Category Archives: Promoting Collaborative Learning Cultures

Instagram Live!

When you have a teenage daughter and she knows you are interested in what she is doing with social media, she will likely keep you very up to date. So just in time for my 2/10 blog, my daughter showed me the Live video on Instagram Stories feature.

Of course, I had to try it! I updated my version of Instagram and created my own.

When someone is broadcasting live, the word LIVE will appear in pink on their Instagram story.

And this is what I saw during the LIVE recording:

People viewing live can comment but if you click on the … you can turn the comment feature off.  Click End when you are done.

 

A great conversation with kids

This provided a great opportunity for me to ask my daughter lots of questions about what she would broadcast and why. What she should do if negative comments come in, and remind her about blocking.

As an interesting sidebar, if you are a parent, and you follow your child on Instagram, you may want to keep your notifications on so that if your daughter is with her friends and starts a LIVE story, you can pop in and say Hi ;0

Implications for Education

So, yes, Instagram seems to be trying to compete with Snapchat with its stickers and disappearing stories and now Facebook Live, Youtube Live, and Periscope with its LIVE feature.

The question is, will this impact how and why you use it?

Does the fact that there is no option to save limit its usefulness in Education or in fact make it more desirable?

Will there be implications for Districts who may have open/unblocked access to Instagram?

This is another good reminder that as adults, we will never be able to keep up with changes in apps and technology, but if we ask a tween or a teen, they are often a fountain of knowledge.

Please join me on Sunday at 6 pm ET when I moderate a panel discussion on Instagram for Edumatch Tweet & Talk 74 and follow the hashtag #Edumatch on Twitter.

Have a question you would like the panelists to cover? Please add it to the comments and I will try to include it!

 

 

My epic fail and other learning

I just spent an entire weekend geeking out with some absolutely inspirational speakers and presenters, friends, and an amazing group of attendees at the Toronto EdTech Team Summit at Cresent School.

I’ve presented at a couple of similar Summits. In fact, I’ve presented probably at least a hundred times to audiences as few as 6 and as large as 400. I love to share my learning. I am becoming a better presenter ever time I speak at a conference. And yet…

There is a thing called a Demo Slam. Have you seen one? It’s a 3 minute live-demo of a tool you love. It’s supposed to be fun, but it’s intense: it’s just such a compact time, often the tech doesn’t work, and some of the keynote speakers participate which means you are up against some brilliant people.

I am a pretty courageous, go-get-em kind of person, so I’m not sure why I was so nervous to begin with. Maybe it’s because I was presenting up on a stage and I prefer to present at the same level as the crowd (maybe it’s because my subconscience flashes back to grade 5 when I was on a stage and froze in front of a live audience and couldn’t perform, Is this Love by Whitesnake). Perhaps I didn’t practice enough, because I chose to go out the night before? (when the Royal Ontario Museum becomes a Night Club, it’s kind of a no-brainer). Whatever the reason, I know that I made a promise to myself for 2016 to jump out of my comfort zone whenever I can. Also, I am organizing a Demo Slam for an upcoming PA Day, and felt like I really needed to participate if I was going to invite others to try it.

But to say I was nervous would be an understatement! I was literally shaking when I approached the stage. I was doing fine until the demo part and I completely blanked. I was demonstrating Google Keep–one of my favourite tools, which is so simple a grade 2 student could use it and I have used it hundreds of times.

And yet there I was, standing in front of all of these expectant faces; many of whom I admire very much because they are techno-EDU rockstars, and I could not for the life of me remember how to create a note in Google Keep! I drew a complete blank and stared at the screen and likely mumbled quite a bit.

Within the last 15 seconds, my brain popped back and I started to demo the tool, but of course, the timer went off. Needless to say, I walked off the stage mortified and despite the fact that I got some high-fives and a few very supportive words and tweets from friends and peers (Thanks Sylvia, Larissa, Amit, Jeff, Jeffrey, Andrea Mike, Sandra, Dawn, Diana, & Kevin), this was an extremely difficult pill to swallow.

I felt embarassed and almost let that feeling stop me from attending the social afterwards.  I’m glad it didn’t, because despite what I thought in my head, I don’t honestly believe everyone was whispering about my failure–not then and not now.

As I drove home last night, my feelings of embarrassment and failure continuted to creep into my consciousness. It was very humbling.

Let’s face it though: if you are going to publicly fail, doing so at an Ed Tech Summit where every person there is taking time away from their life to learn on a weekend, is a good place to do it.

When I was chatting with my daughter about it, I told her that I had the most embarassing moment. Here’s how that conversation went (excuse the crudeness)

Me: Oh my gosh the most embarassing thing happened to me when I was presenting my Demo Slam.

Teen: Oh no! Nip Slip?

Me: Um, no.

Teen: You farted in front of everyone? You peed yourself?

Me: (laughing) No!

Teen: Then it wasn’t THE most embarassing thing, was it?

Gotta love that girl for throwing a bucket-full of perspective my way!

It really got me thinking about some of the students I have taught who have such high anxiety about presenting in front of others. And I wondered if I had created a safe environment for them. I also I strained to remember if many of their classmates reached out supportively and with encouragement. How could I foster those behaviours in a classroom? Did I reach out afterwards to ensure the student was feeling ok?

I wondered about whether or not many teachers who we call “resisters”, may be afraid of failure: in front of their students or their peers. Who to them, the idea of sharing on Google Drive puts them completely out of their comfort zone. Do we treat them with empathy or with disdain?

I also began to think about the fact that maybe my public failure was a good thing; you see in my sessions, I think I am perceived sometimes as an “accomplished expert”. In fact, when I shared what I called my epic fail, people said, ‘Oh, I’m sure to you it wasn’t good but to everyone else, it was.” Maybe a teacher who is just learning needs to see someone they perceive to have all the answers, fall flat. Perhaps it should even be an administrator or District leader? It really happens to everyone, and before I became proficient, I worked really hard to learn what I know.  There is still a whole lot I don’t know, and I continue to learn (and fail privately) every day.

I can’t say I want to repeat this situation, and truthfully I could  have kept this blog in Draft rather than click Publish, but really I think reflecting on negative experiences is what helps us to grow and learn. I know this incident sure did that for me.

And so here it is. Publish.

Sylvia Duckworth shared this image during her keynote. I think it fits perfectly–except this time, my failure was pretty public!

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Is it time to innovate your staff meeting?

I have time to write a blog post tonight. Want to know why? Our administration team is taking to heart the idea of innovation and “Flipping our Staff Meetings”.  Year after year, don’t you sit in staff meetings thinking and wishing that there was a better way?

As a staff, we have been using this definition to guide our school year goals and the decisions we make:

Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better.

It can come from ‘invention’ (something totally new) or ‘iteration’ (a change of something that already exists).

Technology can be crucial in the development of innovation, but innovation is less about tools and more about how we use those tools…  

–George Couros, The Innovator’s Mindset

It’s really very simple

Prior to the meeting, information items were distributed to staff prior to the meeting via email with the request to have a look and bring any questions to the meeting.

In addition, I had created a video tutorial for staff to show them how to go about proctoring our Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test happening on Thursday.  This is BIG and could have taken at least 1/2 hour to explain thoroughly.  But the video provided explicit instructions and support for the teachers who need it.

The Meeting Agenda

Whereas most time at a staff meeting is usually spent going through many administrative items, people have already received via email, this meeting was SHORT. Once we answered a few questions people had about what was shared via email, we had TIME for a teacher to share an awesome lesson happening in the school.

Ricky Machala, a Religion teacher shared a collaborative project on “Culture” between her grade 10 class and Fabiana Cassella‘s class from Buenos Aires. She admitted that she wasn’t really convinced that connecting her students to others would have such an impact on them because she figured that students are so connected already. What she learned however, is that students are connected to their own friends and communities, but know very little about the world around them. She admitted that students learned more about Culture by talking to kids and asking questions of their “Argentinian” friends, than they would have otherwise and they were eager to continue to connect personally.  She shared the tools we used to connect with the teacher: Voxer and Padlet (the best choices considering the classes could not meet synchronously) but the experience and reflection was the focal point of the presentation.

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Best of all, after the sharing session, it was still at least 45 minutes earlier than when most staff meetings end and so when we invited anyone who wanted to learn more about the Culture project or the tools we used to connect the classes to stay, so many of them DID! Others stayed to chat or connect with other teachers, or have a snack (food is essential).

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I applaud my principal, Richard Maurice and our VP Luisa Rocca for changing “what we have always done” in favour of trying something NEW & BETTER! Flipping a Staff Meeting is literally something you can do tomorrow to change the culture in your school and to help foster a community of sharing and learning.

Why not try it at your school??

 

 

Rethinking the traditional High School Book Club #HSGBC

Ever since I started teaching, moderating the Book Club at my school was what I loved doing most of all. One of the problems has always been that our numbers dwindle as course work increases because kids find they don’t have as much time to read for pleasure.  Now, that I am back at a school, after being at the District level for six years, I find myself looking at everything with a whole new mindset; an Innovator’s Mindset!  I’m also passionate about connecting students to each other as I truly believe it positively impacts kids in so many ways.

So my burning question is: How can we make the high school book club experience not just different, but better?

My idea? Go Global

Extending the book club to other schools will help kids to share their love of reading with others, will help students feel a greater sense of community & will help keep the momentum going even when numbers dwindle.  It will  also show them how they can be Digital Leaders by leveraging technology and social media for learning and sharing their learning!

HSGBC Goals

  • To foster a love of reading
  • To have students respond to their reading in a variety of ways (face to face, Goodreads, Twitter, Snapchat, etc…)
  • To build community both within the school and with other schools
  • To consider the perspectives of other students from outside their own school community and to get to know other students through conversations around books

Timelines

September & early October

  • Advertise the book club in your school
  • Get to know the students in your own school and introduce the idea of extending the conversations to a global community. Assure them that they can collaborate as much or as little as they are interested in doing so; your first priority is ensuring that your own students feel comfortable sharing with each other.
  • Remind them that because we are sharing with a global community, they need to THINK about what they are posting
  • Use this Dotstorming wall to suggest and vote on books
  • Decide on the way(s) in which your book club will share their learning with others and how often they would like to connect with others  (I am going to use Snapchat, Twitter, and Goodreads with my students)

November-April

  • Decide on meeting times and dates that work for you and your students
  • Connect with other book clubs via Hangouts if you would like to extend face to face conversations
  • Use the Twitter hashtag #hsgbc, Goodreads, Snapchat etc…as much or as little as you like and as you and your students are comfortable.

May

Celebrate!  Reflect on MMM (Most Memorable Moments) & create an artifact (slideshow, poster, movie, etc..) and share .

GoodReads & Twitter

A student reflection from last year when I facilitated a classroom connection was that students wished that they could continue to connect with the other students beyond our class activity. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. And so, to me, it is important that conversations about books and the relationships my students develop go beyond the “meeting times”. Goodreads and Twitter offer a wonderful opportunity to do this.

No only that, but both Goodreads and Twitter are excellent tools for Digital Leadership: students connect with others who share a common love of reading while actively creating an online presence.  Ideally, students created their own account so they can continue to stay connected, if they choose to, beyond the existence of the Book Club at school. Using these platforms can show students how to use social media differently and best of all they can continue to be used into adulthood.

Students (and teacher moderators) in the High School Global Book Club will use the hashtag #hsgbc on Twitter to share quotes & images as they read and contribute posts to our Goodreads account  here

My students are so excited to get started.

We’d love for you to join!

Sign up for #HSGBC here !

Connected student

A Narrative Reel

I just happened to have a conversation with a student yesterday who went to Centro Scuola (an overseas summer school program with the York Catholic District School Board) which reminded me of one of my former students who had done that and who is now in California working in Film.  I popped over to send him a hello message on Facebook and saw this “Narrative Cinematography Reel” by his Facebook friend, Howard Wan.  I have never met Howard before, but I was intrigued by this concept (which is apparently a thing in the film industry) and my teacher brain couldn’t help but think of how we could use this idea as a metacognitive reflection in grade 8, a diagnostic in grade 9 and a culminating activity in grade 12; a different kind of Digital Portfolio.

Because I’m on a committee to help with our PA Day coming soon, I’ve been thinking of innovation and in particular this definition which I’ve taken from George Couro’s Innovator’s Mindset (pgs 19-20):

Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention” (something totally new) or “iteration” (a change of something that already exists).

Technology can be crucial in the development of innovation, but innovation is less about tools and more about how we use those tools.

What to do with all of the files

Yesterday, I worked with grade 9 students to show them how to organize their Google Drive (we use Google Apps for Education).  Many of them had used their Google Drive for grade 7 & 8 and asked what they were going to do with their “Elementary” file folder.  The answer yesterday was nothing.  But today, when I saw Howard’s Narrative Reel, I got to thinking…

How can we do better?

Rarely do we have the opportunity to truly know a student when they come to us in grade 9. We often rely on an All About Me activity or something like that which truthfully becomes a bit stale when we are asking kids to do this year after year. In fact, I remember one group of students reflecting on how they wished teachers would just talk to each other so they wouldn’t have to keep “introducing themselves” to teachers in the same way every year.

With the increase in what students can now save digitally they can easily compile the “best of” and like Howard Wan’s Narrative reel, create a digital reel of highlights of their elementary years using actual artifacts from their Google Drive.  That way, a grade 9 teacher can not only get a sense of a student’s interests, but so too get insight as to a child’s strengths and needs based on their past work and experiences.

What about Grade 12?

In Ontario, as part of the English Curriculum, there is a Media Strand whereby the creation of media products is an expectation. Wouldn’t creating a Narrative Reel for highlighting their high school achievements make a useful and meaningful media product they could use to add to an About Me page or Digital Portfolio and that they could take with them to the world of work or post-secondary?  By grade 12, students would have been exposed (hopefully) to a variety of digital storytelling tools so they could choose the best tool to tell their story.

What are some other ideas you have for tweaking an existing project or assignment to make it more meaningful or authentic for your learners?

 

 

Leading & Building a Positive Culture as a Teacher-Librarian

I was at a family function last weekend when my sister said it.  No one had talked about the fact that I was changing roles in September.  Now I know why–they had talked about it amongst themselves.  She said, “So you went from being the Literacy Consultant for a whole board to a Teacher-Librarian? Like isn’t that a total demotion?  Why would you do that?!” (yup, her exact words–gotta love my sister’s direct & honest approach??)

Needless to say, I was a little taken aback, but it made me really think about leadership and how people perceive leadership as being connected to titles. It also showed me the extent to which people don’t recognize how valuable Teacher-Librarians can be in a school.

What I explained to her is that I chose to be a Teacher-Librarian so I can continue to be a leader. In that role, I have the privilege of working with teachers, administration, and students in positive and impactful ways.

Two awesome posts by George Couros this week : 10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing #Classroom Culture this year and  10 Easy Ways to Build a Positive #School Culture as a Principal, helped me to think about the ways in which a Teacher-Librarian is not just a leader, but has the incredible opportunity to contribute to the building of  an amazing culture in a school.

An effective Teacher-Librarian supports teachers to try something different, offers a little tweak that can move a lesson or unit from good to awesome, offers a second set of hands, eyes, and ears to help differentiate and assess.  An effective teacher-librarian can help a teacher find the perfect tech tool or resource to serve the learning needs of their students.

We know about critical literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, and every other modern literacy classroom teachers haven’t had the time to dig in to or keep up with in this age of abundant information.

But our space isn’t just another classroom in the school.  The Library Learning Commons can and should be the heart of a school; a place where learning, literacy, critical thinking, creativity, and fun come together.

Teacher-Librarians also interact with students– lots of students every day.  I am completely new at this role, so maybe I’m off base here, but I think that George’s Top 10 list can be modified for the role of Teacher-Librarian.  This is what I’m thinking:

10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing School Culture as a Teacher-Librarian this year (2)

 

I’d like to create an inviting and positive learning culture when it comes to allowing cellphones in my Learning Commons.  I am experimenting with the wording on this poster and would love your feedback on this sign:

Be prepared to rethink how you use social media here (2)

 

More about building a positive culture by connecting your students

I am committed to helping teachers and students to see how technology and social media can be used to learn and share learning, connect with others, and be a more positive influence in the lives of others!

I am excited for the opportunity to work with teachers and students at my school and in the world on the following initiatives:

I would like to start a High School Global Book Club to foster digital leadership and a love of reading.  My VERY DRAFT ideas are here.  So far, I’ve got a few North American schools and an International school in Thailand interested.  Would love for you to join us!

I am participating in the Global Peace Project sponsored my Buncee launching September 26th. It is free to join and is an excellent way to build empathy, cultural awareness and to work towards spreading peace.  Details here.

I am helping my friend, Barbara  from Norway to get some North American classes involved in a Digital Storytelling project beginning in September. Check it out here.

I am organizing a Global Amazing Race EDU for grades 7, 8 and high school.  The project launch happens on February 10th with a Virtual Breakout EDU!  Details here.

I can’t wait to see my sister at the next family function to tell her all about my  start to an amazing school year!

Quotation source: http://ottmag.com/most-famous-leadership-quotes/

 

Learn. UnLearn. ReLearn. Repeat.

I often come back to The Innovator’s Mindset book by George Couros which I have read a couple of times now because so many ideas in it really resonate.  Today was definitely one of those days.  In particular, I thought of three of the characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset:  Resilient, Risk-taker, Networked which gave me a more positive frame for dealing with the big tech news I have been dealt this week!

Just last week, I learned that Blab, a platform I had just learned and experimented with shut down. Because I was fairly new to the platform, I wasn’t overly upset at the news, and given the fact that they were not very diligent or responsive to my negative situation a few weeks ago, I am not going to say I am heartbroken.  Nonetheless, it was a really great platform for connected debates, book clubs and panel discussions.  I will need to go back to my blog posts and delete them and there are teachers who took the time to experiment with the platform because I got excited about it, when they could have gone to the beach instead!

Then yesterday, I learned from someone in my Edumatch Voxer group that Google Hangouts on Air, a platform which I have spent much time using and teaching others about is shutting down after September 21st.  After my initial panic and shock, I realized that it is simply moving to YouTube Live and that it really isn’t that big a deal, but it still will mean going back to all of my tutorials, presentations, etc..to change the information and it will mean trying to find a suitable alternative platform for connecting students to experts, organizations, and other classes.

As I shared this information to my PLN, I said, “Need to relearn” to which my friend Leigh Cassell added:

Learn, Unlearn

And it’s so true.  Putting yourself out there to learn how to integrate technology in meaningful ways means being a Risk-taker; but it’s often a calculated risk with the goal of doing what’s best for kids. And it provides the opportunity to really put ourselves in the shoes of our students who are constantly learning new things.

For the rest of the day, on both Voxer and Twitter, people were sharing ideas, alternatives, and resources to help each other through this change.   Being Networked allows me to get support and help when I need it and to offer support and help to others.

Teachers and Administrators who try to bring in technology to meet their learning goals  have to be Resilient.  Platforms and tools change so quickly that teachers who are trying new things for the sake of differentiation and student learning are risking that the tool they teach their students may not be available in six months.  Do we let that fear stop us from finding the best tool to suit our purpose?  Or do we deal with this flexibly and thus model this mindset for kids?

The only constant nowadays really is change.  We can either complain about it and let it be an excuse NOT  to innovate or move forward, or we can be can embrace an Innovator’s Mindset look at it as a great way to really experience what being a learner means.

So back to the drawing board for me as I go and learn about YouTube Live, Firetalk, and the many other alternatives people have been so generous to suggest.

 

Character Day–A good start to the school year

Character Day

I had a really interesting conversation last night with Diana Hale, a teacher in the Toronto District School Board about the negative experiences she had in her classroom and her subsequent reflection that Digital Citizenship cannot be taught as a discrete unit. She is among many of us who recognize that Digital Citizenship needs to be taught in context and that a guided use of social media needs to happen in classrooms in order to help students navigate online spaces.  An essential element to this is for adults to recognize that for our students, the online and offline world are actually an extension of one another; not in fact two separate worlds.  One of the strategies Diana used in her class was to look at literature (she used the Weird Series) to explore bullying which she applied to online situations as well.  Using literature or film provide an excellent opportunity for students to explore abstract concepts, and challenging ideas and a skillful teacher can then bring it back to the students’ own experiences (which today include online experiences as well).

So I was very excited this morning to receive a notification about an upcoming webinar featuring Tiffany Shlain and Character Day.

Character Day is a free annual day and global initiative where groups around the world screen films on the science of character development from different perspectives, dive into free printed discussion materials, and join an online global conversation around the importance of developing character strengths (resilience, grit, empathy, courage, kindness)–all rooted in evidence-based research (from the website).

As much as I dislike “one-off’s”, Character Day is exciting for a couple of reasons:

  • it’s free
  • Sharing is happening on social media which models for kids how it can be a place of solidarity, learning, and sharing
  • it happens early in the school year and yearly
  • the event is one day but the high quality resources are available all year long
  • the lessons are based on films which provide access to most learners
  • the films are short!
  • the quality of the films are exceptional because the founder, Tiffany Shlain is a filmmaker
  • it provides an opportunity for students to see themselves in a global context and within a global conversation
  • it helps students practice Digital Leadership

Ideas for Implementation

The Teacher-Librarian as the Hub

As I embark upon a new teacher-librarian position, I can see not only sharing information with all Departments for September 22nd and partnering with teachers to brainstorm ideas for classroom implementation, but I also think that  creating a buzz in the Library and screening the films over the lunch hour would be a great way to bring an awareness to the entire school.

Innovation team

I am hoping to re-frame the current Ed Tech Team into an Innovation team; this is not a name change only.  I think that we need to move beyond the idea that the Help Desk or Genius Bar at a school, co-run by students, focuses solely on fixing tech and trouble-shooting.  If we truly want our kids to become digital leaders, we need for them to understand, just as many teachers do that character is a part of how we interact online–it is connected to using images fairly and citing sources correctly, maintaining a healthy balance between tech and non-tech, communicating clearly and respectfully online and offline, etc…  Involving an innovation team (ed tech team–whatever you call it) in this initiative may set the stage for the work they do the rest of the school year.  They will probably have some awesome ideas for activities that could be used during the Library lunch events too!

District-wide participation

What I will miss about being a Literacy Consultant at the District level is to be able to rally many schools together to participate and share.  If you are a District leader (or have a network of schools with whom you are connected), consider making Character Day a District-wide or multi-school event. Share what you are doing (pics, videos, etc…) not only with the event hashtag, but your own community/District hashtag.  We recently started a Collaborative Blog for our District, why not use the power of Google Apps for Education to create a collaborative journal of what you did and what you learned and post it to a collaborative blog so that the entire District can see it?

Beyond September 22nd

Just like Global Day of Design was meant to get teachers thinking about design thinking in the classroom, Character Day should really be a springboard for ongoing conversations and activities that help kids become good people whether they are online or offline.

 

Watch 1min Character Day Trailer from The Moxie Institute on Vimeo.

Visit the Character Day website and sign up today and participate in one of the free webinars they are offering. Hope to see you then!

 

Critical Thinking and Tech Tools: Let students choose

The other day my 13-year old daughter took a picture of a sunset and told me that she uploaded it to VSCO.  Are you thinking what i’m thinking? What is the heck is that?

I had never heard of the app, but a whole bunch of her friends are posting and sharing on it. VSCO has sharing and creating capability so would be considered a social media tool and its age is listed as 13+.  Unlike Instagram, it  doesn’t allow for comments, but you can follow people and add their photos to your own collections.  Most of the posts are ideal for people who are interested in art & photography as the editing and filtering is far superior to Instagram.  

Our ensuing conversation was enlightening (and much longer than the monosyllabic responses I’ve been getting lately–if you are parenting a teen, you know what I’m talking about!!). I asked her whether or not she used her real name or a username, whether or not she still had rights to her photos. The first question she had a ready answer for, the second she hadn’t considered so we looked at the Terms of Service together.  I also showed her the Creative Commons logos and we explored the idea of creating a watermark signature that she could put on her photos.  

If I hadn’t taken the time to talk to her about this app I’d never heard of, I would have wasted such an incredible learning opportunity for both of us!   And I wouldn’t have learned about a new tool that my daughter (and possibly other students) are using or interested in.

Here’s a link to more information about VSCO or ask a kid to show you!

Classroom Application

Being a typical teacher, I couldn’t help but think about how, why, or if I would ever use this in the classroom.  But more than that, I am thinking about how this conversation with my daughter speaks to the fact that we need to give our students opportunities to share their knowledge and participate in the learning process, especially when it comes to the technology tools they choose.

One of the barriers that teachers with whom I’ve worked face when it comes technology-enabled learning in the classroom is the fact that there are too many tools from which to choose which may or may not contribute to deep learning.  With over a million apps available, teachers sometimes find it overwhelming to integrate technology and thus abandon it altogether!  When they do integrate technology or social media, many teachers  find it best to use the one tool they know best.  I’ve done this as well; when I work with teachers, we always talk about what tool might be the best to serve a certain pedagogical purpose or curriculum expectation and sometimes I have showcased one over others; either because of time or ease.  And then WE make the choice at our professional development session which then gets brought back to the classroom.  Instead, why not engage in the same process with kids?

At the end of it all, when we focus on the learning goals, the tool we choose shouldn’t actually matter.  This thoughtful post by George Couros based on Ross Cooper’s musings brings home this point as well. 

Differentiation and Personalization

Sometimes in our zeal to incorporate interesting tools or social media in our classes for the purposes of student engagement, we revert back to a one-size fits all approach. For example, everyone needs to upload an image or images that reflect the theme in a story we explored together to Twitter OR Instagram OR Snapchat .   Some kids who don’t have that specific account have to create one for the purpose of the assignment.  And while I’m not saying this is a bad thing, as I strongly believe that integrating social media in the context of the classroom is a very effective way to help kids navigate online spaces,  I also wonder if we are making these decisions based on what choice is best for the teacher or the learner.  Yes, it’s more complicated to assess work when kids post to a variety of platforms, but then again when we talk in terms of differentiation, should everyone be handing in identical things–doesn’t this same thinking apply whether it is a pen/paper or electronic format?   

The example with my daughter reminded me of the fact that when kids are asked to make their own choices, they are also more engaged and practicing critical thinking; a skill our students very much need today according to a study from the World Economic Forum.   The reality is that some students might still require support and so a Choice board or a teacher-recommended platform is a really great place to start, but increasingly, students should be making their own choices based on tools with which they are familiar.  This will not only honour what they know, but may also help others who may be looking for ideas.  The most important benefit is that, when conferencing with students about their choices,  we can bring in important questions about the tools they’ve chosen. help them to determine whether or not they are using the tool in the most ethical and responsible way and whether or not they have made the right choice.

Not ready for that?  Simply share the learning goal(s) with kids (the what and why) and have them come up with one (or two) choices which may be most effective and then alternate over the course of the year.  You can even have the class use Dotstorming to include everyone’s voice in the decision-making.

Donna Fry asks similar questions about student choice in her post, Are All Kids Able to Choose.

What about Assessment?

This is a question I am often asked.  How can I assess a product if everyone is using something different?  The teacher needs to know the why and the what (Curriculum Expectations), but how kids get there, can be flexible.  Assessment should not (at least in Ontario) be based on anything other than an assessment of how students have met the standard.  Have we ever traditionally evaluated students’ ability to glue picture onto a bristol board or their colouring abilities for a graph or poster?   A conversation about font choices, focal point, etc…provides excellent teacher or peer feedback especially if it takes away from the students’ ability to demonstrate their knowledge effectively, but unless the standard or curriculum expectation you are evaluating involves the creation of a media product, that should not count towards a mark.  When I see “demonstrates an understanding of” as a Curriculum expectation, this is where the tool they use to demonstrate it doesn’t matter–a critical understanding of the concept does.  As a result, as long as the teacher is comfortable accepting numerous different iterations on different platforms, this could be an excellent way to tap into the strengths and interests of students.

 RAFT + T: A modern update

In the classroom, I often used the RAFT template (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) to help students plan effectively for their writing I’m not quite sure where this originated.  In light of my conversations with my daughter and my extended thinking around this topic, I think that it’s time for an update. Firstly, where we traditionally talk about the audience as static, social media allows for kids to actually connect with the audience for whom they are writing–so I’ve asked kids to consider how they might share with their audience.  Secondly, there should an additional T added for Technology tool. The choice students make is integral to the way they can best demonstrate their understanding.  Thirdly, I’ve also added a reflection section as we can’t ignore the research around metacognition; it is necessary for students to reflect on their choices at the end to determine whether or not they made the best choices.

RAFTT (4)

Copy of template  (Google docs) for student use.  Copy of image here.

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Would this graphic organizer be useful to you?  What would you change?

 

Social media as Literacy

I remember George Couros when he came to our District, asking the question, “If you don’t know what a hashtag is are you considered illiterate today?”

I thought about that as I read a recent article by CEO of Hootsuite, Social media skills millenials lack.  Ryan Holmes states that using social media effectively is “the most important digital skill for tomorrow’s CEOs”  He refers to a “social media gap” which is further supported by Professor William Ward, professor of social media at Syracuse University, who states “Students using digital and social media professionally in an integrated and strategic way have an advantage. [They’re] getting better jobs and better internships …”  

The fact is, students are good at connecting with people they already know, but don’t understand how to network professionally.  I would add they don’t often know how it works for learning either.

That is a compelling reason to incorporate social media in the context of the classroom and yet there is a real reluctance to do this by many Districts.

What are the barriers to this?

Firstly, there is a gap in curricular guidance and support but also especially since the practices are rapidly evolving. Some teachers feel they can’t keep up. Secondly, and probably most prevalently is the fact that “these dynamic multi-modal and mobile practices are at odds with the tightly framed definitions of literacy that dominate many educational contexts” (Burnett, & Merchant, 2015, 272).   I have been expanding my thinking around how we define literacy for some time now.

Rather than engaging in the opportunity to engage with a variety of media to help students understand the forms and techniques, we often focus on traditional reading and writing tasks which in no means is bad, but does not offer students some of the skills they will need in the workplace.

Doug Belshaw, in The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies says, “When it comes to developing digital literacies, therefore, negotiating online social networks becomes important on many levels. At the most basic procedural level there is the understanding that, for example, Twitter allows only 140 characters whereas other social networks do not tend to limit text input. More conceptual is an understanding of hashtags as ‘channels’ of communication and how these can be appropriated and re-appropriated by groups and loose networks of individuals.”

One research study suggests that we not only expand the kinds of texts that students produce, but that we provide “contexts in which students can draw in open-ended ways across this developing repertoire [of literacy strategies] to combine and remix varied textual and linguistic practices within contexts that matter to them. (Burnett, Merchant, 2015, pg 271).  

Rheingold, a social media scholar and instructor at the University of California Berkley and Stanford, discusses five “social media literacies”.

(1) attention: the ability to identify when focused attention is required and to recognize when multitasking is beneficial;

(2) participation: more than consumers, participants actively participate-knowing when and how to participate is important;

(3) collaboration: participants can achieve more by working together than they can working alone;

(4) network awareness: an understanding of social and technical networks;

(5) critical consumption: identifying trustworthiness of the author or text (Rheingold, 2010).

Rheingold believes that all of these are interconnected and that they all contribute to a “way of being” and when I consider these, I see so much overlap with traditional information and media literacy.  And yet, with all of the curriculum expectations required I can see why teachers might feel like this is an add-on.

 

Which other factors might be holding us back from doing using social media in the classroom?  Doug Belshaw (2014) suggests that we are continuing to evaluate and consider literacy from an analogue perspective, without the recognition that digital technology has created completely different environments for learners.

A few wonderings:

  • What are some of the ways Districts can support teachers to explore the use of social media in the classroom with students in meaningful, authentic, and guided ways?
  • What support(s) do we need to model and explore social media literacies together in the context of an English, History, or Geography class? Are those at a school level?  a District level?  a Ministry level?
  • How can we show kids that social media can be used beyond  just connecting with friends, but for learning and sharing their learning?
  • To what extent are we limiting our definitions of literacy based on our own past experiences?  How might we expand these?
  •  What are your own experiences with social media in the classroom?
Social media as literacy

Just for fun, check out this fun video of a mom trying to figure out hashtags:

References:

Belshaw, Doug  (2015) The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. http://dougbelshaw.com/ebooks/digilit/

boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 13(1), 210-230. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00393

Burnett, C., & Merchant, G. (2015). The challenge of 21st‐Century literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,59(3), 271-274. doi:10.1002/jaal.482

Holmes, Ryan. “5 Social Media Skills Millennials Lack.” Fortune. N.p., 27 Mar. 2014. Web. 15 July 2016.

Rheingold, H. (2010). Attention, and other 21st-century social media literacies. Educause Review, 45(5), 14-24. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2010/10/attention-and-other-21stcentury-social-media-literacies