Archive for category socialnetworking

Our Social Experiment Continues

The school year is getting ready to start shortly, and that means time to take our piloted social network to the mainstream school population!

Last semester my assistant principal, a couple teachers and I piloted a private Ning network with the hope of creating a place for students at our online school to meet, share, and learn.  It went really well so we are expanding it to the entire school.  It will be voluntary, but has the capacity to have over 700 students and 30 teachers.  Those numbers are the extreme, but we had 200 in our pilot so guessing we could at least see half of our students on the Ning this year.

We moved the network to a private domain for this year, added a chat application, and are conducting an orientation session that focuses on the network.  This should help us alleviate some parent and student concerns from last year.  Namely, our students didn’t like that they couldn’t chat easily and conducting the orientation gets everyone involved from Day 1.

I have high hopes that the network can be a source of change and create a community of learners at our school.  Right now we have a culture of failure, in both our students and staff.

I’m betting that if students can form better relationships with peers and teachers then they will be more motivated to do the work.  I’m betting that if they have easier access to assistance through peer tutoring and teacher availability then they will complete more assignments.  I’m betting that if they feel like they are connected to something at a deeper level than just logging into classes and doing multiple choice assignments then they will have more success.  I saw evidence of this when I interviewed kids last year about using Web2 and social networking in our school. Now, we just need to expand those opportunities to all of our students and hopefully failure and dropout rates will begin to change.

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A Power of Twitter

There is a lot of power in social networking and specifically the synchronous interaction capability of Twitter despite the many valid concerns people have raised.  Without going into all the positives and some of the negatives, I just want to share a cool story.

Yesterday, late afternoon, I was working (watching a video) at my desk (dining room table) with half an eye on Twitter.  A tweet came up from Kelly Dumont who, in the relativity of a global social network actually lives fairly close to me.

Instantly my ears perked up and my eyes widened.  I started thinking, wow, thats the closest any of my Twitter friends have been to my little neck of the woods (St. George is a beautiful little town in Southern Utah which is only about 2 hours from me).  So I tweeted back:

My comment obviously wasn’t one of my intellectually shining moments because Kelly said right back:

When I made the previous comment, I hadn’t been thinking about meeting Kelly at NECC, only about seeing a Twitter friend near Vegas, and I never saw Kelly when he visited my campus last school year (but had heard the story so still should of known better :).  So, I responded in my normal sarcastic way that also acknowledges I had obviously said something foolish:

From there the joking took a turn, and this is where a Twitter conversation turned into a life experience that I will appreciate for a long time:

I checked out the site he linked me to and saw he was presenting about using social networking tools in school at a conference that caters to student and faculty tech leaders in K-12 schools throughout Utah.  I quickly thought about what the next day held, and since I was working on projects that could be put off an extra day I said:

From that point, we figured out the logistics through a series of more tweets and in a little more than 12 hours from the beginning of the conversation I left Las Vegas for St. George.  I arrived about 20 minutes before the presentation began, said hi, quickly outlined what we were going to be talking about, and ended up co-presenting at a 3 hour workshop this morning with Mr. Dumont.

I had no idea Kelly was going to be in St.George before he posted that first tweet so to be able to go from joking around on Twitter to presenting at a conference in less than 16 hours was quite an experience.  Kelly and I don’t have each others phone numbers, we have never emailed, we have never Skyped, but we were able to seed and grow an idea in a matter of minutes that brought us together at a place to teach.  A power of Twitter.

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Facebook and Professional Privacy

I first joined Facebook a year-and-a-half ago as a way to try and connect with my students in a place they were already hanging out online.  I created a group for one of my courses and invited my students to join voluntarily.  A handful did and we ran some discussions and small projects from inside the network.  I wasn’t happy with the use for education and moved over to Ning, administrating (with my assistant principal) a much larger private network last school year.

I basically left Facebook alone for the last year, except when an occasional student would send me a message or a friend from the past would say hi.  Slowly more and more friends began to find me. Then about a month ago it seems like my little high school discovered FB, and we now have reunions happening on a daily basis. That’s a problem. I now have high school friends, college friends, employment friends, random FB friends, and former/present students of mine on FB.  Interestingly, the one group of my life not represented is my PLN.

The risk for something inappropriate (old pics, wall comments, etc) getting associated with my name started becoming a concern so I went back to FB to explore my privacy options.

I was contemplating just creating a separate identity for my high school students and redirecting them to that persona, but was happy to find that I could take care of my accessibility concerns through customizable privacy settings.

The first thing I did was go into Privacy and select Profile.  Since I am most concerned about the Wall feature and an old friend leaving an undesirable message in public, I just turned that off completely. If anyone wants to say hi, they can just as easily send a message.

Now in order to customize my privacy settings I had to create lists to separate people, basically: family, high school friends, college, colleagues, and students. To do that, just go to Friends, and on the right hand side you can select ‘make a new list.’ Add each of your friends to the appropriate list.

Once I created lists then I could determine who could see what throughout FB.  Since I didn’t want my students to see any videos or photos with my name, I just went into each of those categories and selected Customize, then excluded certain groups (note that I put family in the same exclusion category as students….haha):

Im pretty sure with these changes I’ve created an environment that allows students to still find me, to private message me, and to chat with me when they want but have eliminated the possibility of my personal life overflowing into my professional one.

This is the only network I belong to that has any students or non-professional friends on it so had to take extra precautions. What have you done on FB, or even Myspace, to ensure professional integrity?

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Goods, Bads, and Bests from NECC Week

NECC 2008 was the best conference I’ve ever been to.  Mostly, because it was so dynamic.  Usually I judge a conference only on the quality of the sessions but this one was so much more than lectures.  I wanted to take a couple minutes and reflect on the Goods, Bads, and Bests from NECC Week (EBC, NECC, and NECC Unplugged).

Easily, the best part of EBC and NECC2008 was meeting people from my personal learning networks.

The 2nd best part was participating at NECC Unplugged.  I didn’t get to schedule a session there because my travel plans were made so close to the conference that I had no idea if I would even be attending past Monday afternoon until a couple days prior.  So when I got to sit-in and contribute to an impromptu roundtable conversation with Steve Hargadon, Darren Draper, Robin Ellis, Karl Fisch, and several others from my PLN, I was excited.  We discussed how EBC could be better next year along with social networking in education.  I had been a passive observer at the Blogger’s Cafe until that point, and it feels so much better to contribute to the community.

The third, and last, best part is a little of a selfish one.  I hosted a poster session called Using Web 2.0 to Motivate Student Creativity which focused on Web 2.0 for Beginners and it went really well.  A lot of people stopped to watch our (OCHS) kids talk about their experiences using these tools.  I met hundreds of people and loved talking to educators who really wanted to make their children’s experiences at school more relevant.

The Goods.  The best sessions I sat in were all at EBC.  They were discussions yet, only one of the sessions that I attended at NECC was even close, mostly because they hosted a backchannel chat (pw:necc) through Chatzy. David Warlick and Alan November didn’t dissapoint but Social Networking in Education was the livliest and most passionate session that I attended outside of EBC.

The Bads.  By far the worst part about NECC Week was the lack of wireless connectivity.  In over half the rooms I was in I had nothing, nada, zilch for connection.  Kristen Hokanson said it best to an IT guy trying to solve the problem at EBC once he declared they had no idea so many people would have laptops, “but this is an edtech conference.”  They didn’t have enough access points and in the theater where the spotlight sessions were at, there was nothing.

Those view-blocking Pearson cameras at EBC were annoying, but I wasn’t nearly as mad as others about them recording and profitting from our words.  Spreading information…..good.

The other bad part, which I have encountered at almost every conference I’ve attended, was their take on Online Learning.  When I went to NECC in Philadelphia a few years back, I don’t remember any online sessions so was happy to at least see that strand in almost every concurrent session.  However, most of the sessions weren’t worth attending, the NACOL booth didn’t even have someone sitting at it, and the one session I did attend was horrible.  It was three instructional designers from the University of Houston who lectured for 45 minutes straight about 3 basic lessons you could teach online.  It was like they just discovered e-learning and somehow convinced ISTE to accept their proposal.  I wish they would screen for people who are really doing something with online learning and hybrid schools, its a future of education.

flickr user: kjarrett

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@mrplough07 in Real Life

I’m stealing a title from a recent movie because its a good play on my experiences this past weekend at EdubloggerCon, NECC2008, and NECC Unplugged.

For the past year-and-a-half I’ve been meeting, collaborating, sharing and learning with people in a variety of online personal learning networks (PLN).  I turn to them when I need some help.  I turn to them when I have research to share.  I turn to them when I need advice or a recommendation.  I turn to them when I want to discuss personal achievements.

I’ve learned a lot about a few people, and a little about a lot of people over that time.  Even if I have never had a discussion outside of following someone’s updates on Twitter, there is an interesting connection.  It’s hard to understand but many people that I talked to this week described similar feelings about their “friends.”

I had never knowingly met anyone from my online networks before EBC this weekend.  But what’s really interesting is that didn’t matter.  In fact, it even enhanced the conferences.

When we met face-to-face for the first time it was like we had known each other for years, even if we had just met on the NECC Ning the week before.  All those walls that people throw up when they are in a social situation in which they don’t know anybody were completely torn down.  Conversations were instant, passionate, and left off right from our online discussions or posts or thread or comments.

Everyday my belief in PLN’s is reinforced and this weekend/week proved the most powerful of all reasons for having online social networks.  Even if I never meet the people I learn from, and that learn from me, we still have something important online.  However, there is just something really special about the experience of meeting those nodes from my network that strictly online connections can’t ever quite equal.

flickr user: Kasia/flickr

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