Category: Digital Citizenship

Anonymity vs Plain old Decorum

It worries me, and the fact that it worries me worries me!

I am generally a very optimistic person. I like to focus on moving forward and finding solutions or alternatives rather than dwelling in the problem or “worrying”. I am also frustrated by scare mongering and blatant propaganda to incite mistrust and panic.

BUT….it worries me that we respond to a problem with solutions that treat the symptoms and not the cause.

What I am talking about is the uprising of anonymity and invisibility. Watch the clip below from Mark Cuban (businessman, investor and as I know him, owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team).

There are several things that concern me about this clip, and whilst most of the comments and endorsements on his message express horror and concern that the minority report or worse is “happening”, I am more concerned that our solutions lie in deleting our histories, for them never to have existed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an absolute advocate for privacy.  I talk to students on a daily basis about protective behaviours, yet I also talk about being positive online and treating each other with respect.

In a short time I have seen the rise of anonymous messaging and posting by students on platforms like Ask.fm and the trust placed in “self-deleting” apps such as SnapChat.

At the core of it, these spaces only magnify a problem that is reflected and facilitated by these applications. When I walk down the street and someone “greets” another by sticking up their middle finger and the reply is something to the likes of “how are ya c…” it makes me wonder if the way we treat each other and expect to be treated is eroding in our community.

Maybe, I am just old fashioned?

Instead of a rise in anonymous messaging and self deleting applications, I would like to see us promote and foster plain straight forward decorum. Do we talk to our children or our students about “trolling“, do we talk about “haters” or even for that matter “doxxing“?

We all make mistakes, now these mistakes are often online. Shouldn’t we be teaching our children more about forgiveness, more about kindness, respect, human courtesy?

Couldn’t we teach our kids to disagree, without putting others down, without making it personal, without losing our cool?

I would rather see the rise of more @westhighbros than more of “this message will self destruct”.

What do you think?

Kids and their mistakes

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Practice Empathy – Quinn Dombrowsky via Flickr

One thing that has become glaringly obvious over the past two terms with my leadership of our Year 8 cohort is that teenagers make mistakes…..newsflash!

On a daily basis I have had to respond to, comfort, delegate, punish and refer onwards issues and actions that these 13 and 14 year olds participate or create.

Many of these involve media and I can’t but help reflect on my own teenage experiences and remember the mistakes I made and the risky situations I put myself in where media was not there to magnify the situation or outcome.

I know that social media frustrates many of the teachers, parents and authorities I work with as they see how quickly an image can spread, or harassment can escalate. The problem is this is just a reflection upon something else that’s missing.

Over the past weeks I have been speaking to these young people about empathy. I ask them if they have ever made a mistake, I admit to them that I have made hundreds and many of them in my teenage years. Yet it was different, my peers couldn’t take a picture and post it online in 5 seconds flat, or create an anonymous profile to comment on my personality or appearance. My friends couldn’t “like” or “share’ someone else’s comment and I wasn’t left with ambiguity around what that meant.

I ask them if they too have made mistakes. They never deny it.  I ask them if they regret doing some of these and what it would feel like if that mistake was publicised on social media. I am yet to have someone wish for that end.

We talk about forgiveness, we talk about empathy.  We talk about everyone having the right to make a mistake and when someone’s mistake hits our “inbox” or “timeline” it is our choice, right then, to decide if we punish them for making a mistake and pass it on, or we show understanding and delete.

I think we could get a little better at this.

Connected and Dangerous!

Whenever teachers give too much homework (via FunnyShare.org)

The extent to which we can now be connected brings to the forefront the question of how we learn. This is true for both teachers and students.

If someone were to ask me about my own learning and how much of it is formal and how much is informal, I would have to suggest that in the past 2 and a half years I have spent more time utilising informal learning opportunities. Driven by a need to know, a desire to try or inspired by great examples accessed online, my informal learning is supported by a growing digital community, a developing circle of influence and a passion for pushing towards innovation.

This is also true for our students! They have learning accessible 24/7. Our kids are “connected and dangerous”.  Dangerous in the sense that if we don’t utilise this access to the world, we will find ourselves and schools defunct! If we don’t make kinship between their learning outside of school and that in school, we will have further disengagement.

What if our kids could choose where, when and from whom they learn? How many would we lose?

Why I Write

 

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cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Charles J Danoff

I had a discussion today with two colleagues about why I blog.  In the past I have had it said “you must have too much time on your hands” or “you need to work less and get a hobby!”

I tend to laugh this off because if I didn’t, I might get annoyed.  The time complaint is nothing further from the truth.  I do spend a lot of my “free” time on my iPad or computer, but no more time than others spend at the footy or watching TV.  I use my technology because I love reading (books via kindle, blogs, Zite and online news) , listening to, finding  and adding new music to my library online and exploring new digital tools for use personally and professionally.  Previously this would have gone unnoticed because I didn’t have the ease of sharing as I do now via this blog, twitter and Facebook!

Each of these mediums serve a different purpose for me.  Whilst other people blur the lines between professional and personal with twitter, Facebook and blogging, I tend to use Facebook exclusively for personal connections. The people I “friend” on Facebook tend to be restricted by a few conditions. I only “friend” people whom I know personally.  I would most likely have been in their home, met their parents/children/partners and socialised with them by choice! I know their family by name and they know mine. Facebook is a space I use to share information about my children, connect with friends interstate/international and share music and humour. I don’t spend a lot of time on this domain, but tend to check in from time to time (every couple of days).

Twitter has been a dynamic addition to my online presence. It has connected me with a developing PLN that supports my learning and empowers my teaching practice. I use twitter for professional purposes generally, but do still like to show some personality and not keep it too clinical! I generally access twitter daily.

This blog is a space that has had the greatest impact on how I reflect upon and develop my ideas in a public arena. It enables me to:

  • work through feelings
  • stay positive
  • clarify my thoughts more clearly

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 11.39.04 PM

I have always written to work through my frustrations or confusion, it was previously just kept private.  I have always recorded my reflections,  just that it would take the form of a letter or email to my mother, a friend or colleague. This blog provides an avenue to do this in a public forum.  Whilst some of my colleagues are anxious about how their writing is interpreted or judged, I don’t tend to be concerned by this.  Sometimes I see what is shared via other social avenues and think my few spelling or grammatical errors or misplaced clarity of writing is nothing to agonise over! The benefits for me far outweigh the risk of a negative comment (still waiting) or someone bored by my ramblings! The bonus is that at the same time, I am developing a professional portfolio that is a growing digital footprint, tagged and categorised for ease of reference, no longer a linear record.

Mobile Devices = New Social Impairment?

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by g_walter

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by g_walter

This post is written with my parent hat on. It is not my intention to judge, but to question how the quick surge and availability of mobile devices will impact social development of our kids when we let them fixate on a device instead of engage in social gatherings.

When my children were young, most of their peers had hand held devices (most likely DS’s) ……I chose not to put these devices in their hands.

As smart phones emerged, I saw adults hand these over to their children to play games and watch videos…..I chose to keep mine in my bag.

Now I see iPads, tablets and smart phones in kids hands whenever I am in a restaurant, supermarket, shopping centre, even the playground and I wonder; with every child face down at a screen, are we constructing a cohort of socially impaired kids? Are we reducing the opportunities to build social etiquitte, to learn how to engage with each other?  Is it just easier to give our kids devices to keep them quiet and not think about what pattern/deficit this creates?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my technology,  I love my children using technology. I love that they create, construct, play and problem solve in digital. My kids both have blogs, are Minecraft enthusiasts, are avid fan fiction writers and play multiple other games on computers and iPads. What I do hope, is that by having a few expectations around when and where they use mobile devices, I provide opportunities to develop skills that will help them build relationships and social skills in their physical world.

I would love other perspectives on this, so go ahead, comment and share your thoughts!

Tech in whose hands?

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Brad Flickinger

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Brad Flickinger

Having been amongst the “twittersphere” for almost a year now and diving in amongst a dedicated network of teachers who are passionate about learning and technology and continue to be the minority, it makes me wonder if the take-up of tech will continue to be an uphill battle with many educators.  Will the teachers who are learners continue to adapt and respond to the needs of students and will the reluctant others ever be budged?

Is it time to turn the focus onto students?  Should the tech dynamic teachers be focussing more on the development of students as leaders and less on staff? This is not to say let the teachers be, but perhaps if we empower our students with skills and tools, it will become a necessity not a choice for staff to step up!

Just a thought.

Action Expresses Priorities

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Banalities

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Banalities

“Good things happen when you get your priorities straight” – Scott Caan

This has really come to the forefront in my practice at school.  It has actually been at the heart of how I choose to spend time on things I am passionate about and how I use my energy. Let’s face it, what’s the point of saying “I don’t have the time for that”? Be honest and say “I would prefer to do something else” or “I don’t value that enough to give it attention”.

At the beginning of the year I really wanted to develop our class blog and use it as a tool to share in ‘real time’ the learning from school to home.  I have always provided the weekly news with photos and student work but I knew the blog would provide an opporutnity for parents, families and friends to interact with what we were doing during each day.

That was the plan.  Term 1 passed and I did construct a blog and there was a post which welcomed visitors to the site, but that was it.  So was it really a priority? Was I allowing other things to get in the way? Was it a goal that was worthy of more time and effort?

I decided that yes, it definitely could have a positive impact on our community; students, families and friends. Having made this decision, I had to make a commitment to ensure the days, weeks and months didn’t disappear without action.

So I made a commitment, a priority to post something about our learning three times a week. It has led to our students, staff, families and friends becoming involved, interacting and owning it. You can check it out here: http://wirreandaunit.edublogs.org/

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Tweeting Up A Storm


Twitter, a photo by eldh on Flickr.cc

The past 2 days I have attended the Hawker Brownlow Teaching and Learning Conference in Melbourne, Australia. This has thus far been a great experience for myself and five other staff from my school. I have in the past attended conferences as part of a group of staff however this experience has been substantially different.  This conference has seen all 6 members of our staff using twitter and the result is that our learning and discussion is amplified.

With each of us attending different workshop sessions, twitter has enabled us to share the ideas and expertise in the room with each other and those back at school.  The discussion this has created when we reassemble and the connection we have with staff back home who are joining the discussion has been compelling.

Peer connecting via twitter back in Adelaide

Peer connecting via twitter back in Adelaide

In the past, my reflections at a conference would be limited to chatting with those in the room or reflecting with my peers at a later time. Twitter has provided the avenue to connect with people across the room, outside the room and beyond the building. I can’t help but feel a genuine appreciation for how it has increased my learning potential and opportunities to connect with people beyond my school, region and state. The last session I attended today was led by Bill Ferriter (@plugusin).  I have followed Bill on twitter for several months and today in his session he promoted twitter as a powerful tool for developing a PLC.  It’s not often you get the chance to connect with an international presenter, yet Twitter certainly facilitates this in a way which otherwise would not have occurred.

Looking forward to  more learning and connecting in the next two days!

The Missing Link…

After reading  ‘The “Why” of Writing’ by George Couros I was inspired to tell my own classroom story of how the “Why” of writing has impacted on one of my students in particular.  Teaching special education, especially students with speech and language difficulties means that communication can be a challenge. Imagine struggling for 14 years to be heard, understood or even have the opportunity to contribute.  Imagine people turning away because they can’t understand you, the frustration of wanting to tell, explain or ask but your ability to move your tongue means you cannot make the right sounds and your words become distorted and unclear.  Imagine struggling to write, sitting in a class where you practice basic sentences that are functional but not expressive or meaningful over and over again. See the student disengage with learning, with people, with ambition.

George stated..

If we really want to improve the literacy of our students, we need to look just as much (if not more) at the purpose, at why they are writing, as to simply the strategies and process.  I have seen the evidence within my own family, that the why of writing means more than anything.

I too have seen the powerful impact that purpose can have.

Enter a dynamic, resourced classroom with people who take time to listen, to figure out your language, who share experiences and take time to ask for help to understand.  The language barrier becomes their challenge to overcome not hers.  Enter the iPad and laptop.  Enter edmodo and email. Welcome to the world of immediate response! Welcome to the “why” for writing.

I have seen this young person blossom, become engaged with her world, make new friends and contact old ones.  She enters the classroom desperate to talk about our conversation on edmodo from the night before and never leaves before being reassured that I will check for a message or remind a colleague to check for theirs.  Within 5 minutes of entering the classroom, she can be “logged on” and sending messages to peers, to me, to other staff. She constructs meaningful sentences and is motivated to “get it right” because she is desperate to be understood. Responses and replies reinforce and motivate her to keep going.

Having the “why” has engaged her in literacy, increased her self confidence and enabled her voice to be heard.  It drives her learning and the improvement follows!  I am excited to see in the near future, how blogging will impact her and her peers as we start connecting with people all over the globe!

Aren’t we responsible to find the “why” for all our students?

To Change and Beyond!

So starts my adventure into the world of blogging. A beginning, of which there will be many as an educator but foremost as a learner. Thanks to an amazing group of passionate and invigorated peers, plenty of great inspirations online and the amazing young people who dive in unabashed! I am excited about how I can learn and share from a wider audience and social media. The challenge ahead, to support change in our school. To see our role in the classroom from deliverers to facilitators of learning. To take risks that we expect of our students each day and to be somewhat vulnerable but ultimately open to new things. Diving into a much much bigger bowl!