Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Media and Technology Critique--Xiaoyu Ma

The majority of today’s adolescents pay close attention to Facebook, the most popular social networking website.  Today’s youth check the updates every few minutes and spend much of their day scanning Facebook’s news feed page. This new technology modality has strongly influenced many adolescents’ lives including their attitudes and habits towards learning. Since it has become part of adolescents’ daily lives, teachers may consider how to take advantage of Facebook to support their teaching and learning.
There are complex considerations, however. Many teenagers have developed an addiction to Facebook and the result of this habit is that they cannot concentrate on their school work. Research shows that some teenagers check their Facebook every two minutes during their school time. The research on high school students shows that students’ learning efficiency and quality have been seriously affected as the continuous updated information and announcement on Facebook distract them from study. In addition, the information on Facebook is so immense that students don’t have ample energy and time to deal deeply with it. Thus, these young users gradually develop a reading habit of skimming. Larry Rosen, a researcher from California has observed 300 adolescents and the result shows that those who use Facebook frequently have poor memory on reading tasks. Facing this problem, teachers may need to set rules for restricting students watching Facebook during the class. However, it is impossible to totally stop students using Facebook, so teachers can take advantage of it. For example, teachers can upload learning materials to Facebook, share some interesting and useful websites or link to projects related to the subject. It will let students feel that teachers are not always trying to restrict them or demand things from them. Teachers may also share information and pictures about their life with their students. Therefore, students can use Facebook to do the work related to academic study.
Furthermore, many adolescents are currently using Facebook as a tool for knowing others instead of for communication. There is a phenomenon that most adolescents will want to “friend” each other on Facebook so that they can access each other’s photos, wall, status updates and more. Many times spend lots of their time visiting other’s pages and suppose that they have known each other very well. They pay attention to certain people’s personal update, and it makes them feel like they have communicated with that person. Gradually these observers are not even willing to learn things through verbal communication. Moreover, more and more adolescents prefer to absorb information, interact with others, and log on to Facebook – a virtual world. So for helping students develop healthy and strong communication ability, teachers can create a group for those students who have difficulty spending time away from Facebook, and have them work with a group to do an assignment online.  In this way, students can learn more interactive communication, build meaningful relationship with classmates, become more active and engaging in discussion, and more thoroughly explore academic learning.
Of course, teachers may encounter many difficulties during application, such as how to control the duration of discussion, and how to keep the students from becoming distracted. However, I believe that Facebook, if used effectively, can be a creative and motivating teaching tool.  Since it is hard to change adolescents’ habituation and stop their enthusiastic pursuit for Facebook, then let us teachers take advantage of it and lead adolescents in the right direction.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Bronx School Health/Wellness Forum 5/3

In case anyone is interested in attending, I've attached the above flyer. If anyone would like to volunteer to help at check-in or organize the refreshments, please email me at mitch@foodfight.org


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Media & Technology Critique

The question of whether or not the Internet negatively affects student growth is legitimate given the widespread use of the World Wide Web in classrooms. While it is important to consider the negative implications of schools being wired to the Web, it is seems more appropriate to consider the benefits given the reality that the Internet is here to stay. One of the many benefits of the Internet is the informative websites that students can use. However, teachers need to step in and help facilitate the use of these websites so that students will be able to use the Internet more efficiently and reap the academic benefits it offers. WebQuests are virtual assignments in which students are guided through a learning task by a website created by the teacher. A WebQuest is an inquiry-based activity that not only encourages cooperative learning but also allows students to analyze information rather than spend their time looking for it.
One of the most valuable assets of WebQuests is that they encourage higher order thinking. WebQuests can be viewed as a challenging game that requires students to use the Internet as a research tool in order to answer questions, pose hypotheses and form opinions. There is no such thing as copying and pasting answers in WebQuests. Teachers are instrumental in designing WebQuests that ask open-ended questions and raise issues and problems that students can explore. WebQuests allow students to go beyond fact finding towards an analysis of complex issues or events. For example, a WebQuest using the Globalization101 website asks students to consider issues such as human rights, the environment and trade.
Students must work together and use each other as resources to meet the objectives of a WebQuest. The value here is that the Internet is often used individually but WebQuests provide the opportunity to make it a collective experience. In addition, a quest has greater potential to be a meaningful activity than a teacher lecturing and students copying notes from the board. WebQuests especially motivate students who view the Web as a valued part of their culture. WebQuests teach students effective strategies for using the information found on the Internet. At the same time, students also need to be reminded to not take everything they read as fact. Teachers need to be a mediator between the Internet and students by helping students develop Internet literacy. Internet literacy consists of research skills, ability to shift through the plethora of information, as well as finding reliable sources. With the advent of blogs, it may be harder for students to distinguish between fact and opinion. Teachers need to keep these things in mind as they find the material on the Web to complement their WebQuests.
WebQuests support teaching and learning in Social Studies in a plethora of ways. While history textbooks only offer one perspective on a topic, a WebQuest with various links can offer students multiple perspectives. This is particularly advantageous given the fact that students of history are rarely exposed to a variety of perspectives that is essential to a more authentic study of history. Moreover, a WebQuest is an easy way to take students through a time machine. For example, students can journey back in time to the 1700s during the Colonial Days in America. In the process, they get to experience what it was like to be the first settlers of the original 13 colonies.
The possibilities are endless for WebQuests and teachers can customize them to fit the needs of their classes. Students have the opportunity to travel back in time with their classmates in order to come to a collective conclusion. WebQuests are a great alternative to traditional lessons involving history textbooks and not much imagination.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Social Media Critique

Xiuyan Wu
Prof. Doucet
                                                  Social Media Critique
    Over the past 15 years, social media became one of the most important communication platforms for people and in particular adolescents. Since adolescents spend a lot of time on the internet, they probably receive some positive and negative influences by using the social networks, such as Twitter and MySpace. Therefore, parents, teachers and communities need to be more aware of those social networks.
     Twitter is one of the most common and popular social networks that adolescents use in their daily lives. People from different parts of the world can share information through Twitter. Basically, adolescents can write anything on Twitter and upload it to the internet. Meanwhile, they can read other people’s posts and write comments on them. Once teachers incorporate Twitter as one of their teaching tools, students will learn more sufficiently in the daily bases.   
Twitter can be used as an online discussion tool for teachers and students. Basically, the teacher can open a discussion group on Twitter. Since mathematics requires students to have more abstract thinking and understanding, a math discussion group is useful for students when they study at home .If students have any question in doing their homework assignments after school, they can ask for help from the class discussion group. The teacher and the other students will answer the questions immediately. Students can learn from each other while they try to ask and response in the discussion group.  Students who ask questions can gain extract help from their classmates and teachers. Students who response to the questions can practice their problem solving skills.
Teachers can use Twitter to share some academic articles to students, especially those articles related to the mathematics content area. For most of times, students feel not motivated enough to study hard in mathematics because they probably think math is only used in the classroom setting. Therefore, teachers need to let students realize mathematics is useful and it happens around the world. As a result, teachers can post some current articles’ links or website on Twitter. Students can read those academic articles at anytime they want to. Moreover, if an article has a tremendous impact to students’ learning development, teacher can let students have a group discussion on Twitter in order to make sure every student reads the article.   
In addition, Twitter can be used as an assessment tool for teachers. Most of times, although students know how to solve a problem, they still have difficulties in illustrating the math concept behind that problem. Since students only can type 140 characters at a time on Twitter, teachers can ask students how they interpret a new math concept. For instance, if students learn a new math concept in class, they need to use their own words to interpret the new concept in a concise way. Therefore, students need to use limited words to illustrate their ideas and thoughts completely.
   No matter which media we are emphasizing, it has positive and negative approaches to adolescents’ development. Therefore, teachers and parents need to have a close conversation with adolescents, and to tell them to use various social media properly. As an educator, the most important and challenging instructional strategy is to appropriately incorporate social media in teaching in order to motivate adolescents to learn better in school.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Media and Technology Critique

Teaching is no mere task of presenting written works, helping students understand their value and purpose or creating exams which test students’ ability to memorize new vocabulary.  Teaching is the ongoing process of expanding an individuals mind through inspirational means of presentation.  As teachers, we must lead and introduce new ideas and methods of learning and practicing.  During our current time of technological progress, we must learn to adapt to our technological environment in order to successfully educate the media centered generation.
      Mass media has produced a generation of beings who are constantly fed new ideas and concepts without conscious realization.  According to the Digital Media Literacy quiz created by PBS teachers, in 2009, students between the ages of 8 and 18 spent an average of 10 hours and 45 minutes a day on all forms of media.  Teachers clearly have become limited to what they can control in their students choice of “academic” resources.  Instead of focusing on rejecting the use of media and experiencing failure with teaching, educators can strategically incorporate the most powerful tools for feeding students with information into their repertoire. 
     Of the many forms of media (television, video games, films…) social networking sites appear to be most useful in aiding the transition of academic learning through means of media.  Facebook, for example was initially intended and created for and by elite university students.  It served as a platform to share, comment, and expose information among peers.  Facebook has now become one of the world’s leading social networking websites for its innovative style of networking.  It gives individuals the power to express themselves the way they want to be seen, and attracts curiosity with each new update. 
     Facebook can therefore be a great tool for keeping students interested, engaged and on task.  It is much easier to connect to your students with something they already use.  Many teachers try to use platforms such as tumblr or epsilon to create a media centered component to their class.  The problem with this, however, is that students end up creating an account for a site they will probably never use again.   Logging-in to the site would feel like a requirement and tedious task.  Instead of attempting to use more professional platforms, teachers can use the site on which students are most often.  By doing so, students will be more likely to visit the class/group page created for the class or course since they are already logged on and it is being filtered through their “newsfeed”. 
     Teachers can easily post the days homework, this way students cannot create excuses such as “I didn’t hear it”.  Teachers can continue class discussions online, while introducing students to additional sources to help their studies such as videos and interactive websites.  Students can become familiar with their class peers [allowing students to build stronger friendships].  Finally, students and teachers can discuss making conscious decisions about the information they make public, or what they make available to some circles but not others
     Though heavily centered for social networking, a site like Facebook can become an educational tool.  Opposition to using such tools for an educational purpose is natural, however adapting to changing environments is logical.  Teachers need not reject the new trends of their students but embrace them.  Creating a personal connection or reference to class or lesson is the secret of learning.  Social networking websites have the ability to create such connection on a local and global scale.

Friday, April 6, 2012


            I believe Facebook can be a wonderful source to enrich a classroom’s learning environment. Because Facebook is still a trend, students will enjoy using it as an educational tool because it still feels relevant and current to their lives. There are many ways teachers can use the platform that Facebook has easily created for users, as long as teachers take the time to become familiar with creating a page. For teachers who incorporate units into their classroom, they can build a group page, where students can actively post instantly and have the freedom to post as much as they want about the topic. Let’s say a classroom is studying a unit on Egyptians. The teacher can give an assignment to the class to each write a three-sentence fact onto the page, and for the students to comment or leave questions under a post. This could create discussion, or would let the teacher know what the students were interested in, to help prepare for the next class with answers and more lessons. Other fun ways to post would be to upload videos, pictures, music, or links to other informative websites about the unit.

            After the unit, teachers and students can debrief about the unit and discuss how Facebook was used, and the pros and cons of using it in a classroom setting, and also the use of it outside of school. Teachers can facilitate the discussion and ask questions that might provoke responses. Questions like, “Have you ever heard people use the phrase, ‘Once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever?’” “What do you think that means?” “Do you think people think before they type?” “Is instant information a good thing?” “Finding media (pictures, videos, etc.) is pretty easy to find and post these days. What can be some problems that arises from this?” Many times people post on the internet without really thinking about where it came from, or how their posting can be detrimental to others. Hopefully, these discussions will allow time for students to reflect on themselves as media and technological users, and become more aware of how they interact with the media and technology in the
As students are developing into young adults, many are still searching for
their identity, and want to attain more attention on themselves because they want to feel significant. Most often, they will post things on the internet about themselves, like written information or photos, and are unaware as to how hurtful it can be to him/her later on in their lives. Using media in the classroom will allow time for teachers to further discuss these issues, and help relate to their developmental needs. You might say things like, “It’s fun to post pictures of ourselves online, but what are some ways we can be safe with how we go about posting ourselves online and letting the world see?”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Media Critique

With the high development of the modern society, educational teaching approaches are no longer instructor-as-authority-and-expert pattern. Technology-supported instruction has been widely introduced and accepted in today’s classrooms. Especially in the field of second and foreign language education, digital media, such as Internet, play an important role in the learning process. As both a life-long language learner and a student major in foreign language education, I strongly advocate for the Internet as a more motivational and effective way to study foreign language under the guidance of a teacher.
First, by adding sight and sound to the boring knowledge and facts, Internet has led a great revolution in the way of learning. Compared with the traditional way, surfing the Internet holds its own advantages. For instance, with the help of this new digital tool, teachers are not merely transmitters and students are not only recipients. Instead, teachers can let students choose their favorite movies and then assign them some films that related to the lesson they learned recently. Therefore, students will not only have a better idea how to use the language in a communicative setting but also will broaden their horizons. Through this kind of high-interest instructional strategy, students will devote themselves into this new engaging learning process.
Moreover, unlike printed books, an Internet -based learning environment will satisfy adolescent’s diverse learning levels and needs. Teachers can guide different level learners to use different online sources to improve their language study. For example, teachers can choose some target language songs for novices to arouse their study interests. And for intermediate level students, teachers can recommend to them some good foreign websites and let them read updated articles and listen news report with subtitles. What is more, students can even download movies that have bilingual subtitle so that students will have a better understanding of culture and be able to know how to use slang and master the standard foreign language in a pleasant atmosphere. As for the advanced learners, educators can suggest they search more sophisticated topics, such as presidential debates and dramas in order to let learners have a deep look at the politics of the foreign countries and analyze their literacy.
However, despite the internet's advantages for gaining information and knowledge, there are also flaws. Sometimes, students passively accept all sound bites, masses of advertisement, and fragments of information etc when surfing the Internet. For instance, instead of in-depth knowledge, what students get is only popular culture which can be easily appreciated by the majority. The completeness and depth of information have to submit to the entertaining and intricate plot. That’s why it is also teachers’ responsibility to organize group discussions in class and let students write short response paper for the purpose of thinking carefully, and generating their own ideas, approaching the real essence of learning---critical thinking and creation.
To sum up, powerful technology such as Internet can enhance largely students’ learning ability and help them effectively gain knowledge under the appropriate teachers’ guidance. Nevertheless, reading textbooks cannot be completely replaced by Internet and still occupies its dominant position as a way of learning. In the final analysis, the best approach of learning is to be informed by Internet and be enlightened by books.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Facebook in Teaching & Learning: Meeting the Net Generation on Their Level

Without a doubt, we live in the age of Facebook. Its millions of users attract millions more seemingly every day as easier access to technology and internet proliferate modern day life. The social firestorm that it is has not come without controversy. Private lives become more and more public and the question of personal privacy and property becomes increasingly muddled. Many peers my age have thought critically about de-activating their Facebook accounts in attempt to reclaim themselves from the public sphere. Already having graduated high school and having laid the foundations for our adult identities when Facebook first emerged, we can easily recall the simpler days before Facebook’s arrivals and sometimes even long for them. Those just a few years younger than us who are definitively considered to be kids of the Net Generation, however, have never known a world without social networking defining their adolescence. Herein lies the challenge for adults, parents, and teachers raising up this generation to follow and forge new footsteps in the world.

Even a younger adult like me must re-adjust her expectations about how these youth perceive the world. As an aspiring teacher, this burden is in some ways even greater as I must learn to try to make an old machine—the U.S. education system—remain contemporary and relevant to its users—students. Though not currently in a classroom, I do work with high-schoolers in a weekend mentoring program. At 15 and 16, they do not know life without Facebook since they were only 7 or 8 when Facebook first arrived. The irony is that this particular group of students was not even in the U.S. when Facebook hit since they are all recent immigrants. One can imagine how wide the socio-cultural, technological gap was when they first arrived in the U.S., and then wonder in amazement how quickly and easily they bridged it to become prolific users of the internet. In spite of their beginning proficiency in English, they chat, check-in with each other, share likes and dislikes, and articulate their hopes, dreams, and frustrations, illustrating an impressive fluency in this medium of communication. It is a tool that has allowed them to bridge the worlds of identity they balance between their new lives in the U.S. and their previous lives in their home countries. They wear their hearts on their Walls, and in order to strengthen our mentor-mentee relationships with them, as group leaders, we utilize Facebook to meet them on their level.

We share interesting news articles and resources about current events with our mentees, and also comment and joke with them. There are many photo albums full of funny pictures with equally entertaining captions. Managing this kind of online relationship with them is not a difficult task for most of the mentors since we are Facebook users ourselves, and our relationship with them is not such a formal one that overtones of being viewed as authority figures loom. But naturally, this kind of relationship may prove to be more difficult for classroom teachers who often struggle to maintain respectful student-teacher relationships in-person in their classrooms. Thus, the pros and cons for teachers of using Facebook in the same manner that we do needs additional consideration. While I am actually quite apprehensive of having this kind of online relationship with my future students and think it is precarious for a teacher to maintain, I have heard of teachers who manage it with great success.

Therefore, it should not be stricken from teachers' toolboxes as a way of facilitating teaching and learning, and even more so of fostering relationships, but it is a personal choice for each teacher depending on her or his level of comfort with the technology. I think what is possible and within reach of all teachers is finding a way to allow Facebook and other social networking tools to become a medium for student-centered, self-directed learning. However, students capable and mature enough to manage self-directed learning do not come out of thin air, so internet literacy and manners must be a part of classroom dialogue and teaching. This literacy is not just the responsibility of teachers to impart, but parents as well. Those less familiar with Facebook shy away from trying to understand it as a lens through which their youth view the world, but in doing so, we deprive them of skills needed to think critically and discern appropriate uses of this sometimes unwieldy medium. With our high-schoolers, mentors rarely hesitate to "call out" mentees when they use derogatory or hurtful language with their group peers on Facebook. While it is not the opportunity to lecture in full on the reasons why they should adjust their online behavior, it is still a veritable "teachable moment". In the classroom, these should not just be teachable moments, but standard parts of the curriculum, for instance in an English Language Arts class when students learn to manipulate character, voice, and perspective in their writing.

I agree that Facebook as it stands today may not be the best modality for teaching and learning, but teachers and parents much understand that it is a modality among adolescent learners that will not disappear any time soon. Therefore, they need to supply their students and children with the appropriate skills to manage this modality of life just as they might teach them to deal with writing an analytical argument in essays or financial responsibility at home. At its very core, Facebook is a tool for communication, and communication is at the heart of how we pass on our knowledge and history to future generations.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


As a future educator in the modern age of technology, it is crucial to be able to maintain up-to-date knowledge on new technologies. Regarding Social Studies Education, teaching is no longer constrained to using textbooks, primary sources, and maps, but now we must incorporate technology as well. I investigated a media website that allows adolescents to not only use computers in the classroom, but learn historical figures and events as well.
As I searched the internet, I came across an interactive site, called xtranormal.com that will allow each of my students to create movies about history. For example, this allows students to build characters, write historical scripts, and make connections between historical figures. I thought that this site would be useful because it allows students who may be visual learners to create historical figures and scenarios using an online movie-making tool. To make sure this site would suit a 7th grade social studies classroom, I made my own characters and scripts to practice.  I created a short movie of Theodore Roosevelt talking to Woodrow Wilson about their political views which I believe would be an excellent way for students to connect these Progressive presidents’ polices and platforms because they are able to see it firsthand.
            The website is set up for students to make videos, where they choose which historical figure on the site they would like to use. After they pick the historical character, they write a script that pertains to their character. The cartoon figures on the website then speak the script that was created by the students. In a way, this could be used as a jigsaw method of teaching, where each group presents their own characters to the class, which allows many historical characters to be covered in the class. Another positive aspect of the site is that after they complete the video, the students can share their work with their peers using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Adolescents today respond well to interacting with media in the classroom. Video-making websites are accessible and liked by today’s generation of students, because they are proficient in using these kinds of mediums. Since they use these technologies in their everyday life, a website like xrtanormal.com is a tool for teachers to embrace their student's
 natural abilities with computers. The visual nature of websites and technology today are ingrained in students daily life and we as teachers must adapt to the on going changes with in technology in order for our students to be successful.
Many teachers may be wary about using a site such as xtranormal.com due to the fact that students may not take it seriously. However, I believe if monitored correctly the website can be very effective. Not only is this useful for social studies literary strategies, but it
can be interdisciplinary as well. The students are forced to use their knowledge of history and then utilize that information into writing a script. Writing the script allows students to improve their writing andliteracy skills as well as improve their knowledge of history, revealing the interdisciplinary value of using technology in the classroom. For teachers, it is important to view the website and create practice videos before assigning this kind of project to their students. Lessons should not rely solely on this site, but be incorporated as an assessment or project-based assignment. Since adolescents today are more engaged with multi-media components, xtranormal.com allows for both excitement and learning in the classroom.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Facebook in the classroom

Facebook has become the leading social network platform in the world. This media is now used for information sharing, marketing, business, identity platforms, social connections, dating and much more. As with anything that is used too much or too often, and just like many places in the world or in society, negative aspects do arise. The truth is, social networking is not going to disappear any time soon. So how do we as teachers channel positive energy into a medium that holds negative aspects, and how do we use this popular social network in our own teaching? Facebook, or social networking as a whole, has become one of the most controversial subjects surrounding adolescents. Because of the strong focus on the negative aspects of a platform like Facebook, the potential positive uses and learning potential has been greatly overlooked.
    As a future ESL teacher I can see this medium used in many ways. In the classroom, Facebook can be used as an information hub for the class and parents, where information on the class, assignments, resources and discussions can be held collectively to further provide educational tools inside and outside the classroom. Facebook use encourages, reading and writing in both a native or second language,  sharing of ideas across the globe, and cultural awareness i.e. language, customs, beliefs. I see using social network platforms, that some adolescents are already so familiar with, as a way to engage them in writing, reading and using the language in meaningful ways that help them to learn. Using these resources in the classroom also teaches valuable technology skills to students who may not have prior access. For bilingual students or recent immigrants, Facebook can be used to stay connected with the home country while also providing continued use of their first language.
    The most obvious dangers surrounding Facebook evolve from denial and restriction of use by parents, which can lead to an uninformed entrance to the world of Facebook by adolescents. Since so many schools and businesses today use Facebook as a filtering system, by highlighting strengths, we can help students build strong and positive Facebook platforms of themselves, and use Facebook like an extended media resume or portfolio of the self. By teaching children the dangers and consequences that result from poor choices made on the internet, we can begin to use these valuable resources as tools in the classroom and in society as a whole.
     As an introduction,  the class could create a page together, where the students learn of the various settings and rules, functions and components, and become familiar with the valuable amenities that the medium has to offer. With the knowledge we hold of how popular social networking cites like Facebook are, and the notion that they will be used by adolescents, we need to address the social fears and problems that are intertwined in the medium to teach our children how to safely and tactfully use these available resources, by discussing current events on the subject, and addressing students concerns and questions. By setting examples for effective and productive use of social networking, we can prevent many of the problems that cause so much of the negative critiques toward it. Therefore, the job and duty of parents and teachers is to bring the positives and the negatives to the forefront of a child's attention and channel energies into the more positive aspects. In the twenty first century technology and media are becoming more important in the daily lives of people. As teachers, it is our job to not only teach academic subject matter to our students, but also to teach life skills. With this ever growing dependency on technology to perform tasks and skills in the world, addressing these platform’s uses is a crucial life skill in today's day and age. The pros outweigh the cons when it comes to social networking platforms used by adolescents. Once we have effectively taught students how the media works and how they can use it productively in their lives, the education process can begin.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Twitter: Extension of Learning

Twitter: the micro-blogging platform that limits user posts to 140 characters or less. But it is more than just a micro-blog or a Web 2.0 platform. Twitter has evolved into a community—one that consists of countless subcultures—that connects users both locally and globally. These sub-cultures and sub-communities are often contextualized and differentiated using hashtags, which are denoted by using a preceding # sign. As a micro-blog, Twitter differs from other blogging platforms in that it is more fast-paced and conversational—one might even say that it combines blogging with instant messaging. This set-up makes interacting feel more genuine and less contrived than posting to a discussion board, or even a class blog. Twitter-users are constantly engaged in sharing, filtering, sorting, cataloging and archiving information.

How are adolescents using Twitter and how can Twitter be used in a class-setting? Not only are adolescents using Twitter to express and share their own ideas, but they also comment on local and global events and issues. They are building and shaping their identities through tweeting original content, retweeting (sharing something someone previously tweeted), and selecting tweets as favorites. In a class-setting, Twitter is ideal for encouraging participation and extension of learning. For example, using Twitter, a student who is generally quiet in class has the ability to transfer his or her internal thoughts and externalize them. Twitter encourages participation beyond just providing an alternative to raising one’s hand or offering verbal responses in class; it opens up opportunities for students to connect with other students, academics and professionals. They experience exposure to and participation in learning communities, in which the very things they are learning in class are tangible and relevant to real-life.

Teachers can create Twitter accounts specifically for certain classes they teach and use the account to post announcements or questions for students to think about and answer, expand upon class conversations, share relevant resources and other media—including websites, videos, pictures—that relates to the class. Students can also pose questions, share information and resources, and engage in collaborative learning. They are just as involved in exploring as the teacher. To guide and mediate class discussions online, teachers can implement hashtags for students to use when posting for class. Another useful feature is creating lists—these can be used to keep track of students participating in the Twitter conversations and can also serve as a resource of other Twitter users students can follow and interact with. All of these features contribute to teaching students the value and benefits of being part of a community, as well as how to be responsible digital citizens.

Some potential cons to using Twitter in class are that it might end up being more of a distraction. Twitter can be, and is, fun—students will be challenged to balance this sentiment with their academic work. There is the risk of students using Twitter for other purposes—including cyberbullying. Also, there is an issue of accessibility—some students may not have access to a computer or the Internet at home and might feel left out of this extension and exploration beyond the classroom. Because Twitter is a global social network, it is difficult for teachers to keep tabs on all of the personal connections students make beyond the class-use of Twitter. The Internet continues to be a hunting ground for things like identity theft and other scams. This provides a teaching opportunity to teach about discretion and the consequence of over-divulging on a public forum. When using Twitter for class purposes, teachers should model good digital citizenship practices and teach that as part of their lessons.



Adolescents, as a group, are incredibly active contributors to YouTube material. It is a platform with which nearly all students are familiar, and even if some are not, its user-friendliness makes it easy to bring students up to speed for use as a learning tool. Adolescents not only use YouTube to feel their thoughts are legitimate, but also to experiment with professional fields such as reporting and the arts.

YouTube has been used in projects around engaging children and adolescents in healthy eating[i], but its power as a teaching tool may be underutilized. Although using it for Universal Design for Learning may take some creativity considering the need for active and even public contribution to most parts of the broadcasting process, its power lies in its popularity and familiarity among students, its ability to provoke competition, and its capacity for students to make it emotionally relevant. Popular videos on YouTube have emotional draws to them, so creating lessons around researching, analyzing, and judging the successful elements- such as emotional draw, length, production value, etc – would be engaging, and further, could be used for the first part of low to high sequencing of a SAFE lesson1.

[1] Adapted from: Crawford, Glenda. Differentiation for the Adolescent Learner : Accommodating Brain Development, Language, Literacy, and Special Needs. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin PressPrint.


“Set up” the content knowledge base. These questions focus on basic comprehension and factual responses.


Pose questions that are more “analytic” in nature and require students to interpret knowledge through contextual clues.


“Focus” thinking in a new direction.


Stimulate “evaluative” thinking which persuades students to appraise, assign value, and reflect.

Once students are set-up with research guidelines for YouTube searches and analyze the effective elements, teachers could move onto focusing the students on creating a video of their own and have students evaluate it based on the number of previously identified elements they incorporate and on the number of hits their video gets (which they can establish based on similar video and which provides a challenge).

This same type of lesson can be used to train students to recognize the reasons behind the publishing of videos on YouTube and to criticize and evaluate their validity, legitimacy, and potential for impact. This critical understanding would arm them against the persuasive content that may be targeting them that does not consider their wellbeing, which expands well beyond food. I work with a non-profit organization called FoodFight (foodfight.org) that does work similar to this lesson and is seeing staggering changes in teachers’ and high school students’ attitudes towards food across New York City. FoodFight offers workshops, curriculum materials, and support to guide teachers and their students to a completely different way of thinking about food and how food impacts our lives. Teachers and students become, in a sense, food detectives. This cultivation of detective-like critical lenses and voices is essential to life skills. And so if YouTube can help us with that cultivation, then let us use it to teach towards heartier educational harvests. Too far with the metaphor? Sorry. I get pretty excited about food.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Media and Technology Critique

Who would have imagined that social networking websites would greatly boost the evolution of human social interaction in the 21st century? Among them, Facebook, enjoying a global user population of 600 million, stands out distinctively. Since it has become an inseparable part of many adolescents’ daily life, teachers should build the link between the technologies so often used by today’s youth to enhance their educational development. Although challenges may hinder its successful practice in education, this continuously developing modality of technology is what interests me most.

With Facebook, users from anywhere around the world can, not only chat with someone by a simple click, but also have quick access to their friends’ latest news. Once logged into Facebook, users can clearly see what their friends are doing, how they felt recently, what they like or dislike. In summary, this social media platform establishes the most encompassing tool for its users to speak out their voices with their real identities. Collaborated with the third party, Facebook also enables people to update their latest news via other channels, especially through the third party applications installed on smart phones. Besides its convenience for communication, it also plays the role of conveying multi-dimensional information, including movies, music, pictures, articles, and so on. Moreover, it creates a unique opportunity for people to organize activities and make them public. In general, the invention of Facebook has dramatically facilitated social interactions.

Although it contributes to building friendships and spreading information, it is not without its problems. Users, especially young people, spend considerable amounts of time on each of their visits to its website, either via mobile or non-mobile devices. They constantly visit their friends’ homepages, and add comments to people’s status and passages. Some of them even rely on Facebook or have developed some addiction to it. Additionally, adolescent users are easily exposed to age-inappropriate information, including violence, racism, and pornographic messages.

In this scenario, with social media becoming an intricate part of adolescents’ lives, how should teachers use this double-edged sword wisely in their instructions? Since Facebook is a perfect stage for students to share their ideas with each other, teachers can establish a homepage for the class in order to help forge positive relationships amongst students and teachers. In traditional classroom settings, many teachers find it challenging to get along with their students well. While on Facebook, teachers and students get to know each other better in a more casual way. As a result, students are more willing to consult their teachers, and teachers know students’ academic needs more clearly. As we all know, the harmonious and interactive atmosphere will serve as the base of the successful teaching in the future.

Besides boosting mutual understanding, Facebook is a useful tool for foreign language teachers like me to give students language trainings. As a Mandarin teacher, I think that a natural language environment can be created on Facebook. Since people use Facebook for communication, communicative goals in a language class can be partly achieved through Facebook. By setting up weekly discussions and establishing certain rules for assessing students’ comprehension and language proficiency, students are required to respond to their teachers’ status or articles in Chinese. Since students are technology savvy and accustomed to visiting the site, they are more willing to complete their assignments and practice typing Chinese characters in this way. Meanwhile, teachers can also moderate and control the access to the homepage, and maintain focus on the topics under discussion.

In addition, they can also post assignments, useful links, and samples of work on Facebook regularly. Music, videos, and pictures related to the target subject or the current lesson can motivate students’ interest. For my language class, I will post songs (Chinese lyrics), movies (Chinese transcripts, culture), pictures (word flashcards, culture) on Facebook in order to create a multi-sensory language-learning environment for students. Various language exposures through different media can stimulate students to acquire knowledge more quickly.  Moreover, teachers can organize certain academic or social and subject-related events on Facebook. For example, teachers can arrange a visit to the Museum of Chinese in America, and let them know the history of China and early Chinese immigrants’ life in the U.S. As a language teacher, I believe this gives students an access to various learning experiences and language producing.

Although Facebook does have a potentially negative side, such as overuse and distraction, these could be overcome through appropriate management and regulations. As for teenagers who tend to lack self-control and be more immature, teachers and school counselors can work together in aiding students to moderate their use of the Internet. Peer supervision may also be a good alternative in this case.

Generally, teachers and students can both benefit from the powerful functions that Facebook possesses on a daily basis if this social networking website is adopted wisely. Although Facebook appears as relatively new tool in the modern education, what teachers should bear in mind is that they always use such a tool to lead students on the way of becoming responsible and self-motivated learners ultimately.

Facebook Community

Facebook Community
            Facebook offers students a sense of community in an era in which students are increasingly being drawn into the cyber world. Facebook allows students to create a profile that is individual to them, and allows them to interact with friends and family while also staying plugged in. Facebook users utilize this website for various purposes including: interacting with each other both publically and privately through Facebook walls and chat, respectively; sharing pictures/videos, links, information, interests, current locations, music, ideas, items for sale, and etc; managing planning of events; and group communication. Facebook allows students to interact with each other in a manner that the classroom alone does not allow. Friendships and relationships are strengthened in a way through this online community. Also, unlike other social networking media, Facebook connects users through networks and displays mutual friends, which encourages students to interact with people they may know – not strangers.
            Students know all about fostering their own community in the cyber world through Facebook – far beyond what older generations know about using various Facebook features to contribute to the community. If teachers master Facebook, it can be used in multiple ways in the classroom. Teachers can use Facebook as a means to communicate with their students – whether this means posting homework and important information on Facebook or collecting assignments. Students can also use Facebook to interact with each other for group projects and other tasks. A danger of Facebook can be online bullying or the fact that students use the Internet as a source to publicize their feelings, which can be solved if teachers (and parents) are on Facebook themselves monitoring student activity from the inside.
            In history classes specifically, students can create Facebook profiles as a means to empathize with historical figures. For example, students can be assigned historical figures for whom they will create Facebook profiles demonstrating their knowledge about the assigned figure and interact with other historical figures in the classroom by posting on each others’ walls, creating events for actual historic events, and other outlets that Facebook provides. Through this anachronistic community, students can learn history in a way they can relate – seeing “James Madison is attending the Constitutional Convention” on one’s timeline may be an effective way to remember historic events and occurrences. As technology is always changing, newer ways to incorporate history can be found. New features like the timeline can be used as an interactive way to map out history. Teaching using the technology that is familiar to students allows for more engagement with the material, and allows students to create a community of historical figures that interact with each other. Using Facebook in this manner ties together present day technology with past history and ideas allowing students to empathize with generations past.
            Tying together history and Internet safety, this lesson can incorporate the lesson that what happens on the Internet, like decisions made in history, is permanent. One wrong photo upload or one wrong decision by a historical figure can have reverberating effects on the future. This is an idea important to all history, and knowing this can teach students to think twice about their actions on the Internet. The patterns seen in history are being continued on the Internet through the Facebook community, making it a vital website for teachers to monitor and use.