Tag Archives: online

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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Filed under Digital citizenship, Uncategorized

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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Gagging on content, struggling to switch off

Curation is one of the new popular concepts in the education world, particularly amongst librarians. In the same way as some previously trusted platforms for bookmarking content have become disappointing (Vodpod’s takeover by Lockerz) or slightly altered (Delicious), new forms of collecting, organising and sharing content have emerged. Pinterest, for me, as for many others, has proven useful for  easily capturing and categorizing images and videos, for example. Scoop.it has become very popular and a new way to search for educational content (even moreso than Pinterest which is still mainly used for personal collections eg wedding paraphernalia and crafts).
Joyce Seitzinger (@catspyjamasnz) has created an insightful slide presentation entitled ‘When educators become curators’. I particularly like Joyce’s description of the different types of digital curators – Closed Door, Hoarder, Scrooge, National Inquirer, and the Robot, although I haven’t actually met the ‘closed door’ curators, only ‘closed door’ recipients.
I can definitely relate to the idea of ‘gagging on content’ since, I have to admit, I’m addicted to information. As a teacher librarian this should be a positive thing since I’m in the business of curating and disseminating information for teachers. But an addiction is never a good thing and can get in the way of working efficiently or even living the real life. Sadly I’m often one of those people who can’t switch off, who regularly check for Twitter and Facebook updates while I’m out, whose inclination to share things I see and find could be viewed as compulsive. That’s why I’m reading Howard Rheingold‘s Net Smart: how to thrive online – or trying to.
Gagging on content can be managed by curation tools but balancing your life and curbing your desire to drink from the fire hydrant is just as important. And it’s so difficult to resist the temptation to connect to your networks when the conversation is so rich, when the new discoveries are so constant.
And so, if I can resist the temptation to check my phone so often, I might be able to learn from Howard how to develop attention and focus which will help balance my life by cultivating an internal inquiry into how I want to spend my time. Anyone else?
Still, at least if we’re connected we have an inside understanding of what our students feel like when they have to switch off and listen to one teacher for the whole period.

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Neil Gaiman on copyright, piracy and the web

@WackJacq tweeted a link to this video (thanks!)

Neil Gaiman explains his shift in thinking about copyright and web piracy in terms of literary works.

It makes a lot of sense, and I’m happy Neil took the time to give his personal take on the new publishing and sharing/mixing potential on the web. As he says, people were discovering him through his pirated books, and the result was that sales increased a great deal; “you’re not losing sales by having stuff out there.”  We need, as Neil says, a whole new way of looking at copyright. What is shared online raises an awareness and brings people to find things they would normally not have found.

As Neil says, that’s an incredibly good thing.

 

 

 

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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

Who are you online?

Photo by Will Lion on Flickr

The first time I heard this was when Will Richardson spoke at a conference in Melbourne. I thought…. yeah, I suppose… but who looks anyway? I dunno…

But then I looked at  what a Google search said about me, and used links to my online stuff when applying for a job, and I realised this…

Photo by Will Lion on Flickr

So if this makes us feel uncomfortable, we could – let’s say – stay offline. At my age I could, easily. But I don’t. Our students (largely), on the other hand, will never get offline. Their future world of work and socialising will definitely be online.

I found Lisa Nielson’s excellent and comprehensive blog post on this topic which, amongst many other resources, includes this slideshare presentation by Dean ShareskiYou or Google? Who controls your identity?

What about you? Are you actively creating your digital identity? Or is it creating itself? Have you checked out who you are?

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Filed under 21st century learning, Digital citizenship

Reading in a whole new way

Photo courtesy of Darren Kuropatwa on Flickr in the group Great quotes about learning and change

Debates about whether reading and writing are going to suffer in the digital age open up opportunities for reflection and discussion.  I was interested to read the Smithsonian article Reading in a whole new way about the way that reading and writing have changed and how they will continue to change.

Today some 4.5 billion digital screens illuminate our lives. Words have migrated from wood pulp to pixels on computers, phones, laptops, game consoles, televisions, billboards and tablets. Letters are no longer fixed in black ink on paper, but flitter on a glass surface in a rainbow of colors as fast as our eyes can blink. Screens fill our pockets, briefcases, dashboards, living room walls and the sides of buildings. They sit in front of us when we work—regardless of what we do. We are now people of the screen. And of course, these newly ubiquitous screens have changed how we read and write.

What really interests me is the change in the way the mind works with online reading, and I think it’s very well expressed here:

Books were good at developing a contemplative mind. Screens encourage more utilitarian thinking. A new idea or unfamiliar fact will provoke a reflex to do something: to research the term, to query your screen “friends” for their opinions, to find alternative views, to create a bookmark, to interact with or tweet the thing rather than simply contemplate it. Book reading strengthened our analytical skills, encouraging us to pursue an observation all the way down to the footnote. Screen reading encourages rapid pattern-making, associating this idea with another, equipping us to deal with the thousands of new thoughts expressed every day. The screen rewards, and nurtures, thinking in real time. We review a movie while we watch it, we come up with an obscure fact in the middle of an argument, we read the owner’s manual of a gadget we spy in a store before we purchase it rather than after we get home and discover that it can’t do what we need it to do.

It’s important to understand the positive changes in the way we read so that we don’t get stuck in lamenting the loss of old ways of reading. Certainly I can identify with the reflex to do something while reading online. Interrupting reading to look up a definition, investigate something for deeper understanding or find others’ opinions may be mistaken for a lack of focus. Is this kind of reading really a lack of concentration or is it actually a new and different way of understanding information?

Some people never read news anywhere but online. When you read news online you can fine-tune your control of what you want to read. Hyperlinks take you straight to the source; tags and keywords make searching and finding easy. But even this kind of reading would be enriched by some form of teaching.

I think that in many ways it’s more demanding than traditional reading, and I also expect that future generations will adapt as people have always adapted to new challenges. I believe that we have the opportunity to become less passive as readers and more discerning, more willing to seek out others’ understandings and views. Again, a great teaching opportunity.

How do we as teachers help students to read fluently, thoughtfully and informatively? I hope to encourage students to use the collaborative annotation facility on Diigo to annotate and share their understandings and questions of texts. What other ways can you think of which push reading into a more connected experience?

Yes, things are changing. We’d better start thinking about the implications and reflect on what’s most important in our role as teachers.

Photo courtesy of Langwitches on Flickr

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Whose job is it to teach responsible online behaviour?

Everybody’s talking about it: online behaviour.

We’ve come around, finally and reluctantly, on the whole, to accepting that social media is part of our world, young people as well as adult. Even television shows and radio stations are tweeting and blogging – how more mainstream can you get?

On the negative side, we also hear about  bad behaviour online, and the confusion arising from changes to privacy, particularly on Facebook. Many people have spoken out about what needs to be happening in schools, including Jenny Luca and Will Richardson. There are many passionate responses to Facebook’s handling of privacy on the web.

Some people are leaving Facebook.

Some people are staying.

It’s interesting that morning programs on television are often featuring conversations about social media, Twitter and Facebook in particular. This morning Channel 7’s morning program featured a spokeswoman talking about Facebook privacy and the inappropriate content that was being shared outside the users’ immediate circle of Facebook friends. I was surprised that the tone was reasonable, and many interesting points were raised, for example, the question as to why people post strong and even abusive comments to people on Twitter when they wouldn’t behave that way if they met these people face to face.

That’s the difference – face to face interaction compared to faceless interaction. Facebook, ironically, is faceless. When we get involved in a passionate discussion we may be talking to friends of friends who are faceless to us. We don’t expect to meet them, and we don’t exercise the same caution that we would if we knew we’d be seeing them in person. It’s the same with road rage.

For me, that’s the message we need to get out to students. Don’t get me wrong – I’m an advocate of the connective power of social media, but I think that students should be reminded that while they are chatting with ‘friends’ in the privacy of their bedrooms, their conversations are very public.

Facebook is very easy to use. It’s easy to add friends, photos, applications, become fans and group members. But it isn’t easy to wade through the new privacy regulations. Even with a manual it confuses me. And it’s not something young people (or anyone) are likely to do any more than they would happily peruse a legal document. Changes occur without enough notice, it’s easy to let it all go and hope for the best.

The Australian government’s cybersafety program directed by The Australian Communications and Media Authority has published units of work designed to teach responsible online behaviour.

But who is responsible for teaching this? Will it be taught by the few educators who have independently decided it’s important, or across the school following a directive from principals?

I worry that while primary schools may consider this an essential part of the curriculum, just as they educate children about bullying, drug-taking, etc., secondary schools may be confused as to whose role this is.  It may not fit into an already overcrowded curriculum. It may be perceived that secondary students are old enough to be responsible or that what they do in their private time is no concern of the school.

I would like to run parent sessions on Facebook, but it’s blocked for staff and students in our school. The leaders of our school have made this decision in the best interests of our students. Fair enough, but have they thought the issue through? Blocking Facebook at school prevents education. It indicates serious handwashing.

Parents are talking about feeling helpless and ignorant when it comes to their children’s online activities. We could say that they should monitor their children’s Facebook activity, but until what age? Try monitoring a 16 year old and see what happens.

Parents should be educated but then so should school leaders and teachers. The only way to understand something is to get into it and see how it works. It’s not a matter of saying ‘it’s not for me’; we can’t afford to say that anymore. We can’t keep blaming parents, schools, the government.

I remember a primary school principal once saying that what the students did out of school wasn’t his responsibility (when I raised the issue of pornography sites being passed around online). We can no longer separate school and home. Online interaction out of school spills into school interaction.

We are all responsible. We should all become educated. We should all educate where appropriate.

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Filed under debate, Education, internet, network literacy

How do we learn from people? Do we trust people? What do people know?

Photo courtesy of Okinawa Soba on Flickr

If I’m going to convince others about the whole point of Web 2.0 technologies, not just teach them how to use the technologies (what for? being the pivotal question), then I’m going to have to sort through for myself what it means to learn from and with other people (as opposed to the traditional learning from books, teachers).

Here’s an example. I’ve been reading the photo blogs which are part of a 2010 flickr challenge. Many of the blogs I follow are written by those living in the northern hemisphere. It’s interesting observing opposite weather patterns, for example, of those celebrating Christmas and the new year in snowy winter while I’m experiencing sweltering heat with temperatures in the high 30s in Melbourne today. Not only is the blog reading informative but the conversation is satisfying, and underpins the joy of learning from people who are real, who have a sense of humour and can answer your questions.

I’ve been enjoying sinikka’s blog. Sinikka writes from Finland so, for example, I learned about Finnish Christmas and post-Christmas customs. Not only that, but I could tell her about our Russian customs. Again, learning through conversation. Not static, dynamic learning.

Some blogs are very specialised. The library history buff blog is very impressive in its range and detail of information about the history of American libraries. You’d be surprised how esoteric some blogs are.

Photo from Library History Buff Blog.

Recently I’ve been mesmorised by the Flickr photostream of priest Maxim Massalitin who shares photos and information about Russian Orthodox churches. He’s from Kiev, and currently lives in France. He seems to have done his research about the churches and monasteries he photographs. In this way, writing blogs and posting photos on Flickr becomes a learning experience for the author too; information is retrieved and provided at point of need. It’s a great way to learn for me, like virtual travel. This photostream contains beautiful iconography, and I love the Byzantine tradition. It’s interesting to see so many different churches and monasteries and to read about their history.

Photo courtesy of H.Maxim on Flickr

I think it’s good to think about what learning means. Does it only happen at school? Obviously not. But we may not realise how much of it happens outside of traditional environments. Think back to when you finished school or university – did you think the main part of your learning had been completed? Well, sure you didn’t. But did you realise that you’d barely begun?

Maybe we don’t think that way but kids sure do – at least younger teens. If you don’t give them a written assignment to complete and hand in for correction, they don’t consider themselves working. Spend the lesson having a discussion which peels away at layers of understanding, and you’ll still be the only one considering this work. The kids won’t think they’ve learned much unless it’s on paper and with a percentage or grade.

My elder son has recently discovered a passion for photography. Now that he’s on University holidays, he has been able to spend a lot of time taking photos, learning how to play around with them, and reading books and manuals about photography. He has spent many, many hours of his time voluntarily researching and learning. And he is loving it.  The best example of out-of-school learning. I note that it takes time, and unlimited, but focused learning can be very, very productive. He also commits to daily posts in a blog celebrating his final year as a teenager. Self-initiated and passion-based learning.

Photo courtesy of phillipsandwich on flickr

Every day I learn so much that is interesting from people online – people who share their expertise and special interests, and who are willing to communicate with others. So much more engaging than learning facts from a static page. We can learn a lot from each other.

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Filed under 21st century learning, learning, Web 2.0