Archive for the ‘Social Networking’ category

Personal Learning Networks

March 20, 2008

Know anyone like this?

What Is Our District Offering?

February 26, 2008

Well, the latest discussion happening over on Will Richardson’s blog in conjunction with my prior blog post got me to thinking. What does our local school district offer in terms of professional development for my kids’ teachers? Are they learning about new spheres of practice, learning, communication, participation… Here is the list of what is being offered between February and June.

– IEP Open Lab

– SMART Boards for Beginners (X3)

– Social Emotional Learning Building Team Training

– Best Children’s Literature in the Classroom

– Adult CPR

– First Aid for Coaches

– Music: the Orff Express

– Web Portal Pages

– ESOL Inservice

– Para Support Group

– Implementing the District Lesson Plan Format (That sounds invigorating!)

– IEP Open Lab

– Excel Basics

– Mandarin Training Report Tool

– Building a Caring School Climate through Service Learning

– the Art of VideoStreaming

– Motivating hart to Reach, Uninterested, and Disruptive Students

– Building Circles of Support for Autistic students

– What Talented Readers Need

– Introduction to Computer Animation Basics (Art teachers only)

help.jpgAll of these topics have merit, of course. They are all important. But most are discipline specific and don’t have a wider audience appeal or relevancy. There are few general sessions that could benefit any and all teachers. But what I want to stress is that there are NO sessions dealing with Web 2.0 or any of its related technologies and certainly nothing on empowering teachers to connect, learn, contribute, participate… in larger communities of practice. So, do teachers know they can participate in such new forms of learning networks? Well, they are not learning about the possibilities in our district. So, I think Will Richardson’s estimate…

“But I would still venture to guess that 75% (maybe more) of educators in this country still don’t know that they can have this network.”

…is probably on target.

For those many teachers who can’t seem to make these after-school PD sessions for some very valid reasons (children, other jobs, other commitments or responsibilities, nothing relevant offered, no follow-up support,…), new on-line learning/networking opportunities would seem to make a great deal of sense. Do we just need to sit back and be patient in this regard? Will it come in good time… or too late?

Twitter for Us Old Folks?

February 21, 2008

Stumbled across an article in the NY Times titled, “If You Can’t Let Go, Twitter“. It it, the writer describes her attempt to connect with her 3 daughters (digital natives, right) via Twitter. Let’s just say, it didn’t work. After trying a number of tactics, including giving away money, she consults with a Walter J. Carl, an assistant professor of communications studies at Northeastern University, who said he wasn’t surprised. He is quoted as explaining the problem in the following way:

“You want to use these tools to keep up on others, in a good way, of course, and to let them keep up on you,” said Professor Carl, whose research focuses on social media. “But their perception is it’s surveillance.” One of the main reasons people embrace social media — Facebook, for instance — is to create identities for themselves and control other people’s perceptions of them.”

And then…

“Maybe Twitter isn’t the right tool for that job,” he said. “The people who I see using it are an older demographic, people in marketing or P.R. or advertising, who use it for work, to present themselves as particular types of people. They’ll twitter, ‘I’m traveling,’ or ‘I’m going to interesting restaurants.’ They’re using it to do identity work.”

Isn’t it interesting how this new communication tool that so many adults are using is not considered all that useful with kids… that they are more concerned with “creating identities for themselves and control other people’s perceptions of them”, as happens on Facebook and MySpace. But here’s my question: kids to love to IM and text. They thrive on social networking. One would think, in combination with social networking services, that a tool like Twitter would be “phat“. Huh!

In this new age of information glut/data smog, the importance of being information literate has grown exponentially. How do we reconcile this generation’s desire to “control other people’s perception of them”? Seem’s natural, for sure. But is the digital realm blurring the line between fact and fiction in a way that we must better address in education? Are students more accepting of blurred realities? And, if so, how does this impact one’s ability to value the truth and seek it out?

Enough With the Silly Pencil Argument!

February 5, 2008

pencil.jpgOkay, I understand the basic premise of the pencil argument (and here). But, come on now… this is far from an equal analogy! Here is what Doug Johnson had to say about the potential risks that pencils bring into the classroom in the February 2006 issue of Learning & Leading with Technology. It was referenced in Wesley Freyer’s latest post over on his Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog.:

1. A student might use a pencil to poke out the eye of another student.
2. A student might write a dirty word or, worse yet, a threatening note to another student, with a pencil.
3. One student might have a mechanical pencil, making those with wooden ones feel bad.
4. The pencil might get stolen.
5. Pencils break and need repairing all the time.
6. Kids who have pencils might doodle instead of working on their assignments or listening to the teacher.

Now, again, I understand the rationale behind this argument, but let’s compare:

1. Only psychopathic students would gouge out another’s eye… with anything. However, teachers have been known to be violent pencil wielders. Imagine what they could be capable of with an iPod in their hands!

2. A written insult or profanity is seen only by the one who holds the written note. We all fully understand the far-reaching implications of digital bullying!

3. One simply cannot compare pencil-envy with things of high value that create classes of students and do create envy (high-fashion clothing, shoes, and yes… electronics!)

4. In fact, pencils do get stolen all the time. I have rarely seen a student fall to pieces over it. However, if it were a $250 pencil, I could see why that could happen.

5. Pencils break. So you sharpen them again. The “repair” is done in seconds. Electronics break and are repaired with greater cost, time, and learning interruption/disruption.

6. I would much rather have a student doodle with his or her pencil than be consumed with the vast array of on-line distraction. And, most other classmates don’t usually get distracted by one student’s doodling. Not so with a laptop or other electronic device.

So, if we are to present a compelling rationale for issues surrounding freedom to learn and teaching/learning innovation, we at least need to bring valid and sound arguments to the table. To do otherwise only serves to make light of real and pressing concerns of many stakeholders. If a pencil is the equivalent of any other learning device, then I say, let’s stick with the pencils. They are cheaper, easily replaceable, quite reliable, disposable, efficient, highly portable, facilitate collaboration and sharing of information, they have excellent battery life – heck, they don’t even have lead in them anymore, making them environmentally friendly to boot!

But, if there is a significant difference here (and I would agree that there is), then we had better not be making such silly comparisons. Folks might just want to settle for the pencil, then.

Freyer’s blog post is otherwise right on the mark.

Ch. 5 – The Peek-a-Boo World

January 29, 2008

(Continuing on with by book club of 1…)

Today, I read a new post by Will Richardson on the topic of Twitter and it resounded so strongly with me (you can read my comments there) because I had just finished reading this fifth chapter of Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, and found incredible parallels between the influence of the telegraph, photograph, and television to the newer forms of information technology in this last decade . Will is wrestling with the impact of Twitter on his world, and how folks are restricted to communicating in 140 characters or less and others following up to 600 or more tweeters out there. Wow – have we ever changed from information moving as fast as physical people could carry it to seconds after the “post” or “publish” command has been invoked. Postman introduces the idea that this has produced “context free” information which holds merit simply because it is novel, interesting, our curious, “elevating irrelevance to the status of news”. I don’t think I am alone in being annoyed with the state of news in the US these days. In the morning I get 5 minutes or less of shallow news bytes and then 55 more minutes of the best macaroni and cheese recipes, 5 tips to firmer thighs, and where in the world is Matt Lauer. There is now such an glut of irrelevant information out there that instead of finding productive ways of taking action locally in our own communities, we struggle to stay afloat in the endless sea of information that seems important, but so disconnected that in the end we can’t find ways to take action on any of it. The idea of neighborhood has been replaced with “global neighborhood” – one that Postman defines as “… a neighborhood of strangers and pointless quantity; a world of fragments and discontinuities.”

Although Postman’s thinking evolves into a criticism of the television world, I find meaningful connections to newer worlds as well. To quote Postman once again,

“Facts push other facts into and then out of consciousness at speeds that neither permit nor require evaluation… Knowing the facts took on a new meaning, for it did not imply that one understood implications, backgrounds, or connections. Telegraphic discourse permitted no time for historical perspectives and gave no priority to the qualitative. To the telegraph, intelligence meant knowing lots of things, not knowing about them.”

As a teacher, I am compelled to help my students make sense out of both the information at their fingertips as well as the impact that the information medium has on his or her understanding and view of the world. I am challenged in new ways to help my students use new information tools in powerful and meaningful ways that do not sacrifice depth and complexity for breadth and glitz. How are we making sense of our world with the presence of such tools and glut of information? Are we struggling just to RSS the headlines and keep up the Jonses… I mean the Twitters? Do we need to be up on every RSSd headline or blog post? Or, are we tackling meaningful projects that positively impact our own communities based on meaningful and powerful uses of information. Are we contributing at all, or have we become so consumed with feeding on information that we have forgotten about our real neighbors and communities? Do we now live so much in Facebook or MySpace that the idea of community service is almost crazy? I mean, I have followers… I have an obligation here to satisfy them and their desire to know what I am doing every moment of the day. (sorry… this is getting a tad sarcastic)

Wow… this is making me think about a great deal. I have no answers at this point as I struggle with all of this. But, I am struggling, reading, and reflecting…, and that is good. What do you think about all of this?

Vacation/Internet Cold Turkey

January 2, 2008

Wow… after being away for 2 weeks, and I mean 2 weeks away from any sort of Internet connection at all, I really feel behind in the world, in my social network, in my writing, email… This is the first time in a long time that I have been disconnected for so long. And, since I have become more connected on-line, this 2-week separation seemed quite hard. It now seems like quite a daunting task to catch up on all of the blogs that I enjoy following. Thanks to my RSS aggregator, NetNewsWire, this task makes it much easier. I can download all of the entries of all the blogs that I follow at once and quickly skim through entry titles and short descriptions. When something of interest catches my eye, I can read the detailed post and even visit the actual blog site from within NetNewsWire. And, all of this can be done off-line once the RSS feeds have updated. So, here’s to the power of aggregators! I still have entries to skim and perhaps read in full, but it is much less daunting this way.

Just one thing before I close this entry. It is unrelated, but I was interested in the idea of how employers are increasing their presence within social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace for the purposes of recruiting. This was one of the stories on the national news this morning. They mentioned that this new age of social networking is becoming very powerful for both employers seeking employees and individuals seeking to be employed. I went to Facebook and indeed, there are many social networks focused on employment. It makes me think that I may need to change my profile and page content to better reflect the professional rather than the personal side of my life. I have little there and certainly nothing that would put a potential job in jeopardy, but it certainly is not geared toward employability! Perhaps I need two distinctly separate profiles/accounts.

Anyway, Happy New Year. It will certainly be an exciting one, I think.