Summary of Learning…Channel 831 News!

Upon entering this course, I knew I would learn about Social Media and Open Education, as that was the name of the course. Through our modules, we  learned about how Web 2.0 tools and free & open source software have changed the way we teach and learn, the changing views of knowledge, emerging literacies, and the development of personal learning networks.

BUT, we didn’t stop there!

We didn’t just look at how social media and open education can enhance and transform education, we also explored much deeper societal, ethical, political, cultural and administrative issues that are associated with technology and media in education and society. Take a look at the EC&I 831 News (co-created with Genna Rodriguez) to see a summary of what we learned this term!

Learning to Learn: The process of an online learning project

Context…

It is a bittersweet feeling coming to the end of this learning project. If you have been following my progress on my blog, you have learned about the struggles and successes I experienced over the past 13 weeks of my learning project.

Participating in the learning project rather than focusing my major project on something I could integrate into my teaching and I knew I would be successful at was a risk. But as the saying goes, high risk, high reward. This term I was able to experience authentic life-long learning, something that is often preached about in education, but also something that is often neglected in undergraduate and graduate studies. Engaging in the learning process was a bit uncomfortable at times, but it reminded me that the process of learning is far greater than the product.

If we think of the SAMR Swimming Pool, I was able to use technology to transform my learning experience through this project. It is very easy to get caught in using technology to enhance learning. I hope to use the skills I have learned as a learner to impact how I teach.  It is my hope I can use a similar process to transform the traditional learning process for my students through the effective use of social media and open educational resources for learning and the ability to use technology to support and document learning.

Where it all began…

The first thing I had to do was choose something to learn about. I appreciate the freedom and openness of not being told what to learn, but rather to choose something that I was passionate about, interested in, and was of substance. My learning outcome was to study and practice prenatal yoga to increase my flexibility and prepare myself both physically and mentally for the birth of my baby.

Prenatal yoga fit all the criteria of the learning project as it was: complex to learn, worth learning, and of great interest to me.

Before I could jump into my learning project, I had to do a pre-assessment to see where I was at. This allowed me to look at how pregnancy was impacting my sleep quality, hip and lower back pain, mindfulness, and anxiety of childbirth.

Over the past 13 weeks I have not only learned a great deal about prenatal yoga, I have also acquired knowledge about labour, delivery, and postpartum. As you can tell in my post assessment, I have also grown physically and mentally in that I am able to use my new found skills to treat the aches and pains of pregnancy and I am more mindful.

post assessment

In addition to meeting my outcome of learning yoga, I have also learned a great deal about the process of learning online.

Learning Prenatal Yoga Online…

I was able to find a plethora of learning resources online related to prenatal yoga, but finding a learning community that went further than following, liking, watching videos, and reading was challenging. I tried to find some MOOCs on prenatal yoga, but was unable to find any on the topic that were free. So I worked with what I had and I found the PLN I was able to create was quite instrumental in my success of this learning project.

In my PLN I was able to use social media, online communities, videos, websites, and face-to-face resources to transform and enhance my learning. Here are a few of the highlights:

Social Media

  • Instagram: Instagram was by far the best place for me to develop my PLN. I felt like my Instagram account kept me accountable to my learning project and allowed me to follow others who are going through the same experiences and gain support. Even though the extent of my connections were through a like or small comment, I really felt supported and felt like I had developed a community. I have 47 followers and am following 90 quality accounts. The key to this was using appropriate hashtags. Once I started using powerful hashtags, I was able to connect with many more people. I feel quite happy with where I ended up on Instagram as I started a new account and all these people are new followers who are following me just to see my prenatal yoga process.
  • Other places I tried: I tried Twitter, Facebook pages, and Google+ community to connect with others and build a community. Although I was able to gain some resources through these networks, I didn’t find them instrumental to my success. They were just another place for me to extend my learning.

Online Communities

  • Pinterest: Although some might argue that Pinterest is not an online community, I found this as a key resource in developing, following, and managing my learning resources. Pinterest allowed me to keep my resources organized, follow other boards who were interested in prenatal yoga, it also allowed me to contribute to the community by pinning resources I found useful.
  • Other places I tried: As I said earlier, I also connected on Twitter and Instagram. I also joined an online community through Prenatal Yoga Center, but unfortunately it wasn’t what I expected. Basically, it was a blog hub for all the blogs they produced. It was a good source for information, but I found the community aspect missing.

 Videos

  • YouTube: The best place for prenatal videos and sources was YouTube. I subscribed to a few channels and I found myself visiting YouTube often during my practice. It was nice to be able to practice and learn something without having to leave the house!

Other Sources

  • Face-to-Face: I really enjoyed connecting with others through my Face-to-Face resources as well. I participated in yoga at Everyday Sacred and my gym Anytime Fitness. Although I was able to find many sources online and was able to do the majority of learning online, it was nice to connect with people on a more personal level through my Face-to-Face resources.
  • Other places I tried: As I went through the learning process, I visited many blogs and websites which I then pinned on my Pinterest board. My top two places for yoga resources were PopSugar and Prenatal Yoga Center.

Reflection and Process…

During this project, it was hard for me to focus on the process of learning and not an end product as I was going through this learning process, but in the end I am quite satisfied with how it all turned out. I suppose I didn’t realize it at the time, but throughout my whole process of learning and the documentation of my learning project through my blog, I was creating an end product. In making my learning visible, sharing my struggles and successes, and reflecting on the process of learning I was creating a portfolio that demonstrates what I learned.

This reflection on the process of learning and the learning itself was instrumental in my success of this learning project. It helped to keep me accountable, gave me a direction on where I should go next, shows where I have been, and allowed me to connect to a community of learners.

Continuing the Learning Process…

Although this learning project is coming to a close as my pregnancy is almost over, I plan to continue my learning in an online setting. It has been life changing to have this opportunity to engage in the learning process as it has reminded me that life-long learning can be related to things other than professional goals. So where am I going to go next? On top of continuing my yoga practice… I would really like to train my dog how to greet people at the door politely. I sure hope there is a strong online community for this topic as I think in training him, I need to train myself first!

Can we really call online activism slacktivism?

I think there is a big difference between online activism and slacktivism, although people often use the terms synonymously. Just like I think there is a difference between cyberbullying and online harassment.

We all have the friends on social media who are slacktivists. We may have been tempted to or already have stopped following them as they share, like, and flood your network with controversial issues, but never seem to really do anything about it. Yet they feel like they are doing their part to bring about real social change and feel good about it.

humane

Slacktivism in this essence frustrates me as it gives people who are actually fighting to provoke change a harder time to make a difference. I also wonder if the people who share these stories actually take the time to read them and make critical decisions on them or just share them because the title, photo and caption are captivating.

Slacktivists are criticized for people who just want the image of a change-maker, but aren’t actually doing anything to help. For example, they will post, share, and comment about issues, but it stops there. They won’t make a donation, volunteer, or organize a rally because they feel they have already done their part.

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Photo Credit: danielito311 via Compfight cc

Just talking about social justice issues on social media isn’t going to drive social change and change the world, but it may be the reason something catches fire, cause others to do more and begin a social movement, it might move people from being passive viewers to active witnesses who see something and do something, or even get the conversation going. In using our voices on social media we can make the actions of a few active protesters visible to millions of people, all over the world. Although we might not have the capability or resources to be on the ground with the protesters fighting for change, we are able to use our voice to shed light on social justice issues.

Online activism is more than just sharing social justice issues through 140 characters, comments, and a clever hashtag.  Social media is just another outlet to use our voice and speak up about these causes. It helps to generate empathy around the issue and hopefully breaks the stigma of talking about it. However the activism shouldn’t stop there. You should strive to be a change maker, conversation starter, and active participant in offline spaces as well.

But maybe in the end the very essence of this post makes me a slacktivist? Or maybe, although it may be small, I am using my voice to start critical conversations and bring awareness?

Fear not.

I am feeling some of the same feelings I had last semester. I left EC&I 832 feeling digitally literate and confident with my ability to teach digital citizenship, but this week I was thrown a curve ball! I was introduced to many new social media sites and tools. I had heard about a few of these sites, but never really knew what they were, nor had the curiosity to check out.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Photo Credit: filipinooutsourcers via Compfight cc

Many of these sites, such as YikYak and 4chan, allow users to comment and participate anonymously. Nima Naimi says the anonymity offered by the app may lead to a lack of empathy and users saying things that they wouldn’t normally say in person. Participants in these communities can say and do almost anything they want without being accountable. So we should ban them and rid the internet of these sites, right?

Young people are also turning to the internet and social media to cyber self-harm. Students are inflicting psychological self-harm on sites such as Reddit, Ask FM, and Tumblr. They do this by creating fake online identities to attack themselves and inviting strangers to do the same. They may be doing it to finally open the conversation so they can get the help and support they need, they may be experiencing a mental health disorder and this is the most suiting outlet for them, maybe it is low self-esteem or depression. Needless to say, this is a growing issue and is impacting more and more teens and youth. So we should ban them and rid the internet of these sites, right?

Teens and students are also being exposed to porn and explicit images at younger ages. All you need is one kid in the playground going looking for the bad stuff and every kid sees it. Students are seeing stuff on the internet that they are unable to process and are confused about. Furthermore, one student can expose many others to these online searches. For example, just this past week at school we found in the search history on one of our shared tablets “porn” and some other explicative searches. Unfortunately, since this is a shared tablet and doesn’t require a log-in we were unable to find out who (out of the 3 classrooms using the tablet) was performing this search. So we should ban them and build restrictive firewalls of these sites, right?

The answer to all the above questions is NO. Of course we have to be aware of the complicated and sometimes complex issues that may come from these sites, but at the same time there is a bigger picture. How do we teach our students to be empathetic in online spaces? How do we combat issues such as cyber self-harm and cyber-bullying? How do we help kids cope with a digital deluge of inappropriate images?

The answer is not by shoving it under the rug and pretending it is not an issue. The answer is also not by banning students from using the internet and restricting all access. The answer is by teaching and modeling digital citizenship. If we don’t explicitly teach, keep the conversations open, and talk about the issues, we are leaving students to figure out these complicated and complex issues on their own. Something they may not be capable of doing at this point in time.

To be honest, I was quite shocked to hear of some of the popular sites and things available on the internet (even though I consider myself as quite tech savvy). I am thankful for this course and my learning project as it has given me a purpose to:

“Download it, try it, poke around, see how it works, see the kinds of things that are being posted,” he suggested. “And that’s just going to help you have a better understanding and open up a dialogue with kids.” – Dan Misener via CBC News

 

 

The tool may change, but the issues remain the same.

“If you’re going to ignore social media in the classroom, then throw out the ISTE Standards for Students and stop pretending that you’re 21st century.” – Vicki Davis

In A Guidebook for Using Social Media in the Classroom, Vicki Davis lists a bunch of hypothetical questions regarding letter writing, e-mails, and social media. I wonder if these were actual concerns for teachers when they thought about letter writing and establishing pen pals. If I think back to when I was in school, I actually think this was a concern. I remember writing letters in my Operation Christmas Child Shoebox and was told not to put any specific details about my identity (address, last name, etc.) in my letter. However, this form of writing was very powerful and since I am talking about it right now, it definitely had an impact on me.

media

Jason Howle via https://flic.kr/p/e5wZ3t

The “fear” of taking learning outside of the 4 walls of the classroom has always been there. There are risks in everything we do. We cannot allow the “fears” of using social media in the classroom outweigh the benefits. Students will be exposed to social media and engage and create a mediated online identity whether or not we include social media in the classroom. It is our job to help them become digital citizens and digital leaders. As Vanessa said, “the use of social media in the classroom can and should be promising. Like the calculator though, unless students are taught how to use it effectively (as students), it has the potential of becoming problematic.”

Many kids are leaving social networks and transitioning out of broadcast social media (Facebook and Twitter) and switching to narrowcast tools (Messengers and Snapchat). They are personalizing their social media experience and prefer to share more transient posts with their closest friends rather than portraying a sanitized split life. Some 13-year-olds check social media 100 times a day, when they are not posting on social media, they are lurking. With that being said, I am sure the tool in which students use to participate will continue to change, but the social lives of networked teens will continue to encounter complicated and complex issues.

Students will participate in social media either way… How can we harness the power of social media in our schools? How can we teach students to use social media effectively? Why is it so important for us to explicitly address the complicated and complex issues of social media?

There are many risks and benefits of allowing children going online, as teachers and parents it is our job to model and teach students how to participate online appropriately. We cannot ignore social media in the classroom, in the school, and the impact it has on our students lives.

 

Our Mediated Online Identities

Social media has allowed us to make connections with family, friends, and online communities like never before. Many people find extreme comfort and life-long connections with people they have met online. People are able to make connections with others far away, join chat rooms or forums for support, and reach a greater audience. This is impacting our online identities and offline relationships.

This is impacting our identities and there is a shift from having two identities (online and offline) to one augmented reality. Our public life is being shared through various SMSs to represent the person we want to be. This an referred to as an ambient intimacy. An ambient intimacy argues that even though we are sharing snippets of our lives, all the snippets add up to create a bigger picture. I agree partially with this idea as I enjoy seeing small updates of my family members who are too far to communicate with on a regular basis. But I also have a critical eye when viewing these shared moments.  

The main challenge I see with sharing our online identities is how mediated they are. People (myself included) tend to share only the “perfect” pictures or “highlight” moments. I know I am guilty of untagging myself in a picture where I don’t like the way I look… or taking a photo MANY times before posting it online… or recording a video many times before posting…. AND I am sure you are guilty too.

twitter

So why is this a challenge? Although I see our augmented reality and ambient intimacy as a positive as it is allowing us to connect with others, I often think it is warping our sense of reality. What is real? Body image was a huge topic of discussion when I was growing up and how models were portrayed on magazines and in movies. I feel like now everyone is able to access filters, Photoshop, lightning, etc. to achieve a flawless photo. I can see this being an issue with vulnerable youth who are trying to achieve something that is enhanced.

Digital Dualism is old? Now we experience an Augmented Reality?

I really enjoyed reading the article IRL Fetish by Nathan Jurgenson as it made me think critically about the online world, specifically social media, and how it is influencing our behaviour. My classmates Harmony, Amy, Jillian, Andrew and Genna also made connections to this article and raise similar questions to me on how we can find balance in our lives and how we cannot discredit the power of the online world as it has great potential to savour moments and create positive change.

Photo Credit: winnifredxoxo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: winnifredxoxo via Compfight cc

So for my selected reading this week, I decided to delve deeper into how social media is influencing our lives and chose another reading by Jurgenson called Digital Dualism versus Augmented Reality. With the increased use of social media every day in our lives it has caused us to classify between being present in the digital world (online) and the physical world (offline), this can be referred to as digital dualism. But is this idea outdated?

Nathan Jurgenson thinks it is, he argues that although digital dualists see “the digital world is ‘virtual’ and the physical world ‘real’” (2011) they are not separate, they are mashed. Our online and offline lives are so intertwined we aren’t creating a second person in the virtual world, but rather living out our lives in the both the virtual and physical worlds and they both influence each other. A more proper term would be White’s term of visitors and residents. Although some of us see the internet as a collection of tools and don’t leave a trace and others see at as a collection of places and are still present even when they log off, there is no “second self.” The digital world directly influences our physical world and our physical world directly influences the digital world.

Jurgenson purposes an “alternative of view that states that our reality is both technological and organic, both digital and physical, all at once” (2011). Our reality is not a digital dualism, but rather an augmented reality. We are past the point of separating our digital self and our physical self. Digital dualism is old news. We are now living in “one reality, one that is augmented by atoms and bits. And our selves are not separated across these two spheres as some dualistic “first” and “second” self, but is instead an augmented self” (Jugenson, 2011).

He concludes his post by raising a critical question about our lives being influenced by social media in this augmented reality.

Is a reality augmented by digitality a good thing?

There are many opposing viewpoints on this question and to some degree I think it is a good thing, but then in another I think we need to really look at this critically.

During the first week of class, we were shared two videos that encompass this idea of an augmented reality.

The first video was Photos Every Day.


In this video I see people being so obsessed with taking photos and showcasing the lives they want to show. They edit, filter, retake, and delete until they have the perfect photo.

This video gives me a bit of a bad taste in my mouth and my answer to the question “Is a reality augmented by digitality a good thing?” would be NO.

But then, in the video FaceTime Every Day, I get a totally different feeling.

My answer to the question “Is a reality augmented by digitality a good thing?” would be YES.

I believe Turkle has summed up my viewpoint at this time about our augmented reality in her recent article, Stop Googling, Let’s Talk. She says, “it is not about giving up our phones but about using them with greater intention” (Turkle, 2015). We always talk about purpose and authenticity when we educate. Maybe we should think about this with our phones and social media. What is our purpose? Is it really necessary to check it now or is it just filling a void? Are generally using your phone for authentic purposeful reasons or just to be on it and connect? Sometimes I think we confuse meaningful/purposeful connections with just going on to connect… But I could be wrong.

References:

N Jurgenson. (2011, February 24). Digital Dualism versus Augmented Reality. Retrieved from http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/02/24/digital-dualism-versus-augmented-reality/

S Turkle. (2015, September 26). Stop Googling, Let’s Talk. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/27/opinion/sunday/stop-googling-lets-talk.html?_r=2

What’s the purpose?

Through the past few classes we have been looking at an introduction to media literacy, through that we have explored how the online world has changed over the years and how it is allowing us to be more connected. We are so connected online, the virtual and physical world are intertwined causing an augmented reality.

However, with more connections, it has left many of us wondering the pros and cons with being living in a connected cultulre. In Cortney Leonard’s blog on My Thoughts on Foundational Theories and Media Education, she talks about finding the balance in our lives between being connected online and being present in the moment. Jennifer Stewart-Mitchell has similar thoughts in her blog, Me… Programmed?? Are we Substituting Digital Connections for Real Connections?, asking the readers if being connected is changing the way we act. She continues to talk about our obsession over over-sharing our activities on social media. In addition, “the urgency to have someone else connect…” (Stewart-Mitchell, 2015).

Jason Howle via https://flic.kr/p/e5wZ3t

Jason Howle via https://flic.kr/p/e5wZ3t

These changes are causing educators around the world to educate themselves on media literacy and digital citizenship, which is why many of us are taking this course. On top of changing the way we act and trying to find balance, many people are using media in ways to spread negative messages, which is mentioned in Kirsten Hansen’s blog post, From Cyberbullying to Veneration and Homage. People haven’t been taught how to use digital world as responsible digital citizens.

My question to you is what is your purpose in online spaces? Is it just to make connections or is there a bigger picture?

Often as educators, we look to technology to serve as a resource, to make connections around the world, to answer questions quickly, and the list goes on. We turn to social media making tweets or posting just to make that connection. In my personal life, I browse Facebook, check Instagram, and write/respond to emails. But are we using online spaces to the fullest potential?

If we look at the Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Continuum from K-12, there are three main elements RESPECT, EDUCATE, PROTECT. I feel that we as educators really focus on the EDUCATE and PROTECT strands, but often forget about the RESPECT strand. We have so much potential with the online community to change the world and to start modelling this to our students, but we often shy away from it. As Katia Hildebrant said in her blog, In online spaces, silence speaks as loudly as words, “I have a responsibility to use my privilege to speak out and use my network for more than just my own benefit or self-promotion; not doing so is a selfish act.” (Hildebrandt, 2015).

We can create change within our school communities. We can develop upstanders in a digital world. We can connect in meaningful ways. We need to talk about Social Media. We should continue to make connections, but how can we use those connections to make the world a better place?