Teachers and social media

Reading professors like an open facebook, or how teachers use social media
Courtesy of: Schools.com


USP Open Day 2011 on Wiffiti

Wiffiti is an application which is used for real-time display of text messages and tweets on big-screens for view by the public. It is very commonly used in sports stadiums, concerts, gallery openings, and corporate conferences. In fact I came across Wiffiti in one of the corporate booths at the Moodle Moot Conference, July 2011, at the Sydney Convention Centre , Sydney, Australia.

Click this link to go to the Wiffiti1!

Click this link to go to Wiffiti 2!

Once you’ve signed up for a Wiffiti account, you are able to customize your own screen, and once your screen is published, you will be provided with a code which people could use to send SMS messages or tweets to your screen. And people send these messages from anywhere in the world. Shown above are 2 screens that I made for my institutions Open Day.

Promoting a participatory culture using Moodle and web 2.0 technologies

Click on the image for presentation in Youblisher!

ICT and Pacific Islands Curriculum

Click this link for presentation in Authorstream.

Connected Trust

Watching the movie Trust the other night reminded me of the real danger that teenagers are exposed to today as computers and the internet are increasingly becoming ubiquitous. Trust is about a family dealing with the aftermath of an online predator incidence.

In this dramatic thriller, British actor Clive Owen and young American Liana Liberato play a father and daughter who struggle to mend their relationship after an online predator threatens to tear their family apart. Trust is a must-see for parents with teenage children and all educators especially those who are interested in the use of modern technology in education.

Today, teenagers are connected 24/7; they are conversing with their friends using SMS, internet forums and chat facilities. Unfortunately, however, most parents are clueless about what their teenage children are doing with their mobile phone or computer. Trust is a stark reminder that 1) new media literacies are more important today than ever before, and 2) that the teaching of new media literacies must not be left only to school teachers or a particular group of people.

Although the teaching of new media literacy skills is everybody business, it must start from home. Parents must take an active role in talking to their children about the media in general and the internet in particular. In online environments, it is totally irresponsible to assume that children will be able to fend for themselves in the chaos of things. Teenage children need adult guidance so that they able to use the internet safely and responsibly. In online environments, parents must show the same level of protection that they provide their children offline.  Just because that the child is in the next room at home doesn’t mean that he or she is safe with the internet.

The school too has a lot to do. First, it must rethink it’s literacy emphasis. In some parts of the world, including the Pacific Islands, the school and the curriculum are doing very little in the areas of internet safety and new media literacies. There is an urgent need to expand our curriculum conceptualization of literacy to include skills that people need to succeed in today’s online culture.

The Internet Safety Teens website has a lot of useful information on internet safety. For the purpose of this blog post, however, I would like to highlight the common 5-stage technique that internet predators use to lure and deceive their victims:

  • In Stage 1 of the grooming process, Internet predators typically collect information from your profile or chat, disguise their own identity, and pretend to have common interests with you.
  • In Stage 2, they typically support your point of view in online conflicts or offline arguments that you tell them about, pretend to be the only person who understands you, and become your IM or chat buddy.
  • In Stage 3, they typically ask you to keep the friendship a secret, exchange email addresses and phone numbers with you, and use more adult-oriented language and materials.
  • In Stage 4, they typically talk more about adult experiences and sexual topics, gradually introduce more sexual photos and pictures into conversations, encourage you to be sexually curious, and to believe that sex between adults and minors is normal.
  • In Stage 5, they typically use threats of violence or public humiliation if you stop communicating or refuse to meet in person.
  • In the Final Stage of the grooming process, Internet predators achieve their ultimate goal of arranging a face-to-face meeting with you.

With online predator incidences such as the one in Trust, the internet and new media can quickly become victims of blame and suspicion. Stephanie Booth has written excellent and well-researched articles on the issue of internet predators. In one blog post, she writes:

don’t panic — the media make the whole online sexual predator issue sound much worse than it is; (they (teenagers) might even be more at risk offline than online if they’re “normal” kids who do not generally engage in risky behaviour, given that most perpetrators of sex crimes against minors are family members or ‘known people’)

A blend of Moodle and Web 2.0 technologies

Learning is complex

Learning is a complex process, and to manage this complexity we’ve invented systems such as classrooms, timetables, rules, and detention. Even in online learning environments, Learning Management Systems (LMS) are put in place to ensure that learning is happening according to plan. Moodle is one LMS that many educational institutions have adopted.

From Moodle to Networks

In the past 2 -3 months, besides using our course Moodle page, my students and I also experimented with a diversity of Web 2.0 tools. Many of us signed up for an account in social network sites, and it didn’t take long for some of the students and I to meet in Facebook and in Twitter. Immediately friend requests were sent and we were following each other.

Within weeks, what started 3 months earlier as a formal class discussion forum within the closed environment of Moodle has now evolved into a complex network of enthusiastic and independent participants. We are now sharing not just Moodle forum posts but also blogposts in WordPress or Blogger, videos in YouTube and Vodpod, Tweets, Boxnet files, Flickr photos and videos, shortened URLS, and bookmarks in Diigo libraries.

Breaking the formality

The formality that we are familiar with in Moodle has become less stringent. Frequent sharing of jokes and the use of acronymns such as LOL, OMG, and LMHO has enlivened up the faceless nature of the dialogues in Facebook and Twitter.

The increase in the number of web-based tools that students are using is also accompanied by a significant improvement in the way they search for, present and organize information online. In their own initiative, some of the students are sharing their experiences with Tweet deck, HootSuite, and Symbaloo. This shows that their experiences with the internet has made them aware of the real need to learn how to manage the deluge of web information.

From novice to experts

This blend of Moodle and Web 2.0 tools is enabling students to take charge of their learning. Students display an increased sense of responsibility. For example, they put up their own Facebook “Teacher-student-mentor” page into which they meet and discuss issues related to their school work and their profession (teaching).

With the absence of the teacher’s control, the students are now seeing the need for them to assume the roles of experts, to offer advice and to lead discussions.  And they are further encouraged to improve this independence and leadership by the fact that their efforts are being acknowledged and appreciated by the members of the network. This approach is taking learning using Moodle to a new level.

Tech savvy… still need guidance!

Though young people of today are naturally tech savvy, they still need adult guidance. The teacher’s online presence makes a lot of difference to the learning environment, from the type of photos which are shared and the issues which are discussed to the number of students who actauuly participate in the discussion. It’s utterly irresponsible, especially in online learning environments, to assume that students will learn quality content and skills entirely on their own.

Fun images

This fun image of some Twitter friends was produced with the online photo-editing tool Photofunia. There are more than 200 photo effects for you to choose from. There is no registration required. It’s easy to use and it’s free.

Issuu with Youblisher

Modern online publication tools are making reading online materials an experience that anyone can enjoy and look forward to. In the past week, I’ve been exploring two of these tools: Issuu and Youblisher.

Issuu is a web-based tool that makes realistic and customizable viewing of online documents and books possible. Materials which can be uploaded to Issuu are PDFs, MS Word documents, or MS Power Point files. The result is a truly stunning super sleek online Flash e-book that one can actually flip through.

Issuu’s Flash media viewer presents the content of any document like a real magazine as the page flips with a click of the mouse. Gone are the days of having to scroll down and up the page. With Issuu, the experience of reading online has become more enjoyable.

Issuu e-books can be made private or public. When public viewing is enabled, one can also decide whether or not the original document is downloadable.

A URL link and an embed code which comes with every Issue e-book make sharing easy on social networking sites such as blogs and Facebook.

Below is an e-book published using Issuu.

Youblisher is similar to Issuu but it has gone one step further into visually reproducing the experience of reading a book in real life.

With Youblisher, not only you can see the corner of the page curls when it is about to flip, but, provided that your speakers are on, you can also hear the page flipping!  Like Issuu, there is no scrolling up or down the page. You, instead hear the page flipping at the click of the mouse. Youblisher makes reading online fun as you look forward to flipping the page again!

To publish in Youblisher, your materials must be PDFs. Uploading of documents is easy and preparing your publication involves only 3 short steps.

Below is the same e-book above published using Youblisher.

Teacher Observation Form

Like Issuu, a Youblisher e-book comes with a URL and an embed code which facilitate sharing.

Both of these tools are FREE.

Guide to web-based tools

In 2010, Michael Zimmer published an elegant and nice-looking e-book entitled Tools for the 21st Century Teacher. This e-book is not just a collection of tools but is also an easy-to-use guide to classroom integration of some of the most useful web-based tools.. It was in this guide that I came across Prezi, Wallwisher, and Wordle.

Early this year, Michael published the second edition. These two e-books are a must-have for educators who want to integrate technology in their classroom.

Screencasting with Screenr

Screenr is a cool and easy to use tool that anyone can use to record what is on his or her computer screen. Narration of one’s screen activity can be also recorded using a microphone. Screenr is actually a screencasting tool for Twitter.

When I first came across this tool in Twitter, I was thinking about the possibility of it being used to record and produce tutorial and lecture videos for my students. In the past year, I was using Camtasia Studio to do this. Camtasia is a good tool but it’s not free. Screenr is FREE!

When I tried Screenr out for the first time, I soon realised another major difference between it and Camtasia – Screenr is quite simple to use! Way much simpler!

Videos are heavy files, and therefore I like the fact that Screenr limits all recordings to only 5 minutes. This will help to ensure that not only playback is smooth but videos are also focused and contain only the most important messages and information.

 As mentioned before, Screenr is actually a screencasting tool for Twitter. Students can sign up for a Twitter account and they can receive these short videos in their iPhones. Alternatively, these videos can be embedded in our Moodle course page (as shown here).

You should try it out. Go to the ScreenrHelp page if you want to know more about this tool.