Archive for the ‘Social Networking’ Category

Hooked on Pokemon?

With more than 30 million players worldwide traveling around catching cartoon characters using phone GPS and cameras, it certainly seems that phenomenal records have been hit.Pokemon

I have to admit though, I did a double take yesterday afternoon when driving down Dandenong Road, a major arterial road here in Melbourne,  to see a road sign hung up over the busy road warning drivers to not play Pokemon while driving!

Photographed by someone at night and uploaded onto the Internet, this is the wording of more than 40 signs that popped up mid-way through last week on our roads.

News reports tell the story!

Hard on the heels of news reports are all kinds of warnings, such as this one from the

I’ve also spotted stranger danger videos posted on Facebook warning of the dangers of following others in the trail of playing Pokemon.

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Common Sense MediaI recently came across the Common Sense Media website and discovered all kinds of valuable info which can easily be slotted into lessons or displayed in a library on a loop to promote cyber awareness.

While there’s a wealth of valuable information to explore on this site, these two short and sharp videos speak volumes.  There quick and colourful format will ensure that their message is absorbed by young students.

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Being mindful of what we post on Facebook goes without saying.

Aunty Acid - Think before you post

Being familiar with the ins and outs of using Facebook and its various settings is, however, something that many of us know little about.

So when I logged into Facebook the other day, I was blown away to see an invitation to better learn how to use Facebook.   The teacher in me shot to attention as I quickly started paging through the simple, clear statements listed in this presentation and realized that this would make a great learning tool that could be used in the classroom or in our library sessions.

You're in charge

It’s an awesome presentation and reminds me that for all of us our learning journey is indeed never ending!

And with this discovery, another year draws to an end.  Desks have been cleared, bags laden with books to read have been packed and we head out the door at this end of the world for our summer break in which we aim to pause, reflect and re-charge our batteries before the start of the next busy year.

Warm greetings to you all for a safe, happy and rest filled break.

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Whether participating as a reader or a writer of blogs, engagement with the Blogoshphere provides an opportunity to learn, explore and discover the knowledge, opinions and thoughts of others.  It is an exciting and vibrant world which invites readers and writers to freely express and explore an enormous range of topics.

Having the opportunity to tease out the various aspects of blogging – how to blog and what can be gained from blogging – is an opportunity that was extended to me by the Australian publication Education Technology Solutions and is the fifth and final article in a series about lifelong learning which I have written for this magazine over the last twelve months.

Aiming to provide concrete suggestions for the novice blogger to help get started as well as providing thoughts and ideas of the benefits to be gained by engaging in the Blogosphere. Blogging: Powerful And Addictive!  has just been published in Education Technology Solutions – Issue 69, December/January 2016.

ABSTRACT: Blogging is a powerful way to determine our own growth and development. By pursuing topics of personal interest, by considering the words and thoughts of others, by writing reflective and informative posts, a rich, supportive network is built. Engagement with the Blogosphere enables educators to enhance their own skills, knowledge and experience and in the process define their own path of lifelong learning.

Also published on the Educational Technology Solutions website, I’m pleased to also be able to share my article here:

Blogging: Powerful And Addictive!

pic-1By Bev Novak.

Blogging is a powerful way to learn, explore and discover.

Replete with an infinite source of information on a limitless number of topics, the blogosphere is a perfect location for educators to create and direct their own learning path. That which is learned from either reading or writing blog posts expands both their knowledge and their thinking. By posting comments on blog posts, it is possible to engage in a form of social networking that is distinct and different from other social networking platforms. Connecting with those who write blogs or with those who read their blogs is exciting, stimulating and inspirational.

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I just watched Monica Lewinsky’s TED video: The Price of Shame.  It’s moving and profound.

This young woman, who has been shamed, blamed and ridiculed worldwide for virtually her whole adult life, has finally had the strength and courage to share with a worldwide audience painful lessons she has learned.  It is heartening to know that her life shattering experience has now filled her with a determination to make the world a better place.

If you haven’t seen the video, put aside some time and watch it:

Just a few days after her TED video was aired, it was shocking to read Nadia Goodman’s post:

Reaction to Monica Lewinsky's TED Talk
Such vitriol is sickening.

Knowing that voices are being raised to fight cyberbullying though is very heartening.  Even more so, it is great to learn that youths are taking up the fight against this insidious behaviour.

I’d not heard of Project Rockit until Monica Lewinsky mentioned it in her talk.

Started by two sisters, Project Rockit aims to give a space and voice to the youth of Australia:

To put it simply, PROJECT ROCKIT builds spaces where imagination, leadership, creative expression and acceptance are available to all young people, regardless of their social label, grades, gender, sexuality or cultural background.

And just a few days ago, I came across another website created for our youth: ThinkUKnow which features young people themselves talking about the dangers that technology brings to our lives.


Are we sharing these sites with our students?  Do they know what’s out there to support them?


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I made a decision quite some years back to restrict my ‘friendship circle’ on Facebook to real friends and family.  Not having a need to share my activities and thoughts in such a public forum has most probably been the driver of this decision.  As it turns out, I log into Facebook on a daily basis and enjoy catching up with what others are up to.  Occasionally I share or like the posts of others, bur I very rarely post updates.

Sometimes I find that my lurking gets carried away though.   Reading a post which mentions a person who I knew a long long time ago, inevitably hooks me in and I find myself wandering off to that person’s page reading their updates to find out what they are up to in the 21st century!  Sometimes I get further carried away by discovering yet another long lost acquaintance on that person’s page and …. well ….. you know what I mean.  The usual scenario is that I sharply regain consciousness, give myself a shake, look at the clock and realize how much time I’ve whiled away on inconsequential stuff.  The buzz lines that speed through my head revolve around me not really needing to read the detailed happenings of others, what they’ve seen, eaten or recently acquired.  It all hits me as a bit plastic, unreal and time wasting.

Yes – I can hear you saying:  there’s a wealth of Facebook Pages to be liked that are informative and valuable.  I agree.  I probably could gain much if I was more selective or inclusive in ‘liking’ more Facebook pages. Right now though, I’ve elected to not branch out too much beyond my current base.

My few updates are indicative of my lack of need to share personal bits and pieces in a such a public forum as Facebook.   Sharing over a coffee, one on one, is the real me.   Those who are my Facebook friends, surely know this by now.    So when a work colleague recently shared this article via email:

Anti FB
I found myself nodding with an amused smile.  It reminded me of a video I saw a few years ago which questioned the path our online life was taking us.

So when I read an article in the newspaper this week about the creation of a social network in Bologna in Spain, I found myself thinking about this issue once again.

Looking to make new friends in his new neighbourhood, one resident posted a flyer on his street, Via Fondazza, explaining that he had created a closed group on Facebook just for the people who lived there.  Within three or four days, the group had 20 followers.  It was not long before virtual exchanges between residents became concrete.  People began to greet each other on the street, to publicize events and gatherings virtually and then share face to face, or just responded to each others request for assistance or support.  Two years later the group has 1100 members.  A warm ‘village like’ atmosphere has been created where approximately half of Via Fondazza’s residents belong to the Facebook group. Those who do not use the internet are invited to events via leaflets or word of mouth.

The idea, Italy’s first “social street” has been such a success that it has caught on beyond Bologna and the narrow confines of Via Fondazza. There are 393 social streets in Europe, Brazil and New Zealand, inspired by Mr Bastiani’s idea, according to the Social Street Italia website, which was created out of the Facebook group to help others replicate the project.

This is certainly an intriguing idea and, it seems, a great way to get to know people if you find yourself living in a new location.  Checking the Social Street Italia website is a fascinating browse.  Hundreds of social streets have been created throughout Italy.   So far, I’ve not been able to locate a link to other countries.  Perhaps they are out there somewhere.  Please let me know if you come across it.

This whole concept reminds me of my own early foray into the online world in which I was able to enjoy ever deepening  and meaningful connections with a large number of virtual friends.  With the warmth of thoughts and experiences shared online, our face-to-face meeting was highly anticipated.  It was like we were close friends who had known each other for years.  An awesome feeling!

Meantime, have a read of the article which outlines this fascinating experiment: Italian neighbours build their own social network, online and off

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It’s no wonder that this video, posted just a few days ago on August 10th , has gone viral.

Fear and disbelief flooded through me as I watched how easily young girls could be sucked into believing that people they chat with on Social Media are who they say they are.  The anguish of loving parents who have clearly spent time educating their daughters to stranger danger in both face-to-face and digital situations hasn’t overcome the reality of the dangers of Social Media.

Predators are evil and are very real.

How can we do it better?

Perhaps sharing this video is just one path.

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I just read a great article about the impact that technology is reaping on teachers in the Term 1 Edition of TechnologyEd – a great quarterly publication by EducationHQ.

Nodding my head in agreement at virtually everything that was written, I found myself reflecting on my own career – the then and now.

It may come as a surprise to younger teachers to know that the base line in the education sector hasn’t really changed all that much.  Being stressed and overwhelmed by the enormity of the job has always been a part of a career in education. Nothing, really, has ever changed.

Back then, in my early days of teaching, there was always

  • more to be done than could be humanely completed in a day
  • heaps to learn which invariably had to be done ‘on the job’
  • a never ending stream of correction and lesson preparation
  • constant communication demands to have responses ready for
    • students
    • parents
    • work colleagues
    • Heads of Department
    • School Admin

Nothing has changed.  We are still working at an impossible pace.   The same demands as then loom large on a daily basis.

Today though, technology has layered itself across everything we do.  For those not born with a mouse or a device in their hands, we’ve had to become familiar with technology whilst simultaneously using it and figuring out how to incorporate it into our teaching repertoire.   As I see it, there are two major aspects of technology that we need to get a handle on: technology as an adjunct to teaching and learning and technology as an adjunct to communication.

And from whichever way we look at it, technology ratchets up the stress level by more than just a few notches.  Many claim that stress levels today are higher than they were.  Back then the catch word was ‘teacher burnout’.  Today the new jargon is “technostress”.

So what is technostress?

stress or psychosomatic illness caused by working with computer technology on a daily basis (Wikipedia)

a feeling of anxiety or mental pressure from overexposure or involvement with (computer) technology (Dictionary.com)

It’s real and its constant.

There probably are few of us who can’t identify with ‘technostress’.  Knowing how to deal with it can be baffling because it is multi-layered.  Unfortunately there isn’t just one ‘fix’ to make it go away.  Some obvious suggestions spring to mind though:

  1. Designated ‘time out’: Set aside a regular time slot in the day or the week to not use technology.
  2. Self discipline: Make decisions and stick to them!
  3. Establish routines: Create on and off times for using technology.
  4. Set priorities: Weigh up the importance of daily routines and prioritize them.
  5. Restrict response: Set limits on the amount of time spent using technology.
  6. Create quiet time: Find time in a day to just ‘be’.
  7. Separate work and home: Work at work and relax at home.
  8. Do one thing at a time: Be offline when you read, listen to music, cook, eat or play with your child.
  9. Switch your smartphone off: Let replies go to message bank. Turn off the alarm for incoming call.
  10. Technology Sabbath: Yes! One day off a week!  Check out the gains to be had in this Sabbath Manifesto:
Sabbath Manifesto

Sabbath Manifesto

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Social Media is a powerful force.

Connecting with each other across the globe to share, communicate and learn from each other has become commonplace. Without a doubt, traditional professional learning is being turned on its head as teachers and educators embrace Social Media as a learning tool.

But does Social Media hold the same valued position in our classrooms? Are educators taking steps to incorporate Social Media into their day to day teaching programs? Or are we hesitating, holding back, still languishing in a belief that Social Media is just a means for our young to chat and meet up with each other in cyberspace? Is there any solid reason to not harness the power of Social Media in our classrooms? Has fear mongering about the dangers of teacher-student relationships sullied our nerve to give it a go and use this powerful tool to harness learning and sharing among our youth?

Mention of Social Media in our schools often revolves around cyberbullying though. While I don’t question the importance and necessity of teaching our students the importance of engaging in responsible use, there is so much more that can be garnered from opening the door to Social Media in our classrooms.

Given that our students are using Social Media so widely and so regularly in their own time, it seems almost logical to integrate its use into our classroom teaching. With established guidelines and boundaries, online programs in which students can connect, learn and share with other students across the world via Social Media can be created.

Educators have long used the pervasive influence of peer pressure as a way of ensuring group acceptance and involvement in a range of educational programs.   Competitions, often used as a way of gaining widespread student involvement in a range of different school based activities, is perhaps one of the most obvious ways educators have harnessed peer pressure. Undeniably peer pressure is one of the driving forces behind the incredible uptake of Social Media by our youth. So let’s make the most of it and create meaningful and enjoyable learning programs in our schools.

Why not place students at the centre of teaching programs, enabling them to recognize the value and importance each and every one of them has to contribute to our world. Looking at positive programs such as The YOU MATTER Manifesto outlined by Angela Maiers – @AngelaMaiers – is well worth consideration as we define our aims and objectives then develop and deliver programs which incorporate Social Media into our classroom programs enabling students to build their positive digital footprint.

The YOU MATTER Manifesto

Educators need to think laterally to envision projects and group activities based on the use of Social Media. Knowing that the ownership of ideas is extremely powerful, why not have students initiate projects and group activities based on the use of Social Media?

For too long educators have been rejecting the use of Social Media in schools as irrelevant.  In some schools, the use of Social Media is banned and smartphones are confiscated.  What kind of message does this send to vulnerable students?  Surely, as a society, we have learned that prohibition only pushes use underground.  Learning, in an educational setting, responsible use of something prohibited, banned or forbidden is not possible.

It’s time for educators to lift their heads out of the sand, to acknowledge that there has been a cosmic shift in the way thoughts, ideas and experiences are shared.  Rather than shying away from using Social Media in our schools, we need to harness its power.  Acknowledge the excessive use of Social Media by our youth, highlight all that is good about it and incorporate it into our teaching so that ‘teachable moments’ about the positive ways that Social Media can be used can be created.

Embracing the skills of the students we teach, having them become our teachers, is a recipe for a new era of education – one in which each and every one of them MATTER!

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I came across this image a while ago.  It says it all:  It’s a ME world alright!

Social MEdia

With so many ways to communicate and share, I sometimes feel that the means overtakes the ‘me’.  Hours and hours of our time are whittled away as we share the minuet of our daily lives in an online world which is burgeoning with an ever increasing range of social networking websites.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember how life was BSM – Before Social Media!

It has crept up on us.
It eats up our time.
It dominates our lives.
It has impacted society.

An insatiable need to share and know what others are doing, thinking and feeling has evolved to incredible proportions.  Social Media today seeps into every aspect of our lives and is not something that can be ignored.   This new and powerful way of connecting, sharing and communicating is greater than many of us could have ever imagined.

It is inevitable that both positive and negative outcomes should derive from Social Media.

Bullying has transformed into cyberbullying.  Programs to combat cyberbullying have spawned social intelligence curricula which are taking on increasing importance in the daily teaching agenda.

But a new and ugly impact of Social Media is dawning on educators.  As we confront the reality of how easily our students can be encouraged, influenced, coerced, brainwashed or radicalized by another is a frightening reality which educators need to assess, consider and unitedly tackle.

Knowing how best to combat the powerful influence of dogma was never part of a teacher’s lot.  It is now though.

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