Category Archives: Promoting Collaborative Learning Cultures

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

 

 

 

Real, Fake, Edited, and Social Media

As a former English teacher, I am acutely aware of media messages  and the fact that they are a construct of reality.   When I first started teaching (just a few years ago), I taught my students the Media Triangle which we then used as a frame of reference whenever we viewed media:

Media triangle

http://themedialiterateteacher.weebly.com/media-triangle.html

So even before the internet was a thing and social media came to be, those of us teaching English and Media studies have been teaching kids that media is not real: that the audience, the text, and the production (techniques & conventions) are purposefully chosen and represent a construct of reality. This applies to everything: “reality” tv, magazine covers, film, news articles, posters, and now that list includes social media. Most especially, I taught students that we need to ask critical questions when they are confronted with a media text and and we should always be a little skeptical of what is being portrayed.  And so traditionally, media has been the culprit of many negative outcomes including,  

“exposure to unrealistic body images; modelling; pressure to conform; gender-typed socialization; objectification of the body; internalization of appearance ideals; increased negative affect that results from viewing unrealistic images of the body; social comparisons; interactions with peers and other normative influences; the adoption of appearance management behaviors and body change strategies to improve oneself; and compensatory motivations such as disordered eating as a way to validate one’s self-concepts” (Williams, 2014, pg 390)

Blame Social Media

Now, many posts, articles, studies, and musings are about the extent to which social media is to blame for these same issues which I tackled 20 years ago in my Media Studies class. And yet…

Perhaps the reason why there is a more pressing concern is likely because social media amplifies the access to some of these messages. Richard Perloff, in a study examining how social media effects young women’s body image, states that “social media, in Western countries such as the U.S., U.K., and Australia, have infiltrated individuals’ lives in ways that was not possible with previous mass media” (Williams, 2014, pg 389).  This is actually scary when I consider the Dove campaign video which was created in 2008.

In a recent post by George Couros, he references an article about a young woman whose Instagram feed painted a picture of happiness while in actual fact she was struggling with depression and ultimately committed suicide.  The commentary about Instagram is an interesting one:

“With Instagram, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another’s edited lives. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered. In a recent survey conducted by the Girl Scouts, nearly 74 percent of girls agreed that other girls tried to make themselves look “cooler than they are” on social networking sites.”

I remember reading a post on my Twitter feed a few months ago about an Australian Instagram celebrity, Essena O’Neill, who apparently “blew up the internet” when she swore off social media admitting that every picture, every post was completely contrived and that she was never truly happy.  This line really resonated:

The concept of faking a “perfect” life on social media has been around almost as long as social media itself”

Julie Smith, author of Master the Media, shared this image on Twitter which I found tragically funny:

Instagram vs real life

A proactive approach: Use social media in media literacy lessons

We can limit the exposure kids have on social media (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t), but we may have to take a look at other proactive ways to address the multi-layered issue which arises here.  Research suggests that media literacy is effective in combating body-image perceptions in women and that a multi-system approach is necessary to empower youth and adults” to start to challenge media-propagated images of narrow and harmful idealized bodies.  This approach should include social media which “are capable of dramatically expanding the reach of media literacy programs on body image” (Andsager, 2014). (emphasis added)

Looking back at the media triangle, whether we are talking about an advertisement, a Facebook post, or an Instagram post, we can isolate all of the elements within it very effectively in our classrooms with students.  And so when we include social media examples, we are helping students who may not readily recognize the contrived nature of posts (be it those of celebrities or friends), have a clearer sense of real vs fake.

But as Andsager suggests, social media shouldn’t just be a part of the conversation, it can be a part of the solution  not just because of the potential of widespread messaging, but because when students actually create using technology and social media, they are learning about the interplay of text, production, and audience which may serve to help them to become critical of the media they consume.

I love how Mimi Ito says it in the book, Participatory Culture in a networked age:

Our mindset has to start moving beyond “How can I protect myself from media corporations?” and towards how can I contribute in an effective and responsible way?”

(Jenkins et all, 2016, pp 108).

 

References:

  • Andsager, J. L. (2014). Research directions in social media and body image. Sex Roles, 71(11), 407-413. doi:10.1007/s11199-014-0430-4
  • Fagan, Kate. “Split Image.” Weblog post. ESPN. N.p., 17 May 2015. Web. 6 July 2016.
  • Jenkins, H., Itō, M., & boyd, d. (2015). Participatory culture in a networked era: A conversation on youth, learning, commerce, and politics. Wiley.
  • Perloff, R. M. (2014). Social media effects on young women’s body image concerns: Theoretical perspectives and an agenda for research. Sex Roles, this issue. doi: 10.1007/s11199-014-0384-6.
  • Williams, R., & Ricciardelli, L. (2014). Social media and body image concerns: Further considerations and broader perspectives. Sex Roles, 71(11-12), 389-392. doi:10.1007/s11199-014-0429-x

Learn in Denver or from your patio #ISTE2016 #NOTATISTE

For those of you in my District and beyond who are new to the Ed Tech or the Twitter world, the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) hosts an amazing conference every year which is held in different venues across the United States.  This year, it will be in Denver, Colorado, so all times listed in this post are in Mountain time.

Print_ISTE

One of the best things about this conference is the sheer number of outstanding educators from across North America (and perhaps even the world) who attend.  Being there is an incredible learning experience.  I had the privilege of attending the conference last year  and the year before as well as in 2011.

But let’s face it, not many educators can afford the time or have the money to get to an educational conference like ISTE and in some cases, when your daughter is graduating from grade 8, you really can’t miss it! 🙂

If you are attending ISTE

If you are lucky enough to get there, and it’s your first (or second) time, be sure to check out this survival guide.  Once there, definitely check out the playgrounds and the poster sessions which offer a more personal and interactive experience.  Leave yourself lots of time . TALK to EVERYONE. Then, as there are literally 100s of amazing sessions to attend, take your time to plan to ensure that you know exactly what you would like to get out of your sessions and your experience.  Someone once advised me to focus on a general theme which I found helpful.

If you already learn from someone on Twitter, search for that person in the Program Guide; chances are, you will learn lots more from his/her session…and meeting a Twitter pal in real life is great!

If I were attending ISTE this year, I’d be sitting in the front row for each of these presentations  by these awesome educator pals who are passionate, knowledgeable, and are really great people too…and you’ll notice my general theme: Empowering teachers and students to use technology & social media positive ways.

FROM DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP TO DIGITAL LEADERSHIP, EMPOWERING LEARNERS THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA
Monday, June 27, 4:15–5:15 pm
CCC Four Seasons Ballroom
favoritesGeorge Couros  

PERSONALIZED PERSPECTIVES ON CREATING EQUITABLE DIGITAL LEARNING EXPERIENCES FOR TEACHERS AND STUDENTS
Monday, June 27, 5:30–6:45 pm
CCC 505
favoritesPatricia Brown  favoritesDr. Nicol Howard  favoritesCarla Jefferson  favoritesRegina Schaffer  favoritesSarah-Jane Thomas  favoritesShana White

TRENDING THE POSITIVE: USING TECHNOLOGY TO CELEBRATE THE GOOD IN EDUCATION (Poster Session)
Tuesday, June 28, 4:00–6:00 pm
CCC Lobby D, Table 20
favoritesSean Gaillard  favoritesNatalie Krayenvenger  favoritesJennifer Williams  

SKETCHNOTING IN EDUCATION: THE BEST PRACTICES, BENEFITS AND HOW-TO’S OF SKETCHNOTING
Wednesday, June 29, 8:30–9:30 am
CCC 502
favoritesCarrie Baughcum  favoritesVicki Davis  favoritesSylvia Duckworth  favoritesJudi Holst  favoritesMarie-Andree Ouimet  favoritesKathy Schrock  

DESIGN LEARNING SPACES FOR LITERACY, TECHNOLOGY AND COLLABORATION: STARTUP CLASSROOM CULTURE
Wednesday, June 29, 1:15–2:15 pm
CCC 707
favoritesFran Siracusa  favoritesJennifer Williams  

CLOSING KEYNOTE
favoritesMichelle Cordy  
Wednesday, June 29, 2:45–4:00 pm
CCC Bellco Theatre

I am so excited for Michelle Cordy–not sure there has ever been a Canadian closing keynote before and she is simply amazing–If you can stay for this, DO IT! #canadianproud

Don’t forget to attend at least 1 Coffee Edu session hosted by Alice Keeler.  Yes, 6 am is early, but it’s a great opportunity to meet and talk to new people, and it may even inspire you to host one in your own area!  And any session Alice is facilitating is sure to be great as well.

Be sure to share your learning by using the #ISTE2016 hashtag and if you blog, consolidate and share your learning when you return (it’s a great way to curate resources as well)

Not at ISTE? No problem!

The amazing thing about technology and social media, is that you can literally learn from your kitchen or patio.  Of course it doesn’t feel exactly the same, but if you are looking for ideas, resources, or golden nuggets, follow the #ISTE2016 hashtag.  There are many times when a session might be captured on Periscope and shared through the hashtag so you can really get insight into what’s happening!

And then there’s #NOTATISTE

Yes, there is literally a hashtag dedicated to anyone not at ISTE, but who has lots to share or who wants to learn! I had heard of this before through my Edumatch Voxer group, but because I had attended the conference, I was only mildly paying attention. Thanks to Craig Yen, who will be live tweeting from the conference this year, I got the scoop!   Follow the #notatiste hashtag on Twitter, Join the Google + Community, or contact Lisa Dabbs to join the Voxer Group.  It’s a place for learning and sharing and just a little bit of goofy fun.

The best part is, even if you aren’t participating live, you can spend a few minutes a day over the summer to check out some of the great learning and sharing!

 

 

Teen Social Media Use, Addiction, & Education

This article, “13 right now” by Jessica Contrera came across my twitter feed via Fran Siracusa with the message, “This topic deserves a chat discussion.” It’s one of a few posts I’ve seen published by the Washington Post in their “Screen Age” series and captures the nuances of a 13-year old, Katherine Pommerening and her life online.

It definitely deserves more than a chat discussion as there are so many different layers and issues addressed about which ongoing conversations at the school level with teachers, at the District level, and with parents are necessary.  I may need a series of  blog-posts to work through it all.

Consider this paragraph written about 13 year-old Katherine:

She doesn’t respond, her thumb on Instagram. A Barbara Walters meme is on the screen. She scrolls, and another meme appears. Then another meme, and she closes the app. She opens BuzzFeed. There’s a story about Florida Gov. Rick Scott, which she scrolls past to get to a story about Janet Jackson, then “28 Things You’ll Understand If You’re Both British and American.” She closes it. She opens Instagram. She opens the NBA app. She shuts the screen off. She turns it back on. She opens Spotify. Opens Fitbit. She has 7,427 steps. Opens Instagram again. Opens Snapchat. She watches a sparkly rainbow flow from her friend’s mouth. She watches a YouTube star make pouty faces at the camera. She watches a tutorial on nail art. She feels the bump of the driveway and looks up. They’re home. Twelve minutes have passed.

It infers that teens today are “addicted” to technology and social media which is a common narrative.  In my recent talk to a group of K-5 parents in Mississauga, I was surprised by how many of their questions were around how much time is too much time online and what to do about their child’s “addiction” to technology.

This also touches on the idea that kids have few opportunities to sit and stare at a blank wall thinking about what they can do, because there is a whole world of stuff to do through their cellphones.   Think about a typical routine car ride: in the twelve minutes that Katherine is in the car with her father, there might have been some light banter but mostly silence.  Once upon a time, that silence would have been taken up with staring out the window, thinking about a variety of things.  Now, it can be taken up with reading, writing (texting), and connecting to others.   Adults see this outwardly as an addiction; as a bad thing.

But is it really?

When I talk to (or more aptly get grumpy with ) my own 13-year old about sitting on the couch and checking her feeds her response to me is:  But we aren’t doing anything. You could argue (as Katherine’s dad states in the article) that when we were young, we would be forced to go and do something–playing outside, playing a game, riding a bike, etc… But truthfully she does go out and engage face to face with friends. If we are having dinner, walking the dog, swimming, when she is horseback riding, etc… she is fully engaged and doesn’t have her phone.   To fill up her time, she’d prefer flip through her phone rather than watch t.v.  And truthfully, I have to admit that as a child who has always been a non-reader, she is reading much more on the Snapchat Discover feature than she has ever spent reading a physical book or magazine.  So this isn’t a bad thing either.

Is it addiction?

addiction

But are kids “addicted”?  And if so are they addicted to social media or are they addicted to being with her friends?

Cecilie Andreassen of the University of Bergen,  Norway who studied Facebook addiction, found addiction occurred more regularly among younger users than older users. She also identified that people who are anxious and socially insecure use social media more than others, possibly because those who suffer from social anxiety find it easier to communicate via social media than face to face. (Harvey, 2014, pg 1).  I haven’t been a teen for a long time, but there is no doubt that adolescence is the most significant time of social angst in one’s life!

In  “The Invisible Addiction: Cellphone Activities and Addiction among Male and Female College Students,” a study based the online survey responses of 164 college students,  found that approximately 60 percent of college students admit they may be addicted to their cell phone” (Baylor, 2014).

Yet scholars actually can’t agree as to whether or not the social media platform itself that is “addictive” or the functionality of the tool and what it does for the user.  The reality is that “[e]xcessive usage of social media is only beginning to be examined in a modern, media -laden world as a possible psychiatric disorder” (Harvey, 2014, pg 4) as the cultural adoption of these platforms are increasing so dramatically.

danah boyd, in her book, “It’s Complicated: The Networked life of teens is critical of associating the word “addiction” with teen’s engagement with social media. She states, “[t]he overarching media narrative is that teens lack the capacity maintain healthy relationships with social media.  It depicts passionate engagement with technology as an illness that society must address.  It is easier for adults to blame technology for undesirable outcomes than to consider other social, cultural, and personal factors that may be at play” (boyd, 2014, pg 79).  So in the example of parenting or education what are such factors that might be at play?

Cellphone/Social Media dependence the classroom

I have spoken to educators who are so frustrated because even with clear boundaries established in the classroom, teenagers cannot help but check their notifications as they pop up. The addiction narrative is intermingled with the distraction one.  Kids are constantly checking their phones, so we ban them as a common response.  There are so many NO CELLPHONE signs that still adorn school and classroom doors.

And then I read a chapter on Education and Flow, by  Mihály Csíkszentmihályi  which speaks to the theory of “flow”  (a pyschological state whereby you are so involved in an activity that you lose track of time or anything else) and started to think about flow and cellphone distraction and/or dependence.

In one of his studies, Csikszentmihalyi  gives teachers and students a pager.  When the pager goes off, both record exactly what they are doing and thinking at the time.  Take a look at the difference of the teacher response vs the student response:

Flow and Teaching

His conclusion is that the kids didn’t engage with the content in a way that the teacher did. He further goes on to say, “…people will seek out flow anyway. If they can’t find it in school, they will find it somewhere else. (pg 140)”

Today, I would argue that the “somewhere else” is the cell phone  where kids have a whole world of connections and entertainment in their pocket.

In the Baylor university study mentioned above, one college student said, “Cellphones may wind up being an escape mechanism from their classrooms” (Baylor, 2014).  This is a very harsh assessment but one that may give us pause to think about the extent to which our classrooms are places where learning comes alive for students and where they are involved?

My wonderings:

Are students less likely to continually check their cellphones if they are engaged in student-centered, inquiry driven classrooms?

Does teaching and learning which involves cell phones reduce the likelihood of students checking their phones for non-school related tasks?

Is it far better to have cellphones on desks and have conversations about dependence and self-regulation than it does to ban them completely (only to have students sneak them in their desks, take frequent bathroom breaks, and other potential behavioural responses)?

Is teaching self-regulation when it comes to technology use as important as any of the 6 Cs?

Despite the most engaging and interactive classrooms and reflective practices, are students still engaging in problematic behaviours when it comes to using their cellphones/social media excessively?  What are some effective ways to deal with this?

Would love to hear your thoughts and strategies!

 

References:

Baylor university; cellphone addiction ‘an increasingly realistic possibility,’ baylor study finds. (2014). NewsRx Health & Science, , 60. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.uproxy.library.dc-uoit.ca/docview/1561337547?accountid=14694

boyd, danah (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven: Yale
University Press.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Applications of flow in human development and education : The collected works of mihaly csikszentmihalyi (1;2014; ed.). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9094-9

Harvey, K. (2014). Addiction, social media. InEncyclopedia of social media and politics (Vol. 3, pp. 18-19). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781452244723.n5

Screen time guidelines and education

I recently did a talk for parents in Mississauga and in my research came upon this article in Forbes by Jordan Shapiro which speaks to the  American Pediatric Society guideline updates. Interestingly, the American Pediatric Society, which had previously limited screen time to a couple of hours, now recognizes that “screen time is simply time”.  They definitely advocate for balance and moderation, but their approach has really shifted and makes sense to me.

The guidelines can be summarized as follows:

Screentime guidelines

 

Seems to me, we need to do very little for this list to apply to the classroom and to education in general.

Can we simply replace parenting with teaching?

How long before our Educational institutions just readily accept that technology and/or social media are “just another environment” and an integral  part of teaching and learning?

 

 

 

 

Social media and education: my research and wonderings

Yesterday, my friend, Jennifer Williams shared a tweet about how to create Facebook with classes. I replied to her that Facebook was blocked in my District, but that it looked great.  A complete stranger (a grad student from India) jumped in and asked how it was possible that Facebook was blocked in America.  Here is our Twitter exchange:

Facebook Blocked Blog

He concluded by saying, “just us having this conversation sitting opposite ends of the world is example enough”.  And indeed this is true.

This post is not meant to criticize Districts that block or don’t block, but more of an exploration of my wonderings prompted by this exchange. I know the dark side of social media exists.  I really do and keeping students safe is the primary concern of educators.  And yet, I am increasing confused around what we even mean by social media and the criteria by which we should determine what (or if) a site is blocked, not blocked.

I have already done some thinking about what social media means in this  blog post prompted by an experience by Carl Hooker, reflecting on the fact that according to teens, everything is social media. But because I am enrolled in a self-directed grad course called, Social Media in Education, I am wondering about academic perspectives and definitions.

Scholars danah boyd and Nicole Ellison define social network sites rather than social media itself in their 2007 paper, Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship, as online communities that allow users  to

(1 ) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system,

(2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and

(3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system (2007)

In It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens, boyd refers to social media as a collection of “sites and services that emerged during the early 2000s including social network sites, video sharing sites, blogging and microblogging platforms, and related tools that allow participants to create and share their own content”  (boyd, 2014, pg 6).

And according to Kaplan and Haenlein (2014),  Social Media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content (media content publicly available and created by end users)”

And so I’m not sure if I’m oversimplifying here, but when I consider those definitions, I think of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Music.ly, and Snapchat, but  also Youtube,  Wikipedia, Prezi, and Slideshare.   But can we also include Google Apps for education? and many Curating platforms?  Basically, can’t we say that anything that allows for content creation or remixing and public sharing social media?

Kerric Harvey, in Encyclopedia of social media and politics contemplates the ambiguity as well:

What is Social Media-

–Kerric Harvey, 2014

So, if academics and students have a tough time defining social media, what is the criteria by which Districts make decisions about which “social media” to block?

Something Henry Jenkins says in Participatory Culture in a networked era really resonates with me :

I could see the first wave of young people who had enjoyed extensive access to digital technologies, observing the ways they were incorporating these tools and practices into all different dimensions of their life and work..[but] many adults were shutting down opportunities that were meaningful for young people out of a moral panic response to technological and cultural change.” (pg 36)

I would extend the idea of moral panic to a very real concern about legal and liability implications that often accompany these decisions.  So in the same way that I understand the notion of blocking “social media”, I am perplexed my many questions (listed here in no particular order):

Don’t we want students to generate content not just for themselves but for others?   Do we still associate creation with something that needs to be done in a classroom for a teacher or are we considering the extent to which some of this creation can become part of a more participatory culture?

If we know that learning is social then isn’t sharing learning (including online) something that we should strive for as educational institutions?  Is the problem the extent to which users can communicate with each other (which may be abusive) rather than the sharing itself? If so, is this not a problem that need to be addressed regardless of whether students are sharing face to face or online?

What criteria determines which sites to block and which sites should be used for teaching and learning?  Is it worthwhile for sites to be open for teachers but not students? (especially in elementary) because of age restrictions of many social media sites?

Should (or could) schools determine which sites can/can’t be used based on their own school culture and the input of teachers and students or is this too complicated from an IT perspective?

What are the considerations that all stakeholders need to consider when making these decisions?

Are there Districts that don’t block anything? and if so, how do they ensure the safety and privacy of their students?

Do students sit at the table to help make sense of it all? Can they?

I think Jenkins states it well here:

Right now, we are at a moment of transition. For many of us, we are experiencing a significant expansion of our communicative capacities within a networked culture, yet very little in our past has taught us how to use those expanded capacities responsibly or constructively…It’s confusing, there are ethical dilemmas, none of us know how to use that power…The only way forward is to ask the hard questions, to confront the bad along with the good, to challenges [sic] the inequalities and the abuses. (Jenkins, 2016, pg 25)

I would love to hear your questions and thoughts as I continue to contemplate this topic.

 

 

References:

boyd, danah (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven: Yale     University Press.

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

Harvey, K. (Ed.) (2014). Encyclopedia of social media and politics (Vols. 1-3). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781452244723

Jenkins, H., Itō, M., & boyd, d. (2015). Participatory culture in a networked era: A conversation on youth, learning, commerce, and politics. Wiley.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! the challenges and opportunities of social media. Greenwich: Elsevier Inc. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003