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Blogging – A powerful digital literacy/digital citizenship tool

Blogging – A powerful digital literacy/digital citizenship tool

I work in the Technology Services Department for a large public school district. I love my job (technology integration specialist) and truly appreciate my department’s support of programs that promote digital literacy and the potential for students – and teachers – to advance from digital citizens to global citizens.

With this week’s start of the new school year, I’m getting lots of requests from teachers to setup Edublogs Pro classroom blogs, something I am happy to do … but not until we’ve had a conversation about their vision for their blogs. Because my department pays for our Edublog Campus accounts (worth every penny), I like to know how far up the SAMR ladder they – and their students – might travel via their classroom blog. If they simply want an online location to post homework and announcements, I suggest a free Google Site. If they need a little background on the SAMR model, I might send them a short video, such as John Spensor’s introduction, which makes the connection to the potential power of blogging:

Last week, in response to my blogging vision questions, a teacher sent me a link to the awesome Jeff Bradbury’s TeacherCast session: The Great EdTech Debate: Google Sites vs Google Classroom vs Blogger. I emailed back that Jeff was simply reviewing the suite of Google options; he was not commenting on the power and possibilities of  classroom blogging. (And I agree with Jeff that Blogger is not the best choice for a classroom blog.)

This morning, I came across Silvia Tolisano’s post Blogging Through the Lens of SAMR, I decided it was time to gather resources and rationale on moving a classroom blog from “substitution” (the “S” of SAMR) to “redefinition.” Silvia’s post, with its wonderful infographics, is a great starting point. I’m also including and highly recommending:

As a former classroom teacher, I witnessed many times the bump in literacy skills that happens when students know their work really matters, a change that generally requires an authentic audience. Blogging can provide a 24/7 microphone for students to join in virtual conversations with students and classrooms across the nation and world – and, in the process, cross the line from consumer of information to creator of information – and from digital citizen to global citizen.

I’m ending this post with two things: a blogger’s poem and an invitation.

#1) An if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie-style poem from Edublogger Ronnie Burt’s blog post A Rhyme? Why Not! Please note that “website” = “blog”:

If you give a student a website, at first, he isn’t going to be sure what to do.

He will start by wanting to decorate it and personalize it too.

He’ll no doubt choose some interesting colors and flashing widgets – making sure he has the most.

Once you go over expectations, you will assign the student to write his first post.

The student will ask, ‘is this for a grade?’, and he will probably groan.

But once he publishes to his new website, he’ll immediately want to pull out his phone.

He’ll post a link to twitter and facebook, out across the interwebs his post will be sent.

He’ll hit refresh in his browser, over and over, just hoping that a visitor has left a comment.

Before long he’ll see the comment notifications show up in his queue.

And an ongoing dialogue between his family, friends, and classmates will certainly continue.

So the next time he learns something new in your class, there won’t be much of a fight.

Before you even get the chance to finish, the student will ask if he can write another post on his website.

 

#2 ) An invitation to share classroom and student blogs I could showcase in my next post on blogging best practices. Please leave a comment with links!

Best wishes to everyone for the 2017-2018 school year.

PS Thank you Pixabay for cc licensed blogging image!

 

Creating a Culture of Civility

Creating a Culture of Civility

 

entrsekt - October 2016
entrsekt – October 2016

The October issue of entrsekt, ISTE’s quarterly journal, immediately caught my attention – with the cover boldly featuring Jennifer Snelling’s “A Culture of Civility: The New Tenets of Connecting in the Digital Age.”

In a highly contentious election-year atmosphere, I really appreciate having at my fingertips the research, examples, and reminder that “Civility and citizenship come from understanding alternate viewpoints and being able to have conversations and respectful debates.” 

When ISTE released the 2016 Standards, I was delighted to see Digital Citizenship as an integral component. In reading “A Culture of Civility,” I was struck by the connection between Digital Citizen and Global Collaborator, and how both standards promote “vital skills to empower students to thrive in an uncertain future.”

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In my day job, I serve on a district committee tasked with making sure teachers have access to a wealth of high-quality resources, such as Common Sense Media, for teaching and modeling digital citizenship skills with their students. Initially the topic tended to be taught in isolation, as part of an homeroom advisory period or in a computer class, for instance – too often without providing students with opportunities to put their digital citizenship skill set into practice. The arrival of Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education has thankfully brought technology integration into the core curriculum – along with the need to make sure all students are firmly grounded in what it means to be a positive, contributing digital/global citizen.

One of the many note-worthy quotes from Snelling’s article is from psychiatrist Dr. Helen Riess, who stresses the importance of developing listening skills, a first step in building empathy:

As soon as there is a culture of disrespect for opposing opinions, we lose the art of not only listening but also of compromise and negotiation, and that’s what’s contributing to this polarized society.”

In response to Dr. Riess’s concern, I’d like to share that, occasionally, when visiting classrooms in my district, I enter just as a student has apparently posted something inappropriate online. Instead of taking away the Chromebook, I love how teachers are tapping into technology misuse incidents as teachable moments on how to respectfully disagree. It is inspiring to watch students come to understand that being proficient in the genre of commenting is a non-negotiable, must-have skill for the digital age.

I am bundling the “Culture of Civility” article (which does require an ISTE membership in order to access) with two of my favorite digital citizenship resources on teaching the art of commenting as a genre:

  • From Linda Yollis’s 3rd graders: How to Write a Quality Comment

With interactive technology tools such as Google Docs, blogs, wikis, and videoconferencing making it so easy to take student voices beyond the classroom, creating a culture of civility is an essential step in empowering students to listen to and learn from a mix of shared and alternate viewpoints.

If you have resources to add to the topic and conversation of promoting a culture of civility, I warmly invite you to share them by leaving a comment.

 

Rethinking Digital Citizenship – It’s ongoing

Rethinking Digital Citizenship – It’s ongoing

One of the hats I wear as a district technology integration specialist is coordinating our digital citizenship program. I’m lucky to share the responsibility with a very talented and like-minded colleague. She and I have been on what seems like an ever-changing journey for about 10 years now, stemming back to the days of “MySpace hysteria,” when we called the topic Internet Safety.

As social media tools and venues grew, with our students making good and bad choices, we soon recognized the need to help keep students safe from others – but also to keep them safe from each other – and from themselves. My colleague and I chat on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis on what needs to be updated on our district digital citizenship website and how we can best support students, teachers and administrators as the digital citizenship lead learners at their school sites.

We’ve shared resources such as Tanya Avrinth’s Rebranding Digital Citizenship with Google Tools (see below), a wonderful example and reminder that it doesn’t make sense to teach digital citizenship in isolation when, in an age of Google + affordable devices (Chromebooks, smartphones, etc.), students now have opportunities within the core curriculum to roll up their sleeves and put their #DigCit skills into practice.

In Tanya’s words,”Digital Citizenship is no longer an add-on; it’s how we teach.”

We’ve also given some thought as to whether we should drop “digital” and simply refer to the topic as “citizenship,” in recognition that citizenship is citizenship. At this point, however, we know our site VPs and counselors, who typically have to deal with the drama and disruption of the school day brought on by misuse of cell phones, for instance, truly appreciate that we continue to refer to the topic as “digital citizenship.” When conferring with the offending student(s) and parent(s), it really helps when students have to start by acknowledging the fact that they’ve had X number of years of digital citizenship instruction and do understand the consequences of hitting the Submit button.

Our over-arching goal, even beyond the goal that every graduating senior Googles well, has always been to help students in moving from digital to global citizenship. Whether it’s Mrs. Petuya’s Kindergartners blogging with scientists in Antarctica about penguins or K-12 students posting on a VoiceThread about what it means to cross the line from bystander to upstander, we want students to have opportunties to become connected and contributing digital/global citizens.

So, even though the title of Keith Heggart’s Edutopia article, “Why I Hate ‘Digital Citizenship,” had me a little worried, when I actually read the article, I agreed with his stance that we need to go beyond simply teaching students responsible, respectful use of the Internet and start teaching “how to participate – safely, yes, but also meaningfully and thoughtfully – in civil society, in political, social and other spheres.”

But I don’t think I’ll be suggesting to my district that we adopt Keith’s suggestion of renaming our current programs [which cover 1) taking a stand against cyberbullying; 2) building a positive digital footprint; 3) respecting intellectual property; and 4) protecting online privacy] to Digital Responsibility. Instead, I’m thinking more like a SAMR model, where our site programs move from Beginning Digital Citizenship (the above 4 topics) to Advanced Digital Citizenship, where students take their #DigCit skills beyond the classroom, school site, and district and connect with a global audience. Advanced DigCit would most likely happen within the core curriculum and would also likely be project-based.

If you have ideas  to share or lessons learned about rethinking, rebranding, and/or renaming school and district digital citizenship programs, please share by leaving a comment.

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