Blog Archives

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.

Advertisements

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!

Hamlet’s Blackberry–Part two

William Powers in his book Hamlet’s Blackberry continues moving forward through time to give examples of how people have been challenged by technology and how their challenges can provide thoughtful questions for us today as we consider how technology will impact our lives.  Last time I mentioned Plato, Seneca, Gutenberg, and Hamlet. Now we move forward with Ben Franklin,  Henry Thoreau, and Marshall McLuhan.

Ben Franklin was a very self reflexive guy, recording a list of virtues he wanted to adopt in his life and painstakingly detailing how he would go about becoming a better person. Using this example, McLuhan adopts Franklin’s practice and discusses how with every new technological device, there are three issues that need to be considered:

1. Functional (What are its best uses? What can this device do for us?)

2. Behavioral (What behaviors do I need to change or acquire in response to this?

3. Inner Human Dimension (How is this device affecting me and my experience? Is it altering how I think and feel? What are the effects on my day, my pace, my work, my home life?)

Although not tied directly to a particular new technology as the other earlier examples from the book were, these questions are important for us to consider as we move forward with our students. Simply using technology because its there, isn’t the point. We need to be just as thoughtful in how we adopt technology into the classroom as we would any other tool we might use. But these questions also are ones we should be asking ourselves as our lives become more awash in technology so that we are able to serve as positive role models for our students who are more and more at risk of being “addicted” to technology or misusing it.

In the 1800s railroads and telegraphs were the new technology that Thoreau and his contemporaries had to negotiate with. A quote of the time describing the telegraph could just as well describe the texting, twittering nation of today (minus the wires): “A slender wire has become the highway of thought. Messages follow each other in quick succession.” While Thoreau had Walden to escape to, Powers argues that in today’s digital society, there’s no where to go to truly escape as long as we still have a screen, be it a smartphone, iPad, laptop or tv. Two costs Powers says we are paying because of this is extreme busyness and loss of depth.

Marshall McLuhan, a philosopher who coined the terms “the global village” and “the medium is the message” would argue that if you feel overwhelmed by technology, you can take control by living more consciously (much like Franklin).  In 1962 McLuhan wrote The Gutenberg Galaxy in which he argues that the tools and technologies we use are actually extensions of our bodies. Before this book, people considered the message itself as the thing that mattered, not the medium in which it was delivered. But McLuhan demonstrates that when a truly big technological development comes along (such as the printing press), “the change is so dramatic that it produces a new kind of human being.” The question that Powers wants us to explore, a question that both Franklin and Thoreau would have echoed, is

“What kind of human being am I becoming in light of the new technologies I’m encountering?”

Click here for a Prezi version of the info in Powers’ Hamlet’s Blackberry.