Daily Archives: July 19, 2013

Youth Networks

I love the quote from the Brennen article “Being a creator of interactive media enables broader understandings of how these artifacts are created and function, understandings required for full participation in and negotiation of a technologically saturated society.” I wholeheartedly agree with Brennen when she talks about our assumptions that students today come to us with an inherent understanding of technology use. What I see over and over again is that this is just not true, depending on the access and opportunity each student has, their familiarity can be vastly different.

What I’ve learned from all three texts is that all students need is the encouragement to seek out communities all their own. To find the help, support and inspiration they need online. Like Zywica stated in her article, learning networks can be used in various ways. From supplements to existing courses to encouraging participation in discussion groups, they can be both an enhancement to the real-world classroom and a place to exchange information with peers.

When I was growing up I found myself choosing the same hobbies as the kids in my neighborhood because that is where my support system was. If I needed to learn how to do something or to see if what I was doing was correct, I had to find an actual person that knew the answer. Now students need only turn to the internet, and while a glimpse will show you just how big the world is, it can also provide the close community you need. The great thing is that students are now able to anything and get help with just about anything, because there is someone else in the world that has the same hobbies as they do. This in turn can encourage them to experiment with creation because maybe their hobby doesn’t seem so “weird” and they know they’ll have an audience ready to accept them.

Week 11: Youth Networks

In the Brennan, Monroy-Hernández, and Resnik reading, Scratch made me think of other online environments in which my kids have been able to create as well as learn collaborative problem solving skills.  Spore was mentioned in the article, and that was a favorite a few years back in our house that allowed for creation of a unique species that would then develop and evolve into a society.  The current house favorite is Minecraft, a game that allows users to build structures using blocks, sort of like Legos.  My kids are quite addicted to this game and I see that it allows them to be extremely creative in building their castles, as my 8 year old daughter shows me the many farm animals that dwell in the living room of her castle or the special pool on the rooftop.  This is learning in a creative way, even if it isn’t in a formal classroom environment.  I remember having to design a house in 6th grade using pieces of cardboard, but in this game mode, users can be far more creative.  When my kids run into problems in Minecraft, they help each other, call a friend, or even go online for answers.  They are working through their problems socially, even if to them it is just a game.  To me, this is the scientific method in action, as they identify a problem, experiment, see results, and repeat as necessary.  I try not to phrase it in that way to my kids though, because then it would no longer be fun!  There is a special site dedicated to more formal educational use of the game as well for any of you that are interested:  http://minecraftedu.com/page/resources.

When my kids were younger, Webkinz was popular, which allowed them to build rooms for the virtual animals they adopted.  They could plant a garden to supply food and had to care for the animals as needed.  Anyone remember having to take care of a pretend baby as an assignment in a home economics class?  This game really teaches them those same types of skills at a young age—although still a far cry from an actual screaming baby!

In the Zywica, Richards, and Gomez reading, I understand the importance of a closed social networking site in some situations (especially in K-12 education), but this is not always available.  In using the groups feature in Facebook, you don’t have to be friends with someone (and share personal information), to participate in the group.  I have used groups in Facebook for student clubs, and since students are typically on these sites frequently, it is one of the quickest and easiest ways to share information and work together.  We have planned entire club presentations and events through Facebook, but I am not friends with any of the students (nor would they probably want to be friends with me!).  In the reading, it was also described that use of Remix World spiked over the winter vacation, which is a nice feature of a site that can continue through an extended span of time and is not linked to the end of a school year or term.  In my use with Facebook for student clubs, I often see posts from students who have graduated but still want to be a part of the learning community and share their experiences in the workforce or in furthering their education.  If I were to use a Learning Management System for the same purpose, the site would close at the end of the semester and there would not be the ability to collaborate further.  Who knows how long we will continue to benefit from the connections we make with each other if we are able to maintain them well after the formal learning environment has ended?

Learning Networks Week 11 Blog Post

The Making projects, making friends text discusses the potential for kids to go from being “consumers of media” to “creators of media”.  I took a particular interest in “Scratch”- the programming environment that shares a collection of projects created by students. As Brennan’s text shares, “The collection of projects is incredibly diverse: interactive newsletters, science simulations, virtual tours, animated tutorials, and many others, all programmed with Scratch’s graphical programming blocks”. The variety of projects submitted seems open-ended which allows for creativity and uniqueness. The idea of “blocks” struck a chord with me being a kindergarten teacher. Scratch was created by the Life-long Kindergarten group and the thought process behind it is interesting to me. Yes, children play with blocks to build pretend castles and they try to see how tall of a structure they can build before it all comes tumbling down, but I believe much more is happening. Kids are creating something that is meaningful to them. Through Scratch, kids are learning skills (mathematical and computational) while they most likely don’t even realize it. It was incredible to read the different stories about how children learn from one another all around the world. The importance of feedback and critiquing was also revealed throughout the text.

“Access to the community created opportunities for individuals to imagine new possibilities for creation; develop their technical and aesthetic abilities; create more technically, aesthetically, or conceptually sophisticated projects than would have been possible to create independently; and reflect on their development as creators of interactive media”. This quote I believe is an excellent summary of the Brennan text. This explains how using the community bridges the gap and allows for things otherwise impossible.  I wonder how many students or children will be inspired to become “creators of media” compared to how many will be content with their current role of “consumers of media”. Will kids be overwhelmed or intimidated by the work?

As highlighted in the Zywica text, “Informal networking sites attract many of today’s youth”. One thought that I would like to mention is that I’ve been thinking about the effectiveness of informal sites vs. formal sites especially in the classroom setting. I think about how much students really learn when they are using informal sites verses formal sites. Part of me thinks that it all is centered around the topic and if it interests the individual. Another part of me wonders if it is the tools that are keeping the students on task and actually learning. And a small part of me wonders if they are learning what the teacher had in mind (which may not always be negative).

Some “learning” occurs when the students are outside of school and this has been made possible by the tools that students have available to them now. The videos that I watched from the Brazil: Kids using digital media to teach each other site amazed me. Yes they may not be learning algebra or science but they are learning.  “According to Ludemir, the “small steps” craze is an example of how youth can be protagonists in creating and changing culture.” This is just one example. I want to mention the tags from the article: “Peer to Peer Learning”, “interest-driven learning, and “youth culture”. Interest-driven learning is HUGE today and it is changing lives.


Young people today are connected to other people all around the world more than any generation in our history. But as the Brennan article stated, they are typically consumers of online activity and networking. To fully appreciate types of media, one must learn how to create something of that sort.  I always said when I grew up that I never knew how good my mom’s baking was until I tried to bake on my own. The appreciation comes from doing it yourself.

Being the snoop that I am… I call it in inquisitive, others call it a problem… I immediately googled “Scratch Programming” to find the MIT site. I’m always looking for new sources of media to use with my students and thought I could give it a shot.  Let me start with this… It’s hard!!  It probably took me 5 minutes to get the cat avatar to walk 10 steps and meow. My appreciate of media creation was immediate. Our students need to gain this appreciate too. They need feedback from their peers in the classroom and around the globe. And because of the world that we live in today, our students will need to know (and be taught!) how to collaborate with individuals in other place. This means proper communication skills too.

Our youth must be proactive in creating their culture also. As we see in the “Small Step Battle” in Rio, students are sharing their world with others around the globe. These are positive videos promoting the types of activities that we hope our children are doing, unlike other choices they have. We must promote these. We must teach our students how to interact positively online with videos just like these! I couldn’t stop watching the small step videos and thinking of how I could integrate this into my sociology curriculum. We teach culture and current trends. My students might be making and sharing small step videos next year! 🙂

Finally, I love the idea of a school online social network. Teachers can be facilitators to media, questioning and student responses. This can teach the younger generation in our education system what is etiquette, what qualifies as irresponsible, and what is positive interaction.  Kids only learn what they are taught.  Let’s teach them how to use this web 2.0 networking technology instead of fearing it.