Sunday, June 12, 2016

The First of 50,000 Steps

Dear Teachers,
In my last post I wrote a little about the 50,000 foot plan for digital skills to be addressed better in the curriculum, and for kids to have a hand in that process by becoming content creators.

Earlier this week I met with elementary curriculum writers to take the first step in getting that plan to come into being. I've been working with our district's wonderful Elementary Science coordinator to get digital literacy skills embedded into the curriculum. In my experience, these digital skills are learned haphazardly, if at all, for a number of reasons, and my goal is to take some steps to address that problem by getting some of these basic technology skills listed in the online planner that teachers use every day. Some days, no digital skills will be needed; other days and activities are ripe for a "just in time" delivery of a quick reminder about how to cite a source, or how to open or close a single tab, or how to use the shift key to make a capital letter. I talked to five out of six of the elementary grade levels, and I'll meet with the final grade next Tuesday to discuss the plan that I jokingly refer to as "my plot to take over the world."

I have to say, it was very gratifying and affirming to hear these teachers' comments. To a person, they all enthusiastically agreed with my anecdotal observations that teachers either don't have the time to teach these skills, or just don't know them in the first place, or some combination thereof. They seemed to love the idea of having quick mini-lessons on digital skills within the context of lessons that they would be doing anyway, and they also affirmed my observations that these lessons need to be in context and not "in some other part of the planner" - because then teachers would just not do them.

What would you add to this image? What kinds of statements would kids at your grade level understand, and how would you convey to them the importance of digital literacy and digital citizenship?

There was agreement that a vertical alignment of skills would be great, and that some conversation is warranted about what each grade level would want to see from an incoming class as far as digital skills. For example, Fifth grade teachers might want their students to possess some basic information literacy skills like not just copying and pasting online information, whereas First grade teachers' goals might include having their students to be able to log in to a computer independently. We want to take steps to build this vertical alignment so that these basic technical tasks are addressed in a more purposeful way.

Finally, all agreed that having students create content is a great idea. I even had a couple of the teachers suggest that they would be contacting their past year's students' parents about getting the kids to start making some videos. I still love the idea of having kids across our district learning from each other, whether it's a fourth grader learning from someone in high school how to create a pivot table in Excel to a new fifth grade ELL learning from a first grader how to search for information more efficiently.

Now, in addition to all that good energy, I had to do a literature review of my selected project topic for that "Disruptive Innovation in Education" class I'm taking. I found it very challenging to synopsize all that information, but as one of my new Twitter friends told me earlier today, there is something pretty cool about looking at a bunch of information and finding connections that maybe no one has noticed before. We information geeks love that kind of thing. If you're interested, you can check out my literature review here.

For those of you who are on summer vacation, I hope you're having a great one! My nose will be back to the ol' digital literacy grindstone again tomorrow. ;-)



Saturday, June 4, 2016

A 50,000 Foot View

Dear Teachers,
Today was a great day in terms of  verifying the power of Twitter and other online PLN opportunities. It's just amazing to me how much I can learn and how much support I feel from colleagues I've never even met.

Let me back up just a minute and tell you about the class I'm in right now for the M.Ed. in Digital Learning and Leading that I'm pursuing. The current class is titled "Disruptive Innovation in Education." The main goal of the class is to create/develop an innovation plan for something significant in your work situation that you hope to change. It's referred to as a "50,000 foot plan" to indicate that it is big and seen from a wide angle lens. If you follow my blog or know me even a little bit, you can probably guess that the subject of my disruptive innovation plan is to find a way to address digital literacy and digital citizenship  in the curriculum from Pre-K through graduation, without teachers' seeing that as "oh great - one MORE thing I have to cover!"

This brings me back to the amazing Twitter PLN that I was in contact with today. Many of us will be attending ISTE at the end of June, and we were experimenting today with Declara. Through Declara and some private Twitter messages, I "met" William Jenkins and Kristen Mattson. William is from Scotland and Kristen is from Illinois, according to their respective Twitter profiles. How would I ever have run across either of these people without the connectivity power of Twitter?! William sent me a couple of articles on disruptive innovation, without even really knowing that I'm in a class on that topic right now! He's written some terrific blog posts that were very helpful and encouraged my thinking about my 50,000 foot plan. Kristen was astoundingly generous in sharing much of the work she's already done researching digital citizenship curricula. Two people who, at 8:00 this morning were complete strangers, are now stellar professional connections, and hopefully will grow into something even more.

Both of my new Twitter BFFs unwittingly encouraged me in my 50,000 foot plan. A wonderful teacher friend also confirmed that my idea might have some legs. The problem, as I see it, is that children need to own the skills of digital literacy in the same way they own  math facts or reading comprehension skills. Teachers, unfortunately, either don't know these skills well enough to teach them themselves, or are just too darned busy with curricular content that is mandated, so children learn digital literacy skills haphazardly, if at all. I want to create a mechanism for students to create and share brief videos that explain the digital skills they possess. The students who create the videos solidify their understanding of the concept, and students who access the videos have an opportunity to learn skills that they might not learn otherwise.

My hope is that these student-created videos might be used by other students (either older or younger), parents, teachers, and other staff members. Because the videos will be very brief, featuring easy tips and tricks like navigating a website, capturing a URL, using shortcut keys, or being sure to paraphrase information found online, watching (or creating) the videos will not require the teacher to take precious time out of the instructional day to address the skills. The students will essentially own the learning and convey it to other students.

I have plenty of questions about this idea right now. My main ones: what will motivate students to want to visit a website like this? How will they find out about it? What would entice them to come back to the website? What would entice them to create videos that other students would learn from? As I'm typing this out, I'm thinking some kind of gamification could be layered on top of it - either badges or some other way of "leveling up" to show an attainment of knowledge.

This project is ongoing and I will be making many iterations along the way. Feel free to tweet any suggestions to me @nancywtech or reply in the comments section below. I mentioned, didn't I, that my PLN is phenomenal?! That means YOU! Thanks in advance for any suggestions.