#EmpoweredDigitalLeaders – Empowering Others and Promoting Important Causes

Week 3 of the Empowered Digital Leaders course focused on Empowering Others and Promoting Important Causes. I am continuing to work through the course materials whilst reflecting on the last week in school where I worked with different classes to brainstorm ideas for their digital portfolios (see last blog post). The children had so many different things they were passionate about changing. It was inspiring to hear their views. Using a cooperative learning approach, the learners discussed their passions in small groups, taking turns to ask each other challenge questions to support deeper thinking. Having just recently returned to full-time face-to-face teaching (during a pandemic) after months of online learning, this activity really made me reflect on how lucky I am to be in this job. I can’t wait to see what these children do, what they create, what they share.

My class are currently reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio and, this week, they spent time thinking about, and explaining, their own personal precepts. Some found this concept quite challenging and needed quite a bit of support, choosing a precept from a given list and writing about why they chose that one. Others reflected on a quote / phrase that their parents and other family members say to them. Many wrote their quote in their home language and the explanation in English. This was a really valuable, yet somewhat unexpected, community building lesson. Learners shared that they valued looking for the positives in any situation, others shared their motivations for working hard related to their career aspirations. Discussing the novel, we’ve been talking about empathy and the importance of seeing things from a different perspective. This activity gave us an insight into what other people value.

Slacktivism vs Activism

Jenn (@JCasaTodd) shared this blog post on the difference between activism and slacktivism, along with a helpful lesson plan for us to use in our own settings. In R.E. (religious education) this week, my class were researching organisations that are helping to prevent suffering around the world. They have chosen different charities, mainly, and have created posters or presentations to share their learning. The idea of activism / slacktivism should spark an interesting discussion in class and bridge the link between their digital portfolios and their R.E. learning. Unsurprisingly, the children continue to express their distress regarding the George Floyd murder and their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. BlackoutTuesday is a relevant example which I expect will draw out some thought-provoking discussion.

Critical Literacy

Jenn defined critical literacy as “being critically aware of the biases and assumptions that texts make”. She stated that this takes regular practise and we need to teach our students this skill, as well as sharing this helpful graphic for questions we should ask ourselves when we encounter a media text:

Various resources were shared, including a link to this Edutopia article with a focus on younger children. I think this is an increasingly important lesson for us to teach learners as it is very easy to publish something online. They need to learn how to recognise credible sources and critically question what they are consuming.

Curricular Opportunities

Lastly, course participants were encouraged to consider this question:

“How might students empower, celebrate or advocate for others within your teaching and learning?”

We added ideas to a shared doc and offered suggestions to each other. It’s great to be part of a cohort of educators around the world supporting people we haven’t met before! There are lots of things that I’d now like to try out. Personally, I think this also links into digital portfolios as I’m really passionate about these being an authentic tool to support learning. I work in a Catholic school, with links to our local nursing home, Cathedral homelessness project, and wider charity fundraising. I’m also a big advocate for pupil voice. I think linking these areas together to spark class discussions will be one of the biggest impacts of my undertaking this course.

Thanks for reading! Leave a comment if you have any thoughts on this. I’d love to hear them!

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#EmpoweredDigitalLeaders – Learning and Sharing Learning

Week 2 of the Empowered Digital Leaders course focused on learning and sharing learning.

Connecting with Experts

First we considered the role of experts in supporting learning and how we could connect our students with experts by using technology. I reflected on my time teaching P1 (4-5 year olds) about Island Life using Katie Morag by Mairi Hedderwick as a stimulus. I was looking into skype chats with his old primary school but the timings didn’t work out. By chance, there was a teacher in the school who had just moved over from a similar, small, Scottish Island so she came in and spoke to the kids, showing photos of her previous school. The kids loved it and it was such a great experience (albeit not virtual but I think it would have been just as powerful virtually). My colleagues made use of Skype for Education to connect with scientists during remote teaching to enhance learning about Natural Disasters. Not sure who enjoyed it more, the teachers or the learners!

One of the course facilitators, Adam Hill (@AdamHillEDU) shared his experience of connecting with experts in a wide range of fields to support his learners’ Genius Hour projects. Through his class Twitter account, he shared a collaborative doc listing all the projects and was able to find experts from around the world. I’ve shared my class’ work related to a class novel on Twitter and the kids were so excited when the author replied and retweeted it. I like the idea of the open doc to facilitate mentoring but would doubt my social media reach. I imagine I’d be pleasantly surprised if even just the school account and council (district) retweeted it. Something to consider as I’d really like to try Genius Hour, this year.

The Media Triangle

In November 2019, Stanford University published their findings that 96% of High Schoolers couldn’t tell what was a credible source, emphasizing the need for teaching digital literacy. Stanford, 2019 

This is an increasingly important area to learn about in upper primary as more and more children are engaging with social media accounts. During remote learning, we included some lessons around fake news and used the BBC Bitesize resource as a support: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/zjykkmn and https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/z63wwty 

Jenn (@JCasaTodd) introduced us to the media triangle where we consider media in three ways:

– Media Text – when engaging with a media text, it is important to consider the decisions made by the creator. The media text will be developed through the lens of the creator. I really like the idea that by creating their own media texts, our learners will better understand that decisions were made in the creation of media texts they are consuming. We should also remember that all media has a value message. When you create something, you value it, it’s important to you. Therefore, when we consume media, the text speaks to the value of the person who created it.

– Audience – we need to be mindful that everyone interprets media messages based on their own experiences, and sometimes their own biases.

– Production – It is also important to consider the platform chosen as it is usually selected to match what the creator is trying to achieve in a media text, eg. tik tok is different from youtube is different from a blog post. We need to teach children the difference. At this point, we could also teach the monetary implications of social media, such as Youtube, as well as what Clickbait is.

Class Social Media Accounts

The last learning topic, this week, focused on the use of class social media accounts. The discussion amongst other course participants was really interesting for this topic as everyone has quite different experiences. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I think it’s important to be clear of the purpose of an account and the learners could be involved in making this decision. Do you want to connect with authors, other classes, parents? Once the purpose is clear, this should inform which platform is used. How will you find out where most of your parents / community are? Lots of educators are using Twitter, but are parents? During the course, Jenn raised the point that whilst our learners might not be using Twitter, for example, that could work to our advantage. Teaching about social media use on a platform that they are not immediately comfortable with, could allow rich discussion about the purpose and use of other social media that they are comfortable with. Digital citizenship lessons could involve the learners co-creating guiding principles for responsible use, not just acceptable use. Teaching learners the different value of likes and comments is so important and I like the idea of using Twitter as a teaching tool for that. 

There were interesting suggestions for how the learners could have ownership over posting to the account, something I am mindful of as I also think that teacher time is a barrier to class social media use. Someone suggested a PR committee, responsible for creating the posts which the teacher then shares to the account. This would also create accountability for the teacher to keep the account up-to-date!

Lastly, Jenn shared a fabulous resource for creating authentic digital portfolios, The Whole Child, Whole Story, Daniel Whitt (@WhittMister), Mollie Bounds (@MollieBounds), and Natalia Dooley (@dooley_natalia). This year, I am fortunate to have a day out of my own class each week where I am providing digital skills cover to other classes across the school. This week, I used these resources to encourage the children to really think about their own identity as we plan for their digital portfolios. The children are so excited to get going with these are really enjoyed considering their interests and who their potential audience might be. I wasn’t sure which platform to use as we use Google across the school, but I liked the idea of learners commenting on each others’ portfolios if they were on something like WordPress. I’ve decided to stick with Google Sites and will ask the learners to post a link to our Google Classroom whenever they update their site. This way their classmates can comment on the Google Classroom post and teachers are able to support learners in their digital skills as well as their constructive commenting skills!

Looking forward to seeing what the next week brings. If you’d like to be notified when I share another blog post, please follow me on Twitter, @ClareAnnePirie.

#EmpoweredDigitalLeaders – Digital Leadership

A few weeks ago, I signed up for the Empowered Digital Leaders course led by Adam Hill (@AdamHillEDU) and Jennifer Casa-Todd (@JCasaTodd). It’s a 4 week course focusing on Digital Leadership and how we can prepare our students for the world of social media.

I’m playing catch up a bit. I started the school holidays doing lots of professional reading and attending a few webinars, so by the time this course started, I found that I needed a bit of a break. I’ve just attended the synchronous session at the end of week 2 but this blog post will reflect on the week 1 materials which all relate to Digital Leadership.

Prior to starting the course, we were encouraged to consider why so few teachers utilise social media within their classes. The use of Class Twitter accounts has been encouraged recently in Aberdeen by the Council. I’ve had interesting conversations with colleagues about the purpose of this. Is it to share successes? Is it to make connections with other schools? Is it to promote our school or our Council?

Personally, I think there are two main reasons why teachers (and, by extension, schools) are hesitant to use social media – privacy concerns and time. Despite having collected permissions from parents, there are always those who are not allowed to be photographed and, in large schools especially, it can simply be easier to not share photographs of children. There is also the time commitment required to maintain these accounts. On the face of it, it might not seem like it takes much time to post a quick photograph to Twitter, however there is more to it. If you are sharing things widely, you want to ensure it is representative of the whole class and not just the same few learners. You need to consider how anything you post will be interpreted by parents, learners, and the wider school community. I think there is still a lot of anxiety around that.

As this blog post is already becoming quite long, I will summarise my key learning points from this week, rather than addressing each topic in detail:

Defining digital leadership – I was pleased to hear George Couros being referenced on this course as I have read his books and followed his blog for a while now. He defines digital leadership as “using the vast reach of technology, especially the use of social media, to improve the lives, wellbeing, and circumstances of others”. The inclusion of social media here is interesting to me as I am the Digital Coordinator of my school but I hadn’t considered the social media element as inherent to my role, focussing more on how we can utilise digital tools to enhance learning. This may be because I am in a primary setting, but the children are using these platforms whether they are of age or not! That’s not to say that we haven’t done any work around the use of social media, I just hadn’t considered it’s role in this way before.

Social media for educators – I use a variety of platforms for different reasons, I use Twitter professionally, Instagram and Facebook privately, and a professional blog… tentatively! I also have a Youtube account that was set up specifically for remote teaching but the videos were kept private. I’d be interested to discuss social media use with my colleagues when we return to school as everyone seems to use it differently… which then feeds into how (or if!) we teach it.

Authentic audience and awareness – This section made me think about what George Couros wrote about student blogging giving a purpose to their writing. In my own experience (and I believe research has shown) that student writing is better when they are writing for an audience. This is something I’d like to explore when we return. We are looking at how learners can have more ownership of their own learning and blogging (or learner journeys) could help with that. This activity also made me think back to the start of the Education Scotland Teacher Leadership Programme (@EdScotPLL) which had a large blogging element to the course. At the first workshop, we did an exercise where we considered different types of comments and actually wrote them out then discussed what made them successful. It was hugely worthwhile and I couldn’t help thinking about how valuable the activity would be for children. (The need for it was further emphasised when we moved to remote teaching and the children experienced Google Classroom streams for the first time!!) The point about quality of audience was also raised in our synchronous session. Many focus on the number of views and likes instead of the comments and the connection-building. We need to model and teach this.

Student Digital Role Models – Another excellent lesson idea was shared, where Jenn (@JCasaTodd) gave her learners a set of student social media accounts and encouraged them to consider what these students were using their profiles for then compare them to the sorts of accounts they were following. I can’t wait to try this with my own class! During remote teaching, I taught a set of lessons on digital habits and was surprised by how many children chose to interview older siblings for our interview task. These student role models are so important.

If you are still reading this, thank you for making it this far! Summarising this has made me realise how much there has been to consider in just one week of this course. I will continue to work through the course materials and hopefully be able to engage more with the other course participants. Attending the synchronous session was great because it just shows that teachers around the globe have many shared experiences and we can learn a lot from each other. I’m looking forward to the next session!

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