I recently attended Pete & C, PA’s educational technology conference. It’s the fifth or sixth time I’ve attended. I typically find some interesting resources and enjoy connecting with members of my PLN and hearing about all of the great work they’re doing in schools.
So there I was, minding my own business and feeling genuinely grateful that the session presenter, Lexie Konsur, was being up front about copyright and fair use issues in education and not telling us we needed to use only 30 second clips of video and 100 words of text and spewing other fallacy-ridden copyright guidelines, when a participant raised her hand and proclaimed something like,
“We don’t allow our kids use Google to find information.”
She was talking about elementary students, of course, because it seems as though in our quest to shield and protect our youngest students from the perils of the intertubes we neglect to properly educate them about what resources are available via the web, how to access them safely and securely, what to do if they stumble upon something precarious, and how to think critically about the resources they’ve found and put them to good use.
I wanted to ask her, but didn’t, for fear of getting all riled up and embarrassing those sitting around me,
What DO you let your students use to find information online?
Is this how they find information when they’re not sitting in their classrooms?
Do they know what a search engine is? Do they know how it works?
Would they know what to do if, while browsing, they stumbled upon something harmful or dangerous?
Do they know how to manage digital resources and information to best support their research?
Do they know there are tools built into search engines like Google to help them narrow their searches productively?
What about YouTube? (I’m guessing that’s off limits, too. And, like, Wikipedia.)
How do YOU as the teacher find information online and conduct research? Would you be someone who could model your research efforts for students and demonstrate how to use Google appropriately and effectively?
This post is not meant to knock resource libraries like Discovery Ed or PA’s PowerLibrary – I love perusing those resources and know students find many valuable resources there while researching.
But not always. Sometimes the library is too small, the information can’t be found.
So, then, where do we send them to learn?
As we are making a move to Chromebooks next year in our primary classrooms, I’m genuinely interested to hear what others (at the elementary level, particularly) are doing to support students and their research. Thanks for reading!
I admit that at one point in time I was one of those educators who allowed students to sign into a site using a teacher’s credentials in order to gain access, for example, some of our intermediate students used Prezi for project work and signed in under the same generic Gmail account maintained by the teacher.
Over the past two years, however, thanks to the work of Audrey Watters, Bill Fitzgerald, and many others, maintaining the privacy and protecting my students online has become one of my main priorities as elementary technology coach. Prompted by a statewide communication last year from the education solicitors, our district set to work on making sure that parents were informed and involved in the decisions to allow their children to have accounts established at various educational websites and productivity services.
Let me please say that following are our initial steps in helping parents and teachers become more informed and involved in matters of student privacy and data use as it relates to educational service/website use. In no way is our procedure perfect. We need to continually work at improving this system to help ensure parents and students can be advocates for the way children’s privacy is maintained throughout their school careers (and lives). We also use resources shared by Common Sense Media about privacy and protection to help students understand their rights as digital consumers and creators.
Due to COPPA language, we target our request for permissions to students under 13 years of age, which covers all of our elementary students as well as a good number of seventh graders in our middle school. (However we really need to consider how we are informing all parents and community members, K-12 and beyond.) In opening week paperwork, parents receive this informational letter (modeled after the letter drafted for us by our solicitors), a consent form requiring parent signature, and the list of district-approved educational websites and productivity services where the child may have an account established. Not all teachers utilize all services on the list nor are they available to all students K-7, but we decided to compile them all on one list for ease of distribution. Parents receive a hard copy of the list in the fall, and we maintain this living list on this district site. If the district approves a new website for use, I update the living sheet and we send home an additional parent permission form to those students who will use the site. Homeroom teachers collect the forms and note any students who have not returned the consent form and forms are compiled/logged in the main office of each building. In the future we hope to integrate the logging of these forms electronically via our SIS and/or allow parents to consent via the parent information portal, but we’re not there yet. Parents are encouraged to contact building principals if they choose to opt out and/or if they have questions involving the educational use of any of the websites. They can choose to opt out of one or more services if they so desire. Learning accommodations are made for students who cannot interact with a digital service.
It’s a start. We still need to provide more parent and teacher education on the specifics of student data and privacy to help them protect their children in all elements of online and mobile interactions, not just their educational website use, which is supervised by caring teachers and school personnel.
I think it’s time we need to reign in our overzealous enthusiasm about the latest and greatest ed tech products and services. I get it. Shiny new things are cool and so are interactive websites and gee, the kids really are going to love it so I’m just going to set them up with usernames and passwords and let’s give it a try! I know, I know. We’re telling you to integrate and be all up in 21st century skills and now we’re warning you about doing so. Shame on us.
Protecting students’ data and privacy is becoming increasingly difficult every day, but that’s no excuse for not taking steps to do so.
It starts with you!
**At the time of initial publishing, the Today’s Meet terms were captured above. They have since updated their terms to read: “In order to create a TodaysMeet account, you need to be 18 or older, or be 13 or older and have your parent or guardian’s consent to this Agreement, and have the power to enter a binding contract with us and not be barred from doing so under any applicable laws.”
The point of this original post was not to call out certain services or products for their failure to acknowledge whether or not students <13 can lawfully use the service, but to relay the importance of reviewing terms (for educators and parents) before deciding whether to allow the use of tools.
This year marked the fifteenth (gak!) in my career in education, so it’s nice that I still have the opportunity to reflect upon firsts. As time passes, many of us transition into new and exciting roles, and the 13-14 school year was one of those for me.
I accepted the position of elementary instructional technology integrator for our district after my son was born last school year. I had no desire to attempt to balance the demands of new motherhood with the likely-more-insane-and-less-fun demands of being an elementary principal, so I resigned at the end of my maternity leave. (People often ask me if I miss administration. That is a terribly phrased question. I do not miss administration. Do I miss being the principal? Every now and then. I miss kid time and -some- decision-making authority.)
My current role is to support the teachers and students of three elementary schools in our district. I have a “base” in each of the three schools, and spend my work days each week traveling to the three buildings. I commute a decent distance so I will say one of the lows of this position is all of the driving that is involved. I dislike commuting immensely, so I need to devise a plan to make that time more worthwhile. Perhaps a Voxer podcast? 🙂 I also end up schlepping around my belongings from place to place, thus my cart and I have become intimately acquainted this year. (And for the record, I really need one of these. Cords are pesky.)
This year I crafted the role of the elementary tech integrator kind of from scratch, as it did not previously exist in our district, although my job description mirrored that of our secondary tech integrator. I spent time getting to know the teachers and students at each building. I made sure certain online accounts were up and running, such as those for Kidblog and Qwertytown. I devoted a good deal of time to curating and sharing resources. I used Google Forms for record keeping purposes, to easily track the grade levels, teachers, students and teams I worked with, as well as the different topics and tools that I coached/provided tutorials and/or direct instruction. My summary of responses indicated that I spent a lot of time working with grades 3-6 and less time in the primary grades. Reflecting on that, our Grades 4-6 students learn in a 1:1 setting and therefore have more opportunities for fluent tech use on a daily basis, where the primary classes typically share devices and/or utilize the computer labs for project work. Google Apps for Ed accounts begin in grade 3, and I completed numerous lessons and push-in support for students and teachers on GAFE topics this year. I worked 1:1 with a number of teachers, supporting their classroom endeavors, and also with specific grade levels supporting needs as requested. I had the opportunity to push into a grade five classroom during their Genius Hour project work time for a handful of hours, and the students really inspired me with their questions, thinking, and project work! Also this year I finalized the K-6 technology integration framework that is built on ISTE Standards for Students, and I worked with the secondary tech integrator, the mighty Tim, to write Spartan Digital Competencies for Teachers based on ISTE Standards for Teachers. This will be used in conjunction with our teacher evaluation system to provide teachers with the opportunity to set goals and make plans to integrate technology meaningfully into their practice and classroom activities. I worked through the Common Sense Media scope and sequence and instructed students in grades 3-6 on various lessons from that framework, and also met with our computer lab personnel to help them roll out these lessons in their settings as well. Throughout the year I developed and presented sessions during our elementary in-service days. We learned more about blogging with students, incorporating Google Drive into classroom activities, digital storytelling projects, and formative assessment with digital tools. Tim and I co-planned the end of year “Tech Day” for all K-12 staff, which was held on the last day of school. We received some really positive feedback about the structure of the day and the sessions offered! I also ended up assuming the role of overseeing some of the district’s social media channels.
I’d like to think I made a positive impact this first year. I noticed an increase in use of many of the digital tools our district offers, and I received some complimentary feedback on a personal level from a number of teachers. That being said, I didn’t reach as many people as I could have. I didn’t “push” enough and perhaps didn’t make myself as available as possible. My hope is that now that my position is well established, folks will think of me sooner than later next year, and eagerly ask for my input and help when needed. What I learned about adult learners is that they want relevant, timely resources. They want to be coached in a way that does not belittle them or make them feel as though the skills they already have are not important. Teachers will not plan to use technology/devices/tools that are unreliable. There is nothing more defeating than getting psyched up to take a risk and try something new in your classroom, and then have a huge fail: device fail, network fail, battery fail, whatever. What I learned about students is that they want to talk about their digital interactions and their lives using technology. Even our youngest learners are using technology in ways that can be powerful, yet many are subscribed to services and using apps and platforms that are collecting their data and using their personally identifiable information, and they’re doing so without a parent’s permission or without some adult in their life looking over their activities. That makes me nervous and further solidifies to me that we, as educators, need to model for our students what it means to be a critical, wise, healthy, and kind consumer and creator in the digital age.
As I spent a lot of time locating, curating, and sharing resources for my teachers and school community, I can share evidence such as my Elementary Tech Integrator blog, Tech Tidbits issues made on Smore, and family newsletters. I also created instructional materials to accompany the Common Sense Media digital citizenship lessons we taught in grades 3-6 and became a Common Sense Media Certified Educator this year. I presented with some of our district support staff at a Title 1 parent conference at our IU to share family-focused digital citizenship resources.
In the connected edusphere, I had the opportunity to write a chapter for an upcoming Learning Forward publication, presented at FETC, PETE & C, and several webinars for Simple K-12. I facilitated another successful Educational Leadership in the Digital Age course for PLP (hoping to run another section in the fall, if you’re interested!) and next year I am slated to attend and present at Edscape, the Learning Forward conference, and integratED PDX.
Truthbomb: this summer I am going to spend a lot of time with my ridiculously handsome and personable toddler and family and a lot of time at the beach! My position is a teacher contracted position and thus I am no longer a 12-month employee. I am scheduled to work a handful of days in the summer months, which will include
Capturing family moments in thousands of photos and videos, using Day One to journal our special time together, and working on my Project Life 2014 album
No matter what your role this year, take some time to reflect. You’ll be surprised at how this process allows you to see how much you’ve learned, the ways in which you contributed to your learning community, and the things you need to do to improve and grow professionally to make an even more lasting impact in years to come. This post is certainly worthy of a TLDR tag, and I know I didn’t articulate all of the ways in which I served my district this year, but this reflective process is truly a powerful one.
In my next post, I’ll tackle the final two sections of Aguilar’s reflection guide: what I hope to accomplish come August/Fall and Next School Year. Stay tuned!
I’ve been a blogger since 2009, but I’ve been a writer for always.
When I was principal, I wanted our students to have safe spaces where they could share their writing with the world and learn to proficiently use digital tools to make their voices heard. I wanted for them to be able to share their ideas with families and friends. I wanted others to be able to comment on the creativity and ideas expressed. I wanted our kids to connect globally with other classrooms and students. I wanted them to refine and enhance the ways in which they communicate with others.
Because I think it matters. Communication matters.
In my years as principal we introduced blogging to classrooms of students, beginning first with teachers who were eager to embrace blogging as a venue through which students could communicate their ideas and share their learning. Many teachers found natural uses of blogging in a variety of subject areas, from free writes to summarizing key learning to creative storytelling.
We used Kidblog in the beginning, and we still do. One of my first tasks in my new role as elementary tech integrator was to create Kidblog spaces for all students and teachers grades 2-6, district-wide. One of the things I disliked about how we used Kidblog in past years is that we had to “start fresh” with a new class each year, and our teachers were managing all of their own accounts. Now I have the ability to manage all of the accounts and simply move students into their new class next school year, which will maintain the work and writing they’ve done this year in the same space.
I have some continued wishes for blogging in our schools:
We need to “move beyond pockets of excellence in blogging“. I’d like to see more kids start blogging, and I’d like to support their teachers through this process. The spaces are set up, but there’s no mandate in place that says students must blog. How will that happen? With support, guidance, modeling, showcasing the great work that’s already being done, and time. And a little nagging 🙂 As Silvia Tolisano states in her post about pockets of blogging excellence, we can see the positive effects of blogging in a classroom where students are blogging, but
What we CAN’T do with pockets of excellence is to track and identify LONG TERM gains in blogging as a LEARNING PLATFORM.
I’d like to see our use of Kidblog morph into digital student portfolios, spaces for students to showcase and share their work (and not just the “finished product,” but allow glimpses into the learning process as it unfolds).
I’d love for more of our teachers and administrators to embrace blogging, not just as a form of home-school communication (although that’s a great start), but to creatively express themselves and share their ideas with families and other educators. These are the blogging resources I share with staff via our elem. tech blog.
We need to better involve parents and families. When we first started blogging, my genius grade 2 team developed and hosted a Family Blog Night, where they invited parents and students to learn more about blogging, Kidblog, and commenting. After the teachers shared their info, parents and students logged into the student accounts for the first time to compose the first blog post together! Read more about this event here.
I’m eager to work with more classrooms to help students learn about quality commenting and engaging in respectful discourse. I rarely, if ever, read the comments sections of online news sites, which more often than not are riddled with vulgarity, ignorance, a wealth of conventional errors, and disrespect. I seriously want our students to understand that they are capable of communicating their unique ideas in ways that do not disrespect others or cause harm.
I want students to understand that blogging is about writing and reading. I want to connect them with great blogs to read, help them learn how to organize feeds, support their efforts to make sense of the information they find online, and help them discover how to apply it to their own learning. I’ll continue using the #comments4kids community to help student voices shine.
Do I think all students will love blogging? No. Do I think they need to be skilled communicators? Yes. So I’m not in favor of mandating x number of posts are required x number of days per week, or dictating every type of post we ask kids to write. Student ownership and product/process choice is still key. But while a post like this from one of our fifth graders breaks my heart just a little, I’m glad that this quiet young man once again has a medium through which he can share with the world:
This image from Stephen Davis came through my Instagram feed and its caption really struck a chord with me:
We write to show the world we think.
Image by Stephen Davis
When our kids write, they think. If they blog and publish and share, they think aloud and think visibly.
How are you supporting your students in the quest to help them become authentic writers and visible thinkers?
Digital literacy is the topic that made the etmooc learning space so irresistible to me… I think as educators we spout off about wanting our students to be digitally literate, but not many of us (myself included) have a firm grasp about what that actually means, and quite a number of us are still attempting to become digitally literate ourselves.
Doug explained that digital literacy is quite ambiguous, and he doesn’t have all of the answers when it comes to defining these terms. He made a point to ask, How can we define digital literacy when we don’t know what literacy is? There are over 30 definitions of digital literacy represented in one of the first texts about the topic (from Gilster, published in 1998!!), so it’s no wonder that as educators we have a difficult time trying to figure out what it is and how we can ensure our students are “digitally literate.” (Doug also pointed out that often we like to attach literate to a term in order to make it sound more important :)).
Doug shared this quote from his research (Martin, 2006): “Digital literacy is a condition, not a threshold.” It changes the way we teach. It’s a relationship and represents the way we orient ourselves with the world. Digital literacy doesn’t include a sequential set of skills. There’s a lot more “messing around” involved, and it’s subjective and highly contextual. Digital literacy in a K-12 setting varies greatly from that in a collegiate setting.
From his research, Doug crafted Eight Essential Elements of Digital Literacy:
He explained each along with “soundbites” from his research to guide the discussions.
Cultural – We need to pay attention to the culture in which the literacies are situated.
Cognitive – We can’t just consider the procedural ways in which we use devices and programs. It’s the way we think when we’re using them.
Constructive – We can’t be passive consumers of technology/information. We should strive to use digital tools in reflective and appropriate ways to be constructive and be socially active.
Communicative – Digital tools and power structures change the way we communicate. An element of digital literacy is how we take command of that structure and use it to communicate effectively and contribute meaningfully.
Confident – Doug believes that in order to be a proficient user of technology, one must have the courage and confidence to dive into the unknown, take risks, make mistakes, and display confidence when “messing around” with new tools.
Creative – Doug shared this quote from his research, which, to me, said it all:
“The creative adoption of new technology requires teachers who are willing to take risks… a prescriptive curriculum, routine practices… and a tight target-setting regime, is unlikely to be helpful.” Conlon & Simpson (2003)
Critical – Digital literacy involves an understanding of how to deal with hyperspace and hypertext and understanding that it’s “not entirely read or spoken.” Can we critically evaluate the technologies we’re using?
Civic – Something I think many schools are beginning to embrace, we must use technology to improve our lives and the lives of others in our world.
There was a discussion in the session about the term “digital native” and most participants disagreed that digital natives actually existed, and instead the term “digital wisdom” was suggested as an alternative.
So, as someone who is currently working on drafting a sort of elementary “technology curriculum” for her district, based around ISTE’s NETS for Students and aligned to our content curricula, I see a great need to infuse these digital literacy elements into that plan. But, alas, how to do that when digital literacy is so “grey?” How to make a plea for these characteristics and competencies to be modeled by our teachers and administrators when due to our current state, teachers may just revolt if I ask them to veer from the script they’ve been tasked with delivering to spend time on topics and tasks that won’t be progress monitored, standardized-tested or used in their professional evaluations? Alec’s comment in the chat caused me to mutter, “Uh, yes” under my breath when I read it: “Which is where curriculum planners always get stumped by deliverables.” How can we design standards for digital literacy when we’ve proven how contextual it is? And how best to marry these digital literacy elements with the strictly enforced content area curricula our district prescribes?
All questions I shall continue to ponder.
This is a fantastic digital literacy slideset shared by Doug. Check it out, and ask yourself: In my school, how do we approach these eight elements of digital literacy with our students? Teachers? Administrators? Community? If we don’t, how can we start? If you have ideas/advice/resources to share, please do so in the comments below!