Such Tweet Sorrow–follow-up

I talked about Such Tweet Sorrow in my media class today. I had to use a Common Craft video to really explain what Twitter was though since my students still don’t really get it.

So after I did that and explained the premise of STS, and showed them the website and some of the tweets, I got some blank looks. Then N put up her hand and scrunched up her face and said “But what’s the point?”

I laughed. “I don’t know? What do you guys think?”

S, being a bit of a theatre buff, liked the improvisational nature of the experiment while D, arguably the most techy of my students was intrigued by the experiment.

When I said that I thought maybe they were using Twitter because the tweets were kind of like text messages, E frowned and said “Well yeah, but they’re public. Everyone can see everything, and they wouldn’t with text messages.”

She has a really good point. The R and J actors are tweeting very personal stuff that even on Twitter would at least be done as direct messages.

I’m enjoying the experiment, but I don’t think they’re going to hook any teens.

A little anonymity can be a beautiful thing


But not too much!

This semester, I’m teaching media for the first time. To say that I love it would be an understatement. I am indebted to my friend Andrew for his wonderful lesson plans. To say that he loves this course would also be an understatement. I’m also working collaboratively with Jamie Weir, a fantastic and innovative teacher in Listowel,Ontario. While our courses are not identical, we are flexible and I liken the our collaboration to jazz improvisation. The coolest part about our collaboration is that our students are members of a ning and a wiki where they are able to connect and share ideas.

And now to get to the subject of this post: Anonymity. In order to participate on the ning, students need to display the same level of respect and civility that we require them to display in class. Now, I don’t want to jinx myself, but so far so good. In fact, when I read the comments students write on each others’ blogs, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that they are not just civil and polite, but kind and friendly. I know that there is a common belief that the anonymity (or false sense of anonymity) provided by the internet promotes bullying and other types of antisocial behaviour. All you have to do is check out a youtube post or an online version of a newspaper article to see that.

On the other hand, a little anonymity can be a good thing because while students know that their comments are being tracked by their teachers, they also seem to be more willing to take positive risks that they may not take face to face. See the exchange below between a student in my class and students in Ms. Weir’s class (I’ve blanked out last names and faces).

ning comments

It’s funny to me that they’re discussing (among other things) the idea that technology creates a barrier to connections and yet without technology, they’d likely have never had this discussion.That seems like a nice note to end on.

Digital Natives?

“Digital natives” “the Net Generation”… these are terms I hear a lot. I’m on Twitter and Facebook. I blog. I text. I create content and upload it on a regular basis. I’m not online constantly, but I do feel a need to stay connected, and I get excited about the possibilities for sharing and collaborating that exist because of web 2.0. I keep reading that this is what my students do too. It’s what they want from teachers. So when I was planning for this year, I thought about how I could make my teaching more representative of the world they experience outside the classroom. I thought about authentic writing tasks. I thought about anywhere anytime learning and created blogs and edmodo classes. I even started to think about how to use cell phones in the classroom. My new principal was so excited by this that she scheduled 2 of my senior academic English classes in a computer lab! I was so psyched! I even made a funky intro movie for my classes.

And then, at the end of my first class on the first day, it happened. A polite and friendly student said to me, “Um, it’s kinda weird being in a computer lab for English.”

My heart started to race a bit as it does when I get anxious.

“Weird good? Or weird bad?” I asked hopefully.

She smiled, not wishing to offend. “Kind of weird bad. Like, it’s English class. I don’t really think there’s a need for technology.”

My heart sunk. Literally. I found it in my left shoe at lunch.

Now I know, I know. It was just one student. I know some of them were as psyched as I was. But I got the impression from a number of them that this idea of a 21st century English class was just as threatening for them as it must be for some teachers. I really didn’t expect that.

It made me wonder. Where is this coming from? My current theory is that most students probably are digital natives. I’m not sure they’re as savvy as we’d like them to be, but most of them are comfortable using technology (that’s what they told me on the survey anyway). But I think that some of them have gotten the message from parents and teachers that technology is bad. It’s a distraction. It’s a toy. It’s something you ban. It doesn’t have a place in a serious academic classroom (maybe?). And these students are the “good” students–academic, disciplined, polite, respectful. They really listen to the messages they get from adults. And they’ve gotten the message that this is bad.

I’ve had to change my mindset about technology in the English classroom. Instead of it being the expectation, it is an option. It is another way for me to differentiate my instruction. They don’t have to post comments on the blog (but I wish they would). They don’t have to submit assignments on edmodo (but it’s usually more convenient that way). I’ve told them I never want to get an angry phone call from a parent saying, “You told my son he HAD to submit his assignments online.” It’s an option.

It’s so strange for me because, yes I’m interested in technology, but I’m doing this because I thought it would be good for the students. I thought they would prefer to learn this way. I thought I was making life easier for them–not harder.

Sigh. It’s still early. And I think some of them are coming around. The girl who spoke to me on the first day made a wordle and shared it with her classmates via edmodo. That’s kind of weird good.

Are you literate? Are you sure?

What does it mean to be literate in the 21st century? I’m certainly not the first to ask the question. But here’s the thing: I know a lot of fantastic intelligent educators who don’t place much value on being technologically literate. They almost wear it as a badge of pride. In a “Oh I barely know how to check email!” kind of way. And I kind of get the impression that they think that people who spend a lot of time on line are either looking at porn or finding or staring off into a technological abyss of pretty lights and pop-up ads. I don’t think a lot of them understand that what many of our students are doing on the internet is interacting with other people, communicating, and–dare I suggest–learning. 

I’m sure there are lots of reasons for this attitude. I know, there’s an age gap factor, but I’m turning 30 on Sunday and I remember the pre-internet days so this isn’t exactly something I’ve grown up with either. But I really believe like so many other teachers, that we have no idea what the future holds for our students, but we do know that we are currently preparing our students for a future that passed us by 20 years ago (at least!)

This is what David Warlick says about being literate in the 21st century:

“Being literate in this future will certainly involve the ability to read, write, and work with numbers. However, the concept of literacy in the 21st century will be far richer and more comprehensive than the 3 Rs of the one room school house. . . . Our notions of literacy must expand to address a rapidly changing information landscape where information is networked, digital, and overwhelming.”

(Seriously, google this man and be amazed by his awesomeness)

I know this scares a lot of teachers. But I really don’t think it needs to. I was in a computer lab a couple weeks ago with a bunch of teachers, some of whom barely knew how to access their school email, and by the end of the day they were hosting video conferences with teachers in other boards and writing in google docs at the same time.

I think we need to convince ourselves that digital literacy is not a luxury but a necessary part of our definition of literacy in the 21st century.

Where do you start?

Read this article by Vicki Davis. And then subscribe to her blog. She’s awesome too!


It’s the internet’s fault!

I have to stop blogging about Twilight. Every time I do it shows up bigger and bigger in that tag cloud on my screen and it’s embarrassing. 

But there was a link to an article about Twilight’s web presence in my monthly NCTE inbox so I had to read it. 

Apparently Twilight’s maniacal legions of teenage girls are the direct result of Stephenie Meyer’s web presence (okay, and it’s because of the pretty covers and the “plain girl who gorgeous virtuous vampire falls madly in love with” story line). 

Damn you, internet!



The Mouse Potatoes are LEARNING

And you thought they were just checking out inappropriate pictures of each other on Facebook.

A new study out of the US shows that all that time kids spend on social networking sites is actually helping them learn. The study’s researcher says, “spending time online is essential for young people to pick up the social and technical skills they need to be competent citizens in the digital age.”

The way that teens socialize and learn from each other online raises questions and possiblities about the way in which we teach.

Some of the key findings in the study are:

  • There is a generation gap in how youth and adults view the value of online activity.
    • Adults tend to be in the dark about what youth are doing online, and often view online activity as risky or an unproductive distraction.
    • Youth understand the social value of online activity and are generally highly motivated to participate.
  • Youth are navigating complex social and technical worlds by participating online.
    • Young people are learning basic social and technical skills that they need to fully participate in contemporary society.
    • The social worlds that youth are negotiating have new kinds of dynamics, as online socializing is permanent, public, involves managing elaborate networks of friends and acquaintances, and is always on.
  • Young people are motivated to learn from their peers online.
    • The Internet provides new kinds of public spaces for youth to interact and receive feedback from one another.
    • Young people respect each other’s authority online and are more motivated to learn from each other than from adults.
  • Most youth are not taking full advantage of the learning opportunities of the Internet.
    • Most youth use the Internet socially, but other learning opportunities exist.
    • Youth can connect with people in different locations and of different ages who share their interests, making it possible to pursue interests that might not be popular or valued with their local peer groups.
    • “Geeked-out” learning opportunities are abundant – subjects like astronomy, creative writing, and foreign languages.

    I don’t think anyone would be surprised to learn that teens prefer learning from each other. Maybe we should be looking for ways to use this to our benefit rather than search for ways to block sites from our school networks.

    My macbook is hungover


    I’m trying not to panic since I’m sure it’s a simple fix.

    My macbook (named Duncan MacIntosh) has become another appendage for me and right now, he either takes five minutes to load when I turn him on, or he doesn’t want to turn on at all. 

    I think it’s really just a hangover or something. I don’t like getting up in the morning after a night of partying either. Which makes me wonder what he gets up to while I’m out.

    Oh well, lucky for me, London has a Mac store where hopefully they can solve my problems.