Great new video from New Brunswick, Canada!

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have a prep when Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach of the Powerful Learning Practice was hosting a session on “Evaluating Digital Resources.” Once again I fired up Elluminate and logged in for a session. There were a few people I recognized attending the online session including Alec Couros. Alec is one of my former professors at the University of Regina and introduced me to many of the online tools, groups and collaborators that I work with now.

The session was hosted by Nussbaum-Beach but the presenter was Ira Socol. Socol posed the question “How do we know something is true?” He then discussed news stories that have been published before the information has been checked and questioned. His example was the New York Times Airbus A380 story that was published but contradicted information from a story the Times had published two weeks earlier. Socol  discussed the old way of establish information: look at the author’s credentials, the publisher’s authority and whether the library or school distributed the text. The reason the old way is no longer as relevant is that by the time text is published there has already been changes in the information presented.

Society now looks at information in a much different way. They don’t look for information authority but at perceived authority. Our students may look at an author’s reputation, what someone else recommends, if there is previous experience with the source, who the author and site are associated with and the findability of the information. Most of our students are most impressed by the findability of information or which information had the most hits on Google. The students are equating most hits with the best quality as a way to rate information.

Socol posed discussion questions;

How do your students “know” something is true?

Is it the same way the you (teachers) “know”?

Is it the same way your Board of Education “knows”?

What is true is that students don’t “know” what is true. My example is that earlier this week as my students were researching wonders of the world, one of my students showed me a picture of The Great Wall of China as a water slide. I questioned whether the picture was real or fake. The student hadn’t thought anything about it other than how cool that would be. I sent them back to check. As Socol states we need to teach our students to ask questions and train them in “information intelligence.” We want to ask our students to find the information in other places to verify it is reliable information. We want students to look through the site’s information and question whether the other things the source says are believable. Students also need to know what the author’s perspective is to understand if there is a bias behind the information. According to Socol the  most important technique we can use when we’re teaching our students to evaluate digital resources is to demand of our students “Show me why you think this is true.”

Today’s readers become literate by learning to read the words and symbols of today’s world. They analyze multiple representations of a variety of texts, pictures, artwork, data and videos. Ultimately, 21st Century literacy is where aural, oral, visual and digital literacies merge. This new literacy gives students the ability to read and produce words, images, videos and new media. There is a profound shift in the way students express themselves and communicate with their peers. As educators we need to adapt to this new literacy or become irrelevant to our students. The students are operating in a multi-modal and multi-layer environment which is modular and portable. Students have moved into an interactive and collaborative arena that connects them to their world. When you consider this university class, EC&I 832, is a perfect example of the ability of students to convey information, create new content and work with new literacies. Our class relies on multi media, online web tools and our ability to communicate together. Our students are going to insist that we begin to create the same type of learning environments for them. Simply consider the deep understanding we are developing beyond a teacher instructing us. We are free to develop our own interests and delve as deep as we desire to. What would happen if our students were able to develop their interests and create content based on those interests?
Thoughts inspired by

What role do multi-modal and print-based texts play in the life of the 21st century learner?

A tongue in cheek view of “New Literacies for a New Age”

Members of the research team at Project New Media Literacies discuss the social skills and cultural competencies needed to fully engage with today’s participatory culture. Featuring Henry Jenkins from MIT.

I just finished viewing and reflecting on Steve Wheeler’s slide presentation on New Pedagogies for the Digital age. As Wheeler states “The future of education will be premised on what students need – and that will include creative solutions, flexible, personalisable tools, and device responsiveness that is culturally relevant. It’s going to be exciting and challenging!” It occurred to me that there is much discussion about what type of education students need and what pedagogy is best to prepare students for an unknown future.

In Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and Delivering E-learning Helen Beethem and Rona Sharpe argue that there is nothing new about using technologies for learning. From the beginning of time every tool that has been introduced to enhance learning and teaching has been a new invention. Beethem and Sharpe continue with “The networked digital computer and its more recent mobile and digital are just the latest outputs of human ingenuity that we have at our disposal.” Beethem and Sharpe contend “that these technologies represent a paradigm shift … on the theory of learning.” Beethem and Sharpe question how digital technologies constitute a new context for learning and explore this in their book.

In his paper How has pedagogy changed in a digital age? Hayat Al-Khatib concludes that “The full potential of ICT support should be explored in learner-centered strategies to shift pedagogic orientation to cater more for the role of the learner in the learning process, taking advantage of the resources and tools made available in the digital age.”

Our goal as educators should be to develope a curious, flexible and creative student who is able to work cooperatively in group situations. Whether that group is within that student’s classroom, school, city or even country depends on the student and teacher’s ability to connect to a learning network outside of the student’s building. The biggest change since I started teaching is that type of tools and technology available to me. I still remember learning how to use a gestetner machine and how exciting a photo copier in the school was. The difference now is that we live in a digital age and as educators, digital tools are what we have to use with our students. In Block 5 for my EC&I 832 class we’ve been exploring various web tools and questioning how they can help us in our teaching practice. If we consider the cartoon sites, movie makers, digital story telling and social networking applications as technological tools we can use them wisely to enhance learning in a digitally relevant way.

To filter or not to filter? That appears to be a big question for school divisions. My own opinion is that we don’t filter because I find it an insult that someone in an IT department is going to make teaching decisions for me. I think that my professional judgement and education should allow me some decision making power and the respect to know how to teach my students to be digitally responsible. If I don’t teach them who is going to?

Google Australia posted on their blog concerns about an Australian government proposal to implement filtering in all schools:
“Some limits, like child pornography, are obvious. No Australian wants that to be available – and we agree. Google, like many other Internet companies, has a global, all-product ban against child sexual abuse material and we filter out this content from our search results. But moving to a mandatory ISP filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material is heavy handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information. ”

Google Australia goes on to say “Our view is that online safety should focus on user education…” which are exactly my feelings. “The government has committed to important cybersafety education and engagement programs and yesterday announced additional measures that we welcome.”

On ConnectSafely’s blog Anne Collier states “Many young people are using ‘proxy servers’ to get round their schools’ internet security systems, ” the BBC reports, adding that students’ use of these free school-filtering workarounds is on the rise. “It sounds like an obscure, techy area of computing that only geeks would know about. But when we asked pupils in one secondary school classroom who had heard of proxy servers, every hand went up.” I started looking into proxy servers and found blog posts that instructed students how to bypass school filters and for a step by step  directions you only have to look as far as YouTube.

So, our school divisions set up all of these filters and students start a quest to find a way to work around them. It makes me wonder what exactly we’re teaching here. Collier goes on to say “Instead, schools should embrace and teach with these devices (cellphones etc.) and technologies so students can learn and practice wise use…That helps develop the 24/7 cognitive “filter” in their heads that improves with practice and is as flexible as their use of technology is…” And if all else fails you can insert images or graphics on your blogs and wikis to truly express how you feel.

On  Chris Matyszczyk’s blog Technically Incorrect he pokes fun at filters with this blog” School Web Filters Force Beaver into Hibernation.” Matyszczyk goes on to explain that the Canadian Natural History’s magazine “The Beaver” ,established in 1920, has
run into problems with school filters. “… web and spam filters, especially the robust ones employed by schools to keep their students from reading about naked bodies and manual exercise, are rejecting The Beaver’s hardy historical e-mails and other communications.” Now, doesn’t this seem silly?

On the blog Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning, Christine C. poses the question “Are school content filters keeping you and your students from learning and sharing information?” Christine discusses the problems that teachers and students are having when their access to social media is blocked. Christine also introduces ” Buffy Hamilton, a high school librarian in Canton, Ga., who argues that media specialists should try to overcome digital roadblocks by presenting reasoned and well-resourced arguments.” Hamilton shares her thoughts on Strategies for Fighting Internet Filtering on slideshare.

I think Will Richardson sums up my feelings about filtering in schools “It insults the profession to not at the very least provide desktop overrides for teachers when they bump up against a filtered site. Have a policy in place to deal with incidents where teachers make poor choices if that’s what the concern is.”

I’ve been watching Henry Jenkins video on Edutopia.  Big Thinkers: Henry Jenkins on New Media and Implications for Learning and Teaching | Edutopia.  He believes that students and teachers are being hampered by schools due to filtering and sites being blocked. The access to technology is being restricted by school IT departments who are not the people actually using the technology. I’m starting to see this trend in my own school division. I know that the internet has more filters and restrictions in the high schools in my school division and right now there are very few sites filtered in the elementary schools. This means that my students and I can access information, videos and web tools whenever we want to. Yes, occasionally a student goes on a site I don’t want them to go on but that becomes a teaching opportunity when I talk about digital responsibility. Jenkins also states that teachers and districts need to recognize that there is a lot of learning going outside of schools. He believes that educators need to value this learning and incorporate it into our teaching. If we give students to discuss and share what they are learning beyond our four walls we open up our classrooms to rich sharing and discussion opportunities.

Jenkins states that it is time to get rid of the roles of digital natives and digital immigrant.  I’ve often thought that those terms were over used and not always correct. There needs to be a shift that we work and learn together particularly in a culture of connectiveness and sharing. Jenkins also believes that we need to move away from the autonomous model of learning and move to a collaborative culture of students and teachers being partners in education. To accomplish this teachers need to be connected and build a supportive and social network to support the work they want to do in their classrooms. I believe that if teachers are connected we are more apt to connect our students to enrich their learning.

Jenkins suggests we need to make a paradigm shift in our teaching to give students the skills they need to work in the new media landscape: play, performance, judgement, networking, negotiation, collective intelligence and appropriation. These are collaborative skills that translate into all subject areas and into students lives beyond school. The bottom line is that students won’t remember a lot of the subject content that we teach them but they will carry they skills we teach them far beyond us.

Jenkins poses some interesting discussion questions which makes me consider the roles of teachers, technology and schools in teaching students for the future.

1. How are schools limiting kids’ access to digital tools? Do you agree with these policies?

2. Do you see the participation gap in your school and community?

3. How do we create shared learning opportunities across generations?

4. Are schools ready to give up control to kids, families, and communities of learning? What are the opportunities and challenges?

5. What does authorship mean in the digital age? How do we teach it to kids?

Big Thinkers: Henry Jenkins on New Media and Implications for Learning and Teaching | Edutopia.

I finished reading Will Richardson’s article “Footprints in the Digital Age” this morning and I thought about my footprint then about my students. So in the spirit of Block 5 I thought about I could use digital tools to represent my learning. I decided to create an Animoto movie with the ideas from Will’s article. I love using Animoto for my own projects and it’s a great alternative to iMovie for my students to use. The tricky part is that I’m having a tough time embedding it on this wordpress blog. I’ve tried exporting it directly but wordpress is not recognizing my password when I export from Animoto. I downloaded the movie to my desktop but because I don’t have Quicktime Pro I couldn’t export or upload it to my blog post. So I’m on attempt number three. I’m uploading the Animoto movie to YouTube then I will get the html link from Youtube to insert in this post. You’ll know if you see the movie that it worked. This exercise reinforces the concept to me that we don’t have to be technology experts but we must be willing to learn with our students, experiment, experience technological defeat and be ready to try again.