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!

 

 

Privacy, Piracy & the Private Eye

A connected world requires us to travel in different digital dimensions.

A connected world requires us to travel in different digital dimensions.

There is a strange coincidence I noticed as I inserted the image above into my blog post entry about privacy. Two of the four images which make up the Portals to Other Dimensions are the same blue as the header in Digging Out of a Digital Hole. At first I found it surprising, when I initially thought of using the photograph, I didn’t realize there was a single blue, let alone two. The significance struck me shortly after as they represent perfectly; two avatars in my digital domain. I always imagined these archways led to somewhere fabulous; their Sci-Fi, spacey feel, allude to time traveling and parallel lives in alternate Universes.

The dark blue represents my educational journey. A deep colour now coming to the fore in sharing my Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy (CoETaIL). Its resonance blankets professional development, my pedagogy and who I strive to be as an educator. It is the skill and love of learning exemplified.  

The lighter blue is my teacher-self.  The digital footprint of myself as an in-class practitioner.  The header shows the lightest blue closest to the vacuum, symbolizing the process of learning and my growing imprint inside the digital world. Look no further than the this site to see the exponential increase in content contributed to my educational environment. Radical. My blog, Twitter, Instagram, Google Sites, GAFE environment and soon-to-be certification added to the toolbox. Next academic year, it will be iPads in Grade 2. The digital black hole is always hungry.

The serene green represents peaceful interactions with information and media during recreational time on the internet. Sharing pictures, listening to music, communicating with friends, or other areas which make up our personal lives. The joy of technology lives here.

The red represents anger, or more accurately, danger in the digital domain. It’s pink hues serve as a warning, a caution to have a mind, when embarking on adventures in technology.  The hazard light demonstrates the need for prudence, shows the relevance of the content of Course 2 and the question of whether privacy even exists anymore.

data_never_sleeps

Every minute, every day these are the interactions which take place on the internet.

Of course it doesn’t, privacy is dead.  And it is not coming back anytime soon. Digital profiles begin before birth and are well-established by the later stages of childhood. Primary school students widely participate in a connected world and have never known any different. The net never forgets. Most users understand that concept, certainly most of those born into the computer age have a decent understanding. Infrequent users and those which generally count as the older slice of the population are generally the most at-risk. True, users at the beginning of the curve, such as young teens and middle school students, have sharp learning curves; but these are commonly counterbalanced by a comprehensive digital citizenship program.

There really are too many platforms to be private anymore. We are clearly digitally entrenched and usage is no longer measured daily but hourly. Wearable technology is the wave currently breaking over the market, with the true prize of embedded technology on the near horizon. A device is all anyone needs to  engage with the connected world.  Apps are glorified hyperlinks which access library books, newspapers, video chats, movie tickets, concerts, flights and thousands of programs to help manage your life. To dominate your life. Knowledge at your fingertips is already here, what’s next? Changes that were almost incomprehensible not too long ago; those that were mocked as wild science fiction, are already possible though often not yet commercially available.

Sherlock_Holmes

The deductive reasoning skills of Sherlock Holmes are no longer needed to follow the trails of digital breadcrumbs.

It will be merely a matter of time, perhaps a decade, until humans embed technology inside their bodies. Designed to allow people to access bank accounts, health information, birth certificates, passports and nationality. The “Homo sapiens barcode” allows seamless passage through the future world. Our unique data point will allow us to drive cars, purchase goods and services or unlock doors. Or, one day when we cannot get the skeleton key in the lock, it won’t. The same technology used to eliminate barriers, can be used in reverse to create borders and discriminate. Governments, branches of security, banks and businesses all have our data. Theft of our personal information and cyber crime will be the single biggest threat to the world, second only to climate change. There are 77 apps on my phone. I just checked. Trails of breadcrumbs strewn across the technoverse which creates a far more detailed picture of ourselves than we can imagine.

LinkedIn

Often the purpose of our digital footprint is to be found, not concealed.

GPS already tracks our exact location while our spending habits are predicted to the point where we now receive personal advertisements based on our browsing history.  Privacy has passed. No longer valid is the novelist Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez’s quote “All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.”

So what to do the face of such overwhelming evidence that maintaining privacy is impossible?  Embrace it, welcome it, manipulate it. Being aware of how to protect yourself now and looking to constantly adapt with the technology.  The rate of  progress and change is staggering. Look at the innovations in the last 10 years and recognize that the next 10 will also entail radical developments, as yet unforeseen or predicted. I am confident that people are continually developing the ability to change along with it. As computer literacy sky rockets across the world and access is considered a human right; users, providers and creators are making themselves more and more aware of how to limit their vulnerability. Minds which look to exploit privacy are continually offset with even greater numbers in the counter balance. Privacy may be passe, but security of your digital profile is certainly not.

Fossilized in the Digital Domain

Our actions online are as indelible as fossilized footprints of dinosaurs which once roamed the Earth. Cairichnium leonardii dinosaur track (Dakota Sandstone; Lower Cretaceous; eastern side of Dinosaur Ridge,  west of Denver, north-central Colorado, USA) James St. John via Compfight cc

Cairichnium leonardii dinosaur track (Dakota Sandstone; Lower Cretaceous; eastern side of Dinosaur Ridge, west of Denver, north-central Colorado, USA)
James St. John via Compfight cc

Footprints can be a tricky thing. Most of the world that we live it can prove difficult for us to leave a mark behind. I work in a classroom which has polished wooden floors and a school with tiled hallways. I walk to and from my campus on manicured pathways and at the end of my workday I return to live in a house which is not a mud hut. Shoes create a safety barrier between the ground and the interloper. Often, only my own recreational time or playtime with my children are opportunities arise to go barefoot.This type of interaction is completely different, stone floors are still immune from our marks, but forest floors, rocky beaches and backyard grass that tickles between the toes, gives a deeper connection between two entities. Splashing in muddy puddles and burying your feet in the sand, give more permanence to our movements. We can backtrack through time and follow our movements around before the tide washes away our existence.

Actions online can have a longer lasting impact than the Dinosaur footprints at Dinosaur Ridge, Colorado.

Actions online can have a longer lasting impact than the Dinosaur footprints at Dinosaur Ridge, Colorado.

Photo Credit: rynoceras via Compfight cc

Digitally it is an entirely different story. All of our movements are recorded for posterity, intentionally or not. By now, most of us understand the basics of good digital citizenship and are able to keep in consideration their digital footprint. It is only when we can start to consider that almost all of our life is digitized that your footprint begins to have a gravitas of its own. Contexts, contacts, moods and emotions take us through the realities of everyday life. The teacher’s professional profile tends to be kept as just that. As an educator, I know my audience and generally interact in a pretty safe environment, as educational discussions and research rarely lead to trouble. Of course, the appropriate use of resources and material have their own pitfalls and eliminating plagiarism is always a lesson learning outcome. It is once we start to make Imprints across multiple platforms of our true self, our so-called private or personal self is when the balance becomes trickier. Nothing is really private anymore.

Stages of your life and the spheres of your experience intersect an increasingly complex ways. New media and technology platforms which are created to diversify our online presence and perform specific tasks have their own nuances. The use of social media immediately springs to mind and divisions can become blurred when using programs such as Instagram and Twitter. Communications between friends or for personal reasons contain correspondence in known contexts, It is the collapsed contexts which often create the tension. Danah Boyd, author of It’s Complicated a book about the online lives of students; postulates that a context collapse occurs when “people are forced to grapple simultaneously with otherwise unrelated social context that are rooted in different norms and seemingly demand different social responses” (p. 31). “Navigating collapsed contexts while considering multiple potential audiences can require significant social monitoring and social negotiation for teens compelling a more nuanced approach to self-presentation online.” In other words, inside jokes, strange interests or bad behaviour can quickly spread across your many personas and give insight, positive or negative to groups of people not necessarily considered for in the communication.

Digital citizenship courses can aid understanding these days almost all students participate some form of online protection course and fill in acceptable use policy agreement. The current generation has grown up in this world and generally have a far greater understanding than those of an older vintage. It is becoming more widely accepted that digital citizenship is not just for students but also for the entire School community inclusive of parents and School personnel. An effective program will expose the participants to the realities and benefits of our connectedness. Modeling a positive digital footprint is key while having a continued and open discussion while evolving practices present new challenges. Today’s learners are well aware that they are creating their own actuality of an altered Id in cyberspace.

Monterosa, Vanessa. “Review: Chapter 1 – “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” by danah boyd.” hastac. 15 June 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. https://www.hastac.org/blogs/edtechftw/2014/06/15/review-chapter-1-its-complicated-social-lives-networked-teens-danah-boyd.

Cus·tom·ize or ˈkəstəˌmīz/

Making your blog more personalized

Meditations, musings and methods of how to personalize your blog.

I think the title of this post just about sums up where the construction of my blog stands, as I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce the word on the right hand side but is apparently identical to the left. To someone becoming accustomed to new technology, phonetic transcription can make the settings panel of a blog feel a lot like learning a foreign language.  In reality, as understanding develops and I make connections between the settings and appearance of my blog; I feel I can differentiate between hieroglyphics and mother tongue. The challenge is to customize my blog to it to make more personalized. That’s an ambitious goal when the language I want to communicate in is no longer native.

The old adage of one step forward, two steps back, applies to this journey. My vision is clear in my head and examples of excellent practice are plentiful. I wanted to add a featured image to my latest post, but I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Eventually I realized that you actually had to embed the image in the post in the first place then set it as the featured image. Of course, this allows for more than one image to be placed in the post with the chosen depiction appearing on the homepage and as the article header. I have chosen Monochrome as my theme for my blog because I consider the color schematic and layout to fit my style; however it often presents problems because the theme is not built so that it supports all of the features that I have tried to add. Frustration.

As I continue on my learning journey I find that I am not digging a deep hole but a wide hole. I am expanding my understanding of a number of different platforms, not just WordPress in order to create my blog. This past week, I wanted to create a picture to my post Exploring Fields of Knowledge which showed two contrasting types of farming practices, an analogy which supported my growing understanding of different concepts and learning connections.

There's always light at the end of the tunnel

The light at the end of the tunnel is not always a train

However, to combine the two desired images into one for the header for my blog post, I needed to use Instagram, a program I had an account for, but only basic knowledge of. Once I had found my two  copyright free images on WikiMedia Commons, I went Instagram to meld them together. One step forward, two steps back. In order to merge them, I needed to download the Layout extension. Once downloaded, it took me 20 minutes to learn how to edit my pictures and add the layers of coloring and style that brought my picture to life. This process is kind of like working on my blog; but not really, because I get dragged off task to do something more interesting or to acquire the knowledge in the first place. Now that I have the layout app and the knowledge, I have been able to drastically reduce the time to alter images to just 60 seconds. One step forwards….

Two steps back….Other style points that sidetracked me from writing was trying to add subscribe buttons & search bars to my theme. As I alluded to above, some of the elements that I was trying to include are not applicable for the theme that I had chosen on WordPress. The Monochrome theme simply does not have the same menus within it as other themes do; therefore I could not add the desired item where I wanted to. My RSS feed was an example, I know I have one established already, but can I not add my Digg Reader list of RSS’ to my site? Did I need to select my RSS sources twice, or was there something I was missing? Of course that issue seems straightforward, but it still takes you the time to figure out what the problem is. Troubleshooting is never easy when you’re not sure what the trouble is, where it’s located or how to fix it. Hindsight is always 20/20 once you know how to do it the first time.

One step forward…. an area that I feel like I’m getting a good handle on now, but one that came with its own set of struggles, was using the tags and categories. Tags and categories help to make blogs and websites more searchable, interesting and ultimately relevant to readers . my first mistake was watching the video but not realizing that hashtag # was not needed when creating tag words. I discovered this after my second blog post and needed to go back to eradicate the erroneous entries. Despite my efforts, I still have one hashtag up on the right hand side in that menu. However I am starting to build a database of my own tagged word dictionary.

Two steps back….perhaps the most frustrating of all, was my inability to link my Twitter account to my blog. I have been tweeting pretty steadily since November and prior to starting CoETaIL it had been the focus of my own digital learning, as I wanted to add the world of Twitter to my personal digital portfolio. Like many of the applications, widgets and technological tips above, there is a learning curve but I feel now that I have a good understanding of how to use Twitter in an educational setting. I even ramped up my Twitter use while taking CoETaIL, because I know it is an excellent way connect with my cohort. Nonetheless, I was extremely stumped when I will needed to get a confirmation key and consumer key which link the two. After spending close to an hour trying to figure it out myself, including searching Twitter and WordPress settings, I finally asked for help from our resident digital expert. I am now happy to say that it works….or is at least closer to working. Still tweeting, just not being picked up on my blog. Yet.

One step forward….help menus, video tutorials and online forums. I just can’t get enough. Still, if everyone else was able to do it I am sure I can. Persistence and perseverance will pay off. I just need to stop wanting my blog to look so professional so early. It took me around a year to get my Grade Five and Coaching Google Sites up to snuff. I guess I just need to stop obsessing. Yea right, this is too much fun.

One step forward….

 

 

Citations
Keller, Smith. customize+button+small. 2013. Customized Themes, Colours, And Fonts For Your Restaurant Website. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. <https://www.appetas.com/blog/2013/11/11/customized-themes-colors-and-fonts-for-your-restaurant-website>
Skitterphoto.com, . sky-ditch-eye-hole. 2014. Pexels. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. <https://www.pexels.com/photo/sky-ditch-eye-hole-3828/>.