Tag Archives: Facebook

How the Stair Master Made me Socially Awkward – or was it Facebook?

I have never been a runner…. ever. However, I realize the importance of exercise and make an effort to stay in shape… most of the time. Two ACL surgeries have firmly put me in the ‘low impact’ category of exercise and I have found my cardio main-stay on elliptical machines and stair masters. I get a solid workout without my knee swelling up like a cantaloup. I have used a stair master regularly for at least 15 years… maybe more… at least since my formative teenager years. These many years of using simulated stair-machines have now rendered me helpless in the face of physical steps. I stare at them confused, uncertain of my next move – how do they work? Why don’t they move? I will sometimes stand helpless for hours as I wait for a light to turn on and let me know whether I will be moving up them in “cross-country” or “random” mode while recording my caloric expenditure. I have seen many times that I am not alone. See these poor people trapped on the escalator!

I now fear that my decade long use of the elliptical machine is beginning to affect my gait and that my casual ambling down the street will be the next victim in this long stretch of simulated activity machine incapacity. It won’t be long until free-weights make me unable to lift objects around the house – oh wait, I already have that ailment (or so I tell the friends that I request to come over and ask to carry boxes for me).

This hyperbolic string is part of an exchange I have continued with my friends, peers, and colleagues are a regular basis. Sometimes, these conversations are carried out almost entirely via text message.  Still, in spite of the fact that I regularly exchange jibes and jokes and basic communiques via text messages with friends and family, we also chat on the phone and, when we find ourselves in the same town, even get together for a meal or a drink – a real, in life social interaction.

Why am I making this ridiculous point? Well, one of my greatest annoyances about the complaints I hear bout the rise of technological communication is that it hinders and even stunts real-life, social interaction. I hear this remark from my colleagues, friends, families, and online (irony highlighted) all the time – FacebookTwitter, text messaging, and email have turned us all into socially awkward troglodytes incapable of basic niceties beyond grunts, crude gestures, or poorly spelled exchanges.

Studies and assessments on the topic are often inconclusive or even contradictory. You can see the article by Common Sense Media, “Are Texting and Tweeting making our Students bad Writers?” or the PEW research study “The Impact of Digital Tools on Student Writing.” I can, however, highlight my own observations (as a consumer of electronic media for most of my life) and as a teacher of both the socially advanced and hindered. So, let me tell you a little about myself – I Facebook, I tweet, I email, I text, I blog, I play World of Warcraft (yep, that game), I list serve, I message board, I instant message, I Skype, I iChat, I LOL and if it’s really funny I’ll even RFLMAO. I also go out to wine tastings, have dinner with old friends, travel to Europe with colleagues, go on Southern California Adventures with friends. I have friends (in “real life”) that I’ve known for a year, and those that I’ve known for 20 (and a multitude in between). Other than my crippling social awkwardness around celebrities (sorry Eddie Izzard and Dr. Drew), I am actually a pretty social person. Texting hasn’t rendered me incapable of visiting my friend Michelle in San Francisco – in fact, it helps to keep our relationship on the front-burner as I can send her quick quips when they jump into mind. And when I see her in person, we catch up where we left off.

The world we are in today (for better or worse) is much different than  the past. We live far away from friends and family; our peripatetic lifestyles make it virtually impossible for us to keep up with all of the important people in our lives, spread out across the globe, using ‘traditional’ methods. However, with new media (like Facebook) I have been able to see my cousin’s (who lives 1,500 miles away) baby bump photos grow every week with a smile on my face. I get to see my niece’s growth in between visits – her Easter Dress and Halloween Costumes. She live 2,000 away from me, so I miss many events. Facebook, pictures and video messages have helped me to stay involved in those important moments in her life.

Now, I am not saying that I have not seen “socially awkward” children dive into Facebook or Twitter as a sanctuary from the frightening world around them. That is true. In a way, “online” provides them a safe outlet within which they may develop their own persona and thought out responses outside of the physical realm. Not ideal, by any means, but not the first time that this has happened. Before Facebook and Twitter, these were the kids who played Dungeons and Dragons without end or buried themselves in their parents basement with the ham radio. Some were clever enough to find “acceptable” escapes such as reading for hours on end and avoiding interaction with their peers. Children with social awkwardness do need special attention and often must be gently pushed into uncomfortable situations to help improve their abilities to get along with other human beings. This isn’t a new problem.

I propose that the idea that social awkward/technology promote social ineptitude is all wrong. Technology doesn’t cause social awkwardness in teenagers. Kids aren’t ‘forgetting how to write’ because of texting or unable to communicate face to face because they send emails. The reality is that technology and social media are tools – tools that can be used in many way. You can use a hammer to bash in somebody’s brain, but it also works really well for hammering in nails. I have witnessed social butterflies become monarch social butterflies using Facebook and Twitter. I have personally experienced an expansion of my own professional learning network (See my article: “3 Ways to Kickstart your PLN“) using social networking sites (not at the expense of my personal interaction).

In my experience, social media becomes a problem for those who already have a problem – it further exacerbates an existing issue. However, for the mainstay it’s another tool – an expansion of our already social nature.

Connected Workforce = Greater Productivity (Infographic)

Check out this great infographic that links social media use and connectivity to greater productivity. This is especially relevant as it’s Connected Educator Month.

Created by MindJect, Jess3

Created by MindJect, Jess3

3 Quick Tips for Building Digital Citizenship

This is reblogged from my post at Edudemic.

Digital Citizenship is one of the hot educational buzz terms this year. But what is Digital Citizenship really? In short, it covers topics such as how to conduct yourself online civilly, refrain from inappropriate behavior (like cyberbullying), engage in meaningful discourse, and build a positivedigital footprint for yourself and your institution. Just like we teach students how to behave in the schoolyard, we must do the same in cyberspace.

Schools have a tendency to shy away from actively teaching digital citizenship due to time constraints in the curriculum, concerns about student-teacher interaction online, as well as anxiety over students having ready access to social media (like Facebook and Twitter). However, there are some ways that you can build Digital Citizenship into daily interactions as well as components of dynamic lesson plans in a safe and constructive way!

Always Model Appropriate Behavior

studentsStudents always watch adults – whether we know it or not. They watch how we treat one another and engage with the world. Teenagers are often inundated with conflicting messages: their parents will check their own phone at the dinner table yet scold them for the same behavior, a teacher will be on their iPad during an assembly, and yet students are reprimanded for being on their devices in class, and adults chastise them for being rude online yet will launch into angry diatribes on a political forum. Edutopia highlighted this issue in their article, The Digital Lives of Teens: Turning ‘Do as I say’ into ‘Do as I do’.

So it is our job as educators to model appropriate online behavior for them. For example, if you have a Twitter account or a blog (even if it’s not for professional topics), you can use it to be constructive and engaging online. Don’t just tell students to be civil or constructive online, show them how to do just that. Your actions can help to demonstrate why refraining from harmful comments makes it a better experience. Let your online behavior reveal to them how powerful online communities can be for positive, communal engagement.

Openly Discuss Online Etiquette

mathsocialIt can be easy to shy away from the topic if it is brought up. However, remember that students engage online every day, often without effective adult supervision. In her article From Smoke Signals to TweetsShawn McCusker points out that throughout history, those who have been able to successfully navigate new means of communication have become the innovative leaders of their time. Social Media, believe it or not, is the telegraph of today. You can try to discuss with them the importance of safety, civility, and digital footprints. This is a great topic for home rooms or advisory periods. If you have students that flock to your room during break, I’m sure that online behavior comes up in discussion.

It is easy to find examples from students’ real lives to foster these conversations. For example, I had a group of young ladies that would often eat lunch in my classroom. One day, they began discussing the fact that they would keep track of their ex’s on Facebook, and that watching them with a new girlfriend was often very hurtful and painful, but they could not stop looking. I suggested that they un-friend their ex’s so that they would be unable to view their pages. After initially balking at the idea, one girl decided to do just that. A few weeks later she told me that her experience on Facebook had become so much more positive now that she was no longer inundated with updates about her ex and his new girlfriend. Having positive, yet frank, conversations about how students engage online can be key to tapping into their experience.

Another way to promote these conversations is to openly talk about celebrities and other high profile figures that have gotten themselves into trouble using social media. In her article, “What do ClimateGate, Tiger Woods, and Michael Phelps have in Common?” Beth Holland highlights the role that social media played in the very public scandals of these prominent and respected celebrities. The news media is rife with examples: Anthony Weiner, Amanda Bynes, and Charlie Sheen are constantly in the news for their missteps online. These are great ways to get students talking about how social media blunders can lead to some serious consequences.

Still, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative and these conversations become scare tactics. At the same time, there are a number of positive examples out there that you can discuss. For example, teenager Jeremiah Anthony started a twitter feed West High Bro’s. Currently at over 5,000 followers, the teen and his friends regularly post compliments and praise their fellow students, teachers, and members of their community. I know that I love to ask students about their positive social media experiences and encourage them to keep up these types of activities!

Incorporate Social Media into Your Lessons

Hand showing social networking concept made with white chalk on a blackboardAnother great way to bring digital citizenship into your classroom is to incorporate social media into your lesson plans. This can provide a great avenue to model behavior, discuss online actions, and provide a safe environment for students to learn and explore. There are many ways to bring digital tools into traditional curricula and established frameworks.
For example, you can establish a blog for students to post work, comment on topics, and engage in online discussions. Edublogs and KidBlog allow you to set the parameters for your classroom – blogs can be open to the public, open to your school network, or just available for your class. You control the privacy settings and thus the environment. This is a perfect opportunity for you to model online engagement as well as provide them a safe environment in which to play. It is also a great way to start those discussions about online behavior early!

And don’t fret if you’re uncomfortable with social media yourself. There are a lot of ways that teachers have engaged students in tweeting and comments without the use of any technology. My good friend and former colleague, Karen Arrington, does a great lesson with her students using only pen and paper. You can read about this project in her article, “Paper Blogging with Students.” This is a great way to prep students for online engagement without having to set up a blog or online community!

Hopefully, as the school year progresses and the more you establish an open dialogue about Digital Citizenship, model behavior, and enable open discussion, the more students will understand the expectations we have of them. At the same time, they will learn the power that comes with with positive Digital Citizenship – engagement, learning, and a good Digital Footprint that follows them through their academic and professional careers!

To learn more about Digital Citizenship, EdTechTeacher will be offering a FREE webinar on October 15th at 7:00pm EST. Registration is open. 

The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly of Social Media

Dislike-Social-Media3If you are a consumer of social media (and have been criticized for it by colleagues) or are curious about the potential application of social media in education, Donald Clark’s article: “Good, bad and ugly: 7 Critics of Social Media.” He highlights the common, and often misinformed, critiques of Social Media use as well as its potential power in the world of education. He highlights the seven primary criticisms of Social Media.

3 Ways to Kickstart Your PLN this Summer!

This article is reblogged from my post on Edudemic.

It’s summertime! This is when educators, free from the daily schedule of a classroom, can focus on professional development. More specifically, summer is a great time to network and to build your personal learning network (PLN). If you’re unfamiliar with a PLN, it’s a network of individuals you foster specifically to learn from and cultivate your professional skills. They are especially important in the world of education where classrooms can easily isolate you from your colleagues and peers. Starting a PLN and cultivating it is surprisingly easy and doesn’t take a lot of time.

Free from internet filters on many campuses, take some time this summer to fire up your social media tools (FacebookTwitterNingPinterestLinkedIn). Many people are intimidated with engaging others online. However, the internet and social media allow you to connect and interact with people you would never get to meet in real life. The key to your PLN is that it’s about people. As Justin Reich highlights in his article, “Search People, Not the Internet,” your colleagues (in real life and online) are a more effective resource than the internet at large. They will help to focus and share information relevant to you in your field.

Here are three great tools and techniques you can use to build your online PLN:

Find Folks On Facebook

facebook-screensMost of us have a Facebook account. We use it to keep up with family and friends; posting vacation photos and admiring your cousin’s photos of her new baby. However, Facebook is also a great resource for kickstart your PLN, especially if you are just getting started.

I use Facebook to follow some of my favorite Educational resources like Edudemic,EdTechTeacherISTEEdutopia, and Education Week. It helps to keep me up to date on educational news, pedagogy, and professional development opportunities (many of which are offered for free or at promotional discounts via Social Media!). Even when I’m logging on to see what my mother is up to, I can get some great nuggets of information in my news feed. Also, if you’re like me, you have a lot of friends that are educators, so Facebook is a great way to share information with them.

Embrace The Power Of Twitter

twitter-birdTwitter is by far the most prolific of Social Media tools used by educators. If you have attended an educational conference recently, I’m sure you’ve seen and heard about twitter handles and hashtags. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but take a deep breath. Here’s a great (and short) video to help you learn a little more about the nuts and bolts of twitter:

In order to use Twitter as an effective and engaging PLN tool, you need to figure out who to follow. You can start with people that you know in education: this esteemed author, the EdTechTeacher team, and of course Edudemic. Jerry Blumengarten (aka @Cybraryman1) has a great list of recommended PLN Stars. Just be sure to follow other educators and leaders that you know and respect as they will often guide you to others.

Hashtags are another great way to explore ideas most relevant to your interests. Here is a great list of the most popular educational hashtags that can help you to broaden your PLN and provide you with greater access to resources.

Once you are feeling more comfortable with Twitter, try an e-reader like Flipboard. It will load your news feed and allow you to read your PLN on your phone or tablet at your leisure, be it on the couch or poolside.

Start Visually Learning On Pinterest

pinterestPinterest is another excellent tool to find recipe ideas, accessorize an outfit, or discover a great set of lesson plans. In fact, there is also a whole “Education” Category on Pinterest. Simply browsing these posts can give you some great ideas to employ in your classroom. Additionally, there are some amazing educators and institutions that have repositories of lesson plans, blog posts, and more that they share on Pinterest. Check out this Edudemic article, “20 Innovative Educational Technology Boards on Pinterest.” It has some great people and organizations to follow.

Pinterest is simply keeping a scrapbook of ideas and information (that you can also share with others). It allows you to curate ideas, projects, lesson plans, and more. Be sure that you share information that you find as well. See a great tweet? You can pin it for access later! Start and curate your own education board (or a few)!

This is only a short list of the tools available to you to kickstart your PLN, but I encourage you to explore and collaborate with others online. Building and sharing your pedagogical skills in a classroom is key to innovative education and the core of 21st century learning. Besides, with all of these tools available on a computer or smartphone, they could make for some really interesting beach reading.

To learn more about cultivating your PLN, consider joining my EdTechTeacher colleagues for one of the Summer Workshops in Boston.

Jen Carey works with EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

A Visual Look At Personal Learning Networks

This image is a great visualization of what a personal learning network actually looks like for a networked teacher.

personal learning network visual

Auschwitz Survivor Turns to Facebook to Find his Identical Twin

Birkenau_gateMenachem Bodern (born Eli Gottesman in the Ukraine) left Auchwitz on January 27, 1945 with an adopted father who took him to Israel. Now 73 years old, the survivor of the Third Reich’s most notorious death camp has turned to Facebook in the hopes of finding out what happened to his twin brother, Jeno Gottesman.

Equipped only with his faded Auschwitz ID number (A7733) and limited Nazi records, Menachem has sought assistance from Social Media to finally learn the fate of his identical twin brother. The search has turned up some promising but also disturbing news. Both boys were subject to twin testing by the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele (a fate that Menachem fortunately does not remember).  Additionally, he learned that he had a younger brother that died at Auschwitz along with their father. However, amongst the sad news there is also a ray of hope, that his brother Jeno was officially declared healthy and alive by medical staff at Auschwitz on February 9, 1945.

Menachem and his family have set up a facebook page, A7734 (the number given to his brother Josef). To learn more about his journey, please visit his page on Facebook and the story on CNN.