Time to retire the old mantras

“Education should drive the technology”
“You shouldn’t use technology just because it’s shiny and new”

Back in the old days we had the term Digital Natives. We now know this is no longer valid and it is generally an eschewed term. Back then though, it served a useful purpose. It gave us a common terminology in order to start discussing something that we had to discuss. It was, in it’s time, a really useful tool, a door opener, some common ground on which we could start our exploration of how technology and youth combined. Every new field must have its jargon, and this was the start of ours.

In the same way, the two terms I started out with were useful in their day. They are now just as much defunct and past their use by date as Digital Native. Although sadly I do hear them still bandied about by people who should know better.

Take the premise of the first statement. If we allow this to be true and follow that tenet, then we are sentencing (in the prisoner kind), funnelling, limiting, corralling, forcing teachers to use technology only at level “S”. The best they could do is to “Substitute” their print based; chalk derived activities for digital equivalents. Education and teaching practice is inhibiting the value and capacity of technology. Education driving technology use.

Take the premise of the second statement. Remove the blatantly emotive/denigrative “Shiny and New” and say it as, utilise the affordances that shiny and new offer, and shape your education to that. It will present you with opportunities you didn’t have before, it opens up capabilities to do things differently and possibly better. New means exactly that, it wasn’t there before, it is an open door. This time we are sentencing (in the prisoner kind), funnelling, limiting, corralling, forcing teachers to work at the “R” level. Redefining teaching and learning practices needs, requires, relies on, demands, shiny and new.

Utilising technology for technology’s sake, that is, making a use of shiny and new is a good thing, it is the way we are going to make change. It is something we should aspire to not put down as a frivolous use of technology just because you can.

You know what, DO use it just because you can, DO use it just because it’s shiny and new, because if you have the skill to do it, you are the hope we have for breaking the stalemate of old world holding back new worlds that we haven’t even begun to get value out of yet.

Just like Digital Native has had its day, so have these old statements. let’s consign both to the page in the history book that houses Digital Native, thank them for the excellent service they gave during their time, and come more up to date and start being an accelerator, not the brake.

 

 

 

Searchography

It turns out that in our current time of exceedingly powerful search engines (and there are many of them) the skill of searching is sadly neglected. Or worse, assumed to be so endemic as to need no formal training.

It’s importance is undeniable, and it’s poor use responsible for wasted time, and efficiency.
Admittedly, poor searching does take us down a path of serendipity – an increasingly important proposition in the age of big data and advertising that latches on to the most minimal of clicked interest and curiosity. But, that’s the topic of another post.

What is stranger is that it was important over a decade ago.  It’s time to resurrect this important component of formal documents (assignments, projects, other school work).

Searchography:
A list of search terms used to construct an assignment or project.
Mapping your search used in constructing a critical response to prescribed work.
Typically presented (or blogged) as an appendix to the document.

Format/Structure:
Search engine
Term
Qualifier

 Note:
A critical searchography traces the following moments, experiences or events of student research;
questioning / defining search strategies
search and encounter (entering the discourse)
reformulating the topic (focussing)
discovering (forming conclusions)

Purpose:
To validate student responses in assignments
To view (visible thinking) student thought processes and approaches to assignment answering
To allow teachers to scaffold their student’s skill development, knowledge development and generation of responses
To construct and develop a basic digital skill
Reduce the likelihood of plagiarism
Formalise the experience or performance of finding information
Like a bibliography it serves as a companion to the research paper, authenticating and tracking references
Critical searchography allows you a chance to worry less about the identity of the author of found material and more about the skill with which the student appropriates it, and how it affects their path of enquiry
Flows naturally into a bibliography
Displays patterns, paths and events of encounter

Bibliography:
Marsh, Bill. 2000 “Critical Searchography – Remodeling Research & Authorship.” 06 Apr. 2014 http://www.factoryschool.com/btheater/works/essays/comp/CS/searchog.html

Short-sighted, dark ages abrogation of responsibility.

SMH article – Quit Facebook or be expelled. http://goo.gl/58Ha6

A Queensland school Principal is threatening to expell students if she discovers they are under 13 with a Facebook account.

Blames cyberbullying as the reason; claims it is a legal issue – praises parents who stickybeak into their children’s lives (does the term helicopter parents pop into your head right now?)  Worse somehow manages to get ‘expert’ support and confirmation of her ground-breaking brave decision.

The only ground breaking here is caused by head firmly burying itself in sand.
It also goes to prove that no matter how ridiculous your claim – someone somewhere (often with Dr in front of their name) will be prepared to back you.

The cowardliness involved in hiding behind a public system’s ‘rules’ and totally denying the base problem is upsetting, particularly when it from someone supposedly in a leadership position charged with the education of young people. There is no such thing as cyberbullying – it is just bullying bullying with modern technology thrown in. Semantics? No, bullying has been around since Noah was a boy and the methods have kept pace. This is a social/pastoral issue and not dealing with it, by claiming technology is responsible is poor and shortsighted.

Additionally to run from your responsibility of teaching children how to deal with the world in which they live – rather than hanker back to old people’s time is woeful.

It’s sad that the parent body tolerate this and haven’t taken the Principal to task is only a measure of their like confusion.

Kids already live in an online world. This isn’t going away. We have the responsibility to make them good digital citizens for their own sake as well as society. Failing to teach them how to live in their world is as equally stupid as failing to teach them social manners and how to cross the road.

This totally inappropriate action by an ill-informed, poorly advised Principal should, be held up as an example of what NOT to do.

Where is the offer to teach children how to be good digital citizens? where is the pastoral support for those who bully, where is the offer to skill up those bullied with some resilience training, where is the acknowledgement that the world for children is different from that in which we old people grew up, where is the acknowledgement that positive on line persona is one of the most rapidly growing requirements that young people have?

Kids MUST have Facebook – they MUST have their own domain, they MUST have total control over any online repository/system that is associated with their identity. Their online persona will be a greater force and more important than anything old people will ever get to understand. In any doubt? try applying for a job and not getting Googled… See if resumes have more than a few years of lifespan left (if that). Failing to get this and failing to act on it is doing them a grave injustice and the false claims - weasel wording – abrogation of responsibility is something parents should be railing against.

 

It’s not so far away

Our on line digital footprint is something that will be increasingly important - OK, it already is. Both potentially detrimental and positive, depending on how we manage it. It’s already there, if you know it or don’t. So you might just as well be in charge.

To give ourselves the most reasonable and supportive chance to keep it positive we should maintain our own domain name. This way we have the most control over the nature of our virtual persona. This isn’t an expensive exercise and the world is still on the up-ramp.

Given that the pool of domain names which match regular names is limited, they will increasingly become a keenly sought after commodity. Even now the more desirable names are changing hands for multi millions of dollars. The trend will soon enough filter down to personal named domains. The auction for “jennifersmith.com” is sure to be a keenly fought and expensive proposition.

How soon then will we be naming our children based on the domain names we own rather than to remember past relatives and family traditions?

How soon before inheriting the family domain names becomes something to fight over at the reading of the will?

Fantasy proposition? Maybe not so much as you might think?

BYOT

There is at once a sensibility and futility of Bring Your Own Technology for schools.

The practical sensibility is that it would end the increasingly difficult situation of supporting the costs of maintaining organisation sized collections of technology. Particularly within the rapidly changing computing world, maintaining it, keeping it trouble free and doing so while most users have possibly more powerful equipment at home or certainly more personalised and learner oriented.

The futility is that we can’t use them properly. Schools simply use computers are replacements for text books, school worksheets, library or encyclopedias. That doesn’t need personalisation, it certainly doesn’t need the most powerful. What it does need is to keep the status quo of schools who are under the demands of external assessment systems, which have no way of recogising or allocating a number grade to student work.

If we were to start allowing students to be creative in their responses to assignments and projects, if we were to give creative options to students in how they approached their learning, then the traditional way of recognising achievement of syllabus content would be next to impossible. Teachers are not trained or experienced in this area, they haven’t encountered the capacities of technology when applied to learning.

How would they allocate a grade to student work? How would they condense an entire semester’s work into a pithy sentence or two in the end of term report? How would they be able to successfully designate dux through a mark with an accuracy of 2 or 3 decimal places?

The pipe dream of students bringing and being responsible for their own technology would be extraordinary. We’d have to change assessment schemes. We’d have to find some way of recognising individuality. We’d have to find some way of coping with students who learn differently from the ‘norm’. We’d have to make provision for teaching them applications skills on programs that class teachers may not have even seen. We’d have to hand over some power and not assume teachers have all the answers.  Ludicrous!

BYOT, pftttt!

Moving away from printed books

Disregarding all the usual issues with publishers dragging the chain on making their school text books available in various soft copies…

We often find introducing a different option is a slow process – a bit like introducing Broccoli to kids.  This article reifies for me some of the issues I bump into.

http://deangroom.amplify.com/2011/04/04/what-students-want/

It explains a little why kids think the way they do.‎ The myth of digital native is long proven to be nonsense.‎ Their outlook is determined directly by those who show them the possibilities.‎ Our influence as teachers – even as supposed digital migrants is huge.‎ They will take their lead (sometimes unconsciously) from how we model things.‎ Our reliance on text books will influence them.‎ Our limited use of ICT will limit them.‎ Our extensive use and ‘have a try’ approach gives them a belief that there are alternative ways, new ‎ways options and even if we try and fail, it’s a good thing.

We are where they find things out.‎ I wonder if the idea that alpha males taking to e-book formats more readily than girls is because ‎teachers consciously or otherwise treat them differently.‎ There’s a PhD in there somewhere…‎

Too narrow a focus

Because I’m trying hard to develop a course that truly is Digital Citizenship, I avidly follow all links that purport to be something even vaguely connected to the topic.
It seems that in the majority of the cases DC is equated to learning how to deal with cyberbullying.

This is annoying on at least two fronts.

First because DC is so much more than this. The bullying issue is a sub set, but itself only part of online behavior.
Second because the term cyberbullying should be banned. It is just bullying and would happen even had technology not made it more pervasive. The whole bully thing is a pastoral issue and is constantly lumped in with technology as if technology caused the problem. Admittedly technology exacerbates the issue because it puts bigger weapons in the hands of bullies. But the bully being a little s### is a behavioral thing not a technical thing.

I like that we are pioneers in this field, but occasionally the lack of commonly understood terms can be a bit of a pain.

Things don’t always go to plan

We have tried to shoehorn Windows 7 onto the Mac Book Air laptops. This hasn’t been successful.  On an individual basis, it works successfully enough, both parallels or Boot-Camp do an excellent job. In fact initially it all loaded smoothly enough. Our biggest problem was the lack of a PXE boot to connect to our software controlling system.  However; in an environment where regular updates are pushed out, it is less stable.  Screen drivers in particular have been a problem. The boot-camp drivers work well, but the automatically pushed drivers and updates caused screen size issues, leaving the screens stretched and in a non-native resolution and hence a little fuzzy.

What’s come out of the exercise is the willingness of the students to deal with this. It was explained to them that it was a little bit experimental, and things might not always be trouble-free and flawless. They took to this notion like ducks to water, they were patient in waiting for upgrades, tolerant of screen sizes that were not perfect, found work arounds for printing when they couldn’t connect directly.And much more.

It is this willingness to tolerate technology’s shortcomings that will set them apart as a generation.  In a sweeping generalisation, teaching staff are flustered and frustrated if things are not 100% completely smooth, error free and if computers are not tolerant of keyboard thumping in place of rational alternative finding. But the students are.

Classes have continued smoothly with students finding their own work arounds, or partnering up with a working system, all without having to be told anything beyond the initial “this will be experimental”.

We sometime forget to give them the credit they are due in unusual circumstances.

It also suggests that teachers willing to ‘have a go’ even if they are on unfamiliar ground might find unexpected allies in their students when things are not so perfect, and ICT support thin on the ground.

Digital Thingamabob course

Work continues on the Yr 6 (Et. Al.) Digital Thingamabob course.  Still no resolution on quite what to call it. But that’s less important than making sure the coverage is appropriate.

The focus remains on producing students who can use a laptop to support their learning; to be creative; to produce responses to assignments and homework in a broader manner than those with only the three Rs. And almost as importantly to make nettizens of them so that they, A) don’t make fools of themselves on-line and B) conversely make themselves look good on-line.

Here’s the outline so far; Digital literacy or here for the non-pictorials;  http://sirchriss.com/?page_id=166

The support material is also underway and as yet I’ve not found anything (Creative Commons or otherwise) that would be a suitable option simply to insert into the course structure, without almost as much modification as starting from scratch. Perhaps I’m being too picky or contrary.

So? What is a domain name?

When you surf to a website, you can get there two ways.  In your browser (Firefox or Internet Explorer) you can type in the real address:  This looks like 127.0.0.1.  Or, you can use the name attached to that address, something like www.ibm.com This is the domain name.

We have ownership of the domain name   www.collegecrow.net this means that if anyone surfs to that address they will see content that we put there. Names on the internet are only leased (you pay for them for a time period and if you stop paying then they are available to someone else to purchase.

What might this mean to you?

Have you ever tried ego surfing? That’s where you type your name into Google and see if you turn up. Or just type in your name in the browser and see if there’s a web site on you. Not surprisingly there is unlikely to be a web site about you unless you make it. Yet, this is what a potential employer is going to do. When you apply for a job, your potential employer is likely to look for you on the web to see if they can find some information about you. This is an opportunity for you to improve your chances of reaching the interview stage. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if they found a web site about you – listing all your achievements, your skills, your suitability to the job, your value to the organisation and with links to your hobbies or sporting interests?  Remember though this should be balancing the fine line of introducing you without publishing personal data like your address or other details you wouldn’t want to make public. This also shows an employer how responsible you can be and smart in managing your won information.

If this sounds like a smart move – purchasing your own domain name before someone else gets it is a good thing; populating it with your research papers from Uni, listing achievements and so on, you might give yourself a head start when looking for a job.

Go to one of the web sites that let you purchase domain names, search to see if your name is available and maybe ask someone for the name as a birthday present.