Tag Archives: social networking

Getting ready for iPad rollout at school – exploring apps and thinking about Apple’s new iBooks Author

Unexpectedly, and on the last day of school (for me, as teacher librarian – all the classroom teachers were on holidays the week before), our principal announced at an informal meeting that we were going to put iPads in the hands of students and teachers at school, starting with all our year 9 and 10 students. Okay, so I get my iPad1 upgraded, not bad at all. It seems our school is the first to gain approval to use the government funding for technology on iPads.

As happy as I am, and as excited about the possibilities for innovative, hands-on, mobile learning, I can’t help wonder how it’s going to work – with teachers coming back to school without preparation time, time to think and plan, time to play (I don’t think too many teachers have used iPads), time to collaborate within faculties to decide on a plan of attack. Nevertheless, it’s an exciting new direction, and with Apple’s recent announcement of the iBooks Author, I wonder if digital textbook creation will ever be possible on the iPad. I’ve saved in my Diigo only a few of the many reactions from people after having read Apple’s license agreement restictions.

I’ve been doing a little thinking and researching myself. Last year I put together online resources for the use of mobile technologies in the classroom in our library’s new LibGuides. You can access these resources here (don’t forget there are 2 tabs) – yes, I’ve mentioned these before but I’ve been adding links here and there. I’ve also created other LibGuides pages which support the use of mobile technologies, eg 21st Century Learning and Digital Citizenship (multiple tabs) and these a work in progress.

Having the time to myself these holidays, time to meet with family and friends, to shop and explore, I’ve (perhaps foolishly) decided to tackle the 365 daily photo blog again. Yes, I have. But this time I decided to do what some of my online colleagues are doing, and that is use a few choice apps to quickly and easily upload photos to a blog, usually without text. I figure, yes, I miss the description and reflection, but at least this will be an easy way to document my year as well as play with photo apps on my phone. So it’s Posterous that I’m using and the app PicPosterous to upload the photo, or else you can email the photo straight to the blog. My blog is called Going round again (yes, I know, not very original). In most cases I’m not including any text, just throwing up a visual snapshot of my day.

There are so many apps for photo editing which sometimes transform a mundane subject matter into something a little more interesting. As you can see at the top of this post, I’ve been playing with an app called Kinotopic – I’m sure that photo is driving you nuts by now. You can read about what this app can do on the website but as far as I’m concerned it creates pictures like those hanging on the walls of Hogwarts, moving pictures. Very cool. Less cool is my skill at colouring what needs to move without disconnecting things that shouldn’t be disconnected. Have a go if you can, it’s fun. Heaps of possibilities for students for creativity here.

I’ve included screen shots of my photo apps –

The apps I’ve used the most are PhotoStudio, Instagram, PhotoShake, and more recently, after Kim Cofino‘s recommendation, Camera+. It’s easy to go from the photo itself on the phone to the editing and finally posting to Posterous (via PicPosterous app or email). The effects are fun and make an otherwise mundane photo look a little more interesting or at least look better with a frame.

Of course, there are so many more apps for whatever purpose, and here’s the link to the links I’ve been saving over time.

Gimmicky apps aside, teachers are interested first and foremost in applications which enable them and their students to function as they always have, eg word processing, document saving, etc. A recent Twitter discussion confirmed the popularity of Evernote to do – almost everything! Andrew Maxwell shared 100 uses for Evernote which is a handy little checklist. The Apps in Education ning has a good selection of Apps for Teachers.

Google has a suite of apps for all its different tools.

I’m getting ready to present to staff and I’m happy to do the research for what they need, but I’ll also be recommending they build their personal learning networks, join Twitter, Google+ or Facebook, so that they can ask their own questions and share knowledge and expertise. I’m hoping that the new challenges will convince them that social networking is a powerful way to learn rather than something other people do when they have no life.

If your school is using iPads, I would be very happy if you would share some of your experiences and your favourite apps for teaching and learning.

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Patterns of behaviour, rather than skill sets, lead to opportunities

Point Lonsdale rockpools – photo by Alexander Sheko

A while ago I was asked to contribute an article to FYI. The brief was – describe your journey to becoming a Google Certified Teacher.

I’ve had a lot of trouble writing this article, and I’ve edited many drafts before finally submitting something with which I am half pleased. It’s frustrating writing a print article for many reasons. You can’t hyperlink which means you have to explain everything in greater detail and include a set of links at the end. You wonder who your readers will be, and you know you won’t get any feedback.

And so, since this is the platform I feel comfortable to use for self-expression and sharing, I’ve copied my article into a post and hope to hear from some of you. Do you feel the same way about social media and networking or do you feel differently? Your feedback is always valuable to me.

How I became a Google Certified Teacher (Journey to becoming a Google Certified Teacher)
“We sat at brightly google-coloured tables and, shortly after breakfast, were treated to Google Educators giving us an overview of the enormous range of Google tools: Search (web, specialised, multimedia, language, custom), Google Apps Education edition, Docs, Sites, Calendar, Blogger,Books, Scholar, News, Blog Search, Alerts, Maps, Earth, Gmail, Chat, Talk,Mobile, and more. Added to these sessions, some of our 55 strong cohort had offered to present Inspiring Ideas. We were treated to Google Spreadsheets (Pat Wagner), Sites for student e-portolios (Joe Donahue), creating an augmented reality school tour (Chris Betcher), e-portfolios using Blogger and Apps (Rob Clarke), using Blogger and Video Chat for minimally invasive education (Tara Taylor-Jorgensen), and an inside view of Google Apps for Education in a school (Dorothy Burt).  At 6pm, in the last session: reflection and review, we shared our ‘Aha’ moments for the day with our group, and at 6.30pm we were treated to a lovely celebratory dinner.”This is how I described in a blog post my experience at the Google Academy in April 2011

It was a once in a lifetime opportunity which connected me not only to experienced Google educators but also to a fantastic cohort of passionate, innovative people who are now part of my learning network.

Opportunities seem to present themselves out of the blue when in fact they don’t. You have to be somewhere in order to see the opportunities. Those who attended the one and a half days of professional development and became Google Certified Teachers had already been connecting and sharing online through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Diigo, Delicious and other social media. Of course there are many people out there who are doing the same and deserved to join the GCT cohort but weren’t chosen and the reason for this I leave up to the gods.

I look back to see a pattern of behaviour rather than a set of skills which led me to discovering the Google Teacher Academy opportunity – I am a learner, and technology and social media are my enablers.

“Participants were selected based on their professional experience, their passion for teaching and learning, and their successful use of technology in school settings.”

I think when we say ‘teaching and learning’ we should stop and think about the learning part of that dynamic partnership which makes us good educators. Yes, it’s about students’ learning, but more importantly, it’s about our own learning and our continued learning.

We can’t successfully teach our students if we are still the learners we were when we completed our teaching degree. To keep up with the world of our students and the future world of their work we need to immerse ourselves in the technology which enables today’s learning. But not technology for technology’s sake.

Howard Rheingold said (in Robert Heyden’s blog post)
that learning should be learner-centred, social and peer-to-peer and networked. He said that
“students are going to live and work socially and yet the methods and the literature of social learning are not being used.”

We teach most effectively when we experience something for ourselves. It’s not good enough to push aside the technology which makes us feel uncomfortable or decide we have no time to participate in social media. We don’t need to do more, we should just do things differently.

Social media is a great enabler. Once I started blogging I connected to people with similar roles and interests, expanding my ‘friendship’ and ‘colleague’ base, but I also followed people with varied interests and expertise, as well as those who challenged me with diverse viewpoints. Technology allows us to transcend barriers of location, culture, age, class, race, gender, and educational level. How wonderful to connect with and learn from keynoters and change agents like Will Richardson, Howard Rheingold and Joyce Valenza.

Social media is an equalizer. It democratizes people. I admire Howard Rheingold and his writings but I am unlikely to see him in person. I can, however, read what he’s written, see what he’s reading, follow what he’s thinking, discover who he’s talking to – on Twitter, Delicious and Google+.    I have the opportunity to communicate with great minds and forward thinkers. My opinion is heard – it counts; people respond and relationships are formed. If I don’t know how to do something, I ask and receive help. Social media reduces isolation and frustration and quickly answers questions, solves problems.

So, if opportunities such as GTA are a result of specific patterns of behaviour, what does this routine look like?
,
Every morning before school I check Facebook (which is blocked at school) and pull out news and resources which come to me once I’ve followed organisations. These include VicPLN, Australia e-series, Facing IT, iCentre, Internet Public Library, Maths TV, National Gallery of Victoria, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Folger Shakespeare Library, Smithsonian Libraries, Tate, The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas, Virtual Museum of Canada, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and many more. This works like an RSS feed for me, but it’s only one of many. I also read a wide range of blogs in Google Reader, discover what others are reading in my Diigo and Delicious communities, and interact with my Twitter and Google+ networks. If this seems like too much, it’s worth noting that I have the choice to do these things selectively.

If I were to give advice for building meaningful online networks I would say:
Don’t just find, but also explore for serendipitous encounters;
Start with one type of network (eg Twitter, RSS, etc) and closely follow a few people, engaging in conversation and discovering people in their networks;
Don’t just use Google – search Diigo, Delicious, Vodpod to find expertise in areas that interest you;
Share generously what you find and create, encourage and support, respond to and ask engaging questions;
Revise your networks regularly to keep them relevant and vibrant;
Share what you do as well as your reflections and evaluations;
Be real – even online people can detect superficial or insincere interaction.

Admittedly, the global curricular focus of teacher librarians is one of the reasons that we are amongst the best participators in social media, and the teachers’ focus on content delivery and assessment can be a deterrent. Nevertheless, I make a considerable effort to model and demonstrate the fruits of social networking with the hope of inspiring others.

As Howard Rheingold says of this type of connected learning (which applies to us as well as students)

“It’s the unpredictable synergy that can happen when a group of strangers assembles online to learn together.”

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How much personal information do we give away every day?

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

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

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

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

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Naplan our benchmark? Why not “The Horizon Report?”

Our school is in the process of an external review. As learning enhancement coordinator, I was reviewed as part of a small group which included the learning support and transition coordinators.  During our meeting the reviewers focused on the NAPLAN results, and asked us how we used this data. We were encouraged to drill down into specific data which would allow us to address the specific issues. For example, if our students’ weaknesses were revealed in the area of writing, we would make it our business to find out if the weakness resided in the mechanics of writing, the critical thinking component, etc.

At some point during the meeting I started thinking about how we came to put so much emphasis on NAPLAN testing, and if we had any other criteria with which to evaluate our teaching. Surely there were more contemporary skills to base our assessment on – beyond spelling, grammar, numeracy, reading and writing? It’s pretty obvious that, although all these things are important, we’ve come a long way in terms of essential skills in the last few years.

Just look at The Horizon Report. Its discussion of technology adoption highlights critical challenges, and these include digital media literacy, new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing and researching (eg blogs and networked presentations). These trends and challenges are indicative of ‘the changing nature of the way we communicate, access information, connect with peers and colleagues, learn and even socialise’.

And yet how many schools are engaging in conversation about these challenges? Or are they still looking at spelling, reading and writing. During our meeting I was disturbed to hear educators blame the introduction of one-to-one notebook computers for the decline in writing standards. Don’t get me started on that.

Back to my original point – who looks at the Horizon Report in schools? At best it’s read as an interesting or challenging extra piece of information. Is it too challenging? Considered irrelevant? Too far from what we are doing so we just put it away since it isn’t seen as crucial to learning and teaching? Or is it that we refuse to acknowledge how ubiquitous technology has become and think we can prevent the adoption of things like mobile phones? And yet, The Horizon Report states: “Mobiles enable ubiquitous access to information, social networks, tools for learning and productivity, and much more”.

We are still focusing on the problematic nature of digital and mobile technologies – problematic because they disrupt our orderly, nineteenth century classroom. They create chaos. But we need that chaos, we need to shake up the traditional lessons to re-engage students and help them connect to and take ownership of their learning.

I see the problem residing in the disconnect between school and life. How can students be engaged in an artificial construct which separates knowledge into rigid compartments, knowledge which is delivered in a way which students find foreign and unengaging. Shouldn’t we look at how our students find what they need to know, how they create things, how they organise events within their networks? We still see this as separate from learning. We are convinced that young people’s online socialising is superficial, a waste of valuable time.

Howard Rheingold’s post, How does digital media impact youth political and civic engagement?says otherwise. Rheingold points toJoseph Kahne‘s very important empirical study about young people’s use of digital media and how it impacts their engagement — or lack of engagement — in civic affairs and politics.

That research, Kahne says in an interview, punctures some core myths about online activism, and strongly indicates that the virtual world nourishes youth engagement in real-world issues.

What we found is that young people were more likely to volunteer offline when they were part of online networks.

The question becomes, how can youth’s embrace of digital media and enthusiasm for the Internet be leveraged for social enterprise and civic engagement?

And I would add, how can youth’s embrace of digital media and enthusiasm for the Internet be leveraged for what happens in terms of teaching and learning at school?

Online, young people are gaining skills … how to work in a group, how to negotiate things, how to get organized, how to organize other people… We also found that their online participation increased their exposure to diverse viewpoints… 

How diverse are the viewpoints students are exposed to in the classroom? I really think, not diverse enough. Rather than shut down possibilities for our students to connect outside the classroom out of fear, we could enable connections and guide our students to behave responsibly and maturely. I would even go so far as to suggest that we encourage young people to join specific online groups to broaden their range of experiences. If we take students out on excursions then we could do the same online.

Does anyone teach in a school which formulates its strategic plan while looking at The Horizon Report?  

Here’s the full interview with Joseph Kahne taken from Howard Rheingold’s post.

Does social media and the Internet fuel youth political engagement? from DML Research Hub on Vimeo.

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Interview with Judith Way, author of Bright Ideas

If you think about people who are a constant and inspirational support in your professional life, you know that you are indebted to these people on a daily basis.


I’ve decided to feature an interview with Judith Way, a Victorian teacher librarian who has made a significant difference in the professional lives of teacher librarians and others, and whose unassuming, friendly nature has endeared many, both in Victoria and globally.

Judith’s blog, Bright Ideas, which she writes for the School Library Association of Victoria, is one of the first things I check daily because I know that she is on top of what’s happening in the world of education. Although she may not need an introduction since so many are connected to her through the blog, Twitter and OZTL-NET, to mention only a few platforms, I’ve included a short biography as an introduction to a recent interview I conducted with Judith.

Judith Way is a teacher-librarian with a Graduate Diploma of Children’s Literature and a Master of Arts. Recently she was recognised for her work with the Bright Ideas blog through the  2010 IASL/Softlink International Excellence Award .She has also been the recipient of the School Library Association of Victoria’s John Ward Award for outstanding contribution to teacher librarianship in 2007 and the SLAV Innovators Grant in 2009. She was awarded the Children’s Book Council of Australia Eleanor E. Robertson prize in 2003. She has presented at conferences locally and internationally. Judith writes the Bright Ideas blog for the School Library Association of Victoria.
How did you come to create and write the Bright Ideas blog?

Due to the success of the School Library Association of Victoria’s Web2.0 online program in 2008, there was a real momentum for more online resources for school libraries, and the idea that schools would showcase what they had developed to encourage others was a big part of that. I was honoured to be asked by SLAV to write the blog on their behalf. I had undertaken the ’23 things’ course through Yarra Plenty Regional Library in 2006.

What were your initial thoughts/feelings about the blog?

Excitement! What a fantastic opportunity to delve into the web 2.0 world and see what we could all make of it in school libraries.

Was it difficult to take the first steps in creating a blog identity and developing a readership?

The first thing was getting a body of work up on the blog. No-one is really going to read a blog with one or two posts on it, so building it up was vital. I then promoted it via the OZTL-NET listserv and down the track joined Twitter. That really developed the readership. Then I joined the ILearnTechnology blog alliance in January this year and that furthered readership again.

What were some of the difficulties you experienced along the way?

School library staff tend to be a modest bunch, so encouraging people that their web 2.0 efforts should be highlighted and shared with others was a challenge.

What were some of the highlights?

Getting lots of positive feedback from readers, especially in relation tothe school library examples that were shared.
Last year Bright Ideas also had the honour of being voted the “FirstRunner Up” in the Edublogs Awards for the ‘Best Library blog”. What a fantastic vote of confidence that was.
Notching up 200,000 hits earlier this year was also a terrific milestone and it was an unbelievable recognition to be awarded the 2010 IASL/Softlink International Excellence Award in September.

How is the role of the teacher librarian changing, if at all?

In one way it is changing dramatically. In another way, it isn’t changing at all. What do I mean by that? We are facing enormous changes in the way we present learning opportunities to students. Social media and eBooks have changed the landscape for many school libraries. But we still want to teach our students how to research well and to love reading- whatever the medium.

What would you say are the most important goals of the teacher librarian/ of educators in general in these times?

To remember the power you have to make a difference to the lives of your students. You have the ability to be a positive role model in terms of using information well, both content and morally. To teach students how to make a positive digital footprint and how to be cybersafe and cybersavvy. To pass on the love of reading. These are lessons they will carry throughout their lives.

Thanks, Judith, for your thoughts, and also for the untiring support you provide for teacher librarians and educators everywhere.

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Filed under Education, network literacy, networking, Teacher librarians, teachers, technology, Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is like a dinner party – Steve Hargadon at VITTA09

Yesterday I attended the VITTA annual conference 2009. There were many highlights, and one of them was the keynote speaker, Steve Hargadon.

Steve has an interesting quietness about him when talking about dramatic things. His message of the revolutionary changes taking place in the world of work, education and play was presented without any eschatological overtones. All the more effective.

Instead of summarising the entire content of my notes, I’ve pulled out a small selection which is playing around in my mind.

Web2.0 has reshaped our life.

We’re about to go through the biggest change in education in centuries, maybe ever.

It’s going to feel like a tidal wave. How are people reacting to this? Some have their back to the wave, a few are out surfing the wave, but to most of us that wave looks impossible.

I still don’t get how people – intelligent, dedicated educators – do not see the wave. I just don’t get it.

We go to Web 2.0 applications to see peer content, to have peer relationships. We are taking off attributing, collaborating, and creating.

We are changing the nature of communicating; there is a significant cultural change with advent of the internet.

Yes, a cultural change. Notice Steve doesn’t say ‘technological’. Technology is the platform, it is becoming ubiquitous, absorbing the new culture of sharing and co-creating.

The web is a conversation. Many feel it’s a tidal wave.

Yes, the sheer size of what’s there is overwhelming.

It’s changing us into becoming a conversation, not unlike going to a dinner party, engaging in conversation and leaving the party,  fulfilled by conversation. To understand what’s happening in Web 2.0 platforms, we must shift our view of web content as being a conversation.

We don’t follow everything, we choose what we follow, just as we would at a dinner party, selecting conversations that interest us.

We are living in an era of increased openness. Here’s an example: Mitopencourseware, a world-class university, offering all the course content free. This is an enormous historic change. Massachusetts Institute of Technology are intent on being in the forefront of a new way of delivering information.

Amazon.com is another example of the interest people have in peer information; we read what other readers have said about book, not published reviews.

Social networking will become the foundation structure of our educational experience.

Hmmm…. I wonder how, given that most people, even leaders, have their backs to the wave.

Here’s the all-important question for educators:

How well are we preparing our students for this world?

We don’t know how, we’re not really sure ourselves. But we do know that eduction will change. It will feel like tidal wave.

There are all kinds of ways that schools resist change. What can we do? Breathe deeply, turn toward wave and figure it out. The best way to predict future is create it.

Be a learner first. Get back into learner mode. Learn about these technologies.

And here’s an interesting example of innovative use of social networking for marketing purposes. Ikea has used Facebook to get users to willingly promote their merchandise.

Does this have anything to do with education? No, but why can’t we as educators be as innovative?

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

Facebook performance – What are you doing right now?

phonetasticview

Photo of An Xiao

I was reading an article in the New York Times,  Where art meets social networking sites, and came across Debbie Hesse who is an installation artist and the director of artistic services and programs for the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. According to the article, Debbie said she was a lot like others in the late boomer generation,

“trying to learn how to not be left in the dust with the new technology.” But she may be ahead of the pack in employing social networking as the theme for an art show.

Social networking a theme for art?

I figure it’s not entirely surprising. Why shouldn’t artists create something from the ubiquitous social networking phenomenon? Where there’s something happening, it’s natural for someone to analyse it or create something from it?

Debbie organised an exhibition named after Facebook’s communication format, Status Update. More than 50 works of art by a dozen artists were displayed.

But how can art come from social networking?

“Status Update” has turned out to be a somewhat unlikely intersection of digital concepts and conventional art.

Ms. Hesse curated the show almost entirely through Facebook, with the help of Donna Ruff, a Brooklyn artist. She found two categories there, she said: “Artists that are using it as a medium, performing in it, using it as poetry, using it as a canvas. And then artists that are commenting on it as a new form and creating new dialogues about what this means in our lives.”

Rachel Perry Welty is one of the artists who comments on the new way of communication.  For her performance, Rachel used her iPhone to enter a status update every minute for 16 hours.  That is, every sixty seconds Rachel answered the Facebook status question ‘What are you doing right now?’ (which has since been replaced by the question ‘What’s on your mind?’)

I hope artists and art lovers will not scream at me if I raise my eyebrows every so slightly in response to Rachel’s compulsive stream of status updates being called a ‘performance’.  Or maybe I’m just annoyed that I didn’t think of the idea first. Or maybe I should reconsider my concept of art.

Rachel says that, after reading an article about social networking entitled Brave new world of digital intimacy by Clive Thompson, she decided to give Facebook a go.

I’ve found Facebook to be useful as a view to the global artist community, but I don’t send gifts or answer quizzes or throw sheep at people. And I don’t update my status on Facebook anymore after my performance on March 11.

Rachel explains the performance aspect of Twitter on the Art:21 blog:

I use Twitter as an extension of my creative process, in the sense that it’s a view into the daily life of a working artist. As an artist, my project is concerned with the minutiae of life. As humans, we spend most of our time engaged in the small moments (whether we tweet or Facebook about them or not) and in my project I am trying to get people to notice the things they wouldn’t ordinarily. In that sense, Twitter seems like a perfect platform for me. It’s an ongoing performance.

You can follow Rachel on Twitter.

It’s worth reading Rachel’s interview in the blog post, but before you do, I’d like to highlight this paragraph, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about  myself (although not expressing as eloquently):

I had been thinking about and observing how we craft a persona online. I started paying attention and reading people’s status updates in learning my way around Facebook. It struck me that some people must spend more time than others choosing their words, just as some people spend more time getting dressed in the morning. Some are clever and entertaining, some vague or opaque, and others utterly banal. Each statement on its own doesn’t say much, but the collective tells a surprisingly sophisticated story, and forms a portrait of sorts. My performance was a way to make a quick and intense self-portrait. Imposing the limitation of 60 seconds was an attempt to make that more real.

‘Quick and intense’ is another way of looking at Facebook or Twitter status updates. We’re not talking great literature here, but as a snapshot of the mundane, it’s a pretty good window.

I realise that when I look back at my year-long daily photo challenge, threesixtyfivephotos. Each day’s snapshots seem banal and almost ridiculously tedious, but looking back at over 300 days now, I can see that it’s a concise overview of a life which would otherwise just pass by and be largely forgotten.

Rachel’s observations provide much food for thought; I urge you to read the whole article. Forgive me but I can’t resist pulling out one more paragraph:

Afterwards, I thought of Sophie Calle’s work where she follows a stranger throughout his movements in a day. My work was the reverse: I got strangers to follow me throughout my day. Well, into the next day, I found myself silently narrating (“Rachel is getting a cup of coffee,” “Rachel is ready for a nap”), this experience imprinted on my brain like the afterimage from a flashbulb.

And a big question which was asked by the interviewer:

In your statement, you mentioned that you aim “to raise more questions about narcissism, voyeurism, privacy, identity and authority, as issues we consider in a technologically modern world.” What do you see as the role of online social media in society?

That’s a big question. I’m not sure we know yet. Clearly, it’s a way to communicate with a lot of people quickly and without friction. Relationships will be easier to maintain for a long time, for good or for ill. Imagine, as my son will probably experience, never losing touch with your best friend from 3rd grade. (Michelle Turner from Mr. Brentnall’s class at NIS in Tokyo, are you out there?!)Will it make it impossible to shed your identity as you move through life? Will you always be who you once were?

This is a fascinating question and one, I think, which we should all consider, and as educators, raise with our students.

I also recommend you read about how other conceptual artists have represented social networking. An Xiao, pictured above, is one of the group of artists.

As an aside, it’s interesting how the Facebook status ‘What are you doing right now’ has been replaced by ‘What’s on your mind?’ – a move from the external to the internal.  Is Facebook becoming less of a place where you keep an eye on what people are up to, and more of a platform to share thoughts, feelings and reactions?

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Filed under art, creativity, networking, technology, Web 2.0

Don’t bag Facebook

 

Photo courtesy of phillipsandwich on Flickr

This is for all the people who think (and write) that young people use Facebook to waste their time with pointless dialogue, flaunt themselves inappropriately, engage in banal chat about drinking or bully others online.

Here’s a thread started by my 16 year old son who loves classical music and composing. Statistically, you could say he would be a target for derisive comments, and yet, read for yourself:

Maxim is composing his 8th symphony in B minor “Sinister”about an hour ago

good man maxim

cool

Bloody talented composer here. 🙂

I like! I like!! I like how’s already been pre-nicknamed

Maxim Yeah, it’s gonna be really dark and ominous. The very beginning has cello, bass, contrabassoon and bassoon with a dark unison theme. I got the inspiration from Borodin’s 2nd symphony for that.

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!! You must send it to me when you’re done!

Maxim Yes, but it may take a while.

can you please send it to me aswell???

YAAAAAY!!

Maxim Sure! Maybe 1 mvt at a time. This’ll take me a pretty long time.

YAAAAY!! It took brahms over a decade to make his first symphony… Take your time

Maxim Not that long, maybe a month or 2 I meant.

cool!

are there 1000 performers?

Maxim Is that a piece of music? Or are you asking whether my symphony requires that many players? Mine probably wouldn’t require 1000 players.

Well it does now!! It will include a huge choir!! And an orchestra at least 3 times the size of a normal one! YAY!!
(there’s a challenge maxim!)
Mahler’s 8th Symphony is also called “Symphony of a Thousand”. One of the best performance experiences I have ever had. Check out the ending: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYM54vhLYTU&feature=player_embedded#t=20
Maxim  Oh, ok. Thanks.

My older son says that his friends often share links and information about new bands or where to get sheet music. They’ll find sites which teach you how to play an instrument; they use Facebook to help each other learn or create.

For those who focus on the negative aspects of social networking, think again. There will be negative interaction online, just as there is in life, but platforms like Facebook have enabled young people to connect in new ways, to learn from each other.

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Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, networking, technology, Web 2.0

The story of the button demonstrates the power of social networking

Looking through my Flickr contacts’ photostreams, I noticed some photos of a button. Intrigued, I read a lengthy explanation, a short, true story, which I wanted to share. This is bigsumo‘s story.

A man sent an email via Facebook on a Monday morning in August. He was not sure if the email was being sent to the right people. He mentioned that whilst mowing his lawn in Corinda, Brisbane he uncovered a button. He notice some writing imprinted into the button. He decided out of curiosity to google it. He discovered that ‘TJ Moles Charters Towers’ referred to a man who was a tailor in Charters Towers. This was obviously his branded button to advertise his wares.

The man also discovered an old forum request on the family history site Rootsweb, from a couple looking for information on this person. Unfortunately, their listed email was no longer valid. He tried searching Facebook and discovered some names matching the description and within the hour sent a querying email looking for a connection.

An hour later that email from Facebook was answered by me. My wife and I were the couple looking for information on TJ Moles as he was the father of our adopted grandmother (that’s a whole other story) who herself was born in 1898 in Charters Towers.

I responded with great suprise at such an out of left field email. I explained our connection to the button’s owner and was very greatful to take him up on his offer to mail the button to us on the Sunshine Coast. To which he replied that he would pop it in the post on his way to work. The next day, Tuesday I was suprised to see, delivered to me at work, an envelope containing a button stamped with TJ Moles Charters Towers.

This button has travel long, somehow winding its way from north Queensland to Brisbane to be found late in 2009. It potentially started it journey somewhere between 1880 – 1940 (when TJ Moles passed away) when he ran his tailor shop (best guess).

More amazing is the very fast journey this button has been on in the last 24 hours, thanks to google and social networking! This button, though small is our only physical connection with our adopted family from that time. It’ll take pride of place in our family history collection!

What a great story! How else could you have discovered the button’s story without the online connections and collaboration? Another example of the power of Flickr.

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Filed under flickr, Interesting, internet, networking, photos, technology, Web 2.0

How do you explain a ning without sounding silly?

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

 ningvideos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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