As I looked over Challenge 7, I thought I would reflect on where I started and where I think we need to go with empowering digital citizenship action. When I started as a technology integrator for the middle school I did not teach any classes but worked with teachers to help them integrate technology into their classes. What I started to notice was gaps in student knowledge. Many times it depended on what teachers they had and what projects they were exposed to. When we started a 1-1 netbook program for our 7th and 8th graders, I pushed for a class that I would teach, that would fill in some of those gaps... hence Web 2.0 for my 6th graders was born. Using some of the new tools with kids in my own class gives me more credibility with the teachers I am trying to get to use technology. It also gives me a chance to try new tools and find what works and what doesn't work.
However, while that first year of Web 2.0 did fill in gaps, something was still missing. I needed Web 2.0 content, not just fishing for topics that coincided with what students were learning in their other classes. I also became concerned that unless we worked on educating all our students on good digital citizenship before they turned 13, they would leave footprints they would regret. I started searching on the internet for something and ran across the Flat Classroom Project website and the Digiteen project. The more I read, the more excited I got. The next day I had a conversation with my administrator who backed me on the project. I have never looked back. It is a very sustainable, worthwhile, global project. It adds vital content while letting student use new tools, collaborate and communicate beyond the classroom walls.
- Think about usernames.
- Students will be in a variety of different sites (wiki, Ning or Edmodo, Diigo, perhaps other places (we use Glogster, VoiceThread & Google Docs). The more logins, the more confusing it can be for kids. The more confusing, the less likely they are to visit those places you want them to be in. I will be using something like JohnD-TWS118.
- This username will be public so we do not use last names.
- I want to distinguish my students from other schools so I use TWS.
- I use 118 to help me track my class sections (I have 3) and graduating class (this is year 3 for me, and my previous students still have their Edmodo accounts).
- Let students do as much of the presenting as you can. This year for example, I did not try to explain what the Digiteen project was. Instead I put students in groups by Awareness Area and let them look at last year’s student created wiki. Each group gave a short 5 minute presentation to their classmates, explaining what they thought their Awareness Area meant, what an action project was, the rough timeline, how they may be communicating and with who. Why they were looking, I also asked them to think about how they can make the wiki they create this year even better than last year’s wiki.
- Give students choice while keeping within the bounds of the project. Schools in the project try to divide their students fairly evenly across the different categories. After hearing the brief intro to the Awareness Area, I asked students to use their school Google email to reply to a survey which ranked their top 3 choices of Awareness Area. I will do my best to put them in one of the 3 areas they chose. If not all of the areas are filled, I will “talk up” that area which usually convinces a few students to change their initial choices.
- Start early getting kids to think about how they would like to teach others (siblings, family, students, teachers) through an action project. I am beginning to think that having the kids start with family and friends is a good approach. Kids seemed to be more verbal about concerns they had about a younger sister, a friend, a classmate. At least initially.
- Start creating good work habits for your students. Even though time is at a premium (we are lucky to meet for 40 minutes twice every 6 class days), we will try to use the first 5-10 minutes to respond to discussions and replies. I use a few screen shots of what I consider to be great replies and show them to the class as models. What makes a good reply? (timeliness, detail, include a question if you want to continue discussion, ……).
- While most of the communication is asynchronous, try to use synchronous as well. The kids love a Skype session. I highly advise you practice before this session as some kids will naturally want to jump in front of the camera and “ham it up”. Practice who and how you will approach the camera. Some will do a lot of talking and never get to the point while others will be tongue tied. Have students write down what they will say and practice before they Skype.
I am excited about getting into a third year of the Digiteen Project and encourage any of you who have never looked at the project to give it a try. It does a great job of empowering digital citizenship to both students and teachers.