Tag Archives: communication

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!

 

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!

 

Life through a Lense – the ubiquitous camera

I don’t know if the Apple advertisement’s claim that more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera is completely true – but I do know that we are taking more photos than ever, and more often than not, we are using phones to do it.

If you asked anyone about ten years ago if they would ever use a phone to take a photo, they would have looked at you as if you were daft. The two tools don’t seem connected in any logical way. Apart from futuristic ‘video phones’, the idea of a lense on your phone, which is essentially a voice driven medium would have been the furtherest from people’s ideas about the future of telephony.

Added to this is the ability for the phone to store hundreds of photos. They have replaced Grandma’s little photo album of the grandkids, and at gatherings you often see people clustered around a phone’s tiny screen, viewing someone’s favourite pet or last night’s antics.

The fact that we now all carry around a camera with us in our pockets has changed so much. When the police wanted to find the suspects of the Boston Bombings, they didn’t have to rely solely on security camera footage (although it was cctv footage that eventually led to their identification) – they appealed to the public, seeking photos and video people had taken on their phones which may have inadvertently captured suspicious behaviour.

Likewise the veracity of referees’ decisions was called into question last week, when French Open tennis competitor Sergiy Stakhovsky took his phone from the sidelines, to photograph the mark left by a ball he claimed was not out.

Now that we are not limited to 12 or 24 exposures, as used to be the case with film, there is no reason not to take photos everywhere and of everything. We can use this capability in so many ways – and like everything, there are positives and negatives.

“A photograph is a moral decision taken in one eighth of a second. ”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

Our students now carry a powerful learning tool in their pocket all of the time. They can record their learning, capture an ‘aha’ moment and reflect upon it, create beautiful images and share them, build a history of their experiences far beyond what we have done in the past.

With this great tool, however, they can also create tremendous havoc. Everyone makes mistakes, and we should be able to learn from them and move on, not have them haunt us for the rest of our lives, captured forever in digital format. Photos that are taken on the spur of the moment and shared online will never ever truly disappear – no matter if they are deleted from a newsfeed or supposedly ‘self destruct’ in a chat service.

And so yet another avenue for solid digital citizenship arises. It’s difficult to get students to stop and think before taking rash actions – and even more so when they are with friends, at a party, caught in the moment. However it is vital for them to understand the responsibility that comes with being able to record a moment in time forever – and the power they wield with just one tap of the camera button.

I am…Ask Me Anything!

These six words form the basis of a fascinating forum which exists on the popular social media site Reddit. In everyday life, most of us move in relatively small circles – and if we do meet someone who has had an extraordinary life experience, or who has a unique lifestyle or career, often social mores limit just what we can ask.

Enter the AMA (I am…ask me anything). Here you can learn about people who live in far away places – We are staff, students and teachers at a village middle school in Ghana in West Africa. Ask us anything., pop stars – I am PSY! Composer, singer, entertainer, and creator of “Gentleman” and “Gangnam Style”. Ask me anything, and parliamentarians – I am Scott Ludlam – Australian Greens Senator and national comms spokesperson. Ask Me Anything…

The anonymity of Reddit means that readers feel freer to ask what they really would like to know, and the rules of the AMA (literally, Ask Me Anything) means that the responses are more likely to be honest.

It was this recent AMA, from Greens Senator Scott Ludlam that prompted this post. While some AMAs are purile, many others are providing access to individuals that ‘average’ people would never be able to contact. Upcoming AMAs include Mason Peck, NASA’s chief technologist, Gillian Anderson, actress from THE FALL, Hannibal and The X-files, Major Blaine Jones, the lead solo pilot of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and Roger Federer, Professional tennis player.

Their discussions, answering questions from everyday people, not only creates a wealth of hitherto unknown information, but also makes these people more human, as they relate their stories and interact with the readers – a far more intimate and involving experience than what was previously available only through magazine articles and television interviews.

As an increasing number of celebrities choose to do AMAs (Barack Obama brought Reddit to a standstill when he participated: I am Barack Obama, President of the United States — AMA) a level of proof of identity is required. This is difficult to fake, and if there is any whiff of insincerity redditors (and the moderators who manage the communities) are quick to jump on it; this was evident during the recent Morgan Freeman AMA, where the photo evidence looked dummied up and the responses appeared to be from a publicist rather than the man himself.

So what does the AMA mean for access, open communication and the ability to access primary source information? Simply, it is a new way for those in positions of authority, for those with unique life experiences, for those who are famous to share their stories more directly with others who might never meet them normally. It takes the concept of a campfire chat and distributes it across the globe. It democratises access and allows ordinary people to ask the questions that they really want answers to. It allows us to learn more about other peoples’ life experiences, their thoughts, their opinions and their beliefs, and it creates a unique source of primary information that will be archived online. Imagine if Neil Armstrong, Christopher Columbus, Mother Theresa or Margaret Thatcher had completed AMAs – what a trove of information we would have access to!