Monthly Archives: July 2013

Week 12

Welcome to Week 12! Well, we’re coming down the home stretch of the course and for this week you have your last major project, namely the video project in which you convey your learning philosophy in video/multimedia form. Part of the video should include and describe how your learning philosophy has evolved since the beginning of the course. The other thing you need to do for this week is share your thoughts impressions on the Design Blueprints of the groups you weren’t involved in.

  • Reading: n/a
  • Blog post: n/a
  • Video: Learning Philosophy 2.0
  • Peer feedback on Design Blueprint

If you have any questions, let me know. Have a good week!

Learning Philosophy 2.0

My philosophy of education has grown stronger as I’ve learned ways to implement it in the classroom. I still believe my role is to craft stimulating, rich learning environments. While I coach students in building their learning networks, their role is to own their self-directed learning. They are to choose which learning tasks are personally meaningful to them. With the intrinsic motivation that is sure to follow, students are to wholeheartedly craft their ideas, broadcast them, and provide thought-provoking feedback to those of their peers. All the while, student are seeking social approval and recognition in domains that have relevance not only to their lives but also to those in their online communities around the world.

Tools that I plan to use as I foster this caliber of learning include wikis, blogs and badges. I will assign students to groups of three, and during the year every group will select a chapter of material and collectively summarize it in a wiki for the class to use as a review guide. Classmates can comment on the wiki’s effectiveness in clearly explaining content, offer suggestions or praise, or request further examples. As for blogs, students will reflect on why certain homework assignments were difficult for them, celebrate successes in their learning and what efforts or resources contributed, and what kinds of lessons helped them grasp a concept and how they matched their learning styles.

To evaluate learning, I will assess students on their insightful posts and comments, facility in linking together different ideas, and extension of their networks to include knowledgeable contributors (credentialed or not). A subtler indication of learning will take the form of initiative. Does the student initiate communication? Contribute original ideas? Take positions different than the status quo?

Badges – complimentary to traditional forms of assessment – will allow me to guide and recognize students’ learning toward the softer skills of mathematics. These include perseverence, the ability to communicate mathematically, organization, and so forth. For learning to occur in my classroom, students must make the most of the opportunities that I provide as the course architect.

A primary goal of mine in this course was to learn how to effectively implement real-world problems as part of the core curriculum. These problems entail a plethora of 21-century skills: critical thinking, collaboration and communication, and Web 2.0 resources. Throughout this course, however hard I tried, I failed to find clear and relevant information to propel me in reaching this goal. I will optimistically continue my search and learn to create my own open-ended problems relevant to my algebra 2 curriculum.

On the other hand, I found an answer to the nagging question, “Will I even have a job if virtual schools roll out in full force?” For the reasons listed above, I now know that teachers’ job are here to stay. Who else can transform four walls into a genuinely interactive, self-exploratory learning environment?

Learning Philosophy 2.0 Video

Youth Networks & Participatory Culture

The potential of YouTube as a platform to support participatory culture seems great, with 100.9 million unique viewers who watched over 6.3 billion videos (January 2009). According to Clement Chau, teens aged 17-19 represent 17% of the YouTube market. One key element that sets YouTube as a pertinent space for youth activity is that it has low entry requirements and its participatory trajectory is gradual. One of the main categories in the large corpus of user content is how-to videos on a variety of topics, from creating music videos and websites to skateboarding. The how-to video creation represents broadcast mentorship. While this type of mentorship is informal and unregulated, Chau sees that it provides opportunities for youth to take on different responsibilities. As a platform for collaborative work, YouTube is limited.

In comparison to YouTube, I find the Digital Youth Network program more compelling in supporting learning as it employs a variety of online tools and resources to provide an authentic new media learning environment. DYN mentors include professional artists and creators who bring a diverse set of skills into the classroom in afterschool programs. I can appreciate the DYN private social learning network “Remix World” for sharing perspective and dialogue with peers and contribution from mentors to scaffold media critique when I see meaningless quality video clips created in YouTube without learning goals or guidance for the young creators (e.g. FiveAwesomeGuys). However, I can agree with Recuero  the positive impact made by the Brazilian kids who used digital media to teach each other “small steps” on YouTube, with the belief that their contribution matters.

Brennan, et al.’s article on Making projects, Making friends, opened my eyes to the powerful learning opportunities in the participatory space that draws from the best of socializing and creating practices.


Chau, C. (2013). YouTube as a participatory culture. New directions for youth development. Wiley Periodicals Inc, Vol. 2013 Issue 137

Remix World, retrieved from

Recuero, R. (2012). Brazil: Kids Using Digital Media to Teach Each Other, Change Culture.

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.

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:

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.