Comments on “Living and Learning with Social Media,” by Dana Boyd

•September 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Access to computer time in my high school, although available, is somewhat limited.  So, you can imagine my frustration when after instructing my grade 12 students to use their time well and not go on to Facebook or Youtube, they did anyways.  The first semester, I would nag my grade 12 students about this, but the second semester, I did not, because I knew that at some time their choices would have either positive or negative consequences.  I remember one girl in particular.  Her whole life was planning parties, friendships, and social networking.  She would get to the computer lab and spend the whole time on Facebook and Youtube no matter what I said.  Her social networking was far more important than working on her assignments to the point where she almost did not complete my English class or her English class the following semester.  After watching Dana Boyd’s lecture, it helped me to understand why connecting with friends was so vital to her and perhaps a better response to this phenomena, on reflection, would have been a discussion with my students about why students would choose to do this.  Why were her social connections more important than success at school?  What was she learning and what was she gaining?  By prohibiting the activity, was I actually encouraging the students to engage in the activity?  Was it a power struggle?  And how do I change what may seem like a power struggle into a means of critically discussing with students what they are really doing and engaging them in a discussion of why they make the choices that they do and why communicating on Facebook is so important to them?  By doing this, the power struggle is diffused, and it becomes a moment of learning for all.  As Dana Boyd points out, students don’t often learn critical thinking skills which need to be taught.    By stopping and discussing why they do what they do, the students become engaged and are asked to critically think about the choices they make.  The bonus is that both parties learn from each other.  This, to me, is informal learning , where the formal environment can suddenly become a place for discussion and mutual learning which demonstrates respect for both teachers and learners and may be even more important than the assigned task.  As Dana Boyd points out, this can help to open dialogue between the generations.

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The Machine is Changing Us, Michael Wesch

•September 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As a person who loves literature, I was delighted when Michael Wesch began his lecture, The Machine is Changing Us, with two futuristic novels:  1984 and Brave New World. He contrasted the two viewpoints where Orwell felt that in the future, “the truth would be concealed.  Whereas Huxley felt that in the future, the “truth would be drowned out and be trivialized.”  He said that the people of the future would, “amuse themselves to death.”  He continued on to state that Neil Postman, in 1984, seemed to support Huxley’s view that the future generations would, “amuse themselves to death,” and be “indifferent.”  At first, Michael supports these rather pessimistic viewpoints as he discusses how this generation seems to focus on itself and seems to think they need to be on t.v. to have a voice and be significant.    Marshall McLuhan’s quote, “We shape our tools and now our tools shape us,” was powerful as we examine how technology has changed the way people relate to one another.  As a literary person, I loved his discussion of the ever changing meaning of the word, “whatever.”   The lecture began on a rather pessimistic viewpoint.  However, the lecture changes to show how maybe all of the above is true; however, not all is lost.  He suggests that through “re-play” or “re-cognition” that a deeper awareness and understanding occurs, and therefore, not trivial.  He suggests that Youtube can become a confessional and be reflective.  It allows for “connection without constraint.”  He suggests that through technology people are connecting in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.  A good example of this was on the web today.  It showed a picture of Lithuanians who connected through Facebook.  They met to show their solidarity with a hands across Lithuania event.  Although I didn’t read too much about the details, it demonstrated how communication was made possible to bring a community of people together that perhaps would not have gotten together to make a political statement without the availability of technology.  He demonstrates how in a private space communication can become a public space and as a consequence have a powerful impact.  He ends on a positive note stating that perhaps in the future this new way of communicating may change the word, “whatever,” from “I could care less,” to “I care.  Let’s do whatever it takes by whatever means necessary.”  Michael’s demonstrates how what was perceived in the past as negative and what can be negative and narcissitic can be used to bring about positive social change.  This morning I read an interesting article in The Leader Post called Blog helps boost morale where the very popular clothing company, lululemon, is encouraging their employees to blog.  It discussed how the blog helped employees “to connect with managers to air their views and get direct feedback.  Employees can also educate each other online, share ideas and post stories, and help new hires feel like they are part of the family.”  The article goes on to say how retailers are seeing the value of the social networking and encourage the employees to share ideas as a way of making the employee feel valued.  It allows them to have a say.  I would suggest that it gets rid of the notion that only those in executive positions have good ideas.  The article states, “It’s all about embracing existing technology and using it to create your own culture.”  As a teacher I have certainly seen the technology invasion first hand as I have dealt with i-pods and cell phones and blackberries and video games in my classroom.  As on “old school teacher,” it can be frustrating.  However, the question becomes, “How can I use this technology to create a community of learners who learn from each other as well as perhaps a broader community of learners?  Instead of fighting with the technology, how can I use it?  As Bob Dylan so aptly put it back in the 1970’s, “Oh, the times they are a changin,'” and I need to do a little catching up and a little mind bending of my own.  As an employee, I also see the benefits of the blogging as a means of sharing valuable educational ideas within a school, school division, and beyond.  This way the “grass roots,” the ones “manning the front lines,” could be heard.  Sigh!  Would it be possible?

First Night, First Class

•September 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Last night was my first on-line class, but really the second on-line class.  I was pleased that I managed to get myself hooked up and get my microphone going.  This really is a neat way to take a class, because people from various places around this province, around this country, or around this world can connect, which is truly one of the benefits of such a class.  However, I feel a little lost with all these different tools, and I am trying just to navigate around and just keep my head above the water.  However, there was one thing I learned.  I had never heard of “The Back Channel,” which I think is a nice euphemism for people being rude, depending on a person’s perspective.  However, it probably has its place in certain situations.  However, in the classroom, I am not too happy with students text messaging while I am trying to teach.  But then again, when I was in high school, I used to like to doodle while the teacher was talking.  It actually helped me to concentrate.  I also truly liked the comment that there is much to be gained by global perspectives and the global community, which is why this form of education is valuable.  Our limited perspectives can be challenged.  This past year, I had a student from Pakhistan.  I think the students were shocked when they learned that she was going to be forced into an arranged marriage this coming year.  This idea of the global perspective is why I have taken students travelling, which is a real eye opener for some and for myself.  Students learn that just because something is different, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  In addition, I also liked the notion that many great learning communities are born outside of and inspite of institutionalized learning.  I think of the learning that comes from reading, from observation, from others in the community, through just trying things.  We are all on the journey of learning.  Some choose to access available learning more than others.  Nevertheless, whether it’s the school of hard knocks, of necessity, real learning happens outside the confines of the institution.  However, we can not discredit the institution either, because there are certainly learnings that happen within the institution as well.  They may not always be intended learnings, but learnings nevertheless.  I also enjoyed the idea of the Personal Learning Network.  In my last class, we were examining the idea that teachers are “curriculum makers” and we examined what places, people, and experiences had influenced our beliefs in regards to teaching.  It was an extremely valuable exercise and one I valued.  It only scratched the surface of the learning networks in my life.  I think we need to go beyond thinking that it is people who teach.  There are places, experiences, people, animals that can be included in this learning network as well.  Although I like the fact that in this class we are connecting with so many people, there is also that fear I have of revealing too much.  It’s part of my reserved personality.

Introduction

•September 18, 2009 • 1 Comment

01220008Hi, my name is Gwen Edey, and I teach high school English in the Regina Public School Division at Thom Collegiate.  This is my 20th year teaching, and this is my 5th grad class.   For the first 10 years of my career, I taught music in the elementary schools.  However, my training and my desire was to teach high school English.  In 2000, I moved to high school, and I have really enjoyed teaching high school students.  One of the highlights of my career has been taking students on overseas trips–England, Scotland, France (2004); Greece (2006); and Italy (2008).  My life has been enriched by my students and colleagues.  I hope that I am a better person for what they have all taught me.