Technology Outreach: Access Leadership Conference

Google presentation Link to presentation in Google Slides

What a week! Last weekend I was in Sydney presenting at and enjoying the Google Apps for Education Summit. I learned from edtech rock stars who are using Google Apps and other tools in brilliant and innovative ways to inspire teachers and students.

This weekend I find myself in Pokhara, Nepal, speaking at a leadership conference for 160 Nepali Youth. I was invited by NELTA to address these English Access Microscholarship Program students. My topic, “Creativity and Innovation: Leveraging Technology to Change YOUR World” was inspired by the three keynotes I heard at GAFE by Suan Yeo, Jim Sill, and Chris Bell. Thanks, guys!

I’ve worked with the Access students before, told countless stories of my experiences with them, presented in the Global Education Conference about them, and even had a feature article published about my efforts with them. They are dear to my heart, even though my time is limited and I’ve not been able to do as much as I would like.

These students have come for a 5-day conference from their various locations to be taught and inspired by educational leaders. For most of them, this is the first time they have left their home town/village, stayed in a hotel with friends, and met their counterparts. They are vibrant, happy, and having a great time, even though their days are long and packed full of activities.

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I brought my two oldest children along with me, and the students were so warm and accepting. I didn’t really see my 8-year-old daughter much, as she was adopted by several of the girls. These are such great kids, full of life, hope, and energy, despite coming from very limited circumstances. Through their efforts in learning not only English, but Western ideals and culture, and gaining the skills that come from true collaboration and hard work, they have an opportunity to change their lives and make a difference in their communities.

My goal of this presentation was to show how technology – when leveraged for good – can be a powerful tool to help them change their world. We may not be able to change the whole world, but we can change our own world. I showed several inspiring examples of people who have made a difference. I showed them some tools for learning (Khan Academy, YouTube EDU, MOOCs, Google Drive, Google art project, etc.) and encouraged them to use the Internet at their local cyber for learning. The Internet is an incredible leveler – anyone in the world has access to the same information as anyone else. True, not everyone has fancy tools or a personal computer or tablet. But anyone that can get online can tap into the wealth of knowledge out there. Knowledge is power – the question is, what will they (we) do with that power.

I wanted to open their minds  – to show that the Internet is for more than Facebook and YouTube, that social media can be a tremendous tool for good. They really don’t know what they’re missing.

I think my message got through. It’s truly a privelege to work with them and I am always the one who comes away humbled, honored, and inspired. I came away wanting to make a small difference in my own world. Hopefully, this weekend I have done that in some small way.

Oh, and at the last minute I decided to give away a nearly new Dell Streak 7 that my dad donated. I didn’t want to draw random names out of a hat: I wanted it to go to someone who would really appreciate it and use it for good. So, I had anyone interested write an essay. Here are a few quotes from the 22 responses:

How I Can Use Social Media to be a Global Citizen

  • “Social media are those media which not only helps to connect with one individual, society, or country but it includes or connects to whole world”
  • “I can search or explore new inventions about science and technology”
  • “Today our world is becoming narrower as it is a village because of social media”
  • “We can use Facebook for making new friends from different sides and corners of the world”
  • “The coolest thing about social media is its global nature for me. It’s great to go to bed and know people are communicating, opinions are being debated, and news is being created and shared.”
  • “Knowing that the world is full of decent, intelligent, caring people and being able to tap into this, the biggest pool of all, gives positive outlook indeed. We are moving from consumption to communication and co-creation.”
  • “We can upload our problems”
  • “When we share about our idea that idea will reads one/two person then after it will pass one to another and another to another. So, it will be provide everywhere. Then everybody knows our idea.”
  • “Social media helps us to know the world’s culture. For e.g. we Nepali don’t know about the Christmas Day. But the use of social media we know about Christmas. And it’s wonderful when we develop a vision of globalization of the human race.”
  • “We know the world’s culture by the help of social media”
  • “Someone say that every things have good or bad things, so as well as social media have both things. We have to follow good things and recognize bad things. So I want to say always use good part of social media and never use that bad things.”
  • “Through social media we can give information to others who are away from us”
  • “Through the Internet we can learn others cultures, religions, and we can be together.”

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The winner was a very appreciative and humble young man from Ghorka. Read his full essay here.

So, yes, it’s been a spectrum of a week – but a great one!

Social Media Policy

A Teacher’s Guide to Social Media
From: OnlineColleges.net

Our school, like many, has an Acceptable Use Policy that students and parents must sign if they are to use any computer at school. It helps to ensure that students use school resources (both hardware and bandwidth) in appropriate ways. It keeps them safe and holds them accountable.

Part of my assignment this week in EdTech543 is to craft a social media policy or establish a plan to create one. In looking around for various examples of what other K-12 schools have done, it’s clear that each school does what works for them.

I’m disappointed, though not surprised, to see how many districts and schools ban external social media sites completely. Sure, it may protect and cushion students, but it also creates a long-term problem of not helping students learn to navigate a world they are already using daily. Schools do students a huge disservice and only compound the problem by feeding school-life-home disconnect. Students will still use social media outside of school but are given virtually no practice to use it wisely and well – and certainly not for learning.

It’s a complex issue, and one that is not easily solved. But rather than shut social media out completely, schools should use social media sites to teach and empower students. Use them to create a safe environment that lets students practice social media etiquette and appropriate online behavior. Let them discover these sites’ potential for learning and engage them in collaborative learning environments.

I have drafted a social media policy for our school and will present it to the Technology Committee for preliminary review and hopefully adoption. I believe it’s important to have this in place in addition to an Acceptable Use Policy, because 1) it states our belief that social media has a valuable place in our school; 2) it educates students, parents, and teachers on appropriate online behavior within social media sites; and 3) it helps ensure that everyone is accountable and safe.

Positive Examples:
Do you need help convincing others of the power of using social media in schools? Maybe you feel like it’s a lost cause. Perhaps in your area or school it is. There are, however, some trailblazing schools who are paving the way for more socially connected classrooms. I created this Diigo list of Social Network Educational Projects that showcases examples of how K-12 schools use social networks as a powerful learning and teaching strategy.

Further Resources:

Integration Strategies
60 Ways To Use Twitter In The Classroom By Category
50 Ways Schools Can Use Google+ Hangouts
100 Ways To Use Facebook In Your Classroom
The Teacher’s Guide to Facebook
Twitter in the K-8 Classroom
Teaching with Google+

Policy
How to Create Social Media Guidelines for your School
Connected Learning Community Essentials
Making the Case for Social Media in Education
Every Educator Has a Story…Just Tell It

Personal Growth and Connectivism

My students would find it no surprise to see yet another word cloud in this reflection. I love word clouds! They are such a creative, versatile tool that can be used for fun, nonsense, and also as a writing tool like summarizing key concepts. This Tagxedo word cloud may not look like much, but let me assure you it represents hours (DAYS!), sweat, and tears. It also represents a newly grown knowledge within me, which is really what it’s about in the first place.  Specifically, this is a visual representation of my 2852-word synthesis paper draft for EdTech 504. I’ll spare you the math: that’s 8 dense, heavy, scholarly pages, not including 2.5 pages of peer-reviewed references. I don’t think I’ve ever written a paper that includes so-far 21 references. Wow.  It’s not called a synthesis paper for nothing. To synthesize is to combine, sort through, fuse, and otherwise make sense of a lot of information. I have read dozens of scholarly journals, articles, blog posts (which aren’t peer re-viewed but provide interesting context), and eBooks. I’ve scoured the APA Style Guide and become good friends again with Zotero. This is not light reading, by the way, about tools and apps. This is heavy stuff that includes words I knew little about before starting this course, words like constructivism, connectivism, taxonomy, and epistemology.  Yet, 2852 words later, I have a much better handle on the information. In fact, what was so utterly confusing and aggravating when I was in the thick of it, actually makes sense. I think I get it, at least as it pertains to my focus. Here’s the plain English: More and more teachers are using VLE social network learning sites such as  Edmodo, Schoology, Moodle, Blackboard, and Canvas. These sites provide a controlled environment where teachers and students interact, post and submit homework, give and receive feedback from their peers, and link to course resources and information. Social network learning, which by the way is distinctly different pedagogically than social networking, is like a walled-garen that helps students learn critical skills while in a safe and controlled environment. Most of us know and love social media and it is an integral part of our lives. How, then, can this desire to be connected, to be part of something greater than ourselves, translate into the classroom? Should we really require that our students completely “disconnect” when they come to school from their real lives and the tools that are integral to their very existence?  This paper supports the use of intentional, planned, purposeful social learning networks to engage students in the classroom. It attempts to “define social network learning and its theoretical connectivism foundations, and provides learning strategies that apply such pedagogy in the classroom.” Basically, it is the “why” of using social network learning strategies. I mainly look at social network learning through connectivist principles, and explore practical applications such as Virtual Learning Environments, Learning Communities, and Project-Based Learning. I explore traditional learning theories and emerging learning theories (the connectivism: theory or framework? debate) and use these to argue the critical need of using social networks in the classroom. I have long been a believer in helping students make connections, of giving them a larger audience, of equipping them with the rules of online social behavior while we have them in our reach. Now I have a basis for this belief, and I’ve emerged with an even greater commitment. Since technology has “reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn” (Siemens, 2004), shouldn’t we, as educators, be willing to help our students make some sense of it all? I believe we should.  Connectivism, at its heart, holds that rather than transferring, making, or building knowledge, connectivism is more like “growing or developing ourselves and our society in certain (connected) ways” (Downes, 2007, para. 6). As my word cloud flower proves, new knowledge has certainly grown within me. References:  Downes, S. (2007, February 3). What connectivism is. Half an Hour. Blog. Retrieved from 		http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html  Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A theory for the digital age. Retrieved from 				http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htmMy students would find it no surprise to see yet another word cloud in my reflection. I love word clouds! They are such a creative, versatile tool that can be used for fun, nonsense, and also as a writing tool like summarizing key concepts. This Tagxedo word cloud may not look like much, but let me assure you it represents hours (DAYS!), sweat, and tears. It also represents a newly grown knowledge within me, which is really what it’s about in the first place.

Specifically, this is a visual representation of my 2852-word synthesis paper draft for EdTech 504. I’ll spare you the math: that’s 8 dense, heavy, scholarly pages, not including 2.5 pages of peer-reviewed references. I don’t think I’ve ever written a paper that includes so-far 21 references. Wow.

It’s not called a synthesis paper for nothing. To synthesize is to combine, sort through, fuse, and otherwise make sense of a lot of information. I have read dozens of scholarly journals, articles, blog posts (which aren’t peer re-viewed but provide interesting context), and eBooks. I’ve scoured the APA Style Guide and become good friends again with Zotero.

This is not light reading, by the way. It is heavy stuff that includes words I knew little about before starting this course, words like constructivism, connectivism, taxonomy, and epistemology.

Yet, 2852 words later, I have a much better handle on it all. In fact, what was so utterly confusing and aggravating when I was in the thick of it, actually makes sense. I think I get it, at least as it pertains to my limited focus. Here’s the plain English:

More and more teachers are using Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) social network learning sites such as  Edmodo, Schoology, Moodle, Blackboard, and Canvas. These sites provide a controlled environment where teachers and students interact, post and submit homework, give and receive feedback from their peers, and link to course resources and information. Social network learning, which by the way is distinctly different pedagogically than social networking, is like a walled-garen that helps students learn critical skills while in a safe and controlled environment.

Most of us know and love social media, and it is an integral part of our lives. How, then, can this desire to be connected, to be part of something greater than ourselves, translate into the classroom? Should we really require that our students completely “disconnect” when they come to school from their real lives and the tools that are integral to their very existence?

My paper supports the use of intentional, planned, purposeful social learning networks to engage students in the classroom. It attempts to “define social network learning and its theoretical connectivist foundations, and provides learning strategies to apply such pedagogy in the classroom.” Basically, it is the why of using social network learning strategies.

I look at social network learning through connectivist principles, and explore practical applications such as Virtual Learning Environments, Learning Communities, and Project-Based Learning. I explore traditional learning theories and emerging learning theories (theory or framework debate) and use these to argue the critical need of using social networks in the classroom.

I have long been a believer in helping students make connections, of giving them a larger audience, of equipping them with the skills that govern online social behavior while we still have them in our reach. Now I have a basis for this belief, and I’ve emerged with an even greater commitment. Since technology has “reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn” (Siemens, 2004), shouldn’t we, as educators, be willing to help our students make some sense of it all? Use it? Benefit from it?

I believe we should.

Connectivism, at its heart, holds that rather than transferring, making, or building knowledge, it is more like “growing or developing ourselves and our society in certain (connected) ways” (Downes, 2007, para. 6).

As my word cloud flower proves, new knowledge has certainly grown within me.

References:

Downes, S. (2007, February 3). What connectivism is. Half an Hour. Blog. Retrieved from    http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A theory for the digital age. Retrieved from                 http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Connectivism: An attempted explantion

I find connectivism a most fascinating emerging theory, which is why I chose awhile back to design this Periodic Table of Connectivism for EdTech 543 Social Network Learning that incidentally was picked up and shared on various networks. I am intrigued by the debate on whether connectivism should be considered a modern-day theory or a mere framework for learning. Both sides have strong arguments, but regardless of its status, it “continues to play an important role in the development and emergence of new pedagogies” (Kop & Hill, 2008) and will become increasingly important in learning environments. Connectivism is based on constructivist principles that state learning is not acquired or gained; rather, it is distributed across a network of connections, built, and grown (Downes, 2007).

If this is indeed true, and if it is true that “technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn” (Siemens, 2004), then connectivist principles should be embraced in schools rather than feared.

This year at our school teachers are discovering virtual learning environments (VLEs) such as Edmodo and Schoology. While we use Google Apps heavily, many teachers are finding that they really like the collaborative communication that VLEs provide. Students comment and give feedback, ask questions, and otherwise engage with the content and each other. This sort of connected learning is a fundamental principle of connectivism. I certainly want to include a more connectivist approach in everything I do. For example, I’m about to have the younger grades create their first eBook and then share and comment on each other’s. I anticipate that they will really like this activity because they will learn something new from a classmate and be able to comment on it.

Just because a learning theory or framework is complicated doesn’t mean teachers can’t incorporate some basic principles in their pedagogy.  While I have yet to really get a handle on connectivism, I do intend to have my students continue to reach out to each other and grow their learning.

References:

Downes, S. (2007, February 3). What connectivism is [Web log post]. Half an Hour. Retrieved from http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/523

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. elearnspace. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Walled Gardens and Social Networking

How Does Your Garden Grow?
After discovering and tending to a secret garden for a time, Mary Lennox declares, “I am writing in the garden. To write as one should of a garden one must write not outside it or merely somewhere near it, but in the garden” (Burnett, 2011). Mary’s garden was a place where flowers bloomed, thorns yielded roses, and miracles occurred. To preserve its beauty, it was initially contained, protected, and ultimately kept secret. Once growing and flourishing again, it was then opened up for anyone to enjoy.

On the Internet, a walled garden is a protected browsing environment that controls information and websites a user is able to access. It is a closed system, one that the user is not able to leave without administrative privileges.

More schools are using closed systems as a protected middle-ground to teach social media skills to students within a safe environment. Schools generally fall on either one end or the other of the social media spectrum: unrestricted access allowing commercial social media services (like Facebook) or blocking all social media sites altogether.

Walled gardens are valuable option that should be explored in order to equip our students with vital 21st Century skills. They allow educators to teach students how to use social media in a safely monitored school-run environment, and parents are often relieved to see the school taking an active role rather than shying away from and fearing social media (Ross, 2011).

Open or Closed?
We all like unlimited options. No one likes to be told what he or she can or can’t do, especially online. We like the freedom to visit the websites we want, download what we want, and navigate freely. Our initial response: freedom is good.

This type of freedom, however, can be dangerous in a school setting, particularly in a K-12 environment. Even with filters and firewalls, students can inadvertently pull up an inappropriate site or become a target for child predators. Schools must take safeguards to reduce those chances, and many have chosen a walled garden (closed-system) approach. This allows students and teachers to work only within predetermined websites and environments.

It isn’t as bad as it might originally seem. Without realizing it, we have closed systems all around us. Our mobile phone provider places certain restrictions we must operate within.  Open vs. closed system is an age-old difference between Apple and Microsoft. Steve Jobs believed “that for a computer to be truly great, its hardware and its software had to be tightly linked” in order to give the user a controlled experienced (Isaacson, 2011, location 2559). This is what still distinguishes Apple devices and computers from Microsoft, Android, and other open systems.

In the classroom, using a closed system is better than no system at all, especially if students gain real-world skills they would not otherwise have access to at school.

Social Media
Navigating the use of social media in the classroom is a new terrain and one that makes administrators, teachers, and parents nervous. It is a tool with tremendous potential and real dangers. Yet, I believe it is wrong to throw it out altogether.

Reed (2007) stated that “tomorrow’s citizens must be global communicators, must be able to participate successfully in project-based activities, and must have collaborative skills.” In a 2007 report by Pew Internet, 55% of all online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites (Lenhart & Madden). I imagine that number has grown significantly in the past five years, especially since Facebook was still catching on.

Something bigger than themselves
Whatever one’s feelings are about the benefits or dangers of social media, it is obvious that students enjoy sharing, collaborating, and networking online and find it engaging or they simply would not do it (Picardo, 2010). Students value belonging to a collective network, something bigger than themselves.

Schools should harness this desire and enthusiasm and utilize the skills students already possess to benefit them in the classroom. “We are looking to see how we capture that energy and passion in school. Often when they move into school, the energy goes out of it. I think we have to find ways to capture that excitement and get them as engaged in school work as they are outside” (Bull et al., 2008).  Put another way, “Pedagogy, in my opinion, needs to reflect these social changes and conform to the needs and expectations of today’s students and, if we teach them in a way that mirrors how they live their lives when they are not in school, if we help to ensure that the gap between their school life and real life is minimized, we then become better able to guarantee the commitment and engagement of the vast majority of our students” (Picardo, 2010).

In an article on how to use social networking for learning, Smith (2007) made a powerful suggestion: “Schools should reflect the world we live in today. And we live in a social world. We need to teach students how to be effective collaborators in that world, how to interact with people around them, how to be engaged, informed twenty-first-century citizens. We need to teach kids the powerful ways networking can change the way they look at education, not just their social lives. We don’t talk enough about the incredible power of social-networking technology to be used for academic benefit. Let’s change the terms. Let’s not call it social networking. Let’s call it academic networking.”

Walled Garden Approaches to Social Media
Walled gardens can be a valuable tool to engage students within a format they are familiar with: sharing, posting, commenting, and submitting. This approach “not only helps protect those who are the most vulnerable, but provides a safety net as parents and decision-makers become accustomed to a greater degree of interaction online” (Dawson, 2011). Even Google now supports walled gardens within Google Apps, allowing more privacy and security for students.

Fortunately, teachers have several options online to choose from that will create a walled garden approach in their classrooms.

  • Edmodo: mimics a Facebook interface that allows students and teachers to connect, engage, and learn both inside and outside of the classroom. Free for teachers and students.
  • Edu2.0: simple, powerful, e-learning platform for schools. Free plan with upgrades available.
  • Wikispaces: private, secure space for classrooms that allow students to showcase their work, collaborate, share their findings, and interact. Email addresses of students are not required for sign-up. Free for teachers and students.
  • Flickr Groups: share content and conversation, privately or with the world. Best for sharing photos and videos.
  • Diigo for Educators: social bookmarking. Collect and organize anything, access from anywhere. Great resource to share research with each other, highlight online readings, follow related topics.

Reaching out through global communities
Even from within a walled garden, children can be connected to the world, because “if you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden” (Burnett, 2011). Global networks and communities have tremendous power to “promote global learning, provide cultural understanding, and build relationships. Educators need to find ways to connect students from different parts of the world so that they can learn together, share knowledge and develop cultural understanding and relationships.” (Reed, 2007). These websites offer plentiful ideas for classroom integration:

  • Global Collaboration Ideas: How to create a world of success without leaving your classroom
  • Always learning: How to connect your students globally
  • Curriki: empowering educators to deliver and share K-12 curricula
  • LearningTimes: Create powerful and memorable learning experiences online
  • One World Youth Project: links schools around the world to build a generation of discerning, empathetic and empowered global citizens
  • iEARN USA: Learning with the world, not just about it

Conclusion
As teachers embrace social media and social networking possibilities rather than shy away from them, students will be better equipped in 21st Century skills both inside and outside of the classroom. They will be more enthusiastic, more engaged, and more responsible digital citizens. Using a walled garden approach, if designed wisely and well, allows students and teachers a safe environment for learning.

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles” (Burnett, 2011).

Additional Resources:

  • Edutopia: Social networking: their space
  • OnlineUniversities: 100 inspiring ways to use social media in the classroom
  • Slideshare: Social, Professional, and Academic Networking: Ready for School?
  • Safety First: Infographic on social media and securing your kid’s safety
  • In Their Words: A YouTube video on using Web 2.0 and social networking at an online high school

References:
Bull, G., Thompson, A., Searson, M., Garofalo, J., Park, J., Young, C., & Lee, J (2008).
Connecting informal and formal learning: Experiences in the age of participatory
media. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 8(2). Retrieved
from http://www.citejournal.org/vol8/iss2/editorial/article1.cfm
Burnett, F. H. (2011). The Secret Garden. Simon & Brown.
walled garden. (n.d.).Webopedia. Retrieved from http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/W
/walled_garden.html

Dawson, C. (2011). Google gives schools, organizations “walled garden” approach to
email. ZDNet Education. Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/blog/education
/google-gives-schools-organizations-walled-garden-approach-to-email/4440
Isaacson, W. (2011). Steve Jobs (Kindle.). Simon & Schuster.
Lenhart, A., & Madden, M. (2007). Social networking websites and teens. Retrieved
from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Social-Networking-Websites-
and-Teens/Data-Memo.aspx
Picardo, J. (2010). Microblogging: making the case for social networking in education.
Retrieved from http://www.boxoftricks.net/2010/02/microblogging-making-the-case-
for-social-networking-in-education/
Reed, J. (2007). Global Collaboration and Learning. EdTech Magazine. Retrieved from
http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2007/09/global-collaboration-
and-learning

Ross, P. (2012). Social media education in schools – The walled garden approach.
CAIS Commission on Professional Development. Retrieved from
http://caisct.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/social-media-education-in-schools-
the-walled-garden-approach/

Smith, F. (2007). How to use social-networking technology for learning. Edutopia.
Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/how-use-social-networking-technology

Concept Map: Social Networking for Beginners

Concept Map: Social Networking for Beginners

This is getting easier — and much more fun. Yes! This week in EdTech 502, I created a concept map. I chose the topic of “Social Networking for Beginners” because I want to use it for my upcoming class of ACCESS students. I enjoyed learning some new skills and software for this assignment. I created a page banner at the top (from a picture my husband took of a ceramic plate in Morocco), a gradient background, and hot links on an image. The image itself was created in Fireworks, which is a new software for me and I enjoy it already. I loved discovering Kuler, which makes me really excited about color, especially the ability to match an imported image from Flickr. Cool! I also created a favicon, which is a first for me. While I could spend hours fiddling with many aspects of this page, I’m pleased with my work.

Here’s a mini view of it: