Category Archives: Digital citizenship

Taking control of our digital lives

In a few weeks our team will be running sessions on digital citizenship with all the year 10 students. In an attempt to make sense of a very dense session I thought I’d throw it into a blog post.  I’m open to suggestions or advice if you’re kind enough to read the post. Thank you.

The leading question is:

In the digital age what are the most important skills we need to develop?

We will explore digital literacies and what it is to be a digital citizen in today’s information age. In particular, how can we take control of our digital lives?

In no set order, and depending on the dynamics of the class and their receptiveness to engage in discussion, we will look at:

  • attention (mindfulness) – thanks to the work of Howard Rheingold
  • online privacy
  • critical evaluation of information
  • your digital profile

With mobile devices and technology ubiquitous in our lives, is it possible that we are not in control of the balance in our lives?

To start discussion about whether we are online too much, I will show students this video.

I hope to talk a little on mindfulness. Mindfulness is something we can practice. It helps us have control over what we give our attention to.

We might do this one-minute meditation exercise or we might ask students to do this in their own time.

Mindfulness during study would be really appreciated by students; it’s so easy to get distracted especially with the ping of social media inviting us to take a ‘quick’ break. We will recommend to students the SelfControl app which allows them to lock themselves out of social media and email for any period of time. Sounds good to me. Students can download this app to their devices for free.

Next we’ll move on to the question: ‘Are we doing everything we can to secure our online privacy?

Then we’ll show students this video about nothing being free online and about how their online activity is stolen for the purpose of data collection.  Hopefully they’ll start to feel a little uncomfortable as they realise how little control they have over what is taken from what they do online . But will this lead to some good discussion?

At this point we’ll introduce our students to Duck Duck Go, an anonymous, encrypted search engine.  We’ll take a look at why Duck Duck Go is better for privacy than other search engines.  We’ll look more closely at how our search results are generally filtered and how we can escape our search engine’s filter bubble.

We’ll watch the following video to discover that our search results are far from objective and that the internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see.

Moving on to our digital identities, we might google each other and see what comes up. When I did this last year there wasn’t much which – as I said to the boys – is good and bad. It’s great if they don’t have inappropriate things on their public profile, but what if somebody wants to find out more about the, for example, when they apply for a job?

Here’s an revealing video about why our Facebook likes say more about us than we think, and why we should care.

At this point I’d like the students to take a look at what others see about them on Facebook by going to their public profile. Since Facebook changes privacy settings constantly and these are never simple, it should be an interesting exercise. Facebook allows a user to view their page as a person they haven’t ‘friended’ and also as a ‘friend’. Then I’ll ask the students to check out the Facebook Help Centre – I don’t think they will have looked at this in detail.

Although I’m not an advocate of the fear tactics used to scare young people off social media, I also want to make them aware of what can and does happen.  What happened to Alec Couros very recently is a sobering story. Alec Couros is Professor of educational technology & media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. Someone stole his online identity and created an internet relationship scam. Read about it here in his very open blog post where he explains how scammers stole his photos to lure women into online romantic relationships to get at their money. Alec lists a long list of things he recommends to fight internet scams. He says that ‘digital literacy is necessary for determining the validity of sources, including the integrity and authenticity of our relationships.’ He recommends that ‘this needs to be a topic in school as part of a required digital citizenship curriculum’. Yes, it does. And so, our one session is not enough, but we are squeezing in at least this one session.

Alec’s final words in this second blog post are:

Likely, what I’ve learned the most throughout this predicament is that we need better systems for identity verification. I don’t actually like proposing this because I’m a strong proponent for rights to anonymity on the web. But, there must be a way to allow for anonymity and to also build mechanisms in place for identity verification where necessary. Ideas, anyone? Maybe my life’s work is in this problem somewhere.

After this frightening real story we are actually going to go back to encouraging our students to cultivate a positive online profile. I know that many of them will ask why. Why do they need to go public online? Doesn’t this go against what we’ve just been discussing – all the negative stuff? While thinking about how I could possibly make this case convincingly with something our students could identify with, I was on Twitter and had asked a question about saving archived webpages from the Wayback Machine. A few seconds later I received an answer from Nick Patsianas (@nickpatsianas) – someone I followed a while ago. He is a year 11 student who lives on the Central Coast in NSW. Nick is an inspirational young man (as you will understand when you read his blog bio) and his blog is an outstanding example of how a student can create a positive digital footprint. I will introduce Nick to my students. Nick is part of an active network on Twitter, as you can see from his Twitter conversations if you follow him.  Nick is part of Oz Minecraft Educators. If I were an employer and were looking for evidence that Nick was an intelligent, literate, responsible, engaged and thoughtful young man, I would have everything I needed in the digital footprint he has created for himself.

To finish the session (if there is time remaining), I will take my cue from Alec Couros when he says

Detection of these scams requires critical thought, a healthy skepticism, and active digital literacy.

We’re going to look at photos and text posted online and try to evaluate their validity. Hopefully this will be a fun exercise, and we might do it together. We will ask our students if the following photos are real or fake, and if the accompanying information is real of fake. We will see how well they can uncover a hoax.

After discussion, I’ll ask the boys to find out here.

What about this?

Find out here.

What about this one?

Find out here.

What about “15-ton prehistoric shark captured off coast of Pakistan”?

Find out here.

And “New York artist creates ‘art’ that is invisible and collectors are paying millions.”

Find out here.

Next we’ll have a look at some fake news websites.

In Australia:

The Shovel

World Daily News Report

See a list of international fake news sites here. 

We’ll look at some of the information taken from the article by Paul S. Piper,Librarian, Western Washington University, Better read that again: web hoaxes and misinformation. These categorise web hoaxes and misinformation, for example, parody and spoof sites, malicious sites, counterfeit, fictitious, questionable and malicious websites, and finally product sites and subject-specific misinformation.

Finally we will ask the students which of the following websites are reputable and which are not? Of those which are not, they are to specify which are counterfeit, parodies, fictitious, questionable, malicious or product sites:

I’ll leave the students with the following sites which are dedicated to tracking internet hoaxes.

Don’t Spread That Hoax

Scambusters.org

Snopes (Rumour has it)

Vmyths (Rhode Island Soft Systems produces this site designed to counter myths and hoaxes about computer viruses.

The National Fraud Center is a consumer centre for fraud, including internet fraud.

I think that ending with this lengthy activity is a safe way to approach different classes which may delve deeply into a couple of things listed here, and not complete all activities, or they might be less willing to join a discussion, in which case we will whizz through these activities.

So this lesson will be about 45 minutes long. If you are reading, please leave a comment at the end of this post. I would really appreciate it, and there is still time to edit the lesson plan.

 

 

Digital literacies – year 10 orientation

I can’t believe how long it’s been in between posts. Anyone out there still? So, I am finally back in the blog with something to share. We’ve just been taking an intensive stream of orientation classes for year 9 and 10 students. I thought I’d share what I’ve been covering with the 10s. The topic is digital citizenship and the possibilities are many. The time is limited, and the fact that I don’t know the students by name (or personality) makes it tricky to have a really rich discussion – which would have been really nice.

I took a risk. I wanted to provide a more interactive experience for the students so I opened up a chat room on TodaysMeet. I knew what would happen – silly comments – but I hoped for more. There was a small but encouraging number of sensible comments. Who can blame students when given the opportunity to chat during class? Even as I spoke to them about sharing their responses, comments, ideas and questions, I knew that a chat would contain chat. I pulled out a few reasonable comments and questions. I was still happy with the activity because we were talking about social media and they were involved.

Bill: The analogy comparing tattoos with our digital footprint was very creative

Malcolm: Can’t things posted online be deleted?

Malcolm: Why was it funny when the TED talker said something about narcissism?

Ian: Why has the speaker made a connotation to the Greek characters?

George: What’s the full story of Narcissus?

Sean: I never thought about it like that.

Jacob: I’m an expert at deleting history.

AJ: I deleted my online tattoos

AJ: This is why I don’t have my face on Facebook

AJ: So I think what he is saying is that we all have digital tattoos

Tiger: Face.com lol creeps

Learn to use privacy settings

https://myshadow.org/trace-my-shadow

Is immortality when the records of you on the Internet exist longer than you do (forever)?

This is what they were watching while they were in the chat room –

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu1C-oBdsMM&w=560&h=315]

After a discussion about what some of the ideas in the TED talk meant – digital tattoos, digital immortality, online tracking, going over the top with photos and videos on your phone, social implications of over-connectedness – I gave the students some time to investigate their digital shadows on Trace My Shadow.

trace my shadow

How this works: you check all the devices you use, and which applications you use, eg social media, and where. This enables you to investigate the traces you’ve accumulated and look at these in detail, while getting tips on how to reduce these traces. I had 95 traces. The students were interested in this and I observed a fair bit of surprise. Of course, they were too cool to express any real concern.

I redirected the conversation to what an employer might find about them online. We watched the following video –

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlM-YuUQ3Ms&w=560&h=315]

They googled each other and then themselves to see what others could see of them online. We spoke about inappropriate postings and I said that I assumed they were too sensible to do such things. We talked about the stereotypical adolescents in the eyes of stereotypical adults, and I told them that I wanted to stand up for them, and that I’d seen evidence of so much positive online contribution from young people – initiative, creativity, collaboration, social and environmental conscience. I asked them how they would stand out from the crowd in terms of positive digital footprint. They were pensive as I conjured up a situation where an employer had to choose one of them, and they were of equal academic standard, but some of them had a digital profile which demonstrated their social service, particular interests and talents, and co-curricular activities at school.

We skipped back to online safety and privacy, and we watched a silly video about dumb passwords, followed by a very short one about how to create a strong password.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6iW-8xPw3k&w=560&h=315]
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RCsHJfHL_4&w=560&h=315]

I asked them if they  could live without their phone. We talked about manners – whether it was acceptable to use your phone while you were in company, and if they took photos and videos of everything and everyone. We watched the following video but we didn’t take it too seriously.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OINa46HeWg8&w=560&h=315]

I admitted that I was the guy who turned his phone on in bed once the lights were out. They thought I was pathetic. I agreed.

There was so much more we could have talked about. If you’re interested you might like to have a look at the Libguide I’ve created. There is a second theme on this page – attention. I’m particularly interested in this topic, and follow Howard Rheingold who is an expert on it. A couple of the groups had longer sessions and we started this topic off by watching the old selective attention test. I expected some of them to have seen this and asked them not to spoil it for others. Watch it if you haven’t already done so. I won’t say any more about it in this post because that would be a spoiler. I wish I had more of an opportunity to develop these conversations in a deeper way. It was fun.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo&w=420&h=315]

Window to the real world: student reflection and evaluation of their blogging experience (year 9s)

Marc Chagall, The Window

My focus for peer observation (as part of my Professional Learning Practice)  is my collaboration with Nick Fairlie and his 2 Year 9 English classes. Nick asked if I could help him do something different with his students, we decided to try out Posterous as a blogging platform. Readers of previous posts will know that we created a main teachers’ blog which we used for instruction and writing prompts, and the 2 classes of students created their own blogs which we linked to the teachers’ blog.

Our aims for this project:

  • to provide a collaborative and open online platform for student in the hope that an authentic and peer  readership (beyond that of the teacher) would develop an authentic writing voice.
  • to increase student motivation through the dialogue in the commenting section of the blogs as well as through the ownership of the students’ own personalised blogs.
  • to create a community of thinkers and writers across 2 classes by linking all blogs to Nick’s blog
  • to motivate students’ writing through dialogue with a broader and global reading audience
  • to provide opportunity for personal dialogue with Australian authors (Isobelle Carmody and Michael Gerard Bauer)

After blogging with 2 year 9 English classes for a year, it was time to provide students with the opportunity to reflect on and evaluate their experiences. I wrote a post entitled ‘Reflect about your blogging experience’ with a broad range of questions but open response format.

The students responded honestly and thoughtfully. Their reflections were based on a retrospective analysis of their blogging experiences and addressed a wide range of aspects to result in rich analysis and valuable metacognition. In all cases, despite varying degrees of recorded satisfaction with the blogging tasks, students acknowledged an enriching experience including learning they didn’t expect but appreciated.

The mix of personal writing in a public space was challenging, and we expected this. I’ve observed that initial apprehension was replaced by the excitement of being read by an authentic audience including that of peers and also of those from the other side of the world. Students felt increasingly safer in the supported environment with specific guidelines for appropriate and positive online responses and interaction.

It’s interesting that such a competitive and mark-oriented cohort has taken the time to write so much and so well in their own time when nothing was assessed. The comments in the students’ final evaluative post attest to engagement due to factors outside the reward of marks. The community of thinkers and writers which developed allowed students to feel that their writing mattered, and that their personalisation of their space and style enhanced their sense of self. Many students identified the blogs as a highlight of the year’s English classes and hoped to continue blogging next year.

Certainly the experience further developed students’ tolerance of others’ ideas, and pushed them out of the comfort of their own views, often resulting in a wider reading to gain a greater context for their own writing. In some cases students initiated further involvement in online writing and reviewing spaces for their personal satisfaction.

Our aim in this project was explore the possibilities of writing as metacognition, providing opportunities for students to think deeply, question and write honestly – not what they thought the teacher would want to read but as a form of personal consciousness. We were aware of the confronting nature of these tasks but we are also convinced that the outcomes have been even more valuable than expected. Although we focused on metacognition above pure writing exercises, we realised that the writing improved in sophistocation and fluency as a result of the flow of ideas.

In conclusion, this has been a highly motivating and enjoyable experience for us as teachers, and the students’ reflections and evaluations also attest to their enjoyment of the experience. There is always room for improvement, and the students have provided us with ideas for a modified approach for next year. We have been continually impressed with the high quality of thinking and writing overall, as has the global community of readers who have attested to this in their numbers and positive comments.

What follows is a very lengthy detailed description of featured student responses linked to their full posts. (Readers can stop here if they’ve had enough).

In his post, Simon has eloquently expressed the transformative possibilities of an open community of writers enabled by blogging.

“This Posterous adventure has brought a new beginning to my use of the social network. Looking back at the few posts I’ve published to the world, I can see the journey I have taken, but it is not over yet. For all I know, I may not be what I know; there are still some things I haven’t explored. This experience is like one of an engaging classroom; you never want the bell to ring. I have planted precious seeds that are now fully grown evergreen trees. I have the motivation to express my ideas and about myself, even if it is in the blog form. I have discovered new ways to express my word art. I have explored a vast network of shared information. I have discussed controversial issues. I have expressed myself. And now I am here. Reading everyone else’s comments and posts was also a fully rewarding experience. I could grasp the perceptions of things from different angles. I could get more takes on a different item. I could get to know other people. Blogging was a different experience, but it still is an open gate full of opportunity and answers. That’s how amazing it can be. So thank you everyone for staying with me till the end of the year.”

In his post, Krishnak appreciated being able to read what his peers had written:

“Reading other blogs also allowed me to gain a perspective on the opinions of others. What others thought about and what others wrote about opened my eyes to new ideas. The interaction between fellow bloggers allowed us to expand on new ideas and thoughts about life, and also helped me to gain an insight to what people with a different background thought about the same topic.”

In his post, “jialew” reflected on how blogging improved his writing:

“Writing had always been one of my many dislikes, with the help of classmates I started to grow out of that shell and approach the task. By reading their posts I gained an insight of what they had put into their posts, and most importantly what their views of the world is like.”

He understood how difficult good quality commenting actually was:

“Commenting may look simple, but I found it very hard, especially commenting on the friends’ posts. Thinking about it rendered my thoughts and contention blank, I had no clue what to do.”

He appreciated the global connections –

“Being able to connect to people outside of a restricted classroom is interesting, especially when you think about the distance that that separates the writers and viewers.”

Technical problems are unavoidable. Students should be given the opportunity to become independent problem solvers, not to expect everything to work smoothly, and not to be afraid of experimenting with solutions. He faced technical issues and worked through them.

“ I had some unfortunate issues with the technology within Posterous, at times it would freeze and reload the page when I’m nearly finished. To solve these issues I either just ignored it or wrote a brief plan for the topic; soon I would find out that I would either go off track or become focused on an unintended subject.”

In his post, Ashley admitted that blogging ended up being a valuable experience for him.

“Blogging this year has been an interesting and rewarding activity and I will continue to blog. I always thought that blogging was a boring outdated activity but after experiencing it for myself it has changed my mind. I recommend that everyone should be blogging even if it’s only occasionally because it is such a unique and unmissable activity.”

He understood the value of recording his thinking in his blog writing –
“Many times I’ve said to myself, “what is the point of writing it down when I know in my head I think what I will”. While this is true to a point, it is also very wrong. I thought I could remember it all but as I grow the more I have to remember. I think it is the same logic as why we take photos. Sure, we can remember things we did in them but they can still be forgotten and can remain fresher on photos.”

Kobie (post here) appreciated the reflective and open nature of the writing prompts which offered a freedom that assessment tasks did not have. The blog writing was not assessed.

Having in a sense, a homework assignment revolved around writing what you feel, was pretty refreshing a different… better than any assessment tasks!
I approached the task initially enthusiastic, but wary: I thought it’d be more of a ‘write this and make sure you do it to these requirements’ task. Once I realized it was about free expression and thought, I became more comfortable with it.

He also had trouble with commenting –

Commenting was… to be honest, difficult. Mostly because it felt awkward; being told to comment on your classmates writing and critique it felt strange…

My reflection:
This response is understandable for a few reasons. Firstly, commenting is responding to others’ writing, and should ideally be a natural and voluntary thing. Young people use commenting in a conversational way without any particular structure, often using ‘text speak’, and not necessarily as constructive criticism. Commenting is a valuable aspect of written dialogue which needs practice. To make it easier for students, we could provide examples of rich, authentic commenting. Students already have a choice as to which students’ posts they respond to.

Eric Wong (post here)
had blogged before but enjoyed the wider audience and interaction of this blog much more.

“This was actually not my first blogging experience as I had a previous one in year 8 where i had to blog about my experiences and findings when doing an assignment therefore i was pretty comfortable about blogging. This was not as significant as it didn’t have many comments and views. Using posterous spaces is so much better because of the various topics i receive from my teachers and it actually makes me think deeply about my life as a Melbourne High student.”

He eventually understood the value of the online writing community:

I initially didn’t like the fact that i had this blog to myself but as time passed, i found out that this blog belonged to the world and especially my classmates.

Hanan (post here) was one of many students who identified the valuable aspect of freedom in the blogging format. He comments on the fact that initial discomfort with the new form of writing disappears with practice and is replaced by enjoyment.

“Blogging gives me the freedom and time to express my thoughts and past and present experiences. As I write more, I enjoy it more and become more comfortable with it.”

He understood the importance of exposure to differing viewpoints:

“You may agree or disagree with other bloggers, but this creates an interesting conversation on what is being discussed.”

William (post here) understood the value of the open writing platform enabling a community of writers:
“The fact that we can see other blogs means we can get a profound and meaningful view into the minds of the people we learn, forge deep relationships with and see every day”.

William expresses beautifully the transition from initial apprehension to embracing the blog as a place for ‘soul searching’ and heartfelt writing:

“When we first began writing our blogs, I felt slightly apprehensive. I almost felt as if it was meaningless; who in the right mind would read the ramblings of teenage boys? This was the first time I had ever ‘blogged’, and I just followed the instructions of my teacher and the actions of my peers. But as I typed, I found it wasn’t hard at all. It was almost as if I was releasing a burden from my mind onto virtual paper. It was in a sense, soul searching. As I wrote, I started examining myself; my desires, my hopes and actions. I started examining the world and its happenings closer than I had ever done before. I explored key fundamental issues with today’s society and myself.
The apprehensiveness disappeared almost instantly. I enjoy writing immensely and it was a natural process; it felt productive (since it was homework and I was improving my English skills at the same time) and somewhat enjoyable at the same time. If only all our homework was like this! The liberty and freedom to express your creativity and thoughts is my favourite part of blogging. I didn’t have to think of things to write; it just came to me as I wrote in a logical order”.

Unlike some students, who found the open-endedness of post prompts challenging, William embraced them:

“Best of all, it felt casual. We were told that there was no pressure, and we could write anything we wanted. This lack of restriction meant that anything I thought would immediately get written down.
I feel blogging has been an invaluable experience and it has been the most enjoyable type of homework we get for English.”

Hayden’s response (post here) is testament to the challenge of writing prompts which encouraged higher order thinking and pushed students’ thinking and writing to a high standard:

“I found that the hardest part of blogging was always to start. I could never consider a way to start my blogs without serious thinking.”

He appreciated the ability to share his writing and read his peers’ writing:

“ I also find that having an audience for my blogs compels me to review what I have written much more thoroughly to ensure that I did not make any typing mistakes. The most important thing about these blogs were that my classmates had to do the same task as I, allowing me to see their views on the same topic, how they expressed it and what was good about it, allowing me to mimic their techniques as well.”

He understood the value of learning with and from his classmates:

“ I feel as though all of this was simply a program where we, the students, improve each other’s abilities without the assistance of a teacher. “

He appreciated being able to personalise his blog space:
“The fact that I could customize my wall meant that I was able to feel much comfortable with viewing my space and writing the blogs to my heart’s content”.

Simon (post here) understood the value of the global audience:
“ I think it’s great that we are writing for the world, and knowing that you are really makes you go that extra mile to make it the best.”

Tony (post here) solved his problem of writers’ block by broadening his reading and expanding his exposure to different ideas. This kind of independence and initative is undoubtedly valuable:

“When I started blogging on posterous, I felt the challenges of writing. My first blog was tedious and I couldn’t think of nothing to write about. I didn’t have developed ideas. The hardest part about blogging is thinking what to write which will impress the global audience. As a result, I began to read the newspaper daily to accumulate some fresh ideas. The editorial section was full of sophisticated ideas that I could not fully comprehend. As you read more and more, you take more in and begin to realise there are different ideas, elements and aspects you have not even thought about.”

He suggested that his writing had improved due to his reading audience:
“I am fully aware that my writing has changed over the course of my posting experience. My ideas, sentence structure and fluency have improved drastically, ameliorating my overall writing. I believe it is because I have to put lots of effort to come up with these deep thoughts.  It is important to have an audience for my writing because they can critique my work. They can help me find the flaws of my piece of work and improve it, make it unblemished.”

Tony’s blogging experience has led him to explore other online writing opportunities:
“Due to the fact I like blogging quite a lot, I have started writing blogs and comprehensive guides for several websites such as maplewiki and basilmarket. I write on them because I use to play the game MapleStory and I found it quite enjoyable. I want to help out new players in the best way possible. I already have about 24,000 views on my guides.I am going to continue blogging as a hobby. Thank you Mr Fairlie and Ms. Sheko for introducing this to me.”

This is an example of how an initial understanding of blogging satisfaction can lead to the initiation of further, authentic writing outside school. In this case the student has chosen to write for personal satisfaction, identifying an area of expertise and sharing this with a global audience. The student has gone beyond the confines of writing for assessment only.

Michael (post here) gave an honest and poetic evaluation of the value of his peers’ blog posts:

“As you scroll down the countless posts of the two classes of year 9, you will inevitably find shards of preciousness — sometimes golden dust; other times, fool’s gold.
But, undeniably, the thing that gives away the shine of a man is the title of his blog.
You really do dig deep with blogs.”

Patrick (post here) appreciated the development of quality writing through the posts, and acknowledged an improvement:
This was the first time I had made a blog which is why in the beginning of my Posterous space, my posts were short and had little content for pondering. As time goes by and as I practise, my posts get longer and contains a far better quality of content up until now although there had been some variations. This made me to believe that creating a blog could actually supplement and even improve my English writing skills.

We had no trouble with inappropriate comments, as Patrick stated:
“Fortunately there was no cases of trolling or cyber bullying which is unlikely due to the nature of my audience.”

Alan (post here) identified the peer and global audience responsible for the improvement and enhancement of writing skills and broadening of perspective:

“Through the blogging my writing has changed. Ideas are easier to put into words and I now have a different perspective on topics. I feel it is important to be able to read other people’s blogs so that you can gain another perspective on the topic an it is also important to be able to comment and ask questions so that you can fully understand what they are saying. It is also important to comment with overseas people so that we can get an even wider view on the topic. Overseas commentator also made the blogging experience more enjoyable as you felt your views were being read by more people. Through blogging I was able to get a better understanding of myself and others.”

Vinh (post here) was honest in his evaluation of the blogging experience. Blogging opened up experiences he would not normally seek out:

“A blog, in its core, is basically a part of your mind. Just typed out, and shared with the world. I don’t see myself in the future as being the artsy, blog-keeping type but i think this years experience has opened me up to a whole new side to the internet, which I would never have bothered to explore.”

Writing to a public audience was challenging to Vinh:
“I don’t really like putting myself and my thoughts up for public judgement. Even if its anonymous. In a way, you could call me quote introverted, i like keeping things to myself.”

He found writing fluency of ideas challenging, especially since English is his second language. The example of metacognition here is worth noting:

“At first, I had quite a bit of difficulty making my writing fluid and connecting ideas effectively, just because I was, literally, translating my thoughts as i wrote them down. The way I think also made this harder as I tend to think in chunks of ideas, rather than words or single ideas. Sometimes these chunks all link together nicely and so i write fluently and quickly. Other times i get stuck. Having these chunks in Vietnamese also doesn’t help the block.”

Blogging has opened up a new world for Nathan (post here):

“Blogging hasn’t changed my style of writing, but it has reignited my passion to do some recreational reading and writing. I now realise that the world of literature and writing is endless and I should never be empty of ideas if I have the right determination and will.”

Lachie (post here) appreciated the value of having an authentic audience for writing:
“It was also a great experience to have such a diverse audience to write for. Writing without an audience is pointless. You may as well be talking to a wall. Nobody hears your opinions, your beliefs if you have no audience.”

He summed up the value of a global audience nicely:

“Having people from Finland and America or any other country viewing and commenting on my work is truly a great privilege and honor. However, with this comes a greater responsibility to only write appropriate comments and pieces. These connections made me feel as if my writing actually meant something, that people enjoy my writing”.

He gained a valuable insight into his peers through their writing.  Herein lies the value of sharing writing with peers.
“The insight that I have gained from blogging is that there is more to people than meets the eye. That is, that you cant judge people from their exterior but what its on the inside that you should judge and that counts.”

Andrew (post here) commented that the quality of writing follows the sophistocation of thoughts expressed:
“The insight that I have gained from blogging is that there is more to people than meets the eye. That is, that you can’t judge people from their exterior but what its on the inside that you should judge and that counts”.

He offered some insights into how writing prompts could be more engaging to students:

“For one, I feel as though the topics were too abstract, and too different from student life. Having debates about school curriculums, education systems and subjects, sounds slightly more appealing than having broad, abstract ideas, that don’t really relate too much. Though I enjoyed it, I believe having debates on things that we can relate to, would be better. The ideas can still be abstract and broad; just more relatable to education, or student life.”

“xiangxxu” (post here) identified the personal space of the blog and audience as affirming:

“Having a blog that i can control and customise as i please made me feel responsible and important, as i can do as i please on the blog and it was up to me to control what i would like to express, thus making me feel responsible. Also it made me felt important as narcissistic this may sound, but i felt more valued as a person when i have people from around the globe able to read my thoughts on multiple issues.”

Less confident students have acknowledged a development of confidence in writing, as well as the value of being able to read others’ posts. “Flaming ball of doom” (post here) reflects honestly on his shaky beginnings:

“I was reluctant at first as I wondered why would anyone want to read what I had to say? Then I realized nobody was forced to read it and the people who did would hopefully like it. When I began to write my first post I was slighty nervous but excited and as I kept writing I stopped being nervous. My readers’ comments on my posts helped me a lot as it allowed me to see how others interpreted my posts and I had to answer some tough questions.”

Vincent (post here) loved the opportunity for dialogue with the Finnish students:

“Having the ability to communicate with Finnish students provided a wonderful knowledge and insight into the way they live.”

Andrew (post here) valued the authentic audience:

“Of course, without an audience, writing would be somewhat pointless. Nobody hears what we have to say, our opinions, our beliefs are just ignored”.

In his post, Sasank described his initial apprehension about sharing his thoughts with a public audience online, and admitted being reassured by the secure and supported blogging space:

“Before this year, i had never blogged as i was protective of my privacy. I was afraid of entering a new world, where i would be sharing things very personal to strangers. HOwever, as the year has gone by, i have developed a confidence in myself and others, as my views have been accepted and constructively commented on”.

His observations underlined the importance of giving students the opportunity to learn constructive feedback and tolerance of others’ opinions:

“ I had to comment on things which i did not agree to, and i still had to be ‘nice’.”

It was interesting to read that the blogging tasks set for homework were experienced differently to other homework:

“It also provided a great diversion from other homework, and basically just gave me some time to myself.”

He admitted that this experience had given him new confidence in his own ideas and writing:

“Again, it gave me more confidence and i came to know what others thought about my style of writing.”

Ilan (post here) acknowledges that a good blog post takes much thinking, time and rigorous editing.

“At the start blogging was a bit of a challenge. I had all of these ideas in my head, most were absolutely terrible, a couple I could form into a semi reasonable post but there is a big difference between half thought out ideas and a well written posterous post. The problem was transferring a thought front my head onto the page and making it make sense.”

The open and personal nature of post prompts allowed students to express their thoughts in a way unrelated to curriculum, and students were able to focus on refining their writing to best express their ideas:

“This didn’t only help get the ideas out, it also helped refine them and make them more logical and understandable.”

Brendan (post here) was initially sceptical about using social media for serious writing but he was soon convinced otherwise:

“At first I was skeptical because I thought it would be just another Facebook however the passages written by my fellow students were not stupid and useless such as ‘I’m bored’.”
If you’ve read to the bottom of this page, I hope you appreciate as much as I do the value of students’ reflection and evaluation of their blogging experiences, using Posterous spaces to create a community of thinkers and readers. Nick and I have found the experience extremely rewarding, and we’ve learned as much from the students as they have from us. I hope to continue to provide deep learning opportunities using social media next year.

An introduction to digital citizenship for year 8s – in 20 minutes

Our new Year 9s (still 8s) arrived today for their orientation. Thanks, Nick, for inviting me to do a few sessions as an introduction to their ipads. I’ve shared the slideshow and hope it will make sense without much of the talk behind it.

 
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30 minutes with the year 10s – what do you teach them?

At the end of the year the library staff do a series of very short sessions with the year 10s to support their transition into year 11. Our team showcases databases and other online resources, talks about learning styles, and the such. My session last year centred on Google Search, with the students doing A Google a Day.  Since last year Google have enhanced this program with a very catchy game which is sure to engage students. This year I thought I’d expand my focus area to include aspects of digital citizenship.

This is how I intend to proceed. I’m starting with a question which I think cuts to the core of learning and teaching in our age:

In the age of Google, what are the most important skills we need to develop?

There’s no doubt that, in order to manage and make sense of information on the internet, we need to be smart online. Students’ online and offline lives merge into one; they are always connected, and so they  need to be netsmart just as they should be ‘life smart’.  There’s enough material here for a year’s program, and while creating libguide resources for Digital Citizenship, I’ve been wondering how I can convince the school of the value of this.
Since I only have one short session with the students, I’m going to briefly talk about 2 aspects of being netsmart –

1. Our Privacy online (We need to be smart and discerning)

2. Critical consumption (or what Howard Rheingold calls ‘crap detection’)

So, first our privacy online. I’ll start by showing the students this video that Jenny Luca has shared in her blog post.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7pYHN9iC9I]

Hopefully the video will engage the students and spark some thinking about how much can be gleaned online about their personal information. Of course there’s so much sensationalised and biased information in the media demonising young people’s online lives but I’m not sure if that doesn’t just make them switch off. I’m hoping that the humorous approach will engage their attention so that the final message will sink in.

Following that I intend to challenge the students to google themselves and each other, making them think about what other people would find out about them if they were googled. I wonder how many would start to be worried about what their digital footprint might look like. Actually, I’m not sure they would find much about themselves online, and this would be a perfect opportunity to discuss the positive aspects of their digital footprint, and how they could create one which would impress a future employer or at least create a transparent, positive identity they would be proud to present to the world. I think the obvious question also needs to be asked: why do they need a digital footprint in the first place?

I’m also keen to discuss, as Jenny did, the difference between http and the secure network communication using https. Jenny said she was surprised that many students didn’t realise the difference and were impressed with the information.

Finally, I’ll be showing the students the Facebook tab in the Digital Citizenship Libguide, and we’ll discuss how privacy works on Facebook, and talk about advanced privacy controls.

Then we’ll move on to the very important aspect of being netsmart which includes critical consumption (crap detection). We’ll read through a summary of Web hoaxes and misinformationand the students will form small groups to ‘evaluate the websites’ in the list on the Libguide to decide which are not reputable, and match them with a category from web evaluation box. They won’t have time to work through the Internet Detective tutorial but I included it because it’s such a useful and specific lesson on the identification of disreputable websites.

There are so many more areas to cover but for now I will settle on the collection of resources in the tabs within the Digital Citizenship guide: cybersafety, digital values, digital footprint, Facebook, copyright, being net smart, Creative Commons, web evaluation, digital literacies and our networked world. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to work with students within these areas next year.

Image source: http://www.veletsianos.com/

Gagging on content, struggling to switch off

[slideshare id=13433007&w=427&h=356&sc=no]

Curation is one of the new popular concepts in the education world, particularly amongst librarians. In the same way as some previously trusted platforms for bookmarking content have become disappointing (Vodpod’s takeover by Lockerz) or slightly altered (Delicious), new forms of collecting, organising and sharing content have emerged. Pinterest, for me, as for many others, has proven useful for  easily capturing and categorizing images and videos, for example. Scoop.it has become very popular and a new way to search for educational content (even moreso than Pinterest which is still mainly used for personal collections eg wedding paraphernalia and crafts).
Joyce Seitzinger (@catspyjamasnz) has created an insightful slide presentation entitled ‘When educators become curators’. I particularly like Joyce’s description of the different types of digital curators – Closed Door, Hoarder, Scrooge, National Inquirer, and the Robot, although I haven’t actually met the ‘closed door’ curators, only ‘closed door’ recipients.
I can definitely relate to the idea of ‘gagging on content’ since, I have to admit, I’m addicted to information. As a teacher librarian this should be a positive thing since I’m in the business of curating and disseminating information for teachers. But an addiction is never a good thing and can get in the way of working efficiently or even living the real life. Sadly I’m often one of those people who can’t switch off, who regularly check for Twitter and Facebook updates while I’m out, whose inclination to share things I see and find could be viewed as compulsive. That’s why I’m reading Howard Rheingold‘s Net Smart: how to thrive online – or trying to.
Gagging on content can be managed by curation tools but balancing your life and curbing your desire to drink from the fire hydrant is just as important. And it’s so difficult to resist the temptation to connect to your networks when the conversation is so rich, when the new discoveries are so constant.
And so, if I can resist the temptation to check my phone so often, I might be able to learn from Howard how to develop attention and focus which will help balance my life by cultivating an internal inquiry into how I want to spend my time. Anyone else?
Still, at least if we’re connected we have an inside understanding of what our students feel like when they have to switch off and listen to one teacher for the whole period.

Libguides, Pinterest and other online stuff

Well, I have to write a post mainly because the vibrating gif is driving me crazy and I feel the need to push it down. What’s happening that I don’t use the blog to reflect any more? Perhaps this is not my reflective phase. Yes, that’s it. I’ve been quite satisfied creating resources and getting to know staff members at my relatively new school. And I have to admit to an obsession – pictures! I can’t stop looking at and saving gorgeous pictures from Flickr and other parts of the web (my groaning Google Reader). Just this week I finally decided to give Pinterest a go. The account has been sitting there for a while – can’t remember exactly how long – and I suppose I’ve been frantically trying to keep up with other things, not least Scoop.it which has taken off in a big way. Also because so many Pinteresters are dominating the place with food and wedding photos. Lovely. But not for me at the moment thanks. Just to give it a go, I created a couple of boards and threw in my YA book trailers as well as some books covers. Yes, not bad, looks great and neatly organised at a glance without having to scroll down too much. Well, woah! Now I have too many boards and possibly Pinterest OCD. Please help me.

Libguides have still got me burning the candle at both ends. Some of my colleagues tell me a don’t have a life. Hmm… (I have a life *she says weakly*) Some of you may understand the obsessive finding/saving/sharing/creating cycle and I blame my PLN for giving me so much of the good stuff. I love my job (have I said that before?) I love finding the good stuff for teachers and students. It’s  like being a conjurer – pulling wonderful and unexpected things from a hat. Reader, if you’re a teacher librarian, please support me here. Don’t you feel the same way?

So, to finish off the post (so that I can keep playing with pictures – it’s a bit like swap cards from my youth), I will share the things I’ve been doing. Some of these you already know but, hang on, I’ve been adding…

Pinterest first:

Book trailers board 

Art Inspiration board (from my Art Does Matter blog)

There are more but I’ve only just started them. The illuminated manuscripts have got me salivating and I will be continuing my obsession until I have a full board.

LibGuides:

Even though it’s called Competition Writing, this resource supports any kind of writing and so is useful to students and teachers of English.

I am responsible for the weekly weblink of interest for the school newsletter, and this week I shared the link to my Digital Citizenship pages (4) into which I added two excellent articles by well-known and respected Australian educators, Chris Betcher (Have you googled yourself lately?) and Jenny Luca (5 reasons why our students are writing blogs and creating e-portfolios). These are under ‘Your digital footprint’ tab which is my favourite section of the resource because it explains the importance of helping students create a positive and responsible digital identity. Don’t go on about the dangers of the internet without balancing this out with a clear and positive direction for digital citizenship. Teachers are still telling me they prefer the things of their time to what kids are using today. Not even kids, what about businesses. Mobile technologies and social media have been taken up by businesses but sadly schools are still pulling back. And I say, that’s all very well but it’s not about you. It’s not about me either, it’s about preparing our students for their future.

I’ve also added things to the Debating LibGuide. This is good for persuasive writing and orals. Take a look.

Of course it’s not secret that I have a particular interest in visual arts. Here’s the link to these guides and don’t forget to look for drop-down arrows.

The French language guides have been growing too.

At the moment we are all taking the wider reading classes for the year 9s. I developed a couple of guides for this. My aim is to help students find different ways of finding what to read by using libraries and social media such as Good Reads – to mention a couple. I threw a whole bunch of book trailers into this page; I hope you find it useful. Please let me know what’s missing.

Well, it’s getting late so I won’t go on. For a change.

How much personal information do we give away every day?

                                                             Image: ‘Facebook Wants a New Face
Facebook Wants a New Face

A couple of days ago my son had an unsavoury phonecall in the middle of the night from someone who had taken the trouble to conceal his number and his real voice. The incident prompted a discussion about privacy, about Facebook and ‘Friends’ and led me to notice this video in a blog post within Judy O’Connell’s Scoop.it .

[vimeo 24164915 w=400 h=225]

Privacy International – Data Trail from This is Real Art on Vimeo.

I’m all for the positive connections for students (and anyone, really) on social networking sites but I suppose unless something goes wrong, we might be tempted to overlook the reality of things. I think, as much as I enjoy sharing things with ‘friends’ online, I should review what I’m sharing and who I’m sharing it with. As educators we should be addressing issues of privacy and the implications of our digital footprint, and the best way is to model it ourselves.

How do you find 50 people you don’t know from all over the world?

As you already know from a recent post, I’m lucky to be attending the Sydney Google Teacher Academy in April. I have to say, I’ve been curious to find out who is going and where they’re from. Someone started a Twitter #gtasyd hashtag which got the ball rolling, and soon I was adding people to my Twitter network and to a #gtasyd Twitter list. At one point, somebody asked for those attending the Sydney academy to share their 60 second video. I was thinking the same thing, although I’d tried searching YouTube but the results returned a mixture of people’s videos from different years.

Even though it seemed a little too obvious, I decided to create a Google Doc. This worked very well – after I realised that I’d made it public but hadn’t allowed anyone to edit. Soon #gtasyd people were coming in and introducing themselves, providing photos, a little background to place them geographically and add a personal touch, adding blog urls, Twitter usernames, and a link to their 60 second video.

You can have a look here if you’re interested. At first I thought we were either from Australia, New Zealand or USA but then Boris from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia added his details, followed by a ‘lucky Frenchman’.

Suddenly I’d gone from having very little information about the people I’d be meeting in Sydney – only those who were already in my PLN – to knowing quite a bit about them: where they lived, their identities on Twitter, Skype, Facebook, Diigo, etc., what they looked like, a little family background, not to mention the fact that I could browse their blogs for interests, focus, mindset and more. The fact that these people had a rich web presence made it easy to find the information I needed.

How important is a web presence? How important is it for us to help our students begin to create a digital footprint, a positive and authentic identity online?  These are obviously rhetorical questions. We need to stop focusing on the dangers of our students’ online activity and focus on teaching them to create strong, positive digital footprints.

At one point, as I was watching Boris (from Russia) enter his details on the Google doc (I love the way you can see it take shape right before your eyes), he noticed I was viewing and we had a short chat. That was cool – I was at school in Melbourne, Australia, and he was in Russia in a different timezone.

I’m glad that Australia finally got a go with Google Teacher Academy, and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in April. I wonder what kind of projects and connections will come from this experience?

Control your identity online

This has been cross-posted from I get to say what’s culture.

Taken from Jenny Luca’s presentation

Kids these days are connected and mobile. Wherever they are, they have access to information and can communicate with their friends online.  Although I do believe that the media sensationalizes and demonizes social media, becoming informed about how to stay safe and behave responsibly online is crucial – for teachers and parents. Even for those of us on Facebook, it may come as a bit of a shock to realise how much we are unaware of in terms of privacy settings.

Do you know how much of what you or your kids post online is visible to others?

The Generation Yes Blog alerted me to the new A Parents’ Guide to Facebook by Connect Safely.  You can download the whole document as a pdf file here or take a look at an overview of recommended settings for young people here.

I like the recommended settings for young people as an alert to what Facebook users should be thinking about. Actually, I doubt whether most young people would be taking the time to fine-tune their settings, and Facebook doesn’t seem to be making it easy or intuitive to do so. That’s where kids need education. We all do, teachers and parents, so that we can recommend to our young ones what they should be taking control over.

I’ve included screen grabs of some of the information on the Recommended Privacy Settings for Teens here –

Jenny Luca has created some top quality slideshow presentations which I highly recommend. Take a look at them on her wiki.

You can also find good information on ACMA cybersafety website.

Finally, I’m sharing my ‘cybersafety’ Diigo links here.

I do think we need to be informed as teachers and parents because the issue of cybersafety and digital citizenship is not only relevant but crucial to our students’ lives.  Kids know how to work out technology but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be informed about consequences.

What do you think?