Nuances of New Literacies

PROSonny Abesamis Follow new life
PROSonny Abesamis Follow
new life

New literacies=new readers

I’ve written about ways to embed Twitter into Service studies, Psychology, Personal and Social Education, how to host Twitter chats, and a general post on Twitter for the IBDP student.

Why can’t I stop blogging about Twitter in 2016?

In September last year Twitter published a post which looked at how the US geological survey was using tweet data to track earthquakes. Using a surprisingly uncomplicated process, the USGS had found that by tracking mentions of the term ‘earthquake’, within specific parameters which they’d defined, they could better track seismic activity across the globe than they’d been able to via their previous measurement systems…….Twitter data is being used to track and respond to flood damage in Jakarta, to monitor civil unrest in Egypt, to predict crime in the US. These use cases highlight the societal benefits of Twitter data, beyond just keeping up with cultural trends. Rather than seeing it as a short-form message service mainly populated by Millennials, Twitter is a powerful data engine with wide-reaching benefits.   (full text here)


Political campaigns worldwide now use bots, software developed to automatically do tasks online, as a means for gaming online polls and artificially inflating social-media traffic. Recent analysis by our research team at Oxford University reveals that more than a third of pro-Trump tweets and nearly a fifth of pro-Clinton tweets between the first and second debates came from automated accounts, which produced more than 1 million tweets in total. This data corroborates recent reports suggesting that both candidates’ social media followings are highly automated. (Full text here)

As a former IBDP Language and Literature teacher, a core component of the course asks us to Examine different forms of communication within the media.  In 2016 it is impossible to leave Twitter outside of that conversation.

So, where are great resources to help us foster twitter literacy in an Ibdp Lang/Lit course?

1. “Make America Tweet Again”

Computer scientists from the University of Utah’s College of Engineering have developed what they call “sentiment analysis” software that can automatically determine how someone feels based on what they write or say. To test out the accuracy of this software’s machine-learning model, the team used it to analyze the individual sentiments of more than 1.6 million (and counting) geo-tagged tweets about the U.S. presidential election over the last five months. A database of these tweets is then examined to determine whether states and their counties are leaning toward the Republicans or Democrats.



Social media has empowered isis recruiting, helping the group draw at least 30,000 foreign fighters, from some 100 countries, to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. It has aided the seeding of new franchises in places ranging from Libya and Afghanistan to Nigeria and Bangladesh. It was the vehicle isis used to declare war on the United States: The execution of the American journalist James Foley was deliberately choreographed for viral distribution. And it is how the group has inspired acts of terror on five continents.

4. Twelve ways twitter has changed our lives

Ten years ago, if someone told you people would be writing articles about hundreds and thousands of people watching a livestream of a puddle, you’d probably think they were making it up. Despite constant calls of “that’s not news”, viral moments have become just that. From #thedress to #thestory, Twitter amplifies these trends to the point they end up in newspapers.

5. #langNlit

The hashtag curates resources on the daily.


Yes, and…WHERE ARE GREAT RESOURCES for the ibdp literature teacher?




Anders Adermark Connected
Anders Adermark


Twitter is home to some of my favorite ‘colleagues.’ These are just a sampling of the Lang/Lit teachers I’m proud to follow:

Michelle Lampinen


Madeleine Cox


Sydney Atkins


Lindsay Lyon


Aynsley o’carroll


Neshali Weera


Uzay Ashton


Wonder if twitteracy is a thing? unsure as to whether or not twitter will provoke more reading and writing? 

Start here…and consider contacting that amazing list of teachers on Twitter above for a ‘slow chat’ debate.  Maybe we could even host it with students?

Chris Horizon


All Images Under a CC licence

new life

Connected via Flickr

Horizon via Flickr

Where are you?

Schools are talking a lot of talk about digital citizenship.  Leaders are drafting a lot of policy, middle managers are meeting again, discussing once more, how we can establish norms of healthy and effective online behaviors. So, where are you?

Are you mentoring or simply managing?

Are you demonstrating why we need social networks? Are you a lead learner? Do your colleagues, students, friends KNOW what you are learning and why you are learning about it?

I cannot count the times I have heard a fellow teacher say something like this:  “I have nothing to share, why would I tweet?” or “Blogging takes up too much time, and besides, why would anyone read my posts?”

The truth is, every teacher has something to share.

Yes, blogging takes time.

Learning takes time.

Reflection takes time.

Everything that makes your school strong, warm, caring, meaningful TOOK TIME.  Initially you might end up being the only audience for your ideas and posts.

Shouldn’t we all sit as an audience member to our own mind now and then?

"Alone" by encik ryunosuke
“Alone” by
encik ryunosuke


Readers will come.

You will be surprised because you will soon realize you have always been a social thinker. All educators are taste-makers, idea-sparkers, and public personas. Even when you don’t have an opinion, your absence of comment says something.

Diversity matters.

Having a PLN, and connecting with a broader range of educators will change you.  Check out this brilliant reflection on ‘How Change Will Change You,”  courtesy of the incredibly witty Jessica Hagy. Perhaps even more relevant to this post is her work here:

So why risk the safety and comfort of your existing ideas for diversity, conflict, and confusion?

Because that is exactly what we ask our students to do every day of the week, because we know it will teach them both how to think, and why society needs thoughtful people.

“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.” ~ James Surowiecki

"Spice_1" by Clyde Robinson


So what have I been doing lately to diversifY my ideation process? 

  1. I’ve hosted two #March2C chats. I’ve been looking for new ways of thinking about blogging in schools. You can look at the storified version of the first one here, and the follow up chat here.

This meant using the excellent International Schools Information Technology Leadership and Integration group on Facebook (The inspired John Mikton is one of the admin) as well as our fantastic Google+ #COETAIL community. 

I used CANVA to create a quick and easy advert for the chat.
I used CANVA to spread the word.


Fellow COETAILER, Marcello Mongardi agreed to co-host the first chat with me on Twitter. We brainstormed questions, and I used Haiku Deck to curate our conversAtion:

#March2C – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

2. The initial chat, and extension of my PLN was the direct result of one of my favorite online connections, Sonya terBorg. Sonya is a former colleague, and we recently reconnected when we were both presenting at the ECIS 2015 technology conference. 

Sonya and I have regular chats about where technology could and should be taking our schools, and how it can be a major catalyst for empathy.  After reading her blog post here, I felt inspired to take a blogging project I am facilitating in my own school, and share it with a wider audience. That invitation is still live here.

That’s the power of PLN point guards: they encourage and inspire when you need an added boost.

Sonya reminded me to think about ways to better engage with my audience, and to go visual when sharing my blogging prompts:

3. In the past two weeks I’ve pivoted with the blogging challenge.  There is no reason our PLN should not include our students. So I started asking my students to provide me with blogging prompts, and I’m challenging myself to blog back once a week (you can see my first response here).  It has been really interesting to see how they want to challenge their teacher.

4.  Developing bonds within your PLN community is multifaceted.  One of the lesser talked about networks in COETAIL is Goodreads. 

I’ve been astonished to see what happens when we network our student readers.  I stole this idea from two other PLN point guards:  Jabiz Raisdana and Paula Guinto.

PLN’s do that: they invite you to beg, borrow, steal and remix.

Every single one of my students is now on Goodreads, and we update and connect in that space weekly.  A month ago, I invited our principal to join and connect with students.  He was kind enough to agree.  PLN’s need many roads to connect through, and Goodreads is a great path to pursue. Roughly half of my students have joined the immensely popular Goodreads group “Our Shared Shelf,” reminding me that networks beget more networking.

I’ve sent a tweet to @coetail-admin to see if we can get the Goodreads widget added to our COETAIL blogs. Seeing what educators have on their shelves is incredibly insightful.  Just today I found @Arniebieber ‘s blog (A BIG ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR ANY SCHOOL DIRECTOR WHO IS BRAVE ENOUGH TO BLOG!) and I decided to check out one of the books on his Goodreads shelf (via the widget) and I’ve already ordered myself a copy.  

I love seeing what other education leaders are reading. The most creative educators are constantly reading, constantly leaving a trail of thought.  Kim Cofino models this practice so well:

If networks beget more networking, reading begets more blogging, and that is a very good thing for schools everywhere.

5. My other PLN extension focus is the upcoming #Learning2 conference in Milan. I’m honored to be an L2 Leader this year. This gives me the stellar opportunity to get more face-to-face time with some of my most valued PLN. It also gives me the opportunity to make new connections.

When I try to distill all my work with my PLN down to an elevator pitch version, here’s what I come up with:

When someone shares an idea with you, or they make time to listen to your idea: ideation spreads. You find yourself having more conversations. You find yourself returning to old ideas, reconnecting with old friends.  You then feel compelled to help others. You remember: teaching is about connection.

Connections by VenusPetrov
Connections by VenusPetrov


Who knows, maybe someone is reading this right now, still on the fence about whether or not to try Twitter, to start a blog, to tell their colleague about a wacky idea. If that is you, comment below or send me a DM on Twitter.  If there is one thing I’ve learned from my PLN, it is that you have to pay it forward. You have to encourage others to disrupt their practice.

“Forget about being an expert or a professional, and wear your amateurism (your heart, your love) on your sleeve. Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.”- Austin Kleon

The 21st Century teacher has a garden to tend to, and we need to be thankful to have so much access to many, many seeds out there.  Spring is coming, what will you grow this season?



Another thank you to the amazing community of artists on Flickr’s Creative Commons bank of images. No alterations have been made to any of the original photos.

“Alone” by
encik ryunosuke

“Come on, I canna hold it much longer” by

“Spice_1” by
Clyde Robinson

Catalyst Plate 3 by Thomas Hawk

Connections by VenusPetrov

Expecting More Matters


Our expectations set the tone. If we expect cyber-bullying, if we anticipate prank hacks, if all we talk about are the pitfalls of our screen-clad world that is exactly what we will get.

Instead, if we think beyond doom and gloom, if we anticipate excellence, we might awaken a little inspiration.

I saw this first hand while working with Sheldon Bradshaw and Jane Ross. Sheldon and Jane both saw beyond the what if’s and yeah but’s.

I was lucky to have worked in a 1:1 blogging environment.  We pushed students to thinking bigger in terms of online authoring and started an online eBookstore.


We have to stop thinking in terms of ’empowering’ authorship and start thinking in terms of building the platforms to showcase success.  Students already are artists.  Students already have things to say.  It is our job to help them find their voice, and you cannot find your voice without also looking for ears.

Blog Action Day is another way to galvanize student authors.


Blog action Day is a wonderful tie-in to GIN (Global Issues Network) which depends on student leadership and student collaborative service learning efforts:


What happens when we encourage students to work with one another for change? They help us communicate higher expectations.  Take a look at this IBDP learner’s CAS project, Riveria English:


Look at the ways her blog has reflected her leadership experiences by clicking here.

This amazing young woman is an example–thankfully she is sharing via Twitter, WordPress, and Youtube.  Examples have exponential power through social media.

Examples like these are what educators need to expect.  Stop short-changing students and suggesting that they won’t use social media for learning. Teachers need to model their use of PLN’s.  How aware are students of our own ambitions to learn more together? If we aren’t embracing the opportunities tech facilitates in promoting life long learning, we need to expect more from ourselves.

Key Questions to ask of your school:

1) How does your school work to network students?

2) Where in your school’s online world can we see a space to develop as thinkers and inquirers?

3) How can students find opportunities to connect with positive connected projects?

4) How are teachers mentoring connected learning?

5) When are you making time for students to change expectations?


Putting the ‘we’ in weave

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“In a world of rapid change, we each need to garner as much useful information as possible, sort through it in a way that meets our unique circumstances, calibrate it with what we already know, and re-circulate it with others who share our goals.”
Marcia Conner, The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media

Transformative learning is connected learning.  Transformative living is all about communication, communities, and coming up with new ways to share understandings.  “The true power of the Internet can be found in communities that form just in time around any given topic,” (Jeff Utecht), from his amazing resource Reach.

Technology reminds us of how much we like people.  While there is evidence to the contrary (see Gamergate), the optimist, idealist, the-weekend-is-always-just-around-the-corner-ist has to believe that most days, being logged on means being connected to something that has the potential to save humanity.

“Welcome to the Collaboration Age, where even the youngest among us are on the Web, tapping into what are without question some of the most transformative connecting technologies the world has ever seen. ”  (read more from Edutopia and Will Richardson here).

I’ve been teaching MYP and DP Literature for a decade.  Reading and writing are social subjects.  Think of the number of book recommendations you receive in a given year.  Your family and friends love the idea of sharing stories.  Stories connect us, invite us to better understand ourselves.  Our understandings are devalued unless we spread them out, discuss them, and unpack them together.  Years ago this unpacking was constrained by the four walls of my classroom.  Today, my students unpack and as Austin Kleon would say they ‘learn in the open.’  

When my students blog or post to Youtube they are communicating to themselves this idea:  I contribute.  If every student today took a moment to authentically feel those two words, I think I would have a great deal more confidence in tomorrow.  Students (and educators) need to see themselves as makers, as artists–as being people with something to offer.

One of my all time favorite shares is the amazing talk from Angela Maiers entitled “You Matter.” 

In it she invites us to remind our educational communities that what they do and say are important to us.  Asking our students, asking our colleagues to contribute implies that message.  When I set up blogs with students I remind them that I believe that what they have to say belongs to ears bigger than mine.

I know that a networked student is an empowered human being.  I wasn’t on Twitter until I was thirty years old.  I cannot begin to summarize all that I’ve gained from Twitter.  What if I had my PLN at age fifteen?

Communities are made.  We all have a role to play in making them.

“The Collaboration Age is about learning with a decidedly different group of “others,” people whom we may not know and may never meet, but who share our passions and interests and are willing to invest in exploring them together. It’s about being able to form safe, effective networks and communities around those explorations, trust and be trusted in the process, and contribute to the conversations and co-creations that grow from them.” (Will Richardson, ‘World Without Walls’).

This age is also then about vulnerability, something Brene Brown speaks about (if you haven’t watched this, do yourself a favor and do so now).

To share, to listen, to collaborate means we need to open up.

This is what I’m talking about when I talk about technology saving humanity.  Our networks invite us to be vulnerable to be courageous and to share.  Our networks allow us to practice the art of listening.  Like the title of Utecht’s book, networks command us to reach.  We reach not with closed fists, but with open hands–helping hands.  Cue up the Stevie Wonder already, will you?

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