Should we teach digital citizenship?

I had  difficulty getting started on my blogs this week, mainly because I was suffering from what I call WAD-Web Attention Disorder.  I am so easily distracted from my cause.  I can’t help myself, I go to search and read about something and pretty soon I am web miles away from my starting point and I can’t even begin to find my way back.

The whole idea of digital citizenship did catch my eye.  My professor, Marnie McMillan, for my ECI 831 course set us up with, a choose your own adventure activity this week.  You can probably tell, from what I already said,  that I would have trouble staying on one adventure, because they all seemed so interesting and took me off in many directions, but at the same time, they were all full of related and connected ideas, at least in my mind.  Some of the things she asked us to look at I had already seen, but it was still good to go back and give them more thought.

I started the week with a bit of a bad moment of finding out that some of my staff were not making as much progress into the tech in the classroom idea, as I thought they might be.  My presentation at the staff meeting on Monday even managed to arouse some anger in some…but that  is a discussion for another time.  Whether people buy into using new tools and technologies in the classroom or not… or I think the problem really is buying into the idea that children can learn in non-traditional ways… I still think we have a responsibility to teach them to be good digital citizens.

We spend a lot of time in school teaching them to be healthy, contributing members of society.  We try to teach them to be good citizens in our community and in our schools.  Is anyone teaching them what it means to be good digital citizens?  Whether we buy into the idea of learning through new technologies or not, our students are spending hours of time exploring and communicating in a world that they have not been taught to use properly.

I think it really comes down to fear, once again.  We are afraid to try to teach them about things, we perceive, they know much better than us.

I realized that I had been so busy teaching my grades 4/5 students to blog properly, so they could express their ideas, and to comment properly, so they could open up a dialogue and be encouraging to others, but I had forgotten to teach them anything about copyright and the whole idea about creative commons.  We had been inserting things on to our blog site without giving credit to a single source! Oops!  There are a lot of good videos explaining the idea of copyright and creative commons.  I found one that I had never seen before.  A new take with the same idea.

Last blogging class was spent discussing digital citizenship and what that means, specifically focusing on the idea of copyright.  I taught them how to properly search for images that fell under creative commons and what that meant.  I also taught them how to check whether or not they could use a source and how to properly give credit to sources they were using.  I know that is a small part of digital citizenship, but an important one.  I really used  one site we were directed to, in adventure 3, on creative commons licensing , to help me out.

In my own search about digital citizenship I came across some excellent resources:

1.  The web page, “Digital Citizenship: Using Technology Appropriately“, offers information and ideas about teaching digital citizenship and outlines what they believe are the nine themes involved.

2.  Alex Couros has a  post about digital citizenship in his blog, “Open Thinking: rants and resources from an open educator.  The  topic of his post is summed up with…

“I’m just beginning to rediscover what digital citizenship means. I know it needs to cover more than safety issues, literacy and etiquette. I know it is not just about our rights as online citizens. It needs to concern itself much more with social responsibility and social learning than is currently being addressed.”

3.  Alex also gives a link off his blog post to his wiki about digital literacy that is full of excellent information.

4.  A response was given to Alex’s post at Teacher Friendly tech that was also interesting.

I am not sure we can keep ignoring what our students are doing, seeing, manipulating and using on-line. The issue of cyber-bullying is getting more serious each day.  Our students are exposed to huge amounts of information on a daily basis.  Will they sort that out and use it appropriately without being taught how?

I was excited to come across some excellent information and resources that I can use during our vertical sessions with our grades 6/7/8 students.  I think I have mentioned before that my principal and I have all of these students together once a cycle and we spend most of our time on citizenship and leadership skills.  This is an excellent opportunity to introduce some ideas and open up discussion on issues such as on-line gaming, creative commons, cyber-bullying, use Facebook etc.  I spent some time looking at the videos and teacher/parent resources at nsteens.org and found many useful resources there as well, including real-life stories told by teens that had been involved in unfortunate situations related to internet use.

Not all teachers are at a place where they can embrace, or in some cases even acknowledge, the educational off-shoots of our student’s digital experiences.  Some may not like it, but that is where our students are and I think we might regret leaving them to figure it out on their own without any guidance.

Excited or scared to death?

I do a lot of thinking every day about technology integration in the classroom.  I am not a PAA teacher or an IT teacher, but I have taken on the unexpected role, as part of my administrative position, to promote and encourage technology in my school.  I took on the role because it is a passion of mine, but the weird part is…I struggle with technology just as much as any one else-probably more than some.  I have already written of some of  my frustrations with memorization, rote learning and many of the other things we like to hang on to in the classrooms, while ignoring the technological opportunities at our finger tips.  I wanted to reflect on some of the other aspects of technology our professor Marnie McMillan wanted us to think about this week in ECI 832 as we play around in the sandbox.

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with excitement when I discover the possibilities that are available to us and to our students that I have trouble sleeping at night.  At the same time, these discoveries can be frightening and make me want to curl into a fetal position under my desk and hope that they will go away.

As I was reading how our technological world helps us respond in an emergency situation, I was in awe.  It was almost a paradox (I think), how worldwide technology was used to bring aid and comfort in many ways to the country of Haiti.  A country too poor to build and maintain the infrastructure necessary for a lot of the technology that was used.  It is almost too much to wrap my head around, as I read about twitter and Skype feeds used to find relatives, Google’s Facebook finder and social networking technologies used to raise millions of dollars for victims.  The first images to reach the rest of the world were sent from cell phones.  At the risk of sounding like my grandparents…I can’t keep up with all of the changes.  I remember when we only had black and white television and did not have a telephone in our home and had to use the neighbor’s phone.  Okay…there were phones… we just didn’t have one.

Our family recently had a tragic loss, when my husband’s young cousin was killed in an avalanche in BC while snowmobiling.  The news of the accident spread faster than we could even imagin.  Within 24 hours someone had set up a memorial Facebook page for Chad and there were hundreds of stories about his life and messages of comfort for his family.  I am sure that it was a huge comfort  to his parents and brother, and how fantastic it was for all of those people who posted to be able to have a way to express the grief that they were feeling.

What a better way for a politician to get their message out and get votes than to give people a social networking opportunity and in doing so they give people a voice.  That is the best thing about  social networking is that everyone has a voice.  Everyone who wants to, can be heard.

Even though the constant changes in our technological world sometimes scare me, to our students, they are part of their lives.  Last fall I started a blogging project with the grades 4/5 students in my school.  They were so excited and motivated to be writing on- line.  It was a bit of a struggle when we first started.  They didn’t know what to write about and they didn’t always want to take the time to  think about their writing and what they wanted to say before they posted.  I was up early the other morning reading some of their posts.  I was so impressed by their progress- they have improved on their writing, they are writing more, they are linking and tagging and inserting pictures and trying to make interesting , conversation provoking comments on each others posts.  The thing that has impressed me the most about these kids though… is their confidence with the medium which they are working .  They do not share my fears or my self doubts.  They see the automatic possibilities and do not wait for me to show them the next step.  They reach out and try to figure it out on their own.  They only need me to help them once in a while which  is as it should be.

I am excited to spend some time now playing in the sand, because I think that I am starting to understand what web 2.0 is and what that should mean to my students.  It is not about having the technology available… it is all about learning to use the technology to connect, discover, think and build.

I wonder what I will discover next?

Is It Really That Simple?

While trying to decide what blog(s) I was wanting to follow this term in ECI 832, I came across a post on the “Cool Cat Teacher” blog on making a case for cell phone use in class. This caught my attention immediately, because I am always expressing my wish for students to have access to cell phones and I-pods in the classroom.  School division and school policies prevent this from happening right now, and I am not expected that to change any time soon.

My first thought was… wait a minute… maybe if I was able to start giving other teachers in my school and school division some concrete ideas as to how they might use these tools in their classroom, then maybe… just maybe…more teachers would start to make requests and eventually we would be able to chip away at the policy mountain.

I believe that it is basic fear that keeps us from allowing the “evil” cell phone in our classrooms.  How would we ever control what they are doing?  How could we ever keep their attention?  How can we prevent them from texting when they should be listening?

The same goes for the i-pod.  What could they possibly do with the i-pod in the classroom besides plug in and tune me out?  Don’t get me wrong… I was one of these fearful teachers not so many years ago.  When cell phone use first started to become popular and we were not sure what to do about it, I was all over making policies with specific and controlling consequences for being caught with your cell phone.  I’ve come a long way baby!

Fear of giving up control can keep teachers from opening up to new and very exciting possibilities.

In her post Vicki Davis gives 10 reasons why we should use cell phones in school, many of them great reasons to use in conversations with school division policy makers.  What school division does not like an idea that could actually save them money and solve some IT problems as well?  She also has some suggestions as to how to “deal” with cell phones in the classroom.

The second reason I think we are reluctant just to give up our fight is because it opens up supervision and education issues that we are unsure of.  How can we make sure they are on task and doing what they are supposed to be doing?   So, does it come back to giving up control?

My search led me to blog site, “Technology for Teachers” by Sean Martinson.  He said … the cell phone (iPods, MP3 players, etc.) are simply the latest tools that we as educators are failing to embrace, failing to see the educational implications for their uses, and are thus failing to educate our students in the ethical uses of these tools for life long learning.  If we are going to ban said items… we are banning them because we as educators are failing to educate our students in the proper uses of these tools.” Sean give many great sources to check out in his post.

I listened to a conversation related to this issue in my school last week.  The French Club is raising money to attend the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg, Manitoba. One of the fundraising ideas they came up with was to have a cell phone or i-pod day and everyone who chooses to bring one has to pay $1.  Reaction from the staff was mixed.  I said, “Yes!”, perhaps we could get them to do something educational at the same time?? Unfortunately, most of the reactions were based on comments such as:”do we get to set our own rules as to when they can use them?” or “won’t they be fooling around with them instead of learning?”

I hated the fact that it was seen as a policing issue rather than an opportunity.  I have some work to do and educating teachers is how I think it needs to be done.  I could slide in ideas and they wouldn’t even know what I was up to. Please give my any ideas that you may have.

Some other excellent sources I came across, that  you may want to check out are:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/1422669

http://cellphonesinlearning.wikispaces.com/

I was watching my 11 year old son doing his homework the other night.  He was working on an assignment that went along with a story they were reading in ELA.  He needed to figure out what some of the vocabulary words meant.  I was just going to open my mouth to tell him to get a dictionary out of the office, but before I could, he picked up his i-pod and was at dictionary.com.

It really is that simple, isn’t it?

What are my current coordinates?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/27550931@N03/2569927379/

In my ECI 832 course we were asked to pin point our current coordinates on our technology compass.  It is difficult, but important, to face exactly where we are when it comes to technology.  It can be impossible to move forward if we do not know where we are starting and  this can cause us to spin around in the same place.  If there is one thing that I am learning about technology integration, it would have to be that the journey is slow for some.

When looking at the LoTi, Levels of Teacher Innovation Framework  by Dr. Chris Moersch, I seem to be hovering between level 3-infusion and level 4a-mechanical integration.  Now what does that really mean for me?

I feel like I am very focused on higher level thinking for my students and getting them engaged in learning.  Partly due to the new curriculum which is based upon student centered learning and partly due to my basic belief in the necessity for change and the enthusiasm to make that happen.

At the same time, I still don’t think that students are recognizing or perceiving that their learning is authentic in a lot of cases.  They still believe that they are just doing assignments and not really making connections to their lives or taking responsibility for their own learning.  My students are using digital resources and tools to carry out teacher directed tasks that  require higher level thinking, but these tasks are rarely driven by or generated by students.  Hopefully we are slowly moving toward integration of technology, but at this point we are not there yet.

I chose to look at the adminstration side of NETS-National Education Technology Standards to see where I stood as an administrator.  Right now I feel like I can have the most positive influence on my staff in my administrative role as opposed to my learning support role ,although the two do work closely together.

So how am I really doing?

I do not feel like I am doing  badly overall.  I would probably give myself a B- on a technology report card.  Trust me, there is always room for improvement.  My highest grade would be in excellence in professional practice.  I try not to just talk about technology, but actually get down and get involved with what I believe.  I think I try to stay on top of what is happening in technology and pass that on to my staff in a collaborative way.  Right now a group of a group of teachers in my school, including myself,  are participating in a TIP(Technology Integration Project). I put in a proposal to use FLIP video cameras and digital still cameras for assessment purposes in math. I am also blogging with groups of students and helping classroom teachers  with class blogs. I have some of my learning support students blogging and accessing internet resources as they work on their social skills and planning toward their futures. I try to act as a support system by getting involved in technology integration at the classroom level.

I think there is still room for improvement; personally, at the school level and at the division level.  We are not AT the stage where there is effective practice across the curriculum and although I encourage instructional innovation focused on continuous improvement, I do not feel like we have reached the point where we can ensure that this innovation is happening.  I am not even sure I know when that point might be.

In some cases, things seem to be out of our hands.  We do not always have control over who we are hiring to fill teaching positions ,so this makes it difficult to always recruit staff who are highly competent with technology.  We  do try to establish and maintain partnerships to support systemic improvement, but we are not always in control of all parts of the system.  Our division is going through a lot of growth, and the lack of trust that still exists, in some cases,  can work against systemic change .  I think that our school division does an excellent job of trying to maintain an up to date and solid infrastructure, but some division policies dealing with technology do not always promote it or make it easy to use.

It seems like every conversation that I am in lately leads me back to the same question…

How do we move on from here?

At least I have my baseline now and know where  I am already doing well and where I still need to improve.