Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Flipping Over Flipsnack for Communicating Learning

As a recent addition to the Major Project that I'm working on with Genna Rodriguez, I made a digital book. This was to be as a way to share the "other digital pieces" to go with Digital Citizenship. As part of our major project, we will be compiling a continuum for each of the C's mentioned in my last post, in addition to sharing this understanding with teachers in the Regina Catholic School Division. As part of kicking off the initiative to teachers my division, I shared the scope and focus with Tech Leaders, one of whom is the talented Ms. Jillian Laursen (who tweeted about the session).

The information was presented in PowerPoint, which was good for that context, but seemed a little overly-traditional for the content.  So with the purpose of extending my own learning, and communicating learning in a different way, I made a Flipsnack Digital Book (Which is a free site incidently). Genna and I will most likely be adding to this book at some point, as we hope to develop and narrate the book (or slides) - but at least it's a start! Now for a continuum...

Please note that much of the work so far is derived from Michael Fullen's New Pedagogies for Deep Learning as well as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) NETS. We will also be exploring the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning project to examine their work and how it will connect to our own Saskatchewan curricula and school division goals.

So you may be wondering,  what will this Essential Fluencies continuum entail? What we are thinking is that in terms of the connection of the fluencies and curricula is that we noticed that the language for the “C’s” is already embedded in all curricular areas. Meaning, communication is a concept repeated through all curricula, collaborating… same thing. However, with the continuum, we want to explore and expand each of the digital skills for each of these areas from K to 12, modelling the Ministry of Education Digital Citizenship Continuum. We realize that it will not hold a candle to the Digital Citizenship Continuum, particularly in terms of the time factor for us to produce our project.  However, if we focus on the skills and not the tools, we will be able to share this with teachers and change the “tool-centric” focus to instead one that looks at what are the skills students need for life-long learning? How does this skill connect to what teachers wish to explore based on the Curricular Outcomes and Indicators, then what digital tool has the greatest ease of access for the teacher. Noting the differentiated abilities of the teachers in terms of where they are with technology. 

Our overarching goal for the project is to change the mindset of teachers to start looking at essential 21st century skills and the ways technology can leverage currcular outcomes and indicators, and not be the focus of the lessons. (ie: avoid lessons about Powerpoint or Glogster - or creating for the sake of the tool).  As Fullen explores in much of his work, we want to go beyond superficial tech integration, but integration which will allow for deeper learning – through more effective communication with various digital platforms, connections extended because of digital tools, opportunities to further how students collaborate on learning (unencumbered by location and time)… etc. 

Basically this is the plan so far. We will of course have to refine as we go...  

* Please note that although I have this information in my blog post, Genna and I worked on this together.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Our Project Proposal... and My Obsession for the Next 2 Months!

Ready Set... Go! So long going for beverages with friends. So long binge watching marathons of Suits on Netflix... So long sitting and languidly scanning Twitter for hilarious memes (unless it's to tweet about this class of course)... So long long walks dreamily kicking leaves with my hubby in this crisp autumn weather... So long kids... Mommy doesn't live here anymore.... Okay maybe that's getting overly melodramatic... Sort of...

Genna Rodriguez and I are planning on a project which will leverage learning to great heights in our school division. Or should I say depths? As we hope to deepen student understanding and provide teacher tools for exploring the Digital Fluencies for students.

Click here to view our Office 365 Document - The 21st Century Digital Fluencies and Essential Skills for Learners Project. This document outlines our resources which will guide us in our quest. And keep us straight and true to our course...

The following image represents the 7 C's which is our reinterpretation of Michael Fullen's work on Deeper Learning as well as the ISTE NETS. I realize that the gears don't actually fit. So don't laugh! This image was actually really challenging to create. After fighting with Adobe Illustrator, Genna and I finally recruited someone from our Personal Learning Network, Natalie, a graphic designer (who happens to be my sister-in-law) to save us. Yayyy! Go Natalie!

Here are the details for  our major project...

Project Focus: We are exploring 21st Century Fluencies and the Essential Skills for Learners today and tomorrow. We are working on a resource for teachers in implementing the fluencies and the connections to digital learning within an interdisciplinary context.

Project Goal: Build a continuum for each fluency.

Digital Platform for Sharing Project:
* Office Mix - for teachers in understanding the Essential Skills and their relevancy to learning.
* RCSD Drupal site - platform for our school division. We will ensure that outside visitors can view our resources.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Me... Programmed?? Are we Substituting Digital Connections for Real Connections?

Are you filled with sheer panic if you can't find your Smartphone?  Filled with anxiety if you can't connect? Constantly checking updates for Social Media? Maybe it's time to unplug and do some introspection. Here is a short quiz if you might be addicted to your Smartphone. If you feel like you really do not have time for this, as you have several blogs to read and comment on - I promise you, it is short quiz, and is worth a look. If you score "well" on the quiz, then perhaps take a look at nomophobia as described by Mashable (yep, it's a real thing) which is the intense fear of losing your phone. I thought I would kick off my blog post with this quiz  as this week's readings revolved around the questions:

What is Media Literacy? 
How is digitally connecting and media changing the way we interact?

In Justine Stephanson's post, What Does Media Literacy Mean to Me?, she describes a situation where she was with some friends and one friend commented about feeling lost since their cell phone was left at home. I had to smile at this comment, as immediately I thought of how many times I have turned around to go back home when enroute to work, because I realized that I didn't have my phone. Stephanson also pointed out that although she always has her phone on her, she didn't check her device until the end of her work day, as she liked being to be to keep [her]mind on work and not get distracted. That is a really interesting point. Often we feel this urge to keep our device with us so we have it to check emails or if parents or colleagues need to reach us. Yet it can be a distraction if we are always checking it. As a grade 7/8 teacher for many years, I was quite mindful of role-modeling appropriate use of technology. Over time it is evident that all adults need to be mindful of this, especially considering the fact that our students are engaging with personal devices at a younger and younger age. If our children and our students see us and our mindful use, plus we have discussions regarding digital etiquette, this in turn could lead to kids being more aware of the affordances and responsibilities with having a device. 

Sherry Turkle's TED Talk Connecting, but Alone resonated quite strongly with me, although there were times she got a little alarmist and preachy. It's hard to believe that a majority of people are so absorbed in the screen, and the life beyond that rectangular window to our cyber connections, that they are sacrificing meaningful face to face interactions. However I appreciated her comments and questions regarding whether or not we are really in control of our devices and our own self-awareness of these habits. Overall the points from her talk that really got me thinking, included the following:

  • Are we just connecting with our phones because we don't want to feel alone? 
  • "I share, therefore I am" - Are we defined by our connectivity?
  • How does constantly connecting through social media, cause us to isolate ourselves? 
  • We need solitude to find ourselves and reach out to real people and form real attachments.
  • We need to be alone so we won't be lonely, as solitude allows for introspection and self reflection. 
  • We need to have conversations about where technology is taking us. 
  • We need to reconsider how we use our devices, and how we are connecting with each other to better understand ourselves.
Photosource: Catholic Religion Teacher
Her point, regarding a need for solitude really captured my attention. It is that whole developing mindfulness or an understanding of ourselves. Just an Howard Gardner proposed with the Multiple Intelligences, we need to provide time to develop our Intra-personal Intelligence. Gardner's Intra-personal Intelligence, as cited from, entails the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one’s feelings, fears and motivations. In  Gardner’s view it involves having an effective working model of ourselves, and to be able to use such information to regulate our lives. 

Looking at that those last few words, use such information to regulate our lives, makes me wonder, Are we truly regulating our lives, particularly when it comes to Social Media and managing our connectivity to the web? Are we looking for that balance? Most importantly, stepping away from the introspection of our own habits, and instead explore the habits of our own students? As educators, what is our role in helping students to develop that regulation of their digital habits or obsessions? After examining the newly released Ministry of Education's Digital Citizenship Continuum from Kindergarten to Grade 12, one can see in the area of Respect addresses these exact issues. Right on page 1 of the continuum, the essential question that is first addressed is "Are students aware of others when they use technology?" and "Do students realize how their use of technology affects others?" In the Kindergarten - Grade 2 aspect of the continuum students are to understand the place for communicating with people both in person and online. This idea is explored all the way up to grade 10-12, where students are to understand, there are different expectations about how and when technology is used between friends, at home, as school or at work. It is actually fantastic to see that a huge part of the continuum connects to that self-awareness piece regarding the how and when of digital connections. Although not all educators are not yet at a point of understanding how to integrate these teachings into pedagogy, it's a start. At least now there is an understanding that Digital Citizenship teaching is more than teaching kids one lesson at the beginning of the year in how to be safe online. 

Going back to conversations about media literacy, last Monday we had the opportunity to engage in a small group discussion regarding the past week's readings. After a little discussion it was apparent that a couple members of my group found that Turkle to be overly negative, and yet two of us found the points she raised to be those we had been considering ourselves. I don't want to be overly analytical, but why is this? What has caused two of us to be wary of the obsession with connecting? Are we starting to recognize in ourselves or those close to us, the need for distance? I say this only because my own kids have complained that I've been staring at my phone too much, after a marathon of responding to work emails, discussion with fellow Twitter users and the odd check review of my LinkedIn or Facebook connections. Perhaps it's my worry that I don't want to allow the digital connections to interfere with my valuable face to face time. Has having kids just made me consider the impact that being connected can have on my family and my own mindful use of technology?

In James Potter's chapters, Why Increase Media Literacy and The Media Literacy Approach. He questions, who has programmed this computer code that has governed these automatic routines? How are we being shaped? How are our devices and our digital connections shaping who we are? Within the reading, the quote that connected to my own reflections was the statement,  "The more you know about your personal locus and the more you make conscious decisions to shape it, the more you can control the process of media influence on you" (p. 19).  Potter urges that we do not always have to be engaged and aware of media influence, but instead work on continually examine the things you take for granted to allow you to gain more insight and use these insights to reprogram your mental code. Personal Locus, Knowledge Structures, and Skills are the three strategies Potter identifies that individuals need to develop within themselves as part of Media Literacy. Knowledge about media according to Potter or media literacy, means developing and understanding in the following areas: media effects, media content, media industry, real world, and the self. He further states that a strong foundation in these areas allows the individual to have a better grasp of how to seek, work with information and construct meaning in a way for the individual and their own goals. Potter's points regarding Knowledge Structures and learning connects once again to the Digital Citizenship Continuum, when one delves into Digital Literacy, under the area of Educate, or the capability to use technology and knowing when and how to use it. The essential question explored in the Continuum that exemplifies this is: How can students use digital technologies to best take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them? In answering this question students examine the various skills needed to organize information and the strategies to find information and determine the accuracy and reliability of the information. 

Potter's whole concept that we need to continually examine how media influences us connects to my own academic interests. Last year I started researching Mindful Use of Digital Tools and our obsession with oversharing via social media. My intention was to explore this concept with students as I felt that as an adult we tend to become overly obsessed with sharing our activities, and for people relatively close to my age we have been able to see the Internet emerge and evolve, so it is perhaps easier for us to keep a slightly greater detachment than those individuals who have always lived with the presence of the Internet. Oddly enough as I researched for this project, I tweeted my findings. Yes... I became fully aware of the irony. Why was I so obsessed with sharing what I found? What was the urgency to have someone else connect with my findings? I started to feel that with every re-tweet and favorite that someone else was getting it.  It was like I wanted that immediate gratification from like-minded people (which is hilarious, as I have no idea if they are like-minded, aside from a quick Twitter-bio, I don't know them at all) that I was on the right track and that other people felt the same as me. It really all came to a point when  Michelle Borba, educational psychologist, author of character education books re-tweeted one of my tweets on the issue of Mindfulness and Social Media connections.  Yes, I might have been oversharing my thoughts and findings, but being able to connect with Michelle Borba, or at least get affirmation from her was worth it as an educator. So in some instances, perhaps it's not too bad to be somewhat active in these platforms.

Photo Credit: penpalme via Compfight cc
I suppose in all what we can take from last week's readings and videos is the necessity for being aware of our connections and the impact that these connections can have not only on ourselves but those who are face-to-face and closest to us. Often I've had discussions with family, friends and students that if you are engaging with a device when you are with a group, and not interacting with those people who are in your vicinity, what message does your behavior transmit?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

Time to Connect My Thoughts to the World.. Beyond 140 Characters or Less

The shifting sands of digital learning and media literacy. Continuously evolving...

It's time for a new beginning... yet it doesn't totally feel like one as I compose in the blog I used in Katia and Alec's #ECI831 course. I am still wondering if I should succumb and create a Word Press site... Make a new blog with a fresh new "Wordpressy" look or go with good old Blogger. I'm torn. I've been a Blogger blogger for seven years.... at least. I'm not even sure. Anyways, blogging in this platform is second nature. And honestly I feel like I'm selling out good ol' Blogger if I leave and join the masses in Wordpress. Does this indicate my social media age??

I took the On-line Social Media Age test that was posted on our #eci832 Twitter chat and discovered that I was old... 35 years old! (Really, I'm over 35) -  but really! I thought I was fairly cool and hip. (Don't judge because I said "Cool" and "Hip"... I'm trying not to judge myself actually!)  After-all I work with integrating tech into classrooms. Doesn't that stand for something?? Nope, it means nothing. So as a Gen X'er I guess I have to finally come to terms with where I am.  That is, not as "with-it" in terms of Social Media as the Gen Y's.... But just another person trying to find their way in the sea of connectivity.  As with everyone, adapting and continually evolving in the "shifting sands" of a digitally connected world, I started to wonder how social media is shaping our perceptions of ourselves as generations and how we relate to one another.

As I explored topics for this class and what media literacy means, I started thinking about how these new literacies are shaping us. All generations, from the Boomers to the Millennials.  How is technology impacting our perceptions of our world from generation to generation, and how we connect? Is new media, like Social Media making us really more aware of others in the world, or are we only aware of those who exist in the peripheral sphere of our digital lives? How many times do we disconnect from face to face interaction because the conversation doesn't pertain to our interests? Sometimes it seems as though access to Social Media is really just making us selfish people. Individuals who seek out those who think the same via digital connections. As I was listening to Sherry Turkle's TED Talk, Connected: But Alone? I started to question my own digital behaviour. How many times have I opted to text or tweet instead of call someone? My mom often rants that her children a becoming more and more socially inept because they text and do not call. Turkle asks, "Why do people not want to have a conversation?" And that not being able to edit or redo is making us avoid the messiness of face-to-face communication. I agree that texting allows us to focus-in on one aspect and dispense with the boring or awkward. I really like Turkle's point that conversations with each other allow us to learn to more about ourselves and encourage self reflection. This point is really interesting. If I were to apply it to those conversations with my mom where I have texted instead of calling, I am now wondering what was I avoiding? In texting was I just trying to control the conversation or interactions? Was I just avoiding hearing about the stuff that makes human relationships messy? The long-winded story, the idle chit-chat, the disagreements. In connecting more regularly with hundreds of people are we just brushing the surface of true connectivity?

After reading Chapter 1 and 2 of Potter's Media Literacy, it became apparent that it's unsurprising that digital connections are making us selfish or focused on what is relevant. This may be a natural occurrence when individuals are constantly sifting and trying to mentally process the digital overload. All that information, all those opportunities to access information or connect through social media. Never mind one or two platforms for connecting, like Facebook or Twitter - but Vine, Instagram, Pintrest, GooglePlus, Reddit, Youtube, Linkedin... This is an infinitesimal fraction as there are so many platforms. When I took Twitter promoted Social Media Test, afterwards I felt a little "non-techy". But perhaps it's okay to just dabble in a few platforms for connecting. If I was part of more digital social networks would my understanding of others be richer? Deeper? That's doubtful. So perhaps I should be okay with where I am. Maybe it's okay to connect with information more deeply than engage with the world in snippets of information.

I found a very interesting site from Gary Hayes called Personalize Media which explores how media is shaping us... Check out this crazy app (not it's flash-based, so it will not be visible on a mobile device) which updates social-media connections continuously and shows how this new generation is being shaped. This is the new media. Every 1/16 of a second there is an update to this flash app counter. Is it a wonder that teaching and how we connect to kids has to change? Or does it? Is good teaching with this generation about being tech-savvy or is it still what good teaching has always been. The ability to meaningful connections with kids and encourage them to think deeply. Pernille Ripp, well known as founder of the Global Read Aloud and author of Blogging From the Fourth Dimension, states in her post Why are They Disengaged? My Students Told Me Why, that  in order to understand what engages kids we need to listen. She did not mean listen through digital connections via social media but instead that face-to-face  hear-it-with-your-own-ears listening. Basically the keys to engagement are connection, urgency, purpose and opportunities to empower kids. Perhaps one of the benefits of social media is to provide a contact point, but it's up to us to help students connect their lives to learning.

Over the duration of this course I look forward to exploring how to make it all relevant. I also look forward to discussing our role as educators in helping our students make sense of it all. Hopefully in turn they can help us!