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

Putting a Pin on it – Pinterest and Professional Learning

One thing that always amazes me when I think about the internet and communication is the way news travels – how things ‘go viral’ and become so popular that it seems everyone is suddenly aware of a new song, image or joke. The way that information travels is particularly clear when we observe the statistics information created by WordPress concerning this blog. Using the statistics, it is possible to see where our readers come from, how they found the blog and what links they clicked on.

By far our most popular post has been on the implementation of a 1:1 iPad program in a primary school – on an average day, this post garners over at least ten times the number of hits the other posts receive – a huge difference.

Why is this?

From what I can see, the vast majority of hits are coming from Pinterest. One or two readers have ‘pinned’ an image of a classroom poster in Pinterest, and hundreds of others have repinned this image, and visited the blog as a result. Quite a few readers also come from Twitter, where I share a link each time a write a new post, and the remainder come from a variety of other sources.

A typical 'tweet' sent out to followers on Twitter, alerting them to a new blog post.

A typical ‘tweet’ sent out to followers on Twitter, alerting them to a new blog post.

It seems that Pinterest is no longer just the domain of crafters and those wishing to share recipes – but also a huge educational community, drawn by the ability to share great websites and classroom ideas easily, and what’s more, visually.

A typical Pinterest page

A typical Pinterest page

After a long day of teaching, it is hard to come home to face screens full of text. However Pinterest’s visually appealing and simple interface allows you to scroll through hundreds of contributions, clicking on those that appeal and digging deeper by visiting the website where the image came from if more investigation is warranted. The improvements Pinterest recently made, linking pins to the board where it came from, as well as a board where someone else has also pinned it makes searching even more fruitful, as one pin is likely to lead to a host of others on a related theme.

When you re-pin an image, this helpful board pops up, with somewhere else where you are likely to find related pins.

When you re-pin an image, this helpful board pops up, with somewhere else where you are likely to find related pins.

Pinterest seems an unlikely place to go for professional development. However, if you are brain drained and in need of inspiration, boards created by Stephen Heppell, Trish Wade or Vicki Davis are just a starting point for great ideas, curated from all over the world. I maintain a few boards also – focusing on apps for inquiry learning, creative commons images and book trailers, to name a few. You can see an example of some of my Pinterest boards below.
Pinterest boards
It seems that the path to discovering quality information and resources is no longer just a direct line to Google. We know many students do much of their research via YouTube, and so it seems, many teachers are using tools such as Pinterest to direct their searching via items that others have already collated. Why start at the beginning, when half the search has already been done for you?

Young People using Social Media positively: Authentic, real world learning opportunities

Many of you will have heard about Martha Payne, the 9 year old Scottish girl whose blog, Never Seconds, came to international attention earlier this year. If you didn’t, here’s a brief rundown:

Martha began writing her blog as a record of her school lunches.
She promised a photo, and a score:

Photo credit: Sakurako Kitsa / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Food-o-meter- Out of 10 a rank of how great my lunch was!
Mouthfuls- How else can we judge portion size!
Courses- Starter/main or main/dessert
Health Rating- Out of 10, can healthy foods top the food-o-meter?
Price- Currently £2 I think, its all done on a cashless catering card
Pieces of hair- It won’t happen, will it?

Within two weeks her blog posts had gathered more than a million viewers, and enthusiastic posts from other students sharing their own lunch photos, not just from Scotland, but from Finland, Germany, Japan, Spain and the United States. She was garnering so much attention that she even raised a sizeable amount of money for a charity; Mary’s Meals, an organisation that funds school lunches in Africa. Seven weeks later, the local council made the controversial decision to ban Martha from bringing her camera to school; thankfully this decision was quickly reversed after protests from some of her most well known supporters (including Jamie Oliver and Neil Gaiman) as well as a massive media protest at the short-sightedness of the move.

This is just one example of the extraordinary potential young people now have to influence what was previously beyond their reach; using social media and other 2.0 technologies, the thoughts and actions of young people can have powerful influences across the entire globe.

Another example is the recent news that Hasbro has revealed it will release a toy oven in shades of black, silver and blue, after McKenna Pope, 13, submitted a petition with over 40 000 signatures that she had created on Change.org.  The thirteen year old was planning to buy the toy oven as a gift for her little brother, but became aware that it only came in pink and purple, and featured all girls in the advertising. Using YouTube to raise awareness of her petition, McKenna showed how social media can be used to create positive change.

With examples such as these for inspiration, there is no end to the possibilities for teachers looking for ways to engage their students in real world action. In fact, as Marilyn M. Lombardi’ suggests in Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview, thanks to technology, authentic, real world learning has never been more achievable.

Why not consider the following:

* Use iPads and iMovie to create documentaries on student issues – post to a YouTube channel for a world-wide audience

* Publish student research as a Wikipedia page

* Tweet results of student surveys; ask other schools to comment and compare results

* Create a Google Map of the local area around the school, locating community services and resources relevant for the school community; publish on the school blog

* Participate in a global project such as the Flat Classroom or a local one such as Witness King Tides

* Use real data sets to create suggested strategies for real-world problems – try Saving Migratory Animals as an example

As you can see, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination, and the projects can be as simple or as complex as you wish.

Looking for further inspiration? Check out these amazing young people and what they’ve achieved using passion, energy and technology!

A small beginning has led to Random Kid – a website that helps kids solve real world problems:

Using YouTube to share a great message:

Have your students taken on a great real world project? Share in the comments below!

Marilyn Lombardi. (2007). Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview | EDUCAUSE.edu ( No. ELI Paper 1: 2007). Educause. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/authentic-learning-21st-century-overview

What’s the fuss about Google Plus?

Google's Long History in Social Media

Click for full image

Google Plus is Google’s 6th attempt to enter the Social Networking market. Even in those dark ages before Facebook (was there even such a time?) Google was experimenting with varying success in this space.

First, there was Orkut, which was released a month before Facebook, and which is still in use in Brazil and India. Then Google purchased Dodgeball, which was essentially an early version of Foursquare. They also acquired Jaiku, which was similar to Twitter – but that didn’t take off either. Google Wave only lasted 2 months after its public release, being just too convoluted for most people to even understand why it existed; and Buzz, which still exists, but hardly anyone seems to use.

The importance of this history is to put into context Google Plus, and to highlight the extremely fine line tools walk between being huge (think Facebook, with over 845 million regular users) and being a complete flop.

Google Plus, however may just last the distance. Despite the fact that it is nowhere near Facebook in popularity, with around 90 Million users, it is the fastest growing social network, and it has a number of features that make it just perfect for use in the area of education.

So…what’s the fuss?? Here’s the skinny on Google Plus:

Google Plus is very similar to Facebook in concept, although a little different in execution. For those familiar with Facebook and Twitter, this table may help you with the new terminology.

However you don’t need to be a social media expert to understand how Google Plus might fit into your classroom. Just explaining the different aspects of Google Plus, as I have below, brings to mind numerous ways this network may be used with students.

The Stream: This is similar to Facebook’s News Feed, and is where updates, posts and information shared by others that you follow will appear. You can easily manipulate what information appears in the feed by identifying  the groups or individuals whose posts you wish to view. You can view all posts, or just the posts from certain people or individuals. This control allows users to reduce the ‘noise’ (distracting posts that distracts you from your current purpose). The great thing about having this control is that you can post directly to groups of students, or view just what particular students are saying; perfect for assigning tasks for specific groups, or communicating to parent groups (e.g. Fete organisation committee, Parents and Friends committee, the whole parent body etc).

Profile: Your profile is the way you represent yourself on Google products and across the web. With your profile, you can manage the information that people see — such as your bio, contact details, and links to other sites about you or created by you. In an education setting, your profile could be as class teacher, or simply your class, using a gmail email account.

Important things to note about your profile:

  •   Changing your name in your profile changes your name in your Google Account as well. This change will be reflected in other Google products you sign in to with your account, like Gmail and Docs.
  •     Deleting your profile won’t delete your Google Account.
  •     People who have your email address could see a link to the profile that’s associated with that email address.
  •     If you have a website, you can add a personal badge linking to your Google Profile. With just a couple of clicks, visitors can find your profile or add you to their circles directly from your site.

Circles: Circles are the major advantage Google Plus has over Facebook when considering its use in education. While Facebook does offer the ability to group ‘friends’ in different lists, it is an unwieldy and complicated process. Google Plus allows users to allocate people to different circles, easily allowing content and communications to be directed to specific groups of people. By grouping students in circles, teachers can easily communicate specific information to specific groups of students, and follow the posts of those particular groups of students easily.

Photos: Google always had an online photo sharing site, known as Picasa. When you sign up for Google+, you can see and share all of your Picasa Web albums in Google+.  Your albums will be visible on your Google+ photos homepage and the new Photos and Videos tabs on your Google+ profile. Security remains the same; you are in control of your photos. Google does try to make this easier to manage, however, by  ensuring that you can see and change the sharing settings for all of your albums in one place. It also makes it easier to control who can see your photos, which is important when working with photos of students; it does this by allowing you to Post to Google+ circles – like ‘Year 5’ , ‘Maths A’ or ‘Book club’ – directly from Picasa Web Albums. Another bonus for school users is that photos you upload to Google+ will be automatically resized to 2048 pixels and stored for free. Like Picasa Web, video uploads 15 minutes or shorter are free. This is terrific for removing the load from school servers, which are usually full of images and video files.

Hangouts: Google+ Hangouts allow you to have an audio-only or audio-and-video conversation with other users in a similar way to Skype. The advantage of using Google Plus over Skype is that Hangouts allow for up to 10 simultaneous users in a single room. The potential here for group discussions with authors, students in other schools or for intraschool moderation is enormous.

The feature is free and easy to use (once you download and install a browser plug-in, you’re all set). You can invite specific people to join a Hangout with you where you can chat, perform, demo, or watch YouTube videos together. (It’s worth noting that anyone who joins can in turn share the Hangout’s URL and invite others. As being in a Hangout appears in all the participants’ Streams, it does mean that these are public gatherings.)

Hangouts have many possible uses in education:

  • Live practical demonstrations – cooking, science experiments, art and craft…
  • Conducting a Q and A with guest speakers/authors/subject matter experts.
  •  After hours homework help.
  • Remote music lessons. Live sessions can be a great way to showcase practice but teachers can also prerecord lessons for students, schedule multi-student lessons, or even hold online workshops to improve specific skills.
  • Foreign language learning. One of the best ways to improve language skills when you’re learning a foreign language is by having conversations with native speakers.
  •  Book Clubs
  • Collaborative projects – students can collaborate in school hours via a Google Doc, and then meet in a hangout to continue working together in the evenings or on weekends.
  •  Parent Teacher interviews if a parent is out of town or to provide interview times beyond those you might be able to normally; e.g. work from home in the evenings rather than having to be in a dark empty school.

Google Plus may not be the Facebook killer its creators are dreaming of. However, its features do lend themselves to innovative uses for teachers – if you have dabbled in Google Plus, leave a comment – we’d love to hear about your experience!

More information…

The presentation:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Lbfw2ZXZ7KDcRZHiykJzHFGsvuuxKepbAqDV3kQVMaM/edit?usp=sharing

Watch the videos:

Read the Articles:

Google Hangouts: Now with Google Docs Integration, Now Even Better for Edu – easy to read article, with links to posts about other aspects of Google Plus

Teaching with Google+ – A great post, with ideas for beginners, intermediate and advanced users

Understanding And Using Google+ In The Classroom And Beyond – a terrific live binder, full of information and ideas

Have a laugh!

Technology and Storytelling….An evolving partnership

“Stories are memory aids, instruction manuals and moral compasses. When enlisted by charismatic leaders and turned into manifestos, dogmas and social policy, they’ve been the foundations for religions and political systems. When a storyteller has held an audience captive around a campfire, a cinema screen or on the page of a bestseller, they’ve reinforced local and universal norms about where we’ve been and where we’re going. And when they’ve been shared in the corner shop, at the pub or over dinner they’ve helped us define who we are and how we fit in.” (Krotoski, A. 2011).

Storytelling has always evolved and been enriched by changing media and technology. The history of stories and storytelling is long and rich. Stories have evolved from oral stories told around a fire, to cave paintings such as those in Lascaux;

cc licensed ( by ) flickr photo by JackVersloot: http://flickr.com/photos/jackversloot/2563365462/

From the first scrolls of written word to the invention of the printing press and widescale distribution of books.

Developing technologies have allowed stories to be shared with an ever-increasing audience. As technology has evolved, so too have the media through which stories can be shared.

Stories and storytelling will always remain a central part of the human experience, due to the reasons outlined by Aleks Krotoski in the opening quote. However, as Clay Shirky points out in his Ted Talk on  Social Media, the Internet is the first medium in history that has native support for groups and conversation at the same time. Whereas the phone gave us the one-to-one pattern, and television, radio, magazines, books, gave us the one-to-many pattern, the Internet gives us the many-to-many pattern.

A snapshot of the internet; the many to many nature is obvious…

CC Licensed (by) flickr photo by jurvetson: http://flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/916142/

For the first time in history, the technology effects not only the medium through which the story is delivered, but the opportunity to co-create on a global scale. What do these changes mean for storytelling? Can the purpose of the story remain the same when its method of construction is so different?

To explore these questions, let’s consider one of the best known stories in our society and one that is particularly relevant at this time of year – the story of the Nativity.

This 2000 year old story has been passed through the generations in countless forms…as Scripture, as a picture book, as lyrics in a Christmas Carol, as a script for a play, as an oral story, as a poem.

The traditional retelling of the story is captured beautifully in the following video:

Now let’s consider the same story, co-created using social media:

The story features many types of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare and Ebay. The idea that upon the birth of Jesus the announcement is made publicly via Facebook, and that the ‘Like’ button is pressed literally thousands of times shows that with these new methods of communicating, there is not only immediacy, but widespread sharing.

Does the purpose or the meaning of the story change through the use of social media and 21st century technology?

Let’s listen to an expert’s opinion:

In short, no.  While the mode will continue to change, and more people may participate in creating and sharing, the art of storytelling will remain unchanged –  the purpose for telling the story will remain true, even when interpreted through different contexts, different modes and by audiences of varying sizes and experiences. The need to teach students about narrative and skilling students to be able to deconstruct texts and reconstruct them therefore remains vitally important. Indeed, Anstey and Bull argue that in an age of multimodal literacies, students must become skilled across an even broader range of texts, and be able to interpret meaning derived from the interplay of different media. This now forms part of the Australian Curriculum, which states that students are literate when they develop

 the skills to learn and communicate confidently at school and to become effective individuals, community members, workers and citizens. These skills include listening, reading, viewing, writing, speaking and creating print, visual and digital materials accurately and purposefully within and across all learning areas.

Therefore exposing students to stories delivered via a variety of modes and media, including social media and web technology such as depicted in these Nativity stories is an essential part of any literacy curriculum – and we can take comfort in the fact that the evolving relationship between story and technology will only enrich the ways we share and enjoy this essential part of human communication.

References:

Anstey, M., & Bull, G. (2010, June 4). Helping teachers to explore multimodal texts. Curriculum Leadership Journal |. Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/helping_teachers_to_explore_multimodal_texts,31522.html?issueID=12141

Krotoski, A. (2011, August 7).  Storytelling: digital technology allows us to tell tales in innovative new ways | Technology | The Observer . The Guardian . Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/aug/07/digital-media-storytelling-internet

Literacy. (2011, January 1). The Australian Curriculum v2.0  . Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Literacy

Schwingel, M. (2010, October 28). The Digital Story Of Nativity (Christmas 2.0) on Vimeo. Vimeo, Video Sharing For You. Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://vimeo.com/18123177

Shirky, C. (2009, June 1). Clay Shirky: How social media can make history | Video on TED.com. TED: Ideas worth spreading. Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history.html

Pauls Arts and Media. (2010, December 13). The Christmas Story (HD version)      – YouTube  . YouTube – Broadcast Yourself.  . Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zduwusyip8M

TEDtalksDirector. (2011, November 23). Joe Sabia: The technology of storytelling      – YouTube  . YouTube – Broadcast Yourself.  . Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkZtRzc9rFQ

Social Media and the Professional Learning Community – Networks, Collaboration & Communication

The research has been clear and consistent for over 30 years—collaborative cultures in which teachers focus on improving their teaching practice, learn from each other, and are well led and supported by school principals result in better learning for students. Fullan, M. (n.d.). Learning is the Work. Retrieved from http://www.michaelfullan.ca/

As life grows more complex, so too does education. The role of the teacher, once essentially an autonomous, well defined position, is now vast and continually changing. It is now impossible for a teacher to be engaging in best practice unless they are part of a supportive, informed and well developed network.

Whereas in the past this network, if it existed at all, was limited by time and space, the previous blog posts in this series on Social Media and Schools as Professional Learning Communities have shown that with the advent of tools such as Twitter, this need no longer be the case.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that collaborative cultures in schools improve student learning, and the presence of tools that allow these cultures to be developed in new and expansive ways, there continues to be reluctance to embrace the potential of online environments and social media. Richardson and Mancabelli suggest that this could be because this move challenges the structures in education that have been in place for as long as we can remember; letting go of our current notions of schooling to be open and interactive like never before may seem overwhelming.

This third and final blog post offers suggestions as to how to use a range of social media to enhance not only teachers’ learning networks, but also how schools may consider using social media to model constructive and positive communication within and beyond their immediate community.

Moving beyond the Twitterverse; Multiple Modes, Multiple Messages

Twitter is an excellent avenue for discovering new ideas, participating in online asynchronous dialogue and hearing about the latest educational trends and keynotes. It is, however, not the only tool that educators can use to broaden their personal learning network.

Linked In is growing in prominence as a networking tool for professionals. While it began as a place for business people to share a virtual summary of career highlights with potential employees, it is moving beyond this, to provide online discussion spaces for groups of like-minded educators, on topics such as 21st Century Education, Educational Leadership, Teacher Training and Curriculum Development. A search reveals 4,779 groups to choose from; and membership is drawn from around the world.

Diigo has been written about before on this blog, however it would be remiss not to mention it as a very active online learning community for educators. Not only a place to organise and store web links, Diigo provides spaces for collaboration, groups and the opportunity to discover new web links via email digests of the most recently saved websites.

Blogs are another tremendous source of up to date educational information. The drawback to them is that accessing each blog is time-consuming and blog authors post at irregular intervals. Time poor teachers are better off subscribing to a selection of blogs using an RSS Feedreader. The concept of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is actually really simple! Basically subscribing to blogs using RSS means each time a new post is uploaded, it will be sent to a central place, such as your Google Reader, so that they can be read from one location instead of going to each individual blog site. This video explains further.

Using Social Media to communicate as a school

Mark Sparvell, executive consultant in ICT capability and innovation at Principals Australia suggests that an entry point for schools who are keen to use Twitter or other social media is to begin by using it as a tool to connect the school with the wider community. He suggests looking at social media as a virtual school noticeboard, which communicates messages including staff and student achievements, reminders about special events, requests for assistance and updates on school sport scores.

Using social media allows the school to actively engage with the community in real time; updates are easy and quick to produce, making them ideal not only for distributing information, but for responding to questions and issues if and when they arise.

Ferriter, Ramsden and Sheninger suggest that schools look to how businesses have positioned themselves within the social media context, and to explore how this channel of communication may allow for more authentic representations of the school’s ‘brand’; by removing the formality of newsletters and opening up a two way mode that emphasises the shared aims of the school and its community.

They also suggest that schools ‘start small’. Twitter allows users the option to lock their accounts, so that only those who are ‘followers’ may see the posts made. This useful feature also means that the school can control who follows them – each request must be moderated and approved before they can be included. Steps on how to protect your Tweets in this way may be found on the Twitter help centre page.

Modelling positive use of social media in this way not only demonstrates the school’s willingness to communicate with its stakeholders, it also shows an openness to learn and interact within the online world – a world within which an increasing number of students operate daily.

Thanks to Langwitches; http://www.flickr.com/photos/langwitches/3458534773/sizes/z/in/photostream/ AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved

Education in the form that we have today was developed when knowledge was scarce, and communication channels limited. When learning could only occur in the presence of an individual who held all knowledge, it made sense to create institutions where a fixed curriculum could be delivered to age-grouped classes, and to measure ‘mastery’ via tests of content knowledge.

Today, knowledge is not scarce, and individuals have access to multiple communication channels. This has significant implications for education. Not only does it mean that the role of teachers must change, it also means that for schools to be considered professional learning communities, they must orient themselves within the wider world beyond the classroom walls.

“Increasingly, those who use technology in ways that expand their global connections are more likely to advance, while those who do not will find themselves on the sidelines. With the growing availability of tools to connect learners and scholars all over the world — online collaborative workspaces, social networking tools, mobiles, voice-over-IP, and more — teaching and scholarship are transcending traditional borders more and more all the time.”

2009 Horizon Report

References:

Ferriter, W. M., Ramsden, J. T., & Sheninger, E. C. (2011). Communicating and connecting with social media. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press.

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). Personal learning networks: using the power of connections to transform education. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press.

2009 Horizon Report .  Retrieved October 23, 2011, from http://wp.nmc.org/horizon2009/

Social Media and Schools as Professional Learning Communities: Building Your Personal Network with Twitter

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

Twitter; is it really only the domain of B-Grade celebrities and those who wish to share the endless minutiae of their lives? We have all heard of or seen that little blue bird, but did you realise that Twitter is a powerful communication tool and vast source of information?  What’s more, we as educators can harness this mode of social media to transform our ways of working.

What is Twitter?

Put simply, Twitter is a form of social network that requires members to share their information in succinct posts of 140 characters or less. Also known as microblogging, Twitter members post ‘tweets’ online which are then shared by members of their network, known as ‘followers’. Who you follow determines the quality of your Twitter experience. Following celebrities will provide a wealth of inane, self-interested posts – but following educational experts will result in tips about useful websites, upcoming educational trends and links to quality digital resources.

How can Twitter help you work smarter not harder?

As educators we are constantly trading in information and advice. In the past, this information and advice was sourced from friends on staff, peers in specialist subject areas (for secondary school teachers), professional associations and more formal systemic networking groups. Accessibility limits this model of learning network. The power of Twitter is that it places the teacher at the centre of a network to which all parts are equally accessible. What’s more, teachers who use Twitter can access not only traditional sources of information, but also the expertise and advice of internationally renowned experts from across many fields within and beyond education. Research has identified six ‘common patterns of participation’ for users of Twitter:

  1.  Sharing Knowledge and Resources – sharing links to blogs, images or video clips of interest.
  2. Monitoring Educational New Sources – sourcing professional readings and research
  3. Digitally Attending Important Conferences – sharing thoughts and reflections from professional development sessions or conferences.
  4. Encouraging Reflection – engaging in a reflective conversation with others
  5. Gathering Instant Feedback – turning to Twitter as the first point of call when needing answers about their practice
  6. Mentoring Colleagues – turning to Twitter to find a digital mentor for yourself or a peer. (From Ferriter, W. M., Ramsden, J. T., & Sheninger, E. C. (2011). Communicating and Connecting with Social Media. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press.)

The opportunity to share knowledge and resources, attend conferences ‘virtually’, mentor and be mentored, all for no cost and at any time is open to all educators; here’s how you can take full advantage of what Twitter has to offer:

Birds of a Feather Tweet Together – The Twitter ‘How To’ Guide.

Step 1: Sign up for a Twitter account.  Log on to www.Twitter.com and join.  Twitter provides excellent assistance if you experience any difficulty – check out https://support.twitter.com/groups/31-twitter-basics for easy to understand instructions. Consider using your real name for your Twitter handle. Although privacy online is always important, if you are using Twitter purely as a professional learning network, it is easier for others to find and follow you if you use your real name; and building your network is one of the key purposes for using Twitter in this way. Step 2: Find people to follow. There is no pressure to begin ‘tweeting’ immediately. Ease into Twitter slowly by following some key educationalists, and become familiar with how they frame their posts, and the type of information they share. Once you have followed one or two people, you can expand your network by viewing who they follow. It is likely they follow people with similar interests. If you don’t know where to begin, check out this list of great Teacher Tweeps to get you on your way.. Step 3: Learn some hash tags! Twitter uses the hash symbol (#) to identify key words used in Tweets. When a user is tweeting about a particular topic, the use of a hash tag means it will be easier to search for this post at a later date. Many educational conferences now have a conference hash tag, so that users can follow the tweets made by participants attending – an example is #iste12 – the hash tag for the upcoming ISTE Conference in San Diego in 2012. Already people are posting ideas for their conference presentations! Other great hash tags for educators getting started with Twitter include: #Edtech – tweets to do with technology in the classroom #education – tweets to do with education #edchat – a weekly discussion about all things education (discussions on Twitter that occur at an appointed time are often called ‘TweetMeets’. #teachmeet – connecting teachers all over the world #ozteachers – Australian teacher chat Step 4: Manage your posts. The number of tweets may seem overwhelming at first. A useful way of managing Twitter is to download an application such as Tweetdeck which interfaces with Twitter, and allows you to organise your searches so that they are easily viewable. You can download it free here: http://www.tweetdeck.com/ Tweetdeck looks like this: (click on the image to view a larger version) So take advantage of the world of Twitter. There is no expectation that you become an expert immediately – and you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you can learn from your own professional learning network, that you have drawn from around the world! If you would like to entice your staff to think about joining Twitter; download this cute poster that outlines the 6 common patterns of Twitter participation: twitter blog poster 1 If you would like to follow the authors of this post, we can be found at @KayC28 and @BenvanTrier.