Monday, September 23, 2013

Digital Citizenship and iPads

As educators of 21st century students, we sometimes assume that because our students have been born into a digital world, they know a little bit about the rights and wrongs of connecting within that world. After a year of iPads in our school, it has become apparent to our educators and administrators that adolescents might be well versed in digital technologies; however, they are not well versed in the digital ethics or aware of the footprints they are leaving online.  

While almost every student in our school has access to an iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone at home, these mobile devices not only create  numerous exciting entertainment and learning opportunities but also open the door to new challenges. Cyberbullying or inappropriate web publishing happens more often through the use of the simple built-in camera than a regular computer! In addition, it is becoming increasingly more challenging to keep track of who is doing what with the device or whether the device itself is safe.

According to Holly Clark & Tanya Avrith at EdudemicOur students are like cowboys living in the wild wild west. Without any guidelines or structure they can get in a lot of trouble. Armed with a concrete plan for teaching about appropriate use you can guide your students to become better digital citizens, who will learn how to build their digital presence in a positive and productive way”.

This year I hope to create a structure for our students and focus on digital citizenship through conversations, activities, and practices with students. I also plan to bring in experts to come and speak to our students about the seriousness of their digital footprints and how to enjoy certain social medias but how to stay safe doing so. Sharing online resources with our educators, students as well as our parent body will be important in creating a community culture of positive digital citizenship. For example, there are various classroom and home educational opportunities on Common Sense Media that are easy to follow and share. They offer a free K-12 Digital Literacy & Citizenship classroom curriculum that educators can follow and easily implement with their students. We may even invite law enforcement professionals to give a presentation on the grim realities of internet safety and the dangers and consequences of texting and social networking. Sometimes, showing our students these realities may be the only way they will commit to following online safety rules.
In addition to educating our students on digital citizenship as it pertains to their mobile devices, as a school, there are certain boundaries that we can put on the devices to help eliminate certain enticements. With the proper Mobile Device Management System implementation at schools, you can disable apps like iMessaging, Youtube, cameras and videos.

By empowering our students with knowledge in their use of social media, we can guide our students to become better digital citizens, who create a positive and productive digital presence. They will, in turn, shape their online identities, create successful and authentic online experiences that they will be proud of and then...they might thank you for it!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Reflections after the first year of an 1:1 iPad Initiative

This past summer I spent alot of time reflecting on the first year of our middle school 1:1 ipad program. What went right and what went wrong was subjective and answers differed across the various stakeholders in our school community. Students had the most positive things to say about the program. I mean, we did give them their own an iPad! Most students wouldn’t normally have one of their own and they got one “for free” from their school so their superficial feelings towards the program was positive. However, some reflective students did have meaningful opinions about the program one way or another. Some embraced the organizational options that iPads gave them and others enjoyed the creative freedoms they were allowed to explore using ipad tools like iMovie and ScrapPad. A minority of students just couldn’t manage this new skill in the classroom.
Teachers were the in-between group. Those that valued technology in the classroom embraced it, learned from it and tried to used it to elevate the learning. Those teachers used it well in the area of student-teacher and student-student collaboration and communication. One major challenge was classroom behavior management. This was a huge added strain in the classroom and was never really mastered.
The majority of parents were against the whole ipad program. Saying it was a waste of time, upset when their child shattered their ipad screen and they had to get it replaced and were overall annoyed with it. They did not fully understand the goal of the program and how it is not an end result but a means to an overall goal of elevating student learning in our middle school.  As a result, it made the administration very anxious about how we were doing and now, as our first year begins, we are taking precautionary measures to ensure that we have learned from our year-long experience. As we begin this tightrope walk back into our iPad program, all of our school community stakeholders can see that we are missing something without these mobile devices in our students hands and that we still have a need to pursue becoming a 21st century school.

I have learned several key points after experiencing our first year of a 1:1 ipad implementation. The first one is patience. Having patience with all 4 major stakeholders is key. Patience with our administrators to get on board, with our students and parents to be able to understand the goals of the program and with our teachers who are apprehensive about altering the way they teach. Not everyone is tech savvy and even those who are in their personal or business world, may not understand it’s place in education. You need to be patient while giving them as much information as they need to get on board. This leads me to my next area of improvement, communication. Communication with the entire school community is critical. What are we doing, why we are doing it and how are we doing are essential questions to answer over and over again. In particular, to our parent body who is the most cynical of the bunch. They do not see what our students and educators see is going on in the classroom. They are missing out on the amazing and positive learning outcomes achieved from using ipad tools. It is our job to communicate it to them on a regular basis. Because, let’s face it, it doesn't matter how old a child is, when you as them “What did you do in school today?” the answer is usually, “not much” or “same old thing.” They are not getting information from their students and it is our job to share the classroom experiences so that any of their negative thoughts can be balanced with some positive aspects as well.

Finally, I learned something that as adults, we don’t often know how to do well, learn to fail. After reading  Aran Levasseur’s 5 Lessons for 1:1 Integration on Common Sense Media, I have come to the realization that our first year was a success!!! “All scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs understand that failure is part of creativity.  If you’re not willing to fail then you severely limit your creative capacity.  When integrating a 1:1 program there will be failures. Yet, for the most part, schools have an aversion to failure. Learning to fail, and how to recover and adapt, is an essential skill if you hope to be resilient teacher, student, or school.”
So as an educator and proponent of education technology, I embrace any and all “failures” and look forward to Year 2 of our 1:1 iPad implementation with more experience, a carefully thought out plan and a positive attitude.