My epic fail and other learning

I just spent an entire weekend geeking out with some absolutely inspirational speakers and presenters, friends, and an amazing group of attendees at the Toronto EdTech Team Summit at Cresent School.

I’ve presented at a couple of similar Summits. In fact, I’ve presented probably at least a hundred times to audiences as few as 6 and as large as 400. I love to share my learning. I am becoming a better presenter ever time I speak at a conference. And yet…

There is a thing called a Demo Slam. Have you seen one? It’s a 3 minute live-demo of a tool you love. It’s supposed to be fun, but it’s intense: it’s just such a compact time, often the tech doesn’t work, and some of the keynote speakers participate which means you are up against some brilliant people.

I am a pretty courageous, go-get-em kind of person, so I’m not sure why I was so nervous to begin with. Maybe it’s because I was presenting up on a stage and I prefer to present at the same level as the crowd (maybe it’s because my subconscience flashes back to grade 5 when I was on a stage and froze in front of a live audience and couldn’t perform, Is this Love by Whitesnake). Perhaps I didn’t practice enough, because I chose to go out the night before? (when the Royal Ontario Museum becomes a Night Club, it’s kind of a no-brainer). Whatever the reason, I know that I made a promise to myself for 2016 to jump out of my comfort zone whenever I can. Also, I am organizing a Demo Slam for an upcoming PA Day, and felt like I really needed to participate if I was going to invite others to try it.

But to say I was nervous would be an understatement! I was literally shaking when I approached the stage. I was doing fine until the demo part and I completely blanked. I was demonstrating Google Keep–one of my favourite tools, which is so simple a grade 2 student could use it and I have used it hundreds of times.

And yet there I was, standing in front of all of these expectant faces; many of whom I admire very much because they are techno-EDU rockstars, and I could not for the life of me remember how to create a note in Google Keep! I drew a complete blank and stared at the screen and likely mumbled quite a bit.

Within the last 15 seconds, my brain popped back and I started to demo the tool, but of course, the timer went off. Needless to say, I walked off the stage mortified and despite the fact that I got some high-fives and a few very supportive words and tweets from friends and peers (Thanks Sylvia, Larissa, Amit, Jeff, Jeffrey, Andrea Mike, Sandra, Dawn, Diana, & Kevin), this was an extremely difficult pill to swallow.

I felt embarassed and almost let that feeling stop me from attending the social afterwards.  I’m glad it didn’t, because despite what I thought in my head, I don’t honestly believe everyone was whispering about my failure–not then and not now.

As I drove home last night, my feelings of embarrassment and failure continuted to creep into my consciousness. It was very humbling.

Let’s face it though: if you are going to publicly fail, doing so at an Ed Tech Summit where every person there is taking time away from their life to learn on a weekend, is a good place to do it.

When I was chatting with my daughter about it, I told her that I had the most embarassing moment. Here’s how that conversation went (excuse the crudeness)

Me: Oh my gosh the most embarassing thing happened to me when I was presenting my Demo Slam.

Teen: Oh no! Nip Slip?

Me: Um, no.

Teen: You farted in front of everyone? You peed yourself?

Me: (laughing) No!

Teen: Then it wasn’t THE most embarassing thing, was it?

Gotta love that girl for throwing a bucket-full of perspective my way!

It really got me thinking about some of the students I have taught who have such high anxiety about presenting in front of others. And I wondered if I had created a safe environment for them. I also I strained to remember if many of their classmates reached out supportively and with encouragement. How could I foster those behaviours in a classroom? Did I reach out afterwards to ensure the student was feeling ok?

I wondered about whether or not many teachers who we call “resisters”, may be afraid of failure: in front of their students or their peers. Who to them, the idea of sharing on Google Drive puts them completely out of their comfort zone. Do we treat them with empathy or with disdain?

I also began to think about the fact that maybe my public failure was a good thing; you see in my sessions, I think I am perceived sometimes as an “accomplished expert”. In fact, when I shared what I called my epic fail, people said, ‘Oh, I’m sure to you it wasn’t good but to everyone else, it was.” Maybe a teacher who is just learning needs to see someone they perceive to have all the answers, fall flat. Perhaps it should even be an administrator or District leader? It really happens to everyone, and before I became proficient, I worked really hard to learn what I know.  There is still a whole lot I don’t know, and I continue to learn (and fail privately) every day.

I can’t say I want to repeat this situation, and truthfully I could  have kept this blog in Draft rather than click Publish, but really I think reflecting on negative experiences is what helps us to grow and learn. I know this incident sure did that for me.

And so here it is. Publish.

Sylvia Duckworth shared this image during her keynote. I think it fits perfectly–except this time, my failure was pretty public!

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Is it time to innovate your staff meeting?

I have time to write a blog post tonight. Want to know why? Our administration team is taking to heart the idea of innovation and “Flipping our Staff Meetings”.  Year after year, don’t you sit in staff meetings thinking and wishing that there was a better way?

As a staff, we have been using this definition to guide our school year goals and the decisions we make:

Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better.

It can come from ‘invention’ (something totally new) or ‘iteration’ (a change of something that already exists).

Technology can be crucial in the development of innovation, but innovation is less about tools and more about how we use those tools…  

–George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset

It’s really very simple

Prior to the meeting, information items were distributed to staff prior to the meeting via email with the request to have a look and bring any questions to the meeting.

In addition, I had created a video tutorial for staff to show them how to go about proctoring our Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test happening on Thursday.  This is BIG and could have taken at least 1/2 hour to explain thoroughly.  But the video provided explicit instructions and support for the teachers who need it.

The Meeting Agenda

Whereas most time at a staff meeting is usually spent going through many administrative items, people have already received via email, this meeting was SHORT. Once we answered a few questions people had about what was shared via email, we had TIME for a teacher to share an awesome lesson happening in the school.

Ricky Machala, a Religion teacher shared a collaborative project on “Culture” between her grade 10 class and Fabiana Cassella‘s class from Buenos Aires. She admitted that she wasn’t really convinced that connecting her students to others would have such an impact on them because she figured that students are so connected already. What she learned however, is that students are connected to their own friends and communities, but know very little about the world around them. She admitted that students learned more about Culture by talking to kids and asking questions of their “Argentinian” friends, than they would have otherwise and they were eager to continue to connect personally.  She shared the tools we used to connect with the teacher: Voxer and Padlet (the best choices considering the classes could not meet synchronously) but the experience and reflection was the focal point of the presentation.

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Best of all, after the sharing session, it was still at least 45 minutes earlier than when most staff meetings end and so when we invited anyone who wanted to learn more about the Culture project or the tools we used to connect the classes to stay, so many of them DID! Others stayed to chat or connect with other teachers, or have a snack (food is essential).

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I applaud my principal, Richard Maurice and our VP Luisa Rocca for changing “what we have always done” in favour of trying something NEW & BETTER! Flipping a Staff Meeting is literally something you can do tomorrow to change the culture in your school and to help foster a community of sharing and learning.

Why not try it at your school??

 

 

Rethinking the traditional High School Book Club #HSGBC

Ever since I started teaching, moderating the Book Club at my school was what I loved doing most of all. One of the problems has always been that our numbers dwindle as course work increases because kids find they don’t have as much time to read for pleasure.  Now, that I am back at a school, after being at the District level for six years, I find myself looking at everything with a whole new mindset; an Innovator’s Mindset!  I’m also passionate about connecting students to each other as I truly believe it positively impacts kids in so many ways.

So my burning question is: How can we make the high school book club experience not just different, but better?

My idea? Go Global

Extending the book club to other schools will help kids to share their love of reading with others, will help students feel a greater sense of community & will help keep the momentum going even when numbers dwindle.  It will  also show them how they can be Digital Leaders by leveraging technology and social media for learning and sharing their learning!

HSGBC Goals

  • To foster a love of reading
  • To have students respond to their reading in a variety of ways (face to face, Goodreads, Twitter, Snapchat, etc…)
  • To build community both within the school and with other schools
  • To consider the perspectives of other students from outside their own school community and to get to know other students through conversations around books

Timelines

September & early October

  • Advertise the book club in your school
  • Get to know the students in your own school and introduce the idea of extending the conversations to a global community. Assure them that they can collaborate as much or as little as they are interested in doing so; your first priority is ensuring that your own students feel comfortable sharing with each other.
  • Remind them that because we are sharing with a global community, they need to THINK about what they are posting
  • Use this Dotstorming wall to suggest and vote on books
  • Decide on the way(s) in which your book club will share their learning with others and how often they would like to connect with others  (I am going to use Snapchat, Twitter, and Goodreads with my students)

November-April

  • Decide on meeting times and dates that work for you and your students
  • Connect with other book clubs via Hangouts if you would like to extend face to face conversations
  • Use the Twitter hashtag #hsgbc, Goodreads, Snapchat etc…as much or as little as you like and as you and your students are comfortable.

May

Celebrate!  Reflect on MMM (Most Memorable Moments) & create an artifact (slideshow, poster, movie, etc..) and share .

GoodReads & Twitter

A student reflection from last year when I facilitated a classroom connection was that students wished that they could continue to connect with the other students beyond our class activity. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. And so, to me, it is important that conversations about books and the relationships my students develop go beyond the “meeting times”. Goodreads and Twitter offer a wonderful opportunity to do this.

No only that, but both Goodreads and Twitter are excellent tools for Digital Leadership: students connect with others who share a common love of reading while actively creating an online presence.  Ideally, students created their own account so they can continue to stay connected, if they choose to, beyond the existence of the Book Club at school. Using these platforms can show students how to use social media differently and best of all they can continue to be used into adulthood.

Students (and teacher moderators) in the High School Global Book Club will use the hashtag #hsgbc on Twitter to share quotes & images as they read and contribute posts to our Goodreads account  here

My students are so excited to get started.

We’d love for you to join!

Sign up for #HSGBC here !

Connected student

A Narrative Reel

I just happened to have a conversation with a student yesterday who went to Centro Scuola (an overseas summer school program with the York Catholic District School Board) which reminded me of one of my former students who had done that and who is now in California working in Film.  I popped over to send him a hello message on Facebook and saw this “Narrative Cinematography Reel” by his Facebook friend, Howard Wan.  I have never met Howard before, but I was intrigued by this concept (which is apparently a thing in the film industry) and my teacher brain couldn’t help but think of how we could use this idea as a metacognitive reflection in grade 8, a diagnostic in grade 9 and a culminating activity in grade 12; a different kind of Digital Portfolio.

Because I’m on a committee to help with our PA Day coming soon, I’ve been thinking of innovation and in particular this definition which I’ve taken from George Couro’s Innovator’s Mindset (pgs 19-20):

Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists).

Technology can be crucial in the development of innovation, but innovation is less about tools and more about how we use those tools.

What to do with all of the files

Yesterday, I worked with grade 9 students to show them how to organize their Google Drive (we use Google Apps for Education).  Many of them had used their Google Drive for grade 7 & 8 and asked what they were going to do with their “Elementary” file folder.  The answer yesterday was nothing.  But today, when I saw Howard’s Narrative Reel, I got to thinking…

How can we do better?

Rarely do we have the opportunity to truly know a student when they come to us in grade 9. We often rely on an All About Me activity or something like that which truthfully becomes a bit stale when we are asking kids to do this year after year. In fact, I remember one group of students reflecting on how they wished teachers would just talk to each other so they wouldn’t have to keep “introducing themselves” to teachers in the same way every year.

With the increase in what students can now save digitally they can easily compile the “best of” and like Howard Wan’s Narrative reel, create a digital reel of highlights of their elementary years using actual artifacts from their Google Drive.  That way, a grade 9 teacher can not only get a sense of a student’s interests, but so too get insight as to a child’s strengths and needs based on their past work and experiences.

What about Grade 12?

In Ontario, as part of the English Curriculum, there is a Media Strand whereby the creation of media products is an expectation. Wouldn’t creating a Narrative Reel for highlighting their high school achievements make a useful and meaningful media product they could use to add to an About Me page or Digital Portfolio and that they could take with them to the world of work or post-secondary?  By grade 12, students would have been exposed (hopefully) to a variety of digital storytelling tools so they could choose the best tool to tell their story.

What are some other ideas you have for tweaking an existing project or assignment to make it more meaningful or authentic for your learners?

 

 

Leading & Building a Positive Culture as a Teacher-Librarian

I was at a family function last weekend when my sister said it.  No one had talked about the fact that I was changing roles in September.  Now I know why–they had talked about it amongst themselves.  She said, “So you went from being the Literacy Consultant for a whole board to a Teacher-Librarian? Like isn’t that a total demotion?  Why would you do that?!” (yup, her exact words–gotta love my sister’s direct & honest approach??)

Needless to say, I was a little taken aback, but it made me really think about leadership and how people perceive leadership as being connected to titles. It also showed me the extent to which people don’t recognize how valuable Teacher-Librarians can be in a school.

What I explained to her is that I chose to be a Teacher-Librarian so I can continue to be a leader. In that role, I have the privilege of working with teachers, administration, and students in positive and impactful ways.

Two awesome posts by George Couros this week : 10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing #Classroom Culture this year and  10 Easy Ways to Build a Positive #School Culture as a Principal, helped me to think about the ways in which a Teacher-Librarian is not just a leader, but has the incredible opportunity to contribute to the building of  an amazing culture in a school.

An effective Teacher-Librarian supports teachers to try something different, offers a little tweak that can move a lesson or unit from good to awesome, offers a second set of hands, eyes, and ears to help differentiate and assess.  An effective teacher-librarian can help a teacher find the perfect tech tool or resource to serve the learning needs of their students.

We know about critical literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, and every other modern literacy classroom teachers haven’t had the time to dig in to or keep up with in this age of abundant information.

But our space isn’t just another classroom in the school.  The Library Learning Commons can and should be the heart of a school; a place where learning, literacy, critical thinking, creativity, and fun come together.

Teacher-Librarians also interact with students– lots of students every day.  I am completely new at this role, so maybe I’m off base here, but I think that George’s Top 10 list can be modified for the role of Teacher-Librarian.  This is what I’m thinking:

10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing School Culture as a Teacher-Librarian this year (2)

 

I’d like to create an inviting and positive learning culture when it comes to allowing cellphones in my Learning Commons.  I am experimenting with the wording on this poster and would love your feedback on this sign:

Be prepared to rethink how you use social media here (2)

 

More about building a positive culture by connecting your students

I am committed to helping teachers and students to see how technology and social media can be used to learn and share learning, connect with others, and be a more positive influence in the lives of others!

I am excited for the opportunity to work with teachers and students at my school and in the world on the following initiatives:

I would like to start a High School Global Book Club to foster digital leadership and a love of reading.  My VERY DRAFT ideas are here.  So far, I’ve got a few North American schools and an International school in Thailand interested.  Would love for you to join us!

I am participating in the Global Peace Project sponsored my Buncee launching September 26th. It is free to join and is an excellent way to build empathy, cultural awareness and to work towards spreading peace.  Details here.

I am helping my friend, Barbara  from Norway to get some North American classes involved in a Digital Storytelling project beginning in September. Check it out here.

I am organizing a Global Amazing Race EDU for grades 7, 8 and high school.  The project launch happens on February 10th with a Virtual Breakout EDU!  Details here.

I can’t wait to see my sister at the next family function to tell her all about my  start to an amazing school year!

Quotation source: http://ottmag.com/most-famous-leadership-quotes/

 

Learn. UnLearn. ReLearn. Repeat.

I often come back to The Innovator’s Mindset book by George Couros which I have read a couple of times now because so many ideas in it really resonate.  Today was definitely one of those days.  In particular, I thought of three of the characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset:  Resilient, Risk-taker, Networked which gave me a more positive frame for dealing with the big tech news I have been dealt this week!

Just last week, I learned that Blab, a platform I had just learned and experimented with shut down. Because I was fairly new to the platform, I wasn’t overly upset at the news, and given the fact that they were not very diligent or responsive to my negative situation a few weeks ago, I am not going to say I am heartbroken.  Nonetheless, it was a really great platform for connected debates, book clubs and panel discussions.  I will need to go back to my blog posts and delete them and there are teachers who took the time to experiment with the platform because I got excited about it, when they could have gone to the beach instead!

Then yesterday, I learned from someone in my Edumatch Voxer group that Google Hangouts on Air, a platform which I have spent much time using and teaching others about is shutting down after September 21st.  After my initial panic and shock, I realized that it is simply moving to YouTube Live and that it really isn’t that big a deal, but it still will mean going back to all of my tutorials, presentations, etc..to change the information and it will mean trying to find a suitable alternative platform for connecting students to experts, organizations, and other classes.

As I shared this information to my PLN, I said, “Need to relearn” to which my friend Leigh Cassell added:

Learn, Unlearn

And it’s so true.  Putting yourself out there to learn how to integrate technology in meaningful ways means being a Risk-taker; but it’s often a calculated risk with the goal of doing what’s best for kids. And it provides the opportunity to really put ourselves in the shoes of our students who are constantly learning new things.

For the rest of the day, on both Voxer and Twitter, people were sharing ideas, alternatives, and resources to help each other through this change.   Being Networked allows me to get support and help when I need it and to offer support and help to others.

Teachers and Administrators who try to bring in technology to meet their learning goals  have to be Resilient.  Platforms and tools change so quickly that teachers who are trying new things for the sake of differentiation and student learning are risking that the tool they teach their students may not be available in six months.  Do we let that fear stop us from finding the best tool to suit our purpose?  Or do we deal with this flexibly and thus model this mindset for kids?

The only constant nowadays really is change.  We can either complain about it and let it be an excuse NOT  to innovate or move forward, or we can be can embrace an Innovator’s Mindset look at it as a great way to really experience what being a learner means.

So back to the drawing board for me as I go and learn about YouTube Live, Firetalk, and the many other alternatives people have been so generous to suggest.

 

Slacktivism, Social Justice, and Social Media

I want to live in a world dominated by peace, love, empathy, and mutual understanding of differences.  I want my own kids and students to grow up in that kind of world.

And yet it seems that everywhere I turn on social media or the news lately, there is another instance of hate resulting in the loss of life.  I am so grateful that I belong to a Voxer group made up of  so many races and religions which truly allows for multiple perspectives and courageous conversations.  Just listening to everyone talk about their own experiences has helped me to grow in my understanding of the complexity of it all.  My buddy, Justin Schleider said it best when he said that we are forever changed as a result of our group, because we notice inequality more frequently as a result of having participated in these discussions and having our ideas pushed and challenged.

Throughout our discussions, I always bring it back to the classroom.  How do we address important issues of inequality and injustice with other teachers and students?  Do we? How do we help students to see alternative perspectives in the media? Can social media be a vehicle for positive social action and change?

Slacktivism

Some would answer no.  The term “slacktivism,” which is made up of a combination of the words “slacker” and “activism,”  has increasingly been used to describe the disconnect between awareness and action through the use of social media (Glen, 2015).

Slacktivism can be defined as “a willingness to perform a relatively costless, token display of support for a social cause, with an accompanying lack of willingness to devote significant effort to enact meaningful change” (Kristofferson et al., 2014) and thus has a negative connotation.

And yet, isn’t awareness a goal of education?  If a young person learns about deforestation, reads about organizations doing something about it, and “likes” their page, or demonstrates a positive response, isn’t that exactly what we want?  Might that eventually lead to a more active stance as the child grows older?

I think of the Ice Bucket Challenge craze of last year as an example of how awareness can be spread through something going viral on the internet.  If you don’t remember, the movement required that you video-tape yourself throwing ice water over yourself & challenging others to do so as well.  You were also supposed to donate to ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease).  At the time, it was criticized because many people were just interested in the fun of the challenge.  This is in line with typical criticism of slacktivism which is more about “‘feel-good back patting’ through watching or ‘liking’ commentary of social issues without any action.” and the fact that oftentimes there is minimal time and effort, without mobilization and/or demonstrable effect in solving a social issue (Glen, 2015).  And yet, there is no way that people would have had known about the disease without this movement becoming popular on social media.  Just recently, there was a breakthrough in ALS as a result of the money raised during that craze.  So slacktivism, in this case, despite its negative connotation and criticism turned out to be very positive.

Much has been written also about the Kony movement of 2012 (Jenkins, et al, 2015) (Glen, 2015) as an example of social activism on the internet. I remember this campaign vividly because at the time, a friend of the family, who is a non-reader, not interested in school, and generally apathetic when it comes to any sort of causes became very interested in learning about Kony and child soldiers. I directed her to sources and she voraciously read them to learn about the cause.  We often talk about students not coming into our classes with prior knowledge, but I wonder whether or not if we meet them where they are and bring in cultural references from social media, that we might have greater success helping them to build an understanding of politics and culture.

I love this tweet by Curran Dee (a mother/son account) which really does emphasize the difference between activism & slacktivism:

Action vs Slacktivism

Citizenship Education

I really appreciate this framework for Citizenship Education in the new revised Canadian World Studies (and other revised Ontario Curriculum) as it reminds us that active participation in society are a necessary end goal.  Today, this means that technology and social media can help students develop a voice and become actively involved in causes about which they are passionate. But it also suggests that teaching citizenship is an important goal to the development of the whole child.

Citizenship education framework

 

Connecting Classrooms

When we provide students the opportunity to learn about other cultures in the world, by connecting our classrooms, we are helping them to see other races and cultures as human beings.  This can only be a good thing.  This can ideally be accomplished via technology and/or social media.  Students, can for example engage in a Google Hangout or a Blab with other classes to discuss an issue.  They can engage in a Twitter exchange.  I have heard so many powerful stories and have personally experienced transformation of student points’ of view as a result of virtually meeting kids from other countries or communities.  In one case, where one of our local schools connected with Julie Balen’s class, our students admitted that they really had no idea that the students of FNMI backgrounds were “16 year olds just like us”, and a student from Wikwemikong school admitted to thinking that everyone outside of her reserve was white and that she was surprised to see the class had so many “colours”.  One of my friends, Shervette Miller-Peyton spoke about how interesting it was for her class to connect with a class from Brazil because they had made so many assumptions about what students outside of the States would be like.  They were shocked to hear that the students knew about their own culture.   Connecting students allows them to really get to know and understand others.

Multiple perspectives

I would suggest a four-pronged approach to any issue so as to minimize bias and radical responses BEFORE they actually go online.  Something like this which would obviously need to be modified based on the grade:

I am ___________and this is my perspective…:

Respond as the perpetrator’s son (daugher, sister, brother, mother)

I am ______________and this my perspective…
Respond as the perpetrator’s victim’s (daugher, sister, brother, mother)
I am ___________and this my perspective:
Respond as a community leader
I am ___________and this my perspective:
Respond as a bystander
Reflect: I used to think, and now I think…

Student Digital Leadership

We have always included opportunities for learning about social justice issues in the classroom.  Today, we are able to empower our students to use their own voices to advocate for change.  These are just a few examples of kids leveraging social media and technology to spread good in the world.

The other day I read about Two fourth graders who started a plastic bag petition in Houston.  It was shared on Twitter by fourth grader, Curran Dee.

Hannah Alper, a 13-year old activist and social-change maker always posts great ideas for how to help.  Read her post on how to help support Ronald McDonald Houses.

Joshua Williams, founder of Joshua’s Heart an organization dedicated to feeding the hungry, promotes a positive stance on the issue of gun violence.

Joshua

Harry Potter Alliance

I learned about the Harry Potter Alliance from the book, Participatory Cultures in a Networked Era.  It’s a really interesting resource where social activism and different fandoms (primarily Harry Potter) collide.   The website says its goal is to make “activism accessible through the power of story.” The toolkits focus on different issues and provide background as well as concrete ideas of how to build awareness about those issues.  It would be a great resource for teachers and students alike.

Hashtags

A great way to promote activism in the classroom is to check out the hashtags for current events on Twitter or Instagram and contribute positively. I reflect on the power of hashtagshere.

These are a few hashtags shared with me by Alec Couros which he uses in his courses to demonstrate some major online campaigns.

I always check what’s trending on Twitter or Instagram to see if any topical hashtags might be relevant to a unit or theme being studied (or could replace what I had in mind).

Keep it Positive

I would also recommend that you take George Couros’ advice to  Err on the Side of Positive  and beyond that respond with empathy, positivity, openness, sensitivity, and love.   Keeping interactions on social media positive will prevent misunderstandings and negativity.

Err on the side of... (1)

Consider this:  My friend, Rola Tibshirani shared this post by Stephen Downes, called Hey Snapchat Enough is Enough.  It criticizes Snapchat for its filters which stereotype and border on racist.  I look at something like that as a great opportunity to discuss portrayals of diversity in media and social media.  It would also provide an excellent starting point for action: kids can contact the company and share their opinions so they know that they don’t have to passively stand by when they recognize injustice.  To keep it positive, they can suggest some alternative filters that would be more inclusive too!

What do you think of taking action using social media?

References:

Couros, G. (2016, June). Err on the Side of Positive. iPadPalooza. June, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoMn4063yc4

Glenn, C. L. (2015). Activism or “slacktivism?”: Digital media and organizing for social change.Communication Teacher, 29(2), 81-85. doi:10.1080/17404622.2014.1003310

Groetzinger, K. (2015, December 10). Slacktivism is having a powerful real-world impact, new research shows. Retrieved July 31, 2016, from http://qz.com/570009/slacktivism-is-having-a-powerful-real-world-impact-new-research-shows/

Kristofferson, K., White, K., & Peloza, J. (2014). The nature of slacktivism: How the social observability of an initial act of token support affects subsequent prosocial action.Journal of Consumer Research, 40(6), 1149-1166. doi:10.1086/674137

Robinson, Matthew (2016) Department of Government and Justice Studies. Appalachian State University. Retrieved July 31, 2016, from http://gjs.appstate.edu/social-justice-and-human-rights/what-social-justice

Vanwynsberghe, Hadewijch, and Pieter Verdegem. “Integrating social media in education.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 15.3 (2013). Academic OneFile

References:

http://gjs.appstate.edu/social-justice-and-human-rights/what-social-justice

Vanwynsberghe, Hadewijch, and Pieter Verdegem. “Integrating social media in education.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 15.3 (2013). Academic OneFile

  • Glenn, C. L. (2015). Activism or “slacktivism?”: Digital media and organizing for social change. Communication Teacher, 29(2), 81-85. doi:10.1080/17404622.2014.1003310

Character Day–A good start to the school year

Character Day

I had a really interesting conversation last night with Diana Hale, a teacher in the Toronto District School Board about the negative experiences she had in her classroom and her subsequent reflection that Digital Citizenship cannot be taught as a discrete unit. She is among many of us who recognize that Digital Citizenship needs to be taught in context and that a guided use of social media needs to happen in classrooms in order to help students navigate online spaces.  An essential element to this is for adults to recognize that for our students, the online and offline world are actually an extension of one another; not in fact two separate worlds.  One of the strategies Diana used in her class was to look at literature (she used the Weird Series) to explore bullying which she applied to online situations as well.  Using literature or film provide an excellent opportunity for students to explore abstract concepts, and challenging ideas and a skillful teacher can then bring it back to the students’ own experiences (which today include online experiences as well).

So I was very excited this morning to receive a notification about an upcoming webinar featuring Tiffany Shlain and Character Day.

Character Day is a free annual day and global initiative where groups around the world screen films on the science of character development from different perspectives, dive into free printed discussion materials, and join an online global conversation around the importance of developing character strengths (resilience, grit, empathy, courage, kindness)–all rooted in evidence-based research (from the website).

As much as I dislike “one-off’s”, Character Day is exciting for a couple of reasons:

  • it’s free
  • Sharing is happening on social media which models for kids how it can be a place of solidarity, learning, and sharing
  • it happens early in the school year and yearly
  • the event is one day but the high quality resources are available all year long
  • the lessons are based on films which provide access to most learners
  • the films are short!
  • the quality of the films are exceptional because the founder, Tiffany Shlain is a filmmaker
  • it provides an opportunity for students to see themselves in a global context and within a global conversation
  • it helps students practice Digital Leadership

Ideas for Implementation

The Teacher-Librarian as the Hub

As I embark upon a new teacher-librarian position, I can see not only sharing information with all Departments for September 22nd and partnering with teachers to brainstorm ideas for classroom implementation, but I also think that  creating a buzz in the Library and screening the films over the lunch hour would be a great way to bring an awareness to the entire school.

Innovation team

I am hoping to re-frame the current Ed Tech Team into an Innovation team; this is not a name change only.  I think that we need to move beyond the idea that the Help Desk or Genius Bar at a school, co-run by students, focuses solely on fixing tech and trouble-shooting.  If we truly want our kids to become digital leaders, we need for them to understand, just as many teachers do that character is a part of how we interact online–it is connected to using images fairly and citing sources correctly, maintaining a healthy balance between tech and non-tech, communicating clearly and respectfully online and offline, etc…  Involving an innovation team (ed tech team–whatever you call it) in this initiative may set the stage for the work they do the rest of the school year.  They will probably have some awesome ideas for activities that could be used during the Library lunch events too!

District-wide participation

What I will miss about being a Literacy Consultant at the District level is to be able to rally many schools together to participate and share.  If you are a District leader (or have a network of schools with whom you are connected), consider making Character Day a District-wide or multi-school event. Share what you are doing (pics, videos, etc…) not only with the event hashtag, but your own community/District hashtag.  We recently started a Collaborative Blog for our District, why not use the power of Google Apps for Education to create a collaborative journal of what you did and what you learned and post it to a collaborative blog so that the entire District can see it?

Beyond September 22nd

Just like Global Day of Design was meant to get teachers thinking about design thinking in the classroom, Character Day should really be a springboard for ongoing conversations and activities that help kids become good people whether they are online or offline.

 

Watch 1min Character Day Trailer from The Moxie Institute on Vimeo.

Visit the Character Day website and sign up today and participate in one of the free webinars they are offering. Hope to see you then!

 

Have you checked out Music.ly

Originally posted on uoit.wordpress.com

music.ly

Music.ly is an app that allows for the creation and sharing of music videos. Like any app that allows for public sharing, there are definitely pros & cons. I have heard educators talk about this app as the worst app for kids to be on, and yet when you play with it, you can definitely see why kids (and adults) would be drawn to it!  It allows for the creation of professional-looking videos which are easy to share with friends.  Here’s one that Sylvia Duckworth created during a Pub PD–just for fun!

The app itself offers unique features which is why users would be drawn to it.  It is fun and easy to use. Within minutes you can create professional looking music videos (lip sync or original). Check out an overview Here.

There are teachers and parents who are concerned due to content that may be sexually provocative and issues around privacy.  Despite the fact that the app suggests 12 as a minimum age, parents are saying it’s more appropriate for older kids. This is what parents had to say via Common Sense Media, despite the fact that kids themselves rated it much lower.

Like any social media app or tool, I firmly believe that rather than shut it down, or ignore its existence, it is important to have conversations around privacy and appropriate content in the context of using the tool.

Crucial Conversations:

The most important conversations involve privacy and appropriate content.  You do need an email to sign up and you need to create a username.  Some people don’t feel comfortable using their full name and so a crucial conversation involve pros and cons around real vs user name.

The default is set to public.  This means that anyone can download your music.ly.  For example, I really liked this video and downloaded it to my Youtube channel.  (I love it because it shows how very creative people can be and how some tools may be made for one purpose but offer incredible opportunities for other applications).  You absolutely need to know that someone may possibly download your Music.ly if it is public and need to switch it to private if this is of concern.

Like any app that allows a user to create content and other users to comment, necessary conversations need to be had around how to comment positively and how to react when there are negative comments made on your video.

Use in the classroom

When a tool is used authentically and with the guidance of a classroom teacher, there is an opportunity to have those crucial conversations and explore some of the concerns together.  Music.ly might be a good choice for any extension activity in which students create their own rap or dance or as in the example above for the creation of art with a music background.

The infographic below gives you an overview of the app.

Music.ly app

Link to infographic with hyperlinks here

What are your thoughts on this app?

Social Media in the classroom: What to do when things go wrong

I have been and continue to be a strong advocate for using social media in the classroom to empower students.  I have been an active user of social media since 2011 and have never encountered any of the negativity I have heard people associate with it.  I mean, not ever in the 12, 696 Tweets and various Google +, Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn posts!  I always put out positive and it always seems to come back to find me.

Early this morning, I wavered slightly when I was the target of online threats.

It happened on Blab at 2:30 a.m.  I had only recently explored Blab as a tool for possible integration in the classroom a couple of weeks ago.   I was a guest panelist for, Good Brings Good: Harnessing the Power of Connections for Social Change, as part of EdCamp Global, featuring Matone de Chiwit and Calliope’s Fran Siracusa.  Also on air were Sean Robinson and Tracy Brady along with Manel Trenchs  and Fabiana Cassella as well as others who joined.  We all stayed up for the time slot to share our enthusiasm for the powerful connections made with our classes and the young inventor Karishma Baghani around the topic of water scarcity.

And then the harassment started.  It began with negative comments put forward by “Dawn” who we later realized was not a real person, but a fake account created by someone on Twitter for the purpose of joining Blab to be negative and anonymous.  There were extremely anti-male sentiments and harassing statements directed at Sean.  I proceeded to say in the chat box how disappointed I was that such an important topic was being sabotaged by negativity.  Fran was able to remove “her” and we continued.

Blab chat

Shortly thereafter, another “user” entered the Blab and spewed hateful anti-male sentiments towards both Sean and Manel Trenchis i Mola, who joined us from Barcelona.  I firmly believe it was the same person under the guise of a different username. The abuse was along similar lines. Fran tried to remove the user once again, but this time, it wasn’t working.  I tried to post positive comments but as I continued to do so, the user sent me threatening messages–directed not just at me, but clearly the person had looked at my Twitter profile and realized that I had two daughters and threatened them.

Fran and the panel of guests addressed the issue but also continued on with the presentation remarkably well.  Because Blab does not record the chat, a viewer would find it difficult to tell when this all started.

In the subsequent hours, (between 3 & 4:30 am ET), we each set out to Report and Block both of the users.   I emailed Blab, contacted Twitter.  Fran meticulously deleted all of the negative comments so they couldn’t be seen in the replay. The group of amazing educators who had been in on the planning for the Good-Brings-Good Global Edcamp session got together on our group chat (Direct Message on Twitter) to talk about what happened and to support one another with words, Bitmojiis, and images.  The conversation then extended to Voxer where we continued to support each other and where we talked about what we could have done differently next time.

In my case, even before I woke up, my husband had already talked to my 13 year-old about the incident.  When I came down for breakfast, she told me that she had gone into all of her accounts and checked to make sure nothing was unusual.  She had also checked my 16 year-old’s phone (as she is in Ecuador) and made sure nothing untoward was happening there either.  She told me that she had also strengthened her passwords “just to be on the safe side”.  Then she asked if I was ok.  I just about sobbed.  My biggest fear was that somehow the threats made could actually happen, despite knowing that it would be extremely unlikely that someone would harm my kids from afar.

I don’t tell this story because I want to frighten you. I don’t tell it because I think we should all swear off social media.  I tell it because as distressed as I was,  I am more convinced than ever that we need to help and guide kids to navigate these spaces together.  This negative experience has probably pushed my thinking more than has been possible when I’ve only known the positive.  Sean Guillard shared the image below on Instagram and it immediately resonated.  What happens in the classroom when a wrong note is hit?  Being thoughtful and proactive will ensure that the next note is good.

wrong note

Anticipate that something may go wrong.

Stay Calm.

Do you have children?  If you do, you will be familiar with this scenario.  Your child falls and you react extremely negatively, you screech or cry out or gasp.  What does your child do?  Sobs and wails uncontrollably.  But what happens when I purposefully suck in my breath, carry on, offer support in a very even keel voice as if nothing really frightening has happened?  My children miraculously brushed themselves off and continued to play.    The most important thing to do when something unexpected, unfamiliar, or negative happens when using social media (really apply this wisdom to anything) is to stay calm and think things through logically.  If you watch the Replay of the Blab, you will see Fran as the model of composure even though she was panicking to block and eject the offender.  You will see Sean continue to talk about the power of student voice even though he is being attacked in the chat box.  Your calmness will in turn instill calm.  Your panic will make everyone anxious and fearful.

Think Aloud

When I presented at the GAFE Summit in Kitchener this past Spring, I decided it would be a good idea to do a live Google Hangout.  As you can imagine, anything that could go wrong, did.  Nothing was working, then I shared the wrong link and had to eject someone (not because he was being inappropriate, but there was audio interference).  Even though I was shaking in front of a rather large audience, my literacy background must have kicked in because I engaged in a problem-solving-think-aloud.  That is, I explained what I was doing to solve the problem in a methodical and practical way. Many people later shared how important that was and how much they appreciated me thinking through and problem-solving out loud as they saw what they would do if the same thing happened to them.  As I was thinking about what I would do if a negative incident happened in the classroom, it would be important to say these kinds of things as you are doing them:

  • “First I will look for a way to block this user because this is extremely inappropriate and uncomfortable.  Blocking them will make sure we don’t see them anymore.
  • “I will take a screenshot of the username and the negative things being said so I can have a record of it”
  • “I will need to report this to the company and talk to the principal about this.  I can send the screenshots I took.”
  • “I think I need to change my password and make it stronger, just in case this person tries to get into my accounts.”
  • “I wonder what we could do differently next time so this doesn’t happen again.”

Making this thinking visible will give them a frame for when this might happen to them as they personally engage in using social media (which we all know they are doing at younger and younger ages).

Plan that Something will go wrong

In an ensuing conversation with Marialice Curran, I spoke about overcoming the feeling helplessness with a proactive action plan.  She made the analogy of a Fire Escape plan which makes so much sense.

We have kids engage in Fire Drills & Lock down drills.  We don’t wish for these things to happen, but when we anticipate that something could go wrong, and talk about it as a class, we empower our students to act in the event that action is necessary.  And we do this to keep them safe.  A simple question like, “What might go wrong if we use this tool and what will we do about it?” may suffice.   In the case of Blab, Fran reflected that having more than one moderator/host would have been helpful since only a moderator can remove participants.  This can be true for other live-streaming tools as well.

It may also help to include the following elements in your action plan:

DO NOT ENGAGE

As much as I always give everyone the benefit of the doubt, someone who is being negative on social media is not likely going to turn around and be grateful to me for helping them to be more positive. Trying to reason with someone who is negative is futile.  It definitely didn’t work for me–in fact in retrospect, standing up to the person is what prompted the threatening messages.  It is important to continue as if nothing is happening and not engage in any way.

DROWN OUT THE NEGATIVE WITH POSITIVE

One of my favourite quotes by George Couros is this:

He coined it after he had a potentially negative situation arose in front of a live audience of students. I vividly remember him sharing his story with me and it was all I could think of during the Blab, but unfortunately, I was the only one who was putting in positive comments and because I was also trying to take screen shots, the effort was not enough.  I keep thinking how different it would have been if we had talked about this beforehand, and how much more effective and powerful all of us would have been at drowning out that one hateful voice.   This was a strategy kids came up with when we had a negative situation on Yik Yak as well.  To me, this is the most important thing we can do to empower our kids in a negative situation.

Jennifer Williams, who also reached out, said this: “Breaks my heart to think that there are people out there that are hurting so badly that they intentionally try to cause harm to others. Just another reason to spread in our world the best we can.”

MAKE THE COMPANY ACCOUNTABLE

Some apps really have no idea that educators are thinking of innovative ways to incorporate them; thus they are not being created with kids and safety in mind.  If something negative happens, talk to the class about what action they’d like to take.

“Should we contact the company with our suggestions about how this tool could be safer?”

Again the intent is to empower.  Kids need to know that if there is something that needs to be fixed that they can be part of the solution.  It could very well be that the company had never even considered the suggestions that the kids might come up with.  They often surprise us and learning should lead to action.

FORGE A POSITIVE CONNECTION WITH PARENTS

If an incident happens in class, it is important to communicate this with parents and families about how to help. It is also important to think about what and how you communicate.  Parents need to know that something happened that made everyone uncomfortable, and what steps that could be taken at home, but it is also extremely helpful that the tone  (or the words) reflect the fact that there are important lessons to be learned by engaging in the guided use of social media together as a class which their child will take with them when they navigate the tools on their own.  If your tone wavers to suggest that you should not have been using this tool in the first place, you are just opening up yourself for trouble. Parents need to be assured that the choices you make in class are for the goal of learning.  A summary of the learning goals and what the children have decided as a plan of action moving forward would also help parents feel that the teacher and the school are being thoughtful and diligent about the choices being made.

MAKE WISE CHOICES

Having said, that, using technology as well as social media always requires critical thinking on the part of the teacher.  Once you establish your purpose, you (or the kids) select a tool which would most easily and effectively help you arrive at your learning goal. Blab is a great tool for discussion and debate.  Periscope is a great live streaming tool. But both are public and anyone can jump in.  The time of day probably matters too, during the school day, you may be less likely to have someone come in than if it’s in the evening (or at 2 am!)  Though it’s never the tool, but the user(s) of the tool which make it negative, you may not necessarily want to engage in a public Blab with kids under the age of 13 or at least practice using it as unlisted first.  If you choose to use a tool, awareness and collaborative conversations are necessary.

Here is an article with some tips for online abuse on Blab which may apply to other tools as well.

The topic and Blab itself was a demonstration of the positive! Despite what happened there was powerful sharing about how students were positively impacted by a project which allowed them to become passionate about a project that could helps make the lives of others better.  Whatever else, getting involved in this project will provide.  Sean’s blog is a great place to learn about this and other Connections-based learning projects.  And check out the Our Blue Earth project in collaboration with Karishma which is still ongoing for the next school year.

I leave you with the sentiment expressed by Manel at the end of the Blab as he is being harassed in the chat:

“There is a lot of work to be done to help use social media in a good way”

Indeed there is.  We can’t let negative experiences prevent us from engaging in these online spaces with kids.  I shudder at the thought of a child or teen going through what I went through all alone because we just don’t feel comfortable going there.  I am grateful to the community of friends that reached out to me and to Sean after this incident.

 And I am ever mindful that it is a community of friends whom I know mostly only virtually: by way of social media.

School should be that safe community for kids and so should their online spaces.