Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's time to RENOVATE our PD for technology integration!

"Now more than ever, education leaders must focus strategically on educational technology profesional development (ETPD) for teachers" (Harris, 2008)

There is no question that the need for Professional Development in the area of technology integration is required for teachers to keep up with the increasingly digital world that our students are living in. Unfortunately, the path our Professional Development has taken in the past has not been working in our attempts at ETPD...it's time for some renovations!

I'm a huge fan of home improvement T.V. shows such as "Holmes on Homes", "Trading Spaces" and "Real Renos"! As I read through this week's readings, I started to get the sense that ETPD really needs to go through a major renovation. The methods we have been using for professional development in this field have not been addressing the needs of the teachers as learners and therefore technology integration is not transcending into their teaching practices. I really connected with the article by Kimberley Ketterer "Coach, Nurture or Nudge, How do you learn technology best?". In this article she identified three unique styles in which teachers prefer to deal with the learning of technology integration:

1. The Coaching Style - They are willing to take risks, but they need support and encouragement from a colleague and embrace feedback from their coach.
2. The Nurturing Style - They need a teaching partner to help develop and model lessons, someone to help build their confidence.
3. The Nudging Style - These learners need to be gently pushed, prodded and cajoled into learning how to integrate technology and their development is very gradual.

As I read these different styles, I could actually visualize different members of my current staff in each style! As a future TL in my school, taking on the role of technology integration PD leader of ETPD renovations, I could tell I was going to have my work cut out for me! Simply put in the 4 part series of articles by Judi Harris..."One Size Doesn't Fit All"! There is definitely a need to renovate our ETPD to help teachers learn technology integration in the manner that best fits their individual learning styles and program goals.

As teacher-librarians or "contractors" for ETPD renovations, this may require tearing it all down and beginning from the ground up to construct and re-build how we educate our teachers about technology integration. As Scott McLeod states in his article "An Absence of Leadership", "We will see few tangible, long-term benefits from technology in most schools until they have leaders who know how to effectively implement, build upon, and sustain technology -related initiatives." That's a pretty tall order for a teacher-librarian or any "expert" designated as the information technology leader in a school, so where does one begin with a renovation project like this?

In the words of Camilla Gagliolo, "How best can we, as technology leaders, inspire teachers to take advantage of these opportunities to engage students in 21st century learning?"

I guess if I'm going to play the role of "contractor" of renovations, I'm going to need a pretty hefty toolkit of ideas to begin this project. I decided to try and pool many of the suggestions made in this weeks' articles to create a resource for myself (and others) in our future endeavors towards ETPD in our schools.

So, let's take a peek inside my toolbox:

  • begin with a set goal in mind, whether it is awareness, curriculum integration in a specific content area, change in instructional practice or school cultural change (Harris, 2008)

  • build a professional learning community (ie. collegial collaboration, feedback at community or individual improvements, etc.) (Gagliolo, 2008)

  • establish a teacher mentorship program within your school

  • hold regular meetings and training sessions on ET

  • set up co-teaching opportunities in the classroom

  • celebrate successes by sharing at staff meetings

  • create a set of laminated "keys" that contain information on experts and their area of technology exptertise, so they can be a resource for teachers

  • "provide a fabulous Library 2.0 learning space and robust online information portal that provides good reading and quality in-depth information resources in all possible formats" (O'Connell, 2007-08)

  • let students provide the information and be the teachers...take a step back (yikes!)

  • become the "knowledge broker" in your school for continuous technology integration and support for your teachers (or find someone who can play this role...good luck!) (Plair, 2008)

  • enourage online professional learning (like EDES 501....I just had to get that one in there!) I guess you could call this the DIY strategy of professional development and one that has worked wonders for me, but isn't for everyone!

  • classroom visits for teachers to observe other teachers integrating technology to gather ideas and confidence

  • action research and study groups on ET (Within my school division, teachers are required to develop our own Professional Growth Models and submit these at 2 different points in the year. Teachers are given 6 different models to choose from that best suits their learning styles and needs. An ideal situation but a challenging one for administrators and most teachers to monitor on their own.)

I'm sure this list could go on, but it's a great starting point and demonstrates the many possibilities for renovating our ETPD. As with home renovations, there are always barriers and obstacles that need to be overcome and there is such a gammit of choices in styles, colors, sizes and materials in making those improvements.

"Once teachers make the paradigm shift to the positive role that new instructional technology strategies and tools could have in their classroom, it is just a matter of deciding how they will learn it best." (Ketterer, 2007)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Technology Integration! Hot off the presses!



(Let`s have some fun with the 5W`s today, shall we?)

WHAT...What is effective technology integration?

Anita McNear in her article “School Wide Technology Integration” helps to define “successful integration of technology” using a model of instruction known as TCPK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) that was developed by researchers Mishra and Koehler. According to their research, successful integration of technology is when pedagogy, content and knowledge are weaved together and “how technology adds to the pedagogical toolkit.” I knew when I was reading this article that this sounded all too familiar. Once again, I have to refer to our Literacy with ICT continuum that has been developed here in Manitoba for K-8 teachers! The model used by our team of developers reinforces the idea that effective technology use in the learning process and educational setting should not be a supplementary class or lesson anymore but rather a relationship where technology is infused in the students’ learning. Here is a quote directly from our Literacy with ICT document, along with a diagram to visually represent this idea…

“The pedagogy of Literacy with ICT Across the Curriculum encourages movement from “ICT as supplementary to the curriculum” to a model that infuses ICT across the curriculum.
A supplementary relationship separates ICT and curriculum in space, time, and personnel - separate computer labs, computer classes, and computer teachers. A complementary relationship begins to connect ICT with curriculum in various ways. An integrated relationship allows the classroom teacher to bring ICT into the classroom so it is available at teachable moments. An infused relationship allows the transparent application of ICT, wherever and whenever appropriate, to enhance critical and creative thinking.”

WHO...Who needs to be involved to make technology integration happen?

In order to be truly successful and feel that technology IS being integrated and not just “more noise that teachers must respond to and filter out”, then according to David and Margaret Carpenter in their article “All Aboard!”, technology integration has to be a collaborative process wherein “the teachers, learning specialists and administrators comprise a Collaboration Team based on the idea that everyone should participate and ‘own’ the curriculum.” At the same time, “the teacher is placed in charge of the process but put in conversation with the instructional technologist, the library media specialist and the gifted-and-talented coordinator.”
Clearly everyone needs to be part of the integration of technology in an educational setting in order for it to be effective and improve teaching and learning, without making it the sole responsibility of any one educator or specialist.

In our point/counterpoint discussions this week, the topic of technology courses in our university training was raised with the revelation that most of us had either had a poor experience in learning about how to integrate technology into our future teaching practice or (like myself) none at all! In the article, “Technology Integration and Instructional Design”, the authors discuss various models of instruction for teaching technology integration to pre-service teachers and provide an eight module approach to learning new technologies and creating lesson plans for students. What an amazing opportunity for the next generation of teachers to experience! This type of university course for our 21st century teachers has to be a MANDATORY part of their training if we’re going to make technology integration a reality in our classrooms.

But let's not forget those veteran teachers out there...it's not too late for them either. Check out this video from edutopia.org entitled "Conquering Technophobia: A Classroom Teacher warms to Digital Tools":

WHERE...Where is technology integration happening right now?

The integration of educational technology is happening globally in classrooms, libraries and forward-thinking schools around the world. Even where a digital divide may exist, attempts at making technology a part of our 21st century student learning and teaching is making its way into classrooms and learning environments everywhere.
Just take a look at this site: http://futurekids.com/ where over 65 schools from around the world and the U.S. are focusing on computer literacy and their mission statement states they are “creating a worldwide community that integrates the power of technology to facilitate and improve student performance.”
Truthfully, you don’t have to look to far nowadays to find a teacher integrating technology in their practice. Type in 'edublogs' into Google and let your exploration of classrooms where technology integration is happening begin!

WHEN...When should technology integration take place?

As outlined in my previous quote from our Literacy with ICT continuum, “ICT integration needs to be applied in a transparent relationship WHENEVER and WHEREVER appropriate to enhance creative and critical thinking of our students.”
Just read the article, “Meaningful Technology Integration in Early Learning Environments” and you can see how technology has been integrated into this early childhood program using digital tools such as the internet, digital cameras, and an interactive whiteboard to ensure opportunities for the children to learn in a technologically rich environment with purpose and meaning. These tools are used in a center based approach on a regular basis in this classroom setting, NOT as a separate class or project!

WHY...Why should teachers make technology integration a priority in their practice?

Read the headline…it improves teaching and learning!! OK, so you want some proof?
The proof is in the engaged faces of our 21st century learners in a technology integrated classroom. The proof is in the speed at which new concepts and ideas can be accessed with the integration of technology. The proof is in the motivated and empowered teachers that are using technology to create purposeful, collaborative and creative lessons for their students. The proof is in the new curriculums and tools being introduced into the school systems that are finally addressing the needs of the 21st century student.

Unfortunately, not all technology is being integrated appropriately! A study done by Cable in the Classroom entitled, “Learning with Technology” states “poorly designed programs that lack an instructional foundation; casual, purposeless use of technology in the classroom; and lack of alignment between desired learning outcomes and the application of educational technology all threaten the success of any learning-by-technology endeavour.”

Mullen and Wedwick state it best in their article, “Avoiding the Digital Abyss”, “To be successful in the world, students must learn to manipulate various forms of new media with a high level of comfort and skill, and school must become a place in which students can acquire the necessary skills for technological success.” Frankly, teachers don’t have much of a choice when it comes to making technology integration a priority in our schools. If we want to prepare these students as best we can for their future, we have to!

It’s not the 5W’s without asking HOW…How do we make technology integration happen so it is purposeful, infused, outcome based and “seamless”?

This week’s required readings for our EDES course were filled with examples, models and ideas of how to make technology integration a reality. From the plethora of examples on the Edutopia website or the list of “20 easy ways” from the Education World article, “Technology Integration Made Easy”, it would seem easy to begin integrating technology right away. For some teachers, this isn’t a difficult feat and rather a part of their current teaching practice, for others, there is a digital divide that they need to bridge before technology integration is easily accomplished for them. Professional development opportunities need to be provided for these teachers, computers and other digital tech tools need to be made available, as well as having your administrative team on board in the pursuit of effective technology integration. All these things need to be considered before all educators can implement this model of “seamless” and “infused” technology education.

As for myself, I don’t need anymore convincing! I have become a techno-education junkie and I’m doing my best to quickly spread the word. I take any opportunity I am given to share my knowledge about Web 2.0 tools, integrate them purposefully into my own classroom environment and continue to develop my professional learning about this technological education revolution! As a teacher-librarian, I hope that I will be in a better position to help make technology integration a priority in our school, through team-planning and providing professional learning workshops right in our own school. As for right now, I am a blogging classroom teacher, a voice-thread addict, a wiki wizard wannabe, a SMARTboard convert and a member of our IT committee at school. I guess you could say I am trying to practice what I preach and hopefully my fellow teachers will follow suit.

I’m going to leave you with these final words of Marc Prensky from his article, “Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom”,

“Let’s not just adopt technology into our schools. Let’s adapt it, push it, pull it, iterate with it, experiment with it, test it and redo it, until we reach a point where we and our kids truly feel we’ve done our best. And lets do it quickly, so the 22nd century doesn’t catch us by surprise with too much of our work undone. A big effort? Absolutely. But our kids deserve no less.”

Thanks, Marc, I think sometimes we need that reminder!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What does your digital tattoo look like?

“Most young people are extremely likely to leave something behind in cyberspace that will become a lot like a tattoo – something connected to them that they cannot get rid of later in life, even if they want to without a great deal of difficulty.” Born Digital (p.53)

I heard that quote after watching an interesting Google video of a TV show called Digital Age entitled, “Does anybody care about privacy anymore?” It was an interview with John Palfrey, the author of Born Digital, giving his views on privacy in our digital age. It wasn’t that anything in the interview was “new” or “enlightening” to me but rather it reminded me of how everyday I am leaving behind digital markers of myself…my shopping habits, my personal interests, my banking records and the list goes on!

On another surf through the web on privacy, I came across this “interactive” demonstration subtitled “How much information about your daily life gets recorded by big business and Big Brother?”…YOUR DIGITAL FOOTPRINT. (You really have to give it a try!) It’s another reminder of how we share little pieces of ourselves everyday without even thinking about it or knowing it!
All of this made me wonder…if I have been so unaware, how aware are the young people that are growing up in this digital age that every little thing they do “digitally” is being “recorded for posterity for generations to come”?
In this video, Digital Dossier, you get an idea of how the students we teach today are creating a digital file of themselves from the moment they are first born…

Keeping Andy’s digitally recorded life in mind…is there much we as educators can do to protect and safeguard the privacy of the digital natives we are teaching today?

Well, let’s say …YES and NO!

Fortunately, I think there’s a lot we can do and a lot that is already being done! After viewing the 3 part series of Google Videos on Privacy, I was somewhat impressed with the fact that such a large conglomeration would go to such measures to ensure the average “Googler” was afforded such degrees of privacy (if they were willing to learn about them and use them, that is!). I always feared these courses would get a bit technical but if “cookies”, IP addresses and chrome buttons is as technical as it gets, I’ll be fine! If the engineers at Google are actually trying to help us maintain a degree of privacy with our online activity when using Google, it’s the least we can do to impart this information to our students as Google is often their first choice as a search engine, both academically and personally.

Along with Google, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has also made several resolutions to help in the education and awareness of the privacy risks involved with increased online activities in children and young people. It was reassuring to know that the Canadian Government is taking action to keep up with the growing online environments and the development of their privacy practices.

Another great tool for guiding students and the general public for that matter on how to protect themselves with their online activity is through a visit to Privacy Town, created by Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs. I found the checklists and protection guides a handy resource and user-friendly approach to informing the public of their rights and how to guard their privacy.

Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the growing social networking trends from Facebook to twitter to the next best “ning” (no pun intended). Regrettably, it’s not until after a significant breach of privacy or what I like to call a “learning moment”, that a young person realizes the impact their “social” actions have made into their ever growing digital “tattoo”. It’s refreshing to know that many educators and bloggers are looking out for our best interests with resources about privacy using Facebook such as the posting I found here.

As the video of Andy and the Digital Footprint experiment demonstrates, it’s almost impossible not to be leaving some form of your private life in cyberspace. What it amounts to, is how MUCH is given and for what PURPOSE!

Doug Johnson points out in his article, Lighting Lamps, “rights are always accompanied by responsibilities.” As 21st century learners, these children are growing up with a right to express themselves freely using the internet as a vehicle for their voice, opinions, images and other multimedia forms of expression. However with this powerful tool, they must understand that they have a responsibility to use it safely and that whatever they choose to publish digitally can be copied and shared for generations to come. Not a responsibility that should be taken lightly…by either our children or us as their caregivers!

As for my future role as a Teacher-Librarian?

The issue of privacy came to light for me in the article, “Privacy Matters” by Helen R. Adams when she raised the point that there is a “lack of understanding of or support for privacy rights for minors using library media centers.” Our discussions this week brought up this point frequently. How often do we send out notices to parents about overdue books without considering whether the students wish to share with their parents what they are currently reading? Where does the line get drawn between “keeping parents informed” and “protecting the rights of the child”?

Obviously there are some weighty issues surrounding privacy in our dealings with students and particularly in their experiences with online learning/socializing environments. If our digital natives don’t care about the “tattoo” they are leaving behind in their digital lives, I think it’s important we show them why and how they should!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Digital IP... more than a footnote!

(PugnoM’s photostream on Flickr)
Intellectual Property, Copyright Laws, Digital Citizenship and Intellectual Freedom…although these terms were not unfamiliar to me, the implications and my understanding of them as an “up and coming” teacher-librarian of the 21st century were not as clear and well-defined. Let’s just say they were always a little FUZZY for me!!
So, I thought it best to go back to the basics with a “tried but true” KWL session…

KNOW…What did I know about “intellectual property”already? (Sadly, not as much as I’d thought...or liked to think!)

-Yes, there are copyright laws that teachers and students must follow!
-You shouldn’t copy out of a workbook that is designed for ONE student!
-Be careful what you “cut and paste” from the internet, as most of it is covered by copyright and you do not have permission to use it.
-It is illegal to copy directly from a text (digital or paper) and claim it as your own without citing the author and relevant information (ie. plagiarism)
-There ARE places on the internet to find pictures to use in projects that are “copyright free” (ex: http://search.creativecommons.org/)
-Most students are not informed on these laws and rules regarding “intellectual property”…for that matter, neither are most teachers!

WHAT…What do I want to learn about “intellectual property” in order to ensure my students (and fellow staff members) are respecting it in our digitally evolving world?

-What are the definitions of the terms: intellectual property, intellectual freedom and digital citizenship?
-What exactly are the laws surrounding intellectual property and copyright here in Canadian schools and libraries?
-What resources are available for me and my students to learn more about intellectual property so we can apply it on an on-going basis?
-Why are some students today not understanding and respecting the intellectual property of others?
-How can we as educators or as teacher-librarians help to bring awareness and the importance of understanding intellectual property to our students without appearing like “Copyright Cops”?
-Will we ever get through to these "digital natives" that "cutting and pasting" is a crime even though they don't see the victim?

LEARN…What did I learn about this topic that will impact my role as a teacher-librarian and educator? (TONS!!!)

-Since I had to make these definitions a little clearer for myself, I found the explanation of Intellectual Freedom in the article "Kids, Know your Rights!" a very simple and effective explanation. According to the ALA, "Intellectual Freedom is a natural right that every human being on this planet is born with, and that we should be able to see, read, or hear all sides of an issue before we decide what is the best thing for us to do." As a teacher and hopeful TL, it's clear that my role is to ensure my students are given those opportunities, either fighting for their right to access internet sites that are being unnecessarily blocked or providing them with literature that may extend their thinking or safeguarding them from censorship, etc.

-Intellectual Property or Copyright? In the article, "Social Responsibility" by Rebecca Butler, the differences between them can be hard to articulate to students (even teachers). My basic understanding from this article is that intellectual property can be defined as the "fruit of one's intellect"(Wherry 2002) and is categorized according to copyright, patents, trademarks, trade secrets and brand names...that's a lot to swallow for your average student. For years teachers have been toting the importance of "using one's own words" and not plagiarizing, but in today's digital classroom and educational experiences of "cutting and pasting", those rules are becoming very blurry and students don't understand the responsibility they have to respect the "intellectual property" that is available in the open forum of the internet! That is where we, as their teachers and role-models MUST play our part!

- To better understand the laws of copyright...specifically here in Canada, I found many invaluable resources: Copyright Matters (an excellent reference for Canadian specific laws pertinent to educators) and The Ethics of Information Use, A Teacher's Guide by the School Libraries in Canada 2001.

-There IS a problem that exists with students respecting intellectual property today! I believe one of the biggest reasons for that stems from the people they respect and learn from the most...their parents and teachers. Sadly, I have to put myself in that category as well, as I am guilty of committing "intellectual property offenses". How do I come to my defense? Ignorance in some cases, budget constraints in others and more recently, time restrictions to "get it done"! None of these are worthwhile excuses but are definitely the antithesis for my 'lack of respect of intellectual property laws". What is my point? Teachers and parents are the ones that need to make the change and bring this issue to the forefront for our "digital citizens" of today and tomorrow. My favorite article on this topic was Mike Ribble's "Passport to Digital Citizenship" where he states,"Students need to see that their teachers are following the proper technology-based citizen behaviors being taught to them." This means that, "we need not only to educate our children on the issues that are occurring with technology but provide resources for our teachers and parents as well."(Ribble, 2008) To reinforce this point, Tammy Morris states in her article, "If we, teachers and parents, do not clearly understand copyright and fair use issues, how do we properly teach our students?"

-Luckily for us, there are many resources available to help teachers (me!):

  • "Intellectual Freedom For Youth" article by Annette Lamb was full of lesson ideas and great website resources. As Lamb states,"School Library media specialists should investigate the value of online tools for furthering intellectual freedom by promoting creative thought, communication and collaboration." She suggests Eight Ways to Take Action which is also available online with several links here!
  • I am a big fan of the work that Mike Ribble and Gerald Bailey have done in promoting Digital Citizenship. Their website is full of excellent resources for teachers, http://www.educ.ksu.edu/digitalcitizenship/TeachingDC.htm# . They've also published two books to help educators in educating students on becoming responsible digital citizens, Digital Citizenship in Schools and Raising a Digital Child. Their nine elements of Digital Citizenship are a great building block model to begin discussing and teaching these issues with our students. The Four Stage Technology Learning Framework helps teachers to guide them through the process of teaching our students about Digital Citizenship.
  • Right here in Manitoba, we have resources right at our fingertips within our Literacy with ICT continuum document. In the "Affective Domain" of the document, two areas of general outcomes center around "Ethics and Responsibility" as well as "Social Implications". The Literacy with ICT site contains valuable resources in itself to help teachers begin integrating these outcomes into their technology learning experiences.
  • Videos!!! There's nothing like some great audio-visual tools to help students understand the concepts of copyright "What's Copyright?"and CreativeCommons . Wesley Fryer has a great slideshare on his blog entitled "Copyright for Educators"(an American viewpoint of course) to help get teachers thinking more about copyright...I know there are more!

- I don't know if we'll ever be able to get students understanding how important and profound the topic of intellectual property really is, until it reaches them personally! Another idea that Mike Ribble and Gerald Bailey developed was the idea of a "Technology Driver's License". I loved the idea so much that I want to make it part of my classroom and teaching (and include it here on this blog as well). So I began my first step towards becoming a role model for my students and I e-mailed Mr. Ribble himself to ask his permission to use this activity with my students and on his blog. He surprised me and replied very promptly (and favorably as you can see!). It's funny...with just this one small experience in following proper copyright protocal, I realized how easy and satisfying it is! It's given me hope and motivation to make the teaching of "intellectual property" and digital citizenship an integral part of my technology experiences and libary program and to help create responsible 21st century digital learners!

P.S. Thanks again, Mike! I'll be buying those books for my school library!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A short and sweet Q &A session on FILTERING!

Here's to keeping it short and sweet this week! (Yeah...right!)

F - sisal i Brass Letter L T Copper Square Letter E letter R Pastry Cutter I N G
(Thanks Erik Kastner for this great new tool! Spell with flickr)

Filtering, Blocking, Accessing, Securing, Protecting, Banning...Every article I read this week seemed to call it something different but it doesn't matter what you call it, the simple fact remains that the issue of filtering has gotten somewhat out of control in the past few years as the internet and its storage of tools has grown. Some educators, administrators, government officials and IT Directors are fearing this evolution of technology (particularly the internet) and thus creating barriers to restrict access for our students as their way of dealing with the situation. Instead they should be providing them with the necessary knowledge and capabilities to learn from and deal with the "objectional, offensive and inappropriate" material that is out there. As Stephen Abram states in his article "Justifying the Social Tools", "Fear and misinformation should not triumph over logic and an agenda for learning."

Many questions I had never really thought of before discussing this topic, came to mind as I reflected on our readings this week. I decided to sit down with myself in a Q & A session, trying to tackle some of my own questions on the issue:

  • Who should be responsible for making these decisions? I believe it should be those that know our students and what they NEED in order to get the best possible education for their future...the teachers (or librarians of course!). As Mary Ann Bell put it best in her article "I'm Mad and I'm not going to take it anymore!"..."It is time to give educators the professional respect they deserve rather than let technology personnel who have not studied education make choices about access."

  • Does this help our students to filter the internet or harm them? There is no doubt that by filtering the internet we are helping protect our children from some of the harmful, offensive and inappropriate material on the web but as many experts on the topic discuss "we tend to place too much trust on the filtering software itself" (Bell, 2006) thus creating a false sense of security and leaving students unsupervised as they surf the net. Not only that but by not educating our youth on internet safety and how to deal with objectionable material while that are at school, we leave them ill-prepared for it when they are faced with it in an unfiltered environment such as at home, on their PDA's, public libraries, cybercafe's... (I think you get my point!).

  • What about content that has been blocked but IS appropriate and important for students to access? What teacher, in frustration, hasn't come across a site that they wish to access for educational purposes but received the "This site has been blocked" warning screen. Mary Ann Bell addresses this issue vehemently in her article, "Filtering Woes Redux" with several examples of teachers wishing to access information and being denied, worst yet, those that went through the proper channels and had to wait over 7 months to finally recieve access. Youtube has always been a "bone of contention" for many teachers, as it does contain a lot of inappropriate material for children but also provides a wealth of resources for the teacher at their fingertips (literally).

  • Are we infringing on the intellectual freedom of our students by filtering? From the age of 5 - 9 or so...I think not, parents are still guiding their children in developing their values and understanding what is right from wrong. Parents act as the filters for young children in everything they do. But as our students mature and their ability to make independent critical judgements grows, they are also able to assume responsibility for what they are reading, publishing, creating and doing! They have a right to intellectual freedom that an "overzealous" filtering system will not allow them to attain.

  • Can filtering be accomplished without compromising the education of our students to prepare them for a socially networked future? I'd have to say NO! If we continue to filter out such things as social networking sites and other Web 2.0 technologies without properly informing our students on how to use these tools effectively "...is to ensure our schools produce unprepared students - students who have to learn about such sites in an underground kind of way or who can't compete with others in the fully connected world of the future." (Abram, 2007) Enough said!

  • What can I do in my own school/ school division to get the message out about filtering? I enjoyed Doug Johnson's article, "Change from the Radical Center of Education", particularly when he discussed the principle of "looking for truth and value in all beliefs and practices." At times, those in the position of IT director and teachers, may not see "eye to eye" on the issue of filtering ,Johnson's principle reminds us that "when two sides are able to find mutual values, change is more likely to happen." Perhaps if IT directors and those teachers school divisions who are seeking to reduce filters were able to sit down and find that "mutal value", they could come to a reasonable compromise on the issue. In the meantime, Don Hall had made a great suggestion in his article, "Web 2.0 The Virtual Wild Wild West" that I could see myself adopting as a TL in my school (and a teacher!); EDUCATE my colleagues, students and parents about internet safety and filtering from a more informed perspective and most importantly "stay abreast of news in the rapidly changing and expanding Web 2.0 world."

OK...I said short and sweet so I'll finish now with this finally quote from Mary Ann Bell,

"The internet is not going away, and it is going to increase in complexity as well as value as an information source. Librarians, teachers and administrators need to work together to use the best the Internet has to offer and to help students be successful and safe searchers."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What's in YOUR "bag of tricks"?

My thoughts and reflections this week were inspired by a blog post from the Shifted Librarian, Libraries and the Net Gen that popped up on my Google Reader. The post summarized many of the issues we have been discussing this week regarding who these "digital natives" are and how we as "digital immigrants/pioneers" need to adapt our teaching strategies to engage these new learners. An interesting observation she noted was from a pool of photos on Flickr that were tagged "whats in my bag". Check out this photo...

Is this what our students are carrying around in their backpacks today? They say you can tell a lot about a person from what they have in their purse/bag! What are the contents of this bag telling us about the 21st century student?

According to Marc Prensky in his article, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, "Our students have changed radically. Today's students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach...Our students today are all "native speakers" of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.", what Prensky and many others refer to as Digital Natives. By the looks of the contents in the bag shown above, this statement couldn't be more true. I certainly wasn't carrying around those things in my school bag back in the 80's. I guess that makes me the Digital Immigrant, "Those of us who were not born into the the digital world but have , at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology."(Prensky, 2001). However, my husband was not so thrilled by that definition, ironically he is several years older than me BUT earned his Computer Science degree and technology has always played an integral part in his career. He feels more like Kathy Schrock, a digital pioneer ( he used the term "frontier"), "someone who has grown up with the technology and adopted each technology as it came about."

Whatever we may "label" ourselves and our students, the simple fact remains...educational trends and teaching strategies are always changing but now, more than ever, we are faced with a different group of children that require a different set of tools and methodologies to engage them and prepare them for their futures! This presents challenges for those of us who would call ourselves "digital immigrant teachers" to keep up with the "digital native students" in our classrooms. As Prensky notes, "Digitial immigrant instructors are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language." We need to make changes in how we teach these students to ensure they are not only engaged in their learning experiences but that they are being prepared for their digital futures. These were the same recommendations that students themselves expressed in Greenhow's article, Who are Today's Learners?.

After reading, The AASL's , Standards For the 21st Century Learner and the ISTE's NET list of standards and performance indicators, I realized that teachers have some pretty high standards and expectations to meet in order to be the most effective teachers for the 21st century student. It's no wonder that some teachers who are trying to meet these standards are feeling overwhelmed as they are barely treading water in the advancements of technology and others feel it is too much to take on and back off altogether from technology integration. Does that mean these organizations have created a seemingly impossible task by expecting digital immigrants (such as myself) to teach the 21st century learner these skills? I don't think so! But it can't be expected to happen overnight...that's where my "bag of tricks" theory and achieving a balance in our teaching strategies can help "digital immigrant" teachers reach the 21st century learner.

My "bag of tricks" theory is not that complicated. It's nothing new. In fact, as a creative, innovative teacher who loves making learning fun and authentic for my students, all it requires is reaching into my evergrowing, "tried and true" arsenal of teaching strategies that really engage my students, AS WELL as making additions to that "bag" with new tools of the 21st century. I think as educators we need to remember that we are also lifelong learners. We need to be prepared to learn these new skills and digital world advancements to better understand our students so "we can tap into, reinforce, build on, and extend their knowledge and experiences" (Greenhow, 2008) and create a balance with more traditional strategies that continue to foster growth, learning and excitement in our students.

What implications will this have on my teaching, my school and how my students learn? I hope a lot! I've already tossed around the terminology of "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" in the staffroom to see what kind of reaction I get. Mostly, I'm met with awe and a few lightbulbs going off as teachers realize that "yes, our students are different and that we are on different playing fields when it comes to our knowledge and use of technology". I'm not sure many of them have taking a lot of time to think about what that should mean to them as their teachers and how they might need to change their way of teaching. What does that mean? I think it's time for some serious professional development in our school, just to become aware of the students in front of us and those coming up!!

For me personally, I like to think that I am moving away from the title of "digital immigrant" and moving toward (what my fellow classmates have so affectionately titled a "digital dual citizen"). My students and I still enjoy some of the more traditional learning settings, such as oral presentations, groupwork projects, creating hands-on 3-D products and so on. At the same time, we are learning and growing together with such Web 2.0 tools as Voicethreads, wikis and of course my classroom blog. I love my "bag of tricks" and I am more than thrilled to be adding to it on a regular basis as I enter this digital world that my students (and my own children) have been born into.

Check out my cute digital natives! Is this a familiar site in your home?

I think my favorite quote (which is posted on my blog), fits this week's issue to a tee...

"If we teach as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow." - John Dewey