Speaking and Hearing the new media literacies

This week as a content expert I wanted to spend some time looking into what are the new and emerging literacies that we associate with digital literacy and how do they connect to the classroom.

The first resource that I wanted to post about was “The New Media Literacies” which is a website that is committed to integrating media literacy into the classroom.  The video below talks about the need for a new set of skills to deal with our culture.  No longer are our students simply consumers of media, but we are entering a time where they are expected to be creators as well.  Many of them will want to add their mark to the media that they are using and consuming, which is different that how things were in the past.  They want to not simply create, but also to engage others in what they create.  For example, when I was younger I kept a journal, kids these days might keep a blog that they want the rest of the world to comment on, or a Facebook page where they might share pictures.


The website highlights as few of the emerging literacy skills that students will need for the future.  Out of the ten listed, there were a few that I think have had the greatest impact on me and my classroom.  One of the first skills was “judgement”, students are expected today to be able to navigate through various forms of media and use their critical thinking skills to determine the most appropriate response to that media.  It takes a tremendous amount of strategies and understanding to be able to make judgments like this on the web.  I think that often as adults we take for granted the ability to recognize “truth” and to determine the correct course of action.  As educators, and for students these days it is really trial by fire.  They are accessing and interacting perhaps before they realize the implications of what they are doing.

The other skill that I wanted to touch on was “appropriation.”  We have talked about this generations desire to create and recreate, or mix and remix as a form of expression.  Even for adults the lines of copyright and “original” are blurred with media cultures ability to take what is out there and interact with it or to create something different.  Many of us as educators often don’t expect kids to create in the same way that they are doing online.  Many assignments are focused around original thoughts or work, when really does that even exist anymore?


Photo Credit: inertia_tw via Compfight cc
This brings me to my last point that I wanted to address and that is the idea of “collective intelligence.”  Interacting on the web in this fashion is really the equivalent of group work on steroids.  The skills involved in contributing and connecting are really what we would have considered the higher levels of thinking and collaborating that is now more of an expectation than it was in the past.  We want our students to not just be bystanders to what they are seeing, but to actually and actively become involved in the collective understanding being developed.


Twitter…the great equalizer?

In preparation for this week’s class we were asked to give some thought the following questions:

“Given public, unstable nature of our digital identities, Palfrey and Gasser (2008) note that our identities are now shaped in large part by “intentional digital contributions” such as blogs, YouTube videos, or social networking profiles (pg.23).  However, due to gaps in technology access, inequalities arise around who can make such positive contributions; those without access are often less able to control their digital footprints through intentional contributions and therefore rely on what others say about them online. This becomes increasingly problematic as society becomes more and more critical of digital footprints. Who gets to control their own identity?  How does our society’s increased focus on the need for a positive digital identity contribute to the digital divide and to social inequality?  How do we move away from digital identity as the notion of a permanent record and move towards cultivating a culture of forgiveness?

I wanted to find an article that could make some connections to digital citizenship as well as Twitter, both topic pertinent to my major digital project.  The article that I will be summarizing is “Tweet Up? Examining Twitter’s Impact on Social Capital and Digital Citizenship in Higher Education by Danielle Morgan Acosta. This article draws in all of those aspects as well helps to shed some insight into the questions posed for the week.

Acosta argues that “Twitter is quite possibly one of the most accessible venues of communication currently available.” (pg 10)  In fact in the United States alone Twitter has over 17 million registered users.  We all know that Twitter is popular and I would even venture to say that we could guess the age group of the majority of those users.  Generally speaking it is what we have come to call “Generation Y” the 18-35 year olds. Many of which are using Twitter on a daily basis to send and receive information to friends, complete strangers or even connect with interest based groups or communities to share ideas.   For my major digital project we are using Twitter to explore the idea of citizenship and share some of the ways that we can contribute, even though my students are too young to vote. Having used Twitter personally for about 2 years now, I realize that it is quick and accessible way to make my voice heard, whether it is connecting over ideas around education or tweeting a local radio station.  Twitter gives its users a voice and access like never before to the people we want to hear our message.  I have used it in my classroom as well as personally to try and make connections with others in a forum that previously would have been less accessible.

Photo Credit: bi0xid via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: bi0xid via Compfight cc

Interestingly, Acosta shares a study which found that historically marginalized groups in the U.S. such as women, black and Latinos, us social media and particularly Twitter, at higher levels than their male or white counterparts.  She concluded that new technology such as Twitter are allowing these populations to find a voice and they are taking advantage of the opportunity to connect.  Some of the factors that have contributed to the increase of use, center on the idea of accessibility.  Twitter is easily accessible because it doesn’t really require a computer to participate.  More complicated social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace are more difficult to fully manage from your mobile device, Twitter is easily used.  “Twitter allows users to connect to anyone or anything regardless of location, socioeconomic status, or other typical barriers.  …users choose whom to follow, ultimately creating new structures of information sources and communities for themselves.” (pg 11)  Twitter is more about sharing and contributing to a message; rather than creating a space for one’s self.

Photo Credit: aquopshilton via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: aquopshilton via Compfight cc

The article also discusses that participation on Twitter could help participants gain social capital by helping to expand social networks, bringing more historically marginalized groups into the conversation. (pg 12)  Acosta even suggests that Twitter could potentially serve to combat digital inequality by providing digital capital to rural communities, allowing for connections, networking, and learning, which could create social capital. (pg 12)  In my digital project, as a rural school, we have already made some connections to other city schools as well have followers that we never would have connected with, until we put our ideas out there.

Also in the article it discusses teaching students, in this case, university students about the potential for connections but also a need to educate Twitter users on the digital presence and persona judged through tweets and other forms of digital communication.   Acosta mentions Ribble’s Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship outlining ultimately that digital citizenship is “how to act and participate in digital technology.”   I would argue that there is a need for this education long before students reach post-secondary education.  Reflecting back to the questions for a moment, if we want students to be aware of their digital footprints and the lasting effect those can have we have to educate them sooner rather than later.  For many, waiting to post-secondary or even high school might result in damage already irreversible.  In some cases a digital identity is formed for kids today before they really have any control over it themselves.

Photo Credit: sean dreilinger via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: sean dreilinger via Compfight cc

I think this is especially important considering the author said that many of the users of Twitter might not have as much experience with other social media formats.  The author points out that access to Twitter is prevalent, but education and instruction on it is not.  If we want students to be successful and benefit by gaining social capital, we have to help them realize the potential.   As educators we know that social media participation is happening, but have to start to think about how to use it better to our advantage.  Acosta mentions a professor in Texas who uses Twitter for class discussions, finding that students who may not regularly participate in class engaged via Twitter.  (pg 16)

The article did make me reflect on one aspect of my digital project that I think I need to improve.  I don’t think that I’m really giving enough attention to the aspect of “conversation” in Twitter.  I think my project needs to incorporate more elements of student engaging with what others are posting to bring more of a “conversation” element rather than just a “posting” feel.  Acosta points out that students who are participating using Twitter feel a greater sense of belonging, but without having students engage with what others are posting, I’m really missing an important element to the conversation.

In conclusion I felt I like the article really gave me some things to reflect on, but also helped me to realize that there is a great deal of potential still to be gained through the use of social media sites like Twitter in the classroom.  Students today have more access than ever before, but there is still much to be done to help them to realize some of the possibilities and connections for even greater success.

Acosta, D. M. (2014). Tweet up? Examining twitter’s impact on social capital and digital citizenship in higher education. About Campus, 18(6), 10-17. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1651853286?accountid=13480

Why does your footprint matter?

As a component of the Digital Citizenship lessons that Eden and I were teaching together, they had a cumulative activity where the students were asked to think about the impact of a “digital footprint” to someones life.  They drew from personal experiences and online research to share images and present their findings.

digital footprint

I think that the presentations that they came up with were very reflective of what we presented to them.   The majority of the presentations seemed to be centrally focused around the dangers of creating or leaving a bad digital footprint, which upon reflection was the central focus of our teaching.  If/when I have things to do over again, I think I would spend more time looking for positive examples of how to create a digital footprint that could help contribute to ones future aspirations, rather than simply inform them of what “not to do.”  I know by nature it is a lot easier to focus on the areas that we feel are risky than to actually focus on the positive, but in all honestly it is the negative aspects that scare us the most.

IMG_0832In an article found in Educational Leadership, called “Digitally Speaking, Positive Digital Footprints,” outlines, ” Schools—caught up in sensational stories about cyberbullying, sexting, and Internet predation—spend an incredible amount of time trying to frighten digital kids. Although some students are at risk because of careless choices—openly talking about sex in digital forums, posting inappropriate pictures of themselves or their friends to the Web, or failing to act when confronted with dangerous situations in social media spaces—those risks are often poorly understood by teachers, who receive little training about how to effectively introduce Internet safety and new media literacies to students.”

However, while that was generally the focus, there were aspects of the IMG_0831presentations that seemed to address the fact that they did understand that a positive digital footprint would be beneficial to their futures.  The article also talked about as teachers some postive ways for us to help students build on their positive digital footprint.  Many of the tasks outlined in the Twitter Matrix I created could contribute to helping student create a digital footprint.  Below are a list of other suggestions by the article of ways to help students build a positive digital footprint.

  • Take a tiered approach. Poke through the Youth Safety on a Living Internet (2010) report, and you’ll find that living online can be risky. Committing verbal and sexual harassment—as well as drifting into potentially unsafe interactions with unknown adults—is easier from behind a keyboard. But too many Internet safety programs commonly used in schools assume that all students are at equal risk in digital spaces. The truth is that students who engage in risky behaviors offline are more likely to engage in risky behaviors online.
    Responsible Internet safety programs are tiered: Although all students receive basic training about responsible online behaviors, students who—because of psychosocial factors—are at higher risk in online spaces receive more targeted instruction. As the authors of the Youth Safety report explain, one-size-fits-all approaches to Internet safety are “analogous to inoculating the entire population for a rare disease that most people are very unlikely to get, while at the same time failing to inoculate the population that’s most at risk” (p. 18).
  • Help students build positive digital footprints. Whether they’re working to raise awareness of the genocide in Darfur—a project that George Mayo’s students tackled (http://stopgenocide.wikispaces.com)—or doing a good deed every day for a month and sharing about it online—an initiative that 10-year-old Laura Stockman started to honor her grandfather’s life (http://twentyfivedays.wordpress.com)—today’s teens and tweens can come together electronically to learn about and act on issues that matter.
    Students who see digital tools as vehicles for collective action around ideas they believe in are less likely to engage in risky behaviors online because they see social media spaces as forums for learning first and entertainment second. More important, students who see social media spaces as forums for learning begin to paint complex digital portraits of themselves by networking with like-minded peers, joining groups committed to studying topics of deep personal interest to them, and creating products that are an accurate expression of who they are and what they believe in.
    Whether we’re comfortable with it or not, digital footprints—which Richardson defines as “online portfolios of who we are, what we do, and by association, what we know”—are an inevitable by-product of life in a connected world. Instead of teaching students to be afraid of what others can learn about them online, let’s teach them how digital footprints can quickly connect them to the individuals, ideas, and opportunities that they care most about.






One thing leads to another…

This week we were asked to spend some time exploring the idea of “Shaming” as it pertains to social media and our digital identities.  I found as I waded through the content I was pulled in a few different directions.

Photo Credit: TEDxUIUC via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: TEDxUIUC via Compfight cc

First, I tackled Sherry Turkle’s article “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk” and her views on meaningful communication and conversation.  I could relate to what she was saying when she talked about how we are never fully immersed in conversation any longer because we are always “giving” our attention elsewhere, mostly to our devices.  Often I have sat with a group of friends that I have chosen to go out with and spend time with, only to find all of us at several points ignoring each other but all fully engrossed with what we had on our phones.  She made me question the level of conversation that we have on those meetings.  I do feel that it has declined somewhat, but at the same time, is it all that different than being in a pub and watching a random sporting event that might be on the TV’s?  I think that we do have the ability to focus in the on conversation when the need arises.  I would like to believe that if a friend that I was socializing with had a need for deeper conversation that it would be only a matter of tuning in to what they would have to say.  I believe that we do have the ability to connect, we just sometimes can be distracted.  I think that Turkle does have a point but her point only scratches the surface of the issue.

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon via Compfight cc

I then jumped into the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship.  Recently I attended the Saskatchewan Middle Years Conference in Saskatoon where several of the presentations were regarding our role as educators and digital literacies in the classroom.   It seemed to be a common theme there as well.  In reflection of my own practice, I think that as an educator I spend a great deal of time worrying about teaching students themes more from the “Protect Yourself/Others” category and not enough time giving a more attention to the other elements.  I think that partially I feel that is my responsibility to teach about the “dangers” that exist.  This lended itself nicely into the next reading of the Saskatchewan Action Plan to address Cyberbullying to help implement Digital Literacies into the classroom.

Photo Credit: herwordskill via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: herwordskill via Compfight cc

Jason Ohler’s article “Character Education in the Digital Age”  talked about the students living “two lives,” their online digital self and the self that they present inside of school.  The discussion reminded me of a sort of parallel example of when sexual health education was really being introduced in schools and at a younger age to students.  The “old” belief being that was a family matter, because that was their parents job to teach them or they would learn what they needed to from the world around them, it wasn’t the schools job to teacher about safe sexual practices, because it was something that effected their lives outside of school.  Listening to those arguments now and then applying the same arguments to students digital lives, outside of school, seems somewhat silly.  Our students are not leading two separate lives and the sooner we realize that education has to address their reality, what we try to teach them has more relevance and a greater impact on what they learn.

Perhaps the most thoughtful reflection from the week came from watching both the Monica Lewinsky and Jon Ronson pieces.  I think those pieces had the greatest impact because I was already thinking about how important our role is as educators to help students make good choices both in the “real lives” as well as the life they lead digitally.  I can remember when the Monica Lewinsky story broke and the frenzy the world was in to know more about her and the story.  The media cared very little for her as a person except for how the story could be expanded and explored from every possible angle.  Sadly, I remember believing the picture that the media painted of her, the horrible, disgusting, smear campaign that was her live during the heat of when the story broke to the years that followed.  I can’t image the emotional and physical strain that she would feel as an person, but also that her family and friends would feel.  I also reflect with a guilty conscience how I watched with interest as this woman’s life was town apart in the media.  Looking back now I would like to think that as a society and as a consumer of media we have gotten better or more moderate with our consumption but I’m not sure that is really true.  I think that we have more ways to consume, but we also have more ways to voice our side or stand up for theirs.  We have the potential to be more positive and supportive than in the past.  I guess this ties back to the importance of all Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship.  I think as consumers of media we know that the voices are often negative surrounding stories like this that break, but with the new power we have there is potential for us to have a bigger voice in our support for people when they do become the center of what we consider “public shaming”.  I think it is important for us to send a positive message to students in how we teach them to exist online, reflects the kind of people they want to be.  “Bullying” someone in person is no different that bullying someone online, even if that person is a stranger.  Online our lives become connected in ways not physically possible, but a person is a person regardless of ever meeting them face to face or not.  While we may never know the effect we have on a person as they read the comments left by us, we do know how we would feel reading what was posted.  We must always remember empathy and compassion, even for those who we may never actually know, because it is still a reflection of who we are as a person.

Getting some Exposure!!!

This week a few of my colleagues and myself attended the Saskatchewan Middle Years Conference in Saskatoon.  This year there was a presentation by Dave Burgess who is the author of “Teach Like a Pirate.”


This was a great opportunity to get some exposure for our hashtag #iam2yng2vote.  It was also a great place to do some Tweeting with fellow colleagues.  There were a few sessions that gave us the opportunity to share some of the things that we were doing in our classroom.  I brought up my major digital project.  I even when so far as to call it a shameless plug!  While we did get a lot of other classrooms following us (classroom Twitter account) @BESGr8  we did not get a lot of people contributing to the hashtag 😦 sadly.  I talked about contributing if you has a classroom were doing something regarding good citizenship behaviors or making a positive impact on our community and beyond.  I thought that because it was a middle years group, a lot of social studies content centers around these topics and really any contribution from someone outside of our school would be welcome.

Do you fit the mold?

Of all of the readings this week I feel like “Split Image,” by Kate Fagan, gave me the most thoughtful reflection on the idea of digital identity.  While reading the story I began to think about myself as a teenage.  I was somewhat awkward, very shy and often struggling to figure out who I was in the context of my peers and my school life.  At home I was comfortable, it was my refuge from the outside world.  One of my most concerning aspects of the new “digital ” world, is it seems to be that we are always connected.  We know from the students we teach and the interaction we have with friends and family that teens are constantly connected to their peers.  They are expected to always be in touch, either through texts or snapchats.  At first it can seem harmless, they want to talk and share with their friends, so what is the harm in that?  The article sheds new light on a darker side of connecting.

The story follows Madison Holleran, a collage student who on the outside and in social media seemed to live a happy life, full of things she enjoyed and successes she had accomplished.  But the article reveals that Madison’s identity online and her real life were really two different realities.  In actuality Madison struggled with fitting in, depression, and suicidal thoughts.  In the article it says,”Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media.  People share moments that reflect an ideal life, and ideal self.”  I think that many teens face the same pressure to present an online persona that projects what they believe the world wants to see.  How often have we ourselves removed pictures that were “less than perfect” because we didn’t want anyone to see them.  One of the reasons I resisted Facebook and other forms of social media for as long as I did was that I was apprehensive about sharing my life so openly for people who I am not that close with to look at pictures and make judgments or decisions based on that.  As an adult I felt pressure to post only positive aspects of my life and rarely share how I might actually be feeling.  As a teen, it would be very challenging to separate my digital self from my actual life.  The article describes it as absorbing others filtered images of life, while walking through your own realities.  It would be very difficult to not project a feeling of “if everyone else is happy, why can’t I be?”  when we are only ever seeing their “altered” realities of their actual lives.






Photo Credit: Christi Nielsen via Compfight cc



As a read through the rest of the readings for the week, I think that we have to be careful.  We want to feel connected to the world through our interactions online, but it can be dangerous to show who we really are to the online world.  It is not a caring environment all the time that we might like to hope it is.  I also think that it is important to recognize that for some of us, our online identities many not define us as accurately as we might portray.  to not let our online identities define us.  In a few of the articles like “Young Canadians in a Wired World,” “Welcome to the online world” and “Digital Diaries,” we realize that students are essentially growing up in a digital world that at points creates an identity that they may not eve be in control of.  Some examples where children have a digital footprint before they are old enough to use a computer.  Because these identities don’t go away, we want to make sure that we are addressing them in a healthy conscious of the lasting effect they might have.

Photo Credit: Meyer Potashman via Compfight cc

The last article I took a look at was  “She’s still dying on Facebook.”  The article looks at how we remember those that we have lost and how they still remain even after they have past.  Reminders/notifications/ etc. popping up because of an algorithm in the settings that could have very painful results.  But this raises the question of who should manage one’s social media presence in the event of their death.  In the not too distant future, this will become more and more of an issue, how to respectfully say good-bye or let go of someone’s online presence.

In closing, from in some cases even before birth, we are developing online identities that represent a version of who we are.  The difference is that these versions don’t really ever go away, and the versions created either through our own efforts or that of others all come together to create a representation of us online.


Step into the Matrix!

Here is an update on my major digital project.  Today I created and handed out the major component to my project.  I have created a Twitter Matix for the students to complete on Twitter.  The primary focus of my project is for students to engage in aspects of what it means to be a good citizen and to share with the Twitter world that even though they are only middle- schoolers they can still engage in the responsibilities of a citizen.  On the matrix I wanted students to first of all build some Twitter knowledge and add to their feeds a wider range of topics that they could engage with throughout the process.  So I had them do different elements of posting and re-posting of news stories that pertain to rights and responsibilities all citizens have.  I also wanted there to be some aspects that got them out into the community.

That being said I wanted to take some time and review with them from our Digital Citizenship mini-unit that Eden and I taught the rules that we would ask them to follow to help set some guidelines for them to think of before they posted.  We also did a refresher of what a good digital citizen looks like in their posts and in the ways that they would respond and engage others in the class on Twitter.  We started with a review of the “Golden Rule” of participation online.


And then tried to hit a few of the specifics that they might run into while completing the matrix.



And lastly wanted to remind them of some of the ways that they could connect with us.


At the end of the class we were excited to see them start to explore a little more of the Twitter community and ensured that they were able/knew how to post and reply.

Twitter Matrix