Course 2 Final Project: ISTE-inspired Responsible Use Agreement

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Image Credit: The Daring Librarian via Compfight cc

These past few weeks I had the privilege of collaborating with Claire Wachowiak. We both felt that our schools would benefit from revamped Responsible Use Agreements and embarked on a collaborative journey to improve and redefine this form for the 21st Century School. In my previous blog posts I’ve revisited the idea that something needs to change in the curriculum and/or the school’s technological vision to ensure teachers are providing space for students to understand and practice both Connectivism and Digital Citizenship. I’ve also explored the importance of properly defining ‘screen time’ so we can avoid Device Blaming & App Shaming and get on with using technology as a tool, not a replacement for the teacher. However, rather than wait for this much needed change to begin, we decided to see how we could embed some of these key networked and digital literacy outcomes (based on ISTE standards) within our revised Responsible Use Agreement.

Both of our schools have developed fairly standard Responsible Use Agreements, which address expected behaviours regarding the device and its content. However, I felt they failed to really define other important elements of the whole digital citizen. To go back to an important point in Jeff Utecht’s Reach: the line between Digital and Networked Literacies is a fine one. If we are to properly prepare students for the future, we need to ensure that students, parents and teachers are aware of Networked Literacies and the responsibility of becoming network literate as a digital citizen. As Jeff Utecht puts it: Networked Literacy is about understanding connections. In order to understand connections, we need to ensure EdTech is being used to facilitate these connections in the first place.

Extension.org is an excelent place to begin understanding more about Network Literacy.

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Image: Screenshot from eXtension.org definition Network Literacy

The example below of an existing Responsible Use Agreement demonstrates the breadth of ‘responsibility’. It really focuses solely on information, images and personal details, but completely ignores the positive expectations for using technology for connectivism.

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Futhermore, it’s easy for parents and students to sign and return, but they still may not be clear on the purpose of EdTech devices in schools and at home. Many parents simply tick the box that they will monitor their students’ use of devices at home, yet several incidents emerged this year that proved they had not followed these guidelines. Often, it is then left to the schools to educate and resolve issues that occur using school devices or platforms, outside school hours.

I understand this school’s choice to cover a wide breadth of expected User behaviours online and using the device. However, it focuses solely on the respect and property side of EdTech use, rather than encompassing all aspects of networked and digital literacy. Furthermore, we felt only including the parents and students in this agreement demonstrated an incomplete representation of all stakeholders in the child’s relationship with EdTech. Therefore, we also added a third and fourth stakeholder in the Responsible Use Agreement: The Teachers and Administrators.

Many teachers presume since the device is in the classroom, it will lend itself to autonomously teaching the children, and thus they will (through osmosis) become digital citizens. This is not the purpose of having iPads in the classroom…they are meant to be used as a tool, not as a teacher. If we expect the students to be using the devices responsibly, the teachers and admin need to be accountable for how the devices are being used, and ensuring they are being used as a tool to create and/or to practice specific networked or digital literacies. Common Sense Media provides a plethora of activities, iBooks, videos etc to engage students in these conversations as well as practice digital citizenship. Meanwhile, the ISTE standards provide excellent guidelines and benchmarks for students, teachers, admin and coaches to to practice, model and advocate for digital citizenship throughout the school community.  It is also up to admin to be aware of the purpose of devices so they can remain consistent when issues arise.

We believe if all stakeholders sign the same document, while also referring to the ISTE standards, then a common language and common vision for EdTech use can be fostered within a school.

Here is our final Revised Responsible Use Agreement with ISTE Standards

Fostering ConnectEdness

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CC Image by Eric Fischer World travel and communications recorded on Twitter Flickr.com

When I think about Connectedness in schools, and the importance of providing students with a voice, and opportunity for action, I think of a little 6 year old boy, who wanted to build a well in Africa.

His name was Ryan, and his story is a perfect example of the power of suggestion, and how important it is to support and promote our student-led initiatives:

“One day in January 1998, I was sitting in my Grade One classroom. My teacher, Mrs. Prest, explained that people were sick and some were even dying because they didn’t have clean water. She told us that some people walked for hours in Africa and sometimes it was just to get dirty water.

All I had to do was take 10 steps from my classroom to get to the drinking fountain and I had clean water. Before that day in school, I figured everyone lived like me. When I found out this wasn’t the case, I decided I had to do something about it.”

~ Ryan’s Well Story

The most amazing thing is, this all happened in the 90s. Before google images, before youtube, before skype…just at the beginning of email as a common form of communication. The teacher was able to inspire a call for action in a 6-year old, which eventually led to a thriving non-profit organisation, Ryan’s Well.

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Screenshot from Ryan’s Well  Website

The video below details some of the challenges Ryan faced as he embarked on this journey…one of the greatest challenges being access to information and contacting the right people. This little boy had to connect with organisations, community leaders and media through telephone, letters and face-to-face visits.

This story is a wonderful inspiration for the impact teachers and students can have on the global community. In 2015, we have the power of knowledge, and fast, easy access to connecting with people, organisations and communities.

One of the greatest ways to inspire students in today’s classroom is by helping them build their online profile, and explore and learn from other students. Blogs are one way to connect with other classrooms, but Twitter provides more focused communities that students can engage with and learn from. In PYP schools, the Grade 5 PYP Exhibition is the culminating event in a primary student’s life. They are expected to show ‘action’, and what better opportunity for them to dabble in connectEDness.

The Twitter Hashtag #pypx is a shared space for students to see what other Grade 5 PYP students are producing for their action.

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Screenshot from #pypx on Twitter

A 2005 article taken from ASCD Education Leadership discusses connectedness on a basic level in the classroom:

“Although school connectedness might suggest smaller class sizes, the classroom’s culture seems to matter more than its size does. Effective teachers can create connectedness in the classroom in a number of ways. When teachers make learning meaningful and relevant to their students’ lives, students develop a stake in their own education. When teachers create a clear classroom structure with consistent expectations for behavior and performance, they provide a healthy setting in which students can exercise autonomy and practice decision-making skills. Teachers build connectedness in the classroom when they encourage team learning exercises. Cooperative learning tends to break down social isolation by integrating student teams across gender, academic ability, and ethnicity. Rewarding a variety of student achievements and recognizing student progress—not only top performance—are also important components.” ~ Robert W. Blum

This theory of connectedness now has the potential to extend beyond classroom walls, providing more opportunity for students to connect with like-minded peers in other schools, states and countries. The potential for collaboration and cooperative learning and is greater than ever before. Yet many schools are hesitant to provide students access to these external learning environment.

Blum, of ASCD EL, writes: “teachers cannot create school connectedness on their own. Without a supportive administration, teachers will not be able to effectively support their students.”

If we hope to support and prepare students for a connected world, all stakeholders in a child’s education need to be involved in providing space for connectedness. I’ve been looking to try and find examples of students who have taken ownership of an action project the same way the Ryan did, before the explosion of digital spaces. So far, I’ve found the WKCD (What Kids Can Dowebsite which hosts a series of action-research projects initiated by students. There are also many sites where students can join and participate in a cause such as EcoKids and inspirational articles and stories showcased on National Geographic about students taking action. However, I had difficulty finding a hub where students could connect and initiate projects easily. It still seems it’s up to the school and teacher to instigate, support and maintain persistence for any student wanting to make a difference in the world. So, with that in mind, we need to ensure we are enabling and empowering students to find a purpose and drive to connect and learn from each other.

 

CC = Common Courtesy

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Photo Credit: Sojourner in a Strange Land via Compfight cc

“Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self.”
~ Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

I think there is some real truth to the statement above. While copying in theory may appear to be the ‘easy’ way out, most creative people build on other people’s ideas. This recent article from Time has a fantastic quote that echoes this idea:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it; they just saw something and connected the dots. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” ~ Steve Jobs

There seems to be a large gap in understanding from both students and teachers on copyright infringement when using images for posters or presentations. This is an area we should be expecting teachers to honour, just as they are expected to honour MLA format in high school, and basic ‘sourcing’ using a bibliography or other format in primary school.

Now more than ever, teachers have access to other teacher’s shared material, but many of us are not giving credit to the original creators. And not because we don’t want to, but because we don’t know how. I’ve been working on introducing Creative Commons image banks to the whole school community for this very reason. We should be, and could be, modelling daily CC sourcing methods in our own classrooms.

I recently came across a fantastic website that breaks down Copyright in Schools. For any student or educator looking to quickly find information about what is deemed ‘safe’ and ‘legal’ when using different media. As this website mentions, there is a lot of misinformation about copyright and what’s permitted or not in the digital sphere. Often this misinformation “discourages kids and teens from following their natural inclination to be innovative and inquisitive. The innovators, artists and voters of tomorrow need to know that copyright law restricts many activities but also permits many others.”

There is an abundance of information for teachers to integrate Copyright and CC education into the curriculum, but unfortunately not enough demand at the top level (admin, policy and curriculum designers) for it to be common practice. Many curriculum frameworks, such as the International Baccalaureate Organisation, are still playing catch-up to the shifting digital age, so that they can encourage and foster more digital citizenship in IB schools. But what can teachers do in the meantime, to stay current themselves and pass on accurate information and useful Creative Commons (CC) resources for students?

Resources such as Teaching Copyright and Common Sense Media fill the missing gaps in curriculum and should be a common tool for all students and educators.

Earlier this year I helped co-teach a few lessons on Creative Commons Search practice and Copyright law for the G3 Digital Citizenship unit at our school. To tune them into the idea of Copyright, we watched this video and discussed the many ways they may have been unknowingly breaking copyright law.

As soon as students made the connection that the artists behind the photos, art and music they’d been ‘stealing’ were created by common people, like themselves, they were very passionate about using proper search methods and crediting all art they used. Students were thrilled to learn new tricks to filter google image searches as well as gain access to new image search engines like compfight and Creative Commons Search.

As Tricia Friedman mentions in her Coetail post The Teacher DJ , remixing content is an important part of furthering the creative process. Furthermore, she writes “Copyright laws are their very own collection of blurred lines.  This case opens a door to an authentic conversation around artistry, remix culture and law.  Teachers need to take these opportunities…As we find ways to invite creativity into our classrooms, it makes sense to promote the Creative Commons culture.”

From my experience, students want to execute creative play in the digital age, and we have a responsibility to explore and model Creative Commons practice. Online access to useful websites makes it easy for teachers to access information on ‘best practice’, so let’s show the artists the courtesy they deserve and credit their hard work.

Re-thinking Design Tech: Making MakerSpaces

I recently had the privilege of attending and presenting at the ECIS Tech Conference at Bavarian International School in Munich Germany.

My workshop was centred around Technology in the Early Years, and highlighted key apps and devices teachers could use to support a play-based environment. One of the greatest research-based platforms I found is the TEC Center. Below is my Google Presentation which draws on some theories from Chip Donohue’s most recent book Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years:

Sonya TerBorg also created a visual notes drawing on the key take-aways from my presentation (Photo & Image used with @terSonya’s permission):

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Three key presentations and workshops inspired me to explore the possibility of setting up maker spaces at our school to further promote creativity and the design process in the PYP.

3D for a Cause: Presentation by Sarah Woods

This thought-provoking workshop focused on ways to better integrate using the Design Cycle with students. Sarah focused on the International Baccalaureate (IBO) Middle Years Program (MYP) Design Cycle as an example but it could be modified for a variety of age groups and curriculum frameworks.

Sarah began by discussing how she gets her students excited about design, by presenting them with a problem first. Since I work at a PYP (Primary Years Program) school, this mirrored my philosophy of inquiry-based teaching, by beginning with the ‘why’ first. She described how she engages students by having them brainstorm 100 problems in 7 minutes. She emphasised that these could be vast or small and they need to be problems with no solutions yet. Allowing students the freedom to let their imagination run wild with the various problems they may encounter day-to-day addresses a variety of Learner Profile characteristics as well as promoting communication and group work skills. Once students have their page of problems she has them narrow down their selection to be their focus for the next project. Sarah emphasises that students should start with paper and have their idea mapped out clearly before they begin to explore the software. Nearly half of the design cycle is ‘Investigating’ and ‘Planning’ so she also explains to students that they will be making several designs, and perfection is not the goal. 1

The tools she focused on in this workshop were primarily software for 3D printing. Sarah believes these 3D printers allow students to revisit and improve their design. Some of the software she recommended for Primary and Middle Years students were 123Design and Tinkercad. Since ‘Evaluate’ is another key component in the MYP design cycle, the students spend a significant part of their project time assessing ways to improve and make

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Sarah Woods shares key software for 3D printers, which can often cause frustration and test patience, but ultimately build design and problem-solving skills.

One way Sarah has empowered students to properly assess the success of their product is through shapeways.com, a space to sell and share their products. This opportunity also allows students to understand basic economics as their supply and costs fluctuate depending on the need/want for their product.

Our current school has recently purchased two 3D printers. While the IB Primary Years Program does not include a design cycle yet, we are looking at ways to bring design in through the PYP Units of Inquiry. Currently, there is a large void of science and design technology in the IB PYP and often it is left up to teachers and curriculum coordinators to find where science and design ‘fit’ with the school’s curriculum and the units. There are numerous links to math through the use of such software as Tinkercad, it’s just that many teachers don’t have experience or confidence putting students on software they are unfamiliar with. One of the main take-aways from Sarah’s workshop was that it’s up to the teachers to put the problems in the students’ hands, rather than scaffolding the solution for them. She emphasised the importance of letting students teach each other, and suggested the software be a homework assignment so that valuable class time can be spent on the design process. The skills students learn by cooperating together to solve a problem (such as how does this software work) are much more transdisciplinary than a direct-teacher approach which doesn’t provide any opportunity for students to work together and learn from each other. Introducing new software and devices such as Tinkercad and 3D printers are excellent ways to naturally embed these important problem-solving skills that will promote lifelong learning in all students.

Make Space for Makerspace: Presented by Mark Shillitoe

I was deeply inspired and impressed by what’s happening at Etoy GEMS World Academy, in particular with IT and Makerspaces. Mark Shillitoe highlighted the different programs that were implemented this year, and how the physical space has been transformed into an engaging learning space for students. Mark emphasised the importance of inviting “curiosity and wonderment into your school”, as Kath Murdoch encourages us to do.

Mark expressed that this quote is what drove his vision for edTech at the GEMS Etoy campus. He focused on developing the idea of #techxture when thinking of the role of IT in schools, remembering that edTech is not just about balancing screen time. Mark described the importance of addressing the notion of screen-time with teachers and parents, and differentiating different kinds of screen-based learning.

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Sample Pop-Up Makerspace created by Mark Shillitoe for ECIS Tech Conference

From my experience, this has been the biggest struggle as an edTech coach; understanding that passive screen time and creation-based screen time have very different learning results. Mark added a new element to screen time, the physical connections we can add on to iPads, using new technology like Makey-Makeys. These new tools are simple circuits that allow any conductive object to become part of a functioning circuit.

Mark shared some of his own struggles implementing the Maker-mindset at his school, and came up with the idea of Pop-Up Makerspaces. These makerspaces didn’t infringe on busy teacher schedules, and provoked curiosity among both students and staff. He set up these spaces during break and lunch times and many of the makerspaces were self-discovery focused, meaning any student or teacher could approach and try to figure out the task. Throughout the 2-day conference Mark had set up his own version of Pop-Up Makerspaces and invited conference participants to try out new technologies such as Makey-Makey Dance Mat Pacman and Minecraft using Raspberry Pi.

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Students use Makey-Makey to create a banana keyboard. Photo Credit: CTJ Online via Compfight cc

The idea of Pop-Up Makerspaces is very relevant in my present school context. Currently, we are limited for space, and while a Makerspace would be ideal, proposing the idea of a moveable or Pop-Up Makerspace seems more likely to be approved by administrators. I find a lot of new technology could in fact be taken on by student leaders, and perhaps introducing these spaces to students first, and having them feed back to their classrooms and teachers would be a more engaging and lasting way to introduce the Maker-mindset into teaching and learning. Once teachers can see the science and math links that naturally result from utilising Makerspace tools and coding software, opportunities for curriculum amendments will follow.

UNIS CoLaboratory: Workshop with Francesca Zammarano
This workshop began with a provocative and entertaining clip from the movie Apollo 13, showcasing the moment NASA needed to make a “square peg fit in a round hole” using just the materials the astronauts were presented with on board the shuttle. Francesca Zammarano used this clip as a spring board for discussing the possibilities for creative problem solving using everyday items and basic materials.

This year, UNIS has redesigned their computer lab into a functional and creative Maker Space for students, which they are calling a CoLaboratory. The philosophy behind this space is to help promote 5 key ‘maker traits’: curiosity, enthusiasm, creativity, courage and vision. According to Francesca, the space is more about development of self and less about the stripping of wires and understanding circuits. In this space, students learn what it means to fail and understand that learning comes from failure.

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Francesca took us through the the costs and process of redesigning their IT lab to be a useable space for creation. It was about a $30,000 USD investment to transform the room and add key components such as: whiteboard tables, a tool wall, storage wall, and working space. She detailed the importance of maintaining a ‘safe to fail’ attitude within the CoLaboratory, and she explained how she has students “make friends with failure’” and chant the phrase “Safe to fail!” before the begin projects.

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We were then introduced to a variety of simple, creative projects that students were encouraged to explore. Francesca would present the students with a bunch of materials and ask them to either solve a problem or create something that would accomplish a task. Some of the resulting creations from the CoLaboratory ranged from a simple ‘scribble bot’ (using a BeeBot and markers) to sewing plush animals using conductive thread to explore basic circuitry concepts.

As my current school moves more towards an embedded design and technology curriculum, I see a lot of potential in re-thinking our current spaces and implementing more open-inquiry tasks for students to learn these important skills and concepts.

The second part of this workshop included building simple circuits from scratch using button batteries, copper wire, LED lights and cardboard. We were given instructions for building a simple multiple choice answer board, which could be used to assess any curricular area.

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Materials provided for second part of the UNIS CoLaboratory workshop

 

One of the educators leading the workshop was the French teacher, and he initiated this idea in his classroom to engage students in learning basic grammar rules such as masculine and feminine pronouns.I can see many connections to all disciplines in the PYP, particularly for formative assessments. This simple way of embedding problem-solving and basic science skills is an excellent example of teaching science through other subject areas. Furthermore, it empowers students to be makers and creators, which further develop skills such as confidence, resilience and promotes design thinking.

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My simple circuit created from scratch using the instructions from the workshop (I just needed to add the wires).

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Sample circuit-board game created by 4th Grade UNIS student for French class

One of the greatest take aways was seeing how in just a few months her school has transformed and evolved their curriculum to include key elements of design and problem-solving skills. Francesca shared the revised the UNIS Design Tech curriculum (link) to include characteristics of ‘maker’ students as well as design-thinking skills.

The Power & Cowardice of Anonymity

In an age where people are respected for creating a positive and perhaps influential and inspirational digital footprint, why are so many individuals still clinging to online anonymity…or worse, abusing anonymity to gain power?

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Photo by Justin Ling CC Wikimedia Commons  Guy Fawkes mask for hacktivist group Anonymous’

The Masks We Wear

We all wear a mask when we’re online, but it’s up to us how we carve the features. What parts of ourselves or what human characteristics do we want to portray?

I’m still amazed at the amount of feedback and free speech platforms that enable individuals to anonymously berate and slander individuals and institutions. Many students and teachers are familiar with the Rate My Teacher platform, and in the international circuit there is a similar platform called the International School Reviews. For many, this platform serves as a space for sharing experiences of living and working abroad. While teachers searching this platform try to look for trends, the feedback can range from reasonable complaints to completely absurd, over-dramatised and vengeful perspectives. Unfortunately many teachers rely on platforms like this to gain information about a school before they accept a job offer. While the reviews are often harsh, they are also anonymous, making it difficult to really determine the extent of the teacher’s experience. General anonymous platforms like this also devalue any accurate feedback about a school, because educators are forced to weigh each review with caution.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end with online platforms. As we are continuously required to divulge more of our personal information online, the counter move appears to be apps that foster anonymity. While these apps may aim to protect individuals’ rights to free speech and privacy, they ultimately encourage and promote internet trollers and cyberbullies.

Recently, the Yik Yak app fell under major criticism as teens were irresponsibly using it to dare and bully each other.

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Photo Credit: kid-josh via Compfight cc

This Blog Post explores in more depth the vulgarity and misuse of the app at a US college campus.

My question is, why do so many individuals continue to hide behind anonymous apps that were not initially designed to be misused in this way? Last month Diana Graber of the Huffington Post investigated the issue further and spoke directly to the creators of the Yik Yak app. She wrote:

“We were naïve,” Buffington told me. “We designed the app primarily for college students. Using the app the way we intended it to be used requires a certain amount of maturity and responsibility, we were idealistic about who possessed that.”

The co-creators did their best to remedy the situation by placing age limits and blocks on the app in certain geographical regions and school districts, but the damage initially done had already occurred. Graber succinctly summarises ways to prevent future incidents like this from happening:

What Parents and Educators Can Do To Monitor Social Apps:

1) Prevent your under-17-year-old from downloading apps rated 17+. If they have an iOS device: Go to “Settings,” select “General” and tap “Enable Restrictions.” You can set restrictions for “Installing Apps” and “In-App Purchases” here (the slider should read off.)
2) Since kids are really good at getting around #1 (above), a better solution is to talk to your kids, set rules, and then get familiar or cyber-wise about what they’re up to online so you can see if your rules are being followed. If you need a little help with this (especially with younger kids) you might consider installing software, like SpectorSoft, that records and replays all of your child’s Internet activity and provides a detailed report.
3) Even better than #1 or #2 is to advocate for digital literacy or “cyber civics” lessons to be taught at your school. Understanding how (and why) to be safe and respectful online is an indispensable skill in our networked world. Besides, the best Internet block or filter in the world is the one kids carry around between their ears. Let’s teach them how to use it!

Number three clearly shows that ultimately it is up to schools and educators to teach students about becoming responsible digital citizens, and giving them space to practice these skills.

Despite the controversy, anonymous apps unfortunately seem to be on the rise. Tech Crunch recently described the newest app Cloaq (released just 2 weeks ago): 

The trend toward anonymous social applications may be on the downswing for some, but others believe there’s still a place for online discussions where users don’t have to reveal their real identity. Case in point: Cloaq, the anonymous app where users never had to provide an identifying piece of information, like a phone number or email, is today launching out of beta with a new twist. Instead of only socializing around user-generated content, the startup is now allowing users to have anonymous discussions about news articles as well.

I find this deeply concerning as we are removing all accountability from users of these apps. Providing a mask, or cloak, to hide behind will greatly impact the way humans interact and socialise online. Will anonymous trolling one day overshadow the power and inspiration provided through connectivism and networking communities?

The Anonymity Myth

Another recent article by Tech Crunch explores the myth of maintaining and remaining anonymous online. The main points include:

  • ‘Privacy’ Mode is Not Very Private
  • Cookie Blocking Prevents Many Commercial Trackers, But Leaves Big Openings
  • Tor and Encrypted Browsing Both Conceal and Highlight Users
  • Beyond the Mask of Encryption: Behavioral Giveaways

The final point discusses how unaware we are of our online behavioural giveaways:

While Tor and other privacy-focused technologies may protect you from revealing most of your personal details as you surf the web, how you behave online may ultimately expose your true identity. If you think of the web as a public meeting place, then privacy technologies are like a mask or disguise – people won’t be able to recognize your identity on sight. But other details, such as the way you walk or talk, may be enough to tip off a careful observer.

This final point brings me hope that one day we may greatly reduce, or even erradicate abuse of power on the internet. I wonder how much longer anonymous individuals will have the freedom to troll and bully others online. When will technology and governing policies catch up and make it impossible to speak behind the mask?

Our Profiles, Ourselves

We are moving towards an age where our online presence marks a major aspect of ourselves. Potential employers are relying on our online profiles more than ever to get a complete picture of who we are, and who they are hiring. Does it reflect poorly or negatively on us if we lack an online presence? Five years ago, I don’t think it would have been an issue. But now, I would question why a teacher, administrator or school has so little shared online. It either reflects they may have something to hide or nothing of value to share with the global community.

Platforms such as WordPress, BloggerSquarespace and eBooks like Twitter: A Cultural Guidebook make it so easy for any individual or organisation to build a online profile for themselves. If we are to truly consider the recommendations in Graber’s Huffington post article, we have a responsibility to model a positive online presence and an individual who has none may not be the best candidate for a job in 21st Century Education.

DC101: Practice Makes Perfect

How can we expect students to master anything if we don’t allow them a safe space to practice?

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Photo Credit: kitakitts via Compfight cc

Imagine three scenarios:

Student A struggles with subtraction, especially 3-digit numbers.

Student B wants to join the basketball team, but has never played before. 

Student C is learning a new language but isn’t confident speaking it yet.

How might an innovative educator address these?

Perhaps for Student A, you show him a new strategy and give them additional questions for review at home.

In Student B‘s case, you may encourage her to take a risk, shoot a few balls, maybe even pair her with a previous team member to prepare for tryouts.

For Student C, you could provide space and time for the students to apply their oral language skills and engage them in discussions in this new language.

Pedagogy and teaching styles may differ but ultimately we can all agree that regardless the skill or outcome, practice makes perfect… Or at least, helps us feel more confident and competent.

Fears surrounding children and online predators exist in every school community. However, unlike many other academic areas, when it comes to online profiles and digital footprints, myths tend to outweigh actual truth. As a result, many parents, teachers and administrators seem to prefer complete abstinence over preventative practices.

Whether we’re comfortable with it or not, 21st Century digital literacy skills continue to evolve and permeate our students’ day-to-day lives more than ever. As educators it’s our responsibility to ensure they are provided time and space to practice online safety and develop a positive digital footprint.

Early Modelling: Grooming digital virtuosos

How early should students practice digital citizenship? Like any accomplished athlete or virtuoso, practice is part of their daily life. The ‘game’ or the ‘instrument’ is a part of them, and is an ingrained habit. Why not teach digital citizenship along with letters and numbers? Why not engage in those discussions with young students, about ownership of creative materials and model attribution with images and media used in the classroom?

So…what could this look like?

This year we introduced eBooks to Grade 1 and along with teaching them how to save and upload Google Images from the iPad to My Story App, we also taught them how to narrow their search for Creative Commons Images:

After teaching an initial 5 students how to narrow their Google Image searches, we then had those ‘tech experts’ teach the rest of the class (20 students) throughout the writing period. This freed the classroom teacher and I up for conferencing with individual students and supporting them as they build their eBooks.

What are other educators doing?

In researching ways to engage teachers and students in discussions about Digital Citizenship, I found this recent Edutopia article from Vicky Davis. I like how there is a balance between online safety and developing a proactive, positive digital footprint.

1. Passwords
Do students know how to create a secure password? Do they know that email and online banking should have a higher level of security and never use the same passwords as other sites? Do they have a system like LastPass for remembering passwords, or a secure app where they store this information? (See 10 Important Password Tips Everyone Should Know.)

2. Privacy
Do students know how to protect their private information like address, email, and phone number? Private information can be used to identify you. (I recommend the Common Sense Media Curriculum on this.)

3. Personal Information
While this information (like the number of brothers and sisters you have or your favourite food) can’t be used to identify you, you need to choose who you will share it with.

4. Photographs
Are students aware that some private things may show up in photographs (license plates or street signs), and that they may not want to post those pictures? Do they know how to turn off a geotagging feature? Do they know that some facial recognition software can find them by inserting their latitude and longitude in the picture — even if they aren’t tagged? (See the Location-Based Safety Guide)

5. Property
Do students understand copyright, Creative Commons, and how to generate a license for their own work? Do they respect property rights of those who create intellectual property? Some students will search Google Images and copy anything they see, assuming they have the rights. Sometimes they’ll even cite “Google Images” as the source. We have to teach them that Google Images compiles content from a variety of sources. Students have to go to the source, see if they have permission to use the graphic, and then cite that source.

6. Permission
Do students know how to get permission for work they use, and do they know how to cite it?

7. Protection
Do students understand what viruses, malware, phishing, ransomware, and identity theft are, and how these things work? (See Experiential Knowledge below for tips on this one.)

8. Professionalism
Do students understand the professionalism of academics versus decisions about how they will interact in their social lives? Do they know about netiquette and online grammar? Are they globally competent? Can they understand cultural taboos and recognise cultural disconnects when they happen, and do they have skills for working out problems?

9. Personal Brand
Have students decided about their voice and how they want to be perceived online? Do they realise they have a “digital tattoo” that is almost impossible to erase? Are they intentional about what they share?

In my opinion, these 9 P’s strike a perfect balance between the two opposing camps of “to teach or not to teach” digital citizenship in the classroom. I like how these P’s are both preventative and proactive, empowering students to be knowledgeable and well-rounded in their online presence. The one P I would add (to make it an even 10) would be Productive Footprint, which connects to Personal Branding but also could link to action-related presence online. How is their online ‘brand’ impacting the greater community? For example, many students are unaware of the effects they could have both within their local and global community if action were part of their personal brand. What is their cause and how can they make a difference? Planting the seed for positive action may be the key to bringing about global change in terms of students’ footprints online. I think this is the one aspect of citizenship that is lacking on the digital front, especially in schools. Using our ability to connect and engage with global issues will help our young students to be not just positive, but productive digital citizens.

Promoting Digital Leadership

While digital citizenship may be just another branch of citizenship we are addressing in schools, leadership is one that has always been prevalent. How can we promote digital leaders?

According to ISTE Student Standardspart of modelling digital citizenship is being both a productive citizen and a leader. This further emphasises the subdued link between both online safety, citizenship and leadership.

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Screenshot from ISTE Student Standards PDF

Give them the space to make mistakes and improve

So we understand the importance of digital citizenship, and are committed to following the well reputed ISTE standards as a guide, but how committed are we providing the space for practice? No basketball team could ever win a game without having weekly (or daily) practice. In what ways are we giving students time for application of these DC skills?

Putting students onto the blogosphere, creating a classroom twitter account, or joining a global collaborative project  are relevant and rich spaces for students to practice these skills. Regardless of the platform, connecting students with other schools and communities, gives students them the chance to make mistakes, improve and excel as digital citizens. It’s all possible. By changing our perspectives on the role of citizenship, we can promote change and foster true digital virtuosos.