What does it mean to be a digital migrant?

For our unit of inquiry on migrations these past two months, I wanted to add a digital citizenship component. We’ve talked about migrations before, but I was thinking about how often we forget about moving around between the digital world and the “real” world.  We have some different rules online, different expectations, and at times it can be hard to understand tone, etc.

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  I worked with the teachers (in my role as tech coach) to start blogs with the students.  We discussed what we knew about migration, we interviewed our parents or grandparents about migration and posted this on our blogs, and then talked about digital citizenship and what it means when we migrate online.

Luckily I was taking this course while our unit was going on, we changed a lot of things, and have a better plan for next time we do the unit.  What was great for me, is that every teacher has now adopted blogging as a form of reflection, and they have asked to use blogger as their digital portfolio.  The students had people commenting (not just other students) on their blogs and were enthusiastic about the reflection process. It’s been a great first unit in COETAIL, I learned a lot, and I’m looking forward to using my network to help me and my colleagues imbed tech a little more authentically.

Always wanting more

I feel like I have been trying to do this for awhile, and it is so difficult to get to where I want to be with global collaboration. As a technology coach I have heard teachers often say they have no time. 

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This is always frustrating for me because I feel with technology we have the option for asynchronous learning, so we don’t actually need common shared time we can use whatever time we have. 

In Davidson’s article Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age  I often feel like she did when she saw the gorilla (and I think many of my students feel the same way).  Instead of having a legitimate reason for not really paying attention to the assignment, I feel like trying to focus on just one thing (counting the passes) makes us miss out on the larger systemic issues that might be happening.  If we are paying attention to something too closely we can miss out on other learning opportunities.  What we need to do as teachers (connectivist teachers especially) is to link our learners up (either digitally or physically) with people who see the world a little differently. 

The crowdsourcing idea for grading and learning and transforming learning makes so much sense to me, why should I be in charge of what is “good” or “passable”.  Students might take assignments more seriously if their peers, or someone they looked up to were judging them. Again, like Clarissa says “It’s something I can do in my spare time, be creative and write and not have to be graded,” because, “you know how in school you’re creative, but you’re doing it for a grade so it doesn’t really count?”

Personally, I think it’s pretty inspiring that companies like Apple work with schools and let school communities repurpose their apps and technology. I love the idea of App Smashing especially when thinking about how to collaborate.

Our Collaborative Plans

At our school we have been trying hard to work with other schools. We have worked with other schools on our blogs. It has been a decent journey so far, we have people communicating with each other, asking questions and slowly digging deeper. But I would really like to “prosume” with another school.

Right now I am working with an environmental educator Ranger Ridley to work with Ontario schools for our units on Sharing the Planet. Like Andrew Marcinek mentions in his article the purpose of using social media, or blogs should go beyond connecting, which leaves me always wanting more. I am doing okay at connecting students, but how can I reach the empowerment stage?

So our success doesn’t look like this… 

Old things in old ways – Why are we making the rules?

Reading the Living with New Media Report got me thinking about how we are always doing things the same old way.

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This report talked about how parents and teachers need to give more power to the learners using the “New Media”.

Recently in class we’ve been talking about digital citizenship.  The students have been researching what it means, and how they need to comply with it.  Wild right?  We talk about citizenship, we realize that they are some of the most literate users, but we create the “rules”.  So much of what we (as learners) saw on brain pop seemed to talk about protecting our privacy.  While I agree it’s so important to protect our privacy there were very few examples of how we can leverage media to be more meaningful for us. 
I wonder more about growing up and the rules we were told, how we are using the same old rules in the same old ways.  Don’t talk to strangers… it seems so important, but what if those are the people we need to connect to in order to learn about our passions? How can we do this “mindfully” or being aware of which risks we should/can take?  
The report suggests that we shouldn’t “bear down on kids with complicated rules”.  We need to open up, and be open about the massive benefits and some fears of the internet.  But to be real digital citizens, we need to give our fellow citizens a say and a voice in how they can and should use this valuable and constantly changing digital world. 
Peer based learning is so crucial to all aspects of learning.  Take this course for example, required readings or our blogs, our voice is so important, we are the “prosumers”.  The same with my students, I give them chances to teach and interact with each other, and they learn by pushing each other further, and exploring the knowledge that they feel is important (within the confines of the programs or ideas we are exploring). 
The title of this post is from http://www.edutopia.org/adopt-and-adapt-shaping-tech-for-classroom . While this seems to be dated (2005), it immediately resonated with SAMR for me.
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So often our first, after dabbling according to Jeff, (and not wrong, but first) step is substitution. We know the things we know really well, we see a tool and use that tool in a way we’ve always thought. Augmentation is the second step, but honestly, it’s a pretty huge step for so many people. We are starting to see things in new ways.

As life-long learning models we need to keep pushing ourselves to see things in new ways and open up to other people contributing to our shared digital world.

I know shorter is sweeter, I’ll leave this for now, but would love to discuss these ideas further, so please contribute.

Cultivating Geekdom

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Family Geekiness 

Growing up, I was outside most of the time, especially during the summer.  My brother however was almost always near a computer. He fully embraced his inner geek, and at the time I may not have appreciated it as much as I do now.  Most of his friends and community members were part of an online game.  I forget what it was called, but he spent most of his time in it, and just like the Living in New Media Report mentions he learned from it and made profound friendships on this site.  This scared my parents, and to be honest it scared me a little too.  It’s strange not “knowing” who my brother’s friends were.  My parents could see my friends outside, we would come in and eat, hang out in the kitchen or watch TV if the weather wasn’t brilliant.  My brother’s friends were rarely seen.  
I remember I was in University, my brother was in grade ten or eleven and he had been playing this game for three years or so, when one of his friends wanted to meet.  My parents knew they were older, like in their thirties, which made them really uneasy.  They were both travelling to the same place, coincidentally, and thought it would be incredible to see this person they had spent so much time working with (killing monsters, saving the world, establishing a community, to be honest I don’t really know what they did).  
The agreement was my parents would be there for the meeting and introduce themselves to these people.  While everyone was a little tense at first the meeting went really well (I sadly was in school). My parents’ fear slowly dissipated and their friendship grew even stronger.
Reading this report on geeking out made me wonder about my choices being younger. I loved being outside, playing around, learning more about myself and my friends, but did I miss a chance to dig deep into something and learn a specialized skill? Who knows/ 

Cultivating Geeks 

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So now I wonder, how do I cultivate geekiness in my students.  Last year I tried implementing Genius Hour, or google time, or whatever you call it when you let students do what they want and explore their own learning. It was somewhat successful but I lacked the expert community connection that would make this time really powerful.  Their was no in-depth community for the students to reach (mainly because of lack of technology in the classroom). 
As a tech teacher now, and coach, I’m trying to start making those connections (thanks connectivism).  I’ve put some teachers on twitter to connect with NGOs taking action about what students are inquiring into. We’ve started classroom and individual blogs (already one of my students thanks to a facebook post has 500 views on one of his summative assessments Zeke’s blog if you’re keen).  I guess my wonder is, how do we cultivate geekdom? How do we get people into these communities, or is it like Clarissa says “It’s something I can do in my spare time, be creative and write and not have to be graded,” because, “you know how in school you’re creative, but you’re doing it for a grade so it doesn’t really count?”

As a “connected” teacher, I realize my role has to change. That means perceptions of my role have to change as well. Do I need to get rid of grading to make learning authentic in my classes? I wonder what the next steps are to help students reach their potential in a meaningful way for them.

How do you know when you stop messing around?

Messing Around

In the Living with New Media report messing around involves experimenting and exploring and doing things just to learn more.  It is more of a tinkering culture, a figuring things out, something I feel is where I am almost stagnant at least in some aspects of tech.  I’ve been playing around with code, but I definitely haven’t geeked out.  I’ve been working on the blog, but again, more tinkering and exploring.

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Tinkering and Connectivism

Tinkering fits nicely with a connectivist viewpoint.  Connectivism as George Siemens describes it is a fuzzy process which involves tinkering and no longer just happens at school or just from humans.  We can tinker with things, or converse with people and our knowledge grows. 
The ability to see connections between things, and create connections is a valuable skill according to Siemens. We need to help our students make those connections, and technology is one way we can connect people to sources of information. 

Tinkering with things allows us to experience, which we can then share with others to not only consume knowledge but to produce it.
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Slow Down

For me, slowing down and seeing or making the connections is an important step in the process. Slow education involves making those connections and deepening our understanding, maybe even “geeking out”. We are sharing our process together, so we need to take the time to develop our community, learn together, tinker together, wonder together.  Connectivism doesn’t see our learning as dumping information, it is a process of looking for connections, meeting people, learning more, and directing ourselves. As Siemens said we need the opportunity to plug into knowledge when we don’t have it, but sometimes I think it’s important to slow down and see where the outlet actually is. 
I think we stop messing around when we start to dig deeper into things.  Slowing down, looking at systems and making connections is a great way for us to start making these connections. 

Who chooses our hangouts?

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Creating and connecting communities. It’s one of the reasons we are here. When I’m thinking about what we do as teachers, how often do we give power to students to create their own communities.  We’re lucky… we chose to be here, well at least I imagine we all chose to be here.
Will Richardson in World Without Walls suggests that most of the meaningful teachers we meet are of our own choosing.  For us, as educators, to fully empower students Richardson pushes us to challenge our understanding of what it means to be a teacher.  No longer are we “content experts” first instead we think of our primary focus as “connectors”.
While reading the “Living with New Media”  article the authors discuss how youth have always been negotiating what it means to be a “friend”.  While we are online, this creates different opportunities and challenges, but it is still something we are always doing.
This idea that we as teachers and learners, have to be open to change. Open to new ideas, and make our own connections is something that resonates deeply with me.  Creating this COETAIL community is something I’ve been wanting to do for a year.  Creating meaningful learning experiences is powerful for me, and I’m looking forward to learning more about how I can enable my students to enhance their learning through technology.


Yesterday was a bit frustrating, when I got home I thought about the whole tech world and teaching… I reflected about the conversations I had this week where tech had enhanced student learning.

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One of my biggest finds this week was using OCR-image to text. Some of my students have reading struggles and this app has helped them have access to any book.  Often teachers are constrained to digital books, or audio books, but students can use this to capture the text, and then using the accessibility features of the iPad have it read to them.   Is it perfect, nope, is it pretty amazing, yeah for sure.  It has put huge smiles on the faces of these students.

Nature and exploring the outdoors is a passion of mine, and earlier this week I found this site on twitter.  14 Apps That Will Revolutionize Your Walk in the Woods. Again, I felt that at times our tech could enhance, not just what we do at school, but what we do everyday.

These apps can help us develop our passions.

This week has been three way conferences, and traditionally the parents have not often talked to the tech teachers.  This year has been different, and the conversations I’ve had with parents about apps, programs, and hardware that enhance learning has just been incredible.