Is community the new business model? – Comview presentation

Earlier this week,  I presented at the Comview conference here in Victoria. It’s run by the VCTA, (the Victorian Commercial Teacher’s Association) and my presentation was about the impact of social media on business today. The presentation is the culmination of a lot of what has been occupying my thinking this year about the changing nature of our world and our pressing need to respond as educators. In my view, we need to prepare our students for the here and now, and future scenarios awaiting them when they enter the world of work.

I’ve had educators push back at me in tweets when I’ve expressed this kind of thinking, suggesting that we are preparing students for many things, not just the workforce. While that’s obviously true, when I look at the amount of time I spend at my workplace, and then the time I devote to it out of school hours, I’m pretty convinced that a large part of our role does connect with preparedness for places where you spend a large proportion of your time. And that, my friends, would be your place of work.

Of course, quite a bit of this presentation was discussing the scenarios of the workplaces of the future. The distinct possibility that many of our students today will be remote workers, people working in a flexible arrangement from home, where the lines are blurred between what is working hours and what is downtime. What was also discussed was the challenge this places on employers, who will need to ensure a sense of workplace community even though their workplace may be distributed to places far and wide.

Leveraging social media for your own good was another feature of my presentation. I so admire Jesse Desjardins and the way he has utilised social media to propel his career. You must visit Jesse’s Slideshare page to see how his creative presentations and advice have helped to secure him a position as the Social Media & Advocacy Manager at Tourism Australia. (and he’s not an Australian- fancy that!)

Very frustratingly, once again, I am unable to embed my presentation on this WordPress blog. Something to do with Flash not being supported by WordPress according to a forum discussion I found. You can find the presentation by visiting http://jennyluca.wikispaces.com/Presentations, or by clicking this link. Like I said, It’s the culmination of a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, and a lot of hours putting it together. I did use a few slides from a presentation available on Sliderocket that is free for users to use. It just happened to fit nicely with my subject matter. The majority of the slides are my own creation, using screenshots of sites and CC pictures from Flickr. Some feedback would be nice, so feel free to leave a comment telling me what you think.

 

So, how’s that ning going?

Some of you who have been reading here would be aware that I started a ning for the Year 9 English students at my school. When I started I told you I’d be checking in every now and then with a progress report.

So, here goes.

All told I’m pretty happy with the progress. Very nearly the entire year level is signed up; we’ve had hiccups with one class but they should be resolved next week. The students don’t all contribute, but we have some active users and some of them have continued to start forum topics with no prompting from staff members. 

One of the most popular forum topics relates to the novel Twilight. One of our teachers started it and it’s been popular with a wide range of students. It’s certainly been a means of forming the community. I like the fact that the students can see that we as staff can relate to their reading interests.

Certainly the staff involved have adopted it and are embedding it into their practice. When we meet as a team we discuss how we can use the ning to support our learning outcomes. In the coming weeks we intend to upload our issues topics as forum discussions and will encourage our students to post their opinions. We can see that this will offer students access to opposing points of view and will probably assist those students who are struggling with ideas.

Having YouTube videos easily accessible in the ning has been wonderful for just in time teaching moments. When we were discussing teenage pregnancy (a feature of our novel study of Bye, Beautiful)  I was able to flick into the videos page in the ning and show relevant videos that demonstrated the thinking of 1960’s Australia. I’ve been locating some music video clips that relate to Romeo and Juliet in preparation for our text study next term. You can see how many views each video has had which is useful in tracking student use of the ning. It’s clear that students have accessed these videos out of class time which is really pleasing.

The students like the fact that they have their own pages and can change their profiles. Latest activity in the ning often indicates they are leaving one another messages or updating their profile. I like the fact that you can open a student’s page and see where they have made input into the ning. I’m figuring this is going to be useful to use in parent conferences.

Just having an opportunity to read some of their reflections from across classrooms is very powerful. The fact that I can comment of the reflection of a student I don’t teach is wonderful I think. I’m able to support my colleagues and that student to understand that teaching can be available to you from others in spaces like this; you aren’t restricted to the one classroom, one teacher notion that pervades most school systems.

Certainly the flurry of activity that was evident in the early stages has slowed down. You have to work a ning. You need to be adding new content all the time to keep it fresh. But I think we’ve seen adoption. In the last couple of weeks I’ve heard the word ning used at a school assembly and the Principal referred to it in his newsletter item for our school community. How many schools out there would be using this term – not a whole lot I’m betting.

I presented our Yr 9 ning to our English faculty this week and was excited today to hear today that our Yr 12 teachers have started a ning for their English students. A staff member told me how impressed they were with what was happening at Yr 9 and how they thought the discussions that can be generated in  ning would be helpful for the students. I was thrilled -this was exactly the message I was hoping to convey in my presentation. The fact that adoption is spreading is testament to our involvement in PLP (Powerful Learning Practice). I truly believe we would not be making the leaps that we are without the impetus this program provides.

I’m hopeful that we are going to have one of our PLP cohort schools involved in our ning. The school is a boy’s school from the United States and we have invited them to join our ning to engage in forum discussions with our girls. This is a means of bringing male voice into our school – we are an all girl’s school, and while I believe there are advantages to single sex education, I do think exposure to  a male viewpoint is important.  Having them join the ning will be a means of addressing this issue for both of our schools. The girls are certainly excited about this possibility so I hope it pans out for us.      

Do I think it’s been worth implementing?

Absolutely. No question. And I think my students would agree. I do feel a real sense of community, a feeling that we are in this together and we are there to help to one another out. There’s no doubt it’s not the forum for everyone, but it certainly is a powerful tool and one that I feel is worth the investment of time.

Working together 2 make a difference – growing legs.

I’ve written before about the ning site Working together 2 make a difference that I set up with Angela and Laura Stockman. It’s been slow to get started but is starting to grow some legs. Originally we had decided that we would run it until mid December, but we now feel it is worthy of continuation. We see it as a place where educators and students can come together and share what they are doing in their community to make some sort of difference. Our hope is that it will become a place where community can form and links across classrooms can be made.

A friend of mine from a neighbouring school has joined and I was thrilled to see one of her students  create a page. Here is what she posted;  

I love animals and since you are all such wonderful people I was wondering if you could help? The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily and they don’t have enough food to donate to abused and neglected animals. It takes less than a minute (about 20 seconds) to go to their site and click on the purple box ‘fund food for animals’ for free. This doesn’t cost you a thing. Their advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate food to abandoned/neglected animals in exchange for advertising.

Here’s the web site! Pass it along to people you know.
http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/

 

Here’s a student who can recognise the potential of this medium to effect change. Did I click the link and click the purple box? You betcha. I encourage you to do the same. Better still, visit her page , click the link and leave an encouraging comment.

You should also visit Laura’s blog and follow her as she tells us who she is grateful and thankful for in the lead up to Christmas. We should take a leaf out of her book and do the same for those who support us.

So readers, I am thankful for you. Thanks for taking the time to stick around and comment occasionally. My life is enriched as a result.