Showing posts with label rss. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rss. Show all posts

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Social Networking for students and teachers who only know Facebook

Struggling with my muses on a challenging project, I confided in a Facebook update: "I'm trying to write teaching materials to explain social networking to students and teachers who know little about the topic beyond Facebook. It's difficult."

To my surprise my off-the-cuff remark brought numerous comments (my social network in support; thanks, social network :-)). I decided that these responses deserved more elaboration than would be possible in a comment on my own status update (hence, this blog post).

Basically I'm trying to update what my colleagues and I have been teaching as "computer literacy" for the past several years. Our students' sophistication with computers changes year to year, and what seemed reasonable five years ago as an introduction to computing might seem simplistic and outmoded today.

I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to revise some of the materials we introduce to students as "computer literacy" and thus articulate some of the concepts which I think our students should be aware of in order to consider themselves technologically literate in the 21st century, where there is general agreement among educators who concern themselves with such matters that a new skill set is emerging to prepare young people to be able to adapt to “jobs that haven’t been invented yet.”

My materials include a lesson on Google Docs (a popular example of doing in the ‘cloud’ something we have till recently been doing almost exclusively on our PC’s). This lesson also gets the students into the Google system, which they’ll need for the lessons involving Google Reader.

Google Reader is one of the topics in my lessons on Social Networking. These lessons focus on three key concepts: RSS, tagging, and aggregation.

The first lesson has us taking a look at aggregation, an excellent illustration of which can be found at I have our students put in ADNOC and OPEC as these are safe and also could lead to a discussion of how this works (if students explore some of the aggregators used, which reveals a lot about what aggregators there are and how they work).

In the second lesson we have a look at blogs, but as observers only. It seems unreasonable to require teachers to themselves create blogs in such a short time, though this could be a technique any teacher could use to work with students on these materials. As observers we follow blogs through their RSS feeds, so I’m suggesting some blogs I hope will intrigue our students. I also have some practical examples of RSS at work (RSS is a KEY concept, absolutely essential).

Another key concept is that of tagging. For this I use Delicious, adapting materials I've already created some time ago.

This brings me to the last lesson. I was thinking of a lesson on how to develop a network of worthy peers. Social Networking is much talked about, I heard the term repeatedly on mainstream TV news just this morning, on both Al Jazeera and BBC. So I think students and teachers might be primed to learn more about it, but the hurdle for most people (the trick, or the hard part) is seeding that network in such a way that it develops into something that will feed you the kind of information that will transform your learning (which is what some people say it does).

One web application that’s having a great impact on information dissemination is Twitter. I’m thinking at the moment to create that final lesson on Twitter. Again this would iinvolve students as observers (in illustration of concepts introduced here). It wouldn't be necessary for our teachers or students to create their own Twitter accounts but they would be able to see other people’s Ttwitter streams and follow those in RSS and tag them in Delicious.

In both blogs and Twitter you can see where people who have interesting things to say are getting their information. This is in fact how you leverage your own network, since you can find others whose blogs and Twitter feeds you can explore. My post just previous to this one ( described how Twitter Mosaic could be used to plumb the networks of other respected colleagues, who could in turn plumb yours.

I published this post on August 27, 2009. Meanwhile I got this from my Twitter stream, which I can't possibly absorb in its entirety but which I pop into now and then for whatever pearls have been cast before me and frequently emerge with something spot on. This is an article published September 1 in Times Higher Education on exactly the topic I'm getting at here. As Russell Stannard explains, "The idea of Twitter is to network with other people who are working in the same area as you. You send 'tweets' of interesting articles, websites and the like, and you receive similar tweets from the people you follow. Soon your Twitter account becomes a constant flow of interesting information from people who are plugged into your area. So how do you create these networks? It’s probably here where most people stumble. The easiest way to build up your contacts is to 'piggyback'. You search for well-known people who are working in your area then click on all their followers. You can guess that most of the people who follow them will be interested in similar things to you."

I couldn't have said it better myself! Thus your network is seeded, and it flourishes when you start interacting with it (going from passive to active would be the next step, but is outside the scope of my too brief introduction).

Icing on the cake: I see from my Twitter feed Sept 2, 2009 that colleagues in my network are actually reading this article. Thanks Cristina, and others re-tweeting!

And finally, this late-breaking addendum (Sept 10, 2009)

I've published the materials I alluded to here and I'm ready to share the URLs.

I'd appreciate any feedback, but keep in mind that they are pitched at my work context of EFL students just entering college. The materials are meant to be used in a classroom context where video media cannot be counted on to function, and pitched at students AND teachers who are only slowly emerging from a paper-based and teacher-centric pedagogical environment. That latter stipulation means that for the teachers themselves this is their first contact with some of the concepts here and they can't be made to feel that they are fish out of water when 'teaching' to a class of students who are in general have not embraced web 2.0 and social networking. So for people already learning through social networks, it's scaled back a bit, but I'm sharing in case you have a need for such materials, and also in case you might give me ideas for improvement.
Also I was working on a 4th lesson in social networking, "Starting your own network," when I ran out of time (I needed to get the materials into teacher and student hands AND realized teachers would run out of time in the 3 weeks allocated to the course originally). However, I plan to add that fourth unit at a later date. An inkling of what is to come can be found here:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Who are you, and what do you do?

Jeff Lebow and Dave Cormier often start their interviews with this question, and now they've got all their webcasters doing it. In case I'm asked ...

I'm Vance, and I aspire to doing significant work in the area of educational technology as it applies to formations of what I used to think of as communities of practice but which I am now starting to view more as distributed learning networks. My oeuvre explores the nature and ecology of those networks through application of emerging (also referred to as ‘transformational’ and ‘subversive’) technologies in appropriate ways to the intersections of the knowledge within those networks and the pedagogies that are felt to best impact students (e.g. constructivist, connectionist).

My more recent work has involved Web 2.0 technologies and the many ways, such as through RSS and the blogosphere, that content can be tagged in evolving folksonomies over the Internet and then aggregated in such a way that it becomes knowledge within a distributed learning network. I have been exploring with likeminded peers and students, often students in the online environment, how this knowledge can be most effectively distributed throughout our respective networks, and how these networks can merge into broader yet ever more inclusive wide-networks.

Access to such networks requires an expansion of 20th century concepts of literacy into multiliteracies models. I have been working extensively within a multiliteracies construct, teaching courses on the topic, and practicing wherever possible multiliterate approaches to information dissemination throughout my own learning networks, including those of my face to face students. I have sought to be a change agent, achieving some measure of success in the broader distributed educational community, while making some inroads in the more local one where I work.

Locally I've had perhaps most impact on my own students, where I have been able to model for them heuristics that they can pursue in their own quest for knowledge in a world where the jobs we are training them for haven’t been invented yet, and where the information needed to perform those jobs must be gleaned from online communities of practice which in turn filter content through distributed learning environments, and aggregate and remix this content into knowledge applicable to whatever real-world environment our students find themselves in when they need to perform tasks they desire to do in a decreasingly predictable future.

Application of the expertise to do this requires an evolution in perception of pedagogy that I feel that educators are tending to, at a greater pace in some parts of the world than others. Whenever possible I try to take advantage of opportunities to help others to reflect on their practice and consider possible applications of technology to enhance their ability to achieve whatever they are trying to accomplish in the classroom, whether it be from a teacher’s or learner’s perspective.

That's my current theory at any rate, but I expect to be changing it due to unforseen developments in the near future, which I'm hoping I'll be equipped to adapt to through appropriate perspectives on knowledge acquisition and dissemination that I am trying to understand and apply today.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Teachers as Change Agents: A Conversation with Doris Molero

Doris Molero, one of my WritingMatrix partners in Maracaibo, Venezuela, has invited me to chat with her students in Venezuela about tagging and RSS and using these tools to connect on line as we’ve been doing with the WritingMatrix project:


I found it when I was looking for blog posts on a conference I recently went to
Its conference tag was GLoCALL
I looked in Technorati at this URL
That's a search on blogs with the tag GLoCALL
So when I found this blog guess what??

Doris: What happened?
(checks out the blog …) Looking good in that Vietnamese hat!

Me: You guessed it. I found my picture there by surprise - just now
I'm leaving a comment now

Doris: What a small world!!!!

Me: the world has got smaller due to tagging
Are your guys blogging and tagging?

Doris: Yes... adding blogs to reader...
We are not using Technorati...
We are having trouble with internet and Technorati doesn't open
We are aggregating in Google reader

Me: looks like lots of nice posts in Technorati
I think if it were me I would IDENTIFY people whose blogs i like first, using Technorati and then follow THOSE in Google Reader
How are your guys finding blogs to follow?

Doris: but we don't have time for Technorati now... so we are adding and following in Google reader...since everybody is using Blogger... and are familiar with Google things... they have posted in Sasha's students blogs... and they have received some comments... this week we are going to start interacting more... this group is working on podcast for their final project...
they have to put a podcast together and post it in their blogs... as well as interact with the guys in the project.. as you can see it's a lot of internet skills and use of the language as well as critical thinking and all those things...

Me: for some reason none of my posts are coming up in Technorati, only my Slideshare tags, nothing from Blogger, and I’m looking in any authority too

Doris: I don't understand Technorati much... that's way we are using Google can always find blogs in Google by writing the right tag

Me: Blog Search?

Doris: yes

Me: (trying it out) yes, mine appear here
ok, I like this better

Doris: Yes... but how do you cope with teaching a syllabus and teaching how to work all these tools at the same time...?

Me: try to write the tools into the syllabus
become influential in other words
be a change agent

Doris: it's very demanding...sometimes it's frustrating ... so we got we the flow ... not everybody will be able to ride the wave but things are going to be accomplished ... and the more we use it the better and the more things students will learn...
Did that sound right...

Me: did you hear Konrad Glowgowski's talk at k-12 online?

Doris: This is going to be the subject of my research.... how we can integrate more techno tools in our learning for life.... but some people just want to learn English... multiliteracies... how do we say that in Spanish...? it's a whole new way of looking at things...

Me: you should look up Glowgowski's talk because he quoted a lot from someone using the metaphor of flow and it was on that topic

Doris: well, It just occurred to me....
I love your F.U.N philosophy, though...
lots of teachers love control... and chaos's something they can't control

Me: that's what's F.U.N. about it
someone said "I love to learn, I just hate to be taught"

Doris: that's what I meant by going with the flow... sometimes we want to control everything and have plans we can to carry out perfectly... we have to learn to relax and go with prior knowledge... trust each other..

Me: I think people learn better that way once they have become mature and responsible
How about your students? Can they learn through self motivation?

Doris: some of them are very nervous... some of them get frustrated... some of them love it... at the end of the level most of them agreed that all they did was worthwhile ...

Me: most people hate to pack and travel, but love where they end up, and have good reflections on the experience

Doris: they are university students and want to graduate in different fields... so English and technology is like something extra they have to worry about... but they say it's better than to have classes in the traditional way

Me: in the future there will NOT be LESS technology, and MODELING that technology is SOOOO important, like what you are doing
We are teaching people to take jobs that have not been invented yet
School no longer prepares you for a predictable future.
Check out David Warlick's K-12 keynote for more in that vein
to prepare for your future you need to know HOW to learn
and how to FIND information
and for that you need technology
and you need to know how to use it

Doris: That's the spirit... and that's exactly what I'm writing in my research

Me: and another thing David said: bringing people into school and forcing them to leave their networks behind, to cut them off from their networks, is an insult to them
David's keynote makes the point quite dramatically

Doris: networking... such a new idea for many
Especially in the English classroom, a lot of new things at the same time...

Me: David says that there are two kinds of people:
those who are connected
and those who are not
and those who are have POWER
that the other group has not
so by putting your students in touch with others
to teach them how to connect
is to empower them

Doris: it took me a long time to fully understand it myself
but connecting is more than just connect... it means to be able to do... and to do you have to understand first...

Me: yes, how to USE those connections to learn
or more accurately to know
because according to Stephen Downes, George Siemens, and others
what we 'know' is the sum total of what we can connect to
If you are connected then you theoretically know everything that the network knows
IF you can access that knowledge
and that's what we need to teach today
not facts, connections

Doris: new concept for many people... especially because you have to leave your controlling everything...
now how do we convince teachers of that.....? that's elemental... teachers are change agents

Me: I guess, get people connected
and they will learn it on their own
you can't teach them
there is no such thing
they have to be put in a position where they are willing to learn it

Doris: my guys are working... and they will start demanding more of what they have been using sometime... we have to wait for the right time... so everything runs smoothly...?

Me: speaking of time
I have to go
nice talking to you
connecting with you and your students
will chat later some time

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Testing testing technorati 1,2,3 ....

I'm making what I think is great headway on the text of my three lectures for the Summer Course in Spain coming up July 11-13 in San Sebastian, Basque country (I think it's great but I'm a week over deadline arghh). I'm writing this text out here:

It's called Basque2 because it's the second lecture. Later a first lecture will be added, and parts of this one will become lecture 3.

In the course of writing all this out, as with the Writingmatrix project, I'm learning as I go. What I have just learned was the impetus for this post, and that is ...

Technorati says it will give me a feed on blog postings tagged Writingmatrix if I plop this code in my blog. Let's see what it does:

I have discovered (hint from Robin's presentation, below) that if I use the above link and choose to See All (all 1000 postings tagged writingmatrix) then I will discover at the top of that page a SUBSCRIBE link. If I right click on that and copy the link location, then I get: Now, I can simply copy that FEED link and ADD it to my Bloglines account, and now I can track through Bloglines the moment that ANYone in our group makes a posting tagged 'writingmatrix'. Try it!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Preparing to give a series of lectures in Spain

In preparation for my upcoming lecture series in Spain,, I have been working hard on the side lately trying to figure out how aggregation works throughout the blogosphere (see my wiki collaborations at and Time is at a premium but I took a moment the other day to accept an invitation from Robin Good, who offered to show me how to aggregate content through Robin had made a zany keynote for us at in which he introduced us to and ended by packing up his video streaming equipment and riding off with it on his motorcycle through the streets of Rome.

Robin made clear at the outset that I could make any kind of use of his presentation that I wished, so I made a Camtasia recording. Unfortunately, in the time we had to get set up and under way I was unable to do sound checks or troubleshoot and whereas my own audio was clear in the recording, Robin's came out on my recording garbled and barely comprehensible (problem on my side apparently, not his).

So I made Snaggit screen shots of the presentation and produced a 60-slide ppt show with annotations. This process helped me to consolidate what I had learned and was also done with intent to share. I then tried to upload my slides to but for some reason it wasn't working, so I used instead. I was not perfectly pleased with the output. There were truncations in some of the slides; e.g. corruption of footer in all of them. But I'm at the end of time available on this effort and so without further ado, here's Robin (wait, further adooooo0000, I managed to upload to Slideshare and have replaced the file here and what I like better about Slideshare is that the links WORK - happy clicking):