Tag Archives: pedagogy

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!

 

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.

Learning Spaces: Campfires, Watering Holes, Holodecks?

Our workplace has been in the midst of great change recently. Walls have been knocked down, furniture has been culled and storage systems replaced. The result is a huge space, which has brought many visitors from the upper floors, amazed at how different the area looks. We, who work in the space are experiencing a mix of emotions. The openness of the floorplan is very inviting; it encourages collaboration and a different way of working. However we also are struggling with the complete lack of privacy; our work area is open to the world, and any ‘mess’ we make –  processing books, creating displays, sorting through equipment – is oh so public. The space in which we work impacts upon us tremendously; not just in the way that we operate, but in how we communicate with others and how we feel emotionally.

Is it any wonder, then, that many question why we ask students to do their best work in uninspiring rooms, with uncomfortable (and sometimes immovable) furniture, under the glare of fluorescent lighting? While in many ways schools have changed, in some ways they remain the same. Most schools have at least some ‘traditional’ classrooms that are yet to be revisioned to reflect what we now know about pedagogy, environment and learning spaces. Who says that we need  front and a back of a classroom, or even a black/white board, when we consider the changes in technology that bring the information of the world into the palm of a student’s hand? The traditional classroom design is not necessarily the most effective model today.

Part of our physical change has been as part of a larger review of learning spaces in general; and has been accompanied by professional reading and research, most notably (as you may have noticed by the title of this post) the work of David Thornburg, Bruce Mau and the Third Teacher crew and Ewan McIntosh. I have tried to encapsulate some of what I have learnt into the infographic below.

Learning Spaces

For those undertaking any type of redesign, I would direct you to my Pinterest board, Learning Spaces, the Third Teacher , and also to follow the Twitter hashtag #inf536, which are the tweets of students currently undertaking the new CSU subject Designing Spaces for Learning, being run by Ewan McIntosh in consultation with Judy O’Connell.

Have you been on a journey redesigning learning spaces recently? Share your experiences in the comments!

 

 

App-dependent or App-enabled: a challenge that extends beyond the App-Generation

Read more about this book at the website http://appgen.yupnet.org/

Read more about this book at the website http://appgen.yupnet.org/

Howard Gardner and Katie Davis have authored a fascinating book entitled ‘The App Generation’, which focuses on how today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy and imagination in a digital world. The book is based on their extensive research, conducted over several years, which includes interviews, focus groups and, interestingly, an examination of young people’s creative output (e.g. artworks, writing etc), sampled from a twenty year period.

Unsurprisingly, like any text which seeks to ‘define’ a entire generation, the text has garnered praise:

“Gardner and Davis have offered a challenging and thought-provoking book: particularly rewarding for educators who are interested in thinking about how young people are changing, and how we might preserve the best practices of our profession while adapting the tools that define a generation.”—Justin Reich, Education Week (3/11/13)

and some criticism:

“While Gardner and Davis valiantly try to avoid the clichés and stereo­types typical of discussions about culture and technology, their work still feels trapped in a kind of nostalgia, pining for a lost world.” – Jenna Wortham, The Times (1/11/13)

In many ways, the text confirms what many educators already knew, and what is, essentially, common sense: that the ‘app generation’ are different in some ways to their predecessor generations, and, in some ways still the same.

What piqued my interest more than anything was the idea of being ‘app-enabled’ or ‘app-dependent’ – the terms used by the authors to describe two possible outcomes for a life immersed in digital technology.

Those who are app-enabled use apps  as a launchpad to lead a richer life, with experiences enhanced by the access to information and connections to others that mobile technology allows. This contrasts with ‘app-dependent’ individuals, who let the gated garden of the app world direct and focus their life encounters, and, in many ways, limit their potential.

I believe these terms can go far beyond a description of those within the ‘app’ generation. They could be used to describe an attitude to technology that can often be seen in education; those who see technology as a key to opening up new worlds of learning could be considered to be app-enabled;  those who see apps as tools that simply replicate what has always been done, yet digitally, could be seen as app-dependent.

The challenge is to model the true potential for technology to transform learning and life experience, so that young people do not see apps as the outer limits; so that rather than seeing apps as an ends, they see the tools as a means to reaching new potential.

Being ‘app enabled’ means working towards the ‘redefinition’ level of Ruben R. Puentedura’s SAMR Model. This model proposes that educators use technology at a variety of levels; none are necessarily bad, however they reflect both the purpose of the technology use, and the level of confidence and competence the user has to truly take advantage of the possibilities the technology affords. Not every tool or learning opportunity has the scope to fall in the ‘redefinition’ category – however being aware of the possibilities allows educators to always consider how digital tools enable students to achieve things never previously possible.

The levels can be seen below:

Taken from Puentedura's slides for his presentation at Spark : SAMR: An Applied Introduction http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2014/01/31/SAMRAnAppliedIntroduction.pdf

Taken from Puentedura’s slides for his presentation at Spark :
SAMR: An Applied Introduction
http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2014/01/31/SAMRAnAppliedIntroduction.pdf

Being app-enabled in the sense that I am referring to does not mean that every time a teacher reaches for a technology tool it must be transformational;  it simply means having the commitment, confidence and positive attitude required to think outside the box when using technology – for seeing how it might be used in ways not previously considered, and for not allowing the ‘rules’ of the tool to limit learning possibilities.

How does one begin? Perhaps by searching for creative ways of using the apps already in the teacher’s toolkit; those free and easily accessible tools that may be currently in use. The image below has just some ideas to get you started. These ideas are not necessarily at the redefinition level of the SAMR model – but they do demonstrate how one tool may have many different uses.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

 

Being app-enabled or app-dependent in this way goes beyond the tools; it is an attitude that we can model to students, and a belief in the creativity and potential possible using the huge array of tools so readily available.

Are you app-enabled? Share in the comments tips for how you use technology tools creatively!

 

 

 

Just playing…why we need to let go and have fun!

When introducing teachers and other adults to using new technology, they often ask me how I learnt all of the tips and tricks that I know. My honest answer: I played with the technology. Yes, there are courses you can do, and tutorials you can complete; but the best way to become familiar with most types of new technology is to embrace your inner child and simply play.

The Highest Form of Research / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

There is irrefutable evidence that play-based learning is a key strategy for early years education.  Children learn through play because it allows them to practise skills, experiment, make mistakes and learn from them – all of things we need to do with technology.

Of course, playing with technology takes time. It requires time spent simply seeing what a tool or app does; entering dummy data, clicking on all of the buttons to see what they ‘do’ – discovering what makes the device or tool work most effectively, and what causes it to error or create less than pleasing results. Fortunately, the more we play, the less time it takes to familiarise ourselves as each new tool presents itself – it is amazing how many skills  developed simply through playing with technology are transferable across websites, devices and apps.

Fear is also another inhibitor. We have probably all heard horror stories of massive data loss and of hideous computer viruses that have infected machines via a seemingly innocent link. Ironically, it is through playing with technology that we will develop the familiarity and ‘savvy’ which will allow us to navigate these areas more confidently.

I do not believe that all those older than 25 are simply ‘digital immigrants’. This argument (which, by the way, is over 10 years old) implies we will never be completely at home with technology, and for many of us, this is patently untrue. I do believe that it is about having an open mind and a playful, creative and risk-taking attitude. This is the type of mindset we hope to develop in our students – how better to encourage it than to model it ourselves?

Why not set aside 30 minutes a week to simply ‘play’? Better yet, schedule your playtime into your class timetable, and allow your students this luxury also. Ask them to share one thing they learnt at the end of this time – and share your own learning too. You may find it is some of the richest learning time of your week.

Share your experiences of playing to learn below, or tweet me with the hashtag #playtolearn – I’d love to know what you discover!