"What if, instead of avoiding social media in school altogether or focusing solely on the negative aspects, we teach students how to leverage it to connect in positive ways and build a digital footprint that reflects their best selves..."
- Susan M. Bearden
Digital Citizenship and how to teach our students to be careful, critical, and safe users of the internet is a hot topic at the moment, particularly in the wake of the tragic suicide of Dolly Everett here in Australia. How do we tackle this challenge to make children realise the impact that they can have on others in this age of internet anonymity?
There are a number of resources and tools that are available and I want to outline three of those in this article.
Office of the eSafety Commissioner
The website of this Government Office has a range of resources, both for classroom teachers, for parents and grandparents, and for a range of online activities for children to work through. There are also links for those who are struggling with cyberbullying through social media, a link to Kids Helpline, and a link to report offensive/illegal content. If you are a parent or educator, I would recommend having a look here. The eSafety Commissioner also has active Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube pages for you to engage with.
Interland is a website put together by Google that gamifies four aspects of using the internet: Reality River is about awareness of the credibility of news and information, Mindful Mountain is focused on responsible sharing, Tower of Treasure targets having appropriate password and being aware of privacy settings, while Kind Kingdom is about treating others as you want to be treated. It is aimed, quite clearly at younger students, up to around eleven or Twelve years of age, perhaps a young thirteen year old. The games themselves can be a bit clunky, but it is a reasonable resource to utilise for primary-aged students to encourage awareness of these concepts. There are teacher resources to go with the games (available here) and it is worth checking out to help you get started with considering how to teach these concepts.
Jacqui Murray wrote an article for TeachHub outlining the specific topics that she sees as being included in the broad category of digital citizenship (nineteen topics in all!), but then also breaks down an easy to follow suggestion for when and how to introduce these different concepts to our students, starting with Kindergarten and moving forwards from there. Links to different resources used with different ages students are included throughout.
The subject of digital citizenship is not going to go away, and simply banning phones and other devices from our children is a strategy akin to sticking our heads in the sand - the world is not going away and doing that sets our students up for failure when they do leave us as adults. Realistically, whatever we are trying to shield them from, they are likely seeing or hearing with their friends.
We should be proactive and work with our children from the beginning to understand how to be responsible online just as we do to teach them to be responsible off-line. We also need to stop referring to off-line as the real world. Online is as real world as off-line, the impacts are just as real, the friendships and social networks are just as real as those in the offline world.
“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.”
- Attributed to Ben Okri
As a child and a teenager I was always reading, devouring books similarly to how I devoured food - voraciously, getting lost in the story of the character about whom I was reading. There are many stories that I look back on with fond memories. Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian is still one of my favourite stories of all time. I read through my mother's collection of Jack Higgins, Wilbur Smith, Robert Ludlum, my Pop's collection of Ion Idriess, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov. Each time I would be lost in the story of the protagonist, and much of my spare time was spent reading these great stories. When I then saw that Unit Ten in the Flipped Learning Level II Certification course was titled first person narrative, I was naturally curious as to what it was about.
Ryan Hull is a Year Seven Social Studies teacher in Kansas and he was increasingly finding that his students were heading to Wikipedia for their research and were simply copying and pasting without actually engaging with the knowledge through analysis. Ryan's process was around having them use that knowledge that required them to think about it differently, to analyse and synthesis is it into a different form by having them write, initially, journal entries of particular historical figures reflecting on certain events, and then by having them write scripts for and record interviews with or as those characters.
The concept that Ryan spoke about which intrigued me the most, however, was using what he terms a creative use of social media. Social media is a tool like any other; it can be incredibly useful in the classroom or it can be a hindrance, it comes down to how we use it. There are many tools out there that allow you to create fake social media accounts (a great consolidated post of some of them by Gayle Pinn can be found here) and these can be used to generate exchanges between historical figures, timelines or recounts of historical events (such as the @RealTimeWWI and @RealTimeWWII twitter accounts).
I think this is interesting from how it can be used in History, using historical figures and events as the inspiration, but also for other subject areas as science (maybe a day in the life of the moon, or have some of the elements from the periodic table talking about relationships), for Geography (have a mountain talking about how it has changed and shrunk over time (interesting relationship here perhaps with PE and how we grow?), or for English with various characters from set texts interacting with each other (an interesting take on using Twitter to write stories is here).
I think that the use of first person narratives in the classroom is not a new strategy, however, the use of fake social media accounts presents an opportunity to integrate responsible use of social media into the discussion.
If you use fake social media to have students write, create, or respond to historical figures or events, I would love to hear about it in the comments.
Thank you for reading.
“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”
― Attributed to Neil Gaiman
Last week I published two articles (here and here) talking about how I planned to explicitly introduce students to the internet, and address misconceptions to ensure that they were all on the same page when it came to understanding the fundamentals of using the internet. I recently delivered the first lesson in the unit to a Year Four class and it went somewhere between poorly and average and was a good way of reminding me that I am not as good or as experienced as I sometimes think that I think I am due to how comfortable and settled I am in the school.
I still firmly believe that the Google Search Engine Lesson Plans (GSELP) are valuable resources, but I think that I need to find a way of resetting my expectations as I move between classes. Being the RFF teacher is a difficult position, moving from class to class and age group to age group, I still get caught out on a semi-regular basis expecting too much of younger students, having just had Stage Three, or, as happened today, going from having Kindergarten to Year Four and adjusting my expectation back up, but adjusting them too far and still expecting too much.
Looking at it now, I structured the lesson poorly and I am fortunate that the students in this class are, on the whole very polite with only a few overly exuberant students. I had the students work through a series of questions to get an understanding of their preconceptions about the internet, writing them down, and then used a class discussion to bring it together, which showed some interesting thoughts from students:
After completing the Padlet, I then went through the presentation that had been put together, after getting students to stand up and stretch and move around. I think that I had effectively lost them by this point and It was not until we got to the Kahoot that I had put together as a summative learning that they perked back up and re-engaged, but it demonstrated that they had not understood what we had discussed, as many of their answers were incorrect.. I have more Stage Two classes tomorrow (as I write this) and I will deliver the lesson very differently to those classes. Just because I am the teacher does not mean I get it right all the time. I just need to be sure that I learn the lesson and get it right the next time.
Tomorrow will be introductory video first, then a slow work through of the questions one at a time, with students identifying their own pre-conceptions and then class discussion and explanation of the meaning before moving onto the subsequent question. I feel that this approach will be more effective and result in the students understanding the concepts more than my students did today.
“There’s nothing better when something comes and hits you and you think ‘YES’!”
– Attributed to J.K. Rowling
From time to time in life, you experience an epiphany, that moment where the light bulb suddenly turns on and you get it, whatever ‘it’ is. I had this earlier in the week midway through a lesson with around note-taking with some Stage Three students, when I noticed they were struggling with the task that I had asked them to complete. I was attempting to discern where I had let the students down; was the task too difficult, had I not explained things clearly, and I suddenly realised that I had completely failed to model the task for them.
I am not sure how it happened, but upon reflecting back over the last few days of lessons I realised that I had done this a few times and that it was becoming something of a habit. I am working on breaking that habit, and have redone that session with the classes affected, and it has gone much smoother. I am still working on getting the flow smoothed out, as I am not particularly happy with that aspect of the session, but it is a work in progress. I went through the session in question with a Stage Three class this afternoon, and I am reasonably happy with how that went. I think that I have found a balance between talking and doing, and the engagement reflected that, as did their responses at the end of the session as we reflected on the learning.
On that note, I found it interesting how excited they got when I explained that they were going to decide on the top three ideas they had learned that session and post them on my classroom Twitter account. Students discussed what they thought were the three important ideas from the session, and then I asked a student to Tweet that idea out. When the first student hit the Tweet button for the first one, the room erupted into cheers and applause. Will they remember that session? Will they remember the ideas? I hope yes to both, and I will check with them next week when I see them if they remember what we talked about.
Thank you for reading, and if you are using Twitter in the classroom, please follow me using your classroom account, and I will follow back. I would love to make some connections nationally and internationally with other classes as a vehicle for talking about global issues, digital citizenship and other topics.
“The copyright bargain: a balance between protection for the artist and rights for the consumer.”
– Attributed to Robin Gross
Copyright is a confusing and complicated area of law for adults. This is especially so given that copyright laws have not kept up with the proliferation of digital media and the realisation of many that music and movies had been, for many years, incredibly overpriced (which is a separate conversation in itself). However, copyright is still an important concept to understand, particularly with the burgeoning use of tablets in the educational context, and the increasing of access to the internet for children.
Having completed the introductory unit focusing on fundamental computer skills with my Stage Three students last week, I am now looking to begin teaching copyright concepts to those students. In preparation, I spent some time examining the content on the CyberSmart for Kids website, and felt that it was very superficial and did not deal with the concept with any genuine effectiveness. I looked elsewhere, and could not find any Australian content that I felt was effective at dealing with the concepts and implications of copyright for students.
I ventured overseas, and after much much searching, have found and am using the iKeepSafe content to deliver these concepts. Today was the first lesson, and even with some good quality resources to back up the delivery, it was a complicated lesson.
I would very much like to hear from anyone who has treated this concept with the students, and how you explained and differentiated copyright, fair use, creative commons, public domain etc. in such a way that students were able to engage and understand the concept.