The Joy of Dance

The Final in a Series of Five Guest Posts

For this final instalment in my series featuring past students, I am delighted to introduce Lanah Heron. Lanah is based in New York City where she studies and performs with the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. In her post, Lanah focuses in particular upon the role that Facebook has played in her career. We would welcome your comments; after all, one day soon, she will be a star! 

I remember going into an open call for a modeling agency without knowing what I would need; whether I would even “fit the mould” or if it was a complete waste of my time. The model manager took an interest in me and asked, ‘Do you have photos?’

I said, “Yes, but I don’t have them with me.” I still wasn’t even sure I should be there. “You could look at them on my Facebook page.”

Lanah Joy Heron

A year later I had worked on commercials for the UK, Indonesia, Korea, Australia and had done “bits and pieces” in a few TV programs. (Nothing major, trust me!) And this was just because I had, in my vanity, posted some dance portfolio images in an album on a social media site.

I am, first and foremost, a dancer who has only dabbled in television. Whilst I’m yet to receive an invitation to join a dance company via Facebook, I learned that my profile was in essence a networking tool. Everyone has a computer. You cannot run a business without one. And now most businesses have a Facebook profile. I’d been taught that, as a dancer, my body is my business; so, of course, it needs a profile.

So I started a little “judicious” filtering. People viewing my photos will notice a few things about me; I am an artist and a dancer, I am fit and healthy and sometimes, like a proper young person, I go out with a few friends. And yes, some photos were taken down for the simple fact that they were, well, “hideous.” It might not get me a job directly, but presenting myself in an appropriate and, for the most part, professional light can’t hurt my chances. Whilst I’m in this industry, no one will ever hold back from taking me on because there is a photo on my Facebook page showing me in “terrible form.” Not that I do that sort of thing anyway!

Wit and Twitter: On Education, Information and Knowledge

The Fourth in a Series of Five Guest Posts

Over the past thirty two years I must have taught a huge number of students. Like all teachers, there are some I remember fondly and many more that I choose to expunge immediately from my memory. Daryl Morini is a young man who belongs squarely in that smaller, first group. I’m sure he will be delighted to read that I have even elevated him to the pantheon of past greats … Daryl relishes words like pantheon! He is a highly gifted student; fluent in several languages, soon to complete a Phd and destined for a glittering career in International Relations. It is our collective good fortune that Daryl has agreed to provide an erudite, thought provoking guest post. (Which also says some nice things about me … kudos.) All the hyperlinks are of Daryl’s creation and well worth exploring.

Wit and Twitter: On Education, Information and Knowledge

Daryl Morini

The creative and responsible use of social media in the classroom can open up a thousand doors in students’ minds. It can kindle their intellectual interests and passions, it can develop their imagination and empathy and, most importantly, it can nourish their curiosity and reason – and leave them hungry for life-long learning.

However, I am equally convinced that the unfettered, unreflective and irresponsible use of Twitter and Facebook in education could feasibly lead to our long-term intellectual stagnation bred from short-sighted faddishness.

As you may already be able to tell, where some see a digital utopia and others a hellish dystopia in the social media revolution, I see endless shades of grey in a purgatory full of clear opportunities and hidden dangers. I am, in many ways, a bit of a self-confessed dinosaur when it comes to my own generation’s penchant for the free flow of personal information into the overlapping public spheres which make up “the Internets.”

Graduating from Aquinas College in 2006, I pursued a Bachelor of Arts in History and International Relations. Enamoured with the study of history – which I first fully embraced in Simon’s classroom – I took this passion with me into my postgraduate study on the burning questions of international war and peace. I intend (or, rather, fervently hope) to submit my PhD in early 2014. My research focuses on preventive diplomacy, which is a fancy way of saying that I seek to understand how wars have been prevented in the past, and how they might be prevented in the future.

Looking back, I can now see that my online activities did contribute to getting me this far. I worked countless hours (and I still do) on online extra-curricular projects, including working for three years as a volunteer editor on e-International Relations, the largest student-run website in my field. Furthermore, I have complemented my studies with three internships in government departments and major international organisations, including a brief stint at the United Nations late last year. Paradoxically, I have been a somewhat timid social networker, preferring public conferences, lecture halls and face-to-face meetings.

Let me offer three philosophical points explaining my highly-qualified embrace of social media in general, followed by a final set of practical policy positions on social media in education specifically.

Firstly, my brief time using Twitter has convinced me of this: it is a poor substitute for real conversations. Rather than a global dialogue, I see a cacophony of competing and self-promotional soliloquies. This is not to say that fruitful exchanges do not take place on Twitter, or that useful connections are not made, or that crucial information is not shared across the world in real-time. Of course they are, and that is a wonderful thing. My point is simply that Twitter seems to reward (with additional followers) members of the Twitterati on the wit, cleverness or humour of their remarks, rather than on the truth, originality or social benefit of their reflections. This was brought home to me during the 2012 U.S. foreign policy election debate, during which the live stream of Twitter comments very quickly descended into name-calling and humorous Internet memes of purely entertainment value.

Maybe I am the one missing the point here. I am quite possibly standing on the wrong side of history. But I do find something deeply unsatisfying about the vacuity of some Twitter exchanges or, rather, the hollowness of SMS-length online conversations in comparison to the richness of face-to-face communication and debate.

Secondly, time. Time is finite, fleeting and fast. It is also inevitably zero-sum. The hours you spend each day checking your inbox, posting on Facebook or tweeting to your followers is time you will never retrieve. You may, of course, justify it as a wise social investment in your own online influence, if you believe in that. As a thought experiment, I like to question whether our greatest intellectual ancestors – who frequently took years or decades of undivided attention to accomplish their major works – would have found the time and concentration span to complete their magnum opus in the age of Twitter. For these reasons, I try to minimise my online networking time due to this simple trade-off: one hour I spend reading the opinions of the moderns is one less hour I can spend with the Ancients – a Thucydides or a Plato.

Of course, not all dead sages are more relevant to modern life than today’s Twitter feeds, but they often are. The distinction to make here is between information and knowledge. Simply put, we are inundated, water-boarded and almost drowned by the sheer volume of information we consume across the range of modern media. Amid that sea of data, some simple wisdom from the past can become a life-saving raft. You can know everything that is going on in the world without ever understanding why or how. And that is the difference between acquiring a breadth of information and a depth of knowledge. Both are important, I simply value the latter more.

Finally, and here I start to sound like a roaring dinosaur, the jury is still out on the long-term social consequences of mass social media and nternet usage. In other words, this is a huge, untested social experiment. Some results are in, however, and not all are as peachy as we sometimes assume or hope. Some questions we should be debating include:

Is Facebook making us lonelier? Is Google making us stupid? Is Twitter making us more narcissistic? Is our brain’s capacity to concentrate being eroded by our shorter and shorter attention spans? Does the Internet encourage mental illness? Should babies play with iPads? How young is too young? Do we have a clue about what the likely long-term effects will be? Are social media making us freer, or slaves to spies and censorship?

I do not have the answers, but I think the questions are very poignant indeed. It is a debate worth having.

So much for my general concerns about social media. What of their use in education?

This is where my hard-headed optimistic side comes in. I fundamentally agree with Simon that schools have wasted too much time playing catch-up with social media. They need to integrate this new reality into the core of the curriculum, and they need to do so urgently. This conclusion may sound counter-intuitive following on the heels of the highly-qualified above analysis. But where else, if not at school, will pupils – who will soon graduate as citizens – learn how to use the internet safely and responsibly? Schools are perfectly placed to play the role of society’s first line of defence, by raising awareness, warning of dangers and preventing the potentially deleterious effects of social media and internet use I have mentioned.

Moreover, I have been impressed by the very creative ways in which Twitter has been harnessed, for example, to teach about history and its ongoing relevance. I personally congratulated Alwyn Collinson, an Oxford history graduate, for his brilliant initiative in live-tweeting the entire Second World War. By showing how ordinary people experienced, suffered and fought in the war, this project demonstrates to contemporaries the daily reality of war, in a way that academic monographs and elite-focussed history books are simply unable to. This is a very useful way to use social media in education, so long as it does not reduce history to funny caricatures.

I similarly congratulate Simon on his clever use of Twitter in the classroom. As a university tutor, I definitely see its educational potential. And I join him in proclaiming: ‘Death to PowerPoint!’ As General McMaster said of the U.S. military’s over-reliance on confusing PowerPoint presentations: “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.” I also have experience with the notoriously clunky and user-unfriendly learning software Blackboard, which lecturers quietly curse under their breaths; many are resorting to WordPress and Twitter to host classroom blogs as educational alternatives, and I whole-heartedly encourage them in doing so.

In other words, educational institutions should be the vanguard of the social media revolution. I endorse this policy position having carefully weighed and pondered the aforementioned risks and unknown factors. In the end, the Internet is a tool, and like all tools it is morally-neutral – capable of being used to good or bad ends. The more good people, like Simon, we have working hard to persuade fence-sitters, the better off we will be.

Daryl Morini is a PhD student in International Relations at the University of Queensland. Follow him on his modest Twitter account: @DarylMorini.

 

Dietetics and Cupcakes: An Unlikely Marriage

The Third in a Series of Five Guest Posts

With the Christmas break in full swing I was planning on taking a break from my various blogs. However, I then received another guest post and realised it would require little true effort from me to add it here. (Yep, I’m definitely in holiday mode!) I caught up with Kate Odgers-Jewell last year at a 10 year reunion for her graduating class. I was surprised to learn that she has since embarked upon not one but in fact two careers and is also close to completing doctoral studies; only wish I had that much energy. Perhaps more importantly for readers of this blog, social media has a significant place in both of Kate’s careers.

My name is Kate Odgers-Jewell. I completed high school in 2001 and went straight to University. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the sciences, but wasn’t clear on the end goal. After a year of studying Applied Science majoring in Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry, I realized that nutrition and dietetics was the perfect career for me! I then changed Universities and started on the pathway to becoming a dietitian! This entailed completing a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, followed by a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics, which I followed up with Honours after being offered a great topic and scholarship for a sixth month project.

After graduating I began working as a clinical dietitian at the Gold Coast Hospital, during which time my mother decided to start a cupcake business, Cupcake Passion, and asked for my help. I offered to assist her with the establishment of the business, for example building a website, testing recipes, starting a Facebook page, market research, and pricing our products. We assumed that the business would be a little hobby and that I would be able to return my focus to my dietetics career within a few short months.  Cupcake Passion has now been running for four and a half years, and business is really booming! Since starting the business, I have taken a two-month break to travel around Europe, and then decided to take on a PhD in the area of group-based education for chronic disease management. I am currently at the half way mark in my doctoral studies, and am looking forward to finishing in early 2014.

Kate Odgers-Jewell: Dietitian and Cupcake Provider!

During my post-graduate studies I have worked as a tutor, lecturer and lab demonstrator.  The communication with students in this line of work is via a University based ‘blackboard’ platform, which allows me to email students, write memos and place posts on discussion boards. Colleagues have also used Facebook pages for their subjects in the past year to keep students up to date with any changes to lecture times or assignments, and to provide additional resources. This Social Media option has been found to be very beneficial. I would definitely like to try this with my students in future, as I have found that students generally check their Facebook accounts much more frequently than they do their university accounts!

We utilize various social media platforms for Cupcake Passion, including a Facebook fan page, Flickr photostream, a Twitter account (which I have linked to our Facebook page to minimize time wastage), as well as Pinterest boards and Instagram. At the moment we mainly use our Facebook fan page and Flickr photostream to keep customers up to date with our photos as well as any current news. I think that customers enjoy the interactivity of our Facebook fan page, whilst it certainly makes life easier for us and allows us to spend less time updating our website.  If I had more time on my hands, I would be more active on our Pinterest and Instagram accounts too! I think that social media is certainly beneficial for businesses- and I love the fact that all of the information required can be found so quickly and easily.

Just one of the astonishing creations available from Cupcake Passion. Look for them on Facebook.

For residents of the Gold Coast, be certain to look for Cupcake Passion on Facebook. I’m sure this photo alone convinces you that you need to!

 

 

An Ordinary Girl Living An Extraordinary Life

The Second in a Series of Five Guest Posts

I consider it a privilege to know Jesinta Campbell. In 2008 and 2009, I taught her at Aquinas College on the Gold Coast and she was an exceptional English student, hard-working, sensitive and insightful. I particularly remember her heart-felt response to the well-known Jodi Picoult novel My Sister’s Keeper. Jesinta is, to my mind, the perfect counter argument to the stereotypical perception of the “dumb beauty queen.” She is capable of so much and I know that gradually Australia and the world will come to see her in a very different light. Jesinta has rightly become a role model for young, female Australians but it’s high time that her “demographic” broadened. Yes, she is extraordinarily beautiful but she considers herself just “an ordinary girl living an extraordinary life.”

When I asked a number of past students to offer their opinions on Social Media and education, she was quick to respond and found time in her hectic schedule to provide the insights which follow. But, before that, here is the only photo you will ever see with this caption!

The Connected Teacher and The Miss Universe Finalist

 

It’s fair to say that social media, in all its forms, has a huge influence on our lives. Even if you have no interaction personally with any platform– Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – all have become such a big part of our culture that almost everyone (unless you live under a rock) has heard of them. The term “social media” has become a part of the vernacular – not a day would go by that you don’t talk about it or read about it. What most people don’t realize is that even if you have nothing to do with it, it has influenced you or someone you know. Print publications have had to make adjustments due to information being so readily available online and TV shows have begun to include it in production so that they can reach a wider audience and interact with viewers. Politicians have adopted social media strategies to get in touch with people they usually wouldn’t have access to and some of the stories you read in the newspapers have actually been sourced from places like Twitter.

In my field of work, social media is everything; not a day, in fact, not even a few hours (unless I am sleeping) go by without me checking out what the people I am following on Twitter are writing, updating my blog or Facebook status or even posting a picture on Instagram. It’s fair to say that I am very familiar with social media and how it works, it’s often part of my contracts with certain brands or TV shows. I am contracted to tweet and use Instagram.

This brings me to my next point. Should we allow social media to be used in classrooms by our students? My immediate answer is “yes” followed by a very quick “Only if…” Like anything there are going to be pros and cons and social media is not excused from this. In fact I believe that if schools are considering the idea of utilizing social media in the classroom they need to be very realistic about the positive and negative effects of it. I have been blessed to have had positive experiences with social media. Some people aren’t so lucky. We’ve seen sports stars “come undone” with careless tweeting and we’ve all witnessed the very public effects that Twitter trolls had upon media personality Charlotte Dawson. We’ve all viewed YouTube videos that have gone viral, divided religious groups and been the catalyst for huge riots. Then, there are the stories that none of us hear about; the bullying, intimidation and online abuse of people on platforms such as Facebook.

Social media can be dangerous, very dangerous if you don’t know what you are dealing with. I recently attended a luncheon with our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, along with nine other young people who were seen as the Top 10 Most Influential people on social media under the age of 30. I felt so honoured to be included in the group alongside TV presenters, Olympians, sport stars, actors and bloggers. It was a fantastic lunch; we spent two hours with the PM discussing our experiences and interactions with Social Media. We shared personal stories and our own ideas and viewpoints on various online platforms. One of the topics brought up was the NBN (National Broadband Network) being introduced to Australia.

For those of you who don’t know, the NBN will allow 93% of workplaces, schools and homes to be connected to a superfast broadband network allowing communication to happen all but instantaneously – yep, that’s possible! After our Prime Minister explained the ins and outs of it all to us and the multiple benefits that the NBN would have for Australia, we raised a point, the most valid of the lunch in my opinion; how was the government going to manage the effects that this superfast, super-accessible network would have on our youth?

Having access to this kind of network also has obvious benefits. However, we said we would all like to see programs integrated into the current school curriculum that teach students how to conduct themselves on social media and how to manage their interactions with other people on whatever platform they are using. The “trouble” with social media is anonymity, young people feel as if they don’t have to take responsibility for their words. What most people fail to realize is that everything you post is just like walking in wet concrete; it leaves an imprint forever. So, in reality, we should all be even more conscious of everything we post, instead of the nonchalant manner in which we are currently approaching social media. If our government and schools can teach students how to conduct themselves on social media and raise their awareness about the impact their interactions have, then I believe social media is fantastic tool that can be harnessed for good in the classroom.

In the lead up to the Miss Universe pageant I spent hours on social media. What most people don’t realize is that when you compete in the pageant you need to be up to date and have opinions on current affairs and what is happening in the world around you. You are constantly interacting with people from all around the world and are interviewed and asked questions on a daily basis about any topic you could possibly imagine. Every day in the lead up to pageant I would read every major newspaper in the world via twitter and follow humanitarian groups, charities and influential world leaders on blogs, Facebook and of course Twitter. This allowed me to broaden my 18-year-old view of the world by being exposed to what was happening around me. This simply would not have been possible without the aid of social media.

I am a glass half full kind of girl so when I was asked the question if Social Media should be included in the classroom I couldn’t help but say yes. When I reflect on the way in which it has broadened my world I can’t help but see the positive impact it could have in the classroom. My glass is always half full but I am not wearing Coke bottle glass goggles so I am aware of the negative impact it could also have. This is why I say yes to social media in the classrooms, only if our government and teachers can find a way to first educate students on the power and potential negative effects.

Now, Jesinta has 36,000 followers on Twitter (…whilst her former teacher has 328!) but if you want to join the hordes she can be found @JesintaCampbell. More importantly we would love some feedback and comments. Remember that this young woman is one of the most influential “under 30s” on Social Media … and she has the ear of Prime Minister Gillard.

 

It’s All About the Music

The First in a Series of Five Guest Posts

A few weeks ago I hit upon an excellent idea; well, at least I think it’s an excellent idea! I know that a good number of the better known edubloggers guest blog on each other’s sites. However, I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach. Using Facebook, I have made contact with ten past students, each of whom have gone on to become what I would consider a genuine success story. Of course, each of these talented young men and women have chosen a different career path and I’ve attempted to select a good cross section.

The first two contributions have come in and so I thought it was timely to post the first. Timely, because just yesterday (December 1, 2012) Jewel Topsfield published an excellent article, This T is For Teaching, in The Age about the use of Twitter in schools. (…and yes, I am quoted in it!)

I asked each of the past students to provide their views on social media, the platforms they use, the benefits to their career and whether schools should be teaching “responsible use.” The first post is from Ian Camilleri; but I’ll shortly allow him to introduce himself. Of course, both Ian and I would welcome your questions and comments. At the bottom of the post you will find contact details for Ian and a link to his website.

Ian Camilleri: Audio Engineer and Music Producer

 

My name is Ian Camilleri and since graduating from secondary school in 2001, I have been pursuing a career in the entertainment / advertising / media industry.  In 2005, I attained a Bachelor Of Popular Music from the Queensland Conservatorium and in 2007, I relocated from the Gold Coast to Sydney to seek employment opportunities in this field. Five years later, I have secured a full time position as an Audio Engineer at the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS Australia) and have also started my own recording studio business; where I am a recognised Music Producer, Sound Designer, Composer and Audio Engineer.

Social media sites have been, and continue to be, a large contributor to the career progressions I have made over the past five years.  They have proven time and time again to be the most effective way in which I learn more about my industry, stay in contact with colleagues and clients, seek new contacts and potential opportunities and let the industry know what I’ve been up to. They also allow me to maintain awareness; much like a brand does through marketing campaigns – putting me “front of mind” should an opportunity arise. I currently use three primary social media sites on a daily basis; Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and use others like Instagram or Soundcloud sparingly for more specific applications.

As the most popular social media site in the world, Facebook serves me two purposes.  My personal profile is used to find and stay in contact with anyone I’ve ever known; from family to close friends, acquaintances, former work colleagues and schoolmates.  I very rarely add people whom I have never met nor been in contact with, as my profile reveals personal information about myself and, my posts are mostly personal thoughts, opinions, experiences and interactions.  As I have accumulated a high volume of contacts or ‘friends’ on this platform (some of which are industry contacts), I also post about work related topics and promote what I have been up to; however, I mostly leave that for my Facebook business page.  Here, I promote my services, show pictures of my studio and post about my latest projects and work related experiences.  As part of a Facebook business page, I also receive detailed information on how my page is tracking, and how many people I am reaching with my activity.  This is very useful to understand how to market effectively to my targeted audience and attract more interest in my product.  I often ‘pay to promote’ important posts in order to reach more people and in the near future, I may even invest in the more structured paid advertising options.

As Twitter is a much simpler concept that other social media sites (and more useful for well-known public figures), I have chosen to link it to my Facebook business page so that anything I post on Facebook is also simultaneously tweeted on Twitter.  My Twitter feed is also featured on my website therefore, I treat my Twitter profile as another work related platform.

The most useful of all social media sites for networking with my industry, seeking potential career opportunities and furthering my business is LinkedIn.  LinkedIn allows me to display professional information about me; current position, work history, skills, experience and references.  Much like an online CV, it allows potential employers / recruiters and business clients to find out more about me professionally.  So far, this has proven to be the most useful tool for building a great contact database, staying ‘plugged in’ to what’s happening within the industry, finding and expressing interest in employment opportunities and attracting work for my business.  I often use the ‘People You May Know’ tool which allows me to look for and connect with other people in the industry who may be connected somehow with my existing list of contacts.  I currently have 430 ‘connections’ or contacts that could include potential employers with future career prospects or clients with work for my business.

While I believe having an online presence through social media sites is important, their effectiveness is very much dependent on the frequency and amount of activity put into them.  With the internet on my smartphone as well as at home and at work, I access social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on a regular basis; often hourly on any given day.  Most of the time, I am simply observing and reading other’s activity, but I will often contribute in some way; either ‘liking’ or commenting on posts, and sometimes sharing something I like.  I try to create my own posts at least 3 -5 times a week in order to appear regularly in the ‘newsfeed’ but not so much that my contacts are annoyed by constant and uninteresting posts.  When I do post, I usually put some thought into how I will phrase it, so as to encourage people to ‘like’, comment, or even to start a discussion on the topic.  The more people that are engaged in a post, the more successful I feel it is and, the more likely people are willing to contribute to my posts in the future.

As with any online presence, there are risks involved in what I display or post but ultimately, the choice lies with me.  Having a good understanding of these risks and how to avoid them helps me to make informed decisions about what I show and what I don’t.  For example, I choose not to show my address information on any of my profiles so as to avoid any risks to my safety and the security of my belongings.  I am also very cautious when posting, that I don’t say something to offend anyone who may see the post; leading to disputes, legal consequences, employment termination or a loss of future work.  As long as these risks are understood and correct social media practices taught, the advantages to having an active and dynamic online presence far outweighs the dangers.

Many of the current social media sites began in small institutions like schools or colleges and it’s in these environments that I believe it is most useful.  Also, with the way the rest of the world has already been integrating social media into everyday practices, (particularly in the workplace), it is only logical that classrooms should provide the right education; if only to prepare students for the real world.  In the school environment, it would not only connect teachers, students and parents in a highly efficient network, but it would also allow for endless possibilities as to how the current curriculum is taught.

As students are being exposed to the dynamic world of social media more and more in their personal lives, the often flat and very structured curriculum currently taught in schools will lose its appeal and consequently, the interest of students.  The use of social media interaction in the classroom would inspire teachers and education boards to come up with new and creative ways to teach; engaging and exciting students to get the most out of their education.  It would also provide valuable tools for educators to be able to monitor, assess, review and improve systems as often as they wish.

The truth is, whether we choose to embrace it or not, social media has definitely reshaped the way we interact with others in our everyday lives.  I believe that in order to have the best chance at a successful and rewarding career in this new era, as with everything, it needs to start in the classroom.

Why not head to www.iancamillerimusic.com and click on the contact page where you will see all of Ian’s social networking links. While you’re there, why not check out some of his work!