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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Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

I don’t think of myself as a gamer.  I have been known to play lots of those Flash-based Facebook games with my Candy Crush Saga friends, and occasionally a great puzzle-based novella will come along like Gabriel Knight 2,  Syberia or Ripper that I devour, but generally I didn’t think they were a big part of my life.  After reading just part 1, Why Games Make Us Happy, of McGonigal’s book, I started feeling that I could admit that I play Plants vs. Zombies and Game of Thrones Ascent almost every day!  Now that I’ve read McGonigal’s book completely, I know that it’s cool to be a gamer and I really want to believe that a game designer will win a Nobel Prize someday.

 

In Part II Reinventing Reality, McGonigal really opens up on the topic of how games can change our education system for the better.  I’m really intrigued with the idea of the game-based education being offered by Quest to Learn (p. 128). A very real challenge of my current position is to develop my staff’s comfort and skills with 21st century learning which largely focuses on digital fluency.  However, there are constantly battles between our current system and the growing desire from staff to collaborate and teach creatively.  The idea of redesigning the system from the ground up, the way that Quest to Learn has, is very appealing.  In hindsight, I know that the mindset of the administration and the staff has often been what held back change for the better design of our school and I wonder what kind of experiential learning the staff needs to help them grow in this direction.  We have a local company called Eagles Flight which worked with our department heads for one morning last January during exams, and essentially we played a quest game where we needed to get from one side of a desert to the other maximizing our resources, within a time limit and never having all the information we needed to play.  It was really fun!  Was it transformational?  No but it helped us to bond and gave us lots of fuel for good discussion for the rest of the day.

 

Having spent 5 years as a teacher-librarian now, one of the aspects of my job that I like best is how it gives me space to see the school as a whole system, and I can see the problem of the department silos.  At the risk of overglorifying the situation, I’m omniscient in a way that even the administration isn’t.  I’ve always enjoyed this role in my gaming experience as well, and was a big fan of many of the games McGonigal mentions in Part III, Chapter 14: Saving the Real World Together.  Besides Will Wright’s Sim City and The Sims, I was fascinated with the idea of Peter Molyneux’s game Black & White in which you need to make decisions for villagers based on moral quandaries. After reading McGonigal’s praise of the game, I dug out our old copy of Will Wright’s Spore and played through 4 levels with new appreciation for its design and trying to imagine what it would be really like to drop into the Ukraine, for example, and try to sort things out a bit. Maybe that’s the reason why I still like reality tv shows.  There’s a new one coming out this week called The Audience where 50 people make a life-changing decision for someone.  This experimentation in McGonigal’s “Saving the Real World Together” of taking a long view, practicing ecosystems thinking, and pilot experimentation (p. 297-98) are exactly the tools that I think we need our graduates to have exposure to.  One of the first computer games I remember loving is Lemonade Stand, where I simulated making a lemonade stand profitable based on fluctuating weather predictions and costs of lemon and sugar.  If I could remake school today, I’d start by making every single assignment follow McGonigal’s Saving the Real World criteria.  I might not be able to reconstruct my school into a Quest to Learn environment, but I can advocate for these 3 aspects in teaching design and that gives me hope that my influence will help save the world.  I suppose I need to see this through for the epic win.

Overall, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World is a game-changer (excuse the pun).  I’ve started a Twitter List called Epic Winners that includes all sorts of people who are using games for positive change and deeper meaning inside schools and beyond.  It even lead me to find a library game that I’d like to try out called (what else?) Librarygame.   This isn’t the first time I’ve thought “I wish I could give a little surprise to a student who signs out the same book twice, or has signed out 10 books this year, or returns everything on time”.  Even if it was just a virtual badge to add to their student e-portfolio, I think they would appreciate it.  I know I would.

References

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

 

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Storify: CaneLearn summit for K-12 Online & Blended Learning

Presentation: Redefining reading for Milennials

I start off trying to set context for 4 variables in redefining reading: reader, user, hardware and software using myself as the reader/user.  Then I add in various perspectives on how digital reading is changing reading and finally I suggest that teachers and teacher-librarians can play a key role in levelling the playing field for all students.

I’ve presented this just about three times now: at #ECOO13, at the UGDSB Literacy Symposium, and this week at the OLA Superconference 2014.

The link to my Prezi is here:

http://prezi.com/chvspkwmwjmy/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

and here is the link to the Google Doc that we co-construct during the presentation.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VS6zzHhZOOZ455Lme90ggMRY2QwLk8OxiTiBYDkoreQ/edit?usp=sharing

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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

Reading Development Software for the Secondary Struggling Reader

Currently in the Upper Grand District School Board, the installation and maintenance of all software is done at the board facility through a common image for secondary students. An additional need at my school is digital resources for the secondary struggling reader.  I define struggling reader as any student who is two levels below grade level in reading.  We are currently working on a system where we can develop diagnostic testing to find these students, offer remediation and track their progress. Within our school now, there are three populations of students that could benefit from this research:

  1. our at-risk grade 9 and 10 students who are struggling to stay engaged in school and reading is a barrier to learning
  2. our transitions students who come to ODSS with intellectual disabilities and an assortment of reading capabilities
  3. students who are attempting the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course, which means they have attempted and failed the mandatory Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test twice already

Our need for resources to help the struggling reader has become urgent.  A component that has yet to be found is any software that would support reading improvement in teens.  I would like to use the model of Raz-Kids (2012), a levelled software program for elementary students, that is online.  To improve on the Raz-Kids model, the software should be adaptive to the user and increase in difficulty as the student shows readiness.  Teachers subscribe and create a class account and then give each student an account which is accessible from any internet connection.  I would then advocate that the software become part of our image through our catalogue and online subscriptions database.  Software in general is best catalogued in our school using the title as an access point.

Overview of the investigation process

Educational print resources seem much easier to locate, and general software is easier to find.  Combining both the ideas of educationally designed and digital resources was complicated.  Adding in the specificity of the age group of our struggling readers, was a further challenge.  I relied heavily on Chapter 6 of  the Bishop (2013) textbook for guidance in how to maintain focus.  Most review sources focused heavily on elementary students and often they simply lead me to the companies that made the software to see if a secondary school program had been created.  The databases at the University of Alberta library lead me to three review sources.  Then I focused on two strategies of web searching using government bodies of licensed software and iPad apps.

I was first turned on to the idea of scaffolded reading software when my son, Max, came home with his Raz-Kids (2012) software login in September 2012.  Then I discussed the program with my colleague, Rita Baran, who is piloting a reading recovery for grade 9 students.  Rita’s success has seen students improve by up to 4 reading levels in one semester which gives the students tremendous confidence about their other classes.  Next I visited my colleague Maddie Davis, who works with a Transitions Skills class.  Maddie visits the library weekly with her class to investigate new reading materials.  They read in the library and both Maddie and I are interested in other ways that the library can be used to support this group of students.  Finally, I visited my colleague Deb Schaner, the Head of Student Success, who deals with our most at-risk students.  Deb’s greatest challenge is identifying and supporting students as they enter our school.  Research into types of resources for each of the aforementioned populations of students, and to help these colleagues, is a necessary but challenging prospect.  

Selection tools

  1. Journal of Research on Technology in Education

International Society for Technology in Education (Ed.). (2013). Journal of Research on Technology in Education. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/journals/jrte
The ISTE Journal of Research on Technology in Education “publishes articles that report on original research, project descriptions/evaluations, syntheses of the literature, assessments of the state of the art, and theoretical or conceptual positions that relate to the field of educational technology in teaching and learning” (2013).  Very often, the articles chosen review pieces of software in relation to a teaching or learning challenge.  

  1. Tech & Learning magazine

NewBay Media (Ed.). (2012). Tech & Learning. Retrieved from http://www.techlearning.com/index

“For over 30 years, Tech & Learning has served the K-12 education community with practical resources and expert strategies for transforming education through integration of digital technologies” (2012).  Tech & Learning focuses on successful implementation of information technology in educational settings. It not only talks about software for learning, it recommends strategies for teaching.

  1. Teaching Exceptional Children

Council for Exceptional Children (Ed.). (2012). Teaching Exceptional Children. http://journals.cec.sped.org/tecplus/

Published six times per year, Teaching Exceptional Children focuses on practical methods for teaching children with the full range of exceptionalities.  Reviews of software happen in the context of articles exploring successful implementation of teaching strategies for this specific group of learners.  

  1. Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee

Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee (Ed.). (2008). Bulletin Board. Retrieved February 2, 2013, from OSAPAC/CCPALO website: http://www.osapac.org/cms/index

OSAPAC is “the committee that advises the Ministry on software titles to negotiate for provincial licensing” (2013).  Besides their role as advisors, the committee maintains a website with an excellent searchable spreadsheet of licensed software.

  1. I Educational Applications Review

Meech, S. (Ed.). Learning A – Z levelled readers by Kathy Burdick. Retrieved February 2, 2013, from IEAR.org: I Educational Applications Review website: http://www.iear.org/

Licensed under the Creative Commons, iEAR.org is dedicated to collaborative contributions from educators and students on the effectiveness of mobile applications for education.  Although the responses aren’t based on formal research, the variety of contributions in the form of blogs, wiki discussions and community discussions is like a consumers report from multiple perspectives.

Recommended Resources

  1. Read 180

Scholastic. (2013). Read 180 Instructional Software [online]. Scholastic.

Read 180 meets many requirements of the ideal software for teenage struggling readers.  It is online, adaptive, and comes with print materials and professional support.  It is working on multiple platforms including ebooks and audiobooks.  

  1. Scientific Learning Reading Assistant software

Scientific Learning Corporation. (2013). Reading Assistant [Online]. Oakland,
CA: Scientific Learning Corporation.

Reading Assistant is for students who are building fluency, comprehension skills and vocabulary.  The software listens to the student read aloud and helps with prompts when difficulty arises.  The program maintains records to monitor progress for the student and teacher.

  1. Reading & Writing Achievement 4.1

Nectar Learn. (2013). Reading and Writing Achievement (Version 4.1) [Computer
software on CD-ROM]. Markham, Canada: SVT Education Services Inc.

Reading & Writing Achievement is designed to improve reading and writing skills of grade 10 students in Ontario who are about to take their mandatory literacy test, or to help improve the skills of students who have been unsuccessful in previous attempts.  It is licensed for all public schools in the province of Ontario through OSAPAC.

  1. Merit Software

Merit Software. (2013). Reading Skill Builder [Online]. New York, NY: Merit Software.

Reading Skill Builder is one choice of many from Merit.  It is designed to target reading in the late elementary levels but with high interest material suitable for teens to adults.  

  1. RAPS 360 – Reading Diagnostic

MindPlay Educational Software for Reading Instruction. (2013). RAPS 360 [Online].

RAPS 360 – Reading Diagnostic software uses a variety of tests to quickly determine a baseline reading level of students.  It can then recommend groupings of students based on commonalities including comprehension and vocabulary.  It can easily print reports, track progress and make recommendations for interventions.  Previous MindPlay products have won numerous awards including those from the Council of Exceptional Children and the International Society for Technology in Education.

References

Bishop, K. (2013). Selection. In Library and Information Science Text Series: The collection program in schools: Concepts and practices (5th ed., pp. 45-70). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Learning A – Z. (2012). Raz-Kids [Online software]. Tucson, AZ: Learning A – Z.

 

The quest for self-selection

The truth is that the technology within my library is not self-selected.  We have 44 desktops, 7 netbooks and these have all been purchased by the board.  The software on the desktops is controlled by the board as well.  So while I can tell people my opinion on hardware and software choices for students, I don’t have any purchasing power to make these wishes come true. Currently, teachers sign out the use of these dinosaur-like devices in a paper book that is housed inside the library, and too often I have nothing to do with their class when they’re using these devices.  I wrestle with these slights on my professional achievement every moment of every working day.  I liberate myself away from the muck inside the library computer lab as often as possible by teaching in other people’s functional labs elsewhere in the school.

I could wallow in the misery of my #firstworldproblems.  Instead, I’d like to focus on what the future of my library should like. My husband Tim is the head of technology at his school and my earliest influencer in selecting tech.  He and I have been working on our vision of technology in education (his forte) and how to implement digital fluency in staff and students (my forte).  This year Tim presented at the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario conference this Prezi http://prezi.com/u26blkzyzodh/byod-the-minilab-digital-mastery/.  We both firmly believe that no one device or even one method for mastering digital fluency is going to work for all learners.  Instead he proposes a graduated program moving these learners from computer labs full of desktops with software that has been decided for them to portable mini-labs full of mobile devices to BYOD.  I believe that the library is the key component to making this system work.  Here’s how it would work if I could:

http://youtu.be/K3R9d0skIAM

Dresang (2008) refers to the change we’re seeing optimistically calling it an “era of synergy of digital and print media” (p. 301).   Henry Jenkins (2006) describes this as a “convergence culture”.  I see this era as a kind of digital infancy where we are renegotiating the culture of education as we move from print text to multimedia texts; from consumers to creators.

My frustration generally stems from the change not happening fast enough.  I’m not alone in my angst.  Wendy Stephens (2012) says that “Any school library considering the electronic transition will have to make some decisions about the purpose of connecting students with a particular text” (p. 43).  Call me cautious, but I won’t buy into an e-reader system (with my diminishing budget) because I don’t have access to the digital content that would best suit my learners.  Canadian educational publishers aren’t making e-texts that are robust enough to serve the dynamic change needed in classrooms today.  Hardware manufacturers aren’t making devices that are robust enough for the constant manipulation of their flimsy bits.  There seem to be ridiculous arguments about proprietary work and an outsourcing of all manufacturing of hardware that makes it prohibitively overpriced and short-lived.

Until education can drive the needs of hardware, software and each of these can adapt to the user’s needs, then I won’t be satisfied.  Until reading is a completely immersive experience, one that equals the excitement that a gamer feels while socializing in a virtual world, whether that be fantastical, historical or futuristic, I won’t be satisfied.  Until learning in a digital world is driven by the user, adapted to the reader and access to current Canadian content is the priority, I won’t buy in.  Until my library can be both reliable and flexible, I will continue to search for better solutions.  The quest for this satisfaction is what gets me up in the morning.

References

Dresang, E. T. (2008). Radical change revisited: Dynamic digital age books for youth.Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 8(3).

Jenkins, H. (2006).  “Welcome to Convergence Culture.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. http://henryjenkins.org/2006/06/welcome_to_convergence_culture.html

King, T. (2012).  “BYOD, the minilab & digital mastery.” http://prezi.com/u26blkzyzodh/byod-the-minilab-digital-mastery/

Stephens, W.S. (January/February 2012). “Deploying ereaders without buying ebooks.” Knowledge Quest 40, 3. 40-43.