Archive for category online tools
I have been using Pinterest a fair bit this year to collect links and images of interest to me an my students. It’s a nifty platform for curating – it’s highly visual and has an app for both apple and android that I find myself using often when surfing my mobile devices in front of the telly.
When introducing Pinterest to newcomers, I am often asked the question: “how does this website full of pictures of cupcakes have anything to do with learning?”. It’s a good question! Pinterest at first glance presents as a space filled with links to homewares, fashion, craft and cooking. I know some people claim that Pinterest is therefore “for girls”, but plenty of people refute this.
One way that I have seen Pinterest used very powerfully in education is for the creation of ‘inspiration boards’.
Tania Sheko has provided an excellent account of examples from her school in a recent blog post. I’ve included her screenshot here to give you an idea of what is covered:
Working as a librarian in her school Tania was able to really boost the teaching/learning resources available in a visual arts unit by creating a range of boards with images to INSPIRE students in their project making.
What a great idea!
If I was teaching English right now, I could definitely apply this strategy. I would probably start by making inspirations boards for:
- different genres (a gothic board! a crime fiction board!)
- characters for story writing
- locations for story writing
So there you have it – INSPIRATION BOARDS. An excellent way to utilise the (wonderfully visual and digital) Pinterest in your teaching.
Thanks to Tania for sharing her ideas!
Most teachers have had some experience with cyberbullying. Whether your students are very young primary schoolers or adolescents, circumstances can arise when students post nasty comments about each other on social media, share embarrassing photos, or email hurtful letters.
But what do you do when a student engages in bullying tactics online toward you, the teacher?
It’s the fear of this happening that stops many teachers from engaging with students on public platforms. I’ve heard several teachers ask questions about this, including in every ‘teaching with technologies’ workshop I’ve ever held: what if a student acts out online? what if a student posts inappropriate comments that get linked to the school name, or mine?
Unfortunately, this has been the story of the past week for me.
The scenario: A student felt that I had not uploaded assessment criteria in a timely fashion. I differ on this opinion, but that is really besides the point! The student (or a group of them?) had created a fake twitter account, unlinked to their real name or photo, to post tweets about our class. They sent tweets addressed to the class twitter handle and using the unit hashtag to make, at first, a series of queries about unit materials in an aggressive tone. Yesterday these tweets became more critical, referring to university policy, slandering the education faculty, and linking the official university twitter handle into the tweets as well.
My response: It’s always hurtful, on a human level, when something like this happens. But as a teacher it’s probably easier than in many professions to let these kinds of criticisms roll right over you – “water off a duck’s back” style. Teachers face the wrath of student disappointment in many manifestations! After a while in the teaching game you learn what to take on board and what to turn a blind eye to. We try not to take things too personally. This is why, at first, I simply replied to the tweets in question with helpful advice and invitations to contact me via email or in person, out of the public domain. Once the tweets this week started to include references to the uni though, I knew I had to be firm – I used a couple of reply tweets to make it clear that cyberbulling was not tolerated in our institution and outline what constituted bullying behaviour.
Resolution: As well as public tweets I sent a series of three direct messages to the student/bogus account asking them to stop making public statements that critique my professionalism and letting them know that I wouldn’t be further engaging with public criticism. I asked someone higher up the food chain than me whether it would be OK to ‘report and block for spam’ the offending tweets and they advised YES. When I went to block the user this afternoon, I was relieved to see that the student had thought better of their actions and deleted the entire offending account.
The reason I want to share this story is to emphasise the strategies I used for dealing with this over the past week:
- INFORM: Be polite online and try to diffuse critical questions with helpful information.
- INVITE: Ask students that publicise critical views to contact you directly to discuss issues that are bothering them.
- CAPTURE: Always take a screen capture of material that you suspect is, or may turn into, bullying. I did. This ensures you have a record of events even when/if the student deletes the material. This becomes vital down the track if the bullying is repeated elsewhere.
- REPORT: Even though you will naturally want to avoid embarrassment and ‘bad press’ for your name/class/initiative, it’s important that your boss (e.g. Head Teacher of English in a school) knows what is happening and has a chance to help.
I’m going to try turning this into a very light and positive ‘teachable moment’ in our class lecture tomorrow – not by attacking the student but by highlighting good digital citizenship practices. Wish me luck!
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about cyberbullying, excellent material can be found on the ReachOut website here: http://au.reachout.com/Cyberbullying
The new Safe Schools Hub also has a useful Framework for building safety into the school culture: http://safeschoolshub.edu.au/safe-schools-toolkit/the-nine-elements
One last thing…
I won’t be closing down my twitter account or ceasing the use of twitter in my class learning environment or anything drastic like that! Although this is exactly the kind of thing that scares teachers away from online teaching spaces, I still think the value of positive exchanges via social media are ‘worth it’ for my class.
Although…I will be renewing my commitment to talking about digital citizenship with students in the first week of the semester. On reflection, this could probably all have been avoided if I did some explicit twitter teaching and set clear boundaries in weeks 1 or 2. D’oh!
Last week I was walking a colleague through Twitter and thought now may be a good time to pen a post with some tips for new users. In particular I want to encourage new users in the education sector to build their profile on Twitter and explore its potential as a personal learning network.
- I can check in any time and browse items that have been tweeted by people I have decided to follow
- It’s not full of banal updates about people’s personal life, as on Facebook
- If I don’t check it for ages I don’t get in trouble and there is no obligation to ‘catch up’ (unlike email)
- I have found the most amazing connections from around the world that I otherwise would not have – it is a real networking platform
In just a couple of weeks from now our Queensland English and literacy teaching associations are co-hosting our annual national conference. We have set up a Twitter handle (@EngLit2013) and declared a hashtag (#BNW13) for the event. With luck this medium will take off during the event and lots of teachers will experiment with using Twitter, perhaps for the first time.
This post, therefore, is written with school teachers and English/literacy educators in mind, as well as my colleagues at university.
If you have joined Twitter but still don’t really know what to do with it, this post is for you!
1. Hatch your egg
Many people I talk to feel nervous about writing their first tweet and following lots of people. So let’s not start there!
The first thing I like to get people doing with Twitter is making their profile page inviting to potential followers.
When you first create a profile on Twitter you will be given the default egg image as your picture. But you are not an egg! You aren’t even a chicken! You are a person!
It’s very important to update your profile picture, or ‘hatch you egg’, to show others that you are active online. By adding an avatar that better represents you, the service will also start to seem more interesting to you.
2. Add a bio
I rarely follow anyone who doesn’t have a bio, and many others have the same rule. Why? Not because I’m a Twitter-snob, but because without a bio it’s hard to tell who you freakin are!
Some people are reluctant to add a bio, worried that it will reveal too much about them, breach their privacy, or make them identifiable to their employer.
My tips for educators that are worried about such things are:
- Don’t feel pressured to name your workplace. Terms like ‘maths teacher’ or ‘science educator’ give us enough information to go on.
- Avoid declaring your religious or political affiliations, unless you are very comfortable doing so.
- Get in the habit of only saying things online that you would proudly stand by if your employer saw it.
- Don’t include your location if you have concerns about privacy or safety. You can always add this in later, once you are comfortable.
If in doubt, just browse a few other profiles until you get a feel for the kind of things people write. Many people are happy sharing that they are a husband, wife, parent of three, dog-lover etc. Writing such things is OK and entirely within the genre of a ‘professional’ bio. It’s all up to you and what you want to signal about yourself and your passions/priorities to others.
3. Follow about 15 people
I’ve heard a lot of recommendations about the ideal number of people to follow to get connections happening on Twitter. I suggest you will need to follow at least 50 people to see real ‘action’ on your feed…but following that many people is very overwhelming to most new users!
If you don’t follow enough people though, it will be difficult to see the point of Twitter.
So if you are a teacher trying to get the hang of microblogging I advise following about 15 other profiles straight away. This will give you enough material to read when you check Twitter that you are bound to find interesting things and start to see ‘the point’.
Here is a selection of profiles that I often recommend to English teachers new to Twitter:
- @edutopia (kick-ass education resources)
- @heyjudeonline (teacher-librarian)
- @BiancaH80 (English teacher)
- @Darcy1968 (Deputy Principal)
- @englishteachers (AATE – professional association)
If you are happy to follow celebrities there is also @MargaretAtwood, @stephenfry and @rickygervais. Sometimes they tweet A LOT though, so if that gets too intense, always feel free to UNFOLLOW people – we don’t take it personally on Twitter!
4. Write a tweet!
This is actually the easiest part.
You can choose to say something, ask a question, or share a link with others.
What you must keep in mind though is that Twitter is NOT Facebook. There are no ‘likes’ (though tweets can be re-tweeted or added to a favourites list) and many times you will say things that get no reply or comment. Not single one. Don’t be sad about this!
Be confident in the knowledge that people may be reading your tweets, but not replying. You will do this to them too – it’s OK.
Also be confident that even if no-one notices your tweet, that what you wrote was still worth saying. You might even come back to your own tweets every now and then to rediscover links or information you have shared. Your Twitter feed is as much for you as it is for others.
If you want lots of people to see your tweet you can include what is called a hashtag in your post – popular ones include #edchat and #edtech. There are also subject-specific hashtags, such as the #ozengchat tag for Australian English teachers to use for chatting.
5. That’s enough for now…go and get a coffee 🙂
Once you’ve added a profile picture and a bio, followed some people and posted a tweet, you are well on your way to being an effective microblogger.
Tweeting directly to people by including their handle (e.g. @kmcg2375) in your post and including hashtags can increase the number of replies you get, but you will find this out as you go.
One final thought for those of you who are wary of joining ‘yet another’ social media service…not all social networks are the same.
Give Twitter a decent try, checking in at least once a week for a month, you’ll see what I mean 🙂
I love this spoken word poem by Hollie McNish!
Uploaded in February this year, a colleague shared it with me today. It has been viewed over 665,000 times.
As well as being a stand out piece of speech, this poem would be useful for English teachers looking for texts to explore issues of immigration and racism (arguably with links to ‘numeracy’ capabilities as well!)
Press Play. Sit Back. Enjoy:
Ah, “FYE” … the new acronym in my life!
It stands for First Year Experience, and now that I’m the FYE Coordinator for my Faculty, it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot.
As a school teacher, the role reminds me a LOT of being a Year Advisor, but with one difference. Instead of staying with my year group and looking after them until they graduate, at the end of the year I send my group off to second year, and prepare to look after the FYE of a new cohort.
My FYE jobs
This is my first year in the role, and one of my ‘big jobs’ is to consult with unit coordinators to identify students in need of help with academic literacy. Students have a raft of assignments due around weeks 4-6 and using those we can make early recommendations for study skill support.
I’m also one of the main points of contact for first year students, and I get to go to many (very interesting, seriously) meetings about student engagement and improving campus life. My personal engagement project is a knitting club that I am launching for Education students in Week 5 of semester 🙂
Something else I am trying this year is the establishment of a Twitter account (1styear_edu) to communicate messages relevant to students in first year Education. I’ve stated nice and clearly in the bio that I am behind the tweets, and the profile pic is a shot of our lovely main admin building at Kelvin Grove campus. I’m not following students back (yet), but am following things that I think they would like, or that I would want to retweet from.
So far I’m up to 93 followers, out of a potential 650 (ish). It’s Monday of week 4, out of 13 week semester, and on the whole, I am happy!
Yes, yes, some things I already know:
- Almost all first year students use Facebook, with only about 10% entering our courses using Twitter. We know this from a student survey. I think this is great, because it means most of them are up to date with the digital literacy skill needed to use Twitter, and just need some guidance to transfer those practices.
- Not many students like Twitter when they first join it. I know this anecdotally, but I don’t see this as a reason not to persist with the service. In fact, I think it’s good to put students out of their learning ‘comfort zone’ … especially students that are trying to become teachers!
- Most students won’t go to Twitter regularly for announcements. That’s OK! They should be going to the institution’s ‘Blackboard’ (or other LMS) for essential announcements. Although I do repeat some key announcements on Twitter, it would be inequitable to announce important stuff there without also placing it on Blackboard. Twitter is for engagement, tips, and social study support.
- Students don’t use their social media for learning. Well, I know that some already do, actually – you should meet them! But I sincerely hope that by the time the others graduate from a year (or four) at QUT that their attitude to Personal Learning Environments will have changed! Using Twitter is just one thing I can do to help them over this threshold.
What is to come?
I hope that students will increase their take-up of Twitter for crowdsourced note taking. I’ve attempted to lead some tweeting using the unit codes #EDB006 (for ‘Learning Networks’, the only core unit that first year students share) and #CLB320 (a unit on ‘Studies in Language’ that about half the cohort undertakes).
I also want to show other teachers the power of using tools such as Storify to collect tweets about a topic that can be used later as a teaching aid. For example, here is my collection of tweets from the start of EDB006:
Other than that, I think I’m just hoping for some more discussion between students … but I don’t mind if that doesn’t really kick in until later in their degrees. For now I’m just stoked to have seen any interaction at all!
93 followers, baby … how long will it take me to double it? I’ll be sure to report back when we hit 186 😉
Last week I had the good fortune to hear Professor Diana Masny speak about her Deleuzian approach to researching multiliteracies theory (which she referred to as ‘MLT’). Masny is from Ottowa, Canada, and is an adjunct prof at QUT.
In this presentation I was returned to the idea of ‘the rhizome’, something that had interested me when I encountered the work of Deleuze and Guattari. The idea behind looking at things rhizomatically is that we can stop focussing on binary oppositions, or organising concepts into ordered taxonomies and such. Instead, rhizomatic analysis involves looking at things and ideas spread/propagate…and at where new possibilities ‘shoot off’ out of of what already exists.
This talk by Masny was interesting for a number of reasons to do with designing research methodology, as well as considering MLT from new angles. One thing that inspired me was the way that her presentation was organised around ‘entry points’ to her own topic as a rhizomatic collection of findings. This is in contrast to a presentation that tries to summarise ‘key findings’ or ‘ways forward’. Seeing as I most often use my blog to reflect on ‘findings’ and ‘planning’, I thought it might make a nice change to adopt Masny’s (after Deleuze’s) approach of exploring the ‘entry points’ into my practice so far this semester…
ENTRY POINT: Attendance
At QUT we have a policy that attendance is not to be counted in any way toward assessment, and that students choosing to catch up on their study from home are to be supported in that choice. I have heard some lecturers complain about this – they think students would learn better if they turned up to all the classes, and wish the university would enforce this. Most of us, however, respect the purpose of this arrangement, which is to provide flexible study options for the grown-up human beings that are our ‘students’, and cater for a range of learning styles. Personally I find it very motivating, as it forces me to think about HOW I can make my lessons “worth coming to”!
I’m really happy with the attendance rate in my classes at the moment. Out of the 110 students I have studying on campus, almost 100% turned up in Week one, and the students that were away mostly emailed in their apologies. In Week 2, attendance in tutorials and the lecture was down to about 85%, which is to be expected. What I am eager to see is that 85% attendance rate maintained for the rest of the 9-week semester, rather than drop of over time to 20-50%, as other lecturers often report. I’m pleased to say that in the past few years here, I haven’t noticed the same kind of drop of, and I like to think this reflects the usefulness of my classes.
ENTRY POINT: Engagement
As always it has been a slow start on Twitter…but as always, there are several students ‘coming around’ to the tool already and engaging with informal peer tutoring as well. Once again, I am glad I chose to persevere with introducing students to an unfamiliar (and for many of them, unloved) social media tool.
I had a really great out-of-context engagement moment as well last week, on Pinterest. I use Pinterest among other things to collect useful resources for English teachers, and one day I saw a collage about English teaching and ‘re-pinned it’ to my board. I thought (and commented) ‘wow…this is just like an activity I do in class!’. Then I realised that I was following one of my students already, and that it was her! Funniest bit was though, she had been following me too without realising who I was, or making any connection to out uni lives. Good times!
There has been a growth in socia media profiles and ‘chats’ that I can now connect my students to, and the most important of these is the #ozengchat that takes place on Twitter on Tuesday nights. Feeling like they are engaging with ‘real teachers’ seems to be helping with motivation in the class, but at the moment that’s just my anecdotal take on the situation.
ENTRY POINT: Assessment
In my class students undertake THREE assessment tasks:
- Personal essay on teaching philosophy and resource analysis (individual, 30%)
- Lessons plans for a junior English class (in pairs, 40%)
- Portfolio of completed learning ‘challenge tasks’ (individual, 30%)
What I like about what I have achieved with this set of assessments is that there is a balance of individual and group work, that there is a variety of tasks, and that no task is worth more that 40%.
At this point I’ll put myself out there to say I am disappointed to see how many uni coordinators choose to use just TWO assessment piece in their own classes. This is not good practice imo! Having less assignments does mean a smaller marking load for the lecturer, and less due dates for the student, but at what cost?
I really do believe that students in uni should not have assessments that are worth 50% or over, as this is too high-stakes to promote good learning. To do this, you must have more than two assessments for a unit in a semester.
FINAL WORDS: The CLB018 ‘assemblage’
In the theory of Deleuze and Guattari, the context of my CLB018 class provides an assemblage of bodies and things that can produce any number of effects. I hoe to keep reporting throughout the semester on the effects (and affects) of our assemblage!
In the meantime, any comments on these POINTS OF ENTRY are most welcome.
Are you a teacher? An English teacher, perhaps? Trying to find where the good chats are on Twitter? Look no further! Start by searching for these three English-curriculum-related hashtags and you’ll be on your way to finding and conversing with other teachers just like you!
If you search for this hashtag on Tuesday nights, you’ll find Australian English teachers talking about their craft, ideas and resources.
The #ozengchat group also has a page on Edmodo, which is where voting for the weekly topic takes place (a group code for Edmodo can be obtained by tweeting @vivimat78). Vivian, who convenes the chat, also collects our chat tweets in a weekly online storyline using ‘Storify’.
#ozengchat officially takes place on Tuesday from 8.30pm – 9.30pm, Australian EDST (i.e. GMT +11)
As well as a special hashtag for Australian folk, there is also a more general #engchat hashtag that is coordinated for a more global chat.
Currently the #engchat tag seems to be heavily used by teachers in the US – as a result you can see some interesting discussion taking place there now about the implementation of ‘Common Core Standards’ across their states. And of course also a lot of resources being shared that we otherwise might not stumble across through our own local networks!
#engchat takes place at 7pm in the States (EST) every Monday, which is 10am – 12pm on Tuesdays in Australia (Eastern time).
You can follow the #literacies hashtag on the 1st and 3rd Thursday every month. The convenors are based in the US, so the chat happens on Thursday night for them, which is Friday lunch-time in Australia.
This chat is supported by a very up-to-date and informative blog, where a record is kept of the chats and upcoming topics.
The #literacies tag can be added to your tweets at any time, but Friday 12pm – 1pm (Eastern time) is when you’ll see it live in Australia (i.e. Thursday night 8-9pm in the US).
A tip for non-tweeters:
If you want to check out these tags, but don’t really want to get involved in Twitter or create your own account, never fear!
You can search for these tags any time by going to the Twitter homepage and typing the hashtag (complete with its ‘#’ at the start) into the search bubble. You will need to make your own account to reply with your own tweets, but until then there’s no harm in lurking and learning from afar 😉
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