Real time search – Google launch today

Just last night I wrote about why a company like Google would be interested in the real time search offered by services like Twitter. Today they launched just that. Now when you receive search results, at the top of your results will appear real time feeds from Twitter, friendfeedand Yahoo answers. Apparently they are planning to incorporate updates from public Facebook and myspace pages too.

Fascinating. The world is moving pretty fast folks. Is education responding fast enough? How many teachers out there are aware of impending change and its impact on the way we do things?

The Tweet, the search, the hashtag and the backchannel

My relationship with Twitter is evolving. It’s maturing into an incredible networking and search tool. (Or maybe it’s always been that, and I am the one maturing!) I suspect the majority of the population know nothing of the potential it holds, let alone are able to work out what words like hashtag and backchannel mean. Working with social media is like negotiating a new language; when you are fluent in it you walk confidently through the new landscape. When you are learning, your steps are tentative and you look for those who can lead you in the right direction. Thankfully, that is part of the appeal of social media; there are plenty of guides out there ready to help.

Twitter – Real time search

The use of Twitter as real time search is something that I’m sure most of the population would have no clue about. It’s called real time search because people are sending out tweets relevant to what is happening right now. I know that when I go to Twitter I have a network of people who are willing to share what they know. I can guarantee if there is something new on the horizon I will find out about it first from this network. The point of Twitter for me is that I have a network.  But even if you don’t have a network you can use Twitter for real time search. There is a search box on the front page of the Twitter home page. Just type into that box what it is you are interested in and you will receive a lists of tweets that contain the words you were looking for. Below is a screenshot of a Twitter search I did for Danah Boyd.

Notice how many links you can see in the results I received. This is the real beauty of Twitter. Links take you places, they expand your thinking and introduce you to new voices and opinions. We need to be teaching our students the value of using tools like Twitter and Diigo and Delicious for search purposes. They act as a filter; human intervention has played a part in the results you receive. Someone has made a conscious decision to note this link as important.  A search engine may not find a web page that has been loaded to the web for a day or two or maybe even longer. That’s the reason why search engine companies like Google are interested in companies like Twitter and integrating their results into their search results. It’s the human filter at work; our consciousness making results relevant.  Note also that you can click on the trending topics links in the right sidebar to take you to tweets about what people are interested in now, in real time.

The Hashtag

Twitter hashtags are really interesting. They came about as a creation of the Twitter community, as a means of organising information around a topic, idea or conference. It’s the conference hashtags that I am finding most relevant to me at the moment.  Last week there was a really interesting conference taking place in the United States (San Francisco I think) called Supernova 09. Developers of content and leading thinkers were talking about business and the rise of social media and new ways of doing things. Great speakers like Chris Anderson and Jonathan Zittrain were speaking. The hashtag for this conference was #sn09. Someone sent out a tweet with this hashtag as part of it. When you are using twitter, a hashtag becomes a link to a results page that collects any tweets using that hashtag. When I visited #sn09 I discovered a ustream link to the conference that was streaming the entire thing live. I was able to dip in and out of this conference in some of my spare moments (not too many of those unfortunately!) and hear what some of the leading thinkers out there had to say about how business is responding to the rise of social media. Conference organisers are now setting up Twitter hashtags before conferences start to try and generate interest in upcoming events. #acec2010 is already being used for next April’s ACEC Digital Diversity conference. Read this Mashable guide to hashtags for more detailed information on how to use hashtags well.

The Backchannel

Hashtags being used at conferences are providing what is being called a backchannel to events taking place in real time. What they enable is for people to use their computers or networked devices to provide commentary about what is happening at events they are attending. Now this can be illuminating when it is done well. People often provide a blow by blow description of what presenters are relaying and you can feel like you are part of the conference. If you’re not there physically you have the ability to send out tweets asking the people there to relay your questions or probe for more detail. This is the ‘using backchannel for good’ approach.

‘Using backchannel for bad’ is something I’ve seen happening for some time. There is nothing wrong with constructive criticism or questioning someone’s thinking about a topic, but I do see something wrong with attacking a presenter’s skills at delivery. I’ve sat through conferences of late when I’ve felt the presenter is giving a less than stellar performance, but I’m not going to send out tweets bemoaning this to a public audience. It’s rude and bad form in my opinion. I’ve seen it happen when people are ustreaming presentations and viewers are criticising the stream and asking people to do a better job. The reality is that the people going to the effort of doing this don’t have to. They are going out of their way to ensure that others can participate. There are times when I’ve been embarrassed by the behaviour of people who really should have better manners.

Danah Boyd, a researcher with Microsoft, suffered from a nasty backchannel incident at the Web 2.0 Expo recently. She’s been transparent enough to write about it in depth and let people know the effect it had on her. I admire her for doing so. It seems that some people take the 140 character tweet as an opportunity to send out some pretty hurtful commentary. Unfortunately, incidents like this will see the backchannel suffer in conferences with event organisers potentially shying away from its use.  Joe McCarthy has written a very detailed assessment of the dark side of the backchannel that is more than worth reading. Visit his post for a deep insight into the use of backchannels at conferences as far back as 2004.

In all, Twitter, you continue to amaze me with you useful application to my learning. You are my most crucial network; you lead me in directions I might never have discovered any other way. It’s quite often serendipitous. I find myself  led to new thinkers I have never read before and my mind is expanded. Our relationship will continue; I’m certainly not ready to give you up.

The tweet that led to Mirka Mora: Part two.

Last week I wrote about sending out a tweet on twitter asking if anyone had a connection to Mirka Mora, as my daughter and her friends were doing a project about her and would love to get the opportunity to interview her. After some help from Lauren O’Grady,  Gina Milicia very kindly responded and set the wheels in motion. Mirka was happy to be interviewed, and my daughter and her friends conducted a phone interview that was recorded and posted to YouTube and on the wikispace they had created for the project.  At the end of the interview Mirka remarked to me that she was impressed with their astute questions and would like to invite them to afternoon tea.

Well, that very kind invitation was taken up this afternoon. My daughter and her friends, and a colleague and I, spent a very pleasant hour and a half visiting Mirka’s home sharing cheesecake and lemon tea.

Mirka Mora 001

Mirka welcomed us with a loud chorus of classical music and a warm smile. She is such a  generous soul, full of wisdom that she imparted to us over the course of our visit. One of the first things she said was that we should always praise ourselves; in other words, exhibit self belief. The stories she shared demonstrated her ability to take risks and do things that she was not always confident about. This self belief led to great success and opportunities for Mirka. She was friendly with some of the great Australian painters and recounted stories about her great friend Marcel Marceau.

Mirka Mora 017

Mirka’s home is full of memorabilia and artwork. In  her studio she had three art works on the go and she said this is how she paints. She likes to move to where she feels best able to extend her creativity.  It was such a privilege  for all of us to be invited to her private space and be able to see what Mirka is all about. And what is she about? Life, and living it to the full, pure and simple.

Mirka Mora 010

Mirka and her pet snail! Her beloved cat died two years ago.

Mirka shared a story that epitomised what she is about. Her doctor told her a few years ago that she should have a walking frame when out and about. Mirka would have none of that. Instead, she invested in prams and now has 16 or so that she uses when out shopping. One day she was out and saw a woman with four children, one of whom was very young and struggling to keep up. The mother looked harried. Mirka approached her and gave her the pram she was using. She told us how they shared a moment together; they were united in the shared experience of motherhood.  When telling us this Mirka’s eyes were teary and I have to admit, mine were too. 

Mirka Mora 023

This has been a wonderful learning experience for our students (and my daughter!)  I think it safe to say that Mirka found it equally powerful. I think she was genuinely impressed with the students’ questions and with the fact that she is having an impact on our younger generation. It’s an example of Network Literacy; teachers using social media tools to connect our students to the subject of their research. I know that these students will never forget Mirka Mora and they know what led us to her. As we walked away today from from Mirka’s home one of them said,  “That’s it. I’m never dissing Twitter again.”

A great experience for all. Thank you so much Mirka for your graciousness in allowing us into your home and for sharing your life with us. We are all the richer for it.

School’s out Friday

I love this. It was made by Roving enterprises who produce Rove, a TV talk show made here in Melbourne. The final line says it all;

‘for people who have too much time on their hands….’

Of course, I disagree with this, but it’s funny nonetheless!

Have a great weekend. I’m looking forward to a Saturday morning sleep-in. I need it. : )

The tweet that led to Mirka Mora.

On Tuesday evening I put out a tweet on Twitter asking if anyone had a connection to Mirka Mora. My daughter was doing a project based on her life and she would have loved to get the opportunity to interview her. Lauren O’Grady saw my tweet and retweeted it to her network . Lauren has extended her network beyond education and it didn’t take long for a response to come my way. Gina Milicia is a professional photographer who knows Mirka and she let me know that she would talk to her and be in touch.

Wednesday morning Gina rang me to tell me she had spoken to Mirka and she would be happy to speak to my daughter and the other girls who are completing the project with her.  Both of us marvelled at the power of the Twitter network to facilitate something like this. We  both agreed that there is something special about the people there; a willingness to help one another out. It’s a bit like my neighbourhood when I was growing up; people would pitch in to support one another. Twitter feels like that to me.

I rang Mirka and set things up for an afternoon phone call interview. The girls were thrilled. They never expected that they would be actually talking to the subject of their research. We decided we would use the loudspeaker function of my phone and a voice tracer device that would record the call and enable it to be downloaded as an MP3 file. I’d informed Mirka of this and she was happy to have this happen.

1.30pm came around and the interview took place. All of the girls asked questions and managed to draw out answers that related to their theme of triumph over adversity. Mirka is a very interesting and generous person. She’s an artist who migrated to Australia as a young bride from France after the Second World War. She is Jewish and related to the girls her experiences avoiding internment in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

When the girls had finished with their questions I got back on the phone to thank Mirka. She relayed to me how honoured she was to have them use her as the focus of their project and remarked on how they had asked very astute questions. She then said she would like to invite them to afternoon tea at her place as a way of thanking them! We set a date and the girls will be visiting Mirka next week.

How’s that! Pretty amazing really. A tweet goes out, it gets a response, and our students find themselves having the opportunity to meet with the person they have chosen as their object of study for their inquiry week project. We are fortunate that Mirka is such a generous soul.

I have to say I’ve been impressed with my daughter’s skills over the last couple of days. Her group set up a wiki for the project. They wanted to embed the MP3 file of the phone conversation. We were trying to figure out how to get it uploaded to the wiki when she came up with the idea of uploading to YouTube. She tried that but the file wouldn’t process. She then made a Photo Story and used the file as the audio track. This successfully uploaded to YouTube and she was able to embed it in the wiki. Here it is;

She must be learning a thing or two from her Mum! She’ll be teaching me soon at this rate.

If you’d like to, take a look at their wiki . They’d be thrilled to see some dots on their Clustrmap.

Death of RSS?

I’ve heard mentioned in a few forums recently about the ‘Death of RSS’. I’ve been thinking about it a bit recently myself. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m referring to people no longer having time to get to the blogs and sites they subscribe to via their RSS readers. I use Google Reader for blog subscriptions but I have to admit, it’s become a long time between visits.   

Why is it so?

Simple.   Twitter.

That cool little 140 character stream of consciousness feed from the people I follow has become my most vital source of information. It is here where I discover blog posts as people filter and lead me to them, it is here where I get to know the latest and greatest next big thing, and it’s here where I can develop connections with some truly great minds who help me shape my thinking.

But this weekend was different. I laid off the twitter pursuit of new knowledge to invest some time in my Google Reader. And I’m glad I did. I read blog posts, I listened to the elongated thoughts of the people in my network and I benefited from the experience. I discovered links that hadn’t filtered through twitter. Maybe they had, but not when I was present.  Let’s face it, you can’t be there 24/7, and if you are someone who trawls back to see everything that happened while you were away, then I’m thinking it’s time to reevaluate things big time!

I still maintain that RSS is the best way to introduce people to understanding why you would want to change your practice and rethink what it means to be a teacher and a learner at this time. I think people need to read the deeper thinking of educators who are trying to harness new ways of doing things. Twitter is very fast, particularly if you follow a lot of people. It is difficult to understand its relevance when you first begin using it and it can turn people off who don’t have a good understanding of building a network.

RSS helps you build the network. Reading blogs helps you figure out who the thinkers are and they in turn lead you to the thinkers they admire. Once you’ve got a bit of a handle on the reasoning behind establishing your PLN (Personal Learning Network), you can then start following these people through twitter and build a network there.

Anyway, that’s my take on things. RSS may have lost some of its relevance with the growth of twitter, but I don’t think it’s dead. This weekend confirmed for me the need to reconnect with the deeper thinking of my network through people’s posts. Judy O’Connell linked to The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age, written by Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg, with the help of Zoe Marie Jones.  It’s a paper that has occupied my thinking for much of this weekend. Read it, courtesy of my Google Reader!!

 

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School’s out Friday

 

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jeff Goldblum Will Be Missed
www.colbertnation.com
 
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Jeff Goldblum

I felt it only appropriate to use The Colbert Report‘s, Jeff Goldblum will be missed as this week’s School’s out Friday post. (Click above on ‘Jeff Goldblum will be missed’  to see the very funny eulogy Jeff delivers for himself.)

  
Considering I had to write a lengthy post to keep my online reputation intact after I’d tweeted about his possible death, I have to admit to having a good chuckle watching this. I hope Richard Wilkins is able to see the humour in it too. He’s copped a bit of a serve from some media commentators over the course of the week.

If you want to read where the whole rumour emanated from, take a look at John Skelton’s post. He’s a Scottish blogger laying claim to sending out the tweet that started the frenzy of activity.

Lying low this weekend; looks like a cold one coming up here in Melbourne. Fire, blanket, cup of tea (maybe a glass or two of wine). Hmmmnn—-sounds good really. Enjoy whatever it is you are doing.

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Digital literacy lessons for all- me included! Glad you’re alive and well Jeff!

I woke today to the news that Michael Jackson was in hospital and it was suspected that he had died. I didn’t go to my computer, just followed the mainstream media on Channel Nine here in Melbourne for awhile. Eventually news broke that he had died.

I went to the computer and opened Twitter where the story was being discussed by all. Then Richard Wilkins on Channel Nine’s Today Show  announced he had just received a report saying that Jeff Goldblum had fallen from a cliff in New Zealand while filming and was dead. Now hearing it on mainstream media led to me sending out a tweet about it. That led to a series of retweets that spread like wildfire while I tried to verify if the story was true.

Some tweets came through pretty early on suggesting it was a hoax. The links wouldn’t open.  I went to Wikipedia and saw interesting developments take place within minutes. Jeff Goldblum’s page was open when I first visited. I refreshed not two minutes later and the page was locked to users who were new or unregistered.

Editing of this article by new or unregistered users is currently disabled.   

That led to me getting suspicious that something was up, be it truth or hoax. Right after this Richard Wilkins announced that New Zealand police were investigating the death of Jeff Goldblum from a fall while filming. Rightly or wrongly, I tweeted this, just as I had been tweeting about changes to the Wikipedia page. I searched the web for verification but the page that would have confirmed the hoax wouldn’t open. Later in the morning, Ann Van Meter sent the link that opened to Top Stories, a site that generates stories like this one.     

Refreshing the Wikipedia page was interesting over that period. At one stage they had information saying the reports of his death were likely a hoax. I tweeted this. At another stage this information was no longer on the page, but they had after his name his birthdate and death and referred to him in the past tense. Not soon after this the page was updated again with this information missing and he was once again discussed in the present tense.

Wikipedia page not long after mainstream media announcement.

Jeff_Goldblum_Wikipedia_page_-jsut_after_media_reports

Hoax detail.

Jeff_Goldblum_hoax_info_on_wikipedia

Past tense reference to Jeff Goldblum.

Jeff_goldblum_wikipedia_page_past_tense

(Using the history tab in Wikipedia enabled me to grab these screenshots of the relevant pages) 

At around this time, The Today Show’s, Karl Stefanovic, mentioned on Channel Nine that Twitter was reporting the story as a hoax. I tweeted this too.  I then started to read tweets about ethical behaviour and the like. I felt like some of this was directed at me. (Maybe that’s paranoia!) Here’s some of the flurry in a screen capture;

Jeff_goldblum_twitter_flurry

I’m prepared to admit that I feel pretty bad about putting out the Tweet in the first place. I trusted mainstream media. I honestly did not think Richard Wilkins would report something that had not been properly verified. The Today Show had been quite insistant earlier in the morning about saying that the reports of Michael Jackson’s death were coming from TMZ, a gossip website.   But I do think I was making a concerted effort to get verification from other Web sources.

It’s a lesson in Digital literacy for us all.

Should I have searched first and tweeted later? Probably.

Would this have been a good lesson to use with students as it happened? Absolutely.

Will I be using this post with the classes I teach? You betcha.

Have I learnt a lot this morning?  Too right I have. Snopes slipped my mind just when I needed it! 

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Twitter Search in Plain English

The Lefevers are at it again. This time it’s ‘Twitter Search in Plain English’ . It’s a very useful explanation of how you would use Twitter to gain insight about news and trending topics. Especially useful for educators. This is one of the ways we can explain to our students how to use social media to keep abreast of what people are thinking and where they are sourcing their thinking from. The links that are fed through Twitter are examples some of the most useful filtering taking place by users of the web. For breaking news it’s very hard to go past Twitter. I know that I am aware of big topics a long time before the television news media have got their act together.

Thanks once again to Lee and Sachi. You make our teaching lives a whole lot easier with the work you do.

Friending your students – a researcher’s perspective

When I was in Form 6 (today’s Yr 12) I had a teacher who gave us his phone number so that we could contact him if we needed clarification about the work we were doing out of school hours. We knew that on certain nights he had umpire training and wouldn’t be home until after 10.30pm.

Did I ever call him? You betcha I did, and so did the other students from our class. Even after 10.30pm on some occasions. He was an extraordinary teacher; a real father figure who guided us and believed in us. Did we ever abuse the privilege and hassle him? Never. We respected him and would do anything he asked. I still hold him in high esteem and hope that I am modeling the kind of good teaching practice he lived and breathed.

Danah Boyd, Researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society , has recently posted on her blog this post, ‘When teachers and students connect outside school ‘.   It’s a common sense post in my opinion. Refreshing really. There is so much she says that I see as valid when it comes to this discussion. She makes these important points;

The fear about teacher-student interactions also worries me at a broader societal level. A caring teacher (a genuinely well-intended, thoughtful, concerned adult) can often turn a lost teen into a teen with a mission. Many of us are lucky to have parents who helped us at every turn, but this is by no means universal. There are countless youth out there whose parents are absent, distrustful, or otherwise sources of frustration rather than support and encouragement. Teens need to have adults on their side. When I interview teens who have tough family lives (and I’m not talking about abuse here) but are doing OK themselves, I often find that it’s a teacher or pastor that they turn to for advice. All too often, the truly troubled kids that I meet have no adults that they can turn to for support.

I worked in a tough Govt. school for many years. (The same school I attended as a teenager as a matter of fact!) Many of the students there needed supportive and well intentioned adults around them who were looking out for their best interests. In quite a few cases, the only people in their lives who met that criteria were their teachers. These were the kids who’d turn up at school on pupil free days even if they’d been suspended the day before.  School was the structure lacking in their lives. There were kids there who I gave my phone number to, kids who needed a supportive adult who would be there for them to listen when life was tough. Not a whole lot of those kids rang me, but I know they appreciated me showing them I cared. 

One of my former students is my hairdresser now. She convinced me awhile ago to join Facebook and become a member of the school’s alumni group. So many of my former students have added me as a friend and left kind messages. Quite a number of them are the kids who would put you through the wringer in class. These are the kids who say, ‘Hey, great to see my fave teacher here.’ It’s amazing really. You see how much influence you have had, influence you may have never realised without a forum like Facebook.  

Danah offers this when discussing whether or not teachers should be adding students in social networking sites;

Teachers do not have to be a student’s friend to be helpful, but being a Friend (on social network sites) is not automatically problematic or equivalent to trying to be a kids’ friend. When it comes to social network sites, teachers should not invade a student’s space. But if a student invites a teacher to be present, they should enter in as a teacher, as a mentor, as a guide. This isn’t a place to chat up students, but if a student asks a question of a teacher, it’s a great place to answer the student. The key to student-teacher interactions in networked publics is for the teacher to understand the Web2.0 environment and to enter into student space as the mentor (and only when invited to do so). (Translation: teachers should NEVER ask a student to be their Friend on Facebook/MySpace but should accept Friend requests and proceed to interact in the same way as would be appropriate if the student approached the teacher after school.) Of course, if a teacher wants to keep their social network site profile separate from their students, they should feel free to deny student requests. But if they feel as though they can help students in that space, they should be welcome to do so.

I have had current students request that I be their friend on Facebook and I’ve hesitated. I haven’t added them, but I’m not sure it would be problematic if I did. I’m highly conscious of my online behaviour and enter these spaces as a teacher, first and foremost. One of my students is on Twitter and I follow her. I do so to support her in that online environment and we often speak at school about something that may have popped up on Twitter. It is a mentoring role and because I use Twitter as a professional tool for learning I feel very comfortable about this.  

It’s a debate that will continue I have no doubt. I encourage you to read Danah’s post and reflect about what you feel is appropriate. Danah leaves her post with these questions;

What do you think is the best advice for other teachers when it comes to interacting with students on social network sites? When should teachers interact with students outside of the classroom? What are appropriate protocols for doing so? How can teachers best protect themselves legally when interacting with students? How would you feel if you were told never to interact with a student outside of the classroom?  

I wonder what your answers would be. I’d love to hear them if you care to leave a comment.

The comment thread on Danah’s post is interesting to read. John Heffernan shares this (and I’m sorry John, there is no link to a blog that you may be writing. Are you,  I wonder, the John Heffernan who writes children’s books in Australia?) ; 

I wonder if Socrates was walking in the Agora, would he stop and talk to his pupils outside of teaching time?

Teenager’s Agora is now predominantly online.

If Socrates was alive today, where would he sit and would he still be charged as “corruptor of youth”?

 

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