Today’s technology allows us to communicate as never before in history. Communication is global, communication is real time, communication is accessible to everyone!
In today’s media, we have seen politics discussed using social media by large groups of people all over the world covering issues in Iran, Eygypt, the US.
Social Media brings people together to learn, collaborate and discuss. It has a place in learning that is being explored more every day. This is what Jim Meredith’s AP Government class at Archbishop Ryan in Philadelphia is finding out as they learn and discuss government and politics in the classroom. I had the pleasure of speaking with the class about their project using Twitter in class. They participate in a weekly ‘Twitter Tuesday’ activity incorporating the tag #arapgov12. I am posting a summary of their responses. I also have posted the audio above.
Interview with Class
Here is the summary of my interview with teacher and Assistant Administrator, Jim Meredith and his students. You can also listen to the two part audio file posted above. (The quality of the audio is not optimal. I plan to improve upon that by using other audio tools in the future. )
1. In selecting learning activities for your AP Government class, what made you choose twitter. What did twitter have to offer that other tools/activities did not?
We chose this to build up the student knowledge of current events, politics and government. We hoped to connect with politicians as they discuss events online. I hoped to also help them to build up their own digital footprint. 2. Were your students already familiar with Twitter?
Students were familiar with Twitter. Some used it already and if not they had heard about it. 3. How did students react to the assignment?
Students were excited and had a very positive approach to the assignment and to using twitter. One student, Jason, takes
extra responsibility and posts questions before the designated Twitter Tuesday times and also during the week. One student said, It changes the way we learn. We like to go online and tweet about what we are learning.
Another student said, ‘It give us more hands on experience with politics. You can hear politicians on the news but through twitter you can have direct contact with current news, with politicians or their represntatives.
Students welcomed the use of online tools. It is a welcome addition to classroom activities.
4. Having completed several weeks of Twitter Tuesdays what has been the outcome? What does the teacher think about what they are learning and how they are learning it?
Students feel more engaged with the content they are learning. They like that they can tweet out questions during class to the teacher during class and it gets addressed at a later point.
Says Jim Meredith, administrator and teacher, ‘We are learning and growing together. There is not a manual for this. I am researching and borrowing best practices from what I find online. 5. What similar assignments have you done with your classes which incorporated new technologies?
Twitter was tried before. This recent use has been the best outcome with Twitter. We have used private Facebook groups, blogging and social bookmarking. We hope to incorporate additional web tools such as Wordle in the near future. 6. How did you as an administrator and teacher become interested in using these types of technologies for learning?
Jim participated in PLP (Powerful Learning Practice), a 21st Century learning oriented professional development initiative, beginning in 2008 and became familiar with new strategies and tools. ‘It’s more about the learning – It is not about Twitter as the tool but rather about what the students are getting from it and what I as a teacher am learning from it. My use of Twitter and social networking helps my own professional development and helps me with my craft, my teaching.’ 7. What does social media have to offer today’s educators?
As long as it is used to enhanced learning, it has a lot to offer. To the students, it can really help to enhance their learning and also build a community in our classroom.
8. How long will Twitter Tuesdays run? What is next for your class?
They will be tweeting out questions during the elections next week. Overall results have been very good. The plan is to use it for the full school year. They are flexible in this. The class will continue to evaluate its effectiveness going forward and continue as long as it meets their needs.
Its more than just that Twitter is a good technology. We are changing the way the students learn and interact. Students love the hands on experience as they interact with current events and politicians or their representatives online. Administrator, Teacher – Jim Meredith
Using real time communications tools is teaching our students more than just content. It teaches them how to communicate and collaborate in new ways.
Since the beginning of time, rules and guidelines for behavior have been in place. These aim to provide order, peace, and respect for one another and for the common good.
The internet and easy access to the web have made this all important task. Add to that the infusion of social media into our daily lives and you’ll see that a once important task has now become a critical one.
It is important to teach digital citizenship in clear and easy to implement terms. Why? Is it because it demystifies it? Is it because it makes technology a positive force in our children’s lives? Digital Citizenship education brings benefit to all. It is supportive of students, teachers, school administrators and parents. Besides that, a world where respect and kindness are brought into our digital lives benefits us all!
Challenges Facing Digital Citizenship Education
Differing Definitions Exist
Varied Focus – Depending on local issues and concerns, schools sometimes will chose to focus on one area more than others – Cyberbullying, Plagiarism, Online Posting
Resource Overload – Though there are many excellent resources, it can be confusing to select which ones are best for a certain classroom or school
Not in Curriculum – No actual place in the curriculum or in the schedule
Deciding who teaches it – Is it the technology teacher, classroom teacher or other? Often teachers may not feel comfortable teaching on a topic that is still somewhat new to them.
Age Appropriate is Important – Though the themes remain constant for many ages, lessons should differ according to age level and grade level.
The safety and security of all children is of the utmost importance. If schools and districts are not actively discussing Digital Citizenship, here are some questions to start with.
Digital Citizenship Discussion Starter for Schools and Districts
What is our focus? What are the issues we feel are most pressing?
What issues do our students and parents feel are most pressing?
What does the data say? What does current research tell us about Digital Citizenship?
How can we make time for this important topic?
How can it be discussed daily? How can it be woven in to all that we do?
Once a commitment has been made to teaching Digital Citizenship, schools can have teachers and students explore resources and select their favorites. There are also several excellent resources with full curriculum on the topic to use and explore which I’ll profile in my next post.
What are the important questions to ask? Do you have favorite resources?
When I first entered the classroom as an elementary school technology teacher in 1997, I was given a set of posters. As any new teacher would be, I was happy to have some posters to decorate my classroom.
Would they be pictures of computers? of technology? Great!
Would they be instructions? Directions for students? Wonderful!
The posters I found in the box were none of those things.
Instead they were photos of various innovators, thinkers, doers. Einstein, Ghandi, Jim Henson. It was not what was expecting but I selected some and put them on my classroom walls. Over time, during that first year of teaching, I got the message.
As it turned out, the posters were part of Apple’s 1997 campaign called Think Different. Posters were sent to schools everywhere.
As a leader in the technology industry, Jobs pushed for more, for better. With normal market competition in place, innovation was the goal for not just Apple but for all.
It could be said that this drive impacted the whole industry.
New discoveries come from many companies, and many sectors each and every day. Netbooks, tablets, smart phones all have arisen from a drive for improvement that each of us benefits from in some way.
Below is a checklist of lessons for Educational Technology. This is the list I created. What would you add?
Checklist for EdTech from Steve Jobs
Plan far ahead – Think beyond what is needed now. Be creative. Imagine what is possible. Plan. Dream.
Make the technology matter – Figure out how to use the power of technology to truly make a difference in the lives of children, teachers. Research and apply.
Keep it simple – Technology does not have to be complex to advance the work your students do.
Focus – Adding more and more technology intensive initiatives can be counterproductive. Focus on what is best for teachers and students and implement it well. Don’t skimp on professional learning time and collaboration time for teachers.
Gather Input – Ask people what they need. Find out how can you help them. Use the feedback to improve what is offered. Better still – anticipate their needs.
Get your best people involved – Find out who is interested in exploring new uses of technology for learning, for connecting. Empower them with the time and tools to share and do more. Encourage positive teamwork.
Persevere – You may not see the results you expect right away. Stick with it. We are preparing students for their future. Technology is interwoven in much of what we do today and our students need to be prepared to learn and work with the right tools and the right mindset for connected learning.
Believe – In a world of rapid change, we can’t predict exactly where we are going or what change will be brought into our classrooms via technology. Believe that by teaching our children to critically explore and evaluate new forms of learning, we are preparing them for an enlightening future which is unwritten as of yet.
That first computer classroom of mine had a hodge podge of different computers and operating systems. Eventually it had all new pcs with cdroms!
Use the technology you have to do the best you can, advocate strongly for more and above all do use the power of technology with a deliberate and dedicated purpose – to make a difference in the education, the lives of your teachers and students.
This is cross posted on School CIO published by Tech and Learning Magazine