Monthly Archives: February 2012

School’s out Friday

This is John Green. He of ‘Looking for Alaska‘ fame. He of the number 1 position on the New York Times Bestseller list for Children’s chapter books right now for ‘The Fault in our Stars‘. He of ‘Vlogbrothers‘ fame on YouTube.

OK. Unless you’re a Teacher-Librarian you probably have no idea who John Green is. But if you watch this video, you’ll get a sense of the kind of guy he is. He’s fun. He writes novels that teenagers love. He’s an author who understands how to use social media well to engage a new kind of audience. He’s someone modeling the new ways people need to work now to generate readership and income. Worth taking notice of, and perhaps sharing his story with your students.

His Vlogbrothers work on YouTube is something he started with his brother Hank in 2007. It was a really interesting premise called Brotherhood 2.0.

Brotherhood 2.0 was a project created by John and Hank Green in 2007. It started on January 1st of that year with the premise that the brothers would cease all text-based communication for a year and instead converse by video blogs every weekday. The project was made available to the public via YouTube and on their Brotherhood 2.0 website.[2][3] On July 18, 2007, Hank Green uploaded a video of himself playing and singing his song “Accio Deathly Hallows” in honour of the seventh Harry Potter book. This video was the first Vlogbrothers video to make the front page of YouTube, and the starting point of the brothers’ success as vloggers. The project ended on December 31st, 2007, but due to their popularity the brothers continued making videos even after the final day had passed. Now Hank and John continue to create vlogs, but less frequently (every Tuesday and Friday, as of 2012).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlogbrothers

The video above is from the Vlogbrothers channel. If you like quirky stuff, tune in.

Big weekend ahead. My brother is getting married in my front garden on Sunday. So that means Saturday is dedicated to cleaning. Lucky me!

Enjoy your weekend – make the most of whatever comes your way. : )

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Storify your English classroom

Washington Post Storify

Washington Post Storify (Photo credit: cfpereda)

This year, I’m teaching Year 10 English. In our team discussions early on, we decided to apply some SAMR thinking to modify a task that was normally completed as a paper folio, with pictures pasted in and students adding their comments as handwritten text or something that was computer generated pasted in. Over the past year, I’ve used Storify to help compile tweets and thoughts from conferences I’ve attended.  Storify is a wonderful curation tool being used by journalists, newspaper organisations, noted figures from Social Media circles, and even the British Monarchy and The White House!

Our focus this term is a thematic study about power and greed, perfect as a lead in to out text study of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. We introduced Storify to our students, with the intention of them curating resources of their choosing that they feel link to this theme. Storify is pretty simple to use; you make your stories by accessing tools of the social web that are handily searchable in a sidebar and can be dragged into your story space. It’s best to see it in action, so take a look at this explanatory video.

The students have adopted it quickly and find it intuitive to use. We have asked them to provide explanations for their choices; they do this by adding text after each embedded resource. We have discovered that it doesn’t seem to work well with Internet Explorer (for those with PC’s), and I’ve been recommending they use the Chrome browser as it seems to save properly using this. Because we plan as a team, this means all of our Year 10 students are using Storify. We’re also using a Ning for discussion and as a place to store curriculum related videos, photos and links. From my perspective, that’s pretty good exposure to some very useful platforms. Both help these students gain a deeper understanding of communication tools that can be applied to other subject areas, and maybe even further, into their tertiary studies or working lives.

I can see us using Storify for other purposes throughout the school year. Our students need to study issues in the media, and it’s the perfect vehicle for the curation of an issue. Whenever you use a new application, there’s always the perceived danger that the kids might see it as passe after awhile. To me, an application like Storify is something that could be an essential part of any English classroom, just like the pen and paper or folio of old!

Our students have blogs they use as ePortfolios. I’m hoping the embed code you are provided with will work on their Edublog, otherwise we may try the export to WordPress method available. Edublogs is on a WordPress Multi User platform, so it may just work.

Obviously, Storify could be used in a myriad of classroom settings. Do explore it – I’m sure you will see the benefits. Just today, they released their Storify iPad app, so those of you with iPads in your classrooms will find it to be a fabulous addition as a creation tool. Sign up, play around with it yourself, and see just how easy it is. You’ll be a Storify convert before you know it.

 

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School’s out Friday

Here’s one of the commercials that was aired for the first time during the Super Bowl in America. It’s the new Volkswagon commercial, ‘The Dog Strikes Back‘, and it pays homage to the Darth Vadar commercial they aired last year. Take another look at that one (makes me laugh every time I see that kid jolt at the end!) and see if you think the new commercial holds its own against the newbie.

Now watch this. Your appreciation for ‘The Dog Strikes Back‘, will be heightened, when you see the effort that went into it’s creation. Bolt (the dog) is one truly impressive canine, and I was pleased to see it was his Australian Shepard heritage that was attributed to his impressive intelligence. ;) And how about the recreation of the Star Wars Cantina! Just how much money is committed to television commercials these days?

My appreciation for my soft pillow is what I’m looking forward to after a hectic working week. I’m off to a work colleague’s party tomorrow night and have to adhere to the 60’s clothing theme she’s prescribed. A visit to Savers tonight found me the unflattering attire I’ll adorn for the occasion, but I’m betting it’s going to be a lot of fun. I hope your weekend finds you having fun too, somewhere along the line.

Enjoy. : )

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Thank God it’s Saturday

OK, a departure from the norm. It’s the sign of a busy week when I don’t get a School’s out Friday post up. I just could not keep my eyes open last night, and now I’m feeling bad. So, for those of you with nothing to do on a Saturday night, here, for your viewing pleasure, is ‘Star Wars Uncut‘. All 2 hours and three minutes of it on YouTube. Casey Pugh was the mastermind behind this project, where members of the public were invited to create 15 seconds of footage fron Star Wars episode IV (you know, the good one, none of that episode I – III rubbish) all of which was then then edited to recreate the original film. It’s a celebration of creativity!

Enjoy the weekend. It’s 10.23pm here on Saturday night, and my eyes are closing again. Best get myself the sleep I need so I can face another busy week ahead. : )

 

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How do you deal with a world that is messy? danah boyd at RMIT.

I had the privilege this afternoon to listen to  danah boyd * deliver a talk entitled, ‘Privacy in Networked Publics’, at RMIT. danah is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, a Visting Researcher at Harvard Law School, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales. I’ve long admired danah’s work, and regularly read her blog, danah boyd | apophenia. If you’re looking to understand what teenagers are thinking about when it comes to their behaviours in social networks, then danah’s research findings are the place to start.

danah presents at a blistering pace, and I took copious notes along the way. I’m not going to recount all of what was said, and you’ll be able to check into the RMIT website to listen to the podcast yourself when it is loaded there in the very near future. What I will do is discuss some of the things she said that resonated with me.

danah described teenagers’ participation in social networks as ‘social grooming’. We are seeing our children form and sustain friendships in public spaces on the Internet. I can vouch for this. When I was a teenager, I was out and about with friends on the weekend and after school, and my friendships were formed in what were public spaces, but often private in terms of my parent’s knowledge of what I was doing. The same can’t be said for my own children. They are home a lot of the time, escorted to events and picked up by their parents. Their social lives are lived in large part in online spaces like Facebook and through games where they play online with other kids they know. One thing I’m not doing is friending them in their networks. We have open discussions about their participation and I hammer home the need for control of privacy settings, but I don’t look over their shoulders and peer deeply into their social lives. I respect their need for their own development. They will make mistakes, I’m quite sure of it, but that’s part of the learning curve of life I figure.   I know that I needed space to become my own person when I was a teenager, and they need the same.

danah talked of ‘bedroom culture’ being a feature of participation, and suggested it is a natural extension of what has always been. Once again, I could relate. The only space that was truly mine as a teenager was my room; it was where I practised the latest dance moves in front of the mirror, experimented with make-up, read, slept, did homework, and dumped my clothes all over the floor. It was where my friends and I went when they visited. It was my space and it was important to me. I watch my daughter and see similar patterns, especially the clothes all over the floor. She has a laptop and we have a wireless home connection. She spends time with her friends in online spaces in the environment that she owns. I respect her need to do that. It’s her space, and its important to her.

danah made some interesting points about kids she has interviewed who have their parents as friends on sites like Facebook. She talked of teenagers ‘hiding in plain sight’. One teenager’s comment was ‘everyone disappears after the Mum post’, referring to parents who reply to their kid’s status updates. danah made reference to coded messages teenagers use to achieve a level of privacy for themselves and admitted that even she, who spends so much time examining these networks, can’t work out the coded nature of wall posts. Her overarching message was a need for open dialogue with your children, and a level of trust. She spoke of how kids today are learning to live in a world of surveillance, and are trying to carve out a level of privacy for themselves in these environments. Some have moved away from the very public Facebook to networks like Twitter, where they can make locked accounts and add only who they want into their network. There they feel more sure that what they say will not be escalated to wide scale broadcasting, and nor will they have people they don’t want peering into their conversations.

Her comments on the idea of sexual predators online were really interesting. She said, if my notes are accurate, the ‘Sexual predator statistically doesn’t exist’. The point being, there are few of these instances occurring given the fact that 93% of teenagers are operating in social networks of one form or another. She spoke of conducting 400 studies with all the evidence pointing towards less danger in online spaces than what was imagined, and was told to go back and conduct more research! What we do see is our television and newspaper media honing in on incidents and giving the impression there is danger in every interaction online. She spoke of Australia being “one of the only places competing with the US on fear mongering”. Strong words, and quite possibly, the truth.

danah spoke of how she sees us grappling with a culture of fear and it intersecting with the attention economy we find ourselves living in. Her final points were prompted from a question from Camilla Elliott about how we as educators deal with all of this in schools today. She spoke of the necessity for digital literacy teaching in our schools, and stressed that we should be looking at it with a health and wellbeing focus in mind. She said there is a case for teachers violating the rules of Facebook and setting up second accounts, separate from their own personal accounts. You would share the password to the account with your school principal. Here, teachers could accept friend requests from students, but not request that students become their friends. This space would be where teachers could operate with an eyes wide open approach to safety for kids.  An interesting thought, one that would certainly be at odds with much of what is recommended to teachers today in terms of Facebook use.

danah asked the question to us all, “How do you deal with a world that is messy?” Some of how we go about doing that is looking to the kids themselves and noting how they are managing their online lives. For those of us dealing with this head on in schools, I think it’s about dialogue. It’s about making time in our curriculums to have these conversations, it’s about creating safe spaces where kids feel OK about sharing their concerns, it’s about using social tools/spaces within curriculum so we can model behaviours. It’s a big job, and we need people to do it. That means we need teachers who are willing to be well versed in social networks themselves, and who are willing to commit themselves to learning from experts like danah who have spent years immersed in their understanding.

Thanks danah, for a stimulating presentation. Neurons are firing. I hope what I’ve written here is true to the intentions of your presentation. Please do correct me if there is anything here I have misconstrued.

*why is danah’s name always in lower case? She explains it on her ‘about me’ page.

My birth name was “danah michele mattas” (spelled all funky because my mother loved typographical balance). Two years later, my brother Ryan was born. My parents divorced when i was five and my mother, brother and i set off for York, Pennsylvania. My mother re-married when i was in the third grade and we moved to Lancaster. Shortly afterwards, all of us changed our name to “Beard.” My mother and step-father divorced when i was in the 9th grade, but we stayed in Lancaster. In college, i changed my last name to “boyd” to honor my grandfather. When doing the legal paperwork, i switched back to a lower-cased style to reflect my mother’s original balancing and to satisfy my own political irritation at the importance of capitalization.

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School’s out Friday

Ever played Angry Birds? I became addicted while I was travelling through Italy last year. I had no Internet access in my room at night, and the only game on my phone was Angry Birds, something my kids had played. I opened it up one night and lost myself in the quest to blow up pigs with a repertoire of birds with hidden talents. I reckon I’d have a lot of fun playing it live in Barcelona too.

There’s no time for Angry Birds now. School resumed this week, and it’s full on. I’ve loved seeing our students return and have enjoyed showing our Year 7 & 8 students the Overdrive platform for ebooks and audiobooks. Right now though, I’m exhausted and am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow morning.

Beautiful weather awaits us here in Melbourne this weekend. I’m looking forward to spending some time sitting outside and soaking up a few rays.

Enjoy whatever comes your way. : )

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