Category Archives: Global Awareness

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.

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Social Networking On Campus…On Purpose!

I have heard a fair share of complaints of children (and teens, well, ages across the board) spending too much time on their phones or on gaming systems and not enough time socializing and engaging in the world around them. Now that we are in this post-modern digital age, it is almost expected that children and teens be connected to their phones, gaming systems, or other digital media. Isn’t that engaging in the world around them as well?

I randomly came across an article encouraging schools to embrace this new age of technology, more specifically through Facebook and Twitter. It seems that we could have the best of both worlds in education…engagement on school campuses through digital social interaction and personal human interaction. The article is on the blog: “Not So Distant Future“, which is focused on libraries, technologies, and schools (this blog has won many awards I might add!) It offers snapshots of studies focusing on using the popular (and FREE!) Facebook and Twitter to engage students in campus events. I agree in this librarian’s take on the fact that educators/administrators worry about the use of social networking will hinder academic progress or social interactions, but should also focus on the opportunity, student reaction, student attendance, and student learning, etc. Junco, one of the researchers, has several articles published on the effects of Twitter and Facebook on many aspects of education.

I think that the studies they reveal could show encouragement and motivation for our school as we have a campus blessed with involved students and many technological opportunities and advocates! Facebook and Twitter are two of the most talked about social networks at school, work, and now on TV it seems…I think we should take a look at the success rate and think about its transition into education. It will happen whether it’s purposely used for school or if a student is updating their Facebook status under the table so the teacher won’t see. Let’s jump on board and see what we can do!

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?

Puppet Pals, not just for kids

I first learned about Puppet Pals in kinder21’s recent post about connecting her classroom to China, and the very next day it came up in my class.

My students had divided a book we were reading into chapters, and each group was responsible for creating a video of that chapter’s main events.

It was a good way to review in a dynamic and memorable way.  The history teacher across the hall had been teaching his students to make Common Craft videos, and I offered this as an alternative to filming a live scene.

In an act of media fluency one student said “I think the app my sister is using in Kindergarten would be perfect for this!”  He described how it worked and it seemed interesting, so we quickly downloaded the free app and started testing it out.

Puppet Pals brings out the creative inner child in anyone who picks it up.  You can choose pre-set characters, or upload your own images and set them in pre-set or uploaded scenes of your choosing.

When the scene is set, you can hit record and narrate or give voices to the characters as you move them around the scene.  It’s essentially a puppet show that an individual can perform and film at the same time.

If you’ve seen a young child at play, moving toys around and giving them voices, this is the digital recording of that very same phenomenon.

The videos are fun to watch and the students have to summarize, problem-solve, collaborate, plan and execute the project… without even realizing they are using so many important 21st Century skills.

I love Puppet Pals, it’s going to become a standard fim-making option in my classroom.

Students use smart phones to research and edit their script while creating a Puppet Pals video on an iPad.

Collaboration Fluency: Foreign Connection (possibility!)

Collaboration fluency is team working proficiency that has reached the unconscious ability to work cooperatively with virtual and real partners in an online environment to create original digital products. Virtual interaction through social networking sites and online gaming domains has become a part of the Digital Generation’s and our daily lives…so why not include it in our daily routines at school as well!

While social networking is not necessarily explored in Kindergarten, I am excited about an opportunity this year! I have a student who will be moving to China in March. She will return for 1st grade next year, but will spend nearly 6 months in Beijing with her grandparents to be fully immersed in the language.

This will become a wonderful opportunity for my class to continue our relationship with this child, but to start a connection with a class on the other side of the world!

How can this build collaboration fluency? I have lots of ideas! The basics of Kindergarten include numbers, letters, shapes, etc. I think the kids would love to teach one another some “basics”. At this point in Kindergarten we are working on building complete sentences and even writing our own stories. I think it would be awesome for my students to create stories (for example on the PuppetPals App) and send them to the class in China. The class in China could then retell the story in Chinese and send us the new version. I need to explore ways we could exchange these videos to make it a smooth process for Kindergartners to manage. I know the possibilities could be endless with this, but I love the idea of storytelling to collaborate with the Chinese class. Knowing that one of the students there will be one of our friends will allow my students to jump right in to it rather than be nervous. My students will be very interested to learn about what her new class and teacher will be like, so it would be wonderful to compare and contrast the classroom environments she will be in. We could also exchange photos or videos of our classrooms.

The 21st Century Fluency Project website suggests that with our wireless communication technology, it literally puts a “death to distance”. the ideas I shared above holds especially true to this. Even the tremendous time change between Oklahoma and China won’t get in the way of sharing and exchanging ideas! In fact, I believe it would be a smooth process that the kids would be eager to explore. I will be eager to post about the progress as it develops!

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.

Rethinking How Students Learn: Ken Kay

With a plethora of options, it wasn’t easy to select just one title for my book study. In a way I cheated…I chose a book with 23 contributing authors and clearly divided chapters. Some of them I was familiar with: Howard Gardner, Cheryl Lemke, Alan November, Bob Pearlman, Douglas Reeves, and Will Richardson. Many I wasn’t. One thing is for sure, I’m going to get exposure to lots of different viewpoints and ideas relating to 21st century skills with this book.

I’m going to discuss some of the highlights as I read the book, one author (or chapter) per post. I’m starting with Ken Kay, president of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills – the nation’s leading advocacy organization for the cause of educational evolution.

Doing well in school no longer guarantees a lifelong job or career as it did for previous generations of Americans. Today, people can expect to have many jobs in multiple fields during their careers…The new social contract is different: only people who have the knowledge and skills to negotiate constant change and reinvent themselves for new situations will succeed…Proficiency in 21st century skills is the new civil right for our times.

I believe Kay is simply stating that we, as a school, can no longer focus our efforts on imparting massive amounts of knowledge on our students. We have to add two more goals to our agenda: they must be able to adapt to change and they must be able to cast themselves in new roles with the same skill set. School is now about knowledge AND adaptability.

Any employee who needs to be managed is no longer employable.

Kay indicates that a manager at Apple made this strong statement to him. Obviously, Apple is a company founded on innovation; one that has probably always expected its employees to take initiative while granting them autonomy to do their job in creative ways. But in the 21st century, it won’t just be science and tech companies that expect this of their employees. It will become the norm.

Global awareness is a new essential in the global economy…Financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial literacy are new imperatives…Creativity and innovation, flexibility and adaptability, leadership and cross-cultural skills…These are the kinds of skills that set people apart.

Wow! That hits the nail right on the head. If I were to try painting a vision in your of the 21st Century Charger, tossing his or her cap in the air about to embark on life after “The Hall,” I couldn’t have selected the descriptive terms any better. If our students matriculate to college with the skills Kay mentions above, watch out world!

Rigor traditionally is equated with mastery of content alone, and that’s simply not good enough anymore…However, in the 21st century, the true test of rigor is for students to be able to look at material they’ve never seen before and know what to do with it. Infusing 21st century skills into core subjects actually rachets up the rigor.

Chameleon-like adaptability is a skill that will ensure our students survival in the 21st century

In a nutshell, in the quest to ensure rigorous curriculum, we must now include the 21st century skills mentioned in the previous statement. Kay drives home the point again…knowledge isn’t enough…it takes the right skill set and adaptability to prepare our students for success in the 21st century. I am so excited to be teaching at a school that gets that, during a time when this important shift is taking place. We are ahead of the game, my friends. And the future is bright. Put on your shades and let’s get to work.

Up next: Howard Gardner.