Digital Citizenship

Teach. Learn. Collaborate.: Free Doesn’t Mean Barrier Free

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Free Doesn’t Mean Barrier Free.

Last week I had an interesting conversation with a parent that  lluminated an issue that I think is important to those of us who are using, or advocating the use of digital tools in the classroom: Free tools aren’t necessarily barrier free. In this case, her concerns arose not from how tools were being used in the classroom, but the expectations around students and parents using these tools at home. This parent wanted to be involved in her child’s education, and had made several attempts to the issues her family was experiencing addressed by the school. To be specific, this parent was experiencing issues with using Google Apps for Education and the chosen home/school communication tool while on the family computer at home and on mobile devices.

Read more of this post at Teach. Learn. Collaborate.: Free Doesn’t Mean Barrier Free.


Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills | MediaSmarts

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This report is drawn from a national survey of Canadian youth conducted by MediaSmarts in 2013. The classroom-based survey of 5,436 students in grades 4 through 11, in every province and territory, examined the role of networked technologies in young people’s lives. Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills (the fourth in a series of reports from the survey) explores the level of young people’s digital literacy skills, how they are learning these skills and how well digital technologies are being used in classrooms to support these skills.

Executive Summary (PDF)

Full Report (PDF)

Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills was made possible by financial contributions from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and The Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills Infographic

Share the Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills infographic using the share icons above, tweeting using the hashtag #YCWW, and posting the infographic on your website using the embed code below.

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Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: in-progress infographic

Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills slideshow

About Young Canadians in a Wired World

Initiated in 2000 by MediaSmarts, Young Canadians in a Wired World (YCWW) is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging study of children’s and teens’ Internet use in Canada. Phase I and Phase II of this ongoing research project – which tracks and investigates the behaviours, attitudes and opinions of Canadian children and youth with respect to their use of the Internet – were conducted in 2001 and 2005. In 2011, MediaSmarts launched Phase III of the YCWW study with qualitative research comprising interviews with teachers from across Canada and focus groups with children and youth and parents, followed by a national classroom survey in 2013.

Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills | MediaSmarts.

“Of Course I know how to Google!” | Starr Sackstein, MJE, NBCT

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“What? Of course we know how to Google! Come on, Ms. Sackstein.”

A full room of seniors stared at me like I had three heads, confused and maybe even insulted that I had the audacity to suggest they didn’t know how to search the world’s more well known search engine.

Taking them at their word, I set them on a mission to search for high school publication advertising policies in NY. They logged into accounts, opened up Google and do what anyone who knows how search Googledoes: put keywords into the line and when the exact hit doesn’t come up in the first three options, proclaim there isn’t any information out there.

Minutes go by and they are all deeply engaged with the computers. I hear rumbles of frustration and questions of what they are supposed to look up.

“Did you find anything? I can’t find anything. There’s nothing here. Ms. Sackstein, there isn’t any information. Am I doing this right?”

“Are you sure? I asked. What did you search?”

“Just what you told us to search.”

“And what was that exactly?”

“Advertising policies in NY, right?”

As I walked to each group, they all had similar information on their screens, but none of them were in the ballpark. They found articles about commercial advertising in schools or policies about laws governing commercial involvement in schools, but nothing specific about advertising policies in scholastic publications.

One group found a lot about bans on selling sugary substances and why schools can’t sell them anymore. Some were searching laws associated with advertising, but all of them definitely missed the mark.

Processing their utter inability to search effectively, we needed to figure out what was going wrong. I mean, if they all know how to use Google, how come no one found information that was appropriate?

“Stop what you’re doing. Attention to the front. Someone please tell me what you did to find information?”

“I put NY advertising policies in school in the line and searched images first. Then I tried a variety of different words but arrived at the same conclusion. Nothing!”

“It’s not enough just have key words. You need to work with what you have. Try using quotation marks to limit what you’re searching for. Try using the advanced search to narrow the field. Then take the time to view different sites, not just the first three that appear. Now you try.”

As I walked around the room the second time, students were still having a hard time, but some were getting “luckier”, closer to what the assignment required of them. They wouldn’t be able to write their own policy if they didn’t research what one looked like and what should be included in it.

One of the greatest challenges my students face is my unwillingness to tell them what to do directly. Always looking to support their learning styles and voices, I offer help and guidelines but never one and only way to accomplish a task. This ambiguity creates a lot of anxiety for my students as they are more consumed with getting good grades than learning. Refocusing them on the learning process is just as important as them reflecting on what they actually know.

My students thought they knew how to Google. They were insistent upon it. I was crazy for even thinking they didn’t know, but what each of them realized is maybe they don’t know. As much as this can be uncomfortable to recognize, it is also the first essential step to changing their situations. Once a student realizes they don’t know, they are receptive to learning and therefore have the opportunity to experience the process and make it their own.

At the end of the class, each pair of students was able to create an advertising policy for the school publications. Using different models and websites to make it happen, their more specific searches were able to get them more reliable sources for the task at hand.

Google is a powerful tool, but like many tools, if it isn’t used correctly it can be useless and frustrating. We can’t take for granted that our students know how to successfully use tools that we see them using all the time.

It is imperative as teachers, that we acquaint ourselves with the full function of technology, so we can use it effectively with our students.

Using technology for the sake of using it serves little purpose, but once we make it an integral means of developing understanding it becomes essential. Students look to us as models of this usage, so the learning must begin on our laptops so we can show kids how to use these tools with proficiency.

How can you teach students to better use the tools they think they know?


“Of Course I know how to Google!” | Starr Sackstein, MJE, NBCT.

10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust To The Google Generation

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smartphone-in-classroom10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust To The Google Generation

by Terry Heick

For the Google Generation, information isn’t scarce, and knowing has the illusion of only being a search away.

I’ve written before about how Google impacts the way students think. This post is less about students, and more about how planning resources like standards and curriculum maps might respond accordingly.

Curriculum maps are helpful little documents that standardize learning. That is, they clarify the content to be learned, and offer a shared pathway and schedule to deliver that content to students. Curriculum maps function as a kind of overview of learning content, and can also provide a common ground for the reform of planned learning activities based on assessment data (O’Malley, 1982).

The problem is, now more than ever, critical knowledge is changing. The things a student needs to know are different now than they were a half-century ago (unless you want to get super macro about it all and underscore literacy, critical thinking, etc., as timeless and universal).

In the presence of Google, predictive search, digital communities, social media, Quora, adaptive apps, and other technology, information is less scarce than it has ever been in human history. The same with networks, digital channels, and possible learning pathways to discover new ideas.

There is a subreddit for transhumanism. That means there is a community of folks that gather to share ideas, resources, and conversation about the “use of science and technology to improve human mental and physical characteristics and capacities”–living, breathing, enthusiastic (and sometimes snarky) human beings that can contextualize ideas, clarify misunderstandings, and point you in the right direction for future learning.

That’s pretty incredible.

There’s also one for education, science, the future, the past, self-directed learning, teaching, books, technology, and almost any other topic you can think of. When Google + Quora + twitter + YouTube + reddit +everythingelseontheinternet exist, the kinds of things a student needs to know change.

The age of knowing is slowing giving way to an age of data navigation, and what students need help with should be adjusted accordingly–even if in ways other than the ideas below.

the-google-generation10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust To The Google Generation & The Age Of Information

1. Make the work Google-proof

Put another way, design it so that Google is crucial to creating a response rather than finding one.

If students can Google answers–stumble on you want them to remember in a few clicks–there’s a problem with the instructional design. And asking them what they’ll do when they WiFi goes out probably isn’t compelling enough as an argument.

Instead, anchor learning experiences around new kinds of thinking that force the synthesis of disparate ideas, media, and communities. Scenario-based learning, challenge-based learning, project-based learning, learning simulations, and so on.

It’s all out there, ready to be integrated in your classroom.

2. Force them to grapple with big questions without answers

Promote study and observation, not “content mastery.” In a Google-centric world characterized by access to content, networks, and new ways of thinking about things, the focus should be on more classically human practices of observation, study, and perspective.

Via a reddit thread, I found this link to a TED talk–the concept is called “rewilding.”

“Yellowstone National Park had become overrun with deer, which grazed away the vegetation dramatically. For years, biologists like Dave Foreman suggested a solution: bringing wolves back to the park, as the last ones were killed off in 1926. In 1995, wolves were finally reintroduced to Yellowstone, and the effects were dramatic. The wolves brought the deer population down to a sustainable population — but more importantly, they radically changed the behavior of the remaining deer. These deer started to move more often and avoid places in the park where they could easily be trapped, which in turn grew thick with vegetation. This allowed birds and beavers to move in, and the beavers’ dams became habitats for otters, muskrats, ducks, fish, reptiles and amphibians. The wolves also killed coyotes, which allowed for more rabbits and mice, which in turn boosted the populations of weasels, hawks, foxes and badgers. Meanwhile, ravens, bald eagles and bears fed on the carrion that the wolves left. In fact, even the river patterns in the park changed: the regenerating vegetation stabilized the riverbanks, which yielded less to erosion and took on straighter water flow. “The wolves, small in number, transformed not just the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park—this huge area of land—but also its physical geography.”

Not sure how that kind of discovery could ever be packaged into a “standard” without neutering it completely. Curriculum maps should promote careful, self-directed study of relevant and meaningful ideas, rather than design micro-lessons to “efficiently deliver information.”

And for the Google Generation, this kind of authentic content and perspective is infinitely available.

3. Actually make social networks and media channels part of curriculum

Their identification, navigation, analysis, and evaluation should be as much a part of study as branches of government or the writing process.

4. Focus on learning strategies 

See #2. Rather than emphasizing content, emphasize how to deal with an abundance of fluid and perishable content on a daily basis.

5. Create curriculum and lessons that absorb data seamlessly

In an age of information and analytics, data is abundant. Currently, maps and units and lessons are not designed to accept data, leaving it up to the teacher to extract it, and constantly make often significant adjustments to planning in light of it.

In 2014, we can do better.

6. Anticipate student needs

Student proficiency can be predicted by examining past performance, reading levels, and an assortment of other factors. This isn’t tracking, nor is it consigning certain students to novice levels of performance, holding them to lower standards, etc. It’s simply being pro-active–creating a map–or at least units within a map–that can facilitate the educated guesswork and instinct on the part of teachers.

Will they need extra time?

Mini-lessons on Digital Citizenship?

Unique literacy strategies?

A mix of digital and physical texts?

More choice or less?

Currently this is all done at the unit or lesson level. What would it look like at the curriculum map level?

7. Focus less on “understanding”

Of course students need to “understand”–but (hoping Grant’s not reading this) prescribing exactly what students will understand, when they will understand it and at what depth, and where, and how they will prove it–regardless of background knowledge, natural interest, literacy levels, etc.–is a bit…ambitious.

And even if it’s possible, at what incredible cost of teacher training, related resources, “classroom management and general gnashing of teeth and stifling of natural curiosity?

Of course the idea of learning is understanding. And we absolutely need to measure what’s working. But focusing entirely on mastery of pre-determined, catalogued, and non-student centered outcomes measured by unbearably unimaginative tests can’t be the zenith of modern pedagogy, can it?

8. Use spiraling by design

If you want to get better at something, you practice. So why not establish a handful of the most important ideas in content that act as anchors for other more discrete knowledge and facts, and practice them over and over again at a variety of cognitive levels (e.g., Bloom’s).

And if this happens, shouldn’t the design of the map promote it naturally? Why should the map say one thing, and then what happens in classroom be different? Should the curriculum map not reflect this approach? Even make it better?

9. Discourage use of traditional units

Among other sins, units encourage illusions of “coverage” for the sake of content packaging. Why not instead emphasize that learning is a marathon, not a series of artificially-divided sprints.

10. Illuminate the nuance of the world

Have you ever had anyone force you to listen to a song? And then stared at your face the whole time waiting for your reaction? Then asked you to write a cause-effect essay about it all? Horrible, right? That’s the process traditional curriculum maps encourage.

Content is incredible if we can just let it be incredible, and for the Google Generation, it’s right there at their fingertips. Curriculum documents should underscore the nuance of the world, not provide a chronologically-based checklist to cover it all.

If students can’t separate what’s worth understanding and what’s not for themselves–whether on the first page of Google search results, or links they find via twitter and facebook–our collective efforts are diminished.


11. Promote discovery and curiosity and self-direction over coverage and compliance

A curriculum map should be as much for the student as they are for the teacher. As such they should function as learning and discovery pathways, helping the learners see where they’ve been, where they’re going, and what’s possible. The Age of Information is characterized by discovery, curiosity, whimsy, and connectivity–all which necessitate self-monitoring and self-direction.

10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust To The Google Generation; image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad

10 Ways Teacher Planning Should Adjust To The Google Generation.

13 Reasons for Using Technology in the Classroom

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For the 45 states who opted intoCommon Core, using technology in the classroom is no longer a choice — it’s required. Common Core’s Standards insist that for any student to be prepared for college and career requires they be digitally and technologically savvy.

From the English Language Arts Standards: Technology differentiates for student learning styles by providing an alternative method of achieving conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and applying this knowledge to authentic circumstances.

From the Math Standards: Mathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Proficient students are sufficiently familiar with tools appropriate for their grade or course to make sound decisions about when each of these tools might be helpful.

The standards themselves go into detail. Sprinkled throughout are constant allusions to the importance of using technology, its fundamental nature as the bedrock of education, and the necessity to weave it throughout the academic fabric, regardless the topic, skill or requirement.

Here are 13 reasons why this is a good idea. The first seven are directly from the Standards, the last six from my classroom experience.

1. Technology allows students to demonstrate independence. Tech makes it easy to provide options for accomplishing goals. Consider a book report delivered with Voki, Prezi, Glogster or a video. Students make a decision as to which approach is best suited to their communication and learning style.

2. Technology enables students to build strong content knowledge wherever they find it. It’s easy for students to pursue anything they’re curious about with technology. Make available online dictionaries to quickly look up unknown words. Teach students the tricks of quick and accurate online research. Follow the lead of hundreds of schools nationwide that have added the Genius Hour to theircurriculum, where students follow school academic guidelines 80 percent of the time and get to follow their own passion for the remaining 20 percent.

3. Technology responds to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, discipline.Decode this critical concept early in the education year. Explain why audiences are different — as is task, purpose and discipline — and how communication methods need to adapt to those variances to succeed. Then, let students pick what works, be it audio, visual, textual, color/movement, or a polyglot of their own making.

4. Technology values evidenceWith technology, students can click through to primary documents for evidence in support of their argument and push back if they don’t find those connections. Is the information believable if they can’t evaluate source material? What if it was misinterpreted? Teaching students to read closely, think critically, and dig deeper is easier with technology.

5. Technology understands other perspectivesSure, this can be done through conversation and class presentations, but doing it through blogging, comments, discussion boards (technology) is bigger. Plus, as students share their perspective, they can edit and rewrite to be sure the words fully reflect their ideas.

6. Technology differentiates for needs of students. Nothing does this better than technology. The creative student can use art and music. Those who love words can write. Visual learners can use a combination of color, images and personal drawings.

7. Technology deepens learning by using resources students are interested in. If we do our job well, students are inspired to learn more. They are eager to dig deeper into what has sparked their scholastic interest. If that means getting a ride to the library, going to the bookstore for a book, arranging tutoring time with a knowledgeable teacher, they may never get to it. If resources are only a click away, the chances of the task’s completion increase —and the activity itself may even become fun. Share these enrichment materials through Google Apps for Education, post links through a class Internet page or Diigo account, and create a playlist through programs like MentorMob.

8. Common Core expects students to be active learners, authors, not just consumers. Technology makes that happen by asking them to publish, share, collaborate.

9. Students want to use technology. When students use iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, widgets, online tools and a plethora of other digital devices, technology provides a path to learning that students are eager to follow. Why ask them to unplug at the schoolhouse door?

10. Technology is its own assessment toolTo paraphrase James Paul Gee, a professor of literacy studies at Arizona State University: “When students use simulations, games, videos to learn, they have to problem-solve, critically think, transfer knowledge from other learning experiences.” That’s a good thing.

11. Learning with technology is connected. In a connected, technology-rich environment, students engage with peers, celebrities, relatives and experts worldwide. They like to do that. Why do you think social media is so viral?

12. Technology gives students an equal voice. Student value is in what they produce, not based on age or grade level. Their voices are important; they are listened to. If they publish an ebook, it is judged on the quality of writing, not their age. Where else can this happen?

13. Consider a video. For teaching, that is. Students can pause it, rewind, learn at their own pace. That’s technology.

Use these 13 reasons to offset the three most popular excuses for not using technology:

1. It doesn’t fit into my program.

2. I’m already juggling too much.

3. I don’t have time to learn it or use it.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach once said, “Teachers will not be replaced by technology, but teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced by those who do.” Amen.

If you don’t use technology in the classroom — or wish you didn’t have to — share your reasons.


Are You a Credible Technology Leader? – Leadership 360 – Education Week

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Why do forward thinking leaders need to use technology? Why is it no longer possible to separate good leadership and technology leadership?  We contend all educational leaders have a responsibility to learn and use technology.  The idea that education can exist without using technology is increasingly preposterous.  This is true not only because students are engaged in its use, not only because we are preparing our students to be college and career ready, but because they are living in that environment now and with ease. Teachers have been hard at work learning and using use this medium at a faster rate than the administrators who supervise them.  This is problematic and potentially dangerous.

It is important that educational leaders learn about the technology their teachers are incorporating in their classes.  Leaders are responsible for not only holding the vision of the school/district but the movement toward it while protecting students and teachers from dangers unseen.  This requires a very careful balance.  So often we hear about leaders who have supported the idea of creating technological barriers, preventing access through the use of filters, or worse, banning the use of personal technology devices.  This is the most cautious approach, protecting students, teachers, and the district. It is also difficult to lead from such a cautious place.  If we cannot block out the danger, we need to learn how to lead in this environment.

There are several reasons this is important.  Teachers are being encouraged and are stepping out and experimenting at a greater rate than their supervisors.  What might a school leader say if a teacher decided to begin Tweeting with his or her students or giving students access to their Facebook page for gathering information about assignments or advocating for students to begin working in Pintrest or flipping their classroom by posting videos on YouTube?  We suggest leaders might encourage and support that teacher and even write a glowing review of that teacher’s work.  The warning is against leaders giving the nod to their teachers without understanding the technology.  It raises issues of trust, integrity and safety. There is much more to know about the value and capacity for using these vehicles for learning. Leaders need to be able to engage those conversations with the faculty, board and parents.   Questions about the age of the students, do they have access to technology outside of the school?  Is the environment being used protected or does it need to be?  Does this enhance the learning process or is it pretty fluff? Do the parents know about this?  Do they need information and training along with their children? Will this make a difference in learning and achievement?  And most importantly, can the leader determine which tools, when they are used and how effective they are?

This is a leadership issue in technology clothing.  Tom Peters is a well-known writer on business management practices. In this recorded interview, he noted leaders are rarely the best performers.

If you are leading well, you are still only as good as your best players (referring to leading a sports team) and sales people (referring to leading a company) and actors (referring to directing a movie). And he concluded, “You do not want a leader who is not enthusiastic, period.” So the leadership message is simple. We don’t necessarily need our leaders to be our best users of technology, but they should know enough to safely use some of it and enthusiastically encourage and lead their teachers to use much of it.

How might that look?  Principals and superintendents can reach out to the faculty, and even students, to find the most informed users of technology and become a learner. That is good modeling and it will make it safer terrain for others who are less technologically savvy as well. Ask as many questions as possible.  In some cases, they may have colleagues or family members who are using technology in their work. There are scores of young people teaching grandparents how to use various forms of technology. How is it used in education, business, personally?  Who is using it?  How privately can it be used?  Does it need a level of privacy?  Where can I learn more about it?  How can I best support its appropriate use in our school/district?

There is another challenge that has to be reconciled.  It requires a changed mental model. The work of teachers has been behind the classroom door for a long time. As those doors open for curricular reasons and because of technology, it is both exciting and threatening. Educators have developed a sense of proprietorship about their work.  Anticipate that some may be comfortable using the medium to remind students of assignments, but they may have serious reservations about placing their lessons on YouTube in order to flip their classrooms.  When a principal writes praise and encouragement in a memo to a teacher who is flipping their classroom, unless they have openly shared their own work on YouTube, created something and given it away, they can’t possibly know the courage and generosity that takes.  Want your faculty to begin flipping some lessons?  Why not flip faculty meetings?  Want teachers to have dynamic webpages that communicate with their students and their parents?  Why not have one of your own?  Need to approve a teacher’s idea to use Twitter to keep students up to date?  Why not use Twitter to communicate with your community to stay connected?

Leadership, good leadership, transcends physical boundaries.  Technology cannot be dismissed from the leadership’s responsibility to be in the know.  It is acceptable for the teachers to be more skilled than their leader in the use of technology with students.  But it is not acceptable for the leader to stay removed from its use.  We need to learn beside our faculties and know and understanding the tools they are using. Room must be made for common understanding and improved use.  Teachers, students and parents need to trust that those who make technology available and who advocate for its use know what they are talking about. The right mix of vision, knowledge, risk taking… and a dash of courage …make schools dynamic learning environment for all of us.

via Are You a Credible Technology Leader? – Leadership 360 – Education Week.

Is it time we push the best educational content out to our colleagues?

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The Best & Next in Education

A Free Digital Magazine for Teachers, Leaders, and Learners.

Price: Free

Format: Digital including PDF, Kindle, iBooks, and other ePub

Distribution: Through email. New issue every two weeks!

Each Issue Includes:

The Best Stories:  Our team picks four of the best blog posts from the past two weeks to share in the magazine.

The Best Books/Tools/Apps: We review new books, blogs, and tools for teachers. All reviews are by actual teachers in the classroom.

New Research: What’s next in education? We bring you the latest research in our field, so you don’t have to search for it.

What’s Hot in Ed Tech: Education technology is always changing. We keep you up to date…with only the good stuff.

How Does it Work?

Step One – You Sign Up

You (the lead learner) sign up for the digital magazine (for free).  You’ll get our latest issue delivered to your inbox (and all future issues).

Step Two – Receive & Share It With Colleagues

Once you receive the digital magazine you can forward it along and share it with your colleagues. It comes from you, not us.

Step Three – Lots of Formats for Reading

You and your teachers can download the magazine as a PDF, Kindle book, iBooks book, and more!

Step Four – Learn, Grow, and Start the Dialogue

Sometimes it is difficult to connect and find time to read all the great work teachers are doing online. We bring the conversation to you and your colleagues.

via Is it time we push the best educational content out to our colleagues?.