Author Archives: Tayler Cameron

Sharing for Growth

In my opinion of the advancements in education, technology and many important areas have to do with sharing.  In fact, when I think about the advancements I have made in my career, I can relate almost everything I have ever learned to the concept of sharing and open communication with others. This isn’t limited to the sharing of lesson resources alone – but on a larger scale that includes the sharing of ideas, feedback, problem solving and open communication with friends, colleagues and and other grad students.

Steve Johnson’s Ted Talk titled,  Where Good Ideas Come From speaks to the importance of collaborating with others and sharing ideas. He draws attention to the importance of not only sharing good ideas, but how sometimes talking about problems or what my kids and I call in the classroom “speed bumps” can often lead to new and noteworthy ideas or innovations.

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I believe a popular misconception, at least for me, is that often a good idea is a sudden light bulb reaction that happens out of nowhere, or so it seems. However, Johnson’s Ted Talk addresses the fact that often good ideas are built over long periods of time. Johnson had me thinking about the push companies like Google make for employees to have 20% release time from their regular duties just for to focus on generating new ideas. It’s an interesting concept but one I can really see the value in. When I think about my own workday, I am so stressed for time and literally make too many minute by minute decisions to think about much else. That is why I can really appreciate the common prep time given aside from teaching to share, discuss new teaching resources and problem solve with other grade alike teachers within my school. It’s not google – but I always walk away learning something new from someone else.

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Image via Personal Outcomes Collaboration

This common prep time set aside regular work, or even regular prep times is built with sharing and collaboration in mind. We often share and develop new teaching projects, ideas, problem solve or share interesting PD resources with one another. We may be in a different category then Google, however this time does benefit my learning as an employee and as a result has an impact on my performance which is in turn good for my employer. A key factor in creating a culture of sharing between educators is providing time and opportunity within the school day to do so and exploring online avenues to explore PD opportunities, including developing your PLN (Professional Learning Network) outside of the school day using tools like Twitter.

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Image via 30daybooks

However, many teachers are very reserved when it comes to sharing  – many who do not share at all – at least in front of an audience. Non-sharing, in my opinion, limits one’s growth and creates a culture of non-collaboration. Why do some people believe not sharing is best for them? Perhaps it’s not an issue of believing what’s best for them, but rather a fear of being ridiculed or judged for their work or ideas. Is it merely an issue of self-confidence? I was once guilty of not sharing my ideas in front of others unless I was literally asked or absolutely had to. I was always open to sharing my resources and what I knew, but avoided being put on the spot in a large meeting to “share” at all costs. As Marley mentions, “There is no need to reinvent the wheel” but rather lets build upon what we already know and whats already out there to take our work to the next level. I preferred to blend into the crowd until a mentor of mine began to highlight my skills and strengths and encourage me to share what I’m doing in the classroom with other teachers. For me, it was the fear of what others thought. What if others don’t agree or like what I have to say? With age, this notion of “What will others think?” became less and less important and my thinking shifting towards the importance of sharing from others. If I could help just one teacher by sharing what I am already doing in the classroom was more meaningful to me then worrying about what others would think.

I think confidence in one’s self is a key issue regarding one’s level of comfort in sharing. Also the more one seeks information to learn, the more like they are to establish a similar sharing attitude. When I began teaching several years ago, I was so grateful for new information, ideas and resources that were shared with me – both by colleagues I

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Image via Teaching Culture

knew, and strangers online from different education resource platforms. The more things I “borrowed” from others, the more obligated I felt to share what I had with other teachers who are looking to learn about a certain subject or needed help. I was much more willing to make suggestions based on what has been shared with me when I noticed a colleague struggling with the same issues I may have already experienced before them. I think of this as my “duty to share” and given the amount of great ideas that have been shared with me, it is my duty to pass them along to others. As Amy so nicely put it in her most recent blog post that “A big part of openness is being adaptable” and I think this is so true. We must be willing to be flexible in our thinking and actions as we learn and grow. I believe that in order for that to happen there needs to be a willingness to accept new ideas and in turn share with others.  A culture of sharing is just so critical to developing in our profession.

Speaking of the culture of sharing, as leaders within the school I think sharing is a big part of building your team up and highlighting the strengths of others within the school. Not only does Parkland School Division’s website titled 184 Day of Learning highlights the great work of teachers, but they are also sharing ideas of what quality teaching with their employees. Whether it was their main goal or not – this website makes learning visible and but it always demonstrates the value they place on creating a culture of sharing.

Heather Duncan’s Ted Talk makes reference to the need so “share our secrets” as teachers with others. Within the day, it can feel isolating within our classroom and the need for collaboration and sharing is more important than ever. She emphasizes the need to “break out of our comfort zones” and initiate these conversations with students within our grade groups and then venturing further to meet other teachers.

I enjoyed Christina’s most recent blog post which stressed the importance of focusing in on the basic needs of the student and collaborating with an entire team to ensure the individual student succeeds not only in academics but also in terms of social growth and having their basic needs met. So often I think of sharing in terms of resources for academics, when often the need for sharing entails a holistic approach that addresses the whole child. I spoke about many in-house “key players” in collaboration and appreciate Christina’s reminder about the outside agencies that are often needed to provide proper supports with students – it truly does take a village to raise a child.

Until Next Time!
Tayler


The Amazing World of Open Education Resources

Last week the course content and my blog post led me in the direction of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) and my mind was pretty blown. I’ve heard people talk about these online courses but it wasn’t until I started looking deeper into the countless options available that it really struck me – WOW this is SO cool!

This week I explored TEDEd and Open Learn and I’m here to offer you my personal realizations, reactions and most importantly evaluation of these sites/resources.

First up to the plate..

TEDEd
Although I have heard of TED-ed and watched the odd video that pops up on my FB News Feed, I have never truly taken advantage of the site itself or used it for my own classroom. I was instantly drawn into the engaging setup which allows you to visually “preview” the videos. The wide range of topics had me instantly excited as I could see this being a solid “go to” site for educational resources and short video clips to either introduce or review curriculum content.

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Although the videos were of extremely interesting topics and fun facts, I found it difficult to find content that directly related to the outcomes I’m working with. This isn’t to say this site doesn’t offer anything of value – it truly does. But perhaps it doesn’t fully align with outcomes in the way I had hoped for and I need to adjust my view of this sites purpose. Will I be able to consistently find a video to support my lesson specific to a certain strategy or content?  Maybe not. But will I be able to find an engaging video to stimulate discussion within my classroom? Absolutely!

I was instantly excited about the well organized theme menu along the left hand side (Health, Literature, Mathematics, Science and Technology etc.). I used the search bar to locate different learning topics “rocks and minerals” or “Agriculture” but didn’t have much luck finding content related to learning outcomes.

All in all, I think this is a good site filled with quality educational videos. Each video is designed with a lesson and offers a “Watch, Think, Dig Deeper, Discuss” links that provide interesting discussion questions and prompts for teachers to use and to support this video portion of the resource.

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Image via Traffic Challan

Pros: 
Fun, engaging, quality videos on a variety of interesting topics
Great conversation starters and videos to facilitate student discussions
Easy to use menus and toolbar
Easy to navigate – filters to access age appropriate videos
Flipped classroom resources

Cons: 
Challenge to find content that relates to curriculum topics
Wide range of topics result in narrow focus rather than deep learning

Next up…
Open Learn

Open Learn is Moodle based learning resource through the UK’s Open University. 

One of the pro’s of Open Learn is the easy to use user interface and of course the free content which includes over 1000 courses. The site is easy to navigate with menus that allow you to access a wealth of different courses. I wanted to get a grasp of what this site could offer me as an educator. Clicking on “Education and Development” I am was impressed with the variety of courses I could explore for free in terms of professional development. I’ve attached a list (although it’s not a complete list) of some of the topics offered within the Education category alone.

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Image via Open Learn
Another benefit of open education is quick and cost effective way to access information as opposed to the using textbooks which quickly become outdated. “Open Learn allows users to download, modify, translate and adapt to their culture to the material to enhance its usefulness. They provide the opportunity for people to work together to co-modify, co-produce, test and co-produce again, retesting derivative material which generates a cycle of rapid continuous improvement. Using technology Open Educational Resources aim to remove access barriers to knowledge and educational opportunities around the world.” (Wikipedia, 2017) The idea of collaboration and sharing is strong in the world of open education.

Open learn allows you to choose differing levels of courses from introductory to advanced and provides a multitude of different course lengths from 4 hours to 100 hours depending on the course you take.

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Image via Open Learn

I think this is a great resource for anyone who wants to grow in a specific skill and develop themselves personally and professionally. I feel like this is a quality resource and was unable to find many flaws or cons towards this site or it’s content. One question that comes to mind is how content relates to us in Canada. Does being based in the UK impact the content for me personally? I tried to find the answer for myself, and being it is an Open Ed site there are many wide open courses however in the area of business some courses are specific to to certain locations – for example “Why are Public Companies Vanishing in America?”  Would it be somewhat difficult to find Canadian content?

After a quick search in the Open Learn search bar, I was quickly directed to a large amount of courses that touch on information about Canada across many subject areas. Clearly availability of Canadian content is not an issue in  the UK originated Open Learn platform.

Pros:
– Large variety of topics and courses to choose from
-Easy to use interface
– Options to connect with other users and ask questions in a comment field within the course
– Courses available computer, mobile phone or tablet
– Easy to understand Copy Right Info (See image below)

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The free content in which Open Learn owns copyright is available to use under the
Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike’ .  Open learn tries to release to as much information as they can under an open license as cost is usually the most common barrier for those seeking higher education.  Open Learn  also created a sister website called OpenLearn Create which allows users to take Open Learns content and ” rework it or adapt it for your own use and then contribute it back into the OpenLearn community by placing it in OpenLearn Create.” (Open Learn FAQ’s). Open Learn is a neat resource to keep in mind regardless of your profession. I believe with the wide range of courses available, the only problem you may have is narrowing your choices down to one course!

Until next time!
Tayler


Open Education. Open Doors.

Open access.
Open resources.
Open textbooks.
Open Education…. Opens Doors
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The concept of open education is powerful one. It allows for everyone to access a wealth of information anywhere, at any time, for free. Education and knowledge is at the tip of our fingers should we chose to utilize it. As I consider how “Open” open education is, the opportunities are endless for those who are literate, and can access readings, or videos online through technology. This however is not everyone but it certainly opens the doors of opportunity for many people all around the globe.

My brother, like many people, take advantage of the many free courses offered by universities online. It’s so great to be able to develop our interests and passions so easily using technology.  I have never explored the endless topics delivered by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) available until this week’s class readings and it left me nearly speechless. WOW! “MOOCs provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale” (mooc.org)  There is literally a course for any interest or passion from architecture to earth sciences, including everything in between – electronics, medicine, law – you name it!

 

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“The MOOC is an indicator of how important it is for people to connect with each other as part of their learning experience. And what I hope it’s doing also is validating informal learning and changing what we think life long learning is about.” -Amy Collier (Directory of Digital Learning Initiatives at Stanford University).
The idea of remixing content has become to intertwined within today’s culture. You can literally find a remix of anything! Growing up I constantly searched for “mash-ups” of my favorite songs – taking two or more different things and turning them into something new. Imagine your favorite song mashed with your other favorite song – genius! But what are the repercussions of this remix culture. Is a remix considered copying.  Dean Shareski’s opening keynote for the 2010 K-12 online conference is built around the fact that education is built on sharing. Prior to the internet sharing outside the walls of your own school was difficult to do unless you presented at a conference or staff meeting or shared a resource you made with a friend. Today is a different world in terms of sharing information. I agree with Dean that some teachers are very protective of their work, but the more one is open to collaboration the more we learn and grow and the stronger the outcome.  Dean says “We all seek recognition for our contributions but the moment we focus on protecting our work, we are in some ways the antithesis of a teacher.”

As teachers, when considering whether or not to share in these open spaces, Dean challenges us to embrace a culture of sharing and consider the following questions:

  • Is this an obligation?
  • Does my institution see value in sharing?
  • How will it help my students?

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In the video Everything is a Remix Remastered Kirby Ferguson claims…

We can make our novel ideas more accessible, more understandable and perhaps more impactful by copying familiar elements. We can make familiar ideas more fresh, exciting and surprising by extensively remixing from diverse sources. If you can create that perfect hybrid of the new and the old the results and be explosive.

 

Open education has transformed the way we seek information, collaborate with others and learn. The days of purchasing textbooks of out of date information is thankfully behind us. The amount of free information, resources and collective learning, sharing and collaboration is endless and has completely changed formal and informal learning.

Open Ed – It’s a thumbs up!

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Until next time!
Ms. C


Digital Citizen Or Just Citizens?

Vicki Davis’ blog titled What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship introduced me to Anne Collier and her perspective on dropping the word “digital” from digital citizenship. Don’t you love technology – with each article I read, I’m instantly connected to other recommended readings and arguments. Anne really got me thinking this week about what it means to be a digital citizen. Anne argues that we should drop the word digital because what we are really teaching is citizenship – “The skills and knowledge that students need to navigate the world today”. 

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Reflecting on my learning project, implementing Twitter in the classroom and attempting to “do digital citizenship teaching justice” by really focusing into this year. In past years we have discussed digital citizenship and as we use technology I address different things such as passwords, privacy, personal information on a need to know basis as things came up. This year, I want to teach this consistently on a weekly basis, being proactive about it and dig deeper. It seems silly that I waited until I had a lesson that applied to the topic of digital citizenship when the information is likely just as, if not more valuable to students  “right now” as they are going home from school and using technology in a variety of ways anyway. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but sometimes the pressure of the amount of content I’m required to teach becomes overwhelming and content like digital citizenship has been taught in inconsistent bits and pieces.
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My Top Resource Findings of the Week!
1. Need Help Now

2. Media Smarts: How Cyber-Savy Are You Quiz?

3.13 Apps/Games for Internet Safety Awareness

 

 

 

#Change the Story
This week I found a great recourse called Need Help Now which offers support to teens who have been negatively impacted by self-peer exploitation. This was a very insightful site that offers tons of resources, support, and information. The #ChangeTheStory campaign is about empowering teens to take control of their own narrative and how their story is being told.

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Since my learning project has sparked so many conversation about social media use in our classroom it was only fitting to run with it for Halloween! I teamed up with my intern Jessica and our EA Andrea to be Social Butterflies.

For the upcoming week I will continue to teach digital citizenship lessons – wrapping up “The Key to Key Words” and begin to share about how to show respect other people’s work.

The school days fly by and I haven’t always been consistent with my classroom Tweets but I continue to make progress each week in my teaching, having deeper conversations, finding new resources or interesting articles about digital citizenship and taking notice of how other teachers are using Twitter in the classroom.

Over and Out!
Tayler


Information Overload & Project Progress

I will admit, with every article I read I feel fairly overwhelmed at this point. There are so many avenues to share and connect with not only parents, other classrooms, authors -you name it – that it is impossible to predict where this project will take us. I’m a little OCD and am very clearly a type A planner so not having a solid road map is a bit terrifying. I do look forward to exploring with my kiddo’s and evolve as a teacher in the digital age. Perhaps now that I’ve moved up to grade 4/5 this project takes on more meaning as the percentage of students who do use social media after school increases significantly. During a conversation with my class today we did a quick poll of the social media apps my students are using and nearly all hands went up for apps like Instagram and Snapchat – Facebook wasn’t far behind.

apps pic for blogI was a pretty shocked. I expected a few hands to go up but not every hand. I quickly can see my Twitter learning project to branch off into another teaching area – implementing a digital citizenship curriculum alongside our use of Twitter within the classroom. The two go hand in hand and make complete sense – although I didn’t expect my project to take me in this direction initially.

Right now I’m battling the pressure (and slight intimidation) of how many amazing ways there are to bring Twitter in the Classroom, yet I want it to be authentic and connect to our learning at the same time. It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves but I want my students to clearly understand what Twitter is, it’s purpose, how to use it – essentially spread the word about everything I have learned up until this point.

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Accomplishments Update:

  • We “toured” Twitter together as a class
  • Learning Twitter Terminology  – retweet, hashtags (and their purpose) etc.
  • Followed other classrooms and people who will add to our learning experience.
  • Shared our favorite learning moments to our families – ongoing
  • Taught lessons on Private and Personal Information, The Power of Words and Rings of Responsibilities 
  • Introduced our “Classroom Twitter Feed” – A practice tweet station on the white board where students can develop tweets. As a class we revisit them and edit and necessary and tweet them out on the projector.
  • Connected with other SK Classrooms

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Here is a picture of our “Practice” Twitter Feed. Clearly we need to develop our use of hashtags and punctuation – but one step at a time…

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I’ve been using my personal Twitter account to seek advice about my project.

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Essential Questions Explored:

  • What kinds of responsibilities does a good digital citizen have?
  • How can you protect yourself from online identity theft? What should you do when someone uses mean or scary language on the internet.

    Next Week:

  • Continue with Digital Citizenship Lessons
    • The Key to Key Words – Which keywords will give you the best search results
    • Whose is it Anyway? – How can I show respect for people’s work
  • Establish a routine to do the Tweet of the Day
  • Continue to explore ways to use Twitter
  • Continue to explore digital citizenship resources

 


Social Justice in the Online World

Social activism or social slacktivism?

The burning question this week (drum roll please)…

Can online social activism be meaning and worthwhile? 

I think the short answer is yes! Of course. There are meaningful examples of social activism online however I do feel this can quickly become overshadowed by social slacktivism which is becoming more and more visible on my own social feeds now that I’m more aware of armchair activism and tuning in.

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Image via Google Definition

Take the #bringbackourgirls movement for example. Maclean’s article “The Problem with Slacktivism” argues the #BringBackOurGirls campaign is the” latest disgrace from slacktivists, those who support good causes by doing very little, and achieving even less.

A slacktivist is someone who believes it is more important to be seen to heImage result for bring back our girlslp than to actually help.”  It’s become very common to simply comment or share a post of a genuine cause and believe we are helping when in reality it is achieving nothing but a trending hashtag. Is tweeting out a particular hashtag really going to help the cause? The Maclean’s article makes the point that if people really wanted to help, they would simply donate instead of pinning a pink ribbon to their jacket, or not shaving their face in the month of November, claiming “These things are not the talismans of empathetic supporters. They are proof that you care more about yourself than
Image via mirror                                    the cause.”
This leads me to question how many people draw attention to themselves during the Movember campaign or the Ice Bucket Challenge actually fail to donate to the cause, while gaining the positive attention they are looking for.

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Image via @ROSAPRINCEUK

To counteract this, I do believe in many of these causes that go viral and explode on social media draw an impressive amount of attention and awareness, and as a result of the buzz generate more donations than they perhaps would have without the use of social media and doesn’t that account for something?

And then there is opposite side of the spectrum – people who demonstrate fear of judgement for sharing their opinion on hot topic issues and social justice causes. This is something many teachers can relate to in the fear of judgement from parents and most often their employer. Katia Hildebrant makes a compelling argument on her blog post that  “In Online Spaces, Silent Speaks as Loudly as Words”

What message do we send when we say nothing at all?  Katia explains “If we are online, as educators, and we remain silent about issues of social justice, if we tweet only about educational resources and not about the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in Canada, or about the burning of Black churches in the southern United States, we are sending a clear message: These issues are not important.”

Katia’s argument made rethink my own use of social media and social justice issues. Although I visit my social media feeds often to check the news and occasionally share special events to stay connected to friends and family, I seldom use it as a tool for social activism.  Could I be doing more? Clearly the answers is yes.  Although I will sometimes share a post outlining a cause I believe in, I very rarely involve myself in political posts and discussions. But why? Was I worried about whether people would disagree or judge? I’m not sure – I think partially yes. There is an aspect of fear of judgement. I haven’t made the choice to use social media in this way.Image result for don't speak monkey I could relate to blogger Debs post Why I’m Scared to Express my Opinion Online who commented on the “barrage” of tweet replies a friend received after voicing her opinion online. Although I’ve never experienced this barrage, I often choose not to comment to avoid it. She speaks about avoiding the Twitter drama, which is something I feel holds me back from posting my opinion. I don’t want to get caught up in an online battle and it seems as though people love getting into these heated online debates that really aren’t my personality or style. Do I need to become braver? Do these online battles of opinion make a difference?

Katia’s post made me consider my privilege, along with the responsibilities I have as an educator to model active digital citizenship online. In our second reading from Katia’s blog posts titled “What Kind of Digital Citizen?” was an informative read for me, particularly reading into  Joel Westheimer’s framework about “Kinds of Citizens”. as I immediately thought of my learning project which combines social media use in the classroom using a classroom Twitter account and implementing a digital citizenship curriculum.  I do believe we have a responsibility to teach students how to be responsible citizens and move them along the continuum of being a “Personally Responsible Citizen” who volunteers to someone who advocates organizes, and seeks answers to areas of injustice.


Image via Westheimer’Article as cited by Katia Hildebrandt

Right now, my project is focused on issues such as “The Power of Words” online and more basic, yet still important, aspects of technology use. I think it’s important to remember that students don’t have to stay in this “box” of general citizenship and to think outside the box in terms of also teaching more justice driven citizens.  I think I model digital citizenship but in terms of social activism in an online space, I’m not sure I’m there yet and to be honest I’m not exactly sure how to model this well.

Parting Thoughts & questions
I believe all teachers should share responsibility as educators to provide experiences for students to explore issues of injustice and ways we can help both online and offline. This should happen across all grades so once these students have a foundation of citizenship they can continue to build on this and push outside the box of a personally responsible citizen towards becoming “Justice Oriented”  leaders in the community. This is an exciting prospect and I would like to see some examples of how classrooms and teachers are doing this.

Do you keep your opinions to yourself or are you an open book online?

How do you model social activism in the digital world? 


Social Media for Change?

Now I’m not one to be a Debbie Downer, however I feel as though my last post focused on the negative issues surrounding social media. I addressed a lot of my concerns regarding social media in the classroom including issues of privacy, and cyber safety just to name a few. But overall, I’m much more drawn to the positive aspects social media has to offer. This week, I chose to counteract the negative and dig into the positive aspects of social media and how it can be used in  ways – and in some cases make a very positive impact on our world! There’s pro’s and con’s to everything and just as social media is capable of doing a lot of damage when not careful, it is also capable of helping those in need and spreading a whole lot of love, happiness and positive vibes.  Today – let’s focus on the GOOD!

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Response to Natural Disasters

Not only does social media provide immediate information when it comes to natural disasters but it significantly contributes to disaster relief – anything from raising money to locating survivors.

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Image via Trendhunter

Heather Lessen  explains the use of digital responders during disasster response. She states “Digital responders can immediately log on when news breaks about a natural disaster or human-created catastrophe. Individuals and teams are activated based on skill sets of volunteer and technical communities. These digital responders use their time and technical skills, as well as their personal networks in an attempt to help mitigate information overload for formal humanitarian aid in the field. These digital humanitarians will help close the gap in worldwide disaster response.”  Aside from the importance of digital responders, think of how quickly word can spread about world disasters today compared to 30 years ago.

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Image via Trendhunter

Healthcare and Public Health

Social media has helped many people suffering from the same condition seek support, ask questions, and connect with others experiencing the same condition. Yes, there is a flip side to this as we all have friends who rapidly self diagnose using Web MD and convince themselves that they only have days to live. There is of course the positive side which allows instantaneous information to medical information at the quick of a button. “28% of health-related conversations on Facebook are supporting health-related causes, followed by 27% of people commenting about health experiences or updates.” (source: Infographics Archive). Don’t even get me started on the positive aspects of fitness and healthy lifestyle apps! Amazing!

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Image via National Prevention Information Network

Check out this link here for “24 Outstanding Statistics and Figures On How Social Media Has Impacted the Health Care Industry”. Interesting read!

Platform for Change

Remember the ice bucket challenge? This phenomenon was likely the most obvious but impressive example of how social media can make a positive impact! “More than 17 million people [in 2014] uploaded their challenge videos to Facebook … watched by 440 million people a total of 10 billion times. It is now an annual event to raise awareness and funds to find treatments and a cure. By the end of September 2014, ALSA had received an incredible $115 million from IBC donators—in less than 60 days. This represented an increase of over 3,500% in funds raised over the same two-month period in 2013, equal to 375% of its annual revenue for the previous fiscal year. It consisted mostly of small donations (but with some ranging up to $200,000) and came from over 3 million donors, over 2/3 of whom were new. According to ALSA, more than $220 million was ” (CPAJournal). Don’t forget the hours of entertainment in blooper and Celebrity Ice Bucket Challenges videos.

Building Empathy

I really enjoyed reaBell-Lets-Talk-003-001blogpic.jpgding Dani’s post about many other positive aspects to social media. On her most recent blog post, she “celebrates and acknowledge the amazing work of organizations like Kids Help Phone or Bell Let’s Talk for opening the conversations about how important self care, understanding and empathy are, and for being Image via The Brock Press                  there to support youth and adults in our province.”                                                                      Social media widely contributes to the awareness of                                                                    these support for teens.
It seems as though everything has it’s pro’s and con’s and social media is no different. However, it did feel good to read about such great, powerful things happening around the world thanks to something that often gets a bad rap such as social media outlets. I think social media can have the power to transform many situations and the possibilities are difficult to imagine!

What are some of your favorite examples of social media being used for positive change?


Teaching in the Digital Age


Hey there teachers, parents, students – people of the digital age! What an interesting time to take on the role of teacher – parent – or student because our world is advancing at such high speeds that one’s experiences today are hard to relate to even 10 years ago and I can only imagine it will also be wildly different even jut 10 years from now. We can’t look model the way we teach, parent or learn based exactly on our own childhoods or educational experiences in the exact same ways because the context in which we learn, play and experience life  has changed so much. This brings up some concerns about teaching in the digital age.

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It is almost an overwhelming question:
How do you teach children to succeed in a rapidly changing world and an uncertain future?

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When I think about this loaded question, I begin to think more and more about the importance of teaching transferable skills and can be adapted and applied to a wide variety of tasks and skills. In the Ted Talk titled “Knowledge is Obsolete, So Now What?, Michael Wesch claimed that “64% of school children will have jobs that don’t exist today”. Wow! It’s hard to even process that. It’s impossible to even know what kinds of careers we are meant to be preparing our children for if the chances are more favorable that they will have a job that doesn’t even exist, than a job we know of today. One of the biggest take away’s from Michael’s Ted Talk was when he said…
“Teach the application of knowledge, rather than knowledge itself.”
Most of my childhood education was spent studying and memorizing meaningless facts or pieces of information that I forget today. Although I feel there has been a shift away from this style of teaching, there are still students everywhere learning “google-able” facts.

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Image via Madan Neelapu

Should we be teaching information that can be answers by a simple google search?
blog pic 5Personally, if students are googling most of their information, I think it should almost be a requirement to teach students how to find accurate sources of information online and how to tell whether a source if fact or fiction. Many of my students, like many, are quick to believe everything they read online. Teaching how to filter through sources of information to find a reliable news source is in my opinion a critical step in helping children succeed in the digital age.

A second concern I have with educating children in the digital age is cyberbullying. Although technology can open the door for extended socialization and can make some students more comfortable to voice their opinion behind the “shield” of their phone or computer, it can also open the door for negative interactions to happen more freely. It shouldn’t be up to young students to navigate these issues alone. Having these discussions at home and school are really important. Mary Hertz, author of Edtopia’s article titled “How to Teach Cyber Safety to Younger Elementary Students” states “With children spending time online at younger and younger ages, it’s vital we explicitly teach young children how to protect themselves online.”  I can remember learning about talking to strangers as a young student, however, now we are having the same conversations about privacy and stranger danger in the online world.
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As part of my learning project which involves using Twitter in the classroom, I’m using the K-12 Common Sense K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum to overcome many of my concerns with cyber safety. If you haven’t checked out the Common Sense Digital Citizenship Curriculum, I highly suggest you do as it is a very well laid out, easy to use curriculum complete with specific lessons and units for every grade level!

The curriculum is designed to empower students to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our digital world. From lesson plans, videos, student interactives, and assessments, to professional learning and family outreach materials, our turnkey Curriculum provides schools with everything they need to take a whole-community approach to digital citizenship”

What are you’re main concerns with teaching in the digital age & how do you plan to overcome these challenges?


Embracing Social Media in the Classroom

As technology continues to grow and develop, we have a choice in our personal and professional lives to embrace or resist it. Personally, I believe it’s easier for many to be resistant to change and remain doing things the same way one has always done. Although, what may be “Easy” isn’t always the right thing to do.  If we expect our students to be able to navigate the tech- savy world we live in today, we are doing a great injustice if we resist teaching about the complexities of social media and let students learn to navigate this on their own. Bringing twitter, blogging and other social media tools into the classroom can help model proper use and prevent many perhaps devastating or unsafe situations for our students in the future. Karen Lederer draws  attention to many common advantages and disadvantages of social media in the classroom.  Here is my take on it.

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Photo Credit: Say It Social

Giving students the opportunity to share their work within a larger community offers many advantages such as the ability to collaborate with others, engage learners and seek and provide feedback.  The enhanced level of communication between home and school is also a major advantage. Being connected within the classroom offers a window into the classroom that didn’t exist during my education. Many parents have commented that they feel more connected and enjoy seeing what their kids are doing each day through classroom twitter updates or Dojo “class stories” which are similar to Instagram stories except limited to a private audience.

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Unfortunately, not everything can be sweet as pie and social media within the classroom can have its struggles as well. However by being aware of the cons to social media in the classroom can prevent some future disasters when it comes down to issues of oversharing and internet safety.  I quite enjoyed Colleen’s reference to using the “Grandma Rule” when it comes to sharing online. She also cautions us to consider whether or not we would want our boss or future employer to see what we post. I completely agree with this as it is so important to “think before your post” and this is why I tend to keep my Twitter account as primarily a professional account. Even though I don’t share many political things to Facebook, I also tend to be very careful with my privacy settings to separate my personal life from parents and students as much as I can.  The article Oversharing: Why Do We Do It and How Do We Stop?  advises one to “Think or more specifically, think ahead” when it comes to sharing online.

Imagine the ripple effect of the piece of information you are about to share. Imagine your mother, children, partner/spouse, boss and any other relevant person knowing what you are about to divulge. Imagine meeting new people who posses the piece of information you are about to disclose. Think about that information in the public domain today, and think about it in the public domain decades from now. Still OK with it? Then wait, and think again. Time, consideration and reflection are the antidotes to oversharing, so take and use all three.

Many are also concerned about students misusing these tools and as a teacher myself, my main concern is whether the students are engaging in it effectively, or merely distracted by it. Another potential disadvantage is the amount of time it takes to teach these important skills – however my favorite back to motto is “Slow if Fast”. Taking the time out of the regular outcome driven day to teach routines, procedures and set expectations for technology use is really setting yourself up for a more successful outcome. Issues of privacy also continue to be a major concern and one as teachers we must be vigilant about. Check out this helpful guide from Common Sense Education for a thorough list of Do’s and Don’ts” regarding how to protect student privacy on social media. Another interesting issue that Kelsie speaks about on her most recent blog post includes additional issues of protection and who owns what is posted. I find this fascinating because although we as teachers are constantly creating and uploading resources, it is not very clearly stated (at least in my opinion) which resources belong to me, and which resources belong to my employer. I’m probably not the only educator out there who is also foggy on the details as to ownership. Have these clauses from your employer regarding ownership ever impact what you create/post and how you do this? For example the creation of Teachers Pay Teachers resources.

All in all, despite the many considerations when it comes to social media in the classroom, I definitely think the pro’s outweigh the cons. Taking the time to introduce students to it in a safe way that outlines expectations clearly can dissipate many of the initial fears towards using social media in the classroom. It’s hard to make the statement that social media is either worth using or not in the classroom as it so highly depends on how it is being used, the skills taught and gained and the value of the experience for students. It is not whether or not it should be used, but rather how it is being used.

Happy Blogging!

 

 


To Tweet or Not to Tweet…

Choosing a narrow focus for my major project has been a bit challenging. I’ve bounced between a creating a project rooted out of passion or purpose and have ultimately decided to integrate something I’ve wanted to do within the classroom for a while now – exploring using Twitter in the classroom.

The “runner up” project idea was exploring photography. However, I feel integrating Twitter into my classroom is a perfect learning opportunity to explore something that I’ve been putting on the back burner and often feel “too busy” to take the time outside of university & work to explore.  It helps to have the time dedicated towards reading and exploring carved out each week as part of this class and gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for Twitter may allow me to enhance my students learning experience and potentially result in my using this tool in my classroom in the years to come. To be honest, I’ve never completely “bought in” to the Twitter experience, but will admit I have yet to give it a solid chance.I want to explore Twitter, alongside my students, by reading, learning and playing around with different things without it feeling “forced”.  I want to feel more comfortable and confident navigating all of the possibilities Twitter affords. It’s time to stop putting it on the back burner and get started! The only way to learn is to try!

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Image via Denis Nguyen

One of the ongoing projects in my classroom involves finding a means of communicating with parents that really works. When I say really works, I mean engages the most amount of parents and keeps parents in the loop and involved in their child’s learning. For years I focused many hours each week on creating a weekly blog update. This blog included pictures, information, parent tips etc. This works well in some schools I’ve taught in, however my blog wasn’t receiving much traffic since moving to a community school. I knew I had to switch it up and try something different. This year I’ve decided to use class dojo as a main communication tool, and have created a classroom Twitter account that will replace my classroom blog. However, I don’t just want to use Twitter for parent communication, but rather spend some time learning how to use Twitter in different ways and for different purposes.

So many Inspiring Examples of Twitter in the Classroom!

Possible Avenues to Explore in my Major Project:
Tips for getting started
Teaching Digital Citizenship
Twitter Etiquette – Using Twitter in the classroom safely
Expand Learning Possibilities
Network & Collaborate beyond the classroom
Connect with Parents

If you have any suggestions for other key topics for me to dive into I’d love to hear them! Any feedback you may have is greatly appreciated!