a teacher’s point of view, assessment is made easy because everything that has been written is easy to find. I imagine it will be easy to see development in the boys’ writing as the year goes on.

Using videos to spark discussion has never been so easy. I embed videos when I come across them (handy for on-the-spot activities), and all the discussion following the viewing is neatly recorded underneath. Students regularly practise literacy without even realising. Somehow they think that discussion of a video isn’t real work. Videos are great for visual literacy -something I’ve noticed doesn’t come easily to young people regardless of what is said about the internet generation. They need lots of practice ‘reading’ visual clues, following visual narrative and interpreting and critically analysing visual messages. Of course, audio is also important, and our class has also enjoyed videos with music.

We plan to show teachers the variety of resources that can be included in the ning. Our videos cover many subjects – even grammar, information literacy (eg. evaluation of websites) and responsible online behaviour. I’ve started embedding TED talks which I think will be suitable for this age group. I’ll be looking to include more TED talks because they’re so inspiring.

I hope our presentation will demystify the ning and similar technology and open up practical suggestions for the use of such technology in the classroom. As long as the internet connection works! Keep our fingers crossed.

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Reflecting again (still)

Last post I wrote a reflection for the culmination of my participation in the  Powerful Learning Practice program. Still, I felt I hadn’t drilled down to what was essential for me.

Listening to Howard Rheingold this morning, and rethinking things, I wrote another reflection.

My participation in PLP has been life changing. I know it smacks of evangelical fervour, and I’ve often written about this in my blog, but PLP came just at the point that I was ready for it. I’d just completed SLAV 23 things, and started a blog. Everything was new to me. Nothing was easy, I wasn’t a natural, probably more of a technophobe than anything, but something pulled me in. Jenny Luca must have read my blog somehow, and emailed me about joining the PLP cohort of Australian schools. It all avalanched from there. Soon I was blogging, wikiing, ninging, twittering, flickering, and having a great time.

Thinking about it more seriously, I realize there’s a big discrepancy between my personal awakening to online participation and what I’ve been able to do in convincing other educators at my school or anywhere else about what I see as a crucial path we must take in order to make learning relevant and engaging for students. Yes, I’ve made steps, and for me, these steps have been significant. I’ve been reflecting and sharing knowledge and resources in this blog, I’ve explored the literacy possibilities with Flickr’s image sharing, I’ve supported English and Art faculties with wikis, I’ve created a blog to inspire reading in the community, I’ve been working on a ning as a platform for learning, collaborating with a wonderful English teacher, I’ve sent countless links and resources to teachers as a result of my own connection to my online network. But it’s not enough. It hasn’t moved a significant portion of my school, it hasn’t changed the way my principal thinks, or other the way faculty heads function. Although, I suppose I shouldn’t underestimate small victories, such as the approval for an external fiction blog (read here and here).  On the whole, though, it’s often resulted in friends, family, colleagues casting a critical eye or making derogatory comments, telling me to get off the computerand get a life. Basically, I haven’t convinced many people that what I’ve spent an enormous amount of my own time on is worth anything.

It has, however, connected me to a network of people who are my lifeline. People I otherwise wouldn’t have met or known about. People who are experts in different fields, who are brilliant, engaged, supportive. It has crossed borders, transcended nationality, age-group, ignored physical apprearance and status – it’s been fantastic. I agree with many great speakers I’ve listened to: it’s not about the technology tools, it’s about literacies. Our students need critical thinking to navigate the flood of information and media that comes their way. They are learning outside of the classroom – and social media and technologies such as Youtube and Facebook provide a platform for communication, collaboration and collective action which is more important to them than their textbooks. One day it’s about organizing a large gathering through Facebook, and next thing, it’s organizing political action. None of it comes from teachers or parents; it wouldn’t spark that level of engagement.

I’m seeing the power of collective response to disaster. Why aren’t we thinking in terms of social capital? Why aren’t we thinking about how to mobilize people to do things using social media? What are we doing at school? How can we spark this level of engagement? Should we rethink the ways we are teaching, the content?

You can see that this isn’t about technology tools, although all of this is made possible through technology. These are the things that drive me today – as an educator, parent, citizen. I don’t have the answers but the questions are driving me forward, connecting me to others who find the conversation valuable. This is what my PLP experience has been about. Life is a series of new starts. That’s why we feel we never reach our destination. We’re always starting out with new questions and new problems to solve. That’s why it’s a journey.

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, learning, network literacy, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

Don’t bag technology – ask what it means first

I’ve been feeling discouraged lately in my conversations with people about education. Maybe I’ve been talking to a small sample of people, but I’m feeling really peeved at the moment (and it may be because of lack of sleep).

I’m not sure if the endless circular conversation – between those who see the value of technology in education and those who dont’ – is even worth the effort. Yes, I’m not in a very positive frame of mind currently. I don’t find I have the energy or patience to continue, but I still want to reflect on what the problem is.

It’s not a problem that centres on technology at all. It’s a problem that centres around the very human aspect of dialogue. Dialogue which depends on two (or more) people listening to each other and making a real effort to understand what the other person is saying.

I’m sick and tired of entering into a conversation where I’m asked to justify my belief that technology is an important aspect of transformed learning, learning that has to change with the times in order to prepare us all for the way the world works and the way it will work in our students’ future. Most of the time I find that I’m cornered into petty justification because the other person is coming from a personal conviction and will, at all costs, aim to knock me off my beliefs to prove an ultimately negative point. This is not a dialogue. Cornering someone so that they desperately try to stick up for their beliefs while ignoring the larger argument is not dialogue. It radically narrows the scope of information which would otherwise offer a larger, more informative picture.

An example:

Me: I believe that technology offers new possibilities in learning (*very aware that this is a broad and ambiguous statement which needs comprehensive explanation*)

Other: What’s all the hype about technology? Does it really teach ‘them’ anything? Or is it a just a gadget, the latest fad?

Me: Technology offers possibilities for creating and connecting with others.

Other: I know all about that. It’s been proven that kids no longer have personal skills because they are using technology too much.

Me: They are learning the skills of online interaction

Other: I read/saw on TV how dangerous online involvement is, and how it isolates kids, how it takes them into dangerous zones which their parents don’t know about, how bad it is.

Me: You have to look at the real evidence. The media is often one-sided and sensationalises a small part of the picture

Other: But I heard an interview about it and these people are reliable; this information is authoritative.

Me: There are many wonderful connections kids can make to the real world and real people outside the classroom to make learning relevant

Other: (confused look) What are they learning by talking to each other? Is there any academic value?

And then the conversation reverts back to All Things Negative in terms of Any Kind of Change with regard to What Is Considered Sacred about Education, and it’s Sacred because That’s The Way It Was, and That’s The Way It’s Always Been, so all of this new stuff is Bad. We should probably go back to Grammar and stay safe teaching Facts. Numbers, Dates. Like my own education where I studied the Victorian Year Book and copied out fascinating information about how much rainfall and wheat we had in Victoria in  a certain year (the one that had passed). Fascinating facts about sheep and sewerage, I’ll never forget that (except for the facts themselves).

Ok, so now you’ve fully realised how down I am about this argument. I just have to point out that the worst thing about that kind of ‘discussion’ is that you never end up saying what you want to say, but you end up sounding like a crazed evangelist, ready to die for your cause – and I hate that. I’m not a crazed evangelist, I have much more to say and show you if only you would listen. The problem is about listening and wanting to hear, not about technology itself. It’s an age-old problem of failure to listen.

If I had a chance to talk to the ‘other person’ without being pushed into a corner, I would question their negative association with the word ‘technology’. I think this is a wide-reaching association. Technology = computers, dangerous  online involvement, unhealthy focus on what is not real, and therefore what takes you away from real, people-to-people contact.

But technology is also TV. Do you watch TV? Does it stop you from going out of the house? (If so, then it’s your personal problem) Or does it offer a window into the world?

Do you use a telephone? Does it stop you from seeing your friends and family in person? Or does it offer you an opportunity to chat more often in between visits?

All technology!

Yes, it changes the way we live. Some of us held off getting a mobile phone in the early days (we didn’t need it? we’d lived without it), but now we can’t imagine going out without it? Good or bad? It’s something worth investigating more deeply. But it’s here to stay, and it’s technological capacities are growing fast. Change is difficult; some of us jump on the bandwagon and others yell insults at the bandwagon from afar. What we need to remember is that, like it or not, the way we function in the world is changing, and we would be wise to jump on so that we know what we’re dealing with. So that we know what kind of support and education we need to give our kids. So that they’re ready for their world. Are we thinking about this? Are we looking forward or backward?

This morning I followed a link posted by @scmorgan on Twitter which led me to an article on the Edutopia website:

Kids create and critique on social networks.

The first couple of paragraphs grabbed my attention.

In the common conception, kids plus social networking equals an online popularity contest conducted in grammar-free instant-messaging lingo — not exactly an educator’s dream world. But the Chicago-based Digital Youth Network, a digital-literacy program funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, has tapped into the networking phenomenon to encourage creativity and learning.

The Digital Youth Network runs a private Web site called Remix World, which is modeled on popular online social networks such as Facebook and MySpace.

This ning works like Facebook where students can create a space (their page) which is their own style, and where they can post their work and receive feedback from their peers, take part in discussion, and give and receive constructive criticism. Sharing with the class (or other classes) is more engaging because they care more about what their peers have to say than what their teacher has to say, and they want to show what they can do. They develop confidence in themselves when they realise they can help out or contribute to a discussion. It’s all there for the class to see; their contribution amongst everyone else’s. They don’t remain invisible or unheard. They have a place, a voice, a unique style.

When students are motivated to create work that they share online, it ignites an independent learning cycle driven by their ideas and energized by responses from peers.

That’s the theory, but let’s hear it from the kids

Twelve-year-old Jalen (also the subject of an Edutopia video profile) is among those who’ve taken their work to a larger audience on YouTube and elsewhere. “I post online because I don’t want it to just be on my computer, where nobody can see it,” Jalen says of his work, which includes graphic art, videos (both remixed mash-ups and some using original footage), and computer games. “I get positive and negative feedback, but it helps me get better and better,” he says.

“One guy on YouTube told me it was a good video, but the timing was off,” he remembers of one project that got mixed feedback. “So I went back and edited it.”

The article also talks about another student who created his own social network. He didn’t follow a prescriptive set of teacher-created instructions.

“I didn’t learn from anywhere particularly,” Mosea says about creating his network. “I just experimented.”

Experts say that, even more than the digital world in general, collaborative Web 2.0 tools in particular can motivate self-directed learning.

Students creating and publishing online within their own community is the first step to compelling learning, but the deepest learning takes place in the commenting and conversation which follows:

“While the ability to publish and to share is powerful in and of itself, most of the learning occurs in the connections and conversation that occur after we publish,” argues education blogger Will Richardson

Of couse, this kind of learning is not automatic or without its problems. But this is where the teaching part of it comes in. Teacher support is more important than ever for these new experiences to be successful. It’s not a matter of handing over to technology, stepping back and expecting self-directed learning to naturally take place. Nothing could be further from the truth, as teachers who have worked with online networks have discovered.

Researcher Christine Greenhow cautions that the virtual world can also present its own barriers to independent learning. “Students can get easily distracted,” she observes. “There are so many nonlearning paths, so we need to help them stay focused.”

And there’s the rub. If those against technology think that kids just jump in and need no supervision, they’re wrong. Wherever kids are and whatever they do, they need supervision and support. As parents, we shouldn’t leave them to their online activities without taking a real interest in what’s going on – and I don’t mean looking over their shoulders with a critical eye. I mean engaging in conversation where we learn what they’re doing, and why they like doing it. Or even trying some of these things out ourselves. As teachers, we shouldn’t leave them with the laptop and Google, and expect them to navigate a positive and successful learning experience.

To finish, I apologize for my rave – I think it’s something I needed to get off my chest to reduce mounting frustration.

Finally, technology is about the people who use it. Let’s demystify it, let’s try to understand it before we judge it, let’s acknowledge that it’s increasingly the way the world functions, and learn how to make the most of it.

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Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, debate, Education, internet, learning, network literacy, networking, parents, teachers, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

Power of the network

The last couple of days have been very interesting. I’d like to share what I have learned since I shared on this blog a discussion about favouring an external blog to an internal one.

Above all, I learned that I could depend on the people in my network. Who are these people? Some of them I’ve met face to face; some I’ve come to know through my involvement in online networks; a few I’ve only just met in the course of this blog issue.

Amazingly,  over 200 people read my last blog post. Much as I’d like to convince you otherwise, I don’t normally record such a readership. How did I receive such a response?

After writing out my response to the Computer Systems Manager, then posting this with my response to him, I sent a link to the post out on Twitter, asking for people to enter into the discussion. I wanted to generate discussion, and to collect people’s views and perspectives. Discussion is a healthy and powerful thing. It’s a good idea to find out what others think even if they don’t agree with you, and in some cases, particularly when they don’t agree with you, since it pushes your thinking.

Apart from clarifying my own thinking with regard to the value of Web 2.0 technologies and their role in learning and teaching, in writing out this issue I gained valuable insights from others using the Web 2.0 platforms. Herein lies the power of these technologies – not in the technology itself, but in the powerful connections with people, people with unique backgrounds, experiences, qualifications, talents, and ideas.

The people who commented my post were educators or involved in education in some way. They responded quickly, and they came from around Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth) and overseas (Hong Kong and USA).  Click on their names next to the comments and read their profiles and their blogs to make their acquaintance.

My online networks are full of professionals whose reading and links, ideas and talents, I follow. If I need an idea, advice, professional reading, teaching material, and more, I go to this network. And I try to be helpful in return. Anyone who has experienced the collective wisdom of online networks will tell you the same. It is not about the technology.

Our students will go into the world needing support and continued learning. If we help them understand and navigate appropriate networks, we will be laying the foundations for support systems. We should allow them to learn within supervised online environments, teaching them how to write and interact appropriately and in a safe way, to share ideas and solve problems with relevant groups of people, etc.

As educators, our view of what is essential for student learning needs to change. Our students’ world will be fast-paced and changeable, requiring adaptability and resourcefulness. Our students will need to know how to find what they need, and who to trust. They will hopefully be able to discern who to follow and how to behave.

Change is never easy. One of my mentors, and co-founder (with Will Richardson) of the Powerful Learning Practice model, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, has just written a blog post about change, which she prefaces with the following quotations:

 “It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.”  James Gordon, M.D.

“Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.” King Whitney Jr.

Sheryl uses the metaphor of her recent house renovation to deconstruct the journey towards building change, towards the creation of something new. She documents this process insightfully, and I recommend you read the entire post.   I thought I’d pull out some of the phrases that resonated with me in Sheryl’s post.  She talked about the challenge of

keeping the momentum and the dream of the transformation alive

She also said:

There are times I wanted to throw in the towel and thought as outdated as the home was at least there was peace and comfort.

 things will look worse before they get better

Fear is a big part of it too

Trust is another issue. Do the experts I have hired to make these changes a reality have the know how and wisdom to make it all happen

I’d like to end my post with another one of Sheryl’s quotes:

 For change to take hold and redefine people and the places they live and grow there needs to be a time of inquiry, reflection, and visioning.

I’m grateful that I have people with whom to share my inquiry, reflection and visioning.

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