Social media connects individuals to massive quantities of information, and through social networks we are exposed to more personal things than ever in history (boyd, 2012). There are risks associated with participating in a digital environment, including becoming a target or participant in cyberbullying, predation, revenge porn, sexting or grooming. These risks can create a panic, or ‘technopanic’, that is supported by a natural survival instinct combined with poor comparative risk analysis skills (Thierer, 2012). One factor that contributes to technopanic is a generational difference, where parents and policymakers (older adults) dread changes to cultural or privacy-related norms and experience anxiety about the influence of social change on youth (Thierer, 2012). Adults tend to fondly remember their past; seeing events as more positive than they actually were, and are often fearful of change (Thierer, 2012). boyd (2012) points out that we learn how to be fearful based on experience, and thanks to the interconnectivity of social media, we hear fearful ideas from people we trust which adds to our own fear.

As an adult education instructor, I may have been lulled into a false sense of security in terms of risks to my students. After all, as adults they should be able to make rational, informed decisions about risks to privacy and personal safety on their own. However, many of my students are returning to school after a long absence, and have not had the opportunity to use technology in an educational setting. They are not necessarily aware of the safety and privacy concerns that exist when using certain tools, and may not have the confidence to report inappropriate behaviour or use of a technology. As their instructor, I need to ensure that all students, regardless of their previous educational or technological background, are guided in their decision making when participating in a digital community.

 

References

boyd, d. (2012). Webstock ’12: danah boyd – Culture of Fear + Attention Economy = ?!?! [Video file]. Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/38139635

Thierer, A. (2012, March 4). The Six Things that Drive “Technopanics”. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamthierer/2012/03/04/the-six-things-that-drive-technopanics/

What Did I Do?

As part of OLTD 505, I contributed weekly to my blog, writing on topics suggested by Alec.  Expressive writing does not come easily to me, being more of the math/science analytical type, but I have found that as time goes on it does get easier (slightly).  When writing my blogs, I was always conscious of my audience, specifically my classmates in 505, but also a wider online audience.  I tried my best to write posts that would encourage discussion, and occasionally met with success!

blog 4 high comments

Responding to others blog posts or Google + posts is important to me.  I have blogged in the past about how I treasure every comment that comes my way, including short ones that simply let me know someone has read my post.  Throughout the past 5 weeks, I have made an effort to visit our Google + community as often as possible and read through new posts, commenting where I could.  I have shared a few links for new information via G+ with my cohort as well.

Twitter.  Well, what can I say that I haven’t already said about my relationship with Twitter?  I am always sure to tweet my new blog post, and try to pick my way through the bits and bytes that are fired my way, retweeting if I think it is something really great.  In addition, thanks to help from Graeme, I have significantly increased my ‘followers’ as well as my ‘following’!

conversation with graeme about twitter

What These Interactions May Have Done

I think responding to someone’s blog or Google + post shows them that what they have to say is important.  One common feeling amongst our cohort is (or maybe ‘was’ now) that what we have to say is not necessarily of interest or importance to others.  Even simply letting someone know that you read their words is an acknowledgement of their contribution.  On the flip side, sharing my thoughts with others through my blogs has helped me solidify my ideas around each topic, all the while feeling completely supported by our group.

Interacting with a larger online community via Twitter has probably been the biggest challenge for me, but also has provided me with the most surprises.  I had sent a tweet out asking for resources to teach adult literacy math, and after it was retweeted by Alec I began receiving notifications from total strangers offering me advice.  It was at this point I truly began to understand the power of a global community!

tweet for math resources

I have also been amazed when I’ve been retweeted, favourited and given positive feedback on blog posts from people outside our cohort.  Who knew…maybe Derek Siver’s “Obvious to you, amazing to others” is true!

Why Does Sharing Matter (In Education)?

Active participation is essential to truly be part of any community.  As educators, we can feel isolated in our classrooms, even though we are surrounded by people.  I have enjoyed a sense of community through sharing my thoughts with like-minded individuals online through my blog, G+ posts and tweets.Sharing as educators, whether it is a quick idea or a detailed lesson, comes with the job (or at least it should).  Prior to the web, sharing relied on face-to-face interactions usually within your own school (or department).  Not everyone was willing to share.  Connecting with others that do want to share via the internet has dramatically increased the number of resources I have at my disposal.  More resources allows me to see more ways to learn, which in turn benefits my students.  As a life-long learner, I also appreciate the opportunity to learn from others, as they share their thoughts online.

This week, as I begin to form my final summary for OLTD 505, I looked back at the resources our cohort has shared over the past five weeks.  In particular, I was interested in the visual shares, videos that I hadn’t had time to watch, or ones that I wanted to watch again and again.  I was having a hard time remembering where I saw a particular post, so I decided to collect as many as I could in Padlet.  I have also been overwhelmed (but very interested) in the variety of tools my classmates were using for their posts.  I have tried to collect as many of my favourites as possible, but everyday someone seems to find yet another tool that I want to try!  I do see some limitations in using Padlet; as the number of links grow so does the size of my wall, and I think I will once again find myself getting lost.  I think perhaps separate walls for each topic might be in order.

What was confirmed for me when looking back through the blogs and G+ posts is that we are an amazingly supportive group of people.  Thoughts and ideas are respected and celebrated, and people are quick to jump in when someone needs just a little boost to get them through the week.  Sharing is not an issue with our group; one question can grow into a garden of helpful responses on how-to, where-to, etc.  Many of our group have already taken the leap of sharing to the global community and showed us that it can be done (and that our work is amazing to others!)  I am very thankful to be part of such a wonderful group of educators!

For anyone unfamiliar with Padlet, to view any of the documents on the wall simply click on the tile.  You can go to the larger version by scrolling down the window and clicking on ‘Source’.  This will take you to the original URL.

I hdiscussion imageave an addiction.  I can’t help it.  I sneak a little bit at breaks, lunch time, and several times each evening.  It didn’t start out this way.  When I was first introduced to it, I didn’t want it.  In fact, I dug in my heels and said I wasn’t going to use it.  January came along, and I found myself sneaking quick fixes, just a little here and there.  Then I needed more.  I can’t stop myself…I can’t get enough of Google Plus.

What is it I like so much about G+?  I think it’s the discussion.  I enjoy reading people’s comments; it’s a way of “seeing” into their minds.  It’s interesting to see what others think.  But my addiction has also led to disappointment.

As part of OLTD 504, we are participating in a “500” activity, where different tasks are assigned points.  I have earned most of my points via G+ posts and comments.  I eagerly log into G+ hoping to find that someone has replied to one of my posts (not including my blog post) only to find that my posts are now buried in the avalanche of new offerings.  I have to admit that at the beginning of 504, I posted whatever I thought was possibly connected to our topic simply in order to earn points.  I am not motivated by badges or points, but new posts to G+ earned me a whopping 25 points, and I was in a panic about reaching my 500 before the end of the course.  My disappointment is in the limited number of comments or replies to students posts compared to the number of posts in G+.  G+ has (to me) taken on the appearance of Pinterest or at least a very one-sided conversation.  I understand that not everything is comment worthy, and I perhaps need to work harder to write posts that encourage replies.  William Chamberlain wrote an interesting blog about student comments (Student Commenting: A Letter to Students), where he says:

 

“Comments are hard won…They should be coveted like a really soft blanket or a dog that is potty trained.  When a person cares enough to write a good comment, you have received a very special gift.”

 

If I were to use an activity like the “500”, I need to carefully consider my outcomes.  Is the avalanche of new and exciting information my target, or is it meaningful discourse among my students?  I value both, but in my courses I focus greatly on helping students learn to communicate with each other, sharing ideas, forming study groups and supporting each other.  Commenting on each others posts online would certainly fit with this philosophy.  To achieve that goal, I would place a higher point value on the commenting as opposed to the original post.  I know for me that it takes me far longer to craft a well thought out comment that tries to encourage continued discourse, than to quickly post a link to an article.

Perhaps I am missing the point of Google Plus.  I am very new to the tool, and may not completely grasp its intended purpose.   As I consider how I would use LMS and non-LMS tools in my course delivery, I am particularly interested in how to encourage my students to participate in meaningful discourse.  Maybe G+ is not the right tool.  I look forward to exploring other non-LMS tools over the next few weeks to see if there is a better option.