We are living in a digital world

There’s no denying that the world we live in is connected into technology at all times. So how do we teach students to live in this world in a responsible way and embrace their digital citizenship?

I found this totally cheesy video that has a good message in it.

We know that children have tremendous access to the internet, but do they know how to use it responsibly and promote a positive image? Some might, but many are not likely aware of the impact they can have online. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education promotes digital fluency in our students, and are looking to integrate the teaching of digital citizenship into the curriculum.

Within the current curriculum there are already several outcomes that lend themselves to the integration of learning about digital citizenship. I have listed a few below that I feel would work well for the middle years grades.

English Language Arts: Grades 6-9
All of these grades have very similar outcomes in Comprehend & Respond and Compose & Create.

CR 6.1, 7.1, 8.1, and 9.1 read something similar to: View, listen to, read, comprehend, and respond to a variety of texts that address identity, social responsibility, and efficacy

and CC 6.1, 7.1, 8.1, and 9.1 read something similar to: Create various visual, oral, written, and multimedia (including digital) texts that explore identity, social responsibility, and efficacy.

With these outcomes lessons could be designed to read and discuss a variety of fictional and real posts that are on Facebook, Twitter, etc, and the types of photos that are posted on these outlets and others like Instagram and SnapChat. Students could analyse what creates a positive and what creates a socially positive identity. Through these conversations students could work at creating texts and projects that demonstrate their understanding of digital citizenship.

These conversations could also tie in with Grade 6-9 Career Education Outcomes about positive identity

  • LW 6.1 – Examine effective practices such as responsible decision making, cooperation, and accepting diversity and predict their continued importance in one’s own career.
  • CG 6.1 & 7.1 – Investigate the influence of a positive self-image on one’s life.
  • CG 8.1 –  Analyze one’s own self-image including personal skills, interests, and behaviours and their influences on one’s life and work.
  • CG 9.1 – Plan for, demonstrate, and document improvements of one’s own capacity for building a positive self-image.

By understanding the impact of responsible digital citizenship, students can look at the impacts of their online identity with the prospects of a career. Perhaps role-playing type scenarios could be set up to replicate business and their views on potential employees based on their online presence. I found an interesting website that offers some ideas on career education, and I think there are some great possibilities for integrating digital citizenship.

students on computers

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There is also some great potential in some of the social studies outcomes.

  • PA 6.1 – Examine the relationship between an individual’s power and authority and the power and authority of others.
  • PA 8.2 – Examine the role of power and authority in the application of diverse decision-making processes in a variety of contexts.
  • IN7.3 – Analyze the relationship of technology to globalization.

These outcomes really connect to how much a reach the internet really has. Students could examine the rules that are placed in “real-world” society, and whether or not those same rules extend to the internet. The concept of globalization could also be explored in seeing how our digital citizenship allows us to connect with the world beyond our classroom, province and country and share ideas in a positive manner. These outcomes can then connect back into some of the ELA outcomes about reading and responding to social responsibility. Here are some more great websites that connect kids with the world:

There really are so many ways to connect students to the idea of digital citizenship and teach them how to be responsible members of the global community.

This little clip from Discovery about the movie Tron: Legacy I think shows how movies like this can really help kids explore some of the themes behind what we would be looking at in the classroom. I haven’t seen this movie, but I’m thinking it should be on my must watch list!

 

 

 

 

What does citizenship get me?

We are all a citizen of somewhere. We’re likely a citizen of a town or city, which makes us citizens of a province (or state), and then a country. By being a citizen of those places we earn certain rights or freedoms, and can (hopefully!) be proud of where we come from because of the achievements or great things that are happening where we live.

But for the most part we are all also a citizen of something else. Something we all belong to all over the world; the internet. We are all digital citizens in a world that is captivated by technology, caught in sharing our world with people across the globe through a screen in our hands, our laps, or on our desks.

So what do we do with this great responsibility to be a global digital citizen? Why, we post pictures of our pets, the great meal we just ate, the friends we are hanging out with, life milestones, and anything else that pops into our heads…rainbows!…I saw the weirdest thing at the mall today…

We are also bombarded with anything that the marketers out there want us to see and buy into.

This could be the latest and greatest new sound system, perhaps a new fast food craze, maybe it’s the current fashion trend, but they’re not doing anything wrong by advertising any of this, they’re just selling products, right?…..uh…..right….

The problem is that sex sells. Everything. And it’s everywhere, and showing up in ads and products marketed towards younger and younger age groups. Our society is becoming increasingly sexualized. I do not think that anyone out there would deny it. But who is responsible for it? Who perpetuates it? Who is stopping it? And more importantly, what is the result if we don’t do anything about it?

The result is oversexualized kids. Kids are being treated like adults sooner and sooner, and thus are being marketed to like adults sooner and sooner. The CBC documentary, “Sext Up Kids”, really opened my eyes to just what kids have access to and what is being put in front of them in the online world, and ads like those pictured above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many toys, clothing, and even moves in kids dance classes that are just too sexy for kids to be partaking in.

With this bombardment of sexualized images it’s no wonder that kids are becoming more sexual active and are developing more self esteem issues at younger ages. They don’t understand the difference between what is appropriate to share in public and what is not. It’s ok for the Bratz dolls to dress like that, so why not them? It’s ok for the girls in the dance recital to dance like that, so why not them?

For boys, while the same marketing tactics may not be used in clothing or toys, the fact that they are for girls just sets them up for objectifying females, and thinking that the ads portray what girls are supposed to act and dress like. So, when girls don’t play the part they are disappointed.  The boys too have been conditioned to think of girls in a highly sexualized manner.

All kids also have the ability to access a plethora of social media outlets to connect with friends at school and strangers around the globe, but they often miss the connection between public and private and the idea that once you put something out there you cannot take it back. Kids think it’s fun to share, but can often share too much, and a seemingly privately shared photo or video can become “viral” and make its way through the school or around the globe in a matter of hours.

The documentary really opened my eyes to see just what kids have access too, and that they are completely influenced and persuaded by the messages they see. As adults, we can usually filter out the “crap” from the good stuff in the advertising we see, but kids just take it all in; they haven’t developed those filters yet. The sad part is we think it’s cute to dress up little kids in skimpy bikinis or to put seemingly funny, yet suggestive phrases on baby clothes; we are just perpetuating the cycle of sexualization.

So what can we do to stop this? Parents and teachers must be the ones to EDUCATE children about the importance of creating and interacting with social media and the internet with dignity, about respecting the privacy of their lives, and  how to actually be a kid in this highly sexualized culture. We have to teach our kids how to be a responsible digital citizen just as much as we teach them how to read, how to write, and how to say “thank you.” Just because parents and teachers have Facebook accounts and multiple social media outlets doesn’t mean that kids should have them or event that parents should blast photos of their family 24/7. I actually have friends who’s posts show up in my Facebook feed all the time, but I cannot honestly remember the last time I saw them in one of the photos! We are so caught up in sharing our world that we forget whose world it is we are sharing…ours or our family’s.

These YouTube videos have some great ideas for parents on how and what to talk to your kids about and how things have changed even in the last few years.

 

As a future teacher, I look forward to being able to use a wide variety of digital tools in the classroom, but it is very clear that I will also need to provide my students with the tools to create a positive identity in the online world. I will need to foster an environment of safe exploration, of community, and of understanding for the pressures that are being placed on kids at younger ages. The middle years students that I hope to teach are already going to through so many changes in their physicality, and are trying to figure out their role in the world, so the best support that I can give them is to encourage them to be who they are, not who the big advertisers of the world want them to be. They are already struggling to find their identity in the real world, so it is most important to give them the right guidelines to work within when creating their digital identities as well.

The bottom line is that we have to help kids create a positive digital identity, and the best way that we can do that is by setting a good example and being supportive of them.

And can we please go back to when kids could just be kids? This great article really shows how even the great icons from when I was a kid have now been altered and sexualized for our kids today. It’s the reality that we live in, but we are the only ones that can do anything about it, and  we must take the steps towards trying to teach our children how to make it a better future.

 

 

What’s the Point?

For many students, school just is. School is a chore, it is something they HAVE TO do, and it is not something they do very willingly. Why is that? Why have we made the idea of learning, growing, and becoming independent thinkers such a depressing and un-motivating thing for students, especially in the middle and high school years? I do not think that it is because every teacher that those students has hates their job and is an un-motivating teacher, but I do think that it has to do with teachers not giving students purpose and ownership in the work that they do.

Sure, there are some students who will do the work because the teacher asked them to, or because it is worth so many marks and it gives them some value to earn, but for the majority of students this is not enough motivation for them to really care about doing anything. So how do we get students to care? How do we get students to do the work and do their best? Simple, by giving them a genuine desire to want to do it.

By creating an open learning environment, where students are participatory leaners rather than just kids in desks we have the opportunity to truly engage their minds and make them feel like they are doing something worthwhile.

I found a number of videos, blogs and websites that in just a few short hours of searching have really opened my mind to the idea of creating participatory learning communities in classrooms, rather than just teaching TO students. Involve the students in their own learning!

This TED Talk from Alan November really demonstrates the great worth there is in getting students to find their own purpose in learning and take ownership of their projects.

I found a cool project going on in Europe, ROLE, where they are creating technology that “is centred around the concept of Self-regulated learning that creates responsible and thinking learners that are able to plan their learning process, search for the resources independently, learn and then reflect on their learning process and progress.” Check them out here.

Edutopia also had this great blog post the other day on the topic, linking the ideas of student work ethic and enthusiasm to professional careers. It makes a lot of sense! If you hate your job are you willing to do a good job for no reason? Probably not. The same can be said for students. If we, as teachers, don’t give them some reason to want to be an active participant in class or in projects, then they won’t bother.

Ok, so I need to involve my students and make them feel like they are part of a community and have some control over their own learning, but how do I do that?

This blog post has a few suggestions, but the best one that I took away from it was start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a participatory learning environment (or “personal learning environment” as I’ve also read it) won’t be either. This type of environment is going to take trial and error (probably more error at first), and lots of revision. You need to talk to students, not just other teachers to find out what works, what they would find helpful or useful, and what is fun.

I think that technology can certainly play a role in this open and participatory environment, but it’s certainly not the only thing that will make this work. I think that you have to foster this learning environment from the start and continue to build upon it through discussion, interaction and collaboration. This is not just a matter of using a few apps and thinking that’s all it takes. This is a major shift in education, and one that is often met with a lot of opposition, but I believe it is one that is incredibly valuable and will make for not only more enjoyable classrooms, but for better learners for life.

Got a Kick out of Classkick

I stumbled upon this new app today, and I’m not sure what to make of it yet. It’s an app that enables students to work from a tablet on assignments given by the teacher, and they can ask questions directly to the teacher or other students through the app. Students can work at their own pace, and teachers can view their progress simultaneously.

The concept of this is quite good, as it allows students to progress at their own rate and privately ask questions so as not to feel intimidated by other classmates. I think, however, that this would only be a tool that could be used for certain types of assignments and work, not all the time. It would really only be good for those types of assignments that you would have typically printed off an handed out as a worksheet. It would not be good for the many types of discussions that are needed in a classroom, or for doing collaborative types of projects. Perhaps there are apps for those types of work also, but perhaps those are activities where we can find a balance between technology and social interaction, and use our laptops and tablets as tools to aid the situation, not drive it.

Edu Blogs

The blogosphere is still new to this girl, but I am having a lot of fun exploring it! Feedly is awesome and has a plethora of cool blogs to follow, though I’ve only explored blogs about education so far. I have acquired my list of blogs that I follow several ways. A lot of the folks I’ve started following on Twitter also have blogs! Several of them were ones I found from a search for Ed Tech or Middle Years Ed, some were ones that I knew of from previous research experience, and others were ones that other friends like and follow also. A few of the blogs I follow are from bigger corporations, like Discovery, and others are just by teachers, who maybe like myself, are teachers or students just putting their thoughts and helpful hints and tools out there for others to learn from. When choosing blogs to follow I generally look for ones that look interesting and helpful, and ones that have multiple posts a week and several readers.

My Feedly Feed

One blog that I like is Edutopia, who I originally started following on Twitter based on looking up #edtech I believe. Edutopia is part of the George Lucas Education Foundation (yup, that George Lucas!) They have a wide range of topics, but a majority of them integrate technology. Edutopia is also ranked #45 on the Top 100 blogs for Teachers. Their blog page is really simple to navigate, and you can search categories, discussions, and even videos. You can search by topics, categories, and also by grade level to find something that will really suit your specific teaching area. I enjoy the way that information is presented, because it makes me stop and think about something in a different way than I had before, but is not overwhelming. Their posts give you just enough information about a topic to feel informed, and then if you’re interested in learning more you can find further connections to learn. I suppose this is a commonality of most blogs, but I have sometimes found posts on other sites to be more biased, whereas I do not feel this as much here. Bottom line is that I really enjoy this blog, and am really glad that I came across it!

Fun side note: I wrote this post while sitting out on a deck while I was visiting the south New Jersey shore….for real.

Jersey      Relaxing in the sun at the Jersey shore!

Who am I and why am I here?

No, no, I’m not going to break out into some great philosophical prose about why we exist and what our true purpose on this planet is (we’ll save that for another day!). Today, I’m more interested in sharing a bit about myself and my thoughts about education and technology.

Where to begin….

There are a few things that one should know about me:

  1. I love school; more specifically, I love learning. Always have, always will. I think that there are a multitude of learning opportunities presented to each and every person every day, but it is up to each individual to decide whether or not to interpret them as such. I enjoy learning from my friends, family, peers and university instructors. I actually find it thrilling to be presented with new ideas and challenges to my previous thoughts. Yes, I am a nerd. The good kind.
  2. I love rhythmic gymnastics. I began as a gymnast when I was 5 years old, and through the years have taken my love to a new level by coaching, being a leader in the gymnastics community, and sharing my passion with the next generation of athletes.
  3. I love. My family and friends are everything to me. They challenge me and support me, and I know that they will always be there for me, as I will for them.

In a single word, I am passionate.

As a future educator I believe that passion is key. You must be passionate about the future, about being the best you can be for the students in your classroom, and about finding ways to truly connect with, educate, and guide those young minds on their best path in life. I feel that I have this passion, and as a new semester of university gets underway I am always so excited to see what new things my instructors have in store for me to learn.

So that brings me to why I’m here…in this blog space that is. I’ve never had a blog before, so why now? Well it’s all thanks to my ECMP355 class! A class all about Technology in the Classroom.

I heard about this class last semester in my ECS 100 class, and just knew I HAD TO TAKE THIS CLASS! Immediately. Other people I spoke to about it thought, oh maybe they would take it later in their degree so that the information would be fresh for when they entered the “real world classroom”. Not me. I wanted to know about all of these wondrous tools and ideas now so that I could begin to integrate them into my thoughts, lessons and projects as I move through my degree. I think that technology is such an important aspect of education, and everyone needs to know about how to use it effectively.

Technology must be used effectively, not properly. I say that because I do not think that there IS a “proper” way, but there are certainly effective and ineffective ways of integrating technology in the classroom. It’s not enough to just plunk a few laptops or tablets down and have kids work on a pre-set app or program. It’s not enough to send an e-newsletter to parents updating them on the goings-on in the classroom. Those things are ineffective uses of technology, but I fear that too many teachers think that’s what using technology is.

In order to truly incorporate technology into the classroom, you have to do just that, incorporate it! Technology needs to be the tool to learn the lesson, not the lesson itself. It should support the material that is being learned, allow students to interact with the information in a different way, or to discover the information for themselves. There are so many ways to do this, but one has to actually learn about them and try them before presenting them in the classroom. Preparation is key to incorporation.

It is my hope, through my explorations in the “blogosphere” and Twitter, my experiences in ECMP 355, and by connecting with fellow Ed students and teachers, that I will exponentially grow my passion for learning. The world of education is a vast wilderness where there is infinite potential to connect with students and truly enhance their learning opportunities. Time to start exploring!

 

What’s in a blog?

A blog? Why have I never had a blog before? Oh right, because most of the blogs I’ve seen before are either about parenting, cooking, or other things that didn’t seem like something I could possibly be interested in writing about for any length of time. This, of course was before I began my education degree and began exploring the infinite possibilities that the internet holds for the future of education.

So where to begin? What does one write about in a blog about becoming a teacher in this ever changing world? Everything. I’ll write about my thoughts and ideas about teaching, about my opinions on classrooms and organization, about new and innovative tools and tactics to use in lessons, about my ideas for projects in my university courses, about the impact technology has in our schools, and about what it’s like to live in a time where it’s so easy to get lost in the opinions of others and loose ourselves in the chaos.


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I hope that this blog will give me a space to explore and reflect on all of the new ideas that I come across, and that blogging will allow me to connect with others, both like and dislike me. So let’s get this blogging started! Wish me luck!