Grace Lethiot Blog #5: The Global Attention Economy and the Classroom

URL: http://remoteaccess.typepad.com/remote_access/

 

The Global Attention Economy and the Classroom

Last school year, one of the students in my class wrote a blog post expressing her outrage over the fact that living in North America, the African AIDS / HIV pandemic rarely surfaces in our attention. She basically bemoaned the fact that while we are constantly swamped with news and information, important stories such as this are often far buried in our news sources. (if they are reported on at all)

This post has stuck with me.

As a teacher who is interested in students having multiple perspectives on any event or story, and who is interested in students finding their own sources of information, stories like this worry me. How can students gain fair, open, and honest access to global information?

Enter Ethan Zuckerman.

If you are not familiar with his work, you need to take some time to explore Mr. Zuckerman's blog. Affiliated with the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard, he is one of the main designers of the amazing Global Voices site as well. Mr. Zuckerman has designed a website which scrapes the news form over 1700 news sites around the world. This data is then aggregated and pumped out in chart form and as a daily map. His research is fascinating. What it shows over time is that in North America especially, the news that we are swamped by daily is based on the events in relatively few countries:

CNN map

The reds and pinks are the nations which we've received the most news from since 1997, while those in blues and purples are far under represented. When this map is compared to the news that comes from the BBC the results are quite different:

BBC News Map

Much more internationally focussed, with far fewer blue and purple areas, this map shows that this news source is covering the world much more evenly.

Zuckerman's research (and this similar french application) shows that the actual news events that happen in a nation have little effect on North American reporting patterns. Even though hundreds of people may be massacred or a large natural disaster take place, if the event is in Africa or Central Asia, it is much less likely to be covered with any depth then if the event occurred somewhere else. You need to read his entire paper, but basically he outlines that economic and trade relationships affect reporting much more then actual news events.

So what does all of this have to do with classrooms?

  • In the first place, it means that we need to be aware of this bias when we are searching for news sources for our students. If we want them to actually get a full slate of international news, we need to be very careful to not only use North American news sites.
  • Secondly, it means that when students are searching for information on their own on current events, they must break away from North American reporting.

So then where do we go for information?

  • We must be careful to collect and collate international news sites and newspapers.
  • We must use sites like Global Voices that are the real voices of authentic people, always being aware of, and teaching our students how to evaluate these unknown sources.

In a connected world, where we want our students to be aware of global events and trends, where we want our students to become more internationally aware, this is an important issue. Using authentic news sources, where the voices of real people are important, is a sea scale change. This brings with it issues of bias on its own and also drives to the forefront of classroom skills the importance of information access and evaluation. Many international schools do this job of expanding the attention and the perception of students in the global arena in much better ways then many schools do in North America and I believe we have plenty to learn about this issue and ways to combat it for our students.

 

My comment:

I must say that I completely agree with your views on news bias and how it affects the classroom. I'm a student at Illinois State right now, and we are constantly being pushed to use new technologies and Intertet resources to teach our students. But before students can be sent out into the virtual world, they need to know how to identify their sources. We need to help them understand how to further investigate different sites, and bear in mind that the creators could be very biased. I could not believe the difference in North American news and that from the BBC. Those maps alone are a great teaching tool, not to mention what else we could learn from Ethan Zuckerman.

 

Grace Lethiot Blog #4, Starting Point for Schools: Articulation

http://weblogg-ed.com/2008/starting-point-for-schools-articulation/#comment-49247

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending four hours in Elluminate with Sheryl and a dozen or so of the schools that we're working with from the Southeastern states for PLP holding a "work session" around the culminating projects they'll be presenting next month. And though I know the idea of spending four hours doing anything online is overwhelming for a lot of folks, I do mean it when I say "pleasure." Their projects, by and large, blew me away in terms of their scope and thoughtfulness, and it was apparent that most of them were really beginning to understand the network creation and expansion part of this. And it was great to see the extent to which these ideas seemed to be taking hold in their schools. (We'll be sharing these out down the road.)

But while it wasn't a central focus of most of the projects, for some reason what's really stuck in my head are the conversations we had about those that revolved around using these technologies for articulation. And the more I thought about it, the more natural a starting point it seemed for schools who are trying to adopt (or adapt to) these technologies. I'm often struck by how many times I hear about the lack of communication, the isolation of teachers, the inconsistency of the teaching and pedagogy in schools and districts. And those are all things that teachers lounges and monthly department meetings can't really assuage.

I know it would require some front end loading, but if districts were using wikis to house curriculum and encouraging teachers to work off of them as they move through the year, noting, tweaking, fine tuning, reflecting, etc., it would be one way that they could begin to make good use of a Web 2.0 tool and make it easier to connect to what other folks are doing. Not to mention the growing of some very important local network connections (which then, of course, could be expanded out.) And the other piece, of course, is that it's a "safe" way to get started at least in terms of not having to deal with student participation issues.

And when you think about it even for just a few seconds longer, it's not hard to come up with all sorts of other ways to create a rich curriculum "text" if you will that could include videos of lessons, links to resources and artifacts, and the general throwing around of ideas that could potentially deepen the impact of what's happening in the classroom.

Or not. There is the time issue, the buy in issue, and other issues. But I'm sure there are some good examples of this already out there, aren't there?

My Response:

2008-03-27 00:13:24

I think this is an extremely good ideas. I'm an education student at Illinois State University right now, and we are using a wiki in one of my classes to create a group project, and it is so helpful! I am not a huge technology person, and I'm not that advanced in making websites or anything like that, but the wiki is so easy to use. My groupmates and I can post there, show each other different sites, and really communicate when we can't meet face to face. So I completely agree with you, that the use of this web-page could be really helpful for teachers to keep their curriculum consistent for the students. It could also open up a lot of lines of communication between teachers that may be within one district, but working at different schools. What a great way to share knowledge and ideas!

 

Grace Lethiot Blog #2: I Never Knew I Could Have a Network

http://weblogg-ed.com/2008/i-never-knew-i-could-have-a-network/#comment-46678

 

"I Never Knew I Could Have a Network"    

That quote from a teacher at one of the schools Sheryl and I are working with pretty much sums up the scale of the shift that a lot of educators (and others) are facing these days. And since I heard it last week in one of our sessions, it's stuck with me as a testament to how isolated and how local teaching as a profession still is. At various times, some of us have called these network connections we've created something akin to a virtual staff lounge or pd on demand, and I think most of us ensconced here know the real power is the ability to find others who are equally as passionate about learning and doing in schools and with kids as we are no matter what we teach, no matter what our role. My ongoing awakening to the possibilities of networked learning continues to be one of the most transformative experiences of my life (nothing tops parenting, however) and I simply can't imagine functioning in the world without it.

But I would still venture to guess that 75% (maybe more) of educators in this country still don't know that they can have a network. While most of our kids are hacking away at building their own connections outside of their physical space, most of their teachers still don't have a firm grasp of what any of it means or what he potentials are. And even for many that do know it, there are still legitimate fears and obstacles to creating professional connections online, time and technology at the forefront. If we really come to the point where we want our teachers to learn and teach with technology, we need to do as my old school did and provide them with technology that works, and what Carolyn's school has done in terms of beginning to give them the time to learn it and use it well. And, beyond all that, we need an environment that supports real teaching, not simply curriculum delivery. Unfortunately, very little of that is happening in any systemic ways.

We're in the "Networking as a Second Language" point in teaching, this messy transition phase that is slowly gaining traction where we are beginning to understand what this means but not quite sure yet what to do about it. It's becoming more visible by the day, but it's still hard for most people to wrap their brains around it. It's different; in many ways it flies in the face of what we've come to believe about learning and relationships. The other day, Clarence pointed to Ulises Mejias‘ dissertation at Columbia "Networked Proximity: ICT and the Mediation of Nearness" that defines nearness not as something that is dependent on physical proximity but can now be constructed and defined in social, not physical terms. Nearness is inclusion; farness is exclusion. And I like this line especially:

A more positive  interpretation would argue that networked proximity facilitates new kinds of spatially  unbound community, and that these emerging forms of sociality are equally or more  meaningful than the older ones. Community is thus "liberated," unhinged from space,  and can be maintained regardless of distance.

I find that to be true, that in many ways, these connections and more meaningful than the older ones. The passionate learning network of which I am a part is an amazing and important part of my life. The fact that most teachers still have no idea that is possible is distressing on one hand, motivating on the other.

My Response:

Love this entry! Although newer teachers are part of this new "cyber" generation, a lot of older teachers were sort of missed along they way.  They just don't know about a lot of the resources that are available to them-or should be made available to them by schools... They don't know how to use simpler things like email effectively, they don't realize all the pictures, videos, presentation, activities, etc, that they can find and use in modern media. I think that with all the technologies that students know how to use, teachers need to be aware of how they function as well. This way students can experience an educational side of websites, instead of focusing only on social/entertaining portions. Not to mention, as you do, the many, many different networks that can be created with other teachers.  Within these networks, teachers can find support, new ideas, and opinions, if only they learn how to use it.

 

Blog Response #1 :Chasing False Gods

http://practicaltheory.org/serendipity/

Chris-

I completely agree with your comments here.  I think for a lot of kids, school is the most dreadful part of their life, and that's an idea that doesn't sit well with me (or a lot of teachers, I'd imagine). It's very hard, with all the fast-paced conveniences of modern society to get kids to sit down and really focus in school.  I really liked your comment about the difference between teachers who excel at keeping kids amused and those who excel at keeping kids engaged.  Those two words, although similar, have very important differences, as you know.  Engaged students can be amused and learn at the same time.  The question is how can teachers really make that happen? You're right, we don't want to sell subjects to the students. I think we just need to figure out how to present the material to a class, but keep it intriguing for every student. Individualized lessons would probably work best, but at this point in time, it seems like that's an extremely difficult task to accomplish...

 

 
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