Teenage attention span too short for Facebook

5 07 2010

An online gaming site has done a survey which reports that the main reason for teens leaving Facebook and other social networking sites is that it is not interesting enough for them. Obviously they need more ways to poke, bite, stab, tag, chat, and farm their friends.

While “It’s boring” ranked first amongst ‘lapsed facebook users’ (45%), not far behind was unsurprisingly “too many notifications” (27%), too hard to keep up with activity (21%), and too many ads (20%). Also coming up was the presence of parents and *shudder* other adults on Facebook. They do realise that it is meant for older people, right? (But not parents though, that is weird).

The gaming site obviously asked about social network gaming, and the economics related to it. I’m pretty happy that about two thirds of kids realise spending cash on virtual currency, clothes and power ups is a waste of money – but perhaps disheartened at the number of parents who have given children a special allowance to waste on virtual pitchforks and carrot seed. These parents should be really encouraging children to be online for at least tangible, if no less frivolous objects, such as crap on eBay, retail games (such as Steam or an MMORPG), or digital downlaodable content off iTunes. That would be the responsible thing, for sure.


I am not your friend

13 11 2009

One of the best farewells that was written on my end-of-prac card was “you r now mi friend”. I had told this student earlier that day when he was not cooperating that today was the last day he had to make me his friend.

But is it okay to be friends with students? Particularly where everyone’s friends are now, Facebook.

During my last week, Education Queensland updated their code of conduct for employees to clearly stipulate that teachers “must not use internet social networks such as Face Book, My Space or YouTube to contact or access present students enrolled in any school or institute” and “If you use internet social networks in your personal time you must ensure that the content is appropriate and private, and that you restrict access to specific people who are not students” (Section 2.2.2 (b) Interactions with Students).

Teachers (along with probably everybody else) have been needing to be increasingly careful about what sort of material they make available online (for example). Thankfully a lot of social media websites have been updating features to make it easier to control how you are viewed online. At the start of previous school year Facebook blogged specifically to teachers about the benefits of making friends lists to control what is viewable by “students” (or non-teachers may like to create a similar group for “Uncles, Aunts and Grandparents”).

The private education sector in Queensland has yet to install a blanket ban on social media interactions with students (and last I heard they were not intending to go that far, but were considering available options). While I understand where EQ is coming from on this, it is a bit disappointing that there appears no room for leeway or principal-appointed exemptions (which are included on clauses regarding camera usage and other points). This means a whole range of Web 2.0 based activities and learning environments (Second Life, class blogging) are excluded from Queensland state school classrooms at all age levels (and I think it may also apply to TAFE classes too).

The Queensland Curriculum embraces technology on most levels, to me it just seems disappointing that it is not being flexible on this one. Perhaps their strategy is to ban it while they work out a more appropriate strategy to monitor student-teacher interactions on the world-wide-web.

Out on Prac: Is this really how you want to spend your time?

11 10 2009

I am fresh off my first week as a pre-service practice teacher. Three more to go.

I have been assigned to a rather large state high school (no names please). I am workingwith one of their many (I think there are at least seven!?) year 8 classes (that’s 12-14 years old). I am working with two overseeing teachers on the student’s “core” classes – Maths, Science, English and SOSE (“Studies of Society and the Environment – a humanities amalgam). I have also snuck in a double period of Japanese with the same class into my schedule. This will give me a chance to see how second-language eduaction works in Queensland.

Pracs are important for pre-service teachers. There are some skills you cannot learn without opportunity to test them in the field. Teaching groups of your peers is not quite the same as teaching actual rambunctious twelve year olds (though some may have the same maturity and social skills). Getting things to work just right is as much trial and error, building relationships, and luck, as much as it is having the knowledge.

I had my own trial and error, building relationships, and luck, rollercoaster ride at the end of this week. My overseeing teachers were away for several lessons on Thursday and Friday – so I was working with substitutes. Unsurprisingly the first one was a bit chaotic, but then Friday’s lessons went quite well (not perfectly, but well). I was impressed that most of the students who misbehaved on Thursday recognised their behaviour was inappropriate and took steps to improve themselves.

The main thing that I learned did not work was contributing to classroom noise – funny that.

  • Raising your voice – negative and antagonistic
  • Talking over children – how can children obey instructions if they don’t hear them
  • Using vocal calls for silence – I was trying countdowns from five – too long, too noisy.

Things that do work are usually silent and get children to reflect on their behaviour. This way things are not inappropriate because you say so, but because they know so.

  • Stay calm – don’t let external sources (like an ICT failure) affect your attitude to the students
  • Waiting for silence – instead of talking over them
  • Silent cues for silence – hands on heads is working great for me, even it might seem a little primary school.

And there are some things I’m not sure of yet.

  • Asking inattentive students to repeat instructions – is it embarrassing?
  • Reminding students of school’s core values – potentially nagging?

Another good technique was to write the time we would start a video at on the board, and delay it as children misbehaved; although, in the end, one student messing around with some magnetic props erased it altogether. Not perfect yet.

Image credit: 我要生氣! by sizumaru from flickr (CC by A.ND)

Why parents aren’t allowed on the internet

20 07 2009

Ye Olde Book of Faces and Social Intercourse

I have one friend’s Mum who keeps trying to friend me on facebook. It started even before I met her in person, and even then, I’ve met her maybe twice.* Now, thankfully, it will be a cold day on Venus before I have to deal with my own mother on facebook … but yet parents and elder extra-generational family members on social networks is a bit creepy.

Not only does it feel as if a bit of your privacy is being invaded – but it also means you have a bunch of adults interacting with children in unfamiliar territory without clear guidelines. Adults do not play nice when there are no rules.

In an attempt to win a prize for Lori Drew of 2009, when Margery Tannenbaum’s daughter started arguing with another girl at school – she decided to list the other girls mobile number on Craigslist as a phone sex chat line. The girls were nine years old.

According to Suffolk County authorities, the mother of the girl intercepted calls before her daughter answered. She said she received 22 calls in one day, in all around 40 calls from various men who saw the ad, including some seeking an escort service. After Craigslist was issued a subpoena, authorities said they were able to track the account to Tannenbaum.

She said, “This is her mother. Can I help you?” The male replied, “Oh. Hot lady lives with foxy mamma?”

There are actually several groups dedicated to getting parents of facebook altogether. I can’t bring myself to actually fan that movement, I do find facebook a useful tool for keeping in touch with my Dad and Canadian relatives (or at least theoretically useful for this purpose).

Image credit: unknown – somewhere on teh interwebz

*Ye knoweth who thou art

Just a reminder, or is it?

24 05 2009

ResearchBlogging.orgThe decision on what medicines you are prescribed can be a matter of life or death. These decisions need to be based purely on what is best for you, the patient, not on who has the flashiest marketing campaign.

Medicines Australia, the national self-regulatory body for the pharmaceutical industry, is in the process of revising its Code of Conduct for 2010. The code is based mostly on ensuring that any marketing its members engage in is based primarily on accurately educating health-care professionals, and that their activities will withstand professional scrutiny and not bring the industry into disrepute.

The new code is expected to heavily crack down on the use of once ubiquitous Brand Name Reminder – all those free give-aways brand logos emblazoned on them. All brand name reminders will be expected to cost less than $20 and be directly relevant to the clinical setting – an umbrella or coffe mug is definite no, but this might also cover generic office equipment – like USB sticks, mousepads, sticky notes and pens.

Is this ban based on evidence? Sadly, yes. And even items under $20 may still cause some influence. And Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggest the mere presence of logos can influence how a doctor thinks about what he prescribes. But that influence may be a good thing. It depends on how he was educated. Read the rest of this entry »

Monkeys are dirty commies

20 09 2008

Not that there is anything wrong with that…

Back at NERS – Ed Yong explains implications of a study that showed capuchin monkeys showed interest in making sure that other monkeys got the same rewards as themselve, when in a social environment.

The researchers did lots of test modifications to try and rule out any source of bias in the tests.

The main test was the test monkey picking one of two tokens. One would let the test monkey receive a piece of food. The other would not only let the test monkey receive a piece of food but also another monkey would too.

Rather than being self-absorbed and just picking any old token to get itself some chow – the test monekys showed bias for picking the “pro-social” token that lets both monkeys get food. No factors appeared to significantly affect this – except hiding the other monkey from the test monkey. This sort of reinforces the social basis for the behaviour. The monkey is hardly going to try and give food to a monkey it doesn’t know is there.

Monkeys also had some sense of stranger danger too – they weren’t likely to be socially helpful to a complete stranger monkey. Showing a similar “circle” style of relationships (family>friends>others) that is used to describe human social networks.

Go read Ed’s post for further analysis on the greater impact on animal and human behavioural sciences

(yes I’m being a little lazy, I just unpacked into my new flat and am trying to offload numerous web item thingys)

Celebrate Magpie Season

14 09 2008

Hattip: grrlscientist

If it’s called magpie season, why can’t we shoot them?

Maybe because they are intelligent*. How do we know this, because they have displayed an intelligent human-like trait – VANITY.

Okay the research (Prior, Schwartz & Güntürkün)  is using the term “self-recognition”.

A common test that is used on human-like primates is to put a brightly coloured dot on the animal and see if it notices the dot on itself in the mirror. The key to self awareness is then that the animal will look for where the dot is on itself, and investigate it specifically, knowing that it shouldn’t be there normally.

Outside of primates, the dot-test has been used to demonstrate self-awareness on dolphins and elephants. Monkeys, while still being intelligent in a number of respects (able to deal with currency, maths and picture based communications), often fail the dot self awareness test. Maybe they don’t care.

This German-based research is one of the first demonstrations of mirror based self-recognition and interest in a non-mammalian animal. The researchers are hoping that it may help dispel some myths about the special-ness of humans and mammals in general.

Oh, yes, science just went there. You are not special anymore.

*It’s Spring here in the Southern hemisphere – that means magpies are breeding – and they will swoop on you if you dare to cross a park a where they are nesting. Hard hats (and icecream tub helmets) for all the kiddies.

Image credit: From the research paper uploaded to flickr by hedwig the owl/grrlscientist