Learning without frontiers – social media and beyond

I am really enjoying participating in the ASLA National Conference in Sydney. We have had the most amazing presentations and workshops, which together show the way forward for teacher librarians keen to participate in 21st century learning and library services.

The keynote presentations will be available as a video as well as slideshare presentations, and I will post about these when they have been completed.

Today I started the day off for the crowd with some ideas and provocative thoughts to set the scene for the second full day at the conference. I really want school librarians to embrace social media, and become  builders of knowledge in new media environments by drawing on their passion and their love of culture and learning.

Ultimately we should be Learning without Frontiers!

It isn’t about learning how to use a particular digital tool.
It isn’t about social media.
It isn’t about new media, augmented reality, immersive story-telling.
It is about our ability to understand when and how we move across the everexpanding
meta-literacy environments.

Social Bookmarking not so Delicious anymore



I remember the scramble to work out what to do when the rumours flew around about the demise of Delicious as a social bookmarking tool. Now the new Delicious has launched and the fallout for me is huge – I have to get re-organised all over again!

I read Delicious Relaunches. So, What Now for Educational Social Bookmarking? (Or, Rather: So What?) and jumped right on over to take a look at what happened.

Even before it was clear what the future of Delicious would be, people were turning elsewhere for alternatives, moving their data to sites Diigo, for example, or to Pinboard.

That was me – I managed to get paranoid about my bookmarks. Actually, I started actively bookmarking in Diigo, which I synchronised with Delicious, which I synchronised with Pinboard. So here we are now – we’re starting all over again as my sync-chain is broken.

I like Diigo for it’s group functions, and maybe this is what the new stacks at Delicious are all about – information curation for groups with  visual tweeks. But stacks are not collaborative ventures as represented by groups in Diigo. So I will keep using Diigo for the group collaboration (I like the weekly digest, and the ease of sharing on the fly), as well as for the personal bookmarking across my many devices.   .

Richard Byrne takes a look at Stacks and explains that Delicious Stacks could be a good visual way for students to explore a set of links that you have shared with them about a topic or you or your students could create multimedia playlists about a topic to share with each other.  If you are new to social bookmarking, this is certainly something you might be interested in.

As I jumped back to  Delicious I discovered just how many people forgot to or chose not to accept the changes to the new service. Suddenly I am only following 20 people and I can’t now see who follows me incase I want to reciprocate!!

I follow 101 on Diigo, including some that I consider critical, such as Howard Rheingold and his crap-detection. Now so many of the links I had in papers and presentations that pointed to Delicious users and resources have essentially died.

In the new Delicious:

  • I detest not being able to change the number of items I view on a page.
  • the new browser tagging toolbar does not ‘call up’ your existing tags.
  • there are no longer RSS feeds
  • no tag cloud and other features are missing

The best social bookmarking site is officially dead!

The new Delicious has a nicer interface, and is clearly going to go in new directions and respond to new needs.  However,  right now it has things I don’t need and things that are missing, so  it’s not my tool of choice  as it does not work as efficiently as the old Delicious.  But I have my account, so I will continue to ‘watch this space’ – at least I don’t have to start from the beginning.  (Perhaps this is just what some people wanted to do to de-clutter?)

Meanwhile, Diigo and Pinboard will continue to draw my attention – and it’s time for me to re-organise how I curate bookmarks. New delicious is a bitter disappointment.

Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by bjornmeansbear

Schools taking responsibility for digital citizenship

One of the new courses in 2011 on which I am working at CSU at the moment is called Digital Citizenship in Schools. The opportunity to work with school educators on this topic is a complete bonus!   I feel this way because having recently left working in schools I am only too aware of how easy it is for schools to skirt the issues, or believe they are ‘doing something’ worthwhile – yet missing the point by miles!

It is important to open our eyes as wide as we can to the possibilities, and the far-reaching changes not only in technology tools ( such as computers, laptops, cameras, multi-purpose phones, ipads and portable devices, and ebook readers) but also in information access, and social communications that our digital world is inspiring.

The media constantly report stories about the shift in digital technology use among children and teenagers. These highlight the fact that ‘the shift’ is not just a topic for educators, but is a topic of interest, and perhaps concern, for all adults. Learning to play Angry Birds before you can tie your shoes is suddenly media news!  More importantly, though, is the need to grow in knowledge of the digital environment, and it’s influential role in learning and teaching.

So what are schools doing about it? Ask yourself.  Look around.  Look at your policies, community communications, and your teaching programs. Look at your teachers and figure out how many actually have a clue about any of this?

Fortunatley, there are some really strong role-models in the education community, who help lead the conversation, and now I have found something that I am VERY excited about!

iCyberSafe.com – Living in a Connected World


This outstanding website provides information, resources, videos, updates and more for the school community on all matters related to Digital Citizenship.  It’s so easy to build a resource like this for a school using WordPress – yet how many schools have done this?  I  could have built Joeys something like this in the wink of an eye – but of course, that’s just not the way it happens in schools. We had other initiatives underway!

But the question is  – what does it take to create a whole-school response to Digital Citizenship?  What it takes is a Principal with vision, and determination to break through traditional structures to get where we need to go.  This is why is was wonderful to read that Darcy Moore has such a Principal.

For the first time in 20 years I do not have English classes to teach. The principal has requested that I am ‘off the timetable’ and work with all students on digital citizenship and creating a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) or, if you prefer, Personal Learning Network (PLN). This is another small step towards creating an environment at our school where student learning is personalised with the internet in mind.

What Darcy describes as a ‘small step’ would seem to me to be a significant step, given the cost in time and staffing. I would like to find other schools that have taken bold steps to ‘go where no-one has gone before‘.  This is a new frontier  that must be explored, with conections made and tamed,  so that working with digital citizenship it is no longer seen as being groundbreaking.  How long will it take before digital citizenship just becomes citizenship?

final report from the Learning with New Media research group at Monash University’s Faculty of Education was recently released.  This report, called Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites provides an outstanding analysis of  some the issues involved.

The research findings of this project confirm that SNS usage is now playing an important role in the lives of Victorian middle school students, including in socialisation and identity formation. In fact, SNS use has become integrated into the everyday social lives of most Victorian middle school students.

The final words of the report urge:

There is a need for further research directed at understanding young people’s use of SNS and how they can better be empowered to be confident and safer digital citizens. There is also a significant need to further work to be done to assist teachers to be better equipped to understand their rights and responsibilities in the digital communication environment.

We have a  way to go!

Join us in the journey. Become proactive in your use of digital environments, and urge your school to explore and engage in these environments more (rather than shutting them down).

As a result of my work  with our Digital Citizenship course at uni we now have two ongoing resources that readers may like to tap into and help to build.

Find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DigitalCitizenshipInSchools

Find us at Diigo http://groups.diigo.com/group/digital-citizenship-in-schools

A mini-change in blogging for maximum effect

This year I decided that I had to adopt a modified approach to blogging. Why? – because microblogging platforms like Twitter have radically changed the speed of information sharing, and social sharing/communicating products like Facebook have  embedded the idea of social exchange.

A blog  is now a place for reflection for me, a place for sharing of special finds, making comments, or just having fun  – things that take a little planning perhaps?  While it is easy enough to use tools such as ScribeFire, or Writely or iPad’s BlogPress, or other blog enhancing tools, the point of the exercise for me is not so much about speeding up writing a post so much as expanding on the way I can share ideas/information.

So I’ve tidied up my social networking icons on my  blog here, and included a new one pointing to Amplify. Now I have two key tools that suit my needs.  My main blog here – and my  neat little adjunct to blogging at Amplify!  I can clip, share and spark conversation via  Amplify.

Amplify lets me decide how I want to share; allows me to add a bit of commentary; and also lets me auto-post to twitter, facebook and many more.

When I started blogging I thought hard about what I wanted to write – and mostly the posts were about information sharing of some kind. Now, in a digital social media world I would have to blog frantically to keep up!  I already share direct from my RSS feeds – but the added advantage of Amplify is the ability to add commentary, thoughts, or prompts to the reader, while also keeping a record of my own notes for myself.

OK, I admit, I don’t use the social networking features of Amplify – I don’t need them really right now. This is another thing I like!  I really dislike tools that force me to use them in one way only. Amplify doesn’t insist that I get into the social sharing aspect – so somethings I do, but mostly I don’t!

Many use Posterous and other tools to do something similar for reflections ‘on the side’. Works really well, especially when they are ‘thinkers’.

Me?  I’m more of an information sharing kind of person – so Amplify suits me just fine – and I hope it suits you too as I keep using it for now.

Go on – follow what I’m reading on Amplify.com!

Learning in a changing world series is out!

It’s been rather slow in the making, but finally the new series commissioned by ALIA and ASLA is available to order from the ACER shop online.

The Learning in a Changing World series addresses how the process of learning is evolving – including the array of resources available in the digital age, changing curriculum, and the different teaching strategies needed in order to use new media and technologies.

The Learning in a Changing World series presents the core areas for teacher librarians and school leaders to consider for 21st century learning: the digital world, virtual worlds, curriculum integration, resourcing, and the physical environment. All are essential elements to enable and empower our students to be lifelong learners and active participants in our society.

I was lucky to work on the first two books in the series with my good friend Dean Groom.  Books like the two we worked on can never stay completely current – but then they are not ‘how to’ guides so much as ‘why you should’  and ‘why you can’ guides. There is enough thought provoking information for readers to leverage and  help innovation and change in their own schools.

Connect, Communicate, Collaborate

Our students are involved in an ‘architecture of participation’ – creating, adapting and sharing content. While for them this learning is a comfortable multimodal conversation, for us this change is revolutionary. Schools and school libraries have many challenges to address to create a renewal of pedagogy and technology work practices. As we begin to understand the importance of these seismic shifts, we come to the realisation that we are being challenged to un-learn and re-learn in order to grant students access to 21st century learning.

Connect, Communicate, Collaborate is written to provide the knowledge, inspiration and motivation to get you started.

Many thanks go to  Michael Stephens for generously  contributing the Forward to this work.

Virtual Worlds

Each year there are more and more avatars in rich virtual environments. These immersive worlds – where the world within the screen becomes both the object and the site of interaction – are on the increase, matching the promise of technology with the creative minds of our students. Educators, keen to incorporate the evolving literacy and information needs of 21st century learners, will want to understand the opportunities provided by MUVEs, MMORPGs and 3D immersive worlds, so as to be able to create more interactive library, educational and cultural projects. The challenge is to accept that these interactive environments are here to stay and that schools can, and should, embrace learning in virtual worlds.

Virtual worlds will provide the knowledge, inspiration and motivation to get you started.

Many thanks to Peggy Sheehy for generously contributing the Forward to this work.

Join us in the Second Classroom: Educators Learning in Virtual Worlds and share your virtual learning journey!

Others in the series

Other volumes in the series include Curriculum Integration , Resourcing for Curriculum Innovation, and Designing the Learning Environment.

Enjoy!

Bump your next PD!

Have your ever been to a conference and ‘bumped’?  I have – and it was so much fun to quickly share information. Funnily enough this App does not seem to have taken off with educators as you might expect – didn’t bump at ISTE2010 at all! Perhaps I was in the wrong room. But ACEC2010 earlier in the year in Melbourne was very bumpy!

Bump 2.0 is now out for the iPhone, with Twitter and LinkedIn integration. Powerful!

Bump 2.0 has had a major redesign for its iPhone app, changing the look and adding some very important new features, including Twitter and LinkedIn integration, as well as unlimited photo and contact sharing.

Other major new features include a chat function that lets connected users chat after a Bump, as well as calendar feature where you can compare calendars, invite each other, and automatically save to each calendar. Adding one of these new features would be news – putting them all together basically redefines the app.

I’d like to see this being used more amongst people in the education industry.

via The Next Web Apps

Don’t turn a digital blind eye…

Denver Convention Centre

So here we are  –  back at school again!  After the amazing ISTE2010 conference in Denver Colorado, I can honestly say that I came away packed with inspiration, and refreshed by the multiplicity of exciting approaches being tested and proved for their value in schools around the world.

There were many highlights, but above all, the message came across loud and clear from top to bottom  that we need to be proactive and adventurous in digital environments. Don’t guess  –  collaborate and learn from others! Build academic rigor through excellence in digital innovation.

I was so impressed with the schools that have a solid track record of integration of handheld devices such as the iTouch. They have shown us that it IS possible to have secure networks AND robust learning taking place that transforms opportunities for students. Even more exciting was hearing from those that are also exploring the added advantages that an iPad can bring to flexible learning. Of course, educators also reveled in the opportunity to explore and share Apps for the iPad. ISTE2010 was groundbreaking for me  – seeing so many iPads in one place was amazing!  Oh yes, the TL Learning Tools Smackdown was a real winner!

It was exciting to hear and see Howard Rheingold in person, in his Crapdetection 101 session. He has so much to offer us in understanding issues around good critical thinking in our digital environments. Take the time to watch his presentation, and then visit ISTEs critical thinking compendium.

So back to school for me  and the challenges of digital learning.

Thanks to our Powerful Learning Project initiative, our Digital Citizenship program delivered through a private Ning is once again alive and active with a plethora of curious, clever, colourful and amazing expressions of learning by our Year 7 boys. I know @snbeach will be pleased!

I love watching what happens in the first week!  Some boys are really excited (once again) to be working in an environment that to them ‘is like Facebook’ – which makes it cool! Others can’t help but use the Ning environment to ‘shout out’ about topics that are close to their hearts – who should win the next rugby game; should Ricky Ponting be dropped from the cricket team; and personal reflections on home and school. At the same time, boys are able to reflect on the topics being discussed in class, and sometimes amaze me with their  insights into their own digital world.

For example:

Cyberbullying is common  and mainly occurs because the person on the other side of the screen can’t see how hurt the victim is and they think it’s all a big joke to them. It is one of the largest forms of bullying because it doesn’t have any physical requirements, like conventional bullying does, but can be done by anyone. It is a major problem and is mainly based from social networking sites, not from SMS’ and phone calls because they are too intimate in communication.

One of the most annoying things about cyberbullying is anonymity and not knowing who is bullying you. It also is only effective in large groups so you feel excluded and like everyone is against you, unlike when you know you have friends to support you and back you up. If I experienced cyberbullying I would probably tell a teacher and document all the incidents so that the cyberbullies would get into trouble and hopefully learn a lesson.

Digital Citizenship cannot be ignored. Out of 160 + boys, only a few believe that they have had any help or guidance from parents or teachers in these digital environments.  So our digital initiative is being ‘rolled out’ via our English faculty – communicating in digital environments seems a very good reason to adopt this as our own (yes Darcy – I’m an English teacher too, so perhaps rank as a small part of your English Literati set perhaps in some small way?)

Other examples:

This is all well and good that the school’s IT group has put all this time and effort in to making this program but I have a an idea that this is just a trap for cyber bullyers. Because I’m gathering that school has no jurisdiction over our use of Facebook.

Ning is sooo cool, its just like a mini facebook, I can learn soo much from this!!

The important message  is that the world is changing really fast and in order to keep up with all the new and exciting things, we also need to no how to use these things in a responsible matter.

Cyberbullying = cowardice!

Very perceptive !

These environments are so important in both social and academic spheres.

Why do some educators continue to turn a digital blind eye?

Tag your world – share with Stickybits

What next you ask?  How about Stickybits!! With Stickybits we are now able to attach digital content to real life objects, and share this content with anyone else who accesses our Stickybits  barcodes.

The current phase of social media is all about location-based applications, such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Brightkite, to name a few. By downloading the Stickybits mobile application on an iPhone, users can scan the barcode and which provides the  videos, photos and text which have been added, which are referred to as “bits.”

Anyone that scans the barcode, can see the bits loaded from other users and also add their own content. Stickybits barcode locations can be identified on a map provided in the application and are tracked on the Stickybits website.

I think there are things we could do with this for professional or fun things, as well as develop ideas for school.

You can attach photos, videos, music, pdfs, and more to a barcode.

It is possible to print out your own barcodes, order some snazzy ones from Zazzle, or attach ‘bits’ to existing barcodes.

Here is where it could get interesting for schools – we already have barcodes on objects – now we could attach information goodies to items that are being used for reading, learning, playing, enjoying.  Would we?  This is definitely a whole new idea to explore.

Would you use Sticky Bits?  What would you attach to your barcode?

TechCrunch has a bit to say too:

Every place and object in the world has a secret past: who lived there, who passed by, who touched it. The secret lives of objects are filled with such details. If only you could make them talk. But what if you could give any physical object a story simply by sticking a barcode on it and appending a message to that barcode?

The barcode in a greeting card , for instance, could trigger a video message from the sender. One on a box of medical supplies could inventory what is inside. A business card with a code on it could link to a resume or LinkedIn profile. Museums and theme parks could use them for audio tours and maps. Local merchants could use the barcodes to track deliveries or place them in their storefront windows to distribute digital coupons and offers to passersby.

To get more ideas keep an eye on the StickiWiki, and please do let me know what you try.
Laura Gainor will be utilizing stickybits as a travel journal as she ventures to Disney World with her family from April 16 – 19, 2010 and also bring along stickybit stickers to attach to different real world objects

Laura Gainor used  stickybits as a travel journal for a Disney World trip with her family from April 16 – 19, 2010!