Balancing Your Physical and Virtual Life (Tip #1)

Da-ding, Da-ding!  Is that your phone notification of something incoming?  Hadn’t you better check it?

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Over the past few years, as more people utilize smart phones for instant access to information and communication, I keep running into the same concerns.  Time and time again, a new smart phone owner will tell me “It has changed my life!”  Then, I observe them exit our physical reality to enter the “other places” that await us on mobile devices: news sites, social media, photos, memes, content creation tools, curation applications and innovation entertainment activities- just to name a few.

We all see it everywhere we look….people staring into screens.  Yet, what do we reach for the moment we awaken each day?  Our phones.  How do we feel when we forget our phone at home?  I have heard people say they feel everything from vulnerability to actual fear.  

Just where IS everyone heading?  I took this picture on the bus because everyone near me was on a mobile device.  Nobody was “on the bus” with me!

Eric Pickersgill, an artist who photographs digital culture, shares some haunting images at Removed.  We all see people “removed from our world” every day.  I have heard jokes about the zombies around us- people who are not really with us.

My daughter, a tech savvy creative and intelligent young woman, recently suggested I write a blog post with tips on balancing physical and virtual life!  She had not heard of FOMO and realized she had personally felt that sensation (FOMO= fear of missing out) that her phone was beckoning her to a world beyond….a world where important things were happening.  The world beyond our physical surroundings, on our digital devices, takes us to a place where boredom no longer exists and where we can be both active and passive with no rules or constrictions.  Yet, deep in our souls, we feel a slight discomfort (if not horror) knowing that we can never master keeping up with the incoming and never really exit the small reality of our tiny individual life.

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Which leads me to BALANCE TIP #1 Intentional Disconnection Time

Find a time to leave your device and do not touch it!  Schedule yourself a PHYSICAL WORLD ONLY time, if only an hour a day.  During that time, focus on physical reality:  deep breaths, trees, textures, hot tea, smiles, and your five senses.

You could add prayer, yoga, meditation, or a walk outdoors, or even housework!  But, the idea here is to be consciously disconnected.  While connecting with others across distance is an amazing new opportunity, it can overtake and overwhelm us unless we can find a balance between the physical and the virtual world.

Contemplate your disconnection time.  This may seem too obvious or too easy.  But it really isn’t when you think about it.  Our phones are always with us and it takes intentional effort to disconnect for a period of time.

More tips to come!

 

Stories and Art in 3D: Wander the Watercolours

Artists and writers have new media opportunities to explore with digital tools.  For example, artist CK (Creakay Ballyhoo in the virtual world of Second Life) created watercolour (spelled that way in her part of the world!) paintings in 3D to illustrate a story presented in a virtual world.  Read the story of a little girl on a watercolour wander.

A group of educators, the Virtual Pioneers, take virtual field trips to simulations in Second Life.  A recent trip allowed the pioneers to wander through CK’s story paintings.  This machinima shows the educators inside A Watercolour Wander.

The Virtual Pioneers  are an open group, welcoming others to come along on virtual adventures.  Through collaboration with groups like this, the Community Virtual Library strives to connect virtual communities with high quality simulations.  This machinima illustrates how the future of libraries and the future of education may include mixed reality and amazing new ways to enter art, history, and all subjects for all learners.  Learning will never be the same.

Marking a Digital Decade

Ten years ago in April, I posted on my blog for the very first time. What a significant decade… a transformation not only for me but for all of us, as we moved from primarily being physical world citizens in local communities to become digital citizens on a global scale.

Highlights of my Digital Decade

Exploring virtual worlds

Shortly after starting my blog, I entered virtual worlds for use as a library and information science professional. Life in networked culture became the main focus of my blog and virtual worlds (for education) became my research focus. I earned my PhD in Library Science in 2012. DrHillatGraduation

At first, I found virtual worlds a unique and almost unbelievable experience. After meeting the librarians in Second Life, I used the experience to enhance my academic journey and my dissertation was “Factors Contributing to the Adoption of Virtual Worlds by Librarians”.

Observing students in my school library, as well as individuals everywhere on digital devices in coffee shops and on streets, I began to realize we all live in virtual worlds– whether or not we enter them with an avatar.

Building a PLN

Even the brilliant experts of computer science and metadata are struggling with concepts of cybersecurity, privacy and digital citizenship.  Currently, the FBI is working on how to get through encryption to fight crime, parents are concerned about the future for children in a world that is dependent upon digital information, and the tools we use are constantly changing.

The benefits of networked society are huge but so too are the problems it presents.  A PLN (Profession or Personal Learning Network) has become imperative to understanding life in digital culture.  I wonder, though, if we put too much emphasis on following our PLN blindly.  When I click “agree” to the lengthy TOS (terms of service) on apps, I justify my lack of knowledge about the legalese and shrug it off thinking, “I know Mr. X, Ms. Q, and Mrs. K Teacher all use this app so it must be okay.”

I have found most people are generous, helpful, and willing to share knowledge and information.  Twenty years ago, my learning community was a small local group but today it is gigantic and spreads across the globe. Do we really understand the enormity of this?  I don’t think it is possible to realize the consequences of toppling of the information hierarchy which happened so abruptly at the close of the Gutenberg Parenthesis.

The Power of Twitter

Currently, Twitter exemplifies the power of connectivity in digital culture. Everyone has a voice.  Through key words (hashtags) those voices can be heard instantly across the planet.  Very few people have had any training at all in using the power of Twitter and (IMHO) most of the content is trivial, disposable media, such as humorous memes, gifs, and witticisms.  The potential to utilize the power of networked culture for high quality deep learning and edification is buried under millions of tweets. Digital citizens are challenged to dig for buried treasure.

What will the next decade bring?

Sometimes, when I discuss digital citizenship, I see fear in the faces of parents or learners who see themselves becoming “addicted to screens”.  It is certainly too late to put the Internet cat back in the bag!  Networked connectivity happened without providing a training.

My tips for coping with “the online sea of chaos” over the next decade:

  1. Take digital citizenship seriously
  2. Strive to share only positive meaningful information
  3. Continue building a PLN both for learning and teaching
  4. Recognize the need for time to unplug, reflect and appreciate the physical world
  5. Seek solutions that always provide hope and reduce fear

Here’s to the next decade: Less fear- More hope! 

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https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2013/10/21/08/10/fear-198933_960_720.jpg

 
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http://www.picserver.org/images/highway/phrases/hope.jpg

When Did You First Enter a Virtual World?

A twitter chat question asks “When did you first start using virtual worlds and what subject do you teach with it?”
As school librarian, teaching information literacy, I heard about the virtual world of Second Life over ten years ago and signed up in 2006. My “rez” day (the day we first came into a virtual world) is June 9, 2006. Almost ten years! Continue reading

What’s the big deal with Information Literacy?

We all love the convenience of looking for answers immediately and having “google” in our pockets. My dad, in his eighties, said, “People don’t really need to know anything anymore because they can just google it.” What a wise statement from a pre-Internet veteran. We have digital assistants on our devices to help us remember important things and manage our time. We are free of the burdon of having to remember small things and instead access and share information nonstop on a global scale.

A generation of citizens is emerging who have never known life without a networked mobile device with instant access to information. With that convenience comes the sacrifice of time to reflect and the guarantee of accuracy and quality of the hits we receive.

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An information literacy colleague, Esther Grassian, advocates the need for Information Literacy and explains why it is a big deal. Information literacy is not simply an academic term– it is an understanding of our current culture in networked society.

A friend posted an insightful quote on Facebook which I noticed had been liked and shared by many but without any attribution to a creator. I asked if she knew the source and she replied, “People share these things all the time now and nobody ever really knows where they came from.” I find it perplexing that this smart and tech-savvy young woman would simply shrug off intellectual property with a “Who knows? Who cares?” attitude.

In BEYOND THE BLOGOSPHERE by Aaron Barlow, we are given the image of the Internet as a “book of sand” in which nobody knows the origin of ideas. They are washed out to sea and scattered along the beach.

If we really don’t care about information literacy in the future, there will be a high price to pay. Idiocracy might be a concept too difficult for the citizens of the future to comprehend. The fear of artificial intelligence evolving into consciousness pales in comparison to the glimpse of human beings shrugging off any desire to acquire knowledge simply because easy access and quick apps have made it irrelevant.

Give Immersive Learning a Try! Don’t Just Read about It

Gamification and learning through immersive virtual experiences is the talk of the town in education fields. Virtual reality is expanding with systems like Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens. And one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) videogame virtual worlds across the planet is Minecraft. Young children can build with virtual building blocks and learn about math, science and many other subjects through immersion.

But how many teachers have actually experienced immersive learning themselves? Here’s your chance!

Medieval Quest is coming to the Community Virtual Library in Second Life.

Medieval Quest Coming Soon

A beautiful Medieval village, complete with King Arthur’s Court, was built by Brant Knutzen at the University of Hong Kong. Through collaboration with the Community Virtual Library, plans are underway to provide live tours with a role-play quest. All participants can choose parts to role-play and participate at any level desired.

Sound like fun? Here are the initial planning session times (Second Life Time- SLT- Pacific Time zone). More information about the role-play dates will be forthcoming.

Monday Jan 25th 6pm SLT Medieval Quest Planning Meeting (Share roles and overview)
Saturday Jan 30th 7am SLT (Continue sharing roles and training) Prepare Press Release to send for publicity

Meet at the Community Virtual Library Exhibit area

I am tentatively choosing the role of “The Lady of Shalott”. There are numerous places to find free historical clothes for your avatar. The Medieval Quest is based on the concept of bringing literature to life through role-play and simulation.

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This project is a demonstration of how learning has changed and is changing. Don’t just read about it….come give it a try!

Post PostModernism & the Power of the MEME

I am not much of a football fan but because I moved to Seattle, I rooted for the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49 (2015). The Seahawks were very close to winning the game when there was a call which caused tons of controversy and criticism. Those of you who know football could explain it better than me, but apparently a big player who was great at “running the ball in for a touchdown” (Marshawn Lynch) could have scored or could have given them more time. But, the coach decided to let the quarterback try for a throw which was intercepted. Seahawks lost abruptly and left everyone with a “What just happened!!?” moment of disbelief.

Now- Superbowls are known for the high quality commercials which I have always looked forward to more than the game! There was another crazy moment of disbelief during Super Bowl 49 when Nationwide aired an extremely sad (and some say distasteful) commercial about a young boy who died in the bathtub. The commercial was suppose to create awareness of childhood accidents, the number one cause of death for youngsters. I was scrolling through twitter during the game and saw tons of people saying “OMG! Did you see that? What were they thinking?” etc.

At the end of the game, within seconds of the loss, I witnessed something on twitter which exemplifies the power of the meme. The two moments of disbelief- the dead child and the crazy loss of a superbowl- were entwined by a witty tweet by Jared Smith.

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This merge of two moments, shared by thousands of people, somehow relates to my understanding of post postmodernism. We live in an era where everything is a reference to something else. Modernism is essentially an art term (so too are post and post-post), but for me it is a philosophical concept because I have no formal art training. I have yet to find anyone who can explain this to me but here’s my take:

Our great great grandparents lived each day struggling to plant the crops, harvest them, can them, cook them and survive. There was little time to think about other things beyond survival, yet they were grateful. Modern conveniences (picture the 1950’s Westinghouse ads with Betty Furness) gave our grandparents time to relax and enjoy “leisure time”. Purchasing these shiny contraptions (cookers, grinders, mixers, warmers) gave them the good life.

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photo from https://envisioningtheamericandream.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/xmas-kitchen-westinghouse-betty-furness-swscan08163.jpg

A movement to simplify life and get rid of clutter has risen in my lifetime. I personally have witnessed the move from physical collection of objects to life in the digital and virtual world. I have witnessed the move from physical books, as a librarian, to the digitization of everything. So too, I have felt the shift from a mindset of the physical to a mindset of the virtual. Most of the jobs pursued by young college graduates are connected to the digital tech industry in some way. Every field, from medicine to mechanics, is impacted by computers.

So, how can I explain post postmodernism? The words escape me. But I know that the power of the meme I saw, live on twitter within seconds of that Superbowl 2015, is somehow an example and I knew it the second it appeared.

Wait!! What? Everyone is “Elsewhere” Conversation in the Digital Age (Part Two)

My review of Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation continues with the concept of avoiding boredom or anxiety in our lives by “going elsewhere” on our phones. Those “boring bits of life” and worries that may come into our minds can be escaped by scrolling our news feeds and connecting with our online networks. Turkle suggests we consider the value of contemplation during brief moments of boredom and anxiety because as humans this “thinking through” leads to problem-solving and creativity. A lull in a conversation gives us time to reflect on the people around us. But today– our mobile devices tug at us to go “elsewhere”.

And when we get to this other place on our devices, the activity is nonstop. It’s become acceptable to back channel through conferences, business meetings, events and even mealtime. Interruption is now considered simply another mode of connectivity. Our brains love the stimulation of endless diversion but we never feel we can really keep up. Turkle says, “Only half joking, people in their teens and twenties tell me that the most commonly heard phrase at dinner with their friends is “Wait, what?” Everyone is always missing a beat, the time it takes to find an image or send a text (pg 37)”.

Certainly, the constant companionship we carry in our pockets can be used for good and I remain hopeful that the future can bring positive uses for technology in our daily lives. Stay tuned for more of the warnings we may need to heed as presented in this book and the possible solutions we are urged to embrace before it is too late!

Part of digital citizenship (and information literacy) is giving ourselves a healthy information diet. Just like our bodies will have consequences if we eat only tasty junk food or sweets, so too our minds are at risk in an age of constant digital intake and interruption.
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photo from http://weknowmemes.com/2012/07/whats-the-point-of-being-afraid-of-the-zombie-apocalypse/

Conversation in the Digital Age (Part One)

I just finished reading Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation which was chock full of truisms and presents a challenge to all of us to consider how we communicate. She makes a case for setting limits on technology tools, particularly our phones, and taking a good look at the value and importance of real voices and human eye contact in face to face conversation. Turkle believes students today lack empathy for others because our constant connectivity in digital spaces reduces friendship to a “performance” rather than a relationship.

In addition to the preference of texting over talking and the performance of “an edited life” on social media, young people are bombarded by information all around them and have grown up in a state of distraction. Television increasingly brings us BREAKING NEWS with a constant crawl on non-related topics scrolling across the screen and dramatic special effects hyping what is suppose to inform us.

Breaking News

Breaking News

Not only are we now comfortable with constant distraction, we consider nonstop interruption a normal state of affairs as our devices ding and beep in our pockets. Turkle says, “We forget how unusual this has become, that many young people are growing up without ever having experienced unbroken conversations either at the dinner table or when they take a walk with parents or friends. For them, phones have always come along” p. 16.

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Are you concerned about the effects of mobile devices and where global digital participatory culture is heading? Do you feel like you have a handle on balancing your “digital double” (Turkle’s term for our online selves)?

The ideas in Turkle’s latest book are worthy of our attention. Stay tuned for part two and more discussion on this critical topic.

Photos from https://www.flickr.com/photos/rubbercat/208330144/in/photostream/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/clanlife/6369791755

Search is Changing

How we search for information is becoming more and more personalized. The personal dashboards we create on our devices make access to information easy and convenient, but how many of us realize the personal responsibility we now have to choose wisely each day, each moment?

Yes, information literacy has become a critical personal skill. “Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.” We hear it all around us. The likes and follows grow like giant sea monsters in the ocean of information chaos. Sure, we all love Google- but do we understand the responsibility is on each of us to evaluate what has been specifically given to us through algorithms of data? Do we really care?

As learners and citizens, we are all in this together. Come on, Google, give me the best answers for everyone. Not the best answers based on who you think I am. Of course, there are other search engines, but we all use google as a verb.

For those concerned about the future of information literacy, consider including information professionals in your personal learning network. You will need them. Thanks to Sheila Webber for sharing this slideshow by Phil Bradley.