Another Example of Negative Networking

Newsweek has added its thoughts on the negative aspects of social networking:

What happens when the identity you reveal to friends suddenly overwhelms the façade you present to grown-ups? The results can be awkward—or worse. Photos from drunken parties, recollections of sexual escapades, profanity or threats—all these indiscretions, posted online, have gotten students suspended or expelled, or harmed job prospects. In a couple of decades, a presidential candidate may be called on to answer for a college misadventure that he or she impetuously detailed in a blog entry.

Dangers of Social-Networking Sites – Kaplan College Guide – MSNBC.com

I agree with the above example of how someone can represent him or herself poorly online. And, to the best of my ability,
I have tried to manage my own online persona so that I won’t have to deal with
any situations like this when someone Googles my name. However, there is more to the story than this.

First, why is everything about social networking in the media about the negatives? Why aren’t there more stories about the positive interactions that blogs and wikis promote as well as the great examples of online communities like ELGG?

In particular, I want to take up the point – and it only appears as a caption on a photo of a college adviser – that a site like Facebook (or MySpace or any of the other social networking sites that DOPA is attempting to ban from schools) could and should be treated “like a résumé,” or, I would add, a digital portfolio. These snapshots of your life – good, bad, and ugly – are what will represent you online as you prepare for college, jobs, and life.
To me, this just adds to the buzz about DOPA and how, instead of banning social networking from schools (including blogs, wikis, and the like), we as educators need to push harder to help students understand how the types of situations like the one quoted above could happen; in turn, we need to help them become better citizens of the read/write web. Moreover, we could use these tools as digital portfolios – they allow files to be uploaded and shared, right – that could grow and change over time. If done well, these sites could keep a running record of a student’s ideas (through the blog part) and an archive of their work (by uploading files).
At any rate, if you are interested in finding out more about DOPA, visit the Wikipedia entry on it. And, if you want to send a quick and easy email to your senator stating your opposition to DOPA, visit David Warlick’s blog and click on the “Revise DOPA” badge.

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A New Banner

Hey, like the new banner?

When I was talking with other Tech Liaisons a few weeks ago in Chico, Writely was one of the hot topics. With the potential for real-time collaboration, Writely finally delivers what many teachers using technology in their writing classrooms have been asking for over the past many years that Word couldn’t seem to deliver (at least not in a user-friendly fashion). Along with real-time editing, it can save versions for quick comparisons, invite collaborators, be published easily to a blog or website, be tracked with RSS, and be saved online. No more lost disks (or, is it jump drives now?). I will write more on Writely later, but this is just a brief overview of some of its capabilities.

At any rate, I thought that I would try to make a decent banner and create the image as the link. I stole some CSS code from Rob, who assured me that I would figure this out on my own some day. Well, I did, with a little help…

On “Wikiality”

By now, you have seen Stephen Cobert’s piece on Wikiality. If you haven’t, watch it before you read on.

In this response to the piece, Frank Ahrens of the Washington Post takes an interesting angle on how and why Wikipedia works:

But if Wikipedia is going to exist as an open-source resource and is going to resist single-peer review for its entries, then it needs to be transparent, as it has been in l’affaire Colbert. If Wikipedia’s DNA prevents it from hosting a single standard for truth — or truthiness — then its sources of information need to be evident and their tracks easily seen so readers can have as many facts as possible to determine their accuracy.

It’s on Wikipedia, So It Must Be True

So, I have two concerns with this line of thinking. First, it assumes that Wikipedia is meant to be a definitive source on anything and I think that argument was over with the Nature piece comparing Britannica to Wikipedia. (To his credit, Ahrens makes this point clear — and takes a jab at himself ” at the end of the article and suggests that “Not, of course, that anyone would or should use Wikipedia — or really, anything else besides this column — as a single and authoritative source on any topic.”)

Second, and more importantly, I think that Cobert understands the inner workings of Wikipedia, the idea that it does, indeed, try to agree on facts. It is called the Neutral Point of View. And, despite take-offs like Colbert’s and The Onion’s, I think that many people who criticize Wikipedia — and similar projects — forget that it is not about the facts, per se, but one’s ability to contribute to a group’s understanding of the facts.

On The Media did an excellent piece on this issue about a year ago, right after the London bombings and when Wikipedia was the most accurate news source. It was, indeed, the power of the people to collaborate that made it a great site… Lest we lose site of that in our culture’s furor to constantly seek a single truth. Wikipedia has its own form of peer review and, for what Wikipedia is and wants to be, it works perfectly. And that is why Colbert’s idea of wikiality is so funny… because the idea itself just isn’t true.

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IM and Code Switching

A study from the University of Toronto’s Linguistics Department has now verified what many writing teachers have been trying to argue all along — instead of ruining kids’ grammar, IM is actually a different discursive register and that kids end up code switching between IM and other forms of communication quite clearly. Here is an excerpt from an article about the study from technewsworld.com:

“What we found is that kids are using the colloquial vernacular language but they’re also using this formal language that isn’t used in speech,” says Denis, 21.

“So it’s really a combination, a fusion of both these styles. It wasn’t surprising to me because I’m a user of instant messaging and … I knew that it wasn’t as bad as people say it is.”
Tagliamonte says participants would use different levels of diction, both informal and formal, in their speech. For instance, they’d use “shall” alongside words such as “gonna.”

“It shows that this generation of kids is fluidly moving through media of communication that just didn’t exist before and they’re doing it extremely well,” she says.

Katherine Barber, editor-in-chief of Canadian Oxford Dictionaries, says she views instant messaging as a sub-dialect of English that likely won’t have an effect on spelling.

“The analogy I always like to make is, you know, we used to have things called telegrams and people had to tinker with their syntax, their normal syntax, to write,” she says.

“Telegrams as well, they created this telegraphese and that hasn’t had an effect on the language as a whole. It was used for that particular circumstance and that’s where it stayed.”

Technology News: Wireless: IM No Syntax Spoiler, Says Study

I have been asked many times if I think that technology is enabling kids (with spell check in Word) or ruining their spelling (with IM) and my answer has always been that kids will switch discourse based on the rhetorical situation. If we teach them that way. This study appears to confirm that pedagogical belief.

What do the rest of you think? Is IMing really just a chance for kids to code switch and practice different language? Or, is English doomed? I would be curious to hear what you think.

Reflections on Tech Matters 2006

For the moment, the home page of Tech Matters 2006 reads like this…

Tech Liaisons participating in Tech Matters ’06 are from all over the country. Look at the map below to see where everyone is from and what Writing Project they are with.

NWP : Technology Matters 2006 : Welcome!

Sadly enough, I am blogging right now from the airport as everyone who was gathered in Chico this week now scatters back to their original points on this map. We have had a spectacular week, however, so I know that the temporary feelings of leaving will soon be replaced by the excitement of nearing home and sharing new ideas with TCs back at our site. Thanks, Tonya, for creating this map for us.

For the moment, I offer some brief reflections after this one tech tip that I learned from Paul and Karen: If you are a blogger, get Flock. I have just downloaded and installed this new web browser which, according to Paul, is being developed by some former Firefox guys and is about as blogger-friendly as you can imagine.

As for my reflections on the week, I am constantly reminded how technology both flattens the world, in Friedman’s terms, as well as making the peaks and valleys of the digital divide even higher. We all came to TM06 with varying degrees of tech expertise in a variety of areas — blogging, wikiing, social bookmarking, Flickring, digital storytelling, podcasting, etc. — and I think that we all left smarter than when we arrived. For some, the tools shared at TM06 opened up a whole new world of the read/write web. For others, these tools were old hat, but launched new learning and collaboration that wouldn’t have been possible before hand.

So, as I think about the variety of workshops that we will be offering at RCWP between now and the end of the summer, I am reminded of the fact that we have to plan accordingly. Generally, the pattern for TM06 was: 1) intro to the new literacy tool, 2) a case study of the tool, and 3) playtime. I think that I will carry that model back into my own workshops that focus on technology. The TM06 experience reminds me that all of us, from the geekiest to the most “tech-challenged” come with some ideas about how and why to use technology in our classrooms and, as a workshop facilitator, I need to be cognizant of that fact.

Well, enough for now. There are planes to catch and bills to pay, as Harry Chapin might say, and I want to finish up a few things here with the Sacramento Airport’s free wifi. Thanks SAC!

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Welcome to Digital Writing, Digital Teaching

This site is at least my third attempt to integrate blogging into my day-to-day professional life. This time, I am making a pledge to blog on a regular basis and begin conversing with my many NWP colleagues who are blogging, too. I am at the Tech Matters Institute this week, so there is no better time to begin doing so.

Tonight, I spent all my time setting up Word Press and the CSS just how I wanted it, so tomorrow I will work on actually posting content. More then…