Monthly Archives: April 2016

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

At the start of this school year, The Syrian refugee crisis in Europe was reaching its pinnacle in terms of media attention and pleas for support.  A parent was involved with “Backpacks for Syria” (similar ideas, with different names have spread all over Canada and the US) and wanted us to ask the children to bring in backpacks/items to donate to refugee children.  Rather than simply write a note to parents with this request, I knew it would be much more powerful when the requests were coming from students’ mouths themselves:

Screen shot from bunkr Slideshow I made to encourage students to donate items to backpacks for Syria

Screen shot from bunkr slideshow I made to encourage students to donate items for Syria

  After a successful haul as a result of our plea, I’ll be honest and say the day to day demands of the classroom, (not to mention Coetail obligations!)  pushed charitable thoughts from my head. Recently, while attending the Learning2 conference in Milan, the idea of students “making a difference” was re-ignited by Warren Apel’s keynote:

 

 

Warren’s talk and subsequent blog post ( Keep it Real: Authentic student publishing can raise money to change the world)  describe the idea much more eloquently than I will here, but I will summarise: It is about moving from the traditional bake sale method of raising money for a cause to harnessing  the power of student’s creativity by publishing and selling their work to an authentic audience.

“Teachers know that students do their best work when they have a real audience. That’s why we have them blog.

“But what if we could publish and sell student work, generate income, and use that money to help people? What if we could use the same real platforms that professionals use to publish and sell their own works?” -Warren asks us to consider a new model:

By publishing and selling student work through a variety of online companies, (Amazon, Google Play, Etsy) students create for a real purpose and audience, and possibly, they can more effectively raise money, and with organisations like Kiva: Loans That Change Lives, they can choose to send their money directly to those in need, and to projects that directly support curriculum, or school initiatives, like environmentalism.

“Instead of collecting dust, we could be collecting momentum.”

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Warren suggests that rather than allow children’s art projects to gather dust in an attic, their enthusiasm and creativity gains momentum, in that they see true purpose and value in their work and contributions. Nothing is more powerful than that.

 

 

Second Attempt at creately.com Venn Diagram.

Second Attempt at creately.com Venn Diagram.  Oddly, the folks at learning2 and Coetail think alike…

 

I will focus on the overlapping word, Empower, highlighted in this week’s TedX video resource: “Extracurricular Empowerment” about student empowerment through extra curricular (i.e., self directed) learning projects, like the lead story about a high schooler’s critical, funny and engaging blog about her school’s lunch program.  Her blog ultimately garnered enough attention (some good, some bad…although as the saying goes, “any press is good press”) to force the school to make real changes and improvements to the food.  How empowering for her and ultimately beneficial for those students!  

"Get out of their way and let them be amazing." From Extracurricular Empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines

“Get out of their way and let them be amazing.” From Extracurricular Empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines

 Engagement, Empowerment and Evolution through Collaboration:

Tom Whitby says in his article, The Connected Educator begins with Collaboration:  “The idea of collaboration requires a mindset of believing there is room to learn and grow. It is also a belief that we are smarter collectively than individually.”

I would argue these same qualities that make an educator connected and relevant, are the same qualities that empower both the teacher and his/her students.  

He  and Steven Anderson wrote the book, The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning, and list several qualities of the  Connected Educator.  The 3 that stick out for me:

  • Is a relevant educator, willing to explore, question, elaborate, and advance ideas through connections with other educators.

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So far my email dialogue with fellow Coetailer Amber Dryer and her Tech Coach Andrew Chiu about  course 2’s final project  (A collaborative blog/space to start a discussion about environmentalism where we live) has been about just that: exploring, questioning and advancing ideas.  So far the connections my students have made beyond our classroom have been very empowering for my students.  What we ultimately come up with together, will be greater than what any of us could have come up with alone.

 

  • Views failure as part of the process of learning  

8489654285I love A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s  (FAiL: First attempt in Learning”), and “NO” “Next Opportunity.” Despite feeling frustrated at the lack of enthusiasm over my proposed Photography Collaboration with colleagues from my other campus, I am trying hard not to see it as failure, or their lack of response as a “no,” just that I need to re-examine my approach, and to keep looking for that meaningful “Next Opportunity” to connect and collaborate.  

  • May put creation over content, and relevance over doctrine.

Our Early Years programme, (I have to say nicely complements my general philosophy and approach to teaching) has 4 loose, year long inquiry units and a play based/student interest driven approach.  It really allows much more emphasis and value on the process of (relevant and timely) learning, creating and formative assessment, rather than on product, prescribed content/curriculum and summative assessment.

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

Small Pieces Loosely Connected

And finally, there were so many great descriptions about the web as a collaborative and empowering place from the lovely little gem of a website, Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A unified theory of the web by David Weinberger.  (The website actually serves to advertise the book by the same title, and is itself is a bit outdated, but the ideas presented are so, so relevant.)

“The Web gets its value not from the smoothness of its overall operation but from its abundance of small nuggets that point to more small nuggets.And, most important, the Web is binding not just pages but us human beings in new ways. We are the true “small pieces” of the Web, and we are loosely joining ourselves in ways that we’re still inventing.”

The kids version of Small Pieces is great, too, and summarises the kind of web we all should aspire to be a part of: 

“So, here we have two worlds. In the real world, people are kept apart by distance. Because of the

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The Web helps us to become better people, according to Small Pieces Loosely Joined

vastness of the earth, different cultures have developed. People live in separate countries, divided by boundaries and sometimes by walls with soldiers and guns. On the Web, people come together – they connect – because they care about the same things.

 

The real world is about distances keeping people apart. The Web is about shared interests bringing people together.

Now, if connecting and caring are what make us into human people, then the Web – built out of hyperlinks and energized by people’s interests and passions – is a place where we can be better at being people.

And that is what the Web is for.”

Empowering?  I think so.  Now, off to sell Art and save the world, one small piece at a time. 

Digital Citizenship in our Brave New (Digital) World

In this brave new digital world we live in, I believe it is everyone’s job to both teach and learn about digital citizenship (parents, teachers, and students themselves).   It’s the when and where this teaching and learning is taking place that can be challenging, and I’m not sure it is being taken seriously.  Many educators aren’t even really aware or convinced themselves that digital citizenship is something worth teaching…or if they do, they have trouble finding the “time and space for it in the curriculum.”  (I myself looked at a lot of the links and resources for this course and initially determined they weren’t appropriate or applicable for my young students.) While some of the articles What Are Teens Doing Online? are definitely geared to high school teachers, parents or teens themselves, it doesn’t mean that digital citizenship instruction in the early years isn’t important….it just looks different.

It might begin by learning about the proper way to take care of the devices in the classroom, as suggested by this Common Sense Media Poster:

Common Sense Media's Device Care Poster

Common Sense Media’s Device Care Poster

We made a class book using My Story and took pictures showing the dos and don’ts when using the ipads, which we later shared on our blog.  

Wrong: Wrestling over the ipad. Photo Credit: Jocelyn  Sutherland

Wrong: Wrestling over the ipad.
Photo Credit: Jocelyn Sutherland

Right: Sharing the ipad Photo Credit: Jocelyn Sutherland

Right: Sharing the ipad
Photo Credit: Jocelyn Sutherland

 

 

 

 

 

 

One aspect of “device care” I hadn’t anticipated in that first lesson but became an issue months later was one clever 5 year old student visiting the App Store and indiscriminately downloaded games,  filling up storage and cluttering the ipad home page.  I had to explain that we always ask before downloading anything and immediately changed the security settings.

Another thing I have noticed is Digital Literacy/Citizenship instruction often not as integrated as we might like–currently grade 3 at my current school completes a unit about Digital Citizenship.  Early Years collaborated with grade 3 on that unit by becoming blogging buddies.  We practiced and refined our digital citizenship skills by sharing our blogs and by partnering up and making productive and positive comments.  However, once the unit is over, it can be difficult for teachers to make the time to continue these good practices.

 

Practicing Digital Citizenship skills through commenting. Screen Shot of our class blog.

Practicing Digital Citizenship skills through commenting.
Screen Shot of our class blog.

 

Earlier this year, after being inspired by the Common Sense Media resources shared in a PD session, I worked with my tech coach to deliver an online safety lesson.  We used the lesson, Going Places Safely lesson. It likened the idea of visiting places online to visiting places in real life and making safe choices in both.  The students enjoyed the “Virtual Field Trips” to places like MoMA or the San Diego Zoo.  We extended the lesson by broadening the boundaries of our travels:  some of the students began exploring Google Earth.  We first  looked up our campus –to everyone’s delight–and then went all over the world.

Although there were a lot more  great lessons, I stopped here, at this point in time figuring my students were still too young to really need to go deeper.  I knew in class they mostly used a small range of apps, and didn’t typically go looking for things on the internet…Well, now I know they do manage to find their way…kids will click anything, and some apps can easily lead away to Youtube videos of thinly disguised ads aimed at young children, which then offer a whole slew of other suggested videos that turn our otherwise Creation App filled iPads into TV screens.  And just because at school my 4 year olds are not (typically) surfing the net, doesn’t mean it they aren’t doing this at home or elsewhere.  This brings us back the question of whose job is it to teach digital citizenship?

I’d like to look at Common Sense Media’s My Creative Work lesson more closely with my students.  I currently encourage them to write/type their names on their artistic contributions, where possible, but we are not yet writing the date, but we do love stamping it!  

An oldie, but a goodie

An oldie, but a goodie

Recently, I have started asking the students to name their Artistic pieces, in particular the photographs we are taking as part of our Photography Exploration.  I will be honest and say I hadn’t really considered that the process of doing this is not simply a record keeping task, but a digital citizenship task–making it easier for others to reference your work.  This is something I will begin to work on with my students and remember to do myself when sharing and posting my own photos.  

I must remember to credit my own work, if only to make it easy for others to credit me later.

One area of digital citizenship we are addressing in my class is what sorts of things should we be posting to our blog? I currently have it set up that students do not need teacher approval, that what they choose to post goes directly to the blog.  I know many teachers would shudder at this, but with my small group of students, this is manageable, and after a few hiccups at the beginning of the year with students posting silly Puppet Pals videos of themselves mostly screaming, I haven’t had to delete many posts.  They seem to understand what is a quality post and (for an Early Years student) worthy of sharing.  

I deleted my own personal version of this picture.  Context goes a long way.

I deleted my own personal version of this picture. Context goes a long way.

(There was one panic inducing moment when one of the students snapped a picture of me,  wearing a black cape and role playing the evil stepmom from a fairy tale and immediately posted it to the blog, despite my protests. When I looked at the picture, without any context, it was unflattering and looked though I were imitating a Muslim woman praying…It goes without saying I immediately deleted the post and we had a long class discussion about asking people’s permission before posting a picture of them.  Although, now that I think about it, I didn’t really address this with my students at the beginning of the year, and don’t typically ask their permission to post pictures of them, now, either. Not a simple discussion.) 

There are many aspects of Digital Citizenship to consider and figure out, and I anticipate a huge learning curve as I move to the role of Ed Tech Coach next year, while at the same time moving to digital portfolios as a school. There is no time like the present to just jump in!

Copying Conundrum

Working with young children in Early Years over the last few years, I hadn’t felt much need to warn of the pitfalls of copying, copyright, and plagiarism.  I myself make every effort to use CC images and  properly credit my sources for this blog…but I must say I haven’t really broached the topic with my 4 year olds. 

For one, we don’t do tests, so no hands over papers required.  Even so, when we do an assessment, often a recorded discussion with specific questions about our topic of study, I am often torn about whether we do it alone, or in a group.  In groups or pairs, the students will often say the same things.  One student will copy or repeat what the other–often stronger student– says, and they I am left wondering: would they have given a different answer–a better one, a not so great one…would they have said anything at all? (Staring blankly happens a lot, too.) Maybe by copying their peer, they are in fact, learning from that peer.

Image from youtube video, Is copying wrong? By Copy Me (Incidentally, in searching for a good image, I stumbled upon a whole series of videos by these same creators…lots of great content that they don’t mind us copying.)

I really liked (well, everything) but particularly the part in the Everything is a Remix Series where they discuss copying as learning.  The saying ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ although true, doesn’t tell the whole story.  Imitation may be the sincerest form of learning.  

Kirby Ferguson, the ‘creator’ (getting hazy on what this actually means now) of the video series says, “We can’t introduce anything new until we are fluent in the language of our domain…and (we build this fluency) by emulation…”

Infants’ first facial expressions are mirror images of those around them– and parents delight in this copying. The creative role play room in my class is always a buzzing hive of students re-enacting exciting scenes from the latest Pirates of Carribean (speaking of piracy), but it is also a place where students act out something as mundane as searching for car keys and lamenting how late they are going to be.  (Punctuality is definitely not a concern for young children, as I well know…this is an imitation of the language and stress of a regularly tardy parent.) Clearly this imitating, copying and role play is pretty important in “building a foundation of knowledge and understanding” before they can get around to creating something new.

IMG_2146

My students learning about piracy…err….pirates

Unfortunately, copyright and intellectual property laws don’t really seem to care.  It seems US law regards ideas as property–distinct and separate, and don’t take into account how creative ideas actually work…they are an ever evolving combination of all that has come before.

Ironically, the US copyright and patent acts were introduced to “incentivise creative thinking”:

Copyright act: “An act for the encouragement of learning”

Patent act:

Screen shot of US Patent Act, from the film, Everything is a Remix

Screen shot of US Patent Act, from the film, Everything is a Remix

It is rather sad how their main objectives now seem to be about making rights exclusive and seeking profit–or at least that’s how “Patent Trolls,”(money hungry lawyers who take advantage of overly broad software patents) see it.

Troll-slip

Patent Trolls, By EFF-Graphics (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 us], via Wikimedia Commons

Okay, I understand with our current economic model it is very hard to make money as an inventor of original products/ideas. With copying…there are much lower research and development costs, so gains are higher…eventually resulting in low motivation to innovate and create. Intellectual Property laws kick in to balance things out.  

Now there are new efforts to reform laws in an attempt to balance things out once again, and to reign in those Patent Trolls.  For those in the US, tweet @congress #fixpatents and you can send your representative a direct message.  Being relatively new to Twitter, I am slowly understanding its power more and more–not just a resource and network hub–it’s also a platform to push one’s political agenda.  

All this thinking about copying is making me re-think my initial reaction to this creepy Scarlett Johansson robot.

My first thought:  If I were Scarlet Johansson, I would be completely mortified at the literal objectification of my person and feel entitled to sue.  Now I am re-considering.  If this creator weren’t so obsessed with Johansson and apparently not too worried about litigation, maybe this ‘innovation’ might not have come to fruition.  Who knows what others might create without so many constraints?  Apparently there could be hundreds of little you and me robots running around…The article goes on to mention how easy it is to make replica dolls: “The American Girl doll collection allows any parent to make a realistic-looking replica of their child.”  

Scary.

So...if each twin has a little clone...

Don’t think I could handle a replica of this…

Tracking, the 4th Amendment and Apple vs the FBI

“The only true protection is to understand that anything you put up there can be accessed by somebody else.”

from the article 5 Biggest Online Privacy Threats.

Being a new user of Cloud Technology, and feeling excited about its potential (wow–I have unlimited online storage, can access all my photos on any device and share with anyone easily?  I love you, googlephotos!) these words really popped.  It’s like you kind of know it, but really you don’t.

“A huge concern about using the cloud is that your data does not have the same Fourth Amendment protections that it would have if it were stored in a desk drawer or even your desktop computer,” says Consumer Watchdog’s Simpson.

Being Canadian, I had only a vague sense of what the fourth amendment was.  So I googled it and found this in the featured snippet:

fourth amendment

 

Hmmm, so, stuff I keep on my google drive or icloud is not protected from being searched and seized?  Just like that, without cause? Was this all agreed to in the fine print?  I guess I (along with most people) am happy to play along as long as it is free.

Side Note: Here is where I learned about Featured snippets in search:”

Featured Snippet aspects highlighted using Skitch

Featured Snippet aspects highlighted using Skitch

  • Google is really helpful and want you to see it better.
  • The snippet is “extracted programmatically” from a  top hit website once it recognises the question you want answered.
  • The hyperlink featured is the website where the snippet was retrieved: a very well linked overview from Cornell Univeristy Law School.  https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/fourth_amendment

 

Next I read Internet Privacy is the Wrong Conversation,  discussed how there is really no such thing as online privacy and that we should be demanding transparency, work to understand the 5W’s of tracking (our online behaviour) and not to conflate (and therefore confuse people and make it political) security with privacy.

Hunting

flickr photo shared by m01229 under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Tracking happens – get over it.  

The article goes on to state, The conversation we should be having isn’t about absolute privacy, as the European Union seems to believe, but about transparency.

And further:

“Rather than today’s often-impenetrable privacy statements, companies should publish a detailed, dumbed-down description of their tracking procedures. When you visit a website, who is that website sharing its data with?”

Confusing road sign in New South Wales, Australia

Purposefully Confusing By Chelm261 CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This so resonated–who has ever read a privacy/user agreement for Facebook (for example)…let alone understood it, other than the lawyers who crafted it? Most people can’t possibly be fully aware of what they are agreeing to–I know I’m not.

Finally, this article details the latest debate relating to privacy vs security.  Major players are Apple vs FBI/US Government and it has been grabbing my attention lately. You can download this Smart Tech Podcast to your device and learn about it on your commute, too.  (Great podcast for keeping in the loop about technology/devices…)

Basically  the US government is trying to force Apple to write code to help the FBI unlock the cellphone of a suspect in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino.  Apple is refusing to buckle under pressure from the government to unlock phones and claims writing such code poses a threat to privacy everywhere and warns it could set a precedent for government interference in this open customer letter .

FBI director James Comey says in his op-ed:

“We have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure: privacy and safety.  That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living. It also should not be resolved by the FBI, which investigates for a living.”

Well, it begs to the question, who should solve it?  It seems to me, the American people don’t have much of a say beyond opinion polls, as the article suggests.  But maybe that is enough.

“What’s important to understand about the San Bernadino iPhone case is that its very existence is a public relations manoeuver.”

The article points to the timeliness with which the FBI is using this case to push their agenda: after recent terrorist attacks in Europe, when it is likely

Padlocks

What if the master key gets out there?
flickr photo shared by sk8geek under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

to have the most public sympathy and support. Apple claims there is no way to write code that simply unlocks one phone–there would be the equivalent of a master key, and once available, could be used again and again –by anyone with this knowledge.

Apparently there is no current legislation surrounding encryption, so the debate is allowed to flourish.  What’s crazy to me is that simply because the US government seems to believe they can force Apple (okay, also a US company) to abide by whatever legislation they come up with, the whole world (any Apple user) must suffer the consequences?

flickr photo shared by m01229 under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

From Switzerland to Israel with love: examining (digital) neutrality

After dropping out of the Coetail world for a couple of weeks, (and the online world in general–”vacationing” with twin toddlers in Israel with limited wifi…my activity reduced 

Requisite charming vacation pic posted

Requisite charming vacation pic posted

to lying in bed late at night with my phone, eyes blinded by tears, sand and exhaustion, but still determined to post those darn vacation pics!)

 

I returned home with my first assignment a week late and began to read the plethora of fellow Coetailers’ posts on the digital footprint.

I first read Amber’s post as she recently emailed me about a possible collaboration for course 2’s final project.  Amber reflects on her “personal vs professional” digital spaces and references articles warning us to avoid posting incriminating things in case your future boss sees.  (How you are embarrassing yourself online without knowing .) Why are these catchy and ominous titles so addictive?

I replied:

The quote about the innocuous statements you make on facebook really struck me…as I think about “liking” references to 4.20, for example. (Or highlighting that fact here!) But in all seriousness, I would hope employers (and anyone judging someone entirely on what is posted on social media) take what they see with a grain of salt, and understand that people change and their understanding of what is appropriate and what is not changes…unfortunately for a lot of young kids, that learning curve is very public. You are right –it is part of our job to get kids thinking about their digital selves and digital etiquette. Already I have had discussions with my 4 and 5 year olds about posting questionable pictures of others–me included (!) to our class blog and we have had to come to certain agreements about this.

The opening lines of Layla’s post grabbed me.  She wrote a beautifully worded, researched and analyzed article discussing our quest for identity…and how the internet is changing how that quest is undertaken, and how it can be manipulated to work for or against us.  She references an article by Meredith Scroeder to highlight the idea that

removing chunks of information that violate one person’s right to forget may in fact violate another individual’s freedom of speech and right to know.”

This highlighted quote made me immediately think of this picture:

Okay--I went ahead and posted it...this is an exercise for educational purposes, surely a higher calling than mere entertainment.

Vacationing with toddlers can go from barely surviving the day to this at any point. Pooped on and naked in the street.

I respond to Layla:

Thank you for your thought provoking post and helpful links. Like Brendon, I also wonder similar things…what happens when the views or ideas we may have expressed in the past have changed, and yet the digital ties to us are there forever…or when our well meaning friends and relatives tag us in silly or even offensive posts…

I myself am currently debating whether to post certain hilarious to me pictures during a recent vacation, but potentially embarrassing to my children in the future. Should I be posting pictures of them at all? They are toddlers and can’t give their consent…

Okay–so I went ahead and posted it…this is an exercise for educational purposes, surely a higher calling than mere entertainment.Does my action violate my child’s right to forget? Or Dad’s right?

Next I read Jon’s post about moving from a neutral footprint (previously a focus in many inquiries into digital citizenship) to a deliberately positive footprint.  I was left worrying and wondering at my relative lack of footprint, thanks to this article and after taking Lisa Nielson’s Digital Footprint quiz and realised I need to work harder to put myself out there in a positive and proactive way.   

I wrote to Jon,

I liked your comment about moving your “neutral digital footprint to a positive one.”  I feel I had been mostly working hard (okay, not that hard) to maintain relatively neutral online, lest I offend someone.  This approach only works to a point, as you mentioned in your “scare tactics” with your first graders–“Posting mean things online will get you into a lot of trouble” or “How would you feel if someone said something rude to you online?”   But I see this neutrality has left me without much of a digital footprint at all.  (Darn, I’ll blame it on living in Switzerland!)

It’s actually harder work to continuously seek ways to showcase our positive contributions–we have to go out of our way to write nicely worded comments on someone else’s blog or Facebook posts…the ‘like” button is way too easy.  But this this effort is worthwhile in the end, and is a good way to move that neutral footprint (both ours and our students)  to a positive one.

 

From the security wall in the West Bank, Bethlehem.

Shot taken mid spray!  The security wall in the West Bank, Bethlehem.

 

Finally, it seems to me there is still a war of ideologies going on when it comes to Social Media & Technology in the classroom.  On the one hand there are articles like this, basically telling us to use common sense when using Facebook as teachers, but at the same time informing us of different school districts who have taken matters into their own hands and outright banning communication via all social media between teachers and students.  And then there are more progressive approaches to Social Media, and selling the importance of “having the opportunity to publish online with your name attached.”

While one approach takes away freedom of expression, the other encourages it.  If there is one thing I learned while traveling with toddlers in Israel-it’s that everyone wants to be free and be heard.