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.Check 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.
E&A Publishing House bring you the 3 Keys to the Responsible Use of Technology!
Infographic for a Responsible Use Agreement (RUA)
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:
- Look after Yourself – You are important.
- Look After Others – Show you care.
- 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!
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.
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.
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.