Category Archives: Engaging in Courageous Conversations

Letting go the Fear Narrative #socialLEADia

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

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

Here are a few excerpts:

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

Hannah Alper, 13 yr old

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

STOP.

Really.

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

Timmy Sullivan, 18 yr old

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

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

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

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

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

It focuses on five key lessons:

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

All of these are very powerful and important points.

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

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

I received points and the following information at the end:

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

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

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

What’s great about it:

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

What’s not that great about it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And So…

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

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

 

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

Making Learning Real and Relevant: Student Voice in Action

In my upcoming book, Social LEADia, I share the following story:

A History teacher at my school, Sheri Burke, asked me if I could help her create a website for a special project she was creating to honour war veterans. Of course, I said yes and then, before we could meet, she canceled. While she waited for time in my schedule to open up, a student in her class, Victoria Shi, volunteered to do it instead and to help the students in her class put the resource together. You see, Victoria had created a personal website for the purpose of showcasing her photographs. I was not in any way disappointed that a student was going to assume the role I was going to play–I was ecstatic! Every classroom has at least one Victoria; a student with a special talent for something which, when given the opportunity can help the class and the teacher in some way when it comes to technology and/or social media. Some teachers identify experts in the class (some even get badges) and any questions about a particular tool or platform go to that student. This not only frees up the teacher, but empowers the learner.

What made me think of this is that last week, I met another student like Victoria. Her name is Iman and she is a grade 10 student in photography teacher Amanda Bonomo’s class at my school.  Amanda was looking for an authentic opportunity to have her students connect their photography to their lives and to connect with the contemporary photography and art scene.  When she first asked about what tool we could use for a culminating activity, I immediately thought of a blog or a website. It was in passing that Amanda mentioned that one of her students actually had a photography blog and it was very much like what she was thinking about.

I asked, “Can we invite the student to our planning session?” and Amanda agreed.

This is how the planning session went.

Begin with the End in Mind

Amanda and I determined our learning goals. What did we want students to know, understand, and be able to do? (based on the Overall Expectations for her course)

  • create a positive online artistic presence
  • Tap into current visual art/photography scene
  • Develop an artist statement that explains the connection between student art work and who they want the world to know. 

Invite Student Voice into the planning and process

We asked Iman to share what she had created and how it might connect to our learning goals. She did show us her website, which we really liked. For a grade 10, she already has a more positive online presence than most people.  I am comfortable creating websites and thought that this was where we were going to go with this culminating activity.

But then she showed us her Tumblr account and why she chose to use Tumblr: it is one of the only tools that allows credit to the original artist or photographer.  Amanda and I were both completely outside of our comfort zones. I am versed in many social media tools, but I had never used Tumblr. Truthfully, I thought the site was blocked and I had no idea kids were still using the tool, as my own daughter hadn’t used her account for years. I realized how many assumptions we make when we create assignments without student input.

She showed us how to import a theme, add images, add pages, and customize the look. Within minutes, I felt a little more at ease because my understanding of blogs and Twitter helped. (a + means add a page for almost any app) Iman emphasized that we need to ensure that “Safe Search” mode is turned on so that inappropriate images don’t flood the feed. She showed us some of the artists and photographers who she followed and admired. She showed us that Tumblr had a built in blog where the reflection part of the assignment could go. And unlike a website, Tumblr was a perfect tool to showcase photos.

As Iman demonstrated, Amanda created her own account so she could understand it better and show her students the example and we asked lots and lots of questions.

The plan was that Iman would provide a brief demonstration of the tool to her classmates and create a video tutorial if required. If students want to use another tool, they are welcome to.

This experience has left me in awe and wonder.

How amazing that a teacher was not only open to including a student in our planning but also stretched herself out of her comfort zone to make meaning relevant for her students.

How amazing that a grade 10 student was able to have her personal passion for photography be validated in school. How often does this happen?

How awesome is it that students are using social media to learn and share their learning (a characteristic of Digital Leadership)?

Most importantly, Amanda didn’t need me to go into her classroom to support her throughout the project, because she had empowered Iman as a co-learner and a co-facilitator.

I attended an Ed Tech Summit this weekend and Trevor Mackenzie, in his closing keynote, shared a powerful story about how tapping into one of his student’s passion for graffiti art made all the difference in the world to him and changed the trajectory of his academic life.  He also shared this statement by a student, Paul Sinanis, which is a good reality check for us as educators. 

How are you connecting learning to real life for students?

How has a surprising discovery about a student’s passions made its way into your instruction?

 

 

Blue Whale App: What is it and what should I do?

Yesterday evening I was at a Newmarket Parent Network event featuring Jennifer Kolar, Child and Family Therapist and founder of Connected Parenting . The evening was an excellent reminder to parents that the best way to help your students through anxiety, stress, and basically any of the woes of adolescence is to ensure your kids feel deeply loved and understood. In particular, Jennifer suggested the “Mirroring strategy” whereby you get into the mindset of the person to mirror their own emotions by paraphrasing, or summarizing. She advises, “Connect before you Correct.” Great advice for educators as well!

It was there, that my friend Bessie Valsis, co-founder of the Bully Free Alliance of York Region asked me if I had heard of the “Blue Whale” app.

The app, supposedly with its origins in Russia, consists of several challenges which culminates in the final challenge: the user is supposed to commit suicide.  A quick Twitter search led to information about a suicide in Naoirobi, Kenya connected to the game and it is clear that the more people learn about this, the more information and misinformation about it will start to appear on social media sites. Truthfully, as of right now, there aren’t too many legitimate news sources talking about it.

This is always tricky territory for me. If I talk about it with adolescents, it may likely incite curiosity and a desire to learn more about the app to try it out. After all, as Jennifer reminded us yesterday, adolescents do not have a fully developed frontal lobe, and are sometimes apt to make very questionable decisions. To NOT talk about it, may be just as problematic because you don’t know what the kids are thinking.

I tentatively asked my own girls this morning what they knew of the app. My daughter in grade 11 knew all about it as someone in her friend group had found out about it and researched it. My younger daughter had no idea what I was talking about.  We talked about the fact that it would likely never even be available on the App store here because of regulations, but as I have learned, there is always a way to access if someone wants it badly enough.

The fact is, any child who feels loved and is mentally healthy would not look twice at such a game.

My daughters’ advice: let teachers know to listen carefully and address it only if it seems to be a concern. This is good advice. I am grateful that I have developed a relationship with my kids which allows us to talk about things like this.

I would add, that the best reponse to negative is always positive. Perhaps take some extra time today to ensure that your child feels loved and understood. Instead of yelling about homework or the dishes, have smile a tickle or a hug ready. Or as Kolar suggested last night, some baby pictures to reminisce about.

As educators, we sometimes spend more time with kids than parents do. Perhaps take a few extra minutes in your class today to ensure that every student feels like you care about them (if you don’t already make a point to do this). This is tricky I know if the student’s behaviours drive you nuts, but as Jennifer Kolar reminded the parent group last night, these are the kids that need to feel loved the most.  Or perhaps try a Tribes activity or a Restorative Justice technique that you have been meaning to implement but just haven’t had the time. Perhaps today is the day that everyone writes their name on a piece of paper and it gets folded up into an accordion and passed around so that everyone in the class can put one positive comment on it for every student in the class.

Or you can tap into the #YouMatter hashtag or have your students share what is terrific about today (#TerrificTuesday) or tomorrow (#WonderfulWednesday) or you can share what makes your class unique and the students special, while inviting another class via Twitter to share as well.

If and only if conversations about the app seem to  gets out of control in your class and in your school (aka students seem to be caught up in reading about it or talking about it), would I go further. Perhaps students feel like they would like to launch an awareness campaign or you may want to have an inquiry provocation like, “What causes people to engage in Extreme behaviour?” (sports, parkour, etc..) and make that a part of the discussion. Ask students to research some of the Wellness initiatives happening at the school or community to support students at risk. Tap into the Semicolon EDU movement or #BellLetsTalk Or better yet, ask students what ideas they have to bring awareness to the issue. It’s definitely a good idea to also talk to your principal or see if there is any direction from the District if the app continues to get media attention.

It may blow over or it may blow up.

For the next few days, my plan is just to LISTEN and show all the students who walk in the door to my Library Learning Commons a little extra empathy and caring.

Even if this app is a non-issue, I think the approach and the advice might still apply to any problematic app that comes along?

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

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.

#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)