Posts Tagged ‘conversation’

 

The Virtual Playground

Being social is a natural part of anyone’s life. From playing in the playground to chatting on the phone; meeting up with friends was commonplace when I was a teenager. Despite this still being true for teenagers today, I am so grateful that Facebook, Snapchat and some of the other giants of social media were not around when I was growing up: to have my life mapped out visually for everyone to see, the pressure to look a certain way, behave a certain way and interact online, it is positively exhausting! But we cannot ignore it, and, according to the Pew Report 2015, 92% of teens are online daily mostly down to the ease of accessibility with smartphones. (cited by A Lenhart, 2015). It’s the place where teens hang out. Most of them have multiple accounts and, since the report 3 years ago, I am certain the figures have gone up. In the Common Sense census of the same year, it reports that 13-18-year-old Americans spend up to 9 hours a day online but with only a quarter of this time being spent on social media (M Robb, 2015). I am certain in 2018, the numbers would be higher as Snapchat becomes even more popular. Much of its popularity is down to Snapstreaks, keeping the addicted teens locked in and in fear of failing friendships. Gamifying communication has been a game changer with Snapchat, but parents are becoming increasingly concerned about the time teens spend in these often obsessive and addictive behaviours. In her article on Huffington Past, mother, Julie Kelly says

“Kids are desperate to stay connected. They’re afraid to be left out, that they will miss something. This leads to a constant feeling of needing to be ‘on’.” (J Kelly, 2017)

In order to keep up with these digital natives, we must understand where they are at, keep the channels of conversation open and reconsider social media’s place in education. There are pros and cons for the use of social media and its place in education, particularly that of tweens is a hard fought debate. School aim to educate youngsters to fit in and thrive in society and, in order to fully understand the implications of social media’s place in the classroom, we must investigate how it operates in our world and what good it can bring to our children.

I first became aware of social media when I had left the UK and was working in an International school in Italy. Far from home, with a young family, we learnt to use a webcam to connect to our nearest and dearest. Teaching our parents how to use one remotely was the toughest part! Soon after moving I joined Facebook (2007) and later in 2009, Twitter. Prior to this, I do remember having Friendsreunited to reconnect with old school friends and a myspace account, but I cannot recall how long ago or if I really used the latter much: as with most of us, Facebook took over fairly quickly and overrode all other platforms.

Social media did exactly what it said on the tin and it became the place to be social and talk with friends and family when living abroad. I could share messages and photos and see what they were up to. At first, I didn’t quite understand Twitter: it seemed I was tweeting to an empty audience and I wasn’t quite sure of the point. But later, in 2011 following the Learning2 conference in Shanghai, I followed advice and started to follow a list of recommended educators. Following others, watching from a distance, “lurking”, and learning from them helps us to understand the protocols and processes of a new media. It also leads to new connections and ideas. That is the thing about Twitter: it is full of wonderful people and ideas, links to articles, videos and others creations. Of course, we have to filter out and ignore the rubbish and outrageous tweets, sift through the fake news and find what it is we are interested in.

Beyond microblogging

Having become a converted fan of Twitter, microblogging led to “proper” blogging. Finding an audience became my first fear – would I have anything interesting to say, would anyone want to read it and then what? What was it for? Blogging should have a purpose but be authentic to the individual. It should be a place to freely express oneself and this can be valuable when reflecting on a course, conference or weekly updates or shares. My first task, back in 2014, was finding other art teachers who blogged. As the COETAIL course evolved, we were encouraged to comment frequently on other cohort member’s posts, much like MA TCT, and develop closer connections. Creating authentic connections and developing genuine friendships virtually was an important part of the course. We live in a connected global classroom where anyone can stumble on your words and offer opinions and ideas. Building a PLN, a tribe, was a crucial element in developing dialogue.

Finding your tribe

It is the same for our students. Each day they interact face to face and online, building connections. They might have different friendships on social networks, from gamers on Steam to photographers on Instagram and makeup artists on YouTube. This is their world, their playground, a place to meet, talk and learn. Jabiz Raisdana, a prolific blogger, Middle school English teacher and writer, tells us “I see social networks as digital playgrounds. Our students are out there. They are playing and experimenting.” (J Raisdana, 2012)

And this is why integrating digital literacies should be fundamental in every school curriculum: literacies like reading, interpreting, decoding, analysing and sifting for truth. In Anne Longfield’s worrying report “Life in Likes” the children’s commissioner for England says children hit a “cliff edge” when starting secondary school and asks why aren’t we “preparing them for the pressures of social media?” (cited by M Browne, 2018). Helping students to successfully navigate the complexities of being social in this digital world means helping them to understand more about who they are, their values and wellbeing.

Global connections

As an experiment to connect art students across continents I joined with 3 other art teachers to collaborate on a project to connect and bring our students together online for feedback and discussion on their artwork. We set up groups where students would post, comment and connect through class blogs overseen in the art lessons. The term “Quadblogging” was first coined by David Mitchell, where 4 classes (or teachers) work together to comment on each other’s blogs in a rolling cycle. (Mitchell, 2011). If you are interested in the process, you can read more about the project and how students not only connected but also learnt more about digital citizenship. (N Hambleton, 2015)

For some it was a chance to have a voice and to share their creations, for others it was a chore, and that is the stumbling block: a blog should be personal, and, if it is forced (for portfolios or reflections) it won’t necessarily be an authentic voice. In her article on self-directed learning, Judy Robertson, in her paper on computers and education, mentions that the “commenting affordance of blogs” builds empathy and supports student development, and it is this function of social media that most interest me; how others can impact ideas and build skills through conversation and dialogue online. She goes on to talk about how blogs (in Higher Education) can support how students learn how to learn and to build their skills as independent thinkers. (Robertson, 2011)

Similarly, Huay Lit Woo and Qiyun Wang investigated the affordances of “weblogs” in developing critical thinking. Constructing a blog post requires research and analytical skills, referencing and organisation as well as writing and appropriate accreditation. Problem-solving, creating engaging content and synthesising ideas are higher order thinking, at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy. Silvia Tolisano equates a successful class blog to the upper levels of Dr Ruben Puetredura’s SAMR model. She shares that it can redefine learning by being a “central hub” where students and teachers share and create, connecting, communicating and collaborating with the wider world. (S Tolisano, 2014) Another of the key affordances of a blog is that the writer has an audience and that viewers can interact with the writer through commenting. (Woo and Wang, 2009). Building conversation, developing arguments and cultivating opinions, in and out of the classroom are all valuable life skills we should help our students to hone. Within a class, how often do students authentically interact with each other offering valued feedback and advice? How often do all voices, including the introverts, get heard? Offering opportunities to share opinions, reflect and ideas can open the channels of conversation, connect like-minded individuals and build a supportive community. Supporting our students and encouraging them to create genuine connections online is an ideal opportunity to support their wellbeing. Modelling and sharing experiences with Twitter or Instagram class accounts, and following specific hashtags are simple ways to start out, but also teaching safety and awareness of privacy. The media is littered with examples of adults and high profile individuals behaving badly online on Twitter and these can serve as learning opportunities in digital citizenship. 

According to Piaget’s theory of constructivism, we build knowledge based on our experiences, (Piaget, 1976) and digital opportunities of connecting and collaborating online offer new ways to understand and make meaning. Moreover, Vygotsky repeats the importance of social interaction in the development of an individual. His theory on the zone of proximal development presupposes that an individual will develop alongside a more advanced. (Vygotsky, 1978) But is this true when connecting online? Is it the interactive and collaborative nature that social media affords that help to develop the skills in our students?

 

The Connected Teacher

Developing as an individual through connectivism is also true for adults. A small group of teachers in Singapore, piloted by a colleague, Tricia Friedman networked through individual monthly blogs to connect and start discussions around shared ideas and articles. It soon grew to include teachers further afield and, following this success, I am planning a new kind of connected and social play online with a Sketchbook challenge, digitally inspired but traditionally produced. These shared experiences will be literally passed around physically and virtually, connecting like-minded educators to share their ideas and thoughts visually and learn from one another. 

Blogging for the MA TCT has pushed my own research, critical thinking and analytical skills. Being put back in the shoes of a learner, navigating my way through multiple readings and slowly and surely finding my own research route through past and present theories and ideas has been eye opening. It takes time to develop an authentic voice and courage to post publicly. I am developing deeper thinking, yet I would like to connect and encourage more authentic dialogue with the rest of the course participants. How can we do this more seamlessly, transparently and easily alongside our busy teaching lives? Could microblogging be a possibility or could we as a group work in smaller more focused clusters, much like quadblogging, to give meaningful feedback and create community?

Inspiring the next generation of creators

YouTube is students go-to community to learn a new skill or find how to do something. This has been the case for many years and video has become a popular tool for gamers and musicians to share their work. Often adults assume teenagers to be watching mindless videos or consuming endless accounts of gaming adventures but there are many youngsters sharing meaningful creations that can inspire the next generation of creators. Bloggers like SoSonia with her unique style of video began sharing her creative ideas as a young teenager and now she is now working for SoulPancake, making positive, meaningful and uplifting media for the “optimistic millennial”. Livbits is a 10 year old social media ambassador, showing youngsters how sharing online can promote student voice and audience. Boblhead is the 14 year old son of a music teacher in Singapore, recording his own music, making films and selling his own designed merchandise. It is through inspiring examples like these that we can justify social media’s place in modern society and the more examples we can share the more our students will be inspired to create and share.

The future of social media in education

Parents may still feel that social media doesn’t have a place in education, but it is where our youngsters play and learn. We should talk with them about what they do, who they listen to and learn from and how they use social media in their daily lives. Often it is assumed to be solely a playground, but through social media they are learning how to communicate, to behave and to create. With appropriate strategies, students need to be educated in the ethics of what they communicate, share and create online and their rights and the accompanying dangers. Recently, in the Times Educational Supplement, Jonathan Owen shares some newly published simplified guides to the terms and conditions of popular social media like Snapchat and WhatsApp. (Owen, 2017) With so many actively online, we must ensure they know what data and information are being gathered and shared.

We need to show students how much more social media can be than just sharing an image and waiting for the obligatory amount of likes, retweets or streaks to signify popularity. They need to develop better habits of living healthy digital lives. As educators and parents, we must address teenagers’ vulnerabilities and talk more openly about student wellbeing when playing in such a potentially volatile yet mesmerising and ?? playground.

What ways can you see social media positively impacting your students?
How might you use blogging to push their critical thinking skills and enhance their digital literacies and citizenship?

References

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.jabizraisdana.com/blog/what-it-might-be-authentic-student-blogging/

Browne, M. (2018, January 04). Children unprepared for social media ‘cliff edge’ as they start secondary school, Children’s Commissioner for England warns in new report. Retrieved from https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2018/01/04/children-unprepared-for-social-media-cliff-edge-as-they-start-secondary-school-childrens-commissioner-for-england-warns-in-new-report/

Etherington, D. (2017, September 25). Instagram now has 800 million monthly and 500 million daily active users. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2017/09/25/instagram-now-has-800-million-monthly-and-500-million-daily-active-users/

Hambleton, N. Learning in the library of COETAIL. (2016, March 12). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://itisallaboutart.wordpress.com/2015/05/10/learning-in-the-library-of-coetail/

Homayoun, A. (2018, January 09). Perspective | What teens wish their parents knew about social media. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2018/01/09/what-teens-wish-their-parents-knew-about-social-media/?utm_term=.e202246cc858

Homayoun, A. (2018). Social media wellness: Helping tweens and teens thrive in an unbalanced digital world. Corwin, a Sage Company.

Kelly, J. (2016, February 02). Confronting my daughter’s addiction. To Snapchat. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-kelly/confronting-my-daughters-_b_9138986.html

Lenhart, A. (2015, April 08). Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/

Mitchell, D (2012, July 18). State of Now #140conf NYC 2012: “QuadBlogging – linking learning to global audience”. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8J8Jrr_eq4

Piaget, J. (1976). Piaget’s Theory. Piaget and His School, 11-23. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-46323-5_2

Ripp, P. (2017). Reimagining literacy through global collaboration. Solution Tree Press, a division of Solution Tree.

Robb, M. (2015, November 03). Tweens, Teens, and Screens: What Our New Research Uncovers. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/tweens-teens-and-screens-what-our-new-research-uncovers

Robertson, J. (2011, 09). The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning. Computers & Education, 57(2), 1628-1644. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.03.003

Safronova, V. (2017, December 21). Instagram Is Now a Dating Platform, Too. Here’s How It Works. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/21/style/instagram-thirst-traps-dating-breakups.html?_r=0&mtrref=www.diigo.com

Seven reasons teachers should blog. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.steve-wheeler.co.uk/2011/07/seven-reasons-teachers-should-blog.html

Social media ‘jargon buster’ highlights pupils’ digital rights. (2017, September 29). Retrieved from https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/social-media-jargon-buster-highlights-pupils-digital-rights

This is what it’s like to grow up in the age of likes, lols and longing. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2016/05/25/13-right-now-this-is-what-its-like-to-grow-up-in-the-age-of-likes-lols-and-longing/?utm_term=.74149e86900b

Upgrading Blogs Through Lens of SAMR | Silvia Tolisano- Langwitches Blog. (2014, May 23). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from http://langwitches.org/blog/2014/05/23/upgrading-blogs-through-lens-of-samr/

The Zone of Proximal Development. (n.d.). Lev Vygotsky. doi:10.5040/9781472541437.ch-004

Wang, Q., & Woo, H. L. (2010, 05). Investigating students’ critical thinking in weblogs: An exploratory study in a Singapore secondary school. Asia Pacific Education Review, 11(4), 541-551. doi:10.1007/s12564-010-9101-5

Work. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from http://soulpancake.com/work/

 

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Personalised Learning a visual note drawn by Nicki Hambleton on Adobe Ideas for iPad

Personalised Learning a visual note drawn by Nicki Hambleton on Adobe Ideas for iPad

Whatever we do, whatever we teach, whatever wondrous new fandangled gadget or app appears on the market, whoever we teach and whenever we are teaching them, learning should be at the heart of it.

It may sound crass or even naive, but often in this brave new world this fundamental aspect is forgotten or at least pushed further and further backwards. Literacy hour, genius hour, standards and benchmarks, aims and objectives, collaborative work, group work, authentic use of technology and many more bombard our daily practice and jostle for space in the short amount of time we have with our students.

In Middle School Art, students have but a mere 75 minutes to learn and grow as a artist over the year, and with Sports Days, visiting speakers, training days and public holidays sometimes this can be whittled down to just 30 lessons. This equates to around 37.5 hours, just over a day and a half. What can you teach a 12 year old for a year if you only had a day and half? If assemblies run over or it is the start or end of a term some of this time would be reduced even more.

So, how do we prioritise what we want our students to learn?

From the mouths of babes

UWCSEA Dover

UWCSEA Dover

IB PYP philosophy promotes purposeful inquiry as the leading vehicle for learning and through this it is clear that students are the key, the centre of learning and that they need and want ownership of their education. They may not have the skills nor the knowledge, yet they know what they want and need and, with guidance, can and should help to shape the lessons. It may again be naive of me to think that children can plan your curriculum but we spend so much time as adults forgetting what it is like to be a child and what it means to learn as a child. They want to know why they need to learn this concept or that information or skill, and what use it is in today’s changing society. We cannot neglect that the world is a very different place to that which we grew up and learned in: we must think in the shoes of our students more often and ask them their opinions and ideas. So, even though I do not teach PYP, I honour the philosophy and turn the discussions over to them. I ask my students what they want to learn and what they think they need to learn to be a better artist, thinker, problem solver, collaborator, team player, independent learner and what the use of learning art is.

It is an eye opener. It develops new thinking and shapes the curriculum.

Adding Value

When I worked in the UK, a judgement of a child’s success was based on “value added”. What did students come into the school with (or at what level) and what did they leave with (and at what level) compared to the expectation? For those too young to have heard this phrase in education, here is a simple diagram to explain this concept:

Value Added - a simple diagram by Nicki Hambleton

Value Added – a simple diagram by Nicki Hambleton

What might surprise you is that this assessment is centred around the teacher not the child, rather the child as a result of the teaching. Not something that ever sat well with me or, for that matter, many teachers. How can we measure learning? Is it possible solely by testing?

Last year, in Florida,

the teachers’ suit challenged the state’s 2011 Student Success Act that requires school districts to evaluate teachers based in part on “student learning growth” — defined by increases in standardised test scores. Florida is one of several states that have passed “value added” teacher evaluation laws linking teacher merit pay and retention to students’ standardised test performances. (Law Professors, May 2014)

The judge found Florida’s teacher evaluation unfair, but legal. How else can we assess learning and student growth in a less numerical or judgmental fashion?

What value have I added to my students this year? What new learning has happened through Quadblogging?

Words don’t come easy

Photo Credit: dslrpena via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dslrpena via Compfight cc

For most, blogging at the Dover Campus is a new thing. A handful of students had a blog in Primary school or with their Spanish teacher, but on the whole, connecting and posting online was a new experience and one that needed nurturing. It astounded me that, in their social media-centric lives, they were unaware of what makes a valuable contribution to commenting, so it was here that I started to teach them real value in their words. We have worked all year on purposeful feedback with peer groups verbally at several stages in their work using various models such as “I see I think I wonder”, “invisible artist” and even “poo sandwich”, a phrase coined by one of my Science colleagues (don’t ask!). Armed with the skills and strategies to comment intelligently and meaningfully, we tested the waters commenting locally before embarking on public sites, trialling post it comments at the High School Art Exhibition, sending emails to the artists and practicing in a Picasa web album of their own class’s photography. They began to see the real power of their words, discussing starting sentences and suggested etiquette to keep themselves both on track as well as respectful.

The biggest learning so far was that of questioning. During the blogging process they figured out that when they asked the artist a question or reached out in their own post inviting critique or connections, they added value to their own thinking but also that of the receiver. It helped them to connect and began to form a conversation: a 2 way conversation. This in itself was powerful learning and prepared them well for the blogging ahead.

Freedom to choose

Photo Credit: pennuja via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: pennuja via Compfight cc

Reflecting on my own learning over the past year I can see so much growth in the manner I present my findings, in the depth of my posts and the actions I have taken back in the classroom. I have documented this through writings and drawings but the real results are less easy to measure or see as they are deep within the curriculum development, the forward planning and the nuances of my lessons. If you were to ask my students how the lessons have changed, I am not sure that they will have noticed drastic changes, more gradual drip feeding or subtle additions, as I am loath to add a new app or concept just for the sake of it, especially with time being so precious. I believe in authentic use of technology that doesn’t dominate the learning, it enhances or transforms it and this takes time to develop and authenticate. I yearn for the day when my students pick up an iPad or use an app or software of their own choosing as just another tool in their kit to learn with. I feel we are fast approaching this and we have to race to keep up with the plethora of new ideas firing at us and to filter the most effective ones to teach our students that would benefit their learning. What does this swiss army knife of new skills look like? Teachers should pool the ideas they offer students so other curriculum areas know what students can pick and choose from. What does your bag of tricks look like?

Modelling lifelong learning

Picking from my own COETAIL bag of tricks I found so many aspects I wanted to focus on when developing my Course 5 project. For me, at the heart of COETAIL, and its ultimate success and longevity, is connecting and sharing. My wish was for my own students to develop their own online communities in a similar manner so that they too could grow and learn. But now I look back and think, is this me, as an adult, thinking I know what is best for them to learn better? What if I thought more in the shoes of a 12 year old, as a child, learning art surrounded by all the influences and distractions a child in today’s world has? What would I want to learn and how?

Holistic education is at the centre of UWCSEA and our mission states:

The UWC movement makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. The UWCSEA goal is to educate individuals to embrace challenge and take responsibility for shaping a better world.

Kurt Hahn’s philosophy is at the heart of how students learn.

He championed the importance of developing the whole person, and based his thinking on the ideals of a holistic, experiential, values-based education.

“I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.” Kurt Hahn

The world is a very different place since Hahn founded the UWC movement 50 years ago. But his educational philosophy, with a focus on academic achievement, leadership, experiential learning and service to others has remained, and will continue to provide our students with a unique learning experience for many more years to come. (From UWCSEA website)

Experiential learning should be at the heart of our lessons and Ed Batista sets this out in his article on How to get Unstuck back in April 2010. Referencing Jessica Hagy and Andrea Corny’s models I believe the simplest is the most effective: What? So What? Now What? and Do it! hits the mark.

Self directed Learning – at the heart of Course 5

Photo Credit: clappstar via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: clappstar via Compfight cc

It has been both exhilarating as it has been daunting working through Course 5. Self motivation is at the heart of self-directed learning and time seems to run away from one, especially in a busy place like a school. But we are adults and at the end of a course that has taught us well, modelling research and structure enough so that we cannot possibly flounder at the last hurdle. How can we learn from this experience and help our students to be more self directed, motivated, organised and committed right up until the final flag?

Perhaps planning the year around this model would work, beginning with teacher-led instruction and demonstrations, modelling good working practice. Then, as the year unfolds, the next unit has some aspects of self-directed learning with guidance and a little hand-holding leading up to the final term. Lisa Nalbone neatly demonstrates the process of self-directed learning in her diagram below. Starting with a question changed how I looked at learning in my classroom as well as within COETAIL and asking students to ask more questions to direct learning is a powerful way to start in any subject area of the curriculum.

Self-directed learning model by Lisa Nalbone

Self-directed learning model by Lisa Nalbone

How do I make learning more engaging?

Looking back at COETAIL, the aspect that influenced, inspired me and changed my thinking the most was Course 4. It lit a fire. I would like to try to integrate gamification, or at the least some aspect of motivational learning into the framework next year to urge and push students in their pursuit of growth.

As I am currently at the stage of reflection on the course and in the final term of the academic year, I figured that it would be good to test the waters and ask the students: what they wanted to learn, how they learn best, what helped them to learn and grow this year and how they might demonstrate this learning? A large proportion of my students say they learn best by “trial and error”, their words not mine. Many said they learn best by seeing and doing, experimenting and trying out and this has been at the heart of this Connected Classrooms project. I said at the start I did not know where it was going to go, and I still don’t. I am letting the students lead the way, make the choices of how to alter the course and to find new ways to do what they used to do. It takes me back to the beginning of my course and the visual:

Mark Prensky's "Shaping Tech in the classroom" visual note by Nicki HAmbleton

Mark Prensky’s “Shaping Tech in the classroom” visual note by Nicki Hambleton

But it also draws me closer the the fundamentals of SAMR and redefining learning. With the learning firmly in the hands of my students I am excited for what happens during the final weeks of the course yet even more for what happens after. I am pushing the learning right up to the last minute of COETAIL, desperate for it not to end and to squeeze as much out of it as I can. I am a long way from personalised learning but I am heading in the right direction, slowly. The next posts will track the choices they make, the collaborations they plan, the gamification of the learning and finally the results of their work.

Watch this space….

 “Education is not the filling of a pail, it is the lighting of a fire” W.B.Keats

What fires have you lit today?