Category Archives: Engaging in Courageous Conversations

Innovation Reality Check

I love this image created by David Carruthers during #IMMOOC because I truly subscribe to Global Teacher mindedness.

Using technology and social media to reach beyond our classroom walls is both a passion and an obsession of mine. It is also the very anchor of student Digital Leadership. But this week has really given me pause to think about not only the importance of global connectedness, but also the nature of Innovation.

I co-moderate a book club at my school and my students always want to not just read books but do something to promote a love of reading. We have been talking about sharing our love of children’s books and the students really wanted to reach out to the local daycare or local elementary school to read to the kids. Unfortunately, there seem to be lots of road blocks preventing this from happening.

That’s when I suggested that perhaps I could speak to Lorna Pitcher, from Children of Hope Uganda to see if there we could create something that would help promote the love of learning at their Uganda school and learn English. When I spoke to Lorna I was somewhat shocked at their reality:

  • the school is approximately 40 minutes away from electricity (let alone wifi)
  • the roof of their school blew away in a storm last week and they are trying to fix it so students can attend school again
  • currently, students cannot write any state exams to graduate because they need more lightening rods for their government to accept them as a school
  • they have been seeking a VCR so the students can watch some of the educational tapes that had been donated
  • shipping costs are astronomical so we would have to consider soft-cover books only for our initiative

As I scoured my house for VCR’s and set about brainstorming how we might use one of the very old iPads (which hasn’t been signed out in well over a year because it can’t be updated) in creative ways to reduce the amount of physical things we need to ship, I thought about Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, BreakoutEDU (and digital), the collaborative power of G-Suite, the ready access of Wifi at our school, and our ability to research, create, inquire, and connect with others by sharing a simple link.

What does innovation look like to the Barlonyo School? They are already doing much with so very little! They are making items to sell that go back to their communities and are making strides towards self-sustainability.

Will sending them a solar-powered speaker, a VCR, and an iPad loaded with our stories and apps that they can access without wifi and a trunk filled with books be new and better for them?  I would say, yes.

I can’t wait to hear about how excited the children are when they hear the voices of my students as they turn the pages of their new books through a solar-powered speaker. I can’t wait for my students to start creating and fundraising for this group of children who will very quickly become near and dear to them. Already they are thinking about their own privilege.

As much as we say innovation is not about technology, what we are able to do for and with our students when we use tech can be transformational.

I will be sure to update you on our project as we move forward.

Do we need a rubric for everything? School vs Learning

As I continue to be pulled into conversations about  banning Cell Phones (a very hot topic in Ontario this week), I am considering the extent to which it applies to the dichotomy of “school” vs “learning”.

In particular, Andrew Campbell shared the following cell phone rubric created by David Hunter:

While I really like what is being shared in the rubric, and I do like the idea of providing clear expectations for students, I don’t feel comfortable with this being a rubric.  Specifically, I can see some people taking it and using it “as is” as an expectation for compliance vs using it as a conversation starter and a springboard for co-construction of your own classroom rules.

I worry about our tendency in “school” to create rubrics for things and evaluate behaviours instead of focusing on allowing students to explore concepts and ideas together with us.

Students and teachers definitely need to explore how cell phones are powerful tools for learning, and need to self-regulate the extent to which they are distracted by their devices, but giving a rubric out and expecting students to fall in line, undermines the intricacies of the topic as well as student voice around it.

I think we maybe do this too often in school.

I LOVE what Lisa Rubini-LaForest did with this rubric with her students. Check it out here!

(Shortest blog post ever).  This blog post is part of this MOOC (massive open online course) centered around George Couros’ book The Innovator’s Mindset. This week, we were challenged to write posts in under 200 words. Check out the #IMMOOC hashtag to see some conversation about innovation in education, and look for the #IMMOOCB1, #IMMOOCB2, and & #IMMOOCB3 for more of these short posts.

Banning Cell phones: Ongoing Tensions

Recently, there was a news item about a school in Toronto which chose to ban cell phones. My first thought was, “How can this still be happening in 2017?” My other thought went to the number of awesome educators from the same school District who are really advocating for the thoughtful use of technology-enabled learning. What do they think and why is this school not talking to them? But then, I realized that, like any other topic, there are always varying tensions that motivate people to make such a decision and we have to be careful about making broad assumptions.

Of course, a conversation ensued on Twitter (and Facebook prompted by Sylvia Duckworth) around this topic. Distraction because of cellphones is cited as the main reason to ban cell phone use.

David Carruthers put out a poll:

Because the poll is on Twitter, where there are so many like-minded educators, the results may be slightly skewed.  The reality is, there are so many teachers who really do feel that cell phones should not be allowed.

This blog began in response to this question by @ClarkStSchool several days ago. I needed more than 140 characters to articulate my opinion.

I get it. I am in a school. I have taught classes where students feel compelled to check Instagram or their group chat no matter how interesting and engaging my lesson might be. I feel the frustration. But I also see a whole other side and truthfully, if my school went to a cell phone ban, I would have to look for other employment. To give you a true picture, here’s what I did this past week (Wed-Fri).

Wednesday

I ran a morning and afternoon workshop for teachers at my school to help support their students with Literacy strategies and the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). In the session, I showed teachers how to use Snapchat and Instagram stories for a close reading of text: aka Booksnaps.  I used my phone to demonstrate and participants used their phones to try it.  A few teachers looked at their cell phones from time to time, but I think that is natural; we were doing lots of intense learning and they needed the cognitive break. I wondered to myself, “When students do this are we as forgiving?”

Thursday

I worked with a teacher who is using Garageband for podcasting in her English class. Students were given the choice during my brief demo: take notes on a lined sticky or take notes on their phone. Well over half the class used their phones. The ones who used a lined sticky, used their phones to take a photo of their notes in the event that they lost the sticky.

When we gave them time to explore Garageband, many students used the school iPads, but a few students were concerned that they wouldn’t finish on time. Others wanted to work on their projects at home. We told any students who had an iPhone that they were welcome to choose. Many chose to use their phones.  We had one or two students who were “distracted” by their phone: the rest were creating their music and preparing their podcasts.

Friday

I worked with a teacher who is engaged in the collaborative Amazing Race Global project I am organizing. Students were using the period to research their assigned pit-stop location.  Most students were completely engaged and on task. They were working at their own pace and exploring interesting websites.  The classroom teacher and I had talked to them about the fact that we would be assessing their ability to “Work Independently” (a learning skill in the Ontario Curriculum). I had created a Google Form which has all of the learning skills on it, and saved it to my homescreeen on my phone. We walked around, phones in our hands, talking to students and assessing them, checking in with them, and chatting with them about their progress. All but one student got an Excellent.

Here’s a link to a folder which should allow you to modify this form for your own class as well as a self-assessment form for students to set their own goals around cell-phone use (Self-Regulation).

Students used their phones to refer to the questions they were supposed to answer so as not to have to close the tabs on their computers as well as update the calendars on their phones to record what they needed to finish for the next class.

Could I have done all of these things without access to cell phones? Perhaps? But why would I need to or want to when it was so much easier and more efficient this way?

The Toronto Star article likens a cell phone to “talking in class”, which I think is such an oversimplification of the very powerful tool students hold in their hands. Many smartphones are faster and more efficient than most of the computers in my school.

The crux of it is that, despite a very well-planned and engaging lesson, students will be pulled to their phones (aka their friends) just as in the past when they (we) passed notes to one another: peer relationships are crucial to adolescents.  But if students are going to be distracted, they don’t need their phones to check out.  I am not easily offended by this; I use it as a gauge to know when I need to change my teaching methodology.

Banning cell phones will not make this issue go away; it might however increase the likelihood of students needing to visit the restroom or hiding their phones in their desks. And ultimately, there is always an accompanying power struggle when the teacher tries to confiscate the phone. Instead, if checking phones and being off-task is an ongoing problem, I would tackle it by having a conversation and re-establishing classroom norms. I would also have students set their own goals and monitor their own progress–In Ontario, this is a learning skill (Self-Regulation) which I would explicitly focus on.  My  most common response has been to ask students if they are being distracted by their device and what they plan to do about it.

These are the questions I would ask a school that is considering a ban on cellphones:

  • Do you teachers and students see the devices in their hands as powerful tools for learning or a distraction? If the latter, who might support teachers to help them to use them differently?
  • How might students contribute to this conversation?
  • Are we creating a policy that would stifle the creativity and innovation of some teachers for the sake of appeasing others? Can there be a happy medium?
  • Is the decision motivated out of control, what’s  best for teachers or what’s best for learning?
  • Are there any schools in your District or area who might also be facing this challenge? What are they doing?

Cellphones are learning tools. Any classroom in which I teach will embrace them and help students to make the most of the learning potential and monitor their own use of them.

David Carruthers speaks to the issue of using cell phones as a BYOD strategy here.

Andrew Campbell’s thoughts are well articulated here.

Donna Fry makes a compelling argument here.

Please use the comments to continue the conversation!

 

 

Parents and Media: Perception, Reality, & Research

9/10

This morning, 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.”

Reading it prompted me to realize that I had been working on my own post about my similar thinking on the topic  (in draft for 4 weeks because unfortunately my cognitive abilities are not quite back to normal!)

The findings in the report, Common Sense Consensus: Plugged in Parents of Teens & Tweens 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.

#BookSnaps, Snapchat, and Literacy

8/10

I have loved the idea of #Booksnaps a concept created by  Tara Martin which she shared with me and the world in August of last year. Since then, the idea has taken the Educational world by storm!  As a teacher-librarian, I am helping to support teachers to embed literacy instruction and in the past week, I have worked with several teachers who have never heard of them and who are now introducing the idea to their students.

If you are also new to the concept, check out the hashtag #Booksnaps for a ton of ideas about how teachers, students, and scholars are using it!

Why I love them!

Essentially, Booksnaps  take a high-yield instructional strategy, close reading, to a fun and creative level. We want students engaging with text–making connections to themselves, to other texts, and to the world around them, which is what #booksnaps allow.  As a former Literacy Consultant, I have often emphasized the close-reading strategy and now that so many more students read online, interacting with text is even more essential to helping them to stop frequently to interact with text in order tounderstand what they are reading. Booksnaps can be used for a variety of texts (narrative, informational, graphic) for any subject area in any grade. The teacher can co-construct and model what a quality BookSnap looks like so that the priority is the quality of the comment not just the fun stickers.

Creating #BookSnaps is literacy-rich activity. Literacy is about reading and writing the world and is ever changing. Digital Literacies involve knowing how a tool works and when it is appropriate to use the tool in the correct context. It is also an excellent assessement tool in that it allows students to demonstrate their thinking about what they are reading, and makes that thinking visible to the teacher and others.

You may be wary of Snapchat. After all, isn’t that the disappearing photo-sharing tool that students are using to sharing nudes.  Tara also has a ton of resources that use other annotation tools instead of Snapchat.  And though I am not saying using some more closed or private tools like SeeSaw and Buncee are not good, I wonder if using a class Snapchat account is a better way to engage in BookSnaps with elementary-aged students.

Here’s why:

  • students are beginning to use Snapchat at younger and younger ages and we can’t always guarantee that they are being mentored by parents in terms of how to use it appropriately;
  • using the actual tool allows you to embed Digital Citizenship lessons not possible otherwise
  • a class Snapchat account shows younger students that any social media tool can also be used for learning (by the time they are tweens, they are pretty set in their ideas about this)
  • It’s easy. It’s fun. Snapchat was created for fun annotation. Any child can use the tools without too much direct instruction
  • It provides a wonderful opportunity to show parents how to use this tool which is becoming a household name in many North American homes

Here’s how:

You can easily load Snapchat onto a class iPad even in a Kindergarten class, and allow students to create their snaps and save them to the Camera Roll. At the end of the day, the Snapchatter of the Day (or whatever your class has in place) can create a collage or the class can collectively choose a few booksnaps to upload to the class Snapchat account.

If Snapchat is blocked, the images can still be saved onto the camera roll and either tweeted out, shared via the class Instagram account, or via any other means you communicate with parents. (although considering how many useful ways you can use Snapchat, and the fact that many students who can afford to switch to their data plans to use the tool anyway, this may warrant a conversation with your IT Dept).

BUT if students don’t have Snapchat and don’t want it, looking at Instagram or Google Draw is definitely necessary. I don’t necessarily believe that a one-size fits all approach is necessary although I strongly beleive that we need to have students practice with alternative uses of social media.

I may be a little biased because my whole focus as of late has been student Digital Leadership, but I honestly think that if we don’t start using social media in the context of learning, in guided ways in the classroom and in every subject area, we are missing out on such important learning!

For other information about Snapchat, check out Matt Miller’s post, Snapchat 101

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Positive or Negative: There is always a choice

7/10

This morning I stumbled upon the #DressLikeAWoman hashtag on Twitter. It was in response to an alleged statement made by Donald Trump that his female staff should “dress like women”.  The easiest response is to take offence to Trump’s statement. What does that even mean?? I know my first instinct was to do this.  And in typical fashion, people seem to go to social media to express their discontent in sometimes inappropriate ways. We tell our students to THINK before they post, but I’m not sure how many adults follow this rule of thumb.

Negativity is a choice.

This Forbes post, gives an overview of the allegations and a the campaign by working women in response.  I took a closer look at what #actuallivingscientist have contribued to the #DressLikeAWoman hashtag. They have used it as an opportunity to showcase female scientists who are making a difference and wearing whatever their job needs. It’s brilliant. It’s positive.

And it’s a teachable moment:

  • Looking at the #actuallivingscientist hashtag provides me with an incredible directory of scientists with whom I could potentially connect my class to ask questions about their career the hashtag #DressLikeAWoman has lots of negative posts as well.
  • It’s an opportunity to have students explore different careers in Science
  • Juxtaposing the negative with the positive provides a great opportunity for Digital Leadership (you’d have to screen this depending on the age of the students you have in front of you)
  • You can use this as a model to take a possibly negative situation at your school or in your community and turn it on its head so it is positive

I know it’s easy for me to say. I don’t live in the US.  I don’t feel first hand the frustration which so many of my PLN of every hue and Religion have expressed in recent weeks.

But I do believe with all my heart that social media can be a vehicle for change and I fervently believe that for the sake of our students who are watching us, we need to use it model hope and positivity as much as we can.

Check out what 9 year-old Olivia Van Ledtje has to say about using Twitter to inspire hope.

Here are a few of my favourites from the feed: (By the way, Storify is a great tool to use if you want to use a social media thread for authentic learning, but want to remove inappropriate content for your students)

 

Be the Change: Safer Internet Day and Beyond

6/10 Created for the Global Blog-A-Thon

On February 7th, it will be “Safer Internet Day“, an event that began as a European initiative, which is now celebrated by over 100 countries.  #SID2017 and their theme this year is “Be the Change: Unite for a Better Internet”.

I was drawn to the key messages for this year:

In championing a better internet, the theme aims to encourage people to be the change and make the most of the positive opportunities offered online, while giving them the resilience, skills, knowledge and support they need to navigate any online risks they may come across. 

In their Key Messages document, they also offer strategies for children and young people, parents and carers, Educators, social care workers as well as Industry, decision-makers and policy makers.  As an advocate for student voice and Digital Leadership, I was happy to read their message for children:

Children and young people can help to create a better internet by being kind and respectful to others online, by protecting their online reputations (and those of others), and by seeking out positive opportunities to create, engage and share online. They can help to respond to the negative by being ‘helpful bystanders’: supporting peers if they encounter issues online, taking a stand against cyberbullying, and reporting any inappropriate or illegal content they find. Above all, children and young people should be encouraged to take their stand as digital citizens of the future – participating in debates on the future of the internet, and making their voices heard. 

My key takeaways from the other sections include:

Parents and carers can Be the Digital Change …by modelling positive online behaviours themselves, and by also reporting any inappropriate or illegal content they find. 
Educators and social care workers can help to create a better internet by equipping children and young people with the digital literacy skills they require for today’s world, and giving them opportunities to use – and create – positive content online…
Industry can help to create a better internet by creating and promoting positive content and safe services online and by empowering users to respond to any issues by providing clear safety advice, a range of easy-to-use safety tools, and quick access to support if things do go wrong.
Decision makers and politicians need to provide the culture in which all of the above can function and thrive…

I also noticed that among their supporters are Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat; with Snapchat promising to create special filters for Safer Internet Day.

Check out their website for more details and ways to get involved.

Beyond February 7th: Connect your students to others!

Although I’m not a huge fan of 1-day events for issues that should be prominent every day of the year, Safer Internet Day can be the beginning of a new direction for your class; an opportunity to connect your class to others. Here are just a few examples of upcoming opportunities:

World Read Aloud Day on February 17th is a great way to connect your students to other students around the world around the power of words and stories.

EdChange Global on February 28th is a 24 hours global event from February 28th-March 1st for which teachers and students may facilitate learning about any topic. What an incredible opportunity for positive change!

 

DigCit Kids,(@Digcitkids)  co-created by Marialice Curran and her son, Curran offers regular challenges and provocations which are all about “Being the Digital Change” which is evident by their their hashtag #bethatKINDofkid  For example, in January, leading up to Safer Internet Day, they are compiling videos on EMPATHY which they will share on February 7th.

On February 7th as well as every day, I believe that the key to creating a better internet is to focus on Digital Leadership.  The more we focus on this, the less we will have to worry about the negative.

Check out the semester-long project that Rachel Murat and her students engaged in: We Have Become Digital Leaders.

I don’t know about you, but I sense that now, more than ever before our students need to see us interact positively both in person and in online spaces.

Every day.

 

 

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?

Instagram in EDU

4/10 

Last night I moderated a panel discussion about Instagram in the classroom. It was my first time doing anything that cognitively demanding in 3 months. There were a few guffaws (for example you will need fast forward 3 minutes because I didn’t realize we were live), and I was not able to moderate the Twitter or Youtube live chat.  Nonetheless, it was a really good conversation and the panelists, Kayla Delzer, Aviva Dunsiger and Jam Gamble were awesome.

The Tweet & Talk focused on these big ideas for using Instagram:

  • be thoughtful of the audience (public) whether you are posting as yourself or as a class
  • bring parents on board by communicating with them but also by helping them to understand how Instagram works
  • ensure that you only take pictures of students for whom Freedom of Information forms are completed (just hands & feet & work for the others–or give them the camera) until parents are comfortable
  • include students as part of the process (Instagrammer of the Day, create a collage, students choose what is posted)
  • embed explicit Digital Citizenship lessons (how to block, how to compose a message using the correct tone, how to check privacy settings, how to follow and unfollow)
  • emphasize followers as “connections” so that the emphasis moves away from quantity of followers (not a popularity contest) to the quality of connections to another class; this will serve students well as they get older.

Kayla referenced this sketchnote which she includes as rules in her classroom. I love that it is written from a student perspective!

I realized when I got off-air that I had so much more to say.  Specifically, how can Instagram be used to enrich literacy?

For Assessment 

A few teachers I know have their students post a meme (a picture with accompanying text) based on a work of literature or a concept being covered. This is a good form of assessment as it gives the teacher insight as to what students understand.

For Writing

Unlike Twitter, there is no character limit on Instagram. When students respond to each other’s posts, they are engaging in writing for an authentic audience. In class, the teacher would show students how to comment effectively and extend conversations (like they would for any other writing form).  Check out this great post by Rusul Alrubail, Storytelling with Instagram

For a Provocation

I follow the National Geographic account (@NatGeo ) and I am amazed by the beautiful and unique photographs they post. Having students choose a photo about which to write or as a provocation for further inquiry would be a literacy-rich activity that would be engaging.

Pop Culture & “News”

Instagram has an Explore feature (click the magnifying glass to access) and truthfully, I’d love to say that my teens watch traditional news, but they don’t–they get their news and stay up to date using their social media feeds. A teacher can pull out so many great springboards for teaching and learning by “Exploring” as well. Something on “Buzzfeed” which is found on Instagram can be compared to the same news topic in The Guardian, or The New York Times for a great media literacy or current events/fake news lesson. It’s also a great way to see what is trendy in the world of students

Digital Literacy

How does Instagram work? How do the sponsored ads work? What makes posting on Instagram different that posting on Twitter or a blog? When is this tool preferable? What are some of the “unwritten rules” of Instagram? Knowing how a tool functions and the context in which the tool can best be used is a part of digital literacy.

Who to Follow

We ran out of time…I had suggested that the class follow a few inspirational kids: @kingnahh @khloekares and @joshuasheart but I’m sure there are other students who are using Instagram to be a positive influence on others: for Digital Leadership. I’m sure there are lots of teachers using Instagram in interesting ways! Would love to learn more about who your class follows in the comments.

Watch the full Tweet & Talk  panel discussion here

How do you use Instagram in the classroom?

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.