Building the (Minecraft) lost city of Babylon

Regular reports hit my radar of the amazing work being undertaken by global kids, as they become knowledge-able, as well as knowledgeable in their gaming interactions. Many kids, supported by knowledgeable elders (parents and peers) are engaging in this amazing platform. Many teachers are also supporting their students to do amazing things.

Just look at this gorgeous build in Minecraft – Babylon in a very new world of our kids futures.  By amazing – I don’t just mean building in a gaming environment! I mean engaging in literacy  and communication; in digital citizenship and story telling;  and above all creativity and global cultures. But it takes dedication on the part of the adults to nuture students this way.

Minecraft in education is growing phenomenon – and people are jumping on board to see how they can integrate Minecraft into the learning cultures of their schools. To be honest – Minecraft is also becoming a minefield of its very own in the ‘grown up world’ (consultant warning) – and therefore making it critically important that we connect with quality users with grounded experience in best practices in Minecraft rather than with consultants.

Project Mist

Project Mist, from Donelle Batty, is one of my favourite Australian leaders – doing with her kids daily that we could only wish for all our kids. Donelle has been running Project M.I.S.T (Minecraft In School Transforming education) for what seems like eons now. Her students have very powerful learning experiences. GMods Experience in Minecraft tells it all!

My experience in Minecraft this year was spectacular; the team work, the efforts, the creativity gained and witnessed was truly outstanding. In the class I got to socialize with kids that have the same interests I have, building friendships throughout the year. Cooperation was the biggest highlight; When there was ridiculous amounts of mobs and high death count, we took shelter and shared supplies. When someone needed help building or creating something it always felt good to teach them how to do so. I’ve also learnt more about the importance of my appearance on-line and how I present myself to the people of the world wide web, presentation is key and your first impression is everything. If you are acting like a tool on the internet people will see you once and think: “Wow, that person seems stupid and rude” And that would be the last time they visit your page/ sever/ profile.

Recently, I followed a tweet to see what Donelle wrote about the 2014 launch of #ProjectMIST.

She reminded us all that Minecraft is a collaborative experience, as is the various stages of learning involved in gaining Minecraft experience. Donelle is without a doubt a global leader, and will be away from her hometown in Tasmania on her Hardie Fellow (Info re Hardie Fellowship and recipients for 2013-14).

Donelle also reminded me of the fantastic work done by Jo Kay who is an amazing colleague I have worked with closely over the years on various projects.  Jo currently builds and supports our work in the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) degree here at CSU. We don’t use the normal LMS, but have developed our own for the degree for now.

So in much the same way Donelle explains:

We are really lucky at ProjectMIST as we have one person who has been with us from the start and is always there, even at 12:04am. At this time of the day I am in bed asleep and the computer is asleep too, but Jo Kay is wide awake supporting the students where I can’t. Her support is extremely appreciated by the students and they demonstrate this through building replicas of her avatar on their own servers, one young man did this just the other night when she helped him out after he locked himself out of his server. This student has now just been accepted onto Massively @ Jokaydia Minecraft Guild and he is really excited to be able to build, learn and explore with others from all parts of the world.

If you are an educator, a parent, or just someone who wants to give kids a chance at Minecraft I recommend you visit Massively @ Jokaydia.

The Massively @ jokaydia Guild Website –  a community supported by jokaydia.com -  provides kids and parents with games-based spaces to learn, collaborate and play!

The project is designed for kids aged 4-16yrs who are interested in gaining digital media skills, exploring their creativity and developing online social skills. We are currently using the video game Minecraft to support a safe, whitelisted server and a range of activities which encourage kids to choose their own playful learning pathways and adventures.

You can’t do better than that!  Babylon was a build created by just one of those students!

You will find Donelle on Twitter @dbatty1 and Jo at @JoKay. You’ll also find student Nat, from the TedEX video below @natbott42

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Jo Kay

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Shrinking the world after 4000 years

Quite a while back I read the book by John Freeman called Shrinking the World – the 4000 year story of how email came to rule our lives!  A ripping read, that contextualises email into the early 21st century communication systems as a derivative of human interactions through the ages.

We are now working in an era of constant interruptions. We nearly all have multiple email accounts which we use for a variety of purposes. Some eschew rapid communication still, of course,  along the lines of “oh I don’t want a gmail account, and please don’t expect me to create one so that I can participate in a google hangout for the conference/professional development/learning activity”.  Others of course have moved well on from email, making equally boring comments like “who uses email now anyway”?

If you work for a large organisation – as I do – the likelihood is that you will be using email. In fact, email remains a core professional communication tool alongside other forms of communication – Yammer being one example in my institution.

To be honest, I don’t have a problem with email – when it is used properly!   Ah, but there’s the catch.  Like any media tool, there are savvy users, and there are others.  And it is  the ‘others’ really who just confound the efficiency of the thing :-)

Freedman says:

One of the great paradoxes about email is that although it is created, driven and indelibly marked by ourselves, heavy use of it can leave you feeling emptied out, voided, fractured into a million bits and quips, yet somehow obliterated.

Overall his book is an attempt to step back from the frenzy and the flurry of now – the now we have created and the now we have to slowly remove ourselves from. He suggests that email is good for many things; but that we need to learn to use if far more sparingly, with far less dependency if we are to gain control of our lives.

I don’t agree with this – I think there are significantly  important points at the central purpose and value of email. Of course social media is giving us levels of connectivity across platforms, organisations and devices that email never set out to do.

But email itself, while still at the centre of an organisation, also needs to be used effectively. Let me tell you there are some basic aspects of email that can allow you to manage your workflow AND use the tool efficiently. Here are a few starting points: 

1. Don’t take forever to respond to an email message.  You may be busy, and if you haven’t time to give a considered and full response, have the courtesy to reply and indicate a timeline for response.  Not replying at all is discourteous.  If you can’t reply – put on your vacation message, or your ‘out of office’ message as a quick way to let people know that your inbox is in fact working.

2. Treat your students with respect. If you work in a tertiary institution treat students with the same respect you would accord to any adult you have contact with. I can’t tell you how many times students have been shocked to receive a reply from me the same day – they are accustomed to the (almost inexcusable) approach of treating virtual contact with students the same way as consultation hours with the tutor in a f2f setting – i.e. once or twice a week.

3. Use distribution lists or group lists to hold a conversation about a topic

4. Organise conversations logically. When in a group conversation – for heavens sake reply to the latest message.  The way that people fragment the conversation by simply replying to the first message, or one somewhere in-between is not only inefficient but also transparently discourteous.  If you were standing in a group around the water cooler – how would you feel if everyone simply acted as if you weren’t there.  Same thing.

4. For goodness sake use proper formatting.  We have a wonderful written language. We communicate in proper sentences when we write. We also speak sensibly and courteously with each other.  Yet for some reason, people apply kindergarten rules to email which look like this:

Dear Person I just like to write my comments all in one sentence and/or maybe a paragraph because it’s too hard to apply proper punctuation or even structure the message intelligibly and did you have a nice weekend Judy

While I can accept this in casual social media settings, to my way of thinking professional conversations in corporate email should also utilise the full affordances of the English language and supporting email structures.  I actually find it vaguely rude when a colleague doesn’t.

5. Turn on your auto-signature. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to chase up a person’s contact details because the courtesy of having the full signature file is not utilised.  In a large organisation, transparency of conversation is essential.  If I need to phone you, or forward your email to another for response it should be clear who you are and in what capacity we are having our email conversations.

You’re probably thinking this is all very ‘old school’.  Perhaps it is!   But I’m convinced it’s part of the way to be professional, courteous and efficient with email until another tool arrives.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by consumerfriendly

Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs!

Sometimes I feel that we as teachers are constantly 3 steps behind because by the time the whole staff are skilled up on a current technology, it and the students will have already moved on to the next thing.

These words and many more are part of the reflections of my students in INF530 Concepts and Practices of a Digital Age, the foundation subject of the MEd degree in knowledge networks and digital innovation I have been teaching in, since it’s launch this year. Three weeks in and the students have launched their reflective blogs, and been engaging in online spaces and places – some more so than others of course!

Three weeks is a short time, but in that time we have hit those cloudy spaces, and even meatballs (blog post title for one of the reflections – cool!).

Our course participants come from all areas of education: teachers, educational designers, e-learning advisors, higher education, Principals and Vice Principals in schools, and more. With this eclectic and amazing mix, we have almost everything we need in a cohort to challenge our thinking – mine included!

Here are some snippets:

I want to find new and better ways to inspire and motivate teachers to have a go in the networked learning environment, to become “connected educators” – what Tom Whitby defines as “teachers who are comfortable with collaborative learning, social media, and sharing their ideas online.” I share his concern of a “huge gulf now developing between connected and unconnected educators.”

I want to be able to use the right language to convey my passion, to be able to articulate in pedagogical terms why it is important to keep up and to back up what I say with compelling examples from research.

I hope to learn effective research skills that will enable me to find quality, trustworthy information;  develop a professional ‘digital learning’ network; and also build a solid understanding of how positive change can be implemented to help lift education institutions into the 21st century of learning.

Think more on the repercussions of global social networks and become more conversational about creative cultures and ways of doing, such as design thinking.

Develop a more evidence based approach to my teaching practice.

Share my ideas more openly; and learn by doing so.

We have already covered off the major thinkers in the field.  We are beginning our journey into the scholarship that underpins online environments – both in research and use of digital media and resources. We have an Amazon collection reading list for students to dip into and choose just one of these books to rigorously interrogate against the materials they are engaging with.

In another one of our other degree strands (but also part of the new degree), we have welcomed Australia’s teacher ambassador for Evernote into ETL523 Digital Citizenship in Schools.  It’s worth dropping over to Bec’s twitter feed or her post on “Organising my study with Evernote“.

Bec also wrote a post that included the following observationt:

One of the important messages about digital citizenship that we should be remembering and sharing with colleagues is the fact that we as teachers can not effectively educate students about the online world, digital citizenship or the notion of a digital footprint if we in fact are not partaking in the same social networks or using the same tools as our students.

Another important factor to consider, suggested by Nielsen (2011), is the notion of not confusing managing one’s digital footprint with being hidden or private. It is my understanding that a digital footprint should represent who we are and what we believe in a professional manner.

For some of us this seems obvious, yet not so for other educators – yet! We are struggling to encourage a few to understand the difference between privacy and adopting professional communication channels rather than a hidden persona.  Isn’t this exactly what we don’t want our school kids to do…hide… and then be ready to do whatever they like online?  The worse case scenarios are bullying or hacking.

Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs?

You bet – the unexpected is the common denominator in all our encounters in our learning journey together.  Thank you to my wonderful cohort – the world is going to be a better place for the willing engagement and generous learning mindset that you are bringing to your study!

I am so honoured to be able to engage with you all!

Image:cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan

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Stayin’ Alive – learning as the future

You have to love this old tune from the Bee Gees! Tight pants aside, the lyrics and pace of Stayin’ Alive hits the mark for the first subject kicking off in the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation)!

It’s “O” week, and I have a new band of troopers who are aiming to stay alive while giving  learning in new channels and new scholarly approaches a go with me. Wherever we work in the education sector the challenges are there – time to level up!

Areas to explore:

  • The information revolution, global connectedness and trends in technology
  • New modes and methods for information organisation and knowledge creation
  • Principles of connected learning, open access and open communities
  • The digital divide and globalization of lifelong and lifewide learning
  • Creative cultures including gaming and maker-spaces
  • Education informatics
  • Re-imagining the experience of education in a digital age.

Yeah, we’re stuck in CMS land – but not completely.  We have our backchannel in Twitter (of course), and we have our own degree portal as a launchpad for digital connections across platforms, devices, and scholarly digital direction. Please note the word ‘scholarly’. We are not about devices. We are about adding depth and scholarly rigour to the push into spreadable media, networked culture and postmillenial pop.

Yes, our students will have to know how to cite Twitter in an academic paper, alongside traditional citation practices.

Professors may scoff at the idea, but students are increasingly citing tweets in academic papers. Although they don’t exactly count as peer-reviewed, tweets do provide interesting insight into pop culture, breaking news and a number of social issues. After all, the Library of Congress is indexing tweets for historical reference.

They need to know about Open Access and full research re-use rights and predatory publishers.

mobilehubThey will make use of a host of tools from CSU Mobile Hub and dig deep in developing their professional reflexive and reflective position on what they are learning by keeping a digital record at CSU Thinkspace. Naturally a bunch of Bibliography and Citation tools will also kick into action.

Blending imaginative learning with real-word development needs can be extremely challenging and extreme FUN. Take our first assignment (yeah, we still have to have them)  – the scholarly book review.  Seems easy? huh?  Until you realise that there is an extensive list of books to choose from – see my Amazon list collection.

Write a scholarly book review, which presents a critique of the work in the context of current and emerging trends in information and knowledge environments created by the social and technological changes of the digital age, and in relation to learning and teaching.

Identify questions or issues that are important and which have implications for current practice and/or for your professional goals.

Many critically acclaimed books are published that address topics related to digital information environments and knowledge networks; creative cultures and use of technology; and futurist perspectives on learning in a digital world. However, regardless of popularity or publicity, educators need to be able to evaluate these publications from a scholarly point of view.

A scholarly book review is a critical assessment of a book. It can take a substantial amount of time for critical scholarship to emerge about a book. Likewise, as scholars read and digest the content of a publication, divergent views can emerge, and research can be questioned, or new areas of investigation can appear. Therefore the knowledge and skills underpinning a scholarly book review are more important than ever in the dynamic information environments of today.

This is no tripadvisor review.. it’s one that requires students to challenge their thinking, dig into the research, and in particular identify the value versus hyperbole so often present in many of these kinds of publications. This critique is a critical review, and as Steve Wheeler explains,  it requires a student to “look both ways” : 

  • Provide a balanced and objective argument; don’t indiscriminately pepper their assignments with direct quotations from the literature;
  • judge the worth of any theory or idea they include in their work; and
  • demonstrate to the reader (and marker!) that they not only found the idea and can understand it, but that they can also contextualise it.

Warning, warning.  Don’t keep quoting statements that have no foundation in emergent theory and research. Just because a self-appointed media ‘guru’ says it’s so, doesn’t make it so!

Students, it’s time to fine you niche in the digital noise.  We’ll be stayin’ alive together if you connect, communicate and collaborate.  Otherwise……get back into the desert of the analogue world.

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother,
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.
Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’,
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Daniela Hartmann

Resist the colour of Twitter?

Within the business and education sectors, some people prefer to maintain a ‘professional’ social  network for work-related communication and collaboration, while maintaining a ‘personal’ social network to communicate and share with family and friends. Others prefer to merge or integrate their professional and personal lives as a single ‘connected’ network.

Yet in my experience, rather a lot more hardly make use of the affordances of technologies, and prefer to remain back in the 20th century.  While I understand this when the choice is actively made based on knowledge of social media, I have run out of excuses to justify this position for educators at any time. In a technology-driven society, things change at a faster rate than ever before in history. We need to be connected.

Do we really need connected educators? Tom Whitby provides a ‘neat’ rationale for being connected:

Who educators connect with is a very critical consideration. Acquiring numbers of educators who share concerns and interests is essential. Once an educator connects with other educators, they begin to collect them as sources in a Professional Learning Network of educators, a PLN. A connected educator may then access any or all of these sources for the purpose of communication, collaboration, or creation. This connectedness is not bound by bricks and mortar. It is not bound by city limits or state lines. It is not limited by countries borders. The only nagging inconvenience is dealing with time zones on a global level.

Yes, there have been any number of examples in the last several years about the influence of social media, but this next story caught my eye today.

A Quiet [Twitter] Protest

In Istanbul, known as the city of seven hills, dozens of public stairways crisscross centuries-old neighborhoods, giving pedestrians a way to avoid heavy car traffic on the streets.

Those walkways generally attract little notice, but that changed last week, when a retired forestry engineer decided to paint the Findikli stairs in the central district of Beyoglu in all the colors of the rainbow — an act of guerrilla beautification that unintentionally triggered a fresh ripple of anti-government protests.

The retiree behind the caper, Huseyin Cetinel, 64, told the local news media that his original motivation for applying a fresh coat of paint to the stairs was not activism, but the desire “to make people smile.” Mr. Cetinel said he spent nearly $800 on paint and devoted four days to sprucing up the stairs, with help from his son-in-law.

“Don’t you think Findikli Stairs are just amazing? Thanks to those who did it,” one Twitter user wrote last week.

What happened next in the story was interesting.

What transformed the painted stairs into a political issue was the surprise that Findikli residents woke up to last Friday: the stairs had been hastily, and somewhat unconvincingly, repainted in their original color, a dark cement gray.

Activists began organizing on Twitter almost immediately, using the hashtag #DirenMerdiven, or ResistStairs — a reference to the hashtag used for protests in June against government plans to build a shopping mall in place of the city’s Gezi Park, #DirenGeziPark, or ResistGeziPark.

The rest is as you would expect – thanks to social action.  Read more at New York Times.

“But I’m already active on Twitter” I hear you protest?

Well I have something else to share with you that I know others have enjoyed.  Check out this  presentation to find out the number one mistakes that everyone makes on Twitter.

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Lenore Edman

Understanding your digital footprint – new opportunities!

Just like a tattoo, your digital reputation is an expression of yourself. It is formed and added to by you and others over time. In her Digital Tattoo presentation at ISTE 2013 (also in video format), Sullivan (2013), shares excellent resources and presents a compelling narrative for learning more so we can all make informed decisions about who we are and what we do online. Educators can not ignore this, it is part of teaching and learning now. It is an everyday part of a students’ life – professionally and socially.

This may mean that teachers need to embark more on creating an online identity and actively engage in new and emerging media and in fact lead by example. Without this personal understanding of the technologies and web environments the issues that our students are facing becomes somewhat theoretical, and perhaps makes it difficult to take a proactive stance on matters within your own school or DLE. Nielsen (2011), in her blog post Discover what your digital footprint says about you provides resources to help you discover what your digital footprint really says about you. Fostering responsible citizenship needs a clear understanding of  ‘public by default’ settings – particularly in the face of such challenges as those that social networking sites like Facebook bring into the mix.

Teaching students to manage their digital footprint really starts with the adults. Teachers can’t teach this effectively if they, themselves have not managed their own digital footprint. It is also important not to confuse managing a digital footprint with being hidden or private. Branding our identities has become more and more important in the digital age and if students and teachers aren’t actively managing their digital footprint, then who is? Managing your digital footprint starts with asking questions like: Who are you? What do you stand for? What are your passions and beliefs? The important lesson with managing your digital footprint is that everything we do online should represent who we are and what we stand for and we must have the knowledge that this representation will stick with us potentially forever. (Nielsen, 2010).

Levine (2012), takes us on a journey in his video, We, Our Digital Selves, and Us, where we are challenged to reflect on our online and offline identities and how we can mold our digital footprint, and implies learners at all ages should be cognizant of being digital.

Want to learn more about your digital tattoo? Search yourself. Use pipl.com (http://pipl.com)  to find out what comes up about you. Try Spezify (http://www.spezify.com/) for a visual representation of your identity or (more importantly) how the internet sees you.

Julie Lindsay asks:

What are important messages and understandings we should be remembering and sharing with colleagues to inform our approach to teaching and learning in the digital world?

You will find this and many more concepts, ideas, issues and questions to discuss in the subject that Julie Lindsay is writing and teaching for us at Charles Sturt University. I am delighted to be working with Julie – a real global leader in digital citizenship in schools.

Julie has been appointed as an Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Information Studies, Faculty of Education. Julie is teaching two subjects in the March session - Digital Citizenship in Schools and Knowledge Networking for Educators.

I am very proud of the fact that our new global online degree, launching in 2014, the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) http://digital.csu.edu.au is working with global leaders in the field – a unique approach to postgraduate education. While we have a robust academic foundation for all the subjects, we also have a solid foundation in the really relevant concepts and practices required in a digital world – as demonstrated by those that are actually leading the global agenda!

Why not join Julie in this remarkable degree.  To find out more about Julie, start with this portfolio website – http://about.me/julielindsay

Enrollments are still open until 2 February.  Contact me at Twitter https://twitter.com/heyjudeonline  if you want more information!

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Steve Jurvetson

Why I FLIP instead of SCOOP

It’s summer here in Sydney, and anyone with any sense is flipping in the water or scooping sand at the beach. I’m not so lucky, being wired to the world via my workdesk. But like many of us I am not alone, and for that reason curating content to revisit, and share along the way is part of what I do.

In the social media sense, content curation is  the organizing, filtering and “making sense of” information on the web and sharing the very best pieces of content with your network that you’ve cherry picked for them .

It comes down to organizing your sources, knowing which of them are trust worthy, and seeing patterns.

So for educators it comes down to  keeping up the pace in adopting these strategies and using tools to publish curated content in the sense of ‘reporting’ what’s happening. So I see myself doing these things:

  • first level curation : curating my own content for myself (my own ‘go-to’ repository with tools like Diigo, Delicious, Evernote, Flipboard, Facebook, Flickr, RSS readers etc, and sharing this because my online tools are socially connected
  • second level curation: curating content for others via targetted tweets or Google+ circles, Facebook pages, Facebook groups, wikis, livebinders,  etc. (Does Paper.li fit in here seeing as it is automated?), so sharing at this level is a direct extension of the first level of personal curation.

Now I can see a reason for educators to move into  third level curation as a form of info-media publishing.  Think of this as dynamic content curation that’s about helping keep up with the news.   The flow of information through social media is changing:

While we’re dismantling traditional structures of distribution, we’re also building new forms of information dissemination. Content is no longer being hocked, but links are. People throughout the network are using the attention they receive to traffic in pointers to other content, serving as content mediators. Numerous people have become experts as information networkers.

Now I can use all my social networking resources and return information back to my social community at the third level of curation.

Social content curation is about collecting, organising and sharing information – in a new package. I’m no archivist. But I am a digital curator of information for myself, and perhaps for others. Back in 2011 I said that  I was interested to see how (what I call) the third level curation evolves. I like the idea of socially connected ways of publishing ‘what’s new’ and ‘what’s newsworthy’ as an ‘aside’ to my ‘go-to’ information repository such as my social bookmarks.

I wrote about Scoop-it, and for quite a time I used Scoop-it quite successfully – for my own purposes and to follow other ‘scoops’.

In 2014 I have largely abandoned Scoop-it – and that is BECAUSE of the way it shares information!  I am totally and completely fed up with finding an interesting recommend in my  FB page  or in my Twitter feed (as and example), from a trusted Scoop-it curator. I completely detest that I HAVE To go to the Scoop first, and THEN to the actual recommended read.  This annoys me so much, that I have abandoned using the tool myself so as not to annoy my curation followers in the same manner! If you use Scoop-it and I see your recommend in my media stream – I’m most likely going to ignore it!

Now I am using Flipboard, because it does the same job, in a much nicer format, PLUS  it doesn’t force a user back to the whole board.  Millions of people use Flipboard to read and collect the news they care about, curating their favorite stories into their own magazines on any topic imaginable. Thousands are using it to create fantastic education resources.

This is magic!  If someone is keen to join or follow a Flipboard, then that’s great.  But in the meantime, we have a perfect tool at our disposal to create a collection for targetted needs.  I’m still experimenting – but I think it’s a great tool.

Endgame. Won.

Thanks to Sue Waters for The flip-a-holic’s ultimate guide to subscribing, curating and sharing using Flipboard. http://theedublogger.com/2013/06/12/flipboard/

Find Judy O’Connell at Flipboard https://flipboard.com/profile/heyjudeonline

Reference: Boyd, D. (2010). Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media. Educause Review, 45(5), 26-28.
Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by David