Sunday, February 13, 2011

#otf21c - Pushing the Lines in the Cybersand.

The OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century conference this weekend in Toronto was a resounding success.The goal of the conference was "to inform teachers on current ICT using an inquiry-based approach", and to provide digital fluency and resources and sound entry points for practice. It delivered.

Garfield Gini-Newman kicked it off with his thoughts on deep thinking as he questioned the authentic use of technology and the internet to foster inquiry and rigor, while at the same pushing his learning with presentation tools and an intense interest in how teachers are using the tools in their classrooms.

I've had the pleasure of speaking with Garfield over several years and our conversations always start with motivations of the teachers who give up their valuable time to come to these conferences. Words like risk-takers, and innovators, and creativity are always part of those conversations.

Day 2 brought Will Richardson who challenged our comfort levels about our online digital footprint, and the risks inherent. His opening remarks "I want my kids to learn from strangers" are intentionally provocative, especially for educators who are entrusted with the safety of our students. His words fly in the face of much of what we are told about cyber-safety. Yet research is supporting that the biggest threat to our students is cyberbullying, and therefore shouldn't we as teachers be stepping into their world, modelling appropriate behaviour and helping them establish boundaries?

During Will's sharing, he visited Steven Downes' and George Siemens' open online course on Connectivism through Eluminate. Intending to show the power of Twitter, Will linked in through a tweet that George had posted. As I had used Eluminate before I have to admit I wasn't paying utmost attention. But Will had me at #cck11 !  That is MY course and I was late for MY webinar. Madly clicking on my email link, I realized it wasn't working. So off to Twitter I went to get that link that Will had used. Digital problem-solving 101.

Day 3. Minds on Media. Now it was our turn. Featuring many Ontario educators with proven understandings of how to harness the power of technology to create opportunities for inquiry, and comfortable with the vast harvest of links and research that social media offers, we rolled up our sleeves and spent the day demonstrating, discussing, listening and facilitating. The discussion we had around my table did not focus on the technology. Bitstripsforschools , or as I now call it,  the Little Tool that Could, is user-friendly and a great entry level for rich curriculum exploration. As we wound down from 3 intense, mind-bending days, Lisa Bruce @lbruce2005 dug deep, left it all on the cyber-highway and expressed herself thusly.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Cloud Generation - Is Your Cybersense Tingling?

I came across this discussion on advertising in a Science News article - Study on Effects of TV Ad Violence on Kids Has Super Bowl Implications

It discussed those famous Super Bowl ads and how their advertising messages are received by today’s youth. Many ads push emotional and judgment limits to capture audience; by definition advertising means “the activity of attracting public attention to a product or business, as by paid announcements in the print, broadcast, or electronic media.” In Latin to advertise means to turn towards, direct one's attention to, attract.

This is not anything new. From the admen (yes, predominantly men) of the 60’s, back through time to snake oil and magic potion sellers, entrepreneurs have needed one thing to succeed, consumers. However, people like Marshall McLuhan had a prescient understanding of the media and its influences, and public awareness of campaigns against subliminal messaging still go on. We need these people on watch, and never more so than for The Cloud Generation. Our children are bombarded with messages in the Cyberworld, and they need help decoding and interpreting their impacts. In essence, we need to ask them - Is your Cybersense Tingling??

The Science News article suggests that what is needed is active mediation - where parents discuss media thoughtfully with their children. I would add into that discussion, teachers and community, and a pointed relevancy to the reality of youth culture. Ontario has a strong Media Literacy component to the curriculum, and much of the focus is on Media Awareness. Overall Expectations 1, 2 and 4 all relate to reflective interpretations of media, and prior to any constructions (e.g. digital stories, reflective writings, commenting) it is logical to have discussions about impact, audience, point of view. In fact, while Media Literacy is defined discreetly in our documents, it is just another component of Literacy. Media Awareness is as much a part of Reading, as is picking up a book.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Talking 'bout Cloud Generation

The Cloud Generation

Much has been written about Baby Boomers, Generation X and now Generation Y. Defined as 20 to 30 year olds, Gen Y’s rule the cyberskies. They are the first generation of true Digital Natives and Nick Shore, head researcher at MTV, calls their attitudes and beliefs the Millennial Edge, defined by invisible boundaries. They demand quick-twitch media, biting wit and provocative situations. They don’t know where the behavioural lines are because they have never been drawn.

For the most part though, Gen Y has gone through a traditional, paper-based educational system, emerging to live and embrace a loud and busy on-line world. Following right behind is The Cloud Generation, growing up with smart phones in hand and established digital footprints. They arrive at our schools adept at cyber connections and new ways to communicate. How do we accommodate their multi-intelligences and cognitive knowledge, and access their great capacity for deep learning? How can we be more than Ground Control, keeping them safe as they hurtle unguided through the cyber skies?

Let’s just start with the basics. Common Courtesy 101. That’s a clear line we can draw in their cyber-sandbox. Right next to respect, appreciation, acceptance…you get the idea.

Presently throughout the educational world there is much debate about blocking, filtering and restrictions, designed to keep students cybersafe at school, and on task. There is no doubt the home computing environment may be quite different, so we must model appropriate behaviour online while that invisible fence is still in place. We’ve discussed Edmodo as a safe social environment, and applications like Kidblog and Bitstrips as moderated spaces for reflection and comment. Here’s what one grade 5 class’ interactions looks like. Agreement or disagreement is done respectfully, goes beyond community talk, and the underlying tone is one of courtesy.

As professionals we acknowledge appropriate communication in our online connections, as demonstrated in this dialogue from a collaborative Google Docs created by a group of educators at Educon 2.3 on the topic of “Why Digital Writing Matters”. The style and tone remain courteous, collegial and contribute to the common purpose. You can see a note in the margin at a certain point. What a great way to give immediate feedback!

By appropriately connecting with our students, colleagues, parents and community online, we leverage the wonder and possibilities of today’s world. The cloud generation may ultimately not be defined by date of birth. Be careful what you write; your grandmother may be your Friend!