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.
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!
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.