Category Archives: Education

Brave new world: learning to connect in new ways

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This video (3 in one) of the forum at Stanford University, "From MySpace to HipHop: new media in the everyday lives of youth", delves into a subject that I'm compulsively drawn to - social networking and the implications of these new ways of connecting. The questions that come out of these presentations are vital to our understanding of youth in order to evaluate and re-evaluate our teaching and learning programs. Some of these questions are:

  • Are we seeing an evolution to a new kind of engaged community?
  • Should we be enthused about the ubiquitous nature of digital media or should we be deeply concerned?
  • As educators, how can we spark the same engagement and motivation that we see on MySpace and Facebook?
  • Are young people changing through their participation with digital media?
  • How does this change their relationship to school and home life?
  • Why do they participate in digital communities rather than real life?

 Although the research study presented here doesn't tell us what to do, only what we need to know, I think that it's vital to realise what we need to know. Our familiarisation with Web 2.0 applications is only the beginning of a new direction in education. More importantly, we need to understand why we are doing this and what else we need to find out. One of the speakers points out that we may be at an inflection point where change is accelerating and old ways disappearing, where systems are no longer working, indescribable innovation is becoming possible. If this is true, then we need to understand it and we need to understand the good and the bad, and we need to harness it.

I've spoken about the significance of audience for young people. The first speaker makes an important point - Web 2.0 and what young people do within this environment is inextricably tied with who they make it for and with. MySpace and Facebook enable deeply social activity not driven by the technology itself. Network publics are an extension of youth's existing publics. How does this change young people's relationship to school and home life?

I'm going back to the question I was asked at my recent interview: how do we get to know adolescents?

This question is at the heart of the research presented here. The goal of the research is to understand these changes from the point of view of youth themselves. As the first speaker said, before we can design our own adult-centred agendas for education, we have to try to take young people's agendas and experiences seriously on their own terms.

Have a look at Heather Horst's submission to the website Digital youth research. I found this link on Hey Jude. Thanks.

The web will never replace human interaction

Restoration… Hagia Sophia scaffolding

Originally uploaded by annpar

Every day I’m reminded of the importance of the human presence behind the use of technology in teaching and learning. We need the good old-fashioned teacher to support the resource-based and student-centred learning more than ever. Before, during and after the research or learning process, we need, more than ever, the educator to explain, inspire, moderate, explain, encourage, supplement, support, explain …   Otherwise the joy and understanding will go right out of the student’s assignment and the student will loathe the assignment and loathe learning. These are my thoughts as a teacher, teacher-librarian and parent.

Here’s what someone else had to say  – scroll down to the halfway point.

It’s not a dichotomy – the old fashioned teacher and the 21 century teacher – it’s the same teacher.

#23 Don’t underestimate the e-book

the metamorphosis adapted by peter kuper

Originally uploaded by tsheko

I’m going to talk selectively about e-books. I was really taken by Len Unsworth’s presentation at a SLAV conference last year. It changed the way I viewed e-books. Of course, I’m focussing on only one aspect of the presentation, but it’s the bit that blew me away. In this context, Len stated that we should rethink what counts as literary narrative. This was poignantly expressed when he spoke about digitally recontextualised literary texts. Len pointed out that ‘electronic media are not simply changing the way we tell stories, they are changing the very nature of story, of what we understand to be narratives’. An example he used was Kafka’s Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung) adapted as a digital story by Peter Kruper. You know the story – one day Gregor Samsa wakes up and finds that he’s turned into a cockroach, and the rest of his miserable life becomes even more difficult. Well, the graphic novel of Metamorphosis works powerfully, but the digital version takes it one step further. Instead of a static page, movement in and around the page, as well as presenting parts of the page dynamically to suit the narrative, give life to the digital story in a way that is new. There is so much more to the types of literacy required for the ‘reading’ than the static visual imagery of the graphic novel. I couldn’t agree more with Len Unsworth: we should not ignore the multimedia expertise of our children. Electronic media has much potential in teaching and learning of literacies, and in inspiring students in reading and writing.

#17 Library 2.0


Originally uploaded by David Warlick

I haven’t slept well for the last few nights. I’ll tell you why. I haven’t been able to let go of a significant stuff-up in a job interview for the position of teacher librarian in a secondary school. It still astounds me that, when asked how I would engage students in reading if money were no object, I completely forgot to resource the collection! No mention of buying books! My library would somehow engage young readers bypassing a collection altogether.

I blame my present conversion to all things Web 2.0. Seriously, it’s almost as if a vibrant collection of resources is taken for granted. But, to be fair, when I analyse my giant faux pas, I would have to say that we all know, and have known for some time, that school libraries need a fantastic variety of all things readable, countless copies of every author, genre and style. But it’s not enough! One of the other questions that challenged me during the interview (an excellent question) was ‘how we get to know adolescents’ at our school. I think this is one of the most important questions, because if we don’t think about how we are going to understand young people in our schools, then we’re buying books for ourselves, then our programs are for a mismatched audience, our money is spent in vain.

During the course of this Web 2.0 journey, we’ve had a taste of the world that our students more authentically inhabit than we do, a world we have to force our way into perhaps, so as to have an insight into the question ‘how do we engage young people in reading?’ After crawling into Facebook and MySpace, feeling our way through Flickr photosharing, and other Web 2.0 applications, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that we’re living in a new information landscape, one where interacting and sharing understandings, views and knowledge is the purpose behind everything we do. David Warlick noted a graduate student’s comments about school in his blog,

“There’s not really an avenue at school for me to share, or publish my own stuff, or especially get feedback from people all over — That’s really the only reason I rush home to do MySpace so much.”

I think the reason I omitted to talk about the provision of books and concentrated on Web 2.0 applications, is that, like Will Richardson, I see this generation as a read/write generation. It’s not just about reading – it’s about reading and sharing opinions and ideas about what we’ve read with our friends.  If we provide books, then we should provide the opportunity for socialnetworking amongst students. Teachers should not be the sole audience. Young people care about what other young people think. This is what Library 2.0 is about – innovation, people and community building.

Rip Van Winkle feels at home in our schools

Time magazine cover how to bring our schools out of the C20th century

Originally uploaded by tania.sheko

Here’s a dark little joke from an article featured in Time magazine in 2006 that may touch a sore spot in educators. The article is entitled How to bring our schools out of the C20th century.

Rip Van Winkle awakens in the 21st century after a hundred-year snooze and is, of course, utterly bewildered by what he sees. Men and women dash about, talking to small metal devices pinned to their ears. Young people sit at home on sofas, moving miniature athletes around on electronic screens. Older folk defy death and disability with metronomes in their chests and with hips made of metal and plastic. Airports, hospitals, shopping malls–every place Rip goes just baffles him. But when he finally walks into a schoolroom, the old man knows exactly where he is. “This is a school,” he declares. “We used to have these back in 1906. Only now the blackboards are green.”

For all our technological advances, our new ways of communicating, how much have our schools really changed?