Author Archives: jencasatodd@gmail.com

Beyond Distraction

One of the reasons teachers are so reluctant to have students use their devices in school is that they fear students will be too distracted to learn and that students are way too dependent on their phones.

I definitely see this behaviour demonstrated in school to some extent,

In my book, Social LEADia, I explore this idea:

Kids are distracted by their phones. Kids are far more interested in what Sally and Johnny are doing at lunch than the War of 1812. They would rather play a game than work on a school assignment. Guaranteed. I was easily more interested in boys than what any of my teachers were teaching when I was a teenager. Even today, I have to admit that I am more interested in what my PLN on Twitter is sharing than I am when listening to someone regurgitate information at a meeting or conference. I think we need to rethink our natural response to this and help students (and adults) develop self-regulatory skills and as Rheingold puts it, “deliberate media mindfulness”…

As a Teacher-Librarian, I don’t have my own class per se, so the line I use most often when I am walking around the Library is: “Is your device helping you or distracting you?” This invites dialogue. It presumes positive intentions. When it’s helping them, students will often show me what they are doing (and this is most awesome, because I have learned so much!!). When they acknowledge it’s distracting, they immediately put it in their bags. I don’t “make” them put it away, I invite them to. I also always share my own struggles with my students.  I will often offer strategies for what I do and invite other students to talk about what they do.  

I also work with teachers and students on self-regulation by asking students to set goals for themselves and having them reflect on how well they met their goals.

But I also want to acknowledge another reality and that is, that what students are doing with their phones goes beyond distraction. Kids are creating too;  we just don’t necessarily see it or acknowledge it in school.

Check out the video below,shared by a friend of mine, about how Steve Lacy prefers to create music using Garageband on his phone.

A friend of mine, Janice Leighton and I were chatting one day about the fact that her daughter, from a very young age, would spend hours and hours a day editing videos to the point that she was worried about her. She tried to ensure that her daughter had a variety of other experiences, but Emma would always go back to shooting and editing video.

Emma recently graduated from film school and is working in the industry. Janice said something that really gave me pause. She said, “You know how Malcolm Gladwell in the Outlier talks about needing 10 000 hours to be great? Well, I really think that all that time I fretted about her, Emma was just working on her 10 000 hours.”

Wow.

I love that perspective & it’s not something I had thought of before.

Do we realize that opportunities today look very different than they did even 10 years ago? Do we see that young people are creating those opportunities for themselves in ways they have not been able to do before?  I am not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned with obsessive behaviour–moderation is definitely important. But perhaps we might need to think differently about what our kids are actually doing with their devices and not assume that they are “wasting time”.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that we are reluctant for students to use their phones to work on projects. A few times when co-teaching, students asked if they could work on their own devices and the teacher at first didn’t feel comfortable with it. I encouraged the teacher because honestly, I know that I feel more comfortable with my own device because I know how it works. We want our students to create without barriers. Sometimes an unfamiliar device can be a barrier.

I think that perhaps I need to change the question I ask my students.  I will now start to ask,

Is your device helping you or distracting you or are you creating something amazing with it?

 

#WeLeadBy Student Digital Leadership at its best

In my book, Social LEADia I highlight a student Twitter chat (@AMDSBKidsChat) created by Leigh Cassell and Nicole Kaufmann. This idea has inspired a group of Ontario leaders (including myself) to organize a province-wide student-chat #ONedSsChat beginning in October. If we, as educators benefit from this format, then it might be a great way to show students how they might use Twitter productively and for learning?

Then a few days ago, I met Isaiah Sterling who is high school student from Missouri, who decided he would like to create and moderate his own Twitter chat: #weleadby. Isaiah sites Dave Burgess and Beth Houf as educators and leaders who took the time to share and support him.  It even inspired elementary principal, Lance McClard to write a blog post:

Will you be that caring adult who supports a student who demonstrates initiative in both online and offline spaces?

Give Isaiah a follow and check out his blog after you read his reflection below:

Reflection: Moderating my first Twitter chat as a student digital leader #weleadby

As a student, I love to share, inform, and grow in my student leadership efforts with the everyday use of social media. Over the years, I’ve done just that. Recently, I was wondering what my next big move in student leadership with the use of social media would be. Something extraordinary crossed my mind, Twitter chats. I always see HUGE Twitter users creating and moderating their owns chats, so I figured I could do the same even as a student. I knew it was time to show my true inner digital leader… Guess what? It worked. Just like Leigh Ragsdale (@leighmragsdale on Twitter) says, “Don’t talk about it, be about it.” Through all this, #weleadby was born. The chat focuses on leadership in any area of life be that personally, at work, educationally, etc.

It took me about an hour or two to gather the best questions for the chat and create graphics for each of them even though the chat only consisted of four questions! I wanted to make sure everything was perfect for my chat participants.

Scheduling and creating graphics wasn’t all it took. I knew I had to build my participant base! Therefore, I created a post announcing the upcoming chat and tagged well known and respected educators like Dave Burgess and Beth Houf. At first, I thought to myself…”Oh they are so busy!! They won’t see and share a tweet a student leader from southeast Missouri that was trying to share his chat time to a lot of people!” BUT, they were instrumental in helping me build my participant base! Dave, Beth, and a lot more educators helped me build that base by retweeting and telling their followers what was going to happen. Through this, leaders and educators from everywhere started replying saying that they’d join! All I could do at the time was thank them and hope they’d follow through. I’d like to say that this was in a two day time period! Just amazing! As a student digital leader, I knew I had to bring a sense of confidence and belief in this chat! Beth, Dave, and others were so amazing at helping me maintain just that.

There were lots of steps in preparing for this chat.  Before the chat, I knew I’d have to use something to schedule the guided questions that would be used for guests to interact upon. I had some background experience in HootSuite, so I decided that would have to do. HootSuite is yet another social media dashboard tool that allows users to schedule tweets for anytime of the day they’d like. I scheduled tweets with questions and took time to schedule tweets that prepared guests for the next question. It took me forever to decide how far apart I wanted these tweets to be, but in the end I decided five minutes was perfect.

Not only did I just schedule text, I also made graphics for each of the tweets. I used an app on my phone called Typorama. Typorama allows users to create beautiful graphics for anything they wish easily.

I’ll always remember sending out the tweet that mentioned the chat started in five minutes. At this point, I was extremely nervous hoping that people would participate. Five minutes later, my phone and computer would not stop beeping from the overwhelming response. My HootSuite dashboard froze several times due to all the activity coming through. I told myself I should interact with the guests that are participating. Most messages after the guests would reply would be just a quick thank you or happy you joined! If I saw something really appealing, I retweeted it and commented more on their tweet. This happened A LOT. I found myself retweeting and commenting on almost everything that came back in the #weleadby search. I was able to connect with so many great, enthusiastic, motivating, and encouraging leaders from all different locations! I do admit it was VERY overwhelming at first, but after awhile the fire for the why behind this chat kicked in. I want to connect with leaders and want leaders to connect with other leaders to promote, motivate, and engage leadership efforts anywhere in life. Here are some pictures from the chat:

I’ve always been a social media and leadership fanatic. I’m honored to be able to combine the two and show my student digital leadership! What an amazing experience I know’ll known I’ll never forget.

Isolation, Connected Learning, and Perspective

I have spent the last couple of days in Atlanta for IB training and met some incredible educators from the Atlanta area as well as from Chile, Tortola, and Israel. One of the hallmarks of IB, is International Mindedness.

And yet, although there were some great face to face connections made a the conference, there was very little reference to how we might connect each other virtually. I was very much aware of the few educators who were connected on social media, and how few of them connected their classrooms to experts and other classrooms. Unlike most of the conferences I typically attend, there was no hashtag so I could connect with others. In my own workshop, we had an email list.

This fact was evident to me at the onset. The keynote was extremely good, and showcased an inquiry project in which students became invested in better understanding the Zika virus and yet when it came to the “take action” piece (part of the IB framework), there was no move into the community, no connection with experts.  The learning, though very rich, stayed in the classroom with the students. The speaker acknowledged that for next year, the “take action” part will be expanded because a student asked to share the learning with others.

When we had the opportunity to “turn and talk”, I shared how frustrated I was that the “take action” part of the assignment being showcased did not allow students to connect with an authentic audience; to take true action in their community and beyond. The learning literally stayed in the classroom with the students. Before long I connected this math teacher who had never used Twitter for learning with greats like Dan Meyer, Jo Boaeler, Alice Keeler, and my own colleague, Diana Santos. He shared that it never occurred to him to use twitter like that.

This made me ponder the statement, “Isolation is now a choice educators make.” which I have heard George Couros say often. And it’s true. it is a choice. Sort of…

In the following Twitter exchange initiated by Cliff Kraeker referring to a post by David Truss, there was a question as to why some teachers are not open to connecting (by entering into each other’s classes both face to face and virtually). The consensus seemed to be fear.


But I am going to propose an alternative reason. That in many cases, people don’t know what they don’t know.  This was certainly true for the math teacher.

In my workshop session in particular were teacher-librarians who felt very isolated because they are the only people in their role. And every time I showed someone how they might use Twitter or Facebook for professional learning or to connect a class around an idea, or culminating activity, the teachers I spoke to were very much open to it; it just hadn’t occurred to them to do that. At one point, we were sharing resources and alternatives to databases and I offered to pose the question on Twitter. Within minutes, teacher-librarians from my PLN responded with a plethora of suggestions. Check them out here. You could tell that the teachers in my session were quite surprised.

One moment in particular stood out to me. The Teacher-Librarian from Jerusalem, Israel was drawn to a book called Jerusalem and as she looked through it, she was shocked at the many stereotypes it perpetuated. She shared her concern with me and I suggested she mention it to the Teacher–Librarian (it would be impossible to know the contents of every book in the Library connection).  In our conversation, Michelle made a very significant observation. She said, as teachers and teacher-librarians we seek to buy books from diverse perspectives so as to ensure we are being internationally minded and honouring the diversity of our school population. The question is how do we know if there is an inherent bias? We have no real way of knowing because we have a limited understanding of other cultures and places.

Mic drop.

So what would stop us from sharing a book title with a class from another culture to have them look through the perspective and biases and share their ideas with one another?  I suggested having students create alternative passages, sharing them with each other and affixing a QR code or URL link to the alternative perspective created by the students. We both got so excited about the idea and how easily we could actually accomplish that using technology and social media.  What an incredible learning experience for everyone!

People aren’t necessarily afraid of doing that, they just don’t think of doing things like that.

I hope that my book, Social LEADia will help to provide ideas, but I also think it requires all of us who are connected to passionately share how transformational that experience can be for both ourselves and our students, to explore what is possible today that was difficult to accomplish before,  and not necessarily assume that teachers are too afraid to do this.

Making a Positive Impact

Have you ever had a summer cold? Happens to me every year! This year, it seems particularly awful! I’ve been feeling miserable for days and even more so because I had to cancel plans with my Book Club on Friday AND give up the opportunity to go see Ed Sheeran on Saturday! We also had tentative family plans to go to an Escape room today which everyone convinced me was not a good idea because I’d be sneezing and coughing on everything.

So to say that I have not been in the best mood the past few days is a bit of an understatement. And yet now, at this moment. My heart is bursting with love and joy.

Why you ask? Because of a 9-year girl and her messages (both public and private) on Twitter.

Now granted, Olivia Van Ledtje is not your average 9 year old. She is a force of positivity and all that is good in the world (the analogue AND online world).  She is inspiring and hopeful and one of the students I feature in my book, Social LEADia. She calls me her #CanadianTeacher 🙂 Olivia is proof of how students are not waiting until they grow up to lead and certainly how positively they can impact others! And her voice, among the other powerful student voices in the book epitomize the importance of student voice–not just as an idea we talk about in education, but as essential and valuable to teaching and learning.

It may have taken her all of 10 minutes to actually create a video and share it with me, but she didn’t have to. However, in so doing, Olivia made such a positive impact on me today!

This is in fact the core of the book based on George Couros’ definition of Digital Leadership: to use social media to improve the lives, well-being and circumstances of others (2015).

One of my favourite quotes by Leo Buscaglia goes like this:

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, and honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

I think that it is essential that we apply this to our face to face dealings with people, but I think we underestimate the extent to which we might do this virtually as well. It does us well to remember that behind our screens are vibrant, complicated, wounded and/or wonderful people. Everyone could use a kind gesture.

Here is Liv’s video:

How might you make someone’s world brighter today?

Sink or Swim: Ongoing conversations

The other day, I had two simultaneous conversations on Twitter. One, with a group of educators and one with a high school student, Gabe Howard whose vignette is featured in my book, Social LEADia. This post is me trying to work through my thinking on the very important topic of inappropriate apps.

On the adult side of the conversation, Bethany Hill posted a reference to the statement made from a student to George Couros based on his 2015 post, Drown or Swim? This was followed by the advice by Kimiko Pettis that in some cases, “scaffolding” is important (to extend the metaphor, see the pic of pool tubes & noodles. Then Mr. Vince continued (and pushed the metaphor) saying, “Pool fencing is mandatory. Don’t forget that we do close pools. Some SM apps are totally inappropriate.”

Mr. Vince sited the Spotafriend app which seems to be a place for teens to engage in “dirty chat”.

You can see the full convo here.

Like I said, I was simultaneously engaged in a conversation with Gabe Howard  (10th grade) on DM. He told me about the Amino app.  I had never heard of it.

Here is an excerpt from our conversation (used with permission)

I am passionate about gaming and specifically, game related fictional writing. I have had many of my stories featured on . The app is free on your iPhone, I’m not certain you will be able to access them on the website. I have always enjoyed writing. I have been writing and publishing my work online, for almost 2 years now. I enjoy unleashing my creative juices and ideas to my audience. Some of my pieces have had 500 -2,000 likes and much feedback. Most importantly, its therapeutic for me. I have mentioned to you that traditional school does not provide the creativity that some students crave.

Amino is a social media app similar to Twitter or Facebook, with a little unique spin in the forms of various communities. The main drawing point for Amino is individual communities unique to a specific interest. For instance, there are specific communities for Movies, T.V. Series, Video Games, Art, Writing, and the list goes on and on. I

You can do many things on Amino, ranging from blog posts, polls, public chats where you can talk to online people, and many other options. You can follow other users, gain reputation points by posting more content and being nice in the community, and see the latest posts made by others. I use the app as a way to express my interest and personality as a writer, posting various projects that are “featured on the front cover” of the community. Basically, it’s a way for people who enter a community to see the latest and most stunning pieces of art or other content. Amino is very tricky to be apart of, you need spend more time on it if you play a major part in a community. I am a leader in one community, and the people who made the app (Team Amino) require that the leaders spend an absorbent amount of time moderating posts, becoming involved in the community, and just being active in general. It can be frustrating in some instances like these. While I enjoy posting stories and getting constructive criticism and positive feedback from other users, I think Amino has about ran its course for me.

When I looked the app up on Common Sense Media, there was lots of activity–mostly parents saying that the app is dangerous and that it perpetuates cyberbullying.

If I had only looked at Common Sense Media, I would have a singular idea about this app that for Gabe has been a very enriching community.

Though I do agree that not all social media apps are created equally and they don’t all have a place in the classroom,  my chat with Gabe  proves to me that this is such a grey area that to most adults seems very black and white. I have written about inappropriate apps and how complicated this is before , and when I heard about Music.ly  when talking about Periscope and again based on my experiences with Yik Yak (which I include in the book),

You see, at first glance, you would say, ban those apps. Make sure your kids don’t go near them. But what can be a really great app for some, can be deemed dangerous for others. Typically, it’s not the app, but the way an app is used and by whom it is used that makes it “dangerous”.

Think about this, I’ve seen some extremely inappropriate stuff posted on Todays Meet and Padlet…The fact is, you could say that about Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook; for some, the experience can be extremely negative and for others transformationally positive.

And yes, while fences are important in some cases, what I think we need to worry about is the false sense of security we have when fences are up.

Of course we need to make our students aware of the dangers of predators who engage in these communities to try to lure kids, but there are many facets to apps like Amino and Spotafriend which require us to ask some important questions:

Why might kids gravitate towards apps like this?

How can we empower them to comport themselves in positive ways and be “first responders’ (term I learned from Matt Soeth) if something goes awry?

Are they really as bad as we think? And if so, to what extent does banning & blocking really help?

Are these apps appealing to kids because they are seeking their own “tribes” or communities away from parental control? 

How might we support kids to seek out the good kinds of communities which we as adults call a PLN?

I firmly agree with Henry Jenkins, danah boyd, and Mimi Ito in their assertion in Participatory Cultures in a Networked Era that blocking sites:

“actually perpetuates risk as it ensures that many kids will be forced to confront online risks on their own”

And the BBC article Limiting Time online won’t reduce risks shared by Kim Zajac speaks to the necessity of helping students build emotional resiliency and that “helping them deal with risks they face online is vital”.

The fact is, we have NO WAY of knowing when the next “BAD” app is going to come along. And every app has a terms of service which is designed to prevent cyberbullying and inappropriate use.

What I think is so much more important is the conversation that ensues when we mentor instead of monitor, block & ban. (Devorah Heitner uses the expression mentor over monitor & I love it).

And whether we are parents at home or teachers in a classroom, perhaps we need to ask questions like the following to get a better understanding of what’s going on:

“How do we define community?

“What makes online friendships different from face to face friendships?”

“Where do you meet others who share your interests?”

“What are the benefits and dangers of connecting online?”

In classrooms, these can be open provocations for further reading, inquiring, and debating in Language Arts or English class.

These are the sometimes murky waters through which we must wade as we learn how to navigate the unchartered waters of modern teaching and learning. But navigating them effectively means that we ensure we are equipped to handle unexpected wind or storms amidst calm seas rather than staying ashore and waiting for the perfect day to venture out because our kids are already out there and some of them really need us.

 

It’s time. #socialLEADia

In the concluding thoughts in my book, Social LEADia, I call upon my favourite poem by Robert Frost to talk about the decision that stands before us in Education when it comes to using social media:

So it seems to me that stand before two roads diverging in a wood.

Some stand and don’t choose a road. They shake their heads and bemoan the woes of living in a digital age. They cite privacy issues and big data, and hope that everything will resolve itself or that miraculously social media will go away.

One road is well travelled. It is one where fear and negativity prevail, and the path is so worn that we constantly try to fix the potholes. On this path, our lessons cannot include social media because it is blocked and banned and students are left to navigate digital spaces on their own . We know inevitably where this road leads because so many have been down that path before.

The other road is less travelled. It is somewhat “grassy and wants wear” because not as many people choose that way. But it is one that the teachers and students featured in this book have travelled. It is one where we think differently and act differently when it comes to leveraging the potential of social media. It is being led by the next generation of changemakers with positivity, creativity, and hope.

Just today I experienced several things that tell me that more people are longing to travel or are travelling the road to positivity than we think!

First, I was looking at new publication, ISTE Standards for Students So many of the standards for students require us to think differently about teaching and learning. In particular, when we consider the criteria for Empowered Learner, Creative Communicator, and Global Collaborator, as well as Digital Citizen.

Along with the ISTE standards, came a magazine called, “Empowered Learner,” also published by ISTE. In it, CEO Richard Culatta shares the following quote that pops out in the sidebar:

“I worry that too many digital citizenship conversations focus on what not to do, and that’s not very compelling. It’s much more compelling to talk about what we should be doing and how we could be using tech tools to make our communities and the world around us a better place.” (page 10)

He then goes on to say,

“So in addition to helping our kids recognize the things to watch out for, we encourage them to be leaders in the digital space to encourage other people to use that medium to do good.” (page 10)

YES. YES. YES.

This is exactly the premise of Social LEADia, inspired by the definition of Digital Leadership from George Couros (2013) and which 17 year old Najha Marshall explicitly states as well:

“Adults keep telling us what not to do, but they never tell us what we should do.” (Social LEADia

It is so awesome to hear the CEO of ISTE express similar sentiments!!!

I also read an article by Emily Weinstein, found in the ISTE Digital Citizenship Resources, who draws from her experience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Common Sense media to write, Debunking 5 myths about kids and their tech.

And finally, I got this tweet from Mr. McClenaghan. What really struck me was the line. “I’ve been waiting for your voice!” He also shared a post he had written.

I am so heartened by this growing movement towards making sure we balance our fears of technology with the incredible power and potential it has for our learners! It is definitely about time!

If you are at the ISTE conference this year, please consider coming to my talk and join us on the road less travelled.

 

 

Source: “Interview: Richard Culatta: ISTE CEO shares his vision for ISTE, previews coming attractions.”

Empowered Learner. ISTE Publishing. Arlington: July 2017.

 

Letting go the Fear Narrative #socialLEADia

The other day I was honoured to be on set of Family in Focus, a local television program hosted by my friend, Gillian Barker on Rogers television (Georgina). The topic: parenting out of fear.

During the conversation I shared how parenting out of fear and control when it came to social media really stifled my children and their passion and how my relationship with them and our conversations have changed as a result.  My learning from this resulted in my writing Social LEADia,which will be published this week, which highlights the voices of kids who are using social media in creative and positive ways for digital leadership.

Here are a few excerpts:

Don’t underestimate social media and the internet. If you just took a minute, and looked at the things that students do online that do change the world, you would be SO blown away. It’s actually really cool. Social media allows us to share our voice and issues that we care about and let our voice be heard by people in different cities, provinces and countries. Yes, we can do bad things online, such as cyberbullying, but we can also prevent the bad things, reverse it and do things on the internet that will help us change the world for the better. Social media is also a place where we connect with other like-minded young people and organizations. When we are able to connect, we can get and give support and encouragement, share ideas and information with others who share our passion and drive to create change.

Hannah Alper, 13 yr old

When I say social media most people, especially parents scream in fear, “Ah, social media” that’s where my kids go and write bad comments about their teachers or post pictures from that party they were at. This is where malicious behaviour takes place. But that doesn’t have to be the case. I recently wrote a blogpost called, “Why is the conversation surrounding social media so negative? And in it I document that my experience with social media is unusual, but it doesn’t have to be. So why is social media abused? What I found is that the conversation is always negative. Social media is abused by young people is the rhetoric that older people are using. So adults come and lecture students by saying “Don’t use social media.” “Social media is bad” “Don’t do this” and students start to identify social media as a negative place. Once you start lecturing to someone that they can’t do something it motivates them to do that thing and then they start developing these negative schemas of social media.  I have a radical concept for you–especially those of you who talk negatively about social media.

STOP.

Really.

If you present social media as a positive space, as a place for students to go to express themselves, to connect with professionals with other students, then that’s the type of learning you are going to see there.

Timmy Sullivan, 18 yr old

I think we really owe it to our students to put our fear asides and see what the connected world has to offer: to understand it better.

This quotation shared by George Couros in a recent post really resonates:

New DigCit Resource: Be Internet Awesome is almost Awesome #SocialLEADia

Google’s Be Internet Awesome is a newly released resource that combines internet safety with gaming. It looks like it would work well for upper primary/junior students.

It uses a Quest motif and an imaginary land called, “Interland” and its purpose is to teach students to “Be Internet Awesome”. I LOVE the sound of that!!

It focuses on five key lessons:

  • Be Internet Smart: Share with care
  • Be Internet Alert: Don’t fall for fake
  • Be Internet Strong: Secure your secrets
  • Be Internet Kind: It’s cool to be kind
  • Be Internet Brave: When in doubt, talk it out

All of these are very powerful and important points.

I went through one of the lands, “Mindful Mountain” just to try it out. This part of the quest reinforces that “you must be very intentional about what you share”

The user goes through a series of scenarios and makes you determine whether or not it is appropriate to share with friends, family, or others.  The idea is that you use the game features and you lose and/or gain points depending on your accuracy.

I received points and the following information at the end:

-Savvy Sharer (thoughtfully consider what you share and with whom)

-Patient Poster (pause and keep extra sensitive information to yourself)

-Informed Internaut (understand the power and consequences that come along with sharing)

What’s great about it:

  • The lessons themselves and conversations that would result from these lessons are definitely great.
  • The different mountains “Kind Kingdom”, “Mindful Mountain”, “Tower of Treasure” and “Reality River” are definitely far more positive than much of the fear-mongering that we often use when talking about internet safety, and touch upon a comprehensive approach to helping kids navigate online spaces.
  • Even when mistakes are made, the game is iterative so that you continue trying until you arrive at the right answer.

What’s not that great about it:

  • If you are not a good gamer (like me), you lose points even if you know the right answer which can be frustrating for some kids (or literally, maybe this is just me??)
  • Sometimes, when trying to get to the next level, students don’t always read the text (in this case the digital citizenship lessons) carefully
  • The Be Internet Awesome pledge, while very good, needs to be co-constructed with kids for them to really feel ownership of it.
  • It still exists out of context.

One of the chapters in my book, Social LEADia stresses the need for tackling Digital Citizenship in context and as a basis for Digital Leadership. A student can know Interland inside out and it may very well transfer to their own use of the internet, but it would be way more powerful if these lessons were reinforced throughout the school year, rather than tackled in a discrete unit.

I cite the theory of situated cognition which states that, “learning methods that are embedded in authentic situations are not merely useful; they are essential and knowledge must be applied in context in order to be used and made explicit” (Brown et al, 1989).

This is why I showcase the examples of Stephanie Viveiros, Kayla Delzer, and Robert Cannone who show us what it looks like to do this work using a class account (i.e. students have ownership of the account but technically the teacher posts because students are too young). I also talk about how Julie Millan and Diana Hale involve their students in the process of what responsible use of technology looks like. It’s also how with the mentorship of Jennifer Scheffer students like Timmy Sullivan are confident leaders both on and offline, and how Rachel Murat‘s high school students have moved beyond digital citizenship to digital leadership.

Here’s an excerpt from the Digital Citizenship in Context chapter:

Having a class Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat or Facebook account affords you so many unique opportunities. It can help to reinforce the following points and Digital Citizenship elements (I use Mike Ribble’s Digital Citizenship Elements):

-We emphasize that not everyone has equal access to technology (Digital Access)

-We only check our social media feed at certain times during the day to ensure a healthy balance (Digital Health and Wellness)

-We don’t put our notifications on because we don’t want to be distracted by them (Digital Etiquette)

-The classes and accounts that follow us are opportunities to connect with people: other classes from other communities and learn from them (Digital Communication)

-Our worth is not determined by how many followers we have because the most important thing is that we engage in conversations and relationships with the followers we do have (Digital Health)

-We block anyone who proves to be inappropriate or is trying to sell us something (Digital Security)

-We notice that there are some posts that are sponsored (Digital Commerce)

-We pay attention to how “edited” a photo might be by asking,” I wonder how many times they had to try to get such a perfect photo” (Digital Health and Wellness)

-We emphasize that a “like” isn’t the same as making a comment and forging a relationship, and that when you like something it means you agree with it  (Digital Literacy)

-We ask clarifying questions rather than making statements when we don’t agree with something or when we are not quite sure of the intent (Digital Communication)

-We delete a post if we think it might be misconstrued (Digital Communication)

-We regularly check our settings to see if anything has changed and talk about what should be private (stay in the classroom) and public (fine to share with the world) (Digital Security)

-We create a strong password and check for possible fake accounts following ours (Digital Security)

-When we use a hashtag, we understand that anyone can see our post even if they are not following our class account (Digital Literacy)

And So…

Use the Be Internet Awesome Pledge, (the headings), but allow your students to come up with the descriptors so they take ownership of it.

Use Be Internet Awesome as a foundation, but also engage in real-life sharing  using Digital Leadership as a framework with a class account.

 

Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, S. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42

Student Voice, Student Leaders #SocialLEADia

One of the things that makes my upcoming book, Social LEADia unlike any educational book out there right now is the fact that I include student vignettes in every chapter. I also highlight several students who are using social media to leverage technology to make our world a better place and I direct you to their websites and Twitter accounts.  This was extremely important to me.

Why? Because knowing these students has forced me to reconsider what I think I know about social media; we oversimplify its role which is far more complicated and nuanced than we can understand unless we observe students and listen to what they have to say. It has also reaffirmed my belief that social media can and should play an integral role in our classrooms.

Here are a few excerpts from the student vignettes:

Curran Dee, who will be sharing an IGNITE at the upcoming ISTE Conference this year, makes this very true and somewhat disconcerting statement about his access to technology:

My school would say they do give me digital access because we have access to Chromebooks, but this is not digital access. We don’t blog. My teacher doesn’t tweet what we’re learning throughout the day. We don’t get to participate in Mystery Skypes or the Global Read Aloud. We only use technology to prepare for testing. I wish my school would take the time to see the difference in how I learn at home and apply it in my classroom and school, so my classmates can have the same opportunities I do.

By contrast, here is what 3rd grade Ryley Hanson has to say about using social media in Kayla Delzer’s class:

I use Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat in my classroom using our iPads. I take photos of kids that are working productively and crushing it, and I type a tweet to tell about the pictures. I like to show our followers what we are doing and why it’s important. I also like to send tweets to authors, creators of apps, teachers, families, and experts when I have questions or need more information…I want to be proud of my social media accounts.

Kayla uses social media in her classroom every day and has a Tweeter of the Day, and Snapchatter of the Day, and an Instagrammer of the day after her students engage in a “Digital Citizenship Boot Camp.”

Seventh grade Jin Schofield, in Robert Cannone’s class tells us:

Social media can be used to spread a message, raise awareness, and bring the world together. In fact, just last year, the way I and everyone around me used technology drastically transformed. We shared our class’s accomplishments online through our class blog and Twitter account, we organized an event about one of Canada’s greatest milestones, and we even raised money for Syrian refugees and a child with cancer, all through technology and communication. The phenomenon of the Internet and social media had just become apparent to us, and I think the way we used it to make our own difference in the world is something worth sharing.

In Robert’s class, Jin was a part of the “social relations committee.”

In the book I am as much a curator as I am a writer; I bring together not only the voices of students, but highlight educators from all over the world and what they are doing to empower students to become digital leaders.

We make decisions on behalf of students all the time; isn’t it time we at least hear what they have to say before we make blanket policies and statements about using social media in our schools?

What have you discovered about the role of social media in the lives of your students which goes beyond the typical narrative we have come to know and expect (distraction, cyberbullying, etc…)?  Would love to hear your experience in the comments.

 

How are we helping students to navigate social media spaces? #socialLEADia

I can’t wait to share my passion about the topic of Digital Leadership with the world in the form of my upcoming book, Social LEADia. In anticipation of its release I will be sharing excerpts from it… until which time I can actually hold the book in my hands!

This is one of the stories which I share in the book which reaffirmed for me the need for adults to be in social media spaces together with our students and children.

In the Spring of 2016, I tweeted out the link to a hashtag that kids had created for the Ontario Secondary School Literacy test. #osslt2016  My daughter and I got a real kick out of the very clever posts by students who had just written the test.  Even EQAO (the governing body overseeing the test) responded light-heartedly:

Then a friend of mine pointed out that there was an extremely inappropriate post in the feed. When I looked, I was mortified. Instinctively, I deleted my tweet and reported the tweet as offensive.  This student basically likened writing the test to wanting to be a suicide bomber and included a photo!

Then I took a closer look.  This was just a grade 10 kid trying to be funny and not really understanding the impact.  I looked at his Facebook page (easy enough to find) and realized from the very innocent profile and posts that he had just made a vast error in judgement.

I instinctively contacted him via Twitter.  It could have gone one of two ways: he could have responded maliciously, or he could have realized his error.  Here is how the exchange went:

Me: This is never ever appropriate. Nor is it funny.  And this tweet can come back to haunt you in the future.

Student: (Liked, Retweeted) Thx

Me: You are welcome. Delete it and hopefully no one will see it for now. Good luck!

Student: Kk (Deleted the tweet)

If I wasn’t in this space, I would not have been able to help this student.

This experience has reaffirmed my conviction that we need to spend more time focusing on using social media in positive ways. When we talk about social media, we can't always use the fear narrative; and we need to be in these… Click To Tweet