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Monday, December 30, 2013

My Educational New Year's Resolutions

Recently I found "The 4 C's of Technology Integration" when browsing twitter one day (not sure what I found it). To me it was such a precise way to explain the different ways we can integrate technology in the classroom; it succinctly explains what I find myself rambling about often.

A few weeks ago the technology department placed a sign with this message in the workrooms at school. The thought was it might help someone see another opportunity for technology integration in their classroom:

How are you using technology in the classroom today?

  • Creation
  • Consumption
  • Curation
  • Connection

In the midst of thinking about the new year and the things I wanted to accomplish, I decided I would also set some New Year's Resolutions for myself regarding these 4 awesome C words. So here are the challenges I am placing before myself regarding technology integration:
CREATION: I want my students to learn a variety of different ways to share what they have learned. This school year we've used Haiku Deck, Google documents, Tellagami, Word Collage, Toontastic, Popplet, and Morfo (among others). I've tried to give my students varied opportunities to learn different apps for creation purposes. This semester I hope to have the opportunity for students to use the Show Me app, to use some video creation (I need to research this idea more), and have the upper elementary grades learn how to use a PDF annotator.
CONSUMPTION: I feel like we've done this well this first semester. While we are not using any e-textbooks at this point, we use the Internet and various apps for our students to do research on a variety of topics. For some grades, this might mean researching websites I've already found for them, for other grades it means learning how to look for quality information using a web search. My goal for this next semester is to really teach these kids how to protect themselves from things they don't want to see when researching. I want to teach them how to find great resources by using good key words and knowing how to know if a site is legitimate or not. I want to research more child friendly web browser options as well.
CURATION: This is the area I hope for the most growth in myself as an educator. Content curation in my eyes is having students seek out a topic, they use their senses and current knowledge to sift through the information to keep the parts that seem most relevant and important to their learning. Curation allows the students to make their learning relevant to themselves. This semester, we sought to help our second graders study Native American tribes, we then broke the students into groups researching certain tribes and then each member of the group researched a certain topic (i.e.- food, clothing, shelter, etc.) This allowed students to learn how to sift through all the research about Native Americans and focus their results. I would love to do this in a way students could actually choose what direction they want to go as they start studying a subject area. I see this as a hard skill to teach and will continue to research more on this subject.
CONNECTION: In the elementary school this last semester students have sent emails to their teachers, shared documents on Google Drive with their teachers and fellow students, they have collaborated on a document at the same time, and the third graders actually FaceTimed with a missionary in Germany to learn more about geography. I find myself holding back in this area due to the fact that I deal with elementary students but I do want them to see how the use of technology can connect them to greater learning opportunities through collaboration.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Angst of the Anonymity of Ask.fm

I sit at my computer struggling as a mom and an educator. My heart fears the social networking site known as Ask.fm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ask.fm). The Latvia-based website is set up for people to ask others questions about themselves. There is an option to sign in and your name shows up on your questions OR you can do it anonymously. Oddly, I see a large portion of 13-15 year olds answering questions asked and posting pictures of themselves that seem to take social media to the next level of inappropriate familiarity.

Perhaps these kids can not see that this site would be a sexual predators playground. How simple it is to stalk a kid by asking an anonymous question. The following article gives some great insight into the perils of this website: http://www.chicagonow.com/tween-us/2013/10/facts-about-ask-fm-parents/

Here is what I am seeing that I am not use to seeing regarding these kids I know...a very easy digression when asking and answering questions- bad language, inappropriate questions, etc. whether teens are asking anonymously or not. Definitely anonymous questions are more prone to be inappropriate and open for the world to see...the entire world...including the guy on the sexual predator list that lives 2.7 miles away from your child. For the most part I see kids signing in and asking questions of their friends but I also see the anonymous questions that have a sexual bent to them show up fairly often.

While it is fairly simple to delete an Ask.fm account, it is also VERY simple to reactivate the account as well. That becomes a huge temptation for the kid that thinks they are being treated unfairly by having to delete their account. This site feeds our inner need to want others to want to know more about us. It gives the shy kid a way to ask a question they would never be brave enough to ask. It gives the girl a way to flirt. It gives the boy a way to say both explicitly or innocently what he sees in a girl. Teens very innocently start talking as if only their friends are seeing these accounts but I have NO DOUBT unknowns are always lurking.

The ease of bullying, as shown in the article above, worries me as well. Kids that don't normally "join in" can do so anonymously. This website opens the door for easy judging without accountability of any sort. It appears that the owners of the website have no desire to enforce any accountability either. To me, this is the epitome of the scary side of the Internet for kids that appears to be perfectly innocent to them. Just one of the reasons we have to teach our students and our own children about digital citizenship issues. We need to strive to be aware of the latest websites our kids are using; this isn't always an easy task because they do not want us to know, but it is an important part of keeping our children safe. So many educators and parents choose to just "not be a part" but I think if we all choose that avenue we don't show kids appropriate usage nor do we serve as quiet accountability. Our kids need to know parents and educators are on these sites.