Category Archives: social media

Creating Connections for Learning Using Social Media

This is the first of a series of posts which explore the what, how and why of social media in learning –

  • What Social Media is…
  • Why it is important in a learning context…and
  • How it can be used to create connections

This first post looks at the what and the why of social media, and once the scene is set, we will dive into an exploration of creative ways it can be used in learning and teaching to create connections and enable opportunity across a range of contexts.

flickr photo shared by mikefisher821 under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Social media in the classroom is not an end in itself. Used creatively, it can be an amazing teaching tool, providing students with new ways to communicate and express themselves and their learning.

It is also the space where students are building a digital profile; even young students’ actions leave  traces of their actions online. It is important that they are aware of their digital identity, and how this will develop and become increasingly important as they go through high school and beyond. Introducing social media into the learning context allows students to make informed decisions when online, and reduces the risk of actions which may lead to consequences for their future.

For our students, there is no differentiation between the different tools, between ‘going online’ and simply being…they use these tools naturally as part of their everyday lives. That’s not to say they are fully informed users; they know what they know, and they know that very well – but it does mean that to leave out social media from their education is to disregard a massive part of their everyday life, and to not acknowledge a major form of communication and networking.

Creative Commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Stuck in Customs: http://flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/4991717429

Creative Commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Stuck in Customs: http://flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/4991717429

So what exactly IS  ‘Social Media’?

Before we begin discussing social media, let’s reflect on traditional media. Educators have always accessed a wide range of traditional media in the classroom; books, TV, magazines, newspapers – all of these sources of information were (and still are) brought into the classroom to resource learning, to link students to the world, to inspire and engage them; but this traditional media is one to many, meaning that it is usually produced by one person or group, even if it is accessed and used by many- essentially a one way channel. Students can read books and newspaper articles, view television programs or documentaries, but they cannot contribute to their creation or shape the content being communicated. Traditional media is easy to manage, and there is no interactivity between creators and consumers; when we limit access to traditional media, the amount of information and access to experts students have is also limited.

Today – we continue to interact with traditional media, but also we can also engage heavily with social media. Social media is many to many, and two way; and this challenges us as educators, as it brings a whole new dynamic into the classroom. Social media is participatory, it encourages collaboration and interaction, it promotes open communication, and requires creativity and sharing.

social media definitionHow can we define ‘social media’? It is so much more than just Facebook and YouTube. Social media includes blogs, podcasts, collaboratively created mindmaps, wikis, polls and surveys, Skype, social book marking and content curation, online games, video sharing, photo sharing, online productivity tools such as Google Docs or Evernote, forums, listservs….any media that allows for creation and communication with others. If we use this definition, you can see that social media provides so many different sources and resources to enrich learning.

WHY is Social Media important in Education?

From what has already been discussed in exploring what social media is, it should be pretty obvious that it is important that we include social media as a way of engaging, working with and learning with our students, because it is a major form of communication, information access and knowledge construction being used in our world today. However, if you need more convincing, please consider reading this book: Why School, by Will Richardson.

Click image to purchase from Amazon.

Click image to purchase from Amazon.

Why School is from the Ted series of books, and it is just 35 pages long, and costs $3.75 to download from the Ted Books app, or you can buy it through the Amazon Kindle store. In it, Will Richardson, a teacher, speaker and writer, outlines why we need to engage in new ways of learning and teaching in a world of abundant information and provides a vision for the way learning can shift from content mastery to learning mastery; where students learn more than literacy and numeracy, but also develop skills in creativity, persistence, critical literacy, collaboration and problem solving. He acknowledges that this move to connected learning isn’t easy; but there are many strategies and tools that we can use to begin implementing change.

Richardson also states another really important fact; one that I believe we can’t overlook; access does not equal the ability to use the web well.

He points out that no matter how often we call our students ‘digital natives’, simply being able to access this wealth of information and knowledge doesn’t mean that they also automatically become self-directed, organised and web-literate; students need our assistance to develop the skills needed to connect and build relationships with others online in safe, ethical and effective ways. The environment of abundance that they live in requires in some ways even more support from educators than before; just a different kind of support, and with a different kind of focus.

Steve Wheeler, Associate Professor at Plymouth University says that to thrive in this new, hyperconnected world, learners will need new literacies;

new literaciesIt is interesting that he says ‘learners’ not ‘students’ for these are skills that we are all developing; and so how do we learn these literacies, and how do we teach these to our students? By engaging in the media that requires them.

The next blog post will explore the HOW of social media – not by looking at lists of tools, but by focusing on what we hope the students will learn and what skills and knowledge they will take away from the task.

Every school has a different context; different levels of access to technology, different security requirements, some schools are very open when accessing the internet and social media tools, others are quite locked down. Every teacher has their own comfort level with using technology and students come into the classroom with varying capabilities. Focusing on the task and the outcomes helps us see that we can work creatively in the context we are in. The next post will explore Twitter, so that you can take these ideas into different settings and share them with different groups.

I have curated a range of the related social media tools that are mentioned in this and future posts on my Pinterest Board here:

Read on!

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.

engage2

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?

2014-09-19_1345 2014-09-19_1342

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.

 

 

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.

wordpress_logo.pngkidblog-illustration-300x139

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.

curation_flipboard

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

Becoming info-savvy : Information and critical literacy in the web world

This is the first of three posts which focus on information and critical literacy. This first post outlines the importance of developing information and critical literacy. The second post will give specific strategies and tools to use when evaluating information found online, while the third post focuses on verification of social media. Slides to support these blog posts are available on Slideshare.

The democratization of content creation is a wonderful thing; even as I type, I am enjoying the ability to publish to a worldwide audience. Thanks to the thousands of content creation and distribution platforms including WordPress, Scribd, Weebly, Storify, and of course YouTube just to name a few, millions of voices which might have never been heard have a channel to communicate their message. Content is being created at a mindblowing rate:
Click the image to open the interactive version (via http://pennystocks.la/).
Whereas previously content had to pass through extensive editorial processes prior to work being published, there is no such on the internet. Therefore we see just as much accurate as inaccurate information being posted online;

bogus tweet

Disturbingly, it’s not just the accuracy of assignments that are at risk by this spread of misinformation; in the past 90 days, according to this article by the Washington Post, 84 people have self-published Ebola e-books on Amazon; and almost all of them include information that’s either wildly misleading or flat-out wrong.

We need to develop skills in what Howard Rheingold calls ‘Crap’ Detection – knowledge of how to find and verify accurate, useful information – or basic information literacy for the internet age. This type of literacy is something which must be taught to students, and which must be brought to the attention of anyone who uses the internet as an information source – which, it seems, in Australia at least, is most people.

So what are these information literacy skills, and how do we learn them?
This series of posts attempts to outline some of the strategies, tips and tricks which can be applied to ensure the accuracy of information sourced from the internet; of course, much of it comes along with the fact that a little common sense goes a long way…

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Ludie Cochrane

The multimodal nature of the internet allows users to create any version of truth. You might have seen the Dove Evolution video, where an attractive young woman is ‘transformed’ into a supermodel using photoshop; more recently, a human interest reporter Esther Honig wanted to see just how much culture influences beauty, and so she had the idea to ask 40 photo editors in 25 different countries to photoshop her picture.
“Make me look beautiful,” was the brief. The results show the amazing way the internet connects us, and the way technology can manipulate what we believe to be true.

For students, the internet is the dominant medium and place they go to for information. In a world of information overload, it is vital for students to not only find information but also determine its validity and appropriateness.

For teachers in particular, it is necessary to not only have these skills, but also to be able to educate students to become informed, literate, self directed learners, who are able to navigate effectively the information accessible on the internet. Mandy Lupton, in her research on inquiry and the Australian Curriculum, has found that inquiry skills and information literacy are embedded in the Australian Curriculum in the subject areas Science, History, Geography, Economics and Business, Civics and Citizenship, Digital Technologies and in the general capabilities Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT) and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) . A huge part of being an effective learner and being able to research critically is being able to determine what is quality information, and where to source it from; after all,

See more on Know Your Meme

Click here to access the next post which explores Alan November’s ‘REAL’ strategy, and provides tools and strategies to apply in order to verify information discovered online. The third and final post, on critical literacy and social media is available here.

Tricks to find the truth: Information Literacy for Social Media

This is the third and final in the blog series on developing information and critical literacy skills for identifying quality information online. After exploring why these skills are important, in the first blog post, and then investigating the grammar of websites in the second post, this final post provides some tools to consider when verifying information which has been published via social media such as Twitter and YouTube.

A Pew Research paper on how teens research in the digital world  found that 52% of students access YouTube or other social media sites when searching for information for their assignments. Although not perhaps considered a traditional source of information, sites such as Twitter and YouTube are increasingly being accessed as a ‘way in’ to complex topics. These sources too require specific skills to identify reliable, accurate and quality information, perhaps even more so that websites. This is because the nature of social media is that it is designed often for quickly uploading and sharing information; there is very little skill level required to post to social media, vs the skills needed for web publishing; therefore an even larger group is publishing content which may or may not be correct. The personal nature of many posts also means that it is very open to bias, and the social nature means that scams, jokes and misleading posts are much more likely.


creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by mkhmarketing

A fantastic and interesting way to learn more about how to verify information discovered via social media is to explore the work of the modern journalist. Often, information about breaking events is caught or reported by citizens ‘on the ground’, and is shared via social media much more quickly than traditional news services can. Therefore, for journalists reporting on news as it happens, often extensive investigation must take place to ensure the photo, video or blog post is verifiable, and not simply for notoriety or hoax value.2014-10-03_1558

The Verification Handbook is a really interesting read (and free to download) which shares a range of tools and strategies for how journalists verify information, using real case studies.
Of course, students who are researching won’t necessarily go to the lengths that journalists go to to identify the veracity of information they find online, but it is good be aware of strategies which are easy to apply if they aren’t sure of the accuracy of information.

Three ways identified in the handbook to verify the accuracy of information on social media include:

Provenance – is this the original piece of content?
Source – Who uploaded the content?
Date – when was the content created?

Finding this information requires the use of a combination of tools.

2014-09-19_1350One of the most useful tools for establishing the provenance of images is the Tin Eye reverse image search tool. Tin Eye begins with the image, and searches back,  to attempt to establish where an image came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or if there is a higher resolution version. This is particularly useful if you have the feeling that an image has been doctored. You can install the Tin Eye plug in for Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or Chrome, or you can just go to the Tin Eye website and paste the image link or drag and drop the image itself. Click on this link to see some of the more interesting versions of images that Tin Eye has discovered.

When looking at the source to verify who uploaded the content, there are several things to take note of. Look at the account of the person posting the information; what is the quality and content of their previous posts? Look for slight inconsistencies in their name (e.g. Julian Gillard), when did they create the account? You can also be guided by the blue tick on Twitter accounts which indicate that they have been verified, but this, like anything else, may be faked. More information about verified Twitter accounts is here.

Who is the REAL Julia Gillard?

Who is the REAL Julia Gillard?

Just doing a search for a well known person on Twitter can reveal the range of accounts purportedly belonging to the same person. This is a great activity to demonstrate how closely users need to examine accounts, and how easily one may be fooled into thinking posts are from someone from whom they are not.

To verify the date that information was published, journalists have to go to great extremes to verify the accuracy of information they receive via social media; sometimes searching the weather at the time an photo was taken to identify a match, or using Google Maps to match background scenery to confirm the event took place where it was said to.

While students aren’t necessarily dealing with breaking information, they do need to apply a little bit of critical awareness to information that they gather from social media. Simply double checking information against a number of different sources is one of the best ways to identify the reliability of information; as well as having a little bit of general knowledge and common sense.

For those who wish to dig a little deeper, the Verification Handbook website has published a list of tools that are useful for verifying identity, places and images.

These three posts (click for post one or two  if you missed them) have attempted to provide a summary to this huge area. I have collated a list of resources and tools on my Pinterest board for further reading and information. I’d love to hear of any other tips, tools or strategies you have found useful when evaluating online sources of information.

Click the image to access my Pinterest board with resources to support teachers in this area.

Click the image to access my Pinterest board with resources to support teachers in this area.

Global Learning – Sharing, Connecting and Discovering together!

Today I was privileged enough to attend (free of charge!) an international conference at my desk here in Brisbane Australia. How? I participated in webinars which were part of the Library 2.014  Conference, hosted by the Learning Revolution Project. These webinars were run by two very valued members of my Professional Learning Network – one of whom I’ve met in person just once, the amazing Judy O’Connell, and one whom I have yet to have the pleasure of meeting – the ever inspiring Jennifer LaGarde.Both of these ladies share generously online, via a range of social media – they blog, they tweet, they curate and they share their presentations via Slideshare – and today I was able to learn from them as they spoke about Leadership in a Connected Age (Judy) and Imagining Library Spaces of the Future (Jennifer).

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You can learn from them, and from a huge range of other presenters too – all of the webinars are recorded, and shared (again free of change, thanks to the generosity of sponsors).

So why am I posting about these speakers who so generously share their time and talents? It’s not only because of the amazing things I learnt (some of which I’ll share below) but also to promote the wonderful work of The Learning Revolution Project, led by Steve Hargadon.

2014-10-08_1506This project truly democratises professional learning, and allows anyone with a web connection to participate in conferences with world leaders of many different professions. It’s not just listening to the person speak and seeing their slides – it is also having the ability to ‘chat’ via the back channel (a discussion that goes on synchronously which the presenter can also see), to ask questions, share thoughts and resources – to meet people from around the world who are also working in similar areas, and to connect and share learning. This type of opportunity demonstrates the power of technology in learning today.

This video, shared by Judy this morning beautifully captures the amazing growth, potential and capacity technology is enabling:

The learnings of those who participate, as well as some of the key resources are being harvested in real time on a Padlet created by Joyce Valenza – herself another guru in the Teacher Librarian and Information and Networking Literacy worlds. It is joint constructions and the pooling of knowledge by participants with such global, wide-ranging experiences which will enable the new breakthroughs in learning to occur; but are we preparing students for this type of learning and engagement? Are we as adult life long learners embracing these changes and modelling them?

Both webinars, although having slightly different focuses, brought home to me the need to be open – to learning, to engagement, to experience and to new opportunities and potentialities.

Judy explored the world ‘out there’: trends in knowledge construction, participatory cultures and social networks, and how we might use this information and access to lead others into a global, connected future. She shared research, such as From Chalkboards to Tablets (pdf) the power of the gestalt created by connecting via technology to solve problems (e.g. FoldIt – a computer game that allows players to contribute to solving scientific research problems through their gaming) and the awesome power of a simple Google Search  (Google Flu Trends – where searches with particular terms have been found to effectively indicate the spread of the flu ahead of any other measure). Judy challenged us to be aware, to be involved in knowledge construction, and to delve more deeply into this world – not to accept the surface level knowledge, but to become more literate via knowledge networks. I thought this quote was particularly powerful:

“The urgent dimensions of learning: the mechanisms for engaging with information and processes of learning in the acquisition of new knowledge has become a deeper process of individual and collaborative learning activities, problem solving and artefact development, occuring through an integration of face-to-face and online interactions within a community” Trentin, G. (2011) Technology and knowledge flows: the power of networks

Jennifer took us into the world ‘inside’ her school library, which, by offering experiences, the chance to play and experiment, to express student voice and create rather than just consume, is just as large, exciting and full of inspiring possibilities as the ‘outside’ world – because she has successfully connected her students to real world learning!

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Jennifer’s approach to learning is to make it real, engaging, and to bring the real world in. It is not about the technology, it is about developing a positive attitude to learning and providing a collaborative, ‘safe’ environment, where it is ok to learn by having a go – failing just shows you are trying something new! Jennifer values her students and listens to them – she lets their voice be heard, and considers their input – the kids have a say in their learning! This therefore gives them ownership and encourages engagement. Of course, Jennifer uses technology to bring about amazing learning – but even without this technology, her style and approach would remain the same – its not the tools it is the pedagogy.

I would encourage you to add these two thought leaders to your PLN – follow them on Twitter at @jenniferlagarde and @heyjudeonline, check out their blogs and become part of the global learning community!