Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shaping My Identity Through Social Networking

Since starting my master’s degree program in 2008, I have been utilizing social networking tools to define and shape my identity as a professional educator. New digital media allows me to be defined as an e-learner. I consistently use social networking tools, such as Moodle, an online learning environment, and Elluminate, software that allows synchronous communication, for my online course work. Social networking tools can also permit me to define myself as a “life-long learner”. In an effort to connect with other professionals and manage resources for my master’s program as well as my daytime job (2nd grade teacher), I began a Personal Learning Network (PLN) also known as a Personal Learning Environment (PLE). Right now my PLN is in a primitive stage. I am currently using iGoogle as a place to access all of the pieces that make up my PLN. I have gadgets through iGoogle for Google Reader, delicious, Twitter, Facebook, Google Docs, etc. It’s a great way to keep up with all of my important information, resources, and professional connections when time is limited. By maintaining my PLN I am constantly surrounded by an abundance of information useful for my job and graduate school. This flow of information, at times, challenges my thinking about certain topics which usually leads to a reshaping of my identity as a professional educator.

Social Networking in K-12 Education

While students in K-12 education are diving head first into the new Web 2.0, the schools in which they attend are dragging their feet in an attempt to steer clear of the countless privacy issues that seem to be coupled with the new World Wide Web. The students are going to use social networking tools whether we as educators encourage their use or not, even for things such as school assignments, homework, etc. K-12 educators need to seize this golden opportunity to reach and better teach students in their own digital environment using the tools of which they are already familiar including social networking sites, Web logs (blogs), and wikis.

Social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, can be one of the most effective Web tools used to connect administrators, teachers, parents, and students that open many different lines of communication simultaneously, yet can be utilized for asynchronous communication and/or collaboration among participants. Blogs are one of the most utilized tools in K-12 education, and since the development of web log software, creating and updating a blog is now easier than ever. Educators have been using them for years for activities such as book discussions and dialogic homework. Others have simply used web log sites such as Blogger or Edublogs (both are free and extremely user friendly) to create classroom websites. Wikis have also become a familiar tool in the classrooms of tech-savvy teachers. They are easily edited so that students can update the information on their wiki pages to reflect the refinement of their knowledge and understanding. PBWiki, WetPaint, or Wikispaces are excellent websites for getting started.

With this new Read/Write Web comes many new literacies that the students of today will need to be fluent in to compete in the job market of tomorrow. If we, as educators, do not teach our students about these new literacies and how to effectively utilize them, we have done them a huge disservice. However, so many teachers are lacking in their own knowledge of the new literacies of the Read/Write Web that they are unable to pass the information along to their students. Teachers need to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge so that they can then share it with their students in order to prepare them for the future.



Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Media Ecologies

We live in a world where digital media and technology play an integral part in every facet of daily life. People have found a plethora of uses for the Internet such as purchasing airline tickets, searching and applying for jobs, paying bills, researching topics of interests, continuing their education, keeping in contact with family and friends, etc. Digital media is, in essence, revolutionizing our culture, especially for the digital natives of the younger generation who typically use digital media for informal learning, play, and social communication. It makes perfect sense that young people, as well as adults, have utilized different avenues in their effort to build an identity within these media ecologies. In Hanging OutHorst(2009) explains three genres into which a person's activities online can fit, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out. I can honestly say that most of my current practices fit more into the genre of Hanging Out than any other. Hanging Out simply refers to those practices used for making and maintaining connections with others such as my use of Facebook to stay connected with family and friends. Any and all other online practices that I exhibit would have to fall under Geeking Out which requires a large an intense commitment or engagement with technology. My course work at UF has lead to these Geeking Out practices. Through my many experiences with the Geeking Out process, I have managed to pick up a few Messing Around habits. This blog would be an example because it is new territory. I am obviously a novice blogger, but I feel that through time this could become part of my Geeking Out routine. Hopefully none of you are gagging now…