Summary of Learning EC&I 832

Sorry for the shaky video, but I wanted to make sure I could upload a version to YouTube.  Here is the Prezi link that is a better format.

And if not, here is the youtube version.  Enjoy!

 

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Ok, now I feel like this is going somewhere…

As we near the end of the term and the end (but not really) of my major digital project I feel that there is some worthwhile reflections to be made regarding how the project went.

First of all I found the experience of working with Eden planning and creating our digital citizenship introduction very rewarding.  She brought a lot of great insight and creativity to the lessons that we taught together.  It was great to co-plan something together, for me to have some new an fresh ideas coming from her and perhaps for her to have another teacher up in front of the class to help with those “internship skills” like pacing and questioning.  I think that both of us found the difference in the classrooms somewhat interesting.  In both classes we encountered a wide array of student knowledge and comfort around the internet and social media in general.  Only a few in each class had ever used Twitter, most weren’t really sure it’s purpose or why people would want to use it.  But by far the majority of student focus was around Snapchat and Instagram.  I think for me that was eye opening.  Personally I know very little about these sites and the capabilities of them.  But it may be worthwhile doing some of my own research into them.   This class has taught me that my students are finding ways to connect that they don’t always fully understand and so as an educator it would be a good idea to work with them to build both of our capacities.

In attempting to set up Twitter accounts for each student in the classroom I again learned a great deal about the permissions that need to be granted by the school division.  While our intentions were for educational purposes in the classroom, Twitter once set up, was going to be accessible to them anywhere.  So I felt the most worthwhile permissions was to open lines of communication with parents.  Letting them know that it is also their responsibility to help monitor and set expectations for their children outside of school use.  In the end about 20% of the students were not allowed their own Twitter accounts.  So I let them use the classroom account once I had signed in and they posted their initials with each tweet they sent so that I could give them credit for their participation.  I would venture to guess that most of the 20% who were not allowed to have accounts would likely have parents who themselves were not familiar with Twitter or come from households where the use of online resources was limited.  But I still felt that most got the experience that I was hoping for even though they did not have their own account.

I organized a few projects or assignments once the accounts were set up.  My goal here was for students to help build a feed under the hashtag, so that when they searched it, there was more than just me or Eden posting to the hashtag.  Initially my goal was to have other schools or classrooms join us.  But in spite my best plugs or requests, none really did.  However, our classroom account did gain some followers and we have been watching and interested in some of the things they tweeted.  This was most true during the Student Vote.  I thin that project became more worthwhile for them when they could see students voting from all across the country.   When the students actually started to post assignments from the Twitter Matrix I created I was glad to see them taking a few risks and including a couple of pictures and really broadening their understanding of what it means to be a good citizen, based on the stories and activities they posted.

Throughout the class and some of the topics we discussed in the lectures about participatory culture, I think that it was important for me to have switched gears towards the end of the project.  I was not satisfied that students were getting the most out of this experience because really the hashtag didn’t display any signs of the students interacting with what was posted there.  Sure they would scroll through, but they never commented/favourited/or replied to any of the posts by there classmates.  I now know that participation means more than just contributing.  I wanted my students to connect and interact with what others were posting.  By requiring them to comment or participate in the polls posted by other students I feel like I was finally getting to the heart of what I wanted my digital project to be.  Now at the beginning of class we are using our devices or computers to connect with some of the stories of the day, asking questions or posting replies on the news sites or creating and answering each others polls.

 

 

 

These posts have all lead to great classroom discussions.  Even as a class we will read and discuss some before I ask them to reply.  That way students who have difficulty forming an opinion on their own can listen to the discussion from others to help them in formulating their opinion.

In the end while I didn’t accomplish what I set up (you…changing the world!)  I do feel like we have made a great deal of progress.  I am excited to see what my class will be able to do with Twitter before the end of the year.  I have already thought about how we will support our learning during the upcoming provincial election using Twitter.  So even though this is the end of my project for this class, this has definitely lead to much more projects to come in the future.

 

Keeping Things in Perspective

As the semester begins to draw to a close it is good to spend some time reflecting on where we have been and some of the lessons or understandings gained along the way.

Personally as an educator I have always felt that the lives of my students are heavily impacted by the use of technology.  I have been very fortunate to have always been in a school with very supportive administrators who felt that the more exposure to technology we can grant students the more prepared they will be to not only use, but to engage  with technology in the future.  I can still remember the conversations had around the dismantling of our computer lab.  On one hand those that believed that technology needs to be integrated into the classroom, not just housed in a room that could be shared on a 6 day rotation vs. those who believe that technology is a one time event, like going to the gym for PE or bringing down the pastels for an art lesson.  I reflect back on that because I realize now that was really the start of a continuing path down the road of technology becoming an everyday part of our lives.  We have made the shift from “using technology” to more specifically “being connected” to the world around us, in ways that we haven’t in the past and in the constant evolution of what that means.  Specifically as a grade 8 teacher I understand that being connected impacts the whole student that I teach, academically, socially and emotionally.  As an educator then I have a responsibility to help my students learn how to navigate and be effective in that space.

How then do I approach digital citizenship in the classroom and in the curriculum?  I believe the answer is twofold.  First there are a set of “skills” that are important for all students to be able to function with their use of technology.  More basic tasks such as file saving and sharing, email, password protection, are very important as the student develops.  But in the later grades and depending on the student when they are ready maturity wise as well as comfortable they can start to participate in more meaningful ways.  Dave Cormier talked about MOOC’s and Rhizomatic Learning in the video below, the idea of a culture becoming a participatory culture where it isn’t enough anymore to passively be part of the learning, but to engage others in building our own learning.  While there are so many different ways for interaction to happen and so many skills involved in doing so, it is important to remember that participation does not happen over night or in one school year, but rather evolves and grows over several years.  As Andrew said in his post, the responsibility does not fall solely on us.  Rather it takes all of us as educators and parents to play a role both in our role modeling and our teaching of how to be a good digital citizen.

In addition to “connecting” with our learning, it has been suggested several times that technology use can help to broaden students abilities.  David Crystal suggest that the daily use of things like Twitter or texting is not hindering language but perhaps helping language to evolve.  Students today are creating a new norm in terms or language that we are engaging with.  But it is important to not judge their forms of communication because they are not what we as adults would consider most appropriate.

Also, participation in Twitter  could help to engage students in their learning and even help to give a voice to those that sometimes take a more passive role in their learning.  In one of my post’s I talked about the article that outlines how more university students are engaging with Twitter to communicate and contribute to discussions and dialogues about their learning because they are feeling more comfortable engaging in that fashion.

Also important to note is that we as educators also have a job to do in presenting technology in a more balanced approach.  We already know that our students are using technology in both their outside of school lives and perhaps in different ways than we are within the classroom.  As role models I think that it is important to help demonstrate that there is a balance between our online identities and our in life identities.  In Sherry Turkle’s article she talks about what might be lost in communication if we are never disconnecting from technology to have more meaningful engaging interactions.  While at the same time, we have read several articles that talk about how some students who never felt a sense of belonging, have been able to connect and feel like they belong because of space they have found online.

As educators I think that we also have a responsibility to some extent to the parents of the students that we teach.  We are a resource for parents who can offer help and support in how their students use technology and how they are engaging in the online world.  I think we have a responsibility to inform parents of some of the ways their students connect to the world around them.  I also believe that the greatest responsibility falls to the parents to be aware of what their children are doing and how they are spending their time in an online space.  At the end of the day, they spend the most time with their children and those times are definitely more unstructured and less supervised than the time at school they spend online.  As a resource we can also help parents to understand some of the dangers that could potentially exist for their children online.  As Jenn mentioned in her post, things like ghost apps are new potentially to them as well and so sharing information in order to help inform would be helpful.  Sharing perhaps some of the videos we talked about like Ron Jonson’s “One Tweet Can Ruin your Life” and “The Price of Shame”by Monica Lewinsky can help us give parents something to reflect back on in order to gain some perspective and better help their children navigate those spaces as well.

At the end of this class I have definitely spend some time thinking about how to better support and engage my students in online spaces.   In addition I understand better why we need to advocate for students to gain more access to spaces that give them a voice.  Yes, there are potential risks involved in doing so, but the more we educate, rather than fear monger, the safer we will keep our children.  The possibilities then become endless for them to participate and engage in the world larger than just the classroom.

Taking What’s Hidden and Bringing it to Light

This week we were asked to take a look at the documentary “We Steal Secrets: the story of WikiLeaks.”  I have to admit that prior to viewing the film I had heard of Wikileaks, but had never really spent time or a great deal of effort paying much attention to it.  After watching the documentary I realize how in the dark I was.  The documentary is centered around Julian Assange the creator and editor of the website.  In 2010 WikiLeaks leaked thousands of government files onto the web for the world to see.  The files came from various whistle-blowers, but the story really features the files shared by American Miliary Personnel, Bradley Manning.  The documentary follows the unfolding of the leaks and the effect it had on both Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.

As I was watching the film I found that as the plot unfolded my sympathies really flip flopped throughout.  In the beginning, I was somewhat drawn to the portrayal of Assange.  His convictions seemed to be rooted in the desire for the public to have information and for the “secrets” of the government and the world,  not be kept from their citizens.  One could draw connections between what Assange was doing to the ideas we have been talking about in class regarding the internet giving voice to the masses, rather than simply listening to only a few sources that would generally come from mainstream media.  Today we have a desire to know and share more because the availability of information has increased.

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Considering what the implications are for society of this film has been very eye-opening for me.  Truly, I’m torn.  On one hand I feel that information should be available to the public.  As a citizen don’t I have the right to know what my government does on my behalf?  Even as a new government takes power in our country I have a bitter aftertaste of the previous government, one that it seemed to be hiding secrets and deception at every point.  The new government claims that it will be more transparent to Canadians but I wonder to what extent “should” a government be transparent.  As a citizen, “lifting the veil” so to speak of what the government does or has done has never really been know to it’s citizens.  Maybe there are somethings that should be kept from the public as secrets of the government.  It is hard to make a decision either way because we really can’t know the effect of total disclosure will have on various aspects of society.   Likely there have been secrets kept all along.   When some of the files were leaked, Assange really couldn’t guarantee, nor do I think he had much interest in protecting those that the files could effect.  Maybe there are “secrets” that need to be kept in order for the government to properly function.  What is for certain is that as a society we will be faced with more and more information that we may have never before had access too.   What we do with that information and the implications of such are still to be determined.

When thinking about the content of the documentary in terms of classroom implications I am drawn to the story line of Bradley Manning.  Manning is portrayed in the documentary as a somewhat lost individual, plagued with confusion about his own identity as well as his personal obligation to doing what he believed needed to be done.  I guess it reminds me of the conversations in class around digital footprints and young people dealing with the implications of “putting themselves out there” more than perhaps they realize.  Then facing the consequences of doing so, once the information extends beyond what they intended.  Similarly, to the story of Amanda Todd that others in the class watched.  But I think that the message that we can learn from Bradley Manning is that at some point we might stubble across something that we need to say or something that will give us attention, but there is a consequence to stepping into that spotlight.

 

 

 

We are all Makers and Contributors to Culure

This week I spent some time doing some reflecting on some of the new skills and literacies that the digital age expects of its learners and I wondered at the end, what is it all really for?  Are these skills really going to make a difference for students in how they learn and interact with their world?  Fitting that the next class and the one that I’m reflecting on for the week was regarding “Participatory Culture” and the age of “Remix.”

In my refection this week I wanted to spend more time exploring “Participatory Culture” and so I watched a video by Henry Jenkins who directed MITs Comparative Media Studies graduate degree program from 1993-2009.

Jenkins has been at the forefront of understanding the effects of participatory media on society, politics and culture.  Essentially the TED talk begins by focusing on the character of “Peter Parker” as many of us know as “Spider Man”  but he uses the comparison of Peter Parker to outline to the audience that Peter is really like many teens his age.  He  is able to do amazing things, that don’t have to do with his age, but they have to do with his participation on the web and gaining exposure through the voice that he finds online.  Ultimately, with that power he says that with teens are accessing online communities comes great responsibility to the world around them. The TED talk really emphasizes to me the important of young people taking the skills that they have and doing things in the world that matter, or being/becoming active social agents for change.  This generation has the tools and the resources to thing about/ engage/ respond to the changing world around us and the be part of that change.

Jenkins also talks about in the mix/remix culture we live in we are producing media that we then want to share with our friends and families, which then by nature grow or become communities of people who do something similar and learn from each other.  We throw ideas out and then bring them back in a new and better way than they were originally put out there.  This the the powerful new media that kids are engaging with.  This media has allowed for teens and young adults to find their voice and to help students engage in there communities for the betterment of their communities.

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The Harry Potter Alliance is turning fans of the novels into heroes.  If you check out their website you will see that they claim themselves to be changing the world by making activism accessible through the power of story.  Since 2005, they have engaged millions of fans through our work for equality, human rights and literacy.  So what we are seeing is young fans of the novels are using their connection with the books to create a social movement that helps to make the world a better place (somewhat similar to what Harry was trying to do).

Teens and young adults are taking the messages that they want to share and creating engaging and interesting ways to engage the audience in the issues that matter to them.  Another interesting view that Jenkins addressed was their use of mix/remix skills to voice their political activist commentary.

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Also, using their connections with popular culture to engage even more attention to their cause.

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The TED talk really helped to bring things into perspective for me, as to the necessity for our commitment as teachers to help teach students the skills that they will need to be a part of this new way of communicating with the world.  I think that in many ways we have to be willing to venture down paths that we might yet not know the outcomes of, however we have to be okay with figuring things out as we go, because if we wait to make sure we have thought and rethought the consequences or the impact, we have to know that our kids won’t.  So better to guide them and learn along side with them rather than let them wonder with out guidance.  The last clip in the TED talk really helps us realize that we can’t simply try to remove these spaces from the school in the hopes of it going away.  With great power as teachers, comes great responsibility as well to embrace what the future holds.

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