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?

Ning Facebook face-off?

You’ve got to love the pace of change…now it’s OpenSocial!

For those of you who don’t eat, breathe, and sleep web standards, OpenSocial is a new open web API being spearheaded by Google. OpenSocial applications will be able to run easily and reliably inside social networks, and be able to be tailored by the user to create personalisation of their social space.

Ning already has one-click integration with Facebook automatically on your social network using the Facebook proprietary platform approach.

Now Ning has released OpenSocial across their now 115,000 social networks. This means that you can enable OpenSocial “Apps” or “Gadgets” on your social network on Ning today!

So if you are a Network creator, you have the choice to add OpenSocial Gadgets to your network- it is entirely optional. If you don’t choose the OpenSocial Gadget option from the Features page, then your members will not have the option to add OpenSocialOpenSocial Gadgets to their profile page. It’s up to you. If you do decide to enable Gadgets on your network, your members can add any OpenSocial Gadget of their choice to their member profile page.

Keep up to date with ongoing Ning changes and developments at the Ning Blog.

I think there is a rumbling in the firmament again! Facebook – hang on!

Here’s a quick screencast which describes how to get started with OpenSocial Gadgets on your social network right now.

From Ning Blog. Photo: FaceOff

Let me tell you about Ning! and the new bonus!

The big news from Ning! is that it is offering Ad-free student networks. This is a real boon.

I like Ning very much for the robust social networking it provides – it’s excellent for good discussion and group sharing, ideal for new users to social networking, and especially good for specific global projects like the Flat Classroom project, or for your own school-based projects or staff space.

But I have been avoiding ‘marketing’ it in my schools because of the advertisments.

No longer!

Steve Hargadon writes about the new look Ning! – and how current education users can request to have advertising removed. As a member of the FlatClassroom Project, Classroom 2.0, The Global Education Collaborative, Library 2.0, NextGen Teachers, School 2.0, Stop Cyberbullying, Edublogger World, and lots more. I’m not active really, just drop by sometimes – unless the group is project-based such as The Horizon Project and the Flat Classroom Project.classroom-20.jpg

I especially like the way we can use Ning! to introduce groups of new teachers to the world of robust social networking – sharing information, ideas, videos, movies etc, as well as having a personal space to run a bit of a blog (for those who haven’t got time to ‘go it alone’), a way to discuss and ask questions through the forum….and more!

Now it’s time for more people to have a go! Go on, start by joining a group – I have found another that needs my attention – Ning in Education! Time for me to schedule a workshop!

What I would like is a better way of integrating all my groups FaceBook style! API anyone?