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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Delicious is Saved!

I'm sure no one cares about this nearly as much as I do, but I was pretty excited to read about it today...

Follow up to the question, "What is delicious?"
It's a social bookmarking site. I used to keep all my tech-related resources here to share with all of you, until I heard it was going away and I got very sad. So, I moved to a service called Diigo and transferred all my saved links here.  You can view lists that I've created just for teachers or for parents.  Though I stopped saving my bookmarks to Delicious a while ago, I still have my account, if you want to take a look.

Both Delicious and Diigo allow you to save resources (or you could have your students contribute to a bookmark collection) and then tag them by topic for research. LOTS of possibilities.

For use on a personal level, it's a nice service if you use multiple computers, because your bookmarks go wherever you are. :)  Both Delicious and Diigo have add-ons for web browsers that make them even easier to use.

More on Delicious....from Christine Cupaiuolo at Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning
Plus: In other tech news this week, YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen acquired the social bookmarking site Delicious from Yahoo, quenching fears among Delicious users that the free service would be discontinued (whew!). Here's a FAQ about the transition. 
I frequently recommend Delicious when teaching social media workshops, and there's usually an audible "Ahhhh" whenever its potential for gathering and organizing information is revealed. While there are some similar services, none seems quite as simple or handy--especially for learning environments. 
In fact, writing today at Poynter, Katy Culver discusses why Delicious is "an ideal teaching tool for tagging content to share with students or other teachers." For those just getting started, Teach Web 2.0 has a useful wiki on learning and using Delicious in the classroom.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Building Good Digital Citizens

This post is also available on my other blog with Sam Harris, Ethics 4 a Digital World.

I'm sharing with you today my own "teachable moment" in hopes that it will help you think about some of these topics as they arise in your classroom (or in your digital life outside the classroom). As you know, a huge focus of mine has been these ideas of digital citizenship, ethics, and responsibility. Another focus has been the development of a curriculum for our students, grades 1-12 that address these topics. This is an ongoing process, and though I am developing lessons that could stand on their own, I want to embed the concept of digital citizenship in everything I do with students. When teachable moments arise, jump on them.

I have the privilege of teaching 3rd graders once a week, and they amaze me with their skill, adaptability, and fearless approach to using technology. But they're 9 years old. How much life experience do they have? How capable are they of seeing the long-term consequences of their actions? It is my job to help guide them in the digital world and get them to think about some of these things. And I will continue to do so until they are sick of me, or they get the message. For the next 9 years. :)

For the last few weeks we have been teaching them how to use Comic Life. I began with a simple poster project, asking them to design a poster of themselves to accomplish a couple of things:
  • how does Comic Life work?
  • what are all the features I can use?
  • how do I take pictures of myself to use in the comics?
  • WHY would I choose to use Comic Life (or a comic format) instead of a simple document? what are the benefits? limitations?
The project requirements were designed to get them exploring all the features of the software: use a template, create a text banner with your name, include 6 images of yourself, 1 thought or speech bubble, 5 descriptive adjectives about you, comic effect applied to at least one photo, and color effects. Today, after grading what they turned into me last week, I asked them what THEY thought the purpose of the assignment was. First response? "To have fun!" I love these kids, because they make teaching fun. Did you have fun, I asked? "YES!" Mission accomplished.  What else, I asked? And believe it or not, they were able to elaborate, to think about the project more deeply and reflect on what they had actually learned. They mentioned everything in my list above. Now it was time to share with them a hidden purpose most teachers have...measuring a student's ability to follow all the directions.

Upon reviewing what was turned in, and assessing them based on the checklist, I did not have one student who did everything I asked. TEACHABLE MOMENT #1. Why not? What happened during the process that got us off course? What decisions did we make along the way that led us to forget some of what was required? This part of the conversation was skillfully led by the kids' homeroom teacher, and when we got back to revising and editing our work, each student had their checklist beside them and worked a little harder to make sure, step by step, that they had met all the requirements. I could have let it slide, because they did, after all, learn to use Comic Life. Their posters, even in an unfinished form, demonstrated that. But why have requirements if you're not going to hold your students to them?

As I graded their work the first time, I started to notice a few things that fell into the digital citizenship category. A few students chose adjectives to describe themselves like dumb, evil, demented, and dead. Placed next to snapshots where they made some silly faces, some of these descriptors made a little sense. But...TEACHABLE MOMENT #2. In addition to the purpose of the assignment, let's step back for a moment and consider our audience. Who will read these? What is the message we are trying to send? We chatted a bit about the words we use online, and what they might mean to those who don't know us personally. It was my intention to publish their posters on our class website, so theoretically, anyone in the world might see them. While I found each poster engaging, entertaining, funny, and representative of their level of humor, how would a stranger (or your parents, or the headmaster, or a prospective family) interpret the words you used to describe yourself? Is that the image we want to portray to the world? I get the joke, because I have a personal relationship with each of these kids. But to the average viewer, they might not understand the words a child chooses, in humor, to describe a picture of him or herself. For a simple project, designed to introduce a new tool and help kids get familiar with it (for use on a more academic project for their class), the built-in lessons in digital citizenship were amazing. And the 9 year olds got it. At least today.

I'm not sure a few years ago I would have seen it the same way, nor might I have taken the time to really talk about it to the kids during a one-hour class in which so much needs to be covered. But I could not ignore what was staring me in the face, and in fact, this project provided me the perfect opportunity to engage them in a meaningful conversation about digital behavior. Sneaky, huh?

One more thing...this exercise also gave them one last chance to work on their grammar and spelling before publication. :)  Bonus.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Just a quick post to alert you to a fabulous project currently in progress in Judy Herrington's 5th grade music classes. For several years, Judy has used an extremely expensive piece of software for a music composition unit. Because of the prohibitive costs of upgrading this software, for which we only have 5 licenses (and the lack of equipment on which to install it for her), she has been using a very old version on very old computers. NO MORE! Taking a tremendous leap of faith, Judy let us help her find a FREE piece of software (MuseScore), available online for any student who wants to download it and practice at home. We installed it on an entire lab full of computers, and coordinated with the 5th grade teachers a schedule that allows her to keep these laptops in her classroom for the three weeks she is teaching the unit. Judy and I were both a little nervous about how it would actually go, as everything about this experiment (except the original lesson plan to teach musical composition) was new.  I ran into Judy at lunch on the very first day, and though I don't think I've ever seen her without a sparkle in her eye, she was positively radiant with enthusiasm and energy. Did everything go perfectly? Absolutely not. Did she know exactly what to do, what would happen, how the kids would handle the new software? Nope. Judy stepped well out of her comfort zone, but was quickly rewarded with a collaborative classroom environment where everyone agreed to teach each other. If kids (or the teacher) had a question, they asked. If a student (or the teacher) found the answer to a question, they added a post-it to a giant board in the room so all could benefit. They are on a learning journey together.

Huge thanks to Judy for letting me share this story. :)