Thursday, January 1, 2015

Digital Citizenship - Issues and Concerns in the modern on-line context

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne

Whilst Donne and his contemporaries such as Marlowe, Jonson and Shakespeare may never imagined the social media dominated world which we find ourselves, they certainly could encapsulate the human condition in fine prose. The human condition pertains to avatars just as it does the analog self. That much has not changed.
Technology is a tool which we can use to improve our lives, to benefit others and to also degrade, humiliate and harm just like humanity has been doing for millennia, without the aid of computer technology. Social media definitely falls into that category and it is the modern educator's role to assist learners in the effective and ethical use of technologies in order to successfully navigate the murky and sometimes turbulent waters of the Internet and social media.
The stakeholders for any educator is the students, teaching colleagues, parents and the wider community and they must consider the specific needs and context of the learning community within which they operate. As Donne eloquently puts it "No man is an island entire of itself" and ethical, safe, responsible, respectful and legal use of information and technology is something which needs to be modelled and explicitly taught to our young chargers. Life-long learning, the modern catch cry, can only be successfully achieved if the learner is conversant in the issues and concerns of digital. The online well-being of our students is just as important as the well-being that exists in the face to face realm.
Rather than being Henny Penny and claim that all the world's ill and dangers are wrapped up in the devices which teenagers seems constantly attached to, modern educators need to ensure that they have a positive and informed attitude towards to the use of technology in order that learners to create, share, think, learn and grow. As a responsible adult you wouldn't ban a young person from going near any water until they were 13, 15, or 18 as they needed to be protected from drowning. I believe that the same principle applies to the digital world and social media. Of course, there are considerations of age appropriateness, but as an educator who works with teenagers even my youngest students have the right and NEED to be made aware of the all issues, pitfalls and positive aspects that the online world can offer.
Young people need to be aware of what constitutes ethical on line behaviour. They need to   understand the concepts of intellectual property and fair use/dealing. As a student enquired of me in a digital citizenship/ethical scholarship lesson one day - if we aren't meant to copy and paste why can we? Just because it is possible to drive over the speed limit in your car doesn't mean you should. When you explain to students that whilst you may be able to "rip off" the latest popular song and put it into your school project doesn't mean that you should. It is about being ethical. Doing the right thing. You might get away with it and then again you might not.
I have encouraged my students to seek permission and were thrilled when they were allowed to use the jingle for Minecraft in their presentation from the copyright holders. Students shouldn't be afraid to ask permission - and if they get a knock back they have still learnt the lesson.
 danah boyd's It's Complicated delves into the networked lives of modern teenagers but what struck me that most about listening to podcasts of interviews with her is that what she is really saying is that teenagers haven't really changed. They seek approval from their peers and are starting to differentiate themselves from their parents, they just want to hang out with their friends.  One of the comment boyd made which resonated with me is the culture of fear which prevents the modern teenager from physically hanging out with their friends in the same way kids of the 1970s and earlier were able to.  They have much less physical freedom and the technology is merely an enabler.  They can hang out online in ways that older generations never had to and have great difficulty in understanding. Boyd's concept of "context collapse" is also an interesting one in which everyone with an online presence must relate to.  In a sense it is very hard to navigate the online world as all they various contexts of you as a friend, school friends from the past, current colleague, previous colleague, current partner, ex-partner are all in the same space - and they all know a different side of "you" from the context they know you. The legal ramifications of an angry post or spiteful tweet are being felt in the courts and the evidence of these can be gathered and used in legal disputes is a scary reality but if the apposite arguments and lessons are taught to the students then the worst case scenarios which are used as the warning bells can be just an interesting anecdote rather than a reality. Digital citizenship is just one of the many forms of citizenship that exist in the modern world but I believe it to be the most important.  Access to the online world has rights and responsibilities and just as we wouldn't condone unaware and unlicensed drivers on our roads, nor should we allow our students to navigate the twist and turns of a world which they need to understand it is dangers as well as it benefits.  The independence that comes with that understanding, efficacy is just the same as having safe, legally responsible drivers who can enjoy the open road just as much as the next person.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kid B

Following on from the power of the word YET - here is what happens when the government policies on education and the impact of high stakes testing and standardisation happens to kid b.

If you have 6 minutes - watch.  It is a powerful example of how as educators we have the power to really change and/or make a difference in the lives of the students we encounter and how the modern educator is so hamstrung by the accountability to the ever changing landscape of government policies which seem to lose sight of what is trying to be achieved.  Outcomes and accountability are all very well and good, but I am afraid that the intrinsic humanity and dignity of learning and the learners seem to get lost in the paperwork and process.  Good policy would see the right outcomes be achieved without the extraneous BS that goes with it.

Putting the soapbox in storage for a another day.


Looking at my twitter feed this morning I came across an interesting link to a fabulous article
by Daniel Coyle.

As a teacher this article resonated with me.  So many times students will position themselves as being hopeless or incapable of doing a task, succeeding at a particular academic discipline or sport.  I have often thought that when I teach students, especially in English, that it is matter of building up the students' confidence to see that they indeed are capable of reading an entire novel and understanding it; that they are indeed capable of constructing a perfectly good essay with worthy things to say; that they are indeed able to be creative and imaginative with their narrative writing.

At times, being frustrated by their negativity, I have often thought that the plaintive cries of "I can't ...." or "I not good at..." was just work avoidance.  Especially when I have heard it from the same student for the umpteenth time.  But if I truly taught from the heart and listened carefully to the student then I would see that it really was a quite of them perceiving themselves as incapable and they are crippled by self-doubt and the lack of confidence to struggle and work at the problem, seeing it as too big, too hard, and being too ill equipped - not having the skills.

So how to reframe the view; how do you get students to reposition themselves in the classroom or playing field; how do you give them the confidence to "have a go" and work towards mastery???  Especially in the face of their simple and firmly held belief  " I'm not good at ...." or "I can't ...."  And as Daniel Coyle points out - it is with the simple and powerful three letter word - YET.  "I'm not good at ..... YET".  This starts that student and teacher on a different path, and firmly foregrounds the notion that anything can be achieved but it needs effort and it needs to take time.  Those that are talented at things, don't have to work hard, and students will often measure themselves against the best.  I would not measure myself against the best swimmers in the world when I do my morning laps - because I have not worked at my skills and technique or fitness - YET - nearly enough.  And that powerful little word hints to all parties in the exchange, that it will come, if you work at it.

"As Dr Coral Dweck and her work on mindset ....(has) shown how small changes in language - even a few words - can affect performance. 
Her core insight is that they way we frame questions of talent matter hugely.  If we put the focus on "natural ability", kids tend to be less engaged on put forth less effort (often all, if it's just a genetic lottery, then why should I try?). When we put the focus on effort, however, kids try harder and are more engaged."

And as Daniel Coyle says "... because "yet" tells a clear story about the value of effort and struggle, and that story is aligned with the way the brain grows."

Working with teenagers, I feat they they could become resistant or deaf to the effect of the word "YET", but there are also other ways of reframing the viewpoint of the student who sees themselves as incapable, no good, why bother.  Acknowledge their fears, listen to them and not blithely dismiss their feelings and viewpoint countering their negativity by saying "Yes you are good at ..."  You have just dishonoured them and their dignity has taken a blow.  You might not see them as "no good at ...", but they most certainly do. For them it is a statement of fact.  Johanna Hedgardh suggested to say to the students "Ok, but if you could, how would you do it?"  They might elicit "I don't know", because the student genuinely doesn't know the first thing about how to tackle being better at.  So this is where the teacher can step in and give them the skills and confidence to start working their way towards mastery in the particular skill or subject area. 
Another way to tackle the finality of what students are saying -" I am no good at...." which is somehow supposed to be the end of the conservation - how it will always be.  YET you could also say to the student  "You're not good at it NOW, BUT ....."  which again opens up the valuing of the learning and acquiring of skills as a long-term process, of something that requires effort and then the mastery and achievement will come.  And always remember that success is measured differently for everyone.  For one student, reading an entire book is going to be a huge achievement, whereas for another, achievement will be reading the entire works of Jane Austen in a year.

As a wonderful school counsellor always used to remind the teaching staff, never underestimate the power that you words have to influence your students.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year - Welcome 2013

Quote from To Kill a Mockingbird from Banned Books Week poster
What a lovely way to start the new year by reading a cracking book.  I have just finished Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.  With references to To Kill a Mockingbird I thought that the image  and quote to the left was appropriate.
At times, I might take my ability to read (and read whatever I like) for granted, but if I couldn't read ever again my world would be so much more the drabber and duller.  To enter worlds and concepts with ease and to be transported to another time and place is something I cherish, yet I don't contemplate it as a privilege that some may not have.
I give thanks for living in a country which does not dictate to me what I can and can't read.  I give thanks for my free public education which engendered in me a love of reading.  I give thanks for great teacher librarians (which I can only hope to emulate) who fostered my love of learning and reading and encouraged me in all my weired and wonderful endeavours.  I remember be obsessed as a primary school student on stories of shipwrecks - despite living nearly 400 kilometres inland.  And in high school being hungry for biographies and autobiographies of every type - Nikki Lauder being a memorable read - which certainly nurtured my inner rev-head.
2012 my have been the National Year of Reading but it seems like every year needs to be the year of reading.  I hope to devote much of my free time to reading and rereading my lovely friends.  To discover and to revisit familiar and disparate worlds.
Let the reading begin.
Or as Max would have - Let the wild rumpus start!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I got my boarding Pass!

This week I was lucky enough to attend the South Western Sydney Region Teacher Librarian Conference at St Andrew's Primary School.  What a great school with a very impressive Principal and a beautiful library.

Taking off with PLANE

Katherine Hannaford, the ICT guru Teacher Librarian from Macquarie Fields High School, introduces us, to what I believe, the next big thing in teaching - Professional Learning Anywhere Anytime Network for Educators.  I have joined and am really excited about the collaborative and professional learning potential of being able to share, learn and lead across sectors, across Australia.

I have my boarding pass, ready to travel!