Connected circles

Posted: February 22, 2014 in Course 1
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Connected Circles: The 3 Faces of followers by Nicki Hambleton

Connected Circles: The 3 Faces of followers by Nicki Hambleton

Out of the mouths of babes……

According to my 14 year old son Piers, there are 3 types of participants on his youtube channel:

The Watcher

The enthusiast who views and follows everything. They give credit to your work and reinforce that what you are doing is valid and worthy.

The Encourager

The encourager who “likes” your video and motivates you to carry on. These followers give you a positive boost with a comment like “Cool video” or “Love this”.

The Giver

These  suggesters ultimately take the time to consider their comment. They take you forward and give  ideas to improve your work.

As a train enthusiast, who makes videos of his model layouts as well as actual train compilations, Piers finds all these dwellers useful in their own way, but he gets the most learning from the suggesters. It reminds me in a way of Rodd Lucier’s model of Connectedness mentioned in my previous posts and how it takes time and energy for followers to connect and truly help in our development.

He says “you go on youtube to learn, to be entertained or to laugh” and the types of channels he subscribes to usually fall into one of these categories. But as his network online grows, he says it is invaluable to him “to have a community of passionate people willing and happy to share and suggest”. As he becomes a seasoned video maker, “geeking out”, he equated this new found confidence in “public speaking” on his videos to being able to present verbally and improvise during class yesterday to his peers in an English lesson character summary from Of Mice and Men. As a mother observing her teenager seemingly constantly plugged in, it was refreshing to hear how his out of school passion could impact so positively on an aspect of his school life.

It is through these conversations that we learn the true meaning and understanding of the youth and how they connect and learn. They were born into this world and sharing online with strangers is not as alien as it may be to some adults. The more we have these conversations the more we can connect appropriately and understand and integrate into their world. By discovering what makes them tick it is only then that we can truly integrate technology into our curriculum areas.

Deviantly artful

My Art students in the International School of Milan in 2006 connected and shared on, the world’s largest online art community, to gain valuable feedback. Through connecting with its participants there was a vast range of specialised expertise and amateurs all ready and willing to feedback positively, ask questions and learn from one another. It seems to be just as strong today but with a different range of focus areas than when it first started out. Now manga, anime and fan art dominate the followers, watchers and givers and Erika in Grade 8 regularly uses it as her go-to learning zone. She says she is still at the “messing about” stage and as she grows in confidence and develops her skills  she says “I am not ready to share just yet, I mostly use it for tutorials.” Posters like Naschi and Ryky inspire her through their illustrations and Concept Cookie teaches her the technical skills through tutorials. Many watchers like Erika, regularly comment on how much they value these “experts” sharing their work and often fall into the “Encourager” bracket. When Erika does post she is encouraged by these smallest of comments that someone has taken the time to post. She says, “I know it’s not a lot, but just those small comments saying “Aww that’s cute <3” or even “I love it” really do make my day. That’s one of the things I really do like about the internet.”

I wonder how we ever coped before the internet?

Erika also regularly uses Tumblr, one of the biggest visual share zones, after Flickr. So too is Instagram an extremely popular portal to view and comment on photos and to be inspired by but not in the same  way interactive way as deviantart. Behance is another visually focused site for showcasing ones art portfolio and is becoming a popular choice for art students for inspiration much like Pinterest. It is important that a community reflects the diversity of its dwellers yet keeps its focus clear. This ensures it attracts the right sort of followers and keeps the passion alive.

Quinci, an IB Visual Art student in Ghana in 2009, was hugely into digital art and at the time showed me an online community he spent much of his time on called neoseeker. There are over 600,000 participants in the neoseeker population with showcases of digital portfolios and an active forum of tips and tutorials.



Quinci spent most of his online time on the Graphics and Animation Forum learning, communicating, sharing and growing as a digital artist. Just a quick dip into one of the posts and I feel completely out of my depth. It is clearly a professional and serious place to be a part of and full of talented and intelligent individuals putting time into helping each other out. Quinci, now in his 3rd year at Design college says, “It saw a big decrease in activity around the time I started university because most of the people that frequented were getting wrapped up in other responsibilities.” His design orientated social network became a real life close-knit family where these forums were not be needed so much with the proximity of a whole university of like minded passionate individuals. There is a plethora of online communities for art to connect and share with: Promoting Art back in 2010 shared their top ones here and I wonder what new ones exist today.

I guess this sort of reciprocated learning is similar to an online forum for a writer or a coder, as youtube is for Piers and deviant art for Erika. It occurs to me, rather belatedly, that our Course 1 reading (Living and Learning with New Media, Macarthur Foundation) reflects exactly what we are doing through COETAIL:  building a network, finding like minded souls, connecting globally, sharing our passions and thoughts and learning from one another. Gradually we hope to develop from the enthusiast and learner to becoming the expert, the geek and the giver.

It is within these connected circles that we will grow as educators, become strengthened as an individual and eventually find our voice to share with to the global audience.

So this all gets me thinking…..

Connecting youngsters

How can the younger members of my art classes participate online as experts in their field – where would they feel confident?

Some of these online forums are not appropriate lounges for 11 and 12 year olds. Where do they go, where do they learn from, and most importantly where can they communicate with like minded passionate youngsters?

Currently they share within the relatively closed and protected communities of Picasa and Voicethread, sharing their photography and visual ideas and commenting on each others work to encourage and suggest with occasionally blogging.

How can we protect yet open them up to a wider network? Do any other schools have links with other classes to share and collaborate with? Would anyone know if their art department would be willing to link with mine in a sharing community.

Going viral

What appealed to me most from 21 things for the 21st century educator was the Virtual Classroom and Collaboration tools. It seems to me that both of these are hugely valuable in today’s classroom and ones that I would like to embed more effectively in the curriculum. So, with this in mind, I am about to embark on a social experiment with my Grade 7s in consultation with Andrew McCarthy, as part of their sculpture unit on Sustainability. It feels like an ideal opportunity and time to introduce the idea of connected circles to them and to expose them to the real world of social media before they throw themselves legally into the world of FB when they hit 13. I want them to reach out to the global community, to ask questions, to find out relevant information and to see how far they can connect. I would love for them to share their findings back to this community and receive feedback on their learning. The idea is only a small seed at the moment and a little risky on my part but I am willing to take it and to chance failure in a bid to utilise the resources at our digital fingertips. But I will need some help…..

Would you be willing as the time approaches to follow the class Twitter handle, use the hashtag and share their questions to your networks?

As I continue to develop the UBD planner for the unit tentatively called “Food for Thought” and the ideas takes shape, I will share the concept online.

Watch this space……


  1. Joe Teft says:

    I love the line, “I wonder how we ever coped before the internet?” I wonder this all the time too. Especially in my teaching/learning life. What did people do before the internet? How did we figure stuff out on our own? Were encyclopedias really that amazing?

    I’ve got one teacher using twitter last week for her class. It’s a great start, most of the other teachers are scared, or feel they don’t have the time. We’re a lot younger, but we’d be happy to help or follow, just get people thinking and talking. Making those “connection”.

    I wonder about the idea of connection too. I wonder if artists would change some of what they say if they had to contribute to a younger audience. Is there a place where artists can connect with students?

    I wonder about our fear of connections too. Why are we so protective of our identity? I felt that way up until I read the Circle by Dave Eggers this year. Then I remembered why privacy can be so important.

    So many thoughts, such a great post, you always get me thinking!



  2. Pana Asavavatana says:

    Hi Nicki! I really enjoyed reading your post 🙂 It seems that our minds were thinking the same thoughts and we didn’t even know it! I see you wrote your blog post before I did and I promise I haven’t read it till now! Isn’t it funny how we both came to a similar conclusion about COETAIL after we finished reading about the three stages of participation in new media!

    I love that you gave so many examples of ways that your son and students have participated at these different stages online. What I’d like to comment on is your question about how to get younger students involved. I feel like one of our biggest concerns about our younger students is the fact that the internet needs to be used wisely! Little ones exploring alone could lead to scenarios that we really wouldn’t want (i.e. stumbling upon inappropriate sites, clicking on facinating buttons that shouldn’t be clicked on! etc). At the end of the day, these guys still need adult supervision on the internet, BUT it still opens up a world beyond the classroom that we should deny them. What I have done so far with my class blog is to use an app called, Easy Blog Jr.: by the Easy App Company (they also have Easy Blogger Jr.). This a wonderful app that allows kids to safely and EASILY post their work to a wordpress blog. When my kids take action on their learning and want to share it with the world, they just go get their ipad and put it up. I’ve set it up so posts are pending and I can review them before they get published. I’ve also blogged about it here:

    What I’ve seen other schools do with this app is to use a whiteboard app such as Doodlecast Pro or Explain Everything (that saves work into the iPad and not online), have the kids exlplain their work then take that video and the kids upload to the blog themselves taking full ownership of how they share their work and learning with the world!

    As for our art department and connecting, let me see if I can talk to our art teachers and connect you guys 🙂 I’ll tweet you about it when I hear back 😉

  3. Nicki, your sketchnotes are amazing! I love the conceptualization of “The Watcher”, “The Encourager” and “The Giver” that your son articulated. Connecting it to “Geeking Out” the three roles evoke the notion of a community, affirming the profound human need for validation and the acknowledgement that we exist.

    On a kind of random note, given that social media invites people to express their voice, I’m always fascinated by the sheer range of tones, the challenges, debates, nonsense and manner in which people express themselves when they comment and respond on youtube–the public and the private sphere become completely blurred. It’s so curious.

  4. Matt McGrady says:

    Would anyone know if their art department would be willing to link with mine in a sharing community?

    I am – and I am the Middle School Art Department – lets have a go at it.

    Would you be willing as the time approaches to follow the class Twitter handle, use the hashtag and share their questions to your networks? – Yes!

    I would love to create a panel of students at my school of art experts. We always have go to techy students as squads – why not an art geek squad.

    I am interested in how this will all come together and I am totally interested in joining you on this.


    • Nicki Hambleton says:

      Matt – you are a gem, thank you so much for your support! I really appreciate it! I have loved doing the drawing prompt this week with all my classes, they love it! One even tweeted hers out today! We used the Visual THinking routine “I see, I think and I wonder” to feedback our interpretations to each other which caused hysterics, especially if they got it wrong – it was so much fun. They have their thinking caps on for a mad one for you next week – you on?

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