Innovation & Unlearning

Innovation

Photo CC – by Boegh

To innovate means to introduce changes into what has been established. Generally the innovation is seen as an improvement. Innovation in education is a topic that has been explored through this semester, and my hope is that I have introduced something new and positive into who I am as a student, future teacher, and as a person.

To be an innovator, I need to be willing to change. I need to look beyond my own opinion of how I believe thing work most efficiently. I need to keep my eyes open to possibilities and combine what I see with a little creativity.

Mindset

I spent some time looking at two articles this week about growing as a learner and as an educator. The first was The Mindset of an Innovator, by George Couros. This article was his personal reflection about who he is as an educator. He began and ended his reflection with one statement that resonated with me,

“I am an innovative educator and I will continue to ask “what is best for learners”.  With this empathetic approach, I will create and design learning experiences with that question as a starting point.”

This is what I want to be as an educator. I desire to lead my classroom in such a way that my decisions in lesson planning and presenting instruction meet the needs of my students.

This is where innovation steps in. I must be continually seeking fresh ways to address the needs of my students. I must be aware of what other educators are doing to utilize technology in their classrooms. I should continue to read the books and blogs of educators who are helping students make great strides in their learning. I can research what teachers are doing to continue their own education.

I believe that I must do both of the above things: focus on the needs of students, and continue to learn. Keeping the needs of my students in mind while learning about what others do in their classroom allows me to be reflecting on how I could incorporate new practices or ideas into my teaching.

Unlearning

Learn Unlearn Relearn

Photo CC – by Giulia Forsythe

The second article I read was by Will Richardson, The Steep Unlearning Curve. The premise of his article was that we have perceptions in education that are no longer accurate. The internet has changed how we view information and learning. It has changed how we interact with others.

The statement that struck me the most while reading Richardson’s article was, “We need to unlearn the idea that every student needs to learn the same content when really what they need to learn is how to self-direct their own learning.”

This statement made an impact because I both agree and disagree with it. Maybe he is thinking about older students, but as a future elementary teacher, I see the need for a solid foundation to be laid in the core subjects.  All my students will need to know how to write, read, have a functioning knowledge of mathematics, and the natural and social sciences.

I do agree with the premise that students need to direct their own learning, after they have a foundation to build on.  Each student needs to learn what their strengths are.  They need to learn how to utilize technology so they can seek out information.  Students need to be taught metacognitive strategies so that they can process information that they are taking in.  They need to learn how to self-direct their own learning.

I think that this is where innovation meets unlearning for me as a teacher.  I will need to lay that foundation while teaching students how to direct their learning.  I see this as an exciting challenge.

Reflection

This semester I have taken in a great deal of information about digital literacy.  I have used technology in new ways, I have found new programs that I enjoy using, and I have been challenged to think about how the field of education functions as a launching point for student interest and growth.

What do I still need to unlearn or learn?  Honestly, I don’t know.  I do know that experience will teach me what I still need to learn, and this semester I have learned where to go and how to find the information that will fill the gaps that will become apparent in the classroom.

Exploration-Innovation

Photo CC – by Missy Schmidt

. . .

Both of these articles are about learning to see possibilities, and the ability to change our mindset. I have seen that I need to continually evaluate myself as a learner and teacher so that I can be a better teacher.

Because this is the key to innovation. It is not change for the sake of change. It is change for sake of improvement.

A Digital Story About Teaching

Teaching is like cultivating a garden.

Maybe this is more of a simile than a metaphor, but the goal of the two is the same.

I wish I could tell you exactly how I see myself fit into what is expressed in my digital story, but I don’t know yet.

I have yet to lead my own classroom, but this is what I have learned from my year of being a special education paraprofessional and the years I spent substitute teaching.  Sprinkle in the time I spent in education classes, and this is what teaching is to me.

I believe I know what style of teacher I would like to be, but that has not been tested with experience.  I do know that my desire is to know each of my students and appreciate them for what makes each one an individual.  I hope that is conveyed when you see the digital story.

Enjoy!

The Daily Create, Part VI

Day 26

Make a photograph of yourself as a famous pop artist.

PopArtist

So… this was a little weird. I have never taken a selfie, and I had to for this project. Then I had to edit it. I just felt strange spending time on my own picture.

Day 27

Learn a sentence in a language you have no experience in, then record yourself saying it.

I butchered the language of my ancestors in 5 seconds. I said “Hello, my name is Sarah. Good bye,” in Swedish.

Day 28

Sketch an image of something that scares you. Here is the twist… make it a bit less intimidating in some way.

I’m afraid of tornados, but I made sure that this one had directions so it does not wander my direction.

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Day 29

Create a stick figure drawing that is unique and specific to you as a person.

I made my husband and me, holding little stick figure hands. He just got home from a business trip. After being gone for weeks I am so glad to have him home!

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Day 30

Take a picture of an animal doing something crazy. If you can’t find a crazy animal, edit a picture and make a crazy animal!

We don’t have an animal to take a picture of, so my son and I made a grumpy cat meme about the end of DS106.

 crazygrumpy cat

30 days of Creativity (or something like it) is complete!

Creating Online

This week I used Canva to create a little something for my independent learning project.

Read a Classic

This semester I have chosen to read classic literature for my independent learning project. Why? I love to read. Literature makes me happy. I want to be smarter. (And classic literature makes you smarter! True story.)

It’s nice to get school credit for something I am going to do anyway. Now instead of feeling guilty for opening a classic in the middle of the semester, I can smile and think, “It’s homework. I am required to do this.”

About my creation

On the poster I included the subject of my project, my favorite quote by Italo Cavino from his work Why Read the Classics, and the list of books I have read during this semester. A couple of the books on the list I did not post about on the blog, and the last, The Grapes of Wrath, I have yet to read. I have high hopes of making it next week’s book. The information on the poster is what, why, and which books. It sums up my project.

Canva

I discovered Canva through reading the article Tech Review: Online Creation Tools Piktochart and Canva by Karen Jenson.  She has some great posters that she has made using both sites in her article. In her article she writes about what she likes about both Piktochart and Canva, as well as what she does not like. She also includes tutorials on how to use each site. Jenson stated that Canva is a little more user friendly, so I chose to use that site for this week’s assignment.

Canva is a simple program that yield good results. If one is familiar with any Microsoft programs, Canva is intuitive. One begins with choosing what type of product they want (business card, poster, collage, etc.). Next, a sidebar appears on the left side of the screen and walks the user through choosing a template, text style, images, and backgrounds. Colors and transparency can be altered for any image on the product. The site also auto-saves after every change, so there is no chance of losing work if the computer shuts down or the internet connection is lost.  I need to mention that some things on Canva cost money.  However, there is a lot that is free and one can upload their own images and use those for free.

I really liked this program. I think that Canva will simplify making digital designs. I have used Photoshop in the past and I am becoming familiar with Gimp, but the platform I utilize most often is Microsoft Publisher. Many times I find myself switching between Gimp and Publisher to make an artifact for a class, DS106, or for fun. However, there are things that are difficult or time consuming to do using two programs at the same time. This is where a site like Canva will be a great tool.

In the classroom

I think that Canva, or a program like it, will be a fun way for students to create a product that demonstrates what they have learned or what they can do. Students can use this as partners or individually. The only limitation there would be with this program is the imagination of the kids who are using it.

I think that I may use it to “pretty-up” classroom communications to parents or on the class website. I could also use it to make signs, a teacher’s notebook, labels… Really, the possibilities are endless for a perfectionist!

Digital Storytelling

Old-timey radio show meets digital technology. The offspring is the podcast.

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It can sound like The Thrilling Adventure Hour: think 1930s radio with a modern quirkiness all made up for fun and laughs, or it can be darker and addicting, like Serial, which is based on a real life murder story.

Whatever your preferred genera, there is a podcast for it.

The Benefits

In the article The Teacher’s Guide to Digital Storytelling, author Leah Levy writes that teachers are beginning to utilize this resource to help them get students to think critically about literature, writing, and technology. In addition to the deeper thinking that can be promoted through incorporating podcasts, she adds that the technology is a good way to meet a handful of the expectations set forth in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

English teacher Michael Godsey agrees, and has found this to be the case in his classroom. Godsey has used the podcast “Serial” to help improve his students listening skills, improve reading skills as students have poured over transcripts of the show, and caused students to use higher level thinking. All of these things are requirements of Language Arts CCSS, and students are meeting them in a way that does not seem like school work at all. To read more about how Godsey uses the podcast in his classroom, see What Teens are Learning from Serial and Other Podcasts.

Teachers can also incorporate other forms of digital storytelling in the classroom, such as video or photography. There are defiantly benefits to using podcasts and digital storytelling in the classroom, they help teachers deliver standards based instruction, which is important. It also helps develop an interest in literature that can turn into a lifelong passion, which is more important.

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Photo CC – by Zero Divide

The (Possible) Disadvantages

As teachers we must remember that we use technology to support learning objectives. If the technology does not fit, we find something else. We need to think just as critically of digital storytelling forms as we do with other methods of conveying information.

We also need to remember that it the teacher that directs the learning, the learning does not direct the teacher. When I was in school many teachers used videos to supplement instruction. The teachers who made them meaningful had learning activities and discussion centered on the videos to help students get the most out of the technology as possible. Some teachers used the videos to burn time, and we rarely gave the content a second thought. Digital storytelling can be an excellent tool – it is a tool, and needs to be utilized, not just set out there with the hope some students will make use of it.

The last disadvantage to using digital storytelling in any format is that it is easy to get carried away. Addiction carried away, because these podcasts can take over your life in the way Netflix causes the evening hours to slip away without thought or notice. Not that I know anything about that. *Ahem*

. . .

I would like to use digital storytelling in my elementary school classroom. It will be a great tool to utilize as I teach thinking, listening, and writing skills to my students. Both Scholastic and itunes have resources for younger audiences and teachers.

I think that I would also like to give my students the opportunity to turn their writing and artistic abilities into digital stories. This would be an excellent way for students to make learning meaningful, and produce products that allow them to extend their thinking and learning beyond the traditional products students churn out.

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Photo CC – by Melanie Holtsman

However I use podcasts and digital storytelling, be it through presenting material or as an avenue of expression, I want to make sure students are using it to further their learning.

Mindfulness

Technology is a constant. It is always on, always demanding that we pay attention.

This week’s focus is on mindfulness. How much do I pay attention to what I am doing online? How does it impact my relationships? How does the amount of time I spend online affect the state of my house?

ecard cleaning

A year offline, what I have learned

Paul Miller gave a TED Talk where he described his year without the internet.  He gave up texting and the internet and decided to focus on the things that mattered to him. Two questions that led him to his decision were,

  • How does the internet use me, and how do I use the internet?
  • At what point are my decisions and goals dictating my behavior on the internet, and at what point are the apps and the people and the processes … dictating and changing my behavior?”

These are great questions. Since we are the ones who navigate, we think that we are the ones dictating what happens. But wait, if that we true, then sites would not have trackers to see where we have been and what they can offer us.  Am I choosing what to do, or is another influencing my decisions?

In his quest to leave the internet behind, Paul soon found that he experienced complete freedom, and complete, excruciating, boredom. This allowed him to try to fill his time and he found that his solitude led to creativity, less drain led to emotional availability, and face-to-face conversations with friends and family led to improved relationships.

Conversation: 6/365

Photo CC – by Todd Fong

He also found that he spent the whole year on himself. Leaving the internet did not fix his problems. So he decided that he wanted to spend time focusing on others, caring for them. He had to find a balance. Find where the priority was and focus on that.

So Paul Miller did. He spent time with family, posted what he did on the internet, and found that he was able to choose to focus on others.

Social Experiment

One school in San Francisco asked their students to leave their devices and the internet behind for three days. The teachers did not actually expect kids to keep away from technology for three days, but they did want kids to become more cognizant of how technology intruded on other areas of student’s lives that they were unaware of.

So, what happens when teens try to disconnect from technology for three days?

They lived through it, though some did cheat and go back to their devices a little early. The students did see a difference in how they spent their time. Homework that used to take 5 hours a night, now only took 1½ without the distraction of the internet. Since answers to questions could not be Googled, students had to ask their parents for help. This led to kids having conversations with their parents.

Family Portrait

Photo CC – by Bo Gordy-Stith

How do I become more mindful?

In both situations the individuals went back to using technology on a daily basis. They hopefully were more aware of what they were doing online, and made an effort to say emotionally connected to people.

I don’t necessarily want to go on an internet fast, but I do want to be mindful of how I am spending my time. I want to make sure that, like Paul Miller, I have goals and decisions that are dictating my behavior on the internet. I do not want the internet to dictate to me what my goals and decisions should consist of.

In an article called Simplify the Internet the author makes the point that simplifying is about making choices about what will I share, and what am I willing to let go of. It is all about choices. Some great tips are presented to simplify use of social media, reading online, and email.

. . .

Am I accomplishing the things I want to when I search on the internet, or am I just being distracted by it?

It’s is time to think about mindfulness. And the state of my house.

ecard pinning

Digital Activism in the Classroom

Digital Activism is using digital communication to raise awareness and deliver information to an audience regarding social or political causes.

Raising money online for humanitarian aid or a political campaign is digital activism. Raising awareness of human trafficking using Facebook or twitter is digital activism.

As an example of the impact digital activism can have on a cause, take a look at how technology was used in 2011 during the political protest in Egypt. Social media contributed to the uprising that eventually led to events that caused Mubarak to leave his position as head of the country. Digital activism led to political change. For more information about just how social media contributed to the Arab Spring, see the article When Does Digital Activism Pack a Punch?

In short, digital activism seeks change. Sometimes it works, and other times it is not as effective.

What does digital activism do for young people?

Opening animation

Photo CC – by Tactical Technology Collective

When we look at digital activism for young people in the United States, we are not looking at political activism on the scale of the example above. It is more about finding a cause and promoting it. A cause such as eliminating cyberbullying, helping people avoid harmful behaviors, or encouraging healthy food choices.

One cause is free and above. Free and above is digital activism that seeks to encourage teens with mental health issues and disorders. It operates on multiple social media platforms and its website provides encouragement and information about mental illness, along with links to helplines. This group of young people, in my opinion, are leaps and bounds above any other digital activism group or individual I saw. I like this site because the teens running it do not promote themselves as saviors, but seek to help in a practical way.

Digital activism allows teens to have a voice in their world. It helps them to inform others about activities or causes that they are passionate about. Digital activism is a way for teens to reach their peers with what is hopefully a positive message.

Some questions I have about digital activism

More Questions Than Answers

Photo CC – by Tom

  •  Are we teaching kids that posting is the same as acting?

This is a big concern for me. If activism is to bring about change, are some of the social activists actually making a difference, or were they just making themselves feel good by saying something? I think that we need to teach kids to act on their convictions. If kids are really concerned about poverty in their community, raising awareness using twitter is good. Doing something to help would be better. Have a food or blanket drive. Serve meals at the local soup kitchen. Volunteer as a peer tutor in a low income school. Talk is good, but it is only a first step in the process of change.

  • Is the cause and subsequent activism based on facts?

We must teach students how to research their causes. Teach them to fact check what they believe to be true. This is the responsible way to raise awareness. Too often false information is used to promote an agenda. If teen activists are to be taken seriously, they must be accurate or they will discredit their cause. Worst case scenario, they will get others to act based on a misrepresentation of the truth. Let us as educators prepare kids to speak their mind, but in a responsible manner.

. . .

At this point I am not sure if I am a proponent of digital activism in the classroom. I believe that activism needs to be based on conviction. Convictions are developed over time and are personal. I am not convinced that I am going into the business of developing convictions in my students. I believe it is my job to help them to learn to think critically and deeply so they can form their own.

One teacher I read about in the article My kids, our cause and a classroom blog talked about how a teacher used digital activism in his classroom to give students the opportunity to be “agents of change.” The students raised money to loan to people in developing countries to start small business, and also started a campaign to promote healthy eating. This teacher chose subjects that matter, and gave kids the opportunity to positively interact with others about issues and make an impact on the lives of people around the world. I can see the positive side to digital activism.

In time, I will decide just how much of a role digital activism will play in my future classroom. At this point I am in the process of developing my opinion on the matter.