Making the most of your conference – Twitter and the Tweetstream

Conferences are exciting – groups of like-minded professionals, gathered together to network and hear experts share their wisdom, sometimes in far-away locales and always with too much food.

However, conferences are also expensive, and in some ways, a leftover from days before the internet brought us all together with the ability to connect across time and space. A traditional conference presentation is generally a passive, one-way experience – the presenter speaks and the audience listens. As so many people have gathered, hands on activities are difficult to manage, and the limited time-frame of a conference means that pre or post interactivity may be limited.

We’ve all been a faceless delegate at a huge conference… flickr photo shared by richard.scott1952 under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Twitter (and other similar micro-blogging tools) has changed this. Inviting participants to share with a conference hashtag via a Twitter back-channel at a conference opens a multi-way conversation for a much richer experience. Using a conference hashtag,  conference delegates (and even those who can’t physically attend) have a way to discuss their responses to speakers,  inspirations and the resources presented at the sessions they attend. Here’s an example of how one person can curate a massive amount of information shared online from a Conference.

But wait…I hear you say “a conference what-tag via a Twitter which-channel??” The lingo of Twitter can be confusing for the uninitiated, and may be a reason why at so many conferences, this powerful tool is under-utilised. So let me explain.

By now most people are aware of Twitter and the increasing number of people using it as a professional development and networking tool. One of the most useful elements of Twitter is the hashtag; a user-generated term, which, when preceded by the # hash symbol becomes a key word that enables users to search and gather together similarly themed tweets. When a conference has a hashtag (such as #sxsw or #edutech15) participants can post tweets that reflect what the speaker is saying, share resources or communicate their inspirations and responses, and ‘link’ these with other delegates by including the hashtag in their 140 characters.

These tweets form the conference ‘back-channel‘ – the discussion between the delegates (and speakers!) that goes on even while the session is taking place. The back channel has always existed (and exists in every classroom or lecture hall) – it is the whispered asides, the notes passed between friends, and the aha moments noted down – but the power of Twitter means that everyone can now benefit from these perspectives, and even those who can’t be there physically can still take part, discovering new interpretations and adding to the conversation.

An example of a conference back-channel; photos and tweets shared, connected by the conference hashtag #adolesuccess15

An example of a conference back-channel; photos and tweets shared, connected by the conference hashtag #adolesuccess15

If you are a conference delegate, sharing your notes via Twitter means that you are more likely to connect with other participants (you may notice someone else also tweeting and make plans to meet up) and you are also sharing the conference more broadly with your twitter followers. This can also result in fantastic networking opportunities.

Keeping track during a conference can be overwhelming, especially if lots of delegates are rapidly sharing. A tool such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite helps manage this fast flow of information. These tools allow you to separate the various information ‘streams’ coming in to your Twitter stream across a series of columns; you can follow the conference hashtag in one column, tweets that have been sent to you in another (enabling you to easily conduct a twitter conversation while keeping an eye on the rest of the conference tweets) and a third column devoted to all other tweets. Essentially, these apps provide a ‘dashboard’ experience, so you can stay on top of your social media while it is coming at you from all angles! There is even scope for scheduling tweets, so you can set a specific time to ‘tweet’ (such as to promote your session 10 minutes before it starts, or to tweet resources 5 minutes before the end of a workshop).  Having trouble choosing which to use? This article is a simple summary of the best of both.

A Hootsuite Dashboard allows you to 'separate' out the streams you receive in Twitter.

A Hootsuite Dashboard allows you to ‘separate’ out the streams you receive in Twitter. Click to view a larger image.

In addition, once the conference is complete, you can use a tool such as Storify to collate all of the useful tweets into one place for re-reading after the event. This is better than note-taking, because not only do you capture your own thoughts and observations, you also can draw upon any of the other participants’ tweets for a very rich reflective piece on what was shared.

An example of a conference that I have ‘storified’ is below; click on the image to go directly to the story to explore further:

Click to read this Storify in full.

Click to read this Storify in full.

Storify is easy to use. You can log in using your Twitter details, and then simply create a heading and subheading. Then drag the relevant tweets (or just add them all) from the column in the side, which you have identified by searching using the hashtag. You can also search across other social media as well as add text and images, so you can make your Story as rich as you would like. Here’s how:

The conference organiser perspective:

If you are a conference organiser, having a Twitter hashtag is also a great way to advertise the conference and promote it to others. Before, during and after the event, tweets that capture the spirit of the conference and share what delegates are likely to experience and take away from the event will draw new interest, and tweets that delegates make during the conference may entice those who couldn’t attend to plan for next year’s event. Tweets like this are fantastic promotion:

tweet to catch upHow do you make your tweetstream come alive during the conference? Consider these tips in your planning:

  1. Create a short, meaningful hashtag that hasn’t been used before:
    Tweets are 140 characters, so don’t take up characters with a long hashtag (that is also likely to be harder to remember and slower to type!). Select one that is meaningful and related to the conference (and if you are likely to repeat the conference consider keeping the same tag, and suffixing it with the year e.g. #edutech15). Before announcing the hashtag, do a search to make sure it is not already in use – you don’t want irrelevant and unrelated tweets cluttering your stream!

sign up

2.Promote the hashtag well:
Nothing kills a backchannel like hashtag confusion. Label all booklets, posters, fliers and all web presence with the hashtag, so that people can begin to use it even when preparing for the event. Embedding the tweetstream on the conference website also builds excitement, as delegates and those considering attending see the hashtag in use and read about others they might meet at the conference.

3.Consider a TwitterTeam:
Create a team of delegates or organisers who will lead the tweetstream. Having regular tweets (preferably with a range of media such as photos or videos attached) can capture the flavour of the conference, encourage others to tweet and retweet quality observations already being shared. If they are happy to wear one, perhaps consider giving them badges so that others who need technical advice might know who to chat to at the conference.

4.Provide Twitter 101 and a Tweet-Up
Not everyone comes to a conference as a Twitter expert, however many might like to participate if they only knew how. Providing a simple tutorial prior to the conference or in the conference paraphernalia encourages those who are keen to try Twitter, without having to ask others for help (which they may find uncomfortable). Also, give those who are tweeting the opportunity to meet in person, by choosing a time for a Tweet-up during the conference, where all those who have been networking online can meet up in person. This takes the best of the digital world and connects it with the real world for a win win experience! Something like this simple interactive image might be all participants need to become familar with the Twitter interface.

5.Display the tweets during the conference
Not everyone will be twitter savvy, but everyone can benefit from a public display of the tweets being shared. Apps such as Twitterfall or Visible Tweets make it easy to display on the big screen what others are sharing. Simply type in the conference hashtag and watch the tweets appear! These apps are free, and simply convert the tweets to a more public view; if you want more control (say at a student conference, where it is possible that inappropriate tweets may be shared) paid apps such as Tweetbeam (which also has a free option) allow you to moderate tweets before they are displayed, and give you more control over the way the tweets appear.

Visible Tweets is just one way to make conference tweetstreams visible.

Visible Tweets is just one way to make conference tweetstreams visible.

So the next conference you attend or organise, why not take advantage of the power of Twitter to create a much richer experience for everyone. Promote, share, network, question and connect – all the things a good conference aims to achieve!

Like this info?  Click the image below for a printable handout that might be useful to distribute and share.

bring your conference alive with twitter (1)

 

Fake it till you make it – Some easy ways to make great quality media for the not so creative person.

  • by Ben van Trier

It’s a phrase that we have all heard and it is also a phrase that we all have a stance on.

flickr photo shared by built4love.hain under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Amy Cuddy shares a great TEDtalk  about body language and how ‘pretending’ to be one way might help us to become that way.

While the focus of this blog is not about body language and personal identity, it is about a few quick tips, tricks and tools to build engaging and dynamic media that will impress your audience.

It is important to note that if you are working within an educational context it is vital that you ensure the privacy of your subjects, particularly if you’re making media that includes identifiable images of others. Check with your leadership team or organisation for their policies and guidelines when it comes to photographing or filming within a school context.

When creating media, you also have a responsibility in relation the intellectual property of other creatives. The ResourceLink wiki created by Kay Oddone Copyright and Copyleft is an easy starting off point to learn about copyright and creative commons licencing.

Firstly great media isn’t about access to technology or possessing a high level of skill – it’s all about the story you are sharing! The Humans of New York story is a sensation that has captured the hearts and minds of many on the internet. It began as an artist small idea and grew to a worldwide phenomenon. The portraits are beautiful, nothing overly staged or digitally remastered, and why are they so engaging?
flickr photo shared by ForbesOste under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

You as an audience member read a story from the image. This is the most important question to consider when starting out building media, what is the story and why is it important to share.

Secondly, great media isn’t about access to technology or possessing a high level of skill – it is about following some simple rules. Photography Mad is a beautiful blog that has stacks of tips, tutorials and techniques. Whatever type of product you are making be it print, still photography or a film if you don’t capture your subject well the product will always look amateurish. Great composition will always mean that you have a quality end product.


flickr photo shared by blacktsuba under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Thirdly:  great media isn’t about access to technology or possessing a high level of skill – it is about putting all the pieces together in a simple and engaging way. If you have access to professional editing software, great!

If you don’t, here are my current favourite apps and web tools for making great media:

1. Replay is a simple high quality app for iPhone or iPad, edit together video and still images to make high quality videos. It’s free to download but you do need to pay for removal of watermarks and some theme packs.
2. PicLab and PicLab HD are photo editing apps for Apple and Andriod devices (PicLab HD is only available for Apple users), once you’ve mastered this user friendly app you’ll be making high quality images in the palm of your hand. It’s free to download and you can upgrade to PicLab HD for other features.
3. Video Scribe is an online tool by Sparkol for making whiteboard style animations. Once you master the user friendly web tool you’ll be making high quality and dynamic animations. There is a cost to subscribe but with a few different pricing options you can find a plan that best fits your needs.
4. Canva is an online tool and iPad app https://marketing.canva.com/ipad/ for creating highly quality graphic designs. Make fliers, posters, photo collages and more easily and quickly.

Finally great media isn’t about access to technology or possessing a high level of skill- it is about sharing the story with your audience in a safe and responsible manner. As mentioned earlier, if you are working within an educational context, it is vital that you ensure the privacy of your subjects if you’re making media that includes identifiable images of others. Check with your leadership team or organisation for their policies and guidelines when it comes to photographing or filming within a school context.

With the ability to build media so fast and so easily, it is also vital to remember that you have a responsibility in relation the intellectual property of other creatives. Don’t forget to check out the ResourceLink wiki created by Kay Oddone Copyright and Copyleft is an easy starting off point to learn about copyright and creative commons licensing.


flickr photo shared by mrsdkrebs under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

So there you have it – a few simple tips that will help you ‘fake it till you make it‘ as a producer of high quality media! Making your own media is a bit like DIY home renovations – sometimes it’s best to bring in a qualified and experienced expert to ensure the products success.

What does it all Meme? The whys and wherefores of a modern communication phenomenon.


See more on Know Your Meme

An internet meme is that thing that everyone is talking about. The blue/gold dress. Charlie bit my finger. LOLCats. Some of the most well known internet memes are the image with a pithy quote overlaid. They can be in turns hilariously funny, insightful or just crude, however they are a contemporary form of communication which many young people seem to instinctively ‘get’ and which leave many adults feeling like they are missing the joke.

The term meme was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, in his book The Selfish Gene, as a way of using evolutionary principles to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena such as melodies, catchphrases or fashion. These small units of culture were spread through imitation and innovation upon an original idea – a spread that is similar to a virus, as they go through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme’s reproductive success.

The meme above, known as ‘One does not simply’ is a good example. Drawn from a quote from The Lord of the Rings, where the character Boromir makes the quote “One does not simply walk into Mordor”.


The meme spread across sites such as Reddit, Tumblr and Imgur, with variations firstly on the word walk –

See more on Know Your Meme

 

See more on Know Your Meme

 

and became so well known it was included as an Easter Egg on Google Maps:
Google_Maps_'Mordor'_easter_egg

Now, the phrase “one does not simply” is well known enough that memes such as the one shared at the beginning of this post can be applied to a wide range of scenarios, with an underlying understanding of the context – that whatever is being suggested is no simple matter.

It is this rich intertextuality that makes memes both worthwhile, yet challenging. One must know the context of the initial post before the meme truly makes sense, but if the shared understanding is strong enough, the meme becomes a powerful and viral mode of communication.

Internet memes, and their viral spread, are an example of participatory culture, as the reproduction, imitation and re-interpretation of these nuggets of society are practices which have become a huge part of contemporary digital culture. In fact, Limor Shifman, in her text Memes in Digital Culture goes so far as to say that we live in an era driven by a hypermemetic logic, where almost every major public event sprouts a stream of memes. He argues that although at first glance they appear to be trivial pieces of pop culture, upon deeper reflection one sees that they play an integral part in some of the defining events of the 21st century.

Limor Shifman also takes the time to define internet memes differently to the original concept of a single cultural unit as described by Dawkins. Her definition describes an internet memes  as

(a) a group of digital items sharing common characteristics of content, form, and/or stance; (b) that were created with awareness of each other; and (c) were circulated, imitated, and transformed via the internet by multiple users. – http://henryjenkins.org/2014/02/a-meme-is-a-terrible-thing-to-waste-an-interview-with-limor-shifman-part-one.html#sthash.NfZt8OrC.dpuf

So why do educators need to be aware of memes and their role in communicating culture? They don’t. Educators don’t NEED to be aware of memes, anymore than they must play Minecraft or read Twilight. However, there are several compelling reasons to consider taking the time to think about memes and how they might play a role in teaching – particularly of older students.

Reason One: Engagement

It is true – memes are fun. They can be playful, humorous and, well, there is a reason they spread so quickly. Select use of memes can hook students in, and challenging students to create a meme actually demands higher order thinking at a level students often are not required to meet. The need to not only respond to a context, but respond creatively and concisely is difficult, and the most successful internet memes are often actually very clever. This is not to say all memes are clever; like everything online, there are many in poor taste, and with little depth. However an example of inferential comprehension required to understand a meme is evident with the popular ‘Soon’ meme:


See more on Know Your Meme

What appears to be an innocent cow in a field is rendered threatening by the simple addition of the word ‘Soon’…why is this so?

Reason Two: Information Literacy

Dr Alec Couros argues that the digital participatory culture within which students communicate, socialise and learn provides essential opportunities for information literacy, and suggests that memes are a powerful way of discussing many different aspects of this literacy. He begins by suggesting that students examine memes with a view to understanding how information travels and is distributed online. The viral nature of memes means that whether by merit, messenger or manipulation, a chunk of information/culture/art may be spread via networks at an astonishingly fast pace. Students who understand this are not only more likely to be aware of their responsibilities when sharing online, but are also more prepared for a world where marketing is pervasive.

Reason Three: Critical understanding of current world events

The Australian controversy with our previous Federal Parliamentary speaker is a very recent example of current events becoming a viral meme (helicopters anyone?).


See more on Know Your Meme

One which we can examine with the benefit of hindsight is below:


See more on Know Your Meme

In a hypermemetic world, it is completely possible that current events filter into our Facebook feed as a meme before we even realise the deeper story behind them. A case in point is the Pepper Spray Cop (also known as “Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop”) –
See more on Know Your Meme

which went viral after the image of a police officer casually pepper spraying a group of Occupy protesters at the University of California  was captured in 2011.
See more on Know Your Meme

The image was photoshopped into a variety of contexts, which enflamed what was already a very tense political situation, and when the police officer’s contact details were made public online, he was the target of a huge text and email campaign critiquing his actions. This meme influenced news reports, customer reviews of pepper spray available for sale on Amazon and spawned songs and videos. The repercussions of this single (questionable) action resulted in the resignation of the police chief and the loss of the police officers job, as well as compensation claims and legal suits. The full detail of this meme can be read on Know Your Meme, however it is clear that a much larger and more serious story lies behind what many probably thought was a humorous internet joke.

Internet memes are an interpretation of the fad joke that has always been there, however with the power of the crowd and the potential to manipulate and remix in the hands of so many, they have become a much larger part of internet and general culture. It is important to be aware of the complexity behind many of these simple jokes (and be able to enjoy the ones that are indeed just simple jokes).

Have you taught using Memes? Please share your experiences and resources in the comments!

 

References:

Couros, A. (n.d.). open thinking [Blog]. Retrieved 11 August 2015, from http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/
Gladwell, M. (2002). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston: Back Bay Books.
Internet Meme Database | Know Your Meme. (n.d.). Retrieved 11 August 2015, from http://knowyourmeme.com/
Shifman, L. (2013). Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.

 

AustLit – Australian Literature like you’ve never accessed it before!

austlit logoEvery Australian teacher, and any teachers of literature across the world who teach Australian Literature should make themselves aware of AustLit, an amazing resource created by a dedicated team of researchers and indexers based at the University of Queensland, funded by the Australian Government and a range of University and research partners.

AustLit’s mission is ‘to be the definitive information resource and research environment for Australian literary, print, and narrative cultures’ – and indeed it is.

AustLit is available to patrons of subscribing libraries, educational institutions, other organisations, and individuals. Currently, all registered users of subscribing libraries or institutions have full access to AustLit, which includes registered users of almost all Australian universities, the National Library of Australia, Australian State & Territory Libraries, a number of local council libraries around the country and…ALL STAFF AND STUDENTS OF BRISBANE CATHOLIC EDUCATION!!

The decision to subscribe on a system wide level has enabled all BCE students and staff to make full use of this fantastic resource – and this blog post aims to give some insight in to just some of the fantastic resources available to support quality learning and teaching.

Tip One: Use Search Effectively

austlit searchAustLit is a database, and as such it has a powerful search ability to access the 152 000 writers and organisations who have created the over 840 000 accessible works. This includes full text novels, poems, films and TV, children’s and young adult literature, biographies, criticisms and reviews.

Understandably, a simple search may not pinpoint the exact work you are looking for, so making use of the Advanced Search capability is a time-saving feature for busy teachers and students. AustLit provides extensive information on how to search effectively, as well as an overview of how to use the built in Boolean Operators and the handy Subject Heading thesaurus.

The Advanced Search allows for very fine-grained searching; a search for female authors of the crime genre, who were born in Brisbane revealed that there are eight that fit the bill:

adv search

brisbane authorsTip Two: Make Use of the Curated Exhibitions/Trails

Austlit staff don’t just add records to the database; they also curate rich resources known as Exhibitions or Trails around their research projects. These curated collections of AustLit records and other relevant material  provide insights into specific fields or areas of study – just some of them are pictured below:

Click on the image to access these and other research trails.

Click on the image to access these and other research trails.

Tip three: DO check out Black Words

Click on the image to read more about BlackWords

Click on the image to read more about BlackWords

BlackWords records information about the lives and works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers and the literary cultures and traditions that formed and influenced them. BlackWords is the most comprehensive record of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander publications available. It includes texts both by and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and literary and storytelling cultures.

This resource is magnificent, both for Australians wishing to learn more about Australia’s heritage and our first people, and for those internationally who would like to learn more about the oldest culture on earth. This article, by Dr Jeanine Leane (PDF) outlines what resources are available through BlackWords, and how teachers might use these resources to meaningfully embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into the curriculum. Please note that the link to the map of pre-colonial Australia referred to in the article has changed; the map can now be accessed here.

Tip Four: Don’t forget Reading Australia

Reading Australia was created separately, by the Copyright Agency of Australia. It is a list of over 200 Australian titles, many of which are accompanied by practical teaching resources that align to the Australian Curriculum. In addition to these resources, AustLit has created a series of curated information trails that provide context and supporting information relating to the Reading Australia texts.

Click on the image to go directly to Reading Australia.

Click on the image to go directly to Reading Australia.

 Tip Five: BCE Students and Staff – access AustLit TODAY!

As mentioned in the introduction, AustLit is available through many channels, but for Brisbane Catholic Education students and staff, the database is being delivered system wide, with the username and password available via the ResourceLink Portal.

Go to the ResourceLink Portal AustLit page, where you will find further resources, as well as useful links and our conditions of use. BCE staff can share access information with BCE students. Simply sign into KWeb and go to the ResourceLink Portal, click on School Access and then Austlit, or go directly using this link, signing in when prompted.

AustLit has an active social media presence, as recognised by this recently crowdsourced list of Australian historic fiction; follow them on Twitter @AustLit or stay up to date via their blog at http://www.austlit.edu.au/news/.

Have you used AustLit in your learning or teaching? Share in the comments what you did, and how it went – we’d love to hear from you!

 

#Edutechau – Report from the 2015 Edutech Conference

This is why we must have events like Edutech.

The Edutech Conference is the largest of its kind in Australia. Over 1000 delegates, participating in streams reaching broadly across the educational landscape; K-12 Leadership, Teacher Librarianship, IT Directors, Higher Ed, Vocational Education and Training, Tertiary Education, Business Managers – basically if you are in education, there is a stream for you.

The world is undeniably changing, and we must prepare students for a future which will be significantly different to our own experiences. Many speakers, including David Price, author of Open, How We’ll Work, Live and Learn in the Future, pointed out that the rate of technology development is rapidly shaping the skills and capacities required by today’s learners. While the entire 15 minutes of the following video is fascinating viewing, here’s just the final summary, which paints a challenge for everyone in education and indeed in government today:

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. George Couros asked us to remember that sometimes, it can be easy to be drawn into the myths of technology, and be swayed by the negative hyperbole of the media. His stirring keynote reminded us that there is a lot to be gained from the connections social media enables us to create; both from a learning and a personal point of view. He presented strong challenges to the myths of technology; that it automatically ensures engagement and that connecting with strangers online is inherently dangerous He also argued against the common beliefs that technology will make us narcissistic, replace face to face interaction and dehumanise us, while also making us dumb! You can read more about each of these on George’s blog, where he addresses each of these myths.

One of the highlights of the 3 days was the effervescent Super Awesome Sylvia, who’s have a go attitude and maker videos have brought her world wide attention at age 13. Her short keynote was a great example of ‘feel the fear, and do it anyway’ – she was clearly nervous (as any normal person speaking in front of such a huge crowd would be), but she spoke with passion and simplicity, encouraging everyone to take on a maker mindset, see failure as part of learning and learn through play.

2015-06-09_0933Personally, I had great fun presenting to a group on the value of developing your Personal/Professional/Passionate Learning Network, using Social Media, and also was honoured to be a part of a panel which included Joyce Valenza, Jane Viner and led by Debbie Hunter, where we discussed the value and importance of curation for the Australian Curriculum.

 

Reporting on such a massive conference is challenging, as it is physically impossible to participate in the workshops run simultaneously by world class speakers, and even a keen eye on the mind-boggling tweet stream could only give a glimpse at the amount of information being trafficked. My summary below is just a tiny snapshot. I have included also as many links as I could to the speakers’ handouts, websites or resources, as well as the links to my Storify Summaries, which are on the final page of the presentation below, which was created in my latest tool ‘discovery’, E-Maze.

The video below tries to capture some of the emerging themes of the conference. You can view it at a more leisurely pace, viewing the videos and accessing the hyperlinks (the little orange ‘play’ symbol indicates if a word or phrase is a hyperlink, and every web address should also link directly out) viewing it online here.

If you would like to read more deeply into some of the wisdom shared via twitter by accessing the three Storify summaries I have created – one for each day.

2015-06-09_08282015-06-09_0828_0012015-06-09_0828_002 This was my first experience of Edutech. It was a great confirmation of the work we are doing at schools in Brisbane Catholic Education, and an opportunity to meet with likeminded educators who all share the belief that being an educator is an ongoing learning experience. Share your Edutech experience in the comments below!

 

 

Your Professional/Personal/Passionate Learning Network – Your PLN!

Struggling to stay afloat in a sea of information?

flickr photo shared by kleuske under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

If there is one thing that is true of education today, it is that change is the only constant. Staying abreast of educational change can seem like a full time job in itself, and sometimes it seems fair enough to think that it is just not possible to stay afloat amid the overwhelming amount of information that is presented to us every day.

You are not alone! We are living in an age of information abundance, and it is no longer reasonable to expect that any one person can hold the entirety of knowledge on any particular topic within their brain, nor keep up with the rate of change in knowledge and information. In fact, people like David Weinberger, author of books such as (the extremely long titled) Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts are not the Facts, Experts are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room and Everything is Miscellaneous go so far as to say that technology is reshaping the way we understand and experience knowledge, and that we must begin to teach network literacy, as it will be the connections that we have, and the ability to access information when we need it that will be a determinant of success in the future, rather than the ability to store knowledge in our own brains, which has previously been how we have assessed expertise.

As educators, we know more than anyone that in a rapidly changing world, a student who has learned how to learn, who is flexible and is able to transfer skills across contexts, and who knows how, when and of whom to ask the right questions are likely to be the most successful – in life, if not in standardised tests.

flickr photo shared by purplechalk under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

So in an  environment of infowhelm, who can we turn to to seek support, ask questions, share learnings and sometimes just have a laugh (or cry!)? Teachers have always been able to turn to each other for this support, however in a networked world, we are fortunate in that we can reach beyond the boundaries of our own school, and connect with others all over the country and the world.

These well-known diagrams by Alec Couros sum up the potential of making connections for the 21st century educator:

flickr photo shared by courosa under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

flickr photo shared by courosa under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

A networked teacher, connecting to the many sources which Alec Couros has described above, has a very healthy PLN – a Personal, Professional, Passionate Learning Network  – a community of like-minded individuals who might never meet in person, but which challenge, push, share, teach and support each other.


flickr photo shared by mrsdkrebs under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

All of this talk about having a support network sounds nice…but educators are busy people, and you may feel you need more convincing that connecting and developing a PLN is worth the effort. Don’t just take my word for it! Here are some of the wonderful members of my PLN, sharing why they love having a network of teachers and thought-leaders at their fingertips…

why pln

So if you are convinced…or even if you want to give it a go…there are many tools that you can use.
One of the most popular is Twitter, and I have written before on the value of using this tool as a way of making connections with other educators (just click on the link above or on the image below to read the blog post about how to get connected using Twitter).

flickr photo by Rosaura Ochoa http://flickr.com/photos/rosauraochoa/3419823308 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by Rosaura Ochoa http://flickr.com/photos/rosauraochoa/3419823308 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 

Of course, Twitter is just one tool; you can build your PLN using Facebook, through subscribing to blogs, by contributing to communities on Google Plus or Diigo, or by connecting with and following curators on Scoopit, Pinterest or Pearltrees. You can choose one or all – the beautiful thing about PLNs is that they are PERSONAL! No one can tell you how best to grow your connections, or which tools will suit you best! You can spend as little or as much time as you like developing your networks, and the flexibility of online PLNs is that they are always accessible – either during working hours, or after hours, whether you are a night person or a morning person, a visual person or a verbal one – you learn the way that suits you best, where it best suits and when.

Hopefully this post has whetted your appetite for exploring the potential of developing your own PLN.

If so, these resources may get you on your way:

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You can also check out my presentation, which I shared at the Edutech Conference in Brisbane in June 2015, (see below) or become part of my PLN – you can follow me on Twitter as KayC28.

PLN using social media

Augmented Reality in Education – update

About 3 years ago, I wrote two posts describing Augmented Reality and exploring the potential of Augmented Reality in education and the workplace: Augmented Reality – Even Better than the Real Thing? and Bringing Augmented Reality to Life – in the classroom and the workplace.

Take a moment to re-read these posts, or, if time is short, watch this great video  which will quickly bring you up to speed on what Augmented Reality is:

As you can expect, a lot changes in three years – resources such as String, which I explored previously have morphed to embrace new concepts, while tools like Aurasma have continued to develop the quality of their experience, providing more reliability and better results than ever before. What’s more, tools like Google Cardboard are moving beyond augmented reality, and providing a completely virtual reality experience – more on this in a future post!

But back to Augmented Reality (AR) – where technology allows you to create a ‘layer’ of information over a person’s experience of the world. When you think about it, educators are the original ‘augmented reality’, providing an overlay to student’s perspectives!

Tools such as Aurasma  enable learning to be engaging in a completely new way, and this post aims at providing some ideas as to how AR can used by students to raise their expression of learning to a new level.

As I introduced in earlier blog posts, Augmented Reality apps come in two main forms: the first is where a printed trigger image initiates an interaction through the camera of the mobile device, and the second where the app uses the mobile device’s GPS capabilities to ‘layer’ digital data over the location where the user is.

It is the first type where students can really get involved in the creation of AR, as they can either create both the trigger image and the overlay, or just overlay their own creation onto an image (or item, e.g. a book cover), through using an app such as Aurasma. There are a few other apps which allow for this AR creation, one notable one being DAQRI (you can see its potential here).  However, Aurasma appears to be the most stable and currently the best on the market. Access to the Educator’s 4D DAQRI Studio appears to be currently unavailable.

Check out just some of what can be created using Aurasma in this video:

In education, creating an overlay which enriches resources is the most obvious way to use this technology. Imagine being able to embed a book trailer video directly onto the cover of a book, so that students could simply open their phone or other mobile device to the AR app, scan the cover of the book and immediately view the trailer; AR makes this totally possible. Even better if the book trailer is student created – a way to bring student voice directly into the reading experience!

Another option would be to augment a student’s artwork with a video of themselves explaining the work, or a montage of the pieces that inspired their creation – again, not only possible, but easily and quickly done.

A third option is to record a student performance, and then embed this directly onto the criteria sheet, so moderating teachers simply view the sheet through their mobile device to review the student’s singing, dancing, acting etc – what a powerful way to bring assessment to life.

With creativity and imagination, the options are endless. What about using a video to demonstrate the correct pronunciation of foreign language words for a LOTE class, and overlaying these on the flashcards, or researching the plants in the school grounds and overlaying videos with this information onto signs near those trees or plants for others to view. Bring the map of the school’s local area alive with videos of elderly residents sharing their stories of how the area has changed, or link the school choir singing the school song to the logo on your newsletter. Even better, link newsletter photos with video, so parents can experience the moment as it happened.

Younger students could create slideshows of images all beginning with a particular letter or blend and then embed these on alphabet cards, while senior students could list the properties of elements and develop an interactive periodic table..it doesn’t matter what age or stage, AR can allow students to demonstrate their own learning, and then easily share it with others, creating useful resources that other learners can benefit from also.

These are just some examples of how you could use an App such as Aurasma to bring AR into your classroom.  Aurasma is one of the easiest ways to create your own AR overlays. You can do it within the app on your mobile device, or, if you want greater flexibility, download the Aurasma Studio to create on your computer.

Augmented_realityThe steps on this PDF take you through just how you do this (click on the image or click here)

Once you have developed confidence with creating the overlay and combining it with the trigger image to create an AR experience, you can then distribute these either via email to specific users, or more broadly by creating your own ‘channel’ to which users can subscribe. Either choice is easy to set up either within the app itself, or in the online studio environment.

This field is changing all the time, so the best thing to do is just jump in and try it! Now that many students have access to mobile technology (either at home or at school or both), the implementation of AR is likely to become more common (at least more common than it was three years ago when I first wrote about it!).

If you would like to learn more, check out this Pinterest board, which has a growing range of links to different ideas, apps and information about AR – and if you bring AR into your classroom, drop us a line in the comments – we’d love to hear from you!