Success! A Reflection on my Major Project.

As we come to the end of this semester, and to the end of my major project, I reflect back on how much I have learned (and taught my students) about becoming a responsible digital citizen and how to use this technology to help mold my students into becoming digitally, and scientifically, literate contributing members to society.

This really has been a journey, not a straight pathway, but one full of twists and turns, and many lessons learned:

  1.  This school year started off with me officially continuing as acting VP at school – a role in which I felt more confident and comfortable than the previous year before.  This was a good thing, as I needed some comfort level somewhere in school with the new science curriculum’s officially being released, meaning all teachers of a 20 level course must teach the new curriculum.  Good for me in regards to the two 20 level subject as I have “test ran” them already – but as all teachers know, reflection of past teaching practices comes into play and we ultimately re-vamp (and should every year) our classes in order to achieve a better outcome for our students.  I decided not to touch the 20 level courses with my major project related to this class, instead I turned my focus towards my science 10 class and decided to concentrate on having my students blog their science fair projects.  Good idea at the beginning, as our science fair projects were to be due on December 1 and 2, just in time for this class to end.  Thus began the Evolution of a Major Project, appropriately titled as I now reflect back on the changing withing both myself and students within these last four months as digital natives and immigrants.
  2. The idea of the project was to have students blog their entire written portion and to keep a journal of their science fair projects.  Slowly but Surly we began to create our blogs.  We chose to use Kidblog kidblog as the ELA teacher and myself collaborated and were going to have all students use the same domain within both classes.  We thought that this would be the best way to infuse blogging into our grade 10-12 students in our school.  Although my major project focused solely on the grade 10’s and their science fair projects, the main idea was to get the students use to blogging!  I felt that if I was going to have my grade 10’s blog, I may as well have all classes blog and dive head first into this project.
  3. As with all projects tried for the first time, there always seems to be some snags along the way – this is how learning takes place after all!  Some of the greatest inventions, laws, and theories of the scientific community evolved from mistakes.  For my class, this felt similar to Apollo 13; Houston, We Have a Problem.  Neither I, nor my colleague, realized that we had to pay for Kidblogs, and that we were only signed up for a trial run.  This caused many students to lose their work!  Frustration ensued, and I felt that my students had just given up on blogging as their hard work has now disappeared.  The decision to have students save their work in a word document and then post that to the blog seemed to satisfy all students.
  4. Slow and Steady Wins the Race is true for my class.  I have now successfully had  student blog about their projects.  Realizing that my students needed more direction than just to blog their journal entries, I began giving firm directions as to what I expected to show up in their blogs and how it was to look. Although not all students have yet blogged (and I expected this to happen), those that are blogging are doing a fantastic job!
  5.  Success at last!  Finally I feel that we are Up, Up and Away with blogging.  All of my students have not blogged successfully on time!  This is the upside to my project, on the downside I needed to expand my due dates for science fair as I feel that my students needed more time to work on their projects to achieve the quality of work that I am expecting from them.  I know that the success from this week has come from the directions that I have given my students in regards to blogging.  Clear expectations one week at a time!
  6. Since I have made the decision to expand science fair, I am having my students blog about their car projects as this is a blog that will be done in time for the end of EC&I 832.  In the Forces and Motions unit of grade 10, I have my students explore through inquiry, how to design a car that will move on it’s own – they must also look at acceleration vs. time, position vs. time, average acceleration, speed and instantaneous positioning – all outcomes supported by indicators for the unit.  The students really did well and Started their Engines!  I feel that this project will develop faster than the science fair projects were as students are now more comfortable with blogging and I have been doing more research into how to implement blogging within a science classroom.
  7. Finally:  I Think We May Be at the End of This Project, And Back to the Beginning ensued.  We completed our car race and blogging.  I had decided to ask each group to blog together in one long blog – not to break their blogs up.  My findings with this indicated that the students enjoyed blogging on large blog in which they were able to edit and save a draft instead of feeling like they needed to start a new blog each time they worked on their cars.  I am fine with this at this point in our blogging adventure as I agree with my students, their projects just read better and I was receiving high quality blogs.  I am very happy with my students work – all groups but one blogged (the one that did not had computer issues at home), and almost all of the aspects of the projects were included within the blogs.  My students even learned how to hyperlink, insert media (both pictures and videos), and to edit in a professional manner.

Overall thoughts of this project:

This project has thrust me into the realm of digital citizenship via social media, and realizing the benefits of using social media in the class.  I have implemented blogging into everything!  I recently watched George Couros’s Tedtalk, and really like the idea that all of the students in his division have a wordpress blog as their digital portfolio throughout their school years as a place to collect projects/examples of their work.

This is an excellent way to see how the student has evolved!  I will be implementing this immediately! Needless to say, I will be switching from kidblog to wordpress in the future with my students as I feel that it is a more reliable domain to be using.

I realize that I do have a lot of learning to do in regards to blogging in the science classroom.  I feel that in future years I will look back at these posts and realize how far I have come as an educator, and how far my students have come.I have gained insite into blogging in the science classroom from many resources.  A blog posted on NSTA written by Erica Brownstein and Robert Klein on how to blog in a science classroom guided me into effective blogging using their 8 simple rules, even including a three point rubric as a quick way to assess students blogging. Reading Chris Ludwig’s blog: Blogging in the Science Classroom, the Worksheet is Dead resonated greatly with me: especially the quote he quoted from @mrsebiology in regards to assessment and rigor validation of blogs:

“Rigor is the goal of helping students develop the capacity to understand content that is complex, ambiguous, provocative, and personally or emotionally challenging.”

When you look back at my students car blog projects, you will see that I have asked my students to post their written, calculated work on their blog.  I have even had one group use excel to graph their data rather than using graph paper – this was not an expectation, but a pleasant surprise,  and was not mentioned to my students – but I am pleased  that these students related digital media in all ways and tied it to their blogs. racecarcody

Although I focused on blogging throughout the semester with my students, I felt that my confidence of social media use within the classroom expanded exponentially.  I am proud to say that I have now shared my planbook on my wikispace with my students and parents (I have nothing to hide and feel that teaching the curriculum should be transparent), we are also tweeting as a class @cooperscience1 @cooperscience1

which has been a very good communication tool as the students tweet myself and their peers questions.  I have also used Hootsuite hootsuite in my class as I do not want to see everything that my students are tweeting in their personal lives – kind of a cloak of invisibility so to speak.  When teachers teach in a rural community, they are often thrust into an environment in which they are jack of all trades but masters of none.  I consider myself a jack of all trades working towards mastery of student engagement in curriculum and instruction, inspiring my students through the power of engagement in social media and digital citizenship to become the best, critically thinking, and most engaged students within the curricula they are learning.  How do I plan to accomplish this?  Easy, by allowing the students to use the tools that they are most familiar with, after all, the students we are teaching are digital natives. For my students, blogging their work throughout this semester has positively enhanced their STEM literacy skills, not just scientifically, but digitally as well.

Reflections of a Teacher Exploring Digital Footprints

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 Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

How we, as educators, infuse digital citizenship and literacy within our classrooms while maintaining integrity of the courses we teach is as important as teaching the curriculum’s themselves.  I agree with Andrew in his post.  As educators, the responsibility of teaching our students to leave a positive digital footprint does not solely lie on us.  Teaching digital literacy and positive use of technology within the curricula we teach must be used as a tool to help guide our students through their learning pathways.  How we do this is up to us as individuals, and as Branelle posted in her blog this week.  I really was drawn to the simplicity of how Branelle feels that she will support digital citizenship within her classes:  initiate, inform and inspire.  I think she has hit the nail on the head – it’s simple, straightforward and to the point.  Initiate conversations, inform our students towards leaving positive footprints, and finally inspire them to do so in a responsible manner.  

The world of digital literacy, technology, and citizenship opens up so many doors to our students learning capabilities in a non-restrictive format which allows our students to develop strong inquiry based skills within their learning abilities.  I find this to be incredibly important, not only as an administrator, but as an educator whom is also a curriculum writer.  For me, within the new sciences that have been/are being developed, I feel that digital literacy has been written right into the curriculum itself.  When you read the front end of the curriculum, it is noted that  students must understand the four learning contexts within the scientific framework represent student engagement within the particular science curricula they are currently studying.  The four learning contexts includ:

  1. Scientific Literacy
  2. Technological Problem Solving
  3. Cultural Perspectives
  4. STSE Decision Making (science, technology, society, environment)

When you dissect the above four learning contexts, it becomes obvious that technology plays a large role within the students learning outcomes.  I realize that the word “technology” can be interpreted in many ways.  According to Merriam-Websters online dictionary, the definition of technology is : a machine, piece of equipment, method, etc., that is created by technology.  For some, it may simply mean using equipment – but isn’t the internet considered a search tool, and thus equipment?  For me, it is.  In fact I view the use of technology/digital media as  a type of Rhizomatic Learning, one with no beginning, middle nor end.

When we look deeper into the new science curricula, we note that one of the units that is required at the 20 and 30 level is titled Student Directed Study.  The intent of this unit is to allow students to study a topic that is of personal interest to them within the realm of the course they are currently taking.  Research!  Inquiry!  Problem-Based learning!  All of these at some point will require the use of some form of digital technology.  Again, going back to Branelle’s post:  we must model the positive use of digital technology to our students in order for them to have the abilities to research properly – to inspire them to do so in a positive manner, leaving behind a positive digital footprint.  I certainly want to do everything in my power as an educator, whom promotes the use of digital media, to teach my students to be responsible citizens and treat the technology they hold within their hands (smartphones) or use withing schools, homes or the workplace with respect.  I would hate for one of my students to have an incident similar to Ron Johnson’s Ted Talk “How One Tweet Could Ruin Your Life“, or a situation similar to Tom Scott’s talk on Social Media Dystopia.

 

Let’s face it, we are teaching digital natives while we are digital natives where we ourselves may be considered digital immigrants, as we were not born into the world of technology as we know it today (well, for me at least).  George Siemens principles of Connectivism (2004) include (but not limited to) the following points:

  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision

I have highlighted words in the above points which resonate to me as an educator and what I feel is important in regards to teaching our students how to successfully navigate in ever changing world of digital citizenship.

The responsibility of teaching positive digital citizenship must not lie solely on us as educators, parent must take a part in this, but if we get the wheels moving in the forward (positive) direction at school, this must be consistent with how students are being supported by their parents at home.  Deconstructing media and interpreting what is read or viewed via media helps to create critical thinkers within our classrooms and society, allowing for a deeper level of understanding and strong communication skills with all individuals our students are in contact with, whether that be family, friends, or colleagues.

Who knows, we may be teaching the next Einstein or Darwin.

I Think We May Be At the End of This Project….And Back to the Beginning

This week I have been continuing to focus on asking my students to complete specific topics for their science fair projects.  I am finding that I am conflicted with the idea of demanding that my students all be at the same place within their projects at the same time.  From the years of experience that I have with science fairs, and my experience with Canada Wide Science Fair, I am continually reminded that students work at a different pace from one another.  Originally, I just wanted to have students blog about what they were doing up to date on their projects.  I then began to feel that my students were not blogging simply because they had not started their projects yet (their choice, not mine) therefore they had nothing to write about.  I could only keep asking for resources so much before I realized that this was not allowing students to work on their project and that the project soon began to feel like a blog and not a science fair; good for me…but not for them.  I have always pushed my students to explore open inquiry within their projects, but slowly started feeling that I was pulling that back a bit.

I found an article from Steven Spangler that explained how to blog science fair projects, although this blog was written by a very young student, it was the content of the blog itself in which I began to look more closely at.  I have now just asked my students to blog one “final blog” and edit it on a regular basis.  As stated before, these projects have now been pushed back to January and would not be completed until after this class.  IMG_0856JPG

Therefore, I have re-started my major project, sort of, by just having my students blog one project – the race car project.  The testing of my students cars were completed last week and students had until Friday to submit their final projects to me.  I have all but one blog submitted on time – and these students handed in a paper copy because their blog wasn’t working well!  Woohoo, it is actually  better than handing in a “traditional” paper.  I have not marked my students on their abilities of blogging for this project as they were not told that they would be, but have commented on their blogs about what I was excited to see and what I would have liked to have seen which would have enhanced their blog just that much more (picture on the side is the beginning of one of the cars).  Last week, I posted a link to a student’s blog that was in progress.  This week I am sharing the completed blog – it is really amazing, check it out!  I have learned a lot from this project, I have learned that students really do well with blogging as it allows for a creative environment to show their work and one in which they can research easily as they are already connected to the internet, also blogging has allowed my students to think outside of the box and to be okay with creating their own projects with their own “look”.

Privacy, Please? A reflection of digital personal settings and personal safety.

This week I chose to watch the Doc Zone episode titled Sext Up  Kids.  I chose this particular video to watch for a few different reasons:  First – I teach high school, Second – I have teenage boys (17 and 19 – one living at home and one away at school).  While I was watching the video I began reflecting on why I have my social media privacy settings set as I do.  More importantly, why I have set them and why I am so choosy as to I accept as a “friend” on social media.

As a teacher, I make it a rule that I will not accept any Facebook friend requests from my students until they have graduated.  I do this for three reasons:

1.  I do not want to see what my students are doing privately (either inside or outside of school) while I am in an educator role with them.

2.  I do not want to have preconceived ideas of what my students are like as an individual before they come into my classroom as I believe that all students have the right to an unbiased education.

3.  I need to protect myself as an individual – I really do not want my student to know about what I am doing on the weekend (unless I choose to verbally share this with my students), nor do I want them to be able to see what I post as my posts are just that – mine.  And, just like point 2 above, I don’t want my students to have a preconceived idea about me as a person – having a preconceived idea about me as a teacher (she’s tough, or she does wacky things to get our attention, etc… are ok) before they enter my classroom. I also do not want them having my personal information as I have been stalked before by a former students which required police involvement for the safety of me and my family – it (the stalking)  still continues to this day even though I have blocked this student and changed my privacy settings on all social media accounts.

In my room at school, my students must “rest and recharge” their phones during class.  This is done for a variety of reasons – students live in a rural town and many drive – I want them to have a fully charged phone before they leave my class and are on the highways or grids.  Also, when I am instructing, I want their attention.  Quite often I will ask my students to be on their phones researching topics, but when they are not to be on their phones, they must be on the lab benches.  Also, I have never wanted to be accused of allowing a student to send a text, message, etc… that may be harmful to another.

Before I began this class I was very leery of Twitter and Facebook as tools in the classroom – but as of two weeks ago, I now have a school Twitter account and now use Hootsuite.  Originally I did not use Hootsuite – for about one day – until I was seeing what my students were posting that was not related to school, I really do not want to see what they post.  Personally, using Hootsuite has been a way of protecting myself!  What if one of my students posted a sext and I saw it – would I be charged if I did not report that?  No, I did not even want to venture into those waters!  Especially after watching Sext Up Kids.

I researched how many wireless subscribers there are in Canada currently – 29,062,796!  Along with the 29 million wireless subscribers, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunication Association reports that  one in five households only have wireless phone services in their homes – we happen to be one of those households – no land line!  I was a bit surprised that Canadians sent an extraordinary amount of texts per day – 270 Million! But it isn’t just texting that draws us in to communicate wireless with one another.  92% of teenagers go online daily due to the ease of access they have to smartphones.  With Facebook being the most popular form of social media platform being used by teens, 71% of teens use more than one social media platform to communicate with one another.

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat Top Social Media Platforms for Teens

 

Analyzing the above statistics, I began to research the number of teenagers that sext.  I found the following information from PCs N Dreams:


 

“Here are Some of the Shocking Sexting Statistics:

The percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves:

  • 20% of teenagers overall
  • 22% of teen girls
  • 18% of teen boys
  • 11% of young teen girls ages 13-16

The percent of teenagers sending or posting sexually suggestive messages:

  • 39% of all teenagers
  • 37% of teen girls
  • 40% of teen boys”


 

Venture Academy‘s research found the same as the Doc Zone episode, teens find that sexting is simply  fun and flirtatious,  but our students do not really realize that once they have hit the “send” button, they can not undo the sext – it can follow them around forever and may even impact them for future careers.  

I invite you to watch the following video about parents whom went to the authorities when they found out that their child was sexting – would you do the same and do you agree with the panel?

Now, with everything that I have researched, I must go and look over my privacy settings again to ensure I have the tightest security possible!

Start Your Engines

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Photo Credit: Raphaël Belly Photography via Compfight cc

I have expanded the due date on my students science fair projects – they were just needing more time to complete at the level in which I expect from my students, this means that my students will finish their blogs after this project is due – which isn’t idea, but I will make it work.  I have expanded my quest of blogging to all of my classes because I have begun to feel very comfortable with this process throughout the semester.  This is a good thing because I can see myself using blogs from here on out, and collecting less paper!  I have asked all students to create one blog instead of multiple blog posts for major projects (science fair, SDS, etc…) – although students could just hyperlink their blogs, the students felt comfortable with editing one long blog post and I am fine with this.  My students have stated that one long blog post feels more like handing in their scientific papers, the feeling I had with this discussion is that the students do not like their work (especially because it is one large project) chopped up into smaller pieces.  I wonder if they felt that their work did not have a flow if it was hyper-linked?  This is something that I will need to explore further with the students.

In order to accommodate and have a completed blog post  before the end of this class, I have asked my student to blog their race car project and to have this blog emulate what their science fair projects would look like (I asked Josi and Kelsey for their permission first before I posted the link).  I have also asked my students to begin using Twitter – one more social media way to discover digital citizenship within our class, follow us @cooperscience1.  I have explained to the students that they will need to post videos of their projects to Twitter and hyperlink them into their blogs.  We have had a lot of fun with Twitter this week and I am happy to report that all of my students are on Twitter now (I actually decided to go with Twitter and get rid of Remind). Students have been posting thoughts and links to informative sites regarding the topics we are currently covering in class.  I have given each class it’s own # therefore making it easier for us to only look at our posts when we are discussing what we have been posting.

I have taken advice from several websites and blogs from teachers whom have implemented blogs into a science class before.  I found the site Top 50 Science Teacher Blogs to be very helpful in regards to blogging in general.  The article 4 Powerful Ways to Implement Blogging in the Classroom (Daily Genius, April 23, 2015) gave links to examples of students blogging labs and group projects.

Reinvention of Education

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Photo Credit: Cheers Paralegal via Compfight cc


Last week everything began to click for me in this course, woohoo!  This week, I am having continued clicking taking place, but now am really beginning to re-evaluate where I sit in the continuum of educators and how we teach our students according to our own pedagogy.  During my reflection of the required reading this week, I began to wonder if I am really a “traditional” style teacher or not?  As the above paragraph stated – I really do not think of myself as a traditional teacher. I like to include my students in the learning process, not only within the learning of new content, or the scaffolding of content, but the assessment and extensions of the content itself.

The reading this week confirmed the style of teaching that I have naturally evolved towards – more socially responsible, rhizomatic teachings.  Although I am not completely at the rhizomatic teaching style, I feel that I am well on my way.  As a science teacher whom implements student inquiry as a way of learning subject matter quite heavily – rhizomatic learning appeals greatly to me.  I see that I have evolved along the Philosophy and Education Continuum chart from a realism philosophy to a pragmatism philosophy.  My students are not required to learn for mastery, but rather become masters of the learning through problem solving – connecting and networking with others either in person or finding and understanding information via technology.

Ashley’s blog, especially the idea of unschooling by Callie Vandeweil, led me towards reflecting on the way that students learn.  Students can learn in a multitude of ways – and I agree with Ashley – we should not get rid of the traditional school but as facilitators we can do just that – facilitate the way that students learn.  By allowing our students to become responsible digital citizens, and to learn effectively, we are only opening up the doors to the students own learning experiences.  Especially in the classrooms of today, where we may have 4 different curriculum’s to teach (modified, adapted, regular, alternative) – teaching our students to learn digitally and to be good digital citizens with the teacher being the vessel facilitating the learning will/may allow for a deeper understanding and supportive learning of the content material if we allow the students to take the lead of their learning and assessments.  Jennifer posted a great site to our google plus community, Digital Citizenship, which explains the importance of allowing our students to become literate digital citizens within our classrooms. Cultural Anthropologist, Mimi Ito – hit the nail on the head when she stated that our current educational practices are missing the piece of supporting engagement in learning via “geeking out” through social media and digital citizenship and proactively engage students.  We must break through the idea that the internet is a hostile place to learn, and teach our students that there are many opportunities to engage and learn effectively, and as educators we must give students equal access to on-line learning communities in a safe place (classroom) and teach them the responsibilities of on-line learning.

Students are digital outside of the school, so why not inside of the school – allowing students to create a knowledge cloud using media such as remixing, YouTube, creating websites and blogging, networking through Twitter and Facebook.  Katie Salen, executive director of Quest 2 Learn school in New York, explains that game design allows student to think deeper and more abstractly than they do in traditional schools.  Game design is how kids socialize, they also drive students to want to be better. The student must proceed from one quest to another, each quest getting harder and harder, to become better at problem solving through design thinking. All a video game is, is a set of problems that must be solved in order to win.  Students are encouraged to be in charge of their own learning, to become adaptive, problem based thinkers. Even watching the video – we see that some of the classrooms are designed in a way which allows for student to be a collaborative group – all of the desks are grouped together as one large conference table (I do this in my classroom), encouraging class discussions.

As this course continues to click for me, I will continue to re-evaluate, find and create a digital citizen ship based approach to learning.  Apropos blended education continuum just may be my major topic for EC&I 831 next semester, but it is alongside a growing list of technologies that I would like to implement into my teaching pedagogy.

Up, up and away!!!!

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Blogging with my students has been very successful this week.  Almost all of my students have entered a blog and ON TIME!  Woohoo!  I really feel that we are well on our way to successful projects being created.  I have expanded my timeline for science fair, unfortunately this means that science fair will not have happened until after this class ends.

I feel that the success of this week has been from the comments of my classmates as to creating leading questions for the students to answer.  This week, I required all of my students to list their materials and write up their hypothesis in proper scientifically literate expectations.  This was done very well!  I have also dedicated 20 minutes each week to blogging aside from class time to work on their projects.  I think in the start of the semester, I just expected my students to blog on their own, but have realized that they were just as intimidated about the blogging process as I was at the start of this course.  Now that we are all becoming more comfortable with this process, blogging is becoming easier.

I will be asking all students to write up their procedures in their blogs for the next post.    I have also decided to use Carly’s blog as an example for my students to follow – especially for those still a bit intimidated.  Even for those students whom have been very successful with blogging, I will just ask them to keep adding onto their original blog instead of creating a new post, just to see what happens.  I would rather have one long running blog for this project than many short ones.  The idea with this is to create one blog per student per projects, so at the end of their high school experience with me they will be able to go back to their blogs and see all projects (big and small) that they have created.