Social Media and Environmental Education

This was the topic of our #enviroed chat this week.  Honestly, it is something I have thought a lot about.  Since I’m living the life of an expatriate, there are many things I am unaware of regarding the environment.  Back home I would know who to contact, or would have a more entrenched sense of community.  Living abroad is fantastic for so many reasons, but this connection is something I often feel I am lacking.

My biggest wonder is how I can leverage social media to enhance my students’ understanding of their learning goals.  Personally, I have used twitter (my #enviroed group especially), Instagram, Skype and Facebook to learn more about how I can interact in my new community, as well as continue to develop my environmental awareness of what is happening in Canada.  I am wondering how I can transfer these ideas to my students.  There is a huge opportunity for students to collaborate effectively using social media in the classroom with people who are located at various spots around the world.

What we need, I think, is like minded-teachers who are willing to open up these possibilities.  It seems that in Canada it can be easy to find a board nearby where you can interact with others who share similar learning outcomes.  There are a million small reasons why my students and I have hesitated jumping into this digital world, but I wonder what’s really stopping me.

My goal this year is to have at least some students from my school connecting with students in Canada regarding the environment.  My hope is that is positive and hopeful, not doom and gloom.  I have a community to work on this, just need to set aside time to actually get the students working on this. I would really love to have conservation photography as the centre of our discussions.  Students selecting something they would like to conserve, take photos of it throughout the year, and learning more about that thing, and passing their knowledge along to others.

Side goals are establishing twitter accounts for the classes I work with as a tech coach.  By having students further their inquiry through discussions with others, and then hopefully moving those discussions into blogs or wikis, we can create a world where my students are no longer just consumers of knowledge.  I want them to be collaborators and creators.  When working with others, and seeing learning as not something that happens solely within the classroom, we can start taking action that is meaningful for each of them independently.  

Learning 2.013

What a conference. Seriously, it was great to be reminded of how important pedagogy is in any integration opportunity.

The big take away is purposefully create spaces for authentic conversations. Thanks to @paulaguinto for the wonderful moderation and all my fellow discussers for delving deep into this topic.

I get fairly concerned about the “real” world. I mean, what is this? How do we talk about it? After years of a masters program deconstructing myself, I really wonder, what is real?

I think often as educators we dismiss the virtual world as not real.  Especially as an environmental educator I wonder how we can have students fully enriched in outdoor education while still using technology. Throughout the discussion I was constantly reminded of purposeful construction of space.

Regardless of how we feel about either the natural world or the virtual world, I think it’s safe to say that most of our students travel in both worlds. So, in order to be relevant to their lives, we need to exist in both as well.  I’m still struggling to find out how to do this best, but I rest assured that there isn’t “one” answer.

Like most of what we do, we have to get to the students’ level, and understand their personal needs.  Students need a voice, students need to feel empowered to achieve their personal best.  This means we need to create these spaces, with intent, to enable them to share their thoughts and ideas.

I want to do this more with environmental education. I’ve been talking to @rangerridley about sharing class blogs, but first I need to establish them with my students, and get them recording their feelings and emotions regarding the outdoors.  I’m really thankful for iPads at times like this.  They are easy to take outside, take photos, record thoughts, share their learning visibly (thanks Nicki Hambleton) and then make connections. I want them to use the virtual world to take action for the natural world.

More than that, I want people to realize there is no “real” world and that we have to work as a group to define how we can do the best for our shared world.  Using the internet as a tool, means we can collaborate without travelling, meaningfully and with a purpose.

Anyway, I can’t wait to go back next year.

Conservation Photography

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to incorporate the iPad into environmental education. I’ve talked with others (and I think here) about using the iPad to record images of reflective spaces or magic spots. Taking the idea from Payne and Wattchow and linking the iPad to take photos made me think that you could make your magic spot visible.  You could see how things have changed and reflect on the change either in your magic spot, or back in class.

For over two years I’ve known my friend Neil has been into the idea of conservation photography, but haven’t made the connection.

Copyright Neil Ever Osborne – used with permission

He uses photography to highlight the importance of conserving our environment. Taking action happens in many different forms as an environmentalist.  Neil chooses to create awareness and share his passion through writing and photos. 

I wonder how we can use this as educators.  Can we engage students on a similar project, take photos of what inspires them and what they want to keep safe.  By having students share their passions through images, we can help shape the future of how we view the environment. 
What I’m looking for now is how people are using iPads to take photos.  What media are students creating to help our world? Help me out please, and check out Neil’s website http://www.neileverosborne.com/   

What tools do we use?

After our #enviroed chat today, I’ve been thinking a lot about the different tools we use as teachers.  Finally, I finished my thesis, what a long time, but throughout the process we looked at different ways we can engage students in environmental education. Some of our chat today went over the same content, but at one point, we started talking about different tools to use. 
As a technology coach, I think a lot about the different digital tools we should use for different situations. Most of my questions start with why, or what is the end result.  When planning learning engagements, i want to know what the teacher is looking for, and then I try to apply the right digital tool to the situation.  As a tech coach, this makes a lot of sense to me.  In class we use iPads for different things than we use net books for.  We will use a camera for very specific tasks that we wouldn’t think of using a desktop for.  Each tool has a different function, and we use each or a combination of tools to finish a product. 
I hadn’t thought about using environmental tools, and I am still struggling to think of tools teachers always have handy, other than the outdoors.  The person who brought the idea up suggested a ratio of 2:1 natural tools over digital tools.  What does that look like in a school, and more importantly for me, can we combine the two.  Are we bringing our digital tools outside?  By using programs like project Noah we can link our biological learning to places all over the globe. Taking photos of our favourite places and then blogging about them to persuade others to interact with nature could be useful for learning about writing and our favourite places. 
It seems there is often a tension between digital and natural, it’s one I feel often in this position as tech coach.  I want to embrace technology without losing the natural world, but I don’t often bring my technology outside, and I rarely ask my students to do this.  
I’m still hoping to do a time lapse magic spot video by the end of the year.  I need to dedicate some time to this, to make it work, and share our learning with others.  Conservation photography seems like an interesting avenue to take with students. It could be a way to mix the natural and digital tools we use to create engaging learning experiences for our students.  

Nature Deficit Disorder

Product Details
Richard Louv’s Book
on http://www.amazon.com

Did you know that the typical American child spends 44.5 hours per week plugged into electronic media (not including homework and school)*?  getting kids outdoors

This seems like a lot of time. While I haven’t checked the survey, or how they have collected their data, I wonder about what it means to be “plugged in” or “connected”. 
I bought this book sometime ago, hoping to read it this summer holiday, so was wondering what it meant to be connected in a virtual age. When so much of our lives takes place virtually, where do we find room for the natural? 
To me it seems obvious that we are lacking something, a connection to our place. Can we really heal this through spending more time outdoors? As an elementary teacher, I think that one of the most important things we can do is try to build a community. By having learners working together with the best intentions for a more harmonious community, I find that we can develop skills to improve our ability to interact with others. Now I’m wondering if I’ve left out major parts of our world. If we forget to add other living things into our community, what relationships are we neglecting? How can we really connect to nature, if we’re connected to the virtual world? 
These past two years I’ve tried to instill some permaculture principles into our learning. The students have really caught on to the Fair Share, People Care, Earth Care language, and often bring their wonderings about these ideas up during our sharing time. 
Permaculture Principles
Can we use technology to plug in to, and enhance our community? Can we do this by using less energy, and being more efficient? Or does more focus on technology always mean more waste, and less for the future? 
The students in my class have been asking lots of great questions, and these questions have led to my own personal change of habits. I want both worlds for my students, where they can comfortably go between the natural and virtual world. Or are both worlds natural now? 
Please leave a comment if you have any other blogs, articles, people to see and learn from. 

Comfortable being a beginner?

Reports are done, it was great to see all the progress our community has made throughout the year. As I’ve been reflecting on this, and my new position (in tech) I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of being a beginner.

Jeff Utecht posted this on his blog sometime last year. I’ve been rereading it just about every month, mostly to remind myself, to be comfortable in new situations. As teachers, I feel that we are under some obligation to know, have experience, or have mastery of something.  Our tech world is constantly changing and evolving, so we are always beginners, or should be if we subscribe to this idea of life long learning.

My new position, is going to make me uncomfortable at times. I’m not the kind of person who really wants to call myself a technology leader. I understand that it is useful, I see an amazing opprotunity to engage learners, I hope for the best, but I don’t feel like I’m leading. Jeff’s post really reminds me that, it is okay to feel that way, for that, I’m really thankful.

As always, I want to know more about incorporting slow pedagogy, or environmental education into this new tech position. I wonder, what the future holds, and what information, or skills we really need.

Thanks Jeff

Slow Pedagogy in a Fast World

I am still working on my thesis, a participatory action research project, that looks at how teachers engage in environmental education.

I’ve been taken by this article by Payne and Wattchow.

As I’ve been reading it, I’ve been wondering about how we, as educators, can develop a slow pedagogy as well as the tech skills necessary to live in a constantly changing world. How can we, “live in natural places over time”and encourage students to explore the quickly changing digital world?

I’ve been having students sit in “magic spots” (a place where they choose at the beginning of the year, and sit there everyday for ten minutes) so they have a connection to their specific place. The plan (for next year) is to have them bring an ipad out once a week and take a picture of their spot. They can use the technology to show changes over time, make a stop motion video, or a blog highlighting the connection they have to their place, as well as the changes they have noticed, and the feelings associated with both of these ideas.

I teach at an international school, and I constantly think about how students are displaced, or disconnected from their “natural” environment. As a result, I think, they turn to virtual places to find their identity.

Just torn, as usual, about what to do through tech. How can I share my two passions while making sure we provide the same kind of opportunities for future students to be outside.

My Media Presence

As a person I wonder about putting things online. It used to fear the unknown, then people knowing too much (privacy concerns). I mean, who puts their thoughts online, and why do they do it?

Now I’m thinking more about the idea of establishing positive media presence. There are all kinds of blogs that have been talking about the idea of positive media presence. This isn’t just about getting jobs, or keeping up with the times. It’s more about the idea of creating a community, enhancing my ability as an educator, and really engaging with the world around me (something that is really hard for the environmentalist in me to understand).

While checking out other blogs I came upon this guy Brendan Lea. This article really made me think about how we need to be positive role models for students online. If we want students to engage positively and effectively online, we need to do it ourselves. Try it out, learn from it.

So, this is the beginning of my journey. Exploring how to use technology in education, calming the fears of co-workers, parents and the larger community and enhancing student involvement.

Let me know what you are you doing. How you started off? What you learned from, how you would improve, those types of things.

Big thanks to @PENathan for showing me that this is the first step to take.