BYOT (bring your own technology)

There’s a new slogan rapidly spreading through my school district, as well as other districts across the country: BYOT (bring your own technology).  Many of us have been hoping for a more innovative and open philosophy for over five years.  We all know the world has changed and we all know that information access is not only at an all time high…we are drowning it it.

 

The books and articles of interest to me of late, however, give rise to caution when it comes to integrating the latest high-tech gadget into our schools.  In fact, Kristin Fontichiaro (professor at the University of Michigan) shared with us this week some excellent examples of how online Web 2.0 technology tools are sometimes full of bling and pizzazz without any meaningful content at all!

 

Librarians have been trained in aquisition and evaluation of high quality resources, both physical and digital. It seems an emphasis on the latest tool is often stressed today more than the content or information delivered. Although students will be bringing smart phones, ipads, and other tech gadgets to school, using them to multi-task throughout the day may contribute to even more distraction and “shallow” trivial thinking.

 

How can we help our students embed meaningful purpose into BYOT?

1. As educators and librarians we can model the best practices by balancing innovation with tradition and requiring high standards of critical thinking.

2. We can model our own learning in this new era by showing our own willingness to “learn, unlearn, and relearn ~Toffler” and allowing time to unplug and reflect on the meaning of our learning.

3. We can put people first!  Teaching and librarianship are service-oriented professions.  We are not books or buildings, we are human beings.  We are not robots (yet). Just kidding on that last line.  Putting people first requires admitting that they are more important than our tech gadgets which we all turn to throughout the day.

Monthly Web 2.0 Checkup

January is coming to a close, so I decided to reflect on my New Year’s resolution.  A month ago, I set the goal to try not to “bash Facebook” this year!  How am I doing?

Ironically, during the first days of January, several educational groups, including a class at my university and a library honor society, requested I become a fan (or would that be a friend?).  There’s no way to retreat—everyone is already on fb.

Then, I received an invitation to “like” a recycling company that has helped my school earn money (through sending in old cell phones and ink cartridges).  Helping earn money for badly needed books and materials is wonderful, but is it my responsibility to advertise for the companies in which I do business?

On TV each morning as I was getting dressed, I heard news broadcasters suggesting listeners post opinions. (They really care about what the public thinks.)  I am trying to remain calm and not let my blood pressure rise, as I contemplate the fact that the news is no longer the news, but a popularity contest for ratings or a friendly chat over a cup of coffee.

A young high school English teacher I know was talking about her students’ writing abilities.  She proposed the idea that students may be writing more than ever with texting and fb status updates.   She proposed an increase in the perception that every tidbit that comes out of one’s mouth (or fingertips) is perceived as golden.  Rather than striving for high quality in writing (through painful revision), students fling personal messages and photos to an “awaiting” world.  The perpetuation of self-centeredness may be growing exponentially.  Which reminds me of a joke I heard from one of my favorite professors (a philosphical mathematician who made statistics fun).  He liked to state repeatedly (try saying it outloud), “Enough about me.  Let’s talk about you.  What do you think of me?”  Say it three times in a row!

Back to my monthly Web 2.0 checkup.  I really did try to work on my goal of understanding the fb phenomenon.  I created a custom group and posted a status update to only one person as a test for meaningful conversation.  Email would have been more efficient.   However, I have learned that many people check fb much more often than email.  To date, I still have learned nothing on facebook.  My sister reminded me that it is a “social” network and asked me why I feel it necessary to learn something.  If it is only for the purpose of casual conversation, why do I feel obligated, as an information professional, to associate myself with my university’s page?

I am not giving up, I have eleven months to go!  I certainly hope, dear reader, that this post is not misconstrued as bashing.  I have every intention of forging on through 2011 with an open mind.

But wait, for those who are compelled to check fb first thing in the morning, before they rise from bed– here’s a site that will help you limit yourself by saying “Keep Me Out!”

A Year without Bashing Facebook

The end of the year (and the end of a decade),  seems like a good time to contemplate goals. I enjoy choosing a specific resolution– one that is achievable, meaningful, or just fun. Year before last, I resolved to return all audio CD’s to their cases after listening. I think I did pretty well with that one, but I certainly was glad when the year was over! (Several CD’s are often out of cases in my car at any given time now.) One year, my friend Nancy decided it was the year to “wear more lipstick.” And, I remember the year after we remodeled the kitchen, my resolution was to spend more time with my sink!
I decided my New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to keep my mouth shut about Facebook. Today, December 31st, will be my last day to rant about how much I HATE FB!!! You may ask, why do you care? Or, why don’t you just delete your account? Well, I really wanted to participate in the Facebook Suicide Day on May 31, 2010. However, as an information professional, I feel compelled (obligated) to investigate current modes of information delivery. Also, my university and other professional organizations are using fb as a social tool, so I still have not one, but two fb accounts.
Social networking is a powerful tool which has revolutionized communication. For professional networking, there are numerous useful sites, such as linkedin and ning, which I find meaningful for specific purposes.  Perhaps I have become too focused on learning and need to remind myself of the old saying, “all work and no play…”  Of course I believe in the importance of maintaining social relationships.  So, I am seriously asking myself today….what is it about Facebook that I hate?

  • The Lingo–  Something about choosing to “like” my university seems casual to me.  I mean, I respect my school, but do I need to “like” institutions in the same way I like certain foods or shops?  This lingo brings an air of casualness to everything…and some things demand more respect than others.  Language is a living, changing entity and I agree that there is no need to hang onto outdated grammar simply under the name of propriety.  But the word “friend” can be misused when applied to hundreds of acquaintances.
  • The Gossip–  When I walk into the teachers’ lounge for lunch and overhear a discussion of things read on fb, it sounds like superficial gossip.  I actually heard one teacher say it bothered her to snoop on her daughter’s friends pages and look at their family pictures and then talk to those people at the football game.
  • TMI–  We are all annoyed by conversations that embarass us with private, intimate information or gory details on personal health issues.  Because fb is a fairly new medium, posting images and videos has pretty much exploded.  In a few years, people will no longer find it innovative to document their every move with digital photography because the novelty will (hopefully) have worn off.
  • Trivia– I will admit I may have a mental block, but I have to say for the record, I have never learned anything on Facebook.  Although, I have heard stories of long lost relatives who found each other and reunited, the only significant fact I encountered was when a friend announced her pregnancy.  (I think I would have heard that somewhere else anyway.)  I have browsed through many sweet moments (which I thought were sappy) and witty comments (which wasted my time and made me feel like I could have been productive…there I go again all work and no play!) and nonsensical games (which made me “hide” people and feel very anti-social-just the opposite of a social network).
  • Privacy– I know some individuals who have not joined fb for fear of lack of privacy or data-mining.  I do think it is important to be cautious and adjust privacy settings.  However, fb is not the only tool that accesses our personal information.  Changes brought about in the Information Age have come about more quickly than any individual can comprehend and it is difficult to understand  how to balance sharing online communication with personal privacy. This is one of the most important concepts that we must teach young people.
  • Clutter– Moblie technology brings a tendancy for all of us to check into our online lives nonstop.  I understand the benefits (technology allows me to accomplish twice as much as before) and the risks (are we really present with others when we are on mobile devices?).  In my opinion, fb promotes inefficiency.  As the mountain of “friends” grows, the clutter of trivia is more likely to block relevant information.
  • Commonality– Perhaps what irritates me the most about fb is that the uniqueness of each individual is not differentiated.  I do not speak the same way to each friend, each colleague, or each family member.  I believe we have unique relationships with individuals and groups.  What I say to one group is not the same as another.  I understand it is possible to customize fb and set up groups and maybe (if I get through this no-bashing year) I should look into customization.  We’ll see about that (did I mention that I HATE fb?)

I am feeling relieved to have ranted this one last time!  I didn’t mention that I find fb embarassing for the human race.  I need a new attitude!  I need a new outlook!  I need a new decade and (thank goodness)- today is the day.  Maybe in a year, I will have a completely different perspective.

Twirling Through Tech Tools

Back to school we go! I prepared a presentation for colleagues called “Twirling Through Tech Tools” that starts at glogster.com. The idea is to share numerous new tools (actually there’s an onslaught of them facing us daily) with a reminder that purpose should trump form. Dozens of online applications help us with presentations, media mashups, pictures, graphics, music, and social networking. As educators, there is no way we can utilize all of them. But through collaboration, we can find the best online tools to use for specific purposes.
The presentation will specifically share these (as examples):
Animoto
Glogster
Prezi
Edublogs
Typewithme
Twitter
Ning
Slideshare
Schooltube
Secondlife
Reactiongrid
Whyville
Sitepal
Zooburst

Transliteracy

As a school librarian, I have often considered the best way to teach learners how to research for themselves in a “real world” context.  Often, students are assigned topics to research that are not personally meaningful.  Information literacy skills (back in “the day”) meant learning to use a card catalog, an index, or an encylcopedia.  The skills were first taught and practiced, so the students could use them someday when ready to look for information.  Currently, students are taught how to evaluate websites and how to access online databases.

Having spent two years researching virtual worlds, it now occurs to me that an individual in a virtual world is learning “in the moment” rather than in theory only.  In a virtual world, the individual is situated with other learners discovering and sharing the same inquiries.  As a librarian, this is revolutionary.  Imagine two library patrons actually entering a print encyclopedia to discuss their findings synchronously.  Images, text, and multi-media are commonplace information resources at the beginning of this new decade.   Studies are just beginning to provide evidence of the role virtual worlds play in information literacy and education.

During my exploration of rapidly changing technology in relation to literacy, I stumbled upon a new word- a word that implies more than media literacy or digital literacy.  Transliteracy includes all forms of information delivery, across all platforms.

The Explosion of Virtual Worlds

Now Google has released Lively and Facebook is giving us Vivaty.  Just how many virtual worlds do we need? And how in the world(s) are we supposed to choose?  Valibrarian just entered both new worlds and compared the two environments.  This animoto video shows the “cartoon-animation” type avatars in Lively.  I also made an animoto video in Vivaty, which has more realistic avatars.  Neither environment allows for the creative possibilites of Second Life (where users can build just about anything themselves).  Both Lively and Vivaty are pretty easy to use.  I was able to play one of my machinima videos on an inworld screen in Vivaty in just a few minutes (Something that took over six months to learn in SL).

Videography

I’ve worked with editing videos for my school news show for years but only started editing them on the computer a couple years ago.  I made a couple of videos to compare video camera choices.  I am sure that there are numerous other video cameras available now, but here is a video created with the RCA SmallWonder (a very small and inexpensive model) and another filmed with a Sony HandyCam (edited in Adobe Premiere 2.0).  Hey, by the time you read this, they will both probably be obsolete!  I bet you can tell which one I like best.

Multi-conferencing

I attended two national conferences simultatneously (thanks to SL)!  I was physically present in Los Angeles at ALA while virtually present at NECC (ISTE- International Society for Education) in Second Life.  How amazing is that!  Virtual worlds now allow us to multi-task in new ways never thought of before.  I was able to network with fellow librarians, meet colleagues from SL in real life at ALA, and still organize and lead the virtual history tour guides for the Alamo Event in SL.

Tech Tools

Every day there seems to be a new technology tool to learn!  A librarian colleague just shared a great tool for sharing files that are too large to email called drop.io.  You can send files and set them to expire… say next week or next year!  How cool is that!  I am placing my nephew’s pirate movie on drop.io as an example.  But, hey a year from now, this link won’t work!  Perfect (I was going to put a smiley face here for emphasis but I just don’t really like emoticons.)  So- smile and learn a new tech tool.

Vygotsky said “We learn through collision with others.”

His words hold true as the online community collaborates in numbers so huge I can hardly comprehend them.  The world wide web moves toward a new era with Web 2.0; and folksonomies allow people to share technology tools.  I can search for other educators’ blogs and wikis, learning daily and testing my own “pseudo-concepts.”  Wouldn’t Vygotsky love this?