I. Am. Exhausted. I bring on my own suffering in a sense because I love what I’m doing – teaching, coaching, learning – but sometimes the price I pay is counted in lack of sleep.
This is my final blog post about my EC & I 832 journey and will detail what I completed for my major project for this class. I blogged about my ideas for the project in my blog post This is Major, but long story short – I intended to develop a scope and sequence for secondary ELA that supported/enhanced the digital components (products and processes) in our curricular documents while incorporating portions of Ribble’s nine elements and also keeping in mind the Saskatchewan’s Digital Citizenship Continuum and Saskatchewan’s Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Guide. After consulting through our SK ELA 20 curriculum guide, and reviewing Outcomes & Indicators as well as the required forms of Speaking, Writing, and other forms of Representing for ELA 20, I set about figuring out a way to incorporate the use of digital technologies for the required forms. The outline of my plans can be found here. Most of the technology extensions are logical progressions of the students’ work. We are coming up with criteria and assessment tools as a collaborative unit and they are enjoying having input into their assignments and evaluation methods. They are having fun exploring new mediums and I am learning so much from their journey. This technology “newb” is learning from the students just as much (or likely more) than they are learning from me!
Based on my students’ feedback, they knew very little about digital citizenship or what makes a good digital citizen. Once we started exploring these elements, they soon realized they knew more than they thought they did, but there were also some misconceptions and misinformation. I developed a series of lessons that aimed to have my students explore what it is to be a digital citizen. Students explored Ribble’s Nine Elements, we worked through some of the amazing lessons and activities found on that website, and my students examined our school’s and our division’s Acceptable Use policies. Then we discussed the digital danger zones that people need to be mindful of – we watched some powerful programs about the story of Amanda Todd and listened to the powerful spoken word poetry of Canadian Shane Koyczan. Finally, we wrapped up the mini-unit by developing spoken word poems and recording them for our class. You can check out my mini-unit here.
Another area that I wanted students to explore was social activism. I am hoping to tie this to a culminating inquiry project which they are starting at the beginning of May. Developing Literacies and Developing Social Responsibility are cross-curricular learnings embedded in the 10-12 curricula and so I am encouraging the students to develop their inquiry project in a way that help their community while encouraging my students to be socially responsible citizens.
Having the opportunity to put what I learned into practice in my ELA classroom is a great help to my students. I look forward to continuing this journey with them. I am very thankful for the opportunities to explore media literacies that EC & I 832 has provided me – even if I did stress myself out! 🙂
A friend I haven’t seen in a while recently sent me a text and we had a brief convo. Click on the link to see: Kyla’s textingstory
Describing to someone else exactly what I learned while taking this class is difficult. Most of the classes I’ve taken previous to this one have an established curricula or a set structure. This class was different – in a good way. If something came up, we talked about it. We were constantly connected through Google+ community, Twitter, and our blogs. We were interacting in multiple ways with our classmates and in turn with our students. Taking EC&I 832 truly has changed the way I see and approach media. How do I describe what I’ve learned?
Where the heck to even start? I’ve learned a tremendous amount about Emerging Media Literacies in this class… and for an old dinosaur like me, it was difficult to adapt! Just like T-rex with his tiny arms would struggle in a push up contest, I felt like my “old school” brain struggled to keep up with and adapt to the platforms we were using in class. There just seemed to be SO MUCH INFORMATION and SO MANY THREADS TO READ! But wait. Isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what we’re learning and what we are trying to teach our students, ultimately? To wade through the Fake News and the misinformation and discover the truth?
My first instinct was to WRITE about what I learned… writing is what I’m good at and most comfortable with. I even recently edited a book that my best friend wrote. But I digress. I need to engage with the content, go outside my comfort zone. I’m trying new things here… stepping outside my box. Powtoon is a fun video tool that is fairly easy to use, even for a dinosaur like me:
So much of what we learned in this class has been incorporated into my classroom practice. My major project (which I’ll blog about next week!) was focused on incorporating the digital world that teens are so familiar with into the ELA curricular outcomes and finding a way to blend them while teaching students about digital identity, online privacy, and how to be safe online. Probably the most impactful part of the class was the opportunity to listen to Carol Todd speak about Social Media and the journey she has been on since the death of her daughter, Amanda. Even before Amanda’s death, Carol Todd and her family were asking for help and questioned how the authorities could do a better job of protecting vulnerable people from exploitation while online.
I had to do a lot of bending to step outside of my comfort zone and embrace the technologies, even when it was scary and overwhelming. Change is hard… but to be successful we must change and evolve!
As part of our role in educating young people, teachers/schools have a shared responsibility with parents to educate students on what it means to be a digital citizen. In our school, particularly at the grade 10 -12 level, it feels like it is a “What Not to Do” rather than modeling or teaching correct behavior. Policies and procedures can only go so far – proper use and etiquette while online must be modeled and encouraged at a young age. We cannot expect students to know how to use the tools; devices are more and more intuitive and user-friendly than at any other point in history but that does not mean that we should ignore teaching our students how to use the devices safely and smartly.
With the plethora of media sources and the absolute tidal wave of information which we can be exposed to in a relatively short time frame while online, it’s more important now than it has ever been to ensure that we are teaching students the skills they will need in order to navigate the information highway. Sticking with the basics – to identify audience, purpose, and intent of every piece of information – will help students quickly and easily determine if a source is credible.
I find it particularly scary that the very tool that can be used to bring the world closer together than ever before is also used as a way to isolate people. Having so much power and information at our fingertips is not necessarily a good thing. As Andrea Quijada mentioned in her TED Talk, students spend at least 7 1/2 hours a day interacting with media. Students often comment to me that school interferes with their “real life” and that what they are learning in school is not transferrable to their life outside of school. Just as there are behaviors that we must learn before we can read, there are behaviors we must learn in order to use and decipher media effectively.
Teachers are an important part of learning about digital citizenship but where do we even begin? Most of us are teaching a generation that is learning in a completely different way than we learned ourselves. Where do we begin? Well … it just makes sense to take what the students are interested in and start there. Many students would much rather play Fortnite with their friends than read a book and do ELA homework. If educators can find a way to bridge student interests with the curricula – that’s where the magic happens.
In her TED Talk “The Challenges of Raising a Digital Native,” Devorah Heidner, Ph.D. says that “before we try to catch our kids doing the wrong thing, we need to think about have we done a good enough job modeling the right things. Have we thought enough about what we want them to do as opposed to the idea that we are going to catch them doing the wrong thing.” If we want to raise kids who are thoughtful and can use media in positive and effective ways. The most effective way to do this is to start with what they already know and work with them to co-create learning opportunities. They need our mentorship!
When I was young, I watched a Canadian show about a teenager who ended up with superpowers after being exposed to radiation. It was called “My Secret Identity” and the theme song contained the lyrics “You’ll never guess my secret identity!” Sometimes that’s how I think it feels to be slogging through the digital waters and trying to maintain positive personal, professional, and digital identities.
People often portray or post only the most amazing or positive portions of their life and there are all sorts of filters and enhancements done to photographs that people can often appear unrecognizable IRL (in real life). This doesn’t give a true reflection of what they’re actually doing, saying, feeling, or even how they look on a daily basis. Sometimes the people that seem to have it all are the people who are actually suffering the most. They are putting on a mask for the world to see and are suffering in silence. This was the case with my brother in law who lost his battle with bi-polar disorder, depression, and alcoholism. He lived his life in the public eye and in so doing, he created a positive persona of someone who could do it all… but behind closed doors he suffered an incredible amount of pain. It’s hard enough to navigate our lives sometimes without the added pressure of being perfect that social media seems to require of us.
One of the people I follow on social media is a young woman who grew up where I’m from. I met her when she was in high school and came into my work for help in obtaining summer employment (I was a youth human resources worker). Determined and ambitious, she soon had work and I didn’t see her again until years later when she became a fitness coach and I began seeing her posts through mutual friends. What intrigued me about her posts is that she didn’t sugarcoat anything. She was brutally honest. She was also documenting in great detail the difficulties she and her husband were having in trying to start a family. This included sharing the absolute heartache of losing multiple pregnancies. As a mother, I could relate to her pain. As a teacher, I could understand the need to empower others through education and sharing her stories. But part of me also worried that she was sharing too much information with the entire world and could be hurt as a result. Though I am thankful that her stories and her journey are helpful to others, it also makes me wonder how much is too much information to share online and through social media?
I often feel that people share too much information when I am scrolling through social media sites and sometimes I get overwhelmed with all of it. I love that I can keep in touch with family and friends that live far away. I love that I can share what is happening with my kids, my pets, my students… but sometimes I feel that the pressure to keep up with everything gets to be too much. I plan “digital vacations” regularly. I feel it is necessary in order for me to recharge and rejuvenate. Even trying to keep up with blogging, tweeting, and reading for my EC&I grad class is taking its toll, especially for one such as myself who is not as digitally savvy as most. I try to share and interact as much as I can, but I struggle to use the technology and the apps … so I often end up frustrated. However, I do think that it is the most beneficial class that I’ve taken with regards to how I want my career to evolve, so I am making a concerted effort to stay grounded, choose my interactions wisely, and learn as much as I am able.
Being a teacher means that we are never “off duty” or out of the public eye. It means that we are forever under the microscope, so to speak. What educators do online can affect them personally and professionally. Rightfully so. We do have an obligation to be positive role models for our students and be upstanding citizens of our global community. But do we not have a right to just be humans? Teacher Ashley Payne from Georgia was fired from her job for having alcohol while on vacation and posting photos of it to her social media site even though she was of legal drinking age (read more on her story HERE). Another teacher, Carol Thebarge, was fired for befriending students on Facebook – a practice which went against school policy. Thebarge had been working in the district for 30 years and claimed that she just wanted to be available to support her students after school hours (read more on this story HERE). So where should the line be drawn? Keeping students safe and protecting teachers should be priorities… but sometimes the policies seem just plain silly.
Though I am thankful that my kids have such awesome opportunities with technology that weren’t available when I was young, I am also fearful of what it means for their personal identity development, online and off. More and more of my students are anxious and suffering with forms of depression. My youngest daughter also has been experiencing issues and we have found that time spent on social media (though we closely monitor and control what she is allowed to use) is taking a toll on her mental health. And it doesn’t end there. Some students have had awful things happen as a result of online posts. Online bullying is rampant in our school community and is difficult to control. With almost every cellular device being equipped with a camera, other issues are happening as well. A student in my Media Studies 20 class in 2013 told us about an incident that happened to him. He was at a party and was photographed with an alcoholic beverage in his hand by another student. The photographer proceeded to upload the picture to his Facebook page and wrote a caption naming everyone in the photograph, unbeknownst to my student. My student got a call a few days later from a hockey scout who had seen the photograph after doing a search for my student’s name. Long story short – the team that had been scouting my student retracted their offer based on the photograph appearing on Facebook because it showed him engaged in behaviour that was against their policies (underage drinking). It is alarming how social media is shaping and changing the lives of students.
We need to remember to THINK and to teach our children and students to THINK!
That’s the saying I was reminded of this past week when a huge project we expected to do in a few weeks’ time had to be fast tracked and completed in one weekend so as not to disrupt classes in our gym – and we had to make it happen with two days notice. After three 16+ hour days I am glad to say that the project is finished!! My husband and kids, as well as a handful of our cheer family, demolished an existing subfloor in our cheer gym. Then my husband, son, daughter and I put together a 42 foot x 54 foot spring floor. My body aches.
Needless to say, everything else took a back seat to this floor project. I had a lot of time to think while doing all that physical labour, and yesterday and today have been spent continuing my work on the major project. I discussed what I intend to do for this project in my blog post This is Major.
I am working to develop a scope and sequence for secondary ELA that will support and/or enhance the digital components (products and processes) in our curricular documents while incorporating portions of Ribble’s nine elements – particularly Digital Communication, Digital Literacy, Digital Etiquette, and Digital Rights and Responsibilities. I have a good friend and colleague who is going to pilot the resources I am creating – we are intending to support the curricular outcomes but enhance the students’ digital citizenship at the same time. The goal is to enhance our students’ learning and knowledge in online safety – while meeting our curricular outcomes/objectives.
Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools is one of the documents that is influencing how I am designing the tech infusion for my classroom. Thoughts about how to infuse technology and digital citizenship learnings into the existing curricula is tricky considering we are seriously lacking in the technology department. We don’t have access to nearly enough devices for students. We encourage BYOD, but even then it is still a struggle to have all students “connected” at the same time. I have found some useful ideas for how to incorporate using technology in the classroom – 10 Classroom Blogging Ideas to Boost Engagement by Hattie James is one list that I intend to use in my planning. Another one that I think has some very good ideas is 50 Creative Writing Prompts for Student Blogging. Don’t let the name fool you – these ideas are useful for many ELA classes and not just Creative Writing.
Though I feel like I have much to do for this project, I am so excited about the learning potential this will provide for my students.
I love being a life-long learner. I am a self-professed technology dunce but I am learning new things as a result of EC&I 832. This ties into the generational differences we discussed last week in class. It seems that younger people have an easier time catching on to technology – or is that just a stereotype? I am always thinking about what I’m learning and how I can apply it to the classroom.
Look at our grad class. We “meet” every week via technology! We don’t even have to leave our homes to be connected and learning. I’d say that this is going to become more and more common and it will eventually trickle down into the K-12 system. I am reminded of our alternative education students and how much difference it makes to them that they don’t have to sit and learn in a traditional classroom. They are given opportunities to learn based on their strengths. Perhaps we would do well to remember this when we are designing learning environments, both online and in person.
I think that, in the future, it will take a variety of different learning environments for students to learn the appropriate skills they will need in order to become productive citizens of society. “What’s the Future of Education? Teachers Respond” by Laura McClure was the resource I resonated most with, and particularly the following quote:
So long as there is a workplace… there will be schools.
“The K-12 experience for students also provides societal infrastructure that allows for a working class. By 2050, the ‘World of Work’ will have little resemblance to what it is today. We should hope this to be the case for schools as well. If we begin by helping children to identify their strengths, interests and values — and then dedicate time in school to cultivating them towards exploring where each child’s unique place in the world might be — I think we’ll be on the right path regardless of what new technologies or advances in learning become available. — David Miyashiro, Superintendent, Cajon Valley Union School District, California, United States”
Unfortunately, the rate of change for education in North America seems to be a snail’s pace. Change is good, and the ability of schools to change with the times is going to become more important than ever before in history. Digital citizenship is vitally important for the future — so schools will need to evolve and develop ways to help students become the best possible digital citizens they can be.
I have this horrible habit of leaving emails, texts, and now blog posts chilling in “draft” form. This week, my excuse is final exams. I am so not a multi-tasker. I am a hot mess right now, actually. Like, a Britney-esque hot mess circa 2007.
Photo Credit: Toni Underwood, 2008
So continuing below is the blog post I wrote on the weekend … and realized tonight that I hadn’t posted. OOPS!
Our readings for the week got me thinking about how prevalent social media has become. I watched the Danah Boyd keynote about Teenagers who are Living and Learning with Social Media. What struck me is how much social media has changed since this keynote was videoed. MySpace is a non-entity now. Facebook is considered an “old person” site – so my students and my son tell me. I asked them, “what is the best social media site?” They tell me it’s not a site really, but an app. SnapChat. Apparently, if you don’t have this app, you are a digital dinosaur. Well, all righty then.
This tied in with what I read in Neil Postman’s 1998 article, “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change” I look at how the mighty dinosaurs ceased to exist. I watch the rapid growth of technology that is portable and easily accessible (for those who can afford it) and I am becoming increasingly afraid that it is not going to end well. I look particularly at Postman’s conclusion to his article:
“First, that we always pay a price for technology; the greater the technology, the greater the price. Second, that there are always winners and losers, and that the winners always try to persuade the losers that they are really winners. Third, that there is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not. The printing press annihilated the oral tradition; telegraphy annihilated space; television has humiliated the word; the computer, perhaps, will degrade community life. And so on. Fourth, technological change is not additive; it is ecological, which means, it changes everything and is, therefore, too important to be left entirely in the hands of Bill Gates. And fifth, technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to control more of our lives than is good for us.
Technology controls more of our lives than is good for us. That quote bears repeating. The most popular form of discipline or punishment in my students’ homes is the removal of technology or “taking the phone away.” This is a punishment of epic proportions because STREAKS. Teachers in our school have rules about usage and most classrooms are equipped with “phone garages” – made by our carpentry classes, these can hold 36 phones while their owners are learning. Some teachers have even attached charging ports to their device garages so their students’ phones can charge while they’re in class. OY! I will admit, I am as reliant on my phone as the next person… but I can go all day without charging my phone and still be at over 50% battery remaining … and I believe this is because I rarely use social media at work and I use texting instead of SnapChat to communicate.
Recently at our school, we lost internet access. No big deal for me – I am kind of old fashioned and I teach ELA, so we still have books to read and I have paper copies of most other literary resources that I can pull out if I need to. It was almost refreshing that the phone or the bells couldn’t ring and I didn’t have to worry about being bombarded with emails. I could go about my lesson without fear of interruption.
My classroom was productive; however, in other parts of the school there was full blown panic. Teachers who use online formats to store their lessons and content had nothing to teach … and the (digital) natives were getting restless. This outage came only days after an email was sent stating that the wifi passwords had been changed to protect bandwidth and staff and students would no longer be given passwords or access to wifi on their personal devices. I half expected there to be a mass exodus from the building.
How dare they not provide access to wifi for our students or staff? A question one of my students asked stopped me in my tracks.
“Isn’t denying access to the internet a breach of basic human rights?” – a student.
Woah. On so many levels this was a teachable moment. Before I could say anything, another student in my class asked what the basic human rights might be… which lead to a very heated (but polite) debate on the topic. As I listened to my students ponder the question that was asked, I felt like I was in some alternate universe and had been transported back in time to the early 1990s in my grade 12 high school English class. George Orwell’s 1984 was the book we had just finished reading and it had introduced us to the saying that has come to epitomize life without freedom: BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU. Since the internet was still in its infancy and not yet mainstream in the fall of 1992, we were having difficulty imagining a world like Oceania, where all human actions are scrutinized by Big Brother, where screens can watch what we are doing, and where all of our actions can be recorded. It’s only been twenty-five years since I graduated high school – but the idea of owning a home computer and having internet access was pretty much nonexistent. Now, our students can hardly imagine a life without internet access.
In 1984, the protagonist, Winston, works in the Records Department at the Ministry of Truth and rewrites and distorts history. This reminds me of a John Mayer song, “Waiting on the World to Change” which states:
“when you trust your television*
What you get is what you got
Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want.”
*television = any media source, really
This brings me back to Postman’s article. Though written 20 years ago, I still find relevance in what was written. As Postman says, “[t]here is no escaping from ourselves. The human dilemma is as it has always been, and it is a delusion to believe that the technological changes of our era have rendered irrelevant the wisdom of the ages and the sages.” Students really do need teachers to help them navigate the technology highway. I would take it a step further and say that the older generations (dinosaurs like me) can learn from the younger generations just as much as – and maybe just a bit more! – than the younger generations can learn from us. We’re all in this together!