Tag: social media

Technology Empowered Citizenship

This morning I read an interesting piece by my friend Alec Couros and a colleague of his at the University of Regina, Katia Hildebrandt. The post examines a shift happening in some education circles away from a focus on online safety to a focus on active digital citizenship. Online safety lessons and curricula have mostly focused on how students can avoid harmful or dangerous behaviors, like identity theft, online predators, cyberbullying, etc. Digital citizenship encompasses a broader discussion involving how to interact and participate in a positive manner online. Alec and Katia share a useful resource that contrasts the two here.  Taking it further, they advocate that students be taught to move beyond this personal responsibility focus to one that emphasizes a type of “participatory citizenship” that addresses social problems and the systems that perpetuate them.

I heard a great example of this in the closing keynote by Reshma Saujani at ISTE last week. Ms. Saujani shared the revelation she had during a campaign for congress several years back. Visiting  computer classes as she campaigned, she noticed the pronounced absence of female students. Seeing this as a significant problem for our society, she decided to attack the problem head on by creating a website and a coding club for a small group of girls. She engaged leaders in non-profit foundations, schools, industry, and government in conversations about the gender gap in computer science and has been able to introduce tens of thousands of girls to coding and computer science through her Girls Who Code foundation.

The idea of students using the power of technology and the internet to affect social change is not new, but it is also not the norm in too many schools. As Alec and Katia assert, many schools are still engaging only in a discussion of the consequences of negative behaviors and unsafe practices online.  This is depriving our students from the opportunity to experience empowerment as citizens and engagement as learners. In many schools, online safety or digital citizenship lessons are included only as add-ons, filler activities that allow schools to check off their compliance with state or federal expectations, such as e-Rate requirements. How much more powerful would it be to get students involved in actual citizenship and advocacy as local or global issues and needs arise during the course of instruction. Innumerable opportunities exist during the study of history, science, literature, etc.

The following are a few ideas of my own for engaging students in these types of digital activism or participatory citizenship within the framework of an existing curriculum:

  • Build passion by connecting issues to the students’ world. Does this problem still exist? What impact is it having on me or others? Why is it important?
  • Research the problem. Apply critical skills and media literacy to answer the questions still remaining.
  • Engage students in solution-focused imagining. What could be done to alleviate or solve this problem? Who or what is needed to tackle the issue?
  • Give students the tools to be heard. Teach students to use tools such as blogs, podcasts,  wikis, YouTube, or Twitter allow students to share the issues they are passionate about with a global audience.
  • Connect to other stakeholders. The internet can allow students access to experts, other groups working on a problem, or even those most impacted by the issue.
  • Encourage creative and impactful application. As students learn new technologies, have them explore ways to use them to solve real problems (e.g. using 3D printers to create prosthetic limbs).

These ideas are influenced by and sound a lot like project based learning, problem based learning, or service learning, certainly. And like these pedagogies, students engaging in active, participatory, digital citizenship need more time and flexibility with their projects and products and teachers who are capable of facilitating classrooms with greater levels of student control.

What are your thoughts? Is a focus on online safety good enough for schools? What are you doing with students to promote the use of technology for social impact?

New Podcast: #16–Digital Storytelling-Ric Camacho

In the latest edition of the Moss-Free Show, I decided to show off some local talent. Ric Camacho is a great teacher at Mercer-Bloomberg Learning Center, our district’s alternative high school. Ric decided to give digital storytelling a try with his students this year, many of whom are kids who might struggle with a traditional high school setting. He was kind enough to talk about his experience and the kids’ responses to publishing their writing in such a rich, creative way.

PD Scatter-Shooting

In my district, as in many others these days, opportunities for sharing technology-focused PD are very limited. Schedules are

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/add1sun/3511681984/

tight, district PD days are reserved for other training, after school works for some, but not for many, etc. Probably the biggest challenge is the size of my staff…one. I believe it is absolutely necessary, therefore, to focus not on the traditional model of professional development, but instead to squeeze as many learning opportunities into as many times and formats as possible. Realizing that not every staff member is going to attend the in-person workshop or watch the webinar, I’ve taken a sort of scatter-shooting approach, where I’m utilizing a range of tools to get the information to those that need it. I wanted to share what I’m using in hopes it might help others in similar circumstances (most of us). The following resources are among those I’ve been using:

  • Traditional, in-person training. These sessions are led by me or by some fantastically talented teachers and campus technologists. They are in the summer or after school throughout the year, and they are 3- or 6-hours in length. I’ve tried to include a focus on how each technology will be applied in the actual classroom or campus, although I am not 100% satisfied with that process just yet.
  • Newletters (November’s newsletter). I’ve been putting out a monthly newsletter, the Matador Digital Learning Digest. It basically consists of a focus article on some trend or technology, app recommendations, technology research/statistics, news, and a variety of web-based tools. I send this out via the district’s email system and share it on the department website and social networks.
  • Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SeguinDigitalLearning). I probably share more information through FB than any other tool at this point. I share informative articles, useful resources, events, distance learning opportunities, contests, and anything else that I believe can benefit teaching and learning here. This one is slowly gathering followers, and I’m hopeful that it will become a go-to resource while simultaneously demonstrating the great possibilites of social media sites as tools for learning. I’ve got some convincing to do there.
  • Twitter (https://twitter.com/matadoredtech). I use Twitter very much in the same way as I use Facebook, to share resources, learning opportunities, announcements, etc. I’ve been a little surprised at the lack of Twitter users in the district, but my brainwashing has only been happening for a few months, so that will change. I like the idea of using a resource that can be checked in a few seconds on a smart phone, making PD quick, painless, and portable.
  • Blogging. The real purpose of this blog is to teach and share through my rambling reflections. I’ve returned to a previously successful strategy this year by re-inventing the tech challenge that I used a couple of years ago. These are short, narrowly-focused technology lessons accompanied by a simple task to get our folks familiar with the resource and its possibilities. I’m even bribing them, as I’ll be offering prizes through a drawing for participants in the spring.
  • YouTube. Screencasts and other short, instructional videos are a great way to share a concept or start a discussion. I’ll share the link via email, our department web page, in newsletters, on our social media sites, etc.
  • Online courses. At this point we are offering 2 tech courses online, a 3-hour course on Challenge Based Learning/Digital Storytelling and a 6-hour course on iMovie. I’m developing a Google Docs course, as well. We use Moodle for our learning management system. Participation has been pretty limited, but I see signs that more folks might be interested in giving it a try.
  • Podcasts (http://www.spreaker.com/show/mossfreeshow). I’ve just started doing the regular podcasts, and am only up to 4 episodes. I am focusing on a specific topic, such as the most recent episode’s focus on communication. I’m also hoping to include interviews with teachers in the district as often as possible, and to use this as an opportunity to put the spotlight on our folks who are doing powerful, innovative things with technology. I’ll also include interviews with great educators from outside of the district whenever possible, such as a recent interview with Diana Laufenberg.
  • PLCs. This one is in the soon to be implemented state, but it needs to be included. As we move towards a spring implementation of BYOD, I’ve started talking to my BYOD committee about using less formal, after school sessions with groups of interested teachers. I envision that these sessions would take on the form of collegial conversations, discussing and sharing over coffee and snacks. They might occur during planning periods or after school, depending upon participants’ needs and schedules.
  • Webinars. This is one that is in the developmental state. I have used webinars a few times in the past, and participation was pretty good. They are beneficial because of the facts that they can be scheduled at any time, viewed from any place with an Internet-connected computer, and archived for later viewing. I plan to start offering some of these opportunities during the spring.

I’d be curious to hear what other methods and resources are being used for PD in other schools or districts. What have I not listed that has been particularly effective for you?

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