Who does “Google” think you are?

We have all been warned that our Social Media profiles and online activities through sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus keep track of where we go, what we look at, what we click on, and who we interact with, but its easy to dismiss this “profiling” when it is not very apparent or visible.  Ever wondered why that advertising on your Google search was targeted at exactly the things you like and buy?

Have you ever wondered what kind of “profile” google has created about you?  Well you can  see your advertising “Catagories” and your assumed “Demographics” by clicking on this link:

http://t.co/hSxzJaPf

Its a very insightful experience to say the least.  Now, in order to deconstruct what these “Categories” and “Demographics” are saying, let me share my “profile” for you to see:

Click on image to “embiggen”

As you can see from this image, Google has correctly identified me as a “Male” and although I won’t turn 35 until later this year, they were pretty close to my current age.  Google definitely figured out exactly where I live in the world, and is thus able to target advertising directly at me from local companies in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

The “Categories” that Google has identified as my “key interests” are very insightful!  I think that they have created an accurate ‘picture’ of what I am most interested in, and what topics I am most likely to engage in online.  You can see that I like Movies, Online Video, K-12 Education, Technology, People and Society, and Libraries!  If you knew me in person, you would most definitely agree with this online google “profile”.

What is helpful to note, is that by accessing your own Google Profile, you can “Remove or Edit” any of these categories or demographics at anytime, if you knew about it!  So, please, get informed about your online Google Profile!  If you want to learn more about maintaining your online privacy, there are many other tools and strategies that you can employ to keep yourself from being “targeted” through strategies like google page.    Please see this page to learn how to “Opt out of Everything Online” to remove any profiles or targeted advertising!

Stay informed, and stay in control of your online identity!

Students WANT Social Media!

There is no doubt that Social Media is quickly embedding itself into all aspects of our 21st century lives.  We are increasingly looking at new ways of connecting online, using technology to bridge time and distance that keeps up apart.  This is no different in Schools, where students are desperate to find and use Social Media tools, and to further develop their skills and knowledge on how to best use these new tools and communication avenues.  Many of the tools we explore help students search, find, connect, produce and then share their experiences, knowledge and understanding! So why not at school?

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) is described as “an educational leadership organization dedicated to advancing best practices and policies for the success of each learner. Our 150,000 members in more than 145 countries are professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members.” They have produced this amazing infographic that outlines the many different ways that Students want to, and already are, using Social Media! (click to embiggen)

An introduction to Google Plus!

Have you heard about Google Plus?

Google Plus is a new Social Networking tool that the engineers at Google have put together!  It was designed from the ground up to be more secure, private, and easy to use and share your stuff through!  While it has been in “Invite-Only” mode for the last 2 months, they just opened it up for anyone and everyone to sign up. (http://plus.google.com to sign up)

Why should you check out a new social network?  Whats wrong with the ones you use now? (Facebook / Twitter) Well, Google Plus (or G+) is meant to keep your private info, well, private!  You have to actively choose to share your information or posts.  You can connect with lots and lots of people *(like on twitter), but they don’t automatically get access to your private posts or photos that you share only with friends and family.  It is also easily intergrated into other google services, like Gmail, or Gdocs, or Gcalendar.  So, if you are already a Google user, than Google Plus will fit right in.  If you are interested, I highly recommend you check out this short video introduction I made to see how it basically works and how you can start building your circles!

#askshakespeare – A Panel of Experts brought to your classroom

Today’s post is about an “ah-ha” moment I had yesterday.  I have been using twitter for just about 2 years now, and only really using twitter for about the last 6 months professionally.  Yesterday, I saw a tweet annoucing “Ask Shakespearian Experts anything you want using the #askshakespeare hashtag today only!”.  I thought, WOW!  What a wonderful way to use Twitter to extend your classroom and learning opportunities out into the world.   Here is how the event was described on Blogging Shakespeare:

“On 2, February 2011 Shakespeare organisations, enthusiasts, scholars and professionals worldwide joined us on the AskShakespeare panel through their twitter accounts and answered all the questions that were posted on the #askshakespeare.”



This simple use of the Twitter platform, a hashtag to organize the questions (#askshakespeare), and the volunteer time of these experts, scholars and professionals created a virtual ‘panel’ that could be accessed by any teacher, student, enthusiast or citizen to learn more about the Bard.  I asked two seperate questions:



Within minutes, I had 6 responses from 3 different experts, each weighing in on the questions regarding Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathway, and also whether today’s copyright laws would allow a writer and playwright such as Shakespeare to borrow and adapt from many sources to produce a new, yet derivative, product. 

So, overall, this was an opportunity for me to really see how Twitter and Social Media can be used in a very effective way to enhance your educational environment, whether it is face to face in a classroom, or online, via distance, you can implement simple and easy tools to bring experts and knowledge into your classroom!  You can find and access experts from around the globe, interact with them and use their knowledge and expertise to help your own students. 

My top 6 reasons why I love and use Social Media!

Today I wanted to share with the readers of this blog my top 6 reasons why I am so pleased with social media as a tool for Educators!  I have been teaching now for over 7 years, and 6 of these have been teaching part-time as an “online” or distance educator.  Throughout these formative years, I have struggled, as all new teachers do, with figuring out what Educating is all about.  I have sought like-minded Educators in my district, attended many Professional Development workshops, and collaborated with my peers at the school level.  This has allowed me to grow and develop as an educator, which I value very much.  The one concern I had over these developing years was how difficult or how time consuming this was.  Collaboration happens just a couple of times through the year, Professional Development only offered 5 days in a school year. Conferences were typically expensive, far away and did not cover the curriculum I taught my students.

With the development of Social Media, especially Twitter, I have had more Professional Development in the last 6 months than the last 6 years!  I have ‘met’ more like-minded Educators, worked collaboratively with people from all over North America, have been able to virtually “attend” conferences that were far away through backchannels and have expanded my understanding and knowledge greatly!  How did I do this?  By spending about 30 mins a day on twitter, reading the stream, clicking interesting links and by finding other like-minded Educators to ‘follow’.  

I have found new ideas and strategies to try.  I have been inspired by what others have been able to achieve.  I have been helped by people I’ve never met in person, but have communicated with often.  So, what are my top 6 reasons why I use Social Media?

  • Equality – Twitter and other Social Media is very flat.  You can communicate, follow, and converse with anyone else on the medium.  This has allowed me to dialogue with Trustees, Superintendents, CIO’s, Politicians, and other important people that make up my ‘community’.
  • Collaboration – Got a good idea?  Share it and see who else wants to contribute and have access to the final product!  Twitter and other social media has allowed me to find fellow online English educators, as well as others to share challenges, pitfalls, success, and dreams.  It becomes easy to network and work together with other web 2.0 tools.
  • Discussion and Debate – The weekly #edchat discussions and debates on twitter allow Educators and anyone else interested to talk about issues we all face.  What works?  What doesn’t?  What can you do to help your school?  What should districts do to support their educators? Each week there is a new topic to debate and discuss with hundreds of participants and points of view.
  • Better than Expensive Conferences – There has been a recent trend of conferences for educators becoming very expensive.  Coupled with travel and accommodations, Educators are quickly priced out of attending such conferences.  Social Media lets me attend pro-d EVERY SINGLE DAY.  You never know what you’re going to learn when you jump on twitter for 10 minutes in the morning!
  • International Community – Social Media can help “tear down that wall” as Ronald Regan once said during the Cold War.  My community of Educators is truly international, with many voices coming from all over North and South America, Europe, Australia and other countries.  With developments in real-time translation from Google Translate, this is going to grow and expand, as it won’t be hindered with language difficulties any longer!  Star trek technology? Nope, its here today.
  • Local Community – Twitter and other Social Media tools have allowed me to explore and connect with other Educators located right in my backyard!  Apart from the teachers at my local school, it was difficult to find other Educators in my district who are working on really cool ideas and strategies.  Through twitter I am able to connect with educators from around Vancouver, the Lower Mainland, and the Province, allowing me to get a sense of what’s happening in lots of other districts.  Together, we can all ‘rise the tide’ of BC Education!

I hope my exploration of the reasons why I love Social Media so much as an Educator and a Professional have helped you understand why it’s important to try these new tools.  Just like the telegraph, the telephone, the television and other important technological developments have changed the way we interconnect, these tools are paradigm shifting, truly creating a flat, fair and fun landscape for 21st Century Educators!

Got another reason why Social Media is good?  Participate in the discussion by adding your thoughts below!



Welcome students!

“The Buzz” is a blog of the Vancouver Learning Network (VLN), the distance learning school of the Vancouver Board of Education.  As a school that offers online learning to thousands of students each year, we are part of the changing face of education. Our students and teachers are pioneers of education without walls and borders.

We hope to grow the information on this blog with student and teacher contributions. You are invited to participate by writing guest posts, commenting on articles, or suggesting topics of interest.

To get started, we have some interesting information posted that you might want to check out:

Cyberbullying is something that can happen to anyone who uses social media or the internet. Find out what it is and what to do about it at our CyberBullying page!

VLN Cybrarian Mr. Mueller has created a series of videos to guide you through setting up privacy settings on Facebook. It is really important to keep your personal information safe!  Please watch our helpful Videos!

If you note the tabs on the top of the page, you will find additional links to Tips and Tricks as well as Links/Resources. Look around. Explore. We have helpful information for you.

And finally, if you want to learn more about VLN courses or find out how to register, please visit our website at http://vln.vsb.bc.ca

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you learned something useful to share with your friends, family, peers and colleagues!

Aaron, Karla and Cindy.

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