Category Archives: Promoting Collaborative Learning Cultures

QR Codes are making a comeback

You either love them or hate them. Some educators feel like using QR codes are unnecessary; why not just give kids a shortened URL? Last year, I asked my high school students what they thought about QR codes as a way to access information in my Library Learning Commons. Responses varied slightly, but the general consensus was:

“Nah. We don’t use them.”

“They’re lame, Sorry Miss.”

Then came the iOS 11 update about a month ago. This update turned the iphone camera into a QR code scanner.

So I created a trial sign-in for students using the Library Learning Commons on their spare just to see if the perception of QR codes had changed. First of all, many students didn’t even know that feature existed. As I showed them how to access the new sign-in, I heard many of them say,

“Actually?”

“That’s sick.”

“I didn’t even know you could do that.”

Now that it’s been a month, I’ve asked students for feedback to determine whether or not I go back to my paper & pen sign in. And do you know what? Students said they love the ease of access using the QR code.

It’s fascinating to me how Apple seems to determine trends with teens. But, hey. I am flexible and seek to meet students where they are. QR codes are definitely a great way for students to see their smartphones as a tool for learning. I know that some students (especially ones with slow processing speed or perceptual reasoning issues) really benefit the most as I’ve seen students put in a URL several times and not access the website they need.

I have used QR codes in Inquiry centres for students to access supplementary videos, to showcase book talks or to link to surveys. Students have also recently shown an interest in creating their own QR codes. For example, I am working with several grade 9 classes to create a pit stop for the Amazing Race EDU global collaborative project and they would like to have students do a physical challenge and post it to a padlet. I added this slide to the “Creating a Pit Stop Resources” and many students are now incorporating QR codes into their game.

Here is a brief video tutorial I shared with them:

Even if your students don’t have iOS devices, showing them the In-igma app means that all students can access a QR code easily and quickly.

And so, it may be time to take a look back at those ideas about using QR codes that we abandoned before and see if they work with this generation of kids that now think QR codes are “lit”.

I had this one by We are Teachers book-marked. How about you?

 

Breakout EDU for the Win!

I often blog about my bad days or my short-comings or my learning reflections (often about social media). Today I am writing to share my awesome day!

I decided to change my Library Orientation into a Breakout EDU.  A few teacher-librarians I know had done this, Thanks (Nikki Robertson & Shauna Young for sharing). Last year, I was brand-new and advised to keep Orientation as is (I did make it mine and added a Kahoot), but I was not happy with it at all.

My goals?

Introduce students to the services and resources I offer in the Library by allowing them to DISCOVER these through fun, interactive challenges.  So I hid puzzles in books, created posters with hidden clues and got them to answer questions on a Google Form which revealed their word-combination when they submitted the form. It was a really nice mix of traditional and digital Breakout components.  I am not going to lie, I was super nervous. You see, unlike a classroom teacher, I have no real rapport with these students coming into the Library. I don’t know their names or their learning needs.

I used two boxes (so really I created 2 different but similar games) and was very explicit about the fact that everyone had to participate and that students could not go to the next lock before helping everyone else along. Literally every student was working on it. I was giddy! There was such a positive energy and such great collaboration. Some of the students I thought I might have to prod to participate, completely surprised me!

It provided an entry point for a variety of different learners, got them out of their seats, and then back on task, and at the end of the time, they felt the exhilaration of success (and got a lollipop 🙂 )

Here is what Group A clues looked like.

How often do students thank you at the end of a class? Well, today, the whole class thanked me, and several students came up to me separately to thank me.

At the end, I made a point of asking them questions about what they learned and I would say it was equal, if not MORE than the learning shared last year during a web-search-type Orientation.

Here is a post I wrote several years ago: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: Escape Room in Education, which is the most viewed ever on my website. It is still as relevant today as it was then.

If you haven’t tried Breakout EDU or Breakout EDU digital, you definitely need to!

New Learning is Hard

I recently created an e-book which I would like to offer to people who subscribe to my blog.

After several recommendations, Matt Miller suggested Mail Chimp. Perfect and easy enough, right?

Well, maybe not. He gave me an overview of how he used it and told me how to get started and he suggested Google Slides for the e-book. And so I set out to work on it. I read the instructions, watched the tutorials. I spent soooo much time working on creating it to my satisfaction.  I then asked friends and my husband to test it.

You may be thinking right now, really? You are supposed to be tech-savvy. I am, but new learning is always hard for me. Is it for you?

I walked away several times and then came back to it. I must admit that I cursed a few times. I obviously wanted it to look good because potentially many people would see it.

Through it all I wondered:

How often do we ask our learners (students and staff) to Create, Iterate, Tweak, Publish, for an authentic audience? 

What opportunities do we give students to learn things which are challenging and yet achievable? (think Vygotsky’s theory of proximal development)

What is their motivation to see it through? How might we create opportunities for intrinsic motivation?

How often do we jump in with the answers, penalize, or criticize our learners for not readily “getting it” when they are learning something new?

How do we encourage and make time for the feedback loop so learners can make what they are working on better?

Click here to subscribe to check out the finished product and to receive the free e-book I created to help you empower students to leverage social media for digital leadership.

If you have any feedback for me, please provide it in the comments.

Facebook for PD

I have been on Facebook for as long as I can remember.  It is where I connect with friends and family. It helps me keep track of birthdays and milestones. I know it tracks my posts because I get personalized ads & a memory pic every once and a while which usually makes me melt (even though it should concern me more than it does).

It HAS NOT been a place of learning. At least not until recently.

This despite the fact that George Couros and I, who have had lots of conversations about all things education over the years, challenged me to revisit my Facebook stance. I refused. I was perfectly happy keeping my personal personal on Facebook.  I was content to have my Twitter account completely professional, my Facebook entirely personal, and Instagram, well, that was where I was going to try a hybrid. But that was then. Now I know better.

Your social media experience is shaped by who and what you follow and your purpose. What I was doing was not wrong; it’s a personal preference, and though the nature of what I share is sometimes different, who I am does not change depending on the platform I am on. I am just me.

I have spent so much time and energy trying to bring people to Twitter. And once they realize how incredible Twitter is, they do love it. But over the years, I have also heard people tell me that they just didn’t get it. That the format didn’t fit with their learning style.

Personally, I felt like the connections I had made on Twitter and the learning that I was getting there was more than enough. Besides, I had an incredible, supportive Voxer group too. How much learning could a gal do, after all?

It turns out, I had been missing out on tons! I can still use Facebook for my personal connections, but I can also belong to groups based on my specific interests. In some ways, it’s similar to following a hashtag on Twitter, but in a Facebook group, only members of the group can comment which means you won’t have strangers jumping into the hashtag with their own agenda.

A few groups you may find interesting

The IMMOOC Facebook group, based on the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC, co-moderated by Katie Martin and George Couros , was the first group I joined that was educational. There are lots of resources shared about leadership and Innovation by people that I don’t necessarily follow on Twitter and who are awesome.

The Breakout EDU Facebook group provides a flurry of ideas and constructive feedback for people using pre-made games and/or creating their own.

The Future Ready Librarians group (9591 members) and School Librarian’s Workshop (4850 members) are simply AMAZING! I literally put out a question and get dozens of ideas and feedback. This is true for almost every post. Both are very active and supportive groups. But really, how could they not be. Teacher-Librarians rock!

The Edumatch group is an extension of the Edumatch legacy created by Sarah Thomas and made up of resourceful educators from around the world.

My Social LEADia page and  Facebook Group are an entirely new learning experience for me and I am very much enjoying the journey!

Here is what I’ve learned

(that many of you may have known for years).

  • I don’t have to be Facebook friends with people to participate or be a member of the group (unless I want to)
  • there is a difference between pages and groups
  • Facebook pages are being used by more and more schools because that’s where parents (and grandparents according to one school principal) are.
  • You can schedule a Facebook post in a group
  • You can share in just about any form (including Flipgrid) you like and there are no character limits.
  • Regardless of whether the group is public or private you still need to ask to join and need to be approved by a member (it can be any member).
  • There are groups for literally any subject area you can imagine.
  • Hootsuite is a platform that allows you to post to up to 3 social media accounts for free so I can share to Twitter, Facebook and Google + all at once.

 

If you tried Twitter and it just isn’t working for you, try a Facebook group. Once you play and learn there, consider the extent to which a Facebook page or group may work for your school or class!

What is your favourite Facebook group for professional learning?

#WeLeadBy Student Digital Leadership at its best

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isolation, Connected Learning, and Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Mic drop.

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

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

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

Making a Positive Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Liv’s video:

How might you make someone’s world brighter today?

Sink or Swim: Ongoing conversations

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

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

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

You can see the full convo here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why might kids gravitate towards apps like this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How do we define community?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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?

 

 

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.