I didn’t get where I am today without…….Youtube

Posted: February 16, 2014 in Course 1
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Connectedness visual note by Nicki Hambleton

As the evening of Valentine’s Day was drawing to a close, I stumbled on an article from Mashable that had been shared on Facebook and the title caught my eye:

Instagram Strangers Help Man Plan the Perfect Proposal

The story goes like this: Guy wants to propose, decides on Portland, contacts stranger through Instagram for help, guy proposes, girl accepts. Of course the article tells it much more beautifully than that and with an accompanying digital story. But what fascinated me was this connection and trust in complete strangers on what was probably the most important day of his life. I use Instagram purely as a photography sharing place, more often than not with food shots or stimuli for just great composition or ideas. Strangers follow me, I follow strangers. It is a strange concept to me but it works. However I would never have thought of connecting with others like @iamcartermoore.  When I first joined Instagram I was not sure of what was expected, the etiquette or even the point. This felt a bit similar to the “lurking” stages of the early relationship I had with Twitter. I watched, took note, occasionally posted. Carter found kindred spirit and connection with Branden Harvey, a fellow photographer and film maker  and through this random link they became life long friends.

Getting in touch with my Connectedness

According to George Siemans, “connectivism starts with the individual” and that the  “learner remains current in their field through the connections they have formed”. (A Learning Theory for the Digital Age 2004)

My relationship with Twitter follows not such dramatic or love struck storyline as Carter Moore’s but with a similar sentiment. From taking that first step of observing and reaching out, to connecting and interacting with others and developing friendships that the true power of the internet is clear. By making these connections so we grow, our reach is further and interactions stronger.

It has been a busy week with food for thought. During the COETAIL live cast on Tuesday, listening to the conversations flow, it was a statement by Dana Watts that stood out. ” We learn most by collaborating together with others”.  It got me thinking:

How do the youth of today connect and grow as learners? In what ways is this different to how we learnt as teenagers and how we now connect to grow and develop as adults?

We have always been connected it’s just our reach goes out further these days with the Internet.

Last week’s post took me back to “7 degrees of connectedness” by Rodd Lucier and that how to be truly connected we must work at how we connect and what we actively do as part of these connections. It was by initially “messing around” with Twitter and stumbling on blogs that I grew as an educator and learner – it was the most effective PD I had ever had and one that I was controlling. By scrolling through my feed often an article or link would grab my attention and take me forward. So is this the way my students learn?

It is like those happy accidents when mixing paint or doodling with an idea, or playing with the ingredients of a cake or casserole that new directions are born.
It is when we are looking for something else that we usually find something that becomes the hinge pin, the starter, the turning point. It’s like playing in the sandpit as a kid. No rules, just fun.

Messing Around in the sandpit

Whilst reading “Messing About” (Living with New Media) I wonder how youngsters increase their own learning when challenged by something that they are passionate about.

learning from youtube Minecraft screenshot

learning from youtube Minecraft screenshot

I watch my son Luca, transfixed and thoroughly engrossed in his latest new kingdom on Minecraft. He is in control of his learning, growing exponentially and to think that it all started with a brick, a little piece of lego that evolved into what is arguably one of the most successful games with youngsters. The power of Minecraft- teaching kids to dabble, tinker and mess around, find their way, share and play.

The opportunities for using and developing your creativity by dabbling and playing with ideas is not a new one. As a teenager myself, I messed with ideas and sketches, devoured books and magazines to feed my creativity and spark new direction.  Luca shows me how he is building a pirate ship on Minecraft, following a Youtube video. He is ten and he is not alone. This is the world they have grown up in. Youtube is the biggest and most extensive instructions manual on anything you could ever want.

Hamish app development screenshot

Hamish app development screenshot

In school, Hamish in Grade 7 shows me an app he is building to help support and raise awareness of our Global Concern group, PAW (Promoting Animal Welfare). In order to do this he has had to learn how to code, dabbling with the software and through trial and error discovering what it can do. He says he frequently finds information through Youtube tutorials. My eldest son Piers is passionate about model trains and shares this through his Youtube channel, connecting with strangers to share his passion. Olivia studying iGCSE Visual Art in Grade 9 uses Tumblr as her go-to site. Here she discovers a plethora of visual inspiration and artists all over the world to share and connect with. Nanako, also a Grade 9 Art student, tells me how she first “messed around” with Photoshop and a tablet to create her own art. She backs up MacArthur’s claim that it is only through interest-driven subjects that students will actively pursue and maintain this stage of learning and again her preferred method is to try things out, tinker with the software and, if need be, use Youtube tutorials to steer her in the right direction. Nanako is one of our Apple Orchard students and to whom connections across our region are hugely beneficial as an artist. She adds that this stage of learning only works if the area is self chosen and  one that she is passionate about; teens simply would not have this same level of drive in a subject or topic they are not interested in.

But it is still on Facebook that students work and collaborate together, using FB groups to ask and answer questions about schoolwork. These closed but valuable communities support their learning and give them much needed support through the social media they interact with the most. It is still the most used platform for the youth of today.

Andrew Marcinek says in his blog post, “Students get it. They understand how easy it is to connect with one another, but don’t fully realize the greater potential.” (“Help Students Use Social Media to Empower, Not Just Connect” Edutopia 2010). I still wonder why Twitter is so underused as a portal for posing questions from the youth and as their learning zone. I can see the benefit of its use in class but I am halted by the over 13 restrictions with my Middle-schoolers.

I would love to pilot Google + communities with a class or group and see how they could use it to connect and interact. But our school has not switched Google+ on for students yet, so I wonder if anyone has any other suggestions for helping young students to connect? I have ideas to connect students on Skype with an artist in London we are studying as part of an Expressive Painting unit and to link my GC PAW participants with fellow activists and animal lovers worldwide to collaborate to raise awareness.
Is FB the most popular outlet because of its “socialness”, its distractibility; “I can just look at this for a moment so I don’t have to do my science homework”. We have all done that/do this: I’ll just look at that interesting article on Colossal or take that “What city am I?” quiz instead of writing reports… or just read another COETAILer post!

So what is more important – spending time connecting with others to build your PLN and learn from them or to spend that time surfing, discovering and stumbling on something that could be the start of a new direction for you. Clearly both are valuable and we cannot progress without the opportunities for either to occur.

So where do we find the time to dabble and play in the jam-packed 24 hours we have each day?


Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

Title quote adapted from “I didn’t get where I am today” from The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Book and TV series by David Nobbs.
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  1. Holly Fairbrother says:

    Edmodo is a great platform for getting Ss to communicate. I love it!

    • Nicki Hambleton says:

      Thanks Holly, I hear that it is good but have never used it. The school is about to pilot Teamie – have you any experience of it? Maybe that will be a chance for me to try it out.

  2. Anne Dirilgen says:

    Again great blog post. And thanks to Holly for that idea. Being in China I am forever challenged at what I can use in my classroom. We don’t have a school wide VPN therefore I can’t require students to use google hangouts or docs.
    The best part of this blog is your drawing AGAIN. I love it. I got Adobe Ideas app and am going to embark on taking notes with it. Don’t know if I will post just yet.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Joe says:

    Students choosing their own passions is so important. I fully agree with Nanako that unless students have a say in what they are learning, they will miss the connections.

    I wonder about twitter too. We have a class site (but it is underused). I wonder if that’s a way to get through the under thirteen restrictions.

    The time to dabble, slow-learning, and slow education. Take that time to dabble. We no longer have to be content focused schools, we need to be focused on how we learn. Taking that time to dabble, mess around, and learn what you want to geek out about is so important. Like Nanako, I think. She likely took the time to figure out her passions, and now focuses learning on that direction.

    I’m up for the google+ group too.

    As always, love your visual note taking…

    • Nicki Hambleton says:

      Thanks Joe! How do you use your Twitter site? Would love to get that rolling. I was thinking of an art hashtag or art room account – what did you use?

      • Joe Teft says:

        Hey Nicki, my last post was really weird not recognizing me.

        Anyway, I use tweet deck and have a bunch of different hashtags I follow (most enviroed and edtech stuff) I just look around at the things I want.

        With students, I want to be able to have classroom accounts, where students can ask the experts and their community about what they are learning. It would be great to inquire into our learning with students around the globe. I’ve heard that NIST is thinking about doing this with other schools. What about UWCSEA and SAS, do they do any collaboration with learning, it would be wild to see what the students think about the difference between the two systems of learning.


        Here it looks like there is an arted hashtag which could be pretty cool for you.

      • Nicki Hambleton says:

        Hey Joe – I don’t think my reply so sent so here goes again!
        Your idea about student accounts is exactly where I want to be so I am interested in how that works out. Many people have suggested a teacher account that we log into, track and be in control of yet students tweet and follow. Is this the model you have followed? At present we do not make direct links school to school in SG but I am certain this would be great to set up. It’s just finding the willing teachers to get on board with and the common link. Do you have willing teachers in your school up for this sort of exchange? Any art teachers on Twitter? It would be great to try it out! Thanks for the nudge.

  4. Vivian says:

    My kids have taught themselves a freakish amount of skills through Youtube. They’re switched onto learning.

    It’s ironic that there is a separation of what they do in the classroom with what they learn outside of the classroom.

    As techy teachers, we all do our part to break down those walls.

  5. Matt McGrady says:

    Beautiful illustration – creation moment overlaying an Ipad. Your nod to Michelangelo got me wondering about the ‘messing around’ and “geeking out” that might have gone on at the creation of the fresco at the Sistene Chapel – driven by passion and the knowledge that this was going to stand the test of time. An important aspect of engaged and connected learning was that there was always an authentic audience. I find my students are always a little more switched on when they know the art they create will be seen by other students in the class and at the school.

    • Nicki Hambleton says:

      Yes – I think the same could be said for da Vinci too – the Steve Jobs of his day I suppose!
      We have just set up our High School show and it is true – when they know it will have a farther reach of audience they step up the mark.Love the idea of Michelangelo geeking out! But he was most definitely the expert at the time. Have you ever seen the Hockney documentary (or book) called Secret Knowledge. He talks about the old masters like Caravaggio and Van Eyck, using modern technology of their time; the camera obscura for example, to assist them in their work. It is a fascinating film and book.
      Thanks for your kind words again.

  6. Jamie McQueen says:

    I dig (dug) reading your blog, Nicki, and peeking into your visuals as they provide a better understanding of the ideas presented in the readings. I’m also more inclined to begin passion time with my kiddos. Is it more difficult in an English class? What parameters should be created…if any? How should it be documented? Should it be documented? Hm…

    • Nicki Hambleton says:

      Hi Jamie – thank you for your kind words. I think passion time if valued should be no more difficult in any lesson. If it works fro google…! I am not sure if it needs to be documented but it would be powerful to track the learning back and see where ideas came from. Maybe the students keep control of the process but it is there if needed? When I first started the blogging we spoke about the need to be respectful and mindful when sharing anything online. Armed with your guidance I am sure they will rise to the challenge – I look forward to hearing how they and you get on! In fact I am thinking of a final 10 minutes of the art lesson once in a while for kids to draw or design whatever they like – to build their creativity but without parameters or teacher input. It’s just finding the time….!

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