Category Archives: Uncategorized

Social media & Tragedy

At 10 pm Central time last night, I was sitting in the Las Vegas airport waiting to board my flight home. I heard a particular sound like a round of ammunition firing, but surely I was mistaken; there are slot machines in the Las Vegas airport and what I was hearing was probably a peculiar version of a game. I’ve never been so wrong. I am still processing what happened and writing this is helping me to do that.

It had been an incredible weekend. I was honoured to present at the Cue Nevada conference. I met an amazing bunch of educators from Nevada and beyond, connected with so many people in my PLN, met some awesome students from the area who volunteered to help with the conference, and were on the student panel. I tweeted out my take-aways and captured a few moments on Instagram and Snapchat. I mention this because it means that my friends, family, and PLN knew I was in Vegas for the weekend.

That evening, the presenters were invited to dinner where we shared a few laughs and some camaraderie. I learned much about the Nevada schools from  the presenters there. My friend, Heidi Carr (who spearheading the organization of the conference) and I spent the day on Sunday as tourists. We visited the Hoover Dam, did a little shopping, checked out a few casinos and watched a Cirque de Soleil show. As she showed me  the sights in her beautiful city, I exclaimed, “How cool that you can choose to come downtown and experience this fun and excitement whenever you want to.”

En route to the airport, we saw a throng of people and heard the live Country Music playing. We paused and I opened my window to hear the music. In that moment, I caught sight of a young couple, in denim and cowboy boots walking towards the show. I don’t know what made me stop and study the young woman so intently: so obviously in love, so obviously enjoying the sights of Las Vegas as I had been, her eyes and hair shining brightly. Her silhouette now etched in my mind forever.

When we boarded the plane, we were told there was an incident that would prevent us from departing. A few whispers about a shooting started to spread. When I sat down, I jumped on Twitter and literally saw the events unfold.

We were asked to disembark the plane as we likely going to be grounded until morning. One of the passengers said that many concert goers had moved towards active runways so the airport had to literally shut down. Another passenger suggested that because we were so close to the venue, there was a concern of gunshots towards the plane. I have no idea how true any of this speculation was. I was, for all intents and purposes in the safest place in the city, but I felt nothing but safe.

We were called back to board the plane a short time after. They had apprehended the suspect and the airport was again operating. There was, by now a line up of planes on the tarmac looking for permission to take off. So many of the passengers started to contact loved ones, knowing that with the time difference, our families and friends in Toronto would be worried and we would be in the air and unreachable to assure them of our safety. I had a half-finished Instagram post for which I needed to now change the message.

I was disheartened by the tweets I was seeing. The tweets ranged in nature and included:

-“live” updates from news outlets

-an outpouring of concern and prayers

-political commentaries which were highly charged

-gratitude for the first responders: police, firefighters, and others

-the spreading of mis-information and inconsistent reports

-families asking to confirm the whereabouts of a loved one

-the posting of extremely sensitive materials

-information for blood donation sites 

-the creation of new accounts (Twitter bots) to spread hateful propaganda.

It is the good and the bad of social media  humanity. I used social media to ensure that my family and friends knew I was safe, and also received messages like this one from my favourite student:

And though I was safe, we now know how many families are being impacted by last night’s events.

Today, the children, who became so real to me and the educators in whom they are entrusted had to ensure that children feel safe in their own homes. This is no small task. If ever was a time to make the positives so loud, the negatives are impossible to hear (George Couros), it is now. People are hurting enough.  We need to ensure that what we share in person and on social media about any event, particularly a tragedy such as this, is accurate, and hopeful and that it inspires action to help (there is a need for donating blood for example).

When we have a class social media account, we can control what we see for our students. When we follow accounts like those listed on my Twitter lists, it is unlikely that kids will see any of the aftermath of this event or the ugliness that can be seen on Twitter. This, however, is not true for the kids who are accessing social media on their own or who are just talking about what they know on the playground. And this worries me.

So here are a few things that may help as we try to make sense of this tragedy and support our students to feel safe and empowered.

Reflect on News

Use it as an opportunity to talk about sharing only verified information and what credible news looks like. I saw this posted by Kathleen Currie Smith on Facebook and really appreciate her approach:

She says,

Today we learned of the devastating and sad news in Las Vegas and we keep the victims and their families in our thoughts. 

It is important to remember to be smart news consumers as events and facts are unfolding. Here are some tips:

1. Do not be constantly tuned in to the news, check in several times throughout the day. 

2. Check several credible news sources, do not solely* rely on social media for information.

3. Confirm that news outlets are reporting the same thing. Remember, news is a competition, they are trying to be the first to have the breaking story and while they strive to get it right, sometimes they make mistakes in their rush to be first.

4. DO NOT spread conspiracy theories or speculations on social media. Do NOT spread “fake news.” This hurts your reputation (your digital footprint) and harms society as a whole.

Bring Hope and take Hopeful action:

As educators (and as adults), we need to be creative and hopeful for our kids. We need to be constructive not destructive. We need to use every face to face and online opportunity to spread love, hope and hopeful action.

I think back to the Happy Jar activity I talk about in Social LEADia where Sara McCleod and her students, when they knew of a tragedy in Northern Saskatchewan, rallied to try to do something to take action to help, by creating a Happy Jar (I learned about it on Twitter and participated by adding my own inspiring message via Google Form on Twitter). They then delivered it to the community. When kids gather together for a common cause, it often strengthens the bonds within your own classroom and provides a hopeful outlet to their grief.

Hospitals need blood donated and there is a GoFund me account for victims. If students are particularly struck by the events, creating posters to rally help may just be helpful for them as well. Or how about thank you cards to the police force or emergency workers?

Ensure students feel safe and pay attention to children who worry

My daughter is a worrier.  We “protected” our daughter by trying to shelter her from any news and sometimes it worked. Other times, it was worse because other kids would share false information which made her more scared. At the end of the day, I think taking the approach that ensures kids feel safe in their classroom is best. But let’s face it, we aren’t trained to be counsellors (even though we so often are) This resource, Helping Children Cope  with useful links may help you to support students in need. If you know of others, I would love to hear about them.

********************************************************************************

I can’t stop thinking about those concert-goers who were just enjoying themselves. I think about how it could have easily been me or one of the people or loved ones of the many people I met this weekend. And I can’t stop thinking about and wondering where that young woman is today and if she is safe.

I know I will be hugging my family extra tightly today and trying to spread the positive as much as I can.

*I added the word solely

Be critical of ideas, not people.

As someone who is advocating for the use of social media with students, I am somewhat disheartened by the way I have seen educators speak to one another; especially lately.

It is healthy (and necessary) to engage in critical discourse about ideas, but it is never ok to attack people and get personal. It is also not ok to “subtweet”. If you are going to insult someone personally, not including their name, does not make it ok.

One of the things I advocate in the classroom is to consider multiple perspectives before taking any conversation to social media.  Do we remember that there are people at the other end of our disdainful comments and criticisms? Do we consider the point of view of others?  How they might be affected? Are we careful to check our own biases?

Our kids are watching. Let’s be sure to set a good example.

 

 

Parents and Media: Perception, Reality, & Research

9/10

George Couros shared a post, “Not as much as you Pretend” in which he talks about perceived barriers vs actual barriers. He says, “Too often we create something in our heads as a barrier.”

I found this to be true when I read the report, Common Sense Consensus: Plugged in Parents of Teens & Tweens. The findings surprised me a little, but also support the notion that we sometimes perceive barriers which may not necessarily exist and that parents are far more supportive of technology-enabled learning than we think.

It is one of the first reports I have seen which focuses on the habits of parent social media use (if I am mistaken, please share in the comments!). The report is based on a nationally representative survey of 1,786 parents of children age 8 to 18 living in the United States and was conducted from July 8, 2016, to July 25, 2016. It seeks to answer these questions:

Below I outline what struck me the most juxtaposed with my own questions, assumptions, and beliefs:

–> Children model what they see.

-Despite the fact that parents of American tweens (age 8–12) and teens (age 13–18) average more than nine hours (9:22) with screen media each day, with 82 percent of that time devoted to personal screen media (7:43), 78% of them believe they are positive role models for their children

If we want to see kids be more mindful of their technology use, we need to think about how we are modeling that.

–> Cyberbullying does not seem as prevalent as the media makes it out to be.

-A majority of parents (two thirds) according to the study were not worried about their children’s internet use. Of the parents who were, the most concerning for them was: spending too much time online (43 percent), over-sharing personal details (38 percent), accessing online pornography (36 percent), and being exposed to images or videos of violence (36 percent) (pg 8)

There will be differing research depending on where you look. I was surprised that Cyberbullying was not in the top 4 of parental worries despite much media attention to this issue and the fact that it is the most common reason school Districts ban and block social media.

–> Social media can foster positive relationships

-44% of parents believe that social media benefits their children’s relationships verses 15% who believe it hurts them and 41% who believe it doesn’t make a difference

I have personally believed this to be true for a long time, but was surprised to see other parents think this as well. I have an amazing Personal Learning Network who have become true friends and am a strong believer that we should help students to cultivate one as well.

–> Adults are to some extent not aware of what kids are actually doing online

-There is much inconsistency when it comes to parents being aware of what their children are doing online: 41 percent of parents reported checking the content of their children’s devices and social media accounts “always” or “most of the time,” while 21 percent reported doing this “some of the time,” and 37 percent of parents reported doing this “only once in a while,” if at all.

I sometimes assume that a student (or my own children) are not paying attention to me or are doing something inappropriate. When I call them on it, I actually realize that what they are doing on their phone is very much connected.  This piece also makes me think of this quote by Dr. Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise:

–>A huge percentage of parents support using technology in school

-94% of parents agreed that technology positively supports their children with schoolwork and education. In particular the study found:

Parents also felt that technology can support their children by supporting them in learning new skills (88 percent) and preparing them for 21st-century jobs (89 percent). Parents agreed that technology increases their children’s exposure to other cultures (77 percent), allows for the expression of their children’s personal opinions and beliefs (75 percent), supports their children’s creativity (79 percent), and allows their children to find and interact with others who have similar interests (69 percent). (pg 10)

And so…

To what extent are Districts blocking social media sites based on a perceived issue with parents or a very small number of incidents, verses actual conversations with parents?

Read the complete report here.

Check out  Rusul Alrubail‘s  post called, Social Media & Digital Citizenship, for her interpretation the report.

Opportunities for Innovation in Traditional Classes

5/10

Last week on Twitter, there was a conversation about whether innovation was necessary in some traditional subject areas based on this criteria identified by George Couros in The Innovator’s Mindset.

I have been thinking a great deal about this because of my own experiences this week. My daughter is really enjoying her Ancient Civilization course. She really likes her teacher and she finds the ancient world; its history, culture and tradition fascinating. There is nothing new about the content in the class, so arguably, a teacher could, for the most part deliver the same content to students because that content does not change.  Is this a reason not to look for opportunities to innovate?

For her culminating activity, Sydney (grade 11) had to create a 3-panel poster board showcasing her research for her chosen topic. There was a choice of topic, but not of the way students could demonstrate their learning about the topic. On presentation day, each of the poster boards were to be displayed, and students walked around to learn about each other’s projects.

These are some of my questions:

-We had to go out and purchase a 3-panel board ($10) and then go back to print colour copies because we have run out of ink. We are often mindful of inequity when it comes to digital access, but wouldn’t a student in a single-parent or low-income family have difficulty getting out, purchasing, and assembling these items?

-The writing which was included needed to be in paragraph form–Sydney knows that her peers won’t read it when they come around, but that ultimately this writing is a requirement for the teacher. Isn’t there a better way to engage students to read the content? How can there be a more authentic audience?

-My daughter is good at creating things on the computer, but does not necessarily feel confident when it comes to “crafty” things (she comes by that honestly). She painted the board, but when she got to school she saw some students’ boards were magnificent.  Despite the fact that she felt she did a good job with the research, she felt embarrassed that the board didn’t really showcase how hard she had worked and the content she had researched because it didn’t look as beautiful as the others. On the other hand, some students who spent an inordinate amount of time decorating the board, did not have the required content and did not do well.  Wouldn’t providing choice allow students to demonstrate their understanding in a way that complements their strengths?

A few Alternatives

Inquiry-based learning

Inquiry-based learning is a student-centered approach which works well in content-heavy, traditional courses. Students engage in research about a topic, pose their own questions, refine their questions and may choose the manner in which to best present the information. This is done using a constant feedback loop and instruction is given as needed. A starting question might be, “Where do we see the influence of the Ancient (Mayan, Greek, Egyptian, etc…) on modern day_______ (Literature, politics, architecture, culture, etc…)?” In this way, even if two students choose the Mayan civilization, their projects would be completely different from one another and they can see how the ancient world has had an impact on them.

I used Getting Started with Inquiry as a springboard when I facilitated professional learning around inquiry, but there are lots of resources out there that help teachers move to this model. The difference in this approach is that students take ownership of their learning.

Choice board

Even when teachers don’t use an inquiry-based learning model, a choice board is a good alternative which allows students to select the way in which they would like to demonstrate their learning.  Typically, there is a Free Choice in which students can propose an alternative assignment. What is great about this is it provides students with ideas, while allowing flexibility. Below is an example from a Science class shared with me by Ryan Imgrund.

With this framework, the teacher really helps students ensure they are making a choice which will be sufficiently challenging for them, and also helps to support the research. Most importantly, students can then reflect on whether or not they had made the right choice (metacognition), which allows for growth and learning.

Interestingly, my daughter found a Youtube channel by a teacher, Mr. Nicky, who creates parodies for Ancient History songs. She shared it with her class. This could have easily been a choice for students; it would have been hard work, but also a fun and creative way to demonstrate learning.

Breakout EDU & Breakout EDU Digital

I am a huge fan of Breakout EDU and I’ve written about it before. It’s great to see more and more teachers  bringing these into classes for students to play–they LOVE it!   I am currently co-creating a Breakout EDU digital game with Kim Pollishuke, for an upcoming TVO webinar, and it reminded me how very valuable (and rather simple) it would be for students to create a BreakOut game (digital or physical) as a culminating activity.  So much of the critical thinking happens during the creation of the game. Creating a game would show how students are able to apply what they’ve learned in a course and students can play each other’s games to learn about other topics . It would be challenging, but deep learning often is; and the games can be used for exam review, shared widely with other classes, and used in the future for teaching and learning, so there is an inherent authentic audience. Justin Birckbichler and Mari Venturino have a resource page that would help with ideas for how to present the clues, but students would have to have a good knowledge of content in order to create a good game. To me, this is an ideal way for students to move beyond the memorization of facts.

Other ideas

Check out Nicholas Provenzano’s plan to use Snapchat with the classic novel, Huckleberry Finn here.

There are some good suggestions in this post by Alice Keeler, “Easy ways to Upgrade your lesson from 1900 to 2017”. (Math focus)

As you can see from this post, I think there are opportunities for Innovation in ANY classroom in ANY subject.  Searching for new and better ways to deliver traditional content and to have students understand it, are necessary in today’s classroom.  Yes, at its heart it is good pedagogy–that’s how you know it’s not just new and flashy and shallow. Looking for BETTER ways to invoke deep learning is what I think we need to move towards.

Would love your feedback! How are you looking for opportunities to innovate in courses that are traditionally very content-heavy? What resources do you find helpful?

Do students think we should be using social media in school?

I noticed that I had a blog post in draft form from the summer. Do you do this as a blogger? I’m not sure why I didn’t post it then; maybe it didn’t feel complete or I wasn’t happy with it. Nonetheless, I pushed myself way too hard yesterday and have to be gentle with myself, so this is my 3/10 post.

When I was researching for my Social Media in Education course, I put out an informal survey on Twitter. It was by no means a scientific survey: I didn’t have a control group and the fact is, because I used Twitter to administer the survey, many of the kids who responded had teachers who already use social media in their classrooms. So though so this is not hard data by any means, it is interesting.

The respondents were from grade 6-8 (so ages 11-14 years old) and this what they said when I asked whether or not social media should be used in school:


And here’s the interesting thing I noticed when students responded to the question, “Why” or “Why not”.  Students who had used social media in their classroom for the purposes of learning (three times or more) had a positive attitude towards the potential of social media verses the students who never did.

Look at these extremes:

Here are the responses from kids who said yes. Most of these students had indicated that they had had the opportunity to use social media in their classes:

  • because it is a good way to share how you are learning with people around the world
  • because you will learn about thing all the time and the world is coming to the point where you will need to use social media
  • because it can be educational and fun.
  • because it helps with learning and it gives us an experience.
  • Yes, because it is a great resource for learning, if you go on certain accounts, it can actually help you learn something, all the major companies use social media.
  • it can help you get comfortable with talking to people

And there was a group of students who did not actually use social media in school, but indicated that wished they could be:

  • some social media can help you learn about whats going on in the world right now. Also, some kids enjoy using social media, so maybe kids would be more interested in learning if they could use social media to learn and connect with and about the world
  • I think it should because it could potentially be a resource, and it could help with the understanding of the online life
  • Social media should be used in school as it helps children learn something that they are used to using. Today, almost all children use social media.

There were many students (32 out of 102 respondents) who were not sure, but could not exactly articulate why. There were many, “I don’t know” responses and “I’m not sure” and one student articulated it this way: I’m not sure because I don’t really understand how using social media would help students learn in class.

Of the students who said no (13 out of 102 respondents) to using social media in school, it seemed to focus on hypotheticals and the fear narrative:

  • Because too much social media is bad and could strain our eyes if we’re on it to long.
  • If students were allowed to use social media at school today it would have been a problem because there could be a cyberbully.
  • We shouldn’t because the kids might not be using it appropriately

What stood out most to me from the survey results was the stark difference between the attitudes of the students who used social media daily and were given the opportunity to use social media in the classroom more than 5 times in a school year, versus what students who use social media daily, but who had never been given the opportunity to use it in class had to say.  You see, those students only look that their own social use, their tendency to be distracted by their friends’ posts. They are also likely the students who have been taught nothing about social media beyond how bad it is, so it is no wonder that they could not see any educational value.

And yet, I continue to talk to teachers from across the globe who cannot use social media in their classrooms because it is blocked or banned.

Do we invite students to District-level tables? Do we have a student school advisory team at the school level?

Will anything ever change if we don’t change the path we are currently taking when it comes to using social media in the classroom?

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Here is a link to the questionnaire and here is a link to all of responses if you are interested.

‘Tis the season to tap into Imagination

I have been home since October 31 as I sustained a concussion. I have limited screen time. I have been fortunate to know about lots of accessibility apps, so I continue to stay connected with my friends through voxer, and Siri is great at sending text messages reading them and composing and reading blogs for me (in fact I am using mostly speech to text to compose this blog post).

And so normally while I am embroiled in the stress of this time of year, I have actually been a witness to it;  an outsider as I listen to my friends and my family and see their stress levels rise and rise. The pace at which everyone is moving is particularly frenetic at this time of year and at school, at this time of year,  student anxieties seem to peak. I’ve always known this, but it is particularly more noticeble to me because I am observing it.

Let’s face it it is not the most wonderful time of the year for many many many students who may live in broken homes or stressful situations at home.  This time of year also means increased levels of students  threatening self harm. demonstrating anxiety  and aggressive behaviors, and who are depressed.

I have been thinking a lot about this and something that my friend Stephanie Wilson, a psychologist in my district,  and I have often talked  about. The maker movement has so many benefits but one of them is certainly to relieve stress for students and contribute to better mental health. My friend Jennifer Bond, a teacher in Michigan has always been a champion for the extent to which making in the classroom has really amazing benefits for her students. And there are tons of resources out there about maker spaces in school libraries and classrooms across North America.

Yesterday Traci Bond, from my voxer group  shared that one of her schools was engaged in  A cardboard challenge. She shared a video of kids squealing with excitement as they demonstrated their cardboard games which ranged from whackamole, skeet ball, air-hockey car wash games.

What a wonderful idea for this time of year: not only will students engage in making games,  which they could actually bring home as a gift for a loved one, but the making its self the joy of trial and error and then the playing of each other’s games would be a wonderful thing to do to add a playful element to any classroom.

It was Jennifer Bond who shared the resource, Imagination  Foundation, which has cardboard challenges for Earth Day and other events throughout the year to celebrate creativity and imagination. The foundation is based on Cain’s Arcade. If you don’t know the story behind Cain’s Arcade, it is basically based on the true story of Caine Monroy, a 9-year-old boy who used cardboard to recreate an arcade inside his dad’s East LA auto parts shop in 2012. His only customer, Nirvan Mullick a filmmaker who went to the shop because he needed a door handle, saw Caine’s arcade and bought a fun pass. He was so impressed with Cain and his arcade that he had the idea to organize a flashmob for him which became a movie and is now a Foundation! You may be familiar with the story as the film went viral on the internet, on Twitter and Reddit and has inspired children all over the world (and many teachers) to use cardboard to create games, robots, carwashes, and other things.  I know that I had seen the video, but I actually had no idea that Cain had inspired a global movement which continues to inspire teachers today! 

I love what Nirvan Mullick, of Imagination Foundation Founder says in the video:

“A small gesture can change the life of a child…The idea is not only to give kids the tools to build the world they can imagine, but imagine the world that they can build”.

Cain’s dad attests to the fact that he is less shy, no longer stutters, and is doing better at school.

Check out the tweets from Ron Hubble at #sharkpride #cainesarcade to see what the kids created and how much fun  they were having! While you are at it check out the imagination foundation and their collaboration with Google for “Science at Play” for some excellent ideas about how to bring science to life using cardboard, creativity, and imagination. Who knows, you may igniting a passion in students they never knew they had!

We will never be able to take away a child’s negative situation at home, nor am I suggesting that the such a complex disease as mental illness can be treated by creating and imagining,  but what we can do is offer students the opportunity to experience joy and a little bit of fun. After all, ’tis the season to be jolly.

 

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

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.

 

Digital Citizenship, Learning, and Student Voice

“Just as schools have played a role in preparing students to be citizens in the traditional sense, educators must now ensure that our children are ready to be active and responsible participants in our increasingly digital society”

(Couros & Katia, 2015, pg 6).

There isn’t a single educator who would argue with the fact that we need to teach kids how to navigate online spaces safely and critically.  What I have noticed however is that there is an extremely huge variance in what educators think this should look like.  In my research this week I am overwhelmed by the number of different definitions of digital citizenship as well as the different components.  If you google, “digital citizenship defined,” there are 506,000 results.  It seems like every District and every organization is trying to come up with their own unique framework.  This makes sense to me on some level as every school District, every school even has its own culture.

But are we creating these frameworks on a grand scale which then become stagnant?  Are they simply units that need to be “covered” and checked off?  Even in my own practice, I curated this resource in 2011 which I now look at and would (and will when I have time) completely revamp because my own stance and the kind of choices I would make today are radically different.  Is it a decent resource that teachers, especially those who are not comfortable utilizing in online spaces would find supportive? Absolutely.  But, I know that personally I would need the resources I use to match the group of students I had in front of me and the learning context in my class.

To me, it is an absolute necessity, to teach kids how to navigate online spaces in creative, critical healthy and ethical ways (my own definition of digital citizenship) positively, in context rather than isolation.

This is supported by research about situated cognition (Brown, Collins, Duguid, 1989) around reading, writing, and mathematics, which has stood the test of time and which I believe is completely relevant to this conversation.  Consider these quotations about student learning:

  • 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).
  • Research around using vocabulary words from a dictionary to teach reading show learning to be ineffective because “learning from dictionaries, like any method that tries to teach abstract concepts independently of authentic situations, overlooks the way understanding is developed through continued, situated use. (Brown et al., page 33).  
  • People who use tools actively rather than just acquire them, appear to build an increasingly rich implicit understanding of the world in which they use the tools and of the tools themselves. (Brown et all, 1989, pg 33).
  • given the chance to observe and practice in situ the behavior of members of a culture, people pick up relevant jargon, imitate behavior, and gradually start to act in accordance with its norms  and that despite the fact that cultural practices are often extremely complex, students, when given the opportunity to observe and practice them, students adopt them with great success.  (Brown et al., 1989, page 34)

And now apply this analogy to using technology tools and social media in context.  It makes complete sense!

Any yet…

We continue to treat Digital Citizenship as discrete units in school.  

We rarely explore social media within the context of the classroom in order to support the nuanced understanding of etiquette, usage, etc…that can only come with using tools in authentic and meaningful ways.

We also tend to block sites that may be problematic which makes a guided and contextual approach to digital citizenship problematic at best or worse yet, becomes about teaching kids how to circumvent firewalls.  This passage from Participatory Cultures in a Networked World reinforces my own feelings about this:

“[B]locking sites perpetuates risk as it ensures that many kids will be forced to confront online risks on their own. Many young people lack opportunities to learn how to use new media tools effectively and appropriately. Not just that, but a reliance on blocking sends the message that sites and tools important to students have little to nothing to contribute to intellectual pursuits. (Jenkins, Ito, boyd, 2016, pg 16)

As much as the thought of encountering an inappropriate image in front of an entire class instils dread in me, I know that at least a safe classroom environment is less problematic that that child encountering that image on their own device…a fact we definitely need to address with parents!

Can kids learn about self-regulation and what a healthy balance of online and offline looks like if we ask students to leave electronic devices in their lockers?

Do kids really understand what appropriate commenting looks like without extending and practicing this skill with explicit instruction and practice with an authentic audience?

Can kids really understand intellectual property if we don’t have them explore Creative Commons licencing for their own creations which they post for a widespread audience?

If we only focus on the fear narrative, will students recognize the positive potential of connecting online?

It is true that many teachers don’t feel comfortable enough to be the “expert” when it comes to modelling the use of social media, but teachers know their curriculum well and most importantly know how to pose the right questions, which is arguably a more important skill than answering questions anyway.

Teaching kids about the online world needs to be an organic and contextual process guided by an adult who can ask the right questions.

Student Voice and Digital Citizenship

Students need to part of the Digital Citizenship conversation.  In as much as we talk about student voice, I often find it missing when it comes to practice.  Whatever table I am sitting at, I always invite students to it to give their thoughts and opinions.  Check out how students contributed to the solution during our Yik Yak episode here.

That’s why I am so excited about  @Digcitkids,  Digital Citizenship for kids by kids. It is created by  a 4th grader  with the help of his mom Marialice  who is as passionate about bringing student voice and student digital leadership into our schools as I am.

Be sure to watch the Digcitkids website (which literally just went live in time for this post!!) as it develops and grows. The idea around Digcitkids is to provide an opportunity to amplify student voice and to promote students as digital leaders  k-12. The student and/or classroom ambassador program provides an opportunity for students from around the world to get involved in creating and sharing content and will allow students to participate in monthly challenges.

Curran wanted to start digcitkids as a way to address the conversation about digital access & connected learning opportunities for all students.  Plus, after his Ted talk he didn’t understand why he was the only elementary aged student talking about the topic and still doesn’t understand why educators wait until students are in high school to highlight student voice.   More about Curran and his quest here.

He presented the idea during Edcamp Global on July 30 at 7 am.

Other resources for teachers and leaders

Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools

Created by Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt in collaboration with a larger working group, this is perhaps my favourite resource.  It aligns with my thinking about situating learning of using social media in context and is a comprehensive, thoughtful and thorough approach. It is framed around Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship  I also really appreciate the guides found within the document.

OSAPAC

The OSAPAC Digital Citizenship resource is an excellent and comprehensive resource created for Ontario teachers and leaders but which is useful to any educator.  Our District used it as one of the key resources for its Digital Discipleship framework.  The resource is grounded in research and has practical and positive lesson plans.  It is divided up into both elementary and secondary around the following themes:

osapac

Common Sense Media

Common Sense media offers a continuum of skills offered by topic beginning from kindergarten to grade 12. Lessons are available as PDF downloads, as well as Nearpod lessons, and iBooks (for purchase) for an agnostic experience for students. They are organized in the following way:

Common Sense Media

MediaSmarts

Media Smarts is a Canadian resource for digital and media literacy and is grounded on ongoing national research on Canadian children and teens and their experiences with networked technologies.  The resources are relevant to any educator.  They use the following framework:

Media Smarts 1

iKeepSafe

IKeepSafe is a non-profit organization which adopts a global citizen approach. ” It contends that modern technologies like telephones, television, and most of all, the Internet, allow for a global society where individuals can access information from around the world—in real time—despite being thousands of miles from the source of the content (Searson et al, 2015).  This is how they organize their topics.

iKeepSafe Digital Citizenship

ISTE Standards for Students

In the newly revised standards put out by the International Society. It is useful as a point of reference for educators.

Digital Citizenship ISTE

References

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

Couros, A., & Hildebrandt, K. (2015). Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools. Retrieved from http://publications.gov.sk.ca/documents/11/83322-DC%20Guide%20-%20ENGLISH%202.pdf

Jenkins, H., Itō, M., & boyd, d. (2015). Participatory culture in a networked era: A conversation on youth, learning, commerce, and politics. Wiley.

Searson, M., Hancock, M., Soheil, N., & Shepherd, G. (2015). Digital citizenship within global contexts. Education and Information Technologies, 20(4), 729-741. doi:10.1007/s10639-015-9426-0

New to Twitter? #FollowFriday

(Originally posted on uoitmed.wordpress.com)

One of the most relevant things to remember about using Twitter for professional development is that it is more important to follow really interesting and thought-provoking people, than to be concerned about how many followers you have.  I often create Twitter lists to which I direct learners when I am showing them how to use Twitter.  The title of the list indicates the kind of learning you may be apt to do if you follow the people on that list.

But another great way to find really interesting people to follow on Twitter is through the hashtag #FollowFriday or #ff . Though it is updated on Fridays, you may put that term in the search bar to access this information. I don’t do this enough (I am always worried about leaving someone out), but whenever I get mentioned in a Follow Friday list or see someone sharing one, I am always pleasantly surprised to find a new person from whom I think I can learn on Twitter and beyond.

Building Community using Follow Friday

Any leader who is trying to build community using a District or organization hashtag might want to create a #FollowFriday post.  What this does is not only honour the contributions of people within that community, but also indicates to others who else to connect with.

Dr. Robin Kay, Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Ontario’s Institute for Technology makes a point of posting about people in Ed Tech who would be good to follow.

Doug Peterson has long been supporting and building a community of Ontario Educators by creating several #FollowFriday posts.

Both Julie Balen and Lisa Noble shared a #FollowFriday post with me this morning that reinforced the amazing people I already follow, but introduced me to a couple of people whom I have never met.  Often, there is an ongoing sharing as in this example when Donna Fry added some other great folks to follow:

FF

So what are you waiting for?  Take some time by the pool or on a patio today to check out the hashtag and follow some amazing educators today who will help you to learn throughout the school year!

If you are really new to Twitter, you may find this resource helpful.

Twitter-2