Category Archives: Promoting Collaborative Learning Cultures

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.