This week’s course readings did not sock me. For once, I was not surprised or dismayed at what I was reading or viewing about the digital world. Many times I have heard stories about employers searching prospective employees online. However, what I did do is make a connection between these articles and my students’ blogging efforts.
Blogging is a great medium for digital learning and networking, but is also a social media platform. However, it is much different from the more closed and simplistic tools that teens use such as texting and SnapChat. What I discovered is that some students do not recognize that their blogs should not use the same writing style or simple content as a text or snap to a friend would. It is about writing in a creative and engaging way (like SnapChat can be), but more academic, just as they would for their ELA class persuasive essay or personal reflection. Check out my recent project post for more on this topic and my classroom blog post that I created to help guide my students over the coming week as they discover what blogging should look like from a teaching/ learning perspective.
Our students need to understand that they have to go beyond social media activity that is “clean” or not of a bullying nature, to really developing a profile of who they want to be seen as. Therefore, they must recognize how different digital tools are used for different purposes and impact their digital footprint in different ways. A goofy text or SnapChat with the current lingo that teens use is not going to be widely read, but their blogs might.
Blogs are a great way to develop a healthy digital footprint, which takes a long time to build. Blogs can provide enduring presence and are much more detailed than an old-fashioned resume, therefore as educators we have to make sure students learn how to blog. The article Blogging is the New Resume explains how blogging can become the resume that individuals will need in the future, but that this process takes time. Even if the paper resume is not quite dead, students need to be aware that their online presence much match the paper version employers are looking as noted in tip #10 of 12 resume tips by Jeff Weaver.
Our students need to be aware that what they blog can actually begin building a positive and enduring footprint could let to a job or entrance into a post-secondary institution down the road. Blogging is a key way to help build their online resume, but other social media profiles like Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube should also be considered in the same light. As Madden and Smith of PEW Research point out, reputation and social media are clearly linked. There are not longer closed doors to our lives so we must carefully self-monitor ourselves. This is a skill that we need to teach our students and practice ourselves. Although I have searched for my online presence before, this article motivated me to do it again and dig a bit deeper into the search to see if I could uncover not only more about me, but things that I would not want online. Self-monitoring is not just searching online, but considering how that information impacts our lives and how we can control what is posted by ourselves and others. So as my students continue to blog, I’m certainly thinking about how self-monitoring is another critical skill that they need to be taught and need to practice to curate the digital footprint AKA the new resume that they want to have.
I challenge you….Google yourself again- but this time with reputational management in mind- dig a bit deep in your search and then think about how you might change privacy settings, de-friend certain individuals, ask others to remove certain photos, actively create positive postings such as blogs, etc. It is you footprint so take control of it.
Why are rubrics so important? Can we teach and assess without them? Yes, you can teach
without them, but then can you provide valid, authentic learning and authentic assessment? Rubrics allow students to see exactly what is required of them providing all of the key parts needed to achieve various learning outcomes or objectives. Rubrics are in student friendly language and provide student with feedback on areas of strength and areas that need attention or could be improved. Rubrics also allow teachers to authentically assess students, which provides justification for assessments given. Rubrics can be completed by teachers, peers or the students themselves. When students assess themselves or peers, rubrics give them clear structure and criteria so they understand exactly what they have to assess. This process opens the door for peer to peer and student to teacher discussions about what is going well and what could be improved. Learning is a process, NOT an end result and rubrics can help to facilitate reflection. Students can also use blogs and other formats further reflect on rubrics scores that have been completed by themselves and others on their work.
There are many different online rubric creators that teachers can access. Initially I thought that I would create my own blogging rubric from scratch on one of these creators, but then I decided that I was almost as new to this process as my students and that there are many expert educators out there blogging with their students that I could learn from. I started to search for samples of rubrics that educators have created. I found many from very simple to quite complex. The blogging rubric that caught my attention and seems to be re-used and borrowed from by many is from the University of Wisconsin. The rubric is downloadable as PDF. However, I found Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s adaptation of this rubric to meet the needs of my middle years students by simplifying the format and wording:
Rosenthal Tolisano’s blog post series Stepping it Up- Learning About Blogs FOR your Students also provides valuable information for teachers that they need to understand about blogging. The topics covered are reading blogs to learn about blogging, writing blogs by teachers, student writing, commenting, connecting, reciprocating, and consistency.
Because there are six categories in this rubric, I have picked 2-3 categories every few days this past week to highlight with my students and have them focus on. For example, their blogs are developing nicely related to multimedia and community, so I shifted their focus to quality of writing and voice. By the end of this project they will be able to demonstrate their abilities in all categories, but focusing on all six at the beginning can be overwhelming. I also penciled in inviting responses and commenting to the community category because I felt it was a missing criteria. Eventually I suspect I will create a whole new rubric as I refine my student blogging projects, but for now this is a great rubric to use.
When reading through Rosenthal Tolisano’s blogs series I also started to think about how rubrics provide the criteria or outcomes that you want to see, but having tangible examples that fit the four attainment levels of the rubric would be helpful. As teachers we often collect samples of exemplary and not so exemplary student work to share with students. This makes sense, so why not do this with student blogs? Students can easily look at one another’s blogs in class and compare them to the rubric, but as beginners at this I found Edublogs provides many great samples of student work- nominees and winners in various categories. This aligns with Rosenthal Tolisano’s first series post that talks about the importance of reading blogs as the first step to becoming a better blogger.
Students need to see it before they can do it! This message connected over the past week with our course readings (check out Blogging is the New Resume) and what I am seeing some of my students do. We have talked about our digital footprint being the new medium for job applications and resumes, but some of my students do not recognize this yet. They understand in the sense that they keep their posts “clean”, but some are blogging like they would Snapchat or text. So my task is through modeling in my posting and sharing of sample student blogs that can be compared with the rubric we will build an understanding of how their blogs must help to build a footprint that they would want a future employer or post-secondary school to see. They must shift from the goofy, joking, short- speak of communicating with their friends to the more academic style expected when they write with a pen and paper that outsiders would want to read. That will be our focus over the next week.
The internet and the digital age- remixing, open educational resources, open access journals, and creative commons licensing. As I read and watched the videos for this week, I couldn’t help but think that the open education movement is the 21st Century’s version of the advancement of the printing press. We are at another technological crossroad that is just as controversial, yet exciting. Imagine, the Church as the keepers of knowledge with monks scribing manuscripts page by page. The printing press made writing accessible to the masses and took away the power of the Church to control what was written, how it was interpreted, and shared. The printing press made the written word available to all people
Today we talk about the digital age set in motion by the internet and the challenges of information kept by public institutions- government, universities, courts, scholars- being accessible to the public. Pubic records and scholarly debate and research is limited to individuals of the right credentials or for those that can afford to access them. There have always been criticisms of the government and private corporations controlling information allowing conspiracy theories to thrive. However, much of the information that individuals in the digital age seek is not of national security or to delve into the personal records of one another. It is about accessing and sharing public information that can help to inform society and build our collective creativity as ideas are expressed, challenged, and collaborated on in an open forum. It is about the masses having an opportunity to participate in a literature driven culture, like the printing press advanced, but in digital form.
Larry Lessig sums up this new literature culture as he has coined a read/write culture versus the past of read-only. Read-only, he describes as much more passive where we absorb content created for us. I draw parallels again to the days of monks writing manuscripts and the Church controlling what individuals could read. Lessig’s read/write culture is one of much greater engagement as we move beyond passively consuming to responding to the literature at our fingertips. We are able to share, challenge, build upon others’ work, and remix as we write ourselves. This is how we make meaning and allow creativity. By reading, writing, and re-writing, we are no longer passive consumers of information.
The digital age, like the printing press has brought information to the masses and created an economy of sharing. However, with a read/write culture there are challenges to the traditional way that information has been institutionally created and kept. Lessig argues that an economy of sharing is challenged by archaic copyright structure because it hinders creativity. The internet is designed to network and share, and traditional copyright laws do not align with this.
Creative Commons (Lessig is one of the Founders) is an alternative to traditional copyright laws that encourages sharing while allowing authors to create the level of copyright or openness that they wish to protect their work. Lessig argues that more free (more open) and less free (less open) copyright can work hand in hand to realize the economic competition- competition of creativity. Creative Commons allows anyone to become part of the read/write culture.
However, there are other challenges this new culture of learning faces as much of the scholarly thinking and research is still denied from the open platform. Danah Boyd offers solutions of how to put pressure on publishers and academic institutions to provide increased access including boycotting academic journals that are not open access. Amy Scuka notes that with a bit of searching there are open source educational materials that teachers may also access. Even some universities are now publishing their materials unfettered for anyone to interact with online.
Publically funded institutions and academic research journals are still largely limited to those that can afford to attend or pay for subscriptions. The social activist work of Aaron Swartz reminds us the challenges we still need to resolve as the digital world promotes open access to public information and using that information to network in ways that allows all individuals to contribute to improving our world through a read/write culture.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, is a compelling documentary that challenges our thinking about access to public information and how we might not be in a parallel situation to when the Church relinquished its control to the printing press. Copyright laws, government, corporations, and academic institutions are still dominate control over much public information. Swartz’ and Lessig advocacy for a remix culture and one of open sharing challenges us to reinvent the printing press of the digital age.
Well, this week’s goal was to get to publishing. The week started of a bit rocky and I was not sure if we would actually get to publishing. We ran into a few issues:
students not following directions to activate their WP accounts so they can publish
students inputting wrong spelling of their email addresses when they created their WP accounts so they were not actually receiving the activation emails
student school email not working (due to reimaging of laptops)
YouTube blocked due to bandwidth concerns- learning videos I was sharing to support their independent learning could not be accessed on student accounts nor could they find practice the skill of embedding a YouTube file
students not understanding the importance of spelling user names & domain correctly so their blogs could be linked to our class blog
Those are a few of the concerns we worked through. This project is teaching us all patience and understanding for precision in our technical skills. Spelling does matter after all:) Onward we go…
What I have discovered is that like with any project or topic, some students excel and others take longer to get up to speed. But, that is okay. By the end of the week most had mastered the basic skills needed to create a post and were busy blogging.
I shared with them on our class blog some sample blogs of other students and posted this simple infographic for them to use as a guide to improve their blog posts. This is a great visual way for them to be reminded of key things they need to do to improve their blog.
Many of these things will be included in the blog evaluation using a rubric because they are key to making a successful blog. I’ve also decided that I will create a checklist that they can check off basic things that they need to cover. i.e. did you put a header image on your blog, did you record your username & password, did you create a clear blog title & spell it correctly, did your categorize your post, etc..?
This infographic then led me to start thinking more about rubrics and checklists although I intended to create this after the first day. It is a bit backwards to not have a rubric designed yet, but I wanted to get my students rolling and start learning about digital education and blogging so that has been my focus. I have started to think about what I want in my rubric and have found many great examples. In my next post I will share what I’ve come up with and invite those of you that blog with students to give me feedback.
So despite the rough start, we are now blogging and having fun. Here is a picture of one of my classes (parent consent has been granted for photo of course).
And here are a few samples of their first blogs. Keep in mind this is my first crack at teaching this and their first try at blogging ever!
You can see there is a range in what they’ve accomplished so far. Their direction to this point was to learn how to operate WordPress, so the actual context might not make much sense and some have not put much effort into grammar or spelling. I did ask that they write about themselves and I gave them a few questions related to how they learn best, their thoughts about learning networks, and open education. However, you can tell that we have lots of work yet to do. Rubrics, checklists, looking at other students’ blogs, and the infographic will help us with our content, now that they have their heads around the technical literacy (so I hope:))
Some students have started to explore their classmates posts and make comments. Next week will be refining our posting skills (with a rubric to guide us) and will put more emphasis on following each others’ blogs & commenting. This will help us create a learning network that will eventually expand beyond our two classrooms.
We must ban, block and filter to protect kids from the evils of the internet and social media. Our daily activities and interactions are infiltrated by digital technology and we cannot stop it, therefore we have to block it out. Wrong! Although, there are reasons to ban, block and filter, we must also educate students and our own children about using the internet and social media constructively and provide them with the skills to respond to the negative pressures they will be exposed to. It is not good enough to outlaw the tools.
All of these articles paint a rather bleak picture of social media and using the internet, but what is clear in all of them is that technology pervades our lives so we must figure out how to ensure our children make smart choices as they engage with social media. For example, the Ontario health education curriculum seeks to teach students how to cope when they access things such as pornography because it is recognized that no amount of filtering will prevent all content from being seen and that youth will inadvertently come in contact with such materials at some point depending on the security of their computer or phone. Parents and teachers cannot oversee every moment a kid is connected, therefore teaching them how to react is more proactive.
Joel Westheimer talks about the positive uses for social media and technology noting that banning one specific app or technology that seems to be at the head of the current problem is futile:
“We all know this is a game of whack-a-mole. Does it make sense to block one app? I mean, there will be 10 more where they were.”
Westheimer notes that schools must teach students how to interact with one another in healthy ways while Dan Misener, technology columnist for the CBC advocates for parents to also engage with their kids in healthy ways by trying out the technology themselves and using that as a way to open conversations about how to use the technology in a healthy way. Dawson’s article interviews Nancy Jo Sales who offers some sage advice for parents:
“I never lost my sense of what it is to be a teenager, I’m not sure why,” Sales says. “Some of these things are painful. One thing that’s important to do as a parent is remember what it felt like and tap into that. They’re just coming of age, they’re experiencing these things for the first time. There needs to be a great deal of compassion when you try to put yourselves in their shoes. I try and think, ‘She’s telling me this story, and how would I feel if this were happening to me?’ So instead of coming at it from a point of judgment or alarm [as a parent], I try to get rid of the fear of what you’re hearing and just listen.”
Sale’s argues that kids are less able to make eye contact and communicate effectively face to face because of the amount of time spent plugged in. Therefore, it is easier to do nasty things to one another when the face to face element is removed. Further, Carey notes the easy of being able to create fake or pseudonym accounts to post from to attack others or self-trolling. This makes it difficult for parents and teachers to hold those responsible accountable or to get help to those that are self-harming.
Teenagers do not necessarily like all of the negative things that happen to them and their friends, but they are compelled into using social media as it has become a key part of how society interacts and much more a part of teen culture. Sales noted of a girl she interviewed:
“I spoke to girls who said, ‘social media is destroying our lives,’ ” Sales says. “ ‘But we can’t go off it, because then we’d have no life.’ There’s this whole perception that [teenage girls] love social media, but in many ways they hate it. But they don’t stop, because that’s where teen culture is happening.”
We cannot prevent teen culture no more than we can effectively ban social media, which have become inextricably linked together. Therefore, as parents and teachers, we have to learn how to use social media in a healthy way and model that behaviour for children and teenagers, while also having open conversations with them and providing them with tools to address the negative aspects that come with the interactions of a digital world. Banning, blocking and filtering is only a temporary solution, while building healthy relationships and teaching kids how to interact face to face and with social media will prepare them for when something sneaks by the filter or the next new technology challenges us. Kids will be plugged in, so parents and teachers must also.
My learning project with my PAA classes is coming together, but slowly. If you recall, my last post indicated their lack of exposure to blogging and digital learning so we have spent a great deal of time working through the technical literacy part from email passwords to blog features. Also, PAA courses have limited instructional time, so that also means we are unable to work daily on this project.
Gaining ideas from other teachers that blog, I have found it useful to use the class blog to post directions on. This allows students to follow with ease in class, but also gives them no excuse if they want to work at home or have missed a class. I also found it very helpful this past week when I had a substitute in my class as she was able to follow along very easily with what we were doing and share with the students “next steps” to keep the class going. My sub plan did not need to include the specifics student directions.
Students have created individual blogs and played around with many of the basic features of WordPress including hyperlinks, inserting media, quotations, fonts, and polls with plugin from Polldaddy. We have also discussed how writing can be less formal using a combination of bullets, headers and paragraphs and should be visually appealing to draw the reader in with visuals and key words that stand out. Readers must be drawn to key pieces in the post to get them to read the whole thing. Sue Anne Dunlevie has 16 great tipsto keep in mind as you start to write. She says:
Even if the headline appeals to them, with no other clues about the content, people will be reluctant to start reading. By helping people scan your blog posts with a good layout and telling them more about what information they’ll find in it you can entice them to read the post in full.
To work through the technical pieces I created Stinky Monkeys, just another blog domain to play around with so if you check it out, it looks like nothing much as it is a place to play with the set up of a blog. This avoids messing up our class blog as we play around with WordPress tools. One key frustration we found is the consistency in how the editing menu is set-up if individuals are using various themes. After some headache, I decided to have all students change their theme to pen scratch. This was very helpful because it ensured that when we are in the admin mode that the options in the left menu would be organized in the same format. After the students know how to navigate on their own, they can change their themes to whatever they want. This simple video is helpful for students to review if they forget the basics although it does not cover hyperlinks. But, they know they can always search for a video to find help on a specific WordPress topic or ask their learning partner for assistance.
I hope by the end of this week I will be able to share some samples of student’s first blog posts as they explore blogging. We have all of their blogs linked to the class blog and I will be able to use the comment function to give them feedback. Students will also be able to network as they click on the links to one another’s blogs and see what their peers are doing. This week will be fun as we now get to creating and publishing!
Teenagers are so tech savvy right? Wrong! They know lots about certain things and little about others. That has been my experience and frustrations over the past week as I work on my learning project with two grade eight classes. Unfortunately the exposure my grade eight students have had to networked learning and some of the key tools like blogs and YouTube have been minimal. The have a good understanding of what a positive digital footprint is and how to sift reasonably well through information on the internet, but beyond that their technological literacy and social media literacy is low. Yes, they are very savvy at Snapchat, Instagram, and texting with various messaging apps, but they do not even know how to use email and their typing skills are lacking.
Okay, what is the problem? They’re good at the things they see relevance in because they engage with that technology on a daily basis. My students know what email is, but they never use it as communication tool like the adult/ business world does so my abilities in emailing is above theirs. Made me feel somewhat smart with technology! Technological literacy is the nuts and bolts of knowing how to use the technology, but also how to use it effectively to communicate and learn with and from others. I knew that we would have to spend some time with the nuts and bolts or more technical aspects, but what I discovered over the past week is that we had to slow this process down. Before we can get to building a learning network and get into the content of the course, we have to know how to use the tools at our fingertips. My goal is that as we work through this project, my students will see how fun using these tools can be as well as the relevance to their learning. I hope this then hooks them into using networked learning and digital media tools beyond my class.
This past week we spent considerable time learning about the importance of developing a user-friendly personal learning environment (PLE) and we created WordPress accounts. All of my students have created a PLE using Symbaloo as their organizer. Here they have started to set up all of the bookmarks or widgets that organize and give them quick access to the tools that we will use such as various search tools, databases, and social media tools. They have also personalized this space with their own themes and added bookmarks to appeal to their own interests. Key tools we added to their PLE`s included our class blog, their own blog, Wikipedia, and YouTube.
Some of the CHALLENGES & LEARNINGS that we worked through as we developed our PLE`s and blogs:
students’ abilities with digital technology vary based on what and how much they use it outside of school
no one was familiar with blogging or a PLE
setting up a PLE was quite easy for most- except those that did not know their email address because they never use it
remembering which email address, your password & Symbaloo password is important
email is a secure way to validate user accounts (Symbaloo, WordPress, etc.)
student email now serves a purpose- to activate accounts, reset accounts if they forget usernames or passwords. Email as a communication/ networking tool will become even more relevant as they use it to view comments & pingbacks to their blogs. We have yet to set this up
Choosing domain names for WordPress was a lot of fun and so was remembering what the difference is between domain name, username and password!!!
Those that used the same thing for their domain and username made things easier for themselves
Learning partners are awesome-they support each other with the technical glitches that arise (i.e. resetting passwords via email links) or with steps one of them forgot during my lessons on using Symbaloo or WordPress
going STEP by STEP through the basics of using WordPress is critical- then those that catch on faster can help support those that are stuck
online identities for students can be a bit tricky depending on their age and the comfort level of their parents- however educating both on how to be safe has alleviated almost all concerns with students using digital media and online networking to learn
spelling counts- you mean my URL or that link won’t work if I make one little mistake (no sarcasm, this really was a learning experience for some)
Before we created WordPress accounts and started to learned about the technical parts of setting up a blog, we looked at various samples of classroom and individual student blogs. Edublogs Teacher Challenges is an excellent resource for teachers to learn about personal blogging, blogging with students, and building PLN’s. These student blog challenge walks teachers through 11 key steps to setting up student blogs in a breeze. Also helpful is the videos and sample blogs that you can share with your students before you begin. I shared some of these along with Carla’s classroom blog Cooper Science as a great example of a classroom blog that links all student’s individual blogs to it and provides clear directions via blog posts. This video from the 11th step was helpful for my students before beginning:
My hope is that by the end of the next week, we will have mastered the basics of WordPress and that all students will have personalized their blog, created a bit of an online identity that is positive, and create a blog post or two. I have found it very helpful to project the steps I go through on the classroom screen, but also post these steps or directions for our learning project on our classroom blog. Check it out if you’re interested in how we got started.
I also have the objectives and steps for the learning project in more detail on a Google doc that is bookmarked in my Symbaloo and updated as we go. This doc will be helpful in applying a learning project in another classroom setting, while the individual blog posts I put on the class blog are specific to this project. Our classroom blog links all of the students’ individual blogs so I can follow their work and provide feedback as well as students being able to network and learn from one another.
Goal for next week: finish the technical set-up and practicing on WordPress and have students create their first post.