Monthly Archives: April 2007

Handheld Learning 2007

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I’m not usually one to promote a particular conference, but Handheld Learning in London has quickly grown into the largest mobile computing conference in the world. As a member of the steering committee, I’ll finally get to attend this year :). I’m looking forward to an exciting conference.

For more info, see http://www.handheldlearning2007.com/

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4-16-2007 continued

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Just a couple of additional sources that shed additional light on the role of new media sources in the coverage of major news events, and the ways in which news reporting is changing. Paul Bradshaw writes in a short but interesting post in his Online Journalism Blog that

Unlike previous user generated content milestones like 9/11 and the Asian tsunami, this story took place in the heart of the new media generation, and the resulting coverage is more comprehensive, more accessible, and takes in more new media forms, including social networking.

Via this same blog, I came across this post on Poynter Online, which provides an interesting collection of “user-generated content” of the Virginia Tech tragedy, from a journalistic point of view. Lots of interesting stuff; and like Bradshaw says in his post, roles are changing:

1) the need to develop the awareness of, and skills to find, this material; 2) in the face of such comprehensive and accessible first-person reporting, the need to develop new roles, perhaps as gatewatchers, facilitators and filters rather than reporters.

And by the way, this doesn’t hold true just for journalists ….

Image credit: “One Day Blog Silence”, David Leggett’s photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/theleggett/463068884/

4-16-2007

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What happened yesterday at Virginia Tech University is awful beyond belief, and I’m sure the event will be analyzed out the wazoo by the U.S. and global news media. When I started to follow the story (not really until sometime last night), I started drawing parallels to a similar event that happened at the University of Iowa on November 1, 1991. I lived mere blocks from where that shooting happened and was home at the time of the event.

In 1991, we learned about the event from the local television stations, and a more in-depth write-up appeared in a special edition of the university’s newspaper the next morning. Compared to the deluge of information that will come from the Virginia Tech campus and beyond within the next weeks, the amount of information released immediately following the 1991 shooting was fairly small (even the wikipedia entry for the Virginia Tech shootings is already larger than the one for the University of Iowa shooting).

Anyway, I won’t dwell on the facts too much here, as plenty has already been written and will be written by the major news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC. However, what is interesting is that had this event taken place before the advent of the Internet like the shooting in Iowa City, my information sources (and therefore my take on the tragic events as they unfolded in Blacksburg) would have been very different. I didn’t really watch TV news channels yesterday. In fact, I picked up on the story via a few different blogs in my Feedreader. After a cursory look at the headlines on MSNBC, I got quite a bit of information (and links to a variety of other sources) from this post on Boing Boing, which led me to images on flickr here and here. I also found some videos on YouTube. In addition, quite a bit had already been written in the edublogger community by the likes of Anne Davis, Vicki Davis, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, and Wes Fryer.

What struck me is that pretty much everybody who mentioned the event mentioned the wikipedia entry. Wes made an interesting observation:

From an information literacy perspective, following the comments on the history page of the WikiPedia entry for this incident is illuminating. What are the authors discussing and commenting on?
– What is the reference for that?
– Are included details and links relevant to this situation?
– Is accurate language being used, or are unwarranted exaggerations being made?

These types of discussions about information posted online and its accuracy are extremely important skills for our students to master, as it is easy to just believe what’s posted online because it is online. There’s an obvious danger in this kind of blind faith, and it surfaces even in tragic situations like this one, as this follow-up story from Boing Boing shows. An excerpt:

Blogs and online discussions yesterday misidentified 23-year-old Wayne Chiang (above), a VA Tech student with a penchant for guns, South Park, and bummed-out blog entries, as the shooter responsible for the VA Tech massacre.

Mr. Chiang’s “wanusmaximus” livejournal (“Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”) and Facebook profile include many photos of heavy weapons, and vanity shots of him posing with quantities of those weapons.

Mr. Chiang is Asian-American, and early reports indicate the VA Tech shooter was, too — which added to many internet accusers’ certainty that he was the killer, even though investigators still have not disclosed the name of the actual VA Tech murderer.

Comment fields on Chiang’s site soon filled with racist lines like “so u are the asisan that shot up the school. i hate u and your people.”

But, news alert: lots of LJs look like Chiang’s. Gloomy web poetry and a gun hobby don’t prove a dude is a mass murderer. After dozens of “j’accuse!” blog posts linked to his journal like so many pointed fingers, Chiang finally posted an update late last night:

Coming out. I am not the shooter. Through this experience, I have received numerous death threats, slanderous accusations, and my phone is out of charge from the barrage of calls. Local police have been notified of the situation.

As I’ve discussed before on this blog, the nature of news production and consumption is changing (see e.g. this post on SmartMobs), and major news events such as the tragedy at Virginia Tech are prime examples. What it means for education is that we need to seriously rethink how we teach our children to examine news, showing them the importance of not only accessing information, but carefully analyzing it, juxtaposing different points of view, and trying to construct the most accurate and comprehensive story from a large number of very different sources.

As for all of you at VT who have been affected by the shootings, know that my prayers are with you…

Image Credit: “Prayers for Virginia Tech”, from busiguy6’s photstream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/busiguy6/461741757/in/pool-va-tech-shooting/

MySpace Is Mine

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Following my last post, it came as no surprise to me that the legal system (in this case the Indiana Court of Appeals has at least began to address the issue of teenagers using MySpace to voice their opinions, even if they are not popular (see the CNN report here and the USA Today article here). According to the ruling (from the CNN report),

A judge violated a juvenile’s free-speech rights when he placed her on probation for posting an expletive-laden entry on MySpace criticizing a school principal, …

The three-judge panel on Monday ordered the Putnam Circuit Court to set aside its penalty against the girl, referred to only as A.B. in court records.

“While we have little regard for A.B.’s use of vulgar epithets, we conclude that her overall message constitutes political speech.”

Apparently, the language used by the student in question wasn’t exactly the greatest, but aside from the fact that this ruling shows that schools are going to have a very difficult time controlling what students post online outside of school, this also goes to show that schools have a responsibility to work with students on issues of ethics and responsibility when it comes to using the Internet. There is no doubt in my mind that First Amendment rights will be staunchly defended by the U.S. legal system, but all of us (including students) need to remember that rights come with responsibilities. Another strong argument for civics and citizenship education in K-12 education…

Image Credit: “Justice”, dweekly’s photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dweekly/62664542/

Is MySpace Really Mine?

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Here is a scary thought: Banning MySpace – at Home. According to this post on KairosNews, and the orignal article here, St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic School in Bloomfield Hills, MI, is banning students from using MySpace, on campus AND at home. “Those students who have existing MySpace.com accounts must delete them if they wish to continue going to school there. Students who do not delete their accounts cannot attend the school, Van Velzen [the school’s principal] said.”

Protecting students from the evils of the web is one thing, but I’m waiting to see when the first lawsuit is going to come about for violation of First Amendment rights. The scary thing is that according to the article, most parents seem to be in favor of the new school policy. Is this because it is easier to ban the use of MySpace than to learn about it and educate students on responsible, ethical, and safe use? Also, who is going to check to see whether students delete or keep their accounts, and how will the school be able to prove whether a student has an account or not? I’m sure students are already thinking of ways to circumvent this new policy.

 Instead of banning out of fear, schools and parents are better off learning about the web tools that kids are going to use, forging better relationships with kids AND technology, as I argue in the latest issue of Innovate that focuses on the Net Generation. I especially would like to point out the first comment on my article, made by Elizabeth Igarza from South Texas College within hours of the article being posted online. A couple of excerpts:

School districts across the globe are scrambling to keep up with blocking the newest social networking sites that pop up online seemingly overnight so as to safeguard our children while at school. Why then, like any other educator who cares about the well-being of our children, would I advocate unblocking these potentially dangerous sites? Simply put, because when we block our portals, we close our eyes and leave millions of our kids are out there alone, vulnerable, and unprotected. We have a duty to un-block access to social networking sites and get in there to help them understand this new connectedness, make informed choices, and lead the transformation toward a greater good. 

We could, however, just continue sitting behind blocked content warnings and let the next generation stumble in the middle of the information highway without so much as warning them to look both ways before crossing into a new digital neighborhood. Or we can get logged in, lead the dialogue and the content, and guide them in building social networks that will benefit their lives and our increasingly interconnected world. If we don’t, the headlines are full of terrifying stories of who might.

As a former social studies teacher, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Please read the entire comment at Innovate, and thanks for commenting on my article Elizabeth!!

Image Credit: MySpace.com for the MySpace logo. The rest is PhotoShopped.