Category Archives: Digital Citizenship

Need a “Pep Talk”?

I came across this video posted by SoulPancake (Rainn Wilson) and love it! Some important take-aways:

1. Don’t be boring. Boring is easy, everybody can be boring.
2. If life is a game, aren’t we all on the same team?
3. Take the path that leads to awesome, not the road most traveled. (Even if it leaves you saying, “Not cool, Robert Frost!”)
4. What if MJ had quit? There would be no Space Jam. What will be your Space Jam? Don’t stop believing.
5. We got work to do…are we gonna cry about it or we gonna dance about it?

“CREATE SOMETHING THAT WILL MAKE THE WORLD AWESOME.” ~ Kid President

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Global Digital Citizenship: Elementary Physics Project Part I

I had a hard time coming up with an idea that incorporated global digital citizenship in a physics curriculum meaningfully. Ultimately I had my students work in small groups to plan and teach 20 minute lessons to small groups of lower school students. I had considered this idea initially, but was skeptical that it was practical. I owe a huge thanks to Roxanne Warner for putting all of the logistics together!

The planning stages of this project were very interesting. I wanted to ensure that my students were teaching meaningful physics vs. just playing with the elementary students. In that sprit, I let students know that a part of their grade would depend on the elementary students learning at least one thing from their lesson. They immediately bulked at this idea. What if their students didn’t pay attention or worse purposely sabotaged the lesson? As a teacher, it was great to see my students realize that teaching might not be as easy as they thought.

The lessons themselves were very successful – the elementary students loved them. It was fun to watch the elementary students experiment with and explain simple physics concepts. My students enjoyed the experience too. We used four class periods to complete the project  (two planning, one peer editing, and then the actual lessons), but I feel like it was time well spent. From a physics standpoint, my students were learning as they taught. I was also pleased when I heard my students say things like:

 

This [teaching] is hard.

You do this for five periods?

 

Continued….

Global Digital Citizenship: Elementary Physics Project Part II

Global Digital Citizenship still feels like an abstract hodgepodge of all the other fluencies wrapped in one to me. The 21st century learning site even states:

All the 21st Century fluencies are learned within the context of the Digital Citizen, using the guiding principles of leadership, ethics, accountability, fiscal responsibility, environmental awareness, global citizenship and personal responsibility.

As my students saw, teaching is almost the embodiment of this fluency. My novice-teachers solved problems, interpreted and manipulated information, thoughtfully used media, and worked collaboratively/creatively while planning and executing their lessons. Several of the guiding principles including leadership, ethics, global citizenship and personal responsibility were also key to our success. I especially like the fact that my students bought into the project as something “real.” I think it is very hard to encourage characteristics like personal responsibility or leadership in venues that seem artificial to students.

I was glad that this fluency was our last – I feel like it was great closure for our journey through 21st century fluencies this year!

The Bully Project: What’s the Solution?

13 million kids will be bullied in the U.S. this year. That’s the problem. What’s the solution?

Recently, I was blessed to attend a private screening of the new documentary Bully, arranged by my school as part of a professional day. The movie is a powerful and emotional portrayal of one of America’s biggest social problems – and probably the most significant issue faced by American schools today. On a side note, I thought the cinematography and film editing were phenomenal. Lee Hirsch has outdone himself on this documentary. But I digress…

The problem is obvious. The most profound observation I am left with following the movie is a question of solution fluency; that is, how do we solve the problem?

Traditionally, bullying is viewed as an act of agression and the focus is on punishing or rehabilitating the bully to protect the victim. However, this movie illustrates the global nature of this problem across several demographics. Bullying isn’t just about the bully. It’s also about the victim. It’s about witnesses. It’s about parents. It’s about teachers. It’s about administrators. It’s about law enforcement. It’s about politicians.

Why haven’t any of these groups found a solution to this insidious social problem? I think the answer lies within another fluency…collaboration. There is no one person or group that can solve this problem. We have to work together to put an end to this. It’s about us. Teamwork will lead us to the solution.

Please, comment and share your thoughts on the movie and the issue.

Wiki: Skeptic Turned Supporter!

While reading through my student’s Wiki time logs and checking their contributions thus far (spring break was a partial deadline), I came across a comment I had not expected!

This was actually kind of fun and very helpful! Can’t wait to see next quarter’s Wiki!

This same student was very skeptical just three months ago! At that time, she felt like it was the “blind leading the blind” and seemed unsure how to contribute to the Wiki.

Likely because of the spring break deadline, the site has improved greatly even since I posted a couple weeks ago (check out a history page to see how it evolves). There is still much that can be done to improve it – but eventually I think it has the potential to approach the breadth and quality of a professional site.

Will the Real Digital Natives Please Stand Up?

We assume that most students are “digital natives” and will naturally understand concepts and  issues surrounding technology, but in my experience with freshmen, this isn’t always the case.  After spending the past week doing a unit on Global Digital Citizenship with students in which they created PSAs using iMovie and Photo Booth, I was reminded of this. Not only do students struggle with knowing the important issues surrounding technology (very few could go much deeper than cyberbullying or obesity from playing too many games), but they did not have the skills to gather the appropriate materials online or use the two programs being introduced and weren’t willing to problem solve to figure it out. So what do we really mean when we say our students our “digital natives” and how should this influence our teaching?

Sitting in a recent tech training session, I was reminded once again of the prevalent attitude of students as “digital natives” and the effect this misconception could have on the classroom and educators. The trainer, after walking a group of teachers through the technology, made a remark in passing akin to “oh, but your students will be able to do this already.” This assumption is akin to saying that students will be able to compose a symphony or write a Petrarchan sonnet simply because they’ve been exposed to music and language in their environment. If teachers take on this assumption, the results are frustration when they find that students don’t in fact know what the teacher needs/expects them to know, dismay if they think the gap between the natives and the immigrants will be too wide to be bridged, or lack of properly prepared students  because they were expected to somehow have already absorbed the knowledge from their environment by virtue of being born post 1990. A child may be able to pick up a language from hearing it spoken around them without formal grammar lessons, but technology is not a language. There is also a big difference between being able to post pictures to Pinterest or download a song from iTunes (skills they are fluent in) and being able to evaluate research online or skillfully manipulate the myriad, ever changing tools our digital world throws at us.

A  recent Economist article “The Net Generation Unplugged” argues “Only a small fraction of students may count as true digital natives, in other words. The rest are no better or worse at using technology than the rest of the population.” Other scholars writing in the British Journal of Education Technology in 2008 point out that due to variations in economics or abilities, there may be as wide a range of differences within those classified as being “digital natives” as there is between digital natives and digital immigrants.

All of this is not to say that we shouldn’t examine how technology can reach students and improve our educational methods. But let’s go into 1:1 education knowing what we’re really up against so we can best serve the students.

Sources: “The Net Generation, Unplugged.” Economist (London, England) Vol. 394, No. 8672. 06 Mar 2010: 10. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 08 Mar 2012.

 

 

Rethinking How Students Learn: Chris Dede

Are you sick of all the talk about 21st century skills? I mean, we are almost 12 years into the new millennium. Some educational pundits go so far as to demand we stop using the term, but Chris Dede attempts to rationalize the “21st Century Skills” movement:

Inventing new problem-solving heuristics when standard protocols have failed is an important skill; when all diagnostics are normal, but the patient is still feeling unwell, for instance, a skilled physician can think outside the box and become an expert decision maker.

Will your students fit IN the box, or think OUTSIDE of it?

Our kids NEED to learn how to think outside the box. This isn’t always an easy skill for them to pick up. You see, they’ve grown accustomed to the 20th century educational method whereby the teacher provides the answers and the student regurgitates them on paper homework, quizzes, or tests to prove they’ve acquired knowledge. They have already mastered this educational “game” and they like winning it. Our students want to be able to finish tasks quickly and easily, with great success. But what they want isn’t necessarily what they need. How will they answer those difficult questions that may not have a clear or easily-accessible answer?

Dede goes on:

…the nature of collaboration is shifting to a more sophisticated skillset. In addition to collaborating face-to-face with colleagues across a conference table, 21st century workers increasingly accomplish tasks through mediated interactions with peers halfway across the world whom they may never meet face-to-face.

Our students NEED to be able to collaborate; this goes beyond mere communication skills. They need to be able to work in groups to achieve project success. They need to know how to use modern-day tools like Skype or Apple FaceTime to connect and work with colleagues on the other side of the world. The only way they are going to begin life after Heritage Hall with that skillset is if we, their teachers, allow them time and setting to develop the essential skill of collaboration.

I love the comparison Dede makes next:

Conventional, 20th century K-12 instruction emphasizes manipulating predigested information to build fluency in routine problem solving, rather than filtering data derived from experiences in complex settings to develop skills in sophisticated problem finding.

Ask yourself, “Do I provide ‘complex settings’ for my students to work in? Do I allow them to find problems instead of memorize information? Do my students create their own data?” Hopefully, the answers to these questions are affirmative. Our students live in an information age – in fact, some have called it the “Age of InfoWhelm.” As Dede suggests:

The ability to separate signal from noise in a potentially overwhelming flood of incoming data is a suite of 21st century skills.

The 21st Century Charger needs to be prepared and able to filter the meaningful information out of the endless deluge of data. He needs to be able to ask questions about the data and explore resolution to such problems in a journey mapped out by himself. It is critical that the teacher becomes the “guide on the side” in this process for meaning can only be 100% relevant when it originates from oneself (the student).

In the book I read, Dede refers to Henry Jenkins’ interesting list of digital literacies. They are: play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transformed navigation, networking, and negotiation.

To me, those are clearly skills that would make a person successful in the world of the near-future. The question that lies ahead of us is…

How can we prepare our students for life and the workplace of their future?

Global Digital Citizenship

As I read my book, 21st CENTURY SKILLS I was very impressed with the examples of students that made a difference in their communities around the world. From the students in Sydney who uploaded data to track climate change trends, to the London students who prepared a plan to put a traffic light at a dangerous intersection near their school, these students found practical ways to bring about change. The Jewish, Muslim, and Christian students at a school for peace in Israel created a video sharing their ideas for peace in the Middle East. The one example that touched me the most was students in a Palo Alto robotics class that researched the needs of quadriplegics and those with mobility challenges. It was such a seamless blend of compassion, empathy, and service to mankind.
I had just visited with my 7th graders about the skills necessary to implement our 1:1 program next fall. They had a great grasp of what they needed to learn to be successful. It occurred to me that even basic concepts with a computer needed to be mastered to take the next step toward digital citizenship. As we progress with this venture, it will be interesting to see how the students can take these skills and apply them globally.

Computational Thinking: A Digital Age Skill for EVERYONE

I just came across this video that really makes me feel good about where we’re going with things on our campus. I just had to share.

Wi-Fi Graffiti!

Wiffiti-logoblue-head

Spanish 1 students weigh in whether our story's main character should take his dad's 1956 T-Bird without permission on Wiffiti.

Have you ever been to a concert or sports event where you were invited to text or Tweet messages to a public screen?

Wiffiti is a company out of Boston whose technology allows anyone, from corporate sponsors to teachers to the average Joe Internet User, to create a public wall for the purpose of gathering text and Tweet “graffiti”.

How is this useful in a classroom setting?

My level 1 Spanish students have been reading a book in which the main character has to make a choice between following his parents’ rules or doing what he wants while they are away.  I wanted the kids to discuss the pros and cons and take a side, in Spanish.

Without technology, this is just a discussion and some kids might tune it out, but when I instructed kids to take out their phones (which most of them had and were thrilled to be asked to use them in class) and had them text their advice to the character, they were on board immediately.  And on the board – literally – immediately!   In seconds, their messages started popping up on the SmartBoard for all to see.

It was fun to see what they wrote, and to see the auto-namer assign them all such funny names, like CinnamonToucan, and SteelSeahorse.

Most of them stuck to the assignment but a few did get carried away with the excitement of being able to communicate something and have everyone see it… without teacher clearance.

Which is EXACTLY why I welcome this type of activity, because it provides an opportunity for teachers to get involved with how students represent themselves online.  Their digital expression of themselves is often private, but when they do this in the classroom, the teacher can moderate the discussion.  Which I did.

“Perdón, who is MintParrot8?”  A boy grins smugly from the back of the room.  I use his post as a negative example, and he quickly sends a new message which follows the assignment.

We’ll continue to build on that success with other projects.  I’ll send an update next time we use it.  Check it out!