Tag Archives: social network

Connected?

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The online world has created a sense of global connectivity.  The use of computers and online social networking connects us all.  We are told that the future of learning and education is online social connection.  People continue to be lifelong learners as they now have access to others around the world and can connect to their educators from the privacy of their own home.

But are we truly connected? Technology is leading us down the road of independence.  Gone is the necessity for students to find their way to actual classrooms and interact with their peers face to face.  Concepts like MOOCs and  University of the People allow students to continue their education without ever setting foot in a learning institution.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I can’t seem to understand how this strengthens our connection.  COETAIL is a great example.  The people I regularly talk to from this course are people I knew before or meet in person since the start of the program.  How does a group of people sitting at computers around the world, typing, bring us together more than sharing classroom and discussion space?  I need to meet with people to feel truly connected and invested in our collaborative educational journey.      

The future of education is independence.  The future of education is self-motivated students who do not require teacher cheerleaders or incentives to learn.  The future of education scares me a little.

I don’t think the majority of social humans are ready for this independence.  Most of us enjoy our daily interactions with our peers, and something is lost when those interactions are moved to a computer screen.  

As a middle school teacher, I find a number of students every year who will struggle in this new independent educational world. They are not internally motivated.  Dan Pink explains in his video that humans are internally motivated when it comes to creative projects, but I wonder is that truly for middle schoolers?  I must prepare my students for this new reality.  My students don’t appear to be all that motivated by grades, or by consequences like detentions, or even the candy their math teacher gives them.  There is no one thing that motivates them.  In essence, the majority of my students seem to only work hard and well when they enjoy the project.  Ah, maybe they are more internally motivated than I give them credit for.  Maybe my middle schoolers have already moved toward the independent educational future where they will able to study what they like, when they like and from where they like.   As the embark on their journey into their educational future, I must let them go on their own to find their own motivation.  After all, independence is the future of education.

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Did you get the message?

Bullying is nothing new.  Sitcoms and bad teen movies always highlight the bully character with humor or glamor.  They never fade away in the distance, texting from a bathroom stall or insulting their victims online through Facebook.  Bullies are front and center, tormenting their victims in full public view.  However, cyberbullying has changed the traditional model of bullying and allowed teenagers to hide their deeds.  These same teenagers ignore the evidence of their own bullying, claiming they are just teasing.

Dana Boyd’s article illustrated one of the greatest obstacles in the fight against cyberbullying.  The simple use of the word bullying can shut students off to the message you are trying to relay.  By the end of the week they will be teasing each other and yelling, “stop bullying me” through their laughter.  We need a new term; a new way to explain the effects of bullying.  Without it, how will the students take us seriously?

Sadly, the most effective moment I have had as a teacher with combatting cyberbullying came at a cost.  Three of my grade 7s were victims of a Facebook prank that can only be described as bullying.  A profile was created with their names.  Once this profile friended other students, the students at YIS discovered the profile was less than complimentary.  It was a horrible collection of insults that also involved fake connection to additional students.  The bully managed to victimize several students in one attack.  This profile was immediately brought to my attention and we launched an investigation.  Although we never discovered the identify of the bully, the grade 7 was quick to point fingers and circle the wagons.  Both the grade 7 and 8 students who had received and accepted friend request felt they shared part of the blame, and were sicken by it.  They all felt the power of a cyberbully.  We had frequent discussions over the week about how to prevent this type of activity, how great it was they came to the safe adults in their lives to have them help, and how powerless they all felt in the the shadow of the “Facebook Incident”.

Reading the article School head called parents in cyberbully case made me wonder what would have happened to the student if they had been caught.  How would their parents react?  How much are schools really allowed to step in when it comes to out of school bullying?

Schools need to protect their students.  Teachers need to take the opportunities to point out the danger of cyberbullying in the same manner they would stop students for bullying each other in class.  Forget the labels; just talk with kids about the behavior and the consequences.  Admin needs to create policies to support the message “we don’t tolerate bullies here”.  Consequences need to be followed up on, students need to be believed when they approach the safe adults.  It is our duty as educators to ensure our students feel safe and security, even in our off time.

Risky Business

As I read the information for this course, I take notes and begin to write my reflection on a word document.  Looking over the information I have down, I was clearly struggling to find a theme or a focus for the week. This post is lengthy and very disjointed, but like everything else in Coetail, it’s an experiment.  And I am prepared for it to go horribly wrong.

Reading the first two chapters of Jeff’s book, I got some answers.  Finally, spelled out for me was a variety of terms that I hear thrown around.  Many times I have inquired, “What exactly is Web 2.0?”  The explanations I have been given vary from a mumbled dismiss that makes it clear I should already know this term to a long winded discussion where the lecturer bombards me with unfamiliar terms until I am left blinking and nodding.  In essence, I suspect many people whom I have asked simply do not know the answer.  They can’t explain the terms and attempt to cover up their digital ignorance.  They can’t risk sounding uneducated.  But hey, don’t we all do it?  As educators we are expected to have a working knowledge of all things tech, yet most of us can’t find the time to study up on the latest technological developments.  We end up taking small risks and trying out unfamiliar technology, only to end up calling the tech guys in or begging a student to help fix the mess you have just created.

The beauty of online relationship for those who are marginalized stands out in my mind from the reading in Living and Learning with New Media.  Having many friends who are considered out of the mainstream, I can only imagine how the difficulty of their coming out experience would have been buffered by the support of an online friend going through a similar experience.  Your online community can help make you feel included when your real community rejects you.  Keeping in touch with friends from around the world, I understand the need for this type of support. When I move to a new location, I often rely on my friend from previous schools and other locations to continue my support network as I slowly create one in my new setting.  Their support allows me to put myself out there, take risks, make new friends, knowing I have a social network somewhere on the planet.

Keeping the preceding idea in the back of my consciousness, I read Jeff’s book.  One item that stuck out to me is from the section on growing your professional network.  He talks about what it takes to be an active part of a network in the previous section, and in this section the focuses shifts to how to put yourself out there.  What came to my mind was the risks necessary to take part in these networks.  The middle schooler in us all screams out, “What if they hate my post?  What if they all think I am stupid?”  The ability to sound intelligent online is a still many of us are still developing.  The course is giving me the opportunity to put myself out there and take risks in a relatively safe and controlled environment.  Although anyone can read my blog, the people being directed to my blog and commenting are taking the same intellectual risks.  I am slowly stripping away my online shyness.