Tweet, tweet, tweet.

I tweet.

Do you?

Not your cup of tea?

Doesn’t float your boat?

Have you asked yourself WHY you feel that way?

Perhaps you are too busy, too old, too clever, too academic.

Or perhaps, dare I write the words, you are simply uninformed.

Uninitiated.

Let’s fix that and start the induction process.

It begins with peer review. That is correct. Twitter is open for the business of research and rigorous analysis. I would say that it warrants (at least) a second look…

This post discusses the work of four researchers from the University of Leicester, regarding the application of Twitter with two divergent groups of students : undergraduate and postgraduate . Several factors emerged that concluded with the consensus that micro-blogging sites such as Twitter are worthy of inclusion in a learning environment.

Of course, there is more. But I wanted you to stick with me till the end so I gave away the ending : Twitter has its place in a place of learning.

Firstly, it should be noted that the research was conducted at the university level but the findings are applicable to senior high school in particular. Indeed, the undergraduate students were of a similar age to year eleven and twelve students, with an average age of 18-19 years. Also, the below clip demonstrates some uses of Twitter at the high school level.  Here are the research findings on how Twitter was employed (as detailed on p.97, 2011)

  • Administrative issues such as coordinating field trips,  lecture schedules.
  • Between individuals to arrange meetings and projects.
  • Staff and students employed it to communicate subject-specific discussions
  • students formed “peer-to-peer support for academic and/or social aspects of University life”. (p.97, 2011).

The establishment of these peer-to-peer groups demonstrated the highest usage around assignment and exam periods suggesting a virtual tutorial group. (p. 93, 2011). The possibilities for emergent learning here are strong as is the very basic issue of reducing pre-exam stress particularly for socially isolated students. (p.93, 2011).

The ability to contact staff out of hours raises  questions, such as the  intrusion into teachers’ personal lives and student expectations about appropriate response time. This is a valid question that I believe warrants further analysis. As teachers, the line between the personal and the professional is one of utmost importance and is getting more difficult to manage with the addition of Web 2.0 possibilities. However, we must not shy away from the difficult, and must ensure that both teachers and students are using these technologies ethically, professionally and successfully.

The practical applications for Twitter are as various as your mind will explore. For further information, including examples of how it has been used across schools, click on the below links.

1. 5 Real Examples of Using Twitter for Education

2. Over 100 Ways to Teach with Twitter

3. Best Practices in a Twitter-Enhanced High School

As I continue to research this journal and ICT in general, the conclusion that emerges repeatedly is that as teachers, we must be reflective practitioners and continue to assess our practices, be informed about new technologies and use pedagogical application in order to engage our students in a manner that also demonstrates morally appropriate usage of Web 2.0.

Try it, or more accurately, tweet it. You and your students might just learn something!

Resources

Badge, J., Johnson, S., Moseley, A. &  Cann, A.Observing Emerging Student Networks on a Microblogging Service (2011). MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 7, No. 1, March 2011.

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Something old, Something new, Pedagogy in the virtual and physical classroom: a mutually beneficial marriage

This post reviews the article  : Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0. (prepared for the International Review on Research in Open and Distance Learning).

According to Wien, (2008, in pp. 184-185, Churchill, 2011)  emergent learning  occurs when “participants bring  genuine responses to the topic and collaboratively create the course to follow out of these multiple connections”. Emergent learning is a collaborative process, with foundations in the approaches of Vygotsky’s Social Constructivism and the philosophy of Reggio Emilia (p.184, Churchill, 2011). This is not a new phenomenon and some degree of emergent learning can occur in any classroom as a part of a normal lesson.  However, integrating emergent learning with the multifarious collaborative possibilities of Web 2.0 creates such a wide scope of eventualities that the need for analysis has arisen.

Schools, teachers and students have increasing access to Web 2.0. Yet Williams, Karousou and Mackness argue that Web 2.0 accessibility does not in itself guarantee “sufficient conditions for learning.”  (p.40, 2011).  Accordingly,  it requires specific management by teachers skilled in both virtual and physical classrooms.

The paper identifies the need for scaffolded approaches to emergent learning in the Web 2.0 medium, such as  “constraints and inclusive values” without which learning can deteriorate to a prejudicial and intolerant environment. (pp.50-51, 2011).  In such an environment, qualitative learning cannot occur. Suitable constraints do not deter from the openness that is integral to emergent learning but rather facilitate the  process with parameters that ensure an inclusive  environment.

In applying this to my future classes, I see the need for scaffolding in both virtual and physical learning environments, especially as I hope to foster a social constructivist atmosphere. I also believe that teaching mutual respect and appropriate collaborative practices in either the virtual or physical environment will have mutually beneficial results so that students will partake responsibly no matter the medium.

Also integral is the teacher’s ability to deal with “troll behaviour” from  disruptive participants (p.51, 2011). Photobucket

(Image courtesy of s15.photobucket.com)

Again, this is not singular to the online medium – many of the suggestions for effective use of Web 2.0 for emergent learning are imported from physical classroom management techniques.

Emergent learning requires a teacher to facilitate and scaffold a collaborative and adaptive environment. Emergent learning in the Web 2.0 domain, requires a teacher with the confidence to operate in a complex and dynamic learning environment, whilst affording control to the students, who can then navigate the content and ensuing knowledge. In doing so, the use of Web 2.0 becomes a qualitative educational resource that encourages an emergent curriculum.

Our students need teachers who are adept in the new technologies, and willing to explore new technological pedagogies, to better facilitate their path to adulthood in the digital age. Current pedagogy and learning theories can and should be applied in both virtual and physical classrooms.

The below diagram is an informal look at how schooling might develop during the digital revolution, in comparison to the industrial revolution and also, which of the GRAD DIP course provocations might apply. The findings are  informed by, and quoted from the reading. Let’s call it Jodi’s Hope for the Future Digital Classroom.

Resources

Williams, R., Karousou, R., & Mackness, J. Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0. (2011), International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol. 12.3, March 2011.

Let’s talk about risk, baby.

This article talks about the risks of Teens and Social Networking. It reviews research undertaken by Monash University.

The benefits of scholarly research in this area is vast. Firstly, it can it overcome the spectrum of hesitations concerning Social Networking in education (ranging from reticence due to an absence of skills, to demonising and a good old witch hunt that regards ‘that internetty thing as the devil”). Second, it identifies those areas that require our immediate and particular attention, because risk is inherent in every activity, including that internetty thing.

The research found that both media and political focus were generally concerned with cyber-bullying, such as harassment;  and cyber-sex activities such as grooming and predatory behaviours. (p.1, de Zwart et.al.,2011). However, the most common risks involve the legal ramifications that emerge through the ability to share media, images, information and opinions.

Here are the research findings that may affect students’ use of social networking (as detailed on p.2).

  • privacy, disclosure, breach of confidence

  • intellectual property rights – particularly copyright issues
  • defamation
  • criminal law – harassment and offensive material

Most concerning, is that students, teachers and parents have a “general awareness” that risks exist but a “worrying lack of understanding of…legal risks” (p.1. 2011). Not surprisingly, risk analysis is different between these groups. Students are not as concerned as teachers or parents, whose main concern are those areas relating to cyber bullying and sex. Neither student or adult groups are educated on the legal risks and do not engage in ongoing dialogues related to these areas. (pp. 2-4, 2011).

The study identified a strong need for such discussions and certainly, as a future teacher, I would hope that this would replace having to constantly  monitor students’ social networking use. After all, we want to facilitate their safe passage into the digital world as much as the physical world.

The research also found that the “majority of teachers do not use social networking in their classrooms” which makes it almost impossible to engage in fruitful dialogue with students. (p.3, 2011). If we do not use it, how can we lead by example? Perhaps some of the reticence is related to the fact that teachers are also not aware enough of the legal ramifications for themselves using social networking and thus avoid it altogether.

To this end, I state the simple formula :

Information = knowledge = power = student and teacher safety.

The study makes the call for  “specifically tailored programs” to produce “effective digital citizens”. (p.3 2011).  It also introduces the term “legal literacy” (p.3, 2011). Legal and digital literacy could be included within a SOSE and Legal Studies unit in either the Years 7-10 or 11-12 curriculum.  However,  to ensure effective implementation, it is then imperative that  teachers receive sufficient education in this area. Future policy decisions relating to digital literacy  must include extensive familiarisation and education for teachers. We must first lead by example and therefore require the skills to achieve this end. In the words of Albert Einstein:

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means”.

Now, to conclude on a lighter note, for those at risk of forgetting the difference between Facebook and real life,  please enjoy the below clip.

de Zwart, M., Lindsay, D., Henderson, M., Phillips, M., Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites, (2011).  Monash University, Faculty of Education Building 6 Monash University Victoria 3800 Australia.

Social Networking and the Classroom

The video is another reminder that we are teaching students to exist in a dynamic 21st Century environment. Our job is to prepare them for that future, using all the relevant available tools.

One of those tools is :

The use of  Social Networking in Education. This is my second topic for the ELPCG1 Research Journal.

Firstly, let us briefly define Social Networking in general, and then how it can be applied in the learning environments.

Building a word cloud for the definition of Social Networking reveals that it is all about collaborative information sharing.

Wordle: Defining Social Network.

Words such as “communicate, interaction, construct, community, building, create” inform us of its function to connect groups in order to share information, opinions and ideas. Online social networking extends the possibility of this collaboration to a global scale.  So how does this affect our classrooms?

A recent survey found that 93.4% of students in Victoria engaged in some kind of daily Social Networking. Yet only 36.1% of teachers surveyed had used it for educational purposes. (p.p 2-4, de Zwart et al. 2011).

Our students already have access to a very powerful and immediate medium. Used incorrectly, social networking can have lasting social, emotional and legal ramifications. (pp.1-4, de Zwart et.al. 2011) We must teach our students appropriate online conduct.

We have moved from the time of Broadcast media where a central figure disseminated information. Social Media is a two-way transmission, a collaborative venture that is  fuelled by clips sent via YouTube, Facebook and email. (p. 28, Boyd,2010). Concomitantly, we are moving away from an education pedagogy that touted a teacher-centric/information transmission approach. Today’s terms such as emergent curriculum, dialogic pedagogy, inquiry-based  and problem-based learning all require a collaborative and learner-centric environment. Furthermore, Churchill identifies a new learning style “technological”  to include with “visual, kinaesthetic and  linguistic.” (p. 226, Churchill, 2011). Social Networking can help to foster these pedagogies and learning styles in our learning space.

It can also benefit our ability to engage students in a meaningful way. Used correctly, it is a fairly low-cost educational tool that can widen our classroom reach.

Perhaps you would like to study Antarctica? Unfortunately the school excursion budget does not stretch to fly your class of thirty students down there for a look-see.

Perhaps you are an art teacher and would love for your Year 11 students to consult with an Art Curator from MOMA about their final assessment projects. Of course, you are in Narranderra. Or Wagga Wagga.

Or Gawler.

Do not despair, teachers with small field trip budgets. There are several Social Networking tools designed specifically to enhance our learning environments such as http://education.skype.com/ which details how to use Skype for education. Projects range from a monthly Book Club with American middle school students to discussions with climbers that have conquered Mount Everest.

I hope after reading this and the next four posts, I will have convinced you to at least consider investigating the use of Social Networking in your classrooms. Perhaps our classrooms can set up a collaborative venture in the future and we can work together to instill best practice methods in our 21st Century students.

Resources

Boyd, D. Streams of Content, Limited Attention : The Flow of Information Throughout Social Media, (2010). EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 45, no. 5 (September/October 2010): 26–36.  http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume45/StreamsofContentLimitedAttenti/213923

Churchill et al.  (2011). Teaching Making a Difference. John Wiley & Sons, Australia.

de Zwart, M., Lindsay, D., Henderson, M., Phillips, M., Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites, (2011).  Monash University, Faculty of Education Building 6 Monash University Victoria 3800 Australia.

Gaming and Special Needs

The last few posts have discussed implementing gaming within the context of set content in our curriculum. Today I want to highlight the use of gaming for students with special educational needs.

As the video shows, gaming can be used to help students on the autism spectrum  to identify facial expressions – an important facet of socialisation. In this context, gaming extends beyond traditional education by increasing life skills.

The Center of Autism Research (CAR) in America is undertaking a research program also based on increasing facial recognition skills via the game FACE STATION:

“computerised health games can motivate players to perform a wide range of activities that promote learning and skill development in ways that have the potential to exceed conventional teaching and training methods by tapping “reward” circuits in the brain.”

The Center of Autism Research (2011).

The results of this research will include brain imaging before and after gaming to measure the effect on the brain. Whilst there is still need for further research, Churchill discusses similar research on the effects of technology on the brain:

“individuals who used the internet showed twice as much activity in regions of the brain responsible for decision-making and complex reasoning compared with those who had limited exposure to the internet”

Churchill, (2011).

How can we apply these findings to education?

By continued scientific research, innovation and discussion.

Assistive Gaming is an online organisation that “make accessible games that were not made with accessibility in mind.” Indeed, its staff consists of editors who themselves use and create “assistive technology”:

“Of course, gaming’s possible, just about anything in life is possible. Sure, I’ll never walk, but I sure as Hell can rock at World of Warcraft.”

http://www.assistivegaming.com

Harushimana (2008) found games greatly enhanced his students’ print and digital literacy skills as a part of an after-school literacy programme in an urban city high school. Gaming can be applied to a multitude of special programmes, including abused children.

Inclusive education demands individualised approaches to students with a variety of special needs, from physical to emotional, students at risk to students with literacy issues. Yet individual learning approaches can be costly and difficult to implement in a classroom environment. They require funding to cover materials, special education aides and training. Further feasibility studies focusing on the fiscal benefits of gaming within this context would be extremely useful towards future policy discussions.

Discussion being an imperative to ensure the resource of gaming for special needs is utilised properly in our classrooms.

Resources

Assistive Gaming, The Assistive Gaming Team, http://www.assistivegaming.com

The Center for Autism Research (2011), Computerized Gaming, http://www.research.chop.edu

Churchill et al.  (2011). Teaching Making a Difference. John Wiley & Sons, Australia.

Harushimana, I.  (2008) Literacy through Gaming: The Influence of Videogames on the Writings of High  School Males, Journal of Literacy and Technology 35 Volume 9, Number 2: August 2008, ISSN: 1535-0975.

Terdiman, D. (2005). Second Life Teaches Lessons, http://www.wired.com

Teacher Facilitated Gaming

When considering gaming in the classrooms, teacher facilitation is imperative to propel gaming beyond its current model of ‘gamer reacting to the constructs of the game’. If not carefully implemented, similarities could be drawn between the ‘gamer and game’ model to the ‘teacher centric’ model in which the teacher transmits information at the student. Although the gamer/game model is arguably an active and even collaborative relationship, I am arguing that for educational application, guided teaching is not only necessary but the key factor in the successful implementation of gaming in schools.

“For games and simulation to be effective instructionally in the classroom…[students] need guided facilitation by the teacher”.

Klopfer et.al. (2010).

This requires teacher training, resources funding, administrative support and parental approval. Concerns will range from a lack of funding, to a disconnect between the “generation of digitalised students and their pre-digital parents and teachers” . (Harushimana, 20o8).

There is some evidence of the beneficial cognitive effects of digital technologies but more extensive research is required and would undoubtably aid discussions with administrations and parents. Perhaps highlighting the extensive industry training that utilises gaming and simulation would facilitate a wider acceptance. After all, how many professional parents using technology, have experienced either gaming or simulation in their own career training? Approval might start with educators making the use of gaming  relevant to the parents too.

Schools are wary of the safety issues that surround online technologies but this should not detract from implementing them within a structured, teacher facilitated programme. Klopfer (2010) urges that schools “explore new ways to manage potential dangers; these technologies are safe, valuable tools that schools must take seriously”.

Teachers must embrace the new technologies and receive the appropriate training in order to deliver best practice implementation of gaming in education. Without the teacher, it may just be a game.  The game cannot replace the learning that stems from the relationship between student and teacher, or between students in a collaborative classroom.  Yet with guided implementation, gaming can enhance the learning and relationships.

Resources

Gee, J. (viewed 2011), Good Video Games and Good Learning,  http://www.academiccolab.org

Harushimana, I.  (2008) Literacy through Gaming: The Influence of Videogames on the Writings of High SchoolFreshman Male,Journal of Literacy and Technology 35 Volume 9, Number 2: August 2008, ISSN: 1535-0975.

Klopfer et al. (2009) The Instructional Power of Digital Games, Social Networking and Simulations. The Education Arcade.

There is more than one way to skill a cat….

Fear not, we won’t be skilling any cats with gaming in the classroom. However, the title highlights the point of this post – gaming can teach a multitude of skills, from contextual to technical and perceptual to ethical. From hidden curriculum to hand-eye coordination, and building self-esteem to saving the world.

All in a digital game you ask?

According to  proponents of gaming – yes.

Several research studies identify the following common skills pertaining to gaming :

  • critical higher order thinking
  • improved literacy
  • enhanced visual perception
  • cognitive ability development
  • collaborative problem solving/interactivity
  • conflict resolution
  • competitive responses
  • ability to operate in complex, rule-based environment

(Klopfer, 2010).

Jane McGonigal designs game specifically to create new order thinking about global complexities such as poverty and alternative environmental resources. These tools can be translated into the classroom to increase subject specific skills. (McGonigal, 2010).

However, it is important that gaming does not detract from other methods of learning in schools. Its purpose should enhance lessons, not replace them entirely. Taking this approach, several other skills become possible, spanning KLAs with cross-curricular ELAs.

Suggestions for including gaming and simulations in a lesson plan:

  • building avatars in class discussions encompassing self-esteem, women’s studies, pastoral care and PDHPE. Whilst not technically defined as “gaming” because there is no “end/win” state, these simulations are valuable in this context.
  • games that simulate natural disasters might be considered topical in the extreme. These can be used in Environmental Studies, Science, Biology, International Studies.
  • students can create their own games on X-box for Design and Technology, IT and ITC, Maths and History. Content specific games could be explored for any subject in a curriculum.
  • Food Force – an online game created by the United Nations World Food Programme

If you have attended to the concerns of administration and parents, then as a teacher, you are only limited by your imagination and resources. Each of these must be taken into consideration when designing gaming lesson plans to impart set skills in your students.

Resources

Klopfer et al. (2009) The Instructional Power of Digital Games, Social Networking and Simulations. The Education Arcade.

McGonigal, J. (2010) Gaming: Making a Better World,  http://www.ted.com.

http://www.meez.com/

Microsoft Press Release, (2006), Microsoft Invites the World to Create Its Own Xbox 360 Console Games for the First Time http://www.microsoft.com

World Food Programme, (2011) Food Force: The First Humanitarian Video Game, http://www.wfp.org

World Without Oil: Lesson Plans. (2011) WorldWithoutOil.Org, IVS Interactive, Electric Shadows Planning.

Wide Open Doors (2007), Gaming in Education, http://www.wideopendoors.net