Tag Archives: social media

Participatory learning a prerequisite to 21st century teaching?

This is the introductory section of an article I’m writing for Synergy, the publication of the School Library Association of Victoria.  I’m sharing this section before I consolidate the second, more practical, half of the article. Feedback, ideas and opposing viewpoints are welcome in the comments section of this post.

Photo source: Top Design Mag

Twitter and participatory learning – how relevant are they to teachers and students?

New technologies have created opportunities for participatory learning for students and new, connected ways for teachers to access professional development.  Some of these, such as blogs and wikis, are suitable as learning platforms for students of all ages. Twitter is one of the most powerful tools in terms of instant accessibility to huge numbers of people, but it is one of the most challenging to set up to work effectively. I would suggest that Twitter is a tool most suited to teachers and senior secondary or tertiary students.

The internet has changed the learning environment dramatically. As a result we have changed the way we think about information – how we locate it, how we organise it or remix it, and how we share it.  Wherever we are, whenever we want to, we can use our smartphones to find information because the internet has transformed our phones into powerful and mobile information devices. Furthermore, technological tools have changed how we think and how we interact. An example of this is the texting facility on mobile phones which has been adopted by young people as a dominant way of communicating, frequently replacing the speaking option. Technology does not merely add to existing ways of functioning – it changes our social practices.

Through social media we go a step further to connect to others in a new culture of communicating and learning. Our learning environment may be in a constant state of change but one factor is constant – the fact that learning is now participatory.

As educators, we should be constantly evaluating our teaching methods by asking ourselves what constitutes effective learning in the changing environment of our students and their futures – an environment driven by digital technologies and social media. We have the opportunity to think about innovative approaches to learning and teaching especially when our students’ learning can extend beyond the textbook and classroom.

How motivated we are, as educators, to find new and innovative approaches to teaching will depend on a range of factors – one of which is whether we realise and appreciate the potential of digital technologies for relational learning, for example, when we see opportunities in our daily lives for the connective potential of social media.  When we understand the value of social networks in our own lives, we will be able to translate this potential into the educational environment.

In a recent blog post, What’s in a selfie, Tom Whitby (2014) discusses the recent news about Ellen DeGeneres’ massively retweeted photo of a group of actors at the Oscars to highlight the power of social media, and to urge educators to harness this connective potential.

Well, if you watched the Academy Awards last week, you witnessed the global impact that social media has in the world. Ellen DeGeneres was able to take a picture of a group of actors that, in the first half hour of it being posted, was re-tweeted 700,000 times, which temporarily knocked Twitter off the Internet. It has now become the number one tweet of all time.

Whitby identifies the hashtag as a connective device used extensively by the entertainment and news industries. The hashtag is a simple way to connect users online to a person, event or information, providing an interactive experience for hashtag users. Whitby explains that social media affords a new opportunity for actors and fans to connect with each other in real life. He goes on to say that the news and entertainment industries are taking advantage of this new connection with the public by bombarding them with hashtags for interactive involvement. Finally he questions why educators have not realised the potential of social media in the educational context:

What does any of this have to do with education? The idea that social media gives us a platform to send out information and have people interact with it, or just digest it, would seem to be an idea that would be snapped up and embraced by educators. They are the very people who make a living trying to get folks to get information and interact with it, or just digest it.

According to Whitby, educators could potentially blow DeGeneres’ Twitter statistics right out of the water when you consider the wealth of resources they have to share:

Imagine if every teacher shared just one of their best sources with other educators, who in turn could tweet them out to the tune of 700,000 tweets in a half hour. Everyone would benefit. The idea here is to get educators familiar with the concept of connectedness and its possibilities, so that getting comfortable with social media itself becomes less of an obstacle.

Sharing information and resources is second nature to teacher librarians. Perhaps this is the reason why many of us have been early adopters of social bookmarking and social media, since our roles centre on curating and disseminating information in all its forms across the curriculum, and because these tools provide us with effective ways to connect to other educators and extend our networks. The new connective possibilities make collaborative practice amongst teachers easier than ever before.  Whitby is clear about the urgency of educators moving to a culture of sharing information using social media tools:

Social Media is here to stay. Its form may change, and certainly the applications we use will not remain the same, but the idea of openly exchanging information in whatever forms it is produced is not going away. As educators we can use it or lose it. If we don’t start to understand and use this technology soon, we will lose the opportunity to harness it, because we will be irrelevant. We don’t need social media to teach, as much as we need it to learn.

It is concerning when educators who do not use connective technologies in their private or professional lives turn their backs on innovative educational practices made possible using new technologies. We should not determine our professional practice according to our personal preferences; we must remember that we are educating our students for their future, and we owe it to them to be well versed in the participatory culture of social networks.

Examples of new participatory learning environments include social bookmarking tools such as Diigo and Delicious; online communities such as Facebook groups, Google+ groups and wikis; image based platforms such as Pinterest and Tumblr; magazine-like RSS tools such as Feedly and Flipboard; book-based online communities such as Goodreads, and many more. One of the most powerful social networks used in the field of education is Twitter.

Feeling at home in Twitter

Twitter is not the easiest of social media to understand – in fact it takes time and perseverance to reach the stage where you are convinced of its value.

While trawling back through my blog posts to ascertain how long it took me to feel at home in the Twitter network, I was surprised by how long I had indeed been a Twitter user, and realised that, while it was now second nature for me to tweet daily, it was some time before it began to make sense to me. My archived posts have captured my reactions and reflections which may otherwise have been forgotten.

On 7th November 2008 I wrote about my first impressions of Twitter :

Twitter I’ve only recently added to my online life (told you I was a latecomer), and I still feel like an outsider there, posting the odd tweet in the hope of being heard, of being accepted into a conversation. Mobile computing is not part of my diet yet, and that may change in the future if I reinvent my commitment to the latest technology.

Whereas prior to joining Twitter, my main form of communication and self expression was blogging, things were about to change:

I don’t have that mania for a daily post as perhaps I did in the past. I’ve allowed various social networking and microblogging outlets to soak up a range of smaller spontaneous thoughts.

The hardest part, for me, was to connect to a meaningful network, and that always requires initial hard work and staying power. A little like developing readership and comments for blogs. Once you do that, the rewards are apparent. Previously, I subscribed to a teacher librarian network, ‘oztl_net’, and that worked well for a time, but the advantages of Twitter are the global connection, the updated status which connects to the person in real time, the fantastic stream of links, the fluid conversation.

On 22 December 2008 I discovered the immediacy of Twitter for communicating breaking news:

The first thing Mike Wilson did after surviving the Continental Airlines 737 crash when his plane slid off the runway in Denver was use his mobile phone to update his Twitter community.

A dedicated microblogger or …? Whatever he is, he has now made history as the first person to tweet a plane crash directly after an accident. Twitter might be the up and coming way to communicate after trauma. I think psychologists may eventually decide that sharing directly after a traumatic experience decreases shock or at least somehow alleviates stress.

On 6 March 2009 I recorded my discovery of live tweeting:

Earthquake in Melbourne: Twitter beats breaking news

Sitting on the couch earlier this evening, I felt a strange sensation of moving with the couch, as the bookshelf behind me creaked. Melbourne had experienced a light earthquake. Did it happen or did I imagine it? After a while I tweeted it in the form of a question, hoping to ascertain whether it really happened or not. Sure enough, Twitter exploded with tweets registering similar experiences.

Meanwhile, the TV was on, but no news about an earthquake. Look at ABC newsonline – nothing. Channel 7 Breaking News remained unbroken – just a repeat of the stories that had been broadcast several times already this evening.

Gradually, traditional news providers came on board. Channel 7 finally acknowledged the quake at 10.27 pm. Very slow, considering John Connell had already completed a post about the Melbourne quake from Scotland.

Here it is, and he has an image of the first 18 twitterers – I’m there on the right. I would have been quicker but my laptop was doing its usual slow-loading.

So what does all this have to do with education?

Where Twitter sits in education

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008):

supports the focus on digital learning and identifies the creative and productive use of technology as an indicator of a successful learner (Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 2008).

The world of digital learning beckons, with opportunities for teachers and students alike to benefit from the opportunities and capabilities a digital world offers. Embracing digital learning is not a choice for students or teachers to consider and adopt – it is the modus operandi; the way we do business.

I think I learn better using technology than just sitting in the classroom and being told what to do because it gives me more flexibility and responsibility. I’m in control of my own learning which enables me to learn how I best learn and get the most out of my learning experience.

International research shows that integrating digital technology into the learning environment can: improve students’ confidence levels, attitudes towards their own learning, behaviour and attendance, promote improved opportunities for students to learn through collaboration and conversation improve connections with the real world and provide access to global communities with expertise and perspectives that can enrich learning.’

Teachers must keep learning

However, it is not just students that need support in this age of digital learning. Some teachers are comfortable in the digital learning space while others are still working to integrate the use of technology into their daily language and behaviours. In an environment where the digital space moves rapidly, teachers are also learners.

Educators who participate in Twitter networks are well placed to support students in the use of relevant digital technologies because the Twitter community shares knowledge, resources and expert advice. Twitter bios often lead to professional blogs, wikis and other online platforms which openly share ideas and units of work.

Students of all ages can learn how to learn in online learning environments such as blogs and wikis, for example, but Twitter is probably more suited to older students. Alexander’s post (February 9) testifies that Twitter is a powerful tool which can be used by more senior students to create and customise their learning network, and that this tool connects learning to a broad network people, as well as individuals who share specific interests. In a fast changing world, we should be aware of how important it is for our students to learn how to learn, so that they are confident players in a changing world .  Unlike the passive consumption of information in the traditional teacher-centred classroom, students using Twitter become proactive in setting up and interacting with their customised networks.

Helen Haste (2009), visiting professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, ‘claims that new technology tools are altering the ways students interact with the world. In a series of video segments, building on her four decades of research, Haste describes the 21st century student as a collaborative tool user who needs a new brand of competences to thrive within a changing environment.’

Two of the competences described by Haste are agency and responsibility, and finding and sustaining community. She points out that if students are encouraged to function as active agents interacting with their world, they will have to take responsibility for things, thus developing the confidence to deal with whatever comes their way.

She also talks about the competency of finding and sustaining community – managing friends, developing social skills, and managing online communities where they encounter a multiplicity of people, have to deal with strangers, and are involved in the multi-tasking of connecting and interacting. They recognise that they are part of a larger community, beyond their private world.

But how does the idea of students in charge of their learning and learning networks make us feel as educators? Are we also learning how to use social media to connect with a broad community, or do we feel uncomfortable with something which is foreign to us? How should we, as educators, react to evidence that our students are confident players in an arena we may not have stepped into, or in which we feel some uncertainty.

In a time of rapid and constant change, it is my opinion that there is one overriding prerequisite for an educator to thrive, and that is, to possess the mindset of a learner. But do we really need to be connected as educators? Couldn’t we leave that to our students – after all, they have been born into a world where technology is embedded into almost everything they do. Can’t they work it out without us, while we go on with the business of teaching?

I don’t think we can justify ignoring technologies we would rather not engage with. How can we justify turning our backs on the world outside the school walls? As Howard Rheingold (2014)says in his Social Media Literacies Syllabus: High School Level:

There is no doubt that ‘new individual and collaborative skills are emerging’ thanks to new connective technologies. As educators we should practise the use of these and assist students and other teachers to do the same.

Advertisement

12 Comments

Filed under Social media, Uncategorized

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. 

1 Comment

Filed under Social media, Uncategorized

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.

11 Comments

Filed under Digital citizenship, Uncategorized

Learnist – a bit like Pinterest and a little bit like Scoop.it

learnist

I might be late to the party, but I’ve just discovered Learnist. It looks a lot like Pinterest so I was excited from the start. It combines a few bests, including images, easy collaboration and sharing and educational content. And, as always, what I really like about it is finding people who take the time to curate quality resources. The excitement is in the lucky dip aspect; I like to search specific things but the unexpected joy of discovering something you didn’t set out to find is what makes this addictive for me.

featuredauthorslearnist

Once you start browsing the categories, you’ll realise how open-ended these are. It’s interesting to see what interests people. I’d like to experiment with Learnist as ‘wider reading’ for students. Wouldn’t it be nice to give them time to browse within a general theme or topic to find something that catches their interest instead of prescribing their focus?

attitudelearnist

Learnist is very user-friendly. As with many social networks, it allows you to browse, rate and comment, as well as find out a little about people and follow them or their boards. Learnist has enough statistics at a glance to give you an idea of whether the board has attracted many viewers or commenters. You can add a suggested site to a board or a tag – very similar to Pinterest and Scoop.it. It’s also easy to share a link with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn or email the link. It would be valuable to create a shared Learnist board with your faculty, or even create a cross-faculty board, or better still, one for the learning literacies we should be embedding across the curriculum, for example, digital citizenship or critical literacies.

Basically, Learnist allows people to learn with and from each other. That’s the way I like to learn. And the mix of text, image, video and audio is a great way to engage learners.

2 Comments

Filed under Curation, Uncategorized

Creating a reading community – Goodreads

goodreadscontemp

Encouraging young people to read has never been harder – on the one hand. Recess and lunchtimes at our school attest to a full-to-bursting library, but on closer inspection our boys are socialising around the games on their ipads. On the other hand, the technology we sometimes blame for a drop in an interest in literature could also become our saving grace in bringing the passion back in reading.

Photo source: http://pinterest.com/kellianneauthor/books-and-reading/

This year I’m keen to experiment with Goodreads as a platform for reading, sharing and discussing literature. There’s been a decent amount of interest from Year 9 and 10 English teachers, as well as from my team in the library. So, why am I so passionate about Goodreads?

Goodreads is the best of social media. I think it can work very effectively in schools. Just as blogging provides students with a real audience, peer as well as global, so does the Goodreads platform extend reading from a solitary experience to one which can be shared with a whole community. While the Premier’s Reading Challenge is a positive step in encouraging young people to read, I’m looking at more than the completion of a limited list of recommended reading, I’m interested in a platform where students can see what their peers are reading, where they can have a conversation around their reading.

Photo source: http://www.mybookcorner.com.au/articles/798-davide-cali-15-good-reasons-to-read-a-book.html

Reading can be much more than completing a book; within Goodreads it can involve:

  • rating
  • designating a shelf
  • reading reviews
  • writing reviews
  • connecting with classmates to see what they’re reading, rating, reviewing
  • connecting with broader community for the same class community for a text studied – the whole unit can take place within the class group
  • easily finding similar books in the genre, author or a series
  • following people to see what they’re reading, eg students could get ideas from each other or follow their teacher’s list to broaden their reading scope
  • following people to see their ratings and reviews
  • joining or creating discussions
  • following authors and becoming a fan to see their biography, see what books they’ve written, their series, what they’re reading, their latest activity eg. reviews/discussions; sending them a message, comparing your reading tastes to theirs; discovering their blogs and booktrailers/videos
  • creating your own groups or joining public ones

Melbourne High School is full of boys who respond to being stretched and challenged. They are often reading at a sophistocated level and appreciate the opportunity to read beyond a generic list for their age group. Goodreads allows students to browse eclectic group topics, for example, the group for The Year of Reading Proust or Old Norse Literature.
The virtual Book shelves default to “read”, “currently reading” and “to-read.” Students can add more individualized shelves to their profile, organising books by genre, reading challenge, books loved or loathed, by discussion group, and more. The possibilities for teachers are varied. I can imagine rich discussion of texts including all students in a way not possible in class. Social media connects students to each other, and beyond the classroom; it creates opportunities for real conversations, for many literacies, for digital citizenship.

Some teachers have said that they enjoy the competition aspect of Premier’s Reading Challenge. Goodreads provides this also –

goodreadschallenge
If you like the competitive aspect of a reading challenge, you can tailor this challenge to suit you either in the form of a class challenge, a year level challenge, or whatever you like. You could create your own list of books, different levels of difficulty, selection of genres, or you could leave it open.
Students will feel at home in the Facebook-like functioning of Goodreads. They are so used to being connected, it makes more sense to them and is more engaging than a traditional classroom where they don’t often share their learning. It’s fun and it really does encourage reading.

I’m looking forward to seeing how teachers customise Goodreads to their classes and teaching styles. I’m hoping we’ll bring our students back to a love of literature, ideas, good stories, powerful characters, clever plots and controversial issues in the form of books.

Of course, there is more than one way to engage our students in reading. As I’ve mentioned before, students will be enriched by Judith Way’s high-quality Readers’ Cup program. In any case, reading promotion in schools will be most successful when you engage students in a relational way, providing opportunities for them to have conversations about how they felt or what they thought about a book.

Photo source: http://pinterest.com/kellianneauthor/books-and-reading/

22 Comments

Filed under Books, reading

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.

 

17 Comments

Filed under Digital citizenship

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Social media

“Trial by social media worry in case of Jill’s Meagher’s death” – Social media and the law

Jill Meagher’s recent disappearance and death has touched many people. How do we know? Because social media has been a platform for the sharing of news and emotional comments from an enormous number of people. Not only family and friends shared Jill’s photo on Facebook, it seems the shock of Jill’s disappearance and fear for her life has touched many others, and they have been publicly expressing their reactions. The Facebook page set up to find Jill currently has over 83,000 likes.

There’s no denying that social media – in particular, Facebook and Twitter – have been harnessed by people who believe that dissemination of information through these media will reach the widest audience – and hopefully make a difference to the life of Jill Meagher. Sadly, although this journalism from the ground has allegedly aided the search for Jill, and led to the arrest of Adrian Ernest Bayley, the outcome has been tragic, and people have continued to use social media for their outpouring of sadness and condolences to Jill’s family and friends. Now the Facebook and Twitter updates point to the possibility of interference with the legal proceedings if people continue to use social media as a platform for anger and accusation.

“Overnight, the sentiment was very much of grief and sadness and now this morning, anger is starting creep into what is being shared and re-shared.”

With that anger comes responsibility to social media users, who become content publishers when they post. That may require a knowledge of media law.

Thomas Meagher, Jill’s husband, today urged people to consider what they posted on Twitter and Facebook.

“While I appreciate all the support, I would just like to mention that negative comments on social media may hurt legal proceedings so please be mindful of that.”

This message has been tweeted by the Victorian Police and others today. Julie Posetti is one of these people.

Julie is a prominent journalist and journalism academic, and is currently writing a PhD dissertation on The Twitterisation of Journalism, examining social media’s transformation of professional journalism. In today’s article in The Age she explains the issues associated with public commentary about the case and the accused.

“In this particular case, it would be awful to think about the potential consequences including an incapacity to prosecute somebody because of trial by social media, for example,” said Ms Posetti, who is writing a PhD on Twitter’s role in journalism.

“We all are very familiar with the term trial by media and it’s a real problem, but we also now need to be aware of the potential implications of trial by social media.

“Practically, [and speaking] generically, as soon as a person is arrested, we need to stop talking about what we think we know about that individual because there is a risk that his or her defence lawyers could argue that there’s no possibility for a fair trial in this country for the person who’s accused, because so much information has been published.

I’m ignorant about social media laws – do we have clear and current laws in Australia relating to social media? A quick Google search led to audio and transcript of an ABC Radio National “Law Report” episode with guests Mark Pearson, Professor of Journalism at Bond University, and Julie Posetti.

Photo by Jeffery Turner on Flickr

The transcript of this episode can be read here. We should read this to our students as we discuss the whole new area of legal implications associated with the issue of personal and public blending through social media. We need to inform ourselves about these issues, and schools should be focusing more urgently on these matters as social media becomes the way the world works, not just kids on Facebook – although that needs to be dealt with too – but the way news is shared, the way businesses are run, the way projects are created and managed, the way people collaborate globally with today’s technical possibilities. Why would we put aside important curriculum to discuss social media in our classrooms? Well, as Mark Pearson says in the ABC interview,

And only last year we had a British gentleman who posted a witty tweet, or what he thought was a witty tweet, about blowing up an airport, and he was just expressing it as satire, he said, because he was frustrated that snow had stopped flights from this particular airport, but unfortunately national security and police agencies don’t always have a sense of humour, and they certainly didn’t in that case, and his house was raided, he was arrested, he was charged with national security offence and he finished up being released, of course, but he suffered a whole lot through the process and spent some time in the big house, at least temporarily, as a result of it. Something none of us need in our lives.

The implications of social media are vast and serious, but the access to the new form of ‘journalism’ is there for anyone with a phone or internet access. If teachers are uncomfortable in this new and always changing arena, then all the more reason to learn together. It’s not a fad, it’s not going to go away.

Mark Pearson explains social media law:

The basic laws are pretty much the same as they applied to journalists and media organisations in the past. So, your fundamental law of defamation, contempt, confidentiality, all of these areas, you know, the core law is still the same, it’s just that some circumstances have changed with new media and social media.

It’s so easy to post that short, quick post without thinking, and without education our young people are more likely to get into trouble. When are schools going to integrate digital citizenship into the curriculum, along with other literacies? How are we going to prepare for this as teachers?

2 Comments

Filed under Social media

Our students were told to get lost – online

Yes, it’s true, our blogging boys were told by Nick to ‘get lost’

Have you ever had the pleasure of being lost? Not just a bit disoriented, but utterly, irredeemably confounded?

The excitement of not knowing what’s literally around the corner mingles with the terrifying possibility of never finding your way back home and the result is the humbling revelation that you’re not the centre of the universe after all; your known world is a tiny speck on the edge of a vast and beckoning globe. Bliss!

I’m amused by the esoteric nature of the student tasks, and how well they’ve embraced each new challenge, putting in their heart and soul in most cases. I don’t think they’ve ever been told to ‘get lost’ online, never been asked to think about and document the randomness of online browsing, to think about how it made them feel. One of the students commented at the end of his post –

Meh. By far the weirdest task so far –

but on the whole, students have good-naturedly played along and produced writing which was well worth reading.

Nathan is an example of this:

I soon ended up at the New York Public Library which was pretty bizarre considering that I started off with moths.

However, it wasnt the outcome of my research that left me spellbound. It was how I felt. I was reading article after article that I soon lost track of time. I was so engaged with these articles that I became lost.

The beauty of getting lost online is no matter how hard you try, you may never be able to retrace each individual step of getting lost. Each time you get lost online, its always a different story; always something new.

This task has inspired me to learn in a more positive light, that the online world has more power and is more influential than we know!  

Lachie was quite enthusiastic about the whole thing:

This task has inspired me to play endless hours of the wikipedia game to satisfy my now addicted curiosity of being lost. So goodbye satnavs and goodbye readers as hours of drooling over my keyboard tirelessly playing the wikipedia game await me!

Andrew did a lot of thinking and reflecting, coming to an honest conclusion about the task of documenting the process of getting lost online –

But, this gets me thinking. If getting something that you do conciously, to become something you do subconciously, is it harder the other way around?
Immeasureable amounts of information are processed subconciously. Can we get something we do subconciously, to become something we do consciously?

I honestly have no idea.

Fantastic! Questions leading to more questions – surely this is the beginning of a healthy thinking habit.

Richard started searching ‘purple’ and got lost on the way through the wrong meaning of ‘shade’, coming across an article about ‘umbrellas used about a Bulgarian who was killied by a dose of ricin injected by a modified umbrella.’ to secret police, methods of torture and finally thought experiments and Schroedinger’s cat.

I only just realised that I was well and truly lost online, here I was reading about some wierd paradox that I have absolutely no IDEA how I ended up here. So I guess curiosity takes over the feeling of being lost online. This activity took over an hour, but it was totall worth it and I have learned a lot more about the world. Looking back on this task, I am amazed and perplexed how I started from a simple colour, purple, to a brain-frying paradox.
It must be so much more satisfying to receive a comment from your class mate than your teacher, wouldn’t you think?
On first impression, the chain of links that you followed seems rather strange, but when I read your reasoning , I felt that the process by which you got to Schrodinger’s Cat was perfectly logical and quite coherent, which surprised me as the human thought process can be quite difficult to comprehend at all. It is testament to your very well-written and highly enjoyable writing style that people will be able to read this article and connect with it.P.S. Nice one on the Schrodinger’s Cat paradox. Have you heard about Wigner’s Friend. Read it, you’ll find it quite interesting.
It’s clear when comparing first posts with those recently written that students have moved away from the kind of formal writing they consider appropriate for submission to their teacher. They’ve relaxed and become quite comfortable with writing using their own voice. They are no longer writing for the teacher in a prescriptive manner; they are writing for their peer audience, and also for their wider audience. Most of them are openly enjoying the writing task, despite the ‘weirdness’, and occasionally a student expresses criticism at what he perceives to be a meaningless task. We noticed definite cynicism expressed by a particular student recently, but, as Nick says, ‘the positive spin on …’s post is that he is thinking about his mind, and forming opinions about productive ways to use it.’
This is why we both feel the blogging experience has been valuable – students are thinking. They are thinking about the world, knowledge, themselves and about thinking itself. Their writing comes from real perceptions and is aimed at real people. And more than that, they’re sharing their thoughts with class mates and the wider world.

Leave a comment

Filed under blogging

What’s our future – school libraries and librarians

It disturbs me that we are not seriously thinking about the future of school libraries. This statement will receive incensed objections; teacher librarians are, after all, talking about changes in what we do and how we do it at conferences and in their own libraries. We talk about some of these changes in my own school library – delivering ebooks, providing transferable skills such as critical literacies to our students, delivering online resources. Well shoot me down if I upset you but I still think we’re not getting it. We can’t make changes to our libraries and continue to hold onto the way we’ve always done it. I seriously think we’ll be out of a job soon unless we move along with public libraries and transform what we’re doing. We need to look at future predictions for education and the world of work, let go of what we’re comfortable with and make serious and fast-moving plans for change.

I don’t know about you but I can’t stop thinking about this topic. I don’t plan to retire for a long time (God willing) and don’t like to see myself made redundant. I’m also enamoured with my job and its possibilities, its enormous range of roles, its creative and connective nature, its freedom from the daily grind of curriculum and assessment of exhausted and time-poor teachers, its focus on school community, the empowerment of essential skills teaching, its embracing of transformative technologies. I could go on.

Just this morning I asked Jenny Luca on Twitter what she would be speaking about at the SLAQ2012 conference. She said she hoped ‘to talk about the future of the profession – what we need to do to ensure there is one’. I look forward to following her talk online because I know Jenny understands the imperative nature of this topic and will be worth listening to.

Also this morning I found on Twitter (via Judy O’Connell) a link to this article from Northwest England: ‘Special report: The future of public libraries; what the senior managers think’. I can see in many ways that school libraries (at least the ones in Melbourne, Australia) are lagging behind public libraries in their unwillingness to move with the times. New, shiny, colourful spaces – lovely, but that’s not fixing the problem. I found myself thinking that many of the points made in this article applied equally to school libraries. (You can read notes summarising the meeting here or listen the 60 minute  recording.

I’ve pulled out what I think is relevant to school libraries (open to discussion about these) –

What are the core services of libraries now and in ten year’s time?
  • To provide unbiased access to info.
  • To promote community and civic engagement (For us we definitely need to take a more pro-active role in connecting to the school community and also the wider community. Yes, we’ve been doing that through parent book clubs, providing our libraries for school related meetings and events  but I think we could break out even more and organise events which are not traditionally associated with libraries and books)
  • Digital access (We should provide more online, taking notice of an attractive and user-friendly web design – how outdated are some of our web pages! Let’s not ignore – or block- the students’ mobile devices which already enable them to connect to and create so much)
  • No longer transactional [that is, not based on stamping out books] but moving to transformational [presumably, this means, improving people’s life chances]. (Oh yes! Some school libraries have got this but at my school we are still spending most of our time stamping books and putting print credit on our boys’ printing accounts! How can we move into a transformational role? Something we should be discussing. I’m going to tread onto dangerous ground and even suggest that we avoid freeing ourselves up from the desk because provides us with the busy work our school community is used to observing. If we freed ourselves up we’d be challenged to organise engagement with teachers and students).
  • Force for social change (We can be leaders in modeling and integrating social media into learning and teaching. What other kinds of social change can we impact?)
  • Libraries can be a space for businesses and entrepreneurs,  providing meeting space, patent clinicsinventor clinics.  (Our school libraries should provide spaces for teachers to get away, relax, take part in discussions, collaborative planning – whatever. How many TLs are finding it difficult to catch a teacher on the run for a meaningful conversation? Money is always an issue. Some schools have been able to afford refurbishment, creating beautiful new and welcoming spaces. That hasn’t happened in our library yet but I think we should seriously think creatively and rearrange our spaces. So much space is taken up by our vast and archival non-fiction and reference collection. Beautiful but not the most contemporary face for our library. We also have small rooms housing journals and text books going back so far! What we can’t afford we can make up for using collective creative thought.)
  • In the larger cities, libraries can in the future supply 3D printing and fab-labs (Wow, I’d never heard of fab-labs before) (More about 3D printing here.)
  • Community spaces for all sorts of different things (Bring our school community in! Who has done this and how?)
  • Libraries will increasingly work with communities, where “anything can happen”.  Libraries will be very different “two miles down the road”. Volunteers can deliver more so “every neighbourhood is different” and every library will be different.  We need to employ people who positively react to community and allow libraries to be places which  “people can recognise as their own space”. (I wonder if our school community views our library as their space or our space? Certainly our students treat our library as they would their lounge room – noisy but vibrant. How can we do the same for teachers? I know that Kevin Whitney (Head of Library at Kew High School) does this by providing a quick, friendly service, a ‘yes, we can do that for you’ manner and a cup of coffee and CD playlist.

I like the idea of libraries being places where ‘anything can happen’. Yes, we should run ‘library-type’ events, as we always have, but what about breaking out of our mold and planning something unrelated to libraries and books. How better to dislodge the community’s narrow view of us and our role? I think public libraries are doing this better than us.)

This point interested me –

Public libraries will need to engage more with e-books and encourage “live” literature such as author visits which are really important. [However, it seemed like all the participants, with the possible exception of Ciara Eastell of Devon, did not really have their heart in this one and saw the delivery of books as, well, tedious and somewhat old-fashioned.  This was summed up by one panel member who said “we’re going to get savvier than offering just books”.

Of course school libraries focus on reading for enjoyment and literacy which is central to education. There’s so much more we can do (and are doing in many cases). Reading is not just decoding the writing and that’s why we offer audio and ebooks. But it’s also about many others things such as the thinking, discussion and debates that come out of it. Why not provide regular activities which focus on these things? Some of these things are happening in our libraries and others outside the library. Let’s become event organisers and creators for these things so that we’re not just limiting ourselves to author talks (fantastic as these are). We could do these things in different ways. I haven’t yet skyped an author but I plan to. I have brought authors into our yr 9 English student blogs, and students are thrilled that authors are commenting on their posts and sharing ideas. I’m hoping to organise a Slam Poetry event at the school – outside the library and hope to include teachers from different curricular areas to sit on the judging panel. What are you doing? What would you do if you had more courage?

Are there any limit to what libraries can do?
  • Libraries are provided by local authorities so need to have a responsibility to make life better for people.  However within this,  “the sky’s the limit” as long as framed by core needs.  “The ambition is to create surprises.”

I really like the idea of surprises. I have a plan for a surprise which I can’t share in case it’s not going to be realised. If I had my way, our library would overcome its financial limitations by decorating ‘grunge’ or be a kind of Wunderkammer. What I’ve seen in beautifully refurbished and designed school libraries is fantastic but it’s more a reflection of what librarians want and how they perceive their space than what students want. I say we listen to our students and include popular culture in our designing of spaces.

And this brings me to my final, and most dangerous, paragraph. This is where I lose friends (I hope not!) I’ve observed a defensiveness in our profession. One which occasionally divides teacher librarians and technicians into class distinctions; which sometimes sees us frustrated when we understand more about important literacies than teachers do but are unable to get a foot into classrooms to make any difference; which sees us taking up our precious class time cramming what our professional journals have told us we should be doing – unaware that nobody sees the value in this, unaware that the teacher really only wanted a quick 15 minute talk. Sometimes we don’t listen enough to the teachers, don’t have enough patience to build trust in the relationship before we go for it. Sometimes we don’t ask students if they already know something, or ask them what they really need help with, because we are determined to ‘do’ our planned information literacy lesson. If this isn’t you, then I apologize but I know I’ve been in all these situations at some stage and I’m never going to be there again. Our separation from the rest of the teachers and from ‘owning’ classes of students is difficult, and we have to work hard to build these relationships, because we know that relationships need to be forged before we can successfully teach our skills. I believe these relationships have to be sincere, real, not just as a way of promoting ourselves, and teachers can see through the marketing approach.

The Institute For The Future (USA) has published its Future Work Skills 2020 report. If you look at the summary below, you get an idea about what we should be thinking about in terms of our own future for school libraries.

You’ll have to view the original version to be able to read this. There’s so much here we could be helping the school community to realise: novel and adaptive thinking, new media literacies, transdisciplinarity, cross cultural competencies – we have the potential to play a role in all of these. We should take note of the ‘rise of smart machines’ prediction and free ourselves from the repetitive work which stops us from getting out and doing more essential things. We can do so much for social media competencies across the school so that the whole school focus is on a globally connected world. Just take a look at the Optus Future of Work Report 2012-2016 and its appeal for flexible workspaces. Futurist speaker, Tom Frey, lists teachers as one of the jobs which he predicts will disappear by 2030. But coaches and course designers will stay, according to the report.

Believe these reports or not, we should be looking at the future; things can’t stay the way they have been. We have been lulled into thinking that education will not be subject to the changes which take place in business because it actually hasn’t changed for such a long time! But this disconnect will not last too long, and we need the mindset and understanding to move with the changes. We should be part of schools which educate students for their future world; let’s look outside the walls of our libraries and our schools, and start moving.

(I am a secondary school teacher librarian and speak from this perspective. Views expressed are my own and do not represent those of my school).

41 Comments

Filed under Libraries