Category Archives: #reflectivepractice

The Kids Are Confused!

“…there is a time and a place for tech – there are so many wonderful tools out there to stay connected to family members, to learn and grow, and to explore new concepts and ideas. But we need to make sure it doesn’t come at the expense of the blanket fort.” – Kid Complicated: Childhood Isn’t What It Used To Be

Photographer: Markus Spiske

As a kid growing up I feel like my life outside of school was pretty much a mirror for how things went at school. Things were pretty mainstreamed and many people followed a pretty similar pattern in their day-to-day lives. I remember ‘way back’ when you had to go to the store to buy groceries, get your photos printed – then physically go to a family gathering so everyone could see your pictures, the local newspaper took pictures at school/community events and printed them in the next weeks issue, you had to walk in to another room and pick up the phone to call someone, you checked the monthly calendar to see who was having a birthday that day and opened the fridge to see what was inside.

 

Photo Credit
Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/2Ho8jiV

Kids today are living life, outside of school, in a society that is completely consumed by technology and the rate at which that is increasing is exponential. You can order your groceries online and pick them up a few hours later without stepping foot in the store, be at a community event where your picture is snapped and be seen online in a matter of seconds – some call this news, check Facebook to ‘remember’ which family member or friend has a birthday today, pay for your child’s school hot lunch on your phone – never mind take your phone with you everywhere you go, pay all your bills online, print pictures, put them in ‘the cloud’ or AirDrop them to a friend, ask Siri to call someone for you and then get her to help you with your kids math homework!

So, if our society is being consumed by technology, what happens when technology isn’t present in today’s classrooms? Confused kids… that’s what happens!

Now before you go and hit that comment button to tell me that it can’t all be about technology all the time, check out my thoughts on balance from last weeks post – Meet Me In The Middle?.

Since we’ve got that out-of-the-way, let’s dig a little deeper into why I agree with Channing and wholeheartedly disagree with the debate topic from class this week: Openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids.

“…as is always the case with digital technologies, the affordances are not necessarily realized and learning is by no means guaranteed. After all, not all uses of social media are educational or of sufficient quality to contribute to knowledge building.” – Professional Online Presence and Learning Networks: Educating for Ethical Use of Social Media by Dianne Forbes

I’ve said it many times before but I believe that as teachers, it is our job to prepare our students for their future, by giving them the skills they will need to be productive members of society. These preparations have to be purposeful and not done on a whim. When I was a kid growing up in a small town Saskatchewan classroom, my teachers didn’t just hand out the papers to us and say figure it out. They gave us the tools for what we needed in order to understand and complete the task at hand. There were projects that we had to be worked on and problems to solve. Sound familiar? If you’re involved in education, I believe it should, as this is what teaching and learning look like.

Teaching and learning really are no different today. However, the options for creating learning opportunities are endless! The tools for learning, that we now have, are greater and more wide-reaching. When we know that social media can, as shared in Exploring the Potential Benefits of Using Social Media in Education, provide our students with opportunities to create, collaborate, communicate and engage in the learning process – why wouldn’t we teach them how to do that?

If we aren’t bringing technology into our classrooms, how are our students supposed to know how to navigate the world outside of school? They need opportunities to explore social media in a safe and guided environment so they can make informed decisions when they walk out of the school doors.

The question this week was whether or not it is unfair to openly share our students work and pictures online. I believe there are a few things we can do that ensure we are being fair to our students when sharing online:

  1. We need to have division-wide procedures in place that teachers can clearly access/understand and be able to follow.
  2. As a teacher  – get informed. Learn about your division’s policies and ask for clarification if you do not understand.
  3. Involve students and their families in the choice to post online and honour their personal preferences.
  4. Educate students and their families on how to appropriately and safely navigate the social media world

When we share without a purpose or specific intent, then we fall into the unfair category. Scott McLeod offers some insight into how school divisions, schools and families can approach the sharing of student photos. I feel it is important to mention that I think if we are sharing things without due process and specific intent, I think it is our teaching practices that we need to question, not whether the sharing is or is not fair.

 

Meet Me In The Middle?

“Long before there were schools as we know them, there was apprenticeship — learning how to do something by trying it under the guidance of one who knows how.” – ‘The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching’

This week in #eci830 my group was tasked with the challenge of presenting an argument that suggested schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled, our opponents argued the opposite. What was ironic about the debate was that both sides spent a fair amount of time talking about critical thinking skills.

In our opening statement, my group discussed the need for educators to understand that:

  1. Knowledge is changing at a rapid pace
  2. Schools need to prepare students for that change in knowledge
  3. Technology allows for efficiency

Channing explains each of our introductory arguments further in her post, Educating The Google Generation.

Whether someone felt they agreed or disagreed with the idea that schools should not be teaching things that can be googled before the debate, I think you’d have been hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t agree that critical thinking skills are vital to student future success, after the debate! So if critical thinking is so important, just what does that look like and what does it mean?

What I found most interesting about this video was that it really doesn’t matter where in the world you live, what language you speak or your life experiences – critical thinking skills are valuable!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/acidmidget/13910556505
Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/nceeP8

Every day we are bombarded with information all around us. Whether it is in a store, on a billboard, on social media, the radio or pretty much anywhere we go – there is something to be consumed.  As educators we have to ask ourselves, what are we doing to prepare our students for the overwhelming amount of information they are being exposed to? Though both groups in the debate disagreed in some areas, Kristen highlighted in her blog that we did agree on the idea that critical thinking is something students NEED to have an opportunity to practice.

So we then have to ask ourselves how are we providing our students with these opportunities? I believe that we need to change how we look at learning, as a whole, in order to truly prepare our youth for a world that we don’t yet fully understand. The skills students will need to be successful are not things that can be memorized or copied. Rather, they are abilities that these individuals will possess! I believe that when we give students the skills they need, to learn about the things they are passionate about, they will internalize (I like that word better than memorize) the information they need to be able to share their knowledge and passions.

If we truly want to provide opportunities for students to develop critical thinking skills I think there are a few changes we need to make in education. Often times while planning units and lessons I have found myself questioning some of the things in our Saskatchewan Curriculum. Not because I don’t think learning is important but rather because I don’t think we allow for enough autonomy in our students learning.  Now, dependant on the age of your students, this certainly looks different but I think it is possible. As a bit of a side note, I do think we need concrete knowledge in areas like reading, writing and math but I do believe there are ways to provide student choice in these subjects as well.

Some changes I would make in my education dream world…

  1. Change the mindset around the role of the teacher from the knower of knowledge to a guide for students
  2. Provide guiding questions rather than answers/final destinations of learning in curriculum documents
  3. Integrate digital citizenship skills into all areas of the curriculum as a mandatory piece
  4. Eliminate traditional grading practices in the K-5 classroom
  5. Remove the idea that students of a certain age need to meet a certain ‘level’ by a certain time. Keep growth and development as a staple but remove the constraints of time.

In the real world, I believe we must seek to find balance in our classrooms, finding the middle ground for integrating tools like Google and learning skills like how to read!

All week I had this song in my head and I think Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey say it perfectly… meet me in the middle!

When Class Ends but the Learning Doesn’t – Major Project Wrap-up

The age-old saying that goes a little something like “the learning never ends” is how I would categorize my major project this term. The learning certainly isn’t complete and there is so much more to do but the piece that I have had to remind myself about, the important part, is that learning happened! Much like Megan mentions in her final post for her project, this isn’t just a project that ends but a project that allows for continued growth and learning. As I’ve mentioned in my posts outlining my process and the progress throughout the term, this was an evolving project that eventually took on a two-sided approach.

As I began to form my plan for this project I had originally set a goal for myself and my students:

“…to create a collection of students in my building who are confident digital citizens with a growing understanding of media literacies. I want them to be able to share the value, possibilities and opportunities that technology can provide in a learning environment with their classmates and teachers.” – From Panic to a Plan… Sort of! (January 20th blogpost)

My goal helped me to set my purpose and the conversations throughout the term allowed me to build on what I already knew to support the students I was working with. My conversations with my classroom students as well as my school tech team were what guided my process for this project. In an effort to share how I went about organizing my knowledge I have created a Padlet to show my thinking process. I don’t think this is a linear process because I still feel like I am working on all 3 steps but I know that I am making progress and in my mind, that’s what counts!

Made with Padlet

Demonstrating Digital Citizenship using Seesaw in my Grade 2 Classroom – Where are we now?

  • The like button is very popular now!
  • Students seek out opportunities to view peer posts and leave feedback
  • Students are leaving both text and audio comments for peers
  • Parent engagement with Seesaw has increased
  • Students are continuing to work towards comments that are on topic, along with appropriate emoji use
  • Students who showed little engagement with Seesaw prior to the project now seek out opportunities to post

A sample of some of the work being shared and comments left by the grade 2 students and their families:

Goals moving forward:
  1. Continue to model positive digital citizenship and engage my class in the conversation
  2. Provide further opportunities to engage in giving feedback comments to classmates
  3. Work on taking intentional time to talk with students about the posts they’ve made

Developing Media Literacy using WeVideo with the MacNeill Tech Team – Where are we now?

Team members now know:

  • How to join a Google Classroom
  • How to organize their Google Drive
  • How to set up folders and organize their Google Drive
  • How to create a Google Slides presentation
  • How to create a screencast using WeVideo
  • How to use features within WeVideo to create a video using a created screencast

The learning curve for these grade 5 & 6 students was large and I asked a lot of them. They stepped up and did a great job! WeVideo was new to the team and myself, we worked through many challenges together as a team and I am really looking forward to seeing the growth that this will see as we continue to work together.

Here are a couple samples of the videos they created:

 

Goals moving forward:
  1. Look at the videos that were created and provide feedback as a team, looking at what was done really well and how we can work to improve certain features
  2. Work to build the teams understanding of digital citizenship (I had to edit out pieces of their videos as they had shared first and last names within the video)
  3. Continue to allow the group to create videos and supports that they feel would be valuable for the students and staff in the school

Can You Spot The Fake?

“According to a Stanford study, only 25% of high schools students were able to identify an accurate news story compared to a fake one.” –The Problem with Fake News byJohn Spencer

Photo Credit: Meme Generator

Reading between the lines has taken on a whole new meaning thanks to the term ‘fake news’. Now Mr. Trump might believe that he is responsible for coining the term but The Long and Brutal History of Fake News piece in Politico Magazine highlights world events that suggest otherwise.   If we don’t know how to or know that we should, question the stories we come across on a daily basis we are allowing ourselves to be uninformed and quite likely persuaded by untruths.  Now as Dani talks about in her post this week, figuring out what’s fake today is a more difficult task than it was 20 years ago. However, when we base our opinions and responses on things we believe to be true, without verifying, we are creating a culture where manipulation of the truth is accepted. This is scary!

Prior to starting my graduate degree, I wouldn’t have considered myself someone who was critical enough of the things I read online. I was aware that there were things I shouldn’t believe but certainly didn’t question things quite enough. As I have worked through my courses I have spent a large portion of them in educational technology classes with Dr. Alec Couros and have grown to be more critical and aware of what I am viewing online because of what I have learned in these classes. If you are in education or have a child and aren’t already following him on Twitter, go right now and do that, I promise you won’t regret it and that you will definitely learn from him! I think those who have the knowledge of what it means to be critical of media today, have a responsibility to share how we have come to develop those skills and what that means when it comes to being an informed citizen.

I can’t even begin to count the times I have seen “Click Here to Win A Costco (or any large retail store) Gift Card”, “Share This Post and You Will Receive $1,000,000.00”, “Share this Post and I Will Share My Lottery Winnings With You”, news stories from 5 years ago being re-shared, missing (but now found) pet posts being re-shared and anything else along those lines on Facebook. I will admit sometimes, I get just a tad bit frustrated by these but then I have to remind myself that I have some background knowledge on how to question these things. Since gaining this knowledge I have realized I spend a lot less time focused on the ‘news’ that comes across my Facebook feed and more time spent viewing posts from friends and family.

This past week I made a conscious effort to stop myself when I clicked on something to read, outside of posts by friends and family. I found it interesting to go back at the end of the week because I was spending less time than I thought on Facebook and more time interacting with media created by people I actually know and would stop to talk to on the street. I should also mention that during the last 6 months or so I have made an effort to unfollow several business or celebrity accounts on social media because I was missing out on posts from those very people! Twice throughout the week, I went into my settings on my phone to check out just where I was spending my time when I was on my phone.

I was actually quite surprised to see these results when I went in there. Sometimes I feel like I spend way too much time on my phone but knowing about the efforts I’ve made to interact with posts that I know are real, I was happy with what I saw. One important observation I made with that the Buzzfeed app didn’t have more than 1% either day. I am curious what that would have looked like about 6 months ago because I could certainly lose a lot of time on the quizzes and stories on that app not all that long ago.

Throughout the week I also took a screenshot of a couple articles that came across my phone that I stopped to question! After watching Jaimie and Jocelyn’s video this week I realized, that through time and practice, I have developed the 5 skills for identifying fake news that they discussed. I did google the first one to check if it was a true story and came across several different links to the same story being reported by various sources. I actually didn’t make it through the complete list on the second posts because I just didn’t feel like it sounded real and even if I had googled to fact check, I’m not sure we can ever trust what is reported on the lives of celebrities unless we hear it directly from them. I don’t know that I consciously always use each step but I didn’t realize until this week, that I was using them at times. Also, I learned about Snopes this week! I had heard of it before but really didn’t know anything about it, will be checking it out in further detail! These two are the examples from this week but I would say, with confidence, that this is something I do on a regular basis and I can attribute that to becoming educated and informed.

As educators, we have a great responsibility and power to help our students understand how to decipher what is fake and what is real. However, one trend that I am starting to see pop up on social media from time to time is celebrities taking to their accounts to let their fans know what accounts are real and which aren’t. When it comes to young people, celebrities hold a great power as well. Check out Jason Aldean on Instagram taking a moment to educate his fans about how to identify fake accounts.

How Do I Know if I am Literate in 2018?

“…media literacy is a very important tool for reinvigorating teachers.” – Assignment: Media Literacy 

Photo Credit: DigitalMajority Flickr via Compfight cc

Both media and literacy have been part of society for longer than any of us alive today have been around to see. The World in Data website tells us that in 1820 only 12% of the world’s population could read and write while today, only 17% of the world’s population cannot read and write. The conversation about what it means to be literate is not new but the context that we apply to that conversation has changed drastically with the addition of media. When discussing literacy in today’s society, as opposed to 1820, we must also remember to consider what is classified as media.  Media is defined as “the means of communication” and literate is defined as “able to read and write.” We live in a media-rich society and the ways in which we are able to communicate our intended messages change on a daily basis.

So in 2018, what does it mean to be media literate?

Trying to keep up to date with the ways in which our world is able to communicate messages is almost impossible. At times it feels like there is a new tool, trend or format for communicating introduced every day. I would venture to guess this likely isn’t just a feeling, this probably does happen! In order to classify ourselves as fully literate individuals, I believe we need to place value on all forms of media. Whether it be a book, digital book, website, podcast, magazine (digital or paper), app, social media or advertisement, we need a set of skills that allows us to safely and critically navigate all forms of media.  If this is the case how do we prepare ourselves and our students to be able to critically understand these means of communication and determine what is valuable and what is not? Jaque shared that the Ontario Ministry of Education suggests that being media literate does not mean we should teach students to avoid the media but rather teach them how to, “watch carefully [and] think critically.”

Media Smarts provides educators with tools and strategies for teaching students how to be a critical consumer of media literacy. In the Media Literacy Fundamentals section of the website they highlight the 5 key concepts for media literacy:

  1. Media are constructions
  2. Audiences negotiate meaning
  3. Media have commercial implications
  4. Media have social and political implications
  5. Each media has a unique aesthetic form

As a teacher, I would look at this resource thinking it most certainly would be helpful for my own knowledge but I would also be wondering where I can find the tools and resources to use this with my students. They have you covered for this too! Right in the introduction to the 5 key concepts section, there is a link to their Media Minutes program that has videos and lessons ready to go and use in the classroom! The very first video asks students to think about imagining a day in their life and all the different media that they encounter. I think it would be interesting to then have students take the media that they see/experience each day and then categorize them into areas such as advertisements, commercials, public information, educational, etc. I wonder what that sorting activity would look like?

We can provide our students with the tools to be critical consumers but we also need to give them the opportunity to practice what it means to be critical. This needs to be done in a way that is relevant to their everyday lives.  As teachers, we know that when we engage students with material that they have a vested interest in, their engagement can skyrocket! In my reading and research for this weeks post, I found a video that one, made me feel a little nostalgic for my high school days (see the video quality) and secondly made me realize that when we take what we know about student engagement and apply that to media literacy education we can truly create authentic learning opportunities for our students. I also found it interesting that the video below is from ten years ago, yet it applies in many ways to our current conversation in class.

 

The Brain, Teens & the Internet – Where Should We Start?

For students to be digitally literate, they not only need to learn how to use technology, but to be critical of the information they gather. Students are exposed to information digitally—articles, statistics, videos. They require explicit instruction that information might be old, biased, fake, illegal, or discriminatory. – Digital Literacy: What Does It Mean To You?

Photo Credit: Matthew Dahlitz 

When we think about our role as educators, within the context of helping our students become media literate digital citizens, we need to consider the many factors that apply. Media is everywhere and they are growing up in a digital world. We can’t deny this and if we choose to do so, then we are providing a disservice to our students and not truly preparing them for their futures. Our job as educators is to work towards building an understanding of the individuals who walk through our doors on a daily basis. Understanding who they are as an individual is critical to engagement and building relations. Just as important is our understanding of how their brain develops.  The teenage brain goes through a period of neuromaturation in which the brain essentially pieces together lower level thinking skills to help in the development of higher level thinking skills.  The area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is what controls the regulation of complex cognitive, emotional, and behavioural functioning. Due to the fact that this area of the brain may not be fully developed until the age of 25, it can be hard for parents and teachers to understand why teens make some of the choices that they do.  Understanding that teenage brains are still developing is critical to how we approach teaching about digital citizenship and media literacy. Many teens are often described as fearless thrill seekers. These videos might help you understand just why that is!

When we understand that our student’s brains are in a constant state of growth we are provided we an opportunity to embrace their inherent desire to learn about and try new things. We have the chance to guide them towards experiences that foster good decision making, critical thinking skills and for them to be knowledge seekers.

This week Staci shared the TedX Talk  Creating critical thinkers through media literacy: Andrea Quijada at TEDxABQED where we are encouraged to create opportunities that allow each student we engage with to connect what happens at school with what happens in their real lives. In order to do this, we must open ourselves to the idea that digital citizenship and media literacy NEED to be part of our daily classroom lives. Not taught in isolation but rather integrated into the lessons we teach and the conversations we are having. This is not something that will happen overnight but I would suggest that it is something every teacher CAN do.

The first thing we need to do is work together, collaborate, seek our professional development opportunities and most importantly: talk to our students about what they already know about the digital world and engage in conversations with them. Perhaps we can take a little bit of insight from Keegan Korf’s TedxTalk on just how to do that! 

 

 

Identity is Not Formed Through a Post- It’s Who You Are!

“Digital identity is thus not a separate aspect of “identity,” but “identity” itself.  – Paul Gordon Brown

Photo Credit: SeanJCorrigan Flickr via Compfight cc

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll say it again, I believe that committing to a life as an educator means that I have also committed to a life of influence, whether I always like it or not, I have and that is a powerful thing. How I choose to conduct myself in the online or face to face world can influence my students, their families and how I am viewed as an educator. Now, do I let this deter me from making my own decisions? No, certainly not but I believe that the characteristics that make me a good teacher are also the things that make me a good person, I don’t believe they are two separate things. I might wear different hats from time to time but I am always me.

I can remember sitting in class in university and feeling almost terrified to do anything online because “something bad” might happen if I posted the wrong picture or said the wrong thing. Back then, if you wanted to find me on Facebook you would have had to look for Nicole Janine because it couldn’t possibly be appropriate to use my last name! I don’t think that my professors had the intent of instilling fear but I think sometimes we over analyze and become way too critical of things that we haven’t taken the time to truly understand.

Social Media, no matter the platform holds an overwhelming amount of power. How one harnesses their power speaks more about their identity (digital or not) more than the power itself. My perspective of online identity and how I might be perceived has certainly changed since my undergrad days. No longer will you need to look for me under a pseudonym but you will need to be:

1) a real person
2) a friend or family member
3) likely an adult
4) responsible
5) considerate of others
6) someone I trust with my ideas and images

I don’t think that the criteria listed above is too much to ask of someone wanting a view into my personal life. I also wouldn’t/don’t have a problem with sharing who I am with my students and their families but I do feel I am allowed to and should set some boundaries. As a professional I am aware of the influence that I have and that again, whether I like it or not, I live under a bit of a lense because of  my job but what I think is important to note is that I don’t filter my life because of that lense.

Creating an identity that we are proud of is something that takes time. This means hitting bumps along the way, learning life’s lessons and receiving responsibility on a gradual basis. We wouldn’t hand the keys of our car over to a 5 year old but we would teach them, guide them, drive them around and when they are ready (at 15 or so) we begin to slowly allow them to fully experience the real thing behind the wheel. Eventually they take control and become responsible for their own actions but under the watchful eye of an adult, or so we hope. As the adults in kids lives, we are responsible for the process. We need to show them what is appropriate, the impact of ones actions and how to handle responsibility. This goes for both the on and offline world.

Someone along the way has had a powerful and impacting conversation about online identity with the 14 year old in this video!

“I like being treated as an intelligent, rational, thinking human being!”

In order to create a positive identity we must be willing to do the work, educate ourselves and model positivity. When we do this, we emote a positive self image and allow those who look up to us to do the same!

 

 

Media Literate Digital Citizens in Elementary Ed. – Citizens in the Making!

 

Now that I’ve got my project figured out and feel like I am on the right track I figured it was time to share what my student have been up to. Incase you missed it last time, my project has taken on a bit of a two fold look. I am working on focusing on digital citizenship with my grade 2 class using Seesaw and building media literacy with a groups of grade 5&6 students on a newly formed Tech Team! It’s also fair to say that both sides of the project are focusing on media literacy as well as digital citizenship but for my own sanity and over organized brain I needed a clear focus for each group!

Seesaw

We have spent a great deal of time this year focused on building quality posts that are easy to follow, hear and understand. They have made leaps and bounds in this area. Digital citizenship is something we talked about from day one but have recently made it a greater focus with the introduction of commenting on classmates posts. We talked about what that looks like and how to do that. Here are a few examples!

 

Teach Team on Google Classroom

Our tech team has found its groove and we have a solid team ready to help build media literacy within our school as well as support that learning through conversations about digital citizenship. Right now our focus is on building an understanding of how to use tools that are available to them within our school. They are working in small groups, that they chose, to create a screencast of how to get to, use and create google slides presentations. They are working on plans for how to teach someone these skills and the screencast is our next stop.

 

 

What’s next?

In Seesaw we are going to be working on adding a little more depth to comments. Instead of saying that they like something,how can the elaborate and explain why they like it.

The tech team is going to take the reigns after our google slides project! My question to them will be, what do you want to learn and how can you teach someone about that? I will simply act as the guide and support!