28 July 2012

You, Me and Social Networks

I tweet, I facebook, I G+; I waltz through social networks, a digital dance of social networking.

Or is it a social waltz?

And how social are we on social networks?

Although I actually do tweet and have a facebook account as well as being on G+, I do wonder how our students manage their identity and safety on social networks. Are we talking to each other, to one another or merely about ourselves?

Consider the following:

Psychology of Social Networking

I use social networks primarily for professional reasons; increasingly, young people use social networks for socializing. As they spend more and more time interacting online, they also need to know more about digital footprints, keeping safe from cyberbullies and other possible interactions which may come to harm them or later regret. 

Some further suggestions for E-safety include the following:

Protecting Reputations Online  - videos by Common Craft

A Platform for Good - for families, teachers and learners

Broken Friendship - more videos based on real-life stories 

What other sites would you recommend? Are we really obsessed by ourselves or with social media?

26 July 2012

Web Time

I have recently spent a month in Nepal, mostly offline owing to electricity cuts and lack of internet access. Initially I was overcome by the strangeness of digital silence, of not being able to log on, to connect, to update on a regular basis, as is my daily custom. Nevertheless the silence from the digital world, accompanied by the stark educational realities I daily encountered in Nepal, provoked questions and hypotheses I was not immediately ready to answer. 

As such, my questioning and hypothetic answers remain in progress. My mind hovers on the needs we have established today in our routines and classrooms. Does digital education really improve motivation? Does digital education in fact develop cognitive development? How is it that learners in developing countries still manage to succeed in education when there is no digital connection easily at hand?

Accompanied by such questions, I also considered what digital elements surround us, what digital activities our learners engage in and the steps it takes to move away from mere digital noise to creating dynamic digital learning environments - for as many teachers know, learners may be savvy with social networking (e.g. Facebook) and texting, but how to cross the bridge to make them understand that they can use the digital world for learning as well? Are we able to distinguish what digital references really foster learning or are we engulfed in a world of apps for fun and other possible digital wastes of time?

In no way would I deny my students the open world of digital learning, with all the tools available for creative learning, critical thinking skills and so much more. However, reflecting on time one spends on the web today, let me share this infographic:

Where do your students find themselves? How do they spend their time on the web? When is a teacher crossing the line of public into private spheres when he/she wishes to know the answers to these questions more clearly?

Reading online is a major skill today and The Book  Genome Project is an excellent place for learners to begin exploring books, with Book Lamp , the accompanying site to browse for authors and genres. 

And of course, it is not only reading skills that the web helps us with - writing is another of the major skills that learners need to constantly develop. 

Writing Prompts is a great site of inspiration for both teachers and learners, offering a variety of writing prompts for essays and stories. Learners can even create their own writing prompts to exchange with another class, thus making the writing process more interesting as later they can read the other class's writings. 

Data may never sleep and time certainly does not slow down. Summer days will turn into new classrooms and faces before one realizes that summer holidays are over. Interactive Postcards  by ReadWriteThink, is a positive way to begin writing activities while bringing back summer memories that can be shared and enjoyed. 

Web time. One of my goals for next academic year is to encourage students to spend more time on productive web time, to instill the perception of  web time as a learning environment and not just an appendix to classroom tasks. 

What are your objectives for your coming academic year?

1 July 2012

Transliteracy - For Those Who Dare

"The words of the language as they are originally spoken don’t seem to play any role at all in my mechanism of thought. The elements of my thought are certain signs, or more or less clear images, which in my case are of a visual and sometimes of a muscular type. The combination of these different images in productive thought is what enables me to make progress before there is any connection with logical construction in words or any other sign that could be communicated to others." - Einstein

 Creativity often seems to be elusive, the privilege of a few individuals, a chimera sought after yet intangible.  Rightly or wrongly, it is my belief that imagination plays a significant role in learning - consider how young children learn as they role-play and are swept away by their fertile imagination. The world is theirs, open, fluid, unfettered by "no, that is not possible". 

I sometime wonder where one loses that gift - is it at school? Or does one learn how to keep quiet, to keep one's imagination to oneself in order of self-preservation and to avoid public mockery?

Rememori is a different kind of game. Created by  Christine Wilks , players need to first select a character and then match the questions and answers which appear on their screen. 

In the words of the Christine Wilks, "Rememori is a degenerative memory game and playable poem that grapples with the effects of dementia on an intimate circle of characters.""

Games too hold elements of poetry, teaching one the fragilities of life. 

88 Constellations for Wittgenstein begins by asking viewers to play with their left hand. There are constellations to connect, constellations to listen to. Definitely one of the most creative sites I have recently come across. 

These sites may not suit all learners. Like everything else in life, all depends on context and how far one wishes to expand one's mind. 

Our world has become transliteral, mixing images, thoughts, sounds, emotions, language, all mutating into creative hybridization.  Many of the tools and platforms you find here, are in fact teaching students to mix media, to use language, images and sound to create their own digital stories, their own digital traces of transliteracy. 

Take Image Spike , Foto Mix, and even Picle  (an App) as three example of playing with images to transform what was there.

Transliteracy is often defined as "the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks."



Features of our life today and part of our learners' world.

How do you encourage learners to be transliteral?

IMAGINE: How Creativity Works from Flash Rosenberg on Vimeo.

Further references:

crissxross - inspirational and where you can find more digital stories and digitally creative work

Libraries and Transliteracy - excellent source to begin understanding transliteracy