Tag Archives: social media

Tutorials to the Rescue

Due to Thailand’s flooding situation, we lost an extensive amount of face to face time with students. The situation called for the implementation of e-learning in the virtual environment through various containers and communication devices. The results were at most mixed but it became clear that many students were uprooted or disconnected leaving them with little or no prospect for learning.

A still image from Tagwatchai Saengthamchai's "Blue Whales" cartoon.

Upon returning it became abundantly clear that this situation necessitated some thoughtful reflection and I was happy to see that I wasn’t alone in in my assessment of the effectiveness of e-learning. By and large the positives are far reaching in showing the critical nature of self-directed learning. As a school, too much emphasis is placed on the face to face time as being teacher driven. I would assume that the students who benefited most from e-learning were those who have already adopted and been exposed to 21st century learning. If anything this experience should support that 21st century learning principles are essential to any program committed to developing a generation able to navigate resources, achieve independently, and seek advocacy. The negatives are that not all teachers/parents believe in these principles, ignore the realities of modern education’s role in developing learners, and avoid the responsibility altogether.

As the HOD, I emphasized to the social studies dept. the need to transform assignments into more meaningful tasks that can be extended and modified to fit individual situations. Readings and content may be easily digested but the gradeable activities should have a more metacognitive focus. I myself used blog entries as the medium for turning in tasks. Our reliance on video and external web resources should facilitate narrowing the gap between those engaged over the hiatus and those disengaged. There are a number of realities to consider here as some parents will use this experience to make excuses for student achievement (or lack of) and more likely or not students will do the same. I am inclined to believe that many teachers will turn around in the next 8 weeks and do nothing but lecture in order to “catch up.” This would be the exact opposite of what we should be doing in the classroom. The face to face time is now more crucial than ever and now students can effectively peer review, dialogue on the learning process, and problem solve. There is an opportunity here that must be acknowledged. Instead of a catch up mind-set, embrace a management concept that meets the requirements of the curriculum and the needs of the individual student.

I see this is an opportunity for us as school to decide what is the single most important thing we do as a institution of learning and focus on that singularity. My specific thoughts are that the quantity should not be the question addressed but the quality of the time we have face to face. I would be most critical of two important indicators: teacher communication with students throughout the ordeal and what methods teachers utilize to bring them back into the fold.

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We are addressing the situation in the IB Psychology Course by constructing tutorials using screencasts. All students have been assigned a specific outcome from the syllabus and have been asked to design, execute, and share a 8-10 minute screencast on their specific outcome. The steps I’ve outlined are as followed:

Step 1. Research
Step 2. Organize & Curate their data
Step 3. Sketch an approach/storyboard
Step 4. Filter enhancements
Step 5. Do a one minute practice screen cast on a subject in psychology of their choice.
Step 6. Share their one minute screen cast with 1-2 others for feedback. Share their ideas as well
Step 7. Produce the screencast
Step 8. Share

These finer points were found at The School Library Journal:

Fast Tips

  1. Keep it short & concise.
  2. Credit licensed media as you go.
  3. Choose a generic file format. (Not all hosts accept Flash)
  4. Offer iPod versions.
  5. Consider using captioning to offer subtitles or translations.
  6. Add your brand/logo to title slides.
  7. Remember the 100 MB limit of most hosts.
  8. Reduce file size by only recording an area of your desktop.
  9. Post your screencasts on Facebook & other social sites.
  10. Have fun!

Fair Use and 21st century Social Studies


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How do I properly cite a joke? How about advice? Can I plagiarize my own ideas? Of all the discussion topics I’ve encountered in the Coetail program this one seems the most relevant to my subject area which is Social Studies. I am a firm believer in a number of precepts about history and in general the social sciences as opportunities for collaboration and understanding. I am aware that important considerations regarding the source of knowledge are critical to understanding human behavior in the past and present. Of these “ways of knowing what we know,” authority is the most relevant to fair and proper use because traditional scholarship demands proper citation of information from specific authority. Good scholarship in historical investigation is judged on the strength and balance of quality sources taken from authority; this is reasonable and justified in a sense that it protects both the authority and the researcher but for altogether different reasons. I am intrigued by the discussions around this issue and find that the grey areas are too grey to actually address (I leave that to the courts).

I guess a huge part of my own internalization of fair use is the question “what is an authentic idea?” Is there such thing as an original idea? How does syncretic development fit into the conversation? Writers of religious work generally have borrowed liberally from earlier works. I wonder if the Greeks cried when the Romans stole the Odyssey and produced the Aeneid? Actually, it is reasonable to assume that one of the great accelerators of civilization is the ability of humans to borrow from one another strengthening collective knowledge. The key word here is accelerate as traditional thinking of property and information no longer seems to apply in the 21st century. Consider the proliferation of information in the years after the development of the 16th century printing press. The power to disseminate information lay within the hardware of the actual press (The Chinese understood this having developed printing capabilities as far back as the Sung Dynasty, yet I don’t believe it to be coincidence that every Chinese press was considered property of the Emperor).  The ability to move information has always trumped the actual content and I firmly believe this is because there really isn’t anything radically original or newly constructed that fails to borrow from  pre-existing ideas, designs, and methods.  As new innovations emerge that build and improve, I am much more inclined to place greater value on the connections between people and the content/knowledge, or more appropriately, the concept of experience rather than on wholesale information/product.  Human beings are hard-wired to reach out when the need arises to tap the abilities and skills of others and the benefits of cooperation (or altruism) have been documented, encouraged, and celebrated.

I really enjoy this particular rant on the value of information in context where information is limitless:

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As a social studies teacher the conversations regarding fair use, academic integrity, and scholarly pursuit are vital and relevant. The opportunity that the Creative Commons concept brings to the table is an upgrade to the property minded mores and attitudes of protectionism which have rarely resulted in progress. The great intellectual jumps in history have been the result of sharing and crowd-sourcing and it is actually happening right in front of our faces. This is the right time to begin educating the next generation on being scholarly responsible while endeavoring to embrace the collective power of ideas. The natural place in schools to provide such opportunities is in the Social Studies where visual literacy, critical thinking skills, and citizenship are all heavily emphasized.  I would hate to think the world’s population as one large externality. (The video below is a famous clip from the Documentary “The Corporation:”


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As for piracy, the concept and act have been around as long as people produced surplus goods. Piracy is an activity as inherent to society as deviance. Living in Thailand however, when I buy the bootleg dvd at the Samakorn market, I see the ladies children right there in front of me maybe having things a little bit better, and I actually sleep very good at night.


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What is Gladwell thinking?

(I realize this is old news but I was very inspired to blog about Mr. Gladwell’s article)



I read The Tipping Point, Outliers, and Blink within a six month period. You had me hooked Gladwell. The stories and level of thinking in your books I found relevant, practical,and abundant in “aha” moments. Even your TED Talk on how spaghetti sauce changed the consumer culture had “stickiness” and impactive meaning. And now you pull this? Selling out the role of social media as a force of change.

Let’s lay out his arguments:

1. Social Media creates weak ties to others; strong ties are necessary for social activism. (1970s Italian Red Brigade & Civil Rights Movement are used as examples)

2. Instead of being defined by their causes, activists today are now defined by their tools.

3. Social Networks do some things well; but hierarchal direction isn’t one of them. Bottom to top change is in many ways a phenomenon rich in structured organization.

I can’t disagree….100%. While it’s true that social media creates weak ties, Gladwell himself sees this as a great quality in moving information or locating specific people or items with value. In my experience my weak ties have profoundly influenced my stronger ties by allowing me to share understanding and experiences. A good example is my PLN on Twitter. In another scenario, while protests were happening in Bangkok last year, social media kept me apprised of the situation in order to make decisions for my family. I feel very fortunate to have been informed (I also needed to corroborate information as well). More importantly, we are now embarking into an age where we have greater opportunities to forge “weak” ties that have never been possible before in the history of the planet. In these unchartered waters, we are just beginning to understand the complexities and promise of greater connectivity. Gladwell appears to be jumping the gun.

Gladwell’s next idea is very puzzling and problematic since I see social activism in the 1960s as heavily depending on the tools of the time period. University pipelines and weak/strong ties to people in specific positions to be used for getting the word out. I’m sure Gladwell knows the story of Rosa Parks getting arrested on a Friday and the Montgomery Bus Boycott starting that next Monday. The social network and media devices were word of mouth, the academic and social pipelines of colleges, and a hand turn mimeograph machine (at work all weekend) to organize a massive, city-wide boycott of municipal transportation.  I don’t see the point – tools are tools and social activism is impossible without both a message and a means of transference .

The third point regarding the lack of a hierarchy in the mass of social media is his most valid. All major political revolutions have order, direction, and organization although the effectiveness of all or any combination of the three can be questioned.  Can revolutions happen through Twitter? Emphatically not. But this is where Gladwell makes some important errors in analysis. His first error is in trying to compare the social activism of the 20th century with current political activism. They lack congruency. Bad government/ineffectual government is relative and the people at the barricades in Egypt and Libya are ready to make sacrifices so their children can experience the sweeping global changes taking place (Thomas Friedman is all over this). Social media is not bringing down governments but it most certainly is effecting the intellectual climates of closed/single-party states. More importantly, neo-liberalization and the proliferation of information on an exponential scale has blurred the lines of right and wrong, with a high propensity of moral relativism filling the void. In the 1960s Americans had to learn that disenfranchising citizens because of race is wrong…arguably some still don’t know; my point is that effective social action informs and changes minds; it is by definition demonstrative to all involved. I am demonstrating something when I put out a 140 character message to the world.

I have tremendous respect for the writer who has made me think differently about socio-cultural context, cognition, and success. I find his books extremely relevant to teaching and therefore his books resonate on very high level with what I do daily.  So here is my dilemma. If I believe social media has the capacity to transform learning, communication, and citizenship, then why doesn’t this brilliant author? Shouldn’t we be on the same page? Sounds like a 21st century problem. Get to the root of our difference, explore the evidence of the counter-argument and establish the “middle ground.” I’m learning empathy – I will see (or try to see) Mr. Gladwell’s point of view. So I research (21st century skill). I read a number of blogs and articles about this difference of opinion.  Here is what I came up with:

From Barbara Popova of the Change Observer (digital resource)

Malcolm Gladwell’s take on social media is like a nun’s likely review of the Kama Sutra — self-righteous and misguided by virtue of voluntary self-exclusion from the subject. But while the nun’s stance reflects adherence to a moral code, Gladwell’s merely discloses a stubborn opinion based on little more than a bystander’s observations.*

And this excellent observation from Matthew Ingram of Gigaom.com

While I was reading Gladwell’s piece, in my head I replaced any mention of Twitter or Facebook with the words “the telephone,” and then it became a diatribe about how people talking on the telephone has never amounted to anything in terms of social activism. That is probably just as true as his criticisms of Twitter. But would any modern social effort or campaign or demonstration be effective without someone making phone calls? Twitter and Facebook are just tools, and they can be used for social good in the same way any other tool can. And those “weak ties” can eventually grow into strong ones.*

(*I recommend both of these readings (plus Biz Stone’s response) for anyone still not convinced about why connectivity drives information and action)

So what does all this mean? Malcolm Gladwell really said nothing that wasn’t accurate from a particular point of view. Watch the video below: YouTube Preview Image

Discipline, trust, and organization are necessary for high risk activism.

Sounds like a few 21st century teachers I know. But OK…I’ll give credit to you Mr. Gladwell; I have come full circle and now will read Tipping Point for the third time because it just makes me think….like social media does.