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Thank You, Facebook

March 26, 2011 Leave a comment

 

This post is related to the presentation I will be giving at the ASCD Annual Conference in San Francisco. If you’d like to come out, it will be on Saturday March 26 at 5:15 pm in room 113.

By the seventeenth century, the printing press was common throughout Europe, and, “was the core technology that gave rise to the Age of Enlightenment” (Jeff Chase, 2001). Academics and experts alike could share their knowledge and understanding with millions of people.

Late in the nineteenth century, fountain pens were mass produced. Suddenly, everyone could begin writing with ease. But, the audience would be small, isolated to a small group of people at best.

By the late 1990’s, internet became relatively common. Select individuals, with the know how, could create a website within a few days, maybe weeks. But, at this time, most people with internet access were simply consuming the information.

But don’t let anyone tell you that the biggest difference between today and 25 years ago is that students can access and consume the information of the world. While this is partially true, I believe that the most important distinction is that todays student is creating the information. With social media, everyone can be, and is, an important author.

How important? Glad you asked! The picture below is one of thousands of images, blogs and tweets from protesters in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Average people, connected to the rest of the world through their cell phone cameras and blogs, have made waves by sharing information and rhetoric of the happenings in their countries. The revolution in Tunisia is largely credited to Tunisian use of social media such as blogging, Facebook and youtube to get their message out and gardner support of the world.

Social media was used to gain the support of the world in Egypt and Tunisia

So the question isn’t ‘Should we be allowing our students to use social media?’ The question should be, “How do we get our students to use social media effectively, so they can be change agents too?”

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How Social Media Can Develop 21st Century Skills

March 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Saturday from 5:15 pm – 6:15 pm, Moscone Centre, Room 113

Bring Your Laptops!

In a few more than 24 hours, I will be presenting at the 2011 ASCD Annual Conference with my colleague, Susana Gerndt. The title of the session is “Written Conversations Develop Minds for the Future”, with reference to Howard Gardner‘s recent work. The session might have been called “How Social Media Can Develop 21st Century Skills”. The session description we submitted a year ago doesn’t do justice the importance of technology and social media in modern learning environments, but, the session will. Here is a taste of our introduction:

Looking specifically at the meaning of the word social and then the meaning of the word media allows us to come up with our own understanding of what social media is and can be in our classrooms.  Social media can be cordial, gracious, informative, popular and neighborly. It is created by people for people. Individuals become active participants in a communal understanding that is not limited to their own thoughts, or the thoughts of a select few individual ‘experts’. Individuals are linked to the understandings of the world.  Social media is therefore the information of the community.  Would you rather leverage one person or dozens, hundreds, thousands, even millions of people?  Social media engages students because it gives them a platform to leverage many individuals as opposed to just the teacher.

If all works out, we will run a backchannel using twitter hashtags #ascd11 and #1437 (session number). Tweets will be aggregated on todays meet, here: http://todaysmeet.com/1437.  So, if you plan to come (and we hope you do), bring your mobile device!

Presentation: Developing Academic Rigour with Social Media

November 19, 2010 1 comment

As presented at the 2010 ATA Science Council Conference at the Fantasy Land Hotel (Edmonton, Alberta). Below is an overview of the presentation that will be updated in more detail after the presentation is complete. Additionally, you can view the prezi here.

Part A:Social Media?

What Is Social Media?

First we analyzed the meanings of these two words, and then teachers put those meanings together. Susana Gerndt (my co-presenter) and I offered this definition for social media.

Social Media is the information of the community. It is cordial. Gracious. Informative, popular, and neighborly. It is created by people for people. Individuals become active participants in a communal understanding that is not limited to their own thoughts, or the thoughts of a select few individual ‘experts’, but they are linked to the understandings of the world – would you rather leverage one person or dozens, hundreds, thousands, even millions of people?

Archimedes is credited for saying “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth” referring to his understanding of mechanical systems such as levers. I think this idea can be true for social media. Every individual is given a platform up which to stand. The earths population (or at least it’s english speaking ‘connected’ population) is the audience that we are trying to engage as bloggers, video-sharers, etc). An effective social media user can influence thousands, even millions of users.

What Is the typical Social Media experience?

People of all ages are using social media to connect with their friends and family. We find out when new babies are born, look at photos from someones graduation or wedding, and receive invitations to baptisms, birthdays and halloween parties. We find out about the latest election information and international news by reading blogs or through status updates on facebook and twitter. We are entertained and educated on youtube, flickr, vimeo and other video sharing sites. We also take part in conversations, edit wiki’s to share our understanding, and post tutorials and questions on youtube. Social media is an every day part of the life of many people in western society.

Part B: Learning

What is the Traditional Classroom experience?

Sitting in rows, students listen, teachers talk. Once the ‘teaching’ or ‘learning’ is over, students may get a chance to ‘practice’. Sometimes there are conversations in class, which really consists of teacher asking many questions and a few students participating.

How do we Learn in every day life?

We touch, manipulate, see, hear, smell and taste. We analyze. We inquire, formulating various questions to guide our learning. Today we will often do an online search rather than ask an individual. Connected people, instead of asking individuals, may ask thousands of people online by posting a question on youtube or to wiki answers. We also apprentice, practice, apply, communicate, explain, and collaborate.

Part C: Rigour

What does it mean for learning to be Rigorous?

  • The foundation of our Science Curriculum (at least in Alberta) has four components: Science Technology and Society, Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes
  • Learning is Rigorous when students ‘get it’. ‘It’ doesn’t refer to all of the facts that we expect students to know for our standards based tests (Think provincial exams/diploma exams). ‘It’ refers to the purpose of teaching and learning about science. We want our students to
    • 1) think critically, problem solve, analyze, communicate, collaborate, create and innovate. The purpose of science education is to foster these skills as well as to;
    • 2) develop an understanding for the interactions of science, technology, society, environment as well as for the nature of science (theory, experimentation, observation, theory revising/replacement)
    • 3) develop positive attitudes and appreciation for science as a discipline.

Can Students complete tasks, do ‘well’ and still not get it?

One observation that Susana and I have made is that sometimes students can complete social-media based assignments, meet the requirements, get a good mark, but still not really understand the underlying concepts. Many of us have seen beautiful posters that describes all of the ‘content’ (maybe the biotic and abiotic factors of an ecosystem), but the student still doesn’t understand. Has that student done well on the assignment?

How do we make Social Media Projects Rigorous such that they have to get it?

This graphic organizer has been developed based off of the experience of many teachers and consultants. We think that there are some key components within it that get teachers asking the right questions that will lead to rigorous projects, assignments, and tasks in the classroom.

We start on the left hand side of the graphic organizer, looking at student learning outcomes. This has to include not only the knowledge outcomes but the skill and attitude outcomes as well. We need to consider what vocabulary is important for students to use, where the students might make mistakes, and then a look at content literacy strategies (you can interpret this to mean learning strategies). These types of strategies include things like KWL charts, venn diagrams, discussions, questioning strategies, reading strategies etc.

On the right hand side of the sheet are four questions that we think get at the heart of making learning rigorous for students (with social media or without).

  1. How can we powerfully activate students ‘need to know’ content?
    • we want to make learning experiences relevant to our students. If all I do is talk about biotic and abiotic factors with my grade 7 students some will be interested but most will just be learning because they are supposed to. But if I can talk about an issue in an ecosystem that they are curious about and know about I will have them hooked into the learning. A few years ago talking about the coral reef and the movie Finding Nemo may have had this affect. This can happen simply by having a story at the beginning of the unit and a framing question to refer back to throughout the unit.
  2. What strategies and activities will be used to build 21st century skills (Collaboration, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, inquiry and questioning)
    • If you want students to communicate in various ways (using pictures, sound, video, text, spoken word, etc) and you want them to do so effectively you will probably have to talk to them about communication. If you are going to include a song on a digital poster (like the ones you can build on the Glogster website), how is that song going to be relevant? How are students going to choose the text, font, colors etc. This is something that should be addressed, and it doesn’t require much time.
    • If you want students to guide their own learning in an inquiry project and develop their own questions to guide their learning you should be teaching your students about levels of questions using some sort of questioning guide (three level questioning is shown in the prezi; another good tool set are Barrets questioning guides)
    • If you want students to collaborate, we need to teach them how to honor the ideas of others and how to structure their groups such that everyone is responsible for their own learning yet they are also able to learn from each other and develop common understandings. Common understandings can be developed through collaborative brainstorming sites such as popplet, edistorm and mindomo
  3. How will students justify their choices/explain their products
    • students need to be engaged in some sort of dialogue (be it written or verbal), and required to explain what they have done. If they have created a cartoon on a site like toondoo. To learn more about using cartoons in class, check out this older post on cartooning in class
    • When students are having an online discussion, and they express an opinion, they should be required to back up what they are saying. Find a quote in the novel they are reading from a character they are analyzing. They can find a source (online or print) that backs up their comments on global warming and carbon sequestering. Find an example of something happening in the world from a news article or video from cbc.ca (as an example) to support their comments and beliefs about technology and its influence on science.
  4. What are the expectations of students and how will they receive feedback from teacher and classmates?
    • If you want students to do a good job you need to communicate to them what ‘doing a good job’ looks like. Expectations need to be clear, and students should be given an opportunity to receive feedback from both teachers and students.
    • This is when we can start talking about the need to do things during class time. If you can’t honour the students work by giving them the time in class to do it and to take that time to give them feedback, you send a strong message about the importance of a task. Online discussion, wikis, digital posters; all of these things should be started during class time so that you as the teacher have the opportunity to see where students are and guide them to where they need to be.

Part D: Social Media: Developing The Foundations of Science

What Skills Can Online Discussions Develop?

If you are interested in using online discussions, you can learn a lot more about them here on a previous blog post

  • Online discussions give students an opportunity to participate in important disciplinary discourse. They learn to use the language of the discipline – to think like a scientist (in the case of a science class). Discourse is also a form of collaboration, not only should students be talking about their own ideas but they should also be responding to the ideas of each others in an effort to further develop the understanding of the community (in this case the community would be the participating students)
  • develop class communities for online discussions on Ning or Edmodo.

What Skills Can Wikis Develop?

Depending on how you implement their use wikis can develop skills including: writing, information fluency, collaboration, questioning and critical thinking

  • How does a wiki work? (wikispaces, pbworks)
    • A wiki is a collaborative website that is usually very text heavy but can include videos, pictures, and links to other sites. Users can edit the content of these sites easily without knowing anything about web programming; it is almost as simple as typing in Microsoft word.
    • Wikis generally host extensive history of the page, so that you can see who made changes, when they made changes, and what changes they have made
  • An example of when to use a wiki and why.
    • a wiki can be great to use throughout a unit of study. You can begin a unit of study with an empty wiki (assigned to a group of maybe 3-5 students) that would just have some titles or questions (students may be required to come up with the questions or add to the questions), but very little information.
      • Students could start off by editing the wiki on an individual basis, putting in what they already know about the topic (this is called front loading, activating student prior knowledge).
      • after each learning experience (some notes, a video, a reading, a lecture, etc) students can go back into the wiki and add more information. They can also fine tune info or delete info that they figure out to be incorrect.
      • at the end of the unit you would have a huge document with text, pictures, links and videos that represents the understandings that students developed throughout the unit. To keep all students accountable throughout the unit of study you can simply look at the wiki history to see who did edits and when they did them

How Can Synchronized Collaborative Work Change Everything?

There are some websites that allow multiple users to live edit and collaborate, watching each others every move and being able to respond to each other without every refreshing the page. A few of these sites that I like are:

Imagine having 36 students, all brainstorming/mindmapping and just use as the teacher trying to keep up with everybody writing on the board. It could take most of a class and each student will be limited to a few short interactions. Get every student on edistorm or mindomo and you can have the whole class brainstorming at once, contributing to ideas, making connections, organizing each others thoughts, voting on thoughts, and responding to thoughts. It becomes a very different experience when every student for just 10 minutes is fully engaged in such an activity.

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If you want to use these tools effectively in your classroom and ensure that the activities are academically rigorous, you can use the Project Planning Page and it should help you consider the following:

  1. What expectations should I have for my students regarding behavior, and how will I communicate these to students
  2. What skills will be developed and how will I scaffold these for the students to ensure success?
  3. How will students justify their thinking/choices/ideas
  4. How will students receive feedback from me as the teacher and from their peers?

Presentation: Managing Your Digital Tattoo

October 16, 2010 Leave a comment

I held a session on Friday with Danny Maas for grade 5 and 6 students in our district.  We were asked to speak to digital citizenship, and so given the timeframe we focused on the idea of a digital tattoo.  We collaboratively built a presentation using prezi meeting, and in less than an hour on prezi meeting we created the basis for what turned out to be a very successful session.

Our goal was to inform students of the concept of a digital tattoo, and to empower students with some basic knowledge so that they could make informed decisions when they participate online.  We framed the session around two sub topics: respecting others and respecting self.

We wanted to talk about cyberbullying, and Danny introduced this great video to strike up some conversation among students.  We provided the focus question “how do the things I  and do online affect the people around me” to talk about the video, and students came up with great ideas about cyberbullying, how it makes the bully feel, the victim, and how it victimizes the whole community.  Students were even able to make connections with things they can do to prevent and maybe even stop cyberbullying.  We also got into conversations about how other people’s perceptions can be changed by our activities online.

Danny then shared another video to show what social media sites do with your information.  Students talked about the responsibility they have when posting information about not only themselves but others online. They came up with ideas on when it might be appropriate to post pictures/videos of others, and how it might make other people feel when you do that (in both positive and negative ways).

Overall it was about 50 minutes of mostly students talking and sharing ideas, collaborating to construct a common knowledge of how their actions online affect both themselves and the people they interact with.  Danny and I both felt confident that, generally, students left the session empowered with knowledge that would be important when making decisions and judgements when interacting online.

Thanks Danny for the great session!

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