This fall I have been working with a UofR education intern who will be sharing my classroom from the first day of school up until Christmas. Eden Sampson has so far been in charge of the planning and teaching of social studies in our grade 8 classroom. Eden has been planning lessons that teach about citizenship to coincide with the upcoming federal election using Student Vote as her primary resource. Thinking ahead to some of the discussions she would be having with our grade 8’s I thought that the potential for a social action project existed as a supplementary activity to what Eden was doing in the classroom.
Photo Credit: phxcc via Compfight cc
Part of what Eden is discussing with the Grade 8’s is the lack of young peoples willingness to vote. We talked about how grade 8’s really get wrapped up in the process of voting and how the issues are really important to them, and yet a whole generation, not much older than them are not showing up on voting day to have their voice heard. I suggested that Eden and I collaborate on a project (then untitled) where we use social media to help inspire others to first of all go out and vote and secondly to show all of the ways young people can become involved in the political process and display good citizenship qualities.
In addition Eden and I would plan collaboratively lessons that we would co-teach in health centered around teaching Digital Citizenship to the grade 8’s. We thought we would start with Digital Citizenship in health and then use the skills the students built to launch our social action project.
As Eden would be teaching most of the Social Studies up until the election, it was decided that I would take the project over after the election, as we would like to see the students participation extend beyond the election date. The challenge would be to post to a social media sites ie Twitter actions that they would consider to be examples of good citizenship (volunteering, respecting laws, caring for communities, addressing injustices, etc.). Ideally we would like to see the development of a hashtag that would hopefully gain momentum and other followers posting and sharing what they are doing as well. Really we want to connect with other students who are using social media to promote active citizenship.
The red tape so to speak comes into the equation regarding students use of twitter. Would each student need a twitter account? And if so do we have permissions in our standard form to do so? Could we post from the school account our actions and then hashtag it and hope to gain momentum that way? How vital is it that kids can post as they like? These are all questions that we have to reflect on before continuing. In the meantime, Eden and I will start to plan/teach our digital citizenship lessons and go from there once we have a better idea where it is headed too.
In class we were asked what technology we believe has had the greatest impact on education. I think that I would say that in my opinion it would be the internet. Educationally the internet has changed how we teach, what we teach, what we consider knowledge. I can remember in school after a parent teacher interview how upset my parents were after my 3rd grade teacher said that spelling didn’t matter because eventually we would spell check everything. My parents thought that was ridiculous because they felt spelling was an important component to being able to function in the “real world”. Reflecting back to that discussion and on my own practice today, there may have been some truth in that conversation had many years ago. There are things that we used to think were really important for students to be successful, those things that people, “should just know”. But those pieces of knowledge are changing all of the time. I am still shocked when students don’t know their multiplication tables, but is that just another example of how technology has changed the way certain knowledge is valued?
I found the idea of “techno-determinism” to be quite interesting. In reality one medium has taken the place of others, my VCR, was overtaken by DVD, my DVD player was replaced by buying movies off of itunes, etc. But do I agree that in some regards technology does contribute to how social structures are shaped and the values of our culture? Even what we used to consider to be “rights of passage” has changed to reflect the impact technology has on our cultural beliefs. A big right of passage in grade 8 is getting a phone. A phone means that your parents trust you be responsible and manage a device that they won’t be able to monitor all the time. It gives you freedom as well as allows you to connect with your friends but also connect potentially with strangers. Getting a phone means that you have reached a point in your maturity that before was perhaps equal to the freedom of your drivers license.
I do believe that in education we do have the “techno-eutopian-ism rose-coloured glasses”. We think that connecting is a really positive experience for students in terms of sharing what they are learning with others. In a sense the reasons we had for putting students in groups before now in a sense can be extended beyond the walls of the classroom or school. Students have the ability to use others to build on their learning and to extend their thinking and then share what they have learned. Those goals, if we can ignore or manage the risks involved are reason enough to venture into the sometime unknown waters.
I also really connected with the Sherry Turkle talk that rises into question whether or not all of this technology is really connecting us in meaningful ways. In my own life I know that I struggle with finding the balance between the two. Often I find myself too immersed in media that I can forget that life is going on around me. Those two iphone commercials did a great job summarizing to me what are the ying and yang of being connected. On one hand I guess we share a little of ourselves online for selfish reasons, but then on the other we share because we want to feel connected to those that aren’t around us. All the while trying to find a balance between the two pulls.
After reading through all of the options for the major digital project, I would have to say that the idea most appealing to me is the social activism project. This summer when the course syllabus came out I got to thinking about some ideas that I would like to pursue for the project and I thought how timely to do some thing around the idea of citizenship and the election. I’m very fortunate to have Eden Sampson from the University in my classroom as an intern this fall. Eden will be teaching social studies from the start of the term until the end of the election. I think that my idea would definitely fall into social, but there is the possibility of exploring the ideas of citizenship in health as well. I”m not sure if many have heard of this program called “Student Vote” but the students participate in their own mock election that parallels the federal election this fall. I had suggested Eden have a look while she was planning for internship this fall. Our school has participated in it many times and we were looking forward to another opportunity to really bring life to the content we would be teaching in the fall.
My initial idea was to attempt a project that would help students engage in the process even further. It has been my experience that often they become so immersed in the election that they become the “expert” in there family, even though they don’t actually cast a “real” vote. So I was looking for a project that would engage them with the process as well as give them some ownership of all that they would be learning about what it means to be a good citizen. My idea was to use possibly twitter or some other social networking avenue to create a hashtag or following where students could post all of the ways they were engaging in the process. Something along the lines of …”too young to vote, not to care” (still working on catchy title…suggestions welcome:).
I know that there are a couple of roadblocks to jump here as well. First, because Eden is teaching social I would have to work with her on the integration of the idea. Secondly, Eden isn’t in the class, so I will have to check that she is on board with the project. Lastly, Twitter use in schools opens up a world of permissions and access issues that I will have to wade through. But I’m excited about the idea and looking forward to developing it further.
Welcome everyone to the blog that I will be using to offer some of my reflections and learnings during the upcoming semester. I’m really looking forward to building on some of this skills I learned in EC&I 831, as well as looking at Digital Citizenship at a deeper level. Looking forward to meeting everyone in person tonight.