What comes to mind when you think of the word "Web"....intricate, links, connection, extension, strong, attract, caught, can't get out!!!! When brainstorming about what I was going to write for this blog, two thoughts came to my mind about how I have been impacted by the power of the Web lately. 1) SHARING: I have definitely noticed, over the past 6 months, how Facebook has taken on new levels of social networking and particularly sharing. You don't just go on facebook to update your profile, read someone's update or look at pictures. You can now go on facebook to see what people SHARE. Is it just me or have Youtube videos, newspaper articles, and links to websites been making a serious impact on your Facebook page? When I first set up my igoogle account with RSS feed two years ago, people told me I would be reading more than ever. It did not happen so much then. But today, being fed information by people I respect and/or have the same interests as me is making me read much more than ever before. Jeff U. shared with us how he gets information brought to him. Power!
2) TWITTER: Over the past few weeks of unrest in Bangkok, everyone has learned the hard way how biased the media can be. It's been difficult to find objective reports of what was happening. Newspaper took side and English language radio gave little information. It definitely made me question the authenticity of the media in general. Friends and family abroad saw a country on the verge of civil war reported on the news with alarming images. Meanwhile, living downtown, I still drove home everyday and did not feel or see any difference in my routine. In the midst of not really knowing what was happening or going to, many people started to rely on twitter as a source of information and updates on the situation. I cannot find it anymore, but an article was posted a fews days after commenting on the record use of Twitter in a political crisis. Here is a related article from @RichardBarrow on the topic. Now the question remains, what resources to trust ? It's important to keep in mind that what we read in newspaper, what we read on the Web (e.j. Twitter) should be taken as information and not absolute truth!
How can we be sure that our students are safe online when we unaware of their safety in their regular school/social environment? How can we prepare them for the potential risk of cyber bullying when bullying can go unnoticed in the hallway of our school? How can we protect them from the various shape bullying could take (personal/physical, online, phone, etc.)?
And, who is responsible for teaching students about how to stay safe? EVERYONE! Parents at home and educators in school need to help and support by educating them and raising awareness about their safety!
But we cannot be satisfied with having a policy written up somewhere on the agenda or in the computer lab. The AUP needs to be mentioned, referred to by ALL teachers in ALL classroom on a regular basis in different settings, so that the message really sinks in.
It is also important for the adults to stay informed about the new technologies and the potential risks that they represent.
In school, we should also teach students to be aware and watch out for themselves and others. After all, they are the " in generation" who knows what's out there. So rather than being re-active to a case of bullying, we need to teach kids to be pro-active and take initiative to report any danger.
In my observation, it used to be that most students googled for images, copied and pasted it into their presentation. However, over the past 2 years, I have seen much more awareness and education in teaching students from our school to give credit for their resources. It will take a few more years to bring everyone (students, teachers, parents) on board, but I do believe that soon it will be an expected skill.
How can a student be sure that s/he is not breaking the international rules of copyrights? 1) Students should be aware of the school's Acceptable Use Policy with respect to the copyrights' law. 2) Encourage students to use the creative commons search engine for visual or audio resources. I have created a step by step use of Creative Commons* that can be presented to students on the first day of a project to teach them how to look for powerful pictures.
Because new generations are considered "digital natives" does not mean that they understand the consequences of their actions. They are children after all! Parents and Educators must help students understand their Digital Footprint and take responsibility early on for what they chose to post publicly online. Our immediate concern is directed at social networking sites where everyone exposes themselves or is just as easily exposed or "tagged" by others. However, it is important to regularly remind all the online -ers (facebookers, twitterers, bloggers, etc.) that we have a choice in what we do publicly, whether we do it in the middle of the cafeteria at recess or from the 'privacy' of our home computer. Once it's online, it's not yours!
For example, I think this short video carries a simple, but powerful message for middle and high school students:
Also, this article definitely pushed me to question privacy online: Beware: the Internet could own your future. We all need to be aware and help each other staying informed about the rules and stipulations on "privacy settings" as they are rapidly and regularly changing, yet not very well advertised. However, playing the devil's advocate, I struggle with some of the "fears" out there. Should we be so cautious and careful about our every moves? Are we not inhibiting our creativity and expression by being so careful about our "public" image all the time. For example this article presents "your online reputation can hurt your job search". Could your future boss really ask you to show your Facebook profile and make a judgment about your professional skills? Wouldn't a job interviewer be over stepping their rights? Am I just naive?
When and where should we be teaching students about their digital footprint?
Before answering this question, I would be interested to ask some students at various levels (elementary, middle, high school) if they know and understand what Digital Footprint is.
I used the online Digital Footprint Calculator to calculate my approximate personal footprint:In this article, Sara Perez simply defines Digital Footprint as "your social network profiles, your web site or blog, your photos shared on an online service, videos you uploaded to YouTube, perhaps even mentions of you in the local paper or your school's web site...."
Considering this definition, it is safe to say that most of our students from Kindergarden through 12th grades contribute regularly to their personal Digital Footprint. Therefore I would support the idea that it's never too early present the "reality" of what it means to be active online, especially considering our technology expectations for them.
There can be positive feedback in one's contribution to the digital footprint: For example you were recognized internationally for your humanities' class blog entries. Or the language teacher in your new school views your online Spanish portfolio from your previous school and uses it as your placement into the next level.
However, Sara Perez also addresses the digital shadow, explaining in her articles that if we are active in creating our digital footprint, our Digital shadow, "... images of you on a surveillance camera, your bank records, your retail and airline purchase records, your telephone records, your medical database entries, copies of hospital scans, information about your web searches, general backup data, information about credit card purchases, etc." is being created indirectly through our actions online. We definitely have less control over our Digital Shadow, which is one more supportive argument to bring awareness to students as early and often as possible.
As the end of the year approaches, I would like to take some time to reflect on one new web 2.0 tool I decided to adopt this school year. At the beginning of the year, I created 3 different blogs for each French class:
My main goal for creating a class blog was to communicate with students, parents, and the bigger community. Sharing class activities, projects, ideas, accomplishments. Looking back through the different posts, I know there are lots of piece missing that I never got a chance to post (videos, photos, projects, etc!). It feels as though I have not used it consistently enough for students and/or parents to feel that it is a valuable resource.
Linked on my main page(s), you can also access students' personal blogs. On their blogs, we created a FRENCH category. The goal and expectation was for students to post their projects, journals as an online portfolio. Before this school year, we had been keeping "paper" portfolios for students but were looking for the better tool. Ultimately, this portfolio will follow them through the years, demonstrating their progress in French. To better understand how to use Blogs as a portfolio, read this post by Jeff Utecht.
I just looked through some of my student's portfolios. Here are some observations:
1) Some are well kept with all projects posted. Others have only 1 or 2 French posts. This is a good reminder than I need to allow (class)time for students to upgrade their French portfolio.
2) In the future, I could invite students to reflect on their learning for French class on their blog. It might give the outside reader some insights on the various posts on their blog. It would also be good writing practice.
In the next few weeks before school is out for the summer, I will encourage students to update their portfolios so they can continue to use them next year in the following level of French. If they leave Thailand, they could use their French portfolio to demonstrate some of their French skills in order to place in the appropriate language class.
What to do when/if we need to close school (campus) for unforeseen circumstances; yet you do not want to close school (learning)?
On April 8 and 9, 2010, after the state of emergency was declared in Bangkok, ISB made the decision to close campus. However, teachers were asked to keep their classes open, virtually. Our school has implemented plenty of web 2.0 tools over the past 2-3 years to keep the classes alive and going: Panthernet, class blogs, Google accounts, Wikis, etc. However, without any warnings of the closure, we had little preparation for how to proceed. Our school has since April 9th been developing a Virtual School Guideline.
How do we ensure that students who think they just got a free snow day actually check for assignments and complete them? On that day, my two French INTRO classes had an old school paper test assigned. Students had been reviewing the days before and were ready. The next day, was the start of a week long Holiday. I decided to post the test on Panthernet, have students complete it at home and submit their test ALL ONLINE. Wouldn’t they use their notes? To ensure that the test was done in a “proper” testing environment, I wrote specific instructions on the Panthernet assignment and I e-mailed those to the parents. Students had to allot themselves 1 hour to complete the test.
For my other classes, we had no major assignments due. Instructions were posted on Panthernet, but the actual assignments were posted on their class BLOGS. Again, to make sure that students completed their work, I e-mailed their personal e-mail as well as parents. Students had a week to complete the assignment. I invited them to e-mail me if they had questions.
I would consider my virtual school day to be fairly successful. Most students completed their work. The only students who did not were given a chance to make the work up. After all this was our first Virtual school day!