Tag Archives: online

Storyjumper Part 10: The maps #digiwrimo

This is part 10 of a storyjumper for Digital Writing Month.  You can read the other parts here:

Part 1          Bruno’s blog started us off with a personal narrative.
Part 2          Kevin’s blog began the story.
Part 3          Maha’s blog continued…
Part 4          Sarah’s blog…
Part 5          Ron’s blog…
Part 6          Tanya’s blog…
Part 7          Kay’s blog…
Part 8          Ron’s blog…

Part 9          Dana’s blog

You can follow the story here.

What was he waiting for? Why didn’t he knock? *She was more than ready to let him in. She felt her hand dip into her pocket and her fingers feel around for what she knew was there.

They were facing each other.

The first thing she saw was his puzzled expression. Then her eyes traced the fine lashes on his face and down his straight nose to his mouth which was partly open – she guessed from shock – the shock she tried to suppress as she struggled to make sense of their physical closeness in unknown surroundings. What the…!?  In her peripheral vision she guessed they were in a deserted street and it was dusk. Or was it dawn? Nobody in sight. A car parked a little way down the road.

And then she let her eyes follow his arm down to his hand which was clutching a map. And she? She was still holding the map she had been turning over at home, scrutinising. And between her fingers… what? Sand?

Image courtesy of the Lewis Lab at Northeastern University. Image created by Anthony D’Onofrio, William H. Fowle, Eric J. Stewart and Kim Lewis. (See Anthony D’Onofrio on Flickr)

“Where the hell are we?” he broke the silence and her mental musing.

Map found here.

“I..I…I think – I know it sounds crazy – but I think it’s the maps,” she managed to splutter, blushing a little as he came to life, and unnerved now by their physical closeness.

They both turned in the direction of the sudden sound of a car screeching towards them.

“Sarah?” he said, as she jumped out of the car. “What the hell is going on here?!”

“Get in!” Sarah grabbed Kevin’s arm and pushed him into the car.  “Time’s running out! Get in! Hurry up!”

She had no time to lose. No time to think, she swung open the back door of the car as it started moving and flung herself into the back seat, the car accelerating at an unnerving speed.  She knew, somehow, that she had to hold onto the map.

It was difficult to describe what happened next. The scenery flew past them too quickly; it wasn’t normal. Physically she felt squeezed, she felt as if all her organs were compressed, she could barely breathe. And all the time that dreadful shrieking – not just in the ears but everywhere. Stop it, stop it! Unbearable.  And then she realised it was she who was shrieking.


“Shut up!” screamed Sarah, “what are you doing here? It’s too late; you have to come with us now” as the car came to a sudden stop and she banged her head against the seat in front of her. The seat of the boat she was now in. In the middle of a vast, icy lake. Under a white sky.

“What the hell are you playing at!” Sarah’s face too close to hers.

*The initial motif of Beethoven’s 5th symphony has sometimes been credited with symbolic significance as a representation of Fate knocking at the door

Your turn, Maureen.



Creativity for learning in higher education

It seems I don’t know my place.

Again I’m sneaking into an online course designed for educators in higher education. ButSandra Sinfield, Senior Lecturer in Education and Learning Development, LondonMet @danceswithcloud, one of the Open Course team, said it was okay, so I’m doing it.

The course is called Creativity for learning in higher education and I’m not sure exactly what to expect but I like the idea of creativity in education and I’m also interested in working with people online around the topic.

Within this course, enablers and barriers to creativity in higher education will be explored, together with related pedagogical theory and literature. Participants will experience learning through play, games, models and stories and will actively experiment with such approaches. This will help them further develop their understanding, knowledge, skills and practices in these areas. Students will be able to critically reflect on their practice and identify opportunities to design, implement and evaluate an imaginative and creative innovation that fosters curiosity, and maximises meaningful active engagement and discovery learning.

I particularly like this sentence:

“Participants will experience learning through play, games, models and stories and will actively experiment with such approaches.”

Sounds like fun.

Outcomes are good too:

On successful completion of this open course, students will be able to:

  1. Critically discuss creative teaching and teaching for student creativity, as a driver for student engagement and learning in their own professional context.

2. Develop and implement an innovation in their own practice and appreciate how their own creativity was involved in the development and implementation process

3. Critically evaluate their innovation.

4. Appreciate and recognise unanticipated outcomes that cannot be predicted in advance.

The open course will incorporate the following themes:

  • Conceptualising creativity in higher education
  • Enablers and barriers of creativity in higher education
  • Learning through play, games, models and stories
  • The role of curiosity and other intrinsic motivations for engagement
  • Developing creative methods and practices
  • Evaluating a pedagogical innovation

The course is part of P2PU.

The Peer 2 Peer University is a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements. P2PU creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education. Leveraging the internet and educational materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education opportunities.

Let’s go! Trust me to join another online course in the last few days of my term break.

PLN? Unconference? Virtual learning

Maha Bali’s excellent article entitled Living the Unconference Life – a Form of Praxis?  has me nodding and highlighting like a crazy woman. In fact I may as well jump straight into the disclaimer that I’ll be quoting her extensively in this post while I tease out some of my own experiences in unconference-like practices.

What are the differences between traditional conferences and less structured, more informal opportunities for professional development – unconferences?

What might we get from a traditional conference?  Maha mentions “gaining visibility through presenting or discussing our work, receiving feedback, meeting people outside of conference sessions and jotting down contact details for further contact.” But, as she says, once the conference is over, that’s basically the end of it.

Whereas unconferences are “all about connectivism, and I’m going to suggest this lifestyle is a form of praxis.”

A form of praxis.

Maha said it, and I’ve also been more and more convinced about this, but more from me later.

Maha identifies some of the special things about unconferences:

  • the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the speakers you admire and would not normally get a chance to talk to
  • a chance for everyone to feel like they can contribute to everyone else’s learning
  • a chance for people to set their own agenda
  • a chance for people to take that agenda where they wish
  • break-down of the traditional conference hierarchy
  • a chance to encourage the agency of participants without the feeling they will be evaluated (in the same way as contributing by submitting a paper and running a session)

Maha mixes everything up.  And why not if it improves learning experiences? She talks about the time she implemented an unconference in a formal workshop within a conference and in a faculty development event and observed the following:

  • the energy in the room soars
  • people feel they can share their learning in a relatively egalitarian atmosphere
  • everyone is learning from everyone else about topics they are interested in
  • people are creating their own agenda instead of following someone else’s
  • it’s high impact learning in a very short time frame

So what does it mean to live the unconference life? Maha identifies social media and connectivist MOOCs as central to this kind of life. The PLN (personal learning network) is another way of doing similar things –  seeing what the people you are connected to are discussing, jumping into their hashtagged conversations, following conferences on Twitter, reading what they’ve shared about conferences in their blogs. This is the kind of learning which has, for years now, directed my learning and nourished my need to connect to people interested in ongoing conversations, and I am one of so many others. Unlike conferences, this kind of learning is continuous and through it we get to know people better over time. It gives us the opportunity to build our understanding of things with people, it exposes us to the diversity of their thoughts and expands our own knowledge.

Maha and I have something in common. We want to be involved in so many conferences but are geographically disadvantaged – she’s in Cairo, Egypt, I’m in Melbourne, Australia. Maha also has a young child but this doesn’t stop her from being arguably the most engaged person in the conference/MOOC world. She’s there in the hashtagged Twitter discussions, in the Google Hangouts, in the Facebook groups, and recently she took her involvement to a new level by experiencing conferences virtually through a buddy.  Alan Levine also wrote a great post about the conference buddy experience.

I do attend local conferences and live events, I love getting out and seeing other schools and school libraries, and talking to people about what they do. But on a daily basis my PLN and unconferencing life feeds my personal and professional need to learn and keep learning from people. Like Maha has stated, so much of value feeds directly into my practice as a teacher librarian. It feeds, it stimulates, expands, challenges and keeps on doing these things daily. You might say I can’t live without it – couldn’t imagine living without it.

Is it just an internal thing? I don’t believe it is. Maha realises the same thing:

But I realized something. Praxis is about the thoughtful, reflective action that we take, not just the action. And I realized something really important: we take action  every day in our lives. But it may not be thoughtful or reflective. And here’s what connectivist MOOCs and engaging with other educators on social media has done for me: it has made me constantly reflective. People often talk about social media as a form of information overload, as hyper alertness, as attention deficit, and it gets described as if it’s a superficial kind of engagement.  This has not been my experience. When we engage with social media in thoughtful ways, when we interact with others with similar interests, and open our minds to engaging with each other’s ideas and practice deeply, we’re helping make our day-to-day action a form of praxis, because we are constantly reflecting on it with others.

I looked up praxis on Wikipedia for a quick summary:

Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realised. “Praxis” may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas. This has been a recurrent topic in the field of philosophy, discussed in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Paulo Freire, Ludwig von Mises, and many others.

I agree with Maha that this constant engagement and reflection makes us lifelong learners in the truest sense and that my life, too, has become one continuous and wonderful unconference.

I suppose that this kind of learning started with the creation of my blog, Brave New World, in May of 2008, and my leap onto Twitter even before November of 2009 (as stated in my Twitter profile) because I somehow managed to delete my entire Twitter account the first time around and had to start again from scratch. I don’t think I could list all the hashtags I’ve followed on Twitter, but some of the most important ones are associated with communities of people I want to keep learning from and with, for example, #vicpln (started by Judith Way for a specific course and still going strong as a local community hashtag), #austl, #tlchat (both library-related communities). More recently I’ve expanded my online networks to include people taking part in MOOCs such as #ccourses, #moocmooc and #rhizo15.

So my questions is:

How do I show this kind of learning and praxis to my colleagues, to the teachers at my school? It still feels like I’m living a secret life or at least that it’s the invisible alternative life. How do I show others – without being intrusive or condescending (this is great, I know what I’m talking about) that it’s easy to connect to people and events online and that this world is just as real as the external world of work? In fact, in many cases I know more about  people I’m connected to  online than I do of staff at my own school.

How do we change our behaviours in a system that doesn’t change?


Mixed metaphors. Putting the jigsaw together can be challenging when it’s a rhizome

Image source: Mashable

Warning: My current confusion (chaos) – which is (I remind myself) a necessary state during the process of understanding – has got me clutching at different metaphors in an attempt to liken rhizomatic learning within a rhizomatic connectivist MOOC to this and that.  Already I have mentioned a jigsaw and a rhizome but I will also be talking about a river (which is actually a rapid) as well as swimming and drowning. Sorry.

Feelings and happenings:

So I’ve jumped into the MOOC Rhizomatic Learning, otherwise known as #Rhizo15. In Connected Courses I had my first taste of being part of a MOOC which is a Massive Open Online Course. Some of the people I met and continue to interact with have done #Rhizo14 (Rhizomatic learning: the community is the curriculum) and so I eavesdropped a little and was intrigued.  And by the way, I learned that #Rhizo15 is a cMOOC and not an xMOOC.

So, the MOOC.

It’s massive so you feel initially as if you’ve been thrown into a raging river while trying to study a map. The map you’re using is rendered useless and the only way to keep going is learn how to swim while you’re drowning.

It’s open. As much as you  might be feeling there’s enough to interest you in your career and life, your social network, suddenly it’s as if a section of the planet has been sliced with a giant cheese knife. You can see inside and you realise there is so much activity going on in there  that you didn’t realise,  and from afar it looks both fascinating and frightening. You draw closer to make sense of the activity; you try to find patterns in the activity, guides for the social behaviour, but there is too much going on at once, and so you give up trying to figure it out and jump into one of the conversations. Only when you do, they lead you to so many more – for example, in the Facebook group: Rhizomatic Learning: a practical discussion,  the Rhizomatic Learning Google+ community and around the Twitter hashtag #Rhizo15.

Suddenly there are not enough hours in the day and you desperately want to keep up. But you also want to be everywhere at once. You remember you have a job and personal life and you wish you could put them on hold for a while.

And sleep! What is happening when you sleep! You’re missing out on conversations and posts, and your time zones are not synchronised with much of the population so at the start of the day you have so much to catch up on.

But while you are taking part in conversation in groups all over the place, reading and commenting on posts, you realise that there are books you haven’t read, educational theorists you should be researching. You need background so that you understand more fully what people are talking about. When will you have time to do this?!


At this point I’m stopping before I hyperventilate. Time for a bit of grounding reflection. Dave Cormier introduced the MOOC as a curriculum that writes itself. It’s writing itself now from many, many spaces and simultaneously. I remind myself that nothing is compulsory; everything is optional.  A bit of focus and self control amongst all the choice and I should be able to replace anxiety with a calm acceptance of the raging river, and manage to keep afloat.

Okay so that’s all about how I feel about taking part in cMOOCs.

Who am I? (for some reason I don’t feel like doing this now)

A brief introduction (suggested by Dave Cormier) for those who don’t know me:  I was born in Australia to parents of Russian and German background – mainly Russian. For a while I taught English, German and French at school and a Russian at a Saturday school. Now I’m a teacher librarian but I won’t try to explain my role in this post although I really should finally write a post dealing with the frustrations I have explaining my role.  Currently I’m at a selective boys’ secondary school 9-12.

Happily I found my way into cMOOCs after looking for an online learning community. When I ‘became’ a Google certified teacher I found myself pulling back from going further with this role and I wasn’t sure why; I just knew it wasn’t me, and I felt like a phoney. I love Google tools and encourage their use but I didn’t see myself as a promoter of Google or as an expert presenting Google to others. I didn’t feel at home with the cohort of confident, outgoing people who seemed to have no problem taking on this role. I needed to find people with whom I could ask questions instead of giving answers and continue learning. The cMOOC communities are where I want to be.

(I’m not happy with this introduction.)

More importantly (for me), why am I here? It’s because I’ve connected with super-moocers like Maha Bali, Terry Elliott, Laura Gibbs, Kevin Hodgson, Simon Ensor, Tanya Lau, Sarah Honeychurch, Laura Ritchie and many others through Connected Courses – all people I admire greatly and would like to keep talking to.  And in the last few days I’ve connected with so many more people I want to talk to and learn from.

And how can you even try to keep up when someone like Keith Hamon writes a post that will take me a semester to really get through?

So, what is rhizomatic learning? Many people know a lot about this but I’m just starting so I go back to Dave Cormier’s 2011 post where he talks about successful learning :

Rhizomatic learning is a way of thinking about learning based on ideas described by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in a thousand plateaus. A rhizome, sometimes called a creeping rootstalk, is a stem of a plant that sends out roots and shoots as it spreads. It is an image used by D&G to describe the way that ideas are multiple, interconnected and self-replicating. A rhizome has no beginning or end… like the learning process.

What does successful learning look like?

the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectible, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 21)

I should read A thousand plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari. Someone shared The Beginner’s Guide to Deleuze (I think Sarah Honeychurch and Kevin Hodgson).

Meanwhile others have led me to this 2010 video by Dave Cormier about how to successfully navigate a MOOC. Good place to start.

I really want to write about what happened after I shared the Mr X story in my previous post but I thought I’d get this post over and done with and then devote a post just to Mr X. See you soon. (Or not).

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


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.



How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Media (Part 1) – guest post by Alexander Sheko

I asked my son, Alexander Sheko, (also known as Sasha) to write a post about how he uses social media for his academic and personal pursuits. He is currently in his second year of Master of Urban Planning at The University of Melbourne, and at the stage where his interest in mindful and pro-active involvement in urban and environmental issues have blended his studies, personal life and work. I have recommended the use of social media to him since his later years in secondary school, so it’s interesting for me to note that his use of Twitter and Facebook have taken off at a time when they could serve a real purpose in connecting him with experts/like-minded people and enabling him to organise and promote forums and events. As a teacher librarian with an interest in social media in education, this observation has confirmed for me that students will appreciate and use social media platforms when there is a real world significance – and this is often problematic in schools where the agenda is more about practising for life rather than experiencing life. If nothing else, I hope this post will help educators reflect on possibilities for real life connections made possible for our students using social media. 

Photo by Alexander Sheko

Social media – especially popular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter – are often characterised as frivolous time-wasters, manifestations of first-world banality and ennui. They are platforms on which to post cat pictures and selfies, the means of production by which we broadcast the minutiae of our lives to nobody in particular, craving likes, follows and other reassurances.

Certainly, they are often seen as counter to productivity, tools of procrastination. We might switch to another tab when a manager or (not so long ago, for me) a parent enters the room. Of course, there is more than a grain of truth in this perception. When attempting to focus on a set task or meet a deadline, it can be unhelpful to have the ping of a Facebook notification providing an excuse for distraction. And unless one is an academic in the field of communication analysing memes as “nuggets of cultural currency”, it is probably less than productive to spend hours looking at Doge, Dolan, Insanity Wolf and the such.

However, as with all tools, the utility of social media is determined by the user and the manner in which they are used. Contrary to the prejudices discussed above, tools such as Facebook and Twitter can be invaluable in finding information (and new sources thereof), sharing and discussing opinions, and making useful connections with others. Over the past year, having begun studying a postgraduate degree and exploring career opportunities, I have been able to use these tools to considerable benefit.

Finding information is perhaps the most basic way that these tools can be used. I often recommend Twitter to those reluctant to use it as a quick way to receive updates and notifications on topics of interest. For example, following a variety of news sources is a good way to get a large number of headlines and snippets of information that can be followed up (perhaps using a service such as Pocket to save articles for future reading), while following cafes and restaurants in the local area can provide updates on changes to menus or opening hours, special events, etc.

Of course, this one-way communication does not fully utilise the interactive nature of social media; however, it often does make use of social media’s networking effects. By following a particular journalist, politician, musician or writer, you are likely to see who they interact with and what information sources they use. You may also get useful recommendations from the social media platform along the lines of “people who liked X may also like Y”. This is a great way to expand your pool of information sources, providing a greater variety of perspectives.

For example, rather than only reading about sustainable transport (an interest and potential career path of mine) through local mainstream media sources such as The Age, Twitter has helped me find sources providing information and opinion from around the world, covering a more diverse range of topics and a broader set of perspectives. (For those interested, I often read The Atlantic Cities, Sustainable Cities Collective, Next City and Co.Exist, as well as blogs such as those of Mikael Colville-Andersen and Brent Toderian). Of course, whatever your interest or profession, finding and following a few key sources and active individuals will start a cascading network effect that will expose you to an increasing array of information and opinion sources.

I’ve talked mostly about Twitter so far, as I’ve found it the most useful platform for finding information in the ways I’ve discussed. Facebook can also be used for this purpose by following pages of organisations of interest (for example, I “like” the Public Transport Users Association page, which often posts articles and other updates on public transport issues in Melbourne). However, I find it is not as useful due to its more dominant use in socialising with people known in “real life” (friends and family). One aspect of Facebook that I do find quite useful, however, is group pages on particular topics that allow for sharing content and discussion.

For example, I often visit Urban Happiness, a group that was started by a professor from the faculty in which I am studying at the University of Melbourne. This is quite a successful group, with 650 members at time of writing, and frequent activity and interaction on urban-related topics, such as architecture, transport, placemaking, design, environment and policy. The group’s members include students (past and present), teaching staff and other interested people. Members are from a range of backgrounds (planning, architecture, landscape architecture, engineering) and include those employed or active in a variety of professions, sectors and locations. This diversity is incredibly useful in exposure to a broad range of information (when people post information that is relevant to their background or expertise), a variety of perspectives (when various people comment and provide their take on material posted by others) and a diverse pool of knowledge that can be accessed (for example, when posting a question to the group page).

I’ve published this despite the fact that it is only a portion of what Sasha had intended to write. When his life is less hectic, I hope to convince him to complete his post, or perhaps take part in an interview-style post. 

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


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 –


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 –


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.


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.


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.


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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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.

Neil Gaiman on copyright, piracy and the web

@WackJacq tweeted a link to this video (thanks!)

Neil Gaiman explains his shift in thinking about copyright and web piracy in terms of literary works.


It makes a lot of sense, and I’m happy Neil took the time to give his personal take on the new publishing and sharing/mixing potential on the web. As he says, people were discovering him through his pirated books, and the result was that sales increased a great deal; “you’re not losing sales by having stuff out there.”  We need, as Neil says, a whole new way of looking at copyright. What is shared online raises an awareness and brings people to find things they would normally not have found.

As Neil says, that’s an incredibly good thing.