Conferences, Musings, Pedagogy, School Libraries, Work Stuff

One person’s #TEDxNYED – Participation

I don’t claim to be an expert on ed tech, libraries, conferences or any of that – nor am I necessarily taking notes for anyone but me (and trust me, you couldn’t read my notes if you tried!).  Having disclaimed all that, the following is my take on yesterday’s TEDxNYED conference.  My advice to all readers is to go to the videos and experience your own TEDxNYED.However, if you want to read this attendee’s thoughts and deciphered scribbles, read on (reportage and commentary are intermingled)…

Juliette LaMontagne was our host, reminding us to observe Amy Bruckman‘s Rules of Twitter: don’t brag and don’t whine. I’m going to apply that to this post (except there’s little to brag about) and not whine.  Practically, that means if I didn’t like a speaker, don’t expect to hear a lot (or anything) about their talk.  Ready?  Let’s go…

For those of you that don’t know that much about the TED format, the talks are organized around a theme, and each person gets 17.5 minutes.  The first theme for us was Participation.

Andy Carvin (there’s also his blog) presented a problem for me: despite a very large coffee earlier, and a good night’s sleep, I just wasn’t fully prepared to be wowed at 10am.  (Note: that’s not a whine!) He started with a history of what I’ll call citizen participation during times of international crisis:

  • 1995: LM_NET(!!) participants and edubloggers start to ask what they can do to help during the Kobe Earthquake. Answer?  Not much beyond the traditional donating to the Red Cross, etc.
  • 2001: September 11.  “What can we do?”  It’s the start of citizen journalism – he formed a Yahoo group to start collecting information and disprove (or prove) rumors.
  • 2004: When the Boxing Day Tsunami occurred, technology enabled the creation of a wiki and a blog, allowing the global community to learn how to help and to share information.
  • 2005: Those affected by the tsunami responded to Hurricane Katrina with offers to help create resources; because the Red Cross’ database was slow in updating and because information about people was scattered around the web, they created the People Finder Project. This marked a huge shift: instead of merely donating food, money, blood, etc., you could now donate skills.
  • 2008: When rumor (ok, ok, official predictions) said that Hurricane Gustav would be as deadly as Katrina, Andy created the Hurricane Info Center, a call for volunteers to help collate and provide data.
  • 2009: Rather than react to crises, why not pre-plan?  And so the CrisisCamp was born…
  • … and when the Haitian Earthquake happened, it only took one weekend for a Creole/English app to be created… one hour for a PersonFinder widget (one hour for the Chile Earthquake PersonFinder)… and OpenStreetMap saved lives.
  • The CrisisCamp idea has spread worldwide.

Whew!  So, essentially, social media encourages people to work together in times of crisis (think of all the people who tweeted, texted or posted and donated to help Haiti).

What can we educators do?  What about having students contribute to the OpenStreetMap project by mapping their neighborhoods – or participating in the social activism of CrisisWiki or Ushahidi?  Look at how DC dealt with the Snowmageddon clean-up.

This not only is a gift to the communities in which we live, but it will increase social awareness in our students, enabling them to become better global citizens.  Isn’t that part of the goal of education?

And as I’m trying to process all that, Mike Wesch gets on stage…

Now, I’d seen Mike at NEIT, so was looking for something new/more.  What I got was a 17.5-minute version of what we heard then.  To wit:

When he was first in Indonesia, he was studying an “unmediated” society – relationships defined who people were.  Then in came the census, and suddenly people needed a fixed name, and houses and villages needed a fixed location – the relationships were no longer how people defined themselves.  This change/shock to the society is still reverberating years later.

We may think that we’re using social media, but the reality is, it’s using us.  We can’t opt out because it’s ubiquitous.   Here in the US, we’re teetering between hopeful opportunities and problems: the goal needs to be creating caring, open, voracious, collaborative learners but (of course) the current educational environment does not support this. (And if you haven’t seen it, check out A Vision of Students Today)

We’ve all heard about the “sage on the stage” and the “guide on the side”; my guess is that the next “go to” phrase we’ll hear that we “need to go from knowledgable to knowledge-able”.

Our final Participation presenter was Henry Jenkins.  He reminded us that participatory culture was not just about media or technology.  He wants to live in a world where kids and adults can meet as equals – that world is online, of course (don’t forget, on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog!)

As more and more teens take part in creating “culture”, how are they getting the skills?  Well… look at the trajectory of “underground” culture, from the 1850s pamphlets through amateur radio and science fiction ‘zines to YouTube videos.  They have the skills, they just need finesse.

He also pointed out that the world of online games has helped people organize in ways that didn’t happen before (the Na’vi protest for Palestine, for example, or Singapore’s action figure protest, not to mention the Harry Potter Alliance). This sort of thing can lead to Invisible Children!  Yet many schools block games and other social media – in other words, they block participation.

Thus endeth the first session.

4 thoughts on “One person’s #TEDxNYED – Participation”

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