Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Course Profile: Faith Based Digital Citizenship

Welcome to my course!

In this course you will explore a Faith-based Digital Citizenship. This course is designed for grade 7 and 8, is cross-curricular and fits within the umbrella of Practical and Applied Arts.

In order to examine the course, please take some time to review the Profile (see below), where the plan is outlined for rolling out this blended program to the students of the Regina Catholic School Division.

Course Profile

Appendix A:
Cross-Curricular Outcomes

*Note: The Outcomes Map was part of the Course Profile document, but due to the dimensions and layout online it was better to include this separately.

If either document is hard to view, be sure to click on the expand screen button on the bottom right corner. You can also download the document if needed.

Access to the Course Prototype

In order to view the Prototype, you will visit the Regina Catholic Schools Learning Online Moodle Platform, where you will have the opportunity to login as a guest or through a test student user credentials. (The test student user credentials will be provided to you via the google form, via Alec and Katia.... and as part of the security of the Learning Online site, I will not put them on my blog.) Here are directions for logging in as a guest.

Course Design

When you visit the course, you will notice that the shell is built and that most modules are completed. There are modules for each of the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship, as well as an Introduction, Assessment Tools and Teacher Resources. The course is designed for a blended environment, and has the flexibility that would allow teachers to teach either the course in it's entirety, or in individual modules throughout the year. With the end of the year culminating with a Digital Service Project.

Faith Based Digital Citizenship Framework

The framework for this course has been built, however not all modules are complete for each of the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. Please explore the modules indicated by the arrow.
Intro: Becoming the Samaritan on the Digital Road;
Topic 1: Etiquette
Topic 2: Access
Topic 4: Communication
Topic 5: Literacy
Topic 7 a & b: Rights and Responsibilities
Face to Face Final Digital Service Project
Assessment Tools
Teacher Resources

What you will see represented are modules for 5 elements of the Digital Citizenship continuum that I worked on. Although the course is not completed, I will be finishing the remaining 4 modules in the next 2 months.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

To be Open or Closed in Online Learning… that is the question. Indeed.

Is Learning Better with an Audience? 

I have thought about this question, quite a bit over the last few years. The approach that I have taken to open learning, has always been relative to the age and needs of the students or the learning context. 

Reflecting on Learning in the Open

Created by J.Stewart-Mitchell via Bitmoji
First, let me begin by sharing my own experiences as a student and how it has transferred in my approach with open learning with students.
As a student, I have had mixed feelings about open learning. Some aspects I appreciate; others feel a little intimidating. I enjoy connecting via Twitter, the Google Plus community and reading the blogs of others and their reflections on their learning experience. Twitter and Google Plus are great spaces for quickly reaching out to share or ask for help. With the open nature of Twitter, asking for help is as easy as asking the whole Twittersphere for assistance. Or relatively, depending on the hashtag or your follower’s willingness to retweet your post. With Twitter it can be a bit like saying something in a crowded room, no one will hear you unless your message is repeated. Unless of course you have people in tuned to listening as your followers.  In the Google Plus closed community, such as in any of the CourosHildebrandt classes, if something is shared, you voice will not be drowned out by the noise, as the room is much smaller.
So which one is preferable? I love both. Honestly, one of the platforms that has truly ignited my own learning regarding what is current in Educational Technology, Growth Mindset, or Literacy has been Twitter. People often will say, I don’t get it, how does Twitter offer this? And I often respond that it’s all in the people you follow, and if you engage with the content or the ideas that are shared. Basically Twitter and Google Plus are fantastic spaces for connecting and sharing.

Now when you look at encouraging deeper reflecting, blogging is a better space for this. Blogging goes hand-in-hand with reflection. How often do we actually sit down and log our thoughts? As teachers we reflect on the learning of our students and their growth. But how often do we actually reflect on our own growth as a learner? The truth is, unless we are taking a class, we don’t take time for it. (Then again who can with the demands on teachers!?) That being said, do you need a blog to reflect? No. But as George Couros says, “Instead of simply dumping information into our brains, we have to take time to think about what we are learning and make meaningful connections.” In addition to this, when you record your insights and reflections are you potentially helping others in their growth? Maybe. But it doesn’t matter, the purpose of blogging is not just sharing with an audience, it’s about a space for deepening your own thoughts. Sometimes as I wait in anticipation of comments from others, I have actually had to remind myself of all the tenets of blogging. It’s about personal introspection and growth, not just audience.

What are the Intentions Behind the Platform? 

Created by J.Stewart-Mitchell via Bitmoji
Now when you look at the learning of our students, do all the same rules apply? Does openness increase authenticity of learning? It all depends on the intentionality for engaging and learning online. Is the intention to have students share their learning with the world, and take learning beyond walls of the classroom, or is it to get noticed or outside affirmation? I ask this honestly. But is learning more meaningful in an open or closed space? It really it all depends on the context. Context being the age of the students or the reason for the connecting.
Authentic learning is guaranteed neither in a closed forum or in an open platform. That being said, when students engage they have to feel like there is a purpose for the activity, and that it matters. By creating discussion forums whether it’s through Google Plus, Twitter, or blogs a new focus develops… audience. No longer is the teacher center stage, they all become active participants. And honestly, for many of our students going on stage when you have silently stood in the wings can be pretty terrifying. Engaging in a discussion forum gives everyone a voice. A space to share their thoughts and insights. When you start bringing in tools like Flipgrid, where voice is not encumbered by how well you can write, a new level of connecting can emerge – as natural as speaking. All of these connections may be made both in a closed – members only platform, or it can be opened up. Authenticity is not guaranteed if we open it to the online world. However, learning with the world watching, can add another aspect worth exploration.

Student Voice - Unfiltered. Better?

When I consider blogs like Kathy Cassidy’s Classroom blog or Pernille Ripp’s, Learning in the Fourth Dimension blog you can explore student work/reflections that are teacher selected and moderated. Blogs where the students are the stars and their voice is shared, but through their teacher. Which is appropriate, the learning is moderated (for safety), but there is obviously authentic learning happening. In both cases you can see evidence of how both teachers connect with others throughout the world using Skype, Twitter, email or blogging. But this makes sense, as it is relative to the age of the students. As the students get older, and develop a greater understanding of digital citizenship, and how to engage in the online world then teacher moderation can be reduced. Of course this all depends on recommendations/requirements of parents and school divisions. But if you look at blogs such as Paul Solarz’s grade 6 classroom blog, What’s Going On in Mr. Solarz’ Class?, one can see not only what they are learning, but greater depth with his students e-portfolios and reflections. Which is powerful. It’s not just the teacher’s voice that is heard – but the students. Perhaps this is what leads to greater authenticity… in being able to hear the student’s voice – unfiltered by the teacher (although for safety, most likely moderated by the teacher…).
In my own experience when I have a chance to read or listen to a student’s reflections of their growth and learning in an online, it’s so much more powerful than just that short parent-teacher-student conference that lasts 10 minutes. Mainly because the conversation is captured and can be saved for reflecting back on one’s growth. I know even for myself, using the same blog for the CourosHildebrandt class has allowed me to look back on my growth over the last 3 years. Furthermore, it has provided a good opportunity for me to share this with students when we discuss the benefits of blogging.  

Safeguards? Of course... That's What Digital Citizenship is About!

Created by J. Stewart-Mitchell via Bitmoji
When we look at opening learning and classrooms to the world there needs to be safeguards. Not just because administration demands it, but because we have to ensure the safety and well-being of our students. Just as we would have procedures and safeguards on a field-trip, going online is the same thing. Experienced bloggers like Cathy Cassidy have safe guards. She does not directly give her students’ full names or school. It is apparent that with her efforts to make learning visible, she ensures the safety of her students. As we move towards more teachers celebrating the learning of their classrooms online and increasing visibility, I think that we need to ensure that we do not lose sight of safety. Most administrators are very supportive of student and teacher blogging, provided that the teacher understands how to keep students safe online etc. Which may seem rather obvious, but I have seen blogs where the school location, place identifiers or student full names are provided online. When we look at open learning, such as through student blogging and flipped learning, most administrators are supportive, in many cases, the main question that comes to mind is the accessibility to shared devices to support the course. If a teacher is going to an online learning model, there cannot be the expectation that they would automatically get the school shared devices. Nor can it ever be assumed that students can bring them from home, regardless of the community where the school resides.  

There are really no easy answers to the question, whether or not learning is more authentic as you move into the open. It all comes down to teacher understanding, student age, context of learning and the intentions for making the learning visible. Once these questions are addressed, then the teacher can make that decision. How’s that for an ambiguous response to the question!

Check out this TedTalk, When Student Voice is Heard: Andrew VanderMeulen at TEDxYouth@WISS. Andrew VanderMuelen explains the importance of the future of learning for students when their voice is dominant. Worth a watch!

What are your experiences and insights? I would love to hear them!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Communicating about the Ways We Can Communicate & a Few Tardy Thoughts...

Created by J.Stewart-Mitchell via Bitmoji
Over the past week, I have been working not only on my course prototype for the Faith-based Digital Citizenship, but also helping to nurture an interschool digital book club, or otherwise known as, “The Digital Dystopian Book Club”. So it is actually quite timely that we are examining forms of student/student-instructor interactions in this week’s blog post (actually this was for last week, I’m just a week late in composing this post). One thing I have learned in trying to nurture online book clubs is the importance of establishing expectations. This doesn’t just mean share the expectations, but ensure all stakeholders (students and teachers) understand and buy-in as well. In this interschool book club community, we have several ways of sharing in place for both teachers and students. Although the book club is not my course project, there are several things that I have learned that I will definitely be applying to my course. In addition to this, there are some things that were shared in the readings last week that I will also be integrating.

Furthering Student Skills in a Space They Know Well

The first item that needs to be acknowledged, is the importance of making sure that everyone understands how to navigate the online space. This means whether you are using Today’s Meet, Kidblog or a Moodle Discussion Forum, all members of the community must understand not only understand the logistics of how to navigate the space, but also the established expectations or norms. So to get ready for the interschool digital book club, as teachers we ensured that all the teachers understood how to navigate Kidblog and Today’s Meet, and that all the students knew how to participate in the asynchronous and synchronous discussions and reflections.  So how can I apply this to my project? The importance of How-to documents and videos (as well as face-to-face training), especially because other teachers and their students will be using this course in their classrooms. Although Flipgrid and Today’s Meet are quite intuitive, Moodle is not.  

Second, ensure that everyone understands how to effectively
Created by J. Stewart-Mitchell via Bitmoji
in the community. Perhaps this is a little more challenging than just understanding how to navigate the online space.  For the digital book club, we used a collaborative OneNote notebook, then had discussions face to face and via Skype when establishing student expectations. Later the expectations were shared with students via the teacher’s blog and face-to-face.

Establishing Norms in a Space that is Constantly Evolving

Going forward with the Digital Citizenship course, one thing that I learned from the Yuan and Kim article, “Guidelines for Establishing the Development of Learning Communities in Online Courses” and from the Edutopia article, “Mastering Online Discussion Board” is the importance of students being involved in establishing the norms and expectations of the learning community at the beginning of the course. Which makes sense, as teachers would also have students involved in the establishment of classroom expectations and procedures at the start of the year in non-digital learning environments.  Therefore, in order to have student ownership and engagement in creating the learning norms and culture, it makes sense that this practice would be mirrored online.  

For this reason, as one of the introductory activities, prior to getting into the course content, there is a group activity that will be conducted partially face to face and online (to reflect the blended nature of this course), where students will brainstorm and create these expectations and needs of nurturing online engagement. The hope is that this will not only set the tone for engagement but hopefully establish a sense of partnership.

This leads to my third consideration in establishing a learning community, make sure all participants feel that their contribution and voice is valued. Regardless if the classroom is online or offline, there has to be consistency in following the established expectations of the community, but even more important than this, there must be a sense of trust. This means all voices count - and that the teacher’s role is to guide and lead from alongside the learner, and not just control from above. With a changed role of the teacher, this can lead the establishment of a non-traditional learning community, where all members can be teachers and learners. This shift has been evident in the digital book club. For some teachers, engaging in this type of project has definitely moved them out of their comfort zone. But what is really fantastic, is that the students are able to see that they play a role in helping their teacher learn how to engage in this new platforms for sharing. By taking risks and finding new ways to bring the Internet into learning, students of the book club will see other ways that they can integrate these online spaces for more than socializing. Just as Rochelle says in her post, “If we begin to teach them at a young age about how to use the Internet for good, then that will last them their lifetime. But, if we shy away from it, then what are they missing out on?”  To further Rochelle’s point, if educators don’t take the risk, how will we help our students make the connection between socializing with others online -  to learning with others online?

Ensure all Voices Count

Whether it is online or offline, the role of the teacher is to establish the framework of what will be learned as well as provide on student progress. However, for effective ownership of learning, students must feel that their voice counts and that their questions and interests are recognized. This is where I see the blended model being especially valuable in my course. Even though it will be one where the teacher signs up their class, they get trained, then they start -  The course should still reflect the needs and interests of the students. So how do you do that? How do you personalize a predesigned framework? I suppose it’s all in the course design… create one so that the students care about the content.  In a post by Danielle, she said, “the best way to have student interactions that are meaningful, relevant and supportive, is to have the students engage with relevant content and actually care about what they are talking about”. Perhaps the key to establishing a learning community is to give the students the opportunity to talk and make personal connections to what is learned - later the content will be shaped through these connections and what is brought back to the learning community.

Never Assume that They Already Know

In addition to building the Community Learning Expectations, students need to be explicitly taught how to participate online - it can't be assumed that they will just "know".  This means not only how to effectively engage in synchronous discussion, (ie. stay on topic), but also how to meaningfully contribute to the posts of others in asynchronous communication such as blogging. In previous blog posts, I explored the 3 C’s + Q Blogging Framework, for the digital book club, we not only teach students how to comment effectively, we model it as well. By modeling the effective commenting structure, we ensure that students get meaningful feedback and that they see the framework in action. Therefore, for the Digital Citizenship Course, the 3C’s + Q format will be examined for both Flipgrid and in the Moodle Discussion Forum.

Overall, I am fairly happy with the spaces I have chosen for student interaction. Moodle is not exactly the easiest to navigate, but it fits in well with the format we have already established for Learning Online and will serve well for sharing the content of the course. Plus, it is flexible space for duplicating and sharing courses with other teachers. By combining Moodle with a paid version of Flipgrid (although I will incorporate options for the free version) there will be many opportunities for establishing a space for student voice. My goal is not only to have students share thoughts in the Moodle Discussion Forum but also collaborate via Office 365 tools such as Sway and shared documents. In addition to this, students will also use other online tools for creating artifacts of their learning. However, I suppose I might leave exploration of these ideas for another blog post! In closing, I would love to learn more about how others are encouraging spaces for creativity in their courses. So, how are you encouraging creativity and other digital literacies in your course?

Documents for Students 

I would love feedback from members of this class regarding what else needs to be included for students. My goal would be for teachers to share the expectations below in person, but also provide these documents via Moodle.