Swimming in the Ocean of Information

Some people may say that modern technology at the hand of youth might be a threat for themselves, their closest relatives or even larger groups of society. That’s why I would like to emphasize the importance of educating our young learners as researchers and making them used to critical thinking. It is all in our – the hands of educators.

Different researches about the habits of technology use among youth are showing disappointing results and facts about how smartphones became an inherent part of everyday youth life (“Smartphones are fuelling a ‘bedroom culture’, with online access for many children becoming more personal, more private and less supervised” (The State of the World’s Children 2017: “Children in a Digital World“).

On the other hand, there is a bright side of technology’s impact on young people. Many young people succeed in making connections and developing friendships as well as receiving support online, which might be problematic or difficult for them in the offline world. Many young people use their devices in various ways as their favorite tool to socialize with friends as well as explore the world around them. Online tools are often used for discussions, sharing knowledge about their own choices and experiences in music, movies, gaming, browsing the internet, etc.

Unfortunately, there is a dark side as well. Research has shown the key domains of youth practice using technology – friendship, intimacy, family, gaming, creative production. Some of young people build their romantic relationships online, without even seeing each other in person and break up simply by changing the status of the relationship in social media. (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning | November 2008).

Such facts might be confusing and terrifying. Is this how young people understand the relationship between people? Is this the future for future relationships? Teachers have a huge role not only in teaching students about critical thinking which they have to apply while using digital tools everywhere – both at school during their learning practice, but also in their personal everyday lives. Young people need to enrich their knowledge about the world around them and be aware of the current global issues. Our students is the future and it is essential to give them fundamental knowledge about digital tools and research.

Marianne Stenger in her article “8 Ways to Hone Your Fact-Checking Skills” emphasized one of the key challenges which young people struggle with while verifying credible sources. Unfortunately, young people quite often lack fact-checking skills. According to Marianne Stenger, many of them get news through social media where you can often face fake newshoaxes and misinformation. Students barely see the difference between real and fake news. Researchers have led the study which has shown, that true rumors can be resolved and verified within two hours, in comparison with the false rumors’ verification time of 14 hours.

Photo by Duri from Mocup on Unsplash

As an educator, I have to use my research skills very often. I am always looking for new information, tools, methods, etc. to enrich my teaching. In my daily practice, I always check my Twitter profile and use #hashtags to search for specific categories of information which might be useful for my everyday work. In contrast to a “lurker’s way” to use social media to enrich the research, being an active communicator (making connections and starting discussions with experts of the research topic) almost always provides an additional positive impact on the results of the research.

“If you are on social media, and you are not learning, not laughing, not being inspired or not networking, then you are using it wrong.”
― Germany Kent

Students need our – educators’ – help while learning specific strategies of the research process, as well as applying this knowledge practically in their day-to-day lives. They learn to search for relevant information purposefully by using specific methods such as searching specific domains, using quotation marks or hyphens to narrow down search results as well as find relevant information easily and quickly. More and more new sources of information are showing up every day and “Things can change so fast on the internet.” just like our posts on our COETAIL blogs 🙂

https://www.quotemaster.org/internet+in+education

Teaching students research skills is a significantly important part of teaching them long-life learning skills. The internet is an incredible place – it is the ocean of information and our students need to learn how to swim there and do it purposefully. These research tips might help students survive difficult moments when they feel lost in gigantic amount of information available online.

One more essential moment of teaching students research skills I would like to emphasize is online source evaluation. How do you recognize a credible source from fake newshoaxes and misinformation? The “5C”content, credibility, construction, corroboration, comparison key stages that help achieve that are explained in the following educational video by John Spenser – Helping Students Identify Fake News with the Five C’s of Critical Consuming.

One of my favorite tools that help recognize credible resources is Pacific Northwest tree octopus, which is a great example of how websites, looking credible and professional from the first sight can contain fake facts and nonsense information. The Pacific Northwest tree octopus website is commonly used for teaching Internet literacy in many schools. Many students tend to use the first website they find or even worse – Google summary – as a research source. Unfortunately, quite often it is a time-consuming process for students to understand that a search engine is a search tool with very different results in terms of credibility, rather than a fully reliable source of information. We, as educators, can and have to change this for the benefit of our students and society in general.

Lurking? This experience is also valuable…

I have encountered the term “Lurker” for the first time on Twitter. My associations with this word were related to staring at something or looking for something. Later, I found more definitions of this term. White (2001) has defined lurker/reader term as a role/type of PLN community member (Journal of Social Media in Society “Online Personas: Become When We Learn with Others Online”).

According to MacArthur foundation research young people born in the 21st-century have adopted the lurker habit very quickly and naturally. They were born in the “new media” world “where more traditional media, such as books, television, and radio, are “converging” with digital media, specifically interactive media, and media for social communication” (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning | November 2008).

As I see it, lurking is a fundamental stage of a learning process. Even Edelman (2013) explained the importance of a “lurker” role in PLN’s (personal learning network) – “lurkers watch and observe, but don’t interact. They do absorb and refer where required.” (Journal of Social Media in Society “Online Personas: Become When We Learn with Others Online”).

Moreover, I would compare lurker to a learner of a new language. The beginning stage is very similar. The learner is silent and only listens by building his own understanding. This also reminds me of a well known to all educators Bloom’s Taxonomy learning model which emphasizes the beginning stages of the learning process – knowledge and comprehension. As an educator working at International school I could observe this process of watching my students who come from other counties without any English language skills. During the first half of a school year, they are silent, but later, real “explosion” comes and they begin talking in English quite unexpectedly.

Talking about myself, I must admit that I AM A LURKER and I am purposefully changing this role of mine to a communicator. I haven’t established any of my PLNs yet. I was thrilled watching how amazingly and successfully has Kim Cofino established her PLNs with Web 2.0. However, I can’t wait to see myself in a similar role. My steps were a bit smaller – I’ve begun using Twitter proactively and little by little I am sharing my professional accomplishments with the world. That’s why I am here on this COETAIL journey. I want to share and communicate more through my PLN via Twitter and my blog posts.

ISTE Standards for Educators and My Learning Goals

As an Educator of technology integration, my main goal is to explore and learn the best new methods and digital tools to empower and inspire students and teachers, motivate them to strive for better results and make educational process more effective.

On the other hand, one of the main goals for COETAIL journey is to broaden my horizons, because, as one wise man said, the more we know, the more we realize that there is so much to learn. I would definitely want to get more ideas on how to improve technology integration in all kinds of classes, as well as discover effective methods to help teachers develop technology-rich units.

Finally, I would like to get to know more innovative professional educators and get be inspired by their ideas, which will push me forward as an educator.

For this COETAIL journey, I’ve chosen a Non-credit COETAIL course and I would like to focus on the following ISTE standards for educators:

1a.

Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.

2c.

Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.

3b.

Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.

5b.

Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.

6a.

Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.

My learning communities

In this mind map, I’ve added all learning communities I am a part of. Overall, my best learning experiences are being a part of the Learning2Europe community as well as following innovative educators on social media. I get a lot of valuable information through Twitter and use it to exchange and discuss my own ideas. In my opinion, Twitter is one of the best tools to get great ideas for teaching and learning.

Hello world!

Dear Friends,

My name is Julija Balčiūnė. I was born in Vilnius – the beautiful capital of Lithuania. I love this place and I am very happy to live here as well as work as an Educator of Technology Integration at one of the best schools in town – the American International School of Vilnius. I’ve been thinking about starting my COETAIL journey for the last two years and I am more than excited to begin it now with all of the participants in a Cohort#12. Let’s hook up on Twitter! 🙂 @JulijaBlium

I started thinking about taking the COETAIL course once I’ve heard about it from my good friends, highly professional educators in one of the international schools in Switzerland. I am blessed to know them and they are my role models of educators who are inspiring and motivating. I am looking forward to learning other, new ways of teaching, as well as using new tools and change my teaching style to more exciting, effective and even more fun!