Daily Archives: July 20, 2013

Leveraging Online Communities

While this week’s readings focus on youth social and media learning networks, the principles and ideas can be applicable across any age group.  Librarians have been trying to engage with patrons through social media for years, but it is sometimes the young adult or teen librarian who is involved with planning and maintaining the library’s digital life.  At the last YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium in 2012, I took part in a discussion with fellow librarians about the issues and concerns that we had with integrating social media into library service.  There were two main discussion points that came from the talk.  First, some people were very concerned with budget decision makers decreeing that electronic service can take the place of face-to-face service, and second, people complained a lot about the amount of red tape and policy setbacks that prevent electronic interactions between educators and their learners, especially in school systems.  My previous employer took draconian steps to guarantee that only the official statements of the company were available in electronic and print formats, and that was above and beyond the district-wide policy prohibiting contact on social media between school employees and students.  Knowing your school’s policies can definitely save you a lot of grief.

It is so frustrating because using social media networks in education can be such an engaging and meaningful (not to mention free in some cases) method of getting information and interaction flowing.  The article about students using Scratch to build educational media learning experiences is a great example that can be used as ammunition for educators who want to propose using educational social media by stating that “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” (Brennan, Monroy-Hernandez, & Resnick, 2010, p. 82).  Students were able to build connections, not just with each other, but also between content and media literacy skills.

The article about students using Remix World also gives good data and evidence to help argue the case for young people learning through social networks.  It especially emphasizes the importance of planning and connecting social interactions with learning because “fulfilling formal educational goals requires that curriculum designers and educators develop tools that help to facilitate and scaffold learning and the also encourage users to take ownership of the environment through their contributions and participation to the site” (Zywica, Richards, & Gomez, 2011, p. 40).  Students take an active part in their learning through integrating technologies that require less direct instruction to use because they already have prior knowledge of social media norms.  Less technological instruction on things they know anyway helps to keep students interested in their learning by not boring them with repetition.  They can utilize skills they already have to enable them to move forward with their own learning goals.

I especially enjoyed the shorter article about the dance competition in Brazil.  It made me think of my friend who made it to the finale of this year’s Hooping Idol, an international hooping competition, and it also reminded me of an episode of Touch where one of the seemingly unconnected but obviously incredibly connected storylines was about a young boy trying to break into his school so he could access a webcam to be able to win an international dance competition.  The dancers in Brazil, through technology and social media, are able to be proud of their skills and have potential opportunities in their futures.  “The idea is that, through dance, the social UPP units can reach youngsters and open the dialogue with them in the pacified favelas” (Recuero, 2012).  By giving them options outside their limited backgrounds, social media opens doors for these dancers who might not have any other way out of their situations.  It’s an extreme example, but it is a model that can work anywhere.  By showing these sorts of social media networks to students as well as administrators, we can start to change the way that people view social learning to help educators leverage online communities for greater, more meaningful learning.

Week 11-Youth Networks

Facilitating communication between peers using various internet tools is essential for a more powerful learning environment to be bred.  Today, students are constantly engaged with each other throughout the day in various ways and for various reasons. One way to help bridge the social networking (in a personal sense) to peer communication (in the academic sense) is to allow students to have structured opportunities to do so.

I never really thought about how much students (and ourselves) are really consumers of the different technological mediums that are out there. I felt that Brennan made a very good point when stated, “Although young people spend a considerable amount of time online, they are typically engaged as consumers of media and have fewer opportunities to engage as creators of media, particularly as creators of interactive media.” This quote really stood out to me because I cannot say that I have ever been a creator of media. I, along with many of my students, tend to participate solely in these technologies and social networks but we never take time to integrate our own thoughts and peer collaboration to breed something new and exciting. Taking ownership of the activity helps to enhance engagement and will in turn motivate students to seek a higher level of understanding or depth to the item/project they are working on. The example of the two teens working together to create an animation video of one girl’s still images proves that point. When allowed to combine ideas, interact, and encourage each other’s work, students will often strive to hit higher expectations and achieve greater things than if we were to outline a consumer based project to them.

Another point that really stood out to me was the concept of creating a place where collaboration, communication, and feedback can easily be given between online users. One person pointed out that after they create a project on Scratch, they have a hard time soliciting feedback because of the sheer volume of users and projects created daily. After working so hard on a project, it is encouraging to know that others have viewed, critiqued, and at times appreciated the work that you have done. Encouraging our students to provide these things to each other is something I believe is imperative to this learning environment. One way to help facilitate communication in our own classrooms is to utilize some of the social networking tools that are already available. One way to do that is to integrate programs like Facebook (groups) or Edmodo. These sites are specifically designed to enhance interaction between users; and in the Edmodo setting, users are grouped in their classes which allows for a more structured setting. Teaching our students to create and communicate is an important part of how they will become successful lifelong learners today!


Creating Communities

  • From Brazil: Kids Using Digital Media to Teach Each Other, Change Culture
    By R. Recuero – “…the ‘small steps’ craze is an example of how youth can be protagonists in creating and changing culture.”
  • From Making projects, making friends: Online community as catalyst for interactive media creation By Brennan, Monroy-Hernández, and Resnick – “…it is important for creators to be situated in and supported by a community of practice that connects them to other people, resources, routines, and goals.”
  • From Affordances of a scaffolded-social learning network By Zywica, Richards, and Gomez – “…youth participatory practices are characterized as interactive and creative (Greenhow et al., 2009), where youth can take on leadership roles and engage in identity development and knowledge construction around issues that matter to them (Ito et al., 2008; Greenhow et al., 2009).”

The thing that each of these articles brings to the conversation is how the youth of today are creating a space to share with those within the community as well as the community at large.  Although the medium has changed (digital interaction instead of face-to-face interaction) and the geographical reach has increased, the desire to connect with others who share common interests, provide information, and share feedback has not changed.  When I think back to the days of my youth in the ’80s, I saw the same thing with the a variety of groups within my community.  Those interested in skateboards, surfing, dressage riding, etc. read magazines, watched each other, attended competitions, and talked with friends in an effort to learn and grow their interests.  I see the same thing here with these articles except the rapidity and expansiveness of information exchange has increased.

Empowered Youth

Change culture. That’s what it’s all about. In her article, “Brazil: Kids Using Digital Media to Teach Each Other, Change Culture“, Raquel Recuero writes, “According to Ludemir, [a writer and producer,] the ‘small steps’ craze is an example of how youth can be protagonists in creating and changing culture.” The key catalyst: the Internet. These impoverished dancers in the city of Rio are changing their culture by creating it, and they’ve got the attention of the world because of YouTube. To take their Dance Dance Revolution to the next level, professionals such as Ludemire invest their expertise in this movement.

What if the originators of the ideas need to produce and promote their own work on the Internet? Brennan, et. al point out in their article, “Making projects, making friends“, that, “It is sometimes expected that because they have always been surrounded by interactive media, young people have inherent understandings and use these artifacts and technolo-gies effortlessly.” Wrong. We cannot with any accuracy make this assumption.

Scratch, created by the MIT Media Lab, is an example of how to instill digital natives with the tools they need to create their own interactive media. Programming is vastly useful skill, but few people who are not techies know languages such as C++, Java, or iOS. Scratch introduces learners to the logic and problem-solving of programming. Actual coding can be learned as the student grows older. The main point is that Scratch gives them a head start, gives them a taste, a foundation on which to drive future learning. Programming is difficult, intimidating work to non-technical individuals. Yet, the skill is nonetheless relevant to the modern era of creation.