Starting to Pull Citizenship, Leadership, and Literacy Together

I’m spending some time pulling various threads of readings, conversations, and writing together.

Here’s my first effort to think about what it is that high school students need to know and to be able to do:

File_000 (20)

But, I’m missing things. In my sketchnote above, I’m really thinking about digital safety. There’s way more that high school students need. Going back to the drawing board, literally.

Watch for my remix tomorrow.

This year we started with our campus-wide adoption of Enterprise Level Schoology. We’ve done a great job at providing our teachers with a wide range of professional development options–both during the school day through department and faculty meetings, as well as after school trainings–to get the basics of how to operate the Schoology platform.

Teachers know how to login, navigate to different pages, create pages, assignments, quizzes, rubrics.

Yet, it feels like in many ways we’re still falling short. Teachers struggle to apply. We hear, “I know how to do it, but I don’t know how to do it in my classroom.” In speaking with my technology-integration colleagues, we know that we have to emphasize how to organize courses.

One of the challenges of using a tool like Schoology is that the approach to use is highly individualized. Users have to consider their teaching styles, a plan for how they’ll use Schoology, their level of technology access (1-to-1, computer-labs and carts, nothing). Working from the answers to these questions, then they can think about how Schoology will best work for them.

Below, I’ve outlined three broad-stroke ways that a teacher might use Schoology, and begin to organize their course content.  After several years of experience, there are three models that I’d suggest for people.

Use the LMS as a replacement for your webpage

Some of the uninitiated into the potentials of learning management systems, such as Schoology, ask “Is this something that I really need to use?” or “How would I make use of this?”

Have you ever had a kid say, ‘I can’t find that assignment?” or ‘Do you have an extra copy of that worksheet?’ Or, have you ever had a parent ask to be kept updated on your course, or ask for copies of materials to be made available? It’s for these reasons that using Schoology makes sense.

In most schools, districts provide platforms for teachers to have a webpage or web-presence. On these pages teachers typically provide copies of files, resources to access, perhaps a calendar of due dates for parents, links to your syllabus. It’s primarily, then, an information driven resource so that the public and those you serve, have materials they need to be successful. Once those materials are put on the web, students and parents have access to them.

In this model, teachers will use Schoology as a home-base for resources. Either by using pages or attaching files, the coursework  is now available to students whenever they have web-access. When students ask for a copy of a misplaced worksheet or parents ask to have access to assignments so that they can help at home, they can be pointed to your Schoology course.

This is a great option for teachers and schools that don’t have 1-to-1 access to technology or some other limited form of technology access. Additionally, teachers who use a lot of direct instruction and maintain a traditional, teacher-centered approach to their classrooms, will still gain a lot of power of the Schoology platform.

Use the LMS to parallel your classes.

For most teachers, this is the way that Schoology will have the most power and value in their instruction.

Let’s say that your classroom looks similar to the following description: You’ve set up routines with your students where they come to class and do some kind of warm-up for the day while you are taking attendance or checking homework, then move into a vocabulary session, and then the lesson for the day.

In this model, use Schoology to follow along with your lesson. Create a warm-up folder that students know to access. Get them in the routine of accessing this folder when they come to class, organize that folder by date or some system. Or, using the tools in Schoology, turn warm-ups on and off as they are needed.

Have a folder for vocabulary or homework check. And then have folders for the units you are teaching. Turn the folder on for access while you are in the unit and off when you’ve finished it.

Use the LMS as a complete blended-learning environment

I don’t work in a 1-to-1 environment, yet. However, I’ve got my units and projects planned so that I know when I’m going to be in need of computers, so I sign-out the computer labs. Each of my projects is broken down into a series of steps. I place these steps as either assignments or pages (a discussion of how and why I do this can happen at another time). All I then have to do with my students is tell them what steps they should be working on during class. I might say, “By Friday, you’ll need to be through step number three,” or “Today you should finish step number 2.” You’ll see from the pictures below, not only am I organizing by step, I’m also explicit in my instructions about what to do and how to proceed through the unit, how they can show completion of the steps.

I have used Schoology’s “Completion Rules” on the folders, and this is a helpful tool to keep track of student progress, as well as keeping students moving through the unit in a way that helps them to consume course content in a manageable and purposeful fashion.

Below, I have an example of the step and its directions. For each step, explicit directions tell students how to complete the step and if any submission is required.

Another example of directions and submission requirements.

You’ll see in the image above, I’ve got each of the steps set as assignments. This way, the assignments show up in the calendar and in the “upcoming” list of to-dos. Also, each assignment acts as a check point or piece of formative assessment.

Regardless of the model you might embrace, here are some standard practices that will make it easier for your students and your parents to navigate your course:

  1. Organize materials into folders, label the folders, and if possible, as it is in Schoology, color-code the folders.
  2. Number the materials inside of the folder.
  3. Meta-teach. Instruct your students on how you’ve organized, and how you want them to use Schoology in your course. The way you do this will change, and that’s not a bad thing, but organic to teaching and learning Schoology. If you change the way that you do it, just tell your students.
  4. Because many of my assignments incorporate choice in both the kinds of products that students can create, as well as the modes of creation–text-based, audio, video, image–I have page of resources that students can access for digital making. Such a page allows students to gain access to tools such as Adobe Spark, Canva, Screencastify as resources for.

I’ll be honest, making the jump to working in Schoology is a commitment. You have to get your stuff there, and then make kids access what you’ve put there. For me, getting to this point has been a multi-year process. Most of what I’ve shared above has come through trial and error, experience, and really listening to my students. 

I full expect that next year, in a 1-to-1 environment, pushing my teaching to further work with blended learning, having students be able to access materials from their Chromebooks all the time, as well as having parents have access will continue to allow my work with Schoology to evolve.

(Re-)Thinking about Digital Literacy

As part of the 2017 Summer Learning Challenge as well as my own efforts to become a better digital leader, and prepare for helping my students next school year become better digital leaders, I’m spending time reading about digital literacies, citizenship and leadership. Jennifer Casa-Todd’s book SocialLeadia references, at several points, Doug Belshaw. I’m working on reading through his white paper on digital literacies, but I found his Tedx Talk.

Doug Belshaw’s Tedx talk on digital literacy. 

Here are my take-aways from this Ted Talk in both a Sketchnote and in list format:

File_000 (8)

  1. Digital Literacy (DL) is contextually dependent.
  2. We need to think about digital literacy as progressive rather than linear and sequential.
  3. Digital Literacies are complex and multifaceted rather than singular (Digital Literacy)
  4. DLs are social in nature.
  5. Teach DLs through tapping into student passion and interest.
  6. DLs are best taught through remixing of media.

What if schools operated as if we should all be “learners”? Part 2 #IMOOC week 3

Yesterday, our school played host to a first-ever regional workshop of 4 area schools.

About 800 educators came together to spend the day in workshops, presentations, discussions, sharings, connections all in the service of the theme of the day “Connecting for Kids.”

The premise was simple–we have a lot of education talent in the Finger Lakes region. Let’s put it together, share those resources and knowledge, and our kids can benefit.

Such things do not happen easily. A coordinated effort such as this takes time, and it takes resources. Superintendents trusted that it could come together. Such is the culture of innovation.

The vibe for the day was amazing. Everyone that I spoke with felt like they were learning, and felt like the connection between other teachers and educators inspired and re-filled those March-empty teacher tanks.

Such a day makes room for people to return to something fundamental. It allows us to become learners again. We connected for kids, but we also connected for ourselves and our passions.

Continue reading “What if schools operated as if we should all be “learners”? Part 2 #IMOOC week 3″

What if schools operated as if we should all be “learners”? #IMMOOC week 3

 

Analogy: “Career” vs. “Passion”; “Teacher” vs. “Learner”

It popped into my Twitter feed earlier today. A question that should be added to the list of questions asked when hiring new teachers: “How do you consider yourself a learner?”

A career in education is a long one. Some teachers may spend 20 years, or perhaps 30 or 35 years working in a classroom. Educators may move from a classroom setting, to some support role as  a department chair or leader, or in many cases, move into an administrative position.

If we see our roles only as a adults there to give knowledge, hold students accountable, assign points, it may come to feel pretty static.

And, when students aren’t interested in the class, they resist by not doing work, adults up the stakes with more rules, systems of accountability, and I’ve seen the burned out of imposing the role of the “teacher.”


Integration question: What are the principles of sustainability in ecology and environmental science and how can they be applied to the field of education


I don’t have your answer.

For me, it’s a drive to do new and different things in different ways in my classroom. To not rest on something that’s worked in the past. This means knowing that I have to learn about new techniques, approaches, methodologies and tools to make the new possible and successful.  

 

10 Things to Do to Support & Build Cultures of Innovation

  1. Don’t worry about having all the answers.
  2. Take on new things, and don’t worry about having it all figured out from the start.
  3. Know that it’s okay to say to kids, “I don’t know,” or “I’m challenging you to figure it out.”
  4. Read books–try stuff that other people write about.
  5. Reflect and think about how you can make it new, different, better.
  6. Recognize boredom, figure out what conditions create it, and change.
  7. Blend and integrate: How would a different subject area teacher do this? How would a different grade level do this?
  8. Blend and integrate: If I were a business person, what would I do? If I sold cars, how would I proceed? If I were a surgeon, what steps would I take? If I were a short order cook, how would I make this?
  9. Take time to follow your own passions: run, play video games, cook, write, play music.
  10. Take time to do something you’ve never done before: run, play video games, cook, write, play music.  

Pop Culture in Practice

This week’s Edublogs Club asked us to consider the role pop culture and pop culture texts play in our classrooms and in our instructional practices.

The Tedx Talk by Mackenzie Matheson argues that pop culture, found in media such as Disney films, provides valuable insights into our world, with narrative that comment on what gender roles are promoted and which are subverted, as well as how these narratives provide powerful socialization tools.

Thus, the use of pop culture in classrooms can be an excellent tool for student engagement and critical pedagogy in the classroom.

Like what Matheson advocates for in her talk, I’ve used Disney films to discuss how media can deliver powerful messages about gender, race, and class. However, what I’ve often found is disdain from my students in such approaches. It’s as if they’re saying, “How dare you try to despoil something from my childhood that I love.” Students want to accept pop culture at face value, to enjoy it as consumers of entertainment. They don’t want to accept that Cinderella promotes duty to cruel and unjust parents, that the little mermaid suggests that women need to change themselves to please men, or that Aladdin perpetuates stereotypes made by Western society about Arabic culture: “It’s Barbaric, but hey, it’s home!” Most of the messages in Disney films come intermixed on the screen with catchy jingles and smooth whistling from characters.

While I agree with Matheson’s ideas–not just her but with other educators who are pop culture-in-classroom proponents–that pop culture is valuable, but I guess I diverge and think that it’s not the quick fix to student disengagement or faltering motivation.

As an aside, Matheson’s talk provides some great analysis of these films. I wonder how she arrived at it. On her own? Or was that part of a classroom assignment or from someone teaching her about media analysis? Was there any research conducted? What were her sources? I have to think a classroom and teacher were in some way responsible, but we won’t know.

Also, I didn’t think her talk added up. There was analysis of Disney films, but in the end her message is identify with a character, fight your Disney battles. I didn’t seem to come together.

Bringing in media and using it is important, but I’ve also found that students access such a diverse and really fragmented array of media, that finding commonality in their tastes is near impossible.

I play, as many of my students do, video games. For weeks now, I’ve been excited to play the new PS4 game Horizon Zero Dawn; however, when I shared this with my classes, not even the gamers new what I was talking about. When I am able to talk about videogames with my gaming students, I realize that we don’t all play on the PS4. Some play on the xbox, some on PC. We play an astounding array of games and in many styles. I love learning from them and I’m inspired. But, even as gamers, we lack commonality.

It seems that we no longer, as a culture, access the same media narrative. Decades ago, there was a commonality–families sat around a radio and listened to a broadcast. And every family in each house and neighborhood was likely to listen to the same thing. Now, each person carries their own metaphorical radio around, and most have them in their pocket; however, that radio plays such a diverse range of media and programming, and that choice gives us power, but it also divides us.

No longer can we count on the idea that everyone watched the latest episode of MASH, or Friends, or Seinfeld the night before and that we can talk about it while circles around the water cooler or over bad cafeteria lunch in the teacher’s lounge. Instead, the water cooler talk revolves around the individual programming of the watcher, and an argument from each on what should be added to the other’s Netflix queue for watching. I myself have trouble remembering what media services my co-workers subscribe to: “Are you on Netflix? No? Hulu? Prime?”

The same goes for students. We can’t expect everyone to have watched PLL, or Lost or Grey’s Anatomy. They’re all watching something different. And if it’s not watching, then they’re all listening, reading, streaming, or Youtube-ing something different. If they aren’t Disney freaks, then they’re into video games or rap or ESPN.  

This makes it almost impossible to have a common framework and approach in using popular media in the classroom.

What’s important is not necessarily the media that I bring, the popular culture media, but that students might bring their own favorite kinds of media into the class space to share, and more importantly to work at evaluate, to review, to analyze, to seek out its messages.

When empowered to work with their own media choices, the results can be great for the individual student. I’ve seen great work done in analyzing gender in Orphan Black and genre mash-up in Firefly. I’ve seen them analyze depictions of masculinity in World of Warcraft. Students do great visual analysis of Seventeen magazine covers. I’ve had students create excellent histories of the Mario franchise.

Where I’ve had the most success is not with what I bring to the table, but when I give them the opportunity to select their own media and texts to work with.