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I first heard about Sharism a few years ago.  After reading about it and taking some time to ponder a little more about it’s benefits, I did what often happens with good ideas – I forgot about it!   At the time, I put off taking decisive action to either share my thoughts here or to more actively implement its philosophy!

Then I listened to Mark Zuckerberg’s 2017 Harvard Commencement Speech a couple of weeks ago, and I remembered the notion of Sharism and could see that what Zuckerberg suggests be done on a grand scale is somewhat similar to Sharism.

So what is Sharism?

Sharism is a term for the motivation and philosophy behind the collaborative building of value that results from sharing content and ideas

or ….. in other words

The more you give, the more you get. The more you share, the more you are shared.

And what struck me was the notion of ‘building community’ which Zuckerberg noted in his speech to this year’s Harvard graduates.  Identifying the divisive nature of society segregated by race, religion and country of birth, Zuckerberg paused to question his audience to confirm the fact that millennials, connected to each other as they are by social media, are ‘citizens of the world’ who relate to each other in a deep and meaningful manner, a process which did not exist prior to the advent of social media.

Social media is a tool by which Sharism can so easily be implemented:

  • just a click shares news, thoughts and emotions around the world within seconds
  • networks of like minded people can be created
  • individuals can locate and tap into existing networks
  • individuals can be empowered enabling just one person to truly make a difference
  • sharing enables continued sharing in a speedy and powerful way

Indeed – social media is a gift that has altered our world in profound and significant ways.

UN agency ranks Australia 39 out of 41 countries for quality education

Newspaper headlines like this Sydney Morning Herald headline just two days ago, is both demoralizing and disturbing.

The League Table of country performance of nine child-related goals is a serious concern, one which many a school, its administration, principals and teachers along with parents will no doubt be questioning.

Is it just lack of money being put into education?

Is it teaching standards?

Is it ill planned curriculum?

Is the curriculum too cluttered?

Just what is behind the continual slide of Australian standards, achievements and quality of education?

While answers to these questions will continue to be hotly debated, a new theory was thrown my way just yesterday:

Australians as a whole don’t value education!

Could there be any truth to this? Could attitude or lack of positive attitude to the value of education be the stumbling block to attaining quality education?

Let’s be honest here.  Despite hours of preparation, attention to detail, provision of challenging resources and superbly equipped classrooms, we’ve all had those lessons that just fall flat.  The students don’t engage with us, each other or the subject matter.  Leaving the classroom at the end of the lesson, we feel frustrated and miserable.  The most in depth analysis just can’t identify anything we, as the teacher, could have done differently.

Could it be that student lack of interest is real and is pervading not just our classroom, but the entire school and society?

Is it time perhaps, for us to be having conversations about our collective attitude to education? To be talking up achievement, the value of education and the big picture of how Australia’s future economic and business success is dependent on a well educated population?

This is a hot potato.  A very hot potato!

Even the most remote thought that our schools are populated with children who don’t give a hoot about what they are being taught or what they are learning is a very scary prospect!

 

Just two weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg gave the 2017 Harvard Commencement Speech.

In short, his words are sensational!

Addressing his fellow millennials, Zukerberg words are both moving and powerful as he implores the graduating class of 2017 to take up the challenge to not just create meaning and purpose in their own lives, but to create meaning and purpose in the lives of their fellow human beings and in this way to create a better and more just world.

Purpose” Zuckerberg says, “is that feeling that you are a part of something bigger than yourself, that you are needed and that you have soemthing better ahead to work for.  Purpose is what creates true happiness.”

Zuckerberg outlines three ways to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose:

  1. by taking on big meaningful projects together
  2. by redefining equality so that everyone has the freedom to pursue their purpose
  3. by building community all across the world

Take the time to listen to his words.

Almost single-handedly, Amazon, the online giant store, has redefined how we shop.

Amazon’s dominance in the book industry has been profound.  Large retail bookstore chains and small independent bookstores have been impacted greatly by the seemingly unstoppable growth of this online monolith forcing the closure of bookstores and changing the way we search for and purchase books.

And ….. it seems ….. there’s no end insight.  Amazon Books has launched into retail sales.  And, as they have in the past, Amazon have once again set out to redefine how we shop by using data driven stats to create book displays that tempt and guide the purchaser.

A not too happy account of how Amazon is reshaping bookstores appeared recently on the KOTTKE.ORG blog: Amazon’s data driven bookstores.  For the most part, this post laments the fact that online sales data rather than informed bookstore staff recommendations are being used to promote good reads to the public.

But, as in the past, little will stop the growth of this incredible market driven company.   As I blog, 7 Amazon Bookstores are already open in the US, with 6 more slated to be opening soon.  Without a doubt the current list will be updated regularly as the rollout across the US continues.

A recent post on Recode (a fabulous website I’ve just discovered!) gives an up close look inside the recently opened New York Amazon Bookstore.  In between the telling photos are some interesting observations by Dan Frommer – so take a few minutes and have a read of the post: Photos: Inside Amazon’s first New York City bookstore.

My day to day life is immersed in books.  Not only do I love reading, but my day time job revolves around igniting the magical spark of a ‘love of reading’ in young adults.  To nurture this love of reading, I  constantly make recommendations and, like the staff in book shops, I talk to my library patrons about the kinds of books they enjoy and ask what they have read previously to inform me about their tastes and interests.  The kind of philosophy that has dominated libraries and book shops for millennia – putting the right book into the right hands – cannot be achieved by relying solely on circulation or sales stats, the approach reportedly being adopted by Amazon Books.

Anything that encourages reading though is undoubtedly good!

So instead of looking at the flaws and mistakes of Amazon Bookstores, perhaps those of us encouraging and promoting books in schools can look at some of the great ideas being introduced by Amazon Bookstores and adopt them:

  • lots and lots of face out books for starters certainly makes for an appealing look
  • increased displays of ‘if you like this, how about this’ would also be welcome
  • and how about if we start using circulation stats in a big way to drive the creation of displays

Hmmmmm ….. it seems like I’ve just hit a new spark of inspiration!

Enough Bullshit!

Having blogged a few times in recent weeks about fake news –  So … what are we doing about fake news? and an earlier post titled Evidence based journalism: WikiTRIBUNE I got a buzz reading last week’s Open Culture post: “Calling Bullshit” – which describes a College course designed by two professors at the University of Washington, Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West to combat bullshit in the information age.

Their comprehensive website “Calling Bullshit” gives a great rationale for introducing this course to college students.  A statement shared with students attending the first class highlights the most basic of reasons for establishing such a teaching course:

Have a listen to the first lecture and you’ll probably find yourself hooked!

The presentations – available on Youtube – are short, sharp and easy to watch and, say the two professors who developed the course, it is all there online for anyone to pick up and teach.  All they ask in return is acknowledgement of them as authors of the material and to let them know how the material is being used.

Viewing this series of 10 sessions would make a great professional learning opportunity for any of us working in education.

Most particularly for teacher librarians, viewing this series could be an inspirational stepping stone to develop a course suited to students and would clearly be an extension of the CRAAP Test mentioned in my recent post.

A 1000 years is a mighty long time for an invention to have never had a modification, but apparently that’s the case with the good old umbrella~

So ….. at first glance ….. it seems far fetched to think that there could be any kind of connection between ladybirds and umbrellas.

It seems though, that Japanese scientists, who created a see-through forewing out of transparent resin and transplanted it onto the wings of a ladybird, may finally be able to discover just how the wings of a laydbird so elegantly open and close to enable flight.

Information gleaned from this research, it is thought, may well be the key to building an umbrella that does not blow inside out on a windy day!

Have a read of the original article  Ladybird wings could help change design of umbrellas for first time in 1,000 years  written by Sarah Knapton and published in The Telegraph (15th May, 2017).

Be sure to watch the video in this article. It’s fascinating!  The implications of this research could be quite profound.

Nothing much ….. or heaps?

Who, what, when, where and how is this issue being tacked in schools?

  • Who is taking fake news seriously?
  • What is being done to combat fake news?
  • When is fake news being tackled?  Before or after the fake news has been circulated?
  • Where is fake news being tackled? In subject specific classrooms or centrally via the school library?
  • How are our students being trained to be discerning believers of that which they read or hear?

It would be interesting to run a survey of schools and find out some answers to this question.  Feasible or likely – do you think?

An undeniable fact though is that the term ‘fake news’ has probably never been bandied around more that it is today.  Indeed, ‘fake news’ has been selected as the Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year.  Commenting on this decision, its editor, Susan Butler says:

“There has come a point with fake news where people are beginning to believe what they want to believe, whether or not the news story is actually true.”

(Sydney Morning Herald, January 25, 2017)

Is the term ‘fake news’ new?

Not really, is the implication of a hefty article by James Carson of The Telegraph which claims the term jumped into mainstream media with Donald Trump’s accusations against CNN but in reality is another term for ‘bending the truth’ or propaganda, a tool used to influence public opinion for quite some time.

If the frequency of the term ‘fake news’ is starting to wear thin though, equally powerful ‘catch phrases’ have started to pop up: ‘alternative facts’ and ‘misinformation’ being the two front runners.

It’s clear that today though, the spread of ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘misinformation’ has never been easier.

Social Media has rewritten the books! 

The implication of information being published and shared at will, without any authoritative verification of its truth is, to put it plainly, very scary!

Moves to address the issue are coming thick and fast.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I blogged about this very issue: Evidence based journalism: WikiTRIBUNE which highlighted platforms and programs that are being developed to help people verify facts.

Educating our students to be discerning and informed on how to sift fact from fiction has probably never been more important!   Teaching them specifically how to fact check through valuable online resources such as Snopes, FactCheck and PolitiFact Australia are important and essential!

But this is only one aspect of the kind of education we should be providing in our schools.  So much more needs to be included in an education program.

A recent report – Students fight fake news and the spread of misinformation – about one school’s effort in Melbourne to tackle this issue was inspiring.  Students in English classes at Lowther Hall in Essendon are encouraged to apply the CRAAP test – checking for currency, relevance, accuracy, authority and purpose – to articles they come across in the press.

Reading this article seems to imply that this process was developed in Melbourne by this school’s Head of English but an online search finds reference to the CRAAP Test dating back to 2012 in a paper written by Sarah Myhre: Using the CRAAP Test to Evaluate Websites. More recently though, the American Library Association has updated its CRAAP test for spotting fake news.  A quick reference as to what is included in the CRAAP test can be found online.

Teacher Librarians have forever been working with students in sessions either alone or in a team teaching situation with subject teachers to instill in students an awareness of the currency, relevancy, accuracy and authority of information they come across online.

Indeed – one of the massive failures of the current climate of school administrations as they apply staffing and resource cuts to school libraries is a recognition of the value of having qualified and experienced teacher librarians to lead and guide school communities to recognize and address this modern scourge!