Alright students, now remix!

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By Ansonlobo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
This week, we looked at open education and the culture of sharing. I have always thought of myself as a teacher that would share my content and will eagerly share the resources that I use and create with others that are looking for ideas, support, or a place to start. I will even admit when what I have is awful but at least a starting point for content (cue that one year I taught Science 5 for 2 months at the beginning of my career…I do not recommend ANYONE using what I created then!).

I have played with putting my course material online, I made a few flipped lessons last year, and I believe in using the internet to help support our students in their learning but, I realized as I was watching the videos assigned to us this week that I was more-so paying lip service to the idea of sharing openly than actually actively working toward contributing to open education. I felt a little bit guilty of feeling like I was contributing when I was still very much secluded in my own little world.

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By Creative commons (the original CC license symbols), the combined work by Shaddim and is hereby cc-by-4.0 licensed. [Public domain or CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Larry Lessig and his work on copyright and copyleft is something that I was aware of as I have previously taken a course from Alec, however, I was very intrigued by his idea that the internet is reviving creativity and the read-write culture. I resonated with his reference to how children and adolescents today are engaging in (re)creativity and how he is pushing for a change in how products are default licensed. To put this in a personal context, I would be a full supporter of copyleft, I encourage those I share my resources with to rework and adapt to their situation or to use “as-is”, whatever they choose. I encourage them to share with the next person down the line as well.

Oh, the possibilities that Ze Frank discussed in his TED talk, My Web Playroom! I think that when I decided to blog with my Social 9 class for my Learning Project, I was envisioning a final outcome that resembled some of the projects that he discusses but, after a few classes, I am not sure we will quite get there. (Maybe if I work with them on this until they graduate, we could make something really unique). The simple requests that he makes to the internet remind of the Post Secret project that was created by Frank Warren (maybe it has something to do with a common name…). Warren encouraged strangers to send him anonymous postcards and posts them on his website. He has published several books of secrets I have always been intrigued by Post Secret and see it fitting into Lessig’s definition of (re)creativity. The community around the project is very supportive (for the most part, darn trolls) and work together to decipher secrets that are submitted in other languages or in codes. I get the feeling of being a part of something bigger when I look at this project, connected to others around the world.

RIP: A Remixer’s Manifesto was a great watch, with some great music. In it, Brett Gaylor challenges the current definition and laws around copyright, gives a history of the intent of copyright and patents (which I was surprised to find out was created to encourage more production of ideas, not to monetize ideas), and there is even a hint that there the cure for many diseases may be just around the corner, but due to a patent, researchers’ hands are tied. He demonstrated that many songs by big musicians are already a remix of something they have heard elsewhere and that the songs his favourite artist, Girl Talk, creates are individual in their own rights.

So how does remixing play into our everyday lives as teachers? I think that Roberta summed it up in the most accurate manner: we ask our students to remix every day and we call it learning. Reading this caused me to pause and think about all of the assignments I give my students, and I couldn’t agree more. Teachers share information with students and, to ensure that their students comprehend, ask them to repeat, retell, and apply the knowledge to other situations. In fact, when looking at Bloom’s Taxonomy, the entire section labelled Synthesis could be renamed “Remix”.

This has left me with a lot to think about, much like Sapna, I like that online and open education supports learning as it tends to be accessible, affordable and flexible. I want to contribute but I need to stop just saying I am contributing and actually do something to help. Maybe that will be my next project….

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I’m sorry, you don’t have access to this webpage….

This week I was able to get my students signed onto their blogs for the first time. After spending a fair amount of time setting up an account and blog address for each student last week, I was excited to get them online and choosing a theme and title for their blog. I handed out my Getting Started with Blogging worksheet, everyone logged into their computers, reached the Edublogs website, were given their usernames and passwords, and only about 2/3 of them were able to log in.

“Mrs. Taylor….I don’t see that…I get this message…it tells me I don’t have permission to access the page…I don’t have permission to edit this page…”

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via GIPHY

Ugh. I went into my “teacher side” of Edublogs and tried to see what was different for those students than the others that were able to log on, I couldn’t figure it out. I started to get stressed, this is why teachers are afraid to do things online in class: what happens if it doesn’t work? Then what? After fiddling with the system for a few minutes (and luckily the rest of my class were busy picking a theme, a very important task) I gave up and decided to email the Edublogs support team for help.

“Okay, I sent an email for help from the company, hopefully, we will be able to get you online tomorrow or later this week, I just can’t seem to figure this out. If you can’t log in, please find someone who could and follow along so that you can see how the blog works. “

I am a big fan of letting students know that teachers are not perfect and that sometimes we struggle with content or in completing things just as they do. I find that it helps students relate to the teacher and know that it is okay to not be successful the first time, that is how we learn. I am a big fan of teaching and being aware of mindset in the classroom.

Now, I have emailed support for various things on various websites in the past. It is not always the most useful approach and I had the intent of calling after class to see if I could talk to someone who might “fix” my issue a little more immediately. I was happily surprised that Edublogs emailed me back in four minutes. FOUR MINUTES. That has to be an all-time record for me!

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Screenshot of email

As you can see, I had tried to delete and re-add the student accounts. That was not successful. I couldn’t believe how fast I received a response. I quickly sent back the usernames and, even though it was the end of class and 1/3 of my students hadn’t been able to log on, I felt it had been a definite win.

Later that day, I received the following email from Sue Waters:

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Screenshot of email

I was thrilled. Not only was I able to receive support, it took less than 12 hours to have my issue fixed for me along with the tools to fix it myself if it happened again. I must say, I am happy I chose Edublogs as my platform with this service!

My next class with my Grade 9’s, we were able to all log on (yay!!!), change our blog titles, add category and tag cloud widgets, and make our first post. I modeled the post on my SMARTBoard and all students wrote the same thing but they were excited to get out there and make a post. We even embedded a link to the Saskatchewan Grade 9 Social Studies curriculum page and my students thought it was amazing. (“You can do that? Wow! This is awesome!) This week, I hope to have them finish up the jigsaw activity they have been working on and post their student-made summaries on their blogs.

I also put out a challenge for my students. Each month we complete a current event. I find several new stories and have them answer some questions on the story as a way of interacting with the current headlines and world issues. I have challenged them to complete their Current Event on their blog this month. A few students looked excited so I hope to see some online events!

If you have a moment, check out their blogs, maybe welcome some of my students to the blogging world on their posts or mine, not only will it likely blow their minds someone outside of our classroom commented but I would very much appreciate it!

Mrs. Taylor’s Classroom (Student blogs are down the right sidebar.)

Social Activism Online: Leading the Charge or Contributing to Nothing?

It seems that there is a new hashtag campaign every day, advocating for this, boycotting that, bringing awareness to some new cause. Some of these campaigns are more successful than others, protests which once took extensive planning can occur in a short span of time and simultaneously around the world (such as the Women’s March or Climate March that occurred earlier this year), images of companies, groups, or individuals can be destroyed or lifted up (such as #boycottUnited, or NASA’s #ayearinspace). But how does one hashtag outlive others, and why are some successful while others never achieve a viral status?

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via GIPHY

Although there is a history of failed social activism, we are seeing increasing more successful campaigns and social media is becoming the platform of choice for activists to share their story.

 

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Photo Credit: MTSOfan Flickr via Compfight cc

Sabina Khan-Ibarra makes several points in her article The Case for Social and Hashtag Activism as to why activists are choosing social media. She acknowledges that social media allows us to reach more people, more quickly in order to share our message, that conversations can happen worldwide instead of in a localized area, that those who are not able to leave the home are able to access the cause, and that social media creates an engaged and interactive audience. Her strongest point, is that social media gives the average person the ability to call out injustices, inaccuracies, and misrepresentations and be heard by a large audience. Although there are many that will just “retweet”, “share”, or “like” a post, these slacktivists are still useful as they are serving as a means to continue to share the message to those who will take action and therefore, we are not losing out on the purpose because those sitting on their couch do nothing but click a button.

In fact, it is the average person’s pleas that are often form the most successful campaigns. Jonathan Moyer’s article describes how campaigns such as #BlackLivesMatter tap into feelings that are already present and prevalent in our society and this is why they are sustainable. When we are looking at issues that touch the general public, we are more likely to go out and say something, to act on our thoughts that would typically only solicit a retweet or a share. When we use social media to try to demean or punish brands for their actions (such as United Airlines) it doesn’t “hit home” in the same way as systemic prejudice.

“[…]people are now faced with real, personal, unavoidable issues that drive them into public spaces to attempt to break down oppressive structures.”

-Jonathan Moyer, Political Activism on Social Media has Grown Some Teeth

Campaigns such as #BlackLivesMatter, #WomensMarch, and #ClimateMarch demonstrate that there is meaning and worth in social activism, the trick is finding the appropriate means and motivation. Caroline Dadas looks at the trend of hashtag activism and proposes considerations and warnings for those who wish to engage online.

“I argue that those engaging in hashtag activism need an understanding of the political and historical context of the issue(s) they are describing; an awareness of how rhetorical velocity and remix might affect their tweets; and a willingness to include links to reputable news stories in their tweets, in addition to other factors.”

-Dadas, Hashtag Activism: The Promise of Risk and Attention (p. 18)

Dadas pushes the need to ensure that activists consider the brevity of hashtags that they will be using to invoke change as well as the ways in which the hashtag and the images used to support their cause can be skewed, such as how #yesallwomen saw a counter #notallmen campaign.

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via Rikki’s Refuge on Flickr

So is it possible to have productive conversations about social justice online? Yes. Following the suggestions of Dadas, the conversation needs to use simple hashtags, and be cognizant of the various political, historical, and social contexts of the topic to ensure that the cause is interpreted in the correct manner. There will be naysayers,  just as there are in any social justice conversation, and these need to be addressed in an assertive but conversational manner and backed with research.

Using social media will likely be the activism of the future and I agree with Katia Hildebrandt that:

If we are online, as educators, and we remain silent about issues of social justice, if we tweet only about educational resources and not about the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in Canada, or about the burning of Black churches in the southern United States, we are sending a clear message: These issues are not important.” 

-Katia Hildebrandt, In online spaces, silence speaks as loudly as words

Our students need us to model how to engage online, to be digital citizens, and to speak for what we believe in. We need to model and teach how to engage in social justice issues to ensure that, when our students are in our shoes, they are equipped to engage in our ever increasingly online world to enact change and share their passions. Otherwise, we are leaving our students ill-equipped to succeed and grow in their future.

Do you agree that teachers need to be engaged in social activism? Is it their responsibility to help our students develop the digital skills they need to enact social change? Do you think the potential risks that educators may encounter when engaging in social justice online are “worth it”? I would love to hear your opinions!

Setting the Stage

This week, I have been up to a few things for my digital learning project. I started with creating a few documents to help organize my students for their upcoming units, have been working on a “Getting Started with Blogging” cheat sheet (I will post this once I have it fully tweaked the way I would like it), and have made my first post on the classroom blog.

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Screen shot of my classroom blog

I have decided that I will model how to use a blog with my students for a unit before letting them go free and have them put basic, fairly common posts initially so that they can become comfortable with the platform. I am also waiting on permission forms to come in so I cannot get rolling too fast with having them posting away until I receive a form from each student.

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Screenshot of Edublogs form to add student blogs

Today, I sat down and created blogs for each of the students in my class. It was a little of a tedious task as I had to create a username and blog URL for each student. Thankfully Edublogs has a great support page on Choosing Student Usernames, Blog URLs and Blog Titles and, with a little planning and thought on how to maintain the privacy of my students but have unique usernames, I was off! For now, if you are looking at my page, you will see their usernames/URLs on the right side bar of the post but, as we log in this upcoming week and name our blogs, this should change to be [Student name]’s Blog or Learning, that I have not quite decided upon yet. What do you think? Should this be uniform or should I allow the students to choose?

We started a jigsaw activity last week on cultural aspects of various First Nations’ groups based on their geography and students are to create a handout on their region in our next class. Once these are complete, they will be posted on the classroom blog, I can’t wait to see how they do, they were already excited and talking about how their product will look!

I would love to hear your thoughts on the theme I chose, the layout, or anything else!

Digital Identity and Schools

We were asked this week to talk about one of a few different things and of the list, I chose Digital Identity. I chose digital identity because I feel like it relates to my learning project as it will be a topic that I discuss with my students while we are blogging and considering when we are presenting ourselves online.

Maintaining your digital identity is a complex task. This has a lot to do with the ability to take things from the internet and claim them as your own along with the fact that once it is online, there is no way to take it back and it will always be documented on the internet.

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Photo Credit: Oliver Dunkley Flickr via Compfight cc

When I look at my digital identity, some of the things that I do to manage it is to do regular checks of my security settings on my various social media accounts as well as mediate and go on what I call an “unfriending spree”. I go through those who have the most open access to my accounts every 2-3 months and consider if they still need to be my friend or connection on my social media account and often unfriend quite a few people every time I do this. I have also become more selective on who I will be connected to.

Not only do I limit and restrict who has access to me on certain accounts, I also censor what I share, like, and comment on. I recognize that every time I engage with certain content online, others online are able to see what I have engaged with. When I go to share a video, like a photo, or comment on someone’s status, I always take a moment to consider how this will affect me as a teacher if someone sees it, can it be “used against me” in some way? That teacher hat never comes off and therefore I need to ensure that I am always acting “on duty”. I also have to consider my division’s procedure for Use of Social Media.

When talking with students, or when I see students interacting on various forms of social media, I try to share the risks of sharing online. My division has a policy on what students are allowed to share and I have dealt with some issues of inappropriate use of social media as an acting administrator in my building but I feel that more needs to be done in order to help students understand the effects of them sharing personal information online. This is part of the reason why I have chosen my major project to involve interacting online through blogs. The blogs will allow me to bring digital citizenship and some of the laws and regulations of sharing images, photos, and the work of others into the classroom in a real and applicable manner where they may demonstrate more “buy-in” to the ideas of being a citizen of the digital world and not just someone who uses it.

Do you have personal rules or procedures you use to ensure the security and appropriateness of your social media accounts? Do you add your students (current or past)? Does your division have a policy around social media that you are required or recommended to follow?

Blogging about Blogs

So I have been spending some time plotting the implementation of my major project. I started by looking at my goals and then seeing what tools I have available through the software on my school computers. We have access to laptops, desktops, and iPads and, in looking at the programs installed, I have access to various web browsers and Zoom to help my students contact experts. I have also found an expert. I still need to organize and arrange but, at a meeting I attended as Career Counsellor, an anthropology professor stated he would love to talk to high school students. I want to figure out more of a timeline before I contact him about “Zoom”-ing into our class but I hope to arrange a conversation.

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via Zoom

I have also started to set up blog accounts. I decided to go with Edublogs as it is based on WordPress but allows me to approve all comments, at least until my students get the hang of things. I have also sent home a parent information letter explaining how I will be using blogs in the classroom. I can’t wait until I can start setting up the blogs!

 

Social Media + Teaching = ????

When looking at social media, I took a moment to reflect on my first experiences with various networks. I had a MySpace account, I don’t think that anything that I had posted on it “about me” was true. I was still nervous about putting myself out there on the internet, where anybody could find me. I have had accounts with many other different sites, some that have come and gone, some that probably still exist somewhere but are rarely used.

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I created my Facebook account in 2007 and, at that time, was one of the very first people in my school to get one. I know this from the confused looks I received from my peers when I asked them about Facebook. A childhood friend of mine had told me I should join the network, that it was the next big thing, and so I did. Facebook was 100% me and I definitely overshared (sometimes I hate seeing the “On This Day” posts….cue a major face palm!). Over time, I have limited some of what I share, I no longer update my status multiple times a day, I try to only share the important things, and I filter what I share and like based upon those that I am connected with on the site….more on this later.

I joined Twitter my first year of university in Alec’s ECMP 355 course. It was so different for me to experience and it took me a LONG time to decide that I like the platform (as in, I only really started enjoying using it during the Winter 2017 term for ECI 834)). It was too random for me to fully embrace the way it shared information.

When thinking about teaching in the digital age, I have to admit that I do not really know any other way. In internship I created a Wikispace with all of my assignments. Shortly after starting in my first (and current) position I created a classroom Facebook page and encouraged students and parents to connect. For me, many of the forms of social media have always been there. The major change that I have seen in my teaching career is the shift towards a focus of including these digital tools and various forms of social media into the classroom in a meaningful way.

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via Max Pixel

Even though I may be considered a digital native in teaching, it does not mean that I do not have concerns over social media in schools. I worry about cyberbullying, about inappropriate content, and about not knowing how or when to interact with others online. I also worry about some of the things that I am guilty of: oversharing and sharing information that may not be safe to share (age, address, full name, etc.). I have many fears about having students online but none of them overshadow my strong belief that students today need to learn and understand how to use the internet and various forms of social media to access the knowledge they seek and, as Pavan Arora states, students need to learn how to apply the vast amount of knowledge that they can access.

I really resonated with Michael Wesch‘s comment that we need to be focusing more on what types of questions our students are asking as opposed to what and how are we teaching content. I think that this is a critical aspect of teaching in the digital age and have had many students ask me over my career “why am I learning this if I can just Google it?” or “why can’t I just use the app?” and each time I have stepped back and had to look at how I am teaching and how it can be more meaningful for my students. Sometimes, it comes down to a simple, yet unfortunate, “because that is what the curriculum asks you to do to earn the credit”, but often these questions cause me to come up with a new way of covering a topic, it pushes me to encourage students to come up with the content themselves through inquiry, a tactic that I enjoy using in my math class. By allowing my students to create the knowledge for themselves, they gain an ownership of their learning which helps them buy in to the other concepts that may not lend themselves to this as easily.

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via Pixabay

By using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms, we are helping our students learn to connect and interact with others from around the world in a professional manner. There is a definite need for ensuring that our students have a deep understanding of digital citizenship before embarking on this experience but, without allowing them to experience the open internet, I would argue that there is no way to be sure they understand what it means to be a digital citizen. When looking at integrating various types of technology, including social media, into our classrooms, Shelby mentions that we need to ensure that we are integrating the technology for authentic reasons as students can easily recognize when we are implementing something for the sake of implementing it. John Seely Brown and Richard Adler state that Web 2.0 is about connections, not just about information. I feel that this is the niche that social media can play in our classrooms. Brown and Adler also touch on research that demonstrates that a social aspect of education is essential and that students that meet in study groups tend to see greater success in their courses, something that is echoed in Jacque‘s mention of a student who regularly attends study groups. To push this to the limit, there is the case of a group of students taking notes simultaneously on a Google Doc and the interesting questions it raises about the importance of the course if these notes could be accessed without attending or could be forwarded to the next cohort of students.

Where do you fall on the scale of digital native to digital immigrant? Do you have a variety of different social media accounts? Which ones, if any, would you feel comfortable integrating into your classroom with either your personal or a professional account?