Tag Archives: Jennifer Casa-Todd

Breakout EDU for the Win!

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

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

My goals?

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

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

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

Here is what Group A clues looked like.

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

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

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

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

Creating a Culture of Kindness

I spent all day yesterday curled up in a blanket reading Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. It is an older book, but I had never read it before and wanted to read it before the movie came out in November.

I cried about a dozen times. I didn’t make dinner or clean my house. I just read and read and cried. It made me think about several things.

  1. Kids have been cruel since the beginning of time
  2. Bullying usually happens under the radar of a teacher
  3. Many bystanders often don’t stand up to the person bullying for fear of reprisal

I have heard so many people saying that cell phones are banned at their school because of “cyberbullying”. And though I am not saying cyberbullying does not exist (it is so much easier to torment someone anonymously), I know that so much cruelty actually happens in person first.

I know this.

I lived this.

I was recently given the picture below by my mom. I have very few other photos of me from elementary school. If you look carefully, you may notice my eye is slightly off. All I remember about this very important day (In Catholicism, your first communion is an important sacrament. In an Italian family apparently you are supposed to look like a bride), is the hours the photographer had me pose until my eye looked somewhat “normal”. My dress was itchy and it was hot and because we didn’t have digital cameras back then he just took picture after picture hoping one would turn out ok (talk about sharing an edited version of yourself even back then).

I really didn’t stand a chance at fitting in or being popular. Although my face wasn’t “deformed” like the fictitious August Pullman, in the story Wonder, many people would often ask me what was wrong with me. Or “Why are you looking over there when I am right here?”  It didn’t help that I entered junior kindergarten not speaking a word of English and that I wore glasses with ultra-thick lenses. It also didn’t help that we didn’t have a lot of money and that my mom made many of my clothes.

So it’s no surprise that I spent many a day sitting by myself, the butt of every cross-eyed joke, taunted and humiliated for many, many years. My teachers’ responses over the years? Mostly teachers urged my classmates to “be nice to Jennifer”. That really helped. I remember one day in particular when a teacher urged people to play with me at recess. That was the day when my classmates invited me to play hide and go seek. I was “it” and it wasn’t until the end of recess that I realized that they were off secretly playing another game. Another incident that stands out in my memory is when our class got smelly markers for the first time. Remember those smelly markers? Do they still have them? I was invited to sniff a marker .  “Julia” went around a group of students inviting everyone to smell the blueberry marker, only when she got to me, she “slipped” and it went up my nose. An unfortunate accident which was utterly humiliating and had me sneezing blue for a week. The glint in her eye and the snickering of everyone around me showed me that there was nothing accidental about this incident. I could recount dozens of other stories which are etched in my memory.

All of those memories came flooding back when I read the book. Then I read the Professional Advisory put out by the Ontario College of Teachers: Responding to the Bullying of students which tackles bullying (both face to face and online), and includes a self-reflection assessment which poses some good questions.  These points resonated with me and can be applied to both online and offline situations:

INTERVENE EARLY:

Research shows that bullying stops in fewer than 10 seconds – 57 per cent of the time – when someone intervenes.15 Adult supervision and increased presence can prevent bullying. Intervene early and often so that students understand social responsibility and the importance of standing up for themselves and others.

DETECTION
ASK YOURSELF:

How do I detect bullying?

How do I recognize power imbalances among students of all ages that might lead to bullying?

How do I spot behaviour occurring outside the classroom or online that affects students?

How do I respond to smaller, subtle acts such as verbal slights, use of derogatory language and cutting humour that may lead to more harmful behaviour?

How do I encourage students to safely disclose bullying behaviour?

CAN YOU SAY THIS WITH CONFIDENCE?

My words and actions show that I treat students with care, respect, trust, and integrity and that I expect the same from them.

You can teach whatever content you want, but if students don’t feel safe and valued, it won’t matter. Taking time to create a culture of kindness in your classroom will help you save time in the long run.

A few ideas

RJ Palacio’s Precepts from the book, Wonder

The teacher in the book, Mr. Brown, asks his students to free-write based on precept prompts. Here are a couple of examples:

  • When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” —Dr. Wayne Dyer
  • “Your deeds are your monuments.” —Inscription on ancient Egyptian tomb
  • “Fortune favors the bold.” —Virgil
  • “No man is an island, entire of itself.” —John Donne

I really like this idea. Students could use Canva, Google Draw or a paper sketchnote to extend their idea and share and comment on one another’s ideas. They can share these  via the school and/or class social media accounts. They can find their own to share. This could become a weekly or monthly routine in the class.

Classroom Committees

My friend, Robert Cannone,  uses the idea of Classroom Committees. That is, student teams have responsibilities in the class on a rotating basis. They range from eco-team, to public relations team, to classroom design team. What impressed me most is how one of his students, Catherine, describes the experience based on the way Rob :

“Teams are like a puzzle, every person is a piece of the puzzle, and everyone is needed to complete the puzzle.”

Creating a culture in your classroom where everyone feels valued, can go a long way to supporting students who might be on the fringe of being accepted.

Compliment Wall, Kindness Cards

When I met Matt Soeth, from #ICANHELP he shared the power of a compliment wall which serves to create a positive culture in a school or classroom. The idea is that students create a physical board with post-it notes with compliments which students can take and share when they feel like someone needs it. You can extend this idea by creating kindness cards which students anonymously give each other; making note of which students are not receiving one. Extend both of these ideas virtually by inviting students to engage in kindness challenges online through their personal accounts or class social media accounts. If you posit social media of a place where you can “improve the lives, well-being, and circumstances of others (Couros, 2013), then that is the behaviour you will begin to see there.

Check out the resources I created to complement Chapter 10 of Social LEADiaInstil Empathy, Justice, and Character . where there are lots more ideas about creating a culture of kind in your class or school.

What are your ideas for creating a safe community within your classroom?

Facebook for PD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few groups you may find interesting

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

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

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

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

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

Here is what I’ve learned

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

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

 

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

What is your favourite Facebook group for professional learning?

Letting go the Fear Narrative #socialLEADia

The other day I was honoured to be on set of Family in Focus, a local television program hosted by my friend, Gillian Barker on Rogers television (Georgina). The topic: parenting out of fear.

During the conversation I shared how parenting out of fear and control when it came to social media really stifled my children and their passion and how my relationship with them and our conversations have changed as a result.  My learning from this resulted in my writing Social LEADia,which will be published this week, which highlights the voices of kids who are using social media in creative and positive ways for digital leadership.

Here are a few excerpts:

Don’t underestimate social media and the internet. If you just took a minute, and looked at the things that students do online that do change the world, you would be SO blown away. It’s actually really cool. Social media allows us to share our voice and issues that we care about and let our voice be heard by people in different cities, provinces and countries. Yes, we can do bad things online, such as cyberbullying, but we can also prevent the bad things, reverse it and do things on the internet that will help us change the world for the better. Social media is also a place where we connect with other like-minded young people and organizations. When we are able to connect, we can get and give support and encouragement, share ideas and information with others who share our passion and drive to create change.

Hannah Alper, 13 yr old

When I say social media most people, especially parents scream in fear, “Ah, social media” that’s where my kids go and write bad comments about their teachers or post pictures from that party they were at. This is where malicious behaviour takes place. But that doesn’t have to be the case. I recently wrote a blogpost called, “Why is the conversation surrounding social media so negative? And in it I document that my experience with social media is unusual, but it doesn’t have to be. So why is social media abused? What I found is that the conversation is always negative. Social media is abused by young people is the rhetoric that older people are using. So adults come and lecture students by saying “Don’t use social media.” “Social media is bad” “Don’t do this” and students start to identify social media as a negative place. Once you start lecturing to someone that they can’t do something it motivates them to do that thing and then they start developing these negative schemas of social media.  I have a radical concept for you–especially those of you who talk negatively about social media.

STOP.

Really.

If you present social media as a positive space, as a place for students to go to express themselves, to connect with professionals with other students, then that’s the type of learning you are going to see there.

Timmy Sullivan, 18 yr old

I think we really owe it to our students to put our fear asides and see what the connected world has to offer: to understand it better.

This quotation shared by George Couros in a recent post really resonates:

New DigCit Resource: Be Internet Awesome is almost Awesome #SocialLEADia

Google’s Be Internet Awesome is a newly released resource that combines internet safety with gaming. It looks like it would work well for upper primary/junior students.

It uses a Quest motif and an imaginary land called, “Interland” and its purpose is to teach students to “Be Internet Awesome”. I LOVE the sound of that!!

It focuses on five key lessons:

  • Be Internet Smart: Share with care
  • Be Internet Alert: Don’t fall for fake
  • Be Internet Strong: Secure your secrets
  • Be Internet Kind: It’s cool to be kind
  • Be Internet Brave: When in doubt, talk it out

All of these are very powerful and important points.

I went through one of the lands, “Mindful Mountain” just to try it out. This part of the quest reinforces that “you must be very intentional about what you share”

The user goes through a series of scenarios and makes you determine whether or not it is appropriate to share with friends, family, or others.  The idea is that you use the game features and you lose and/or gain points depending on your accuracy.

I received points and the following information at the end:

-Savvy Sharer (thoughtfully consider what you share and with whom)

-Patient Poster (pause and keep extra sensitive information to yourself)

-Informed Internaut (understand the power and consequences that come along with sharing)

What’s great about it:

  • The lessons themselves and conversations that would result from these lessons are definitely great.
  • The different mountains “Kind Kingdom”, “Mindful Mountain”, “Tower of Treasure” and “Reality River” are definitely far more positive than much of the fear-mongering that we often use when talking about internet safety, and touch upon a comprehensive approach to helping kids navigate online spaces.
  • Even when mistakes are made, the game is iterative so that you continue trying until you arrive at the right answer.

What’s not that great about it:

  • If you are not a good gamer (like me), you lose points even if you know the right answer which can be frustrating for some kids (or literally, maybe this is just me??)
  • Sometimes, when trying to get to the next level, students don’t always read the text (in this case the digital citizenship lessons) carefully
  • The Be Internet Awesome pledge, while very good, needs to be co-constructed with kids for them to really feel ownership of it.
  • It still exists out of context.

One of the chapters in my book, Social LEADia stresses the need for tackling Digital Citizenship in context and as a basis for Digital Leadership. A student can know Interland inside out and it may very well transfer to their own use of the internet, but it would be way more powerful if these lessons were reinforced throughout the school year, rather than tackled in a discrete unit.

I cite the theory of situated cognition which states that, “learning methods that are embedded in authentic situations are not merely useful; they are essential and knowledge must be applied in context in order to be used and made explicit” (Brown et al, 1989).

This is why I showcase the examples of Stephanie Viveiros, Kayla Delzer, and Robert Cannone who show us what it looks like to do this work using a class account (i.e. students have ownership of the account but technically the teacher posts because students are too young). I also talk about how Julie Millan and Diana Hale involve their students in the process of what responsible use of technology looks like. It’s also how with the mentorship of Jennifer Scheffer students like Timmy Sullivan are confident leaders both on and offline, and how Rachel Murat‘s high school students have moved beyond digital citizenship to digital leadership.

Here’s an excerpt from the Digital Citizenship in Context chapter:

Having a class Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat or Facebook account affords you so many unique opportunities. It can help to reinforce the following points and Digital Citizenship elements (I use Mike Ribble’s Digital Citizenship Elements):

-We emphasize that not everyone has equal access to technology (Digital Access)

-We only check our social media feed at certain times during the day to ensure a healthy balance (Digital Health and Wellness)

-We don’t put our notifications on because we don’t want to be distracted by them (Digital Etiquette)

-The classes and accounts that follow us are opportunities to connect with people: other classes from other communities and learn from them (Digital Communication)

-Our worth is not determined by how many followers we have because the most important thing is that we engage in conversations and relationships with the followers we do have (Digital Health)

-We block anyone who proves to be inappropriate or is trying to sell us something (Digital Security)

-We notice that there are some posts that are sponsored (Digital Commerce)

-We pay attention to how “edited” a photo might be by asking,” I wonder how many times they had to try to get such a perfect photo” (Digital Health and Wellness)

-We emphasize that a “like” isn’t the same as making a comment and forging a relationship, and that when you like something it means you agree with it  (Digital Literacy)

-We ask clarifying questions rather than making statements when we don’t agree with something or when we are not quite sure of the intent (Digital Communication)

-We delete a post if we think it might be misconstrued (Digital Communication)

-We regularly check our settings to see if anything has changed and talk about what should be private (stay in the classroom) and public (fine to share with the world) (Digital Security)

-We create a strong password and check for possible fake accounts following ours (Digital Security)

-When we use a hashtag, we understand that anyone can see our post even if they are not following our class account (Digital Literacy)

And So…

Use the Be Internet Awesome Pledge, (the headings), but allow your students to come up with the descriptors so they take ownership of it.

Use Be Internet Awesome as a foundation, but also engage in real-life sharing  using Digital Leadership as a framework with a class account.

 

Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, S. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42

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!

 

 

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

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?

 

Digital Citizenship, Learning, and Student Voice

“Just as schools have played a role in preparing students to be citizens in the traditional sense, educators must now ensure that our children are ready to be active and responsible participants in our increasingly digital society”

(Couros & Katia, 2015, pg 6).

There isn’t a single educator who would argue with the fact that we need to teach kids how to navigate online spaces safely and critically.  What I have noticed however is that there is an extremely huge variance in what educators think this should look like.  In my research this week I am overwhelmed by the number of different definitions of digital citizenship as well as the different components.  If you google, “digital citizenship defined,” there are 506,000 results.  It seems like every District and every organization is trying to come up with their own unique framework.  This makes sense to me on some level as every school District, every school even has its own culture.

But are we creating these frameworks on a grand scale which then become stagnant?  Are they simply units that need to be “covered” and checked off?  Even in my own practice, I curated this resource in 2011 which I now look at and would (and will when I have time) completely revamp because my own stance and the kind of choices I would make today are radically different.  Is it a decent resource that teachers, especially those who are not comfortable utilizing in online spaces would find supportive? Absolutely.  But, I know that personally I would need the resources I use to match the group of students I had in front of me and the learning context in my class.

To me, it is an absolute necessity, to teach kids how to navigate online spaces in creative, critical healthy and ethical ways (my own definition of digital citizenship) positively, in context rather than isolation.

This is supported by research about situated cognition (Brown, Collins, Duguid, 1989) around reading, writing, and mathematics, which has stood the test of time and which I believe is completely relevant to this conversation.  Consider these quotations about student learning:

  • learning methods that are embedded in authentic situations are not merely useful; they are essential and knowledge must be applied in context in order to be used and made explicit (Brown et al, 1989).
  • Research around using vocabulary words from a dictionary to teach reading show learning to be ineffective because “learning from dictionaries, like any method that tries to teach abstract concepts independently of authentic situations, overlooks the way understanding is developed through continued, situated use. (Brown et al., page 33).  
  • People who use tools actively rather than just acquire them, appear to build an increasingly rich implicit understanding of the world in which they use the tools and of the tools themselves. (Brown et all, 1989, pg 33).
  • given the chance to observe and practice in situ the behavior of members of a culture, people pick up relevant jargon, imitate behavior, and gradually start to act in accordance with its norms  and that despite the fact that cultural practices are often extremely complex, students, when given the opportunity to observe and practice them, students adopt them with great success.  (Brown et al., 1989, page 34)

And now apply this analogy to using technology tools and social media in context.  It makes complete sense!

Any yet…

We continue to treat Digital Citizenship as discrete units in school.  

We rarely explore social media within the context of the classroom in order to support the nuanced understanding of etiquette, usage, etc…that can only come with using tools in authentic and meaningful ways.

We also tend to block sites that may be problematic which makes a guided and contextual approach to digital citizenship problematic at best or worse yet, becomes about teaching kids how to circumvent firewalls.  This passage from Participatory Cultures in a Networked World reinforces my own feelings about this:

“[B]locking sites perpetuates risk as it ensures that many kids will be forced to confront online risks on their own. Many young people lack opportunities to learn how to use new media tools effectively and appropriately. Not just that, but a reliance on blocking sends the message that sites and tools important to students have little to nothing to contribute to intellectual pursuits. (Jenkins, Ito, boyd, 2016, pg 16)

As much as the thought of encountering an inappropriate image in front of an entire class instils dread in me, I know that at least a safe classroom environment is less problematic that that child encountering that image on their own device…a fact we definitely need to address with parents!

Can kids learn about self-regulation and what a healthy balance of online and offline looks like if we ask students to leave electronic devices in their lockers?

Do kids really understand what appropriate commenting looks like without extending and practicing this skill with explicit instruction and practice with an authentic audience?

Can kids really understand intellectual property if we don’t have them explore Creative Commons licencing for their own creations which they post for a widespread audience?

If we only focus on the fear narrative, will students recognize the positive potential of connecting online?

It is true that many teachers don’t feel comfortable enough to be the “expert” when it comes to modelling the use of social media, but teachers know their curriculum well and most importantly know how to pose the right questions, which is arguably a more important skill than answering questions anyway.

Teaching kids about the online world needs to be an organic and contextual process guided by an adult who can ask the right questions.

Student Voice and Digital Citizenship

Students need to part of the Digital Citizenship conversation.  In as much as we talk about student voice, I often find it missing when it comes to practice.  Whatever table I am sitting at, I always invite students to it to give their thoughts and opinions.  Check out how students contributed to the solution during our Yik Yak episode here.

That’s why I am so excited about  @Digcitkids,  Digital Citizenship for kids by kids. It is created by  a 4th grader  with the help of his mom Marialice  who is as passionate about bringing student voice and student digital leadership into our schools as I am.

Be sure to watch the Digcitkids website (which literally just went live in time for this post!!) as it develops and grows. The idea around Digcitkids is to provide an opportunity to amplify student voice and to promote students as digital leaders  k-12. The student and/or classroom ambassador program provides an opportunity for students from around the world to get involved in creating and sharing content and will allow students to participate in monthly challenges.

Curran wanted to start digcitkids as a way to address the conversation about digital access & connected learning opportunities for all students.  Plus, after his Ted talk he didn’t understand why he was the only elementary aged student talking about the topic and still doesn’t understand why educators wait until students are in high school to highlight student voice.   More about Curran and his quest here.

He presented the idea during Edcamp Global on July 30 at 7 am.

Other resources for teachers and leaders

Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools

Created by Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt in collaboration with a larger working group, this is perhaps my favourite resource.  It aligns with my thinking about situating learning of using social media in context and is a comprehensive, thoughtful and thorough approach. It is framed around Mike Ribble’s 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship  I also really appreciate the guides found within the document.

OSAPAC

The OSAPAC Digital Citizenship resource is an excellent and comprehensive resource created for Ontario teachers and leaders but which is useful to any educator.  Our District used it as one of the key resources for its Digital Discipleship framework.  The resource is grounded in research and has practical and positive lesson plans.  It is divided up into both elementary and secondary around the following themes:

osapac

Common Sense Media

Common Sense media offers a continuum of skills offered by topic beginning from kindergarten to grade 12. Lessons are available as PDF downloads, as well as Nearpod lessons, and iBooks (for purchase) for an agnostic experience for students. They are organized in the following way:

Common Sense Media

MediaSmarts

Media Smarts is a Canadian resource for digital and media literacy and is grounded on ongoing national research on Canadian children and teens and their experiences with networked technologies.  The resources are relevant to any educator.  They use the following framework:

Media Smarts 1

iKeepSafe

IKeepSafe is a non-profit organization which adopts a global citizen approach. ” It contends that modern technologies like telephones, television, and most of all, the Internet, allow for a global society where individuals can access information from around the world—in real time—despite being thousands of miles from the source of the content (Searson et al, 2015).  This is how they organize their topics.

iKeepSafe Digital Citizenship

ISTE Standards for Students

In the newly revised standards put out by the International Society. It is useful as a point of reference for educators.

Digital Citizenship ISTE

References

Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, S. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42.

Couros, A., & Hildebrandt, K. (2015). Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools. Retrieved from http://publications.gov.sk.ca/documents/11/83322-DC%20Guide%20-%20ENGLISH%202.pdf

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

Searson, M., Hancock, M., Soheil, N., & Shepherd, G. (2015). Digital citizenship within global contexts. Education and Information Technologies, 20(4), 729-741. doi:10.1007/s10639-015-9426-0

New to Twitter? #FollowFriday

(Originally posted on uoitmed.wordpress.com)

One of the most relevant things to remember about using Twitter for professional development is that it is more important to follow really interesting and thought-provoking people, than to be concerned about how many followers you have.  I often create Twitter lists to which I direct learners when I am showing them how to use Twitter.  The title of the list indicates the kind of learning you may be apt to do if you follow the people on that list.

But another great way to find really interesting people to follow on Twitter is through the hashtag #FollowFriday or #ff . Though it is updated on Fridays, you may put that term in the search bar to access this information. I don’t do this enough (I am always worried about leaving someone out), but whenever I get mentioned in a Follow Friday list or see someone sharing one, I am always pleasantly surprised to find a new person from whom I think I can learn on Twitter and beyond.

Building Community using Follow Friday

Any leader who is trying to build community using a District or organization hashtag might want to create a #FollowFriday post.  What this does is not only honour the contributions of people within that community, but also indicates to others who else to connect with.

Dr. Robin Kay, Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Ontario’s Institute for Technology makes a point of posting about people in Ed Tech who would be good to follow.

Doug Peterson has long been supporting and building a community of Ontario Educators by creating several #FollowFriday posts.

Both Julie Balen and Lisa Noble shared a #FollowFriday post with me this morning that reinforced the amazing people I already follow, but introduced me to a couple of people whom I have never met.  Often, there is an ongoing sharing as in this example when Donna Fry added some other great folks to follow:

FF

So what are you waiting for?  Take some time by the pool or on a patio today to check out the hashtag and follow some amazing educators today who will help you to learn throughout the school year!

If you are really new to Twitter, you may find this resource helpful.

Twitter-2