Please Don’t Over-share

While participating in Dean Shareski and Alec Couros’ ETMOOC sessions last week, the topic of over-sharing came up a couple times.  From what I gather there are two camps on this topic.

  1. I Share, You Filter  (ISYF)
  2. Too Much Information (TMI)

I love the line, “why is everyone such an exhibitionist all of a sudden?” At some point, whether intentional or not, people who share “too much” aren’t trying to create memories or share valuable information, they’re just trying to be seen. Their posts are a validation of their existence. “I post, therefore I am”.

Yes, having to constantly filter through a persons mundane updates, pictures, and tweets can be annoying, but in the grand scheme, not a big deal.  My main issue is that over-sharing subtracts from the good things that person has to say.  I’ve unfollowed people (GASP!) from various social media because of over-posting the trivial. I’m a “quality over quantity” kind of person and while Mr.Over-poster might have some great photos, comments, or media to share, it’s few and far between. When a person expresses a good idea, shares a valuable resource (funny, inspiring, thought-provoking, etc), or has an interesting conversation online, they are contributing. When a person is giving you a play-by-play of their life, it dilutes the good things share. Others get desensitized to the over-sharing and will eventually ignore the good content of the Over-poster.

So for the sake of your message and reputation, think before you post.

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The Visibility of Learning

The ETMOOC orientation was really cool. Not because there was some grand proposition or revolutionary breakthrough. It was cool because it was honest and spontaneous. A bunch of people who signed up because of some mix of curiosity and interest in edtech. Most seemed to be MOOC first timers (myself included) and jumped into Blackboard Collaborate, writing all over Alec Couros’ slides.

At some point, two questions were proposed during the session. The first was, “how are you making your learning visible?”  And the second was, “how are you contributing to the learning of others?” I had to think long and hard on this. It may seem like an easy question, but it’s actually pretty loaded. Hence this post is a week after the orientation session. I hope it makes sense!

Making learning visible is sharing. Not just sharing what you learned, but how you learned it, what barriers you encountered, and the successes you had. Learning is a process, and when you can share your learning process with others, it in turn might help them with their learning processes. We stand on the shoulders of giants. We can get to new heights because someone had done legwork previous to us. But how do I make my learning visible? Twitter, Instagram, blogging, and good ol’ fashioned conversation.

I firmly believe I am contributing to the learning of others. I don’t just mean my students either. I think that I help inspire other teachers to some degree. I want to do this because I’m inspired by others. When there’s a teacher at my school who’s doing something interesting, I’ll pick their brain and ask questions about it. In turn, when I come across something that I think they’ll like and use, I’ll share it with them. The great thing is that they’re much more receptive of my input because I’ve initiated the relationship of sharing by asking for their input first. Sometimes teachers feel like their teaching style/method/integrity is being attacked when someone makes a recommendation or suggestion to them. And sometimes we’re too eager to tell someone how we think we can help them. To combat this, ask about them and their teaching first! Take that pressure off. Show them that you’re a learner and want help. I guarantee in the future they’ll be more receptive towards your input.

I’ll close this post with two final thoughts. First, I believe learning is infectious. It must come by as an intrinsically motivated thing causing others to want to learn as well. So make your learning visible! Show yourself as a learner, and not always a teacher. Foster a culture and relationship of learning, not telling, because individually we don’t have all the answers. Secondly, making learning visible is about forging relationships. When we have a relationship then we must communicate. When there’s a relationship there’s a sort of tangible two-way communication line via text, speech, or video/audio. If this is done in a PLN, your audience, and influence, might reach more than you know and forge new relationships. When these communications are made visible, the more people are able to jump in and learn with you.

PS  I’m very interested in trying a Google+ hangout. Never done one before, so if you’re interested comment, tweet, or email me. Hopefully we can learn something from each other.

Entering the MOOC

Here I am. On the verge of something new again. This is my introductory post as a participant in #etmooc.

About Me

Oh ya, I teach middle-years Language Arts and Social Studies. I have a sort of experiential and project-based learning teaching approach. I believe in not yelling at students, being respectful & approachable, and forging relationships to increase engagement.

How I Got Started with #ETMOOC

Whilst on the Twitter one day, I see a hashtag on my screen: #etmooc. “Hmm.”  Then I see it again.  “Hmmmmmm”

And again…and again. ‘”etmooc” ha, that’s a silly word. I guess I should look into it.’

After sifting through the hashtags, I find etmooc.org and check out the website. The words, “Massive Open Online Course” grabbed my attention.  I read the introductory message and decided to jump in and register.

The Question: Why Am I Doing This?

I’m participating in #etmooc because I love using technology in the classroom and I love learning. But why do I love tech and why do I want to participate in #etmooc? Is it because it’s trendy? Does it make me a better teacher? Does it make my students better learners? Does it make my job easier? Does it appease the higher-ups regarding “innovation”? Or is it more engaging than traditional teaching?

I know that #etmooc won’t “make” me anything. That’s up to me. Please bear with me for my two part answer.

The Answer 1.0

I love history. I love it because it’s deep and layered. It’s dynamic, has a variety of versions and viewpoints,  has lots of lessons hidden within, and it is being created everyday.

Maybe I’m just young and naive, but I feel we (humanity) are on the cusp of something grand. All of a sudden we have the technology to easily communicate around the globe, not just with text, but with video, pictures, and more.  I believe the advent of the Internet  (including all the  technologies that it has spawned) is a pivotal point in human history because it has revolutionized communication. My over-simplistic evolutionary overview of communication looks like this: Oral Traditions > Text > The Printing Press > Internet. Just because we move onto something new doesn’t mean the past is discarded, it is built upon.  Educational methods change in the wake of the evolution of communication. I want to be on the crest of a change that sweeps through education, and I believe ICT is the wave, so I want to ride it through. I want to be a part of history. I want to be a part of the discussion of how to make education better and more accessible.  I want to participate in what I believe is something revolutionary and democratic.  Collective learning. Understanding. Learning intrinsically. Building community. Sharing.  I believe in these things and that they’ll help shape a better future.

The Answer 2.0

ICT is the way of the younger generation and the generations that follow. In school, I want my students to engage with the world around them and learn. There are authentic information experiences everywhere, being made everyday. We just need to connect.

Text Talk: We Are Not Doomed

Text-talk_infographic

There has been a lot of concern expressed these days regarding the writing skills, or lack thereof, of our current generation of youth. Why? Some simply put the blame on texting.

I saw this article on my twitter feed one day and it grabbed my attention. It’s titled, “Text talk: Are abbreviated smartphone messages proof we’re linguistically doomed?”  The article is followed up by a snazzy infographic that has some really interesting information about texting (above).

This article is not a pessimistic “kids these days…” type of grumbling despite what it’s attention-grabbing headline might suggest. The end of the article, and infographic, seem to defend texting as a sort of evolution of language.

The article (well, I guess the author) also asks some very legitimate questions, such as:

  • Will text talk become our main form of communication in the future? 
  • Will the widespread use of text talk negatively impact the way we communicate? 
  • Are we engaged in the creation of a colorful new language every time we text?

I’m not going to directly answer these questions, instead I will use this article’s subject as an opportunity to write about some ideas that have long been on my mind.

The subject communication technology is really interesting to me because I feel I’m part of the age group that spans this generational gap between the “old school” and the “millenials” in which there has been a great change in the way we communicate. In other words, I remember the days when there were still rotary phones around, no Internet, and if you wanted to hang out with a friend you had to call their home and hope they were around. My age group then saw our communication technology quickly evolve into smartphones by the time we were in our 20’s.

The purpose of this article is to explore and share my thoughts about: the evolution of text communication, why abbreviated messages are hardly a threat to the integrity of language, and finally, why I think there seems to be a lack of good writers.

Communication Evolution

People learned to send messages even before language became text. When messages became text, they always had to be physically delivered. These messages would have to flow through a long chain of land transport, over a body of water (if need be), to yet another chain of land transport, and finally into the hands of the addressee.  If I had to write a letter that might not be seen for months, and require many more months to be responded to, I would take great care in crafting a message saying exactly what I meant it to. It would be absolutely necessary for proper grammar, spelling, and articulate and descriptive language.

It’s obvious to anyone that communication has evolved.

Like never before in history, everyday people now have the ability to send messages instantaneously across the globe. These messages could be a text with a simple 🙂 emoticon, a Facebook wall post asking how someone is doing, or a detailed business email. We no longer have to painstakingly edit and write what we want to communicate…if we even have to write it at all!

Why should I text, “Hello John Smith. How are you doing today? Would you like to arrange a time to meet up?” When I can just say, “sup?” and await a quick response. 

Communication has evolved to the point that there is not a serious consequence if we make a spelling or grammar error. People get the idea behind the message anyway, and if they don’t, it only takes seconds to rectify.

Texting and Abbreviations Are No Threat

When we text, we aren’t working through a long writing process like we would if we were writing for a larger audience (like say, this blog post). When texting, we are likely going through 2 processes: draft and publish (send). This is done because it’s efficient.

Novels, instructions, essays, and reports must still be written in a manner that reduces errors and clearly conveys meaning; it needs to be effective. There’s a writing process required to produce a polished piece of writing; draft, proofread, revise, edit, publish. This process reduces the errors and makes sure the author gets their message across in a manner that is concise and accurate. Readers do not want to stumble through an essay guessing what the author is trying to say. As long as there are novels and reports, there will be a place for technical writing. So don’t freak out, abbreviations aren’t going to be the downfall of language.

If I sent a text saying “C u thr” instead of “See you there”, the recipient still gets the point! It’s like when we used to actually handwrite notes in university. You were in trouble of falling dangerously behind in a lecture if you didn’t know how to shorthand your notes. Although abbreviated, the meaning in my notes was retained, I wasn’t “linguistically doomed” there.

Abbreviated words and messages are efficient, that’s why we use them. When we text using abbreviated messages, emoticons, or “ur” instead of “you are”, we ARE NOT removing anything from the sphere of text and language, we are only adding to it. In fact, we’ve been doing this long before texting, like in my university notes example.

Another example is from when I used to be a server. When recording an order from a table, I had to keep up and make sure I got the details. Therefore, I had to make up abbreviations for things to make sure I recorded the message efficiently. Can you guess what “Stk, mdr, mash, grvy” means? If you guessed “Stakes, murder, Monster Mash, and gravity” you are very wrong.

Abbreviated messges, like texts, are efficient. When we write technically for novels and reports the goal is not to be efficient, it’s to be effective, and that takes time and care.

Why the Fuss?

I can understand the reasoning behind the perception that so many people “can’t write properly”. People in general have less reason than before for the need to pay attention to the mechanics and conventions of writing.  Nowadays, anybody can log-in online and rant on Facebook, troll comment threads, or offer opinions on online forums without punctuation or tact. This is technology in action. It’s made something hard, easier. In earlier days, if someone wanted to have their writing seen publicly, it would certainly have to make it past an editor. This editor was not likely to publish a piece of writing riddled with errors. Technology has essentially eliminated the middle-man, but that middle-man was the one who made sure writing was up to par before seen publicly.

In my opinion, the gap in writing ability is simply more publicly recognizable. There are still fantastics writers, I see them in my classrooms, but there’s this huge gap between good writers and poor writers. Has it always been this way? Can we expect everyone to be proficient writers? Can we expect everyone to be proficient basketball players? I don’t think that’s fair. At least more people now have at least some functional level of literacy because of the pervasive use of texting and social media (even though improper spelling and grammar drive me nuts).

There isn’t more poor writing, it’s that this poor writing is more publicly obvious.

Final Thoughts

 This article is heavy on speculation and opinion. These are not facts, just my interpretations of how it is. This article is not meant to stop the conversation or placate the hostility towards texting. I wanted to add my voice to the conversation, so I hope you do as well.

A lot more can be said, but I’ll just end with this. We need to teach students to discern when to write efficiently and when to write effectively. They will need both.