Hyperlinking text – a skill that needs some lovin’

Silvia Tolisano wrote a post the other day about something that’s been on my mind for sometime now. ‘Wondering About Hyperlinked Writing‘, encapsulates quite a few conversations I’ve had over the last few weeks that have made me consider what many aren’t doing in schools today.

But first, a confession. I had no idea how to hyperlink text until 2007. I was Head of Library (my first year in this position), and knew I needed to be creating online resources to support curriculum. I was aware that if I pasted a link into an email or a document, it seemed to automatically create a link you could click on to take you to the source document. Troubling for me, I had no idea how I could hyperlink text. What I did know was the feeling of vulnerability in a workplace, because I was living it. One of the members of my staff at the time was very Web savvy, and I eventually just admitted to her that I had no idea how to do this and she showed me just how simple it was. What a revelation!

Of course, a knowledge of how to hyperlink text assisted me greatly when I started writing this blog a few months later. Understanding the communication that can ensue when you link to the work of others was part of my learning curve, and it certainly helped me to gain an audience and form a learning network that crosses oceans.

Understanding the power of hyperlinked writing has changed my thoughts about reading. I welcome a hyperlink as I read. Knowing that I can easily move to the source of an author’s inspiration is something I find helpful, and not a distraction. It’s made me consider why students aren’t routinely taught this skill when they complete projects. I know many are insisting bibliographies are created using the correct formats, with links embedded, but it seems to me to be more helpful to have students hyperlink their text at the point where they have gained their inspiration or knowledge for their submitted work. I’m not suggesting they forgo the bibliography – it’s still essential they learn this skill, but hyperlinked text within a project will help a teacher move easily to check their student’s understanding, and to confirm that they have done their best to avoid plagiarising the work of others.

Here’s a potted version of the recent conversations that have got me thinking about this.

1. Talking to a colleague about hyperlinked text in projects. A few days later, he revisited this conversation with me, asking if authors of articles, websites etc. were OK with their work being linked into other documents. My answer was that it was good etiquette to do so, and many people appreciated their work being acknowledged in this way. It attracts visitors to the source document, and that’s got to be a good thing. This was obviously a new concept for him, but something I think he will be taking back to his classroom practice.

2. A phone call from a friend on a weekend. She was creating a PowerPoint for her Primary School students, and wanted to link a YouTube video into this so that they could easily access it on the day. She had no clue how to do this and I had to walk her through the process over the phone. I did give her instructions how to download and embed a video into the PowerPoint, but this was a bit too complex and we’ll have to master this skill face to face!

3. Asking my daughter (now in Yr 11) if she knew how to hyperlink text. Answer: No. She knew how to insert a link into a document, but had no clue about linking the text.

Our Edublogs platform at school has been a very good vehicle for a discussion of hyperlinked text/writing with my students. Getting them to understand that their voice can carry further when they hyperlink to the things they are referencing is part and parcel of the classroom conversations we have when I’m working with them. Making sure we embed this school into the Information Fluency certificates we are developing will also assist whole year levels to move through our school with this understanding.

Sometimes, I think we get so swept up in the acquisition of new skills that we forget about the basics. I know that for me, understanding how to hyperlink text unlocked doors that had been closed. Perhaps your students and fellow teachers are standing behind those locked doors. Time to give them the key.

Some handy advice about hyperlinking in Microsoft Word

Some handy advice about hyperlinking in iOS Pages

NECC – trying to keep up in the echo chamber.

I tried to stay up late last night to catch the happenings in Texas at NECC but by 1.00am my eyes were not cooperating. Urgently needed sleep so listened to my body and obeyed. Always wise!

Managed to catch a keynote live this morning Melbourne time. Wasn’t even aware they had scheduled a keynote for what would have been evening in the US.  Derral Garrison had set up a ustream of James Surowiecki delivering his presentation based on his book, ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’.  I discovered the link late so started watching halfway through the presentation. This is his understanding of what makes a wise crowd (from Wikipedia)

Four elements required to form a wise crowd

Not all crowds (groups) are wise. Consider, for example, mobs or crazed investors in a stock market bubble. Refer to Failures of crowd intelligence (below) for more examples of unwise crowds. According to Surowiecki, these key criteria separate wise crowds from irrational ones:

Diversity of opinion
Each person should have private information even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.
People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them.
People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.
Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.

When I came in he was discussing the problems of existing in an echo chamber – the idea that we function in conversations with like minded people and as a result we reinforce each other’s beliefs. He stated the importance of having people who act as devil’s advocates -people who challenge ideas and get us evaluating  our ideas and thinking through concepts with an open mind. When he started talking about the echo chamber my ears pricked up. When I started blogging John Connell wrote a comment welcoming me as a new voice to the conversations – he said something to the effect that it is always nice to have a new blogger enter the fray as it brings new ideas to the table and helps broaden the echo chamber that is the edublogger world. While I was watching from the fringes (hate the word lurking- horrible connatations and not a fair description in my opinion) I had assumed the edublogger world was huge and that I would never gain a voice. I don’t think my voice is terribly significant, but I’ve found I do have one and the edublogger world is not as huge as I imagined.

One of the things I’m noticing in blog posts I’ve read about the conference is the number of ‘names’ (read influential bloggers) who are bemoaning the fact that there are more parties in the discussion now and it’s getting harder to have the kind of in depth discussions like they had at edubloggercon last year. Isn’t this just an indication of exactly what they have been expousing about the adoption of technology for connective purposes. As people switch on to the transformative power of making connections we are going to see more people enter the conversations. We need to embrace the ideas coming from these new entrants and welcome them, not make them feel like newcomers on the block- it may well be that they can serve as devil’s advocates, challenge the thinking and lead us in new directions.

Vicki Davis was using Cover it live to feed observations out from the keynote -worth reading as a reply on her blog  . You can catch the keynote in replay (I think) by visiting the NECC site.

I’d recommend you all having a read of Silvia Tolisano’s recent post, ‘Who would listen’. She talks a bit about the types of things that are synonomous with the idea of an echo chamber. It was a thought provoking post. I should have left a comment because it’s been in my mind for awhile now. Another one to have a read of would be Steve Dembo’s post ‘When does average Joe become Joe expert?’ Both of these posts reflect on names in the blogosphere and our tendancy to listen to what they have to say because they have established a name for themselves. 

I saw a comment after the keynote from someone who said it wasn’t relevant to education. I think it is really relevant. We have to be aware that when we immerse ourselves with like minded people we can lose perspective. My comment in the ustream chat was that many of us work in schools where we are the one of the few voices suggesting change and the only place we find like minded people in in our PLNs. If we spend a lot of time online we run some risk? of seeing things through the rose coloured glasses we don.

Food for thought anyway.