Virtual Reality – Fad or Fabulous?


flickr photo shared by Steve Koukoulas under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Who didn’t spend hours as a child, gazing through their View-Master, clicking around the film cartridges which revealed 3d images of nature, super heroes and classic stories? The View-Master allowed us to escape into an imaginative world in a different way to books or television; by holding it up to our eyes, the whole world disappeared as our field of vision was completely taken up by these tiny slides.

The world has changed dramatically since my childhood, and technology now allows for an immersive experience light years beyond the simple View-Master of the past. Technology such as the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR are bringing Virtual Reality out of science fiction, and thanks to the incredibly cheap Google Cardboard Virtual Reality viewer, into the hands of everyday people. In some areas, virtual reality is seen as the natural next step to how we interact with media content, from gaming to movies and more.

I have written before on this blog about Augmented Reality, and explained the difference between Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Augmented Reality has lots of potential for education, and free apps such as Aurasma and Daqri have enabled teachers to experiment with different ways to enhance learning using it.  However until the introduction of the Google Cardboard viewer, the chance to explore the potentials of VR in education has been extremely limited.

Before jumping into a discussion about whether VR is fad or actually fabulous for education, let’s investigate exactly what it is, and what the technology and tools entail. This video, gives a fantastic, simple explanation for those new to the idea of Virtual Reality. Click the image below to access it on the Time website.

how does vr work

Put simply, VR is the experience of a computer generated simulation or 3D image, made possible by the use of technology such as a helmet or viewer. The ability to ‘trick’ the mind into thinking that the individual is actually ‘there’ within the environment which is in fact ‘virtual’ is the amazing and fascinating aspect of VR, which removes it from other experiences of media. When viewing a VR App which features a rollercoaster ride, users may feel the same feelings of dizziness and displacement that they would when actually riding the real thing.

Of course, the more advanced the VR system, the more fully immersed within the environment the user becomes. Simple apps combined with a Google Cardboard Viewer provide enough immersion to make one feel a little ill, but the lack of audio stimulus and real interactivity limits just how ‘real’ the experience feels. This is a good thing for younger students – being able to pull the viewer away at any moment of discomfort is important. For older or more experienced users of VR, they may wish to trial technologies that provide a much fuller immersion; where sensory stimulation including the sense of touch (e.g. wind blowing through your hair as you fly) and audio (the rushing sound as you soar) as well as the ability to interact with the environment actually makes the computer disappear, as the brain becomes fully engaged with the virtual world. For a deeper explanation about how VR works, a great article that is easy to read is How Virtual Reality Works by

While it seems obvious that gaming will be where a large proportion of development will happen in the VR world, the ability to experience ‘being there’ from the safety of a classroom has obvious appeal for the educator. Having the ability to walk through historical sites, to experience times in history such as World War One or to investigate Outer Space are just some of the most immediate examples of how virtual reality might play a part in learning. The Google Expeditions Pioneer Program and Immersive VR Education sites are currently offering this experience to students – and one can only assume others will follow. For many schools, excursions, school trips and even hands on activities may be limited due to funding or safety concerns; using virtual reality, while not a complete replacement, may allow those students to experience what they would otherwise have never been able.

Research has shown that game-based learning environments, virtual worlds and simulations all result in varying levels of positive learning outcomes (Merchant, Goetz, Cifuentes, Keeney-Kennicutt, & Davis, 2014). However, this meta-analysis admits that the research available is limited in different ways. There is also not a great deal of literature available discussing the effectiveness of virtual reality based learning in the context of retention and being able to transfer the learning from the virtual to the real environment (Bossard, Kermarrec, Buche, & Tisseau, 2008). This is not surprising, given the cost of providing virtual reality experiences to this point. With the introduction of Google Cardboard, all of this is about to change.

These apps are all available on the Google Play store. There are also apps available for iPhones through iTunes.

These apps are all available on the Google Play store. There are also apps available for iPhones through iTunes.

Google Cardboard is a low tech, cardboard viewer, that holds users’ to smartphone, so that the screen of the device is viewed through the lenses. There are a growing number of free and paid apps that are being made available to be viewed through the viewer, ranging from the aforementioned rollercoaster (not for those who experience motion sickness!!), an African safari, several space adventures,and the original Google Cardboard app, which features different experiences including a simple animated story, a tour of Versailles, a 3D artefact that can be examined from all angles and the opportunity to fly over the Earth.

war of wordsOne of the apps that shows the way VR might potentially link to literature is the beautiful War of Words, which features a reading of Siegfried Sassoon’s  poem ‘The Kiss’. This app demonstrates a way VR might be used to engage students in poetry through the immersion in an atmospheric experience that conveys a tone that a simple reading may not provide. Enabling students to almost physically enter the world of the text opens up immense possibilities. A hybrid sitting between the book and the movie, books could include points during the story where the reader is encouraged to put down the physical book and pick up the virtual visor, to experience an adventure along with the characters. Combining the two technologies (book and VR) would enrich the experience, while providing new ways to encourage beginning readers to interpret the text.

Although this article in Mashable focuses less on reading and more on the storytelling experience, those who work with disengaged readers can easily make the links between experiencing storytelling of the calibre described here, and the desire to the engage with text that further extends the story.

cardboardTo support the exploration of Virtual Reality, ResourceLink has purchased a set of six I Am Cardboard Viewers, and will be offering them for loan along with our other Makerspace kits. Teachers will need to provide the phones loaded with appropriate apps, however with most students today owning their own mobile, this might just require some pre-planning. Primary schools wishing to explore might choose to host an afternoon where parents are invited to join in with the learning, bringing their mobile phone with them! Some apps work on iPod Touches, however phones provide the best experience, as generally they are more powerful.

In the kit, I have included two documents to assist users; one outlining tips for using a Cardboard viewer in the classroom, and one suggesting apps to get users started.

Virtual Reality is still in the early stages of adoption, particularly in education. Limitations in budgets, bandwidth and accessibility mean that it may take some time before VR is a commonplace part of learning – an observation supported by Pano Anthos, Founder and CEO, GatherEducation who states:

True virtual reality and augmented reality technologies will be slower to go mainstream, since the effort to put on glasses of any type means costs and changes in user behavior. When such technologies become seamless and unobtrusive accessories, they will move toward mainstream.
(drawn from the article Future Thoughts by Jonathan Blake Huer)

Despite this, teachers, librarians and administrators involved in education are challenged to play with and investigate new technologies. Becoming informed about,and exploring ‘horizon’ technologies such as VR, and observing developing trends in pedagogy helps educators respond more effectively in a changing learning environment, and with students who demand a changing lvr flipboardearning experience.

Intrigued and want to know more?

I have created a Pinterest Board which has a range of links to apps, articles and research, and if you wish to keep up to date, check out my Flipboard, to which I will be adding articles of interest. For Brisbane Catholic Education staff, the Google Cardboard kits will be available for loan through the Oliver catalogue; simply search the lists for Makerspaces, and you will find it, along with all of our other Makerspace kits and resources which you can book for use.

References

Bossard, C., Kermarrec, G., Buche, C., & Tisseau, J. (2008). Transfer of learning in virtual environments: a new challenge? Virtual Reality, 12, 151-161
Blake Huer, J. (2015, June 22). Future Thoughts. Retrieved 29 October 2015, from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2015/6/future-thoughts
Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. (2014). Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students’ learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 70, 29–40. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2013.07.033
Newspoll Market and Social Research. (2013). Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media. Prepared for Australian Communications and Media Authority. Retrieved from http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/About%20Cybersmart/Research/~/media/Cybersmart/About%20Cybersmart/Documents/Newspoll%20Quantitative%20Like%20Post%20Share%20%20final%20PDF.pdf

Creative Commons Images in this post used with thanks to:
Oculus Rift – Developer Version – Front” by Sebastian StabingerOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Samsung Gear VR” by http://www.flickr.com/people/pestoverde/http://www.flickr.com/photos/pestoverde/15247458515. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Assembled Google Cardboard VR mount” by othreeGoogle Cardboard. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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


See more on Know Your Meme

By Kay Oddone.

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!

By Kay Oddone
austlit logo

Every 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!

 

Celebrate Australia Day – It’s Great to be an Aussie!

With the news being filled with tragic and terrible stories of terrorism and violence, it is sometimes difficult to remember that living in Australia we are truly blessed. Why not take time on Australia Day this year to reflect on all of the positive aspects of being an Australian! Use any of the resource ideas below to share with students the ‘good news’ about our young and vibrant country.

What are the facts?

Did you know that for the 3rd year in a row, Australia has been ranked the happiest of 36 industrialised nations in this OECD survey? Click the image below for a fascinating infographic which compares the Australian way of life with others.australia_day

Ideas for students:

READ a great Australian book – choose from this list, or even better, have the students create their own list – compile it on Pinterest or GoodReads and share it with the world!

2015-01-13_1122

COOK a fantastic Aussie feast – we have all of the cuisines of the world to choose from, and we also have our own local delicacies – bring a plate to share, or pool your favourite Aussie recipes and create an enviable recipe book!

damper

SING (or sing along!) to a playlist of great Aussie songs; choose traditional tunes or groove to the JJJ Hottest 100 – an Australia Day tradition. Why not run your own music quiz similar to Spicks and Specks? (This Wikipedia article gives a great explanation for some of the games from the show).

waltzing

WATCH an Australian film or documentary – AustralianScreen has 1065 short clips with teachers’ notes, suitable for students of all ages. Divided into categories such as History, Film and Media, Identity and Culture and more, these clips give insight into many aspects of Australian life. Perhaps your students will be inspired to create their own great Aussie documentary?

aust_screen

TRAVEL around Australia – with the internet, you don’t have to leave the classroom to tour our amazing country. Why not plan a virtual Australian trip visiting key historic or geographic sites, or use Are we There Yet? by Alison Lester to inspire Australian travel discussions and activities.

are-we-there_cover_largeCELEBRATE!
Whatever you do, celebrate Australia Day! We have an amazing country, filled with fascinating people, nature and culture – share below in the comments how you plan to spend Australia Day in your classroom!

How to Haiku!

Presentations that work

I was recently asked to run a workshop on how to develop effective presentations. I had run this workshop last year, but of course, last year’s work needed updating, as so much changes so quickly that workshops from even last week seem out of date! Some things remain the same:

Of course, a lot of things have also changed; and one of the most important updates I made to my workshop was to introduce participants to Haiku Deck.

What is Haiku Deck?

Originally an iPad app, and now available on the web, with future plans for access on other platforms, Haiku Deck is a gorgeously simple slideshow creator, that enables the user to create presentations that easily meet all of the tips for presentations mentioned above.

The creators behind the app focus on three words: simple, beautiful and fun.

Click this image to view a simple Haiku Deck example.
Click this image to view a simple Haiku Deck example.

A ‘deck’ or presentation can be created in four easy steps, and the finished result can be shared on social media such as Twitter or Facebook, embedded on a blog, website or in a learning management system, emailed or opened in PowerPoint or Keynote for further editing (if necessary).

How to Haiku

The steps to create a deck are incredibly easy. The process described below is for the iPad app – but it is very similar using the web-based app, and extremely intuitive.

First, click the plus sign in the centre of the bottom of the screen to create a new deck.

Then, give your deck a name, and choose a theme. Don’t worry – if the theme doesn’t suit, you can always change it again at any time during the creation process.

The different themes run across the top of the iPad screen. Simply scroll through to choose your favourite.

2014-06-30_1109The deck creation process is determined by the four images you will see on the left hand side of the screen. These allow you to (from top to bottom) add text, add images, arrange your text and add notes.

Adding text is very simple, and the beauty of Haiku Deck is that it encourages you to keep the text to a minimum. Yes, they have made additions, to enable users to input dot points, or blocks of text, however the deck is most powerful when text is used sparingly.

One exception to this is using the block of text option  for quotes, which can be quite powerful when combined with the right image – see this example below:

quote eg

Choose from selected keywords, search with your own keywords or upload your own image!

Choose from selected keywords, search with your own keywords or upload your own image!

Choosing images is the fun part. Haiku deck cleverly identifies key words in the text on the slide, and automatically allows you to search a database of thousands of images using these words. You can also choose to search using your own key word, or upload your own image. The thing that really stands Haiku Deck apart from other presentation software is that if you choose a Creative Commons Licenced image (read more about this type of image here) it automatically includes the attribution on the slide – saving an enormous amount of time.

You can also choose from a range of pre-formatted charts, or choose a solid background colour (handy for those quote slides or for when you do need to include a lot of text). In addition, in the iPad app, you can purchase stock photography right from inside the app, with images costing $1.99 US.

Even if you are not wanting to create the entire slideshow in Haiku Deck this automatic attribution is powerful. Why not  create a deck of awesome pictures, complete with attribution in Haiku Deck, and then export the slides to PowerPoint or Keynote (say if you wanted to also embed movies, music or other features not currently a part of the Haiku Deck suite).

Choose to add a headline and subheading, or add dot points or a block of text.

Choose to add a headline and subheading, or add dot points or a block of text.

The third stage is to place the text. Here you have a number of options, which are useful for working around the image in order to best combine image and text. Although the options are somewhat limited (you can’t freely place text anywhere you wish on the slide, you must choose one of the set positions), this restriction actually frees the creator, as it enables the focus to be on simply word and image, and speeds the creation process.

The fourth step is optional, and is the addition of notes. You can make these notes either private, or you can publish them along with your slides, for sharing with others. This is a much valued addition to Haiku Deck, as it really enables the tool to be used for much longer or more complex presentations, and is a godsend for those of us who get nervous when speaking, and like to have a visual prompt!

When to Haiku

Haiku Deck has been designed to be used for any type of presentation, however it’s ease of use and the simplicity of the slide design lend itself particularly well to the following uses:

2014-07-01_12431. Prayer/Reflection/Meditation: when you want beautiful images and few words, nothing beats a Haiku Slide deck. Being based in Brisbane Catholic Education, many of our meetings and gatherings begin with a simple prayer or reflection; and often these are required at short notice. Even the most familiar prayer can be given new life when it is paired with amazing imagery.

2014-07-01_12422. Conference reviews: when you attend a conference, you hear many nuggets of wisdom. What better way to capture and share these, than by using Haiku Deck. When you return from the conference, and have an amazing looking presentation to share with colleagues, no one will know just how quick and easy it was to create!

There are so many other creative ways to use Haiku Deck; young students could easily create a deck for a show and tell item, use as a simple way of sharing visual instructions, create awesome looking flashcards to learn a foreign language, and then share the great holiday snaps upon return from said foreign location; the list is endless!

You can find many more exciting and wonderful applications for Haiku Deck on the Haiku Pinterest Page. Better still, share ways you have found to use this beautiful piece of technology in your classroom, library or beyond!

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Graphic: Introducing Graphic Novels to the Classroom – Resources and Inspiration

2014-06-06_1037It is undeniable that we live in a new media age. In this age, literacy requires students to be able to make meaning from information in a wide variety of formats, one of the most prevalent being visual. The Australian Curriculum identifies the important role that visual literacy plays in contributing to a student’s overall literacy level, so much so that it forms one of the four major building blocks within the Literacy Capability.

Within this context, the graphic novel is perfectly poised to provide a powerful teaching tool, which enables students to develop literacy skills. As Di Laycock identifies, graphic novels can be considered the ‘holy grail’ of literature, as they are truly multimodal texts, encompassing all five semiotic systems.

All five semiotic systems combine to convey meaning in a series of panels. Thanks to Di Laycock for generously sharing her slide.

All five semiotic systems combine to convey meaning in a series of panels. Thanks to Di Laycock for generously sharing her slide. Image: McCloud, S 1994, Understanding comics: The invisible art, HarperPerennial, New York, p. 68.

 What is a graphic novel?

Graphic novels are often seen as ‘not real literature’ or as an easy way out for readers who don’t want to engage with ‘proper’ texts; however as Will Eisner points out, reading graphic novels challenges readers in ways perhaps educators haven’t considered:

“The format of the comic book presents a montage of both word and image, and the reader is thus required to exercise both visual and verbal interpretive skills. The regimens of art (e.g. perspective, symmetry, brush stroke) and the regimens of literature (e.g. grammar, plot, syntax) become superimposed upon each other. The reading of the comic book is an act of both aesthetic perception and intellectual pursuit.” Comics and Sequential Art, p.8)

You will note that in this quote, Eisner speaks about comic books as opposed to graphic novels. The difference is defined as one of serialisation; comics and graphic novels share the same format, however a comic is generally one part of a larger sequence, with a continuity plot that extends over multiple issues, whereas a graphic novel is a complete and extended narrative (Laycock, 2014).  While we are in definition mode, let’s turn to the work of Scott McCloud whose amazing work Understanding Comics, The Invisible Art gives a terrific explanation of what distinguishes this format from others such as picture books or movies.McCloud-Comic-Definition2

This definition focuses on the fact that it is the juxtaposition of images, which have been deliberately sequenced in order to make meaning, which differentiates graphic novels or comics from other multimodal formats such as picture books or movies. Watch this fascinating Ted talk where Scott McCloud explains this in more detail:

Using graphic novels in the classroom

Di Laycock’s research has led her to work with many teachers using graphic novels in the classroom. One of the things that she has noted which may make graphic novels less appealing is a possible  lack of familiarity with this type of text. Many teachers and students simply don’t have the metalanguage required to ‘talk about’ graphic novels, and indeed, many may need explicit instruction as to how to read a panelled page.

Fortunately quite a few terrific resources exist to take both teachers and students into the world of the graphic novel. Aside from the books which give an indepth foundational understandings of this form, such as Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist and Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, there are also books that focus more specifically on how to include graphic novels as part of the curriculum:

Click on this image & access this collection on Amazon to learn more.

Click on this image & access this collection I have compiled on Amazon to learn more. Teachers of Brisbane Catholic Education may borrow any of these titles from ResourceLink.

For those who like to use digital resources, generously shared graphics such as the one below also provide a fantastic introduction to the format:

Choosing graphic novels: for the library and the classroom

Another challenge for teachers and teacher librarians who want to introduce graphic novels to the curriculum is identifying which are quality texts. There is a growing number of graphic novels for sale, but evaluating these for use in teaching can be time-consuming and overwhelming for someone not familiar with the format.

Just as there are novels that you might choose for a trashy ‘summer’ read, and others which you might choose for their literary merit, so too are graphic novels published for many different reading purposes. Thankfully there are a number of resources online which assist in this area of selection. Selecting graphic novels for inclusion in a general borrowing collection for a school library is also different to selecting texts for inclusion in the curriculum. For teacher librarians looking for advice on how to develop a quality collection of graphic novels for students to borrow, I would direct you to Di Laycock’s excellent article from Synergy (PDF download).

Unfortunately at the present time there are few evaluation sites for graphic novels run by Australians for an Australian audience (if they do exist, please let me know in the comments section!). Nevertheless, there are some fantastic sites for teachers and TLs getting started – one of the best is Getting Graphic, by Canadian teacher Kym Francis. This website has an excellent introduction to using graphic novels in the classroom, as well as an extensive vocabulary page which is good for building up ‘metalanguage’ skills, as well as a page devoted to evaluation processes for choosing great graphic novels. Another fantastic source of up to date information is Comics in Education, which has a very comprehensive site, and which tweets a lot of good information for educators wanting to keep up to date in this area. Follow them at @teachingcomics on Twitter.

There are other good information sites also; some of the best are pinned on my Pinterest board about graphic novels.

Of course, no post on graphic novels would be complete without a few suggestions for fabulous titles to consider. Here at ResourceLink, we have been fortunate enough to be able to build up a small graphic novel collection, so I have had the pleasure of reading quite a few titles recently. The graphic novels below are now available to borrow by BCE staff!

Great graphic novels to investigate:

9780141014081

Click the image to access teachers’ notes on this title.

Maus is an incredibly powerful tale of two generations, and the impact of the Holocaust on both. Cutting between the father’s story of his survival as a Jew in Poland during World War II, and the son’s story of his difficult relationship with his father, as he tries to learn about his family history, Maus has themes of racism, guilt, masks, imprisonment and family. From the Puffin teaching notes:

The comic book is able to depict the events of the Holocaust in a less confrontational way than photographs or films, especially with the distancing element of the characters being depicted as animals. However, Spiegelman did meticulous research and based his drawings of Auschwitz on photographs and plans.

An array of teaching resources to support Maus in the classroom is available on the Melbourne High School website.
This graphic novel would be best suited to students in Year 11 and 12.

Click the image for a terrific review by The Book Chook.

Click the image for a terrific review by The Book Chook.

Another graphic novel which uses anthropomorphism is the recently published An Anzac Tale by Ruth Starke and Greg Holfeld. This title retells the Anzac Story from the perspective of Wally and Roy, two young larrikins who sign up for adventure and to earn some extra money for the family. An author’s note inside the front cover notes that the animal representations were chosen either for their indigenous associations with the country (kangaroos, wombats and koalas) or for their symbolic association with the country (e.g the British Lion, or the Bengal tiger of India). Terrific teaching notes are available from Working Title Press. This retelling would be suitable for middle primary students and above.

Click the image to access a great review from Meanjin

Click the image to access a great review from Meanjin

Blue tells the story of Christian, as he looks back on his youth  growing up in the fictional industrial town of Bolton. While some of the language is ‘colourful’, it is necessary to the authenticity of the story, which the author describes as a combination of Stand by Me and District 9. This graphic novel has themes of racism and immigration, which lends itself to classroom discussion, and the entire book can be accessed online at Pat Grant’s website, for further discussion on how the book translates into the digital medium. Best suited for students in Year 9 and above.

Click the image to go to Classical Comics website.

Click the image to go to Classical Comics website.

          For something completely different, Classical Comics provides graphic novel versions of many popular high school novels – and interestingly, they offer them in ‘original’, ‘plain’ and ‘quick’ text, so that readers of all abilities (and those who are time poor) can access the story more effectively. These are of beautiful quality, and well worth investigating. In addition, the titles have extensive teaching notes available. Staff of BCE can borrow packs of several of these titles which include all three text levels and teachers’ notes – Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Frankenstein. These are available in Australia through Book and Volume .

           So where do I start?

Like anything in teaching, it is the pedagogy that is the most vital part of the puzzle. Don’t include graphic novels in the curriculum simply because you can; include them because they are the best tool to use. A great deal of the Australian English Curriculum focuses on multimodal texts – either working with them or creating them – and so familiarity with this format is an awesome way to develop student’s skills in multiliteracies.

An example of how graphic novels might be used in a series of lessons for Year 8 is available here. These simple lesson plans have been developed by myself and our Education Officer – English, Kim Summers, as a way of introducing teachers to the possibilities in using this format in the classroom.

Start just by sharing a graphic novel with your students. Consider a graphic novel version of a text you might usually teach, or better still, deepen your teaching by using both traditional and graphic novel format. Investigate having students create a graphic novel (or part of one) as a writing task. Almost all literature strategies equally apply to graphic novels, but check out this list of easy to implement strategies for graphic novels for more ideas.

Teachers in Brisbane Catholic Education are welcome to borrow from our range of resources to support their investigation into graphic novels. For all other readers, check out our Pinterest Board of resources.

If you have used graphic novels in your library or classroom, share your experiences or advice in the comments below; we’d love to hear from you!

References:

Eisner, W. (2008). Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Hill, R. (Ed.). (2004). The Secret Origin of Good Readers: A Resource Book. Retrieved from http://www.night-flight.com/secretorigin/SOGR2004.pdf
Laycock, Di (2014) The Power of the Panel. Workshop presentation for English Teachers Association Queensland, 31 May 2014.
McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (Reprint edition.). New York: William Morrow Paperbacks.
Oddone, K. (2014). Graphic Novels – bring your teaching to life. Pinterest. Curated list. Retrieved June 10, 2014,
from http://www.pinterest.com/kayo287/graphic-novels-bring-your-teaching-to-life/

Celebrate Australia Day!

Each year, when school returns we are immediately plunged into Australia Day celebrations – and at such a busy time of the year!

Below are some terrific resources that require little preparation, so you can grab and go and impress your new class with exciting and informative lessons.

The ABC has a terrific page full of news and information about Australia Day, suitable for high school students, with a special focus on our Australian of the Year. Find out how Australia Day is celebrated, read about what the day means to others, and explore what it is like to be a young Aussie living in a regional area.

2014-01-24_1458Explore with students how they each celebrate Australia Day, and then use the Australia Day website to explore how people across the nation celebrated. This site also features Australian history, teaching resources and digital learning objects for students to complete.

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Celebrate by sharing some wonderful Australian literature; this Pinterest board links to a number of titles, for younger and older readers, which would be great to share, as we reflect on our heritage and celebrate all that it is to be Australian. Many of these titles are available to borrow from the ResourceLink library for those who work in Brisbane Catholic Education, or to download from our BCE Digital Library.

Simple printable activities for early years’ students are available for download here. Rather than simply colouring the images in, why not have the students find photos of the flora or fauna online, and try to replicate their colours as closely as they can, or colour, cut out and create simple jigsaw puzzles to test their friends?

Why not search Trove for a fantastic range of photos, articles and digitised resources that show students how Australians have celebrated this day throughout history? A classic example is this photo reported to have been taken on the ‘first Australia Day’ in 1901:

  1. A.N.A. Day 1901. The first Australia Day  Colquhoun, James, fl. 1896-1915, (photographer.)

    A.N.A. Day 1901. The first Australia Day
    Colquhoun, James, fl. 1896-1915, (photographer.)

     

There are so many ways to explore and celebrate Australia Day – why not share your ideas and experiences in the comments?

Postscript:

2014-01-28_1125

A wonderful colleague has alerted me to the fantastic wealth of resources available on the TES Australia website; with links for Primary and Secondary learning activities, video clips such as the one below and links to other resources, it is definitely one to check out.

Running a Maker Faire: Good Hard Fun at St Joachim’s

After being inspired by our fantastic day working with Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez at the Invent to Learn day hosted by Brisbane Catholic Education (which you can read about in the earlier post, Resourcing the Maker Movement, my colleagues and I decided to run a Maker Faire at one of our schools. Being based at ResourceLink, I began creating kits of resources and equipment that we could use to run the Maker Faire, and which could then be borrowed by schools who wish to investigate using this style of hands on learning.

Running the Maker Faire

The plan was to run the Maker Faire at St Joachim’s, Holland Park West, where we could work with the Teacher Librarian who had also attended the Invent to Learn day, to introduce the Year 5,6 & 7 students to a range of hands on activities based on the ideas in Invent to Learn.

We organised the students into groups of 8, and timetabled them to spend about one hour on each of the activities, which they would rotate through throughout the day. cardboard alley

One space, ‘Cardboard Alley’ was open for the students to visit at any stage during the day, and offered the students the opportunity to use Makedo and Rolobox equipment with a huge assortment of cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes. This was an important option, as it provided students a place to go and recharge if they completed an activity early, or if they just needed a ‘brain break’ from the more challenging activities.

During the Maker Faire, the students had fun with:

Lego WeDo – an introduction to Lego engineering and robotics, Lego WeDo allows students from Year 3 and up to build and program simple models such as cranes, cars and ferris wheels. Using either the Lego WeDo software, or the free programming app Scratch, students can experiment and develop skills in  language and literacy, math and technology, as well as enhance their creativity, communication and design skills.

lego

Arduino – Arduino is an open-source electronics  platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. Using Arduino, students can write simple programs using  Arduino open source software to create projects using motors, gearboxes, speakers, LEDs, switches, cases and many other electronic parts.Projects can be as simple or as complex as you wish, suiting users from Year 5 and up.

arduino

Makey Makey – allows students to turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. Simply use the supplied wires or alligator clips to connect any type of everyday item (such as fruit, plants, coins, play dough etc) to the Makey Makey board, and then plug the board into the computer, and you are able to interact with the computer by way of the attached objects. Students love playing computer games using fruit as the controllers!

makey

Squishy Circuits– by combining conductive and non-conductive dough with a battery pack, leds, small motors and buzzers, students are able to create innovative simple circuits of any shape. A fascinating way to learn about circuitry and basic electronics.

squishy

Interactive Cardcraft– students were able to make light up greeting cards by using conductive paint and copper tape along with led lights and small batteries to create simple circuits on the cards. The challenge was to apply their understanding of circuits and switches to the real-life application of the greeting card.

paper

Interactive Wearables – Using ideas from this wonderful soft circuits booklet, students created brooches and arm-bands that lit up by sewing circuits using conductive thread, copper tape, batteries and led lights. While the sewing was challenging, so too was the application of their understanding of simple circuits to another practical challenge.

wearables

During the day, the students had so much fun. Their smiles, their engagement and the question ‘is this really school work?’ was evidence that the Maker Faire was a big success. However, not only did the students have fun; they also learnt so much about circuitry, programming, robotics and simple electronics, as well as developing their creativity, their problem-solving strategies and their ability to collaborate and work together. We encouraged the students to ask each other for help, and to share their successes and failures throughout the day. Listen to the conversations the students are having during this short video:

Constructing the Invent to Learn kits: advice for libraries wishing to resource Maker Spaces

When creating the kits for the Maker Faire, I purchased equipment from a range of different outlets. As a library, ResourceLink cannot supply the consumable equipment required for these kits, and so I created detailed lists of what was included and what the user needed to supply in order to run the activity successfully. This information is included in each kit on a laminated card (copies of which you can download below). I also included where possible printable information and instruction cards, which you can download also from the links below. Being based in Brisbane Australia, please note that some of the suppliers are locally based, however some of the online retailers ship all over the world.

Cardboard Construction:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Squishy Circuits:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Makey Makey:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Arduino:2013-10-30_1217_001Lego Engineering:2013-10-30_1217_002Interactive Papercraft:2013-10-30_1217_003

Links to all of the resources you could possibly need to learn more about Maker Faires and creating maker spaces in a library are available on the ResourceLink Pinterest Board, Makerspaces and STEAM in Libraries or Anywhere, and also curated on this Pearltrees site.

For those who want to try running their own Maker Faire, I can only say: Go for it! The learning, the enjoyment and engagement is well worth the organisation, and the equipment is really not as costly as you would imagine. Start small, and build up. You may be surprised at what your school already owns, once you start investigating! For those in Brisbane Catholic Education, borrow these pre-made kits as a ‘try before you buy’ – contact ResourceLink find out how you can borrow these new resources today!

Resourcing the Maker Movement – ResourceLink ventures into the Makerspace!

This title is available to BCE staff to borrow through ResourceLink, or to purchase online through Amazon.

This title is available to BCE staff to borrow through ResourceLink, or to purchase online through Amazon.

This is the first of two posts on the Maker Movement – inspired by a recent visit to Brisbane Catholic Education by two educational leaders, Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez.

Their ‘Invent to Learn ‘ day inspired the twenty or so fortunate educators who were participating in their workshop, including myself, to take up the challenge and bring hands on tinkering and making to learning.  Gary and Sylvia gave a fantastic overview of why the ‘maker movement’ is such a powerful way to bring learning to life in the classroom, before setting we teachers loose at a range of learning stations, where we could see for ourselves the enjoyment and reward of ‘making’, as well as the clear connections this hands on learning has for Maths, Science, Technology, The Arts, English and more.

Inspired by this day, we decided to plan a ‘Maker Faire’ for students at one of our schools, and how we did this and what happened will form the second ‘maker movement’ blog post. This post focuses on some of the many wonderful resources already available for teachers who wish to learn more about how to bring about this learning in their classrooms, and why it is so powerful.

The books mentioned in this blog post are all available for sale online, but are also available to borrow from the ResourceLink library for staff of Brisbane Catholic Education.

The seminal text in this area is of course Stager & Martinez’s recently published ‘Invent To Learn‘. Accompanied by a fantastic website, the book begins with ‘an insanely brief and incomplete history of making’, which brings readers up to date with the work of Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert, exploring the Reggio Emilia Approach and highlighting how hands on learning has featured in classrooms during many periods of history, but has never been as accessible as it is now:

‘Today we have the capability to give every child the tools, materials and context to achieve their potential…thanks to the personal fabrication and physical computing revolution… unencumbered by the limited imaginations of today’s education policy makers.’

Stager and Martinez provide not only theory and sound arguments for why kids learn better by making – they also provide strategies, advice and resources for teachers who want to bring making into their classrooms.

The maker movement is all about hands on – and so the first titles that were added to our library’s collection are ones that inspire exciting, innovative and ‘dangerous’ projects – just the thing for those looking for something to make or do.

Unbored is available to BCE staff for loan from ResourceLink and available for sale online.

Unbored is available to BCE staff for loan from ResourceLink and available for sale online.

Unbored is a huge resource. According to the introduction by Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of Boing Boing,

‘it is the first kids’ book to truly encourage a hands on approach to creating a personally meaningful life –  a powerful antidote to those forces that constantly try to shape us into passive consumers of pre-made reality.’

With Chapters devoted to you, home, society and adventure there are over 350 different activities, games, challenges, story excerpts, comics and more to keep kids and adults entertained for months.

Visit unbored.net for a sample of activities and ideas from each of the book’s chapters, which are complete with exhaustive resource lists with further reading and websites.

50 Dangerous Things is available for loan to BCE staff through ResourceLink, and available to purchase online.

50 Dangerous Things is available for loan to BCE staff through ResourceLink, and available to purchase online.

Another terrific title we have added to our collection is 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do) by Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler. Tulley is best known for his school, Brightworks which is a non-profit private school, currently catering for 30 students. The students learn through a hands-on pedagogical approach where students investigate their own ‘arcs’ – projects of their choosing which have three different phases: exploration, expression, and exposition.

In 50 Dangerous Things, Tulley and Spiegler give explicit instructions (with note paper provided to jot down observations, improvements and new ideas) for 50 wild and crazy things – things that some kids have never even considered trying.

These projects range from mastering the perfect somersault to constructing your own flying machine, and reflect the truly sheltered nature of some childhoods compared to those of 20 or 30 years ago. While some projects are challenging and do require adult supervision (such as changing a tyre or experimenting with fire), others, such as climbing a tree or walk home from school encourage kids to take back the childhood experiences many adults took for granted.

This is available to for BCE staff to borrow from ResourceLink or to buy online.

This is available to for BCE staff to borrow from ResourceLink or to buy online.

For indoor making adventures, we purchased Super Scratch Programming Adventure! – a colourful, graphic based book which gives students step by step instructions for creating different games using the free to download Scratch program, which will run on most basic computers and enables kids to experiment with graphical programming. Scratch was developed and is maintained by the MIT Media Lab, and is a simple tool allows kids to program their own interactive stories, games, and animations — and share these creations if they so choose with others in the Scratch online community.

This video is a great way to learn more about Scratch.

The Super Scratch Programming adventure gives kids a starting point for making different games – and once they have begun coding in Scratch, they are free to iterate, improve and develop the games in complexity and quality. It’s the hands-on ‘getting inside’ of the computer game that empowers kids to explore and take an active role rather than passively consuming pre-created games; it also gives kids a huge kick when others play or interact with one of their own creations!

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Morten Diesen: http://flickr.com/photos/mortendiesen/8091682612/

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Morten Diesen: http://flickr.com/photos/mortendiesen/8091682612/

Each of these hands on ideas books are open exciting avenues for teachers – but will your principal let you take this path?

Thankfully, ResourceLink has also added to its collection books that give you the theory and the research that shows that operating in the makerspace is a credible and worthwhile investment.

Two of these books available for loan to BCE staff (and available for sale online) are World Class Learners by Yong Zhao and Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner.

Both of these titles are available to BCE staff to loan or to purchase online.

Both of these titles are available to BCE staff to loan or to purchase online.

Zhao argues that students leaving school today will be entering positions which increasingly require creativity and entrepreneurial skills – and that current educational systems which focus on standards and high stakes testing are not necessarily the best methods for developing these:

…existing evidence suggests at least that tightly controlled standardised curriculum, a uniformly executed teaching approach, narrowly prescribed and carefully planned learning activities, and rigorously watched and frequently administered high-stakes testing do not produce creative and entrepreneurial talents, although they may lead to higher test scores. Zhao, p17.

Zhao concludes that students who have autonomy to follow their interests and passions, who are given the opportunity to produce and create and who are not limited to working solely within the limits of the classroom will have a greater chance of developing the skills and qualities required by a 21st century workforce.

In Creating Innovators, Wagner echoes these findings, identifying schools, colleges and workplaces where cultures of innovation are nurtured through collaboration, interdisciplinary problem-solving and intrinsic motivation. Below is just one of the 60 videos created to support the text. 

The maker movement is innovative, exciting and has so much potential for learners – stay tuned for our next post about how we bring it to life in one of our schools.

Cybersafety – With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility!

Teaching about cybersafety is the responsibility of every teacher. Here in Australia, we are fortunate to be able to access the fantastic services of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the government authority which has responsibility for the regulation of broadcasting, the internet, radio communications and telecommunications.

Part of ACMA’s role is providing cybersafety education through the Cybersmart Program, which  is designed to support and encourage participation online by providing information and education which empowers children to be safe online. It does this by providing information and resources for children, teens, parents, schools and libraries, as well as running seminars and workshops free of charge for all of these groups.

This is just one example of the terrific high quality video resources available on the Cybersmart Facebook Page.

I was fortunate to participate in a day long professional development opportunity run by Cybersmart, which focused on the modules of Booting Up (getting to know students and their digital behavior), Ethical Online Behaviours (promoting positive relationships and exploring how to deal with various cybersafety issues), The Bottom Line (the roles and responsibilities of teachers when dealing with cybersafety) and Plugging in to the Curriculum (ways to connect cybersafety education to the Australian Curriculum). You can read more about this workshop here.

This blog post will share the information that I gathered during the Cybersmart professional development day, with links to where you can find more information and ideas.

One of the key changes in a contemporary approach to teaching cybersafety is a movement from ‘protecting students’ to students learning to ‘self manage’. This approach acknowledges that prohibition, in the form of blocking sites and banning devices doesn’t work, as students will always get around blocks and filters if they want to. Simply blocking or banning access removes responsible adults from the conversation – it is only when students are using and interacting with technology that opportunities for discussion around ethical and sensible use  arise. It is when students are forced to ‘go underground’ with their technology use, that issues have more potential to escalate.

The potential to connect, share, create and partake of a world of information is at student’s fingertips. How to use this power responsibly is a skill and understanding that today’s students require, and the message ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ is one that they should hear loud and clear from educators.

Through providing students with the opportunity to experiment and take ‘strategic risks’ by using a variety of online tools and devices, students vulnerability to exploitation is reduced – as always, education is the best strategy, enabling students to develop confidence and competence so that if they become involved in an inappropriate or dangerous situation, they are more likely to report to trusted adults and will have more skills to manage the situation.

Even with this proviso, kids will be kids, and it is important for adults to be aware of the types of tools they are using and the positive opportunities and potential risks they present.

According to our ACMA Cybersafety workshop, the current apps and sites are ‘trending’ among young users. Please note these change frequently!

The following have the age limit of 13 in their terms and conditions, but are used frequently by students of year 5 and upward:

InstagramInstagram

What they say: “Capture and Share the World’s Moments. Instagram is a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your life with friends and family.”

What it is:  a huge photo sharing social media site, with over 100 million users – like a visual Facebook.

snapchatSnapchat  –

What they say: “Snapchat is the fastest way to share a moment on iPhone – up to 10x faster than MMS. Control how long you want your friends to view your messages”

What it is:  Send a photo which will ‘self destruct’ after a given time limit to a friend – this is sometimes used to send inappropriate images, as the user believes the image only has a short life on the receiver’s device – however these images may be recorded using screen captures, and then shared with others.

tumblrTumblr

What they say: “Post anything (from anywhere!), customize everything, and find and follow what you love.”

What it is: a photo and multimedia blogging site, where users can share images and videos with others and comment on posts – some students are using this as an alternative to Facebook, which is more likely to be monitored by parents.

keekKeek

What they say: “Create fast, short videos and share them with the world.”

What it is: a social media site where you can create and share videos up to 36 seconds in length, comment on others’ videos and chat with friends.

qoohmeQooh.me

What they say: “Qooh.me is a social site that allows people who find you interesting to ask you anonymous questions so they can know you better.”

What it is:  a site where users can ask each other questions which are completely anonymous.

askfmAsk.fm

What they say : “Ask and answer. Find out what people want to know about you!”

What it is: Similar to Qooh.me, students sometimes share their Ask.fm address  on other social media sites such as Instagram to encourage questions from others.

One site some upper primary and secondary students use which has a 17 plus requirement in the terms and conditions:

kik

KIK messenger

What they say:  “Kik is the fast, simple, and personal smartphone messenger that connects you to everyone you love to talk to”.

What it is: an app that allows users to contact anyone at no cost. Users must know the username in order to initiate a chat with another, however some advertise this information on other social network sites and therefore have many people they do not know contacting them.

In many cases, the default settings on these apps generally are open unless the user purposefully goes in and changes the settings, so if students are using these, it is important for them to know about how to maintain their privacy settings; on each and every app.

What can schools do to develop cybersmart students?

Planning, open communication and positive relationships are all key in managing this area. Even though schools hope they will never have to deal with complex ‘worst case scenarios’ such as students engaging in cyberbullying, sexting or meeting with adult strangers that they have met online, it is important that all staff are aware of the types of behaviours kids can engage,  so that staff are prepared to handle the issues if they ever do arise.

Two key areas teachers must be familiar with are cyberbullying and sexting.

It is important that teachers are aware of the difference between cyberbullying and cyberagression. A lot of behavior is labeled bullying inappropriately, however to deal with these issues effectively, they need to clearly identified, so that appropriate actions can be taken.  Donna Cross has done extensive work in this area, and finds that the differentiating features between cyber bullying and cyber aggression are in the intent to harm, whether the act is repeated and how severe the harm is.

Cyberbullying vs Cyberagression

In cases of cyber bullying, the response of the teacher to a student reporting this issue is key. Most students will report to a parent or teacher, but an additional safety net is to put a link on the school website/learning management system to a web counselor from a site such as kids help line. http://www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-help/web-counselling/

Sexting is sending another person an inappropriate sexual image, usually of oneself. It is developmentally normal for students to experiment and push boundaries in this area, but the increase in the act of sexting is due to exposure to our highly sexualized media and in response to peer pressure. It can also be a test of power or trust in a relationship, or may be a sign of a teen displaying at risk behavior (a sign that they are looking for help).

Most common scenarios are between romantic partners (or those they hope to be romantically involved with) and exchange between partners that are then shared beyond the couple.
It is important for teachers and parents to respond in a way that doesn’t demonise technology, and to explore underlying issues, but it is vital that students understand the implications of these actions, especially as they currently carry the possibility of criminal convictions. You can read more here.

Teaching about Cybersafety

The Cybersmart program provides a wide range of resources for students, teachers, parents and libraries. These include interactive online activities, videos, workshops, physical resources and more. Teaching about being cybersafe also fits well into many of the General Capabilities outlined in the Australian Curriculum, particularly Information and Communication Technologies, Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Behavior, Personal and Social Competence and Intercultural Understanding.

For those within Brisbane Catholic Education, a range of Cybersmart resources will soon be available for loan through the ResourceLink library. All schools throughout Australia may order these resources for free from the Cybersmart website here.

Please take the time to check out the excellent Cybersmart Website, and think seriously about developing a cybersafety curriculum for your school – the possibilities of technology are wonderful, but as Spiderman says, with great power comes great responsibility!

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spiderfront / CC BY 2.0