Sites and Apps Students Are Using

As a teacher, one of my goals for this year is to know my students better. I’m not a big fan of get to know you sorts of games, but I hoped that an interesting question might create some space for learning more about my students.

To that end, I asked students in my high school US History class to choose 3 or 4 web sites or apps they use frequently and to consider what sort of information a historian 50 years from now might conclude about them based on those sites or apps.

The information students shared and their reflections helped give me a better sense of them as people, in addition to students. I’m also interested in the way that sites that seemed to be very popular a year or two ago (most prominently Facebook) seem to be waning.

A Day in the Life: Continuing the Conversation(s)

Another busy day at the UNC Charlotte NWP Summer Institute. One thread that I noticed throughout the day was the importance of creating space for and engaging in (professional) conversations.

We began the day with a conversation about assessment. Lacy led us to consider the different words we associate with assessment and the kinds of conversations that would be necessary to undertake collaborative assessment.

In Steve and Lil’s demo, we considered different ways of entering professional conversations. Steve gave us a demonstration of Twitter and some time to explore various Twitter chats. (Sidebar: All the writing yesterday, plus working through lunch and the drive down from Durham had left me a little fried, so it was fun to have time to play around with something with which I’m familiar today. (Hold the jokes about my Twitter addiction ;)) Steve also gave us a quick introduction to following blogs using RSS. He created a Google Doc with resources related to accessing professional conversations using social media.

Lil then distributed a variety of professional journals. We each took a journal and used it to answer the following questions:

  • What conversations are happening in this journal?
  • How do the topics in this issue of the journal intersect with my inquiry?
  • Who are the key scholars, researchers, theorists who are taken up in this journal?
  • What ideas can I take away from this journal?

We also explored journal access through the UNC Charlotte library and databases like JSTOR and Google Scholar. The juxtapositions of social media research and journals brought up some interesting issues related to gatekeeping and access in our debriefing of the demo. (Sidebar: I think this presentation from the UNC School of Information Studies called Scholars’ Blogs or Scholarly Blogs? is interesting to flip through. I’d also like to plug Hack(ing) School(ing) as an interesting way to continue professional conversations. It’s also a great chance for publication.)

In the afternoon, Rashid Williams, a teacher and former SI participant, visited the Institute for a demo lesson that led us to consider the notion of the American Dream and the Affordable Care Act. We began by discussing the meaning of the term the “American Dream” and to what extent we believed the government should be responsible for preserving the American Dream.

Then we considered a specific law, the Affordable Care Act, and whether this particular law furthered the American Dream or not. We watched a video produced by the Obama administration about the Act then read broke into groups to read sections of this article from USA Today with different perspectives on the Act. Each of the groups then reassembled so that one person representing each perspective was in the group. We took turns writing about our perspectives and then after a set amount of time passed our paper along to the next person in the group. By the end of the activity, perspectives of all the group members were represented on each person’s paper. (Sidebar: This was a great activity, and I’m looking forward to trying it out in my history classes.) This activity provided a way to address a potentially highly emotionally charged issue in a productive way and allowed participants to consider the issue from various points of view.

Reflecting at the end of the day

Where I’ve Gone

Perhaps not directly related to teaching and learning, but certainly about social media use. A letter to my Facebook friends…

Hi friends,

I’ve been wrestling with Facebook for awhile. With its privacy policies/settings, with ads suggesting we should lose weight or find a hot mate, with suggestions to connect with people we’d rather not.

I love hearing what’s going on in your lives, but for me the net effect of Facebook is that this news more often turns into a tool for comparison in ways that aren’t healthy or productive. I want to rejoice with you in happy news and share with you in sorrow, but with Facebook, I find that all too often you become scrolling thumbnail images and demographic details to which I find myself wishing I measured up. A point brought home to me by this video…

I know that we all have lives more complicated and messy than our status updates and photos, but it’s hard to remember that at times.

I’ve resisted stepping away from Facebook because it feels like stepping away from community, stepping out of the loop. To be blunt, I worry that stepping away from Facebook means being forgotten. So I hope that you’ll continue to keep in touch- via letter, email, or phone. Let me know what’s going on in your life or if you’re out and about somewhere fun in the Triangle.

This is an experiment. I may come crawling or skipping back. But for now, thanks for reading.


EDIT: Thanks to Steve J. Moore who reminded me of this video

Moderation, Guilt, and Social Media

It’s been clear to me for several months that I haven’t been putting in the work reading and writing longer pieces which give me a deeper satisfaction than the momentary pleasure of an @ reply. In thinking about how I might make more space for that kind of reading and writing, I realized I was spending more time than I was comfortable with scrolling through tweets and reading Facebook status updates. Not bad practices, but best consumed in moderation.

The problem is I’m bad at moderation. I’m an “eat the marshmallow” kind of person. (See Joachim de Posada’s TED talk below) But I’m also a person powerfully influenced by inertia. If the marshmallow’s in the other room, I’m not likely to get up to go get it.

These aren’t traits I particularly love about myself, but I have found I can use them to my advantage, primarily by acting in bursts of self-control that then make action or abstention (whichever I’m aiming for) more attractive and easier options down the road.

So, I decided to limit the number of people I followed on Twitter and to reduce my friends on Facebook. I recognize that’s a controversial action, especially given its potential for hurting others’ feelings, but it seemed a good way to achieve the goal I was aiming for while reducing the amount of self control I would have to consistently exert.

I even thought about deactivating my Facebook account altogether, but when I did this popped up.

I find the ways Facebook taps into human emotions to encourage users to stay members and to friend as many people as they can fascinating and maddening. Facebook benefits from having people participate in the site, and they’ve tapped into human emotions- guilt, loneliness, desire to be part of a group- to try to retain members.

Un-friending people on Facebook was hard, since I’d already culled through my friend list earlier in the year going from 800 to around 350. I consistently found myself asking, but what if I need this person in the future? I realized this was probably a bad standard because a) I was trying to address interactions in the present and b) It reduced my friends to what they could do for me.

I started to ask instead, Do my interactions with this person make me think? Do those interactions regularly bring me joy, rather than just distraction or amusement? Those questions helped me cut the list to under 200.

I emailed a friend about my social media pruning. Her response has me wondering if guilt around connecting or not in social media was more prevalent in women. Ideally, I’d be the kind of person who could resist distraction on her own accord, but I’m not and so I’m trying not to feel guilty about creating the external structures to get the work done that I want/need to.
Do you feel guilty about the ways in which you limit your social circle online?

Do you think guilt over limiting one’s circle/interactions on social media is more prevalent in women or felt more strongly by them? (I recognize the potential for gross over-generalizations in this question, but I still think it’s worth asking.)

What strategies help you interact online without doing so at the detriment of other areas of your work and life?