Browsing"Be Responsible"

Exploring the grey

Nov 20, 2015 by     No Comments    Posted under: Be Responsible, Classroom

Have you every thought about how many of the decisions we make live in the “grey” space between right and wrong? This is one of my favourite topics to explore with students as it is an invitation for them to explore the process that they follow when they make decisions.

Think about this: You get a phone call in a public place. It is from a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time. You are excited. You proceed to talk loudly as you walk around. Is it ok to talk loudly on a phone in a public place?

This is how I opened up a discussion with a group of grade 5 students the other day and their viewpoints were interesting. Within moments a mini debate had evolved with students providing strong reasons for their belief.

Digital Citizenship Debate

This prompt was just a lead in to an inquiry about decision making in the online world but it forced a “rethink” about how we would address this issue.

As this discussion highlighted the students already had the background knowledge in what was “wrong” (black) or “right” (white) but what was interesting was how they navigated the “grey” in between. It was only through this invitation to share their thoughts that they were able to refine their thinking and make a more informed decision.

Luckily I work with a fantastic group of teachers and we went back to the drawing board and thought about how we could help support the student’s inquiries. Could we really just open this topic up to a series of deep discussions where we weigh the various viewpoints and then try to make an informed choice? We thought so, so we dived straight in.

We used Mike Ribble’s Digital Compass as a guide to help students with decision making and then we had students brainstorm potential situations that they might face online. They did an amazing job identifying the type of situations which really get at that “grey” area of decision making. Then a colleague, Jamie Raskin, had a great idea to turn these scenarios into a debate/game situation where students would pick a viewpoint and justify their opinion.

You could see the power of this activity when you heard the student’s debating/discussing these scenarios. They were able to identify all the issues that were involved and as a collective come to an informed and appropriate decision.

This experience has totally shifted my thinking about how to explore digital citizenship issues. Yes of course the students need some background knowledge but because these kids live and breath this world they are quick to pick up the basics. The issue is giving them experience with how to make appropriate decisions whilst they are there.

We all know that in theory some decisions should be “black” or “white” but in reality the choices people make fall somewhere in the middle. Why not help the students explore and grapple with this “grey” space?

Digital Compass

Moving Up

Aug 15, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Be Responsible, Communicate

You have got to love the buzz of students getting their first school laptop – it is infectious. This time of year has to be one of my favourites. The sound the kids make when they get to open their computers for the first time is still priceless.

Ford Family Portraits: Mr. Isaiah Early

This year we further refined our “role out” strategy. We have always tried to give our new year 7 students as much support as possible but this year we are trying to go that extra mile. Things kicked off on Friday afternoon with a keynote speech from the secondary principal on how technology is influencing our world. The students then took their laptops home for the weekend to explore. As the new week started up we organized a Year 7 Tech Conference. During this conference students worked in groups through a series of activities lead by various members of the teaching and admin staff.  The sessions during the day were structured for focus on the Approaches to Learning from the MYP programme. Students explored:

  • Responsibility – Digital Safety
  • Organization – OneNote & The Portal
  • Communication – Blogs
  • Organization – Dyknow & Veracross
  • Responsibilty – Ethical Use
  • Organization – Outlook
  • Organization – Backing Up

This is a similar structure to what we ran last year but the extra bit we are focusing on this year is the continued support we will provide the students. During House Room (home room for most) the teachers will be focusing on specific issues every fortnight. These sessions will mostly relate to how students organize themselves electronically and learning to lead a balanced life.  We will be using resources from Common Sense Media, Manic Time, Netsmartz (and many more of course) to help ensure that our new middle school students are supported as they progress through the year.

climb up the wall (cc)
Things have started up well. Let’s hope we can keep things going.


Public Exposure

Nov 25, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Be Responsible, Communicate

Have you ever searched yourself on “Google”? How public are you?

These questions are something that I never would have thought about when I was at school. But now they are questions we all need to think about. The line between our professional, personal, public and private life has become so blurred.

This is an issue I often think about and I am always struck with the thought of how we are preparing our students for this new reality? How will they know what to share publicly or privately when many adults don’t know themselves?

I feel that we as educators need to take a more active role in helping prepare our students for this new “public” world. Our current generation of students have done a reasonable job of adapting to the new technology and handling the challenges that they have faced. But how have we supported them during this process? Often we have provided minimal support.

Over recent years I have noticed a number of educators looking to address this reality. Whilst working on assignments students are talking about writing publicly or privately, the importance of a secure password and what to do when they find inappropriate content. They are being provided with authentic opportunities to engage with society and in doing so they are forced to discuss the realities of working in this environment.

Hopefully the lead that these educators have set will become more widely spread through our schools. By doing this our students will be further supported as we help prepare them for life beyond school (on and offline).


Is Big Brother watching?

Nov 22, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Be Responsible

I have been using TurnItIn a lot of late and it has got me wondering is it something that I actually agree with. Is the purpose of it to act like “police” and catch students out? Or it meant to be used it to address the issue of plagiarism?

For those of you who haven’t heard of or used TurnItIn before this is a website where students submit their assignments (usually essays) and the work is scanned to check for “originality” (i.e. have they plagiarized). Students and their teacher are then given a report which identifies what percentage of the work has been “copied” and identifies the location of the “copied” sections. That is the basic functionality of the website, for more information check out the video below:

Now you have an idea of how it works I am sure you can imagine my dilemma. When I am using it am I trying to “catch someone out” or trying to highlight the incidents of plagiarism? It is something I have thought a lot about and as time has passed the more I support the use of TurnItIn.

Click on picture to see complete graphic

It has been well documented that we are living in the “copy/paste” generation and as we all know it is easier than ever to take someone else’s work and call it your own. Technology has enabled this shift and we all have embraced it. But often in education we have struggled to keep up to date with this shift. Teachers still emphasize the importance of creating original work and citing sources but it is very tempting for a student to “take” a section of someone else’s work.

Services like TurnItIn provide both teachers and students with the tools to review their work. Yes, it can be used as a way to “police” student’s work but with a bit of attention it can be used as a learning opportunity for both students and teachers. I would go further and say if students are required to submit all their work through TurnItIn throughout middle and secondary school they will become used to the procedure and will “realise” the parameters on their work. If it is only used for final samples in the upper grades of secondary school students, of course, will feel as if teachers are trying to catch them out. But if it is part of the process they have “always” done then it becomes the routine.

So despite my initial reservations about using TurnItIn I have come to really appreciate the service and have to say that it is probably the coolest and most powerful educational website out there. If you are a teacher or student I would encourage you to give it a go. The results that it produces are really interesting – I randomly submit things I write through it and I am always amazed with the results.

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