Image via WikipediaThirteen years ago, in a six-week summer school class, my life was redirected. That class was a Native Literature class with Professor Janice Acoose. Janice began with a two or three class diatribe on some lesser known facets of Canadian history. As a white Canadian, I felt so guilty for the way in which my ancestors and my institutions oppressed and mistreated the First Nations people of Canada. After a few days, I decided that I had not personally done any of those things myself but from that point on, I would do whatever was in my power to make a difference for the First Nations people of Canada.
During that class we read aloud Tomson Highway's play, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing. It was harrowing and hilarious. Another student and myself researched and presented to the class a Native Canadian author. The author we selected was Metis and adopted into a white family in Saskatchewan. His book was autobiographical and recounted his gradual feelings of alienation and his drift into using alcohol to cover up his feelings. He ended up in and out of jail. He was encouraged to write a book about his life when he got out of jail. The two of us read this book and researched online whatever other information we could find to present this author to the class. A few days before our presentation, I had the bright idea of phoning to this man's family members to find out if he was still living in the same small town. I spoke with his brother who told me that this author was back in jail (federal this time, which means more serious crime). I cried. The class was shocked when we ended our presentation with that
Image by foreversouls via Flickrnews.
Near the end of the class (which was an evening class), I would walk home from the bus stop and cry. One evening, I looked up in the sky and saw the Hale-Bopp comet with a star shining nearby. Somehow, this gave me hope that I could make a difference with the Creator's help and guidance. That class in Native Literature changed my view of the world and of my place in the world. After that I made Native Studies my main teaching area. In my teaching career, I have always taught in schools with many Native Canadian students. I have treated them with respect, understanding, and love. That class changed my life.
Once again, I have taken another class which has changed me. This Web 2.0 tools class from the University of Alberta has been intense and demanding. Within six weeks' time, I have learned to understand and use many Web 2.0 tools: blogs (blogspot), photosharing (Flickr), videosharing (YouTube), social bookmarking (Delicious), podcasting, virtual libraries, wikis (Wetpaint), multimedia sharing sites (Animoto, VoiceThread), Twitter, and blog aggregator use (Google Reader). Along with learning to use two tools each week, I have had to create long blog posts to explain each tool. I have included readings and research into how each tool can be used by teachers and in classrooms. It's been a totally engrossing experience. It has been intense and life-changing. It has been fun and exhausting.
In honour of this experience, I thought of the song, "I Only Have Eyes for You". In the past six weeks, I have (pretty well) only had eyes for my computer and my online relationships. I found three versions that I liked of the song. So you can decide which one to click on (if you click at all). Shirley Bassey actually sings another song after "I Only have Eyes for You".
As I reflect on this class, I'm not sure where I will go next. As Mack Male (Edmonton social media guru) suggested to us, I am seeking out local people to follow on Twitter. (Twitter Mondo is a good tool to use to help you find those local people.) Today, I also found a site with lots of wonderful Saskatchewan bloggers. One of them is Carmen Klassen from Saskatoon. You can find her wonderful blog at http//www.carmsjournal.blogspot.com/
Today at the Farmers Market, I asked one of the vendors if she was on Twitter. There were so many unique finds at the Saskatoon Farmers Market today. One farm couple had made buttons out of deer antlers (which the deer shed each year). You can find deer antlers laying around in pastures. Another farm couple were selling mini artichokes (about the size of brussel sprouts). There would be so much scope to do a project similar to Dave Cormier's in Prince Edward Island with farmers.
Image by Jer Kunz via Flickr
I guess the bottom-line is that I am a teacher. I have next year off in order to go to school full-time. I was planning to do research into how families support grade two students in their reading. I was going to use ethnographic field methods of direct observation during home visits, interviews with parents, and collection of artifacts (student's work, grocery lists, calendars, etc.). However, all of that research (which I have laid a foundation for) pales in comparison to doing something with social media or researching these new tools and their use in education.
This past week I had a further extension of the technology adventure I have been on. I was a vicarious attendee at two technology conferences. I say "vicarious" rather than the more common "virtual" attendee because I really experienced these conferences. The people who organized the Open Education Conference (#opened09)in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, provided live streaming video of each session. Now there are recordings of all the conference sessions available for anyone to listen to and use. (Link for recordings.)As well, those in attendance at the conference were generous with their tweets and even their notes about the conference. Other people around the world who were listening in and watching the live streaming video, were tweeting as well. One man said that in the room where they were watching the live streaming video, they clapped. They felt a part of it and so did I. The other conference which I attended was the Social Technology in Education Conference (#steconf) which was held at Harvard. This was a one day conference which I think was the brain child of Ed Lyons. Unfortunately they ran out of time and resources to live-stream this conference. It was free for the 250 or so in attendance. Once again, those in attendance were generous with their tweets so that others could learn from this conference as well.
Image by gbaku via Flickr
I can see that there are different ways to engage in professional development now. In fact, one idea that I came across was that rather than take five or six of your staff to a conference in another city, bring that wonderful speaker to meet with the five or six in your city. It will probably cost the same. (Oops, what did that have to do with technology? I guess just that I came across the idea online.)
Nowadays real people attending a conference are encouraged to use a back channel for talking about the conference. Jeff Hurt (2009) provides this definition of back channel: "A back channel is where attendees are texting or tweeting information about a presentation or event using SMS, a chat function or Twitter. The front channel, for lack of a better word and as opposed to a back channel, is the main presentation being delivered by the speaker."
Hurt (2009) suggests various reasons for encouraging the use of a back channel:
1. To reach and communicate with virtual attendees who could not attend the
Image via CrunchBaseface-to-face event.
2. To encourage attendees to take byte-size notes. In 140 characters if using Twitter. It also helps them synthesize and condense the presentation into content nuggets which are often more memorable than long spoken or written paragraphs of information.
3. As a form of audience engagement especially if the presenter is lecturing and primarily using one to many style of presentation. Encourage attendees to further discuss the presentation with each other
4. To market your event.
5. To allow attendees to ask the presenter questions and provide comments.
6. To allow attendees to interact with the content. Some will look up definitions, other articles and additional links about the presentation, especially if they are inquisitive or need further clarification.
7. To allow attendees the ability to share additional resources and links related to the presentation.
8. To create a historical record and transcript of the presentation from many different perspectives. Go to WTHashtag , enter the conference hashtag, add date parameters and click the view transcript button. Then you have a transcript of the presenters information from the perspective of many attendees that were tweeting with the hashtag. This great tool allows attendees to read others views once the presentation is completed.
9. To listen to conference attendees and provide real time changes to the presentation or event.
10. To extend the life of the content and message besides a one-time hit of the present
Image by mastermaq via Flickration and reach a larger audience.
I found that the back channel at both of the aforementioned conferences did enable me to attend and learn from both conferences. It would be interesting to use some of Mack Male's magic with statistics to discover how many of the 3000 + tweets with the #opened09 hashtag were made by people in real time attendance and how many were made by those in virtual or vicarious attendance like myself. Doing research on the changing face of professional development for educators with access to such different types of learning would be so interesting. However, I think I may be too far along my other road for pursuit of a new topic. However, my academic advisor may be able to suggest some conferences in reading that I could join as a virtual or vicarious attendee. Maybe I will be able to combine two passions in one pursuit of learning.
This class has changed my viewpoint on the world. I really have "only had eyes for social media" throughout the past six weeks. I will continue to use my blog and my micro-blog (Twitter) to express my
Image by oneblackbird via Flickrthoughts and to pass along interesting thoughts and viewpoints of others. I will continue to explore ways of integrating the use of my new tools into my thesis work and class work for this next year as a full-time student. I will work on building my online community one person at a time. If I am present in more than one on-line network, I will be a bridge to connect people from one network to thoughtful people in the other network. Even in this blog, I have introduced my fellow classmates (and any others from around the world who may be reading this) to someone from my local network (Carmen Klassen) who is writing excellent blog posts. I would like to see more awareness of social media, within my school, my school board, and within my city. I will make myself available to share what I have learned with anyone who wants to listen.
Image by Smithsonian Institution via Flickr
"I don't know if we're in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
You are here
So I am
Maybe millions of people pass by
But I only have eyes, for you."
(Warren & Dubin)
Hurt, J. (12 August 2009). 10 reasons why you should use a back channel at your conference. At Midcourse corrections: Views from the trenches. Online at http://jeffhurtblog.com/2009/08/12/10-reasons-why-you-should-use-a-back-channel-at-your-conference/comment-page-1
Warren, H. & Dubin, A. (1934). I only have eyes for you. Information online at http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery?s=I+Only+Have+Eyes+for+You&gwp=13