When I was five I had a pet goat named Heidi. I had read the book Heidi by Johanna Spyir and seen the movie and I was infatuated. So, naturally my father got me a pet goat. The book and movie drew me in and caused a lifelong fascination with goats. So when I heard the New Britain Rock Cats were changing their name to the Hartford Yard Goats I was intrigued. After reflecting on the change I realized the Rock Cats are teaching educators a great lesson. My education was based on a notion of college track defining success solely as the ability to read, process information and score well on standardized tests. In 2015 the definition of success has changed. The New Britain Rock Cats’ move to Hartford exemplifies the new ideal of success that educators need to consider when planning skills and content. Instead of retaining their logo and merchandising, the team has selected a new name. The top five options included Hedgehogs, Praying Mantis, River Hogs and Whirlybirds. The winner of the name game was Yard Goats.
Why? Because it makes them stand out, creates a buzz. Today’s success standards revolve around “buzz” creation.
The education system has also moved toward creation as the student objective. O’Byrne’s 2012 article Online Content Construction: Students as Informed Readers and Writers of Multimodal Information establishes the ideas that we must teach our students to be able to create online content. O’Byrne walks us through the scaffolding, first teaching students to consuming online content, “working collectively to read and respond to information learned while reading online” and then moving information online, “taking content encountered while reading online and copy/paste, or briefly synthesizing this information into another online communication tool” (O’Byrne 2012). The final step in O’Byrne’s scaffold is creation; in which “students and teachers work to redesign or reinvent online texts by actively encoding and decoding meaning in multimodal texts”. This idea of Remix is also covered by Kirby Ferguson in his 2012 Ted Talk titled “Embracing the Remix”. O’Byrne’s research matches up seamlessly with the common core standards CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W6.6-8.6 culminating with: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas efficiently as well as to interact and collaborate with others.
I would like to suggest that we take O’Bryne’s ideas one step further and teach our students how to create a buzz. Creating a buzz is the new path to success that our students must be taught. They need to make their online college application, resume, dating profile stand out among hundreds if not thousands of similar submissions. Creating a buzz is the same as constructing meaning and content. We have been teaching our students how to do this for generations through research papers, science labs and journaling. We are not actually teaching a new skill, we are simplifying teaching an updated version of this skill.
How can I teach this skill to my students? Modelling my plan after O’Byrne’s I would first identify examples of this buzz in their worlds and offer them up as models. After reviewing the essential elements of buzz the second step is to ask students to identify where in their course work buzz could be incorporated. Students must then incorporate the elements of buzz into their own work and finally reflect back on the models to make final improvements to their work.
In my blog today I have remixed O’Byrne’s ideas in an attempt to create new meaning for myself as a learner. If anyone is concerned I am leaning too heavily upon the work of my predecessors I will simplay stop calling this new skill “buzz” and change it over to “bleat” (this is a goat joke). Upon reflection I am concerned that others may not see the value in my meaning making. If you love or hate my ideas, I hope they create a buzz and get you thinking about how you can use technology to create meaning in your classroom.