#BIT15Reads: Interview with author Clive Veroni

Today at 5:00 pm ET Clive Veroni joins me to discuss his book Spin

Veroni’s book Spin revolves around the idea that modern media marketing has completely changed politics and business practices from autocratic to democratic….much the same way that education is moving.

There are so many things that Clive said that both reaffirm and challenge by beliefs in what I try to do in school each day.  In the book and the interview I tried to get Clive to talk about his own creative process and he shockingly says he doesn’t have a process!  In fact approaching each challenge in his marketing work with a fresh perspective is a strength which he uses all the time.  As I suspected through Clive’s own writing, he has a deep relationship with literature, art and beauty which helps him in non-linear problem solving.  It is refreshing to hear how much his arts education background has helped him with the empathy-building and narrative-constructing that he requires on a daily basis.

Final words, dear reader:  You need to read this book.

Revisiting Treasure Mountain 2014

I need to start off this blog post by once again speaking to the imbalance I experience in blogging itself.  Try as I might, I sometimes take years to process an experience or a reading and I find it really challenging to write regularly.  Today is no exception and I’d like to revisit an experience I had in May 2014 called Treasure Mountain Canada.  Treasure Mountain is a research retreat of school libraries and I’ve attended 2 of them…one in Connecticut in November 2013, and one in Victoria, BC where I presented my M.Ed. capping paper on Transliteracy.

Today we are trying to recreate the experience for the participants at the annual Ontario Library Association conference in Toronto.  To give you some background, there is no better place to start than with Anita Brooks-Kirkland’s blog of the Treasure Mountain experience last May.  The audience at Treasure Mountain is small but extremely diverse … there are major stakeholders in school libraries present.

In the week leading up to today, the revisiting of Treasure Mountain, I have really enjoyed going over my own thought process from January 2014 to May 2014, and I’m glad I was so visible in my thinking about it.  One of my favourite elements to revisit was a Google Hangout experiment where, as part of the capping paper requirements, I needed to present my ideas to a public audience.  I knew Treasure Mountain was coming up in May but wanted to make the experience as authentic as possible.  So….in true transliteracy fashion, I arranged via social media to make a Google Hangout to present my 20 slides and ask my authentic audience of educators some seriously deep questions about implementing transliteracy.  I considered editing this down to something manageable, but at the risk of appearing self-indulgent, here is the whole messy experience.  For at least 3 of the participants, it was their first Google hangout.

Joining me in this video are Kimberley Flood, Kevin Greenshields, Robin Feick, Kathy Inglis, Tim King, Peter McAsh, Daniel Beylerian and Heather Leatham.

As most of you are well aware from your own experiences, I learn a lot each time I present new material, and this time was no different.  Looking back at that experience, I realize now that sometimes I need a big push to try these things.  Reflecting on that idea alone, isn’t that what I ask the staff and students at my school to do every day?  One of my drama students a few years ago said, as she was fearfully preparing to take the stage, “I just need to put my big girl pants on and do it.”  Everytime I feel fearful of risk-taking, or worn out by being a change agent, I say to myself, “Just put your big girl pants on and do it.”  There are times during this presentation where I’m just giddy with happiness of the sharing and comraderie I experienced as I struggled through it.  Treasure Mountain itself, is just like that….a bunch of experienced and knowledgeable people coming together to share and loving the sharing.  I always feel energized and motivated by experiences like this.  This is the reason I’m addicted to supporting my own professional development.

Is it possible to be proactive when technology and the use of social media sites changes so quickly?

A colleague of mine asked me this question today.  Here’s my reply:

I think it is possible to be proactive with technology and social media, because I think the growth of social networking is plateauing.  In preparation for our group assignment on games, I have come across this business researcher, Seth Priebatsch, who says:

For those of you still trying to wrap your head around the meteoric rise of social networking over the past decade, this post might hurt a little bit. Because just as you and most of the world were getting a handle on it, the decade of social abruptly ended.

I don’t mean that we will stop using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to share with our friends, colleagues and families. In fact, quite the opposite is true, our combined usage of these social networks will continue to increase. Rather, the decade of constructing the social layer is complete. The frameworks that we’ll use to share socially are built, defined and controlled. Construction on the social layer ended with the launch of Facebook’s Open Graph protocols over the last several months. All the interesting social stuff that will occur over the next decade (and there’ll be lots, I’m sure), will exist within this predefined framework built and controlled by Facebook. In short, the decade of social is over.

What’s taking its place? The decade of games.

I really believe that we are at the end of a cultural infancy with the onset of social networks and that this is as bad as it’s going to get.  Anyone anywhere can take a picture of anything with a miniscule camera and have it on the internet in nanoseconds.  “Privacy is dead.  How can it possibly get any worse?”  I heard CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi say those exact words at our library conference a couple of years ago.  Here’s one of his podcasts on the topic: http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2012/04/27/is-facebook-watching-you/

Now is our time as parents and educators to take a stand against inappropriate behaviour and to demand that the privacy of each person remains with that person.  If I ask you not to take a picture, you stop. (In my case, I don’t allow any pictures of my double-chin or with a drink in my hand to be posted.)  If I ask you to remove a picture, you stop.  At the same time, we know that this instant fame is also affecting behaviour in a positive way.  Remember the Vancouver riots and the consequences for these young people?

http://youtu.be/4VzOUKODdZ4

With the plateauing of social networks, our school boards, our unions, and the law need to  negotiate some very strict cultural and legal guidelines to protect us. To not take this crucial step, leaves us, as I said earlier, unprepared for the consequences of social networking.

It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens by danah boyd

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked TeensIt’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Throughout danah boyd’s “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens”, I’m very satisfied with the level of sophistication of boyd’s research and unbiased point of view in her writing.  Her tone is academic, professional and at the same time, approachable.  The three areas that most concerned me during my reading are boyd’s research on the digital divide, online teen behaviour of sexual exploration and her plea for the redefinition of crimes associated with online bullying.

I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with Marc Prensky’s phrase “digital natives” (2005/06) and I am reassured by boyd’s acknowledgement of her own awareness and skepticism of this blanket term.  boyd (2014) talks of social networking as a type of literacy and warns that “It is dangerous to assume that youth are automatically informed.  It is also naive to assume that so-called digital immigrants have nothing to offer.” (p. 177).  boyd also goes on to say that since teens are in many cases left to fend for themselves in networked environments, that their exposure to becoming fully literate depends on many factors.  She references Henry Jenkins and his thoughts on the subject:

Yet, talk of “digital natives” may also mask the different degrees access to and comfort with emerging technologies experienced by different youth. Talk of digital natives may make it harder for us to pay attention to the digital divide in terms of who has access to different technical platforms and the participation gap in terms of who has access to certain skills and competencies or for that matter, certain cultural experiences and social identities” (2007).

This paragraph amplifies my own worries that this simple term has excused the education system’s lack of action in lessening the digital divide.  I’m certain that we still promote the use of technology in the classroom as a tool of engagement, rather than seeing becoming proficient with technology as a fundamental requirement for graduation.

In the Ontario curriculum, at least, there is no single mandatory place where students are given a number of digital strategies for studying success, although we know there are consistent issues in any student’s level of preparedness.  Again, in Ontario, technology is not a mandatory part of the elementary curriculum and so students come to secondary with an almost insurmountable range of disparities in their digital backgrounds based on the interest and abilities of their elementary teachers and their home environments with varying degrees of hardware support and exposure.  Along the same lines of boyd’s concerns, Jenkins (2007) goes on to say:

Talking about digital natives also tends to make these changes all about digital media rather than encouraging us to think about the full range of media platforms which shape the world around us or for that matter, the complex set of relationships between old and new media that characterize convergence culture.

This sentence has been the basis of my learning in the TLDL program at the U of A, where I now understand that the crux of my position is to raise the bar for transliteracy for both staff and students. (King, 2014)

A large part of the digital divide that I know teachers are having trouble improving is the use of networked communities to help students.  In many ways administration fears of privacy and legalities have closed the networks for their possible misuses, meanwhile eliminating all possible positive ones.  Although I have concerns for all of our students, I have a particular worry about the LGBTQ population that are getting their information from unreliable sources when they desperately need support as they renegotiate social spaces.  The anecdotes from boyd’s research reassured me that LGBTQ teens are finding each other online and developing supportive communities.  However, boyd warns that “They are grappling with battles that adults face, but they are doing so while under constant surveillance and without a firm grasp of who they are.  In short, they’re navigating one heck of a cultural labyrinth” (p. 53).  I wish that the education system could find or create places, possibly in tandem with social support structures, where teens could create networks to reliable information.  I wish there was a way we could better support this.  I’m not sure what the answer is.

One of boyd’s research topics that particularly affected me is cyberbullying and the complexities in these cases.  Within boyd’s Chapter 5 on Bullying, she references the journalistic research work of Emily Bazelon who covered the case of Phoebe Prince, a teen victim of suicide and reportedly, cyber-bullying.  After linking to Bazelon’s extensive reporting on this case, I found that the law is responding with a variety of consequences to cyber-bullying and that because of the after-school, non-geographic locale of this bullying, that school boards have very little to offer to victims and bullies.  One of her final reports on the case revealed that in the case of Phoebe Prince, none of her aggressors were met with serious consequences.  Bazelon (2011) says:

After more than a year of covering this case, it’s hard for me to square that duty with the way these cases unfolded. “If you bully someone to death, that’s murder,” explained Joseph Kennedy, a criminal law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when I called him earlier this week. “But if you bully someone, and then they kill themselves, and that’s not something you anticipated, that’s not a crime.”

The digital divide is not just between economic classes and about developing transliteracy skills.  Boyd has revealed that the digital divide also includes how living and working as educators in this era of social networking we are not prepared for the consequences of these networks; and we are currently unable to model how to use social networks effectively.

References

Bazelon, E. (2011, May 25). It’s Over: None of the six teens charged in connection with the suicide of Phoebe Prince will go to jail. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/life/bulle/2011/05/its_over.html

boyd, D. (2014). It’s Complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven, MA: Yale University Press.

Jenkins, H. (2007, December 5). Reconsidering digital immigrants… [Blog post]. Retrieved from Confessions of an Aca-Fan website: http://henryjenkins.org/2007/12/reconsidering_digital_immigran.html

King, A. (2014, April 13). Transliteracy and the teacher-librarian [Blog post]. Retrieved from Threadbare Beauty website: https://threadbarebeauty.com/2014/04/13/transliteracy-and-the-teacher-librarian/

Prensky, M. (2005/2006). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4).

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Crowd sourcing Psycho using Twitter

[View the story “Crowd sourcing Psycho using #maODSS” on Storify]

Trying to teach about Hitchcock’s Psycho, how Twitter can be used for learning and improving the self-directedness of learning all at once in media arts using the Twitter hashtag #maODSS

Storified by Alanna King· Wed, Mar 06 2013 17:22:17

Testing Twitter with Teens

In case I haven’t said it enough, my interaction with Twitter over the past two years, has been life-altering in terms of how I have come to rely on my online professional learning network for support in my development as an educator.  I have been wishing to bring that same understanding to students, and I have had two opportunities recently to try it out.  Follow along with me as I dissect my social media experiments.

Experiment #1: Moderating discussion at a common viewing experience (Digital Native model)

In April, I was pleasantly surprised to get an email from the Student Success committee in our board who wanted a teacher to moderate the discussion between students and actors for the First Light Theatre company’s production of Dennis Foon’s play: War.  The project had merit because every secondary school in the board would receive sponsored busing to the event. I volunteered with two other teachers to give it a shot.  We had four days and eight performances.  The three of us met chez moi for a couple hours to strategize. Various social media tools were suggested including Today’s Meet, Facebook and Twitter. Our only devices we were counting on and carrying were cellphones.  We weren’t even sure of our internet connection in the theatre space and if a projected backchannel feed would be appropriate. So that eliminated Today’s Meet, which isn’t a phone app and requires a solid Internet connection to constantly refresh.  We were aware of making teachers and students comfortable with online interaction in adherance with the Ontario College of Teachers Professional Advisory. We created a Facebook group, which was open, but still required students to request admission.  This was our downfall as students couldn’t check out was in the group before getting interested enough to request admission.  Only nine people joined the group, and seven of those were teachers.  Fail.

We also created a Twitter hashtag: #fltwar.  This too only had moderate success. Even when bribed with candy students showed little response.

Probable reasons for experiment failure:

  1. Students were told to leave their cellphones at school.
  2. The theatre wouldn’t give us access to their wireless so students didn’t want to use their limited dataplans.
  3. Students and teachers weren’t expecting to use cellphones in this way.
  4. Students without cellphones were left out.
  5. Students had no prior knowledge of the play so weren’t prepared with questions.

Experiment #2: Moderating discussion at a Q & A with a panel of experts (Teachers as 21st century tools model)

A class set up a panel of speakers to discuss mental health with teens.  The attendance was voluntary, and we knew who would be attending.  We invited both struggling teens and role model teens.  I created the hashtag #mhodss 2 weeks beforehand and made time to spend 30 minutes with each of the attending groups to explain Twitter and to talk about appropriate use.  The most asked question I was asked was “How do you know what to say?” So we even practiced saying something like “I’m very curious as to how Twitter will be used at #mhodss” or “I’m looking forward to #mhodss”.  We talked about the difference between following a teacher or tweeting to the hashtag.  On the day of the event, we used a projector screen not for the presentation, but for the backchannel.  We alternated between just showing the hashtag feed during peak Twitter times and using Another Tweet On the Wall.  We relied on Twitter for stimulating and redirecting discussion.  The topics involved with mental health were very personal, and Twitter gave a sense of anonymity to users.  We even had senior, leadership students offer to tweet for other group members, if they were too shy to ask a question. Overall, we had an amazing Tweetup with about 100 tweets using the hashtag. There was only 1 questionable word (but it was used in context!) and no one complained about being uncomfortable.  In fact, I think the public nature of displaying tweets persuaded more participants to get involved.

Probable reasons for experiment success:

  1. Students were shown to be leaders of the event.
  2. Group members and teachers were cultured why and how to use Twitter for this purpose.
  3. Questions and responses to tweets were made live and this improved relevance.
  4. The topic was meaningful to students through pre-event discussions.
  5. We had great internet connection in the wireless library hub.
  6. Participants didn’t feel left out because they could read the feed as well as be interactive in the discussion.
  7. The event was made more social because of backchanneling.

Here is the complete Twitterfeed for this event, created by Tweetdoc.  Mental-Health-forum-at-ODSS

Conclusion:  Twitter is completely viable tool for backchanneling at school, but it does require work to make the experience feel accessible and safe for teachers; and worthwhile and meaningful for students.  In recognizing that neither teachers nor students felt comfortable with Twitter and our intent in the first experiment, the accommodations made in the second experiment directly impacted its success.