Just hanging out

When I think about my own learning and how I find information, I connected to the first part of Diana Laufenberg’s Ted Talk.  I completed my first degree at the very beginning of the internet so I also had to go to school to get the information. I researched using journals, microfiche, and the stacks and spent many hours in the library searching for something to inspire and justify my ideas. My second schooling was in naval training and this again was delivered to me only by the teacher, there was nowhere else to go to find the information you needed to calculate courses, weight distribution, and how to navigate a chart. There were experts you had to interact with to get information. Fast forward to 2008 when I changed to teaching and the internet was much more established, I found my digital searching skills far behind those of my younger cohort members. I had to fail a lot in order to learn how to find information that would allow me to succeed in my teaching degree. How I would have loved to have had Google Scholar back then.  Now I can find out how to fix my car, rewire the toaster, or learn about facilitating Socratic discussions with just a few clicks.

This module helped me to think about how information is right there for the picking, but how does that translate to my students’ abilities and experiences. Reading Living with New Media made me think about the social world that my students experience online through Hanging out. Every day before at the bell as students are getting bags from their lockers they are planning their times to go online to chat, play games, and this week they went to a virtual concert in Fortnight. A real-life DJ Marshmello dropped some new tracks in a virtual environment and half my class hung out and made their characters dance.  As much as I didn’t want to have my class flossing etc.. I thought it would be important to validate their social experiences and started a conversation about it the next day. They all said they had a lot of fun and enjoyed the opportunity to hang out together online, but they also brought up that if they had the means, they would rather go to a real concert. This concept of students hanging out in digital spaces makes it critical that adults recognize and value how children socialize but also gives us an added responsibility to nurture positive online relationships, have discussions, and teach ways to do this in a safe and respectful way through digital citizenship units.

Reflecting further on genres of participation, I thought about the connections between geeking out and inquiry. When students have the passion for a subject and we help them to navigate sources and find the information, we have helped them to inquire. How do we inquire online and find a source with the right expert and expertise to answer our questions? Just now, looking at a thesaurus I came across an article on experts which talked about whether or not the word has lost its meaning in 2019. It went on to discuss the idea of “armchair experts” and the problems and the great responsibility that arise with massive platforms of information and misinformation. Information can be a path to a better life as outlined in the Unicef article, unfortunately, it can also lead to a lot of harm. I thought about my Fourth Graders and how they are so desperate to inquire into their areas of interest and I wonder how can I help them to navigate safely and effectively. A couple of months ago I taught a lesson about the tree octopus website to try and take APART a source. I believe the lesson really made the students more critical of their sources as I watched them further apply their skills when looking for information on ecosystems.

It is really exciting to think about effective ways to improve as a researcher myself through advanced search techniques on Google and also how I can continue to foster effective inquiry through research in the classroom.

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5 Responses to Just hanging out

  1. Isn’t it interesting how the various experiences in our lives teach us things? I guess that’s called experience. You’ve got an interesting background that has been full of educational experiences. I wrote in my blog post for this week about how students need to start with a question that they’re passionate about before they head out into the world looking for information. Reading your entry for this week makes me wonder something more.

    Do we need to have a meaningful life experience before we can ask real questions? Tasting something makes us wonder what other flavors are out there.

    I bring this up only because when we learn anything, we connect and scaffold our new knowledge upon past experiences and previous knowledge, right? If we want to be self-sufficient researchers who inquire about the mysteries of life, how can we build upon nothing?

    • mccreathf says:

      Thanks, Alex, some may say interesting, certain parts were at least. I love the idea of starting with a question and I have been driving the learning in my classroom around the questions students ask. By scaffolding their questions and connecting them to our Lines of Inquiry and Central Idea then we can truly experience student agency over their learning in the classroom. I think that what is important is that they have a small provocation, something that sparks the idea, then they can ask the questions that are important.

      Interesting questions, I would say that something like a provocation could be a small experience that helps them to ask questions. It really helps to scaffold an idea. For example, we are learning in class about how the Earth changes and how scientists understand. I showed them a video about Wegner and tectonic plates, and had them document evidence that he found. What was more important were the questions that came out after, questions that will actually help the students understand the central idea and drive future inquiry. So maybe even a small experience helps us to ask questions?

  2. I really enjoyed your post this week, thanks for sharing. I must say, I was rather happy to hear that your students were more interested in meeting and dancing together, rather than doing it online. The concept by Fortnite of the DJ Marshmellow concert was a great promotional idea and I am sure not a one off production. You are right that it allows us to have discussions with students around online behaviour and relationships. But beyond this, also allows us to have conversations with them about meeting and interacting online versus in real person, and the benefits of both (I still like to see those awkward middle schoolers at school dances).

    I quite liked the article on experts and the concept of “armchair” expertise. I think in this day and age you can have more experts due to the abundance of information, but experience, as always, counts for something too. I would still rather have someone install a new bathroom with 20 years of experience, rather than 20 hours of YouTube videos on how to do it. Additionally, I think it is us to us as consumers, and the ones listening to those experts, to be educated and able to discern the real experts from the armchair experts.

  3. mccreathf says:

    @Ryan, an interesting point about promotion instead of production. I wanted to talk to my class about that as we recently did a unit about media and how it influences people but I didn’t want to be too cynical about their experience that many were excited about. I suppose I have to go back next time a similar event comes up and ask them why they think the artist chooses to release their tracks in the chosen environment.

  4. Hi Flynn,

    Thanks or your interesting post. I couldn’t agree more that it’s so important for adults to realize that for young people, online spaces are really no different than in-person spaces when it comes to socializing. They grew up as “digital natives” so their distinction between the two is vastly different than ours. That said, it definitely doesn’t mean that they will be thoughtful and responsible when using them. You hit the nail on the head when you said that we must “nurture positive online relationships, have discussions, and teach ways to do this in a safe and respectful way through digital citizenship units.” Embedding digital citizenship into all subjects is more important now than ever.

    I also loved your point about “armchair experts.” I feel as if this is each of my older family members on Facebook haha. My how social media platforms have changed! It’s an important discussion to have with students so they are critical in their evaluation of where information is coming from. It’s also a fine line since we still want to encourage them to share their voice as well. A focus on media literacy in all classrooms is necessary for helping students decipher the difference between opinion and expertise, between research backed and anecdotal, and between real and fake news.


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