Lead the Way

I think student empowerment begins with teacher empowerment. It is up to mentors, teachers, and parents to expose children to the transformational power of online communities. As Derek Muller explains in his new clip called Learned Helplessness, school has become something kids have to endure and therefore kids develop a learned helplessness around learning. Many students do not see learning and achieving their passions as something that they can do for themselves. Watch the clip below:

I’ve always been energized by collaborating on projects and working off each others’ ideas to create better ones. However, all of my experience until now has been face to face. Global collaboration is new to me and I’m wondering How’d I not think of this before?!

There are several projects and professional learning happening this year at my school that has shown teachers the power of connecting to a greater community using the web:

  • Our 1st and 4th graders participated in the If You Learned Here global collaborative project. It was an exciting experience connecting and contributing to a project housed in the cloud between participants. Our students enjoyed sharing about their school, as well as learning about other schools around the world. Recently the 1st and 4th graders met up to peruse the collaborative ebook that served as the project’s final product, and the prideful buzz in the room was contagious.
  • Our 4th graders are in the middle of a project called Together in the GCC and it has led to making connections with teachers and students from Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. The kids eagerly gather research each week in preparation to create videos and share their finding with the GCC community. Equally enthusiastic are the teachers, who collaborate each week to share ideas and tips. When first starting the project, I found participants through Twitter, as well as emailing schools and asking that they forward the project description to their 4th grade teachers. We began communicating via email and Google Hangouts, but now easily converse about the project using Google Chat. We have formed a powerful partnership and hope to continue the project and make it better each year.
  • I recently helped plan a unit with Jodee Junge for her 3rd grade class to learn about human migration. We will use Flipgrid to gather migration stories from teachers, parents, and Jodee’s and my PLN. By hearing of others’ migration experiences, we think it will evoke empathy within her students and enable them to better internalize the concepts and causes behind migration.
  • This year I have taken on the roll of New Faculty Coordinator and am utilizing my new skills and ideas for online collaboration. I am using Google Classroom to facilitate discussion, share tutorials, and even create assignments such as Make a Twitter account, connect with each other,  and follow your new school.  I shared Jeff’s Twitter tutorial, as well as a clip of him talking about how the internet is a mass of communities.  I also shared the recent Where There’s Smoke Podcast about Communities that included Jeff as the guest speaker. It gave many of the teachers, most of whom are beginning their first international teaching post, a sense of calm in knowing that the pulse of the community is not where it was created, but in the hearts of the members and that the community can still flourish even if it is apart. I also surveyed the teachers to get an idea of their experience with the Google Education Tools, which you can’t live without at our school. Knowing what they need, I have been creating and sharing short screencasts showing them how to effectively use Gmail, Calendars, and Drive. The best part was that a few of the teachers responded with other tricks and tips and agreed to create a screencast of their own. Little by little, these new teachers have ‘friended’ me on facebook and are sending me emails and opening up with their fears, anticipation, and excitement. I am getting lots of great feedback and am confident that we are creating strong, supportive bonds without ever having met.
Photo Courtesy of Mike via Flickr
Photo Courtesy of Mike via Flickr

These projects and learning experiences have opened me and many others at my school, to new ways of creating student centered approaches to learning. It is important to show teachers and students the possibilities of connecting to other learners around the world. Once we allow our learners to be back in the ‘driver’s seat’ of their learning process and goals, we can leave Learned Helplessness behind.



The Creative Commons Art Class

Jeffs airplane pic - Awesome!
Jeffs airplane pic – Awesome!

There aren’t many things to dislike about traveling, but one thing that annoys me is that my photos never seem to do my experience justice. The same thing happened when my kids were babies; I would take a ridiculous amount of photos, never seeming to capture what I saw with my own eyes.

Flying into Hong Kong - so beautiful in my memory, not so much in this picture.
For comparisons sake – my airplane picture. Boo.

My good friend and art teacher, Jeff Pabotoy does not have this problem. His pictures always seem to look better than the real deal and he expertly manages to infuse mood into his final products. He obviously doesn’t realize what a gift he has because when I approached him to co-teach a unit on Creative Commons licensing and mobile photography/editing, he was surprised I’d asked.

As educators, our goal is always to first intrinsically motivate the students to learn; this can usually be accomplished by making the learning personal. Obviously teenagers enjoy taking photos and getting recognized – but most are only aware of sharing their work on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter – queue Flickr accounts! Additionally, the task of convincing teenagers that stealing digital information is wrong and unethical (especially when it’s so easy), is addressed because they will now be the creators whose work may be stolen.

Jeff and I did a little review of Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons ourselves using the following resources:

  1. The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons
  2. Teaching Students about the Creative Commons
  3. Copyright Flowchart by Langwitches
  4. Copyright and Creative Commons Explained by Common Craft video

After talking with Jeff we decided our unit would go like this:

  1. Copyrights and the need to site both written and visual materials
    1. Copyright Flowchart by Langwitches
    2. Copyright and Creative Commons Explained by Common Craft video
    3. A Fair(y) Use Tale because it’s so fun to watch
  2. Creative Commons: What is it and why should we use it
    1. Introductory slide show explaining Creative Commons Licenses
    2. What Students Need to Know About Creative Commons” Slideshow
    3. Collection of videos about Creative Commons
  3. Sign up for Flickr
  4. Understand the different CC licenses and create one
  5. Learn how to take and edit photos that your FB friends will envy
    1. PicShop Lite
    2. Piclay
    3. Photo Editor by Aviary
    4. Split Pic Editor & Blender
  6. Upload and tag photos in your Flickr account
    1. How To Add Tags
    2. How to add photos and tags video tutorial
  7. Learn how to search for creative commons photos and attribute the creator
    1. How to Attribute a CC photo
    2. How to Cite a Photo
  8. Where to get CC photos
    1. Search Creative Commons
    2. Google’s Advanced Search
    3. Photosforclass
    4. StockVault.net
    5. Kozzi.com  (one free photo per day)
    6. FindIcons.com
    7. Flickr Advanced Search
    8. Morguefile
    9. Open Clipart Libary

I’ll report back with our ups and downs after we begin the lessons. I’m expecting a win-win learning experience for all, especially the days when Jeff teaches us about photography and editing right in time for my summer flights and travels!

Seriously, Now I’m Scared?!

Admittedly, this is an annoying topic for me. In my work as a technology integrationist, fear of the internet is one of the hardest battles I fight.

That said, I have actually come to understand the fear much more after reading this week’s articles. Infact, I find myself now way over-analyzing my social media posts and how they might be perceived by others, going so far as to give up and not post at all. Just as I thought I was beginning to be more comfortable with my online voice and brand, I’ve been scared into overthinking what other’s might think about me. If I can be scared into not posting, what will these messages do to our youth who are already struggling with the obsession of what other’s think of them.

Like I argued in my last post, First Impressions, this is one more reason the social media rhetoric needs to be mostly positive with firm warnings sprinkled throughout.

The ‘biggies’ that I will be spinning into positive messages and working into the digital citizenship curriculum for our middle school and high school students are:

  • Where the World Can Get to Know You (vs. There’s No Such Thing as Private Online):
    Photo by Paško Tomić via Flickr
    Selfies are not the only way to “show” yourself.  Photo by Paško Tomić via Flickr
    • Positives: There are many ways to build your personal brand that can help you as a student, and later as an adult, by building, learning from, and contributing to a professional learning network.
    • Warnings: Discretion and responsible use is needed to protect your personal information and the personal information of others. When you post possibly damaging photos on social media sites, even when the settings are ‘private,’ there is no guarantee that your parents, teachers, or possible future employers won’t see it – so protect yourself and your friends by showing restraint and always getting permission before posting pictures.
  • Promote Your Unique and Creative Thoughts and Achievements (vs. your reputation is at stake)
    • Positives: Promoting your causes and passions indirectly promotes you as good person. Ever have a conversation with someone who talked nonstop about themselves? This is no different from the person on social media who posts their every move, meal, haircut, hiccup, etc. To improve your reputation, as Ben Parr explains, try posting about causes and issues that you are passionate about, rather than about yourself.

      Photo by @kjackemerson
      A friend of mine doing volunteer work she cares about. Posting and bringing awareness to an issue shows what a great person she is. Photo used with permission by @kjackemerson
    • Warnings: There are sites like SimpleWash that can help you delete posts, but once things are out online, they are nearly impossible to completely remove. Also, there really is no difference between your online self and your real self – both reputations have the potential to help or harm your real self’s goals.
  • The Internet is Getting to Know You (vs. your clicks are being watched, followed, and recorded – Yikes!)
    • Positives: HTTP Cookies make it possible for me to go back to my GAP online cart and still have my items; authentication cookies are useful for a website to know that it’s really you logging in; tracking cookies are used to try to make the ads on your browser relevant. Sites like the New York Times and Facebook use the data to personalize your experience and make reading suggestions, explains Ethan Zuckerman in his article The Internet’s Original Sin. Although there are ways to turn off your devices’ GPS tracking, your calls, posts, and electronic money transactions make it possible for others to track your location – which does freak me out a little too – until I think about the usefulness of tracking down kidnappers or other dangerous people.

      Photo by Georgie Sharp via Flickr
      Yes, this part is a maze and it’s hard to know what’s around the corner. Photo by Georgie Sharp via Flickr
    • Warnings: One of the biggest risks, as Ethan also points out, is that a personalized web experience can make it hard to keep an open mind and learn from other perspectives. Be on the lookout for anyone or anything that tries to pigeonhole you and keeps you from discovering and learning more. For convenience and customization we agree to companies’ conditions and allow them to collect information about us. Check out this infographic to compare who is tracking what. Educate yourself and read the privacy policies before just clicking ‘agree’. Look into alternatives like DuckDuckGo, which as privacy becomes more and more of a hot topic, there are likely to be more of.
  • Respectful Agreements (vs. Beware of your “friends”’ phone cameras!)
    • Positives: Social media has made it possible to keep in touch with or even meet new friends. It’s also made it possible to learn from other experts around the world.
    • Warnings: As a respectful and caring friend and user of social media, agreements need to be understood and followed. Before you photograph, post and tag other people, it is essential that you get their permission. And, just like with other social pressures, it is okay to say no to having your photo taken if you don’t think it will reflect you positively. After all, your future job could be at stake.


First Impressions

Photo credit Dalaganyc via Tumblr
Photo credit Dalaganyc via Tumblr

I love watching What Not to Wear. Stacy and Clinton, show after show, teach clients the importance of dressing appropriately for the situation, while still reflecting their unique personalities. It is obvious at the end of each episode that the client’s restyle has given her the confidence needed to go after new jobs and social situations.

There are many parallels of Stacy and Clinton’s philosophies to an ‘online look’. Yes, you should still be you – in fact part of a great look is when your sense of style and uniqueness shines through.  No, it’s not vain to care what you look like because people are making judgements that could help or hinder your life and career.

Check Your Reflection. Photo credit courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Check Your Reflection. Photo credit courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In our physical and virtual lives, (No… one is not more real than the other) what you do, what you say, and how you look help people understand you. The Science of First Impressions explains that humans are genetically hard wired to make quick decisions. In the first few moments that we meet someone in person or online, what do we have to go on? Nothing but their looks. We naturally make sense of what we see by categorizing them with other people who we know, that look the same way.

Physical and virtual first impressions will get you nowhere or everywhere. Jason Cass tells the story of how his online presence and well groomed personal brand got him a job in several times of need. On the other side of this coin – how about Trevor Noah taking over for John Stewart? Not many knew who Trevor was, but after a few unfavorable Tweets resurfaced, not many are in favor of the replacement. Unfair? Probably, but that’s the way it is as Arthur Chu explains:

All it takes is one of your old tweets going viral for Twitter to transform from a real-time conversation into a courtroom dissection, where a dialogue, a defense, or even a wholesale apology comes to seem pointless because the real-time conversation is gone—no one’s even listening to you anymore, they’re just linking the old tweet and adding their pile-on comments to it again and again and again. 

While many adults would read the warnings and choose not to join Twitter and social media just in case, our students probably won’t. They will be on social media regardless. That’s why I love the idea of telling students how social media and the internet can get them a step ahead, similar to the lesson plan “Would You Hire You?” Students are very used to the “DO NOTs,” and the warnings of the destructive potential of the internet. Think of their surprise if you flipped the message into a constructive one. Building a personal learning network and positive personal brand can link you to people and opportunities all over the world. This type of online look takes thought, planning, caution, creativity and restraint – just like your physical look.