The So We’ve Been Thinking Podcast

The So We’ve Been Thinking Podcast

I have been working on a project reviewing past writing and in doing so realized that I have not yet written here about the “So We’ve Been Thinking…” Podcast.

For the last two months Greg Kulowiec and I have been building a podcast. The ultimate aim of this passion project is to explore discussions around education, educational technology, modern literacy, innovation and work. We want to talk to everyone, teachers, students, leaders, experts, authors, agitators, and researchers.

Beyond that though, we also want to take a look at what it is like to find work and do business in the world today to determine if schools are preparing students for the world of work that they are about to enter. So I have been reaching out to former students to hear their stories and experiences in the working world. I’ve been focusing on those who have jobs in technology or education related fields, to explore the intersection of education, technology and careers in the real world.

Working on the podcast with Greg has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career in education. We have set out to learn and we want to share the story of that learning in a public way much like we did in the early days of #sschat (Social Studies Chat) on twitter.

I would be honored if you would give it a listen. The response to the work so far has been overwhelming. I was excited when our listens climbed into the hundreds and that feeling only deepens now that we have crossed over into many thousands.

I’m loving the work and the feeling that I am learning and bettering myself and I’d like  to share that with you.

Here is a link to So We’ve Been Thinking Project page where you can access “So We’ve Been Thinking through all of the major podcast services. https://www.sowevebeenthinking.com/podcast/

Advertisements

The Smart Phone Generation is About to Graduate

Have you ever wondered if the work you do in the classroom has truly prepared your students for the world? I do. A lot. Especially as the pace of change in our world becomes faster and faster. Sometimes keeping up with that change can be hard, but it is important so that education is preparing students as we send them out into the world.

Students who graduate at the end of this school year (2018-2019) began school some time around 2006. The first iPhone came out that year. The iPad released in 2010 followed quickly by the Chromebook in 2011. The popularity of 1:1 programs began changing the relationships that students had with information and the way they were connected to the world outside of school.

Most of these kids have always had some level of internet access, and a good portion of them have had access to a web connected device as part of their learning. At school, a new, abundant economy of information emerged in schools, as in the rest of the world. Think of the changes that that have taken place in that time in our world and hopefully in our schools.

This year’s graduating class learned through the entire transition, and will set out into a world we could barely have imagined when they were born in 2000. Their reality is having their own devices in their pockets and within their reach at all hours of the day. . They have navigated social media as part of their daily lives and have had nearly every fact at their disposal, always.

Pause for just a moment and think about just the ways that communicating with a friend is different today. As a child I never had to request to be added as a friend and was never judged based upon the number of followers that I had. I never had to worry about maintaining all of my Snapchat streaks or who I feel comfortable adding to my Instagram spam account versus, my regular Instagram account.

Keeping all of this in mind, today France has banned devices from the majority of their schools. I’m sure that there are some who see this as a step in the right direction, but for me I just gasped, and felt sad.

The most powerful tool that a child has ever entered a classroom with… was just banned…by an entire country. How can you say that you are preparing a student for the world when you make schools places that do not resemble that world? How can that not have serious consequences. I suspect that in a year or two the French will publish data that their test scores have risen as a result. Even if that happens, this will be no less of a tragedy. This is bigger than scores.

France, you can’t roll back time and make it 2006 again. (Honestly we were way down this path even before then.) Banning phones will not protect the French institution of education, it will only serve to further erode its relevance. Banning phones will not uphold values that you feel are threatened by technology, only teaching those values in the context of technology will.

We should be preparing students for reality rather than hiding from it even when that presents difficult challenges. If these tools have become the dominant form of communication in our lives, using them effectively is going to be important in the jobs that they will one day be competing for.

For teachers, the lesson here is to reflect on if we are addressing the issues, trends and needs of our students in our classes through meaningful lessons, meaningful work and by addressing important values. Or are we trying hold back the future, like France.

Building Your Classroom Campfire

Choosing the tools that you use in a classroom is an important part of building the environment you hope to create. Just as teachers arrange desks and invest time in bulletin boards to create physical spaces, tech tools contribute to the digital space of a classroom.

My first principal once told me that you can learn a lot about a teacher just by looking at their classroom. I took that to heart and always tried to build a space that served my mission. I remember looking back on the wonder that was my 5th grade teacher. I can’t remember everything that I learned that year, but I loved walking into that room.

I think we can learn a lot about a teacher from the digital spaces that they create.

So I have been thinking…are we as careful about the way we are constructing our digital classroom? Do we vet the choices that we are making about digital learning spaces as heavily as we do those of our physical spaces, not just in terms of what they accomplish in terms of tasks but also in terms of them as a space that students inhabit? Are we concerned if they are warm and welcoming places as much as we are when students walk into our physical classes on day one?

Some time ago I started thinking of the classroom as a campfire. The campfire is a place where after a long day, people come together, get to know each other, celebrate and share experiences. Campfires draw people in and value sharing. Then, invariably they lead people to stare into the fire and reflect. I won’t belabor the analogy here, but there is a lot about seeing the classroom as a campfire that works. (Though I am temp

ted to point out that I have never been to a campfire gathering built on a lecture format.)

Another facet of the “Classroom Campfire” is “What kind of fire do you need to accomplish your task.” Smores, cookout or bonfire, large group or small, you need to plan a fire that serves your mission. Choose wisely and build the right campfire. Tools are no different.

Classroom tools are not neutral, they complete a task but they also have a feel and make statements about what is important. Some LMS tools are sterile and cold while completing a task

well and making it easier for teachers to organize and distribute work. Some web tools are fun, but limit a classes ability to share reflect and return to the work later on. Some tools are powerful but are hard to get familiar (high cost of admission but the show is great.) None of these things are necessarily a problem, if you are constructing a digital classroom space thoughtfully keeping in mind the sum total effect that these tools have on the kids.

Are your students operating in a digital classroom space that is as carefully constructed as the physical space that you create for them? Are you proud of the digital space that you have created?

5 Tools to Help Evaluate Sources in a World of Fake News

 

5 Tools to Help Evaluate Sources in a World of Fake News

This post was originally published on  Daily Genius you can check it out by following the link above.

Whether you call it “fake news”, “misinformation” or the more innocuous “spin,” and whether you see this as an entirely new problem or the continuation of an already existing problem (think “War of the Worlds,” “Yellow Journalism” and “Dewey Defeats Truman”), one thing is clear: there is a powerful and pressing need to prepare our youth to make sense of the constant flow of media information that they consume everyday.

As teachers, we need to be aware of how students are consuming their information.  Recent studies have shown that 69% of Americans get their news from Facebook, while other research suggests that social media such as Snapchat and Twitter are how millennials are staying up to date with current events.  Yet a study from Stanford University suggests that a majority of young Americans cannot accurately identify what content on a web page is news and what is advertising or paid content.

Have we as teachers moved to adjust how we instruct our students to evaluate information as the sources for that information have changed? This isn’t always easy, especially since the trends in social media are fluid and changing.   While there is no one silver bullet website that can resolve this issue, many helpful resources exist. Here are a few to help you get started in constructing your curriculum.

5 Tools to Help Evaluate Sources in a World of Fake News

The Stanford History Group: The Stanford History Group is well known to history teachers. Recently, they published an executive summary entitled EVALUATING INFORMATION: THE CORNERSTONE OF CIVIC ONLINE REASONING.  It provides a summary of the research they conducted in 2015-16 and includes samples activities geared towards middle and high school students designed to teach students to evaluate articles, comment sections, News on Social media, and website reliability.  It is a must read for teachers at any level.  The sample activities will have you thinking.

Allsides:  Allsides allows readers to evaluate the bias of news articles collected from across online news sites. The site also features the ability for readers rate news sources and individual articles as LEFT or RIGHT leaning. Students can explore the overall ratings of sites or choose articles specifically from one perspective or another.  The site is great for making comparisons of topics from several sites.

screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-9-37-07-am

Politifact:  Politifact is the Pulitzer prize winning fact checking website created by the Tampa Bay Times.  It uses a “Truth-O-Meter” to rate the accuracy of politicians and parties.  During last year’s election, Politifact live tweeted during debates, quickly evaluating statements and statistics.  It was a helpful tool for class discussions. The site allows you to search for topics or individual politicians.  For each rating, the site offers an explanation of how they arrived at their conclusion.

 screenshot-2017-01-21-12-23-22

Factcheck.org is a project from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.  In addition to evaluating the truthfulness of political statements, Factcheck has a viral spiral feature that addresses internet rumors, a SciCheck page that evaluates scientific claims, and an “Ask Us” feature that allows questions to be submitted for fact checking.

screenshot-2017-01-21-12-22-35

Google Custom Search: If you can’t find the tools that work best for you, you can make your own.  Google Custom search allows you to select and curate websites that will be searched by your students.  Classes can create a standard for what sites they will use for a lesson or for research assignments and then add them to their custom search if it is determined that they meet the standard. This allows the class to be active and engaged in building a collection of trusted sources.   Individual students can construct a search engine for their projects, allowing them to go back and search sources again as their research evolves.   Teachers can save a variety of different searches which can be shared with students or embedded in websites.

It should be noted that Snopes.com is missing from the list above. The site has been evaluating online news, stories, and urban legends since the 1990’s. I omitted it not because it lacks any value but because while it is useful, it is so compelling that when I take students there they can sometimes get lost down the rabbit hole.

However you are preparing your students, one thing is clear — it is critical that we, as educators, consider how our students are accessing the news and information and how we can help them actively process all that is pushed to them through social media throughout the day.

eSchool News Top 14 Trailblazing Educators on Twitter

I am proud to have been named to the eSchool News Top 14 Trailblazing Educators on Twitter.  In reflecting on my years on Twitter, I can’t help but think of all the passionate educators that I have met along the way while sharing our learning. Years of rethinking education have shown me that while there is much to do, the schools of America are full of the best kind of people.

Teaching the Humanities with Technology

Today I participated in a webinar about integrating technology in Humanities classrooms. One of the reasons I like to participate in these events is that it forces me to evaluate myself and my practice and allows me to collect many new ideas. If you notice towards the end, while the others are talking I start writing ideas down. Look for future posts that share black out poetry and common craft videos. I’m also really excited to look into Vocabla (http://vocabla.com/ ) and Inkle Writer (http://www.inklestudios.com/inklewriter/) .

If you are interested I will be presenting on Creating a Culture of Writing at the EdTechTeacher Summit in July and I will leading variety of workshops  throughout June.

Why It’s Time To Change How Students Cite Their Work

This article was originally posted on Edudemic on February 20th, 2014.  See the original post here.

When students write a paper, it goes without saying that they must cite the sources that they use in creating it. For generations, students have created note cards to document and organize these resources and/or submitted a bibliography page with their finished work.

In the modern classroom, student research and creation has taken on a new look. Before, when students created a poster, and then separately handed in a bibliography page to the teacher, justice was done and fair credit was given for the ideas used.

However, as widespread sharing of these projects becomes more common, and the internet allows students to reach an audience far beyond the school or classroom, we need to re-evaluate this procedure and address our responsibility to share these sources – not just with the teacher or school, but with all who might consume the project.

Without readily available sources to review, the audience cannot truly evaluate the validity of the project. They are left with what might be a beautiful and elegant project (the product) without knowing the sources used to construct it (the process).

Sharing sources with an audience is how we can focus on the PROCESS of creation rather than seeing only the PRODUCT.

Sharing Sources of Student Work

1. Include citations for individual pieces of information within the products themselves. This method has the advantage of sharing the sources with those who are consuming the project. For a classroom, this further engages the class in evaluating the sources that are used and allows them to ask “is that a valid source?” or “does that source have a perspective or a bias?”

2. Have students create a traditional bibliography page in Google Drive and include a link to it on their project. This will increase the likelihood that students will explore sources and evaluate projects at a deeper level. The same could be done with Evernote or a shared document in Dropbox.

3. For traditional paper projects, science fair projects, posters, mobiles or other display work, have the students provide a shortened URL to let others find and explore their works cited as they view the product. This will also work for electronic work such as PrezisGlogstersPoppletsGoogle Presentations or online videos. Shortnened URLs can be created at tinyurl.com or by using chrome extensions such as goo.gl URL shortener.

3. In place of a Tiny URL, use a QR code to link viewers to works cited. QR codes can be created for free using QR Kaywa or QRCode Monkey. QR codes are an image file that can be easily added to online projects, and are equally effective when added to the end of videos.

In our information-rich world, accessing information is a daily activity, making it essential to credit the sources being used. This is no less true in elementary school, high school or college. The “Culture of Creation” that emerges in connected classrooms makes this even more important, and putting it at the forefront of creation will allow for a healthy and necessary evaluation of how classwork is created and the ideas used to do so.

MacBook, Chromebook, iPads: Why Schools Should Think Beyond Platforms

“If educational technology and 1:1 education are going to thrive, school leaders must be focused on constantly employing the best practices and tools in relation to the most pressing needs of their students. Managing and sustaining these programs means that the big choices don’t stop after a platform has been selected. Getting devices in the hands of students is just the beginning.”

I have listened to and been a part of many discussions or debates about the specific platform that schools should use for their 1:1 program. At some level most of these discussions end with people listing the benefits of their preferred choice. Spending too much time focused on choosing “the” device can narrow the focus on what the purpose of having the technology is in the first place.

While I can’t republish the Mind/Shift article here in its entirety, here is a link to the full article.

MacBook, Chromebook, iPads: Why Schools Should Think beyond Platform

Creativity and Learning with iPads (Devices)

I participated in this webinar yesterday on the topic of Creativity. it was great to chat with outstanding Aussie educator Paul Hamilton. My only regret is that I was not able to chat more with the amazing Kiwi educator Richard Wells. Both are innovators and blazing new trails for effective use of iPads in the classroom.

This topic of creativity has begun to consume more and more of my thinking. Though transitioning to a 1:1 classroom is what began the process, I see  that while the devices are wonderful mediums for expressing creativity, the classroom procedures and policies that go along with them do just as much to encourage students to create.

Though the title refers to iPads this video would be no less helpful to those with other devices. The conversation trended to creativity in general and how to encourage and foster it.

5 Demands Placed on Students in a 1:1

1. Manage the Technology: In addition to learning and completing assignments students have an array or responsibilities simply in managing the device.  The device needs to be charged, apps and programs need to be updated so that they continue to function correctly. At first students and perhaps parents may scoff at the idea that these tasks are part of learning. It can be hard to keep them accountable for them, but just as important as it is to have paper, a pen, a PE uniform or safety goggles, having a functioning device is key to being “ready to learn.”

2.  Make Learning Choices:  The volume of data being evaluated and sifted through and the freedom for students to construct ideas with their own information make 1:1 powerful. One roadblock to this is the “Tell Me What To Do?” mindset that many students have. This is not something reserved to struggling or resistant students.  Many of the best and the brightest students are not used to having choices and being held accountable for making them.  At first many students will get stuck when they get to a fork in the road.  Teachers need to help students get past the fear of deciding. Making clear goals for lessons and having a set of class values to guide those decisions will help. For choosing sources my classes have developed a series standards for what is best. Is the source reputable? Do you know who the author is? Can we identify potential biases in the writing? Does the source list its sources so that we can evaluate them?  The same types of procedures are necessary for choosing the format for their products as well. How does the platform enhance or support the ideas that you are trying to convey? With help and time, students learning to not only embrace, but be excited by the choices and possibilities.  They are more comfortable with bigger decisions about how they will learn.

3.  Problem Solve Together:  There is a big difference between working together and problem solving together.  My 1:1 classroom has taking problem solving to a completely different level.  Often we invent assignments together as a class.  As a result the students have to create a plan for completing them. It is common to have a problem that leads to debates and sometimes even disagreements.  Working through these common roadblocks is a ubiquitous part of my classes today.  More and more I am able to stand back and let them work it out.

4.  Protect Their Data:  There are few things worse than watching a student who has worked hard lose all of that work, effort and time due to a technology glitch.  Several students this year lost 12 weeks of work, all of which could have been saved with a few simple steps. Blaming the device is often a natural reaction. The reality is that we have to assume that the technology will fail us and take steps to protect our data.  If the work that we are doing is valid, authentic and important it is going to hurt, and hurt badly to lose it.  Tools like Dropbox, Evernote and Drive make protecting work easy.  Other apps and programs take a bit more time and effort.  That time and effort is time well spent.

5.  Teach the Teacher: Independent student work means that I am often listening to students explain how they came to a conclusion, solved a problem or worked through a technology issue.  Listening is a bigger part of the 1:1 teachers day than it used to be. It can take a while before students see the value in these explanations.  Many students still see school simplistically: Get assignment, complete assignment, turn in assignment.  Eventually classes begin to enjoy hearing how people did their work.  this is especially true when we are sharing projects.  Selfishly this change makes class more exciting for me too.  I constantly learn new tricks and tips to share in the future.  Here is an example of a Venn diagram assignment that became a lesson for me on stop animation.  I’ve been excited to try it ever since it was turned in.