Try the DABEL Model When Offering PD on Social Media

Social Media can be a fun topic to teach educators and colleagues about.  It  is often an overwhelming concept for new users of social media tools to grasp. I think I described this on #edchat the other day as “Social Media is like breathing water to new people.” I’d like to revise that comment to that it probably feels more like a being a fish trying to swim without fins!

I recently gave a lecture/workshop to 32 Ph.D candidates at Lesley University. They were taking a special topics course in new media in scholarship, and I was asked to help them think about using tools like Twitter,  Mendeley,  and social bookmarking sites to assist with their scholarly networking. While at least 3/4 of the class were active Facebookers, people were a bit miffed, and some a tad petrified, about using Twitter.  To get us going, I used my DABEL model which stands for: Deepen Apply Brainstorm Engage and Learn.  In the context of social media and research, I presented the following goals for the afternoon:

  • Deepen our knowledge and understanding of social media
  • Apply social media ideas and concepts to the practice of research and inquiry
  • Brainstorm opportunities for using social media and other digital media tools to strengthen research goals and projects
  • Engage in inquisitive “play” with featured tools (Twitter, Wallwisher, MindMeister, Wordle)
  • Learn new pathways for collaboration and analysis

I find a lot of adult learners are so worried about “screwing up” the computer or looking dumb they are unable to hear about the purpose and potential of technology. Intrinsically, many adults assume they must master a tool before they can use it, as this is how many of us were taught in school (back in ye old dark ages). Setting the tone with DABEL is a great way to  give permission for inquiry, exploration, and play. This also provides a balance on applying known theory and practice, to new media and tools.

After giving the class a couple of videos that presented some thought-provoking stats and commentary, the conversation immediately started rocking. One of the faculty in the room said it felt like driving down the autobahn in a convertible. (I believe this was a compliment.)

I scaffolded our exploration with “easy” tools that I had set up for them in their Blackboard course site. One was a link to wallwiser, where they could post their research questions and topics. This was easy, fun and slightly addictive to a few students. By the time we arrived at Twitter the skepticism was there, but there was openness to consider and try it since they had successfully dabbled in a few previous tools and we engaged in dialogue and brainstorming on how to use them professionally and for school.

Below is the full presentation. I haven’t seen DABEL used before, so  I am claiming it as my own little acronym. Contact me if you’ve seen it. And if you want to use it, great; let me know how it worked and it’s extra nice if you cite this post as your source!

Link to Google Presentation with embedded videos.

Social Scholarship Slide Photo
Image of slide show

The Power of Visualizing Information: Reflections on ed reform

This post talks about how wordle can be used to rethinking and visualize the main ideas of reading. Examples from “A Nation at Risk” and “A Blueprint for Ed Reform” are used.

The amount of blogging time I have is pretty much 0-2% these days.  After work, I devote my idle hours to doctoral studies and family (and sadly in that order some days).

One thing about graduate work is the volume of print reading has not changed since I was in my Master’s program in 98-99. Darn. Synthesizing lots and lots of text quickly is a challenge for anyone.  As a teacher educator,  I am always demonstrating the use of certain tools to help organize and visualize text and data for k12 students.  So wouldn’t it be a novel idea to actually use some myself? I imagine anyone reading this might be saying –well golly yes– you just realized that?

I’ve been using Wordle a bit more to validate (or invalidate) perceptions of readings, especially articles that I have read before and already have formed strong value statements about. In my summer Historical Perspectives on Education course, we were assigned the classic A Nation At Risk report from 1983. I was feeling a bit more sour than usual about ed reform.  Chatter in the online discussion of my course turned to a bit of griping that not much has changed in our reform rhetoric since 1983. After completing a Worlde for #edchat this morning, I began to wonder if perhaps Wordle could help me see and perceive our impressions of a Nation at Risk differently, especially in comparison to a current policy document? If our class believed nothing had changed, we should see more similarities than differences between the two. In my mini-experiment I selected the recommendations section from  A Nation At Risk, and compared it to the recommendations of the recent  Blue Print for Reform for the reauthorization of the ESEA. Here is what happened:

Wordle Recommendations Section from a Nation At Risk (1983)
Wordle: Recommendation section from a Nation at Risk

Worlde Recommendations from a Blue Print for Reform (2009)
Wordle: A Blue Print for Reform --Priorities Summary of ESEA Reauthorization

I haven’t had chance to do a comprehensive analysis of each Worlde. Here are just some quick reactions:

  • That students were the most commonly used word in both reports. While we may not agree with the rhetoric in one or both of the documents, students are clearly at  the center.
  • Support is a huge theme in our current ed reform rhetoric and it was not even on the map in At Risk.
  • A Nation At Risk is  focused on k-12, with emphasis on teachers and students and preparing teachers.
  • Blueprint expands our thinking and focus; administrators and districts are mentioned frequently. Mentions of parents and community also appear.
  • Teachers are integral to both reports. But, the focus on teacher preparation through universities in the At-Risk report is not the core focus of the Blue Print recommendations.
  • Hmmm where did learning go in the Blue Print?
  • In the Blue Print, schooling is focused on preparing us for college, not just successful graduation from high school.
  • At Risk focused on the “Basics” that students need to master.  Standards appear to be our new basics.
  • Content based knowledge mentioned throughout the at risk. New reform rhetoric focused more on accountability and performance.
  • Heavy focus on nationalism in At-risk and national status.

I am glad I did this little exercise. We are inundated with so much information online, I know I am scanning my content more and forming assumptions and opinions quickly. While I didn’t walk away thinking “Wow, we’ve really changed! Reform now is soooo much better,”  it helped me clarify my thinking and even rethink how I approach discussing this with my classmates.  Even though I had read At Risk many times,  there is something intangibly powerful about visualizing the main themes of the text in a new way.  And, because I am not getting any more free time to read,  I did as I tell my teachers to do with their students: I stepped back, utilized a tool designed to assist and enhance  my understanding.

For any readers out there; do you ever Wordle, or use another tool, to help you with our own personal work and learning? This little exercise got me wondering about how often as educators we use the same tools we give our students for our own personal learning and reflection?

Fab Find: PaperRater

I tweeted awhile ago about PaperRater, and after testing it, I am selecting the site as today’s Fab Find.  PaperRater is a free grammar checker and automated proofreading service geared toward students and anyone who is writing professional copy. The site also provides plagiarism detection.

If you are a WordPress user then the grammar and proofreading check will feel a little familiar. For an automated system, PaperRater provides some decent analysis of your work with some reasonable suggestions.

One of the nicest features is the originality/plagiarism detection which proactively alerts the author to any text or content that is either not cited, or sounds like it is copied.  Most anti-plagiarism services are offered to teachers in assisting them in finding copied work after submission by the student. Since most authors are now consulting online sources as they create their own work, I like that PaperRater is offering a helpful service to writers to ensure they are not unintentionally copying work or not citing original content. I imagine that PaperRater could be used constructively as part of a writing assignment for students to check how well they are doing with citations.

Faculty and teachers can still use the PaperRater’s antiplagarism service by cutting and pasting a student document into the web page and then receiving a report on suspected missed citations and blatant copying.

Try PaperRater now: http://www.paperrater.com

In Twitter Search I Trust (Or Why I Am Googling Less)

When Twitter first launched I did what any entrepreneurial educational technologist did and registered for an account.  It was the infancy of Twitter, when tweets read more like a public collection of Facebook updates. The media coverage was full of speculation, curiosity, and of course humor (see the famous “Twouble with Twitters” video). I only had a couple of colleagues trying it out, so I really didn’t have any lively banter or collaboration going on.  And it seemed most people interested in following me were spammers.

Somehow this didn’t dissuade me from checking regularly on Twitter’s evolution and progress.  I searched for keywords and lurked with interest on a few regular hashtag conversations, especially  #edtech, #eLearn and the more recent  #edchat .  Folks whom I’ve never met, but with similar professional interests, were sharing resources, tips,  ideas and articles that provided just-in-time relevancy to my field.  And then somehow, without really noticing, my web searching habits began to shift. I was soon doing searches on topics  first via Twitter, and  then Google, but only if needed.  This completely surprised me because back in March of 2009 I read  “Twitter Destined to Replace Google Search” on twitip and thought “whatever!”

So what changed? Well for one, my Twitter searching seems to follow a pattern. Generally, I am trying to do one of the following things;  answer a question, solve a problem quickly, or get recommendations for resources.  Doing Google searches is somewhat effective –but not exacting. As the twitip article describes, Twitter is positioned to give a better search experience because people are directly powering the content, which provides context to the search.  A search engine can not find context, or even relevance within the content.

Twitter provides me two ways to carry out my searches; I can ask my question to my twitter community, while also performing a key word search through Twitter, or using  a Twitter search engine like Topsy. Generally, I get good leads from each approach, and often these leads will help me refine a more effective and efficient  search of data via Google.  The icing on the cake is that my Twitter community is only a touch screen away via a mobile device. There is no shortage of mobile apps for smartphones or the iTouch.  I can truly have one information hub no matter what device I am connecting with, bringing continuity to the search process.

I am not alone in appreciating the differences and unique benefits of a Twitter search.  I found a piece from Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research describing  Twitter search “your own personal groundswell.”  Which brings me to the social aspect of the search process and the immediate ability to receive validation on a topic or a new direction and theory. I compare the social search aspect of Twitter like attending a social event at a conference or seminar. I am able to engage as much or as little in the conversation as I want, and I am bound to pick  a good tip or resource just from listening in. Obviously the folks at Google seem to think there is something unique about this since they have started including Twitter feeds as a part of the Google searching experience.

I haven’t thrown Google out the window but I continued to be surprised and delighted at the number of professional communities on Twitter.  In my case, my work in ed tech spans k12, higher education and eLearning communities. I no longer need to wait 8-12 months to read about a new innovative teaching method in a  journal because we are able to report and share our experiences immediately.  In the case of education, I argue this allows us to innovate more rapidly since we are able to accelerate the publication process and avoid long peer-review processes, that while important, can take away from the timeliness that is essential.  I am pretty confident other professional fields are experiencing the same thing. But I am digressing and should pick up on this riff for a future posting.

So friends, fret not if you are Google fan, or even  if you are Google.  There is a something for everyone and Browsy brings us the ability to Twoogle (but of course!). So now can have the best of your aggregated data and social searching worlds in one web interface.  Thank goodness.

Updated– Twitter v. Google Search: A Superbowl Postscript

Watching Digital Nation Feb 2nd –will you?

Frontline officially premieres its Digital Nation documentary Tuesday, February 2nd at 9pm. The full video is already posted online. I’ve asked my online Emerging Technology students to tune in and participate in the live twitter feed found at #dig_nat . They will also tweet to our course hashtag #ecomp7010.  We haven’t even got a full week of class under our belts and we are going full throttle into the world of Twitter while we watch a documentary that examines and questions this very behavior of instant connectivity and communication. Poetic? Maybe.

99% of my students are current teachers with the average time in the classroom around 10 years. Almost all of them are new to Twitter as of this week. So either they are going to get a kick out of this or tear their hair out.  Or both.  I am curious to see how all of it transpires.  I am curious to see how I facilitate via this medium or if I really need to. When you teach a class called Emerging Technologies one thing is certain that no matter how much you prepare and plan, you are flying by the seat of your pants for most of the time. There is always something new to try, and new products or announcements pop-up  (iPad anyone?) that need to be addressed.

More on Wednesday about our Twitter experience and also thoughts about the series.