Category Archives: connectedness

Agoraphobia in education.

Addressing Educator “Fear of Open Space” (agoraphobia)

In the creation of a digital community for education, do we resist the idea of allowing our students into open spaces? The subject and grade level will help determine our personal stance on exactly how “open” we allow our student’s discussion and learning to be… but if the educator is at the secondary level, is it acceptable to open things up then? Or do we still fear the internet? Are there more educators suffering from agoraphobia than we think?

OPen Space

“Wanda in open space” from Corner Gas

“How could anyone be afraid of open space?”

A quote from season two, episode four, of the beloved Canadian show, Corner Gas. Yes, I am working Corner Gas into this blog post.

Open online space, to be clear. And let’s face it, there is a seedy side, with a palpable list of awful instances of abuse in the digital realm. But what about the development of a sense of connectedness with strangers. Strangers who can be from anywhere in the world, yet provide us with ideas, opinions, interests, be they novel or similar to our own!

Why exactly do I get so excited about the online community?

Growing up in the infant stages of the internet and social media, I scoured forums for information on video games I played (Super Nintendo, Pokemon, etc). In my searching, it was always exciting to find websites full of individuals who enjoyed what I enjoyed (in similar or different ways). Sharing the same emotions and ideas with individuals you will never really know (by conventional standards), is a mysteriously unifying concept. You just don’t get that in a closed setting. In closed forums in an educational setting, I only ever saw the keeners dominate forums, and much of the time, I resented their contributions because I felt they used higher vocabulary needlessly that either made their points too convoluted, or served to exclude other classmates who wouldn’t be able to comprehend it as well. I hard a hard time thinking it was practice for language development, and normally felt that it was done to elevate or flaunt language prowess at the expense of making others feel inferior.

I say this, yet use words now in my writing that I would’ve probably resented then. Don’t worry, I have yet to feel it in my graduate classes thus far – but I am always so aware of my motives behind sharing or my vocabulary choices, am I doing it for my benefit, or for others?

fry hear themselves

“hear themselves talk” via Memegenerator

In reflecting on my sharing on the group chat in our discussions. In this course (and my previous courses with Alec), specifically in the chat realm, a lot of my contributions have some desperate attempts at humour laced with relevance to the content – and while it keeps me engaged, I’m sure others, at least once, have thought: “oh my goodness, just stop”. And maybe I’m wrong… but have you ever felt like you were in a class where it seems some individuals just like to hear themselves talk?

That is my fear in the closed setting. I’m a claustrophobic educator I guess. My feelings aside, learning can still happen for students when ones who dominate discussion receive feedback to curb contributions or it pushes others to step up. But are the discussion-dominators even displaying understanding or have they simply learned to fake it?

 

“Learned to fake it”

“Learned to fake it” with it being authenticity. There still is learning occurring when individuals learn to fake it and share what they share in these settings. As such, I would argue that: yes, there is some authenticity, because who it is meaningful to has a wide scope. When we consider the scope and who all the comments reach, we’re bound to find some authentic learning. The modelling of “advanced responses” still benefit others who may get too intimidated to contribute. Therefore, while it may not be authentic for the contributor, whose motives may be less than intrinsic, the responses evoked may be authentic, so where do I (and we) draw the line? And what’s the difference in this between an open or closed setting?

I envision that the more open your discussions are, the more opportunities present themselves for learning to go in more directions as it increases your potential contributors and receivers (positive or negative contributions, mind you).

What age do students begin to have open spaces then?

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“Think of the children” via quickmeme

As an individual pushing for openness, I am fortunate to be teaching students mostly sixteen years of age and older. The mentality of allowing students to be exposed or unprotected in the digital realm is not a foreign concept for most of them or us, especially if they have been involved with social media and digital usage throughout their adolescent life.

At the senior science level with open content, the scope isn’t limited to students either. Parents may access the open format if they’re wanting to be involved, yet allow the students to begin to stretch their wings a bit. As long as administration and parents are made aware of the rationale and mentality behind the decision to go public, and concerns are addressed and adapted for as needed, the learning from open commenting and discussion can unfold. If concerns arose like frequent trolling, decisions could be made as a class community (edcuator, students, parents, admin) with how to address them. (All of this is predicated on student buy-in. But… at the senior science level, buy-in is, pretty much, required).

Were I a grade four science teacher, there would be greater restrictions when searching for information and public commenting (as in, it would likely be non-existent as the students would be still, I consider, vulnerable). You would see a closed setting without external influence, but potentially simulated digital citizenship practices in which they’d deal with a pretend troll, or have to select from three information sources to determine which one is most likely false, rather than being thrown to the wolves of the web in my senior science courses. But even then, where is the line where we stop coddling students?

Closing thoughts

While some of my senior students may become “learn to fake it”‘s as I mentioned above, there’s still learning to be had. This learning may be from unknowingly modelling behaviours for themselves, or creating authentic learning for others who may learn from them.

The more open we go, the scope of learning increases. So don’t be afraid of open space.

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“Corner Gas – Open Space” made via Giphy


Open space…

Open space…

 

Agree? Disagree? Comment below!

-Logan Petlak


Why do Students Snapchat? Intimacy and Connectedness.

Earlier this week, I looked at the social media app: Snapchat. To extend beyond just becoming comfortable with the apps and programs students are using, how can you use this in your classroom? Vicki Davis provides several suggestions including using YouTube for students to host their own show or document their learning. Ultimately, I believe that social media can be a force for good in the classroom, even in the casual use that student use it for (when appropriate). It represents a significant part of modern development and learning.

In this post however, I intend to address the transition of social media. In Amanda Lenhart’s article through the Pew Research Center, it stated that 71% of students used more than one form of social media, with the most being on Facebook at 71% and only 41% on Snapchat… my students are more likely to represent if you switched each apps respective numbers. When we further observe the stats on the same site, it states that girls dominate visually-oriented media. To pose an inference about this data, and unfortunately in an overgeneralizing heterosexist lens, the margin of numbers I would expect to diminish as male students follow what the females share. With more visuals, we see Snapchat overtake Facebook. Given student feedback? Snapchat is better for their daily communication desires. Why is SnapChat so much better?

Two things: Intimacy and connectedness.

Intimacy.
Students and adults have already learned to “curate their content” and create public social media images and private lives to protect themselves from the watchful eye of future employers, but this addresses privacy rather than intimacy. As well, many students are aware of the possibility that individuals can still take screenshots without being caught. Students achieve a greater amount of intimacy when you can actually see the person you’re speaking (or texting) to. Humans and animals learn our facial expressions to adapt and become socialized, it’s natural. This is just further learning of intimacy with others. In an education-setting, this can even help students who struggle with reading social cues get experience! The sharing of inside jokes or personal confessions simply enhances the intimate social experience. Going beyond novel (reading), to drawings (pictures), to film (video). It’s important to differentiate in my definition of intimacy. I refer to it as the development of emotional closeness with others, not in the sexual nature. Students also need to be aware of and learn that a (possibly provocative) picture that may be gone in 10 seconds may not disappear.

Connectedness.

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Photo Credit: Jeff Coons via Compfight cc

Students want to connect with their peers, whichever social media takes precedence in a particular generation, individuals will clamour to it. The social media aids in the development of social skills in a modern era while satisfying our universal relationship needs.

1. Companionship / Belonging
2. Affection (Verbal and Physical)
3. Emotional Support / Validation

Will Meek, Ph.D Psychology Today

Upon inquiring students about what makes Snapchat stand out: “everyone else uses it”. ‘Everyone else’ involves the people they deem significant within their social circles school or community-wide. Do you agree? Parents and teachers may bridge that gap at times or provide this need in a non-digital sense, but perhaps modern peer-to-peer interaction is dominantly achieved through social media.

Some students did have both, like myself. Why? Students may put general postings about big moments in their lives on Facebook for family members to see, or stay in touch with older family members. Facebook also has the group chat function which can be used to target a more broadly-aged audience. Utilizing more than one I would argue is the ideal, as each fulfill different purposes. Connecting within peer groups more intimately with some (Snapchat), or more widely with things like Twitter or Facebook.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your opinion on social media in schools in comments below!

– Logan Petlak


Connect, Collaborate, Communicate: Learning and Knowing in a Digital Age

This past year I have taken on a new role as teacher librarian at Sacred Heart Community School. I felt like I needed a change from being a classroom teacher. As a classroom teacher I was able to encourage my students to become networked students, but I felt like I was in a rut and was not engaging as I had in previous years as a networked teacher. I was looking to connect with others within the school and take on the role as an educational leader. I thought the role of teacher librarian would be a perfect fit.

As a Teacher-Librarian I have the unique opportunity to:

  • manage library services while working closely with students in a variety of capacities
  • implement technologies in our learning areas and be proficient in those technologies in an instructional environment
  • plan collaboratively to enable students to explore and answer questions, connect with each other and the world (create instead of consume)
  • encourage a love of reading and support the development of reading literacy skills
  • become an instructional leader

The role of the TL supports the and is evolving to embody the ideas explored this week in the course readings about the pedagogy of abundance, the theory of connectivism, rhizomatic learning, and the evolution of 21st-century social media literacies.

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Networked Teacher by Alec Couros

A Pedagogy of Abundance

As I am new in this role and open to change as a person, I think the pedagogy of abundance is a very positive shift in our education system; however, I know many TLs are finding this shift very challenging and troublesome. The pedagogy of abundance breaks down the four walls of the classroom AND the library. The library is evolving from a place where you go only to consume information to a place where you can also create information. TLs are no longer the keepers of information, but rather engage with teachers and students in resource based learning, problem based learning, and inquiry projects. While engaging in learning, students are encouraged to develop and modeled information processing abilities while sifting through excessive abundance of information. The ultimate goal is for students to develop multiple literacies, and teach students how to use technology to find information and with the information the ability extract and synthesize it to formulate new meaning.

Theory of Connectivism and Rhizomatic Learning

As students are engaging in learning through an abundance of information, they should also be making connections and collaborating. This is important because not only do we learn inside ourselves, but also outside ourselves. Allowing students to participate in rhizomatic learning and personal learning networks, such as we are in this course creates an authentic experience that is adaptable to personal contexts. Connections and learning takes place in a variety of communities both online and offline, such as blogs, cooperative learning groups, Twitter, conferences, etc. One of the most important things to remember when thinking about connectivism is the tools themselves are not as important as the connections made possible by them. By collaborating, creating, and sharing, we are allowing our students to be successful as a 21st century learner.

“Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.” Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age by George Siemens

21st-Century Social Media Literacies

As I stated above, the 21st century learner, teacher, and school is more than tools and technologies. Essentially, we are modelling and teaching students digital skills and multiple literacies. Howard Rheingold describes the social media literacies as attention, precipitation, collaboration, network awareness, and critical consumption. These five literacies are interconnected and when fluent in the literacies, students and teachers, are able to interact with the abundance of information and be connected in their learning communities.

I am so glad I took a step out of my comfort zone this year and became a teacher librarian. Although the role has been challenging and demanding at times, I believe it is a key proponent in transforming education to meet the needs of the 21st century learner.