Tag Archives: profile

I’m presenting “Social Networking and Literacy” on 2/5/11 at 6:00pm EST #CO11


I’ll be presenting online Saturday evening (2/5 at 6:00 pm EST) as part of the free Connecting Online 2011 Conference (#CO11). My specific session will be “Social Networking and Literacy,” and I am going to describe how two of the English teachers at The School at Columbia University are using new media to enhance an independent reading program and book groups.


The Independent Reading Site (Google Site)

Marisa Guastaferro (6th Grade English) and I created The Independent Reading Site two years ago. It is a Google Site; Hence, it is free, there is a whole suite of tools, it is accessible from anywhere, there is a built-in search feature, kids can comment on each other’s reviews, it is user friendly, and it is sustainable in that their profile travels with them from year to year.

In their profile, the students include what they read, where they read, how they read, and then list their favorite books, genres, and/or authors. These profiles are grouped by the year the students graduate from high school (this is how we list them in all of our databases anyway). The students create a sub-page for each book review they complete and create their book reviews in the form of text, video, audio, slide-show, or comic-strip. Students and teachers extend the conversation and share opinions in the comment section below each review.

The built-in Google Site search feature is awesome, as it allows users to search by name, year, genre, author, title, etc. This is invaluable and allows students to learn about other people’s reading habits and locate new books to add to their bookshelf.

To Kill a Mockingbird Book Groups (Elgg social network)

Eve Becker (8th Grade English) carefully considered how to best negotiate our in-house social network (powered by Elgg) to structure teacher-led and student-led discussions for To Kill a Mockingbird. [The book celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010!]

First, Eve divided her students into small reading groups of 3-4 students. All students were required to join the TKAM grade-wide group created by Eve. Here, Eve listed description of responsibilities for the groups and offered a weekly teacher-led discussion question. The students formed their own private groups on The Social Network and invited Eve (and sometimes me) to join their closed space.

On their group page, students addressed Eve’s weekly question, posted and responded to their own questions and comments inspired by the book, and maintained two pages: Quotations and Vocabulary. On the Quotations page, students took turns choosing and posting a quotation and an explanation about why it was chosen. On the Vocabulary page, students were required to write the word, an educated guess at its meaning, its part of speech, the actual definition, and an original sentence with the word.

Using Google Sites and Elgg for these projects meant that students were working in the cloud and could access their work from any location at any hour. Also, anytime they posted to their profile or to a group page, there was a time-stamp included that tracked who posted what and when. So, students are held accountable for their own work when working independently and/or within a small learning group. Win-win.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

5 Properties of Public Life: Persistence, Invisible Audience, Searchability, Replicability, Scalability. (via @donbuckley)

Today, I watched Don Buckley (@donbuckley) deliver his “5 Properties of Public Life” talk to an 8th grade class. These tenets are: persistence, invisible audience, searchability, replicability, scalability. Don, my boss, is a modern day Renaissance Man and ranks among the coolest people I’ve ever met. You can see him in action at TEDxNYED, as he’ll be co-hosting with Sylvia Martinez (@smartinez).

Once you post something online, it’s impossible to remove it.

 Invisible Audience
When you post something publicly, you have no control (and potentially no information) about who is viewing that information.

As search engines become more sophisticated, it just gets easier and easier to locate information.

This is about how easy it is to copy and paste anything from the web.

The impact of posted information is so much bigger these days. Consider the hideous example of Rutgers Freshman Tyler Clementi.

 While neither gender-neutral nor asexual, we also like to show these “Think Before You Post” videos:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Formspring during the formative years

I spent a couple of hours today discussing the What, How, and Why of Formspring with 8th graders. While I knew of Formspring’s new-ish existence (it launched November, 2009), I only looked more deeply at the site at a parent’s request after that New York Times article hit the interwebs last week. Within minutes, I located (with little to no difficulty) a dozen students posting/fielding questions from accounts that listed their real name, location, and photograph. Lordy.


What? Formspring‘s homepage offers the following: “Ask questions, give answers and learn more about your friends.”

How? Without even generating a username or logging in, you can search for names, locate profiles, read the questions that were posted to a user’s profile page (these can be posted anonymously or non-anonymously), and read the user’s answers to those posted questions.

Why? Because. This is not original or unique. Danah Boyd writes, “There’s something fascinating to people of all ages about answering questions about themselves.” Further, imagine the addictive thrill of posting whatever you want anonymously.

Today in class, we discussed the following items:

  • The danger of posting your name and any identifying information on a public site. Beyond creepy stalkers, these kids have to consider high school placement counselors, college admissions, and future employers.
  • It is within a user’s power to delete a question from their profile page. However a question posted to someone else’s page is at that other person’s mercy to delete. This is explicitly stated on Formspring’s FAQ Forum. (Many thanks to Arvind Grover for posting the link to this!)
  • By responding to a question, you are legitimizing it. You are demonstrating that it meant something that was worthy of a response. One girl asked, “Why shouldn’t I defend myself when someone says something mean to me on my Formspring page? Isn’t that my right?” I reminded her that an answer is as public as a question. How is it effective to respond to a hateful, mispelled, sexualized, profanity-rich question in kind?
  • Students’ (and parents’) behavior outside of school reflects on our community. This is in the annual contract that accompanies tuition remittance:

…It is further understood that The School reserves the right to dismiss any student whose behavior or conduct or whose parents’ or guardians’ behavior or conduct, in or out of school, is determined by The School, in its sole judgment, to be lacking general civility or contrary, without limitation, to its rules, regulations, or standards.

  • Everything you do online is public, permanent, and traceable. I held out a sheaf of papers in which I said I’d printed the Formspring Q&As from a dozen students. The response was a mixture of embarrassment, outrage, and humor. One student asked why I would do this. I replied, “Because I can. It’s all public. And now it’s permanent in paper form as well as on Formspring’s server as well as from a Google search. And I can make a copy for the Head of School and your mother and your grandmother and your teachers and your high school transcript. And it’s all traceable from your username and from your friend’s profiles.” (At the end of the class, I confessed that the stack of paper was from the recycle bin, but I made my point.)

Later, when I was telling my Director of Technology about the talks, we went online to locate some of the more incendiary profiles. I was very gratified to see that many student accounts were disabled. But as I pointed out to the kids, you can disable your profile, but your name and face are still searchable. And as stated above, any questions left on another user’s page will persist.

Privacy, shmivacy.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Social Networking with Great Mathematicians


I worked with 7th Math students today to help them upload a faux profile on our in-house #Elgg social networking site for The Great Mathematican Project. They had to locate an image for the profile, flesh out the About Me, Interests, and Location sections before clicking each of their interests to see which other mathematician also shared that characteristic. They used Inspiration to create a concept map showing how their particular mathematician was connected to other mathematicians (through location, research, number theory, painting, education, etc.) and uploaded these files to their profile as well. Finally, students wrote a couple of blog entries with this character’s voice.


I love teaching and learning, and I was psyched to add to my eclectic body of trivia the following anecdote shared by one of the 7th graders: While working on the lovely and inspiring pyramid for The Louvre, Chinese architect I. M. Pei was spit on by Parisians! I paused the class to talk about the irony of the French denigrating the creator of one of their main attractions.

Read the student’s faux blog post below and the comment by fellow classmate, Stephen Hawking, here:


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized