digital citizenship

My Crystal Ball and My Future Classroom

My Crystal Ball and My Future Classroom

Education is an ever-changing field.  Not only does education change over long periods of time, but the pendulum swings rather quickly.  If you sit down with any teacher nearing retirement, you can easily discuss four or five different “paradigm shifts” of what we perceive(d) good education to be.  For a while now there have been complaints about education being modeled off of the an industrial revolution model, with Education Week and Ken Robinson leading the charge.

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While this article and video make some interesting points, when considering the future it is important to note that the article was written in 2011, and the video was uploaded in 2010.  Considering our fast paced world, both of these viewpoints are now firmly in the past with very little change to show for it in the past six years.  With this in mind, I think the role of technology in the future of education will not work to change the groundwork of education, but will give teachers more flexibility to engage the students in different types of activities.  It is dangerous in my mind to view technology as anything more than a tool, and if it does not work to foster critical thinking and critical thought, than it should not be used.

Photo Credit: derekGavey via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: derekGavey via Compfight cc

I do however think there will be some big changes in how technology is used in classrooms in the future.  One irrefutable effect of technology is that it is working every day to bring the world closer together.  In the article “These 10 trends are shaping the future of education”, by Education Dive two stand out to me more than the others as valid claims.  The first is that there will be extra focus on BYOD type programs which will force schools to take a more active role in campus device management, and open educational resources gaining more popularity.  In regards to a more active role in device management, I think schools will be outlining more policies in regards to acceptable use.  There is a very good chance that this will lead to less access to technology as opposed to more.  Many in the educational technology field envision a future where kids will constantly be swiping, typing, chatting, etc., will be mistaken.  Once we are able to view the effects of screen time on a generation of children, we will most likely lead in the other direction.  While this will not necessarily eliminate technology from the classroom forever, I feel we will see more moderate and monitored use of technology.

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon via Compfight cc

The next big change that we will see in education is the rise of open educational resources.  With the price of textbooks on the rise, I envision open educational resources as working to redefine creative commons and copyright.  More educational information will be shared online, and resources will be able to be accessed by all.  This would not only lead to more resources open for teacher use within the classroom, but could help stimulate student inquiry and exploration.  We could also see more student choice into class selection, with classes possibly revolving around concepts, but the content itself taken from open source educational materials or MOOC’s.

Overall, there will definitely be big changes in the field of education over the next ten to twenty years.  While I am excited about the future possibilities of global connectedness that technology can provide, I am fearful of the damaging effects that tech engrossment can have on our students.  Hopefully, a balanced future is in store based on sound research to provide the best opportunities for our students to grow as both learners and citizens.

 

Biography as Digital Storytelling

Biography as Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is one way I would love to incorporate digital and visual literacy into my classroom.  I have never given my students an assignment to create a video, although I have given the students some options with this in the past and have received some great results.  These advertisements though were not really digital stories per se, and there is a very clear and explicit connection between teaching DP Language and Literature and stories.

According to the Educause Learning Initiative, digital storytelling is “the practice of combining narrative with digital content, including images, sounds, and video to create a short movie, typically with a strong emotional component.”

Photo Credit: npslibrarian via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: npslibrarian via Compfight cc

Considering how half of our course is related to literature and storytelling, this logical connection warrants further exploration.  Not only can this idea further the storied oral tradition of mankind, by through incorporating “rich dynamic media” we are teaching our students important skills such as critical thinking and synthesis.

When racking my brain for how digital storytelling could be applied to my classroom, I immediately thought of biographies.  In DP 2 Language and Literature we study a unit on Literature, Texts and Contexts, with an emphasis on the role context plays in the composition of various works.  This unit is aligned with a literary essay (Paper 2) in which students are forced to explore the connection between the context of the author and the various literary elements presented in their works.  When considering this context, the students read short biographies of the authors we study in class, in our case Joseph Conrad, Chinua Achebe, and Niccolo Machiavelli.

I would love to have my students create biographies for these authors in the form of digital stories.  Here are some examples I found while looking online:

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Being able to synthesize information from the biographies that we read in class could be further aided by the students composing stories with added pictures, videos, and music.  To provide a more personal twist, students could create digital stories in the form of autobiographies, in which they take the perspective of each of these authors and discuss their life and experiences.  This conversation could then be connected further by relating this context of composition directly to the works we are studying in class.  According to the studies of Burmark, “The auditory nerve transmits sound to the brain and is composed of almost 30,000 fibers.  Contrast that with the optic nerve which sends visual signals to the brain through one million fibers.”  With this research in mind, having my students create visual stories will not only allow them deeper engagement, but also a better chance of remembering the material when they sit for their world examinations.

Not only could this assignment help my students with visual literacy, it could also help my students become more informed digital citizens.  This activity could lead to further discussions on creative commons, images, citation, and music in the public domain.  It would allow my students an opportunity to engage class content that his historical roots, personal connection, and an eye on future skills.

After researching, I am really liking the sounds of digital storytelling.

Course 2 Final Project – Course Outline

Course 2 Final Project – Course Outline

The final project for Course 2 was a very exciting opportunity on multiple fronts.  Firstly, it was exciting to engage in the content discussed throughout the course related to digital citizenship.  It was equally exciting to share my group’s understanding of course content through a course outline.  Lastly, it was truly and enjoyable experience to collaborate with Blair and Abby to get the project done.  With three busy schedules it is always touch and go when collaborating, but Blair and Abby truly made this an enjoyable experience.

When we first began planning, our initial focus was going to be to create a responsible use agreement for students and parents.  While this was an exciting option, as we moved through the course we felt that we could best demonstrate our understanding through the creation of a course outline for a digital citizenship course.

The Course Outline

The first question we came across for our hypothetical course was related to grade level and overall purpose of the course.  Since our course would be taught in a school with a 1 to 1 or BYOD program, we decided it would be best to place the course either at the sixth grade or ninth grade level, as the students are moving to a new division.  At the end of the day, we decided that grade six would be the best place for this course, as this is the first year in most secondary schools.  With the grade level decided, we discussed the purpose, and came to the conclusion that our digital citizenship course would allow students the platform to explore ideas related to digital citizenship such as security, cyber-bullying, digital footprint, information literacy and more.  The course would run over the span of a semester and would serve as the foundation to students effectively using their devices properly in every other course they take.  This introduction would allow students to leave the course with a strong understanding of what it means to be a digital citizen, and how they can effectively use their device to learn and grow as individuals.

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As we were creating our course outline, the most important feature to the course is that the students are using technology to learn about technology.  As a semester long assessment, students are to create a Google Site with which they will post all of their work.  Students will have access to each other’s Google Site, so they will be able to create an online community of which they can practice and model all of the important elements of digital citizenship that they learn in the course.  Throughout the course, students will create PSA’s, conduct research, create and film a skit, among other technologically based activities.

When deciding on the topics to address in our semester long course, we found Common Sense Education to be a very valuable resource.  We merged some of the ideas that were presented in this website, but our overall objective was to provide as comprehensive an understanding as possible of what it means to be a digital citizen.

Application to My Classroom

When working on the course, the continual thought that continued to pop into my head was “how could this help my students?”  Although the final course that we decided upon was for grade six students, and I teach grade eleven and twelve, the skills and topics we discuss would set the students up for success throughout their education.  While many of the topics are always relevant for students, such as internet security and internet safety, my students would find particular relevance in topics such as their digital footprint and information literacy.  Students are concerned with their digital footprint and how they are reflected online when applying for universities, and students deal with information literacy with much more frequency as research based projects and tasks become the norm in the older grades.  If these skills were taught to my students at a younger age, they would feel much more confident applying to universities knowing they have a really cool digital tattoo.  Students would also be able to grapple with using the internet as a tool for research with ease, transferring skills from one discipline to another.  Overall, this course could serve as a strong foundation for students, in which teachers can build upon and reference to reinforce these ideas in their own classes.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Digital Citizen

It Takes a Village to Raise a Digital Citizen

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Everyone reading this knows that digital citizenship is very important.  The skills required to become a digital citizen is not a set of skills that are just picked up, rather they must be taught and modeled to ensure our students are entering the world prepared.  According to PBS Frontline, “95% of U.S. teens use the internet.”  Considering this is a massive number, we can clearly say that due to the widespread use of the internet, we need to ensure we are talking about it.  Issues related to cyber-bullying and sexting are ever-present, so it is well past the time entire communities are discussing what it means to be a digital citizen.  In my mind, it all starts with empathy, and is addressed via a wide number of stakeholders.  Here are my ideas on who should be teaching digital citizenship to our students.  I think the key is that these important messages are not simply coming from one group, but rather all groups.

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  1. Digital Citizenship Course – For my course 2 project, my group is collaborating on a syllabus for a digital citizenship course.  When Blair first mentioned this as a possibility for our project, it immediately resonated with me.  I have never taught in a school that had an entire course devoted to digital citizenship.  I have seen elements of tech courses incorporate these ideas, but never a full semester on digital citizenship alone.  I think this would be best addressed at two levels, entering middle school (grade 6) and entering high school (grade 9).  If schools operate a 1 to 1 or BYOD program, schools could use this course as a necessary component of being able to use technology.
  2. Advisory/Pastoral Care Programs – Another great opportunity to teach students about the skills, dangers, and benefits of the digital world would be advisory or other similar pastoral care programs.  Since many of these programs in schools focus on creating responsible citizenship, these programs could also work to create responsible digital citizens.  If our goal is to educate the whole child, and prepare them for the world, they do not want to be stuck with an ugly digital tattoo out of sheer ignorance.
  3. Throughout Normal Classes – In my mind, this is arguably the most important channel for students to receive these messages about digital citizenship.  When it is left to one teacher, it is easy to have students fall through the cracks and miss out on this important message.  It should be stressed that every teacher is having discussions with students about what it means to be a digital citizen.  As tech integration in classrooms increases, and students are making positive digital tattoos through their class work and learning experiences, teachers should both discuss and model what it means to be a responsible digital citizen.  This can come in the form of anything from mini-lessons, to units related to publishing work online.
  4. Parents – It is not enough to leave this message up to academic institutions.  Parents need to play a role in educating their children about what acceptable use of the internet looks like.  Schools can help in this however, by having Tech Integration Specialists give presentations at parent meetings discussing what acceptable use looks like, and how parents can further send the message to children.  These messages must be sent starting with young students, which can lead to a gradual release of censorship and monitoring up until the point of graduation.

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In conclusion, it is vital that many members of the students’ lives are taking an active role in fostering positive digital citizenship in our students.  If the message is simply coming from one group of people in the child’s life, it is most likely to be ignored.  If students hear this message repeated, they are more likely to take note.  While issues such as cyber-bullying and sexting are surely complicated issues that not one person has the answers to, we need to start fostering digital citizenship with empathy and awareness.  It is no longer an issue that can be ignored, and all stakeholders need to step up to ensure the next generation is getting the message.  It truly takes a village to raise a digital citizen.

The Wild West of Copyright Laws

The Wild West of Copyright Laws

As a teacher in Kuwait, sometimes it feels as though I teach in the wild west of copyright laws.  Since, as a country, many international copyright guidelines are ignored, it is not a surprise whatsoever that students are not familiar with with the many guidelines that surround copyright laws.  Not only are copyright laws plentiful, but they are often confusing, ambiguous, and vague.  It is quite telling I feel that the best resource I found to explain copyright laws is this copyright flowchart, which in and of itself is dense and largely vague.  With this complexity in mind, what chance do my students stand to understand this intricate system of rules?  How further, do my students stand a chance to adhere to these rules when everywhere they turn they are being broken, and there are no punishments for breaking them?  It seems as though often times, teaching students to respect copyright law is an uphill battle.

The first main drawback to students adhering to copyright law is is the complexity of the laws.  When teachers are often left questioning what is able to be used, and what isn’t, there is no way it is clear to the students what can be used, and what cannot.  To remedy this situation, it is important for all teachers to be aware of copyright law and model best practice for the students.  For students to be able to pick up on the importance of these rules, it will take more than one teacher, but students participating in conversations about this frequently throughout their day.  I have to admit, I myself need to go a lot further in this regard.  Outside of discussing illegal downloading of materials such as torrents, I have not fostered an environment that has discussed this in my classroom.  It is about time I start.

The second major drawback to student understanding of copyright laws is the lack of understanding of creative commons.  Again, this is a topic that must be discussed in classrooms.  Before starting COETAIL, I had heard of creative commons, but did not really understand the concept or importance.  My personal ignorance arose from my education, in the same way our students ignorance is arising from theirs.  It is important that we as educators stop this cycle by simply explaining to students what creative commons is, and how it applies to their work.  There are numerous activities within my classroom such as presentations in which the students take pictures from the internet to use in their project.  This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the importance and ease of creative commons.  I think the main selling point here is the general convince of it.  By demonstrating how to use a site such as Compfight, students can easily and conveniently adhere to copyright laws by utilizing creative common images.

Photo Credit: kire via Compfight cc

The last major factor that stops students from adhering to copyright laws is the vague understanding society has of fair use.  Most schools place a strong emphasis on plagiarism and academic malpractice (as they should), but largely ignore copyright laws on images or songs.  This, in my opinion, sends the wrong message to students, and they do not see the importance of it.  Within the Diploma Program, students are reminded constantly that if they fail to cite their work, they will not receive their diploma.  If this same emphasis was placed on adhering to copyright laws related to digital media on the internet, the students would adhere to it.

In conclusion, it is clear that the complexity behind copyright laws and creative commons is not just an issue for students, but teachers as well.  As Monica Hesse states, “misunderstandings about copyright and failure to properly adhere to copyright law are not limited to young students…”  I do not think that there are any easy or clear answers to solve this problem, other than both education for both the teachers and students.  We are no longer in a position as a society to treat the internet as the wild west.