Building Digital Citizens

All of my students from Kindergarten through 8th Grade have a series of lessons and projects about Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship. I try to build on knowledge from each previous year and use a variety of different web sites to create lessons and engage my students. Some that I’ve used in the past and that I plan to continue to use include:

I have also found some additional resources that I am reviewing this summer and may incorporate in to some of the grades. My goal is not only to stress safety but to teach my students how to establish a positive digital footprint and how to be good digital citizens. I wonder if I am doing all that I should in this effort – this is where my dilemma comes in.

At school, my students are not allowed to use their full names on anything they post online and they can never post pictures of themselves or other students at the school. We also do not post student pictures on our school Facebook page to insure that students are not tagged in photos. This all seems logical to keep our students safe. However, these same students are going home and joining social networking sites using their real names and uploading photos of themselves and their friends. This means that their digital footprint is being established from their Facebook account or their YouTube account or other social networking accounts and not from the work they are doing and posting online for school. We all know that some employers and colleges look up students online. My students typically apply to private high schools. I wonder when the high schools will start looking up their applicants online or if they already are.

In this video, a teacher explains the guidelines that her school has established for online sharing by students which look very similar to our guidelines for our Elementary and Middle School students.

As you can tell from the video, at this school, students can start identifying themselves online by their real name in the 11th grade. I wonder if this is too late. My students already have an online presence in Middle School (and some even earlier) but it does not include schoolwork. What do you think? Are the guidelines in the video appropriate? When should we allow our students to showcase their online work for school as part of their digital footprint?

Exploding Head #1

This week one of the things I am trying to complete is the Week 2 assignment for PBL Camp. Part of my problem has been trying to nail down where I want my students to be at the end of this project.

  • What do I want them to know about the oil spill?
  • What do I want them to know about their own use of oil?
  • What kind of project or action plan do I want them to have to show what they’ve learned?

So, I have set up a page on the PBL Camp Wiki using the PBL planning form developed by the Buck Institute for Education. We’re supposed to be concentrating on page 1 of this form this week but of course I had to look ahead. The Assessment section bothers me because under Summative Assessments section two of the selections are Multiple Choice/Short Answer Test and Essay Test. Why are those there? Isn’t this Project Based Learning? If it is then shouldn’t the Summative Assessment be the project?

I have heard Chris Lehmann speak both online and in person and one thing that he stresses is that you are not truly teaching with Project Based Learning if your final assessment is a test. The student’s own work should be the most important work in Project Based Learning. If you don’t know who Chris is, check out his presentation at NECC 2009 on School 2.0: Progressive Pedagogy and 21st-Century Tools. This is fairly long and if you want a shorter introduction to Chris, try his TeDxNYED talk.

What do you think?
Should a test be used as a final assessment in a PBL unit? Should a test ever be the final assessment?
Why or why not?

0910 Reflections: Middle School

Middle School – ah, Middle School. This is such a fun and challenging age group. My goal when I took the job as the Computer Teacher at my school was to have students graduate from our school who could test out of the required Computer Applications class in High School. I don’t know if my students can because none of them have bothered trying but I do know that they very easily get an “A” in the class. The main areas covered during the year for my Middle School students included: Microsoft Office & Google Docs, Keyboarding, Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship.

Online Collaborations

6th Grade did not participate in any online collaborative projects this year. So much of their time in 5th Grade had been spent unsuccessfully (as I blogged about last year) on the Time Zone Experiences project and I just didn’t find a project that was a good fit for them. They did help 7th Grade with a survey project they ran and voted for their favorite Internet Safety videos made by 8th Grade but there were no outside of our school collaborations for 6th Grade.  Both 7th & 8th Grade contributed to a Voice Thread about their goals for the school year after listening to President Obama’s Message for American Students.

7th Grade also conducted and analyzed surveys which had participation from our school’s 4th-8th grade students and from some other educators and students outside of our school.

Lessons I Learned

  • Just because students say they REALLY want to do something doesn’t mean they really understand the work involved in doing it. Some of the 7th graders this year really, really, really wanted to create a newspaper so instead of teaching what I had planned, I created a series of lessons on journalism and journalistic ethics which 7th grade completed and they learned how to use Microsoft Publisher (which we don’t usually use because it’s not installed on all of the computers in the lab) and they produced an issue the paper. Yes, one issue – after that they didn’t want to do all the work involved in creating a newspaper anymore.
  • Students will tell you want you want to hear. I am very concerned about our Middle School students and the digital footprints they are creating. As they go through lessons and activities and projects about Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship, they’ll tell you all the things that adults say they should do to be safe online: No full names, No pictures, Keep online spaces private, Don’t share your password with anyone, etc. They’ll even “pledge” to follow these online rules but most of them are on social networking sites using their full names and pictures and videos, quite a few of them have public pages, they joke about being “bullied” online, they tell stories of how they told their best friend their password and what that friend did, etc. How can I help them to match their behavior to their knowledge?
  • Middle School students work best collaboratively. The most successful activities and projects in the lab have been the ones where students can work together. Middle School students are social – they just are and I need to remember to take advantage of that.

Things I’ll Definitely Repeat Next Year

  • Digital Citizenship Lessons & Activities – This needs to be a primary focus in Middle School, in my opinion!
  • Keyboarding – They really do need to have this skill in High School to get that “A” in the Computer Applications class but also because they are required to type a lot of what they turn in.

What technology rich projects or activities do your Middle School students do? Is there an engaging online collaborative project that you have found for this age group?

09-10 Reflections: 5th Grade

My 5th grade class this year was small and most of them are pretty good typists already and they will be spending quite a bit of time on typing in 6th grade so typing was something they didn’t do much of this year. There were lessons on Internet Safety because most of the 5th grade students are online on Facebook already even though they are all definitely under 13. I find that while some of the 5th grade act like they know it all about Internet Safety, they seemed to enjoy the activities in the Cyber Cafe and they did learn some new things too. I am exploring other digital citizenship options for next year too. 5th Grade also created artwork for Thanksgiving and participated in World Math Day and filled out surveys created by 7th grade and viewed and voted on their favorite Internet Safety videos created by 8th Grade but most of their time this year was spent on one project.

Online Collaborations

Just like last year much of the year was spent on the Time Zone Experiences project however unlike last year, the students enjoyed the project and they truly felt it was a collaboration with another class. There were really only two classes participating this year and Ann Oro and I tried to make it feel more collaborative this year by having the students Skype with one another as the project began. My students loved this and were disappointed we didn’t have the opportunity to do it again at the end of the year. We also encouraged our students to comment on the projects posted by the others and to read and reply to comments posted by the other school. I personally felt much less frustrated with the project this year but do wonder if it’s worth the time that it takes? The students learned how to write scripts and created animations using Xtranormal or Domo Animate which they really enjoyed and they all created podcasts which included original music made at MyBytes. They worked in pairs or teams and were fairly successful in this. They learned about editing wikis including uploading files. I’m still debating if this is the collaborative project I want to do with 5th Grade next year and if it is how I shorten the time that it takes to complete.

Lessons I Learned

  • Everything really does take longer than I think it will. Last year I was sure it was something that had gone wrong that had the Time Zone Experiences project drag on and on but I think it’s just the nature of that project. There has to be front end time to have the students learn about time zones, there has to be time to write scripts and record them in some way, there has to be time to teach students about posting to wikis, etc.
  • Many of our 5th Graders are on Facebook. Just as I am concerned about 4th grade being on Facebook, I have the same concerns with 5th Grade. Many of  them have our Middle School students or graduates from our school who are in High School as friends. I know what Middle School and High School students post on their walls at time – even the ones that don’t post anything inappropriate can have friends that do. I often wonder if our parents really realize what’s happening on Facebook. Most of the students tell me that their parents set up their accounts for them. I definitely want to do some kind of parent education about social networking next year.

Things I’ll Definitely Repeat Next Year

  • Internet Safety Lessons including some new lessons on information literacy
  • Some kind of collaborative project – maybe Time Zone Experiences and maybe not.

What technology rich projects or activities do your 5th Grade students do? Is there an engaging online collaborative project that you have found for this age group?