Tag Archives: Social network

School’s out Friday

Hamish Curry shared this on Google+ and it made me smile. If you’re not familiar with the way many of the social networks and websites represented in this video work, then you’re probably going to be more confused than amused. But, if you are familiar, I’m pretty sure you’ll be thinking this is pretty clever.

It’s nearly the end of October and I’ve only posted once this month. Practically unheard of! Yes, I’ve been busy at work and have really struggled trying to find time to write. I’ve started posts, but find myself paralysed at the keyboard, knowing that if I’m going to do the post justice then I need to invest a couple of hours into its construction and I just don’t have that time available. So I start, then stop, and for the first time ever I have drafts sitting in my dashboard, taunting me, making me anxious that I’m never going to get anything of substance written ever again.

Hopefully, the paralysis will leave me and I’ll find myself writing again soon. Got lots to share, so I hope so!

Enjoy the weekend ahead. The forecast for Melbourne is not pretty. I’ll be seeking sun  – I can feel myself deficient in those Vitamin D stores!

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School’s out Friday

Now, if you’re not a Twitter/Facebook/Instagram or any other social network user you might not have any clue what Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake are going on about in the video above. If you do use a social network where hashtags are a common form of curating ideas around a theme or conference experience, or expressing an opinion or statement about how you’re feeling, then you’ll be smiling and possibly laughing along as you watch.

The hashtag is an artform in itself. Don’t use it, and you may struggle to find the tweets you’ve shared, overuse it, and what you tweet is in danger of being lost in a form of hashtag hell. New York magazine has identified seven kinds of hashtag abusers, and the first on their list is the kind that I think delivers you into hashtag hell. Here’s their description;

1. The Hashtag Stuffer

The most common form of hashtag abuse. The Stuffer is incapable of simply sharing a photo of his July Fourth fireworks; he festoons it with #firework #fireworks #july4th #July4 #pretty #boom! #red #white #blue #1776bitches! (Not an exaggeration. A quick search of #fireworks took me here.) Sometimes #he hashtags random #words in sentences.

So, lesson for you all out there. Avoid at all costs the temptation to become the Hashtag Stuffer. Your tweets will become those that are passed over in the stream, avoided at all costs because you can’t see the words for the invasion of hashtags polluting them.

Enjoy your weekend. Grand Final day here in Melbourne tomorrow, and my team are contenders. Go Hawks! :)

 

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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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Connected, and conflicted

Last night, I went to a free screening of Connected, An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology. Thanks Hamish Curry for organising the event. The film’s creator is Tiffany Shlaine, and she is someone well versed in the workings of the web. Tiffany founded the Webby awards fifteen years ago, but today concentrates her efforts on film-making. Interestingly, for me anyway, her film echoed a lot of my thinking about the nature of being connected.

I’ve mentioned, more than a few times here, the transformational effect being connected has had on my life. There is little doubt in my mind that I am richer for it, in a soulful sense, certainly not monetary! I feel energised when I’m learning new things from all the network nodes I’m connected to. I know how easy it is to lose yourself in the Twitter stream, but also how enriched you can feel when your brain is firing and possibilities are stretching out before you. What comes with this is the desire to stay on top of things, to be ahead of change. You quickly realise this is impossible, that you would need to be looking at a device 24/7 and even then you wouldn’t have a hope of covering everything that is happening.

Tiffany begins the film with an anecdote, featured at the beginning of this trailer.

Hey, I’ve been there. Some would stay I’ve never left that state. But I know better. In my early days of immersion, I’d sit amongst friends in conversation and find my mind wandering. The desire to switch on my phone and check my networks was intense, almost like a primal need. I found myself connected to the network, and disconnected from long term friends, even family. It seemed that they didn’t understand, they weren’t part of what was in my immediate field of interest. None of them grasped the magnitude of my new discovery.

In that state, I longed for opportunities to find real time face to face meet ups with the people in my network, and I thought I would find myself content in their presence. While that was true with some people, what I also discovered was that many of the people I met were distant, introspective, or even people who just weren’t all that friendly face to face. What is obvious to me now but wasn’t then is that my network mirrored real life. It is a human network, populated with all variants of the human condition.

This year, I have been conflicted. I made a conscious decision to back off with my immersion. I still truly value my network, and continue to find it the place where I am energised and excited about possibilities. But what I have found is that I have reconnected with those in my immediate sphere, my close friends and family. I value the time I spend with them, and remain present for longer periods than I did in the past. The sky hasn’t fallen, my connection with an already established network is still strong, and I feel more at peace with my world.

Like Tiffany’s tale, it was a watershed moment that led to me resetting priorities. When you face adversity, true friends and connections come to the fore, and some leave you hanging. I am so grateful to my immediate close friends and family who rallied and made sure my family and I were OK. The same can be said of true friends in my network, people who have taken time to look beneath the surface and see what lies there.

Although I can say I am more at peace with myself, I remain conflicted to some degree about backing off the network. I haven’t put my hand up this year to present at conferences, and I have to admit to feeling a degree of performance anxiety when I see others pushing themselves out there. It is my dream to live this work, to find a way to do it all the time, not just part of my time.

So, I will remain connected, and to some extent, conflicted. But I will do so knowing that it is not at the expense of the relationships that matter most.

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How many networks can a regular person maintain?

I think I fall into the category of regular person.

Married, two kids, full time job.

So, as a regular person, just how many social networks can I maintain?

In my case, not many. In fact, I’d say I can only really manage one effectively.

At the moment, the network I maintain is Twitter. Aside from this blog, it’s where I share my thinking and try and spread what I learn to others. It’s where I learn from others. It’s where I spend quite a bit of time, much to the chagrin of my family on more than the odd occasion. And it’s not what I’d describe as a social network, I use it for professional learning. (but really, the lines are blurring there – professional is becoming social. Let’s face it, I spend quite a bit of time there.)

So, when Google announced their new social network, Google+, I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down with excitement. When Google Buzz was announced, I was super keen to get on the bus. But the gloss of the new has worn off. I don’t have a Google+ invite, and nor do I want one just yet. I’m happy for everyone else to figure out how it works (thanks Doug Peterson : )), and save me all the time and commitment I’d need to put into working out the kinks. If I find a large number of my network moving to the space, then I expect I’ll move there too. It’s the nature of networks; you move to where the people you interact with are.

I don’t know how I’ll manage if Twitter and Google+ co-exist and they both are significant. I really can’t afford to spend any more time online. If I do, then I think my husband will seriously consider shutting down internet access to our home. If they integrate, then I stand a chance.

What about you? Are you able to successfully maintain more than one social/professional network? Did Google+ fill you with elation, or dread?

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Network glue

A discussion I had recently keeps nagging at me.

I was speaking with someone, about how people like me work pretty tirelessly to provide useful information to educators through networks like Twitter. And I wasn’t just meaning me, I was referring to all of the key educators using Twitter to expand their knowledge base, but also the knowledge base of countless others. People who find good stuff and then pay it forward by tweeting or retweeting really useful links. These are people who don’t lurk in networks and feed off what others produce, they are altruistic in their intent and want to see others benefit from the good content out there that just might help to make us better educators.

The person I was speaking to responded that they didn’t need to do this, they knew who to ask for information.

My problem with this is that there is nothing altruistic in that. It’s almost a selfish act. It means that you become the holder of information, the gatekeeper, and only the favoured few gain from your wealth of knowledge.

I know it might be pretty naive of me to think like this, but I kind of like the idea that we’re all in this together, and sharing what we know with the many helps to make us all better. People who work like this in networks become the network glue; they facilitate connections for others and keep networks alive.

If we’re going to see our education workforce respond to our era, we need the network glue. It’s this sticky lot who will provide the foundation for the newcomer, reinforce the stayer, and educate the lurker. The stickier the better.

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Revisiting the Digital Footprint message

Today, I delivered a presentation to our Year 11 students about how they conduct themselves in online spaces, to ensure their safety and to cultivate a positive digital footprint. I delivered a similar presentation to this same cohort in May last year, and I thought I might be flogging a dead horse. I was wrong.

They listened intently, asked serious and thoughtful questions, and even provided examples themselves of people who had had reputations damaged due to poor understanding of the magnification of information shared in social networks today. I thought I’d fall short with information and have to fill time, but I was struggling to get through what I wanted to cover.

One of the things I wanted to cover was Facebook’s places feature. My guess would be that the majority of them weren’t using it, and had no idea that their friends could check them into locations unless they disabled the feature in their privacy settings. I used the following lifehacker video to demonstrate what they needed to do in Facebook to opt out of the feature. It helped me too. I lead a very transparent life, but I don’t want to use the places feature and I don’t want to be checked into places by friends in my network. It’s not a straightforward process. You have to find the customise button and find the page where the settings need changing. The lifehacker video explained it very clearly and I followed those instructions to meet my requirements. The students watched it intently, and it’s my guess a number of them will be looking at their privacy settings tonight.

It was nice to receive words of thanks and a round of applause at the end of the session. It’s made it very clear to me that these messages need repeating and reinforcement in our teaching practices.

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Keeping in touch, the Words with Friends way.

I do love my iPhone. It’s changed the way I interact with the Web. I like the fact that I can easily check my work email and personal gmail accounts easily, and I can check in with Twitter via either the Tweetdeck or Twitter app. I can do a quick web search easily via my Google app (I prefer that to Safari) and I can check into this blog via the WordPress app. The Google Maps app has proved invaluable as I try and find my way around locations. Even though it’s slightly disconcerting knowing the satellites are tracking my every move, knowing that the blue circle has me heading in the right direction has given me peace of mind on many occasions. I can even check the developments happening with the Australian Curriculum via the new app released from ACARA. Sometimes I read downloads from Amazon using the Kindle app, and the other night I was watching the latest TED Talks when I was having trouble sleeping.

What I’m loving at the moment is an app called Words with Friends, which is a game of scrabble that can be played by people who’ve signed up to the site. It was introduced to me the other week by my friend Melanie who lives in New York. We had known each other online through our association with the international PLP cohort, and met when I was in New York in January this year. We shared some very fun times together and have remained in contact via Twitter and email. Melanie suggested that I download the Words with Friends app so that we could engage in a game of scrabble. Simple idea, but a lovely one. Because of our time zone difference, it’s not played at a frenetic pace, just once a day, but we can send messages to one another and know that we are doing something together, despite the physical distance that separates us.

I’m happy to let you know that Melanie is trouncing me right now, but I’m enjoying trying to figure out how to play my letters in the most strategic way possible. My competitive spirit and sheer desperation led to me search on Google for ‘scrabble help’. I discovered ‘Win every game‘, and it’s helped me score 40 points for my last move! Pssst… don’t tell Melanie!!

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Finding the right Ning alternative – does it exist?

Image representing GROU.PS as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Last week was extremely busy, and a combination of successes and failures. I’ve been grappling for awhile now with what to do as an alternative to Ning. We’ve paid for a few networks in the school to be mini networks, and that’s no headache at $20.00 for the year. A mini network enables you to have forums, blogs, to embed videos and pictures and to run this ad free. It suits the functions of the Yr 9 Ning we run, which is into it’s second year now, and other Nings that support our book club and our Sleepout for Schools effort. Another teacher runs a Ning that has pages and chat and her faculty has paid the $200.00 fee to sustain this for the year. As I’m sure you’ve gleaned if you read this blog regularly, I’m a big fan of Ning and its use as a virtual learning community in our school. I don’t object to having to pay the fees either; I think we’re going to see more Web based services begin to charge and I think our school communities will have to start budgeting for this, just like we do for placing books on library shelves or subscribing to databases.

Last year we ran a really successful Ning for a week long inquiry project at Year 8. That Ning contained groups and chat, and the students used these really productively throughout the course of that week to publicise what they were investigating and to collaborate and organise themselves. This last week saw the Inquiry week run again and we wanted to use Ning to support the students and encourage transparency with what they were doing. The issue for us was this; the project runs for one week of the year. Did we want to pay $200.00 for a Ning, a cost that was necessary if we wanted to encourage the formation of groups and utilise chat? Well, no, we didn’t.

So, I looked for alternatives. I set up a site using Grouply, but it wasn’t as intuitive as Ning and forum discussions didn’t seem to be highlighted on the front page, you had to move into a tab to see them. We wanted the students to see forum discussions front and centre when they reached the page. It also didn’t support any sort of chat feature so that made it limited in its use for us. A bit of a callout for suggestions on Twitter led me to Wall.fm, and it seemed I had found the answer.

Wall.fm lets you have forums, blogs, photos, videos and, importantly for our needs, groups and a wall where you can post comments. (a bit reminiscent of Facebook) There are only a handful of themes so you can’t go to town customising the look of the site, but it is functional. You can make it private or have it open. I set it up and it looked like it was going to do the job we needed it to do. I launched it with the kids on their first day of solid research and they were keen to get started. Frustratingly, we hit hiccups when a number of them were unable to validate their membership because the emails didn’t reach their inbox. It was hit and miss. Some kids were flying and forming groups and leaving comments, and others were locked out of the site. As a result, we didn’t have the dynamic virtual learning environment supporting this inquiry like we had last year. Pretty disappointing for all of us.

I sent a message through the site asking why it may be that we were having issues. I tried changing the email address at the back end of the site to see whether or not validation emails could then get through. No reply at all from the help desk at Wall fm. left me floundering really. If you can’t get support then that doesn’t bode well for a social network really.

Ning don’t look like they’re going to announce education packages that will make something that runs for a limited time frame affordable. So I’m once again looking for an adequate alternative that gives me what Ning Pro can do but at a reasonable price. If my project ran the full year and I needed groups and chat, then I don’t think $200.00 is a big ask. I’d happily fund it through a budget. But a short term project like the one we’ve run really doesn’t warrant the outlay.

So, the hunt continues. I’ve been recommended to try out Grou.ps, so I’m going to set up a trial space and see if I can make that workable. If anyone’s had any success with Ning alternatives, I’d love to hear about them. I spent time tonight uploading videos and photos to our Yr 9 English Ning, and I have to tell you, I just love the ease of uploading content and the look and feel of Ning. It just may be that I’m going to have to suck it up and pay the price!

The inquiry week for the students was a great success, even without the virtual environment. The students all immersed themselves in what they were doing and presented some impressive findings. Twitter came to the rescue for one group. That’s the happy tale I’ll relay in my next post. : )

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Lurker or Contributor, or maybe Innovator?

I didn’t get to the DEECD‘s Innovation showcase on Friday. I’d sent in a proposal for a session but it was knocked back. The fact that I teach in the Independent system and not the Public system may have had something to do with that, but that’s probably just sour grapes from me!!

Thanks to the very obliging John Pearce, who is truly one genuinely nice guy, I’ve been able to partake in some of the experience by reading through his Cover it Live embeds on his blog. Cover it Live is an application that allows you to ‘live blog’ your observations as you watch someone present. John has embeds on his blog from presentations delievered by Jason Smith, co-founder of TeacherTube and Martin Westwell, Director of the Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century.

John recounts something Jason referred to that has me intrigued; 

the 99:1 rule 

  • 90% of people in online communities are visitors, (lurkers)
  • 9% are early adopters who add to the commentary and/or content but can’t really be depended on
  • 1% are the givers who continue to maintain the innovation

I don’t know where he got those figures from, but if they’re right, they have implications for the use of social networks in schools. I know that the Ning we are using for Yr 9 has some regular contributors, but it also has a spread across the year level. I know it’s artificial to some extent because we ask the students to make contributions because it relates to curriculum, but I am heartened by the fact that forum topics are being created by students. Of the 34 forum topics posted, 15 have been initiated by the students. That’s a pretty good number posted by a spread of students across the year level.

There’s no denying also, that there are students for whom this forum is just not their thing. And that’s OK; you can never guarantee that any teaching method you employ is going to hit the mark for every kid you teach. But maybe they’re lurking?? It’s something I hadn’t really considered. I think what I need to do is set up a Survey Monkey for the end of this term to attempt to get some feedback and derive some statistics from which I can draw some conclusions.

Lurking is something that I find very interesting. By nature, I’m a participant and not a lurker, so I find it a little hard to understand why some wouldn’t want to enter the conversations. But then again, I’m the ‘E’ personality type who’d prefer to go the party rather than sit by the fire with a book. I think that translates to my online life as well. But those figures Jason referred to are mind boggling for me. I suppose if there are 90% of people out there lurking (a word I really don’t like – the connotations are sinister I think) then that accounts for the small number of comments in proportion to the number of hits on this blog. 

And as for the 1% of innovators, well I guess I can see that in the networks I operate in. When I first started reading educational blogs I had this perception that the base  was huge; I now know that is not the case.  I suppose that translates to our teaching communities as well; if you think about schools you’ve worked in, who is innovative and who sits back and lets others come up with new ideas? What proportion of your school community does this relate to and do the figures translate to the 99:1 rule?

Mmmmnn….interesting things to consider. Thanks John for providing me with a PD experience on my weekend. 

*Update – read this post re research on the 99:1 rule. Makes for interesting reading.

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