Moving on

I always knew I wanted to teach.  This, I now know, is due to the pleasure I get from seeing others succeed and the knowledge that I helped them achieve their best.

After transferring from MA Education to MA English lit. I decided to use the skills I had gained through the MA Education program  to earn a little bit of extra money whilst I completed my studies.  I advertised as a private English tutor, helping pupils studying at high school but in their own homes.  Not only did this deepen my own understanding of literature, it made me realize that teaching was indeed the career path for me.  I had a natural ability and I needed to do something with it.

For the past 3 years I have attended various CPD events, mainly through Medica.  These training events and seminars were not only a great opportunity to learn about supporting children with additional needs or young people with mental health or developmental disorders, they allowed me to meet with other professionals across the country and share knowledge with them.  It really inspired me to stay focussed on my chosen career and start thinking about how I could achieve this.

I continued with my English and Film degree, tutoring pupils in my spare time, started volunteering at my local church youth club and visited several secondary schools both state and private.  When Spring 2018 arrived I knew I was ready to take the next step.  I applied to study PGDE secondary English at UWS in Ayr.  Within weeks I had an interview and in less than 24 hours I was accepted.

It will perhaps taken me slightly longer (one year extra) to graduate in my chosen career path but I am glad I did it this way.  Had I not enrolled on the MA Education program, I would not have had the confidence to tutor after transferring to the MA English and Film program.  It was tutoring that made me realize my aspirations.

There is no direct route that fits all.  Teachers come from all sorts of different backgrounds with varying areas of experience and I believe it is this that creates an inspiring and inclusive enviroment for pupils to learn in.   Personally I would like to thank both Derek Robertson and Richard Holmes at the University of Dundee.  It was ultimately both of these wonderful lecturers that inspired me to become the best teacher I can be.  They were passionate about their subject, engaging and really took the time to get to know their students.  Derek made a point of aknowledging that not all teachers come from a traditional background or early on in their careers.  He was right. Diversity does indeed feed inspiration and creativity.  I have seen this first hand through my own practice.    Thank you so much all the staff at UoD.    

History, Geography or Modern Studies….?

When I think of Social Studies my mind immediately goes back to first and second year at high school.  We would have an hour of Geography and an hour of History every week for two years.  When choosing our standard grade subjects we were only allowed to choose one from the following; History, Geography or Modern Studies.  At the time this made perfect sense to me.  I didn’t understand politics and was under the impression that this was all we would discuss in Modern studies.  I did not enjoy Geography in the slightest as I could not understand why I needed to know where all the countries were on the map or how many plates the earth’s surface was made up of.  History on the other hand excited me.  I loved the storytelling aspect of History.  Primary sources created the same enthusiasm and enjoyment that a fictional storybook from the library would.  I understood that our history shaped our present and would shape our future.  It held relevance and I could understand why I should know and understand these things.

It was not until I went to college and studies politics and history at higher level that I began to understand the importance of linking these areas together.  History shaped our political agenda and political decisions shaped history.   When I first looked at Social Studies within the Curriculum for Excellence it was a revelation.  I now cannot comprehend the idea of separating all of the different aspects of the subject.  People, place and society are all interlinked.  They should be taught as such within the classroom.

Old Photograph Burrelton ScotlandTo understand why I live in the type of house I do, I need to understand the history of my village.  I live in a 19th century farmhouse.  The reason for its particular style is due to the architecture and materials available at the time.  It was built to accommodate the people who worked on the farm and within the large estate.  As the population grew, the estate became a village with a primary school, a church, 3 public houses, 2 newsagents, a post office, a bakers shop and a butchers shop.  During the 60’s and 70’s more and more people began to own their own car.  A regular bus service was provided by Stagecoach.  The number 57 linked Perth to Dundee via several small hamlets and villages.  In time the local businesses were no longer required.  Once a self-sufficient village, Burrelton is now what I would describe as a commuting village.  Most of the residents who live in the village work in either Perth or Dundee.  There is now only one pub, a post office with a newsagents attached to it, a primary school and a butchers shop.  The church is also now linked to Cargill, a nearby village, as the parish who actually attend the church has decreased over the years.

By examining just this one small area of the country I have to look at economics, history and geography or what CofE refers to as People, Place and Society.  The farmland was chosen due to it being a flat area where vegetation could grow.  The houses were built as more people chose to live there.  As industry and technology developed and grew, commuting became more popular so the local businesses and amenities were no longer required.  These businesses are now homes.  The popularity of the Church has decreased due to various influences affecting our choice of religion, or indeed choice to have no religion.

community_cartoon_I now understand the importance of linking all of these different aspects of Social Studies.  This year I will be carrying out my professional placement in a similar rural location.  Unlike my own village, this school appears to have more facilities and is a much bigger building in general.  My aim this semester is to investigate the area as I have my own village.  This will help me to understand much more about the children in my school, their background, the physical school and the community that surrounds the school.  I am also interested to see ways I can make use of the community whilst of placement.  I would like to develop my own creativity and initiative in this area of the curriculum.  I have made some progress at present by reading several articles and books by Stephen Schoffham.  I will also observe colleagues and share ideas and knowledge with peers.  I only wish I had understood the significance of linking these subjects before but now I know, I can develop my expertise and enjoyment at the same time.

Blogging about blogging!

When I started writing in my first blog I was extremely anxious.  I wanted to be enthusiastic.   My University second year peers will tell you I am a very good communicator.  I love to talk, discuss and debate  different ideas and points of view with others.  So what was the big problem here?

Henrietta-is-nervous-v7

It was that moment when you hit submit.  I now realise exactly why I was nervous.  When I speak to someone, I can get an idea of how my thoughts are being received.  Really obvious things like a yawn or a slightly arched eyebrow are key indicators that you are either speaking nonsense to the person on the receiving end, or you are boring them to tears.  This immediate reaction is there when you are having a face to face discussion.  With a blog it is out there for the whole world to see and all I can do is sit and wait for comments to appear, or worse, nothing to appear.  I was also concerned about how I would be perceived as a professional.  I’d heard many horror stories on how teachers could risk their chances of employment, registration with the GTCS and respectability amongst peers, parents and pupils due to their on line profiles.

Blogging-Ideas

My first blog was typed up in three days.  I know this is a ridiculous amount of time to be spending on a blog post.  It wasn’t that it took me three days to write it, I just kept re-drafting it.  So many questions were running through my head.

“Does this make sense to every one else? Am I dragging this out? Is it too formal? Is it too informal? Is it even relevant to Education? Should I re draft this just one more time?”

I had resisted the urge to read other blogs for fear that I would subconsciously imitate their style or copy their ideas.  I wanted to make sure that my first post would be personal, reflect the sort of person I am  and share my original thoughts.  I eventually gave in on the morning of day three.  Why had I not done this sooner?  Everyone had completely different styles.  Some were more formal whilst others were like an informal discussion.  Some were long and interesting whilst others were very straight to the point.  That is when I realised that I was worrying over nothing.

Today, as I write my seventh post, I had a look at posts my peers had published.  I have been reading them regularly since that first post, but this time I had a more critical eye.  What did they do that I could perhaps incorporate into my posts?  What did I see that was exciting or different?  What didn’t work so well, so that I could avoid making the same mistakes?  It really made me think about not only how I write, but how I present my writing.

I have been making use of images when I feel that they have a purpose.  I have not been using an image unless I  refer to  it within my post.  Other students have been using images almost as an illustration to compliment their post.  I felt it made reading them much more exciting and interesting.

Video links are also a great way of going into further detail.  I have seen a few posts where people have discussed an activity they have tried out and reflected on how they felt it went.   I have also seen videos where people have carried out the activity on camera to demonstate how they did something.

(As an example, here is Derek Robertson talking about and using makey makey)

By making a video it makes it easier to grasp.  I think it would work well putting the two together.  A video within the post demonstrating the activity and a reflection on what they think about it within a post.  The post could include theory gained from reading material and links to studies that support or repute the value of the activity on pupils’ learning.   Not only does it give a bigger picture to the reader, it shares valuable knowledge and skills with peers and  breaks up the reading  keeping the reader interested.

how-often-blog-why-blogging-writing-ideasI will continue to post on a regular basis.  I am beginning to focus more on why I am writing rather than what I am saying.   I’m not saying that it is appropriate to write anything but when I think of why I am writing posts, it actually helps me focus on what to say.  These posts are my reflections.  I will be able to look back on them in years to come and track my progression.  Every teacher I have spoken to has emphasised the  importance of sharing feedback, knowledge, ideas and resources.  I will be embracing this culture and  try to embed it into my own personal philosophy.  As my blog states;

Learning is life’s most exciting journey that has no end.

imagesI feel that my writing style may change and adapt as I become more experienced.  I feel that I currently flip from a formal academic style to a more friendly discursive tone.  I think it really depends on what I am writing.  If it is my own personal thoughts and feelings then of course, it will come across as more relaxed.  If I am exploring an area of research that focusses on education and pedagogy then it will have a more formal style.

I hope that in time I can find a balance but in the meantime I will keep sharing my thoughts.

“Why?” Inspiring curiosity.

Science was one of those subjects I fell out of love with for a period of time.  like many people, I learn best when doing.  Primary science was intriguing and sparked my curiosity and excitement.  I was a naturally curious child and my mother would tell me later that my constant questions drove her to distraction.

“Why do you have to cook food before you eat it?” “Why does the sun go to bed at night?” “How does the egg cook with it’s shell still on?” “Is steam the same as smoke?”

My poor mother would patiently answer my questions, explaining things in great detail.  I was like a sponge and the world was a giant pond.  I was always asking questions and trying to absorb as much information as possible.  This was the case right up until my third year at secondary school.  I was told I had to pick one area of science so I chose biology.  My Grandfather grew all of his own fruit and vegetables and had an amazingly colourful garden.  All these plants grew so differently and at different times of the year.  It fascinated me and I wanted to know how and why these things happened.

I had an idea of what we would be covering but not a clue about how it would be taught.  I was sadly disappointed.  Workbook after workbook was presented to me throughout those two years.  I memorised the definition for diffusion, purely because I was told to write it out 50 times as a punishment for not being able to tell my teacher when asked one day.

Diffusion is a movement of molecules from a region of high concentration to a region of low concentration down a concentrated gradient.

I now know what this actually means and how to apply it to every day life but at the time it meant absolutely nothing to me.  This was rote learning at it’s finest.  I passed my exams and never thought about science or biology much from then on.

A few years ago that suddenly changed.  I was flicking through the channels and came across three large hairy men blowing things up in the middle of a deserted field.  They were testing out a theory with a mobile phone, a car and a large tank of petrol.  They wanted to know if using your mobile phone in a fuel station would in fact cause an explosion.  I was hooked! Mythbusters reignited my curiosity as they attempted to spark and ignite this little wreck of a car whilst standing several feet away.  I suddenly remembered my favourite TV show as a child “How 2” and all my curiosity and questions.  Here is a video link if you wish to see exactly how I was inspired as a child. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30jHkF6qUo4 

Curriculum for Excellence promotes active and cross curricular learning.  It is also not about learning facts but skills.  This has completely changed the way in which we teach science in schools as I discovered whilst on placement last year.  I watched primary six children making security lights and alarms using circuit boards.  There was context there and they were working as a team collaboratively.  There was no workbook on the table and no worksheets to fill out.  This was purely a practical lesson and I enjoyed every second of observing them.  When  I spoke to them they were all so enthusiastic and keen to try and complete the task.  This was the complete opposite of rote learning.  a week later they did the same task again and they knew exactly what to do.  They knew why things had to be  connected a certain way and were able to tell me instead of “Just because it is.” or “That was how we were told to do it”.

I hope that I can become the kind of teacher that inspires and ignites curiosity in my pupils.  For that I need to make sure that I myself know “why” and “how”.  It is not simply acceptable that I be one step ahead with memorised notes from a textbook.  I need to have a depth of knowledge on a subject so that I can differentiate within the class and explain and demonstrate things in  several different ways so that I meet the needs of every child in my class.

I have completed an audit of my knowledge and what has become apparent is that I have a good breadth of knowledge but very little depth.  I plan to take one area at a time and develop my knowledge further so that I can ensure the pupils in my class have the best experience possible.  I have attached the audit below and will review this every semester to allow for continuous development throughout my time at university.

Teaching primary science knowledge audit

 

CfE science topic/sub organiser What is this actually about?
Biodiversity Recognising the relationship between living beings and plants and realising how they depend on each other to survive and grow e.g. the environment, the food chain, how animals/plants/humans have changed in the past and develop now.  Being able to distinguish between a living and non-living thing.  How to take care of, protect and preserve living things.
Interdependence Recognising the relationship between living beings and plants and realising how they depend on each other to survive and grow e.g. the environment, the food chain, how animals/plants/humans have changed in the past and develop now.  Being able to distinguish between a living and non-living thing.  How to take care of, protect and preserve living things.
Energy sources How things are powered to do what they are designed to do.  Where different energy comes from e.g. the sun, wind, water etc. etc.
Sustainability The benefits and risks involved when using different energy sources and their impact on the environment e.g. renewable energy.
Process of the planet Examining the way the earth changes due to natural influences e.g. water, heat, climate changes and also how humans affect the way in which the earth’s environment has changed.  E.g. evaporation, melting, condensing to water etc.
Space Recognising the sun, moon stars, other planets and the patters in which they move and revolve to create the concept of time and date.  Realising life beyond Earth.
Forces Understanding concepts such as friction, speed and impact and predicting possible results of these forces.
Electricity Understanding the dangers and safety required when using electricity.  Understanding how electricity is conducted and grounded through various materials.  How electricity can be created.
Vibrations and waves Looking at how light sound and radiation travels.  Exploring the relationship between different vibrations producing different sounds.  How different waves are used in the environment egg in MRI machines in hospitals.
Body systems and cells

 

Functions of the body e.g. the digestive system, the heart and how blood is pumped around the body.  The lungs putting oxygen into the body and what we need that for.  Recognising different body parts and their purpose along with the human senses and what we use them for.  How to keep a body healthy and knowing what can be harmful to our bodies.
Inheritance Looking at the similarities and differences between individuals both physical and in other ways e.g. personality.  Looking at the role of DNA and genetic traits that can be passes through generations.  Discussing the implications of genetic testing from an ethical and moral perspective.
Properties of substances Looking at the properties of different materials and the potential uses for these.  Understanding the properties in e.g. water and how they react in different situations.
Uses of substances Looking at the properties of different materials and the potential uses for these.  Understanding the properties in e.g. water and how they react in different situations.
Earth’s materials Developing knowledge and understanding of Earth’s natural resources and materials and how they can be extracted and used.
Chemical changes Looking at the chemical changing process within the environment and how chemicals react in different scenarios.
Topical science Looking at how science is portrayed in the media and how science relates to the world around them and in social situations morally and ethically.

 

My areas for development (SMART targets to be added to ePortfolio):

I want to gain more confidence in the area of space.  At the moment I don’t even know what order the planets are from the sun.  I will use online resources and look up places to visit to gain knowledge and confidence in this area.

My goal for this year is to be able to comfortably plan short group lessons for Early, first and second stages of the experience sand outcomes in one area of science.  By doing this on placement and asking for feedback from the class teacher, I will know where I need to develop further and where my strengths are.

 

Beating that “Can’t do it….” attitude.

Mathematics is a subject that is often a source of anxiety for both teachers and pupils. (Haylock, D. & Manning, R 2014 PP.5-11).  Haylock (2014 PP.5-11) describes the many reasons we are often anxious about mathematics which includes poor teaching methods, a fear of failure, how our parents feel about mathematics and how siblings have performed in the subject. How the classroom teacher feels about mathematics also plays a very important role in their pupils’ attitudes towards learning the subject.  It is essential that teachers can comprehend what they are teaching in the classroom so that they can explain it confidently and clearly.

In primary school I was taught how to work independently and problem solve using basic mathematical skills.  I enjoyed the predictability and logical nature of maths.  There was no sense that it was al down to your own interpretation I experienced in literacy and expressive arts.  I can pin point the exact moment I developed mathematical anxiety.  I moved  to a new school 100 miles away.  The way of teaching was completely different.  Everything was explained in a workbook.  There was an exact way of doing it.  In this particular school they used wooden tens and units cubes.  My peers three years of experience using these.  I had never used them before.  I had to use them because that was how the the workbook explained the task.  I could not grasp  these strange little wooden pieces at all.  From that point on I always felt inferior.

In secondary school we were introduced to algebra.  Finally I could let my creativity loose and I began to gain more confidence.  The more I enjoyed  it, the more confidence I gained.  As my confidence increased I found that I was actually really good at Maths.  I was in the top class and my teachers predicted I would do well in my exams.  Unfortunately I had to deal with the mental maths pop quiz at the start of every lesson.  This slowly began to lower my confidence to the point where I would go bright red and freeze, unable to answer the question.  I failed the assessment at the end of the year and was placed in a general foundation level class.  This class was full of pupils who felt destined to fail, telling themselves exactly that.  In my 14 year old mind I was no good at maths so why even bother to try.

I returned to maths as an adult and my tutor was fantastic.  A former primary school teacher now teaching an adult evening class she recognised my anxiety immediately.  I should have gained an intermediate level 2 grade in 2 years full time at secondary school.  Instead I gained it in one year attending classes 2 hours a week.  The most important thing is I began to enjoy it.  I remembered why I loved maths at primary school.  With my rediscovered confidence, my mathematical skills improved.  I no longer passed my tax return over to my husband every January.  I confidently helped both my children with their homework rather than telling them “Ask Dad when he comes home.” It changed my way of thinking and living completely.

Not only should teachers be confident in the subject area, teachers should have the ability to explain why it is important and relevant (Haylock & Manning, 2014, PP13-18).  Classroom discussions around the use of mathematical skills at home and in employment, are an important part of any lesson (Haylock & Manning, 2014, P14).  Mathematical skills are essential in society today.  The global economy is very competitive and it is important for Scotland’s future that our citizens have high levels of numeracy skills and mathematical thinking skills.  Areas such as science, engineering, business and technology are heavily dependent upon mathematics and for Scotland to prosper and grow, it is essential schools encourage children to develop a positive interest in mathematics (Scottish Executive, 2006).

I know that by gaining confidence, my skills have improved.  I have been engaging with the National On-line Maths Assessment to sustain and develop these skills.  This has proven to be not just beneficial to me but for my own children also.  I do not want them thinking “Mummy is bad at maths so I am too” which according to Haylock (2014 PP.5-11)  is a very common misconception.  As previously discussed, it is essential for me as a teacher to be confident and knowledgeable i what I am teaching.  Not only does it set a positive example to the pupils, it allows me to differentiate and explain things in various ways.  I developed mathematics anxiety because my school only taught maths in a particular way that did not work for me.  I hope that I can ensure I meet the needs of every child to prevent this happening.

 

The importance of the past looking at the future.

My memory of social studies at school is that it was a delivered with mixed quality.    I remember one particular lesson on how Roman people lived.  The teacher must have spent hours if not days sourcing various foods.  Root ginger, dates, olives, grapes, baked apples, rye bread, a huge variety of spices and a vast amount of dried and cured meats were expertly presented on a long table in the open area of the school.  It was a true feast that any Roman warrior would be proud of.  This lesson has stuck in my mind clearly.  Not only do I remember discovering my love for dates and disgust at dry cured ham, I remember my teacher telling me how servants took tremendous pride in their cooking and presenting skills.  Food was not just for fuel but a work of art and used as enjoyment and entertainment.  It signified a massive change in food culture and in history.  (I have incidental been doing a bit of food history myself and came across this great website http://cookit.e2bn.org/ )

Our Viking topic a year later was not quite as inspirational.  A school trip to a Glasgow museum where a member of the museum staff expertly presented 33 uninterested 9 year old children with artefacts and information that made no sense and had little relevance in our young minds at all.  We were not interested in the slightest.

The story of Titanic, expertly linked in with art and technology however, created a buzz of excitement! Not only was it 1997, the year Leonardo DiCaprio made his début, much to every 12 year old girl in my class’s delight, but our class teacher planned fantastic practical and creative lessons to engage us in the topic.

Looking back at those early introductions to social studies now, I can see exactly what our teachers did to excite us.  They chose to investigate something that we were already interested in further.  Depth and progression was an intrinsic desire.  I genuinely wanted to know and understand more.  It really was that simple.  Mrs W. knew from previous lessons and getting to know us that we loved trying different foods and cooking.  Through food technology this history subject came alive.  Mrs F. couldn’t help but hear us giggle about the painting scene in the modern fictional Titanic remake.

It is having this confidence and insight that I believe is vital when planning lessons.   The ability to link the topic of study in with other areas of the curriculum is important, not only so the lesson is active and engaging but it is also encouraged through the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence.

Social studies experiences and outcomes encourage links with other areas of learning to provide learners with a deeper, more enjoyable and active experience.

Social studies: Principles and practice no date, c. Available at: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningandteaching/curriculumareas/socialstudies/principlesandpractice/index.asp (Accessed: 19 January 2016).

I feel that I perhaps lack in the ability to come up with creative and original ways of linking cross curricular subjects.  I tend to find ideas and inspiration from colleagues or online.   It is not that I don’t have a great imagination; I just tend to over think things and make them overly complicated.  I then panic and doubt the original idea in the first place.  I would like to build my confidence in this area.  I will speak with other teachers whilst I am on placement and find out how they plan their lessons.  This may give me some insight into how I can develop and refine my planning skills and build confidence.

In schools today Social studies is not all about History, Geography and Politics.  It is not simply reading facts from a book or marking coordinates on a map.  It is about how history has shaped the world we live in now.  Why the world is landscaped the way it is and how we influence it.  It is about linking current culture and the way we live with the world around us.  Issues such as civil war, terrorism and global warming are increasingly being brought into the classroom.  During a lecture recently, it was emphasised just how important it is to tackle these issue and I cannot agree more.  In this digital era where pupils can clearly see what is happening in the world online and on television we cannot ignore their questions.  Talking about current issues within the classroom provides a healthy atmosphere for debate and discussion which can lead to a better understanding.    An article in The Guardian discusses this and also points out the importance of teaching pupils about respecting others beliefs views and opinions.

Marsh, S. (2015) Open, honest, reflective: How teachers are handling questions about the Paris attacks. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/nov/19/open-honest-reflective-how-teachers-handling-questions-paris-attacks (Accessed: 19 January 2016).

I feel that I have developed an understanding of others views, opinions and beliefs and can respect them.  This was partially due to my upbringing, my friends and a very enthusiastic and open minded politics lecturer whilst I was at college.  I do need to recognise that not everyone has had the upbringing or life experiences I have had and are not always so accepting of others’ views.

 

I have decided to focus on three areas within social studies this semester to develop my skills and abilities further.  The first is gaining confidence in my ability to link the topic being investigated across other areas of the curriculum.  I will do this by observing and speaking to other teachers and my peers.  Secondly, in order to understand why certain people have certain views or perhaps struggle to grasp a particular view, I will be researching the community that surrounds the school I attend on placement.  This leads to my third aim, to have the skills and knowledge to use what is relevant and meaningful to the children in the class.  I will look at the village’s history, landscape, facilities and how it has changed over time.  By doing all of these things, I feel it will give me much more confidence when taking a social studies lesson or activity

 

 

 

 

 

Internet Safety

Many pupils use the internet regularly.  This could be in the classroom under the watchful eye of the teacher as part of an ICT lesson or it could be at home, chatting to friends and family on social media.  It is important for children to understand why they need to stay safe on-line and how they can do this.   The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence include this as an important learning outcome.

I am developing my knowledge and use of safe and acceptable conduct as I use different technologies to interact and share experiences, ideas and information with others.

TCH 1-08a / TCH 2-08a

I have created a short video using Youtube and Animoto to demonstrate that I am developing my own digital technology skills that could be used as part of an ICT lesson in a primary classroom.

 

A you can see from the video above,  pupils who are possibly using social media may not be aware of how they behave on-line could impact their safety.  They may not know how to keep their on-line profile safe or private.  Charities such as The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children are recognising that this is becoming a serious  issue and have teamed up with mobile network 02 to address the issue by educating children and families through free on-line safety workshops.

The Department of Education have now put in safety measures to protect pupils whilst they are in school.

All schools will be required to put in place strengthened measures to protect children from harm online – including cyber bullying, pornography and the risk of radicalisation – under plans unveiled by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan today (22 December 2015).

Department for Education and The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan (2015) New measures to keep children safe online at school and at home. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-measures-to-keep-children-safe-online-at-school-and-at-home (Accessed: 18 January 2016).

Internet safety is being promoted through Education, charity and the Government.  This will all help towards developing young childrens’ digital skills and awareness in a world that is becoming increasingly more connected through on-line forums and social media.