Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Information Literacy: Information Overload!

What is information literacy? 
Information literacy, also known as critical literacy, is a major component of traditional comprehension teaching. At it's simplest, information literacy involves questioning a text, challenging the ideas presented and recognising that the author has their own personal background and beliefs; information literacy reduces the likelihood that the reader is "manipulated or misled" (Fellowes and Oakley, 2010, 490). I believe that the skills associated with information literacy are more important than ever, as the internet provides such a vast amount of information, that can be contributed to by anyone. The internet is such a valuable resource, so we need to equip our students with the skills to make the most of it, without being manipulated.

How can we teach online information literacy?
Fellowes and Oakley (2010) describe 3 broad approaches to teaching  information literacy, and these can be applied just as well to an online setting. Deconstruction of texts involves looking at the language features, pictures and the structure used in a text. Reconstruction involves putting texts together in a different way and then analysing the effect the new form has. Juxtaposition involves comparison of texts.

Using these approaches, students could analyse the features of a website that operate to convince them of the authors intentions; for example the use of colour and emotive language on a political website. Students could create their own website showing a different view to that of another website. By comparing two websites on the same subject, students can compare similarities and differences, and relate these to the authors intentions. Bogus websites are a fantastic resource to challenge students ideas about the reliability of online information. The Sellafield Zoo website is a fantastic example. Lesson ideas include carrying out further research on the nuclear disaster described or on the credentials of Mr Travis Beauchamps. Students could generate a list of clues that indicate the site might be false, and then perhaps create their own bogus animal and create a convincing publishable profile for their creature.

Fellowes, J. & Oakley, G. (2010). Language Literacy and Early Childhood Education. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Cybersafety Outreach

Last week we had the opportunity to attend a Cybersafety Outreach seminar provided by ACMA. I knew this was an important topic, but had previously dismissed it as more of a high school problem. It was confronting to learn about the internet culture that very young children are immersed in.

What are they up to online?
This was probably the most eye-opening part of the seminar for me. From 8 year olds with Facebook to Moshi-monsters to late night gaming on Nintendo-dsi, I can see that primary school internet use is something I had underestimated.

The most concerning element for me was the idea of children using very adult tools such as youtube and facebook, and the concepts that they may be exposed to and be subsequently desensitised to. ACMA's cybersmart schools gateway provides fantastic resources regarding what children of varying ages may be up to online. They break internet behaviour into age groups, and provide comprehensive information on the stage of cyber development, as well as resources for teachers. This will certainly be my first stop for any class I work with in the future.   

Developing a Cybercitizen

ACMA has developed a cybercitizen profile based on four categories that describe the "skills, knowledge and behaviours or capabilities" (ACMA Cybersmart, accessed 19/4/11) that are required to be safe online, and describe these stages for various age groups. The four capabilities are;
  • Positive online behaviour
  • Digital media literacy
  • Peer and personal safety
  • E-security

For me, the thought of teaching cybersafety seems a lot more achievable when broken down into these user-friendly categories. I love their use of the word positive for online behaviour, rather than simply telling chidlren what the can't do. At the end of the day, we want our students to have access to the wealth of information that is offered by Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, we just need to teach them how to do it safely.

A Side Note on Bullying
The big media buzz at the moment is cyberbullying, and is a very serious issue plaguing many students in our classrooms. I came across this video recently, and thought this would be a great opportunity to share it. For me, the message is that there are different ways for children to stand up for one another, and that a small gesture to a bullying victim can go a long way, and I am sure the message in the advert could be carried across to the cyberbullying context. And take note of some of the comments on the video (if you visit the original Youtube site); an example of some negative online behaviour that we don't want our students to be a part of! 


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Podcasts and Avatars!

This week we explored podcasts/vodcasts, digital storytelling and social-sharing. All seemed amazing resources that have fantastic applications to teaching, all with many platforms that provide a variety of formats to suit your needs. Today I have decided to focus on pod/vodcasting.

When considering  podcasts  for in education, it is basically an audiofile. From a traditional web 1.0 perspective, podcasts can be used as a passive transmissive learning resource. In the classroom, this could be in the form of downloading podcasts on a particular topic that student's can then listen to. From a web 2.0 perspective, podcasts give students a voice with a world-wide audience (if appropriate). Because podcasts can be shared, they provide an authentic learning experience, as well as allowing students a chance to reflect on the way they may present their views, and to develop oral language skills. They can also be used as an authentic diagnostic or summative assessment tool for teachers. The DET has a fantastic section on podcasts in the classroom; Podcasts in the Classroom.

So what about safety? The great thing about podcasts is that they are audio only, so allow anonymity. In order to engage students further, there are many sites offering avatars, technically turning your podcast into a vodcast. Students can use a pre-programmed voice and enter text, or record themselves, which is then combined with a visual character to represent the student. Blabberise and Voki are two such sites. Personally, I think that Voki is an amazing resource, as they have an online community of teachers who upload and share lesson plans that they found successful using Vokis. In addition, Voki provides a range of other resources for educators.

As we all know in education, there is nothing quite like trying something for yourself. So here we go, check out my Voki, talking about Vokis in education. Was a lot of fun!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Twitter in Education

A microblog differs from a regular blog, in that it has a limit on length, so that posts must be concise and to the point. The most famous example of a microblog is Twitter. Again, joining Twitter is something I scoffed at until recently, thinking it was exclusively for self-indulgent celebrities!  However, stay posted, as the next stop for me is creating my Twitter account! This inspirational video is what changed my mind;

So, should we use microblogging, in particular Twitter, in the classroom? I have come to the decision that yes, we certainly should! As the video above demonstrates, what an amazing way to stay up to date with your interests, why shouldn't children be offered this opportunity as well? When a class is studying a particular topic, why not follow Twitter accounts posting relevant, topical information. I believe this would be an engaging and authentic learning experience, and would connect children with the issue or topic within the greater community.

In addition, summarising an event, story or issue is a skill that children need to learn, as we have all experienced the drawn-out (admittedly very endearing) tales of children. Twitter would provide an authentic medium for children to share information in a concise manner; teaching children to think about the value of every word they are writing. In my honors year at university, I had a similar experience where we had to summarise every scientific paper we read in under 300 words, including objectives, methods, results, conclusions and a critique. It was a steep and valuable learning curve, and definitely taught me a new skill!

So in summary, Twitter in the classroom can be valuable to;
  • Follow children's areas of interest.
  • Follow issues and current events.
  • Writing tasks; Forced to summarise and be concise.
  • For teachers; connect with other teachers, share resources and stay up to date with issues.
  • For teachers; class blog to communicate news and events with students and parents. 

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Exploring Wikis

The term "Wiki" was to me a foreign one until recently, however I now understand it to be a web-site that allows all users to edit or add new content. In this way, a Wiki is a great example of collective intelligence.

Wikis in Education
Wikis are a fantastic tool for the social-constructivist classroom. Students can collaboratively construct a Wiki about a subject area with their classmates, their school or a wider community. I love the suggestions made in class this week about how creation of a Wiki page of a particular subject can be set as a task by the teacher, where the end result is a comprehensive resource created for students by students. What an empowering and authentic learning experience.

Advantages of using Wikis in education;
  • Goes hand in hand with social constructivist pedagogies.
  • A medium to teach students about collective intelligence.
  • Teach children about debate backed by evidence.
  • A tool to teach critical literacy.
  • An authentic and therefore motivational learning experience.
Disadvantages of using Wikis in education;
  • Class Wikis are highly dependent on teacher monitoring and guidance for them to be successful.
  • Public Wikis have the potential to have errors (this can be turned into critical literacy learning.). 
  • Potentially time consuming for the teacher.
With so much to offer, I believe the benefits of Wikis far out way any disadvantages, particularly since many of the issues with Wikis can be turned into valuable lessons in critical thinking for students. Certainly worth the extra time-investment by the teacher!

The quote below provides a really powerful explanation of why Wikis work despite so many concerns regarding their reliability:

"Think of an open wiki space as a home that leaves its front door unlocked but doesn’t get robbed because the neighbors are all out on their front steps gossiping, keeping a friendly eye on the street, and never missing a thing".  Lamb, 2004 http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume39/WideOpenSpacesWikisReadyorNot/157925

And as for Wikipedia?

Brian Lamb's quote is a great explanation for why Wikipedia works, despite all common sense saying it shouldn't. We have had Wikipedia's "unreliability" drummed into us for many years, yet recent studies comparing it to Britannica show it's more reliable than previously thought.

The video posted below, demonstrates (in a very, very biased fashion!), some of the negatives associated with Wikipedia. However despite some negatives, I believe Wikipedia has valuable applications in the classroom; for example as a starting point for research, an example of differing opinions about various subjects (track history and discussion pages) and as a tool for understanding popular opinion and pop culture. By applying critical thinking, Wikipedia can be a valuable source of various forms of information. As educators, we need to teach children how to use this information appropriately. 

Disclaimer!! Please note that this video is amusing and does not necessarily reflect my views!!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Boys and Blogs!

Everyone hears about it can be more difficult to motivate boys in the classroom. Well perhaps new-technologies are the answer! Follow the link to a great newspaper article about boys and blogs, where a UK primary school has found that blogs are the key to get boys writing.  I also like the school's use of blogs for when the children are stuck at home for one reason or another.