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.
Ok, so the progress of our hashtag is coming along. I guess I had a little bit of a romanticized view of how many followers we would be reining in from Twitter. It also might have been a little presumptuous to think that the kids would embrace the use of hashtags. In all honestly, I don’t really use hashtags all that often beyond the purpose of the tweet I’m sending anyway. I am satisfied though with the skills that they are demonstrating regularly with the hashtag posts from the Twitter Matrix. Below are a few examples of that.
This week for class I was reading a few articles about Twitter and it got me thinking about what was missing from my major digital project. I wasn’t really sure at the beginning how we would engage others through the hashtag, but even between the two classes I am trying this with I don’t feel like there is much engagement and connecting with one another. So for the second half of the project I have decided to make some changes to what I had asked of the students to see if that would perpetuate a little more connecting.
Every Social Studies class I begin with current events. I ask the students to share a story that is of interest to them from the news and then they can present it to the class and ask a question that will lead to discussion. We have been doing this since the beginning of the year, so most have it down in terms of information and how to ask engaging questions. I think I will ask students to do their research for new articles at the beginning of class and then post a tweet with a link to the story of others to read. Then instead of responding as a class we will hold the discussion surrounding the story online in the Twitter feed. At the very least I think this will help them get over that initial hump of responding and leaving a reply. But I also hope that they can interact with what is being posted to the feed a little more. That way I hope that we will see a little more connecting to what is posted, rather than the feed simply being a list of things that people have done. We will see how it goes…
Here is a quick update on the Twitter Matrix that the students got earlier this week. I was surprised that a few of them jumped right in and started posting things off of their matrix even the day that it was handed out.
This was the first post from the Matrix. It helped me to realize a few things. First of all that we needed to have a conversation about the effort involved in the activities that were involved. Granted this post didn’t require a lot of effort, however I realized nor does following a few different news feeds. I guess the difference comes in student familiarity of Twitter. So I bought Lauryn a doughnut and used it as a teachable moment for everyone else to learn from as they started to post.
The next few that started to come in, had a little more sustanice, so I did highlight them with the classes. I wanted them to brainstorm what makes some tweets more engaging than others. I used the next example as a talking point.
In the next post as an example we used it to talk about the story that the student was referring to, but then talked about how a link to the story would be more helpful than just a picture of the story.
After a great discussion on these few minor fix-ups wanted to give them some time to add a few more posts and then build up the feed. We also talked more about how to engage our audience a little bit better with a discussion on hashtags again, reminding them that they can include them in their posts.
Definitely by the end of the first few weeks posts were improving and the quality of what they were putting out there had increased. However, in spite of a few pointed invites, we had not had anyone outside of our class use the hashtag 😦
As a component of the Digital Citizenship lessons that Eden and I were teaching together, they had a cumulative activity where the students were asked to think about the impact of a “digital footprint” to someones life. They drew from personal experiences and online research to share images and present their findings.
I think that the presentations that they came up with were very reflective of what we presented to them. The majority of the presentations seemed to be centrally focused around the dangers of creating or leaving a bad digital footprint, which upon reflection was the central focus of our teaching. If/when I have things to do over again, I think I would spend more time looking for positive examples of how to create a digital footprint that could help contribute to ones future aspirations, rather than simply inform them of what “not to do.” I know by nature it is a lot easier to focus on the areas that we feel are risky than to actually focus on the positive, but in all honestly it is the negative aspects that scare us the most.
In an article found in Educational Leadership, called “Digitally Speaking, Positive Digital Footprints,” outlines, ” Schools—caught up in sensational stories about cyberbullying, sexting, and Internet predation—spend an incredible amount of time trying to frighten digital kids. Although some students are at risk because of careless choices—openly talking about sex in digital forums, posting inappropriate pictures of themselves or their friends to the Web, or failing to act when confronted with dangerous situations in social media spaces—those risks are often poorly understood by teachers, who receive little training about how to effectively introduce Internet safety and new media literacies to students.”
However, while that was generally the focus, there were aspects of the presentations that seemed to address the fact that they did understand that a positive digital footprint would be beneficial to their futures. The article also talked about as teachers some postive ways for us to help students build on their positive digital footprint. Many of the tasks outlined in the Twitter Matrix I created could contribute to helping student create a digital footprint. Below are a list of other suggestions by the article of ways to help students build a positive digital footprint.
- Take a tiered approach. Poke through the Youth Safety on a Living Internet (2010) report, and you’ll find that living online can be risky. Committing verbal and sexual harassment—as well as drifting into potentially unsafe interactions with unknown adults—is easier from behind a keyboard. But too many Internet safety programs commonly used in schools assume that all students are at equal risk in digital spaces. The truth is that students who engage in risky behaviors offline are more likely to engage in risky behaviors online.
Responsible Internet safety programs are tiered: Although all students receive basic training about responsible online behaviors, students who—because of psychosocial factors—are at higher risk in online spaces receive more targeted instruction. As the authors of the Youth Safety report explain, one-size-fits-all approaches to Internet safety are “analogous to inoculating the entire population for a rare disease that most people are very unlikely to get, while at the same time failing to inoculate the population that’s most at risk” (p. 18).
- Help students build positive digital footprints. Whether they’re working to raise awareness of the genocide in Darfur—a project that George Mayo’s students tackled (http://stopgenocide.wikispaces.com)—or doing a good deed every day for a month and sharing about it online—an initiative that 10-year-old Laura Stockman started to honor her grandfather’s life (http://twentyfivedays.wordpress.com)—today’s teens and tweens can come together electronically to learn about and act on issues that matter.
Students who see digital tools as vehicles for collective action around ideas they believe in are less likely to engage in risky behaviors online because they see social media spaces as forums for learning first and entertainment second. More important, students who see social media spaces as forums for learning begin to paint complex digital portraits of themselves by networking with like-minded peers, joining groups committed to studying topics of deep personal interest to them, and creating products that are an accurate expression of who they are and what they believe in.
Whether we’re comfortable with it or not, digital footprints—which Richardson defines as “online portfolios of who we are, what we do, and by association, what we know”—are an inevitable by-product of life in a connected world. Instead of teaching students to be afraid of what others can learn about them online, let’s teach them how digital footprints can quickly connect them to the individuals, ideas, and opportunities that they care most about.
This week a few of my colleagues and myself attended the Saskatchewan Middle Years Conference in Saskatoon. This year there was a presentation by Dave Burgess who is the author of “Teach Like a Pirate.”
This was a great opportunity to get some exposure for our hashtag #iam2yng2vote. It was also a great place to do some Tweeting with fellow colleagues. There were a few sessions that gave us the opportunity to share some of the things that we were doing in our classroom. I brought up my major digital project. I even when so far as to call it a shameless plug! While we did get a lot of other classrooms following us (classroom Twitter account) @BESGr8 we did not get a lot of people contributing to the hashtag 😦 sadly. I talked about contributing if you has a classroom were doing something regarding good citizenship behaviors or making a positive impact on our community and beyond. I thought that because it was a middle years group, a lot of social studies content centers around these topics and really any contribution from someone outside of our school would be welcome.
Here is an update on my major digital project. Today I created and handed out the major component to my project. I have created a Twitter Matix for the students to complete on Twitter. The primary focus of my project is for students to engage in aspects of what it means to be a good citizen and to share with the Twitter world that even though they are only middle- schoolers they can still engage in the responsibilities of a citizen. On the matrix I wanted students to first of all build some Twitter knowledge and add to their feeds a wider range of topics that they could engage with throughout the process. So I had them do different elements of posting and re-posting of news stories that pertain to rights and responsibilities all citizens have. I also wanted there to be some aspects that got them out into the community.
That being said I wanted to take some time and review with them from our Digital Citizenship mini-unit that Eden and I taught the rules that we would ask them to follow to help set some guidelines for them to think of before they posted. We also did a refresher of what a good digital citizen looks like in their posts and in the ways that they would respond and engage others in the class on Twitter. We started with a review of the “Golden Rule” of participation online.
And then tried to hit a few of the specifics that they might run into while completing the matrix.
And lastly wanted to remind them of some of the ways that they could connect with us.
At the end of the class we were excited to see them start to explore a little more of the Twitter community and ensured that they were able/knew how to post and reply.
With the election right drawing very near, I wanted to get the first Twitter assignment up and running so that the students could feel like a part of the action. First though we need to create a hashtag that the students could use so that all of their hard work could be found by me as we go through the process of using Twitter. I decided that coming up with a good hashtag is quite challenging, so I toyed around with a few and finally decided that I needed help. So in talking with a few students the classroom hashtag was born.
Was born out of the idea that I wanted the feed to look at ways that kids matter and can make a difference even though they are too young to vote.
The first assignment then is for the students to help remind their parents to take part in one of the most important jobs as citizens, and that is to vote. They were to post on how they reminded them or how they might have helped them in making their decision about voting. Some also spent time finding out where their polling station was, and asking grandparents etc. if they had rides to get there. In social they had spent time talking about all of the barriers to voting that people faced and so some tried to post about how they had addressed those barriers.
Part of helping the students engage with the hashtag, I posted several stories and updates to the election prior to vote day. Many of them had only started with me in there feeds, so unless I posted more things from the classroom account, they were pretty limited to what they say on their feed. I also suggested they follow a couple of great hashtags such as @studentvote, and @civix_canada. As well as any news sights etc. that they might be following.
In the end, I feel like this was a good first attempt. We talked about how some of the tweets could have been longer. Because we have only a few characters, we should still try to use all that we have to give more detail. We also talked about making sure we were not sharing too much info. It was really great to connect over twitter with all of the schools around the country that had already participated in Student Vote. I think it was worthwhile that students started to realize that it was more then just them and enjoyed seeing pictures from other schools around the country that also participated.