Reflection: How will I move forward with my use of Educational Technology and Information Literacy

Integrating educational technology and information in a meaningful way continues to be a challenge in Gr. 1.  Nevertheless, I will continue to find ways to do so.

This year, I will:

-continue to write posts to our grade blog

-begin to embed video and slideshows to my posts

-continue to create interactive lessons on the smartboard for my students

-explore new software to use with my students

-partner my students with older students to document learning using Voicethread and other digital tools

-record student work, learning and reflections using digital technology

-support my colleagues on their use of technology in their classrooms

-use images to strengthen my presentations in lessons, anchor charts, support students with learning challenges ADHD, Autism, etc.)

Mass Collaboration, Where Boundaries are Blurred and Creativity is Leading to Change

My friend Trish Neubrand, who teaches Art at ISB, introduced me to a cool video on Youtube.  It is a fun collaborative piece between Madonna and Keith Harring.  Trish uses the video as an energizer for her class and as an introduction to their work on Keith Harring.  She even uses it with Kindergarten students who “can’t sit still and start twitching in their seats.”  I know I would have loved to have an art teacher like Trish: smart, caring and exceptionally creative! 

The video is an example of how different pieces can be mixed, remixed and mashed up to produce something completely new and different.  But this example is only the tip of a very large iceberg.
When people come together to share thier their expertise, focus their work on a single project and use computer-supported collaboration tools, you have what has been termed mass collaborationWikipedia is a prominent example.  Like Karen Armstrong’s TED wish:  the Charter for Compassion, which I first wrote about in my earlier post, you have a network on individuals coming together to solve a problem or to create a new product.  Essential to mass collaboration is the community of contributors to the project.  You need people willing to share their ideas and to work with technologies that make the sharing possible. 

Another example of great work that is being carried out through mass collaboration is the Grameen Foundation whose work is to “combine the power of microfianane, technology and innovative solutions to defeat global poverty”. 
While some argue that mass collaborative projects are economically smart, (through outsourcing / croudsourcing) I would argue that they highlight an important aspect of the human experience and that is the shared collective whole.  While boundaries are being blurred, we are also learning to realize that which we all share: that we are all the same and that we are better when we work together.  The affect this is having on major corporations and how mass collaborative networks are paving a road for new demand, as well as new products, is the subject of an article that was published in Business Week entitled, The Power of Us.
In the end, I think more important than the new products that are created, is the innovation that collaborative networks help to create.  Relationships are being formed and understanding and knowledge is being shared and created.   It is this kind of collaboration that will hopefully empower us to address the serious challenges that our species faces now and in the future. 
In order to “prepare” our students, present and future, we need to fully understand the tools that are out there and their potential to elevate learning outcomes through collaboration and creativity.  We are not going to solve the world’s problems with ideas that already exist.  I don’t know if teachers can in fact prepare students, but we can work together with them; learn, share, collaborate and take risks that will move us beyond curriculum and concept attainment.  Preparing students for a future we do not yet know is like giving them a map to a place we have not yet been.  Instead, we need to introduce, integrate and implement learning opportunities with the technology that we have today.  It is constantly changing, albeit, but interestingly, it is all interconnected.  Students who are aware of the tools, acquire the knowledge of how to use them; and are empowered to extend their learning to new horizons and applications, are the ones who will make new discoveries and contribute to the global “intellectual property”.  This can’t happen in isolation, nor will it. 
Personally, I would like to see a curriculum that reflects this change.  The question of equal access and equity also play an important part of this paradigm shift that is beginning to unfold.  One Laptop Per Child is an organization devoted to this end.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

I think we are moving in the right direction, but are we all?  How can we tap into resources (our collective minds) that were always there, but till recently, lay dormant, fragmented and isolated?

The Power of the Internet: Seeds in Cyberspace

I can’t remember when I first used the internet or when it came about.  It really doesn’t matter, because with the internet, a few key strokes and Voila! I could have my answer…if I was really interested.  It does seem like the internet has been around for ever, and for some students, it has!  The power the internet possesses lies in its ubiquity and its ability to provide information faster than anyone can formulate questions.  But so what?
I concur with the ideas my friend and colleague, James Denby, wrote in his blog post:  The Web Powerful?  Like any tool, it is ultimately how individuals choose to use it that reveals any potential or power.  With the right kind of motivation and the right kind of action, the internet can lead to important change in the world.  Take for example the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) website and Karen Armstrong’s project: building a Charter for Compassion.  The website helps to bring some inspiring ideas to the world through the internet.  Where TED started out as a conference with an elite guestlist, the internet makes the ideas accessible and the popularity of the ideas universal.  Karen Armstrong’s wish is a collaborative project (more on mass collaboration in my next blog) that seeks to bring the best from a community of thinkers and religious leaders in a common effort to spread understanding and compassion, regardless of one’s religion and faith.  Here, a simple idea is given such potential power simply through being shared on the internet. But this is just the first step.  Once ideas are spread, and action taken, therein lies the true power of a seed that is planted in cyberspace. 

Online Safety – A Shared Responsibility

In order to appropriately address the challenges of protecting students and children from bullying that takes place online, all members of the school community: teachers, parents and students need to come to some common understandings and some common agreements.  We need to understand the 5 W’s of cyber-bullying: Who is a cyberbully?; What is cyberbullying?; Where does it take place?; When can it happen?;  How can we prevent it?  From this shared vision, we need to develop programs, educational materials and support plans for those who are victims or perpetrators of cyber-bullying.
Because so much of the harm comes from the power one gets from anonymity; and because the scars run deeper and longer; and because the bystanders are no longer a small group of people, but possibly a network of individuals who may or may not have chosen to participate (simply through their being on a social network, at the wrong time), I don’t think merely consequencing bullies that use the internet as their playground will ever solve the issue.  Educating our students can go a long way to helping prevent harassment that takes place on-line.  This is a shared responsibility.   I think teachers can and must take the lead at school, and parents must do their part at home.  I think students need to do their part on-online.  They need to be speak up for themselves and for each other.  Empowering students to teach others about the harm cyber-bullying can wreck on a someones school and personal life can make an important difference.  Especially with youth who would rather hear from their peers than from any teacher or parent, they can start to learn a lot from each other.  The challenge of course is how to make this relevant and important enough for them to want to do this.

Copyright and Fair Use

Sadly, it wasn’t until my second year in university that I learned how to write an essay.  The reason being, I never wrote anything original until then.  I read volumes, did my research and then tried to pass off the works of great minds and thinkers as my own.  I thought I was doing due diligence by cleverly working quotes into sentences I wrote and by citing the works I “borrowed” from.  Sadly, very little was my own thinking and my own original work.  My professors knew this and I didn’t get away with anything.  It wasn’t until I learned to analyze, synthesize and deeply understand the texts that I was reading and then link that with my own ideas, did I start to do the work that was asked of me.  I had my first “aha” moment when I started to write an essay on Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.  For the first time, I wanted to write something that was original and uniquely mine.  I had started studying Buddhism and Jungian psychology at the time.  My essay was the “The Four Noble Truths and and Frankenstein”.  Somehow I managed to interpret Shelly’s text through a Buddhist lens.  With that, I earned my first A and the satisfaction of creating something I could call my own.  From then on, all my papers were a mixture of mashing up or remixing literary pieces with different kinds of perspectives.  But all of this was before I really knew how to harness the power of the internet and access and analyze the volumes to creative ideas that lay at my fingertips.  Times have changed and so too does our understanding of copyright and what we can, and do to, create new material.

With the constant and exponential growth of the internet and the ability to access and share information, it seems reasonable to rethink what is copyright and how it needs to change in order to meet the changing landscape of our digital world.  Information is ubiquitous.  How we use it ,or abuse it, is something that needs attention and a common understanding.  This understanding needs to be global as the tool that we use to access and share information transcends all geographical and other barriers.

This digital landscape is changing in such a way that the old laws and structures around copyright are just that:  old and seemingly less appropriate. Copyright grew out of an era that didn’t have the internet or electronic files that could be shared and distributed around the world in mere seconds.  In addition to this, there is a culture of collaboration, sharing, mashing up and remixing that leads to altered works that may or may not resemble to original work.  So is it stealing, borrowing or something completely different?  Hard to say.  It depends on how the material is transformed; who the material is intended for; how the material is distributed; and how it is attributed.  This all plays a role in whether the information has been legitimately used, reworked and shared.

In our face-to-face session on April 1st, I was introduced to the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education.  This document outlines 5 principles on how educators can use Fair Use in the classroom for educational purposes.  It is a document every teacher should read and whose principles should be adhered to.  We need to model and teach our students to be good digital citizens and how to use the information that is out there to support their own thoughts and creativity, not replace it.  Student’s need to be taught that their ideas are valued and what they do with the plethora of information is more important than how much of it they know or can access.  Mary Shelly most likely didn’t know anything about Buddhism, but nonetheless, I made a connection that was both creative and more importantly, my own!

Online Privacy…throwing caution to the wind? Not a good idea!

Growing up in a Vietnamese household, I have always been taught to stay quiet, keep my thoughts to myself and to be modest…juxtapose this with ideas like “freedom of expression” and “express yourself” (that I learned in school and through the media), I have had grown up with mixed ideas about what I should and should not keep private. 

With the internet bringing on a totally new and mind-boggling vast audience, I have always had reservations about what I put out there for others to see.  I have only begun to blog this year…mainly for professional purposes and for personal communications with friends as I started living abroad. 

My entry to the blogosphere was largely influenced by by colleagues Jeff Utecht and Kim Cofino who are experts at blogging and sharing their ideas, questions and thoughts online.  Through their magnificent work, I saw the benefits of being part of a community of educators who learn together and support each other in their common interests, professional and personal.  I wanted to be a part of it too.  But unlike other interests, I am slow to engage with my online community of educators, time being the determining factor.  But nevertheless, here I am, blogging about blogging and about online privacy, for the world to see. 

What I like about blogging is the control that I have (or seem to) over what content is posted and how I wish others to participate.  For example, on our grade team blog, I have turned off comments and use it soley for sharing information and learning with my parents.  On my personal blogs, like this one, I have turned on comments but moderate each comment to control the content that is posted on my blog. 

What I cannot control is what others say about me or my writing in other areas online.  Similarily, with Facebook, which I am more weary of, I have seen how content can be posted that I may or may not be too happy with.  I can’t control this and really, have not tried to.  When pictures are posted, I am sometimes shocked to see that snapshots have made it to the WWW.  With digital pictures, no longer are pictures kept private in family albums in people’s homes.  (As a result, I have learned not to take myself too seriously.  Laughing at myself, is not always a bad thing to do once in a while.)

I understand that often times pictures and comments are posted to share events with others. I also understand that there is a certain element of fun in how quickly and how publicly these can be shared.  As a result, I try to not worry about who is taking my picture, or what is being said about me.  If things get out of hand, turn inappropriate, or violate my reputation, I am not sure what I would do. 

Ideally, my work and worth can stand up to whatever “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” may fly my way. 

When it comes to personal information, I am always cautious. 

I think it is important to keep in mind that the internet can be used as a powerful tool to share information.  The idea of controlling how that information is share, for what purposes and for which audiences, is a little like controlling how a kite flies in the wind…you have some control, but every now and then the wind (like the internet) can take a sudden turn and ruin your run or choose to stop altogether.  So don’t throw caution to the wind…be careful.

Digital Footprints…to stomp or tread lightly, that is the question!

The idea that our identities can expand and be tarnished by the internet is a strange idea.  The internet itself, what it is and what it can do changes every day but so too does our own self.  We are always changing and never the same…right down to the molecular level.  Extrapolate this idea to one’s digital footprint and you have a convoluted matrix as complex as the dendrites and electronic sparks that make this all happen.  What makes this interesting are the effects this has on our private and public lives, as boundaries are blurred and what was once private is now public and vice versa.

Seeing as one’s digital footprint is a relatively new phenomena, it is extremely difficult to say when its complexities are to be shared with children.  It is highly subjective, but also necessary. I strongly believe that the approach we need to take is to educate, instead of striking fear in our students and children.  For too long, we have been building a culture of fear in the world.  I think it is time to build a culture of creativity. 

The Internet, at its best, is the sharing and accessing of information, the ability to communicate and transcend geographical boundaries, and the opportunity to participate in a truly global community.  This sharing, communicating and participating should follow universal norms of respect and responsibility. But how do we do this?  and when does it happen? 

Teaching responsible and respective practice, I believe, should start as early as children are developmentally ready to understand the concept of themselves as individuals, as members of a community and as members of an online community.  In addition, since online use is more than a school tool, it is important that parents are partners in educating their children about acceptable use and privacy protection.  Parents need to be educated on what this is, how it affects their children and how to help their children understand and use the internet in the best way possible. 

Ideally, students should be taught how the internet can be used to create, share, collaborate and transform their own understanding of the world and their part in it. 

Refections based on the readings:
1.  Your Online Reputation Can Hurt Your Job Search
2.  Protect Your Digital Footprint

Course 2 Beings…Reflections on: TECHNOLOGY ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY for ISB

Today, I was introduced to ISB’s technology Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and found it an interesting document for a number of reasons.  First, I don’t know how many teachers have seen it, as no one in my group discussion has ever heard of it, let alone seen it.  (I myself didn’t know what AUP stood for.)  Second, there is a definite need for such a document.  Lastly, there is a need for some revision.  The language needs to be more “kid-friendly” and some discussion needs to take place around some of the expectations laid out in the document.

After a short breakout session, we were introduced to our guest speaker: Silvia Tolisano
She writes at: http://langwitches.org/blog/

Silvia introduced us to using chatrooms in elementary (Gr. 6) classrooms…
Based on the idea that literacy is the ability to read, write, create and communicate, Sivia uses chatrooms to encourage participation, collaboration and to record thinking, as well as, reflections on learning.

We were invited to a chat room while Silvia did her presentation.  According to the the entries in the chat room, there were mixed reactions as to the effectiveness of the tool.  Some found it difficult to manage both the realtime discussion and the one taking place simulataneously in the background, in the chatroom.  Others, found it an interesting tool to record thinking and encourage participation in group discussions.  And then there were those, like myself who were interested, but skeptical of the real learning benefits of using chatrooms in the classroom.

It was interesting to see how the chat had evolved from friendly hellos, to more focused entries on the topic at hand.  I also noticed a new method of directing your entry at a specific member of the chat room: @soandso, that I have not experienced before. Not a user of chatrooms, I thought this was a simple and effect way to direct your comment to a specific member of the group.  What I also like about the chat is the ability to save the chat for future review (like what I am doing now).  My only concern is that this takes up more time in a day that already doesn’t fit into 24 hours.  In the classroom setting, what happens to students who communicate better verbally and not so effectively in the written word.  And then typing skills are a mandatory prerequisite for keeping up with the discussion.

In the end, it was an interesting experiment…but one I cannot integrate in a grade 1 classroom 🙁

True to form, I decided not to be beaten up about this.  I used tinychat.com with my Grade 4 and 5 boys in the Boys Book Club.  They loved it!  It was amazing to see how quickly they got into the chat and how easily they were hooked in sharing their ideas and questions.  When I first introduced the laptops and the website…they took off:  writing, reading and responding to messages the other boys had posted.  They were hooked!  Once they were sent off to do some reading, now armed with the laptops and the chatroom, the club took on a totally didn’t feel.  We were not only going digital, we were connected.  Boys asked questions about what was being read.  Some boys did some research on liquid nitrogen and before long, they were pasting their findings right on the chatroom. 

One of the main reasons for starting up the Boys Book Club was to motivate reluctant readers to read, find material that they are interested in and to come together as a community of readers.  Weary of how it would all turn out, the introduction of the chatroom put all my worries to rest.  I had found a way to keep them, hooked, reading and loving it.

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Course 1 Final Reflections

CoETaIL ISB by teachingsagittarian.Our last session introduced us to some amazing people who are on the frontier of using educational technologies.  Through Skype, we listened to Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss, the authors of Reinventing Project-Based Learning – Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age.  (Our own projects stemmed from their work.)  They joined us to share their work with us and to highlight the importance of keeping learning the focus of our projects and not the tech tools that we are trying to use.  The tools are just that—tools we can use in service of learning. 

Later, we were introduced to Julie Lindsay, who also joined us via Skype.   She is the IT Director at Qatar Academy and has developed a project-based learning opportunity called the Flat Classroom.  What I realized was that our instructors, Kim and Jeff, were modeling what I could be doing in my classroom:  Using Skype to connect with experts and people around the world; and developing a network that serves not only personal learning, but that of a community of learners.  In a way I saw what Jeff was talking about when he said something to the effect:  “As teachers, our role will not be to provide content, but to help students access, analyze and create with information.”

The course also reintroduced tools that I have seen and heard of before.  Having attended last year’s EARCOS conference, in Kuala Lumpur and the Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai, both of which Kim and Jeff were presenters, the tools were not new.  But the focus was not entirely on the tools.  It was about the change that is happening and the change that needs to happen.  With the rise of digital technologies and their ever-present influence on society, schools need to be places that reflect this.  Teachers and students need to learn how to use the tools and how to learn in an entirely new learning landscape.  As international school educators, we are more equipped to do so than our public school counterparts…But what about them?  What happens to those teachers and  students who have to share 20 computers with not only a class, but an entire school?  I come from, and will be returning to, an inner-city school in downtown Toronto, Canada.   How will I take what I have learned here and apply it to a totally different setting?

While my excitement about using IT deepens, so too does this annoying worry that I won’t be able to keep up with it all.  I have “geeked out” and have integrated a variety of tools to my teaching in Grade 1.  But there is SO much more to learn.  Finding a balance, maintaining one and loving learning and teaching can sometimes be a difficult thing to accomplish.   I guess in the end, it is about setting appropriate boundaries…sometimes stretching beyond these boundaries, but coming back to a sense of self, “unpluggedness”, and spending time with friends and loved ones.

And so with this course, I have gained some further insight into Information Literacy and myself as a digital learner.  I have more questions and a greater determination to learn more.  I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity: to take this course and share this journey with such a great group of people.  We have supported each other, developed ideas and inquiry, and trusted each other.  I can only imagine how much our students will benefit from all the efforts of all the teachers who have joined me.  Thanks to Kim and Jeff for supporting us and leading us through this amazing adventure and opportunity.CoETaIL ISB by teachingsagittarian.Course 1 by teachingsagittarian.
Thanks Chrissy for the photos (now linked).

Thoughts on: The Horizon Report

The Horizon Report predicts trends in emerging technologies that are likely to enter mainstream use in learning-focused organizations.  It outlines six trends in 3 cycles:

Time-to-Adoption: One year or Less

Time-to-Adoption: Two to Three Years

Time-to-Adoption: Four to Five Years

What I found most interesting is the use of Smart Objects.  Smart objects are products that are linked to the virtual world through technology that embeds information to the object.  For example, smartcards are embedded with information about accounts and balances. 

Used in an educational setting, Smart Objects bring the possibility of “science-fiction” becoming a reality, in our classrooms.

Imagine a school where students interests, strengths and challenges are all embedded in their library card.  Walking into a library, the student is given a list of titles that he/she might be interested. 
Imagine computer assessments that automatically differentiate questions to suit individual needs and strengths and then results are recorded, graphed, analyzed and reported to students, teachers and parents.
Imagine P.E. where a watch records heart rate, speed, BMI; geotags location; provides workouts, goals, and analyzes performance…and then send all the information to a data base that can be shared, presented with the use of visuals and audio. 
Imagine a classroom where students are equipped with devices that record their thinking, document their work, communicate through a variety of networks and individualizes instruction and support, all automatically.

It’s simply amazing to think about would could be.  I mean, look at what happen to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four