Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Self-reflection involves students looking back at goals and feedback. They reflect on whether their goals were met, how they can continue to meet goals or how they might revise or adapt the goal to meet their learning needs. While engaging in self-reflection, students also think about how work or learning could be enhanced or improved for next time. The process of self-reflection also involves revisiting goals often and setting new goals as the inquiry process proceeds and as new understanding of the inquiry process takes place. Self-reflection doesn`t just happen at the end of the inquiry, but should happen throughout the inquiry process.
On the other hand, self-evaluation involves looking back at co-created criteria, exemplars of the evolving process, and feedback from teachers and peers. Students use that information to decide whether the criteria have been met. Then students decide on what needs revising, redoing, and/or editing to meet the feedback and criteria. The process of self-evaluation also involves students and teachers revisiting the co-created criteria at the end of each stage of the inquiry or on a regular basis to ensure that the criteria still apply. As the criteria are re-evaluated students and teachers decide if revising and editing the criteria is necessary and do so together. Self-evaluation can also take place throughout the inquiry process as long as clear criteria have been set and exemplars are available for each stage of the inquiry.
In order for self-evaluation and self-reflection to take place we need to teach students to set goals, create criteria with our students, provide timely and constructive feedback, teach students to provide timely and constructive feedback to their peers and provide exemplars of the evolving process, not just best work exemplars.
What’s my context?
As I endeavour to work with the many willing teachers at my school, I need to find a way to incorporate goal setting, co-created criteria setting as well as self-reflection, self-assessment and peer feedback in meaningful and engaging ways. I also need to convince the teachers that taking yet more time to do these things are in fact in the students’ best interests, but also in their best interests as well.
What does the research say?
Anne Davies, a world renowned Canadian expert on classroom assessment practices summarizes the research on involving students in their own assessment in Making Classroom Assessment Work (2000).
According to Davies:
“When students are involved in their own assessment they are required to think about their learning and articulate their understanding, which helps them learn, . . . mistakes become feedback they can use to adjust what they are doing . . . [and] while all students show significant gains, students who usually achieve the least show the largest gains overall. Self-assessment asks students to make choices about what to focus on next in their learning. When students make choices about their learning, achievement increases; when choice is absent, learning decreases.” (p. 9)
Watch this video of Anne Davies on Classroom Assessment, note what she says about research on assessment.
Violet H. Harada and Joan Yoshina, authors of Assessing Learning: Librarians and Teachers as Partners (2005) also noted that “when students participate in the assessment process, they develop the following behaviours (Chappuis and Stiggins 2002):
• Students understand what is expected.
• They access prior knowledge.
• They have ownership over making the learning happen.
• They are able to give themselves, as well as others, descriptive feedback as they are learning.
• Assessment goes beyond measuring; it becomes motivating.” (p. 2).
The Alberta Learning document Classroom Assessment Toolkit for the ICT Program of Studies (2003) states as its second principle that “Assessment should be collaborative: Students benefit when they are involved in the assessment process. Assessment practices should help and encourage students to:
• be responsible for their own learning and develop a positive attitude toward the use of technology in meaningful, real-world situations
• be involved in establishing criteria for evaluating their products or performances
• work together to learn and achieve outcomes
• feel competent and successful using technology
• set goals for further improvements.” (p. 8, Retrieved on November 9, 2009).
This document also lists many research based reasons why self-reflection is an important process to engage our students in (see pages 19-20).
Finally, Focus on Inquiry (Alberta Learning 2004) says, “Students will be more successful in inquiry when teachers provide . . . opportunities for students to . . . review their processes of learning at the end of a lesson, day or week” (p. 37) and if they “reflect on their KWL charts and talk/write about the inquiry process and products, read their personal journals and reflect on them, . . . and use a rubric and checklist to evaluate their products and processes” (p. 71).
According to Focus on Inquiry (Alberta Learning 2004), “assessment practices should provide opportunities for students to revise their work in order to set goals and improve their learning. . . [and] assessment practices should help encourage students to set goals for further improvements” (p.31). This document also suggests using a journal to record reflections (p 37). To facilitate reflection, this journal might also be an excellent place to record goals for the Inquiry Project.
Goals should be set both for the overall inquiry project AND for each stage of the Inquiry Process. In order for students to reflect on their work, they need to have something to reflect on and goals help focus this reflection. Goals also help students strive for excellence. However, in order to set goals for inquiry, students need to know the criteria for the inquiry and they need to understand what each of the stages of inquiry entails.
If it is the first time students are engaging in Inquiry, teachers may want to do an introduction to Inquiry where you describe each of the stages and what students will be doing in each stage of the inquiry. Using the chart on page 38 and the questions in the chart on pages 39-40 of Focus on Inquiry (Alberta Learning 2004) may also help guide students towards goals they could possible set for each stage of the Inquiry phase. These could also be adapted to become the basis for co-constructed criteria for the inquiry process (see next blog post).
In Knowing What Counts: Self-Assessment and Goal-Setting, Gregory, Cameron and Davies (2000) make many good suggestions for ways to include goal setting in instruction. They suggest a strategy called “Breaking it Down” in which “teachers brainstorm lists with [their] students by answering questions such as, “How can we get better at writing?” . . . Then students select their long-term goals from these lists” (p. 43). In the case of Inquiry, teachers could ask, “How can we get better at research?” as a starting point for an overall Inquiry project goal and then perhaps, “How can we get better at planning?” as a starting point for a more focussed goal at the planning phase.
Gregory et al (2000), also suggest using planning frames like the ones found on pages 45-48 of Knowing What Counts: Self-Assessment and Goal-Setting. (I have included pictures of these frames on the eClass discussion site).
For more from the series by Gregory, Cameron and Davies check out: Knowing What Counts free online resources.
Another way to help students set goals is to use the well-known goal-setting acronym SMART. This acronym states that goals must be:
This is a good outline to teach students to follow when they set their own goals. Anne Davies provides an excellent example of an adapted form of the SMART goal-setting format in this slide show (see page 10). On this graphic organizer, students first set their goal by writing it in a complete sentence. They then go through each of the letters of the SMART acronym describing how the goal fits each letter. Next they describe step by step how they will go about achieving their goal. Finally, the students are asked to think about obstacles to their success and then list ideas of how they might overcome these obstacles. This might be an excellent exercise to complete with students at the beginning of an Inquiry project to help them set a long term goal for the whole project.
In the article Involving Students in Communicating About Their Learning, Davies also notes that “when students learn, self-assess, and later, when ready, show their learning and receive descriptive feedback, they are developing the skills and habits of self directed, independent, lifelong learners (p.2) . . . [and] students who have experience being involved in the classroom assessment process are better prepared to have meaningful conversations about learning with others and more ready to be partners in collecting evidence of their learning to show others” (p.3). (Retrieved from http://annedavies.com/images/PDFs/involving_students.pdf)
Focus on Inquiry says that “students will learn to understand the evaluation criteria for the inquiry and evaluate their own inquiry process, using established criteria” (p. 71). This document also states that “assessment practices should involve students in identifying and/or creating criteria” (p.31).
In the Manitoba Education Citizenship and Youth document titled Independent Together, Chapter 6 addresses the idea of using Inquiry projects with multilevel learners in multilevel classroom settings and they suggest that criteria setting be included in the inquiry process. This document states, “as the inquiry proceeds, the teacher’s and students’ ongoing assessments determine opportunities for systematic instruction. Also, from the onset of the inquiry, the teacher and students begin to identify the characteristics of quality work (processes and products). As these characteristics become more sophisticated, the evolving criteria are applied to the processes used along the way and ultimately to the final process, performance, demonstration, or product. Thus, the teacher and students may discuss, for example, what a quality KWL chart, inquiry plan, or design project looks like.” (p. 6.5)
Cameron et al, in the book Knowing What Counts: Setting and Using Criteria, lay out a simple 4 step strategy to co-construct criteria with students:
Step 1: Brainstorm
Ask students, “What counts in an inquiry project?” or “What counts in the retrieving phase?
Teacher can have some input here as well.
Step 2: Sort and categorize.
Teachers ask students to help sort the list they generated together into relevant categories related to the Inquiry process.
Step 3: Make and post a T-chart
The t-chart should include criteria on one side and details about that criterion on the other side.
Teachers ensure all students understand criteria and add details to those that need clarification.
Step 4: Add, Revise, refine.
It is important that the criteria be visible and organic. Students must be able to see, use and suggest revisions at all times.
Another good step by step guide on how to co-construct criteria with students can be found here, see BLM#2.
Cameron et al also included 10 ways to assess without putting a mark on the paper in their book Setting and Using Criteria. Here are only a few of their ideas which involve ways to use the co-constructed criteria:
1. Students compare their work to the criteria and decide MET or NOT YET MET. They then revise as needed.
2. Teachers or peers compare student work to the criteria and decide MET or NOT YET MET, but add a descriptive feedback under the category I NOTICED.
3. Students use the criteria and samples from various stages of the process to assess their own work and then they fill out a SAMPLE MATCH form describing which sample their work best matches and why and how they can improve it if necessary.
For more ideas I strongly recommend the books Knowing What Counts: Setting and Using Criteria, Knowing What Counts: Self-Assessment and Goal-Setting, as well as the third book Knowing What Counts: Conferencing and Reporting. These books are very quick and easy reads for busy teachers and teacher-librarians, but they are full of excellent applicable information.
Other good books on assessment are Making Classroom Assessment Work by Anne Davies and How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students by Susan M. Brookhart.
Teaching students to set criteria and to use that criteria to self-evaluate their progress gives them the tools they need to provide themselves with descriptive feedback, provide their peers with descriptive respectful and applicable feedback, and allows them to see what it is they need to do next in their inquiry project to achieve success.
Talking openly and honestly about goals and criteria, demystifies the learning process for students making it more accessible to both struggling and reluctant learners. Engaging in the inquiry process along with students, setting your own goals as they set theirs, comparing your inquiry to the pre-established and co-created criteria as they do and revising your goals based on that comparison as you encourage the students to, can provide a very powerful example of inquiry learning for your students.
Essential Question #1:
How many of you have received a self-assessment form back from a student and you could tell they had not really taken it seriously: all the middle boxes were checked, the student handed it back to you 30 seconds after receiving it and there were no additional comments written on the page. How would you or could you deal with student apathy regarding self-reflection and self-evaluation? Do you think the suggestions in this presentation would motivate that reluctant self-assessor?
Essential Question #2:
Skim through this PowerPoint by Anne Davies. Note in particular the Wrong Turns and Course Corrections. Have you made any of these wrong turns in your past teaching practices? If so, how did you or will you change your practice to better meet the needs of your learners?
Alberta Learning. (2003). Classroom assessment toolkit for the information and communication technology (ICT) program of studies. Alberta, Canada: Author. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/media/453470/div1to4.pdf
Alberta Learning. (2004). Focus on inquiry: A teacher`s guide to implementing inquiry based learning.
Alberta, Canada: Author.
Brookhart, S. M. (2008). How to give effective feedback to your students. Alexandria, Virginia:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Davies, A. (2000). Making classroom assessment work. Courtenay, British Columbia: Connections
Davies, A. (2003). Involving students in communicating about their learning. Online Journal: Research in
Action. Retrieved from http://annedavies.com/images/PDFs/involving_students.pdf.
Gregory, K., Cameron, C., & Davies, A. (1997). Knowing what counts: Setting and using criteria.
Courtenay, British Columbia: Connections Publishing.
Gregory, K., Cameron, C., & Davies, A. (2000). Knowing what counts: Self-assessment and goal- setting.
Courtenay, British Columbia: Connections Publishing.
Gregory, K., Cameron, C., & Davies, A. (2001). Knowing what counts: Conferencing and reporting.
Courtenay, British Columbia: Connections Publishing.
Harada, V. H. & Yoshina, J. (2005). Assessing learning: Librarians and teachers as partners. Westport,
Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited.
Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth. (2006). Literacy with ICT across the curriculum: A resource
for developing computer literacy. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Author.
Manitoba Education, Citizenship and Youth. (2003). Independent together: Supporting the multilevel
learning community. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Author. Retrieved from: http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/docs/support/multilevel/index.html
Sunday, 22 March 2009
Another thing you may need to understand about this week’s change in the way I’m approaching my blog is that my current professional situation is likely to change in the next couple months and that has suddenly led me to think in a whole different way about what we have been learning. I know I have often talked about the when (or if?) of me becoming a real teacher-librarian (a la Pinocchio), instead of a classroom teacher who is a teacher-librarian wannabe. This situation has led me to frame most of my blog thoughts from the perspective of a classroom teacher, whether I realized it or not. But . . . I have been given some news recently that leads me to believe I just might, possibly, perhaps be given a teacher-librarian position next year. Not really sure about the details, or if it will even really happen, but the possibility has cause my brain to switch gears. I am now looking at all these things from the perspective of “How would/could I use this information to help teachers and students on a larger school wide scale?” and “How would a veteran Teacher-Librarian integrate this information into what they already do everyday,” and “How would I present this information to teachers who were reluctant collaborators and reluctant tech users?” All this, and the fact that I am drawn to visuals like a moth to a flame, has caused me to focus on the Instructional models for integrating technology that this week’s readings presented. So, although I have much to say about whether teachers are really integrating technology effectively, and on Chris and Kathy’s wonderfully well presented point/counterpoint I have limited time and space (which I’ve probably already gone over!! I do tend to be verbose :)
I was immediately drawn to the TPACK model as the visual that was presented made it all seem so clear and so obvious (to me at least, I am very mathematical and quite visual, so . . .).
Image retrieved from http://tpack.org/tpck/images/tpck/a/a1/Tpack-contexts.jpg%20on%20March%2022 on March 22, 2009.
I did a quick search and found this definition of the model:
“Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) attempts to capture some of the essential qualities of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. At the heart of the TPACK framework, is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK). . . . The TPACK approach goes beyond seeing these three knowledge bases in isoloation. On the other hand, it emphasizes the new kinds of knowledge that lie at the intersections between them.” Retreived from http://www.tpck.org/tpck/index.php?title=Main_Page on March 22, 2009.
What I like about this model is that is recognizes that the process of integrating technology is much more complex than just simply using a computer to type up an essay, and it recognizes that this process requires teachers to partake in a new kind of learning of new knowledge. I think this would be a fantastic model to show to teachers. Once it is really understood by all parties it could be a valuable tool for both self assessment and goal setting for teachers AND school wide needs assessment and goal setting by administartors and of course the teacher-librarian. Having teachers point out which areas they themselves feel they are in need of new learning can also help them set goals for their personal professional growth plan and help them to determine in which areas they need professional development for. This could then drive a school wide professional development plan as well as encourage technology integration (see how I’m unable to separate the two topics!!).
The Kemp Design Model of Instructional Design (seen below) could be a very useful tool for teacher-librarians to use (either formally or informally) with teachers who are interested in collaboration with regards to ICT skills.
Image retreived from http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Kemp_design_model on March 22. 2009.
The nine key elements of this model are(Retrieved from http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Kemp_design_model on March 22. 2009):
1. Identify instructional problems, and specify goals for designing an instructional program.
2. Examine learner characteristics that should receive attention during planning.
3. Identify subject content, and analyze task components related to stated goals and purposes.
4. State instructional objectives for the learner.
5. Sequence content within each instructional unit for logical learning.
6. Design instructional strategies so that each learner can master the objectives.
7. Plan the instructional message and delivery.
8. Develop evaluation instruments to assess objectives.
9. Select resources to support instruction and learning activities.
Those key elements could be worked into a graphic organizer and then used during a meeting between a teacher and the teacher-librarian. The information collected can then aid in the creation of collaborative lessons and/or units. But even better, if this model is paired with a working knowledge on the teachers behalf of the TPACK model, it could not only provide a good staring point for collaboration, but also allow the teacher to be very specific in defining their own needs and in their request for help from the teacher-librarian. For example after gioing through Kemp’s model, teachers then refer to the TPACK areas which they have already determined they need assistance with and those are the areas where the teacher-librarian focusses her expertise. In this way the collaboration becomes much more effective and the teacher also learns and grows in the areas they have defined as their areas of need.
This process could easily be recreated using the Summerville Integrated Model instead of the Kemp model, depending upon the preferences of the teacher and teacher-librarian in question. The Summerville model is more cyclical and better addresses “how knowledge is transferred among the teirs.” according to Technology Integration and Instructional Design (J. Summerville and A. Reid-Griffin,TechTrends, Sept/Oct 2008, p. 48.).
This topic has really made me think about the role of the teacher-librarian in effectively helping teachers integrate technology and ICT skills on an individual level, but the role that the TL plays on a school wide level as well. And this quote from Technology Integration and Instructional Design really hit home:
“Everything that we do . . . everything that we select . . . every standard to which we adhere . . . all the content that we design . . . every time we assess, evaluate and revise, we are working toward a common goal” (Summerville, 2006). That goal is the transfer of knowledge to other subjects.” (J. Summerville and A. Reid-Griffin,TechTrends, Sept/Oct 2008, p. 50.).
But the interesting thing for me is that I am suddenly not only able to see how this applies to classroom teachers, but also how it applies to teacher-librarians. And this is an eye-opening experience for me, one I will continue to be in awe of.
Suddenly becoming a teacher-librarian,
Sunday, 15 March 2009
The best things (in my opinion) about this video are that it’s Canadian and that it’s easy enough to understand that I could use it with my Grade 8 students. This video really shows how a well educated and responsible individual who knows there own privacy rights and practices them, can be a marketer’s worst enemy! Yet another resource I will be storing away to use when I become a teacher-librarian. Well . . . . I’ll probably use it with my students at the beginning of next school year when I talk about online safety in Social Studies.
We also watched a number of Google videos on privacy, which after one of my classmates pointed it out, struck me as a bit strange. She said it was almost like
“a marketing scheme which was [meant] to reassure me and not make me question whether or not my privacy was being threatened by Google and other companies.” I’m sure they were just trying to reassure their customers that even thought they had to fork over tons of information to the US federal government that what they collect doesn’t really tell the feds anything, so not to worry. Hmmmmm. It definitely does make you wonder. I think the videos were also a marketing scheme to convince their more paranoid customers to use Chrome, as it has an “incognito” setting which doesn’t store and record any information while in use.
The most blatant thing this week’s readings made me ponder was the whole issue of privacy in the school library. What books are students signing out, and who has a right to know what they are reading? Do their teachers? Do their parents? Do I? (Well that would be hard, but you get the picture, it’s a big issue that I hadn’t even thought of before!) When I was a teenager, my parents would never have had an issue with anything I read, even if it was controversial. But thinking back, even though I knew they respected my intellectual freedom, there were still things I wouldn’t have wanted them to know I was reading about. It made me think about how I would approach the idea of late returns or trying to get books back at the end of the year. Once again I must thank my classmates for providing great comments in the discussions surrounding how they handle these issues. I wouldn’t have even known where to start! I really liked the idea of having students call their own home to leave a message for themselves.
As always this week’s readings gave me lots to ponder upon and many ideas to add to my arsenal of resources. But it also made me a better more informed Digital Citizen, and for that I am thankful.
Unfiltered as always,
Saturday, 21 February 2009
There’s copyright and copyleft (AKA Creative Commons) and CanCopy and citation rules and trademarks and the list goes on and on and on . . .
How can we expect students to “respect intellectual property rights” (as this week’s discussion revolved around) and the laws surrounding it, if they have never learned about it, don’t understand it and it’s so complex that even their teachers are fuzzy on the subject? In order to respect you must first understand (“Seek first to understand” was what on of my university professors always taught us).
I believe students do understand intellectual property rights, they just don’t know that it’s called “intellectual property rights.” Just this week there was an incident in one of my classes that exemplifies this. A group of students were arguing vehemently in the corner of my classroom. When I approached the group, one student “Max” explained to me that his group had kicked him out of their group project in English that morning but refuse to give him the poster he had worked so hard on. The other group members believed it should stay in the group because although they agreed he created the poster, they said he did so with the work they did prior to its creation, essentially he amalgamated their work onto the poster. So who does the poster belong to? All the students involved have a clear idea of what their own intellectual property is and have a definite sense of their rights with regards to their work. “Max” feels that his creative efforts in putting the poster together merit some authorship rights. After a calm discussion about the amount of work the group had already done, they agreed to let “max” back into their group and thus the issue was resolved. But had I been teaching a course on ICT I definitely could have used this example (and probably will in the future) to teach a lesson on intellectual property rights and copyright.
I did try to fit this topic in to my course this year by creating a Trailfire for my students to follow on Digital Law and Responsibility. The students had to read this article and then watch this video and then we had a discussion about file sharing.
Copyright becomes a great big gray area when discussing it with students; they have a sense of justice that can only be described as follows: many felt copyright only protects big businesses making more and more money. However, they also admit, when questioned further, that they DO recognize that copyright also protects the struggling artists. Most said that when it comes to downloading music, they’ll buy music from their favourite smaller Indie bands via the bands’ websites or iTunes, but download music from well established big wig bands.
So where do we teachers go to find out about this stuff? How do we go about learning ourselves and then teaching our colleagues and students? Now that I know about it, am I obligated to share my knowledge and become the copyright police?
The following quote from Mike Ribble’s Passport to Digital Citizenship sums it up nicely for me: “We Need not only to educate our children on the issues that are occurring with technology, but provide resources for our teachers and parents as well” (p. 16). Hurrah! So True! The four stages he refers to are a great model for developing an ICT class curriculum/implementation strategy. If I were a teacher librarian (ahh, dreams . . .) I would insist on seeing students at least once a cycle for some ICT training. I would use Mike Ribble’s book Digital Citizenship in Schools (here’s a nice excerpt) and Digiteen as well as Manitoba’s own Literacy with ICT document (and maybe these lessons created by Doug Johnston) as the foundation of the course, and Ribble’s Four-Stage Technology Learning Framework for Teaching Digital Citizenship as the model for implementing the course. I would also share with the school staff the curriculum topics for the course so that they knew what to expect from their students after they received the course and so that they could ask questions if they were unclear on any of the issues or topics.
I loved both the “Kids Know Your Rights!” article and the “Intellectual Freedom for Youth article, as they are great documents that could be used with my students. It’s too bad that there are not Canadian versions of these documents as those would be much more useful and appropriate. Hmmm . . . maybe I could have a final project in my course that had students creating a document that looks similar to those two articles, as both a way to show their learning, and help other students understand the issues. Of course I’d have to get permission from the authors!
As a professional I appreciated the short article “Intellectual Property Defined” as it helped me understand some of the terminology better. I honestly had not realized that all that fell under the purview of “intellectual property”.
And admittedly, I have not yet had time to read the Library Bill of Rights (and its eighteen interpretations!), Code of Ethics of the American Library Association nor the Freedom to Read documents, but I have them bookmarked and plan to read them at my earliest convenience.
“But when copyright moves from text into the realm of media, the lines of what is and what isn’t acceptable become blurred.” (Joanie Proske, p. 4) This is an excellent point; we need to do a much better job of teaching this to our students and ourselves. After reading all the articles and this week’s discussions I firmly believe we have to bring copyright to the level of the students, we have to provide PD to teachers on copyright and Creative Commons and proper updated citation rules for things found on the net, and we need to either develop sound curriculum foundation documents that incorporate ICT or greatly assist our fellow teachers in the integration of the already existing Literacy with ICT document across all subject areas.
Maybe we as educators also need to put more emphasis on structure, form and process than actual content. Students focus on what is “worth the most marks” so if a bibliography and proper citation are worth 5/10 instead of 1/10, maybe they would see its importance. We need to shift the way we think about what is important, change our priorities on an institutional and curricular level so that time and focus CAN be spent teaching these things, rather than rushing through them and justifying it with the same old, “there’s no time” excuse.
The ethical use of technology should become a staple part of a child’s education; the 3 R’s should become either: “Readin’ Writin’ ‘Rithmatic and Responsible use of Tech” or how about “Respect, Responsibility, and Rights”
Sunday, 8 February 2009
Studies (Study: 'Digital divide' affects school success, The digital divide in Canadian schools, The Digital Divide in Canada) have shown there is a Digital Divide with respect to:
~ Age (Natives vs. Immigrants)
~ Level of education (uneducated vs. highly educated)
~ Race (Caucasian vs. Minorities)
~ Gender (males vs. females)
~ Socio-Economic status (rich vs. poor)
~ Location (rural vs. urban)
~ Globally (developed nations vs. underdeveloped or developing nations)
With regard to race, most studies focussed on the US and refer to a gap between the Caucasian populations and the Hispanic and Black populations of that country. But I wonder what the situation in Canada is with regard to our Aboriginal peoples who live on reserves. They often lack even the basics of adequate housing and it seems to me that they fall into the categories of race, level of education, socio-economic and location divides (as most reserves are quite isolated, at least here in Manitoba they are). So I have to assume a digital divide in access to technology and the internet probably exists in these populations as well.
The statistics discussed sound eerily familiar. Are they not virtually identical to illiteracy statistics for the poor and underprivileged, minority groups, the elderly and underdeveloped nations? (See the following articles: Canada's shame, Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, specifically the section “Literacy gap between technology users and non-users,” Literacy and Poverty, Study: The link between information and communication technology use and literacy skills, or the full report on the previous article here, there are so many more, but I don’t have the room to list them all!)
What is so scary about this is that not only do our poorest students have to cope with the issues that come with their poverty, but it seems they also have to contend with illiteracy and a digital divide in their access to technology, the Internet and related skills. It is a vicious circle. This is probably why Hugh W. Glenn concluded that “closing the purported digital dived will not necessarily decrease the achievement gap between racial and ethnic groups.” (Retrieved on Feb 8, 2009 from http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/index.cfm?i=36693&CFID=19083695&CFTOKEN=32266091) They have so many more issues to deal with than just the digital divide. They have lower literacy rates and less access to technology so obviously they are also losing out on learning the “new literacies” (connective writing, communication skills, editing skills, information evaluation skills, critical reading skills, and information management skills) that Will Richardson speaks of in his book “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other powerful Web Tools for Classrooms” (2006). These are obviously the “related skills” referred to in the Wikipedia definition of the Digital Divide. So in today’s world being illiterate takes on a whole new meaning. You not only have to be able to read and write, but you have to have the related technology skills.
Do I think the gap will close? I don’t know. But I can do everything in MY power to close it for those students I influence yearly. So how do I effect change?
~ I continue to integrate technology and teach all my students the related skills they need to
use that technology. (Skills level)
~ I continue to improve my own technology skills and be a role model for my students. (Skills
~ I continue to quietly scream about the importance of technology related literacies to fellow
teachers, other educational staff, parents, and even my students. (Access and Skills level)
~ I continue to encourage my fellow teachers to integrate technology and teach the related
skills to use that technology, and to increase their own skill level. (Access and Skills level)
~ I encourage parents who do not have internet access at home to get it. (Access level)
~ I do my utmost to engage EVERY student in school, and recognize that may mean using
technology in new and unique ways. (Motivation level)
~ I become an advocate for increased access, bandwidth, and more computer labs in our
schools. (Access and Policy level)
~ I become vocal about policies that inhibit access and encourage policies that open up that
access. (Access and Policy level)
The issue of a Digital Divide is so complex, but I believe it is important for all educators to understand. After all, if there’s a divide then we’re failing our students. I think Manuel Castells said it best when he said:
“The fundamental digital divide is not measured by the number of connections to the Internet, but by the consequences of both connection and lack of connection.” (Manuel Castells The Internet Galaxy, 2001, p. 269)
Sunday, 1 February 2009
If you haven’t already figured out what my stance is on this topic, let me just lay it all out for you: filters do not protect students, they protect administrators and divisions from appearing lax, from liability, from angry parents and from reality (as evidenced in the article “Web 2.0 The Virtual Wild Wild West” where Don Hail recommends “Ensure your teachers understand that Web resources used inside the district are filtered, and alert them to use caution when recommending them for student use outside the classroom” as a way to avoid educators receiving “calls from some irate parents who are unaware of the need for filtering systems.” This is scary for two reasons 1) why are the sites different at school and at home, what is the use of using them then and is this not an argument for removing filters and 2) he is making a judgement assuming that all parents should use filters, but don’t know any better. I find this highly condescending!)
Filters only teach children that 1) we don’t trust their judgement 2) they are incapable of being responsible 3) if you want something and you can’t get it, cheat (re: finding proxy servers to get the blocked info they seek) oh and 4) that someone or something will always be there the “protect” them (when they should be learning the world can be a scary place and they need to be careful, illusions of safety are more dangerous than an accidental viewing of a sexually explicit site in my opinion).
In “I’m Mad and I’m Not Gonna Take It Anymore!” Mary Ann Bell cites the Pew Study form 2002 called , “The Digital Disconnect: the widening gap between Internet-savvy students and their schools” where it shows that students are “frustrated and disgusted by the lack of internet access and consciousness on the part of their teachers.” I believe this frustration comes from the fact that they feel they can handle what’s out their but we (as in school divisions) don’t give them the chance. Just this past week at my school, I overheard a student call our school a “welfare school” when he was frustrated by Bess (our filter) and later that week a colleague lamented in the staff room about how a student researching Canada couldn’t search for the words “topography” or “photography” because the filter said they were words associated with “pornography”! So are all words ending in “-graphy” considered pornographic? How ridiculous is that! No wonder that student called our school a “welfare school.” (I did pull the student aside and explain to him that we were one of the schools in the division that had more technology, and that his frustrations were in fact due to the filter, at which point he said “oh, that means I can get to what I need, I’ll just use a proxy!” Yes we are now at the point where students are
blatant and obvious about their use of proxies, because even the teachers cannot access what they need and have on occasion asked a student to show them how to get to it, mostly because their entire lesson hinged on what they thought was a relatively innocent site. But I digress . . . .)
I have taught middle years students for 8 years and I have found that people underestimate adolescents. They are capable of much more than many people give them credit for. They can be articulate, responsible, trustworthy, and quite knowledgeable about what’s already out their on the “evil” net. They are also not crazed sex fiends searching out bomb making sites and trying to corrupt their peers through inappropriate sites. Most of the kids I’ve taught are normal decent kids who would benefit from some actual instruction in internet safety and Cyberbullying, evaluating websites, deciphering fact from opinion from lies, intellectual property rights (copyright and copy left), and citation rules and reasons.
Of all the articles I read this week, one line from “What Are We Protecting Them From?” by Matt Villano, struck me “Schools are spending millions and millions of dollars for technical solutions to comply with CIPA [in the US] . . . but our students can easily get around just about everything we throw at them.” He then goes on to say that “many K-12 expert say the best solution long-term is shifting the emphasis from policing . . . to educating . . .” HERE HERE!! That shift is hard for administrators to make though, especially with articles like “Patrolling Web 2.0” by Robert Losinsky where social networking sites are vilified and the fear mongering is perpetuated. Losinsky then proceeds to advocate for better “more improved” filters that filter out proxy servers as well as all the other “evil” social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace (GASP!). He only discusses education in a small paragraph at the very end. One has to wonder which of these types of articles the school board members read more of.
Even more pertinent than money being wasted, is the fact that filters interfere with delivery of curriculum (as seen above with the “topography” example). Oh, let’s talk about curriculum for a minute. In Manitoba we have a Literacy with ICT document, which is mandatory to implement and assessment of these outcomes is being included in the development of my school division’s “new” middle years reporting system. But there have been NO changes to staff, NO changes to programming and NO changes to time allotments to accommodate these mandatory outcomes and the fact that we must now assess them. So no one is specifically teaching and targeting these outcomes, there has been no real effort to create “classes” or programming to facilitate the teaching of these outcomes and so the classroom teachers are left to be the ones to implement and assess these outcomes. They are trying to cram an already heavy workload with just more stuff. But which “subject” does it fall under? Which teachers are actually covering the outcomes? Do they even know how to do some of the things required by the outcomes? Why isn’t there an accompanying document with suggestions for instruction like all the rest of our curricula?
After all the discussion this week and my thoughts on the issue laid out above, I’m left thinking about Joanne’s comments about intellectual freedom and who is going to ensure students and teachers have these rights. What is the role of the teacher-librarian in all this? And Rhonda’s question “If teacher-librarians are responsible for advocating for the higher ideal of intellectual freedom, are they also responsible for teaching the safe and responsible use of online resources?"
To these I say yes, Yes, YES, it should fall to the Teacher-Librarian! If I were a Teacher-Librarian in my school division, I would strongly advocate for the development of a program that provided students with the necessary know how to use the internet safely, without the use of a filter, included all the applicable Literacy with ICT outcomes and lessened the load on the teachers by providing time to work with the Teacher-Librarian to plan the program’s implementation across ALL subject areas. I would also work hard to create a comprehensive AUP for students, parents and teachers that was more in line with the recommendations from the Media Awareness Network.
I’m also left thinking about my own children. As they grow up, I would much rather they have the knowledge and confidence to deal with what’s out there, the ethical base to know what’s right and what’s wrong and the right to access it if they so chose, than shelter them and “protect” them by giving them a false sense of safety, and a limited view of the world. My basic instinct IS to protect, and I feel the best way to do this is to EDUCATE. After all Knowledge is Power.
Sunday, 25 January 2009
Why is this relevant to this week’s discussions on Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants? Great question. I promise to come back to that, for now I just want to you to mull the purpose of our current educational system over in your head. Which of these do you think is important?
This week’s readings were varied and interesting, ranging from a series of technology outcomes for both teachers and students (which I think is fantastic by the way, teachers should have standards they have to live up to, see Is It Ok To Be a Technologically Illiterate Teacher?) to one that discusses the importance of preparing new teachers for “Digital Age” learners (which again I think is fantastic because when I was in university there was ONE Tech in Ed course and I couldn’t take it because they only offered it at the same time as another of my required courses!) to some that discuss the ramifications of these “New Learners” or as Prensky (2001) calls them “Digital Natives.” There was a flurry of posts in our discussion about the need for balance and the idea that we should “unpack the good stuff [we] carried from [our] 20th century trunk” (Valenza, 2007).
When it comes to the argument of using “new and innovative” strategies with the “new learners” I have to ask what do we mean by “new” and “innovative” because Prensky spends much of his article criticizing teachers who, in his words “assume that learners are the same as they have always been, and that the same methods that worked for teachers when they were students will work for their students” (2001). This statement and many others he writes don’t give teachers much credit for their intellectual ability to first see that what they are doing may not be working and secondly for their ability to adapt based on those observations. This article was published in 2001 and was more than likely written even earlier, and to be honest, in the ever-changing fast-paced world we live in, I believe it is quite outdated in its criticisms. For example, he cites an example about the use of calculators and computers which hasn’t been an issue since before I was in university. Many teachers are much more adaptable and have been using great strategies that engage their students than Prensky’s article give credit for. I can only assume this is because in the intervening years we have adapted as a profession and we realize what’s best for our students.
I believe what’s best is engaging them using great strategies (like those listed in Manitoba’s Success for All Learners support document, it was written in 1996 though, so maybe it needs an update?) and either pairing those strategies with new technology tools or adapting them for use with new Web 2.0 tools. There is merit in strategies that teachers have used in the past and those same strategies can be built upon to enhance learning in the future. Technology also is not the end all and be all of getting our students engaged in their learning. Good educators know it is a combination of many strategies that works best to engage our students. It’s about “best practices,” “real world applications,” and “students centered/led inquiry” that show students that their education is in fact applicable to their current and future lives and its not just an outdated exercise in gathering and memorizing arbitrary information they can easily find in seconds using their iPhones. It’s about USING technology and web 2.0 tools to ENHANCE teaching and learning strategies that are based in sound experience and professional judgements and are effective in achieving the goals of our education system.
We spent all this time talking about the “new learners” and forgot to address the “new environment.” We live in a changing world and I’m not convinced we can assume our students are more prepared for it than we are. In “Who Are Today’s Learners?” Christine Greenhow suggests we should figure out where our students are before we make these assumptions, and I completely agree. However, I suggest we stop focussing so much on where they come from, (ex. stereotypes about middle school students being more tech-savvy that their teachers, which after a quick survey of my own 73 students I can tell you is not the case at all. The majority had never even heard of a wiki before I introduced it to them) and we start to acknowledge and agree on where they are going (i.e. what the future may hold for them) and what they need in order to get there. This change in perspective can be a powerful tool for use with reluctant-to-adapt teachers, because all teachers want what’s best for their students and want to play a part in helping them achieve success. At least I like to think so.
This perspective can also be a fantastic way to introduce the ISTE standards to a staff: as a conversation starter about the following questions “If these standards are what we value to teach, then where are our students going with it? What more do they need? How do we achieve these outcomes in the confines of our current system?”
Here’s where we wade into the muddy waters of philosophy and ask: what is the goal of our current education system then? Is it to create productive workers with applicable skills to the current and future workforce? Or is it to create enlightened, knowledge-savvy citizens who value creativity and education for the sake of learning? Well, I was delighted to read the standards set out by ISTE because they give rise to the idea that, in fact our goals encompass both statements (see ISTE’s NETS for Teachers number 1 “Facilitate and inspires student learning and creativity” and ISTE’s Nets for Students #1 “Creativity and Innovation” as examples of our educational system valuing creativity and innovation). These standards are not those of an outdated hierarchical government-run educational system, but the dawning of a new understanding that in order to perpetuate our civilization we must begin to value Socrates’ ideas about education, as well as prepare students for the workforce as Isocrates suggested (sorry, I’m a History major and tend to see changes in the world as far reaching and fundamental to our future!). This may be the first time in history when the two are not only desirable but are actually achievable by our current system. In the future, productive workers with applicable skills WILL BE those who are innovative, creative, knowledge-savvy, continue to learn and have the skills to do so. And I like to think they will also be enlightened about their own learning.
I also believe that teachers will adapt and learn and grow right along with these “New Learners”, these “Digital Natives”, and will always be striving to do what’s in the best interest of their students. And who knows maybe along the way they’ll obtain Dual Citizenship (Thanks Carol Nahachewsky and Leanna for the term) and by the time the next generation of teachers graduates this discussion will be as outdated as Prensky’s article!
Sunday, 18 January 2009
The article Towards a Transformative Pedagogy for School Libraries 2.0 (Asselin & Doiron, 2008) described a situation that I’ve been thinking about for some time: the fact that my students are “different” and learn differently. What I had been doing in the classroom (actually what I had been *taught* to do in the classroom) just wasn’t giving them the skills I believed they would need in the great big world outside of school. It came as an epiphany one day as I was struggling to figure out how on earth I would fit the rest of the curriculum into the rest of the school year. I was actually counting days and eliminating “extraneous” outcomes to “get it all in” and in fact was not planning to cover anything in any great depth! It was then that I said to myself, does it really matter that my students learn *all* this stuff? What’s really important is the skills they need to find answers when they need them. Huh! That simple revelation caused me to change not only *how I teach*, but *how I assess* as well, and it eventually led me down the path to this course and my pursuit of the elusive teacher-librarian position.
I actually laughed out loud when the article referred to students using Google as their one-stop shop for searching and researching. I recently told my students that if their idea of researching is going to Google and choosing the site that pops up at the top of the search, then they don’t really know how to research and they need to learn some better strategies. *ALL* my students (even the high achievers) were confused by this statement, as it was the way they had been researching in school until this point in their lives! From that one paragraph I gleaned 10 separate items I could cover in a unit on research skills at the beginning of the year, not to mention some great questions to use in a lesson on evaluating websites. Shaping Global Criticality with School Libraries by Keith McPherson (2008) provided me with even more fantastic resources to add to my repertoire of digital literacy/media literacy lessons. This article also boosted that ray of hope I felt by arguing that the new learners and new literacies make for a generation who have the potential to transform the world in a social, economic and political way. Asselin and Doiron describe the new learners as “passionately tolerant” and “a force for social transformation” which adds credence to McPherson’s argument.
When one looks at the new literacies that Asselin and Doiron refer to and then at the section “How Do We Teach the New Learners??” again that ray of hope gets brighter, as I see my colleagues doing many of these things already. Now we just need to embrace the idea that the New Learner needs to be engaged in their learning through new strategies and technologies that they use on a regular basis. Towards School Library 2.0: An Introduction to Social Software for Teacher Librarians by Naslund and Giustini (2008) mentions that “compared to their technology infused lives at home . . . middle- and high-school students state that activities at school are ‘boring’ between 50-70% of the time.” Yet most teachers (and administrators and school boards) are still reluctant to integrate the use of Web 2.0 social software into their classrooms! This article basically reviewed what we learned in EDES 501 and so I will not dwell on it long, but I believe it is a great article for all teachers (not just teacher-librarians) to read because it provides a quick introduction to most of the Web 2.0 tools currently available. (Although the author does refer to blogging as a form of journaling which I strongly contest, as we learned last term from Will Richardson that journaling is only low level blogging and that blogging is so much more and involves connective writing . . . but I digress!)
Of all the readings, I enjoyed Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto for the 21st Century Librarian the most. I found it quite life affirming (ok maybe that’s over the top, but I really did find it affirming read on . . .). Like many of my classmates I used the manifesto as a checklist for myself to see if I was in fact a 21st century teacher-librarian. (Technically I fail in that regard as I’m just a lowly classroom teacher, but . . .) I decided to put check marks beside both the items I was doing already as a classroom teacher and the items I agreed with and therefore would like to think that if I was a teacher-librarian I would be doing. I’m proud to say that I put a check beside almost all of the items. I am not yet using RSS feeds with my students (I honestly don’t think they’re ready for that yet) or Skype to bring in experts (but now I’m thinking about it) or Social networking (or bookmarking, but I have ideas, so maybe next year). So all in all I feel that I AM a 21st century educator. (Whew! That’s good, wouldn’t want to be stuck in the 20th century!)
After reading all these articles (including some I didn’t actually reference here like Videogames in the Library? What is the World Coming to? By Kathy Sanford which gives me approximately 30 reasons to say “I told you those games were educational” to my mother, and Immersive Learning Environments in Parallel Universes: Learning in Second Life by Ken Haycock and Jeremy W. Kemp which reveals the interesting and innovative world of virtual reality educational environments. Here are some videos that also explore the idea of using Second Life as an educational tool just in case you're interested: Educational Uses of Second Life, Science Learning Opportunities in Second Life, and Education in Second Life: Explore the Possibilities) I had one question that was still nagging at me though: are students really as tech savvy as we think they are? After doing a survey of my 75 students, I learned that they are not. Many of them had not heard of a wiki and most of them had never blogged before. None of them knew what Web 2.0 meant. They are, however, heavily invested in Facebook, file sharing, and online gaming. McPherson mentions this “stereotype” of students “being more “tech savvy” than most educators and parents” (2008) in his article while referring to a survey conducted by Media Awareness Network in which “70% of the students surveyed still desired assistance from others in determining the authenticity of online information” (2008). I think this gives us all the more reason to become better 21st century educators. Students are either using these technologies already or will be using them soon, and I for one would rather them learn good strategies and approaches to problem solving in a safe and nurturing environment (i.e. at school) than have them learn on their own, but not fully understand what it is they are doing and thus leaving themselves open to victimization or misuse and abuse of a technology.
Our students are changing (or already have changed?) whether we like it or not. They are becoming disengaged in a time when learning is the “it” thing to do in our knowledge-based society. The only way to re-engage them is to embrace the 21st century and move forward. Soon the students and their parents will start demanding that we accommodate their new learning modalities, and where will we be left if we don’t already have a strategy as to how we’re going to do that? By the roadside of the 20th, 19th and 18th centuries, trying to convince ourselves that we are the professionals and we know what’s best. That’s only true if we continue to learn and grow as educators, and if we shake off the inhibitions and bureaucracy that has been confining us and follow that ray of hope.