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My First Blog Post

If you care about something enough, it’s going to make you cry

— Sherman Alexie

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. To start off, this blog is for EC&I 832 and I am excited to get started on this class. Please see all my pages because I think they are cool.

I set up a full page for my Major Project, because in my head I feel like it will be worthy of a page in itself. Hopefully it all works out. Enjoy your reading!

That’s a Wrap

Cheers, Beverage, Drink Booze, Root Beer

You can see the initial idea for this project here.

WOW – I can’t believe that I am finally finished my curriculum support document. Please take a look at the guide that I made: DIGITAL MEDIA IN SECONDARY ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS. And reading the initial idea of this project, I feel like I kept it pretty similar to the original conception. While it evolved a little, it is nothing compared to the wandering journey that some of my classmates took. I’m happy about that – I knew this was something that I felt was important and I’m glad it stuck.

The idea for this project seems like it came to me years ago. But in only four months I was able to pull this together. What is really interesting is as I was doing my final edit, I couldn’t help but notice how much little sprinkles from each class topic just happened to make their way into the final product. There are mentions of generational gaps, and digital citizenship, and fake news, and moral and ethical implications. The most surprising thing about this is that I feel like it wasn’t intentional, and it just sort of happened. I guess that’s how a course like this goes.

Questions, Demand, Doubts, Psychology
I don’t know how… it just works!

Summary:

The goal of this document is to support secondary English Language Arts teachers in assessing and using technological tools and digital media within their own classes.

The document is organized as such:

  1. Essential Skills for 21st Century Education
  2. Frameworks for Assessing Technological Integration and Pedagogy
  3. Connections to Curriculum
  4. Resource Suggestions

This document takes an assumption that many educators are already comfortable with their curricular area, but may not be comfortable with how digital media can enhance it. The hope is that by developing a thorough understanding of the essential skills for 21st century education, and different frameworks for assessing ones own practice, an understanding for how technology and curriculum can work hand in hand to enhance an educational experience will begin to develop. Who knows, they might even begin to value digital media….

Throughout the development, there was one moment that sticks out as an integral moment in terms of how my project became the final product that it became. As stated in this blog post, I knew that I wanted to emphasize choice in frameworks and choice in activities. I think I was very successful in doing so.

The whole process of making this document was very humbling. As I was creating my suggestions for teachers, I kept thinking to myself how I only have this idea because someone else supported me along the way. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the colleagues and other professionals that I have had the amazing fortune of collaborating with. But hey, that’s what teachers do. We share with each other so that we can better share with our students. And that is my end goal with this document. I hope this document supports you in the way that you need.

PS – If any of you are not ELA teachers, this document might have a few gems for you to pull out.

Teaching in a Dangerous Time

(Sung to the tune of Bruce Cockburn)

As teachers, we face constant disruptions and annoyances. While we no longer deal with the usual annoyances, the huge disruption caused by this global pandemic is unlike anything that we have ever seen. As of this writing, nearly 190 countries have closed schools and we have no clue how long this is going to last. And in the frantic rush to provide distance education for all of our students, we find that there is a new annoyance that hits us. While I am not trying to say that copyright and privacy laws should be completely ignored, I have found that it is something that is annoying me more than ever these days. While I am working super hard to provide my students with quality learning opportunities, I keep finding that I am constantly questioning if my procedures are as ethical as they need to be given the circumstances. And it has got me a bit annoyed… mostly because I feel like I just want to do what I feel is the best way to handle this situation, and it may not be the case. One of those “more ya know, less ya know” type of things…

Education - Creative Commons | When using this photo, please… | Flickr
Look how much fun we can have…

My first question was whether or not my platform for delivery was a good choice. Interesting side note – I use Moodle on a daily basis within a blended learning environment, but it took me until this pandemic to actually do some research into the privacy of this platform. Through my research, I have found a lot of information that both supports AND brings into question the security of Moodle. However, my school division does a good job of updating and securing the information. At the end of the day, while I did come across some aspects of ways that Moodle can get hacked, I think that for a learning platform, it does a great job of supporting student privacy and educational data.

By the way, I did come across a pretty awesome list of distance learning options published by UNESCO. There are so many options out there, and that also brings to light another issue. How do you know which one to choose? Are you going to research all of them? If you do, you might find some issues like with Google or Class Dojo. And while these companies all have privacy policies, I guess it begs the question why they need the info to begin with. At the end of the day, I learned a lot about these platforms that we use, and their consequences. But I don’t have any answers for what is best. Sorry. It’s just definitely worth the discussion. No solution is going to be perfect, and it is super important for educators to use their best judgment. That includes being well-educated on the topic. For me, it is important to consider what is best for out students when planning for equitable and accessible education during these times.

Who knows?

That takes me to my next new annoying thing – although I think I am doing a good job of it, it’s one of those things I never had to worry about in my blended classroom. The issue of copyright and using works within my online format. It was so easy, pulling out my class set of anthologies, and reading stories out of there. Am I allowed to make a PDF copy of a short story available for my students? (Spoiler alert: YES!!… I think…) I even did a long search on the internet to see if it was okay for me to tell my students to watch a movie of their choice for an assignment. (I never did get a solid answer, but my common sense says yes).

But that is where I get annoyed with the copyright things. Sometimes my common sense is actually incorrect. I know that these laws are important – it also gives me a perfect opportunity to set a precedent for my students in terms of digital citizenship. But sometimes being a good citizen is hard (I know I’m complaining and ranting here – poor me!) In this situation, I have spent way more time looking things up to make sure that I am following the right rules than ever before. Like I said, this has became one of those “more ya know, less ya know” things.

Ha! I put this here just to make you smile 🙂

On the bright side, this whole situation has given me so much to work with in terms of my major project. I feel super fortunate that I happened to be taking this class during the most unprecedented educational situation of my life. Quite the fortunate stroke of serendipity.

How have you been handling the transition into digital platforms? Do you share some of the things I talk (complain) about?

PS Thanks to Curtis for sharing that Copyright Matters document!

Digital Literacy: Keeping Us Sane in Insane Times

So here we are – a time that I have never seen or even thought would be possible in my lifetime. I have been in my home, leaving only to get groceries for myself, my mother, and my grandfather, for the last five days. I have cleaned every single room in my house (I am too scared to start the garage) and all I want to do is to go out with my friends and have a nice cold beer. But I can’t…

As someone who has always been a control freak, I am not sure if I have ever felt such a lack of control in my entire life. The pandemic has really made me take a step back and allow the world to just tell me what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. The first week was super stressful and frustrating; but now, I am starting to appreciate the chill out. This is completely unprecedented – so why am I trying to control things as if I knew any sort of possible outcome?

And, in all honesty, I think this is one of those situations where I am seeing so much lemonade being made out of the lemons that we are being given. The speed in which this disease spread and escalated was crazy. As a country, we have shut down and that can potentially lead to some negative aspects. However, one thing that I learned through this situation is how much my own digital literacy has kept me sane through it all.

The rollout…

I am an extrovert. Plain and simple, I am someone who not only loves to be around others, but I crave it as well. Full disclosure: I also used to be the type of person who thought that creating a Google Hangouts room to “hangout” was dumb. Why would we set up a Twitch stream to play Jackbox games when we can just go over to somebody’s house? (As an additional benefit, I learn more about the media I use: I have recently found out that Mixer is actually a better stream than Twitch – less latency.) I have never connected more with people – friends, family, former coworkers – than I have in the last week. All of this is possible because of my own digital literacy. I have even been teaching my friends how easy some of these things are. And I will be the first to admit that I would be going INSANE if these were not options for me.

Here’s the point: This virus has been a horrifying thing to happen to us, but it has also shown us a lot about our own society. Things we do well. Things we don’t. Things we NEED to do better. And while I will not comment on what I think about the Sask Government’s approach to education through this pandemic, I will say that our society is very much equipped to do a lot in a time like this. I see it in our options, but I also see this in the way that so many people are willing to help out any way that they can (just check out any social media platform). Our digital world has given people a huge amount of freedom during a time like this that didn’t exist even fifteen years ago. One of the best parts is that people who were originally closed off from learning these things are more open to learning them now.

Source – I love this image. Are we going to go back to the way we were, or learn for the future?

So moving forward, we can go back to the way we were, or we can learn from this situation. Even though I would say that I was relatively digitally literate before, my appreciation has grown; I have learned new things and have been way more open to trying more. I also look at this situation as a prime example for those who didn’t want to learn about digital media. How much better was your time spent in quarantine after learning some of these tools? The English teacher in me wants this blog to serve as a symbol for all the things that our society should be able to learn from an event like this. But I guess we can just end it at our digital mindsets…

Digital Identity – Who Are You…

The concept of digital identity is something that piques my interest on a couple different levels. First of all, I am always so worried about what people who search my name will find (not telling you what makes me worried though….) I googled myself this past week after doing the cybersleuthing activity and I was pleased to know that I found very little. And I am definitely still that person who thinks that I want to keep a low-key digital profile. On the other hand, I am starting to realize that our world is evolving and this is certainly a next step in our evolution. This is what interests me so much – that idea that I don’t care about my digital identity, yet I’m beginning to see the importance of it.

I was always one of those people that looked at social media profiles and was looking for the phony aspect of people. This idea of how different people are online versus who they are in person. I’m starting to realize, however, that these phony profiles are just as prominent in real life than they are in the digital world. For me this is my newest understanding. The idea that authenticity might be a word without meaning.

In other words, I think that authenticity in person is just as flawed as authenticity online. Identity is a process in which we discover ourselves, and our identity will keep shifting as our lives and our contexts shift. Technology is not a fad. It will continue to be here for years to come. Navigating the intersection of our real life and our digital lives can be confusing; I’m still figuring it out, and I think that gives me some good knowledge to share with my students. Even though I don’t necessarily want a huge digital identity right now doesn’t mean I need to be afraid of it.

Empowered Technology Use – Choice is Key

After reading the nine elements, I really started thinking about how tough it can be sometimes. Even in my own experience, I have seen both students and teachers be really hesitant to even approach the use of digital media in the classroom. I thought that at this point in the semester, I would have completely revamped what I wanted to do with my major project. However, the more I think about what I want to do, and the deeper I get into thinking about those nine elements, the more I am starting to realize how important it is to make technology approachable. In this way, I started thinking about what I do and little conversations that I have with my colleagues. Not gonna lie – I am starting to get a little excited about this project.

Choice for the teachers

At my school, I see so many amazing professionals that are so eager to try out new things, but just simply do not know where to start. Through conversations with my colleagues, I have started to see how this support document can be a transformative piece.

samr_r2.png
The SAMR Model (source)

Our school division really pushes the SAMR model when it comes to technology integration. While I think this is a very strong framework, I also think that it can be very intimidating for someone who is new to technology integration in their classroom. No matter what level of SAMR you are at, it still puts a focus on technology. The more I think about this project, the more I think about how focusing on the tech aspect, instead of the teaching aspect pulls people out of their comfort zone. With that said, I still highly recommend the SAMR model and actually use it to reflect on my own practice consistently. However, I want my document that I create to implement some choice in the reflective aspect.

TPACK Venn Diagram
TPACK Model (source)

I really like the TPACK framework, mostly because it shows the importance of balancing your own already honed skills with the new technology that you are using. Even the RAT model, while very similar to SAMR, is a little more simplified. At the end of the day, even being aware of different models when reflecting on the things that you do in the classroom will enhance your awareness of the tasks you are asking your students to do in your classroom. An after all, that is what these frameworks are for. I don’t use them to design my tasks; instead I use them to reflect on the tasks that I do.

One thing that I have already put in my support document that will stay right until the end is a note about Bloom’s Taxonomy. In my opinion, one thing that is sometimes assumed is that deeper technology integration automatically equates to higher level thinking. Simply put: this is not the truth. Understanding how to create tasks that not only incorporate technology, but also meet students at their own personalized levels is one of the most important parts of this project for me.

Choice is important – we all differentiate for our students. I want my document to differentiate for teachers at different levels.

Choice for students

One thing that I have shared with colleagues, especially my ELA friend, is how much I have shifted the way I do novel studies. The biggest change is that I let my students choose the assignments that they want to do to show their knowledge and growth. And in this, I allow them to dictate how much technology integration they are going to use. This is something I am passionate about. When someone asks me how much I use my class set of laptops, I always tell them that it depends. Some students use them all the time, while others use them less. Whatever they choose, I give them the responsibility of dictating how they are going to be assessed. Here is an excerpt from my grade 9 independent novel study:

In this assessment, I have given students choice in the main project that they want to do, but I have also simplified the language of the indicators for CC9.5b so that they can choose how I will assess them on that outcome. To me this is the purpose of using those frameworks above. It allows them to use their own strengths, and allows them to use technology when they need to, but not if they don’t want to.

I have also started giving a lot of choice in the articles/poems/stories that I do in my classes. Here is a caption from my grade 12 class which hits CR 30.1 dead on:

With multiple links, it allows students to choose which article they want to read. This is a simple way that we can use technology in a way that redefines what we used to do, and uses solid pedagogical skills, all while still remaining true to content (think TPACK here).

And the best part is that teachers who might be a little intimidated by the technology aspect do not really need to extend themselves too much. It also makes it possible to let students show them ways to implement digital media.

PS – I would love to hear some thoughts about this in the comments – especially ways that you might think I can improve this.

Moving forward

I have only just begun my major project, but I am certainly completely immersed in the idea that the main focus of my curriculum support document is going to be choice. As much as I love the SAMR model, I have heard from my colleagues that the idea of always transforming learning is intimidating. I think that it is important to include in this document the idea that teachers have choice in the ways that they want to implement technology – and sometimes that choice can happen without having too much knowledge about it.

For me, I saw a huge improvement in my digital media use when I stopped focusing so much on implementing it at the transformative level, and instead let students choose what they wanted to do. I want to take that idea of giving students the choice to use technology when they need it, and not so much just because we can. This is going to be a guiding principal of my major project.

Graduating in the 21st Century

This weeks focus of the generational differences and the myths that go with them is something that we could probably talk about for more classes than we will. The whole generational difference thing (especially the criticism) is a tale as old as time. I am certainly a quote person, so I gathered a few…

Image result for socrates generation quote"
This quote is an interesting story (also why it is important to do some double-checking)

And in all honesty, I find the comments that people make about the younger generation so comical. Especially the comments about the younger generation always glued to their phones. My one goal moving forward is to try to always remember these quotations and these thoughts so that I don’t ever find myself in the position of complaining about “those young whippersnappers!” So after spending some days thinking, this is what I landed on when it comes to what we should be working towards as an education system.

– GENERALIZATION ALERT —

A lot of people seem to think that the way they grew up and the way that they went to school is the way that it should still be now. It is this mentality in our older generation that can really make it hard to move forward and create a paradigm shift in education. When people use this frame of mind, they find any argument they can to justify why things should not change. Reflecting on my last two years as a connected educator, I have experienced this mentality as a barrier to the way that I teach, from parents, students, colleagues alike. And the larger problem here is that it makes it harder to move towards preparing students to graduate and enter a 21st century world.

The fact is that the 21st century world that we are preparing these students for is infinitely different than the previous century. And even though most of those changes stem from technological enhancements, it seems like many parts of education are still hesitant to incorporate technological elements. However, as a teacher I want to prepare my students to be ready for the 21st century. This is why I am so passionate about being a connected educator. I love being able to showcase these things. Our world is full of technology and when used effectively, it can be such a game changer for schools, both in terms of student engagement and learning these skills. If we don’t make the change towards incorporating 21st century skills in our classrooms, our students are going to be ill-prepared for the world they enter.

Image result for sorry meme"
…for the generalizations (source)

How we shift is a pretty tricky thing. The fact that the most recent ELA curriculum is already 7 years old in a world where changes happen faster than we can keep up with shows the difficulty that teachers face. I feel like there are a lot of really great examples of this already happening in schools all over the place. I think it becomes super important for us to keep pushing ourselves to challenge our pedagogy. We have to keep up with these societal changes in our own classrooms. Especially if this is true. It is past the point where we can just incorporate technology; we have to also think about whether or not what we are doing are actually developing skills to prepare our students.

Change needs to happen. The world is moving fast and our education system needs to keep up. I’m not saying I fully accept the 85% number without questioning it, but it is definitely something worth considering.

Teaching in the Digital Classroom

Being a connected educator, I often get so wrapped up in thinking about ways that I can incorporate technology into my classes. As a high school teacher, I sometimes think that students are able to figure out a lot on their own. I am definitely guilty for assuming that I can just tell my students to use this tech or that tech, and they will be fine. Most times, this is pretty accurate, and the students are very capable. However, after listening to Mary Beth, I started thinking about how much I am missing in my classroom. At this point, I know that my goal as a teacher moving forward is to spend more time on all the aspects of digital citizenship.

I think that as an ELA teacher, research has become one of the things that has transformed immensely in the classroom, in both positive and negative ways. I am absolutely the type of teacher that encourages solid research, and one thing that I definitely do really well is the authentication of information. We certainly go through our lessons of how to tell if your source is reliable (see house hippos), and I even have a mini-unit analyzing bias in the media. However, I think that I almost kind of stop there and consider my work as digital literacy teacher to be done there.

Here’s the thing – I want to do better at some of the other aspects that Mary Beth talked about. If I expect my students to be using computers and the internet in my classroom, I think I need to be better at educating them about what they are actually doing. After thinking hard about it, I tried to recall a time when I taught my students about echo chambers and the filter bubble. And even though I know that these are important things for students to know about and to be aware of, I couldn’t think of a single lesson I have ever done in my classroom about them. To me, this is something that needs to change.

The internet is an amazing, diverse, and somewhat intimidating thing. Students should be aware of the data that gets collected on them. They should be aware of the way that companies like Google are exploiting them, and how they can be active in avoiding this exploitation. Most students are not going to learn this on their own. If we are going to teach our students how to be responsible global citizens, this absolutely needs to be a part of it.

As I said, I want to do a better job at preparing my students to be aware of how the internet manipulates them and I think that Mary Beth challenging us with her thoughts has spurred that. It starts with taking the time to explain all the aspects of the internet. It doesn’t end there. I could probably do more with understanding echo chambers and the filter bubble, but also copyright, online marketing, social media, representation, and all the issues that go with those.

So thank you, Mary Beth, for getting my brain going and giving me a goal to move towards!

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