#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 – 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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