Category Archives: Information Literacy

Creating Connections for Learning using Social Media: New Ways with Twitter

Building on from Part One, which focused on what social media is, and why it is important to include it in learning and teaching, this post aims to investigate creative ways social media may be used to enable students to engage, create, publish and connect with others.

Suggestion One: Be a connected educator!


flickr photo shared by Castaway in Scotland under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

The best way to become comfortable with social media is to be your own guinea pig. By using the tool you wish to implement for your own purposes, you will learn about the requirements of signing up, how time consuming it is to familiarise yourself with the tool, whether it works on the school computer/network environment, and then you will feel more comfortable with introducing it to the students. You will probably have also discovered many different ways you may include it authentically in learning that you hadn’t considered before.

New ways with Twitter

Twitter is well known as a fabulous tool for educators (and others) to use in developing a Professional Learning Network (PLN). I have written about Twitter and the value of Professional Learning Networks before, and with the ability to connect with wisdom from all over the world, it is one of the best sources for new ideas, resources, teaching tools and feedback. If you have a quality network, just ten minutes on Twitter will reward you with a bounty of education insights.

10 Minutes on TwitterTwitter is a great tool for professional learning, but it can also be harnessed for powerful learning with students. Not every student needs to have an account for you to use Twitter in the classroom. In fact, as students under the age of 13 are not permitted to have an account, often a class account, created by the teacher is the only way to go. You can use a class account very effectively to not only model how to use Twitter safely and appropriately, but also to share the work students are doing, collaborate with other classes on Twitter, communicate with parents and stay up to date with current affairs.

Twitter accounts can be protected, so what is shared is only available to those who have asked and been permitted to follow. Therefore the community may be closed to just parents and students, or left open (if you have older students) to communicate with the world.

Why not use Twitter in the classroom to:

#Engage

Increasingly important world and local events are being shared using social media, including Twitter. One great example is @AnzacLive, which was an experience across multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). 30 journalists ‘took on’ the personae of 10 real people who lived through ANZAC Day, and using the journals of these people, recreated their lives on social media, as if it were a tool of communication 100 years ago. The ten individuals posted daily pictures and updates, sharing their experiences of the war, and members of the public were encouraged to interact with them, asking questions and chatting with them. The journalists had access to war historians who guided their responses, to ensure an authentic experience.

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Many events now have a hashtag (e.g. International Women’s Day, Australia Day etc) and these provide an engaging way for students to interact with the world and share the experience with others, as well as learning about others’ perspectives on the celebration.

#Connect

An increasing number of classes are getting online to share their learning with others. One fantastic example is #KidsedchatNZ – a twitter chat that takes place every Wednesday between 2-3pm across New Zealand. The aim of Kidsedchatnz is to motivate kids to be active, engaged and connected learners, and each week a series of questions are posted on the Kids Ed Chat blog, for the participants to respond to during chat time. The experience not only provides a monitored experience of social media, it gives students the ability to discuss their learning with students from all over the country, and acts as a moderation tool for teachers, as they can assess their own students’ level of understanding against others. Why not consider creating a chat opportunity with a range of classes across your state or region? The model of Kidsedchat NZ is easy to follow, and can be explored both on Twitter using the hashtag #KidsedchatNZ, as well as the blog: http://kidsedchatnz.blogspot.co.nz/

Students are given an image via the blog to reflect on prior to their chat. This is a sample of their responses.

Students are given an image via the blog to reflect on prior to their chat. This is a sample of their responses.

#Inform

Click the image to read more about the #notsilent campaign.

Click the image to read more about the #notsilent campaign.

This year the Anne Frank Trust and Penguin books marked the 70th anniversary of Anne’s death with a one minute campaign called #notsilent.

Instead of a one minute’s silence to commemorate Anne Frank’s short life, participants were asked to read out loud a one minute passage from Anne’s inspirational writing.  They provided a selection of passages suitable or participants could choose one yourself, or they were encouraged to read something they had written about their own life and hopes. Participants were also asked to start or end the reading by explaining why they chose to take part.

This is a new way to raise awareness, share information, and reflect; it could be transformed in many ways for students to promote a particular cause, or share reflections on a text. By recording voice clips using Vocaroo, or creating short video clips and sharing on a website such as YouTube or Vimeo, a tweet with the link and a relevant hashtag could be a powerful way to inform others of student learning or opinion.

#Guide

One of the great aspects of using social media in learning and teaching is that you can actively teach critical skills that allow students to participate more safely online. A fantastic activity which does just that is to search for well know public figures on Twitter, and identify which account actually belongs to them. A good example is Julia Gillard’s account- the first is fake…how do we know this?

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It may be that the open nature of Twitter is just a little too much if you are completely new to social media. If this is the case, why not try Twiducate: a solution for elementary and secondary students. Rather than having your students sign up and enter an email address, you sign up and create a class code. Using this code, your students log in to your class network.

Here, they can answer questions, collaborate on problems, and even embed pictures and videos. As a teacher you have full control over the network. You can even add other teachers! This gives a similar experience to Twitter (although they will not be able to connect with the wider community).

twiducate twiducateJust like Twitter, there are lots of ways that you can use this tool to model proper and responsible use of social media, and loads of creative teaching ideas; some of which you can read about in this great blog post by Tait Coles.

 

 

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Creating Connections for Learning with Social Media: Bringing Blogging Back!

Building on from what was suggested in earlier posts, educators who become familiar with social media tools and who use them in their own personal practice are more likely to feel confident introducing them into the classroom. Blogging is a tool that often isn’t considered when thinking about Social Media, however it is a platform for authentic communication, which allows users to express ideas and connect with others, and therefore is a teaching tool that should not be overlooked.

New Literacy

The title of this blog is ‘bringing blogging back’ because as an older social media tool, it may seem that blogs are passe or not likely to draw student engagement. However, setting a student up with a blog where they share their learning is a great starting point for building a positive online presence – and even if you choose to go with a tool that is not entirely public, allowing students the chance to develop skills and familiarity with this genre will mean that should they choose to keep a blog of their own in the future, it is more likely to be a well-presented document of themselves online – always a positive in a world where social media is often the first place potential employers browse when deciding among applicants!


flickr photo shared by rebe_zuniga under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Blogging is also a great strategy for teachers to not only develop their own online presence, but for reflecting, sharing, clarifying their thinking and more. Steve Wheeler writes very convincingly and comprehensively when presenting Seven Reasons Teachers Should Blog, another fan of teacher blogging is George Courosread his reasoning here.

To begin blogging with students, start off low tech. social media doesn’t have to completely rely on computers and the internet! Try wall blogging, suggested by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, where students share their blog post and others post their comments using post it notes before moving onto publishing online.

When making the move online, it is good to consider a number of different platforms, as each have their strengths and weaknesses. Two platforms to consider,  that represent different approaches, are WordPress and Kidblog.

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WordPress is an open blogging platform used by the general public. There are two WordPress formats; .com which is hosted by WordPress, and is the best one for beginners, and .org, which is self hosted, and requires just a little more tech expertise (as well as somewhere to host it). I would advise going with .com for students. WordPress  is open, flexible, and lots of options – and it may be a good platform to consider if you have switched on high school students who want lots of flexibility in how they publish and share their work. However for younger students or when privacy is a consideration, Kidblog is worth exploring, as it allows the teacher to set up student accounts which they can access without needing to create an account or have an email address themselves.

If neither of these take your fancy, don’t despair! There are lots of blog platforms out there- a good guide is the The State of Educational Blogging 2014 which summarises a range of platforms from an educational perspective.

flickr photo shared by langwitches under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

There are many reasons why you might consider having your students blog. Some schools are using a student blog as a portfolio to capture their work, or as a place where students can reflect on their learning. The act of writing regularly is a valuable literacy skill, and the ability for other students to comment enables peer support and an authentic audience. Depending upon the platform you choose, blogs can be as open or as locked down as you wish, and many learning management systems have a blogging tool built in.

Blogging also informally teaches students about digital safety, and the language of digital publishing as they’ ‘tag’ their posts with keywords to assist in locating them later, comment and respond to comments, manage their account, choose copyright free or creative commons images to include and assess their blog ‘stats’ to measure how many hits they have received, from what locations and more.

A great blog post on blogging as pedagogy has been shared by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, who has put together a number of resources on blogging in the classroom including this fabulous printable handout, Getting to Know Your Blog.

Students don’t always need to have their own blog – a class blog which is jointly constructed could be a fantastic shared writing experience for younger students, and older students could be extended by writing blog posts from the perspective of different characters in a book – a single blog could have posts written by a different character each day.

visual blog

Click on this image for a live demo of this image focused blog theme.

Blogs don’t necessarily have to be text based either; while Tumblr and Instagram are popular image blogging social media apps, more control could be maintained by establishing a single traditional blog account, and having students upload images they have created (photographs, scans of artwork etc). Platforms such as WordPress have a range of templates, some of which are designed particularly for image based blogs. This would be terrific for art students, photography classes or any student who had a preference for visual expression.

When it comes to commenting, there is an art to this also. While blogs don’t encourage the same level of interactivity as Twitter or Facebook, there is definitely the capacity for conversation to develop in the comments section. Leaving constructive, clearly expressed comments is a skill that many overlook, and yet this type of feedback can be a powerful form of instruction, particularly when it comes from peers. In addition, there is always the potential for teachers to negotiate with colleagues, or even better a ‘guest commenter’ such as an author or expert in the field of study to add their thoughts – a very authentic learning opportunity!

And so, I encourage you to think about beginning a blog; or getting your students to blog; or creating a class blog – and if and when you do, share your experience in the comments and bring THIS blog alive too!

 

Learning the art of Digital Content Curation

It is undeniable that we live in a world of information overload. Check out Internet Live Stats to be truly ‘infowhelmed’!

Just one second of internet traffic....

Just one second of internet traffic….

As busy people, it is often at precisely the wrong time that we find that fascinating article, or when we are looking for something else that we discover a great resource for the future. Keeping track of all of this digital information is important – we all know how quickly our time is sapped away while searching online. Fortunately, there are a number of tools that are easy to use, and which we can use to manage our digital information, so that we can virtually ‘file’ and share with others the quality articles, resources and media to be easily drawn upon again, or to be read at a later, more suitable time.

So how does one ‘curate content’?

Using these tools effectively requires skills in ‘content curation’. Traditionally the term curator refers to someone who looked after objects in a museum exhibition. A new and increasingly popular definition of content curation is the act of selecting and collating digital content, organising it so that it may be better used to meet a particular need. Beth Kanter has an excellent Primer on Content Curation, where she hastens to point out that curation is not simply an aggregation of links; it is a process of strategic collection, where what is left out is just as important as what is included. It is also an editorial process, where context specific knowledge is added the each digital resource, and then delivered via a tool that best suits the needs of the identified audience.

2015-03-08_1104This sounds more complex than it is. More simply, it means finding quality digital content, evaluating it for a particular purpose, adding extra information for those most likely to use this context within that particular purpose, and sharing it with those users.

I’m a teacher/student- do I really need to do this stuff?

Content curation has always occurred in schools – resources were always gathered around the topic of teaching, in order to support and extend  student understandings. The difference is that in the past, this consisted of gathering ‘hard’ content – books, posters, newspapers, kits etc (and these were usually gathered together by the teacher librarian, the leading content curator in the school). Nowadays, the teacher librarian and teachers not only have access to these resources, but also to a huge range of digital resources – many of which provide fantastic, engaging learning opportunities for today’s students. Content curation enables this huge range of resources to be arranged in a usable, accessible way.

Students too can benefit from learning effective curation skills as being able to quickly and critically evaluate a range of information sources, and then curate these into a meaningful collection is a vital research skill. Content curation is even becoming a study skill which is explicitly taught to students.

Be the best curator you can be – avoid the pitfalls!

One vital difference between curation in the past and dealing with digital content is the sheer amount of information, and the need to avoid filter bubbles and the temptation to simply collect everything. Joyce Seitzinger describes some of the pitfalls to avoid when curating very succinctly, in her presentation, When Educators Become Curators:

Curationpitfalls.jpgShe describes these traits as the following:

The Hoarder: a curator who collects  everything indiscriminately, who doesn’t  organise their content, and doesn’t  share – this is really closer to simple aggregation than curation.

The Scrooge: one who, similarly hoards their information – although they may organise their collection, they don’t share either; one of the key purposes of educational content curation!

The Tabloid (or National Enquirer):  a collector who indiscriminately collates everything together, and generously shares this aggregation, whether others want/need it or not!

The Robot: a curator who uses tools to shares  automatically, with no context related additions or value adding; in this case, the curation is really no better than providing a list of Google search results.

Avoiding these pitfalls is what differentiates the effective content curator from those simply ‘collecting’ content.

It’s all a bit much – are there tools to help me?

The task may seem overwhelming; however, as I mentioned above there are many fantastic tools to make the process streamlined and simply part of the work of the day.

Keep in mind that not everyone will like every tool. That’s why it is important to think about the audience, as well as the type of content you are curating. An example is the choice between Pinterest and Diigo. Both Pinterest and Learnist are very visual in their appearance, and therefore likely to suit younger student groups,  groups who are disengaged or those studying very visual learning content, such as Visual Arts studies. However, Pinterest now requires a membership to see full boards; therefore, for younger students (those 13 and under, who should not have their own membership due to COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) requirements), Learnist may be the best tool. For older students however, this may not be a consideration.

The right tool for the right purpose.

The right tool for the right purpose.

Content curation tools and how to use them have been explained countless times online. One of the benefits of content curation is that you don’t re-invent the wheel; you simply share what already exists. With this in mind, I have used a number of tools to curate lists of curation strategies, curation tools and articles on curation, which I share with you below. Click on the images to access these sources.

Click to access board.

Links to articles that detail effective content curation strategies as well as how and why educators and students should be digital content curators.

Click on the image to access.

A curated board of tools that are effective and enjoyable tools for curating educational content.

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A Flipboard of curated articles and tools for those who enjoy accessing their information using this magazine style app.

I have written in detail on a few curation tools in the past, including Pinterest and Diigo, and published these on my work blog, ResourceLink. Although it may take some trial and error before you find a range of tools you become comfortable with, you can be sure that once you have set up your curation accounts, and start actively selecting from the streams of information you receive, you will be surprised by how quickly you begin to build quality sources of digital content, which will be worthwhile resources for many others to access.

**A Word about Content Curation and Copyright**

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by Austin Kleon

Although curation is not ‘theft’, all of the tips that Austin Kleon shares in his book ‘Steal like an Artist’, itself a treatise on reusing online content ethically, apply to ethical content curation.

ALWAYS link directly back to the source when curating. This is automatically taken care of when you use a curation tool such as Learnist, however, I believe that it is good practice that if you find a site which references a great idea or image, rather than simply linking to that site, I take the trouble to go back to the original creator’s publication of that idea, and link to there. An example:

A popular blog shares a post about a great resource they have discovered, which is created by a third party. Rather than linking to the blog post when curating the link about the great resource, take the time to go back to the third party’s original post and curate this link. Therefore, the creator gets correct attribution, rather than the blogger who wrote about it.

This is particularly important when curating from pages which include articles like ’10 great tools for x’ – these are aggregations themselves of original work, and not the original creator.

Copyright is all about protecting the income of the creator; therefore, ensure that nothing you publish in a curated list directs users away from the original, particularly if the original is a source of income for that creator. Always ensure that you attribute or reference where you sourced the original content from (again, something most content curation tools do automatically, but good to remember) and wherever possible ensure there is no way that users of your collections might mistake others’ work for your own.

Curating widely from various sources, rather than wholesale replication of others’ work on your own pages is also good practice, not only to avoid the risk of plagiarism but also to ensure you are providing a resource with a breadth of perspectives and information.

Have fun!

Seeing curation as an art is a great way to begin your journey. It takes time to develop the skills, and everyone will approach it differently; at the end, however you will have created something truly unique, and a source of content that others will enjoy and benefit from. Share your experiences in the comments box below!


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by The Daring Librarian