Local & Global Interactions

mail

Within our Grade Two classroom the focu2ag-post-boxs has been “communication systems enable local and global interactions”. As part of the student inquiries they investigated the postal system, how mail travels and by extension the mechanisms which work together to deliver messages across the world. A strong language focus included letter writing and the conventions surrounding sending messages in an addressed envelope to another person and place. Visual literacy plays a strong role in communicating the framework and function of systems, as well as the structure of a letter and layout of addressed envelopes.

In our unit, students decided that communication systems are developed to meet a need. By examining the people, parts, organization and purpose of systems; they inquired into how communication systems help us and why we need them. They French Post Boxcan explain how accessing and sharing information enables us to connect locally and globally through the use of maps and technology.

The students created a postal system for the primary school and used self-selected images of post boxes to help create their own. As we are an international school, we were able to find images of Switzerland and our home country’s national post boxes increasing global understanding. Strongest was making a local connection, as they chose to paint the class post boxes orange & black writing, which are the school colours.  

Visual imagery supports the language curriculum extremely well. Graphic organizers are key to supporting students in their writing development and allows for more successful communication opportunities. As they begin to blog this year, our Grade 2 students make strong connections to Digital Citizenship practices and are learning to cite their sources. Our class uses the visualizer in our room to explore stamps from around the world and were able to connect to their developing understanding of the globe. The wall map in our room is a place of annotation and engagement. Experiences are share as our Flat Stanley pictures are posted upon their return from adventures with relatives in other countries. Our class continually adds layers to the web of our personal connections through imagery on our wall map.

As I mentioned previously in my post Fight the Empowerment, imagery is incredibly important to me when communicating my message. Often they are the source of my inspiration to get writing DODH and help me to develop my author’s voice. Imagery tells the untold story and Postes Canada - Canada Post Mailboxfuels my creativity. I am especially pleased that the new theme showcases my feature images so nicely; although my categories absurdly cover them. I have yet to figure out how to remedy that, so if anyone knows please pass it along @GroverAndrew. While using the Creative Commons to search for digital images I found that tips from Kim Cofino’s video were very helpful. Do not underestimate the power of a visual explanation, accessible by users at their own pace and specific learning needs. I appreciated how I could split my screen and follow along while selecting an image. Personalized tutoring.

One of educational technology’s greatest strengths is the ability to connect and collaborate in meaningful ways. Just as my hero Alvin Toffler predicted, workflows have changed as computers enhance the ability to tailor the access to information.

Resurfacing after a Dive in the Deep

sun dive I

Resurfacing. End of school, start of school with a glorious summer bridging the gap. Time off to think a little more holistically. A bird’s eye view. Oh thank goodness. Just like so many projects that I start, even with the best of intentions and the best laid plans; this blog has grown a little out of control. Digging Out of a Digital Hole needs a revamp, a rethink and some serious redesign. Much like the tomato plants on my balcony, or my garden in general; this has organically grown into a minor (digital) jungle. Time to break out the machete and bring order to the chaos.

Luckily, a new school year and the first assignment of CoETaIL Course 3 allows me to step back and take a long hard look at my blog and measure its effectiveness. So far I would say it is “a good first effort” but not “amazing”. When I began this course last year, I had never blogged before. I was quite adept at creating and maintaining websites as I had used both the Moodle and Google Sites platforms to create close to 40 different pages; supporting the learning of close to 400 students. However, I found that Edublogs, although the same in many ways are not quite as intuitive with their editing structure. I found the learning curve to be quite steep and making progress has been difficult. I believe I am starting to get the hang of it now; but it always seems to be the little tricks of the trade which still elude me. I think in part, it was my desire to stick to one theme and try to build within as opposed to jumping formats. As I was not an expert in using this platform, I spent a lot of time researching and searching out best practice examples to mimic and learn from. In 1824, Charles Caleb Colton wrote “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and I intend to incorporate examples of visual literacy within my own blog.

First off, I will give a quick overview of what my blog looked like at the end of Course 2. I quite liked my header image, although I was disappointed because it is actually an animated gif. The gif showed you traveling through a worm(digital)hole and I thought it would be quite cool to have a moving image in the header. It did not stay animated. Above the title, all of my categories were listed; which is clearly not the place for them and they will be one of the first elements to change in the remodel. Below my header were links to pages on my blog which as empty, have proven to be not as relevant as I had hoped. In order to initially populate my blog, I added messages which said that they are under construction and have now been removed. The widgets on right side of the page proved to be a mechanism for the blog with which I struggled in the creative process. Never having had experience with this before it took quite a lot of trial and error to develop the space. New vocabulary. Concepts and design principles make the process a slow undertaking as I view this as my professional face. At the moment, the content I want my visitors to be able to see is too far down the page and essentially unavailable. I quite like the tags and the structure of my widget sidebar, although I dislike greatly the font and the red color. Unfortunately these are not editable in this theme. At the bottom of a page shows the post that I have previously made, although I have not figured out how to show 5 different posts as opposed to five of the identical link. On posts, the theme seemed to make it difficult to cycle through. When you click on a post the widget sidebar disappears and you were left with merely the post content not additional links. Although a less cluttered page is ideal for readers but obviously makes it more difficult to engage with your content as it does not then lead them deeper into the digital hole. In pure readership terms, you want to attract avid readers or subscribers and keep them by offering interesting and varied content in multiple media platforms. Basics.

To achieve that I will be implementing many visual literacy strategies to help improve my blog. This may not be so easy, but will prove to be very exciting. In addition to course readings, I have been studying the design principles applied to web sites such as the excellent Beyond Digital, Principal of Change, edublogs by Ewan McIntosh and Backward by Design. What I have learned from these websites end designers is this:

Speak clearly. Speak interestingly. Speak your mind.

What I have learned from the readings? Stop waffling on. Be shorter and catch that moment. A fundamental change in style is also in order to develop as a writer. That will be exciting. It is not just all technological gimmicks that I am interested in. I have enjoyed the writing process more that I thought I would. Aside from time it actually is quite nice to compose your thoughts and develop ideas on paper. Being creative is always good for the soul.dodh-headerCheck out a guided tour of the changes to DODH

At last! Now that I have completed the revamp of my blog I am pleased to highlight the following improvements. I have removed two unused pages and changed the style of the menu bar at the top of the page. A newer, cleaner look was achieved by removing the categories from the header which is less cluttered and more straightforward. I chose a new  theme which allows me to add my tagline and better lays out previous blog posts. It also highlights the individual images which I so carefully chose in the first place. A small annoyance that I have not yet found the answer to is the fact that the categories cover the thumbnail Image of the posts below. This obviously lessens the impact of the visual, clouding the clarity of my intended message. With a new theme, I had to re-add elements in the widgets such as my Twitter profile forcing me to reevaluate the content that was displayed there. I removed links to other blogs and re-positioned the information to highlight my own content and creativity. I also added the widgets to the sidebar of all the pages on my blog and highlighted my  recent presentations at the Google European Summit.

Digging Out of a Digital hole has evolved and changes are designed increase the visual impact and organization of my information. I am looking forward to continuing my educational technology journey with you. Swim? Let’s dive in.

The Responsible Use of Technology (RUA)

E&A Publishing House bring you the 3 Keys to the Responsible Use of Technology!

Responsible Use Agreement perfectly suited to Primary & Middle School Students

E&A’s Responsible Use Agreement is perfectly suited to Primary & Middle School Students

 

Infographic for a Responsible Use Agreement (RUA)

Co-Authors: Eric Richards from the excellent blog E=ed2 & Andrew Grover of Digging Out of a Digital Hole

Target audience: Grade 5 Students

Wider use: Upper Primary & Middle School Students

CoETaIL Course 2 Final Project

 

Improvements in version 4.2: 

Initially, a more complex RUA infographic which contained 10 separate themes without a unifying thread. Now three themes, paralleled with educational origami’s Acceptable Use Agreement (AUA). Students will be better able to remember and apply these codes of conduct. Covers all major areas and aspects of Digital Citizenship for ages 7-16. KISS rule leads to wider acceptance, understanding and adoption of the principles within Staff and Students. Comprehensive and shared understandings are scaffolded for success no matter where on the continuum. Licenced by Creative Commons.

 

Feedback from users:

“strikes a balance between the needs at opposite ends of the spectrum.”  Teacher

“implementation plan ensures major strands build upon each other”. PYP Coordinator

“Students & Staff start the year on a solid digital footing.” Director of e-Learning

“a simple glance reinforces the central ideas of the RUA”. Grade 5 Student

 

Implementation Plan included!

Lesson plans adhere to 3 overarching concepts:

  1. Look after Yourself – You are important.
  2. Look After Others – Show you care.
  3. Look After Property – Caring for your own & other’s property requires thought & effort.


Download your copy of 3 Keys to the Responsible Use of Technology!

 

 

tank man

Fight the Empowerment

tank man

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

 

What a powerful image.

When I’m writing a new blog post, the biggest struggle is always to have the idea to get started at first. Of course many aspects of the content become immediately accessible within my mind, but I find it extremely difficult to actually start without a previously determined idea. Usually that focal point comes from one or two sources of an image which I choose to be my header; or I write a title, which then gives the editorial slant I intend to take about a topic. However this time, after watching an inspirational TED Talk about student action Extracurricular empowerment by Scott McLeod; two songs leapt into my mind. A mini battle of the bands ensued for the right to title this post. Since we are talking about  empowerment of students using technology; the word power floated upwards, like the cream to the top of milk. Rage Against the Machine’s 1991 song Take the Power Back not only has power in it’s title, but also contains strong verses about making the content of the curriculum relevant to learners and shaking up archaic educational structures. In the other corner,  Fight the Power, a 1990 track from Public Enemy makes a similarly strong statement about making change and advancing progress. As you can see from the title of my post, remixed title of these songs was the winner. Of course, as I wrote my first paragraph, many other songs containing the word “power” have bubbled to the surface of my consciousness including The Power by Snap! and Powerslave by Iron Maiden. Feel free to add your contributions or suggestions of great “power” songs in the comments below.

Now that the title and beginning of my post has been taken care of; the discussion of  technological empowerment in an education, has one key component to it: how educators can empower students and how students can empower themselves. I am lucky in that my classroom has a variety of technology at the students’ disposal. They have access to visualizers, digital cameras, iPads, Chromebooks and Smartboards and as a result, students are proficient with their application within the classroom. As a teacher, I post information on our class website and Home Learning tasks on our Google Classroom. Students have the ability to self-monitor and direct their own learning once they understand the established protocols. Before fully switching over to a digitized classroom, homework was previously posted on the board and copied into student agendas. Time consuming and apt to important details being missed. Once students had access to technology, often in the form of personal telephones, a quick picture of this list a

The French philosopher Rousseau's du Contrat Social inspired European political reform.

The French philosopher Rousseau’s du Contrat Social caused widespread European political reform.

nd out the door they walked. Now, with my curriculum so digitized, students are already accessing content related to their learning on their commute home. Students are adept at using technology collaboratively for learning purposes.  As students mature, they often choose to be involved in clubs and activities which make a difference in the lives of others. There is a deep engagement in Round Square, Student Council, Model United Nations and Global Issues clubs. Youth are naturally forming their opinions on issues related to their local community, school or personal life.  Students join groups which are often used for discussion and sharing of content whether it be for educational or personal use.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau posed that “Man was basically good”  and from the desire to be good, a social conscience is formed.

In our How We Organize Ourselves inquiry on Fair Play we discover which individuals and organisations have promoted human rights. They look at the actions taken by others to address problems and want to contribute. The outstanding TED Talk by McKenna Pope Want to be an activist? Start with your toys is an excellent example of how youth can leverage positive change. Students connect with local experts and sometimes leaders in their field. One student  pursuing his inquiry had the opportunity to interview the CEO of the National Civil War Museum and have a personalized tour via Hangout. Our Primary Round Square Club uses Google Docs to plan the logistics surrounding the school dance. The Primary Student Representative Council uses To collect feedback about school initiatives  and communicate developments throughout the year. As part of their exhibition action the students participated in a JR Action showing how they can make a difference in their own personal lives. Their final product was filmed with multiple iPads and the final movie edited and published across the school platforms by the students.

McLeod posits that “we must get out of the way and allow them to be amazing”. As an educator we want to create the structures and opportunities to allow our constituents to Achieve your Potential, Pursue your Passion & Fulfil your Responsibility as our School Mission states. Natural curiosity, fused with an interest in action; arises in a collaborative environment. Students want to develop their leadership capabilities and we as Educators always encourage the active pursuit of their goals and dreams.

I was raised in a Village

Thornhill Settlement Village

Thornhill Settlement Village, my home for 13 years; formed the cornerstones from which I developed my sense of community. Image by Thornhill Historic

The African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”, best sums up the approach needed when promoting digital citizenship. As a young child, the Thornhill Village Festival created indelible images in my psyche, fostering a sense of local community. It showed me, before I would come to understand it with life experience, the depth and breadth of interactions that are possible within your own neighborhood. As a child, seeing the community come together in celebration left cornerstones in my mind which would grow to shape my values. The parade was always a highlight, the charming historic dress of the early settlers always prevalent; allowing one to trace the timeline of the learner or of the Village’s history. So many societies with varied influences coming together to recognize their reliance on and respect for each other. The residents share important traditions, mourn their losses and celebrate their successes. So many support networks are established, starting with the family and extending through school to the community.

It is everyone’s responsibility to pass on digital citizenship skills to ensure interactions between individuals and those with organizations, all have a similar code of conduct. So much activity takes place outside the classroom environment; whether it be with parents, friends or individually accessing a variety of content. In our connected world, colleagues, sport coaches, political and community service organizations, as well as business interests, all have a stake in online safety.  All banks have security software protecting the accounts and frequently contact their members to alert them to phishing scams and provide them with data protection updates. Businesses create Apps which are opportunities to purchase goods and services directly. But they must protect their customers, in order to keep them. Social media gives limitless potential for for collaboration but can be a Pandora’s Box and must be treated with care.

Creating space for discussion with students is essential to having a strong digital citizenship . Fifth graders are avid technology users and encounter all the tricks of the trade while online. One of the biggest elements which can benefit student buy in, is the collaborative creation of classroom Essential Agreements. By opening the discussions to the students it allows them to highlight challenges they face and suggest guidelines to avoid them. Conversations often center around student led problem solving or educating each other about best practice. Adapting to new responsibilities for digital citizenship,often coincides with the introduction of new technology learning opportunities and the exploration of additional digital platforms. Despite potentially not the most creative portion of the curriculum, it can be a very exciting and engaging time for all involved. By having students share personal stories, it gives ownership and gravitas to the actions when the individual is online. With the fall of traditional privacy boundaries and of evanescent personal space; users need to fully understand their ability to restrict their digital footprint as needed. Exposing students to these new technologies while teaching them how to use them properly, allows for honest talk about needed protective measures.

Students recognize their best interests are at the heart of the matter, but most importantly it solidifies their ability to navigate their digital world themselves. In a way, digital citizenship can be viewed as a new driver’s education course, leading to a licence which a new driver acquires at the age of 16. The ability to drive? To control their own movement and exercise freedom? Which kid didn’t want their licence as soon as they could get it? The motivation of the recipient to master these skills should not be underestimated or neglected. The trick is to tap into that vein of excitement, a prospect made easier with the help of your Village.

Border crossing

Universal Borderless Patrol

Border crossing

Border crossing: South Tyrol – Switzerland. 2295m above sea level by Gerhard Haindl

Wouldn’t that be an interesting occupation? Flipping the concept of independent nations on its head; the Universal Borderless Patrol would have the fortuity to interact with all nations, races and peoples that inhabit our planet. The role would extend beyond our planet, through our Solar System and out into the expanse of the Universe. The idea matches the scope of our access to content and information; the edges of our technological universe. The internet is oblivious to the limitations of physical borders. Our globe is literally banded together, regardless of the location or distance. Communities are now closer than ever, with the invaluable ability to make connections with like-minded people or access shared content from your pocket instantly. Physical space has been eliminated by the technological revolution and barriers between individuals, information and media no longer exist. In rare, but high-profile cases, access to information is restricted or denied; however, I have not yet had the opportunity to visit, teach or live in these countries. Most countries in Europe and North America, where I have lived; all subscribe to their own, as well as international copyright law. Regulations, penalties and acceptable use guidelines may slightly differ, but the core principles are the same. Youth is the key. Educate the youth. They will be in positions of power one day.  

Privatgrund

Digital Citizenship should help to eliminate the need to keep content restricted by helping the user cite their sources properly. Image by Unci Narynin

As educators, our obligation is to promote the ideals and guidelines of digital citizenship; protecting the rights of creators while balancing the needs of users. Teaching these responsibilities is easy, as students are keen and there are many excellent digital citizenship programs available.  We use both Common Sense Media and the ISTE Standards at our school. We also have a Scope and Sequence of Skills created in conjunction with the International Baccalaureate, which forms the backbone of our technological education as a school. We have a strong digital citizenship policy, which is communicated through school wide planning and sequential learning objectives, activities and resources targeting different grade levels.  The programme culminates in our Computer Code of Conduct, which is included in the package of information sent to all Parents and Students at the beginning of the year. Both parties sign the agreement and the notarized copy goes into the Student’s Portfolio. The Computer Code of Conduct is further posted in classrooms and included in the Student’s agendas.

No Borders

The internet is bounded by no geographical barriers as evidenced in the photo “No Borders” by Michael Q Todd

The School Librarian is a key cog, discussing the theory behind digital citizenship and reinforcing appropriate searching, referencing and citation skills. From Grade 5 onwards, our students are expected to have accurate bibliographies in all assignments.  Our Primary Technology Integrationist works closely with each grade level at the beginning of the year to help students understand the purpose and importance Digital Citizenship. She works in collaboration with the Students to create essential agreements within the classroom.  Our Director of eLearning leads in-depth sessions for all members of our community, providing leadership needed to address a variety of aspects of the online world. The Communications Department publishes our technology philosophy on the website and in the school promotional publications. It is a tapestry, interwoven with many people sharing a consistent message to create the full picture.

The front line in establishing the respect for copyright, is always the educational leadership that a class teacher demonstrates everyday. Modeling good practice and stressing the importance of proper use is essential at all levels. Instilling good habits and nurturing development year-on-year builds confidence, competence and understanding within the user. We must always be cognizant that we are building future generations who need to be well versed in the international expectations of copyright, communications and media.

Exploring Fields of Knowledge

fields-of-knowledge

Connections can be examined through different farming practices.

 

The learning curve is starting to get steeper.

As my course continues to peel the layers off the technological onion, I continue to find areas in which I am very comfortable; yet others reveal areas which proves I am out of my depth. To me, it seems to be similar to an aerial view of the English countryside; a window seat-view which I was lucky enough to have at the beginning of my journey in technology. A myriad of multi-coloured fields of knowledge; fertile and ripe for harvesting, are separated with hedges, rivers and stone walls. Often there are gates or pathways which connect this knowledge to each other, similar to the Rights of Way in England & Wales. I just need to find them.

The challenge for me, will be to conect my current expertise with new concepts and growing understanding. In “Living & Learning with New Media” the authors contend that “messing around represents the beginning of a more intense, media-centric form of engagement. When messing around, young people begin to take an interest in and focus on the workings and content of the technology and media themselves, tinkering, exploring, and extending their understanding.” p.20 As a first time blogger, yet experienced digital practitioner, encountering my own new media for the first time; I find a deep connection to this assertation. I authored an extensive array of Google Sites supporting both for my Grade Five classroom and as a Sports Leader at my school. I feel as though I should be better at this blogging racket. Of course I expected the actual writing of content to be challenging, but what I did not anticipate was how different WordPress is to creating a Google Site.  Google Sites and WordPress allow users to post content relatively easily to the web, the establishment of a basic web page can be quite easy. It is only once the architect cares about the content, style and potential impact of information that the two  platforms become trickier. Actually trying to propagate your vision digitally, has proven to be quite difficult indeed.

Within my own learning journey is a developing understanding of what is possible in on a blog. I have found parallels between the bottom and top of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Higher Order Thinking. On one hand, right at the top of the pyramid, is creating. In order to bring my vision to life, I am working through the top tiers of the edifice, designing and constructing; cycling through the analysis and evaluation stages while applying them to Digging Out of a Digital Hole.  However, on the flip side, I bounce between the lowest rungs of the ladder as I try desperately to remember what I did last time to make an idea work, or understand the complexities associated with new platform possibilities.

All the while, a clear vision of what could be, drives me forward. An additional other quote from “Living & Learning with New Media”  applies to me in these circumstances. “…players who enjoyed experimenting with the authoring tools embedded in games. Games such as Pokémon or Neopets are designed specifically to allow user authoring and customization of the player experience in the form of personal collections of customized pets. This kind of customization activity is an entry point into messing around with game content and parameters”. p24-25. I do this every time I open my blog. I am far more concerned with the structure so far than the content. I am trying to figure out what these menus mean or what these options, tick boxes and fields contain. Do they help me? Are they relevant?  The adaptations sure do not write blog posts for me. I’m behind, but fascinated.

At school, while constructing my own curriculum websites, it was easy to connect with colleagues on a personal level who were also learning.  As the article so aptly describes, “messing around with media is embedded in social contexts where friends and a broader peer group share a media-related interest and social focus.” p26 At school, I had a group of peers at the same level, experiencing the same pedagogical awakenings. Online, by myself, I have yet to establish connections with these pillars of support. I know they exist within CoETaIL; apparently at my fingertips. As I am still coming to terms with my educational blog and commenting responsibilities however; I have not yet found the correct doors to knock on, or rooms to wander into, in order to connect with the experience of my Cohort. A week from now, a month from now, or a Course 2 from now; those Rights-of-Way will no doubt be established. As the connections strengthen, I will transfer from my small but fertile English farmer’s fields; to the vast expanse of the Canadian Prairies, where creativity roams free like the bison do.