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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Instructional Computing II Journal 3: Credibility and Evaluation

Question 1: How do we represent ourselves online?
The way you represent yourself online depends upon the level of technology you integrate into your life.  One would hope that an online representation would model that of our actual real life selves.  For example, we choose avatars and usernames that resonate with who we are.  We seek out information and entertainment that pertains to our desires and interests. 

While many use the Internet to branch out as themselves online, others may be taking a different approach.  Some use the Internet for role-playing games, alternate lives, anonymous forums, and other outlets that provide anonymity and personal expression.  I believe that it all boils down to networking, information, and using the internet as a tool to express your passions and communicate with the rest of the world.

For more information about my feelings on online representation and identity formation please visit my week 1 journal link: Perceptions 

Question 2: How do we shape our ability to critically evaluate the credibility of information available online?

The ability to evaluate the credibility and validity of the information available online is a process that now begins in childhood.  For those of us who did not grow up with computers, we may have had to acquire these skills independently in adulthood.  These days, schools should instruct students on ways of analyzing the information and images they gather from the Internet.  Modern day students are growing up in technology rich environments and are very comfortable consuming, generating, and collaborating using technology.  It is up to educators like myself to instruct youth on how to navigate these complex media environments safely and successfully.

Tasha Bergson-Michelson’s MindShift article, “Building Good Research Skills: What Students Need to Know,” (2012) explains the information and research gap today’s students are facing.  Students are lacking research skills and have abandoned scholarly databases in favor of search engines.  You can’t really blame the students though because they don’t know any other way.  They are a Google-happy generation.  Any problem they have, just Google it!  This however, has led them into some serious scholarly trouble.

The solution needs to be a revised method of teaching media literacy and information evaluation at a younger age.  It is important for teachers to stress the use of multiple resources as one source may lead to another.  Students need to learn to intertwine several types of resources.  For example, some teachers turn their noses up at Wikipedia however, the reference links listed at the bottom of a wiki can lead to some excellent primary sources with a little hunting. 

Teachers must also ask students to reflect on why they chose to click on one link over another. When using the Web together as a class, teachers can also demonstrate how to look for a definition of an unfamiliar word (Bergson-Michelson, 2011).   The article also provided a 3-tiered scaffold approach to teaching research to students.
The Steps of the Research Process:
  1. Inquiry: The free exploration of a broad topic to discover an interesting avenue for further research. (open ended web search)
  2. Literature Review: Seek points of authority on a topic, and pursue and identify the range of theories and perspectives on the subject. (Bibliographies, blog posts, and various traditional sources)
  3. Evidence-Gathering: Look for both primary- and secondary-source materials that build the evidence for new conclusions.

Lastly, it is important that students know what information they are looking for before they go crawling the web.  Before performing a web search they should ask themselves what they expect to find and identify what they are looking for specifically.  “What students need to be competent at is identifying the kind of source they’re finding, decoding what types of evidence it can appropriately provide, and making an educated choice about whether it matches their task,” (Bergson-Michelson, 2011).  It is of the utmost importance that students understand and implement a varied approach and a critical eye when researching and evaluating information read on the Internet. 

Bergson-Michelson, T. (2012) Building good research skills: What students need to know. Retrieved from

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Instructional Computing II Journal 2: Identity

How do we define who we are, and shape or reaffirm our identity using social networks? 

The readings this week were very "adolescent centric." Adolescence is a time of social growth and burgeoning personal identity.  Growing up in the 21st century is markedly more complex for teens as they find their place both in the real world and digital world.  Being a teenager is one of the most confusing and alienating times in your life.  During those pivotal years, we want to feel a connection and know that someone else feels the same.  Teens can now turn to social networks to find support, friends, and like-minded individuals. The idea behind creating an online social networking profile is in a sense a form of identity formation (Boyd, 2007). 

In the creation of a profile we are able to express aspects of our personality that we want the world to know about.  Sometimes people choose to embellish parts of themselves, some are honest, and perhaps others choose to leave out part of themselves they do not wish to share.  After the creation of the account we create connections and communicate with others.  The posting on walls, leaving comments, and messaging components further exhibit ones personality and how well we can interact with others. 

Along with the great entrenchment in social networking comes the need to protect parts of our identities.  Boyd & Hargittai (2010) spoke about the need for adolescents to protect their private information.  The good news is more teens are protecting their identity more than we think which is hopeful.  The older I get the more I realize I need to take a step back and be sure to weed out the accounts I no longer use or the delete the "friends" who I really don't need to be concerned with these days.  My internet identity used to play a larger role in my life, perhaps because I was younger and felt isolated and wanted to reach out to people via the internet.  Now I keep to myself, don't post as many photos, rarely blog about personal matters.  My life has changed and my digital identity has changed as well.

Five years past the publication of Boyd's articles and I believe that we are now creating a personal brand for ourselves, not just an identity.  I feel that personal branding is taking the social networking identity a step further.  Our Facebook profile pictures match our Twitter icons, which matches the header on your Tumblr too.  There would be a matching YouTube channel and corresponding Spotify account for media.  We have social media packages, all bundled with matching accounts, avatars, and passwords.  Teens today are taking social media as we know it and stretching it way further than we had imagined.  They want to famous on the Internet; a phenomenon we have never seen until recently.

While I am still very involved in social networking and the internet, I don't feel the need to be so deeply engrossed in personal branding as when I was younger.  Boyd (2007) describes how teens used a small loophole to customize their Myspace pages with their own code and photos.  I think I am past that stage of my life and into the phase where social networking has taken on a more utilitarian purpose in my life.  If the site doesn't offer a service that I can't live with out, then forget about it! 

Here are the sites I use and their corresponding uses:
Facebook = connect to friends/ spy on people from my past (haha)
Pinterest = remember recipes, crafts, and clothing I want to purchase
Tumblr = follow really fashionable girls and steal their looks
Twitter = follow some really amazing Ed Tech superstars and hear about all the trends
Instagram = share photos and see what everyone else is doing with photos
Blogger = school work!

I think my social network quota is pretty full at this point!  My identity is shaped well enough thank you very much!

Boyd, D. (2007). “Why youth love social network sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life." Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. Edited by David Buckingham. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Boyd, D. & Hargittai, E. (2010). "Facebook privacy settings: Who cares?"
First Monday, Volume 15, Number 8 - 2 August 2010

Instructional Computing II Journal 1: Perceptions

How do we perceive ourselves (and others) in the real and digital worlds in which we live? 

How we perceive ourselves in the digital world greatly depends on how we present ourselves.  I think that we judge others the way we judge ourselves in a sense. I like to think that what you see is what you get with me in the real world and the digital world but I am not so sure that is true.  I am much more brave, sillier, colorful, less inhibited digitally than in real life.  However, I am extremely careful of the way that I "carry" myself online because you never know who is watching you or judging.

I believe that I am much more quick to judge someone online based off something they put onto the net because I don't see them everyday.  For example, if someone from my high school constantly sends me Facebook requests to play Farmville and posts party pictures every weekend I may think less of them.  I don't interact with them every day.  All I know is that they like to party and play games; two things I don't really value.  It may be very judgmental but that's what this generation is: self-obsessed & judgmental. We advertise our lives and pretty much just take pictures to post and prove that we did this or that. 

As I mature, I feel that I must be extremely careful to present myself in a manner that is true to myself but still appropriate and non-offensive when it comes to social networking.  I know that family and prospective employers are looking for the "dirt" so I am certainly not providing them with it!